Monday, January 24, 2011

Monday, Jan 17th - Coconutty Presents

Coconut Cake
There are few things nicer than unexpected presents, except when that unexpected present is a cake!  L at D's office wanted to bake us a cake and D had asked sometime ago what type of cake I might like best?  I had said Coconut because a good homemade Coconut cake is so rare if not non-existant in most markets and bakeries.  I think that might be because to make a really authentic one is so labour intensive and cross that with perhaps, what boggles my mind, a lack of high demand for Coconut. 

You see, it's not just a matter of a Vanilla sponge cake with some white butter frosting covered in Coconut Flakes. Oh no!  A real Coconut cake is Coconutty goodness, layered upon Coconutty goodness... for a sense of it watch the Good Eats Episode dedicated to it.

A nice Coconut cake, as this lovely present is, should taste of coconut throughout and not as you're sweeping up the last bit of Coconut flakes that fell off while you were eating.  I'm not saying that L made Alton Brown's cake but if that's any guide, I tip my hat to your effort and your most generous gift! 

MMMMMM Coconut!

Coconut Cake Slice

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Sunday, Jan 16th - Tuscan Tuna (or Toona) Cannellini Bean Salad - Italian Interior Tradition

Tuscan Tuna Cannellini Bean Salad
For nearly a week, last week, D would disappear into our kitchen and mysteriously fiddle around with what looked and smelled like a science experiment.  I respected this little project and didn't snoop.  I was tempted.  We have an open concept kitchen so his disappearing and my minding my own business were both quite large feats.  The one thing I did know was that he was taking his copy of Heat with him.

Heat was a book he brought on our holiday last summer.  It is not a cookbook.  It's a non fictional novel written by a journalist who is convinced or rather WAS convinced he should be a chef.  He travels through Italy and does alot of historical, gastronomic research and also manages to land a job with Mario Batali as a kitchen slave.

The book describes alot of Italian classics and D has tried to replicate despite the sparse write up with descriptions like "handful" and "some".  D went out of his way to tell me about alot of the dishes as he was reading but I didn't recall this one.

TUSCAN TUNA....hmmmmm.  I didn't see nor smell Tuna come into the house and I have had a spike in my olfactory sense of late.  I didn't question it.  Chopping, marinading and hiding went on for days.  I even impressed myself by not looking for it in the fridge.  I think I assumed he was using the Saltcod or some of our other frozen fish.    Then came the boiling.

The spike in my 'odor' sensitivity is what prevents me from making really pungent dishes and also have the ability to eat it.  It's been one or the other for the last couple of months which is why D has to do the Thai Curries or other heady dishes if we plan to eat it straight away.  I reckon things will even out soon enought.  Anyhoo, so he brings out his chemistry experiment, aka Tuscan Tuna and places it in a medium sauce pan.  He puts it to a gentle boil, rigorous simmer for 2 hours.

The main component of the boiling liquid was a dry Chardonnay.  About 20 minutes in, I begged D to take it outside on a hot plate.  When he said we didn't have one, he opened all the windows and I sat with my sweater pulled over my mouth.  I was tempted to go dig up that germ mask I brought home as a souvenir from the Narita Airport in Tokyo.  After it was done, he placed it outside to cool.  Only then did I remember we did have a burner on our gas BBQ outside.  Blast!  I was very disappointed to learn that it would still be a few days before we were to eat the end product.

Then suddenly, one day after work, he rushes into the kitchen, still in his work clothes, which he never does, and got busy with his back to me.  I just assumed he was snacking on Olives or Carrots sticks as he often does after work.  He appears next to me on the couch with a lovely looking bowl of Bean Salad.

It is a Bean Salad lit up with Marinaded Italian Red Peppers and fresh Parsley and what looks like tinned Tuna.  I ask D what it is.  He evasely tells me it's 'Tuscan Tuna'. I tell him it's good but so far having only taken a bit of the bean.  Half way through my second bite I ask him what type of Tuna.  I can't eat Albacore or other big boys right now.  I'm trying to keep my Mercury levels down.  I seemed to have caught him off guard.  He says Albacore because he can't remember that I can only have Skip Jack.  I say well, a little bit won't hurt me.  It is drier than Tuna in Oil which is normal for Chunk Lite in water, so no suspicion yet.  He's flaked it to look like Tuna as well.  The simple Olive Oil and Lemon is yummy.  I tell him it's very tasty.

He proceeds to do flying leaps around the Kitchen.  I take a more scrutinising look at the bowl.  As evil peels of laughter fill the house, he confesses that Tuscan Tuna is the name used to describe the dish used in more interior areas of Italy where fresh Seafood was once quite rare.  It is not Tuna at all.  It is a picked PORK loin!  I can't deny that it was good.  Why? Because it didn't even remotely taste like pork.  All the fat was cooked and drained off.  After the boiling, D stored it in Olive Oil in a container in the fridge in 1 inch cubes.

That's 2.  For regular followers, that is his second successful attempt at a meat dish I am willing to eat.  I opened the window for D last year.  I told him I don't eat meat, poultry ..etc based on aesthetics: Taste, Texture and Smell.  He's had five kicks at the can now and this win number 2.   He has figured out the formula.  His first attempt at a Michael Chiarello braised filet was his rationale that I should love a really good meat dish.  WRONG.  It misses the Taste, Textural and Aromatic marks on all counts.  He was relentless which is good.  He'd like to figure out a way to work meat into our routine because I will admit, it is easier.

If you think about it though, not only is my vegetarian diet healthier but so is the profile of the type of meat dishes I can handle.  Lean cuts, no tenuous fibres, fat all cooked off, no skin, served with lots of aromatic vegetables. :^D

We served this as a side with BBQ Pizza for a Dinner guest tonight with a side Green Salad too.

Tuscan Tuna Salad

100 g of 'Tuscan Tuna', shredded
1 marinaded Red Bepper (Pimento)
1 tin Cannellini Beans, drained
1/2 c fresh Parsley, chopped
1/2 Lemon, juiced
2 T good Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Coarse Salt and Pepper to taste

Mix all the ingredients and set aside to souse.

Serve as a starter or side salad.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Sunday, Jan 16th - Leftover Ackee and Saltfish with Bagel or Eggs

Leftover Ackee and Saltfish on Toasted Bagel
 It's a good deal that though D likes Ackee and Saltfish, he prefers to Saltcod to the Ackee and I love the Ackee.  How to describe Ackee?  Hmmm, someone on the DDD show on Food the other night described it as tasting like Artichokes.  I can't entirely agree or disagree.  I would maybe put it somewhere as a combination of steamed Articoke, Asparagus and mild Squash.  The texture is quite often described as being similar to Scrambled Egg.  I would agree that it looks like Scrambled Egg but I would say that though it's quite delicate, the lobes have more 'structure' than Scrambled Egg, like the white of a Soft Boiled Egg.  YUMMMMMMO!

So we had about a dinner portion to a portion and a half left over.  I heated some up and served it on a toasted Bagel.  It was delicious!  I picked out as much Ackee as I could in D's half and left him slightly more Saltcod.  He had Fried Eggs, Sunny-Side Up and Saltcod on a Bagel.  It is quite versatile and the basic Vegetables are similar to a Western Omelette.

When I was living in Kingston, Jamaica as an Engineering Student Intern, our cleaning lady used to make us Ackee for Breakfast.  Though, I think she did it because I seemed so genuinely facinated by Ackee.  She actually only made us breakfast as part of her routine and promised to make it if I bought it for her.  So I would buy it from a sidewalk vendor on the way home from work.  I used my Taxi allowance (for safety) bought Ackee and took the bus home.  Our local supermarket never stocked it. 

