Friday, December 25, 2009


Thanks for visiting the blog this year, and I really appreciate those of you who took the time to comment. If I could I would send each and every one of you your very own copy of Cooking with Coolio. But since I can't, I'll end the end the year with a song.

After I posted Do they know it's Christmas (my all time favourite Christmas song) earlier in the season (here), a friend reminded me of the Canadian single that was part of he same aid effort (along with the American We are the world). The song that appears to be becoming somewhat of a Canadian Christmas classic. (At least it's been showing up at a lot of school Christmas concerts.)

So, because it would be wrong not to post it, here is the the David Foster masterpiece Tears are not enough, sung by every major Canadian recording artist of the 80s: 

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

This year's food gift finds

This year I stumbled upon a couple of unique food-related gift ideas that I thought were worth a post.

"The world's largest gummy bear" (ad featured above) kept coming up in search results when I Googled "gifts for kids" or "gifts for teens." It is quite simply 5 pounds of gummy bear. I found it odd that they were so aggressively marketing that kind of thing. I mean, wouldn't word get out amongst the gummy bear crowd?

My other curious gift discovery was that the Internet series Cooking with Coolio, which I've posted about before, has spawned a cookbook, out just in time for the holidays. Even more puzzling — Newsweek did a feature on it! I guess that unlikely series has finally come in to its own.

I hope Santa's good to you all!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

From the Russian Federation with love (just in time for Christmas): Draniki

We have reached our final destination — the Russian Federation, where the World Food Programme runs programs that help to feed thousands of Chechnyans displaced by war.

This recipe for potato pancakes, unlike the others in this series, is not particularly exotic. In fact, if you just celebrated Hanukkah, you may have actually experienced an overabundance of the classic latkes.

Though this recipe may seem simple,* there are some key tips to note in order to replicate the authentic flavour and texture. Here is the adapted recipe (with some extra tips thrown in):



1/2 lb of potatoes
1/2 a large onion
2 small eggs
1/4 cup flour
Salt and pepper to taste
Sunflower oil for frying


Peel and grate the potato and the onion into a large mixing bowl.[1]

Add the other ingredients and mix thoroughly. If the resulting mass is very wet, squeeze down the mixture with a masher and pour off the extra liquid.[2]

Heat the oil in a heavy frying pan.[3] When the oil is hot but not smoking, add about 1/4 cup the mixture and pat it down to ½ cm thickness, rounding the edges off with a spatula to form a pancake. Add more until the pan is full.

The draniki need to fry for 3-5 min on each side. To achieve a good colour, start them hot, but then turn them down to cook through. They should be crispy and golden on the outside, but soft in the middle, and the potato should be cooked through.

Notes: 1. Don’t use the coarsest side of your grater for this, or the potato will not soften properly. You want fine strands of potato which will mesh together during cooking. 2. As the mixture sits, water will leach out of the potatoes, making the batter wetter. So, it may be necessary to drin off the excess liquid in between frying the batches. 3. Why sunflower oil? Draniki are actually a version of a popular Ukrainian dish, deruni, and to get the authentic flavour, other oils just won’t do.

Serve with sour cream or apple sauce.

Best of the Holiday season! And, fill the red cup for those less fortunate.


*Grating potato and onion — never "simple."

Saturday, December 19, 2009

May the farm be with you

There was no recipe last week because I hosted a book club on the weekend, and had to study for a biotech exam that took place on Wednesday.

Book club went well, despite a few last-minute cancellations, and I think I did well on my exam, though I'm pretty pretty sure I mixed up DNA ligase and DNA polymerase. (Good thing I'm not in charge of protein synthesis!)

Anyway, in honour of the end of my biotech class, I wanted to post an incredibly well-done Star Wars parody that a fellow student posted on our class message board. Don't ever say that the organic movement doesn't have a sense of humour — because this is hilarious:

I'll be posting the last recipe in this series this week.




Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Inspiration from El Salvador

Off season, off topic...

In school did you ever fail an assignment for maybe drifting off topic? Well, that's kinda what happened with this week's cooking assignment, only the result was delicious.

I had planned to make a recipe from El Salvador, but finding little inspiration and a lot of meat in the Salvadoran recipes I was finding online, I instead took the flavours of El Salvador as my inspiration and found something that I could really get excited about cooking. I was drawn to this recipe — MASA CORN CAKES WITH POACHED EGGS, on the Food Network website because the cakes looked like pupusas — Salvadoran stuffed masa flatbread. I didn't really alter this recipe, excluding only the cilantro* in the salsa.

Straying just a little from my subject in this case was anything but a recipe for failure. In fact, taking inspiration from one culture's cooking and adapting it to suit a different environment and culture is nothing new. It's how we got Italian-American cooking — a style entirely its own. And just think — where would we be without Olive Garden?

Oh, and another thing about getting an F — apparently it's a good indicator of your potential as a  blogger. If I'd have known that I would have starting blogging 10 years ago when I was still in school. I would have been at the forefront!



*'cause it's disgusting.

Check out the good work that the WFP is doing in El Salvador.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Adventures in Ethiopian cuisine

In cooking, there's nothing I hate more* than when a recipe goes wrong. But that's just what happened with the Ethiopian meal that I had planned to post about last Sunday.

The eggplant salad I made didn't taste quite right, and adorable fish-shaped chickpea fritters that I hoped to make never materialized due to my inexperience in working with chickpea flour-based dough.

So, I resolved to visit an Ethiopian restaurant properly familiarize myself with the country's food and culture. I got a lot of reaction when I told people I was going to try authentic Ethiopian cuisine. Comments ranged from "It is the best food you will ever eat" to "they don't have a strong food culture...."

We went to Blue Nile, where I had a vegetarian combination platter and Shawn had lamb tips sauteed in butter. Both dishes were served with injera (a kind of crepe) — an integral part of the Ethiopian meal and your utensil. I had hoped to experience the coffee† ceremony that I had heard about, but you typically need a group of 5 for a restaurant to perform it, and they need at least a day's notice, so we were out of luck.
Some things we tried were good — Shawn loved his lamb and some of the vegetable "wots" (stews) were very good. Other things, like Tej, Ethiopian honey wine fermented with hops, were not my cup of tea. (In fact, it made my list of "Things I'll never drink again."‡)

I hope you enjoyed this little primer on Ethiopian food. You can read about WFP initiatives in Ethiopian here. As one of the world's least developed countries, Ethiopia has been dealing with severe food crises for decades.  It was the country that first drew the world's attention to the cause of world hunger in the 80s, and inspired this holiday classic:



*With the possible exception of Gordon Ramsay.
†Bonus fact: Coffee originated in Ethiopia.
‡Right next to Hooch.