Monday, 28 May 2007

"I'll make you banana pancakes..."

Posted by Bonita

Can’t you see that it’s just raining
Ain’t no need to go outside...
But baby, you hardly even notice
When I try to show you this
Song is meant to keep ya
From doing what your supposed to
Like waking up too early
Maybe we can sleep in
I’ll make you banana pancakes
Pretend like its the weekend now

And we could pretend it all the time
Can’t you see that it’s just raining
Ain’t no need to go outside

-- “Banana Pancakes”, In Between Dreams, Jack Johnson

may28_02

Indeed, I did wake up yesterday morning to the gentle pitter-patter music of rain. It was one of those lazy Sundays, where you just wanted to spend the whole morning in bed. But stomachs also must be fed, and Sundays at my house usually mean brunch. And what better thing to serve on a lazy Sunday morning than the ultimate comfort food: pancakes.

My family has been using the same pancake recipe ever since I can remember. Not once have we ever purchased a box of pancake mix, our pancakes were always made from scratch. I remember how I used to watch my dad whip a batch of these pancakes on the weekend, our hand mixer first whipping up the egg whites and then mixing the yolk mixture into a batter. I would then get the job of folding the egg whites into the batter.

I’ve now taken over the duties of making pancakes when I’m at home, and after years of making these pancakes, I’ve make adjustments of my own to the recipe. What’s so great is that this recipe is a great starting point: you can go anywhere with this and add anything to it. I love to add whatever fresh fruits I have around the house or that’s in season. Personal favourites are bananas, blueberries and apples. My friend Nicole is a huge fan of my apple cinnamon pancakes, whereas I love bananas in mine. Served with a drizzle of real maple syrup, these pancakes definitely won’t last very long.

may28_01

I also picked up some prosciutto Saturday, and since I had some beautiful ripe pears, I decided to wrap pear slices with the prosciutto, a variaton on the classic prosciutto con melone. The sweet, juicy pear slices definitely went very nicely with the saltiness of the prosciutto.

may28_03

Dinner was a simple and easy home-cooked meal. I’ve been having a craving for curry lately, and since my favourite kind of curry is Japanese, we decided to serve the curry with Japanese fried pork chops, tonkatsu. The difference with Japanese curry from other curries like Thai or Indian is that it is milder and on the sweeter note. It comes in blocks rather than a paste. You simply throw as many blocks of curry as you want into your pot and add water and your vegetables (and/or meat) and cook until the vegetables are done. Tastes delicious served with rice or crusty bread to soak up all the curry sauce. Coconut milk in curry is a Thai thing, but I do like to add a bit of coconut milk to my Japanese curry to give it a bit more flavour and creaminess to it. I have to say, dinner was simply delicious last night. Craving definitely satisfied!!!
Basic Pancake Recipe
Makes about 8 to 10
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • A few drops vanilla extract
  • A drizzle of vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  1. In one bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff, foamy peaks form. Put aside.
  2. In a separate bowl, beat egg yolks with the vanilla and oil. Add in milk. Blend in flour and baking powder until well-incorporated.
  3. Gently fold the egg whites into the batter.
  4. Heat some oil in a heavy-bottom pan over medium heat. Pour some batter into the center of the pan, spreading it around a little if the batter if too thick. Cook until golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Repeat with the remainder of the batter.
  5. Serve warm, with a dollop of butter, maple syrup and fresh fruit.

N.B. Add fresh, seasonal fruits, chopped nuts or chocolate chips to the basic pancake batter mix. I usually add my fruit at the end, mixing in the diced apples before I fold in my egg whites (and adding the cinnamon along with the flour and baking powder). For blueberries, I just place them on top the pancakes right after I've poured them into the hot pan, whereas I mash my bananas and add them into the batter mix before I add my milk.

Saturday, 26 May 2007

Forsaking sleep for the sake of pain

Posted by Bonita

may26_03

No, not actual pain but pain. It was bread day this morning, and while it was a Saturday morning perfect to sleep in, I got an early start to my day. Too early some may say, having set my alarm to 6:00 am. I think I might have turned it off at some point when it went off…maybe after the first snooze button attempt, yet 22 minutes after my alarm went off, I was able to roll out of bed and get my still-slightly-groggy butt down to the kitchen (without making a racket, a huge feat for a huge klutz like myself).

