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Sunday, October 14, 2007

Cold nights = comfort food - Quebec style

Sigh, it is already mid-October and I have found that it is time to start wearing season appropriate footwear. I tried to stay away from the warm comfort foods in my bid to keep the cold weather at bay but it was inevitable, I live in Canada. I gave up when I put on socks today.

In response to the cold day, I didn't want to get out of bed this morning. It was warm and billowy. But there was a whole day ahead, I could stay in bed or I could have something to show for it. And so I decided to choose the latter and make a turkey tourtiere. (Tourtiere is a classic French Canadian meat pie filled with peppery ground pork surrounded by a buttery tender crust.) French Canadians know a thing or two about the soul-sustaining foods that will keep you going through the LONG Canadian winters. And while mid-October isn't exactly the dead of winter, it felt cold and gloomy outside. We needed to have something to lift our spirits today. Besides, it's Sunday, so why not spend a little time in the kitchen to create something that is so comforting, indulging, buttery and utterly delicious. And, if you pair it with a tomato salad, it doesn't feel like you have given in entirely to the autumn night and to winter's looming approach.

Turkey Tourtiere (adapted from Gourmet Magazine Cookbook)
1 lb ground turkey
1 tbsp of olive oil
1 small onion finely diced
3 garlic cloves finely diced
1/2 tsp of allspice
1 tsp of salt
1/2c of chicken broth
1/2 tsp of pepper
2 tbsp flour (add extra if there is alot of liquid)

2 pie crusts (this is a double crusted pie)
1 tsp of milk

1. Warm 1 tbsp of olive oil in pan, add ground turkey, onion and garlic and saute until the onions are soft and the meat is no longer pink. The meat should be crumbly with no large lumps. Add the chicken broth, salt, allspice and pepper. Once it comes up to a simmer, sprinkle the flour over top and incorporate into the meat mixture. It should thicken immediately, turn down the heat and but it should still stay on the heat to ensure that the flour is cooked.

2. Cool the meat to room temperature.

3. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Tumble meat mixture into the prepared pie crust and ensure that the meat is smoothed out so that the filling is about uniform. Do not pat down the meat.
4. Carefully place the second crust above the first shell and crimp the edges with a fork. Slash the top of the crust to allow steam to escape. Brush the milk onto the top of the crust. Place on larger baking tray.
5. Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes until crust is golden brown. Let it rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

Makes one pie.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Summer in a Jar - Easy Peach Cake

I recently discovered canning or "putting up." My first foray into canning was went the peaches were sweet and fragrant. The purpose of canning seems romantic to me: taking what is the best of summer's fruits and vegetables and putting them into gleaming shiny jars to hold onto summer for just a bit longer. And when the days grow shorter, and the temperature is cooler, opening up a jar of preserves transports you back to the heady days of summer. That's why I wanted to can. Summer in a jar.

The kitchen was a mess but it was lot of fun. Ryan, my future husband, insisted that all this hot water and bubbling mess was dangerous and ordered me out of the kitchen while we processed the jams. In total, we made four half liter jars of peach lavender jam. It was sublime, sugary, and heavenly. In order to test the jam for doneness, we put the jam onto a cold saucer. If it the jam doesn't roll around the saucer, it will set and its ready. But we got carried away... We really liked the jam and kept putting spoonfuls onto the plate.

In the end, I should have read the recipe more clearly... the recipe called the jam "spoonable" which means it won't set. But we ended up using it over ice cream. It makes an excellent topping. Today, I found another use for this gorgeous summery jam... on top of a easy summer cake.

I was inspired by Martha Stewart's recipe found in the September 2007 issue. Ashamed, I didn't have any fresh fruit on hand but had alot of this gorgeous luscious jam. We had a dinner party to attend and I thought a simple summery dessert would be an appropriate offering to the host.

I am the worst baker but oh so well-intentioned. I have a tendency to overmix and the result is usually a baked hockey puck. However, this cake turned out beautifully. It was dead easy.

