Choco Shake

October 21, 2010

Choco Froth

I am thrilled about this shake. I concocted it the other day when I was hungry and yearning for chocolate ice cream. The trick is to use a frozen banana, it makes it cold, of course, and gives it a rich thickness. It reminds me of when I was a kid and for a chocolate-y treat I would scoop out a soup bowl of ice cream and dump lumpy spoonfuls of cocoa over top. Then, in front of an episode or two of Scooby Doo, I would mash together the melty ice cream with cocoa. The end treat was a cross between a mall malted and chocolate ice cream. Little did I know then that cocoa was rich in antioxidants and minerals. I probably wouldn’t have cared but I do now.

Makes 1 yummy glassful

1 date, soaked briefly to soften in boiling water

1 frozen banana

3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk

1 heaping tablespoon good quality cocoa powder

2 tablespoons protein powder, I like this one in vanilla almond

The method is elementary: drain the water from the date and discard and put everything into a blender. Blend for two minutes, pour into a tall glass and try not to guzzle. Or stick a straw in for a soda fountain effect.

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Seeds

September 23, 2010

Sunflower & Seeds

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?

Pork Yakitori

September 9, 2010

Porksicle

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.

Yaki Onigiri

Meat ‘n Potatoes

September 6, 2010

Man Up

Have you noticed the jewel-like peppers at the markets lately? I bought a handful a couple of weeks ago when we were in the Okanagan. I had no plans for them but they were so pretty I couldn’t leave them. They looked lovely on our table for an afternoon, better than flowers. That night we grilled steak and corn on the cob. I chopped up the peppers, cooked them up in butter, and dumped them over the meat with salt and generous squeezes of lime. It was one of those dinners – it came together in minutes, just before midnight, and blew us all away.

This past Saturday I picked out some more peppers. Katie recommended Jackson’s Meats on 4th for hanger steak, called onglet en francaise. The butcher told us that hanger steak is sometimes referred to as butcher’s steak, preferred for its flavour and tenderness. I think this will make the perfect dinner for tonight, Labour Day Monday. It’s kind of end of summer appropriate.

One hanger steak is almost enough for two… we asked the butcher to pound it out for us

any cut of beef that you prefer

a few peppers, a mix of hot and mild is nice, sliced very thin

a couple of tablespoons of olive oil

sea salt and pepper to taste

lime, at least one whole

Season steak with sea salt (I like to use coarse sea salt for this) and ground black pepper and grill or panfry to desired doneness, not more than 10 minutes. Let rest, uncovered, on a plate while you sear the peppers. Pour a puddle of olive oil into a small pan and heat over medium until the oil begins to shimmer. Scrape the sliced peppers in and toss once or twice, shower with some sea salt. Done. Remove from heat and squeeze half the lime over. Slice the hanger steak into strips and pile hot, salty and lime-juicy peppers over top. This is full of sweet heat and meat, step up to the plate like a man and dig in. Add more lime if you like.

Potatoes, I used fingerlings but you can use any smallish type

a few small potatoes, halved and boiled until not quite cooked through

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 garlic clove, smashed

sea salt

Drain par-cooked potatoes and set aside. Heat olive oil over medium heat with crushed garlic clove, swirl pan. Add potatoes, cut side down, remove garlic, and cook until potatoes are a perfect shade of tarnished gold. I love how that sounds, but at the same time I’m thinking, Oh, please. It’s just a potato. Serve alongside peppery steak with some sweet sliced tomatoes.

'n Sungolds

Pepper Gems

Falafel

July 15, 2010

Chick Pea Fritter

I will do my best to describe these little chick pea fritters. Hot out of the pan they have a delicate crispiness around the edges, while the insides are creamy-rich and tender, almost sweet, and they sort of melt in your mouth. They are deeply flavoured with onions and garlic, which mellows in the sizzling pan, and they gain a balance of fresh from confetti flecks of parsley. Please don’t be disappointed, these are nothing like the falafel wraps from shops that pepper almost all of the neighbourhoods in Vancouver. I have nothing against those garlicky, crunchy, golf ball-like falafels that drip seasoned yogurt inside their soft white pita. But these are not they. These are something else and I really thing you should try them. They are especially yummy with a splot of creamy, lemony, nutty tahini.

