Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year!



Happy New Year beFOODies! I hope that good food will be a special part of your New Year's celebrations this evening, wherever you are, and that 2008 will be full of scrumptious surprises for you all.
These are photos of Christmas lunch and dinner with my family and some of our friends. I had a great traditional turkey dinner with all the trimmings, and a delicious lunch of tortière and quiche Lorraine from the Bread and Butter bakery. I hope that your holidays have been as nice (and as tasty!) as mine have been.
I'm looking forward to posting many more mouthwatering recipes for your perusal in 2008. Please try them and send me lots of comments :) I'll give you a little preview of what's to come in 2008: sushi rolls, another Mediterranean feast in February and the Gastronati will take on Russian cuisine!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Spicy Portuguese shrimp


Spicy Portuguese shrimp, originally uploaded by beFOODled.


This is Maria's famous Portuguese shrimp that she serves at parties, a very rich and buttery appetizer. Every time I am at her house, I help her make it. She uses a special Portuguese hot pepper sauce, but you could use any hot sauce. Cook the shrimp in two batches, otherwise they will release too much water and dilute the sauce.

Unpeeled shrimp are the best. The shell traps the sauce and you can suck it off, then unpeel the shrimp and eat it. Messy, but so so good. But you can also use peeled shrimp. You can also turn this appetizer into a pasta sauce for linguine by adding white wine and cream.

Maria's Portuguese Shrimp
1/2 C butter
1/4 C olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbsp hot pepper sauce
454 g bag of shrimp, unpeeled
1 tsp paprika
sea salt to taste

Melt the butter and oil in a frying pan. Add the garlic and hot sauce and fry for a minute or two. Add half the shrimp and half of the paprika and salt. Fry, stirring often, until the shrimp are pink, five minutes or so. Set the cooked shrimp aside on a serving plate, but leave the sauce behind in the pan. Add the rest of the shrimp, paprika and salt, and cook the second batch. Add the remaining shrimp and sauce to the serving plate and eat with crusty bread.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Rosemary and brown sugar nuts


I made these nuts for the Gastronati's Secret Santa and also for my generous work colleagues, who always shower everyone with lots of gifts on the day of our Christmas party.

This recipe comes from The Joy of Cooking. My favourite nuts in the mix are the macadamia nuts. They taste really mild and almost creamy (I know that "creamy" is not a common adjective to describe nuts, but somehow it describes macadamias well). They are grown in the tropics, and my parents bought some when we were vacationing in Hawaii when I was 12 years old. I forgot about them until this Christmas!

Rosemary and Brown Sugar Nuts
1 pound unsalted mixed nuts (macadamia, cashews, peanuts, pecans, almonds)
2 Tbsp melted butter
3 Tbsp finely chopped rosemary
2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp corn syrup

Spread the nuts in an even layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Pour over the other ingredients and toss everything together with your bare hands until all the nuts are coated. Bake in a 350 F oven for about 7 minutes. After removing the nuts from the oven, stir occasionally to prevent them from sticking until the coating dries. Let cool before serving or storing in a Tupperware.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Torching a Creme Brulée


Here's PB and J's recipe for the creme brulée that I blogged about previously after the Gastronati's French night. We each torched our own, and here's a video of S doing the honours.


Creme Brulée

Serves six

2 cups heavy cream
4 tablespoons, plus 2/3 cup sugar
4 extra-large or jumbo egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the egg yolks, cream and four tablespoons of sugar. Cook, stirring occasionally, for five to six minutes, or until small bubbles appear around the edges of the pan. Set aside.

In a bowl, beat the egg yolks and vanilla extract until smooth and light. Pour the hot cream mixture into the egg yolk mixture a little at a time, beating continuously until well blended. Divide the mixture between six small ramekins or four medium ramekins.

Arrange the ramekins in a baking pan on the middle shelf of preheated oven. Fill the pan with boiling water to halfway up sides of ramekins. Cover the pan loosely with aluminum foil. Bake until the custard has just set, about 25 minutes. Chill two to three hours or up to three days.

Sprinkle the remaining sugar evenly over the top of the cooled custards. With a creme brulée torch, move the flame continuously over the surface of the ramekins, in a circular motion until sugar melts and becomes golden brown and bubbly. Serve with fresh fruit and crèpe-style French biscuits.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Rabbit Stew


Here is the recipe for PB's savoury rabbit stew, which he brought to the Gastronati's French night. We paired this with a really wonderful French red wine called Chateau de Montmirail Gigondas Cuvée de Beachamp, 2004, from the LCBO's vintages section.

Rabbit Stew

1 (2 ½ lb) rabbit, quartered
3 slices bacon, cut in thirds
1 ½ cups sliced onions
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 Tbsp flour
1 cup beef broth
1/4 cup red wine
1 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp dried parsley
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup cream
salt and pepper

In a large skillet or medium-sized Dutch oven, cook bacon until done. In the bacon drippings, cook the onion and garlic until transparent.
Add the rabbit pieces and saute over medium heat until the meat is golden. Sprinkle on the flour and continue to brown rabbit for another five minutes or so, then add the beef broth, cream, red wine, thyme, parsley and bay leaves.
Cover and simmer over low heat for about an hour, adding more broth if necessary. Salt and pepper to taste (with the bacon drippings, not much salt is needed). Serve with mashed potatoes or buttered egg noodles.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Spicy Lamb Casserole


On Monday, Squeaky came in with a mouthwatering Julia Child boeuf bourguignon that Calimocho had slaved over while we were out making jewelry on the previous Sunday afternoon. It was so wonderful that it set up a craving in me after just one taste. And no wonder when it's made with almost a whole bottle of red wine!

That memorable mouthful stayed with me all afternoon and inspired me to create this equally tastilicious lamb casserole after work. It's a recipe adapted from one of my favourite cookbooks, The Food of Italy.

I also supported local business in buying the lamb, veggies and tomato sauce from my neighbourhood butcher, fresh food market and Italian grocery store, instead of my usual big box StupidStore.

And for the first time I used my new Le Creuset! Doesn't it look great in the picture?

(Go back to Flickr)

Spicy Lamb Casserole

2 Tbsp olive oil
500 grams (1 lb) lamb, cut into cubes about 1.5 inches each
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 C red wine
1/2 tsp dried red chilli flakes
1 Tbsp crushed juniper berries
1 Tbsp tomato paste
2 cups chicken stock (or 1 stock and 1 water)
1 whole rosemary sprig
package of cipollini onions
5 small potatoes, cut into cubes
handful of fresh chopped parsley for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350 F.
Heat the oil in a large pot that can go from stovetop to oven or, if you don't have one, a stock pot (which I did because I didn't realize at first that this had to go in the oven). Salt and pepper
the lamb cubes and brown them in batches over high heat (about level six or seven). Remove the lamb and set aside.
Add more oil in the pan if you need to and fry the onion and garlic. Reduce the heat and cook for about five minutes.
Return the lamb to the pan. Pour in the wine and scrape up all the caramelized bits sticking to the pan. Reduce the liquid by half. Add the chilli and juniper and cook for about 30 seconds.
Add the tomato paste, rosemary and chicken stock/water, or just enough liquid to cover.
Transfer the stew to an ovenproof casserole dish at this point if you started with a stock pot.
Bake covered for 40 minutes. Add the onions and potatoes and cook for another 40 minutes, covered. Stir in the fresh parsley just before serving.

