16 August 2009

"You Can't Win Friends With Salad"

Or can you?

That line is from one of my favourite Simpsons episodes ever - the one where Homer barbecues a pig and irritates Lisa the vegetarian. She brings a salad to the barbecue, and Homer and Bart start a conga line singing, "You can't win friends with salad, you can't win friends with salad".

I made a salad last night for my friend's housewarming party that garnered some pretty decent reviews, so I thought I'd put it here in my first salad-related post.

Baby Greens with Beets, Goat Cheese, and Candied Pecans

Candied Pecans
1/4 cup of butter
2 tablespoons brown or golden sugar
1 tablespoon dark corn syrup
1 cup of plain pecans

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.

In a frying pan, melt the butter. As it bubbles, add the sugar and syrup. Stir to combine. Allow to bubble again for about a minute. Add the pecans. Combine well. Empty the frying pan onto a cookie or baking sheet (line it with tinfoil - saves a lot of effort) and spread the mixture out into a single layer. Put in hot oven for 5 minutes or so. Take pan out of oven and stir the mixture around again. Place back in oven for another 3 minutes. Remove from oven. Select one of the pecans with a spoon, allow it to cool, and then test it to see if it has that toasty, sugary flavour. If yes, they're done. If no, put back in oven for another 2 minutes - just don't let it burn. Remove from pan and put on a dish or piece of waxed paper to cool. They're great to snack on, too.

1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
juice of 1 squeezed lemon, or a scant tablespoon of bottled lemon juice
1 scant teaspoon kosher salt
ground black pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon dijon mustard or dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon Herbes de Provence (optional)
sugar to taste (some like dressing more sour, others more sweet - start with a scant teaspoon and keep tasting/adding)

Get your whisk out. Combine olive oil, salt, pepper, mustard, and optional Herbes. Stir. Add lemon juice. Stir. Slowly pour the white wine vinegar into the mixture, whisking the whole time. Whisk until you've fully emulsified the vinegar with the oil. It will look smooth and a bit shiny. Taste it to see if it's sweet or sour enough for your taste. If too sour, add a bit more sugar. If too sweet, add a bit more vinegar or salt.

1 box organic baby greens mix (also goes under the name of Spring Mix)
1 cup of beets (you can either roast and peel them yourself, or get a can - either are good options, but canned is obviously faster/less likely to stain your clothes or kitchen)
1/3 cup of sliced or diced red onion
1 small log of goat cheese
1/4 cup dried cherries
3/4 cup candied pecans
3/4 cup dressing

Combine it all and serve.

Feeds about 4 as a main (add some chicken or shrimp to balance it out), or 8 as a starter or side dish.

08 August 2009

Try Pie

Feeding a crowd? Or just a few?

Most people can enjoy a good pot pie. I helped to feed my boyfriend's extended family last week with a variation on chicken pot pie. This recipe is good for about 8 normal servings, but if you're having it in conjunction with other dishes, it can feed up to 25.

Chicken Pot Pie

8 cooked and diced chicken breasts
4 carrots, chopped into rounds
1 onion, very finely diced
4-6 potatoes (Yukon Gold are so pretty you might as well go for them), washed, unpeeled and diced
1 1/2 cups of frozen or fresh peas
1/2 - 3/4 cup salted butter
4-6 tbs flour
4-6 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup of dry white wine (you don't have to use this if you don't cook with wine normally)
1 tbs fresh or dried thyme
sea or kosher salt
fresh black pepper, ground
teeny tiny pinch of saffron if you like it more golden coloured
1 rolled out sheet of puff pastry (I love love love the President's Choice ones which are already rolled out for you, and amazingly tasty - I don't make my own, which may be sacrilegious in the food blog world, but since I can't give you a good recipe, I'll give you a good brand) *the other option here is to cut the puff pastry into circles and use it like dumplings rather than a crust
1 beaten egg

other veggie options (remember, if you add more veggies, add more stock):
turnip, diced
parsnip, diced
celery, chopped

Melt butter in your biggest pot (okay, not like a corn pot, but maybe a bit bigger than a pasta pot) on medium heat. Add flour, stir to make a paste. Let the paste cook till it turns a kind of light brown colour and smells like toasting flour. Set pot aside. You have just made a roux.

