Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I Suck


So...lesson of the day: Baking Soda is NOT the same thing as Baking Powder.

Over the weekend we went to the market and picked up a chicken which I figured I'd roast sometime during the week. But I always forget that it's hard to roast a chicken mid-week after work since more recipes take about two hours to cook. So I decided to go with the Zuni-chicken since this recipe consists of cooking a chicken at a high heat for about an hour. You do need to salt the chicken in advance (the recipe calls for 2-3 days) but that's easy as long as you plan ahead.

ANYWAY. I wanted to try out some tips that I'd seen on a recent episode of America's Test Kitchen that were supposed to help achieve a crispy skin. It involved separating most of the skin from the chicken before hand (this is kind of gross. At one point pretty much my entire hand was in the chicken-skin) and also incorporating baking powder into the dry rub....ugh. Now I'm an experienced enough baker that I know the difference between baking powder and baking soda. I didn't just run out of baking powder and assume that they could be substituted for one another. Somehow I just got it into my head that I was supposed to use soda and led to completely disastrous results.

Luckily the actual chicken was relatively unmarred and tasted fine (deliciously flavourful and juicy, even). But my favourite part, the skin? Completely inedible. I actually spit the first piece out it was so bad. It also ruined the drippings which is a crucial ingredient to the Zuni bread salad. So sad :(

Anyway, the funny part is that I spent the majority of the evening convinced that the baking soda was a bad idea and that maybe we just used too much. I don't really take cooking failures well so was kind of depressed about it when I realized that I was actually supposed to use baking POWDER! Idiot!!

So anyway, Zuni chicken is delicious but don't use baking soda in your rub. Actually maybe skip the baking whatever altogether as it's not even an ingredient. But please....don't repeat my mistake. It was gross.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Gobble Gobble


So, I meant to write about Thanksgiving...turkey dinner is basically my favourite meal. Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, homemade dinner rolls...Kraft dinner (yea, you read that right. Family tradition!) pumpkin and apple pie. Yum! So good. But the problem with Thanksgiving is that I'm generally so busy running around the kitchen that I'm not taking pictures. And once I come out of the two-day food coma, I've lost the energy to remember exactly how much sugar and molasses went into the pumpkin pie this year and which dinner roll recipe I ended up using after days of perusing the net. I know..excuses, excuses.

Anyway, turkey dinner has now come and gone but in case anyone still has some leftovers (possibly in the freezer?) here's an easy recipe for a leftover turkey pie. We had it over the weekend in Collingwood and it was really nice to have the pie pre-made and just ready to pop in the oven. Especially as we were all a bit tired on Saturday from being woken up at 5am by the PUMPKIN that someone threw through the window of the chalet! Luckily the resort staff were able to get it boarded up fairly quickly so the crisis was averted.

Leftover Turkey Pie

1/2 a batch of Pie Dough
2 cups leftover turkey, shredded
2 tbsp butter
1 small yellow onion, diced
3 carrots, peeled and diced
2 stalks celery, diced (I didn't actually use any this time, but it's a pretty standard pot pie veg)
About 2 cups leftover cooked vegetables or frozen corn and peas (I used the corn and peas plus roasted sweet potatoes and some mashed squash made it in as well)
2 cups gravy
1 cup milk
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp chicken bouillon seasoning (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

1. Melt butter over medium heat in a large saucepan or wok. Add diced onions and saute until onions are translucent. Add carrots and celery; cook until vegetables are starting to soften but still fairly firm (you should be able to poke a fork through the carrot pieces but they shouldn't fall apart).

2. Option a: if you don't have gravy, add some more butter and about 1/4 cup of flour and cook for about 5 minutes until the floury smell is gone. Slowly add about 2 cups of chicken stock until the mixture is smooth and thick.

Option b: if you do have gravy, add the gravy!

3. Add the spices and salt and pepper. If you're using the chicken bouillon, mix into the milk before adding. Add milk slowly and adjust depending on how thick you want your mixture to be. Play it by ear.

4. Add the turkey and cooked vegetables. Continue cooking until everything is thick and bubbling and looks like pot pie filling!

5. On a floured surface, roll out pie crust to fit your pan. I used a 1.5 qt casserole dish, but you can use a pie pan, or even a dutch oven or any sort of pan that is about the same size. Pour filling into the pan and roll crust on top. Tuck the edges over the casserole/pie pan and crimp or smush (whatever you need to do to make it stay up). Cut two slits into the top of the pie and bake at 350 degrees Farenheit, 190 degrees Celsius for 40 minutes to an hour until filling is bubbling and crust is golden.

6. If you're freezing, let the filling cool before you put the top on and then cover with foil and freeze. Bake as above but you may need to leave it in the oven longer (I think mine was in for about an hour and then I got impatient and turned the broiler on. Probably should have left it in for about another twenty minutes...the middle wasn't exactly piping hot)

7. Let cool for at least 5 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Omg the kitchen smells AMAZING


Ok so maybe I'm like, three weeks late but Laura you can make these into muffins! Make pumpkin muffins! You did just make a turkey so maybe it fits into the whole post-Thanksgiving meal mood.

Anyway, we've finally run out of turkey leftovers (seriously we ate it for lunch AND dinner for an entire week) but lo and behold, I look in the cupboard yesterday and see a can of pumpkin from last year when I stocked up panicked about the pumpkin shortage! Luckily I had been wanting to try a pumpkin loaf recipe for awhile (I'm so addicted to the Starbucks one...mmm). I used one from Epicurious and added a few things...some orange zest and juice, and pumpkin seeds since they taste good and look pretty too.

Seriously, I forgot just HOW good baked pumpkin smells. I was literally drooling as it baked in the oven. So good that I was concerned that it couldn't possibly taste as good as it smelled. I hate it when an recipe underwhelms. Fortunately, that didn't happen this time. It was SO good, and eating it just made me want more. And I think it's one of those things that's going to taste better with time, so I can't wait to try it tomorrow.


Pumpkin Spice Loaf

adapted from Epicurious

1 cup white sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 orange, zested and juiced
1/2 cup vegetable oil (or enough to make 1 cup liquid with the juiced orange)
3 large eggs
16 oz pure pumpkin (this is a small can, or half-ish a large can)
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
4 tsp pumpkin pie spice, or 1 tsp each cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup lightly toasted pepitas (raw pumpkin seeds)

Preheat oven to 350°F, 190 degrees Celsius

1. Butter two loaf pans. Beat sugar, orange zest, orange juice and oil in a large bowl to blend.

2. Mix in eggs and pumpkin. Add salt, spices, baking soda and baking powder. Stir flour into pumpkin mixture slowly (try not to get flour all over yourself - I always do). Add in most of the toasted pumpkin seeds, leave about 2 tbsp worth for garnish.

3. Divide batter equally between the two pans. Sprinkle remaining pumpkin seeds over the loaves. Bake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 hour 10 minutes. Transfer to racks and cool 10 minutes. Using a sharp knife, cut around edge of loaves. Turn loaves out onto racks and cool completely.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Challenge!

People. For the last few weeks I've been making blueberry muffins (these blueberry muffins) and then eating them EVERY DAY. I love these blueberry muffins. I brought a whole batch TO FRANCE so as not to miss a day of these blueberry muffins.* They have opened the world of breakfast baking. I need more muffin recipes!



* full disclosure: I have been sick this month (like actually ill with a chronic condition) and these muffins were the only thing I could eat in the mornings without losing my ladylike charm and grace. I credit these muffins to my recovery so I may be a bit psychologically addicted to muffins now.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

There's Potential Here


I'm not sure whether I've mentioned this before, but I'm not a huge fan of chicken. I'll eat it IN other dishes, cut up in soups or salads and I do love a good chicken parm, but grilled/roasted/pan fried chicken breasts with some seasoning or sauce...meh. I just find it so bland most of the time. I'm more of a red meat girl. Same thing with roast chickens. I've always had this underlying feeling that a really good roast chicken recipe will transform the dish and make me have a "where have you been all my life" revelation*. The problem is that no matter how good the recipe seems to be, it's still well...chicken. Bo-ring. Unfortunately Adam doesn't feel the same way. He could eat happily eat it every night of the week and tends to get cranky when I go on my carb, beef or pork-induced cooking binges. So occasionally I'll try out a new recipe searching for that "aha!" moment.

