Thursday, September 30, 2010

Vacation - week 39 & 40

Hi everyone - am going on vacation for the next 7 days - London & Paris here I come! I can't wait to update all of you on the all the fabulous food - stay tuned! Bon appetit!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Brown Butter Oatmeal Cookies - week 38 of 52

This week I lost a bet at work and promised to make cookies – so this week I’m making Anna Olson’s Brown Butter Oatmeal Cookies – aka “I lost a friendly wager and must make cookies for work” cookies. Maybe I should have made humble pie instead :)

This is a recipe that my sister had forwarded to me – this is a little different from regular oatmeal cookies because the butter is browned. The butter is browned for a about 5 minutes. 10 tablespoons is a little more than ½ a cup. Since the butter needs to be browned some brown bits will be formed from the butter cooking, I suggest cooking approx 2/3 cup of butter to ensure you get the right amount of brown butter.

The recipe is super easy – I substituted white flour for the whole wheat flour. The kitchen smelled amazing when it was cooking – mmm.... cinnamon!

The cookies turned out well – these are the crisp cookies, not chewy ones. Good flavor, but would have prefered slightly chewier cookies.

Brown Butter Oatmeal Cookes – courtesy of Anna Olson
Cost $
Rating (out of 5) ****


• 10 tablespoons unsalted butter
• 2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
• 1/3 sugar
• 1 egg
• 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1-1/3 cup old-fashioned rolled oats (not instant)
• 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
• 1 teaspoon cinnamon
• 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1/2 cup chocolate chips, raisins, chopped walnuts, coconut or any combination

1. Preheat oven to 375°F and line a baking tray with parchment paper.
2. Melt butter in a sauté pan over medium heat until bubbling subsides and butter browns, about 5 minutes. Strain butter through a coffee filter and cool to room temperature.
3. Beat butter with brown sugar, sugar and egg until smooth. Stir in vanilla. In a separate bowl, stir oats, flours, cinnamon, baking soda and salt to combine. Add oat mixture to butter mixture and blend. Stir in choice of chocolate chips, raisins, walnuts, and/or coconut. Drop by spoonfuls onto prepared tray and bake in the center of oven for about 12 minutes, until browned. Let cool for 5 minutes, then gently remove from tray onto a rack to cool completely. Makes approx 36 cookies

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Pumpkin pie - week 37 of 52

With fall comes the promise of pumpkin pie! Saw this simple recipe online and wanted to try homemade pumpkin pie, crust and all.

This recipe has instructions for making dough using a food processor and I have added recipe instructions for those using a stand mixer. I used to think making pie crust was a pain but the stand mixer method was so easy and the crust came out great.

This recipe is quite easy – I left the pecan/gingersnap layer out. I started watching Top Chef (thanks for introducing me to the show Peter!) and was inspired by the beautiful plating of all of their dishes. I decided to add a spun sugar decoration to be put onto the ice-cream served with the pumpkin pie.

What you need to do is to cook 2 parts sugar with 1 part water until approx 310 degrees. I didn’t use a thermometer for this but once the sugar becomes a medium caramel colour, took it off the heat. I then took a fork and spread the syrup on parchment paper into designs and let it cool to harden. Be careful – the syrup is very hot! I left the designs to cool, and noticed that after a couple of hours, they went from glass-like to a little sticky. They probably absorbed some moisture by sitting out on the counter – I recommend making them and using immediately.

The pumpkin pie was fine – not my favourite, as it wasn’t quite flavourful enough. I would probably add a little more spice for a little extra kick next time. However, will definitely be making the spun sugar sometime soon! It’s really easy and will definitely impress your guests!

Bon appétit!

Pumpkin Pie (courtesy of website)
Rating (out of 5 stars) ***
Cost $

Pate Brisee (Short Crust Pastry):
1 1/4 cups (175 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon (14 grams) granulated white sugar
1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, chilled, and cut into 1 inch (2.54 cm) pieces
1/8 to 1/4 cup (30 - 60 ml) ice water
Pecan and Gingersnap Layer: (optional)
1/4 cup (25 grams) pecans, toasted and ground
1/4 cup (25 grams) crushed gingersnap cookies

Pumpkin Filling:
3 large eggs
2 cups fresh pumpkin puree or 1 - 15 ounce can (425 grams) pure pumpkin
1/2 cup (120 ml) heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup (110 grams) light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt

Maple Whipped Cream:
1 cup (240 ml) heavy whipping cream
1 1/2 tablespoons pure maple syrup

Pate Brisee: In a food processor, place the flour, salt, and sugar and process until combined. Add the butter and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal (about 15 seconds). Pour 1/8 cup (30 ml) water in a slow, steady stream, through the feed tube until the dough just holds together when pinched. If necessary, add more water. Do not process more than 30 seconds.

