Tuesday, October 9, 2012

tofu green bean szechuan stir fry

Bonjour les amis! We've really been enjoying our bountiful veggie baskets from Lufa Farms, one of the world's only commercial rooftop farms. They amplify the bounty with fresh and local produce from local farms as well. The baskets have provided a variety of veggies and as a result I have been inventing new recipes and pimping old ones (tomatillos in my bean chili--booyeah!) Moreover, I collect my box at the local Green Peace office, and the people there are so friendly! I often end up chatting with other neighbourhood folk collecting their veggies. It's nice to feel part of a community of good eaters.

Here's a yummy stirfry that I think really captures some nice Chinese flavours like sesame oil, spicy szechuan pepper, and the delicious salty kick of soya. It helped me use up the tomatoes, onions, soya beans and green beans that were in my basket.

The flavour culprits that comprise most Chinese cookery: sweet, sour, salty, and umami.
Mix 2 teaspoons of sweetener (agave, honey, sugar, etc), 1 teaspoon rice vinegar, 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, and 1 teaspoon of toasted sesame oil together, then taste. Does it taste like the makings of delicious stirfry? If so, you're good to go! If not, keep tweaking it, you'll get there. 

Once your taste buds are happy, mix 1 tablespoon of cornstarch in about a 1/4 cup of water.Mix those two together, then incorporate into the stirfry sauce, like so.

Now to get your spicy szechuan salt ready. If you don't have szechuan peppers, just add regular pepper or chili flakes, whatever you fancy to get your hot on.

It was my first time cooking with szechuan peppers, which actually aren't from the pepper family at all. They're some sort of flower pod. Neat! I toasted them over a medium hot flame and waited for them to change colour, stirring often.

I decided to turn my pepper into a pepper salt by crushing about 3 teaspoons of peppers and added that to 3 tablespoons fine sea salt. Now it's stirfry time!

The regulars in my wok: garlic and ginger, about 2 tablespoons each.

A pound of tofu, chopped up and sprinkled with salt and pepper.

A sliced onion and some chopped tomatoes will add some body to the stirfry (and use up some excess from the veggie basket!)

I shelled about a cup of fresh, organic soya beans and trimmed three big handfuls of green beans while watching bad internet TV (What Not to Wear--looking hot is all about showing your waist shape, apparently) while imagining that I was a farm girl in some parched and dusty town in the deep south, fixin' my vegetables on the front porch while mama was out back poundin' the grits.

Now for the actual stir fry process: are you hungry yet? First, fry the tofu in a bit of oil over medium high heat to cook t the cubes to a golden brown crisp.

I then added the soya beans and the green beans to the wok, giving a good stir occasionally. These greens were deceptively dense, took about 10 minutes to soften.

Next, the tomatoes, garlic, ginger, and onion went in. I wanted these flavours to stand out, so I added them last and cooked for about 5 minutes.

Remember the sauce you made earlier? Add that in now and give it a good stir. Sprinkle about a teaspoon of the szechuan salt mix and let that cornstarch in the sauce do its thing. Get everything nice and coated now!

You can eat this on rice or noodles, but I just had it on its own with some sesame seeds as a garnish. Oh, I probably added tons of sriracha as well.  The peppers made the stir fry taste quite zingy, without the burn of regular chili peppers, for example. I enjoyed the electric feeling on the tongue created by the szechuan peppers.

Monday, October 1, 2012

strawberry jam (sauce)

Howdy readeroonies! My friend Rosemary and I slaved away a few weeks ago to make some strawberry jam which actually was only sauce in the end, but no matter, still delicious and blog worthy! I will show you what I did, and where we went wrong, and what you should do if you want jam and not sauce.

First, git yerself some strawbs up in the hizzle. We used double of what you see here. Roughly one pint of berries will make you 500ml of jam/sauce.

Wash and cut. Chit and chat.

Simmer berries over medium heat and add your sweetener. We made 3 batches:

-lime strawberry with maple syrup
-vanilla lemon with maple syrup and port
-classic strawberry with cinnamon and ginger

The juice of 4 limes is about sufficient for 8 cups of berries. Don't be shy to do multiple tastings. It's part of fun, and hot berry sauce is just about the funnest thing to taste and tweak. Sugar rush!