I'm not saying that this recipe is "the one", but it's the first time in a pretty long time that I've actually finished a whole chicken thigh. I know, not a huge accomplishment but for me that's a big deal so this recipe is getting a thumbs up.

I'll admit that it wasn't exactly perfect...I may have slightly burned the chicken. I had my suspicions about it, as in my experience ten minutes on medium-high heat equal charred chicken. But so many recipes said to leave the chicken on the stove for up to 25 minutes that I figured there must be something I didn't know. So I tried it...and my chicken did not look like the photos. But even so it was really really good! The seasonings were perfect and added just the right amount of flavour to make it interesting, and the meat was perfectly cooked (yeah yeah, aside from the char). I did read in the reviews that some used the remaining marinade to make a sauce which I might try next time, but we were perfectly happy without it.

*Similar to the one that Adam had with Pocky this week...I believe the exact quote was: "We have to get more of these. Why have you been keeping them from me for the last nine years??"


Note: It was really really hard to find pictures here that didn't look completely unedible. I SWEAR this chicken is good, just try to ignore the burnt bits...Adam's comment on the photo above was "it kind of looks like a picture of an oil spill where the birds are struggling to get out"

Crispy Chicken Under a Brick
1 whole (3 pound) chicken
3/4 cup olive oil
1 lemon, juiced and zested
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp curry powder
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp minced garlic
2 springs fresh rosemary
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Remove the backbone and split the chicken in half.

2. Mix together 1/2-cup olive oil, lemon juice and zest, cumin, curry, brown sugar, and garlic. Pour mixture into a freezer bag with chicken inside. Throw in the rosemary springs and marinate the chicken in the mixture for at least 1 hour (I actually left it for a day because we ended up making this the next night instead)

3. Place an ovenproof skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium-high heat for about 3 minutes. Put the remaining 1/4-cup olive oil into the hot skillet (or just enough to cover the skillet) and wait 1 minute for it to heat up. Reduce heat to medium (I did not do this, but I would next time to avoid the blackened chicken)

4. Remove the chicken from the marinade and season all over with salt and pepper. Place the chicken halves in the skillet, skin side down. Wrap 2 bricks in aluminum foil and set them on top of the chicken, or if you don't have bricks cover the bottom of a dutch oven, add a few cans and cover with the lid for added weight.

5. Cook on the stovetop for 10 minutes. Now you might want to check your chicken before this, but if you're cooking on medium heat than you might be okay. Either way I'll probably check my chicken sooner next time. Once the chicken is nicely browned and crispy, remove the bricks/dutch oven, carefully flip over and transfer the skillet to a preheated 450 degree F oven. Roast for about 20-25 minutes, until cooked through. Remove from pan and enjoy!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Simple Sweet Rosemary Rubbed Pork

(so simple, it only needs one photograph)

Laura: an epic introduction Part 2.

Taste (like everything in a post-modern world) is really (really) subjective. When you consume a lot of food media, like Jessica and I, you need a filter to unconsciously sort all those lovely, tasty descriptors. Some words make me immediately salivate: creamy, crisp, browning, garlic-y, smokey, pulled, spice, butter, salty-sweet, braised butter and buttery will sell me before my eyes hit the actual ingredient list. Other 'headline' grabbers, well, aren't too exciting. Herbs for instance. Before I tried this Porkchop recipe I never completely bought into the 'few fresh ingredients = life-altering taste'. Usually such recipes demand a specific ingredient, market-fresh, in season, organic, and well expensive or else IT WILL NOT WORK, DON'T EVEN TRY, GO AWAY.

Now, I love the market as much as any other Western-middle-creative-class gal but fuck folks, I need to eat seven days a week. In my 'local area' Sainsbury's is posh (and even then it will run out of such things as lettuce on a regular basis). I rent an ill-equipped shared kitchen in a foreign country with a poor culinary heritage. I do not have proper anything. I need my recipes to work hard and deliver when conditions are not perfect.

(Ok so London may not be Ethiopia, but it took me four hours to find pretzels last weekend - I am only exaggerating a little bit).

Right, where were we? Oh yes. Rosemary Pork. Now you get your rosemary, pork, brown sugar, salt. Mush those things together. Grill. That is the recipe. There. I mean I will write it out with steps and things later on but that's it. Let it marinate overnight for a treat, but if you just got home from work and need something nownownow go for it. This dish is hard to make disappointing.

And the flavours? Simple, delicate and ridiculously ridiculously delicious. The sugar and salt form an addictive briney-sweet crust while the rosemary gives the whole bite a garden-fresh hit of herbs. While this fresh dish is perfect for a summer grill, its lack of truly seasonal ingredients means it brings a little backyard sunshine to the darkest winter days (unlike say, a tomato dish that just reminds you how good life is in July).

Sweet Rosemary Rub Pork
(adapted from thekitchn... I like more of a 'crust' on my chops so I doubled their rub. Feel free to adjust to your taste).

- 4 pork steaks

- 2 teaspoons olive oil for the pan
- 2 tablespoon rosemary
- 
2 tablespoon brown sugar

- 3 teaspoons salt

- 1.5 teaspoon pepper
- 
0.5 teaspoon cumin

Mix herbs/spices in a small separate bowl before rubbing into the pork. Let the pork sit in the rub for as long as you can stand it (overnight if you are organized). If you've left it in the fridge, take the pork out and let it warm up a piece. Cold meat + hot grill will make your dinner curl up and cook unevenly (servicey!).

Grill or cook on a grill-pan for 5 minutes a side, until cooked. Let the pork rest under foil for a few minutes then serve with pan juices or anything else that will give your pork a bit of loving.

A reminder

Alright so I should of posted this in June but, seriously folks, these are what we call Ontario strawberries.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Another day, Another Burnt Pizza

Let's quickly refresh the scoreboard here...Pizza - 5, Jess - 0

Today's lesson is: don't do ANYTHING but stand anxiously outside the oven and check your pizzas every thirty seconds while it's under the broiler on the very top rack. It takes a surprisingly short amount of time for them to burn.

Luckily it wasn't the DINNER pizza, but just the "oh let's be clever and make extra pizzas for lunch tomorrow" pizzas. And they were just on pitas as we only had enough dough for the dinner pizza. So it could have been worse. But I'm still not over it.

By the way, the dinner pizza had SPAM on it. And it was delicious! I'm calling it my "true" Hawaiian pizza. Hawaiians love their SPAM. So do Koreans. Yum.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Oh, Hello!

My name is Laura and I like to consume food! Jess is totally my BFF. I will be blogging. I live in England. Here I am making offal pies for the Queen's tea! Pip Pip!

Beeb's Brambly Apple Blackberry Crumble

Laura: an epic introduction Part 1.

Hello! I am a messy cook. Jessica (over there, delicately forming sugar cages and perfectly laced peach pies) is worthy of Martha Stewart magazine but alas, I must fully embrace the rustic family-style cooking trend. And yes, during the day I am paid to make things pretty while Jessica is paid for math so I don't know how this happened.

It's not that I don't love a good complex recipe (oh I do! the most!) it's just that after simmering that sauce for four hours I want it in my mouth – damn the presentaion, plate, knives, forks, etc.

Needless to say, the science of baking and I have a complex relationship (leveled cups of flour? ha!). I save 'baking' for a weekend of Julia or Deb role play.

So now then: "Brambley Apple & Blackberry Crumble: when you can't be arsed to make pie."

