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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Top Ten Things I loved about this Christmas

Whew! What a holiday. I think it's a general rule that holidays are difficult for most people. I have to say that this year I was lucky in that I had a blast and a blast only. It's hard to narrow down, but here are my top ten things that were awesome about Christmas 2010:

1. Mulled wine

As you may have gathered from my photos in Turkey Tips from Toiv, we work in an open-plan office with six desks facing each other. We have called our area "The Eastern Bloc" in recognition of the fact that most of us come from Eastern European descent. This year, the Eastern Bloc decided to have a Christmas sweater party that was a raging success. Everyone brought some baked goods and I volunteered to make mulled wine. I have never made mulled wine before, but it seemed simple enough. Follow this recipe and you can't go wrong:

Mulled Wine
2 oranges
12 cloves
4 cinnamon sticks
1 whole nutmeg
1 sliced lemon
1 bottle red wine
1/2 cup of sugar

This was not the recipe I originally followed, but I made some adjustments and the above seemed to be the batch that most people enjoyed. It is, of course a matter of taste. Begin by brewing a cup and a half of water with the sugar, herbs and fruit. Once the mixture has reached a boil, reduce heat and let cool for 20 mins, then add the wine. Serve immediately. The smell is ridiculously delicious and made the office smell the way you always hope your home smells at Christmastime (realistically though, mine probably smells like a pine candle, a litter box, and gluttony).



As mentioned, it was a Christmas sweater party, which resulted in:

2. This Photo of Sharla and Brown Santa

Not only did Nin wear a woman's cardigan that his wife bought especially for this occasion, but Sharla wore a 14-year-old Rudolph sweater with a built-in red light complete with battery pack:


Christmas vomited on them and it makes me very, very happy.

3. High Tea at the Wedgewood Hotel with Lana and Paul

Lana and her boyfriend Paul invited me to high tea with them, where we lingered in front of the fireplace for hours drinking Kir Royales and hot English Breakfast tea. Look how cute they are:


I love love!

4. Eggnog Pie

I found this recipe online, made it for the office party, and it was such a hit I made one for Christmas dinner. It takes about 5 seconds to make and tastes like frolicking with wood nymphs in an enchanted forest (or something):

Eggnog Pie

1 frozen pie shell
2 cups whipping cream
1 1/2 cups eggnog
2 tablespoons rum
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 package non-instant vanilla pudding

Follow directions on the pie shell box, bake and allow to cool. In a saucepan, heat eggnog and add vanilla pudding mix. Whisk until thoroughly blended, remove from heat when large bubbles appear. Add nutmeg and rum, place in fridge to set.

Whip the cream until stiff peaks appear. Once set, remove the pudding mix and beat until fluffy. Fold whipping cream and pudding mix together, then pour into pie shell. Top with nutmeg, then allow to chill overnight.

I mean, look at this thing:


5. Pomegranate Martinis

On Christmas Eve, my mum and I like to have a little Christmas cheer and watch White Christmas, with Rosemary Clooney and Bing Crosby. This year, I decided to make simple pomegranate martinis with muddled pomegranate seeds, lemon juice, ice cold vodka and pure pomegranate juice. A lovely way to cap off the evening!

6. Mum's Curry

Another thing we like to do on Christmas Eve is make prawn coconut curry. Well, I make the rice and do some prep, then it's all mum. I don't know what it is with this woman and curry but she knocks it out of the park every single time. Since it was Christmas, we used a whole bag of frozen prawns, chopped up a handful of cilantro, a shallot, and a whole bag of Asian Family red curry sauce, which has lemongrass and coconut milk already mixed in. We served it over basmati rice and it was the best meal I had in ages:


7. This Pot


Santa (my mum) brought me my very first piece high-quality cookware: this stainless steel beauty I have named Edith (Edie for short). She and I cooked orzo together last night. I think it's love.

8. Stella's Holiday Collar

Stella is generally a good sport when it comes to putting up with my overloving her, dressing her up, and hugging her every five minutes. I found a Christmas collar at the dollar store and since she tore apart her reindeer antlers from last year, I figured it was time to renew her holiday spirit:


Something I didn't anticipate? Mad Stella is a ringer for Mad Carri. To wit:


 Spooky.

9. Holiday Log

About 5 years ago I bought this DVD for $4.99


I love the fact that this is the second edition, the first must have been a fucking runaway hit. I call it my log movie, and it features a crackling fire, optional Christmas carols, PLUS TWO BONUS outdoor campfires. It's atmosphere in a disc. I've used it for the holidays, I've used it on dates, I've used it when the heat busted in the Holly Lodge to psych myself into thinking it was warm in here. Every year I appreciate it just a little more. Thanks, log!

