Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Classic Potato Salad

Last week, I went over to my friends T & R for a barbecue and a long poker game. I offered to make something and R requested potato salad. I think the rare times I do make potato salad, I use a vinaigrette dressing. However, I figured R wanted the classic creamy potato salad. So I referred to my Williams-Sonoma Salad book. I really liked the addition of pickle and the robust flavour of dill in this salad. It was perfect as a side to our hamburgers and sausages.

Classic Creamy Potato Salad - 8-10 servings
I adapted the Williams-Sonoma's recipe to my taste. The original recipe called for eggs but I was not to keen on that. My friend R doesn't like red onion, so I replaced it with green onion. I didn't have Dijon mustard so used honey Dijon. The recipe states to preferably use homemade mayo but since I knew of one our friends was pregnant, I used a store bought one. I really liked the addition of sweet pickles and added more than the recipe called for. One last note, it stated the recipe makes 4-6 servings. If this is just a side, I think it's way too much potato salad so I would make a smaller portion.

* 2-½ red potatoes
* salt, to taste
* pepper, to taste
* ½ cup mayo
* ½ cup light sour cream
* 1 tbsp pickle juice (from sweet gerkhins)
* 1-2 tbsp honey Dijon mustard
* 3 green onions, sliced thinly
* ½ cup fresh dill
* ¼ cup minced sweet pickle
* 1 tsp paprika

Cook potatoes in salted water for 20 minutes, or until cooked.
Cut the potatoes into cubes.
Mix together the mayo, sour cream, pickle juice and mustard.
Add to the potato cubes and mix.
Add the green onion, fresh dill, pickle, salt and pepper.
Again, mix thoroughly.
Garnish with paprika.

Cooked potatoes and cubed.

Creamy dressing and the addition of green ingredients.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Easter Dinner: Baked Ham

My family congregated in Hamilton for Easter dinner. My sister suggested making a baked ham. I had no experience with baking a ham but I do enjoying eating it. We then created a menu around ham. I think all the food came out well. Unfortunately, the pictures came out poorly. Not sure if it's because I was feeling rushed, the poor lighting in my house or because I need work on my photography skills in general. You'll just have to imagine the pictures in focus!

The Menu
* Pan-Fried Onion Dip
* Parker's Split Pea Soup
* Baked Ham with Orange-Mustard Glaze
* Potato Gratin
* Buttered Green Beans
* Apple Pie

Pan-Fried Onion Dip
My sister wanted to try making this onion dip from my Barefoot Contessa cookbook. The recipe is on foodtv. She bought kettle chips (no, we did not make our own chips like the book suggests...). The only con is that she made half a recipe which was definitely NOT enough. If you make this recipe, make the ENTIRE recipe!! Otherwise, it was delicious!!

Fried onions make this appetizer!

Parker's Split Pea Soup
I thought making split pea soup would go well with our menu and we turned again to Barefoot Contessa. In the recipe, Ina Garten writes that Steven Spielberg told her that it tastes just like his mother's. I guess this recipe tasted just like Steven Spielberg's mother's, with the addition of bacon! We were going to cut a piece from the ham and add it but forgot. The recipe does suggest first cooking half the split peas first, then adding the second half later. This gives a great texture, unlike mushy peas. Everyone really enjoyed this soup. Two for two for Barefoot Contessa!

Baked Ham with Orange-Mustard Glaze
I love ham. I would pick ham over a turkey or roast beef any day. At my previous employer, the cafeteria made ham once a month. We referred to it as "ham day". I was always first in line, asking for the brown bits (the best part - the glazed exterior! ). They would make three whole hams and sell out very quickly.

I have never bought or made ham so I went and bought a (8 lbs.) half fully cooked bone-in ham at the Farmer's Market for $3/lb just to find hams at the supermarket for $0.99/lb. That was upsetting. That said, our ham was delicious. My sister and I roughly followed Martha Stewart's Glazed Ham 101. Our glaze was made up of Dijon mustard, marmalade and garlic. We baked the ham with some improvising since I did not have a roasting pan!

The ham first has to be rinsed and baked for half an hour to melt some of the fat. Let's just say, my oven was pretty dirty afterward!

After the initial baking, you have to cut off the fat and apply the glaze.

Bake again - we actually broiled it a bit to get colour but forgot it, oops - and voilà (horrible picture!).

Potato Gratin
Again, we referred to Barefoot Contessa's potato-fennel gratin but made it without fennel. It was good but we did not cook it long enough (the potatoes were raw). This happened when we had too many things in the oven I think. Oopsy...

Potato Gratin.

