Sunday, May 31, 2009

Magazine Monday #40: Sour Cherry Loaf

I often bemoan the fact that, living as I do in the middle of nowhere, I have less access to exotic ingredients than a lot of people living in larger centres do. Case in point: sour cherries. We get black cherries in season from the Okanagan, which is great. Sometimes, if you want to pay the ridiculous prices, you can even get them out of season. We get marashino cherries in syrup. But I have never seen a single sour cherry in these parts until last week, when I happened upon a jar while cruising the aisles of Save-on Foods in Nelson. I wasn't even looking for them; I was just wandering by the foreign foods section, and out they popped. I didn't even think about it; I just put them in my basket, noting the $4.99 price tag (they are a product of Bulgaria, I later read on the label. I'm surprised they weren't more). I got them home and proceeded to agonize over what to do with them.

Last week I also received my June issue of Gourmet, and in it was a recipe for Raspberry Buttermilk Cake. The old wheels began turning in my brain (it happens from time to time) and I decided to make a Sour Cherry Buttermilk Cake instead. The wheels continuted to turn, and I went on to decide that a Sour Cherry Buttermilk Loaf would be even better. (The reasoning behind this is purely psychological; I would be far more amenable to having a loaf kicking around the house as opposed to a cake. If this seems purely irrational to you, join the club.)

So, on the hottest day of the year yet, I fired up the oven (as much as you can fire up a 30 year old electric oven) and baked. The recipe I used is here. In addition to replacing the raspberries with sour cherries and making this into a loaf instead of a cake, I also took the opportunity to try out some of my Billington's sugar crystals that were part of a box of treasures Jodi sent me in March.

The result was both ugly and wonderful. The ugly part was that the loaf looked terrible: flat and overly browned. It looked quite like a brick, actually.
Not quite what I was expecting. I was also not expecting this:
The cherries sunk right from the top of the loaf directly to the bottom. Weird.

The wonderful part was that this cake tasted awesome. Next time, I'll at least follow the instructions and bake it in a cake pan (though the recipe specifies a 9" round, I think the recipe is too small for this size pan; I've had this problem with some other recipes from Gourmet and/or Bon Appetit. The cake pan is too big for the amount of batter you get, so I use an 8").

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Friday, May 29, 2009

Out to Lunch

I've been out to lunch twice this week, which has been very nice.

On Wednesday, Dad and I took one of our trips to Nelson to shop at Save-on Foods. It was a gorgeous day, so we opted to buy some picnic stuff at the store and eat in the nearby park. We found a really nice spot...
I had a cheesy foccacia from the Save-on Bakery that was delish. It had garlic and herbs in it, too. Say what you want about grocery store bakeries, but Save-on has some really great products! I also had some fruit salad and muffin, also from the bakery.My dad had a salad and some sausage rolls, followed by some bridge mix. We had an uninvited guest, too:Did you know that crows don't like oranges or melon? Well, you do now!

Then yesterday, my SIL and I went to our favourite Rossland haunt for lunch, the Sunshine Cafe. Both of us felt the need to break away from having our "usuals" and we both opted for the special of the day, which was a BBQ chicken quesadilla. My SIL had hers with fries and I had mine with the soup of the day, which was cream of mushroom.The quesadilla, and the homemade salsa that accompanied it, was excellent. The soup was very rich, but not exactly my cup of tea. Still, the Sunshine Rocks!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Cookbook Review: Bobby Flay's Burgers, Fries & Shakes

This month's issue of Food Network Magazine had in it a very mouthwatering article about Bobby Flay's new book. In fact, I made the avacado relish recipe from it and was very impressed. Luckily, I was able to score a review copy and it arrived last week. Over the past couple of days, I've made a few more things from the cookbook that have converted me over to Bobby Flay fandom.

