Thursday, July 31, 2008

Grilled Pizza

My girlfriend was watching Paula Deen the other day. This culinary queen of the southern United States was out, this is! I thought this was a brilliant idea when my girlfriend related the preparation to me but found out, with a bit of online research, that grilled and flat-top pizzas have been kicking around for awhile. As far as I know though, there aren't many restaurants that are preparing their pizzas this way. They're sticking with the good old brick wood-fired ovens. Which is great. But I mean grilled pizza! You just can't beat that.

Now my enthousiasm was very well founded. I prepared my pizza dough as per Jamie Oliver's basic bread recipe in his first ever cookbook The Naked Chef (another recent purchase). The thin parts of the dough were absolutely delicious, especially seeing as I'm not a very big fan of thick chewy American style pizzas. The trick, I believe, is in the half bread flour and half semolina preparation. No oil here. Just prepare the following ingredients as you would any other bread leaving only a bit of time for a second rise in the dough:

3/4oz active dry yeast
2 tbsp honey (or sugar)
a bit more than 2 cups tepid water (half for activating the yeast and half for incorporating into dry ingredients once the yeast mixture has been absorbed)
1 lb bread flour
1 lb durum semolina flour
2 tbsp salt
extra flour for dusting

To grill, I simply had the bbq on medium-high heat, slapped the stretched dough onto the grill (coated in a bit of olive oil), flipped when nice and golden (5 minutes or so), put my toppings onto the grilled side while the other side was grilling and that's it! For this particular recipe, I used the rest of my garlic scape pesto, halved cherry tomatoes, mild goat cheese, and anchovies in oil. And though the pizza was great, the best part is that I didn't even follow a recipe for the grilling part. A donkey could do this. Well, if not, a horse certainly could... But if you're not as skilled as a donkey or horse, you might want to take the pizza (raw side down) off the grill, put on your ingredients and then place back onto the grill. This would help you to not rush too much. I was lucky enough that it started raining will I was preparing this and so in my haste, half of the ingredients fell onto the pavement.

With the left over dough that Mr. Oliver's recipe yeilded, I made focacia buns. They look like a belly with way too many inny belly buttons. Though this time I followed the recipe for the cooking, I didn't like the foccacia that much. They were kind of dense and chewy without any crust. Maybe it's my fault. But when the same dough is good when I don't follow a recipe and then not so good when I do follow a recipe, maybe I'm not the one to blame. Who knows?

Monday, July 28, 2008

Death Defying Adventures in Pickling

No ones ever showed me how to pickled. My parents didn't cook so it goes without saying that they certainly did not pickle or prepare preserves. Why pickly when you can just by them at the grocery store? For the pleasure of making your own food, would be my answer to that. But that's me.

Another thing about pickling is the fear of killing someone due to botulism. But the recipe I found made it sound really easy. So I bought little cucumbers, ripped apart what little my dill plant had produces, made a quarter recipe of what you will find below and made pickles. Now I just have to wait 2 months before updating this post.

Aside: Something I found out about the salts in pickling is that regular table salt contains iodine which discolors the vegetables when pickling. Pickling salt or Kosher salt do not have this property therefore making for a more attractive end result. Sea salt is to be avoided because of the trace minerals found in this delicious variety...too bad.

Dill Pickles

8 pounds 3 to 4 inch long pickling cucumbers
4 cups white vinegar
12 cups water
2/3 cup pickling salt
16 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
8 sprigs fresh dill weed
8 heads fresh dill weed

1. Wash cucumbers, and place in the sink ( I use the bathtub!) with cold water and lots of ice cubes. Soak in ice water for at least 2 hours but no more than 8 hours. Refresh ice as required. Sterilize 8 (1 quart ) canning jars and lids in boiling water for at least 10 minutes.

