Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Mulliga-what? Making the Perfect Moolgatunny Soup

This blog is slowly morphing into a record of the Cooking Party meetings, but I'm totally fine with that. For our second session M and I combined sea salt chocolate, the Beach, and mulligatawny soup, and came up with a relaxing and invigorating hangout. Mulligatawny is a soup that is traditionally from the Anglo-Indian population in India, and is like a daal, but with coconut milk added. Here we replaced the milk with 3/4 of a cup of coconut powder, and about a cup of water. We also made it vegetarian with no meat in it. Oh, and it tastes divine the day later; the spices merge and intensify and there's really a depth there that wasn't before.
As for the pronunciation- The Mixmaster really has a laugh at how I pronounce this soup. What can I do when I first learned of it from the TV show Seinfeld? The way you correctly pronounce it is the second way it's written in the title. This is really a recipe to try- quick and easy and inexpensive.
Here's Epicurious' version:

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Cooking Parties and Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie recipe

Well, I haven't been writing much about cooking because I've actually been cooking. I've started working as Front of the House (FOH) at a restaurant in a farmer's market. Working in the food industry is so awesome for a foodie that I literally spring out of bed at 5:30 am (!) on market days. I live for it.
Recently I've started to have cooking parties (my name, not the official name) with my friend, M, in efforts to pool food knowledge, hang out, and make meals for the week. What could be better than smelling the scents of vegetarian Shepherd's Pie wafting through the apartment while flicking between Fashion Television and Jamie Oliver's Ministry of Food? Not a whole damn lot, I'll tell ya! After our first session I thought I might come back to this space and encourage others have similar parties with their friends. And coincidentally, our plan is not unlike Oliver's own; to make good food accessible to ourselves, cut down on take out and dinners out, and share knowledge. Hopefully with whiskey martinis the next time we do so. Hmmm....

Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie*
2 packets Yves veggie ground round, chicken flavour
Corn kernels from two cooked ears of corn
4 russet potatoes
one carrot, small dice
one onion, small dice
two cloves garlic, minced
one stalk broccoli, cut into small florets
8 leaves fresh basil, sliced
olive oil
1 tsp thyme
1 tbsp veggie stock powder
salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup milk
2 tbsp butter

  • Cut potatoes in a large dice (peel on) and put in a pot of water, set to boil. Cook until the Potatoes are fork tender. Set aside to cool, and peel when cool.
  • Using a large pan, saute onions and garlic in a little olive oil. When translucent add carrots and cook for 3 minutes on medium low, and add broccoli and cook another 3 minutes. Add fake meat, herbs, stock powder, and cook for 10 minutes. Add 1/2 cup water, so the mixture isn't too dry, and mix. Set aside.
  • To make the mashed potatoes, mash with milk and butter. Add salt and pepper.
  • Using a large glass dish, layer fake meat mixture, corn, and top with mashed potatoes. Place in a 350F oven and bake for about 1/2 an hour, or until golden brown on top.
*The potato section is an estimate, as I wasn't doing it.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Au Revoir, St. Clair West

Moving is Hell.
I've been in my new neighbourhood on the Danforth for about two months, and we're still not unpacked. Boxes, boxes, boxes. Add to that research, work, and other stresses, and we are b.u.s.y.
But, the last time I wrote, I said I'd write about St Clair West, and so here it is.
On to the farewell...
When we think of great eats in this city, we think of the brunch places in Leslieville, or Sri Lankan food in Scarbs, or dim sum in Chinatown. St. Clair West isn't a destination that pops into the mind, and for pete's sake, it's off the Bloor line! But if you happen to find yourself in the neighbourhood and it gets around meal time here are a few options:
1) Mezetta Cafe and Restaurant at 681 st. Clair West- What could be better than middle eastern tapas? Maybe tapas that only costs 2.22$ a dish? Check out Mezzetta on a Monday or a Tuesday for amazing deals. Their chicken cigars are sinful, and a "must try". I'd try and order less than the menu recommends; 3-4 dishes a person is plenty if you're very hungry. Dinner for two including wine and tip comes out to 40$ on one of the reduced price nights.
2) Filippo's Gourmet Pizza at 744 St. Clair West (ph) 416-658-0568- This pizza place is one of the pioneers of gourmet pizza in Toronto, and their pizzas are fresh, the selection of pies is satisfying, and the service is stellar. Be warned that their pizzas are a little on the large size. The prices range from 10-16$, from memory. They have a great patio that is great for a date or intimate dinner.
3) What's better than a farmer's market? Maybe a farmer's market at the Green Barns where the Stop Community Food Centre hosts their Stop Market Cafe every Sat from 9 am to 1 pm and serves delicious, rustic food like a Farmer's Frittata sandwich, fruit Galettes, and Strudels that change with seasonal fruit? You can find out about the Stop here. They are located at 601 Christie, at St. Clair West.
4) Want a quick bite, and are not afraid of large helpings and fusion? Eastern Twist at 505 St. Clair West (At Bathurst) has pan-Asian meets Caribbean foods, and their rotis are a dream. Don't forget the achar, but be warned, it's spicy!
And that's a quick tour of my beloved former 'hood. I could mention that the Goodwill for thrifting and the Joe Fresh for inexpensive clothing deals are must-sees, but that would be out of the scope of a food blog, right?

