Monday, August 6, 2012

Sweet as Cherry Pie



Everytime I make a cherry pie I sing this song. Everytime I ever made a fruit flan, you know the ones, unbaked with kiwis and strawberries and the like, all shiny with glaze, anyway...everytime I made a fruit flan I would sing strawberry fields forever. Everytime, for like twenty years.

Anyway, I love mid summer for its peaches and cherries. I will admit to a guilty pleasure that my local corner store has in the form of pre made cherry pies.  I have no idea who makes them, they are packaged discretely in brown boxes ( unlike the porn in my 'hood , which is in the store windows) But regardless, as good as the mystery pie is, nothing beats fresh made, it goes without saying.

The one thing that you may not have that you def will need is a stoner. No, not the guy you sat beside in college, a cherry stoner, or pitter as they seem to be called now. Now, if you are having a pie emergency and have cherries but no pitter, you can use a chopstick..it is messier slower and a pain in the butt, but if you must McGyver it, thats how. That said, I sure wouldn't want to have to do a whole pies worth that way


 Here's a pretty one..
cherry stoner



Alright, stop your whinging, I know its a little bit of work to pit he cherries. But if you want to go buy a can of cherry pie fill, please , just don't. Listen, Im no chefy snob , I cheat, I actually have powdered stock mix in the cupboard, I am not always a purist. But if it makes a dramatic difference, well you just have to respect your palate.

S0, pit the darn cherries, and get over yourself, its just a few minutes work :) When I worked at The Senator ( diner, steakhouse, jazz club) I used to sit in the back alley on a milk crate and pit a couple of baskets of cherries and peel a bushel of apples, in one sitting. 

My chef never understood how someone with so little patience could do things like that.




I am not going to talk about pie crust. I'm just not in the mood, maybe another time :) I would cover a cherry pie. You can make a lattice top, but I think a fully covered cherry pie is better, save the lattice work for smaller berries like the blues and rasps.

As far as baking a fruit pie, they are basically all the same. I use about 325F. Preheat your oven to 375F and when you put your pie in, turn down the heat. Now the pie is done when you see bubbles. And I like to see bubbles right in the centre of the pie, not just on the edges.  The starch that you use, whether it be flour or tapioca or corn starch, has to come to a boil ( more or less) to become an effective binding agent and give the juice of your delicious pie the correct viscosity.

Class dismissed...heres your recipe


Ingredients


2 cups pitted fresh dark sweet cherries, such as Bing or Lambert
1/3 cup bottled cherry juice (or apple or pomegranate or any similar juice)
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 pastry for a double-crust 9-inch pie
1 tablespoon butter, cut into small chunks




Directions


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F 

In a bowl, mix the cherries, cherry juice, almond extract, brown sugar, white sugar, and flour until the sugar has dissolved; allow to stand while you prepare pastry dough, about 15 minutes.

Line a 9-inch pie dish with a pastry crust, and fill with the cherry filling; sprinkle small chunks of butter over the filling. Top with the remaining crust, and crimp the edges to seal; cut several steam vents into the top crust with a sharp paring knife.

Reduce oven to 325F and bake until the cherry filling is bubbling and thickened and the pie crust is browned, 35 to 40 minutes. Allow to cool( if you can) before serving.





Thursday, August 2, 2012

Triple Chocolate Cookies...need I say more?!

OK, I admit I have been a very boring diner the last few days, Israeli CousCous, mostly veggie. Nothing to write a blog about!

So as a way of paying a penance for not being more creative I am sharing with you my favorite, best most scrumptious Triple Chocolate cookie recipe.

You will notice it is dead easy to make, really. The secret, the difference between amazing and mundane is in the baking. More precisely, the secret is when to stop baking.

With most cookies, you take them out when they are a-l-m-o-s-t set and just a wee bit soft in the middle. Well with these beauties, once the outer edge of the cookie is set up and a good part of the middle is very soft, so soft you fear they are not baked ( but remember the outer edge will be set) This is whenthey come out. Trust me they will set up as they sit ont he hot baking sheet..always let these bad boys cool on the sheet.

Enjoy, they are sinfully good!



Ingredients 



  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup Dutched Cocoa Powder( this is the darkest brown cocoa you can find, not the reddish kind like Frys)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (1/2 lb) butter or margarine, softened
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups Milk chocolate chunks
  • 1 1/2 cups White chocolate chunks 



    Directions

    Preheat oven to 325 degrees
    Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside. 
    Cream the butter and all sugars until fluffy and lighter in colour than when you started.
    Add eggs one at a time, mixing in thoroughly before you add the next egg ( the vanilla always goes with the eggs, btw)
    Slowly stir in the flour mixture.( slow so you dont end up with flour, everywhere)
    Stir in chocolate chunks. 
    place 2 inches apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. 
    Bake until cookies done :)
    Let cool 5 minutes. 


    Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Late breaking Yogurt news!






Revisiting Kensington








I realize I have already covered tonights topic in previous posts, but something has happened that rocked my taste buds so hard, I had to share it with you.

I decided to go to Kensington Market to pick up some groceries the other day. I will admit to being a bit like a bird, that is I am attracted to the pretty shiny things, like the Maple Leaf Gardens Loblaws, but Kensington IS better, and cheaper, and well just more fun. So I hopped on my bike, which I recently "fixed" so now the front brake rubs and it is twice as hard to ride, and off I went.

I picked up some leafy green things and stopped at the spice shop. I got some amazingly good Colombian coffee for 8.99 lb ( its 11 a Lb at the bulk barn here) I was honestly a little disappointed with the fruit, but picked up some black and blue and raspberries. As I am trying to avoid dairy to lose some weight, I walked by it once, then twice, then I had to go in...Yea, you know it...Global Cheese

Global Cheese - Kensington Market



Global Cheese is a long standing tradition in Kensington, there is also Cheese Magic, but Global seems to be everyones favorite. Cheese shops in Kensington are always an experience. If you are shy, or the least bit inhibited, I recommend the 18 foot wall of ( Over priced) cheese in MLG Loblaws. It is an experience in its own way, just not nearly as gritty and fun.

I find the best way to enjoy Global is to walk n as if you have known the guy behind the wall of cheese your whole life. All you have to do is say, "so, whats good today..?" And faster than a fat kid on cake, an arm will shoot out from some hole in the cheese you hadn't previously noticed, dangling a sample of something exotic, or something on sale. And it happens over and over again, Mmmm.

On this particular day I noticed they had crumbled Feta on for some crazy low price, so I got that. Althought its fattening I cheated and got some baba ganoush. Then, I saw it, the sign that read "our own Greek style Yogurt" Well as we all know,I am a nut for Greek style yogurt, and now the cheese shop has made its own!? Well sign me up.

As the friendly clerk is reaching over to hand it to me he is in mid conversation with another customer and I hear him say, Yes, its half goat half cows milk. Oh Oh...Once I went to get yogurt at the store, I wasnt wearing my glasses, and I accidentally bought "goat" instead of "greek". I saw the G and ran with it...
Shhh, never mind the comments, I also do the dishes without glasses now and again and you dont want to know about that!
I tell the guy, Hmm I dunno, and of course, he whips off the lid and gives me a sample.
OK, words are only weak feeble things and can do no justice to the sheer heavenly joy to the palate that this miracle concoction is. it really is more like creme fraiche than yogurt. Its so sinful tasting I fear I may have to go to confession for just savoring one spoonful.
The stuffs pretty good :)  I imagine because they are a small shop not only do they make it themselves they can hang it with care in a way that even my beloved Liberte can not do to its size. That and the darn goat milk, I guess. Although it did not at all have the typical muskiness that the goat milk usually imparts.
Just brilliant...


Put on your shoes, and get up 
and go,
run, 

 to Global Cheese





Sunday, July 29, 2012

Thank you, Chef Paul

I admit, when it comes to spicy, hot foods, I am a wimp. I love curries but mostly when I make my own so I can control the heat. When I make chili I always pull a little out to the side for myself  before I properly season it for everyone else. Being a chef AND a wimp, is no easy task. Cooks are a competitive lot and many hours are spent exchanging "war stories" usually about the worst injury you worked through, the most you ever drank, or the hottest thing you ate. Being a light weight drinker and a wimp lost me respect points with the boys, for certain.

Over the years my palate has grown a little heartier, I do love chipotle peppers, I still find them too hot but love the flavor. And I have developed a fondness for blackened things :) I recall watching chefs take chicken,or shrimp and rub it with something mysterious and sear it in hot hot pans, preferably cast iron, until smoke filled the air and you could smell the spices. I found it intriguing but at the time I did not favor such flavors and carried on.

Since I have toughened up and have realized how dreadfully easy it is to blacken things, it has become one of my go to "fast-food" meals.


Blackened Tilapia


Last nights dinner...Blackened Tilapia, 5 grain rice, mashed rutabaga, and, as usual, Tabbouleh salad.
Theres two things I want to talk about in regards to that dinner.. Well three, it was delicious, first of all.
But for real...don't get fooled by Tilapia..It was once nothing and is now the most farmed fish in the United States. In the food business they call it "Aquatic chicken" because because it breeds easily and tastes bland, tilapia is the perfect factory fish; it happily eats pellets made largely of corn and soy and gains weight rapidly, easily converting a diet that resembles cheap chicken feed into low-cost seafood.
Thats all well and good but the trick comes in nutritionally..Although it is a good source of protein without the saturated fat of red meat,unlike most other fish, tilapia contains relatively little of the fish oils that are supposed to be oh so beneficial, the Omega 3's

But whatever, its still not an evil choice :)

 Heres the other point I am compelled to share..as romantic a notion it is to think of old cajuns pull in off the river after a day of alligator hunting and whipping up a big pot of jambalaya and blackened gator...I am sorry to report thats all it is, a romantic notion.

