Tag Archives: recipe

Curried Lentil Soup

Last night my friend Janelle requested a soup recipe so that she could have something hearty to eat during her long hospital shiftwork this week. I’m not envious of nurses for many reasons, particularly because they have to handle needles, catheters and are exposed to dangerously high levels of Jello. My poor stomach couldn’t handle the ever-changing meal schedule, week to week, of rotating shift workers. Even with the time change of one hour a few weeks ago, my stomach was left gurgling in confused exasperation for much too long.

During my cleanse a few weeks ago I made this delicious lentil soup twice within a matter of days. Lentil soup is one of my favourites – I love its consistency, colour and wonderful earthy flavours. I also feel very self-righteous when eating something as nutritionally rich as lentils. This is a spicier version of a basic lentil recipe, which gives a slight tingle to the esophagus on the way down. Not in a reach-for-the-pepto-bismal kind of way, but rather like the sensation of eating chicken tandoori; the subtle heat has an addictive quality and the curry powder nicely complements the lentils. You may want to double the batch to be safe, as it will go quickly.

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I-Can’t-Believe-its-Not-Pasta Spaghetti Squash Casserole

My parents are liars. I just found out that they used to feed me spaghetti squash when I was a kid under the guise of it being pasta. What trickery! All that I believed to be true in this world has been shaken and questioned. What other facts of my life, once the foundation of my existence, are also untrue? Was my dad’s famous Chicken Cacciatore really just cleverly disguised rutabaga? Was he really a boiler Engineer by day as we were all led to believe, or was he an international spy or arms dealer?

I don’t yet have children, but I wonder if I’ll perpetuate the same little white food lies in the name of tricking young, picky palates with healthy foods – a kind of veggie Trojan Horse to lower their irrational defences. I probably will, as I’ve been told we all fall prey to the same devices as our well-meaning parents. I forgive you, Mom. Had I known your were trying to feed me a vegetable, I would probably have feigned insult or nausea and fallen out of my high chair in disgust. I know my childhood diet of Lucky Charms cereal and Captain Highliner Fishsticks must have been difficult to overcome.

It’s easy to see how my unsuspecting brother and I could have been so easily duped. Spaghetti Squash is true to its name in that it really does pass for pasta. Italian children, likely possessing a more evolved appreciation for pasta, would probably smell the ruse a mile away and push their plates away with a haughty air – “Ma-ma, what eez zis sporcizia?!” (unfortunately, all my ethnic impersonations end up sounding Parisian).

When prepared right, the taste is uncanny and offers a healthy, low carb alternative to pasta. When cooked, its flesh falls away like strips of spaghetti.  Last weekend I witnessed this firsthand during a family visit to Saltspring Island, where my mom and I prepared this healthy squash casserole. No matter how you cook it though, you may still want to call it spaghetti if serving to kids. And don’t forget to hide the peas in the mashed potato, while you’re at it.

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Healthy Indian Chickpea Curry

I spent this weekend on Saltspring Island visiting my folks and playing with their new Suffolk lambs that were born last week. Lambs are very docile within the first few weeks, letting themselves be picked up and cuddled; but they’re voraciously hungry, nibbling on clothing, shoelaces, an extended finger, or the dog’s tail. Thankfully, my mom’s sheep are for wool only, not for serving with mint sauce. She would just as soon make a stew from her Golden Doodle than send her sheep down the Green Mile.

My sister has been sick for a few days, so my mom proposed a cooking marathon on Sunday to prepare some healthy food to bring over. Cooking there is always a pleasure, except when baking is involved; my mom’s Aga stove, with its many compartments of varying temperatures, perplexes me and thwarts any attempt to adhere to standard cooking times. She has an immense, well-lit kitchen with ample counter space and breath-taking ocean views. Every few hours a ferry will trod past, weaving in and out of the Gulf Islands, or a pair of eagles will careen in the wind as they eye up waterfowl.

Aga stove: each compartment is a different temperature which I still can't figure out

This healthy and tasty meal has loose ties to a recipe my mom found in the Flat Belly Diet book that’s she’s been carrying around like a holy text. She’s been on a fitness kick for the past few months and has been very proud of the results. The epitome of modest, when someone comes to visit she’ll say something like “Feel my arms,” as she flexes her biceps and scowls. “The beach is that way.”

