Friday, November 01, 2013

Pretzel Buns - a Gorgeous Chew Treat

Homemade Chewy Pretzel Buns
I have wanted to do this for ages but have long been scared off the whole process of making them turn that signature mahogany colour.  I've been having crazy pregger cravings and this was one of them. Well actually, it was for Giant Soft Pretzels but I deffo thought I'd start with simple round balls before venturing over to the labour of rolling out Pretzels.  Plus, lil T was having a friend over for supper and I thought they'd make great toddler slider buns.

In the end, the extra stage from just chewy bread to glowing pretzels was not that big a hassle and I'd do it again and again.

Pretzel Buns or Soft Pretzels

1 1/3 c Warm Water
1 T Sugar
2 1/2 t Dry Active Yeast

2 1/2 c All Purpose Unbleached Flour
1 c Whole Wheat Flour
1 c Dark Rye (or Light Rye) Flour
1 T Dry Mustard Powder
2 1/2 t Salt

60g or 2oz Butter, melted

Topping options:
Course Salt
Sesame Seeds
Poppy Seeds
Sunflower Seeds

1 l Water
1/3 c Baking Soda

In a stand mixer, dissolve the Warm Water and Sugar.  Sprinkle the Yeast over the Water and let stand for 10-15  minutes.

Whisk all the Flours and Mustard together.  Add the Salt and Butter to the foamy Yeast mixture.  And then half the Flours.  Mix on lowest speed to combine without causing a floury hurricane.  When it's all moistened, slowly add the rest of the Flours.  Mix on the two lower speeds, alternating, for about 15 minutes.  I like my Bread nice and chewy.  Occasionally, turn off the mixer, remove the Dough from the hook into the bowl and continue kneading. 

In a large bowl, or the mixer bowl, lightly grease.  Add roll the dough in to a nice ball and turn around in the bowl to lightly coat the ball.  Cover with plastic wrap and set aside to rise for at least 2-3 hours. 

After the rising, gently press down the ball and knead a few times in the bowl.  Get out a handy scale or do this by look and feel.  Tear off 75 g sized balls and knead into nice smooth balls by smooshing, folding in half smooshing and folding intil it's nice and round and smooth on one side.  Pinch down the underside well.  75g will give you about 3/4 of a tennis ball sized piece of unleaven dough.  It should yield you 11-12 Buns.

Lay out on a lined baking sheet.  I use a silcon mat.  And cover with the plastic you used for the bowl.  It needn't be a firm cover because you want the skin to dry out a bit.

Let rise for an hour. 

Pre heat your oven to 425F with a rack in the lower third.  Bring a medium sauce pan that is nearly full with about an inch clearance of water to a simmer.  i.e. not boiling but not still.  Over Medium Low heat.  Add the baking soda BEFORE you heat or you'll have a foamy mess.  Bring your baking sheet next to the stove.  With a slotted spoon or skimmer handy, lower 3-4 balls into the pot.  Move them around and flip over.  Let simmer in the bath for 3 minutes.  Lift out with your spoon, draining as well as you can, and place them back on your baking sheet.  Place 3-4 more into the water and while they soak, top your bathed balls with Sesame Seeds and Salt... or whatever you like, while they are still sticky.  They'll have puffed up a bit as well.  Continue until you've bathed all your buns.

Bake for 20-25 minutes. 

Let them cool for a few minutes because there is quite a lot of steam inside those nicely sealed buns.  The alkaline bath of Baking Soda should have ensure you get that nice dark colour without a need for an Egg wash, whose flavour  don't care for on all my pastry.  There was a nice gentle mustard taste.  It wasn't too much that lil T noticed but present.  I wouldn't up the Mustard though.  For some reason, it inhibits rising.  I don't know why.  I've made bread with Mustard in the past and pushed the amount and it didn't rise at all. 


Monday, October 07, 2013

Quest of the RING! - Onion Ring trials

So after a year of temporary housing while we hunted endlessly for a home, we're finally there!  That means bye bye temporary cramped century old plumbing, 70's dumpy kitchen with no counter space.  What's one of the first things D and I bought for our new place :D.... a deep fryer.  Fo real.  Seriously.  We actually bought it before we took possession.  Pan or dutch oven frying my homemade fries or Arancini has not been fun.  There was something nuclear about that old white stove.  We did get used to it tough.

This past summer, we went on a roadtrip.  I hope to post those lovely restaurants in upstate New York and Maine.  Anyhoo, we hit one AWESOME random shack we saw on TV called the Porthole in Portland ME.  They had, unequivocally, the best Onion Rings of my and D's life.  The Onions had a good bite so they didn't slither out of the ring, leaving an empty shell.  The batter was full of flavour, seasoned well and held on to the Onion without being too doughy or heavy.  It crispy and airy without being greasy or using breadcrumbs.  After visiting twice, we asked the server the recipe.  She didn't not give us proportions nor instructions so I'm now on a quest. 

Ring Quest 1 

1 1/4 c Flour
1 c Cornstarch
1 1/2 t Salt
1/2 t Paprika
1 t granulated Garlic
1/2 t Black Pepper
1/4 c Vodka
1 bottle Beer, medium body
1/4 c Cornmeal (my add)

1 large Onion (Softball sized)
OR 2 medium Onions (Tennis Ball sized)

Preheat your oil to 350.

Place a wire rack with some paper towels on one half with a pan underneath.

In a large bowl, whisk the Flour, Cornstarch, Salt, Paprika and Pepper.  Place in Fridge while you prep your Onions.  I also put my Beer in the freezer now too.  I'm mirroring some tempura technique here. 

Peel and slice the onions into 3/4inch slices and separate into rings and pat dry with a paper towel.

Take out the batter stuff.  Whisk in the Vodka.  Add half the Beer.  Add the rest in quarters until you reach a point where the Batter is about the consistency of Pancake batter and will cling to the Onion.  I used the full bottle.

