Monday, October 31, 2011

Spicy Garlic Pasta

This pasta will punch you in the face with flavour. I learned to make it from a special woman named Jane Porter. It's a longtime favourite in her family, and now it's a staple in mine.

It's so simple, it's laughable. This is how you make it.


Equal parts:
  • Chopped anchovies
  • Diced banana peppers
  • Finely diced garlic
  • Olive oil
Pasta noodles (we usually use spaghetti or linguini)


Combine the first four ingredients in a frying pan and simmer on very low heat for approximately 20 minutes.

Cook your noodles.

Once all is cooked, combine and add generous helpings of parmesan. Portion into pasta bowls and sprinkle with more parmesan and salt (if necessary).

Next, eat it with your mouth! Enjoy.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Intergalactic Mermaid Crab Cakes‏

These crab cakes earned me the moniker "Stellar Mermaid from Outer Space." It's a badge I wear proudly.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Hearty Vegetable & Barley Soup

Okay, I've finished eating my third bowl of this soup, and I'm seriously tempted go for one more. This recipe is a winner, so I wanted it recorded here before I forget what I did!

First, it takes its inspiration from the Cook's Illustrated Farmhouse Vegetable & Barley Soup. (You'll have to sign up for 4-week trial in order to access the recipe.) That said, I changed a few things, so here, for the record, is my version.

  • 1/8 ounce mixed dried mushrooms (I used lobster, chanterelle, and morel)
  • 4 sprigs fresh parsley and 4 sprigs cilantro tied together with kitchen string
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 leeks, white parts parts sliced
  • 3 carrots, peeled and cut into cubes
  • 2 celery ribs, cut into cubes
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 cups water
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 large can of diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup pearl barley
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and smashed
  • 3 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 2 cups finely chopped kale
  • 2 tablespoons lemon rind
  • 3 tablespoons butter
1. First I ground the dried mushrooms into a powder using my coffee grinder.

2. I then chopped up the carrots, leeks, and celery. I melted some butter in a big sauce post. And the veggies went into the pot with the soy sauce, wine, and some salt. I sauteed them for 10 mins.

3. Next I added all the liquid ingredients (water, tomatoes, and stock), 2 teaspoons of the ground mushrooms, the sprigs of parsley and cilantro, the pearl barley, and the smashed garlic. I brought these to a boil, then turned down the heat a bit and let them simmer for 25 minutes partially covered.

4. At that point, I added the cubed potatoes and the kale, and I let the whole thing simmer for another 25 minutes (testing the potatoes a few times for doneness along the way).

5. When everything was done, I fished out the parsley and cilantro sprigs and the clove of garlic. I also skimmed the scum off the top of the soup because I heard once that this contains bitter elements from the vegetables. I'm not actually sure if this is true or not.

6. And finally, just before serving the I mixed the rind of one lemon with the 3 tablespoons of butter and stirred it into the soup until melted. I know a lot of people would be tempted to skip this last step, but don't. It's so worth it.

And that's it. Pretty much the best vegetable soup I've ever made in my life.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Vegetarian Poutine – The Ultimate Comfort Food

I'm a sucker for poutine. And this, quite frankly, can be tough for a vegetarian. Tonight I set out to create the ultimate, from-scratch poutine. And I have to say, I'm pretty impressed with the results.

The whole thing began with this vegetarian stock recipe. It's the richest broth you'll ever taste, and I defy anyone who doesn't know better to identify its meatlessness. And, it's such a perfect opportunity to use up that last cup of red wine that's been on the counter just a little too long.

Here's how the stock began life:

When the vegetables were happily roasting, I began frying my potatoes. I filled my cast iron pan with approximately an inch of oil and on medium-high gently fried my little potato chunks. (I didn't do a regular fry shape because they break so easily and are kinda a pain to stir, shovel, etc.)

I also cut a bunch of yam into cubes. Coated them in olive oil. And threw in some chopped thyme for fun. These went into the oven until they were done.

