Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Baked Apples!

These were the ultimate Christmas time dessert! I would highly recommend this recipe. My Mom and I did these up pretty much exactly as described. It does require a lot of not-usually-on-hand ingredients (crystalized ginger, dried tart cherries, apple cider) so plan ahead. I am now trying to think of every occaision possible to make them--Epiphany, perhaps? Anyway, enjoy!

My First Christmas Dinner

Yes, I am too old to have never been head chef for Christmas dinner, but I've been spoiled by a talented mother. This year when she gently wondered if we should all go out for dinner Christmas Day, I made my move.

I knew it would be tough, as I am not a carnivore so I'd be bypassing the traditional turkey and instantly placing myself as the "unpopular" new chef. Mom helped out by saying she'd take care of the turkey portion by getting a simple-to-prepare turkey breast. Meat, check. I was now free to plan as I liked. But could I create a menu that satisfied the traditional palate AND my urge for culinary experimentation? Yes, I could, and I did.

We started with a yummy appetizer (alas, forgot to photograph) by baking halves of red peppers and filling them with a simple greek rice --we did not use carrot and added quite a bit of feta cheese. It was good and looked very Christmas-y.

Thanks to this very blog, I found the PERFECT stuffing (thanks Thomas and Orianne!) and enjoyed eating the leftovers all week. Man, that stuff is serious delicious.

Mom's colleague had given her a fresh spaghetti squash from her own garden, so of course I couldn't resist throwing that into the mix...cutting it in half, gutting it, baking it face-down in the oven for an hour, then adding butter and salt. Easy.

Also featured was one of my favourites--bocconcini and tomato salad. For those who need the basics on this one, the ingredients are:

-- 15 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
--Bocconcini mozzarella balls
--arugula or spring mix
--fresh basil to taste
--balsamic and olive oil vinagrette (just mix these two together and add a bit of salt and pepper)

...and this salad has the added bonus of the red, green and white colours.

The "main course" was a creative veggie pot pie I found on epicurious.com. The roasted vegetables made it quite delicious. The polenta crust meant it was pretty easy. I had to leave out the mushrooms (replaced with broccoli instead) because my brother would have sung an aria of utter disgust if I had included them. We aim to please.

My Mom prepared dessert...a family favourite "Log" which is chocolate wafers layered with whipped cream. This gem needs to spend the night in the fridge to unleash all the soft yummyness.
That said, I of course have to give brother Dave kudos as my "voluntold" assistant for dinner. That man has fun slicing, dicing and the compulsory drinking wine during preparations, which made it fun for me too. Doesn't he look thrilled?!

Merry Christmas everyone!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Two Chefs and a Table (for 6 at Brunch)

Catherine's post about the Commodore inspired me to share another great find for excellent quality and reasonably priced food in the city. Two Chefs and a Table is a restaurant located just east of Gastown in the Downtown Eastside, an unsuspecting location for a restaurant like this which I think is the big reason they don't have lines out the door for weekend brunch. They do brunch, lunch and a prix fixe dinner that is usually paired with wine. I've never had dinner there (though I'm dying to!) but I can speak very highly of the brunch and I think Claire will agree.

We went there a couple of weekends ago when Heather was in town. For $10 bucks you can get an asparagus risotto with a poached egg, grilled heirloom tomatoes and crisped prosciutto on top (you can ask them to hold the meat if you wish). It's delish! You get to watch the chefs cook (yes, there are only two) and the atmosphere is at once classy and casual. I don't think it will be long until the secret's out!

Holiday Baking

Last year Vince and I hosted a Holiday Baking Extravaganza for which all our friends arrived bearing the gift of baking! There were cookies, brownies, squares and biscotti galore and everyone went home with an assortment of treats to enjoy over the holidays. We all suffered a major sugar overdose but it was fun to see (& taste!) everyone's delicious creations.

I promised I'd post photos and the recipes that people sent me so that we could continue to enjoy these divine bites for years to come.....and then I didn't do it. I could use the excuses of pregnancy-brain or new-mommy-absentmindedness, but maybe it was just that once Christmas passed my desire to pour over buttery, sweet treats also seemed to fade (along with those New Year's Resolutions!). Excuses aside, here they are at long last!

