Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Fancy Merguez Hot Dogs with Couscous.

So this week for my lunches I decided to make some couscous. I have this huge bag full and I need to get rid of it. I never did couscous before. My ex, who's from the Middle-East used to to make it and it was really good, what with black olives and cucumbers and parsley, etc. I prefer mine with nuts and raisins because it's sweeter and crunchier.

The problem is though, I don't find couscous to be that filling. Plus, a meal just ain't a meal if it ain't got any meat. Know what I'm sayin'? I asked a colleague at work for ideas and he suggested sausages. I thought Yeah! Some merguez with that would be excellent! So I went with that, but decided to add a twist. I thought I'd do some kind of Maghreb hot dog with those President's Choice Blue Menu flat bread hot dog buns and fancy it up with maple onion confit and honey mustard. I'm sure you're thinking well la-di-da Mr. Fancy Pants. Yeah, I'm a fancy son of a bitch when it comes to food. Deal with it. Besides, this recipe is super easy and I'm super lazy. It's also a great meal for the summer time.

Some of the stuff required to do what I want to do.

First of all, I took care of the Merguez. I covered a baking sheet in foil and greased it up with a bit of olive oil. I heated the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit, laid the Merguez on the baking sheet and let them cook in the oven for 25 minutes, making sure I flip them over after 15 minutes.

Ready to go

Boom! Done and looking mighty delicious.

While the Merguez were cooking I gathered my ingredients and started preparing the couscous. I found the recipe here: Couscous with cashews and raisins. I thought the recipe wasn't too clear so I decided to add my modifications to it to improve it.

What you're going to need:

- Butter (2 tbs)
- Unsalted cashews (1 cup)
- Olive oil (1 1/2 tbs)
- Small onion (1) chopped finely
- Parsley (1 cup) chopped finely
- Whole cumin seeds (1 1/2 tsp)
- Dried couscous (1 1/2 cups)
- Water (2 cups)
- Salt
- Raisins (1 cup)
- Cashews (1 cup)

And your tools:

- 1 large saucepan (big enough to hold the couscous an the water)
- 1 wooden spoon
- Measuring cup
- Measuring spoons
- Chopping board
- Chopping knife

So first of all, finely chop up the onion and the parsley. Then, heat up your sauce pan on low heat and melt 2 tbs of butter. Then add 1 cup of cashews and cook them up until they become roasted all nice and brown. The butter will turn brown during the process, but that's normal. When the cashews are toasted, take them out of the saucepan and put them aside, keeping the butter in the saucepan.

Add the 1 1/2 tbs of olive oil to the saucepan, 1 1/2 tsp of cumin seeds and the chopped onion. Let them cook on low heat until the onions start turning brown. It should take around 10 minutes.

When the onion is cooked, add 1 1/2 cups of dried couscous and stir to mix in the onion and cumin. Then add 2 cups of water and mix so the couscous absorbs all the water. Make sure you stir constantly so it doesn't stick to the bottom. Add the raisins and some salt to taste and mix.

Turn off the heat and cover for 15 minutes to let the couscous absorb the water and cook with the steam.

When it's all cooked, add the cashews and the parsley and mix it all in.

Add salt to taste and boom! Your delicious couscous is ready.

Paired with the fancy Merguez-dogs with onion confit, this is going to be one freakin' amazing lunch tomorrow. I can't wait!


UPDATE: Here's the resulting lunch at work. I brought the onion-mustard mix in a separate container and I nuked the sausages in the microwave oven before eating my lunch. The couscous was such a success, a co-worker tried to steal it from me. But she knows never to get between a hungry man and his meal and decided to leave it alone. Grrr.... Seriously though, I love to share my food with my coworkers so they can taste it and tell me what they think.

Quick and delicious vegetable dip

I had leftover celery from the Jambalaya. I know, I know, it's been a while, but it was still good. Except, I had a feeling it was going to turn bad soon so I decided to cut it up and eat some before heading out to do my groceries. But, raw veggies are boring. I can't eat them by themselves.


