29 June 2009

Guacamole-Salsa; Spaghettini Aglio e Olio with Mixed Greens and Herbs; Tarte Tatin

No cooking class tonight because of Canada Day. Instead, a night of domestic bliss: reading, cooking, CBC, The Wire, napping, cleaning (supposedly -- I haven't got to that last part yet).

Remnants of blue corn nacho chips with Fresh is Best Medium-Hot Guacamole: best mix of guacamole and salsa I've ever had, with lemon and cilantro. The only dip you need for tortilla chips.

Spaghettini Aglio e Olio with spinach, arugula, basil, parsley and thyme, and fresh grated Parmesan. I have a bad habit of overusing fresh herbs when I know that what I don't use will likely go to waste. It took me a while to figure out which herb was overpowering -- it was the thyme. It's just a bit too strong for all the other subtle flavours of the Aglio e Olio dish. If I'd left it out, it would have been perfect.

Tarte Tatin: oops.

I had such a pretty pattern going . . . but in the end about 6 of the apple slices stuck to the pan.

I should have added butter to the apples before turning them, instead of after.

Also: the pastry dough shrank pretty much as soon as I put it in the oven. I should have rolled it thinner and cut it into a circle around the pan . . . instead, once again not wanting anything to go to waste, I just used all of the dough and tried to shape it into a circle. It didn't quite work. No matter: it was still really, really delicious.

28 June 2009

Strawberry Cornmeal Muffins; Akira

Today I made strawberry cornmeal muffins, a recipe I discovered on a fellow Vancouverite's food blog, Eating Out Loud. This recipe is the result of A Mighty Appetite's Eating Down the Fridge challenge.

Eating Down the Fridge challenges you to take a whole week off of food shopping and cook your meals using only what's already in the fridge, freezer and kitchen cabinets. The official challenge was planned for the week of June 22, but it's a good idea to try any time to reduce waste, save money, and learn to get more creative with leftovers. I plan to try it out once I've finished my cooking class.

Allen was making use of a large bag of cornmeal hiding out in the back of his cupboard -- but for me it was an excuse to make the most of strawberry season while it's still in our midst. Having been reprimanded by Grace for buying Californian strawberries last week, I went out of my way to find some local berries this time. In fact, I kind of went on a mini-rampage through Capers, stocking up on organic staples and treats. So while this post is the result of someone else trying to use up whatever they have on hand, it resulted in me buying a whole bunch of groceries. Peanut was also happy to have a new grocery bag cave to hide out in.

Anyway. The muffin recipe is over here. I'm looking forward to muffin breakfasts all week. Though they likely won't last that long, since I already ate three today.

Dinner today at Akira Sushi: edamame, spicy tuna sashimi and veggie gyoza.

27 June 2009

Trader Joe's Roast Beef Hash

As I was browning this ready-made Roast Beef Hash in the skillet, I began to have my doubts about Trader Joe's . . . it looked and smelled pretty gross. But the end product was fairly tasty. I followed the example on the packaging and fried an egg to go with it. I'd probably buy this again, if only to have as one of those last-minute-no-groceries-no-time-NOT-SIDEKICKS meals.

Later: Delicous chocolate-caramel cheese-Parmida-birthday-cake by Claudia!

Walking Dinner. Again.

I eschewed cooking tonight (again!) in favour of a lengthy nap and then killing some ants whom I discovered with horror have infested my kitchen. And so I ate dinner while walking again; a pretty awful way to dine, but made tolerable with good company. Pictured here are two Capers cookies courtesy of Sonya (thanks!). I also had:
• three fingers of a Kit Kat bar
• a Bread Garden tuna sandwich from Chevron.

26 June 2009

Pizza; Banana Bread; Teorema

Hi. I ate a slice of Pizzo pizza again for dinner. Sorry. Also, banana-chocolate chip bread from volunteering at the Cinémathèque for Teorema.

25 June 2009

Pizzo; Duffin's

Early dinner: Pizzo pizza at the bus stop. Late dinner: Vietnamese Chicken sub at Duffin's Donuts.

23 June 2009

Leftover Fish Stew; Cedar Cottage Pub

Here are the results of my trip to the Trout Lake Farmer's Market, back when I picked up those dried lobster mushrooms. I purposely didn't bring much money with me that day, because basically, I would have just spent it all.

