Tuesday, March 31, 2015

peanut sesame noodles

This is the kind of food that satisfies all my cravings, and doesn't even have a speck of butter or cheese. What it does have is peanut butter, which seems to make everything  sweet or savoury  much better.

Deb with Smitten Kitchen calls this "Single Girl's Dinner." I could imagine it would be good eaten alone, since it tastes much like take out (but about a zillion times better). But I can't call it that because Scott likes it just as much as I do.

That's a good thing, because we served it for his birthday last year and it was great party food that stretched and stretched (along with some Mexican meatballs in tomato-chipotle sauce) for seconds and thirds and even leftovers.

The peanut dressing alone, with ginger and soy and rice vinegar and honey, is the kind of thing where you feel compelled to either lick the mixing bowl or get out a spatula to get every last drop.

And that's before you've mixed it with stretchy buckwheat soba noodles, peppers, carrots and sesame baked tofu . . . and showered sesame seeds on top.

It all comes together into the most pleasing peanut butter noodle dish. I could eat it again right now.

one year ago: brigadeiros
two years ago: night circus mice
three years ago: lemon gumdrops
four years ago: up island
five years ago: sophisticated marshmallow squares and a soup among friends

peanut sesame noodles
adapted from Smitten Kitchen
serves 4

peanut dressing
1/2 c. smooth peanut butter
1/4 c. soy sauce*
1/3 c. warm water
1 tbsp. fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
2 tbsp. rice vinegar
1 1/2 tbsp. Asian toasted sesame oil
1 tbsp. honey
1 tsp. Korean red pepper flakes or a splash of your favourite hot sauce

noodles and veg
340 g. (3/4 lb.) soba noodles*
4 green onions, thinly sliced
1 small red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 small yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
4 carrots, julienned or thickly grated
1 batch sesame baked tofu (recipe follows)
3 tbsp. sesame seeds, toasted

Get the sesame baked tofu going (see below).

Blend the dressing ingredients together until smooth, ideally with an immersion blender. Set aside.

Bring a big pot of well-salted water to a boil. Cook the soba noodles 6  8 minutes, until tender with a hint of a bite. Strain them and rinse well with cold water.

Stir the dressing, noodles, green onions, peppers, carrots and sesame-soy tofu together. Mix well. Serve and top each with a liberal coating of sesame seeds.

sesame baked tofu
via Rebar: Modern Food Cookbook

2 tbsp. soy sauce*
1 tbsp. sesame oil
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1 block firm tofu, chopped into cubes

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat.

Whisk the soy sauce, sesame oil and pepper together in a medium bowl. Toss the tofu in the dressing. Spread the tofu cubes onto the prepared baking pan. Bake for about 15 minutes.

*If you are making this meal gluten-free, make sure the soba is 100% buckwheat with no wheat and that your soy sauce doesn't contain wheat.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

buttermilk pancakes with apple-pear tops

If you come visit us over a weekend, we will probably make you buttermilk pancakes for breakfast.

Or maybe buttermilk waffles. They're both from the same master recipe and equally good but completely different.

If I'm feeling fancy, I will find some fruit and carefully cut it into paper-thin slices.

When the pancakes are crisping and bubbling on the griddle, I'll lay that paper-thin slice of fruit right onto the pancake. It gets a little caramelized when the pancake is flipped and the whole shebang ends up feeling and tasting like a proper weekend breakfast.

These are slices of apple-pear that someone has been keeping in cold storage just for me to put on pancakes. (Also to add to fennel salad.)

The pancake recipe comes from The Breakfast Book by Marion Cunningham and the idea for adding sliced fruit (like peaches! and nectarines!) comes from Smitten Kitchen.

Buttermilk pancakes with apple-pear tops for the weekend. Only three more days . . .