Inspired by Martha Stewart - Easy Peach Cake
1 1/2 c all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4c sugar
1/2c whole milk
1/2c vegetable oil
1 large egg
5 tbsp peach lavender jam (or whatever peach jam you have)
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp cold butter

(In case you're curious Martha lays down halved plums cut side up)

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter 2 9 inch round cake pans.
2. Whisk together flour, bp, and salt. In a separate bowl, mix together 3/4c sugar, milk, oil and egg. Fold into flour mixture
3. Divide batter evenly between prepared pans, and smooth tops. Dot the batter with spoonfuls of jam.
4. Sprinkle cinnamon over top. Dot with butter. Bake until tops are golden, about 30 minutes. Cool and enjoy.

This cake wasn't meant to be saved, make it the day you plan to eat it.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Summer Lovin'

It's September now, but summer days are still here in spirit. It's been colder outside these days and I am not quite ready to accept the autumn. Looking back at this summer, I think my best culinary discovery was not a new thing, but rather a rekindling of my love for tomatoes. I had grown so accustomed to the hard, grainy, tasteless tomatoes found in the grocery store, that I had given up on them. However, I remember the day at the Farmer's Market when I saw the curiously beautiful "black cherry tomato," and I couldn't resist. I popped one straight into my mouth and I was transported to my youth when tomatoes grew in my mom's backyard, and we would sneak out into the backyard to eat my mom's crop during the Brady Bunch. The cherry tomatoes were so juicy and fresh, we would gobble them up and when my mom would go out into the backyard, she would find her vegetable garden raided by her children.

A colleague of mine, who happens to be Italian, told me that Italians only eat tomatoes when they are ripe and that's why there is such a profound tradition of canning tomatoes to enjoy throughout the year when the snow is on the ground and the sun is now where to be seen. Perhaps next year, that will be on my to-do list!

This summer, I fell in love again and we feasted on the meaty beefsteaks, gorged on the workhorse romas and snacked on the sexy cousins, the marble-sized orbs, cherry tomatoes.

Several weeks ago, I was in Montreal and found myself in heaven at the Jean Talon Market. Bushels upon bushels of roma tomatoes, hand-tied chilis dangling from tarpulin roofs, and large buckets filled with fragrant bunches of basil. Of course, it was absolutely frustrating trying to walk through the aisles and not buy anything to take home! Oh and the heirlooms! I almost cried when Ryan told me they wouldn't be able to make the train ride home two days later. Sigh.

However, all that pent-up demand drove me straight into the arms of the farmer's at the St. Lawrence North Market the following Saturday. I bought a small basket of romas. Oh boy, did we enjoy those bad boys.

Roma Tomato Salad
5 roma tomatoes - cut into 8ths
1 tbsp of olive oil
1 tsp lemon juice
4 basil leaves, chopped roughly
grinding of salt and pepper
1/4 c of large caperberries
2 tbsp of goat cheese

1. Toss the tomatoes, olive oil, basil and lemon juice together.
2. Season with salt and pepper, as you like.
3. Top with crumbled goat cheese and caperberries.
4. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Arriba Arriba

I love salsa. But then again, who doesn't? I read somewhere that salsa has over taken ketchup as the #1 condiment. Is it any wonder? As a kid, I greedily munched on nachos generously dipped in the large club-size jar of salsa and I thought I was in heaven. I loved the salty crunch of the nachos contrasted by the tangy piquante salsa. Oooh heavenly. I would eat way too many and my mom would get angry when she found me on the floor moaning partially with glee and with some regret for having eaten that one last chip.

When we went to Mexico several years ago, I realized we had not even touched the tip of the iceberg of what Mexican cuisine was or could be. Real mexican food is fresh, clean-tasting, pungent and sweet. It is truly night and day from the food that is passed off as Mexican at home. We enjoyed our Mexican resort holiday although it is not our typical vacation. It was a nice week to get away and sit in the sun and wash off the weariness of a icy February in Toronto. We reclined like scaly lizards poolside sipping on slushy drinks and wondered what we would have at our next meal. Resort food isn't usually something people write home about. However, the food at this resort wasn't bad at all. I squealed with delight with the mounts of guacamole and the hot crispy nachos straight out of the fryer. I live for guac and I could have eaten it all week.

Yesterday during our weekly jaunt to the North Market, we found a half pint of tomatillos for $1. How could I resist? I had seen Tyler Florence make a gorgeous tomatillo sauce for enchilladas this week and I was already inspired. The tomatillo sighting put me over the top.

