Friday, May 27, 2011

An eBook for the Ages

My friend Yael passed along an incredible link this morning, to The Project Gutenberg EBook of the International Jewish Cook Book, by Florence Kreisler Greenbaum, which is free to all.

Yael, who is strictly kosher, writes: “In my search for a recipe (as I never asked my grandmother to write these down) for Farina Soup and Klutzsky, I came across this fascinating and homey Jewish cookbook. It dates back to 1919, and was compiled by a New York housewife and foodie extraordinaire. Some of the recipes I recognized, some I desired, and many I read and lavished in the cook's expertise.”

I immediately clicked on the link Yael had sent and was swallowed up in a world of both ancient and modern Semitic flavours and traditions – 1,600 recipes in all. There are appetizers, sandwiches, garnishes and dumplings for soups, sauces for fish and vegetables, stuffings for meat and poultry, fresh fruits and compotes, egg dishes, cheese dishes, coffee cakes, cookies, steamed puddings, pickles and relishes, and more, and so on.

It’s like a Jewish culinary jackpot full of simple recipes that allow anyone to prepare and enjoy a wealth of global recipes that follow the rules of Kashrut, and that stand the taste test of time.

Here’s an easy classic to get you started:


Take one-quarter pound chicken livers that have been boiled soft; drain and rub through grater, add one-quarter cup of fresh mushrooms that have been fried for three minutes in two tablespoons of chicken fat, chop these, mix smooth with the liver, moistening with the fat used in frying the mushrooms, season with salt, pepper, paprika and a little onion and lemon juice. Spread on rye bread slices. Garnish plate with a red radish or sprigs of parsley.

P.S. I didn’t have a photo of chopped liver so instead included this photo I took at an awesome herring smokehouse on the Magdalen Islands last spring. (I figured with the kosher diet’s predilection for smoked fish it was appropriate to the post.)

Friday, May 20, 2011

It's 'cue time!

As we head into Canada's May 2-4 weekend, I thought I’d pass along some tips sent to me during this, National Barbecue Month.

The following 'cue tips come courtesy of John McLemore’s book “DADGUM, That’s Good!”. John McLemore, a southerner through-and-through, was born an entrepreneur and accidentally became a cook. Here are 20 of his best barbecue tips. (Note: I've added bracketed comments after some of his tips where I felt like adding my rootin' tootin' two cents.)

Have a great long weekend, y'all!

20 BBQ Cooking Tips from John McLemore, author of “DADGUM That’s Good!”

1. Coat grill rack with non-stick spray or vegetable oil before preheating to prevent food from sticking.

2. When grilling fish, grill with the skin side down or on aluminum foil (coat with non-stick spray).

3. Red snapper is quick and easy to grill. But make sure the grill and fish are well oiled, and handle carefully.

4. Salmon is a favorite for grilling, because it doesn’t dry out. Rich in natural omega oils, you can pop it on the grill without oiling. Start by grilling the salmon skin side up. This allows the natural fat under the skin to be drawn into the filet, keeping it rich and moist. (Salmon may be fatty but it can certainly dry out, and nobody likes overcooked salmon except for cats. Also, I would definitely oil the salmon before grilling it. A quick teriyaki marinade is a crowd pleaser too.)

5. If you’re grilling scallops, use fresh ocean scallops. These should be a pinkish tan or ivory color, not unnaturally white. (Buy dry pack, not wet packed.)

6. Freshwater trout is great on the grill. The skin becomes thin and crispy and the meat is full of flavor.

7. To keep tuna burgers moist, choose the freshest tuna steaks you can find and serve them medium-rare to medium – don’t overcook. (And a post-BBQ smear of wasabi mayo does the trick here.)

8. When grilling BBQ ribs, pork butt, or tenderloin, cook unwrapped for 50 to 75% of the cooking time to infuse smoke and flavor. The remaining time wrap with heavy aluminum foil to retain moisture and tenderness

9. When grilling burgers and steaks, allow grill to get to a high temperature before placing food on grill. Let steaks or burgers grill several minutes prior to turning, which will sear in the juices. (This also prevents sticking.)

10. When choosing an inexpensive steak, opt for flank steak rather than skirt steak, which can be tougher. Flank steak is thin and cooks quickly. They’re usually marinated before being grilled. Wrap the steak in foil as it comes off the grill and let it stand for 10 minutes. Slice it thinly on a diagonal across the grain to sever the tough fibers and make the flavorful steak more tender. (I buy flank steak more than any other meat. It's lean and a delicious way to beef up summer salads.)

11. When is cheaper better? Chicken thighs may be one of the cheaper cuts, but they do great on the grill! Thighs are more flavorful and the extra fat in the skin makes them better suited to grilling.

12. For the juiciest chicken and chops, you want to sear them on both sides on high heat for several minutes and then bring the grill temperature down to complete the cooking process.

13. Grilling vegetables in aluminum foil, with oil, prevents them from falling through the grill gates. (A bit of butter makes them even better.)

14. Just a few minutes on the grill gives bell peppers a sweet smoky flavor. As soon as the skin puffs up and turns black, they’re ready. (Roast them whole and then put them in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap so that they steam their skins off. Peel off blackened skins, then core peppers and scrape out seeds before slicing peppers and using them in a feta red pepper dip, or as a pizza topping.)

