October 11, 2010
For years I have been pining for XO sauce. I was given a jar several years ago and at the time I thought it was some type of chili sauce, and searches for a recipe proved fruitless. That was because it was XO sauce. Mike and I used it sparingly, portioning it out as though it were flakes of gold, watching one another like hawks to ensure that neither took more than his or her fair share. If you think I’m exaggerating that’s because you’ve never met us. The jar was eventually scraped clean and the sauce lived on in our hearts and taste memory.
Last week I made XO sauce* and I want to share the love with you. I am aware that this is supposedly a blog on clean eating. And I realize that this is almost as dirty as a recipe can get as it calls for one and a half cups of oil. Bear with me, because XO sauce is fabulous. It makes clean eating, yes, a little dirty. It’s good on almost anything. It adds heat and funk and savour to the most unwitting boiled egg or uninspired steamed greens. A little goes a long way and will last in your fridge for months, if you don’t end up giving it all away. So here it is, from me to you with love.
Makes about 2 cups
2 ounces dried scallops
2 ounces dried shrimp
heaping half cup of peeled garlic cloves
1/2 cup sliced and peeled ginger
1 Oyama pork chop, removed from bone and roughly chopped, or 1 cup of salt cured ham
1 1/2 cups peanut or grape seed oil, divided
1/4 cup chili flakes
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped raw cane sugar (from a block)
Place dried scallops and shrimp in a small bowl and cover with super hot tap water. Set aside. Put the garlic cloves and sliced ginger into your food processor and buzz into a fine chop and then scrape into a bowl. Drain the dried seafood, discard the stinky water, buzz up finely and then scrape over top of the minced garlic and ginger. Add the chopped pork chop or ham to your food processor and, you guessed it, whir that into fine bits. Meanwhile, heat half a cup of oil in a large, wide frying pan over medium heat and add the blitzed pork or ham. Crisp it up in the hot oil, it will take about five minutes, maybe a bit longer. Add the chili flakes and continue to cook. This pan full of spicy pork will be foaming and fuming beautifully. Reduce heat to as low as possible and add the dried seafood, garlic and ginger. Okay, wow. The smell is instant – powerful and amazing and reeking and almost offensive. YUM. Continue to roast in pan for about one hour, stirring here and there. Ensure that it is not sticking to the bottom of pan, or getting too dark. Add a little more oil if necessary during cooking. Once you deem it done, and the sauce is a rich, foxy red-brown, remove from heat and let cool. When it’s cool enough to taste, stir in the coarse sea salt and raw sugar. Add the remaining one cup of oil, you made not need to add all of it, though you want enough to saturate. I think, when I have the opportunity to make this again, that I will tweak the recipe a bit more. I’m considering adding half a cup of shallots with the garlic and ginger, and maybe more pork and less seafood. But that won’t be for a while. I think I have enough XO to get us through the winter.
* I was inspired by XO recipes from Mastering the Art of Chinese Cooking and Momofuku
October 7, 2010
You know, I really hate that I’m that person. That person who takes an unreasonably delicious, flawless recipe and attempts to make it almost as good but healthy. What a load of crap: you simply cannot remove half a pound of bacon and its drippings plus two tablespoons of butter from a recipe and have it taste anywhere near as good as the original. But in the name of ever intertwined vanity and health I did and here it is. It’s a knock-off of Momofuku’s badass original Roasted Summer Corn with Bacon and Butter. You might want to try this soon as there’s not much time left for cobs of corn at the market.
Serves 2 or 3 or 4
4 cobs of corn, stripped
pinch of sea salt
2 tablespoons white (shiro) miso paste
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/4 cup chicken or vegetable stock
6 green onions, chopped
ground black pepper
You’ve shucked and stripped your cobs of corn, right? Right, then in a small bowl mash together the miso paste with one tablespoon of olive oil and set aside. In the original recipe you cream together softened butter with the miso, creating a brilliant! miso butter. However. Heat a large-ish frying pan over medium-high heat with the remaining one tablespoon of olive oil. Add the corn kernels with the pinch of sea salt and cook for a few minutes, tossing or stirring. Scrape in the miso olive oil paste and break apart, add the stock and heat through. Remove from heat, add a few twists of black pepper and the green onion. Serve. You can pretend you know nothing about the original and thoroughly enjoy.
October 4, 2010
Today is the first day of my new job – back to professional attire, healthy packed lunches and structure. I do like me a little bit of structure. My new position will be a great professional challenge, eventually to be filled with exceptional pastries and top notch coffee.
