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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Shrimp Summer Rolls with Two Sauces

I have been wanting to try making homemade summer rolls for some time, and I finally found a good excuse. I made these for a party at my Mom and Dad's place last weekend. I made a trial run ahead of time at home for the family and we had them for dinner. The picture above is from the trial run.

I was a little worried that my kids wouldn't eat them, so I told them we were having Egg Rolls for dinner (they LOVE Egg Rolls... Egg Rolls and Chicken Balls ARE Chinese Food to them). So, we were about halfway through dinner, and Claire had eaten a couple of the summer rolls when she says, "Mommy, I think you might have done something wrong, these don't taste like Egg Rolls". So then I had to fess up and explain the difference between Egg Rolls, Spring Rolls and Summer Rolls.

I tried out two different dipping sauces in the hopes that one would emerge as a clear winner to take to the party. But, Claire and I favoured the Peanut Sauce, and Marco and Mario liked the Sweet Chili Sauce. Given the stalemate, I decided to go ahead and make both for the party. I had a lot of leftover Peanut Sauce the night that I made them at home, so I used it on a stir fry and it was fabulous. (Only the peanut sauce is pictured above, sorry!)

These aren't as finicky as one might think. The important part is to get a little system going with all your ingredients laid out in order. The night I made them at home, I had some trouble with the summer rolls sticking to each other. So for the party, I tried misting them lightly with non-stick cooking spray before I set them on the platter. Then I covered them with damp paper towels before I covered the tray in plastic wrap. This worked nicely. I made them about 2-3 hours ahead of time, and they didn't dry out, and the cooking spray kept them from sticking.

Summer Rolls

1 generous cup lettuce (I used mescalun mix)
1 cup bean sprouts
1 cup rice vermicelli noodles (about 2 oz uncooked)
1/2 cup shredded carrot
4 green onions, cut into 3" pieces
1/4 cup thinly sliced basil
1/4 cup chopped mint
6 oz cooked shrimp, roughly chopped
8 8” round sheets rice paper

1. Prepare all your ingredients and set into piles close to your work surface.

2. Set about 1" of hot tap water in a shallow dish that is a little bigger than the rice paper wrappers (I used a round cake pan).

3. Prepare your work surface with a couple of layers of paper towel in order to absorb the excess water from the wrappers.

4. One at a time dip the wrapper in the water. Hold each one in the water until softened (over soaking might make them easier to rip). After one or two, you'll get a feel for how soaked they should be.

5. Set the wrapper down on your paper towel and at one end stack the ingredients: noodles (about 20g per wrapper), shrimp (about 20g per wrapper), then the rest of the veggies (eyeball about 1/8 of each pile).

6. Roll burrito style. Fold the bottom up, sides in, and then roll the rest of the way. Spray with cooking spray if you are making ahead (very lightly - you don't want them to feel greasy).

7. If serving as a finger food, slice in half diagonally and set on a serving tray.

Sweet Chili Sauce

2 tbsp sugar
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 tsp chili paste with garlic
2 tsp soy sauce

1. Mix all ingredients together. Chill until ready to serve.

Peanut Sauce
I got the Peanut Sauce recipe from the blog, The Chef and The Photographer, and it was fabulous.

2 tbsp finely chopped shallots
2 tbsp finely chopped lemongrass
2 tbsp minced garlic
2 tbsp finely chopped ginger
1 tsp sesame oil
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup peanut butter
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp lime juice
salt and pepper to taste

1. In a small non-stick pan, saute the shallots, lemongrass, garlic and ginger in the sesame oil until soft.

2. Add broth, peanut butter, brown sugar, vinegar and soy sauce. Bring to a boil and simmer on low heat, covered, for about 5 minutes.

3. Strain through a fine sieve, pressing all the juice you can out of the garlic, shallots etc.

4. Add lime juice and salt and pepper to taste. Chill until ready to serve.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Roast Leg of Lamb with Tahini Sauce

When I was little, I really didn't like lamb, and consequently I avoided it completely for years. But then about 5 years ago my Mother-in-Law made a Rack of Lamb with a rosemary biscuit-like crust on it, and I loved it! I'll have to make and post that recipe sometime. Since then, I can't get enough, lamb has become one of my "go-to" favorites, especially when we are out in restaurants.

We are planning a trip to New Zealand for this upcoming December, and the part of our trip I am most looking forward too (aside from getting to visit with my Sister-in-Law and her Husband, of course)... is getting to eat lamb, lots and lots of lamb....

This meal, here, combines some of my favorite things - lamb, and Middle Eastern flavours. The next night for dinner, I made pita sandwiches with the left over lamb and tahini sauce with tomato, lettuce and onion. They were fabulous! It was actually pretty funny, I wrapped the sandwiches up using squares of waxed paper. My kids did not eat the lamb the first night, when it was served as in the picture, above (with roasted golden beets, steamed snow peas and Israeli couscous). However, when I made it into the wraps, they gobbled them up.

At one point while we were eating the sandwiches, I said to my husband, Mario, "This is the closest I've ever come to a good homemade shawarma sauce". Claire (looking a little stricken) says, "What do you mean, HOMEMADE, didn't these come from a restaurant?? How come they are wrapped in this paper???" I explained that I just did that myself to help make them easier to eat. Well, their enthusiasm for the meal vanished immediately and we had a job getting them to finish. How could they love something one minute (when they thought it came from a restaurant), and then hate it the moment they realized I made it! I was mortally offended (as I am most nights when they turn their noses up at my cooking!!).

