Monthly Archives: February 2011
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.
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.
5 Comments | tags: cumin, curry, curry chicken, garam masala, india, indian cuisine | posted in Asian, Chicken, Indian
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!
5 Comments | tags: maple syrup recipes, pesto, pistachios, Salmon, seafood | posted in Fish and Meat
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!
3 Comments | tags: apples, barley, cleanse, cranberry, curry, detox, diet, pearl barley, recipe, Salad, side dish, vegetarian | posted in Side Dishes, Soups and Salads, Vegetarian
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
3 Comments | tags: chicken satay, dog treats, homemade, nuts, peanut butter, peanuts, recipe | posted in Vegetarian
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 🙂
9 Comments | tags: flax seeds, fruit, healthy, nuts, scones | posted in Breads and Quickbreads
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
2 Comments | tags: breakfast, jam, pancakes, raspberry syrup, recipe | posted in Breads and Quickbreads, Breakfast
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
2 Comments | tags: bulghur wheat, cranberry, lebanese, middle eastern food, parsley, pumpkin seeds, recipe, Salad, taboui, taboulleh | posted in Appetizers, Lebanese Food, Side Dishes, Soups and Salads, Vegetarian
I’ve tried and tasted dozens of chocolate chip cookie recipes over the years and licked my fair share of batter from a spatula or bowl, though this is the winner hands-down. It is chewy, betcha-can’t-eat-just-one-addictive and is guaranteed to make you crave a cold glass of milk.
I’ve modified the recipe from one found in my very first cookbook, a dog-eared copy of Betty Crocker that my mom bestowed upon me the year I moved out. The pages are yellow and stained from the splatter of ingredients. The best recipes can always be found hidden between pages that have stuck together over time. My mom’s endearing, hand-written message on the inside cover always makes me smile. How did she know that I would eventually grow to love cooking, at a time when all I could muster up from my repertoire was grilled cheese and Kraft Dinner? Thanks Mom.
3 Comments | tags: Chocolate, chocolate chip, cookies, dark chocolate, dessert, maple cookies, maple syrup, recipe | posted in Chocolate, Desserts
I picked up butternut squash last week with the intention of making homemade squash ravioli, but recovering from a busy work week and a rainy Saturday, I opted for something a little less ambitious to prepare – Butternut Squash Soup. This tasty soup with its hint of cumin warms up the insides on a winter’s day and also makes for a quick, healthy lunch during the week ahead. No roast beef sandwiches for at least three days!
There are a lot of squash soup recipes available online, but I find the taste of most of these sometimes too bland for my liking. In the past I’ve added apple sauce to my soup, though here I’ve chosen to go with apple cider vinegar and carrots instead, for that same subtle sweetness. I also roasted the squash beforehand with oil, cumin, cayenne and fresh thyme, for extra flavour. If you’re like my mom and don’t like cumin you can substitute this with rosemary or sage.
My dad and younger brother picking pumpkins and squash last fall
Freshly-picked butternut squash
Leave a comment | tags: butternut squash, butternut squash soup, cumin, healthy, recipe, Soup, soups | posted in Soups and Salads, Vegetarian
Whenever I think of maple sugar cream fudge, or sucre a la creme, I think of two things. First, of my mom guiltily sneaking samples from the fudge vendor at Saltspring’s Summer Market when my step dad isn’t looking. Being raised in Quebec, her favourite flavour is naturally maple. I also think of Quebec during the winter holidays, of the late night festivities during reveillon and of the doting French Canadian women who serve platter after platter of food and stare you down until your plate is wiped clean. The food is mouth-watering and worthy of a Lipitor commercial it is so artery-clogging. Sometimes, you’ll find a few unexpected menu items at these dinners, like Cheese Whiz served on hot dog buns or on white bread without crusts, or mini hot dogs in sauce. All in all, though, French Canadians serve up exquisite desserts that’ll leave you with a sugar high: you’ll get to splurge on homemade doughnuts and cakes drizzled in maple toffy and of course, my favourite, maple sugar cream.
If you haven’t yet had the privilege of being invited to a reveillon, I’ll describe one to you. Usually taking place around Christmas or New Year’s Eve, reveillon is an all-night, family-friendly house party with limitless food and alcohol, traditional music and plenty of cheek-kissing. When entering the person’s home and after the customary two-cheek kiss, the host will normally take one’s boots or footwear and toss them into the bathtub where they’ll sit with a dozen other pairs, likely the cleanest method of containing the slushy mess from outdoors. The newly arrived will make the tour of the room, exchanging pleasantries and many more cheek-kisses until their lips are well-chapped. Continue reading
2 Comments | tags: dessert, french canadian, fudge, maple sugar cream, maple syrup, Quebec, reveillon, sucre a la creme, white chocolate | posted in Chocolate, Desserts
Gung Hay Fat Choy – Happy Chinese New Year everyone!
Although a great excuse to head down to your city’s Chinatown for some Dim Sum, Chinese New Year is also a celebration of the beginning of spring after a long dreary winter, and a time to get together with family and friends and then complain about the weather. Children are taught to be on their best behaviour, particularly on the first day of the new year, as they are told that what happens that first day, whether in action or in thought, will decide the course of the year. This is a nice and refreshing change from the typical North American tradition, where January 1st usually begins with a hangover and two Aspirin.
The great thing about the Chinese New Year is that it doesn’t carry with it the same burden or pressure for self improvement, with lists of resolutions and tiresome commitments. This means no new gym memberships. No vices to break. No need to stop swearing while I drive, to cease biting my nails, or to refrain from drinking directly from the milk carton. Already this is a holiday that I’m warming up to.