I’ve really been craving for a good loaf of French bread lately, and what better way to have French bread than to make your own French bread? I got my sponge started last night so that it would have time overnight to ferment. After checking my sponge two hours after I had it made, I realized that the original bowl I had used would be too small. I would end up with sponge all over the kitchen counter by morning if I had just left it like that, so I scraped all my sponge into a much larger bowl (which definitely was a good call when I saw how much it had risen overnight!). I quickly got my dough together and put aside to proof.

may26_04

What’s so great about French bread is that it tastes so good on its own. You usually don’t need anything else to go with it. French bread needs to be enjoyed as a stand-alone. If it can’t even achieve such a simple task, than frankly, it’s not a very good “French” bread. However, there was no way I would just serve bread for lunch either, so what would be better to serve a rustic loaf with a rustic soup? Minestrone was my pick, since it would be nice and light, healthy and would help my mom a great deal my using up some of the vegetables that have been cluttering our produce box in the fridge. The recipe I ended up using is a combination of two recipes I was looking at, one by Giada de Laurentiis and the other by Ricardo Larrivée. Substituted here and there with what I had on hand, but in the end, soup turned out pretty well. Definitely made for a hearty (yet healthy) meal for lunch, and went very nicely with the fresh baked bread.

may26_02

The bread also turned out great. Sure, it didn't look as beautiful as the ones you would get at a professional bakery (I'll definitely need to work on my slashing technique!). However, the interior of this bread was definitely softer than other breads I have made in the past, thanks to the sponge. My only qualm is that my crust, which came out all crusty out of the oven, soften as it cooled on the rack (**cries**), so I’ll either have to try the “pan-of-water-in-the-oven method” next time (rather than spraying water) or leave it in for a few extra minutes and see if that’ll make any difference. I loved the look of the bread after it was cut, with the holes. Would be great if there were even more holes, but that just means it leaves more room for me to experiment in the near future. Still, it was a great tasting bread, despite the soft crust.

I’ve also finally had the guts to get a sourdough starter going, so I’m crossing my fingers that my starter will work out. Hopefully I can make a loaf of sourdough some time next week! How long it has been since I’ve had sourdough!

may26_01
Minestrone Soup
Adapted from Giada de Laurentiis and Ricardo
Larrivée
Serves 6 to 8

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 100 g thinly sliced pancetta, roughly chopped
  • 2 zucchini, chopped
  • 1 can (19 oz) white kidney beans, drained and well-rinsed (see N.B.)
  • 1 to 2 cups green beans, cut to 1" length
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (see N.B.)
  • 1 piece rind of Parmegiano-Reggiano
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 5 cups chicken broth
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Freshly grated Parmegiano-Reggiano, to serve
  • Chopped fresh basil, to serve
  1. In a soup pot over medium heat, soften the onion, carrots, celery, pancetta and garlic in the oil, between 5 to 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes, broth, tomato paste and Parmigiano rind.
  2. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the carrots are tender, about 10 minutes.
  3. Add the zucchini, green beans and kidney beans. Simmer for 5 to 7 minutes. Remove the Parmigiano rind. Adjust the seasoning.
  4. Sprinkle Parmigiano and basil on each serving.

N.B. The white kidney beans can be replaced with red kidney beans, according to your own preferences. For the tomatoes, I used a 28 oz-can since that is what I had on-hand at home, but a 14-oz can will do just as well (it'll just be less tomato-ey). You can also add small pasta to the soup, which I had decided to opt out.

Monday, 21 May 2007

The oven says, "Holiday? What holiday?"

Posted by Bonita

What better way to spend Victoria Day than going baking crazy in the kitchen? Alright, alright. I can actually think of better ways to spend a beautiful, sunny (if only slightly chilly) Victoria Monday outdoors, but for me, there’s nothing like spending a day baking up a storm. It’s been a couple of days since my last loaf of bread, which meant that it was time to bake a new one. Thus my pseudo-artisan bread, the wannabe that looks like an artisan bread, tastes like a gourmet bread yet doesn’t require a starter of any kind.

may21_01

I do have a confession to make. I love recipe books. I mean, I love books in general, being an English major. I’m like a moth to a flame when it comes to me and bookstores (and it’s a similar story when it comes to kitchen supply stores). My bookshelf is filled to capacity with books, much like the family bookcase downstairs is filled with cookbooks that my mother and I have picked up over the years. I’ve had Jamie’s Kichen for a good couple of years now yet never really had a chance to try many of the recipes from them. I can tell you that I’ve flipped through the book many times, ooh-ing and aah-ing at the many recipes that I would love to try but never got around to doing so (although there was the time I made his Baked Chocolate Pudding which ended up keeping the whole family up half the night from my “extra strong” espresso!). But this summer, determined to experiment in the kitchen to the max, I decided it was time to bring out that gorgeous blue-cover book and try out one of his fabulous looking bread recipes at the back of the book.

