Thursday, September 27, 2007

Top Ten Food Books for Cooks

So C found a link on the internet today about The Top 10 Food Books Every Chef Should Own

Now these are Food books, not Cookbooks, but I was thrilled to see that I've read a few, have a few more on order at the library and now have a few more to add to my list. The ones I've already read are in green.

Top 10 Food Books (not Cookbooks) That Every Chef Should Own (in random order)

  1. On Food & Cooking -- Harold McGee
  2. The Art of Eating -- MFK Fisher
  3. Kitchen Confidential -- Anthony Bourdain
  4. It Must've Been Something I Ate -- Jeffrey Steingarten
  5. Tender at the Bone -- Ruth Reichl
  6. The Tummy Trilogy -- Calvin Trillin
  7. The Omnivore's Dilemma -- Michael Pollan
  8. Down and Out in Paris and London -- George Orwell
  9. Heat -- Bill Buford
  10. The Physiology of Taste -- Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Monday, September 17, 2007

Cinnamon Buns

According to Toronto Life, the best cinnamon buns in Toronto can be found in Leslieville at Sweet Bliss. After two failed attempts, C&I finally got to taste them a few weeks ago and they were pretty damn good. I think, however, that I have found an even better spot- in my very own kitchen.

I've been searching for the recipe that I wanted to try for sometime and last night I found one and decided that I would make them for breakfast. Then, morning came and I decided I would make then as an afternoon snack.

This is the first time I've made a dough with egg and the texture is so satisfying to work with that I think I'll be making these again and experimenting with others.

1 t white sugar
1 (.25oz) package active dry yeast
1/2c warm water

In a small bowl, dissolve 1 t sugar and 1 package active dry yeast in 1/2 c warm water until it's creamy.

1/2 c milk
1/4 c white sugar
1/4c butter
1 t salt

Warm the milk in a small saucepan until it bubbles, then remove from heat and mix in 1/4c sugar, 1/4c butter and the salt. Stir until it's all melted and let it cool a bit.

2 eggs, beaten
4 c all purpose flour

In a large bowl, combine the yeast mixture, milk mixture, eggs and 1-1/2c flour, stirring well. Stir in the remaining flour, a bit at a time until the dough comes together. Turn it out and knead gently until smooth and elastic and luxurious.

Let rise in a warm spot for an hour or so.

3/4 c butter
1-1/2c brown sugar
1c chopped pecans

While the dough is raising,melt 3/4 cup butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir in 3/4 c brown sugar and whisk til smooth. Pour into buttered baking pan and sprinkle with nuts.

Combine remaining sugar and pecans and set aside.

Turn dough out and roll into a rectangle. Brush with 2T melted butter and sprinkle with sugar/nut mixture. Roll up the dough and pinch the seam shut. Cut into 15 pieces and place in prepared pan.

Cover and let rise for an hour or so. Then bake in a preheated oven (375/190) for about 25 minutes or until golden brown.


I didn't cook at all last week. I'm pretty sure C did, otherwise I wouldn't have eaten. I can't remember. It was all a bit of a blur.

So I was really excited to cook Saturday night. Mike was going to come over after film fest and we were going to eat and drink and play games.

C & I spent the day wandering the city's various markets, visiting our butcher in the St Lawrence Market and buying $20 worth of cheese at Global in Kensington - lovely.

Then home to start leisurely cooking.

Except Mike didn't get into the movie.

So he and his friend Natasha came over a full two hours early, hungry and cold.

I didn't expect to eat dinner until 9:00. At the earliest. So, after a mad dash to tidy up a little (for Natasha, she was new. Mike's been around so long he's family and we don't have to tidy up for him!) I was happy that I had made bread sticks to nash on while the rest of dinner was being made.


1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons yeast
2-1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 lb. flour
1-1/2 teaspoons salt

Put 1-1/3 cups of warm water in a small bowl and stir in the yeast and honey. Leave it to froth and foam.

Sift (I actually enjoy doing this) the flour and salt into a bowl, then add the yeast mixture, 2 tablespoons of olive oil and mix until the dough clumps together.

Form into a ball and knead until smooth and elastic-y. Put the dough on a baking sheet and flatten it out to fill the pan, brush with the remaining oil and let rise for an hour or so.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Cut the dough lengthwise into four portions, then cut each portion into 8 pieces(or 5, or 4, whichever!). Roll, stretch and cajole the pieces into 8 inch long strips and then toss in the hot hot oven for about 15 minutes, until crisp and golden.

C's Commentary: Breadsticks. They were simple, lovely, and fed us during an antipasto, a soup main, and our pre-dessert drunken Uno.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Biscuits & Late Summer Tomatoes

Even though it was hot out today, you can still sense the change. The students are back, apples are appearing at the farmer's market. Fall is sneaking into Toronto.

