Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Satisfactory Sushi on Roncy

Spicy Maki Roll Combo B - Sushi on Roncy
I had 'okay' sushi on Roncy.  Yup.  That's about all I can say about it.  I think though that I may be tainted because I'm big big big on respect of the customer and customer service and I'm a tad unhappy (euphemism here).  On the menu, they have a Lunch special.  While I am accepting of the annoying caveats about price on printed menus, I do not have the same level of understanding on the the same menus on websites.  I think websites are instant and if you change anything you should update.  So this wasn't a simple thing like an additional couple of quarters on a bento.  Their lunch special SPECIFICALLY stated that it came with Miso soup, Salad, Crispy Rice Noodle, and Rice.  I only received Soup and Salad.  When I asked for my Rice noodle and Rice, the server had NO idea what I was talking about OR was faking understanding and hiding behind language barrier so I would let it go.  I moved on because I still needed to pick up stuff for dinner.  I also didn't hold back on her tip because again, I just wanted to go.  But I'm telling you here.  They do not honour what is printed on their menu.  Your Lunch Special will NOT come with all the accoutrements stated.

I bought the Spicy Maki Combo B.  It came with a Spicy Crab, Spicy Yam Roll and California.  While the Rice was well flavoured and well cooked it was applied so sparingly it was very notable.  I mean, no one likes a 'too ricey' roll so you're all bloated and stuffed after.  But there is a happy medium if the Rice to Filling ratio is decent.  However, you have to respect the skill of this chef to be able to apply the Rice in a SINGLE layer!  I mean it.  Literally, a single layer.  Not only was it a single layer but it was more of a stippling.  You could see the Nori between the grains.  The Yam was warm and not too breaded.  The Spicy Crab was also tempered and crispy but not bready.  The whole thing, the whole plate was doused in a teriyaki or takoyaki sauce and weird spicy mayo.  It was too much.    The plate was well presented though.  Much nicer looking that a typical casual sushi place.

The music that was BLARING was weird 70s pop elevator music.  They have a patio in the back during nice weather.  Service was one girl at lunch running around like a maniac.  Surprisingly, she still didn't ignore you.

Price: $$
Ambiance: Casual sushi diner
Service: okay but didn't honour special

Sushi on Roncy
293 Roncesvalles
Toronto, ON

Sushi on Roncy on Urbanspoon

Friday, April 24, 2015

Spinach and Red Pepper Deep Quiche

Spinach and Red Pepper Quiche 
What's in the fridge?  A Quiche is a relatively easy way to use 'whatever's in the fridge'.  I bought a Red Bell Pepper last week to make a stir fry and never got around to it and in the mean time, used the other ingredients to make supper for the kids.  I did have frozen Spinach.  I always have frozen Spinach in the freezer.  I was obsessed for a while on Curried Spinach so since then I always keep a pack in the freezer.  Do it.

I prefer to use frozen crusts because I'm not a masochist.  I have made the crusts in the past and for pies, I do prefer to make them.  But for a mid week dinner, why torture myself.  The place my food processor used to occupy on my counter is currently taken up by a baby bottle rack. So there.

I buy the deep dish kind because I like to have more filling to crust and as well, I was always making generous fillings and I'd regularly have overflow situations in the oven.

Red Pepper and Spinach Quiche

1 Deep Dish Pie Crust

1 small-medium Bell Pepper, diced (approx 1-1.5 cups)
1 small Red or Yellow Onion, diced (approx 1 cup)
1 clove Garlic
1 pkg Chopped Frozen Spinach (400g), defrosted
1 t dried Thyme
1 t dried Herbes de Provence
1 t dried Oregano
1 T Flour
Salt and Pepper

2 c Swiss Cheese, shredded (approx 200g) or Feta but I had Swiss

4 large Eggs
1/2 cup Heavy Cream (oh yeah!) + 2 T
1 T Flour
1/2 t Salt

My instructions are in order of how I proceed to save sitting oven time and optimism execution. :D

Take out Spinach from freezer and place package on a plate on counter for several hours or on in the freezer the night before.

Take out the crust as you begin for the bake, and leave on counter.

Shred the Cheese.

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Sauté the Onions and Bell Pepper with the Herbs for 10 minutes until slightly caramelized.  Add the Garlic for the last minute.  Spread thin around pan too cool.

Drain spinach in a sieve or cheese cloth and wring out.  Set aside.