may21_04

It’s no secret now that I have a huge crush on Jamie Oliver. He’s a brilliant man: young, charming, dorky in a cute way and his accent and quirky saying…gotta love the man. I’ve made his Focaccia with Rosemary and Olive Oil Topping a good-number of times, and it has always come out beautifully and tasted delicious, and is in fact one of my brother’s favourite breads. Flipping through the bread section, there were a few options that looked appealing, like the Tomato Focaccia, the Sweet Roasted Red Onion and Garlic Bread or even the Slow-Roasted Tomato Bread, which would have looked adorable being baked in coffee tins. However, I wanted something a little different and with some sweetness to the bread today, so I opted for his Rosemary and Raisin Bread. It certainly sounds like an odd combination when you first think about it, but it’s different, I’ll get the sweetness from the raisins and generally, I trust Jamie.

may21_05

I got up bright and early this morning to get the dough made so that it could proof while I went out for my tennis game. Dough came together beautiful, and I knew I definitely had active yeast when it started bubbling and overflowing my measuring cup when I left it alone to bubble away for a few minutes! I cut some fresh rosemary from our herb garden outside, and I soaked the raisins in hot water for a few minutes to let them soften a little. Since today was a little chilly, I placed the dough in the oven that I slightly warmed ahead of time and then turned off, and then went off to play tennis for an hour. Came back to find a beautiful dough that had doubled in size. Punched down and shaped into a sausage loaf and then let proof for an hour again. I actually preheated the oven to 400°F rather than the suggested 350°F. I wanted a crusty exterior, and while Jamie didn’t mention it, I sprayed the loaf with some cold water (with a handy water spritzer), dusted it with flour and scored the surface with a sharp knife. Popped it in the oven and then sprayed the bread with more water at 5 minute intervals for the first 10 minutes. I then reduced the temperature to 350°F and let it bake that way for the remaining time. The book said to bake it for about 25 minutes, but I needed about 5 more minutes to get a nice golden colour to my loaf, probably due to my opening and closing the door and having all that heat escape. The house smelled delicious from the rosemary, and I got my desired crispy crust! The loaf looked beautiful, like something you might find at an artisan bakery. So here’s my pseudo-artisan bread, because it was a pretty simple yeast bread without the use of a starter, and yet it looks like it could be an artisan bread. I made a small cheddar cheese sandwich for lunch with this bread and it was great! It also tastes great just as it is with some butter.

may21_02

And since I had the oven going today, and I wanted something sweet in the cookie jar, I also made Cranberry Coconut Oatmeal Cookies. They’re one of my staple cookies that I always love to make, because they’re quick and easy, they taste fabulous and best of all, they’re freezer-friendly. I used to make Chocolate Chip Cookies all the time, but ever since I came upon this recipe, I’ve made these more often because they are healthier and make me feel slightly less guilty for indulging in a cookie…or two…sometimes even three.

The original recipe comes from Canadian Living magazine (I don’t know exactly which issue it came from, since I can’t seem to find the exact magazine around the house at the moment. But when I do, I’ll let you know!), and when I first saw it, I knew I had to make it. It sounded delicious, and the pictures of the cookies looked fabulous. However, after having briefly glanced over the recipe, I knew that something was fundamentally wrong with the proportions of the ingredients. The amount of dry ingredients they were asking for would produce a ridiculously dry dough that wouldn’t hold together. So, I took up a pencil and fiddled around with the numbers and came up with a formula that I thought would work much better in order to create a nice dough. Went to work and low-and-behold, the dough came out perfectly. Not too wet, nor too dry: just perfect! The cookies did indeed come out delicious, with a nice texture from the oatmeal and coconut and the right amount of sweetness. I initially made these using dried cherries, before switching over to the dried cranberries that is originally asked for in the recipe (after having been reconciled to dried cranberries earlier this year). These babies can work well with any combinations of dried fruits though, and I’d love to give dried apricots a try in the future. I’m sure they’ll also be delicious with nuts (almonds, pecans, hazelnuts, etc.) or chocolate chips. Best of all, they really do freeze well. I always make a big batch of these when I’m at school and just throw them in the freezer to have treats on hand when busier times keep me out of the kitchen. They make for a great study-break treat!

