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Archive for the ‘Lunch’ Category

This year, I’ve been spoiled by my grandmother – which is not unusual – except that I am now receiving a quarterly magazine with fresh, classic, and inspiring recipes from Normandy. It’s great, coming at a time when I am often at a loss for ideas since cooking for one is simply less fun than for two. It’s amazing how easy it is to get entrenched in routine in the kitchen, and this magazine has done wonders for me this year in getting me back into the exciting realm of cooking.

I love how this salad captures the flavours of summer, while being filling enough for a weekday lunch. I’d recommend making this soon, while the tomatoes are still sweet off the vine.

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Ingredients – for 4 servings

-1 Boursin cheese, garlic and herb
-1 boston leaf lettuce, washed and dried
-200g cooked Puy or French lentils (I cooked 1/2 cup in 2 cups vegetable broth for 25 minutes)
-1 pint ripe cherry tomatoes, quartered
-1/2 cup pistachios, shelled
-1 Tbsp butter
-1 Tbsp olive oil
-2 chicken breasts
-1 Tbsp parsley, finely chopped

For the vinaigrette:

-4 Tbsp olive oil
-1 Tbsp dijon mustard
-3 Tbsp red wine vinegar
-1 Tbsp honey
-3 Tbsp chicken cooking jus
-salt and pepper

Directions

Cook the lentils until tender but still intact, about 25 minutes. Drain and reserve.

Dice the chicken breasts. Heat the butter and 1 Tbsp of olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. When hot, sear the chicken. Cook 4-5 min per side until cooked through and golden. Season with salt and pepper. When the chicken is cooked, add 30mL of water to the pan and scrape the pan with a spatula to make the jus. Simmer until reduced and flavourful.

Coarsely chop the pistachios. Break up the lettuce leaves coarsely, add them to a large bowl with the lentils, the quartered tomatoes, the chicken, small spoonfuls of the Boursin, and sprinkle with the pistachios.

To make the vinaigrette, mix the chicken jus with the mustard, honey, vinegar and salt and pepper. Once it is smooth, add the olive oil one spoonful at a time while mixing. Season to taste and drizzle over salad. Serve immediately!

-Sitelle

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Fish Stir-Fry

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to go ice fishing with a local fisherman who showed us how to set nets under 4.5 feet of ice, which blew my mind. After we brought the nets in, I watched him fillet at least two dozen large fish, of four or five varieties. I’m looking forward to fishing myself, and attempting to fillet the fish after what I learned – I assume it will be a lot sloppier and slower, but I’m ready for the challenge!

After we fished we ate an absolutely delicious meal of sashimi, pan-fried fish with dill, and bannock in one of his cabins out on the lake. I have never had such fresh sashimi!

We ate so much fish, and yet there were many left-overs. We brought many different types home, including the left-over sashimi fillets which we turned into this delicious stir-fry for lunch the following day. This stir-fry is amazing not only because it’s delicious but because it is also incredibly fast and simple!

Heading out for fishing

Ingredients – 2 servings

1 lb fish fillets, sliced into strips

2 green onions, chopped

1 carrot, cut into match sticks

1 zucchini, halved and then finely sliced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 Tbsp oil

1/2 lemon, juiced

Soy sauce

Salt and pepper to taste

Rice, cooked

Directions

Slice, dice, and prepare all stir-fry ingredients. Heat oil in pan over medium-high heat, then add garlic. Stir, then add the fish. Saute on medium for a few minutes, then add the remaining veggies. Continue to stir often, and cook for about 6 minutes until the fish is cooked and the veggies are still crunchy but hot. Season with salt and pepper and soy sauce.

Serve the fish stir-fry over rice with soy sauce.

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As I write this, mango pollen and flowers are falling from above me and are lodging themselves in my keyboard. And I will begin with a warning that this is a long, long post! I promise, though, that there is a true Gambian recipe waiting for you at the end, and before it, the story of a Canadian who has attempted to cook it.

