Friday, September 26, 2014

Tomatillo Time

There are certain food items that only show up at certain times of year and tomatillos are definitely one of our favourites. I mean, we pretty much jump up and down when Meyer lemons are in season but the arrival of tomatillos can also be exciting.

If you've never used them, they are very easy to assimilate into sauces, salsa and dips. They are a Mexican staple so of course they work well with those flavourings but you can use them in place of tomatoes in a variety of other recipes as well.

Our latest obsession has been roasting them. What doesn't taste better roasted? The thing about tomatillos is that they really develop an incredible flavour as they roast.
 and develop a natural sweetness.

I meant to write down a recipe the last time I made this but, sadly, I didn't. Hopefully this works out just from memory...

Roasted Tomato and Tomatillo Sauce/Salsa:

-8-10 tomatillos husked and rinsed (they have a bit of a sticky film on them under their husks) quartered
-1-2 cups of grape tomatoes-halved
-2 hot peppers-chopped
-1 t sugar
-2T olive oil
-1T cider vinegar
-salt and pepper

You can chop up a piece or two of garlic and throw that in as well.

-Mix all ingredients together and transfer to a pan.
-Cook at 400 degrees for an hour or so (stirring occasionally) depending on how roasted you want everything.

You can use this as a sauce over chicken or fish or beans and rice.
It is an excellent addition to tacos, burritos or anything in that realm.
Perfect on it's own as a salsa but you can also add some lime juice, cilantro and avocado as well.

One other thing we did with it is toss some roasted potatoes in it and serve. Amazing.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Grilled Jalapenos!!!

These little devils are a delightful addition to your Summer menus and will add heat and depth to many dishes. The combination of grilling and steaming allows heat from the seeds to transfer over to the pepper meat while also imparting a subtle smoky flavor. I don't generally cook with so much fire but I couldn't resist the dramatic affect of a blazing grill loaded with chicken, sausage and hot peppers. Besides, my arm hair will grow back eventually. The high heat for the peppers is essential to charring the skin but not cooking the jalapeno flesh too much, otherwise your end result will be a bit mushy.

 So just pre-heat your grill to maximum and toss the peppers directly onto the hot surface. Turn frequently since you don't actually want to burn the peppers. Once they are uniformly blistered they can be transferred to a small bowl and covered tightly with plastic wrap for 40-60 minutes. This step will steam the blistered skin away from the pepper flesh and allow for easy cleaning. Once the peppers have enjoyed their little steam room for the allotted period of time they can be cleaned under running water to remove the skin, seeds, stem and membrane. At this stage they are ready to use, just strain and chop or if you are feeling crafty you cant make a small incision to remove the seeds and stuff them for a bangin' little appy.
These peppers will keep for up to a week in a covered container in your fridge but they generally don't last that long since they are so delicous. Use them as your secret weapon in your Summer cook-outs. We will be featuring them in our next blog post including the items being charred on the grill above.

Monday, June 2, 2014


You have to understand that when it comes to interesting food ideas I tend to get a bit obsessed and throw down hours of research until I find a combination of ingredients that agrees with me. This is the result of a ten minute conversation with our friend Scarlet about Bulgogi and how her Korean friend's mom used to bring it over to their house. It seems like most people tend to make this dish into an entrĂ©e type of course but I liked the idea of doing it more like an open face salad roll. Butter lettuce worked the best to help contain the potential food-to-lap disaster, I ran out at one point and switched to leaf lettuce and it wasn’t as good. I did a basic vinegared sushi rice base on an individual butter lettuce leaf topped with the beef or mushroom mix then finished it with a generous glob of kimchi. I think that any good marbled beef will work for this dish but I really like how flank steak cooked and tasted. I sliced it on a hard bias against the grain in fairly thin strips before marinating. Chilling the meat in the freezer until just before freezing makes this really easy. For the mushroom version I used 1/3 reconstituted shitaki mushrooms and 2/3 giant white button mushrooms and gave it the same marinade as the beef. I only had time for a three hour marinade but it seemed long enough for such thin strips of beef. I did a quick sear on a hot BBQ then gave the strips a really coarse chop so they would fit on the rice base. A charcoal grill would be ideal but my propane grill gets really hot so it did the job of searing the thin beef strips very quickly which helps to keep them from drying out. I sauteed the shrooms in a smoking hot pan and finished them with sake to deglaze the pan.