Go back to Flickr

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Creme Brulée


Here's the creme brulée that Peanut Butter and Jelly brought to the Gastronati's French feast. I know it looks scrumptious. As soon as PB and J e-mail me the recipe - hint hint - I'll post it so that you, too, can achieve this epitome of French dessert fabulousness. Note: They did - here's the recipe!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Raspberry Duck


This is the delicious raspberry duck that S brought to the Gastronati's French night. The recipe's adapted from Laura Calder's French Food at Home.

Raspberry Duck
Serves 6 as a side

2 boneless duck breasts with skin
6 Tbsp raspberry vinegar
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 cup red wine
2 Tbsp raspberry jam
1 to 3 Tbsp cold unsalted butter
2 to 3 handfuls of fresh raspberries
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 175 C (350 F).

Score the fat side of the duck breasts with a knife. Season both sides with salt and pepper. Render the fat by placing the breasts fat side down in a frying pan on medium heat. Let cook for about seven minutes, draining the fat three times. Flip the breasts over and brown the other side for about three minutes. You just want to sear the outside and get a nice brown colour, not cook them through at this point.

Transfer the breasts to the oven in a casserole dish and cook for 20 to 30 minutes. (This step may not be necessary all the time, but we had fat duck breasts that were too large to cook all the way through in the frying pan.) After you remove them from the oven, let the meat rest for five to 10 minutes before slicing into medallions.

Make the sauce in the same frying pan used to fry the duck breasts while they are cooking in the oven. Deglaze the pan with the vinegar and scrape up all the drippings. Boil for about a minute to reduce to one tablespoon of sauce. Whisk in the garlic and tomato paste and then the wine. Boil rapidly to reduce the volume by half (about five minutes). Whisk in the jam, and then remove the sauce from the heat and add the butter, a little at a time, to make it glossy. Season with salt and pepper. (You can strain the sauce at this point to make it smooth, but we didn't bother.)

Plate the medallions (about four per person) on a side dish, spoon over the raspberry sauce and top with fresh raspberries.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Mahogany Marinated Salmon

This is my favourite way to do salmon. The recipe's adapted from Dana McCauley's Pantry Raid. Because it's so fast and five ingredients only, I often make it for dinner on weeknights. If you want to make a more complete meal, serve it with a salad, rice or couscous with mushrooms, onions and raisins.

Mahogany Marinated Salmon

2-4 servings of fresh or thawed raw salmon (either fillets or steaks)
1/2 cup of your favourite BBQ sauce
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp finely grated ginger or ginger puree
1 Tbsp honey

Combine the BBQ sauce, soy sauce, ginger and honey in a bowl with a whisk or a fork. Marinate the salmon in this mixture for at least 20 minutes or up to four hours.

Preheat the oven to 230°C (450°F). Place the fish portions on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish. The rule of thumb according to the Canadian government when you are cooking fish in the oven is 10 minutes per inch of thickness, plus another five minutes added to the total cooking time if the fish is wrapped in foil or cooked in a sauce, as this one is.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Ode to Ratatouille


Ratatouille, humble heap of vegetables doused in olive oil that you are, you are fantabulous! For starters, I can eat you hot or cold. It's also nice to have a big bowl of you in my fridge for those weeknights when I'm too lazy to cook, or mornings when I need to conjure a lunch quickly before I miss my bus. You are the go-to recipe for veggies a bit past their prime (sadly a frequent sight in my fridge). You are colourful and bright. And finally, when I eat you I feel HEALTHY.

Ratatouille was one of my contributions to the recent Gastronati French night. All you need to make a complete meal of this nice French dish is some crusty bread or couscous and a tall glass of milk. My recipe is a hybrid of methods from three sources: Nigella Lawson's How to Eat, Laura Calder's French Food at Home and the website Provence Beyond.

Ratatouille
Prep time: about two hours, including cooking time.
FASTER VERSION: (See below, it's about one hour)

6 to 8 Tbsp olive oil
1 large sweet onion, like Vidalia or Spanish, sliced into half-moons
1 to 3 garlic cloves, however many you wish, minced
4 or 5 tomatoes, skinned and seeded and torn
2 Tbsp tomato paste (optional)
1 red pepper, sliced
3 small zucchinis, sliced into rounds
1 small eggplant, sliced into half-moons
salt and pepper to taste
1 bay leaf
1 tsp each of thyme and parsley

The first thing to do is skin and seed the tomatoes: Score the top and bottom of each tomato with a knife (I make an X). Drop into boiling water for 30 seconds. Remove them with tongs and drop them into a bowl of cold, preferably icy, water. Leave for about 5 to 10 minutes in the fridge, changing the water if it gets too warm. You should now be able to peel the skins off easily with your fingers. Quarter the skinned tomatoes and push out the seeds with your fingers. It's messy, but you want get rid of the water in the tomatoes. Discard the skins, seeds and watery bits and keep the torn tomatoes in a bowl until needed.

Put the oil in a high-sided pan like a stock pot, and heat over medium-high heat (about level 4 or 5 on my electric stove). Add the sliced onions and cook on low-medium heat for 5 to 10 minutes or until translucent.

In those 10 minutes that the onions are cooking, prepare the eggplant. It contains a lot of water that again needs to be drawn out, but you need to give it some time. Slice the eggplant into 1/4- to 1/2-inch-thick rounds. Arrange a single layer of rounds on a big plate lined with a sheet of paper towel. Salt the rounds. Cover with another paper towel. Put down some more eggplant and salt the next round of rounds. Keep doing this until every layer of eggplant slices is salted and stacked between paper towels. Wait 10 to 30 minutes. The paper towels will become waterlogged. Take them off and discard them, but rinse the eggplant rounds and pat dry with a kitchen towel.

Add the garlic to the onion mixture and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the red pepper strips and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the tomatoes. Add the herbs, a pinch of salt and pepper, and the tomato paste if you are using tomatoes that are out of season (not as flavourful). Cook for another 10 to 20 minutes. Take off the heat before you add the zucchini.

During the time the tomato mixture is cooking, get started on the zucchini and eggplant. Fry the zucchini rounds in a frying pan on medium heat (level 6 or 7) until browned on both sides, about two minutes per side. Fry the eggplant on both sides the same way. Add both to the main pot as each batch browns. I usually have two frying pans going for the zuchinni and eggplant rounds, and I do the zucchini first.

Fold all the ingredients carefully into the ratatouille in the stock pot, trying not to puncture the zucchini and eggplant rounds. Take out the bay leaf. Serve hot or cold with crusty bread or couscous.

FASTER VERSION: This version is not as traditional, and the rolled-up tomato skins can irritate, but it's still tasty: Cook everything in one pot and don't take the pot off the heat until you've added all the ingredients, and the last has had time to cook down. Don't skin or seed the tomatoes, just slice into rounds, cut in half and add to the pot. Don't salt and layer the eggplant on a plate to draw the water out. Don't cook the eggplant or zucchini separately, just slice them and toss them in the main pot after the tomatoes have had some time to cook down. This method will shave about an hour off the total time to make this dish.

Friday, November 30, 2007

The Gastronati's French Feast


Mes amis sont merveilleux! We each cooked French food at home (Food Network Canada's Laura Calder would have been proud) and brought our delicious dishes to Squeaky and Calimocho's for a sumptuous French feast. I think it was the best Gastronati ever! There is a mounting fear that one day we won't be able to top ourselves, but it hasn't happened yet.