2. In a large pot over medium-high heat, combine the vinegar, water, and pickling salt. Bring the brine to a rapid boil.

3. In each jar, place 2 half-cloves of garlic, one head of dill, then enough cucumbers to fill the jar (about 1 pound). Then add 2 more garlic halves, and 1 sprig of dill. Fill jars with hot brine. Seal jars, making sure you have cleaned the jar's rims of any residue.

4. Process sealed jars in a boiling water bath. Process quart jars for 15 minutes.

5. Store pickles for a minimum of 8 weeks before eating. Refrigerate after opening. Pickles will keep for up to 2 years if stored in a cool dry place.

Dates with Sesame Seeds and Honey

I found fresh Iranian dates at the market on Saturday. With Moroccan and therefore, by extension, Middle Eastern food buzzing around in my head, these dates were a great find. Though I do have a recipe for a lamb and date tagine, these little goodies were desert today. They're really sweet so the honey wasn't absolutely necessary but when is desert ever necessary. Make sure to toast the sesame seeds first though. This technique really releases their nutty flavour.

Oh and I heard somewhere that Middle Eastern people believe dates and sesame seeds to be aphrodisiacs. A double whammy here. ;)

Moroccan Lamb and Vegetables with Couscous

Following in my attempts to put to use the mountain of cookbooks I have, I picked up my North African Cooking, written by Tess Mallos. But the real reason I chose this cookbook is that I found locally raised lamb at the supermarket and knew that I would find a recipe in this cookbook. And I wasn't dissapointed.

Though the recipe looked overly complicated with too many fussy ingredients at first, by some miracle I found all of the ingredients. I mean, how many people have access to fresh fava beans? I was just lucky that I stumbled upon them at the market. But they weren't there last week. And I doubt that there will be any next week. Freak find. That's all.

Anyways, I love the flavours of Morocco. It's vibrant and full of spice. It's rich but fresh. I think I even prefer Moroccan food to Indian food. I find Indian food is very different from the culinary traditions of most Western countries. They have much vegetarian fare with mostly everything consisting of sauces you dip your naan in. This stew I made looks pretty similar to, say, an Irish beef stew but with different flavours such as turmeric.

*Note* I added the dates to this recipe. It needed a bit of sweetness. Dried apricots would also work really well. I also added the fresh herbs closer to the end of the cooking. Adding them at the beginning like Mallos says kills all the flavour the parsley or the cilantro might have.

Lamb and Vegetables with Couscous a.k.a. Seksu bil Iham
Inspired by North African Cooking by Tess Mallos

2 lb lamb meat (I had stew meat with the bone in. I didn't have to cut anything since the meat just fell off the bone in bite sized pieces once everything was cooked.)
2 tbsp olive oil
3 medium onions, cut into quarters (get a variety that's really pungent and oniony)
2 or more cloves garlic, crushed
6 dried dates, pitted and halved
3-in cinnamon stick
1/2 tsp ground turmeric

1 lb ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped (to peel, score tomatoes lightly and immerse in boiling water till you see the peel starting to, well, peel)
2 tbsp tomato paste
3 cups good quality and preferably organic chicken or vegetable stock (Mallos said to put water in here but come on...water?)
freshly ground pepper

4 medium carrots, cut into bite sized pie-shaped pieces
4 small white turnips, cut into bite sized pie-shaped pieces (any turnip would work well here if white turnips are not available)
14 oz (425 g) can of chickpeas, drained

1 cup shelled fresh or frozen fava (broad) broad beans
1 lb zucchini, trimmed and cut into bite sized pie-shaped pieces
3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
3 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro, plus extra for dressing

2 cups instant couscous

Harissa for serving (a hot pepper sauce that really kicks things up here)

1. Trim excess fat from lamb. Warm oil in a large pot or a large stovetop tagine if you really want to go traditional. Add onions, garlic, dates, cinnamon and turmeric and cook very gently till onions have caramelized slightly. Make sure not to burn the garlic and spices.

2. Increase heat, add lamb and cooked till meat is browned. Make sure not to rip the meat off the bottom of the pot if it sticks. It will come off on its own when it has browned properly.

