Thursday, May 27, 2010

Eat Here: Arepa Cafe

The name alone made me want to eat here. Arepa. Doesn’t it just roll off the tongue like a Venezuelan love song, and conjure up images of hot summer nights? (No? Just me?)

A couple of friends and I had been dying to try this new-ish Queen Street restaurant and finally got around to eating at Arepa Cafe last week. And even though the menu was long-ish and everything sounded positively mouthwatering, all three of us happened to order the same arepa, a vegetarian beauty of fried plantain, black beans, avocado and grated old cheddar, all packed into a griddled cornmeal street food type pocket.

I swear; the thing weighed about two pounds -- surprisingly heavy for its size (kind of like me).

It was beyond savoury, and they also bring a few house-made sauces to the table so you can paint your own, including a garlic mayo, green pepper sauce, and a hot sauce that tastes like delicious fire.

It’s the perfect go-to meal for days like these.

Friday, May 21, 2010

It's that time again

The President’s Choice Insider’s Report is back with its summertime edition, which includes a roundup of new products. I have to say, even though I don’t usually shop at Loblaw’s seeing as I walk to the Metro in my area (when not grabbing provisions from my local farmers markets, cheese shop, butcher, baker and candlestick maker), I do have a soft spot for the Insider’s Report because it reminds me of the 1980s, when I was coming of age as a person, and Toronto was coming of age in a culinary sense. (Remember Memories of Szechwan? That was only the beginning.)

Some of the more intriguing new products in the flyer include their New World extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) from Chile, Blue Menu’s frozen sustainable wild Pacific cod filets, PC Smoked Paprika marinade, and here’s a no-brainer for summer entertaining; a balsamic reduction glaze, using the real stuff from Modena.

I know they show it accenting meat on the label, but for me this screams out for fresh tomatoes, bocconcini and basil.

And you know what this photo screams out for? A manicure! Look at how dry my thumb looks!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

This is spa food

Or rather, this is spa food when you go to Sparkling Hill Resort in the Okanagan. I got the scoop last week when I visited Canada’s most important new destination spa for the Globe and Mail prior to its grand opening next week. I don’t want to ruin the surpise, so read all about it in this weekend’s paper.

But I will say this: The photo is of beef tenderloin with a white truffle pierogi and summer squash, and it was delicious.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

I lived to tell the tale

I’ve been luging on an Olympic track in Calgary. I’ve been whitewater canoeing in the deepest Manitoba wilderness that I have ever known. I’ve been so close to polar bears along the shores of Hudson Bay that I could hear them snort the mosquitoes off of their noses. Yet I just completed my riskiest assignment ever – and it’s for Cooking Light magazine (of all things).

The challenge? Use a pressure cooker for the very first time.

I did my research, I asked the experts, I took in some youtube demos. And yet it was still so terrifying.

The editors at Cooking Light actually contacted me to write this story for them because they had read and enjoyed this story I wrote for enRoute. I think that’s kind of neat. (Sort of how the biz should work, if you ask me.)

Which begs the question: Then why are they trying to kill me?

This photo is of my first-ever pressure-cooking experience: Pressure-cooked beets tossed in a zippy vinaigrette with dill and walnuts. Delicious.

You can read all about this and other recipes in the September issue of the magazine -- as long as my adventures in pressure-cooking continue to go smoothly.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Snack of the day

A crunchier crunch than your everyday couch potato treat, Terra Chips are a vegetal blend of taro, yuca (aka cassava), sweet potato, batata (aka Cuban sweet potato), parsnips and other root vegetables -- the sweet, earthy parsnips being my surprise favourites.

I mostly munch them as a snack, but sometimes I pile a little mound of them onto salads at the last minute (like veggie croutons), to impress dinner guests.

I tell them I fried them myself even though they know I didn’t.

Monday, May 3, 2010

A farewell pasta

Christiane Amanpour did it last week and now I’m doing it tomorrow. No, I’m not growing my bangs longer or going to work at ABC News, but I am switching gears by becoming the food editor at House & Home magazine. I’m very excited about my new position and can’t wait to work with such a great group of creative people, in an office that isn’t also my home.

Fear not, I’ll still be doing my freelance writing and finishing my novel, but with the added responsibilities of creating delicious recipes that will inspire millions of House & Home readers to cook each month, I’m sorry to say but you turkeys have just become redundant: No more Recipe Mondays at the National Nosh.

But the news isn't all bad. First of all, I'll continue blogging here say, once a week. That's still good, right?

Also, I'll be blogging from the House & Home site, which means you'll get all of the great food news, snack ideas, restaurant suggestions and likewise tips you've come to rely on over the past couple of years -- only now you'll be getting them from a fancy new blog address.

It's me, only better.

And should you forget about our new reality and still come to this site next Monday all eager to get cooking, only to find there's no new recipe for you to try, don't be all sad and nostalgic. Instead, simply type you favourite food into the search engine, be it potato or cake or even cauliflower, and I'm sure something delicious will pop up.

But in the meantime, let us bid adieu to Recipe Mondays with this easy farewell pasta.

Spaghetti with capers, anchovies and crumbs

(serves 4)

350g spaghetti

8 anchovy fillets packed in olive oil

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

4-5 tbsp capers

a few big handfuls of fresh breadcrumbs or panko

5 cloves of garlic, crushed

a big pinch of chilli flakes

fresh cracked pepper

a few handfuls of fresh chopped greenery such as parsley, arugula, chives or a mixture of the three

juice of half a lemon

fresh Parmesan


Put a big pot of salted water on to boil and cook spaghetti as per the package instructions. Once cooked, drain in a colander in the sink.

While pasta is draining, use same pot and heat olive oil (reserving 2 tbsp for toasting crumbs) on medium-low heat and stir in anchovies cooking them until they have disintegrated. Stir in capers and remove from heat.

In a frying pan, heat remaining olive oil, then add breadrumbs or panko, garlic cloves and chili flakes. Cook until garlic is golden and so are the crumbs. Discard garlic.

Toss drained spaghetti with the anchovy mixture, then season with pepper and salt if needed. Add the greens and stir about. Divide pasta between dinner plates or bowls, then sprinkle with the fried breadcrumb and some grated Parmesan. Add a squirt of lemon and a drizzle of olive oil at the table.