Monday, August 31, 2009

Rigatoni with yellow and green zucchini

Are all my dinners starting to look the same?

From Gordon Ramsay's Healthy Apetite, and because zuchchini are in season, here is Sunday's meal:

Cut 4 zucchini lengthwise and slice into 1/2-inch chunks. Cook 1/2 lb rigatoni according to directions. Meanwhile, over medium heat, saute garlic in 4 tbsp of olive oil for about 1 min. Add zucchini, season with salt and pepper, raise heat to med-high and fry for about 5 min; until tender and lightly browned. Toss with drained pasta.




Book review: Gordon Ramsay's Healthy Appetite

I've tried to avoid negativity on this blog. Especially negativity directed at other cooks, celebrity or not. Not only because it's unproductive, but because food bloggers have developed a bit of a reputation as haters, and I don't want to perpetuate that.

But, as talented as he may be, I can't like Gordon Ramsay. Not only is he a clearly abusive boss (or is he just passionate?), he is publicly hateful, and he calls Jamie Oliver "fat" in interviews for kicks. (My Jamie!)

Makes me wonder how the Internet can be filled with cheap shots at celeb chefs like Giada, Nigella and Rachel for no discernable reason, while it takes an international incident for someone like Ramsay to finally face criticism.

I bring all of this up because my husband bought Ramsay's latest cookbook after seeing one of its recipes profiled on TV. The book focuses on simple flavours, and, as the title suggests, healthy eating (because we don't want to get fat like Jamie, do we?). It also features some very appealing easy-to-make recipes (like Sunday's meal), tips for working with certain ingredients, and plenty of awkward photos of Ramsay, like this one:

Thankfully there's some excellent food photography in the book as well.

Rating: Gordon Ramsay's Healthy Appetite 3.5 stars*

*Feelings towards Gordon Ramsay notwithstanding.




Sunday, August 23, 2009

What would Betty serve?

Nice try, but I don't think Betty would have served this. (Blended drinks not pictured.)

Being that I (like most of the population at this point) am a big fan of Mad Men, I wanted this evening's meal to be inspired by the show, in honour of its newly launched third season. So, I asked myself, What would Betty Draper serve? Not surprisingly, the question had been asked before, and one answer, via Chowhound confirmed what I had been thinking:

"Maybe a crazy Polynesian Themed menu with pu-pu's and crazy blended drinks..."

Maybe it's because I've always associated the early 60's with the mid-century tiki craze. Or, maybe I was eager to try the pineapple-glazed pork recipe I spotted in the latest Bon Appetit and was grasping desperately for an excuse to make it. I suspect it's a little of both.

My adaptation of the recipe is below. You'll note that my cooking instructions vary greatly from the linked original — after 20 minutes at 500°, my tenderloins were nowhere near done. I've also omitted the cilantro (which I despise).


1 cup pineapple juice, divided
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped seeded red jalapeño chiles
3/4 teaspoon ground allspice
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 3/4-pound pork tenderloins


Preheat oven to 475°.

Bring 3/4 cup pineapple juice and sugar to boil in heavy large saucepan over high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Cover; boil until syrup is deep brown, checking frequently to prevent burning, about 8 min. Remove from heat. Immediately swirl in remaining 1/4 cup pineapple juice, chiles, and allspice. When bubbling stops, whisk in lime juice and season with salt and pepper. Pour 1/4 cup glaze into small bowl and reserve.

Line baking sheet with foil; place rack in center of sheet. Sprinkle pork with salt and pepper; place on rack. Brush with glaze from saucepan. Roast until thermometer inserted into center of pork registers 145°F, brushing occasionally with glaze from saucepan, about 40 min.

Slice pork. Drizzle with reserved glaze.

I paired the pork with something that I'd like to think is original, but it would be a little bold to claim that I invented adding salsa and goat cheese to mased potatoes. (Especially on the Internet.) 



2 lb small red-fleshed potatoes
1/2 cup salsa
2 oz chèvre


Steam whole potatoes until easily pierced with a fork (about 20 min). Mash. Stir in salsa and cheese.

And, yes, blended drinks were involved.



* I just realized that I've food blogged for over a year without mention of my hatred of cilantro. (Don't know how I managed to keep that bottled up.)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Dress up your soup (and raid your pantry)

Shredded Monterey jack, pickled jalapenos and a squeeze of lime.

How do you undo the fiscal damage inflicted by the beast that is Montreal shopping?

You can start by raiding your pantry. For motivation, check out eGullet's "a week without shopping" Klatsch.

In this vein, the super-hot BAFoodist has, this month given us 5 things to do with a can of tuna, so I thought it appropriate to give my take on one of my favorite pantry staples — Campbell's tomato soup.