I need some veggie dip to add some flavour otherwise I get sick of eating them real fast. Plus, my celery was lacking a bit in colour and in taste as well. Thankfully, my mother gave me the recipe for her great veggie dip. I had to adapt it though because I was lacking some ingredients, but it's pretty close to the original thing.

Here's what you need to prepare the dip:
- Plain Greek yogourt. (2 tbs)
- Light mayo. (1 tbs)
- Curry powder (2 tsp)
- Mrs. Dash Original Blend Seasoning. (2 tsp / to taste)
- Frank's Red Hot sauce. (1 tbs / To taste)

Basically the base of the recipe is to put 2/3 yogourt and 1/3 mayo and you start from there. So if you need to do a bigger batch, use those proportions, then use the rest to taste.

So in my lonesome case, I just put 2 big spoons of Greek yogourt and 1 big tablespoon of mayo. Then, mixed in the curry, Mrs Dash seasoning and some Frank's Red Hot sauce and had that with my pale-looking celery.

The dip is delicious. Prep up some veggies and make it for when you have guests over. Add a big teaspoon of sour creme in there for some extra smoothness.


Wednesday, 13 June 2012

The sexy manly salad

You want to eat healthy, but you want to become big and strong? You probably think your best bet is to eat lean proteins such as lean beef, chicken and fish. Bring on the steak! How about a salad? You get all the veggies you need and lots of fiber and vitamins. No way, José! Salads are for girls or hippie vegans, I say! I'm a man and I need meat to grow muscles! But, what are you gonna have your steak with? You want to stay away from carbs such as potatoes, rice, bread and pasta. And having steamed veggies every day with your meat gets pretty boring pretty quickly.

Well my dear macho friend, I have the best dish that will make everyone at the lunch table envy you. (And attract all the ladies around you. Results may vary.) It's what I like to call the sexy manly salad. This salad is very easy to make and will fill you right up with all the protein you need and a solid serving of fruits and vegetables.

Get yourself the following ingredients at the grocery store:

  • Large box of cleaned and ready to eat baby spinach leaves.
  • Small box of cleaned and ready to eat arugula leaves.
  • A box of strawberries, the smaller the better because they're sweeter and have more flavor.
  • A couple of bags of raw pecans. (Though spicy candied pecans are the bomb with this salad.)
  • A block of blue cheese. The harder the better because we have to crumble it in the salad.
  • Montreal Steak spice mix.
  • Worchestshestershirer-er sauce. (Whatever it's called, you know what I mean.)
  • Margarine.
  • Olive oil and Raspberry-Champagne vinegar for the vinaigrette. (A delicious alternative is raspberry coulis.)

The first step - the hardest one for this dish - is to cook your steak. I don't have a barbecue so I do it in the pan. But if you do have a barbecue, I recommend marinating your steak in the Worcestershire sauce in a zip lock bag and leave them in the fridge for an hour before you cook them.
  1. Turn on the heat to medium and add about a tablespoon of  margarine to the pan, melt and cover the surface of the pan.
  2. Put a couple of steaks in the pan and immediately add Worcestershire sauce. Just enough to cover the surface of the steaks.
  3. Sprinkle some Montreal Steak spices over the steaks.
  4. Turn the steaks over and repeat steps 2 and 3.
  5. When the steaks are cooked, remove them from the pan and cut them into 1cm wide strips. (That's about a third of an inch for all you non metric asshats out there. Jeez, get with the program.)
When you're done with the steaks grab a very large handfull of strawberries, wash them, cut off the stem and slice them in half. (Or quarters if you bought those ginormous transgenic monsters.)

I can't cut this one, it's got a face!

Punk rockin' strawberry!

That's probably his father.
© Angel Flores Jr

Take a large bowl and fill it with 3/4 of baby spinach and 1/4 arugula. Add the strawberries. Then grab a big handful of those pecans and CRUSH THEM WITH ALL YOUR MIGHT IN A FIST OF RAGE and gently sprinkle over the salad.

If it doesn't look like this so far, you're doing it wrong.

Finally, lie the slices of steak on the top of the salad. Then cut a cube of about 3 cm wide (1 inch) of blue cheese and crumble it all over the salad.

Mmm-mm! Doesn't that look sexy?

