Friday, March 28, 2008

Evolution of a recipe; Fennel Crusted Tuna


I think I have covered this ground before, but I just wanted to show why all my recipes end up in freeform territory. I selected this one from Epicurious at the beginning of the week and penciled it in for Wednesday night.

fennel-crusted ahi tuna with lemon aioli over couscous Bon Appétit | August 2005
This is the running commentary in my head as I prepare the recipe.

Combine first 3 ingredients in heavy small skillet. Toast over medium heat until fragrant, shaking skillet occasionally, about 3 minutes. Grind spice mixture in spice grinder. Transfer to bowl; mix in 1 teaspoon salt. (So far so good)

Whisk mayonnaise, lemon juice, chives, ( oops, no chives, scratch that) and half of garlic in small bowl. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Store spice mixture airtight at room temperature. Cover and refrigerate lemon aioli.)

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add carrot and onion and sauté until crisp-tender,(@#$% forgot to buy carrot and onion. I'll just leave it out. Next?) about 3 minutes. Add thyme and remaining garlic and sauté 1 minute. Add 2 1/4 cups water and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt; bring to boil. Add sugar snap peas (wha? Sugar snap peas!? I'll use green beans instead I guess. I'll blanch them and serve them on the side) and cook until crisp-tender, about 1 minute. Using slotted spoon, transfer peas to plate. Immediately add couscous (couscous!? oh forget it, I'll just make a batch of lemony quinoa) to water in skillet and stir to combine. Cover and remove from heat. Let stand 5 minutes. Fluff couscous with fork. Transfer to bowl and cool completely. ( why am I cooling? I want to have it hot for dinner. I'll just ignore that step) Mix in sugar snap peas and dill. Season to taste with pepper. (Couscous can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.)(blah blah blah, quinoa it is)

Prepare barbecue (high heat). (oh come on, really??! BBQ, I think not. Hot cast iron skillet will do just fine, thank you.) Coat tuna with 6 tablespoons oil.(ignore oil measurement as totally ridiculous) Sprinkle with spice mixture. (Liberally, as I just realized this is a recipe for 6 and I have two portions of tuna steaks)
Grill tuna until seared outside and rare in center, about 4 minutes per side. (try sear tuna less than a minute per side in hot skillet) Refrigerate uncovered for 1 hour (again with this refrigerate thing. I am eating it NOW), then cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices(1/2cm slices would be far more elegant). Spoon couscous (quinoa) onto plates. (Plate Green Beans as well)Top with tuna and drizzle with lemon aioli.

There you have it! my crazy and disorganised kitchen brain at work. And here is my take on the recipe, in full, sans running commentary.

Fennel Crusted Tuna

Makes 2 servings.
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
kosher salt
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, minced,

Quinoa, prepared, with fresh lemon zest
Green Beans, blanched and tossed with olive oil and salt.
2 tuna steaks

Combine first 3 ingredients in heavy small skillet. Toast over medium heat until fragrant, shaking skillet occasionally, about 3 minutes. Grind spice mixture in spice grinder. Transfer to bowl; mix in 1 teaspoon salt.

Whisk mayonnaise, lemon juice and garlic in small bowl. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Store spice mixture airtight at room temperature. Cover and refrigerate lemon aioli.)

Heat a skillet over medium high heat. Coat tuna with spice rub, then sear a minute per side. Slice and serve with quinoa and green beans.
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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Savoury Orange Roasted Tofu


I served this over glass noodles. And I wish I had more sauce!!

Savory Orange-Roasted Tofu & Asparagus
From Eating Well
Makes 4 servings, scant 1 cup each


1 14-ounce package extra-firm water-packed tofu, rinsed
2 tablespoons red miso (see Ingredient Note), divided
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, divided
4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
¼ cup orange juice
¼ teaspoon salt