may21_03
Cranberry Coconut Oatmeal Cookies
Adapted from Canadian Living magazine
Makes about 2-3 dozen

  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • ¾ cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup rolled oats (not instant)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup shredded sweetened coconut
  • ½ tsp each baking powder and baking soda
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ cup dried cranberries
  1. Line rimless baking sheets with parchment paper or grease; set aside.
  2. In large bowl, beat butter with sugar until fluffy; beat in egg and vanilla. In separate bowl, whisk together rolled oats, flour, coconut, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add to butter mixture along with cranberries; still until combined.
  3. Drop by heaping 1 tbsp, about 5 cm apart, onto prepared pans. Bake in top and bottom thirds of 375°F (190°C) oven, rotating and switching pans halfway through, until golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to racks; let cool.

Saturday, 19 May 2007

Mushroom Night in Brandon

Posted by Andrew

Reading my sister's entry before this one has got me missing BBQ dinners quite a bit now. Hopefully I'll one day find a place to live where I'll have a backyard in which to place my own BBQ grill. In any case, she wasn't the only one busy with food at the start of the Victoria Day long weekend.

I'll admit that I'm a hobbit when it comes to mushrooms, so it was only a matter of time before I made myself a mushroom-themed dinner. As I mentioned yesterday I bought quite a bit of mushrooms, including the regular whites, crimini, oyster and portobella. I also still had some dried porcini (cepes) on hand, so that also got used tonight. As for the wine to use for cooking, I got my hands on a Henry of Pelham 2005 non-oaked Chardonnay.
















For starters I made a simple yet wonderful mushroom and leek soup. I was impressed that I didn't need to add herbs to enhance the flavouring, although I'm sure that is still possible as a personal preference. Since I could only get large leeks at the time I only used one large leek for this recipe. I also used a mix of white, crimini and portobella mushrooms for the soup.

For my main course I decided to make a foray into the realm of cream. Although having mushrooms tossed in stir-fries or mixed in a tomato-sauced based pasta dish are nice, I realized it was past time that I further expanded my cooking horizons another notch. Try as I might I couldn't find a satisfactory mushroom cream sauce recipe to my liking, so I ended up winging it tonight. In hindsight I could've added just a bit more chicken powder to get the right saltiness to the dish, but other than that I think I did alright. The amount of sauce I created apparently was just enough to coat the ingredients rather than being overgenerous with some leftover sauce at the bottom of my bowl.
















Chicken Mushroom Penne
  • 1/2 package (~500g) penne
  • 1 chicken breast
  • 6-8 white mushrooms, sliced thinly
  • 100g oyster mushrooms, sliced into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 portobello mushroom (~100g in size), sliced thinly into bite-sized pieces
  • ~100g dried porcini (cepes) mushrooms
  • 1 shallot, finely sliced
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 cup (250ml) dry white wine
  • 1 cup (250ml) whipping cream or other heavy cream
  • ~1tbsp. corn starch
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • ~1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • ~1/2 tbsp. dried thyme
  • Salt (and chicken powder as option later)
  • Pepper

  1. Rehydrate porcini mushrooms in warm water for at least 15-20 minutes. Remove from water carefully to ensure you don't pick up any dirt, rinse the mushrooms under cold water and drain.
  2. Grill chicken breast until fully cooked and let rest. If using a double-sided grill, usually 5 min. should suffice. Cut the breast into thin slices prior to making the sauce.
  3. Chop and slice the shallot, garlic and mushrooms. Keep the fresh mushrooms together, separate from the shallot and garlic.
  4. Cook penne as per package instructions, usually for about 10-13 minutes.
  5. Over medium-high heat drizzle bottom of pot with olive oil and add butter. Add shallots and garlic, stirring quickly for about 30 seconds.
  6. Add all mushrooms to the pot and stir. Add a dribble of water to the pot as the mushrooms will absorb the oil and may stick to the pot. Add a pinch of salt as well to help the mushrooms sweat. Cover pot and let cook for ~4-5 minutes.
  7. Add wine, increase heat to high, and let boil until the alcohol evaporates.
  8. Once alcohol has evaporated, reduce heat to medium-high and add thyme and cream. Cover and let simmer for a few minutes.
  9. In a small bowl mix the corn starch with some water to prepare the thickener.
  10. Add salt or chicken powder and pepper to taste to the mushroom and cream mixture, stir evenly before adding the corn starch thickener. Stir to ensure even thickness of the sauce.
  11. Add the cooked penne and sliced chicken breast into the pot and mix until pasta is evenly coated and ingredients are evenly mixed. Remove from heat and serve.

