Monday, July 29, 2013

meatless "antipasto" platter

perfect for sharing
serve with homemade pita bread
This meal is perfect for a night in with friends or a date night.  Lots of tasty bites to share, and all even better with a glass of wine.

Before I made this I had only tried artichokes in their jarred form, or on top of pizza or in a salad at restaurants.  The fresh green ones at the grocery store have always intrigued me, and I've seen how they are cooked on foodnetwork, but never tried it.  I decided to go for it and it was definitely worth the effort.  It was a perfect on this "antipasto" platter - quotations because it's not the traditional italian kind with cured meats and pickled veggies etc.  Each component on the platter takes a bit of time to prepare, but you can multitask and enjoy wine while doing it!

what you need:
  • 1 medium sweet vidalia onion
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 head of garlic
  • fresh pita bread (check out my homemade pita recipe)
  • 1-2 artichokes
  • 1 small package of king oyster mushrooms
  • assorted cheeses of your choice (I used some feta, sharp cheddar, and parmesan)
  • pita bread
artichoke dipping sauce 
(mix all ingredients together and refrigerate until ready to enjoy)
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise (low fat is OK)
  • 1 garlic clove, finely grated
  • 1 lemon's zest and juice
  • salt and pepper

what to do:

caramelized onion

1. Thinly slice onion.
2. In a non-stick pan, melt 1 tbsp butter + 1 tsp olive oil over medium heat.
3. Add sliced onions and turn heat down to medium low.  Caramelized onions take a long time but it's the slow cooking process that draws out the onions sweetness.  You don't want the heat too high or you will just get browning.
4. Continue stirring and checking on your onions as you work on other parts of this platter.  Once the onions are very soft, sticky, and very lightly browned, they are done.

roasted red pepper

  1. If you have a gas range, fire it up and put the red bell pepper directly on the flame, blackening all sides and softening the pepper.  Otherwise, preheat oven to 425 F and roast pepper whole in the oven for 20-30 minutes.  Either method, you know the pepper is ready when it is soft and careful it may squirt very hot liquid!
  2. Place cooked pepper in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  
  3. Once it is cool enough to handle, remove blackened skin (should slide off easily) - slice thinly and toss with 1 tsp of extra virgin olive oil, pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper.  
blistering on the flames
covered by plastic wrap to steam, then cool
  1. Get a large pot of water boiling.
  2. Wash artichokes by rinsing in cold water, then cut about 1 cm off each end.
  3. Use kitchen scissors to cut tips of each leaf (this gets rid of any potential pointy parts).
  4. Cut a lemon in half and rub all over artichoke to keep it nice and green.
  5. Immerse artichokes in boiling water and cover, turn heat down to medium and cook for 30-40 minutes (bigger artichokes will need more time).
  6. Get an ice bath ready (lots of ice with cold water in a large bowl)
  7. When the artichokes are cooked, drain and immediately immerse in ice bath.
  8. Once cooled, remove and allow artichokes to drain/dry on a cooling rack or paper towels.
trimmed and leaves cut, ready for boiling
draining water out
roasted mushrooms & garlic

1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
2. Cut king oyster mushrooms length wise, about 0.5 cm thick.
3.  Toss mushrooms with 1 tbsp melted butter, a pinch of salt and pepper.
4. Line a baking tray with parchment paper and place mushroom slices on, do not overlap.
5. Cut off tip of garlic head, about 0.5cm, to expose tops of cloves.
6. Drizzle top with a little bit of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
7. Wrap tightly in foil and place on corner of baking tray, alongside mushrooms.
8. Check at 10 minutes to see if mushrooms need a flip.
9. Roast for about 15-20 minutes, until garlic is soft and mushes easily, and mushrooms are soft and slightly golden brown.


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

"spaghetti" pizza parcels

these little parcels are easy to eat,
leftovers make a great lunch!
These were inspired by my 11 month old daughter, Madi. She is not the best little eater so meal time is quite the challenge! However, recently we have found that she really loves black beans, and all kids seem to love tomato pasta sauce.  With lean ground beef, tender veggies and a cheesy topping, this combination is definitely a hit. This little parcel uses the same dough as the thin crust pizza.  You can eliminate the beef to make this a vegetarian dish.

what you need:
*makes 18 

  • 1 can black beans (540 mL)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (~400 mL)
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 1 large carrot
  • 2 celery ribs
  • 450 g lean ground beef
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh oregano
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup shredded sharp old cheddar
  • 1 egg 
  • 1/3 cup flour 
  • 3 thin crust pizza doughs (if they were made ahead and frozen, take them out to thaw while you make the filling)
what to do:

  1. Prepare veggies (celery, onion, carrot) - wash thoroughly, remove peel from onion and carrot, then dice into small cubes.  Set aside in a bowl.
  2. In a large pot over medium heat, warm olive oil then add diced onion, carrot and celery.  Sauté for 5-10 minutes, stirring often and allowing veggies to soften and lightly brown.
  3. Finely chop garlic and add to the pot, sauté for another minute.
  4. Add ground beef, breaking up into small pieces with a wooden spoon.  Continue sautéing and stirring, about 5 minutes.  Season with salt (~1/2 tsp) and freshly ground black pepper.
  5. Drain and rinse black beans.
  6. Add diced tomatoes, black beans, tomato paste and oregano.  Stir to mix evenly, then put lid over pot and turn heat down to medium-low.  
  7. Allow this to simmer for 45 minutes, occasionally mixing and checking to avoid burning at the bottom.  
  8. After 45 minutes, lift lid and simmer for another 5 minutes.  Excess liquid will evaporate and allow filling to thicken so that the pizza parcels won't be soggy.  Transfer to bowl to cool to room temperature.
pizza parcel assembly
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  2. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  
  3. Crack egg into a small bowl and beat with a fork.  Get cheddar cheese ready.
  4. While filling is cooling, sprinkle work surface generously with flour (to avoid dough sticking).  Roll out pizza dough until quite thin and somewhat rectangular in shape (doesn't have to be perfect).  Cut into 6 even-ish squares.  
  5. Spoon about 2 tbsp into the centre of the squares, then pull up all four corners and pinch together.    It's ok if the filling is not completely sealed by the dough.  Transfer parcel onto baking sheet.
  6. Once 6 are on the baking sheet, lightly brush tops of parcel with egg wash and then top with shredded cheese (about 1 tbsp).  
  7. Place in oven centre rack, bake for 13 minutes, until tops are golden brown.  Remove and allow to cool slightly before serving.  Enjoy!