One of my favourite smells in all the world is freshly ground and brewed coffee. It’s both comforting and exhilarating, wouldn’t you agree? I love my morning coffee so much that sometimes, most times, I start looking forward to it the day before. Like last night, knowing I would be enjoying my coffee with the much-missed Parkside Runners. This morning was a reunion of sorts, and a simultaneous calming and revving of the nerves through conversation and caffeine. Oh yes. I’m back. And feeling inspired and determined, professionally and personally. I’m super excited about the following: new job; fitness and nutrition potential; a select few new articles of clothing; the fall and crunchy leaves; baking cookies for new and old friends (and family – my dad, mainly, as he’s an oatmeal raisin cookie fiend); stews; rain boots; cashmere; making kimchi; cosy evenings and cold dark mornings; writing new recipes; wooly scarves; halloween with its tricks and treats. I had to end it there, to be reasonable. There’s so much to look forward to. But, first, back to work. Back to reality.
September 30, 2010
Oh my goodness. This is one of the best plates of pickles I’ve ever consumed, it’s from Momofuku Ssam Bar. It’s inspired me to want to pickle more things. A couple of years ago I had a memorable plate of pickles in Japan. Pickles are one of the things that I love about Asian cuisine, there’s such great variety and they make a fairly healthy accompaniment. More healthy than whipped lardo.
September 27, 2010
We’re in New York! Things kind of worked out for us to take a semi last minute trip here. We visited the year round (year round!) market in Union Square the other day. I think it’s one of the best and largest – of course it’s large, we’re in NYC – markets I’ve ever been to. It’s over two acres and there are about 140 producers. We didn’t buy much, some apples. There are a LOT of places we need to eat at. It’s good we brought our appetites.
September 23, 2010
Lately I’ve been thinking more about nutrition. Seeds, in particular. They’re so good for you! There is no excuse for not incorporating seeds into your diet. You can easily add a scoop of ground flax seed into a smoothie. Hemp, as you may have read, is one of the most superior proteins – it’s high quality. Pumpkin seeds are a favourite of mine, I often have a small handful over my morning cereal as well as a container of them in my purse. Sesame seeds add crunch to almost any meal, including salads, same with sunflower seeds. Below I’ve summarized some of the benefits of each by plagiarizing/paraphrasing from the excellent Thrive Diet. Sometimes when I need to be inspired I will read from this book. My form of a not-so-daily affirmation.
Flaxseeds have the highest level of Omega-3 in the plant kingdom. We hear a lot about Omega-3′s, an essential fatty acid. Essential because the body cannot produce it. Omega-3 is important for metabolizing fat and ” … a daily dose of about 1 tablespoon of ground whole flaxseed will allow the body to more efficiently burn fat as fuel.” That is appealing, no? Flaxseeds are high in potassium, have both soluble and insoluble fibre, contain anti-inflammatory properties, are a complete protein with all essential amino acids and is easily absorbed and utilized. Why is it spelled flaxseed and not flax seed?
Hemp Seeds are a complete protein and contain all 10 essential amino acids. Hemp is a high-quality protein and a good replacement for other proteins. It is instrumental in muscle and tissue regeneration and metabolizing fat. As a raw food, hemp has high levels of vitamins, minerals, fats, antioxidants, fibre and chlorophyll.
Pumpkin Seeds are particularly high in iron. If you don’t eat red meat, pumpkin seeds are ideal to incorporate into your diet. High impact activities such as running can dramatically reduce iron levels. I heart pumpkin seeds!
Sesame Seeds are an easily absorbed source of calcium. Who knew? Think of a meal, any meal, and you can probably add them. Seriously. Try it.
Sunflower Seeds are about 22% protein. Not half bad for a little seed. Sunflower seeds are rich in minerals, vitamins and antioxidants. How can they not be an excellent seed when they come from such a sunshiny flower?
September 20, 2010
This is a wedge of warm oatmeal pie. I stole the idea from this charming site and healthed it up a little. I love it, I just love it. And it cooled into a very sturdy granola-like bar. Have it warm for breakfast or later in the day for an afternoon tea break.
Makes 1 – 9″ pie
1 1/2 cups large flake oatmeal
1/2 cup quinoa
1/4 cup ground flax
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon gluten-free baking powder
1/2 cup raisins or other dried fruit
1 whole egg
1/2 cup unsweetened apple juice
1/4 cup almond milk
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon olive oil plus a dribble more
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pre-heat oven to 350º. Lightly oil pie plate with the extra dribble of olive oil. Measure the oatmeal, quinoa, flax, cinnamon, cardamom, sea salt, baking powder and raisins into a mid-size bowl. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the egg with apple juice, almond milk, honey and olive oil. Pour the wet into dry and mix together. Scoop into prepared pie plate and smooth out the top with an offset spatula. Bake for 20 minutes, remove from oven and let cool slightly. Cut out a wedge and serve warm with slices of ripe autumn pears and almond milk. Or cool completely, portion and wrap for a portable granola-esque snack.
