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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Pie days of summer

One of my hobbies is maintaining a state of constant confusion amongst my extended family as to my sexual orientation. The idea of keeping them guessing came to me after a strange conversation with my grandmother, who in the middle of casual conversation told me that if I was gay, it was okay. I'm straight, and not at all offended that someone would think I wasn't, but it was odd. What was it about me that made my grandma think I needed a good gay pep-talk? My bobbed hair? My no husband? What? Did it matter? A good person would have said something like "grandma that's really nice of you to tell me that, but I'm not gay". I, however, am not a good person. An imp stirred in me. I gave her no details or thanks. I just smiled and said "when do we eat?" Thus, the idea was born.

Last summer I became interested in baking pies from scratch, which I think people generally found confusing, and not just sexually. Me - who had never done a domestic thing in my life up until that point. The short-haired-no-husband-might-be-a-lesbian was now trying to be some kind of '50s housewife? What gives?

Well, what gives is nothing, really. I just suddenly became really interested in baking pies. And since then I've made a cherry pie, a strawberry, a blueberry and a key lime. And I have to say that almost all of them have turned out really well. I love making fruit pies with lattice crusts on top, it's so rustic and picnic-y and cute. As summer is a few days old and it's getting nice and hot and nothing reminds me of summer more than coconut, I made a coconut cream pie of my own quick and dirty recipe. And I was thinking I should make a little series about pies, since I love making them so much. This will be the first of many pies I will make this summer:

Coconut Cream Pie
1 box instant vanilla pudding mix
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1 frozen pie shell
whites of 3 eggs
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 tsp salt

Thaw pie crust and prick the bottom (he he, prick) with a fork. Bake at 350 until lightly brown, about 10 minutes. Remove and let cool. Follow directions on vanilla pudding and assemble. Mix 1/2 cup of shredded coconut into the pudding and pour into the pie shell. Leave to cool until room temperature.

Take cooled egg whites, add salt. Whip until stiff, glossy peaks form. Spread on top of pie, making sure the meringue touches the sides of the crust so it doesn't shrink. I've found a good way to do this is put a blob of meringue next to the edge with a spatula and press down on top of the blob to make it touch. Get a little creative making peaks and valleys with your meringue. Sprinkle shredded coconut on top of the meringue. Bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for 4 hours, preferably overnight.

Of course, being a complete pig, I tried to eat a piece of this pie before it cooled, and it sort of caused a flood of hot pudding into the empty piece, so I couldn't cover up my crime when I took the cooled pie into work the next day. "Why does this one piece have no meringue or crust?" Fuck you. That's why.

I promise I will make more creative, from scratch pies that aren't so instant, but we are warming up here. More to come.

Happy summer!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Chicken Cacc-22

I met this guy at a hipster bar a few months ago who suggested we hook up in the most strangely poetic way, giving me the creeps and managing to sound like Keats at the same time: "come by on Saturday, I'll be cooking chicken in the park".

I don't think he ever said what park he would be cooking said chicken in, there are a lot of parks in Vancouver. And little pathways with benches that people like to drink on. The possibilities are endless. Although to be fair he could very well have said what park, but it was really loud in there and I was fairly hammered. In response I think I said something like "I don't..... know what..... park you mean I..... don't".

We never did meet up and have chicken.

I was thinking about that little exchange while I was in the bathtub recently and wondering why I don't cook a lot of chicken. It's just not a meat I'm drawn to. I HATE handling it, it reminds me of breast implants or plastic barbie body parts or prosthetic testicles or something (I've never seen/handled any of these, btw), and I don't really love the taste of it. That being said, I've always wanted to try chicken cacciatore, convinced that multiple chicken-loving nations couldn't be wrong:

Chicken Cacciatore
2 chicken breasts
1 small red pepper
1 small yellow onion
3 garlic cloves
1 can diced tomatoes with juice
3/4 cup chicken broth
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 cup fresh basil
2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper

Sprinkle the chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Dredge the chicken pieces in the flour to coat lightly. In a saute pan, heat the oil over a medium-high flame. Add the chicken pieces to the pan and saute just until brown, about 5 mins per side. Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside. Add the bell pepper, onion and garlic to the same pan and saute over medium heat until the onion is tender. Season with salt and pepper. Add the tomatoes with their juice, broth and oregano. Return the chicken to the pan and turn them to coat in the sauce. Bring the sauce to a simmer. Continue simmering over medium-low heat until the chicken is just cooking through, about 30 mins. Serve.