3. Add tomatoes, paste, stock, and pepper. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 45 minutes.

4. Add carrots, turnips and chickpeas, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

5. Add fava beans, zucchini, parsley and cilantro. Simmer uncovered for 20 minutes.

6. Prepare couscous and set aside, making sure to keep it warm.

7. Serve the "stew" in a bowl with a serving of couscous and garnish with cilantro and maybe a bit of toasted sesame seads...just for kicks. Don't forget to dip into the spicy harissa to add even more oomph to this vibrant dish.

Friday, July 25, 2008

A Stab at Sushi Rolls

We've been buying sushi rolls from this Korean lady down the street. We also had the thought that making sushi rolls would be great fun. We knew that making sushi rolls is something that needs loads of practice and that you need to know the proper techniques. Enter YouTube. You can find hundreds of videos on how to roll the sushi and how to make the all important rice.

We found a video by Sushi Monsters that gave a recipe for making the rice. For me, it was too mayonaise-ish. The rice vinegar was too much. It made the rice almost runny instead of firm and sticky...which it already was to a large degree due to the fact that we bought rice especially for sushi.

Besides the fact that our next batch will have to be different with regards to vinegar to rice ratio, we'll also have to keep practicing on the rolling. First we put too much rice and then we realised that if the rice was firmer we could roll these little delights with the rice side out like they did on YouTube. This would make it much easier since the half sheets of nori really didn't hold much.

Finally, the ingredients we used (on my girlfriend's demand) were imitation crab strips and cucumber strips. She also insisted on adding mayo. I know! Gross! Though she only put a little bit, I think the mayo taste she had discerned in the sushi rolls was the rice, vinegar and sugar mixture. Not actual mayo. But anywho... Next time we need something like julienned carrots for a bit of bite in addition to more assertive ingredients. But with a good bowl of wasabi and soy sauce mixture we managed to make the rolls taste relatively close to the real thing. This is certainly an art though.

Oh and I forgot to say that you really need a sharp knife to cut through these little buggers. They tend to want to squash down if you have to apply too much pressure to cut them into bite sized pieces.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

A Study in Belgian White Beers

Think I've had enough beer for one summer? Maybe I have. But what the hell. I mean beside German wheat beers, Belgian whites (or abbey beers) have to be one of the best types of beer in the world. Here then is my impression of 4 beers of this style which I tried and compared. The results attest to the fact that maybe I have been drinking too much beer. Such a thing happens when you start leaning towards the drinkability focused beers...but anyways...


This beer wears its name properly. It's white compared to the lager-ish yellow of the other three beers. If you've never had Hoegarden before I highly recommend it. It tastes like a crisp wheat beer and when nice and cold, it's better than anything Labatt or Molson carry any day.


The first thing I thought of when I took a sip of the Leffe was wheat beer. It certainly resembles the style but still has the lighter notes of a white. Of the four beers on selection today, this was was the heaviest. But still very good.

Stella Artois

Easily the most known and main stream of our little beer buffet, Stella is a beer I've been enjoying for a while. Though there are little to no wheat notes to this beer - thus divorcing it from other Belgian white beers in my opinion - Stella has a very crisp taste with a slight herbal and nutty finish. This is easily the more "drinkable" beer (drinkable defined as a beer to get plastered on) but it really is a great beer. Not incredibly original, but still very good when compared to any light beer. (Though they have released a light Stella recently....shame on them...succumbing to the masses).


Last but not least, Affligem claims to be more of a blond than a white. Though blonds do tend to be sexier than snow heads, when it comes to beer I consider this one to be something in between the Leffe and the Stella. That is, it's light and crisp but still has the rich wheat flavours. The thing that distinguished the Affligem for me was a slight bitter finish which the other beers did not seem to have. All in all, a very respectable beer.

