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  • pixeltheatre 12:01 am on July 14, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Spätzle   

    Daring Cooks 27th challenge: German Spätzle 

    Steph from Stephfood was our Daring Cooks’ July hostess.  Steph challenged us to make homemade noodles without the help of a motorized pasta machine.  She provided us with recipes for Spätzle and Fresh Egg Pasta as well as a few delicious sauces to pair our noodles with! Well, Steph had me at spätzle. I love the stuff. I hadn’t made it in ages, though I had bought it a couple of times pre-made. Again, this Daring Cooks challenge was a timely reminder of how quick and easy making pasta dough can be. As a bonus, I got to use the spätzle grater I bought eons ago, that has been dutifully sitting in the bottom of one of my kitchen drawers. I added some garlic salt and cayenne to the dough. My honey gave me a hand with the “grating”, and we served it with the suggested recipe for butter and bread crumb sauce. It accompanied a simple meal of bbq sliders. An unusual combination, perhaps, the result of a “OMG, the Daring Cooks challenge is due next week!” realization on Saturday morning. 😉 I had the leftovers the night after, heated up in a pan, with a bit of butter. Hmmm….

    German Spätzle


    2 large eggs
    ½ cup (120 ml) milk (any style of milk you what, but I believe buttermilk may be traditional. I’ve always used 1 or 2%.)
    1½ cups (360 ml) (210 gm) (7½ oz) all-purpose (plain) flour (approximately – have more on hand, in case)
    up to 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of herbs and spices (optional – I added some cayenne and herbes de provence)
    1 tablespoon (15 ml) (3 gm) fresh parsley, chopped (optional – I added this for color mostly)


    1. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk and any herbs and spices that you want to incorporate into the spätzle.
    2. Incorporate the flour in small batches, by sifting in a small amount at a time and mixing until the flour is completely integrated. Keep adding flour until the dough becomes elastic, smooth and very hard to stir.
    3. Boil a large pot of water. Dip a table spoon into the boiling water to wet it. To form the spätzle, fill the tablespoon about half way with dough, and release into the boiling water.
    4. Boil for 15 to 20 minutes.
    5. Drain the water from the spätzle. Because it’s full of fun craters where water can hide, you will need to drain it especially well. Toss with the chopped parsley.
    6. Plate, and dab a bit of the sauce on each spätzle. Don’t add too much – it’s really more of a light dressing than a sauce.

    Butter and Breadcrumb Sauce (for Spätzle):


    ½ cup (120 ml) (30 gm) (1 oz) fresh breadcrumbs OR ½ cup (120 gm) (60 gm) (2 oz) dry breadcrumbs (either variety can be used)
    salt and pepper, to taste


    1. Melt the butter… this can be done in the microwave, or on the stove.
    2. Mix in the breadcrumbs. If needed, gently heat further (especially if you store breadcrumbs in the fridge or freezer).
    3. Season to your taste
  • pixeltheatre 12:01 am on June 14, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: capers, grilled, potato salad, red pepper   

    Daring Cooks 26th Challenge: Healthy potato salad 

    Jami Sorrento was our June Daring Cooks hostess and she chose to challenge us to celebrate the humble spud by making a delicious and healthy potato salad. The Daring Cooks Potato Salad Challenge was sponsored by the nice people at the United States Potato Board, who awarded prizes to the top 3 most creative and healthy potato salads. A medium-size (5.3 ounce) potato has 110 calories, no fat, no cholesterol, no sodium and includes nearly half your daily value of vitamin C and has more potassium than a banana!

    After the gumbo recipe, this was a nice and simple challenge. Easy on the pocketbook too.

    Better yet, I checked this challenge prior to the Memorial Day weekend in the U.S., meaning, grilling recipes flooded my inbox that week, many with great potato salad suggestions. I opted for the grilled potato salad recipe that came in the America’s Test Kitchen Friday e-newsletter. What I liked about it was that a) it was grilled, b) involved a vinaigrette instead of the usualmayonnaise/sour cream dressing, and c) had my favorite garnish: capers.

    I’m not sure if I’m allowed to copy the recipe from the ATK’s site, so I erred on the safe side and provided the link above. I don’t know how long it will be valid. The recipe is simple, pre-boil red potatoes, cut in 3/4″ planks, until soft on the perimeter but still firm in the middle, cool and toss in olive oil, salt and pepper. Cut a yellow onion in four, keeping the skin on. Cut and devein a red pepper in thick slices. Season and toss both onion and pepper in olive oil. Grilled the vegetables until done. Remove skin from onions, chop vegetable in chunks. Toss while still warm with a marinade made with a classic 3-1 ratio of oil and vinegar, minced garlic and chopped fresh parley. The recipe called for white vinegar. I will use red wine vinegar next time I make this recipe. Add one to two tablespoons of capers. Serve at room temperature.

  • pixeltheatre 12:01 am on April 14, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: noodles, ramen   

    Daring Cooks 24th Challenge: Edible Container – Savoury 

    Renata of Testado, Provado & Aprovado! was our Daring Cooks’ April 2011 hostess. Renata challenged us to think “outside the plate” and create our own edible containers! Prizes are being awarded to the most creative edible container and filling, so vote on your favorite from April 17th to May 16th at http://thedaringkitchen.com! A big fan of ramen, I decided to try the noodle bowl. Unfortunately, after a couple of tries, I just couldn’t get the bowls off their forms, and they all broke. So, ultimately I ended up with a baked noodle nest as my container. Not as striking as a bowl would have been, but edible nonetheless. Turns out baked ramen noodles actually make a pretty tasty snack. Thanks for the challenge, Renata!


    Servings: 6 baskets


    1 package ramen noodles (120gm) (4¼ oz)
    boiling water (enough to completely cover the noodles)


    1. Place the dry noodles in a baking dish.

    2. Pour boiling water over noodles until completely immersed.

    3. When noodles are soft and start separating (about 5 minutes), drain and rinse with cold water.

    4. Drain again, and set it aside until it starts getting sticky.

    5. Use olive oil to grease the outside of baking cups and arrange them upside down on parchment paper.

    6. Arrange noodles as shown in the photos. The sticky noodles will help the strings stay together making it easier to form the basket. 3 or 4 strings across, 3 or 4 strings down, and some strings around the bowl. Push all the excess strings close to the cup to form a lip. Don’t overlap too many noodles, or they won’t get crispy.

