30 October 2008

Trick or sweet!



Dinner was a ridiculous mix of leftover Starbucks farfalle from lunch, oreos, nachos and candy corn. Sigh. I did however make this equally ridiculous Halloween bark. I found the recipe here via Tastespotting. Note that it is inhabited by tiny orange dinosaurs (I couldn't find regular Halloween sprinkles).

29 October 2008

Salsa Fiesta

I spent the day shooting preserves for an upcoming book. And then eating them. Sadly, this photo was taken on the last day of the glass bowl's life. I just broke it while doing the dishes.

28 October 2008

Repurposed

Fifty-cent-sale item sun-dried tomato & balsamic vinegar bread dipper repurposed as dressing over a salad of spinach, green peppers, tomatoes, celery and repurposed overcooked chicken.

27 October 2008

Guilty Gourmet Veggie Wrap

I finally ate one of the burritos that's been collecting frost in my freezer. Technically: a Guiltless Gourmet microwaveable California Veggie Wrap -- "A delicious blend of carrots, zucchini, tofu and teriyaki sauce wrapped in a hand-rolled whole wheat tortilla." It sounds a lot better than it tastes. Does hand-rolling make things taste better? Is the burrito more fulfilling knowing that someone has a job where they stand there all day rolling tortilla after tortilla of tasteless veggie wraps? Does that make me feel like a Guiltless Gourmet? I'm pretty sure that I'm sorry that someone had to do that so that I could have this mediocre albeit convenient meal.

Also making an appearance in my belly this evening: a green pepper with blue cheese dip and a brown cow.

26 October 2008

Pollo Asado Mole: 1. Michelle: 0.


My springtime visit to the Sasquatch festival stocked my pantry with several Mexicanesque food items: flan de caheta, pollo asado and carne asada seasonings, and a mole sauce mix. They have since lurked in my cupboards over the course of two seasons. Today it was time to bring some of my pantry items that I never thought would see the inside of my mouth to life.

I am not a fan of cooking chicken, because I am so fearful of salmonella that I always end up overcooking it, panicking at the slightest hint of pink flesh, and cooking away until the meat is white as salt... and dry as a block of wood. I do however have fond memories of baking chicken with my roommates in first year so I decided I'd give it another try. I was doubtful that the pollo asado seasoning and mole sauce should be used in the same meal, but even more doubtful I would be cooking chicken again anytime soon, so I decided to use both.

Culling various directives from this recipe, the pollo asado label instructions and memories of Thanksgiving marinating lessons from my sister, I prepared the chicken as follows: Rinse chicken in water. Prick all over with a fork. Glaze with lemon juice and olive oil, and sprinkle both sides with seasoning; let marinate for 20 minutes. Bake at 400° for 30 minutes; broil for another 7 minutes. NOTE: This is not the correct way to do it. The resulting dish tasted like it would have been good, but once again, it was miserably overcooked. I think I simply need to lower the temperature and time and brave the food poisoning possibilities.

I served the chicken with garlic-roasted green peppers -- the only source of moisture in the meal, which somewhat saved it, providing I eat a bite of pepper with every single mouthful of chicken. The pollo asado seasoning was pretty good; the mole sauce, however, tasted like sawdust. Chalky, chocolatey sawdust. Instant mole sauce: not the way to go. One day perhaps I will try to make it from scratch. So... yeah. Overall, Chicken: 1. Michelle: 0. Expect one of my meals in the near future to involve the repurposing of overcooked chicken.

Football Food

Yesterday I dined at the BC Lions game: a burger, a beer, and a bag of cotton candy.

25 October 2008

Marcello Pizzeria & Ristorante


Last night we ate at Marcello Pizzeria & Ristorante on Commercial Drive. It was without a doubt the best pizza I've had in Vancouver. The atmosphere is warm and bright and behind the bar is a giant sun god head which covers the entire wall, whose mouth functions as the wood-burning pizza oven.