Makes about 16

1 small Walla Walla onion, roughly chopped

1 clove of garlic

1 – 540 ml tin of canned chick peas, drained

3/4 teaspoon coarse salt

several twists of freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

a pinch of cumin

1 whole egg

1/2 a bunch of curly parsley, use the remaining 1/2 bunch for salad

1 tablespoon brown rice flour

2 – 3 tablespoons olive oil

In the bowl of your trusty food processor, turn in the roughly chopped onion and garlic clove. Pulse on and off until almost mushy and then add the remaining ingredients. Pulse a few times, remove the lid and scrape the sides of the bowl and pulse again. The batter will be very soft and loose and will barely hold its shape. Heat a cast iron pan over medium heat and add a tablespoon of olive oil. Scoop batter out with a soup spoon into your hand and gently turn into your other hand, back and forth a couple of times to form a small roundish mound of batter. Roll batter down your hands, off of your fingertips and into the hot pan of oil. Repeat until you have about eight fritters in the pan. Lower heat a bit, turn it to a medium-low flame and leave the fritters undisturbed. At this point, they are too fragile to flip. Let them spatter and puff, they will set very much like a pancake. After several minutes you will see that the bottom edges are crisped and they will now be firm (but still soft and fragile!) enough to flip. I used two forks. I tucked one underneath and used the other to support the edge of the fritter, then flipped. They only require another minute or two on the second side. Now, eat while piping hot, with a frilly salad of chopped curly parsley, cucumber, red onion and lemon and that splot of tahini. Do you think I described them well? Wipe pan out and add some more olive oil to finish cooking the remaining batter. These are great at room temperature and tote very well to the beach with their salad and sauce.

Tahini – makes about half a cup

1/2 cup tahini

1 lemon, zest and juice

1 to 2 tablespoons water

pinch of sea salt

freshly ground pepper

Stir tahini into a bowl and add lemon zest and water. The mixture will seem to seize and thicken to a horrid paste. Keep stirring and, if needed, add a little more water. Tahini will smooth out to a not at all horrid creaminess. Season with salt and pepper.

Are you making the salad? Then you will need:

remaining 1/2 bunch of parsley

2 small Japanese cucumbers, or other

2 tablespoons minced red onion

1 lemon, juiced

pinch each of sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Mix together. You could also add some chopped tomato and a few shakes of hot sauce, too.

Salmon Salsa

June 14, 2010

Fish Dish

I think you might really like this dish of fish. Why wouldn’t you? You can scoop it up with those gluten-free crackers from the other day, wrap it in crisp leaves of iceberg or eat it straight out of the bowl. The cilantro and mango make it super fresh tasting and if you use wild pacific salmon, it’s a very good choice. It’s healthy. The method is four words long. This recipe is easy and flexible, feel free to up the heat by adding more jalepeno, or leave it out all together. Same with the fruit, you don’t have to use mango. Try pineapple or blueberries or strawberries. This is one of those recipes that’s more of an idea, you can take it and run with it. It’s not like a baking recipe where you should proceed with caution and knowledge, there is not much to muck up. But do keep the cilantro in it, don’t go swapping that out for something as pedestrian as parsley, flat leaf or other. Fresh cilantro has its own fragrant specialness. A particular green liveliness that makes me close my eyes and breathe in a little deeper. I’m serious when I tell you that cilantro is one of those things, a simple thing, that makes me feel content.

Makes about 4 cups

1 pound fresh salmon, seasoned and roasted to a medium rare to medium doneness, cooled and flaked

1 mango, peeled, pitted and diced

1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped

3 green onions, minced

3 radishes, chopped (I put these in my first batch of salmon salsa)

1 jalepeno, seeded and minced

1 lime, zest and juice

2″ piece of fresh ginger, grated

1 tablespoon sesame oil

sea salt and pepper, to taste

Toss all ingredients together. The end.