We got home from the market with hot, luscious tomatoes that taste like the very essence of all that is good in a tomato and a big glorious bunch of basil that perfumed our walk home. And we were hungry.

But, despite our visit to the market, we had virtually no other food- no flour, no sugar, no butter, no bread, no crackers, no cheese- with which to make lunch. So I made biscuits with self-raising flour, margarine (I know! I know! but it was all we had!) and left overs bits of bacon, leeks and cheddar cheese. Sliced open while hot and layered with thick tomato slices and basil ribbons, annointed with sea salt, pepper and olive oil.

I'd have served them to Gordon Ramsay for a light lunch.


1/4 cup shortening
2 cups self-raising flour
3/4 cup milk (about)

Work the shortening into the flour until it resembles oatmeal.
Pour in milk and stir until just combined.
Turn out dough onto counter and knead in left over bits of flavour stuffs.

Make into biscuits (I made 8 largish ones) and bake at 450 degrees for about 10 minutes.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

About L

Honestly? Leah is absolutely brilliant. She's brilliant in many different ways, but she excels in the kitchen. She cooks, bakes, butchers, and manages to make delicious dinners out of the absolute nothing in our cupboards (these are quite often frittatas). She's quite possibly the only person I've ever met who relaxes by baking, or trying out a new recipe. Generous, loving, tall, elegant and absolutely gorgeous, she's quite a bit like my very own Nigella Lawson (Though Leah does not have Nigella's hips, something for which she and I are quite thankful. Ahem.)

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

About C

Chris is so many things that it is nearly impossible to label him for a short blog bio. He designs cool stuff, photographs cool things, draws monkeys for his nieces, eats delicious food, drinks fantastic wine, and reads good books. He is smart, good looking and a fabulous person. If it seems like he'd be a good boyfriend, you're right - he is. But he's mine, so hands off.

He does not play World of Warcraft.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Baking Frenzy

Yesterday I made five batches of mini loaves for my friend Susie and Nathan's housewarming party: Sweet Vanilla, Maple Walnut, Apple Strudel, Strawberry Yoghurt and Chocolate.

At the end of my baking marathon I was so pleased with them- they looked good.

Unfortunately after baking them I couldn't bear to eat any of them so I had tastes here and there. People seemed to like them though, and I was thrilled.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Roasted Tomato Soup

The last tomatoes of summer are starting to make their way to the market and I want to eat as many of them as I can. As it started to get colder tonight I decided to make some soup and use up some of the multitudes of tomatoes on the counter.

The soup was essence of tomato - roasted with a bit of red pepper, a hint of garlic, a handful of onion and lots of freshly chopped basil. Drizzled blue cheese cream sauce leftover from our pasta lunch and reheated the bread sticks from the day before. Simple but so incredibly delicious and lovely.

No recipe, just tasted and balanced.

Chicken Fingers & Cheese Bread

The other night I stumbled home from work and looked in the fridge. Nothing with which to make dinner, so I dragged my tired self to the grocery store with no clear intent. I left with a lemon, some chicken pieces and four limonata.

When I got home I STILL had nothing with which to make dinner.

So I made plain white bread and filled it with random bits of leftover cheese and green onion. Voila! Cheesebread. Remarkably delicious.

Then I threw the chicken pieces in some spiced yogurt (I wonder if leftover raita would be good for that?), then breaded and fried them up. We ate everything off of one plate with two dipping sauces.


Thursday, August 16, 2007

Ode to a Blueberry

Photo by Kevin Lawver

I haven’t been cooking much. It’s been too hot to turn on the oven, despite the recent purchase of a saucepan that goes from stovetop to oven (how exciting). So lately dinner has consisted of a pile of salad greens on a plate with some simply cooked protein thrown on top with lemon wedges. It’s been remarkably satisfying but nothing to blog about.

What is worth blogging about is the lovely delicious and perfect blueberries we’ve been eating by the handful after (ok, and before) dinner.

Blueberries can be prohibitively expensive. Last year I didn’t eat a single one, even though they are my favorite berry, because I couldn’t bring myself to pay x amount of dollars for blueberries in a plastic container shipped from California. They didn’t inspire any confidence what so ever that they would taste like summer like the ones I used to pick at Toby Elliot’s place.

This year though I found them at the farmer’s market at the St Lawrence market. Great piles of berries freshly picked from a place I could drive to, if I had a car. And cheap enough that I didn’t feel the least bit indulgent buying them and taking them home to pop into my mouth and savor.

Why are they called bilberries in some places? Are they different? Why are they called blueberries when you bite into them they are white and rather alien eyeball looking?