Soba Soup with Spinach and Tofu

I tried going veggie once. It didn't work. Deep down I'm a carnivore. I love not only eating meat but butchering. So having tofu in a recipe is not my first choice...nor is it my girlfriend's, she hates the gellatinous stuff. But what the hell, I'd bought soba noodles in the natural food seciton of the supermarket and had to do something with them.

This recipe comes from Food Network's Sarah's Secrets. I changed the recipe though. Her version was way too fussy. You can see for yourself at So here is my version. Another alternative would be to add shitake mushrooms and replace the tofu with strips of beef steak.

Oh and by the way, miso rules. I mean, this has to be one of the best ingredients in the history of ingredients. Arguably even better than garlic. And that's saying something.

Soba Soup with Spinach and Tofu
Inspired by Sarah's Secrets

7 cups water
1 tablespoon instant dashi
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
2 carrots, sliced thin
3 green onions sliced
1/2 pound dried soba noodles
1/2 pound baby spinach, leaves washed well, and spun dry
8 to 10 ounces firm tofu (preferably silken), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
4 tablespoons miso

1. In a saucepan bring the water to a boil. Stir in the dashi and simmer the mixture, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes. Stir in the soy sauce and the sugar and simmer the broth for 5 minutes.

2. Add the carrots and green onions to the broth and simmer them, covered, for 5 minutes.

3. In a small bowl stir together well 1/2 cup of the soup broth and the miso. Set aside.

4. Put noodles in boiling stock and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, or until they are al dente, being careful to undercook them slightly since you've still got some cooking to do in this stock.

5. Shove in the spinach. There's alot of this stuff but there will barely be anything left once the spinach wilts. Add the tofu along with the spinach and simmer the soup for 1 minute.

6. Stir the miso mixture into the broth. Divide the soup among 6 large bowls. Eat with chop sticks and slurp up the broth when all the good chunks are gone. Hell, slurp up the whole thing and have some fun. The kids will all think you're the coolest person ever.

Ramsay's Fish Pie

There was a "buy 3 get 1 free" at the local bookstore which means that I've stacked up on cookbooks. These include Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Heaven. The cookbook part of the Kitchen Nightmares television series, the book is part recipes and part restaurant how-to book. Though his directions on how to run a successful restaurant could be more elaborated and could be the subject of a whole book, the recipes are really inspiring. The recipes are light and savoury without relying too much on the traditional butter and cream of, say, the French. Plus the photos of Ramsay in the book pretty much all show his smiling or working alongside his staff...quite a change from the bulldog faced Ramsay we see on TV.

As far as the fish pie goes, I had the option of trying Ramsay's recipe or Trish Hilferty's recipe from Gastropub Classics. Ramsay had less ingredients so I opted for his. The result was a rich and satisfying dish with very familiar flavours in a new presentation.

For those who are like me and have no idea what fish pie is, let me put it to you this way: a fish chowder with the potatoes mashed and spooned on top in cottage pie fashion. In other words, it's like the lovechild of a fish chowder and a cottage pie. The fish is in a cream and vermouth sauce just like any good chowder. The potatoes are velvety and full of butter. All in all, this is a great recipe. But I'm not going to copy it here. I wouldn't want the wrath of Ramsay visited upon me. Suffice it to say that you can make a fish cream sauce with sweated shallots, white wine, Noilly Prat vermouth, fish stock, and double cream. Use your fish of choice (I had turbot and Boston blue fish though I would try to have a white fleshed fish, a rich fish like salmon and an oily fish next time...just to cover the whole fish spectrum) along with a splash of lemon juice, tarragon and parsley. You then prepare mashed potatoes, spoon on top and bake for 20 minutes. See, I didn't give the recipe. But any good cook would know what to do. This dish is highly recommended especially if you've got fresh fish lying around.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

My Thumb is a Dry Yellowish Green

See that little tomato? Beautiful isn't it? Wouldn't it be great if there was a whole bush of these little delights? Yes, it would. But such is not the reality. The reality is that my greenhouse experiment failed miserably on all fronts. This tomato, another one in the back there and one that fell to it's doom last week were the only things that sprouted out of half a dozen tomato plant, some sweet pea vines, and a few cucumber plants. Maybe too much direct sunlight. Maybe it has something to do with polination. Maybe I just purchased nasty plants that have it in for me. Vicious little flora.