Salmonscape

Contentment is...

BC Shrimp

May 17, 2010

Spotted

I didn’t know it when I was younger, but I was spoiled with food. From the best futomaki in all the world to fresh-pressed apple juice from our backyard apple tree. Of course, I was appalled at the apple juice that we pressed. It was brown, murky and had a tendency to separate. “Blech, why can’t we buy Sun-Rype like everyone else?! This is gross.” Oh, stupid girl. I wanted my juice clear, sparkling and from a tin. My grandfather was a Japanese-Canadian commercial fisherman, and I was quite accustomed to the best, freshest salmon, octopus and spot prawns. I didn’t know spot prawns were called spot prawns, we just called them shrimp. They would be served, with about 40 other dishes, at most of our family gatherings. Platters of them, piled high, boiled and served at room temperature or cold, in shell. There is not a better meal than a plate of never-ending shrimp with the odd piece of sushi and some ohitashi.

It seems, and rightly so, that spot prawns are all the rage in Vancouver lately. I’m pleased that we’re all learning about a great choice for shrimp in our own backyard. There are a lot of ways to prepare BC shrimp, or spot prawns, and most of our local chefs have some fine recipes. But, for me, the best way to prepare them is simply boiled. Buy them live. They are very energetic, they will twitch and flip their way out of an open bag and try to make a run for it. Their very liveliness might make you scream like a girl. Pull yourself together. Square your shoulders, take a deep breath and get on with the business of a shrimp boil.

For Two

3 pounds of fresh, live shrimp (I think they’re called spot prawns because of the white dots that they sport on each side)

sea salt, about 2 teaspoons

big pot of boiling water

soy sauce

Buy your live shrimp from T&T Supermarket, if you can. I bought some on special this past Saturday for $7.99 a pound, which is a steal. Or you can buy them right off the boats near Granville Island for $12 a pound. Get some, bring them home. The bag that they’re in will lurch and twitch. You should cook them right away. If they sit in the fridge and start to suffer, or die, that’s just mean. Plus, it will make their meat mushy. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and add about two teaspoons of sea salt. Open the bag, at least one will try to make a run for it. Swiftly turn your bag of shrimp into the water. I walk away, discard the bag, wash my hands and return to task. I don’t stay to watch them cook. At least 30 seconds will have passed and your shrimp will be done. Empty shrimp into a colander in the sink and run cold water over them until they’ve cooled. Pile onto a plate and serve with soy sauce. A quick swish through a bit of soy is absolute perfection with the sweet, tender meat.

Ready to Peel

Run Spot Run

Oops. Too slow.

Homemade Tofu

April 1, 2010

Hiyayakko

Last week we had dinner at a restaurant where they make their own tofu and it was really good, special. I have been meaning to make tofu at home for kind of a long time, so I thought why not make my own soy milk first and then make tofu? Which is not unlike deciding to make cheese at home and milking the cow, or goat. I love cheese making, I have made plenty of fresh cheese, such as ricotta and paneer. In fact, I have “novice cheese maker” on my resume, or CV, or whatever you prefer to call your life’s work experience. This caused some snickering amongst a couple of my (dearest) friends, wondering who crowned me “novice cheese maker”. Well, I did.