Salsa Verde
1/2 pint of tomatillos (about 5 medium sized)
1/2 pint of cherry tomatoes
1 small white onion, cut into chunks
3 cloves of garlic - rough chop
juice from 1 lemon
1 tsp of sugar
1 tsp of salt
1 tbsp of olive oil

Peel the brown papery husks and wash the tomatillos. It's abit sticky so washing them makes it a little more pleasant. I don't know what would happen, but it takes off the dust and dirt from transport. Chop the tomatillos roughly.

Heat the olive oil and add onions, garlic and tomatillos. Saute until onions are translucent. Add tomatoes (I bet if you had extra roasted tomatoes, it would really create a nice depth to the salsa), sugar, and salt. Once heated through, take off heat and whiz in a food processor. Pulse it so you still have large chunks.

Refrigerate until cold and serve with nachos.

Makes 2 cups

It's very addictive. We gobbled this up greedily even though we were stuffed from Sunday supper.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Caribbean Dreaming - Shrimp Banana Curry

My first trip to Central America was to the beautiful country of Belize. It is a laid-back country with a blend of Caribbean and Latin cultures with a British Commonwealth infrastructure. The country pushes out into the warm Caribbean Sea on one side and is bordered by Mexico's Yucat√°n Peninsula and rugged jungles of Guatemala. The country primarily attracts two distinct travellers: the eco-tourist who marvel at the unspoilt wonders of Belize's tropical rainforests and the serious diver who aims to explore the second largest barrier reef in the world in all its underwater splendour. Belize’s beautiful islands slightly off its coasts are wonderful jumping off points to view sting rays, nurse shark, flying fish and dolphins. It is a warm, welcoming place where people are friendly and kind with where an astounding level of bio-diversity continues to thrive.

The first time I had banana curry was our first night in Belize. I had never conceived of banana as a curry ingredient when I first saw it on a menu, but as usual, my culinary curiosity left me with no choice but to try it. It was truly decadent - the curry was smooth, creamy, and luscious. There were no visible signs that bananas were in the dish but the taste was unmistakable. As the banana warms, it melts into the curry mellowing out the spices. It lends a warm sweetness to the shrimp that transports you to the warm, breezy nights on Ambergris Caye.

I love this recipe because the smooth, sweet curry is flecked with black mustard seeds and the shrimp really gives it a real exotic feel.

Shrimp Banana Curry
3 ripe bananas broken into pieces
1 lb of raw shrimp
1 c of light coconut milk
1/2 small onion -diced
1/2 small pepper - diced
3 carrots - small coins
1 c of baby tomatoes - sliced in half (I used heirlooms today)
2 tbsp of butter
1/4 tsp of black mustard seed
1/4 tsp of tumeric
1/4 garam masala
1 pinch of red pepper flakes
1 tbsp of parsley - chopped finely

1. Heat pan and add butter. When the butter is foamy, add shrimp. Flip shrimp over after 1 minute. After another minute, the shrimp should start to curl but is not thoroughly cooked. Remove from the pan and set aside.
2. Add the black mustard seeds, garam masala and tumeric. The heat will start to roast the spices and releases the aromas. Do not let it burn otherwise it will become acrid and you'll need to start over.
3. Once the spices start to roast, add the bananas, onion, carrots, and pepper. Stir to coat the bananas and vegetables. Once the bananas hit the heat of the pan, they begin to melt. When the vegetables have heated through and the bananas have mostly dissolved, add the coconut milk.
4. Cover and let simmer for 5 - 10 minutes until the vegetables are tender.
5. Just before you are about to serve, return the shrimp to the pan, add the tomatoes, and sprinkle the parsley. Fold gently and plate.

Serve with rice or noodles.

Even for people who don't typically like curry, they will find the banana curry interesting and unexpected. It is not spicy and does not have a strong scent which sometimes puts people off. It has more of a Caribbean feel than an East Indian one.

Chefs Blogs

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Gallic Inspiration: Moules Mariniere

I think if there is one place I could travel to over and over, it's France. There are few places in this world that soothe my culinary soul the way France does. It is quite clear to me as to why this is: It is the marriage of food and travel. Here you can enjoy the world's finest cuisine in celebrated restaurants as well as the little unpretentious gems frequented by the locals and all of this highly accessible thanks to a fantastic and extensive train system and Grade 12 French class.

