Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Check it Out: Dara's Green Juice

Check out one of my favourite cooks, Dara Dubinet, making her famous "green juice." She's a serious raw-foodist who knows her stuff! Since I cannot dole out recipes and photos during my time at school, I figured I could relay some of the food things I love to watch and read during my off-cooking season. While I currently subscribe to a paleolithic diet - QUITE different than a raw food diet - to support my current type of physical training for school/work, Dara cooks in a similar way to that of my teenage years when I had access to organic vegetables from the farm. If you're not lifting heavy or running kilometers a day, eating this way is a quickfire way to feel rejuvenated and close to the earth.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Creamy Pea Rigatoni with Goat Cheese and Chestnuts

We finally managed to rid our pantry of the beloved chestnuts! We went through pound of them this weekend. This was an easy two-pot dinner. Pasta for one. And simultaneously, a simple pan-caramelizing of onions, chestnuts and summer peas, finished with cream, goat's brie, a lil' pasta water and tons of cracked pepper and fresh basil. After draining the pasta, crack two egg yolks into the pot and stir to coat the noodles, much like a carbonara. The residual heat will cook the yolks, but work fast so they don't clump. Add in the sauce, mix and serve with more fresh basil.

Salad Love

My favourite versatile meal!
I'm going to differ to Mark Sisson, operator of Mark's Daily Apple and Paleo eating expert, for this one...
"Big Ass Salad"

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Thanksgiving Dessert Squares

Dense and moist carrot cake, laced with cranberry sauce and topped off with a brown-butter cream-cheese frosting and chopped chestnuts. ...There's no recipe. They just happened spontaneously. It's like the immaculate conception of holiday desserts.

A Note About Cookbooks

After years of cooking and dutifully uploading photos and recipe ideas to this site, I thought it a good idea to show you where I find much of my inspiration. What has become a second nature of pairing flavors and hosting dinner parties still seems a daunting notion to many friends in my age-group. Cooking, I have been told, is a means to an end. Eating is the goal and making food is the obstacle. This couldn't be further from the truth. Even those individuals who love to prepare food seem to get stuck at a plateau where they make what is easy, familiar, only healthy or only out of a bag, etc.

As I sit here, camped on the kitchen floor with tea and 150 of my best friends (not including those books stashed in the spare-bedroom, away at school or packed in storage), I wanted to write about why a good cookbook is so much more than a book o' stuffy recipes which stands in the way of you and your hunger.

Here, you'll see pictures from Jamie Oliver's, "Food Escapes: Over 100 Recipes from the Great Food Regions of the World." It best represents the point I want to make: Cooking is like travelling, and cookbooks are the passport. Whether you follow a recipe verbatim or simply use it as a rough guide (I can attest to following a recipe to-the-line maybe twice in my life), their inspiration gets your brain stewing.

Nothing smacks you in the face and humbles you like a trip to a country where by virtue of language and customs, you are a total foreigner. The time I attempted to make green curry paste in our old home's kitchen, I spent an eternity of time pounding down turmeric route, chilies, curry leaf and other authentic ingredients in a mortar and pastel, only to cook with it later and make everyone cry because I used too many chilies. Taste as you go. Lesson learned! Or the time that I made sourdough starter and was excited to try out Jim Lahey's revolutionary bread-baked-in-a-dutch-oven method only to be left wondering why my damn bread wouldn't rise. The active yeast was past it's best-before date and had lost it's leavening ability. Double check your ingredients. Noted. These are the types of things you learn between the lines of cookbooks. This is not dissimilar to the many of the lessons you learn while exploring the globe.

Take risks = use mysterious spices. Go down that back alley = try-out the recipes which make you cringe. Soak-in the culture authentically = boycott the styrofoam skinless, boneless chicken breasts and learn to cut up a chicken from the Italian mamas.  Find the hidden treasures = splurge on the heirloom vegetables at the farmer's market. Compromise with your fellow travelers = learn to cater to everyone's liking. But, most importantly, "travel" don't "tour" = enjoy cooking for the process of intuition rather than the shallow notion of making food for eating. This last point reminds me of a lot of trips or vacations whereby people spend so much time taking photos of things and running from place to place to see the cliches hot-spots that they never just chill-out and people watch over a cup of the local specialty.