We’ve added the yogourt here, for a healthier alternative to coconut milk, and the pineapple gives the dish a surprisingly sweet taste that compliments the heat of the curry. Enjoy!

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Homemade Strawberry-Raspberry Jam

Jam is so easy and pleasurable to make that it’s a wonder why everyone doesn’t do it. The smell of strawberries cooking can transform a kitchen and for me it is reminiscent of childhood. It brings back a stream of happy, unrelated summertime memories: of lying listlessly in the dusty baseball field, knees scraped after a game; of running barefoot through an un-mowed lawn chasing my brother; of brachiating through tree branches like a simian; or of trading baseball cards, marbles and double-dare handshakes after spitting into our palms, which is really the only way this kind of handshake can be considered legit.

Store-bought jam is just jam; it is devoid of sentiment and symbolism. It is the one-night-stand of preserves. Homemade jam, on the other hand, carries with it a sort of precious timelessness. In this world of racy politics, recessions, earthquakes and grey hair, there is something almost medicinal in taking twenty minutes to stoop over the rolling boil of cooking berries and be swept back in time.

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Seared Tuna with Mango-Lime Mojo

I’ve finally found my Mojo. No, not the Austin Powers kind, but the saucy citrusy kind that originates from Cuba. It’s pronounced “mo-ho”, not “mo-jo”, the libido giving force made popular by shag carpet-chested Mike Myers, so you shouldn’t get too many strange looks when you tell people what you had for dinner as long as you say it right. Mojo is a tangy sauce made of citrus, garlic and traditionally lots of oil; though I’ve made a healthier version here with less oil and a welcome addition using my favourite fruit, mango. I love mangoes; I eat them dried, candied, juiced, frozen, in sorbets, and have even had them freshly fallen from a tree. From the small house in rural Thailand where I lived one summer, I remember hearing periodic bangs on the corrugated roofs of neighbours, which marked the sound of ripe mangoes being shaken from the trees by hungry children with long wooden sticks, clamouring for dessert.

This sauce is a delightful accompaniment to grilled pork, prawns or fish. I picked up tuna flank from the grocer this afternoon and marinated it in herbs and oil before sauteeing it very briefly, slicing and then serving with a generous drizzling of mojo.

Mojo is actually short for Mojito, which is unrelated to the drink – though the drink would be a perfect, refreshing beverage for this meal.  Continue reading


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


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


Double Chocolate Chip Maple Cookies

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.

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Valentine’s Day Butternut Squash Soup with Cumin and Thyme

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

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Mouth-Watering Apple Galette

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.

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Portobello Mushrooms with Honey-Garlic Glaze

Portobello mushrooms are still foreign enough to me that I usually pass them by in the grocery store without much consideration, like kumquats or celeriac. I’m sure I’m not alone, as the cashier gave me a quizzical look when she peered in the brown paper bag at check out, unsure of its contents. I’m trying however to be bolder in the kitchen and to seek out new items in the produce section that would normally seem daunting. Fennel root and jicama, here I come!

Although portobellos have been strangers to my countertop in the past, I actually do like mushrooms; I eat them raw, toss them into risottos and stir fry’s and always admire the striking orange chanterelles in wicker baskets at fall markets, flecked with earth and dew. Portobellos (or Portabellas, if you prefer) are large, meaty and extremely versatile; and although they are reminiscent of the large toadstool from Alice in Wonderland, they are really just overgrown, brown crimini mushrooms in disguise.

I ate this dish for lunch, but it also makes for an excellent appetizer and visually-appealing side dish.  There’s a lot of garlic here – the recipe calls for an entire bulb –  but don’t cancel your evening plans just yet (although do make sure you have mouthwash on hand). The honey weakens the bite of the garlic, as well as adds such tremendous sweetness and flavour once cooked that the act of consuming it almost feels sinful. If I were a smoker, I would probably have lit up as soon I relinquished my fork…it was that pleasurable. Instead, I washed the dish down with a glass of our family’s home-made dessert Riesling wine, accompanied by a local Saltspring Camembert so fresh that it literally oozed with creaminess the moment I cut into it.

