Monday, March 31, 2014

Chipotle Orange Braised Pork

I love when I taste something new that blows my mind.  A combination of flavours that I've never tasted before yet seem so perfect together that I can't actually believe it is the first time I'm tasting them.  Since I've been experimenting with food for so long, that rarely happens to me anymore, but years ago when I tried the combination of orange and chipotle together for the first time, that was the reaction I had.

This is a big recipe, so it feeds many or is great as leftovers.  Actually, like most braises, it is better when made a day ahead of time so that the flavours have time to mingle and the fat can separate.  Pork shoulder is a very fatty meat, so you either need to separate it out in a fat separator, or cool it and skim the fat off the top.  Because this is a slow braise, it is better with cheaper, tougher cuts of meat (like shoulder).  Don't try to make it with pork loin in order to cut down on the fat content (Mom!).  This recipe takes at least five hours to cook, so it's great to make on a Sunday afternoon and then eat for leftovers during the week.

Serve with brown rice, farro, or other whole grain ( I tried it with both rice and farro, and it was definitely better with chewy farro).  It's even better when served with sweet cooked carrots.  Yield: Approximately 6 - 8 servings


1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 tsp salt

14 oz diced tomatoes
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup honey
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp dijon mustard
2 tsp salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 -1 whole chipotle pepper, minced (depending on how hot you like it)
1 tsp cumin

1 4-5 pound pork shoulder

fresh cilantro, chopped


1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. In a heavy dutch oven, sauté the onion in the oil with the salt until it is translucent.

3. While the onion is sautéing, combine the tomatoes, orange juice, honey, vinegar, mustard, salt, garlic, chipotle, and cumin in a small bowl.

4. Cut the string off the pork shoulder roast if it has it.  Trim the roast of any excess fat and cut into four quarters.

5. Push the onions to the side of the pot, and place the pork on the bottom of the pot. Cover with the liquid mixture.

6. Cover with a lid and place in the oven.  Turn the oven temperature down to 200 degrees Fahrenheit.

7. Cook for 5 - 6 hours (mine took 6, but I think my oven runs cool) without opening the oven door or until the meat falls apart when you pull on it with two forks. Separate the fat from the sauce or skim off any fat that is siting on the surface.

8. Serve on top of rice, farro, or other whole grain, and garnish with cilantro.  Enjoy!

Shopping Tips:

1. Chipotle peppers can be found in any grocery store by the taco ingredients.  They come in a very small can packed in adobe sauce.  You only need one, so you will have to buy way more than you need, but they can be frozen for a later use.  They are a great addition to salsa.

2. The handy dandy fat separator that you see pictured above was an awesome present from my brother and sister-in-law.  I'd been putting off buying one for years (even though they only cost about $10) because I kept telling myself that I didn't really need one, but trust me, they are soooooo handy!

This can be made at any time of the year, but is a great warmer on a chilly night.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Curry Roasted Cauliflower

My childhood memories of cauliflower are one of two things: raw florets dredged in dill dip from
a Tupperware veggie tray, or steamed with cheese sauce on top.  To some, these are fond memories, and to others, the reason for a hatred of the vegetable.  I happen to really like cauliflower, but then again, I also like brussels sprouts, cabbage, and rutabaga.

If you haven't tried roasted cauliflower yet, today is the day.  Roasting it at a high heat caramelizes the edges and changes the flavour profile completely.  This recipe goes one step further and adds curry powder for even greater complexity.

You can use either dill or cilantro.  I was intending to use cilantro, but my local grocery store tends to always be out of the one herb I am looking for.  If I want basil, they don't have it, but if I don't need it, they do have it.  Same goes for dill and thyme.  However, they seem to always have parsley and cilantro, so I thought I'd be safe.  Today, though, they did not have cilantro, but instead had bunches and bunches of fenugreek - an unusual herb used in Indian cooking.  I can only assume that someone made a pretty big mistake in the ordering....

Anyway, this can be made as a side or an appetizer.


1 cup of plain yogurt
1/2 - 1 tsp garlic, crushed
1 tsp dijon mustard
2 Tbsp fresh dill, chopped
1 tsp capers, drained and finely chopped
salt, pepper

1 head of cauliflower, sliced
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp curry powder
salt, pepper


1. Combine the yogurt, garlic, dijon, dill, caper, salt, and pepper and refrigerate for at least two hours to allow flavours to come together.

2. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

3. Mix the oil and curry powder together.  Set aside.  Slice the cauliflower into discs and drizzle with the curry oil.  Mix well.

4. Place the cauliflower on a baking sheet and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

5. Bake the cauliflower for 15 minutes, turn, and bake for another 10 minutes.

6. Serve immediately with the yogurt dip on the side.

Shopping Tips:

1. Capers are the marinated buds of a Mediterranean flower although they taste nothing like it.  They are a great acidic addition to many dishes and are regularly found in tartar sauce.  They can be found in small jars in the pickle section of any grocery store.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Green Pea Crostini

One of my favourite restaurants in Edmonton, Corso 32, used to have a fava bean crostini on their menu that was to die for.  It's the kind of thing that would keep you going back even if that were the only thing on the menu, which, luckily, it isn't.  This is my take on that recipe since fava beans are not always the easiest things to find.  It may not be the time of year for fresh peas from the garden, but the sun is out, and it is almost time to start putting those pea seeds in the ground, so I thought that was good enough.  This recipe is almost as good with thawed frozen peas, so why not?