One more thing....Claire made the chocolate cookies pictures above which were so chewy and tasty. She does the classic chocolate chip like none other. I thought I'd use that photo to get the tastebuds ready and, most of all, to encourage her to post her recipe!!!

Rochelle's (also referred to as the Master-Baker) Recipes

Lemon Squares

For the crust:
3/4 c unsalted butter, frozen
1 3/4 c flour
3/4 c confectioner's sugar
3/4 tsp coarse salt

For the filling:
4 lg eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/3 c sugar
3 tbsp flour
1/4 tsp coarse salt
3/4 c fresh lemon juice
1/4 c whole milk
confectioner's sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 350. Butter 9x13 glass baking dish and line with waxed paper.

Make crust: grate butter on a cheese grater with large holes; set aside. Whisk together flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Add butter; stir with a wooden spoon until combined and mixture looks crumbly.

Transfer mixture to prepared dish; press evenly onto bottom with your hands. Freeze crust 15 min. Bake until slightly golden, 16-18 min.

Meanwhile, make filling: whisk together eggs, sugar, flour, and salt in a medium bowl until smooth. Stir in lemon juice and milk. Pour over hot crust.

Reduce oven temp to 325, and bake until filling is set and edges are slightly golden brown, about 18 min. Let cool slightly on a wire rack. Lift out: let cool completely on a wire rack before cutting into 2 inch squares. Dust with confectioner's sugar. Lemon squares can be refrigerated in single layers in airtaight containers up to 2 days.

Kahlua Fudge

3 c semi-sweet choc. chips
1 c sweetened condensed milk
dash of salt
1/2 c chopped nuts
1/4 c kahlua

Melt chocolate in top of double boiler. Remove from heat, add milk, salt, kahlua, and nuts. Stir only until smooth. Pour into 9 inch square pan lined with wax paper. Refrigerate 2

Chris & Carla's Recipes

According to Carla, these are "the best peanut butter cookies I've had"

1/2c shortening (they use butter instead)
1 & 1/4c lightly packed brown sugar
3/4c peanut butter
1 egg
3T milk
1T vanilla extract
1 & 3/4c flour
3/4t baking soda
3/4t salt

Bake at 375 for 8-10 min.

After they get out of the oven they put a piece of chocolate in the middle of each cookie. (a macaroon, hershey's kiss etc.)

Apparently Chris said this recipe was a family secret and didn't want to give it up :) but here it is:

Kuffles (this is a German word and is possibly spelled wrong)
3c flour
3T sugar
1/2t salt
1 pkg yeast
2 eggs
1c butter
1/2c warm milk

sugar mix:
3/4c sugar
1-2T cinnamon
3/4c melted butter

Dissolve yeast and sugar in warm milk
Blend butter, eggs, salt with milk
Cover and refrigerate overnight
Divide dough into 5 wedges
Roll each into 8-9 inch circles
Cut into 12 wedges
Dip each into sugar mix
Roll up into croissant
Allow to rise double in size
Bake at 350 for 12-15 min.
Mama Recipes

These two recipes are from the wonderful Mamas in my life: my mom and Vince's mom. Neither of them got to attend the party, but I made both their recipes. I often lament that these cookies only tend to get made once a year! (I'll try to remember to add photos of these ones after I make them this year.)

My mom's Pecan Shortbread

Cream together:
1/2 lb. butter (2 sticks, if your American)
1/3 c. white sugar
2 T brown sugar

2 T water
2 T vanilla

2 c. flour
1 c. chopped pecans

Mix until thick & creamy. Form dough into a log, cover with saran wrap or parchment paper. Chill in the fridge until firm. Cut into circle (rotating the log 1/4 every cut to keep the shape circular)

Cook at 325 until they very slightly golden

Variation: Roll balls of dough, dip them in sugar and then cook as above

Donna's Gingersnaps

3/4 c. margerine/shortening
1 c. sugar
1/4 c. molasses
1 egg
2 c. flour
1 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. ground cloves
1 t. ground ginger

Cool the dough in the fridge. Form dough into balls & roll them in sugar. Bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

La Comida at the Commodore

Behold! Vancouver's best venue to see live music: The Commodore Ballroom. We've all seen some fantastic shows here, but did you also know that it is a fantastic place to grab dinner? It's true. My beau and I have now done this twice, and nothing says "living the swanky life" like ordering a meal in that beautiful space, indulging, and then sitting back to enjoy the tunes. It's kind of like what dinner theatre would be if it all ended up tasteful and appealing instead of creepy. What's more, the meal is incentive to come early and get a good place to sit.