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Nothing says "I Love You" Like Smuggled Cheese From the Netherlands

On this rainy and cold Saturday, I'm wistfully remembering the tasty and bold round of gouda that my younger sister had brought back from Amsterdam several weeks ago. It was a whole wheel of cheese a little bigger than my palm, but such pleasures are meant for sharing, and so I passed one small wedge on to The Mixmaster, and my friend, M.
The cheese is from a maker named Henri Willig, and after the last precious morsel of creamy, peppery, milky goodness had disappeared, I googled them, and found that to my dismay, they ship just about everywhere but Canada. If you're in the Canary Islands, or Hong Kong, you can get Willig yumminess, but sadly we go cheese-less. I paired my gouda with PC 7 Grain Original Flat Bread, a quick grocery store buy. The cracker was lightly salted, and went well with the sharp, pepper taste of the pepper gouda.
Ah, the glories of cheese... In Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island, one of the most intriguing characters to me is that of Ben Gunn, the hapless marooned British man who hasn't "'spoke with a Christian [for] three years'" (Stevenson 79). And what does he ask for when he meets up with the treasure hunters from England? A "'Christian diet'"; he says "'You mightn't happen to have a piece of cheese about you, now? No? Well, many's the long night I've dreamed of cheese" (79). Luckily, the ship's doctor, who is coded in the text as a true gentleman, has a small piece of parmesan in his snuff box, which he gives to Ben Gunn, hoping to save him from the dread fate of "going native" (102). This text, which I'd re-read last fall, highlights the hierarchies of processed versus unprocessed foods, which I've spoken of before. Cheese is civilized and "Christian". Papayas, or even rum (though it is processed, it is linked to the Caribbean), are not. Western society seems to prize food that is removed from it's natural state.
Now to figure out a way to get to Amsterdam to smuggle some Henri Willig cheese back. Not the most likely thing to try to sneak into T.O. from the rather progressive nation...
I'm moving from my beloved St Clair West area to a new neighbourhood. I've been here for over three years and have really come to love the place. If I have time in the middle of all the packing and sorting through stuff, I'm going to try and write a food farewell to this lovely part of town.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Will This Make Me a Better Blogger?

After years working on the sketchiest of computer setups (I even blogged once from a computer lab at school, sigh), I've gotten myself a Macbook. I'm still figuring out how it works, but am excited and re-invigorated to work on artistic and research projects. Finally, a good computer!
What does this have to do with food? Um, not much I guess, except my old, failing Vaio made me dread blog entries. So hopefully they'll be more frequent now. Oh, and I've been looking through pictures and have come across many beautiful food ones that I thought I'd share. Enjoy!

