Archive for the ‘recipes’Category

Julie & Julia

julie_and_julia_poster-336x499

No self-respecting food blogger could not write about the film Julie & Julia, even if only in passing.  I won’t actually go into “review” mode here.  However, in case you might have missed it, the movie is based on two books:  Julie & Julia:  My Year of Cooking Dangerously by Julie Powell and My Life in France by Julia Child and Alex Prud’homme.  Figuring prominently in both was the mother of all French cooking tomes, Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Simone Beck, Louisette Bertholle, and Julia Child.

 JuliePowell

Two years ago, I brought Ms Powell’s book along with me on a trip home to my parents.  It was a quick and breezy read and I admired her challenge of working her way through 524 recipes over the course of a year.  In fact, it prompted me to pick up my very own copy of MtAoFC (as Julie efficiently labels it).  It is a classic, after all, and I certainly couldn’t deprive myself of yet another cookbook.  In order to qualify for free shipping (“D*mn you, Amazon!!!”), I had to top up my order and selected Prud-homme’s memoir of his great grand aunt Julia.

 I think MtAoFC received more attention than all my other cookbooks combined.  Seriously.  I sat down and read it cover to cover.  I don’t think I’d cook much from it, and the recipes are somewhat dated.  But 16 pages on how to make a soufflé was just too much enjoyment for me.  Definitely food porn…in a literary way.  Anyway, the memoir was a lovely companion piece to her cookbook since it essentially documented said book’s conception and birth.  I didn’t know much about her before (although I could do a wicked impression), and I walked away from both books marveling at her passion, fortitude and zest.

 Meryl Streep

The film is a nice tribute to both Julie and Julia, and that’s exactly what it was…a gentle reflection on both these women, whipping up a gastronomical storm.  Meryl Streep really does deserve accolades for her success in channelling la Grande Gourmande.  Read My Life in France, though; it really deserved to have a movie all to itself.

27

08 2009

Vegetarian Butter Chicken

butterchicken

Once a year, I am inspired to undertake the ordeal of a detoxifying cleansing program.  This usually occurs after a long winter of over-indulgent eating and an extended period of activity no more strenuous than operating a remote control.  Ah…those dark Canadian winters.  But when the days get longer and the pants get tighter (and my favourite shows’ seasons start wrapping up), I get off my butt, throw out any treats I might have hidden in the recesses of the cabinets, and kick-start the Spring with a good cleanse.

 Detox Box

A dear friend, knowing my penchant for over-complicating things and always trying to support my causes, gave me a fantastic detox program called “The Detox Box” by Dr. Mark Hyman.  This is not just a simple cayenne-honey-lemon-water-drink-for-three-days kind of thing.  No ma’am.  This program tackles your toxic issues from multiple angles over a multi-week period.  We’re talking journal-writing.  We’re talking yoga three times a day.  We’re talking dry-brushing and lavender and salt baths and meditation and long walks and saunas and naps and cardio sessions.  And we’re talking food, or rather no food: no meat, no chicken, no dairy, no soy, no sugar, no nightshade vegetables, no starches, nothing processed.  If it comes in a package, it’s out.  Only non-predator fish, grains, many vegetables and some berries.  Oh, and clay.  We can’t forget the bentonite clay.

Now I’m not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV, so I will avoid the quackery of a detoxifying cleanse.  I do believe that the body is essentially self-regulating and that our internal systems are designed to promote a healthy state.  However, I can personally attest to the benefits of the program:  my skin gets clearer, my organs get a holiday, my senses become heightened, my appreciation for simple food grows, and the quality of my nutrition improves tenfold.

And what does this have to do with butterless, chickenless butter chicken?  Well let me tell you, it’s not easy coming up with meal variations using the same few food items for three weeks.  Some Internet research offered up a few options, one of which was the basis for this yummy dish.  It’s completely vegan and while it doesn’t exactly duplicate the traditional Murgh Makhani from the Mugal Empire, it does work at capturing the spirit: creamy and rich, flavourful without being too spicy, and it’s great on rice.

for more info on using dried chickpeas, click here.

For more info on using dried chickpeas, click here.

One of the great things about this kind of dish is the flexibility the recipe allows.  Use any combination of vegetables you might have on hand; my favourite is cauliflower, carrot and pea with chickpeas.  And while almond butter might be the easiest to find, experiment with different nut butters like cashew or hazelnut.  You also don’t need to be on a detox program to enjoy this dish, but I grant you full permission to feel redeemed upon its consumption.

Recipe on following page… Read the rest of this entry →

11

08 2009

Mojito

First in a series of Cuban-related postings.

mojito

I just returned from my fourth visit to Cuba and have mojitos on the mind (for the uninitiated, it’s pronounced “moe-hee-toe”).  Cool and refreshing, balancing sweet and sour with a complement of herbaceous mint, this rum cocktail is perfect to sip while lounging in a hammock, rocking gently with the tropical breeze or to quench the thirst during a night of salsa. 

