Hugs & Kisses

October 11, 2010


This is Love


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.

xo Dawne

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


Sesame Salt

August 4, 2010

Toast & Salt

There was a little restaurant in Paris that had a few interesting condiments. One was this, toasted sesame crushed together with salt. Such a simple idea. There is no end to what you could sprinkle it on, to make whatever it is you’re eating a little toastier tasting, a tinge saltier. I will have to toy with the balance once I’m home, but my guess is that 1/4 of a cup of pan-toasted sesame seeds will be just right with a heaping tablespoon of course sea salt. Cool the sesame seeds completely before lightly grinding with the salt.

Take You Down

June 21, 2010

Hot Orange

I should be blogging something on local strawberries, ’tis the season. However, yesterday after work Michael and I went down to Chinatown and I became distracted with dried seafood and fresh chilies. When I saw the bird’s eye chilies I was taken with the idea of homemade chili sauce. This is a HOT sauce. It will take you down, so proceed cautiously.

Makes about 1/2 a cup

70 grams fresh red bird’s eye chilies, stemmed

2 tablespoons of water

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 tablespoon agave

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

Rinse chilies and place them in a small pot with water and sea salt. Turn heat to low and simmer until chilies have softened and almost all of the water has evaporated. Take care not to hover directly over the chili laden steam, it will make you cough and sting your eyes. Turn softened and salted chilies into a blender and add agave and vinegar. Process until you achieve a thick, hot orange chili paste. Again, proceed with caution. I think a little of this would taste exceptional on fried eggs or mixed into vegetable soup. Store in a jar in the fridge.

Down to Chinatown

Savoury Rhubarb Compote

April 15, 2010


I want to holler this, with caps lock on and in bold: RHUBARB! It’s spring time, it’s rhubarb season, and that makes me happy. There are so many rhubarb things that I want to make and bake. But first, before the sweet onslaught of crumbly, gluten-free rhubarb muffins and sticky, vanilla-flecked compote, I must insist that you make this. Oh my God, it’s good! It will make your mouth water as it bubbles, and your whole house will be enveloped in a sharp tang of rhubarb. I have tweaked, just slightly, a recipe from Simply Bishops, by John Bishop and Dennis Green. In their cookbook they suggest that you have this with roasted salmon. And you should, but don’t stop there. Try it with grilled chicken or pork. Or whisk it with a little olive oil, sea salt and pepper for a smart and pretty vinaigrette. It’s really good with cheese. I know that’s not clean eating, I’m just saying. It’s really good with cheese. Happy spring!

Makes about 2 cups

1/2 pound chopped rhubarb, about 8 not too big stalks

1 shallot, peeled and chopped

1/2 cup rice wine vinegar

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup agave

1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated

pinch of sea salt

Place all ingredients in a little, not too little, saucepan. Turn heat on to medium, bring to a simmer and reduce heat a bit. Cook for several minutes, until rhubarb and shallots have softened. Allow to cool and then puree in a blender. How delightful is that pink? Nothing short of perfect and blushing. Enjoy!


Salsa, or 1982/83

March 18, 2010

A Little Bowlful of Mexperience

I’m kind of known for my salsa. At least, I think I am. My friends are a tough and opinionated group. Am I right? My point is, I don’t think they’re just saying that my salsa is good. Right, Jay? Jay can easily put back a litre or two of salsa. It’s not pretty, but it happens. His vehicle of choice are those scoopy little bowl-like tortilla chips. Not super clean. He even asked me to show him how to make salsa. Jay is kinda known for his tacos. Sometimes, like always, when he makes salsa, he’ll forget a key ingredient at the store. Bummer. This is not a deterrent and he will forge ahead and make cilantro-less salsa, or cumin-free salsa. And that’s fine. But not good. Technically, of course, it remains a salsa.

What business do I have writing a salsa recipe? Well, this is my blog and I’ll write whatever recipe I want. I’m not Mexican. I have not been taught the classic steps of a salsa. But, back in the day, I worked in a Mexican/Fish & Chip restaurant on the beach. No, not in Mexico. In White Rock. And who cares that I merely heated up a large, orange fat-ringed pot of ground beef and rolled it in a soft shell of a tortilla and microwaved it with a fat handful of orange cheese? I felt close to the border. Of Bellingham. And I dreamed of having my own restaurant. In between the Mexican food orders (there weren’t very many but, if you ask me, this aging and reheating process added to the bizarre deliciousness of this orangey ground beef) I fried up thousands of orders of fish and chips. I really loved this job, loved wrapping up the orders in little yellow cardboard trays and newspaper. I got paid $2 an hour, it was 1982 and, by the end of a weekend, that would buy a lot of chocolate bars. Sometimes I forget that this is a blog on clean eating.