Above is my favorite combo. Others include:

— Lipton's noodle soup (stir a packet in to the prepared soup)
— white kidney beans, pickled jalapenos and a dollop of sour cream
— cooked rice and dried oregano

I scoured the internet for some other ideas that did not involve merely adding pepperoni to the soup (wow, do people like that combo), and I found a few great new ideas:

— a dollop of creme fraiche and chives — great way to use up left over creme fraiche (which doesn't last more than a week in the fridge)
— crushed tomatoes and dill — which I would top with mound of lump crab meat (you know, if I had that laying around)

So, there you have 5 mostly sophisticated recipes based on one basic pantry staple. Now what shall I tackle next....?

I'm looking at you canned salmon....




Monday, August 17, 2009

Montreal restaurant round-up

My husband and I decided to take an impromptu trip to Montreal this weekend. A little too impromptu it turned out because we were unable to get reservations at any of the restaurants we had scoped out earlier in the week, or get tickets to the evening semi-finals of the Rogers Cup. (There were some available just the day before.)

We did end up getting a table at Da Emma, a very popular Italian restaurant on the edge of Old Montreal. So, popular in fact, that there is large display in the entrance of all the famous people who ate there: Winona Ryder, Steven Spielberg, Penelope Cruz, Zach Braff, Will Ferrell (hey, if it's good enough for Frank the Tank...).

The food was petty good — free bruchetta was awesome; spaghetti with cheese, salt and pepper, amazing (really); linguine with porcini mushrooms, a little salty; and tiramisu, very good, but too expensive for the portion.

Here are some other things you should know about Da Emma: it's in the basement of a building that used to be a women's prison, the menu is entirely in Italian, but the wait staff will translate, and no that's not Brad Pitt in the picture above.

Another restaurant of note that we visited was Kalalu, a Caribbean place on St. Denis we stopped at for lunch after a morning of shopping. This was our first experience with authentic Caribbean food and it was delicious — especially loved the Griot (marinated pork) and the mashed plantain fritters. Unfortunately the restaurant wasn't air conditioned and there was a heat wave going on, so given that the food was very spicy, I think the only way I could have possibly been hotter is if I were playing in Rogers Cup that afternoon. They did give us complimentary granitas — shot of ice fruit and "alcohol" to fortify us for the steamy walk back to the hotel. (Very considerate of them.)

Finally, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Koko the restaurant/bar in the hotel we were staying at, if for no other reason than it is exactly the type of place that I wished I could have gotten married in.


Sadly, there were no such large, modern indoor/outdoor lounge spaces to accommodate us in Ottawa, so we had to go with something more staid. (Turned out alright though.)

But, Koko is a great restaurant in its own right — excellent duck confit and lentil salad.

Thanks for letting me share some of my Montreal culinary experiences. I'll be back in December, so I'm still looking for suggestions. (Au pied du cochon is already on the list.)




Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The wisdom of Julie and Julia

For those of you who haven't seen the film I thought I'd sum up what resonated for me:

1. Fearlessness has its own momentum.

2. It's okay to hate your friends because you're jealous of them, and to hate yourself for feeling that way.

3. Blogging demands discipline, but Julie Powell took that discipline to the next level in that she knew her 524 recipes would surely include some challenging and unappetizing projects (aspics, ewww). (Gotta respect that.)

4. Poaching an egg is hard. I'm glad someone else has spoken out!

Now go see the movie, if you haven't already. And once you have, let me know if you found Julie's husband's eating habits (as portrayed by Chris Messina) to be as distracting as I did — Seriously, who eats like that?

ETA: I also think the movie makes Queens look too nice. ;-)




Sunday, August 9, 2009

Pretty in Pink pasta

My unintentional tribute to the late John Hughes.

This novel pasta recipe from Bon Appetite is not supposed to be pink. Click the link below if you don't believe me.

The original recipe calls for golden beets, but my grocer only had regular beets on hand. (At least they were fresh and local.) Of course I knew this would impact the colour of the dish, but I didn't know just how shockingly pink the pasta would become.

I guess it was only fitting that, while preparing it, Shawn and I were debating the merits of John Hughes' oeuvre as Ferris Bueller's Day Off played on television. (CityTV was playing it back-to-back all afternoon in honour of the late director.) Here is the recipe:


2 tbsp olive oil
2 1/2 cups coarsely chopped red onion
2 cups 1/2-inch pieces peeled parsnips
2 cups 1/2-inch pieces peeled red-skinned sweet potatoes (yams)
2 cups 1/2-inch pieces peeled beets
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 2/3 cups (about) vegetable broth, divided
1 pound penne
2 tbsp butter
1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese, divided


Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over high heat. Add onion and all vegetables; sauté until vegetables begin to soften and brown, 810 min. Add rosemary; stir 1 min. Add 1 cup broth; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium; sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Cover skillet and cook until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally, 1518 min. Meanwhile, cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain. Return pasta to pot.

Stir butter into vegetables; add to pasta. Stir in 1 cup Parmesan and more vegetable broth by 1/3 cupfuls to moisten. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve with remaining Parmesan.

Shawn can forgive Ferris's transgressions in the name of rebellion against the status quo, but I'm convinced that he had a serious personality disorder — personally I've always felt a deep kinship with Cameron Frye.

Seeing as I've already over-shared, I'll leave you with this: