Posted by: smortimer | 2009/05/27

Learning

I am having an interesting time learning while creating theguyskitchen.com . I am using the selfhosted WordPress right now, but I am starting to think it may not be the best solution for me. There is definately a lot to take in!
I am torn now between working on the mechanics of creating the site, deciding what platform to use and how to use it, or do I concentrate on content for the site. I know that content is really important, but even with the best content if the site is cumbersome and hard to navigate no one is going to come back. It’s a tough call, and this darn day job keeps getting in the way. 🙂

Posted by: smortimer | 2009/05/27

The Guy’s Kitchen

Just a quick post today.  I have been busy with my website The Guy’s Kitchen .  It is still in it’s infancy but it is something I have been thinking about doing for a very long time.  In fact I had registered the domain a few years ago and had started building a site, but I got sidetracked with work and life and let the domain expire.  Luckily for me it was still around.  I hope to turn it into something really great, it is my chance at doing something food related.  I hope you check it out and even add it to your bookmarks and regular reading.  It is a small Kitchen right now, but it is a work in progress and there will be regular updates.

I will still be posting here, but I will most likely save my food type posts for TGK.  I will share my experiences with creating the content and growing the site though, as well as the things I am still doing to continue expanding myself.  I have more things to build and more of life to experience!

Posted by: smortimer | 2009/05/26

Grilled Portobello Mushrooms

On Saturday I grilled up some portobello mushroom caps.  I marinated them for a couple of hours first.  Here is the marinade (roughly):

  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Olive oil
  • worcestershire sauce
  • soy sauce
  • garlic powder
  • ground thyme
  • onion powder
  • ground cumin
  • chili powder

I had approx 7-8 mushrooms.  First I removed the stems, they are woody and usually not good to eat on the grill.  You could keep them and use in a soup though.  Next you want to remove the gills on the under sides of the mushroom caps.  A small teaspoon works very well, just gently scrape away the gills.  Once the gills are mostly all gone, use a damp towel and wipe the mushrooms, both sides, you want to get rid any debris that may be left on the mushrooms.  Place the caps in the marinade make sure to coat all the mushrooms.  If you are using a shallow dish you may find you need to “toss” the mushrooms a few times.  In bag just turn it a couple of times to make sure all the mushrooms get a nice bath.  I aim for 2-3 hours in the marinade, but you can go with 30 minutes if you are in a pinch.  When you are ready to grill, remove the mushrooms from the marinade and remove the excess, the mushrooms should still be shiny with the marinade though.  Place them on a hot grill.  Cook on each side for 3-5 minutes depending on how hot your grill is, you want grill marks on the mushrooms.  The edge of the mushrooms can get a little flimsy doing this, I suggest using tongs so you can grip the meatiest part of the mushroom to flip/move them around.

I was at my brother’s place and didn’t have access to my own kitchen supplies.  Which is also why I used garlic and onion powder rather than fresh.  I have seen recipes that suggest the mushrooms just get brushed with oil and salt and pepper.  You can go this simply if you like, the mushrooms can definately pull it off.  I like to add flavours though, these mushrooms are like sponges, so you have a great chance here to really add some depth.  Thyme, Worcestershire, garlic, rosemary, cumin these are all great earthy flavours that really go well with mushrooms.

Portobello’s are very meaty, you could easily serve one of these grilled caps on a bun in place of a burger, in fact I have read that vegetarians do just that.  These mushrooms are used as a steak/beef substitute, of course I am not suggesting you replace a good steak or burger with these all the time.  In fact I served these with some 1.5″ thick sirloins on Saturday.  But they are a nice change.

Variation:

For a great starter take the above grilled mushroom caps, top with a half cup or so of sauteed spinach (recipe below) and drop little chunks of goat cheese or freshly grated parmesean on top.

Sauteed spinach:

Lots of spinach

crushed not minced cloves of garlic

fresh lemon juice

salt

pepper

olive oil

It is very important to have everything ready for this ahead of time, once you start you DO NOT have time to be prepping your ingredients.

