Posts Tagged ‘Recipes’

The Custom BBQ Rub: Take Two

The Rub

Last year during grilling season we discussed the extent of my stupidity when it comes to writing shit down.

And last year I also failed to experiment with recreating the magical spice blend because I was so distraught over the whole ridiculous matter.

But, this year I decided it was high time to jump back on the horse and try again.  And because occasionally I do learn from my mistakes, I also took the liberty of writing it all down.

It’s not quite the same, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction.  A sniff test next to a sample of the original does come closer than anything else I imagined, though after re-reading some other posts from last year I’m convinced there is no celery seed but ajowan instead, and that the thyme should really be epazote.  I added a few new things to the blend this time too, like the chicory and roasted paprika and I think they may account for the variance.

Foodie’s BBQ Rub (The Second)

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I Came, I Saw, I Ramp-ed It Up

Sweet Potato Biscuits

Ah, ramps.

What has this year been debated as one of foraging’s most overrated bounties are nonetheless one of my most cherished harbingers of spring.

There’s no doubt that I also adore other seasonal offerings like fiddleheads and asparagus, but in my overall stratosphere they aren’t really locally accessible just yet.  Ramps typically come first, signalling my springtime appetite to perk itself up a bit.

And so, I continue to content myself with ramps until others come along, their pungent edible bulbs so funkily sweet and tender.

As I mentioned on Monday, my first ramp preparation of the year was a fragrant ramp butter mixed into a batch of saltwater potatoes.  Delicious as it was, I was confident that even better dishes were yet to come, I just wasn’t certain what those dishes would be yet.

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You Don’t Know Gorp

Granola

Until about 6 months ago, I never really understood all of the hoopla about granola.

Granola bars are alright I suppose, but even they aren’t something I ever get a craving for.  Granola always seems too sweet, too greasy, too dry or too flavourless to merit any time in my mouth, not to mention that I’ve often associated it with old people, specifically my dad.  For lack of a better explanation, it just reeks of aging hippies crunching on tofu, muesli and bean sprouts, which I know is a very stereotypical thing to say, but the mind thinks what it wants.

But, about 6 months ago, Pierre Lamielle (of Kitchen Scraps fame) changed all of that.

You see, I was reviewing his cookbook during my stint at Taste T.O. and one of the recipes I opted to test was his granola ratio.  Once I got over the concept of granola having a set recipe, I freed myself up to start making a concoction I could actually enjoy.  Since then, I’ve been making a batch of granola every 2-3 weeks to keep the Everyman and myself in crunchy breakfast heaven.  In my case, it’s served over a thick, strained whole yogurt, but the Everyman prefers to eat his nut-free version plain.  Our versions are nearly identical, but in his the omission of nuts is replaced by extra raisins and the occasional bittersweet chocolate chip.

This gorp is so hunger-inspiring that you might even want to try making some yourself.  My version (replete with alterations and substitutions) is detailed below, but you can also find the original in the Kitchen Scraps cookbook.

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Dippity Do

Roasted Carrot Dip

My mother in law is the queen of the newspaper recipe.

Because they often have 3 of the 4 local papers in the house, it’s not unusual to find her kitchen at home or at the cottage littered with clippings of recipes she is longing to try.  She’s pretty open minded, but definitely has a soft spot for Lucy Waverman’s weekly column.  Generally speaking, I don’t usually find recipes for my kind of food in the paper (with the exception of Bittman, that is) so you can imagine my surprise when we all (myself included) immediately fell in love with a dip she’d cribbed from the paper over Christmas.

If I’m not mistaken, the original recipe was also a Waverman, but I can’t confirm because I’ve been unable to find it online.  The recipe in question was for a rather festive roasted red pepper and artichoke tapenade, made unique by the fact that it didn’t actually contain any olives.  I know, it’s technically not a tapenade without them, but I kind of think of it along the same lines as the universe basterdizing hummus.  At any rate, this tapenade was SO good that all of us spending Christmas at the cottage were hooked and slurping it up like crack.  Since then, I’ve regularly made it twice a month in 3 cup batches and find it as a welcome addition to a lunch basket.

