Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Quick Beef Bulgogi

I've bookmarked a lot of recipes from the April 2012 issue of Canadian Living, and this is one of them. This is my first foray into Korean food, which is not a good thing living where I do. I should be way more adventurous and go off to a Korean restaurant and really try the food. I've been hesitant, though, because I once asked a friend who'd eaten Korean what it was like and she said one word, "fiery." OK, that put me off because "fiery" to me is not a good thing. I like a bit of kick, but certainly nothing anywhere approaching "fiery."

This recipe appealed to me because the ingredients were simple and there was no fieriness in it to be found. One thing I substituted out was the mirin for saké. I don't have mirin on hand but I always have saké around because lots of Kylie Kwong's recipes call for it.

The original recipe is HERE.

I have to say, this was a bit on the flavourless side. I let it marinate for an hour, but it seemed like little of the marinade stuck to the beef to flavour it. In theory, this should have been tasty. Was it the saké substitute? Would the mirin have packed more punch? I don't know. But, next time I might try saving the marinade and thickening it with cornstarch to retain some flavour.

I accompanied the dish with Kylie's Bok Choy with Oyster Sauce.

Lunch at Topanga Cafe

Finally, Canada has its own version of Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives! It's called You Gotta Eat Here, and I am officially a fan. Last week, the Topanga Cafe on West Fourth in Kitsilano was featured and immediately it went to the top of my list of Vancouver eateries I had to try out. And on Monday, after a relaxing time with my friend at the Van Dusen Botanical Gardens, we were peckish. My friend asked me if there was anywhere I really wanted to go or that I had seen recently featured on TV that looked good. Well, immediately, Topanga Cafe came to mind. It's been around for a few years, and my friend had heard of it because she lived in the neighbourhood years ago and she'd even eaten there and had good experiences. So off we went!

We had missed the lunch rush and were there at about 2:45pm, and we were the only people in the dining room. The menus were at the table and there was a lot of variety to choose from. I remember the Carne Nortegna being featured on the show, and I was tempted because it looked so good, but it was a bit out of my price range. I knew the entrees came with beans and rice, kind of like Rancho Chico in Colville, and I was starving. In the end, both my friend and I ordered the same thing: the chicken burrito. Our server brought us chips and salsa; the salsa was very fresh, obviously homemade, and full of garlic and cilantro - yum!

Our meals came quite quickly and as expected, they were completely filled. Our sever warned us that they were hot because, as I knew from the show, a lot of cheese gets melted atop a lot of the entrees. Here is my burrito:

The burrito is topped with a whack of avocado sauce, which was excellent; I could taste the lime in it and it had a bit of a kick, but was rich and a perfect accompaniment. I knew it would be; I'd noted the avocado sauce on the show and it had looked amazing. And it was. They even garnished the dish exactly as they had on the show, with a little dollop of sour cream and an olive to top everything off like a cherry on a sundae.

The burrito was very very good, chock full of tender white chicken meat and a nice tomato mixture with a bit of spice in it, but not too much, which was perfect since I'm not into spicy. The rice was good and the beans were, too. A very good, very filling meal!

Yep, this is definitely a restaurant to check out in Vancouver. My friend and I had a great experience there and I'd certainly return for another.

Sunday, March 25, 2012


Last summer I was really into making my own bagels, and my product was getting better and better each time I made them. I was really learning from my mistakes. I stopped when I went back east on holidays and then moved to the coast at the end of September. Lately, I have been fancying a good bagel and I don't want to buy crappy grocery store ones because they really are a waste of money. So, last night I got down to it and started a batch.

I usually use Rose Levy Beranbaum's bagel recipe from her Bread Bible cookbook. So far, it's the best recipe I've come across, and I previously posted it here.

One of the main things I need practice on is shaping these darned things. I make a ball using the "fassionage" method I learned in culinary school, then poke a hole in the middle and start rolling and stretching the hole wider. But I always get a lopsided-looking bagel. A big lesson I learned was putting the shaped bagels on a well-floured tea towel to rise, turning them over once so both sides are floured, then putting a second tea towel over the top for the rising. I learned this after not being able to pick up the bagels to boil them without deflating them because they were sticking to whatever I was using before. With this tea towel method I have no more deflated bagels going in for a dip.

