Friday, July 27, 2012

Gone Fishin'

Hey all, thanks for stopping by the National Nosh. I'm taking a break from the blog for the rest of the summer, but will start her back up sometime in the fall.
So long for now, stay cool!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Only the best for Lily


My sister-in-law Deborah makes her eight-month old, the lovely Lily, all of her baby food. I’m super impressed and it looks delicious, but Deborah says she does it because it’s less waste, all-natural, and inexpensive. It also happens to be really nutritious, and since Deborah is a registered Dietitian, she knows what a baby needs for good health. Here are Deborah’s top 5 tips for making homemade baby food.

  1. FRESH IS BEST: Start by using the freshest food available. Use seasonable ingredients where possible, strive for organic but don’t sweat it if conventional produce is all that’s available. “Your kid is better off eating non-organic fruits and vegetables than not eating them at all.” Here’s the  “dirty dozen” that Deborah tries to buy organically since they have the most pesticides. She says frozen fruit and veg are also great if fresh are not available.
  2. BATCH COOKING: Set aside an hour or two to prepare your food in bulk batches and make a variety of items at one time. For instance, Deborah has made zucchini, green beans, sweet potatoes, tofu and pears all in one go. “It may sound like a lot but it means you’re only cooking once every week or so.” Then all you do is portion the various foods out into small containers or ice cube trays, freeze, and defrost and heat as needed.
  3. SALT-FREE: Deborah says now is not the time for added salt and sugar. “Babies should become accustomed to the natural flavours of the foods themselves rather than additives. There’s enough time for them to develop a sophisticated palate later.” That said, some parents do add mild seasonings and spices such as cinnamon, garlic, basil and curry, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
  4. THE RECIPE: Thoroughly wash all fruits and vegetables, then all you need to do is cook them until soft. On the stovetop this means boiling or steaming, and in the microwave, just add a touch of water. Cool, then puree with a blender, hand blender, Magic Bullet or Baby Bullet until very smooth for younger babies, and then build up to coarser textures for older babies. Note: hard fruits, like apples and pears have to be lightly cooked, but soft fruits, like mangos and berries need only be pureed.
  5. BON APPETIT, MON PETITE: Deborah says variety is key. She usually serves Lily three to four different items at one meal. In this photo Lily is eating tofu, butternut squash and zucchini, and for dessert she enjoyed mango and yoghurt. Lily must like her mama’s cooking since I have yet to see spit something out, and she’s the happiest – and healthiest -- baby on the block.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Eat here: Oru


I love, love, the Fairmont Pacific Rim in Vancouver: From the ethereal design to the waterfront setting, the luxe rooms and the impeccable service. And now, after eating at Oru, where new chef Darren Brown is kicking some serious Pacific Rim ass, my relationship with the hotel has crossed over into stalker territory. 
Installed a few months ago, Brown retrofitted the kitchen, broke down some walls to make it more transparent (literally and figuratively; for instance, they pickle their own everything and 
are now making their own charcuterie), so if you thought that hotel dining wasn’t for you, think again. The menu is created using almost exclusively local products, which these days, gladly, 
is no big whoop. But food like this? Huge whoopee! This is one of the best meals I’ve had in ages, and for my vegetarian pal, one of the best she's had, ever. 
The best bite of the night was the first one: "North Arm Farms Sunchoke Soup", a velvety veloute of pure roasted sunchokes topped with a truffle foamed milk and cocoa-morel powder. Sounds a bit old school, but tastes like a Ph.D in deliciousness. "Notch Hills Beet Salad", pickled and poached baby beets, beet chutney, chimichurri vinaigrette, and Cabrales blue cheese, was also a tasty local spin on an old favourite, while the Filet Mignon Oscar topped 
with fresh Dungeness crab, was 5-star decadence.


As a side note, when I visit B.C. it takes all the willpower I’ve got not to hole myself up in a dark room with a trove of the amazing local cheeses and wines we can’t get in Ontario. So, imagine the intense joy I felt with the all-local wine matches – from Blue Mountain to Joie, and the all-local artisanal cheeses in the fromage to chariot. (Best idea ever!)
In conclusion, ahem, if you’re lucky enough to visit Vancouver, not only should you stay at the Fairmont Pacific Rim hotel, but you should definitely eat at Oru.
I'm fairly certain you'll like it.