1. Preheat oven to 450°F. Coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray.
2. Pat tofu dry and cut into 1/2-inch cubes. Whisk 1 tablespoon miso, 1 tablespoon vinegar and 2 teaspoons oil in a large bowl until smooth. Add the tofu; gently toss to coat. Spread the tofu in an even layer on the prepared baking sheet. Roast for 15 minutes. Gently toss asparagus with the tofu. Return to the oven and roast until the tofu is golden brown and the asparagus is tender, 8 to 10 minutes more.
3. Meanwhile, whisk the remaining 1 tablespoon miso, 1 tablespoon vinegar, 2 teaspoons oil, basil, orange zest and juice, and salt in the large bowl until smooth. Toss the roasted tofu and asparagus with the sauce and serve.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Sweet Potato Gnocchi


The highlight of this dish is the sweet potato gnocchi I made. It was inspired by a CL recipe, but I didn't have pre packaged gnocchi on hand, or many of the other ingredients, so a new dish evolved; Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Italian Sausage, Mushrooms and Asparagus.
I will share the recipe for the gnocchi; everything else is freeform...

Sweet Potato Gnocchi

1 large sweet potato
flour as needed
1 egg

Roast sweet potato until soft. Peel and process with a ricer or foodmill. Add one egg, salt as desired and a cup of flour. Start mixing by hand. If mixture seems to wet, add more flour; you want a soft pliable dough. Be careful not to overwork or you will get tough little gnocchi. Divide dough and roll into logs roughly 3/4 of an inch in diameter. Cut and shape into little gnocchi ( I wish I had a better picture of the shape; basically, I press and roll, creating a little cupped shape.) Cook in boiling salted water until they rise to the top, then set them aside for your desired use.

In my case, I sauteed Italian sausage, then gnocchi, mushrooms, onions, and asparagus. Seasoned with a squeeze of lemon, ad sprinkling of fresh parsley and a dusting of freshly grated parmesan.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Just a few pics

The pictures I took that never got themselves a blog post


Saint Patricks Day, Corned Beef and Cabbage


Goat Curry


Roast Lamb with New Potatoes and Creamed Peas

Monday, March 24, 2008

Shepherds Pie


I know have made shepherds pie before, but this one is different. The mash layer on top is made with cauliflower and parsnip, yielding a lighter smoother topping. Plus a bonus for anyone avoiding the carbs!
For the topping, simply steam a whole head of cauliflower plus two peeled and rough chopped parsnips. Once tender, transfer to food processor and season liberally with salt and pepper. Puree to smooth, add one egg and top your favourite sheperds pie filling. Once my pie was heated through, I browned it under the broiler. It was delicious, even Rob, my meat and potatoes guy, loved it!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Chili Roasted Chicken THighs With Pineapple


The New York Time via the cooking light boards. A great recipe that can stand to be repeated. My changes are in brackets and I served this with coconut rice and a sesame ginger coleslaw.

Rum (Whiskey) and Chili Roasted Chicken Thighs With Pineapple
Time: 40 minutes plus optional marinating time

1 tablespoon fresh lemon (lime) juice
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
6 scallions, trimmed and chopped
4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons safflower or canola (olive) oil
2 tablespoons rum (whiskey), preferably dark or amber
1 tablespoon thyme leaves
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 Scotch bonnet or habanero chili pepper, seeded and chopped (dried chipotle)
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
6 chicken thighs, rinsed and patted very dry
3/4 pound pineapple pieces, diced into 1/4-inch chunks or very roughly chopped
Lemon wedges, for serving.

1. In a blender or food processor, combine lemon juice and salt, and blend for 5 seconds to dissolve salt. Add scallions, garlic, oil, rum, thyme, brown sugar, chili pepper and spices, and blend until mixture forms a paste.

2. Rub chili paste all over chicken pieces. If you have time, let marinate for up to 45 minutes at room temperature, or up to 24 hours in refrigerator.

3. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Put chicken in a large baking pan and scatter pineapple around it in one layer. Roast until chicken is cooked through ( juices will run clear when pricked with a fork), about 25 minutes.

