Sunday, December 28, 2008

Mmmm Maki!

I just had the most delicious maki roll - Beef Enoki Maki. It is a thin strip of marinated grilled beef wrapped around a little bundle of enoki mushrooms. I have no clue exactly how it was done but it was scrumptious. There was also a side cucumber salad which had been lightly pickled in a sweet vinegar. (The picture above closely resembles ours but i didn't have a camera so this is a simulation - our enoki looked a bit more spritely)

We also sampled the beef and chicken satay - tender-melt-in-your-mouth with a savory sauce; chiang mai noodles with shrimp - good heat and great texture; ginger chicken - lots of tasty veg; and panang beef curry - fragrant sweet spicy. MMMmmmmm. This was delicious, it's one of those meals you wish you could eat every day.

My Dad and Stepmom took me out to this Japanese Thai place called JJ in Mississauga. It's in a small plaza which you would never notice unless you looked for it. It has great food, a great atmosphere and reasonable prices. Their website doesn't do them justice (no offense)so if you are ever passing by, try them out.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Hearty Bake for Cold Wintry Nights

This is perfect meal for the short, winter days when you need a hearty, comforting meal or on a relaxing weekend.

The original recipe came from Jamie Oliver and called for cherry tomatoes but because of their price (4 lbs = $25) we decided to go with $8 worth of romas. This change will account for the extra time needed for baking the tomatoes - romas have a great deal more moisture to cook out.

This recipe has great flavour - savoury-sweet, rich herby tomatoes, pork sausages and light mashed potatoes - but there are a few things I would change. I found the sausages a bit tough so the major change I would make from the method below is to bake the tomato mixture by itself without the sausages for 30-40 minutes. Then, Add the sausages in for the next 20-30 minutes. The original method is shown below.

Tomato and Sausage Bake

4 lbs tomatoes, romas - quartered
Several sprigs of thyme, rosemary
2 bay leaves
5 garlic cloves, chopped
12 sausages - Italian pork are best, prick each one with a fork a couple of times
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Salt, pepper

1. Preheat oven to 375F
2. In a large roasting pan, spread the quartered tomatoes over the bottom of the roasting pan
3. Add the herbs, garlic and sausages
4. Drizzle olive oil and balsamic vinegar over everything
5. Season with salt and pepper
6. Stir, make sure sausages are on top
7. Put in oven for 20-30 minutes
8. Turn sausages over and bake another 20-30 minutes
If the tomatoes are too thin, remove sausages and return to oven until cooked to the desired consistency is reached
9. Remove bay leaves and herb sprigs, serve

Served on a tasty bed of mashed potatoes.

Happy Eating!

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Ode to Two Brown Bettys

After 12 years of love and thousands upon thousands of cups of tea, my Brown Betty is no more. An unfortunate fall by a fleur de sel jar has been the end of my teapot - she served me well.

From this sad experience, I have discovered the beauty which resides inside a well-loved teapot. It is beautiful inside - the reddish brown tones, scratches through the tannin-stained surface, the cleanness of the break almost right down the middle. I was inspired by this and thought I would share it with you.

We had been making do without a Brown Betty to help us for many months when unexpectedly Laura found us our new Brown Betty. On our WeDine girls' weekend away in Birch Bay (WeDine + honorary members), during an afternoon shopping excursion in a strange little shop, a totally different but equally great Brown Betty called to us.

Our new Betty is a deep chocolate brown almost (black in some light), she is more rotund with a larger capacity and a slower pour. We are now enjoying tea daily.

I am trying to find out where the term 'Brown Betty' comes from but didn't find any online references to its origins. The most I have found is that the clay used in these teapots from Stoke-on-Trent, England since the 1690s is a deep red colour which retained heat better than any other materials available, so maybe the firing turns it a brown colour along with the brown glaze originally applied. But what about the Betty part? If you know where this reference originated, let us know.

Here's hoping this one serves us as long as my first.

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

I've solved the chorizo mystery! With a little help from my Wine Library TV friends.

You may think we know what we're doing, but quite often on a Wednesday we stumble across things we don't really know, even between the four of us. Unbelievable! This week, it was chorizo that threw us for a loop.

We all eat chorizo, and love it, but after failing to find it at the grocery store, buying spicy Italian sausage instead, traipsing into the meat store as an afterthought and dirtying their just-mopped floors only to leave without buying anything, we confessed to each other that we weren't sure what the deal is with chorizo being cooked or not. Whenever I buy chorizo it's cooked, or cured – whatever has been done to it you can slice it up and snack on it right away. But when we order tacos at Lolitas or El Taco, the chorizo has the texture of ground beef and has obviously been cooked from a raw sausage. And that's what we needed for our Wednesday recipe (chorizo, yam, and pickled onion fajitas). Well, we cooked up our spicy Italian sausage, seasoning it to approximate the flavour of chorizo (it actually tasted very close – excellent seasoning Alisha!), and the fajitas were delicious. But our question remained unanswered.

Until now. Just a few minutes ago, I was procrastinating my Christmas crafting and decided to check out Wine Library TV, a wine tasting vlog that I love. And, Gary, the host, must have heard our questions as we walked back to Alisha's from the meat shop on Wednesday, because his most recent episode answers our exact question! And, as a bonus, tells us what wine to drink with our chorizo next time.

I'll reveal the secret: he says Spanish chorizo is cooked (fermented, cured, and smoked), and Mexican chorizo is raw.

There, no more mystery. But you should still watch the episode below, because it's funny, it includes one of my favourite cheeses (manchego), and Gary says the awesomest things and demonstrates how fun wine tasting is. Watch it, if only to hear him describe his first experience of tasting cilantro – he says it tasted "like devastation," ha ha. Enjoy! You might get hooked... and decide you need to devote your life to wine tasting and chorizo eating.

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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

How to Pop a Joyful Snack

As a kid, my mom and aunts would make popcorn in a pot. What an exciting food, you put little yellow kernels in a pot, heat it up and they explode - Ping ping pop pipipipi - into lovely butterflies and mushrooms, with the odd old maid left at the bottom (unpopped kernels). I love popcorn terminology!

As a teenager, our family dabbled in microwave popcorn, but luckily, I have rediscovered the pot-made method since then and have never looked back.

Here is what to do:

1. In a pot with a lid, heat a mixture of olive oil and canola oil over medium-high, enough to cover the bottom of the pot (I find canola oil alone leaves the popcorn flavourless and using only olive oil overpowers the butter/flavour at the end). For one person, usually 1/4 cup of kernels is a good serving, for more people make sure your pot is big enough and multiply.

2. When oil is ready, pour in kernels, put the lid on and swirl to fully coat the kernels (drop in a test kernel - if little bubbles form it's ready).Now just wait for the popping to start

3. When the pinging slows (2-3 seconds between pops), take it off the heat.
As you can see i put a little too much in this pot, the picture below is 1/3 cup.

4. Pour these lovely puffs into a bowl and dress with your favourite flavours.

5. Eat with abandon!

My three favourite flavourings are: Drizzled with delicious melted butter and sprinkled with salt, Drizzled with balsamic or white vinegar and sprinkled with salt (this combo is not just for potato chips) or the rebar recipe meg makes (Meg can you post this recipe we don't seem to have it on the blog yet - it must be an oversight.).

In the UK, popcorn is loved in the theatre salted and sweet. I'm not sure if the sweet is sprinkled with sugar or if it a buttery style syrup. I know it's not caramel corn. This might be interesting to try.

Does anyone know how it is made? Has anyone tried it this way?

Try your own flavourings - maybe cumin, curry, crushed wasabi peas, a sprinkle of sugar, hot sauce, a little juice from the pickle jar. Or try a tasting of every flavour you can think of, you don't have to commit to a whole bowl of one flavour.

Try out a new popcorn flavour next time you pop!

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Friday, December 05, 2008

Anatomy of a charcuterie plate

On Friday night I put together this tasty plate of charcuterie items for Michelle and I, to keep us occupied as we waited for my three-hour chicken to cook (low and slow!) and some potatoes to roast. You can't really go wrong with a charcuterie plate (see, for example, the delicious tiny morsels c5 gave me here). If you pick out an assortment of meats and a couple of other foods to balance them, pile them all on a substrate of some kind (we used Carr's table water crackers) and swill a little alcohol alongside (we opted for Michelle's all-time favourite, cider), then you're set.

From the far left, and continuing around the plate in a sort of meandering way which I hope will be easy enough to pick up:

A duck and fig paté
A blue cheese flavoured with blackberry port from the Okanagan
A few slices of coppa, a Neopolitan salume (cold cut) of pork shoulder (also called capicola) – look at that marbling!
Three delicious figs
Some finocchiona, a Tuscan salume of finely-ground pork and fat mixed with fennel – so tasty!
The largest slices were saucisson secs, a French dry-cured sausage that Michelle, Ben and I tried this summer as part of a nighttime pique-nique upon the Champ de mars in Paris – the Eiffel Tower was covered in massive blue stars to commemorate France's temporary stewardship of the EU, and was absolutely gorgeous!

And finally, some spicy Hungarian kolbász (sausage), which was my favourite. I can't quite say why, but the spiciness was perfect, and I could have eaten far more than those meagre slices you see there. Ah well! It was a fantastic charcuterie assortment, and quite enough for two, as you can probably tell.

An addendum to our charcuterie revel is that the next morning in the Globe & Mail's Style section, the food columnist Lucy Waverman listed 'fine charcuterie' as one of her Christmas desirables and called it a 'hot trend in home entertaining right now'! Ah, Lucy, how right you are!

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Thursday, December 04, 2008

New Pho restaurant in the 'hood, or, the good things in life

Tonight, after yoga class, sitting in a tiny room on Davie Street, I got to think one of my favourite thoughts. This is going to be one of my new favourite places! When I'm sitting in a restaurant thinking this, I'm really excited. I get distracted and stop listening to my companion (sorry Darryl!), overtaken by the yummyness and promise of many meals ahead.

Walking to the restaurant, we realized it's been ages since we've had Pho. Years maybe. Which is crazy 'cause I love it. I think maybe I stopped because I ruined too many shirts with broth and chili oil splatters, hmm. I guess I was ready to take the risk again. And I'm so happy I did.

I ordered the Curry Chicken Soup (after a really tough decision, as there are so many different kinds of soup on the menu, and they all sound soooo good). It was a huge bowl – as to be expected with Pho – filled with rice vermicelli, a whole chicken leg and thigh (the meat so tender and pulling off the bones), sweet potato cubes (a happy surprise!), smooth curry broth rich with coconut milk, and the pleasantly interactive plate of bean sprouts, lime wedges and jalapeno slices on the side. Mmm, and I ate it all. I added some extra hot sauce, and miraculously kept my shirt clean. I slurped carefully, thinking about how a big bowl of soup like this is definitely one of the ultimate good things in life.

This place is a cozy little room, softly lit and filled with diverse chatter, the staff are really sweet, and it's $6.95 for a totally satisfying meal in a bowl. I can't wait to go back.

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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Chili Gonzalez: A Three-Hour Chili in One-and-a-half Hours

I am really into making meals in a single pot or pan lately. I have been investigating recipes which will have tons of flavour but don't require too much attention. Chili is something I never had growing up, but I have wanted to try it for some time.

The single pot style of recipe is perfect for our Wednesday Dinners because we can cook something delicious and still have lots of time to visit without spending all night in the kitchen. The recipe (below) is a mash up of several recipes I found, including Macleid's Rockcastle Chili from Joy of Cooking. Alterations include: halving the recipe (because it just seemed like too much food), using Guinness instead of just any old dark beer (because nothing has more flavour than Guinness) and adding delicious paprika to the spice mixture (because it's delicious).

