Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Stir Fried Cabbage

Sometimes I just feel the need to eat vegetables. Maybe it's my body trying to tell me something. I don't understand people who dislike ALL vegetables. How does one function without? Anyway, I had a cabbage in my refrigerator and decided on making a stir fried dish I frequently made when I moved out on my own and didn't really know how to cook.

It's a very easy dish, with pretty much just two ingredients: cabbage and soy sauce. I like it pretty salty so I add a lot of soy sauce. I know cabbage (and its small relative, Brussel sprouts) is not a very popular vegetable. I don't really understand. I like both the taste and texture of cabbage.

Stir Fried Cabbage
You could add some onion to this dish but I like it just this way. I used a Savoy cabbage, but any cabbage will do.

* oil
* cabbage, sliced thinly (about ¼" thick)
* soy sauce

Heat up oil in a pan.
Add cabbage slices.
Add soy sauce to taste and mix well.
Cook until the cabbage is cooked through.

Sliced cabbage and some soy sauce (the more the better for me!).

Sunday, June 28, 2009

India Palace (Toronto)

257 Queen Street West
Toronto, Ontario


MC and I spent her last day visiting me in Toronto. The plan was to shop on Queen Street West and at the Toronto Eaton Center. We picked a great rainy day to shop outside. Once we were soaked and dirty from the rain, we decided to call it quits and have lunch. We discovered Indian food is a great relief when you feel cranky from the rain. We picked India Palace because the Indian restaurant next door had a long waiting line and we were not willing to wait in the rain. I did notice that there were a few Indian restaurants in the same block, all offering a $10.95 buffet.

I like Indian buffets because you can try different things. Having said that, I usually just stick to what I like. Some will argue the quality of the food at a buffet is not as good. This is especially true for deep-fried appetizers like pakoras and samosas; they are never at their best at buffets because they're not freshly fried. I tend to overeat at buffets, trying to get my money's worth. I had three plates that were very similar, as you can see below. MC and I both really enjoyed the saag paneer (spinach and cheese). You can notice that by my last dish, I was only getting sauce and naan bread to sop it up. MC and I tried to minimize waste by re-using our plates but were chided for it. I guess it's not a hygienic practice...

My three plates mainly containing butter chicken, saag paneer, naan bread and aloo gobi.

Before we stopped for lunch, we were shopping for shoes near the MuchMusic building. We saw people setting up for the MMVA's. While we were looking at shoes, the salespeople started dancing and screamed out that Lady Gaga was singing. So we went outside to watch her rehearse. I thought it was funny because I only recently discovered Lady Gaga and I find her songs are perfect for running (maybe just slightly too slow). When I mentioned this to MC, she was very unimpressed and thought Lady Gaga will just be a one year wonder. I guess we'll see... Meanwhile, I'll keep running to Just Dance!

MMVA stage.

Lady Gaga rehearsing.

India Palace on Urbanspoon

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Zooma Zooma Café & Upper Canada Cheese Company (Niagara Region)

Since the forecast called for rain AGAIN, MC and I planned to spend the day shopping at Canada Factory Outlets and then checking some wineries on our way back. We were lucky that the day actually turned out to be beautiful!

Zooma Zooma Café
3839 Main Street
Jordan Village, Ontario

After our shopping, we made our first winery stop at Cave Spring Cellars and noticed Zooma Zooma Café across the street. It looked like the perfect spot to have lunch, with tables and chairs set up outside. However, we were weary that it would be on the expensive side. When we checked out the menu, we were pleased to find that the prices were affordable.

Since we were in the Niagara wine region, MC decided to have a glass of wine. We both ordered sandwiches. MC had the roast beef sandwich with havarti and sweet peppers while I got the turkey with melted Brie. The sandwiches were served on a baguette with a side of mixed greens. We were rather disappointed that the meat were just plain old cold cuts but really enjoyed the dressing on the mixed greens. The portion was very big and we were both extremely full afterwards. I didn't notice their thin-crust pizzas on the menu but noticed one brought out that looked very good. I should definitely have gone for a pizza!

Our not-so-impressive sandwiches.

Zooma Zooma Cafe on Urbanspoon

Cave Spring Cellars (at the top), Tawse Winery (bottom left) and Vineland Estates Winery (on the right).

Upper Canada Cheese Company
4159 Jordan Road
Vineland, Ontario

We not only checked out wineries but also stopped by a cheese shop. However, the service was disappointly subpar. There were no customers at all, but we were still ignored by the employees. When I was finally acknolwedged, it was to be told to wait while they finished their work discussion. You would think that customers come first...