4. Broil chicken and pineapple until chicken skin is crisp and dark brown all over and pineapple is singed in places.

5. Serve chicken and pineapple coated with pan drippings, with lemon wedges.

Yield: 3 to 4 servings.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Dim Sum


I am still so full I can hardly breathe. There was so much food, I couldn't even photograph it. Instead, I give you the aftermath and the group of friends I went with.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

FromYour Blog To Mine


I read a lot of blogs, but seldom comment. When I do, it is because I am truly interested and I have probably bookmarked your recipe. Last week, I commented about this post on everybody likes sandwiches. Last night, this dish made an appearance on my table. Easy, tasty, I cannot recommend these salmon cakes enough. My only changes were the use of fresh dill and fine diced red onion instead of shallots. Thanks for the great recipe.
I served them with mashed red potatoes and a broccoli/cauliflower salad.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008



It was really hard to get pretty picture of this seabeast in its finished state; it is almost as unattractive in living colour

I first tried monkfish last summer in Portland (unfortunately I was in a blogging slump, so never wrote up my fabulous evening at Fenouil). It played second fiddle to a killer lentil side, but was still tasty. As I wandered through the market the other day, I saw monkfish fillets on offer and just had to try them.
No recipe today, just another one of those "freeform" dinners. The monkfish was wrapped in serrano ham, seared and baked. i served it with a blood orange zest beurre blanc. Red lentils with sauteed fennel was one of the sides and a salad of blood orange, roasted beets and julienned fennel was the other, adding to the colourful plate.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Meatballs with Mushroom Sauce and Sweet Potatoes

I got this recipe from the CLBB, but the original source was Shape Magazine. I made very little modifications and it was an excellent week night dinner. I will post my modified version.

Meatballs with Mushroom Sauce
Over Smashed Sweet Potatoes
Shape, January 2004
4 servings

1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled
and cut into 2-inch chunks
4 teaspoons olive oil, divided
black pepper
1 pound extra-lean ground sirloin
(about 90%-95% lean)
1/2 cup diced shallots
1/4 cup panko
1 egg
worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 cup sliced fresh shiitake
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 cup reduced-sodium beef broth
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 cup sherry

Bake sweet potatoes until tender. Transfer to a large bowl. Add 2 teaspoons olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, and smash together with a fork until lumpy.
Meanwhile, to make the meatballs, combine salt and pepper with next 6 ingredients in a large bowl. Form mixture into 16 2-inch meatballs.
Heat remaining 2 teaspoons of the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add meatballs and saute 5 minutes, until browned.
Add mushrooms and saute 3 minutes, until tender and releasing juice. Add thyme and stir to coat. Add beef broth and simmer 3 minutes, until meatballs are cooked through.
Dissolve cornstarch in sherry and add to skillet. Simmer 1 minute, until sauce thickens.
Spoon smashed sweet potatoes onto individual plates and top with meatballs. Spoon mushroom sauce over top and serve.

Nutrition score per serving (4 meatballs, 1/4 cup mushroom sauce, 1/2 cup sweet potatoes): 411 calories, 24% fat (11 g; 3 g saturated), 44% carbs (45 g), 32% protein (33 g), 5 g fiber, 66 mg calcium, 4 mg iron, 628 mg sodium.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Lasagna with Lamb, Spinach and feta


The same day that I made sushi, I made lasagna for dinner. It turned uot to be one of the best lasagnas ever!

Lasagna is admittedly a freeform dish for me (okay, most dishes are freeform in my world). I used a very simple recipe for the pasta dough, which I then took quite thin on my handy KitchenAid pasta roller.

Pasta Dough

2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups semolina flour
6 whole eggs
olive oil

sift salt and flours together on the counter. Make a well; add your eggs and olive oil. Mix then knead until desired consistency is reached (this took me about 10 minutes from start to finish). Wrap and allow to rest for a couple hours.

Roll out sheets; use in lasagna

THe filling came out of that crazy head of mine. I sauteed 2lbs of ground lamb in olive oil, but before it was fully cooked, I added a whole can of crushed organic tomatoes, some oregano, salt and pepper and cinnamon. I let that simmer for a couple hours, adding the rest of my ingredients as they were ready. I sauteed 1 japanese eggplant with lots of garlic and salt, then simmered it in a half cup of red wine. Once the wine was absorbed/reduced, I added the eggplant to the lamb. I also thawed one package of frozen spinach and added that.

I wish I could write a recipe, because this lasagna was the perfect density; but so much of it was made up as we went. The layers included mozzarella, the lamb filling, sheep feta and a bechamel made from about 1l of milk. It was then baked for an hour and allowed to rest for 20 minutes...<

Saturday, March 15, 2008

I made it!