The rest of these Guinesses accompanied our meal as the beverage of choice.

Since we made this recipe for WeDine, Laura and I have made this again using ground beef but we both liked the round steak/pork version better. Due to our Wednesday time constraints we only simmered for one and a quarter hours but you could add some extra liquid (guiness, beer, or water) and simmer it longer for even more flavour. Let us know if you have any tips or tricks of your own for chili. This fed 4 hungry women and one hungry man (special guest) two portions. My title alludes to Speedy Gonzalez, the quick Mexican mouse from Looney Tunes, who alway evaded Sylvester the cat by being extra fast. Andale Andale Arriba! Make the chili below as quick as you can, flavour awaits.

1 lbs round steak (cubed)
1/2 lb ground pork
2 onions (chopped)
3–4 garlic cloves (chopped)
1 – 500ml can of Guinness or dark beer
2 – 16 oz cans tomatoes including liquid
1 – 16 oz can kidney beans - drained & rinsed
salt & pepper to taste

3 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp cumin powder
1 tbsp paprika
1/2 tbsp black pepper

1. Mix spices together
2. Mix steak and pork with spice mixture. We ended up with the cubes of steak partially encased in pork. We also accidentally doubled the spice mixture from the quantity above – which was a bit too spicy. (adjust to your liking)
3. In a stock pot, heat a couple tbsp of olive oil on medium-high heat and soften the onions, add the garlic just before starting the meat
4. Brown the meat in batches, to seal the outside but not to fully cook through
5. Once all the meat has been browned, deglaze the pan with the can of Guinness or other dark beer – be sure to get all the flavour off the bottom of the pan
6. Stir in tomatoes, beans
7. Simmer on medium or medium-low for 1–1.5 hours, stirring occasionally

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Saturday, November 29, 2008

A little Country Style in the big city

It was the beginning of September and the sun was shining fairly spectacularly on Canada's largest city when I met up with Sean, former west-coaster and newly-minted Torontonian for some culture-vulturing and sustenance in the Annex (the area around Bloor and Bathurst).

The photo above gives you an idea of where our journey ended – at Riverdale Farm market in the park of the same name, where I saw this beautiful table o' tomatoes of every shape, size and colour. I love that the tablecloth is also all tomatoes. Click on the photo to see it all up close.

You'll have to imagine the shafts of sunlight slanting through the leafy green trees and the little kids running gleefully through water fountains one of these cold rainy days if you need a little cheering/warming up. As I remember, Sean bought some peaches, and it was a lovely place to end an afternoon. But where did we start?

I snapped this photo just out of the subway – at Honest Ed's, of course, a Toronto institution. I love the forms of those letters. I guess they slot a different price next to the items as costs change. But what a good deal on bread, hey? Or should I say, eh?

I was on Bloor to meet Sean at Country Style Hungarian restaurant, another Toronto institution, and a family favourite of Alisha's. Now, if you say 'Country Style' to most Torontonians, they will think 'doughnuts,' because Country Style is also a coffee shop chain that has been around for some time in Toronto. But those in the know will think 'fantastic Hungarian food' instead – and certainly 'fantastically large Hungarian portions' when they think Country Style.

Country Style is one of those great Toronto places that hasn't changed much since mid-century and keeps the gingham tablecloth suppliers in business. I liked the well-stocked counter at the front and the faux-wood panelling, and it's great to overhear conversations in Hungarian and try to decipher them. I believe some of the clientele must have had their particular spots in the restaurant staked out since 1962.

So yes, I took a vegetarian (well, fishatarian, really) to a Hungarian restaurant. Folly, you say? Well, it wasn't all bad, though it was a bit like that scene in My Big Fat Greek Wedding where Toula introduces her fiancé to her aunt, explaining that he doesn't eat meat, and the aunt is momentarily baffled before announcing that she'll just make lamb instead.

The waitress was a little confused about the concept of vegetarianism itself, and tried to get Sean a meaty broth soup. Ah yes. But here's Sean enjoying his spaetzle, or dumplings. They were extremely tasty, I have to say. And fully vegetarian!

