Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Hogtown Bar & Grille (Pearson Airport)

Toronto Pearson International Airport, Terminal 1

On my way to Edmonton for work, I had quite the eventful morning. Half an hour before my flight, I realized I didn't have my wallet. I had to get off the plane, drive back home 45 minutes away (to not find my wallet) and drive back to the airport for a later flight. So by the time I went through security for a second time, I was really famished, having not eaten all day.


Unfortunately, when I'm stressed, my appetite gets totally sapped. I figured I should eat since food is no longer available on flights. I walked around the terminal, trying to find something quick so I would have time to eat. I encountered Hogtown Bar & Grille. Having given up meat for Lent, I decided to just order fries. Right after I ordered, I heard another customer's order being called out. "Garden burger." So I asked to change my order to a garden burger; the menu was really hard to read and navigate so I didn't realize they had a vegetarian option.


The food was good but nothing to write home about. I like that the fries were also seasoned with pepper. They were nice and crispy. The garden burger actually looked much more appetizing than most brown-coloured veggie burger. It had an orange hue and was speckled with vegetables like peas and pickled peppers (a great addition I thought).

Garden Burger.

My distressed stomach could not eat all of the fries but I was able to somewhat finish the burger. The good news: my wallet was found later in the airport parking lot. What a relief!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Moelleux au Chocolat

Moelleux au chocolat is pretty much molten chocolate cake or lava cake. But doesn't moeeeeeeeeellllleux sound so much better? Maybe it's because I like the French translation. Moelleux means something soft and mellow. It comes from the word moelle which means marrow, as in bone marrow, which is soft on the inside. This recipe is exactly what its name implies: soft, gooey and rich in the middle, just like marrow!


My friends S & J had hosted dinner followed by poker. I offered to bring dessert. This recipe is great because it's easy to make, and it can be baked right before it's served. There are also only five ingredients! I forgot to bring my camera and didn't quite know how to work S' camera. The pictures are a bit blurry. I guess I'll have to make it again, just to get better pictures...!

Moelleux au Chocolat - Serves 6
From French Food at Home.
I kept looking at the butter and thinking that I'd be eating a sixth of it. You musn't think this way. It is well worth the extra run or exercise the next day! The original recipe has an accompanying caramel sauce recipe. I personally think it's overkill and would rather have whipped cream or vanilla ice cream on the side!

* 4 oz dark chocolate
* ⅔ cup butter
* 4 eggs
* ⅔ cup sugar
* ½ cup flour

Butter six ramekins and line with a disk of parchment.
Melt the chocolate and butter together over a water bath.
Beat the eggs and sugar until thick, pale, and ribbony in a separate bowl.
Beat in the flour, and finally the chocolate mixture.
Pour into the ramekins and chill.
Just before serving, heat the oven to 400°F/200°C.
Place the moulds on a baking sheet and bake until the top is set, 12 to 14 minutes. (If you want it less runny, bake it for a few extra minutes.)
Remove and let sit five minutes.
Run a knife around the edges to separate the cake from the ramekin. (I didn't do this for the first ramekin and it was hard to get the cake out.)
Flip the ramekin with a tea towel (it's very hot!) and unmould onto a plate.
Serve with a scoop of ice cream or whipped cream.

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It was amazingly quick to make!

Even the blurry picture cannot hide the gooey-ness of this dessert!

For other chocolate recipes:
* Chestnut Brownies
* Chocolate Fondue
* Chocolate Pecan Cheesecake
* Chocolate Pie with Meringue Topping
* Flourless Chocolate Torte
* French Chocolate Bark
* Hershey's "Perfectly Chocolate" Chocolate Cake

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Chocolate Cannoli

You can't just bring over dinner without dessert! So with my seafood pie, I also brought chocolate cannoli's. I wanted something easy and low stress. As I was buying cheese, I eyed the cannoli shells and asked to buy a dozen with some ricotta.


Chocolate Cannoli
It cannot get easier than this! You can change the fillings as you'd like, like adding grated orange zest or making a simple ricotta filling with sugar and mini chocolate chips.

100 g melted chocolate
12 small cannoli shells
100 g ricotta cheese

Dip one end of each cannoli into the chocolate and let harden on parchment paper lined baking sheet.
Mix melted chocolate with ricotta and refrigerate the mixture.
Right before serving, stuff the ricotta shells with a spoon from both ends.

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It doesn't look attractive but it tasted good!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Seafood Pie

Two annual "traditions", for lack of a better word, brought me to making a seafood pie. First of all, every year I take advantage of my friends R & T's tax software to complete my taxes. Secondly, I often give up something for Lent often meat. So this year, when I asked if I could drop by to prepare my taxes, I offered to bring over a meat-less dinner. Now, for any Catholics out there, giving up meat usually excludes seafood. So seafood pie it was!