Oh and I did plant some herbs. Basil, parsley, dill and something that was supposed to be cilantro but looked more like beefy dill or skinny flat-leaf parsley. The results here were equally disheartening. They all went yellow and dry. Once again I don't know if it's the watering or the sun or the bees or some cosmic order that is giggling about the fact that I couldn't even take care of a cactus.

Well there's always next year, right? And I've got a whole winter to read up and learn about gardening. I might go do some WOOFing to learn more.(For those of you who don't know what this is, it's basically where you can volunteer and in exchange you get room and board plus food sometimes and knowledge. You can find them at It's the answer to travelling the world for free. Especially for those agriculturally minded).

Ravioli with Sage and Roasted Pine Nut Butter

Once again drawing inspiration from the farmer's market, I found a huge bag of fresh sage for only $2. Considering that one quarter of this amount would easily have cost me close to $10 at the supermarket, I really couldn't pass up the opportunity. And since I've recently discovered fresh pasta at the market (though I have to go to both market's in town) I couldn't help but make a sage butter for my ravioli.

From reading Heat (see previous post) I've understood that butters or light, uncomplicate sauces are traditionally served with filled pastas such as raviolis or tortellinis. So I chopped up a good handful of fresh sage, dry roasted about 1/4 cup of pine nuts in a frying pan, chopped these and grinded about 2 tablespoons of fresh pepper into a bowl. I added 3/4 cup of butter (I unfortunately can't seem to find any unsalted butter) and mashed the whole thing together. Rolled up into wax paper, you can then take it out and slice off the required amount.

Now there's this thing I don't quite understand about adding pasta water to your butter when preparing. I little splash helps cut the richness of the butter and sizzles when you throw it in. I guess it's just to give an even bigger role to the pasta. Which is much deserved. I mean two ingredients and you've got one of the best inventions in the history of human kind. Forget computers. Or cars. Pasta. Now there's innovation.

I served my ricotta filled ravioli with the "watered" down sage and pine nut butter and some finely grated and melting Kerrygold Blarney Castle Cheese. It's a mild, creamy cheese which they say is similar in flavour to gouda. Along with a bitter frisée salad with soured cream dressing (10% cream with lemon juice, salt and pepper) this was a very satisfying meal. A 10 on 10.

Simplicity is king.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Gastropub Scotch Eggs

Whilst looking for recommended cookbooks, I fell upon a list compiled by Gourmet Magazine which included Trish Hilferty's Gastropub Classics. For any of you Brits out there I probably don't have to explain what a gastropub is but, for the rest of us, a gastropub is basically just a pub - laid back atmosphere and great beer - but with a semi-fine dining take on traditional pub grub. So here in Canada pub food revolves around nachos and deep-fried chicken wings, burgers, fries and all other sorts of stick-it-in-the-fryer foods. Not the healthiest stuff.

But a gastropub - from what I understand was the intention of the first gastropub founders - looks to make food a bit lighter. Give people something good to eat like pastas and delicious braised meats and beautiful fish dishes. The whole thing should not look fine dining though. It's still a pub. A place for the boys to have a pint. The fine dining aspect is subtle. Almost an afterthought as in "Holly crap! Is this really pub food?!"

