Monday, August 31, 2009

Food for Thought: 10 New Uses for Vodka

Make yourself a cocktail and read more about how vodka can be used for everything from treating poision ivy to making your hair shine.

The Daily Green's Vodka Uses

I know what you are thinking - really? Vodka? Yep.

As The Daily Green points out, "it is widely available, effective and less toxic than many of the chemical alternatives you might use for these tasks."

I'm sold!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Read it: Flavor Bible

This book is UH-MAY-ZING!!!
Seriously. A page turner. Well, a page turner for foodie-nerds.
But it gives you the lowdown on what flavours pair well with different foods, plus it has lots of tips, quotes and interesting info from various famous chefs. It isn't a cookbook…this is for experimenting and getting creative with your own recipes.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Best Chocolate Chip Cookies???

Apparently these chocolate chip cookies have garnered "BEST CCC" awards…this is the kind of thing that google was invented for.

So I tried out the recipe and…well, they are good but I am not sure they deserve the acclaim. Maybe I need to buy the special "disks" of chocolate and that they call for but I couldn't make my way to NY, where Jacques Torres sells them.

However, some highlights were the 36 hour dough-wait period. And they are pretty yum straight from the oven and with the salt on top. Sweet and salty is a sure-fire winner.
I have done more research since and there are recipes out there tweaking it with oatmeal and orange zest. I am going to give that a shot and report back later on whether or not it is an improved cookie.

In the meantime here is the recipe…

Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from Jacques Torres

2 cups minus 2 tablespoons
(8 1/2 ounces) cake flour
1 2/3 cups (8 1/2 ounces) bread flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
1 1/4 pounds bittersweet chocolate disks or fèves, at least 60 percent cacao content
Sea salt.

1. Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.
2. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Drop chocolate pieces in and incorporate them without breaking them. Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.
3. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside.
4. Scoop preferred size of cookie (1 tablespoon) onto baking sheet, making sure to turn horizontally any chocolate pieces that are poking up; it will make for a more attractive cookie. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then slip cookies onto another rack to cool a bit more. Repeat with remaining dough, or reserve dough, refrigerated, for baking remaining batches the next day.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Food For Thought: Vitamin D

It’s official - vitamin D is the new belle of the supplement ball!

Not only are there several medical journals and articles published spewing rave reviews on the benefits but also just as many linking low levels to serious health problems.

And according to many studies, a deficiency is becoming alarmingly common.

Deficiencies were previously only associated with Rickets. However, it is now known to be linked to various forms of heart health, diabetes, depression, and severe osteoporosis.

There is also growing evidence that vitamin D may reduce the risk of some types of cancer - including breast.

Besides the sun, which Vancouver tends not to see very often, fish such as salmon, tuna and mackerel are very good sources of vitamin D. You can also stock up on supplements and vitamin D fortified foods.

Read More... and more importantly make sure you are getting enough!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Zucchini Caprese

If you grow Zucchini or know someone who does you will know that they can reach gargantuan proportions and after the bizzilionth loaf of zucchini bread you will want to explore other options.
You could easily add roasted tomatoes to this as well.

2-3 medium zucchini sliced thinly as possible
2-4 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1-2 balls buffalo mozzarella or bocconcini
1-4 cup toasted pinenuts
1/2 cup pesto

Basil Dressing
2 cloves garlic
4 cups packed fresh basil
1 tablespoons dijon mustard
1 cup good quality olive oil
Fresh ground pepper and sea salt to taste
Servings: 4

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Slice zucchini and brush with olive oil and place on baking sheet with parchment paper. Grill 5-10 minutes or until cooked through. On the bbq works best.
Remove, and place on a large serving platter. Cut 1/8 inch slice of cheese and place on top of zucchini slices. Sprinkle with pinenuts and dressing. Serve with a loaf of crunchy french bread to wipe up the dressing. Trust me. You will want to.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Fresh Corn, Pepper & Avocado Salad

Fresh corn on the cob is so different from anything in a can or frozen that I really don't consider them in the same realm. So unless you have sweet, delicious corn on this isn't something I would make with a substitution. If you want a more substantial salad and to make it a meal you could always add black beans.