    7. Bake at 230°C (450°F) (gas mark 8) preheated oven for approximately 15 minutes or until golden brown.

    8. Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes before trying to remove the noodle baskets from the cups.

    9. Let cool completely.

    10. Handle with care, the baskets are fragile!

    11. You can make the baskets the day before using, they will keep fresh in an airtight container. On the third day it stars losing its crispiness.

    12. Fill baskets with your favorite salad. If you’re using a dressing, serve it aside or mix it to your veggies just before serving.

    • Audax Artifex 5:36 am on April 14, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Yes Ramen noodles are very tasty, and the filling of prawns is excellent well done on this challenge.

      Cheers from Audax in Sydney Australia.

    • Renata 12:38 am on April 25, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      I like how you made your noodle basket work out, the nest idea was just amazing, and as delicious. Love your choice of filling. Thanks for joining in 🙂

  • pixeltheatre 12:01 am on March 14, 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    Daring Cooks 23rd Challenge: ¡Me Encanta Perú! – Ceviche and Papas Rellenas 

    Kathlyn of Bake Like a Ninja was our Daring Cooks’ March 2011 hostess. Kathlyn challenges us to make two classic Peruvian dishes: Ceviche de Pescado from “Peruvian Cooking – Basic Recipes” by Annik Franco Barreau. And Papas Rellenas adapted from a home recipe by Kathlyn’s Spanish teacher, Mayra. Ceviche, I’d done before, but the Papas Rellenas were a definite first. The recipe was straightforward and delicious. We do our frying outside, and as a tribute to the Andes, the Vancouver weather contributed some snow to make the whole experience even more relevant. Very nice challenge.

    Cheviche de Pescado (Fish Ceviche):

    Serves 6 as a “starter” or lunch portion. Serves 2 as a dinner.


    2 lbs. (about 1 kg) firm white fish (scallops or other seafood may be substituted)*
    2 garlic cloves, mashed
    1 chili pepper, minced (I recommend Aji if you can find it, but Jalapeno or other peppers can sub)
    1 cup (240 ml) freshly squeezed lime juice (between 8-12 limes)
    Fresh juice only, no bottled. Can use lemons in lieu of limes.
    1 tablespoon (15 ml) (4 grams) (1/8 oz) fresh coriander (cilantro), finely chopped
    1 red onion, thinly sliced lengthwise
    Salt and pepper (to taste)

    1 large sweet potato
    1 large ear of corn
    Lettuce leaves


    1. Boil sweet potato and corn (separately) if using for garnish. Allow to cool. (Can be done hours or even a day in advance)
    2. Wash and trim your fish. Slice into pieces between ½ inch (15 mm) cubes to 2 inch (50mm) pieces, depending on taste.**
    3. Place fish in a non-reactive, shallow pan in a thin layer. Season with salt and pepper.
    4. Combine lime juice, chili pepper, coriander and garlic. Pour mixture over fish. Stir lightly to expose all the fish to some of the lime juice mixture.
    5. Put sliced onion on top of fish as it “cooks”
    6. Let fish stand for 10 minutes.*** Lift fish out of the lime juice and plate individual portions ,**** garnishing with lettuce, slices of sweet potato and slices or kernels of corn if using.
    • It is important to use high quality, really fresh fish. You can use previously frozen (I’ve been using it because I am too cheap to buy this much sashimi grade fish), but it’s not as good. The better your fish, the better your ceviche.

    ** The fish is going to “cook” in the lime juice – how thick you make the pieces will determine how much the fish cooks, so keep your own preference in mind when you are cutting the fish up.

    Papas Rellenas (de carne):

    Makes 6


    For the dough:
    2¼ lb (1 kg) russet potatoes
    1 large egg

    For the filling:
    2 tablespoon (30 ml) of a light flavored oil
    ½ lb (250 grams) ground (minced) beef
    6 black olives, pitted and chopped (use more if you love olives)
    3 hard boiled large eggs, chopped
    1 small onion, finely diced (about 1 cup (240 ml))
    ½ cup (120 ml) (90 gm) (3 oz) raisins, soaked in 1 cup (240 ml) boiling water for 10 minutes, then minced
    1 finely diced aji pepper (ok to sub jalapeño or other pepper – if you are shy about heat, use less)
    2 cloves garlic, minced or passed through a press (if you love garlic, add more)
    1 teaspoon (5 ml) (4 gm) (1/8 oz) ground cumin (use more if you like cumin)
    ½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) (2 gm) (1/16 oz) sweet paprika
    ¼ c. white wine, water or beef stock for deglazing
    Salt and pepper to taste

    For the final preparation:
    1 large egg, beaten
    1 cup (240 ml) (140 gm) (5 oz) all-purpose flour
    Dash cayenne pepper
    Dash salt
    1 cup dry (240 ml) (110 gm) (4 oz) or fresh (240 ml) (60 gm) (2 oz) bread crumbs (you can use regular, panko, make your own or use store-bought)

    Oil for frying (enough for 2” (50 mm) in a heavy pan like a medium sized dutch oven)


    In order to save time, you can boil the potatoes, and while they are cooling, you can make the filling. While that is cooling, you can make the potato “dough.” In this way, little time is spent waiting for anything to cool.

    For the dough:

    1. Boil the potatoes until they pierce easily with a fork. Remove them from the water and cool.
    2. Once the potatoes have cooled, peel them and mash them with a potato masher or force them through a potato ricer (preferred).
    3. Add egg, salt and pepper and knead “dough” thoroughly to ensure that ingredients are well combined and uniformly distributed.