Bulgogi Marinade

1 ripe bosc or Asian pear
1/3 C. sweet onion
4 cloves garlic
1 T. ginger
1/4C. green onion
4 T. soy or tamari
2T. brown sugar or honey
1 T. toasted sesame seeds
Ground black pepper.

Pulse all ingredients in a food processor or blender until combined. I like it to be a tad chunky so I pre-chopped the garlic, ginger and green onions a bit first. I made the kimchi a while ago as a vegan challenge and it turned out really well. I'll have to do separate post on that one since it's a fairly involved process and I'm still refining the recipe.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Bars of Another Kind

Alright, if you don't know about "Kind Bars" then you really do need to crawl out from under the rock that you call a dwelling and pick some up. They are hands down one of the best tasting and least processed bars on the market. The down side is that they are a bit on the spendy side. Over at the Alligator Pie test kitchen we have been plotting and scheming (think Gilligan's Island chemistry set) to try and emulate the Kind Bars with our own twist so we can snack on them all day long (cue maniacal laugh).
The process that we devised is frighteningly simple but does include the slightly more tedious chore of heating syrup to an exact temperature over low heat. The "meat" of the bars, if you will, is completely up to you and dependent on what you like to see in a tasty bar or what you have on hand if you really don't want to go to the store again. We made two variations, the first being whole almonds, coconut ribbons and sesame seeds. The second bar was made with cashews, dates, currants and pumpkin seeds. The coconut can be toasted in a dry frying pan or in the oven @ 325*F. stirred often until ribbons are uniformly light gold. The nuts should be toasted in advance as well and given a very random coarse chop to help the bars lay flat when assembled. The syrup portion is a combination of honey and corn syrup and is heated very slowly until the syrup reaches 260* on a candy thermometer. Be warned that due to the high amount of honey in this recipe, a higher temperature will result in a frothing and dangerous boil over. You've been warned. Never leave this heating syrup unattended. Candy thermometers can be attained at any kitchen or even grocery store for a couple bux. Once the syrup has achieved it's "hard ball" stage of 260* it should be removed from the heat and allowed to cool slightly before adding a bit of vanilla. Using a stiff rubber spatula you can now incorporate the syrup into filling and work to combine. The syrup will want to set up so you need to move rather quickly. Have an appropriate size pan lined with parchment and sprayed with a bit of vegetable spray to help the release. Transfer the mix to the pans and press firmly with an oiled jar or your knuckles if it's not too hot to burn you. I found that I could wet my hands a bit with water to keep the mix from sticking to me and really jam it into the corners. The mix will set up in an hour or two and can be inverted onto a cutting board and sliced into bars. We keep ours in a parchment lined, sealed container in the fridge so they are extra chewy. We also made them a bit thicker than the actual Kind Bars for a little extra sustenance but you can make them thin as well like the real thing.
On a side note, I didn't include an actual quantities recipe for these bars since I am still planning on making them better. I am a huge fan of the honey flavor but Erin finds it a bit too sweet. Also, the dates and currants in the one bar will ramp up the sweet factor a little more. Personally, I could eat these all day long but my dental bills may tell me otherwise. My next bars will be made with a brown rice syrup and different fillings until we reach the nirvana of snack bars. Give 'em a try.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Ramen and Stealin'

