Now, I have to admit right up front that I am a fan of Chef Michael Smith and his Food Network cooking shows. I like his casual attitude toward cooking and his emphasis on using fresh and local ingredients. He always encourages home cooks to use their own judgement about what flavours to combine, and to be inspired by what’s available and I heartily agree with that. Recipes for most dishes are guidelines, not prescriptions.
So, when I received a copy of his latest book, Fast Flavours, published by Penguin Books, I was looking forward to browsing through it.
The premise is that you can cook from scratch in much the same time it takes to order takeout or thaw some frozen dinner and it will taste far, far superior, will cost less and it will likely be better for you.
So, most of the recipes can be made in 10 to 60 minutes, and there are some shortcuts suggested for most of them as well, like dividing meatloaf into muffin cups so it cooks faster, or using the barbecue or food processor.
It’s divided into chapters such as salads, chicken, beef, pork & lamb, fish, pasta, vegetables, sides, treats and cocktails and there’s lots of information in addition to some delicious flavour pairings such as the two examples I’ve copied here.
It’s a good cookbook for those who often have to cook a meal in a hurry, but are conscious of their family’s health, budget and would like to support local farmers.
Those are some of the goals I support not only in this column, but also in my book, Jude’s Kitchen, which is available at Mosaic Books, along with other bookstores and many wineshops in the region.
Chef Michael Smith says adding raw turnip adds a surprisingly snappy flavour to the traditional mix. Try to make the pieces as small as possible so they’ll be tender and mix easily.
1 c. (250 ml) mayonnaise
1/2 c. (125 ml) green sweet pickle relish
1/2 c. (125 ml) cider vinegar
1/4 c. (60 ml) honey
2 tbsp. (30 ml) mustard
1 tbsp. (15 ml) hot sauce
1 tbsp. (15 ml) fennel seeds
1 tsp. (5 ml) celery seeds (opt)
1 tsp. (5 ml) salt
1/2 head red cabbage
1 fennel bulb
1-2 large carrots
1 red bell pepper
leaves from 1 bunch parsley
Whisk together the dressing ingredients until smooth.
Thinly slice or shred cabbage and fennel; peel and thinly slice or shred the turnip; shred carrots and radishes, seed and thinly slice pepper. Chop parsley leaves.
Put all the vegetables into a festive salad bowl and toss with the dressing.
Coleslaw is best after it rests for an hour or so, or overnight, before serving, but you can eat it right away.
Serve and share and hope for leftovers.
Serves 6-8 plus leftovers.
Caribbean Rice & Beans
This is a very tasty, vegetarian option for a meal and with the beans in it, you won’t miss meat at the meal. If you must have meat, I’ll bet a spicy chorizo sausage would be nice cooked up, chopped and stirred into this just before serving. Try matching the Ganton & Larsen Prospect Winery Council’s Punch Bowl Sauvignon Blanc with this. It’s crisp freshness pairs well with this flavourful dish, and it’s a good buy.
2 tbsp. (30 ml) vegetable oil
1 red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
4 garlic cloves
1 c (250 ml) white rice
2 c. (500 ml) water
19 oz (540 ml) black beans
3 tbsp (45 ml) white vinegar
1 tbsp. (15 ml) dried oregano
1 tsp. (5 ml) ground allspice
1 tsp. (5 ml) salt
1 tsp. (5 ml) hot sauce
4 green onions
Match a large pot with a tight-fitting lid and set it over medium-high heat. Splash in the oil.
Dice peppers, chop onion, thinly slice garlic and slice green onions and set aside.
When oil is hot, toss in the pepper, onions and garlic. Saute, shivering, shaking and stirring until the vegetables are softened, two or three minutes.
Add the rice and stir it around for a moment or two, lightly oiling each grain Pour in the water, add the drained and rinsed beans and season with the vinegar, oregano, allspice, salt and hot sauce.
Bring the works to a slow, steady simmer.
Cover and cook until the rice is tender and the stew is delicious, about 20 minutes.
Serve and share sprinkled with lots of green onions.