Cauliflower & Couscous

This is the perfect vegetable side dish. It resembles a pilaf with the chewy pearls of Israeli couscous. It can be served warm as a side or it can be served at room temperature as a salad. I love dishes that I can make ahead of time and this fits the bill. What’s even better is that my eight year old son will eat it!

I’m not a fan of dates, but don’t leave them out. The subtle sweetness that they impart makes this dish work and the amount is so small that you hardly notice their presence as a distinct element of the dish. Don’t hesitate to vary the amounts given below to your own taste – they are for guidance only.  If you’d prefer a higher ratio of cauliflower to couscous, go for it. If you want a little more tang, don’t hesitate to add more wine vinegar. The inspiration for the dish is a recipe from Food Network.

1 1/2 cups Israeli couscous*, cooked as the label directs

4 cups cauliflower florets

2 shallots, sliced lengthwise

olive oil

salt

pepper

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 cup dates, chopped into 1/4 inch morsels

2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

1/4 cup finely chopped flat leaf parsley

*sometimes referred to as pearl couscous

Rinse the cooked couscous under cold water, drain thoroughly, and toss with about a teaspoon of olive oil. Set aside.

Cook the cauliflower florets and sliced shallots in olive oil in a large sauté pan, browning the cauliflower and shallots. If needed, cover the pan to help the cauliflower just cook through. Season with salt and pepper. Add the  cinnamon and chopped dates; cook 1 more minute to marry the flavours.

Combine the cauliflower mixture with the cooked couscous, adding the red wine vinegar,  chopped parsley, and more salt and pepper to taste. Serve.

Candied Yams with Orange Bitters

I have to admit upfront that I am not a big fan of yams or sweet potatoes, but I keep hoping that I will find a recipe that changes my perspective.  Although my guests raved about these, to me they are still yams.  Accordingly, if you don’t like yams or sweet potatoes, this recipe might not change your opinion, but if you are already a lover of these tubers, you might enjoy this interesting sweet and salty spin.

A Pat and A Pinch - Candied Yams With Orange Bitters

The recipe as written serves 6-8 as a side dish and is very attractive to serve. It is based on a recipe by Ruth Reichel, an editor of Gourmet magazine for many years and published in Gourmet Today, a selection from the now defunct magazine. Epicurious has an adaptation of it as does the blog Drool-Worthy. Having read comments that it was very sweet with the suggested 1/3 cup of sugar, I cut back on the sugar and the sweetness seemed perfect.  The recipe below reflects this change.

Candied Yams with Orange Bitters

1-1/2 cups orange juice

1/4  cup brown sugar

1/4  cup red wine vinegar

1/4 cup orange bitters

1-1/2 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 tsp salt

4-5  yams or sweet potatoes, unpeeled, halved and then cut into wedges (about 3 lbs)

1/2 teaspoon dried red chili flakes

1 teaspoon ground sea salt

10 whole thyme sprigs plus the leaves of 5 thyme sprigs

2 heads of garlic, skin left on, sliced in half

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Prepare a 12 by 16 inch baking sheet with sides or a roasting pan of a similar size by lining it with foil or parchment.  This isn’t essential but makes clean-up so much easier.

Place the orange juice in a saucepan with the sugar and vinegar. Bring to a boil over high heat, then turn down the heat to medium-high and simmer fairly rapidly for about 20 minutes, until the liquid has thickened and reduced to scant 1 cup (about the amount in a large glass of wine).  Remove from the heat and add the bitters, olive oil, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Place the potatoes in a mound in the centre of the lined baking sheet, add the chili flakes,  the 10 thyme sprigs, and garlic halves, and then drizzle the reduced sauce over the mound. Toss well so that everything is coated and then spread the mixture out in a single layer on the sheet. I found that the garlic halves are quite delicate and need to be tossed quite gently. Grind about 1 tsp of sea salt to taste over the wedges.