Because who doesn't love Japanese noodle bowls and Beastie Boys? We've been getting our ramen on in a big way lately and as far as comfort food goes it may actually be surpassing mashed potatoes with miso gravy. The basis of ramen is the broth which is known as dashi, chinese wheat noodles, often hand made, make up the noodle portion and toppings seem to be wide open but often consist of chopped pork or chicken, green onions, seaweed and egg. Traditionally dashi is made with soaked edible seaweed and bonito flakes but we like to keep our ramen bowl user friendly for our vegan pals and include this meal in our ongoing food competition with each other known as "vegan challenge". We cheated a bit with our dashi by starting with a light flavourful vegetable stock, then introduced soaked wakame seaweed and dried shitake mushrooms. The broth was simmered for about half an hour then strained. Taste the broth as it cooks down and adjust seasonings as needed with a bit of tamari. The stock is then returned to the stove and brought back to a simmer before adding udon noodles. Udon are the fresh, fat white noodles that seem a little wormy. Get over it, they're delicious...for worms. The noodles only require about five minutes to cook, then you can portion them into heated bowls and top off with the broth. Erin opted to deck her ramen out with roasted corn and mushrooms, deep fried tofu, bean sprouts, purple cabbage and rapini. It was amazing to say the least and the vegan ramen bar has been set pretty high. The weapons of choice for eating such a dish are chopsticks and wonton soup spoons. If you're anything like us, be prepared to make a big slurpy mess as you eat this dish.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Delayed Valentines Dinner

Erin and I have always had a competitive spirit when it comes to cooking. We especially enjoy challenging each other with potential ideas for the upcoming cookbook.
Valentines day is usually the holy grail of food challenges but, since we were working on that Hallmark holiday and then forced to lounge on the beach in Maui for ten days, the meal had to be postponed. We call it "vegan challenge" and this over the top tofu, mushroom, cassava chip stack (I wanted to call it "Poseidon's demise" but got shot down) places her well ahead of the pack (and by pack, I mean me). The gauntlet has officially been thrown.
Listing the ingredients for this meal would probably take two pages and preparation time is around ten hours (slight exaggeration). So, I'm just going to list the elements of the meal with some quick instruction and you can decide for yourself if you think you have it in you to even try to emulate this culinary Picasso. Erin served this as a small entree plate but I could also see it getting paired down as a beautiful plated appetizer. I will say this, the flavor pairing was amazing and sampling one or both of the surrounding sauces in conjunction with a fork full of the main attraction resulted in a different bite every time and leaves you begging for more. Alright, I admit it...I ate two.
O.K, here's what's happening: working from the bottom up we have wilted pea shoots followed by purple kale chip crusted tofu, roasted brussel sprout petals, sauteed oyster mushrooms with preserved lemon and cassava chips. The accompaniments on the plate, which I would like to refer to as "the monkey and the weasel" but would get too much flack from the vegan community, are walnut and roasted pepper relish and green harissa. I think I eluded to the fact that this meal is created strictly for advanced foodies and anything less than a ninth level wizard shouldn't even be reading this. 
The pea shoots were quickly sauteed in a hot pan with sun dried tomato oil and seasonings. Purple kale was tossed in pistachio oil, za'atar, smoked paprika and olive oil before being toasted in the oven @ 300* for about 20 minutes or until crisp but not burnt. These chips were then crushed and used to coat the tofu which had recently spent the last four hours just lounging in vermouth, stout mustard, cider vinegar and bourbon maple syrup (what a lush). The kale crusted tofu was then baked @350* for 20-30 minutes, flipping the patties halfway through. The brussel sprouts were carefully pulled apart and tossed in olive oil and sea salt before being lightly roasted at 300* for 15-20 minutes(until they are a bit crispy but still green). Oyster mushrooms were sauteed in a hot pan with olive oil and chopped preserved lemons and a bit of white wine. Cassava, aka: yuca, aka: tapioca root, aka: about a dozen other names is a starchy tuber that once peeled and sliced thinly on the mandolin was shallow fried and lightly salted. The relish was made from toasted walnuts, roasted red peppers, chopped orange and zest with chili flakes, fresh herbs and olive oil. The green Harissa was made with roasted pasilla peppers, cilantro, mint and parsley, preserved lemons and olive oil. Now I need you to reproduce all of these steps simultaneously and present this stack in an artful manner before it gets cold. Go.
Did I mention that this was a high maintenance meal? It really shows you how the vegan challenge has progressed over the years and the one-upmanship has been elevated to dizzying heights.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Sweet Cabbage Pickle

