Persian Potato Cakes ~ Kookoo

IMG_8422We went out in the boat this week for a late afternoon trip over towards the Secretary Islands.   So often the channel between Thetis and the small island group is very choppy, but that day it was beautifully calm. We were able to look at all the amazing rock formations, centuries old yew trees, and an abundance of seals.

It’s rare not to see a seal when you’re in these waters, but there were more than usual. Whether they were resting on rocks or in the water, they were all around. I suppose the fishing was good!

It was a lovely prelude to our fish & chips at Vesuvius, trying to squeak another wonderful dinner at the Seaside Restaurant before the days are too short.

The trip back was full of a late summer’s evening light, resting on the sandstone cliffs of Tent & Penelakut Islands. We could all feel the bit of chill in the air, reminding us that autumn isn’t far off.IMG_8314

September is our month for getting all those outside jobs done before fall really does set in, easy suppers, served late, and quickly getting back outside to do evening chores before dark. Meals have to be quick on these days, so I’m always looking for new ways to make that happen. Working on the middle-eastern menu for the island’s recent Summer Soiree, I found the lovely Persian vegetable & egg cakes called Kookoo. They are so versatile, and easy to make. We did a potato version as one of the appetizers. Our Gypsy-King musician, Barra, was so excited to have these treats from his heritage. His enthusiasm made them a hot item!

Somehow I’ve gone from centuries old yew trees and seals to middle-eastern traditional cuisine, but it all fits; a dish that is new to us, but traditional to others. It’s all about where we come from, and where we are today. Continue reading

Dutch Baby

IMG_6567For a few summers when in my teens, I was fortunate to be taken along to the Okanagan for a few weeks to babysit.  Besides spending hours on the beach and boating, I soon took over the morning breakfast ritual.  Out behind their cabin was a wood oven with a ¾” sheet of steel for a cooking surface.  I would go out early, and get the fire going, until the steel was just the right temperature.  Previous summers lighting the woodstove on Thetis gave me the necessary skill set at the ripe old age of 14.

The first day I made French toast.  I’d been told that the children weren’t fond of it, but went ahead anyhow.  I love French toast, especially when sprinkled with sugar and drizzled with lemon.  I won the kids over the first go; they’d just never had it with a custardy center.  By the end of our second week there, the neighbours had started “dropping” by at breakfast, often with a loaf of bread or some eggs.  One morning I made breakfast for 20.  This was most probably my first catering gig.

Even though this is not a recipe for French toast, it is a recipe for an easy breakfast dish that tastes great with sugar and lemon!

The Dutch Baby is basically a huge popover.  You can use a small cast iron pan, enameled bake ware, or a plain cake pan, anything from 8-9” in diameter.   All you need is equal volumes of eggs, milk and flour, with a bit of butter.  When it comes out of the oven, its sides will have risen up well over the edge of the pan.  Simply invert it onto a plate and serve with a sprinkle of sugar and a drizzle of lemon ~ fresh fruit, a dollop of preserves or a bit of syrup work well, too.  Plan on sharing one between two, or one each for hungrier folks. Continue reading

Chinese Tea Eggs (Beijing)

IMG_6503We had a lovely little paperback book, from the seventies, with Chinese country recipes.  It was filled with folklore & woodcut images, as well as some pretty amazing recipes.  It certainly helped me when ordering dim sum, as I would be able to recognize many of the little dishes that were being served.  In it we found a recipe for Tea Eggs that is very odd, but was a favourite for our kids to make and eat.  After hard-boiling the eggs, the shell is cracked all over and then let to steep with star anise, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom & black tea.  When the eggs are cool, you peel the egg and reveal a wonderful pattern of the shell’s cracks.  The seasoning from the spices is complex, but perfect with the egg.

It was always a fun to tuck one of these eggs into a school lunch.  Lots of looks of horror from the other kids, quickly followed by a bit of envy.

Anyhow ~ here’s the recipe in a more formal version. Continue reading

Potato Crusted Quiche

IMG_6332I’ve been methodically going through my cooking files.   Everything is kept in legal sized hanging files, where I can jot things down on the folders themselves, such as cookbooks that offer a recipe that I use often, idea notes can be tossed in indiscriminately to a parent file.   I moved away from a recipe card box a long, long time ago.  I still have the recipes; they’re just in larger folders now.

As I work through the files, it gives me a chance to look at the whole of an idea, instead of a recipe standing on it’s own.  Sorting through my “breakfast” file, I’m reminded of the amount of milk to egg, for quiche, that works.  Little things like ratio are actually really important building blocks in developing a recipe.  If I know these things, then I’m able to be creative without messing with the core.  Of course, the ingredients you mix with the core can have an effect on the finished product, but it’s usually best to start with what you know.  It just makes for better science!

For this quiche, I use the core of ¼ cup of milk to each extra-large egg.  It has a good ratio of cheese to the other filling.  Which gives a recipe that is easy to switch some of the ingredients to create something new, or simply to make use of what you have on hand.

This quiche is an excellent meal.  It can easily be converted to a vegetarian version, and is naturally gluten-free.  The mashed potatoes that are used for the crust work best if they are a day old. Just make some the day before, if not using leftovers. Continue reading

Parmesan & Bacon Strata with Spinach

IMG_4890This is my very favourite Strata.  To be honest I’ve never been a fan of Stratas in general. Ones I’ve had in the past tend to have too much cheese, too much sausage, and left me feeling overfull.  To fix this, I thought it best to figure out the right ratio of bread, egg, & milk.  Once that was figured out, I started to build it up with just enough ingredients to give it a full flavour.  I’m happy to serve this for any breakfast / brunch event, and it disappears quickly.

The bread, egg, & milk ratio (1# bread to 3 cups milk and 10 eggs) can be accented with either savoury or sweet ingredients; just use your imagination.  For instance, add some vanilla and maple syrup to the egg mixture, and tuck in some thin apple slices and pieces of cream cheese.  This will give you a lovely, French toast type Strata.  Be inventive! Continue reading