In your second largest pot, melt a tablespoon of butter. Add onions, carrots, and potatoes, along with any other vegetables, except for the peas. Do not put the peas in now - they will be mush if you do. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Preheat your oven to whatever temperature your puff pastry box tells you it needs to cook at. The President's Choice one said 375 degrees, I think.

Go back to your first pot. Turn the heat to medium high. Add the chicken stock slowly, combining it thoroughly with the roux. It should look kind of creamy. Bring to a boil. Add white wine. Simmer again. Add vegetables and thyme. Bring back to simmer, then add the diced chicken. Add salt and pepper to taste, and optional saffron. Allow filling ('cause that's what this is) to cook until the potato seems pretty much done - usually 10-15 minutes. Add peas. If you're using fresh, allow filling to simmer for about 5 more minutes. If you're using frozen, allow to simmer for about 3 more minutes.

Pour mixture into a really big casserole dish. Put puff pastry on top, and spread it out to the edges of the dish. Or, if you've cut it into circles, arrange the circles around the casserole dish - none overlapping. Brush the pastry with beaten egg.

Place casserole into oven and bake until the pastry has puffed up beautifully and turned a gorgeous shade of done. This means brown and kind of shiny. If you poke it with a fork, it will shatter in a flurry of flakiness. Remove from oven and let stand for a minute or two. Cut into however many portions you like.

22 July 2009

Tri-tipping Point

Tri-tip steak is one of the least-appreciated, most delicious hunks of cow available for general consumption. Cut from the bottom of a sirloin, the tri-tip is an affordable, tasty addition to your usual steak lineup.

I had two of the long, skinny steaks in the freezer awaiting my return to the city, so I defrosted them yesterday and cooked them the French way - salt and pepper, oil, and a cast iron pan. I also made a spicy herbed butter to melt over them, and then roasted some asparagus with a breadcrumb-parmesan crust and served with an easy heirloom tomato salad. All recipes below. No photos - I forgot to take some as I was too excited - my boyfriend just returned from being away for 2 1/2 weeks so last night was a celebratory supper, too. Nothing says "welcome home!" like a good tri-tip and some asparagus.

Spicy, Herby Butter
1/2 cup of good salted butter
1/4 cup Italian parsley
5 chives
1 tbs chili-garlic sauce (the jar with the rooster on it was what I used)
1 tsp lemon juice - just squeeze a lemon quarter and you'll ge the right amount

Stick the parsley, chives, chili-garlic sauce, and lemon juice into a blender and grind as well as you can.
Melt the butter on the stove. Stick it in the freezer for like 3 minutes to let it cool down a bit. Then remove from the freezer and mix the spicy-herby mixture into it until it's all combined really well. Then stick all of it back into the freezer for another few minutes. Take out and whisk again. It should be getting more solid now. You can pour it into ice cube trays or whatever you find easiest - plastic wrap works okay too, as you can make like a little plastic wrap cup to cover your hand and pour the butter into it, then roll it into a log and wrap it up tight. Refrigerate until you're ready to use it.

Roasted Asparagus with Heirloom Tomato Salad
preheat oven to 400 degrees
20 stalks asparagus
2-3 tbs of breadcrumbs
1 tbs grated parmesan cheese
1 tbs spicy-herby butter (yeah, the stuff you just made)
3-4 heirloom tomatoes
1 small shallot or 1/2 shallot, chopped really small
sea salt and ground black pepper to taste
2 tbs good olive oil
1 tbs red wine vinegar

Put washed asparagus into casserole dish. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and parmesan. Cut spicy-herby butter into hunks and put on top of asparagus. Put into oven for 10-15 minutes.

Combine tomatoes, shallots, olive oil, vinegar, and salt and pepper in a bowl and let it sit and mingle.

Remove asparagus from oven. Top with tomato salad.