Pie has its place. I love pie. But there is something about just chucking a bunch of apples, blackberries & topping into a dish then, popping it into the oven for 30 minutes and come out with something so perfect and delicious. Amounts? Times? Ballparks! Simple! Perfect! Delicious! How the fuck did it do that?

Okay so you have to caramelize the apples so the gooey apple-caramel coasts the blackberries. And topping the buttery crumb with clotted cream (whipped, extra thick or creme fraiche will work as well) is required by law. But how else are you going to make the 'best crumble in England'*

To summarize: Pie is great but crumbles are your dirty secret.

*independently validated by a bunch of English people who have eaten more crumble in their lives than you can imagine.

Brambly Apple Blackberry Crumble
(heavily adapted from a BBC recipe, now offline – philistines!)
Filling
3 large Bramley apples (use what you can find, tart cooking apples are traditional)
30g/1¼oz butter
150g/5oz caster sugar (or 150g of granulated sugar)
pinch of cinnamon
A squeeze or two of lemon juice (to taste)
80g/3oz fresh blackberries (looks tiny but trust, there is enough)

Topping
100g/4oz unsalted butter, diced
220g/8oz plain flour
100g/4oz caster sugar
clotted cream

Method
1. Preheat oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.
2. Peel, core and cut apples into ¼in thick slices (or so they are relatively thin and even)
3. Heat butter in large saucepan. Add apples and gently sauté.
4. Add sugar and cinnamon. Continue stirring until apples are just cooked and the goo is thick and ready to coat the blackberries.
5. Add blackberries & lemon juice and stir very gently until coated with delicious.
6. To make the topping, lightly rub butter into flour and sugar until crumbly.
7. Spoon apples and blackberries into shallow, oval 23cm/9in ovenproof
dish. Sprinkle crumble mixture over top until fruit is covered. I enjoy crumble. I am liberal on this step.
8. Place in oven until light golden brown (usually between 15-40 minutes depending on your oven)
9. Serve with clotted, whipped or heavy cream. Creme fraiche works as well if you like a sour tang... I just wouldn't recommend vanilla ice cream, the flavours clash.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Busy Bee

So it's been a pretty busy summer. Birthdays, weddings and a trip to Chicago has booked up practically every weekend in July and August. Not to say that it hasn't been enjoyable, but I haven't been cooking as much as I'd like. And I'm sorry to say that I haven't baked a single cobbler, pie or cake with my favourite summer fruit: peaches!

I went to the market this past weekend and had a little panic attack that I was missing peach AND corn season (though I believe both are actually in season for another month...I get a little anxious!). That led to me buying a dozen ears of corn (which aren't as light as you'd think), shelling the ears and freezing both the kernels and cobs (for soups). I bought some peaches too. Yum! I still don't have much time for the next few weeks to bake so we'll probably just be enjoying them fresh, but they did remind me of some delicious hand pies that I made last summer when I was baking up a storm while spending a few weeks in Ancaster with my mom.

These may seem a bit intimidating, and are admittedly a bit more work than a traditional pie. But they're so cute, how could you resist? Plus it's pretty much impossible to take pie in to work or social settings without easy access to plates and serving utensils. But hand pies? Hand pies are perfect for the office! Or parties! Or stuffing a plateful into your mouth while telling yourself "they're so small, one more can't possibly make a difference...". Whatever. Make them. Love them.

Peach Hand Pies

adapted from SmittenKitchen
Makes 14 to 24 (depending on cutter size)

1 batch of Pie Dough
1 1/2 lbs peaches, preferably freestone
1/2 lb blueberries
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
Juice of half a lemon
1 tsp vanilla extract

One egg yolk beaten with 2 tablespoons water (for egg wash)
Sugar for sprinkling on top (optional)

1. Make pie dough; you don't need to divide into discs here but I would divide into two balls for easier handling later. Make sure it's been refrigerated for at least an hour

2. On a lightly floured counter, roll out one half of the dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Using a 4 1/2-inch-round biscuit cutter (or a knife if you don't have a biscuit cutter...seriously, I make biscuits enough that I should probably get some of those), cut circles out of the rolled dough until you can't anymore. Transfer the circles to a parchment-lined baking sheet, and chill in the refrigerator for about a half hour. Repeat with the other half of the dough.

3. Blanch the peaches: bring a large pot of water to a boil, drop the peaches in and let them boil for about 2 minutes. Remove from water and dunk in ice water to stop the cooking. Once cool, peel and chop the peaches into small pieces, (remember they need to be small enough to fit into small pies!)

4. Make the filling: mix peach bits with bluberries, flour, sugar, lemon juice and vanilla, plus a pinch of salt. Set aside.

5. Remove the chilled dough from the fridge and let stand at room temperature for just a few minutes until they're pliable. Spoon about 1 to 2 tablespoonfuls of filling onto one half of each circle of dough. Brush a little cold water around the edge and fold it in half so the other side comes down over the filling. Seal the pie, and press down on the edge with a fork. Repeat with the rest of the dough. Place the hand pies back onto the parchment-lined baking sheet, and return to the fridge to chill for another 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Farenheit, 190 degrees Celsius

6. Remove the chilled hand pies from the fridge, cut a small slit in each and lightly brush with the egg yolk wash. Sprinkle some sugar over the pies, and bake for about 20 minutes, until they are golden brown and just starting to crack. Remove from oven, and try to let them cool slightly before you taste them.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Less is More


Here is a recipe for those days when all you have the energy for is to boil some pasta and have it with some canned sauce. This is almost as easy as opening a can of sauce, and tastes much better.

I've been meaning to try this sauce for a few months now. I guess the delay was largely attached to my wariness of just how unbelievably good this sauce with only four ingredients (and that's including salt!) was. I just didn't get it. Plus there's nothing else in it. Just sauce. I tend to like my pasta sauces
with lots of onion, veggies and ground beef. So I had to be in a particular type of mood to make this one.

I don't know if I'd say this was the best tomato sauce I've ever had. But I will say that this is probably the only tomato sauce I'd be tempted to eat straight up with a spoon. It's so simple, but feels quite luxurious and (to quote Laura) is weirdly addictive. If I didn't make it myself I'd say there was crack in it. The added butter and simmered onion makes the sauce really rich and smooth and for two ingredients, adds a great deal of flavour.

The one problem here is that I'm not sure exactly what the right pasta for this sauce is. We had it with some homemade tri-coloured pasta from the market, which was good but I felt a bit like the pasta and sauce were fighting for my attention. "Eat me, taste me! I'm delicious!" Well, yes it's true that both were delicious, but I think next time I might go for a simple white shell or fusilli noodle that is going to more or less act as a vehicle to get more sauce into my mouth. Yum.

Buttery Tomato Sauce

adapted from from Marcela Hazan's Essentials of Italian Cooking, via SmittenKitchen

28 oz can of whole peeled tomatoes (San Marzano if you have them)
5 tbsp (70 grams) unsalted butter
1 medium-sized yellow onion, peeled and halved
Salt to taste

1. Put the tomatoes, onion and butter in a heavy saucepan (I used my dutch oven as I don't have a saucepan) over medium heat.

2. Bring the sauce to a simmer then lower the heat to keep the sauce at a slow, steady simmer for about 45 minutes, or until droplets of fat float free of the tomatoes*. Stir occasionally, crushing the tomatoes against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon.

3. Remove from heat, discard the onion, add salt to taste and keep warm while you prepare your pasta.

Serve with pasta, with or without grated parmesan for topping.

*Some of the comments I read on this recipe said that you needed to cook a little longer (maybe an additional 20 minutes) at a higher heat to really get some more flavour in the sauce. I thought it still tasted a little bland after 45 minutes, but I was going to play squash so I turned off the heat and let the sauce sit with the onions for about an hour. Then when I got back I reheated to a simmer and then removed the onions. It made a huge difference in the flavour. So...you might want to simmer for closer to an hour.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Keeping Cool


So...this past weekend was a pleasant break from the extreme heat wave that Toronto has been experiencing for the last couple of weeks. It's still fairly comfortable today but apparently the temperature is going back to 40's with the humidex later this week. Yikes.