Dunk the Onions with one hand until coated but shake off excess.  Place in the Oil slowly.  Carefully hang on to the ring for about 2 s before letting go.  I made the mistake for the few couple of just dropping and they stuck to the bottom of the basket.  Turn over with a pair of steel tongs with the non dunking hand.  Always use the same hand so you're not trapped.  2-3 minutes until honey brown.

Place on the paper towel on both sides briefly but move over the the non paper towel side to cool and not get soggy sitting on the towel.  Salt more if needed. 

Do not over crowd the fryer or they'll stick together.

I also fried up some French Haricots too! mmmm


1. Not enough SALT.  Thought with a nice sprinkling of Salt when they were done and still hot.
2. Flavour of Beer was awesome.
3. Vodka helps avoid making too much chew Gluten.
4. Light and Airy and held together while eating
5. Onions not slimey. 

Next time, I'll up the Salt, cut back the Beer and Flour.  Quest goes on.  One Onion-ring to rule them all will come from my kitchen!!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Unsuppressable Cornbread or Cornmeal Muffin Craving

Quick and Easy Awesome Cheesy Spicy Cornmeal Muffins (or Cornbread)
For over a month now, I've had a craving for Cornbread.  It didn't help that we were in Roncey and looking for brunch, we stopped to read the menu at Hey! and saw that they had Cornbread on the menu.  We ended  up eating at Barque which has a pretty good Brunch menu PLUS they have a kid brunch menu that isn't junkfood!!  Anyhoo, haven't been able to shake it and you can't easily find bakeries that sell it.  WTF?  And we don't live near a Mmmmuffins.  Have you ever tried to google that stupid bakery anyway?  You have to have the correct number of M's! 

So I decided to make some.  I played with the Cornmeal and Flour balance and the BP because of the acid from the Lemon Juice.  So After three batches, I think these are pretty Awesome.  It wasn't great I forgot the prepped Cheese in the fridge.  D laughs whenever I do that because I do it fairly often and it's often not an insignificant ingredient.  His mom used to do that too. HA!

Mixing to finishing baking these took me 30 minutes. But I had the routine down and my baking stuff is all to hand.

Quick and Awesome Cheesy Spicy Cornbread or Cornmeal Muffins

3 T or 15 g Unsalted Butter
3/4 c Cornmeal
1/2 c + 1/8 c Wholewheat Flour 
1 T Agave Syrup
1/2 t Baking Powder
1/2 t Baking Soda
1/4 t Salt (up to 1/2 t if you leave out the Cheese)
1/4 t Cayenne Pepper
1 large egg, room temperature or at least in the room for a few minutes
3/4 c Milk, room temperature
1/2 T Lemon Juice, fresh (or Vinegar)
1/2 Jalapeño, minced
1/2 c Shredded Cheddar (optional.... especially when you forget to put it in)
1/4 t ground Cumin (optional)

Preheat Toaster Oven or regular Oven to 400F

Melt the butter in a small oven proof dish with the spices and Jalapeno in the microwave for 30s. Fat carries aromatics better than anything else so I like to infuse the Butter with the spice. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix the Cornmeal, Flour, Baking Powder, Baking Soda, Salt.

In a large (2c measuring cup) or small mixing bowl, add the room temp Milk, Egg, and Lemon Juice... or you can replace the Milk and Lemon Juice with Buttermilk but who keeps Buttermilk in the fridge for such small quantities, right?

Mix the Dries together. Mix the Wets together to breakdown the Egg. Add the Wets to the Dries and Mix until combined but do not over mix or you'll have tough muffins.

The batter will make 6 Medium Muffins or 1 Loaf. Spread the batter evenly across the 6 cups... approximately half way up. Or just pour into the loaf pan and shake sort of flat but don't over do it. It will spread on it's own. 20 minutes for Loaf Pan or 17-18 minutes for Muffin Cups. Remove from pan or cups. Let cool on rack enough for you not to burn your fingers or tongue :)

Monday, June 17, 2013

Onboard Cafe never looked so good - Chili's LEG TERRIBLE!- Edmonton International Aiport

Oh that's right.  I'm writing about a Chilis.  Oh that's right.  I'm writing about airport food.  Why?  Because I was so astounded that a chain restaurant, albeit in an airport could be of such low quality and quantity that it verges on exploitation.

So coming back from Edmonton a friend and I decided to eat at the Chilis in the Domestic terminal of the Edmonton International Airport.  I mean, what's a girl to do when the other option is Montana's or Quiznos.  We were taking the red-eye so eating on landing was not an option.  I didn't want to order on the airport because I find the prices and selection very constraining.  I don't need 12 hour old Veggie wraps for 10 bucks, do I?  Well, maybe I should have.

I don't know alot about Chilis except what I see on TV and those are mainly American commercials.  What does that imply? Well, rock bottom prices for mountains of fresh, sizzling food.  Or at least the commercials would lead you to believe.

I ordered the Shrimp Rice Bowl and my friend ordered a Burger with a Caesar Salad.  She did not ask how my friend wanted his burger done, which was a bit surprising in cow province.  The food came relatively fast, almost too fast.

My Rice 'bowl' came served in one of those shallow consomme bowls where if you're using a big soup spoon and it's resting on the bottom of the bowl, the lip of the spoon is actually over the surface of the soup.  There was maybe 1/2 c of instant Rice mixed with a few tablespoons of Black Beans and pre Shredded Cheese mixed with Pesto topped with half a dozen small Cajun Spiced Shrimp.  It was no where near an 'American' portion.  It was no where near a Canadian-Children's portion!!!  It did not taste fresh, not one of the individual ingredients tasted fresh.  Terrible.  I mean, they know their clients are usually 'jetting' off so they exploit that and sacrifice their Chili's brand for a quick buck.  That little pathetic service cost 15$ plus tax and tip.