The one thing that always ticks me off is that once my bagels are in the boiling water, they go all wrinkly. And they come out wrinkly. I don't know why this is but I have found that some of the wrinkles bake out.

Here is what they look like when they come out of the boiling water:

And here is what they look like when they've been baked:

Not bad. The batch I made today tasted the best of any I've made: chewy on the outside, but nice and soft on the inside. I boiled these longer than I normally to, and I think that was important. I also used molasses today instead of barley malt syrup because I haven't been able to find any of that particular ingredient yet. The molasses worked very well, though, and I added about a tablespoon or so to the water for the boil. I put the black pepper in, as it is in the original recipe, and this definitely gave them a kick.

I'll try another batch soon!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Martini Time!

Here is another Pinterest recipe, originally from HERE.

My roommate and I knew we had to get us some of this, and about a month ago, we started. We hadn't intended it to take a month, but stuff happens, schedules change, trips to Seattle happen, and before you know it, you have a jar full of sludge on your hands.

But the sludge started out like this:

And here is the sludge:

And may I present to you the Reese's Peanut Butter Martini:

OMG - this was fecking fantastic! Soooooooo good I can hardly tell you, and certainly worth the wait. We really savoured each sip because it was so delicious. We have 12oz of the "sludge" (which has been strained twice and is way less sludgy now) left so there will be plenty more of these in our future!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Doughnut Time!

Today I ventured into as yet uncharted territory: the making of doughnuts.

As I mentioned in this post, I went to Top Pot in Seattle this month and picked a copy of their cookbook. When my roommate, T, went through the book, she spied a recipe that tickled her fancy right away: the Pumpkin Old-Fashioned Doughnuts. T, like me, loves pumpkiny baking, and since I had some of the stuff stashed in the freezer after making the pull-apart loaf, I was in.

Here is the recipe, which I lazily cut and pasted from this site (thank you, Nicky).

Pumpkin Old-Fashioned Doughnuts

For the Doughnuts

  • 3 cups cake flour, plus more for rolling and cutting
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. iodized salt
  • 3/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. shortening/vegetable lard
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2/3 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin
  • Canola oil, for frying

For the Pumpkin Glaze

  • 4 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
  • 2 tsp. light corn syrup
  • 1/4 iodized salt
  • 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/4 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup hot water
  1. To make the doughnut dough: Sift the flour, baking powder, salt, nutmeg, pumpkin pie spice together into a medium bowl, and set aside.
  2. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix the sugar and shortening for 1 minute on low speed, until sandy. Add the egg yolks, then mix for 1 minute on medium speed, scraping the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula if necessary, until the mixture is light colored and thick.
  3. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in three separate additions, alternating with the sour cream and pumpkin, mixing until just combined on low speed and scraping the sides of the bowl each time. The dough will be sticky, like wet cookie/biscuit dough.
  4. Transfer the dough to a clean bowl and refrigerate, covered with plastic wrap/cling film, for 45 minutes (or up to 24 hours).
  5. Meanwhile, make the pumpkin glaze: Place the confectioners sugar, corn syrup, salt, pumpkin pie spice, pumpkin and vanilla in the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. With the machine on medium speed, add the water in a slow, steady stream, and blend until all the sugar has been incorporated, scraping the bowl a few times if necessary. Set aside.
  6. Using a candy thermometer to measure the temperature, heat oil (at least 2 inches deep) in a deep fryer, large pot, or high-sided frying pan to 325 degrees F. Roll out the chilled dough on a generously floured counter or cutting board to 1/2 inch thick, or about 8 inch in diameter, flouring the top of the dough and the rolling pin as necessary to prevent sticking. Cut into as many doughnuts and holes as possible, dipping the cutter into the flour between each cut. Fold and gently re-roll the dough to make extra holes (working with floured hands makes the dough less sticky), and cut again.
  7. Shake any excess flour off the doughnuts before carefully adding them to hot oil a few at a time, taking care not to crowd them. Once the doughnuts float, fry for 15 seconds, then gently flip them. Fry for 75 to 90 seconds, until golden brown and cracked, then flip and fry the first side again for 60 to 75 seconds, until golden. Transfer to a rack set over paper towels/absorbent paper.
  8. While the doughnuts are still quite hot, dip the side with the deepest cracks on each into the warm Pumpkin glaze. Let dry on cooling racks, glazed side up for about 15 minutes.