Though I don't think Hilferty's recipe for scotch eggs falls under the category of fine dining take on traditional pub food, it's still a really good looking little construction. The idea is really basic. Boil eggs a bit below desired doneness (7 minutes for me on full boil). Once cooked and cooled, peel the eggs and dust them with flour. You then take sausage filling (she recommends pork and leek but I fell upon pork, pepper and fennel which was awesome) and wrap it around the flour dusted eggs. You then roll these little sausage coated eggs in flour, then in beaten eggs, then in bread crumbs (those I had were highly flavoured so I used ground almonds instead). Drop the eggs in a deep fryer or in a pan generously full of hot oil and cook till golden. Make sure to not stick your finger in the oil. It leaves a nasty blister. My fried finger can attest to it.

I served it with grainy mustard and a good cup of French press coffee but I imagine almost anything would do. A hunk of Stilton with toast, milk and an apple. A pile of pan fries with fresh salsa. Or just as is. Apparently this is something you can lug around with you on a picnic. So cold or hot, it matters not.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Grilled Chicken Wings

It's not the grilling that was the problem or the sweet Thai flavoured sauce I made for marinating/basting. The chicken was too chewy. I had the same problem with the whole chicken that I bought from these merchants at the farmer's market. I don't know if chicken needs to be hung before being cooked or the chewy texture is just a side effect of being grain fed and being allowed to range freely but I didn't appreciate it. This should have been good. I mean when I make my beer-butt chicken the wings sometimes survive the flames and become nice and crispy. So maybe I have to cook the wings longer over lower heat. Maybe. But I'm blaming the chicken. And the chicken man. Damn chicken man...

On another more positive note, the grilled watermelon skewers were good. It was really just warm watermelon but the slight dehydration concentrated the flavour and would be a real nice addition to any heavier barbecue. Heavy pretty much alway being the case when it comes to barbecue. Or Southern barbecue. Not that there's anything wrong with that...

Stuffed Artichokes

I saw artichokes at the supermarket and something inside me yelled "Get them, get them". But what will I do with them? This was sort of like a coq-au-vin moment (don't ask) and the little voice answered "Stuffed them."

That was it. I'd been reading alot about Italian food recently and for me, stuffed artichokes sounded Italian and rustic. So off I went in search of a recipe for these big bulbs.

My first stop was YouTube where I watched Alton Brown and Grandma Thelma prepare artichokes. Having never seen anyone do anything with an artichoke before, YouTube helped. Tuns out the trick is to chop the top, another chop above the stem, dig out the choke, remove a few of the tough outer leaves and chop off the little thorns which top every large leaf. You then follow a recipe like the one I found at Make stuffing, pull back leaves, shove in stuffing. Simple. I served it with grilled prosciutto wrapped halibut.

The recipe was alright. It was different but there's alot in an artichoke that you can't eat. There are even videos out there which show you how to eat an artichoke. Except for the middle-lower leaves, the crown and the heart, an artichoke is a pretty boring affair. But I saw another recipe where you boil the artichokes and then fill the hole in the middle where the choke used to be with hollandaise sauce. The artichoke is like it's own dipping bowl. Genius.

Of course you could always buy the preserved artichokes in the cans or bottles. They'll save you the trouble. But if you're up for an experience, buy a few artichokes. They're fun. And a bit scarry. Just a bit.

Award Winning Chili...Not Mine...Someone else's

I love spicy food. I like to have my tongue screaming, my face burning red, my eyes streaming and then having that endorphin rush afterwards. It's great. Pain for pleasure.

So it follows that when I found Chile Pepper Magazine at my local news stand I was giddy. Plus it was delightfully entitled "The Recipe Issue, November 2007". A whole book full of spicy concoctions. Oh yeah.

The drawback of these recipes is that peppers in all their beautiful shapes and varieties and flavours aren't widely available. Especially not up here in the True North strong and free. But at least you've got the internet and substitutes. Finding a substitute wasn't necessary for the following recipe however. I found it under the Internation Chili Society's portion of the magazine where two award winning chili recipes were interpreted...they would never divulge the true recipe of course. That's just sacrilege. Thankfully, even the interpretation was fantastic. I'm used to chilis that look more like spaghetti sauces than chili. Ground beef, lots of tomatoes and veggies, and kidney beans. Supposedly a no-no in the professional chili world. Who knew?

