Sunday, January 31, 2010

Jan 31st - Leftover Vegan Bolognese with Parpdelle and Gibson

We were in Whistler today and so that normally means a couple of things: 1. We're exhausted. 2. D wants pasta. When we make pasta sauce, we normally jar the leftovers into the mason jar the tomatoes come in. Tonight we're having one of my preferred pasta shapes, Parpadelle. Parpadelle is a flat and wide pasta, about 1 inch wide. We used a Garafolo brand. It's slightly more expensive than most supermarket brands and sometimes it's worth the extra cost but not always. Their Linguine is just okay. They are one of the only brands that make Parpardelle around here. I used to buy Marks and Spencers when I was living in London. MMMM. My friend Xavier got me hooked on Marks and Sparks Parpardelle actually.
Before dinner D made us some Victoria Gin Gibsons.


2 parts Gin
1 part Vermouth
1 toothpick
3 pickled onions

Crush a handful of ice and place in a cocktail shaker. Pour in the proportions depending on how many you're making. Shake for a minute and strain into Martini glasses. Add a toothpick spear of pickled onions.

It's a nice delicate drink. The Victoria Gin has a lovely, rose petal quality. It's a gentle nudge instead of a shove like some gins like Beefeater that I can't stand.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Jan 30th - Seafood Gumbo

I think my version of this dish is somewhere between cajun and creole. So it's not classic but it's is very good simple to make. It does take time but it is not complex. I use the cajun trinity or mire pois but I don't use chicken or sausage. The ROUX or cooked oil/flour base is common as is the okra. The okra is what the dish is named for from the african word for Okra. The long cook time reduces what some people fear about the veg, that slight slimey-ness. I like it spicy and piping hot!

Seafood Gumbo

1/2 c vegetable oil1/2 c flour1 c diced celery (2 stalks)
1 c diced carrot (1 med/large carrot)
1 c diced bell pepper
1 c diced onion (1 small or half medium)
1 diced tomato fresh
4 cloves garlic
2 jalapenyos
2 c vegetable broth (1/2 - 1T seasalt if unsalted)
1 large tin tomatoes chopped
2 c okra chopped in 1 inch pieces

1 t dried sage
1 t dried thyme
2 bay leaves
1 T dried parsley
1 T worchest. sauce
2-3 t tobasco sauce2 lb mixed seafood(we used a mixture of shrimp, cod, scallops, squid, mussels)

1-2 chopped scallions (green onion)

In a large dutch oven (large heavy pot), heat the oil on medium/high. Sprinkle in the flour as you whisk. Whisk until smooth. Whisk every couple of minutes until the ROUX turns a caramel colour (20 minutes). You may be tempted to chicken out early when it's just a light tan colour which is acceptable but the depth of flavour in cajun or southern cooking comes from the darkness of the roux. Be brave and watch it. If it burns and you see alot of black specks, start over.

Add the onions, carrots, pepper and celery. Stir and cook for a few minutes until tender. It will seem goopy but that's okay. Keep stirring. Add the okra. Cook for a few minutes. Add the garlic and jalapeno. Don't scorch the garlic.

Add the tomatoes, tin tomatoes and broth. Add the spices, and the seasoning. Stir and combine well. Turn the heat down to a low simmer. Simmer covered for at least 2 hours. This will bring out the herbs and spices and deepen the flavour of the roux.

After 2 hours add the seafood. Simmer for another 15 minutes. Serve as is or on top of rice.


Preparation is alot of chopping. Cooking takes patience but I like involved evolving flavours like stews and marinades. Serve with your favourite hot sauce on the side if you need more kick. Don't use a smoky chipotle sauce tho. It changes the whole flavour profile.

We had a Palazzo Del Torre 2005, fantastic.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Jan 29th - Chipotle Wild Sockeye Salmon and Polenta with Roasted Vegetables

Roasted Vegetables

1 Broccoli Crown, chopped, florets only
8 fresh crimini mushrooms, sliced
1 c grape tomatoes
1/4 c olive oil
2 sprigs rosemary

Preheat the oven to 425F.Have a rack at the bottom third and top.

Chop the broccoli into bite sized florets. I ate the stems while chopping. I normally use the whole broccoli but for this dish, not.

Brush the mushrooms clean and cut the bottom of the stem. Slice

In a shallow baking dish, toss all the veg with the oil and the rosemary in the oil. Place in oven.
Toss gently with tongs every 15 minutes. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until broccoli browns

Savoury Lite Polenta (based on Alton Brown's)

1 shallot minced
1 clove garlic minced
1/2 c polenta/yellow cornmeal
2 c vegetable broth (2 c water and instant low sodium vegetable broth)
1.5 t seasalt
1/4 c milk
3 T butter
1/4 c freshly grated parmesan
1 T olive oil

In a small sauce pan with lid that is all oven proof, heat the olive oil on medium high. Sautee the shallots for a minute or two until soft and starting to brown but not brown. Add the garlic, stir for 1 minute. Do not brown the garlic. Add the vegetable broth powder and the pre boiled water so you don't wait too long for it to come to a boil on the stove. Add the milk.

Pre measure out the cornmeal. Turn down the heat and sprinkle into the pot as you whisk to avoid lumps. When it's all incorporated, cover the pot and put into the oven for 30 minutes. Stir every 10 minutes. Turn the oven down to 350 and leave the veg in.

After 30 minutes, take the pot out of the oven. Use mittens, two. Don't forget the lid is hot too! Trust me on why I am specifically telling you this. Add the butter, pepper and salt. Stir rapidly until the butter is melted and incorporated. Grate the parmesan cheese directly into the pot. Don't use the fake stuff. Leave it out altogether before doing that but if you do, you'll want to up the salt slightly. Serve immediately with roasted vegetables on top.

This version is quite stiff as a result of the amount liquid and longer cooking time in the oven. Alton goes on to rebake it in a sheet pan for 'cakes'. It will start to congeal but it's okay. It still tastes great. It will just stop flowing.

It was very tastey. Herbier due to the use of the veg stock without the cream. If you want to indulge though, use the recipe from New Years Eve from Michael Chiarello.

Dean and Deluca Chipotle Wild Sockeye Salmon

1 filet of wild sockeye salmon
2T olive oil
2-3 Dean and Deluca chipotle spice rub (or any spice rub, watch the salt content before adding more)
1t seasalt

Clean and dry the salmon filet. We used a whole side that gave us about 250 g each.

Rub the olive oil all over the fish. Drizzle a little into the bottom of a baking sheet. Place the fish skin side down in the dish.

Mix the salt into the Dean and Deluca spice mix. We bought it in a gourmet food shop. It is a pure spice mix so no salt. Mix the salt into a couple of T of the spice rub. Spread all over the fish and rub in with your fingers.

Leave the oven 350. You can leave the vegetables and polenta in there to the side.

Put the salmon in on the bottom shelf for 10 minutes.

Turn the bake/roast off and turn on the broil on high. Move the veg and polenta to the bottom or take them out. Broil for 5 minutes. Serve.

We had a Zind Zind-Humbrecht 2006. Ripe pears and apples. Light and not acidic. Paired well with the polenta and complimented the fish.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Catch up - Nov 8th - Hazelnut and Butternut Squash White Lasagna

I went to a Private Equity presentation last night put on by a friend of mine from Grad school. He's investing in a investment firm in Mexico and they had a presentation at the Granville Island Hotel. It was mainly LOVELY cheeses so I thought I'd catch up on a meal we had in November. It is one of my faves that D makes. He first made this a couple of years ago because he was looking for a hearty vegetarian lasagna/lasagne that he could sink his teeth into. Funny enough, it was the first lasagna he'd ever made. With all the cooking he's done, it's pretty odd.

I've made a variety of the 'red' lasagna/lasagne with either spinach and ricotta or only veg like broccoli and peppers with or without soy ground round. I even got away with feeding a fussy pair of kids the soy ground round, chock full of broccoli and they didn't blink except at the spinach salad I served on the side.