And here is my totally non-veg option: their delicious wiener schnitzel. Or bécsi szelet in Hungarian (which means 'Viennese slice!' What a great name. It originates from the Austro-Hungarian ties of the nineteenth century).

I have to say, this photo does not fully convey the magnificence (nor the sheer size) of this dish. It was incredible and awe-inspiring. I highly recommend it. The schnitzel also came with the same dumplings that Sean is enjoying above, and a great cucumber salad (which was highly appreciated, about midway through the meat).

I thought my own dinner was astonishingly massive, in a sort of 'undulating waves of schnitzel' way, but someone else had ordered the 'meat platter', in which a large stack of different sorts of meat came skewered on top of each other on a wooden board – and that put mine to shame.

Still, the schnitzel was delicious and highly recommended (particularly if you're an omnivore!) and Country Style is a great destination for hearty eating. 450 Bloor W. Country Style in the heart of the city!

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Monday, November 03, 2008

How to feel glamorous and lazy at the same time

So how do you achieve that delicate balance of dinner moods? Make chanterelle, leek, and goat cheese pie and pear bacon salad, and eat these while drinking white wine and sitting on the floor/couch. The TV should be on. The lighting soft. Voila, glamor and laziness together at last.

Okay, so I guess it's not the height of laziness or anything. But my point is that wrapping anything up in phyllo is really easy to do and feels fancy to eat. All you need to do is pick a few very tasty things to go inside, and use lots of butter. Here's how we did it one Wednesday in October:

My Dad had generously donated a paper bag full of forest-fresh chanterelles he picked over the weekend. He went on a super cool mushroom tour where you get taken out into the forest and taught how to recognize and pick the mushrooms, eat a huge mushroom diner, and come home with untold numbers of chanterelles. Seriously – he was practically begging my sister and I to take them off his hands. Can you imagine? Too many fresh wild mushrooms to deal with! I knew they'd have to show up at Wednesday dinner.

Here are the mushrooms, cleaned and sliced, chillin' out with the bacon for our salad, and some garlic of course:

We sauteed the mushrooms in butter with thinly sliced leeks and garlic. We meant to add wine, but forgot! Argh, well more for drinking.

Alisha preparing the butter for in between the phyllo layers:

Laura holding up a curtain of phyllo, ready to join the others in the pie dish:

After about ten layers of phyllo and butter, we began to lay down the mushroom filling (which had chopped parsley added to it after it was sauteed):

And spread it around to get a nice even layer:

Then the fun part – dolloping on the goat cheese:

And, to finish, more layers of phyllo (I think six on top) and of course more drizzling and brushing on of butter:

The result:

There are times when I've already photographed the meal before digging in, but then I just have to pick up the camera to document it again half-eaten. This was one of those – that decadent filling just had to be exposed! The big fluffy bits of rich cheese, the subtle flavours of the chanterelles and leeks working together, the flaky flaky pastry. I'd eat it again any day...

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Friday, October 31, 2008

Gastropod's Molecular Delights

Without further ado, I give you the top ten reasons to eat at the amazing Gastropod restaurant in Vancouver (besides Chef Angus An, of course – the best reason to visit):

10. Venison, plum, frisée and potato crisp amuse bouche!

9. Seared scallops with heirloom beets (beets!), choke cherry glaze and candied hazelnuts (mm!). I can't decide which part of the dish was more tasty – the beets were so perfectly prepared, but the scallops were unbelievable.

8. Oysters with horseradish 'snow' (how molecular!) and sauternes jelly (you know I love a sweet white wine in any form):

7. Pork done three (delicious) ways. Pork belly! Need I say more?

6. Squab, with pistachio and tongue (!) mousse, crab apple purée (how autumn!) and squash spaetzle (see the Omnivore's One Hundred).