We never made salsa at the fish and chip joint. Some things are unclear about that time. Such as, I don’t think we had a microwave there, I think I made that up. Maybe we turned the shredded cheese into lava under a salamander. I cannot recall. Everyone, almost everyone, smoked when they came into the restaurant it seemed, and I would empty ashtrays as regularly as I would fry chips and wipe down vinegar bottles. The top songs, in my opinion, were by Journey, Toto and Melissa Manchester. I also remember I ate an entire box of these. Not one measly box, one box case of 48 – ugh. Another ugh: as 1982 turned into 1983 Donna Summer released She Works Hard for the Money. Which is not much cause for grief in itself except for the fact that my dad, who drove me to my job every weekend, would sing this song to me.

Given this account of my past Mexperience, here is my salsa recipe. It is clean, fresh-tasting and not at all authentic. I recommend that you don’t use the excellent Italian San Marzano tomatoes, they’re too tomato saucy. I use Aylmer brand tomatoes, and I buy them in a flat of eight from Costco and I’m slightly sheepish about this. But they work perfectly. Much like music from the 1980’s: a bit tacky and cheap, slightly tinny and without much substance. LOVE IT.

Makes about 1 litre, or enough for Jay, I suggest you double the recipe if he’s coming over

1- 796 ml tin of cheap tomatoes, drained

1/4 small red onion, roughly chopped

1/2 small clove of garlic, don’t use more than this or it will be garlicky

1 – 2 jalapenos – be warned. I slice one open and taste-test for heat by pressing the back of a spoon against the cut flesh, seeds and membrane and then tasting the spoon. Then I determine how many I want to use, this probably take some practice. Start with half of one, you can always add more. But I never seed them. It’s the membrane that’s hot, not the seeds, I think. Anyway, don’t handle them and then touch your eyes or face or something silly. If you do, your eyes will sting and water as though you’re sitting in a greasy, smoky fish ‘n chip joint in the early 80’s.

1 bunch cilantro

1 lime, juiced

1/2 – 3/4 teaspoon sea salt, to taste

1 teaspoon toasted, roughly ground cumin seeds

Here I go again, recommending that you put ingredients into a food processor. First, the onion, garlic and jalapeno and pulse to roughly chop. Then add the drained tomatoes, cilantro, lime juice, sea salt and cumin. Process briefly. I like to leave it as chunky as possible. Now, this is not a fresh, hand-cut salsa. It is what it is and I like it and my friends like it. You don’t need to eat it with scoopy chips, you shouldn’t. It is excellent on eggs, on chicken and stirred into fried onions and peppers and many, many other healthy things.

My dad is right: I do work hard for my money. Someone needs to pay me for my opinion this blog.

Mustard Yellow

February 25, 2010


Happiness to me is mustard. I love mustard. It’s a happy condiment, no? Unlike soy sauce, which is dark and serious. And salty. I can take or leave ketchup, I know that’s an unpopular opinion. It’s not that interesting to me. Relish, though, relish is good fun. Tiny confetti of pickle. Though I just got up to check my fridge and I don’t even own any relish. But mustard! I decided to make mustard, and it was so easy and tangy with the right amount of cheeky heat that I thought, why haven’t I made mustard before?

Makes about 1 cup

2 tablespoons yellow mustard seed

2 tablespoons brown mustard seed

1/3 cup apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon water

1 tablespoon dry mustard powder

1 teaspoon turmeric, optional

1/4 teaspoon agave

a pinch of sea salt

Soak mustard seeds overnight in vinegar and water. I covered mine and left it at room temperature. The next day just turn everything into your blender and buzz it together until it’s emulsified and kind of creamy. It’s quite hot and snappy at first, but mellows after a few days of cooling in the fridge.

Spaghetti Marinara

July 21, 2009

On Top of Wild Rice Spaghetti

On Top of Wild Rice Spaghetti

Wild rice pasta is a complex carbohydrate that’s really satisfying, and you’ll barely notice that it’s not regular old wheat pasta. The big plus is, other than being gluten-free, wild rice pasta is high in protein, fiber and vitamin B. You can use any shape of wild rice pasta that you like, there are a number of different shapes including spaghetti, radiatore and penne. As for the simple and quick tomato sauce there are two things you can do to make it taste rich and long-simmered. First, and most importantly, don’t chintz out on the tomatoes – treat yourself to a tin of organic San Marzano tomatoes, it makes all the difference. And second, toss in a couple more vegetables than just onions.