And of course, my return luggage is a Canadian Customs officer's curiousity. They unzip my luggage only to find a chef's menagerie of sel gris, truffle oil, herbes de provence, wine, dark chocolate, and whatever exotic Gallic delights the country offers me. I have learned overtime, you can't bring back butter, or foie gras laced with black truffles no matter how much you plead. And boy do I try.

During our last visit to France, we took the train to Dieppe in the northern province of Normandy. We had spent the better part of the week exploring the fine cuisine Paris had to offer and now we craved soemthing more rustic and indicative of how people eat everyday.

The town of Dieppe is several hours away from Paris and we enjoyed the slow langourous ride through the French countryside. Rolling pastoral green fields stretch out beyond the horizon, occasionally interupted by small farmhouses frame after frame like pages of National Geographic. It was serene.

When we arrived in Dieppe, there was a distinct smell that city people don't experience often: the sharp metallic smell of the sea. It is a briny and strangely fresh smell that appeals to anyone who loves seafood. It's the smell of that kind of fresh. As we strolled past the many seaside bistros, it became apparently clear what the part of Normandy had to offer us today: Mussels.

Every bistro along the boat quay advertised its the daily special on hinged blackboards out front. It beckoned like a siren to hungry tourists to stop in for a little lunch in the seaside beach town. Moules et frites. Mussels and fries. Who could resist the shiny onyx shells lured open by a fragrant boozy steam to reveal dedicate saffron coloured mollusks in light garlic studded broth and a large bowlful of crisp delicate potato matchsticks and creamy pale mayonaise? So we stopped in and ordered huge bowls of steamy mussels and watched as boats bob up and down and fashionable French tourists wondered if they should stop for a bite. It was ridiculously contagious.

But today, we were at home missing that day. So, we decided when we were at St. Lawrence Market this morning, we would take a peek at the huge tank of PEI mussels at the fishmonger's. If the stars were aligned, we were going to have a delicious lunch that would transport us back to that summer day by the sea in Northern France.

Moules Mariniere
2 pounds of PEI mussels (bearded & cleaned)
1 small onion - diced
1/2 small pepper - diced
2 small carrots - sliced into coins
1 c of halved baby heirloom tomatoes
1/2c of white dry vermouth
3 cloves of crushed garlic (we love garlic)
1 tbsp of butter

In a pot large enough to hold the mussels, melt the butter until it is foamy and hot. Add the onion and garlic and saute until softened. Turn down the heat slightly and add the peppers, and carrots. Cook until the vegetables start to soften. Add the cleaned mussels to the pots and pour the vermouth on top. Cover. After two minutes, add the tomatoes to the pot and cover the pot again. Steam until the mussels open. Pour into a large serving dish and serve with slices of cursty baguette or fries.

Chefs Blogs

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

My summer time snack

Several years ago, I took a leave of absence from work and spent a huge chunk of time touring SE Asia. It was a wonderful time for me... It really broadened my horizons and really crystallized what it meant to be me.

Although, it wasn't primarily a culinary journey but rather one of self-discovery, I often look back at that experience and the foods I became acquainted with through the wonderful people I met with great affection.

One of these majestic places is a little country named Laos. In fact, I ended up in Laos not really by design. I headed to Laos to kill time - I was returning home in a month and I was a little bored and a little restless. What I found was a cultural wonder filled with an unspoiled landscape, a generous people and a balance of old world tradition creeping toward development. Really very humbling.

One night, in a backpacking town called Vangvieng, I had this wonderful dish called Laap. It is a minced meat served with a sticky rice which is very popular in Laos and Thailand. My version is adapted for the modern life. It is fantastic for lunch when it is too hot and steamy to eat anything but a delicious salad.

I use Boston lettuce because its buttery leaves are my favorite. They make wonderful cups for this dish.

