Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Food reading for 2009

As I've mentioned before, I am a big proponent of ethical treatment farm and research animals. I'm also a meat eater.* (Just look at how many of my posts are tagged "Pork.")

The two points of view are not mutually exclusive in mind, even though eating meat is not always easy an easy decision. Many animal rights activists will disagree with that stance. And, people like Jamie Oliver with whom I share a similar sensibility when it comes to meat, have been harshly publicly criticized.

Author Michael Pollan elaborates on the omnivore's dillemma in his 2006 book of the same title. Now that he's come out with a second book, In Defense of Food, which appears to find solutions, to food dilemas big and small.

Shawn got me both books for Christmas. So, it looks like I have some heavy reading ahead.

For some not-so-heavy (but still kinda heavy) reading, I recommend the article "Consider the Lobster". Its author, David Foster Wallace died this past September leaving a remarkable litteraray legacy, not the least of which is Lobster, which originally appeared in the August 2004 issue of Gourmet. Yes. That Gourmet

The article examines to quote Wallace "the whole animal-cruelty-and-eating issue" in the back drop of the Main lobster festival. It's complicated and real, and think about it every time I pass a lobster tank. I think Slate editor Michael Agger commenting on another Wallace article sums up the effect of Wallace's non-fiction quite accurately: "The reader is left with a feeling that all great writing imparts: I should really look at myself and my world more closely."




*I buy only free-range. (If I was David Foster Wallace I would write a much longer extensively-researched footnote. But I'm not that good.)

Monday, January 26, 2009

Pizza di spaghetti

I am so excited to be posting this! This is one of my favourite recipes, from one of my favourite chefs. But, most importantly, it's the answer to what to do with leftover spaghetti.

Here is Giada's version, in which she also gives her recipe for Spaghetti with Olives and Tomato Sauce.

And, the way I make it:



2 large eggs
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup grated Parmesan, plus extra for garnishing
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups leftover spaghetti
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil


In a large bowl, beat eggs, milk and Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper. Add leftover spaghetti and combine well.

In a large 10-inch non-stick skillet, heat extra-virgin olive oil over medium heat. Add spaghetti and egg mixture, spreading evenly and pressing down in pan. Cook until golden brown, about 8 min. Carefully invert onto plate (or [light weight] cutting board), add a little more oil to the pan, and slide mixture back into skillet and cook the other side for 6 min. Turn out onto serving platter and cut into wedges and serve warm.

Note: As you can see from the pictures, I made a huge pizza di spaghetti. There were times (during the flipping) where I thought we might even loose it, but we pulled through. Please, try and keep your pizza di spagetti to a manageable size no matter how much lefterover spagetti you have.

I know that in some of the pictures the "pizza" looks like nothing more than a big pile of greasy spaghetti, but trust me, it's so much more than that.




Happy Chinese New Year!

I made this hot and sour salmon recipe for the in-laws a few weeks back, and I've been waiting to post about it in honour of Chinese new year.

Here is the recipe from (the late) Wish magazine.



¾ cup ketchup
¼ cup soy sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp sambal* (or to taste)
2 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp minced ginger
2 tbsp minced garlic
4 boneless salmon filets (about 5-oz each), skin on


Preheat broiler, setting rack one level lower than normal. Line a sheet pan with foil and place in oven to heat.

In a bowl, mix first 7 ingredients together for sauce. Place salmon, skin-side down, on sheet pan and pour about half of sauce over to coat. Broil about 12 min, until salmon is cooked through.

Meanwhile, warm remaining sauce in a small pot.

Serve salmon with warm sauce.


— Don't be turned off by the name it's not too hot or too sour.
— This sauce would be great on chicken as well. I used a whole side of salmon and doubled the sauce.
—Cooking time will depend on the thickness of the fillet; the only reliable way I've found to do this is to cut into the fillet to gauge the level of doneness and adjust my time accordingly.
— Once the salmon is done it will lift right out of the skin; just pass you spatula between the meat and skin,

But that's enough recipe talk, I know you really want to know about what's in store for the year of the ox.

Well, Reuters is full of doom and gloom, but let's hope their prophets are wrong. After all, Chinese astrological wisdom would have you believe that I, born in the year of the monkey, I am by nature a manipulative erratic genius, when we know only that last part is true.




Sunday, January 18, 2009

This week at the grocery store...

There were no manageable-sized sweet potatoes. (Love how Shawn is shielding his face!)

An old friend: Food & Drink magazine

I have been a fan of this magazine, published by the Liquor Control Board of Ontraio (LCBO), for many years, and the current issue does not disappoint. In fact, I am planing to make several of the recipes featured.

Here's my overview of the mag:


The recipes — innovative, delicious and relatively easy to make, and most do not contain alcohol and therefore are not used as simply a ploy to get the customer to buy more product*
It's free!
The recipes are available online (but one issue behind)
The articles (usually about alcohol, but still interesting)

Lowlights (and these are really minor)

It's only available in stores (totally understandable) and they disappear fast
Featured recipes do not always feature in-season ingredients†

The quality of this magazine has not declined since I've been, probably due in part to the fact they have had the same editor-in-chief the entire time.

*From personal experience, a lot of industry-produced recipes contain a shameless amount of their product, often to the detriment of recipe itself. Case in point, this recipe. (As someone who has made it, I can assert: 4 to 5 eggs too many.)
†It once had me running all over town for a variety of fresh herbs in the middle of winter. (I've since learned.)

The current issue is still on stands, and the next is out March 4. I encourage you to pick up a copy.