When the stock was finished, I put it in a sauce pan, added 1/4 cup of butter, and 2tbsp of cornstarch already dissolved in 1/2c of stock. (I think, although I'm not 100% sure, that a good formula for thickening gravy is: 1/2tbsp of cornstarch for every cup of stock.)

And of course once that was done, I assembled my creation: potatoes, yams, cheese curds, and gravy.

Et voila! Veggie poutine.

Saturday, June 18, 2011


Wow, I really have not been excelling in the photo department lately. Well anyway. This captures a memory of my meal last night, which was enthusiastically shared with the lovely Claire. I finally tried MAQLUBA! I was in the Middle East in April, and have had a love of Middle Eastern cooking for over a decade, and Maqluba is one of my favourites. It literally means "Upside Down", as all the vegetables and meat (more on this later) are layered on the bottom, and then the rice cooks on top. Then you dump the whole thing over onto a large platter and VOILA: Maqluba.

Okay, but here's what I did. First, I have the massive advantage of having bought "Maqluba spice" at a grocery store in Palestine. I know, that's cheating, but whatever. But since none of my Palestinian friends were able to tell me exactly how to make this thing, I was fumbling in the dark and knew this spice blend could light my way.

With Claire's help we uncovered this link to help give us further direction. But neither of us are into meat, so we wanted to vegetarian-ize it.

Here's BASICALLY what we ended up doing:
1. Heated up a bunch of olive oil
2. Sauteed onions. Added garlic, cauliflower (the MOST important veggie of Maqluba) and some thinly sliced potatoes.
3. Sizzled on low for a long time, til things begin to soften. Added more oil as needed. Stirred in some of the maqluba spice (which is probably a combo of the spices as listed on that link, above).
4. In a separate pan, I sauteed thin slices of eggplant in olive oil. Drained them on a dish towel, added them to the other veggies in the pot.
5. Then added about 1.5 cups of brown rice on top of the veggies.
6. Then added about 6 cups of veggie broth. It was agreed in the end that this was WAY too much water, it needed to cook forever. Add just enough veggie broth to cover the rice by about an inch.
7. Cook until done!

Serve with yogurt, tomatoes, cucumbers and other arabic fixings (Labne is featured in the photo).

It was good. I'll make this again and get better at it. And I hope I've done my Palestinian pals proud!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Smashing up your herbs

While this photo looks disgusting, actually, it was quite tasty! Here's the punchline: this is cilantro sauce on cauliflower (sautéd with spices and walnuts).

But here's what I want to talk about: for the first time in my life, I was able to use the ENTIRE bunch of cilantro without letting it wilt and tossing it. I was inspired largely by this on-line recipe...very delicious. I used my handblender to mash it all up. I realized this approach (adding oil, mild spice and vinegar to herbs and smushing it) would apply to ALL the herbs that typically go bad in my fridge. I feel so guilty about this as I love fresh herbs, but never seem to figure out how to use them all up (and I have a north-facing balcony, so an herb garden for me is unlikely!)

Anyway, super delicious and would add tasty-ness to any dish. For your consideration. All of you. All of the millions of you out there reading this. :)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Finally I typed out my mom's Paska recipe

Everyone loves my mom's paska (Mennonite Easter Bread) recipe and I make it every year. You'll recall my post from 3 years ago where I was very lazy and did not type it out, but merely photographed the recipe card. Well, now, finally here it is. Worth the wait, yes? Yes.

Enjoy all. Thanks Mom. Happy Easter everyone!

My Mom's Paska Recipe

First thing:
2 TBSP (envelopes) yeast
2 tsp sugar
1/2 warm (NOT HOT) water

Mix and let rise 10-15 minutes

Second thing:
1.5 c. scalded milk. So, scald the milk. Get it really hot, but not boiling.

Third thing:
1/2 c. margarine/butter
1/2 oil
1//3 c. sugar
1tsp salt

Add these things to the scalded milk, allow to cool until warm (not too hot, will kill the yeast), then add to yeast mixture.

