Are there any laws….

….that say you shouldn’t put a fried egg on top of a salad? I did it and I didn’t hear sirens.

Cast Iron Cooking at 27th Street

One of my favourite ways of cooking involves improvising in my trusty cast iron pan. IMG_2835I was thinking about that today when I stopped in at Starsky’s for some groceries. I bought some beautiful spicy Slovak sausage and some fresh veggies to go along with whatever I might be able to find in the pantry.

Cast iron pans are great for one pot cooking. Today I used onions, garlic, wax beans, a small zucchini, mushrooms, a small red pepper – and in the pantry I found a can of diced tomatoes and a can of chick peas. There was fresh thyme in the fridge and I have some great smoked paprika, perfect for the sausage/chick pea combination. I finished it with a squeeze of lime juice.

Perfect with crusty bread.

Tuffy P’s Curried Apple Couscous with pistachios

Start with one MacIntosh apple. Leave the peel on and slice it into slivers. Get a medium sized pot. Take 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melt it and add one and a half tablespoons of your favourite hot curry powder blend. When melted, add the apples and cook for 3 minutes on medium heat. Remove apples.

cooked apples and scallions
cooked apples and scallions

Chop up a heap of scallions. Add them to the pot with the remnants of the curry butter mix. Add one and three quarter cups of water to the pot and bring it up to a boil with a pinch of salt. Once boiling, add a cup of couscous, stir, cover, remove from the heat, and wait ten minutes.

pistachios and mint ready for chopping
pistachios and mint ready for chopping

Chop up a half cup pistachios and about the same amount fresh mint. When the couscous is ready (10 min), combine apples, pistachios, mint, pinch of salt, with the couscous. Mix it all together and serve.

IMG_2824It’s rockin’ good.

Meat Sticks

Vegetarian friends it’s time for you to surf another part of the web for a few moments because this post is all about meat. Not just meat – it’s about a Polish skewered meat dish called patychky which we grew up calling simply “meat sticks”. IMG_2779

My mom would use a combination of pork, beef and veal for hers, and I started out doing it the same way. One year though, I just used pork and they were so good I never looked back. My marinade is considerably different than my mom’s preparation as well, but the results are very similar. There is a lot of leeway in preparing this dish, but if you follow the basic idea – marinate, skewer, dip in egg, roll in spiced breadcrumbs, fry then bake – it’s hard to go wrong. IMG_2778You need a sturdy skewer for meat sticks. Not to worry. You can get them at Starsky’s. They have them in two lengths – in baskets at the meat counter at the back. Just remember the golden rule for shopping at Starsky’s – go directly to the deli counter and get your number (that’s where you stock up on kielbasa), then continue shopping, returning to the deli just before your number comes up.


Love those scotch bonnets

Over the years we’ve developed a taste for spicy foods, and at a certain point we found those dried red chiles to be way too bland. It happens I have a dehydrator I use for drying wild mushrooms, and it turns out it’s great for chiles as well.

IMG_2413I put on a pair of latex gloves and slice up a batch of good hot chiles. Currently I’m using a mix of mostly scotch bonnets with a few cayennes thrown in to give the mix a redder colour.  They dry in the dehydrator in 24-30 hours.

IMG_2415I grind up the dried chile mix in a coffee grinder. We keep a batch in a little clay pot in a cupboard by the stove (with a back-up batch stored in a plastic container), and we sprinkle it on all kinds of foods.

If you try something like this at home, be sure you don’t touch the chiles then touch your eyes because it will burn. Also, be sure you grind the chiles in something that doesn’t let much fine power out as you grind or you will find yourself coughing from the strength of the chiles in the air.

Chanterelle Omelet

IMG_1724First go to a forest and forage around until you gather a basket of primo chanterelles. If you find a few hedgehog and lobster mushrooms and an bolete or two, no problem. It’s all good.

Clean your mushrooms then saute them in a little vegetable oil. The mushrooms will release fluid and then take it up again. At that point they’ll start to colour up nicely.

Crack 3 eggs, add a splash of milk, and beat them for a minute with a fork. Add the eggs to the mushrooms. While the omelet cooks, grate a little hard cheese. I carefully chose the only hard cheese in the fridge. Use what you like. IMG_1725Sprinkle on a few hot chiles and grind some fresh pepper and add a pinch of salt.

IMG_1728Meanwhile, put some bread in the toaster. You’ll want some toast. Open a cool beer. Fold the omelet and slide it onto a plate. Serve with toast. You could chop up some chives or a little parsley and sprinkle it on top. If you squeeze a little ketchup on top, I won’t tell anyone.

Pasta with morels and fresh sage

IMG_1337First, go find some fresh wild morels. Then….heat your pasta water and while that is happening, roughly chop up a pile of morels and more finely chop up some garlic and a few sage leaves.

While the pasta is cooking….
…..heat up a big cast iron pan, add a little oil and the garlic and the sage and the morels and let them cook up for a while.

While the morels are cooking….
…grate some cheese (I used Parmigiano but I bet several other choices would be tasty too).

Before the pasta is done….
add some white wine to the morels, garlic and sage. I also added a cup of milk. Heavy cream would have been way richer but I try to stay away from it. Stir it all up and let it simmer.

When the pasta is cooked, strain it then add it right into the morel/sauce mixture and toss it around. Let it all cook together in the cast iron pan for a couple minutes.

Shut off the burner, then toss in the cheese, a sprinkle of salt, some fresh ground pepper and if you like a few chile flakes. Add some fresh parsely. Toss it all together, and enjoy.



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!


IMG_0954Looks pretty good, that Mississauga paska…

IMG_0948And tastes damn fine too!

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


More comfort food…

The veggie stew I featured in my last post is an excellent main course, but a small bowl of it also rocks as a side with a roast beef and raw red onion sandwich and some roast potatoes. I roasted this small roast with a bunch of small potatoes in a cast iron pan.

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.