    While the potatoes cool down before finishing the dough, you can make the filling:

    1. Gently brown onion and garlic in oil (about 5 minutes).
    2. Add the chili pepper and sauté for a couple more minutes.
    3. Add ground beef and brown.
    4. Add raisins, cumin and paprika and cook briefly (a few seconds).
    5. Deglaze the pan with white wine.
    6. Add olives and cook for a few moments longer.
    7. Add hard boiled eggs and fold in off heat.
    8. Allow filling to cool before forming “papas.”

    Forming and frying the papas:

    1. Use three small bowls to prepare the papas. In one, combine flour, cayenne and salt. In the second, a beaten egg with a tiny bit of water. Put bread crumbs in the third
    2. Flour your hands and scoop up 1/6 of the total dough to make a round pancake with your hands. Make a slight indentation in the middle for the filling.
    3. Spoon a generous amount of filling into the center and then roll the potato closed, forming a smooth, potato-shaped casing around the filling. Repeat with all dough (you should have about 6 papas).
    4. Heat 1 ½ – 2 inches (4 – 5 cm) of oil in a pan to about 350 – 375° F (175 – 190°C).
    5. Dip each papa in the three bowls to coat: first roll in flour, then dip in egg, then roll in bread crumbs.
    6. Fry the papas (in batches if necessary) about 2-3 minutes until golden brown. Flip once in the middle of frying to brown both sides.
    7. Drain on paper towel and store in a 200ºF (95ºC) (gas mark ¼) oven if frying in batches.
    8. Serve with salsa criolla (or other sauce of preference) immediately.

    Salsa Criolla:


    2 medium red onions, cut in half and very thinly sliced (as half-circles)
    1/2 chili pepper (your preference)
    1 tablespoon vinegar
    Juice from 1 lime
    Salt and pepper to taste

    1. Soak the onions in cold salt water for about 10 minutes to remove bitterness. Drain.
    2. In a medium bowl, combine the onions with the rest of the ingredients, season with salt and pepper.
    3. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes for the onions to macerate and the flavors to combine
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  • pixeltheatre 12:01 am on February 14, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: soba noodles, tempura   

    Daring Cooks 22nd Challenge: Cold Soba Salad & Tempura 

    The February 2011 Daring Cooks’ challenge was hosted by Lisa of Blueberry Girl. She challenged Daring Cooks to make Hiyashi Soba and Tempura. She has various sources for her challenge including japanesefood.about.com, pinkbites.com, and itsybitsyfoodies.com. After last month’s fat-laden, yet oh so good, cassoulet, I welcomed this healthier dish. Yes, there was some frying involved, but most of it was vegetables. I wasted no time in completing this challenge. Like many asian dishes, this challenge involved a fair amount of prep, but was well worth the effort. We ended up making tempura yams, asparagus (fantastic!), jalapeno, zucchini and shrimp. I also tried perilla leaves after reading Audax’ rave reviews. The Japanese store I shop for all japanese food things carried some. Interesting taste, but not my favorite. The shrimp and asparagus were. We do our frying outside, using hun’s bbq’s burner. Luckily, the weather cooperated, and the rain didn’t start after we finished frying. We served the soba noodles with the spicy sauce and grilled minute steak, marinated in PC’s Memories of Korea sauce.

    Cold Soba Salad & Tempura

    Preparation time:

    10 Minutes for the sauce
    10 Minutes for the noodles
    30 Minutes for Vegetable Preparation
    5 Minutes to Serve

    Depending on you, I can make this meal, from walking in the door after work to sitting down to eat in under 30 minutes, so it should be pretty quick.

    20 minutes vegetable preparation
    10 minutes making the batter
    30 minutes frying time

    Again it depends how much your making and what equipment your using.

    Equipment required:
    • A Saucepan
    • A colander
    • Large Bowls
    • Small bowls
    • Ice
    • A Knife
    • A chopping Board
    • A Deep pan for frying
    • Oil for frying
    • Small tongs or Chopsticks
    • Covered container for shaking dipping sauce

    Hiyashi Soba:

    Recipes courtesy of Globetrotter Diaries and About.com-Japanese Food
    Serves 4

    Soba Noodles:

    2 quarts (2 Liters) water + 1 cup cold water, separate
    12 oz (340 g) dried soba (buckwheat) noodles (or any Asian thin noodle)


    Cooking the noodles:

    1. Heat 2 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot over high heat. Add the noodles a small bundle at a time, stirring gently to separate. When the water returns to a full boil, add 1 cup of cold water. Repeat this twice. When the water returns to a full boil, check the noodles for doneness. You want to cook them until they are firm-tender. Do not overcook them.
    2. Drain the noodles in a colander and rinse well under cold running water until the noodles are cool. This not only stops the cooking process, but also removes the starch from the noodles. This is an essential part of soba noodle making. Once the noodles are cool, drain them and cover them with a damp kitchen towel and set them aside allowing them to cool completely.

    Mentsuyu – Traditional dipping sauce:

    2 cups (480ml) Kombu and Katsuobushi dashi (This can be bought in many forms from most Asian stores and you can make your own. Recipe is HERE.) Or a basic vegetable stock.
    1/3 cup (80 ml) soy sauce or a low sodium soy sauce
    1/3 cup (80 ml) mirin (sweet rice wine)

    *Note: If you can’t find Mirin, a substitute recipe can be found HERE


    1. Put mirin in a sauce pan and heat gently. Add soy sauce and dashi soup stock in the pan and bring to a boil. Take off the heat and cool. Refrigerate until ready to use.

    Spicy Dipping Sauce:

    ¾ cup 70gm/2½ oz spring onions/green onions/scallions, finely chopped
    3 tablespoons (45 ml) soy sauce
    2 tablespoons (30 ml) rice vinegar
    ½ teaspoon (2½ ml) (4 ⅔ gm) (0.16 oz) granulated sugar
    ¼ teaspoon (1¼ ml) (1/8 gm) (0.005 oz) English mustard powder
    1 tablespoon (15 ml) grape-seed oil or vegetable oil
    1 tablespoon (15 ml) sesame oil (if you can’t find this just omit from recipe.)
    Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste – roughly 1/3 a teaspoon of each


    1. Shake all the ingredients together in a covered container. Once the salt has dissolved, add and shake in 2 tablespoons of water and season again if needed.