One time I had bought so much that she steamed the whole lot in case I wanted to cook a second batch on my own.  When it is picked, it looks like the picture on the tin; like a tri-lobal Peach that has split open.  Each piece or lobe of flesh has a large black pit, about the shape of a chestnut.  The flesh is quite firm, like plastic.  You need to boil or steam it too cook with it.  Outside Jamaica and out of season, in Jamaica, use the tinned variety that just need draining.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Saturday, Jan 15th - Ackee and Saltfish with Fried Plantains

Ackee and Saltfish and Fried Plantains
Alas my stash of Ackee is running low.  I'm down to my last two cans.  I've told Dad not to send me anymore from Toronto.  I usd the carbon load on the delivery since the expense argument falls on deaf ears with Dad's when it comes to birthday care packages. That's okay since I have located two sources in Vancouver: a grocer on Commercial, if I get there early since they are snapped up and the Great Canadian Superstore on the way to Deep Cove.

I was watching Diners Drive-ins and Dives and Guy visited a Jamaican restaurant in Nashville.  I was facinated by how the owner did her Saltfish.  She does not soak for 24 hours and nor did she change the water.  All she did was pour boiling water over the Saltcod and let it sit for 2 hours until it flaked and she cooked with it directly.  I on the other hand will change the water every 4 hours or even more frequently and store it in the fridge.  D thinks I change it too much.  So I tried to change it less this time (3-4 times in 24 hours) and did not rinse it off after the poaching to preserve some of the flavour specific to Saltcod rather than just Cod.  It was too Salty for my taste but the Rice and other Vegetables helped.  I would go back frequent rinsing, particularly if you are watching your salt.

Ackee and Salt fish (RECIPE)

I used 3 Birdseye Chilies since I could not find a Scotch Bonnet Pepper (Habenero).  I left them whole so I wouldn't combust D.

Fried Plantains (METHOD)

I served with warm Basmati Rice.  MMMMMMM

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Saturday, Jan 15th - Oatmeal Bran Cranberry, Pecan and Chocolate Chunk Muffins - Lowfat & Lowcarb butcha wouldn't know it!

Oatmeal Bran Cranberry, Pecan and Chocolate Chunk Muffins - lowfat & lowcarb
Had a Muffin craving for today but we had to have the house clean for people coming over and I promised D that I would only make them if I could contain. I was certain if I planned correctly, I could manage to limit the untensils and all the mixing to one bowl. 

I like a good, heathly feeling Muffin.  I can't stand Muffins that are cupcakes in disguise or really oily Muffins like Tim's Carrot Muffin. In the UK the only 'Muffins' you could get were Double Chocolate and Blueberry aka Vanilla sponge with Blueberries, both Cupcakes.  First stop visiting the folks used to be Tim's for a Bran or Oatmeal Muffin.  I used to have the best best Banana Bran Muffin which I call 'Brave da Bran' Muffin.  It's on a handwritten index card somewhere in storage.  I winged this one partially from memory and the desire to use dried Cranberries and my leftover Brownie Toppings.  I'm quite pleased with it. Yummo!
Oatmeal Bran Cranberry, Pecan and Chocolate Chunk Muffins

3 sm/med Over-ripe Bananas, mashed (about 1c)
1 Large Egg
1/4 c Milk (Soy Milk, unsweetened) (+/- 1-2 T)
1 1/2 t Pure Vanilla Extract
1/2 t Kosher Salt
1/4 c Brown Sugar, packed
1/4 c Butter, melted (totally optional)

1 1/2 c Wheat Bran
1/2 c Rolled Oats, ground fine
1/2 c Wholewheat Flour
1 t Baking Soda
1 1/4 t Baking Powder

1/4 c Dried Cranberries
1/4 c total of Chopped Pecans and Semi-sweet Chocolate

Preheat the oven to 403 F (400F is fine if you are sure your oven will hit 400F). Butter your Muffin Tin.  I have a 8 Muffin Tin but this makes only 6 large Muffins and I don't like to butter empty cups.  It scorches.  I use the melted Butter I plan for the mix and use some of it with a silicon brush to lube the pan.

In a small food processor, place 1/2 c of Rolled Oats.  You can use Instant Rolled Oats in a pinch but if it is unsweetened and unsalted, plain Oats.  Blitz until a fine meal that resembled Almond Flour.  1-2 minutes.

In a large bowl or in a mixer with the paddle attachment, I used a mixer because we're expecting visitors so I had to contain the fallout, place the Bananas, Salt, Egg, Vanilla and Melted Butter (remember the fat is optional!).  Mix on low for 1 minute.  I add the Salt now because I only have Coarse Salt and I wanted to be sure it dissolved.

Add the Sugar and 1/4c Milk.  I used Unsweetened Soy Milk because our local market had run out of Lactose Free milk and we were stuck with a carton.  Mix for another minute.

Add the Wheat Bran to the liquids and mix for a minute. I like to add the Bran first to help it soften faster.  Then lean the head of the mixer back and stack in the dries.  If you prefer you can mix in a separate bowl first but remember, I was trying to contain to 1 bowl.  So, add to the mixer bowl, Ground Oats, Wholewheat Flour, Baking Soda, Baking Powder in that order.  Careful on turning the mixer back on or you could create a dust storm.  Mix until combined.  You might need to stop to scrape down the sides.  If the mixter is looking too dry at a Table spoon or two more milk.  It will still be VERY dense batter like cookie dough.

Don't over mix.  Remove the bowl from the mixer and add the Cranberries, Pecans and Chocolate Chunks. Fold in with a large spoon or spatula.  Spoon into your Muffin Tin.  It will make 6 large muffins or 8 medium ones.

Bake for 20 minutes.  Let cool on a rack slightly and eat warm.  MMMMMM


Monday, January 17, 2011

Friday, January 14th - Parsnip and Savory Risotto

Parsnip and Savory Risotto
I like to collect new and interesting Risotto recipes.  Two of my favourites are the Cream-eriffic Sunny Lemon and Sage , and Butternut Squash, Spinache and Goat Cheese Barley.  Also love using Root Vegetables in the Winter and Parsnip has a nice gentle sweetness about it that lightness that is distinctive from it's starchier kin.  This is a subtle Risotto.  No bold or in your face flavours.  It is demure with wonderfully interesting dimension with the sweetness and texture from the Parsnip. You can use Thyme or Rosemary instead of Savory if you prefer but I would recommend you use fresh and try to limit to just the one.

Parsnip and Savory Risotto

1 1/2 l Vegetable Broth (6 c)
1 c Dry White Wine
3 T Butter
3/4 c Onions, chopped
3/4 c Parsnips, peeled, trimmed and cut into 1/4 inch fingers
2-3 t Savory
1 c Arborio Rice
1 c Parmesan Cheese, grated

Aged REAL Balsamic Vinegar for drizzling.  The loose stuff often sold in supermarkets are normally diluted blends.

In a small saucepan, bring the broth to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and keep warm to the side with a ladel.

In a large skillet, heat 1 T Olive Oil and 1 T of the Butter.  Saute the Onions for 3-5 minutes.  Add the Parnips and Savory.  Saute until the Parsnips are browned. 8-10 minutes. 

Add the Rice.  Add a bit more Olive Oil if the pan is too dry.  Stir until the Rice all glistening, 2 minutes.

