Archive for November, 2005

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Fish & Shrimps

Tuesday, November 29th, 2005

So many things happened in our kitchen on Sunday. [get mind out of gutter] There was yeast that was actually active and caused bread to rise, there was yogurt cooking, there was deep-frying, and there was also one obscene mess of dirty dishes; the kind of mess where you come home and you smell the kitchen before you even walk through the door and your hang your head in anticipated exhaustion of cleaning the mess and ask your partner if maybe you could just go out for dinner forever. Messy.

Instead, we opened a beer and that made it easier to clean. Then we started cooking again. This time, it was Halibut with Sambal Vinaigrette and Wasabi Cream, Celeriac Mash, Herb Salad Spring Rolls with Spicy Peanut Sauce and Monday Night Football: Colts vs. Steelers. And more beer, duh.

This was kind of an odd meal to prepare because each part on its own took only minutes to prepare but trying to do them all at once was more confusing than I would’ve guessed. I started the celeriac boiling while Marc prepped the shrimp for the salad rolls. Then I julienned the salad roll vegetables while M. measured ingredients for the peanut sauce; I de-boned the halibut while Marc softened the rice noodles. I made the sauces then seared the fish. Marc mashed the celeriac and started assembling the salad rolls. Miraculously, and with no planning, we managed to get everything completed at precisely the right time. Genius! (or accident, whatever.)

The first bite yielded tender, perfectly seared and roasted fish though it didn’t deliver quite the wasabi-bang I was expecting. Then another bite. And another, mixed with a little celeriac to ferry more sauce to mouth. If the first bite was pleasing, the second was delightful and the third was delicious. The rest of it was chair-dance delicious.

The salad rolls were curious. I know Marc initially wasn’t all that pleased with the consistency of the noodles and the first attempt at assembly yielded a somewhat “schlong” shaped roll (Marc’s choice of words). However, I thought they were marvelous, especially the peanut sauce which was a perfect blend of sweet and spicy. We ate copious amount of that sauce- too-firm noodles be damned!

The Colts won. We drank all the beer.

Kofta Khan

Monday, November 28th, 2005

Like Genghis Khan, we must ever be challenged by gaining more ground; except that with G. it was Asia and with us, it’s just cuisine. Our efforts, much like his barbaric hordes, have now extended into India, though we didn’t suffer any loss of life. The epicurean foil upon which we sailed into spiciest India was in the form of Spinach Koftas with Curried Yogurt and Naan.

Part of the fun of making this was that we had to hunt for the ingredients. The Top 3 Hardest Things To Find were: chickpea flour, nigella seeds (a.k.a. black onion seeds) and curry leaves. We really weren’t holding out much hope of finding the seeds or the leaves but, remarkably, we did; they were both at The Cookbook Company. The flour we finally found at Community Natural Foods. Our adventure had begun before we even got into the kitchen!

It was with curiosity that we started cooking. First up was the naan, a flatbread with nigella seeds for which we found the recipe for on the interweb somewhere. Because of the rising, it was a 2-hour affair and luckily, our yeast wasn’t stale. Next, we made the curried yogurt sauce- this is where the leaves came into play; there was also garlic, turmeric, onion and fenugreek. After thickening, it was still a pretty loose sauce so we gave the recipe (from the Slow Foods cookbook) the benefit of the doubt and left it to cool while we prepared the final part, the spinach koftas.

I looked it up: a kofta is apparently a mixture of almost any vegetable ingredients mashed together with something that will make it sticky enough to form into balls. It’s also, it would seem, a band in Japan…? Cool T-shirts.

So, mash together spinach, onions, tomatoes, cilantro, water and some other stuff and form into 1-inch balls. Boil some oil. I think it’s safe to say that we were both pretty nervous about the deep-frying. We don’t have a deep fryer or anything that fancy so it was a just a big, scalding-hot pool of canola oil in a pot perched on a back burner of our electric stove. I held the splatter screen at the ready and, mentally, had the baking soda standing by. Marc dropped the first one into the pot and we both flinched in anticipation of hot oil splatter but it was nothing so dramatic. In fact, not dramatic at all but rather fun. In went the spinach balls for a few seconds and out came crisp, golden koftas. Interesting fact: Genghis Khan’s enemies once boiled alive his captured generals. No oil then but I’m guessing plenty of splatter.