5. Plum sorbet as a palette-cleanser:

4. A well-stocked cheese plate showing off Quebec (and French) cheeses and Saskatoon berries (how Canadian!):

3. Because Michelle is paying!

2. Horchata pannacotta! What on earth is that, you ask? Horchata is a Mexican (originally Spanish) rice drink made with milk, sugar and vanilla. The dessert also came with tres leche cake, dolce du leche and peach sorbet. And...
1. Because it's your birthday and the pastry chef very nicely helps you celebrate!

It was a lovely night. Thanks so much, Michelle!

Me, happily full.

Bonus reason: Because of the chocolate petit fours they give you with your tea!

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

What the Farmers' Market Provides

Following Meg's last two Odes to the Farmers' Market, I thought I would get a post in too, especially as Meg informs me that last week was the last one they're holding the market downtown. Sigh. But perhaps Meg will tell you about her Zombie Tomatoes if you ask nicely – just in time for Hallowe'en!

In any case, here are some of my own food experiences generated by visits to the Farmers' Market. It's amazing what such a variety of veggies and other produce can inspire. What the market giveth...
Not fried green tomatoes

These green zebras, plus a yellow accordion tomato (and a curvy green tomato that I'm afraid I have forgotten the name of) were combined into a delicious salsa verde, with garlic for bite and lime juice and cilantro for a little more flavour. Green heirloom tomatoes are so tasty! And pretty. The salsa went very well on some beef burgers one night.

Another night saw me making a beet soup with delicious roasted piping-hot beets and some sturdy organic carrots. Beets are amazing – I can't believe how brilliantly burgundy they are, and how they subsume every other colour in a recipe. They were so hot they were hard to peel, but they were lovely and sweet and blended beautifully with the carrots. I include the following ode to beets from Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins:

"The beet is the most intense of vegetables. The radish, admittedly, is more feverish, but the fire of the radish is a cold fire, the fire of discontent not of passion. Tomatoes are lusty enough, yet there runs through tomatoes an undercurrent of frivolity. Beets are deadly serious...the beet is the ancient ancestor of the autumn moon, bearded, buried, all but fossilized; the dark green sails of the grounded moon-boat stitched with veins of primordial plasma; the kite string that once connected the moon to the Earth now a muddy whisker drilling desperately for rubies."

How poetic! There's lots more, but you should read the book for yourself as it's wonderfully odd. I remember reading these words as a teenager and being thoroughly confused. Robbins assures us that a Ukrainian proverb warns that any tale that starts with a beet will end with the devil ... but says that's a risk we'll have to take. My tale that began with a beet, however, ended with delicious soup! As you can see below.

One of the first things I tried with my market haul was stuffed squash blossoms – largely they were first because they were worrisomely fragile (though beautiful) and were sitting with their stems in water.

They looked something like this:

Except not as French. And as you can see, the above are zucchini blossoms. But the principle was the same! I made a mixture of ricotta cheese with various finely-chopped mushrooms and shallots, and the blossoms were stuffed and then breaded (with Japanese rice panko, as that's the only breadcrumb mixture we have) and fried.

Lots of recipes I read called for them to be deep-fried with a batter – which does sound good – but trying to keep the whole endeavour vaguely healthy, I went with shallowly-fried. They were delicious – and it was just fun to realize that you're eating a blossom! Next time I would make more, and possibly serve them as an hors d'oeuvre to lots of people, though possibly substituting a soft tofu or goat cheese for the ricotta (for the dairy-impaired, mais oui).

The farmers' market comes through again. These are certainly veggies to dream of in chillier times ... pass the soup!

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Monday, October 20, 2008

Shoulder season supper: cozy and fresh come together

So, it's fall. I've completely come to terms with that now. But we're not totally in darkness yet. I have been looking suggestively at my slow cooker, but haven't yet been craving stew and roasted root veggies every day. There's still part of me that wants to eat green salad with fruit and tacos with fresh salsa. The farmers market on Saturday still had fresh heirloom tomatoes, so there.

Tonight I pulled together a dish that perfectly satisfied my need for summer and winter flavours to mingle. I thought I should share it in case you're feeling a bit mixed up by this shoulder season just like me.

