28 November 2011

Vegetarian French Onion Soup

I wasn't sure if I'd be able to do enough cooking this week to justify last weekend's purchase of a whole bag of onions. So to take care of the majority of the onions, we made French Onion Soup. Or rather, South African Onion Soup, since it was made with Obikwa Shiraz from South Africa. Or was it Swiss Onion Soup, since we topped it with Swiss cheese? We also melted some brie into it. So, whatever the case, it was Delicious Onion Soup.

It was also vegetarian: we replaced the traditional beef broth with a mushroom stock (cubes from Capers). I didn't miss the beefiness at all. The rich flavour really comes from the slow caramelizing of the onions over low heat. This took a looooong time... over an hour. But you have to take your time with the browning (but not burning!) of the onions, because other than the red wine, a dash of thyme and Dijon mustard and a couple cubes of bread, that's really all there is to this soup. (Oh yeah, and cheese, glorious cheese.) We used this recipe as our guide, and pulsed the onions to pieces in the food processor. The raw onions hung like a stinging cloud in the air, and made Peanut cry. It was pretty cute.

Speaking of things that make Peanut cry: Peanut received his very own seduction video last week from Kyles McKay, of the upcoming superfilm Steel Viper Force: Fiero's Redemption. HOT STUFF. Like onion soup fresh from the broiler.

25 November 2011

Adding veggies and BPA to my diet

I've been seeking out easy ways to make really easy dinners that will add more vegetables to my life. One thing I've started doing since my return from Ontario (where I ate non-vegetables with abandon) is eating salad before making dinner. Using the easiest prepackaged things: a bag of pre-washed baby spinach, a bag of broccoli-carrot slaw, roasted sunflower seeds and store-bought dressing. It may not be the most environmentally friendly salad in town, but it indeed does result in more vegetables inside my body.

I also make an easy dinner which is called Canned Soup Plus Frozen Vegetables. YUM. This particular one consists of Habitant pea soup, with frozen corn and peas and a chopped up red pepper. This dinner contains a satisfactory amount of veggies, and includes a wealth of BPA as well. Hrmmm. So the question is, does the good outweigh the bad? Or vice versa?

21 November 2011

Oops, Cucumber Noodles.

I was surprised by the exceptional girth of my zucchini when I bought it, especially given the fact that zucchinis have been shrinking consistently since the end of summer. But I didn't think much about it until I sliced it in half tonight, and discovered -- oh. It's not a zucchini. It's a cucumber.

In the past I have relied on signs and gut feelings to tell the difference between zucchinis and cucumbers. Of course a little internet image searching reveals one particular difference I failed to take note of before: zucchinis have a stalk at one end. Cucumbers are rounded at both ends. Cucumbers also tend to have a filmy coating, according to this handy site (which I did notice while buying the cucumber, but only thought, hmmmm what's this new pesticide they're using; I'll have to wash this one extra well).

But anyway. The delicious pasta sauce was ready to go (made from Classico Tuscan-Style Olive & Garlic sauce that was on sale, plus onions, green pepper, black beans and veggie ground round). And so I just tried to make noodles out of the cucumber.

It didn't not work. And it didn't taste TERRIBLE. But, the texture and flavour of cucumber is a little too cold, wet and bitter (is bitter the word? Well, the flavour is the kind of flavour that needs things like feta cheese, tomatoes, red onions and black olives to offset it) to want to try that again. BUT maybe I will try making cucumber noodles again when I feel like making a fancy Greek salad.

I boiled some macaroni to eat the rest of the sauce with.

20 November 2011

Ontario Whirlwind Family Tour, Part V: Happy Birthday Mom!

My last night in Ontario, we celebrated my mom's birthday with a gigantic home-BBQed steak dinner.

Mmmm steak.

I held an impromptu Spirooli demo to teach my family members how to use their new presents. So we had zucchini noodles as a side, and topped them with onions, tomatoes, mushrooms, roasted red peppers, pesto and Parmesan cheese.

Mmmm steak. Enormous steak.

Pretty excited to be recruiting my whole family onto the zucchini noodle bandwagon.

Now I just have to figure out what to do with the leftover zucchini nubs. They look kind of like really tall mushrooms. Any suggestions?