The result? I ate it and it was filling and nutritious, but I think they should change the name to chicken caccia-boring. I just couldn’t get too excited about it. Sure it’s good, rustic, hearty, I should love it, but I don’t. It doesn’t have enough unique flavor for me.

I read somewhere that if you want to shake up this dish, you should add gnocchi, which is a great suggestion. I didn’t, because I was so bored that I fell asleep while boiling the water. I’m bored even writing about this dish. Yawn.

I don’t like to just bitch about things that are unsatisfactory, I like to do something about it. It’s one of my only redeeming qualities. So instead of giving up on chicken altogether just because of cacciaboring, I’m going to find a chicken recipe that makes me drool. Stay tuned.

Friday, June 24, 2011

So some cool things are happening

For me, that is.

Crass Cuisine has recently joined forces with the awesomes at Vancouver Slop. Posts that appear here will also appear there, along with some articles written by me just for them. Vancouver Slop's specialty is restaurant reviews, so if you are looking to dine in Vancouver, check with them first.

Also, The Vancouver Sun Facebook page has posted my Boston Cream Pie apology! Their page can be found here:

Annnnnnnnd, I'm planning a trip for Mardi Gras in 2012 and while I'm there, attending the New Orleans Cooking School. Real Creole cooking? Check. Something for us to look forward to. As in: I'll shell out the cash, you can follow the recipes.

Anyway: Yay! Thanks for reading and your continued support :)

j xo

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

He ain't heavy, he's my Grandpa

Right as Christian Audigier became popular, and before I knew what Ed Hardy was, I became profoundly confused at the number of signs around town that exclaimed “We have Ed Hardy!” and “Ed Hardy 50% Off!!!!”, because Ed Hardy is my grandfather’s name.

When I realized that Ed Hardy was a line of clothes with tattoo art, I thought ha ha, that’s funny, grandpa will think that’s hilarious. When I realized that the clothes were purchased exclusively by douchebags, I began to get a little defensive. Let’s be clear now:

Ed Hardy is not clubwear for douchebags. Ed Hardy is an 82 year old retired horticulturalist who lives in White Rock. 

Here is a chart for your convenience:

Ed Hardy (clothing)
Ed Hardy (the man)

          Cheaply made
          Built to last – healthy as a horse at 82
          Ugly concept
          Handsome in his youth and now
          Worn by deadbeat dad Jon Gosslin, who became famous for ditching his wife and 8 kids
          Married to the same woman for 57 years and father of three girls
          Ridiculously expensive
          Grew up during the depression, knows how to save, bargain, and grow his own food
           Only assholes wear it
          You calling my grandpa an asshole?
           Anyone wearing Ed Hardy in my hometown would get beat up
          No one beats up Ed Hardy. Ed Hardy is badass.

So there you have it. There is no comparison.

Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s move on to one of the many positive contributions the real Ed Hardy has made to this world (and if you’re keeping score: Ed Hardy: 30,000; Christian Audigier: 0): his Caesar salad. Grandpa’s Caesars are the best you’ve ever had. My grandparents both believe in eating healthy, homegrown foods wherever possible. And through the years, they have grown a lot of food in their massive gardens. I admire them for that: it was fashionable when they were my age to serve Technicolor foods to your family. They never, ever did.

This is a real Caesar, and the real, original version didn't have any dairy in it. You can add Parmesan if you like, but it's not necessary:

Ed Hardy's Caesar Salad
(note, this recipe is enough for one dinner-size serving, adjust up or down as needed)

2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice (fresh is key)
1 tsp anchovy paste (or 1 tbsp chopped whole anchovies)
1 tsp whole grain French mustard
1 clove fresh garlic, crushed in a press
sea salt and pepper to taste

Mix the following together well in a small bowl, and drizzle over freshly washed and chopped Romaine hearts. Serve.

Gramps really knocks it out of the park with this salad. If you are not a fish fan, then this version is not for you. However if you are, it's ten times better than what you're used to, I can guarantee that.

Goes great with a back porch and a glass of wine while watching summer come gradually out of hiding. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 16, 2011


I’m typing this with one hand because my other hand is holding my head in shame, which means it’s fairly slow going. I know everyone has something to say about the Vancouver Stanley cup riots, and now it's my turn:

If I could write a letter to all the Vancouver rioters and be sure they would read it, it would go something like this:

Dear Vancouver Rioters,

1994 called, they want their riot back. If you can’t act like grownups, don’t embarrass the rest of us by putting us to worldwide, public shame for your boorishness. Focus your energy instead on a 9-piece jigsaw puzzle, or something else you would find equally as challenging.

