Sunday, May 31, 2009

Chana Masala

Although I really like Indian food, I don't often make it at home for a few reasons. One, I don't believe I can make it as well as in restaurants. Two, I'm worried it's fatty and unhealthy. Obviously, these are not good reasons. I regularly read the blog Lisa's Kitchen and Lisa reguarly makes healthy Indian food. This chana masala recipe, that I ripped out from a friend's old Martha Stewart magazine, is very easy, healthy and yummy.

I have to admit that when I go to Indian restaurants, I do not usually order chana masala. I just find it's one of the lesser exciting dishes. In addition, it often looks like a mass of brown food, not very attractive. I like this recipe because it's tomato based and it's actually pretty good looking for Indian food!

I am submitting this recipe to the food blogging event, My Legume Love Affair, highlighting recipes with legumes. This eleventh edition is hosted by Lori Lynn from Taste With The Eyes. If you are interested in participating, or want to check past round-ups, take a look at the host lineup. This food blogging event was created by Susan from The Well-Seasoned Cook.

Chana Masala - Serves 2-3
Adapted from Martha Stewart.
I have added some sugar to the original recipe. I like the slightly sweet taste of Indian food (like Vietnamese) and I figured a couple of teaspoons wouldn't hurt! I put a whole jalapeño, seeds and all. It was fiery! So add jalapeño according to your heat resistance level! Final note, it's worth buying whole cumin seeds, even if you've run out and it costs $4.69..........

* oil
* ½ tsp cumin seeds
* 1 small onion, finely diced
* 1 cloves garlic, minced
* 1 cup crushed canned tomatoes (or as much as you want)
* 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
* ½ jalapeño pepper, seeded & very finely diced
* ½ tsp garam masala
* ½ tsp salt
* 1-3 tsp sugar (to taste)
* fresh chopped cilantro, for garnish

Heat oil in a large skillet over high heat.
Add cumin seeds and cook until they begin to pop - about 30 seconds.
Add onions and cook until they begin to brown.
Add garlic and cook 1 more minute.
Add tomatoes, chickpeas, jalapeño, garam masala, salt and sugar.
Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes.
Stir in cilantro and serve.
Serve with rice or naan bread.

Onion, garlic, jalapeno and cumin seeds. How can this not taste good?

The tomatoes make this dish very colourful.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Wedding at Glencairn Golf Club

Last weekend, I attended my friends S & L's wedding at Glencairn Golf Club. Glenclair Golf Club is part of Club Link, a group of 37 golf courses across Ontario. A small membership fee (probably in the range of $25,000...!) allows you to play at any of them! We had a beautiful day, with the sun shining, perfect for an outside ceremony. Unfortunately, I am rather vertically challenged and couldn't see much of the ceremony. However, I could hear the very entertaining pastor who amused everyone by quoting the very deep lyricist Akon:

Smack that, all on the floor
Smack that, give me some more
Smack that, 'til you get sore
Smack that, oh ooh

(You had to be there!).

My view of the ceremony - I barely saw the groom!

The ceremony was followed by cocktail hour. Hors d'oeuvres were served for all to enjoy. I am always amazed by pretty little bite-sized food. I think it would be fun making them. Everyone hovered around the bar near 5 pm to get our drinks!

I tried at least 3 kinds out of the 5 hors d'oeuvres.

I've been to SO many weddings that I have a good idea how it goes. Most weddings often offer a lot of food so it's important to pace yourself. It's even more important when you're wearing a dress that is not stretcheable. We started by a spinach salad that I quite enjoyed. Next came 2 beef cannelloni's - I only had one, knowing full well that more food come. This is also when the curtain was closed because the sunlight was bothering some guests and removing my source of lighting (and my apologies for poor pictures).

Our Table, aka the Dateless Table.

Spinach Salad.

Beef Cannelloni's.

We were then served a raspberry sorbet as a palate cleanser. I actually really enjoyed the sorbet as it tasted creamy somehow. Next we were served two proteins: beef and chicken! I never understand why there is never a sufficient amount of vegetables! I could have eaten much more asparagus! I ate half of each of the chicken and beef, and thought I was done for the night. Then came a little innocent cheesecake that was my favourite dish of the meal. It tasted so light and was not too sweet. I think I could have easily eaten another two... That's what I believe anyway.

Beef and chicken.

My favourite course: cheesecake!