My friend's Burger came Medium Well to Well Done and was dry.  It was an average burger size but his Caesar salad came in a terribly shallow Creme Brule plate dish.  It was like an amuse-bouche salad.

Our server never came by other than to take orders or bring something.  And we had to wrench ourselves around for a while to grab her attention for the bill.

I don't care how hungry you are, DO NOT EAT HERE!!! Eat a Dave's cookie across the way or wait for the plane food.   This is the biggest rip off for tiny portions of terrible food.

Food: Terrible, Overpriced, Tiny Portions, Cold
Service: Rushed, Inattentive
Family Friendly: Well, I guess if you'd like to punish your kids.

(780) 430-0606
100 Aiport Road
Leduc County, AB
LEG Airport, Domestic Terminal

Chili's on Urbanspoon

ZERO maples on Seven

#ChilisTerribleFood, @Chilis LEG horrible. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

the Slice to Beat - North of Brooklyn

North of Brooklyn pizzeria - Sign
I have been complaining for some time that there is a short of good pizza.  Notice the lack of qualification on location?  I meant Vancouver then Toronto.  Toronto has so far proven far more promising than Vancouver did.  7 years and not one good pizza.  Lots of cheese, lots of doughy crust but no good za.  I heard there was an authentic Napoli style pizza place that opened up in Gastown just as we moved, perfect.

Toronto has some good pizza.  The best before today was Librettos.  The crust was a bit charred in a couple of places but that aside, it was amazing.  What does that mean?

1. Thin crust not bready
2. Not soggy... i.e centre is basically a pasta noodle.
3. Fresh sauce
4. Fresh toppings
5. Nice bubbly, airy, crispy edge crust that you actually want to eat.

Not hard right?  Every slice place in New York can do it.  mmmmm so for the last couple of months I've been answering the ever frequent question 'where do you want to eat?' somewhere with GOOD pizza or NY style pizza...(that or Thai to be frank)

So after alot of Thai food, my cousins excitedly let me know over dinner at Bent, you have to try this pizza joint I found on Palmerston.  North of Brooklyn.

Coincidentally, we were in the area the NEXT day house hunting.  After the 200th disappointing view of a overpriced shoebox, I suggested we hop over a few blocks for za!!!  Now the only downside of this place.  No parking.  It is a small place on the east face, north of the corner.  So no stopping either.  Typical of the Bellwoods and Little Italy place, congestion on Saturday was brutal.  I ended up having to hop in to get our pizza while D circled the block.  We ate it off our laps as we drove home and it was still awesome.

North of Brooklyn - Marguerita slice
I got D the fresh out of the oven Marguerita pizza.  I got the white, Garlic Ricotta pizza.  I hesitated at first because as much as I love white pizza they can be heavy.  Like the best white pizza in the world at Amelio's in Montreal.  Man it's impossible to finish even the small.  But I reasoned that since it was just 1 slice it would be fine.  How often do you see awesome white pizza by the slice?  I guess I didn't read the crazy simple menu well enough because to my joy, the White Pizza was heated and served with a lightly dressed pile of Arugula..mmmmm the dressing was lemony and bright.  So good.

North of Brooklyn - White slice
The slices are NY big but they are on they're pretty big.  As well, they should be because, they are on the pricey side for a slice of pizza.  4-5$.  or 22 for the whole pie.  I thought well, that's not bad but if I got two as I had thought about, that's 10 bucks for a couple slices of pizza.  Seemed steep.

Anyhoo, I will definitely be back.  There is some limited seating inside if you're lucky to get parking.  You can watch the endless pies being freshly assembled as you eat.

Food: Great options without over complicating what should be great pizza.
Ambiance: Industrial casual pizza slice joint
Staff: Efficient and helpful
Cost: $$$ for slice

North of Brooklyn
(647) 352-5700
650.5 Queen St West
(corner of Palmerston but actual on Palmerston)
North of Brooklyn Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Great slice!!!

Monday, June 03, 2013

Bent - Drop what you're doing and eat a Lobster Taco!

Bent - Sake Lemongrass Oyster Shot
I am a social person but one of the things I tend to avoid is dinner in large groups.  D knows this.  Wine flows, people order crazy amounts of meats and meaty parts I won't eat.  You end up talking to 3 of the 20 people there and service is slow and expensive.  Anyhoo, it is unavoidable and we've wanted to try Bent for a while.  Run by the sons of the renown chef Susur Lee, it is a worth the trek down this otherwise dull stretch of Dundas.

My cousin H chose it for her sister's birthday.  To make things easier for us, the hostess suggested that we get the Prix Fixe tasting menu since we were such a large group.  These were the only annoying aspects of our visit here.  1. They required she put down a charged 200$ deposit for the table.  2. They sent her a menu and told her the price, $50, for THAT menu (which she emailed to all the guests) and when we arrived, they claimed that was a sample and if we wanted a 50 menu, they would have to make adjustments.  I tried to explain that that wasn't the point.  The point was, we were given that menu and told it was 50$ and we were all here and expecting that.  In the end, though somewhat apologetic, they were unrelenting and insisted we pay the 65$ to have the menu we were emailed.  SO I'M CLEAR, it wasn't the mere 15$ difference.  We ended up spending as much as the meal on wine.  It was that we made the booking based on the menu and the price given and they did not honour that.

Park that because it was my cousin S's birthday.  Thankfully she was at the other end of the looooong table from H and I while we debated the situation with the maitre d', so she didn't have to worry.