10. General Gluttony

I fed my face like it was Rome before the fall, and according to the scale at the gym, I didn't gain any weight! LOOKING at food usually makes me gain about 5lbs, so this is some kind of Christmas miracle. I had some amazing food, and that for me is pretty much the best way to celebrate the holidays. And? I got to see my mum, which always makes me happy. And friends. And cat. And log. And everything. I hope your holiday was just as awesome :)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Turkey Tips from Toiv

My friend and co-worker, Carri Ann, is one of those wonderful creatures who leads a life resplendent with quirky thoughts and actions without a trace of self-consciousness. Most of our work day is spent giggling at her frequent outbursts and non-sequitors. To wit: Carri recently bought her first turkey. The partial process is reenacted below in this photo essay (shot entirely in our office, with the assistance of found objects as props).

First, Carri needed the assistance of the staff when she couldn’t locate the “turkey section” in her local supermarket. When she found it (two LARGE bins in the meat section), she needed to call her mom to find out how to convert kilograms to pounds. (She could have done this herself if she had a smartphone, but Carri refuses to purchase a data plan. She has very definite ideas of how to spend her money). When she found her dream turkey, she then found herself on the phone with her mother, who wanted a chat. Carri wanted to humor her mom, seeing as she MADE her call instead of calling long distance herself (“she gets it free, it’s a bundle!!”) but sure as hell didn’t want to lose her turkey, so she stayed on the phone while maintaining constant physical contact with her bird “because there were other vultures swarming the turkey tank”. It looked something like this:


I should mention here there were at least 40 other turkeys available.

When the phone call ended, Carri was able to scoop up her bird and take it to the checkout, along with some sale eggnog (!) that she found en route. It is at this point in the story she dispenses her holiday advice: “put your frozen turkey in a cart or a basket, because it’s cold. Real cold”.

Lines are long this time of year, as everyone knows. Carri's arm and hand became increasingly cold and achy. Carri is also easily irritated. Mornings bother her, as well as being dehydrated, hair that is both curly and straight, and bad customer service. The line she was in was not moving fast enough, PLUS some woman was not filling the gap between customers in a satisfactory fashion:


You can practically see the stink lines coming from her stank-eye.

Lo, gentle reader, heed this warning. Do not end up like Carri this Christmas. For God's sakes, put your frozen turkey in a basket. I think we can all agree, this is a mournful sight:


Learn from her mistakes. Her strange, strange mistakes.

Cast:

Carri: Herself
Customer #1: Amanda
Customer #2: Christina
The Turkey: My purse
The Eggnog: My water bottle

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

it's getting hot in herrrrrr

.... with 8 'r's.

It's really hot in the Holly Lodge right now, the boiler and all the radiators are from 1912 and if they don't get heated to a certain temperature, they clang like the ghost of Marley (how's that for a Christmassy reference?). A lot of people are sweating like a whore in church but I find it glorious. There is nothing better to me than coming how from work, putting on pjs, turning off all the lights, lighting candles and the Christmas tree, and settling in with a blanket, a civil war documentary, and a hot cup of tea.

Tea is comforting on many levels. It's the warmth you swallow, the sedating quality of sitting, holding hot ceramic, the space in your day to feel and think nothing but good. I've been into sleepytime tea lately, as I have had a lifelong battle with insomnia and I find it actually helps (that, and I will not drink chamomile. I think it tastes like rotten lettuce). I like making it with a teaspoon of sugar and a little milk.

I've been feeling pretty lucky lately, and my private tea time has allowed me to observe that feeling even more. Around this time of year, I usually make a laundry list of gifts for everyone and an equally long list of New Year's resolutions for myself, usually starting with weight loss and ending with amassing a large savings. But I have to say that this year I feel a little different. I have a great career that I love, a beautiful home, a great cat, wonderful friends and family. I'm inside when it's stormy out and I don't have any physical illnesses or deformities. I have the kind of life where I am afforded the time to consider a raw food diet for the cat and whether or not I should take a wine tour in the Okanagan this summer. How many people around the world can say that?