I started by cooking some du puy lentils (French green lentils). These have been my favourite lentils lately. I love how tiny and delicate they are, their peppery flavour, and how quickly they cook (15–20 minutes, no pre-planning required!). So, I put 1 1/4 cups of du puy lentils in a small pot with lots of water and put them on the stove to simmer.

Then, I heated my large cast iron skillet and melted 2 tbsp of butter with 2 tbsp olive oil. I used this to saute 1/2 red onion (sliced), 1 sweet pepper (sliced – from the farmers' market, it was half red and half green), 2 garlic cloves (minced), and 1 fennel bulb (sliced). Once these had softened in the butter and oil, I added some spices – 1 tsp Hungarian sweet paprika, 1 tsp dill, 1/4 tsp Spanish smoked paprika – and seasoned with salt and pepper.

Next, I chopped up a whole savoy cabbage (1" pieces) and added this to the pan along with 1 1/2 – 2 cups veggie stock (conveniently stashed in my fridge from the batch I made this weekend). I covered the pan and let this all simmer together for a while. Oh, and I added 1–2 tbsp brown sugar 'cause the cabbage just seemed to be calling out for some sweetness.

While the veggies were simmering, the lentils finished cooking. I drained them, poured them into a bowl and stirred in the following: salt and pepper to taste, a few glugs of walnut oil, a small glug or two of white wine vinegar, 1/4 tsp cayenne, 1/4 cup minced fresh mint, and 3 small green tomatoes, diced. Mmmm, I had to start eating this by the spoonful right away – so good, earthy, fresh and bright tasting. Tangy and a tiny bit spicy.

After my snacking, the cabbage was softened and just about ready to eat. I let it simmer uncovered for a few more minutes to reduce some of the liquid. Then I got impatient and decided it was okay a bit brothy. One final thing – I chopped up the fluffy fennel fronds and stirred them in.

I spooned the veggie mixture into a bowl and topped with the lentil salad. I wasn't sure what exactly I had ended up with, but it turned out to be really delicious! The cabbage was sweet and wintery, but still had that great fresh from the farm veggie taste, and the tangyness of the lentils with their mint and chopped fresh tomatoes brought enough summer into it all. Mmm, perfect to cozy up on the couch with, read the paper, and let the blustery sound of leaves falling drift into the background for a while.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Posh Nosh

This is my first attempt at embedding video anywhere ever, so hopefully it'll work out (and even more hopefully, perhaps one day we'll have video of our own to post!).

I've been wanting to share this series for ages with the WeDine readership, as it's absolutely hilarious. Posh Nosh is a BBC cooking-show spoof consisting of eight 10-minute episodes starring Richard E. Grant and Arabella Weir as the Hon Simon and Minty Marchmont, respectively.

The premise involves Grant and Weir as the owners of a high-end restaurant trying to teach 'extraordinary' cookery to 'ordinary' people. The humour comes from their class divide – Minty desperately trying, despite her middle-class background, to match Simon's ridiculous upper class manners – and their subtle swipes at each other. Oh, and the hilarious food terminology they use. You'll see! If you like this one, do check out YouTube for some more.

Here is the first episode!

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Market Veggie Love, Part 2

I thought you might need a little more convincing about how the farmers market is the best thing around. Well, that and Darryl's working late this week and there's no one else here to listen to me say "I made the best dinner tonight! And last night too. I'm the best. No, wait – it's not me that's the best, it's these veggies!" So, I have a recipe for y'all, 'cause it's just too good to keep to myself.

Spicy Roasted Veggie and Bulger ______ [Casserole? Pilaf? Hot salad? One-pan thingy?... I kind of have an aversion to the words casserole and pilaf, but I'm at a loss as to what else to call this. Ideas?]

