Wednesday, August 30, 2006

My Little Dumpling - Sweet Dreams Teashop

Well, time to review a local restaurant I suspect. To me dumplings are a relatively new experience. The first time I had them on Spadina in some hole in the wall shop - I thought - well, these are OK. Nothing to write home about as far as I was concerned.

As time passed I started thinking to myself, "Self, why do so many people keep going and getting dumplings for the local dumpling shop?" Of course, the answer was either:
1) the dumplings there are really good and better than the ones I had
2) other people like dumplings but I don't

So, being the investigative journalist that I am I set out to solve the riddle. Along with my co-workers I placed an order for 8 pork and shrimp dumplings to go. (I'd already eaten the chicken salad sandwich I packed for lunch - which was delicious I might add). I was pretty skeptical, especially after it took them 40 minutes to fill our order (new staff today because schools back in). So we took our dumplings back to our desk and boy was I pleasantly surprised. The dumplings were excellent! The pork and shrimp were cooked perfectly and the spice mixture was very tasty! I can't wait to go back and try some more...

Please check it out:
Story about Sweet Dreams Teashop

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Camping this Weekend - Hummus, Cheddar,Pita and Cucumber!

One more camp food to add. I love this sandwich and make it at home all the time. I just made a little adjustment and fired it straight on the grill.

Here's the (very complicated) ingredients list:
1 pita
4-5 thin slices of cucumber
thin slices of cheddar

Start by spreading as much hummus as you like over the pita, then add your cucumber and cheese. I usually only cover half with cucumber so I can fold it over. Then put it on the toaster oven or over tinfoil right on the campfire. When the cheese is melted - bingo! You're done!

Camping this Weekend - 9 Bean Soup

Hi all,
Went camping at lovely Algonquin park this weekend. Despite a bear sniffing around our tent at about 3am on Friday night it was a great weekend.

I just wanted to share a couple of quick campfire dishes that worked out great.

First - nine bean soup. This is so great and super easy to make. First, take any nine bean soup mix (I got mine at Costco and it's great). I halved the ingredients for the soup above so here is the full list:

1 medium onion
1 cup nine bean soup mix
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large can tinned crushed tomatoes
5 cups veggie broth (or chicken or a combination of broth and water)

I start by sauteeing the onions in the oil. Then when they are becoming translucent I add the garlic . Then I just add everything else. Bring the whole mixture just to a boil then reduce to a simmer. The best way to simmer properly is actually in the oven but as you can see here it doesn't matter - it worked over a campfire as well.

After they are boiling let simmer at least 1.5 to 2 hours. Done! The soup tastes amazing. Feel free to add whatever chopped veggies you like or spices - but it tastes great just as is!

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Pork - Tougher than it looks

Hi all (or it is just me here, all alone, just writing this for myself?),

No self pity here! Especially after these pork chops. I must admit I had some issues with these. Right now I'm working on enhancing my culinary abilities. Ever since I've embarked on that route my end product seems to have declined as a result.

Let me explain. Normally for the dish we see here I'd just throw the pork chop on, boil the perogies, steam the rice and carrots and BAM! done. Well, that is no longer good enough for my sophis-ti-mi-cated palette. I needed to sear the meat perfectly of course, and then with the crusty bits left over create a sauce that was to die for. Of course, this would all have been preceded by a perfect seasoning of the raw meat via salt and pepper. And where have I received all these earth-shattering, ground breaking, culinary ephinanies? The esteemed Alton Brown ( of course and his lovely (but massive) books "I'm Just Here for the Food: Food + Heat = Cooking" and "I'm Just Here for the Food: Food + Heat X Mixing = Baking". The end result (though no fault of Alton's) was an extremely dry, heavily salted pork chop, with a sauce that was way too thin.

Well it seemed I wasn't doing anything right before. I wasn't bringing my meat up to room temperature, wasn't salting 5 minutes prior to cooking, certainly wasn't using enough salt, and definately wasn't resting the meat on chop sticks afterwards. So what did I do? I salted the life out of my pork chops, seared them to holy heaven THEN put them in the oven to ensure every drop of moisture was cooked out, and then rested them properly (although I'm not sure what good that did considering they were dryer than Sahara!).

So, to not seem embittered, here's what I learned:
1. definately season your meat with salt and pepper 5 minutes before cooking. However, DO NOT use a huge amount of salt. I'm thinking a 1/4 teaspoon per chop would have been perfect

2. searing is enough for porkchops. No need for the oven to finish

3. Preparing the sauce - haven't learned anything here yet. Still working on that one!

Here's some random pictures:

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Stir Fry Debacle Images Revealed!!!