Heat the oil in the pan over med-high.  Add the crushed garlic cloves, these should be lightly crushed with the side of your knife.  You are just flavouring the oil here.  Before the garlic begins to brown add all your spinach, if you have not wilted greens before you will most likely need approx. twice as much as you first think you do.  As soon as the spinach is in the pan toss it in the oil quickly with a set of long tongs, squeeze in the fresh lemon, add salt and pepper and keep turning the spinach.  The greens are going to reduce in size dramatically and it will happen fast.  Once you add the spinach you are going to be done in approx 2-3 minutes at the most.  This should also be done right before you serve.  You really want to take this out of the pan and right to the table.

The spinach can be used in my variation above or as a side for almost any other entree.  It goes great with a steak or grilled salmon.

I never did get to experiment with making my own chili powder, so I am going to try and pencil that in for this weekend.  But I have a family thing and would like to get a round of golf in this weekend so it might be tight.  🙂

Posted by: smortimer | 2009/05/25

Golf

Yesterday I played golf for the first time in around 5 or 6 years.  It was also the first time I have played an entire 18 holes.  I have only been golfing maybe 5 or 6 times and when I have gone before it was to a 9 hole course.  So yesterday was a big change for me.

Apparently the Golf Gods were smiling upon us.  We had some amazing weather, had to be the best day of the year.  Not a cloud in the sky, not too hot with just enough breeze to keep us cool, but not enough to affect our game.

And now I am sunburned.  It was too nice to wear the hat I got especially for golf, so my nose, neck, face and ears are bright red.  My forearms are almost glowing they are so red.  And because I had a golf glove on my left hand for most of the day, my left hand is normal and the back of my right hand is burned.  All in all I am a comical picture.

I really enjoyed the golf though.  I have been kind of avoiding playing for quite some time now.  It is expensive, it’s just walking around chasing a little white ball, it’s for snobs etc.  I got a set of clubs from my father in law when he got some new ones, walking in the nice weather is very nice, and I like a challenge.  In fact I made some significant improvement from the front 9 to the back 9 yesterday.  All in all a very good time.

Saturday I did manage to grill up some very nice sirloin steaks and portabello mushroom caps.  Yesterday after all the sun and golfing I was too pooped to do any bar-b-q’ing.  I will get my recipe for the mushrooms up soon.

Posted by: smortimer | 2009/05/21

Pandebono

Last night my wife made Pandebono which is a really yummy Colombian bread.  Apparently there are two stories of the origin of this bread.  One story has an Italian baker in Cali selling “pan del bono” (Italian) which means good bread.  A second history claims the bread was made at Hacienda el Bono a site between Dagua and Cali.  The bread was called, Pan del Bono,(Spanish) meaning Bread from El Bono.

There is a Colombian bakery that sells these at $1 each, and so armed with a printed out recipe we hit the grocery store last night.

The recipe called for tapioca flour, and all we could find is tapioca starch.  Since we were not sure this is the same thing we opted for this mix, all we had to add was the cheese, egg and milk.  Eggs and milk were no problem, but the cheese. . . The mix calls for 3 cups of grated queso fresco or farmers cheese.

Getting to the cheese and deli counter I was very happy to find queso fresco almost immediately.  However it was a soft water packed cheese.  No way we could grate that.  So we enlisted the aid of the ladies working behind the counter.  Eventually we discovered that they had farmers cheese, and so we got 750 grams (approx.) of farmers cheese.  And home we went.

My wife does not often decide to just cook something, and it is even rarer that she should try something that neither of us has ever made before.  But last night she was on a mission!  We were going to have pandebono come hell or high water.  So she grated three cups of cheese, mixed it with the mix, added an egg (ok I added the egg, her hands were covered in cheese and flour), and then the milk.  She kneaded the dough and then formed it into 2″ diameter balls and then pressed them into 1″ high disks.

Our newly formed balls of cheesy-doughy goodness were then treated to a 15 minute rest before being thrust into a hot (400 degree) oven.  18 minutes later our kitchen was awaft with the aroma of freshly baked bread.

