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Monday, February 28, 2011

The Perfect Meal?

Recently I took a poll on facebook to determine what people thought of as their perfect meal. My friends came up with great answers, listed below in their own words:

- Jennifer: brie, baguette, red wine. follow with a little chocolate.

- Ty: Salmon Wellington, gnocchi, and asparagus or green beans steam with lemon butter and black pepper and cheese cake ....yum (strawberry, lemon, blackberry, blueberry, chocolate - it doesn't matter which flavor), to finish

- Jessica: almost anything i dont have to make myself or clean up after ;)

- Dave: Chili & ribs

- Doug: Warm up with oysters and a Tanq 10 martini. main is a New York strip, asparagus and a really great cab. Key lime pie and coffee for dessert followed by a really great scotch

- Claire: It would be hard to settle on one... depends on the mood, but it would definitely involve roasted meat, caremelized and crispy on the outside, juicy and tender on the inside. Potatoes and some just barely cooked seasonal vegetables, plus probably beet salad with goat cheese. Followed by dark chocolate in some form, for sure.

- Aaron: well ok, you asked for it. bacon wrapped scallops and a nice white wine for an appy, and staying with the nautical theme...lets make chicken neptune with a mediterranean rice pilaf and some steamed seasonal veggies. Dessert of course would have to be chocolate ganache with raspberry reduction.

- JM: It should start with rockefeller oysters and end with a chocolate soufflet!
Great answers, all. What got me started on this theme was Carri the Witch Doctor. Homegirl loves her some supplements. She has tinctures and potions and vitamins and bottles and bottles of pills that she keeps spread all over her desk in a clandestine order only she understands. Usually I listen to her rantings about Omega 3 in a double way; knowing its something she's into but distracted by my own bullshit. Until I noticed this:

Sorry. SORRY. The perfect meal DOES NOT come in powdered form, to be reconstituted in water and used in place of whole, prepared, flavourful foods. SORRY. This idea offends me. Fine, I understand the need for these products and that they must have marketing and names, etc. But the perfect meal? NO. This brings up the notion that we can take all the best things in food, extract them, and put them to our use as we see fit, and I disagree. It doesn't work that way. Food exists as it is for a reason. It is meant to be enjoyed as a full experience, not simply for one aspect of it's (many) benefits. I might not know what my personal perfect meal is, but I know it's not this. Never this. Pfft.*Note: Carri does NOT think this is the perfect meal. This rant is about the marketers, not Carri. Carri is lovely.

I gave this a lot of thought. And after poring over cookbooks, looking at restaurant menus, and remembering meals of my past, I decided that my perfect meal isn't actually a meal, it's the ability to choose what I want to eat each and every day, and have it vary to the extreme, or not at all. To live in a place where the only certainty is that when it comes to food, I can get absolutely anything, either prepared for me or in ingredient form. I'm making myself barf from the cheesiness of that statement, but perhaps its cheesy because it's true. I don't know. I just know that for all it's faults, Vancouver is a great city to cook and eat in. It's my idea of a city on a hill for this reason.

P.S I was going through my cookbooks meditating on this subject when this happened:

Stella is an only child, like me. And, like me, she doesn't like it when her primary source of affection is distracted by something else, so she has a habit of not mincing words and injecting herself into the scene like a furry wrecking ball. Books are chewed, meals eaten, sweaters snagged, boyfriends chased away. She knows what side her bread is buttered on, and I pity the fool who gets in her way.

Thursday, February 24, 2011


Been down for the count for a few days with some kind of illness (I’m hesitant to call it a flu, I don’t really know what it was – fever, chills, stuffy, sore throat, headache. I don’t know what you call that). Hence the no cooking or posting for me for the last few days. Unless you find cup-a-noodles and Neo Citran interesting fare, I have absolutely nothing to say, except to impart a bit of folkloric wisdom in the form of a disgusting yet effective tonic.

Warning: its taste is reminiscent of bilge water mixed with senior citizen urine, but it is effective. Very effective.

You will need:

1 teapot
1 clove of fresh, crushed garlic
5 drops oil of oregano
5 drops oil of cloves
½ whole lemon
Honey to taste
1 tablespoon hot chile flakes
5 pieces fresh chopped ginger

Add all these elements to your teapot and fill to the brim with hot water. Allow to steep for a few minutes, then drink until the pot is empty. Yes, I know, gross, but you wanna get better or what?

This is basically like a colon flush for your whole body and it will make you sweat like a whore in church on Sunday. While you are drinking it you will swear that you would rather drink hot lava mixed with baby shit than endure one more gulp of this evil brew. But you wanna let the virus win, or do YOU wanna win? The choice is yours. I say drink up, but that’s just me.