As I learn the Gambian way of life, I must admit that I have found it difficult to cook. Hence the lack of posts on Gambian food so far. That is not because cooking here is difficult – most dishes are one-pot dishes or two-pot dishes – so they are not too complicated. Cooking here is difficult because the women don’t believe that I can cook. This is aggravated by their love of repetition… and if a dish is not cooked exactly as they do it or they know it – then they don’t like it. After two months living here though, I decided to push all help out of the way and cook a meal all by myself. Oh boy, it was not easy! All throughout my cooking women would come in and tell me different things about how I should be doing it… but I kept on saying ‘today I am cooking, and you will eat’. So I guess before I give you the recipe, I will tell you the story of how this meal was created. The way I made it was a fusion of Gambian Benachin and Senegalese Chebu Gen, because I learned to cook it in Dakar as well as in Gambia.

It started off with a deal with a friend of mine, P., who told me that he didn’t think I could cook because every time I say I cook I end up watching more than anything else because the women take over.

Mid-morning I headed to the market with my friend F. who helped me with the transactions so that I would not be nailed with Toubab prices. My basket was soon filling up with fresh fish, sea snail, salt-dried fish, carrots, tomatoes, bitter tomatoes, garlic, squash, niambi, cabbage, egg plant, onions, rice, preserved tamarind, hot peppers, salt, seasoning, pepper corns, peanut oil, and charcoal.

On my way home, several men told me jokingly, ‘I look forward to you bringing my lunch!’. Every time I go to the market and return with food, the next time I pass, men (who I don’t know) ask me ‘where is my lunch?’. Here, people like to joke jovially a lot.

Back home, I started by cleaning the fish to fry it right away, because even though I was going to cook dinner, I had to cook the fish right away so it didn’t spoil since there is no refrigeration. I lit the charcoal, and began to heat the oil to fry the fish. As the oil heated up, fish scales were flying everywhere as I cleaned it. I hauled buckets of water to the back of my house, and washed the fish three times. Then I drizzled it in lemon and salt.

After frying it, I put it in a bowl and let it stand in the shade all afternoon while I visited a friend.

That evening, I returned to cook around 5pm. First, I started by cleaning all the vegetables, and lighting the charcoal again. That is easier said than done, and took a lot of blowing and fanning in order for the charcoal to be fully lit. The women kept on coming over to watch and tell me what to do (all the time different instructions). I had to shoo them away every time. The kids would then come and ask to help me. That day, there were 5 women at the house, so I got 5 different sets of instructions. It was exhausting!

Finally, when I got to the stage of picking through the rice to clean it and then wash it, I was relieved. I was also worried that the pot was too small for the 7 cups of rice I was about to cook… It just fit. Barely. Now, I will try to estimate quantities for you to make this – but I definitely did not have any measurements as to the amount of water to use with the rice – just a lucky guess!

Anyway, after an exhausting but nonetheless fun cooking session, I had two big bowls of food prepared for the family. When I came to Gambia I was given a Gambian name, Yandé, which means ‘everyone’s mother’ – after the mother of the Director of the Agricultural Centre where I work. So all of her children call me ‘my mother’ and their children call me ‘Grandmother’. I was very happy that I could share this meal with 4 of ‘my children’, their spouses, and many, many grandchildren. Despite the fact that the recipe was not exactly like they usually have it (I made a slightly healthier version than normal… with less oil and no palm oil and lot of vegetables), they all said they loved it and said, Yandé, you can cook!’.

So there you have it, the story of the first truly Gambian dish I have cooked entirely on my own. Sorry for the long story! Bisimilah – that means ‘bon appétit’, among many things.

Ingredients – for a full meal for approximately 6 – 8 people

-3 cups of medium or long-grain (not basmati) rice
-2 onions
-6 cloves garlic
-5 kani chili peppers (scotch bonnet – you can alter the amount based on how spicy you like your food)
-1 Tbsp black pepper corns

-3 firm-fleshed whole fish
-1 piece of sea snail (substitute some smoked oysters or dried fish from an Asian food store)
-1/2 a salted dried fish
-4 lemons
-1 tbsp coarse sea salt

-1 cup peanut oil
-2 cups water (plus more)

-2 cubes vegetable stock

-4 carrots
-2 pieces of squash
-2 bitter tomatoes (not sure if there is any substitute for this in Canada – maybe just add more of something else)
-4 pieces of niambi or cassava root
-1/2 a medium cabbage, cut into two pieces
-1 sweet potato, cut into 4 pieces
-4-6 medium tomatoes
-8 cups water approximately

-Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Clean, gut, and scale the fish. Cut in half, and cut slits onto each side. Drizzle with the juice of two lemons, and salt with the coarse sea salt. Make sure there is plenty of lemon juice in covering the fish and in the slits.