Needless to say, these came out just amazingly. I especially loved all the little "Timbits"! Of course, now we have a bunch of doughnuts kicking around the house, but I've had worse problems.

One issue I had was that there was too much glaze for the number of doughnuts I had, so I have put the remaining glaze aside for another use. I'm not sure what that use would be at this point, but it's there should inspiration strike.

As you can see from the photo, I deep fried in my wok. This is my preferred deep frying vessel and it always works great.

This was definitely a worthwhile experience and I'm sure I'll be making more recipes from the book, but next time a yeast doughnut, perhaps. I have my eyes on the Raspberry Bullseyes!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Homemade Ice Cream Sandwiches

I have a lot of very specific PMS cravings, and the craving of this month was ice cream sandwiches. These things are so random and it's quite baffling at times. So anyway, I tried to resist this craving with all the willpower I could muster because when I have PMS cravings I tend to eat a large amount of that particular food, and who needs to eat a case of ice cream sandwiches? But my willpower only lasted so long, and after fuming about this for more time than I should have spent fuming about it, I popped down to the end of the block to the locally overpriced convenience store (henceforth known as LOCS) to purchase an ice cream sandwich. Or two.

Well, I'm not used to convenience store prices and one particular ice cream sandwich, made by Klondike, was $3.99. No way was I going to pay that, so instead I went with the more affordable Oreo option for $2.49. I bought two.

I heartily enjoyed both sandwiches - on different nights, I assure you. But while I eating the first one, I thought, man, I can make an ice cream sandwich myself and not have to put up with LOCS pricing at all! It does not take a brain surgeon to make an ice cream sandwich. You need cookies, you need ice cream. I can make both. So I did.

In the March 2012 issue of Food Network Magazine, there were a bunch of chocolate chip cookie recipes, and one looked like it would make good ice cream sandwich components: the cakey chocolate chip cookie.

I made this recipe. I wanted good, hearty chocolate chip cookies, but also soft ones that would be easy to bite into. I made the cookies very large - we would call these "bake shop size" in culinary school. I portioned them out using my #16 cookie scoop, which is approximately 1/2 cup in volume. I got about 12 cookies. I didn't refrigerate the dough as the recipe specifies, but I did stick it in the deep freeze until it was firm.

They were monstrous! But I didn't care because I wanted monstrous ice cream sandwiches.

While the cookies were baking I made vanilla ice cream with my trusty Cuisinart ice cream maker and my usual egg-less recipe that I've had a lot of success with:

2 cups whipping cream (35%)
1 cup whole milk (3%)
3/4 cup sugar
vanilla, to taste

Once the cookies were cooled and the ice cream set in the freezer for a couple of hours, this is what I got:

Pretty big, eh? Well, I wanted big and hearty, and that's certainly what I got.

And man, did it ever hit the spot! Excellent!

In fact, I'm going to go and have one now...

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Quinoa "Mac & Cheese"

Tonight my roommate made dinner and she decided to try out a new recipe from our favourite place to get recipes & food ideas these days, Pinterest. It was a bit of a risk since her seven year old daughter had never had quinoa before and claimed the meal smelled "gross" while it was cooking.

The recipe is HERE.

Well, the seven year old wasn't exactly sold on the quinoa version of this favourite, though she ate most of what was negotiated in order for her to get dessert (I made ice cream sandwiches, but that's a future post). My roommate and I, however, thought this dish was a complete hit. We accompanied it with some asparagus and garnished the "mac & cheese" with salsa and sour cream.

This recipe is very versatile. T used red peppers and green onions, but the veggie options and accompaniments are limitless. I'm imagining a version with ricotta cheese and bacon, for instance, perhaps some spinach.

I have always liked quinoa and am glad I've found another tasty way to cook with it. Thanks T!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Cooking with Kylie: Bok Choy with Oyster Sauce

I've always liked bok choy. In my new favourite grocery store, T&T Supermarket, I've seen it in three different forms: regular bok choy, baby bok choy, and bok choy sprouts, which looks like mini baby bok choy. Baby bok choy was on for 99¢/lb the other day, bundled up in pre-packaged baggies. One of these baggies cost me $1.66 or something ridiculously cheap like that. I had plans for it, but they kinda fell through (long story involving a piece of salmon I left too long in the fridge...), but today I felt like making some comfort food in the form of Kylie's dressed wontons and after looking through the veggie section in Simple Chinese Cooking, I found exactly what I was looking for: a simple bok choy side dish.