We found this one on Epicurious originally but adapted it a bit. The biggest change is the amount of cheese. The original asked for 2 cups grated cheese from one 1/2 lb of cheese. That's half a brick. There was no way it was going to suffice. We put cheese at every layer and on time. We also added freshly grated nutmeg to the bechemel sauce. It is a classic add to white sauce and it bring out the butternut squash really well. You don't need alot at all.

It is an incredibly filling dish and impresses dinner guess immensely. Lasagnas seem like alot of work but if you organise in sections, it's actually fun.

Serve this with a big wine with decent acidity to counter balance the richness. We had a Pirramimma Shiraz.

Hazelnut and Butternut Squash White Lasagna

For squash filling

1 large onion, diced (1/2 cm or 1/4 inch square, feel free to use a slap chop or food processor but basic knife skills are best practiced on an onion :^D)
3 T unsalted butter
3 lb butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces. Whole, about the size of a football.
1-2 clove garlic, minced
1 t salt or to taste
1/4 t white pepper (or black but not red)
2 T chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
4 t chopped fresh sage
1 cup hazelnuts (4 oz), toasted , (toast by placing in a dry cast iron or teflon pan until start to brown and you can smell them. Put them in a clean kitchen town and rub them around like you’re toweling off a pet, lift away, leaving as much of the skins behind, course chop)

For sauce

1 clove garlic
3 T unsalted butter
5 T all-purpose flour
¼ t freshly grated nutmeg
5 cups milk
1 bay leaf
1 t salt
1/4 t white pepper (Or substitute fine fresh ground black. Don’t use red. It will colour the sauce!)

1lb to 1.5 lb fresh mozzarella, coarsely grated. By fresh, it’s the brick form that’s slightly squiggy compared to mass produced but the bricks are okay. This is not the white bocconcini unripened mozzarella balls!!
1 cup finely grated Parmesan FRESH! The real stuff. You might get away with the fake green plastic cone stuff on your pizza or pasta but not when it is an essential ingredient.
12 (7- by 3 1/2-inch) sheets no-boil lasagna, normally a pack and a half. This is annoying but you can make adjustments to make the layers different but keeping some around will always even out eventually.


Squash filling:
Cook onion in butter in a deep 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 10 minutes. Add squash, garlic, salt, and white pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until squash is just tender, about 15-20 minutes. This is longer than when we made the risotto because there is more and the pan is full. Remove from heat and stir in parsley, sage, and nuts. Cool filling.

Make sauce while squash cooks:
Cook garlic in butter in a large heavy saucepan over moderately low heat, stirring, 1 minute. Whisk in flour and cook roux, whisking, 3 minutes. Add milk in a stream, whisking.It will thicken quickly so keep an eye on it and add more milk if need but not more than an extra ½ cup. Add bay leaf and bring to a boil, whisking constantly, then reduce heat and simmer, whisking occasionally, 10 minutes. Whisk in salt and white pepper and remove from heat. Discard bay leaf. Cover surface of sauce with wax paper to keep from congealing on the surface if your not using immediately.

Assemble lasagna:
Preheat oven to 420°F.

Toss cheeses together. Spread 1/2 cup sauce in a buttered 13- by 9- by 2-inch glass baking dish (or other baking dish with similar volume, mine was higher and a bit squatter.) and cover with 3 pasta sheets, leaving spaces between sheets. Spread with 2/3 cup sauce and one third of filling, then sprinkle with a heaping handful of cheese. Repeat layering 2 more times, beginning with pasta sheets and ending with cheese. Top with remaining 3 pasta sheets, remaining sauce, and remaining cheese.

Tightly cover baking dish with greased foil and bake lasagna in middle of oven 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake until golden and bubbling, 10 to 15 minutes more. Let lasagna stand 15 to 20 minutes before serving.

It is an OUTSTANDING dish. Do not cut too big a piece. It is is incredibly filling. Cut a 3 inch by 4-5 inch piece to start and have more if you want. It is rich and creamy. I find some béchamel sauces too light that its texture in lasagna reminds me of animal fat, blech. This one does not.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Jan 27th - Vegan Bolognese with Farrette

There is nothing so comforting than heaping bowl of pasta with hearty, clingy sauce. I know that there are a couple of reasons why generally, vegan sauces don't live up to the round, mouth feel or silkiness of a carnivorous one: acidity and fear of fat. There are ways around this depending on what you're dietary goals are. The easiest way to alleviate the acidity (if it bothers you by taste or by digestion) you can add fat. Don't click away. It is the natural way to balance it off. You can do this in a really healthy way by adding additional 'good' olive oil or butter. By good olive oil, I mean extra virgin, normally, or the more floral or pungent type that you would only use for salad dressing or mayonnaise. You really shouldn't use this variety to fry in. It's a waste of the good oil and may add flavours that clash. Butter will add a nice round mouth feel that you often get when you get when you go for indian in a takeaway where they use way more gee than you're brave enough to use at home. 1 or 2 T will go a long way and will only add a few calories... good calories as that.

Another way to balance acidity or add depth would be to add carrots. I'm not a big fan of chunky carrots in a red sauce and if you're the same, you can grate them in and they'll melt away for the most part. Recently, we've been using Yves Vegetarian Ground Round. I think it's fantastic. It adds richness and texture and unlike play tofu or regular soy ground round, has flavour. Of course, D, who is a meat eater, doesn't necessarily get as excited about it. For him, it's an acceptable compromise. Though he initiates making or buying it so he must like it to some extent. I mean really, when you get real mince and it breaks down in red sauce, other than the fat, there isn't a real difference from my perspective and this is a healthier option. YOu're able to replace the animal fat which is less healthy with olive oil or butter which can be healthier. The last and the last resort is a pinch of sugar.

In addition to making it clingy by adding tomato paste and butter or olive oil you can augment this by using a textured pasta. You'll see this in the shop when you look at the pasta and it looks like ripple chips. You can use regular rigatoni, penne or spaghetti but all of these do come with slight textural variety on the surface which helps sauce cling. It's YUM! We used a whole wheat Le Farrette. It's an chunky elbow tube pasta. We bought it in an italian shop on Commercial drive. If you cook it to where you think it should be, i.e. normally softer than italians will eat, this pasta will break up. I don't mind al dente but it is hard to hit it well without getting it raw and sticking to your teeth. But do try because often if you get specialty pasta, I find, that they break up when you over cook. A few of these tubes did. Overall, I did like this variety and would buy it again.

Comforting Vegan Bolognese

1 small red onion, slightly sweet if you can find it
2 cloves garlic
1 green bell pepper chopped
1 pint button or crimini mushrooms trimmed and brushed
1 package Yves Italian Ground Round
1 large tin chopped ITALIAN (roma) tomatoes
2-3 T tomato paste
1 chopped chili (optional)
2 t dried basil
2 t dried rosemary crushed
1 t dried oregano
1 t dried tyme
(or in lieu of the above, you could use 1T italian herb mix)
OR a jar of plain chunky red sauce... I do mean plain. We use an all natural sauce that is basically gently herbed tomatoes.
Salt and Pepper to taste
freshly grated parmesan

Chop the onion in half, holding the half, slice the onion in half again but hold it together. Slice so you have quarter circle slices. Quarter the mushrooms. Slice the green pepper into bit sized pieces of your shape preference :) I can get pretty rigid about how I would recommend you chop it but you don't need to know it unless you want. Ask.
Mince the garlic.

In a large skillet, heat some olive oil on med/high. Sautee the onions until soft. Add the mushrooms. Move them around so they try to brown instead of steam. You don't have to brown them but if your pan is too crowded, they'll start to steam and get a bit slimey which I don't care for. Add the green pepper. Stir for a few minutes. Add the Ground round and break up. Add the tomatoes and paste. Taste and season.

Simmer on low for 10 minutes or more. Top with a pat of butter and hold on warm if you're not going to eat right away. Keeps well in the fridge for up to a week in a seal container.

