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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: 


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. 


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.