Add the Wine in a big swirl around the pan.  Adjust the heat to keep a very very gentle simmer where the steam is active and looks like it wants to bubble but doesn't.  Stir frequently.  That's the love in the Risotto.  It coaxes out the creaminess from the Arborio. Use a wooden spoon. Stir, stir, stir, this isn't a pilaf or casserole. :^D

When the Wine is all but absorbed, add a ladel of broth.  Our ladel is about 3/4 c. When the liquid is mostly absorbed, i.e. you can draw a mote down the centre of the pan with the spoon and it does not close up on itself immediately or very fast. Add another ladel and continue. It should take about 30-35 minutes. Test the rice at about the 30 minute mark. You should cook to your taste. I do like it on the softer side than D but not mushy. D likes it on the edge of hard in the centre. I do not like carving it out of my molars. You can add more broth or water to your saucepan as you feel you need.

Add the Parmesan and incorporate, gently. Check the seasoning. Add the final ladel, that is to say the ladel after you think the Rice is just about there not necessarily all the broth in the pot (you may need more), stir once or twice. D doesn't stir the last ladel at all. Add the Butter in little pieces over top. Cover and set aside for 10 minutes.

Serve with more fresh Black Pepper, Parmesan and drizzle some nice Aged Balsamic.  Now as I am insistent on using real Parmesan, I am insistent in this case on using REAL Balsamic.  In your everyday salads, you can use your average Balsamic but for this use, the real Aged stuff is quite a bit darker, thicker than 'normal' Wine Vinegar.... unfortunately, more expensive too. If you do not have REAL Aged Balsamic, then I would suggest you reduce 1/4 c of your regular Balsamic in a small saucepan over medium heat for 10 minutes until thickened by 1/3 or half.  Use sparingly!


Sunday, January 16, 2011

Thursday, Jan 13th - Vermouth Marinaded Sable Fish with Ginger Soba Noodles and Braised Oyster Mushrooms

Vermouth Marinaded Sablefish with Ginger Soba Noodles
We bought wild Sablefish aka Canadian Black Cod over the summer as well from the fisherman's pier in Steveston.  We bought it flash frozen off the boat so we had just put it in our freezer planning to portion it out later and we only just got to it this week.

This recipe is based on a recipe we got at a Chef Meets Grape event.  The Sable Fish society was giving out these pamflets and this one is a Tojo recipe.  We've made it a few times and really like it.  It is meant to be made with Sake but we were out and we didn't want to buy a bottle just to make this since we prefer the nicer ones that need drinking soon after opening.  We replaced it with a combination of Vermouth and Rice Wine Vinegar.  Still very lovely.

Vermouth Marinaded Sable Fish

2 150-200 g Sablefish Filets
 2 T Mirin (in a pinch you can replace it with 'Sushi Flavouring' if that's what you stock but you'll need a bit more sugar)
2 T Low Sodium Soy Sauce
1 T Vermouth
1/2 T Rice Wine Vinegar
1 t Sugar
1 t Ginger, finely grated

In a shallow dish just big enough for the fish, mix the Mirin, Soy, Vermouth, Rice Wine Vinegar, Ginger and Sugar.  Heat in a microwave for 30s-1 minute to dissolve the Sugar.  Let cool.

Place the filets in the dish and cover.  Refridgerate for at least 24 hours. 48 hours is better but we started late.  Turn once half way.

Preheat the oven to 450F.

In a nonstick shallow baking sheet or dish, place the filets in the oven.  Bake for 10-15 minutes depending on how thick your filets are.

Braised Oyster Mushrooms

200 g Oyster Mushrooms, cleaned
1/2 c Dashi (Japanese Broth usually Bonito/Kelp based or Vegetable Broth
3 T Mirin
3 T Low Sodium Soy

1 t Corn Starch mixed with 2 T Water

Combine the Broth, Mirin and Soy in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.  Add the Mushrooms and reduce the heat.  We like to keep them in bunches broken down into small fist sized portions rather than down to individual Mushrooms.

Simmer for 10 minutes, turning frequently.  Remove the Mushrooms.  Add the Cornstarch slurry and let reduce untily slightly thickened, 2-3 minutes.  Drizzle over mushrooms.

Ginger Soba Noodles

2 bundles, Soba Noodles (Soba Noodles are normally portioned in serving bundles)
1-2 T Low Sodium Soy
1 T Rice Wine Vinegar
1 t Mirin
3-4 T Sesame Oil
2 t Ginger, fresh, finely grated
1 Green Onion
1 t Chili Flakes
1 c Snow Peas (aka Mange Tout) (Optional)

Whisk the Soy, Vinegar, Mirin, Oil, Ginger, and Chili like you would a Vinegrette.  Add the Green Onion, chopped.  Set aside.

Cook the Soba Noodles for 6 minutes.  Add the Snow Peas in the last 2 minutes.  Drain and rinse briefly in cool water.

Toss with the Vinegrette but do not over work.  The Soba Noodles tend to get gummy when coaxed around too much. 

MMMMMMM Except for the reduction on the Mushrooms, everything is quite light.  :^)


Saturday, January 15, 2011

Wednesday, Jan 12th - Brown Sugar and Chipotle Rubbed vBBQ Wild Sockeye Salmon

Brown Sugar and Chipotle BBQ Wild Sockeye Salmon
D loves his Dean & Deluca Chipotle Rub.  I can't remember if he got the last one from Seattle or San Fran.  But after much effort in trying to use it at every opportunity we are out after tonight.  What shall he do?  Well, we're off to the Bay Area in a few.  I'm sure he'll hunt down a refill.

We're quite happy about our 'Ant' ways and our store of Wild Sockeye Salmon from the Summer.  D took the advice of the fisherwoman from whom we bought the fish right off the boat and froze the individual filets in salt water.  They were immaculately preserved.  We thaw in in the bags in a bowl in the fridge from the night before.

Brown Sugar and Chipotle Rubbed Wild Sockeye Salmon

2 200 g Salmon Filets
1-2 T Chipotle Spice Rub
1 T Brown Sugar
1 t fresh Savory, chopped
Coarse Salt and Pepper
1 T Olive Oil

About an hour to half an hour before BBQing, rinse off the fish and pat dry. 

Rub the Filets with Olive Oil on both sides.  Mix the Spice Rub, Sugar, Salt and Pepper.  Rub mixture on both sides.  Let stand for 20 minutes.

BBQ skin side down on a lubed grill for 6-10 minutes.  6 minutes will leave it slightly Ruby in the middle. 

Serve with Rice or a Potato.  MMMMMM

It was raining but D was on a BBQ mission.  He popped in and out of our deck with a hat on.  What a trooper!


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Saturday, Jan 8th - Saffron and Fennel Mussels with Sourdough Toast

Fennel and Saffron Mussels
I need to come clean about something.  I probably wasn't fair in my post about the Veggie Vindaloo,  not the bombshell in the kitchen,  that was true.  But the part that D does maybe half the cooking, wasn't entirely accurate.  Whilst that is 'normally' true, for the last few months, I'd have to confess that D does closer to two thirds to (three quarters if you include breakfast on weekends) of the meals we actually eat at home. :^D  He's been super about it.   Yay D! 

We originally went to the fish counter at TnT to see if the Dungeness were a good deal.  D says that during the peak season in San Francisco, you could find them for less than 2$/lb.  That's nuts!  When they go on sale here, a good deal is about 5$/lb.  I thought that was good after living in a city like London.  In the end we decided to have Mussels.  I was apprehensive since our last batch had alot of discards.  So this time, D chose each one carefully.  That's what is great about the fish counter at TnT, you can select your own.  We also bought one Dungeness and Clams for tomorrow. 