The pizza is authentic Italian (I'm guessing, since I've never actually eaten a pizza in Italy) thin crust; this one was topped with salami, ham, mushrooms, black olives, artichokes and baking cheese. Paired with Pinot Noir, and white chocolate ice cream for dessert. Delicious!

23 October 2008

Leftovers

I am still sick. Hooray for leftovers! Leftovers, Baileys, and the Twin Peaks Definitive Gold Box Edition.

Elephant & Castle

Dinner at Elephant & Castle: Roast beef-stuffed Yorkshire pudding and a giant Hoegaarden.

21 October 2008

Poor Man's Chicken Parmesan;
Night of Cornflakes

Tofu and leftover buttermilk were burning a hole in my refrigerator, and since today was the expiry date for the buttermilk, it was time to consult the Recipe Zaar again to see what I could make with these two random ingredients. My search turned up two lonely recipes. It was either Tofu Cranberry Pound Cake With White Chocolate or Crusted Tofu, and the latter only required that I purchase cornflakes, so that was the winning recipe. There was some confusion over the cornflakes measurements (whole cornflakes take up a lot more space than crushed ones), and I had no fresh herbs on hand, so I've modified the recipe a bit. I've changed the name as well, because after coating the Crusted Tofu with marinara sauce, it tasted remarkably like a lighter version of my mom's Chicken Parmesan, minus, of course, the chicken and the parmesan.

Poor Man's Chicken Parmesan

one 350g package extra firm tofu
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp basil
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp rosemary
4 cups cornflakes
pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
marinara sauce

1. Cut tofu into 1/2-inch thick slabs across the short side of the tofu block and set aside.

2. In a shallow bowl, combine buttermilk and herbs; add the tofu and turn it to coat well.

3. Let stand 20 minutes in mixture.

4. Meanwhile, crush the cornflakes, mix in salt and cayenne and pour into a flat, wide dish.

5. Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, and coat tofu slabs in the cornflake mixture, making sure to press the cornflakes gently into the tofu to cover.

6. Place the coated tofu slabs in the heated pan and allow them to cook for 4 minutes until golden brown.

7. Turn the tofu and cook on the other side 3 minutes, or until golden brown.

8. Coat crusted tofu with marina sauce. Serve immediately.
Serves 2. Note: these serving sizes are not very filling. Evidence is the fact that I also ate two bowls of Cornflakes on the side. ...and I'm still kind of hungry.

20 October 2008

Veggie Chili

I was sick in bed all day and tempted to just eat this can of veggie chili for dinner. But my body was crying out for fresh vegetables and so I chopped one and a half red peppers, threw in two cloves of grated garlic, sautéed the frozen spinach with a tablespoon of butter and served over cous cous. The meal was ridiculously easy; it probably took longer to photograph it than to make it.

19 October 2008

Milestones

Hopefully putting an end to a long stretch of eating out, dinner at Milestones tonight: Four-cheese burger, California salad, a Bellini, and a B52 coffee.

18 October 2008

Ubybrew

It was a delicious feast at the Ubyssey's 90th anniversary party this year, and I wish I had photos of the Indian-inspired buffet, but alas. I do come away with a limited edition 90th anniversary Ubybrew.

Potluck! Desserts!

Yesterday we had a potluck at work, preceding a night of drinking. My coworkers are excellent and inspirational cooks.

There were Cajun samosas, various crostinis and crackers with dips and cheeses, and Grace's stuffed mushroom caps, Setareh's eggplant dish-that-she-forgets-the-name-of-but-it's-her-favourite with sangak (delicious Persian flatbread), Mauve's swirly mushroom pastry thingees, and Jan's amazing spinach salad with radicchio, pear and goat brie. These ladies are my inspiration to be a better cook.

Later: three desserts! The decadent vegan Scrabble cake by Claudia that I 'helped' make on Wednesday night, followed by the best (cognac) crème brûlée I've had at The Whip and thirdly, another Claudia creation, a delicious brownie cheesecake. Overall, a gloriously overindulgent night of food.