Tri-tip Steak
however much steak you need/want
sea or kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper
vegetable oil

Season the meat with salt and pepper. Heat up your trusty cast iron pan on medium heat. Add vegetable oil and heat. Carefully lay steak on the cast iron pan. Cook roughly 2-3 minutes each side - tri-tip has is kind of rectangular so it's pretty easy to flip. Once you've done that, put the pan with the meat into the 400 degree oven and cook for a further 5-6 minutes for mediumish (more toward medium-rare) meat.

Remove from heat. Top with 1 tsp of the spicy-herby butter and serve. Butter will melt over the meat.

It's a really good, easy summer supper. Use as many local ingredients as you can - Ontario summers are fantastic for produce.

21 July 2009

Keema over here...

So, this is my second attempt at posting this recipe. First time, blogger deleted it and I fumed and nearly gave up on the whole Desperately Seeking Sustenance thing. Today I have some patience and some time, so here we go.

Keema is essentially Indian comfort food. My boyfriend's family has it almost every Saturday night - Mrs. S. works during the day most Saturdays, and so Mr. S. makes keema. According to my boyfriend, keema sustained Mr. S. all through university in Newfoundland - it was quick and tasted like home and could be served with rice. Mr. S's keema is usually made with ground beef.

This recipe is not the one that Mr. S. uses to such great effect, mostly because he was away when I made it and couldn't ask him about it. I used ground pork; I tried to remember the basics of Indian cooking (fry the whole spices! let the tomato mixture bubble until the oil has separated!) and the spices that should be used, and I think it came out quite well.

Pork (or whatever) Keema

1 lb ground meat (pork, chicken, beef...)

1 small onion, chopped
2 tbs ginger-garlic paste (buy it - it's easier and tastes exactly the same)
(you're going to have to add the onion to the ginger-garlic paste, run it through a food processor, and essentially make it into an onion-ginger-garlic paste. might as well do that now. we'll wait.)

2 tbs vegetable oil
2 whole black cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick
1 tbs cumin seed
1 bay leaf
3 cloves

1 tsp dried chili flakes
1 tsp powdered coriander
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
ground black pepper

2 1/2 cups of tomato puree - not paste, puree.

1 cup frozen peas

So, let's get started. Heat your chosen large pan. Add oil. Then add all the whole spices - cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, bay leaf, cumin seed. Cook this until the cumin starts to hiss. Really - you'll know it when you hear it.

Add the onion-ginger-garlic paste and combine with the spices. Cook until it turns a kind of light brown colour.

Add the other spices - turmeric, coriander, dried chili flakes, black pepper, and some salt. You're going to be adjusting the salt later so don't get too hung up on quantities right now. Just throw a shake of it in and you'll be fine. Cook this only for about half a minute.

Add the tomatoes and stir everything into a tomatoey goo. Add a bit of water if you like - maybe half a cup. Cook this for about 3 or 4 minutes until the yellowy oil starts to separate from the tomato.

Add the ground meat. Cook it with the tomatoey goo for about 10 minutes, adding water as necessary. Lots of people enjoy a tonne of sauce, so you may want to go for more water. Add the peas toward the end of the process, stirring through. Peas need about 4-5 minutes to cook with the meat and sauce.

As mentioned previously, this can be served with rice for a very very easy supper, or with roti or naan if you feel like putting more effort in.

05 June 2009

Super Simple Salsa

My significant other's sister is graduating from teacher's college today... congratulations to her!

She is having a post-graduation ceremony party today, and asked if I would mind bringing a couple of appetizers. So I decided to bring guacamole (recipe from a previous post) and warm goat cheese coated in crushed almonds and peppercorns, and some extraordinarily simple homemade salsa that tastes like a lot more effort than it actually is.

Salsa (kind of more like pureed pico de gallo, really)
8 to 10 tomatoes, seeded and torn apart
2 tablespoons roughly chopped onion
1 jalapeno pepper, roughly chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, also roughly chopped (notice a trend here?)
few stalks of cilantro - take leaves off and use those. you can add a bit of the actual stalk if you want a stronger flavour.
juice of 1/2 a lime
salt to taste

Combine all ingredients, then, using an immersion blender, puree everything until it has the consistency you desire. It will not be thick - it isn't meant to be. Taste - add more salt if necessary, and/or just add more of whatever you like the most.