In another bowl, wash the salt-dried fish and snail thoroughly three times.

Pound the pepper corns, and then the garlic. Once it is a smooth paste (you can use a food processor for the garlic with ground pepper instead of pepper corns if you don’t have large enough a mortar and pestle). Add the hot peppers, and pound until smooth. Then chop the onions and add them and continue pounding until it is a relatively uniform paste. Transfer to a bowl and cover until it will be used.

Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pot over high heat. Once the oil is very hot, fry the fish pieces one-by-one until it is fully cooked and golden. Remove from oil and let drain on paper towel (I didn’t do this here… but I think it is a good idea if there is paper towel available!).

Set fish aside. While the oil is still hot, fry the snail and the salt-dried fish. Once they are in the pot, they should never leave it until it is time to eat! Fry them until they are golden brown.

After this, crush or crumble one cube of stock and carefully stir into the hot oil. Stir well so no clumps form. Add the pounded garlic, hot pepper, and onion mixture. Traditionally, you would add the tomatoes and pound them with the garlic but I like them separate.

Stir the pounded mixture in well, then fry in the oil for two minutes while stirring often until everything becomes fragrant. Then add two cups of water and the remaining stock cube, and bring to a boil. When it boils, add the hard vegetables. Add more water until the vegetables are fully covered. Boil them until tender, approximately 30 minutes. After 20 minutes, add the whole tomatoes, the two remaining hot peppers, and the egg plant (and any other soft veggies you might want).

Put the preserved tamarind in a bowl with a lid, with the juice of one lemon. When the veggies are cooked, remove them with a slotted spoon and put them in the bowl on top of the tamarind, and cover.

Replace fish in the pot, and cook for 10 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and put in with the vegetables.

Add more water until it makes approximately 8 cups of stock and bring to a boil (instead of measuring, I use the following technique to guess the volume necessary: there should be approximately 2-3 fingers-thick of water above the rice in the pot). Taste the broth and add salt accordingly. Pick through the rice and remove any rocks and other seeds. Wash the rice three times until clean. Add rice to boiling stock and cover. Once it boils, reduce the heat (for me, this meant removing charcoal…). Cook for 10 minutes more or so and then stir and remove from heat.

Place rice in a big bowl. Spread vegetables on top, with fish. Serve with juice and tamarind from the bowl where veggies were reserved. Slice a lemon and juice it on top of everything, and a dusting of minced parsley if you like.

If you want to eat Gambian-style, use your right hand and make a ball of rice with small amounts of veggies and fish for each mouthful, and everyone eats out of the same bowl!

Bisimilah!

-Sitelle (alias: Yandé)

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Cooking for one still manages to stump me, and I often end up with at least an extra meal if not more in left-overs even if I try to keep things small. While many people would love this, I prefer the freedom of cooking something new almost every day. If what I make is freezable, it’s not a problem, because I can re-visit it after a break.  I now have even more appreciation for my wonderful left-over loving partner. Alas, for me all these left-overs represent an issue – I love to cook so much but my stomach simply is incapable of handling the quantities of food I make on any given day and so I have had to get used to eating left-overs several days in a row.

Well, since I’ll be living in Senegal for 6 months, I had better get used to repetition. It’s sort of like training, I guess. That, and the fact I probably won’t have access to a kitchen anything like I’m used to. I can’t wait to learn to cook Senegalese food!

Luckily, by the second week in Montréal I discovered it’s not quite as monotonous if I try to re-invent the left-overs. This is one of those recipes – one you can make with any left-over chicken or other meat/tofu.

Ingredients – 2 wraps

-1 leftover chicken breast or 3 drumsticks, cooked, meat sliced
-2 Tbsp capers
-6 slices sharp cheddar
-2 large soft wheat or corn wraps
-lemon juice
-salt and pepper
-veggies to eat on the side
-1 tsp olive oil

Directions

Slice the meat and cheese. Arrange the wrap on a counter, then place 2 slices of cheese across the wrap. Place the meat on top, along with the capers and a spritz of lemon juice. Top with the remaining cheese and salt and pepper, then close the wrap tightly. In a large frying pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Cook wrap on both top and bottom until the wrap is warm and has begun to turn golden.