To me, a good cookbook represents potential. What is possible, familiar, or practical is thrown to the wind. Sure, you don't need chocolate ganache or (see below) Venetian fish stew, but why not? You get to play chef, alchemist and magician. You get to step in someone else's shoes and experience their tradition. And when you make a dish you've grown up with, you get to share your own. There's no more intimate interaction with the world or its people than that of consumption. To me, there's nothing more beautiful that picking something grown locally, brushing the soil off, transforming it ever so slightly and sharing it with friends and family to eat. Cookbooks and more broadly, cooking media in general, have taught me that intuitive art.  

So, while you don't necessarily need a ga-zillion cookbooks as my family has come to collect, a few good ones will serve you really well. Not only because they'll teach you the technical skills, but because they'll push your boundaries and encourage you to be more adventurous in life. *Cue a bowing down to Julia Child's aspics chapter.*

Arancini di Riso with Egg for Breakfast

When life gives you leftover risotto, the Italians have got ya' covered. Arancini is a dish from Northern Italy whereby the buttery and already-indulgent rice dish is rolled, often stuffed, coated in breadcrumbs and fried again. It translates to "little oranges of rice" referring to the shape. Granted, I didn't coat these ones, because it would have required a much greater quantity of oil for frying versus pan sauteing. This is also why they are slightly flattened and not ball-shaped. They were stuffed with Crotonese cheese - a sharp Italian sheep/goat's milk that stood up well to the rich autumn, pumpkin flavor of the leftover risotto. Green onions and fresh grape tomatoes from the garden cut the richness, and a runny farm egg made this a nice treat for breakfast.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Thanksgiving 2013

Thanksgiving Menu: 
- Roasted Turkey
- Pumpkin Risotto
- Salad of: Angie's farm greens, roasted acorn squash, fennel frawns, goat brie, candied chestnuts and apple-cider vinaigrette
- Brussels sprouts
- Mashed potatoes (made sorely for the eldest brother's liking)
- Italian sausage & egg stuffing
- Cranberry sauce
- Damn good gravy
Dessert: Apple cranberry galette with tangy pumpkin cream

Thursday, October 10, 2013

What's for Dinner? Dorm-Room Edition

We finally put gourmet, university dorm-room cooking to the test! In short, it can work! 
In addition to this, it's possible to do so with a single Walmart-burner, 1 pot, 1 pan and a glass dish.
For ease of learning, I've broken this down into three squads: 

Phase 1 - Go shopping with a close friend to the nearest, crazy-expensive organic food store. Buy things you are confident can be chopped with a hunting knife and require minimal to no preparation. Bonus points if you vie for local products. Pick a few dishes with just a few ingredients each. I was tempted to make a cardamom poached pears and creme anglaise for dessert...but let's be serious. 
Phase 2 - Make use of every students' best friend (the Magic bullet) to do the prep work: chop onions/garlic, blend salad dressings, etc. As you cook, have your sous chef re-arrange their generic dorm furniture to liken an east-Asian dinner party. Scrounge together what serving dishes and cutlery you've bought second-hand or "borrowed" from the cafeteria...or give up and use paper towels. While both of you work, drink wine. It heightens the conversation and frees the mind from the chains of academia. That history paper can wait.
Phase 3 - Invite friends over to dine away the night. If you've successfully over-salted your food and cooked with more butter than is necessary, compliments on your cooking should be plentiful. 

Monday, September 30, 2013

Niagara Wine Festival 2013

I can't say enough great things about the weekend I spent with two good friends at Niagara on the Lake. We visited: Strewn, Inniskillen, Konzelman, Palatine, Hinterbrook and more. Some of our favorite tastings included Palatine Hills' Romeo sparkling and Cabernet Franc 2012, Hiterbrook's Pinot Noir 2011 and Strewn's Gewurztraminer 2011.