Bent - Braised Spiced Short Ribs - Spectacular
Once we decided to put a pin on that annoyance, we happily waited for the food.  As per my opening statement, the time elapsing between courses was excrutiatingly long.  I had thought the pace was slow at Edulis, though that felt more comfy slow than 'coooommmme onnnnnn!?!?'  This was the pace here.  Though when a course came out, it came out for the full table which was nice.  We all ordered the tasting menu to make things easy which was nice.  We shared the plates back and forth.  I think our end of the table was doing most of the eating though.  We easily had twice much as what seemed to come out on the small plates.  No one was complaining from our end though :^D.

Bent - Duck Wraps
The dinner started with their tasty Oyster Shooter.  Let me be perfectly clear here.  I HATE OYSTERS.  But as this was meant to be a whole experience, I thought I'd give it a go since it wasn't like it was sitting there all slimey on a half shell smelling like the pier.  Marinated in Sake with Lemon Grass, Shallots and Ponzu sauce.  It was bright and fresh tasting.  Now as a non-fan of the Oyster itself, it went down as a single shot for me.  My cousins and hubbo, who are Oyster fanatics like to let it sit and chew a few seconds.  They loved them equally.

Bent - Lobster Taro Tacos
There were a near dozen courses so without writing a short novel, I could not summarize here in my normal stye.  I will say though, you get more than just a bite full of each per course which is great without the feeling of being human fois gras, which is what D calls watching my mother feeding lil T.  That said, even though we were given more than our share due to the modest eaters at the other end of the long table, we still gave our best and left little for the compost.  As my brit friends would say, 'we could Eat for Canada'.  The Short Rib event was particularly spectacular.  I mean, they are incredibly rich and though the plate comes out looking all innocent and modest a mere first sharing portion is alot.  But when two plates came towards D and my cuz A, they ploughed through.  Actually, we were recently back for the Bent-O Seafood special and D regretted not ordering the Short Rib, thinking they'd have removed it from the summer menu.  I guess we'll be going back for a third visit within 6 months :D

Bent - Tempura - CrunchyAwesomeness
Lobster Tacos in Housemade Taro Root Shells - Spectacular! Taro very nutty and Lobster well cooked, not tough, great sauce. I will go back again and again for them.
Deep dark Braised Spiced Short Ribs with Potatoes and Kale - An event, very rich, full of flavour, well cooked.
Homemade Pickles
Chive and Shrimp wontons - Crispy, well seasoned
Pressed Octopus with Capers and Pomegranate - Suprisingly tender and gently dressed.
Watermelon and Tuna Ceviche - Signature. Great balance of Sweet Sour Savoury, Rich, Bright. Loved the 'croutons'.
Yellowtail Hamache - Very fresh
Tofu Tempura with a Coconut Tuile and Tempura Yam  - OMG, I could eat that tuile all night. Tempura was light and not oily.  Yam a tad heavy but still yummo.
Duck Wraps with Slaw in Rice Basket - It comes with Fois Gras! H and D were scraping the little cup the Fois Gras came in.  You spread the wrap with FG and layer on the Duck. The Slaw is a nice cruncy Asian take, much less complex than dad's (aka Lee's) but still yummo, served in a playful, edible Rice basket
Mini Apple Tart for veggies / Procuitto Arugula Tart for carnies
Nori and Tofu - Fresh, light.  Had most of this to myself as it came with the Ribs :^D
This was all accompanied by copious bottles of wine.
Assorted Desserts - This was a weak point.  We really didn't like any of the desserts.  On our second visit though, which I'll write about soon, The desserts were much better.

Bent - Procuitto Arugula Tart

Bent - Desserts Disappointing (this time)
Service: Very slow and reservation with prix fixe offer was a bit of a cluster
Wine list: Great selection
Ambiance: Lively bistro but did not like sitting at the elevated barstool table at the door.
Family friendly: no, not the setting nor menu
Food: Wonderful combinations, fresh and addictive

(647) 352-0092
777 Dundas Street West

Bent on Urbanspoon

Saturday Househunt and Family Pizza Lunch

Terroni - Pizza Santo Stefano
After a disappointing morning of visiting cramped, exorbitantly priced houses in the Trinity Bellwood's area, we were eager for some respite and reminders as to why we were looking in that area.  I called up my cousin who knows the restaurants all over downtown like the back of her hand.  It's easy when you eat 98% of your meals out :^D. Jealous!

Anyhoo, I said I felt like 'good' pizza or thai. Given where we were she instantly thought Terroni's.  We'd eaten at the one on Adelaide and loved it so I assumed the same experience and quality.  I was wrong.

Well, the experience was lovely.  The big tables inside during lunch were not all full yet so we had the option between inside or patio.  There were lots of families inside trying to feed their toddlers what looked like awesome fresh pasta.  Almost changed my mind about pizza.  Wish I had.

We had choice of sunny cozy tables on their exceptionally large patio.  The staff were very kind in helping us arrange the stroller and choosing a comfortable table.  T is big enough now that he can either sit in a high chair or prop himself up next to dad in a regular chair.  Pizza is easy to share food so he got his own chair.    The service was great.  Everyone was very friendly.   The only hiccup was at the very start when it seemed no one was going to take our order.  After that, the visits were regular.
Terroni - Soggy Pizza Campagnolo
My cousin and I both ordered a special Pizza Campagnolo, a Roasted Vegetables and D got the pizza Santo Stefano with Arugula, Procuitto and Fresh Bufalo cheese.  As I said, we'd had pizzas and mains at the Adelaide location before and loved the food.  The quality was not the same here.  The crust was thin, which we normally love but it was bland, a tad ashy, and EXTREMELY  soggy.  You couldn't lift the pizza if you wanted to.  It was completely soaked through and floppy.  D didn't think there was enough Bufalo Mozza on his.  If I'm craving pizza gain in the Trinity Bellwood's area, I will look elsewhere nextime. Maybe go back to Libretto's, too bad there's always a line, yummo!