Cover and let sit for at least a few hours - better if you let it sit for a day or so to let everything mingle and establish relationships.

It's good - fresh-tasting and simple for a barbecue. Yea for summertime simplicity!

22 May 2009

Lobster and bacon, together at last

Man, a month can go by so quickly! May has just flown by.

Last night I made a pleasant supper for two - my best friend came downtown to spend the evening with me. Lobsters are abundant and (relatively) inexpensive right now, so I seized the moment and made...

Lobster Linguine

cooked linguine (enough for 3 medium servings, or 2 large servings)
one 1lb cooked lobster, cracked with meat taken out and diced
two strips of bacon, diced
1/8-1/4 cup of brandy
3/4 cup frozen peas (fresh would probably be okay too, they're just not available here in May)
3/4 cup 35% whipping cream
1/2 cup half-and-half
ground sea salt and black pepper to taste
chopped fresh chives

Heat a frying pan. Add diced bacon and fry till crispy. Drain fat except for about 1 teaspoon - allow to remain in pan with bacon. Add brandy and allow to simmer for a minute or so. Add frozen peas to pan with brandy, bacon and fat, and saute for about a minute and a half, until tender. Add whipping cream and bring to a boil - allow to simmer for about 2-3 minutes. Then, add lobster and half-and-half. Bring it all up to a boil and allow to simmer for a few minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Add sauce to cooked linguine and toss. Plate. Garnish with chopped chives and serve.

The pasta has a nice salty-sweet taste from the bacon, brandy, peas and lobster. The chives brighten things up a little bit. The cream isn't crazy heavy-tasting, so you wind up with a kind of business-casual supper that is quite pleasant for spring/early summer.

01 May 2009

The Spanish Sandwich

Well, it's actually no such thing... but since two of the the 5 ingredients in this toasty, melty sandwich are of Spanish extraction, and the sound of "Spanish" and "sandwich" together made my ears happy, I decided to title this post as such.

Anyway, I made this in about 10 minutes over my lunch hour yesterday. I toasted everything in the oven because I'm a bit of a stickler when it comes to things being thoroughly toasted.

2 slices bread - I used some called Country Harvest because that was what I had. It would undoubtedly be delicious with something from the bakery, like a grain bread or even just a plain white Italian loaf.
3/4 cup grated Manchego cheese
1 1/2 slices of thinly sliced Serrano ham
fig jam or tapenade (onion jam works too, and red pepper jelly might even be a nice taste)

Turn broiler on in oven (500 degrees), and position rack to middle.

Butter one side of both pieces of bread. Put into oven until desired level of toastedness is reached. Remove.

Place Serrano ham on the toasted side of one piece of bread. Spread other toasted side piece with fig jam/tapenade/whatever, and then cover bread/spread with grated Manchego. Place back in oven until cheese has melted and ham has crisped slightly. Remove.

Place two sides of bread together - sandwich them, if you will, untoasted sides out. Place back under broiler to toast one side. Flip, then toast the other.

It's salty and sweet and pretty great for a fast meal. I ate it with some tomatoes dressed with a tiny bit of balsamic.

If you're not as interested in things being perfectly toasted on every side, then doing this like a traditional grilled cheese in a pan with butter is totally fine.

21 April 2009

Sweetness/spiciness in the tummy...

I've been thinking for awhile of what to post next on here. Since we're in the middle of spring here in Toronto, and spring usually means rainstorms, I figured a nice warming soup with a brilliant orange hue might chase away any possible spring blues that may arise from seeing grey skies too often.

This isn't crazy spicy, but if you don't dig a little heat, just leave out the chilli. It should be okay.

Spicy Sweet Potato Soup

Mix 1/2 cup sour cream or creme fraiche with 1 1/2 tsp lime zest. Place in fridge to allow flavours time to mingle properly.