Place in the oven and roast for 40 to 60 minutes, turning and basting the potatoes every 15 minutes or so. They need to remain coated in the liquid in order to caramelize, so  if the pan is drying out too much you can add a little more orange juice. If the caramelization seems to be happening more quickly than the yams are cooking, reduce the heat by 25°F. At the end, the potatoes should be dark and sticky but not burnt. Remove from the oven and leave to cool slightly before arranging on a platter and sprinkling with the fresh thyme leaves.

Indian Spiced Salmon Cakes

Indian Spiced Salmon Cakes - A Pat & A Pinch Being fortunate to live on the west coast, we eat a lot of pacific salmon. We also benefit from the wisdom of chef Vikram Vij who seems to present an endless supply of innovative ideas for local products. This is his recipe with some very minor modifications. I love my mother’s Pan Fried Salmon Cakes with Dill Sauce that I posted some time ago, but these are equally as good and are easier to make, once you have the ingredients on hand. I make them with garam masala, rather than the cumin alternative, as the spice mixture imparts a more complex flavor profile, but either would be good. If you don’t have or can’t find ajwain seeds, you can substitute a little oregano for a somewhat similar flavour.

I usually serve them on fresh greens with a light dressing and some mango chutney, but small sized ones also make an excellent appy that can be made ahead and reheated in the oven on a cookie sheet. Indian Spiced Salmon Cakes - A Pat & A Pinch 1 tablespoon coriander seeds

1 egg

1 pound fresh wild salmon

1/2 pound boiled and mashed russet potato or a little more (I like it coarsely mashed to provide a little more texture to the cake)

1/4 pound boiled or microwaved then coarsely mashed yam

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/3 cup finely sliced spring onions or chopped onion

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh jalapeno peppers

1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped cilantro

1 1/2 tablespoons garam masala or 1 tablespoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ajwain seeds

1 tablespoon salt (or less to taste)

1/2 cup canola oil for pan frying

Mango chutney to garnish

Lightly pound coriander seeds in a mortar or on a plate with a heavy spoon. (You just want to break the seeds in half.) Set aside.

Beat the egg in a small bowl. If you are using fresh salmon, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Immerse salmon and cook for five minutes. Remove from the heat, drain and allow the salmon to cool. Peel off the skin.

Thoroughly combine all ingredients except the oil in a large mixing bowl. With your hands, form round cakes about two and a half inches in diameter and three-quarters to one inch thick. Set them on a baking tray.

Heat one tablespoon of the oil in a shallow nonstick frying pan on high heat. Once the oil is hot, reduce the heat to medium so the cakes don’t stick to the bottom of the pan or burn. Place two cakes in the pan and cook for two to three minutes. Turn the cakes over and cook for another two to three minutes. The cakes should be brown and crispy on both sides. Repeat, using one tablespoon of the oil for each two cakes, until all the cakes are cooked.

Serve the cakes as they are done, or keep warm on a plate in the oven. Serves 6

Kibbeh bil Saniyeh

This dish is one of the few middle eastern foods I know how to make.  Kibbeh can be prepared in a number of ways, none of which I have entirely mastered.  I have had advice from my Syrian best friend, a Lebanese friend from law school, and the very patient and generous owners of a Lebanese Restaurant here in Victoria called Wrap N Roll to tweak this recipe towards perfection.  Note that you can use beef or lamb but I prefer the flavour of lamb by far.  At my best friends suggestion, this can be served with a beetroot mutabal.

Kibbeh bil Saniyeh - A Pat & A Pinch

Kibbeh

1 c. fine bulgar wheat
500 g. lean lamb, finely ground (twice through a grinder)
2 large onions, finely grated
1 1/2 tbsp. baharat kibbeh (*approx. based on the spice mix I use)
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. black pepper, freshly cracked
1 tbsp. olive oil

Filling

2 tbsp. olive oil
500 g. ground lamb (once through a grinder)
4 large onions, chopped finely
2 tbsp. baharat kibbeh (*approx. based on the spice mix I use)

1 tbsp. pomegranate syrup (optional)

1 tsp. salt
1½ tsp. black pepper, freshly cracked
1 tbsp. butter
3 tbsp. pine nuts

Soak the bulgar in boiling water for approximately 20 minutes and then drain the water from it.