Buttered Green Beans
For a vegetable dish, we had green beans, with simple butter, salt and pepper. I usually eat my green beans with eggs. I enjoyed this so much I had it a few times the following week, until... I got sick of it!

Apple Pie
My sister's boyfriend D volunteered for dessert and made an apple pie. He is an expert at making pies while I am... not! Which meant that when he asked for a pie dish, I could not produce one for him. I don't think I've ever baked a pie although I do like eating them! So I borrowed my friend T's deep cake pan and he made us a delicious apple pie. I do like most desserts with apple in them!

Making the pie dough.

The final product.

The pie had a very generous amount of apples which is the way I like it.

All in all, a great Easter weekend with great food. Thank you to my family for driving all the way here for the weekend!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Pacific Mall & Golden Regency Restaurant

Pacific Mall
4300 Steeles Avenue E.
Markham, Ontario

Golden Regency Restaurant
(second floor)

While my family was visiting over Easter weekend, we decided to head to Pacific Mall in Markham on Saturday afternoon. We had talked about going there a few times but never got around to it on previous visits. Pacific Mall is a huge Asian mall in Markham, where there is a large Asian population. In the mall, you can find little stalls selling all sorts of things, such as clothing, shoes, electronics, illegal DVD's, jewelry and even car rims.

We shopped for an hour or so on the first floor. My sister was interested in looking at very affordable and funky clothing. However, it seems that all the clothing stalls seemed to offer very similar, or even the same, products. We did not end up buying anything.

We then decided to go check out the second floor where we saw a mini food court. Even though dinner was fast approaching, my sister and her boyfriend couldn't resist ordering some food to bind them over. They decided to order shrimp rice noodle rolls and fried wontons at Good Taste Garden, which seemed to offer dim sum treats. Although both were good, we were most impressed by the piping hot wontons, that were generously stuffed with shrimp and served with mayo.

Har Cheong, shrimp filled rice noodle roll and fried wontons.

We then checked out another section of the mall on the second floor, where we were led to another food stall by the sweet smell being emitted. This small was selling freshly made sweet Chinese treats. My sister L bought a package of sweet egg rolls that she saved for later. I've had these egg rolls before but it came from a box; they're a perfectly flaky, not too sweet treat. My mom bought us some waffle-looking pancake treat that we wolfed down on the spot. There's nothing better than a freshly made, still warm, sweet dough-ey treat. They also made little cakes stuffed with red bean paste that we did not buy but enjoyed watching being made.

At the top, egg batter being poured and rolled for sweet egg rolls. Bottom left, waffle-like dough. Bottom right, red paste being piped.

Next up, we finished walking around the first floor. My sister was thirsty and got herself a bubble tea. She did not order any of the interesting food items, including beef stripe (I'm guessing they meant tripe) or ICE RICE.

Bubble Tea offering.

After having fully explored the main building, we decided to take a look at an adjacent one. There, we found a large store with very affordable Japanese wares. My sister and her boyfriend came out with a few very nice bowls. We were then all ready for dinner. We noticed a Chinese restaurant but there was a long line. We decided to head back to the second floor of the main building and have dinner at the Golden Regency Restaurant that we had previously noticed.

Golden Regency Restaurant.

We came in to find a part of the restaurant closed off for a party. For our meal, we could hear high pitch Chinese singing... Once we sat down, we were very much underwhelmed by the menu. The offerings seemed pretty limited and prices were on the high side compared to other Chinese restaurants. We decided on our usual, including seafood and beef chow mein, salt & pepper shrimp and General Tao chicken. My sister was craving a whole fried fish. Since the items we wanted did not all seem to be on the menu, we tried to order off the menu, first in English and then my mom struggled in Cantonese. She would say something and the waitress would repeat something that didn't really sound the same.

Seafood chow mein.

The food arrived very quickly. Once the dish was placed on the table, the waiter would quickly try to divide the dish and serve it up. I would hastily try to snap a picture. It was a bit annoying since we did not necessarily all want the same thing. It was very handy for the fish dish to have the waiter quickly debone it so we could more easily eat it. The tilapia that was fried with a soy sauce on top was good, thought it seemed there was not much meat on it.

Before and after deboning the fish.

I don't have a picture of the General Tao chicken but we actually enjoyed it. It did not taste like typical red sauce General Tao chicken. We were surprised by the salt & pepper shrimp; it did not look or taste like the usual. It consisted of large tiger shrimps with sliced of onion, or rather it was a dish of onion with some shrimp. It was good enough but it wasn't what we wanted.

Salt & pepper shrimp.

Overall, we were disappointed by our meal at the Golden Regency Restaurant. Not only did it not meet our standard but it was rather pricey. So much so that a week later, my family went to another Chinese restaurant back in Montréal.