Wash and cut up assorted veggies to eat on the side. I love carrots and tomatoes with this particular combination! You could also add some fresh spinach to the wrap before warming it if you like.

-Sitelle

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A few years ago I found a recipe for a root vegetable salad I’d never seen before as I flipped through my Larousse Gastronomique. I was immediately intrigued at the combination of a creamy old-fashioned garlic dressing with the crisp and earthy vegetables, and decided to give it a shot.

Since then, I have tried all sorts of vegetable combinations. I love how colourful and fresh the salad is. Accompanied by a hard-boiled egg or grilled piece of meat, it can make a full lunch.

Living in Montréal now, I have begun to explore the local food scene. I visited the market in Ste. Anne-de-Bellevue (a suburb on the western side of the island) on Saturday, and was delighted at what I found. Basically everything that went into this salad came from this market!

Ingredients – for 4 servings

-1 beet, finely sliced into half-circles
-1/2 small head fennel, finely sliced into strips
-1-2 carrots, cut into match-sticks
-1 celery stalk, cut into match-sticks
-2 medium tomatoes, sliced into rounds
-1/2 an apple, cut into thin wedges
-juice from 1/4 lemon or lime
-4 whole large leaves of lettuce (optional)
-a handful of toasted pumpkin seeds (optional), for garnish

-1.5 Tbsp cider vinegar
-1.5 Tbsp grain mustard
-1.5 Tbsp cream
-pinch fresh minced tarragon or dry tarragon
-cracked pepper and salt to taste

Directions

Wash and peel then finely slice all ingredients (feel free to leave all the peels on if you like – some like them and others don’t), leaving the apple for last. Drizzle lemon juice over apple to keep it from browning. Using a very sharp knife will help as well. Keep the beet separate so as not to colour everything in advance.

This salad can be assembled either on side-plates (the way that keeps it looking more special), or in a large, shallow bowl. Arrange the veggies however you like, over a leaf of lettuce if you choose to do so.

To make the dressing, mix the vinegar and mustard. Once thoroughly mixed, add the cream and mix some more, adding the tarragon at the end. Drizzle over salad, and add salt and pepper to taste.

The key to success with this salad is finely chopping all the ingredients. I hope you enjoy this as much as I do!

-Sitelle

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August is one of my favourite months. Ripe tomatoes hang off their vines, while bees and butterflies flit around the garden. There are so many vegetables. They are so good. I don’t even know what to do with all of them! Every time I get home I walk to the back yard, only to find another bowl-full of cherry tomatoes, and ox-heart tomatoes weighing over a pound each! So, I thought I’d post something savoury after Catherine’s delicious sweet series, something about the garden.

This recipe is simple, so simple, because the entire point is to ensure that the true deliciousness of August tomatoes fresh off the vine shines through. That is the central point of the salad.

Ingredients – 4 servings

-2 large ox-heart or other flavourful tomatoes, room-temperature
-10 fresh basil leaves
-2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
-2 Tbsp olive oil (if you have special olive oil, this is the time to use it!)
-pinch salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Dressing:

In a jar, mix the vinegar and oil.

Salad

Slice tomatoes gently, and arrange on a salad platter or individual plates. Finely chop the basil, and place it evenly over the tomatoes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Drizzle dressing on, and serve immediately.

Bon appétit!

-Sitelle

 

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Shrimp Wrap

It always surprises me how frequently I go to post an item, and Sitelle is already a step ahead of me.  Despite living 4,000 km apart, we somehow still manage to cook many of the same meals!  The day Sitelle made buttery  garlic shrimp, I had the exact same idea – although I ate the shrimp in a cold wrap.

Shrimp continue to be one of the richest sources of protein and they are loaded with omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (not to mention absolutely they are absolutely tasty!)  For the wrap, I threw together my favourite sandwich ingredients with some tzaziki and lemon juice.  Just the refreshing pick-me-up one often needs at lunch!

Shrimp Wrap

1 wrap

Ingredients:

buttery shrimp with garlic and parsley 

1 tortilla wrap

Tzaziki sauce

Cucumber, chopped

Tomato, chopped

Spinach

Red Onion, chopped

Avocado, chopped

Lemon slice

Directions:

To assemble wrap, spread tortilla with tzaziki.  Sprinkle veggies and shrimp on top.  Squeeze lemon slice over contents.  Roll up the wrap and bon appetit!

– Catherine

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