September 16, 2010
My neighbourhood seemed still yesterday, and neither warm nor cold. In between days. Summer is quietly taking its leave and making room for fall. There are peaches still, at the market. Slightly over-ripe and marred with the odd bruise or dent which makes them perfect candidates for a small batch of peach barbecue sauce.
Makes about 1 cup
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1/4 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon dried chili flakes, optional
2 – 4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, to taste
2 – 3 tablespoons honey, to taste
2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
pinch of sea salt
2 ripe peaches, peeled, pitted and cut into chunks
Heat olive oil in a medium sized and heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. Add onions and cook for a few minutes, letting them sweat but not colour. Add garlic and chili, if using, and stir to prevent scorching. Turn in all the remaining ingredients and lower heat. Use the lesser amount of both vinegar and honey – you can taste later to see if you want your peach barbecue sauce more tart or sweet. Simmer for about 20 minutes, use a fork to press down juicy ripe peaches into smaller pieces. Puree if you like or leave it a bit chunky. Think of all the food you can baste with your sticky, peachy sauce: veggies, pork, chicken, salmon, prawns. A brush with the end of summer.
September 13, 2010
I wanted to let you know that I’ve been thinking about agave and sugar and other sweet things. There’s a lot of bad press out there on agave and I’m aghast that it’s taken me this long to write about it. I gave agave the benefit of the doubt. I wanted to believe the hype. Though it does sound healthful and too good to be true. I have a sugary house – granulated, brown, raw cane, light brown, date, coconut, coarse, maple, raw, rock, stevia, vanilla, icing, berry. And agave, molasses, corn syrup and glucose. And honey. Oh, honey. There’s some from the Okanagan called Dew Fresh, it’s from Osoyoos and Oliver, and it is the BEST honey I’ve ever had. What have I been eating it on? Um, a spoon. And see? This is why I started my blog, so that I wouldn’t succumb to spoonfuls of sugar of any sort. And that’s the point: moderation. You’ll have to read some articles to decide for yourself if you want to continue using agave.
When I’m baking with my blog in mind I experiment with alternate ingredients. I believe in eating well, most of the time. I believe in food, whole foods. I love how food brings people together, and is always reason enough for celebration. All of my friendships are based on food. If you don’t love to eat we probably aren’t friends. If you don’t love to cook, that’s okay, I’ll do the cooking. I’ll continue writing recipes that are healthy-ish. You will now see all sorts of sweeteners*, including agave, used on Baker’s Balance. In some recipes, one sweetener is easily swapped for another, so use the sweetener that you prefer. It’s been a slow time coming, like molasses in the winter.
Read more on agave:
* I never use Splenda or Equal or any of those…
September 9, 2010
The smell of meat grilled over charcoal brings out the caveman in most of us. Two years ago my friend Jen E. and I were in Japan and the smell from yakitori houses was irresistible. Jen says, and I quote, “I wish there was grilled meat perfume!” Well, this is the next best thing since you kind of smell like a Tokyo yakitori when you’re done grilling.
These are, essentially, pork meat balls on a stick. I used Gelderman’s ground pork. And I didn’t grill over charcoal, just over gas. You could do these in a hot pan on the stove, too. I forgot to soak my bamboo sticks in water so that they didn’t burn, grr. So I wrapped the ends of the sticks in a bit of tinfoil. It didn’t prevent them from scorching but what happened is they started to smoke and infused the meat with a lovely charcoal taste. Turns out, I’m kind of genius. Anyway, as you wish, soak or smoke your skewers. I used small, flat two-pronged bamboo skewers, not the thin toothpick sort.
Makes ten little skewers
1 pound ground pork
3 green onions, minced
1″ piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 tablespoon tamari soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Preheat grill or pan to high heat. Mix together all the above ingredients by hand. Divide mixture up into ten even bits and gently, firmly, pack each bit around a skewer. They are a little fragile at this point so take some care placing them on the grill or into the pan, they will adhere more determinedly as they cook onto the stick. About five minutes on each side will do, they will be cooked through and juicy. I served with pickled radish, a pile of grilled leeks, sweet and green onions, mushrooms and grilled rice balls.
Grilled Rice – Makes 10 little rectangles
1 1/2 cups cooked brown rice, warm
1 heaping tablespoon roasted flax seed
1 – 2 teaspoons olive oil
Adding flax to the cooked brown rice imparts a yummy roasty taste, makes the rice a bit tackier and adds an extra dose of healthfulness. I cheated and used one of these to pack the rice into even rectangles. Heat a small, non-stick frying pan over medium heat with a splash of olive oil. Carefully place onigiri into the pan and sizzle evenly on all sides. Rice will crisp up super deliciously.