Saturday, May 29, 2010

Asian Marinated Chicken

Aside from a rudimentary stir-fry, I haven’t ventured far into the realm of Asian cooking. While not unfamiliar, the spices and flavours of Asian cooking are not quite so second nature for me when I hope for inspiration and spontaneous combinations. Maybe that is why it is equally fascinating… and daunting.

I have a cupboard full of Asian flavours that I have been collecting for a few years now and using sparingly, as I dabble but not jump into Asian culinary creativity. Sesame oil, fish sauce, rice vinegar, hoisin sauce, tamari… and, as of recently, Chinese five spice. The arrival of the five spice on the scene was, apparently, enough to make me jump…

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Dulce de Leche Buns

I have never experimented with bread recipes… I figured someone else configured those recipes because that is what works. And while that is true, it doesn’t mean that other combinations won’t work (or, hell, that these combinations haven’t been tried too). I wanted a slightly richer bread and I figured that using milk versus water would help… a bit of butter… and a bit of hope that it would all come together.

This dough rose perfectly. I was absolutely giddy when I peeked under the towel and saw a lovely puffy blob rising in the bowl. Forget waiting until after work to make these buns, I was going to be triumphantly carrying these into the office that same morning. Yep, I was beaming.

Dulce de Leche

I like simple things… and this is precisely that. For those who are unfamiliar, dulce de leche is a Latin American “milk caramel,” though there are other versions and other origins as well.

Bottom line is that this is simple and I like it. All you need is a can of sweetened condensed milk. While I was not so brave as to boil it unopened, it seems that I yielded the same ideal result from a slightly vented can.

Get ready to take notes! (Ummm… not at all, actually.) Take the label off of the can and open it just a crack. Put the can in a pot and fill with water, to about 1 inch from the top of the can. (It looked like the can was going to rust my pot, so I put the can on a bed of parchment paper.. you could probably also use a silicone can topper or an enameled pot. Just a thought.) Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and allow the water to simmer around the can for 2-4 hours (for a softer or harder caramel). I went with the middle ground of 3 hours.

You will need to top up the water throughout the process. And let the can cool (I just left it in the water until the next morning) before trying to handle it. Open the can and scoop out your beautiful caramel coloured confection. Give it a quick stir to remove any lumps but that is absolutely it. Presto: dulce de leche!

Now, what do you do with it?! I used it as a macaron filling and made dulce de leche buns (think cinnamon buns but with dulce de leche instead). You could make tarts. Or just use it as a sweety treaty spread on a piece of bread. Yum yum yum.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Baked Eggs

Last year, I went to Paris. I went to Paris to celebrate my good good friend’s 30th birthday. We walked and museumed and ate. So many of the highlights seemed to involve food, as seems to be the case with many trips. We had chocolat chaud and palmiers from Angelina (which means I brought back a bag of their chocolat chaud), we ate breads and fruits from the Marche (where I bought herbes de provence and chestnut paste). We ate pretty little cupcakes from Berko and many of my favourite crepes with calvados and apple compote. It was a dream.

In, what Parisians would probably liken to a cheap department store, I bought a pretty little ceramic tray for eggs and a cookbook, Petites Coquettes. My French lapsed after high school and seemed to have been overwritten by my Italian studies in University but I figured that food, as the universal language, would help guide me through this cookbook. The photos, the care and the simplicity of this bit of French food did… with a few toast “fingers,” baked eggs is one of my favourite morning rituals.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Works in Progress...

I have been toiling away in the kitchen. Rest assured. But, I've been enjoying a few of the simple things of late... and they don't really warrant recipes.

For interest's sake, I love a croissant. This last week, there were several toasted croissants with fresh ricotta and wildflower honey. And a nice espresso. Sometimes the simplest things are the most enjoyable. There have also been stacked sandwiches... full of real Italian mortadella, cucumbers, tomatoes and grainy dijon mustard. I'm also completely addicted to salads with toasted pecans, goats' cheese and either dried cranberries or plump blackberries.

I have also been working on a couple of recipes but I'm not quite ready to share them... here are the early stages of an awesome pizza...

 ...and a panko breaded buffalo chicken.

A few more tweaks and they will be yours!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Chocolate Macarons

I don’t know where the macaron craze came from but it seems like every blog that I stumble across has either recently or previously posted about these delightful little treats. I’ve always found macarons to be a stunning creation but, as with most fussy and complicated recipes, I was intimidated.

My strategy whenever I am faced with the unknown is to attack it with knowledge. I “hit the books”… or at least, the net. I read numerous blogs for tips, tricks and anecdotes (including one, MacTweets, dedicated to all things Mac). I read articles in food magazines. I watched youtube tutorials.

While I was certainly better equipped to deal with the macaron attempt, I was still quite nervous. However, there was little else that I could do but try… so try, I did.

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Monday, May 17, 2010

Easy Peasy Turnovers

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Our plan was to make one of our old favourites, front stoop mussels, while drinking copious amounts of wine and eating nearly (if not completely) a loaf of bread while sopping up every last drop of the Cambozola infused wine sauce. It would have been awesome. Unfortunately, for Dean and I, the timing didn’t work out so well and front stoop mussels will have to have their shining moment another day.

So, instead of mussels, we opted for a simple and quick turnover. Something just slightly sweet but not too heavy. After all, Dean only comes to Edmonton once a year and needed his moment on the blog. :)

We’re not martyrs and did not make our own puff pastry, which I don’t feel is the end of the world. One day, I may attempt to make it… but at 9:00pm on a Friday night, it was not the time to try.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Asparagus Risotto

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Risotto is one of those things that is wonderfully malleable. You can take the basic risotto and add to it whatever ingredients you are seasonal… or are just plain being craved by you at that moment. Master the basic cooking process and you have a great launching pad for an impressive and satisfying meal.