P.S. It might seem like alot of chili powder and cumin but it's absolutely essential. Chili powder and cumin make a chili. Chili powder. Chili. Get it? ;)

Butterfiled Stage Line Chili
Adapted from Fred and Linda Drexel's 1981 World's Championship recipe and taken from Chile Pepper Magazine.

2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 1/2 pound beef brisket, cut into 1-inch cubes (I used a big honkin' blade roast)
1 pound lean ground pork
1 large onion, chopped fine
salt and freshly ground pepper
2 to 3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbsp diced green chiles such as jalapeno or serrano
1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
1 beef bouillon cube
1 (12 oz) can or bottle beer, such as Budweiser or, in my case, Pump House Cadian Cream Ale
4 to 6 tbsp Gebhardt chili powder (or whatever chili powder)
2 1/2 tbsp cumin
1/8 tsp dry mustard
1/8 tsp brown sugar
pinch of oregano
dash of Tabasco

1. In a large stockpot or Dutch oven, heat the oil, and brown beef, pork and onion, working in batches so as not to crowd the pot (in true idiot fashion, I crowded the pot...grrrr). Season with salt and pepper.

2. Add the remaining ingredient, along with 1 1/4 cups water. Stir well. Cover and simmer 3 to 4 hours, until meat is tender and chili is thick and bubbly, stirring occasionally.

3. Taste and add more salt, pepper and Tabasco if necessary before serving.

Lobster Stock and Onion Soup

Remember all of those lobsters I had about a month ago. Well of course you don't because I'm the only one who keeps track of my culinary life (I hope) but suffice it to say that I had made lobster stock with the carcasses of the gazillion lobsters I had. I made a slightly unappetizing green stock which I promptly froze till the day where I would have use for it.

Well I thought a new take on French onion soup would be a great idea. Replace the sherry and beef stock with lobster stock and maybe a splash of white wine. Wrong. It didn't really work. The flavours where like water and oil. They were in the same container but they refused to cooperate with one another.

Plus there's this debate about whether or not cheese should ever be paired with fish or shellfish. I'm not saying that I have an answer or a stance since the whole soup was a flop. I mean it wasn't gross but it wasn't tasty either. Just sort of wrong. Maybe a better culinary mind could achieve something with this combination. If you are that person than let me know where I went wrong. It seems I'm doomed to keep treading along the path of other people's recipes.


Lima Bean and Grape Tomato Salad

I originally bought this salad from the supermarket from those meal-in-a-box counters. I know. Totally out of character. Oh well.

Anyways, it's a really simple salad that I made with a lemon vinaigrette (2/3 olive oil, 1/3 freshly squeezed lemon juice, salt and pepper). The salad itself consists of a can of lima beens - mine looked a bit sick - grape or other tiny tomatoes, the tender yellow celery stalks, julienned carrots, the sprouts of your choice - alfalfa or bean sprouts or whatever - a good handful of fresh parsley chopped, roughly chopped green beans and a few green onions. Really simple. Really fresh. Really good.

Another such salad I'd eaten once - and by "such salad" I mean lettuce-less salads - was at a Native Canadian dinner. Along with bannock and roasted deer meat, there was a simple salad of wild rice, pine nuts and fresh blueberries. All very Northern Ontario. I don't even think they had a vinaigrette to go along with it but it was really delicious and fresh. Very local. And local isn't always possible in the great white north.

Read Heat

I had seen somewhere that this book was highly recommended for anyone interested in food. I'm a perfect match. Books and food. That's all I need. And this book delivers on both fronts.

The prose of Mr. Buford is as hilarious as the kitchen mishaps he writes about. He honestly portrays personalities and a trade that are too often whitewashed by family-friendly mass-media. This book dispels any romantic myths about professional kitchens that anyone (such as I to a degree) might have had. It's a tough arena where only the tough survive. This isn't yo granma's kitchen boy. The accounts in Heat are akin to what I think would be the experience of someone walking into a forest fire without having the knowledge of what fire is. It's dangerous. But it's a passion. And passion requires sacrifice. If you're sanity is the price, than so be it.