I didn’t grab any pictures of the bread, but we tried it and it was well worth it!  Of course since I didn’t do the kneading/mixing my opinion may be a little different than Carol’s.  🙂  The rolls are not exactly the same as from the bakery, we think the cheese we got was not as salty.  So we either need to change that or add some salt in the dough.

The rolls from the bakery are 1$ each, and we paid $13 for the cheese, and $2 for the mix (all figures approx.) and ended up with 20 rolls.  So unless we can find a better place to get the cheese it is not a great savings.  But there is something very wholesome and organic about baking bread.  It doesn’t have to be a significant saving of money to be worth it.  The whole process of mixing the ingredients, forming the dough and kneading it all is very . . . human.  It cannot be a coincidence that every society has their own “bread”

There are few things in life that can evoke the same feeling that the smell of fresh bread baking does.  I can remember driving downtown with my parents early in the morning and passing the Weston bread factory.  Just driving by would bring me out of my early morning drowse and wake me right up.

We will definatly be making these again!

Posted by: smortimer | 2009/05/20

Forest Mushroom Risotto

As promised here is the recipe for a Risotto I made this weekend.  I even have a few pictures.

bowl of risotto

Well I guess I am no food stylist and I could use a better camera.  🙂

Recipe:

Forest Mushroom Risotto:

1 cup of dried forest mushrooms

2 cups of arborio rice

4.5 cups of beef stock – hot

1 cup of hot water

½ cup of finely diced onion

3 cloves of minced garlic

4 tablespoons of butter

2 tablespoons of canola oil

1/3 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese

fresh herbs – thyme, rosemary, bay leaves, both on the stems and leaves removed and finely chopped

kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce

½ cup white wine, Riesling or Gewürztraminer work well here.

Put the dried mushrooms into a large heatproof bowl and add 2-3 cups of hot water. These need to sit for 15-20 minutes.

dried mushrooms soaking

Once the mushrooms have softened and increased in size, they should be soft as well, remove the mushrooms with a slotted spoon and set aside. Using a wire strainer and cheese cloth, or a coffee filter, strain the liquid that the mushrooms were soaking in and reserve.

left over mushroom water

You don't want all that gunk in your rice

Add 2 tablespoons of butter and the canola oil to a heavy bottomed saucepan. Once butter is melted add the onions and saute until they are soften and just starting to colour. A pinch of salt and a few grinds of fresh pepper should be added here as well. Add the mushrooms and continue to saute. Another pinch of salt and few grinds of pepper as well as a sprig of thyme, bay leaf and rosemary that you have “bruised” with the back of your knife. Add the minced garlic and stir well to incorporate. Keep everything in the pan moving here, the garlic can burn pretty easily. Mix in the Worcester sauce and keep stirring. If you pan is really dry at this point you can add another tablespoon or so of canola oil. You want this to be fairly wet for this next step. Once everything is softened and you can smell the garlic add in the arborio rice. Stir well you want to coat all the rice with the mixture.

just adding the rice

The edges of the rice should get translucent, and you want to cook it for a few minutes, keep stirring so nothing sticks and starts to burn. Add the wine and keep stirring as the wine is absorbed by the rice. Start adding the hot beef stock ½ to ¾ of cup at a time, allowing the rice to absorb most of the liquid before you add the next amount. You want your stock to be hot or you will bring down the temperature of your pan each time you add it and this will dramatically increase your cooking time, and the rice can go really sticky and clumpy. After you have added half of the stock you should taste, you want to test the rice for how hard it is and taste for seasoning. You will most likely need to add a bit of salt and pepper at this point. As you get to the end of the beef stock you should taste the rice again. It is possible that your rice will be done now, though I almost always find that you need to add some more liquid. This is why you want to have the hot water on hand ahead of time. Start adding ½ to ¾ of a cup of the hot water, the same way as the stock. You will have to taste more frequently now.

everything added

The rice should be really creamy, and still have some texture when you bite it. You don’t want to turn it into mush. When it is just about ready add the cheese and the last two tablespoons of butter in little bits. Turn the rice gently in the pan to mix in the cheese and butter as they melt. Sprinkle the finely chopped herbs over the rice and you are ready to serve. I would serve this with the same wine you have used in the Risotto.