So this Christmas, when I'm in the usual consumptive fever like everyone else, I'm going to try my best to remember this and not lose sight of my good fortune. And if you are reading this, then I'm doubly grateful to you that you would take time out of your busy life to read my ramblings. I hope you have a very Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Perogies for Boz

I'm half Ukrainian. That means I enjoy ridiculously strong tea, intemperate climates, plastic-covered furniture and vodka. Out of respect for my paternal grandmother - who died when I was 15 - I taught myself to make the foods she loved and could make in her sleep. I inherited some of her old cookbooks, which to me are more precious than 500 cats and 20 wheels of brie cheese, and have incredible names like "Ukrainian Catholic Women's League Cookbook". And just in case you don't believe me:


I started with perogies, that most delicious of Ukrainian fare, and moved on to borscht, cabbage rolls and beet leaf rolls (we like our food predominately in roll form). My friend and landlord Boz became ill suddenly a couple days ago and when I asked him what I could do for him, he requested my perogies. So I got to work.

First, you need a lot of time. This is not a one-pot, 1 hour meal. You will need about 3 hours on your first time and eventually you will get better, and will need about 2. Second, you will need fridge space and counter space. What you will NOT need is money. Perogies enough to feed an army will cost you about $20 in ingredients, and that's aiming high.

You will need:

Dough:

4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup deskinned, boiled, mashed potato
Pinch salt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 ½ cups of warm milk

Filling:

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
¼ cup butter
½ cup white onion
2 small deskinned, boiled, mashed potatoes

Like most things in life, there is a rhythm to making perogies, as well as a few shortcuts that I’ve learned the hard way. Allow me to share them with you: First, take three medium sized potatoes, peel and boil until quite soft, then mash. This can be done up to one day ahead of time so the process isn’t too tedious the day you make them. Next, fry the onions in the butter until they become translucent. Add this mixture to the cheese and what is left of the potatoes after you have removed one cup for the dough (see what I’m doing there?). Mix everything together so that the cheese lightly melts and it all begins sticking together. Place in the fridge and let cool for half an hour. The mixture should be cold when you begin to assemble the perogies.

Next, you work on the dough. Mix all the dry ingredients together with a whisk, then slowly add the warm milk. Blend together with your hands. Add more flour or milk if necessary. Once properly blended, the dough should be slightly sticky but not too sticky to handle. Turn onto a floured surface and knead 10 times NO MORE. This is key. If you over knead, the dough will be too tough to manipulate properly and the manufacturing process will be difficult. Place in a clean, oiled bowl and cover with a dish towel. Leave to sit for half an hour. This is the point in the perogy-making process where you can take a little break, have a drink, masterbate, whatever you’re into.

Once the half hour is up, turn your dough back onto the floured surface. Spread out dough with your hands, then use a rolling pin to roll it out very thin, about ¼ inch, maybe less. To make this easier, and because I have a tiny West End kitchen, I rip the dough ball in half and do half at a time. Feel free to find what works for you.

Hard-core Ukrainians use knives and freehand to cut the dough circles that will house the filling, but I’m not that talented, and I’m willing to bet neither are you. I use a glass, which gives me about 3 ½ inches of surface area, which is what you want. If you have a cookie cutter that will work as well. Whatever you can find that will give you a circle about this size will do: 


I like to cut all my dough circles out at once, then manufacture the perogies. As you can see from these photos, this woodblock surface is all the space I have, so I have to economize. I mean, look at this bullshit:


Once the dough circles are cut out, you can now begin to manufacture your perogies. Form a ball of filling in your hands about the size of a walnut, and place in the middle of the dough circle. Pinch the perogy at the top, then up one side, then the other. Make sure the perogy is sealed on all sides. Keep up a steady pace; the dough becomes dry if you wait, so get a rhythm going 'till you're done.



After they are completed, put a large pot of water to boil, set aside the ones you are going to prepare now, and either freeze or refrigerate the rest in a sealed container. Once the water is at a rolling boil, put in the perogies and stir with a slotted spoon, making sure they don't stick to the bottom of the pot. Once they have been in for about 5 mins, drain and set aside. Chop half a white onion and half a ring of kielbasa or Ukrainian sausage. Fry in a pan with a small amount of oil. Once the onions are translucent, add the boiled perogies. The key is to fry them on the bed of the sausage and onion mixture to impart flavour. Once the pergoies are brown on both sides, remove from heat and serve with sour cream. 


I brought some to Boz and he was crazy about them. Well, if I'm honest, it was mostly the meat. He looked great and I'm happy to think that some good cooking and visits from friends will get him back on his feet in no time!

So that, my friends, is how you make Ukrainian perogies. Make sure you tell everyone how hard it was to make them, bank extra sympathy for your hard work, you never know when you're going to need it.

Epilouge: I started writing this post about 2 weeks ago, and I thought the end would be different. Sadly and untimely, Boz passed away on December 7, 2010. His memorial was today, on the 6th floor of our building, where everyone gathered to have some food and beer and trade great stories about him. He was the landlord here for 30 years. He looked out for everyone, kept a gorgeous garden in the back, and raised his teenage son. So many people knew him and loved him. I wasn't personally especially close to him, but I really enjoyed cooking with him in the garden in summertime, smoking and drinking and carrying on with him, my girlfriends and Paco the maintenance man.