Meanwhile, the naan had been crisping away in a hot oven and was done almost simultaneously with the koftas. We plated everything, pulled the bottle of our beloved Evolution from the fridge, and sat down with great anticipation. And the verdict is: Like. It was all very tasty and more enjoyable for the fact that it was so fun for us to make but alas, it was nothing extraordinary. Good leftovers if one doesn’t have an afternoon meeting (very onion-y). The wine, as always, was outstanding.

So, like, what do we do with the remaining 5 ounces of curry leaves?

Jewish, Yet Wonton

Sunday, November 27th, 2005

Who among us would ever voluntarily choose to eat soup over pie? Further, who would choose to eat a third helping of soup over a generous piece of home-made pie? Certainly not Me of Little Restraint. Marc, on the other hand, ate three full bowls of Jewish Turkey-Wonton Soup rather than a piece of either of my silky pumpkin or scrumptious apple pies. That’s how good this soup was. It’s practically a legend.

We upped our own personal ante this week with the challenge of finding some uncommon ingredients- uncommon by Canadian prairie standards, at any rate. Actually, this recipe didn’t represent much of a challenge as all we had to find were wonton wrappers; the recipe for Sunday night takes the blue ribbon in the hard-to-find-ingredient category.

We found this recipe in Food & Wine magazine in an article about a fellow in Austin who started a company selling soup door-to-door. Apparently, he wanted something more rewarding than a “mind-numbing office job” (Ha! Imagine that!) and decided to quit what he was doing and start making and selling soup to people who would subscribe to have a weekly delivery. He is The Soup Peddler; he or someone on his staff delivers the soup to home or office by bike. In the summer, I bet delivering hot soup to Austinian suburbanites by bike is pretty close to being as hot as a proverbial hell. Anyway, one of the Soup Peddler’s creations is this recipe.

Judging by the fact that we had zero leftovers, I would say that we have hit upon a gem. The turkey stock is made by simmering a turkey leg (well, we used a thigh) for about two hours with veggies, etc. and then chopping up the cooked turkey meat to form a filling for wontons that are tossed back into the pot at the last minute. Fantastic, really. Very rich and filling but not overwhelmingly salty, like chicken soup so often is. I understand why people would subscribe to this delivery and this is only one of his many creations. We must try more. The truly best part is that while we have no leftover soup, we do have several leftover wontons. Shall we deep-fry them, then?

Que Pasa Contigo?

Sunday, November 27th, 2005

When I was six, I decided, for some reason, that tacos were my favourite-est food ever. That was 1982. Interesting sidebar: this was only a couple of years after Taco Bell went international with its first restaurant in Guam. Clearly, I was part of that bleeding edge North American trend of loving the Mexican food. Oddly, it has been several years since I made tacos and last week marked the end of that drought. Drag out the taco seasoning: it is time.

This meal was decidedly un-gourmet of me. Ground beef with store-bought seasoning, pre-made El Paso taco shells, salsa, lettuce, avocado, cheddar and sour cream. Marc rescued us from completely abandoning our gastronomic hauteur by suggesting the fish taco. We had some leftover tuna (it was fresh on the day that we made the sushi) and so decided to sear it and force it to become the protein portion of the taco. A drop-dead gorgeous taco this did not make but it was an interesting little deviation. Myself, I still prefer the troglodyte Americanized version, heavy on the cheese. It’s barely even Mexican food but was reminiscent of my 1982.

Speaking of Americans and their penchant for foods both fast and fatty, here’s a recipe for Taco Town’s Ultimate Taco, courtesy of Saturday Night Live (Oct. 8, 2005, the one with Ashlee Simpson not getting caught lip-syncing):

Start with a crunchy all-beef taco smothered in nacho cheese, lettuce, tomato and our special southwestern sauce.

Wrap it in a soft flour tortilla with a layer of refried beans in between.

Wrap that in a savory corn tortilla with a midlle layer of monterey jack cheese.

Take a deep-fried gordita shell, smear on a layer of our special guacamolito sauce, and wrap that around the outside.

Wrap that in an authentic Parisian crepe, filled with egg, gruyere, merguez sausage and portabello mushrooms.

Wrap the whole thing in a Chicago-style deep dish meat-lover’s pizza.

Roll it up in a blueberry panacke, dip it in batter, and deep fry until it’s golden brown.

Serve it in commemorative tote bag filled with spicy vegetarian chili.