On days like this, just seeing people walking into work with their regular cups of hot coffee makes me start to sweat. How can they bear it?? I get that people still need their daily fix of caffeine but why subject yourself to the extra heat when delicious iced coffee is such a delicious alternative?

I started off the summer drinking Starbucks iced coffees which, I admit, are fairly addicting and convenient. But this starts to get expensive, and really making iced coffee at home is fairly easy and delicious!

You could just make your regular brew of coffee and throw some ice cubes in, but my personal opinion is that the cold-brew method is vastly superior; less acidity and so much smoother. In fact, this can be somewhat dangerous in that this stuff goes down like water. The best part is you can make a few days worth of coffees at a time! For someone like me who is the only coffee drinker in the household, this is so much more convenient than brewing a hot pot of coffee every day. I just make a batch in my french press and keep it in the fridge for about 3 days worth of iced coffee. Yum.

Now about the caffeine level: various articles state that cold-brew coffee has more or less caffeine than regular coffee. So which is it? Honestly it seems to really depend on the grinds to water ratio that you use, and also how much additional milk/water you add to the concentrate. From my personal experience though, a cold-brew coffee generally makes me more jittery than a regular coffee so I'm putting myself in the "more caffeine" camp.

You can add water, milk, any type of simple syrup or sugar (it just might take awhile to dissolve the crystals) with this. Lately though, I've been using condensed milk. I woke up one day a couple of weeks ago just craving condensed milk. Not a particular recipe with condensed milk as an ingredient...just a spoonful of it. So I bought a can and ate a few spoonfuls...so until it's gone I'll be using this to sweeten my iced coffees. It's actually pretty amazing because it adds some milk and sweetness to the concentrate, plus it dissolves more easily than sugar. Oh, and it's REALLY good. Try it.

Vietnamese Cold-brew Iced Coffee

Adapted from Serious Eats

3/4 cup ground coffee
4 cups water
condensed milk (to taste)

1. Fill a pitcher or french press coffee maker with coffee grinds and half the water. Stir to combine, and add the remaining water (this will help you to not get coffee grinds everywhere). Let steep overnight (at least 8 hours, ideally more like 12).

2. Strain coffee - if you're using a french press, strain the coffee into another bowl or pitcher, rinse out the carafe and pour the coffee back in. If you're using a regular pitcher do the same thing but with regular coffee filters to strain out the grinds.

3. Mix with condensed milk, or cream and sugar syrup and serve over ice. You can keep the rest of the mixture in the fridge for a few days which is convenient since you don't need to make a new batch every day!

Monday, July 5, 2010

A Perfect Pair


This summer seems to be flying by. One minute I'm eagerly anticipating the warm weather, and before I know it strawberry season is almost over! Rue and I went strawberry picking on the last weekend in June. And of course, with strawberries come rhubarb for some delicious baked goods. Yum.

We made the requisite strawberry rhubarb pie (with a crumble topping) which was oddly received with enthusiastic praise from everyone at the pool party that I brought the first pie to, and a thumbs down from my family who thought it was too tart. I guess rhubarb isn't for everyone?


The majority of the remaining berries went into some refreshing agua frescas the following weekend. But I still had about a pint and some rhubarb left over so my plan was to make muffins. Unfortunately you need a muffin tin for that (I seem to have lost mine) so I decided to make coffee cake instead.

Sometimes you make something that just know is going to be delicious before you even start getting the ingredients together. You can just kind of feel it. That's what this cake was like. A not-too-sweet cake batter infused with vanilla flavour and some sour cream to keep it moist, a fairly heavy crumb topping and some delicious seasonal fruit...what's not to love?


Anyway, I was right and then some. The cake was moist, perfectly sweet and just the right combination of cake and fruit. And the smell. Oh god. I took some in to work and could hardly restrain myself from eating the entire batch. It's really too bad that strawberry season is over...but the best part is that you could make this cake with any seasonal fruit. Next up...peach crumb cake?


Strawberry Rhubarb Crumb Cake

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Fruit filling:
1/4 lb rhubarb, trimmed and sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
1/4 lb strawberries, washed and sliced
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp cornstarch or flour

Crumb topping:
1/6 cup brown sugar
1/6 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (2 oz) butter, melted
3/4 cup flour

Cake:
1/4 cup sour cream
2 large eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup softened butter, cut into pieces

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Farenheit, 163 degrees Celsius

1. Grease an 8-inch round baking pan. For filling, toss strawberries and rhubarb with sugar and cornstarch or flour. Set aside.

2. To make crumbs: in a large bowl, whisk sugars, spices and salt into melted butter until smooth. Then add flour with a spatula or wooden spoon until the mixture is more doughy than crumb-ly. Leave it pressed together in the bottom of the bowl and set aside.

3. To prepare cake: in a small bowl, stir together the sour cream, eggs and vanilla. Using an electric mixer of some sort or a wooden spoon (I used my immersion blender with the whisk attachment) mix together flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add butter and about half the sour cream mixture and mix on medium speed until flour is moistened. Increase speed and beat for 30 seconds. Add remaining sour cream mixture and beat for about another 20 seconds.

4. Scrape all but about a 1/2 cup of batter into the prepared pan. Spoon fruit filling over batter. Drop the remaining batter over the fruit filling; it does not have to be even.

5. Using your fingers, grab bits of the crumb topping and squeeze into a big clump, breaking it into large crumbs about 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch in size over the cake. Keep doing this until the topping is all used up. Bake cake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean (it may be moist from rhubarb), about 35 to 45 minutes. Cool before serving.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Pizza - 4: Jess - 0


I love pizza. I really do. But lately I feel like pizza doesn't love me back. You see, the last few times I made homemade pizza have been pretty...difficult to say the least. Some minor roadbumps but others were just full-fledged disasters.

A couple of months ago I discovered the skillet method. It was genius, really. A perfect way to get that charred, crispy bottom without a) having to preheat the oven for an hour and b) a pizza stone. It worked pretty well for me the first few times. Then, one night I removed the skillet from the oven and unfortunately slammed the pizza down on the stove (hey, cast iron is heavy!). This resulted in an oil dripper falling off the ledge of the oven (why did I have an oil dripper up there to begin with? I'm an idiot, that's why) and shattering ALL OVER my pizza. I was so upset I tried to eat a slice anyway and almost ate a shard of glass. I actually did have enough ingredients to make another pizza, but by this point I was so distraught that my second pizza ended up coming off the cutting board and into the hot skillet as a big glob (this is generally the trickiest part of the skillet method), which led to an uneven and doughy mess of a pizza that I ended up taking about three bites of before throwing out. I haven't gone back to the skillet method since.

Then there was that time in Collingwood where we didn't have any cornmeal or flour (I was trying Reinhart's dough recipe as shown below and brought up the extremely wet pre-made dough) and pretty much had to chisel a few pizzas off the pan until we discovered a box of pancake mix in the cupboard (for the record, it works perfectly fine as a flour substitute to dust a pan with!)

And then a couple of weekends ago, I was at my mom's making pizza and while transferring a hot, fresh-out-of-the-oven pizza to the cutting board dropped the entire thing facedown on the floor. Three second rule you say? I wish. When I attempted to pick it up, everything but the crust remained on the floor. Sob. We made some again the next night with the remaining dough which went fairly smoothly, but not completely disaster-free either. I proceeded to knock the bowl of grated mozzerella out of Adam's hands as he walked into our tiny kitchen. Luckily we salvaged enough of it to make our pizzas later.

Reading this post over to myself is making me wonder why I still bother making pizza at home. Is it even worth the mess, stress and wasted food? And the answer? YES. Because it's that good. Because, even with all the accidents I managed to scrape out some pretty delicious pizzas on the majority of these occasions (the skillet night being a huge exception - that was just a big fat FAIL). Because I love pizza. A lot. A lot a lot.

