Monday, January 16, 2012

Chocolate Macaroons

Two Decembers ago, on a gray, snowy Saturday, Hannah and I went to the Baker's Market in Vancouver. It was waay southeast Van, between Marine and the river, across some train tracks and in some dodgy warehouse/industrial area. We found signs for the Market, but could not find the actual market. Who would go to such trouble just for some baking?
Finally, we walked through this bridal supply store, found an open door at the back to find a storage area smelling of butter and sugar, packed with people, the Love Actually soundtrack blaring and about fifteen banquet tables laden with cupcakes, cookies, and marshmallows .
To be honest, we were a bit shocked. And giddy. We felt like we had just stumbled onto a heaven of sugar/butter/cream. Samples were offered from everyone, and we bought our favourites: macaroons, bacon shortbread and maple oat cakes to name only a few.
Connie (organizer of the market, maker of the most beautiful asian-flavoured macaroons, and someone who, somehow, always recognizes when she sees me at markets) informed us that we were just in time to watch the cupcake contest (we are in the photos on this blog). We stayed and watched in shock as people spent 5 minutes eating cupcakes. It was kind of horrifying.. The winner, an older asian man who was apparently training for some real eating competition, ate 18 beautiful cupcakes.

I went regularly that winter, but this winter I only went once. I trekked out in the pouring rain, taking the bus out to Fraser and 60th, just for the macaroons.

Macaroons (not sure how to pronounce correctly, but non-pretentiously??) are so French, so tiny and perfect and precise; I figured I could just leave them to the pros. I heard they were finicky to make and not to be trusted in the oven as the majority of the cookies may turn into a big mess instead of a pretty little coin with a smooth top and crackly sides. I had heard they were hard to make. So I bought them instead at 2$ a cookie.

But then I found a recipe that was written so specifically, I figured maybe it would work. Example: measuring out egg whites instead of just using ‘3’. I also figured maybe I was just being a wimp and just loved going to the Bakers Market. I borrowed a stand up mixer from a friend*, and got to it.

*I only recently got a set of hand mixers for Christmas. In the past year, I have made successfully whipping cream by hand (shake it in a mason jar) and attempted to make both meringue and marshmallows with a whisk. My triceps were burning and neither turned out. Don’t even try that at home, friends.


Chocolate Macaroons with Sea Salt
adapted from Bon Appetit magazine
I thought that even though the recipe was specific, the results would still be a bit tempermental. Was I ever wrong.. Every single one turned out as perfect as I hoped! With minimal stress!! I found it hard to keep them small, but it is worth it if you do - about 1 inch in diameter.


2 cups powdered sugar, divided in half
1 1/4 cups slivered almonds
3 tablespoons natural unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 cup plus 3 tablespoons egg whites (from about 3 large eggs), room temperature, whisked to loosen
1/4 cup sugar
Sea Salt

-Arrange racks in lower and upper thirds of oven; preheat to 325°.
-Line 3 rimless baking sheets with parchment paper.

-Pulse 1 cup powdered sugar and almonds in a food processor until nuts are very finely ground (but not to a paste), 60–90 seconds.
-Add cocoa powder and remaining 1 cup powdered sugar; process to blend well. Sift mixture through a medium-mesh strainer into a large bowl; discard larger almond pieces remaining in strainer (I had lots of larger pieces so I ran them through the processor again, then sifted again).

-Using an electric mixer, beat 1/3 cup egg whites on medium-high speed. Once white and frothy, about 1 min, gradually begin adding sugar by the teaspoonful.
-Increase speed to medium-high; beat until firm peaks form (if you taste it, you should taste no grittiness from the sugar).
-Stir in remaining 3 Tbsp. egg whites.
-Fold meringue very gently into dry ingredients in 2 additions, mixing well between additions (you just incorporated a ton of air into the egg whites, so you do not want to deflate them by stirring too hard).

-Spoon meringue into a pastry bag fitted with a 1/4" tip (I used a big ziplock freezer bag, and snipped a corner off once the meringue was in there). A plastic spatula works best, and fold down the tops of the bag to keep things tidy.
-Twist top of bag and pipe quarter-size rounds onto 2 of the 3 prepared baking sheets, spacing 1" apart. Bang the sheets on the table to let the cookies settle, then let them for about 10 minutes to let them dry out a bit.
-Sprinkle tops with sea salt.
-Bake cookies, rotating sheets halfway through baking, until puffed and dry, about 16 minutes.
-Slide cookies on parchment onto a wire rack. Let cool completely. Repeat with remaining batter on third baking sheet.


3 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate (do not exceed 61% cacao), finely chopped
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2" cubes
1/2 cup heavy cream

-Place chopped chocolate and butter in a medium bowl.
-Bring cream just to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat.
-Remove from heat; pour hot cream mixture over chocolate and butter; whisk until smooth.
-Refrigerate until firm, about 20 minutes.