Today I worked from home. I thought that meant I would cook my lunch and dinner in domestic wonderment, but nope, it was just fish stew leftovers all day long.

Post-softball (the first game of the season that I played AND we won), celebratory veggie pizza at Cedar Cottage Pub. Duncan M McHugh photo.

Best Mojito Ever; Cooking Class #6

On this day I had the best mojito ever, made by Grace.

Here we see her muddling the mint and sugar.

Also served Chez Grace were local strawberries and ice cream, and empanadas stuffed with pork and pine nuts. I suppose it is kind of weird, when someone has you over to eat, to document it all like this, but I think my friends are used to it by now.

Then I walked around the corner to my cooking class.

The menu for Class #6
Assorted Crostinis
Seared Scallops with Green Curry Sauce
Daikon-Apple-Ginger Slaw
Pan Seared Duck Breast with Orange Salad
Coconut Thai Rice
Tart Tatin

We started out the class assembling crostinis. After a long day of work following just 4 hours of sleep, I was exhausted and not feeling very creative; you could tell by looking at the crostinis I threw together. Kathy's were quite inspiring so I photographed hers instead.

Choreographing (I use that word a lot, I know) last night's entrées was fairly complicated, which was discouraging until I tasted them, and understood that the effort really pays off.

I couldn't decide which I liked better: the duck breast, or the scallops. Both were pretty wonderful. Looking forward to trying these at home soon . . . Homework is expensive.

For dessert, Tarte Tatin!

At home I sat in bed trying to stay awake through S05 E01 of The Wire, snacking on mini lemon tarts. All in all, it was an exceptionally great day in food.

22 June 2009

Lemon Tarts; Fish Stew II

You know you're becoming obsessed with food when the waving arms of a sea of dub-stepping ravers reminds you of strands of gluten forming in dough. Maybe I was subliminally readying myself for today's pastry dough . . .

It was a wordless morning with Akron/Family on the iTunes and Lemon Tarts coming to life at my fingertips. A two-hour process yeilded just 12 mini-tarts, plus extra lemon curd and much leftover dough to hopefully be turned into a Tarte Tatin later on in the week.

I still had most of the ingredients from yesterday and so I made another batch of Mediterranean Fish Stew. The spicing improved, but I overdid it on the fennel and fennel seeds. Today's seafood -- halibut, salmon and scallops -- cost nearly $30. I kind of went all out on the fish, but I'm still experimenting. Over $11 for 3 big scallops, and I ended up overcooking them into little bite-sized pieces of rubber. It's all part of the learning process. There was a big sale on frozen prawns and salmon, so next time I make this it will be a lot cheaper.

21 June 2009

Fish Stew

I woke up Saturday morning and made me some Fish Stew. I suppose it sounds more elegant if you call it Mediterranean Seafood Stew. In any case it was good, though I've yet to master the spices. Seafood of choice: salmon, cod and prawns. I had it for breakfast, and for dinner.

19 June 2009

Tomato Sauce and Spaghettini Aglio e Olio

I stayed in to take an extended nap and then get some cooking homework done. I made tomato sauce and Spaghettini Aglio e Olio. Because cooking tomato seeds will make them bitter, I deseeded the whole canned tomatoes (note: no salt or citric acid in the ingredients -- when tomatoes are picked ripe, their natural sugar should be enough to preserve them) by passing them through a sieve, and then rinced the seeds from the remaining tomato pieces . . . kind of ridiculous. I should have just sliced each tomato open and scooped the innards out.

One of the secrets to delicious pasta is adding copious amounts of salt to the water! Add 1 tsp per litre (I used a bit more than that, even) once the water is boiling. It infuses the pasta with salt, which makes an enormous difference in flavour.

Later I went to Safeway to get saffron for my fish stew, and wound up with some cream fudge which I ate in bed while listening to Randy Bachman play songs about food on Vinyl Tap. There was a pretty great song called "Peanut."