Minced Turkey in Lettuce Cups with Tea Rice

1 package of minced turkey
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp of light soy sauce
1 tbsp of nuc mam (Vietnamese fish sauce - if you don't have it, just use extra soy sauce)
1 pinch of red chili peppers
1 tsp of minced garlic
1/2 green or red pepper - small dice
1/2 small onion - small dice
1 head of Bottuce lettuce - leaves washed, separated, and dried

1 c of Japanese sushi rice, uncooked
1 tsp of Jasmine tea

garnish: fried onions*

1. Cook rice following the package instructions.
2. In a coffee grinder, whiz up the jasmine tea into a fine powder. If you don't have a grinder, open a tea bag of jasmine tea. Sprinkle over hot cooked rice and turn gently with a rice paddle. Cover.
3. Heat a large skillet, add vegetable oil. When the oil begins to shimmer, add onions and garlic and the package of ground turkey and break up meat as it cooks. When the meat is mostly cooked (ie. there is still some pink), add pepper, soy sauce, fish sauce and red pepper flakes. Cook until fully cooked and the juices run clear.
4. Place several lettuce cups on a plate.
5. Scoop a small amount of the jasmine tea rice into the lettuce cup and top with a small amount of the minced turkey. Sprinkle a little bit of the fried onions on top and dig in.

*The fried onions I am referring to are the deep fried crispy onions that are often sold in the Asian grocery stores.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

15 minute soup: Creamy Corn & Potato Chowder

It was a busy week... but I managed to squeeze out a quick recipe. I looked into my fridge and cobbled together some vegetables for a delicious corn chowder. Sometimes if we are making potatoes for dinner, I make extra and store them in the fridge for quick meals during the week.

Cream Corn & Potato Chowder
1 c of corn kernels
3 stalks of celery - diced
1 large carrot - diced
1 small yellow onion - diced
1 small orange pepper - diced
6 new potatoes - boiled & cooled & diced
1 tbsp of minced garlic
1/2 tsp of dried dill
3 tsp of chicken / vegetable bouillon in 1 c of water
(if you have chicken stock use that instead)
1 l of skim milk
1 tbsp of olive oil

1. Heat oil in pan, saute garlic and onion until onion starts to sweat.
2. Add diced celery, carrot, potato, pepper and dill. Saute until soft.
3. Once the vegetables are heated through, add the chicken stock or the bouillon powder mixed with water. Heat until bubbling and turn down heat to low-medium.
4. Add the milk and cover with lid. Stir often to ensure that the soup does not stick to the bottom of the pot.
5. When the soup is heated through, plunge an immersion hand blender into the soup pot. Ensure the blender is fully immersed as the soup is very hot and could cause serious burns. Don't blend it until you have a puree but leave it rather thick and chunky. You still want to see the vegetables but blending the vegetables creates nice creaminess and beautiful texture.

It is literally a 15 minute soup if you buy the pre-packaged diced vegetables.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Keeping the Farmers in Business

Oh mama. Wednesday is Farmer's Market day at City Hall. It might have been 33 degrees outside today but it was worth the walk over there. While hungry office workers lined up for peameal bacon sandwiches, I made my way to the tents at the far end of the Square. I didn't know where to start - everywhere I looked, there were juicy bing cherries, ripe strawberries, and peaches farther than the eye could see... what to buy, what to buy.

I strolled around, taking mental note of all the possibilities... There was a crush of people at one of the tents and I went in for a closer look. Heavens! Zucchini blossoms!! Lots of them. How could a girl resist?

I left the market with a bagful of fragrant basil leaves, gorgeous zucchini blossoms, heirloom baby tomatoes and baby zucchini. The smell of the basil wafted through my office this afternoon and certainly attracted some attention. I could hardly wait to get home and whip up something summery. I had forgotten that I liked tomatoes. Most of the time, the stores are filled with pastey, pale sour tomatoes, but at the height of summer, the most beautiful jewels make their appearance. Juicy, sweet, plump - heirloom tomatoes are the farmer's gifts to us city folk.

I hope you like...

Deep-Fried Zucchini Blossoms
I had planned to stuff these bad boys (they are the male flowers) but I could bare to - and so I decided to enjoy them in their simple splendour by dipping them in a thin eggy batter and straight into the hot oil.

2 Dozen zucchini blossoms (you're gonna want this many!)
1 egg
2 tbsp flours
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 pinch of salt
2 grinds of black pepper

I washed the blossoms in cold water & drained them. Be gentle. Meanwhile, I mixed two 2 tbsp of flour, with lemon juice, 1 egg and enough water to make a thin batter. Less water if you want a thicker batter.

Heat enough canola oil to fry the blossoms if you don't have a deep fryer. In order to test the oil to ensure that the oil is hot enough - let one drop of batter fall into the oil. If it sizzles and rises to the surface - it's ready to go. Watch the temperature don't let the oil get too hot.