a salami sandwich eaten on a picnic in Rome, Italy, October 2009

pomegranates in a piazza in Rome, Italy, October 2009

rabbit in white wine with olives,Rome, Italy, October 2009

fresh salad, Florence, Italy, October 2009

candy apples, Little Italy, New York City, 2008

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Will Travel for Good Food

The intrepid foodie in Toronto (or any city really) knows that in a city with urban sprawl like ours, to say that you're only eating downtown can become a little limiting after a while. If you have the time, access to a vehicle, or are in other parts of the city, it might be worth it to venture out of your comfort zone to have a meal. And if you do really love food, these can become "food adventures," and a way to while away an afternoon or an evening.
I've been told that the best place in Toronto to have dosa (South Indian crepes stuffed with potatoes or other items) is on Lawrence East. I still have to ascertain the exact location from my folks, but why would I think of going to Udupi Palace on Gerrard (or Trinity Bellwoods, *shudder*), as adequate as they are, when there might be something better a little trip away . And I've known for a while that the best places to have dim sum are in North York, Willowdale, and Richmond Hill.
A few weeks ago I was at The Mixmaster's place for a relaxing weekend. Well, relaxing in that we hussled up to Unionville, which took 2 hours each way, to see the Automatistes Revolution exhibit at the Varley Gallery. The Mixmaster was eager to take me to have Gujarati vegetarian thali at Markham and Lawrence afterwards. The place is called Govardhan Thal, it is two block north of Lawrence, and their number is 416-438-0544. For a mere $5.25 we received rice, 5 puris, 4-5 subjies (vegetable dishes), daal, churdi (a savoury, milky, yoghurty dish), and shrikund (a milk-based dessert, on this occasion with dates and pistachios). The memories that were unearthed by the food, memories of my mom's cooking, of trips to Surat, India were bittersweet and healing. And the food was good, and plentiful; the one thali served me for 3 nostalgic meals. If I hadn't opened myself up to moving about the city seeking out new food experiences, I would have missed this quintessential diasporic moment.
So, check out the suburbs, revisit the haunts of your old hood, and pack a magazine or an ipod. Most of the new immigrant communities in Toronto, I feel, live in the suburbs, so supporting these businesspeople is imperative.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Memories of Napoli: Part 1

About half way through my fall trip to Italy, The Mixmaster and I traveled to Napoli (Naples), a small town a few hours away from Rome. We weren't spending much time there, as we were on our way to the Pompeii ruins, but knowing that Napoli has some of the best pizza in Italy, and probably the world, a stop for a pie seemed like an absolute necessity. In Italy, most of the places we went to sold individual pies and not slices; they baked them for you fresh, and often in a wood burning oven. On our first day in Rome, we were amazed to be presented with what would be about the size of a Canadian "small" pizza, per person! But with all the walking, sometimes for 8 hours or more a day, we quickly got used to the increased portions. Italian pizzas are often lighter on the cheese, and it is focalized in the middle of the pie. But one thing that our palates quickly discerned to be the difference between Canadian and Italian pizzas (besides the thin, crispy crust) was the sauce.
Most North American pizzas that I've had, including the fabled New York pizza, seem to use ground tomatoes spiced with herbs for their sauce. The sauces in Italy were tangier, lighter in taste and colour. We soon realized that they were either made from scratch from ripe tomatoes, which don't have the sweet-ish taste of ground tomatoes, or they were made from canned plum tomatoes, pulsed in a blender with herbs. It made a world of a difference.
So, having disembarked from our train, we knew where we wanted to go, Pizzeria Gino Sorbillo (Via dei Tribunali 32, 081-446643), but not how to get there. And the circuitous streets and narrow lanes of Napoli took some getting used to. We finally arrived at our Pizzeria, a little testy with each other, and with our bellies growling. The pizzas at Gino Sorbillo were everything that the guide book said that they might be. There were a multitude of choices, exciting combinations, with prices ranging from 2.50 euros to about 8.00 euros. I had the Pugliese, with capricciosa, pomodoro, mozzarella, olive, prosciutto, funghi, and carciofini for 6 euros. It was as yummy and flavourful (with a smoky taste due to the well cured meats) as my hastily snapped photo suggests.
Oh, and on the walk to your next destination, you might want to pick up some famous fried risotto and cheese balls, at Di Matteo, located on the same street at number 94. They always have a crowd waiting patiently for them, and they are one of the things that Napoli is known for.
So, how does one go from Italian pizza with all it's tastes and textures to Pizza Pizza (note that there's no link...)? In part two of my post, I will detail, with recipes, my attempts at the perfect home pizza (which I made for a recent anniversary with a certain special someone).

Friday, January 1, 2010

Kitchen Appliances, Gadgets, and Doodads- Whatever to Buy?

