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.

Read more

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!

Read more

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.

Read more

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.

Read more

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!

Read more

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!

Read more

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.

Read more