Place a piece of parchment paper or foil in the crust and pour in pie weights aka dried beans and spread in crust.  OR you can poke with a fork to prevent bubbles.  IF you dock aka poke, instead of pie weights, bake at 350 not 375 F.  For 15 minutes.  Take out and cook on rack.  I like to place the crust on a pie pan to keep if flat on insert and removal because they tend to fold a bit and then crack otherwise.

Sprinkle 1 T of flour over the cooling Vegetables in the pan and toss until thinly coated.

In a large measuring cup, at least a 2 cupper, for easy pouring, crack the 4 eggs.  Add the Cream and Salt.  Beat until you've denatured the Egg whites. i.e. when you lift the whisk out of the cup, the Eggs are loose and less gloopy.  Add the flour and Whisk to combine.  Yes, you don't need it and most don't need it.  But I added it to a Quiche over a decade ago and never had a loose omletey centre to my Quiches since.  Helps it set.

Adjust the stove to 350.  Cut strips of foil about a inch wide.  Cover the edge of the crust with the strips by crimping over the edge of the shell.  You don't have to do this but I don't like to burn the crust or make to brittle.  The Quiche is in the oven for a long time so it turns out nice and golden this way.

Spread a layer of Cheese on the bottom of the Crust.  Spread out the Bell Pepper and Onion mixture.  Sprinkle a thin layer of Cheese.  Spread the Spinach over top.  Press down.  Cover with the rest of the cheese.

Move the Crust, still on the sheet pan, over to the oven.  Pour the Egg/Cream mixture over top and jiggle to make sure it gets in all the crevices.

Bake in the middle for 45 minutes.

Let cool for 10 minutes or longer.



Friday, April 17, 2015

the Vegan Experiment - the Forks Over Knives trial

Really, it wasn't so much an exact Forks Over Knives diet but a vegan trial.  I watched Forks Over Knives on Netflix last fall.  I watch a lot of these food related documentaries.  Some are better than others for various reasons.  I find some are too preachy or too factually skewed.  This one was different.  It wasn't trying to turn you off by showing baby pigs being castrated by hand or filming visits to an abattoir.  It was independent studies showing how animal products are factually tied to cancer and heart disease as well as other vascular issues.  Of particular interest was the startling proof was the link between L-Casein, found in dairy, and cancer.   In any case, you have to watch it to believe and I convinced my mid-western american brother in law just to watch it.  Just watch it.  I am actually surprised he did even watch it.  I was speaking to my sister on the weekend and he was shouting in the background, I watched it!  I'm practically a vegetarian now.

The actual lifestyle is a bit extreme for me.  It requires you cut out all fats, including Olive oil.  It's a Whole Foods Plant Based diet.  Eat food as close to their original state as possible.  I understand why and the proof.  That our bodies are designed, primaly to need the calories to survive. The dense calories found in high fat foods, fool our bodies into thinking we're still hungry.  The recipes require you sauté in a dry pan or with broth.  No Olive oil.  Anyhoo, since heart disease nor weight gain wasn't my primary concern, I decided to try just Vegan.  Why?  Because I found the documentary compelling as well, I decided that there are various things in our life we can't completely control, our genes, pollution, drunk drivers, ... this, this I can control.

As opposed to popular belief, you cannot be nutrionally deprived by a vegan diet as long as you eat balanced i.e. nothing but one type of food.  You also do not need to combine on a single plate to get the full protein profile.

For the month of January, I gave up all animal products.  But unlike a vegan diet or the Forks Over Knives and associated Engine 2 recipes, I don't really care for the labour and effort behind making 'fake' food.  i.e. using Nutritional Yeast to simulate cheese or Blending raw Cashews to simulate cream or bechemel.  I just ate a lot of vegetables, grains and legumes.  It was fairly easy except for my family.... namely my mom who lives for food.  If you follow regularly, you'll know she makes her own soy sauce and chill paste.  She's hard core.  We went over for lunch and she had made some dumplings but she'd used egg to seal them so I didn't want to eat it.  She flipped out and told me to 'grow up' . It reminded me of when I first went vegetarian back in high school and she'd hide meat in my food.

I think the hardest part was that there doesn't always seem to be a central 'hearty' part of a plate.  You can eat a lot and your body will tell you when you've had enough.  With a Whole Food Plant Based diet, a true one, without concentrated fats, you can't really have too many calories.  So when I felt like a 'hearty' part of a plate, I marinated a piece of Tofu and grilled or fried it.  Actually, though eating small meals more frequently is better for your metabolism.  I did the month with ease.  I could have kept going but decided for ease of everyday living, I would eat this way on my own and go back to Ovo Lacto vegetarian with my family.