17 October 2008

Beer *Braised* Chicken & Asparagus

Beer-braised chicken with shallots, asparagus and couscous. By Alex.

15 October 2008

All Chorizoed Out

Chorizo leftovers tonight. The first few bites were delicious but it soon became cumbersomely apparent that I have hit my ceiling of Chorizo tolerance for the month of October.

Also on the menu: Blasted Church Gewürztraminer and leftover chocolate icing, while watching someone else make a cake.

14 October 2008

Starbucks

There was no time between work and the CBC Radio Studio One Book Club with Margaret Atwood to stop at home, and so in keeping with the subject of her latest book, I increased my debt to local small businesses by dining at international megacorporation Starbucks: a Tall Decaf Extra Hot Pumpkin Spice Latte, No Whip, and a Reduced Fat Chicken Bruschetta Sandwich. Evil as it may or may not be, the sandwiches and salads at Starbucks are often delicious. This particular one, however, was not.

13 October 2008

Chorizo with Sun Dried Tomatoes & Cider

This dish is from Recipe Zaar, a website that is conveniently searchable by ingredient. It was both easy and delicious.

Chorizo with Sun Dried Tomatoes & Cider

Ingredients
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 teaspoons paprika
1 cup apple cider
2 bay leaves, broken in half
1 lb spanish chorizo sausage, cut diagonally, into 3/4 inch pieces
1/4 cup sun-dried tomato, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup chopped parsley

Directions
1. Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat.
2. Add onions and garlic.
3. Sauté about 5 minutes, or until onions are translucent.
4. Add paprika and cook 1 minute.
5. Add cider and bay leaves; bring to a boil.
6. Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes.
7. Add chorizo and sun-dried tomatoes; simmer for an additional 5 minutes.
8. Sprinkle with parsley.

12 October 2008

Salad; Honey-Pear; Palin

Another salad-of-random-vegetables. The erratic temperature control in my fridge froze the spinach, rendering it inedible, so this salad is just made of celery, red pepper, grape tomatos and parsley, with homemade blue cheese dressing and croutons.

Healthy, right? Except, also: a handful of Shredded Wheat, and a Snickers bar.

Later: Cheese and crackers with Honey-Pear Walnut Spread; Tinhorn Creek Gewürztraminer; chips.

For dessert: Darcie's offensive cake of the month (though not nearly as offensive as last month's 9/11 cake), the delicious Ms. Palin.

Honey-Pear Walnut & Goat Cheese Crostinis;
C Restaurant

That Waldorf salad and subsequent Waldorf salad lunches scarcely put a dent in the 1-kg bag of walnuts I bought at Superstore (the bulk section was all out; it was 1 kg or nothing), and not wanting to spend the entire season eating Waldorf salads, I've been on the lookout for walnut recipes. Luckily there is www.walnuts.org, catering to all your walnut needs.

I decided to go with the Honey Walnut Spread recipe to start, since I already had most of the ingredients.

Except for dried pears. I couldn't find dried pears anywhere, so I substituted a chopped up ripe pear. But the taste of fresh pear is too delicate. It was overwhelmed by all the other flavours as I suspected it would be, so I added three spoonfuls (probably too much) of St Dalfour's Pear William Deluxe Spread, to stand up to the citrus (but really it just added to the overall sweetness). The resulting recipe is ridiculously sweet, but what did I expect for a "honey spread." Today's lesson, embarrassingly obvious in retrospect: zest the orange before juicing it.

Here is the adapted recipe. To make up for the sweetness overload, be generous with the goat cheese. And serve with white wine, maybe a citrusy Gewürztraminer.

