Saturday, February 27, 2010

Pork Dumplings

Dumplings, gyozas, potstickers... please tell me the difference.

I really love dumplings, but I admit being very picky.
I like them crispy, and on all sides.
I don't like mystery crunchy-chewy bits. This is why I rarely buy them in dumpling shops or frozen.

Even though I have been exposed to all types of food in Chinatown from the age of 3 or 4, I am still not able to 'get over' some textures. I love jellyfish and gooey desserts, but I don't like tripe and cartilage. A good friend of my parents was from Hong Kong and he got a kick out of ordering the oddest things, and watching us eat it, and then telling us what it was. (My parents followed him to Toronto once for a culinary escape and to this day, are still positive that they ate dog. But Ron would not say. And they could not ask.)

Preparing your own dumplings at home lets you cook them as you prefer and, big bonus, you know what is in them! Plus, these are treats that freeze well, and they don't take that much time to make.

Once your dumplings are shaped and ready to go, you may cook them a few ways:

*Add enough oil to cover almost all the bottom of a pan, heat on medium-high. I like a mix of canola and sesame oil. Cook on all sides until crispy.
*If you wish for a bit less frying... have 1/2 cup to 1 cup water near pan and ensure that you have a lid that fits. Add 2-3 Tbsp oil to a hot pan and heat. Add dumplings and ensure that bottoms are golden. Stand back and add water to pan, then quickly putting the lid on to steam. Once the water has almost all evaporated, they should be cooked through.

You can prepare the dumpling mixture in a food processor if you wish, but I prefer having some 'larger chunks' for bursts of flavour. Don't be shy to put as much stuffing as you can in the dumpling wrapper - the outside puffs up as it cooks.

As for the dough, I buy it already made. Preparing the dough from scratch is a project for another day!

Pork Dumplings
makes about 60

1 lb pork, lean
2 green onions, light and dark green parts, chopped finely
5 water chestnuts, finely chopped
1 inch ginger, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp sambal
2 Tbsp soy sauce
Chopped coriander to taste

Friday, February 26, 2010

Soba Noodle with Lemongrass and Thai Basil Chicken + Tofu

I rarely post our lunches, usually they are a mish-mash of leftovers...

But lunch today actually looks better than our dinner last night. I served the chicken on jasmin rice with greens and it was pretty plain. Chicken was tasty and ever so juicy, but I should have given a little kick to the rice... Note to self.

Lemongrass and Thai Basil Chicken

2 lemongrass stalks, tender part chopped
5 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp ginger
2 bunches thai basil
Juice of one lime
Canola oil, about 2 Tbsp

Mix all ingredients in a food processor, add just enough oil to form a paste, and coat the chicken or tofu. Bake at 375 for about 30 minutes. This was enough for 3 pieces of chicken + 4 cubes of tofu.

In our salad: orange pepper, mint, thai basil, sambal, lime juice, sugar snap peas, sprouts, green onion.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Rachelle's Spelt Apple Crisp

Last night I had 2 lovely ladies over for dinner, my amazing artist friend Amy and the ever so talented, food-blogger extraordinaire, Rachelle.

I may post some recipes from the meal later on this week - I have to admit that I did not take any pictures, which was really relaxing for me! Rachelle though, did take some, click to see (and discover her blog!)

The girls brought some Prosecco (because I just cannot hide that I find it the best drink in the world!!) and a lovely white wine that I recently discovered at a wine fair. Also handed to me as they arrived was a wonderful apple crisp and some of Pascale's ice cream.

I am quite lucky as I have no allergies, no food sensitivities... But when I am around some who do, I love the challenge and the opportunity to discover new ways of cooking. Rachelle's crisp had no trace of gluten, the crust was made of spelt flour + spelt flakes. Maybe she'll give us the recipe...

It was delicious...and Simon & I had some for breakfast!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Eggplant Dip, Roasted Squash, Greens...

