You see, this challenge was right up my alley. I love creating new recipes for my family and taking food pictures. I think about food daily, I even wake up in the middle of the night with inspiration for new recipes ideas! You get the idea. So without even thinking, I immediately replied yes!
An exciting part of the program was that a small group of influencers from across Canada would participate and one of them would be my 'swap partner'.
What a cool idea!
I could not wait to find out who I would be swapping recipes with. In Canada, we have plenty of talented cooks who share the same passion for food as me.
One of the goals of the program was to celebrate how deliciously different, yet uniquely Canadian, our nation's kitchens are. I like discovering new cultures and was hoping that my swap partner had a completely different background than mine.
We were asked to develop a recipe inspired by our cultural background, or a cultural culinary adventure we had, and that it would inspire Canadians to share their heritage through cooking. In my head were countless images of Canadians with different cultural backgrounds who would cook one pound of ground beef into many different dishes like:
- Korean beef bowl
- Minchet Abish (Ethiopian)
- Rokak (Egyptian)
- Lahm bi Ajeen (Lebanese)
- Keema (Pakistan) etc.
This made me think about my own experiences with food as a child. Growing up on a farm with three other siblings (who were always hungry) my mother had to prepare a lot of food to satisfy our hunger. In the fall, we would fill up the freezer with different cuts of beef all wrapped up in packets with labels on them. Every night, my mom would ask one of us to go get a packet of meat for the following day's dinner. It shouldn't be a surprise if I told you that we ate a lot of ground beef! It's part of our heritage in Quebec, and it was affordable. Dinner was usually meat, potatoes, carrots and a stack of white bread on the table next to the butter. Some nights, to change things up a little, I would make myself buttery sandwiches with ground beef and mashed potatoes in the middle. The food we ate was delicious, it was made from scratch, the beef was raised by a neighbour and we grew our own vegetables, yet something was still missing in our kitchen.
Of course we had salt, pepper, cinnamon, allspice, and dried parsley, but my father did not like his food spicy, and he did not like garlic or too many onions. Unfortunately, that does not leave much room for creativity!
In a way, that made things simple for my mom, but my palate was missing something, you know, that extra kick to elevate a dish to a new level.
On rare occasions we had pasta. We loved those nights but my mom usually made tomato beef macaroni, spaghetti with a mild beef sauce, or a lasagna. For her tomato beef macaroni, the seasonings were salt and pepper. Even though we loved them, her recipes were simple and not very sophisticated. Since I wanted to create a recipe from my childhood for this project I decided to make Cheesy Beef Coquillettes with Herbs. I used three ingredients from my mom's recipe: the lean ground beef, diced tomatoes and small pasta. I replaced the macaroni with coquillettes because I like the shape a bit more, and to add flavor, I added spices, fresh herbs and cheese. This comfort food recipe was tasty and the whole family enjoyed this meal!
This dish brought back childhood memories of our family eating and laughing around the dining table on a dark, chilly winter night.
CHEESY BEEF COQUILLETTES WITH HERBS
PREPARATION: 10 MINUTES
COOK TIME: 20 MINUTES
READY IN: 30 MINUTES
454g lean ground beef
1 can 796ml diced tomatoes with herbs & spices
1 green pepper, sliced
5 ml each dried basil, oregano, rosemary
5 ml dehydrated onion
5 ml garlic salt
2.5 ml salt
625 ml coquillettes pasta
375 ml tex-mex shredded cheese
125 ml fresh parsley, chopped
4 green onions, diced
1- In a large pot boil the water for the pasta.
2. Meanwhile in a large non-stick skillet over high heat, brown the lean ground beef for 5 minutes. Add the spices and cook for 30 seconds.
3- Add the diced tomatoes and sliced green pepper, bring to a boil, cover and cook on medium-low for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4- When the water is boiling cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain pasta ans set aside.
5- When the meat mixture is ready add the cheese and pasta. Mix well.
6- Serve immediately and decorate each plate with fresh parsley and green onions.
MEET MY SWAP PARTNER:
After exchanging emails I learned that my swap partner, CJ Katz, was originally from Ottawa where I live now. She moved to Regina 13 years ago.
It shouldn't be a surprise if I told you that Saskatchewan is a big beef province. I, myself, lived in Manitoba and Alberta and they were big beef eaters.
CJ Katz is a professional photographer and the author of the cookbook Taste: Seasonal Dishes from a Prairie Table that showcases local ingredients in delicious recipes to share with family and friends. CJ takes you on a culinary journey through the prairies.