The use of "fresh" pickles in recipes is very popular these days and for good reason. Pickles made to be stored for years in your pantry are delicious but bare no resemblance to the flavor and texture of the vegetables before they were processed. Not to say that we don't like pantry pickles, on the contrary, we wouldn't dream of having a grilled cheese sandwich without Nana's pickles. The idea of fresh pickles includes a still somewhat crisp texture and briny flavor before all of the ingredients have a chance to meld with each other and become one. These pickles can also be stored in the fridge in a sealed jar for weeks or processed and sent to the pantry to "serve time" with the rest of the preserve family.
I'm really partial to eating these pickles on the day that they are made because of the still present crunch of the cabbage and the somewhat strong flavor of toasted mustard seeds. The independent flavors will begin to marry more and more in the following days after the pickles are made. We've been using this sweet cabbage pickle on everything and still keep finding new recipes where it shines. It currently resides on the two new tostada cup appetizers on our menu and it's been seen topping curries, soups, perogies and salads in our day to day cooking. Hopefully you'll find new and exciting ways to use it as well. Happy pickling.

1# Red or green cabbage. Thinly slice across the spine.
1/2 C. Coarse salt.
2 1/4C. Cider vinegar
1C. Water
1/2 Oz. Bourbon
2C. Sugar
2Tsp Black peppercorns
5 Bay leaves
2Tsp Brown mustard seeds.

Toss cabbage with the salt in a colander and allow to drain in the sink for 2-3 hours. Rinse cabbage very well to remove the salt. Cabbage should be quite wilted at this stage and quite salty tasting. If the salt is still too much for you then continue to rinse under cold water. Dry cabbage with paper towel. Prepare brine by simmering vinegar, water, bay leaves and peppercorns for about 1/2 hour or until reduced by almost half. Strain and add the bourbon and mustard seeds to brine. Allow to cool slightly and pour over cabbage. At this stage you can allow the pickle to cure for a couple of hours before eating it "fresh" or pack into sterile jars with tight fitting lids to be stored in the fridge. We have yet to process a batch for long term storage since we like it fresh so much.

Did you know that the humble cabbage is a powerful antioxidant, a rich source of vitamins K and C and a high source of fiber, not to mention countless other health benefits. You're a bit of a super food aren't you cabbage.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Big Changes Over at APC

We've been doing some extensive house cleaning in the menu department lately as we say goodbye to old favorites and introduce new flavors. We're very excited about stirring things up food wise with the constant influx of food trends and new products becoming available to the average foodie, even if you do live in a snow globe like Nelson. We are also restructuring the menu format on our web site to hopefully make it a bit more user friendly. Food wise we have really been focusing on vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free recipes as we bulk up our repertoire in anticipation for our new cook book. It's still in the R&D stages but the plan is looking really solid. And since I'm shamelessly self promoting you should also check us out on Instagram (alligatorpiecatering) and Facebook for some mouth watering images and to stay current.

Here are a couple of new additions to look forward to:

Grilled bread is the best so we've changed all of our crostinis over to these little grilled baguette slices. They maintain a "crisp, yet chewy" texture as opposed to a "cut the roof of your mouth" experience with the traditional baked crostini. These particular ones happen to be smoked steelhead salmon (which is more like a lox) topped with dill cream cheese, roasted fennel and crispy capers.

One of the new sections in our appetizer suggestions list will be "platters and dips". We did this one over the Christmas holidays and decided that it was menu worthy. This platter started life as a deconstructed Greek salad but as we changed and improved the ingredients it became what you see here. Now we are calling it a grilled vegetable and soft cheese platter. If you have a better name then by all means let us know. It does also have spiced olives and fresh tomatoes on it as well as an assortment of infused olive oils and balsamic reduction.