Monday, November 23, 2009

B-day Food Times

It was my birthday over the weekend and of course lots of food was consumed for the occasion. My sister surprised me by traveling from Halifax to visit me and celebrate. Good times were had by all. Lots of candy and chocolate always help.

This is what 31 looks like. Yeah, not too happy. This was pre-sister surprise...I was a lot happier a few hours later.

I still had (and have) lots of school work to do, so it was decided that my sister and friends would do the cooking for me. Sweet. I went to the Mile End library and worked on my paper, then when it closed I went to Cagibi for coffee/work.

I requested my beet cake recipe and my wish was granted. The beet cake was quite the ordeal and as a result of hilariousness and distraction I now have enough leftover batter for 2 more cakes. My sister
, who was "in charge" of the cake misread the instructions and tripled the amount of liquid in the recipe. We also spent ages boiling the beets and mincing them, then sticking them in the blender to puree. By the end of all this, I had joined in the cooking game and we were all sick of dealing with the beets. So all the beets, oh roughly a whole blender full, also went into the batter, although the recipe called for 3/4 cup. Needless to say there was a lot of re-jigging of the recipe. I used my critical thinking skills and did some stuff. I emptied about 1/3 of the batter into tupperware for future use/re-jigging. Then we added more of everything except liquid, and kept tasting it until we were satisfied. Finally we threw it into the oven and hoped for the best. I knew if all else failed, if I made buttercream icing it would make even the worst cooking fiasco taste acceptable. We eagerly awaited the results.

The beet cake batter BEFORE we realized our mistakes.

Clearly not impressed with the execution of this recipe.

In the meantime, my dinner was being made.
Sauteing portobello shrooms, leeks and onion for the risotto.

Goofing around...

Tada! My delicious birthday meal. Cornmeal and sweet chili crusted cod, black sesame crusted tuna, amazing herb and mushroom risotto and my salad. So good. This meal involved a lot of butter, which is perfect for those special occasions.

As for the cake, it turned out great!

Here it is in the process of getting iced. As I mentioned, buttercream icing saved the day. It was sweet and rich, just like I like my men icing. Butter, icing sugar, cocoa, shredded coconut, vanilla, almond milk. Delicious! Could have used a bit more cocoa though.

Mmmm...double layers....drooooool.

Icing the cake was almost as good as eating it.

I ate some for breakfast the next day.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Crunch Time

It's been uber busy around here lately. No, no, nothing exciting mind you. Just spending lots of time with these guys.
Yep, I've read all of them.

What do winners eat?

Brain food of champions. Ground flax and hemp and maple syrup oh my! I need a foolproof recipe for the old pancacos, any suggestions? These were a bit tasteless and rubbery.

Don't forget to make a giant pancake with the leftover batter.

Have a go at flipping the pancake. Julia Child would no doubt be impressed with that angle on the pan. Well done Rocky!

"I did it!"

Once said pancake is flipped and cooked, realize that the pancake has a FACE. Draw it in with a Sharpie pen.

Surprise your room mate by throwing the still warm pancake at her, frisbee style. Enjoy some recreational sports in the kitchen for 5 to 10 minutes.

Go back to doing this.

Eat some more brain food.

I've got 10 lbs of beautiful beets in my fridge, running out of things to do with them! I am going to attempt a chocolate-beet cake at the weekend, stay tuned! It's back to work for me now...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Gastronomie montrealaise avec les parents

My parents were visiting recently, and because they love me and I am their little girl no matter what, they treated me to some nice times in some nice restaurants. I wish I could afford to repay their generosity and do this kind of eating more often. However, my waistline and wallet are happier with deprivation and infrequency of this sort of dining.

We started off with drinks at Balwin's Barmacie and had some fancy cocktails. Highly recommended is the Lionel, which is booze 4X: Gin, Vodka, Citrus Liqueur topped with Champagne. Ahhhh refreshing!

Once suitably loosened by these libations, we strolled to
Bouchonne for eating of food and tasting of wine. The deal here is that you can order duos of wine in 2 oz. servings and get a good idea of the range of character a certain grape presents. Ok I just re-read that last phrase and I sound like a pretentious wine snob but I am not. I will drink homemade, just made, Hungarian wine, blueberry wine, you name it.

I don't want to get all "restaurant review" up in here, but if you will allow, I shall comment on the overall service of this joint. The maitre'd was a French man of few words to express himself regarding the wine. I want to be regaled with tales of the wine...I want you to use adjectives, adverbs and fancy wording of which I might just get the basic gist. Use your words my friend, use your words. Sadly French guy did not. But maybe it's because the wine spoke for itself?

Mom really enjoyed her Riesling duo (one French, one German) and I was suitably impressed with my Italian/French Bordeaux combo. Dad's Pinot Noir duo was a little bit I missing something regarding this grape? Why does it taste so nasty...sorry,

We got another waiter to come over and explain the menu. We were slightly intimidated by the two liver dishes on the menu, along with some sort of veal gland and the fact that the menu used French cooking terminology. But no need to fear, buddy explained it to us and everything started to sound delicious.

Carrot salad with goat cheese and Fairmount Bagel croutons. I spoke to the chef about this salad and apparently one of the secrets to its success is lots of red wine vinegar--got it.

Their version of surf and turf. Baby back ribs and grilled salmon. My parents remarked that this may be the best ribs they had ever tasted. Bonus. Sometimes lightly cooked fish skeeves me out but this salmon was so very fresh.

Tuna steak with stewed red peppers and tomatoes with pickled turnips. Holy mother of god. This was so amazing! Fish done to perfection, so fresh and the veg had been slow cooked after roasting so all the flavors melded together into one delicious fiesta of sweet and pulpy goodness.