We had a nice yumfest last night.

A cute squash (called Delicate Squash!) was delicious roasted with nutmeg, a bit of chili and maple syrup.

Lovely greens with lemon and garlic.

A lonely eggplant got turned into a spread for naan.

Eggplant Spread

1 large eggplant, skin removed, cut into small pieces
1/2 zucchini, cubed
3 shallots, minced
1/4 cup golden raisins, chopped
1 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp ginger, minced
1/2 cup tomato juice
1/3 cup chopped baby tomatoes (from my garden last summer!!!)
1/2 cup white wine
2 tsp curry powder
1 tsp turmeric
1 bird's eye chili, finely minced
1 Tbsp sugar (I used palm sugar)
Olive oil

Sautée the shallot in olive oil. Add the rest of the ingredients and let it bubble away for at least 30 minutes.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Crab Cakes

My mother gave us a snow crab. Merci mamie!
After much love and hard work (30 minutes of it!) I managed to get all the meat out. I have much admiration for people who spend hours in a day doing this...

Crab cakes are so delicate in taste, and they become addictive. I did very tiny bites and we ate them all, slowly, as a conscious decision to savour fully and make the moment last. With this we had a very lemony caesar with pork belly.

Teeny Tiny Crab Cakes
makes about 15

1 snow crab, meat well pressed down to remove all water
1/3 yellow pepper, finely diced
1 tsp sambal
1 tsp chives, chopped finely
Juice of half a lime
1 small bunch of cilantro, chopped
1 egg white (do a ceasar dressing with the yolk!)
1/3 cup panko

Mix all ingredients together and shape little cakes. Fry on both sides until golden crispy.

Ours were accompanied with avocado puree (avocado, lime juice, salt) and spicy mayo (mayo, siracha, lime juice, salt)

Monday, February 22, 2010

Banana Beignets

I need to be creative with leftover bananas, there is just so much banana bread that one can eat right?

The basic recipe for these little beignets is from 'Les Fermières du Québec', a very old book at my mum's house that is coming apart... I do admit that Idid add a few ingredients to them to give them a bit more personality. You really need to 'feel' the dough and make a test beignet - the dough should be thicker than crepe batter, but not as thick as some cake batter. Test a first one for thickness and doneness, I tend to make really thick, uncooked in the middle and burnt ones in the beginning!

If you can think ahead enough, clarify your butter - I didn't have time to, so it just got brown in between batches... Simply wash your pan before cooking some more. I love to use salted butter: it makes for a sweet salty morning, soft and crispy too. Eat them quick, they are best right out of the pan.

Banana Beignets

1 cup ripe banana, cut into slices then pressed down with a fork to make smaller pieces
(the book calls only for slices, but I like to have a bit more of the smaller pieces)
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup milk + 3 Tbsp (add until you have the right consistency...)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp rhum extract or real dark rhum
Pinch of salt
Salted butter for cooking

Mix all the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Mix the milk with the rhum extract and mix into the dry ingredients. Add the bananas, set aside.

Heat a large frying pan on low-med heat. Add enough salted butter to cover the bottom of the pan, drop the batter by Tbsp, flip when the edges have lost their gloss (just like a pancake). Enjoy!!!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Zucchini, Almond and Pecorino Salad

I had this salad as an appetizer in New York and swore I would do it at home.
They gave the recipe, and I thought they would hide a few ingredients... but it tasted absolutely the same!

The secret behind this salad, in my opinion, is its simplicity, good quality ingredients and timing.

If you are doing this for more than two people, use two pans. The courgette needs to be cut into regular matchsticks as it overcooks really quickly. Monitor your almonds closely as they change color quickly in olive oil. Am i scaring you? Really, what I am trying to say is, make it with love.

It is sooooooo worth it.
It was the perfect side to poached salmon.