This recipe is so simple you’ll want to make it every week. The step that takes the longest is waiting for the oven to preheat to 500 degrees F. The ingredient quantities listed make enough glaze for 6 mushrooms, but I wouldn’t necessarily reduce quantities if you bought less than six mushrooms. I actually made more glaze than I needed and refrigerated the remainder; it can be used up to two weeks later for other delicious purposes, such as drizzling on vegetables (especially asparagus) before grilling or baking and also for marinating chicken.

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Homemade Tomato Soup with Pesto Grilled Cheese

There is something to be said for having comfort food to help get through the dreary and cold winter months. I’m not talking about Rocky Road ice cream or Oreos and a glass of milk, although that would probably work too. For me, what comes to mind is Campbell’s Tomato Soup and grilled cheese for dipping. Maybe it’s the rain or the lack of Vitamin D from Victoria’s cloudy climes, but I’ve been feeling particularly lazy and uninspired this past week and in desperate need of comfort food. I’m ashamed to admit that I had peanut butter and jam sandwiches for dinner three days last week and then bacon and eggs another time, which is very unlike me. So I’ve decided that something homey, healthy and relatively easy would be on the menu tonight to propel me through this next week on the right note.

Although tasty and inexpensive, Campbell’s soup was a little too easy tonight, so I tried to pull together something homemade that tasted close enough. I also love grilled cheese and have recently started putting a dab of pesto in the middle for some extra kick and have been experimenting with different cheeses to venture out of my Cheddar comfort zone. I didn’t have any regular pesto on hand, but at the back of the fridge was a jar of homemade pesto made from nettle plants that a friend from Saltspring Island had given me as a gift. For serving, call me crazy, but I get real enjoyment out of dipping my grilled cheese into the soup and then taking a bite of it when it’s warm and soggy. The perfect Sunday meal for eating while curled up on the couch in front of the TV. Continue reading


Dark Chocolate Dessert Risotto

I’ve had this recipe in mind since before Christmas, but have been waiting for the right moment and the right people to test it on. It’s based on a recipe that my friend Nathalie forwarded to me, though I’ve personalized it with several other ingredients, including beets to compensate for using less sugar and to give it a richer, darker colour, as well as some coconut milk and rum for additional flavours. So much for my resolution to eat better in the new year.

When my friends Daniel and Danielle invited me to Sunday dinner tonight, I knew it would be the perfect opportunity to bring this dessert. Daniel is one of the best cooks I know – each dinner party is always replete with bold, flavourful meals, good Italian wine and lots of laughs. But as he was making chicken tikka with some of his home-roasted and ground marsala spices, I knew that any accompanying dish I contributed to the evening would have to be worthy enough as a following act.

Don’t be scared off by the thought of eating rice for dessert – it’s like rice pudding, but with sinful chocolatey goodness. I guarantee this will be a hit!

Serves 6. Preparation and cook time: 30 minutes

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Easy to Make Tuna Sushi Rolls

I don’t know what it’s like where you come from, but here in Victoria, British Columbia we have seen some strange health trends over the past few years (Vancouverites, I know you’ll agree): a cult-like obsession with yoga and form-fitting Lululemon pants, a substantial market of people who are willing to pay over $6 for a small loaf of organic bread containing enough seeds to keep the local bird population thriving through the winter…and then there is Sushimania, where the health-conscious pay through the nose for rice, seaweed and fish that the chef was too lazy to cook. Although I do enjoy things Japanese – the food, the tea ceremonies, the culture – and have voraciously read the novel Shogun, I have a difficult time paying such a hefty bill for something so inexpensive to make at home. I do that with coffee already and feel guilty enough.

A Japanese friend of mine showed me how to make very basic tuna sushi rolls which take under 30 minutes to prepare and only cost about $5 for enough rolls to plump up a roomful of hungry Victorians. There are many different ways to prepare Sushi, but this is one of the simplest rolls I’ve found, so it’s a good entry-level dish before attempting the preparation of eel, puffer fish or fish roe that pop in your mouth and set off the gag reflex.