1 lime zest and juice
4 tomatillos cooked in boiling water until soft (3-5 minutes)
1 large bunch cilantro (4 cups)
1 garlic clove
1 chipotle pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 avocado
8 corn on the cobs, cooked and de-kerneled (that means cut the kernels off)
1/2 cup of feta or queso fresco
1 red or orange pepper diced
1 cup grape tomatoes or baby heirloom
2 green onions sliced

Servings: 4

Place all the dressing ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Place avocado through onions in a medium size salad bowl and pour dressing overtop and serve.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Food For Thought: Food and politics… doesn’t that sound like one ruins the other?

There has been an enormous backlash against Whole Foods after their CEO John Mackey was quoted in the Wall Street Journal last week as saying that health care is not an intrinsic right.

His support of health care savings accounts, a very conservative stance, has outraged even devoted fans to the point where a 14,000 strong Facebook group has already been created called “Boycott Whole Foods”.

In response, Whole Foods has sent letters to customers apologizing for any offense and created a forum on its website to discuss the issue but it seems to still be gaining speed on both sides of the border.

The feeling of betrayal has hit the company hard so far, with even devoted regulars declaring "it was only a matter of time before I'd have to reconcile my politics with my addiction to Whole Foods. I have to get my puffins elsewhere."

Do you think the lash out is just or are people expecting too much from the corporation (let’s not forget that it is one (wink))?

Chocolate Cranberry Coconut Pecan Cookies

I think the great thing about cookies is their versatility as far as what you want in them. By all means, if you don't like coconut or prefer dried cherries, then substitute them. I just went with what was in my pantry. I like these just barely cooked so they stay soft and chewy.

3/4 cup butter or vegetable shortening
1 1/4 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 3/4 cups white all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup chocolate covered cranberries or 1/2 cup dried cranberries and 1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup sweetened coconut

Makes 3 dozen

HEAT oven to 375ºF.
Combine butter, brown sugar, milk and vanilla in large bowl. Beat at medium speed of electric mixer until well blended. Beat in egg. Combine flour, salt and baking soda. Mix into butter mixture until just blended. Stir in cranberries, chocolate chips and nuts and raisins.

Drop by rounded measuring tablespoonfuls 3 inches apart onto ungreased baking sheet.

Bake 8 to 10 minutes. Cool 2 minutes on baking sheet on a cooling rack. Remove cookies to rack to cool completely.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Halibut Ceviche Tacos

I love making ceviche. So simple and flavorful. You could easily serve this with tortilla chips instead as an hors d'ouvres.

12 oz halibut filet, skinned, chopped into 1/4 inch cubes
Juice and zest from 1 orange
Juice from 2 limes
Juice from 1 lemon
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 minced jalapeño
4 tablespoons of coconut milk
1 tablespoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon fish sauce or soy sauce
Salt and pepper to taste

1 ripe avocado cut into thin slices
4 taco shells

1 mango (optional)
Shredded iceberg lettuce (optional)

Servings: 4 as an appetizer

Combine halibut, juices, zest, jalapeño in a re-sealable container and let sit 18-24 hours in the fridge. The acids from the citrus will "cook" the halibut. Remove, drain juice and place in medium size bowl.
Add the coconut milk, cilantro, sugar, fish sauce and salt and pepper. Add the mango if using.
Place a small handful of shredded lettuce inside the bottom of the taco shell. Fill with halibut mixture and top with a slice of the avocado.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Peach, Arugula, Almond, Feta Salad

Use up those peaches! I have been repeatedly using the fruit/nut/cheese combo for almost all my salads. Hey, when it works why not?