Zucchini, almond and pecorino salad
for two people, as a side

2 zucchini, medium (don't use large ones, they have too many 'seeds')
-cut into matchstick
1/3 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup olive oil, good quality
Pecorino, thin slices
Salt and Pepper

Heat the olive oil on medium-high in a large frying pan. When hot, add the slivered almonds, sauté for about 1 minute until they turn golden brown. Add the courgette matchsticks, sautée until warmed through only! Season generously with salt and pepper and plate immediately. Top with pieces of shaved Pecorino. Parmesan could work also.

At The Red Cat, they served the salad under a large, ultra thin piece of Pecorino... If you are shopping for ingredients for this salad, you may want to keep this in mind - it was a very pretty presentation. The cheese melted and was almost transparent.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

La trajectoire du poulet

A chicken goes a long way in our house.

This chicken got some loving wednesday morning.
I sauteed some shallots, thyme and lemon with brown butter. Then I put this mixture under the skin.
It got some beauty sleep in the fridge all day.

Then it hopped into the oven in a cocotte and had a bath with celery. It came out crispy and beautiful, the lemon slices all browned and showing through the skin.

We had the chicken breasts with a salad and some sweet potato fries (and yummy spicy mayo).

Then, the bones went back into the oven. Roasty-roasty.

They bubbled away overnight with celery, carrots, onions, bay leaf, thyme... Homemade chicken stock kids!

And, last but not least, our lunch.

Delicious wraps with lemony chicken, celery, red onion & greens.

I put some sundried tomatoes in mine, hold the onion!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tender Pork with Tomatoes, Couscous and Roasted Potatoes

This is simple dish that my mother used to make. I never got tired of it and it was a great way to make me eat meat. Like many children, I was quite particular about meat - sometimes I loved it, sometimes not.

This dish is also how I got Simon to enjoy pork. He was never really enthusiastic about 'the other white meat' until he tasted this - the pork melts in your mouth.

I buy whole tenderloins, cut them into pieces and then beat it with a meat tenderizer. I am pretty sure that you can buy pork that is already tenderized - but the less your meat is manipulated by a machine, the better you should feel about it! Do that extra step yourself.

We love to eat this with couscous, you could also serve it with basmati rice, it works well. Couscous is the easiest thing in the world to do and soaks up the sauce beautifully.

Tender Pork with Tomatoes

1 pork tenderloin, cut into 1/2 inch pieces, tenderized until very thin
1 can chopped tomatoes, good quality
1/2 Spanish onion, sliced
8 cloves garlic, chopped
Thyme, other herbs, to taste
1 cup chicken stock
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large saute pan, add a bit of olive oil and cook the onion until translucent but still crispy. Add the pork to the pan, taking care not to overcrowd. Let cook for 2-3 minutes, add some stock if necessary. Add all the rest of the ingredients and let simmer until the sauce gets thicker, about 15 minutes.

We have added different ingredients to the sauce and found that it always tastes best when it is simple. One good addition though if you want to make it extra nutritious are lima beans or broad beans, those work well as the are meaty and absorb the sauce!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Freezer Food

A salute to all that I have spoken to in the last days who are also trying to empty out the freezer.
A big high five because none of this food is prepackaged.

We took out some salmon (made it into delicious salmon croquettes, nice and crispy, with a spicy lime mayo), all the leftover shrimp was sauteed with Sichuan pepper and lime, a sad frozen bag of pita was turned into paprika pita chips to dip into homemade hummus.

I hate throwing out food. You just have to be inventive and give it a new life.

Friday, February 12, 2010

New York City Food - the last post

As I said in the first post, there were so many places that I wanted to visit.
An insane list of restaurants: where the best dim sum was, the best prix fixe menu, must see restaurants, little holes in the wall for drinks, best beef jerky, best cupcake...

I got to a few. And you know what? Ottawa does not need to envy New York that much. And you know what else? After this, I gave myself a solid pat on the back and it gave me enough confidence to think that I am a decent cook.