"Sure," you're saying, "but who wants to eat onions rings and nachos for dinner?" Well, lots of us, but that's not the point. The point is that their menu is pretty impressive! Lots of good stuff for the carnivores, and for us flex-i-tarians we ordered the following:

1. A local wild-mushroom and corn ragout on "brioche perdu" (which is toast. delicious toast.) in a mild cream sauce. YUMMY! $10. No joke.

2. Pan-seared gnocchi with sage, spiced pumpkin, pine nuts and arugula. Personally I feel the texture of the arugula interfered with the overall experience of this dish, so it doesn't get full points, but still! Very good. $11.

In sum, don't forget to include dinner at the Commodore as part of your next concert experience. A treat for so many of your senses.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Brazilian Seafood Stew

We're officially in the rainy season here, which means I'm officially in the soup season too. And pretty much in coconut milk season year round, so this stew recipe, modified from Bon Appetit's Fast Easy Fresh cookbook, is a regular go-to for me.

My dear friend Amanda was coming cover for dinner and a Christmas knit session (one project down, 600 or so to go), but I knew we were heading to the Whip for cask ales first. (Have you been yet? Sundays at 4:00, the perfect weekend ender.) I needed a one-dish wonder we could whip up (no pun intended) as soon as we got home.

I actually confused two recipes in my head when I was grocery shopping (I also adore James Barber's One-Pot Wonders, and his recipe for 20-minute bouillabaisse), so I picked up a pound of mushrooms. It's not in the Bon Appetit version, but I threw them in. I also left out the required shrimp and upped the fish portion (basa fillets in my case). I'm pretty sure prawns (unless they're local spot prawns) are one of the no-gos on the Sea Choice list, but now I don't know about Basa. Gah, so much to think about.

I also upped the lime juice and added a bit of sugar at the end, giving it a little more sweet/sour kick.

Either way, this recipe rocks. Amanda and I had it done in about 20 minutes flat, prep and all. All right, maybe 25. But we had two (and a half) Whip pints to keep us moving.

Brazilian Seafood Stew recipe
adapted from Fast Easy Fresh, Bon Appetit

4 tablespoons olive oil
juice of 2 fresh limes (about 4 tbsp)

2 pounds white fish fillets (Basa, in my case), cut into 1-inch pieces
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 1/2 cups chopped green bell peppers
1 lb mushrooms
2 garlic cloves, chopped
3/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
2 cups chopped tomatoes (I use canned in the winter. Winter tomatoes, IMHO, suck.)
3/4 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup chopped green onions
3 tbsp sugar

Whisk 2 tablespoons oil and lime juice in large bowl. Add fish and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper; stir to coat. Let stand 15 minutes.

Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in large pot over medium heat. Add onion, bell peppers, mushrooms, garlic and crushed red pepper; sauté 5 minutes. Mix in tomatoes, coconut milk, half of cilantro and half of green onions. Add fish with marinade. Simmer until fish is just opaque in center, about 5 minutes. Season stew with sugar, salt and pepper. Transfer to bowl. Sprinkle with remaining cilantro and green onions.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Spiced Pumpkin Cake & Muffins (check out the new spelling!)

Anicka, I await a taste of your apricot gift bread with great anticipation! And as far as uses for buttermilk go, my mom taught me a good one: just blend it up with some fresh mango and you have a divine, no-hassle mango lassi. I love it served on ice.

Now to the main purpose of my post - pumpkin! I've never been a big pumpkin pie fan and so I have underrated the use of pumpkin in baking. Then I found this delicious recipe on Epicurious for Spiced Pumpkin Layer Cake which I made for Vince's birthday. (I wish I had a more authentic pic!)

I'm a big chocolate (or cheesecake) fan and, like Claire, most cakes don't appeal to me but I was pleasantly surprised by this one. I've decided that my big complaint about cake is that they are too often dry. This one is moist & rich with flavour. I'd make it with less sugar in the icing next time - and less icing in general, but other than that it gets full thumbs up.

