Thursday, April 26, 2007

Field trip redux – the other side of the table

As an Ethiopian food novice, I thought I'd blog a little on the experience and on our field trip. Here, Meg and Alisha hold up their mango juices.

What is essential to Ethiopian food, as I found out, is injera, a crepe-thin bread that is used as a base for the dishes and as a utensil to eat the dishes. So it's sort of like both the plate and the fork. You use it to eat the food, and then eat the bread on which the food was arranged. Injera's a little sour and has a very interesting texture – kind of spongy. It is made from the only wheat that has its own symbiotic yeast (or so said the menu). Here it is in little torn-off rolls, and below, a close-up of the results of the yeast.

Gourmet Warehouse was new to me too. They stocked an amazing variety of products and gadgets. Any kind of olive oil or balsamic or salt you wanted. Mustards and teas and knives and pots and pans. We ended up buying some gorgeous cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil (Olio Carli) that I'll have to blog about, and some fleur de sel from the cote d'azur that Michelle will have to blog about. Here are some of the Gourmet Warehouse products. I quite liked the Mario Batali spatulas and things in orange and brown and green (see bottom right image). With their extra-large handles and their manly colours I suppose they are meant to appeal to barbequeing men (in orange crocs?) but there you go.

Then I noticed some of the most useless gadgets in the GW. What gets your vote as most useless – the Banana Guard, the Pickle Fork or the Garnish Master ("Easily make beautiful garnishes")?

And just before the check-out, Flora, Meg and Alisha display their GW finds! Next time we're getting that mortar and pestle, bus or no!

Read more

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The first ever WeDine field trip!

For months we'd been trying to plan a day on which we'd venture out to Commercial Drive for Ethiopian food and then, stomachs full, move on to Gourmet Warehouse for toys and treats. Well, it finally happened! It's taken me almost as long to get around to posting about it, but here we go...

I'd been to the Addis Cafe a few times and totally loved it, but it was everyone else's first time there, which made it even more exciting! I recommended the mango juice to drink, and we chose a few dishes to share – two vegetarian platters and beef Awaze Tibs. Michelle's chai tea looked really tasty too.

The orange walls and table matched the mango juice perfectly, and the whole place had a warm, relaxed thing going on.

The tasty food (spinach, cabbage, corn, green beans, carrots, beef, chickpeas in berbere sauce, red lentils, yellow split peas), before we all tore into it:

And, near the end, enjoying the bread after it soaked up all the good flavours.

Then, full and happy, we walked down Commercial Drive in the rain to Gourmet Warehouse.

Once there, we wandered around and tried not to let too many things end up in our shopping baskets, or our mouths – tasty samples were hidden all around the place:

Those corn chips were so good, but left me badly craving margaritas.

My three favourite purchases of the day:

  • Manchego Cheese – a soft, nutty Spanish sheep cheese that I'm totally in love with (and it melts!)
  • a potato masher – one kitchen tool I've never owned before, which is surprising considering one of Darryl's favourite things to make is garlic saffron mashed potatoes
  • tarragon mustard – the prettiest, freshest green color and awesome in salad dressings
We've been throwing around ideas for the next field trip – what should it be?

Read more

Monday, April 09, 2007

My tasty Easter splurge

I just got a new cookbook that I'm so excited about! I wasn't supposed to be shopping, but Shula convinced me that this will be the-new-Rebar of my (overflowing) cookbook collection. With that promise and the fact that it's spring and I feel like being super-healthy, I couldn't resist it. Plus, this book is so gorgeous! The author, Heidi Swanson, is also a photographer and graphic designer, and the book is full of bright colours, pretty patterns, and drool-inducing photos. She also maintains two websites – a recipe journal: 101 Cookbooks and a natural food resource: Mighty Foods. Guess she's one of those super-women who has time for everything. I'm willing to be inspired...

Read more

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Inspired by the Dishwasher

May I say, if you are feeling lethargic and really can't be bothered to turn the oven on. Try this.

Steam your fish with your veggies.

I flavoured my fish and wrapped it tightly in foil ( i used 3 layers as I always seem to pierce it). I chopped my veg and placed them in the steamer in the pot with water and placed the fish bundle on top and left them all for 15 min (I turned the bundle once). When the veggies were done, so was the fish.

Don't laugh too hard, this was the best me and paint could do.

