Monthly Archives: May 2011

Iced Iced Tea Baby

My Tea-na Colada

I went on an iced tea mission for Mother’s Day.  I was buying black tea at The Tea Emporium last week and I had my son with me.  I mentioned that he liked tea– well a decaf, watered down, Red Rose version of black tea– with a bit of honey.  Feeling obvious pity for his bungled tea initiation the saleswoman gently suggested I could make him iced fruit teas.

I’m not really a fruit tea person.  Or at least not as a hot tea.  But iced!  I am a convert.  We smelled a few fruit-forward  combinations (aromas almost as glorious as Fruit Stripe Gum) and took home a blend called African Queen: Hibiscus, rosehip, dried apple and strawberry.

I remembered I had some of my Ginger Simple Syrup left from my Ginger-Melon salad.  So I used that a sweetener.  And I was off and running.

I went a little iced tea crazy.  Yesterday I made a batch of Sunburst Raspberry (apple raspberry blend) and for Mother’s Day I have made myself a pitcher of Pina Colada iced tea with the Ginger syrup.  (Pineapple, coconut, apple, hibiscus and rosehip).

Tomorrow I try the Green Kombucha Lime (a Japanese green citrus blend).  It apparently acts as a purifier for your blood and organs.   A perfect pairing with vodka soup.

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Top Chef Canada: Episode 4

We see a few shots of the male chefs waking up in their Camp Chef bunks and getting ready for a new dawn.

We learn that Dale is shocked to be on the bottom even though he is in a top bunk.

Derek is caught on film filling out what appears to be a job application,  though he says he’s now got the “fighting spirit” (it’s under his cap.)

We’re back in the GE Kitchen but Mark McEwan is missing in action.

From behind a rack of cookware emerges none-other-than Susur Lee. The chefs look shocked, except for Dustin who is smiling extra-wide.  We learn that he trained under Susur.   Susur and Dustin flirt a little with their eyes.  Dustin more.  Susur less.

The Quickfire Challenge

Inspired by Chef Lee’s 19-ingredient Singaporian Style Slaw, each Chef must create their own signature salad.

Dustin understandably feels the need to prove himself but also to “be his own chef”.  Darryl decides to base his salad on a roast corn salad his girlfriend makes.  “Simple and good” is still his mantra.  Actually, Darryl seems to break out his shell and radiate some warmth when he talks about his girlfriend.  It’s nice.  (awwwww….)

Francois is STILL HERE!   How is it possible?  Does he eventually rip off the Francois mask and underneath is Joel Robuchon who wins all of Top Chef?   Today he decides to make a french-style coleslaw as his tribute to the Singapore style salad.

Rob is afraid is salad has no focal point.  Radish rosette, maybe?

Chris is ever modest, “Susur is an Asian Guru but I am an Asian master” is the gist of his story.  Also, adding to his credentials, he mentions the job he didn’t get at Lee because he was “too experienced in Asian Food.”  I guess Susur shouldn’t have all those Asian restaurants then.  He’s just too damn experienced.

Ultimately Dustin proves himself as a good apprentice.  He wins the Quickfire with a dish that Susur deems “perfectly balanced” A beet carpaccio with wasabi mustard, pickled onions and shaved apples .

The Elimination Challenge

Chef McEwan is back with a new do!  (He was just out getting a haircut earlier.) 

The chefs each pull a  knife from a block upon whose blade is engraved a country.  Guess what! It’s the mosaic of ethnic food that makes up Canada. They are teamed up in pairs.  One prepares a cold dish, one hot.  They have 2 hrs to prep and 15 minutes to shop.  One chef at Loblaws and one in an “ethnic” food store.

Andrea and Rob pull Japan and look super confident.

Francois and Patrick pull Jamaica I imagine Francois wondering if Jamaicans would like a Pommes Dauphine roti.

Dustin and Derek pull Mexico (Luckily for them Derek has worked at a Mexican restaurant in Dublin.  Phew!).

Jamie and Dale pull Portugal and Jamie admits he’s hoping to ride on Dale’s coat tails.  Chris (asian master) and Darryl are on Korea.

Todd and Connie pull Ethiopia and everyone including Chef McEwan and the camera crew feel sorry for them.

Teams to worry about: Chris and Darryl when the “asian master” can’t find chili paste at a Korean store.  Guess Darryl will have to pick that up at Loblaws.

Teams to admire: Connie and Todd.  But really, Connie.  She’s awesome as usual.  She admits she’s freaked out about the Ethiopian cooking but in her 15 minutes of shopping she is calmly asking the Ethiopian store owner what would work best to soothe the heat of a spicy curry–yogurt or ricotta?