Squeaky and Calimocho made a wonderful tomato gratin appetizer, and rich cheesy potatoes that were both French and Québecoise. S made an amazing raspberry duck that was loved by all, and I made ratatouille and caramelized onions. PB and J made a savoury rabbit stew and silky, melt-in-your-mouth crème brulée. They even brought over a handheld butane torch so that we could toast our own golden sugary crust. Stay tuned for special recipe posts dedicated to these dishes, and a video tutorial on how to create J's crème brulée.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Caramelized Onions


I made these delicious, sweet caramelized onions for the Gastronati's French night. The sherry and worcestershire in the recipe give them an amber colour. They're really versatile. You can use them as a condiment or as building block in meat dishes, such as roasted chicken with garlicky yoghurt sauce. I've also eaten them with perogies and sour cream. I'm sure they'd taste great in a burger, too. And if you dice the onions instead of slicing them, they will also make a scrumptious topping for a baked brie cheese wheel. And they're only five ingredients! (Assuming you have butter, salt and pepper.)

Caramelized Onions


one large sweet onion, such as Spanish or vidalia, cut into half-moon slices
a pat of butter
thyme, fresh or dried
salt and pepper
2 Tbsp granulated sugar
1/4 C cooking sherry
1 tsp worcestershire sauce

Fry the onions, thyme, salt and pepper in butter until they have turned translucent, about 10 minutes.
Add sugar and cook another 5 -10 minutes until the onions have browned a bit.
Add the sherry and worcestershire and reduce until the onions have absorbed most of the liquids.

Friday, November 23, 2007

S is a Pest


This is what happens when I spend too much time with beFOODled, and not enough with S.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Fusilli with Spinach, Tomatoes and Asiago Cheese


I'm starting a series of 5-ingredients-or-less recipes (not counting oil or seasonings like salt and pepper). This pasta goes into that category. It's another one by Giada de Laurentiis from her show Everyday Italian. It's meant to be a fast weekday dinner. The sauce literally takes five minutes, so you should start it after you've put the pasta on. The spinach and tomatoes make it very healthy as you can see in the photo. (Pay no attention to the iron in the background.)

Fusilli with Spinach, Tomatoes and Asiago Cheese

fusilli or another curly pasta of your choice, enough for two
1/4 C olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 bag baby spinach, washed and roughly chopped
cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 C grated asiago cheese (and/or grated Parmigiano Reggiano)

Cook the pasta according to package directions. As soon as you've put the pasta into boiling water, it's time to start the sauce.

Add the olive oil to a frying pan on low-medium heat. Add the garlic and fry until fragrant but not brown, about a minute or two. Wash the spinach, dry it in a tea towel or salad spinner, and roughly chop it. Add the spinach to the pan and stir for a minute or so or until wilted. Halve the cherry tomatoes and add to the sauce. Drain the pasta and add to the sauce in the frying pan. Toss to mix. Add one cup of grated asiago cheese. Toss again until the cheese has combined and becomes stringy.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Star of India in San Diego


Some of my family and friends had been to this restaurant before on a previous trip to San Diego, and raved about it. The curries were great. I love it when they are served in metal platters like this. We had chickpeas, lamb, chicken and I ordered mutter paneer, my favourite vegetarian Indian curry. The food came all at once and we didn't have to wait long at all. It was all really tasty.

The bathroom was a bit scary. I had to ask the waiter about the light switch and he turned it clockwise with pliers, and then it seemed to be on some kind of a timer so you had to hurry up --- it was really very funny and just the kind of makeshift quirkiness you expect from hole-in-the-wall places such as these. It gives them character and that's why I like them!

Star of India
423 F Street
San Diego, California, U.S.A.
619.234.8000

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Harbor House in San Diego


We had really nice fresh fish in San Diego at the Harbor House restaurant in Seaport Village, which overlooks San Diego Bay. At the top is DM's ahi tuna, and below that is the planked salmon that JJ and I both had. They were delicious! Too bad I was sick and I couldn't finish mine.

Harbor House Restaurant
Seaport Village
831 West Harbor Drive, San Diego, California

619.232.1141

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Applesauce


I made applesauce with all the ida reds that we picked last month. It's very easy, but be prepared to do a lot of chopping! I brought the cutting board in front of the TV and dropped all the slices into a crock pot every time they started to pile up.

Applesauce
Adapted from The Joy of Cooking

6 to 10 cups apple slices
an inch of water in the pan
the juice of one lemon
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 C brown sugar (optional)

Peel, core and slice apples into slices, taking a break to squeeze lemon juice over them once you get a good pile of them. I cut them in half first, then quarters, peeled the quarters and cut each in half or in thirds.

Fill the pan with about an inch of water and cook uncovered over medium heat, stirring once in a while, for about 20 to 30 minutes or until the apples have fallen apart. Stir in the brown sugar if using. You can puree the applesauce at this point to make it extra smooth, but I just stirred it and it was the right consistency.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

One Vitamin D a Day Keeps Cancer at Bay

To all my fellow Canadians, this advice is for you:

T
he Canadian Cancer Society is recommending that Canadians should take one vitamin D pill of 1,000 international units every day during fall and winter. That's because the sunlight falling on our skin during these six months isn't strong enough to stimulate Vitamin D production in our bodies.

The recommendation is in response to a U.S. study that came out this summer, which reported that taking vitamin D supplements can cut the risk of many different kinds of cancer by a staggering 60 per cent!

So don't forget to take your pills every fall and winter, starting with this year!

Friday, November 9, 2007

Marion's Fish Market in San Diego


In San Diego, my mission was to eat Mexican and seafood, because those are the local specialties. I read in 944, one of the city's magazines, that "San Diego has the best fish tacos in the world, dammit!" and must agree that hole-in-the-wall Mexican fast food is one of the reasons why dining out in this city is so great.

Here's the clam chowder and fish taco combo (in triplicate since there were three of us - my cousin, our friend C and me - and we all ordered the same thing) from Marion's Fish Market in Seaport Village. It was the perfect size for lunch. The chowder was really tasty, although it was thicker the night before. This whole combo was $5.98!

This was my second time eating here. When we arrived from the airport, it was really late, so we found this place and had dinner at around 9:00. We ate in the dark because they were closing and had to turn off the patio lights.

This restaurant is on the edge of Seaport Village, which is a really quaint and pretty little shopping strip with a boardwalk next to the ocean that goes all the way to the convention centre. I bought some souvenirs at Seaport Village and was one American penny short once. I asked the vendor if he accepted Canadian pennies, of which I had lots, but he said no. I pointed out that they are worth more now than the American currency, but he didn't seem amused. Well, I thought it was funny! The Canadian dollar's a heavyweight now and I intend to flaunt it!

Marion's Fish Market
849 West Harbor Drive, Suite D
San Diego, CA 92101
619.233.1143
Hours - 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Birthday Party Spread


Here's Squeaky tucking into the spread that we put out for my birthday party. S and I bought lots of bread and crackers, cheeses and pâtés, and cold cuts and olives. We made insalata caprese and prosciutto-wrapped melon balls. In terms of dips, we offered hummus and baba ganoush, and Squeaky and Calimocho also made their new signature dish, a hot chorizo sausage and cheese dip, which is so amazing that it once revived Squeaky out of sickness.