However, while recently peeling and turning a 5 pound bag of carrots into sticks, I started to wonder what would happen if I started messing around with the proportions of veg in the recipe.  Before I knew it, I was steaming a handful of carrot sticks and collecting the rest of the ingredients I wanted to play with on the counter.  By the time I was done, the recipe bore little resemblance to the original, but still had the same raw, sweetly pungent bite that the roasted pepper variety had.  The lovely thing about the dip is that it gets better and better the longer it sits, as the flavours have time to meld.

Foodie’s Roasted Carrot Dip

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The King, In Cake Form

King Cakes

Several months ago, the Everyman and I took a shine to a British cooking show called Come Dine With Me.

Come Dine With Me’s premise is to get 4-5 strangers together and let each of them host a dinner party over the course of a week to compete for a $1000 prize.  The guests at each dinner party secretly vote on how each other has done once the parties are over, and whomever’s party has the highest score at the end of the week is the winner.  As you can imagine, hilarity often ensues.

One of the segments of the show that occurs with some regularity is the wandering around the house bit.  While the host is busy assembling appetizers, the guests are typically left to roam free around their house, being nosy and poking into private things.  It was during one such segment that the Everyman and I saw a guest pull an Elvis cookbook off one of the host’s shelves.  I’m not sure what it was about the book that captivated him so much, but the Everyman was absolutely enthralled by it.  At that moment I secretly took it upon myself to try and find him a copy.

After a few weeks, I managed to surreptitiously find Fit For A King in England (it’s long since been out of print) and presented it to him on a recent weekend.  Little did I know at the time of purchase that he had no intention of actually cooking from the book, but rather thought it was an interesting coffee table curiosity.  Generally speaking, I didn’t intend to cook anything from it either, being that Elvis wasn’t exactly known for his healthful lifestyle.  Then, one day when the Everyman was paging through the book reading me tidbits of various recipes, he came across one for peanut butter buttermilk bread.  I was immediately intrigued by the idea, and filed it away in the back of my mind for later.

This past weekend I decided to revisit the idea, but instead of baking it as a bread I opted to make a dozen mini cakes.

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Chicken Pot Pie (In The Sky!)

Fillicious

It’s been unseasonably warm here in Toronto during the last 7 days, with temperatures ranging from 14 to 19 throughout the week.

It’s been so warm in fact, that it’s had many people decrying the arrival of spring.  I for one am sceptical on that front.  Not that it matters much to me anyway, since I’ll be departing on a tropical vacation soon.  Nonetheless, it’s certainly not enough to get me planting out of doors or packing away the winter boots just yet.

One thing it was able to inspire me to do though, was to create a pot pie.  Even if winter might not be quite over, it’s pretty clear that we’re getting to the tail end of it, which means heavier, heartier fare is becoming less and less desired or appropriate as each week moves on.  That being said, as far as I could remember, I don’t think I had ever made a pot pie before, though I’ve certainly made my fair share of chicken stews with dumplings, which are pretty much just pot pie filling without the vessel.  It seemed almost ludicrous to me that I had never bothered to make one, since chicken pot pie rates up there as one of my most favourite foods, but also one I don’t eat very often.  For the record, I can’t even recall the last time I had one before this, which seemed like reason enough to follow through with it.  Fortuitously, I’d received an email recipe from Chow recently that sounded like just the ticket, so I planned to work on it when I got home that night.

Of course, as I read through the recipe I realized I was missing several things; peas and pre-roasted chicken being the most noticeable exceptions.  I wasn’t ready to let go of the idea though, so I went rogue.  Instead of adding the peas, I just increased the carrots, celery and potato all to a cup.  For the chicken I opted to take the liquid that you’re supposed to simmer the chicken in, substitute buttermilk into it so that it would keep the meat moist and tender and poach boneless, skinless chicken thighs in it until they were cooked through.  Once everything was cooked and creamy, I assembled the pie as directed and topped it with a yummy puff pastry lid.  45 minutes later, I was in pot pie heaven.