The recipe is HERE.

Incidentally, did you know that bok choy gets pretty yellow flowers?

I adapted this recipe slightly because I don't do peanut oil. Apart from that, I followed the rest of the recipe as written.

It was ridiculously easy, and I'm glad it wasn't stir fried. I like, and always have, the texture of steamed bok choy in soups and stuff like that, so boiling the bok choy appealed to me. This was really good, and I'll definitely make it again. I still have bok choy left, in fact.

Here is a look at my wonton dish, too:

If you have not tried this recipe yet, YOU HAVE TO! It's soooooooooooo good!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Some Miscellaneous Seattle Food

Here are some photos of some other eating experiences I had while in Seattle that were really good.

Excellent coffee drinks at Vivace's.

One night we had take-out pizza from Romio's. It was great pizza, and they did a pretty decent tiramisu, too.

This last trip to Seattle saw my first Whole Foods experience. WOW is all I can say. There are two Whole Foods in Vancouver, but I've never been in them. I couldn't believe how chi-chi this Seattle location was, and the variety of stuff available for take-out! It was overwhelming. On top of that, the bakery items were gorgeous, as was the seafood selection. We bought a few grocery items and then selected a couple of things for dinner. I went with some Indian take-out; tandoori chicken, coconut rice, Bombay potatoes, naan. It was good, especially the rice!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Splitz Grill

Today I had the opportunity to go out and about a neighbourhood new to me in Vancouver, Main St. between about 12th Avenue and Kind Edward. It's a nice neighbourhood with lots of shops and eateries, a bit hipster-ish, but not too bad. We started out with a hot drink at Cafe Rustico, where I had a very bad iced mocha drink that cost too much, and after poking in and out of various cool stores, it was time for something to eat.

As a group we decided on Splitz Grill, 4242 Main St. because we fancied burgers and the prices were excellent. For the uninitiated, and that was us, the menu is located on a big board and you order at the till. The order gets printed out and yelled out to the cook and a tray with your order on it goes to the grill, which is open for all to see. From there, you get to personalize your burger with one of six or eight sauces, then you get to choose your toppings, they take your name, you go sit down, and, in our case, since it wasn't busy, they brought the food to our table.

The menu consists of a variety of burgers, including a lemon & garlic marinated chicken breast burger, a bison selection, and even a wild salmon. For vegetarians, there is a spicy lentil burger that I was assured by my vegetarian friend was not painfully spicy. The burgers were reasonably-priced, and for an extra couple of bucks, you can have a combo which means your burger comes with fries and a drink. If you want special toppings like onions, mushrooms, cheese, or bacon, those are individually priced on top of the base burger price. Also, Splitz does milkshakes, sundaes, banana splits, and stuff like that.

There was a turkey burger special on today as well as a tuna burger special, but I opted for a bison burger with cheese and mushrooms. For sauces, I chose the Splitz sauce, which was a tasty mixture of garlic, dill pickles, sour cream, mayonnaise, Tobasco sauce, and Worcestershire sauce. I was informed that this is their most popular sauce - and no kidding, I thought it was really good. For toppings, I chose lettuce, onions, and dill pickles (because you can't have too much dill pickle deliciousness).

The bison burger was fabulous. I have always enjoyed bison meat, and this was very well done (and well done). The fries, hand cut, obviously, and deep fried how they're supposed to be (blanched in oil first then deep fried again - you can tell when places don't do this), and the Splitz sauce had a great kick to it with that touch of Tobasco. And the burgers were huge! I finished mine, but my friend with the lentil burger could only eat half of hers it was so monstrous.

My only critique is that I would have preferred to have my cheese melted onto the burger rather than piled on with the other toppings.

Considering the location and the price of food in the city in general, Splitz was a really good deal price and portion-wise. I certainly had no complaints and I really liked the open kitchen idea so I could see the cooks doing their thing. Everything was fresh and well-prepared. I'd definitely go back.

Splitz also has a location in Whistler, too.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Two Words: Lunchbox Laboratory

Also, what happens in Seattle stays in Seattle.