18 November 2011

Ontario Whirlwind Family Tour, Part IV: Furbacher Christmas

Christmas came early this year for my family. Let's face it: Christmas is not even that far away, you guys! Well, we went and got it over with this weekend. I highly recommend the pre-Christmas Christmas.

Before the parents showed up, we got to work on the stuffing. It's Trinidadian (like my mom). Key ingredients include rum, pork and green olives. I made this stuffing two years ago for Thanksgiving... check it out.

I chopped the olives, then took a hundred photos of them.

Here is a page from the as yet still unedited manuscript of the family cookbook I started working on 2+ years ago. It's a WORK IN PROGRESS. Judging by the writing all over it, Nadine has made a little more progress than I have.

Here is a bird, pre-oven.


I ate a whole turkey leg.

My mom made all-new Christmas treats that we had never heard of. All of them, amazingly, are cracker-based.

Those flat ones are chocolate and butterscotch variations of Skor Bark. They taste like fudge. Pure sugary fudge. Made with one sleeve of saltines, one cup butter, 3/4 cup brown sugar and 2 cups chocolate (or butterscotch) chips:
Cover a baking sheet with foil, spray with cooking spray, and layer the saltines on top. Heat butter and sugar until melted; whip with a fork until caramelly, and pour the mixture over the crackers. Bake at 400°F for 6 minutes. Sprinkle with the chips; let sit 5 minutes until they've softened, and then use a spatula to smooth them out. Let cool in the fridge then feed to people to induce heart attacks.
The squares are made from Ritz crackers! Once you know this, you can totally taste the Ritz, but if no one told you, you'd never figure it out. The recipe is dangerously easy: one box Ritz crackers, one can condensed milk, and one package Skor bits.
Crush crackers in a bowl; stir in the condensed milk and then (most of) the Skor bits. Press into a greased 8-inch square pan, and sprinkle some extra Skor bits on top. Bake at 350°F for 20 minutes.
Try these at home at your own risk: there's no telling how many calories we ingested eating these things.

Ponché Crema!
. . . especially given the fact that dessert was washed down with Ponché Crema (ie. Trinidadian eggnog). Another dose of condensed milk, along with evaporated milk, mixed with a tonne of dark rum, eggs, lime peel and Angostura Bitters. Whew.

16 November 2011

Ontario Whirlwind Family Tour, Part III:
St. Thomas

Ont cooking
What's cooking in St. Thomas?

'Twas the night before Furbacher-Christmas, but Nadine already got her Spirooli present. (Spiroolis for everyone this year!) We made zucchini spaghetti, and ate it with some of her chicken paprikash, a bastardized (in a good way) version of a family classic, including a can each of mushroom and celery soup.

Rhyder, shoe thief
Meanwhile, Rhyder tried to steal my shoes.

Ontario drinking! Feat. Great Lakes Brewery and Dan Akroyd. The latter was actually not so bad.

15 November 2011

Ontario Whirlwind Family Tour, Part II:
St. Catharines

Fricassee chicken feat. Lara!Only one night to eat dinner at my mom's place? Then, fricassee chicken it is. Fricassee chicken is my favourite Trinidadian meal. It's basically caramelized, stewed chicken with potatoes and carrots. We made it together last time I visited (a shocking two and a half years ago) -- here's the link to the recipe.

Plantain is a traditional Trini side dish, and it is perfect with fricassee chicken. It looks like a big, wild banana. Here are some plantain tips courtesy of my mom: When you buy plantain, buy it ripe: dark, with yellow and black patches (the blacker the better). It should be soft to the touch (don't buy the green and hard ones).

To prepare: Sprinkle some white sugar onto a large plate. Peel and slice the plantain into chips -- about 1/4-inch thick.

Heat up a frying pan and add butter. Once butter melts, add plantain chips. When they start to brown, turn them over. Keep turning until you have a nice sear on both sides. Remove from pan and place slices on sugar plate; turn over to make sure they are coated on both sides. Aaand, that's it! A TASTE OF TRINIDAD.

14 November 2011

Ontario Whirlwind Family Tour, Part I: Pickering

iBurger sushi burger in up magazine
Of interest: this sushi burger at iBurger in Montréal. I didn't go there; just a photo from the magazine on the flight. But it makes me want to stop over in Quebec... Instead I went to Pickering, Ontario.