Here are the images from the stir fry episode.
The collage on the left is the stir fry before and after mushrooms. I really like the color and selection of ingredients - too bad about the taste! (who knew that was important?)

To the left are the previously half-identified mushrooms. Left is the portobello, middle in the finely chopped garlic, and on the right.... well... hmmmm... still not sure and I threw the package away!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

What to write about?

So what to write that is unbelievably entertaining? Tonight is the night I start my first bread starter. I've been reading both of Alton Brown's cook books and they are very inspiring. Apparently (for those of us among the great unwashed) the only way to make 'proper' bread is from a home made starter.

I've read his description and it seems easy as dirt to make your own starter. A little organic rye flour (although where to find this in Kitchener is a little bit of a mystery - I'll post and update when I know where to find it), water, and salt - or is it sugar? Guess I'll check the recipe when I get home. Then you wait 8-10 days and voila! Bread starter. And it keeps for as long as you want it to - amazing! I get a real kick out of doing things from scratch and it doesn't get more from scratch than that!

Pictures and post on my first starter soon to appear here!


A Little About Myself

All I know is that lately I'm obsessed with food (and sometimes drink as you can see). Nothing like the invisible beer once it is in the bag routine. I found NYC pretty amazing for a lot of reasons, including the invisi-bag-beer. Food was great and this was a convenient picture for me to post.

Stir Fry Lessons Learned

So... after a very successful weekend 30th birthday party for my wife at which pizza was created and served by yours truly - we had a lot of chopped up veggies left over. What to do, what to do? Well, stir-fry of course!

I've always loved a good stir fry - healthy, flavourful and it leaves you feeling good. But as of late I've been having some trouble with stir frys and last night was no exception. I put 2 cups of white rice in the rice steamer with 2 cups of water, salt, and some EVOO - pressed the cook button and walked away (man - you HAVE to love rice cookers).

I got the wok from downstairs and had the following ingredients in the fridge:
red onion
vidalia onion
portobello mushrooms
green pepper
red pepper
another mushroom type (the name of which escapes me - but I'll figure it out and update the post)
minced garlic
chopped cilantro
julienne carrots

So I heated the wok with a little olive oil and started throwing the longer cooking items in first. All was going well so far. After a while (and before the mushrooms and cilantro were in) I remembered there should probably be a little liquid in there somewhere. So (unwisely) I grabbed some lemon juice thinking that would go perfect with the cilantro and 'Asian-esque' veggies. That was the first mistake. The second mistake would have been not measuring how much lemon juice and suffice to say I put in WAY too much. Again, I think that could have been remedied if I had of added a sugar to tone down the overpowering lemon taste but I didn't think of that until afterwards (and does that even make sense to begin with?).

I finished the stir fry with store bought teriyaki sauce - Kikkoman Roast Garlic Teriyaki Sauce (my wife likes it, I'm indifferent). That couldn't kill the mega lemon taste! I found that dousing it with plum sauce (my answer to everything that tastes shitty) things were a little better. I guess this counts as a lesson learned. My stir fry track record has been less than stellar recently - to say the least.

So, I'm looking for tips and your favorite stir fry recipes as I'm not ready to call it a day yet!


Starter - Day 1

So last night I put my starter together. That was about the easiest 5 minutes of my life. 2 cups water, 1 cup organic rye flour, 1 tsp sugar. Mix. Put away for days! I'll post pictures of the starter progress soon.

Also, I found the organic flour at a store in Kitchener - The Olde Kitchen Cupboard. They have an excellent selection of organic ingredients and Alton Brown suggested that organic flour be used, and of those, rye was known to attract lots of bacteria. Which I assume is a good thing.

So now to think of a name for my starter....

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Attention Deficit Chef ntroduction

Hi, My first attempt at blogging so here goes. My goal is to create an engaing online journal where I describe new recipes I'm trying , thoughts on cooking, food pictures plus my random restaurant experiences in Southwestern Ontario and abroad.

To start things off check out the Foie Gras on a bed of apples I had recently in La Grave in the Alpes, France. It was unbelievable - the combination of flavours was amazing and it was cooking perfectly so it melted in your mouth. This was the first time I'd ever had foie gras and it was a mistake to wait so long! I'm not sure foie gras would be as good somewhere else as the foie gras from this region is world reknowned.