For the dressing, I had raspberry-champagne vinegar on hand so I mixed it up with some olive oil and drizzled it over the salad. But, like I mentioned in the ingredients, for even better results, drizzle a little bit of raspberry coulis over the salad for some extra sweetness.

The champagne-raspberry mix acts as a pheromone to attract the ladies.

And that is how you make the sexy manly salad.


Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Ze lazy French célibataire's dinner

I went on a fishing trip this weekend with family members and spent the most of the weekend with them so I didn't have time to run my routine weekend errands. Monday night I came home late from work and I went to do my groceries on an empty stomach, which is not recommended by the way. I was hungry and I wanted to have a quick dinner when I come back home. But, being ze fancy French homme célibataire that I am, I wasn't going to settle for a can of Cordon Bleu's meatballs in gravy, the ultimate bachelor chow. Also, it was a hot evening and it was 30 degrees celcius (that's 86 farenheit for all you non-metric dickheads out there) so I didn't want to cook up a storm and heat up the place.

So as I walked in the grocery store, I started off in the deli section and my eyes randomly set on a little package of rabbit, pork and white wine paté. The French in me thought well here's an idea: I'll have myself some of that paté on a crusty baguette! HanHanHan! But, to eat just the paté alone would be lacking in variety. So I went to the other side of the fridge and grabbed a puck of Le Boursin garlic and chives cream cheese. I remembered I also had half a small jar of homemade fruit and rosemary jam that a friend of mine had made and gave to me a while ago. I thought it might be good with some prosciutto an other fine Italian cured meats and lucky enough for me, I found a little variety pack of prosciutto, salami and beef. And being as hungry as I was, I ended up grabbing a huge jar of pickled eggs to go along with it. I do loves me some pickled eggs, especially as a little afternoon snack with some salty crackers.

When I got home and put away all the food I bought, I prepared my dinner: slicing the baguette. And thus, ze lazy French dinner was served!

So the idea is that you grab a slice of baguette and you can either spread some paté or cheese, or you can roll up a slice of meat on the bread and top it with the jam. You can slice the pickled eggs and eat them with the bread too if you want, but I prefer to eat them whole. Also, I happened to have some of my mother's hearty vegetable soup on hand as well, so I thought I'd have it at the same time.

If you want you can replace the jam with some fruits. One that tastes particularly good with cured meats is watermelon. You cut it up in little cubes and you cover it with a roll of prosciutto and stick them together with toothpicks. It's the perfect little fingerfood on a hot summer day. Figs are another delicious alternative, the sweetness of the fruit and the crunchiness of its seeds really combine well with the meats.

And this, dear readers, is ze lazy French célibataire's dinner.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Nintendo Jambalaya

Many years ago I found a "game" for the Nintendo DS called Can't decide what to eat? Cooking Guide. I swear that's the name of the game. And the "game" is actually an interactive recipe book complete with a virtual guide who basically tells you what to do, step by step, to successfully complete recipes that can be sorted by country using a world map or by ingredients. You can even have a grocery list in there so you can bring your DS with you to buy your ingredients for the many recipes offered. You will also find explanatory videos that show how to do certain steps like how to properly chop an onion or other cooking tips. A nice feature too, is how there are suggestions to replace some uncommon items, especially in the Asian recipes. But the best feature, though it doesn't work to perfection, is the voice activated commands to continue, go back or repeat the steps while the little cartoon chef guides you through a recipe.

The only downside is that I don't think the game was ever released in North America, so the version I have has all the measures in grams instead of cups. So I had to buy myself a scale to make sure I had the right amounts. I don't know why the hell Europeans measure their ingredients in grams! I mean a cup is a volume, you can have a visual idea of how much a cup of finely chopped onions look like, but not how 100g of chopped onions look like. Man, those Europeans are weird.

So last weekend I was wondering what I was going to make myself for food this week. I was in the mood for some rice with meat in it like a spicy dirty rice or some kind of sausage and shrimp gumbo. Basically I was in the mood for some kind of food from Louisiana. So, I checked out the American section of the map and decided to make myself the Jambalaya that's featured in the game. It's a pretty simple recipe, you saute vegetables and hot chillies in oil, add chicken and seafood, canned tomatoes, white wine, chicken stock and rice then let it all cook until the rice is ready and all the broth has been absorbed. But let me tell you in details how I did it, with the north American cooking metric system. And by the way, this recipe takes about an hour to make and serves 4, so with one portion a day you're gonna be good for most of the week.

