Basque Pintxos

This is not so much a recipe, as a tip on what to serve the next time you want starters for a meal, or a meal eaten by hand.

I just returned from a long weekend in Bilbao, Spain; it’s a thriving city on the Bay of Biscay.  The Basque have one food that they are probably most famous for:  Pintxos (pronounced “Pintchos”).  These are a similar concept to the Spanish Tapas, but far more elaborate.  5 or 6 of these will make a meal.  Any good Pintxos bar worth its salt will have a wide variety spread out along the length of the bar (which is not usually for drinking at, but for selecting your food), and they pride themselves in personal specialities, so you have to bar hop to get the full experience; I’m sure they’ve got a local term for it – bar hopping, pub crawling, or as my husband and I dubbed it, “Pintxopping”.

They usually come served atop a slice of toasted Baguette bread, and some of the combinations we had were:  Diced crab with tomato sauce; an unusually non-distinct mushroom patè fried in a hushpuppy-like batter; crab and vegetables sautèd in tomato sauce and served in an open clam shell, overbaked with cheese; baked squid atop a fish pate; a skewer of breaded and fried vegetables; a variety of fish and seafood in spring roll wraps; breaded chicken on a skewer with rounds of goat cheese; one bar’s signature Pintxo was a mound of crab meat overbaked with a quid-ink-tinted cheese, in the shape of the local mountain.  The possibilities are endless!  Below is an example found on Pinterest; if you want more ideas and recipes, you’ll find them there.  En Guete!

Pintxos

Tuna Salad

tuna-salad

Credit: Pinterest

Today I went to a friend’s house to show/help her learn how to make my Bread & Butter Pickles.  I was thinking of all the ways I use these versatile preserves, and one of the things that came to mind is tuna salad:  It can be eaten straight as a main lunch dish, or on bread, or in a tortilla for a sandwich wrap (just top with a bit of torn lettuce and you’re good to go), as a side dish for other main dishes, or even as a dip with crackers as a simple apéro.  The pickles make a lovely addition to this salad; I usually take a whole jar of the pickles, dump it into a blender on high for a couple seconds, and wha-la, a jar of pickle relish!  The relish and juice make the tuna salad snap with taste.

The great thing about this mix is that it can be kept in the fridge for several days; it makes a great, healthy & quick lunch (for adults or kids), a healthy nibble when you just need a bite or two, and can be served in so many ways.

So here’s my recipe for this simple mix; the amounts are really about taste, but I’ll give you an approximation of what I do, and you can add or subtract according to your own tastes.  Word to the wise:  The tuna juice is best used by dividing it evenly into small bowls and given to your cats. 🙂

Tuna Salad

2 cans of tuna in salt water, drained & mashed apart with a fork.

~1/2-3/4  C. mayonnaise (whatever your favourite kind is)

1-2 shallots, finely chopped

~1 Tbs. lemon juice

salt and pepper to taste

1-3 Tbs. pickle relish with juice

Mix all together in a glass or plastic bowl (not metal – the citric acid, and vinegar from the pickles will react with that).  That’s it!  Add a sprinkle of fresh or dried chives for a contrasting colour as a garnish if you want to dress it up a bit for company.

Enjoy!

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Homemade Ranch Dip

We had a large party here this week, and this dip is a standard addition!  It’s fast, simple, and delicious.

The main ingredient is my homemade mix of Copycat Ranch Dressing Mix.  It’s a great mix to have on hand for making either dressing, dip, or adding to my Bisquick recipe for Ranch rolls.  If you need more than one kind of dip, grab your favourite dressing powder mix and replace the amount called for in this recipe.

Homemade Ranch Dip

Photo Credit:  Black Diamond Catering

Photo Credit: Black Diamond Catering

2 Tbs. Ranch mix

1 C. milk

1 C. Mayonnaise

Mix it up thoroughly about 20 minutes before serving, and chill; it will thicken up as the liquids are soaked into the ingredients such as the milk powder.  Give it a good final stir and serve with crudités (raw vegetables sliced for dipping).

Tip:  The catering photo above gives a great idea for serving the dip in a bell pepper.

Quick & Easy Potato Salad

DSCN5023There are probably as many potato salad recipes out there as there are picnic baskets; everyone has their preferences.  I like a salad that is simple, allows the flavours to meld into one that support the main ingredient, the potato.  This goes well with any kind of grill meat, from bratwurst to beef to chicken, or with any vegetarian meal.  I make this any season I feel like it, so there!  You only need potatoes and either cream or plain yogurt on hand – chances are that you’ve already got everything else in your cupboard.

Quick & Easy Potato Salad

6-8 medium-sized potatoes, diced into bite-sized bits

1 red onion, coarsely chopped

1-2 tsp. Vegetable bouillon

Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally until the potatoes are edibly soft (~10 minutes).  Drain, allow to cool.

In the meantime, mix the following:

200 grams crème fraiche or plain yogurt

A sprinkle or three of chives

~2 tsp. Dijon mustard

~2-3 Tbs. Mayonnaise

A bit of pickle juice, or relish (optional)

Salt and pepper to taste

Mix in a bowl; when the potatoes are fairly cooled-to-warm, toss into the cream mixture, then spice to taste.  Serve either warm or chilled.

The following day, the potatoes will have soaked up the liquids; just add a bit more cream or yogurt.

En Guete!

Soy Sauce & Orange Marinated Chicken with Plum Salsa

I recently made this when guests were here, and our grill season officially opened!  It was a hit, and I promised to put the recipes here for their access, so here’ goes!  The Plum Salsa is an unusual combination, but has an amazing taste; serve it chilled next to the grilled meat and it becomes spectacular!