The Everyman was so fond of the pot pie that he went back for thirds that night, and then proceeded to request it in his lunch bag every single day until it was all gone.  I’d say it was a winner.  Unfortunately, since he also asked me to keep this one in the regular rotation, I imagine it’s possible that I’ll be in the kitchen sweating my arse off over some pot pie filling this summer.

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One Upping Rusty And Jerome…

The R&J

As I’ve surely mentioned here many times before, I’m a huge fan of breakfast.

Unfortunately, the Everyman is not, and mostly prefers to eat his first meal of the day around noon-ish on the weekend, which typically leaves us at a frustratingly inedible impasse.  Due to our differing opinions on the matter we don’t go out for brunch all that often, either.  Our first few visits to The Hoof Cafe when it opened were a noticeable exception, but that was mainly because the Everyman trusts Grant and also knew he could get un-breakfasty items if it came down to it (and it often does).  After we went to Cowbell brunch for my birthday, the Everyman was visibly smitten with the Rusty and Jerome I ‘d ordered (pictured above in its combo plate of apple pear compote-topped waffle, meatloaf, beans and sausage, bacon, toast and eggy glory) and beermosas too, but the simple fact is no matter how good the food is (and it IS fan-freakin-tastic) some days you just don’t want to travel across town to eat.  We’ve returned for brunch several times since then, but I still occasionally get intolerable cravings for breakfast that won’t quit in the interim.

One such yen hit me with full force just the other day.  Being that it was the middle of the week, it was unlikely that I would have the chance to go out for brunch the following day, so I contemplated the next best option; breakfast for dinner!  Growing up, I had a friend whose dad would make breakfast for dinner one day a week, and whether it was pancakes, waffles or eggs I always loved eating dinner at their house on that day.  We never really did anything like that in my home, so dinnerfast felt a little bit foreign and strangely like luxury.

After rummaging around in the fridge and finding the remnants of a carton of buttermilk, I began searching the internest for a decent buttermilk pancake recipe.  My gaze immediately gravitated towards this, but was also enticed by this, too.  Knowing the Everyman as well as I do, I was certain that if he chose the buttermilk pear option I’d have to find a suitable side dish to go with it to counter the sweetness, since he’s not a great lover of sweet breakfasts especially.  As I wracked my brain over possible complements, out of nowhere an idea came to me.  Why not make a salty hash with his favourite meat (prosciutto)?

Once I ran the options by him, he immediately began salivating over the potential of what we began referring to as who hash (a la The Grinch).  When we arrived home from work I mixed up the pear pancake batter so that it could rest, and began grating potatoes and onions and dicing prosciutto.  The whole meal came together quickly, and before I knew it I was serving up a beautiful puffy pancake that resembled an upside down cake with a side of crispy, crusty prosciutto speckled hash.

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Hello, I Love You, Won’t You Tell Me Your Name?

Complete

During the past few months I’ve become increasingly entranced by the idea of making my own pasta.

While achieving ribbony, hand cut noodles has been a work in progress, I’ve slowly but surely become more proficient, bit by flour-covered bit.

As such, I’ve been on the market for some form of pasta machine, but ever since my snafu with the stand mixer pasta attachment, I haven’t been in much of a hurry.  I’ve also been told they can be quite expensive, so I didn’t want to plunk down any cold, hard cash until I was absolutely certain it wasn’t just a passing fancy.  In the interim, pastas have been made with some regularity in our household by using the old fashioned method of rolling pin plus sharp knife.  Rustic for sure, but still extremely satisfying when compared next to your standard out of the box fare.

So, while the Everyman and I were out shopping for our upcoming trip, it occurred to me to stop into a housewares store to check if they happened to sell pasta makers.  In the first store I was out of luck, but ducking into the second as we headed towards the exit, not only did I find a pasta maker, but it was the last one, and a floor model at that, so for all intents and purposes it was a steal.  The only catch was that it didn’t come packaged, which meant that a) there was no manual, and b) it took the clerk 20 minutes to try and figure out what the SKU was so they could enter it into the cash register.  But, for a mere $20 I certainly wasn’t complaining.