1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloved garlic, chopped
tablespoon of butter
4 cups chicken stock
2 large sweet potatoes (yams), peeled and cubed
1/2 tsp ground cumin
2 tbs finely chopped ginger
1 red birdseye chilli (just cut into hunks)
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 tbs smooth peanut butter
1 lime, juiced
2 tbs fresh cilantro
salt to taste

Melt butter on medium heat in medium-large saucepan. Add onions, cook 2 minutes. Add garlic, cook another 2 mins. When all is soft, add stock and sweet potato. Add cumin, ginger, coconut milk, and birdseye chilli. Allow to simmer for about 15 minutes or until sweet potato is soft. Take pot off burner. Using hand blender (work in batches if you're using a regular mixer), puree soup until smooth. If too thick, add some more coconut milk.

Return to heat - add peanut butter, salt and lime juice. Heat through - stir all the while.

To serve, ladle into bowls. Get the sour cream/lime mixture out of the fridge and dollop onto the top of the soup. Sprinkle cilantro leaves on top of soup/sour cream. Can also add little bits of tomato, but to me it seems like overkill. Serve hot.

08 April 2009

The Other White/Delicious Meat

People used to forget about pork a lot of the time. Now, it's the universe's Favourite Trendy Item, perhaps most notably in its belly form. Pork belly is now omnipresent - it's at every restaurant within a five-kilometre radius of downtown.

Now, I have to voice dissension here because I don't like pork belly very much at all. Oh dear - I think the world may have stopped turning. I have trouble getting past all the fat. "Fat makes it exceptionally delicious!" you say... I fear that I have to respond that I can't handle the mouthfeel of fat, and cutting it off a decent piece of pork belly just really defeats the whole purpose of eating that particular bit of pig.

What I do love, however, is pork roast or pork tenderloin. I like it best when it is done in the following way:

Apple Cider Pork

1 pork roast
4-5 Northern Spy or other baking apples, peeled and cored and cut into hunks
1-2 onions, peeled and quartered
8 sprigs of thyme
1 1/2 to 2 cups of cider - I usually go for the non-alcoholic kind as it is cheaper, but I've made it with the alcoholic sort and it turned out well.
1/2 cup white wine, if you're not using alcoholic cider
2-4 garlic cloves, peeled and quickly smashed with the back of a knife
sea salt and fresh black pepper
Optional - teaspoon or so of grainy Dijon mustard - I use the all-grain kind.

Take the apples and onions and garlic cloves and throw them into a roasting pan. Make sure there's a mixture of them - not apples on one side and onions/garlic on the other.
In the middle of the pan, place four sprigs of thyme. Place pork fatty-side-up on top of the thyme/apples/onions.
Grab your cider and splash it into the roasting pan. Do same with white wine, if you're using it. If you've decided to use the mustard, slather the top of the roast with it. Grind the sea salt/black pepper over the whole thing.
Put it into the oven at 350 degrees until it's done. My roasts usually take about an hour or so, but it depends on who I'm cooking for - my significant other likes pork slightly pink, while my parents won't even come near it if it isn't white all the way through.

When it is done, lift the pork out and let it sit on a cutting board somewhere nearby. In the meantime, ladle out the apples and onions, and discard the twigs of the thyme. Usually the leaves will have already come off and they're cool to leave in. You can puree the apple/onion mixture - leaving the garlic in is optional, and I guess it depends on how much you like garlic. I usually take the cloves out and just puree the apples and onions.

There will be a fair amount of exceptionally tasty liquid left. If your roasting pan is stovetop-safe, turn the heat on under it and bring it to a boil. Throw some salt into it, and your preferred thickening agent (flour & water, cornstarch, Veloutine, whatever), and stir until it has reached your desired thickness. Taste it in case it needs more salt or a little bit of wine. I find that gravy is all about personal tastes, and you know more about that than anyone else.

You can serve all this deliciousness up with some little peas or whatever vegetable suits your fancy. The gravy is wonderful with mashed Yukon Gold potatoes.

31 March 2009

Roast Beast

Okay, so this is quick and crazy easy... but the results speak for themselves.

