Monday, April 30, 2012

recipe wishlist

The List grows longer everyday. Recipes get bumped off, others are pushed to the front, depending on market finds or passing cravings. Here's my latest list of recipes I'm dying to make. If you get around to them before I do, let me know how they worked out!

Whole wheat goldfish crackers - in adorable fish-shapes, of course.

Homemade ice cream bars - I'm dreaming of the flavour combinations from Ed's. Should I splurge and put a pint of Ed's Chocolate Banana Ice Cream in the middle? I might pass out when I taste the finished product.

Jim Lahey's Whole Wheat Bread - baked in a dutch oven, crispy and delicious smelling.

Glutenous Rice Balls - after eating package after package of frozen ones from T&T, it's about time I learn to make my own. In case you're not familiar, here's everything you ever needed to know about GRBs, or more properly referred to as, Tangyuan.

Baked Quinoa Patties - pictured, in Heidi's photo, next to my favourite recipe from her site, Split Pea Dumplings, featured on my post here.

Hot Fudge Pudding Cake - this sounds like a cake mix my mom and I used to make. It came in a pink box, and it was delicious. Here it is, in real recipe form, with coffee added.

Looking back at this list, it has a complete lack of vegetables. What can I say? I swear I eat them. I'm just dreaming about baked goods, crackers and glutenous rice balls right now. I promise, as soon as those first asparagus and peas hit the farmers markets, it'll be vegetables, 24/7.

One can't cook all the time - there are distractions, like adorable cats, biking trips, and good books.

Meanwhile, another project I've been working on is a cooking scrapbook: 50+ food magazines from the last 10 years, turned into an organized, colourful cookbook. It's an ongoing project, saved for late night episodes of Colbert.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

the gimlet and some limey limes.

Homemade Lime Cordial versus Rose's Lime Cordial. It's like the difference between the orange juice my grandfather used to make in Phoenix, Arizona - oranges picked off the bush in the backyard, juiced in his kitchen - and Minute Maid that comes concentrated in a frozen can.

Imagine a whisky sour made with that neon green bar mix (from a powder that probably doesn't actually contain limes in the ingredient list). Now think of how much better it could be if you replaced that whisky with a good quality dry gin, and made a lime cordial from scratch, with lime zest, lime juice and sugar. Voila, the Gimlet, a classic cocktail.

For those of us without a martini shaker, you have one hiding in your pantry that you didn't even know about - a mason jar with a lid! Just fill to the brim with ice, add the ingredients, screw on the lid tightly and shake! Your shaker is also a beautiful, kitschy serving glass. While you drink it, imagine British Soldiers in the 1800's, standing on the deck of a ship, knocking back their daily dose of scurvy protection.

This recipe comes from an excellent New York Times article on deconstructing the gimlet. I have to admit, I couldn't leave my lime cordial overnight to 'steep,' as the article instructs. I used it right away, and it was delicious. I'll be sure to try it again tomorrow, and see how the lime flavour has changed. (What a chore. Drinking more gimlets! I'm sure I'll need them after teaching 5 year olds how to make ice cream.)

Now, just imagine the next time I make this cordial, when I dump in a pound of grated ginger - perfection!

homemade lime cordial
This makes a small amount - about a cup of cordial. It will keep for a week or two in your fridge. Double the recipe if you're having a party (and you're going to want more - try drinking just one gimlet. I'm having a second one right now as I write this post.)

5 limes, juice and zest
about 1 cup of sugar

Scrub your limes clean. Slice off either end, and use a vegetable peeler to take off most of the zest - no bitter white pith, only green zest allowed! It doesn't have to be beautiful. Now, slice the limes in half and juice them into a bowl. Measure how much juice you have (somewhere around a cup), and dump the juice into a jar with a lid.

Now, measure out an equal amount of sugar, and add to the juice. Then add the zest, giving it a squeeze as you add it, to help release the essential oils. Shake everything until the sugar is dissolved, and try to leave it overnight in the fridge. The next day, strain out the zest, and keep covered in the fridge for a week or two.

the gimlet
Makes one drink.