The decor is mainly retro lunchboxes:
Some have a sense of humour:

So, I will not be writing much in this post because it might reveal too much about the number of visits Jodi and I made to Lunchbox Laboratory in my past two trips to that fair city. I'm just going to post a whole bunch of pictures and let you come to your own conclusions. But come to this conclusion: the food there is freaking incredible, as are the milkshakes. Oooooooh, the milkshakes - served in beakers - were a wonder to behold and taste. OK, enough! Onto photos!

Gourmet salt selection...

Reese's Peanut Butter Shake

Kool Tang - Koolaid & Tang

Santa Fe Slammer Burger

Turkey On Mars: sliced turkey breast (the good kind) Swiss cheese, marsala onions, pesto mayo

Oreo Cookie Shake

Truffle Love Burger (beef burger, bacon, a huge slab of some kind of cheese I can't recall right now, caramelized onions, white truffle mayo)

One of Lunchbox Laboratory's famous Boozy Shakes. The "spikes" come in a little test tube because the alcohol will affect the freezing of the shake. This is the caramel macchiato spiked with caramel vodka, Bailey's and Khalua.

Country Club Sandwich: turkey breast (again, the good kind), ham, bacon, Swiss cheese, mayo. Side was tater tots with white truffle mayo.

Mini corn dogs.

Gabacho's Nachos: heap of tater tots & lots of other stuff.

Two more milkshakes; the one on the left is the Drunken Elvis, the other is the Caramel Macchiato again.
The Tokyo Drift Burger; churcken burger (chicken & turkey), teriyaki mushrooms, Havarti cheese, roasted garlic mayo.

Yeah, just go here! Their menu is here.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Seattle Hot Spot: Part I

During a trip to Seattle in 2001, or thereabouts (way back in the mists of time, anyway), I stumbled upon a great little joint across from Pike Place Market that served really good seafood. The place stuck in my mind not only because of the food - it was great - but because it had bright blue and white decor and small little wooden booths that were kind of cute.

This past Christmas and New Years, I was in Seattle again for the first time in 10 years, and I took a day to go exploring around the market. I still remembered the place I'd eaten at way back when, and I wanted to go there again if it was still around. I remembered that it did not front out onto the street and that it had "oyster bar" in the title. After meandering around a while, and noting the ridiculously long line in front of the original Starbucks for future reference, I saw a sign under an awning that said "Emmett Watson's Oyster Bar." I followed the arrow up a corridor and into a courtyard, and there it was - complete with the same booths and everything! I went in, got a table, and was presented with a menu printed on the back of a paper bag.

At this point, I even remembered what I'd ordered back in 2001 (or whenever it was): the Captain's Basket. I remembered this because of the deep fried clams it had, and that the variety of fish in the basket - oysters, clams, shrimp, scallops, and some kind of white fish - was very appealing since I love all those things. And so this is what I ordered again.

And it was fantastic. Deep fried perfection! It was just how I remembered it. Served with tartar sauce and seafood cocktail sauce, the portion size was generous and the fries were perfect - hand cut, blanched first, and then fried (you can always tell).
During last week's trip, I just had to go back. I went to the market on Sunday, and was disappointed to see that some places closed early. But not Emmett Watson's. They were open till 6:00 and I was in luck.

I was seated in a nice blue booth and perused the menu once again, thinking I should try something else for a change, and I figure that since this was an oyster bar and I adore oysters, I should just go for the oyster basket. It was the same price as Captain's Basket - $9.75 (a bargain, if you ask me). I also decided, since it wasn't the nicest day weather-wise to try some chowder. I am a chowder fanatic, and I was not disappointed. Stick to your ribs thick (my spoon practically could stand up in it), it was piping hot and served with a little package of oyster crackers. It was a bit on the salty side, but excellent, and I think, from the texture, it might have been thickened with mashed potatoes rather than a roux. And it wasn't filled with large chunks of carrots and celery, which I appreciated.

As for the oyster basket: excellent, again! I counted 9 juicy oysters, seemingly battered in a cornmeal batter, perfectly fried, succulent, and just fabulous.

Definitely check this place out if you're in Seattle and need a great place to eat while out marketing at Pike Place.


Blog Widget by LinkWithin