Pate Brisee (stand mixer method):
Cut the butter into smaller pieces (1/4 inch pieces). Place flour, salt, sugar and butter in the mixer bowl. Attach the flat beater and set to speed 2 and mix for 30 seconds. Increase to speed 2 and mix for 30 seconds. Increase to speed 4 and mix until only small lumps of butter remain. Quickly add ice water and mix until dough comes together.
Turn the dough onto your work surface and gather into a ball. Flatten into a disk, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes to one hour before using. This will chill the butter and relax the gluten in the flour.

After the dough has chilled sufficiently, place on a lightly floured surface, and roll into a 13 inch (33 cm) circle. (To prevent the pastry from sticking to the counter and to ensure uniform thickness, keep lifting up and turning the pastry a quarter turn as you roll (always roll from the center of the pastry outwards).) Fold the dough in half and gently transfer to a 9 inch (23 cm) pie pan. Brush off any excess flour and tuck the overhanging pastry under itself. Use a fork to make a decorative border. Alternatively, you can trim the pastry to the edge of the pie pan. With the remaining pastry make decorative cut-outs (leaves, pumpkins, etc.) and with a little water, attach them around the lip of the pie pan. Refrigerate the pastry, covered with plastic wrap, for about 30 minutes before pouring in the filling.

Pecan and Gingersnap Layer: Toast pecans in a 350 degree F (180 degree C) oven for 8 minutes or until lightly browned and aromatic. Cool and then place the pecans in a food processor and process until finely ground. Combine the ground pecans with the crushed gingersnap cookies. Press this mixture evenly onto the bottom and up the sides of the unbaked pie crust. Cover and return the pastry to the refrigerator while you make the pumpkin filling.
Increase the oven temperature to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) and place rack in bottom third of the oven.

Make the Pumpkin Filling: In a large bowl lightly whisk the eggs. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Pour the mixture into the prepared pie shell and place on a large baking pan to catch any spills. Bake the pie for about 45 to 55 minutes or until the filling is set and the crust has browned (the center will still look wet). (A knife inserted about 1 inch (2.54 cm) from side of pan will come out almost clean.)

Place the baked pie on a wire rack to cool. Serve at room temperature with maple whipped cream. Store any leftovers in the refrigerator.

Makes one 9 inch (23 cm) pie.

Make the Maple Whipped Cream:
Place the heavy whipping cream and maple syrup in bowl of your electric mixer. With the whisk attachment, whip the cream until soft peaks form.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Cantonese chow mein - week 36 of 52

Cantonese chow mein is one of my favourite Chinese dishes – crunchy noodles topped with a meat, veggie and seafood with a tasty sauce. The best part of the dish is definitely the crunchy noodles on the outside of dish (the ones in the middle get a little soggy because the veggie/meat/seafood and sauce drench the once crunchy noodles. This week I wanted to duplicate that at home. I found a recipe on with some very good reviews and went to my local Chinese supermarket to pick up the ingredients. You can find the chow mein noodles in the refrigerated section.

The first step is to soften the noodles a little and then fry them to give them the characteristic brown crispies on the outside. I followed the instructions but was not successful in getting the noodles to crisp and become golden brown – I even fried for longer than the recipe suggested. After about 10 minutes and about twice the amount of oil, I gave up.

For the ingredients, I left out the barbeque pork and added calamari instead, which is often found in the dish. This was very easy but the sauce didn’t have quite enough flavour.
All in all, took a little time to make and I would have rather spent that time going to a Chinese restaurant to order some take out! Wasn’t sure what the dish was missing (or why the noodles didn’t crisp) – any suggestions?

Bon appétit!