Although sushi is relatively cheap to make, you’ll have to invest in a few inexpensive tools and ingredients that should last you a while: Continue reading


Fattoosh – Lebanese Herb and Toasted Pita Bread Salad

Ten days into 2011 and my resolve to eat healthier has not yet abandoned me completely, except for the short-lived Ferrero Rocher that I found in my jacket pocket this afternoon. In addition to starting a 21-day yoga challenge today to whip myself into shape, tonight I also decided to delve into my ancestry for a healthy and creative salad  – Fattoosh. I don’t normally get much satisfaction from eating salads; they are too light and unfilling, too limp and without personality, and they always leave me with dressing down my shirt – though this Levantine dish which sounds liked a sneeze makes other salads wilt in shame. The ingredient list for this salad reads very much like that for its close relative, tabouli (also recommended), except Fattoosh uses romaine lettuce, ground sumac for tartness and hardened pieces of pita bread crumbled in, originally conceived as a practical use for stale bread besides using it as a middle eastern frisbee.

Sumac is an ingredient that is hard to come by here in Victoria – at least I haven’t found it – though you may be in luck if you live near a middle eastern grocer. Sumac always makes me think about an ill-planned entrepreneurial endeavour from my high school days, when my best friend Jon and I ground up the fuzzy red berries from the sumac tree in my backyard, rolled them up in cigarette paper, and sold them to our grade 8 friends under the brand name “Smacs”. They tasted pleasantly sour and fruity when inhaled, though the trend never caught on with our peers. I wouldn’t advise trying this at home, but I do highly recommend that you add this spice to your kitchen collection for the purpose of cooking. If you can’t find it, I’ve added a variation to the recipe using lemon zest, which tastes close enough. Continue reading


Koosa – Stuffed Summer Squash


Like the stuffed grape vine leaves, the stuffed squash, Koosa, is another Lebanese favourite. My mother’s first vegetable garden this year on Saltspring Island was almost wholly devoted to growing this unique vegetable. The recipe can be done with regular-sized squash or zucchini, although this family recipe has always traditionally been done with small, pale green or summer squash.

Ingredients:

15 small squash (or other squash), hollowed
1 Lb. lean ground lamb or beef
1 cup rice
1 can of tomato juice (4-5 cups)
Juice from 2 lemons
1-2 tsp. salt
Freshly ground pepper, cinnamon and allspice Continue reading


Chicken Piccata with Capers

This afternoon I went for a long walk around the lake and by kilometre six I was so ravenous with hunger that all I could think about was Italian chicken piccata and a cold Perrier. Despite how the name sounds to those that speak the Romance Languages, this dish isn’t spicy or piquant at all – piccata actually refers to the way the meat is prepared: sauteed and served in a sauce of butter, lemon, spices and parsley. This dish can be made with chicken or veal, though my preference is the former; and it uses four of my favourite ingredients in the pan sauce that accompanies it: freshly-squeezed lemon juice, cilantro, wine and capers. When all four are used together in one recipe, the aroma makes me delirious and misty-eyed. It is really that good, I swear. The other great thing about this dish is the heavy whacking involved in the preparation of the meat, to flatten it out before dredging it in batter. A perfect way to blow off steam, pounding the cutlets can be done with either a meat tenderizer, rolling pin or heavy Ayn Rand novel. Continue reading


Blackened Halibut with Mango Salsa

I just returned home from a week-long trip to Quebec for the holidays where I had the opportunity to sample some fantastic French Canadian cuisine during reveillon (essentially an all-night celebration and buffet of artery-clogging treats), including tourtiere, maple fudge and home made doughnuts drizzled in a type of maple taffy. Coming back home 5 pounds heavier, I resolved to detox for at least a week on fruits, veggies and lots of fish.

