Cabernet Shiraz Burgers with Smoked Cheddar

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By Corinne

The quote often attributed to Julia Child, “I love cooking with wine. Sometimes I even put it in the food.” very much describes my cooking 🙂 though I really do love adding wine to my food. The wine reduction in these burgers adds moisture and flavour as both an ingredient in the mix and as a glaze while cooking.

Serves: 4

Time: 20-25 to reduce wine, 5 minutes to prep burgers, 20 minutes to cook

You will need:

  • 2 cups of Cabernet Sauvignon or a Cab Shiraz blend (what I prefer for these burgers – I used Cliff 79 Cab Shiraz ~$11 and nice to drink the rest of the bottle!)
  • 1 1/2 lb ground beef (I used lean, because the wine will make them juicy, but you could use regular, keep in mind they will shrink more if you do)
  • sprig of fresh rosemary
  • crushed clove of garlic (just give it a good smash with the flat side of a knife)
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • smoked cheddar cheese* for topping and other toppings of your choice – I used red onion, lettuce from my garden, mustard and pickles. * smoked gouda (Thunder Oaks if you can get it!) and smoked mozza also work nicely!

Add 2 cups of wine, 1 tbsp of sugar, sprig of rosemary and a clove of crushed garlic to a medium sauce pan. Bring to a simmer on medium/medium high and cook until reduced to half a cup – about 20-25 min. Strain the rosemary and garlic from the reduced sauce and discard.

To the ground beef add 1/4 C of the reduced red wine, 2 tsp salt,  1 tsp pepper. Mix well and shape into 4 patties. Reserve the other 1/4 C of the reduced wine to glaze the burgers as they cook.

Grill over medium low direct heat for 5 minutes with the lid closed. When you flip the burgers, generously glaze with red wine sauce. Do this three more times, glazing each time you flip and cooking with the lid down as much as possible. Add the smoked cheddar on the final flip to get it nice and melty.

These burgers will be rich and slightly purple from the wine, the colour doesn’t fade a lot upon cooking! Garnish however you like it and enjoy!

Gluten free if served on a gluten free bun.

Garlic Scape Gnocchi with Simplest Tomato Sauce

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By Corinne

This is a simple homemade pasta using a lovely and often overlooked seasonal ingredient. Garlic scapes are the flower bud of the garlic plant, and are usually removed to encourage the bulb to bulk up. They are milder than garlic but can be used the same way in recipes. I like to add them to stir fry, warm potato salad, and here they are featured in gnocchi. Inspired by  Niagra Cooks by Lynn Ogryzlo.

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Time: Gnocchi -prep 20 min, cook 5. Sauce – prep 5, cook 45.

Serves: 4 (with a side salad)

You will need: 

For the gnocchi:

  • 1 pound (450g) ricotta cheese
  • 2 egg whites
  • 3/4 cup chopped garlic scapes (about 6 scapes)
  • 1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper

For the sauce:

  • 1 can San Marzano tomatoes see this post for comparison with regular plum tomatoes
  • 5 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • possibly a pinch of salt if your finished sauce needs it- mine didn’t

Gnocchi

Place ricotta, egg whites and scapes in a food processor and process until scapes are minced. See photo below.

In a two cup measuring cup(or a separate bowl if you want to make more dishes!) measure 1 3/4 cup flour, salt, and pepper. Give it a good stir with a fork.

Add dry ingredients to ricotta mixture, about 1/2 cup at a time, doing one or two pulses of the processor to blend the mixture.

Dough will be moist and somewhat sticky, but avoid the temptation to add too much flour as it will make your gnocchi heavy.

Turn out dough onto a lightly floured work surface, and divide into 8 balls. Using the palm of your hand, roll the dough into a rope about 1/2″ in diameter. Avoid over working the dough or working in too much flour as it will make your gnocchi tough.

Using a sharp knife, cut rope into 3/4″-1″ pieces. I got about 12-13 pieces from each rope. If you can find one, you can use a gnocchi rolling board to give them the little ridges. They will taste just as good without them though!

Place them on a lightly floured parchment covered cookie sheet. I generally make these early in the day and pop them into the freezer as then they are easier to handle getting them into the pot without sticking to each other. They don’t take any longer to cook from frozen- still only about 3-5 minutes. You can also make a double batch to them to freeze them for a quick supper another day. Simply remove frozen gnocchi from the cookie sheet and place in freezer baggies.