Dip the zucchini into the batter and then straight into the oil. Watch carefully... Flip over after about a minute or two when they are golden brown. Place a paper towel over a plate & as the blossoms cook, remove the blossoms to let drain on the plate. Salt immediately.

In 2002, Martha Stewart published a summer recipe for a pasta salad called "minestrone salad." I thought about making this recipe all summer, but I am watching my carbs so no pasta for me. I have adapted it for my own use, I hope you like it.

Minestrone Salad
1 pint of heirloom tomatoes - split in half lengthwise
1 handful of basil leaves - torn or sliced into a chiffonade
1 can of corn, drained (I am not proud of it - but fresh is not always possible)
1 can of white cannelli beans, drained & rinsed.
1 dozen baby zucchini
1 splash of good olive oil
1 tbsp of chianti vinegar (use what you have at home)
salt and pepper to taste

Blanch the baby zukes for about 5 minutes. Drain and plunge in cold water immediately. When cool enough to handle, slice the zucchinis in half lengthwise and then in half again. (I only sliced them once and found them way too difficult to toss in the salad with all of the other delicate items.) Drain and rinse out the white cannelli beans. Add beans, corn, tomatoes and basil together in a large bowl. Add salt and pepper as well as the vinegar and olive oil. Toss gently until mixed well - don't crush the beans.

It's that easy.

Bon Appetit

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

A Taste of the Mediterranean

Do you ever have food cravings so bad that all you want to do satisfy it? You know the ones that call for weird combinations (avocados and ice cream) or inappropriate time of day (egg mcmuffins for dinner) or indulging in your craving over and over again until you can't stand it (nothing but tomato soup & grilled cheese 3x a day for a week) Well I get these types of cravings all the time... And it's abit unhealthy admittedly. Admit it, you have those cravings too.

A couple weeks back, I had Greek food with a good friend of mine. It had been a while since I had eaten Greek because I had been living in a small town the past year. Since that fateful meal, I developed a vicious craving for Greek food. This past weeekend, I scratched that itch. We went to St. Lawrence Market and bought chicken souvlaki, tzatziki, feta and all this gorgeous summer produce for a salad. Well, the chicken is but a memory now but the yogurt, feta, and veg remain. Oh what to do, what to do...

Feta Dip
1/4 pound of feta
olive oil
ground oregano
chili pepper flakes
squirt of lemon juice
2 tbsp of tzatziki or yogurt

Throw into a food processor and whiz until smooth. Add additional olive oil if you want a thinner consistency. (If you're watching your weight, reduce the olive oil and use more water.) It's that easy. Have some veggies to go with your dip.

A word on olive oil - I love the stuff... It's rich and complex in flavour and the best part is its good for you. Buy the good stuff but protect your investment. Keep it out of the light and away from heat. If you're cooking with it - remember that it does have a low smoking point and you'll end up burning whatever it is you're cooking. It's not nice. Tonight, I broke out the good stuff. I have a bottle of olive oil al limone from Italy. It's liquid gold. I only ever use it for foods that will not being cooked. It is so fruity and deepens the favour of the whatever you are using it on. It was perfect for the dip.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Summer time produce.

Summer bring us the most delicious freshest foods. How can you NOT eat vegetables? The colours are so vibrant and they taste so sweet! We picked up sugar snap peas on the weekend. So we steamed them - threw some Hawaiian Red Clay Salt and drizzled with truffle oil. Very nice.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Back to My Roots

I am a hungry gal, I live in Toronto, and my thing is food. I love to cook and I love to eat. I think about it pretty much all the time. I am also fortunate to live in this great city with such a multi-cultural population that you can get almost any authentic ethnic food that piques your fancy. But still, I like to get on a plane, go some place special and spend a ton of time seeing and eating.

So my OTHER thing is travel. I love to see the world and to meet new people. Food is a universal need and language. So much can be communicated over food without a word ever spoken. There are few things that can top a stroll through a chaotic fragrant night market taking an opportunity to sampl e new foods from local vendors. For me, a fabulous holiday has three components: some weight gain, a little cash deficit, and a suitcase full of exotic goodies to test out in my kitchen at home. Oh and I love to read menus. Surely, I can't be the only one.