Sushi, that is... And it is the easiest thing in the world...

The most important part of sushi is the rice.. I am sure that my method is not "the right" way, but it is what works for me.

Sushi Rice enough for 2 rolls

1 cup sushi rice
1 1/4 cups water
seasoned rice vinegar

First, set yourself up with a steaming apparatus. I put a ring mold in the bottom of my widest pot with lots of water, then balanced a bowl on top of the ring mold (a cookie cutter would work, or a short tin can with both lids removed). Get the water boiling.
Then, rinse the rice until the water runs clear. Add the measured amount of water and place in the steamer; cover and let steam for 25 minutes.
Remove the rice from the steamer and add seasoned rice vinegar to taste. Stir in and allow to cool.

After the rice is set up, the rolling is easy. Just make sure you have a bowl of water handy to dip your fingers in before pressing the rice onto the sheets of nori.

The fillings are easy too, make what tastes good. I did a california roll (crab, avocado) for Rob and an asparagus, sesame ginger chili avocado roll for me.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Bubble and Squeak part II


A couple weeks ago, I was playing with bubble and squeak and I felt like my technique needed a little refinement. Plus, Rob was loving it and insisted I make it again. Last night we had it with lamb and spinach meatloaf and green beans.
I can't really write a recipe; I think the nature of Bubble and Squeak is that it changes every time you make it.
Last night I cooked red potatoes, turnip and brussels sprouts till they were tender, mashed together and added lots of salt and pepper. I heated a cast iron skillet over medium to medium low heat, lubricated with duck fat and added my mash. I flipped and stirred every ten minutes or so until the mash was all crunchy caramelised bits...

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Joint Effort


A rare occurrence yesterday... Rob and I were both home from work at a decent hour, so we prepared dinner together. Rob cooked a couple of perfect filet mignons, and suggested a fennel salad. I made a barley risotto and prepared the salad. Crisp fennel, baby greens, olive oil, salt and a delicious honey vanilla balsamic courtesy of Mindy ~ delicious. And Rob absolutely loved the barley risotto.

I didn't have chicken stock, so added flavour with bacon.

Barley Risotto
4 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup diced uncooked bacon
1/4 cup finely chopped green onion
1 cup pearl barley
1/4 cup white wine
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
juice of half a lemon
1/8 cup grated parmesan
salt and pepper

Bring water to boil. Remove from heat, cover and set aside.

Sweat bacon in a saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and sauté 2 minutes. Add barley and season; cook for 3 or 4 minutes, then add white wine. Once white wine has been absorbed, add water a bit at a time, stirring after each addition. this will take 40-45 minutes.
Stir in parsley, parmesan and lemon juice. Serve

Wednesday, March 12, 2008



Sunchokes, or Jerusalem artichokes, are one of my favourite little tubers. I know they have been done to death, but I just love the way they taste and I picked some up at the Farmer's Market. Last night, I was not feeling the cooking vibe, but I did it anyway, preparing garlicky lamb chops with a red wine sauce, green beans and a sunchoke and yam gratin. Rob raved about it and, very sweetly, thanked me a million times over for making him dinner every night at such an "ungodly hour" (he gets off work at 9 pm. I get off at two.)

Please bear with me, the recipe is in rough development, but here it is.

Sunchoke and Yam Gratin

1 small yam, peeled, sliced thin
Sunchokes, enough to yield 2 cups, thinly sliced.
1 cup cream
bay leaf
pinch of lavender

Simmer cream with salt, pepper, bay leaves and lavender for 10 minutes. Strain off herbs and pour over yams and sunchokes. Layer in a small ovenproof pot, than bake for 20-25 minutes.
Serves 4 (Or two if one of them is my boyfriend).

Monday, March 10, 2008


Sometimes, you just need a friend to listen to you, to distract you, to share their own stresses. I was very lucky on Saturday, as K and R took me off to the farmers market. I know, a farmer's market in March, crazy! It was a lot of fun, featuring a couple of interesting performers

The view from the farmers market was incredible as well and this photo does not do it justice.

After we shopped, R dropped K and I Cafe Barney on Granville and we had a good breakfast and a wonderfully therapeutic chat. (Thank you!!)

