Category Archives: The Comfort Food Diner

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Paska Wars

As we were busy making paska today, friends in Mississauga texted to say they were making it too….and the paska wars were on. Long Branch vs Mississauga. Tuffy P drove our entry west out of Long Branch to the exchange, a parking lot at Southdown Rd and Lakeshore.

IMG_0940Here are the entries….

…..and then Mississauga throws us a curve ball by including a container of super-delicious ravioli….paska + pasta!

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IMG_0954Looks pretty good, that Mississauga paska…

IMG_0948And tastes damn fine too!

The judges have deliberated and declare it……a tie!

 

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Charcoals of the World

In my travels this weekend I stopped in at Ontario Gas BBQ. My friends might think this is odd behaviour for me since I don’t own a gas or propane grilling unit, but in fact this place also sells an amazing selection of equipment and fuel for the charcoal bbq fanatic as well.

In fact they have an entire room dedicated to charcoals of the world. You might say charcoal is charcoal, right? There is even a website dedicated to charcoal reviews. I’ve tried a few different ones over the years, and I’ll say some charcoals might be better for slow bbq and others might be better for when you need very hot heat – there are definite differences in density of various charcoals available for the bbq freak. As well, some charcoals tend to arrive at the store in bigger chunks while others come all smashed up. I find bigger chunks give me the kind of air flow I want for hot grilling. Overall though, I’m not too fussy. I usually buy Maple Leaf charcoal, a quality Canadian brand, and it serves me very well.

I should say that I have nothing against cooking with gas grills. I know lots of people like them a lot, especially those swanky units with the side burners and bun warmers and who knows what else, and they’re very satisfied with the results they get. If it works for you, great. Go for it. If I’m going to cook outside though, I want the results I can get with real charcoal (and I’m not talking about those weird pre-fabricated briquets. What’s in those things?).

Do you cook outdoors?

 

 

 

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White bean stew with kale

I’ve never been a big kale fan, but this veggie stew featuring white beans and kale is fantastic. It uses:

  • shallots
  • carrots
  • celery
  • garlic (I used some of my brother’s home grown garlic – awesome)
  • white beans
  • kale
  • white wine
  • crushed tomatoes
  • veggie stock
  • sprigs of thyme
  • bay leaf

Sautee shallots and garlic for a couple minutes in a dutch oven or heavy pot, add in carrots and celery, chopped roughly. After a few minutes, add a cup or so of white wine. Pour a glass of wine for yourself at this point. Let everything cook down and reduce the liquid to about half. Add white kidney beans (canned ones work fine for this). Add the kale. Add a few sprigs of thyme and a bay leaf. Add your stock + about a cup or cup and a half of crushed tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Let it simmer for 45 minutes.

It’s that time

My best memories of Christmas have everything to do with the food. Mom would make pierogi and cabbage rolls and patychky, or meat sticks, as we liked to call them. She’s long gone now, but I try to keep up some of the food traditions by making at least one of them on the high holidays.

Yes, I’m making meat sticks. We’re going to my sister’s place Christmas Eve and on Christmas day, Tuffy P’s family are joining us for dinner here in Long Branch (I’ll be doing the cooking). intotheroasterSunday I’m going to venture out in between ice storms to buy my meat, which I’ll marinate overnight and then Monday I’ll make them. Just about every Christmas I’ve republished my recipe, and when I looked at my stats today I saw that post has had 10 hits, a good reminder that it is time to re-share. So this is how I make them (it’s not quite the same way mom did….I’m going to come out and say I think mine are actually better), although I admit my sister’s meat sticks are also most awesome. I’ve taught Sister-in-law Viv to make them along the way, and hers are just as good as mine.

The Comfort Food Diner

When is a poblano not a poblano?

In our area, I rarely see poblano chiles in our grocery stores, so when I saw them at Starsky’s the other day, I bought a bunch of them. Some went into last night’s soup and the rest I popped into the dehydrator. Dried, poblanos are called anchos, and they’re great in just about anything. I sampled a few of the dried ones and they’re tasty as snacks. I was surprised at how variable the heat is from one chile to another. Some are totally mild, others have a bit of heat, and a few of them offer up more heat than you’d expect.

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The Comfort Food Diner – Wild Mushroom Soup

Today, my colleague and I walked across the street to get a FourBucks. On the way, we spied some shaggy mane mushrooms – Coprinus comatus – on the grass. This left me no choice but to plan a mushroom soup for dinner.

For mushrooms I used the shaggies + I rehydrated some honey mushrooms and some slippery jacks and some lobster mushrooms from earlier this season + I chopped up some grocery store white mushrooms just because I had them. The shaggies are the heart of this soup.

This is a simple soup made special by the great mushrooms that give it wonderful body.

I started the soup by heating up a little splash of vegetable oil in a heavy pot. I tossed in half an onion, chopped up and let it cook for a few minutes with about a teaspoon of dried thyme leaves. While that was happening, I parboiled the honey mushrooms and the slippery jacks for a couple minutes (both these mushrooms can cause stomach upset in some people and a bit of parboiling apparently helps). These mushrooms don’t bother me, but I parboil them in any case because I might just share my soup.

I roughly cut up some deboned chicken thighs and tossed them into the pot and let the chicken cook with the onions for a few minutes, then added all the mushrooms and let it all cook together for several minutes before adding chicken stock. I let the soup simmer until the chicken was done. I tempered about a cup of milk and added that in, and cooked the soup another couple minutes. There is nothing fancy about the way this soup is seasoned – thyme, salt and pepper. I didn’t want to overpower the mushrooms. A nice option is to add a few slices of smoked sausage.

What a great celebration of autumn.

Cooking lobster mushrooms

I’ve noticed, looking at the stats for this blog, that quite a few people have been searching for ways to prepare lobster mushrooms. Here’s one way – the way I prepared them for dinner tonight in fact.

Lobster mushroom and sausage omelet

You need:

  • lobster mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
  • two or three eggs
  • some tasty sausage (I used Goralska Polish sausage)
  • grated awesome cheese

In a cast iron pan, sautee the mushrooms with a little vegetable oil on medium heat. Lobsters are very firm mushrooms that hold their texture. As well, they don’t shed water in the cooking process the way some other mushrooms do. After a few minutes in the pan, add some chopped up sausage and let it cook together. You want the sausage to start to crisp up and the mushrooms to start turning a nice golden colour. When this is ready, transfer to a non-stick pan. I know you’re going to say, aw c’mon, do I have to use two pans? The answer is yes. I like the way the mushrooms and the sausage cook up in a cast iron pan, but in the end you’re making an omelet and non-stick pans are great for omelets. So, you transfer the sausage and mushrooms to a non-stick pan. With the transfer, they’ll bring along enough oil for the omelet. Heat up the pan to the high side of medium. While that’s happening, beat up your eggs with a fork. Some people add a little splash of milk. You can do that if you want. I usually don’t. When the pan is hot, pour the mixture over the mushrooms and sausage and move the pan around to spread around the eggs. When the eggs are just about done, toss some of your awesome grated cheese on top (tonight I used an old gruyere). Let it melt on there for a moment, fold two sides of the omelet to the middle and serve it up, maybe with a spoon of good salsa and some fresh ground pepper and just a wee bit of salt. There are a million variations. If you have some fresh herbs, chop them into the egg mixture before pouring it onto the pan.

Or….

If you want something even simpler and still super-delicious, sautee the lobster mushrooms in your cast iron pan until they get nice and golden. Add salt and fresh ground pepper and maybe a wee bit of some ground hot chiles and spoon loads of the mushrooms onto toast. Just that simple.