Saturday, September 20, 2008


I didn't even know what this was until a couple of days ago. I found myself with a large Ontario eggplant, and thought I might make some ratatouille.
I browsed a few recipes online and kept finding recipes for this dish. It's Italian, but it's not from my grandparent's region, so I've never tried it before. I decided to go for it.
One of the main reasons I picked this recipe instead of ratatouille was that I had a picnic today, and wanted to have something that could be snacked on, didn't require heating or cooling, could be easily carried and was vegan. This recipe was a hit. I got quite a few compliments on it.
There were so many conflicting recipes with different ingredients online that I ended up settling with the recipe in the hardcover copy of the Joy of Cooking on our bookshelf. It had the fewest ingredients and seemed the easiest for me.

Other than the small pain of sweating the eggplant, this recipe is a piece of cake. I served it with Melba toasts and some bread and hummous.

Thin Crust Pizza

I found a new recipe for thin crust pizza dough that didn't require any proofing and rising time.

My old dough recipe, although delicious, usually took about three hours to get ready because of all the different steps. Here's the recipe I took from some internet person.

.25 oz. pkt. active dry yeast
1/4 tsp. granulated sugar
3/4 cup 110 degree water
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt

Dissolve yeast and sugar in water; allow to rest for 8 minutes.
In a separate bowl, combine flour and salt.
Pour yeast mixture over flour mixture and mix well with a heavy spoon.
Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead for 2 minutes.
Working from the edges to the center, press dough into a 12" circle.
Place dough on a lightly greased pizza pan and stretch dough to edges.
Spread sauce over crust and top with cheese and desired toppings.
Bake in a 500 degree oven for 8-12 minutes, or until edges are golden.

I topped half with paper-thin potato slices, rosemary, sea salt and olive oil. For the other half I made a quick fresh tomato sauce with basil and oregano, and put some havarti on top.

This one's a keeper. Definitely.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Ichigo Daifuku - Japanese Sweet bean and Strawberry ball

I used to eat these almost every day when it was Strawberry season.
I finally got around to trying to make my own...
Step one was making sweet bean paste. I boiled dry white beans with sugar until they were tender, then pureed them with a bit of the water in the food processor.

The next step was to prepare the strawberries.
I washed and trimmed them, and then molded a layer of the cooled bean paste around them, leaving the base exposed.

The next step was combining the rice flour, sugar and water and microwaving it briefly (2 minutes, stir, 1 minute, stir)

Then I divided it into 8 pieces and rolled it (on a floured cutting board) into round discs about the size of a saucer. After they were rolled, I picked up a bean-coated strawberry and wrapped the flattened dough disk around the berry, pinching the dough together at the bottom to close the bundle. Mmmm...

A brief dusting of cornstarch and they're ready to go. I ate 3 (they were ugly and crackly) and brought 5 to work to share.
Next time: Don't let the dough sit for more than a minute or two in the open. A dry skin forms on it and it's tough to get it silky again.
Actually, there might not be a next least not for awhile. This may turn into a yearly strawberry season once-off.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Fresh Pasta - Vegan

I went out for a friend's birthday to Fressen, a great vegan restaurant that serves little vegan plates that you share. Dishes are sort of a mishmash of cultural influences, and one of the dishes we had inspired me to make my own pasta.
It was roughly cut basil fettucine noodles in a cheeseless pesto sauce. It was delicious (if a bit oily) and I vowed to to it myself at home. I love that I now feel confident enough in the kitchen that I will attempt to recreate most recipes that I like from restaurants. At least once.
I have great memories of helping my nonna and my mother make pasta. It was my job to crank the handle on the pasta machine, which would flatten the balls of dough into smooth sheets, and then cut it into noodles. They were soft and delicious, and I would nibble on one or two while they hung on the back of kitchen chairs, drying. I hope to some day make noodles that good.

I also posted this as an instructable.

Ingredients: 1 2/3 cup flour
about 2/3 cup water
1/2-3/4 tsp salt
optional 1 tsp oil
*Optional flavouring (pureed spinach, tomato paste, pureed basil, or just about anything)

-Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. If you would like to add flavouring, adjust the amount of water up or down.

You want a ball that sticks together but is not too wet or dry. Add more flour or water until you get something that holds together without being too wet.

Turn your ball out onto a well-floured cutting board. Knead it for at least 10 minutes.

To knead: push the ball away from you with the heel of your hand. Then gather the sides inwards, flip the ball around and repeat. It should start to become smoother and more pliable.
Add flour as needed to keep the ball from sticking to the board.

When the dough is well-kneaded, cover it in plastic wrap and let it rest for at least 10 minutes.

When it's rested, divide it into eighths. Work with one eighth at a time and put the others aside, covered.

Roll out the dough on a floured board. Push the dough outward from the middle, then turn it around, applying more flour to ensure that it's not sticking to the board. Continue to roll out until it's about 2-4 mm thick. At this point you may want to let the sheets dry out for a few minutes to make them easier to cut. Not long, though, or they'll dry out.

Cutting the noodles into rough fettucine shapes by hand isn't terribly difficult. Heavily flour the strip of dough, then lightly roll it up like a jelly roll. Cut strips as thin as you like with a sharp knife, then carefully unroll them.

To store your noodles: dry hanging for a few minutes (on the back of a chair perhaps) then flour and gather into bundles. Freeze or refrigerate, covered.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Chap Chae - Korean-style clear noodles with vegetables

I'd had Chap chae many times at Korean and Japanese restaurants before I tried to make it myself, and I was delighted to discover how easy it is.