Anyway, two days later, Rob and I reaped the benefits of the market trip with Organic potatoes from Helmers, Mushrooms from somewhere else, greens from Langley growers and a nice free run chicken breast from Tenderland.


This is the mushroom saute action...

And the finished product:

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Indian Comfort Food


I know, two days in a row, my heading features the term "comfort food". Today's title refers to the name of a little stall on Granville Island where we enjoyed a meal.
Picture the scene....
You are having many drinks with friends at a lounge on the island with abysmal, overpriced food... You are starving, you need an alcohol soaker, your server offers to guard your table, drinks and all. You run over to the market, looking for something fast, tasty and reasonably priced. Enter Indian Comfort Food.

All five of us ordered the Dehli Wrap, filled with butter chicken, rice, mango chutney and other yummy things, served with a side of vegetables and extra butter chicken sauce.
It was enough to fortify us for another four hours of catching up and generally frightening other patrons of the lounge with our "kitchen language"...

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Comfort Food


As I mentioned in my last post, things haven't been 100%... Comfort food was needed. The picture sucks a little, but we had Sausages, Bubble and Squeak, Gravy and salad.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

A lot on My Mind

I have a lot to think about right now and it seems to be pulling me down a little. It was an extreme effort just to make this simple meal last night, most of it mental effort...

Sablefish with a blood orange and star anise sauce, roasted asaparagus and sushi rice with green onion.

The Village Wine Shop Guy made another great recommendation, Quails Gate Chardonnay.

Somehow, I think it would taste sweeter if I wasn't so damn stressed and bogged down in thoughts. Here is just a sampling...
I am waiting (not patiently) for a referral to a dermatologist for a biopsy of a bizarre skin lesion on my shoulder...its been two days and still no phone call with the appointment.... I can't stop thinking about it; never mind that I ignored the damn thing for almost a year, I want results now!
My littlest sister is sick (siezures) , but communication is an issue, as is her steadfast refusal to see real doctors...So I have no real concept of what is going on and she is determined to go ahead with her wedding... A whole other can of worms for me.
I turn 29 in a month. No idea why that is weighing so heavily on my mind.
Should I stay or should I go? Have I learned all I can, gained all I can from my current employer? Or are my frustrations there just caused by my own worries at home?

Sunday, March 02, 2008

How much is too much?


Okay, where does one draw the line on expensive skin care products? 20$? 50$? 162$?!!!!
I have thin, pale sensitive difficult facial skin. I usually don't use anything because products just do a number on my skin. Then I heard about this line, SK-II, from Japan. I ducked into Holt Renfrew today, just curious. One product in the whole line, the basic, you-must-have-this-product, is 162$ for a bottle ACCCK. The look on my face was probably a dead giveaway. The saleswoman handed me a one week free trial.
So first treatment went on today. Check back in a week and see how I feel about spending roughly 2$ per day on my face....

PS. Skin already feels tingly and smooth.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Cooked My Goose


When I screw up, I REALLY screw up. THankfully, all I could do was laugh at this one. Alot.

Rob calls me "I'm bringing home free goose, legs and breast. Think of how you are going to cook it up for dinner".

I thought about it for a while and decided I would take the duck approach; they are both waterfowl, right?
I got a beautiful wine to pair with it "Jimmy My Pal". Despite the odd name, the wine was perfect, thanks to the reccomendations of the lovely people at Village Wines.
The goose arrived and it really did look like duck, so I soldiered ahead, searing the bits, then popping in the oven. My first mistake, I let the breast go slightly over... it was leaning more to medium than medium rare. My second mistake; thinking I knew what I was doing when it came to cooking the legs! I gave them more time than the breast, obviously, I made a delicious glaze/sauce with pomegranate molasses, red wine and honey, sauteed up some garlicky eggplant and served it all alongside a multigrain rice dish. The breast was tasy if a little tough. I tried to cut the leg... no dice. I picked it up and tried to bite it.... Then collapsed in laughter as my teeth refused to tear through the rubbery flesh. Rob gave it a shot as well. OMG, worst dish ever. I laughed some more, removed the legs from our plates and continued to enjoy the rest of the (delicious) meal.