These buttermilk pancakes with apple-pear tops are served with a
dollop of yogurt and saskatoon-currant preserves.

one year ago: gluten-free crêpes and salted butter break-ups
two years ago: spiced red lentil stew with greens and lemon
three years ago: cheddar corn chowder
four years ago: grand forks borscht (the most popular recipe on this blog!)
five years ago: dahl for dinner, dahling and canadian boterkoek

buttermilk pancakes with apple-pear tops
adapted from The Breakfast Book by Marion Cunningham
griddles up about 24 pancakes, serving 4 – 6

2 eggs, separated
1 c. buttermilk
1 c. thick plain yogurt
2 c. (280 g.) wheat flour
     or gluten-free:
     92 g. tapioca starch
     92 g. potato starch
     96 g. brown rice flour
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 c. butter, melted plus more for frying the pancakes
1 - 2 apple-pears, pears, apples, peaches, nectarines, sliced thinly

Heat your griddle to medium-high.

Beat the egg yolks. Whisk them into the buttermilk and plain yogurt. Set aside.

Mix the flour(s), sugar, salt and baking soda together well. Add to the yolk mixture and mix well. Stir the melted butter in. Set aside.

Beat the egg whites until stiff but still moist. Fold them into the batter.

Lightly grease your griddle with butter. Dollop batter onto the griddle to make pancakes that are about 3 inches in diameter. Carefully place thinly-sliced fruit right on the batter. Look for little bubbles to show the pancakes have set and flip them over for another minute or so. Keep warm in the oven until ready to serve.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

orange jelly with chantilly cream

In her headnote in Dinner Chez Moi, Laura Calder says this jelly is both sexy and wobbly.

That description was enough to draw me in. Two years later, I must have made this jelly ten or twelve times, and it still comes out sexy and wobbly, and just exactly the way jelly must have been before commercial Jell-o came along.

It also tastes pleasingly like a creamsicle with the delicate taste of real oranges and a very soft chantilly cream settling into its wobbly nooks and crannies.

It's a very forgiving recipe for having just four ingredients  as long as you do the gelatin right. Sometimes, I don't have enough oranges and I throw in some freshly-squeezed grapefruit juice, and that also makes a lovely orange jelly.

Lately, it has also occurred to me that these jelly ratios would work with almost any fruit juice. Come summer, I am most looking forward to trying Saskatoon berries and black currants. Oh, and what about rhubarb juice in the spring? Imagine a pale pink wobbly spring jelly. Sigh.

But for now, it's winter and oranges are abundant. This particular jelly used a combination of navel and tangelo minneola oranges, as well as one lonely Seville that didn't make it into this year's batch of whisky marmalade.

It set softly into its wobbly self and makes me dream of sunshine and places where oranges grow.

one year ago: eating out in japan
two years ago: panna cotta with red wine syrup
three years ago: caramel chocolate mousse
four years ago: turnip puff to the rescue!
five years ago: olympic mint nanaimo bars

orange jelly with chantilly cream
from Dinner Chez Moi by Laura Calder
serves 6

2 1/2 c. (625 mL) freshly-squeezed orange juice (from about 8 oranges)
4 tsp. (20 mL) gelatin
1/4 c. (55 g.) sugar
Lightly sweetened vanilla-scented whipping cream, loosely whipped (for serving)

Set out a 3-cup (740 mL) bowl.

Strain your freshly-squeezed orange juice through a fine-mesh sieve. Set aside.

Get out a small glass bowl and pour 1/4 cup water into it. Sprinkle gelatin over. Set aside to soften.

In a small pot, stir the sugar into another 1/4 cup water. Boil about 3 minutes to dissolve. Whisk the sugar syrup into the orange juice. Set aside.

Boil an inch of water in a small saucepan and turn the heat off. Set the small bowl of gelatin in the hot water for a few minutes. Stir to melt it into liquid. Once it's fluid and clear, whisk into the orange juice mixture. Strain and pour into your serving bowl. Refrigerate until set, about 4 hours.

Serve in small bowls with runny chantilly cream.

Monday, February 16, 2015

breakfast: peanut butter quinoa oatmeal

Now that we're on the new breakfast routine of oatmeal and granola, I've found myself missing peanut butter.

For years, I particularly looked forward to my toast with peanut butter and honey in the morning. I am an Adams peanut butter fanatic, and have been known to have family members import Adams when I live in a province where it's not sold (Ontario, I'm looking at you).

Luckily, Adams is sold in Alberta, so I use it in everything I possibly can: homemade granola bars, peanut butter crispy balls, you get the drift.

Well, it finally occurred to me that I didn't have to miss eating peanut butter in the morning just because I was eating oatmeal. I could make peanut butter oatmeal!