On reflection, this building - which has been my home for 7 years - doesn't feel as safe anymore. It's not exactly home the way it was. I know the only constant is change, but I hate that. There is a peace that should come from that fact, but I haven't found it yet. When I do, I'll let you know.

We'll miss you buddy.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Leek and Potato Soup for One?

(If a waiter said this to me while putting soup in front of me I would punch him in the balls. Which: fair enough.)

Vancouver weather is like a bad relationship: you know you need to get away from it, but it fulfills certain needs. In this case, Vancouver TEASES me with good weather/behavior - like the fluffy, gorgeous snow I woke up to this morning - but ultimately it lets me down and tells me it's bad for me, namely, warming up and returning to the usual rain/wrist-slashing weather. I know Vancouver will do this, but I keep coming back. Am I just lazy, not willing to find another city in which the weather is more life-affirming? Or am I stuck in the cycle of abuse? I just don't know any more.

So, in an effort to warm myself up and tell myself it's not so bad (because really I'm stuck here in for at least the immediate future), I decided to make soup for one. There is a myth about soup from scratch: that it's a huge, unwieldy process that takes 3 hours, a huge pot and leftovers for weeks. Wrong. Some people do this, but I do not, for a few reasons: 1. Because I love to cook; 2. Because eating the same thing every night for a week would make me even more depressed than Vancouver weather is already making me; and 3. Because I want to make soup for one, okay?

You will need:

- 1 russet potato
- 2 leeks
- 2 cubes of vegetable stock
- 4.5 cups of water
- 1/2 white onion
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 small bunch parsley, to taste
- salt and pepper to taste

Combine water, vegetable stock and potato (chopped into small cubes) in a pot and boil for 15-20 mins. In a pan, sautee lightly the garlic, onion and leeks (all chopped fine). I use olive oil for this, but any oil you have handy will do. Once the potatoes are soft, add the leek mixture and parsley, reduce for 20 mins. Serve and enjoy.

I made this recipe up, and I have to say it worked really well. I enjoyed it and so did Stella (who stole a chunk of potato right out of the bowl).

I have a photo but it looks exactly like my photo of the salsa verde, plus it's in the same fucking pot I always use and the reason for this is simple, because I only have one fucking pot and one fucking pan. I realize this is pathetic, but I'm on a budget, okay? Fuck.

So now I'm depressed all over again but, I have soup. So yay.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Moons over my Hammy

... is pretty much the worst name for a dish in the world. If you are anything like me, you remember seeing this on the Denny's menu during Sunday brunch with your family and wanting to order it, but couldn't bring yourself to say "Hi, I'll have the Moons over my Hammy, please". Ditto for Ihop: I will NOT utter the phrase "Rutti Tutti Fresh and Fruity Breakfast", even if I am in the US. I might be on vacation, but I cannot take a vacation from my sanity.

On Saturday, I wanted some kind of ridiculous breakfast like this, after taking an epic walk around the city. When thinking about what to eat/make, I thought of grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup, which is great anytime but particularly lately because it's colder than a whore's heart in Vancouver right now. For me grilled cheese is probably the same as it is for you: cheddar, maybe tomato, in between regular bread. But this is a fucking cooking blog. So I made a gourmet version:

Big Daddy's Grill Cheese (served best in cold weather)
- two thick slices of sourdough bread
- half a tomato, thinly sliced
- red onion to taste, thinly sliced
- 4-5 slices of double-cream brie cheese
- 4 slices of honey ham

Heat a skillet to medium heat with a little olive oil. Lay down bread, cheese, onion, tomato and ham (in that order).
Grill until slightly melted. Remove from heat and cut in half.

 I served this alongside tomato soup with fresh rosemary on top. I should mention now that it really helps in any cooking adventure to at least have a few fresh herbs growing on your windowsill. Currently I have rosemary, chives and sorrel. It really can make a huge difference to any bland food, plus, they're pretty.