Serve topped with freshly grated parmesan and truffle oil (optional)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Jan 26th - Butternut Squash and Chestnut Risotto

Butternut Squash and Chestnut Risotto

Original Feb 10th

2-3 cups diced butternut squash
3/4 -1 cup chopped chestnut
I am purposely ball parking the filler because you should play around with it as much as you like. D is conservative with the veg so the beginning of the range is his measurements.
1c (1/2 c Arborio rice per person)
1.5-2 l stock, using dried, all natural, no sodium veggie stock
Now this is legitmately a ballpark. You may need more or less depending on your rice or how hard you like the rice. I like it softer.
3 sprigs of fresh thyme (you can use 1t of dry)
1 large shallot
1c white wine
Fresh parmesan

Roast the chestnuts and chop to the size of pine nuts or chocolate chips.(see Feb10th for instructions) Set aside.

In a large fry pan fry the squash in butter until just tender and set aside (5-7 minutes) trick is to use a large pan so the veg is not crowded and is mostly in 1 layer.

In the same pan add some olive oil and butter, about 1 T each. Add the shallot and saute for about a minute until just softened. Add the Rice and the thyme. Stir until all the rice is coated and shimmering and slightly toasted.

Add a ladle of stock and stir until it is almost completely absorbed. Add another and another until it's all done the same way. It'll be about half an hour at least. Taste it to see if it is the texture you like. When you're one ladle away, turn the heat off, add about 1/2 cup of freshly grated parmesan.add the ladle add the veg back and cover for a few minutes (this last bit is optional). Add 1 last pat of butter to finish. Salt and pepper to taste. YOu may not need any salt depending on your stock.

Serve with freshly grated parmesan.

D chopped the squash slightly bigger to say half inch rather than 1 cm cubes this time and the chestnuts a bit chunkier. It was wonderful this way. Though the only reason the chestnuts were chunkier was because they cooked well so we had whole chestnuts to chop rather than chestnut 'dust' from trying to extract stubborn to open chestnuts :^).

Monday, January 25, 2010

Jan 25th - Red Coconut Cod & Shrimp curry

A staple in this house, coconut curry. We normally make Green but the Mae Ploy or Cock Brand tubs we bought also make red and yellow so we thought we'd try it out. It is definitely more spicy and sharp than the more lemon-grassy and herbal green counterpart. I like it! You don't have to use Mae Ploy but I insist you read the ingredients. If the green variety does not contain Lemon Grass, move on. If it has alot of filler move on. The version we use has the basics: garlic, chili, lemon grass as the foundation. I've read alot of labels to find the ones we use. This one currently is Cock Brand Red Curry Paste. It is a little 500ml plastic tub with a red label. You'll find it in the asian food section or spice section, not the fridge. But you'll need to refridgerate right away because it's all fresh stuff. We keep ours in the freezer since the tubs are a fair size and it keeps well in the freezer since inside the tub is a vacu-bag so you can still squeeze out a few tablespoons when you need it. YUMMO

Red Coconut Cod and Shrimp Coconut Curry
for 2 servings with a small seconds

1 small sweet potato
1 medium zucchini
1 small onion
1 inch fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic
1 orange bell pepper
2 T red curry paste
1 can coconut milk

300 g cod, cut into 1inch cubes
10 shelled shrimp

3 chopped scallions or 1 bunch cilantro chopped for garnish

In a large pot or wok, heat some vegetable oil, sautee the onions until soft. 2 minutes. Add the vegetables. Stir and brown the zucchini. Add the garlic, ginger and the red curry paste. stir briefly. 1 minute.

Chop the veg into bit sized pieces. Spread the sweet potato out on a plate and microwave for 2-3 minutes just soften a little. Otherwise you'll need to simmer longer in the curry.

Add the coconut milk and 1/2 tin of water or more if the tin contains alot of solids. Course, the more solids, in my opinion the better. I've had some watery coconut milk. This one today was 3/4's solids. Yay! Simmer covered for 5 min. Add the seafood. Stir. Cover for 5 minutes

Serve over jasmine or basmati rice and top with scallions, and a little squeeze of lime.

YUMMO. I love coconut curry and you can play with the different veg or protein as you like. If you're doing red meat or poultry, cook with onions or in a separate skillet before adding back to the curry.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Jan 24th - Sunny Side with Stilton on Pumpernickel / Croquetas with Greenbean Cous Cous

D made breakfast today. Sunny side up eggs on pumpernickle toast with Stilton blue cheese. I call it pumpernickel because that is what the tag says and it is dark brown. However, I have not found very aromatic rye or pumpernickel bread in Vancouver. The best approximation are the pumpernickel bagels at Siegel's bagels on Granville Island. None of that tangy or mouth filling flavours of the fluffy, chocolate coloured wannabees available at most supermarkets. Oh well. The Stiltong (English blue cheese) definitely enhanced the bread. MMMM

D had a side of sauteed mushrooms and I had sauteed brussel sprouts. D hates brussel sprouts. I mean, he will eat them out of consideration to me or mom but of his own volition, you will never seen trimming and cooking them. I luvs them. They are one of my favourite vegetables.
Dinner is Croquetas from last week. I froze half the batch and am defrosting them on the counter. I will pan fry them as before but I may also keep them in the oven just after to make sure they are piping hot in the middle.
Greenbean Cous Cous

1 c cous cous
2 c water
1 t instant all natural veg stock
1 clove garlic minced
1/2 inch fresh ginger minced
1 med hot chili minced
1/2 t herbes de provence
1 t kosher salt
zest 1 lemon
juice 1/2 lemon
Ground pepper to taste
2 T pine nuts, browned in a dry pan, briefly
1/2 lb green beans, steamed 5 min, rinsed in cold water, chopped

In a large mixing bowl, pour in the cous cous, instant stock, salt, herbes de provence.

Boil the water. Pour over the cous cous, cover with a pot lid and set aside for at least 1/2 hour.

Add the lemon, garlic, ginger, chili, toss and set aside. Taste and adjust salt and pepper to taste.

In a pan, toss the pine nuts until the oils start shine, and they brown slightly. This will go fast from brown to burnt because of the high protein levels so don't go anywhere. 1 min max. Add to cous.

In a pot, place a steamer or not. Add half a finger tip of water. Bring to boil. Add greenbeans and cover. Cook for 5 minutes. Drain immediately and rinse with very cold water to stop over cooking that turns them that well known swampy green colour. If you do this fast, they will be cooked and a brilliant green. Chop into 1 inch pieces and toss into cous cous.


Saturday, January 23, 2010

Jan 23rd - Carmelized Stuffed Crêpes and Homemade Pizza

Sauteed Apples

2 large fuji apples sliced
2 T butter
2 T sugar/brown sugar
1/2 cinnamon

Melt butter in a small pan. Toss in the apples and sprinkle over the sugar and cinnamon. Toss every once in a while until the apples cook through and the sugar is slightly carmelised.

We are stuffing these in to crepes this morning. Actually, it's all a bit of an experiment. D wants the apples soft and I want them toffeed. He's cooking so they'll be soft.

Basic Crêpes

1 c Flour
1/4 t salt
2T sugar (opt)
1 c Milk (you can substitue some water in a pinch)
1 zested orange (washed)
2 eggs
1 T melted butter for batter and more for the pan.

Mix all the ingredients and let rest for half an hour.

Melt butter in a small bowl and have a silicon brush ready.
gently coat the pan with butter (D is not using the brush, he smears)

Pour 1/4 cup of batter or 1cm under the level of a typical soup ladel into the pan which you are holding up at an angle. Start to spin the pan gently to spread the batter evenly and thinly. Do not worry abou the first one. The first one is always a mess and resembles America's map. Shimmy it around. When it moves, use your fingers and check that it's slightly brown. Flip.

After watching Jamie Oliver's Ministry of Food, I feel I need to specify. Slightly brown means not as light as the original batter so like the colour of the crust of a baguette. I used my fingers. You can use a rubber spatula. I say rubber only because I use a non stick pan and I don't want to scratch it.Pâte à Pizza aka D's Pizza Dough

15 g dry yeast or 2 pouches (standard packs usually come in 8g)
250 ml or 1 c warm water
1 pinch of sugar (1/4 t)
1 t salt
350 - 450 g of flour work flour in until you get a light, not sticky but not tough dough. So this will vary depending on the humidity in your area.

