Monday, November 8, 2010

Cookies! 8D

I had a random baking urge tonight. I used to have them much more frequently, so I am assuming that my random baking urges are inversely proportional to the amount of time I spend making dinners. V worked late tonight, I made a hash out of leftover roasted root veggies and a simple salad of tomato and avocado... basic dinner -> random baking urge.

Except I didn't have enough butter and V had the car. I didn't want to walk to the store in the cold, but eventually the appalling suggestion that I make a half batch convinced me it would be worthwhile. After spending a ridiculous amount of money on a pound of butter at the corner store, I started making chocolate chip cookies.

And then discovered we were out of baking soda.

Luckily some research led me to a recipe that was almost identical to mine, except it called for an extra 1/4 cup of flour, and 2 tsp of baking powder. So, if you want to make these cookies and don't have soda... go nuts. They will be much paler than normal, but still tasty.

There is lots of talk about what to do to make the best chocolate chip cookie. I'm sure these aren't it, but they are the cookies I've been making since I was old enough to pull a stool up to the counter, and my family loves them. I think they are probably a family recipe from my great-aunt Helen, since I remember there always being a jar of cookies when we went to her house as kids. They are not fussy and they make great cookies and even better cookie dough (mmm... raw egg...). I made a double batch, because I seem to be psychologically incapable of making single batches of anything that can be frozen and/or given away. V never complains, oddly enough. I have two logs of unbaked cookie dough in my freezer now, and no clue how they will fare when baked. I'll let you know, if I remember. Which I probably won't.

Anyway, here is the recipe, in the basic shorthand my mom and I use when sharing recipes. It fits on recipe cards better.

1 cup butter, softened.
1/2 cup white sugar
cream together; add:
1 cup brown sugar
cream together; add
2 tsp vanilla (or more - I usually opt for more)
2 eggs
mix after each egg; add
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
mix until combined; add
12 oz chocolate chips (I usually reduce this because I prefer my cookies less chocolate chippy.

Bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes, or 350 for a bit longer if you prefer your cookies to spread a bit more and become a bit crisper.

Saturday, November 6, 2010


I would like to confess that I don't enjoy taking pictures of my food. This might have to do with the fact that I only have a lowly point and shoot... but I suspect it has more to do with the fact that, pancakes aside, I only cook at night. And unfortunately my kitchen is not bestowed with nice natural light... when it's dark outside... So my pictures don't turn out well, and I don't enjoy taking pictures of my food. Once upon a time V said he would make me a light box and that I could have his old Nikon D70, but these things have not materialized. So I confess that I do not enjoy taking pictures of my food. Which apparently is a death sentence for a food blog. And I'm ok with that.

I would also like to confess that I like brussels sprouts. I like them roasted with balsamic vinegar, I like them plain, but best of all I like them with a very simple sauce that my mom has been making for as long as I remember, and which we call simply "brussels sprout sauce." So here is my first photo-less recipe for you:

Blend 2 parts mayonnaise to 1 part (plain, unfancy, simple, basic, no-grain, not-dijon) mustard. Mix. Serve with steamed or boiled brussels sprouts. Serve it on the side if you're a dipper, spoon it over top if you're not.

I make no promises that this will convert non-brussels sprouts lovers, but I like it, and so I thought I would share it.

Lastly, I would like to confess that, inspired by some tasty looking recipes in the October issue of Bon Appetit, I bought artificial maple extract. I also buy artificial vanilla extract because I read once that some people did a test this one time and couldn't tell the difference in most recipes.

Friday, July 16, 2010


I would like to post more. I certainly don't post every thing I cook, or every thing I intend to post, or every thing I think about posting.

For those who don't know, V and I were in a car accident in April. It's been a long road to recovery, and I still feel weak and not-fully-recovered sometimes. But I'm getting there. And while unable to move much in those first few weeks I read a lot. Ok, the reading part doesn't have much to do with where I'm going - but I do read a lot of food blogs and I love it. Anyway, I'm finally starting to feel more whole, and I don't want to waste the rest of the summer, so this is something quick and easy for me to post. This is a list of things I want to cook or eat in the next few months. Hopefully it will inspire me to post more.