Finally, I asked if they offered a sampler package that we could eat right away. No, but we'll package anything you buy here. We're just too busy. I don't know why cheese shops don't offer a sample of three of their most popular cheeses. I think it would be a hit with customers like me! So I asked to sample some cheeses that they had on the counter. We tried two artisanal cheese: Comfort Cream and Niagara Gold. I really enjoyed the Camembert-like Comfort Cream, while MC really digged the oka-like Niagara Gold. Both were sold in the store, but pieces were close to $20 each and we couldn't stomach paying that much. MC ended up buying a small goat cheese called Operetta for $9.

Operetta cheese. Can you see the two different compositions?

When we got home, we got to really enjoy the operetta cheese. It was quite good. MC said she knew she'd like it when she cut through it and noticed the two different compositions (the middle looks whiter); to her, that's a sign of a good cheese. MC also commented that she wasn't sure which she preferred better, her sweet treats (she has a sweet tooth!) or a good cheese. While I do enjoy all cheeses, I don't find I eat "special" cheeses often and decided I should really try to change that! Here's too more cheeses in my future!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Chicken and Mushroom Orzo

After playing squash with friend MC, we hit the supermarket to buy food for dinner. I told her I was out of inspiration for meal ideas and she would have to figure out what we would be eating. She responded that she only needed to walk through a supermarket and get inspired. Perfect! When MC saw mushrooms, she immediately thought it should be our main ingredient. That's when I realized that you can divide people into two groups, those who LOVE mushrooms and those who HATE mushrooms. I've never met anyone who's neutral about mushrooms. MC remembered a Rachael Ray orzo recipe she had previously made and we bought all of the ingredients we needed.

Before dinner, I served some kielbasa and Monterey Jack with Garlic and Basil cheese that I bought in Wisconsin. I discovered kielbasa, a Polish sausage, in Hamilton when my sister introduced me to it. My sister used to work with a Polish colleague who brought her to a Polish deli. I should really write a post about it one day. I thought MC should experience kielbasa since I always buy some to bring back to Montréal (although I'm sure could find some there!). As for the cheese, though the basil flavour was great, I thought the cheese was rather mild. Nothing too exciting...!

Wisconsin cheese and kielbasa.

Chicken and Mushroom Orzo - Serves 2
Adapted from Rachael Ray's Chicken with Mushrooms and Balsamic Cream Sauce. I think sun-dried tomatoes make any pasta taste better and its addition to this dish proved I am right! One trick that MC thought very useful is that if you buy chicken broth and you do not use it all, freeze it into ice cubes and you use it for next time!

* ¼ lb orzo pasta, cooked and drained, saving some of the cooking water
* 1 boneless chicken breasts, grilled and sliced
* butter
* 1 large shallots, thinly sliced
* a good amount of mushrooms of your choice (we used portobello and oyster mushrooms. remember mushrooms shrink - we cooked a lot!)
* 1 garlic cloves, chopped
* fresh thyme leaves, chopped
* a glug of Marsala wine
* ¾ cup 1 L (4 cups) homemade chicken broth, or store-bought
* a glug balsamic vinegar
* 1-2 tbsp heavy cream or half-and-half

Add butter to a pan on medium/high heat.
Once the butter melts, add the shallot.
Once the shallot has softened, add the mushrooms and brown for about 4-5 minutes.
When the mushrooms are browned, season with salt and pepper then add the garlic and thyme.
Add the Marsala wine and let it reduce.
Add the stock, balsamic vinegar and the cream.
Turn the heat up to high and simmer for about 2 minutes or until thickened.
Add the pasta cooking water if needed.
Add the chicken back and sun-dried tomatoes, and let it warm up.
To serve, pile orzo on dinner plates and top with the mushroom and chicken mixture.

Grilling chicken and cooking mushrooms.

I really liked the addition of sun-dried tomatoes!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Poco Loco

131 Ottawa Street North
Hamilton, Ontario

On the second day of MC's visit, it was still raining. So instead of playing tennis, we changed our plans to another racquet sport: squash. However, I needed to find a second squash racquet. My friend Superfly was nice enough to lend us his and met him at Poco Loco for lunch so we could pick up his racquet.

Even though Poco Loco is two minutes away from my old workplace, I never got a chance to visit it. It seems to be a popular lunch spot, as I found a few of my former colleagues sitting at the counter. The burrito seemed to be the most popular choice. MC and I decided to share a chalupa combo (for about $6), which includes a drink, because we did not want to overeat before our squash game. We payed an extra $0.65 for guacamole, which was definitely worthwhile.