Warm up up the mixing bowl with warm water and then empty the bowl (this is not the ingredient water)

Put the yeast in the bowl and add the warm water. Add the sugar and mix lightly and leave for 5 -10 minutes.

Using the dough hook on your mixer, incorporate the salt and the first 1/3rd of the flour. Use a wooden spoon if you don't have a mixer. Do no use a hand mixer. Slowly add the rest of the flour. Let the mixer knead the dough until it pulls away from the sides and forms a ball. You will want to stop the mixter and pull the dough down if it starts to climb the hook. If you're doing this by hand, you'll want to flour a surface and knead the dough by hand once most of the flour is in.

Knead for 10 minutes until the dough is elastic and forms a smooth ball.

Oil the mixing bowl, don't worry about the little dough bits. Holding the dough ball in one hand, swirl the ball around the bowl so it is oiled and place in the bowl with the oily side up. Cover and leave in a warm place to rise for an hour.

Punch down the dough and knead for a couple of minutes. Cut into two or three balls. If you are using it right away, let it rest for 15 minutes. It is quite 'worked up' at the moment and will not roll out without a fight. If you're not using it right away, you can wrap in plastic and store in the fridge or freezer until you need it.

(When you do take it out from storage in the fridge or freezer, bring to room temparature.)

If you've accidentally over worked it will trying to roll out out and it starts to spring back and refuses to stretch out, you can trick it by rolling in some ground pepper to break up some of the gluten strands.

Bake with topping at 455F for 35-40 minutes. We spread this out on a cookie sheet

I am making: Goat Cheese, Marinated Red Peppers, Artichoke Hearts, Eggplant strips and Anchovies

D is making: Green Bell Peppers, Red Onion, Tofuroni, Mushrooms and Mozzarella

Friday, January 22, 2010

Jan 22nd - Ackee and Salt Fish with Sweet Potato Fries

Raw Ackee

Tin of Ackee
I love love love Ackee. I first had it while living in Kingston, Jamaica when I was an intern with the Canadian International Development Agency. I used to buy it fresh at the market. The houselady would steam it for me to cook. Out of season and outside of Jamaica, you can only buy Ackee in tins. I used to try to buy it at Jamaican restaurants in Toronto and it was horrible. 2% ackee with 1% salt cod hidden in veg. My flat-mate in Barcelona used to bring tins back with him from home. He would always share. It was adorable. He always did the dishes like dumplings, rundown or ackee, exactly as his nan did. That would invariably include a half a tomato to garnish the plate which he never ate. He bought, washed and sliced the tomato and placed it on the plate because that's what you do, but he never ate it. How cute is that!?

I watched him cook all the time. His tips for ackee have stuck with me. Alas access to ackee in tins did not. I did finally find some in London when I was there but saltcod was not easy to find. I would substitute with smoked kippers. It worked out okay. When I came to Vancouver, I could only find it for 4 times the price I was used to. I did discover my favourite Jamaican restaurant here, the Reef, which is nice and generous with Ackee and the fish, particularly on midweek days when it's less busy.
I finally found a source on Commercial but it is also well known to the locals so it sells out as soon as it comes it. Then I found it at the Real Canadian Superstore in North Van. I normally avoid that shop because it's massive and head spinning. We were in there on a different mission and I found ackee and caught a cold. Nice. But right now, I've got a stock. My dad sent me a care package for my birthday with a few tins of ackee and then he bought me some more when I was home for Christmas. I could now open a shop :-)

Ackee and Salt fish is the national dish of Jamaica. Funny that, Saltcod is sourced largely to Jamaica from Canada. S and I used to chuckle about that. Ackee is a fruit that looks like a tri-lobal apricot while it is growing but then it changes when it's ripe. You cannot CANNOT eat it until it is ripe. It is poisonous until it is. Fortunately, you will know when it's ripe. It opens up like a flower. See the photo on the tin above. You can then see the inside. The shell is not edible. Inside is the 'meat' that looks like cooked eggs with a black pit. You can only eat the little yellow bit. Oddly, it also grows in Barbados and no one there eats it. I think it has a different name there too.

S Nan's Ackee and Saltfish

1 tin of Ackee drained
1 tomato chopped, I like romas because they're meatier.
1 bell pepper chopped (normally green but the green ones looked dodgy so I bought orange)
2-3 green onions
1-2 clove garlic
few sprigs, fresh thyme
1/4 t allspice
1 scotch bonnet pepper, seeded and deveined
1 lb salt cod

I got home today and my tomatoes had fallen out of my bag through a hole. Kin's Market owes me tomatoes!

Soak your salt cod for at least 12 hours, ideally 24 hours in advance. Place it in a bowl or dish covered in water and drain and change the water every 4 hours. Keep in fridge.

In a small pan, simmer, the drained fish in water, covered for 15 minutes. Drain and flake. Set aside.

Sautee with a bit of oil, all the veg for a few minutes. You can use a small onion instead of the green onions but my previous Jamaican flatmate who follows the recipes as his nan made it, insists on green onions or 'skellions' as he puts it.

Add a couple of T of oil, neutral oil, and add the ackee. This is a trick I learned from S, my ex-flatmate. Let it simmer in oil and it takes that tinned edge off. Season with pepper but don't over salt since you have salt cod. Carefully turn but don't break up the lobes of ackee too much. Simmer for 3-5 minutes. Add a few T of water if it seems too dry. Add the herbs and spices.

Add the salt cod and simmer for a couple of minutes more.

Traditionally, you would eat this with blackbeans and rice. I've had it with plain rice. Tonight we're making Sweet Potato fries. Click below for the original post with the recipe.

Sweet Potato Fries

Tried and true oven baked sweet potato fries. Tonight I used one quite large orange sweet potato and one regular russet. Why? because I had them in the frigo, of course. YUMMO!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Jan 21st - Jumbo Sushi Vancouver

Dragon Roll

Jumbo Vancouver Roll

This a cute little neighbourhood sushi joint. The cosy kitchen decor and photocopied menus in plastic sleeves belies the yumminess within. It isn't a Toyos or a Nobu. But it is a 5 minute walk from home. It is cosy and not dinery. And they have a good line of thematic rolls. I like your well done classics as are typically served, done to perfection, in your higher end sushi restaurants. However, once in a while, I get a craving for the original and creative rolls. Take for example, the Captain Crunch at the Eatery in Kits. It has tuna and tempura crunchies on top. Jumbo Sushi has photos of their creative line on their storefront window and I've been walking by for a year when I go to the Apple Hill market. I have no good reason why I've not tried it earlier. Their rolls are as pretty as their photos and just as tasty.

Broadway Roll
It's run by a young family. There was a tiny 6 month old sitting in a high chair watching movies on a laptop. It was pleasant, like a true village or neighborhood place. I've never seen it full but there's usually a steady seating. There are takeaways as well. We were alone in the dining room tonight. The service was pleasant and not rushed. She was quick and ready with the tea, which I love.

They serve a whole line of the classic rolls as well as nigiri. Additionally, they have a number of other Japanese fare like donkatsu, teriyaki.

We had three of the larger creative line:

Dragon Roll

An inside outside maki roll with Tempura Shrimp, Avocado and cucumber with BBQ Eel on the outside topped with a slightly sweet teriyaki-like sauce, mayo and roe. (Inside outside roll means that the nori/kim/seaweed, is on the inside of the roll like a Yule log cake)

This was a very nice roll. Warm and freshly made. It is said that you can judge the quality of a sushi chef by his omlette roll (Tamagoyaki). The flavour, seasoning, sweetness and texture of the egg is very telling of the chef's skills. That might well be true. I think on the lower, more affordable range of sushi restaurants, I think you can tell quality of the place by the Yam tempura or Shrimp tempura rolls: Is it warm or crispy, cooked recently? Is the yam soaked through with oil? Is it a tiny little shrimp in alot of batter?

As well, a popular roll in Vancouver is the BC Roll or the Salmon Skin roll. It is topped with a similar teriyaki-like sauce. In some of the cheaper places downtown, particularly along Dunsmuir, the quality is terrible. There is so much starch in the sauce that if you don't eat it immediately you will have a congealed, gooey, muceous on the plate that is highly inedible.

