Sunday, May 30, 2010

Try this!

If you're sick of the plain old roasted or steamed asparagus, I have the answer for you... Asparagus wrapped in pancetta with citronette. Mario Batali is a genius.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Tortilla Soup

I wanted to recreate a tortilla soup we had while on vacation in Palm Desert, and when I came home I just happened to stumble across a recipe. I was browsing the Cooking Light boards, as I sometimes do, and out popped an old thread about this T&T tortilla soup recipe. So many people raved about it, and it looked so easy to make; I had to try it! It was very simple to prepare and we thoroughly enjoyed it.
Find the recipe here. We topped ours with crispy tortilla strips, avocado, cilantro and monterey jack cheese.
To make the crispy tortilla strips, heat a pot with canola oil to 375 degrees. Slice soft corn tortillas into thin strips, toss em in the oil, and fry for about 1 minute. Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with salt.

Sunday, May 23, 2010


I spent the past week in Palm Springs; basking in the 100 degree heat and indulging in all foods terribly unhealthy (yet oh so yummy). It was a nice vacation, but it's good to be back home and I'm excited to get back in the kitchen!
A delicious tortilla soup recipe to come...

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Pancakes (inspired by Grammy!)

When I was growing up, once in a while us kids would go out to Grandma and Grandpa's for a sleepover. One of the highlights was always pancakes with blackberry sauce for breakfast. Grandma would get me a little stool to stand on, and I would get to help make them. She had (and still has) a huge blackberry bush in her backyard and she's always stocked with either fresh or frozen berries. I've come to appreciate the blackberry sauce more as I've grown up; when I was little I used to pour a pile of sugar on my plate and stick my pancakes pieces in that!
Although I normally use King Arthur's recipe for pancakes (it is yummy), this morning I wanted something with a bit healthier, so I tried out Cooking Light's Whole Wheat Buttermilk Pancakes. I didn't have buttermilk on hand (normally don't), but I did have yogurt (always do), so I used half milk, half yogurt with a squeeze of lemon juice added, and it worked perfectly fine. I kept them in a warm oven while I made the blackberry sauce...
Combine 2 cups blackberries (mine were frozen from grandma!), a tablespoon of lime juice and 3-4 tablespoons granulated sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook until the berries release their juices and start to break apart a bit, you can help them along by crushing them a bit with your spoon or spatula. Add 1 teaspoon cornstarch dissolved in 1 tablespoon of water and cook until it starts to bubble and thicken.
* My grandpa always used to rip his pancakes up with his hands instead of cutting them up with a knife and fork (he did it with buns for sloppy joes too)! My mom did it in honor of him this morning!

Asian Barbecue Chicken

Asian Barbecue Chicken (adapted from Cooking Light)
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 tsp chili flakes
3/4 tsp curry powder
6 cloves garlic, minced or grated
16 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
sliced scallions for garnish
Combine marinade ingredients (soy sauce through garlic) and pour over chicken in a Ziploc bag. Refrigerate for about 4-6 hours. Prepare grill, and grill chicken thighs for about 15-20 minutes, until cooked through. Sprinkle with sliced scallions.
I served it with coconut rice, cucumber salad and peanut sauce. So good...
I never really measure the ingredients for the cucumber salad, but... toss together sliced cucumbers, shallots and thai bird chilis. For the vinegar dressing, make a sugar syrup with about 2 - 2 1/2 parts sugar to 1 part water. Let it cool, and then add white vinegar until it's tangy-sweet. Not precise I know, but I just keep tasting and pouring until it's right. Add the veggies and let it sit for a few minutes before serving.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Vancouver Baker's Market

I've been thinking about visiting this baker's market for a while now. I stumbled upon their website quite some time ago, and have been hearing more and more about it. It seemed like a really cute idea, kind of a flea market/craft sale type setup, but purely baked goods. It's kind of off the beaten path and I wasn't sure what to expect, but it was the last weekend until a summer hiatus, so I figured I better go and check it out.

I perused the tables quickly, and was offered countless samples of tasty treats. A lot of them were good, but something I could easily make at home (banana bread, plain chocolate chip cookies etc.) When we were about to leave, we came to the table of Yummy Baked Goods. Their giant s'more sandwich cookie caught my eye, and upon further investigation, there was a vast array of sinfully tempting sweets. I sampled a ridiculously caramely blondie-type bar that was so decadent and gooey (their caramel is homemade to boot!). I had to get one of those. Then a cookies n cream sandwich cookie caught me eye. One of those too, please.
Paper bag in hand, I headed back to the car with the best of intentions of waiting until I got home. Couldn't do it. Took a giant bite of each...and oh my goodness. This place rules.