Cantonese chow mein
Rating (out of 5) **
Flavouring mix
o 1 teaspoon salt
o 1 1/2 tablespoons chicken bouillon
o 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
o 1 1/2 tablespoons oyster sauce
o 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
Meat ingredients
o 1/2 lb chicken breasts, sliced
o 1/2 lb barbecued pork ( char xiu)
o 6 -8 medium shrimp
o 7 -8 baby bok choy
o broccoli
o cauliflower
o 3/4 cup shiitake mushrooms ( rehydrated or fresh, i buy the dried black ones)
o 1/2 cup sliced bamboo shoots
o 1/4 cup sliced water chestnuts
o 1/2 cup baby corn
o 3 tablespoons minced garlic
o 2 (250 g) packages fresh egg noodles

All other ingredients
o 1/4 cup water
o 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
o 5 tablespoons oil

1. Immerse egg noodles into boiling water for 30 seconds, then remove and set aside.
2. Heat your wok at high heat, keep it dry. Add 5 tbsp oil and coat the wok evenly with oil.
3. Fry the noodles for about 2 minutes, and keep shaking it back and forth, until the noodles turn golden brown. Flip and repeat.
4. The outer noodles should be golden, inner ones are soft. Remove noodles and arrange in center of a plate.
5. Blanch the vegetables in boiling water (30 seconds). You can arrange the bok choy in a circle around the noodles if you like.
6. Put some oil and fry minced garlic in the work, then add the blanched vegetables and stir fry. Add the meat ingredients, 1 tbsp water, cover the wok and steam for 1 - 2 minutes.
7. Add the flavouring ingredients, the water with corn starch, and fry gently. Add a bit more water if you want more sauce.
8. Pour the veggies and meat over the noodles.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Clam chowder - week of 35 of 52

After spending some time in Boston area and trying many clam chowders, was inspired to try my to make some at home. I found this recipe from Barefoot Contessa, who never fails to impress!

My first though – where am I going to find clam juice??? I know it’s in Clamato, but is it even carried on regular grocery stores? The first grocery store I went to didn’t carry it and in the second grocery store I looked in the seafood section, nothing there, but finally found clam juice next to canned tuna.

For the clams instead of canned clams, I bought a couple of pounds of fresh clams. I don’t know how to shuck clams (or own a shucker) so I steamed them open to get at the clams. Much easier! I read some of the comments for the recipe and followed some tips – added some half and half instead of milk for a thicker chowder and also added some chicken stock to the clam juice for a more flavourful soup. Save some of the clams for garnish & topping the soup.

This recipe is super simple, but patience required because there is lot of chopping. This chowder is some of the best I’ve had! It comes close to the “Boston Chowda” chowder in Boston.

Bon appétit!

East Hampton Clam Chowder – courtesy of Barefoot Contessa
Cost $$
Rating (out of 5) *****
Serves 6-8


• 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, divided
• 2 cups chopped yellow onions (2 onions)
• 2 cups medium-diced celery (4 stalks)
• 2 cups medium-diced carrots (6 carrots)
• 4 cups peeled medium-diced boiling potatoes (8 potatoes)
• 1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves (1/2 teaspoon dried)
• 1 teaspoon kosher salt
• 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• 1 quart (4 cups) clam juice
• 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
• 2 cups milk
• 3 cups chopped fresh chowder clams (1 1/2 pounds shucked clams)

Melt 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) of the butter in a large heavy-bottomed stockpot. Add the onions and cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, or until translucent. Add the celery, carrots, potatoes, thyme, salt, and pepper and saute for 10 more minutes. Add the clam juice, bring to a boil, and simmer, uncovered, until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.

In a small pot, melt the remaining 8 tablespoons of butter and whisk in the flour. Cook over very low heat for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Whisk in a cup of the hot broth and then pour this mixture back into the cooked vegetables. Simmer for a few minutes until the broth is thickened.

Add the milk and clams and heat gently for a few minutes to cook the clams. Taste for salt and pepper. Serve hot

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Vacation food bites - Boston & Nantucket

Travel food bites – Boston & Nantucket

I visited a Boston & Nantucket for a short holiday – this area is known for its seafood (clam chowder, lobster rolls and oysters). On this trip, I was determined to find the best clam chowder – you may be surprised, it wasn’t in a fancy restaurant! Here are some of my travel “food bites”

Day One - Boston
We got a table at “Top of the Hub” a restaurant on the 52nd floor of one of the tallest buildings in Boston. It has one of the most incredible views of Boston and the ocean!
We started the meal with crispy batter calamari and an ahi tuna app served with plantain chips. These were both excellent! The ahi tuna was served with plantain chips – I would have preferred something a little less flavourful to showcase the tuna.