Fennel and Saffron Mussels

2 lbs Mussels, cleaned
1 Shallot, minced
1 c Dry White Wine
1/4 t Saffron
1 t Fennel Seeds
3 T Butter
1/2 c Fresh Parsley, Chopped
1/2 Lemon
Salt and Pepper to taste
Fresh Parsley (optional)

Scrub any barnacles or other crunchiness off the shell of the Mussels.  Pull any beards off.  Throw any Mussels that are open or cracked away.  Don't play here.  You can tap them and if they shut, then okay.  If the stay open, there is no saving them or the money.  They will hurt you.  Luckily at TnT's fresh fish counter, you can pick your Mussels and Clams some other goodies yourself.  That said, it can still be a gamble by the time you get them home. 

In a large, heavy sauce pan, heat 1 T of Olive Oil.  Add the Shallots.  Soften for 1 minute.  Add the Fennel Seeds and stir.

Add the Wine, Saffron, 1 T of the Parsley.  Cut the 1/2 Lemon into half again.  Squeeze into the pot and add the wedges right in.  Bring to a boil.

Have the lid handy.  Throw in all the drained, cleaned Mussels into the pot quickly.  Cover and rattle around vigorously.  Bring down to a simmer.  They should all open within 3 - 5 minutes.  Check after 3.  Well, we have glass lids on our pots so we can watch the progress.  Stir to incorporate all the Mussel juices and the allow some of the aromatics into the Mussels.  In total, you don't want to leave on the stove for more than 10 minutes.

Now opposite to before cooking, do not keep any that did not open.  Throw them away.

Lift all the Mussels into the serving bowls.  Leaving back the liquid.  Add the Butter cut into chunks.  Let simmer for a few minutes.  Pour over the Mussels and garnish with Parsley.  Serve with toasted Sourdough Baguette and some fresh chopped Parsley.

MMMMMM, Yummo to the last drop!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Saturday, Jan 8th - Off the Wagon, Travelling Tacos - a Warm-up at Winter Farmer's Market

Off the Wagon Travelling Taco Truck
D and I headed out to the weekend Winter Farmer's Market for some of our Veg and Eggs.  It's in a new location a bit further out by Nat Bailey stadium and it's also every weekend.  It's nice that it's every weekend now but the outdoorness of it is a bit risky for Vancouver this time of year.  Luckily, it wasn't raining today, but it was quite chilly. 

After wandering through all the booths at the lovely ingredients for food we would eventually make (sadly except for Parsnips), D had a hankering for food he could enjoy nowish.

D spent over 7 years living in the Bay Area and is a bit of a discerning Mexican food eater.  He'd sooner eat a Taco from a quasi-dodgy trailer on streets of a Mexican village than eat at a Taco Bell or Hernando's in Toronto :^/.  It's not hard, just like any cuisine: use fresh ingredients, cook to order, and stay authentic to the flavours.

Chipotle Pulled Pork Taco and Homemade Chorizo Taco
It started off on a good foot with soft, double wrap Corn Tortillas.  These were approximately the size of a tea cup saucer.  The filling was generous and very fresh.  The Chorizo was slightly too salty but it was scratch made and not at all fatty.  D really liked the Pulled Pork.  It was well seasoned, well cooked and a good portion.  They give you the option to add extra sauces but D wanted to taste the meat for the first visit.  We normally hit the Farmer's every other week if we're not Skiing/Snowboarding and he'd go back.

It started to rain as we walked back to the car. 

Cost: $-$$

Service: Friendly

Off the Wagon, Travelling Tacos
Locations Vary: We caught up at Winter Weekend Farmer's Market by Nat Bailey Stadium
(604) 376-0602
Vancouver, BC 
Off the Wagon on Urbanspoon
D's rating - Food Truck


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Friday, January 7th - Ratatouille with Yucca and Plantain Fries - Crispy Goodness

Yucca Fries
I cannot justify to myself the need to own a home deep fryer.  We don't deep fry enough nor do I feel, should we.  But when we do, I curse not having one.  Everytime I try to make Fritters or fried, Risotto Balls, I have a heck of a time controlling the evenness and temperature of the oil.   This time wasn't so bad.  I think it was the new pan we got over Christmas as well as using Peanut Oil rather than Vegetable Oil. 

The new pan that mom gave us is a deep Teflon pan but it is quite heavy.  It is a good deal heavier than any of our Caphalon's but not as heavy as a Dutch Oven.  I had planned on using that but I was using our smaller one for the Ratatouille.  A heavy bottom, helps to ensure even heat distribution from the element to the oil.  Also, if you're going to do something like a fry or fritter, don't try to kid yourself that you're just pan frying and be shy with the oil.  You will need a good 3/4-1 inch of Oil in the pan.  That, combined with the heavy bottom will help ensure that the temperature of the Oil doesn't fluctuate as you add the food which is cooler.  It's a good idea, as well, to have to food at room Temperature before frying.  If you do things right, your food should not absorb too much oil.  If your oil is too cool, your food will soak it up.  On a scale of 10 on our Halogen cooktop, I kept it near 8/9 most of the time.  I definitely heated to 10 to start.  I don't have a good thermometer so I wait for a drop of water to dance or in the case of today, jump out and scorch my forearm.  Perhaps I should have used a very small piece of Yucca instead. :^D

Yucca Fries

I LOOOOOOVE Yucca.  They have a sweeter and breadier quality than Potatoes.  They're really wonderful but they are a handful to prepare.

You will see them in your grocery roughly 8-12 inches long and girth of a medium Sweet Potato.  The 'skin' is like Tree Bark and it is often waxed.  You cannot use a peeler or you shouldn't unless you want to replace it so are out to ruin your current one.

1. Trim the narrow stubby bits off each end.
2. Cut the cylinder into equal pieces, I cut mine into 3 4inch long logs, about the size of my desired fries.
3. Stand the cylinder up and hold firmly with one hand while running a good knife down the sides cutting as close to the edge as possible so as not to waste any 'meat' as you might a Pineapple.  You may have seen some Youtube videos where I think this was done poorly but I suspect, for demonstration purposes only.  Don't worry about leaving some brown bits and some thinner skin. 
4. Rince the Yucca and then run over with a peeler for remaining skin.
5. Chop into Fries.  If you have an older Yucca....i.e. fatter, you may want to cut out the very core which can be woody.  Mine was only the girth of a Soda Can and the centre wasn't so bad.
6.  Place a steamer tray over an inch of water.  Place the Yucca in leaving room to breath. 
7.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Boil for 20-30 minutes.
8.  Lift from Pot carefully.  Set aside to drain and cool slightly. 
9.  Fry until slightly golden or to your taste. 3-4 minutes. Use tongs to flip. 

Plantain Fries
Plaintain Fries/Chips

These are much easier!

1. Peel as you would a Green Banana but you may need a paring knife.
2. A Plaintain will never 'Ripen' as we know Ripe to be.  You can never eat it without cooking.  But some will be softer than others. 
    a.  If yours is like a Green Banana. slice 1/2 cm biased pieces (1/4 inch) and fry.
    b.  If yours is less ripe like a Potato, you can use a Mandoline and slice nice thin Chips
3. Fry for 2-3 minutes depending on thickness.  They Brown quicker than the Yucca because of the slightly higher sugar content.  Just watch carefully and cook to your preferred colour.

Lightly dust with Coarse Sea Salt and serve with Mayo or Chili Sauce. MMMMMM

J's Ratatouille
I served these along side some Ratatouille without the eggs.