I must admit my flavouring could have been better, but it didn't matter because i was so excited about my steaming.

I recalled while wrapping my bundle, having watched Jamie Oliver several years ago wrap fish in a similar bundle and send it through a dishwasher cycle to cook. It is probably all i would trust our dishwasher to do.


Read more

Monday, April 02, 2007

My new solution to Noodle Box cravings

I often get cravings for Noodle Box, which aren't always satisfied by going to Noodle Box – it's difficult to decide on exactly the right spice rating, I usually end up wondering if I should have ordered the one with chili plum sauce instead of my trusty cashew curry. Also, I don't really end up there very often, as most of the rest of you aren't too into the place. So the other day, I really needed to have a big bowl of steaming, tasty noodles-and-stuff, which led me to invent the following. It completely satisfied the craving, and I'm sure I'll call upon it to rescue me again sometime soon!

2 tbsp peanut oil
1 onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups chicken stock
1 cup coconut milk
1 tbsp thai red curry paste
2 tbsp ginger, minced
2–3 tbsp palm sugar
3 cups dried fat egg noodles
2 carrots, julienned
1 red pepper, julienned
2 cups broccoli florets
juice of 1 lime
3 tbsp chopped cilantro
1 recipe sesame tofu

Hmmm, now the problem is that I don't really remember what my method was for this, except that I cooked it all in one big pot. I was smart enough to write down the ingredients and quantities the night I made it (which is unusual) but I didn't make any notes about process! I do remember that I was considering whether to cook the noodles separately or in the broth, with all the veggies. I went for the latter and that was definitely a good choice. I wanted the dish to be saucy without turning into a soup, and it was just that. Well, here's an attempt at a method, but feel free to mess with it as you see fit:

1. Bake tofu (recipe follows)

2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large pot. Saute onion until translucent. Add garlic and continue to saute. Add chicken stock, coconut milk, curry paste, ginger and palm sugar.

3. Cook the veggies and noodles in this broth, adding each at the appropriate time for how well done you want it. I think I added the noodles first, as I didn't want the veggies to end up too soft. The noodles should have absorbed most, but not all, of the broth by the time they're done.

4. Just before serving, stir in lime juice and cilantro. Ladle into bowls and top with baked tofu. Garnish with more cilantro if you like.

Sesame Tofu (adapted from the Rebar cookbook)
1 block medium-firm tofu*
2 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp soy sauce
fresh ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees until a bit crispy on the outside and hot and tasty throughout (about 20 minutes).

* you can make this with firm tofu instead, but I think it's best when it's silky on the inside; and the baking method is one of the best for medium tofu since it doesn't fall apart as it does when stir-frying; I do press the tofu first though (put the block of tofu between two small plates, and set a heavy jar or can on top – after a while a bunch of water will have escaped, and you can pour it off)

Read more

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Adventures in Gnocchi

So we've been wanting to make gnocchi at We Dine for a while now, and three Wednesdays ago at Alisha's it all came together. There are tons of recipes for gnocchi, but we decided to stick to the basics and learn how to make a fairly simple gnocchi first. We doubled the recipe and thus found ourselves in Capers buying a couple of pounds of potatoes alongside our other ingredients for the sauce and salad. We boiled the potatoes until they were tender, which took about 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, we started the salad and the sauce to go with the gnocchi. Some of the ingredients involved:

Gorgeous grape tomatoes! For the salad.

Peas, dill, onions and goat cheese for the sauce.

Sprouts! They made the salad nice and tall.

When the potatoes were finally soft enough, we peeled the skins off and mashed them with flour until they formed a dough.

Who knew that potato and flour could form such a great dough?

We formed the dough into long rolls, which was so much fun. It quite reminded me of making playdough when I was a kid. We cut the rolls into one-inch pieces, and rolled them off the back of a fork to shape them. Sean and I demonstrate.

A gnocchi-making montage!

When they were formed we plunged them into boiling water to cook, rescuing them when they floated to the surface.

And the results were fantastic! The gnocchi had a lovely soft texture, and they went really well with our sauce, which was a combination of some lovely smoked salmon we'd gotten at Capers and the aforementioned goat cheese, peas and dill. We discovered that gnocchi are relatively easy to make, and definitely worth it. The finished dinner was delicious:

And so were the little desserts we bought at Capers!

Read more