Roast Leg of Lamb with Tahini Sauce
from Eating Well Website

8 medium cloves garlic, divided
2 1/2 tsp salt, divided
2 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tsp ground mace
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 4lb boneless leg of lamb, butterflied and trimmed
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup tahini
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
1/2 cup nonfat plain yogurt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1. Mince 6 garlic cloves. Place in a small bowl with 1 1/2 tsp salt and mash into a paste using the back of a spoon. Stir in the oil, mace, cardamom, paprika, cinnamon, cumin and cayenne until combined.

2. Lay lamb out flat, with the cut side up. Spread three-quarters of the spice paste over the cut surface. Roll the lamb closed and tie in several places so it is about the shape of a large football. Spread the remaining paste over the outside. Loosely cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.

3. Mince the remaining 2 garlic cloves. Combine with the remaining 1 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl with lemon juice, tahini, parsley, yogurt, and pepper. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

4. About 20 minutes before you are ready to grill, preheat a gas grill (with all burners lit) to 400°F or build a fire in a charcoal grill and let it burn down to medium heat (about 400°F).

5. Roast Lamb in BBQ over indirect charcoal until it reaches an internal temperature of 140 degrees. (You can use a gas BBQ, by turning off the burners on the side where the lamb is, or roast in the over at 400F). Total cooking time will vary, but will be approximately 1 hour.

6. Transfer lamb to a platter and let stand for 10 minutes before slicing. Serve with the tahini sauce.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Grilled Eggplant Salad

This was a delicious salad that I made a few weeks back when my Mom came over for dinner on her 65th birthday. This salad was the appetizer, for the main course I made BBQ leg of lamb with tahini sauce (recipe coming soon!) and for dessert we had Hot Cross Bun Bread Pudding. The recipe for the salad dressing called for smoked paprika, but I only had hot paprika on hand. So, even though I cut down the amount a little, my salad dressing had some serious kick, or as my six year old, Marco, would say.... this salad "stings my tongue!"

Turns out I could have gone ahead and added a cup of hot paprika, my kids weren't going to touch this salad anyway (I think they ate the cheese curls only)... so in that case, I figure I might as well continue to make it the way the adults prefer it... stinging tongue and all!

Grilled Eggplant Salad
from Eating Well Website

2 small eggplants (about 1 pound total)
1 1/4 tsp salt
cooking spray
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tbsp sherry vinegar
1 plum tomato, diced
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika (I used 1 tsp hot paprika)
3 cups mixed baby salad greens
2 oz Manchego cheese

1. Make decorative stripes down the length of the eggplant with a vegetable peeler, and then cut the eggplant crosswise into 1/2" thick slices. Spread on a baking sheet and sprinkle with 1 tsp salt. Let stand 15-20 minutes then rinse thoroughly and pat dry.

2. Preheat BBQ to medium. Lightly spray eggplant with cooking spray and grill for about 10 minutes total (turning halfway) until eggplant is soft and has grillmarks on both sides.

3. In a blender, puree the oil, vinegar, tomato, garlic, paprika and 1/4 tsp salt.

4. In a large bowl toss salad greens with half of the salad dressing.

5. On 6 salad plates, arrange a few slices of eggplant. Drizzle with remaining salad dressing, and then top with salad greens and a few curls of Manchego Cheese (make curls with a vegetable peeler).

Monday, June 1, 2009

Tomato Cream Penne with Artichokes and Chorizo

I apologize, everyone must be getting so bored with seeing this same soup bowl over and over again. I'll have to start trying to be more creative with my photo staging.

Years ago when Mario and I were in University, we had a standing date night every Wednesday with another couple at a local Italian restaurant. This restaurant, which is now closed, had half price night on Wednesdays. The four of us would order 1 medium pizza with Italian Sausage, Tomatoes and Onion and have a slice each for an appetizer, and then we would each have a main course. Mario and I usually ordered the same thing (a testament to how good this meal was, because normally Mario won't order the same thing as me). We loved a dish called "Tortellini Hayden", it had bacon, artichoke hearts, onion, and tortellini in a tomato cream sauce. It was so good and it came with a nice hunk of baguette toasted with garlic butter (all this for around 10$ a person).

I have made numerous attempts over the years to re-create "Tortellini Hayden", sometimes more successfully than others, but I have never recorded exactly what I did, so each time I have to start from scratch figuring it all out.

This dish isn't exactly the same, it has chorizo along with the bacon and penne instead of tortellini, but overall it was inspired by the original "Tortellini Hayden" and if anything, the chorizo was an improvement.

This time, I wrote it down...

Tomato Cream Penne with Artichoke and Chorizo

1 can artichoke hearts (quartered)
4 slices bacon, chopped
1 cup chopped chorizo sausage
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic
1/2 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp each basil and thyme
ground black pepper to taste
1/2 lb dry penne
2 cups strained tomatoes
1/2 cup heavy cream
Freshly grated Parmesan

1. Saute bacon and drain fat, reserving about 1 tsp of the drippings.

2. Return bacon and tsp of dripping to pan and add chorizo, garlic and onion. Saute until onion is soft.

3. Put penne on to boil.

4. Add artichokes, tomato sauce and spices and allow everything to simmer while pasta cooks.

5. Drain pasta and add to sauce along with cream. Stir until cream is incorporated and heated through.

6. Sprinkle with fresh grated Parmesan and serve.