Boil away, my darlings! Alright people, at this point, when your fruit is nice and mushy and lots of liquid has exuded from the berries, you need to add thickener: pectin, kudzu, agar...something to make it gel. This, we did not do. Well, our piddly tablespoon of agar flakes did not cut it. Surf around the internet for proportions and recipes to suit your needs. 

Still, it was rewarding to see the delicious fruit mush go into sterilized jars and get sealed up in a nice bath of boiling hot water.

Next time, I will use pectin to make regular jam, and agar to make freezer sauce. Honestly, you can go through eating the stuff so quickly that boiling jars to seal them is not worth the time. Freezer jam is the way to go if you hoover through it like I do.

Cute labels! The vanilla strawberry jam tasted incredible on french toast this weekend.

Monday, September 24, 2012

jiimdak--korean chicken stew

I have to come clean...I don't have a TV and most of the viewing I do consists of watching food programs or recipe videos online. It's a great way of making me uselessly hungry at like a quarter to eleven at night. I was on an Asian recipe watching kick and this stew looked really easy and delicious, and now that I have a resident carnivore living with me, he was in charge of cutting up the disgusting looking yet delicious meat for the recipe. Try making this braised chicken stew with noodles the next time you want something hearty with zippy asian flavours!


dried whole chili peppers, oil, soy sauce, oyster sauce, sweetener, garlic, ginger, chicken, green onion, white onion, carrots, potatoes, sesame oil, mushrooms, mung bean noodles

You will need for the sauce:

1/4 C soy sauce
1/4 C oyster sauce
1/4 C sweetener (agave or honey)
1 T rice vinegar

Prepare the chicken:

2 1/2 pounds of chicken ( I used skinless boneless thighs), cut into 2 inch cubes. Cut the chicken and then rinse it well, and drain.

Prepare the vegetables:

1-2 carrots cut into medallions (cut on the bias to look fancy--see below)
1 onion cut into strips
2-3 potatoes cut into 1 1/2  inch cubes
1 cup of mushrooms ( I used portobello)
5-7 green onion cut into 1 inch pieces
1/4 C. minced garlic (about 6 cloves)
2 T. minced ginger

For the noodles:

Use half a package (2-3 big handfuls or 100g) of mung bean noodles or potato starch noodles. Follow the cooking instructions--that is, soak them in cold water to soften.

To make the stew:

Heat up the wok and add 3-4 dried chilies cut up into 2-3 centimeter thick pieces. Now you are making plain vegetable oil super pimped up with chili flavours. Fry the chilis in oil until they become darker, but before they begin to burn, on medium heat, about 45 seconds. Go!  

Remove the chilis and now you have an amazing fragrant chili oil in which to fry the chicken (or tofu, i am sure this would be equally delicious).

Fry the chicken in a wok or large frying pan until it begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the potatoes and keep frying for a couple of minutes. Now add the minced garlic, ginger  and sauce and give it all a stir. Add 3 cups of water and let cook for 10 minutes.

Now it's time to start adding veggies. Add the carrots and onions and stir.

When the carrots and onions are nearly cooked to your liking, add the shrooms and stir well.

Now it's time to add the noodles that have been soaking away. Drain them and stir them into the stew. The starch from the noodles will start to create a beautifully clingy and thick gravy sauce, bathing all those yummy ingredients in delicious flavoursome liquid. Let the noodles soften in the stew over medium heat for a few minutes.

When you're ready to serve, get your plate and spoon the jiimdak, making sure to get some noodles in your bowl, and some gravy. Add a drizzle of toasted sesame oil and some chopped green onion, like so. Sprinkle some sesame seeds for garnish and serve with kimchi, for that extra korean flair.

This dish is perfect for the cold weather that's certainly on its way. Double carb action with the potatoes and noodles just feels extra filling and decadent. I really loved this stew, and hope you do to!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

food highlights: august

Let's take a spin through August's eating haul, shall we? Let's just say I indulged...