- Pizza at pizza libretto
- corn chowder (I have jaw problems and the dental appliance I have post-accident doesn't let my front teeth meet - so I can't have corn on the cob. I will, instead, learn to make corn chowder)
- chick peas from dried
- a cobbler or a slump
- my first ever lobster roll (V and I leave for Cape Breton on Tuesday!)
- vegetable stock (my vegetarian brother is moving back to Canada this fall/winter!)
- oatmeal pancakes (though V might protest - he loves my beer pancakes and resists change)
- heirloom tomato salad
- sweet potato gnocchi with sage butter
- something new with the pears from our backyard (we ate a lot of peach-pear crisps last summer. I'm not complaining but I'd like to mix it up. If you have a favourite recipe, let me know!)
- something new to be canned (in the past few years V and I have done strawberry jam, peach-pear chili sauce and canned pears in syrup and I did fantastic meyer lemon marmalade with the lemons from my brother's backyard in California.)

I'm glad to have this to keep me on target. Since starting this blog, I have already tried cooking two new things that I'd always wanted to try. Beet greens and salsa verde. Last weekend when V was out, I made creamy beet greens pasta. I managed to keep from eating it long enough to take pictures and I will post those and the recipe eventually. I made salsa verde for my birthday, and of course I didn't take pictures... I was too busy eating! But by popular request (at least two people at dinner wanted it) I will post the recipe/general guidelines here. This is not a mexican salsa. I think it's Italian, and the only things every one seems to have is capers, parsley and garlic. Some add anchovies (I'm not a fan), some lemon juice, many have dill or mint or basil or some other herbs. If you want my advice, start with the basics, then add the herbs or other flavours you like and the ones that will go best with what you're eating (we had ours with boiled potatoes). That's basically what I did, and I think it turned out pretty well. I loosely based it off this recipe in case you want something firmer.

Salsa Verda
2 cups loosely packed fresh parsley
most of a bunch of dill - probably 1/2 to 3/4 cups - I added some, wanted the dill to be more prevalent, then added more so I lost track of exactly how much went in.
around 1/2 cup fresh mint
4-5 sprigs fresh rosemary, off stems
handful of fresh basil
2 tbsp capers
2-3 cloves garlic
juice of half a lemon
3-4 tsp dijon mustard
1/3 cup olive oil (while I was basically doubling the recipe, I found the single quantity of olive oil to be sufficient)

Roughly chop garlic, then put in food processor and blend until finely minced. Add herbs, capers, lemon juice and dijon mustard. Pulse several times to blend. With blender running, pour in olive oil and blend just to combine.

I guess I'm on a roll here, cause I think I'll go ahead and tell you about the rest of my delicious birthday dinner:

Shrimp and chorizo skewers, same ones as for the SS&C party. We also experimented with grilling halloumi cheese (inspired by the fantastic meal we had for V's mom's birthday in Cobourg at the Northside Grill). The cheese was incredible, salty and just a tiny bit charred... perfect with the grilled tomatoes and of course the spiciness of the smoked paprika glaze. I made a mistake though, in cubing it and putting it on skewers - the first few melted too much and fell into the grill. Next time I will do separate skewers of tomatoes to go with the cheese and then grill the cheese in larger slabs so it can hopefully get a better char without falling into the grill.
Greek salad. My family has always made a horiatiki style Greek salad without the lettuce (though not presented with the feta on top like in restaurants). It's so simple and so delicious: big chunks of cucumbers, peppers and tomatoes, mixed together with feta, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, lots of oregano and black olives. My moms get their feta and olives from Ararat (1800 Avenue Rd.) and the feta is by far the best we've found in the city. When I get lesser-quality feta, I let it soak in the garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and oregano while I chop the rest of the vegetables and it imparts a great flavour. With the Ararat feta this is entirely unnecessary.
And then of course we had grilled asparagus and the potatoes with salsa verde. I'm hungry now just thinking back on it, but what really made the meal/evening fantastic was the company (as I think is true with most great meals.)