Sunday, July 1, 2012

Eating Vegas (and happy Canada Day!)


A few weeks ago many of the world’s celebrated chefs gathered in the 35 C alfresco heat at Bon Appetit’s Vegas Uncork’d Grand Tasting at Caesars Palace, part of the sold-out annual culinary weekend where more than 30 events are packed into four days, with some 60 restaurants, 50 chefs and 30 sommeliers snacking, chatting and swilling together. At the Grand Tasting, the biggest and splashiest of the weekend’s events, I positioned myself at the end of the red carpet, where I asked everyone from Nobu Matsuhisa to Gordon Ramsay what their favourite dish is at their own Vegas restaurant -- plus a dish they enjoy at a friend’s Sin City table. Then I feasted on their top picks during a chefs’ grand tour, which ran in the Globe & Mail this week.


This trip actually changed my mind about Vegas. I had been a couple of times before, and wasn’t a fan. Too much of too much – people with gallon-sized colourful frozen drinks strung around their necks, other people chained to the one-armed bandits for days -- the whole thing just rubbed me the wrong way.
But as I learned, it needn’t be so. Book a nice hotel – I highly recommend the new Cosmopolitan (it’s super cool, has great restaurants, clubs and swimming pools, and it's the only hotel on the Strip whose rooms have private terraces), go for a couple of nice meals, read by the pool, take a swim, do some light shopping, and you’ve got yourself a really enjoyable weekend. 
That said, you know where I think the restaurants are even better than in Vegas? Canada! And with the fireworks, swimming, hot weather and good grub, this long weekend has been almost Vegas-like, and mighty enjoyable too.
Happy 145th B-day, Canada.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

A refreshing new beverage

I don't usually write about new products because I think it would encourage others to send weird crap to my house. But let it be known that alcohol, chocolate and flowers are always welcome!
That said, if we never tried anything new, how would I have discovered the majesty that is the Ritz Bits? Or the haunting allure of Lindt 70% extra dark? The seasonal satisfaction of a Cadbury egg, a great new take on a favourite cereal, or a new brand of popcorn?
On that note, say hello to this summer's new thirst quencher. It's crisp, it's icy, sort of sweet, more than a little apple-y, and you know something, Alexander Keith's Original Cider pairs well with hot-weather foods, from raw oysters, tacos and grilled fish, to burgers and chicken.
Best of all, the best way to enjoy it is to grab a pint glass, load it with ice, then fill it to the rim with the cider so that it's so ice cold that you can barely hold it.
Happy Summer!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Spar for the Spurtle

I'm still relatively new to the wonders of the spurtle, as evidenced here, but what I'm not new to is oatmeal, and action-packed culinary competitions.  
Lucky for me -- and us -- Bob’s Red Mill has just kicked off its annual Spar for the Spurtle 2 Oatmeal Recipe Contest which invites home cooks and professional chefs alike to submit videos demonstrating a unique recipe that makes use of Bob’s Red Mill’s Steel Cut Oats. 

From the entries, three finalists will be flown to Portland, Ore. to compete in a live cook-off, and the winner of the cook-off will receive an all-expenses-paid trip for two to Scotland, including $2,500 in cash, to help represent team Bob’s Red Mill in the 19th Annual Golden Spurtle World Porridge Making Championship.

The submission deadline is July 20, 2012. For more info, check the press release here. Or, check out the  contest website.  
I want to enter. Anyone have any winning oatmeal ideas for me? Seriously.  

P.S. I just read the rules. Only open to U.S. citizens over the age of 18. Damn it.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Is the pantry the new freezer?


There's something I've been thinking about lately, what I see as a recent seismic shift in the kitchen: Is the Pantry the New Freezer?

Remember how back in the roaring 1980s everyone was investing in big side-by-side refrigerator-freezers? It was the heyday of the new generation of frozen convenience foods, from Haagen Dazs and Tofutti to Pizza Pockets and Lean Cuisine. Seen as a step up from post-war TV dinners, the new frozen foods were seemingly of a higher quality while also being more nutritious and still as convenient as pulling back a corner of plastic film on a plastic tray and microwaving it for four minutes. (Little did we know about trans-fats, leaching plastics, and high sodium back then.)

Fast-forward to the mid 2000s. From being located up top to moving to the side, suddenly new refrigerators were being engineered with the freezers down below. (I just bought a Jenn-Air like this, myself.) Full of annoying partitions and baskets, they barely hold a damn thing. But here's my theory on why this poor industrial design is actually good news for food….