Please disregard the fact that I ate that bacon like meat atop the fish. P.S. It was delicious. Sorry for eating you pig but I enjoyed you!

Lunching on a Sunday afternoon at Newtown felt absolutely decadent. No way I could ever afford a 14 dollar sandwich every week. But this one was perfect.

Fresh crab salad in a brioche type roll with salad. My only complaint was that the salad tasted a tad old.

Come to mama.

Bu was definitely a great choice of wine bar. They offer trios of wines for better value than Bouchonne with Italian inspired bruscetta, pasta and mains. The waitress described the wines well, with lots of explanations and talk about the winery etc. I love the sense of anticipation that it creates. I had the Spanish trio and I expected nothing less than deliciousness since Spain is my favorite country for wine. It was pretty fantastic.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Tofu and Sweet Potato Stirfry

This is a delicious nourishing and satisfying stir fry. Every time I make this dish I feel like I should be a monk eating this in a monastery after a day of meditation and field tilling. This stir fry is so simple and perfectly illustrates that it is possible to create complex flavors with minimal ingredients. I owe credit for this recipe to Jen, who taught it to me.

What you will need: a sweet potato, peeled and cubed. a pound of tofu, cubed, coconut oil or olive oil for frying, chopped green onion, toasted sesame oil.

So once everything is cubed and ready to go, heat your oil and get frying. You want to get the tofu nice and crisped and brown on the outside. Here I am using a tofu pre-marinated in Indian spices.

And so begins the stir fry process. It takes a while for the sweet potato to get cooked through though, so you might want to try pre-cooking it for a while. But hey, I am patient so I just hover over the stove and stir.

Et voila! Once everything is cooked add the chopped green onion and drizzle with toasted sesame oil, season with salt and pepper and black sesame seeds if you so desire. Serve with brown rice and it will surely transport you to monastic heaven.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Food Memories: Europa

The past 8 years for me were spent living, working and traveling around Europe. I still don't know how to condense those years into any coherent narrative...suffice to say there were good times and bad times...but more importantly there were food times. And that is what it's all about.

But first let's talk about the drink times. My good friend Jen and were frequent weekend travelers for about 2 years. We'd look up some cheap flights and get going. In Antwerp, Belgium we got to experience out first absinthe bar. If I recall correctly we visited this bar two nights in a row, not only because it was so fabulous, but also because we knew this was our last chance for a while to imbibe the lovely liquorice herbed nectar which is so potent Beaudelaire liked to write poems while on absinthe about absinthe. We first tried it the traditional way with the sugar cube flambe method: Stick a slotted spoon-like instrument over your little absinthe glass and put a sugar cube on top. Pour the absinthe over the sugar into the glass then set the alcohol-doused sugar cube on fire. The flame will melt the sugar into the glass. Then you drink. Repeat if necessary. Enjoy the head buzz!

FOOD PORN. GAH. Delicious Belgian waffle in Brussels. Heaven on earth. Life's joy and fulfilment. I love you so much I wish I could marry you dear waffle. You would never let me down.

Same place, different waffle. Subsequent visit. Still just as life affirming.

Let's take the edge off that sweetness with a coffee, shall we? Here we are in Istanbul and this is my first ever Turkish coffee. T'was delicious and strong. Make sure if you ever order Turkish coffee to make sure you ask for sugar as they mix it in while making it. Thick. Don't drink the bottom.

Not very flattering but you get the impression I am enjoying it, no?

Home food. This is in my first flat in London, Mildmay Grove, 2005. I was all about the buffalo mozzarella back then. With fresh basil and tomato.

More food, same flat. First meal I cooked for my parents when they visited. I see some guacamole there, some roasted veg, a salad in the corner and some pickles and meats and bread. Oh so continental!

Home BBQ, London, New North Road, 2008. I was blessed with a flat with a beautiful terrace and a pub next door. Bliss. In that foil container is a pile of king prawns marinated in coconut, coriander, chili and lime. They were good. There are some skewers there with some marinated monkfish and some halloumi. Wow, I wish I could have that all over again. Please note the non-Canadian hibachi style BBQ. You get her going with briquettes and some firestarters and then you wait and wait till her coals are white otherwise things just BURN. It's a bee-atch to get going but once it's fired up it burns hot and long. Oh yeah, just the way I like it.

Fancy food, Ottolenghi Restaurant, London. Oh man. What can I say about this food. Gotam Ottolenghi's got a weekly food column in the Guardian. It's mostly vegetarian food and it's all delicious. The man can do things with broccoli beyond your wildest dreams. Here we've got some parsnip and other deliciousness. It was 2007, can't remember anymore. But please go to Ottolenghi on Upper Street, Islington if you are ever in London. You will not regret it.

Here is the broccoli I speak of. Out of this world. Oven roasted and marinated. As well we have some beets and a rice salad. I'd like to eat something like this every day.

Happy menu times, Islay, Scotland. A wonderful meal after a long walk on a frigid windy beach strewn with bloated sheep carcasses. Really it was more beautiful than it sounds. This restaurant had a peat fireplace and plaid carpet. Yes, we were truly in Scotland. The mussels were fantastic.

D.I.Y Sardines, San Ramon, Espana. Here's my good friend Aidan's paella pan and paella fireplace being used to panfry some beautiful fresh sardines. The cats were in love with us that day.

Menu del dia at El Kiosko, Valencia, Espana. Cheap and cheerful. A 3 course meal sets you back about 15 bucks including wine. Muy bueno.

Stay tuned for some Canadian Food Memories...I've been exploring some awesome restaurants in Montreal. More to come. x