Monthly Archives: May 2011

Woman discovers that Martha Stewart can bake

My latest discovery-hot off the press in 2005

Yes, I know, next I’ll be gushing about a great new dish called “Miso Black Cod” or enthusing about that new gadget called the “electric mixer”.  After many years of having Martha’s Stewart’s Baking Handbook in my amazon.ca cart I finally pressed “check out” and bought it.  My amazon purchases are strange in that things like this cookbook which I could have been referencing for years I feel guilty about “splurging” on but The Wild Sweets dessert book (as awesome as it is) I order without second thought though I have yet to make an Ice Wine Foam.

But-in case it’s been around so long you’ve forgotten about it–let me reintroduce you.  It’s got General Baking Tips (read a recipe all the way through–how guilty am I off not doing that–oops- I need lavender petals?), explains general baking techniques  such as how to add a drop of lemon to your caramel instead of wiping down the sides of your pot to prevent sugar crystallizing or shows pictures of the stages of whipping egg whites (there should be a wallet size pull-out of that.)

Chewy Crispy Cookie-ness.

It just has a whole whack of amazing recipes that are well-written, well explained and look gorgeous (as you would expect).  But doable.  Devil’s Food Chocolate Cake with Mint Chocolate Ganache, Potato and Onion Tarte Tatin and a zillion amazing cookies that would make most mom’s hate you at the Bake Sale.

The package arrived on a Friday.  Saturday morning at 7am Felix and I were ready to bake.  (Well, we were up so why not–plus I love baking in the early morning).  We went with the “yep, I have the ingredients” recipe.  Chewy, Oatmeal Raisin Cookies.

7:30 am. My work is done.

We ate a bunch of dough raw, we had a few incidences of small hands near a whirling mixer and much impatience as we watched them flatten in the hot oven, and a toasty sweet cookie aroma filled the kitchen.

Get thee to a cookie jarrery.

Now imagine these with an Ice Wine Foam.

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Filed under All Recipes, Blogs with cooking tips, Cookbooks, Magazines (+recipes from), Ruminations on the Edible

Top Chef Canada: Episode 5

To my chagrin and pissed-off-ness (actually the definition of chagrin) my Roger’s cable showed a black screen for the first few minutes of Episode 5.  In trying to determine what I missed I checked the Top Chef Canada website and saw that Francois had won immunity.   I was flabbergasted.  Could I not make fun of him anymore?  Was he a master at something?  Nope, turns our he just pulled a horseshoe from his ass and a knife from the knife block that read “hog wild” granting him instant immunity.

Everyone else was divided into two teams–black and white.  Each team was gifted with an entire heritage pig to butcher courtesy of guest judge Stephen Alexander, owner of Cumbrae’s (and Toronto’s local Meat Celebrity).

Anyone who didn’t pull “hog wild” on their knife pulled a cut of meat (picnic shoulder, leg, shoulder butt, belly or loin) and each team member had to properly butcher their pork portion (from the whole pig) under Stephen’s watchful eye and pained expression.  The Quickfire Round was more about hacking than elegant knife skills.

The most heartening thing about the butchery was the enthusiasm.  The chefs actually looked like they were having fun.  Knife, corpse and tearing flesh turned out to be a good time.

Connie and Chris’s skill gave the black team an advantage, until Darryl stepped in and impressed Stephen, helping the white team catch up. It was down to the wire between Andrea and Dustin.  Dustin cuts his finger. Pit stop for band-aid and rubber glove. Andrea saws away at the pig while Jamie looks on-perhaps a little too enthused.  Dustin finishes just before her.

Stephen concludes that there were “flashes” (blink and you’d miss ’em) of pretty good butchery.  I will never sell you any of my farm-raised pigs or even a breakfast sausage–your faces are seared in my mind was the look in his eyes.

Black team wins each chef an extra $100 for shopping in the Elimination Round.

Elimination Round

Each chef must prepare two types of appetizers for a fund raising function benefitting The Food Bank of Canada.  One appetizer must include the cut of meat they butchered earlier.

The chefs discover they will be cooking in a secret location.

Francois, “Shit, I’m cooking in a new kitchen…just when I had taped my cheat sheet of the French Mother Sauces to the fridge in the GE kitchen

Chris, “I just need flames, pots and water…and a melon-baller but I’m trying to sound hard-core right now.”

Jamie, “I want to win for many reasons. Money is one. My mom is my main restaurant investor and she’s almost broke…..she’s eating at the Food Bank right now so I can have a restaurant.  I hope the fund raising goes well for her sake.”