Basically, we're no longer relying on the freezer to feed us. We're going to the greengrocer, farmer's market and supermarket more often. In other words, we're cooking fresh food, and just need a few basic pantry items to round out our dishes. So long freezer, hello fresh chicken, veggies and secret seasonings!

At the same time, pantry items have improved greatly over the years. Think about it: Red lentils + canned San Marzanos + quality spices + fresh onion and garlic = quick, delicious dahl. Plus basmati = my favourite workaday meal. Split peas + organic Tetra stock + Bay leaf + marrow bones or ham hock = a penny-pinching soup for the ages.

I’ve got a million of them -- and you probably do too. So take a look at that pantry again, for the very first time.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Yukon 'ho!

I didn't post as usual on Sunday (yesterday) as I spent most of the day winging my way to Canada's glorious Yukon Territory. I'll be too busy this week to do a proper blog post, what with hot springs to visit, hikes to take, caribou sausage to eat and local beer to drink -- oh yeah, and a conference to attend -- so consider this post a potholder until next weekend.
Until then, enjoy your week, and think about this photo: Not the most gorgeous pic to be sure (I was walking through an industrial park at the tail end of town), but it's the first one I snapped last night, after emerging from a dimly lit (uber delish) sushi restaurant into the blazing Whitehorse sunshine -- at 10pm!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

It's beginning to feel a lot like summer


This weekend marks the unofficial kick-off of summer, and here in Toronto we couldn’t have asked for better weather. Let me put it this way; I was in Vegas last weekend and it feels just as hot today.
The first cottage guests have already come and gone, the barbecue worked its magic on a dozen summertime skewers, and the Pinot Grigio was flowing freely. 
With people dropping by each weekend, I’m usually on kitchen duty, yet I don’t mind at all because:
1)    I enjoy the prep and cooking that goes into making meals for large groups. Plus, I got the moves like Jagger. (Maybe not. But I’m fast, and that’s what counts here.)
2)    I especially love the challenge of drop-in guests and middling fridge ingredients. (Top Chef Cottage: Quick Fire Challenge. Make a vegan feast for 10 in 15 minutes!)
3)    Most importantly, if I do the cooking, I don’t do the cleaning. (Cottage rules.)
What’s more, summertime cooking is easy cooking. Compared to Christmas’s competitive feasts, during the summer nobody wants intricate hors d’oeuvres, a big turkey and sides, layered cakes and cookies, mulled cider and gobs of chocolate. Instead, it’s all about sparking up the barbecue (or smoker), and throwing on some burgers and steaks, whipping up big bowls of fresh salads, or even a simple platter of juicy tomatoes with basil and olive oil.
During summer we let the fresh foods speak for themselves, asparagus, corn and beans becoming the snap, crackle and pop of the vegetable world. Meats sizzle, tofu does its own thing, and ice cream is ever-present. If you think about it, it’s actually the longest and busiest entertaining stretch of the year. 
In other words, it’s the perfect time to reciprocate a long put-off dinner invite. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

Vegas is delicious

Boo me. No blog post this week because I just got back from an incredible couple of days in Vegas for Bon Appetit's sold out Vegas UnCork'd event. I'm writing a story about it so I don't want to spill the beans here, except to say that basically every top chef in the world was there, I spoke to most of them, one kissed my hand, and I ate very, very well. This red carpet shot I took is but a taste of the calibre on hand. For instance, in this first round of chefs (they came out in groups based on the hotel in which their restaurants are housed), you've got Gordon Ramsay (you can see the top of his head behind Michel Richard), Guy Savoy, Nobu Matsuhisa is coming around the bend, Bradley Ogden, Francois Payard, and so on. Also, it was 35 C every day, which was awesome.