    Common Hiyashi Soba Toppings:

    • Thin omelet strips
    • Ham
    • Boiled chicken breasts
    • Cucumber
    • Boiled bean sprouts
    • Tomatoes
    • Toasted nori (Dried Seaweed)
    • Green onions
    • Wasabi powder
    • Finely grated daikon (Japanese radish)
    • Beni Shoga (Pickled Ginger)

    All toppings should be julienne, finely diced or grated. Prepare and refrigerate covered until needed.


    Traditionally soba is served on a bamboo basket tray, but if you don’t have these, you can simply serve them on a plate or in a bowl. Divide up the noodles, laying them on your serving dishes. Sprinkle each one with nori. In small side bowl or cup, place 1/2 cup (120 ml) of dipping sauce into each. In separate small side dishes, serve each person a small amount of wasabi, grated daikon, and green onions.
    The noodles are eaten by sprinkling the desired garnishes into the dipping sauce and eating the noodles by first dipping them into the sauce. Feel free to slurp away! Oishii!


    Recipes courtesy of pink bites and itsy bitsy foodies
    Serves 4


    1 egg yolk from a large egg
    1 cup (240 ml) iced water
    ½ cup (120 ml) (70 gm) (2½ oz) plain (all purpose) flour, plus extra for dredging
    ½ cup (120 ml) (70 gm) (2½ oz) cornflour (also called cornstarch)
    ½ teaspoon (2½ ml) (2½ gm) (0.09 oz) baking powder
    oil, for deep frying preferably vegetable
    ice water bath, for the tempura batter (a larger bowl than what will be used for the tempura should be used. Fill the large bowl with ice and some water, set aside)

    Very cold vegetables and seafood of your choice ie:

    • Sweet potato, peeled, thinly sliced, blanched
    • Carrot, peeled, thinly sliced diagonally
    • Pumpkin, peeled, seeds removed, thinly sliced blanched
    • Green beans, trimmed
    • Green bell pepper/capsicum, seeds removed, cut into 2cm (¾ inch)-wide strips
    • Assorted fresh mushrooms
    • Eggplant cut into strips (traditionally it’s fanned)
    • Onions sliced


    1. Place the iced water into a mixing bowl. Lightly beat the egg yolk and gradually pour into the iced water, stirring (preferably with chopsticks) and blending well. Add flours and baking powder all at once, stroke a few times with chopsticks until the ingredients are loosely combined. The batter should be runny and lumpy. Place the bowl of batter in an ice water bath to keep it cold while you are frying the tempura. The batter as well as the vegetables and seafood have to be very cold. The temperature shock between the hot oil and the cold veggies help create a crispy tempura.
    2. Heat the oil in a large pan or a wok. For vegetables, the oil should be 320°F/160°C; for seafood it should be 340°F/170°C. It is more difficult to maintain a steady temperature and produce consistent tempura if you don’t have a thermometer, but it can be done. You can test the oil by dropping a piece of batter into the hot oil. If it sinks a little bit and then immediately rises to the top, the oil is ready.
    3. Start with the vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, that won’t leave a strong odor in the oil. Dip them in a shallow bowl of flour to lightly coat them and then dip them into the batter. Slide them into the hot oil, deep frying only a couple of pieces at a time so that the temperature of the oil does not drop.
    4. Place finished tempura pieces on a wire rack so that excess oil can drip off. Continue frying the other items, frequently scooping out any bits of batter to keep the oil clean and prevent the oil (and the remaining tempura) from getting a burned flavor.
    5. Serve immediately for the best flavor, but they can also be eaten cold.
    • Audax Artifex 3:36 am on February 14, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      WOW it sounds like you really had FUN doing this challenge. Sorry to hear you didn’t like the perilla leaves so much but wonderful to hear you LOVED the asparagus. Great work on this challenge.

      Cheers from Audax in Sydney Australia.

  • pixeltheatre 12:01 am on January 14, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Cassoulet, duck   

    Daring Cooks 21st Challenge: Cassoulet 

    Our January 2011 Challenge comes from Jenni of The Gingered Whisk and Lisa from Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. They have challenged the Daring Cooks to learn how to make a confit and use it within the traditional French dish of Cassoulet. They have chosen a traditional recipe from Anthony Bourdain and Michael Ruhlman.

    This dish is not for the faint of heart, as the amount of fat is astounding. But it definitely is tasty. I’ve made cassoulet a couple of times before, so was familiar with the multiple steps involved. I was also off this week, so, a good time to spend it cooking. Luckily, cassoulet freezes well, so I’ll have a taste of this hearty stew a few more times this winter.


    Cassoulet by Anthony Bourdain and Michael Ruhlman (as featured on the Travel Channel’s “No Reservations”)
    Serves 4 – 8 (unless you’re Lisa Michele)

    Ingredients for Duck Confit

    4 whole duck legs (leg and thigh), size does not matter
    sea salt, for the overnight (at least 6-8 hours) dry rub (the amount varies depending on the size of your legs, so just know that you need to have enough on hand for a good coating.)
    2 cups/480 ml/450 gm/16 oz duck fat
    a healthy pinch or grind of black pepper
    4 sprigs of fresh thyme
    1 sprig of fresh rosemary
    1 garlic clove

    Day One

    1.Rub the duck legs fairly generously with sea salt, place in the shallow dish, cover with plastic and refrigerate overnight. At all times, keep your work area clean and your ingredients free of contamination – meaning don’t allow any other food, like bread crumbs or scraps, to get into your duck, duck fat or confit, as they will make an otherwise nearly non-perishable preparation suddenly perishable.