Serves 6

1 – 454 g package of organic brown rice spaghetti, cooked according to package directions

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

1 rib of celery, diced

1 small carrot, diced

4 cloves of garlic, sliced

1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon dried chili flakes, optional

1 – 796 ml tin of San Marzano tomatoes*

1 small bunch of fresh basil, leaves rolled tightly together and sliced into thin ribbons, called chiffonade, or 1/2 teaspoon dried basil – set aside a little fresh basil for garnish, if you wish

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Heat a large skillet over medium heat and pour in the two tablespoons of olive oil. Let warm and add chopped onions, celery and carrots. Sauté for about five minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and chili flakes, if using. Continue to cook vegetables until thoroughly softened but not crisped. Stir in tomatoes, basil and sea salt. Let simmer for at least ten minutes, and up to half an hour over low heat, stirring every now and then. Taste for seasoning. Ladle about one third of the tomato sauce over the warm, cooked pasta and toss to coat. Divide pasta amongst dishes, and then top each with a little of the remaining sauce. Garnish with fistfuls of stinky, delicious parmesan fine ribbons of fresh basil. Speaking of basil, if you don’t want to make tomato sauce you could toss wild rice pasta with yummy pesto.

* If it says D.O.P. on your tin you bought authentic San Marzano tomatoes – it stands for Protected Designation of Origin

Pumpkin Seed Pesto

July 9, 2009



Basil is everywhere at the markets, and it smells so good. The thing to do is buy a large bunch and make a batch of pesto. Of course, the most classic way to use this sauce is to toss it with a lovely, ribbon-wide pasta – not part of our clean-eating, gluten-free plan. However, it is fantastic on many foods and it makes everything taste like mid-summer at the market. This recipe is blasphemous because I’ve left out the parmesan. While I’m a little sheepish about that, I’m also pretty sure that you won’t miss it. Much. I upped the flavour by using roasted pecans instead of the traditional pine nuts, and I also threw in raw pumpkin seeds, which are healthful and rich in iron.

Makes 1 cup

2 packed cups fresh basil leaves

2 cloves of fresh garlic

1/3 cup roasted pecans, or use pine nuts if you’re the classic sort

1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast, optional*

3/4 teaspoon sea salt

several twists of fresh black pepper

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup pumpkin seed oil, or use all olive oil, so that would be 1/2 cup olive oil, total

Haul out your food processor and stuff everything but the oil into the bowl. Pulse and process into a rough paste. Scrape down the bowl as necessary, and take a deep inhale while the lid is off – what a great smell – kind of floral, almost spicy, garlicky, mouth-watering. While the machine is running, stream in the olive oil and then the pumpkin seed oil. A thick, delicious paste will result. If you would like to add cheese, and I can’t say that I blame you, leave out the nutritional yeast and stir in 1/2 a cup of grated parmesan. Pesto will keep in a container in the fridge for about a week.

I realize you might be wondering what, exactly, are all the foods you can use pesto on? Here are a few suggestions. Last night we had it on fresh salmon, a good dollop on each filet, then grilled. Sauté some fresh green beans with pesto. Try it on almost any vegetable, use it as a dip. Throw spoonfuls on wilted greens. On chicken. Pasta, as mentioned. Try brown rice pasta if you’re wheat-free, it’s really good. See? Many foods, and many more.

* I thought the parmesan would be less-missed if I added nutritional yeast, it’s a bit nutty and cheesy tasting

PS – pesto freezes really well, so make a bigger batch and freeze in cute little containers. Then you’ll be able to pull some mid-summer market taste out of your freezer in November.


July 7, 2009

Miso Cod

Miso Cod

Miso is so good, its complex and salty flavour works on many things. In fact, when you cook with miso it tastes as though you’ve spent hours slaving in the kitchen, but this particular recipe takes less than a minute to mix together. Miso is a nutritious fermented soybean paste that’s made by steaming and crushing soybeans, adding sea salt and koji (a grain culture that triggers fermentation) and then aging for three to thirty months. Koji is derived from either rice, wheat, or soybeans, so avoid the wheat one if you’re gluten-free. There are three colours of miso, and it’s the koji that influences the colour, from pale yellow to dark chocolate. The three colours of miso are: white, or sendaimiso; yellow, or shinshumiso; and red, akamiso. Typically, the lighter the miso the more delicate its flavour. I think you probably have miso in your fridge, right?

Makes enough for 6 – 6 oz portions of fish, pork, chicken, or beef

1/4 cup organic miso paste, any colour

3 green onions, minced, white and light green parts only

2″ piece of fresh ginger, grated

2 teaspoons agave nectar

Mix together all ingredients in a small bowl. Smear evenly over each piece of protein. I baked miso cod in a hot oven – 450º – for about 20 minutes, until cooked through. I’ve grilled many miso’d things on my barbecue with great success – small, tender pieces of miso beef on a skewer is exceptionally tasty. Obviously, cooking times will vary depending on what you’re using. Oh, when buying miso paste, seek out organic.