First, my highest expectation, and a bit of deception.
This was my birthday dinner, we had planned to go there, had read reviews, saw it in more than one magazine...

The Little Owl

The place was full when we arrived but we waited only a few minutes to get a table (on a Sunday). It was such a nice restaurant, very tiny, a lot of wood, so cozy. The service was good and quite friendly.

I have to admit that I was jealous of Simon's food choices for both services. Mine looked great on the menu, but left me wanting more - not more of the dish itself, but more care, more complexity. I did not note the exact dishes, sorry about that...

Simon had hand shaped pasta (there was no mention of pasta on the menu though, it simply said ricotta with pancetta, tomatoes...) and I had grilled calamari in a basil broth, tiny tomatoes, caramelized onion crouton.

Not a great picture I know. Iphones are not good in the dark.
Simon was expecting a small plate of little bites with homemade ricotta - had he known it would be with pasta, he would not have ordered, it was too big a plate. But very good still.
My calamari was chewy and not grilled, so sad. The broth was good and the croutons fantastic. They had large pieces of onion on them, delicious.

For the mains:
Simon had the beef.

A nice cut of striploin, with balsamic and radicchio. It did not include veggies, which is a bit of a turn off for the price ($34) so he had to order ($8 for any veggie side).

I ordered the whole fish of the day (I cannot remember the name, I had never heard it), it was grilled and stuffed with thyme, garlic and lemon. That was accompanied by sauteed greens and parsnip purée.

Simon's was really good apparently (although he said I do it better, thank you my darling), mine was a bit of a deception. The fish skin was not crispy, although the flesh was cooked just right. I would have wanted more lemon (one slice inside the fish) and more garlic (3 cloves). The greens were gritty and not seasoned at all - no garlic, no lemon, no nothing. The same for the parsnip purée - straight up babyfood, not even butter.

Oh well. I find it so odd that 'chefs' don't take more pride, don't taste.
I found this restaurant to be a bit too pricey for the care that was put in the plate. I know that ingredients can taste best when served very simple (like tomatoes in summer!), but this needed a little kick.

Cafe Habana

This is a spot we wished we had here. It had such a nice vibrant feel to it, packed on both times that we went.

Maybe it was memories of Mexico. My longing to eat corn with Ignacio and Esqueleto...

We opted for the beer that we preferred in Mexico, you can buy it at LCBO too, Negra Modelo.

The first time we went, we share some little bites as an afternoon snack:

Black Bean and Sundried Tomato Tortillas

Grilled Corn!!!

We went back a second evening to eat before a concert, again, we craved the corn. And with that we had Chicken Diablo Burritos. They were soooo huge, but so warm and comforting.

This place is a must.

Another must is Café Asean.

After a crazy day of visiting two large museums, this was heaven. I had read about it a few times and it was mentionned in many 'Top" lists.

It was so cheap. Portions huge. Simon managed to finish his app+main, I simply could not manage it.

Simon had a hot and sour soup.

Not like the ones in Chinatown, but rather the Thai variety with pineapple and tomato. It was delicious.

I had the grilled stuffed tofu with a peanut, chili and lime sauce. It was to die for and I am doing it quite soon for friends ;)

We couldn't resist noodle dishes for our mains. Simon opted for a Maylasian egg noodles

and I went for Wok fried glass noodles with seafood.

Both were delicious, cooked to perfection (baby squid and glass noodles are hard to do!)

Our total bill with wine and beer was the price of a main in certain restaurants.

Red Cat Restaurant

This was a total surprise. We wanted to eat in one of my top picks that evening but just couldn't muster up the energy to walk 45 minuted to get there, so we looked into our hotel guide for recommendations in the neighbourhood. What a find. I would go back right now.

Again, this is a restaurant that will inspire me to recreate some of the dishes.
And everything was perfect. Service was stellar. Wine list was great. Prices reasonable. Music was just at the right volume.