Add gnocchi to a large pot of boiling, salted water. They will sink at first, give them a little stir so they don’t stick to the bottom of the pot, but will float up to the surface as they are cooked- about 3-5 minutes.

Sauce

Add tomatoes to pot, halve the onion and put it cut side down into the tomatoes. Add the 5 tbsp of unsalted butter. Let simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, crushing the tomatoes against the side of the pan with your spoon. When finished, remove and discard onion halves.

To finish

Top gnocchi with a spoonful of sauce, garnish with fresh parmesan or asiago cheese. Serve with fresh bread and a summer strawberry salad if desired.

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Simplest Tomato Sauce

By Corinne

I had read about this tomato sauce with butter and onion over at Smitten Kitchen  some time ago, but two things stopped me from making it despite her rave reviews. Firstly, it seemed well… too simple. Secondly, it called for San Marzano tomatoes – which are difficult to find here (I’ve only regularly seen them at Maltese) and expensive. The ones I picked up weren’t even the most pricy brand, and they were still $5.49 for the can!

I had two questions I hoped to answer. Firstly, was this sauce really worth raving about? (spoiler alert- yes) and secondly, are these San Marzano tomatoes really worth the $5.49?

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Upon opening the cans, the San Marzano’s are noticeably brighter and the juice from the can is much thicker.

After 35 minutes

After 45 minutes

You can see the onion is more broken down in the regular plum tomato sauce, perhaps because it’s more watery?

Upon tasting.

If you taste the Primo sauce FIRST you are like, hmmm, this sauce is pretty good considering what’s in it!

And then when you taste the sauce with the San Marzano’s you have silky, bright, simple tomato sauce perfection! It was the clear winner, even in a blind taste test for my husband- who isn’t known for his ability to distinguish subtleties in flavours.

I wouldn’t make this sauce all the time, I think it really shines when you want your pasta to be the star of the show, it’s perfect with garlic scape gnocchi or homemade ravioli. While I’m sure it would be good with a clove of garlic or a glug of red wine thrown in there, the beauty of this sauce really is the simplicity.

Time: 45 min

Serves: 3-4

You will need:

  • 1 can San Marzano tomatoes
  • 5 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • possibly a pinch of salt if your finished sauce needs it- mine didn’t

Add tomatoes to pot, halve the onion and put it cut side down into the tomatoes. Add the 5 tbsp of unsalted butter. Let simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, crushing the tomatoes against the side of the pan with your spoon. When finished, remove and discard onion halves.

Use with your favourite pasta.

* note – you might think with 5 tbsp of butter that this sauce might end up greasy, but it’s smooth and rich and doesn’t have a greasy texture at all.

Pulled Pork Pasta

By Corinne

Even though I always halve the roasts I buy for pulled pork, I find I still end up with a LOT of leftovers since it’s generally just the two of us. This has caused me to need to be creative when it comes to uses for leftover pulled pork. This recipe has become a favourite, it’s dead simple, takes only a few minutes of active time to put together, and is great reheated for lunches. It works well with just about any shape of pasta, pictured is both oricchiette and rotini.

Time: 5-10 minutes prep  40 minutes cooking (pasta + oven time)

Serves: 4

Oven: 400F

You Will Need:

  • 4 cups uncooked pasta – rotini, mini shells, macaroni, orricheite
  • 1 large bell pepper, thinly sliced or diced if you prefer- you can see from the pictures I switch it up 🙂
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups leftover pulled pork
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 400F. Cook pasta to al dente. Add pasta, bell pepper and pulled pork to 8″x8″ casserole dish – you can see I’m still using a pretty old school one 🙂 Mix pasta, pork and peppers until ingredients are relatively evenly distributed. You can reserve a few peppers to sprinkle on top if you wish.

Top with cheese and pop into the oven for about 25-35 minutes until heated through and cheese is getting crisp. If you like your noodles/cheese as a crispier top, turn on the broiler for the last 3-5 minutes.

Serve with a simple garden salad.

Slowcooker Pulled Pork

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By: Corinne

I have a busy life. One of the ways I manage cooking is just recognizing that sometimes I’m not going to have a lot of time to put something together for supper. I like my slow cooker for these applications, but even more so like things that I can prep and freeze and then throw into the slowcooker when I need to.