Service: Good though we never knew who our server was
Ambiance: lively bistro
Family Friendly: Seating and staff, yes, but I don't recall change tables in the two tiny powder room style toilets.
Food: SOGGY pizza... just no getting over that when you were craving good pizza!

(416) 504-0320 720
Queen Street West

Terroni on Urbanspoon

Friday, March 22, 2013

Crab and GruyereCheese Souffle - Nutty Awesomeness

Crab and Gruyere Cheese Souffle
I don't think D fully understands the purpose of a 'Pantry'.  If something sits in our cupboards for more than a month, he gets antsy.  'We should really have some sandwiches soon, that tuna's really piling up.'  So to humour him, I found a use for one of the tins of lump Crab Meat I had in the pantry that I had bought when it was on sale.  I mean come on! Half price for real Lump Crab Meat!  It was that or Salmon.  I had just finished reading the Silver Linings Playbook and though I doubt very much I'll get around to making the 'Crabby Snacks' that mom kept making in the book, I had a distinct craving for Cheese and Crab.

I need to be very EMPHATIC HERE.  Do not use imitation Crab.  Blech.  It will not work.  Leave that stuff to stir fries and California Rolls, please. It will not taste right.

For the parents reading, this took me 1 hour end to end (20-30 minutes prep and 30 minutes baking) while feeding a kid half of the prep time.  Admittedly, I prepped the Souffle dish while lil T was eating his dinner.

Crab an Gruyere Cheese Souffle

For Souffle dish, 10 inch
1 T Butter, melted, for Souffle dish
2 T Parmesan, grated, real or nothing

1 large Shallot, minced
45 g Butter
1 tin 120 g Crab Meat, real
1 c Milk

45 g All Purpose Flour
1/2 t Paprika
1 t Dry Mustard (you can cut this in half if you're timid)
1/4 t Red Pepper flakes
1/2 t Salt
1 t fresh Thyme, if you have it in the window like we do.  (1/4-1/2 t dry Thyme)

and the Rest..
4 Eggs, separated
2 small Prep Bowls
1 c grated Gruyere Cheese (you can substitute with Swiss or Edam but it's not quite as nutty)

Measure out all the Dry and place in a small prep bowl and set aside.

 Preheat the oven to 425F with a rack in the bottom third

Mince the Shallot and set aside.  Should have 1/4 c of finely minced Shallot.  You can use 2 T if your shallot was smaller.

Melt the first T of Butter in the Microwave for 15-20 s.  Using a silicon food brush, cover the inside of your Souffle Dish.  On the sides, I like to stroke in an upward motion so the Souffle can 'climb'.  Yes, I'm a nerd but serious.  The Butter will immediately start to congeal because your dish will be slightly cool unless this is the middle of summer.  Sprinkle in the Parmesan and over the sink or a bowl, shake the dish around to coat the inside with the cheese.  Leave the excess in the bottom.  Place in the fridge.
Now, if you're like me and hate waste in all forms, effort or substance, you tare weighed the bowl you melted the Butter in.  Why? Because, you probably did not use all the melted Butter.  So I add more Butter to the same bowl knowing what the bowl weighed empty until I have the 45 g of Butter I need for the Souffle.  Add all the Butter to a medium saucepan over medium high heat.  Add the Shallots and sautee for 5 minutes until softened.

While the Shallots are bubbling away, separate the Eggs with very clean hands.  Avoid any Butter or Oil anywhere around the Whites.  Break the Egg over a clean prep bowl.  Cradle the Yolk in the shell, rocking it back and forth until you have all the white.  Dump the Yolk in the second prep bowl or small bowl of any kind.  Check the White for shells or bits of Yolk.  If it's clean, add to the mixer and continue.  If you accidentally break some Yolk into the White, do not use.  You can throw it in with your collection of Yolks and get a new clean bowl to use for the Whites.    Set aside.

Back to the saucepan, add the Flour mixture while mixing vigorously with a whisk.   If it bunches in the whisk, just tap it against the side of the pot and continue.  Let the flour cook for 5 minutes moving it so it doesn't scorch.

You can turn the mixer on the Whites on 8/10 speed.  Now with Whisk in your good hand and Milk in the other, start adding the Milk in quarters while mixing constantly.  Let the mixture thicken up before adding any more Milk. This should take only 3-5 minutes in total.  It should feel too thick, like brownie batter or frosting, you can add upto 1/4 c more Milk but no more than that you should try to keep it to 2 T. Turn the heat down to medium/low.  Look at the Whites. 

By your third addition check the Whites.  You want them too look like Whipped Cream.  If you go too far, you may have to start over.  What does too far look like? It looks like chopped up Styrofoam.  Now, I have used 'too far' Whites in a Souffle and it turned out alright.  I used them once in a Chocolate Mousse and it did not work.  If they're ready, turn off and let stand.

Now take the Yolks to the saucepan.  Some people like to turn the heat right off but I like to know that they're cooked through.  Most eggs are pasturised these days so upto you.  They will go in the oven.  With the whisk in your good hand again,  Add 1 Yolk at a time while whisking until it disappears.  Continue with all the Yolks.  Whisk another minute then turn off the heat.

Add the Cheese in handfuls until it 'disappears' too.  When it's all in, continue to whisk for a minute until smooth.  Of course there will be some lumps from the Shallots so you know what I mean.

Drain the Crab completely and fold gently into the Yolk/Cheese mixture.  You don't want to completely breakdown the meat.With a LARGE flexible spatula Move the warm mixture to a large mixing bowl.  If you have time, you can let it stand for 10 minutes to cool in the pot.  If you did do that, you could wait to do the Whites until now.  Adding the Cheese and moving to the large bowl cools it down a little and I didn't have time to let it cool more.

Take the Soufflee dish from the fridge and sit in a stable counter.