Tuesday, December 28th - Beer Bistro - Toronto

Beer Flight at Beer Bistro
On the hunt for artisinal beers for O's boyfriend in Downtown Toronto over Christmas.  We had planned on a Brewery tour of a microbrewery out in the 'newish' distillery district but oddly enough they only do one a day. WTF?  Oh well.  O recommended we walk up to the Beer Bistro not too far from the Union Station.  First reaction?  Not at all what I expected.  I had anticipated something a bit more 'pubby'.  It isn't.  It is quite slick. 

The small/medium floor plan is divided into more formal dining area and then a 'bar' area that looks like the lounge in a men's club with condo-style leather banquets facing a wall of beer.  I should have taken that as my hint when we decided to order snacks.  When I spotted Potato Skins with Salmon and Capers, I assumed it would be typical bar fare.  It too was not.  They were mini Potato Nugget Skins, topped with Smoked Salmon and Microgreens.  It was quite nice but expectations are everything right? and this wasn't quite the warm-up, comforting bellyful I had hoped for, but quite nice.

Salmon Potato Skins
Since we had planned to try a few beers, including their option for a 'Beer Flight'.   A taster of about 2 oz of three beers from their extensive selection, A decided we should get more snacks and ordered the Three Dips and Chips.  It too was not what you would anticipate.  We receiped a small plate of Flatbread 'chips with the three dips: Red Pepper Puree, Hummous and Tzatsiki.  The dips were fresh and tasty. 

Three Dips - Beer Bistro
Given the track record thus far of 'snacks' in the 10-12$ range leaving us wanting, we were sufficiently tempered for lowered expectations on the portion of Frites we decided we needed.  Funny though.   I guess you can always count on Frites.  They were fresh cut Potatoes with Smoked Tomato Ketchup and Dijon Mayo.  We didn't even leave the polite, 'no we couldn't possibly' crumbs on the bottom of the cone.

Frites - Beer Bistro
Looking back, I supposed being situated in the banking district may influence the style but still there are a number of other establishments in the beer, pub genre in the area where a potato skin is a potato skin and not a nugget skin ;^)  Still, it's about expectations.   It was a nice harbour from the cold and the beer selection was very good and the staff were very knowledgeable in their recommendations.  Would I go back?  I would have to be in a very particular mood and probably not for barfood.

Cuisine: Modern, North American
Cost: $$$
Ambiance: Relaxed, Chic, like Yuppy condo
Service: Knowledgable and efficient

18 King St E
(416) 861-9872
Toronto, ON M5C
Beerbistro on Urbanspoon

Beer and Appetisers


Friday, January 07, 2011

Sunday, January 7th - Vegetarian Okra and Cauliflower Vindaloo and Homemade BBQ Naan

Cauliflower and Okra Vegetarian Vindaloo
D went skiing today with some buddies so I was left to my own devices to create havoc in the kitchen.  That of course is a joke.  We have an ladies' agreement that whomever cooks does not clean up.  That works out great for D because I tend to put things away as I go. I certainly do not like piling food, dishes and packaging in the sink while cooking ;^D.  So cleaning up after my turn at the stove is pretty easy.  You basically have to clear the table and load the bigger things into the washer.  D on the other hand could probably watch an entire football game before I come to sit down. O, my sister, thinks it's my own fault for clearing as I go.  No matter, D probably does more than half the cooking so I really shouldn't complain.   The thing is that I particularly like to cook things that take more time.  That generally means, it isn't conducive to most nights after work.  Things like stews and Indian curries fall into this category. 

It's not only the length of time the dish has to simmer and come  together.  It's also all the prep work as well as the little fussy things I put upon myself.  Like in the case of Okra or Firm Tofu if it's going into a stew.  Okra is famous for it's slime.  There is no other pleasant way of describing it.  If you chop a piece of Okra, you will see, it will immediately ooze slime.  There are a few things I try to do depending on the use.  In this case.  I chop and fry the Okra until it is browned and crispy and set aside to add later.  It helps.  I also do this for the Tofu.  I find Firm Tofu tends to taste and feel like a pencil eraser if not handled correctly.  I use it all the time and find this less of an issue in stir fries.  So for this application, in the same dutch oven or heavy stew pot I am going to make the Vindaloo in, I also brown the Tofu cubes until browned and set aside with the Okra. 

If that weren't adding to the effort already, I also decided that having Curry required having Naan.  So I made some Naan for BBQing when the Stew was ready.  I followed a recipe I've used many times but only made half since I also wanted to make some Jasmine rice. 

Homemade BBQ Naan
This dish is very tasty but I would recommend you let it simmer for as long as you can.  It will taste more familiar and less 'tomatoey' after the hour mark :^).

Vegetarian Okra and Cauliflower Vindaloo

20 fingers Okra, 1 inch pieces
1/2 block Extra Firm Tofu, 150-200 g, cubed
1/2 medium Onion (Tennis Ball)
3 gloves Garlic, minced
1 inch Ginger, sliced
1/2 Chili, (used Jalapeno cuz it was in the house)
1/2 head large Cauliflower
1 tin Garbanzo Beans (Chick Peas), drained
2 large tins whole Tomatoes
4 T Patak's Vindaloo paste
3 T Butter (or Ghee = Clarified Butter)
Salt and Pepper

In a large Dutch Oven or stew pot, heat some Olive Oil or Vegetable Oil on Medium High heat.  Add the Okra and Tofu, together or separately.  Depends on the size of your pot and how much room you have.  You should have everything in a single layer.  If not, you will stew and soften rather than brown.  Do it in batches if as you add the vegetables you have filled the 'first layer'.  Sautee for 3-5 minutes until lightly toasted and set aside.

In the same empty pot add some more oil or Ghee (clarified butter for the real deal flavour) on Medium Heat.  Add the Onion and stir for 1-2 minutes until softened and translucent.  Add the Ginger and Chili.  I don't like adding the Garlic too soon because it will brown and taste bitter.  Add the Garlic with the Cauliflower.  Stir fry for 3 minutes.

If things get sticky, add some more Ghee or Oil.  No double entendre intended.  Add the drained Chick Peas mix about.  Add the Curry Paste and try to distribute well.  You want to cook the paste.  You could have added it with the aromatics but then I would have gassed myself as I have done in the past with Thai Green Curry paste because our fume hood does everything but suck. No double entendre intended.  When it looks like all your veg are coated with the paste and you've stirred it for 2-3 minutes more, add the Tomates. 

For the Tomatoes, you can either slash a sharp knife around in the open can or do as I do and simply pour them into the pot or separate bowl and smush them with your hands like little organic stress balls.  Season to taste but gently.  The flavour will develop so I would suggest you check seasoning after half an hour.  Add the Butter or Ghee and stir. 

Simmer covered on Medium Low for at least half an hour.  Stir occasionally.  If it looks too thick add some water or vegetable broth.  Serve with warm Basmati or Jasmine rice and NAAN!

Yummo!  Oh this serves 4-6 people.   Or dinner mid week 8^D


Friday, December 31st - Mr. Pickwick's Fish & Chips - Marpole - 'To Go'

Cod and Salmon Fish and Chips
It's funny I landed from Toronto this morning with D suggesting picking up Fish and Chips on the way home. Well actually, I landed at lunchtime because Air Canada is not only the rudest airline in the skies but also as terrible at schedules.  I mean really, we sat on the tarmack for 2 hours because they waited for late connections, loading the late connections luggage and then refilling the tires.  Then even though we were late, or maybe because we were, the flight crew, or particularly the flight crew chief decided to take it out on the customers.  I've not seen so much eye rolling from someone older than 11.

