Friday, November 16, 2007

Leftover Pita Pizza

So my girlfriend's working. There's a tonne of dishes in the kitchen which I don't feel like doing. And even though Family Guy is always on somewhere, I just wanted to sit in front of the TV and eat a simple meal. The solution: thaw Greek style pita, slather with store bought hummus, cover with thinly sliced tomatoes and red onions and sprinkle the whole with a few clumps of brie. Cook in oven till you don't feel like waiting anymore and enjoy. Nothing fancy.

Was it delicious? Maybe not that much. But it was good which is good enough for me after a long week full of a head cold, tenant issues, and a job I just can't seem to get a hang of. Yes life is full of frustrations but food is always a comfort at the end of the day. And making it, even when it's a very simple meal thrown together from a bunch of leftover bits and pieces from the fridge, is always a delight. I can't wait till the day where such a blog entry finishes with the words "Yes. Life is good."

Pauvre, pauvre, pauvre petit moi. - Sol

Low-Fat Brownies

I know the title of this post sounds like an oxymoron but trust me on this one. The recipe comes from a diet program called Minçavie which literally means "thin for life" in Québec talk. Similar in fashion to Weight Watchers, meaning that you count points and what not, Minçavie is very popular in French speaking Canada...and possibly elsewhere but I wouldn't know...if you've seen anything else on this blog you probably won't find it surprising that I'm not a dieter. I am, however, health conscious so the recipes of this diet program are worth trying. Hey, if you can eat brownies and not feel bad about it, everybody wins. So without further ado, here's the recipe....enjoy....but don't enjoy too much cause that just defeats the purpose....or enjoy and screw the purpose....


2/3 cup sugar or sweetener
1 cup flour
1/3 cup cacao
1 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup margarine
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup apple puree

1. Mix all dry ingredients.
2. In another bowl, beat together margarine, egg and vanilla.
3. Incorporate the apple puree to the wet mixture and then mix wet ingredients in with wet ingredients.
4. Cook in a greased baking pan at 350 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes (time depends on depth of your pan...brownies should be about an inch thick).
5. Cool brownies on a grill before serving. Divide into 6 brownies....or sit down with the steaming baking pan with a fork, a tub of icecream, caramel spread and those cute little candy sprinkles.


Summer Rolls, Steak and St-Ambroise Oatmeal Stout

The first time I made Tyler Florence's summer rolls it wasn't an overwhelming experience. But it's the sort of thing that you get a craving for. The dipping sauce is so savoury and the summer rolls so fresh that you just want to make them five times a week. I have yet to use rice paper to make different wraps. I know that it's popular in Asian cuisine and given that it's lighter when compared to wheat based wraps, I'm sure its versatility is beyond limits. Anywho, just google these exact words --- Summer Rolls with Sweet Chili Dipping Sauce --- and you shouldn't have a problem finding the recipe.

Without following upon any theme whatsoever, we ate steak with our summer rolls which we bought pre-crusted with montreal steak seasoning (an example recipe can be found at this link : Given that the salty seasoning had been on the steak since its days on the supermarket shelves, it had been marinated to make the steak nice and tender. I'm not sure if that makes any sense, chemically speaking, but suffice it to say that montreal steak seasoning is great. One relevant story is when my uncles had killed a moose and as I took off individual muscles off the leg hanging in the garage, others in my family were cutting the meat into thin slices, cooking it in a cast iron pan and then seasoning with montreal steak spice. I guess it might be kind of morbid for all you vegan city slickers out there but for other people who aren't so detached from the nature of things, eating truly fresh meat is a rare delicacy. I can't wait till I get to go to hunt cariboo in Nunavut, slice them open and eat the flesh raw right there on the spot....they actually do that....I'm not just trying to be gross....hee hee

The final member of our buffet of eclectism was St-Ambroise Oatmeal Stout which is also from Montreal ( Similar in colour to Guinness, this stout is a tad more bitter and has strong hints of dark chocolate or least that's what the label on the back of the bottle says ;) A good, dark beer goes well with a steak so strongly seasoned. The intensity of the flavours is what I enjoy. None of that subtle crap for me. I like my food to kick and pick a fit on my tongue. I want to taste it. But that's just me. Plus I just finished talking about dainty little summer rolls so who am I to talk.......

Trout With Capers

I the recipe for this simple trout from the show French Leave which was about British chef John Burton Race who uprooted his whole family for a year and moved them to southern France. In the episode Garçons will be garçons, he and his only son - he has something like 6 daughters - went fishing for trout. Upon reeling in a fresh trout, he serves it up in the simple but delicious recipe.

Obviously, seeing as there are so few ingredients, it is essential to get the freshest trout possible because this recipe is all about enhancing the natural goodiness of the pink fleshed fish. Anyways, here's the recipe.

Trout With Capers

2 tbsp flour
Salt and pepper
2 fillets of brown or rainbow trout, skin on and scales craped off
2 tbsp groundnut oil
1 lemon, peeled and segmented ***
1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
2 tbsp capers, squeezed dry
75g unsalted butter, diced
1 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

1. Sprinkle the flour on to a plate and season it with salt and lots of pepper. Roll the trout fillets in the flour, shaking off all the excess.
2. Put a large frying pan on the stove, pour in the oil and heat it until it starts to smoke. Carefully lay the trout in the pan and cook the fish one side for about 6-7 minutes to brown them, then turn them over and cook on the other side for a similar length of time.
3. Now tip in the lemon segments, garlic, capers and butter dice. As soon as the butter has melted and starts to forth and colour - but not burn - sprinkle the parsley into the pan. Serve immediately with a glass of dry white Gaillac.