Summer Lovin'

Posted by Bonita

may19_01

The summer weather is all about outdoor grilling, and grilling food on the barbie is one of our favourite ways of cooking our meals in the summer. There’s usually the staple of chicken wings, sausages and grilled vegetables (usually an assortment of zucchini, sweet bell peppers and mushrooms that have been marinated in a soy-based marinade). Then there are the other dishes that we often mix it up to keep things interesting. Sometimes it’s shellfish, sometimes it’s kebabs or even lamb chops or shellfish. Last year, we got some cedar plank so that we could try cedar plank fish and tasted delicious. Thus, with the new barbeque season well underway, we thought it would be great to dig out those cedar planks and grill some cedar plank salmon. You just need to soak the plank in cold water for a few hours to ensure that it won’t go up in flames when you place it over the fire! We simply season our salmon fillets with some salt, pepper, olive oil and lemon juice. I placed a bed of dill that I had on hand over the cedar plank before placing the fish on top of that. The fish turned out amazing today, with that nice, subtle smoky hint from the cedar and the fact that it was cooked perfectly (practically melt in your mouth!).

may19_02

There’s also nothing better to accompany grilled food than corn-on-the-cob. We typically boiled or steamed the corn, but this year, my mom wanted to try grilling them, despite the fact that it would mean a little more work. The results were fantastic! The corn was sweet with that slight smoky hint from the grill. I don’t think my mom will make corn-on-the-cob any other way from now on!

may19_04

Food went down with a nice Rose wine from France that I picked up from the LCBO the other day. I don’t know what it is, but I’m either attracted to the bubbly wines or the pink wines, because they’re both so pretty!

Friday, 18 May 2007

The Comforts of Home

Posted by Bonita

There’s something very comforting about dumplings. I haven’t been able to pinpoint exactly what it is about dumplings that make it so comforting: it is the delicious meaty filling mixed in with vegetables? Or is it the yummy vinegar sauce that is served alongside a plate of dumplings? Perhaps it’s the fact that they are golden and crispy on the outside, but juicy and tender on the inside when pan-fried? Whatever the reason, dumplings rank high on my list of comfort foods, especially my mom’s homemade dumplings (also known as potstickers, and pronounced “gow-gee” in Cantonese). My mom used to make them on a free Saturday or Sunday afternoon, while I helped her wrap and my brother or my dad would roll out the dough for the dumpling skins. It was quite a family affair, and we would always make about 2 big trays of them, freeze them and put them into freezer bags so that we could pull them out of the freezer whenever we wanted to have some. They go directly into a pan frozen and are cooked until ready.

may18_01

As I mentioned yesterday, my mom typically makes 2 kinds of dumplings: pork and Napa cabbage or pork and Chinese chives, which are grown and cut from our own garden out back. Since it’s spring, my mom made full use of the Chinese chives this time around, and so we made the Chinese chives variety yesterday. I of course helped with wrapping. Obviously mine are slightly uglier than my mom’s, considering she has YEARS of experience on me. However, my mom does get a kick out of mine since she thinks they look more like the shrimp dumplings (har gau) you get at dim sum because mine always somehow turn out nice and small and plump. We like to pan-fry our dumplings in a cast-iron pan to give the bottoms a nice crusty bottom, and my mom usually serves it with a soy-vinegar sauce mixed with some garlic, ginger and sesame oil. So delicious when it’s nice and piping hot!

may18_04

When we make dumplings for dinner, it’s tradition in my house to make hot & sour soup along with the dumplings and scallion cakes (or green onion pancakes). Sometimes we’ll make a noodle dish too, but since it’s only three living at home now rather than four, less is more. Yours truly had the pleasure of making the scallion cakes tonight (although my mom had prepped the dough for me in advance) and they turned out beautifully! I’ve included the recipe below so that you too can enjoy this tasty and delicious Chinese snack.

may18_02

Scallion Cakes
Adapted from Chinese Snacks: Wei-Chuan's Cook Book
Makes 6

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup boiling water
  • 1 tbsp chopped green onion (see N.B.)
  • 1/2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  1. Place flour and salt in a mixing bowl; add boiling water and mix well (add a little cold water if dough is too dry); knead into a smooth dough and let sit 15 minutes.
  2. Roll dough into a long roll and cut into 6 pieces. Using a rolling pin, roll each section into a 4-inch circle; brush surface lightly with the sesame oil and sprinkle over with green onions. Roll up jelly roll-style and then roll up the sides like a snail, making sure to tuck in the ends at the top and the bottom. Flatten and roll a little with the rolling pin. Repeat procedure for each dough piece.
  3. Heat pan with about 4 tbsp oil. Fry on both sides until golden brown. Remove and serve.