The Pacific Mall is worth visiting at least once if you're in the area. It was about an hour drive from Hamilton but it's probably 10-15 minutes from Toronto. Once you're in the area, it feels like you could easily be in Asia, though definitely less crowded. We did not find anything to buy except for the Japanese wares although if you're into illegal DVD's or Chinese treats, this is the place to be! (Chinese food was not the sole offering. There were Japanese and Korean restaurants in the main building. We only saw a Vietnamese restaurant in an adjacent building though.)

Golden Regency on Urbanspoon

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Cinnamon Rolls

Ever since I saw the Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Icing on Gastronomy, I have been waiting for the opportunity to make them. The pictures were so enticing! I have never even thought I could make cinnamon rolls on my own but the recipe looked fairly easy.

I thought I would submit this recipe to the blogging event Bookmarked Recipes, "where anyone from anywhere can blog about a recipe they had bookmarked from a cook book, food magazine, food blog, food website, from TV etc, make it and submit it to a weekly roundup".

The opportunity came when my family visited for Easter. I thought it would be a nice treat on Saturday morning after fasting on Good Friday. Since my mom doesn't like butter, I replaced it with margaine. I also did not have buttermilk, so I replaced it with milk and lemon. The cinnamon rolls still turned out well and we all enjoyed it! The house also smelled wonderfully!

Doesn't that look impressive?

Friday, April 24, 2009

Lime Squares

I haven't written a post in a while because my laptop was being repaired. But I'm back, looking at recipes over the Easter weekend from a couple of few weeks ago. My family came to visit and I thought I would bake a treat for their arrival. I really enjoy this lime square recipe that I got from my ex-roommate D. I didn't think I had ever made it for my mom and figured she would really enjoy the tartness from the lime juice. She actually enjoyed the crust the best!

Lime Squares
If I had to make this again, I would reduce the sugar in the topping because it was too sweet for me. I also usually add more lime juice because there's never enough!

* 1 cup all purpose flour
* ⅓ cup packed brown sugar
* ⅓ cup butter or margaine, chilled

* 1 cup granulated sugar
* 2 eggs
* 2 tsp fresh lime juice (I add a bit more but not too much or topping will be too runny...)
* lime zest (optional)
* 2 tbsp all purpose flour
* ½ tsp baking powder
* ¼ tsp salt
* powdered sugar

Heat oven to 320F.
Lightly grease 8-in (2 L) square baking pan.
In a medium mixing bowl, combine flour and sugar.
Using pastry blender, cut in butter/margarine until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
Press mixture evenly into prepared pan to form base.
Bake for 10 minutes.

Base of the squares and mixing for the topping.

In second mixing bowl, combine topping ingredients.
Beat at medium speed of electric mixter until well blended.
Spread topping evenly over base.
Bake for 25 minutes, or until edges are light golden brown.
Cool completely.
Sprinkle bars evenly with powdered sugar.
Let cool before cutting into 12 squares.
Store in refrigerator.

Topping before and after baking.

My fancy powdered sugar sprinkler from a The Pampered Chef party!

I wish I had some now!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Première Moisson

5199 chemin Côte-des-Neiges (for other locations)
Montréal, Québec

One of the things I miss about living in Montréal is benefiting from all of the French influences, like having boulangeries (bakeries) offering beautiful baguettes and viennoiseries (pastries). Anyone from Québec who sees this post on Première Moisson will think it's lame to write about it. Première Moisson is a chain of bakeries that you can easily find throughout the city, along with many other similar chains. However, there is nothing similar where I live now in Hamilton, so I felt I had to share this.

So on a cold, rainy morning, I woke up at my sister's condo and we decided to go have breakfast close by. Coming in to the bakery, you are faced with different breads and pastries. I'm not a sweets person per se, but I do like French type pastries. Call me a snob if you want. I feel no guilt. In the back, fresh baguettes were being baked.

There was a little area to sit after you ordered your pastry and coffee. There are also sandwiches for lunch that they will reheat. My sister L went for a plain croissant. Her boyfriend went for a amandine, a croissant stuffed with almond paste. I, being the glutton, ordered the amandine-chocolate; that's right, it was loaded with both almond paste AND chococate! Supposedly, L ate many amandines when she was in France. I don't remember eating any and stuck to croissant and espressos.

L's buttery croissant.

My amandine-chocolat.

As we were leaving, we took a look at their other offerings. Not only do they have breads and pastries, they also had a slew of chocolates for Easter: bunnies, hippo's, whatever you could think of. I also took a look at their charcuterie which offered different pâté's, terrines and even rillettes.

Premiere Moisson on Urbanspoon