The really exciting thing, though, was that I modified the recipe the following morning with some of the leftover ingredients to make some killer muffins. I used whole wheat pastry flour, at least 1/2 the sugar and less oil too for a healthier and very tasty breakfast treat! As long as you stick to combining similar proportions of wet & dry ingredients, it seems like a really flexible recipe.

Apricot Almond "gift" bread

A day of freelance work had me itching for baking, so I used my new iPhone ap from Epicurious to figure out what to make. And ta-da: Apricot Almond Gift bread! A good excuse to test out what I might give to people for (spoiler alert, friends) wee gifts this Christmas.

The recipe is pretty simple, though I was surprised how stiff the dough was. It more "plops" rather than pours into the mini pans I opted to use again.

Since these were just for me (they're freezer bound for future brunches) I didn't bother to ice them, though I think I will next time for festiveness. (I'm planning to use the lemon juice-based version found on the lebkucken). I also cut down the requested 1 cup of sugar to 3/4 of a cup, and went for the buttermilk instead of the apricot nectar...though I'm considering the latter in round two.

And we have a winner! Tasty and moist, loaded with apricots. I might consider adding raisins or dates next time for a little more fruit kick - or crystalized ginger! Yes!

Now I have to have Claire over to drink the rest of my buttermilk. Or go back to this Ultimate Buttermilk repository before it's too late.

Apricot Almond Gift Bread
adapted from Epicurious

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons wheat germ
  • 1 cup dried apricots (moist-style)
  • 1/2 cup (2 1/2 ounces) blanched almonds
  • 1/3 cup canola or light olive oil
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup apricot nectar or buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Icing (optional)
  • 2/3 cup sifted confectioners' sugar
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons milk, water, or fruit juice (or as needed)
  • Pan Preparation: Butter the pan(s) or spray with butter-flavor nonstick vegetable spray and dust with flour. Tap out the excess flour.

Make bread:
Position rack in center of oven. Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake large loaf 60 to 65 minutes, baby loaves 40 to 45 minutes. Prepare pan(s) as directed.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, sugar, and wheat germ. If using a food processor, add the apricots and a generous tablespoon of the flour mixture to the bowl and pulse until the fruit is cut into small (1/4-inch) bits. Or, cut up the apricots with oiled kitchen shears or an oiled knife. Scrape the apricot bits into the bowl with the flour. Chop the nuts and add them to the dry ingredients.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the oil, egg, nectar or buttermilk, and extracts. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour in the oil-egg mixture. Whisk or stir just to blend well; don't over mix.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan(s), filling them about two-thirds full. Bake 60 to 65 minutes for a large loaf, 40 to 45 minutes for small loaves (or for the time indicated for your altitude in the chart), or until the bread is golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan(s) on a wire rack.

Make icing:
To make the optional icing, whisk together the sugar and liquid in a small bowl until thick and smooth. When the bread is completely cooled, drizzle the icing over the top; it will harden as it dries.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Kale, Glorious Kale

Molly Wizenberg's ode to kale in the October issue of Bon Appetit reignited my love for the leafy green and reminded me of a recipe my sister and I tried last thanksgiving. I think she found it on the Whole Foods website (her milk allergy means she's always looking for dairy-free recipes on vegetarian-friendly sites), but I've tweaked it a bit since. Roasting it in the oven really sweetens it, and the garlic gives it a nice little hit o' deliciousness.

I'm feeling like I'm fighting off some sort of flu bug right now, so all the more reason to put kale on the plate. That, and it makes me feel less guilty about the fact that I paired it with one of those ready-in-three-minutes raviolis from the Super Valu.

Super simple kale
1 bunch kale
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp sesame oil
3-4 cloves garlic, crushed
salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 400 F. Wash kale and remove hard stems. Tear into small pieces and place on a shallow baking tray. Sprinkle with olive and sesame oils, along with garlic. Salt & pepper to taste.

Bake in the oven at 400 F for about 15 minutes, or until the edges are crispy and delicious.

Note the original recipe called for sesame seeds too, which are awesome - but I never have sesame seeds in the cupboard, so, no seeds here.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Banana Bread Weekend

It's a rainy weekend here—one of those days when I give myself permission to forgo my run and laze around for the morning in pjs. I was catching up on my food blogs when I stumbled on Smitten Kitchen's banana bread experiment. Since my blender broke a few weeks ago, I've had a bunch of bananas without a smoothie destination. PLUS I had this funky mini loaf pan I've been meaning to test out (it was given to me by a friend of a friend, who was purging her apartment of her boyfriend's exgirlfriend, one baking item at a time). It was kismet.