The blackening process was invented and perfected by Chef Paul Prudhomme, at K-Paul's in New Orleans. Though Chef Prudhomme is all about Louisiana , he actually introduced blackening less than 30 years ago. It quickly caught on, and became pretty darn trendy. Apparently Chef Paul first blackened a Redfish, as the legend goes.

So lets blacken the sucker!

here's a recipe that you can start with:

2 tsp. kosher salt;
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper;
1 ½ tsp. cayenne;
1 tbsp. paprika;
½ tsp. thyme;
 ½ tsp. oregano
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. white sugar

Mix it all together..coat your fish, chicken, shrimp, whatever, generously with the mix

Now this is a base, you adjust it as you like, make it hotter, or dont..experiment with the balance, make it your own.

Melt butter in a cast iron pan
Add your coated food
fry on both sides until done.


Told you it was easy...now if you'll excuse me, its almost the close of alligator season...

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Well thats just peachy


There are more things to love about summer in Toronto than I can name atm, but two of my absolute favorite harbingers of the dog days of summer are cherries and peaches.
Oh I hear my friends on the left coast yelling about the superior quality of their fruit. Im not denying that. But I will also stand by Ontarios produce.



♪Good things gro-oo-oow in On-Tar-i-ooo♪

Hahah remember hat annoying commercial? Of course you do, I have a friend who would acutally get visibly angry when it appeared, seemingly every commercial break, on Tv , a while back. Hahaha

So, I picked up a couple of Ontario peaches at the corner store. Now gentle readers, I live in the very heart of the gayest neighborhood in the entire country, so you must know my corner store is better then yours :) OK, calm down, I kid..but really there's exotic fruit ( the produce not the customers) a wide range of cheeses,beautiful flowers and croissants baked daily, you get the picture. OMG The chocolate selection!!! I ll save that for another blog....

OK, so I get home and decide to have these peaches with my beloved Liberte Greek plain yogurt. Sounds like nothing, right?

Wrong.

I may still be quivering from sheer unmitigated joy...Sers, how can something so sinfully good, not be bad for you. I swear this is unprecedented. A satisfying sweet creamy decadent snack that is not only NOT bad for you...it is actually GOOD for you. I want to weep.

I thought tonight I"d drill down about into the peach, figuratively, I ate all the ones I had on hand :) Even when I was a pastry chef at the distillery, when I asked the sous chef in charge of ordering, to get me, specifically "Freestone" peaches, he grumbled something ordered just peaches and got me baskets of unusable product. When I went to him to complain and ask what was up, he said he just asked for peaches, he didnt know there was any difference.

Well there is a difference, a great deal of difference as a matter of fact
( and that's why I was so specific in the first place, but hard to be a blond in the kitchen sometimes, but that's another story for another day! )

Its quite literal and so, not hard to get...


Freestone: 

The flesh comes easily away from the pit, making these the perfect peaches for eating out of hand. They are not quite as juicy as clingstones. But eh easiest to use for baking imho.  They arrive later in the season, about mid-August and stay until the end of September.


Clingstone: 

The flesh clings firmly to the pit, or stone. They are soft in texture and very juicy. Fabulous for baking and for making jams and jellies, they are worth the work if you have the patience. These are the peaches that find their way into cans.




Besides those, there are yellow- and white-fleshed peaches.

Yellow-fleshed peaches are deeply coloured on the inside. They are sweet, but also slightly tangy in taste.

White-fleshed peaches, which are sorta trendy right now, are pale-coloured and super sweet, with lower acidity levels than yellow peaches. And their flesh is smoother-textured, almost creamy.

Among the craziest-looking of the white-fleshed peaches are the small, saucer peaches that look like squashed doughnuts. Very popular in France, where they are called pêches plates.
They are super-sweet, with floral aromas and a hint of honey flavour. Their skin is fuzz-free and feels like velvet. I think I have seen these kicking around being called Donut Peaches..you gotta love marketing for the status quo ( which seems always rather low)
But I digress....

I am awaiting the return of someone dear and I have decided to make a peach pie for his return, solely based on the exquisite nature of this seasons crop. Ill keep you posted  :)




Wednesday, July 25, 2012

I just can't get enough

**warning**
COMPLETELY UNRELATED TO TODAY'S BLOG ENTRY :)

Sorry, I couldn't resist. Once I titled todays entry I couldn't get the darn song out of my head. Hopefully, now, its also stuck in yours :p

What I cant get enough of are these fun and funky, beautiful and brilliant kitchen gadgets. So I thought I'd toss a few more of them your way.





How cute is this? And yet still fully functional. These are my fav peelers, the ones that look like razors. And if they look like groovy little carrot men, all the better.












Aren't the best ideas always the simplest? This is much more efficient than laying the spoon across the pot. I have a gas stove, I have "branded" alot of wooden spoons :)












Again, simple, elegant...Function meets form.














WINE PURSE!!!  o.m.g.

I know more than a couple of girls that would enjoy this :)















This is "Boiley", the microwave egg boiler.
Prepares soft, medium and hard cooked eggs in 3 to 5 minutes.
I love the stunned look on his face :)










Strip your fresh corn with this mouse-shaped tool. The stainless-steel notched blade strips the sweet kernels off cobs, trapping them in a container that empties through a hole in the top.
I just use a french knife, but its kinda geeky cute.











Another juicer, oH so pretty!!
Its got a nice tight clamp to get max juice extraction, AND it strains out the seeds. Love it !

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Eggsactly


My meals of late have been rather unremarkable so I thought tonight I'd pay homage to The Egg.
You gotta love an egg, as a pastry chef I grew to have an unusual reverence for the humble egg, it is present in so much pastry work. And in so many different fashions, with so many different applications. It truly is remarkable. From bread to mousse, from ice cream to cookies, you need the egg for all of them.

There is a story that the hundred pleats in a chefs hat are supposed to represent the number of ways to use an egg. 100, thats alot. Im guessing alot of them are archaic and nothing we would know about...

Eggs got a bad rap what with the Cholesterol thing, but now we know that it is perfectly acceptable to have one egg a day. Unless of course you have some issues, and then, well, move along...nothing more to see here ;)

In training young staff over the past couple of years I was astounded at the lack of basic culinary knowledge. So a bit of an egg primer can't hurt.

First off, Sunny Side Up


Way too many young people I have encountered weren't quite sure what a sunny side up egg was...really?! OK well if you see a picture of a fried egg 93% of the time it is sunny side, because they are so pretty.


For traditional sunny-side up eggs, melt 1 or 2 tablespoons of butter in a 8-inch non-stick omelet pan or skillet over medium heat. Break open eggs into pan and immediately reduce heat to low. And I mean low. So many green cooks think every thing has to be on the highest heat or speed. I realize instant gratification takes too long these days, but patience is still a virtue in the kitchen Cook slowly until the whites are completely set and the yolks begins to thicken, but are not hard.
Voila.




Now stay with me here..over easy means, flip the egg over and cook it a short period of time on the opposing side, so the yolk remains somewhat runny.
Over medium, over hard..figure it our dear readers, I know you are a clever bunch

Myself, Im a fan of scrambled, and I have it perfected for my pan at home, exactly the right way to season it.
Now I will be frank, I have a method  I always use, then I cam across this Gordon Ramsay clip and I am intrigued. Not mystified, mind you, just intrigued. He makes it rather like a pastry cream, or custard. I never would have tried it, but now I must.
Plus this is a great clip showing us Ramsay is not just a TV chef, and he burns the toast, teehee


Sunday, July 22, 2012

Funky kitchen gadget brilliance

Pastry chefs are known for thinking out side the box, and being great problem solvers. There are so many times in a kitchen you are a lone wolf, the only pastry cook in a sea of sweaty rude young men, who make their needs top priority and only acknowledge you when they have some fruit that has gone off. Thats when they toss it on your table as they pass by to have  cigarette and mumble, "make some sorbet or some shit out of this"
We are constantly having to come up with a better way, a different mold, or a splashier garnish. Remember too, young 'uns, I was in the kitchen before the internet ( for the most part) I can only imagine the information sharing that goes on , the exposure to things we had only "heard" about. For my part I'd spend all my spare money ( not much when you are a cook) on magazines. And the good ones, were expensive..I had years of Gourmet, Savour, Pastry Art and Design, Chocolatier, to name a few. But one little magazine I loved and all the boys made fun of me for reading, they called it a House wife magazine, was "Cooks Illustrated" They never did anything too fancy, but they would do insipred things like test recipes and show you all along the way the differences. They did equipment reviews, and covered all the basics. They also often showed new innovative kitchen gadgets. And who doesnt love a great gadget!!

So as a bit of an homage to my old cooks illustrated days I am going to share with you some of the funkier things that have caught my culinary eye as of late....


I love this idea!
A little hint I would add, that works great even if you are squeezing the citrus by hand..soak it in a bowl of hot hot water for 3-5 minutes before you juice. You will find you get almost twice as much juice per fruit. Also make the skin very soft if you want to zest it first.


I always have a little pile of trimmings, onion skins whatever on the corner of my cutting board, I would love this. In the kitchen I would often stand with a big ole garbage can between me and the cutting board so it was easy to get rid of all the garbage, like pinepple skins, melon rinds, that take up so much space on your board.


I see these things "Chip Clips" in the grocery store and I often wonder who would buy that!? But people do, and thats perfectly ok :) Whats more ok is save the money and bust up a hangar. I love a nice Macgyver...