The sauce on this roll did not congeal yet it was thick enough to cling to the roll. D thought it was a bit too sweet. I disagreed. I guess it depends on how sweet you like your BBQ sauces. The mayo added a nice richness, perhaps there was a touch too much but not so much I had to try to remove any. Overall a lovely roll I would order again.

Broadway Roll

An inside outside chopped spicy Tuna roll with Scallop rolled on the outside and topped with a black sesame dressing and roe.

D loved this roll. The tuna was plentiful on the inside and gently piquante. The scallop on the outside was delicate. The sesame dressing was fairly neutral to slightly nutty. The only thing I might change about this roll is how cold the tuna was. I guess that's a bit tough given the nice quantity of fish. Though perhaps not as cold as it was.

Jumbo Vancouver

Salmon, Tuna, Crab stick, Egg, Cucumber, Avocado and Lettuce. This was the least thrilling roll but it was still very satisfying. It was indeed Jumbo. It's like futomaki roll where you need to not to be on a date or on a work lunch to order this roll. You can bite it in half as you eat but you're not supposed to. To get the full flavour you should have all the flavours in our mouth. That goes for the cones too. I've seen them shoved with palms right into gaping mouths in the nicest of japanese restaurants. I'll admit, I had to bite it in half. I liked the lettuce and the tuna and salmon was very fresh. It was refreshing next to the other two rich rolls. Yum.

On a purist level, the rice could have had more flavour. The rice itself should have a seasoning of sugar, mirin, rice wine vinegar during the fanning cool stage. The mixture is a secret to each chef and can be the difference between good and great sushi. I don't know that the rice here (or in most of the innumerable affordable sushi restaurants in Vancouver) was seasoned. It is a deal breaker when many of the other aspects on quality hit the mark. I will eat here again.

Cost: $ (relative to other 'affordable' sushi places) but $ overall
Ambience: Quaint cozy kitchen
Staff: Friendly, helpful and attentive.
Location: Fairview Slopes a few blocks from Cambie Skytrain Station

Jumbo Sushi - Vancouver
780 West 6th Avenue
Vancouver, BC V5Z 1A5
(604) 874-9090

Jumbo Sushi on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Jan 20th - Seafood Mandu and Mixed Green Salad with Kochujang dressing

Mom always sends me home with some frozen goodies. My sisters get Kalbi and now so does D. I get Mandu and home made Kochujang, amongs other things. Kochujang is Korean chili paste. You can easily buy kochujang. It certainly won't taste the same and some are down right bad. There is one that looks slightly like a dressing, looser. It comes in a green plastic container. Don't buy it! The after taste is brutal. I'll take a photo this week. There are others that try to get the Kochudengjang where it is a mix between young rough grain miso and Kochujang. These are often not done very well either. If you're going to buy Kochujang, 1st make sure it has Korean writing on it, 2nd make sure it's made in Korea or japan if you have to, to avoid odd tasting fillers. 3rd. Get plain red kochujang.

The Kochudengjang is often on the table for dipping of veg like mild green banana chilis or garlic cloves or in lettuce leaves with Bulgogi. The Kochjang it self is very versatile and can form the base of soups, stirfrys (like Dukbohki) or eaten straight.

If you make it from scratch, like mom does, it takes days and days. It involves large pots that children could use as backyard splash pools and mixing tubs that I'm pretty sure do double as pools. I've bought my mom a couple of these implements for her birthdays and such. They're pretty costly. The look on her face was like a child's with a new puppy. There is stewing of Kochukadru (korean ground chilis) with malt flour. I've known family friends who stir it with a baseball bat. Often I've heard my mom complain that dad doesn't help like Mr. S who stirs it daily after work with his bat. Really you don't have to make it. And if you choose to venture that way, then don't feel you need to store up for a family of 10 for a year. I think it's just a mentality mom can't shake from her upbringing. I hope to learn.

Kochjang Salad Dressing

2 T kochujang
3 T rice wine vinegar
2 T sesame oil
1-2 black and white sesame seeds

Whisk. Toss on leaves or cucumbers. I topped with roasted chopped chestnuts we had made earlier for a risotto and then forgot to use. :-)

As well mom, makes her own Mandu or Korean dumplings. These are often filled with beef or chicken. Mom has made many culinary adjustments over the years since me and one of my sisters gave up meat. Meat is huge for Koreans so this was super trying for mom. I never gave the deserved credit for it when I was a surly teenager upset to find sausages in my salad and mom claiming ignorance. How'd that get there?

Mom's Seafood Mandu

She's perfected her seafood mandu over the years from little bits of feedback. One of the great things about making your own is of course control on filling and amount of filling.

Start with an enormous bowl. O, right, well I only really know how mom makes this. So I'll try to adjust. Start with a big bowl. You'll often see chopped bean thread noodle as a filler, a good one. Mom used to use more. There is very little now. Blanch a handfull of beanthread vermicelli and chop fine.

Let's do this right and not like mom off the cuff:

1 handful beanthread vermicelli
1 lb fresh soft dubu/tofu
1 lb cooked chopped shrim and squid, total
2 scallions chopped
1 inch fresh ginger
2-3 cloves garlic
2 T hot chilis (options but preferred)
1-2 c finely chopped kimchi, depends how spicy you like it.
salt and pepper

The binder is largely fresh tofu. Her friend owns a Soon Dubu restaurant and shop where she makes fresh tofu daily. This of course means it's only good for a few days. It's super soft like a firm yogurt. Use 500 ml or family yogurt sized container.

As well, eggs are also part of the bind. This is more important if you've got dry or crumbly tofu. You can even leave out the egg if you want if you've got nice soft tofu. 1-2 eggs.

The protein or the goodies are chopped shrimp and chopped cooked squid. Your ratio of tofu to seafood is up to you. I think equal amount of all protein to tofu will work. Gently steam or blanche the seafood and mince to 1/2 cm pieces.

Then add the following aromatics: 2 scallions/green onions, chopped. 1 inch ginger minced. 2-3 cloves garlic minced. 2T fresh chopped hot chilis

Chop fresh kimchee 1-2 cups. I like alot of kimchee in this. Up to you but if you leave it out, you may as well go to TnT and buy the frozen stuff with the strange veg mince that mostly tastes like carrots. Mom, of course, makes her own kimchee. She waxes poetic how well known she is in her circle and church groups for her kimchee. Yeah it's pretty good. Well, it's better than good but really mom, you make enough to feed a village.

Kimchee is asian cabbage picked in chilis and other ingredients that store bought won't always have. The stuff in the store is good but it's not made to last. It likely hasn't used enough salt or the shrimp paste that helps it get to the lactic fermentation stage before you start eating it. It's fine and is about as close to kimchee you'll get in a shop but it will go off in less than a week and your fridge will STINK! The stuff in the plastic tub jars might last longer than in the fresh takeaway section of the korean market. I'll do a post on kimchee later. I just learned this year from dad that if not for European introduction of the chili to asia, Kimchee would have kept it's original guise of something more akin to sauerkraut. Isn't that nuts!

Combine well. Buy a big pack of wonton or dumpling wrappers. Round is best but doesn't matter. Well, not to me but mom would say it has to be round and get the nice thick ones. Beat an egg with one shell full of water. Place 1 - 2 T filling in the centre of the wrapper. Brush or use one finger, and always that finger, to rub egg along 1/2 the circumference of the wrapper. Start on one end and pinch non egg side to egg side and start to fold like you're making a paper fan. Pinch nice and tight.

lay out separated on trays or sheet pans. When your done you will need to steam if you're planning to freeze. Or steam and eat straight away. I would also recommend steaming before frying unless you have a deep fryer. Lay them separated in a steamer for 12-15 minutes. Lay out again on the trays to cool. Freeze or eat. I've kept some of these for six months to a year and they've been fine. A little freezer burn on the edges but after recooking they were fine. Defrost and pan fry or steam. Serve with soy sauce or I like peanut sauce.