*** these lemon segments are also called supremes...fancy word meaning the flesh of the lemon only. Cut both end of the lemon and them cut the flesh off to fully expose the lemon segment's flesh. Use your knife to seperate flesh from dividing skin of segments and voilà!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

I've got an espresso machine!!!

That's right, no more paying ridiculous prices at Starbucks anymore. No more visiting coffee houses and indulging in a false sense of artsiness. I've got my own espresso machine and it works like a charm.

My girlfriend works at a kitchen appliance store (fellow foodies eat your heart out ;) and she gets anything she wants at wholesale cost. So we've got a new 9 piece set of pots and this beautifull Breville Café Roma espresso machine.

Though it'll take a bit of tinkering since the machine does not automatically pull one shot of espresso, I'm already getting the hang of it. My espresso so far is a bit to liquid and I can't attempt any latte art. I don't know if anyone has any tips but so far the milk just blend into the espresso like it would in coffee. Do I need to make the shot shorter? Should I pack the grind harder? Anyways, I don't know.

P.S. If anyone has home recipes for fun lattes or cappuccinos such as pumpkin spice, gingerbread, eggnog or others, please share....As you see, all I've got so far is a caramel latte.

Roasted Squash Soup

Though autumn is coming to an end - evident in my neck of the woods by the fact that there's snow on the ground - the season is ripe for squashes, potatoes, onions, carrots and other such homely vegetables. So once again perusing through the market, looking for something to inspire my mediocre (at best) culinary skills, I found a lady selling a bunch of squashes. I'd seen and cooked with acorn, spaghetti and butternut squashes before, and I couldn't tell you the specific name of the squash I chose....the above photo will have to suffice for now.

Now being an amateur of soups, I turned the yellow fleshed squash into nothing more elaborate than a roasted squash soup. All I did was cut the squash in half, sprayed it with olive oil, salt and pepper and popped it into the oven till the flesh was nice and tender. Accompanying the squash was one of the purple potatoes I've got sitting in my kitchen. Though the lady at the market said that she throws in the peel and everything of the squash in her soups, I went for a more conservative preparation of simply using the flesh of the squash, that of the potato, an onion, some garlic, chopped carrot, chicken stock and a some thyme. I would have put in some celery to complete the mirepoix, but we ran out a few days before. Anyways, once every vegetable was nice and soft, I put the whole thing in the blender and served it pureed.

A simple and light meal. You just can't screw up when it comes to soup.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Blue Cheese Steak with Balsamic Reduction and Purple Mashed Potatoes

I know I talk about the market pretty much every time I start writing a word but I'm really obsessed with the place. The cheese counter we go to every week always makes us taste something different. You tell them what you like and what you've had and they pull something new out. Like that tulip petal cheese I mentioned in my last blog entry. Or the subtle nutiness and fruitiness of the powerful blue cheese I used to stuff my steak with.

I prepared the steak by cutting a slit into the steak and working my knife around a bit to make a sort of pocket. You have to be careful when doing this not to make any holes or make the opening too big. The result of these simple mistakes is that you loose all your cheese to the buttom of the cast iron skillet or worse, the barbecue. I use my fingers to make the pocket larger and then stuff it with the best blue cheese I can find. What's great about blue cheese is that it's got an intense flavour but still let's the flavour of the steak shine through. Coupled with a drizzle of balsamic reduction (which is just balsamic vinegar boiled down to make it more concentrated) you've got yourself a steak worth any overly priced big city steak house. And if you really want to treat yourself, go with filet mignon. It's always tender and not having to cut around any bones, fat or cartilage always makes for a more pleasant meal.

Along with the steak, I served mashed purple potatoes. It doesn't look too purple on the photo but I just couldn't resist grabbing a bag when I saw how cool the farmer lady at the market thought her purple potatoes were. I'd seen them before, along with purple carrots and other such odities, but I figured it would be fun to eat. To tell you the truth, I'm not a big potato eater and these potatoes, though very cool, were not the best tasting. However, when standing aside a well browned blue cheese steak and a mound of sautéed mushrooms with onion and garlic, taste can take a backseat to coolness.

Chocolate Fondu

So I've been having alot of dégustations lately but the word "dégustation" really fulfills its meaning when you're dipping everything in chocolate. The idea --- if you've never had a chocolate fondu --- is to melt chocolate in a bowl and serve it with a whole bunch of fruit. We had grapes, strawberries, pineapple, mango, banana, pear, apple, and kiwis. Yet we included things which aren't traditionally served with a chocolate fondu: cheddar cheese, popcorn and pastrami slices. We also cut up some pieces of a really unique cheese we bought at the market that has violet petals in the cheese. It didn't taste too fantastic with the chocolate but it's still a really good, original cheese.

For the chocolate, we simply melted chipits of milk chocolate along with some Carnation evaporated milk. If you don't want a chocolate overload --- as if such a thing exists --- you're better to add more milk to the chocolate. When you're pigging out on a tonne of fruit you're best to have a lighter chocolate or else you'll have too much very quickly.

Anyways, I think there should be more fondus of every kind available at restaurants. They're great for a group and cater to the typically North American need to eat slower. Or you can have a fondu for two and take time to take time...if that makes any sense.