Thursday, January 31, 2013

Niku dango (Japanese meatballs)

We make niku dango every couple of weeks. It's a beFOODled favourite and a family recipe. The meatballs are made from minced pork and made even more delicious by cooking in a sweet and sticky soy sauce. They are perfect over rice. Sometimes I add a layer of spinach or arugula in between the rice and meatballs to sneak in some veggies. Lately I've been making extra rice so that we can have fried rice the next day.

Niku Dango (Japanese meatballs)

500 g ground pork
one onion, minced
one inch piece of ginger, minced
4 shiitake mushrooms, finely chopped
1 Tbsp sugar
1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs (optional)
1 tsp dijon mustard (optional)
salt and pepper
olive oil for frying

5 Tbsp each of sugar, soy sauce and rice wine vinegar.
a little cornstarch for thickening

In a bowl, combine the meatball ingredients: pork, onion, ginger, mushrooms, sugar (and breadcrumbs and mustard, if using) and salt and pepper. Gently combine the ingredients using a fork. Form into two-inch meatballs.

In a large wide-bottomed frying pan or Dutch oven, heat some olive oil on medium heat. Add all of the meatballs, turning several times to brown the outsides on two or three sides.

Meanwhile, combine all the ingredients for the sauce in a pitcher and stir. Add enough water to make the sauce up to two cups.

When the meatballs have browned on three sides, pour all of the sauce into the pan. Stir to coat all the meatballs. Bring to a boil, then cover the pan and lower the heat to simmer for five-10 minutes or until the sauce thickens.

Serve five meatballs with a little sauce on top of rice with chopped green onions for garnish. You'll have lots of leftovers for lunch the next day.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

French onion soup

From the archives ... but pic is new!

I've blogged about French onion soup before (here's the recipe) but just had to mention it again. I make this soup often and always take lots of pictures because it's so photogenic. Here's a shot with a tempting spoonful just ready for a lucky someone (in this case S) to take a bite.

I make this soup in the slow cooker and we get about three meals each. Lately I've been making extra croûtes with the Gruyère so that we can keep dipping once the top layer is gone.

This soup is so delicious and always reminds me of our culinary vacation in France, where we learned Provençal cooking and which I documented on this blog over several posts in the fall of 2008. I did my very best to eat French onion soup every day, at least during the few days that we were in Paris where it seems to be on every menu. To this day, we still reminisce about our trip to France over French-onion-soup days

Friday, January 11, 2013

French lentil soup with sausage and potato

I've taken to making a big batch of this thick, hearty soup quite regularly. It makes a nice hot lunch for S to take to work and also fortifies us for lifting heavy babies. A big pot lasts us a week and is great value for the cost of the ingredients, most of which are common pantry items.

I use a chunk of parmesan in place of salt because it adds flavour as well as saltiness. I usually make this soup with either potato or chickpeas, but I've listed both here for an extra-chunky, winterized version. I hope you find this recipe as delicious as we do. S is not big on veggies let alone lentils, but even he loves the flavour parade this soup brings out.

French lentil soup with sausage and potato

2 Tbsp olive oil for frying
2 medium onions, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 celery sticks, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup lentils de Puy
1 can diced tomatoes
1 tsp herbes de Provence
2 bay leaves
1 chunk (or rind) of parmesan cheese
8 cups water
1 package “Little Gems” new potatoes, quartered, or 1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
meat from 2 sausages (chorizo, mild Italian or hot Italian are nice)
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
chopped parsley

Put the lentils in a bowl and rinse with cold water four times or until the water runs clear. Set aside.

On the stove, warm the olive oil in the bottom of a big stock pot on medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the onions, celery and carrot. Stir until tender but not browned, about 10 minutes. Add the minced garlic after five.

Add the rinsed lentils, tomatoes, bay leaves, herbes de Provence, parmesan and water to the pot. Stir well, bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

If using chickpeas, drain them in a colander and rinse under cold running water. Set aside.

Score the sausages lengthwise with a sharp knife to separate the meat from the skins. Discard the skins and set aside the meat. I usually crumble it in by hand when it's time to add it to the soup.

After the soup has simmered for thirty minutes, add the potatoes and/or chickpeas and chunks of sausage meat. Bring back to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes, topping up with half a cup of water if needed.

Stir in the balsamic vinegar and serve. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley.

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