This risotto was a bit of a revelation for me.  I was having a pretty crappy weekend, well last couple of weeks really.  I must have gone back and forth in my head several times that I was going to make it, that I didn’t feel like it, before I actually got up and made the rice.  As I was making it, it was like a transformation.  My stress and lousy mood just fell away as the rice cooked.  Chopping the onions, stirring in each addition of broth, it was like the best therapy ever.  I will have to remember this.

Posted by: smortimer | 2009/05/19

Finally finished

I did it at long last!  I finished my bench!

Finished garden bench

It’s pretty comfy, except that the back should really be a few inches higher.  The seat looks too deep, but it is nice to sit on.  I think I may look for a cushion so I can relax in the backyard.

Sideways garden bench

There it is from the side.  I am thinking of making a book shelf next.

Now I am always looking for tools when I am at Home Depot or Canadian Tire.  I never bothered all that much before.  HD has a router table, that comes with a plunge router.  It would look so good in my garage!  I think I am going to save up for a table saw next though.

I will have a longer post for tomorrow.  I made a risotto yesterday and I am going to put up the recipe with illustrated instructions!

Posted by: smortimer | 2009/05/15

Roasty toasty green tea

So all this healthy eating stuff has been happening and I have been trying to drink more water, 100% juice, and tea.  Specifically green tea.  Luckly the company I work for provides coffee and several kinds of tea, including green teas.  We have one of those automatic coffee machines where you use a little prepacked pack of coffee/tea/hot chocolate.  The tea from this machine is awful.  I don’t know if that is because it is using all the same pipes as the coffee, or just because tea doesn’t come out well in this format.  But it’s terrible!  We do also have some tea in bags and a kettle for boiling water, and just this week we now have one of those instant hot water dispensers.  I have been trying to drink at least one and if I remember two cups of green tea at work a day.  Problem is our green tea bags are boring.  So I was getting really sick of them.

Luckily my coworker brought in some Roasted Brown Rice Green Tea.  This stuff is great!  It has this nutty flavour on top of the greeny flavour.  The only problem is it’s a loose leaf tea and the strainer thingy isn’t fine enough for this tea.  So the last few sips are more like chews sometimes.

Now this did cause a small dilema for me on the home front.  Apparently my wife has brought home roasted rice green tea before and I said I didn’t like it.  And I made the mistake of calling the tea we have at work “Japanese” tea because this particular variety is from Japan.  My wife is Korean and there is a bit of an animosity there, and so I was told that “the Japanese must have stolen our(Korean’s) idea then!”  Shows what this Canadian guy knows about tea and politics in Asia.

I am going to go on a Green tea shopping mission and see what other kinds I can find.

Posted by: smortimer | 2009/05/14

Ugh!

I think I am deep in a sugar withdrawl.  I am feeling groggy, a little stuffed up and quite depressed the last day or two.  Except for this past weekend, I have been off refined sugar for about two weeks now.  I think it is starting to catch up with me.

I am getting better at planning my food for a day.  I have breakfast at home, bring a mid morning snack, lunch and an afternoon snack.  As long as I am not at work for too long I am usually pretty good.  I was wondering if I needed to worry about how I was balancing my foods, I felt a bit like I was under-carbing.  I am not trying to cut out carbs at all, just controlling which ones I eat.  So I am working to eat more fruit and find more sources of good carbs.  My flax bread is pretty good I think, and I need to make a better effort to eat my oatmeal.  I have some really good steel cut Irish oats at home, but they take a long time to prepare.  I generally am not getting up early enough during the week to get them ready in time.

This is still not a perfect endeavour by any means, but in the very least I am getting at least 5+servings of fruit and veggies a day.

I have this idea in the back of my head for a slow cooker chili, and I am going to try making my own chili powder.  And I have to refine a couple of my Bar-b-q “recipes” for my co-worker.  So hopefully I will have some new recipes this weekend!