History Bites: The Purple Carrot




You all might be wondering what's up with the purple carrot illustration under the beFOODled banner. It's not merely a manifestation of the imagination of S, who is the talent behind beFOODled's illustrations.

Purple carrots were the norm when the vegetable was just starting out about 5,000 years ago in Afghanistan, its country of origin. At that time, carrots were not only purple, but also tough and thin, and would not have been appetizing according to our modern palettes!

In Ancient Rome, carrots could be white or purple, too, according to the World Carrot Museum. This website also says that Egyptian temple drawings from 2,000 B.C. depict a purple plant that could have been a carrot according to some Egyptologists.

Carrots didn't become orange until Dutch patriots domesticated them to pay homage to the colours of the royal House of Orange.

No matter their colour, carrots are very nutritious. The purple pigments are called anthocyanins and these are antioxidants that protect the body against cancer and heart disease. And the orange pigment, beta carotene, is a great source of vitamin A.

So if you are lucky to see a purple carrot, you should feel special that you have laid eyes on an ancient vegetable going back to its roots!

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Gastronati Do Japan!


Our latest meal was a Japanese extravaganza! As you can see from the montage, there was no shortage of sushi or other delectable delights. Peanut Butter and Jelly made the sushi - they even made my personal favourites - unagi (BBQ eel) and saba (mackerel). Squeaky and Calimocho brought the pickled carrots, and spicy eggplant and ginger-beef dishes. I made the yakitori skewers that I've blogged about before. This time I used enoki and shiitake mushrooms, leeks, green onion pieces and bacon. And S made gyoza from scratch! Gyoza is ground pork, hakusai (Japanese cabbage), ginger and onion in a light rice wrapper and pan-fried. It's really time-consuming, but for a special occasion it's worth it!

Gyoza
Prep time: 30 to 40 minutes
Cooking time: about 25 minutes per panful

Serves six to eight people as a side or three to four as a main.

For filling:
350 g ground pork
1 onion, medium-sized and diced
a hunk of ginger, minced
8 large leaves of hakusai, thinly sliced
6 mushrooms, minced, preferably shiitake
1 egg
1 Tbsp sugar
a couple of pinches of salt

For wrappers:
gyoza wrappers
bowl of water and
1 human finger!

For dipping sauce:
1 part soy sauce
1 part rice vineagar
a few drops of La-Yu oil (a kind of hot sesame oil with chilis)

Mix all ingredients for the filling together in a big bowl.

You need gyoza wrappers from a Japanese or Korean market. Double Happiness is one of many brands you might find. Gyoza wrappers are small and round, they're about the width of your palm. Lay out 12 wrappers on a cutting board. Scoop a tablespoon or so of the mixture in the centre of each wrapper. The exact amount you find easy to work with may take a bit of trial and error.

This next part takes practice! This is the difficult part. Dip your one human finger in the water and wet a ring around the edge of the wrapper. Timing is important. Do about six wrappers at once. Now dry your finger. Next, fold each wrapper in half, pressing the wet edges together. Lay the closed gyozas aside on a plate with the seams facing up. Finish making your gyoza until you have enough to fill the frying pan you will be using, as shown in this Wikipedia photo.

The hard part is getting the right amount of water on the wrapper. You want the wetness to be just right when you fold it together. If it's too wet, it'll stick to your fingers and fall apart. If it's too dry, it won't stick to anything at all.

Put some vegetable oil in your frying pan and turn up the heat to medium. When the pan is hot, start putting in the gyozas by hand. Drag each gyoza in the oil to coat both sides as you place them. This will keep them from sticking together. Continue until you fill the pan. Then pour about one centimetre of water into the bottom of the pan. Put the lid on and let them cook 15 to 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, take off the lid but keep the heat on. Now you want them to dry out and brown on the bottom, about 5 minutes or until they turn golden brown.

As the first panful is cooking, make the dipping sauce and prep the second batch of gyozas. You can refrigerate the filling for one day and make the rest tomorrow, but don't freeze it.

When the gyozas have browned nicely, let them cool a bit, slide them all out onto a big serving plate, and serve with the dipping sauce.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Le Ragoût de Veau Avec les Oignons de Cipollini



Ma chose préférée de ce ragoût est que c’est un repas d’un seul pot – c’est facile quand c’est le temps pour faire la vaisselle. La deuxième raison que j’aime cette recette est les oignons de cipollini. C’est difficile de manger des choses aussi mignon qu’oignons de cipollini!

Le Ragoût de Veau Avec les Oignons de Cipollini
6 portions

· un sac d’oignons de cipollini (environ 30 - 40)
· huile d’olive, a gout
· viande de veau (vous pouvez substituer le boeuf, l’agneau ou le poulet) 2.5 lbs
· le sel et le poivre
· farine (1/3 tasse)
· gousses d’ail, 3, hachées
· feuilles de thym fraîches (n’importe quelle quantite)
· vin blanc sèche (1 1/4 tasse)
· bouillon de poulet (1 ½ tasses)
· tomates hachées dans leur jus, une boîte d’environ 8 oz
· 14 petites pommes de terre rouges (ou 4 grande couper dans huit pieces)
· 1 grosse carotte, pelée et coupée en tranches épaisses
· persil frais pour la garniture (facultatif)

Dans un pot du bouillon, porter l’eau a ébullition. Cuisiner les oignons cipollinis non-pelees pour 2 minutes. Filtrer et a laisser se refraichir. Les peler et couper les fins (ceci prendra à peu près 5 minutes).

Chauffer l’huile dans le meme pot sur le chaleur moyen-haut. Saupoudrer le veau avec le sel et le poivre, et finalement les donner un manteau de la farine. Ajouter le veau au pot et frire jusqu’ à ce qu’ils soient colorés (à peu près 8 minutes). Réserver.

Ajouter l’ail et le thym au même pot et même sauté pour d’une minute. Ajouter le vin et deglaze, grattant en haut tous les morceaux croustillants. Mijoter par-dessus la chaleur moyen-haut jusqu’ à réduit par la moitié (à peu près 3 minutes). Retourner le veau au pot.

Ajouter le bouillon et les tomates avec le jus. Partiellement couvrir et mijoter sur la chaleur bas-moyen pour 15 minutes. Ajouter les pommes de terre et les carottes et mijote découvert pour à peu près 20 minutes, et remuer de temps en temps. Ajouter les oignons et mijoter découvert pour encore 25 minutes, et remuer encore de temps en temps. Saison le ragoût avec le sel et le poivre et server dans les bols avec les pièces du pain crousillant.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Italian Night With the Gastronati


Now I'm sure you have all been waiting on the edge of your seats for the details of Italian night with the Gastronati. It was delicioso! But first let me update you on the Gastronati itself.

Some of you may have noticed that our food club's name has gone through many incarnations. As our group of budding food aficionados' search for a collective identity, there have been growing pains: The Saturday Night BeFOODies was a bit too beFOODled-centric, the beFOODies a touch too casual, the Royal Society of the Gastronomy was too academic, and the Church of Gastrology much too evocative of the mad Scientologists (that was the point, but if people had taken this reference seriously we would have been mortified). But at long last we have word-smithed our final title - the Gastronati, S's idea! S is also doing up a logo for this very Illuminati-inspired identity - stay tuned for the unveiling in a future post.

