My first food memory involves shrimp. I was two or three years-old and my mother had taken me with her to the grocery store. We lived in a small city in northern Brazil, in the middle of the Amazon, and the only thing I remember is the shrimp I ate at that grocery store. It was piled high on a table a bit higher than myself. I can’t remember if it was dried or salted shrimp – all I know is that it wasn’t fresh and it was edible. I stood beside the table and reached over to grab some. No one noticed me as I started eating the shrimp. I loved it. Shrimp was probably my favourite food growing up. My obsession with it was a source of family jokes at my expense. Some of my aunts and uncles still talk about it. Except when we lived on the northeastern coast, shrimp was a luxury that my family could not always afford. We ate it on special occasions. Or on vacations at the beach.
I was amazed when I moved to Canada to find that shrimp was so cheap here and ubiquitous in every restaurant menu. It was served on salads, soups, pasta dishes, rice dishes, everything seemed to have an option to add shrimp. I couldn’t believe my luck! Disappointment quickly followed. This was not at all like the shrimp I had grown up eating on the coast of Brazil. It was tasteless. It was bland. It didn’t add anything to the dish I was eating. I slowly stopped ordering it. It was only after I started buying fish at Hooked that I came across tasty shrimp again. During a visit to Mississippi I was able to try some gulf shrimp and reminded of how much I loved it.
What was wrong then with all those tasteless shrimp on restaurant menus? Most of them were farmed shrimp produced in places like Indonesia and Vietnam. Shrimp that is grown quickly with the use of hormones (customers want size) and antibiotics to withstand the toxic environment. Not only is the shrimp produced in less than ideal circumstances (which may be the reason why much of it is tasteless), along the supply chain we find terrible human exploitation, even slavery. Corey Mintz’s article on Toronto Life on “The high price of cheap shrimp” lists many of the problems in that industry. He also interviews many local chefs here in Toronto on how they source their shrimp, a useful primer for those of us who want to be selective and not contribute to the exploitation of others. As for myself, I’ll keep avoiding the cheap shrimp whenever I can.
I had a small kuri squash sitting on the counter and some short grained brown rice. Inspired by an earlier recipe I made a while back, I decided to put my instant pot to the test and make some brown rice risotto. Normally, when I make risotto with short grain brown rice, I follow Mark Bittman’s advice of parboiling the rice first. This time I decided to use my instant pot. After opening the squash and removing the seeds, I cut the squash into 1/2-inch slices and roasted it in the oven at 375 F for about 15 minutes per side or until cooked through. While the squash was in the oven, I turned on sauté function on the instant pot and sauteed a diced onion for a few minutes, added 3 tsp of anise seeds, 3 tsp of smoked paprika, 1 cup of tomato purée, 3 tsp of salt and black pepper. I mixed in 2 cups of short grain brown rice and 5 cups of water, mixed well, and cooked it under higher pressure for 22 minutes. By then, the squash was cooked through and I cut the pieces into bite sized pieces. Once the rice was ready (it turned out super creamy!), I mixed in a cup of a sharp cheese such as cheddar or guyère, the squash, and one portobello mushroom I had sauteed earlier (optional). I finished by adjusting the salt and adding a 1/2 cup of fresh parsley. Yummy.
A couple of weeks ago, I purchased an Instant Pot, a multiuse electric pot that among its many functions, also works as an electric pressure cooker. More on that later. It’s about time I started chronicling the recipes I make in it. This series will start with a simple tomato and bean soup inspired by a recipe in Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Veg. Fearnley-Whittingstall’s recipe was based on a nice-looking roasted tomato sauce recipe in the same book and relies on canned beans to speed up the process. I didn’t have canned beans but did have my electric pressure cooker. So this is what I came up with:
The picture of our Thanksgiving meal says it all: stuffing is a priority at chez A & A. Technically speaking, it ought to be called dressing since it is baked outside the bird – and in this case, there wasn’t even a bird. One of my favourite recipes is an adaptation of a recipe by Pamela Anderson originally published at Fine Cooking magazine. I didn’t have prunes or chestnuts so I adapted. Here’s the result:
1. Cut the bread and let it sit in a bowl or tray to dry out a bit. I usually chop the bread in the morning to make the stuffing in the afternoon.