I decided to start a blog to indulge in these two passions, and to keep a record of the triumphs of being alive, healthy and happy through culinary and travel experiences. And every foodie who loves to cook has a culinary inspiration: my mother. She is the first person who cooked for me and nurished me. Though not an avid traveller (because the world is "dangerous"), the woman can cook. I know everyone says their mom is the best cook. But really, my Mom is the best. Her specialty is the amazing cuisine of her homeland, Singapore, which I hope to share with you over time. She is regal, and lovely and I know you're going to love her food.

Speaking of which...
Last night, I stopped into the grocery store and found a LARGE container packed with slippery plump Fanny Bay oysters. As Victoria Beckham would say, "Major!" I put one container in my basket, along with some fragrant fresh ginger root, and a bunch of spring onions and I was ready to roll.

I can't stress the importance of mise en place. Organize and prep all your ingredients before you start cooking and you will find the experience far more enjoyable. Trust me.

Oysters with Ginger & Green Onions
1 large container of large oysters (put aside 6 large ones for the omelet)
2 sprigs of green onion - sliced
1 thumb size ginger root - peeled and sliced into fine matchsticks
3/4c of water
1 tsp of salt
1 tsp of pepper
1 tbsp of oyster sauce
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp of minced garlic

1. Pour the oysters into a large bowl. Pour enough hot water to cover oysters.
2. In the meantime, prep the ginger, garlic and green onions. Create a slurry by mixing the cornstarch with water, oyster sauce, salt & pepper. Stir until there are no lumps.
3. Pat oysters dry.
4. Heat a large pan or wok with 1 tbsp of oil (I use olive oil- but, it has a low smoking point and people say it is too expensive to use - but nevermind them.) When it starts to glisten, add the ginger, and garlic. Stir around until slightly golden- don't let it burn.
5. Add oysters and let them sizzle and brown slightly. At this point, the oysters are mostly cooked and we want to give them some colour but not over do it because they can get tough.
6. Give your slurry a quick stir again before adding to the pan and it will thicken as it heats into a nice silky gravy. If it gets too thick, add more water and stir quickly to incorporate.
7. Move off heat, sprinkle the green onions on top and throw the lid on it for a quick 2 minutes. (I started to plate our dinners and by the time I was ready for the oysters. Voila! They were done.)

We have been eating alot of brown rice lately. It's better for you - it does take some getting used to though and I think it is especially hard for Asians who grew up on white. Our latest thing is called "Kenn's Healthy Rice Mix" - it's a brown rice mix. It does take some getting used to, but this stuff, I am telling you, is major! And it's good for you. :)

The other inspiration I had for the Fanny Bay oysters was a famous Singaporean hawker dish called Oyster omelet. Singaporeans have a strong culture of open air eating. The country boasts many beautiful open-air food courts where you can order from many different kinds of foods from a variety of vendors aka hawkers and really have an exquisite informal feast. It is a Singaporean way of life to share meals with friends and family at a hawker center. It's a must do if you ever visit. More on that in the future...

But I must warn you- this is not an omelet in the French sense: a pillowy, delicate eggy cloud. By contrast, the Singaporean oyster omelet is a massive rubble of curds and oysters punctuated by bold spicy chili sauce. It's substantial and you should share. Or not. Here's my version, inspired by the gorgeous produce I found in the market yesterday.

Oyster Omelet
6 large oyster cut into thirds
2 large eggs
1 heaping tbsp flour
2 tbsp water
1 sprig of green onion - finely chopped
1 handful of pea sprouts - roughly chopped
1 tbsp of olive oil
1 tsp of salt
pepper to taste (white pepper if you have it)
1 tbsp of sambal olek

1. Measure flour out and pour into a bowl. Slowly add the water until you have a smooth batter. Add the eggs, salt & pepper and whisk until scrambled.
2. Heat pan - and add oil when the pan is hot.
3. Add pea sprouts and stir until wilted. Add green onions.
4. Pour egg mixture over top and stir gently as you would scramble eggs.
5. Cook over low to medium heat for about five minutes.
6. Serve immediately with a nice dallop of sambal olek.

Delight, delight, delight!

Hope to see you again.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Recipe Index

I have received emails from readers who couldn't find archived recipes... I suppose the recipe index located on the home page was getting unruly. Here are the recipes ordered in some kind of fashion that is not only logical but could serve to inspire you... Bon Appetit.