2 oz dry gin
2 oz lime cordial
2 or 3 lime wedges

Fill a martini shaker or jar with ice. Pour over gin, cordial, and squeeze in a few lime wedges. Shake, and serve! If you have a martini shaker, you can strain this and serve it in a chilled martini glass, or serve it over ice in a rocks glass. My favourite? Serve it in that mason jar that you used as a shaker, with a lime twist as garnish.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

more tapioca

It's my favourite dessert. I can't stop making it! Previous tapioca obsession can be found here: Coconut Vanilla Tapioca. This new recipe comes from a post on Food 52. I loved the cardamom flavour, but if that's not your thing, just replace it with a teaspoon of vanilla paste. And those bananas? They would be awesome on crepes, yogurt, pancakes, or oatmeal.

coconut pudding with cardamom and caramelized bananas
serves 4-6

3 cups of water
4 green cardamom pods
pinch of salt
 1/2 cup small pearl tapioca (not minute tapioca. check at asian grocery stores.)
2-4 tbsp of sugar

Slightly crush the cardamom pods with the flat of a knife. Bring water, cardamom and salt to a boil. Stir in  tapioca, and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook, stirring often, for about 15 minutes. When the white dot in the middle of the tapioca has disappeared, it's done. Fish out the cardamom pods and discard.

Add sugar to taste, and coconut milk. Stir to combine, and divide among serving bowls. While the pudding cools slightly, make the bananas:

2 firm-ripe bananas
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp butter

Cut bananas lengthwise, then in half (you should have 8 pieces). Melt butter in a frying pan. Sprinkle sugar over pan, and lay bananas, cut side down, in sugar. Cook for 2 or 3 minutes, turning once, until browned. Serve on top of the tapioca.

smoked trout, apple and celery salad

Here's the inspiration for this recipe, over at Epicurious. Local smoked trout is available at some farmer's markets, as well as in some health food stores - there's an interesting company called Kolapore Springs, and you can read all about their fish hatchery up on Georgian Bay here. First, the mayonnaise. You can use a prepared one if you're in a rush, but if you spare the time to make your own, make some extra for oven fries, or a spread to take sandwiches over the top.

homemade herbed mayonnaise
3 large egg yolks
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 chopped chives, parsley and dill
salt and pepper

In a metal bowl, or the top of a double boiler, combine egg yolks, lemon juice, garlic and 2 tbsp of water. Whisk together, and set over a pan of simmering water (or a double boiler). Whisk constantly, 4 or 5 minutes, until thick and glossy. Remove from heat, and slowly whisk in olive oil. Whisk in 2 more tbsp of water, herbs, and season with salt and pepper.

smoked trout, apple and celery salad
1 smoked trout fillet, flaked
1 apple, cored and diced
1 or 2 stalks of celery, diced
a handful of chives, sliced finely
1 green onion, diced
4 or 5 tbsp homemade mayonnaise

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, and toss to coat everything in mayonnaise. Serve over lettuce, with some delicious cheese crackers to accompany. Perfect picnic food! (Now we just need picnic weather.)

the best chocolate pudding

The smoothest, most decadent chocolate pudding I've ever had - it's more like a thick mousse - and of course it's from Bon Appetit magazine (here's the original recipe). This is going into heavy recipe rotation at my house - a dessert with 20 minutes prep time that will impress guests and satisfy a serious chocolate craving.
chocolate pudding with orange whipped cream
Makes 6-8 servings. You can definitely make this sans whip cream, it's that rich. I used my own homemade orange liquor for the whip cream, but you can use Grand Marnier or Cointreu, or just leave it out altogether.

1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp white sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups whole milk or regular soy milk
2 large egg yolks
1 1/2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup cold whipping cream
1 tbsp white sugar
1 tbsp orange liquor
1/4 tsp orange zest

Whisk together sugar, cornstarch and salt in a saucepan. Add 1/2 cup milk and egg yolks. Whisk until smooth. Whisk in remaining milk. Bring mixture to a slow boil over medium-high heat, whisking constantly. Continue to boil for 1 minute, whisking all the while. Remove pan from heat and stir in chocolate chips and butter. Stir until everything is melted and smooth. Finally, stir in vanilla. Spoon mixture into small bowls, and chill in the fridge for at least 3 hours.

If you like skin on your pudding, don't cover the puddings. If you don't like skin, put plastic wrap directly on the surface of the puddings.

Beat together whipping cream, 1 tbsp sugar, orange liquor and orange zest, until peaks form. Cover and chill.

Serve pudding with a spoonful of whip cream, and some extra orange zest for garnish.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

hoisin-glazed salmon bundles

Want to make you meals look more professional? It's called plating, and it's all about the way you arrange the food on the plate (obviously... plating). Think about contrasting colours and textures, and your best friend? Height. It's the foolproof way to make any meal look more restaurant-worthy. Here's a recipe I made a friend for lunch last week: Hoisin-glazed salmon rolls, with sautéed pea shoots and a mango salsa. Because, if you're going to work hard in the kitchen, shouldn't your food taste and look good?
This might look fancy, but you'll be done cooking in half an hour. Try a vegan version by replacing the salmon with marinated tofu. Delicious, and gluten-free, with pea shoots from Wychwood Barns, a local greenhouse cucumber, and wild pacific salmon (reasons not to buy atlantic salmon, read this and this).