I love that she used bourbon in her recipe, though for the second time in a week, I was without the required alcohol in my pantry (last week it was brandy for brandied raisins in this sweet potato recipe.) So this banana bread is booze free, though I'd throw it in next time around.

Otherwise, top marks for this recipe—moist without being greasy and just right the level of spice. Next time I'd add raisins. Never chocolate chips. I've got a hate-on for chocolate in baking.

Elise’s Friend Heidi’s Friend Mrs. Hockmeyer’s Banana Bread, As Jacked Up by Deb
Adapted from Simply Recipes

3 to 4 ripe bananas, smashed
1/3 cup melted salted butter
3/4 to 1 cup light brown sugar (I used the smaller amount)
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon bourbon (optional)
1 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
1 1/2 cup of flour

Preheat the oven to 350°F. With a wooden spoon, mix butter into the mashed bananas in a large mixing bowl. Mix in the sugar, egg, vanilla and bourbon, then the spices. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the mixture and mix in. Add the flour last, mix. Pour mixture into a buttered 4×8 inch loaf pan. Bake for 50 minutes to one hour, or until a tester comes out clean. Cool on a rack. Remove from pan and slice to serve.

(Because I used these muffin/loaf tins, they were out in a half an hour. Adjust for your tin as you see fit).

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Ultimate Buttermilk Recipe Repository

How many times have I bought buttermilk for one recipe (usually scones) and let it go to waste for lack of inspiration? Nice post from one of my go-to food blogs, Pink of Perfection.

Ultimate Buttermilk Recipe Repository

Shared via AddThis

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

How to cure a salmon, Swedish style

For the ninth year running now, I've been hosting an orphan Thanksgiving for everyone out here without family to celebrate together (and in fact, doors are open for those with family too - I host on the Monday so they can double up on pumpkin pie).

It's a potluck, so everyone brings something awesome: Matt does his cheese ball (recipe to come), I made an awesome maple-syrup-and-rum-soaked sweet potato dish from Bon Appetit, and Melissa Edwards (organizer of the epic 3-day novel contest) brought the star of the show: Gravlax, or cured salmon, Swedish style.

We cleaned the plate, twice, and she generously offered to share her recipe with us. I'm so trying this out for Christmas this year.

A Swedish method of curing salmon. Typically served as part of a Christmas smorgåsbord.

Two equal-size salmon fillets, skin on (can be a small or as large as you wish. I usually buy a whole salmon and have it filleted at the store)
1.5 cups sugar
3/4 cup salt
2 tbsp white pepper, coarsely ground
2 tsp dill seeds
3 bunches of dill, coarsely chopped

(Amounts are for 6 lbs of salmon. Adjust as needed.)

Remove the pin bones from the salmon with needle-nose pliers. Mix the salt, sugar and pepper together and pat it all over the fillets, applying heavier in the thicker parts and lighter in the thin parts. Pat it into the sides and any cut ends as well.

Sprinkle on the dill seeds, then pile the dill on one fillet. Lay the second fillet over top to make a sandwich with the skin sides out.
Since I make a lot, I usually cut the “sandwich” into thirds at this point. Wrap each chunk tightly in plastic wrap (seal well) or into small ziploc bags with all the air pressed out. Lay them on something that will collect any leakage, and place another flat surface on top. (I usually put them into a cake pan, then put another cake pan on top.) Put it in the fridge, and put some heavy things on top of the upper pan (jars of pickles, whatever you have).

Leave in the fridge for at least 48 hours and up to five days. (It will get saltier the longer you leave it.) Turn the chunks once every day.

When cured, take the fish out of the plastic and scrape off most of the dill and salt film. Wrap what you want to save in tinfoil and freeze. To serve, cut thin slices off the chunk with a fish knife. Serve plain or with a mustard-dill sauce (available at Ikea - or mix honey mustard, canola oil, a bit of vinegar, dill weed and a bit of salt and pepper to taste).

Thursday, October 8, 2009


One lovely September long weekend at my friend Claire's mom's place on the island, Claire & I did some recipe testing for an upcoming issue of Western Living dedicated to retro cookies. All of the recipes are from the 1950s and 60s, so everyone on staff chipped in to test a few out.