This weekend, I made a standing rib roast (of beef). I was at home at my folks' place without a single thing to do, and happened to look in the freezer and found a standing rib roast. How often would that happen? The opportunity was too good to pass up. I set about defrosting it... and 9 hours later, it was set to go.

While it was defrosting, I made a concoction that became a crust. Crust, this blog 'tis of thee, sweet crust of... yummery... of thee I write.

2-3 tablespoons of dijon mustard
2 minced garlic cloves
1-2 teaspoons of herbes de provence (I used dried because that's what my folks had. Would probably be delightful with fresh)
sea salt
fresh ground black pepper
tablespoon or so of olive oil or grapeseed oil
spoonful of red wine if that makes you happy
two onions, cut into quarters
a couple sprigs of thyme, if you're nasty

Mix the dijon mustard, garlic, herbes, salt, pepper, wine, and oil together well. Spread the mixture over your roast (this would probably work just fine with a sirloin tip or whatever other hunk of beef you've got hanging around), working it into the flesh a little bit.

The thyme can go under the roast in the pan, and also crisscrossed on top to be fancy. The onions should go around the roast about halfway through the cooking process.

The pan drippings wind up absolutely delicious. Best Gravy Ever.

17 March 2009

"Lemon... see through in the sunlight"

Know what always always always makes me happy when I make it?

Lemon curd.

Yeah, it's kind of unknown or unacknowledged here in Canada, but I had it first in the United Kingdom and have counted myself among its most loyal followers ever since. It's delicious - very tart, but very creamy and utterly delicious on shortbread. It's not hard to make, and it keeps well in a refrigerator. It's also a beautiful buttery colour.

Lemon Curd

6-7 tbs unsalted good butter
1 cup of sugar
2 big eggs
2 big egg yolks
2/3 a cup of fresh (that means squeeze-it-yourself) lemon juice (this is usually about 2-3 lemons' worth)
a pinch or two of grated and finely chopped lemon zest

In a big, cool glass bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until smooth. Add the eggs and the egg yolks. Beat with creamed mixture for about a minute or until fully combined. Add the lemon juice - it's going to look pretty rough & curdled there, but don't worry, it'll smooth out in the next step.

Pour the mixture into a heavy pot. On low, and stirring constantly, cook the mixture. You'll see that as it heats up, it loses its curdled look. Turn the heat up to around medium, and keep stirring - it needs to cook for about 13 minutes so it can thicken up. Don't let it boil, though. It should leave a coating on your stirring utensil when you take that utensil out of the mixture.

Remove the pot from the heat, and add that pinch or two of lemon zest. Stir to combine.

Now, get some jars. Pour the lemon curd into them and let cool.... or take some of the slightly warm stuff and slather it onto some shortbread. So tasty!

You can also use it for a filling for tarts or for a larger shortbread crust tart.

11 March 2009

Holi Guacamole

Today is Holi, the Indian festival of colour - Holi Hai!

My boyfriend's family are lovely, and they cook beautiful Indian food that I am only too happy to eat. However, I don't have any tried and tested recipes for Indian food of my own, so I decided to post a recipe for a colourful food instead. There's not much to it, but gosh it's tasty.


3 hass avocadoes, insides scooped out and pit removed
1/2 tomato, chopped and deseeded
1/2 jalapeno, chopped (can also use ancho chile powder if jalapenos are hard to find)
1-2 tablespoons of chopped onion
1 garlic clove, minced
3 squeezes of lime - it works out to be about half a lime's worth
salt to taste (usually about 3/4 of a tablespoon)

Mash all these up together to a dip-like consistency... eat with corn chips... nom.

09 March 2009

Mousse, mousse, mousse...

So I made a delightful chocolate mousse one night when I was entertaining a gluten-intolerant friend. We had post-work wine and snacks (corn tortillas and homemade guacamole), and I felt like we should have something sweet to finish... so I chose mousse. It was crazy chocolatey, but also crazy delicious.

Dark Chocolate Mousse

5 ounces of bittersweet chocolate
1 1/2 cups really cold, heavy cream for whipping
3 large egg whites
4-6 tsp white sugar (depending on how sweet you want this to be)

In a double boiler or bain marie (I used a stainless steel bowl perched over a big pot of boiling water), melt the chocolate, stirring periodically. Once melted, turn the heat off but leave the bowl over the water to keep the chocolate in its melty state.