In honour of the boxing week sales, I thought I'd discuss some of the most common kitchen appliances that people have, and rate them for convenience, etc. Now would be a good time to look around at stores and possibly snap up a deal if you're in the market for some given item.
I should say that I'd grown up in a very well-stocked house when it came to appliances. We had standing mixers, food processors, blenders, a full supply of baking equipment. We also had a very large kitchen in the suburbs of Montreal with plenty of cabinet space, and all the other unidentifiable things that middle class people in the suburbs have- access to big box stores when things are cheaper than in the city, a car to lug the appliance home, and my dad's income.
The average Torontonian on a budget has to think carefully about purchases, especially where kitchen counter space is often at a premium. One thing I've done to keep costs down is shopping at Goodwill for housewares stuff. Check out their website to find out their "half off days," where every item in the store is 50%. Goodwil is a great place to pick up vintage dishes, serving trays, and some small appliances; just be sure to check that they work well before buying. Another way of acquiring a desired item is to, if your friends and family are the types to buy gifts for your birthday, mention that you really need, say a blender, and would appreciate them helping you out. For some people, especially those of us with pain issues, some appliances can ease the strain on one's body, and are definitely worth the investment. So, on with the list:
  1. Food processors: Food processors are often among the most expensive of all daily use appliances, and according to some accounts, the most useful. Food processors are similar to blenders, except they also do such things as shred cheeses, slice vegetables, and mix and knead doughs. If you like cooking, but find it sometimes a hassle or difficult to do such things as knead bread, they might be worth a look. You can sometimes find them at Goodwill, and you can find some of the lower end ones at Sears and Canadian Tire for around $50.00 (just be sure that the processor does everything you want it to). The usual price range is $400 to $30 for some of the mini choppers.
  2. Blenders: The Mixmaster gave me a blender in the spring, and I love it. Blenders are good for making smoothies, pureeing soups and other sauces, and making such dips as hummus. They can also be used to crush ice for drinks. You can get a good one for around $60.00. One thing to look for is a removable blade for cleaning. While the glass ones are great, they are heavy, and with care, one with a plastic jar should last you a long time. Blenders always need some fluid to work (so when making dips, one would have to put in some oil or water to get the blades moving, for example). Mine is always about to be washed or drying, so it's in regular use.
  3. Espresso makers: A frivolous item it would seem, until you take stock of your actual coffee habit. If you're spending $35 or more on outside coffee a month, it might be a good idea to invest in a home machine and a travel mug. Yes, there is a wide range of machine costs, with some of them costing over $1500 (!), but a decent machine can be found for a little over $80. I have a small Delonghi that was a gift from family, and with the proper grind of freshly roasted beans and adequate tamping can make a pretty good espresso at home.
  4. Pizza stones: A specialty item, probably only for those who are nostalgic for recent trips to Italy (sigh). I bought mine a few months ago, and I love it. They are currently on sale at Kitchen Stuff Plus in Toronto, going for $10, which is much less than the $20 they used to be a few years ago. Pizza stones should be considered general baking stones; you can bake cookies, scones, and other baked goods on them. They take away the moisture and ensure the crispness of the food. If you like making homemade pizza, you will definitely notice the difference of baking on a stone, and so it might be an item to consider buying.
  5. Mandoline slicers: These are tabletop slicers that most often cut vegetables. As with most kitchen gadgets, there are the very expensive, the mid-range, and the crappy. Prices range from $150 to $15, but I would think carefully before spending anything under $30. Make sure that there are rubber grips on the bottom to ensure slip-free slicing, and that the blade is of a good quality. I'm not entirely sold on them; they require careful cleaning, involve repetitive arm movements, and might not end up saving you much in terms of time or body health. But, if you really do a lot of slicing in your food prep, they may be more cost effective than a food processor.
  6. Lemon reamers, garlic presses, and mortar and pestles, oh my: These are all items that are relatively inexpensive and are in regular usage in my kitchen. When buying a lemon reamer, I might stay away from the wooden ones, because with time they occasionally get discoloured or retain liquid. I couldn't live without my garlic press; I use it almost daily. I got mine from Ikea for under $7. It saves me a lot of time when it comes to mincing garlic; I simply pop the clove in my press and in two seconds the job is done. And finally, if you do a lot of Indian cooking, a mortar and pestle is an important addition to your kitchen. I use it to grind spices, though it can also be used to pound garlic and ginger for curries. I got mine from Gerrard India Bazaar (around Coxwell and Gerrard) for under $10. Though if you need something specifically for spice grinding and want to save yourself some pounding effort, an inexpensive coffee grinder might be a good option.
These are some of the most basic items out there, though an average cook can function without having most of them. And I haven't even mentioned the specialty items that one might find at high end stores; everything from special jugs to keep one's herbs fresh for $35 (umm, ever heard of an empty yogurt tub?!?) to $36 cake pans that bake cakes that look like 9 car trains. Okay, so maybe that last item doesn't seem so frivolous, come to thing of it. I mean, what epicurean with extra time wouldn't be tickled by the thought of making something fancy for the special little guy or girl in their life?