September 26, 2009

Potato & Radish Salad with Dill

A last little taste of Summer. Is it too late to still be talking potato salad? This one is pretty basic - steamed, halved nugget potatoes and sliced raw radishes, tossed with a mountain of fresh dill and a little good quality mayonnaise mixed with sliced green onion and a tiny amount of crushed garlic. The ideal side dish for getting one last barbeque or picnic in, even if it's technically autumn already.

I didn't follow a recipe for this, I just eyeballed the ingredients, going easy on the mayo (you can always add more). Sadly, I failed to take the photo before we had dinner, and this technically was just the leftovers (perfect lunch for the next day!), but it was a beautiful, big heaping bowl of delicious salad, and I kind of want some right now.

September 08, 2009

Spicy Cheddar Corn Muffins

These were really quite outstanding. Excellent with a big pot of chili, or as a mid-morning snack. Warm is best - hot from the oven is the way to go if possible, but a few seconds in the microwave ought to do it once they've cooled completely.

Spicy Cheddar Corn Muffins

Makes 12 regular sized muffins

1 ½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ to 1 teaspoon cayenne
¼ teaspoon dried oregano leaves
1 ¼ cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
½ cup fresh corn kernels*
2 serrano chiles, one finely chopped, one sliced into seedless rings
¼ cup melted butter
2 large eggs
¾ cup milk

Preheat oven to 425° F. Lightly spritz 12 regular sized muffin cups with canola oil.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, baking soda and baking powder, salt, herbs, and cheese. Short strands work best; toss the cheese well to keep the strands from clumping.

In another bowl, mix together the melted butter, eggs and milk. Stir in the chiles and corn kernels. Pour into a well in the centre of the flour mixture and fold together until just moistened. Do not over mix; the batter will be very thick and should not be completely smooth (but it should not have big clumps of flour).

Spoon the batter into the muffin cups. Bake on a centre rack for approximately 20 minutes, or until muffins are golden and toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove to a rack to cool or serve warm.

* You can use frozen corn kernels that have been rinsed well under hot water and thoroughly drained.

** Want a meaty variation? Add cooked, crumbled bacon.

September 02, 2009

Ruby Spanakopita

I am happy when my friends and neighbours over plant their gardens. When a co-worker e-mailed me to ask if I would like some chard, since her garden had exceeded her modest expectations by a significant factor, I was delighted. I didn't expect quite such a large amount, however. I didn't immediately know what to do with it all, until I remembered my mother saying that you could use chard wherever you used spinach, if you had young leaves and/or strong nerves.

I decided to give spanakopita a try. Chardokopita? Feeling rather fundamentally lazy, I decided not to make individual sized pies, but rather one big one to be sliced up for serving. As you can see, the ruby stems and veins give a pretty jewelled effect, even though most of the stems were removed prior to wilting.

I departed so thoroughly from the recipes that I found online that I must re-invent the instructions. This was well worth the effort:

Ruby Chard Spanakopita

9 to 10 cups cleaned, roughly chopped ruby chard leaves
1 medium onion, minced
2 green onions, sliced finely
3 cloves of garlic
1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped
pinch of dry oregano leaves
pinch nutmeg (x2)
zest from one lemon
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
3/4 cup feta, crumbled
2 eggs
white pepper, to taste
small pinch of salt
about 10 sheets of fillo / phyllo dough

Preheat your oven to 350 F. Set the rack to the middle of the oven.

Saute the onions and garlic in a little olive oil until translucent, sprinkling with a tiny amount of salt to help them loosen up. Splash with a little water or vermouth, as you see fit, and add the chard leaves. Stir them until they are well wilted down. Remove them from the heat, and stir in the herbs, eggs, pepper, and lastly the cheese.

Line a 7 x11" glass baking dish with a layer of phyllo dough, coming up the sides of the dish. Mist/spritz lightly with olive oil (or canola, if you must), and repeat, overlapping the sheets a bit if necessary to make sure that the pastry comes all the way up on all sides of the dish. Repeat this a few times (each time spritzing with oil) until you have about five layers of pastry down. Sprinkle the lemon zest over the bottom of the pastry. Add the filling and smooth it with a spoon until it is flat and evenly spread about. Top with more layers of spritzed pastry, tucking the edges in nicely and finishing with a nice even spritz of olive oil and a good sprinkling of nutmeg.

Bake for about 40 minutes, or until golden. Cut into six large squares and serve with a nice salad (or some souvlaki!), or allow to cool and cut into tiny dessert-sized squares to serve as appetizers (either cold, or, ideally, re-heated in an oven for a few minutes until crisped).

I re-heats quite well in an oven, even a little toaster oven. If you must freeze some, re-heat directly into a pre-heated oven without allowing it to thaw.

I am undecided as to making another one for the freezer with the chard I have left, or venturing into saag territory instead.