Whip the cream to normal whipped cream consistency - it'll stand on its own if you dip a spoon into it and draw it out.

Whip the egg whites in another bowl. When they're foamy and kind of thinking about getting a little bit more difficult to whip, add your 4-6 tsp of sugar. Then keep beating the eggs until they are quite stiff, and can stand on their own in little egg white mountains.

Combine the chocolate and the egg whites - just dump the chocolate into the egg whites in one go, and stir away until they're just about fully combined. Then add the whipped cream - I added it slowly while still mixing - mixing by hand, I should add. When completely combined, cover the mousse and let it chill out in the fridge for at least an hour, or however long you need it to be chilled for. It's a pretty good make-ahead dessert.

Serve it with whipped cream (whip the cream with sugar - it'll help sweeten things up for those who aren't giant fans of dark chocolate).

It's reliably delicious, which is kind of excellent when entertaining.

04 March 2009

I've been waiting so long...

I'm back... mostly just to tell you what I've been cooking/eating, and to say hello.


I've been running around crazily for the past few weeks, attempting to coordinate and action my workplace's presence at a stakeholder conference. I'm really glad it's over because now I have time for people and places and food. I haven't really been able to make too too much in the last little while, but my list includes:

Lemon curd
Best cheap roast beef supper
Dark chocolate mousse

Recipes for all will follow. I also had an excellent Valentines' Day Supper at Table 17 (www.table17.ca), which is just about my favourite restaurant in Toronto due to its simplicity and friendliness. It's out on Queen East, close to Carlaw, and does simple bistro-y food with delicious results. The staff are exceptionally accommodating, and will remember your face with ease after your first or second visit.

On this occasion, I enjoyed the diver scallops to start, garnished with guanciale and just the loveliest amount of bearnaise. The scallops had a delicious browned edge with a sort of sweetness that I wasn't expecting, but was very pleased to find. My boyfriend had a beetroot salad which was delicious, filled with pretty red and yellow beets. Then, I moved on to an unctuous braised short rib of beef, served over pureed parsnip. The pureed parsnip was so far beyond anything I ever hoped to find in a parsnip. My boyfriend enjoyed the striploin, cooked beautifully. We shared a bowl of frites with lemony mayonnaise, as we can't go to Table 17 without having them. The only slight disappointment for me was the lemon tart - while the lemon curd was tart and delicious, it seemed to require something more substantial than a very thin, phyllo-type of cup to hold it. However, I ate it all so it definitely wasn't a dealbreaker!

Anyway, that's about it for now. I hope that anyone reading this is well, and enjoying March so far.

05 February 2009

Sugar, Spice, and Everything's Alright

So this week all I can think about is sugar. It's weird and not cool - I really shouldn't eat sugar in large quantities. Today I gave in to myself in an effort to keep the sugar-filled visions at bay - had a donut for breakfast and a piece of chocolate mousse cake for lunch. Ugh. My stomach is in full-on revolt now but at least the craving seems to be at rest. I just hope that the rest will continue.

This week I made a recipe from another blogger's repertoire - Hollow Legs' Vietnamese Pork and Aubergine (eggplant to North Americans). It was delicious and easy and inexpensive and gluten-free, and it can be found here: http://lizzieeatslondon.blogspot.com/2008/11/vietnamese-spicy-pork-aubergine.html

I'm heading out to my folks' house tomorrow, and they've asked that I make a beef stew while I'm home. I'm thinking of something with red wine... and maybe I'll put a crust on the top of it to make it pot pie-ish. Winter is the best best best time for meat pies, just like summer is the best best best time for fruit pies. It's just a fact - dispute it if you dare.

And as for tonight, the bad-for-me food fest is continuing with Pub Night for Strongbow and wings. We go to the Bishop and the Belcher at Church and Bloor http://www.bishopandbelcher.com/ - haven't found any better in the city, and it has a complete genealogy of the British royal family and Trivial Pursuit cards on the tables. I can't think of better mealtime entertainment, personally.

