Sunday, June 29, 2014

Spicy Chickpeas and Tomatoes

In a frying pan on medium heat warm 1/4 cup of olive oil and toss in however much you feel of the following spices: cumin, cinnamon, chili, coriander seeds, cloves, mustard seeds, turmeric, etc. You're basically making your own Garam Masala and frying it to wake-up the spices and flavour the oil. Toss in green onions or scallions to the red-dyed oil and add 1 can of chickpeas (or those you've soaked and cooked already yourself). Toss in 1 chopped red tomato, and a handful of halved cherry tomatoes. Add a handful of chopped fresh parsley as the last step. Any sooner and it'll pop and crackle oil everywhere! With the back of a wooden spoon, smoosh some of the chickpeas into the oil to make a paste. Stir everything together and let it stand at room temperature a few minutes to meld the flavours. Serve as it is, or with warm naan bread.

Melon and Cucumber "Noodle" Salad with Mint

In a large bowl combine dressing ratios of: olive oil, white wine vinegar, honey, lime, a handful of thinly sliced mint leaves, salt, and cracked pepper. Whisk together. Aim for about 1/3 cup of dressing, on the tangy side. Cube half a ripe cantaloupe and add to the bowl. Either with a vegetable peeler or a spiralizer, create long "noodles" from one cucumber. A spiralizer will create a more consistent spaghetti shape, while a vegetable peeler will make "rustic" fettuccine style shreds. Either works! Add the noodles to the bowl and toss everything together. Let the salad marinade for 30 min - 1 hour in the fridge. Sprinkle with a little more chopped mint and serve.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Summer Strawberry Ideas

Strawberries are in-season the next few weeks. In case they're ripening too quickly on you here's some inspiration to transform them into something special. This is a weekend throwback to my favourite strawberry creations over the past few years. Click on the titles to be taken to the specific story/recipe. In order: Homemade donuts with strawberry dipping sauce, strawberry rhubarb cream pie, apple-berry crisp, glossy strawberry and apricot tartmore piesstrawberry frozen yogurt, mini peach and berry tarts, berry sangriastrawberry cream cheese biscuitsstrawberry and brie grilled cheese, and the strawberry hangover sandwich for roommates . In regards to savory flavor pairings with strawberries, corriander, mint, celery leaves, balsamic vinegar, pistachios, and any soft/mild cheeses will be proper!

Angie's Greens with Kohlrabi, Avocado, Lime, and Soy

Quite possibly the best salad I've ever made - and all thanks to Angie's latest greens harvest! I mixed a dressing of olive oil, lime juice/zest, soy sauce, and mashed garlic scapes on the bottom of a big salad bowl. To this, kale and bok choi leaves were added to soak a little while. (A good massage of the leaves doesn't hurt either). At the end, toss in chopped kohlrabi, avocado chunks, and lots of red-leaf lettuce. Amazing. 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The "Best" Shrimp

This time last year I was treated to the most delicious shrimp I'd ever eaten in my life. It was a hot weekend in late June and my summer training group had just finished a grueling week at work. Stationed an hour outside of Montreal, our usual weekend routine (conditional on us not doing anything worthy of having weekend leave revoked), consisted of finding a way to the closest city to decompress. The moment Friday evening hit, we all crammed into one buddy or another's car and headed for Montreal. Most people steered directly to St. Catherine's street to numb their dampened spirits with goodies from the SAQ, or visits to Club SuperSex. A good friend and I, however, recovered in a totally different way that only true foodies can understand. After weeks of army food, we wanted a culinary vacation...if only for 2 1/2 days. We made fantastic french toast with a cherry compote, the saltiest margaritas, most caramelized root vegetables, freshest salads, fluffiest omelettes, and the juiciest shrimp! After an afternoon of sailing off Pointe Claire, we returned to the suburbs and I crashed in the backyard next to the pool. It was a nap in the sun made so glorious due to the long induced sleep-deprivation experienced up until that point. When I woke up (badly burnt), to my surprise there was a plate of perfectly sauteed shrimp in garlic and parsley sitting next to me on a table... accompanied by the cook in his dashing aviators. They were perfect! Not overcooked in the slightest, over-garlicky, and peppered just enough. I always try to re-create them at home (see picture), but they never taste as good. I chalk that phenomenon down to the re-occurring mystery of why the same dish never tastes as good the second or third time one prepares it: we associate food with so much more than the mere ingredients in the pan. It's about atmosphere, company, how hungry you are for down-time or good-eats, etc. And so, when I throw dinner parties or bring baked goods to school, I always try to plan the timing and atmosphere to heighten the experience: brownies during all-nighter study sessions before exams, a Spanish paella party on the beach at the end of summer, damn-it-we're-lazy-let's-order-Indian-food-cause-it's-pay-day, or just good tea with a friend when they need to chat. Tetley Orange Pekoe tastes really good with a side of tears... It's all in the atmosphere. Long story short, I made these shrimp on a weekend at home that wasn't as hard earned as the one in Montreal a year previous. The shrimp were delicious, but they didn't blow me away. Some moments in time are best bottled, sealed, and stored away, as perfect little memories not to be replicated. That said, don't overcook your shrimp! A baby kitten dies every time you turn those little crustaceans to rubber! Carry on.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Open-Faced Steak Sammies