    Day Two

    1.Preheat the oven to moderately hot 375ºF/190ºC/gas mark 5.
    2.Render (melt) the duck fat in the saucepan until clear.
    3.After seasoning with the black pepper, place the duck legs in the clean, ovenproof casserole.
    4.Nestle the thyme, rosemary and garlic in with the duck legs, and pour the melted duck fat over the legs to just cover.
    5. Cover the dish with foil and put in the oven. Cook for about an hour, or until the skin at the “ankle” of each leg pulls away from the “knuckle.” The meat should be tender.
    6. Allow to cool and then store as is in the refrigerator, sealed under the fat. When you need the confit, you can either warm the whole dish, in which case removing the legs will be easy, or dig them out of the cold fat and scrape off the excess. I highly recommend the former. A nice touch at this point is to twist out the thighbone from the cold confit. Just place one hand on the drumstick, pinioning the leg to the table, and with the other hand, twist out the thighbone, plucking it from the flesh without mangling the thigh meat. Think of someone you hate when you do it.

    Ingredients for Cassoulet

    5 cups/1200 ml/1100 g/39 oz dried Tarbais beans or white beans such as Great Northern or Cannelini (if you use canned beans be aware that you will need double this amount!)
    2 pounds/900 gm fresh pork belly
    1 onion, cut into 4 pieces
    1 pound/450 gm pork rind
    1 bouquet garni (tie together two sprigs parsley, 2 sprigs thyme and one bay leaf)
    salt and pepper
    1/4 cup/60 ml/55 gm duck fat
    6 pork sausages
    3 onions, thinly sliced
    1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
    4 confit duck legs

    Day One

    1.Place the beans in the large bowl and cover with cold water so that there are at least 2 or 3 inches (50mm or 75mm) of water above the top of the beans. Soak overnight. That was hard, right?  (Beans will double in size upon soaking, so use a big bowl!)

    Day Two

    1. Drain and rinse the beans and place in the large pot.
    2. Add the pork belly, the quartered onion, 1/4 pound/115 gm of the pork rind, and the bouquet garni.
    3. Cover with water, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste and continue to simmer until the beans are tender, about 30 minutes more.
    4. Let cool for 20 minutes, then discard the onion and the bouquet garni.
    5. Remove the pork belly, cut it into 2-inch/5-cm squares, and set aside. (If you plan to wait another day before finishing the dish, wait to cut the pork belly until then.)
    6. Strain the beans and the rind and set aside, reserving the cooking liquid separately.
    7. In the sauté pan, heat all but 1 tablespoon/15 ml/15 gm of the duck fat over medium-high heat until it shimmers and becomes transparent.
    8. Carefully add the sausages and brown on all sides.
    9. Remove sausages and set aside, draining on paper towels.
    10. In the same pan, over medium-high heat, brown the sliced onions, the garlic and the reserved squares of pork rind from the beans (not the unused pork rind; you’ll need that later).
    11. Once browned, remove from the heat and transfer to the blender. Add 1 tablespoon//15 ml/15 gm of the remaining duck fat and purée until smooth. Set aside.
    12. Preheat the oven to moderate 350ºF/180ºC/gas mark 4.
    13.Place the uncooked pork rind in the bottom of a deep ovenproof non-reactive dish. You’re looking to line the inside, almost like a pie crust. Arrange all your ingredients in alternating layers, beginning with a layer of beans, then sausages, then more beans, then pork belly, beans, duck confit and finally more beans, adding a dab of the onion and pork rind purée between each layer.
    14. Add enough of the bean cooking liquid to just cover the beans, reserving 1 cup/240 ml in the refrigerator for later use.
    15. Cook the cassoulet in the oven for 1 hour, then reduce the heat to very slow 250ºF/130ºC/gas mark ½ and cook for another hour.
    16. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Refrigerate overnight.

    Day Three

    1. Preheat the oven to moderate 350ºF/180ºC/gas mark 4 again.
    2. Cook the cassoulet for an hour.
    3. Break the crust on the top with the spoon and add 1/4 cup/60 ml of the reserved cooking liquid. (Don’t get fancy. Just pile, dab, stack and pile. It doesn’t have to be pretty.)
    4. Reduce the heat to very slow 250ºF/130ºC/gas mark ½ and continue cooking another 15 minutes, or until screamingly hot through and through. Then serve.

    • lisamichele 11:24 pm on January 17, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Fantastic job on the cassoulet and confit! I wish I had frozen what I had left, I actually trashed it – no idea what I was thinking!! Thanks so much for taking part in our challenge!

  • pixeltheatre 12:01 am on December 14, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: eggs benedict, poached eggs   

    Daring Cooks 20th Challenge: Poach to Perfection! 

    Jenn and Jill have challenged The Daring Cooks to learn to perfect the technique of poaching an egg. They chose Eggs Benedict recipe from Alton Brown, Oeufs en Meurette from Cooking with Wine by Anne Willan, and Homemade Sundried Tomato & Pine Nut Seitan Sausages (poached) courtesy of Trudy of Veggie num num.

    I was grateful for a simple technique and  choice of recipe for this challenge. It’s been a busy November, and I knew I could easily complete this one, while making one of my favorite breakfasts: eggs benedict. I am no stranger to poaching. While working in one of my part-time cooking gigs, I had to par-poach (no less) 300 eggs, in preparation for Mother’s Day brunch at a local country club. I used the huge soup kettle for this task, poaching a tray of 24 eggs at a time.  I’ll always remember trying to figure out which egg I had cracked first, as the eggs swirled in the simmering cauldron, to scoop it up as soon as the last egg of the tray hit the water. Quite a feat and a challenge. I cheated at the end of this challenge and used a powdered mix for the hollandaise. My timing was a little off in putting everything together in the end, but we both cleaned our plates nonetheless. 🙂

    Eggs Benedict

    Serves 4


    4 eggs (size is your choice)
    2 English muffins*
    4 slices of Canadian bacon/back bacon (or plain bacon if you prefer)
    Chives, for garnish
    Splash of vinegar (for poaching)

    For the hollandaise (makes 1.5 cups):
    3 large egg yolks
    1 tsp. (5 ml) water
    ¼ tsp. (1 ¼ ml/1½ g) sugar
    12 Tbl. (170 g/6 oz.) unsalted butter, chilled and cut in small pieces º
    ½ tsp. (2 ½ ml/3 g) kosher salt
    2 tsp. (10 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
    Pinch cayenne pepper (optional)

    • for gluten free, use gluten free English muffins or bread of your choice

    º for dairy free, use a dairy free margarine


    1. Fill a medium saucepan halfway with water and bring to a simmer.

    2. Cut the chilled butter into small pieces and set aside.

    3. Whisk egg yolks and 1 tsp. (5 ml) water in a mixing bowl large enough to sit on the saucepan without touching the water (or in top portion of a double boiler). Whisk for 1–2 minutes, until egg yolks lighten. Add the sugar and whisk 30 seconds more.

