Tuesday, May 26, 2015

where to eat: halifax, charlottetown and calgary

Heading east this summer?

Think locally-roasted coffee, scallops, haddock, and  teeny-tiny-blueberry cobbler for dessert.

Heading west?

Think more locally-roasted coffee, burgers, fried chicken, and meringue-orange curd sundae for dessert.

I've just updated hop & go fetch it with my favourite places to eat in Halifax, Charlottetown and Calgary. Scroll down to find the province and city you're looking for  there are sections for British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

snack chronicles: cheddar oatcakes

Meet my new favourite snack: the cheddar oatcake.

It is crisp and cheesy with little nubbins of steel-cut oats, and I ate the last one this morning and I'm going to have to fix that soon. Very soon.

The recipe comes from Lucy Waverman, who says she first tried a cheesy oatcake at a farm store on the Isle of Mull. She recommends Mull cheddar, but, of course, sharp Canadian cheddar works, too.

The technique is ingenious: mix the oats, flour and cheese, and then drizzle melted butter and water in. At that point, it looks like wet oatmeal.

But after 10 or 15 minutes, the quick oats have soaked some water in and everything starts to come together into dough. To cut them into circles, I used the biscuit cutter my Scottish aunt gave me when I was 14.

In the oven, the oatcakes don't spread, but instead crisp up and puff just a bit. Once they have cooled, they are firm but a little crumbly, and all together the nicest mid-morning snack you could have. Or mid-afternoon.

P.S. If you're curious about the plate, it's my great-grandmother Henrietta McGaw's wedding china. She was from another Scottish island, the Isle of Skye.

One year ago: lentil soup with chorizo croûtes
Two years ago: rhubarb syrup and cauliflower and mull cheddar soup (must be something about this time of year that calls for mull cheddar!)
Three years ago: gouda and roasted pepper dip and grilled chicken sandwiches
Four years ago: sour cream coffee cake
Five years ago: swedish tea cookies

cheddar oatcakes
slightly adapted from Lucy Waverman, Globe and Mail
bakes about 30 oatcakes

2/3 c. steel-cut oats
1 1/2 c. quick-cooking oats
1/2 c. wheat flour
     or gluten-free:
     30 g. millet flour
     20 g. sweet rice flour
     20 g. potato starch
     1 tsp. xanthan gum
1 tsp. kosher salt (or 1/2 tsp. regular salt)
4 oz. (about 1 1/2 c.) sharp cheddar, grated
3/4 c. butter, melted
 2 tbsp. water

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

Stir both kinds of oats, flour(s), salt and cheddar together in a large bowl. Drizzle the melted butter and water over top. Stir until well mixed. Let stand 10  15 minutes, until it's firmed up and can come together. If it still feels too crumbly, add a little more water and stir it in.

Flour your working surface with wheat flour or, if gluten-free, sweet rice flour. Get out a 2 1/2 inch cutter and rolling pin. Knead the dough into a ball.  Roll out with floured rolling pin until about 1/4 inch thick. Flour cutter and cut out biscuits. Put biscuits on baking sheets. Bake 25  30 minutes, until they have a little colour and are lightly golden around the edges. Let cool on baking sheet.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

lemon chicken soup with spaghetti

Over the past ten days, we have made three different kinds of chicken soup.

We've made them all to help cure a dreadful cough that's kept us up at night and breaking into hacking fits during the day. Oh, and because chicken soup tastes good.

This is soup number two. (I might also tell you about soup number three soon.)

I've been making it for at least five years now, ever since I saw Giada waxing on about it in her pretty way while I was on a plane to Toronto. I'd never seen Giada before, and the recipe struck me so much that I bought her cookbook when I got home again. For this soup alone, the book is worth it.

While I believe in the power of chicken bones in broth, I also get tired and lazy when I have the plague. Giada calls for a rotisserie chicken, which  if you can brave going to the grocery store while you're having a coughing fit at the very busiest time of day  makes it dead easy. (Just pack a couple cough candies for the trip.)

We usually shred half the chicken for this soup, and shred the other half for the freezer to ponder for a future meal. Otherwise, it's simple. I added the step of frying the onion, carrot and celery because I think it helps the soup come together better, but after that, all you do is add broth and lemon juice, and eventually cook some broken-up spaghetti.

It might seem odd to top a chicken soup with parmesan cheese, but  trust me  it is lovely and salty against the freshness of the lemon in the soup. Altogether: very pleasing and welcome at this invalid's dinner table.

one year ago: spicy salmon broth
two years ago: stinging nettle soup
three years ago: paska and zeppelin pancakes
four years ago: gumdrop cookies
five years ago: butterscotch pudding and chocolate cheesecake

lemon chicken soup with spaghetti
adapted from Giada at Home by Giada di Laurentiis

2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. butter
1 medium onion, finely diced

2 big carrots, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
 10 c. chicken broth

1/4 c. fresh lemon juice
1 bay leaf
1 c. broken spaghetti* (1  2 inch pieces)
2 c. cooked rotisserie chicken, shredded or diced
1/4 c. parsley, chopped
salt to taste
1 c. parmesan or asiago cheese, grated finely

Heat a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Melt the oil and butter. Add the onion, carrot and celery and fry until somewhat softened and the onions are glossy and starting to look clear, about 10 minutes. Stir every so often.

Add the broth, lemon juice and bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Cover and let simmer until the vegetables are tender, 10  15 minutes. Add the spaghetti and cook until the noodles are cooked through, about 10 minutes.

Add the chicken and heat through. Stir the parsley in. Taste for salt, knowing you will also add salty cheese to your bowls of soup soon.

Ladle into bowls, and let everyone top their bowl with a good helping of cheese. Eat!

*We use gluten-free corn spaghetti by La Veneziane

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