Juice from one orange
Zest from one orange
1/2 cup vegetable or grapeseed oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey

2 ripe peaches, peeled and sliced
8 large handfuls arugula
1/4 cup toasted slivered almonds
1/4 cup feta
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced

Balsamic Reduction (optional)

Servings: 4

Combine all ingredients for dressing in a small bowl and whisk. Place arugula in a large salad bowl and toss with dressing. Evenly distribute on 4 plates. Top each with 4-6 slices of peach, 1 tablespoon almonds, 1 tablespoon feta, 6 red onion slices and drizzle with Balsamic Reduction if using.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Vanilla Peach Juice

With peaches in season right now I am thinking of all ways I can use them. From cakes and pies to salads and juice.

This is lovely with a couple of icecubes thrown in to cool you down or as is. You can also freeze the peaches before hand so it is a more slurpie/slushie consistency. I like to serve it between courses to cleanse your palate or as an accompaniment to a peach dessert.

10 ripe peaches, peeled
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch of nutmeg
2 tablespoons agave nectar (optional)

Servings: 8 4 oz glasses

Puree all of the above in a blender and serve in liquor glasses.

Food for Thought: Food News Trends

While foodies always seek out articles regarding their passion, Terri Coles from the Ottawa Citizen claims that food has splashed onto the front page of mainstream news in a new way.

“From recalled tomatoes to calorie counts on menus, food and health was a big part of the news in 2008” and is gaining steam in 2009.

What’s going on in the fields has long been a reflection of economy, culture, and politics. However, maybe in a time of instant information it’s easier to follow the news worthy trends even as they are happening.

Coles lists the top 5 anticipated food-related hot news topics for 2009.

What do you think of her choices?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Grilled Vegetables, Arugula Pesto Dressing, Goats Cheese

I recommend using whatever garden fresh veggies you have. Squash, peppers, eggplant---if you can grow it, grill it, you will love it in this antipasto/salad. It is great for a large dinner party or summer bbq. Be generous with the olive oil and have a good rustic french loaf of bread to soak up the extra dressing. You will want to lick your plate if you don't.

Arugula-Basil Dressing
4 cloves garlic
4 cups packed fresh basil
8 cups packed fresh arugula
2 tablespoons dijon mustard
2 cups good quality olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
Fresh ground pepper to taste

8 peppers
6 zucchini
1 large red onion
1-2 cups cherry tomatoes
10 fresh basil leaves
1/2 cups goat cheese
1/4 cup-1/2cup olive oil for brushing on vegetables
Salt and pepper

Servings: 10

To make the pesto, take garlic and chop in a food processor. Add mustard. Add 1 cup of arugula or basil and alternate with cup of olive oil, until pureed. Set aside.
Cut vegetables. Peppers in thirds, zucchini-lengthwise 1/2 inch thick, red onion 1/2 inch thick. Brush with olive oil, salt and pepper.
Heat grill to 400 degrees and grill each side until done (10-15 minutes).
Remove from grill and arrange on a platter. Pour dressing overtop along with goat cheese, tomatoes and fresh basil. Serve.

Let's go shopping in Italy...

Well, since I can't just hop on a plane and go there, the next best thing is checking out these amazing Italian Deli's here in Vancouver. I like to pretend I am in Florence or Siena in a family run market. Except instead of having to use my broken Italian everyone speaks English. That would be the upside.

I love la Grotta del Formaggio. They have everything from ameretti cookies to buffalo mozzarella (direct from the motherland). I am a sucker for the labels. Sure, it's just a can of beans. If I were to do a taste test they would probably match up to the Canadian brand. But the cute little flag and Italian writing makes my heart sing.
Although I have never experienced one, their sandwiches are renowned.

