Sunday, July 11, 2010

Ooooooops.. some very tasty miscalculations

Ok, I'm going to say it. I'm a bit uptight. Whew. That was hard to admit -- but like all things that make us stronger, admitting our weaknesses is good in the long run. Like that time in high school when the good-looking guidance counsellor suggested that if I hated math, I might not want to go into the science field. I was furious at first. He didn't know me! I was going to be a scientist and that was that. Math was just something I'd have to deal with or learn to like. A year later, I was lining up at 8:00am in the morning with a note from my Mommy asking the ex-cop VP if I could swap Algebra/Geometry for Writers Craft, and switching my university dreams from University of Toronto to York University. Mr. New-Guy-Guidance was right. I didn't want to admit it, but in the end, I did. And I wholeheartedly regret not telling him.

But I'm off topic! My uptightness, yes. I'm a little uptight. (Sorry for getting mad when you told me before!) Sometimes, I plan everything out, and it all works out. Other times, I have a perfect plan that doesn't follow through. Though I've had a pretty good coping strategy, I'm pleased to say that I'm learning to make the best out of a situation that comes about unplanned instead of just accepting the consequences as is.

For example, last week, I made a this beautiful roasted tomato pasta salad to take to a barbecue party. The recipe called for a vinaigrette made with lemon juice, mustard, balsamic vinegar, olive oil and honey. Yum! Fabulous combination that tasted awesome. However, when I assembled the salad, I found that my tomatoes that had been roasting with balsamic vinegar, olive oil and garlic, produced lovely juices that reduced nicely in the oven, and coated the pasta perfectly. What did that mean? My lovely little bowl of vinaigrette went unused. Instead of putting plastic wrap over the bowl and leaving it in the back of the fridge for a month, which I would have probably done before, I surprised my partner by using it to marinate some chicken thighs. "Look what the balsamic vinegar did for the chicken!" he exclaimed when searing them off. I smiled proudly when I saw a yummy-looking, caramelly crust on the outside of the chicken. We'll definitely be doing this one again!

Balsamic Roasted Chicken

2 teaspoons of grainy mustard
juice of one lemon
1.5 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon of olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
4 chicken thighs
1/4 cup of broth or water
2 sprigs of thyme

1. Prepare the marinade by whisking together the lemon juice, mustard, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper.

2. Place the chicken thighs in a large dish and pour over the marinade. Turn the chicken several times in the marinade so that everything gets coated evenly. Let it sit in the fridge for at least an hour.

3. Heat some olive oil in a stainless steel pan until smoking. Place your chicken thighs carefully in the pan, making sure that you let any excess marinade drip off. Save the remaining marinade for later. Sear the chicken thighs for about 3-4 minutes on each side until a nice, dark, sticky crust forms.

4. Remove the chicken from the pan and let it rest for a few minutes. In the meantime, add the remaining the marinade and broth/water to the pan and let it reduce a bit, making sure you scrap up the yummy, balsamicy bits from the bottom. Add the sprigs of thyme.

5. Put the chicken back in the pan and place in a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.

Example number 2 (hey, I'm getting less uptight already!): For an outdoor dinner with my parents, I was going to make the best strawberry and rhubarb crumble. The best. That's what kickpleat said so I had to give it a try. I had 3 lovely stalks of rhubarb begging to be used up. However, when I went to the market, there were no more Ontario strawberries. Instead of sulking in disappointment or breaking down and buying those gigantic California strawberries, I looked to the local fruit that replaced the strawberries on the shelf: beautiful, delicate, ripe raspberries. I had never really baked with fresh raspberries before, let alone combine it with rhubarb. It didn't seem like a good idea at first -- tart rhubarb + tart raspberries ... ? I gave it go, and thought, if we're going with "tart" we're going all the way. I added a big dose of lemon, popped it in the oven and hoped for the best. Result? Bubbly, crumbly, very tart, lovely raspberry flavour and a hit with my family. Yup, definitely the best.

Raspberry Rhubarb Crumble
adapted from Everybody likes Sandwiches

3 stalks of rhubarb - chopped
1/2 pint of fresh raspberries
juice of half a lemon juice
1/3 cup of sugar
1 teaspoon of corn starch

1/2 cup of flour
1/2 cup of ground almonds
1/4 cup of oats
zest and juice and half a lemon
2 tablespoons of honey
1 tablespoon of brown sugar
1/4 cup of canola oil

1. Placed the chopped rhubarb and raspberries in a baking dish. Sprinkle over the lemon juice, corn starch and sugar. Toss so that all the fruit is coated.

2. Prepare the crumble by first mixing together the flour, ground almonds and oats. Add the honey, brown sugar, oil, lemon zest and juice and stir until a crumble forms.

3. Spread the crumble evenly over the fruit. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 25-30 minutes or until the crumble gets golden brown and the fruit gets bubbly. Pucker up and get ready for a bite!


  1. Your crumble looks awesome! And raspberries do go well with rhubarb, as you discovered. Looks like some mighty fine meals and I like that you used the vinaigrette for the chicken. Good choice.

  2. thanks so much kickpleat! you totally inspired me to experiment in the kitchen! :)

  3. What a lovely meal you made! I'm going to have to make that chicken.

    And it's great that you can admit to being stressed and deal with it in a healthy way, like hanging out with family and making good food. Right on.

  4. Thanks Monkia! haha I'm working on my uptightness through cooking, that's for sure! And definitely make the chicken! It's totally yummy!