Mom will do about 5 times this amount when she gets into it. We try to help for a bit but after an hour, she's still going and I'm all egged up and slightly bored. As well, she's rather unamused by the ravioli, tondi and tortellini shapes I make. I also tried a few dimsum shapes too, all of which she steams, cheerfully. And cheerfully she make sure to serve them to me and no one else. I thought they were funny. They're definitely YUMMO.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Catch-up - Dec 20th - Christmas Pecan and Walnut Shortbread

Every Christmas, I make the holiday goodies. I have been doing this self-imposed duty for years. For a few years, my sister would at least help me by doing the decorations. Well, as she flies in so rarely now, she was doing the rounds and dropped her decorating duty this year. The thing is, I don't really care if they're decorated or not. O has always been the one with the collection of sprinkles stored at mom and dad's that she breaks out when I bake.

I was tempted this year not to bake. I had already made alot of cookies in Vancouver before going home to Toronto and was pretty full up with shortbread. I stopped making the fudge and truffles when I seemed to be the only one eating them. I didn't bother with my favourite pumpkin cheesecake for the same reason. See mom gets excited when we come home and stuffs the cupboards full of her korean goodies and won't let us eat a single leftover so she can cook us our favourites when we're home. But the cookies, I did. It wouldn't be Christmas, ... if I didn't gain 5 lbs.

This is an extension of the base recipe. I replaced the use of the vanilla with Kalhua. It didn't taste as strong as I would have like. I would double it and so that's what you're going to see in the recipe.

Pecan and Walnut Christmas Shortbread

1 lb butter room temperature
1 c sugar
3/4 c light brown sugar
1 t salt
2 T Kalhua
4 c flour
1 c chopped pecans
1 c chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 325. Place racks at the 1/3 and 2/3 positions so they are equidistant from the top and bottom and you can bake two sheets at a time.

Use non stick pans or line the pans with the parchement paper.

Beat the butter and sugar until even.

Add the Kalhua or 1t vanilla extract and salt stir.

With the mixer on stir, add the flour carefully 1/2 - 1 cup at a time. When you have all the flour in turn up the speed briefly. Don't over beat because you don't want chewy but without water and all that butter, it shouldn't happen.

With the mixer on stir, add the nuts. Fold / stir untili evenly combine.

Line a shallow sheet pan with plastic wrap. In handfuls, spread the dough out and evenly press out on the pan, 3/4 cm thick (1/4 inch) Chill until firm. Now you could just chill and roll out but I was trying to minimise the mess. It was December in Toronto so I put the pan, covered, outside for 15 minutes.

Turn out onto a large cutting surface. Cut out shapes as you like. Try to cut them close to each other to save you time later. Decorate and place on baking sheet.

When all the dough is cut, (2 dozen or so) roll the dough back together. I decided to save time because this makes ALOT of cookies, to just roll a log and cut slices for the next batches.

Bake 15 - 20 minutes. Turn half way. Don't let brown.

Cool on racks and keep in wax paper lined tins. Keeps and gets better every day for weeks. MMMM

Monday, January 18, 2010

Jan 18th - Yellow Korean Curry with Eggplant and Zuccini

Growing up my mom used to call this Yellow-bap or yellow rice/food. I don't really know why mom didn't always use the Korean name for the foods we ate. She did sometimes, the staples. But for alot of stuff like Fish Stew or Sweet Rice w Figs or Shredded Marinated Beef. Funny. The Korean Yellow curry is very similar to the Japanese Katsu but better. It has a similar curry base as an indian curry but slightly sweeter and saucy. I've seen the Japanese variety being served as just that, the sauce. The yellow sauce served over rice or a breaded cutlet. Not my thing at all. Probably mainly because I grew up eating this as a stew full of potatoes, carrots, onions, beef, garlic. When I gave up meat, my mom started putting chick peas in it at my request. She of course felt it needed protein, so she adds big shrimp.

The curry base it self comes in cube bouillons. Unless you're crazy hardcore...and mom is hardcore. You use these cubes. You needn't feel bad that you're not making it from scratch. Mom makes her own soy sauce and fish sauce but she uses these cubes.

Today, I'm using the veg that is going off in the fridge because we over bought last weekend: Eggplant, Zucchini, potato, cannellini beans (because I've runout). Actually, I used to make this alot on my own with just eggplant and chickpeas and if done properly is very similar if not dead on to the Indian Baigan curry dish. MMMMM one of my faves. Just use less water. I often add a bit of indian curry powder if I'm doing that.

Eggplant and Zucchini Yellow Korean Curry

1 eggplant
1 small onion
1 small zucchini
3-4 small chilies chopped
3 cloves garlic
1 inch ginger fresh
1/2 pack of curry cubes (75-100g)
3 c water
1 tin of chick peas (optional)
5 shrimp sauteed on the side (optional)
salt and pepper

I do the eggplant separately. You don't have to. You can sautee the eggplant with the potato but stew a bit longer before eating. I was making this on a work day so I wanted to eat before 9pm. So this is like the rapid development version. I'm always thinking of cooking a dish like a project where I look for activities that can happen in parallel.

Start the rice. I'm making brown jasmin and it takes 25-40 minutes. It's best to start it first.

Turn the oven on to 425 while chopping the eggplant in 3/4 inch cubes. Toss with olive oil. Salt. Place in oven while you do the rest. 30 minutes.

In a large dutch oven, or big skillet like mom would use. Heat some olive oil and butter on medium heat. Chop the onion and potato. Toss in as you go. Season with salt and pepper. Don't burn the onion. Keep it moving. Cook for 5-10 minutes. Chop the zucchini in coins, 1 cm thick cut in half.

Put a bowl of water in the microwave to boil or boil some water. Break the cubes up and place in the bowl and let melt. Stir with a spoon. Chop the chilies, ginger and garlic.

Add the zucchini and keep it moving. When the zucchini starts to brown. 3- 5 minutes. Add more oil if it starts to stick. Don't worry if t bottom browns a bit. Brown is good. Burn is bad. Add the aromatics. Stir for a couple of minutes.

Stir the bowl with the water and curry and quickly dump into the pot before it settles. Add more water to the bowl and whisk up the rest of the curry and dump in. ~3 cups. Add more or less to taste. The cubes will thicken when the stew comes to a boil with more or less water, it will thicken and it will just mean more or less intense curry flavour. So carefully taste before you over water.

Toss in the eggplant. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer. Let sit for at least 15-20 minutes or more. Add the beans in at the last 5 minutes to heat through. Or earlier if you want not to fuss.

You could toss any number of shrimp or whatever in but since I didn't want to have a whole pot of shrimp curry, I sauteed them briefly onthe side and served them on the rice then ladled some curry on top.

MMMM tastes like childhood but with more veg. Moms would have just been potato, carrots, and peas with protein.

Oh the best brand, in my opinion is 'Golden'. I've tried a few like Glico, Kokomu and others but Golden is the least candy like and less filler. Yummo.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Jan 17th - Croquetas de Pescado (Spanish Fish Croquettes)

Croquetas de Pescado

This is hands down my favorite Spanish tapa. My favourite dishes include Arroz Negro, Espinaca al Curi and Gazpacho. But what I always hope to see come to Vancouver is a decent croqueta without Jamon. The Spanish croqueta or croquette is a bechamel or white sauce base one and not a potato base like other mediterranean or french types. Don't fear the bechamel. In this case and not many for a bechamel, it doesn't matter as much if it goes too far and gets too thick because you need it thick enough to make balls rather rugby ball shapes.

The classic variety are Croquetas de Jamon or Ham or Bacalao. You'll also see Pollo or Chicken often enough. Salt cod can be expensive and takes 24 hours to desalinate. So often restaurants won't offer this variety or they'll 'cheat' you on the Salt Cod. (Reef doesn't :-D) Therefore, I obviously love to make salt cod dishes at home where I can be as generous as I please. My ackee with salt cod is replete with lovely salty nuggets of fish.