N.B. You can always put more or less green onions, according to your own taste. We usually put more green onions in our scallion cakes at my house.

Thursday, 17 May 2007

Gearing for the Long Weekend

Posted by Andrew

Ooh, I can't wait for the Victoria Day long weekend to begin, I'm gonna put myself into full culinary experimental mode. Went grocery shopping today after work, and stocked myself up on several items, the key ones being over a pound's worth of various mushrooms and a bottle of white wine.

I've got several ideas on what to concoct this weekend. Once I've made them (and tasted them) I'll let you know how successful I was. Hey, if most of the long weekend's gonna be wet and dreary and the only good day I have to stay home thanks to an afternoon Sens game ("Hockey Afternoon in Canada" just doesn't have the same ring), I might as well spend my time at home in the kitchen.

Childhood Memories

Posted by Bonita

may17_05

One of my first memories of being in the kitchen when I was young was helping my mom out on the weekends, wrapping wontons or Chinese dumplings (also known as potstickers). Years later, the tradition still stands, and it's one of my favourite activities, to spend some time in the kitchen with my mom and wrap dumplings. My mom makes everything from scratch, from the dumpling filling to the actual dough itself, which makes them taste a million times better. There are two types of filling we often make in my home: the usual ground pork with Napa cabbage, or ground pork in Chinese chives during the spring and summer, making full use of the Chinese chives that grows outside in our garden. Both fillings are just as delicious! My mom and I wrapped some dumplings this morning so that we can freeze them and have them on hand. Here's a preview of the dumplings, but since we're having them for dinner tomorrow, I'll say more about them later!

may17_01

Tonight, my mom made spareribs for dinner (yummy!) while I made tomato and basil linguine as a sidedish. It's really simple to make. While you cook your pasta, mince some garlic, chop some tomatoes and some fresh basil leaves. Heat some olive oil, throw in your garlic and stir it around for about 30 seconds before tossing in the tomatoes. Let it cook for a bit, then toss in the cooked pasta (if the sauce is too dry, spoon in some of the pasta water). Toss in the basil and voilà!

Sunday, 13 May 2007

To Mom, With Love...

Posted by Bonita

may13_04

There’s nothing like saying “I Love You” than cooking for my mom. My mom has spent countless years slaving away in the kitchen day in and day out to feed us hungry kids. Not only has she fed us great food, but she’s truly fostered a great love of food within me. So thanks Mom, for being so supportive and loving, and for also instilling a passion for all things edible. Therefore, as my gift to you, you’ll get the day off from cooking today!

may13_03

I started Mother’s Day with brunch, but rather than do our usual pancakes or waffles, I wanted to do something extra special. There was some leftover smoked salmon in the freezer, so I thought it would be perfect to make Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict. Rather than serve the eggs on the typical toasted English muffin, I decided to use French baguette instead. I bought the bread a day before from the French bakery down the street so I wouldn’t have to deal with the LONG line-ups that would be anticipated on Mother’s Day morning. The meal was easy enough to put together…it was all about timing though. I made my Hollandaise sauce a bit too early, so that by the time I was reheating it, it had gone a bit runnier than I would have liked. Poaching the eggs was also quite a hectic event for me, but somehow I survived and only wrecked two eggs (yeah!). I served the smoked salmon eggs benedict. Yes, it was a bit of a pain trying to put this all together, but it was all worth it in the end, and it was delicious. The dill in the sauce was definitely a must as it compliments the smoked salmon very nicely (and we all know that dill and salmon are pretty much best friends!). Also served a basket of freshly baked Pineapple Carrot muffins using an old recipe that my mom has been using since I was a little girl. Ah, those muffins certainly brought back memories of my childhood!