Honey-Pear Walnut & Goat Cheese Crostinis

Ingredients

2 cups walnuts
3/4 cup honey
3/4 cup ripe pear, cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 1/2 teaspoons pear preserves spread
2 teaspoons herbs de Provence
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 tablespoons finely grated orange zest
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
pinch of salt
twelve 1/2-inch thick baguette slices
4 ounces (about 1/2 cup) plain goat cheese


Directions

1. Preheat the broiler.

2. Chop 1 cup of the walnuts coarsely; chop the remaining cup of walnuts finely.

3. Place all the walnuts in a large bowl and add the honey, pears, herbs de Provence, coriander, orange zest, orange juice, lemon juice and salt. Beat vigorously until completed mixed. Set aside.

4. Place baguette slices on a baking sheet. Cut the goat cheese into pieces and divide among the baguette slices. Broil until cheese is just melted (this only takes a moment), then spread the cheese uniformly on each slice.

5. Top each slice with a spoonful of Honey-Pear Walnut Spread and serve immediately.

This is probably about all I'll be "cooking" this Thanksgiving. For dinner dinner, I went to C Restaurant: seared bacon-wrapped scallops with beet and foie gras purée; basted lobster with heirloom tomato jam, roasted tomato, foie gras croquette and pine mushroom tea.

10 October 2008

Tuna, Cabbage & Pineapple

Yellow fin tuna and a cabbage & pineapple coleslaw with sesame oil dressing, c/o Alex.

09 October 2008

Spaghetti & Bison chez Lynley

Lynley and Alistair made whole wheat spaghetti with a bison meat sauce. I brought the bread, and we dined over Magnum P.I.

08 October 2008

Carbohydrates

Vincent's response to the photo of my first bread attempt:

9:21 OMG
LOOOL
9:22 what's the problem ?
too less oven
maybe
is it good ?
9:23 and, just one stuff :
put your bread on a plate
because he haven't got any place for grow up

So, tonight was attempt number two. This time I baked it on a tray, put the dough in the oven at 450°, then turned it down to 250 and baked half an hour. The result: crust! Not much, but it's there. It tastes like a big, fat baguette.

I wasn't that hungry, but also made some pasta and sauce, to have something to take for lunch tomorrow. I roasted red peppers, tomatoes and spinach and threw some chopped up chorizo into tomato sauce on pantacce.

07 October 2008

Chorizo sausage & salad

Dinner tonight was Spanish chorizo sausage, and a salad of random vegetables that were hanging around: spinach, mushrooms, and celery with blue cheese. Hooray for remembering to eat leftover produce before it dies. Also: the last flan.

06 October 2008

Waldorf Salad

My foremost requirement in using a recipe from a cookbook is that it is comprised of no more than six ingredients, at most. This Waldorf Salad from Ogilivie's Book for a Cook only called for five! Therefore I found myself making salad dressing during a work break at midnight last night (of course this increased the ingredient count considerably, but it somehow seemed like the right thing to do). I followed this recipe for blue cheese dressing, minus the roasting of the garlic.

Incidentally, first published in 1905, Ogilvie's is a charming little Whitecap reproduction, retaining its original turn-of-the-century typesetting and editing.

Waldorf Salad

Materials.
1 cup apples (peeled and chopped).
1 cup celery (chopped).
1/2 cup walnuts (chopped).
Salad dressing.
Lettuce leaves

Preparation.
Mix apples, celery and walnuts with salad dressing. Garnish with lettuce leaves. Do not make until ready to use, as apples turn dark.

I used Gala apples (probably, in retrospect, the wrong choice), and baby spinach for the lettuce. I forgot to chop the walnuts, and I purposely didn't peel the apples (it looks nicer that way).

I'm not sold on this recipe. The first few bites were exciting, but maybe that's just because I was excited to have made something. Maybe it needs a lighter dressing. I suppose the blue cheese is a little overbearing. It might also be better if everything was chopped smaller. The ingredients are an interesting mix, though. Tart, tangy apples and dull, bitter walnuts could not be further away from each other on the taste spectrum, and the neutrality of tasteless celery kind of ties the two together, or else gives the tastebuds a rest from either extreme.