Chef to worry about: Derek, who explains he is self-taught (from reading cook books) and tries to compress time and braise 4-hr short ribs in 2 hrs.  (Maybe those were sci-fi books?)

Final Judgement

The good: Chris makes a Bibimbap with Daikon, Shitake, Marinated King Crab & Kimchi Marinated Pork that Susur really likes. Maybe now Chris can get a job at Lee!

The bad:  Rob and Andrea stumble big time.  Rob presents warm hamachi sashimi that still has the blood line in it (maybe he’s a True Blood fan?) and Andrea brings overcooked Soba Noodles, Daikon, Turnip & Carrots in a Light Miso Broth with seared Kobe.

The Ugly: Derek’s Mexican (Irish?) dish of undercooked braised ribs.

The verdict:

Top 2 teams:

Dale wins kudos for what McEwan calls an “extremely complicated and perfectly executed” dish of Hake with Salt Cod Mousse & Smoked Paprika Portuguese Sausage & Potato ConfitJamie is told his dish was a pale copy of Dales and  “too timid”.  Sometimes imitation is a form of lameness.

It’s Connie and Todd who win the day. Connie serves traditional Ethiopian ground beef with curry spices and traditional lamb katwa (stew) and Todd brings red and green lentil salad, tomato salad with onion & cucumber and Injera. Susur says, ‘I can tell you wanted to understand the culture.” And everyone is impressed at Todd’s homemade Ethiopian bread.  Todd looks modestly shocked at his achievement.

Let’s just cut to the chase:

Even though Rob’s sashimi is called “Richness on top of blandness on top of the wrong temperature–a sashimi train wreck” Derek gets sent home for his dry and goopy ribs.  He is told he fails to understand basic procedures.  Message from the judges, “Go to cooking school”.

Later Derek, I’ll miss that cap. You were kind of sweet. Otherwise, see you for Episode 5: Butchering.

(Is this when Connie breaks down a pig’s head in 4 min? oh please!)




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The Grapple: one awkward lovemaking session

For when you're not sure what size fruit you want to eat.

When you see apples encased in solid plastic, you read the label. Maybe they’re special.  Limited editions that you can store away between your Sidney Crosby rookie card and the weird eggplant that looks like Joan Rivers.

It was at the small Italian grocer near my house that I came upon the Grapple. “Looks like an apple. Tastes like a grape.”  Even at $1.50 per apple I couldn’t resist the bizarre apple freak show.  Or is a grape freak show?

Perhaps blue sky thinking shouldn’t be allowed when it comes to cross-breeding.

Maybe this was the prototype for vodka infused watermelon.  Luckily the Grapple website explains everything:

A relaxing bathing process prepares our apples for you or your kids. The apple takes on no additional sugars or calories. They are not genetically altered in any way. The apple is as healthy as ever but now has the new exciting grape flavor.

Amazingly, you may have more questions and luckily there is an FAQ page.  The first question answered  is “Is this an offshoot of the Japanese program that tried to cross a cow with a whale?”

But FYI–the Grapple just tastes, well, like an apple.   Who’s your daddy?



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Cool “thingy” for your cookbook

The extra weight I was craving.

I always have a can of chickpeas, or mixed beans or  diced tomatoes on hand when I cook from certain cookbooks.  The cans act as weights that I balance on the spine of the book or on the edge of the page to try to hold the cookbook open to a particular recipe.

The alternative is to hold them open with my forearm while my hands stand by uselessly covered in half-made pizza dough or the goop from raw chicken.  Sometimes I forget I have anchovy paste on my thumb as I flip  pages trying to get back to my gnocchi recipe.

It is to my sheer amazement that cookbooks are not all published in 3-ring binders or something equally as functional since they are supposedly a kitchen TOOL.  TOOLS help you.  TOOLS do not slam shut just as you’re reading, “The key to the recipe is timing….” or suddenly display a flan recipe when you were positive you started out making Coq au Vin.

So I am sharing the discovery of the Sagaform “Hold”.  A  cookbook weight that holds your flippin’ cookbook flat.  It’s compact and easy to clean and even elegant.  It even works on the most tight-lipped cookbooks that want to snap shut the minute they’re opened.  I tested it.

Best of all it makes a great pretend microphone for singing the chorus to On the Floor by J-Lo  or prepping for your modest (but slightly cheeky!) interview with Nigel Slater for The Guardian’s Food Section.

I bought mine at The Cook’s Place on the Danforth.  $35

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