18 June 2009

Don Guacamole's

Apologies for another crappy cell phone pic. I ended up at Don Guacamole's on Robson Street for dinner. I had the Sopa Azteca. I also ordered a taco but it never showed up, which is fine since the soup was enough. Service was slow and forgetful, likely because it's so busy there, but they make up for it by starting every table off with complementary tortilla chips, salsa, guacamole, chipotle sauce and lime. Best Mexican food I've had in a long time. (Not counting, of course, Janos's homemade birthday tortillas.)

17 June 2009

School Leftovers

I meant to cook the pasta sauces we learned in class tonight but instead decided to take it easy. Instead: school leftovers. I had the remnants of my Chicken Saltimbocca, green beans & gnocchi homework for dinner, and for dessert, the Lemon Tart from class that I left in the fridge to set and then forgot about. Lemon curd custard is both prettier and tastier once it has set.

Chinatown MEAT BUNS; Deep-fried Zucchini

Pre-softball: I took advantage of a long wait for the bus in Chinatown and stocked up on baked pork buns and beef curry buns. Post-softball: Keiths and deep-fried zucchini at Cedar Cottage Pub.

15 June 2009

Cooking Class #5

Italian adventures continued in my cooking class as tonight we ventured into spaghettini and sauces. Making a good tomato sauce is so much simpler than I ever would have guessed. You can taste the simplicity, and simplicity tastes delicious.

We then used the leftover tomato sauce as a base for Mediterranean Fish Stew, one of my favourite dishes so far. The mirepoix features red onion, shallots and fennel, there's some vermouth going on in there, and salmon, black cod and prawns. !!!

The dishes this week were fairly easy. . . . except for the lemon curd custard tart. This was a bit complicated for just one tart. I might try to make some mini tarts with this recipe, though. But it will likely take me an entire day.

14 June 2009

How to Roast Red Peppers

And now for a lesson on how to make the most delicious pizza topping in existence . . .

1. Cut peppers into two or three pieces, removing stem and seeds.

2. Broil until skin blisters and blackens.

3. Transfer peppers to a ziploc bag and let sit for about 10 to 15 minutes to steam.

*EDIT* I've stopped using ziploc bags to be more environmentally friendly, and now I place the peppers in a tupperware container or glass jar to steam.

4. Once cooled, peel skins off peppers.

5. Slice them up and smother a pizza with them. SO GOOD!

Chicken Saltimbocca with Gnocchi & Green Beans

Congratulations to me on my first ever grease fire! Yay. My reaction went as follows:

1. Stare at it for a couple seconds wishing it would go away.

2. Think back to Sesame Street where I probably first learned that you should throw a towel on a grease fire to put it out, and under no circumstances use water.

3. Consider, even still, the incongruity of putting a towel onto a fire.

4. Blow feebly on the fire: nope, not a good idea.

5. Give in, and throw one of my nice new dish towels onto the fire, being careful to cover the pan completely. (In retrospect, I should have dampened the towel first.)

Seconds later I lifted it up to check on it -- this set it on fire again, so I had to recover it. Then I just stood there and waited for a while until it died out completely. It's somehow comforting to know that in times of adversity my mind instantly defaults to Sesame Street skits. Life lessons learned from muppets live on somewhere in there, and continue to be relevant.

Anyway. Fire aside, my first attempt at Chicken Saltimbocca with Gnocchi and Green Beans went o-kay. The Chicken Saltimbocca turned out great, though the gravy, looking a bit overly charcoaly coming from my cast iron skillet, was suspect.

Other problems:

• I didn't have enough pans or arms. In class there were three of us working three pans (the beans, the gnocchi and the chicken). Of course this can be choreographed to work with just one person in charge, but not when you only have one pan to work with (due to having set the other one on fire).

• I made the gnocchis a bit too big, and the dough was a bit too wet. So I wasn't able to shape the gnocchis Godfather III-style. They kept sticking to the counter.

• I didn't sautée the gnocchis in a Teflon pan as my instructor suggests, because I don't own one. Therefore I ended up with a thin layer of gnocchi dough on the bottom of the skillet.

• Because of the one pan thing, by the time the chicken was ready to serve, the gnocchi and beans were cold.

Chicken Saltimbocca, by the way, is extremely salty, as the name suggests. I don't think it can be fully enjoyed without the accompaniment of a glass of beer.

It was quite the day of cooking. I also made another batch of pizzettes this morning for lunch, which brings me to my next post . . .
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