Clockwise from top left, we've got the veal stew with cipollini onions that S and I brought; a delicious and elaborate pork braciole from Italian Cooking and Living, which is pork tenderloin rolled around caramelized onions and other goodies, made by Peanut Butter and Jelly; and Italian sausage and mushroom risotto from Simply Recipes, and an insalata Caprese soused with a little splash of balsamic vinegar reduction made by Squeaky and Calimocho, who hosted the evening at their amazing apartment.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Insalata Caprese


Here's a simple, refreshing little appetizer that we made when AP, his mom from Cuba and EB came over for dinner a couple of weeks ago. I was first introduced to this little salad in the summer of 2005 when MV brought it for lunch at work one day. It's really easy to make and I think I will make it again for my birthday party this Friday.

Insalata Caprese

2 tomatoes, sliced
mozzarella or bocconchini cheese ball, sliced
basil leaves
salt to season
your best extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)

Create little stacks of tomato, cheese and basil leaves on a nice cutting board. Drizzle with EVOO and sprinkle with salt.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

It's Apple Season!


It's apple-picking time! I am currently the proud owner of half a bushel of ida reds. They're in a giant plastic bag on my floor. I need to find some apple recipes pronto so I can use them up. We picked way too many for the two of us (they were hard to resist), so I've been handing them out at work and at French class, sharing the decadent bounty wherever I can.

We picked them on Sunday with my mom, at the Spring Meadows orchard in between Kingston and the ferry to Prince Edward County. It was 23 degrees, but felt like 30. Can you believe it? We're in early October! One of the farmers who worked there told us that the russets, northern spy, red delicious and ida reds are all in season right now. We chose to pick ida reds because they keep for a long time compared to the other varieties. And while some apples are better for eating than baking and vice versa, ida reds are a happy medium for both. Their taste is also the perfect compromise of sweetness and tartness. And they are smallish, so the perfect size for tucking into a pocket for a portable snack.

My mom told us something very poetic as we were driving out of the orchard: That the blooms of an apple tree are such a tender froth, and when set against the gnarled trunks they remind her of an old lady dressed up in wedding finery. My mom always has such a way with words!

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Rack of Lamb


Our last night in Calgary, S's mom cooked us a delicious dinner of rack of lamb, baba ganoush and taboulleh, pictured here with a pile of pita triangles. I've already blogged about the baba ganoush recipe. Here are the others:

Rack of Lamb
(serves 4)

2 racks of lamb
1/3 C balsamic vineagar
1/3 C red wine
1/3 C soy sauce
1 Tbsp dijon mustard
2 or 3 garlic cloves, minced

Marinate the racks of lamb in all of the ingredients listed above except the peppercorns for one-and-a-half to two hours.

Grind some peppercorns and coat the racks of lamb with a peppercorn crust. In a 400 - 450 F oven roast the racks for about 20 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 140 F. Turn once after 10 minutres if you are broiling them (roasting them on the top shelf of the oven).

After the meat has rested for a few minutes, cut the racks into four equal pieces. We had four ribs each.

And now the taboulleh...

Taboulleh

serves 6
Prep time: About 1 hour, but mostly waiting for bulgur to soak

1/2 C fine bulgur wheat
6 to 7 roma tomatoes,
6 small spring onions or 4 fat ones
2 bunches of parsely
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 C olive oil
1-2 Tbsp dried mint or fresh mint, chopped, to taste
salt and pepper to taste
a sprinkle of sugar

Rinse the bulgur wheat six times (or fewer if you are in a rush). More than cover with boiling water and let soak for 1/2 hour to one hour.

Prepare the vegetables: Quarter the tomatoes and seed them so the juices run out. Thinly slice the spring onions on the diagonal. Pinch off the florets on the parsley bunches, wash them and squeeze dry in a paper towel, then chop finely.

When the bulgur has soaked, combine all the ingredients and serve.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Sushi Hibiki in Calgary


Sushi Hibiki is a tiny restaurant that has the best tempura in Calgary, according to S's parents, who are Japanese restaurant aficionados. But of course I opted for the ramen because it is one of my favourite Japanese foods and hard to find where I live. I finished this whole bowl and really enjoyed it. It was nice and light, and I really liked the addition of the hard-boiled egg (not all restaurants offer eggs with ramen). Another bonus: A bowl of ramen at Hibiki also comes with a three-piece side of sushi.
It's also very affordable — I forget how much this ramen was, but it was definately under $12, which is what I have to pay in Ottawa for ramen that, although with egg, is devoid of an interesting side.
Hibiki is very clean, quiet and newly renovated. Unfortunately, it doesn't have an interesting decor, and like many restaurants in Calgary, it lives in an anonymous strip mall. But it is cozy, the staff are friendly and the service is good, and the ramen is delish.

Sushi Hibiki

6-630 1 Avenue NE
Calgary, AB T2E 0B6
403.264.1211

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Pizza Margherita


When it comes to cooking, S's specialty is pita pizzas. He bakes them on a flat, round baking stone from Superstore. According to Jamie Oliver, using a baking stone in your home oven is the closest substitute for a forno - the traditional wood-fired oven that Italians use for cooking pizza.

Pizza Margherita
serves two

2 naan-style pita breads
tomato paste
olive oil
garlic, 1 clove, chopped
dried thyme
chili flakes
fresh basil
1/2 tomato, thinly-sliced
salt and pepper
mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 190 C (375 F).

Take two naan-style pita breads from the freezer and spread tomato paste on them with the back of a spoon. Drop half a clove of chopped garlic on each pita, drizzle olive oil over, and spread the garlic and oil all around. Sprinkle on dried thyme. Add tomato slices and sprinkle with salt, pepper and some chili flakes. Add some fresh basil leaves - throw small leaves on whole or tear up bigger leaves. Scatter some chunks of mozzarella. Drizzle more olive oil. Take care to spread olive oil over the exposed edges of the pita.

Cook in the oven until the cheese starts to brown and bubble, about 10 minutes.

Lovely Cheese, Gromit!


Adventures in cheese at the Granville Island Public Market in Vancouver.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Veal stew with cipollini onions


The Gastronati met again! This time we feasted on Italian fare. This stew, again from Giada De Laurentiis' Giada's Family Dinners, was my contribution to our sumptuous smorgasbord. Stay tuned for more on Italian Night - I am just waiting for Calimocho to send me the pics as S's camera was out of juice that night.

My favourite thing about this stew is that it's a one-pot meal - easy peasy and just one vessel to clean up. My second favourite thing is the cipollini onions. It's rare to get the chance to eat things as cute as cipollini onions. Plus I just like saying cheep-o-LINI! (I must find a way to work it into everyday conversation.)

Veal Stew with Cipollini Onions
(serves 6)

a bag of cipollini onions (about 28)
2 Tbsp olive oil
2.5 lb veal stew meat (you can substitute beef, lamb or chicken)
salt and pepper
1/3 C flour
3 garlic cloves
1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves (or however much you want)
1 1/4 C dry white wine
2.5 C chicken stock
7 or 8 oz can diced tomatoes in their juice
14 small red-skinned potatoes (or 4 big ones cut into eighths)
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1/4 C fresh parsley for garnish (optional)

In a stock pot, cook the unpeeled cipollinis for 2 minutes. Drain and let cool. Peel them and cut off the root ends (this will take about 5 minutes).

Heat the oil in the stock pot over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the veal with salt and pepper and then coat with flour. Add veal to pot in batches and fry until browned on both sides (about 8 minutes per batch). Set aside.