No love,


Ugh. I’m humiliated for my city. A few spoiled brat thugs ruined it for the rest of us. Yes we lost. Yes we’re disappointed. Burning our own city? Please. Have your tantrum in private.

A few points of note:

1. Those were not real hockey fans.
2. Somalia, Egypt, Libya? They riot over Government. Vancouver rioted over a lost hockey game
      3. They should have looked to the Canucks for how to behave. They behaved like gentlemen after their loss. Sportsmanlike conduct is a real thing. Look it up, rioters.
      4. Looting? You live in one of the richest countries in the world.

I know no one who participated in the riots. In fact, those people don’t know anyone who did and those people don’t know anyone who did and those people don’t know anyone who did. Please believe that this does not represent Vancouver. We are not a city of thugs. We are a young city who are still working out a few kinks but we are genuinely good at heart. To wit: the over 1000 people who got up at the crack of dawn to help clean up the morning after and continued for most of the day; The Citizen’s Wall at the Bay; sold out flowers at Urban Fare.

In the spirit of peace, friendship and sportsmanship, I made a Boston Cream Pie:

Boston Cream Pie

2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
6 tbsp butter
¾ cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup milk

½ cup light cream
½ cup milk
¼ cup sugar
Pinch salt
4 tsp cornstarch
2 eggs
½ tsp vanilla

Chocolate Frosting:
3 1 oz squares semisweet chocolate
2 tbsp butter
¼ cup light cream
½ tsp vanilla extract
½ cup confectioners’ sugar

Preheat the oven to 375. Grease and flour two 9 inch round cake pans. Mix the all-purpose flour, cake flour, baking powder and salt together and set aside.

In a deep bowl cream the 6 tbsp butter with the ¾ cup of sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the 2 eggs, one and a time, then beat in the vanilla. Add the flour mixture alternately with the ½ cup milk in 3 additions, beating the batter smooth after each addition. Divide the batter between the 2 prepared pans. Bake for 15 minutes or until the cakes begin to shrink away from the sides of the pans and centers spring back when lightly pressed. Remove from cake pans. Here's where it gets tricky: scrape around all the sides and as far as you can underneath because this is a fragile cake and will crumble if you don't. You can repair the cracks later with the custard and icing, but still. Leave to cool.

 To make the filling, combine the ½ cup light cream with ¼ cup of milk and cook over medium heat until bubbles begin to form around the edge of the pan. Immediately add ¼ sugar and the salt, stirring until dissolved. Remove the pan from the heat.

In a small bowl, combine the other ¼ cup milk with the cornstarch and whisk to remove lumps. Whisk in the 2 eggs. Add the hot cream mixture in a thin stream, whisking constantly. Return the mixture to the saucepan, bring to a boil, and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the custard thickens and is smooth (about 5 minutes). Remove from heat and stir in the ½ tsp vanilla and allow to cool to room temp.

To make the chocolate frosting, take a heavy saucepan and over low heat, stir the chocolate pieces and 2 tbsp butter until they are completely melted. Remove from the heat and stirring constantly, add the ¼ cup light cream in a thin steady stream. When mixture is smooth, stir in the confectioners’ sugar and beat vigorously. Stir in the ½ tsp vanilla.

Spread the cooled filling over one of the cooled cakes and place the second cake on top. Pour the chocolate frosting evenly over the top allowing it to spill down the sides.

I humbly offer this pie on behalf of the City of Vancouver to the 2011 Stanley Cup Champions, The Boston Bruins. Congratulations! I’m sorry for the conduct of a few punks after your victory. If you come back, I’ll cook for you anytime.

PS. Zdeno Chara, I’ll still cook for you, but you’re scary with your height. I can’t decide if I want to run away or swing off you like money bars. Just sayin’.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

All tarted up

Food that sets itself up to sound like one thing but turns out to be something else amuses me. You know, like chocolate pizza or savory banana split. Trickaaaay!

Which is why I was attracted to this recipe I found for a chevre, leek and shallot tart. Cheese pie? Check.

Chevre, Leek and Shallot Tart

1 prepared pie crust
2 leeks, trimmed and cleaned, sliced into coins
4 shallots, diced fine
1/2 tbsp butter
pinch sea salt
1 tube chevre
3-4 large eggs, beaten
3/4 cup Greek or regular yoghurt
1/2 tsp salt or to taste
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and place the rack in the centre of the oven. Melt butter in a skillet. Toss leeks and shallots with a small amount of salt. Cook on low-med for about 10-15 minutes until tender. Prick bottom of the pie shell with a fork. Crumble the goat cheese in the bottom of the pie crust. Cover with the vegetables. Beat together eggs, salt, pepper and yoghurt. Pour over top of the vegetables. Place tart on a baking sheet and cook for about 30 minutes or until top is golden brown. 