Anyhoo, once D made it to the airport and called my favourite Fish and Chip place, Go Fish! but they were closed because the parking lot is being worked.  Waah!  I suggested trying Mr. Pickwick's which we pass all the time on the way to airport on Granville near 70th Avenue.  As well, the chain has the most inane but unforgettable local commercials where this little kid, mouth full of food, quips "Mr. Pickwick's You're the Best."  Well, I thought it was unforgettable.  D did not know what I was talking about but he agreed to try it.

It's a tiny place only big enough for 2 people to sit and eat.  The one in the West End seems bigger and, well, 'slicker'.  We were taking out so it didn't really matter.  We ordered the Daily Special of 2 piece Cod and Chips.  We also ordered a 2 piece Salmon and Chips, a common and yummo Vancouver fish and chip menu item.  We wanted to have one each. The couple running the restaurant were very friendly and asked about which sauces we wanted.  The food was made to order and was only a 10 minute wait.

The Cod was good. It was crispy and a decent portion.  The long elgongated Fish you see in their ads is likely a Cod.  The Salmon on he otherhand was a very small portion.  Each piece of Salmon was slightly smaller than a deck of cards.  Though it may be the within nutritional guidelines to have pieces that small, it is way too small in the Fish and Chip world.  As well, it was clear that it was a frozen block, like the ones you seen in the supermarket in the vacuum sealed bags.  It was WAY over cooked as well.  D also suspected that it was likely Atlantic salmon.  Go Fish at Granville Island does fresh Salmon.  Well, they are on the pier and it would be shameful otherwise.  I take that back, I think all Fish and Chip places in Vancouver should be expected to use fresh fish.  The Fries were quite a small portion and quite greasy.  The order did not come with any Coleslaw, which made me sad.  The Tartar sauce was rather water and not very tart, bland really.

I think when I see their stall at an outdoor fair, which they often attend, I might do the Cod again but when I have my hankering for proper Fish and Chips, I'll stick to Go Fish!  I've also heard good things about Fridays at Rodneys but I'll check that out and let you know.

Cuisine: Fish aka Chip Shop
Cost: $-$$
Ambiance: Takeaway
Service: Friendly and prompt

Mr Pickwick's Fish and Chips
8620 Granville St
(604) 681-0631
Vancouver, BC V6P
Mr Pickwick's Fish & Chips (Marpole) on Urbanspoon


Thursday, January 06, 2011

Sunday, December 19th - St. Viateur Bagels - Montreal - the REAL Bagel

St-Viateur - Outremont - Montreal
If I've said it once, I have annoyingly said it a million times.  There are only two places in the Western world that make real bagels!  That is Montreal and New York.  The rest of you are guising yourselves as glorified bread donuts.  Yeah, I said it. 

I've actually gotten into heated arguements with a team-mate of mine from Vancouver who vehemently disagreed with me and thought the 'bagels' she buys from the supermarket, called Montreal-style 'bagels' were just as good.  I disagree.  No supermarket 'bagel' is ever going to be dense enough or chewy enough to stand up to a Montreal or New York Bagel.  Impossible. 

I visited a friend of mine from London when she was working in New York.  I told her I was on a quest for a good Bagel joint in New York.  I did not want a deli or shop.  I wanted a bagel joint.  The one I had remembered from years back was gone.  Ironically, after days of looking,  I found one around the corner from her flat in Brooklyn.  She really didn't understand my obsession.  As far as S was concerned, she'd had 'bagels' in London.  What was the big deal?  Well, it took one bite of that chubby ring of heaven to convince her.  S said instantly that she had never had a Bagel.  All these years on bread-donuts in London.  She barely made it through half of her Bagel.  Ah a good sign.  I had two walking from the Bagelry.  :^D

What is the difference between Montreal and New York Bagels.  Well, there is a known rivalry, for those who live in those cities.  I love both.  They are equally chewy and dense as Sarah Palin on a good day.  No seriously, very dense.  But the biggest difference is the hole.  New York Bagels do not have one.  They are so fat that they close in on themselves.  Where has you could play ringette with a Montreal Bagel.

There are three or were three places where you could be assured of a decent bagel in Montreal.  The third, Fauxbourg on Ste Catherine and Guy is gone, I discovered this December, waah.  I used to live down the street and hauled D down to pick them up from there expressly.  The other two are far more famous:  St. Viateur in Outremont and Fairmount on the Plateau Mont Royal. 

Since we were headed to Outremont for Amelio's Pizza anyway, we chose St. Viateur.  Actually, it's a no brainer since their bakery, not their cafe's, is open 24/7 actively baking.  They supply alot of markets and cafes not to mention the walk ins.  I mean I walked in at 6pm on a Sunday for 2 dozen and I was behind a woman ordering 5 dozen.  The line was replenished as I left with a half eaten hot bagel.

They're very friendly and completly used to the likes of me who ask for the 'hot ones'.  Really what was I thinking?  Like I was going to eat 2 dozen hot?  I should have taken the cooled ones knowing they were less than half an hour old.  Still I couldn't help myself.  As well, it was force of habit.  When the folks used to visit me in Montreal, we would order a dozen Hot and eat most of them right away.  They're just as delicious cooled off but toasted with a bit of Butter is the best.  MMMMMM

St-Viateur Bagel Bakery

263 St. Viateur West
(514) 276-8044
Montreal, QC
Open 24x7


St-Viateur Bagel and Café
Plateau Mont-Royal
1127 Ave Du Mont-Royal E
(514) 528-6361
St-Viateur Bagel & Café on Urbanspoon


Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Sunday, January 2nd - Triple Chocolate Cashew Brownies - Lower Carb

Triple Chocolate Cashew Brownies
The problem with moving often is losing hand written recipes.  I used to have the best recipe for Peanut Butter brownies that I worked over the years to a dangerously low amount of flour :^D.  So I had to develop a new one and at least this way it's portable.  I'll keep working.  This isn't perfection yet but it is VERY VERY YUMMO!  This will yield very fudgy brownies despite what might seem quite alot of dry goods but the Cashew Flour keeps it moist.  One serendipitous discovery was the Salt. I used coarse Salt instead of fine and it didn't completely dissolve in the chocolate. The effect is amazing.  There are tiny bursts of slight saltiness that brighten the Chocolatiness and add a sophisticated dimension.  They definitely have a solid seal of approval from two self admitted chocoholics around here.
Triple Chocolate Cashew Brownies

6 oz Semi Sweet Chocolate
1/2 c Butter, cut into Tablespoons
1 Vanilla Bean, scraped
1 t Salt
2 Eggs, beaten
2/3 c Cashew Meal (ground Cashews) (you can substitute Ground Almonds but I didn't have any)
1/2 c Flour + 1T
1/3 c Brown Sugar, packed
1/2 c Granulated Sugar
3 T Cocoa, (not drinking Chocolate)
1 T Kahlua
2 T Chocolate, chunks
2 T Pecans, roughly chopped

Butter and line and butter an 8x8 non-stick Baking Pan with parchement paper (not wax paper unless you like eating crayons).

In a small food processor,  place 2/3 c Unsalted Roasted Cashews and 1 T flour.  Mine were frozen and I think that helped clumping.  Pulse continually checking that it isn't clumping.  Shake it around and tap the bowl to ensure the corners aren't collecting clumps.  Don't run constantly too long because you risk turning it into Cashew butter.  It will look like the texture of wet sand.  Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

In a pyrex or heat proof bowl, place the Chocolate, Butter and Vanilla Bean scraping.  Place over a pot of activingly simmering water.  You want clearance from the water so the Bowl should be able to sit in the pot not fit in it at all.