Delicious, satisfying and no need to order anything embarrassing. Win-win.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Thai One On

Alright, alright. I know I shouldn't post AGAIN about rice vermicelli, but hear me out: I wasn't satisfied with my last recipe with the sweet chili sauce, it didn't have enough substance. What I've learned about rice vermicelli is it is a template: what you add is what makes the dish. It provides texture but not much more. So I went back to the drawing board and decided to make my own version of the rice vermicelli dish with prawns that didn't leave me feeling unsatisfied. I came up with this, which unexpectedly had a Thai twist:

Hot Coconut Prawns on rice vermicelli

- 15-18 prawns
- 1/2 can of coconut milk
- 4 nests of rice vermicelli
- 1 small bunch cilantro
- 1 small bunch mint
- 2 red chiles
- juice from one lime
- 1 inch of ginger, peeled
- 1 1/2 inches of lemongrass
- 3 cloves of garlic
- half a white onion
- soy sauce and fresh black pepper to taste



Put vermicelli in a bowl and cover with boiling water for a few minutes, then drain and run over with cold water to stop them from cooking further. Chop the mint and cilantro and mix with the vermicelli. Set aside.


Finely chop the chiles, ginger, garlic, lemongrass. Coarsely chop the onion. Cook the onion and garlic first at medium heat until lightly brown, then add lemongrass, chili, and ginger. Cook for a few minutes, then add the prawns and lime juice. Reduce slightly, then add the coconut milk, soy sauce and fresh black pepper. Reduce the mixture for a few minutes, then pour over the vermicelli.




I am (finally) really pleased with this. It's good hot or cold, can be a main or a side. If you like it really spicy, you can add a third chili or hot sauce to the end product. It's great if you have a cold, clears you right up!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

my eyes rolled back into my head....‏

….. when I found out today, via Vancouver Magazine’s eating and drinking guide 2011, that Gastown is getting a North Carolina BBQ joint. GASTOWN IS GETTING A NORTH CAROLINA BBQ JOINT. It’s called Peckinpah after Sam Peckinpah, the director of hard-living fame. They posted pictures of their smoker (capable of smoking 550lbs of meat A DAY) and I literally made some kind of dying calf noise in anticipation. I will go. I will eat. I will drink. You should too. More info via Scout Magazine here:

http://scoutmagazine.ca/tag/peckinpah-restaurant-vancouver/ 

EEEEEEEEEEEeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Lessons from sweet chili sauce

I made a simple Thai dish this weekend (well, I had all those leftover rice vermicelli) which really didn't blow my hair back at first:


400g rice vermicelli noodles
2 tbsp sweet chili sauce
12 large, tailed shrimp
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons sugar
1 fresh red chile
1 fresh green chile
fresh mint leaves to garnish

Cook shrimp in large pan, then add to cooked noodles with other ingredients

I added three scallions to this dish, and it was okay hot. I was going to write about it as a good side dish, maybe to the ginger beef I wrote about earlier except on rice, so on, so forth. But to tell the truth I wasn't all that impressed with it..... until I left in covered in the fridge overnight. Given a chance to marinate, this dish became gobble-worthy. It was positively delicious the next day (and yes, I realize how Mary Poppins that statement is). Try it! Leave it overnight! Love it!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

this dish made me sound like an angry pterodactyl

Which, for the record, sounds something like “RRRRRRRAAAAANNNNGGGGGGGHHHHHHCAAAACAAAACAAAA”

I found a recipe online for beef on rice vermicelli because I was having a serious craving for red meat, plus I need to eat light dishes because of my ongoing stomach troubles. From the outset, it looked delicious and straightforward:

 2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
12 this asparagus spears, cut into one inch lengths
140g dried rice vermicelli
350g sirloin steak, thinly sliced
1 tsp fresh grated ginger
4 scallions, thinly sliced
3 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp oyster sauce
dash of sugar
vegetable oil, as needed

1. Heat 2 inches of oil in a large saucepan on high heat. Break vermicelli into small bunches, drop in the oil for a few seconds until they are white and crispy
2. Mix the soy sauce, oyster sauce, sugar and 1 tsp water in a bowl and set aside
3. Stir-fry the beef in oil until well done
4. Stir-fry the garlic and ginger, add the vegetables, stir-fry for 2 mins, then add sauce and beef
5. Place mixture on top of crispy noodles

So I bought all the supplies, brought them home, and started with the noodles. As you can see, the original recipe said to just put the raw vermicelli in a hot pan with ample oil and fry for a few seconds until it turns white and crispy instead of clear. LIES!!!!!! All that happens is that two or three noodles get burned black from the heat and the rest stay translucent and oily. FAIL. I ended up adding water and covering them so that they would be slightly soft AND crispy, if that’s possible, but at this point I just wanted something edible. (I tried a different tactic with the noodles the next night: I put them in a bowl and poured boiling water over them which softened them, then threw them in the pan with the meat and veggies. This worked MUCH better.)