It is not easy to find magnesium chloride or sodium sulfate in Vancouver. You need this to make to tofu. First I went to a drug store, a pharmacy. They sent me to a health food store. The health food store recommended a pharmacy, so I went to a different one. Most unhelpful. I decided to try a Japanese food store, plenty of those in Vancouver, to buy nigari which is, to the best of my knowledge, a Japanese version of magnesium sulfate. They were sold out. I called a gourmet store, nope, they don’t carry it. Then I called one of those bulk food shops, one that specializes in gluten-free everything, where everything smells like dusty curry powder, and then a well-known Asian food shop, where they charge twice as much as anywhere else. No luck. I started thinking about what needed to happen, chemically, with the soy milk. I became more determined. I needed to coagulate the soy, it needed to curdle. When I make paneer, I use vinegar. It’s so easy. It is easier than going to the store to buy paneer. I’m not kidding. So, I thought, why not use vinegar? I should consult my paneer recipe, yes? No. I should try to figure out what 0.25% of 3000 grams is. I did this by calling Michael at work and, nerd that he is, I could hear him clacking the buttons on his calculator. He was clackulating. I chose not to bother to learn to use a calculator, or math, for that matter. I knew I’d never need it. The answer he gave me didn’t sound right, it wouldn’t be enough. Don’t ask me how I know this. Never mind the calculations, I would create my own, and I would use vinegar to curd as a verb. The only plain white vinegar I had was pickling vinegar, and at 7% acidity it runs about twice as acidic as regular table vinegar. Is this boring to read? Allow me to skip to the recipe.

Makes 1 – 300 g block of tofu + a lot of mess

3 litres of soy milk, unflavoured

2 teaspoons agave

2 tablespoons pickling vinegar

Pour soy milk into a very large pot, as it heats it foams and could very quickly erupt over the sides of the pot. Turn heat on to medium and bring to just below a simmer, you want to scald the milk. Turn off heat and stir in agave. Add the vinegar, stir once or twice, and let sit for a few minutes. You will see the soy milk separate and the curds form. While it’s curdling, line a tofu mold… I don’t have a tofu mold, either, so I lined a square, removable bottom cake pan with three layers of cheese cloth. Set on top of a rack over a large bowl to allow it to drain. Carefully ladle curdled soy into the cheese cloth lined pan. You can leave a lot of the liquid in the pot and try to scoop out mainly tofu curds. The liquid that is scooped along with the curds will drain right through into the bowl, the curds will stay put, eventually forming your block of tofu. Discard all of the liquid. Once all the curds are in the pan, take a piece of plastic wrap and cover the surface of the tofu to be. Carefully, gently and evenly press down on the block. The more you press, the firmer the tofu you will make. I pressed a little more enthusiastically than I should have. I wanted a soft tofu and ended up with a medium-firm one. I’m impatient, and I carefully unwrapped my tofu right away. I cut a slice, and it was still ever so slightly warm. It was really nice, it tasted fresh. But what a mess. There was a lot of the outfall from having also just made the soy milk. I didn’t even include that recipe here. Would I make soy milk and tofu again? I’m undecided. It seems foolish when you can buy a block of organic tofu for two bucks or less. I can cross it off my list now, though. I served my homemade tofu chilled, hiyayakko, topped with minced green onions, grated ginger and bonito flakes in a cold puddle of soy and yuzu.

Fresh Tofu

Kalonji Chicken

March 15, 2010

Kalonji Chicken

If you make this, it will make you happy. It’s a curried dish of chicken*, full of flavour. Be warned, your home will smell like a curry house for about a week, but it’s worth it. You will likely need to take a trip here to pick up some some spices. While you’re in the neighbourhood, take a browse. There are all sorts of gorgeous fabrics that are so affordable. They’re tempting, but you probably don’t need any. Yes, you could buy a length to drape on your table for your Indian feast because after you make this you will want to double the recipe and make it again for all of your friends. It’s that good, I tell you. But a length of fabric? You can borrow mine, I keep it folded up neatly in a trunk. Also, while in the neighbourhood, you will be tempted to acquire interesting pots and vessels and a tiffin for your lunch of leftovers.

I would like to have an Indian potluck soon, but I’m calling this dish. You can bring something else. I’ll unfold my shimmery fabric and we can feast. I can’t wait, it will be like the old days when I had loads of time.