Sigh....
Not so much a kitchen gadget as a nice idea. I cant complain, I have had breakfast made for me recently, but how much slicker would it have been had I a groovy set up like this! Nice!



How Exquisite is this!?
Hello Vacuum Brewer. It is said  the vacuum brewing principle  has been proven to be exceptionally effective at extracting all the flavor from the coffee grounds,  while removing the more “chewy” texture of the french press method. I never did like those bodums. This I love but I can also see me stumbling around, low on caffeine and knocking the beautiful thing over and breaking it. When can I ever have nice things!?!? :)

Do you have any favorite gadgets??


Saturday, July 21, 2012

Tails of pig and leftovers...

Tonight in my on going struggle with what to have for dinner, I decided to have curried shrimp and spinach. Mostly based on the fact that I had a healthy portion of the healthy 5 grain pilaf left over from last night.
Curried Tiger shrimp, sauteed spinach, 5 grain rice pilaf
It got me to thinking about when it was I developed a taste for curry. Like olives, curry was not something I grew up with. When I was younger I grew up in a predominantly white, lovely middle class city in Southern Ontario, Kitchener. When I saw predominantly white I mean it, in a high school of 800 we had 2 black kids, and they were brother and sister. Kitchener, like most of Ontario, has diversified vastly since then and the food offerings are now many and range across all kinds of cultures.

Now don't get me wrong, Kitchener was not without it cultural nuances. It was called Berlin, up until WWII when they decided best change the name of the poor town! So Kitchener is very, very German. This is mostly truly delicious food, for the most part. But I will never forget going to a friends house for dinner as a young girl, I must have been 8 or 9 and my little friends father was so happy to be serving up Pigs tail. Pigs Tail!! I was horrified, but my good upbringing made me unable to do anything in response but feign a smile and try my best to eat. It was probably very good, why wouldn't it be!? but I dont recall. All I know is they knew I was trying to hide the fact that I was disgusted and it was uncomfortable and my little tummy felt sick.
Years later at the distillery, they got on kick of serving whole roasted suckling pig, at  brunch.


I will admit, the darn lil thing was off the hook good. But, the poor piggy went through hell the day or 2 he sat in the fridge, awaiting his final scrumptious fate. Dont call PETA, the thing was already done for, but I swear every cook that went in that fridge posed it in any one of a number of positions best left for the kama sutra..they danced with it, put cigarettes in its mouth. Poor lil Porky.

So, ya, I dont know when I started to like curry :) Tonight was no big schmeal, Ill talk you through it...the sauteed spinach and rice I will leave for you to muddle through for now.

Quick Curry Shrimp

Ingredients 

Tiger shrimps ( how many, I dont know I made 6 for me)
tsp butter
2 TB good quality curry powder
1/4 red onion fine dice
2 cloves garlic chopped
1/4C something sweet or boozy ( tonight I had a splash of Ice wine I used, it is sweet and                   boozy..use wine or juice)
1/4C Chicken or veg or shrimp stock

Get It Together

First a wee note...Curry is a wonderful fragrant unique thing. You can adjust your curry to be anything your palate desires with the addition of turmeric, coriander, cardamon,ginger etc Dont be afraid to play around

So take your curry powder and toast it lightly..by this I mean put it in a dry frying pan and let it toast, in the same manner you would nuts or seeds
To this add your butter or oil and once hot and ready add your onions
Add garlic and saute lightly
add shrimp
Deglaze with wine or juice ( deglaze..fancy term for add liquid to stop the garlic and onions from overcooking)

AT this point once the shrimp are cooked I remove them from the pan.

Add chicken stock and let reduce until half gone.
Montez au buerre..another fancy term, but a wonderful wee trick to make a quick sauce...listen up...
Once your stuff has reduced enough, turn off the heat and let the liquid become still. At that point toss is a TB, yes a tablespoon, Shhhh,of butter and swirl the pan around until all the butter melts.
What this does aside from make one very fat, is smooth out the flavor and actually thicken the sauce. If the sauce is still simmering at all the butter will split and all is lost.

I tossed a half a tomato on the shrimp on the spinach on the plate, just cause I have them and they are lovely now mid summer....

Namaste :-)



Friday, July 20, 2012

Olive you, I honestly olive you

I don't know when I developed a love for olives.

I didn't grow up with them in the house, ever. And this is kind of surprising because in my youth, my mother was a salt aficionado. Since then she has more of an eye on health, but back then I am surprised she wasn't a fan. So I think I must have picked it up from working in restaurants.
As a chef, there are certain foods you HAVE to like...olives,truffles,saffron..get the picture?? Nothing much is said, but your palate is considered green, not worthy of truly being called a chef if you eschew these kinds of ingredients. SO anyways, I dont remember when or how, all I know is I now love olives.

The only difference between green olives and black olives is ripeness. Unripe olives are green, whereas fully ripe olives are black. And black olives contain more oil than green. 

So tonights dinner was rife with Olives :)

What we are seeing there is Roast breast of chicken, bathed in tapenade, 5 grain rice pilaf, tabbouleh salad with olives and Israeli cous cous and Spinach salad with an olive oil honey mustard dressing.
See what I like about this is, not only beautiful, delicious and filling, but really healthy, too! Im totally digging tapenade lately. And I know most of you dont want to go through the bother to make it, so I'll let you in on a little secret....

"Irresistables" Black Olive Tapenade
Food Basics house brand

This is the house brand of Food Basics grocery store. Surprising, I know. Its such a shabby grocery store. But I swear on a stack of Kalamatas that I have tried the President Choice tapenade, and it pales in comparison.
For those brave souls who love to experiment. I'll give you the recipe I have used for years, a sweet french line cook taught me at Auberge du Pommier, when I was still an apprentice.

Olive Tapenade


  • 1 cup black olives, pitted
  • 1 cup small green (PreferablyFrench) olives 
  • 1/4 cup Sun dried tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 anchovy fillet
  • 1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1/4 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano leaves
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil


  • Toss it all in a food processor, add a touch of pepper, and off you go.






Thursday, July 19, 2012

Sometimes, things change for the better

I have a deal, with someone who I miss, that we look at the moon at night, at the same time. Its a lovely warm romantic notion. Living on the ground floor in the core of the city, makes it tough to sometimes see the moon from my window. Sad, I know.  It does however give me a great excuse to jump on the bike or go for a walk.

The other part of living in the core is 24 hour stores, everywhere. There are 5 convenience and 2 24 hr grocery stores within ten minutes of the house. So late night snacking is all tooooo easy. One of the insanely hot nights when I was out walking, I decided to pop in and get myself a frozen treat. When the humidex is topping 35C I dont want anything rich and creamy. So in the freezer I saw an old friend from days gone by

The humble, cherry popsicle.

Its been years since I had a popsicle, so I thought why not!? Although no longer a dime, they are still the cheapest treat in the freezer at under a dollar. Is there anything under a dollar anymore!?!  I had low expectations, I was hot and it was "just" a popsicle. 

As I walked down to Allen Gardens with the sweet sugary pop dripping down my hand I started to realize, " Hey! This thing is actually really good", nothing like the weak flavoured ice I remember.

I decided to do a little digging, to determine if I was crazy, or had popsicles changed. And I was right! 
 in 1905  11-year-old Frank Epperson left a glass of homemade soda on his porch on a very cold San Francisco night. The next morning he went to go get the soda and it was frozen. Using the stirring stick that he had also left in the glass, he pulled it out and tried it. In 1923, Epperson introduced frozen pop on a stick to the public at Neptune Beach, an amusement park in California. It was a success and in 1924, Epperson applied for a patent for his "frozen confectionery" which he called "the Epsicle ice pop"

Now heres the part that made me go Yes!! I was right....In 1989, Good Humor, bought the rights. In June 2006, Popsicles with "natural flavors and colors" were introduced, replacing the original versions in some cases.

So if you havent in a while, do yourself a favor and have a simple Popsicle, you wont regret it!


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

What?!?! ANOTHER food blog??

I thought you may enjoy a peek at a friends blog, some of you remember him as "Mr Merc" from back in the day as the kids say. And please, do know what the kids say, cause this is an uber kewl, take out your Urban dictionary , old folks! kind of read!
Enjoy!!
"The Broho"

brohemian foodie: 

Ok....so I'm all about bright vibrant colours, give me some lime, give me some fruit, give me some tang, I'm ready to party.  As a kid I ...

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

What to eat in record breaking heat

Today I thought I'd talk about the love affair I have been having...smooth and Greek. NO, not my affair de coeur, hes sweet and Jewish..but Yogurt.
Specifically Liberte Greek Yogurt

This yogurt is made using traditional Greek methods. Its strained according to the principles of old-time cheesecloth draining, which makes it incredibly rich and creamy and absolutely free of fat.
Now I have been a fan of Liberte yogourt for a long time, but I used to favour the Méditérranée Yogurt which sits in around 7%-10% fat. Mind bendingly good, but recently I have taken up this new "gaining weight easily" habit, so I had to kiss that one good bye.

I dont miss it a bit! I will admit I have monkey on my back, nutritionally, and its dairy. Perhaps it is my background in pastry. Perhaps it is because one of my "mottos" is " Salt and Fat make food taste good"  Whatever the reason its my downfall, so I am over the moon about ZERO FAT yogurt that tastes as rich and decadent as the full fat version.

I always but the plain, I have tried the fruit ones and they are good, but I prefer fresh fruit to the sweet jammy stuff that sits at the bottom of most yogurt cups. I sometimes add a touch of sugar, never honey, for some reason I do not like honey in it. I top it with fresh berries and usually my fav, Maple Oat Crunch cereal.
I swear its like a delicious fruit crumble with cream. It reminds me of a delicious decadent concoction I encountered as a young pastry chef.