Pasta Disasta

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2005

When our cooking is good, it is really, really good; when it is bad, it is horrid. Truly, this was a mess.

First of all, we had no whipping cream for the cream sauce for Linguine with Red Peppers, Green Onions and Pine Nuts. I suggested we use evaporated milk instead, which I was sure could be substituted. About half-way through the simmering/thickening process, Marc started reminiscing about his Mom buying evaporated milk for him as a house-warming gift, so that she could drink it with her tea when she came to visit. That was about… 7 years ago and Marc has moved a few times since then. This can of evaporated milk might very well be that same house-warming gift. Hard to say, really, because it kind of clumped up around the edges of the pan and I don’t know if that was because we were using evaporated milk or if it was because we were using ancient evaporated milk. Regardless, the sauce was a mess but we were hungry and committed.

The peppers were fine but the green onions were pretty sad, having had to sit at the bottom of the vegetable crisper for about 5 days. The addition of parmesan and pine nuts to the sauce and whole wheat linguine was more a waste of good ingredients than helpful and tasty additions. Not even fresh pepper and a big glass of wine (LoTengo) could rescue this pasta. We ate it anyway.

The good news is that we had some left-over sticky toffee pudding from when I made it on Monday night. Even a little rum sauce was leftover from that night which we applied in generous amounts to the warmed-up squares of cake.

Marc threw out the remaining portion of the disasta.

Future Re-run

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2005

The other day, Marc noticed that since we started this blog in August, we have not made the same thing twice. How extraordinary. This is about to change.

Mushroom risotto!

I never would have anticipated such a delicious, earthy, complex meal from this simple recipe. I admit that America’s Test Kitchen made it seem very tasty but paired with a good red and a bright, little salad, it was definitive bistro fare. I will absolutely make this again- as a main course for company even! The recipe included both crimini and dried porcini mushrooms and just those two things (plus the secret ingredient of soy sauce) made for some deep and fantastic flavours. I am decidedly impressed. Marc contends that risotto is not very good when re-warmed and I disagree. A verdict is forthcoming.

The wine we tried with this was Undurraga Riserva, a Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon. I thought it was quite enjoyable; I don’t recall what Marc thought, though I’m quite certain he would’ve said something if he had disliked it.

Also, it’s worth noting that while eating this dark, earthy, creamy meal, we were watching Megacities: Paris on the National Geographic channel. Of all the magical elements of the city of light, they chose to profile the sewer system; this included some pretty disgusting, though quite interesting and informative footage. The point is, even though we were watching gag-worthy, educational TV, the risotto was still outstanding. I can only imagine how good it would have been had it not been consumed in the presence of a “slurry of raw sewage”.

Oh yes, the croutons! Success at last! I put something under the broiler and I actually didn’t forget about them or anything. They came out perfectly, married the salad and lived happily ever after.

Brown on Brown

Sunday, November 20th, 2005

I am wary of dumplings. In fact, I’m pretty wary of stew, as well, which is why I was not especially keen on making Beef Stew with Herbed Dumplings . Might as well have read boring brown with sad veggies and gummy blobs on top. [insert grimace here]

However, Marc was quite anxious to make this because for some reason, he likes dumplings. I guess my exposure to the slimy, gloopy, flour-tasting dumplings of my past is what caused my hesitation but because he makes me cappuccinos every morning, I was willing to do this one small thing for Marc and conceded to the stew.

The first step was to get the ingredients, which always involves a few hours of pleasant grocery shopping at various places. At the very least, we have to go to the Co-op Marketplace, the butcher and the liquor store. Depending on the week’s recipes, we may also need to make a trip to Sunterra, The Cookbook Company, the Safeway and The Real Canadian Stupidstore. And another liquor store sometimes. Anyway, this week, it was butcher first. Our man was behind the counter as always and, as always, asked us “What’s on list?” We always have a shopping list and they tease about being organized. (What’s wrong with being organized?! Without The List, you can bet we would never have bought the duck breasts or the veal shanks.) Anyway, The List said 4lbs. of beef chuck. It turns out that 4lbs. is a lot of beef. And it’s none too cheap, neither.