While waiting for a seaplane back to Vancouver Island yesterday, I stood drooling at a Cajun halibut dish from a restaurant menu nearby, as I had skipped lunch on board the Air Canada flight from Montreal; and several hours later I found myself picking out the best looking halibut fillet from the seafood counter at the local grocer with this meal in mind.  It is visually appealing in its colour and packs a mouthful of sinus-clearing kick from the Cajun-style spices. Continue reading


Lebanese Chicken and Hashweh (beef and rice)

In the event that you ever need to determine whether or not a person is of Lebanese descent, say if you’re a diplomat, international spy or want to learn a new party trick, there is a litmus test that almost never lies. A Lebanese nose is usually distinctly-shaped; but if that fails, look them in the eye and ask the individual in question about the Seven Spices. No, this isn’t middle eastern code. It refers to a combination of spices that are found, or should be found, in every Lebanese kitchen. It is made up of equal parts black pepper, cinnamon, allspice, ground cloves, ground nutmeg, fenugreek and powdered ginger. One can find these pre-mixed at middle eastern grocers or, if you’re in a hurry and short on ingredients, try the Three Spice version: allspice, pepper and cinnamon, which tastes nearly as good. These spices are an integral part of the recipe below, which has been in my grandmother’s repertoire for 92 years (except for the Uncle Ben rice part, of course). Continue reading


The Best Low Fat Banana Bread You Will Ever Have

Mmmm. Best eaten warm.

The best banana bread ever? And low fat, to boot?

Yes, I know that is a tall claim. But I swear by this recipe. The only problem with it is my inability to stop myself from single-handedly eating both loaves within 24 hours (I fail every time). Interestingly, I actually hate bananas. I don’t like eating them on their own, but I am able to stand them if I add minimal amounts of it to bread. Therefore, my banana bread is light on the banana, but heavy on the bread. I always add a package of chopped walnuts, but whatever works best for you. I prefer to bake them in mini loafpans, because there is some forced portion control (not that it does any good in my case). But smaller is also just cuter. In any case, regardless of load size, enjoy! Continue reading


Salmon Wellington with Dijon Cream

We eat a lot of salmon in our household – we’ve never been big red meat eaters and living on the West Coast of British Columbia provides ample access to fresh fish. This being said, we’ve started running out of creative ways to prepare salmon, bringing us to the brink of giving up on seafood out of boredom, for chicken which can be prepared in a variety of ways. This is pure culinary laziness on my part – as you’ll see from this easy recipe below which serves up salmon in a refreshingly different, restaurant-calibre way. Continue reading


Indian Butter Chicken

My friend Nathalie loves Indian food, so I decided to have her over for a pre-Christmas meal tonight; although we skipped the traditional North American ham or turkey for this fantastic Indian Butter Chicken dish. We’ve had Indian food now twice together since I’ve known her – which means that after tonight we’ve officially fallen into a pattern, albeit a tasty one. I’ve also had Indian food in the back of my mind this past week as I’ve been thinking often of an old friend, Kirti, who I haven’t seen in a few years. Kirti, an old classmate from graduate school, has just returned to India for the holidays for an arranged marriage; and although we haven’t stayed in touch since leaving academia, I’ve been picturing the wedding celebrations with a smidgeon of envy and wished I were there. Two of my Canadian friends, also MBA alum, are there now to witness and take part in the festivities.

Butter Chicken is a delicious meal that is surprisingly not difficult to make, considering the relatively large amount of ingredients and steps. There is a lot of prep time in the beginning, mostly just marinating the chicken in spices and then again in yogurt and additional spices. Different butter chicken recipes will call for a range of marinating times – times can also vary depending on how rushed you are. Keep in mind though that the longer the chicken soaks in the flavours from the garam masala and creamy yogurt the more tender it will be later on. The name of this dish actually comes from the “buttery tenderness” of the chicken and not from an abundance of butter as an ingredient – as you’ll see, there really isn’t that much butter here. Also, if you haven’t cooked with garam masala before you’re in for a treat. It’s literal translation is “hot mixture” and is a pungent, mouth watering blend of aromatic spices that is quite common in Indian and other South Asian cuisine. Bon appetit! Continue reading


Chewy Ginger Molasses Cookies

I don’t remember ever eating ginger molasses cookies growing up, though I do recall there always being a full, sticky carton of molasses in the cupboard. My brother and I used to dip a finger in to taste and then make a face, never learning apparently. It wasn’t until I first tried this cookie, years later at the local Starbucks, that I became a ginger junkie and a lover of molasses. Also, of late, whenever I go back to Quebec for a visit I get spoiled by family to the traditional French Canadian meal galettes de sarasin, or Buckwheat pancakes, which are rolled in pork and lard and dipped in nearly half a container of molasses it seems – these are to die for! Molasses redeemed!