When I was in catering at a high end corporate caterers called En Ville, we made a simple dessert, berries with "Russian cream". I think this name was specific to En Ville. None the less as a new pastry chef I was amazed that something so simple could be so good. It was quite simply, half sour cream, half yogurt, sugar to taste, and a splash of Grand Marnier. It tasted like a cloud of heaven dropped from the sky onto my berries.

Hey...did you know you can make your own yogurt and its dead easy!! I have made it a couple of times and it really is good. If you take the fiished yogurt and tie it up in a cheesecloth bag and hang it in the fridge( with a bowl underneath) you will end up with Greek yogurt, otherwise leave it as is.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Ingrediants

1 litre (32 ounces) of full fat sheep or cow's milk (pasteurized)
2 tablespoons of previously homemade yogurt or plain unflavored yogurt with active live cultures
2 tablespoons of full fat milk (same type)

Get it together

Start with all ingredients at room temperature.

Heat the milk just to the boiling point and pour into a non-metal container.
Let cool to lukewarm (100-105F a little warm to the touch). A skin will form on top.
Mix the 2 tablespoons of yogurt (homemade or commercial) with 2 tablespoons of milk.
Add to the lukewarm mixture, carefully pouring down the side so that any skin that may have formed on top is not disturbed.
Cover with a clean dishtowel and place on another towel in a warm, dry place for at least 8 hours (or overnight) until it thickens.
Note: 8 to 12 hours is best. The longer the yogurt coagulates beyond that time, the more sour the taste becomes.

Good Luck!

Is it hot out there or is it just me?

With the humidex topping 44C today...yes, I said FORTY-FOUR, I cant say I find myself with much of an appetite.
Someone commented on FB today about frying an egg on the pavement, so I had to try it  :-)
For the record, it doesn't work, and by the dearth of videos on Youtube I am not the first silly fool to try it. Well, now we know.







Monday, July 16, 2012

Salad days

We are sitting smack in the middle of the dog days of
summer,and I will say I am glad to NOT be working in a kitchen. One of the summers I spent at the distillery was so hot we declared a Jihad against the heat.

We would put bar towels, soaking wet in the ice cream freezer. Once they were good and frozen stiff we wore them on our heads, once the wilted we'd toss them back in a take another frozen one. The boys started out by mocking myself and my assistant, until they tried it!
Austin, line cook
Mark the saucier
Assim our crazy Egyptian

I started out this summer with spinach, constantly, daily. Spinach with egg, spinach with pear, spinach with blackberries. Side note, I dont know why, blackberries are extra sweet this year.
I am now having a daily affair with tabbouleh. I started buying it. This one
Fontaine Sante Tabbouleh
For my tastes it is the best one you can buy,but for 5 bucks a pop, as a chef its shameful that I dont make it. 
So now I make it.

Middle Eastern tabbouleh is usually made with cracked bulgur wheat. But I often use quinoa (actually a seed that is an excellent source of iron), you really kick up all the goodness.


Ingredients

3/4 cup quinoa

1 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 cup chopped English cucumber

1/2 cup chopped green onions

1/4 cup chopped fresh mint

1 tomato, seeded and chopped

Dressing:3 tbsp lemon juice,2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil,s&p

Get it together...

Rinse quinoa under cold running water. 
Toss a pot of water on to boil and add the quinoa
Reduce heat, cover and simmer until no liquid remains
Remove from heat; fluff with fork. Transfer to bowl; let cool. Add parsley, cucumber, green onions, mint and tomato. 

Dressing: Whisk together lemon juice, oil, salt and pepper; pour over quinoa mixture and toss to coat. Serve at room temperature or cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Kensington Market


When I was younger and much cooler than I am now,  Kensington was THE place to hang out. It was shitty, run down and littered with  punks that still hang out near the TD kiosk and Global Cheese on Kensington Avenue. We used to troll all the vintage shops on that strip, starting at Courage My Love and ending at Malini, looking for vintage frocks and stockings with seams.


I still love the Market, although I dont spend nearly as much time there as I once did. And I find these days it is more about the food than the clothes. Of course that said, my friend and I did manage to find ourselves doing a little shopping this week...
Over the years the clothes in Kensington have become more cheap and unique as opposed to full on vintage. Not that vintage is gone, it is there, but even Courage isnt quite as 100% vintage as it was in my youth

I love it, the Market has evolved with me, style wise. I am still a bit of a Boho but not quite the cocktail dress girl I once was, so it all works for me!

So after some time pursuing the aisles of various wee shops, it was time to eat. We wandered around open minded but for the requirement of a patio...And we stumbled upon this little gem at 303 Augusta Avenue, just about across from Supermarket.


First up, Sangria...It was delicious, a little sweet but cold and so MMmmm after a long hot day of Toronto humidity. I will say I found it a tad disappointing that the only fruit garnish in the pitcher was apples. I mean, we are sitting in the middle of the market, make it sexy! But it was delish and I enjoyed every sip. I havent had sangria in ages, and I think it may be a new competitor for my beloved Mango mimosa.


We decided to go with a couple of items from the "Tapas" menu. You gotta love Toronto for having such restaurants that blend Spanish and Indian. And I love that it is not a pathetic attempt of jumbling two competing flavour palates, here I must reference the dreadful "Chino-Loco", a special kind of restaurant hell where they try to make burritos with asian stuff stuffed in , too. blech. This is simply Indian food, in the tapas style. Beautiful.






We settled on the Waterfalls Vegetable combo platter and grilled Masala prawns. And a great choice it was.
The combo platter was made up of a generous portion of onion bajia, 2 healthy sized samosa and veg pakoras. It was served with some kind of sauce I couldn't quite decipher, some kind of tamarind cilantro goodness in a ramekin. The platter was perfect to share, all the items were fried, but not greasy , and bursting with flavour.
The prawns, omg the prawns...The coriander-mint sauce that accompanied the prawns still shows up in my dreams, so good.... We had 2 skewers, with 3 prawns each, beautiful and aromatic, heady with masala and cooked perfectly! Not tough and over cooked, but perfect. They were presented on a bed of mesclun greens with grilled zucchini and red peppers with a side of tamarind sauce.
We topped off the meal with a basket of garlic naan, that had most recently been quite intimate with alot of butter...it was warm and decadent and highly recommended.
It was a great meal, with  great friend, all evenings should be so good! 

Waterfalls Indian Tapas patio
Kensington Market



When you are in the market don't miss......
* Courage My Love (jewellery & other vintage stuff)

* Global Cheese AND Cheese Magic

* House Of Spice
* Essence Of Life (health food crap)
* Pure Intent (naturopathy, acupuncture)
* Kensington Mall ( lots of great deals on clothes)
* Casa Acoreana ( best place to get any spice you have ever wanted)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Cafe la Gaffe


So this week I have a visitor from my hometown who is in town for business and free at night. So I didnt have to muse about what to make for dinner we went out! After a lovely late afternoon at the Island, where we enjoyed patio beverages and tip toed into the lake we ended up on the perfectly quaint Baldwin street and supped at Cafe la Gaffe who is participating in "Summerlicious".


Summerlicious is city run program with 180 restaurants in the city offering a "special menu"of 3 courses prix fixe. The idea is to get diners out of their comfort zones, to try new foods, at new places for a reasonable cost.

For people on the hot side of the table, "Summerlicious" is hell. Everyone in Toronto knows we need no cheap prices to fill seats and patios in the summer. But in order to participate in the much needed Winterlicious festival, in the cold months when people need encouragement to go out and spend money, you MUST be part of Summerlicious. more often than not the city-wide fête include hurried guests and hastily thrown together food as restaurants work overtime to deal with the influx of low-tipping and no-showing diners. 
When I was at the distillery, I had a lemon meringue tart on a summerlicious menu, on top of the 3 restaurant dessert menus I was already juggling, in a crazy busy season. I was cranking out hundreds a day. In the humidity of summer, the tart shells got very soggy over night so had to be made fresh, daily. I cant tell you how many hours a day I worked. Your regular diners still come and order off your regular menu, than the cheapskates come for summerlicious, in droves...Phewww


Cafe le Gaffe, to thier credit, offers ONLY their summerlicious menu. Excellent plan. Easy on the kitchen and therefore the food isnt rushed or resented. I sometimes would wonder if the diners could taste the resentment I occasionally cooked with...I know they could taste the love, so.....


My friend and I only wanted a nibble, so we split one 3 course meal. It was perfect! We started with a Caprese Salad. The peak seaon tomatoes were so ripe I could smell the sweetness of them from across the table. Nothing fancy, but simple delicous...Tomato, roast red pepper, bocconcini cheese dressed in a simple balsamic vinaigrette. The right dish for a warm summer night.


For our main course we had the grilled Tilapia, served with coconut cardomon rice and simple sauteed veg. Another home run! The fish was cooked to perfection, flaky but not dry, quite impressive for a late dinner when the kitchen is almost closed. The rice, altho white, which I normally avoid was so exquisitely aromatic, it teased the nose for minutes before it ever got around to pleasing the palate.


For dessert we had some chocolate banana gateau. I wont say much...My companion enjoyed it. It was made with excellent Chocolate (I want to say lindt, it wasnt "soft" taste wise to be Callebaut imho, but who knows ) I just found it quite heavy and without finesse, but I am a pastry snob, so lets just leave it at, it was a sweet chocolaty finish to a wonderful meal. 
I would be remiss in not mentioning our lovely server, she was attentive but not over bearing, just friendly enough and made sure we were taken care of...Kudus!
I recommend a visit!