Today was my first day back at work, and Carri told me about the chicken channel. For real for real, there is a partnership between Swiss Chalet and Rogers that has resulted in the "Rotisserie Channel" which will show three chickens roasting over a spit in real time, on a continuous loop. 24 hour a day roasting chicken channel. Are you fucking kidding me? Full article here

I'm not saying this program is going to win an Emmy or anything, but I kind of love this idea for the same reason I love holiday log: it's a nice, wholesome thing to watch or do that not everyone gets the chance to, so why not enjoy it in digital form? It's not hurting anyone. So thanks Rogers for bringing Western-style roast chicken to the masses. GO CHICKEN CHANNEL! Now lower my fucking cable costs. Clearly you've got time on your hands.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Saturday Lunch: Italian Bruschetta

I found this great Italian cookbook in the book exchange in the basement of my building. We have several bookshelves in the laundry room where you can leave and take books, and so far I've scored some awesome shit. The cookbook was covered in what looked like chicken stock, and after I cleaned it, I cracked it open, and it has some fabulous stuff in it. It is in this book that I learned what real bruschetta is. Bruschetta, contrary to popular belief is not a jar of oily tomatoes chopped "rustic style" and meant to be piled on crackers, tastelessly adding to your calorie count. Bruschetta is actually a piece of thick cut, well olive-oiled, garlic seasoned sourdough bread. Who knew?

I happened to have a beautiful, if slightly stale, loaf of organic sourdough already holding court in my kitchen. So I went to Urban Fare and Kin's Market to get the rest of the ingredients, to make this:

Asparagus and Prosciutto Bruschetta

Four slices of the best prosciutto you can afford
6 stalks asparagus
handful of arugula leaves
freepoured olive oil, the best you can afford
red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic
2 thick sliced pieces sourdough bread

The traditional way is to dry grill the bread, then season with a piece of raw cut garlic, then drizzle with olive oil. I thought I would try a slightly different way: I chopped a clove of garlic fine, added it to my cast iron skillet, then covered it in olive oil. I turned the heat on medium high, then placed my two slices of bread in the middle, on the bed of garlic. When they were done, I drizzled the spots that weren't coated with a little more oil. Place two slices each of the prosciutto on the bread. Boil the asparagus in water briefly until just tender, drain, then toss with the washed arugula, more olive oil, and a splash of red wine vinegar. Toss together. Using tongs, place three spears each and some arugula on each piece of bread. Sprinkle with fresh black pepper and sea salt.

It should be noted here that Stella the feline garborator took approximately 2.3 seconds from the time I set the grocery bag down on the dining table to sniff out the package of prosciutto and do this to it:

That's what you want with your Saturday lunch. Cat drool. Thanks Stella, ya asshole.

One of the reasons the Greek and Italian diets are so lauded for their healthfulness is that they drown everything in the highest quality olive oil. I've heard that you should consume a tablespoon a day for optimum health. Granted I was starving when I consumed this (in about 3 minutes), but it was one of the most delicious things I've ever eaten. And I've eaten at some of the best restaurants around. Oh my fuck was it good. I mean look at it:

I love that feeling when you make something delicious that you can also feel in your body is healthful. I felt nourished after this meal, energized. It would make a great lunch, or a single slice would make a great appetizer for a long Italian dinner. Seriously, make this. Make it. You won't regret it.  

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Omegive myself a pat on the back

Have you ever made a dish by accident that turned out to be awesome?

At least once a week, I like to take whatever's in the fridge and make a meal out of it before it goes bad. These 'kitchen sink' meals are one of necessity; as I, like everyone else, need to economize, and one of principle; I hate waste of any kind. Today, coming home from work, I realized that tonight's kitchen sink meal would be an omelet, with milk, green onion, yellow onion, and kalamata olives. After chopping everything fine and putting it in an oiled skillet, I flipped it and dosed it with some hot sauce, fleur de sel, fresh cracked black pepper and had it with sourdough toast. It. Was. Delish.

I love great things that come as a result of an accident. Somehow it makes all the times we work hard and fail worthwhile. And yes, I realize that most people have loftier aims than making a good meal, but it makes me happy. And that's the most important thing.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

This poor bastard....

.... who just moved into the apartment opposite mine (our windows face each other), has to see me walking around in this all the time:

We haven't met yet. I don't think that's an accident.

My dear friend Robin and I recently went to the Naughty But Nice Sex Show here in downtown Vancouver. The only things we came away with was the sight of an elderly man in buttless chaps and no underwear being led around on a leash, and two of these aprons, so we would match. Robin and I share the same feeling that we are not scandalized by sex, we just find it enjoyable (if we're lucky), necessary and certainly nothing to be embarrassed about. There was not really much to be enlightened by at the show, just a amazing amount of glass dildos (what is this about? Why glass? Shards? Fucking NO) and a lot of offers for whippings, which we politely declined.

Since I'm on a little cupcake kick, I thought I would try a savoury version. And yes, this will be the third and LAST cupcake post for a good long while. Promise.

Jalepeno and Cheddar cupcakes

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup butter
1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
black pepper to taste
2 eggs
2 medium sized jalapeno peppers, roasted, seeds removed
1 cup grated cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl and mix together. Place the butter, milk and eggs in a bowl and mix together. Add to the flour mixture and mix well. Stir in the grated cheese and chopped jalapenos. Spoon the mixture into a cupcake tray up to 3/4 full. Place in the oven for 25-30 mins until golden brown and toothpick ready.

