Monthly Archives: February 2011

Curry Chicken and Flavoured Basmati Rice

I’ve been begging my friend Luke for a few months now to let me post some of his recipes. Although you might never guess it by hearing him talk excitedly about hockey or speaking in his gruff manner, Luke is one of the biggest foodies I know and the embodiment of the word “gourmet”. He cooks like a master chef and takes great pride in his kitchen, his ingredients and in the thoughtful presentation of his dishes. He is also one of the few people I know who makes an effort to properly pair his food with wines and he always asks for the freshest catch when selecting his fish, unlike normal people who normally don’t think twice.

When he phoned me up yesterday night to try some of his chicken curry dish that he had been sweating over for the afternoon, I knew better than to decline. He is a wonderful chef when it comes to regular meals, but with Indian food he has a remarkable skill. I’ll hand things off to Luke to share this flavourful, exotic recipe.

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Hi all,

I’m not a chef by any means, but I do like to eat well, which to me means healthy, seasonal food cooked fresh — therefore I cook.  I am also tired of eating out at restaurants and suffering the consequences, both financial and gastro-intestinal.

After a recent trip to India, and in light of our recent cold weather, I find myself craving hearty, healthy dishes that instantly warm me and maybe even make me sweat a little. This particular recipe stems from a past relationship with a woman of Indian descent who, after my persistent begging and pleading, explained the general guidelines and instructions — because no such “recipe” exists — to create the flavours that never quite resemble her mom’s wonderful and traditional Saturday night meal. That being said, it is a close rendition that I am proud to make and I believe the taste exceeds that of any “authentic” Indian restaurant in my little city.

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Pistachio Crusted Salmon with Maple and Pesto

My Cuisinart food processor has been getting a lot of action lately. With it I’ve discovered the splendours of homemade marinades and sauces by wildly pulsing together ginger, garlic and lemon juice with other random ingredients lurking in the recesses of my fridge. Last night I made a zesty, Cuban-inspired mango mojo sauce with grilled tuna flank, by pureeing mango with lemon, orange juice and hot pepper – Muy bueno!

Tonight, I’m searching for inspiration from the sea once more with this dish. It combines some of my favourite ingredients: salmon, maple syrup, pesto and pistachios. The pistachios have been beckoning me from the bottom shelf of my cupboard for a few months and although I originally intended pairing them with halibut, I couldn’t resist the beautiful and fresh salmon fillets that were on sale yesterday. Enjoy!

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Curried Barley Salad with Apples and Pecans

Today I had an intervention with myself. Lately I’ve been feeling lethargic, unmotivated and frankly a little flabby, so I decided that tomorrow I will wipe clean the slate of my eating habits and detox with a 7-day cleanse. No more muffins during coffee break and no more sneaking handfuls of Hershey’s Kisses in the afternoon when I’m in need of a pick-me-up. I’ve given myself at least a day to prepare mentally for the challenge and to also finish off any remaining bacon, Fig Newtons or dark chocolate in my house so that my rumbling belly won’t be tempted in the days to come.

Tomorrow I will fill my fridge with green leafy things and stock up on essentials like yams, beets, quinoa and even the black wild rice that tastes like twigs. I will wash the grime from my unused water bottle and make an effort to actually drink from it throughout the day, instead of only using it to fill my iron or to water hard-to-reach houseplants.  I’ll freeze any leftover bread, as it will be forbidden fruit to me over the next 7 days, as will be my Monday morning emotional crutch and companion – coffee. I pity my poor coworkers on Monday.

The cleanse I bought is the ReCleanse Herbal Cleanse and Detox. It is probably very mild compared to others on the market and it’s suitable for someone like me who needs to consume enough calories in order not to throw a tantrum from low blood sugar whenever Microsoft Outlook acts up. It requires taking mild herbal pills, drinking enough water to substantially lower one’s productivity at work, and refraining from eating certain foods such as bread products, dairy (except natural plain yogourt), alcohol, coffee and refined sugars. I do this cleanse a few times a year, usually when the seasons change, and after seven days I feel stronger, happier and healthier. It usually also sets my eating patterns on the right course for another few months and saves me money from not splurging at the coffee shop across the street from work.

The secret to making it through till the seventh day is to always have healthy snacks at the ready. I’ve got such little food willpower that this is integral for me. To help get me through the first few days, tonight I made a delicious batch of curried barley salad with apples, cranberries and pecans.  It tastes fine warm, but even better as a cold lunch the next day. Enjoy!

Pearl Barley

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How to Make Peanut Butter

While I am typically not a huge fan of peanuts, unless I’m eating them off of a countertop with a pint of beer, I could live quite happily off peanut butter.

A friend of mine who is a chef at a local restaurant forbids bringing peanut butter into his house out of principle. I’ve seen him become red-faced and indignant at the mere mention of it, as he thinks it unsophisticated and barely passable for food, like Cheese Whiz or Twinkies. He may not be alone when it comes to this contentious legume and its creamy spread. Allergies have given peanuts such a bad rap that they are banned from schools and office buildings as if they were something illicit or leprous.  It’s true that they’re not as sexy as the macadamia or as versatile as the almond, and in assorted nut mixtures, they’re always picked last – the fat kid of nuts. But don’t be so quick to judge the lowly peanut.