Cafe La Gaffe
24 Baldwin Street
416-596-2397
cafelagaffe@rogers.com






Monday, August 6, 2012

Sweet as Cherry Pie



Everytime I make a cherry pie I sing this song. Everytime I ever made a fruit flan, you know the ones, unbaked with kiwis and strawberries and the like, all shiny with glaze, anyway...everytime I made a fruit flan I would sing strawberry fields forever. Everytime, for like twenty years.

Anyway, I love mid summer for its peaches and cherries. I will admit to a guilty pleasure that my local corner store has in the form of pre made cherry pies.  I have no idea who makes them, they are packaged discretely in brown boxes ( unlike the porn in my 'hood , which is in the store windows) But regardless, as good as the mystery pie is, nothing beats fresh made, it goes without saying.

The one thing that you may not have that you def will need is a stoner. No, not the guy you sat beside in college, a cherry stoner, or pitter as they seem to be called now. Now, if you are having a pie emergency and have cherries but no pitter, you can use a chopstick..it is messier slower and a pain in the butt, but if you must McGyver it, thats how. That said, I sure wouldn't want to have to do a whole pies worth that way


 Here's a pretty one..
cherry stoner



Alright, stop your whinging, I know its a little bit of work to pit he cherries. But if you want to go buy a can of cherry pie fill, please , just don't. Listen, Im no chefy snob , I cheat, I actually have powdered stock mix in the cupboard, I am not always a purist. But if it makes a dramatic difference, well you just have to respect your palate.

S0, pit the darn cherries, and get over yourself, its just a few minutes work :) When I worked at The Senator ( diner, steakhouse, jazz club) I used to sit in the back alley on a milk crate and pit a couple of baskets of cherries and peel a bushel of apples, in one sitting. 

My chef never understood how someone with so little patience could do things like that.




I am not going to talk about pie crust. I'm just not in the mood, maybe another time :) I would cover a cherry pie. You can make a lattice top, but I think a fully covered cherry pie is better, save the lattice work for smaller berries like the blues and rasps.

As far as baking a fruit pie, they are basically all the same. I use about 325F. Preheat your oven to 375F and when you put your pie in, turn down the heat. Now the pie is done when you see bubbles. And I like to see bubbles right in the centre of the pie, not just on the edges.  The starch that you use, whether it be flour or tapioca or corn starch, has to come to a boil ( more or less) to become an effective binding agent and give the juice of your delicious pie the correct viscosity.

Class dismissed...heres your recipe


Ingredients


2 cups pitted fresh dark sweet cherries, such as Bing or Lambert
1/3 cup bottled cherry juice (or apple or pomegranate or any similar juice)
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 pastry for a double-crust 9-inch pie
1 tablespoon butter, cut into small chunks




Directions


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F 

In a bowl, mix the cherries, cherry juice, almond extract, brown sugar, white sugar, and flour until the sugar has dissolved; allow to stand while you prepare pastry dough, about 15 minutes.

Line a 9-inch pie dish with a pastry crust, and fill with the cherry filling; sprinkle small chunks of butter over the filling. Top with the remaining crust, and crimp the edges to seal; cut several steam vents into the top crust with a sharp paring knife.

Reduce oven to 325F and bake until the cherry filling is bubbling and thickened and the pie crust is browned, 35 to 40 minutes. Allow to cool( if you can) before serving.





Thursday, August 2, 2012

Triple Chocolate Cookies...need I say more?!

OK, I admit I have been a very boring diner the last few days, Israeli CousCous, mostly veggie. Nothing to write a blog about!

So as a way of paying a penance for not being more creative I am sharing with you my favorite, best most scrumptious Triple Chocolate cookie recipe.

You will notice it is dead easy to make, really. The secret, the difference between amazing and mundane is in the baking. More precisely, the secret is when to stop baking.

With most cookies, you take them out when they are a-l-m-o-s-t set and just a wee bit soft in the middle. Well with these beauties, once the outer edge of the cookie is set up and a good part of the middle is very soft, so soft you fear they are not baked ( but remember the outer edge will be set) This is whenthey come out. Trust me they will set up as they sit ont he hot baking sheet..always let these bad boys cool on the sheet.

Enjoy, they are sinfully good!



Ingredients 



  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup Dutched Cocoa Powder( this is the darkest brown cocoa you can find, not the reddish kind like Frys)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (1/2 lb) butter or margarine, softened
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups Milk chocolate chunks
  • 1 1/2 cups White chocolate chunks 



    Directions

    Preheat oven to 325 degrees
    Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside. 
    Cream the butter and all sugars until fluffy and lighter in colour than when you started.
    Add eggs one at a time, mixing in thoroughly before you add the next egg ( the vanilla always goes with the eggs, btw)
    Slowly stir in the flour mixture.( slow so you dont end up with flour, everywhere)
    Stir in chocolate chunks. 
    place 2 inches apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. 
    Bake until cookies done :)
    Let cool 5 minutes. 


    Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Late breaking Yogurt news!






Revisiting Kensington








I realize I have already covered tonights topic in previous posts, but something has happened that rocked my taste buds so hard, I had to share it with you.

I decided to go to Kensington Market to pick up some groceries the other day. I will admit to being a bit like a bird, that is I am attracted to the pretty shiny things, like the Maple Leaf Gardens Loblaws, but Kensington IS better, and cheaper, and well just more fun. So I hopped on my bike, which I recently "fixed" so now the front brake rubs and it is twice as hard to ride, and off I went.

I picked up some leafy green things and stopped at the spice shop. I got some amazingly good Colombian coffee for 8.99 lb ( its 11 a Lb at the bulk barn here) I was honestly a little disappointed with the fruit, but picked up some black and blue and raspberries. As I am trying to avoid dairy to lose some weight, I walked by it once, then twice, then I had to go in...Yea, you know it...Global Cheese

Global Cheese - Kensington Market



Global Cheese is a long standing tradition in Kensington, there is also Cheese Magic, but Global seems to be everyones favorite. Cheese shops in Kensington are always an experience. If you are shy, or the least bit inhibited, I recommend the 18 foot wall of ( Over priced) cheese in MLG Loblaws. It is an experience in its own way, just not nearly as gritty and fun.

I find the best way to enjoy Global is to walk n as if you have known the guy behind the wall of cheese your whole life. All you have to do is say, "so, whats good today..?" And faster than a fat kid on cake, an arm will shoot out from some hole in the cheese you hadn't previously noticed, dangling a sample of something exotic, or something on sale. And it happens over and over again, Mmmm.

On this particular day I noticed they had crumbled Feta on for some crazy low price, so I got that. Althought its fattening I cheated and got some baba ganoush. Then, I saw it, the sign that read "our own Greek style Yogurt" Well as we all know,I am a nut for Greek style yogurt, and now the cheese shop has made its own!? Well sign me up.

As the friendly clerk is reaching over to hand it to me he is in mid conversation with another customer and I hear him say, Yes, its half goat half cows milk. Oh Oh...Once I went to get yogurt at the store, I wasnt wearing my glasses, and I accidentally bought "goat" instead of "greek". I saw the G and ran with it...
Shhh, never mind the comments, I also do the dishes without glasses now and again and you dont want to know about that!
I tell the guy, Hmm I dunno, and of course, he whips off the lid and gives me a sample.
OK, words are only weak feeble things and can do no justice to the sheer heavenly joy to the palate that this miracle concoction is. it really is more like creme fraiche than yogurt. Its so sinful tasting I fear I may have to go to confession for just savoring one spoonful.
The stuffs pretty good :)  I imagine because they are a small shop not only do they make it themselves they can hang it with care in a way that even my beloved Liberte can not do to its size. That and the darn goat milk, I guess. Although it did not at all have the typical muskiness that the goat milk usually imparts.
Just brilliant...


Put on your shoes, and get up 
and go,
run, 

 to Global Cheese





Sunday, July 29, 2012

Thank you, Chef Paul

I admit, when it comes to spicy, hot foods, I am a wimp. I love curries but mostly when I make my own so I can control the heat. When I make chili I always pull a little out to the side for myself  before I properly season it for everyone else. Being a chef AND a wimp, is no easy task. Cooks are a competitive lot and many hours are spent exchanging "war stories" usually about the worst injury you worked through, the most you ever drank, or the hottest thing you ate. Being a light weight drinker and a wimp lost me respect points with the boys, for certain.

Over the years my palate has grown a little heartier, I do love chipotle peppers, I still find them too hot but love the flavor. And I have developed a fondness for blackened things :) I recall watching chefs take chicken,or shrimp and rub it with something mysterious and sear it in hot hot pans, preferably cast iron, until smoke filled the air and you could smell the spices. I found it intriguing but at the time I did not favor such flavors and carried on.

Since I have toughened up and have realized how dreadfully easy it is to blacken things, it has become one of my go to "fast-food" meals.


Blackened Tilapia


Last nights dinner...Blackened Tilapia, 5 grain rice, mashed rutabaga, and, as usual, Tabbouleh salad.
Theres two things I want to talk about in regards to that dinner.. Well three, it was delicious, first of all.
But for real...don't get fooled by Tilapia..It was once nothing and is now the most farmed fish in the United States. In the food business they call it "Aquatic chicken" because because it breeds easily and tastes bland, tilapia is the perfect factory fish; it happily eats pellets made largely of corn and soy and gains weight rapidly, easily converting a diet that resembles cheap chicken feed into low-cost seafood.
Thats all well and good but the trick comes in nutritionally..Although it is a good source of protein without the saturated fat of red meat,unlike most other fish, tilapia contains relatively little of the fish oils that are supposed to be oh so beneficial, the Omega 3's

But whatever, its still not an evil choice :)

 Heres the other point I am compelled to share..as romantic a notion it is to think of old cajuns pull in off the river after a day of alligator hunting and whipping up a big pot of jambalaya and blackened gator...I am sorry to report thats all it is, a romantic notion.