2. Fry the bacon until crisp, remove it from the pan with a slotted spoon, and fry the onions and celery in the bacon fat until soft.
3. Combine the bread cubes, bacon, onions, celery, walnuts, cranberries, herbs, eggs and chicken broth, and mix in until the bread has absorbed all the liquid.
Spread the mixture evenly in a 9×13-inch baking dish, cover with foil, and bake in a 375 F oven until completely heated through, about 30 min. Remove the foil and continue to bake until the dressing is lightly golden brown and crisp on top, about another 20 min.
Thanksgiving began with making cranberry sauce. I browsed a few recipes online and decided to take what I liked from them and make my own with what I had available:
Combine the cranberries, juice and zest of the two oranges, sherry, sugar, rosemary, and cardamon in a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer and cook until the cranberries are soft and the sauce has thickened, about 10 minutes.
It’s Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada and all I can think about is food, which is precisely why Thanksgiving is my favourite holiday. A roast, squash, root vegetables of all kinds, dark leafy greens, gravy, and all in season, is too irresistible. The plan for this year is to skip the Turkey and replace it with a Pork pot roast. So this is what I’m making this year:
Guests are bringing dessert and so far I’ve been told there will be angel food cake with seasonal fruits, pumpkin pie, and cinnamon buns. I’ll post pictures and recipes here later as a record for next year.
We have been eating out a lot lately, either invited by friends or because I have been very busy at work. This week is time to reset and recharge with some fresh seasonal vegetables and some pantry staples.
On sunday I made Mark Bittman’s simplest dal with some added rhubarb. A touch of genius! The rhubarb added the right amount of acidity to the dal – a perfect savoury use for all the rhubarb in the market these days. I served it with some brown rice and a fresh green salad with radish.
On monday (today), I made grated the radish with some carrots, orange sweet bell peppers, celery, green onions, and parsley to make a nice crunchy salad to top the green leafs I had left from yesterday. As a main, I roasted sweet potatoes, asparagus, and red peppers seasoned with olive oil, salt, herbs, and harissa and served it with quinoa and topped with tahini dressing.
A good start for the week!
I’ve been making a lot of arroz al forn lately. Mostly because I found a good supply of bomb rice and fell in love with my cazuela. I made several versions of arroz al forn – usually with the required combination or pork, chorizo, and blood sausages with chickpeas and potato. Crazy combination of starches, I know, but so delicious. Cooking rice with meat often reminds me of one of my favourite Brazilian dishes – arroz carreteiro, a rice dish cooked with salted beef that is often made with leftover meats from a bbq. The base of the dish is similar – both involve cooking some onions, green pepper, and tomato. Mixing in some broth, meats, and rice. Carreteiro is not made in the oven or with bomba rice but I decided to use the carreteiro inspiration and make it Spanish style. So it’s sort of a Spanish-style Brazilian dish if you will.
It’s been crazy busy chez nous these days and what better way to feel a bit more in control than to cook a meal that can serve as basis for future meals? Sunday I cooked a big pot of beans in the slow cooker, roasted some beets and made a quinoa beet salad. We had the beans with rice for dinner on Sunday and lunch on Monday and the quinoa salad for dinner on monday night. The past few days have been very cold once again and the body begged for something more comforting that rice and beans. Something more decadent. How about some meatloaf? I turn to Mark Bittman for some suggestions and he does not disappoint: he pairs his meatloaf with maple-glazed carrots. My only change to the original recipe published in his How to Cook Everything was to add a bit of steak spice. I cannot describe how tasty this meatloaf was. Alan did not put ketchup on it. That’s how good it was. And the carrots? Genius. I’ll be definitely be making it for thanksgiving and Christmas meals for now on.
This is based on the recipe Shrimps with scallions and fenugreek leaves (jheenga methi) from the book Fifty Great Curries of India by Camellia Panjabi. I couldn’t find fenugreek leaves so I replaced it with parsley (cilantro might be better but my husband hates it).
1 cup scallions, chopped (green and white parts)
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp turmeric powder
3/4 tsp chili powder
1 tbsp lemon or lime juice
14 oz uncooked shelled shrimp
3 tbsp oil
1-2 green chiles, finely chopped
2 large garlic cloves
1/2 inch piece of ginger, finely chopped
3/4 cup parley or cilantro
1 tap lime juice (optional)