Semolina Dough

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Bait And Switch (Or Why I’m Not Above The Occasional Culinary Subterfuge)

Parsnipity Spelt Cake

Sometimes I come across strange recipes on the internet that I just can’t help but test out in my own kitchen.  I become inordinately fascinated by these culinary oddities, with a fixation that won’t be satisfied until I taste them for myself.  Of course, in order to get the Everyman to try many of them, I generally have to leave out certain salient details that might give him pause.

Case in point would be when this particular recipe popped up in my RSS, gleaned from the Serious Eats column The Crisper Whisperer.  I’m sure that by the time he finishes reading this post I will have received a call or an email about this particular cake and his personal thoughts on it, but when he asked me what it was last night I simply uttered “spice cake”.

Over the years we’ve all come to acknowledge carrot cake, sweet potato pie and zucchini muffins as relatively commonplace dessert-type offerings, but up until this point I’d never seen or heard of a parsnip cake before.  Between the fact that I was vaguely intrigued and disgusted by its very existence, and the fact that I had a half bag of parsnips lounging around our crisper not getting any younger, I decided it had to be done.

Just Batter

The recipe began simply, calling for all the usual suspects that come to a batter party (flour, sugar, eggs) but I immediately began making changes and substitutions.  Where there was once flour I replaced it with spelt, and a cupful of allergenic walnuts became a measure of porridge oats, while white sugar was traded for brown.  Then, just because I felt the guilt of attempting something healthy (yes, I suffer from the opposite form of guilt, not for eating badly, but from trying to eat too good) I threw in a small handful of dark chocolate chips – just because.

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The Soul Of Comfort Food

Cornbread; Ain't Nothin' Wrong With That!

When I was younger, comfort food took on many forms.

Being half Trinidadian, if my mom was cooking it often meant some sort of roti and curry preparation to warm our hearts and bellies.  After my parents split and my dad took over the cooking for our household, it was a Sunday roast chicken redolent with paprika, garlic, onion and pepper with a side of fluffy stuffing.  Once I was considered old enough to cook on my own, my foods of choice were often plain, bland and white, including tall glasses of cold milk, hot buttered rice and large piles of creamy mashed potatoes – clearly my love of starchy white carbs was cultivated at a young age.

These days comfort food in our household usually means homemade macaroni and cheese (prepared with creme fraiche, parmagiano, manchego and chevre instead of nuclear cheese food), baked panko crusted sriracha nuggets or my aunt’s Christmas morning poached chicken salad that the Everyman fell in love with while we were there for the holidays.  While the spirit of the dishes remains the same, the ingredients and methods have certainly gone more upmarket to account for our more refined tastes and preferences than what we would have settled for as kids.

The one comfort food genre that I’ve never really dabbled much in was Southern food.  I like cornbread, fried chicken, BBQ and all the other stereotypical fare as much as the next person, but I generally don’t make much of it at home.  But between this article about Hank’s new Southern dinner menu and the return of more wintry weather recently, I was suddenly craving something heartier and more rib-sticking than normal. Over the years I’ve enjoyed all of the components of the dish I made last night separately, but I never bothered to put them all together as one before.  It’s far from authentic Southern or Caribbean fare but dang, it does taste good.

To begin I soaked half a pound of red beans overnight, then simmered them in several inches of water until they were mostly tender.  In the meantime, I sautéed several links of a homemade spicy poblano sausage I had in the freezer with some chopped celery, onion, thyme, cumin and cayenne until the whole upper level of our house was nose-tinglingly fragrant.  Once the sausage and veggies were well browned, I added a handful of frozen stock cubes and scraped the bottom of the pan with a spoon.  At this point I put on water to boil for a pot of brown rice.  Draining the beans in a colander, I added them back to their pan with the remaining sausage/veggie/broth mixture as well as a few fresh bay leaves, then covered and simmered again.  In the interim I mixed up a cornbread batter and slid it into a preheated blackened frying pan.  Once the cornbread was mostly cooked through I grated a large dusting of peppered pecorino on top of it and returned it to the oven to brown.  When everything was ready I served the sausage and bean mixture atop a mountain of brown rice with a wedge of crispy cornbread on the side.