    4. Place bowl on saucepan over simmering water and whisk steadily 3–5 minutes (it only took about 3 for me) until the yolks thicken to coat the back of a spoon.

    5. Remove from heat (but let the water continue to simmer) and whisk in the butter, 1 piece at a time. Move the bowl to the pan again as needed to melt the butter, making sure to whisk constantly.

    6. Once all the butter is incorporated, remove from heat and whisk in the salt, lemon juice, and cayenne pepper (if using).

    7. Keep the hollandaise warm while you poach your eggs in a thermos, carafe, or bowl that you’ve preheated with warm water.

    8. If the water simmering in your pan has gotten too low, add enough so that you have 2–3 inches of water and bring back to a simmer.

    9. Add salt and a splash of vinegar (any kind will do). I added about a tablespoon of vinegar to my small saucepan (about 3 cups of water/720 ml of water), but you may need more if you’re using a larger pan with more water.

    10. Crack eggs directly into the very gently simmering water (or crack first into a bowl and gently drop into the water), making sure they’re separated. Cook for 3 minutes for a viscous but still runny yolk.

    11. While waiting for the eggs, quickly fry the Canadian/back bacon and toast your English muffin.

    12. Top each half of English muffin with a piece of bacon. Remove the eggs with a slotted spoon, draining well, and place on top of the bacon. Top with hollandaise and chopped chives, and enjoy!

  • pixeltheatre 12:01 am on November 14, 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    Daring Cooks 19th challenge: Soufflés 

    Dave and Linda from Monkeyshines in the Kitchen chose Soufflés as our November 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge! Dave and Linda provided two of their own delicious recipes plus a sinfully decadent chocolate soufflé recipe adapted from Gordon Ramsay’s recipe found at the BBC Good Food website.

    I had done a soufflé before in cooking school, but couldn’t remember how successful I had been. I knew they were pretty fussy. I looked for a recipe online that wouldn’t be so big. There’s only two of us to feed, and found what looked like a pretty straightforward spinach soufflé recipe. Didn’t work. Never rose, though it was cooked throughout and tasted good. It didn’t involve a water bath, though. I also had waited for the oven to reach the proper temperature after folding in the egg whites. Perhaps that was the reason? Who knows.

    So I went back to basics and did the lemon soufflé recipe from my school notes. It worked, kinda. Didn’t rise
    much, but had a nice light and lemony taste. Interesting challenge, but not one I’ll be doing again soon. As noted above, too fussy.

    Here’s one of the recipes Dave and Linda offered.

    Chocolate Souffle

    Adapted From BBC Good Food Recipe by Gordon Ramsay



    2 Tbsp (30 ml) 1 oz (30g) unsalted butter, for greasing
    Cocoa powder or finely grated chocolate


    2 tbsp (30 ml) (18 gm) (2/3 oz) plain (all-purpose) flour
    2 tsp (10 gm) (0.35 oz) caster (superfine) sugar (regular sugar is OK)
    ½ tsp (4½ gm) (0.15 oz) corn starch (aka cornflour)
    1 medium egg yolk
    1 medium whole egg
    4 Tbsp (60 ml) milk
    5 Tbsp (75 ml) heavy cream (or double cream)
    3 oz (90gm) good-quality dark chocolate preferably 70+% cocoa solids, broken in pieces
    2 Tbsp (30 ml) (15 gm) (½ oz) unsweetened cocoa powder
    Optional: 2 tsp orange zest or 2 tsp minced chipotle chile en adobo or 1 tsp chipotle chile powder. (The chile version is a Monkeyshines favorite!) Optional: powdered sugar for dusting


    6 medium egg whites
    6½ Tbsp (95 ml) 3 oz (90g) superfine/caster sugar (if you don’t have it, regular sugar is OK)


    1. Heat oven to moderate 375 ˚F/190 ˚C/gas mark 5.

    2. Take four 1 cup/~240ml soufflé dishes and brush them completely with softened butter. Tip a little cocoa powder or grated chocolate into each dish, roll the dish around tilting it as you do so it is evenly lined all round.

    3. For the crème patisserie, mix the flour, sugar and corn starch into a small bowl. Put egg yolk and whole egg into a medium sized bowl, beat lightly, then beat in half of the flour mixture to give a smooth paste. Tip in the rest of the flour mixture and cocoa powder and mix well.

    4. To make the ganache, pour the milk and cream into a pan and bring just to the boil. Remove from the heat. Add the chocolate and beat until it is melted and smooth with no lumps.

    5. Gradually stir hot chocolate ganache into the paste from step 3, and add the orange zest or chile if using. This is your crème patisserie.

    6. Whisk the egg whites to soft peaks with an electric whisk. Sprinkle in the sugar as you are mixing. Keep whisking to give stiff, firm peaks to give volume to the soufflés.

    7. Stir about 2 tbsp (30 ml) of the beaten egg whites into the crème patisserie. Carefully fold in a third of the rest, cutting through the mixture. Fold in another third (take care not to lose the volume), then fold in the rest.

    8. Spoon the mixture into the dishes. Run a spoon across the top of each dish so the mixture is completely flat. Take a little time to wipe any splashes off the outside of each dish, or they will burn on while cooking.

    9. Bake the soufflés for 15-17 minutes.
    10. The soufflés should have risen by about two thirds of their original height and jiggle when moved, but be set on top.