Condiments, Relishes & Chutneys

Apple Cranberry Chutney

Lemon-Lime Curd

Peach Lavender Jam
Salsa Verde

Salsa Verde II

Green Onion Grilled Bread

Breakfast / Brunch

Croque Madame

Gordon Ramsay's Scrambled Eggs

Poached Eggs with Simmered Mushrooms

Spring Vegetable Frittata
Hor D'oerves

Black Mission Fig Tapenade

Chicken Liver Pate

Cheese Puffs (Gougeres)

Crispy Zucchini Blossoms

Dumplings / Pot Stickers

Feta Dip

Marinated Olives

Gravlax / Salt-Cured Salmon

Salmon Tartare


Broccoli Potato Soup

Creamy Corn Chowder

Cream of Celeriac Soup

Roasted Pumpkin and Squash Bisque

Thai Seafood Soup


Avocado & Hearts of Palm Salad

Beet and Orange Salad with Roquefort

Celeriac Remoulade

Greek Salad

Israeli Couscous Salad with Summer Vegetables

Minestrone Salad

Roma Tomato Salad

Warm Bok Choy & Mushroom Salad with Crispy Garlic

Mmmm, Meat...

Chicken Marbella - the classic Silver Palate recipe (with prunes, capers, garlic, & olives)

Chicken Liver Pate

Cincinatti Style Chili

Duck - Cheater's Version

Fried Noodles with Shrimp & Beef
Lamb & Guinness Stew

Fried Rice with Pineapple

Raclette Accompaniments

Turkey Tourtiere (Quebec Style Turkey Meat Pie)

Spaghetti with Savoy Cabbage & Sausage

I heart Seafood & Fish

Banana Curry with Shrimp

Black Cod with Miso Glaze

Lemon Chive Risotto with Seared Scallops

Lobster Macaroni & Cheese

Moules Mariniere

Steamed Basa Fillet with Shitake Mushrooms, Green Onions & Ginger

Steamed Mussels with Pernod & Roquefort

No Low Carb Diet Here: Pasta, Grains & Rice

Artichoke and Preserved Lemon Linguine

Crab Spaghettini with Chili

Kasha, Farro Risotto with Shitakes & Apples

Lemon Chive Risotto with Seared Scallops

Pumpkin Gnudi

Spaghettini with Fresh Tomatoes & Goat Cheese

Spaghetti with Savoy Cabbage & Sausage

Zucchini & Parsley Pasta

Vegetable Dishes (may/may not be vegetarian)
See also - Soups, Salads & Pasta

Green Beans & White Wine

Grilled Potatoes with Bajan-Inspired Dipping Sauce

Roasted Cauliflower

Roast Fall Vegetables with Duck Fat - definitely not vegetarian

Roast Sweet Potatoes

Sugar Snap Peas

Sunchoke Pommes Anna

Thai Red Curry

Vegetarian Stir-Fry with Quinoa

Something Sweet / Desserts

Affogato - Espresso & Vanilla Ice Cream

Apple & Blackberry Galette with Walnuts

Brown Sugar and Coconut Panna Cotta

Candied Nuts

Chocolate Chip Cookies (New York Times Recipe)

Coconut Bars

Dulce de Leche Puddings

Egg Custard

Eton Mess

Flourless Chocolate Cake with Sour Cherries

Key Lime Squares

Peach Cake

Raspberry and Asian Pear Crisp

Raspberry and Blackberry Pudding

Really Tangy Lemon Squares

Tapioca Cake (Malaysian Cassava Cake)

Raspberry & Blackberry Pudding

Red Velvet Cupcakes

I'm Thirsty

Avocado Milkshake

Try Something Different:

Avocado Milkshake

Banana Curry with Shrimp

Crispy Zucchini Blossoms

Dulce de Leche Puddings

Steamed Mussels with Pernod & Roquefort

Tapioca Cake (Malaysian Cassava Cake)

Guests Coming Over For Dinner? Consider these options....

Black Mission Fig Tapenade

Cheese Puffs (Gougeres)

Salmon Tartare

Avocado & Hearts of Palm Salad

Lemon Chive Risotto with Seared Scallops


Chicken Marbella

Thai Red Curry

Raspberry and Asian Pear Crisp

Dulce de Leche Puddings

What to Bring for Dessert?

Raspberry and Asian Pear Crisp

Really Tangy Lemon Squares
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