If you have a day-old baguette, slice it into thin rounds, brush with extra-virgin olive oil, and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until brown and crispy.  When they come out of the oven, rub a piece of raw garlic over the toast. If you don't have a baguette, just use crostini from the store.


12 garlic crostini

1 cup frozen peas, thawed
2 - 3 Tbsp good quality extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp freshly grated parmesan cheese (plus extra for garnish)
4 basil leaves
1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 Tbsp pine nuts
salt, pepper


1. Toast the pine nuts in a dry pan on the stove or on a baking sheet in the oven for a couple of minutes, being very careful not to burn them (I always do!).

2. In a food processor, combine the peas, olive oil, parmesan, basil, and lemon juice until smooth.

3. Season the pea puree with salt and pepper to taste.

4. On top of each crostini, put a spoonful of pea puree, a few pine nuts, and some grated parmesan cheese.  Enjoy!

Shopping Tips:

1. The best, but most expensive, kind of parmesan cheese is parmegiano reggiano.  Do NOT use the parmesan that comes in the green can from the pasta aisle.  I'm not sure what that stuff is, but it is not cheese.

2. I use sweetlet or summer sweet peas for this recipe.  They are smaller and sweeter and have a more tender texture that the large green peas.

3. Pine nuts are expensive and go rancid quickly, so I keep them in the fridge.

The pea puree will keep in the fridge for several days, so it is really easy to make ahead of time - just don't put it on the toast until the last minute!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Sun Dried Tomato and Mung Bean Dip

I really like dips for a snack.  They are a quick and easy way to tie me over after work and until supper is ready.  It is often this snack that gives me the energy to make dinner instead of just devouring whatever is at hand when I open the fridge.

My standby as of late has been tzatziki, but with the main ingredient being yogurt, it is not that substantial, and I end up eating quite a few pretzel chips.  So, when I was looking for substitutes, I came across a recipe for a mung bean hummus.  I had never tried mung beans before, even though I had seen them in the store several times, because "mung" sounds gross and they are also a weird dark green colour.  The combination together just put me off.  But, then I heard that they are actually quite neutral tasting, so I decided to give them a try.  In addition, I decided that a cross between a hummus and a tzatziki would be the perfect combination of light and satisfying.  By the way, mung beans are a great source of protein, iron, and vitamin B6!

This recipe makes about 2 cups of dip.


1/2 cup dried mung beans
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/3 cup sun dried tomatoes
a handful of fresh dill
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt
1 clove garlic 


1. Simmer mung beans in 3 cups of water for 40 - 50 minutes or until tender and starting to split.  Cool

2. In a small food processor, combine all ingredients.  You may need to add up to 1/4 cup of water to adjust the consistency.  It should not be too thick.

3. Refrigerate for several hours to allow flavours to come together. Enjoy!

Shopping Tips:

1. Mung beans are usually either sold in the bulk section or the "international foods" section of the grocery store.  Alternatively, you can find them at natural foods stores.

2. Sun dried tomatoes come in three forms: moist and ready to eat, dried, or packed in olive oil.  You can use any version in this recipe, but if you use the dried kind, you will need to reconstitute them in boiling water.  I used the moist and ready to eat kind.


1. If you can't find mung beans, you could use white beans instead.

2. Serve with dipping crackers or raw vegetables.

If you store this for more than a day, it may become thicker.  Just put it back in the food processor with a bit of water to loosen it up.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Portobello Tuna Melts

Okay, I promise, I do not eat tuna melts every week, although I did just realize that I posted a version of a tuna melt just two weeks ago...

I really like to include tuna in recipes because it is easily accessible (can be stored in the pantry), is inexpensive, and makes it easy to include a serving of fish in my week.  For anyone who is gluten-free, this is a great way to have a tuna melt as there is no bread in the recipe.  I often make this when I'm looking to eat a bit lighter, which usually occurs right after Christmas or as the weather starts to warm up and I realize that the over-sized sweaters are going to have to be retired soon.  Seeing how it's March and the temperature this weekend was below -40 degrees celsius, I guess I also make it when I'm looking for something quick and easy.

This recipe serves two people.


2 portobello mushrooms
extra virgin olive oil
1 can chunked light tuna, drained
2 Tbsp mayo (I use reduced fat veganaise)
1 tsp dijon mustard
2 Tbsp fresh dill
1 handful of baby kale or spinach
1 small tomato
1/4 cup cheddar or gruyere cheese, grated
salt, pepper


1. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Take out the stem of the mushrooms, and use a spoon to scrape out the gills.

3. Place the mushrooms on a baking sheet and brush with oil.  Bake for 10 minutes, turning halfway through.

4. While the mushrooms are baking, in a medium-sized bowl, mix together tuna, mayo, dijon, dill, kale, salt, and pepper.

5. When the mushrooms are tender, fill each cap with the tuna mixture and top with tomatoes and cheese.

6. Broil for about 5 minutes or until the cheese is brown and bubbling.  Enjoy!

Shopping Tips

1. Portobello mushrooms are the really big ones.  They can now be found in all grocery stores.

2. Some tunas are more pungent than others.  I like the light taste of light tuna.

These tuna melts are great served with salad.