Cheese and Broccoli Rice

A family favourite....

1 ½ cups rice, parboiled or converted rice work well
2 cups minced fresh broccoli (about 1 pound)
1 small onion finely minced
1 clove garlic pressed

2 Tbsp oil

1 ½ cups light cream (1/2 and 1/2)
Cayenne and white pepper added to cream
2 cups chicken stock

2 cups grated cheddar cheese firmly packed

¼ cup Parmesan cheese

1/4 tsp cayenne powder
1/2 tsp white pepper

Cut broccoli florets into small pieces, peel stem and cut into pieces half inch squared.  

Sauté onion and garlic in a 3 quart pot over medium heat until onion is translucent, about 2 minutes.   

Add rice and stir over medium heat for 3 minutes.  

Add chicken stock bring to a boil then reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 10 -12 minutes until chicken stock is reduced completely.

Once the chicken stock has been reduced add cream, cayenne, white pepper and broccoli. 

Simmer, covered for 10 – 12 minutes until rice is tender.

Remove from heat; add cheese and stir until the mixture makes a nice smooth cheese sauce.  Cover with tight fitting lid and let rest for 5 minutes.

Serve piping hot and enjoy!  This is a terrific side dish and puts that package stuff to shame.

Note:  Keep the sauce to a nice consistency by adding a little extra chicken stock or water at the end if required.  Do not serve it as a congealed mass if the rice has absorbed all the liquid.  If it splats on a plate when serving it is too thick and will remind the person eating it of a truck stop choke and puke in Moose Jaw, so ensure it has ample moisture without turning it into a soup!

Snowy Palms Resort

Snowy Palms Italian Meatballs

Many years ago, while the earth was still cooling and Led Zeppelin was ruling, I spent a few months in Europe and my magical mystical tour of the Continent began with a few weeks in Italy down Reggio Calabria way.

It was a great time to be 20 years old in Europe, no real threats in the street other than the Baader-Meinhof Gang running amok in Germany, and the IRA plying their trade on the Emerald Isle.

In Italy the mob controlled a lot of business but they were benevolent dictators and the people I was surrounded by accepted them as part of the community. It was a fun time. No worries for a naive kid like me. No terminal social diseases, the Canadian flag on my jacket still meant something and the world-traveling girls I met thought I was worthy of their time, quite unlike the girls back in Vancouver who fancied me a droll troll, at best.

I did love the food throughout all of Italy and in the little town I was in for the beginning of the carnal odyssey the trip eventually became, the food was tomato based everything, and meat, lots of meat. Meatballs figured prominently into the food rotation and they were fantastic.

I have read accounts from food purists that Italian meatballs were an American invention and not original or borne of the old country. Hogwash! I was there and they were served in homes and restaurants throughout the southern part of the country. They varied in composition and presentation but they were there.

The American version pairs the meatball with spaghetti and marinara sauce or Bolognese sauce. In Italy the meatballs were served as the meat course in the evening meal. Sometimes with a sauce covering them, other times just baked or fried and served with a drizzle of olive oil or other simple accompaniment.

I will say however the best meatballs I have ever eaten were in a roadside Italian restaurant in Oklahoma. Yes!!! Oklahoma. While being taken on a tour of the countryside by a representative of the Komatsu dealer there we stopped at one of his favourite restaurants and I was blown away when the food arrived at the table. It was like I was back in Reggio Calabria; the meatballs were enormous and out of this world. Yup Oklahoma. I just wish I could remember the name of that fine place to spread their word, but it is lost to me now.

I often drift back to my most excellent European tour and remember the escapades and the friends I met there and I would love to pen my memoirs of that time, however some things are best left unsaid or unprinted and because of those fun, but bad (relative term) decisions, I will never get to heaven, but it was sooooooooo worth it.

Anyway, I was drooling over the thought of meatballs today so I made a batch when I got home. They are quick and easy and very tasty.

1 pound regular ground beef 

1 pound ground pork

¾ cup milk
1 cup Panko bread crumbs

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
6 cloves garlic, finely minced or pressed
¼ cup fresh minced parsley, dried will work fine as well
1 tsp white pepper
½ tsp black pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3 eggs, beaten well
¾ cup olive oil or grapeseed oil

Heat the milk until steam rises. Add Panko to the hot milk, stir well to moisten the Panko, set aside to cool.

Place Parmesan cheese, garlic, parsley, both peppers, the oregano and mix together in a large mixing bowl.

Add beaten egg and mix well.

Add the moistened Panko crumbs and blend together with a whisk.

Place beef and pork into the Panko mix and using your hands mix the ingredients together gently, do not overwork the mixture or they can get tough or rubbery when cooked.  Once all the ingredients are mingling nicely, stop mixing.  If you see some bread crumbs in the mixture don’t worry, they will cook nicely.

Moisten your hands with cold water to lessen the meat from sticking to them then form the meatballs by rolling a spoonful of the meat mixture into the size you desire.  I like big balls (Freudian thing I guess) but you can make them any size you want or are comfortable working with.