For my birthday dessert, V always makes me strawberry shortcake. We spent the morning on a strawberry hunt guided by a Blackberry (anyone else find that amusing?). After a bit of a wild goose chase through my new favourite market here (is it still a wild goose chase when you come out with a bag of beautiful produce - beets, cherries, green garlic, rhubarb...), and an even more fruitless (heh) trip to a place in Whitby, we found Watson Farms and got two flats! They smelled incredible and I'm not sure how I resisted going through a few baskets in the car on the way to the cottage. Oh right, V put them in the trunk away from my greedy little fingers. They were perfect - bright red, juicy, flavourful. Ontario strawberries in June and July are the way strawberries are meant to taste. And I confess that I love strawberries so much I will buy the crappy California ones in the winter, but they really don't compare. He mashed half of them with some sugar, I whipped cream, and made homemade biscuits. I like a light and fluffy biscuit, so I made the Amateur Gourmet's buttermilk biscuit recipe found here. They were fantastic! And easy enough that I will not hesitate to make them again. I did all the steps up to adding the butter and blending, then transferred that mixture to the bowl and let it sit in the fridge until dinner was done. At the last moment I added the buttermilk, formed and baked, so we got our dessert on perfectly warm, just-out-of-the-oven biscuits. Amazing. Though I suppose you could also do it all in advance then reheat, this also gave us a nice break to clean and digest between dinner and dessert.

And I really do recommend the Amateur Gourmet blog... it's the only one that makes me laugh out loud and drool. Sometimes at the same time, but maybe that's because of my dental appliance...

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Steak, Scotch and Cigar Party Part 2: Appetizers and Dinner

I've intended to post this for a while, but apparently I'm a little slow in getting the ball rolling with this whole blog thing. I blame my distaste for taking, downloading, formatting and then uploading pictures. Seriously, it takes way longer than it should. Anyway, here is the rest of the deliciousness we ate that night! Thanks again to Anna for the pictures!!

For the first appetizer, I went with shrimp and chorizo skewers on the bbq. I had intended to do this for the party last year, but V bought the wrong (not-dried) kind of chorizo, so we ended up pan-frying it. It was delicious, but not exactly what I had intended. As I was in the planning stages, I ended up at physio reading my Bon Appetit and came upon this recipe. I was amazed! Not only was it shrimp & sausage skewers, but with a smoked paprika glaze. Smoked paprika is a fairly recently discovery of mine, and I LOVE it! These lived up to my highest expectations, except that I don't think it's worth saving half the glaze for sauce... it's not smooth enough (maybe my emulsifying technique is lacking) and they really do have enough flavour on their own. I made a few very minor changes to this - I didn't have enough fresh thyme, so I used some dried. I didn't have sherry vinegar, so I used balsamic and added about a teaspoon of maple syrup for some sweetness. I used 3 tsp of regular smoked paprika and 2 of hot smoked paprika. I made them again for my birthday dinner using all hot, and found them a bit spicy for my taste, but still delicious.

Our other appetizer was bacon-wrapped scallops - a repeat from last year. These are delicious. They go wonderfully with scotch. If you are hosting a scotch dinner I cannot recommend highly enough that you make them. I suggest pre-cooking the bacon in the microwave slightly, then broiling. Unfortunately we did no precook and my oven decided it wanted to overheat and shut down. V finished cooking them on the bbq while I panicked that my oven was broken. The bacon was definitely soft, but they were still absolutely delicious!

Dinner was steak, roasted garlic mashed potatoes, barbecued asparagus and orange-spinach salad with whiskey dressing. For the meat, we went to Costco and bought a whole tenderloin, which V cut into nice thick steaks:

And then cooked to perfection:

For roasted asparagus, I toss one bunch of asparagus (obviously more here) with 1-2 tbsp of olive oil and some coarse sea-salt and fresh ground pepper in a loaf pan. For larger amounts like we did here, it's definitely easier to roll it in oil on a cookie sheet. V barbecues it till soft and slightly charred and it is absolutely delicious - our favourite side dish when we are barbecuing pretty much anything!

The roasted garlic mashed potatoes didn't turn out perfectly texture-wise - they were slightly lumpy (wrong kind of potato I think - what's your favourite to use for mashed?) The flavour on the other hand was excellent. I got the instructions from my brother's friend Nick who is a fantastic chef. Garlic mashed potatoes are my brother David's favourite thing, so Nick gave me the recipe to make for his birthday and here I share it with you with his presumed permission. He suggests peeling a whole head of garlic, putting it in a small pot and covering it with olive oil. Simmer at low heat until garlic is really soft. Reduce some 35% cream until it is thickened, then mash the garlic in the cream and add it to the potatoes. Here you can see the potatoes (served in the pot - we're classy like that) as part of the buffet we set up on the counter.

The salad recipe can be found here along with some other recipes I haven't tried yet. I followed it pretty closely, though I didn't bother with the butter lettuce. I highly recommend taking the time to roll the goat cheese rounds in ground almonds - it added such a nice textural and visual component to the salad! I confess that due to time constraints I used canned beets here, but I think they worked just fine for the salad.