15. Cut zucchini in half lengthwise, coat with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper; grill for 15 minutes. (Zucchini is great in this salad.)

16. You can leave the husk on the corn while grilling. Once you see the shape of the kernels burning through the husk, your corn is ready. (I prefer husking it first so I get that nice charred look and taste.)

17. Grilled Caesar Salad? Sure – the Romaine lettuce ends will char, but it stays remarkably crisp and sweet, with a char-grilled flavor. (I have plans to make this soon.)

18. Always allow grill to cool prior to cleaning, but I recommend cleaning after each use.

19. To extend the life of your grill (and smoker), store in a dry place or keep covered after each use.

20. Do not grill alone; spend the time with family and friends. (It’s more DADGUM fun!)

Friday, May 13, 2011

Eat here: Obika Mozzarella Bar

When it launches on May 16th in Brookfield Place, next to the Hockey Hall of Fame, the latest outpost of the mini but global restaurant chain (Rome, Milan, London, New York, Tokyo, Istanbul and Beverly Hills) will specialize, as it has since 2004, in one main ingredient: Mozzarella di Bufala Campana *DOP (denomination of protected origin.)

I know what you’re thinking: “How odd.” True enough, though after a sneak sampling this week, to that I answer: “But how delicious.”

Simplicity is where it’s at, at Obika Mozzarella Bar. As in the best varieties of mozzarella, including DOP Stracciatela di Burrata (like oozing cheesy cream heaven), Ricotta, and Smoked Provola. (The smoked one tastes like a Milanese cookout.) All of this prized mozzarella comes in tasting plates, salads, stuffed, or whipped into starters, pastas and pizzas. Oh yeah, and the city has a new contender for best tiramisu.

Onion and garlic aren’t used in this kitchen, so don’t come here if you’re looking for a spicy meat-a-ball-a! But do visit if you want to sit in a sunny downtown atrium and sip some crisp whites from Campania (or intense reds from Sicily and Tuscany) while eating pure, unadulterated authentic Italian food.

But really, mostly cheese.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Snack of the day

Some things change and some things stay the same and I for one am glad that Cadbury Easter Creme Eggs are just as sickeningly sweet as ever, and that the company holds true to their promise of having them disappear after Easter. They could make some extra dough by selling them year-round, but they don't, and I admire that on some weird level.
I almost missed out on my annual egg but just bought one in the remainder bin at Loblaw's for 25 cents, and now it's gone.
See you again next year, old friend.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A midweek pick-me-up

I was just clicking through old blog posts trying to find a recipe, and I happened upon this, which I had almost forgotten about. It made me chuckle anew. Hope it does the same for you.

I'm here to help: Part 2

As previously discussed in last week's blog entry called "I'm here to help", not everyone is a fan of my Dish column in the National Post. I'm specifically referring to an Ottawa-area herd of elk.
Here's the column, printed in April of last year, that almost got me sued.

restaurants are finding partners in local farmers

Amy Rosen, National Post

"This is the first time in 20 years there's been any interest in 'local,'" says Andy Terauds, co-owner of Acorn Creek Farm. "So we finally fit in."
Terauds's farm is a 75-acre fruit-and-veg spread near Carp, Ont., and he's attending Ottawa's second annual Farmer-Chef Meet and Greet, which is basically a speed-dating event for local producers and chefs. Dreamed up by Savour Ottawa -- a joint initiative of the City of Ottawa, a non-profit organization called Just Food, Ottawa Tourism and Ontario Tourism -- the event is heating up at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier. From the looks of things, a lot of people are eager to promote local culinary products.
Landing a date is not always easy, but the Ottawa chefs making the rounds today seem to have no problem hooking up with area farmers, as they ramp up for the 2008 growing season.
There are intimate whispers of micro-greens and sweet promises of heirloom tomatoes.
Last year, Terauds's farm hooked up with Juniper restaurant, for which they provide some 55 varieties of lettuce. But they're still playing the field. So, too, Sandra Salmins of Wild Parrot Delectables, who's selling her greenhouse-grown "shoulder season" greens to several high-end Byward Market restaurants, including Domus, Eighteen and Luxe.
As for Elk Ranch -- which, last year, forged an ongoing love match with the Chateau Laurier -- well, let's just say every town needs its slut.

And then I printed a nice recipe for elk stuffed peppers.

Long story short, the Elk Ranch did not find the reference funny. In fact, they threatened a lawsuit unless I personally wrote a big feature about them. (At least they liked my writing.) Even now, I'm not sure what they were so upset about. (Who doesn't learn from her mistakes?) Did they really think I was calling their elks sluts? Can elks even be sluts?
As my editor expected, I refused to write a feature story about their farm, and my editor was also smart enough to write the apology for me, knowing I would likely make matters worse. It was printed a couple of weeks later at the bottom of my column. Here's what it said:

An apology: My column earlier this month about Ottawa's Farmer-Chef Meet and Greet contained an ill-considered joke about the popularity of Elk Ranch with local restaurants. I described the event as a date, and in noting Elk Ranch's success with the city's chefs, I took the metaphor too far. The intent wasn't to disparage or offend, and I apologize unreservedly to Elk Ranch for any offense taken.

As you can imagine, that Dish column got the most-ever hits.