So here’s the deal with this tart (I secretly hope that someone has referred to me using this exact sentence): You can’t mix the leeks and the shallots and the cheese together to make a big, cheesy paste and then put that in the pie shell and pour egg on top. What ends up happening is uneven egg distribution because the egg can’t get through the impenetrable cheese barrier. I changed this recipe from blending the cheese and veggies together to crumbling the chevre separately and laying the veggies on top, because it works better.

This is nice, warm treat if you live in Vancouver and are waiting for spring to finally start so you can stop freezing your ass off, or if you live in Vancouver and are waiting for the Canucks to stop shitting the bed whenever they have an away game. You know. Whichever.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

V for Vegan and Victory

I like eating things that have a face. I like eggs, I like butter, I like lard. My friend Tracy is a vegan and when I offered to bake her a cake and she requested a vegan chocolate, I totally rolled my eyes. Then I got to work.

There are a ton of vegan chocolate cake recipes on the internet. Literally hundreds. It's a bit confusing, but I found one that promised to be the best vegan cake on the planet. I found the recipe on Instructables and it can be found here

Vegan Chocolate Cake
1 1/4 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup warm water
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp distilled white or apple cider vinegar

Chocolate Glaze:
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp margarine
2 tbsp soy milk
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Mix together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt, making sure it's well blended. Add the water, vanilla, oil, and vinegar and blend well. Place in oven and bake for about 30 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean. Cool on a rack completely (2 hours).

For the glaze, in a small saucepan, bring sugar, margarine, milk, and cocoa to a boil. Stir frequently; then reduce heat to a simmer for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. It looks like diarrhea but it's good. Remove from heat, stir for another minute or so.

Add vanilla, stir, and immediately pour onto cake. Glaze dries really quickly, so spread it immediately and add any sprinkles now. Let cool or serve.

You could also put chopped walnuts or peanuts or fresh fruit on top and then add the glaze, or in my case, you could put a bag of plastic babies:

Tracy and I have identical cats. Cleo (or Cleeberton, or Clebumby) is Stella's senior by a few years, but she has the same cattitude and perpetual glare. We always talk about how they look like they're wearing "baggy brown jumpsuits" and that they're so cute, with a baby on top. I don't know how the baby on top started, but it became part of the lexicon. Imagine my joy when I found a bag of plastic babies the day I was going to make her cake. I knew that a vegan chocolate cake with a baby on top would make her shit her pants with joy. And I was right.

Now we put the babies on everything:

Makes sense, no? After we cut into the cake, it looked like the babies were drunk:


This cake really is delicious. I think it's better even than some cakes I've made that aren't vegan. It's really moist and lovely. Make it, you won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


Fact: It takes the average Vancouverite 12 hours of sunshine to forget that it rains 9 months of the year here. When I heard that it was supposed to be sunny and 26 this Saturday, I almost peed. So in honour of the fact that it's only probably going to last about 6 minutes I decided to make a huge, indulgent, classic picnic while the getting is good. Of course, you need chicken. I'm not a huge chicken person, the raw cutlets freak me out and remind me of breast implants. Handling them is even grosser. But you need baked or fried chicken for a picnic. And you need potato salad. And watermelon. And some greens. This is what I came up with:

Oven Baked Picnic Chicken
1-2 packages of skinned chicken pieces
3/4 cup Greek yoghurt
2-3 tbsp milk
2 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tsp Tabasco sauce
1 tsp Cajun seasoning

2 1/2 cups panko breading
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
2 tsp Cajun seasoning
2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Note: Use Jessica's Awesomesauce as the Cajun seasoning.

In a large Ziplock that actually has that little knobby white outside zipper so you can make sure the fucking thing is actually closed, combine the yoghurt, milk, mustard, Tabasco, and Awesomesauce. Add the chicken pieces and mash with your hands like you're giving a really good massage. Place in a bowl and marinate in the fridge overnight.

Prepare the breading and preheat the oven to 400. Remove each chicken piece from the marinade and let the excess drip off for a minute, then roll chicken in breading. A large, flattish soupbowl works best, if you happen to have one. A plate will do nicely too. Place each breaded piece of chicken on a cookie sheet lined with foil. With your thumb on the spout, drizzle olive oil on the top of each piece.

Bake about 45 mins, depending on the thickness of the chicken pieces. Serve hot or room temp.

These are great for a picnic because you can take them off the tray (once they've cooled) and stick them in a container and off you go to the beach. I get paranoid about chicken so I put my container on top of an icepack. Sunshine goes nicely with many things, but salmonella isn't one of them.