All in all an absolutely delicious evening - both food and scotch-wise! The company certainly didn't hurt either - it was overall a fantastic night and I think everyone enjoyed themselves almost as much as I did (some maybe more, but as a favour to them I will refrain from posting pictures of the kitchen dance party!)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Brunch: Eggs and "Ratatouille"

This morning Dave and I had thought about going for brunch, but we're trying not to eat out as much (plus the coffee we make at home is so good now) so I figured I'd toss something together. Our local brunch spot (the Gem, Davenport & Ossington) has a fantastic dish of poached eggs served over ratatouille and I took a look at what we had in the fridge and came up with the following. It was fantastic. I loved it so much I didn't even take pictures before eating it (not that tomato based stew type dishes are particularly pretty). I loved it so much that I'm writing it down here right away so I remember what I did and can replicate it even though I normally just cook stuff like this based on what's in the fridge! I am doubling it here to give a recipe that should serve 4.

1-2 tbsp canola oil (or olive if you prefer that for cooking)
1 red onion, diced
1 dried sausage (chorizo), thinly sliced
approx. 1 tbsp dried oregano (more or less to taste - I love oregano)
pinch or two of dried chili flakes (or to taste)
approx 1-2 tsp dried thyme (or to taste)
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
8 stalks asparagus, chopped in 3/4 inch lengths
4 tomatoes, peeled* & chopped (or probably 1 can of diced tomatoes would do)
2 handfuls baby spinach, roughly chopped
about 8 leaves fresh basil, minced
salt and pepper to taste
goat cheese

Heat oil over medium, add onions and cook for a minute. Add sausage and dried herbs and cook until onion is beginning to soften and sausage is browning. Add asparagus and garlic and cook until beginning to soften. Add tomatoes and some salt and simmer until asparagus is cooked to desired consistency and some of the liquid from the tomatoes is evaporated. Stir in spinach an basil until wilted. Remove from heat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with fried or poached eggs and crumbled goat cheese.

*to peel tomatoes easily, slice a cross into the bottom then drop into simmering water for about a minute, peels should come off easily. This also works for peaches, or so I've heard. If I have tomatoes that are starting to get too mushy for use in salads, and I won't cook with them right away I toss them in the freezer. A minute under hot water and they peel fairly easily. Chop while still frozen and use as you would normally just with a bit of extra cooking time.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Steak, Scotch and Cigar Party Part 1: Desserts

I suppose the normal order of a multi-post event would be to do things in order that they were eaten. But I baked the day before the party, so I will post the baked goods first!

V and Brian first held an SS&C party in early 2007, at an apartment without a bbq and with only two cast-iron pans. Apparently everything was fantastic, but the steaks were what might kindly be described as 'blue rare.' Last year, as an excuse to get Brian up from Boston for a weekend, we decided to throw a second! That one was held at my parents' place, where not only is there a bbq, but it can cook steak for 20 people at once! It was a grand success, but also a lot of work as we invited more people than those who just drink scotch. This time we did it slightly smaller, but even more delicious!

Last year, for dessert I served a whiskey-soaked dark chocolate bundt cake from what later became one of my absolute favourite food blogs. It was delicious, and I will definitely make it again, but this year I wanted to mix things up a bit. I was discussing menu options with Brian, and he suggested brownies for dessert. Of course, for a scotch party I couldn't just make brownies, so I decided on bourbon-laced brownies. I found two recipes that I liked, but the first seemed a bit too cakey. The second looked better, but maybe a bit too fudgey. So I decided to take the second and make a few changes. I upped the flour, and added a bit of cocoa and some cardamom and nutmeg to enhance the cinnamon. Inspired by the cake from last year (and the brand new espresso machine in my kitchen) I thought I would add a bit of coffee, too. I served them with vanilla ice cream and bourbon-sugared pecans which I didn't quite cook long enough so they didn't get a hard candy coating... but the soft sugar coating was absolutely delicious and I would probably do it the same next time! I also made brown sugar shortbread, for reasons at least partially explained below... but apparently did not get any pictures of them (my camera died, so any pictures other than the brownies are with much thanks to Anna!)