I offered my friends two choices: mashed potato topping (like a shepherd's pie) or puff pastry (like a pot pie). R went for the mashed potatoes. As he ate the seafood pie, R admitted that he was doubtful of the seafood pie idea but was pleasantly surprised. I was too!


Seafood Pie - Serves 4
Adapted from Jamie Oliver's Fish Pie & Restaurant Makeover's Seafood Pot Pie.
I first heard of fish pie when I watched one of Jamie Oliver's shows. In his recipe, I didn't like the idea of adding the fish raw. So I followed the seafood pot pie recipe, and pre-cooked my fish and seafood.

For the seafood filling
* 3-4 cups of seafood of your choice (I had 1 salmon fillet, 1 tilapia fillet, ½ lb scallops, 1 lb shrimps) - enough to cover the bottom of a 9" x 9" baking dish
* olive oil
* salt and pepper

Peel the shrimps and reserve the shells if you're going to make a seafood broth.
Cut the scallops and fish into 2" pieces.
Place in a baking dish and drizzle with oil.
Season with salt and pepper.
Bake at 375F for 5-7 minutes or until just cooked.

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Making seafood stock and seafood to be roasted (isn't it colourful?).

For the pie filling
You could use any vegetables but I like adding the green colour of the leeks and peas against the seafood.

* 1-½ cup seafood broth, or any other type
* ½ cup milk (I use skim milk with good results!)
* 3 tbsp butter
* 1 leek, sliced thinly
* 3 tbsp flour
* salt, to taste
* 1 tsp dry parsley
* 1 cup frozen peas
* roasted seafood

(If you'd like to make a broth for the sauce, just cook the shrimp shells, fish bones and skin with one carrot and 1 stalk of celery for 30 min.)
In a little pot, heat up the broth and milk.
Cook the leek in the butter, in a separate large pot, until they have softened.
Add 2 tbsp of butter until melted.
Add the flour and cook for 1-2 minutes.
Ladle the hot milk mixture while whisking.
Season the mixture with salt (1 tsp), pepper and some parsley.
Cook until the mixture has thickened.
Add the peas and roasted seafood.
Put your filling into a 9" x 9" baking dish.

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Leeks and peas; mashed potato with cheddar.

For the mashed potato
Again, I don't have exact quantities, I just eyed it and tried to aim for a consistency I liked.

* 4-5 good sized potatoes (it should cover the meat and vegetables)
* 1-2 tbsp butter
* 1-2 tbsp olive oil
* 1/3 cup cheddar cheese, optional
* salt and pepper
* milk

Cook potatoes and peel them.
While hot, mash the potatoes.
Add butter.
Add milk if the mixture is too thick.
Add the olive oil, salt and pepper.
Adjust the seasoning and consistency to your taste.
Mix in the cheddar cheese.
Cover the filling with the potato mixture and spread evenly, starting with the edges and working into the middle.
Go through the surface of the mashed potato with a fork, creating grooves.
Brush the grooves with melted butter, so it browns nicely.
Bake in the oven for 30 min at 350F. (At this point, all the ingredients are cooked, so you're just heating the pie up.)
Broil on high for 5 minutes if you want it nicely browned. (Use the time because it can burn quickly or use the low setting instead!)

My favourite seafood: scallops of course!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Lentil-Ricotta "Meatballs"

I was looking through foodgawker when I came upon this vegetarian recipe from In Jennie's Kitchen. Jennie's "meatballs" looked enticing and I thought it was interesting that her motivation for using lentils was not simply health or ethics, but to make a more affordable version of meatballs. I totally agree that you wouldn't miss the meat in these hardy "meatballs".


Lentil-Ricotta "Meatballs" - Serves 3 or 4
Adapted from In Jennie's Kitchen.
I decided to add a cheesy surprise inside the "meatballs" but they are totally optional and would still taste great without! I had a bit of trouble frying them because they stuck to the pan (probably because I don't use enough oil!). Instead, I baked them and it worked out great!

* 1 cup cooked lentils (cook about ¼ cup of dry lentils)
* 1 large egg, lightly beaten
* ⅓ cup plain breadcrumbs
* ¼ cup fresh ricotta
* 2-3 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
* 1-½ teaspoon chopped parsley (I use some dried flakes)
* salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
* mozzarella, cut into small cubes (if you want a cheesy middle!)
* oil, for frying

Cook lentils and let them cool down.
Purée lentils in a food processor.
Add all the ingredients, except for the mozzarella, into a large bowl.
Mix very well, using hands or a wooden spoon.
Cover and refrigerate for two hours or overnight.
Place a tablespoon or so of the mixture onto your hand and flatten into a disk.
Put a piece of the mozzarella cheese and shape the lentil mixture around into a ball.
Fry the "meatballs" in oil until brown.
Alternatively, drizzle oil on a baking dish and bake the "meatballs" until brown.
Serve with homemade tomato sauce and your favourite pasta.