I did manage to take the rest home, and 5/5 tasters raved about each of them! Yummy Baked Goods are indeed, very yummy.
On another note, I fell in love with these parisian-style macarons a couple of years ago in San Francisco. I bought a couple on a whim at Miette Patisserie in the ferry building marketplace and was delighted with their light crunch, and chewy centre. A couple days later, I was at Bouchon Bakery in Napa Valley and picked up a few of theirs. I've been looking for them since then in Vancouver and haven't really seen them anywhere. Last week my mom surprised me with a couple from Sweet Thea at the bakers market. Wonderful! So of course, I had to pick up a little box of these too. Aren't they beautiful? I only tasted one so far, mango I believe, and it was delightful!
If you can't wait until the next Vancouver Baker's Market, you can check out Yummy Baked Goods and Sweet Thea online! Trust me, you'll want to.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

No Knead Pizza

No Knead Pizza Dough (Adapted from Jim Lahey's My Bread)
3 3/4 cups bread flour
2 1/2 tsp instant yeast
3/4 tsp sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups room temp water
about 2 tbsp olive oil for greasing pans
Combine flour through water in a large bowl, and mix with your hands until blended, about 30-60 seconds (the dough will still be quite shaggy, but everything should be thoroughly incorporated). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside at room temperature for about 2 hours, or until the dough is more than double in volume.
Put about a tablespoon of olive oil on each of 2 half sheet pans. Scrape half of the dough onto one, and the other half onto the other pan. Gently stretch the dough out to the edges with your hands (oiling your fingers makes it easier). Top as you like! Makes 2 crusts.

I adapted his recipes for pizza cavolfiore (cauliflower) and pizza zucchine (zucchini).
For the zucchini pizza, grate 3 zucchini on the large holes of a box grater. Place in a bowl and salt with 1 1/2 tsp table salt. Mix and let sit for 15 minutes. After it sits, squeeze liquid out of zucchini with a clean kitchen towel or cheesecloth. Mix dry zucchini with 1 1/2 cups grated gruyere cheese, and black pepper to taste. Spread over crust and sprinkle with 1/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs. Bake at 500 for about 20-25 minutes.

These recipes were absolutely delicious. My Bread is a wonderful book; everything I've tried has been amazing - something I wouldn't expect to come out of a home kitchen. This will be my goto pizza crust recipe from now on. It's wonderfully crisp and not tough at all! Try it!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Happy Birthday Nathan!

Today was my oldest brother's 29th birthday! My sister in law is really busy with work, so I helped her out by filling up a picnic basket that they could share together for dinner. (I bought a really cute picnic basket last year and was just waiting for a reason to put it to use!) I made up a couple of sandwiches, some of his favourite salads and filled it up to go!
Nathan's sandwich with onion marmalade, roasted chicken, bacon, avocado and cucumbers.
Wrapped up and ready to go! Hers was veggie and had grilled zucchini, eggplant, portobellos, onion marmalade, mozzarella and pesto mayo.
Dessert was a strawberry cheesecake based on this recipe. I've used it many times; I always use light cream cheese and it always turns out great. I made a glaze for the strawberries using a couple of the berries, water, sugar, vanilla bean, a touch of lemon and then thickened it with cornstarch. Yum!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Chicken & Pineapple with Black Bean Sauce

I saw a recipe for this on the Cooking Light message boards and I just happen to have a fresh pineapple waiting to be used. Their recipe called for prepared black bean sauce, but I didn't have any so I used a recipe to make it from scratch; it was quite easy!
1 3/4 c fresh pineapple, cubed
1 large bell pepper
1/2 large onion
2 chicken breast halves, sliced
2 tbsp fermented black beans, rinsed
1 tsp minced ginger
2 tsp minced garlic
1 tbsp dry sherry
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 - 3/4 c chicken broth (depending on how saucey you want it)
chili garlic sauce or chili flakes to taste
2 tsp cornstarch dissolved in 1 tbsp water
2-3 sliced green onions
1/4 c cilantro leaves
Heat a frying pan over medium high heat, and add about 1 tbsp oil. Fry chicken until almost cooked through. Remove chicken from pan and set aside. Pound rinsed black beans in a mortar and pestle with garlic and ginger. In a small dish combine sherry through broth.
Add onions, peppers and pineapple to the same pan you used for the chicken. Fry for about a minute, and then push to the one side of the pan. Add a bit of oil to the empty side of the pan and fry the black bean mixture for about 30 seconds.
Stir everything together, and add the liquid ingredients. Add the cornstarch mixture and return the chicken to the pan; stir to coat. Cook for a couple minutes more until chicken is fully cooked and sauce is thickened. Add chili, green onions and cilantro and serve over rice.