Soy Sauce & Orange Marinated Chicken

½ C. oil
1 C. orange juice
1 C. dark soy sauce
1 Tbs. crushed garlic

4 chicken breasts

Combine all above in a large ziplock.  Massage the meat in the ziplock to coat thoroughly, then place the bag in the fridge (I set it in a bowl to keep the meat and sauce gathered, to cover the meat better).  It can be kept in the marinade in the fridge until ready to grill.  If you want, take the marinade left over and pour into a sauce pan; simmer or boil while stirring, to reduce, and sift in a spoonful of rice flour or other thickener to make a sauce to serve on the side.

Plum SalsaPlum Salsa

6-8 chopped ripe plums
a handful of chopped fresh coriander
1 chopped red onion
2 teaspoons cider vinegar
salt & pepper to taste

Finely dice the plums, coriander and red onion, then toss together with the cider vinegar and salt and pepper; chill until ready to serve.  Serves 4-6

East African Sweet Potato Pudding

The sweet potato is indigenous to South America, but is often associated with Africa because it is a staple food over much of the continent.  Today’s recipe is typical of traditional dishes that rely on just a few ingredients & basic cooking techniques.  It’s an amazingly creamy and light dessert to serve with any dish, especially African and South American cuisine.

East African Sweet Potato Pudding Watermarked EAST AFRICAN SWEET POTATO PUDDING

1 kg.  sweet potatoes, peeled & cut into 1 cm cubes

3 C. milk

1 C. heavy cream

½  C. sugar

½  tsp. ground turmeric

½  tsp. cinnamon

A grating of fresh nutmeg

½  tsp. ground cardamom + some for garnish

Boil the cubed sweet potato uncovered in ~ 1 quart (1 L) water for 20 to 30 minutes, until tender.  Drain & return to the pan.  Stir in the

remaining ingredients & simmer, stirring occasionally, over low heat for 1 hour, until the potatoes are reduced to a thick puree.

Because of the remaining fibres of the sweet potato, this next step is highly recommended:  If you have a juicer or blender, pour the mixture in and blend it until smooth; otherwise, using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, press the puree through a fine sieve into a serving bowl.

Serve at room temperature or chilled. Sprinkle a little ground cardamom on surface just before serving.

MOROCCAN SPICED CHICKEN PIE with MINT & CORIANDER SAUCE

Moroccan Spiced Chicken Pie WatermarkedThis typical Middle Eastern pie is crammed with lovely contrasting flavours, and a main dish well worth the effort!  It looks complicated, but it’s really not – put on some good music, and enjoy the experience!  If you want to spread this preparation over two days as I did, then you can dry-roast the spices, toss the meat mixture together raw, and keep chilled in the fridge until you’re ready to put it all together; then, cook the meat mix, wilt the spinach and toss into the meat mixture, along with the roasted spices.  When you’re ready to bake it, follow the assembly directions as below.

MOROCCAN SPICED CHICKEN PIE

 

1) Dry-Roasted Spices

2  tsp. coriander seeds

2  tsp. cumin seeds

1  tsp. paprika, plus extra for dusting

½  tsp. ground cinnamon

140  gr. whole blanched almonds

140  gr. pistachios, shelled

In a pan, dry-roast the spices and nuts together, stirring regularly.  It only take a couple minutes – be careful not to allow them to burn.  This process brings out the flavours.  Set them aside to cool.

2) Wilted Spinach

A dash of olive (or coconut) oil to sauté

225  gr. fresh spinach

A dash of salt and pepper

Sauté the fresh spinach leaves with a bit of oil and salt and pepper; pour into a bowl and set aside for now.

3) Meat Mixture

2-3  shallots, quartered

4  cm gingerroot, finely chopped

1  tsp. ground cumin

2  whole garlic cloves

A dash of olive (or coconut) oil to sauté

900  gr. chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized chunks

75  gr. dried cranberries

6  Tbs. clear honey

400  gr. canned chickpeas, drained & rinsed (either as-is, or blend into a paste)

3  Tbs. lemon juice

4  Tbs. fresh coriander, chopped

Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F).  Sauté the shallots, ginger, garlic and cumin together with the chicken; when the meat is nearly done, add the remaining ingredients and heat through, adding the roasted spices and the wilted spinach, tossing well to mix.  Set all aside while you prepare the pastry.

4) Pastry

100  gr. butter or coconut oil

2 flaky rectangular pastry doughs

A bit of cream to brush

Grease a rectangular casserole dish and line with one of the rectangular pastry doughs.  Poke with a fork a few times.  Pour in the filling mixture, and top with the second dough; pinch the edges together and trim off any excess dough.  Brush the top of the dough with a bit of cream, and then pierce several places with a fork.

Bake at 200°C /400°F for 35-45 minutes, until the dough is golden brown.  Serve with the Mint & Coriander Sauce.

MINT & CORIANDER SAUCE

Moroccan Mint & Coriander Yogurt Sauce Watermarked

100  gr. low – fat Greek yoghurt

50 gr. Plain yoghurt

1-2 mint tea bags – contents only, or 2 sprigs fresh mint, leaves very finely chopped

3 sprigs fresh coriander, finely chopped

¼ C. Red bell pepper, finely diced

Salt and Pepper to Taste

Prepare the ingredients and toss all together, stirring thoroughly to blend.  Serve as a side sauce, chilled.