It actually doesn't say in this cookbook (which is entirely devoted to cupcakes and which I bought while high on drugs after getting my tooth pulled) that you should use fresh jalapenos, I just decided it would be nicer that way than to use a bunch of pickled ones that have a longer shelf life than most humans. I'm lucky enough to have a gas stove, so I turned up the heat high, and placed the washed peppers directly on the element, blackening and blistering the skin.

Once the peppers are blistered, remove from heat and let them cool. Once cooled, remove the blistered skin by rubbing it quickly back and forth with a wet paper towel (the same motion you used to finish your boyfriend off in high school when you heard his parents pulling into the carport. And if you're pretending you don't know what I'm talking about, you're lying). De-seed, then chop fine.

These are delicious. They go great with soup or salad. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Shrimp Creole, Part Two

So now we move to the intensely more complicated Emeril version of shrimp creole, which starts with making a mixture of herbs and spices he calls “Bayou Blast” (lame) but which I will henceforth refer to as “Jessica’s Awesomesauce”. Hey, it’s my kitchen. Plus, I mixed things up a bit. Copyright my ass.

Jessica’s Awesomesauce

2 1/2 tablespoons smoked paprika
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon fresh cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried thyme

Combine all ingredients thoroughly and set aside.

Something good ol’ Emeril doesn’t mention in his recipe for this sauce is that combining these ingredients and mixing them with a whisk resulted in one of the worst sneeze attacks I’ve ever had. I’m talking about gripping-the-sides-of-the-stove-my-eyeballs-might-leap-outta-my-face sneeze attack. Out of instinct my hand went up to my face and naturally, because I have the worst luck of all time, I got cayenne pepper absolutely everywhere. So I had to stop cooking, jump in the shower, and spend 10 minutes getting hot capsicum off my face (sounds dirty, but look it up, it’s the real name for the hot shit in peppers). So with wet hair and a bad attitude, I was finally able to get back to the kitchen. Let me get this off my chest: FUCK YOU EMERIL. SOMEHOW THIS IS YOUR FAULT.  Anyway;

Shrimp Creole

1/2 stick of butter
1 small chopped yellow onion
1 small green bell pepper
2 stalks chopped celery
Dash of salt and cayenne
1 bay leaf
3-4 medium size tomatoes, seeded and chopped
2 cloves chopped garlic
Dash of Worcestershire Sauce
Dash of hot sauce
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 pounds of fresh, deveined shrimp, tail off
2 chopped green onions
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
2 cups long grain white rice

In a large saucepan or dutch oven, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onions, peppers and celery. Season the vegetables with the salt and cayenne. Saute the vegetables until they are wilted, about 6 minutes. Stir in the bay leaf, tomatoes, and garlic. Bring the mixture up to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer the mixture for about 15 minutes. If the mixture becomes too dry add water. Season the mixture with the Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce. Whisk the flour and water together and add to the pot. Season the shrimp with about half the spice mixture or to taste. Add the shrimp to the mixture and continue to cook for about 4 minutes or until the shrimp curl up and turn pink. Stir in the parsley and green onion and serve over hot rice.

There is no comparing the two. This was by far better and by far an actual meal that doesn’t remind me of university. It’s worth it to go the extra mile and do this. But wear some kind of welding mask when you’re making the awesomesauce. Just sayin’.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Shrimp Creole, Part One

To quote Carri, it's cold, real cold. I thought a nice spicy shrimp dish would warm me up and allow me to get my South on. It turns out there are about a million different recipes for shrimp creole of varying difficulties and ingredients. I chose one of the most basic ones that I found to start, and plan on doing a second edition of this recipe where I make the Emeril version, which looks ridiculously complicated and will take at least 3 hours. I'm really looking forward to it. But let's start simple until we know what we're doing:

Simple Spicy Shrimp Creole

15-20 prawns, thawed, deveined and peeled
1 small yellow onion
1 small green pepper
2 stalks celery
2 medium cloves garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 can diced tomatoes
1 small can tomato sauce
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon red chiles

Saute onion and garlic in the olive oil until tender, then add green pepper and celery. Cook until tender. Add tomatoes, sauce and spices. Cook over medium heat for about 15 minutes then add the shrimp. Serve over hot rice.

When I first looked at it, I thought it sort of seemed like a glorified pasta sauce with shrimp in it. I've eaten a lot of pasta sauce, I was a student like everyone else (what makes my student experience a little different is that instead of residence I lived in Chinatown and was the only white person for blocks. And I'm Irish-Ukrainian, which means they don't make people any whiter than I am. I'm practically blue. But that's a different story for a different day). So needless to say I wasn't terribly excited about this. Plus, I haven't had much of an appetite lately (gasp!). I tried this and it was..... kind of like a glorified pasta sauce with shrimp in it. Filling and hearty and tasty, but a little boring. I like my food to entertain me slightly more than this one did. I say that, but I kept eating it after I put it down and I wasn't hungry. The spice has a delay, which was a nice surprise. This is a nice, cheap dish to prepare with lots of leftovers. Stay tuned for part two.