We went to Le Pégase for our anniversary dinner. It's an amazing French restaurant that serves high quality food and still allows you to bring your own wine. We drank a special bottle to celebrate one year of extreme tolerance of one another's quirks to the point of finding them nothing short of adorable. The young French waiter was suitably impressed by our rock star dark side of the moon wine. He asked us how our "Pink Floyd" wine was and I told him it certainly didn't taste of hallucinogens and dark thoughts. My mom got this special bottle for Matt as he is a true Floyd fanatic.

I had the venison tataki, served with crispy sweet potato, cranberries and cumin. I liked it but had food envy. (Matt always chooses the best thing on the menu by fluke or by intuition--who knows?) He had a salad of magret de canard.

For mains I had this lovely piece of turbot type fish with smoked salmon mousse, that sinfully sweet stuffed tomato with a fennel salad. Again, food envy ensued because Matt had lamb, and it was so perfectly prepared that I learned exactly why people love eating these beautiful fluffy animals. It's because they taste damn good.

Dessert time! Classic creme brulée for me.

Matt sniffing the Quebec cheese platter. His love affair with cheese will sustain him through life, just look at him!

Moving on to other delicious times...

Yoshi's daily creation: her leek and patty pan pizza at Café Petit Gateau. What a tasty place to have lunch.

 Parental units bonded over seafood at Teklenburg's. Fun times. Turns out, if you are from a small town and dating someone from the same small town, your parents will have many, many shared connections.

Authentic ramen, I mean pulled by hand and dropped into a pot of boiling water before your very eyes. A crazy huge portion for less than 10 bucks. In the Faubourg. Go.

Tasting my very first roasted loin of pork, prepared by Matt. I'm a lapsed vegetarian, remember? 


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

summer snapshots: food and fun

Shroom growing by tree on the shore of Kukagami lake
Fire pit on the shore of Lake Huron during the blue moon in August
Pit stop on the way to Kukagami: Smokin' Jeff''s food truck on Highway 17
Lots of hours spent tending to and contemplating the fire. I love making fires.
Matt's delicious BBQ ribs at White's Point, Manitoulin Island
Mid afternoon sangria: an ingenious idea by Rob and Sarah
The beauty of Kukagami

Monday, June 25, 2012

fancy food

A few months ago I was consulted for vegetarian menu ideas by my friend who cooked this lovely meal two summers ago. He is now working as a chef in Taiwan and cooks up fancy meals for embassadors and consular people at the Canadian embassy. He is "The Guest Canadian Chef Representative" for the Canadian Trade Office in Taipei. He is used by the Head of Mission to cater events at the Official Residence, showcasing Canadian cuisine and talent. He also promotes Canadian cuisine, performing cooking demos at cooking expos and culinary schools. Swank! 

I was so honoured and surprised when he asked me to share some ideas with him. The theme was French Canadian food with a vegetarian twist, which is why he decided to call in the "big guns!" i.e. little old me. French Canadian cuisine is not inherently meatless, but I came up with a million ideas, from lentil shepherd's pie, to pea soup, to sugar pie. I was even more honoured and surprised when he actually took some of my ideas and ran with them, adding his amazing culinary touches.

Vegetarian Split Pea Puree, Garniture of Leek Confit and Yellow Split Pea, Extra Virgin Olive Oil Scented with White Truffle

Wow. Just...wow. I wish I could taste this right now. People, I had suggested a simple split pea soup. This dish has been pimped to its maximum potential, and even involved truffle oil! This is why I have a lowly food blog and not a 5-star restaurant. I need to learn to extrapolate my cooking ideas. Otherwise, I see a lot of nondescript lentil mush meals in my future.
Terrines of Spring Watermelon, tones of Tomato and Basil, Pickled Red Onion and Watermelon Rind, Kalamata Olive, Feta and Organic Water Cress

This dish seems dead sexy to me. So fresh and colourful. It must taste like how splashing around in a lake on a hot summer's day feels: an invigorating journey to pleasure land.

Quebec Tarte au Sucre, Vanilla Black Pepper Ice Cream, Fresh Local Seasonal Fruit

VANILLA BLACK PEPPER ice cream. I scream "yes"! Give me it, now.

Let me know if you need some ideas or inspiration to help you cook up something delicious. Thinking about food is one of my favourite things, ever.