Fourth thing:
2 beaten eggs
rind of 1 orange
juice of 1 orange

Add to above mixture.
Add 2 c. flour. Beat well.

Fifth thing:
Add more flour (5-5 1/2 cups) to make a soft dough. Knead thoroughly. Let rise about 1 1/2 hour (until double) in a warm spot.

Six thing:
Form dough into paskas (I usually make 5 smaller or 4 larger with this recipe) and let rise another 1/2-1 hour.

Seventh thing:
BAke for 25-30 minutes at 375'F

Eighth thing:
Ice as desired (I use a cream cheese, butter, icing sugar, milk, splash of orange juice mix) and ENJOY!!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Oh-so-sweet Caramelized Onion Dip

[With apologies for the photo - it's not easy to make a delicious dip look delicious.]

I was hanging out with my friend (and author extraordinaire) Susan Juby on the island this weekend, and one of our traditions is to watch a television series from start to finish (in this case, Walking Dead) while we treat ourselves to excellent snacks. Just before I boarded the ferry to visit, I found this recipe from the New York Times' Mark Bittman. Perfect excuse to make it.

I've always made caramelized onions with a 25-minute method: cook them low with a little oil, wait about 25 minutes til they darken a bit, then add a teaspoon of balsamic and a teaspoon of sugar. I can't remember which chef I learned this from, but it always seemed to work.

This method is much longer, much more meditative—you can't really leave the pot alone—but fortunately I had my good friend Trevor with me to keep me company and chat about how the graphic novel version of Walking Dead was superior to the television version (as if you all thought differently).

Bittman's caramelization starts with dry cooking the onions, covered, for about 20 minutes, and it really is fascinating to watch how they change as you go. You'll see them go from a pale yellow straw, to something mahogany and jammy over a period of about 45 minutes or so—adding a little oil as they start to stick.

The taste difference is amazing—so much richer and worth it for the long process!

Finally, once the process is finished an hour or so later, you get to mix it in with some yogurt (Susan opted to pick up some goat yogurt, the perfect offset to the sweet onions), a little lemon, and a little thyme.

You could also play around with the frizzled leeks, as Bittman suggests, but when you're hanging out in sweat pants and hiding your head behind the pillow (Walking Dead! So scary!) I don't see garnish as much of a necessity.

Caramelized Onion Dip With Frizzled Leeks Recipe
Adapted from the New York Times

2 pounds onions (6 to 8 medium), chopped (5 to 6 cups)
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
11/2 cups goat yogurt (Liberty makes a terrific version)
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice, or more to taste
2 leeks, trimmed, cleaned and julienned or thinly sliced
Crudités or crackers for serving

Put the onions in a large skillet over medium heat. Cover and cook, stirring infrequently, until the onions are dry and almost sticking to the pan, about 20 minutes. Stir in 2 tablespoons of the oil and a large pinch of salt and turn the heat down to medium-low. Cook, stirring occasionally and adding just enough additional oil to keep them from sticking without getting greasy. The onions are ready when they’re dark, sweet and jammy, 40 minutes to 1 hour later.

Sprinkle with black pepper, stir in the thyme and remove the onions from the heat. When they’re cool, fold them into the yogurt and stir in the lemon juice. Taste and adjust the seasoning, then transfer the mixture to a serving bowl. (At this point, you can cover the dip with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 2 days.)

Wipe or wash out the skillet and put it over medium-high heat. When it’s hot, add the remaining 4 tablespoons oil. A few seconds later, add half the leeks, turn the heat up to high and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Use a spatula to turn the leeks over as they cook. Be careful: they will go from not-browned to burnt pretty quickly, and you want to catch them in between those stages, when they’re browned and crisp.

Transfer the leeks to paper towels to drain and repeat with the remaining leeks, adding more oil to the pan if necessary to keep them from sticking.

Garnish the onion dip with the crisp leeks and serve immediately with crudités or crackers.