The blackening process was invented and perfected by Chef Paul Prudhomme, at K-Paul's in New Orleans. Though Chef Prudhomme is all about Louisiana , he actually introduced blackening less than 30 years ago. It quickly caught on, and became pretty darn trendy. Apparently Chef Paul first blackened a Redfish, as the legend goes.

So lets blacken the sucker!

here's a recipe that you can start with:

2 tsp. kosher salt;
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper;
1 ½ tsp. cayenne;
1 tbsp. paprika;
½ tsp. thyme;
 ½ tsp. oregano
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. white sugar

Mix it all together..coat your fish, chicken, shrimp, whatever, generously with the mix

Now this is a base, you adjust it as you like, make it hotter, or dont..experiment with the balance, make it your own.

Melt butter in a cast iron pan
Add your coated food
fry on both sides until done.


Told you it was easy...now if you'll excuse me, its almost the close of alligator season...

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Well thats just peachy


There are more things to love about summer in Toronto than I can name atm, but two of my absolute favorite harbingers of the dog days of summer are cherries and peaches.
Oh I hear my friends on the left coast yelling about the superior quality of their fruit. Im not denying that. But I will also stand by Ontarios produce.



♪Good things gro-oo-oow in On-Tar-i-ooo♪

Hahah remember hat annoying commercial? Of course you do, I have a friend who would acutally get visibly angry when it appeared, seemingly every commercial break, on Tv , a while back. Hahaha

So, I picked up a couple of Ontario peaches at the corner store. Now gentle readers, I live in the very heart of the gayest neighborhood in the entire country, so you must know my corner store is better then yours :) OK, calm down, I kid..but really there's exotic fruit ( the produce not the customers) a wide range of cheeses,beautiful flowers and croissants baked daily, you get the picture. OMG The chocolate selection!!! I ll save that for another blog....

OK, so I get home and decide to have these peaches with my beloved Liberte Greek plain yogurt. Sounds like nothing, right?

Wrong.

I may still be quivering from sheer unmitigated joy...Sers, how can something so sinfully good, not be bad for you. I swear this is unprecedented. A satisfying sweet creamy decadent snack that is not only NOT bad for you...it is actually GOOD for you. I want to weep.

I thought tonight I"d drill down about into the peach, figuratively, I ate all the ones I had on hand :) Even when I was a pastry chef at the distillery, when I asked the sous chef in charge of ordering, to get me, specifically "Freestone" peaches, he grumbled something ordered just peaches and got me baskets of unusable product. When I went to him to complain and ask what was up, he said he just asked for peaches, he didnt know there was any difference.

Well there is a difference, a great deal of difference as a matter of fact
( and that's why I was so specific in the first place, but hard to be a blond in the kitchen sometimes, but that's another story for another day! )

Its quite literal and so, not hard to get...


Freestone: 

The flesh comes easily away from the pit, making these the perfect peaches for eating out of hand. They are not quite as juicy as clingstones. But eh easiest to use for baking imho.  They arrive later in the season, about mid-August and stay until the end of September.


Clingstone: 

The flesh clings firmly to the pit, or stone. They are soft in texture and very juicy. Fabulous for baking and for making jams and jellies, they are worth the work if you have the patience. These are the peaches that find their way into cans.




Besides those, there are yellow- and white-fleshed peaches.

Yellow-fleshed peaches are deeply coloured on the inside. They are sweet, but also slightly tangy in taste.

White-fleshed peaches, which are sorta trendy right now, are pale-coloured and super sweet, with lower acidity levels than yellow peaches. And their flesh is smoother-textured, almost creamy.

Among the craziest-looking of the white-fleshed peaches are the small, saucer peaches that look like squashed doughnuts. Very popular in France, where they are called pêches plates.
They are super-sweet, with floral aromas and a hint of honey flavour. Their skin is fuzz-free and feels like velvet. I think I have seen these kicking around being called Donut Peaches..you gotta love marketing for the status quo ( which seems always rather low)
But I digress....

I am awaiting the return of someone dear and I have decided to make a peach pie for his return, solely based on the exquisite nature of this seasons crop. Ill keep you posted  :)




Wednesday, July 25, 2012

I just can't get enough

**warning**
COMPLETELY UNRELATED TO TODAY'S BLOG ENTRY :)

Sorry, I couldn't resist. Once I titled todays entry I couldn't get the darn song out of my head. Hopefully, now, its also stuck in yours :p

What I cant get enough of are these fun and funky, beautiful and brilliant kitchen gadgets. So I thought I'd toss a few more of them your way.





How cute is this? And yet still fully functional. These are my fav peelers, the ones that look like razors. And if they look like groovy little carrot men, all the better.












Aren't the best ideas always the simplest? This is much more efficient than laying the spoon across the pot. I have a gas stove, I have "branded" alot of wooden spoons :)












Again, simple, elegant...Function meets form.














WINE PURSE!!!  o.m.g.

I know more than a couple of girls that would enjoy this :)















This is "Boiley", the microwave egg boiler.
Prepares soft, medium and hard cooked eggs in 3 to 5 minutes.
I love the stunned look on his face :)










Strip your fresh corn with this mouse-shaped tool. The stainless-steel notched blade strips the sweet kernels off cobs, trapping them in a container that empties through a hole in the top.
I just use a french knife, but its kinda geeky cute.











Another juicer, oH so pretty!!
Its got a nice tight clamp to get max juice extraction, AND it strains out the seeds. Love it !

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Eggsactly


My meals of late have been rather unremarkable so I thought tonight I'd pay homage to The Egg.
You gotta love an egg, as a pastry chef I grew to have an unusual reverence for the humble egg, it is present in so much pastry work. And in so many different fashions, with so many different applications. It truly is remarkable. From bread to mousse, from ice cream to cookies, you need the egg for all of them.

There is a story that the hundred pleats in a chefs hat are supposed to represent the number of ways to use an egg. 100, thats alot. Im guessing alot of them are archaic and nothing we would know about...

Eggs got a bad rap what with the Cholesterol thing, but now we know that it is perfectly acceptable to have one egg a day. Unless of course you have some issues, and then, well, move along...nothing more to see here ;)

In training young staff over the past couple of years I was astounded at the lack of basic culinary knowledge. So a bit of an egg primer can't hurt.

First off, Sunny Side Up


Way too many young people I have encountered weren't quite sure what a sunny side up egg was...really?! OK well if you see a picture of a fried egg 93% of the time it is sunny side, because they are so pretty.


For traditional sunny-side up eggs, melt 1 or 2 tablespoons of butter in a 8-inch non-stick omelet pan or skillet over medium heat. Break open eggs into pan and immediately reduce heat to low. And I mean low. So many green cooks think every thing has to be on the highest heat or speed. I realize instant gratification takes too long these days, but patience is still a virtue in the kitchen Cook slowly until the whites are completely set and the yolks begins to thicken, but are not hard.
Voila.




Now stay with me here..over easy means, flip the egg over and cook it a short period of time on the opposing side, so the yolk remains somewhat runny.
Over medium, over hard..figure it our dear readers, I know you are a clever bunch

Myself, Im a fan of scrambled, and I have it perfected for my pan at home, exactly the right way to season it.
Now I will be frank, I have a method  I always use, then I cam across this Gordon Ramsay clip and I am intrigued. Not mystified, mind you, just intrigued. He makes it rather like a pastry cream, or custard. I never would have tried it, but now I must.
Plus this is a great clip showing us Ramsay is not just a TV chef, and he burns the toast, teehee


Sunday, July 22, 2012

Funky kitchen gadget brilliance

Pastry chefs are known for thinking out side the box, and being great problem solvers. There are so many times in a kitchen you are a lone wolf, the only pastry cook in a sea of sweaty rude young men, who make their needs top priority and only acknowledge you when they have some fruit that has gone off. Thats when they toss it on your table as they pass by to have  cigarette and mumble, "make some sorbet or some shit out of this"
We are constantly having to come up with a better way, a different mold, or a splashier garnish. Remember too, young 'uns, I was in the kitchen before the internet ( for the most part) I can only imagine the information sharing that goes on , the exposure to things we had only "heard" about. For my part I'd spend all my spare money ( not much when you are a cook) on magazines. And the good ones, were expensive..I had years of Gourmet, Savour, Pastry Art and Design, Chocolatier, to name a few. But one little magazine I loved and all the boys made fun of me for reading, they called it a House wife magazine, was "Cooks Illustrated" They never did anything too fancy, but they would do insipred things like test recipes and show you all along the way the differences. They did equipment reviews, and covered all the basics. They also often showed new innovative kitchen gadgets. And who doesnt love a great gadget!!

So as a bit of an homage to my old cooks illustrated days I am going to share with you some of the funkier things that have caught my culinary eye as of late....


I love this idea!
A little hint I would add, that works great even if you are squeezing the citrus by hand..soak it in a bowl of hot hot water for 3-5 minutes before you juice. You will find you get almost twice as much juice per fruit. Also make the skin very soft if you want to zest it first.


I always have a little pile of trimmings, onion skins whatever on the corner of my cutting board, I would love this. In the kitchen I would often stand with a big ole garbage can between me and the cutting board so it was easy to get rid of all the garbage, like pinepple skins, melon rinds, that take up so much space on your board.


I see these things "Chip Clips" in the grocery store and I often wonder who would buy that!? But people do, and thats perfectly ok :) Whats more ok is save the money and bust up a hangar. I love a nice Macgyver...