A wedding has to end with some serious dancing and this wedding delivered! Congratulations to S & L! It may be one of the last weddings for this group of friends (the gang in Hamilton). However, I'm not done. My friend AM from university is getting married in August and The Gastronomer will also be getting married in the near future!

Cutting a rug!

The last dance. How sweet!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Help? I Need Restaurant Recommendations!

In less than two weeks, I will be flying back to Banff to be the official navigator for my friend and ex-roommate D on her drive back to Ontario. Even though we're looking at a 35+ hour drive, I thought it'd be fun to hit some restaurants along the way and write about it on my blog! I have no knowledge about this region so I need your help, dear readers out there! I am not delusional as to think I have tons of readers but if there's anyone with recommendations, that would be greatly appreciated!

Our tentative itinerary.

There are many ways to drive back to Ontario: across Canada or going through the US, above the Great Lakes or below the Great Lakes. D wants to make it home as fast as possible so she can spend some quality time with her dog and this itinerary is one of the shorter ones. Some of the cities we'll be passing by, will include, although still tentative:

- Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan
- Fargo, North Dakota
- Minneapolis, Minnesota
- Madison, Wisconsin
- Chicago, Illinois
- Detroit, Michican

I am currently doing research on eateries. D thought it would be fun to hit one of Guy's Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. This is definitely a budget road trip so I'm looking for inexpensive food. We'll have sat in the car for hours, so no fancy restaurants please! I also want to try something that is unique to the city/region. The final constraint is that it cannot be too much out of the way of highways!

I can't wait to share our stories in the near future!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Asparagus alla Carbonara

Jamie Oliver has a few TV shows and I enjoy all of them. One of my favourites is Jamie at Home because he combines gardening and cooking. Each episode focuses on one ingredient, usually from his garden (he also sometimes hunt). His garden is to die for and I am terribly envious of his gardner Brian!

I sometimes would furiously scribble down a recipe that I thought I might want to make in the future. One of these was his Zucchini alla Carbonara. I only recently found out that this was unnecessary since he has a Jamie at Home cookbook that I borrowed at the library. All the recipes from the show are included, including his gardening tips. The book is divided by seasons and then broken down by ingredient like the episode format of the TV show. Each recipe, and even the gardening page, is accompanied by beautiful pictures!

Asparagus alla Carbonara - 1 serving
From the Jamie at Home cookbook. I followed Jamie's suggestion and replaced the zucchini with asparagus since it is in season in Ontario. I really like how he recommends cutting the vegetables in the size and shape of the penne. I only had half-and-half (10% cream) that I was trying to finish so I decided to use it instead of full cream; the sauce ended up being runny. I recommend sticking with real cream.

* salt and pepper
* ½ bunch of asparagus, sliced on the diagonal to look like penne (and sliced lengthwise if very thick)
* a handful of penne
* 1 egg yolk
* 2 tbsp heavy cream
* Parmesan cheese, grated
* olive oil
* 2 slices of bacon
* fresh thyme, leaves picked and chopped

Cook asparagus for a minute in boiling salted water.
Remove and drain asparagus, leaving the water in the pot.
Add penne to boiling water and cook.
To make creamy carbonara sauce, put egg yolks into bowl, add cream and half parmesan, and mix together with a fork.
Season lightly and set aside.
Fry bacon in a frying pan until dark brown and crisp.
Add asparagus slices and ground black pepper, not just to season but to give it a kick.
Sprinkle with thyme leaves, give everything a stir, so asparagus become coated and fry until they start to turn lightly golden and have softened slightly.
When pasta is cooked, drain it, reserving a little of the cooking water.
Immediately, toss the pasta in the pan with asparagus, bacon and lovely flavours, then remove from the heat and add a bit of the reserved cooking water and your creamy sauce.
Stir together quickly (no more cooking now, otherwise you’ll scramble the eggs).
While you’re tossing the pasta and sauce, sprinkle in the rest of Parmesan and a little more cooking water if needed, to give a silky and shiny sauce.
Adjust seasoning to taste.

Cooking the asparagus and bacon.

Dig into a perfect spring dish!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Fiddlehead Omelette

I was shopping at the Farmer's Market when I spotted fiddleheads. I've often heard of fiddleheads but had never tried them. I was familiar enough with them to know that they are in season for a very short time so I decided to buy a small bunch. I felt slightly apprehensive not knowing what to do with them so I turned to and found a recipe for Fiddlehead Omelette from Ricardo Larrivée. I like Ricardo and not just because he's Québécois!