may13_01

I opted to make a three-course meal for dinner, which was easy enough considering I had no help in the kitchen today. I made the soup a day before so that it would save me time. All I had to do today was reheat them and serve. It took me a long time to decide what kind of soup I wanted to make, but then I came across a recipe for a duo of Roasted Yellow Pepper & Roasted Tomato Soups at Epicurious, and I knew I had to make this for my mother! It sounded absolutely delicious, and I could picture how beautiful they would look in my mom’s new, white dish set. The soup is really easy; it’s just time consuming because you have to roast your vegetables. But I ended roasting my tomatoes in the oven while simultaneously “roasting” the peppers on the grill outside. All I can say about this soup is that it’s probably my favourite part of the whole meal. It was absolutely delicious, with the sweetness of the pepper soup balancing the acidity of the tomato soup. Delicious, light and healthy! I topped the soup off with some basil cream (plain yogurt mixed with some finely chopped fresh basil) and served it with the leftover baguette from this morning. I just popped it in a 325°F oven for about 10 minutes to reheat it and make the outside crusty again.

may13_05

The only fish I’ve ever dealt with is salmon (well…unless you count canned tuna, but then again, I’ve never actually cooked canned tuna meat before…). I often cook salmon. I don’t have a problem with salmon. So I was definitely entering uncharted territory tonight by opting to cook a fish dish. Fish is delicate, and it can either turn out really nice or it can be a major flop. The original recipe was for a Pistachio-Crusted Halibut with a Spicy Yogurt Sauce. Alas, there was no halibut at the store that I went to the other day, so I substituted haddock for halibut. I also didn’t have any madras pepper, not could I find the red pepper flakes, so I substituted a Sriracha hot chili sauce instead. I didn’t have any problems cooking the fish, since I used a non-stick pan. I was worried for a minute when flipping the fish because it looked like it might flake into pieces on me, but luckily the fish held together. Served the fish alongside rice, stir-fried zucchini and the spicy yogurt sauce. My parents really enjoyed the fish, and said that it was cooked perfectly. Phew!

Strawberries and cream are a classic combination, so I thought it would be great to make a dessert using such a classic combo. And who doesn’t love strawberries and cream? I made a strawberry shortcake. Made the cake last night and wrapped it in plastic wrap so that all I had to do today was assemble the cake. Made a HUGE mess while assembling the cake as I was applying the almonds to the side of the cake, but atleast it made the cake look pretty, despite the fact that it was lopsided. The cake was very good, but I credit the chantilly cream for that. The texture of the cake was a bit too dry in my opinion, so I’ll definitely want to dry a different sponge recipe next time, perhaps one that calls for cream of tartar for a lighter cake base. But otherwise, it was still rather quite tasty.

may13_02

It was certainly a fun day today, cooking for my mom. I had fun in the kitchen, but I’m so exhausted now. And to think…my mom has been cooking for me for the past 20 years!

Another "Tayst" of Osborne Village

Posted by Andrew

Considering how a good handful of Winnipeg's locally notable restaurants are in the Osborne Village area there should be no surprise that the next place I tried was also in this trendier part of town. This time the restaurant was named Fude, and my first impression from reading the name was that this could be a fun place to eat. Unlike Mise further down the street, Fude doesn't have the added luxury of being located in a nicer building that's either old and historic or new and contemporary, and perhaps Fude should ask its landlord to spiffy up the facade to give the restaurant justice.

That said, once you enter the small, casual and cosy restaurant you're greeted by easy-going staff and a smart-looking interior (other than some light wood panelling at and around the bar the black furniture is surrounded by walls painted deliciously in aubergine and honeydew with prairie-themed posters), both of which help to lighten up the dining experience. Fusion-style cuisine is offered using as many Manitoba, and if impossible then Canadian, ingredients as possible in the dishes served here.

For starters I had a creamy mussel and saffron soup. The PEI mussels were sweet and tender, and the broth had a nice garlic kick and a velvety texture thanks to the pureed potatoes in the soup. For bread this place served two types of foccacia, multigrain and mixed herbs, but it was the dipping that caught my tastebuds. Based on traditional Italian cuisine balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil is the basic dipping for bread. True to this restaurant's motive the vinegar is infused with red beets, and the sprinkling of pepper flakes give the dipping a good "zing" factor on the tongue.