And because you can't have peanut butter without some kind of sweetener to keep it from being too sticky, I threw in some raisins to plump up while it cooks, and later some maple syrup. And because smooth peanut butter and oatmeal could use a bit of crunch, I threw in some quinoa.

You might look at this recipe and think the technique looks funny. I know, it looks funny, but it's actually brilliant. Megan Gordon came up with this way of toasting oats in a bit of butter and then letting their liquid soak in, so they taste toasty and keep some of their shape. It is genius. Trust me.

There you go: peanut butter quinoa oatmeal with maple syrup and raisins. We keep it in a Tupperware container in the fridge, and heat up small bowls every morning in the microwave. Splash a bit of milk, drizzle a little extra maple syrup, and my peanut butter breakfast is all ready to go  in less than a minute.

one year ago: gluten-free crêpes
two years ago: korean food in jasper
three years ago: eating out in vancouver, vancouver island and edmonton
four years ago: bacon-wrapped dates with olives and almonds
five years ago: little lemon cakes

peanut butter quinoa oatmeal
inspired by Megan Gordon's oatmeal technique in Whole-Grain Mornings
serves 2 for a work week of breakfasts

1 tbsp. butter
2 c. rolled oats
1/2 c. quinoa
1 c. milk
2 1/2 c. water*, heated in the microwave to hot
1/2 c. raisins
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt or 1/4 tsp. regular salt
1/3 c. salted peanut butter
3 tbsp. maple syrup

Heat a heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. Melt the butter. Add the oats and stir every minute or so for about 4 minutes. Stir in quinoa and cook 1 more minute. Keep a close eye on the oats and quinoa to make sure they don't burn, just get a bit golden.

Stand back and pour the milk in. Stir. Stand back again, and pour the heated water in. Stir in the raisins and salt. Ease it back to a light boil, and turn the heat off. Put the lid on and let it sit 15  20 minutes.

Open the lid and see if the oats are now tender. Stir the peanut butter and maple syrup in. Taste for seasoning. Serve immediately with a bit more maple syrup and milk on top, or keep in the fridge and microwave little bowls to eat each morning.

* I like my oatmeal quite thick. If you like yours a bit runnier, try adding another 1/2 cup of water.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

tomato soup with two fennels

I am having a bit of a moment with A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg.

Before The Never-Ending Flu of 2015 struck a couple weeks ago, I made espresso-walnut toffee, stewed prunes with citrus and cinnamon, and fennel salad with Asian pear and Parmesan.*

Now, A Homemade Life is due back at the library and I'm finally getting over The Never-Ending Flu of 2015, so I thought I could sneak in one more recipe before returning it  and before I go out and buy the book. (I am very strict about not buying cookbooks until I've a taken them out of the library at least three times. I'm ready to commit.)

I thought a pot of soup would be good to have on hand this week, and the Italian store has been wooing me with its cheap, fresh fennel bulbs. So I pulled out a couple cans of San Marzano tomatoes, and set about making Sunday lunch.

This soup has two fennels  those luminous crisp bulbs and crunchy little fennel seeds. It makes for a hearty soup, especially considering it could be vegan if you use water instead of chicken broth. The sliced fennel softens but keeps its shape and every so often you get a fennel seed like a jewel of intense anise flavour on your spoon.

We ate ours with toasted bread with homemade garlic butter and Parmesan, and it made for a fine post-recovery Sunday lunch.

And if you're wondering what I want to try next from A Homemade Life? Pistachio cake with honeyed apricots, buckwheat pancakes, fruit-nut balls, and coeur à la crème with raspberry purée. To name a few.

* We actually made that salad three times in five days. What can I say? It's a fennel and Asian pear revelation.

one year ago: chocolate coconut macaroons
two years ago: Dutch babies and turning 3
three years ago: gumdrop cake and turning 2
four years ago: whisky marmalade
five years ago: creamy celeriac soup and muesli

tomato soup with two fennels
very slightly adapted from A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg
serves 6  8

3 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, quartered and sliced thinly
2 medium fennel bulbs (about 11/4 pounds), trimmed, quartered from root to stalk, and sliced thinly  and if there are fennel fronds, chop them finely and set them aside to garnish
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 sprigs fresh thyme, tied with a string*
2 tsp. fennel seeds
2 28-ounce cans whole peeled tomatoes, best quality you can get
water or chicken stock
3/4 tsp. sea salt or to taste**
very small dollop honey, to taste
a splash or two of red wine vinegar

Heat a large Dutch oven up over medium heat. Pour the olive oil in. Add the onion and fennel and stir. Stirring occasionally, cook for 5  6 minutes, until the onion starts to soften. Stir the garlic in and cook another 5  7 minutes, stirring often, until the onion is very soft. Stir the thyme and fennel seeds in and cook about 2 minutes, until you can smell them.