To celebrate the Year of the Rabbit, I cooked and ate my first rabbit ever. I also went snowboarding for the first time and stayed mostly on the bunny slopes, though admittedly the connection with the Chinese zodiac is a bit of a stretch. In attempt to recognize the tradition at home, I decided to create my own fortune, by inserting prophetic pearls of wisdom inside homemade fortune cookies that looked close enough to the ones brought out on the bill tray at Don Mees. To carry on the tradition that was always used in my family, don’t forget to use the words “in bed” after reading your fortune aloud.
May the Year of the Rabbit bring you good fortune, happiness…and no gym memberships.
2 Comments | tags: asian, chinese new year, chinese zodiac, cookie, dessert, Fortune cookies, new year | posted in Asian, Desserts
Or Wascally Wabbit Pie, if you can say it in an Elmer Fudd accent.
For over a week my friend Daniel and I had been putting our minds to a unique dish that we could cook up on our Sunday Night Test Kitchen and we both independently arrived at “rabbit”, which was an odd coincidence. Or maybe not. Last week was the start of Chinese New Year and also the Year of the Rabbit, which means that if you were born now you’d be moody, detached, self-assured and stubborn, or so I read. A Chinese-Canadian colleague assured me that eating a zodiac animal wouldn’t actually be offensive or sacrilegious, so we were safe to proceed with the meal without risking death threats from moody and detached newborns. Rabbit also seems a fitting choice for those of us who live in Victoria, where hospital grounds and university campuses are littered with so many Bambis and Thumpers that they resemble a Disney cartoon. This has been of particular concern to the University of Victoria (a.k.a. Watership Down), afraid that the many rabbit warrens chiselled like refugee tunnels under the soccer field would give way during a game. The rabbits are also a huge distraction to students during exam time, with their cute antics and tennis-ball shaped babies. Instead of using the rabbits in the cafeteria as the mystery meat of the week, the University tackled this pest problem by shipping scores of bunnies to other locations, including a rabbit sanctuary in Texas.
In preparation for this meal, I didn’t sneak onto university grounds at night with carrots and a gym bag; instead I ordered two vaccuum-sealed, frozen rabbits from a farm in Quebec, which shipped to my local grocer here in British Columbia. They’re a little pricey (about $22 each), which is probably more than one might pay at the pet store for an actual living one.
The experience of eating rabbit was a little anticlimactic, although it tasted superb. I was expecting a taste that was gamey and new – a throwback to the meals our ancestors hunted and ate just a few generations ago. Instead, all I could think about was Hannibal Lector, comparing the taste to chicken. At dinner, Daniel recounted an anecdote about his grandmother growing up on a farm in rural Quebec. Her parents kept rabbits caged in the yard in order to feed the many hungry mouths when times were lean, although the children were lied to and told it was chicken. Apparently, even before Disney cartoons inculcated young minds into believing furry animals could sing showtunes and be our best friends, children still had an aversion to eating rabbit.
This recipe looks and tastes similar to chicken pot pie, although it’s made in a very traditional French Canadian way by baking the entire pot in the oven with a single pastry layer on top, instead of in double-crust pie form. Many pies, including my favourite Tourtiere or meat pie, were made this way in the 1800’s in Quebec. This meal is time intensive, but if you have 3 hours free with friends and have plenty of appetizers and wine handy, this will be enjoyable and unique to your guests. Bon Appetit! Continue reading
1 Comment | tags: chicken pot pie, parsnips, pastry dough, pie, rabbit, rabbit pie, turnips | posted in Breads and Quickbreads, Fish and Meat, Pies
I’ve made a lot of apple pies over the years, but tonight I felt like making Apple Galette – a slightly different variation of a classic dessert with a French twist. It tastes similar to apple pie and isn’t really any more time-consuming to prepare, though the galette’s presentation is much more elegant.
Whenever I think of apple pie, what comes to mind isn’t exactly Thanksgiving or holidays as one might expect. I’m usually brought back to the memory of two vociferous budgies I once owned and to an old friend from my days at the Royal London Wax Museum. I used to bake this friend apple pies in exchange for his frequent bird-sitting services whenever I went on vacation.
The year that I started working there, I had just finished reading The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins and was intrigued by its Napoleonic villain, Count Fosco, whose eccentric habits included taming canaries and perching them on his shoulders to sing sweet songs in his ear. Young, misguided and easily impressionable, I thought that taming canaries would also be a sure-fire way to impress a prospective girlfriend I had invited for dinner that very weekend. I convinced myself how smitten she would be with my feathered menagerie of yellow friends and also with me as their modest but proud father/trainer; so I coaxed my roommate to drive me to the pet store that afternoon. Ignorant of birds and lacking a substantial budget, I ended up with two cacophonous budgies who squawked without pitch or melody all day long, much to the dismay of my neighbours, instead of ending up with the sweet-sounding canaries I had hoped for. The girl never did end up coming over and the only trick I was ever able to teach my budgies was to eat from my hand, a far cry from the Cinderella scene I had envisioned.
Whatever apple pie means to you, whether budgies, family dinners or the gratuitous scene from American Pie, try this apple dessert out instead as a break from the ordinary.
3 Comments | tags: apple, apple galette, apple pie, cinnamon, dessert, recipe, thanksgiving | posted in Breads and Quickbreads, Desserts