Also? Rice vermicelli is really irritating to take out of the package. You can’t take it out of its plastic bag without pieces breaking and falling on the floor, and forget about breaking it up so you can cook it – all you get is hard, translucent noodle-pubes all over your floor and the bottom of your socks. Bullshit. So? Do everything you need to do for and to vermicelli over the sink, then hose ‘er down.

I took the noodles out, transferred them to a plate and covered them in paper towel to keep them reasonably warm. Then I started on the beef. I took stir-fry beef strips fresh from the butcher and cut them into smaller cubes. I hate the smell of raw meat (but really, who likes it) and I hate handling it even more, but the worst, THE WORST is that period when you are cooking beef when it gets really greasy and smells like an old folks home. As soon as it reached this point, trying to hold onto what little was in my stomach, I drained it until completely dry and it started to smell a hell of a lot better. Once the meat was well done I took it out and transferred it to a bowl next to the noodles. At this point I hadn’t taken any photos of the dish even though I was planning on writing about it because I was pretty sure it was a failure. But, like Rhett Butler, I have a soft spot for causes once they’re really lost, so I kept on cookin’.

So I started on the vegetables: scallions, asparagus, fresh ginger and garlic, and it was finally a satisfying stage in the meal. You can’t tell me that’s not pretty:


Then I made the sauce. The recipe called for soy sauce which I then realized I was out of (and resulted in the second pterodactyl noise), so I thought I would roll the dice and try mixing black bean sauce with oyster sauce and a dash of sugar and seeing what happened. The result is VERY salty but if you have a salt tooth (which I emphatically do, I could suck on a stalactite of rock salt all day and never get thirsty) and/or use it sparingly it’s a great compliment to the meat, veggies and starchy noodles.

I was prepared for it to taste like the dog’s breakfast I made out of the clam pasta, but I have to say, it was delicious. I ate it while barely taking a breath then fell into a rapturous food coma on the couch, basking in the glory of my culinary prowess. Or something. 

Enjoy!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

A kind of blue

I feel meh today. It's raining, my ulcer is bugging me, and I feel devoid of motivation. In that spirit I decided to list 5 foods I eat when I feel down, so maybe when you feel down, you can use these ideas, and feel a little better:

1) Smoked Oysters

I don't know what it is about them, but they make me feel decadent, like Marie Antoinette having a picnic at the Petit Trianon with 25 spoiled guests. I pour lemon juice over them and add fresh sea salt. Crackers optional.

2) Brie Cheese

Why? Why is this cheese the best, most subtle, aromatic thing that I crave at the worst possible times (like when I'm trying to lose weight or do some kind of cleanse because someone told me it would help me lose even more weight). There is nothing like it full stop. Get some.

3) White Wine

Call me whatever you want - lush, drunk, pathetic, etc. but this shit is the best ever. Dry white I mean, not chardonnay (blasphemy) or any other sweet cougar-esque juice. Real, dry, white. Wonderful.

4) Tomato Soup

My mother used to make this for me when I was sick. Along with crushing aspirin and mixing it in a spoon with sugar and apple juice, it's one of the great common denominators of motherhood. I feel about tomato soup the same way I feel about red lipstick: it's a favorite, the very me of me, and I will never stop needing it (I currently own 22 different kinds of red lipstick, but that's a different story for a different day). I have quite seriously tasted, bought, made every kind of tomato soup you can imagine. This love affair can only gain momentum. There is no cure for love, but to love more.

5) Stuffing

I'm not talking about the shit you actually pull out of the bird on thanksgiving. I'm talking about Stove Top you can buy at the grocery store and inflate in a bowl with the addition of hot water and butter. Latent memory from childhood? Did I not get hugged enough? You be the judge.

So, there. Go forth and cheer yourself up with some food. And a cat. And a hot bath. You have resources, use them.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Fried Green Tomatoes

By now you've probably figured out that I'm obsessed with all things Southern. I think maybe it's because it's the exact opposite of the way I grew up. I grew up in cold Canada with damp and rain 9 months of the year, extraordinarily healthy food courtesy of my mother, and a healthy dose of Canadian self-consciousness. Folks in the American South have hot weather, fatty food and arrogance about the superiority of their culture. You kinda gotta love that.

So in that spirit, I thought I would make fried green tomatoes after finding some green heirlooms at Urban Fare:
 
Basically all you need for this dish is a very simple dredge, flour and egg. Slice your tomato into medium-thick slices, then grab three bowls: one for a beaten egg, one for flour, and one for bread crumbs and fresh black pepper. The order you dip your tomato slices seems a little counter-intuitive, but just bear with me: first dip the slices in flour, then egg, then bread crumbs. The flour makes the egg stick makes the bread stick. Don't ask me why.
Heat some oil in a fry pan, corn is best, olive will do in a pinch. Get it medium hot, then drop those fuckers in and wait for them to brown fully on one side, then flip, only once. Once completely brown put them on a plate and add hot sauce to each along with fresh sea salt. Dig in. Delish.