I like this recipe for pulled pork, mostly because I find it’s much easier to use the leftovers for a variety of things, pulled pork pizza, pulled pork wraps with avocado and sprouts, baked pulled pork pasta with peppers, or soup. I find a more thick BBQ saucy type pulled pork for sandwiches, but not much else. So if you like that style, but anticipate having a lot of leftovers, just pull out what you want for sandwiches and sauce it up.

I usually buy boneless pork rib roast as they go on sale fairly frequently. This tends to be a less fatty cut than others used for pulled pork. In the photo below you can see that I didn’t need to drain off any fat, but you may if you use a fatty cut of meat.

You Will Need:

  • 1.5 – 2kg roast, cut in half (mine was 1.86kg)
  • 2 large freezer baggies
  • 2 large onions chopped (one for each bag)
  • 4 cloves garlic chopped (two for each bag)
  • 1 beer (half for each bag)- not an IPA as the bitterness really comes through. Use a more boring beer like Alexander Keith’s or Sleeman’s honey brown. To make GF, omit the beer and add 1 cup of water or veggie or chicken stock, or use a GF beer. While I haven’t tried it, I bet a cider would be good in this recipe too, not one of the really pop-like ones.. but a dry cider would probably work just fine and would also be gluten free.

All of the following ingredients are that amount for each half of the roast- so you put that amount in each baggie

  • 1 tbsp chili powder (I used my homemade stuff, depending on your spice level you may want more or less)
  • 2 tsp coriander
  • 3oz tomato paste-  half of a small can
  • 3 tbsp Worcestershire sauce (for GF substitute balsamic vinegar or a GF Worcestershire)
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1-2 chipotle peppers in adobo chopped

Add all of the ingredients to the baggies, it really doesn’t matter what order you do it in, as long as you add the beer last and smush everything around so it mixes before you add the pork. If you happened to oopsie and add a whole beer to each bag instead of just half, don’t worry it will be just fine 🙂 Then pop it in the freezer and you are good to go for another day. If you are skipping the freezing step you can of course do this all directly in the slow cooker 🙂 When that other day comes, take your already good to go pulled pork from the freezer, let it thaw in your fridge over night (in the slowcooker even so it’s all ready to go in the morning) and then into your slowcooker on low for 6-8 hours. My slowcooker on low is quite gentle, so it’s been fine for up to 10 hours.

When it’s finished, if you used a very fatty roast and seem to have too much juice, feel free to pour some off (but don’t toss it yet!) before using two forks to shred the pork. If you have time to let it sit for another 15 min after shredding it gives the sauciness a chance to get right in the meat and you might find you want to use some of those juices you poured off.

Serve on soft buns with your favourite coleslaw. Even though this is just half of the original roast- it makes a lot and I always plan to make something with the leftovers.

Favourite things to make with leftovers- pulled pork pizza, pulled pork pasta and pulled pork soup!

Smokey Caramelized Onion Dip

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By Corinne

This is a riff on one of my favourite dips- but I’ll post this one first since people were crazy for it at a recent staff get together and demanding the recipe!

There are two things that make this amazing, one is caramelizing the onions. Do them low and slow and you end up with delicious, sweet, complex flavours and none of the harsh onion bite.

The other thing that makes this amazing is using bacon jerky from Tim’s Meats. If you live in Thunder Bay, I highly recommend making your way to Tim’s Meats (300 Empress Ave S) and pick some up. It’s marinated in apple juice and honey, naturally hickory smoked, and then cooked. Which means not only is it delicious and amazing, but because it’s already cooked it means it takes no time to make more delicious things with bacon.  It also makes for some amazing carbonara(see photo below!), omelettes, sandwiches or basically makes any bacon application even better!

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Roasted tomato carbonara  made with bacon jerky from Tim’s Meats, Deli and Grocery

Tim’s also has amazing store made smokies, sausages, and very popular spiral stuffed pork with an apple raisin stuffing.  The staff there are lovely, friendly and always helpful. If you aren’t a regular, become one 🙂

If you don’t live in Thunder Bay you can substitute the smokiest thick cut bacon you can find… but it won’t be as good!