When I saw Lebkuchen on the list, I jumped for joy. Yes! Delicious spicy German Christmas cookies that my friend Christina used to make for me when we didn't live 6,000 miles away from each other. I love, love, love them. Lebkuchen=cake of life. Indeed.

This recipe is a little white bread compared to the authentic recipe--no chopped fruit or ground nuts—so it's pretty straightforward to make. I thought it needed an extra kick, so I added chopped ginger. This stuff from Capers is particularly tasty.

After a few taste tests, Claire thought they could use a little more salt, so I added Kosher salt on the second go-around - I love Kosher salt in cookies for the little hit of salt you get with the sweet. We upped some of the spice factor too with cloves and more cinnamon, and added an egg to make them a little more cake-like--and even German Christina thought they were winners. Here's the recipe - and you'll find the rest of the retro ones in November's Western Living!

Lebkuchen (From Western Homes & Living, December 1964)

3/4 cup butter or margarine
1 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1/3 cup liquid honey
3 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1/2 cup chopped candied ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cloves
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup cold strong coffee
1 egg (optional)
Split blanched almonds
1 1/2 cups sifted icing sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
3 tbsp lemon juice

Using a double boiler, combine butter or margarine, brown sugar and honey, stirring occasionally until butter is melted and sugar dissolved. Pour into a large mixing bowl and set aside to cool.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salts, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves. Using a hand blender, combine dry ingredients with the cooled honey mixture, alternating with the buttermilk and coffee. Beat in egg (optional). Tightly cover dough and chill several hours.

Divide chilled dough in half and roll out each portion to a 1/4-inch thickness. Cut into rounds with 2 1/2-inch floured cookie cutter. Arrange on greased cookie sheets and decorate each cookie with split blanched almonds. Bake at 350˚F for 15–18 minutes.

Combine icing sugar, vanilla and sufficient lemon juice to make a thin icing glaze. Immediately after removing cookies the oven, brush them with the glaze. Cool completely. Store in a tightly closed container for no more than a few days to keep soft. Makes 4 dozen.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Discovering Tarragon

My camera may be broken (so no photos here), but my heart is full of love...for tarragon. Where has it been all my life?? Last week at a workplace potluck/baby-shower, a colleague brought a plate of gorgeous pitas stuffed with deliciousness...I couldn't stop stuffing my face and asked him: WHAT IS THAT FLAVOUR? You guessed it, it was tarragon. I had heard of it, but realized I have never really gotten to know it. Tarragon, you shall be mine, I decided.

Tonight I made a mini-picnic for an old friend, and made up a recipe in my head: cooked yams (in chunks) sauteed with olive oil, fresh tarragon, green onion and salt. This sounded so good to me, that first I went to the Capers Deli to see if they had any, I just assumed that something like this must already exist. They didn't, so I guess I'm about to make a lot of money selling them the idea (no poachers!). Anyway, I found something almost just like my yam-tarragon fantasy online, felt affirmed, and sure enough, tarragon did not disappoint.

I will definitely be continuing to pursue adventures with tarragon, right after I smoke this cigarette.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Summer Tart & BBQ

I'm delighted to say I cooked tonight! Yay, finally. It's been so long.

The theme for tonight's dinner was simplicity, but it goes without saying that deliciousness is also a requirement. I decided put my own spin on a couple of Epicurious recipes, which sounded nice: Grilled Vegetables with Mixed Greens and Blue Cheese Dressing and Savory Summer Tarts.

I decided that I needed the veggies to be even simpler. I cut out the blue cheese dressing all together, and seasoned simply with salt and olive oil. I used:
  • Carrots
  • Fennel
  • Bok choy
  • Beets
  • Zucchini
  • Asparagus
For the tarts, I kept things simple again. I used my tried-and-true vodka crust recipe from Cook's Illustrated. Essentially, you substitute half the water for vodka and add a bit more liquid that you would ordinarily. The vodka lets the dough get wetter without the risking toughness. It's really quite genius. The result is flaky, light, and delicious.

Instead of filling the tarts with several options, I kept to something basic: grape tomatoes, basil from my herb garden, and goat's cheese. The results was delicious.

And we washed the whole meal down with a lovely New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, which I would definitely buy again. It was about $25, and its veggie, grassy notes were the perfect complement to our herbivore's feast.