Of all the main courses I could've chosen, it was the chili chocolate chicken that kept beckoning me. Okay, maybe it was because I'm such a fan of chocolate, or maybe it was because I never tried a savoury chocolate dish until now... likely it was both ;o) ... but since I knew chocolate is used in traditional Mexican cuisine I had to find out how something associated to a sweet concoction could mix well with dishes that have a salt factor. The dish was in fact a pleasant surprise... in spite of the use of only cocoa powder and dark chocolate there was still a hint of sweetness that helped mellow out the spiciness of the pepper/cocoa powder coating the chicken breast. The fact that it was more of an earthier sweetness rather than a fruity one (my sister can attest my strong dislike for pineapples in savoury dishes!) thanks in part to the natural bitterness of pure cocoa ensured that it wasn't overpowering nor, in my opinion, conflicting with the other flavours in the dish. In spite of the larger-than-expected portion size (that chicken breast could've been a very young turkey breat for all I care), the dish was prepared well, and quality and taste were not impaired at this restaurant by the dreaded "big dish" factor.

For dessert I decided to try the feature, a napoleon made of caramelized Anjou pears and layered with cinnamon-topped puff pastry. Anjou pears don't soften up that easily unlike Bartlett pears, and so those caramelized slices held together very nicely. Perhaps reducing the sweetness just a touch would have made it taste more "natural" rather than "candied". The chai latte served at this restaurant was also rich and fragrant. However, I realized in hindsight I should've asked for some sugar... straight chai latte with no sugar reminds me too much of the bitterness of coffee.

If you're looking for a stylish restaurant in which you can kick back and relax and enjoy food inspired from all parts of the world, Fude could be one of those places. Fude is also one of those rarer places where an increase in quantity does not necessarily result in a proportional decrease in quality.

Name: Fude
Address: 303-99 Osborne St., Winnipeg, MB
Cuisine: Fusion
Price Range: Dinner $50-70
Accessible: No

Saturday, 12 May 2007

Honey, You're So Sweet!

Posted by Bonita

may10_01

I seem to have a fascination with making bread lately. Made a Honey & Fruit Focaccia the other day based on the recipe from Cook & Eat. I love focaccia. I usually make a very simple but very delicious fresh rosemary, garlic, sea salt and drizzled with good-quality olive oil, based on a Jamie Oliver recipe. But when I saw this recipe for a sweet version of focaccia, it piqued my interest and I had to try it. The recipe was simple enough, and I was even able to half the recipe with no trouble at all. Made the dough first thing in the morning, left it to proof for an hour while I went out to play some tennis, and came home to put the rest of the bread together.

I used red grapes for this recipe and normal honey, although next time I might whip out my special blueberry flower honey to add dimension to the bread. While this recipe doesn’t beat my usual savoury focaccia, it wasn’t totally bad either. It was definitely different with the hint of sweetness from the honey. I might try this again in the future with a different fruit and honey.

may10_02

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day, which means that I’m in charge of the kitchen all day. I already have the whole menu planned out, and I just finished making the soup for tomorrow, which is absolutely delicious. But I’ll tell you more about it tomorrow!

Saturday, 5 May 2007

Better Than Sliced Bread

Posted by Bonita

I'm back! After weeks of essays and then finals, school is finally out for yet another year, and I have four months to dedicate my time in the kitchen, so let the fun begin!

What's better than sliced bread? Freshly baked bread straight out of the oven. I love walking into a real artisan bakery because it always smells so amazingly good. The bread baking, the yeast, the butter. There's no better turn-on than bringing those smells right into your house. I've always have a bit of an aversion to making my own bread because it just seemed so complicated. But it really isn't once you get into it and grasp the basics. So my goal this summer is to bake a loaf of bread once a week so that I can gain more experience baking bread, as well as expand my horizons. Plus fresh baked bread around the house never hurt anyone, right?

may05_01

I ended up making challah today, which is a traditional Jewish bread. I am by no means Jewish, but that didn't stop me from making this. Mostly because I always see it in recipe books and how great it is to use for French toast, and since I wanted to make French toast for my parents some time in the next few days, I thought it would be cool to make my own challah as well. I turned to my trusted Williams-Sonoma Bread book and used their recipe. It was very easy and simple to follow, and after many hours of patient waiting for the bread to proof and then bake, I had a beautiful loaf of bread in the end. The crust was a beautiful golden brown, and the inside was so soft and delicious.

My favourite part when making the challah was braiding it. It was just so satisfying to see this big blob of dough turn into a beautiful braid. And to know that I did it...all on my own! So I've learned today that there is nothing to fear about bread, nor is there anything that beats freshly baked bread.