The flap reads: "After a long day spent in one of his restaurants or taping a television show, what Bobby Flay craves more than anything else is … a crusty-on-the-outside, juicy-on-the-inside burger; a fistful of golden, crisp, salty fries; and a thick, icy milkshake. Given the grilling guru’s affinity for bold flavors and signature twists on American favorites, it’s no surprise that he has crafted the tastiest recipes ever for this ultimate food trio."

Bobby Flay's Burgers, Fries & Shakes is a really fun book to have around. I totally enjoyed the photos and the write-ups, and the recipes were simple enough on their own, but what I particularly liked was that it inspired me in so many ways. I've had a lot of burgers in my life, and some of them have been pretty great. But this book really opened my eyes about all the different things one can do with a burger.

I made three recipes - two burgers and the Buttermilk Onion Rings on page 101. Bobby doesn't believe in adding fillers to burger meat, like eggs and breadcrumbs, because then you're essentially making meat loaf. I grew up on burgers made this way, as my mom was always trying to stretch the meat more to feed the family. What Bobby instructs is to just make a patty and season it with salt & pepper on both sides. Ah, the freedom! Simple is best, truly! I used lean ground beef that was locally procured, and it was tasty enough on its own.

The first burger I made was the Greek Burger on page 46. Yes, I cheated and bought tzatziki from the local overpriced grocery store. I skipped the olives. I don't like tomatoes. But the feta and tzatziki was enough on its own to create a wonderful burger. I had intended to make the onion rings to go with it, but I found that all my onions had gone rotten! I was ticked! So I served this burger with fingerling fries.

The second burger I made was the Miami Burger on page 51. I even splurged on Swiss Cheese, which is ludicrously expensive here and not something I buy very often. This was the best burger ever! I mean, anything with ham & swiss on it is going to be amazing, but I really loved this burger. In fact, I'm going to have it for dinner again tonight since I have one patty left over.

Yesterday, I got some not rotten sweet onions and made the Buttermilk Onion rings to go with the Miami Burger. The instructions say to remove the papery membrane between the layers of onion, but that got really annoying really fast and I was overcome with onion-induced tears very quickly after beginning. So, I gave that up soon enough and I found that the onion rings didn't suffer for that at all. These were awesome! They were easy to make and very, very tasty. I use my wok to deep fry and it works well, though I had to fry in several batches. It didn't matter. The onion rings were fab, and I'll definitely be making them again.

Here is the final result:So, this was last night's meal:

I didn't get around to making any milkshakes, but that's definitely on my to-do list, since some of his shakes are just too decadent NOT to make!

All in all, a great little book! Definitely a keeper and a recommend!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Ah, Meal Kits...

When one is unwell, sometimes it really pays to get a meal kit. It's easy, it's quick, it's usually satisfying. More importantly, it's brainless. Yes, indeed, recently meal kits have been rocking my kasbah.

I love the Simply Asia line of noodles & sauce products, and I buy them when I can find them on sale. I was in luck last week. Just add meat & veggies and the contents of the kit and there you go - nice, reasonably decent, tasty meal in about 15 minutes.
I also found a great rice kit on sale, too, made by A Taste of Thai. I had the garlic basil rice and it was really good. It had a bit of a kick to it, and was very flavourful. I also found wild chum salmon portions (frozen) on sale and I had some nice salmon & rice meals that were quite delish, healthy, and very easy for me to make.
Then of course, there is the ubiquitous taco kit. Man, sometimes a taco kit is just the ticket.
Actually, all in all, I'm not eating that terribly during this episode. I've certainly eaten worse.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Snickerdoodles

It's funny how things come in cycles in the foodblogging world. Lately, I've seen so many recipe for snickerdoodles that I just have to add my own to the collection. I used to make this recipe when I worked at a retreat centre as a cook and baker, and they were always a big hit. The recipe came from the 2000 Bakefest insert that was in that year's Christmas issue of Canadian Living. Because of the size of the recipe I had to make and my time restrictions, I didn't roll these into balls and then roll the balls in the cinnamon sugar; instead, I added 1 tsp of ground cinnamon to the recipe (double for double the recipe, etc.), scooped the cookies out, flattened them with a fork or with a wet hand, and then sprinkled cinnamon sugar on top.