Take a big scoop of the Whites and mix it vigoursly into the Cheese mixture. About a third.  Don't worry about being delicate here.  You're 'lightening' the mixture.  Then add the remaining Whites in two adds.  Gently folding in by cutting down the middle in a chop, scooping up the bottom up the sides, turn the bowl 1/4 and repeat.  Don't over do this.  Just barely incorporate.  Repeat.  You can still see some little bits of white.  That's fine.

Pour into the souffle dish.  Do not be tempted to jiggle or tap flat.  Just leave it.   Place quickly into the oven. Turn the oven down to 400F.

Now, do not touch that door for at least the first 10 minutes.  When the structure is a bit more stable you can check it if you absolutely can't help yourself.  It's the temperature change from opening the door that is the cause of comical souffle sinkings not noises or bangs.  My oven runs hot so sometimes around 20 minutes in, I have to gently lay a piece of foil on top because it is browning faster than it sets.

Serve with a salad.  MMMMMMm

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

15 Minute Meal - Fo Real - Roasted Salmon with Asparagus and Potatoes

Roasted Asparagus and Rosemary Potatoes
There are days, there are days, I'd be perfectly happy having a bowl of brown rice and Brussels sprouts.  Believe you me, while D was travelling for work this past summer, that would have happened alot if it weren't for the stifling Toronto summer heat.  D wouldn't have that.  He could be exhausted and come through the door at 8pm and still insist on eating something substantial.  I usually let him indulge himself to make it then.  I can usually scrounge up that energy for lil T but not myself.  Toddlerhood during winter is certainly draining. 

For those days, strategic shopping and stocking can make sure that the laziest and most tired of us all can make a nice meal in 15 minutes. 

D texted he was leaving work.  It was 7h15pm.  I sighed.  T had slept late through his nap and his Grannie nannie had left him sleeping on the couch.  My rather diminutive mother watches him on Mondays and Tuesdays when I work from home. She finds it difficult to lift him into his crib so more often than I like, she lets him fall asleep on the sofa.  I have to sit there in the dim light reading my Kindle because waking a lil T before he wants too is simply not worth it.  So here he was eating dinner a full hour late, groggy and not terribly interested in his Meatballs and Spaghetti.  *sigh* I guess I should think about dinner.  I knew we had some Salmon defrosting in the fridge.  We like to buy whole Salmon on sale and portion them out into 120 g portions and freeze what we don't eat in the first couple days. 

D had placed a couple in a bag to defrost with an marinade of Soy, Mirin, Sesame Oil, Garlic and Fresh Ginger.  I find that marinades soak in well during defrost.  You could easily use your favourite Asian sauce as a marinade if you don't have fresh Garlic or Ginger..... but you should ALWAYS have fresh Garlic and Ginger in the house.  I remember one of my favourite cook shows from my teenhood, the bearded gent said he would check the cupboards for a bag of Onions of a lady he was courting.  A lady should always have a bag of Onions, he believed.  I think you should always have Garlic and Ginger.  I watched lil T pushing his Spaghetti around his plate painting a Tomatoey picture with his fork when I reluctantly decided I should make dinner.  It was 7h30.  D would be home in about 10 minutes. 

I took the Salmon filets out of the fridge and let them sit at room temperature while, I dealt with the veg.    I turned the Oven to 450F.  I washed 4 medium sized White Potatoes.  Looked at them and decided they were pretty big so put one back.  I cut them into inch sized cubes and spread them out on a dinner plate and microwaved them for 3 minutes.  I then washed and trimmed all a bunch of Asparagus.  You can either, grab them by the bottom and break them where they naturally want too, where the bottom is too fibrous to eat.  Or, as Alton brown does, cut off the bottom third of them all.  I snap them and then nibble the bottom if I think they broke off too far up the stalk.

I took out a large baking tray and lined it with Parchment paper.  D had left some burnt Flour on it from his last Pizza night.  I dusted it off but didn't have the energy or motivation to wash the gigantic thing tonight.

I spread the Asparagus out on half the baking tray.   I placed the parcooked Potatoes on the other.  I trimmed some Rosemary and Thyme from our window winter garden and tossed them onto the Taters.  I drizzled light Olive Oil over the lot and mixed it in with my hands.  I sprinkle with some coarse Salt over.

Place the Salmon Filets side by side right on top of the bed of Asparagus.

Bake for 12-14 minutes in the bottom third level.  D likes 12, I like 14.  

D got home and changed.


Thursday, February 28, 2013

Edulis - Gastronomic Hug

Anchovy Stuffed Olives and scrumptious chewy Housemade Bread - EDULIS
D and I wanted to take my cousin H out for her belated birthday dinner.  Like D, H has her birthday over the Christmas holidays, so often, it is lost in the shuffle of crazy holiday activities.  We were away at the time.  The thing about taking H out for her birthday is that she basically eats out 95% of her meals.  So it's like trying to buy Emelda Marcos a pair of shoes.  'Where to go?!'

She actually asked for, which is rare, Colborn Lane.  I called ahead for a reservation because Open Table showed it booked for weeks.  I thought it was odd and so I called in.  It had closed that very night.  *sigh*  Back to the drawing board.  I hit a bunch of review sites, since I feel less in tuned with the foodie scene in Toronto as I was in Vancouver.  There, we knew who was cooking where and what was opening or currently a must eat.  Here, I guess, we've been led by H who keeps us up on where she's eaten.  She already has a running list for D for where to get a Medium Rare burger :).

D and I did separate investigation and landed on Edulis.  Nesltled in a small building in the unlikely Niagara neighbourhood, a couple of doors down from a Buddhist temple, Edulis is being touted as one of Canada's best restaurants.  Run by a husband and wife team, given the modest location and size, are obviously still very invested in the daily success of the restaurant.

