Rice Stuffed Bell Peppers with Feta Cheese

Stuffed PeppersThis is a great dish for a weeknight, and will make those in your household that don’t eat meat very happy! Here’s a tip, when selecting bell peppers, choose those with 4 bumps or “legs” on the bottom to cook and select those with 3 or less bumps or “legs” to eat raw. This recipe will serve 6.

Ingredients:

1 cup wild rice blend
6 large bell peppers, tops trimmed off about ½ inch, cored and seeded
1 (341 ml) can of corn niblets
½ cup feta cheese, crumbled
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped*
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped*
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
4-5 Kalamata olives, minced (optional)
1 ½ cups of your favourite tomato sauce
2 green onions, sliced*
Salt and Pepper to taste
Garnish with 2 sliced green onions, and remaining warmed tomato sauce, if desired.

* Click here to learn how to properly clean these herbs.

Directions:

Cook the rice according to package directions. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat a large pot of water to boiling and par-boil prepared green bell peppers for 5-10 minutes, depending on the thickness of the pepper. They should be softened but not cooked through. Drain and place in shallow baking dish coated with non-stick spray.

Stir feta cheese, corn, herbs, garlic, olives, green onions and salt and pepper to taste into cooked rice. Divide the mixture among the bell peppers and top with 1 cup of the tomato sauce. Bake until heated through, about 30 minutes. (May take longer according to the size of peppers. Insert a knife into the middle of the rice mixture and leave for a few seconds. Remove the knife and touch to see if it is hot. The knife should be hot to touch if the peppers are completely heated through.)

Garnish with additional sliced green onions and remaining warmed tomato sauce.

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Chicken & Sausage Gumbo

Chicken & Sausage GumboSure, you may have heard of Gumbo, but do you know where it got it’s name from? Well, we can’t be 100% sure, but we do know that the dish we know as Gumbo originated in southern Louisiana from the Creole people during the 18th century. It typically consists primarily of a strongly flavoured stock, okra, meat or shellfish, a thickener, and seasoning vegetables, which can include celery, bell peppers and onions. Gumbo is often categorized by the type of thickener used: the African vegetable okra, the Choctaw spice filé powder (dried and ground sassafras leaves), or roux, the French base made of flour and fat. The dish likely derived its name from either the Bantu (Native African) word for okra (ki ngombo) or the Choctaw (Native American) word for filé (kombo). The dish is the official cuisine of the state of Louisiana. The recipe below actually uses all 3 types of thickeners, though the filé powder is optional (more for taste rather than a thickener). In my mind, 3 is better than 1! This recipe will serve about 6 people.

Ingredients:

⅓ cup and 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
¼ cup and 2 teaspoons oil or fat rendered from cooking sausage*
2 stalks celery, diced
1 small/medium onion, diced
1 small/medium green bell pepper, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
6 ounces sausage, sliced
1 pound chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch cubes
4 ¾ cups stock (chicken, beef or vegetable)
1 ¼ teaspoons white sugar
salt to taste
2 ½ teaspoons hot pepper sauce, or to taste
¼ teaspoon Cajun seasoning blend, or to taste
1 ½ bay leaves
¼ teaspoon dried thyme leaves
½ of a 398ml can crushed tomatoes (about 200ml)
¾ cup tomato sauce
¾ teaspoon gumbo filé powder
2 ½ teaspoons oil or sausage drippings
1 cup frozen cut okra, thawed
2 ½ teaspoons vinegar

* Cook’s Note: This recipe calls for the use of sausage; you can use any type you like, though if using a raw one, I suggest either completely removing it from the casing and cooking it up like ground meat, or cooking it whole with the casing still on, then slicing it up thick and adding it to the pot later. Just be careful when stirring the dish later that if you’ve cut up the sausage that it doesn’t crumble and break up too much! Remember, save the drippings from cooking the sausage, and use it in place of oil in this recipe. It adds so much more flavour than regular cooking oil!

Directions:

Make a roux by whisking the flour and ¼ cup plus 2 teaspoons oil/sausage drippings together in a large, heavy saucepan over medium-low heat to form a smooth mixture. Cook the roux, whisking constantly, until it turns a rich mahogany brown colour. This can take 20 to 30 minutes; watch heat carefully and whisk constantly or roux will burn. Remove from heat; continue whisking until mixture stops cooking.

Stir the vegetables into the roux, and mix in the sausage and chicken breasts. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-low heat, and cook until vegetables are tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat, and set aside.