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The Best Damn Cookie In The Universe

Ubercookie

Last night when I got home from work I was itching for a spectacular batch of cookies.

You see, the Everyman and I visited Sweet Flour Bake Shop on the weekend to make customized cookies, but the ones I made for myself just didn’t satisfy my cookie craving.  There was nothing wrong with them per se, I just didn’t figure out that they weren’t what I wanted until after we’d already left, negating my ability to correct my mistake with more cookies.

Since then I’ve understandably had cookies on the brain.  But, I had a very particular cookie in mind.  I wanted something akin to what I remember the Chewy Chips Ahoy from my childhood to be like, only not full of preservatives and trans fats.

Surprisingly, I don’t often (read: never) make plain chocolate chip cookies, so I was a bit stymied by the prospect of finding a place to start.  Usually I am seduced by wonderful additives like oatmeal and peanut butter, etc and never make it to the good old fashioned triple C (chocolate chip cookie).

But last night nothing else would do, so I hauled out all of my recipes and cookie books and started poring over my options.

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Whoopsie Daisy

The Finished Whoopie

Last weekend I visited Fiesta Farms to do a little shopping for that aforementioned rabbit, among other things.

While I wandered the aisles, one of the other treats I came across was a lovely 2 pound clamshell of those alluring Meyer lemons.  Surprising even myself, I resisted the urge to buy up the whole stand on sight.

You see, I’ve been enjoying the taste of Meyer lemons in restaurants for ages, but until now had never seen them at the grocery store.  Of course, since I use an organic delivery service I rarely go to a grocery store to begin with, so I should hardly be surprised.  I’ve been pondering where to find Meyers (as well as the more ornate Buddha’s hand) for quite some time, so when I spotted these I immediately had to snap some up.

Coincidentally, days later I happened on a fellow Torontonian’s entry in Tigress’ Can Jam who had managed to find Buddha’s hand lemons (Whole Foods apparently carries them – go figure!) in Toronto, so I imagine I will be visiting them soon, too.  I’m not entirely certain what I intend to do with a Buddha’s hand lemon yet, but I’ve been rolling a concept similar to limoncello around in my mind along with the possibility of infusing it into some rye.  But that is a different tale for another day.  Back to those Meyer lemons…

Gorgeous Meyer Lemons

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Rabbit; The Final Frontier

Joli Lapin

When I was growing up I wasn’t exposed to much in the way of game meat.  Aside from the occasional curried goat roti (a nod to my mother’s Caribbean heritage) or a festive Cornish rock hen (often my father’s answer to preparing holiday meals for 2) I didn’t really develop a taste for wilder fare until I was in my early 20’s.

Without a doubt, the one meat I’ve been an exceptionally slow adopter to is rabbit.  This is partly because the skinned carcass of a whole rabbit too closely resembles that of the small felines that share my home.  I make no bones about eating cute, fuzzy animals if they taste good, but the possibility of questionable provenance has held me back in the past.

It’s taken a few years, but I’ve gradually warmed to the idea of rabbit.  It may have started during a meal at Cowbell or perhaps tasting a terrine from The Black Hoof, I’m not quite sure.  While we were in Quebec City in the fall I enjoyed shredded rabbit confit linguine at Le Lapin Saute, and for our anniversary I consumed a similar dish at Splendido.  I’m still not a fan of rabbit rilettes, but I think I’ve made substantial leaps and bounds (har har!) towards getting over my mental distaste for it.

Recently, I even went so far as to buy a saddle of rabbit at Fiesta Farms, a place I know I can steadfastly trust not to sell me skinned kittens.  But for several days the packet of rabbit sat on the bottom shelf of the fridge, taunting me.

At first I’d considered using the Ratio app to make another batch of dough for tagliatelle, but pasta seemed an awful lot of work, and also not very far outside of my past 2 rabbit experiences.  I briefly toyed with confit as well, until I realized the duck fat was frozen. (more…)