Sunday, May 6, 2012

A day of cake and kindness

Today has been a great day. Not only is the sun shining strong as if it were the middle of summer, but what started off as a darn it! moment quickly turned into the starting point of a domino effect of kindness.
Here's what happened. I was running late to get to Mississauga to judge a cake competition at the Good Food Festival , but when I put the pedal to the metal my car felt funny. As in, flat tire funny. (Not so funny.) That said, it was a little exciting because it was my first-ever flat tire, and all from the comfort of my front door. The only problem was, I had cakes to eat in Mississauga!
I called my nearby sister-in-law Deborah to see if she'd drive me to Airport Road on such a gorgeous day, and she said yes. How nice is that? She just earned herself five nights of free babysitting for my wee niece Lily!
Okay, so I get to the show and the competition is already underway, and I guess the MC had explained to the crowd at the KitchenAid event stage the reason for my delay, because when I sheepishly show up, Chef Lynn Crawford, who was also judging, shouts, "Oh my god, Amy Rosen knows how to change a flat tire!" Of course, nothing could be further from the truth, and then I announce to the audience that I have the nicest sister-in-law ever, but I seriously have no way of getting home. And then I start to slice and eat cake. (Delicious!) It was totally fun, Lynn is a complete riot, and then we picked a winner and I started checking out the rest of the show.
A few minutes later, while I was standing at the a British bakery booth, about to buy a steak and kidney pie, a man comes up to me and asks if I really need a lift home, because he and his family were heading "into Toronto". I totally needed a lift home. And you know what? They totally gave me a lift home.
So it's been a Sunday full of cake, sunshine and nice people, and I really don't think you can do better than that. Except for maybe, if you made some cake. Or torte. Or pie.
Now I'm off to call CAA to get this tire changed. (And I'll bet they're nice too.)

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Read this blog post (the oceans will thank you)

On the heels of another great event put on by the Vancouver Aquarium -- this one the Ocean Wise Tides of Change taster at Luma restaurant in Toronto, I got to thinking, as I do whenever the Ocean Wise crew comes to town, that we should all really be doing more.
For starters, I should be eating only sustainable fish and seafood, and in turn, should be developing more recipes to share with you that put tasty sustainable heroes at the centre of the plate. I’ve also put the Chatelaine test kitchen on notice, and going ahead we’re going to develop dishes using responsibly sourced fish and seafood products as much as possible.

I’ve been a longtime admirer of the cause. Having an Unsung Heroes dinner with David Suzuki a few years back was a great example of highlighting both the importance and the deliciousness of some virtually ignored species. After all, change has got to taste great or there will be no change. 


So, whether I’m bloodworming in Yarmouth or trying to understand what sustainable certification really means, or am taking the plunge in the icy waters of Norway, I’m always on the hunt for new and exciting oceanic treats.

The good news is, so far, the news is good: There are innovators out there bringing new species back from the brink and raising them in new, smart ways. 


Leafing through the handout from the Ocean Wise event at Luma, I learned that an estimated 90% of all large, predatory fish are gone from the world’s oceans and that we’re eating more seafood than ever before. At the same time, it’s heartening to know that 91% of Canadians want their seafood to be sustainable, and that Canada-wide purveyors are answering the call (sort of like Aquaman?



In Toronto there’s Hooked, Fishbar, The One that Got Away, and Off the Hook, while Vancouver has Blue Water Café (which gets top marks for its annual special Unsung Heroes menu), and Go Fish, while Victoria has Red Fish, Blue Fish – to name just a few. Ocean Wise has over 450 Canada-wide partners, so finding good eats shouldn’t be difficult: Just download the free Ocean Wise app to start making smart buying choices (or go to oceanwise.ca), and you’ll see that there’s much to learn and eat. 
And right now, that’s exactly what enjoying great fish and seafood boils down to. Education is key to successful sustainable cooking and eating.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Eat here: Hawker Bar

I know, I know, we're all sick of hearing about all of the groovy new restaurants opening up on Ossington, as if Ossington was the only street in Toronto and Toronto was the only city in Canada. But let me tell you about just one more. Actually, two more. I ate at two new Ossington restaurants this week and had distinctly different experiences at each.
First up, Yours Truly. I'm not going to go into too much detail here because we just had snacks and drinks. The cocktails were good. I highly recommend the John Candy, a winning mix of rye, maple, ginger, lemon and I think some bitters. But then I can't tell you about much else. Not because I was drunk, but because a half-hour later not only had I forgotten what I had eaten, but I had forgotten that I had even eaten at all. Not a great sign. That said, they also have a tasting menu and an admirable-sounding veg tasting menu too, so it wouldn't be fair of me to judge the place based a few bites of unremarkable snacks.
Next up, Hawker Bar. Not only do I remember everything I ate here, but I've been daydreaming about several delicious bites ever since Thursday. Only about a week old, the Singaporean-inspired menu is all texture and spice, hot and sticky (actually, incredibly hot, temperature-wise: Mind your mouth!) warming and cheerful. I'm not going to tell you what to eat, because you should really try everything that appeals (the hardest part is choosing), but what I will say is if you want a hot, fast meal with smiling service, fair prices and wooden stumps as seats, this is the place for you. Oh, and don't miss the chicken wings. (Tip: The resto link has photos of some of the dishes we ate. Also, they have takeout.) 
Get excited. 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