Right now, asparagus is fresh, in season and available locally. You can’t beat asparagus in May. It’s not woody or tough but rather tender and bright. I will even eat it raw, sliced up into a salad. As such, this risotto is a homage to asparagus.

Sunday, May 9, 2010


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In this past week, I was faced with a tremendously important task. It was time for the preparation of a gift offered many many months ago. My dear friend Heather was married this weekend. For my gift to Heather and Marlon, I was going to make the “cake” for the wedding. Heather has always loved my baking and this just seemed like a natural extension of that… and such an exciting way to play a role in this special moment in her and Marlon’s new life together.

After much debate, we determined that cupcakes would be made and in the following flavours:
- Devil’s Food with Rich Chocolate Frosting
- Red Velvet with Buttercream Frosting
- Buttermilk with Maple Vanilla Frosting

The recipes for the Devil’s Food and Buttermilk cakes, as well as the chocolate frosting, came from Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes book. (I just saw it at Costco today for $16… well worth purchasing.) The Red Velvet cake was written about previously when I did the first test run. The Maple Vanilla was a seven minute frosting to which I added maple and vanilla extracts. The buttercream is a recipe that I have been tweaking and enjoying for a few years now…

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Salted Caramel Fudgy Brownies

Photo 002smUmmmm…. speechless. Dubbed #sexonaplate… #foodporn… just plain good. My ever-obliging taste testers at the office swooned over these. “I would get fat for these.” “They’re rich… but not. I love the salt.” “…..mmmmm…..” Yeah.

Honestly, these started as an “I would like something sweet but not too sweet.” I love those salty-sweet combinations. It’s the best middle ground between the sweet and savoury war, which I wage internally on most every day. Yes, there are two distinct processes involved with this dessert but I promise that it is worth the effort. I made one 10”x10” tray of thin but still rich and gooey. I think that three times that many could have been eaten. The only things grateful, when the bottom of the container was reached and only a few crumbs remained, were our waistlines.

“I will make some man fat and happy one day.” Heads nod.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Foodie Crush: Last Night's Dinner

I have a crush... on Jennifer Hess and her blog, Last Night's Dinner. I only found her a few days ago after a twitter recommendation from @TOfoodie. Once again, I will praise twitter for adding another link to my #foodporn favourites.

Case and point would be her blog post today:
"I am a home cook. I’m not a writer or a culinary professional, I’m just a girl who works long days, comes home exhausted, and looks forward to sharing a meal with her husband. And whether he’s cooking dinner, or I am, or it’s a joint effort, by and large I want what we eat at home to be good, honest, real food, even if it’s just a simple bowl of pasta and vegetables."

It just seems so honest and wonderfully simple... as though what she is doing is the most obvious thing in the world. And it is just that - obvious.

Lots of photos... less on the recipes. While my own little bubble here is recipe after recipe, I truly appreciate (and subscribe equally) to her philosophy that there really isn't a "right" or "wrong" way to cook.

Anyway, add Last Night's Dinner to your own #foodporn list... or twitter @lastnightsdinnr

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Blue Carbonara

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If it isn’t obvious enough, some of my ingredients repeat themselves over several recipes for the simple reason of trying not to waste. This whole cooking enterprise could be infinitely more expensive if I were to be buying blue cheese or special cuts of meat or buttermilk or whatever else for each recipe individually. Instead, and more realistically, I made Blue Burgers, then crumbled blue cheese on a few salads, then decided to see if blue cheese could work in a carbonara in an attempt to use that last little bit. I hope that is ever so slightly reassuring… so that when you look at a recipe and want to try something out, you have another two or three recipe options to use up those ingredients. Waste not and all that jazz…

Ok. Back to the recipe at hand. Spaghetti carbonara. As long as you don’t have egg issues, you likely have had and enjoy this dish. I always found it to be a wonderful dose of #foodporn, in its slippery-salty-sweet decadentness (not a word, I know… but I like it anyway). In Feast, Nigella Lawson only reinforced it to me as food porn when she described it as being “so right for that chin-dripping, love soaked primal feast, the first time someone actually stays through the night.” You’re speechless too, aren’t you?

Monday, May 3, 2010

Greg’s Fresh Pasta

Photo 005smI can’t stop rubbing my hands. I can’t stop smelling my hands. They are silky soft from the olive oil and perfumed by tomato (and not in a de-skunking way… rather a sweet, fresh, lovely scent).

I love it when cooking makes you get your hands dirty. That a pasta fork is not sufficient to mush and meld and marry your ingredients. You have to unapologetically dig in, enjoying every squishy and slippery moment. It’s time for you to truly connect to your food.

This recipe came from my good friend Greg, who now gets his moment in the wannafoodie (lime)light. Technically, he’s jumping the queue of other recipes waiting for their moment but this was a great addition and I didn’t want to wait to share it. In reading his recipe, I see his food philosophies mirror my own in many ways… very little measuring, lots of feeling rather than thinking and ridiculously amusing analogies to his actions.

Since there is no cooking, aside from boiling that water, the resulting dish depends so much more on good ingredients. So, get the good stuff – ripe tomatoes, beautiful olive oil and a wedge of parmesan… or your attempt at this will only pale in comparison to how wonderful it COULD have been.
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