Peter Reinhart's Pizza Dough and Sauce
Adapted from The Fresh Loaf

Makes 4 10-inch pizzas

5 cups all purpose flour
1 tbsp sugar or honey
2 tsp salt (or 3 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt)
1 tsp instant yeast
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cups room-temperature water

1. Combine all of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon or mix in an electric mixer. After you've combined all of the ingredients, set the dough aside to rest for 5 minutes. Stir again for 3 to 5 minutes, adding more water or flour if necessary. You want the dough to be pretty wet here. I usually end up add a bit more water...it should be dry enough that it holds together and pulls away from the side of the bowl when you mix it, but not dry enough to knead by hand.

2. Divide the dough into 4 pieces. Place each one into an oiled freezer bag. I just drizzle some olive oil into the bag and rub around. You can also apparently brush the outside of the dough with olive oil and then place it into the bag...weirdly enough, I just read this part of the instruction and had a bit of an "aha!" moment.

3. If you aren't going to bake your pizzas that day, you can throw the bags into the freezer. They'll stay good in there for at least a month. The evening before you intend to bake them, move the frozen dough balls to the refrigerator to thaw.

If you are baking later the same day, put the bagged dough balls in the fridge until about an hour or two before you want to make your pizza. At that point, remove and let the dough warm up to room temperature.

If you need to have your pizza as soon as humanly possible (which is usually the case with me), leave the bags out at room temperature and let rise for about an hour. This will result in a less flavourful, but still tasty dough.

Also, turn your oven on to the highest setting about an hour before baking. This isn't exactly an efficient use of heat but will make your pizza better. If you have a pizza stone, throw it in while the oven is heating up. If you don't, place a cookie sheet in there instead. Make sure it's on the lowest (or second lowest) rack in your oven.

4. You won't be able to roll this dough out. Take a ball out of the bag, and using your hands shape into a small circle. Take the edge and rotate so that the weight of the ball stretches your circle. Keep doing this until your dough is large/thin enough to your liking. This may take a few tries to get. If you're using parchment paper (which I strongly advise) you can also stretch it out a bit once its laid out since the dough will stick to the paper.

5. Top with sauce, cheese and whatever toppings you want. The pizza above had roast pork tossed with barbeque sauce, red onion, red pepper and pineapple. Place the pizza (still on parchment) on your pan/stone and let bake for probably about 10-15 minutes, depending on how hot your oven is, until the cheese is bubbly and the crust is browned. Enjoy!


Pizza Sauce

1 28oz can crushed tomatoes
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 bay leaf
4 or 5 cloves of crushed garlic
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar (or any other kind of vinegar/lemond juice)
Salt and pepper, to taste

Heat olive oil in a small pot and add garlic. Cook for a few minutes until garlic is soft but not browned. Add remaining ingredients and let simmer for awhile (maybe 20 minutes) until the flavours have mellowed a bit. Cool and use on pizza, and freeze the rest for later.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Falafel!

Falafels in Toronto are sort of a holy grail for me. Nearly every one I've had has been a disappointment. Either the falafels are too dry, mushy or just not very good (which isn't exactly a surprise when almost all of them seem to start off as frozen patties). And then there's the filling - most have too much lettuce and not nearly enough vegetables, hummus or tzatziki which can result in an extremely dry sandwich. I know there must be good falafel places in the city but most of the better ones are further away than I'm generally willing to venture, especially if there's a chance it will disappoint.

My problem runs a little deeper here in that I have a "perfect" falafel in my memory...and it isn't from Toronto, or even Canada. Two summers ago I had the most mind-blowingly delicious falafel at L'As Du Falafel in Paris. Their falafels, freshly deep fried from due to the high volume of customers, were crispy but still amazingly moist and tender on the inside. The liberal amounts of tahini and tzatziki and the thinly sliced cucumber matchsticks kept the sandwich from being dry (in fact it was dripping). The saddest part of all this was the fact that I didn't even get my own falafel on this occasion. We had gone late at night after the bar and I wasn't very hungry so shared one with Rue. Big mistake. This falafel literally haunts my dreams.

Anyway, all this means that I'm going to be pretty hard-pressed to find a truly satisfactory falafel even with lowered expectations. I had been avoiding falafel recipes for months for this reason exactly, but recently I realized that I was more often disappointed in the filling options and hummus/tzatziki-to-pita ratio than the patties themselves. Which is actually quite easily remedied by an at-home falafel!

This recipe is a bit different from most homemade falafel recipes in that it a) uses canned vs. dried chickpeas and b) the falafels are baked. I'm planning to try using dried chickpeas next time but I actually thought that the texture from the canned version was more than satisfactory considering it doesn't require 24 hours of soaking. I also pan fried these for our meal but ended up baking the leftovers as I noticed that they weren't quite as crispy as I had hoped. I'm not sure if this means I wasn't pan frying at a high enough heat (I haven't figured out the science of pan-frying temperatures yet) or that the patties themselves had too much moisture but I thought that baking might help. The baked version were definitely more crispy but also drier on the inside. I think that ultimately I preferred the pan fried version but I might just need to experiment with the heat/oil levels next time. I can totally see why deep frying is the "preferred" method for falafel making - seems to be the only way to truly get the crispy, crunchy exterior with a moist and soft interior. Both the other methods were still delicious and an improvement over the lacklustre falafels I've had lately. They also freeze extremely well, though it wasn't necessary in my case - I ate them as leftovers for two days of lunches and for dinner again later in the week. These are going to be a regular addition to my dinner options for sure!

Homemade Falafel

Adapted from theKitchn and Chow Vegan
Makes about 22 balls


1 15 oz can garbanzo beans
About half a white onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
1 medium carrot, peeled and finely grated
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
Juice of half a lemon
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp dried red pepper flakes
Dash of chilli powder
1/2 cup of panko bread crumbs
1 tsp baking powder
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Drain and rinse the garbanzo beans. Put in a medium sized bowl and smash with a fork or potato masher. I actually slightly "pulsed" using my immersion blender as I wanted a bit of a finer mixture but don't have a food processor. Add the rest of the ingredients (but only 1/4 cup of the panko crumbs) and mix well.

2. Form into small balls, about 1 1/2″ in diameter and slightly flatten. Lightly bread patties in remaining panko crumbs, if desired. Press slightly into the crumbs so that they stick to the falafels.

To pan-fry:

3. Heat a large cast-iron skillet (or regular frying pan) on medium heat. Fry patties in canola or olive oil (I used a combination of the two) for about 5 minutes per side, until they are nicely browned. Drain on a paper towel lined plate.

To bake:

3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Farenheit, 185 degrees Celsius. Place patties onto an oiled baking pan and bake for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes flip patties, add some more oil to the baking pan and give the pan a shake to re-coat. This will help the falafels brown nicely on the other side as well.

4. Eat in a pita pocket with hummus, tzatziki, tomatoes and cucumber. You can freeze your leftovers to have on another day if you're so fortunate as to have that many left over.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

I Love English Muffins

My adventures in baking English muffins haven't been entirely successful. The first batch had great texture but not enough of that sourdough flavour. The next tasted much better but almost no nooks and crannies (not to mention they were a lot more work than the first batch). So this time, I decided to do some research to figure out what exactly leads to that hole-y texture in a perfect english muffin.

In my reading around various food blogs and english muffin recipes, I found that it seems a wetter dough will lead to holier bread. For example, the infamous No-Knead Bread that made its rounds a few years ago is characterized by an extremely wet dough which you couldn't knead if you wanted to, which results in lots and lots of big holes! (I know, the level of detail in my "research" is astounding) In fact, a few recipes recommended using more of a batter than a dough along with some egg rings to shape the english muffins while cooking. This seemed a little too complicated for me, especially since I don't have egg rings and I wasn't exactly keen on the idea of making my own using cans of tuna as some people recommended.