Add garlic and thyme to the same pot and saute for about a minute. Add the wine and deglaze the pan, scraping up all the crispy bits. Simmer over medium-high heat until reduced by half (about 3 minutes). Return the veal to the pot.

Add the broth and tomatoes with juice. Partially cover and simmer on low-medium heat for 15 minutes. Add the potatoes and carrots and simmer uncovered for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the onions and simmer uncovered for another 25 minutes, again stirring once in a while. Stir in parsley, season with salt and pepper and serve in bowls with thick wedges of crusty bread.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Kintaro in Vancouver


Kintaro is a ramen noodle house in Vancouver where I have made a yearly pilgrimmage for two summers now. S took me and again we have to thank BJ for enlightening us to its modest yet majical flavours. I always get the medium miso broth, and this summer I also chose the fatty pork. (I live large!) Medium refers to the fat content in the broth. Fatty pork means there is a fat strip around the pork medallion. This probably lends a good flavour to the broth, but next time I will get lean pork as I filled up fast on this ramen and couldn't finish it.

Kintaro seems to get mixed reviews. Some people say it's better than places in Tokyo, others are quickly turned off for many reasons. Personally I like it - the ramen is good and cheap, and I have a nostalgic attraction to hole-in-the-wall restaurants because my parents took me to these kinds of places I was young.

On the downside, there is always a lineup at Kintaro, and once you get in, the decor is non-existant and there is no air conditioning. You must eat in a cramped, very steamy and uncomfortably hot place, often next to people you don't know. There are other quirks, too, like the two very insistent signs outside that say "no public washroom," and yet once inside one can't help noticing that every customer disappears into rooms in the back that obviously are washrooms. I found out that if you wait too long for the women's line, they even usher you into the men's (and presumably vice versa). If you're bothered by these kinds of contradictions, Kintaro is not the place for you and you should stay tuned for my next ramen blog on location in Calgary :).

But Kintaro is always busy and I can see why. I still like you, Kintaro, and I'll be back for another medium lean soon ...

Kintaro
788 Denman St., corner Robson
Vancouver, BC
604.682.7568

Monday, September 3, 2007

Chicken Vesuvio


Chicken vesuvio on Flickr by beFOODled.

Tonight S and I made chicken vesuvio. It's a recipe adapted from Giada's Family Dinners by Giada De Laurentiis. We used some of the chicken stock I made last week to make it. Chicken vesuvio smells divine when cooking in the oven. The sauce alone is a nectar for the gods. Plus it's a one-pot meal, which means cleanup's not so bad.

Chicken Vesuvio

olive oil
4 chicken thighs, bone in and skin on
salt and pepper
4 large red-skinned potatoes, cubed
6 large garlic cloves, minced
3/4 C cooking sherry/mirin wine combination
3/4 C chicken stock
1 spring fresh rosemary
5 sprigs fresh thyme
6 marinated artichoke hearts
a couple of knobs of unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 400 C.

Brown both sides of the chicken in some olive oil in a saucepan (about 10 minutes). Drain the chicken and set aside.

Add some more olive oil and fry the potatoes in the same pan until golden and crispy on at least two sides.

Add the garlic and stir for a couple of minutes. Add the alcohol (I used a combo of sherry and wine, but you could also use white wine, which is what the recipe called for). Scrape the bottom of the pan to deglaze any brown crispy bits. Add the stock and fresh herbs and stir. Return the chicken to the pan and bring back to a boil over medium-high heat.

Cover the pan with foil and then transfer to the oven. I transferred everything to a casserole dish at this point, because I don't yet own the kind of pot that can go from element to oven. Bake for 20 minutes. Take out the pan and add the artichoke hearts and the butter. Dissolve the butter around the pan. Serve the chicken and potatoes with the sauce and enjoy!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Hapa Izakaya in Vancouver


In this photo, from left to right, we have a sashimi plate, a teriyaki-glazed calamari, funkily-wrapped gyozas and a lovely beef tataki in a red sauce. Yes, we went to yet another trendy Japanese restaurant in Vancouver (gotta love this city). DW took us to Hapa Izakaya for some modern Japanese tapas (thanks D!). The ambiance here is great - everything is sleek, there's a lot of black in the decor and there are thick hardwood tables everywhere. It was also packed full with young, hip customers and a really hot wait staff.

But on to the food ... the menu here is really innovative. I think that Japanese food is hard to improve on, but there were some great dishes here and the menu was smart enough to leave most of those alone that are already perfect. Agedashi tofu (not pictured here) and beef tataki are always my litmus tests for a good Japanese restaurant - I'm happy to report that Hapa Izakaya passed on these two little appies.

The gyoza (second from the right in the back) were served in a crustless-sandwich-style wrap instead of the traditional dumpling. I thought they were good, but S wasn't keen on them. We also tried a paella-style rice dish that was very spicy and tasted good at first, but then I found it hard to finish as there were many intense flavours vying for centre-stage. It also took us a while to get the bill, but it was a busy night. All said, I would definately come back here because the ambiance was nice, the food was really good, and I love the tapas style of eating.

Hapa Izakaya
1479 Robson St.
Vancouver, B.C.
604.689.4272

Monday, August 20, 2007

Quattro in Vancouver


Oh my godfathers! In Vancouver, we went to one of the best Italian restaurants I have ever been to. It's called Quattro, and I have to thank S's friends BJ and WL for recommending it. You can see the pasta that I shared with my friend AG in the photo. Five different kinds! It was called Pasta Pazza a Pezzi and cost $20.95 per person, for a minimum of two people. It was a combination of five pastas: Spaghetti Primavera, Fettuccine Ghiottone, Fusilli Arrabiata, Linguine Pesto and Rotolo Farcito. Both S and DW had the Ravioli Piemontesi for $23.95. It's a ravioli filled with wild mushrooms, mascarpone cheese and tons of white truffle oil, in a light porcini cream. You only get seven raviolis, but they are very very rich.

Quattro seemed expensive when we first walked in because it is a very elegant place, but the bill came to about $40 each between the four of us, so that wasn't bad in the end. Anyways, it was worth it! I must give this restaurant a good review for service, too. I think the waiter knew that we weren't big spenders, and yet he still took the time to talk with us, tell us about the history of certain foods and drinks, and share a great sense of humour. I recommend Quattro to anyone who loves Italian and has the good fortune to visit Vancouver!

Quattro
2611 West Fourth Ave.
Vancouver, B.C.
604.734.4444

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Sukiyaki





S's mom cooked this great Japanese dish called sukiyaki for us last week. It's cooked at the table top in a big cast iron pot with butane as the fuel. You get all the ingredients ready and simmer them in a particular order, and then add them to a bowl that contains a stirred raw egg. You eat them with this egg coating on their own or over rice. Then at the end, you drink the remaining broth in the cooking pot as a soup at the end of the meal. We cooked three batches. It was so delicious! As you can see it requires special equipment.


Sukiyaki
serves 4

bolgogi beef or small boneless rib roast, thinly sliced
shiitake mushrooms, dried and fresh
onion, sliced
spring onion, sliced into 3 cm pieces
carrot
suey choy (napa cabbage)
enoki mushrooms
harusame noodles
soft tofu, sliced
sugar
soy sauce
salt
eggs
rice

Before cooking:

  • Boil four dried shiitake mushrooms in water in a small saucepan for about 10 minutes or until soft. Separate and save both the broth and the shrooms.