05 October 2008

President's Choice

President's Choice is the undisputed king of ready-to-eat foods. Busy with work at home, dinner was President's Choice Pantacce with President's Choice Bolognese sauce. Also: homemade bread with President's Choice Rustic Peppercorn Pâté, and grape tomatoes.

04 October 2008

Lamb Leftovers; BREAD!

That Lamb Pasanda turned out to be a good investment, since it fed me again for both lunch and dinner today. The problem with most Indian food is its heaviness. The first few bites are delicious, but at the end of the meal, I feel like I have eaten a brick. As a result however, and because of the spiciness, I end up eating a lot less of it and feeling full faster.

Anyway. It has not just been weekend-of-Pasanda... it was the weekend where I finally attempted to make something, and not just from an instant packet, well, I guess yeast comes in a packet...

This summer I befriended a Parisian tourist on the beach at English Bay. Vincent told me about his daily bread-baking ritual. He described the simple process and it sounded so easy, I was moved to purchase a packet of yeast the next time I was in a grocery store. Which then sat in my cupboard for several months. While going through my kitchen recently I came across it, and asked Vincent in an email to send me his recipe. Here are his directions (Merci, Wine Blood!):

Bread by Vincent

For make bread:

1) Take a bowl and put 3 glasses of flour and 1 little spoon of salt. Mix a little.

2) In the middle of the bowl, pay the yeast (don't mix), and put 1 glass of water (little warm water).

3) Now you can begin to mix with a big spoon, and when the texture is like a blob, put some flour in a table, and put on your dough, you can mix it with your hand during 4 minutes.

4) After that, let the dough alone during 1h30 under a cover in a warm room (25-30 °C). Before put on oven: make cut with knife under the bread. And oven at 200°C

5) After that you can put it in the oven during 30 - 45 minutes.

Enjoy!

PS: The first time you make bread is difficult, don't abandons! If the bread don't grow up, use 2 packets of yeast.


I love the smell of yeast. When I learned as a kid watching my mom bake that it was a living microorganism, I always felt a little mournful each time we drowned those little critters in warm water, their last breaths emerging as air bubbles in the goo...

Pictured above is the risen dough. For flour I used what I had on hand -- good old-fashioned Robin Hood All Purpose Flour. Since I let the bread rise in the baking dish, I skipped the part about cutting underneath with a knife before placing it in the oven. I also went to a dentist appointment while it was rising, so it was left to sit for 3 hours instead of 1 1/2.

The resulting bread is not much to look at. It looks naked and white and disturbingly exactly like the photo taken prior to baking. I was sure I had screwed it up. I didn't read about kneading prior to my attempt, I didn't grease the pan... but none of this matters. The flavour is all that you could ask for from such a simple recipe. It is fresh and yeasty and simply delicious. I can't believe how easy this was. It's a whole new world...

Note
Problems sometimes occur taking food photos with a curious cat in the vicinity.

03 October 2008

Lamb Pasanda; Flan

Lamb Pasanda at Original Flavours of India on Robson, on the walk home from work. I've never tried this dish before and was really pleased. It is made with a yogurt-based sauce with ground nuts. My first time at Original Flavours, I was impressed that when you say you want it really, really spicy, they actually make it really, really spicy.

Later, and probably every night until it runs out: Flan. Flan, flan, flan. Mini-coffee cup servings of artificially-flavoured flan. ...why do I feel sacrilegious every time I refer to this as flan?

Red salsa, White sour cream, Blue corn

Nachos! So many nachos. Red nachos and blue nachos, to accompany the Palin/Biden debate. BBQ chips, also. Chips. Too many chips, really.

01 October 2008

Miko Sushi

Dinner at Miko Sushi on Robson: Asari no sakamushi (saké-steamed clams), agedashi tofu and spicy tuna sashimi--the latter unlike any other sashimi I've had: mashed into a pasty meatball and polka-dotted with chives and roe.

Dessert: insta-flan!
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