This just in: White asparagus

While many of us are caught up in this joyous time of springtime’s green asparagus, don’t forget about their tender, oft-forgotten albino kin, white asparagus. A few years ago I was in Germany in May, just in time for what they call Spargelsaison where it was all asparagus, all the time, and I never got sick of it.

With that taste memory in mind, I picked up a small bunch of white asparagus at my local grocery store this week (it was only $3; in my mind I always pegged white asparagus as being as expensive as lox), and then thinking back to a terrific side dish of butter-poached white asparagus that my family enjoyed at Nota Bene last year, I decided to make a quick batch of butter-glazed asparagus.

To make it, all you do is snap the rough ends off a 1lb bunch of cleaned white asparagus, get out a large skillet and add ¼ of water to it. Set it on high heat. When the water comes to a boil (this happens quickly), add the white asparagus and lower heat to medium. Cook for two minutes, then add 3 tbsp butter, a good pinch of sugar and a good pinch of salt. Keep the spears moving around in the pan and cook for an additional 6-8 minutes or until tender.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

On matzo and meatballs

There’s something about Passover, the Jewish holiday happening this week, that really speaks to me. For starters, culinarily speaking, it’s quite the challenge making food for a crowd based on a cracker; and I enjoy a challenge. I also like that for eight days of the year you really stand out as being Jewish, what with all the matzo sandwiches and hard-boiled eggs.

And if people thought I was annoying before, you should see me matter-of-factly explaining why we can only eat things made of ground-up matzo and not flour, even though matzo is made of flour, while waving around a piece of matzo shmeared with pareve margarine and 778 blackcurrent jam for effect. Hours of fun!

Geez, I guess I’m a little more into Passover than I thought, as I even found a bunch of blog posts related to the holiday here, here, and here, plus some ditties I did for Food & Wine magazine here, here, here, and here.

I hosted my first-ever seder this year, and along with the matzo ball soup, salads, salmon, brisket, roasted asparagus and potatoes (tip: when people offer to contribute to the seder, say yes), I made this fresh take on sweet and sour meatballs.

Whether you’re celebrating Passover or Easter or nothing at all, I think we can all agree that everybody loves a good meatball. It's the meat that binds.

Sweet & Sour Meatballs

(serves 12)

Ingredients:

4lbs lean ground beef

2 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

6 medium tomatoes, cored and roughly chopped

2 cooking onions, peeled and roughly chopped

2 medium carrots, roughly chopped

1 pineapple, peeled, cored and roughly chopped

3 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp ground ginger

2 tbsp honey

4 tbsp ketchup

2 tbsp red wine vinegar

salt and pepper to taste

*Depending on the sweetness of your vegetables and pineapple you’ll want to adjust with more ketchup, vinegar, salt, etc. before serving in order to hit that perfect balance. Taste your food!

Method:

1. Season beef with salt and pepper and roll into 1-inch bite-sized meatballs.

2. Add prepped tomatoes, onion and carrot to a food processor and chop until smooth, then add pineapple and pulse so that it’s still a bit chunky. Add mixture to a very large pot, add oil, ginger, honey, ketchup, vinegar and salt and pepper, then bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer, add meatballs, and cook, partially covered, for two hours. Serve will roasted potatoes or matzo.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

When nice nieces go vegan

Most of us have friends or family members who enthusiastically announce they have gone vegan, and in reaction to the big news all the rest of us can usually muster is a snort and an elaborate eye roll. Sometimes the veganism lasts a week – usually when they realize they can’t eat cheese and chocolate anymore – but it can also last for years.