I first heard of snickerdoodles when I was in Baddeck, Nova Scotia, where I spent part of my honeymoon in the summer of 2002. Baddeck is a pretty small place, but it had a nice little bakery/cafe, and on offer one day were snickerdoodles. I'd never heard of them before, so I asked the gal behind the counter what they were, she told me, and I bought one. It was excellent! Funnily enough, I haven't seen too many sold in bakeries since then.

Snickerdoodles (adapted by me)

1 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon

For the topping: 2 tbsp granulated sugar and 1 tsp ground cinnamon

1. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, and then beat in the vanilla.

2. Sift together the dry ingredients and blend into the butter mixture until combined.

3. Scoop onto baking sheets - lined in parchment or silicone baking mats, preferably. Press down slightly with a fork. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.

4. Bake @ 350F for 12 - 15 minutes, or until done.

Enjoy!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Magazine Monday #39: Spicy Molasses Cookies

Inspired by cookies I've been making at work recently, I decided to make some of my own ginger-snap-like cookies this weekend. I got the recipe, once more, from Canadian Living Magazine, which in February 2008 had a one-page feature on molasses. This was one of the recipes that was part of that article.

The recipe is here.

OK, I am being quite the lazy baker these days, and I didn't want to roll out and cut the dough into cookies, so I kept my dough a bit wetter and scooped the cookies into balls instead. I pressed them with a fork and sprinkled them with sugar, and that was it.

They were really good, and very spicy!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Saturday Laugh #8

This one always cracks me up!

Via LOLcats.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Lunch at the Sunshine Cafe

Sorry I've been away for a bit; just not feeling well. I did get out for lunch today with my brother, to our usual haunt, Rossland's Sunshine Cafe. As usual, the food was really good!

My brother had the sandwich of the day, which was Greek Chicken Salad Wrap - chock full of olives, feta, and good stuff like that. It had celery in it, which he hates, but he put up with it.

Usually, I have the Clubhouse, but I decided to change things up and have a chicken burger with Swiss cheese, mushrooms, and sauteed onions. Yes, I had fries, too. Sue me; I'm sick.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Just Call Me "Food Columnist"

My first article as Bread 'n Molasses food columnist has been published, and I got my first two issues in the mail yesterday! I have no idea if I can legally post this scan I made of my article, so perhaps this post might have to come down, but until I find out otherwise, here it is! I am stoked! My next article comes out in the July issse.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Oreo Chocolate Chip Cookies

I found this recipe a few months ago on the Picky Palate. They looked so incredible! Last week I really, really needed a sugar fix, and I also needed to feel productive, so I printed off the recipe, tromped down to the local overpriced grocery store, and bought the necessary ingredients. I have not bought Oreo cookies in...well, I can't remember the last time I bought Oreos...In fact, I don't remember the last time I bought a packaged cookie! This is probably a good thing. I decided, in the end, to get the lower fat Oreo, but this didn't make much of a difference to the outcome.

These cookies are TO DIE FOR! The DOUGH is to die for! I ate an alarming amount of dough, actually... and didn't feel the least bit guilty.

The recipe is here.

I actually didn't keep most of these cookies, but took about 2/3 of them down to my brother's office, where they are usually appreciated (though he did mutter something about me "killing him with cookies" but I just smiled, told him not to thank me or anything, and left on my merry way).

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Magazine Monday #38: "Beginners' Bread

Again, I needed bread this weekend. Last week's loaf lasted a whole week, which was nice. I've been carting around a segment of November 1991's issue of Canadian Living entitled "The Best of our Bakeries" and it contains some really nice recipes. No, I have not been receiving Canadian Living since 1991 (when I would have been 16) nor have I had this in my recipe binder since then; I believe I got this from an old issue my mother had saved and it somehow wound up in my collection. CL's online recipe database doesn't appear to go back to 1991, so there is unfortunately no link to the recipe. I adapted it slightly because I use instant yeast, not the traditional kind you have to activate first. Here it is.