Meanwhile, begin the filling. Toast the pine nuts by frying them in the butter until they begin to brown.  Heat the oil in a large frying pan and add the onions.  Once the onions are translucent, add the ground lamb, stirring until it is browned.  Mix in the baharat, pomegranate syrup, salt, pepper, and pine nuts and let it cook until the juices have mostly evaporated.  Allow this to cool while preparing the kibbeh.

In a bowl, mix the bulgar, the finely ground lamb, the grated onion, and the baharat, spices, salt, and pepper using your hands.  Keep some cold water nearby to add if necessary to keep the mixture soft.

Preheat your oven to 350°F.  Oil a deep glass pan (I prefer round but any shape will work).

Handful by handful, create a layer of the kibbeh by flattening the kibbeh between your palms before pressing it into the bottom of the pan until it is covered.  Note: this should use about 1/2 of the kibbeh.  With moist hands, ensure that the surface of the kibbeh is smooth and that there are no cracks or holes between.  Spoon in the filling and ensure that it is evenly spread atop the kibbeh, press lightly to ensure it is packed.  Using the same technique as before with the rest of the kibbeh, cover the filling and make ensure that it is smooth.  Score the kibbeh with a knife in a pattern that pleases you and pour a bit of olive oil over the top of the dish.  Cook for about half an hour.

Herbed Gruyere and Buttermilk Scones

Herbed Gruyere and Buttermilk Scones - A Pat & A Pinch

On a cool weekend morning, I love to pull together a batch of warm savoury scones and enjoy them with a cup or two of my favourite tea.  There are different types of scones: these are based on a buttermilk biscuit recipe that results in a light scone that has many tender layers. They are quick to make and quick to eat.

Today I had some leftover gruyere which I used.  An old cheddar also makes a delicious scone.  I prefer to be able to “find” the cheese in my scones so I slice it thinly and then chop it into small pieces – each piece is roughly 1/2 x 1/4 x 1/32 inch in size.  Grated cheese disperses more consistently throughout the scone but is a little quicker to prepare if you are pressed for time.  It is a matter of choice.  If you are not a huge rosemary fan, thyme or an herbes de provence mix also work well.

These scones don’t need to be buttered, but a little extra butter doesn’t hurt them one bit. They are also nice with jam.  Alternatively, they are delicious with a little cured ham or hard sausage.  Today, I enjoyed them with some duck prosciutto and some lamb prosciutto from Oyama Sausage on Granville Island in Vancouver.

Herbed Gruyere and Buttermilk Scones - A Pat & A Pinch

Herbed Gruyere and Buttermilk Scones

2 1/2 c. flour

1 tbsp. baking powder

2 tbsp. sugar

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 c. unsalted butter, cold and cut into pieces

1/2 c. buttermilk

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 c. gruyere cheese (or any hard cheese you have on hand), grated, or cut into small thin pieces

cracked black pepper

2 tbsp dried rosemary, broken down

1 egg

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Combine flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt in a bowl and cut in the flour until it is well blended and the consistency of coarse oatmeal. I recommend using your fingers rubbing the butter and flour mixture into flakes between your thumb and first two fingers. Mix the gruyere, rosemary and pepper into the flour mixture and create a well in the center. In another bowl, combine the buttermilk with the baking soda and egg and beat the mixture. Add the almost all of the liquid mixture to the the flour and butter mixture, reserving a little (about a tablespoon)  for a wash (see below).

Using a dough scraper, quickly combine the dry and wet ingredients to form what my mom calls a “shaggy mass”.  As soon as the dough begins to come together, stop.