Scouring through the crockery shelves I came across this wooden plank and thought I'd try my hand at those impromptu appetizer boards they do ever-so-candidly at upscale restaurants. I grilled flat-bread with olive oil, garlic and honey. Just toss the darn things right on the oven racks for 12 minutes at 400 degrees F. When they're done, slice them into quarters and begin topping. First, give 'em a smear of good quality blue cheese, then a few slices of avocado, then sliced steak (I rubbed these ones with chipolte, paprika, garlic, and adobo before broiling them in the oven), scatter over arugula, more blue cheese, a drizzle of oilve oil, salt and pepper, and a squeeze of lime. Serve hot or cold!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Taco Farm Review

 If you live in the Kitchener Waterloo area and you haven't yet been to Taco Farm, you need to go! It's a place I make an effort to visit every time I make the trip home from school. Creators of the restaurant, Nick and Nat (who by the way, are the coolest couple around) also own Nick and Nat's Uptown 21 just down the road. Taco Farm's portions are just the right size that you can order three or four tacos in order to try all the flavor combinations. My favourites are the smoked pork belly + pineapple salsa, and the fish + cabbage crudito. See their entire menu here. My absolute favourite dish, however, is the fried chicken. I swear they marinade the meat in voodoo and fry it in love butter. In reality they chop up whole birds, brine them for twenty four hours, bread them in corn flour, fry them, and serve them with a tequila/line/honey sauce that makes me weak at the knees. The prices at Taco farm are rockin', even for students. Yum!


Sunday, June 8, 2014

Dorm Room Edibles

One of the biggest challenges I've faced (as a food lover, avid home cook, and previous organic farm-hand) these past two years has been coming to terms with student food that is less environmentally and nutritionally conscious. Naturally, university crowds and military college life demand food that will satisfy the majority. This typically constitutes large servings of what I would dub "filler food." It fills bellies, tastes alright, and keeps us going through hours of classes and athletic practices. Optimization of nutrients is second to getting the masses fed... SO! We can get a little creative in our own time and supplement our diets! Now, on the scale of zero to hippy, this resonates pretty darn close to cracking open a durian and slipping on some hemp shoes. But, athletic individuals need vitamins, so one must get creative in the face of pizza and fries. Lately I've ventured beyond blending green smoothies in my room and entered the world of actually growing their ingredients! Spouts can be grown in a mason jar on a sunny windowsill with minimal attention paid. When they're done - usually about 4-6 days - you can eat them in salads, with fruit, stuffed into dates, blended into smoothies, or whatever you feel like. I buy my seeds from Mum's Sprouting Seeds and have had excellent results. My faves are adzuki beans, broccoli brassica blend, chia, crunchy bean mix, garbanzo, radish, and spicy lentil. They say one must use a wire mesh screen to make the soaking/washing/draining process easier, but it still works without one. I recommend getting a few jars going at once, spaced 2-3 days apart in starting, and on constant rotation, so you have a constant supply of 'em!