Makes: about 2 cups

Time: 1 hour

You will need:

  • 2 1/2 -3 cups chopped onion
  • 2 tbsp butter (less if using regular bacon – see cooking instructions)
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup cream cheese
  • 4-5 strips of thick cut smokey bacon or 4-5 strips of Tim’s Bacon Jerky
  • 1/2 tsp fresh cracked pepper
  • fresh snipped parsley to garnish if desired

If you are NOT using the most amazing bacon jerky, you need to cook your bacon first! Cook bacon in the same pan you are going to do the onions in. While the bacon is cooking, roughly dice onions. It will look like a lot of onion, but don’t worry, it’s going to cook down.

Reserve about a tbsp of bacon fat, add 1 tbsp of butter to pan and then the onions. Cook on low heat for 45min-1hour stirring occasionally until golden and reduced to caramelized heaven.

If you are using the most amazing bacon jerky, add 2 tbsp of butter to pan and add the onions. When onions are just about finished, roughly chop the bacon jerky and add to onions just to render a bit more of the fat/flavour out of it.

Add 1 cup sour cream, 1 cup cream cheese, pepper, onions, and bacon to food processor. Go a head and scrape any melted butter/bacon goodness that is in your pan into the processor too. Give it a couple blitzes until it everything is combined.

This can be served immediately while still warm, or refrigerate for later. Feel free to prepare the day ahead. Delicious served with plain chips, pita breads, tortilla chips, or even vegetables 🙂

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Sausage Stuffed Zucchini and Mushrooms with Watermelon Salad

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By Corinne

This is a perfect summer supper. While we had this as dinner, the mushrooms and zucchini would also make a wonderful side or appetizer. I personally dislike mushrooms, but my husband loves them. Cremini are his favourite and what I used here, though I imagine this would work just fine with those white button mushrooms.

Serves: 3-4

Time: about 45 min

Sausage Stuffed Zucchini and/or Mushrooms

You Will Need:

  • 4 italian sausage removed from casing-I used 2 hot, 2 mild because there were no medium about 1 1/4 pound or .665 kg (from Tim’s Meats)
  • 1 onion- chopped
  • 1 clove garlic- minced
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine, I used Grey Fox Chardonnay
  • zest and juice of one lemon
  • some combination of zucchini and mushrooms – I used 2 zucchini and 5 large cremini mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup shredded asiago cheese
  • 1-2 tbsp canola for brushing vegetables

Watermelon Salad

You Will Need:

  • 3 1/2 cups cubed watermelon
  • 2 cups thinly sliced cucumber (I used 3 of those mini kirby cucumbers)
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced or small dice red onion
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta
  • juice of one lime
  • 1 tbsp minced fresh mint if desired
  • freshly ground pepper

For the zucchini/mushrooms

Place sausages (casing removed) and chopped onion in a heavy bottomed pan. Cook on medium until sausage is well browed with lots of little crispy bits! If your sausage was particularly fatty, you should probably drain off some of the fat before deglazing. I use local sausage that tends to be quite lean and don’t need to drain anything.

Use the 3/4 cup of wine to deglaze the pan- add it a bit at the time scraping up all the browned bits of goodness. Add the minced garlic, lemon zest and juice and let reduce until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat, let cool slightly and mix in about half of the grated asiago- the rest will be used to top your zucchini/mushrooms.

White your filling is cooking, prep the zucchini and mushrooms.

Pull the stems out of mushrooms. Chop up stems and use it in omelettes for tomorrow morning, or for pasta sauce if you’re into that sort of thing, or compost them if you’re not:)

Trim zucchini ends, and slice in half length wise. Cut into approximately 2.5″ pieces, and using a melon baller or a spoon, scoop out insides, being sure to leave a ‘cap’ on each end of your section so your filling will stay put! (I ended up with about 12 pieces from my two zucchini) With the leftover inside bits, you can save for another purpose, or compost. If I had just been making zucchini ones, I might have used less sausage and used the zucchini ‘insides’ as part of the filling as well. But I didn’t, and you don’t have to either 🙂

Brush tops and bottoms of zucchini and mushrooms with canola or olive oil. Place them on the grill on high/medium high top side down for only a minute or two until they have some nice grill marks. Remove from grill and fill with sausage, top with cheese.

Return to grill on low for about 5 minutes, until cheese is melted and zucchini and mushrooms are heated through. If you prefer your zucchini softer/more cooked leave them on a bit longer.

For the salad

Chop watermelon, cucumbers, onion add to bowl, mix gently. Crumble feta over top and juice of one lime and mint if using. Stir gently again to mix. Add fresh pepper to taste and serve.

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