Flour a surface and dump the contents of the dough bowl onto it.  Gather the dough bits into a rectangle, then fold the rectangle into thirds. Flatten the new rectangle gently by pressing on it.  Scoop up any loose bits with the dough scraper and toss them onto the new rectangle. Fold in thirds again. Repeat this process just until the former “shaggy mass”  forms a soft dough (no more than 6 or 7 turns). Roll out the dough to a 1″ thickness.

If you forgot to reserve a little of the liquid for a wash, beat an egg with 1 tbsp of milk and a pinch of salt to create an egg wash or just use a little heavy cream or buttermilk. Using a glass or round cookie cutter, cut the dough into rounds flouring the cutter between each cut to minimize sticking. After cutting as many pieces as possible, gather up the leftover bits, press them together forming a new rectangle, rolling it to an even 1″ thickness and cut some more rounds.  The less you can work the dough to accomplish this the better – the scones will get tougher the more the dough is worked.  Place the rounds on a baking sheet lined with a silpat or parchment (for easy cleanup) and glaze them with the wash being careful to only put wash on the tops – having wash on the sides will impair the ability of the scone to rise .  Bake for about 15 minutes, until they are golden-brown in color.

N.B. If you prefer a less savoury scone, you can replace the cheese and herbs with dried cranberries (1/2 c.) and citrus zest (a few teaspoons), currants (1/2 c.), or make them plain.

 

Pan Fried Salmon Cakes with Dill-Mustard Sauce

Living on the west coast, good salmon is easy to come by.  For this recipe, we typically use Pink or Coho fillets as opposed to the more coveted Sockeye.  The dill-mustard sauce is an absolute must with this recipe as the two compliment each other perfectly, although we serve the sauce on the side as some of us like to take more than others.
Pan-Fried Salmon Cakes with Dill-Mustard Sauce - A Pat & A Pinch

Pan-Fried Salmon Cakes with Dill-Mustard Sauce

Salmon Cakes

1/2 kg poached salmon (boned and flaked)

1/4 c. wild rice, uncooked

1/2 c. bread crumbs

1/2 small red onion, finely chopped

2 tbsp. fresh dill, finely chopped

1 tbsp. capers, finely chopped

1 tbsp. horseradish

1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

1 large egg, beaten

1/4 cup mayonnaise

salt and pepper

3 tbsp. flour

1 tsp. paprika

butter

Dill-Mustard Sauce

2 ½ tbsp. grainy mustard

2 ½ tbsp. honey mustard

1 tbsp. white wine vinegar

1 tbsp. honey

8 tbsp. fresh dill, finely chopped

Boil the wild rice until cooked. In a large bowl, mix the salmon, wild rice, breadcrumbs, onion, dill, capers, horseradish, and lemon juice. Add and combine the beaten eggs and mayonnaise to bind. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Place flour in a shallow dish and season with salt, pepper and paprika. Using your hands, form the salmon mixture into thick patties. Lightly coat each patty in the seasoned flour and refrigerate for at least half an hour ensuring that they are in a single layer or there is parchment paper between the layers.

To prepare the sauce, whisk together the mustards and incorporate the vinegar and honey. Stir in the dill and refrigerate until the meal is ready to be served.

When ready to cook the salmon cakes, melt some butter in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add as many patties as will comfortably fit in the pan and sauté, turning once, until golden brown on both sides (approximately 5 minutes on each side). Cooked cakes can be kept warm in the oven on a low temperature until the whole batch is ready to be served. Add more butter to the pan if needed.

Serve the cakes with the sauce. We like to serve them over a simple green salad with a light vinaigrette that does not compete with the dill-mustard sauce.

Pan-Fried Salmon Cakes with Dill-Mustard Sauce - A Pat & A Pinch

Pan-Fried Salmon Cakes with Dill-Mustard Sauce - A Pat & A Pinch