Also, while I enjoyed the flavour that came from the sponge, or biga in Rose Levy Berenbaum's recipe I realized that for the most part I'm just not willing to wait four hours waiting for a sponge to develop. I needed a faster way. The recipe that I used seemed to be a good compromise. It results in a stickier dough with buttermilk rather than a starter to get some tangy flavour into the english muffins. Compromise!

And the results? Pretty freaking good. The sourdough was a great way to add flavour without waiting hours or using a sourdough starter. The texture wasn't quiiiite perfect, but definitely enough nooks and crannies for my satisfaction. I'll probably experiment a bit with the moisture level in the dough next time, but this is a great base recipe that will definitely be used again.

Buttermilk English Muffins
Adapted from The Merlin Menu

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour*
1/2 tsp sugar
2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
3/4 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp butter (room temperature)
1 cup buttermilk** (slightly heated)
cornmeal for sprinkling

*I used about a cup of whole wheat flour because I was running out of white and it turned out pretty well, but for comparison purposes I'd probably make them using all white flour next time

**If you don't have buttermilk, you can combine 1 tablespoon of white vinegar and enough milk to make a cup, Leave at room temperature for at least 10 minutes before using.


1. In a bowl, add heated buttermilk, butter, sugar and yeast. Stir and let sit for 20 minutes or until the mixture puffs up.

2. Add flour and mix a wooden spoon until well incorporated and a sticky ball of dough is formed. Add more flour in 1/4 cup increments if necessary, but you want a pretty sticky dough.

3. Scrape dough out onto a floured board or surface. Sprinkle with flour and knead BRIEFLY. Apparently the more you knead, the finer the "crumb" will be which means less nooks and crannies!

4. Drop dough into a greased bowl, turn over, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm area for at least one hour (you can use a slightly warmed oven if you can't find a warm spot in your house - just turn it to maybe 250-300 degrees Farenheit for about 30 seconds and turn off)

5. After it's risen, scrape out onto the same floured surface, do NOT punch down. Knead once or twice and shape or roll into rectangle about one inch thick.

6. Using a biscuit cutter or cup, shape into rounds.

7. Spread cornmeal over parchment paper or a silpat. Place the cut and shaped circles of dough onto the cornmeal. Dust the tops liberally with cornmeal also. Top with plastic wrap, and let rise for another hour.

8. Heat a dry griddle or skillet to medium heat, carefully place a few dough rounds onto the skillet and brown on each side, about 5 - 9 minutes per side.

9. Remove from the skillet and let cool for about 20 minutes before devouring.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

O Canada

I just wanted to announce that mmm-minji has been added to Beer and Butter Tarts - A Canadian Food & Drink Blog Aggregator. The site compiles RSS feeds from various Canadian food and drink blogs so that they can be viewed in one, readily available location - how convenient!

Beer and Butter Tarts is a great resource for someone like me who loves reading about food but doesn't necessarily take the time to seek out all the great undiscovered and specifically Canadian food blogs out there. Especially since "seasonal" recipes from California aren't always practical (though often tempting) for a Canada cook.

Anyway, check it out at www.beerandbuttertarts.com!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Giddy With Anticipation

So, I went on a Caribbean cruise a few weeks ago and it was gloriously hot and sunny and wonderful. I love Love LOVE hot weather; so maybe living in Canada isn't exactly the best choice climate-wise. It's now the middle of May and I've spent the last two weeks cursing our building for shutting the heat off the weekend we came back as it during a warm spell, but then the temperature plummeted immediately afterward. I've been sleeping in fleece pajamas ever since. FLEECE.

Anyway, the weather seems to (finally) be creeping back into the twenties and I'm getting so excited for summer. Not only for the warm weather but also for the produce that will soon be available at the farmer's market. CORN. PEACHES. And TOMATOES!

You can obviously buy tomatoes year round, but they're so depressingly flavourless in the winter that sometimes I wonder why we even bother. They're nothing like the summer tomatoes that are so plump, juicy and delicious you can just eat them plain with a little sprinkling of salt and be in heaven. Or with some buffalo mozzarella for a nice Caprese salad. Drool.

Laura and I helped her mom make some delicious oven-roasted tomatoes at the end of last summer with the multiple bushels they had gotten from a local farm. They were sooo good and froze very well. The combination of garlic, basil and the oven created a delicious concentrated and caramelized flavour that was amazing in sauces, pizzas and whatever else you might use tomatoes for. I think that this summer we'll have to make some more so that I can have delicious tomatoes for recipes all winter long. Brilliant!

Note: If you are wondering why the photos in this post are not the usual level of pathetic photography that I tend to put out, it's because these were taken by Laura with her much, much better camera and photography skills in general. Thanks Laura!

Another Note: This is a sketchy recipe. We DID use a recipe from a book, but lost it so I'm really just guessing here. But oven roasting tomatoes isn't exactly rocket science. See conversation below re: the lost recipe...

Laura: my mom says she doesnt remember the tomato recipe
but its just like cut up tomatoes, deseed, cover in olive oil, basil and garlic

20 minutes
3:02 PM me: damn
yea, i know the basics but i like to have a recipe
3:03 PM does she know what temp/time?

36 minutes
3:39 PM Laura: roasted... i imagine hot
for twenty minutes
till they are roasty

So yea. I'm pretty sure we actually baked them for longer than 20 minutes. There are also many recipes for slow roasting tomatoes in the oven. To be honest, I'm not entirely sure what the main differences are. I imagine slow roasting would build up more caramelized flavour and intensity but I had absolutely no complaints on these ones either.

Oven Roasted Tomatoes

Tomatoes (we used Plum tomatoes)
Garlic
Fresh Basil
Salt and Pepper
Olive Oil

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Farenheit


1. Cut off tops of tomatoes and cut in half lengthwise. Use a paring knife to remove seeds.

2. Mince garlic and chop up basil.

3. Lay tomato halves on a baking sheet, cut side up. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle on garlic, basil and salt and pepper. I'm sorry I can't tell you how much, just don't use too much salt and pepper as the other ingredients will release plenty of flavour during baking.

4. Bake for 40 (or possibly 20) minutes until tomatoes start to look wrinkled, or "roasty".

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

I've Been Misled

Last summer, Laura and I made a really delicious peach and crème fraiche pie. It was sooo good, but also the crème fraiche that we bought was really expensive, and we didn't even end up USING all of it. I'm pretty sure the rest went bad in my fridge which was really unfortunate. This memory has clearly stayed with me because when Laura suggested that I try out this pasta recipe my immediate response was "no way - do you REMEMBER how much crème fraiche costs in Canada?" I did recall reading somewhere that you can make your own, but this requires planning your meals out in advance which I rarely do during the week, being a cook entirely driven by cravings. (honestly, I have no idea how Adam is going to deal with me one day when I'm pregnant and having actual LEGITIMATE and ridiculous cravings)

Fortunately, there came a night when I was feeling too lazy to cook a long complicated meal and this seemed easy enough. I decided to go to the grocery store on my way home and consider it depending on how much the crème fraiche cost. Low and behold, I came to the realization that apparently Fortinos is unique in their selection of insanely expensive variety because the crème fraiche at Sobeys wasn't any more than a tub of sour cream. Damn you, Galen Weston!

Anyway, I'm glad I tried it because this meal is pretty quick and easy considering how good it is. The crème fraiche provides just the right amount of richness and makes the dish creamy but still somehow light. I would say it resembles a carbonara but won't sit as heavy in your stomach later that evening and it re-heats well too. I added some lemon juice as well since I had a lemon lying around and I have a tendency to put it in everything. It was a nice contrast to the creaminess so I would do it again, but if you don't like lemon so much feel free to leave it out. I assume it will be just as delicious!