I made a lot of salads. Too keep it interesting, I tried to mix and match.  I kept two large containers in the fridge so I always had access.  Here is my basic formula:

Vegan Salad Formula

Include each of the following groupings but at the same time, add as much of any vegetable you want!

One Grain

  • Cous Cous (1:1 Grain to Cold Water, let stand half an hour)
  • Quinoa (1:1.5 Boil vigourously, let cool)
  • Farro 
  • Bulgar Wheat
  • Wild Rice
  • Brown Rice
  • Barley
  • Whole Wheat Orzo
One Texture (Chew or Crunch)
  • Pine nuts
  • Sliced Almonds
  • Dried Cranberries
  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Pumpkin Seeds
  • Pistachios, chopped
One Herb (fresh, chopped)
  • Parsley (lots, entire bunch)
  • Cilantro (lots, entire bunch)
  • Dill (don't over do)
One Legume
  • Garbanzo beans
  • Lentils
  • Cannellini beans
  • Black beans
  • Romano beans
  • Canned or Fresh Corn (yes, yes, not a legume)

2 Vegetables, diced
  • Red bell Pepper
  • Zucchini
  • Cucumber
  • Cooked Beets
  • Shredded Kale
  • Blanched Green Beans
  • Shredded Carrot
1 Aromatic
  • minced Red Onion
  • minced Celery

One Umami (rounded flavour, optional)
  • minced Black Olives
  • crumbled, firm Tofu
  • mushrooms, raw or cooked
  • if not giving up Dairy, this is where Feta can come in

  • Lemon juice and zest
  • Lime juice and zest
  • White Balsamic Vinegar
  • Salt, pepper
  • Olive Oil or Sesame Oil (optional on the oil if you're going full on Forks Over Knives)

Mix and let stand.  Yummo!!


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Househunting in Roncey - Barque Smokehouse

Barque Smokehouse - Salmon Wrap
I have friends moving to Toronto from Cancun.  Actually, they're from Mallorca.  They did a whirlwind tour of Toronto in 4 short days.  I took them to Roncey on Thursday and they fell in love.  I knew they would.  The homes have character and you don't have to get into the car to buy a carton of milk.  That was what I had asked him they wanted in a lifestyle.  Did they want the big yard but then have to get in a car to pick up necessities.  After visiting a house, we went for lunch at the Barque.

It's funny what you take for granted in culture.  I told them that one of the features that was nice about Roncey was that many of the restaurants, if not all, are family friendly.  I knew it was important to point this out because they have 4 small kids and in Spain you take your kids with you.  It's not unusual to be on a terrace at 10pm and see a kid sleeping in his stroller.  They're immediate reaction was of course, 'What do you mean family-friendly?'  I replied, 'I mean, it's okay if you bring your kids for dinner.... or other meals.'  they replied, astonished, 'What?! you mean? you can't bring them everywhere?'

D and I have been to Barque for brunch before.  They have decent on theme brunch.  I'd never been there for lunch before.  I will say, for people with diet restrictions, there are not many alternatives to cow.  Yeah yeah, I go to a smokehouse and I'm surprised? No, don't get me wrong, I knew and it was their choice.  Actually for lunch, there's only 1 option, the Salmon Wrap, which I had.  My friends, opted for the highly recommended Burger.

The Salmon was nicely cooked, a tad ruby in the middle with a nice crust on the outside.  Some might actually have considered it a bit underdone but that's the way I like it.  The fries, as I have had before, are seasoned, and VERY SALTY, TOO SALTY.  My friends both had the burger and loved them. He had the soup of the day, perfect given the drizzly weather we had.  It was Red Bell Pepper.  She was worried that it would be spicy and Spanish, contrary to popular belief, do not like spicy food, not even liberal use of black pepper.

For families, they have lots of boosters and offer crayons for the kids.  Everyone there is used to having kids so no one blinks if you have them.  The staff are super cool about kids too.  I think next time I'll skip the fries.

Cost: $$$
Ambiance: comfortable, bright but cozy mercantile feel
Staff: helpful and friendly
Family friendly but tight for strollers

Barque Smokehouse
299 Roncesvalles Ave
Toronto, ON M6R2M3
 Barque Smokehouse on Urbanspoon