Assembling the Cookies

Spoon ganache into a pastry bag fitted with a 1/4" tip (again, you can use another ziplock). Twist top of bag and pipe about ganache onto flat side of 1 cookie, top with a second cookie, flat side down.


-the cookies are way crispier than normal when they first cool, but once everything is assembled it is essential that you either chill them or freeze them; once they are back at room temp they are the right texture: crisp outside, chewy inside.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Rhubarb Muffins

My not writing in the last month hasn't been due to a lack of fabulous meals... There have been many!!

My favourite edibles over the last while have included...
-a zippy meal of tomato sauce, kale and baked eggs all in one pot
-Schnitzel from a place near where I live
-hazelnuts from the Chiliwack area
-early heirloom tomatoes with balsamic and Maldon sea salt
-an amazing chocolate cake with just as much butter as Lindt chocolate
-barbequed chicken with homemade barbeque sauce
-whiskey sours

Last Saturday the farmer's market near my house opened up. It's not one of the more busy ones in the city, and last year I kind of avoided it because I didn't feel like buying scones, knitted items, and cucumber and red peppers grown in an Abbotsford greenhouse...

But last week I went to see what was happenin' this year and my big find was the tomato man! Yellow, green zebra and red heirlooms have been my major purchases over my last two visits, and it shall continue until my own plants are making their own babies. The highlight of my day today is my market buys. I didn't get much (I am growing my own greens, and there isn't a whole lot else on offer this early), but I did get eggs and RHUBARB!! It's rhubarb time.

If you say you don't like rhubarb, I don't believe you. Maybe someone didn't cook it well for you. Stewed rhubarb... I imagine it could be done poorly. But when done well, with custard...or on granola..or ice cream... This is me encouraging you to give it a second shot!!!

This is a recipe from my mom, and god knows where she got it from. She would make these muffins every summer for us when we were kids; we used to go out and pick the rhubarb stems and pretend to fan each other or shade everyone from the sun. When I got a bit olded, we would boil chopped rhubarb and sugar down, add vodka and then freeze it in huge four litre ice cream pails for family barbeques. Highly recommended!!!!!

My favourite part of the muffin recipe below was and is the crunchy cinnamon sugar on top. This recipe also produces muffins, but a few years ago when I (questionably) did not own a muffin tin I would make it in a loaf tin and it was fabulous. So much so that I think tonight I will make it as a loaf again instead of muffins.
Good luck to all, and let me know how much you love them. Also let me know if you can't read the recipe!!

Enjoy June!!!!!!!!!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Salad That Saves Lives

With a name like that, I hope you now have huge expectations. This salad generally pulls through and seriously impresses.

A cousin passed this on to me - who knows where it came from - but I like to think that she named it. It's an asian style coleslaw and if it tickles your fancy, feel free to add tofu or shrimp. In the past I have served it with chicken satay and peanut sauce, brought it to a picnic, and recently was asked to bring it to a family dinner. It makes a huge amount and only starts to taste better when it sits in the dressing overnight. Good luck!

1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
3/4 cup teriyaki sauce
2 tbsp sesame sauce
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp honey
2 chopped garlic cloves
2 tbsp sesame seeds

Chinese cabbage (it's light green and more long, narrow, and ruffled -for lack of a better word- than regular cabbage), thinly sliced
2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
4 green onions, thinly sliced
2 carrots, thinly sliced or grated
1/2 cup toasted and coarsley chopped cashews
8 oz can of water chestnuts (I leave these out often, but they add good crunch)

Shrimp or Tofu
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tsp lemon zest/juice
1 tsp grated ginger
1 tbsp sriracha hot sauce
Shrimp or tofu
*This is optional. Let the shrimp or tofu sit in their marinade while you make the dressing and chop the salad, then mix it all up together at the end.

This is a kitchen sink salad. While I consider the rice wine vinegar, teriyaki, lemon juice and sesame oil to be the important flavour back bone, feel free to give it a kick in another direction. If you don't have something, don't sweat it. Every time I make this, it ends up a bit different and thats good for me.


Sunday, March 27, 2011

Vegetable Lasagne


Who doesn’t love Sunday dinners? When I was a kid, my aunt Betty would sometimes call up early Sunday afternoon to invite us all over for dinner and when we arrived there would be many members of the family there, all ready for a big spaghetti dinner. The last time I went she made stuffed red peppers. I loved (still love) the last minute-ness of it all and strive to do it once in a while.

Lately my sister and I have been planning our own Sunday night dinners. A while ago it was ratatouille and barbecue chips, and I have been threatening to make a roast beef for months now. I thought about it tonight, but instead was much happier with the idea of a vegetarian lasagne.