Rob–I can’t remember what he said but OMG–I realize he is Clark Kent in chef form.

The chefs and the reception end up at George Brown College. Guest Chef is John Higgins, director of the GB Chef School and Andrea’s mentor.

The big surprise is that the chefs themselves will be mentoring a George Brown student who will act as their sous-chef.  The students are forced to wear tall, paper chef hats in a cruel, televised hazing ritual.

Rob makes jokes about his sous-chef because he’s “geriatric and older than his dad”.  He forgets to add the classic insult “old geezer”.  Later, after successfully bossing him around Rob is more forgiving, “Dwayne’s a nice guy. He was a Major in the military so he takes orders really well.”

Andrea’s sous chef is truly adorable and Andrea nicknames her Minnie.

Dale says he will be a “father figure” to his apprentice, cleverly segueing into name-dropping “Boulud” and “Ramsay” as his father figures.

Overall, the chefs are finally looking comfortable-like they’re forgetting this is a contest and just doing what they love–cooking (hopefully) impressive food.

Still loving Connie.  So professional but relaxed and sweet with her sous-chef.  Contrast with a shot of Chris lording over his table like Sauron about to wage war against the elves in LOTR.

The Final Judgment

Top Four:  Andrea “best tasting dish of the day” (Dry Spice Rubbed Pork Loin with Sweet Ontario Corn Polenta), Dale impresses with both dishes (a Thai consommé with poached black cod and sous-vide pork with sauerkraut), Rob’s “perfect dishes”  (confit pork and rillette and a crab and scallop croquette)  and Dustin “who’s come a long way up from the bottom–go dude!” (Pork Loin & Bacon and an Apple Terrine with Calvados Vanilla Creme Fraiche).

Dale walks away with a well-earned victory.

Bottom FourPatrick, Todd, Jamie and Darryl.

Todd apparently “took homey food to a lower level”.  Darryl’s flavours were “milky and muddy” and Patrick, basically, no one could remember ever being impressed with Patrick.

Best line of the show, Chef McEwan to Jamie about his salmon mousse, “if you’re a salmon and this is how you end your life, on this plate–that’s sad.”

For a few moments you think this is the end for Patrick, but WHAM, Jamie is asked to pack his bags.  It could be the fact that he tried to blame the judges for “never giving him any positive feedback” and then blaming his student sous-chef for distracting his focus.  I’m sure he’s going to go home, find the bank where his poor mom is defaulting on her loan  and blame her too.

He left us with this memorable…..veiled threat… “Canada only saw the tip of what I’m capable of.”  Looking forward to seeing Jamie on Canada’s Top Psycho.


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Toast Post: Louis D’Or

Louis D'Or from Quebec reclines on avocado from Mexico

I first had Louis D’Or last fall.  I was smitten fast.  I wanted to move the relationship forward, make it more permanent but our fling was brief.  Louis D’Or was one hard cheese to track down.

It entered my life again this April, at the same time as Ben Mulroney who was hosting the 2011 Canadian Cheese Grand Prix. Being in cocktail attire, at an event where wedges of cheese are being flashed onto giant screens while Ben Mulroney is announcing, “and nominees in the fresh cheese category are…” is slightly like being at a Star Trek convention for cheese lovers (geeks, OK, geeks) or (as my friend pointed out) being in an excellent mockumentary.

Louis D’Or swept the night. I wondered what Louis was thinking about all the fuss around him.  Maybe, “If I win this category will Ben Mulroney’s hands touch my rind? Ok, I’ve now won two categories, this is going well, now will he touch me?   Maybe if I sweep the awards, surely he’ll glance my way.  Nothing?!  Are you serious?  There’s my maker–he’s shaking hands with my maker!  OMG, please come over here and wash my rind before I ferment myself!”

Louis D’Or in 11 words or more:  Firm, washed-rind. The producer is Fromagerie du Presbytère in Sainte-Élizabeth de Warwick, Quebec.  They also make the excellent blue cheese Bleu D’Elizabeth. Made with raw, organic cow sourced from the cheese maker’s farm.  When I first had the cheese last fall I loved its complexity and fruity, caramel and herbal notes which reminded me a bit of Comté.   I think I may have had the 9 month old version because when I tasted it at the Grand Prix it seemed further aged (further sleuthing has me thinking 18 months)–more crumble, less suppleness and though complex, perhaps a little less fruity or “fresh”.  It was still lovely but I think I prefer the younger wheel.

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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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Filed under Restaurants and Products, Ruminations on the Edible, Strange but Tasty

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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