    • Danielle 2:45 pm on November 30, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      I have not been daring enough myself to try a souffle but after seeing your awesome pics, I think I’ve gotta! 🙂

  • pixeltheatre 12:01 am on August 14, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: pierogis, smoked salmon   

    Daring Cooks 16th Challenge: Pierogis 

    The August 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by LizG of Bits n’ Bites and Anula of Anula’s Kitchen. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make pierogi from scratch and an optional challenge to provide one filling that best represents their locale.

    So, this month I got the privilege of co-hosting the Daring Cooks Challenge. I agreed to do this way back late last year. I chose pierogis after Hun gave me the recipe his mother used to make pierogis. His sister Sara then gave us a copy of the The Mennonite Treasury of Recipes. I thought this would make a nice versatile challenge, easy on the pocketbook. The additional challenge for our cooks was to come up with a fillings that reflected their locale. I was very lucky to have been teamed with Anula. Turns out Anula is Polish and an old hand at pierogis. She and her husband, who turns out to be a professional chef, provided wonderful pictures to illustrate the challenge for the Cooks. Thanks Anula!

    The fillings that came out of this challenge were amazing. Everything from sweet potato to mexican style to various fruit and seafood and haggis! For mine, I settled on a typical Northwest Coast ingredient: smoked salmon. I made a mash of smoked salmon bits, capers, red onions, dill and lemon rind. Added a bit of whipping cream to smooth everything out. I served it with a lemon and dill white wine sauce. Not bad at all. I bought some pierogi moulds to make a better seal. Never had a very consistent result when doing these by hand.

    Drop by The Daring Kitchen to see pictures of everyone’s pierogis.


    Equipment list

    • Measuring cups/spoons
    • Scale
    • Knives, utensils
    • Bowls to mix ingredients
    • Pans, pots to cook fillings and pierogi
    • Pierogi forms (really not necessary, you can get them easily in Polish or ethnic shops, they are very(!) cheap and handy too) if you don’t have these forms don’t worry! your hands and a fork will do.

    Cottage Cheese Wareneki (pierogi)

    ½ cup (125 ml) milk (can be whole milk, 2% or skim milk)
    ½ cup (125 ml) whipping cream
    3 large egg whites
    1 tsp (5 ml) salt
    3 cups (450 gm) all-purpose flour

    1. Mix flour and salt, add other ingredients, and knead dough until you have a smooth dough. (I kneaded this dough quite a bit, and it yielded a nice, pliable dough).
    2. On a floured surface roll out fairly thin (1/8” or about 3 millimeters), cut into 2” (5 cm) squares, and fill with 1 tsp (5ml) cottage cheese filling (see below).

    1 lb (455 g) dry cottage cheese (this is usually found beside the “wet” cottage cheese in the supermarket’s dairy aisle. If you can’t find it, please see below for how to proceed with the “wet” cottage cheese.)
    3 large egg yolks
    Salt to taste

    1. Mix well all the ingredients for the filling.
    2. Put 1 rounded teaspoon (5 ml) of the filling in each square, fold corners to form a triangle, seal edges well using your fingers or a fork
    3. Cook in salted, boiling water for 5 minutes.

    Boiled pierogi can also be fried after boiling for a nice crunchy dumpling.

    If you can’t find dry cottage cheese, simply drain normal cottage cheese by nesting the cottage  in a few layers of cheese cloth or a fine sieve over a bowl.

    Adapted from The Mennonite Treasury of Recipes

    • You can very easy make a sweet version of Warenki – just add some fruits and sugar to the cheese filling and mix well together (strawberries or blueberries are great idea!).

    Russian style pierogi (makes 4 generous servings, around 30 dumplings)
    (Traditional Polish recipe, although each family will have their own version, this is Anula’s family recipe)

    2 to 2 1/2 cups (300 to 375 g) all-purpose (plain) flour
    1 large egg
    1 teaspoon (5 ml) salt
    About 1 cup (250 ml) lukewarm water

    3 big potatoes, cooked & mashed (1 1/2 cup instant or leftover mashed potatoes is fine too)
    1 cup (225 g) cottage cheese, drained
    1 onion, diced & sauteed in butter until clear
    3 slices of streaky bacon, diced and fried till crispy (you can add more bacon if you like or omit that part completely if you’re vegetarian)
    1 egg yolk (from medium egg)
    1 tablespoon (15 g) butter, melted
    1/4 (1.25 ml) teaspoon salt
    pinch of pepper to taste

    1. Combine all the ingredients for the filling (it’s best to use one’s hands to do that) put into the bowl, cover and set aside in the fridge until you have to use it.

    2. Place 2 cups flour in a large bowl or on a work surface and make a well in the center. Break the egg into it, add the salt and a little lukewarm at a time (in my situation 1/2 cup was enough). Bring the dough together, kneading well and adding more flour or water as necessary. Cover the dough with a bowl or towel. You’re aiming for soft dough. Let it rest 20 minutes.

    3. On a floured work surface, roll the dough out thinly (1/8” or about 3 millimeters) cut with a 2-inch (5 cm) round or glass (personally I used 4-inch/10 cm cutter as it makes nice size pierogi – this way I got around 30 of them and 1 full, heaped teaspoon of filling is perfect for that size). Spoon a portion (teaspoon will be the best) of the filling into the middle of each circle. Fold dough in half and pinch edges together. Gather scraps, re-roll and fill. Repeat with remaining dough.

    4. Bring a large, low saucepan of salted water to boil. Drop in the pierogi, not too many, only single layer in the pan! Return to the boil and reduce heat. When the pierogi rise to the surface, continue to simmer a few minutes more ( usually about 5 minutes). Remove one dumpling with a slotted spoon and taste if ready. When satisfied, remove remaining pierogi from the water.

    5. Serve immediately preferably with creme fraiche or fry. Cold pierogi can be fried.  Boiled Russian pierogi can be easily frozen and boiled taken out straight from the freezer.