Anyway, the brownies turned out very well. Saturday evening was not for food-modesty, and these were particularly amazing. I got marriage proposals. And I do think I may have found the elusive good balance between fudgey and cakey brownies! Of course there's also the chance we might have just been drunk. (Side note: highly recommend Balvennie Double Wood. Excellent scotch especially at that price point)

Bourbon Fudge brownies

½ cup butter

1 cup sugar

¼ cup + 1 ½ tbsp bourbon (I used Gentleman Jack)

2 tbsp espresso or strong coffee

2 tsp vanilla

3 oz chocolate (I used 2 oz chopped unsweetened + 1 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips)

2 eggs

¾ cup flour

¼ cup cocoa

¼ tsp cinnamon

pinch of cardamom

few grates of nutmeg… and possibly fingernail. Damn microplanes are sharp!

Chop chocolate. Do not forget to do this first and start cooking the butter and sugar because then you will realize that you do not have enough hands to both stir the butter/sugar mixture AND chop the chocolate and if you do not have the chocolate pre-chopped, the mixture might cool down too much and the chocolate won’t melt… so you’ll end up turning off the butter/sugar mixture, chopping the chocolate, then resuming the cooking… and you will feel a bit silly. Preheat oven to 350.

mmm... unsweetened chocolate

Melt butter and sugar in medium-large saucepan over medium heat. Cook until boiling and let boil stirring regularly for a few minutes until mixture is nice and foamy. At first it will look like the butter and sugar won’t combine, but with a few minutes of boiling and stirring it will be fine. Remove from heat.

Add espresso, ¼ cup bourbon and vanilla. It will bubble furiously, be careful not to let it splash you. The batter will be separated, but the recipe will assure you it will come together. Stir with a spatula for a while, get frustrated, then finally realize that's why the whisk was invented and whisk until it all comes together. Add chocolate and stir until melted. At this point the mixture may be quite hot and you may worry it will cook the eggs, so let it cool for a few minutes, stirring regularly to prevent it from hardening on top. Taste to make sure it’s ok. Taste again, just to be on the safe side. Meanwhile sift together the flour, cocoa and spices in a medium bowl. Taste chocolate mixture again… it might have gone bad in the few minutes you spent on the flour. Contemplate leaving it as is and dipping strawberries in it. Decide that wouldn’t be fair to the people you promised dessert this weekend…

Add eggs to chocolate mixture, beating well after each addition. Add flour and mix well until batter is smooth and shiny and thickened. Pour into prepared 8x8 pan. At this point notice the batter is kind of bubbly. Bang pan against the counter a few times in hopes of removing the bubbles (I did this, but it still ended up having some and cooking unevenly. If yours is bubbly you might want to stir it gently with a spatula to remove the bubbles or bang it against the counter more, or try tapping the side of your pan).

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until top is dry and sides are starting to come away from the pan.Cool for about 10 minutes, then prick all over with a toothpick. Pour extra bourbon over top and tilt to spread it evenly. Probably best eaten the next day (though I didn't actually try right away)

While brownies are baking, decide to make brown sugar shortbread since, well, the oven is on anyway… and they’re pretty quick to make (you should definitely forget they need to bake for 30 minutes)… and you’re obsessed with this shortbread… because it is the best thing ever.

Clean up while shortbread is baking, wishing once again that you had a dish-washing monkey… or that someone was home who you could bribe into cleaning with promises of brownies and shortbread. Realize you meant to leave for work about 5 minutes before shortbread will be done baking. Realize also that you haven’t eaten anything for lunch. Eat some challah and cheese. Pack up some shortbread for coworkers in hopes that it will distract them and they won’t notice you’re later than you said you’d be. Realize you should probably change your (flour-covered) shirt and wash your (chocolate-covered) face. Read new entry on Smitten Kitchen instead. Marvel once again at how cute her baby is. Check the time, swear, and get going!

The finished brownies. Yes, there is a chunk missing. I call it quality control.

Coming soon: SS&C part 2: The Dinner. Also a brief, yet titillating review of Snickers Fudge.

In retrospect...

I think perhaps next time I will omit the lime zest. It was super tasty, but does anyone really want green flecks in their food? I suppose it wasn't so unappealing once there was icing sugar on top, since they did disappear in droves from the dessert table. I am very definitely saving the recipe for the brown sugar shortbread crust. Seriously, you think shortbread can't get any better? You're wrong, start making it with brown sugar!

I also made peanut butter cookies, which were an even bigger hit. The recipe I used can be found here. I think I added about 2 tbsp extra peanut butter, and baked them at 350.

Overall the evening was a huge success! Congrats again, Phil!