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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.
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