Cranberry Orange Scones

My family is full of tea-drinkers. Typically, all of us have a nice "cuppa" sometime after dinner. It's always nice to have a little something to go with it, and even better if it's homemade. I made these cranberry scones today, based on a King Arthur recipe. The crunchy sugar on top is the best part!
Cranberry Orange Scones
2 c all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 c granulated sugar
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
about 1 cup cranberries (I used frozen)
2 large eggs, beaten
1/4 c plain yogurt (I needed a little extra)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
Zest of an orange (about 1 tbsp)
Coarse sugar, for sprinkling on top
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Combine dry ingredients in a bowl and add cold butter. Work the butter in with your fingers or a pastry blender until it is unevenly crumbly. Mix in the cranberries.
Stir together the wet ingredients separately and add to the dry mixture. Stir until just combined. The dough should be quite moist, like cookie dough (mine was stiff, I think because of the frozen fruit).
Use a muffin scoop, or 1/4 cup measure to scoop the dough onto the prepared tray. Brush each ball with a bit of milk or cream and sprinkle with coarse sugar.
Bake the scones for 20-24 minutes, or until light golden brown and a tester comes out clean.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Lidia's Lombardy Dinner

A couple weeks ago I watched an episode of Lidia's Italy where she made dishes from the Lombardy region of Italy. She prepared her recipes for Everyday Roasted Duck, Rice & Lentils and Almond Cake Alla Mantovana for dessert. I'd been craving this meal ever since that episode aired, so I picked up her book at the library and set out to make it last night!

The duck is rinsed, patted dry and placed in a roasting pan. Then it's stuffed with rosemary sprigs, and a mixture of 1/2 c. lemon juice, 1 c white wine and 1/4 c olive oil (i used less) is poured on top. Roast at 400 and baste with juices every so often.
The rice and lentils are prepared with a mixture of pancetta, onion, carrot, celery, and sage sauteed for a few minutes in a pot. Tomato paste is added, followed by white wine and broth, and it simmers to allow the flavours to develop. The lentils are then added, followed by the rice 15 minutes later. The dish cooks for another 15-ish minutes and is finished with parmesan and sliced scallions.
Lidia's almond cake is made with toasted ground almonds, lemon zest and almond extract. She butters the pan and then coats it with breadcrumbs which I haven't seen before. It gave the outside a nice, crunchy crust that was very nice! I served it with berries and slightly sweetened whipped cream with vanilla bean. (On a side note, I baked my cake in a 10 inch springform pan instead of the 9 inch she called for. I should've realized it would take less time since the cake was thinner! Anyway, mine was a tad dry, but next time I'll pay attention!)

These recipes can be found in Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy: a feast of 175 regional recipes. After I return this copy to the library, I think I might have to pick up my own! (This is my new strategy for taming my out of control cookbook collection. I'm not allowed to buy one until I first check it out from the library to see if it's worth buying!)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Larb Gai

There's a special place in my heart for Thai cuisine. As a child, my family and I visited Thailand every January. My grandpa started a tour company (long before I was born), and had fallen in love with Southeast Asia during his extensive travels. By the time I showed up, I got to tag along on their annual "Amazing Thailand" trips. Although I'm only 23 years old, I've been to Thailand somewhere between 10-15 times! I have to say, I really miss it!
It did take me a while to appreciate the food though. Truth be told, when I was a kid I was more likely to order chicken fingers and fries in the hotel lobby than anything authentic. I love it now more than ever, now that my frequent visits are behind me!
Anyway, this is something my dad enjoyed in the coffee shop of the Montien Pattaya years ago. A nice light, refreshing salad of ground chicken, lemongrass, lime, mint etc. The interesting ingredient it has is raw jasmine rice that has been toasted and pounded to an almost-powder. The rice adds little flecks of crunchiness that really add to the dish.

Larb Gai
575 g ground chicken meat
6 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp fish sauce
Cook these ingredients together in a fry pan over high heat, until the chicken is cooked, and the pan dries up (moisture evaporates). Remove from heat and add...
4 thinly sliced lemongrass stalks (white part only)
4-5 thinly sliced shallots
10 thinly sliced kaffir lime leaves
6-8 thinly sliced scallions
Thai bird's eye chilis (depending on your taste - I use 3-4)
2 tablespoons jasmine rice (toasted in a dry pan over med heat until golden, and then pounded in a mortar and pestle until it's almost a powder)
Mix everything together and serve over lettuce leaves. Garnish with mint.