  • Put the rice on.

  • Prepare the meat. S's mom can buy pre-sliced beef that's sliced at the right thickness and sold for bulgogi (a Korean dish) in an Asian grocery store in Calgary called T and T here. But she told me you can also buy a small, marbled, boneless rib roast, and freeze it for an hour or so until stiff but not completely frozen. Then you slice it in this partially frozen state as thinly as you can.

  • Finish the broth and pour it in a jug to bring to the table. To 1 C of the mushroom broth, add 5-6 Tbsp sugar and about 1/2 C soy sauce. Top up with water to give at least 2 C total of the sauce. You should notice a bit of sweet but not too much. Same with the salty flavour. They should be balanced.

  • Slice the veggies and put them on a plate. Slice the cooked shiitake and about 8 fresh ones. Use other veggies, too, like enoki mushrooms, and slice onion, spring onions, carrots, suey choy or napa cabbage, thinly as in the photo below. Don't use brocolli or peppers in this dish. The veggies you use need to keep their shape but should also not be too strong a flavour for the broth.

  • Prepare the harusame noodles. Soak them in hot water until they sink down. We used a diameter of noodles that roughly equalled the size of two quarters for 4 people.

  • Slice the soft tofu.

  • Put a chunk of butter in the tabletop cooker and start the butane.

At the table:

  • Each person gets two bowls - one is filled with rice and the other has a stirred raw egg.
    Add the broth and the meat to the tabletop cooker first. Cook a few seconds and then take out and add to your bowl with the stirred egg. Coat the meat and eat it first or put it on top of your rice.

  • Add the rest of the veggies to the tabletop cooker and cook a few seconds.

  • Dig in with your chopsticks and fish out the things you like best!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Alberta Beef at Pigeon Lake


I just got back from a mini-visit to see my side of the family out west. I hadn't seen some of them for nine years! They rented a cottage at Pigeon Lake and I went to visit them for a night. Here's a photo of our dinner table. We had barbecued prime Alberta steak, medium rare as you can see, plus potatoes, salad and veggies. It was delicious!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Tokyo Garden in Calgary


Tokyo Garden's sushi bar in Calgary on Flickr by beFOODled.

S and I are on holiday in Calgary right now. We are visiting his parents, who also live for good food. On Thursday night they took us to Tokyo Garden where they are VIP customers according to Ali, the head waiter. We sat at the sushi bar and I tried some varieties for the first time, like uni (sea urchin eggs) and squid and caviar. They were nice, but I still prefer my old favourites - mackerel, unagi (BBQ eel), hamachi (yellowtail), tuna and salmon. The sushi here is excellent, way better than any place S and I have tried in Ottawa. For one thing, each sushi is huge - more than a mouthful, and it tastes so fresh. S's parents have been coming here long enough to know when they get the fish in (it comes on Wednesday), so if you ever go to Tokyo Garden for sushi, come on a Wednesday or Thursday night!

Tokyo Garden
100-10201 Southport Road SW
Calgary, AB T2W 4X9
403.252.7676

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Katsudon


Katsudon by beFOODled.

Earlier this week I made katsudon, a Japanese meal that is a rice bowl topped with a breaded pork cutlet (tonkatsu) and a soy sauce, egg and spring onion omelette-like topping. I used this about.com recipe for the tonkatsu, and Chubby Hubby's recipe for the onion and egg topping.

Weekend in Kingston




Last weekend, S and I went to Kingston with Squeaky and Calimocho. From the top, the pictures start with a barbeque at Dad's house, followed by a sampler plate at Mango, a Thai restaurant on Princess Street where we had lunch. The third photo is of raspberries from the Kingston farmers market and last photo shows the chocolate fountain at the Taste of Kingston, a yearly event where local restaurants set up tasting booths at Confederation Basin.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Mussels in Montreal


When we were in Montreal, S and I also went to Bières et Compagnie, a place that serves 30 different kinds of mussels, accompanied by frites and a spicy mayonnaise. The restaurant also offers over 100 kinds of beer. These Provençale mussels were really good. The restaurant even topped them up for free. We were lucky to visit on one of the days when they were all you can eat.

Bières et Compagnie

4350 St. Denis
Montreal, QC
514.844.0394
www.bieresetcompagnie.ca

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Ramen in Montreal


Ramen in Montreal at Sakura Gardens on Flickr by beFOODled.

One of my favourite Japanese dishes is a kind of noodle soup called ramen. This is the ramen I had at Sakura Gardens, a Japanese restaurant in Montreal. Besides noodles and broth, it comes with spring onions, wakame (a kind of seaweed) and pork. The pink-rimmed discs are little fish cakes. Where we live, there's only one restaurant that serves ramen and only for lunch, so I rarely get to have it. Sakura's ramen was so good, I ate the whole thing!

Sakura Gardens
2114 Rue de la Montagne
Montreal, QC
514).288.9122
www.sakuragardens.com

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Best Continental Breakfast in Montreal


I will never stay in a hotel again! Last weekend S and I went to Montreal to take in the Jazz fest. We decided to stay in a B&B instead of a hotel, and it was great. We stayed at Chez Fanny, which is in a beautiful historical house in the Plateau, and we made friends with another young German couple also staying there. This picture is of the delicious continental breakfast that Fanny served us. We had freshly squeezed juice, fresh figs (so decadent), and yogurt and maple syrup, and we had cheese dusted with pistachio nuts, and lots of breads, including that little loaf in the background. It came from the Marché Richelieu across the street, and was filled with white chocolate and cranberries. Fanny says they make an even better one with orange and chocolate. I think I will have to return soon!

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Thai Night with the BeFOODies


Last Monday, we hosted the second monthly meeting of the Church of Gastronology. All beFOODies were in attendance. The collage above shows all the food that we cooked and ate. I had been looking forward to this all weekend! PB and J brought over a delicious sesame salad, chicken satays and peanut sauce, and two large Nalgenes full of Thai tea, which was a perfect foil to all the super-hot curries we consumed. It's made with black tea and spices, chilled and then served topped up with lots of condensed milk. Squeaky and Calimocho brought over a wonderful shrimp curry, mango and chicken curry, and Singha (Thai beer). S and served a hot and sour shrimp soup and a cucumber and peanut salad. Here are the recipes for those last two dishes.

Tom Yam Kung (hot and sour shrimp soup)
adapted from The Essential Wok Cookbook

1 kg shrimp, frozen, peeled, with tails
oil
Over 2 litres of water
2 Tbsp tom yam paste
1 stem lemon grass, white part only, sectioned into three pieces and bruised
4 kaffir lime leaves
1 long red chili, halved along the long side and deseeded
100 ml fish sauce
100 ml lime juice
2 tsp sugar
2 spring onions, sliced on the diagonal
fresh coriander leaves to garnish

Thaw the shrimp in a colander under running water. Take off the tails and reserve. Put thawed shrimp in the fridge.
Heat oil in the bottom of a stock pot and fry the shrimp tails on medium heat for about 5 minutes. They will turn orange. Add the tom yum paste and 1/4 cup of water. Fry for a bit, and then add the 2.2 litres of water. Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Simmer for 20 minutes. Strain the broth into a bowl and throw away the solids. Return broth to the stock pot.
Add the lemon grass, lime leaves and chili halves and simmer for about 5 minutes. Stir in the fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, spring onion and shrimp. Cook until the shrimp are pink (just a few minutes). Take out the red chili, lime leaves and lemon grass segments. Serve immediately.