An item you should get for your pantry? Rice paper wrappers. They're round, cheap, and perfect for all kinds of thai-inspired cold salad rolls in the summer. And they have a starring role in this recipe.

hoisin-glazed salmon with sautéed pea shoots and mango salsa
Serves 2, adapted from this recipe in Canadian Living

2 rice paper wrappers (the round kind)
1 green onion, sliced
1 small carrot, shredded
2 small wild caught, pacific salmon fillets, skin removed
salt and pepper
grapeseed oil (or other vegetable oil)
 a few tbsps of hoisin sauce
       (don't have any? make some! Mix together 4 tbsp soy sauce/tamari, 2 tbsp peanut butter,
       1 tsp honey, 1 tsp sesame oil, minced garlic, and a splash of sriracha sauce)

Handful of pea shoots (or other seasonal greens)
soy sauce or tamari
sesame oil

1 atulfo mango, diced
1/2 cucumber, diced
1 tsp sriracha (the rooster brand chinese hot sauce)
juice and zest of 1 lime
salt and pepper
grapeseed oil

Preheat the oven to 400. Soak rice paper wrappers in cold water for 10-15 seconds. Lay on a work space. Divide green onions and carrots between the two wrappers, piling them in the centre of each wrapper. Season salmon filets with oil, salt and pepper. Place salmon on top of vegetables. Fold one side of the wrapper over the salmon, then both ends, then roll up the rest of the wrapper. (There's a nice how-to  series of photos on this site, but your rolls will be larger and more square.)

Heat a splash of grapeseed oil in an oven-proof skillet. Cook the bundles in the oil, 1 minute each side, until browned and crisp. Turn gently! The rice paper is delicate. Turn off heat, and brush both sides of the bundles with hoisin sauce. Move the skillet to the oven, and bake for 7 minutes.

Meanwhile, rinse off the pea shoots. Heat a pan, and add the pea shoots. The water from washing will help cook the shoots. Sauté for 1-2 minutes, until wilted. Season with sesame oil and soy sauce.

In a bowl, toss together the mango, cucumber, sriracha, lime juice and zest, salt, pepper, and a splash of olive oil.

To plate your delicious meal, start with a bed of pea shoots. Place a salmon bundle on top, then finish with a spoonful of mango salsa.

blood orange and beet salad

Sometimes, the best meal is a giant plate of salad. No iceberg lettuce or wilted veggies here: tasty food starts with fresh, quality ingredients. Your cooking is only as good as your ingredients. My boyfriend might disagree about the whole salad-as-a-meal thing, but he hasn't come over to the dark side of roasted vegetables, tangy citrus, crunchy walnuts and herbed yogurt. Here's a salad that will suffice for a virtuous (and scrumptious) lunch or dinner. The dressing for this salad makes a tasty vegetable dip, so make a double batch. Or, try a vinaigrette in its place, for a vegan salad.
blood orange and beet salad
1 blood orange, peel removed, sliced
roasted beets, chopped
salad greens
toasted walnuts
dill yogurt (recipe follows)

Start with a bed of greens. Lay out orange slices, pile beets in the centre. Scatter some walnuts around, and finish with a dollop of dill yogurt

dill yogurt
2 or 3 tbsp chopped dill
salt and pepper
1/2 cup full-fat yogurt
juice of 1 lemon
splash of olive oil

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Stir to combine. Serve with fresh veggies as a dip, or as a salad dressing.

Friday, April 6, 2012

bookmark break

Weekend reading: one blog leads to another, following a link turns into two hours of wandering aimlessly around the internet, and I inadvertently end up with a plethora of bookmarks - recipes to make, videos to watch, books to read, projects to make. Here's my favourite (mostly food related) finds of last week:

Julia Child gets cooking with a very famous Indian Chef, Madhur Jaffrey,

this recipe is perfect for my lunch next week,

geometric artwork on my favourite art and design blog,

theydrawandcook has a sister website, theydrawandtravel! here's one of the toronto illustrations,

everything you've ever wanted to know about excellent eggs - an enlightenment by bon appetit magazine,

my favourite food podcast, with an awesome website to boot,

this map of the online food world,

and some squash and chocolate cupcakes from a new blog find.

I hope you find some new gems! The internet is a big, scary forest of extraordinarily bad and extremely good recipes. Happy hunting!

 (a little island time this week over on Hanlan's point... just waiting for summer and swimsuits!)

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Potato and Smoked Salmon Gratin

There is a dish at the restaurant where I work: a crispy potato rosti, covered in soft, caramelized onions, peppery baby arugula, thin slices of smoked salmon, and topped off with sour cream and capers. It's deluxe, delicious, and expensive to make at home. It's usually the recipe I turn to for my once or twice a year smoked salmon treat.