I started with a saute of zucchini, toasted almonds and pecorino. I will redo this at home and post it - they gave us the recipe. Simon had homemade sausage, so tasty.

The presentation for my appie was beautiful, the pecorino was one large slice on top, slowly melting.

Then I had pan roasted salmon (with crunchy skin! yay!), brussel sprout salad and a carrot ginger purée. Everything fit so well together, a pleasure to eat.

Simon had a grilled pork tenderloin with blue cheese and tomato gratin, wilted spinach and caramelized onion. The dish was so well balanced, it amazed me.

What I really noticed was how well everything was seasoned - It saddens me how some chefs do not taste. Under seasoning really turns me off. Bravo Red Cat, I will recommend and come back - This was a highlight.

And to end... our first stop. The simple kitchen, a very cute café a few streets from our hotel.
We had been up since 4am, had a very disgusting breakfast in a truck stop (how bad can a grilled cheese be? Turns out it can be very gross)

This place was charming. Some food to take home (pretty much like Delish in Hull), a few seats, some daily specials.

Simon had a bison burger with local cheddar-type cheese, home fries.

After the disgusting bacon grilled cheese, I needed to redeem myself and have some greens. They were absolutely delicious and just like we eat them at home: garlic, chili peppers, lemon, salt. I chose to have them with brown rice, it was crunchy and well seasoned - absolutely perfect!

So many spots I wanted to spend more time in..

Chinatown, you make me happy. (oh, why not? One last dorky picture!)

Mary's Fish Camp - I will make a date with you during proper hours.
Momofuku, I will meet you.
Doughnut Plant. I will be back. And Back. And back.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

New York City Food - a detour to Brooklyn

We decided to spend a day in Brooklyn.
I have to start by admitting that I am a stubborn and sometimes foolish girl: even though it was really cold that day, and that we had a long walk ahead of us, I wore heels and a dress. Don't do that.

I look happy in this little strip don't I? That it because I had only walked about 45 minutes in my day. (FYI I am so stubborn that I wore heels most of the trip, and we never took the subway.)

I didn't quite know what to expect in Brooklyn. I had one must: the Mast Brothers Chocolate. I am not a big chocolate fan, I will have a sweet/sour dessert before chocolate on most days - but this shop was so dreamy.

There were huge cocoa pods on the window sills. The atmosphere was so inviting. The chocolate bars were displayed as jewels. The packaging simply beautiful.

We walked down the streets and there was so much to see. Once you get past the old abandoned factories, Brooklyn is a jewel. Bistros everywhere, coffeeshops, thrift shops, vintage clothing, lots of music shops... We went in and out of the tiny shops for a few hours. If only it had been summer - after this, our only wish was to find a warm spot for comfort food.

We found the BlackBird Parlour. Exactly what we wanted.
We each got a local beer, both were bubbly and refreshing.
I had a very scrumptious mac and cheese with caramelized onions and sundried tomatoes:

The arugula salad had a lemony vinaigrette that was perfect.

Simon had a grilled cheese with prosciutto and caramelized onions. Yum.

The menu was short, but all sounded appetizing, the atmosphere was great. Prices very fair. Then we went back into the cold, hopped in a cab for a show... and that was Brooklyn. Too short, we will visit you again.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

New York City Food - Breakfast

Second NYC post - the mighty breakfasts.
I love breakfast. At home, I don't mind baking even on weekdays, flipping eggs and bacon - even better though is having someone do it for me.

I feel we don't have enough good breakfast spots in Ottawa-Outaouais. It sucks in Aylmer that's for sure. I dreamt of eating in places like the Manx and Benny's every morning... but I forgot to note the brunch spots in my restaurant list, so we just had to drop in and try some places.

Starting with the worst...


The absolute worst. L'attrape-touriste. A joke.
A few people recommended this spot and it is well reviewed on the web. We had just taken a beautiful walk on the high line and it ended right beside the restaurant. Pastis was so huge and so full. We had to wait for a good 15 minutes before being seated: you saw servers buzzing around, people going in and out constantly. To me, that is a sign of good food no?