For the #RethinkBeef program she has created a Lentil Kefta Kebabs with Cucumber-Yogurt Sauce recipe.
I could not have hoped for a better swap partner. I have been eating and cooking Middle Eastern dishes for years. I discovered this cuisine in Montreal in the 80s and loved it ever since. It was so different from the food we were eating on the farm.
For me it was an explosion of flavors that I had never experienced before.Since we had milder weather this week, it was time to use our Kamado Joe. There is nothing quite like the aroma of cooking this meal on a charcoal barbecue.
CJ shared with me her inspiration behind her recipe:
''Everyone in my family loves the flavours of the Middle East. Although my heritage is not Jewish, my husband and children are, so I wanted to create a recipe that reflected their heritage as well as bring in the flavours of Saskatchewan with the lentil. After all, we are the largest grower of lentils in Canada and a major exporter. A bonus is the lentil's strong connection to Middle Eastern Cuisine. I was amazed at how well lentils and ground beef worked together in this recipe. Combine the kebabs, sauce and chopped vegetables into a fluffy pita and you have a terrific family meal where everyone can play with toppings and assemble their wrap however they please.''
And that is exactly what we had:
- a wonderful, delicious, tasty family meal, that everyone enjoyed!
LENTIL KEFTA KEBABS WITH CUCUMBER-YOGURT SAUCE
1/2 cup small brown lentils
500g ground beef (I used lean)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, grated
3 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp paprika
2 tsp cinnamon
ring of 1 lemon, finely grated
1 1/2 tsp salt
pepper, to taste
6 fresh pita pockets
finely chopped red cabbage
finely chopped carrot
1 cup plain yogurt, (I used Greek)
1/2 of an English cucumber, unpeeled, deseeded and grated
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped
2 tablespoon fresh mint leaves, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
1- Preheat the oven to 400F.
2- In a small pot cook the lentils in 1 cup of water until tender, covered with a lid, about 20 minutes. Set aside to cool.
3- In a large bowl, combine the ground beef, garlic, grated onion, cumin, paprika, cinnamon, lemon rind, salt and pepper and cooled lentils. Mix well.
4- Roll into 1 1/2 balls. Lay on parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. Bake at 400F for about 15 minutes until the temperature reaches 165F using a meat thermometer.
5- While the meat is cooking prepare the Cucumber-Yogurt Sauce. In a medium bowl combine the yogurt, cucumber, garlic, dill, mint, salt and pepper. Set aside.
6- To assemble: warm the pita bread and place 3-4 meatballs into the centre of one whole pita (do not split). Top with cucumber-yogurt sauce, cabbage and carrots. Fold over and eat immediately.
Makes: 6 pitas.
- Instead of cabbage and carrots we added sliced tomatoes, lettuce and red onion slices.
- You can cook the lentils the day before and cool in the fridge until ready to use.
- Instead of making 1 1/2 inches balls you can make brochettes and cook on the BBQ.
- You can freeze the cooked lentil kefta kebabs and reheat later for a quick meal.
- Kelly Neil - KellyNeil.com - Halifax, NS - East Coast Panzanella Salad
- Barbara Mayhew - My Island Bistro Kitchen - Charlottetown, PEI - Moussaka
- Jason Lee - Shut Up and Eat - Montreal, QC - Beef Coriander Dumplings with Spicy Chili Oil
- Julie Miguel - Daily Tiramisu - Toronto, ON - Italian Stuffed Eggplant
- Shel Zolkewich - Shel Zolkewich.com - Winnipeg, MB - Mexican Chipotle Taquito
- Fareen Jadavji Jessa - Food Mamma - Calgary, AB - Mayai Mani
- CJ Katz - CJ Katz.com - Regina, SK - Lentil Kefta Kebabs with Cucumber-Yogurt Sauce
- Michelle Peters - The Tiffin Box - Edmonton, AB - Kheema Pav
- Pailin 'Pai' Chongchitnant - Hot Thai Kitchen - Vancouver, BC - Guay Tiew Neua Sub
➤ For more inspiration about the program follow:
- Hashtag #RethinkBeef on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest
- Visit the website www.thinkbeef.ca
- Find out more about the Swap Partners: http://thinkbeef.ca/global-recipe-swap/
Disclaimer: This post is sponsored and I was compensated monetarily with groceries by www.thinkbeef.ca