Here are the tools you'll need to prepare this recipe:

Large pot
Chopping knife
Measuring cup

Here is the list of ingredients:

1 chicken breast
1 340g bag of SeaQuest frozen sea foo medley (A blend of octopus, cuttlefish, squid, shrimps, clams and mussels) I found this in the frozen seafood section at Loblaws at the Angus Shops.
1 small onion
1 clove garlic
2 bay leaves
1 small green pepper
2 stalks of celery
1 cup of chopped flat leaf parsley
1 540ml can of diced tomatoes, drained
1 900ml carton of chicken stock (or chicken broth)
1 cup white wine
1 or 2 tablespoon of olive oil
2 1/2 cups of regular uncooked rice
1 heaping tablespoon of crushed chili flakes (or a hand full)
Some salt and pepper to taste.

And here's how you prepare it:

First finely chop your onion, green pepper, celery, garlic and flat leaf parsley.
Cut your chicken breast into small cubes.

Put the large pot over medium heat.
Add oil in the pot. Put about 1 tablespoon or 2 and tilt the pot around to cover the bottom.
When the oil is hot, add the garlic, onions, green peppers and celery.
Saute the vegetables until the onions are transparent.

When the onions are transparent, add the chicken and the sea food medley.
Add the heaping table spoon of chili flakes.
Add salt and pepper to taste. (About a teaspoon each should be good.)

Cook the meat with the vegetables until the chicken and seafood changes color.
When the meat is cooked, open and drain the can of diced tomatoes and add the tomatoes to the pot.
Then add the box of chicken stock and the cup of white wine and increase the heat to medium high to bring to a gentle boil.

Add the 2 1/2 cups of rice to the pot and stir to mix with the vegetables and meat and so the rice is completely covered in the broth and wine.
Add more salt and pepper to taste.
Keep stirring for 5 minutes always on medium high heat.

Then lower the heat back down to medium to medium low and cover.
Keep an eye on the pot and stir every now and then to make sure it doesn't stick to the bottom.

When the broth has been absorbed by the rice and the rice is tender, remove from heat.
Stir the Jambalaya to help it cool down a bit so the rice doesn't keep on cooking and turn to mush.

Looks delicious with the chicken, squid, cuttlefish, etc.

Finally, spoon a portion onto a a plate and decorate with the chopped flat leaf parsley.

Dinner is served.
I was too lazy and didn't add any parsley on mine.

And there you have it folks, a tasty Jambalaya. Mine turned out pretty well, except I don't think I added enough salt and pepper because the flavor was a bit bland. But, the chili flakes gave it this really nice heat. The seafood medley was perfect for this recipe and gave the dish all the seafood taste it needed with the chicken. And it didn't stink up my place too much either.

Being used to cooking more Middle-Eastern, Indian and Asian food, I'm used to having lots of spices and tons of flavors. I think this Jambalaya recipe is a little bland for my taste. I'll see what I can add to it next time.

I would love to hear from anyone about their experience making this recipe or to get some advice on how to improve it. Leave a comment to let me know!

Bon apétit!

Monday, 4 June 2012

Blog about cooking, for one.

Well since I'm walking around town by myself, I need to keep myself fed to have enough energy to walk those gazillion kilometers. The thing is though, I'm only cooking for myself. It has its challenges because you can't make big meals or else you end up wasting a lot of food. And if the meal is too complex you end up spending too much time cooking and washing a mountain of pots and pans. Plus, if you live in a small flat like me, chances are you have a poor excuse of a counter and a small 24" stove which don't give you a lot of room to play around.

So I decided to dedicate a blog to cooking for singles. This will allow me to show off my cooking skills and give tips (or let you learn from my mistakes) on cooking solo. I will post recipes with pictures and talk about my experience cooking the different dishes.

I hope you enjoy.