Today, I am making a combo of smoked Peppered Salmon and Bacalao Croquetas because D bought some smoked ready to eat salmon for me last week but I never go to it. I'm always looking for portable protein that I can eat so he buys it whenever he's in Choices Market. It's yum. I was already desalinating a large piece of Bacalao for an all Salt Cod croquette but when D reminded me we needed to finish the salmon, I changed course. Actually, we had planned on making omlettes with it but we bought those scones yesterday at the Seaside Bakery in Blaine. The piece I cut had two bits because I'm trying a bowl desalination rather than the big clunky baking dish where I always spill in and out of the fridge. So the wee tail piece, I used today. The other, I'll probably use this week for a Brandade or Ackee dish.

Croquetas de Peppered Salmon y Bacalao

Serves 4-6 people..
100 g butter
1/2 c finely chopped onion
2 cloves garlic
3/4 c flour
2 1/2 c milk
1/2 t paprika
1/4 t fresh grated nutmeg
1 t dry parsley
olive oil
6 oz fish (300g)
salt and pepper to taste
Bread crumbs
Flour to coat
1 beaten egg

If you're using salt cod, simmer water for 5 minutes. Drain. Cool. Flake. The smoked fish, just chop or flake. Set aside.

Mince the onion and garlic. Sautee until soft in some oil. Add the butter in chunks. When melted. Sprinkle in the flour while mixing. It will turn into a paste fast. It's okay. Cook for a few minutes. Brown if you have time.

Pour the milk in 1/2 cup at a time. Whisk until smooth. Turn up the heat a bit if your milk is cold. Add the spices. Whisk until it thickens. You're looking for brownie batter consistency.... i.e. thicker than pancake batter but thinner than bread dough.

Add the fish. Mix. I poured it all into a bowl at this stage to quicken the cooling. Set aside. You can cover if you want. I'm not going to let it sit that long.

With two spoons, form egg shapes or rugby ball shapes. drop in flour to LIGHTLY coat. Drop in beaten egg and dredge in bread crumbs. Set aside. When you're down cool the lot in the fridge until you're ready to fry. I made my own breadcrumbs by toasting 3 slices of bread and quickly blitzing in a food processor. 3 slices was perfect.

This made about 16 tT sized croquetas. NEXT time I will use less milk - bechamel so the fish to filling ratio is higher and makes less croquettes. Oh well, cook and learn.

Fry in some shallow oil on medium high. Don't crowd the pan if you've left them in the fridge. The cold with lower the temperature of the oil. I did 4 at a time.

We had a simple mixed green salad on the side with Balsamic, Tarragon mustard and White wine vinagre dressing. For dipping we had some (totally not authentic, spanish-wise) tapenade, salsa and guacamole.

YUMMO! Four a piece is fine. Believe me.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Jan 16th - Seaside Bakery & Cafe; Shitake and Oyster Mushroom with Edamame Risotto

We went to Mt. Baker this morning so we were pretty beat when we got home. Mt. Baker was a bit of a disappointment for me. It was very icy and choppy toward the bottom of the lifts. It was really poorly marked and the boundary's and trails were sloppy. Most of the day I had no idea which trail I was on. I know it's a more rustic ski mountain than the ones in the Vancouver area. I'm fine with that. It is in a national park after all. I loved the lodges and the view was breathtaking. That said, trail marking and signage could easily make a day better.

On the way down to Seattle or Baker we ALWAYS stop at the Seaside Bakery and Cafe. It's a tiny little dinner just over the border from the Peace Arch crossing. The decor is probably original 70's but really the on-site baked bread, pastries and soups are worth foregoing the childhood kitchen interior design. Today, we picked up or usual scones which are full but butter and fresh fruit. As well, we had egg sandwiches on on-site baked english muffins which were fabulous. They muffins had chewy and crispy texture and full of flavour. Eggs were perfectly scrambled and upon request will substitute the canadian bacon for tomatoes or spinach. I opted for spinach. I really recommend you go in for their scones if you're ever driving through!

Cost: $
Ambience: Cozy but dated
Staff: Friendly
Location: Blaine riverside
Cleanliness: Tidy

Seaside Bakery and Cafe
477 Peace Portal Drive
Blaine, WA

(360) 332-9866

When pressed for time or needing something comforting in the belly, risotto is a must. Don't fear the risotto I say! We normally do a risotto once a week to two weeks. Super easy as long as you keep certain staples in your cupboards. Nothing too fancy: Arborio rice, parmesan cheese, stock/broth.

Originally, we were going to do this dish with peas. As a default if we have forgotten to buy veg, peas make an easy risotto on its own or with a protein like shrimp. When we got home we realised we had run out. We used frozen edamame as a substitute. They're firmer than peas so not as light but they were still yummy.

I am using a new veggie broth this time. I was really loving the low sodium cubes I found at capers. I insist on low sodium to you as well even if you make it or use tetra pack. It is super hard to control the sodium in the rest of the dish if you use salted broth. I've learned that the salty way! I bought a new one that comes in powder form. 1 t per cup and the pack was quite big. Value!

Shitake and Oyster Mushroom with Edamame Risotto

1 - 1.5 l vegetable broth
1 c arborio rice
1 shallot minced
1/4 c dry white wine
6 fresh shitake mushrooms (because when cooked on high to brownining, they are super mushroomy)
1 c fresh oyster mushroom (also cooked on high to brown)
1/2 c shelled edamame defrosted and drained
1/2 c freshly grated parmesan (additional for topping)
2-4 T butter
Olive oil
Salt and Pepper

Bring your broth to a boil and set aside on low heat.

In a large skillet, heat olive oil on high heat. Fry the chopped shitakes without moving for the first minute. Let them brown. Give them space. No piling. Move them around but not too much. Set aside on a plate.

Repeat for the cleaned chopped oyster mushrooms. Nowadays, mushrooms are largely farmed in pretty clean conditions so a good brushing is the way to go. Use a mushroom brush or a dry paper towel. If you insist on washing, make sure you dry them before frying.
Set the oyster mushrooms aside with the shitake.

Add more oil to the pan, on medium heat. Sautee the shallots, try not to brown, just soften. 2-3 minutes. Add the rice. Stir to coat with the oil. You may have to add a dash more. When the rice is all glistening and stlightly browned, add the wine in a large circle around the pan. D doesn't measure this, oddly enough with his propensity to follow recipes. He holds his thumb mostly over the bottle and does 1 circle around the pan. Stir until mostly absorbed. You don't want the pan to dry out and burn.

Add 1 ladle of broth. (about 1/4 - 1/2 c) Stir. When it looks mostly absorbed, i.e. you draw your wooden spoon down the middle of the pan and the moisture doesn't immediately close in on itself. Repeat with the another ladel 1 ladel at a time. About 20 minutes in, add the edamame. Continue adding stock. Season with salt to taste. Add pepper to preference.

When you are 1 ladle away or about at the 30 min mark, add the mushrooms back. Combine add 1-2 T butter. Ladle the last of the stock, stir once. Cover and set aside. Our large skillet is so big that we don't have a lid and we normally cover with our big wok turned over. 10 minutes off the heat.

Add the parmesan and stir to combine. Serve topped with additional fresh parmesan.


Friday, January 15, 2010

Jan 15th - Spinach and Goat Cheese Soufflee

Spinach and Goat Cheese Soufflee
  • Soft but not melted butter, for the soufflee dish
  • 500 g leaf spinach, washed and trimmed
  • 1/4 c butter
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 c all purpose flour
  • 1/4 t cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 t freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 c low fat milk milk
  • 200g soft goat cheese
  • 1/8 c freshly grated parmesan
  • 2 tbsp finely grated Parmesan
  • 5 large eggs, separated, one by one so you keep the whites safe from yolks
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Truffle oil to taste
Butter a 7-9" souffle dish. Most attention to the sides. Chill and then apply another layer. I use the wrapper the butter came in. You can use a brush or a piece of wax paper to smear the butter. Set aside in the fridge.

Preheat the oven to 400F

Wash the spinach thoroughly but emersing in water and draining a couple of times. Drain but don't spin. Heat a large non stick pan and place the leaves in manageable bunches into the hotpan and let wilt. If there isn't enough water on the leaves add a splash. Wilt all the leaves until soft. Season with salt and pepper. Move around alot with the heat lower until there is no water left in the pan. If you think the leaves are still too moist, squeeze through a clean dish cloth. Chop and set aside to cool.