Pour the two cans of tomatoes in. Fill one can with water or chicken stock (I used chicken stock) and stir in. Bring to a steady simmer, and cook uncovered for about 45 minutes, until it tastes like soup and the fennel is softer but still holds its shape.

Add some salt and taste. Add more salt if necessary. Add a very small dollop of honey and a splash of red wine vinegar. Taste and decide if it needs any more salt, honey or vinegar. Add the reserved fennel fronds. Serve.

* Molly calls for 1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves chopped, but I find stripping thyme stalks to be the most tedious task in the world. You could, if you like that sort of thing.
** I just got a bag of very inexpensive sel gris and tried it  worked very well

Sunday, January 25, 2015

cheesecake in a jar with passion fruit sauce

The birthday tradition around here is that the birthday girl or boy can choose whatever they like for their birthday dinner  often a brand-new recipe  and the non-birthday spouse will make it.

This year, the birthday boy chose his menu from Japanese Farm Food: fat little teriyaki hamburgers, Japanese rice, carrot and cilantro salad with citrus, and napa cabbage salad with sesame seeds.

Sure, I said, but what about dessert?

He scratched his head and thought for a while.

Then he remembered the perfectly smooth cheesecake and passion fruit sauce we were served in a fancy glass while we sat out on the patio at Cafe Julia in Honolulu a few years ago.

And thus began the great hunt of January 2015 to find passion fruit in Edmonton.

I called the grocery store.

I asked my friend whose parents are from the Caribbean.

I asked my other friend who is an accomplished dessert maker.

Eventually, a little bird called Twitter tracked the elusive passion fruit down, and I was full-steam ahead to make this little dessert.

I've never made a no-bake cheesecake before  essentially, mix some whipped cream cheese with some whipped cream - and it seemed too easy to be true.

But people: it is divine. Light and smooth with a little tang from the cream cheese, and flecks of vanilla seeds rounding it out.

And then the passion fruit sauce.

It is a thing of wonder. Tart and sweet with a few crunchy seeds, it's the perfect thing to sit atop that cloud of cheesecake. (Not to mention so cute in that little jar.)

The birthday boy was pleased, and I'm pleased to have a new go-to dessert recipe. Actually, it was so good that it almost feels like it was my birthday.

one year ago: tuscan white beans
two years ago: pan de yuca (colombian tapioca buns) and black-eyed peas with kale and bacon
three years ago: tomato sauce with onion and butter and lemon syllabub
four years ago: glorious hummus and rosemary gruyère baked eggs

cheesecake in a jar
slightly adapted from Canadian Living and Charcut
half-fills six jars (leaving you room for sauce or fruit)

1/2 vanilla bean
150 ml. whipping cream
50 g. icing sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
250 ml. (1 c.) cream cheese, at room temperature

Use a small paring knife to slit the vanilla bean lengthwise. Scrape out the seeds using the dull side of the blade.

In a mixing bowl, combine the vanilla seeds, whipping cream, icing sugar and vanilla extract. Beat until soft peaks form, and set aside in the fridge.

In another mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese until it's smooth and lightened, making sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Plop in one-third of the whipped cream and fold it in. Repeat with another third of the whipped cream, and then again with the final third of whipped cream.

