Monday, April 20, 2015

No Name Cooking #1

My son came up with a recipe a few days ago and I posted it here, as a note from my son.

So, how did that work out for ya?

There are all the ingredients prepared ahead of time. We talked about size of cuts and how you want them to be uniform. Also, what cooks before what else? (Onions, peppers, cukes - add the spices, then chickpeas and lime to serve). Also, that frying normally uses fat. 

Some stuff happens while you cook and if you are paying attention, there is room for riffing or improving a dish. There was a bit of brown bits on the bottom of the frypan as we went along, so we were going to add lime juice, anyways... Added the juice to get the brown bits off the bottom. Added benefit was the juice was both tart and sweet. 

With two small cucumber, two half peppers and a can of chickpeas, this came to the table. Surprisingly, the 1/2 tsp dill, 1/2 tsp hot paprika and salt, were the only seasonings needed. For my interest, I liked the spicing a lot with the cucumber and chickpeas. My son's quibble was that the peppers could have had more crunch. I wonder about the balance of sweetness if we were to do that but I think we will try that next time as the dish could have used more texture. 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Leftovers #2: Beet Soup

Last month, we had a Maker Fair type event at the school and I made a Curried Beet and Coconut Soup. While it was popular there was about 3-4 cups leftover and so that left some room for experimenting.

One approach for leftovers that works is to take the base leftover and use it as a sauce or background to build other dishes on top.

In this case, a pasta with snow peas and cheese was served over top on the soup. For my kids, we left out the soup. It was a good pairing.

Another approach is to take two dishes that should complement each other and find a way of combining them. I had some leftover cream of mushroom soup that used white wine. So, it went on top of the beet soup when serving it. The earthiness of the soups worked well together. Had it with a beer and there was a trio of something going on there. Worth the experiment.

There were so many other possibilities in my fridge that I look forward to having roasted beets as a leftover ingredient at some time. Taking leftover oatmeal and frying it into crisp rounds would serve as a bed for either a sauce or simple salad. The crunch and the flavours would complement each other.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Notes from an Eleven Year Old

This is how my eleven year old son views the idea of a recipe. There are several attempts at moving away from standard way of presenting recipes with title, headnotes, ingredients and techniques. Several cookbooks and blogs have experimented with styles and we are getting some interesting results. But look at this start.

Let me translate the writing for you. 



Slice of lime/lime juice

As you move left to right, these are the actions you do to these ingredients. The part that is not written down was the inspiration and the discussion we had around creating this recipe. It comes from an episode of Mind of A Chef where they are working on a succotash recipe. Originally, this was to be a fried salad but when we started breaking down the idea, he wasn't as interested in cooked lettuce as he was at the beginning. 

We talked about what would happen to each ingredient and what he was trying to do. It turns out he wants to learn how to fry and wanted to make a recipe that works that way. This was an interesting experience and collaboration where I give what I know and honestly remove my biases by talking through what happens with ingredients. If I don't know, I let him know and he can make that decision. I've had fried lettuce in a dish and deep fried greens and boiled lettuce soup. Cooked cucumbers exist in Asian cuisine. Chickpeas are one of his favourites. And so on.

This is how I hope that our relationship outside of the kitchen works too. He explains what he is doing and why he wants to do it. I give my experiences and he takes it away and decides. We will be making this recipe this weekend and I will be the sous chef. At some point and time, you need to walk away from the stove and give your kids the opportunity, both in life and cooking. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Dregs for March 2015

I am behind on my posting and have a bunch of things that I hope to get posted this month. This is a quick bit on what is going on with my food life right now.

I went to Halifax and hope to do a round up of things. It was a trip punctuated by storms and a worry that I wouldn't get home to see my kids. It all works out in the end and I enjoyed my trip a lot.

Read three loosely related books and trying to find a way to write about them in a way that adds something. Vegetarian Flavor BibleThe Flavour Thesaurus and Note by Note Cooking. I might just publish my mash notes because they are entertaining in themselves to me.

I eat a lot of my lunches out and use them to try new food and restaurants. A lot of places aren't notable or I have nothing interesting to say about them. Sometimes it is my interest or my ability to assess. Around work I have tried a new fish and chips shop, Carl Jr's, and retried Holy Chuck. I linked to David Ort's notes on Carl's because I am not sure I will write about them. My review on Holy Chuck's still stands.

Published two reviews on Eat.Drink.Travel; one on a Whisky event and another on a burger joint. I will hopefully be doing another review shortly from a burger joint.

In the beer world, had some of those East Coast brews on my holiday and Uncle Leo's, Big Spruce and Rare Bird deserve a revisit at some time. Also, a big surprise for me was a Sarnia brewery, Refined Fool. And been doing some thinking about the announced beer reforms in Ontario. I had some earlier thoughts last year but was left with some hanging chads and now they are beginning to crystallize.

Hopefully, like the groundhog, I will lift myself out of this busy hole called life and begin to see the spring.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Bowmore Make It Fair Curried Beet and Coconut Soup

Went to the Bowmore Make It Fair and brought along this soup. Had a few requests for the recipe, so decided to do up a post for posterity.

The thing is, there is no real recipe...and I hate purple beets but I like this recipe. I first tried doing this for Valentine's potluck at work. I decided to leave out the blue cheese whipped bits but if you are interested, it is described in the link above. Anyways, I will try to break it down for you and just let me know if you have any problems.

Curried Beet and Coconut Soup (Vegan version)
makes a 6 quart (5.5 L) crockpot full

8 Large beets (2-3 lbs)
3 tbsp miso paste
1 tbsp curry powder
1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp garam masala
1 can (~400ml) coconut milk
750 ml apple juice
15 ml lemon or lime juice

Okay, here is what I've done with all the riffs included.  I may include an unannotated version afterwards but this reflects how I actually cook.

Cut up the beets in reasonable chunks for roasting in a 350 oven for an hour. If you don't cut them up, it will take longer. A neat trick is just to put them in any time you are cooking something else. I added a few carrots to roast as well. Cool slightly and peel. In a dry pan, add spices to toast lightly on a medium heat. Or if you don't want to bother, just skip this step. Basically keep the proportions so that no one spice mix dominates. You can skip the garam and just keep cumin and curry in equal proportions. Once it starts to smell, add a little water and the miso paste. Cook until dissolved. Add beets and carrots, coconut milk and apple juice. The liquid should just come up to the beets, you need enough to cook them in. If it doesn't, add some water until it does. Don't worry about adding too much water because you will have to thin the soup later when blending. Cook until beets are soft enough to blend with a stick blender or whatever blendy thing you are using. (about 45 minutes). Make sure not to boil the soup too hard. If it starts rapidly bubbling turn it down. I guess that is a simmer, as in simmer down. Blend the soup and add water to desired consistency. Add lemon or lime juice before serving.

All said, I know the time looks long but I often add beets or other roots vegetables to the oven when I am cooking something so I tend to have them on hand in the winter. In the summer, forget about it. That is the time for things that need less heat. And they can cook unattended. Go watch an episode of Game of Thrones when they are in the oven. Same with the on the stove thing. I finished cooking the soup while I was having my morning coffee and getting ready for the Fair, looking for cords and tweeting and FBing and other nerdish stuff.

Anyways, enjoy. Let me know your riffs, if you do any.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Near Misses #1: Frittata and an attempt at Garlic Bread?

One of the comments I hear from people when they are listening to me talk about making supper or cooking something new is that they could never do it. Behind that is an assumption that somehow, cooking is a talent rather than something to work at and explore. It also doesn't help that there is always an idea that to make a good meal, it takes a lot of time.

So, going to start breaking down some of those myths by sharing my near misses and failures. It is only in the failures that you learn something. We had two near misses in my household this weekend; the first was a frittata that used goat cheese and the second was... interesting.


Frittata is just an Italian word shortcut for puffy omelet. Take some eggs and milk or cream. Beat them together. Put them in hot pan that can be put in the oven. Put in some carbs and other tasty things. Wait for a bit of setting and then put it in the oven. I generally put it in at 350 for until it's set and then broil it for browning or cheese melting.

We always make extra pasta and serve our sauce on the side so as to have enough leftovers to make this omelet. This time there was butter sauce on it. That's just plain butter and a little salt. The filling this time was adding a little goat cheese. Also, had a little leftover mushroom soup that I flicked on. The kids did not like it. Even though, they both have had soft goat cheese before, this time it did not go over well. A couple reasons other than that the only substantial flavour was the tang from the cheese could have been the all day sucker that they finished only hours before. Trying something out of the box at the end of the day is always risky but even worse when you have tired and strung out boys. But we did agree to try a better grade of cheese sometime in a different manner to make sure it wasn't the cheese.

Something Else

At the cheese shop, the kids tried Lankaaster cheese and really liked it. So much that they wanted to do something with it for supper. The intention was to try Mark II on the Frittata and serve it with baguette. Somewhere along the way, the plan morphed.

We got this.

This is a baguette smeared with bacon fat, topped with pasta and cheese. The kids loved it. It didn't hurt that my eldest came up with idea. It was quite rich and should have been served with fresh veggies or something to cut the fat. It wasn't. As the meal went on, there were some concessions after the initial chowdown that maybe some garlic could have been used and yes, maybe a sauce would make it better. Regardless, there is a good germ of an idea here that merits exploration.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Recipes: Family Day Sandwiches

We had bologna sandwiches and chocolate bar sandwiches for Family Day. I'm going to blame David Chang and Quebec for the first and Food & Wine for the second. 

This is a straight up recipe post with only a bit of setup. I've been messing around with bologna sandwiches for quite a while. One of my favourites is to grab mortadella which is the original bologna from, well, Bologna in Italy. It looks like our favourite except with specks of black pepper and spackled with fat nodules. My son requested this sandwich after watching an episode of In The Mind of a Chef.


Fry some thinly sliced mortadella and reserve any grease. Place on bread with provolone cheese, Italy's favourite processed cheese. I like rye bread for the bread, as it gives it that Montreal flare. Smother with mustard. Hot mustard helps cut the fat. Take sandwiches and fry them until cheese is melted or bread is at desired colour. Take it out and eat 'em. Serve them with ketchup if you must.

Now, about that chocolate bar sandwich... A friend talked about his Scottish childhood and how he would go to school with candy bar sandwiches and trade for fresh veggies and regular sandwiches. I'm beginning to question my choice to limit my kids' intake of sugar right about now. Also, in January's Food & Wine there is a recipe for Grilled Chocolate Sandwiches with Caramel Sauce. So, I tried two takes on that: one with Laura Secord's nutella homage (Nutella is better but next time) and another with a Caramilk bar. 


Put ingredients on bread. Toast them in a frying pan. Serve them with another set of liquid sugar such as caramel sauce or Mapo Spread. That's what I used. It is an incredibly sweet, maple flavoured spread. Pretty freaking awesome. The kids preferred the candy bar one as the caramel and chocolate had seeped into the bread. This is an easy dessert but you will have to have candy bars on hand. In some houses, this is an impossible task.

That was lunchtime for Family Day...