Sunday, August 18, 2013

Spicy Mexican-Inspired Dinner Party

 This dinner party featured lots of chili, cilantro, avocado and lime. A watermelon/tequila fizz was served to guests upon arrival, followed by shrimp appetizers. Th chorizo and shrimp were skewered and drizzled in a sweet chili oil, cilantro and sweet corn. Mains included fish tacos, chicken and veggie tacos stuffed the the brim with refried pinto and black beans, pico de gallo, lettuce and sour cream. Two salads included: black bean and mango salad, as well as a spicy cabbage coleslaw (home-made mayonnaise, of course!). A rich tomato-rice rounded things off. Unfortunately, I didn't have the benefit of fresh tomatilloes from our usual farm CSA this time around. For dessert: home-made vanilla-bean ice cream, dulce de leche and cayenne-chocolate shortbreads.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Tomato Basil Tarts

Tomatoes, fresh basil from the garden, free-run organic eggs, sour cream, proper Parmigiano cheese, salt and pepper were poured into a savoury pre-baked crust, then baked once more. This was a perfect, simple recipe considering the heat outside and wanting to spend as little possible time cooking oneself in the kitchen. To achieve a pretty top, lay the sliced tomatoes on top of the egg and tear pieces of basil over. As the tart bakes, parts of the tomatoes will slip underneath the egg mixture and create the look you see in the picture. This dish would also be good using puffed-pastry as the base, or cherry tomatoes in place of the beefsteak tomatoes.  If baked in a pie-dish, wedge-style pieces would be nice to serve. I used a 9/13'' pan and so cut them into rustic squares.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

My Two Favourite Fall-Back Dishes

These dishes are fantastic for a few reasons. Each is fool-proof to make, fantastically healthy and versatile in serving. The raw kale salad can be dressed up with pine nuts, chopped apples, currents and more.  The hummus is great served as is, but for parties can be dyed red with the addition of roasted red peppers or made into a kind of tapenade by puréeing it less and adding olives and capers.

For the kale: Remove the stems and tear into bite-size pieces. Toss in a bowl with olive oil, lemon juice and garlic salt. Massage the pieces with the dressing to help break down the fibrous leaves. This will make it more palatable as well as aid digestion. In the picture you'll see that I also added some shaved cucumber.  That's it. Super simple and delicious. The garlic salt makes a bowl of this addictive.

For the hummus, combine the following in a food processor and purée until desired consistency is reached: Chickpeas, olive oil, tahini paste, basil/cilantro/or parsely, lemon zest and juice, garlic, salt and pepper, red pepper flakes, water to thin out viscosity.   The measurements are totally up to you. Do what tastes good. I like my hummus nutty and lemon-y, so I ramp up the amount of tahini normally used and add more lemon juice and zest. Hot-sauce is also a favourite addition. Enjoy!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

3 Summer BBQ Side Dishes

No one has  trouble deciding on the main dish for a summer BBQ (unless you're vegan I suppose...), rather the side dishes always get short-changed. Boiled corn on the cob is delicious and potato salad can be dressed up, but there are so many other options! While most are concentrated on getting the perfect grill marks on their steaks outdoors, the accompanying dishes get ignored and end up lack-lustre. Here are three 2-minute side-dishes that can be prepared in the moments between running inside and outside to prepare your summer feast. Each has just a handful of ingredients, requires minimal to no-cooking and is fool proof to make. They show off farm fresh flavours in the simplest of preparations.