Anyways, I highly recommend this book. If you're at all interested in Italian cookery, this book is informative. Plus it's really funny and a quick read.

Isn't food fabulous?!

Garlic Scape Pesto Fettucini with Sun-Dried Tomato Sausage

I know that title is too long. Sort of like something you would find on an insecure restaurant's menu. But this was no insecure meal. And it all started with my friendly local organic gardener. Where did I meet him? You guessed it, the farmer's market. They can also be found online at

This garlic scapes - something that looks like a stiff curling green onion - were great as a pesto. Not my recipe though. I got a free copy of the recipe upon purchase of the scapes. You wouldn't see a supermarket do that. And even if they did, the recipe would probably be some disgusting concoction.

Anywho, once I'd wizzed the pesto together with my food processor, I plopped a few handfuls of fresh spinach fettucini in some well salted water (These were bought from an Italian couple who sell their pastas at the market - ravioli to be featured soon). Eight minutes later, I pulled out the cooked noodles with tongues, did not dump them in a colander but simply in a bowl and drenched in the pesto. Now I've been reading alot about Italian cooking lately and if memory serves me right, this is what you're supposed to do with your pasta. Pasta water for Italians seems to be what butter is to the French. Or something like that.

Along with this very fresh pasta, I fried a few sausages from my market Italian sausage man. His sausages are huge, flavourful and always interesting. He makes buffalo sausages, apple sausages, a variety of Italian sausages (obviously) and, my own purchase, a pork sausage with goat cheese, spinach and sun-dried tomatoes. They were delicious and subtle. Their beautiful juiciness cut right through the richness of the pesto and the pasta. These ingredients complemented themselves very well.

What a joy it is to cook when things actually turn out like you wanted them to!

Amarosia's Organic Garlic Scape Pesto
5oz garlic scapes
3/4 cup olive oil (the original recipe call fro 1 cup but I find 3/4 is quite enough)
1 cup freshly grated parmesan
1/2 cup pine nuts, or walnuts
Salt and pepper to taste

Their way:

1. Coarsely chop garlic scapes, removing tough tips. Place in a blender and add 1 cup olive oil. Puree.

2. Add 1 cup parmesan cheese and 1/2 cup pine nuts. Puree again, add extra olive oil if needed.

3. Stir into freshly cooked pasta. Season with salt and pepper if desired.

My way:

1. Place all ingredients in a food processor except the olive oil. Pulse till a paste has been achieved.

2. Slowly drizzle in olive oil with processor spinning till the pesto becomes creamy and makes little slooshing sounds. The slooshing sounds are very important. Splashing means you've put too much e.v.o.o. in. Shame on you.

3. Stir into freshly cooked fresh pasta preferably made by your own hands. Season and enjoy.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Apricot and Chocolate Panino

I'm pretty sure it was apricot season when I made this. My deduction is based on the amount of the ripe little sour fruit which were pilled at the supermarket (but supermarkets are a bitch for not carrying seasonal items in their appropriate seasons...however, apricots don't grow this far north so my local farmer's market can't correct the supermarket's ignorance). Regardless, these little finds coincided with my viewing chef Massimo Capra's recipe during a Restaurant Makeover of the Bulldog Coffee House.

It's simple. Slice bread (traditionally a ciabatta if you're making panini but, hey, whatever...12 grain is healthier). Slather with your own or purchased chocolate hazelnut sauce. Halve apricots. Remove pith. Place on chocolate. Grill on panini press. Enjoy.

The fruit makes it healthy...wink, it's great for breakfast...or lunch...or dinner...or late night snack. And it's kid friendly. Big and small alike. Simple and delicious. I'm hungry...