    Gluten-free pierogi recipe (from Recipezaar)

    Other types of fillings:

    Potato and cheese
    4 – 5 boiled potatoes
    4 table spoons butter (60 g) or olive oil (60 ml)
    50 ml (3 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon) milk
    1 egg white (from medium egg)
    about 120 ml (½ cup) farmers’ cheese (any unripened cheese like Indian Paneer)
    salt and pepper

    Meat and cabbage
    200 g (7 oz) cooked meat (minced or cut very finely)
    500 g white cabbage (chopped and simmered in a little bit of water, until soft)
    1 onion (diced and fried)
    1 whole medium egg
    1 tablespoon (15g) butter
    dry breadcrumbs (add as much to hold the filling together, about 2 tablespoons)
    salt and pepper

    Soy bean filling
    350 g soy beans (canned, drained and minced)
    2 medium eggs
    1 onion (diced and fired)
    100 g (2/3 cup) dry breadcrumbs
    salt and pepper

    Sauerkraut filling
    2 cups (500 g)  sauerkraut
    1 big carrot, grated
    1 shallot, chopped and fried with a tablespoon of butter
    few (about 3) wild mushrooms (I used dry ones, you can use fresh but chop them and fry on some butter before adding to the sauerkraut cabbage)
    salt, pepper and cumin

    • Saute all the ingredients together until soft, cool before filling pierogi.

    You can also fill pierogi with whole seasonal fruits for example- strawberries, blueberries, morels, grated apples etc. To prevent the fruits from ‘sogging’ just add a little bit of potato flour inside with the fruit and sweeten them after the boiling on the plate rather than putting sugar inside.

    A little visual help:
    Video: How to make varenyky / pierogi (Youtube)
    Video: How to make pierogi (About.com)

    • sarah 5:27 am on August 14, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Fantastic challenge, thanks Liz! I really enjoyed making the little dumplings. I tried using a whole wheat dough, which was delicious, though maybe a bit hard to roll out thinly. Thanks for hosting this month!

    • Shelley 5:55 am on August 14, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Thank you so much for choosing such an awesome challenge. I love pierogis and had a blast coming up with something fun to fill mine with. This was really a great challenge. Thank you!!!

    • Ruth H. 6:18 am on August 14, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Thank you for such a great challenge! I love the creativity you inspired, and it was a lot of fun to re-familiarize myself with a favorite dish!!

    • Mary 7:01 am on August 14, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      This was a great challenge, Liz. Thank you! I think I’ll be making these again in the future.

    • Lindsay 7:37 am on August 14, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Hi Liz! Thanks so much for a great challenge — the boyfriend has declared this a repeat recipe, so it will definitely be made again and again here!

      Thanks for all your work to challenge and educate us!

    • chef_d 9:17 am on August 14, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Thanks for co-hosting this month’s challenge. Your pierogis look yummy!

    • Heather Mulholland 1:12 pm on August 14, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Thank you Liz for co-hosting this months challenge 🙂

    • Debbie 3:37 pm on August 14, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Thanks so much for hosting this months challenge! That was what I would have chosen if ever asked to host a challenge, so I think you made a perfect choice. Great Job!

    • Chantel 8:15 pm on August 14, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Great challenge! Thanks!

    • tariqata 6:36 am on August 15, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Thank you so much for the challenge! I had a great time, and I’ll definitely make them again!

    • Valérie 4:48 pm on August 15, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Thank you so much for this challenge! It was a great idea, and lots of fun! Great job as hostess!

    • lisamichele 3:08 am on August 16, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Liz, thanks so much for a great challenge! Loved it and ate way too may of them LOL Beautiful job on your pierogis!

    • Margie 7:08 am on August 16, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Oh my goodness, your smoked salmon pierogis were a great idea and look amazing! I gotta get me one of those pierogi molds. Thanks so much for co-hosting such a wonderful challenge. Looking forward to leftovers for lunch today!

    • Suz 9:14 am on August 16, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Thanks so much for introducing me to pierogi. I think I’m hooked! Mmm, and your smoked salmon pierogi look divine.

      Great challenge!

    • Monkeyshines in the Kitchen 5:23 pm on August 16, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Thanks for hosting a great challenge Liz! We very much enjoyed the opportunity to make something new to us. Your local salmon and caper pierogi sound delicious too – it’s been a blast seeing how everyone has localized this versatile dish.

    • Kelly @ It's a Food Life 8:03 pm on August 16, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Thanks for a great challenge. I am so glad that I now know how to make perogies!

    • cuppy 3:48 pm on August 18, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      I have had a great time making pierogi, and it’s the sort of thing that adds perfectly to my meal plan. Thank you for sharing your recipes and hosting this month’s challenge!

  • pixeltheatre 12:01 am on July 14, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: bacon, butter, pecan, salad, spinach   

    Daring Cooks 15th Challenge: Nut Butters – Warm bacon and pecan butter dressing on a chicken spinach salad 

    The July 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by Margie of More Please and Natashya of Living in the Kitchen with Puppies. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make their own nut butter from scratch, and use the nut butter in a recipe. Their sources include Better with Nut Butter by Cooking Light Magazine, Asian Noodles by Nina Simonds, and Food Network online.

    Another challenge squeezed in the nick of time! Although I pureed my butter almost as soon as the challenge hit the wire, I didin’t use it until tonight. To be honest, though the recipe was left up to us, it had to be a savoury one. Took me a while to settle on one and ended up with a warm bacon/pecan butter dressing on a chicken spinach salad. A good choice, I thought, for a warm, but hot Summer night. Just mixed some hot bacon fat, white wine vinegar and pecan nut butter in hot pan, cooked it a bit and drizzled it over a bed of spinach, cooked chicken and bacon. Not bad at all. Next time, though, I’m going to add a few drops (!) of bourbon. Just to keep it southern and give it an extra kick. 🙂

    • Audax Artifex 4:20 am on July 14, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      OMG that is an inspired flavour profile and the photo looks so enticing well done on the challenge. Cheers from Audax in Sydney Australia.

    • pixeltheatre 4:00 pm on July 14, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Thanks for the comment, Audax. Much appreciated.

    • Kelly 9:42 am on July 16, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      That salad looks wonderful!

    • cuppy 9:31 pm on July 16, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Haha! I LOVE the idea of bacon and bourbon on a salad! 😀 I can’t wait to see what you guys have for us tomorrow. ^_^

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