Melt the butter in the emptied pan. Sautee the shallots and garlic with cayenne on medium high heat for a few minutes. Don't brown the garlic. Sprinkle the flour over the pan and mix with a whisk or wooden spoon for a few minutes until looks like a paste. Turn the heat down to medium. Pour in milk slowly while stirring. Mix until thickened. It will happen fast. Take of heat and place in a large mixing bowl. Stir to cool slightly.

Add the egg yolks. Mix. Add the nutmeg and parmesan. Mix. Add the goat cheese breaking into small pieces with a knife or fingers. Mix thoroughly. Set aside.

Beat the whites with a hand mixer or stand mixer until stiff peaks. That means if you lift the beater, you get a elf hat standing up on the whisk. If it is floppy or watery keep beating on high. Don't over beat to a point they become dry. This looks like 'broken' butter or whey. When you try to lift the whisky, it may not cling to the whisk at all and look crumbly. It's not the worst but don't over beat.

Take a big scoop of the whites and mix into the cheese and yolk mixture to lighten up. Then add the rest and gently fold by carefully turning the batter from the middle with a large rubber spatula or wooden spoon. Only fold to combine but it's okay if you still see some whites. Better that then over mix and deflate all the whites.

Pour into the baking dish. Try to avoid spilling onto the edges. Wipe drips so that the soufflee can rise. Then take a sharp small knife and run along the edge of the batter.

Place on the rack in the middle of the oven. Bake for 40 minutes. If it starts to brown too much cover with foil. You can check at 30 minutes by jiggling it. If it moves too much, leave it for 5-10 minutes more. If you don't know what 'too jiggly' means, check with a spoon in the middle. Slightly runny is okay but if it looks too foamy or watery put back.

It was super tasty. The goat cheese and spinach was a great combination. If you do several in smaller ramekins, you can cut the time almost in half.

This could serve four as an appetizer. We had the whole thing with nothing else.


Jan 14th - Café Barcelona - Vancouver

(Photos were take with the cell phone.)Last minute audible from D. He reminded me that we had thought about seeing a movie at the Vancity theatre called the "Yes Men Fix the World". Vancity is great for indie films, documentary, and foreign films. Vancity is not so great on member management and junk email. I get so many notices for updates that I've stopped reading them. As well, I've had to buy 3 memberships over the last year because of various events and their lack of ability to merge their emailing list with any other system or even paper printout. Grrrr

Anyhoo, I was supposed to make Spinach and Goat Cheese soufflee but the movie was at 815 so we decided to eat downtown after the gym. I also hadn't planned for that so found myself trying to towel off in the shower with my facecloth.
I chose the Barcelona Café because I pass it all the time on my way home. They had a Vespa parked out front when they first opened. It reminded me of the 2 years lived in Barcelona where people park their scooters everywhere there is space.

It's the closest Spanish Tapa and Pinxo joint to authetico that I've been to here in Vancouver and I've tried a few. I lived in Barcelona for two years and travelled all over. I lived in San Sebastien for work for a few months as well and I have a pretty staunch view on authenticty but I'll temper my review. I was telling D that when I was living in Spain, it was really hard to get real Indian or Thai because they had to 'cool' down their spices for the Spanish tongue. Contrary to popular belief, spaniards don't like spice. They think black pepper is spicy. You won't often find a pepper shaker on tables in restaurants. But I we thought, Vancouver is more diverse so they should stay true to their style and there was one dish which I was disappointed that they had to 'westernise'.

Spaniards are extremely proud of their cuisine. It is firmly part of their identity. They believe their food to be the best in the world. Now, you might find that said by other cultures but I've not seen it so universally believed as I had for Spain. The only other would be, perhaps, Italy but they'd still come second to how unanimous they are on this to a point it seems 'closed minded'. I suppose it might come from post Franco/fascist sense of national pride. All good. For me, it took a little bit of adjusting. I was not accustomed to the amount of olive oil used and the lack of rice or other starch on the plate as a default. I like spice. I did miss the spice but as I started to make my own spanish food, I made the appropriate adjustments :-D

I took one look at the menu and I knew right away that this place had potential. Don't get me wrong. I like Bin941, Cobre and Sanafir. I'm not as big a fan of places serving overpriced small portions under the banner of tapas like Uva. The menu is very straight forward, simple and mouthwatering just on a quick read.

The menu was split into sections for Tapas Cold/Hot and Pinxos (pronounced PINCHOS, basque or catalan use of "X"), then salads and desserts. There are tapas or 'raciones' are small plates. They are roughly the size of an appetizer. There are also cold or hot Pinxos which are the equivalent of a large amuse bouche or hors d'oeuve. Then the simple green salads and desserts. The prices were exceptionally reminiscent of Spain, 3-9$ for a Tapa and 3-4$ for a Pinxo.

When I say authentic I mean it reminded me of Barcelona where bars, and tapas bars abound. They're not necessarily posh sit down restaurants. This is like one of those though their decor is slight more upscale. There was a lovely flamenco guitar cd playing. Perfect.

We started with the white anchovies in vinagre, "Boquerones en Vinagre". They're traditionally a type of ceviche with small white anchovies but unlike the typical anchovies these have not been cured in salt so they are not salty. They were yum. We then ordered the classic "Patatas Bravas", potatoes with Aioli and Tomato sauce. Actually, it's not typically tomato sauce. It's normally hot sauce. I was luke warm on their rendition of this dish. The potatoes looked like they had potential but the tomato sauce made them soggy. The tomato sauce was more like tomato puree so there was too much water. As well, the aioli was on the side. Weird. A purist serves, piping hot crispy potatoes covered in aioli with a the 'red slightly spicy sauce' on top. It's one of the rare slightly spicy things in the spanish repetoire. I'm okay with them because you gotta have patatas bravas if you're going to a real Cantina.

Next we had the Octopus, "Pulpo". It wasn't quite the same but it tasted the same. Pulpo is octopus and NOT squid or calamari. When you order this type of pulpo in spain, you get toonie sized coin slices of the tentacles. It is very spongy. I'm actually not a big fan but the use of olive oil and paprika on this dish is yum. This however, I suspect, used purple squid or smaller octopus because they were sections of the tentacles which were, as you can see, very small. So they were chewy instead of spongy. This was a very nice dish.

We of course had Pan con Tomate, bread with tomato. It's a standard as well. This was altered as well and unlike the patatas, where it was a chef's take on the dish, this was just completely untraditional. Though, I have to admit, it tasted like I remember and even slightly fresher. The 'real' pan con tomate is a large broad slice of a round loaf. It is rubbed with garlic then you take ripe tomatoes cut in half and rub its 'guts' into the bread, really rubbed in. The 'meat' of the tomato is tossed. Then you drizzle the bread with nice olive oil. In this case, they did a 'bruscetta' style pan which I think was an attempt to satsify the local vancouverites who lurve their bruscetta. I am so tired of bruscetta. Didn't it go out with quiche yet? BUT BUT like I said it tasted very nice. They used sliced baguettes topped with chopped tomato 'guts' and olive oil. Their oil was really nice.

Those were the standards. On top of those we had some pinxos which are one hors d'oeuvre served on a slice of baguette. In Spain, you'd eat as you want from the counter and keep the toothpicks and you'd be charged for the count. MMMMM Though unnecessary, they still served with a toothpick. I liked it. We had the Txorra, sausage which D really liked and later asked for the source. Ask me. We also tried the Anchovy with goatcheese and piquillo pepper. Then finished with the Blue Cheese Mousse. The last was very 'modern' but very nice.

I will also add that I wish they had more spanish wine on the list. The best one on there was the Thelmo Basa. A nice bright white. Try the Crema Catalana, a slightly nutty creme brulee. They also have sangria specials and entertainment on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

I will go back!

Cost: $$ - $$$
Ambience: Cozy
Staff: Very friendly and warm
Location: Right downtown and close to shows and clubs
Cleanliness: Newly established


Café Barcelona
1049 Granville Street
Vancouver, BC V6Z 1L4
(778) 885-5522

Cafe Barcelona on Urbanspoon