It’s not hard, took up lots of the pots and pans, and was amazingly , soothingly delicious. The whole recipe came from my own head, and I want to share it with you.

I have never been much of a lasagne maker. I used to try and make it with Italian sausage and whole black olives and it was just way too much of a mechanical mixture to make nice smooth layers. Tonight was different though and my layers were well-defined, each bite letting you taste each different one.

Today my layers were as follows:
1. Roasted squash – peeled and sliced thinly into half moons then roasted in a hot oven for 20 minutes or so with olive oil, salt and pepper.
2. Fresh spinach –washed
3. Tomato Sauce – onions cooked in olive oil until brown, add garlic. Add red wine to the hot pan, let alcohol cook out then add a can of tomatoes and some dried basil. Let cook until the consistency thickens. Last minute, add salt and pepper.
4. Mushrooms – sliced and cooked in a bit of olive oil and butter. Let absorb the liquid, cook a bit, release their own liquid and lastly brown a bit.
5. Black olives – chopped
6. Lasange sheets – cooked well in boiling water
7. Ricotta cheese and grated mozzarella

Really all you have to do is assemble it in layers that make you happy. I don’t think it matters much, but I did start with the squash, made sure the spinach was between some nice hot stuff so that it would wilt, and finished off with a layer of pasta and topped with ricotta then mozzarella. I finished it off in a 350F oven so that the top cheese layer would get crispy.

I’m not going to lie, this was really good.

My good friend Red came over and we ate and drank wine and we all had two pieces each. Red and Kristopher thought the mushrooms and olives were the best parts, they figured they added a meaty texture, while I loved the sweetness of the squash. We finished it off with a homemade lemon meringue pie that Red made yesterday and listened to Madeleine Peyroux – an excellent way to prepare for another big week.

I highly recommend you try it.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Moroccan Stew

The Sunday after our last snowstorm in Vancouver (a few weeks ago) my sister and I went shopping downtown. The 3cm of snow on the ground kept the crowds away and we had the MAC store to ourselves so she could try on new red lipsticks. The snow also meant that there was huge puddles of water at every street corner and we puddle jumped the whole way back to her house where we arrived with very wet and in need of a warm meal.

My sister Hannah has started buying her groceries on the weekend and making one big meal on Sunday night for the rest of the week, the smart girl she is. This is the most fantastic dish to do that with as it only starts to taste better with a few days. After eating it, I promptly made it again a few nights afterwards for myself.

revised from the Joy of Cooking (if you don't already own this, you must go and buy it. It makes for fabulous reading over breakfast.)

2 medium onions, chopped
5 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 small butternut squash, halved, seeded and cubed
3 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch slices
can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg (fresh or ground)
1 1/2 cups chicken stock and/or water
2 medium zucchini, sliced
raisins/thinly sliced dried apricots
pitted kalamata olives
lemon juice, S&P

-Heat some olive oil in a large dutch oven, then add the onions. Let cook until soft and fragrant, then add the garlic. Once they both smell good, add the squash, carrots, chickpeas and all the spices. Stir around and let cook for a few minutes - cooking the spices onto the vegetables only brings out the flavours of the spices.

-Add the dried fruit and the chicken stock and/or water, enough to cover all the vegetables, and let cook uncovered until they are soft. Add the zucchini very close to the end of this so it doesn't get to mushy but still absorbs the flavours.

-When it seems good and stew-like, take off the heat and season with salt and pepper and some lemon juice to brighten it up a bit. Finally, serve with (my favourite!) the black olives and preferably some couscous.


There is nothing more perfect on a blustery Sunday night than to lie on your sister's couch watching the Oscars (however boring they may be...) all night with the cat, eating a fantastic meal.


Monday, March 14, 2011

Barbecue Pork and Chili Green Beans

I have made yet another cookbook discovery that I can't wait to share.

Lately, I have been frequenting the local Book Warehouse during the wash cycle of our laundry afternoons (the dry cycle involves $4 bellinis at Browns Social House - a great discovery) and have been lusting over the new Donna Hay cookbook - Seasons.

Donna Hay is a food stylist/famous cook/publisher in Australia and makes the most amazing books and magazines. The photos are amazingly styled, and the recipes are simple and clean and SO GOOD. This particular book is divided into the four seasons, and each one into sweet and savoury. Australian food is just a bit different from here... Lots of grilled meats and fishes.. Maybe a bit more precious? Pretty? Kristopher claims he doesn't notice a difference. Personally, I worked for an Australian food stylist (her own blog is here) in Alberta a few years ago and I could see these influences everywhere in her food.

So, Donna Hay Seasons. I have been looking at it for so long at the book store that I finally....took it out from the library.


I told Kristopher to chose the first few recipes we could try for dinner, and we have now made them both twice in one week.