I hope you try this combo for yourselves sometime. Yum.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Funghi Assoluti

I'm hanging back east for a few days on a friend's farm in Damascus, population circa 56. Despite its serious small townness, the area is know for its Butter Tart Trail - farm gate stores throughout the area that sell fresh goat cheese, spinach, farm puppies (not the edible kind) and yes, butter tarts!

And of course, the area also comes with dear friends who love food too. This one is thanks to my friend Christina, who stole the recipe from Terroni in Toronto. Seriously delicious.

You'll need:
olive oil
oyster mushrooms
bread crumbs
oil & balsamic vinegar vinaigrette.

Toss the oyster mushrooms in olive oil, then in equal parts bread crumbs & parmesan. Throw them in the oven and bake at 425 F until they start to get golden, about 10 to 15 minutes. Meantime, toss the arugula in vinaigrette. Take out the mushrooms, throw on the salad still warm and serve. Yum!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Sampling Delicious Setswana Cuisine

I wrote a post about Setswana Cuisine on UBC's Leave for Change blog. I think readers of Cardamom Pod might find it interesting, so I'm posting a link to the post here.


Thursday, February 5, 2009

Quiche isn't for wimps, it's for picnics

Fifteen or maybe a million years ago, this quiche formula was one of the first recipes I ever created that felt like "Oh my gosh I can actually cook!" It's from Mollie Katzen's classic Enchanted Broccoli Forest. Quick, healthy, and easy to make for a bunch of people, this quiche is the answer for picnics and brunches. Featured here is artichoke-dill filling, but I've also done tomato-basil (below) and mushroom-onion. But you really can be creative with whatever kind of filling you would like. I always opt for the Savory Crumb Crust, and it gets rave reviews. The crust influences the quiche to taste savoury and bready, rather than really eggy, which I like. And I can attest to the fact that real men do eat this particular quiche.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Meg's Delicious Whiskey Sours

Okay, so this is my first "live blogging" experience. You'll have to read between the lines in order to decipher exactly what that means.

Anyhow, Meg is my whiskey sour angel. And tonight, I've finally learned her secret recipe. So before it's too late, I'm recording for posterity.

Okay, so put the following in a cocktail shaker (amount per drink):
  • 2 oz whiksey (Meg recommends Jack)
  • 1tsp powdered sugar
  • 3/4 oz lemon juice
  • 1-2 tsp egg white (or more if you like a frothier, richer texture)
Shake vigorously for a few seconds. Then add ice cubes and shake again. Pour into tumblers and be the hero of your party.

Special thanks to Alisha for reading over my shoulder and saving me from typo embarrassment.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Panang Tofu Curry

After many months of silence, I'm posting two in one night. From the same magazine. Shameful.

It comes under their 50 Easy Ways to Eat Green article, which I was a little meh about, but I do love tofu, and I double-love coconut milk.

Usually my Thai curries cheat - as in, I buy the red curry paste and work from there. This one builds your own base of shallots, ginger, garlic, peanut butter, spices and chili paste. I had to double the chili paste, and I also cut the amount of tofu in half, because I like things saucy. I also can't imagine eating two packages of tofu in one week, so there you go.

Yay, Panang Tofu Curry! It looks a little yellow, but it's yellowy goodness thanks to carrots and peppers. Next time I'll add some broccoli, I think. Get a little accent colour in there.

Soup, glorious soup

Thanks to my dear friend Claire, I'm totally hooked on my Bon Appetit subscription. And I was particularly excited about their superspecial feature on kale this month (Feb 09). Only, I got to the market, ready to buy everything for Kale and White Bean Stew--no kale. None. Enter, spinach.

Now that I've subbed out the main ingredent, that leave me free to sub out whatever I want, I figure. Market was out of fresh thyme and chives: enter, dried tarragon, basil and fines herbes. I misread the Sherry wine vinegar to read straight-up Sherry.

But, pas de problème! C'est delicieuse anyways! Yum spinach and white beans.

One last thing: this calls for a full cup of shallots. I find those wee delicious little buggers to be killer on the eyes, so lately I've been using my swim goggles. One of these days, I'll splurge on a set of onion goggles from Gourmet Warehouse. In the meantime, I'm lookin' fine.

Thursday, January 8, 2009