It was very expensive. Our jaws dropped when we saw the prices. The least expensive plate was $18. No coffee. Simon had an $18 plate (an herb omelet, dried herbs please, with fries - no 'home' fries here) and I had a $19 plate:

...disgusting. The description did not match what was on my plate. My plate was dirty, greasy.
Don't ever go to Pastis and don't ask what this was.

Trestle on Tenth

This was also fairly expensive, but good. Coffee was great.
Simon had some eggs and bacon and I had a croissant with homemade jam, artisanal butter and delicious local honey. Real honey, not flavoured corn syrup. The ambiance though was not so good: even though the decor was cozy, cushions, warm tones and wood - the service was very sterile.

Tipsy Parson

I want a restaurant like this one. The space was perfect. The server was so sweet. Everything in its right place to make you feel at ease.

The cutlery was charming (and clean... )

They offered a lot of in-house made sweets (the sticky buns looked so good!! we wanted some for take out and the man beside us ate two AFTER his breakfast... and then there were none left) Everything on the menu sounded good.

Simon hinted that I should have the Dutch Baby Pancake with lemon curd to satisfy my sour craving. It was absolute perfection. Fluffy. Crispy. Not too sweet. Baked in the oven. Wow, where can we get this nowadays?

He had a breakfast sandwich like no other. It was topped with a beautiful roasted tomato, accompanied by avocado cream.

And that was pretty much it for breakfast! We ate in a bagel place next to the Guggenheim museum, it was pretty good too. Real bagels. We did not come across those in any other place.

New York City Food!!!

You wondered where I disappeared to? Yes, we still ate, we just didn't cook anything for awhile... We visited New York city!

I had been asking Simon to go for about, hmmm, say, 4 years now.
-How about we go for your birthday? Simon asked.
-But we can't. How could we leave work? We'll be so busy.
-We'll always be busy. Let's just do it.
And we did.
And we ate.

Where to start? I had been planning restaurants for about a month and my list was long. My expectations were high - in my mind, food was going to be beyond. Just like here, like all the places I have visited before... food is sometimes good, sometimes, not so much.

Let me start with random stores and food notes... then the good, and the not so good in separate posts. Pictures are what they are: no other cameras than our phones.

*I totally fell in love with Whole Foods. It is a bit similar to Herb and Spice, you see it all the time in Top Chef. One night we did not feel like going out - so we picked up dips and spreads and ate in bed. The garlic and chive hummus was to die for. To die for.

*Dean and Deluca. What is this??? Is it to make rich people feel good about going 'grocery shopping' for themselves? This store was unreal. There were more employees than shoppers. Every food item needs to be weighed and packaged (one guy hunted me down for my apples, put them in a bag and labeled them) and it is just so expensive. We bought one sandwich for the drive home and it was so disgusting that we ate only half and waited to get home to eat...

*Doughnut plant.

(I look like an absolute dork. ha ha, hi! I am here in front of doughnut plant, I am so happy!)

Oh my, doughnut plant. I have waited for you all my life.
I was not a fan of doughnuts, that is because I had never had such good ones.
When we arrived, there was a line outside the shop. We finally got in and saw that the wait line looped in the store:

...and then it was heaven. We should have bought more. Simon had a blackout (soft little patches of chocolate in chocolate, with chocolate over it) and I had a coconut dream (so soft, filled with coconut cream and glazed with coconut.) It tasted of real coconut cream, just sweet enough.

Ingredients are as local as can be. Jellies, jams, creams, glazes are made in-house. It is in the middle of nowhere. It is packed all the time. Lesson? If it is good, they will come.

*Jamba Juice. Don't. Just don't.

*Pinkberry. The green tea smoothie was so good! A sour milk taste that I really appreciate, comparable to some Asian desserts that I often crave.
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