Zucchini & Peppers with Basil Oil: 

- 2 yellow or green zucchinis 
- 2 bell peppers 
- olive oil 
- basil 
Sauté veggies in olive oil, when finished, toss with more olive oil, finely chopped basil, salt and lots of cracked pepper. Easy!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Eggplant Parmesean, Foccacia, Antipasto Platter & Salad


Berry Sangria

There are a lot of sangrias out there, and as my old room-mate Jessica has come to learn, I pride myself in trying every variety, at every restaurant, and making them, on any occasion. Together we've had our fair-share of bad concoctions and have learned that the best sangrias are those which use good ingredients. Trying to hide cheap wine beneath even cheaper orange juice is just plain wrong. Once every so often, I like to think that the former won't repeat itself at yet another sports bar. Disappointment. Okay, so how to do it right: Use a good wine and squeeze the orange juice yourself! Obviously there's more to it than that, but those two things will give you the best possible foundation for add-ons. My favourite wines to use are fruity VQA varieties or full-bodied Spanish reds. Embellish your base formula with berry liqueurs, grenadine, (new favourite -->) lychee juice, and a simple syrup if you still need the sweetness. A bonus to squeezing the fruit juices yourself is that the final drink will remain relatively clear in colour. Store-bought orange juice will turn your drink opaque. Garnish with orange slices, berries and whatever else you fancy.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Vegetable Curry over Rice

An afterthought dinner which made use of all the past-prime vegetables from the previous weeks' CSA. It included: onions, carrots, celery, tomatoes, zucchini, lentils, dried spices (curry, chilli peppers, ginger, garahm masala, lemon grass, etc) and a variety of fresh herbs.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Watermelon Gin Fizz

This refreshing cocktail has a mere 5 ingredients, so if you have a ripe watermelon kickin' around, you can't go wrong! All of the following measurements are conditional on how sweet the fruit is and how boozy you want your drink to be.
In a blender, purée 1/2 a cut-up watermelon. Strain the juice once through a fine sieve, and again through the same sieve lined with paper-towel or cheesecloth. The idea behind this is to first, get rid of the pulp, and second, make the juice as translucent as possible. Chill in the fridge. While the watermelon juice is getting cold, make a simple syrup: 4 parts water and 1 part sugar and boil on the stove-top until it reduces to a light syrup consistency. (Don't let it turn to a caramel!) Chill the syrup as well. Throw some fluted cocktail glasses in the freezer and when you're ready to serve the drinks, do the following: Lime the edges of the glass and roll on a plate of sugar and lime-zest, fill each glass with 1/2 watermelon juice, the juice of half a lime, a shot and a half of good gin, enough simple-syrup to fix your pucker and top the remainder of the empty glass with seltzer. Voilà.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Steak and Salad


Salad #1: Quinoa, orange zest and juice, black and green olives, capers, sundried tomatoes flat-leaf parsley, salt and pepper. Serve warm and drizzled with olive oil.

Salad #2: Beefstake tomatoes, shaved red onion, fresh corn from the cob, shaved parmigiano cheese (or other strong cow's milk cheese), basil leaves and basil vinaigrette.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Here We Go Again

Finally home for the summer, a year of cooking deprivation is surfacing with much gusto! I'm glad to find that a year of school away from the farms, markets and kitchens of my 2009 "100 Mile Diet" challenge hasn't seen a drop in culinary prowess. (I wish I could say the same for guitar-playing). Reading a variety of cookbooks or novels by "liberal foodie intellectual," Micahel Pollen kept my interest aflame throughout the months, albiet dimmed on the backburner. Military life forces a very different relationship with food than what I was accustomed to, both by Italian heritage and my own love of cooking.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

IMPs vs. Montreal Foody Scene


When one finds them-self in the peak of  summer military training, weekend breaks to the forty minutes away Montreal are a wonderful thing! Rations vs. the trendy food scene is an interesting contrast. Delicious baked goods in Chinatown, tapas on the water in old town, sangrias in the village, followed by dancing on the main strip... it's a nice break from the arduous, valuable weeks in the field or in garrison. (Quite a difference of ingredients, too!) Stearoly-2-lactylate of sodium is a big difference from my 100-mile diet challenge of 2011! More posts to follow upon completion of training and the fresh and beachy cookouts which will ensue in cottage country.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A Tasty Week in Cuba

A quick mother/daughter trip to northern Cuba had some very tasty dishes!