Beginners' Bread

1 cup milk
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp butter
2 tsp salt
1 cup water
1 tbsp yeast
5 cups (approx.) bread flour (all purpose will do)
1 egg
sesame seeds

Follow directions my bread baking tutorial post. Makes two loaves. Before baking, beat the egg and brush onto the tops of the loaves, then sprinkle on the sesame seeds. Bake at 400F for about 35 - 40 minutes, or until done.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Dissecting Fish Farming Propaganda

Cross-posted here. I thought this might be of interest to my foodie friends, too.

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This week, in my Canadian Living Magazine, I received a lengthy piece of propaganda from these people. I don't know how it wound up in the Canadian Living package, along with a whack of coupons and other inserts, but it was an interesting piece of propaganda nonetheless. And who doesn't love a good piece of propaganda, right? Right.

Though honest and informative, this 8 page flyer did nothing to ease any concerns I might have had about farmed salmon. In fact, after reading it through and highlighting some passages, I am even more firmly committed to not purchasing farmed salmon. The propaganda had the opposite effect to what was apparently desired by the British Columbia Salmon Farmers Association.

A few highlights. I love this first one, actually.

During the last months of hatchery life, we vaccinate our salmon to help build their immune systems. At the farm site, this vaccine will protect the salmon from diseases commonly found in the saltwater environment.


Not cool with me at all, actually, but thanks for letting me know.

Next, this very assuring admission:

Since salmon naturally eat fish, such as herring and anchovies, including fish meal and oil in their diet seems natural. However, these proteins and oils are now being increasingly substituted with vegetable-based proteins and oils. (Emphasis mine.)


Again, not cool. Farmed salmon are being fed fish meal - not real fish - that now contains vegetable-based proteins and oils. This is moving even farther away from the fish's natural diet, and if these vegetable-based proteins and oils are processed at all, that's a big problem, since processed vegetable oil products are very problematic for humans, too. It's not good for humans, I can't see how this would be good for salmon.

The majority of BC farmed salmon are Atlantic salmon.


This is common knowledge if you haven't been living under a rock, but the statement, though honest, doesn't help me feel any better about farmed salmon. This sentence appears under a heading called "Escapes" which gives the reader information about what happens when a farmed Atlantic salmon happens to escape the farm. Very interesting, especially the part that says "all farmed fish escapes must be reported and that information made public." Fine. But still, the inherent problem here isn't addressed: this industry has introduced a species that is not native to the environment. Additionally, the Atlantic salmon, according to the information provided, cannot breed with any Pacific species, which is a relief, but "escaped farm salmon are poorly adapted to survival having been fed, pampered, and protected from predators. While small numbers of escaped Atlantic salmon have managed to make it to rivers, even fewer survive and none have ever produced sustained populations." Though every effort is made to prevent escapes, nothing is foolproof, despite improvements to cages. Accidents happen. If an accident happens in this case, fish die one way or another, depositing their vaccinated, vegetable-protein-fed remains out in the sea where any unsuspecting halibut can come and feast on it. Again, not cool.

By 2030, the world is expected to eat nearly 70% more fish than it does now. Wild fisheries can't keep up. One answer is aquaculture. ... In 2005, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FOA) reported that 75% of the world's capture fisheries were at or near their harvest rates.


So, wild fisheries cannot keep up with demand, and fish stocks world-wide are in big trouble. I fail to see how farming fish is going to help things out. In fact, fish farming could be quite bad for the planet if you read the above points and then imagine fish farming growing increasing all over the world. Surely the most obvious solution to this problem is to stop overfishing and overconsuming fish.

Fish feed contains two beta-carotenes, astaxanthin and canthaxanthin, which are found in nature as well. These carotenes provide salmon with the necessary nutrients for healthy grown and their beautiful colour. Wild salmon achieve their coloration from these same micronutrients by eating small crustaceans, like shrimp, which naturally contain high beta-carotene levels.