Though I have altogether too many vegetarian friends, I have yet to befriend a long-term vegan. That said, my teenaged niece Madeline, recently decided to go vegan seemingly for ethical reasons. I gave her a week but she’s already a couple of months in. A happy offshoot is that she’s taking more control of the cooking process (seeing as this was her choice and she’s the right age to start cooking some of her own meals). So she’s whipping up dinners to suit her needs and tastes, and I’m a fan of that. Here’s a meal she prepared at the cottage during March Break, under the guidance of my mother, a Dietitian. After all, we don’t want a bunch of vegan teenagers growing up brittle boned and anemic because they love animals. Plan your vegan means accordingly.

Maddie’s Easy Vegan Tortilla Soup

(Makes 6 serving/ 8 cups)

1 tbsp vegetable oil

1 small sweet onion, diced

1 vegetable bouillon cube

5 cups boiling water

1 cup Israeli couscous

1 cup frozen corn

1 cup beans of your choice, such as cooked chickpeas, black beans or navy beans, rinsed and drained

500mL salsa

Tortilla chips and avocado garnish (optional)

Method:

Brown the onion in oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. When onion is browned, add couscous and stir. Add the water and bouillon cube and stir again (note: if you have 5 cups of vegetable stock on hand, use that instead of the bouillon cube and water). Let cook covered for 10-12 minutes until couscous is almost tender. Add corn, beans, and salsa and cook covered for an additional 10 minutes to finish cooking the couscous. Top with tortilla chips or avocado cubes and enjoy! Tip: This is even better the next day, though you may need to thin it with a bit of water.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Stuff, straight up

And now for something a little different, here’s what’s been going on in my neck of the woods...

-On March 29th I’m one of the judges for RAW! The Great Toronto Tartare-Off, at The Fairmont Royal York. The super exciting part? Rush frontman and noted foodie Geddy Lee is also a judge! We’ll be tasting and judging over a dozen different tartars non-cooked up by some of the city’s best toques, among them Didier LeRoy, Lorenzo Loseto, Jason Bangerter and Jamie Kennedy. The event is to support the construction of a school in Guatemala. If you can’t attend, consider making a donation to Grapes for Humanity (grapesforhumanity.com). If you can make it, tickets for the Great Toronto Tartare-Off are $125 and can be purchased by calling Annette at 416-445-9920. If you want my tartare recipe (pictured here), just click here.

-I stopped in at The Midfield Wine Bar & Tavern, co-owned by a pal who used to run the late Marquee Video, where I often popped by for my afternoon latte. Happily in my neighbourhood, I now have plans to make The Midfield a regular haunt.

-Walking by 7-Eleven the other day I noticed a billboard advertising 2-for-1 hot dogs with free chili and cheese. I wondered what the asterisk beside the "free chili and cheese" was referring to, and upon closer inspection, at the bottom of the sign it said “with food purchase”. This struck me as hilarious. (Visions of ne'er do well youths pumping liquid cheese down their gullets.)

-Three weeks in and I’m still loving my gig at Chatelaine. Here’s my first blog post for them. Sandwiches for one and all!

-I had a delish sneak preview meal at Bestellen a couple of months ago, and now that I’ve finally eaten at the officially open-for-business restaurant I can officially say this place tastes great. (P.S. Good looks and terrific service too.)

-A couple of friends and I have a long running competition that runs in tandem with Top Chef. We each choose a winner immediately after the contestants have all been introduced (bets are usually laid by the first commercial break.) I may stand corrected but I do believe I’ve picked the winner every time but once. (And so far I’m 1 for 1 on Top Chef Canada.) My pick for season 2? David Chrystian.

-Finally, unrelated to anything, am I the only one who had a major crush on the Galloping Gourmet? They sure don't make cooking shows like they used to.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Homemade Hot Sauce!

Lately, I’ve been obsessing over hot sauce: The hotter the better. (Let’s just say the ghost pepper is my new bff.) And while over the years I’ve made my own cheese, ketchup, dulce de leche, pickles, ice cream and dressings, I’ve never thought to make my own hot sauce. I suppose I felt it was too dangerous and difficult to master – best left to the domain of space age laboratories and food conglomerates.

Well, today I decided, screw that, and found a recipe that looked too good to be true in that it was simple, sourced from one of my favourite NYC restaurants, Blue Ribbon, and best of all I already had all of the ingredients on hand (though I swapped out the suggested habanero chilies with serranos.) Guess what? Amazing! And who knew the secret ingredient to homemade hot sauce was carrot?

A special shout-out to my neighbour Victoria, who made it extra smooth by pouring it into her high performance Vitamix, which is basically the most awesome blender ever. (It even cleans itself.)