I always carry a large, Costco-sized container of peanut butter in my cupboard. As a runner, I find it a quick, energy rich food for before or after a workout. As an oft-lazy weeknight cook, I’ll whip together a peanut butter jam sandwich, or will plop down on the couch after work, spoon in hand, and eat directly from the container as if it were a tub of Rocky Road ice cream.

Not from fiscal necessity, but rather out of curiosity, I wanted to see how easy it would be to make my own peanut butter at home.  I’m not  a huge fan of the crunchy, thick stuff they sell in health food stores, so I decided to dispense with the “all natural” and add a bit of sugar and oil for increased taste and added creaminess. The ingredient list is sparse: roasted peanuts, salt, oil and sugar, though if you prefer natural peanut butter perhaps leave out or reduce the last two ingredients.

I picked up a bag of peanuts at the grocery store tonight and felt a little self conscious, like I was buying a Playboy or tampons for a girlfriend. After all, no one buys peanuts anymore except old ladies with purple-dyed hair who feed squirrels in the park.

This recipe couldn’t be more satisfying and was well worth the arched-eyebrow look from the pale-faced cashier tonight. In less than 5 minutes I had a cup full of creamy peanut butter that cost pennies and tasted as good as anything store-bought. Kids, try this at home. Continue reading


Fruit, Flax and Nut Scones

This recipe was a bit of an adventure for me. A local bakery makes absolutely out-of-this-world fruit and flax seed scones which I make a daily pilgrimage (albeit, a short one) to buy every day. I am obsessed. They are not like a typical scone – they are dense and brimming with healthy goodness (or, that is what I tell myself when I eat one every day without fail).

Regardless, this is my attempt to reverse-engineer (I’ve always wanted to say I was reverse-engineering something) these fantastic scones. Feel free to suggest any changes you make to it that work for you! I would love to evolve it further, but am pretty pleased with how these turned out for a first attempt. These have lots of energy-rich ingredients, and are great for a healthy, filling snack in the middle of the day. Enjoy with full-bodied black tea for best results 🙂

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Buttermilk Pancakes with Raspberry Syrup

I’ve never understood people who can start their day with nothing more in their bellies than a banana or slice of toast. I would be irritable from low blood sugar by 9 am and fainting by noon. Although typical Lumberjack breakfasts are too much for me, I do enjoy sitting down to a hearty breakfast washed down with a cup or two of coffee. Sunday breakfasts are sublime when the sun is shining warmly through the kitchen windows and the meal is accompanied by a crossword puzzle and a CBC broadcast in the background. My usual breakfast fare for the past few months has been blueberries, yogourt and granola, though occasionally on weekends – and in particular after a long run – I’ll risk messying the kitchen for a plateful of pancakes.

Pancakes remind me of childhood breakfasts, where my parents would whip together flapjacks from a box of Bisquick dry mix. Even now, when I visit my parents, my step dad will bring out blueberry or banana pancakes drizzled in maple syrup with a side of crispy bacon. At Christmas, we were allowed to open stockings first thing in the morning, though the holiday tradition required us to sit down for pancakes before we could actually start shredding through gift wrapping. Needless to say, we ate very quickly and our legs twitched with anticipation throughout the meal.

Pancakes are delicious when slathered in butter and syrup, but for something different try it with a homemade fruit syrup, such as raspberry or strawberry. Continue reading


Cranberry Tabouli with Pumpkin Seeds

I used to be very pretentious when it came to Lebanese food. If I went to a Greek or Middle Eastern restaurant and came across a dish that didn’t look the way my grandmother used to make it, I’d put on airs and make faces with every bite, like a fussy child. At a work potluck recently, someone brought in stuffed grape vine leaves filled with pork, instead of lamb, and I gave them the cold shoulder for nearly a week.

Tabouli has always been one of the greatest offenders, as there are countless variations on its preparation (and spelling), many of which sadly involve being too stingy on parsley. Grocery store tabouli is one culprit: it consists mainly of bulghur wheat and offers the same satisfaction as munching on kitty litter (I’m guessing). My preference is to throw in heaps of parsley, cucumber and tomato, and making a complete meal out of it. The trouble is that I’m sometimes too lazy to undertake the lengthy task of finely chopping 2 bunches of parsley. I own a food processor, but with tabouli is just feels like cheating.

This easy-to-make recipe is a far cry from my Sito’s tabouli, but requires much less preparation and chopping. Although taking liberties with the classic Middle Eastern salad – and hopefully not offending the omnipotent Tabouli Gods by doing so – I know you won’t be disappointed with this version. I’ve reduced the parsley amounts and replaced the other ingredients with roasted pumpkin seeds and cranberries for a pleasant tartness. I’ve still used bulghur wheat here, but it would taste equally good with couscous or quinoa instead. If my grandmother ever asks, this will be our little secret. Shh. Continue reading