29 January 2009

beautiful bolognese (with or without tagliatelle)

made a very pleasant, home-y tasting bolognese last night... and ate it for lunch today.

it contained:

about 2 tablespoons of butter
a tablespoon of vegetable oil
1 half a regular sized cooking onion, chopped
1 chopped carrot
1 chopped celery rib
1/2 a package of extra lean ground beef - probably like 1/4 to 1/2 a pound
salt and pepper - to taste - i probably used about half a teaspoon of both, maybe a little more
1/2 a package of ground pork - same as above -
1 cup whole milk (I cheated - 3/4 cup 2 percent, 1/4 cup whipping cream)
tiny bit of grated or ground nutmeg
1 cup white wine
1 tin of Italian tomatoes - San Marzano are good

after heating the (large, stainless steel) pan on medium-high heat, i put the oil and the butter into it and allowed the butter to melt and foam. then i added the onion, carrots and celery, and let it cook for a couple of minutes. then i added the meats and seasoned with the salt and pepper, then i cooked the mixture until the meats... weren't raw. then i added the (fake) whole milk and let that simmer away to nothing - roughly 8-10 minutes. i sprinkled the little bit of nutmeg in - it was honestly like an eighth of a teaspoon - then i added the wine, and let it boil away - same amount of time as it took the milk to boil away. then i added the tin of tomatoes with the juices included, and i also cheated a bit and added some tomato puree (the more watery stuff, not tomato paste).

i transferred the lot to my slow cooker and, on low heat, let it simmer very very quietly for about 5 hours. you don't want it at a roiling boil or anything - just some bubbling round the edges. it will not be saucy, so don't expect that - it'll kind of be like a tomato-y, meaty stew.

you should eat this with the pasta of your choice - tagliatelle is wonderful. i had a whole wheat tagliatelle and it was superlative. if you're gluten free, i would imagine that an egg noodle type pasta might work out okay. cook the pasta in salted water to your own preference for doneness. once you've drained it, swirl some butter into it and ladle it out onto plates. add the bolognese and mix it all up together with some grated parmesan.

nom nom bolognese nom.

27 January 2009

Just Say No

... to sodium laurel sulfate, that is. And parabens. And the host of nasty things that they put in soaps and shampoos because no one has really proved that they're not really very good for some people to apply topically.

Further to my last post, I've gone even further down the path of the unwilling consumer. Figured out that my eczema-ridden skin was angry because I was exposing it every single day to those chemicals listed above. Who knew a shower could be so toxic?

Now, here's my disclaimer: most people don't react badly to sodium laurel sufate, parabens and panthenol. That's why they're omnipresent in personal hygiene products. They're also cheap cheap cheap - great for mass production and keeping costs low. However, for those of us who just can't deal with the chemical onslaught waged by everyday life in North America, finding stuff that works just as well but doesn't end up with us scratching like we have fleas is a challenge. So, I've compiled my own list of Stuff That Won't Hurt.

Shampoo - Desert Essences or Prairie Naturals

Soap - ha! Fooled you. Can't use soap - it foams. Go for an oil or a homemade salt scrub. Take some organic sunflower oil (takes about 4-5 tablespoons) and combine it with plain old sea salt (4 tablespoons-ish). You can add a drop or two of grapefruit essential oil if that makes you happy. Scrub down. Rinse off. If you find you're still oily when you get out of the shower, it's cool. Just rub it into your skin as best you can - it'll absorb eventually. Herbal Choice Detergent Free Natural Body Wash is another option.

Dish Soap - always wear gloves. Seriously. I use Method dish soap as it works pretty well, but I still don't touch it.

All-Purpose Cleaning Product - Vinegar and Water. Get a sprayer thing from the dollar store and make enough of this stuff to last you through the winter. It's just one part water, one part vinegar - equality rules.

That's the short list. I don't think anyone actually reads this so I'll keep it brief. I think I'm getting healthier as I make these daily choices, and if anyone is reading this then maybe they'll think about their options, too. Maybe.