Last Saturday they weren’t any blueberries. Maybe we were too late to the market that day and they’d all been gobbled up. Or maybe the season is over. Which is sad, but oddly satisfying, to know that my favorite food of the season can’t quite be reproduced by hydroponics gardens in California. I find that comforting.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Lemon Custard & Blueberry Tarts

Prepared mini tart shells.
Bird's custard with lemon juice and lemon zest.
Fresh lovely sweet Ontario blueberries from the market.

Put together and eat. A cheating dessert but nice nonetheless.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Caprese Ravioli

The lovely and delightful Sandy A. came over for dinner and even though I knew she had been on a cleanse I promptly forgot when thinking about dinner and fed her all sorts of things she probably shouldn't have eaten.


I made ravioli and they turned out really well. (Surprisingly!)I was craving a caprese salad but thought that, given Guests, I ought to make a bit more of an effort, so I made Caprese Ravioli with ricotta, sundried tomatoes, basil, lemon zest and shredded chicken that I had poached in light chicken broth. For a sauce, actually more a topping, I drizzled the just cooked ravioli with olive oil, torn basil leaves, more lemon zest and fresh, chopped tomatoes.

Fresh tasting and lovely. I'm actually quite pleased with myself!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Vietnamese Chicken - a beginning

When I was little my family 'adopted' a Vietnamese family that had just moved to Red Deer. My mom would make cookies, their mom would make salad rolls. She introduced me to coconut rice and peeled mung beans, something I still make on occasion and eat for breakfast with too much brown sugar.

I think that's where the seed of my growing obsession with Vietnam began.

I've been waiting anxiously for 'In the Vietnamese Kitchen' to arrive from the library and when I finally got it I was excited to try some recipes out. This simple chicken dish was my first foray. And it was so fabulously good and simple, I had to post it.

Grilled Chicken

Chicken Marinade

1/4 t sugar
1/2 t salt
1-1/2 t pepper
1 T fish sauce
1 T lime juice 2 T oil

1/3 c lime juice
1 T rice vinegar
3 T sugar
2/3 lukewarm water
5-6 T fish sauce
2 -3 chilis
2 cloves garlic (optional- I used it but won't the next time...)

Mix everything together.

We ate it over rice noodles with finely sliced baby bok choy and green onions, with the chicken sliced on top and the sweet/sour/salty sauce spooned on top.

Warning: Fish Sauce = salty. I forget this sometimes.
Warning II: The sauce goes a long way - apply with care.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Simple Summer Squid

Squid throw in lemon juice and tabasco sauce, then thrown in a hot pan to cook quickly while it makes weird high pitched squeaky sounds, then eaten over a salsa/salad of tomatoes, red onion, avocado and chili spiked lemon juice.

Simplicity defined. Nigel Slater inspired.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Summer Eating

There's a lovely article in today's New York Times about summer eating- when it's too hot to cook and all you want is someone to spoon feed you grapes and watermelon balls.

It's 101 things to cook in ten minutes or so and I thought it was a lovely light thing to read for any time of year- especially for people who say they don't cook and who say they just haven't the time.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes

This lovely breakfast is a mix of inspirations. The first is Nigella Lawson. She has a recipe in Feast for Cheesecakelets- little pancakes made with cottage cheese. The second is from my favorite restaurant, Fire On The East Side. They recently revamped their menu, adding a bunch of new items (and sadly doing away with the best meatloaf ever!). One of their new brunch dishes is Lemon Ricotta Pancakes with Drunken Strawberies. For some reason I rarely order pancakes or french toast at restaurants- usually I feel like I should get something I'm unlikely to make at home. But these silly pancakes kept calling to me... so I got up and decided to try my hand at them.

Really good. Light and moistly creamy. I'd add a bit of lemon zest next time for more lemony flavour. I served them with strawberries (with a splash of rum!) and coffee. We had maple syrup on the table but didn't need it.

This is my recipe, based on Nigella's.

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes
3 eggs
2 tablespoon white sugar
225g ricotta cheese
juice of half a small lemon (and some zest!)
60g plain flour
1 teaspoon vanilla

Separate the eggs. Cream the yorks and sugar. Add the cheese, lemon juice, vanilla and flour. Hand whip the egg whites (just to make them foamy- don't stress out- this is breakfast after all). Fold them into the batter and then cook!

Made about 15. All were consumed.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Salmon and dill fishcakes

Yesterday our evening meal, which was a late lunch, early dinner before we ran out to met friends at the Harbourfront for a show, was salmon fishcakes. These were fabulous. Light, crispy and filled with fresh dill goodness and no potato. We ate them over salad (we eat everything over salad right now- it's too damn hot for anything else) with a yogurt sauce/dressing that was tart and light and creamy that contrasted beautifully with the crispy cakes. Nigel Slater is truly a genius.

His recipe is for three people, but since there were two of us I'll give you the amounts I used.