Make a batch of this today: You’re going to put this shit on everything. (Sorry, I couldn't resist.)

Homemade Hot Sauce

1 very large carrot, peeled and roughly chopped

1 ½ cups white vinegar


3 serrano chilies, trimmed, seeded and sliced


1 tbsp sea salt


pinch of sugar

Method: To a medium pot add sliced carrot and cover with water. Simmer until tender but not overcooked, about 12-14 minutes. Drain well.

In a small non-reactive pot combine vinegar, chilies, salt and sugar. Bring to a boil then shut off heat and let the mixture cool. Purée in a blender with carrot until silky smooth. Eat straight away, or pour into an airtight, sterile jar or bottle and refrigerate.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Perfect purple cauliflower


Let's do a recipe today! Something familiar with a bit of a twist: Sweet and salty roasted cauliflower.

Oven Roasted Cauliflower
(serves 4)

Ingredients:

1 medium head cauliflower, cut into bite-sized florets (Tip: I used a purple cauliflower for kicks. Mulitcoloured heads are now becoming the norm at supermarkets. Fun for the whole family.)

1 Tbsp olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

about 1 tsp za'atar (optional, but it kind of makes it. Available in the spice aisle or at Middle Eastern groceries)

about 1 tsp runny honey

2 Tbsp pinenuts, toasted

Method:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Toss prepped cauliflower in olive oil, season with salt and pepper and za’atar, and lay out evenly on a foil-lined cookie sheet. Roast in preheated oven until slightly browned; about 25 minutes.

When cauliflower is done, drizzle with honey and sprinkle with toasted pinenuts.

What to serve this with? Goes great with a falafel plate, fish or chicken. (Maybe you’ll find a suitable recipe here.)

Hummus is a no-brainer.

Some homemade labna would be good too.

And if it were summer I’d definitely make this. Soon, but not quite yet.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

A brisket for friends

In the middle of my first week of working at Chatelaine I started missing my old colleagues at House & Home. Don't get me wrong; I love my new colleagues -- they're fantastic! But looking around my gorgeously (almost) finished reno and feeling super grateful for all of their suggestions -- the great Cameron MacNeil did the job, but other House & Home angels, especially the wonderful Stacey Smithers, also weighted in with opinions, and I wanted them all to see the place and enjoy the new kitchen in action. So an impromptu Thursday night dinner for six was planned.
But what to serve? I wouldn't be home until 6pm, dinner was called for 7pm, so a work-ahead meal was needed.
The fab Sasha Seymour would be attending, and she insisted on brisket. She styled the shoot for the photos in the House & Home 2012 trends spread for January, pictured here, and she wanted to taste that brisket again. (She was actually super aggressive about it.) I told Sasha that I had no time to go out and buy a brisket, so god love her, she placed an order, picked it up, and dropped it in my oversized mailbox just before I got home Wednesday night.
Then I got marinating and braising, made mashed potatoes, honey roasted carrots, a lemon vinaigrette for the arugula and apple salad I'd throw together the next night, and a salmon spread to nibble on when my stylish guests arrived.
Ding dong! 7pm. I take the brisket from the oven, warm up the potatoes and carrots, cook some peas, toss the salad and away we went, much wine and stories christening my colourful new kitchen and dining room during its first real dinner party.
These friends are keepers.
And so is this brisket recipe.

Amy’s Beef Brisket

(serves 8-10)

Ingredients:

1 5lb single brisket

1 cup Coca-Cola (not diet, not Zero, just Classic please)

1 cup apricot jam

1/2 cup tomato sauce (homemade or store bought)

1 packet dry onion soup mix, such as Lipton's

1 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp kosher salt

fresh cracked pepper to taste

Method:

1. Mix marinade ingredients together, pour over brisket in a roasting pan, cover with foil and refrigerate overnight. Or, if you don't have that much time to spare, several hours will do in a pinch.

2. When ready to cook, preheat oven to 325 F then cook covered brisket for 3 hours, then uncovered for an additional 1/2 hour. Let cool, then refrigerate (this aids in slicing). Skim any excess fat. When cooled, slice thinly against the grain and add back into pan with sauce.

3. About a half hour before you’re ready to serve, preheat oven to 350 F and reheat brisket for 20-30 minutes, spooning sauce over it a couple of times.