I thought the chalupas, which consisted of tostada's topped with ground beef, were good but nothing special. However, I am slightly biased after enjoying authentic chalupas in Chicago the week before. Poco Loco seems like the perfect lunch spot because the food is good, the prices are definitely affordable and the service was quick.

After lunch, we stopped by the first Tim Hortons store down the street to show MC. You probably have to be Canadian to know Tim Hortons but this is where it all started...!

First Tim Hortons' store.

Poco Loco on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Tajine au Poulet et aux Olives (Chicken and Olive Tajine)

MC is my oldest friend. Not old old (she's actually younger than me!) but I've known her since grade 2. She came for a visit from Montréal for a few days. I don't see her as often as I should but we have gone on vacation together a couple of times, the last one being in Morroco in 2007. Inspired by our trip, I thought of making a Morrocan tajine. I saw a quick chicken tajine recipe on Ricardo (Ricardo Larrivée's French cooking show on Radio-Canada) a while ago and saved it for a special occasion. This was the perfect occasion and also perfect on a cold and rainy day.

MC and I had a great trip in Morroco. It was just as I imagined, and a bit more. As women, we got more attention than we wanted. Otherwise, the food was great, simple and delicious. Everything is so colourful over there. I loved going into a souk, even though it's quite intense. We spent a few days in the city of Marrakesh then spent most of our days in a 4x4 driving through the Atlas mountain range. We spent our final days at the beach in Agadir.

Pictures from MC's and my 2007 trip to Morroco.

Tajine au Poulet et aux Olives (Chicken and Olive Tajine) - Serves 3-4
Adapted from Isabelle Brossard (Ricardo).
I really liked this recipe because it was very simple to make. The longest step is the cooking time to make sure you get maximum flavour. I sliced the lemon and browned them beause I thought that's what I saw on TV. However, the recipe does not call for it and I'm not sure if it's necessary. If you can find preserved lemon, I'm sure that's even better! I added potatoes per the recipe, but for a non-carb option, adding zucchini near the end would be a great addition (there always seemed to be zucchini in the dishes in Morroco!)

* olive oil
* butter
* 4 chicken thighs, skinless
* salt, to taste
* freshly ground pepper, to taste
* 1 small onion, diced small
* 1 garlic clove, minced
* ½ lemon, quartered
* ½ can of green olives, chopped
* 2 potatoes, sliced into thick matchsticks or cubed
* ½ L of chicken broth
* ½ L of water
* ½ tsp cumin
* ½ tsp nutmeg
* ¼ tsp cardamom
* ½ tsp dried chili flakes
* ½ bunch of fresh coriander, sliced thinly
* ½ bunch of fresh parsley, sliced thinly

In a large pot, on medium/high heat, brown your chicken thighs in some olive oil and butter.
Season the chicken with salt and pepper.
Remove the chicken thighs and set aside.
In the remaining fat, add the onion, garlic and spices and cook for 3-4 minutes.
Add the chicken broth and the chicken thighs back.
Also add the olives, potatoes, lemon and water into the pot.
Bring to a boil.
Lower the heat and cook for 1.5 hours, with the lid on.
Taste and adjust seasoning (salt and pepper).
Garnish with coriander and parsley
Serve with couscous.

Browned lemon slices and spice mixture.

Browned chicken thighs and the finished product.

I served it with some couscous and grilled asparagus.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Road Trip, Day 3: Chicago (Part II)

Trapezista and I arrived near Chicago close to 2 pm, faced with gridlock and very aggressive drivers. Why do drivers (yes, YOU, older lady in the Lexus SUV) honk at you when clearly there is nowhere for anyone to go?

Entering Illinois.

I HATE traffic!!

Cemitas Puebla
3619 W. North Avenue
Chicago, Illinois


Our plan was to first stop by for some authentic Mexican food that was featured on Guy Fieri's Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. My sister sent me a link to Cemitas Puebla because she was intrigued by their cemita sandwiches, that can only be found in the city of Puebla. Trapezista enthusiastically agreed, really missing good Mexican food after having spent a year and a half in Mexico.

Cemitas Puebla is situated in the Humboldt Park neighbourhood that could probably second as Little Mexico. When we did not have change for parking, we bought a bottle of water at a convenience store and had to pay a man behind a bulletproof glass pane. This doesn't exist in Canada!! Trapezista was a little worried about leaving her car on the street. If only we had known that there is parking close to the restaurant!