La Grotta del Formaggio
1791 Commercial Drive

Here are some other Italian spots

Tosi Italian Food Imports
624 Main Street

Santa Barbara Market
1322 Commercial Drive

4156 E Hastings Street

Scardillo Grocery
2580 E Hastings Street

Renzullo Food Market
1370 Nanaimo Street

Friday, August 7, 2009

Blueberry Creamcheese Bites

This is ridiculously easy. Graham crackers. Blueberries. Creamcheese.
It is like a bitesize mini cheesecake minus the baking, effort and time.

12 graham crackers
250 grams creamcheese
Zest of one lemon
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup fresh blueberries
Balsamic Reduction (optional)

6 servings

Mix creamcheese with zest and lemon juice. Place in freezer for a minimum of an hour. If you don’t have time for this the mixture will be a bit runny so omit the lemon juice.
Spread one tablespoon (or around that amount) on a cracker. Top with 3-5 blueberries and drizzle with a little balsamic reduction if you fancy.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Swiss Chard with Pinenuts, Raisins and Goat Cheese

Swiss Chard grows like a weed so if you know someone who is cultivating it go by their garden and grab some STAT.
This recipe is easy and so tasty! Great flavour combination. You can easily omit the pesto or goat cheese but with my obsession for all things fromage I found it brought it to the next level.

1 1/2 pounds Swiss chard
1/2 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup raisins
1 cup water
1/2 cup of goat cheese (optional)
1/4 cup arugula or basil pesto (optional)

4 servings

Coarsely chop stems and leaves separately. Roughly chop leaves.
Toast nuts on a baking sheet in oven at 375 for 5-8 minutes. Toss at the midway point or until golden.
Cook onion in oil in a medium pot, stirring occasionally, 1 minute, then add chard stems and cook, stirring occasionally, 2 minutes. Add raisins and 1/2 cup water and simmer, covered, until stems are softened, about 3 minutes. Add chard leaves and remaining 1/2 cup water and simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until leaves are tender, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Serve sprinkled with nuts, goat cheese and 1 tablespoon pesto.

Food for Thought: Designer Ice

Designer Ice. That is right kids. Don't laugh. Okay…well I kind of did. But before you choke on a cube, read the following article in Macleans.

A good mixologist will win you over on the argument of how pertinent a good ice cube is, as a chef will place value on his or her ingredients. Apparently everything from their esthetics to how they cool down a drink and effect the taste.
We have put emphasis on so many details in our foodie culture, and what was once laughed and scoffed as it de rigueur today.

One Vancouver bar manager made it a prerequisite that he have a Kold-Draft ice cube machine installed. Apparently this is like the Ferrari of icemakers and creates perfect ice morsels that enhance your cocktail like no other. If you don't want to order the machine, Iceculture, an Ontario company makes ice "balls" using a "100 percent pure water with a reverse-osmosis filtration system and ultraviolet light to kill any bacteria".
Serious stuff.
They cost $1.15 each and are approximately the size of a billiard ball.
Don't want to pay the hefty price tag in our current economic climate? You can spend a day creating your own by twice boiling some distilled water which apparently removes gaseous bubbles (not good bubbles). This is what the bar manager at Lumiere and DB Bistro Moderne does for special occasions.

Maybe one day we will all demand designer ice.
Think it that is hilariously preposterous? Remember there was a time when bottled water was thought to be a ridiculous fad that would never catch on.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Summer Salad

I got these stunning purple carrots from the Farmers Market in Whistler. They were so pretty that I had to buy them! I put them together with some fresh summer peas, some roasted pearl onions and tossed them with some organic greens. Like a lot of what I cook this salad has no rules. Just inspiration. So grab whatever veggies look good and are in season. Throw them together and enjoy the flavour burst.

2 bunch carrots (8-15 carrots) steamed whole
8-12 pearl onions, roasted
1 cup fresh summer peas, shelled
1 head lettuce

1 teaspoon dijon mustard
2 tablespoons red or white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 garlic clove minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pepper to taste

Servings: 6

Toss the lettuce with the dressing, reserving 4 tablespoons. Arrange veggies on top and drizzle with remaining dressing.