Again, thanks for the info, but if given the choice, I'm going to choose wild salmon that have eaten those small crustaceans instead of fish meal, thank you very much. Just like I choose buffalo meat that is free-range and grass-fed.

Finally:

Farmed salmon are not fed steroids or hormones and rarely receive antibiotics. Similar to other farmed animals, if a fish is sick a veterinarian may recommend a treatment; this treated fish cannot be harvested until after a mandatory waiting period. In fact, fish farms use the least amount of antibiotics in the agriculture industry.


This may be true, but see the above point about vaccination. Obviously, there is a risk of sickness, otherwise there would be no need to vaccinate, and while the vaccinations might minimize the need for antibiotics later in the fish's life, we are still getting into a vicious circle that could have been eliminated easily by not introducing a foreign species into the environment in the first place.

This is just my two cents, of course. What do you think?

Tour

For a simple Friday post, I thought I'd show you some pictures of my current work place.

This is the nicest, cleanest, newest kitchen I've ever worked in - and let me tell you, I have worked in some filthy, moldy, disastrous kitchen in my life. I have black mold stories that would curl your teeth.

But that is the past! This is the present!

This is the front of the kitchen where the steam tables are located, and where I cool all the baking. You can see the KitchenAid & Robot Coup at the end of the counter, and the big bins of flour, salt and sugar underneath the work top.
This is directly opposite the above picture: range, oven, grill, convection oven.
This is the pantry. It's kind of awkward to photograph, but you get the idea.
Our knives and utensils. Unlike some places I've worked, the organization keeps the knives very sharp and sends them off to be sharpened professionally.
The Dish Pit. Clean and organized, just like it should be.
The main work space, where I do the baking, and the fridges & freezer.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Restaurant Review: Bibo Wine Bar

Yesterday I journeyed to Nelson with my dad for a shopping expedition. Nelson, unlike Trail, is our local fine dining mecca, and a couple of weeks ago my brother and SIL went to a new place in Nelson that they really enjoyed. My dad and I couldn't remember it's name or where Jem & Shan said it was located, except that it was at the far end of Baker Street, near Holy Smoke, the pot shop (uh, the marijuana type of pot, not the cooking type of pot). We walked up the steep public stair case next to the Holy Smoke, which is now closed, incidentally, and along an alley where Dad thought we might have some luck. Nope. We went up another set of steep stairs (Nelson is perched on the side of a steep mountain) and down another alley, and...miraculously...there was Bibo! And they were open for lunch!

The unassuming brick exterior hides a beautifully decorated interior that combines posh seating, mirrors, and 1940s-esque decor. The bar is made of a lovely dark wood, and the shelving displaying all the booze appeared to be made out of wooden boxes painted black. It's small inside, but not claustrophobically so. It wasn't busy when we arrived at 2:00, so there was no problem getting a nice window seat in the corner. Our server was very attentive and knowledgeable, and the only thing that marred the scene was the group of four girls in the opposite corner having what was obviously a girlie lunch, which is great, except they were talking very specific boyfriend talk that wasn't nice to be overhearing in the company of one's sixty-something father.

After being assured by our server that we were not under-dressed (this place seemed a bit posh for jeans and T-shirts), we looked over our menus and proceeded to have a very difficult time deciding on what to have. It wasn't a huge menu, but everything on it looked wonderful, and when the dishes were served to the girls in the other corner and looked so artistic, I really started to struggle with what to order. My dad is a cheese fanatic, and he was impressed that there was a cheese and charcuterie menu, including a cheese fondue option, so he had a doubly difficult time choosing something to eat. In the end I opted for the grilled chicken sandwich, served on baguette with brie, grilled asparagus, and garlic aoli, and I chose the soup of the day to go with it. The soup happened to be a jerk chicken, and I was assured it wouldn't be unpalatably spicy for me. My dad had the grilled ham and emmental cheese served on raisin bread with a spinach, candied, almond and pear salad dressed in a blue cheese dressing. To drink, my dad had an Osso Negro coffee and I ordered a non-alcoholic beverage from the very extensive drinks menu, a mandarin orange coconut soda. It was very refreshing! The water that was brought to the table, by the way, was in an old wine bottle, and I thought that was very cool.