Sigh....
Not so much a kitchen gadget as a nice idea. I cant complain, I have had breakfast made for me recently, but how much slicker would it have been had I a groovy set up like this! Nice!



How Exquisite is this!?
Hello Vacuum Brewer. It is said  the vacuum brewing principle  has been proven to be exceptionally effective at extracting all the flavor from the coffee grounds,  while removing the more “chewy” texture of the french press method. I never did like those bodums. This I love but I can also see me stumbling around, low on caffeine and knocking the beautiful thing over and breaking it. When can I ever have nice things!?!? :)

Do you have any favorite gadgets??


Saturday, July 21, 2012

Tails of pig and leftovers...

Tonight in my on going struggle with what to have for dinner, I decided to have curried shrimp and spinach. Mostly based on the fact that I had a healthy portion of the healthy 5 grain pilaf left over from last night.
Curried Tiger shrimp, sauteed spinach, 5 grain rice pilaf
It got me to thinking about when it was I developed a taste for curry. Like olives, curry was not something I grew up with. When I was younger I grew up in a predominantly white, lovely middle class city in Southern Ontario, Kitchener. When I saw predominantly white I mean it, in a high school of 800 we had 2 black kids, and they were brother and sister. Kitchener, like most of Ontario, has diversified vastly since then and the food offerings are now many and range across all kinds of cultures.

Now don't get me wrong, Kitchener was not without it cultural nuances. It was called Berlin, up until WWII when they decided best change the name of the poor town! So Kitchener is very, very German. This is mostly truly delicious food, for the most part. But I will never forget going to a friends house for dinner as a young girl, I must have been 8 or 9 and my little friends father was so happy to be serving up Pigs tail. Pigs Tail!! I was horrified, but my good upbringing made me unable to do anything in response but feign a smile and try my best to eat. It was probably very good, why wouldn't it be!? but I dont recall. All I know is they knew I was trying to hide the fact that I was disgusted and it was uncomfortable and my little tummy felt sick.
Years later at the distillery, they got on kick of serving whole roasted suckling pig, at  brunch.


I will admit, the darn lil thing was off the hook good. But, the poor piggy went through hell the day or 2 he sat in the fridge, awaiting his final scrumptious fate. Dont call PETA, the thing was already done for, but I swear every cook that went in that fridge posed it in any one of a number of positions best left for the kama sutra..they danced with it, put cigarettes in its mouth. Poor lil Porky.

So, ya, I dont know when I started to like curry :) Tonight was no big schmeal, Ill talk you through it...the sauteed spinach and rice I will leave for you to muddle through for now.

Quick Curry Shrimp

Ingredients 

Tiger shrimps ( how many, I dont know I made 6 for me)
tsp butter
2 TB good quality curry powder
1/4 red onion fine dice
2 cloves garlic chopped
1/4C something sweet or boozy ( tonight I had a splash of Ice wine I used, it is sweet and                   boozy..use wine or juice)
1/4C Chicken or veg or shrimp stock

Get It Together

First a wee note...Curry is a wonderful fragrant unique thing. You can adjust your curry to be anything your palate desires with the addition of turmeric, coriander, cardamon,ginger etc Dont be afraid to play around

So take your curry powder and toast it lightly..by this I mean put it in a dry frying pan and let it toast, in the same manner you would nuts or seeds
To this add your butter or oil and once hot and ready add your onions
Add garlic and saute lightly
add shrimp
Deglaze with wine or juice ( deglaze..fancy term for add liquid to stop the garlic and onions from overcooking)

AT this point once the shrimp are cooked I remove them from the pan.

Add chicken stock and let reduce until half gone.
Montez au buerre..another fancy term, but a wonderful wee trick to make a quick sauce...listen up...
Once your stuff has reduced enough, turn off the heat and let the liquid become still. At that point toss is a TB, yes a tablespoon, Shhhh,of butter and swirl the pan around until all the butter melts.
What this does aside from make one very fat, is smooth out the flavor and actually thicken the sauce. If the sauce is still simmering at all the butter will split and all is lost.

I tossed a half a tomato on the shrimp on the spinach on the plate, just cause I have them and they are lovely now mid summer....

Namaste :-)



Friday, July 20, 2012

Olive you, I honestly olive you

I don't know when I developed a love for olives.

I didn't grow up with them in the house, ever. And this is kind of surprising because in my youth, my mother was a salt aficionado. Since then she has more of an eye on health, but back then I am surprised she wasn't a fan. So I think I must have picked it up from working in restaurants.
As a chef, there are certain foods you HAVE to like...olives,truffles,saffron..get the picture?? Nothing much is said, but your palate is considered green, not worthy of truly being called a chef if you eschew these kinds of ingredients. SO anyways, I dont remember when or how, all I know is I now love olives.

The only difference between green olives and black olives is ripeness. Unripe olives are green, whereas fully ripe olives are black. And black olives contain more oil than green. 

So tonights dinner was rife with Olives :)

What we are seeing there is Roast breast of chicken, bathed in tapenade, 5 grain rice pilaf, tabbouleh salad with olives and Israeli cous cous and Spinach salad with an olive oil honey mustard dressing.
See what I like about this is, not only beautiful, delicious and filling, but really healthy, too! Im totally digging tapenade lately. And I know most of you dont want to go through the bother to make it, so I'll let you in on a little secret....

"Irresistables" Black Olive Tapenade
Food Basics house brand

This is the house brand of Food Basics grocery store. Surprising, I know. Its such a shabby grocery store. But I swear on a stack of Kalamatas that I have tried the President Choice tapenade, and it pales in comparison.
For those brave souls who love to experiment. I'll give you the recipe I have used for years, a sweet french line cook taught me at Auberge du Pommier, when I was still an apprentice.

Olive Tapenade


  • 1 cup black olives, pitted
  • 1 cup small green (PreferablyFrench) olives 
  • 1/4 cup Sun dried tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 anchovy fillet
  • 1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1/4 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano leaves
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil


  • Toss it all in a food processor, add a touch of pepper, and off you go.






Thursday, July 19, 2012

Sometimes, things change for the better

I have a deal, with someone who I miss, that we look at the moon at night, at the same time. Its a lovely warm romantic notion. Living on the ground floor in the core of the city, makes it tough to sometimes see the moon from my window. Sad, I know.  It does however give me a great excuse to jump on the bike or go for a walk.

The other part of living in the core is 24 hour stores, everywhere. There are 5 convenience and 2 24 hr grocery stores within ten minutes of the house. So late night snacking is all tooooo easy. One of the insanely hot nights when I was out walking, I decided to pop in and get myself a frozen treat. When the humidex is topping 35C I dont want anything rich and creamy. So in the freezer I saw an old friend from days gone by

The humble, cherry popsicle.

Its been years since I had a popsicle, so I thought why not!? Although no longer a dime, they are still the cheapest treat in the freezer at under a dollar. Is there anything under a dollar anymore!?!  I had low expectations, I was hot and it was "just" a popsicle. 

As I walked down to Allen Gardens with the sweet sugary pop dripping down my hand I started to realize, " Hey! This thing is actually really good", nothing like the weak flavoured ice I remember.

I decided to do a little digging, to determine if I was crazy, or had popsicles changed. And I was right! 
 in 1905  11-year-old Frank Epperson left a glass of homemade soda on his porch on a very cold San Francisco night. The next morning he went to go get the soda and it was frozen. Using the stirring stick that he had also left in the glass, he pulled it out and tried it. In 1923, Epperson introduced frozen pop on a stick to the public at Neptune Beach, an amusement park in California. It was a success and in 1924, Epperson applied for a patent for his "frozen confectionery" which he called "the Epsicle ice pop"

Now heres the part that made me go Yes!! I was right....In 1989, Good Humor, bought the rights. In June 2006, Popsicles with "natural flavors and colors" were introduced, replacing the original versions in some cases.

So if you havent in a while, do yourself a favor and have a simple Popsicle, you wont regret it!


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

What?!?! ANOTHER food blog??

I thought you may enjoy a peek at a friends blog, some of you remember him as "Mr Merc" from back in the day as the kids say. And please, do know what the kids say, cause this is an uber kewl, take out your Urban dictionary , old folks! kind of read!
Enjoy!!
"The Broho"

brohemian foodie: 

Ok....so I'm all about bright vibrant colours, give me some lime, give me some fruit, give me some tang, I'm ready to party.  As a kid I ...

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

What to eat in record breaking heat

Today I thought I'd talk about the love affair I have been having...smooth and Greek. NO, not my affair de coeur, hes sweet and Jewish..but Yogurt.
Specifically Liberte Greek Yogurt

This yogurt is made using traditional Greek methods. Its strained according to the principles of old-time cheesecloth draining, which makes it incredibly rich and creamy and absolutely free of fat.
Now I have been a fan of Liberte yogourt for a long time, but I used to favour the Méditérranée Yogurt which sits in around 7%-10% fat. Mind bendingly good, but recently I have taken up this new "gaining weight easily" habit, so I had to kiss that one good bye.

I dont miss it a bit! I will admit I have monkey on my back, nutritionally, and its dairy. Perhaps it is my background in pastry. Perhaps it is because one of my "mottos" is " Salt and Fat make food taste good"  Whatever the reason its my downfall, so I am over the moon about ZERO FAT yogurt that tastes as rich and decadent as the full fat version.

I always but the plain, I have tried the fruit ones and they are good, but I prefer fresh fruit to the sweet jammy stuff that sits at the bottom of most yogurt cups. I sometimes add a touch of sugar, never honey, for some reason I do not like honey in it. I top it with fresh berries and usually my fav, Maple Oat Crunch cereal.
I swear its like a delicious fruit crumble with cream. It reminds me of a delicious decadent concoction I encountered as a young pastry chef.