On my search for the best clam chowder, I ordered the prix fixed menu which included clam chowder, spicy shrimp arrabbiata and dessert of fresh baked cookies. I prefer a thicker clam chowder and I found the Top of the Hub version a watery and not very flavourful – I was a little disappointed.

The pasta was fine, not spicy or enough flavour either.

Moving onto dessert – it made up for the rest of the meal – the fresh baked cookies came with Chantilly cream (because I guess 6 large fresh cookies were not decadent enough). They were incredible – the pistachio (neon green) cookies were so flavourful and tasty!

The evening finished off at “Liberty Hotel” for drinks. The Liberty is luxury hotel in a refurbished jail and has several areas with themed names “Clink, Alibi and Scampo”. The inside is of the hotel is just incredible - the lobby area you can see all of the floors with hallways on the outside. You can just imagine the inmates walking from their cells down these halls! We got drinks upstairs and got a seat in “The Yard” and enjoyed a beautiful summer evening. Note : "The Yard" is quieter than the patio out front. I ordered a martini with passion fruit which was delish – for the life of me cannot remember the name. This venue is a MUST VISIT for anyone who is going to Boston.

Day two – trip to Nantucket
We had a wonderful meal at “the Pearl” an award winning modern coastal cuisine (read coastal Asian fusion). The dish presentation was beautiful and service great! The atmosphere is modern and hip with good lounge music. We started off with an Ahi Tuna app with crème fraîche (great flavour, but the crème fraîche could have used a little heat like a touch of wasabi) We also got Thai lettuce wraps which were pork spring rolls wrapped in lettuce with a Vietnamese-type fish dipping sauce – great flavour and served piping hot!

The Nantucket Salt & Pepper Wok Fried Lobster, is considered to be the Island’s best lobster dish and Travel & Leisure magazine gave it a World’s Best Award – we had to order it. The lobster is battered and deep fried served over some of the best lo mein I’ve ever had. The lobster was cooked to perfection – just cooked so it is still a little tender and not tough. The portions were not large but I was satisfied after the meal and actually sad it was over. It was one of those once in a lifetime experiences!

For dessert, we went to “The Juice Bar” which is known for its ice-cream – be prepared for at least a 15 minute wait during peak times. They have all sorts of homemade ice-cream and waffle cones but the blackberry flavour seems to be one of the most popular.

We were little piggies and ended up getting Oreo, blackberry, coconut and mint chocolate chip. I enjoyed the Oreo and blackberry the most! I don’t like blackberries, but the flavour of the blackberry ice-cream was sweet, not tart and fresh tasting – amazing!

Day 3 - Nantucket Brewery

The next day we rented bikes and biked about 8km out to Cisco Brewery for a wine and beer tasting. For $10 for the beer tasting, you get about 8 different types of beer (and souvenir mini stein) and $10 will get you about 8 wines as well. Some of the more interesting beers were a pumpkin beer (which had a hint of pumpkin, but not as much as I liked), a cherry beer (which is a beer brewed in a Merlot barrel + cherries – delish) and a Porter which had hints of coffee and chocolate!
We were a little buzzed by 11:30 in the morning – I wonder if biking under the influence (BUI) is an offense in Nantucket?

For lunch, we had fried clams, a New England specialty and a cup of clam chowder. The clams are battered and deep fried with a mayonnaise base sauce. I loved the clams – deep fried anything is the way to go! The chowder was good – thick chowder with lots of clams – definitely up there on the clam chowder list.

That evening, back in Boston, we went to B&G Oysters for fresh oysters and another New England staple – lobster roll. It's a small, busy restaurant with an open concept kitchen so you can see the chefs at work. Reservations definitely needed! We ordered 3 types of Oysters, the Island Creek, Tree Island and one other one I don’t remember. The oysters were fresh and briny (taste like the sea!) and my favourite was the Island Creek – a smooth briny flavour, clean after taste.

The lobster roll was good – overflowing with fresh lobster and super filling! Near the end I gave up on the roll and ate the lobster only.

Day 4 - Last day in Boston
The last day in Boston I head to Newbury street to do some retail therapy and ended up at the Prudential Center food court for chowder from “Boston Chowda” as recommended by a co-worker. The BEST chowder in town in my opinion! The chowder is rich and creamy, lots of clams and the right amount of seasoning. You know it’s good chowder when the soup dribbles down the side of the cup and can’t make it down the side because it’s too thick!

It was a great vacation and Boston a must visit for any seafood lovers!

Bon appétit!