Cemitas Puebla.

We guessed that Cemitas Puebla would fall under the dive category. However, don't be deterred! The food and the warm welcoming by the owners totally make up for it! We were greeted by the owner, who explained to us what a cemita is. We then sat down and once we decided what we wanted to eat, we went to the counter to order.

Cemitas Puebla's counter and interesting posters on the ceiling.

We decided to first share chalupas ($3.00), which consisted of five corn tortillas doused in salsa verde and salsa roja topped with onions and aged cheese. I started with the salsa roja and thought it was very hot (and I think I have a good tolerance for heat). Trapezista preferred the salsa verde, which was strong in coriander flavour and not as spicy. We were very happy with our appetizer!

Spicy Chalupas.

We also decided to share a cemita al pastor ($6.00). As is well explained on the restaurant's online video, cemitas originated in Puebla. A cemita is a sandwich made up of meat, avocado and a generous amount of cheese with an adobo chipotle peppers, in a sesame bread. The restaurant offers various cemitas, including a pata (cow foot) one. Too bad I'm not more adventurous! The al pastor we ordered consisted of marinated pork and onions. According to the video, the owner regulary goes to Mexico to buy Mexican ingredients, including the cheese and chipotle peppers. I really enjoyed the creamy avocado against the cheese and meat.

Cemita Al Pastor.

We also shared a taco arabes ($2.60). This unique taco stems from the influcence of the Lebanese in Mexico, hence its name arabes. While Trapezista enjoyed the cemita, she much preferred the taco. It reminded her of the tacos she ate in Mexico. She also really enjoyed the homemade sauces that came in bottles on the table. Eating this taco made me realize that real Mexican tacos have nothing to do with the tacos we know, which, I guess, is more Tex-Mex.

Taco arabes.

We were both quite full after eating all of our food. It was very enjoyable. Trapezista declared that it was one of the highlights of the trip. As we were leaving, the owner asked if we were going to come again. No, we're from Canada! Then he happily agreed to pose for a picture with me and his son.

The owners of Cemitas Puebla and myself.

Cemitas Puebla on Urbanspoon

After checking in at our hostel, we were finally ready to check out the Windy City. I got to admire Chicago's great architecture. We walked to the Millenium Park and had fun with the mirrored Cloud Gate. I was really wowed by the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, designed by Frank Gehry, surrounded by people on their lawn chairs, watching a free classical music concert, which was part of the Grant Park Music Festival.

I liked the elevated trains.

Chicago's skyscrapers.

The Crown Fountain in Millenium Park is quite... interesting?!

The Cloud Gate, also known as "The Bean".

Frank Gehry's beautiful Jay Pritzker Pavilion.

We then headed ou to the Navy Pier to check out the Chicago skyline by the water. There we got tempted by a chocolate churro. It was good, but definitely not freshly fried.

You can always stop for a snack!

The Chicago skyline.

White Palace Grill
1159 S Canal Street
Chicago, Illinois
website (currently under construction)

After quickly taking a look at the Magnificent Mile (that I personally thought was not that magnificent...), we headed back to our last meal of the day. We were going to complete our food 3 D's! We already ate at a drive-in in Montana and a dive earlier in the day. We only needed a diner. Luckily, one of Chicago's best diner, the White Palace Grill, was close to our hostel.

The White Palace Grill.

The White Palace Grill is open 24 hours, every day. When we arrived at 10 pm, it was full. Once we sat down and looked at the menu, I wished I had researched this diner better. We had no idea what to order. Many people ordered breakfast food but I didn't really feel like it. We narrowed it down to a chicken or steak fried sandwich. When we asked the waitress, she said to go for the chicken, but it seemed she just randomly picked one of the two. Trapezista also ordered a vanilla milkshake, that was quite large and looked like a typical diner milkshake I imagine.

Milkshake and chicken fried sandwich.

The food was good, nothing special. The waitresses were prompt but not overly friendly. They were too busy serving customers. When we went to pay at the counter, I really liked the look of their old fashioned cash register.

Old-fashioned cash register.

White Palace Grill on Urbanspoon

The next day, we headed home to Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. I had a great time on the road trip, full of great scenery and some great food. I couldn't have asked for a better driver than Trapezista! Everyone should go on a road trip, even if it does not compare to Jack Kerouac's!

For previous road trip posts:
Road Trip, Day 1: Montana