Here, I learned the proper way to drink both red and white (sweet) vermouth (without spending an extra $60 worth of booze to construct Negronis or Boulevardiers). On the rocks: one slice each orange, lemon and lime; vermouth; splashes of orange juice, lemon juice and soda water; topped with Angostura bitters. A mighty fine apéritif.

Time to eat! But first we must photograph it. Ivan made us weiner schnitzel with Czech potato salad and Czech beer (Kozel). He measured the oil for deep-frying by shooting it with the beam of an infrared sensor gun. Cooking with engineers! The schnitzel was perfect.

My new favourite cognac. I learned what XO (à la the fancy expensive Clément XO rum) means: delicious. (It also means 'extra old'.)

Some sleep, so that we can eat again!

Those eggs are 'double-yolk'. Delicious unborn twin chicken babies. Wikipedia says there are hybrid breeds of hens that lay double-yolk eggs by default. You can detect the two yolks by shining a light through the egg.

The proper way to serve toast.
This is the 'proper way to serve toast': leaning together like a four-sided tee-pee. This way the other pieces that are awaiting being eaten don't get soggy.

Meat-drunk from Czech breakfast.
Meeeeeatt! I ate speck for the first time (a lean, cold-smoked bacon with juniper flavouring, pictured here laying across the middle of the plate) and I LOVE IT. Also on the menu: spicy ham, mortadella (thinly sliced and spiced with nutmeg), and prosciutto (Ivan's favourite, so it must be eaten last).

The aerial view.

13 November 2011

A bunch of cilantro walked into a bar...

I walked into the Dover Arms beer & wine store with this bunch of cilantro in my hand...

And walked out with this $10 bottle of wine. When you need suggestions for wine pairings, it's always helpful to carry a prop.

Other Mexican pairing suggestions included some of the lighter-bodied reds, an Italian red whose name I can't remember (but it's on the bottom right shelf of the west wall) which goes really well with tomatoes, some Chianti and some sweeter reds, to balance out the spiciness. I was in a cheap mood, so this La Casona was the winner. And indeed, it goes great with Jay-burritos.

06 November 2011

Pizza, you guys. Also the most delicious rum

Clement XO rum at Calabash! Drinking a $20 bill.
Some exciting food-related things this week: drinking a glass of Clément XO rum (pictured above right) at Calabash! I first discovered this delicious rum via Ryan in the Okanagan this summer. It tastes much smoother than a $20-bill would, so I think that was a good trade. Calabash had some great mixed drinks too, most notably the Ten Toe Turbo (Mount Gay Silver Rum, Cointreau, guava, lemon juice, egg white and Angostura bitters) and the Coconut Jumby (pictured above left: El Dorado 3 year old rum shaken with fresh organic coconut water, agave syrup, muddled lemongrass, mint and lime zest).

Funghi at Nicli's

Also: a return to Nicli Antica, the pizzeria we went to on my birthday. Let's talk about pizza. In fact, let's quote Nicli's menu verbatim, because it is very informative:
Each region in Italy has its own version of Pizza. (ed: they capitalize the word pizza! They mean business.) Naples is the birthplace of pizza and of the SGT (Traditional Specialty Guaranteed).

The pizza is formed by hand and is cooked in a 900°F wood-fired oven (ed: woah, that's hot!) for roughly 90 seconds. (ed: Really?! Wow. That is a very short time. I did not know that.) This creates a pizza with the following:

• A light and fluffy cornicione (crust) which has a patina of crunch
• Flame blackened blisters may appear along the crust
• A soft thin centre
• 27–30 cm in diametre

Fast cooking time: The addition of sauce, cheese and other toppings creates a pizza centre that is generally soft and moist. This is a typical characteristic of authentic Neapolitan pizza.
I think it's time for me to make a visit to Naples.

Nicli! Chili oil!
P.S. On your next visit make sure to drench all of your pizza slices in Nicli's chili oil. It's pretty great.

01 November 2011

The Road to Health

Is paved with good salads. Like, ones that are smothered with toasted, spiced walnuts.

Sorry guys, I took the only moon head cookie @eboundcanada #dw2011
But there is always room for cookies. Especially when you find one that is different from the rest. Like, that it's shaped like a moon-head. For a reason you will probably never know.
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