Cucumber Salad with Peanuts and Chili

adapted from The Essential Asian Cookbook

4 Lebanese cucumbers
2 Tbsp white vinegar
2 tsp sugar
2 Tbsp chili sauce
1/2 red onion, chopped
1/2 fresh coriander leaves
1 cup unsalted roasted peanuts, chopped
2 Tbsp crisp fried garlic*
1/2 tsp chopped red chili
1 Tbsp fish sauce

Peel the cucumbers and slice in half lengthways. Scoop out seeds with a teaspoon and slice the halves.
Add the sugar to the vinegar and stir until dissolved. In a large bowl, toss the cucumber, chili sauce, onion, and vinegar mixture. Marinate for 45 minutes.
Just before serving add the peanuts, crisp fried garlic, chili and fish sauce. Toss the salad and serve garnished with coriander.

*To make the crisp fried garlic, slice whole garlic cloves very thinly. Spread out to dry on a piece of paper towel for about an hour. Heat oil in a pan and deep-fry the garlic until it just turns light brown and is crisp. Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with salt before you use them.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Thai Pantry


The Church of Gastronology (casually known as the BeFOODies) met for another international dinner party last weekend, and this time S and I hosted. The theme was Thai, and this little cutting board of goodies is my Thai pantry.

From left to right we have:

  • fresh mint in the baggie
  • peanuts
  • mushrooms
  • tamarind concentrate in the blue tub
  • Spicy Thai Oil
  • Tom Yam spice paste - this is made from Thai ingredients like lemongrass, a root called galangal from the ginger family, tamarind and chili. It's great for flavouring soups.
  • fish sauce - this stuff smells horrible but paradoxically makes salads taste very fresh and light.
  • fresh cilantro (a.k.a. coriander)
  • limes
  • white vinegar
  • lemongrass stalks - to use, remove and discard the tough outer leaves (about 2 to 4) until they no longer have purple undersides. Cut the tender inside part into three sections and bruise/bash them with a utensil to tenderize to maximize their flavour release before adding them to the dish. Remove and discard before eating.
  • green onions
  • garlic
  • ginger
  • hot chilies
  • kaffir lime leaves - use three or four while cooking and discard before eating.
Missing ingredients - galangal, coconut milk, palm sugar

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Food TV Favourites: Michael Smith

Food Channel, why do I love thee? Let me count the chefs...

Episode 1: Michael Smith from
Chef at Home
Of all the chefs on Food TV, I like Michael Smith the best. He's a trained chef, and I can tell he knows his stuff just by the way he explains things. He breaks down everything he does and why into very simple building blocks, and his reasoning makes so much sense that you won't have trouble committing it to memory. For example, take the way he explains braising, which means cooking in a little bit of liquid. He starts always his braises with chopped onions, carrots and celery as base flavourings for the meat, and then builds on that with liquids, aromatics and garnishes that go together naturally - like apple juice, cinnamon and raisins. Or orange juice and rosemary. He also takes time to segue into trips to the grocery store, where he gives tips on how to choose the best ingredients. He really surprised me when he said the most flavourful cuts of meat are the cheaper, less tender cuts. And he gives practical tips about equipment, too. I like the fact that even though he is knife happy and has a whole drawerful of blades, he admits you really only need three: a chef's knife, a paring knife and a bread knife. Very good advice for a frugal gourmet like me!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Grad Club Sangria

Another tried-and-true Grad Club summer drink.

1 bottle dry red wine (don’t use plonk you wouldn’t normally drink)
4 shots Grand Marnier or any other orange liqueur like Triple Sec or Cointreau
2 oranges, segmented
1 lemon, segmented
1 lime, segmented
1 Cup juice or pop (apple, pineapple or orange juice, or a clear pop like 7-Up, ginger ale or Sprite)
A couple spoonfuls of sugar (optional - taste test before you drink)
Mint sprigs

Mix everything together in a jug and let sit for at least 24 hours, although you can let it sit for days if you can resist it! At the Grad Club we used to leave it for up to 5 days. Play around to see what combos you like best.

Bottoms up!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Mojitos

My favourite summer cocktail is the mojito. I used to make them at the Grad Club when I was a bartender. The ingredients were a scoop of ice, a shot of white rum, the juice of half a lime, a handful of mint leaves and a spoonful of sugar. We would blitz the whole lot together in a blender then pour it slushy-style into an icing-sugar rimmed martini glass. It was really perfect!

Tonight S and I made our own version, and instead of straight sugar I made a cardamom-infused simple syrup.

Cardamom-infused simple syrup
1 cup boiling water
3/4 cup sugar
sprinkle of ground cardamom
Combine ingredients and stir until sugar has dissolved. Tonight I let it cool on the stove top and then used it, but ideally it should be cooled in the fridge.

Mojito
1 shot (or however much you fancy) white rum
7-8 torn mint leaves
4 tsp cardamom simple syrup OR 2 tsp sugar
juice of one lime
club soda
Combine everything and top up with club soda.

I think you could add more cardamom syrup than 4 tsp, as we taste tested both versions and didn't taste much a difference. I haven't yet figured out how to get the mint leaves to stay at the bottom of the glass. Maybe I should just keep them on the stalk and just submerge that. Does anyone know?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

History Bites: Salt


Salt on Flickr by beFOODled.

I read the other day that the word salt has its roots in Ancient Rome. Roman soldiers were sometimes paid in salt, hence the word salary, from the Roman salaria. The word salt is also derived from this term. Salt was one of the hot commodities of the ancient world because it was used as a preservative, and in those days food often travelled for a long long time over large distances. It's difficult to imagine being paid a mere seasoning for all my hard work. As much as I love the stuff, let's face it: salt is cheap and omnipresent, as demonstrated by people like me who spill it without a second thought. But if the Ancient Romans could see us tossing it around liberally as we do today, I wonder what they would think...

Thursday, June 7, 2007

The Saturday Night Befoodies: Mexican Night


Buen provecho! Last weekend we attended what I hope will be a long-lasting tradition. It was the first potluck dinner of the Saturday Night Befoodies (my temporary name for us). S and I have found great friends who love to cook and eat as much as we do. Every month we are going to get together and have an international feast. For our first time, we all paid homage to Mexican food.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Bean hosted this time. They made a beautiful mole, a dish which Squeaky discovered at the Tulip Festival and has raved about ever since. Here's a photo of the mole, simmering away.
Would you believe the sauce is made with chocolate and three kinds of roasted chili peppers? An unlikely combination, unless one already knows the secrets of Mexican food or has watched Juliette Binoche in Chocolat. There's also bread and tortillas in it. It tasted as good as it sounds. Peanut Butter is going to e-mail me the link to this recipe so stay tuned. Squeaky and Calimocho brought some delicious guacamole and tons of enchiladas, and S and I brought a salsa salad and a Spanish paella.

Before we celebrated Mexico with its food, PB and J served a traditional drink called Mexican Flag.
Mexican Flag
shot 1: sangrita (tomato juice, orange juice, worcestershire, tobasco sauce, lime juice)
shot 2: tequila
shot 3: freshly squeezed lime juice.
Take a sip of each shot and let them blend in your mouth before swallowing. It's so much nicer than the usual salt and lime routine.

Here's a pic of the paella, and also a shot of PB and J's dining room that is so nice that I had to photograph it, too:





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