Basically I love these so much I go cross-eyed when I eat them. They go great with beer or iced tea. It seems like the perfect thing to eat on a hot back porch in the shade in the South, instead of slowly drowning in rain on the West Coast. But whatever. I'm not bitter.
(Please note Stella tried to eat some the second I turned my back on her and them. This is not a question of taste. Stella is a feline garborator. I've seen her drink balsamic vinegar, wine and turpentine. I've seen her eat cheerios, endive, raw garlic, and plaster chips. She is not discerning).

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Somethin' Fishy

I've been eating a lot of sardines lately for some reason. I love those salty little bastards. I put them on pasta, and I know it sounds gross, but it was awesome. I wanted to try them in a salad, but all the recipes looked gross, so I made my own:

Sardine Salad
1 can sardines, packed in olive oil or water
6-8 radishes
1/4 white raw onion
1 small avocado
3 tablespoons capers
1/2 lemon worth of fresh juice
splash of olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Chop everything fine, mix together in a bowl and let stand or sit in the fridge for 10-15 mins. Serve either on it's own or on crackers or toast. A delish, healthy meal!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Tomatill, Yo

So literally THE SECOND I start complaining about the rain beginning in Vancouver, we get a day like this:


It was clear, cold and ridiculously gorgeous, so I bought a fresh loaf of bread, fresh flowers, and the ingredients to make a farewell-to-summer-thanks-for-the-memories salsa verde.

For those who are not familiar, salsa verde is like regular salsa, except instead of using tomatoes, you use tomatillos, a crunchy, aromatic fruit that looks like a green tomato in a paper case. Next time you are at the market and you see these, that's what they are:


Look for hard tomatillos that have their paper case packed tightly to the skin of the fruit. Buy about a pound, or 6-8 of them ranging from large to small. Start by peeling off their paper skins and washing them with warm water, as they have a weird, sticky film on them. then slice in half, remove the core, and place them cut side down on a cookie sheet covered in foil. Preheat the oven to 350 and when ready, throw 'em in.

While they are roasting (for about 15-20 mins) finely chop 1/2 cup white onion, 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, and one serrano or jalepeno pepper (WARNING: if you do not want to spend the rest of your night with your hands in a bowl of yogurt trying to get the heat out from chopping chiles and handling the seeds, either wear kitchen gloves or handle the peppers with paper towel). Mix with a tablespoon of fresh lime juice (fresh is key here, and is the equivalent of about half a small lime), salt to taste and a dash of sugar.

Take your t-bombs out of the oven, slide off the cookie sheet and let them cool on your cutting board. Please note that when I dented each half to speed up the cooling process, I inadvertently made tomatillo butts:


See what I did there? One track subconscious.

Chop the tomatillos as finely as possible and add to your mixture, put in the fridge if you like it cool or as is if you like it room temp:


I had mine with homemade garlic toast points, mixed with untoasted bread to make a medley of textures. Please also note that people who use the word "medley" to describe bread are assholes. Whatever. Dig in.

By the way, this is supercat:



Stella is my taste tester/pillow/side kick/main gal. You'll be seeing more of her (thank God, you're thinking, obv)

 Wanna pet me?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Udon, Idon, Everybodydon

It's September in Vancouver, which means that everything is grey and wet and the unpaved ground resembles diarrhea. Now that summer is over for real for real (no more cocktease sunny days with a certain level of humidity), I feel it's time for soup. One of my faves is Udon, because it's rich and salty and has those big, doughy noodles. You can buy Udon soup base at any Asian grocery store, or make your own, which takes a million years, requires a sieve and sounds like a lot of work for something I could buy for a buck. So I buy the prebrewed stuff.

Boil water (follow the instructions on the side of the base, or if you made your own base, figure it out yourself, since your such a fucking Udon expert), throw in your stock, your noodles, and I like to add two chopped green onions, enoki mushrooms, button mushrooms, tofu or shrimp if you have them kicking around. Bring to a boil for about two minutes and it should look like this:


Serve screaming hot and eat in front of the TV. A great way to tune out the weather. Enjoy!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Pastafail

So I had these big plans for an awesome Sunday dinner that I could cook then write about, and I wanted it to be something I had never cooked before. So I went to the market and got fresh pasta, garlic, onion, lemon, and most importantly, pre-frozen clams that were packed that day. I thought with a splash of white wine, this would be delish. I bought a baguette still warm from the oven with the idea of making garlic toast to go along with it. I brought the whole mess home and proceeded to cook.