Some say the name was inspired by the lime-based seasoning, mojo, used in Cuban dishes.  Others believe that the name is a diminutive of “wet” in Spanish.  Regardless, the mojito was made legendary at the famous La Bodeguita del Medio, a tiny restaurant in Havana, and was also known as a second-favourite tipple of Hemingway’s.  I had my first sip of the cocktail at a Holguin resort in 2003; the gritty sugar crunched between my teeth and the economy rum was a bit harsh, and boy was it perfect.

The mojito is traditionally made with lime, mint, sugar, sparkling water and a good dose of Havana Club 3-year old white rum.  Indiscriminating tastes can now find any number of bastardized versions from mango to strawberry.  While perhaps delectable-sounding, they are as close to an authentic mojito as a saketini is to a martini.  And if you’ve never tried Havana Club, you’re really missing out on something.  Their Anejo Blanco rum is made with the best dark molasses from Cuban sugar cane and aged in oak barrels, giving it a fresh fruity flavour.  The classic 7-year rum is world famous and noted for its butterscotch and honeycomb nose, opening up to apple crumble with the addition of water.  It is initially very sweet but quickly moves to dry and woody.  It’s the perfect sipping tipple and heaven’s please only enjoy it on its own. 

Snobbery aside, here’s a simple recipe for the near-perfect mojito, fairly loyal to the version sanctioned by the International Bar Association:

Continue for recipe…

Read the rest of this entry →

20

07 2009

Trifle, Italian style

Lemon Blackberry Trifle

Lemon Blackberry Trifle

This recipe comes to me by way of the priestess, nay, the goddess of the kitchen, Nigella Lawson.  I’ve been a fan and fanatical advocate of the raven-haired Brit since her show Nigella Bites, with her impeccable style, spot on palate, and slightly subversive humour.  And no one can make love to a spoon the way she can.  I did meet her once and we had a little chat.  To be perfectly accurate, I met her along with maybe 3000 other fans at a book signing.  Despite the mob, she remained regal and warm in her chartreuse twin set, offering a genuine smile to all.

Nigella LawsonI must admit her cookbook prose have had a profound inspiration on my own desire to write.  I’ve savoured each and every one of her publications, reading them more like novels rather than as a resource.  I enjoy her informative preambles mixed with the regional vernacular (splodge, nubbled, blitzed) and simple recipes with inspired flavours.  She blends cultures and style with no apology.  One region she loves to explore is Italy, from crostini to dolce.  …Hence, this recipe, slightly modified, from her publication Forever Summer…

jam sandwiches

This is everything a trifle should be:  rich, oozing, cool, and creamy.  It’s also easy to make (please forgive the ready-made ingredients) and best if made well ahead of serving, rendering it perfect for easy entertaining.  The Italian inspiration comes from the ingredients: crunchy amaretti biscuits, sweet and puckering limoncello, and standing in for custard is a silky mascarpone mousse with blackberries providing a blistering contrast. 

blackberries 

The measurements are offered more as a guideline, with the size of your trifle bowl influencing the proportions.  For these photos, I used my oval porcelain casserole dish that I usually employ for mac and cheese, although it is most presentable in a glass trifle bowl (my own having disappeared after attending a potluck and not to be seen since).

Recipe on following page… Read the rest of this entry →

05

07 2009

Hummus

Lemon Artichoke Hummus
Lemon Artichoke Hummus

This Mediterranean dip born of chickpeas and sesame is also known by its other iterations such as houmous, humus, hoummos, or humous.  While no one knows its historical origins, folklore often insists hummus is one of the oldest-known prepared foods.  Many cookbooks and recipes have survived since antiquity, but hummus was not mentioned until the 18th-century in Damascus sources.  Many scholars have dismissed its more modern routes by arguing that hummus has been such an everyday staple, writing down a recipe for it would be akin to a recipe for boiling water.

Middle Eastern debates aside, the puree has always been popular with the granola set in the West and really hit its stride with the cocktail crowd and suburban families alike in the past decade or so.  One may find the dip upon every party table, garnished with cilantro, drizzled with olive oil, or sprinkled with cumin and always always always served with pita (and sometimes sturdy vegetables for scooping).

hummus in processor

Presently, humus is accessible in any of its mutations at virtually all grocery stores in flavours like roasted red pepper, roasted garlic, jalapeno, carmelized onion, sundried tomato and on and on.  And while it’s easy and convenient to buy, the taste and texture leaves a lot to be desired.  Fortunately, it’s also easy to make at home; the ingredients are simple and you’ll have fun coming up with your very own signature hummus once you’ve mastered the basics.  The recipe I have on offer is a lemon artichoke version but simply eliminate artichoke and lemon zest to create the basic gold standard.  It’s inspired by a Cooks Illustrated recipe but with such simple ingredients, one hardly needs a recipe at all.  Lemony, garlicky, salty, silky, substantial perfection.

chickpeas

Finally, a word about chickpeas:  if you’re going the homemade route, go all the way and use dried chickpeas (see note following recipe).  They’re cheaper than canned and you’ll have the pleasure of creating something right from scratch.  Take this with a grain of salt, though, because I have been known once upon a time to bake a loaf of bread to make my own croutons for a caesar salad.  I know.  Crazy.  But you can make all kinds of other fun things with the extra legumes, including my vegetarian butter chicken (no butter and no chicken…recipe to come).  Anyway, happy dipping…

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27

06 2009