I work with a great group of cooks and bakers on my office floor who are forever fattening the rest of us up with delicious treats – particularly around the holidays when different sugary platters beckon me every time I walk by the kitchen. Today someone brought in the chewiest homemade ginger molasses cookies I’ve ever sampled, so I immediately swiped a couple more and tried to greedily conserve my small stash throughout the day. Thanks Gaylynn. Bon Appetit! Continue reading


Moroccan Chicken Tagine with Prunes and Almonds

If I were asked what my favourite meal of all time is, I wouldn’t hesitate for a moment to tell you that it is chicken tagine. The taste alone is sublime and the exotic aroma from the spices lingers in my house for days after cooking and brings me back, each time that I walk in the door, to the labyrinthine medieval alleys and stalls of Marrakech souks. To further reminisce during the meal, I’ll usually bake some home-made pita bread and put out small, decorated tagine dishes of olives or apricots as well.

During my travels in Morocco, whether eating under a starry sky with the Bedouins in the Sahara, or crisping on a sunny rooftop patio restaurant, or basking in the unrivalled sensual delirium of the Marrakech Night Market, I dined on lamb or chicken tagine at least once daily – sometimes more. There is no other comparison to this meal. Continue reading


Mango Blackberry Brulee

I invited some friends over for a Moroccan tagine dinner tonight and was warned that one of them couldn’t eat gluten. There were a few desserts I wanted to make that stayed with the Moroccan theme, but was challenged to find one that I liked without that pesky gluten. In the end I settled on something completely different – a creme brulee variation. I’ve been eyeing up some ramekins (smallish oven-proof cups) to add to my kitchen collection and thought that a brulee would be a good excuse for the purchase and a nice way to break them in. It would also allow me to use the closest thing to a power tool in the kitchen: a brulee torch. Yes, I have home insurance. Continue reading


Easy Tabouli Salad

Tabouli was one of the first salads I ever ate when I was young. My grandmother, or Sito in Lebanese, always had a heaping bowl of it ready-in-waiting whenever we dropped by, like her tin of Peek Frean cookies that never seemed to deplete in stock. At every holiday dinner or event at the house of a relative, tabouli was also featured on the menu. To a child, the salad represented a colourful and visually appealing ensemble of greens and reds; as an adult, it is a healthy and tasty alternative to other side dishes.

Every weekend I now make a bowl-ful of tabouli that lasts me for several lunches and dinners during the week; and although it’s probably getting old and tiresome, I typically bring tabouli to every potluck I’m invited to. It’s different that the usual potato salad or nanaimo bars that I used to bring, and is just so easy to make – 15 minutes…and voila!

Note that there are many different ways to make this salad – each time is usually different for me depending on what I have in the fridge. Continue reading


French Toast with Pecans and Creamy Orange Syrup

French toast with orange and pecans

This is a variation of the traditional french toast breakfast that most of us have grown up with: maple syrup-soaked, golden french toast. I’ve replaced the maple syrup with a fairly thick sauce made from butter, cream cheese, a reduction of freshly-squeezed orange juice and confectioner’s sugar. Admittedly the sauce looks like mustard and doesn’t appear appetizing, but I guarantee you may not go back to eating french toast the old way once you’ve had a bite of this. The sweet citrus flavours of both the egg/milk mixture and the sauce is a pleasant surprise and also results in less soggy toast than if using syrup (which is part of the fun, though, I know).