Salmon and dill fishcakes

300 g (about) salmon, skin removed and finely chopped. This was the hardest part.
1 large egg white
a small bunch of dill, finely chopped
1-2 tablespoons flour (I used more than he said)
1 teaspoon grain mustard
juice of half a lemon

olive oil to fry

Combine all your ingredients and then mush together with a generous grinding of salt and pepper. Squash spoonfuls of the mixture together by hand and then flatten each one slightly and set aside for a few minutes. (I made twelve small patties.)

Get a little oil hot in a shallow pan. Place the patties (in two batches) and leave them about two-three minutes per side, they should be lightly cooked within and golden and crispy outside.

Yogurt Sauce

Some plain yogurt, some finely shopped dill, some grain mustard, some green onions (my addition, not Nigel's), salt and pepper. Voila- deliciousness!

Oh- and lemon wedges. For more flavour power.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Peach Iced Tea

The inspiration for this is straight out of Heidi Swanson's new book Super Natural Cooking, which I'm just beginning to pluck my way through. I already want to try agave nectar and quinoa.

Her recipe is more of a recipe. Mine is more of a suggestion...

Make a big thing of plain black tea. I use four teabags to about a litre and a bit of water. Let it cool on the counter if you have the patience (this keeps it from getting cloudy so is really only an aesthetic thing).

When it's lovely and cold, pour into a glass full of ice, about 2/3 full and top the rest up with chilled peach nectar.

I have been drinking copious amounts of this stuff. Delicious and refreshing.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Fake Chocolate

The powers that be are conspiring against you. Can you feel it? Some unnerving, evil sensation that creeps up your spine. You try to ignore it, but it won't leave you? I know what it is...

Industrial confectioners- the people who bring you the chocolate bars you grab on a break or pick as a treat while you're grocery shopping - are petitioning the FDA to allow them to use LESS COCOA BUTTER in their products- and still call them chocolate.

Log on to the NY Times to read the article.

There is alredy an enormous difference between corner store chocolate, the stuff that gets marketed as 'premium' (think Godiva- it's not as good as they want you to think it is!) and real artsinal, happy chocolate.

Do yourself a favour- go buy some really good chocolate, savour it. Then go buy a regular bar... Not as good, is it? Now, imagine if it were worse.

I can't stand the thought...

Saturday, April 07, 2007

The Best Chicken Soup

I think a good, homemade, best chicken soup should be in everyone's recipe repertoire. It needn't be a completely from scratch all day long mission of doom soup. (I personally have never made satisfactory chicken broth, though I do acknowledge that I probably need a bigger pot.) All it needs to be is delicious, restorative and homey. A hug from the inside out.

In January I was sick. Sick for nearly an entire week with a flu/cold that just completely wore me out. Around this time I also got Nigel Slater's Kitchen Diaries from the library. It's a lovely book and though I didn't feel like cooking, it was a pleasantly lazy read for my tired body.

C was poking through it and found a February recipe for chicken noodle soup. He then made it for me one cold wintery night and it perked me up in a way that no cold and flu tablet could. Copious amounts of lemon juice, fresh mint and coriander and little egg noodles. Soul warming. My favorite Best chicken soup ever.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Olive Foccacia

One of my favorite Italy memories is of focaccia from a bakery at the far end of the beach in Monterosso, in the Cinque Terre. I've eaten their delicious olive oily breads with my friends, my mum and C. See, the thing to do is to get your bread (various toppings, sold by weight), a cold drink (limonata, perhaps?) and wander over to the beach or start the hike through the vineyards and olive groves by way of an old goat trail until you find a suitable spot to sit and eat your lunch. C.and I chose to eat here:

Lovely, no?

There is nothing quite like the focaccia from Monterosso. Drenched in olive oil and light and chewy at the same time, it's one of those things that you have to eat on location to fully understand it's perfection.

That being said, I've been trying to bake it myself. I think I've found my favorite recipe and am getting quite good at it. Last night I made olive and rosemary focaccia to go with the mackerel. It was pretty damn good. I do think that the secret is the excessive amount of olive oil. More! More than that! More than you think possible because it's never quite enough.

Perhaps I'll have to go back to try it again before I get it completely perfect.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

April First

So. As you can tell from the date of the last post, I haven't been doing much blogging here. I've kept up quite well with my other, more official blog blog but somehow the food one never quite took off.

I'm going to try and rectify that. If for no other reason that it forces me to write about something other than cultural property. Which is sometimes a good thing. :)

I made breakfast kuchen this morning. I love it when something turns out so delicious that I'm pleased with it. From the Nigella Bites cookbook I used apples and strawberries, made the dough last night and threw it together this morning (afternoon). It would make a lovely afternoon tea or coffee snack. I remember my mum's friends coming over for tea and coffee in the afternoons. Do people even do that anymore?

Anyways. Here's to me and my food blog. May it have more than one post a year. (Though the peas from last years post are delicious and I eat them often!)