The most difficult part (which is barely difficult) is finding the right noodles. This recipe calls for bean thread noodles, also known as cellophane noodles, glass noodles or mung bean noodles. These can be a bit tricky to find, but I've substituted rice vermicelli and it's still very delicious.
Mung bean and sweet potato starch noodles look a little scary in the package. They're stiff and greyish purple, but trust me, they're delicious (and see-through!)

For the Sauce:
1/4 cup low salt soy sauce (or regular soy mixed with a little water)
1 1/2 tbsp sesame oil
1 1/2 tbsp sugar
2 cloves chopped garlic
For the rest:
1/2 package bean thread noodles
1/2 tbsp sesame or vegetable oil for the pan
1/2 an onion, sliced
1/4 block of medium firm or firm tofu, sliced into strips
And a handful each of thinly sliced zucchini, carrots, pepper, snap peas, mushrooms, or any other vegetable you feel would be delicious in this mix.

Chop the garlic and combine all ingredients in a food processor. Process until blended.
Meanwhile, prepare the noodles according to the package directions. Mine had to sit in boiled water for 10 minutes.

Next, sautee the harder chopped vegetables (onion and carrot) and the tofu in oil until tender. Add the rest of the vegetables and cook for another couple of minutes.

After all of the vegetables are done and the noodles are cooked, drain the noodles and add the noodles and sauce to the pan, stirring.

Stir everything together and continue cooking until it has combined and most of the sauce has been absorbed. I like to eat a bit when it's hot and a little later when it is room temperature. I've usually had it served cool, and the flavours are stronger when it's had a chance to settle.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Squash Gnocchi with OliveTomato Sauce

I love squash. Like, a 'let's move in together and star planning for our future' kind of love. I have tried to sneak it into a few recipes with varying degrees of success. This one was bang on.
I found a basic gnocchi recipe in 'The Joy of Cooking" and substituted mashed Kabocha squash for the potatoes.

1 1/2 c smoothly mashed cooked squash, cooled
1 cup (and a bit) of flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp allspice or nutmeg
Combine all of the ingredients and stir. Turn out onto a cutting board and knead until smooth (it took me about 2 or 3 minutes.
Roll the dough into long ropes about an inch around. Then cut into half-inch pillow shapes.

Roll each pillow towards you with the back of your fork. You should create little grooves. This might be to allow for more thorough cooking, it might be to give them a uniform shape, whatever it is, this is how Nonna showed me, and so it's how I do it.

It would be nice to serve these with a butter or white sauce to show off their nice orange colour, but I made do with what I had on hand and made a sauce with leftover deli olives.

1 can crushed or diced tomatoes
2 cloves of garlic, halved
a handful of pitted olives, chopped
a couple of inches of celery diced
1/4 onion, diced
3 basil leaves, roughly torn
1-2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp oregano
a shake of crushed dried chiles

Easy peasy. Sautee everything but the tomatoes and basil until things start to soften and get a little brown. Then add tomatoes and basil and simmer, stirring often, until it reduces to a 'saucy' consistency.

To cook the Gnocchi: Drop gently in boiling salted water. Stir gently. They're done when they float to the top.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Thai Green Curry

I searched for the simplest recipe for Thai Green Curry that I could find. I didn't want to buy too many 'one use' ingredients, and I was generally satisfied with the results.
Two problems I had with this recipe: first, for the paste, I needed to find Thai Basil. I went to Chinatown and picked what I thought was it. Then I asked the employee in the grocery store "Basil?"
and she replied "Basil."

It was mint.

So an extra trip to the grocery store was required. And now I have some mint that, hopefully, isn't destined for the trash.

Here's the recipe in case I lose it:
The ingredients:
For the paste : Makes about 1 cup
Hot green peppers: 5 ( I used serrano pepper)
Shallot: 1, chopped
Garlic: 2 pods
Lemon grass: 2 stalks
Galangal: Thumb-size piece (you can use ginger)
Green lime: 2
Cilantro: 1 cup, chopped
Thai basil: 6 leaves
Roasted coriander : 1 1/2 tsp
Roasted cumin : 1 tsp
White or black pepper powder: 1 tsp
Oil: 2 tblsp

This is what the past looks like in the food processor. Chop everything up, using only the soft insides of the lemongrass, and then blend until it's pasty. Don't forget the oil. I did at first, and it wasn't easy going.

For the Curry:
Coconut Milk : 1 can
Thai green curry paste: 3-4 tblsp
Pumpkin : 1 1/2 cups, cut in thick strips
Carrot: 1, cut in thick strips
Zucchini: 1, cut in thick strips
Snap Peas: a handful. Add them at the end so that they stay crisp.
Salt : 1 tsp (or to taste)
Inari: A handful, squeezed, rinsed repeatedly and drained. These are the tofu pockets that are usually filled with sushi rice, and are a good substitute for fried tofu if you don't like to fry (or if you're cooking during a heat wave like I was)
Next time I'd like to put in cauliflower and perhaps skip the pumpkin.

The curry was looking good, bubbling away. And then the pumpkin started to fall apart, and the curry went from a pale grey-green to a shocking orange. It also began to thicken up, and took on a grainy, pumpkin-y texture that I wasn't overly fond of.

This is the end result.
Verdict: Delicious. A bit too thick (no pumpkin next time) and not quite hot enough (next time use 4-5 hot green peppers)
Notes: This requires a few ingredients that come in bunches that I normally don't have a use for. Perhaps the next time I make this I will also make a Mexican or Indian recipe the same week to use up the leftover lime, cilantro and hot peppers.
Otherwise, a success.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

My First Post

I hope that this will be a place to put my recipes and food experiments.