Now, I don't want to sound like an asshole, but I rarely fail in the kitchen. That's not to say that I don't make frequent mistakes, but even those usually come out okay. The first thing I noticed was that the clams were taking a very long time to cook, and were getting hotter and watery-er as time went by. Also, I have never cooked fresh pasta before so I threw it in the water figuring it was like regular pasta. Wrong. So while the fresh pasta is cooking and the clams are getting weirder I put in the garlic toast. It was to become the only edible part of the meal.

I ran off some of the water that was, I thought, the problem. Things became less watery but no less appetizing. I waited a little longer then took it off the heat, and drained the pasta. I poured the clams and garlic on top of the pasta and took a bite, and it's gotta be one of the worst things I've ever tasted. I gagged. It tasted like low tide. It tasted like garbage juice. It was revolting. And because I overcooked the fresh pasta, it was like low tide on top of glue. I haven't figured out exactly what happened with those little clam bastards because I've never cooked them before. I'm sure google will solve this problem, and I will try them again, but maybe fresh ones, and after I know what I'm doing. Blah.

Fresh bread covers a multitude of sins, and after the delicious garlic toast, I dipped the still-warm baguette in oil and balsamic and watched Mad Men. Now THAT's how you salvage an evening. You have to go on a lot of bad dates to know how to do this, so that makes me a fucking expert. 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Run and tell that, homeboy

In honor of the awesomeness that is Antoine Dodson, I decided to make biscuits



For the uninitiated, Antoine is the Huntsville, Alabama resident who rescued his sister from an attempted rape, then went on the local news to tell the intruder off. Q: Is there anything more awesome than Antoine? A: No there is not. Video here

Seeing as Antoine is from the South, I thought it only appropriate to make him biscuits. Traditionally in the South these are made with lard and buttermilk and drowned in gravy with fried eggs on the side. While that sounds amazing, I'm trying to lose weight. So Antoine will have to be happy with my version:

Biscuits
2 cups all purpose flour or cake flour
dash of salt
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 to 5 tablespoons cold butter (cold is key)
1 cup plain yogurt


Preheat oven to 450, mix dry ingredients together in a bowl, then add the butter. Mash the shit out of the butter into the mixture until thoroughly blended. Add yogurt and mix with your hands until it forms a ball. Press into a 3/4 inch rectangle and cut biscuits with a glass or cookie cutter. Bake 7-9 mins or until golden brown.

Here ya go, Antoine





Yes, they're for you!



Yes, for real



Antoine's all "they're delicious!"

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Welcome!

Thanks for reading, welcome to Big Daddy's Crass Cuisine!

I am not anywhere near a chef, but I like to eat well, and cook it for myself. I like to think of new dishes and create them, win or fail. So let's eat crass. Who's with me?

Garlic = balls

I enjoy garlic because it looks like balls. Correct me if I'm wrong:



This is an unusual circumstance wherein us gals like our men to be average. Huge balls freak us out. Small balls make us think you're a wuss. Average balls are where it's at because we can take note of them and forget them, just like we like it (oh, good, normal. That's all we think). Your balls aren't exactly what we're into (eh? ehhhhhh? boom shakka lakka).

Now boys before you get testy about your testes, this post is all about celebrating food that is vaguely ball-shaped. And what could be better (or more ball shaped) than garlic?

Oh my fuck do I love this shit. I could eat whole raw cloves of it and never get overwhelmed. I could, and have, roasted dozens of cloves of it at a time, getting up in the middle of the night to eat more. Some day there will be a name for a passion as disordered as mine, but until then, let's eat more garlic:

Garlic Pasta
5 cloves garlic
1/4 white onion
2-3 oyster mushrooms
2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1-2 servings spaghettini

They say the best dishes are those that have few ingredients. I don't know about that, but I do know that it is a crime that more dishes don't showcase garlic as this one does. I like to chop my five cloves in different ways, some minced, some sliced, some mashed. Feel free to mix up garlic types too, elephant, organic purple, regular (and if you know a dude that has elephant garlic sized balls, call me. Seriously. I have to see). Fry 'er up with the onion for 3-4 mins, and take a deep breath, because this is the best smell on earth:



add the mushrooms, last add the parsley. Get it all in there together, add your pre-cooked pasta. Salt and pepper to taste. A little cheese on top never hurt anybody. Now that's ballsy.

(PS, Martha has a slightly more complicated version of this where she adds roasted garlic. That sounds good and all, but Martha can suck it)