I arrived early in some pretty nasty weather.  I thought about walking around some more but it was so awful out and there really is NOTHING else in the area.  I settled in with a nice glass of sparkling cider and looked over the menu.  I was dismayed to find the one dish I had planned on ordering gone from the menu.  I do that because, as my readers know, be rather fussy and didn't want to run into issues.  D knows the drill.  I pick my food in advance.  I checked my phone to be sure and there it was, still on their daily menu. It was. *sigh*  It was a Halibut dish on the Truffle menu.  I double, triple checked with the staff but they confirmed they tend to update the menu daily and print out what's available that day.  Normally Tobey, the owner, tries to make sure the menu on line is updated too.  *sigh*.

D and H arrived and ordered a nice Cava.  They have an nice wine list with a good span of price and selection.  They also have a nice array of by the Glass as well, which is great should you all be ordering different meats.  As we studied our menus, we were unanimously confused as to where the starter and main line was drawn.  What all of us had missed in our reading was that this was one of those Small Plates places...... *sigh*.  Have you read my reviews of this ilk?  like Cru, or Ensemble.  I am not a big fan for mainly cosmetic reasons.  See, when ranking the price of a place on most sites, they use the average price of a dish.  But really, the price is deceiving because you actually have to order 2-3 plates to feel sated.  Actually, even the staff always recommend you order at least 2-3.   Often with 2-3 people, this covers the whole menu because there is normally only a 10 dish selection.   Each individual small plate on the Edulis menu was approximately 20 dollars and the truffle menu averaged at about 50$/plate.  I'm just being up front with potential guests so you are not surprised.
Warm Potato Salad - EDULIS - Toronto
Having been explained the menu, we were all at a loss what to order.  I regretted the suspicion that D and H were worried there was not enough for me to eat and I had the worry that they wouldn't eat what they really wanted to eat.  My eyes wandered over to the Chef's tasting menu.  For 50 or 70$ you are in the hands of the Chef.  Alas, it said it had to be the whole table.  We asked what our options were because I do not eat meat.... nor really enjoy really gamey sauces, as she queried my boundaries :).  I think they were a bit sympathetic because it was a Birthday dinner because they said it was fine.  We ordered the smaller which was a 5 course meal where you leave your self in the hands of the Chef who promises to be 'nice' :^D.  He was.

Smoked Herring a l'Huile - EDULIS Restaurant - Toronto

It started a tad inauspiciously with Herring with Carrots in a L'Huile in Oil.  I don't mind Herring.  I prefer it more smoked, mind you.  H hates Herring and D is not a big fan.  As well, neither H nor I like things served in Oil.  It came a large terrine filled to the brim with Oil.  I find it aesthetically unpleasing.  I held my carrots over the dish trying to drain as much Oil as possible.  H tried some Herring but not much.  D and I had most of it but I regretted it.  It repeated.  It was VERY VERY fishy exacerbated by the cold serving as well.  The carrots were very nice but still very Oily.  It was accompanied by a small side of warm German Potato Salad.  It was very good.  I sopped up the remaining creamy vinagrette with their chewy housemade bread.  The Herring was to be on only disappointment, thankfully.  Next time, I shall specify no Herring.  The rest of our meal was STELLAR, though the pace slow but felt like the stress of the day was melting away as we sat chatting.  Again, just informing you.  I felt like I was back in Barcelona, in the early days when my friends told me going out for dinner isn't meant to be transactional.  Waiting is part of the meal.  It's time to talk and enjoy the evening.

Charcoal Warmed Snowcrab and Berkshire Jowl with Candy Cap Mushroom Broth -EDULIS
Our second dish was just amazing, one that H and I had looked at on the original menu.  It was Charcoal Warmed Snowcrab with Berkshire Pork Cheeks with a Cap Mushroom Broth poured over.  My serving came without the Pork.  The Crab was delicately flavoured and the Broth just exploded with flavour.  All three bowls were drained.  D and H thought the combination of the Pork and Crab was lovely.
Veal and Sweetbreads with Hazelnuts - EDULIS - Toronto
Seared Albacore Tuna with Beets - EDULIS Restaurant - Toronto
Our third dish were completely separate.  I had a salad of Seared Albacore Tuna with Beets 3 ways and Pumkin Seeds.  D and H had Veal and Sweet Breads with Hedgehog Mushrooms.  H was a tad concerned about the Sweetbreads since the last time she had them, it was texturally unpleasant.  These were prepared differently.  They were fried Crisp.  They thoroughly enjoyed the Veal and H like the Sweetbreads but D ate the lion's share.  My Salad was delicate and full of flavour.  It was a winfall that I love Beets!

Morrocan Halibut Cheeks - EDULIS Restaurant - Toronto

Goat and Meatballs with Grated Carrot and Celeriac Puree - EDULIS Restaurant - Toronto
Our fourth dish were separate as well.  D and H had Goat with Meatballs on Celeriac Puree.  I had Morrocan Halibut Cheeks over Celeriac Puree with Shaved Carrots.  The Halibut was very well seasoned and flavourful.  It was a touch over done but it was on that Celeriac Puree, I forgive anything :).  The Goat was very very mild and perfectly cooked.  The Meatballs were savoury and comforting.  D scraped the terrine clean.

Blood Orange Crema Catalana - Bliss! - Edulis Restaurant - Toronto
Our dessert was an AMAZING take on Crema Catalana, or Spanish Creme Brulee was how she described it.  I would say it is nothing like a Crema Catalana, which I find cloying and pudding like.  This was in a classification in itself.  I had a whisper of a Sugar Crust on top.  You couldn't feel it with a tap of the spoon nor seen the caramel but when you scooped it up, you could have that paper thing Sugary glass.  The Cream itself was nicely perfumed with Orange and was a very strange sensation of Foamy Mousse.  I say strange because it was so light it felt more like Cappucino foam but it did not feel like it lacked substance.  It had a Blood Orange jelly on the bottom with bits of Blood Orange.  I will searched the depths of the internet to try to replicate this dessert it was SOOOOO GOOD!