I’ve been on an orange kick lately, mostly because they and their sweet cousin, the clementine, have been on sale over the past month. I picked up a box this morning from the grocery store that will probably last me 3 days at the rate I’ve been eating them. I also purchased a small hand juicer a few months ago that I’ve recently started using to squeeze my own orange juice as well, which has been a treat. Continue reading


Brown Sugar Mustard Glazed Salmon

Ingredients:

1/3 cup brown sugar

2 1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Salt and Pepper

4 x 7 ounce salmon fillets

2 tsp olive oil

 

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F

2. In a small bowl, whisk brown sugar, mustard, lemon juice and 1/2 tsp pepper

3. Heat a large ovenproof skillet over high heat. Rub salmon with oil and season with salt and pepper. Place the salmon, skin side up, in the skillet until a crisp brown crust forms, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat, flip the salmon and coat with the brown sugar mixture.

4. Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until the glaze caramelizes and the fish is cooked through – about 5 minutes.

In the photo above, I served the fillet on a bed of sauteed kale and apples.


How to Make Pizza

One of my favourite things to cook when friends drop in for dinner is homemade pizza. Guests normally find it pretty entertaining to watch as I make the dough and then they each get to roll up their sleeves and earn some participation points while they add toppings to their own personal pizzas. Kids will enjoy this part as well. The fastest way is to pick up the already prepared pizza dough at the grocery store and merely add the sauce and toppings, but for what little additional work is required to make your own dough, I think it’s worth making it yourself and getting flour on your clothes – part of the fun! Continue reading


Yam and Peanut Butter Soup

Some people at work have taken to calling me Fido; not in a derogatory way (I think), but because I’m known on my floor as the guy who sniffs everyone’s food. People were disgusted at first, when in the lunch room I would hover my nose over their leftover curry dish or lasagna and inhale. They would push their plates away and say “I can’t eat this now!” But it’s not as invasive as sticking my finger in the dish at least. Most people, I’ve learned, don’t often appreciate their food with all their senses – or at least the smell and look, unless they’re listening to a bowl of Rice Krispies snap-crackle-popping. Taste is important, sure, but so is taking the time to savour the aroma of a meal before placing it on the tongue and sending it down the gullet. We do it with wine, so why not food? Anyways, I shouldn’t be telling you this – If you’re reading this it means you’re already a food convert.

Where I’m going with this is that one lunch hour a colleague removed from the microwave the most incredible smelling soup. I sat staring at her, leaning in with my nose and waiting for her to offer me a bite. Normally I don’t do this to people – my mother raised me better than that. But I was curious and perplexed by what was undoubtedly peanut butter in her soup and needed to know what the outcome of it was. I have a thing with peanut butter – I eat it on everything, but never before in soup. Needless to say, she shared a bite of the soup and the recipe below. Continue reading


Aunt Diane’s Tourtiere

Tourtiere, or meat pie in English, like its other Quebec counterpart Poutine, has been known to have be made in hundreds of ways, ranging from chicken tourtiere (which confounds me), to the traditional pork and veal that I am familiar with, to the countless other regional variations. Many French Canadian homes that I’ve been in have a tourtiere recipe, hand written on a yellow, stained index card that has been handed down for generations like a family heirloom. I can’t say for sure if it’s a French Canadian tradition, but like many other Quebeckers I was raised to eat every dinner that’s served in a pastry shell with large dollops of ketchup. Don’t knock it till you try it. This particular recipe was given to me by my mom from my Aunt Diane.

Continue reading


Rice and Artichoke Spring Salad

Of all the recipes on this site, this one is hands down the quickest and easiest. It is a side dish that I’ve been preparing for over ten years and that I keep coming back to, no matter how my tastes change or refine. Enjoy.

 

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time of rice: varies depending on the rice

(Serves 10 as a side dish)

 

Ingredients:

1 cup uncooked regular rice

4 green onions, chopped

1/4 cup chopped parsley

1 medium red bell pepper, chopped

1 can (10-14 ounces) artichoke hearts, drained and cut into half or quarter pieces

Lemon garlic vinaigrette (see below)

 

Lemon Garlic Vinaigrette

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tbsp lemon zest

Juice from 2 lemons

2/3 tsp salt

pepper to taste

1 tsp oregano

1 clove garlic, chopped finely

 

Directions:

1. Cook rice as directed. As it cooks, prepare the lemon garlic vinaigrette

2. Mix rice and remaining ingredients in large bowl, then toss with vinaigrette mixture. Cover and chill in the fridge for 2-3 hours before serving.