Once the meatballs are formed, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the meatballs to the hot pan but do not crowd them too tightly together. Brown the meatballs on two sides.

Once all the meatballs are browned, remove them to drain the oil. Once the pan is drained of oil add the marinara sauce you had prepared earlier, and place the browned meatballs back into the pan with the sauce and bring the sauce to a gentle boil (you did make marinara sauce didn’t you???).

Turn the meatballs over in the sauce to coat evenly.

Turn down heat to medium low, cover the pan and simmer gently for 20 minutes or until the internal temperature is at 170 degrees (I prefer to take their temperature every few minutes after 10 minutes has elapsed).  If they are overcooked, they will shrink up as they cook off the moisture and when they shrink they get tough (small man, rather, small balls syndrome).

Serve with pasta, gnocchi, rice or just some good quality bread. Sprinkle with a little freshly grated cheese and serve hot. Slice for a meatball sub even. Tres yummy!

Japchae; A Korean noodle dish sent from Heaven.

I often get cravings of one sort or another. Some of the cravings can be downright hard to ignore - overpowering even. Some can arrive in the dead of night, the middle of the day or while involved in any sort of activity. No rhyme or reason to a guerrilla craving I am sure you agree and often there is little you can do to satisfy the beast.

Being a guy some of the cravings are the normal ones you would expect from a being such as us, you know, like, ummmm, well, ahem, like golf. Or a fast car craving.  You know the cravings, and many other of the guy cravings like substance or specific activity cravings can not be engaged in just anywhere you know. Oh no!!! There are rules and social mores or conventions that have been forced down our throats that prohibits us from enjoying them just anywhere.

Some of the most overwhelming cravings can be satiated while alone, but they are best when another person is in attendance, that is of course if you are lucky enough to have that special someone that cares about your state of being. Someone who will take on the responsibility of curing you of the unreachable itch, or play cribbage with you, to name just a couple of activities best engaged in with a partner, threesome or a foursome.

The latest guy craving that I was able to satisfy by myself was for a wonderful Korean noodle dish called japchae.  It is a savoury and delicious offering that most people enjoy, that is - the people that are Korean or have some sort of food adventurer spirit. So I set to making it and wouldn't you know it, once prepared, there was no end to the assistance available to enjoy it.

When other cravings hit me there is seldom anyone that wants to assist to satiate them, but if it's food, there's a stampede. It ain't right...

Japchae (Korean Glass Noodles)

8 oz (200 grams) Korean glass noodles
3 Tbsp canola oil or grapeseed oil

8 oz flank steak, sliced thinly across grain
 2 carrots, julienned

1 small onion, sliced thin

4 oz fresh spinach

4 oz bean sprouts
2 green onions, sliced thin, (about ¼ cup)

¼ cup dried wood ear mushroom, rehydrated

6 dried shitake mushrooms, rehydrated

Beef Marinade
2 Tbsp soy sauce
large pinch sugar
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp sake or rice wine
1 Tbsp cornstarch

Japchae seasoning
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup sugar
3 cloves garlic, minced fine or pressed
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp roasted sesame seeds

Mix all ingredients together well and set aside.

Place the beef in a bowl and mix well with all the marinade ingredients, set aside in the fridge for at least 1 hour.

Place dried shitake mushrooms and wood ear in a bowl of boiling water. Allow to soak for a half hour. Remove from water, and squeeze out as much water as you can.  If the wood ear is a large piece, cut into juliennes.

Remove the stem from the mushrooms and then slice thinly.  Place in a bowl with the julienned wood ear and add 2 tablespoons of japchae seasoning, set aside.

Place a large (12 quart) pot filled with water on stove and bring to a boil.

Wash spinach, drain well. Quickly blanch spinach in boiling water for 1 minute or until you see them wilt. Removed the cooked spinach, drain, and then run under cold water to cool. Drain well and squeeze gently to remove excess water. Set aside.

Blanch the beans sprouts for 30 seconds, remove from water, drain and then run under cold water, set aside.

Blanch the carrots for 1 minute, remove from water then run under cold water, drain, set aside. Place 1 Tbsp japchae seasoning on blanched vegetables.

Add the noodles to the boiling water and cook the noodles according to package instructions (see picture below) or until the noodles become clear and al dente, about 6 minutes or so.

Rinse cooked noodles under cold water, drain. Cut the noodles with scissors. Add 3 tablespoons of Japchae seasoning to the cooked noodles, toss, then set aside.

I prefer to blanch the beef for about 1 minute then drain and set aside.  Blanching it cooks it evenly and then it is ready for the wok.

Add 3 Tbsp oil to wok over high heat. Add mushrooms and onions. Sauté for 2 minutes.

Add the beef to the mushrooms and stir fry for 1 minute.

Add the vegetables, the noodles and the rest of the Japchae seasoning to the beef and stir fry for 2-3 minutes or until heated thoroughly.

Adjust the seasoning with more soy sauce and sugar if needed; add a large pinch of black pepper at the end before serving.

Serve hot, to your excited guests.