Bring the stock to a boil in a large Dutch oven or soup pot. Whisk the roux mixture into the boiling stock. Reduce heat to a simmer, and mix in the sugar, salt, hot pepper sauce, Cajun seasoning, bay leaves, thyme, stewed tomatoes, and tomato sauce. Simmer the soup over low heat for 1 hour; mix in 2 teaspoons of filé gumbo powder at the 45-minute mark.

Meanwhile, heat 2 ½ teaspoons of oil or sausage drippings in a skillet, and cook the okra with vinegar over medium heat for 15 minutes; remove okra with slotted spoon, and stir into the simmering gumbo. Continue to simmer until flavors have blended, 45 more minutes. Just before serving, stir in 2 more teaspoons of filé gumbo powder. Serve over hot rice.

Passover Lasagna

Matzo Lasagna

This recipe will serve around 9 people, depending on how you slice it!

Ingredients:

6-8 sheets of Matzo
2 cups tomato sauce
2 cups ricotta cheese (or low fat creamed cottage cheese)
1 cup parmesan cheese
1 cup shredded hard cheese, like mozzarella
2 eggs
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a medium sized bowl, mix together the ricotta (or cottage) cheese, along with the parmesan, eggs, salt and pepper. Then layer the lasagna as follows: sauce, Matzo, cheese mixture, grated cheese. Repeat, making as many layers as you can, ending with a sheet of Matzo, sauce and grated cheese on top. Bake for45 minutes or until brown and bubbly. Let sit for 15 minutes before cutting into. Enjoy!

Mother Sauces – Day 4

Mother SaucesSauce tomate is one of the five mother sauces of classical French cooking, as codified by Auguste Escoffier. It consists of salt belly of pork, onions, bay leaves, thyme, tomato purée or fresh tomatoes, roux, garlic, salt, sugar, and pepper. This sauce resembles the traditional tomato sauce that we might use on pasta and pizza, but it’s got much more flavor and requires a few more steps to make. Obviously in a kosher kitchen, you’re not going to find a salt belly of pork lying around anywhere. To duplicate this flavour profile, I would suggest using something that adds fat, saltiness and if you can, a touch of smoke. So, for the fat, I would suggest some nice olive oil, good quality, but nothing too expensive. For the salt and smoke aspects, you can add extra salt or even some of the smoked salts out there. That would be a nice double whammy. If you want to have it be meat based, you can always add a little smoked deli meat instead. That will get you most of what you need, though you may need a little more fat (oil). If you cook the sauce low and slow, the meat will break up and virtually disappear in the sauce. If you don’t want to go the meat way, you can go the fish one instead! Try adding a filet or two of anchovies right at the beginning when you are sautéeing your onions. The anchovies will disintegrate in the sauce, and it will have that je ne sais quoi or umami taste that people can’t place, but know that they like!

So, if tomato sauce is the mamma, then these two variations are her babies:

  • Creole = onion + celery + garlic + tomato sauce + bay leaf + thyme + green pepper + hot sauce
  • Spanish = creole sauce + mushrooms + olives

There are dozens of other variations out there, in fact, way too many to list (unless this site was devoted to only tomato sauces!) Tune in tomorrow for the conclusion of sauce week with my all time favourite sauce: Hollandaise!

Maple Beer Chili

Maple Chili

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves minced garlic
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
1 red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1 – 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and sliced, depending on your heat tolerance
1 (540ml ) can tomato sauce
1 (796ml) can crushed tomatoes
½ – ¾ cup maple syrup cup maple syrup, depending on your sweet tolerance
1 (540ml) can kidney beans, drained
1 (540ml) can pinto beans, drained
1 tablespoon coarse ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chili powder
4 pounds lean ground beef
salt to taste
2 bottles of beer, or as needed

Directions:

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Stir in the garlic, onion, red bell pepper, and jalapeno peppers. Cook and stir until the onion is tender, about 7 minutes. Add the tomato sauce, crushed tomatoes, maple syrup, and beans. Season with black pepper and chili powder. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and stir in the ground beef. Sprinkle beef with salt. Cook and stir until the beef is crumbly, evenly browned, and no longer pink. Drain and discard any excess grease; then stir the cooked beef into the chili along with 1 beer. Cook and stir for 1 hour, stirring frequently. Season to taste with salt, and thin to desired consistency with the remaining beer before serving.