Serves 6

3 tablespoons coconut oil, divided

3 medium onions, grated

2 tablespoons kalonji, also known as nigella

2 tablespoons cumin seed

6 cloves garlic, grated

5″ fresh ginger, peeled and grated

2 – 796 ml tins of tomatoes

2 teaspoons sea salt

1 tablespoon turmeric

1 tablespoon garam masala

1/4 to 1 teaspoon cayenne, use with caution, start with a little and increase slowly to desired heat

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, sliced thinly

1 cup frozen peas

Okay, this is what you need to do. Haul out your food processor to grate the onions. If you don’t have a food processor, this is a tear inducing task. Melt two tablespoons of the coconut oil in a medium-sized non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Add grated onions and fry, stirring often, for about 20 minutes. You want to get this panful of onion and its juices golden brown and delicious. Meanwhile, in a large pan, melt the remaining tablespoon of coconut oil over medium heat. Add the kalonji and let them sizzle for one to two minutes, then add the cumin seeds and fry for thirty seconds. Don’t wash your food processor yet. Throw in the six, yes six, cloves of garlic and ginger and grate. Add the ginger and garlic to the fragrant and sizzling seeds. Don’t forget about your browning onions, stir well to ensure that they are not sticking to the bottom of the pan. Return to the seedy ginger and garlic pan and tip in the two tins of tomatoes. Simmer for ten minutes or so, I think your onions should be just about done at this point. Scrape these into your tomato mixture and add the salt and spices. Bring to a low simmer and then add the sliced chicken breast and cook for about 15 minutes, or until cooked through. If you would like to add frozen peas, do so now. Take care not to overcook, you can easily dry out your chicken if you get all paranoid. Serve over a little steamed brown basmati rice. Delish, right?

*PS – are you a vegetarian? You can still make this! Substitute a block of medium firm tofu or a tin of chick peas for the chicken.

Pretty Kalonji

Pork Tenderloin

January 18, 2010

Seared Crusted Roasted

Seared Crusted Roasted

Yesterday, for an after dinner treat – also known as dessert – I made a batch of these. If you haven’t tried my Black Bean Brownies before, you should. I think you might like them. But never mind that. This is a pork post.

For the pre-dessert meal I made this herb and salt crusted, mustard-smeared pork tenderloin. YUM! It’s fast and easy. And a lean protein to accompany mixed winter vegetables.

Serves 2

1 – 240g (just over 1/2 a pound) pork tenderloin

2 teaspoons coconut oil

1 teaspoon coarse sea salt, I used a smoked Maldon sea salt but didn’t note any smokiness

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary, dried because I didn’t have fresh

a good splash of balsamic vinegar

Pre-heat oven to 450º. Set a heavy frying pan over a high flame and add coconut oil. Let oil melt and shimmer. Meanwhile, sprinkle more than half of the sea salt and grind some fresh pepper over your pork tenderloin. Your shimmering oil will be just beginning to hit the smoking point – perfect. Place the tenderloin in the hot oil, it will hiss and spit like an angry cat! That’s an unappealing comparison, isn’t it? Allow it to sizzle angrily for 3 – 4  minutes and turn to let it hiss and spit on a second side. Sear for a total of seven minutes. Remove from hot pan and cool momentarily. Now, still-hot, pick up the pork and smear messily with the Dijon and then roll in the remaining salt, a bit more pepper and the rosemary and fennel. There is no way to do this cleanly, you must smear and roll with your mucky hands. Return to the hot pan and, not touching the scorching handle with your bare hand (duh… ), place in oven. Roast for about 12 – 15 minutes, thermometer will read 150º for a medium-ish, still slightly pink and very moist doneness. You can take it 10 degrees under or over, given your preference. Keep in mind the temperature of tenderloin, and therefore its doneness, will continue to rise as it rests. Allow the tenderloin to rest at room temperature for at least five minutes. Meanwhile, add the splash of balsamic vinegar to the hot pan, no need to turn the heat on under it as it’s still very hot. Use a fork to mix the vinegar into the sticky bits of herbs and splots of Dijon. Scrape onto a plate. Slice the tenderloin into medallions and place on top of tangy-salty-yummy balsamic pan glaze.

Ready to Roll