Of course, you can't just have a big pile of meat on a picnic, you need greens:

Spinach Salad with Honey Bacon dressing
1/2 bunch baby spinach
1 cup sliced white or crimini mushrooms, depending on taste
3 green onions
2 large hard boiled eggs
parmesan cheese to taste
8 slices bacon

1/4 cup honey
1/4 apple cider vinegar
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp dijon or spicy mustard, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 tsp lemon juice

Assemble the salad by chopping all ingredients as you prefer. Add 3/4 of the bacon crumbles. Whisk together the ingredients for the dressing, adding the remaining crumbled bacon last. Put the dressing in a small container and put this in a Ziplock, because it will likely leak. Transport salad separately and add dressing when you serve.

This dressing makes the salad. I kind of find spinach disheartening although I couldn't really tell you why. I think it's just a lot of spinach to have if you have a whole salad made of it. But this is terrific. I also made:

West Coast Potato Salad
1/2 bag baby or new potatoes
2 roma tomatoes
1 avocado
1/2 red onion
6 leaves fresh basil leaves
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
extra virgin olive oil to taste
sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Boil potatoes until a fork slides out of them easily. Drain and wait until they cool, cut in half. Place in a bowl. Add chopped tomatoes, avocado, onion, basil. Add vinegar and oil, salt and pepper, mix thoroughly. Serve immediately or refrigerate.

I ate this picnic meal like it was the last thing I had to do on this earth:

Ahhh, spring. The season of new beginnings. Not to get corny, but it inspires everyone to do something good for themselves, like spring cleaning. Which might explain why on my way to work on I passed a dumpster, next to which was a box of pants-shittingly terrifying papier mache alien embryos:

What is this I don’t even. I think there’s a horse head and some kind of serpent in there too. There was also a massive head of some kind of sea god a few feet away that had been painted a shocking blue colour and had a crown. I didn’t get a photo though. I was too busy being freaked right the fuck out and scuttling away from this effed-up menagerie as fast as I could.

Incidentally Stella thought she looked much better in the picnic basket than food:

Oh, Stellie. We might have sun for 5 more minutes so get out there!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Hearts of Palm salad with sliced steak

Hearts of Palm is this interesting ingredient that first became popular in the 1960s. It used to be served in chic restaurants and was the 'it' food for awhile (the edamame bean of its time). For the unfamiliar, a brief description below from Wikipedia:

"Heart of palm, also called palm heart, palmito, burglar's thigh, chonta, palm cabbage or swamp cabbage, is a vegetable harvested from the inner core and growing bud of certain palm trees (notably the coconut (Cocos nucifera), Palmito Juçara (Euterpe edulis), Açaí palm (Euterpe oleracea), sabal (Sabal spp.) and pejibaye (Bactris gasipaes) palms). It is costly because harvesting in the wild kills the tree. Heart of palm is often eaten in a salad, sometimes called the "millionaire's salad."

It's actually not that expensive anymore and they have cultivated a genus that can have stems harvested but keep the tree alive. $5 will get you a can which is enough to make a salad for about 4 people.

I first heard someone mention hearts of palm salad on Mad Men, and thought I would like to try it. It's taste is kind of like a bamboo shoot mixed with an artichoke heart. Pickly and delicious.

Steak and salad were made for each other, so here is a little recipe for them together:

Steak and Hearts of Palm Salad
1 steak
1 bunch arugula
1 mandarin orange
1 can hearts of palm
pomegranate seeds to taste
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 tbsp dijon mustard

Season steak with salt and pepper and leave to sit for 30-60 mins. Wash and drain arugula. Add orange segments, cut in half. Add minced shallot. Slice hearts of palm in either strips or coins and add. Add pomegranate seeds if using. In a small bowl add two good glugs of extra virgin olive oil, the dijon, salt and pepper and pour into the salad, mix with tongs.

Grill steak for an average of 4 mins on each side, flipping once. Add a few tbsps of dark soy sauce if you want to try a saltier version. Remove from heat once steak reaches desired doneness, slice into strips. Serve alongside or on top of salad.

I used to be pants-shittingly terrified of rare meat, convinced by my relatives that I could never cook a steak that would meet food safety requirements. When I moved out they gave me 3 fire extinguishers. I'm pleased to say that not only have I never killed anyone with my cooking, I have ALSO never set anything on fire. So there, fuckers. So now that I have some experience, a good medium-medium rare steak is easy to make and I think the most flavourful.

MMMMMMMMMMM, you know?