Quick Pasta with Peas, Pork and Crème Fraîche
Adapted from Serious Eats

1 1/2 tsp kosher salt, plus more for salting the pasta water
8 oz pasta*
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup crème fraîche
6 slices bacon, cut into 2-inch pieces
Juice of 1/2 a lemon (optional)
Some basil leaves, roughly torn

*The recipe used oriecchiette which appear to be a fancy way to say large shells...I used some other pasta that I've never heard of called Malfada Corta....looks kind of like the noodles they use for Lasagna Hamburger Helper

1. Bring a large pot of salty water to boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, stirring occassionally to prevent sticking.

2. While the pasta is cooking, cook bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat until almost (but not quite) crispy - you want it slightly undercooked to how you actually like it as you will continue cooking for a few minutes. Add garlic. Cook for a couple minutes until fragrant but not browned, then reduce the heat to medium and add the peas, cooking for a few seconds, then add the crème fraîche, lemon juice and kosher salt. Bring to a simmer, stirring constantly, until warmed through.

3. Reserving 1/3 cup of the pasta water, drain the pasta and add it while still wet to the skillet. Toss well with the sauce and add the pasta water to create a loose sauce. Turn the heat to high and cook for 2 minutes as the sauce melds with the pasta.

4.Transfer to bowls and top with any sauce left in the skillet. Lay the basil leaves on top. Serve immediately.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Yes, I'm Lazy

Okay...so it's been awhile. Amazingly enough, a couple people seem to have been checking and have made requests for a new post so here goes.

It's not that I've stopped cooking entirely and turned into someone that eats Kraft Dinner every night (though some nights...). Or that I haven't made anything post-worthy in the last few months. There was the mind-blowingly amazing Momofuku Compost cookies that were so good I made two double batches in the span of two weeks. And the experimental S'mores pizza that turned out to be the perfect emergency dessert. And a few other yummy meals that I'll attempt to post about in the next couple of weeks. Mostly things got pretty busy at work and I got lazy. Not lazy enough to stop cooking good food, but enough that I stopped taking pictures of my meals or documenting the recipes. A pretty sorry excuse, I know, but that's all I have.

Anyway, my mom had requested no presents for Mother's day this year but simply some good food. It seemed like a nice opportunity to try out some new recipes and ah! post about them.

I've been craving some sort of a brunch "roll" since the Mother's day recipes starting creeping in to the blogosphere a couple of weeks ago. I've never actually attempted my own cinnamon rolls mostly out of (again) laziness - who really has time to get up three hours early to make a real yeasted dough that needs to rise twice*? But since my mom actuallys works until 2 on Sundays I figured I had the time to whip up some rolls in time for an afternoon snack before dinner. My original intention was to make some traditional cinnamon rolls, but then these lemon rolls floated back into my memory. Lemons just seem to scream "Spring" and "Mom", don't they?? Nevermind the fact that winter just doesn't want to go AWAY and it was maybe 10 degrees at the warmest part of this weekend.

These rolls were verrrry good - soft, sticky and not too sweet. They would be a fantastic addition to any brunch spread, or as a treat to go with some afternoon tea. I actually used less lemon than the original recipe called for (they had used zest in the dough as well) and still found it quite lemon-y so I think it was a good call. And the texture of the dough was also perfect. I will definitely be using it again and experimenting with different filling options. YUM.

*Sure, I've done it for english muffins but those occasions also tend to stem from a different kind of laziness: I choose to stay at home and make my own versus the option of going (god forbid) outside to buy them on Sunday mornings.


Sticky Lemon Rolls with Lemon Cream Cheese Glaze
Adapted from theKitchn
Makes 12 large breakfast rolls...or 15 large-ish rolls

Lemon Roll Dough
2 1/2 teaspoons of active dry yeast
3/4 cup milk, warm but not hot on your wrist
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, very soft
1/4 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 eggs

Sticky Lemon Filling
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon freshly-ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
2 lemons, zested and juiced
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, very soft

Lemon Cream Cheese Glaze
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
Juice of 1 lemon
1 cup powdered sugar
1 lemon, zested

1. In a small measuring cup, sprinkle the yeast over the warmed milk and let it sit for a couple minutes.

2. Stir in the softened butter, sugar, vanilla, and one cup of the flour. Stir in the salt and nutmeg. Stir in the eggs and enough of the remaining flour to make a soft yet sticky dough. (I only ended up using about 3 1/2 cups of flour in total, with additional for dusting while kneading)

3. Turn the soft dough onto a lightly floured countertop and knead for about 5-7 minutes, or until the dough is elastic and pliable. Drizzle the top of the dough with vegetable oil, and turn the dough over so it is coated in oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a towel and let the dough rise until nearly doubled - about an hour.

4. In a small bowl, mix the sugar with the nutmeg and ginger, then work in the lemon zest with the tips of your fingers until the sugar resembles wet, soft sand. Stir in the juice of 1 lemon. The mixture should now be more of a sludge. Lightly grease a 13x9 inch baking dish.

5. On a floured surface pat the dough out into a large yet still thick rectangle — about 10x15 inches. Spread evenly with the softened butter, then pour and spread the lemon-sugar mixture over top. Roll the dough up tightly, starting from the top long end. Be warned...you'll have plenty of the lemon-sugar sludge leak out. At least I did (see picture). Cut the long dough roll into 12-15 even rolls, and place them, cut side up, in the prepared baking dish. I do think that 12 rolls would have fit in the pan better, but I clearly was not measuring out my rolls properly while I was cutting and it's pretty hard to go back on this one. Cover the rolls with a towel and let them rise for an hour or until puffy and nearly doubled. (You can also refrigerate the rolls at this point. Cover the pan tightly with plastic wrap, and place it in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. When you are ready to bake the rolls, remove the pan from the fridge, and let them rise for an hour.)

6. Heat the oven to 350 degrees Farenheit, 180 degrees Celsius. Place the risen rolls in the oven and bake for 35 minutes, until rolls are a golden brown.

7. While the rolls are baking, prepare the glaze. In a small food processor (or with a mixer, or a sturdy whisk), whip the cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add the lemon juice and zest and blend until well combined. Add the powdered sugar and blend until smooth and creamy. When the rolls are done, drizzle them with the cream cheese glaze. Serve while warm.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Chili


I think I need to start buying some real spices.

For the last couple of years I've been mostly living off the spice rack my mom got for me from Homesense when I first moved to Toronto. I know, I know the spices in those things are probably filled with sawdust or something but the frugal side of me could never justify just throwing out perfectly "good" spices. Not to mention the fact that I generally tend to mainly season with just salt and pepper anyway, buying fresh herbs when it really matters. So I've been getting by with the rack spices, buying a few odds and ends here and there not really noticing whether or not the spices actually add some beneficial flavour to my cooking.

The problem started when I started to experiment in adding some heat to my cooking. Growing up in South Korea I was the ultimate freak of nature; I didn't eat spicy foods. They kept saying I would grow out of it but that didn't happen throughout my entire childhood. No Kimchi for me. Recently as I grow older, my tastes have started to change. I can bear (and sometimes enjoy) some of the spices stews and dishes I shied away from as a kid. I still don't eat Kimchi and can't handle very spicy cooking, but I'm trying here and am beginning to realize that the chili powder I've been using probably IS [red] sawdust and adding no real flavour to my meals. Like this Chili recipe below...don't get me wrong. It was delicious and full of rich, meaty goodness and perfect with some homemade biscuits but I can't help feeling that it would have been even better with a Better Chili Powder. I added some red pepper flakes which seemed to help, but after discovering this I will definitely be looking to see what quality dried spices can do for my cooking.

Anyway...ramble over. About the Chili...it was delicious and adapted from a combination of different chili recipes, like this one, and this one too. I've made it before with just a pound of beef but more veggies and it's also a great option if you're looking for a slightly lighter meal.