Monday, April 4, 2011

A collage salad (not a college salad)

I ate this tonight, lucky me! I had things in my fridge that needed eating and wow, turns out they were perfect together: spinach (wilted), asparagus (in sesame oil and tamari), walnuts, goat chevre noir shavings, hints of red onion, luscious mango pieces, kalamata olives, fresh tarragon--all sprinkled with fresh lime and a little olive oil. I know, almost too good. I love making something out of nothing, I had no idea this salad collage was in my fridge, waiting to be made, now happily digesting in my belly :)

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Grapefruit, Lime and Ginger syrup

I've recently booked a trip to Chicago, so I've been searching for insider's tips on where to eat when I'm there. And I only JUST realized that one of my favourite blogs, Lottie + Doof, is based there. And of course, they've got the perfect cheat sheet to Chicago's restaurants, so I'm set.

They've also highlighted the souvenir I'm going to look for while I'm there: Jo Snow syrups—in flavours like Fig Vanilla Pepper, Cardamom Rosewater, Tangerine Lavender Honey—yum!

And, thank you Lottie + Doof, they provided a little try-this-at-home inspiration. Which I did, last night, and will tote this sweet Grapefruit, Lime and Ginger syrup over to the island this weekend to mix with soda water.

I found the finished product a little sweet without a nice sour, so I added the juice of one lime to the end product. I probably could have used a little less water then, but it still tastes yummy and looks pretty syrupy, so I think we're solid.

Grapefruit, Lime, and Ginger Syrup Recipe
(adapted from Lottie + Doof)

1 cup granulated sugar
zest of 1 large grapefruit
zest of 1 lime
juice of 1 lime
3/4 cup water
1-2 teaspoons of grated fresh ginger

In a bowl, rub zests into sugar to release oils. Combine sugar, water and ginger in a small pan and cook over medium heat until sugar dissolves and syrup is simmering. Remove from heat, cover and let sit for 15 minutes. Strain syrup to remove zest and ginger and allow to cool. Squeeze in lime juice. Keep in the refrigerator and use however you like.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Happy Spring with Pea Puree and Shrimp

Saturday was such a gorgeous day (warm and sunny, perfect for the 10k walk around the seawall) that I felt inspired for a Spring-like dish. Yay spring peas! Well, technically, last spring's peas, since these were frozen. But I find the organic frozen peas from Stahlbush Island Farms are sweet and tasty. Very Spring.

I modified this recipe a wee bit - originally called to sprinkle the shrimp with lemon rind, but I chose to put it right in the pea puree. And I dusted them with five spice powder before I stir fried them, since I discovered five-spice powder is incredible on shrimp, and has a slightly sweet taste that pairs well with the peas.

And bonus - the whole thing took about 15 minutes to make, with a good 5 of those minutes rediscovering my food processor and its tricky lid.

Pea Puree with Shrimp Recipe Adapted from Bon Appetit

Pea Puree
2 1/4 cups shelled fresh peas (from about 2 1/4 pounds peas in pods) or frozen peas
2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon (packed) fresh mint leaves
1 tablespoon butter, room temperature
1 garlic clove, minced
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel

1 tablespoon olive oil
16 uncooked large shrimp, peeled, deveined
Fine sea salt
Pinch five-spice powder

Pea Puree
Cook peas in large pot of boiling salted water until very tender, about 4 minutes for fresh and 2 minutes for frozen. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup cooking liquid. Set 2 tablespoons peas aside for garnish. Place remaining peas in processor. Add cheese, mint leaves, butter, and garlic. Puree pea mixture, adding pea cooking liquid by tablespoonfuls if too stiff, to form light and creamy puree. Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Transfer to microwave-safe bowl. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 hour ahead. Cover and let stand at room temperature.

Heat olive oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle shrimp and scallops with salt, five-spice powder and freshly ground black pepper. Cook shrimp until golden brown outside and just opaque in center, about 2 minutes per side.