3 cups water
1 1/2 cups bulger
1 1/2 tsp salt

1 medium zucchini (or half a huge pretty heirloom one from the market), cut into large chunks
1/2 red onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 poblano peppers, diced
1 can chick peas, drained and rinsed
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper

Juice of 1 orange
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp New Mexican chili powder
2 tsp chipolte puree
1 tsp chopped fresh sage (or 1/2 tsp dried)
1 tbsp chopped fresh basil (or 1 tsp dried)

1/2 bunch of chard, washed and roughly chopped

large block of feta, crumbled

3 tomatoes (crazy lookin' green heirloom ones are soooo tasty), sliced

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Boil Water. Remove from heat and add bulger and salt. Stir, cover, and let sit about 20 min (or longer – I let it sit for an hour and a half while I ran away to yoga, and it was perfect when I got back). Set cooked bulger aside for later.

3. Toss the zucchini, onion, garlic, poblanos, and chickpeas into a roasting pan with olive oil and salt and pepper. Stir to coat. Roast for about 20 minutes, or until zucchinis are beginning to soften a bit, giving them a quick stir half way through.

4. Meanwhile, whisk together orange juice, spices and fresh herbs. Pour this over the roasting veggies and then roast them a bit longer (about 10 more minutes).

5. Heat a skillet over medium heat. Toss chard in, along with a bit of orange juice or water. Stir while it steams, until it is softened to your liking.

6. Remove veggies from oven and add bulger, chard, and feta to the pan. Stir it all together. The feta will melt a bit and the bulger will heat. I was going to put it all back in the oven for a bit (making it a true casserole?) but it really didn't seem necessary.

7. Serve topped with fresh chopped tomatoes. Mmmm, mmmm, mmm.

I feel like with my fridge full of delicious, so so fresh, local tasty things, I can create anything in the world and it will be awesome. I don't even feel like opening a cookbook. The veggies just send my imagination running.

And even the most basic or classic things turn out wonderfully as well. Like the second photo above – last night's dinner. I had bought a bag of fresh chanterelle mushrooms and needed to use them up while they were at their delicate best. I started by frying half a sliced red onion and some chopped garlic in butter and olive oil. Then I added chicken slices and fried it all for a while. Then in went the chantrelles and some more butter (of course, butter and chanterelles = heaven!). I served this atop polenta, with a simple salad of greens and heirloom tomatoes from the market. For dressing I just squeezed half a lemon and whisked it with olive oil and fresh basil. A quick but rich and utterly delicious meal.

I'm beginning to believe that September's an alright month after all. What are your favourite September eats?

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Farmers Market – letting me down easy from the end of summer

I'm having a late summer love affair with my farmers market, and it's making me really really happy. The best parts: eggplants, cute pattypan squashes (Poach them in tomato sauce! Roast them 'til they're sweet like candy!), mix n' match heirloom cherry tomatoes, crisp asian pears, ugly-on-the-outside-spectacular-on-the-inside-nectarines, coronation grapes, fluffy bunches of chard, sticky pungent garlic. And my lunch today...

Returning from the market this afternoon, blissed out from all the wandering with friends in the sunshine slowly from stall to stall, I picked through my bounty and selected the things I most wanted to eat right now.

I poached two incredibly fresh eggs (for once I actually remembered to take them out soon enough to be deliciously runny). I heated some olive oil in a pan and threw in thick zucchini slices, tiny snacking peppers (it's driving me crazy that I can't remember what this variety is called, argh), green beans, and small heirloom tomatoes. This all went onto my plate along with a slice of fresh sourdough bread and some salad greens sprinkled with lemon juice (including a nasturtium flower!)

It was perfect. I really think this is one of the best eating experiences ever, when everything is so fresh that it tastes exactly like it should. I couldn't shut up about how amazing the egg tasted – it was just as you'd imagine the ultimate egg would taste. And the beans were so so yummy! Perfect delicious beans. Perfect juicy tomatoes.

Can you imagine living on a farm and eating this way all the time? It's so sad that we've gotten used to things not tasting the way they should. I really have to start getting a local green box delivery, because even I'll have to accept that summer's over sometime soon (and with it the market) and I don't want to stop eating like this!

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