Chili

2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 orange bell pepper, diced (you can use red or yellow as well, I was just going for some colour variety!)
10 ounces (about 1 cup) frozen corn
8 ounces (1 cup) beer (I used Moosehead)
2 pounds lean ground beef
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 bay leaf
1 15-ounce can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 15-ounce can romano beans, drained and rinsed
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp red pepper flakes

Garnishes (optional)
Sour cream
Green onion
Grated cheddar cheese

1. Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook for a few minutes until they begin to soften. Add bell pepper and continue to cook until onions are translucent. Add the beef and cook, stirring to break up the lumps until browned, about 7-10 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another minute.

2. Add the chili powder, cumin, red pepper flakes. Stir until blended. Add the beer and bay leaf and cook until the beer has reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add the corn, beans, tomatoes and salt and pepper to taste. Reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 1 hour. Serve with garnishes as desired, and some nice fresh buns, biscuits or cornbread.


Buttermilk Cheddar Biscuits
adapted from smitten kitchen

3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp sugar
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup (1 1/2sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1/2 cup grated sharp white cheddar
1 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Farenheit, 220 degrees Celsius.

1. Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda in large bowl to blend. Using fingertips, rub 3/4 cup chilled butter into dry ingredients until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in grated cheddar. Add buttermilk and stir until evenly moistened.

2. Roll out dough onto a floured counter and cut into rounds with a biscuit cutter or drinking glass (about 3 inches). Bake until biscuits are golden brown on top, about 15 minutes. Cool slightly. Serve warm.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Lazy Sunday


One thing that I really look forward to on weekends (aside from the obvious: sleeping in, not having to go to work) is breakfast. After a week of surviving on fast standbys like oatmeal, cereal and toast, I can't wait for a good old weekend breakfast - bacon and eggs, french toast, pancakes...pretty much anything that takes longer than 3 minutes to prepare.

The problem is that often these delicious meals take some time and effort. And some days, I'm not really looking to slave away in the kitchen for my first meal of the day when my stomach has already been growling for half an hour (generally the reason I'm even out of bed). But that doesn't mean cereal is on the menu again. Some days you try out a little gem of a recipe that is easy, painless and fast! The pancake was ready in about 30 minutes which is a huge improvement compared to spending an hour flipping batches of individual pancakes. And did I mention really tasty? Not too sweet, (I might actually add a bit more sugar next time, but I don't like a lot of syrup on my pancakes) nice and crispy-browned on top without being dry and some deliciously caramelized flavour from the apples.

The best part was that I had all the ingredients in the kitchen AND I got to use up that stray apple in the fridge that had been getting dangerously close to mealy. Sweet deal.

Oven Pancake with Apples
adapted from deliciousdays; the book

Serves two

125 ml milk (1/2 cup)
150 g flour (just over 1/2 cup)
Pinch of salt
1 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
2 large eggs
1 small apple
Large pat of butter
Splash of vanilla

1. Preheat the oven to 390 degrees Farenheit, 200 degrees Celsius. For the pancake batter, mix milk, flour, salt, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla and eggs with a whisk until smooth. The batter shouldn't have any lumps in it, but also be sure not to beat it any longer than absolutely necessary.

2. Peel and core apple; cut into wedges and little slices.

3. Melt butter over low-medium heat in a 10-inch cast iron or oven-proof skillet and add apples. Saute for a minute and stir so that the apples are all covered in butter. Remove from heat and pour batter into the pan. Bake in oven until golden brown and puffy, about 20 minutes. Try really hard not to peek during this time or the pancake will deflate! Though either way, it will collapse quickly like a souffle. Serve immediately with some butter, powdered sugar or syrup.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Yum. Just Yum.


I've been meaning to write about these since I made them for a Christmas party back in December. But then there was that slew of Christmas baking and I felt it was more seasonally appropriate to post the toffee and cookie recipes first. And then I just got really lazy, and was somewhat unmotivated by the lack of pictures (this picture above is the ONLY semi-decent one I have, and was taken AT the party before anyone was allowed to try one). But anyway, late is better than never and these were wayy to good to leave undocumented.

It's funny - the first thought I had when I tried one was "Hey, they taste like pretzels!". Well, duh. I don't know why I was so surprised, but either way, these pretzel bites have that wonderful chewy, salty goodness of a delicious soft pretzel and are SO good when paired with a melty cheese dip. The recipe does take a bit of work but it's so worth it. They were a huge hit at the party and disappeared in record time. I'm itching to make some more in mini pretzel form...just need an excuse so that I don't eat the entire batch myself in one sitting! Maybe for Superbowl Sunday?


Soft Pretzel Bites
Adapted from SmittenKitchen and theKitchn

2 cups warm water (100-110 degrees Farenheit)
1 tbsp + 2 tbsp sugar
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
5 to 6 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp salt
2 tsp canola oil
1/4 cup baking soda
1 large egg
Coarse or pretzel salt

1. Pour warm water and 1 tbsp sugar into a bowl, and stir to combine. Sprinkle with yeast and let sit for 10 minutes until foamy.

2. Add 1 cup flour to yeast, and stir with a wooden spoon or using an electric mixer until combined. Add salt and 4 cups more flour, and mix until combined. You're supposed to continue mixing until the dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl, but at this point I just started using my hands. Start kneading and add the last cup as necessary until the dough is smooth. I actually found that I didn't need the last cup of flour at all.

3. Pour oil into a large bowl; swirl to coat sides. Transfer dough to bowl, turning dough to completely cover all sides. Cover with a kitchen towel, and leave in a warm spot for 1 hour, or until dough has doubled in size.

4. Heat oven to 450 degrees Farenheit, 230 degrees Celsius. Set a large pan with about 2 inches of water (I used a large wok) on the pan to boil. Hopefully by the time you're finished shaping the pretzel bites it will be boiling.

5. Lightly spray a few baking sheets with cooking spray (or use parchment paper, new love of my life! I had some issues with the bites sticking to the pan so I would probably go with the parchment next time). Heavily flour a work surface and dump dough out of bowl. Flour hands and shape into a large rectangle roughly 3/4 of an inch in thickness. Using a bench scraper, knife or pizza cutter, cut off 1 long strip, 1 inch wide and set aside. Cover remaining dough with a damp towel. Cut dough strip into 1 inch pieces and set aside, covering them with a damp towel.

6. Repeat the process until all dough has been cut into pieces and has been placed under a towel.

7. Once water is boiling, add baking soda and 2 tbsp sugar to it (careful, it will foam up!). Once the foam goes down, reduce heat to a simmer (there should be a few bubbles rising to the surface but not a rolling boil). Add enough bagel bites to fill about half the pan; they will swell up and you don't want them to crowd as it will be difficult to flip them if this happens. Simmer for 60-90 seconds on each side. I had some issues trying to figure out how long exactly to simmer these for as theKitchn makes a comment about making sure not to undercook these, just make sure the bites look like they have plumped up a bit before removing.

8. Once each side has cooked, remove from pan and place on cookie sheet and make sure the pieces do not touch, but fit as many as you can onto the pan at once (I think I ended up with three pans full of pretzel bites)

9. Beat egg with 1 tbsp water. Brush pretzels with the egg glaze. Sprinkle with salt. Bake until golden brown, about 12-15 minutes, rotating the tray once halfway through. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack for cooling. They are best eaten fresh, or the day of but they'll keep at room temperature for another day or so uncovered (I just kept a paper bowl over the bowl of leftovers). You can also freeze some as soon as they're cool and reheat until warm in an oven later.


Beer-Cheddar dip
This is more of a guideline than a real recipe - really I just kept throwing in more beer and cheese until I thought it tasted right.

1 part beer (any light pale ale or lager will do)
1 part cream cheese
1 part grated sharp cheddar

1. Heat cream cheese in a small saucepan until it is melty. Add beer and mix until combined. Slowly add grated cheddar while whisking the sauce to ensure there are no lumps. Add more beer/cream cheese/cheddar to taste.