Yes, I call myself a vegetarian, but I eat fish a few times a month. Does this make me a liar, or a fake? I don't think so, but others might argue it does. While food choices are highly politically and environmentally charged, they still remain a personal, private choice.

Other people can state this argument for select vegetarianism more eloquently that I, for example Michael Pollan's NYT essay, An Animal's Place, or The Anxiety of Eating, by David E. Cooper. After being a vegetarian for ten (ten!) years, the decisions I've made are to continue eating eggs, cheese and dairy, but buy them from local, organic and ethical farms, for example Organic Medows or Montforte Cheese. Journalists might call me a 'demi-vegetarian,' a moderate and selective consumer of animal products. My friends might laugh at me for buying 7 dollar eggs, but I know that they came from an organic farm where the hens have ten times the space of battery hens, real access to the outdoors and are free from hormones, antibiotics and heavily processed feeds. Is the price difference worth it? That's a personal choice you have to make.

So what about seafood? Any cook who wants to continue eating seafood, while making environmental, ethical choices, should visit the Seafood Watch, run by the Monterey Bay Aquarium. And a great book on the topic is Bottomfeeder, by Taras Grescoe.
For me, giving up eating fresh-shucked oysters in Malpeque Bay on vacation, or stocking up on smoked trout from Akiwenzie's Fish at the market, was not something I was willing to do. Still, seafood is a once-in-a-while treat for me, and when I do buy it, I try and come up with an extra-special recipe, to do it justice.

This topic is quickly turning into an essay, but I swear I'm getting to the recipe. The inspiration was some delicious Wild Pacific Smoked Salmon, a carton of Small Flock's Delight Eggs (from grass fed, free range hens), Koslik's Horseradish Mustard and some Victory Organic Arugula. Here you go! (This is honestly the most delicious meal I've made... since Tuesday's macaroni and cheese with oyster and shitake mushrooms).

Potato and Smoked Salmon Gratin with arugula and poached eggs

1 tbsp butter
2 baking potatoes, sliced very thin with a mandolin
salt and pepper
1/2 cup caramelized onions
2 or 3 tbsp capers, drained
100 gr. smoked salmon
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup sour cream
1 egg
1 tbsp Kozlick's Horseradish mustard

For serving-
1 egg for each serving, to be poached
Handful of arugula for each serving
chives for garnish (yes! there are chives in my garden already!)

Preheat the oven to 375. Grease a baking dish with butter. Make one layer of potatoes to cover the bottom. Layer on top 1/2 of each of the salmon, onions and capers. Season with salt and pepper. Make another layer of potatoes, then the rest of the salmon, onions and capers. Season with salt and pepper again. Add a final layer of potatoes. In a bowl, beat together milk, sour cream, egg and mustard. Pour over potatoes. Bake for 50-60 minutes, until potatoes are soft and top is browned. Let rest for 5-10 minutes, covered.

When ready to serve, poach an egg for each person. (Check out this article on how to poach the perfect egg). Serve a square of gratin, topped with a handful of arugula, finished with a poached egg. Garnish with chives. Voila! (Or, Bon Appetit, as Julia Child would say. I'm in the middle of reading My Life in France.)

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

cocktail time!

Here you go: some not very seasonal drinks to get you through the end of the winter/spring/not-summer-yet blues. I made these two for my birthday- and they would look great with a paper umbrella, or some of those retro paper straws. If you have either mango or watermelon in your freezer, go ahead and use these for the recipes, making them into a frozen-slush kind of drink. Perfect for the freak warm weather from last week!
watermelon gin fizz
to make watermelon juice, puree chunks of ripe watermelon in a blender or food processor. Makes one large cocktail, or two small.

1 cup watermelon juice
handful of ice
1 oz. simple syrup
2 oz. dry gin
splash of club soda
3 or 4 mint leaves
2 or 3 lime wedges

In a martini shaker, muddle lime wedges and mint leaves. Add ice, watermelon juice, gin and simple syrup. Shake, and strain over ice in a tall glass. Top with club soda and garnish with a lime wedge and mint sprig.

mango mimosa
makes 4 cocktails.

1 ripe atulfo mango, peeled and cut in chunks
1 lime
1 bottle of sweet champagne or muscato

Puree mango chunks and juice of lime in a food processor, adding a few tablespoons of water to thin. Divide the mango puree in four champagne glasses, then top with champagne or muscato.
(The real reason for all these fruity drinks? Besides the occasion of my 25th birthday? I made these fruit plates for an event, and there were a lot of mangled chunks of fruit that didn't make the cut. Ever cut up 70 dollars worth of fruit? This is what it looks like.)