When the food came, it was amazing. Like, really amazing! My sandwich was so rich with flavour it was almost too much for my tongue to take. The asparagus was grilled perfectly, and the chef had even gone to the trouble of shaving the cut end to an attractive point rather than just snapping it off and leaving it. That was a nice little detail. The melted brie combined with the garlic aoli was so divine I can barely describe it. It was just simply astounding. The soup was very good. I haven't had any jerk before, and this was just pleasantly spicy enough to have a bit of a kick without making me down a lot of water to cool my mouth off. It was also a bit sweet, which made for a nice contrast and a more complex flavour. My dad said his salad was excellent and loved the dressing. He also really enjoyed the sandwich and thought the use of raisin bread was a nice touch, making a sweet counterpoint to the saltiness of the ham and the creaminess of the cheese.

I really took my time savouring my sandwich because it was just so damn superb. Then, we asked about dessert. I can't remember all that was on it (it was lodged in our server's brain rather than written down) but I ordered the lemon tart and Dad ordered the chocolate frangelico mousse. Both were nicely presented, mine on a cool square plate and Dad's in a glass cup topped with berries and mint. The lemon tart was bursting with lemony goodness! It was a small portion, but it was a perfect ending to a meal - and light and refreshing. Dad said his mousse was very good.




Lunch for the two of us, with beverages and taxes, came to just over $41. Our sandwiches were $12 each, and the desserts were $7 apiece. My drink was $3.

Bibo is located at 518 Hall Street in Nelson, and in June will have a patio so customers can enjoy their food and drink outdoors. They are in the process of getting a web site done, but until that time they are using this temporary site.

A place I definitely recommend if you're ever in Nelson!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Restaurant Review: Kootenay Fries

While out on a gardening supplies expedition, my SIL and I needed a quick, cheap lunch. Trail is not the local dining mecca, even though Trail's End is excellent (it's also expensive), but Shan had a brainwave: she wanted fries and she remembered that Kootenay Fries & Food to Go had recently opened. She'd heard that they do pulled pork. Off we went.

The menu is small and consists of fries, hot dogs, burgers, a few wraps, and a few BBQ items. The interior was a little...um...decor-challenged... There were two tables and a sideboard where the condiments were located. It's mainly a to-go place, though, so I guess the interior decorating isn't a huge issue.

Shan ordered the cheese fries, which come with gravy and melted mozzarella, and I ordered the pulled pork sandwich and fries. The sandwich was $5.29 and the fries, I believe, were around $3. Shan's cheese fries were $4 or thereabouts.

The fries were made to order and obviously freshly cut and homemade (as evidenced not only by their flavour and appearance, but the boxes of potatoes visible in the kitchen, which is partially open). They were hot and crisp, and very obvioulsy the cook and proprietor had taken the time and effort to blanch them before deep frying them - something a lot of places don't do. They were perfect! The didn't come salted, but rather salt was available to put on as you saw fit. Also available was malt vinegar and apple cider vinegar. Shan really enjoyed her cheese fries, too, and was impressed.

As for my pulled pork on a bun, topped with coleslaw, it was also excellent! I was really impressed. The pork was very tender and flavourful, and the sauce was sweet but not overwhelmingly so. The pork also wasn't drowning in sauce, making for a messy sandwich, but had just enough on it to keep everything moist and tasty. The coleslaw was a nice creamy counterpoint.

With drinks and tax, lunch came to just over $15 for the two of us. The portions were good and I came away full!

Kootenay Fries is a new eatery, and I hope they do well, because they have a good thing going there!

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