I also took the opportunity to read up on fiddleheads. Fiddlehead ferns "refer to the unfurled fronds of a young fern harvested for food consumption". I really like their bright green colour and spiral shape. They are a traditional dish in Québec and the Maritimes in Canada, and in New England in the U.S. I assume they also grow in Ontario. They cannot be eaten raw to remove shikimic acid, which is poisonous. It is also suggested to cook them twice to remove their bitterness.

Fiddlehead Omelette - Serves 4
Adapted from Ricardo and Friends. I reduced the recipe to one serving for a light lunch for myself and skipped the bacon.

* a handful of fiddleheads, cleaned and cooked
* olive oil
* ¼ small onion, finely chopped
* salt and pepper, to taste
* 2 eggs, lightly beaten
* 1 tbsp half-and-half cream (10 per cent) or milk
* some finely chopped fresh chives
* grated Asiago cheese (that's what I had on hand, the original recipe calls for Gruyère)

First, wash the fiddleheads and remove the brown scale - I just soaked them in water for a bit.
Blanch the fiddleheads for 2 minutes in salted water.
Drain and rinse in cold water.
Meanwhile, heat up some oil and fry onion and cook until softened.
Add the fiddleheads and cook a couple of minutes. Set aside.
In a bowl, mix the eggs, cream and garlic chives.
Season with salt and pepper.
Heat up some oil and pour the egg mixture.
Cook over medium heat and puncture the bottom of the omelette with a spatula to facilitate cooking.
When the edge of the omelette is almost cooked, but not the center, put the fiddlehead filling on one side and the cheese on the other side of the omelette.
Using a spatula, fold the omelette.

Stir frying the fiddleheads and adding them to an omelette.

How to describe the taste of fiddleheads? I would say it's more about texture since I thought it tasted pretty mild, slightly earthy. The taste reminded me of eating greens but with a more crunchy texture. I'll have to give it another try if they are still in season!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Kam Shing Restaurant

6730 Côte-des-Neiges Street
Montréal, Québec

After reading my friend The Gastronomer's book review of The Fortune Cookie Chronicles and then reading the book itself, I had a serious craving for Chinese food! So I mentioned it to my sister and her boyfriend D when I was in Montréal for a visit. When my sister abandoned us to have lunch with her friends, D and I met up with his friend L for some Chinese food at Kam Shing.

After a run up Mount-Royal and a 25-minute walk to the restaurant, we were seriously famished. We ordered the beef chow mein and the salt & pepper shrimp. It was great and much more satisfying than our experience at the Golden Regency Restaurant. I love chow mein, the crispy fried noodles softened up by the sauce and the beef chow mein met my expectations. I really enjoyed the generous portion of deep-fried shrimp goodness that really satisfied my salty tooth. The two dishes were perfect for 3 people.

Beef chow mein for $9.00

Salt & Pepper Shrimp, $11.50.

My sister L and her boyfriend head to Kam Shing regularly for Chinese food cravings because it's close to their place. The portions are generous, the food is reliable and the prices reasonable. What more can you ask for?

Kam Shing Chinese on Urbanspoon

Thursday, May 21, 2009

House & Home's Lime Cheesecake Tarts

I like to chat with my old roommate D on Facebook. Sometimes it revolves around food. During one of those food chats, she suggested I should write a post on Lime Cheesecake because she wanted the recipe. I told her I could just send her the recipe but she wanted nice pictures too. So this post is dedicated to dear old D!

I got this recipe from my Canadian House & Home, May 2002 issue. I have made these often since then. For anyone who likes lime flavoured treats, this is a great addition to your citrus repertoire. It's a pretty light tasting and tangy treat and using store bought tart shells makes this recipe very easy to make.

Lime Cheesecake Tarts
Although the recipe states it makes 12 tarts, I have always found to have leftover filling. I think the filling could be stretched out to up to 18 tarts!

* 18 3"-diametre prepared tart shells in foil cups
* 8 oz. cream cheese
* ½ cup granulated sugar
* 1 tsp cornstarch
* 1 large egg
* ¼ cup fresh lime juice
* grated zest of one lime
* green food colouring - I added about 2 drops but start with one and see how you like the colour

Place the frozen tart shells on a baking sheet and prick each with a fork.
Bake at 350F for 10 minutes and set aisde.
In a mixing bowl, with a hand-held mixer on low speed, cream together cream cheese, sugar, then beat in cornstarch, egg, lime juice, zest and food colouring.
Fill each of the tart shells with cheese mixture.
Bake the tarts on the middle rack at 350F for 20-22 minutes until filling is puffed and set.
Remove the tarts from oven and let cool on a rack.