I don't like to touch it for 5 minutes until the Chocolate and Butter start too ooze.  Then gently nudge the unmelted pieces closer to the heat.  When most of it looks melted or on the verge of melting, carefully lift the bowl off the water and place on heat proof surface.  Stir with a Silcon Spatula, i.e. heat proof.  Sugar and Chocolate cook VERY hot and will melt regular rubber ones.  Stirring will complete the melting and cool the mixture.  Stir until glistening and smooth.  Add the salt and stir to ensure even distribution..

Add the Sugars and Cocoa.  Stir vigourously.  It will look grainy.  That is okay.  Add the Kalhua and the Eggs.  Work the Eggs in well.  They will absorb completely.  As well, constant mixing will prevent the Chocolate from cooking the Eggs if you haven't let the Chocolate cool enough.

Mix the Flour and Ground Cashews together in a small bowl.  Add the Flour Cashew mix in 1/4 c portions Do not over mix.  Fold by scooping from the bottom and swooping around the outside of the bowl.

Pour into the baking pan.  Shake the pan gently to spread out.  Top with the Chocolate Chunks and Chopped Pecans.

Place the pan into the oven one rack lower than the middle.  After closing the door.  Turn down the heat to 325 F.

Bake for 20-25 minutes.

You can use a T or more less Flour for a fudgier Brownie.  As well, you can use Almonds instead of Cashews.  I did not have any Almonds in the house and have loads of Cashews in the freezer.  Mom has this thing about giving me Cashews when I visit.  They are my favourite but I've stopped taking them since my stores were becoming a bit nuts.  Ground Almonds may be easier for most if you want to avoid doing the grinding because you can buy Almond meal in the supermarket anywhere.  Cashew 'Flour' on the other hand is only available in specialty shops and on line.


Cut with a clean knife and wipe down as you cut or you'll mangle them.


Monday, January 03, 2011

Thursday, December 23rd - Christmas Sweets - Shortbread and Brigadeiros

Christmas Maple Shortbread
I normally bake quite alot over the holidays.  I didn't have any time to do the baking before going to Toronto so I thought I'd pass and let my sister O use one of her pre-made mixes.  Well, that combined with the anticipated mountain of sweets that find their way into the house via Dad and his daily trips during the season to the market.  Funny enough, Dad was on a misison to find cookie mix to bake the night before O arrived on Christmas Eve so there'd be cookies in the house.  I guess it was expected I'd bake but he didn't mention the miss and just started to search out the tubes of ready made batter.  Odd enough, there were none to be had in over half a dozen large super markets that normally carry it.  I agreed to bake if Dad agreed to stop driving around looking for the instant stuff and to help me decorate.  I made my classic Shortbread recipe and added a dash of Maple Syrup.  I think I was a bit too careful with it because it really didn't come through.  The cookies were delicious none the less.  I love real shortbread because kept in a sealed tin with wax paper, they get better every day and can keep for weeks.  MMMMMMM

Maple Shortbread

1 lb (2c) Butter, softened
1 1/2 c Sugar
1/2 c Brown Sugar
2 T Maple Syrup (the real stuff, no plastic squeeze bottles shaped like plump grannies!!!)
1 1/2 t Salt
4 c All Purpose Flour
Decorations of your choice.  Among my standards, I used some pulverised Candy Cane as well.

Place the oven racks at the 1/3 and 2/3 positions. 

Cut the Butter into 1 inch cubes.  In your mixer with the paddle attachement, beat the Sugar and Butter together.  Yes, I use the mixer.  It changed my cooking baking life.  I used to do it by hand with a pastry cutter and it was quite a work out.  When you have a consistently mixed creamed mixture, add the Salt and Syrup and beat for another minute to ensure that the Salt is spread throughout.

Add the flour in 1/2 c to 1c stages.  You can also choose to do this in half batches.  I did that.  Do not over mix but makes sure that the dough starts to pull from the bowl and comes together rather than looking too too crumbly.

Place the half the dough onto plastic wrap and form into a ball and then roll into a sausage.  Wrap tight and place in the fridge.  This was my second concession.  Rather than rolling out and cutting out Christmasy shapes this year as I normally do, I chose to slice off a firmed sausage to save time.  Let it sit in the fridge for at least half an hour.

Preheat the Oven to 330 F.

Slice the dough into 3/4 cm or 1/3 inch pieces.  Decorate.  Spread out on non-stick baking sheet.

Bake for 7 minutes.  Then switch the top baking sheet with the lower and turn them both so the back is in the front on both.  Baking for 8 minutes more.


I had always planned on making a sweet that I had had at a Potluck years ago while living in Spain.  A classmate of mine from Brasil made these delectable little balls that had the texture of soft caramel and depth of fudge.  I have made Fudge and normally make either Fudge or  Truffles as my other Christmas sweet every year.  This time I thought I'd finally get around to trying to make the Brasilian sweet aka Docinhos called Brigadeiros.  They are super easy to make, just as she promised.  They are often decorated with sprinkles and served in little paper cups.  C served hers without decorations and in a simple tin.  I thought since it was Christmas, I would dust them with VERY pulverised Candy Canes.   It worked super super well.  The recipe, my friends and any you may find on the internet, insist on Chocolate Milk Powder not Cocoa for the flavouring.  If you see a Cocoa recipe, it is less traditional.  I think you need the milk powder in the mix.  That said, I think next time I will use a darker Chocolate Milk mix.  I used a hint of Caramel one.  It was still lovely but I do prefer dark chocolate.

ChristmasKissed Brigadeiros
Christmas Kissed Brigadeiros

1 14 oz Tin Sweetened Condensed Milk
1/4 c Butter (3 T)
4 T Hot Chocolate Mix (often recommended, Nestle Quick.  Do not use pure cocoa!)
1 t Peppermint extract (edible kind not aromatic kind.)(optional)
1/4 c PULVERISED Candy Canes

I never have a good time with smashing my Candy Canes.  Use the heaviest zipping bags I have but they will always poke through.  Nothing to do but accept it.  If you try to smash them straight away in a Mortar and Pestle, they'll clump.  I did not want to contaminate a spice nor coffee grinder so I did it in the most effective way I could.  First on a very forgiving surface, cutting board or marble counter, smash the Candy Canes in a heavy zippable bag with a rolling pin.  I use a marble one.  I'm fairly certain D would not be impress if I used his French one and left Candy dimples all over it.  Use a meat tenderiser otherwise.  When mostly broken up and look like sidewalk salt, move to a Mortar and Pestle and grind fine.  Set aside covered.

In a heavy saucepan, heat the Condensed Milk and Butter.  Bring to a boil but stir and watch the heat to prevent burning.  Use a wooden spoon.  Add the Chocolate Milk Powder slowly to avoid lumps.  You could add it through a tiny tea sieve to sift slightly.  Add the extract.  Let GENTLY boil for 15 minutes until the mixture thickens. 

Let aside on a trivet to cool completely.  If you are so inclined, move the mixture to a heat proof bowl to cool instead.  At least half an hour.


Set out large piece of wax paper.  Have the Candy Cane grounds in a shallow bowl to hand.  Have a teaspoon or two ready.  Spread some butter or flavourless oil on your hands.  Not too much.