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I cooked too much lentils so I cut the amount in half.

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My piece of cheese may have been a bit too large! Can you have too much cheese?

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Before and after cooking the "meatballs".

I liked the gooey cheese in the middle!

For other vegetarian pasta dishes:
* Eggplant Parmesan
* Eggplant Rollatini
* Mushroom Ravioli
* Pumpkin Ravioli
* Roasted Vegetable Lasagna Rolls
* Spinach Stuffed Pasta Shells
* Truffle Macaroni & Cheese

Saturday, March 6, 2010

West Plains Bistro

133 Plains Road East
Burlington, Ontario

Knowing my love for food, my roommate forwarded me a notice for A Taste of Burlington, an annual event where Burlington restaurants offer prix-fixe, three-course meals. The three-week event offer lunch (for $20) and dinners (for $30, $35 and $40). I invited my friend T for lunch and we narrowed down our choice to West Plains Bistro by looking at the online menu. Neither of us had visited West Plains before; it's always nice to visit a new restaurant.

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For a starter, we had a choice between a smokey red pepper soup and mussels served with a creamy curry sauce. We were intrigued by the Quebec pea soup and celeriac and Stilton. Unfortunately, they were offered for weeks 2 and 3. T, being pregnant and worried about the high level of mercury in mussels, had the soup. I, having no such worries, was happy to get the mussels!

Smokey red pepper soup.

Both the soup and mussels came with bread, to dip with. T enjoyed her soup. I loved the mussels, especially the curry sauce. I do really like the combination of mussels and curry. I think I should make it more often. The bread was a perfect vessel to sop up the curry sauce.

Mussels served with a creamy curry sauce.

For a main dish, T and I picked the same one: leek and mushroom agnolotti pasta, fresh stuffed pasta served with a white wine cream sauce and topped with fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. I did not know exactly what agnolotti. According to wikipedia, authentic agnolotti is stuffed with meat so technically this was a rather ravioli. Regardless, the pasta was delicious. Eyeing the large amount of sauce, T asked if we could have more bread. Again, we put it to good use to sop the sauce up.

Leek and Mushroom Agnolotti Pasta.

By the time we ordered dessert, I was extremely full but couldn't pass it up. West Plains seems to somewhat specialize in dessert and had 7 choices. T ordered the brownie while I had the apple torte. Each dessert was accompanied by a large amount of whipped cream (mmm!). I didn't love my torte. Although I like a large amount of apples, I didn't really like their texture. Maybe I was too full to enjoy more...

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Triple Chocolate Brownie Skor and Dutch apple torte.

All in all, we had a good time there, having enjoyed a nearly 2 hour lunch. We had time to chitchat and catch up. The Bistro is small and cozy. We had time to browse their regular menu and were especially tantalized by their appetizers. I'll have to come again, maybe for lunch!

West Plains Bistro on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Just-like-Skor Bars

I started a new job right before Christmas. At this workplace they have a neat (but potentially deadly) custom: Treat Day! Every week, three people are assigned the task to bring in treats. At 10 am on Fridays, everyone congregates in the lunch room for coffee and treats. It's a way to socialize. Loving to cook, I couldn't wait for it to be my turn! When someone was not available, I was asked to step in. One of the treats I decided to make was Just-like-Skor Bars!


Just-like-Skor Bars
Just-like-Skor bars taste... just like Skor! I used to make them regularly but hadn't made them in a few years. That's why I was shocked by the amount of butter! I know my sister has made a version with matzo instead with success also.

* 1 cup butter (do not replace with margarine)
* 1 sleeve salted soda crackers - I ended using more to completely cover the cookie sheet
* ¾ brown sugar, packed
* 1-½ semi- sweet or milk chocolate chips

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Place the crackers in a single layer, salted side up.
In a small pot, melt butter and brown sugar until dissolved.
Pour hot mixture evenly over crackers and bake at 350F for 13 minutes.
Melt the chocolate over hot water.
Pour the chocolate over the crackers and spread evenly.
Score bars or squares while chocolate is still hot (this really helps breaking the bars later).
Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Peel off paper and break into bars.

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Melting butter and sugar and pouring it over the saltines.

This recipe never fails and tastes great!

I also made ginger snaps for Treat Day!