When I was in catering at a high end corporate caterers called En Ville, we made a simple dessert, berries with "Russian cream". I think this name was specific to En Ville. None the less as a new pastry chef I was amazed that something so simple could be so good. It was quite simply, half sour cream, half yogurt, sugar to taste, and a splash of Grand Marnier. It tasted like a cloud of heaven dropped from the sky onto my berries.

Hey...did you know you can make your own yogurt and its dead easy!! I have made it a couple of times and it really is good. If you take the fiished yogurt and tie it up in a cheesecloth bag and hang it in the fridge( with a bowl underneath) you will end up with Greek yogurt, otherwise leave it as is.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Ingrediants

1 litre (32 ounces) of full fat sheep or cow's milk (pasteurized)
2 tablespoons of previously homemade yogurt or plain unflavored yogurt with active live cultures
2 tablespoons of full fat milk (same type)

Get it together

Start with all ingredients at room temperature.

Heat the milk just to the boiling point and pour into a non-metal container.
Let cool to lukewarm (100-105F a little warm to the touch). A skin will form on top.
Mix the 2 tablespoons of yogurt (homemade or commercial) with 2 tablespoons of milk.
Add to the lukewarm mixture, carefully pouring down the side so that any skin that may have formed on top is not disturbed.
Cover with a clean dishtowel and place on another towel in a warm, dry place for at least 8 hours (or overnight) until it thickens.
Note: 8 to 12 hours is best. The longer the yogurt coagulates beyond that time, the more sour the taste becomes.

Good Luck!

Is it hot out there or is it just me?

With the humidex topping 44C today...yes, I said FORTY-FOUR, I cant say I find myself with much of an appetite.
Someone commented on FB today about frying an egg on the pavement, so I had to try it  :-)
For the record, it doesn't work, and by the dearth of videos on Youtube I am not the first silly fool to try it. Well, now we know.







Monday, July 16, 2012

Salad days

We are sitting smack in the middle of the dog days of
summer,and I will say I am glad to NOT be working in a kitchen. One of the summers I spent at the distillery was so hot we declared a Jihad against the heat.

We would put bar towels, soaking wet in the ice cream freezer. Once they were good and frozen stiff we wore them on our heads, once the wilted we'd toss them back in a take another frozen one. The boys started out by mocking myself and my assistant, until they tried it!
Austin, line cook
Mark the saucier
Assim our crazy Egyptian

I started out this summer with spinach, constantly, daily. Spinach with egg, spinach with pear, spinach with blackberries. Side note, I dont know why, blackberries are extra sweet this year.
I am now having a daily affair with tabbouleh. I started buying it. This one
Fontaine Sante Tabbouleh
For my tastes it is the best one you can buy,but for 5 bucks a pop, as a chef its shameful that I dont make it. 
So now I make it.

Middle Eastern tabbouleh is usually made with cracked bulgur wheat. But I often use quinoa (actually a seed that is an excellent source of iron), you really kick up all the goodness.


Ingredients

3/4 cup quinoa

1 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 cup chopped English cucumber

1/2 cup chopped green onions

1/4 cup chopped fresh mint

1 tomato, seeded and chopped

Dressing:3 tbsp lemon juice,2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil,s&p

Get it together...

Rinse quinoa under cold running water. 
Toss a pot of water on to boil and add the quinoa
Reduce heat, cover and simmer until no liquid remains
Remove from heat; fluff with fork. Transfer to bowl; let cool. Add parsley, cucumber, green onions, mint and tomato. 

Dressing: Whisk together lemon juice, oil, salt and pepper; pour over quinoa mixture and toss to coat. Serve at room temperature or cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Kensington Market


When I was younger and much cooler than I am now,  Kensington was THE place to hang out. It was shitty, run down and littered with  punks that still hang out near the TD kiosk and Global Cheese on Kensington Avenue. We used to troll all the vintage shops on that strip, starting at Courage My Love and ending at Malini, looking for vintage frocks and stockings with seams.


I still love the Market, although I dont spend nearly as much time there as I once did. And I find these days it is more about the food than the clothes. Of course that said, my friend and I did manage to find ourselves doing a little shopping this week...
Over the years the clothes in Kensington have become more cheap and unique as opposed to full on vintage. Not that vintage is gone, it is there, but even Courage isnt quite as 100% vintage as it was in my youth

I love it, the Market has evolved with me, style wise. I am still a bit of a Boho but not quite the cocktail dress girl I once was, so it all works for me!

So after some time pursuing the aisles of various wee shops, it was time to eat. We wandered around open minded but for the requirement of a patio...And we stumbled upon this little gem at 303 Augusta Avenue, just about across from Supermarket.


First up, Sangria...It was delicious, a little sweet but cold and so MMmmm after a long hot day of Toronto humidity. I will say I found it a tad disappointing that the only fruit garnish in the pitcher was apples. I mean, we are sitting in the middle of the market, make it sexy! But it was delish and I enjoyed every sip. I havent had sangria in ages, and I think it may be a new competitor for my beloved Mango mimosa.


We decided to go with a couple of items from the "Tapas" menu. You gotta love Toronto for having such restaurants that blend Spanish and Indian. And I love that it is not a pathetic attempt of jumbling two competing flavour palates, here I must reference the dreadful "Chino-Loco", a special kind of restaurant hell where they try to make burritos with asian stuff stuffed in , too. blech. This is simply Indian food, in the tapas style. Beautiful.






We settled on the Waterfalls Vegetable combo platter and grilled Masala prawns. And a great choice it was.
The combo platter was made up of a generous portion of onion bajia, 2 healthy sized samosa and veg pakoras. It was served with some kind of sauce I couldn't quite decipher, some kind of tamarind cilantro goodness in a ramekin. The platter was perfect to share, all the items were fried, but not greasy , and bursting with flavour.
The prawns, omg the prawns...The coriander-mint sauce that accompanied the prawns still shows up in my dreams, so good.... We had 2 skewers, with 3 prawns each, beautiful and aromatic, heady with masala and cooked perfectly! Not tough and over cooked, but perfect. They were presented on a bed of mesclun greens with grilled zucchini and red peppers with a side of tamarind sauce.
We topped off the meal with a basket of garlic naan, that had most recently been quite intimate with alot of butter...it was warm and decadent and highly recommended.
It was a great meal, with  great friend, all evenings should be so good! 

Waterfalls Indian Tapas patio
Kensington Market



When you are in the market don't miss......
* Courage My Love (jewellery & other vintage stuff)

* Global Cheese AND Cheese Magic

* House Of Spice
* Essence Of Life (health food crap)
* Pure Intent (naturopathy, acupuncture)
* Kensington Mall ( lots of great deals on clothes)
* Casa Acoreana ( best place to get any spice you have ever wanted)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Cafe la Gaffe


So this week I have a visitor from my hometown who is in town for business and free at night. So I didnt have to muse about what to make for dinner we went out! After a lovely late afternoon at the Island, where we enjoyed patio beverages and tip toed into the lake we ended up on the perfectly quaint Baldwin street and supped at Cafe la Gaffe who is participating in "Summerlicious".


Summerlicious is city run program with 180 restaurants in the city offering a "special menu"of 3 courses prix fixe. The idea is to get diners out of their comfort zones, to try new foods, at new places for a reasonable cost.

For people on the hot side of the table, "Summerlicious" is hell. Everyone in Toronto knows we need no cheap prices to fill seats and patios in the summer. But in order to participate in the much needed Winterlicious festival, in the cold months when people need encouragement to go out and spend money, you MUST be part of Summerlicious. more often than not the city-wide fête include hurried guests and hastily thrown together food as restaurants work overtime to deal with the influx of low-tipping and no-showing diners. 
When I was at the distillery, I had a lemon meringue tart on a summerlicious menu, on top of the 3 restaurant dessert menus I was already juggling, in a crazy busy season. I was cranking out hundreds a day. In the humidity of summer, the tart shells got very soggy over night so had to be made fresh, daily. I cant tell you how many hours a day I worked. Your regular diners still come and order off your regular menu, than the cheapskates come for summerlicious, in droves...Phewww


Cafe le Gaffe, to thier credit, offers ONLY their summerlicious menu. Excellent plan. Easy on the kitchen and therefore the food isnt rushed or resented. I sometimes would wonder if the diners could taste the resentment I occasionally cooked with...I know they could taste the love, so.....


My friend and I only wanted a nibble, so we split one 3 course meal. It was perfect! We started with a Caprese Salad. The peak seaon tomatoes were so ripe I could smell the sweetness of them from across the table. Nothing fancy, but simple delicous...Tomato, roast red pepper, bocconcini cheese dressed in a simple balsamic vinaigrette. The right dish for a warm summer night.


For our main course we had the grilled Tilapia, served with coconut cardomon rice and simple sauteed veg. Another home run! The fish was cooked to perfection, flaky but not dry, quite impressive for a late dinner when the kitchen is almost closed. The rice, altho white, which I normally avoid was so exquisitely aromatic, it teased the nose for minutes before it ever got around to pleasing the palate.


For dessert we had some chocolate banana gateau. I wont say much...My companion enjoyed it. It was made with excellent Chocolate (I want to say lindt, it wasnt "soft" taste wise to be Callebaut imho, but who knows ) I just found it quite heavy and without finesse, but I am a pastry snob, so lets just leave it at, it was a sweet chocolaty finish to a wonderful meal. 
I would be remiss in not mentioning our lovely server, she was attentive but not over bearing, just friendly enough and made sure we were taken care of...Kudus!
I recommend a visit!

Cafe La Gaffe
24 Baldwin Street
416-596-2397
cafelagaffe@rogers.com






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