Nothing too fancy: Beef stroganoff

A particularly harsh Canadian winter is causing me to try and stretch my recipes as long as they can go. Hence:



1 lb. lean ground beef
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
1 tsp vegetable oil
8 oz sliced mushrooms
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup white wine
1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
4 cups egg noodles


Preheat oven to 350˚. Spray a 13 x 9" baking dish with cooking spray. Cook noodles according to package directions.

Meanwhile, place beef in a large skillet; season with salt and pepper. Brown beef over medium heat until no longer pink, stirring to break apart beef. Drain fat from skillet and set beef aside.

Heat oil in the same skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms, onions and garlic; cook and stir 3 minutes or until onion is tender. Add wine reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 3 min. Remove from heat, and stir in soup, sour cream and mustard until well combined. Return beef to skillet.

Place noodles in prepared dish. Pour beef mixture over noodles; stir until noodles are well coated. Bake uncovered for 30 min.

Notes: Don't wash your mushrooms; just wipe with a damp paper towel. When cooking with wine, don't cheap out. You are concentrating the flavor so don't cook with anything you wouldn't drink.




Monday, January 12, 2009

The salt pig

When Shawn first brought the pig a couple of years ago, I was incredulous. But, Cooks Illustrated assured me that, yes, this was in fact a pig that is meant to hold salt. According to them:

This salt pig, about 4 inches wide and 5 inches tall, holds about half a pound of salt. The knob on top is for carrying and the large, round opening provides easy access to the salt. The hood distinguishes the salt pig from the salt cellar, which is generally a small, open bowl. It's also thought that the hooded shape keeps moisture from collecting on the salt.

You can read more here.




2008 gift roundup

Look what I got!

I though I would recap some of food-related gift gining that happened in my corner of the world.


The aforementioned FEED bags
Everyday Food: Great Food Fast cookbook (I love these recipes)

I bought this originally for a beginner cook, after being bombarded by the recommendations of my fellow shoppers as I held the book while surveying the cookbook section of the bookstore. When I got home and flipped through it, however, I realized that book was actually meant for an experienced cook with a refined palate and ready access to hard-to-find ingredients — a tall order indeed. So, needless to say, I kept the book.

Sorry, Jamie. We're still cool, though, right?


I received two great food gifts this year:

The Gel Pro chef's mat in the style pictured above. Anyone who reads cooking or decorating magazine knows about these because for the last couple of years these mats have been running ads in the back of all of them.

Check them out here.

Believe the hype, but as Shawn found out, allow three weeks for delivery.

A Williams Sonoma ice cream maker along with an obligation to make ice cream.

I also got some great food books that I'll write about later.


Some office Secret Santa gifts are best kept secret.

Case in point, this year's offering:

However, there is an equally head-scratching Secret Santa, gifted to Shawn two years ago, that I use almost every day — my salt pig.




Sunday, January 11, 2009

New discovery for your iphone: the Dinner Spinner app from allrecipes.com

My mood when introduced to one of Shawn’s new iphone apps tends to range from uninterested to incredulous (and occasionally exasperated). NightStand??? But, I have succumbed to the lure of allrecipes’ Dinner Spinner.

This link shows you how it works.

I’m already on my second recipe and another is planned. Best of all: it’s free!




Monday, January 5, 2009

Sweet potato frittata

A recipe from my BFF Gwyneth.

A recipe from GOOP, Gwyneth Paltrow's new online lifestyle newsletter:



1/2 sweet potato, peeled (about 1/4 pound)
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
3 shallots, thinly sliced (nearly a cup)
1 tbsp fresh thyme, minced, plus a pinch extra
coarse sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
6 eggs
1/2 cup soy milk or regular milk
2 oz goat cheese, crumbled (about 1/3 cup)


Preheat the oven to 375º.

Steam the sweet potato until barely tender, about 15 min. Cut the sweet potato into thin rounds — you should have about a dozen slices.

Heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat in a 10" cast iron skillet. Sauté the shallots and the tablespoon of thyme for about six min or until soft and just barely browned. Push to the side of the pan and add the sweet potato slices. Let them brown on both sides, about two minutes per side. Season with plenty of salt and freshly ground pepper.

Meanwhile, beat the eggs and milk in a mixing bowl. Remove half of the sweet potato and shallot mixture to a plate. Add half the egg mixture to the pan and distribute the reserved sweet potatoes and shallots over them. Add the remaining egg mixture. Dot the top with the goat cheese, the pinch of thyme and a nice grind or two of black pepper. Let it cook for about five minutes on the stovetop or until just set on the edges (it will still be very runny in the middle). Stick it in the oven for exactly eight min; it should be just set throughout.

Notes: You can use dried thyme (1 tsp) and a regular oven-proof and a nonstick skillet instead of cast iron.

I’ve already made this twice, so keep 'em coming, Gwyneth!




GOOP — My new guilty pleasure

Occasionally, when life is hard (or just unglamorous) I like to imagine that I live in that rarefied world inhabited by Gwyneth Paltrow. In principle we enjoy the same things: food, fitness, travel, Coldplay, but she gets to enjoy them on a much larger scale. Like that time she toured Spain with Mario Batali. Now GOOP, Gwyneth’s new weekly lifestyle e-newsletter allows me (and anyone with a computer) to visit this world more regularly.

Other blogs have weighed in on her first GOOP of the year on — what else — detoxing. They criticized the rigidity of her week-long plan and its less-than-fun recommendations.

Oddly, though, no one I’ve read has picked up on what was included: coconut water. Everyday. Intrigued, I did a little research and found out some pretty amazing things about the coconut. Not sure if I'm ready to drink the Koolaid, err... coconut water just yet though.

My favorite GOOP to date contained this fantastic recipe, which I highly recommend.