Posted by: smortimer | 2009/05/13

Recipes

I have been asked several times over the last week or so for recipes of things that I cook.  Kiru wants salad dressing recipes, a co-worker has also asked me for salad dressing recipes along with some of my deepest bar-b-q secrets!  I have to give him my rub recipe and some tips on using smoke pouches on a propane grill.  Another of my friends bugs me fairly regularly for my “Mushroom Thingamajiggy” a name he coined actually.

Here’s the problem . . . I seldom cook from a recipe.  The aforementioned mushroom dish is a duxelles covered brie baked in pastry.  The duxelles is chopped, sauteed mushrooms(I use fresh on their own or sometimes add some dried that I have soaked) with onions or shallots and/or garlic, red or white wine(brandy or cognac will work too) if you like, fresh thyme and/or rosemary, salt, pepper, butter, parmasean cheese and cream if you like (or have it on hand).

Melt butter in the pan, you can add some canola or olive oil if you would like to help prevent the butter from burning.  Add mushrooms, onions/shallots sautee for a few minutes, add garlic, herbs keep sautee’ing, once you can really smell the garlic add your wine if you want.  Depending on your mushrooms at some point the whole thing might get a little soupy, just keep on the heat and stirring, the liquid will evaporate.  Add cheese and cream if desired stir gently so that you end up with an almost paste like substance.  This is not a very fair description, I have never had this turn out as anything short of fantastic.  While it is somewhat pastey in consistancy, if you like mushrooms this is close to mushroom perfection.  Now you can let it cool slightly before spooning generously over a wheel of brie that is resting on a sheet of pastry that is slightly larger than your brie.  Top with pastry and seal up all the edges.  Bake at 375 or so until the pastry is flaky and golden brown.  Serve with crackers, croustini or as my friend prefers a spoon!  Also with the duxelles you can add to freshly cooked noodles, I prefer a broad flat noodle, tagliatelle or maybe a penne.  You could make awesome ravioli or dumplings with it.  Mix into your risotto, or anywhere else you enjoy a rich sensuous kick of mushroomy goodness.

Salad dressings I approach in much the same way.  Common culinary wisdom says that a salad dressing should be 1 part acid, to 2 or 3 parts oil.  So use that as your base.  1/3 of a cup of vinegar, citrus juice or combinations thereof, 2/3 cup of oil or a whole cup until you get the consistancy you prefer.  Then you need to add your flavours, dijion or thick grainy mustards, fresh herbs, freshly cracked pepper, minced garlic and shallots, the sky is the limit.  Here’s a white wine vinagrette I have made:

  • juice of 1 lemon
  • enough white wine vinegar to make a 1/2 of a cup with the lemon juice and use good vinegar here, it’s not going to be disguised so you will taste quality
  • canola or olive oil, canola has a neutral taste, if you like the fruitiness of a cold pressed extra virgin then go for that
  • fresh thyme leaves picked off the stems
  • salt and freshly cracked pepper
  • dijion mustard, I like a really strong one for something like this

Whisk together the mustard and the vinegar/lemon until it’s combined very well, add your salt, pepper and thyme.  Very, very slowly, like by the drop start adding your oil as you whisk the vinegar mix vigorously.  As your dressing starts to emulsify you can add the oil a little faster, you can work your way upto a fairly steady stream.  Until you are used to this though I would suggest you take it slow.  Once you have added approx one and a half cups of the oil I would stop and taste.  You may need to adjust the salt and pepper, you are also checking for the acidity of the dressing.  If you find the dressing too sharp add some more oil, if you like where it is now then you are done.  If you keep your dressing in a resealable jar or bottle, you can just give it a good shake when you want to use it.

I first used this dressing on a salad of fennel, granny smith apples, red and yellow bell pepper slivers.  Fennel bulb is a great addition to a salad, you will most likely find you can surprise quite a few people with it in your salad.

These things all have one thing in common, I just made them up based on what I thought would taste good, and what ingredients I could get my hands on.  Well I didn’t invent duxelles of course, but my version is not a traditional recipe.

I do want to start trying to capture some of these things, so you will most likely get to see more “recipes” in the future.

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