Scoop out 1 t of the cooled candy mixture.  Roll into a nice ball and set aside on the wax paper.  You may have to stop and wash your hands if the candy starts to stick to your hands.  Re lube your hands before rolling again.

When all the balls are done, drop a few at a time into the Candy Cane grounds and cover.  Tap excess off and store in a wax paper lined container.  SOOOOO GOOOOOD!

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Saturday, December 25th - Korean Christmas with the Folks

Mini KimcheeQuiche
Last Saturday was Christmas with D's family.  This Saturday was with mine.  There were many points of distinction and commonality.  Thankfully, moreso this year than recent years.  Mom ceded to not making a Turkey this year. 

In Canada, Turkey is quite often the Christmas meal of choice more so than Roast or Ham.  Mom picked up the habit from our cousins who used to eat alot more 'western' food growing up than we did.  It naturally appealled to her since she has a propensity for drama and presentation.  It used to make sense when we would have an extended family meal but she continued to grow the size of her bird order despite the shrinking attendance at our table.  So for the past few years we had had an immediate family meal on Christmas with a boyfriend or two at the table and then have a bigger meal at the cousins.  That said, despite the five of us plus a couple of guests, less the couple of vegetarians, mom did not let that deter her from buying a 20 pound bird.  I know at my age I should let things go but I really can't when it comes to food waste.  You see there are two things you should know about mom, she does not like to serve leftovers and she doesn't really like Turkey in large quantities.  It works okay for Korean food because she'll often eat our dinner leftover for lunch the next day but not Turkey and she'll have already cooked something else before someone can get to the Turkey and the bread to eke out a sandwich.  20lbs should feed like three times the number of people at our table.  It drives me to complete madness.  We argue alot over it, I am not embarassed to say.  She thinks a smaller turkey looks less 'special', like an everyday roast chicken.  Grrrrrrr!

Vegetarian Japchae
Without my intervention this year, she decided with all the partners in Toronto this year, that she would do a Korean meal with the cousins over to ours.  Hallelujiah!  It did not mean that the volume of edibles was less in the end but the Turkey fiasco was sidestepped and the leftovers would be eaten or taken by our guests. 

Salmon Sprout Rolls and Avocado
Mom had planned a few appetisers and I added one that I thought up in a moment of Korean creativity.  You know, though, despite the years of living here, mom hasn't quite grasped the idea of courses.  If you have gone to a proper Korean restaurant where they serve you like 2 dozen banchan with your main, you'll know that they go for the overflowing abundant single table rather than cleared cycles.  So D was confused when mom's appetisers didn't make the rounds in the living room with mine.  Of course mom was equally confused why we handed her Salmon and Sprout Rolls, with Avocadoes on the side, before dinner.  We left her Tempura Prawns and Mini Korean Seafood Pancakes for the table though since well, mom cooked those last (even though they were starters :^P). She reluctantly bought the tempura at the Korean market because she wanted to be somewhat sensible.  Though she kettle cooked them over her gas hotpot stove because she doesn't believe deep fryers are effective and it was probably still a fair bit of work.

Mini Korean Seafood Pancake and Shrimp Tempura

My fusion add to the appetisers:

Mini Kimchee Quiche - cooked
Mini Kimchee Quiche

24 mini Tart Shells, defrosted

4 Eggs
1/2 c Milk
1/2 c Cream or Half and Half  (or all Milk)
1 1/2 T Flour
1/2-1 c Shredded Cheese (any Mild Melting Cheese)

1/2 c Kimchee, finely chopped (try to avoid the spines of the Cabbage)
2 T Korean Chives, finely chopped (or regular chives)

Preheat the oven to 425.  Place all the shells on a single baking sheet.  Dock the bottoms by poking the bottoms gently with a fork 3 or 4 times with a fork.  Place in the middle of the oven for 7 minutes.

Remove and let cool slightly on the baking sheet.  Reduce the oven to 330F.

In a large bowl or even better a huge measuring cup to facilitate pouring, beat the Eggs, Milk and Cream.  Slowly add the flour to avoid lumps.  Don't worry, they're unavoidable.  Just do your best. 

Place 1t of Kimchee on the bottom of each tart.  Add 1/2 t to 1 teaspoon of Cheese on top.  Fill the tarts with the Egg mixture.  Sprinkle the top with the Chives.

Bake in the Oven for 30-35 minutes.  Rotating the baking sheet halfway so the tarts in the front spend some time in the back of the oven.  Serve warm.  They were YUMMO!  I wouldn't make a full sized Quiche with this but it made an interesting appetiser.


There were two 'Mains' though they were indistinguishable in volume from the 'sides'. Chap-jae (or Japchae, the "J" is somewhere between the J and Ch sound) and Slo Stewed Korean Short Ribs. Mom made the Chap-jae without meat though traditionally it contains bits of fried beef.  Chap-jae is Beanthread Vermicelli noodles fried in a slighly sweet sauce made from Soy, Brown Sugar and Sesame Oil.  The cooked noodles are fried in the sauce then tossed with the shredded vegetables, Mushrooms, Oyster Mushrooms, Bell Peppers, Steamed Spinach, Onions, and Carrots.  Yum! We eat it with rice which I've never questions but I guess could be odd. 

Kalbi Chim
If you're familiar with Kalbi, as most are, then you know the general flavours involved in the Slow Stewed Korean Short Ribs or Kalbi Chim.  Except, the Ribs are not sliced thin, length or crosswise.  They are stewed in the slightly looser marinade and lots of good Red Wine for 4 hours.  This was the traditional way before the 'recent' use of BBQ in the last century.  Mom cooked them with Carrots and Moo (Turnip).  It was a hit with the carnivores and it smelled heavenly. 

Mom really cannot seem to grasp the concept of portioning.  She made each individual dish as if it were the only dish. There was a Seafood Slaw Salad which she mixed in a bowl the size of an infants bath tub.  No joke.  It's one of those large steel bowls that you use to make 'smaller' batches of Kimchee, so 2 ft in diameter and 1 ft deep.   I was exasperated but at least there wasn't a car sized Turkey to argue over.  There was Shrimp, Squid and Krabstick mixed with Shredded Cabbage, Carrots and Green Onions in a Wasabi and Rice Wine Vinegar Dressing.  She cut the Wasabi with regular Mustard so as not to overwhelm.  It was 70% Seafood to 30% Vegetables and I thought she could have made it 30/70 the other way.  I would have left out the Squid as well.   It's not a typical Korean dish but it was quite nice and refreshing. 

Bechu Kimchee
There was Kimchees of course but that will be another post.  V, my sister, had her German boyfriend try Kimchee for the first time.  We made sure it wasn't a very spicy piece.

The rice.  Mom has been adding beans to our simple steamed rice for many years to add a bit of protein.  Nowadays at ours, you will never find plain white Rice unless she is making Sushi or Kimbap.  Steamed Rice will always have a bean, tonight it was shelled Kong (Edamame), a bit of Quinoa and Wild Rice.  And the Rice it self is Jasmine.  Jasmine has a lower Glycemic Index.  This concoction is everpresent on our table.  It's why I never feel quite satisfied with a meal without a starch.  I'm a bit better about it but it is hard.

For dessert was an array of Rice Cake (Dhuk) and Slice Melons and Korean Pears. 

We drank some Argento Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon.  Oh as well, V, my sister made some Mulled Wine.  Some folks prefer beer with Korean food so we had some Steam Whistle which Dad loves. 

A typical, diverse Canadian Christmas at ours.  Always an arguement or three but that's probably pretty typical as well.  Merry Christmas!