Microwave pea puree in 15-second intervals until warm. Spoon puree into center of plates. Place 2 shrimp and 2 scallops onto each plate, arranging atop puree. Sprinkle with reserved peas from pea puree, sea salt, and pepper. Drizzle each serving with extra- virgin olive oil and serve.
Serves 4

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Best Brownies Ever

First, a confession: I've only ever used a mix to make brownies. I was (note the use of past tense) under the impression that since they tasted so good, I was wasting my energy tracking down a from-scratch recipe. (And really, I had empirical evidence that it was true: my brownies sold out at my Amnesty International bake sale in grade 11. The homemade? Not so much).

But the cover of March's Bon Appetit screamed Best-Ever Brownies, and I had to admit, they looked pretty damn good. They advocate for using cocoa instead of chocolate in chocolate recipes - that the result is richer and more chocolaty. And even more controversial, they say that Dutch processed should take a pass - it's not nearly chocolaty enough.

I've made these brownies for the past three weekends for dinner parties, and I've now completely abandoned my boxed-brownie past. They're rich, moist and chewy with a good crackle top. You get an extra-rich flavour from browning the butter first.

And as far as prep time goes, it doesn't get any better: about 10 minutes all-in, and just one pot to clean up. (Even the pan is a cinch, since you bake these in a tinfoil-covered pan.) I cut back on the sugar a little, and dropped the walnuts. Because really, brownies shouldn't have walnuts.

My excuse to make them this weekend is that my friend Susan Juby is having a book launch for her first adult book, The Woefield Poultry Collective, next weekend. I've knit her a chicken, and now I've made her some brownies. I think that's a good celebration.

Given that it's a week away, I'm going to be freezing these - but according to one of my favourite bloggers, David Lebovitz, I'm only improving on the recipe. I'm looking forward to providing more empirical evidence.

Cocoa Brownies with Browned Butter Recipe
Adapted from Bon Appetit

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cups sugar

3/4 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder (spooned into cup to measure, then leveled)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 large eggs, chilled

1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon unbleached all purpose flour

Position rack in bottom third of oven; preheat to 325°F. Line 8 x 8 x 2-inch metal baking pan with foil, pressing foil firmly against pan sides and leaving 2-inch overhang. Coat foil with nonstick spray.

Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Continue cooking until butter stops foaming and browned bits form at bottom of pan, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat; immediately add sugar, cocoa, 2 teaspoons water, vanilla, and 1⁄4 teaspoon (generous) salt. Stir to blend. Let cool 5 minutes (mixture will still be hot). Add eggs to hot mixture 1 at a time, beating vigorously to blend after each addition. When mixture looks thick and shiny, add flour and stir until blended. Beat vigorously 60 strokes. Transfer batter to prepared pan.

Bake brownies until toothpick inserted into centre comes out almost clean (with a few moist crumbs attached), about 25 minutes. Cool in pan on rack. Using foil overhang, lift brownies from pan. Cut into 4 strips. Cut each strip crosswise into 4 brownies. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Okay, now this is quiche.

Anicka warned me that La Brasserie had redefined quiche for her. I had my doubts. But no more! This quiche was incredible, I only wish it had been twice the size. So light! So flavourful!-- without being too eggy. It contained honey-glazed parsnips (you heard me), chevre and rapini. I mean really. So this post is just meant for a little inspiration. Yummers.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Veggie Broth

This won't be the sexiest of posts, but I want record the ingredients of the veggie broth I just made because it's so good.

Everything is cut very roughly in big chunks; nothing is peeled.

1 apple
1 yam
1 bunch parsley
1 bunch celery
5-8 sprigs of thyme
1 portobello mushroom
1 bulb fennel + the arms and sprigs
3 cloves of garlic
2 tsp Maldon salt (note: 2 tsp of regular fine salt would be way too much)

I threw all of this in my biggest sauce pot and filled it up with water. Then I boiled softly for about 45 minutes. I was surprised by how much flavour the broth has! It yielded about 6 cups of broth.