At home, the stew was dutifully assembled and with all the meat and rutabagas and sauce, our biggest pot was almost overflowing – and this was before the dumplings went in. Not to be discouraged, we shoved them in anyways and just used an upended bowl for a lid, to allow the dumplings to expand. Indeed, they did expand and we were left with a veritable bucket of stew with a pile of puffy dumplings. The taste was OK, kind of bland, but this met with my expectation. The dumplings exceeded my expectation which is to say that they did not taste of flour. However, it wasn’t gross and we have 2 months’ worth of brown in the fridge/freezer so we have no choice but to like it.

Oh yeah, I made a green salad with shallot vinaigrette and I may or may not have burned the croutons. It’s hard to tell.

Do the Math

Sunday, November 20th, 2005

a few carrots
+ a little bok choy
+ some ginger
+ extra garlic
+ a big pile of chicken
+ sauces
one good stir fry

Though really, I would argue that one could smash together almost any ingredients in a saucepan-pretending-to-be-a-wok and call it a stir-fry. Witness:

+ cocktail onions
+ peanut butter
+ tofu
stir fry

+ soy sauce
+ mushrooms
+ whipping cream
stir fry

soy beans
+ pizza sauce
+ waffles
+ mayo
+ cherries
also, a stir fry.

Brava Ginger Cakes

Sunday, November 13th, 2005

Last year Janet took me to Brava for dinner. That night we shared the Ginger Cakes with Carmel Sauce. It was abolutely incredible. Over the holiday season, Janet attempted to replicate the recipe four times. The first try was a baked gingerbread cake. The second try was steamed ginger pudding, which didn’t have any molasses. A couple of variations of gingerbread followed with mixed success.

Based on her experiments I found a recipe for molasses pudding, with the thought that the restaurant couldn’t sell anything by that name and the pudding recipe had the correct texture. I cut down on the cinnamon, pumped up the ground ginger, and replace the nuts and raisins with candied ginger. America’s Test Kitchen has a recipe for Easy Caramel Sauce, which I screwed up. It was still tasty. It’s been a year, but I’m pretty sure it’s a very close duplication of the Brava’s dessert. Here’s the recipe:


– 1/4 cup butter
– 1/4 cup molasses
– 1/4 cup hot water
– 1/4 cup milk
– 1 egg
– 3/4 cups flour
– 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
– 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
– 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
– 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
– 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
– 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
– 1/4 cup candied ginger
– 1/2 tablespoon rum
– Caramel Sauce

Grease 4 1/2 cup ramekins. Add 2 inches of water in a large double boiler and set over high heat.

While the water is coming to a boil, cream the butter; mix in the molasses, hot water, milk and eggs. Sift the flour with the soda and spices; blend into the butter mixture. Add the candied ginger and rum. Fill each ramekins two thirds full.

When the water in the stockpot comes to a boil, carefully place the cakes in the pot, cover and steam (adjust heat so water gently simmers) for 1.5 hours. You may need to cook them in two batches. Watch the water level; when it gets low, add boiling water.

Remove the cakes from the pot and let sit for a few minutes before unmolding. Serve the cakes topped with caramel sauce.

Serves 4.

Damn, That’s Good Ham

Sunday, November 13th, 2005

I was making fun of Pam the other day because she had agreed not only to attend an animal-themed potluck birthday lunch for an 85-year-old mother of a friend, but also, to bring a ham. When the hostess asked “What do you think you will bring to the potluck?”, why, I wonder, did she respond with “A baked ham.” Anyway, that’s what started my ham-craving. Marc had a simultaneously triggered ham-craving but I don’t know his catalyst.

We were fixin’ to done buy a good ham for the Balsamic-and-Dijon-Glazed Ham with Roasted Pearl Onions but the butcher ain’t haved one. We had to resort to Safeway ham and, luckily, it was way better than I had expected; it even had a reasonable outer layer of fat for scoring. Marc cooked the cute, little pearl onions and then we de-sheathed them in preparation for their 45-minute appointment with the oven. One mistake that we quickly rectified was putting the onions into the same dish as the glazed ham as they are supposed to cook independently so that the sauce can thicken nicely.

Joining the ham, we had smashed potatoes and some blanched, fresh green beans, a serendipitous find at the market. Just thinking about it now makes my mouth water. After the first few bites of ham, we had to fetch a separate little dish with extra glaze and onions to the table for dipping purposes. Combined with a few healthy glasses of Vieille Ferme, we were setting ourselves up for some major dehydration but that didn’t quell the enthusiastically consumed second and third helpings. Sometimes, we can really be pigs.