Thursday, May 18, 2017

Use it or lose it: good guidance for cooks

As I work my way through the recipes posted by the New York Times, I find I have lots of great ingredients remaining and begging to be used. Millions of dollars of food is wasted every year. Allowed to spoil and get tossed, this wasted food runs up food costs. I say use it or lose it.

To pare your food budget, a good place to start is food use management. For instance, I bought a bag of frozen cod at Costco. I saved money on the purchase by buying in bulk. I then did a search of my favourite food sites to find a number of recipes featuring cod.

I've been busy. But that big bag of frozen cod fillets is now down to one large piece of fish. Nothing will be wasted and the dinners were great and one was even memorable. Judy was particularly fond of the grilled cod recipe.

Another cod recipe used both olives and sweet red peppers. The picture at the top of this post shows the second time I served this dinner. I had served a warm olive appetizer a few days earlier and with all the ingredients on hand it just seemed reasonable to serve again my roasted cod with sweet peppers. I added some chunks of mushrooms both to add flavour and texture and to get rid of one more lingering ingredient.

So, eat well and keep costs down by keeping waste to a minimum.

Grilled Fish with Salsa Verde

A sprinkle of chopped pistachio nuts added a nice crunch and burst of flavour.

My wife loves using our outdoor grill. Well, actually she loves me using our outdoor grill. Why? Less mess and less heat in the kitchen. The fact that my wife rarely uses the grill, that it is usually me standing in front of the grill, is just one more appreciated perk in my wife's eyes.

I've heard that cod can be difficult to grill. The meat can be too soft, too flaky and possibly too moist. The risk is that the cod will disintegrate on the grill. Flip this fish with care. That said, the recipe called for cod and I had no problem grilling it as instructed.

I used a generous amount of olive oil to prevent the fillet from sticking to the hot grill. It didn't. I used a large, stainless steel flipper for lifting and a smaller one for holding it steady. From the picture, it is clear all went as planned.

Like so many of my recipes, this one comes from the New York Times Cooking online pages. Here is a link: Grilled Fish with Salsa Verde.

And the taste? My wife says she hates fish. I don't believe she does but she is convinced that fish usually tastes "fishy." I argue any off flavour is the result of poor handling after the fish was caught. Good fish should not taste off. And this fish didn't. My wife loved this recipe. She wants me to put fish on the grill more often.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Stir-Fried Sesame Shrimp and Spinach

I am absolutely loving the cooking pages posted by the New York Times. The recipes are often easy to follow and quite delicious. This stir-fried sesame shrimp and spinach served on a bed of brown rice was quick to make, 25 minutes, and wonderful to eat. I microwaved the asparagus right at the end and it was done in 45 seconds. This was an easy meal to get to the table on time.

The only downside to this recipe were the ingredients. I had to buy both the light and the dark (roasted) sesame oil, plus the sesame seeds (I opted for roasted seeds) and I even had to buy some crushed dried red chili. I had some chili in the kitchen cupboard but it was too old and I feared the flavour would have faded.

I spent a lot on those ingredients. I'll have to find stuff to make in the near future that uses these ingredients. I don't want all this stuff to follow the same path as the out-of-date chili that got tossed.

The next time I make this I'm going to make a few small changes. I'm going to increase the amount of minced ginger. I'll use about 1/2 a Tbsp more. Also, I'm going to put a small bowl of crushed dried red chili on the dinner table. My wife thought this dish was hot enough but I didn't. I sprinkled some chili onto the meal at the table. This approach kept both my wife and me happy.

If you didn't notice the link to the New York Times and the posted recipe, here it is again. Enjoy:
Stir-fried Sesame Shrimp and Spinach.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Warm olives make a great dinner starter

Had lunch the other day at Little Red's Pub and Eatery in St. Marys. The lunch was absolutely excellent. Both Judy and I always enjoy a visit to Little Red's.

Judy ordered a starter for the table, a plate of warm olives. I had forgotten how good a mix of various types of olives can be when simply warmed in a pan with olive oil and a sprinkle of rosemary.

I am sure chef Chris Woolf did more, he's a true kitchen magician. Both Judy and I agree his version seemed more flavourful, more complex, than my take on the old standby. That said, my mix of warm olives with a sprinkle of rosemary tasted awfully good at dinner tonight.

For olives, the North London Loblaws on Fanshawe Park Road at Richmond St. is a good store if it is close to  you. What edged them to the front of the line were the good packaged olive mixes by Delallo I found there. Olive Medley and Pitted Olives Jublilee were the two mixes that I took home.

Note: these are in the specialty foods area of the store and not on the shelves with the regular canned and bottled olives. Look for the serve yourself olive counter. I believe the Olive Medley and the other packaged olives are on a shelf below the display.

Tonight I simply warmed some olives in olive oil in a fry pan with a sprinkle of rosemary. Start simple I say. Next, I'm going to try some of the recipes I found on the Net:

Warm Spiced Olives (
Warmed Spiced Olives (Epicurious)  
Warm Marinated Olives (Martha Stewart)
Warm Marinated Olives Two Ways (Merci Mama)

Google "warm olives." I got more than 30 million hits. Take your time. Fine a recipe that appeals to you and give it a try. You can't miss -- unless, of course, you don't like olives.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Leftovers can make a heart healthy dinner

My doctors insist that I eat healthy meals. That advice translates into lots of vegetables, very little red meat, minimal dairy and reduced consumption of both simple carbohydrates and sugar. My doctors prefer complex carbohydrates to the simple ones found in processed foods such as white bread.

The pasta may have been the enriched and not the whole grain type which would have been better, but we practised careful portion. And even regular, refined and enriched pasta is not anywhere near as high on the glycemic index as white rice or a baked Russet potato.

Dinner tonight answered all the demands, tasted great and was put together in ten minutes from leftovers found in the fridge.

Last night my wife and I enjoyed spaghetti squash with a tomato sauce. A lot of folk don't like spaghetti squash. I think they compare the squash to pasta and this is a mistake. You must enjoy spaghetti squash as the interesting vegetable it is. It has a light, clean flavour with lots of crisp snap if it is not overcooked. It goes well with a variety of sauces. One must keep an open mind.

For tonight's meal, first we dumped 75 g of pennine pasta into a pot of boiling water. It would be done al dente in seven minutes or so. While the pasta was cooking, we tossed our leftover veggies into a skillet with two cloves of lightly fired diced garlic. After 30 seconds, we added diced sweet peppers, asparagus, broccoli, mushrooms, tomatoes and spaghetti squash to the skillet.

All was heated over medium heat with frequent tossing. After about four minutes, some fresh grated Parmesan, do not use the grated stuff that comes in a shaker box, was sprinkled onto the veggie mix. The cheese disappeared into the mix immediately. At this point the left over spaghetti squash, chopped into pieces about the length of the pennine, was added to the pan. About an ounce of low-fat goat cheese was crumbled on top and the entire mix stirred until the cheese melted, coating the hot vegetable mix.

At this point the pasta was done. It was drained and added to the fry pan, mixed with the veggies and served. My wife called the resulting dinner "delicious." I called it good and satisfying. My doctors, I am sure, would call it healthy.

As you can probably tell from the picture, a little extra Parmesan was added at the table. And when I got seconds, I sprinkled some chopped cashews on top as well. At this point, I came around and agreed with my wife. This dinner was now "delicious."