We had a nice Barbera D'Alba, Fennochio 2011 which did not conflict with anything we ate.  It wasn't ideal for the Tuna but it didn't clash.  

Service: Very accommodating, knowledgable and friendly
Family friendly: Not at all.  Perhaps for brunch but not for dinner.
Ambiance: cozy French bistro

King West
169 Niagara Street Toronto

Edulis on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Ginger Miso Glazed Salmon over Enoki Miso Soba Soup for the Working Parent

I know I know.  Where have I been.  Funny how life gets in the way and the desire to sleep prevails when you're playing single mom.  D was travelling 100% of the time for most of last year so I was like an organisation machine around the house.  Basically, you'd really have to be a forensic genius to find evidence of my backside on our couch during the week.  Can I just say that single mom's are truly goddesses!

Anyhoo, I finally got around to cooking a Soba dish last night.  Something D has been whinging for me to do for months, literally.  I put it off for a few months claiming I didn't have the Miso I wanted.  When I found the Organic, non GMO stuff I wanted a couple of weeks ago, I ran that excuse out.  So after we bought this lovely slab of Atlantic Salmon this past weekend, I finally decided I make Soba for D.   I was working yesterday so I do what I always do when I know it's my turn to cook after work.  I mentally lay out a plan of action during the day.  On top of my episode of single-momhood, I'm also a type A planner.  That means, I hate wasted action and energy.  I made this dish from start to finish in 45 minutes and that is mainly because I marinated the Salmon for 25 minutes.

I hadn't planned on this dish being my post to reinvigorate my blog but D insisted I document and I was darned if I was going to document it anywhere else but here.  I unfortunately do not have a photo.

I will write this up the way I made the dish so you know how it can be done in a tight timeline, like coming home at 6, feeding the kid until 6h30 and then starting dinner to sit down by 7h15 so kiddo can play before his bath.

Ginger Miso Glazed Salmon over Enoki Miso Soba Soup

Serves 4

400 g of Salmon cut into 4 portions
1 inch Ginger, grated or finely minced
1 1/2 T White Miso paste
1 T Low Sodium Soy Sauce
2 T Rice Wine Vinegar
1/2 T Mirin or Agave Syrup (I usesd Agave because I could not find the Mirin fast enough)
1 t Sesame Oil
2 small or 1 large Clove Garlic, minced or pressed
1 t Chili, minced


8 c Water
3-4 T White Miso Paste (I'm Korean so I like it stronger, add more to taste)  
2 Cloves Garlic
1/2 inch Giner, minced (optional)
1/2 T Green Chili minced (optional)
3 bundles Soba Noodles (Soba typically come in portioned bundles in the packet.  The diameter is about the size of an average women making a circle with her pointer finger to her knuckle on her thumb)
1 packet Enoki Mushrooms
4 Baby Bok Choy, washed and root chopped off (I find it bitter)
4 Green Onions, chopped

Here we go!

Cut the Salmon.  Now I knew everything else I was chopping on the cutting board was going in the boiling cauldron of Miso Soup so I did not wash it after.  If you are worried, wash before chopping anything else on it.  I would not apply the same caution to the wind with Poultry.  If it were me, I'd wear hazmat suit dealing with Poultry, hence I don't cook Poultry.  

Rinse the Bok Choy, trim and set aside in a colander.

Fill a large Pot with the 8 c Water and place on the stove.  If your stove is slow, put on medium heat now.

Chop all the Garlic, Ginger, and Chili for both Marinade and Soup.

In a non reactive baking dish, ceramic or glass, place the 4 portions of Salmon.

Whisk all the Marinade in a small prep bowl.  Test to see if it is as Salty, Sweet or Tangy as you like.  It's about the consistence of loose pudding.  If too thick, loosen with Vinegar or water. Pour over, making sure it gets all over including underneath.  You can flip it over once.  Set aside a room temp. Yes this is fine so long as you are cooking right away.

You have some time here.  I went to check on kiddo who was playing with his trains.  Or you can chop the stuff for the Soup during this segment of time. 

Preheat the oven 400F.  Line a baking sheet with Parchment Paper (NOT WAX!)  I like using Parchment even on my nonstick pans when dealing with gooey marinades that tend to burn and char.

Turn the Water up to a boil.

Place the Salmon on the sheet and back for 14-15 minutes.  D would say 12 because he likes it a bit ruby in the middle.   You can spoon some of the marinade over.  Do not use the Marinade after.  It is done unless you cook it because you had raw fish in it.

Add the 3-4 T of Miso into the boiling Water with the Garlic, Chili and Ginger.  Whisk to dissolve the Miso.  I also throw in the whites of the Green Onions in now too.  Reduce to simmer.

When your fish has 7 minutes left, turn up the heat to rapid simmer/low boil.  Add the Soba Noodles and stir until they are softened up and separated, 1-2 min.

For the Enoki Mushrooms, simply open the packet,  Cut the root end off and place directly into the water on top of the Soba.  Spread around a bit.  Then right on top of that, place the Bok Choy.  Cover and let cook on Medium High until Fish is done.  Turn off the heat.

In two large, noodle bowls.  Yes, you should have noodle bowls for occasions like this.  Soup or Cereal bowls will not suffice.  Have you been to a ramen place? If you don't have, Try using a smaller mixing bowl for now and go out tomorrow and buy Asian Noodle Bowls.  Using tongs or pasta fork, dish out one Bok Choy per bowl and equally portion out the Noodles and Mushrooms.  Ladel the Soup over the Noodles.

Place the Salmon On top.  Serve garnished with the Greens of the Green Onion.  As far as Koreans are concerned, no, Green Onion is not an optional garnish on the Miso.  ;D