My sister L added slices of lime. The recipe called for soft-candied lime zest and whipping cream.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Zucchini Muffin

[My apologies for the lack of posts; my laptop has not been very cooperative these days.]

Whenever I leave for a few days, I like to tidy up my house. I like to come back to a neat and orderly house. I also take the opportunity to empty my fridge. Such was the occasion when I went back to Montréal with my roommate. I wanted to make a treat for our drive and found one zucchini. Perfect for zucchini muffins! I only have one recipe for muffins and it's for banana. I don't like to mess with baking recipes so I crossed my fingers that I could replace bananas with zucchini and started baking!

Zucchini Muffin
I think it's important to have a reliable muffin recipe handy. Mine is in my recipe binder, plastcized, ready for use. Now I know that I can replace the bananas with zucchini! The muffins turned out to be really moist. I thought they were perfect and not too sweet.

* 1-¼ cup all purpose flour
* 1 tsp baking soda
* ½ tsp baking powder
* ¾ cup sugar
* 2 eggs
* ¼ cup yogurt (I used a little container)
* ¼ vegetable oil
* 1 tsp vanilla extract
* 1 cup grated zucchini (I used one zucchini)
* ¼ cup chocolate chips, or to taste
* zest from one lemon

In a bowl, sift together flour, baking soda and baking powder. Set aside.
In a large bowl, blend sugar, eggs, yogurt, oil and vanilla.
Mix in grated zucchini.
Add in dry ingredients and mix until combined.
Mix in chocolate chips and lemon zest.
Spoon batter into muffin tray.
Bake for 350F for 18-22 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

I like the specks of green from the zucchini.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Potato Salmon Cakes

Another potato recipe! With the leftover dill from the potato salad, I made chả cá (Vietnamese fish with dill) but I still had dill left. Dill is sold in ridiculously big bunches! Luckily, I found Chef at Home's potato fish cake recipe that used dill. This recipe was very easy and quick to make, not to mention salmon is a great source of Omega-3 fatty acids!

The recipe calls for cooking a salmon fillet and mixing it with potato, dill and green onion. It makes very big cakes because I only had 8 oz. of salmon and two small potatoes to make 4 regular size cakes. There's a horseradish sauce in the recipe but I just dipped my cakes in tartar sauce. I really like the flavour of the dill and it makes the cakes look so pretty with specks of green. And I have finally finished with the dill!

Salmon is simply seasoned, fried and added to potatoes.

Potato salmon mixture made into cakes.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Potato Mushroom Bruschetta for Girls' Night Out

Since one of our friends was having his bachelors' party and all the men were out (including my roommate G), my friend T invited a few of us for a girls' night out. We each made a dish and got together. I picked the appetizer course and decided to make a potato mushroom bruschetta, after going through the recipes from Fresh with Anna Olson. T's husband does not like mushrooms and so she does not get to enjoy it as much as she should!

Potato Mushroom Bruschetta (from Fresh with Anna Olson)
When I read the title of this recipe, I was imagining cubes of potato on bread. I even mentioned it to my sister and T who thought potatoes were an odd addition. It was only when I carefully read the instructions that I realized the potatoes were mashed. It's actually helpful to hold all of the ingredients together. I've made mushroom bruschetta where the mushrooms are falling off. I really like asiago cheese so this was right down my alley! Again, I had problems with portions - I reduced the recipe to four servings and I probably should have halved it again. There were many leftovers.

Potatoes and sour cream, and sliced mushrooms.

The potato, mushroom and asiago mixture was addictive on its own!

Salty, tasty bites!

My friend T set the table beautifully and the tulips are from my backyard!

T also bought a wine bottle fitting our night!

T made chicken stuffed with ham and cheese, and roasted sweet potatoes. L made the salad.

I was not the only one inspired by a show; S made Chocolate Chip Cookie Brownies after seeing it made on Chef at Home. They were VERY decadent!

We followed the meal by lots of girl (I mean, women) talk. We also watched Bride Wars which was fairly amusing. Girls' night out are fun!