Use two teaspoons to carefully spoon the cream cheese mixture into the 6 jars. Cover and put in the fridge until chilled, about 1 hour. Serve with a sauce or fruit tossed with a bit of sugar and liqueur.

passion fruit sauce
adapted from Easy Brazilian Recipes

1 c. passion fruit juice
1/2 c. water
1 c. sugar
2 passion fruit

Heat the water and sugar over medium heat in a non-reactive pot. Once the sugar has dissolved, cook 3 more minutes. Stir in the passion fruit juice and simmer at a good rate. Stir occasionally until the sauce begins to thicken, about 8  12 minutes. If it doesn't seem thicker after 12 minutes, remove from the heat and let cool for about 10 minutes. Stir to check on it. If it's still not thick enough for you, simmer for 5 more minutes. Again, let it cool and decide if you need to do another 5 minutes.

Once the sauce has cooled completely, scoop out the passion fruit seeds and flesh and stir them into the sauce. Put a few teaspoons on each little cheesecake in a jar and serve immediately.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

chipotle & rosemary spiced nuts

I love fancy nuts.

By fancy, I mean nuts that are lightly glazed and roasted. Oh, and that are exciting enough to make me look forward to them as a mid-morning snack.

Spicy cajun almonds and Gramercy Tavern bar nuts have been favourites around here, but after Christmas, I felt like the new year deserved a new nut recipe.

I found this: Ina Garten's chipotle and rosemary spiced nuts. I had a little bag of fresh rosemary in the fridge and so it felt like fate.

I adapted the recipe to suit my nut tastes (and budget) and I feel particularly pleased about the pistachios I added. They are like little gems of concentrated flavour nestled around the bigger cashews and pecans.

On first glance, the recipe looks a bit odd: chipotle, rosemary, orange juice? I know. But trust Ina here. They are a trio I am now very glad to meet.

So here you are  a new nut recipe for the new year. Feel free to adapt it for the nuts you find in your cupboard.

one year ago: tuscan white beans
two years ago: happy things in the new year and carrot and fennel soup
three years ago: glory bowl
four years ago: naomi's granola

chipotle and rosemary spiced nuts
adapted from Ina Garten on The Kitchn

275 g. (2 c.) unroasted cashews
100 g. (1 c.) unroasted pecan halves
200 g. (1 1/2 c.) unroasted almonds
100 g. (2/3 c.) shelled unroasted pistachios
50 g. (3 tbsp.) maple syrup
25 g. (2 tbsp. + 1 tsp.) brown sugar
2 g. (1 tsp.) ground chipotle powder
32 g. (2 tbsp.) freshly-squeezed orange juice
1 tbsp. fresh rosemary, minced
18 g. (1 tbsp. + 1 tsp.) neutral oil, such as canola or grapeseed
1 1/4 tsp. Kosher salt (or 3/4 tsp. regular salt)
later: 1 tsp. Kosher salt (or 1/2 tsp. regular salt)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and get out a sheet pan or two regular cookie sheets.

Brush the pan(s) a bit of neutral oil. Get out a very large bowl and mix up the cashews, pecans, almonds, pistachios, maple syrup, brown sugar, chipotle powder, orange juice, rosemary, oil and 1 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt.

Spread the nuts out on the pan(s) as evenly as possible and slide into the oven. Roast for 25  28 minutes, stirring twice, until the nuts look glazed and golden brown. Put the pan(s) on a rack to cool and toss with the other 1 teaspoon of Kosher salt.

Stir sometimes as they cool to help prevent the nuts sticking together  although they will anyway. Don't fret: you can break them up later when you put your precious nuts in an airtight container to store. Keep them at room temperature, all the easier to snack upon.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

we eat well in edmonton

Edmonton is a little big city of about a million way up on the 53rd latitude (north!).

There is a real pride here in what we can grow, including sweet, crunchy carrots and creamy Mozart potatoes for mashing.

But what I love is how many talented chefs we have in this city who dream up rootbeer brisket sandwiches and Grizzly Gouda perogies in white onion cream with bacon and warm dill slaw. And – the list goes on.

I was honoured to be part of CBC's recent round up of the best places to eat in Edmonton, along with Twyla Campbell from Weird Wild and Wonderful and Adrienne Pan, a serious diner and fellow CBC journalist.

Our comprehensive list is here . . . and if you want to see even more of my favourites, remember you can always hop on over to hop & go fetch it.

Hop & go fetch it is a lot bigger than just Edmonton  I've got cities all over Canada, U.S.A., Germany, Greece, Scotland and Japan.

What are your favourite places to eat  wherever you are?

Here's to eating well in the new year!