First off, the pork. I have made the trek once...maybe Chinatown to buy barbecued pork. Have you ever done it? It's quite an experience to go into the butcher and stare at the pigs and the ducks, and be shocked by the lungs and the brains wrapped in plastic wrap. Most people are holding discussions in languages I don't understand. It's always a bit humbling to be in your own city and yet feel totally foreign and out of your element. And then you order what you want - the barbecue pork... It comes in pinky-red rimmed slices with some extra barbecue sauce and it's all you can do to keep from eating it straight from it's styrofoam container on the way home.
This recipe tastes almost identical to what you can get from Chinatown. Enough said.
And it's easy.

from Donna Hay Seasons

1 kg pork tenderloin
coriander seeds (1 tsp or so)
star anise
1/2 cup hoisin sauce
1 cup Chinese cooking wine
1/4 cup char siu sauce*

-Use a mortar and pestle to grind up the coriander, garlic and ginger.
-Add this with liquid ingredients and star anise in a big bowl and add the pork. Let marinate for at least an hour, all day works too.
-Put either on the barbecue for 15-20 minutes until fully cooked
-Put on a roasting rack in the bottom of a 350F oven, marinade and all. Roast for an hour or so until sticky, caramelized and cooked through, basting throughout (that goes for barbecuers too).
-Slice to serve.

*These are the exact ingredients the book calls for. I found Chinese cooking wine easily in save-on, but it didn't carry the star anise so I left it out (but I know you can find it in other grocery stores). As for char siu sauce (described in the book as a sauce commonly used in Cantonese cuisine, including sugar or honey, Chinese five spice, red food coloring, soy sauce and sherry), I couldn't find it so used Chinese barbecue sauce that I found at a T&T market a while ago. The results were perfect!

...then you can serve it with...

this came from a recipe from the Seasons book that involved grilling a steak in a pan and then stir frying the beans afterwards. I changed it around a bit.

-Clean and chop the ends off your beans (I once lost serious marks in cooking school for not chopping the ends...but do what you like!). Clean and chop whatever other vegetables you want to fry. - I also used asparagus (in season right now!) and carrots.
-Slice an onion and begin to cook slowly in a big pan, a wok if you have one.
-Once they are soft, add the green beans (if using other veg, add the ones that will cook the longest first).
-When your beans are BRIGHT GREEN, they are cooked so add a spoonful or two of chili garlic paste (two will make it blazingly hot!) and some sweet chili sauce which will slightly mellow out the heat of the chili. Stir it all up. When its good and mixed, you might feel like adding some soy sauce for some more zing (not that you will need it...)
-Eat and feel the burn!


So just based on these two recipes alone and a whole lot of beautiful pictures of oceans, beaches...and food, I will now be returning my copy to the library and then heading across the street to buy my own.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Keftedes - Greek Meatballs

At christmas not only did I recieve a few fantastic cook books, but also a big huge shiny cuisinart mixerfrom Kristopher! It made me cry! I had a mini breakdown while doing Christmas baking a week or so prior, I was trying to handmix dough for linzer cookies and ended up upset, throwing the dough away and probably throwing something on the floor while I was at it. I think he just wanted to avoid a repeat of that incident, so he gave me this.

It took me a while to get into it, but lately I have been trying to use it as much as possible! My favourite few things I have been super excited about making is loads of small, hand rolled/wrapped things and popping them in the freezer. I made a huge batch of dumplings during the Chinese New Year (I also got sweet and sour pork takeaway for the occaison) and there are still some in the freezer, just waiting to be steamed and dipped in soy sauce! And last night I made a huge batch of meatballs from Falling Cloudberries: A World of Family Recipes (by Tessa Kiros), this being one the most exceptional cookbooks of the Christmas gifts. It's not necessarily a run-out-and-buy-it book, but definately a look-at-the-pictures-in-the-bookstore book. The photography is absolutely beautiful, and the whole reason I wanted it. I know I have put a recipe up for meatballs here, but these ones are a bit different. I have now made them qith friends on two occaisons, and they are wonderful. They do take a while to make, but make a huge batch of them and freeze them! They are called keftedes in the book, a greek fried meatball.

From Falling Cloudberries: A World of Family Recipes by Tessa Kiros

2 slices of bread
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 pound mixed ground pork and beef
2 eggs
1 sweet apple, peeled, cored and grated
1 red onion, grated
fresh mint and italian parsley, chopped
olive oil, for frying

-Break up bread in small bowl and add the milk. Let it soak and absorb the milk, squishing it up so that is dissolves.
-Put the meat in a large bowl, add everything but the oil. Season with salt and pepper. Mix very well with your hands, then roll out into small balls about the size of cherry tomatoes. Keep them on a tray or cutting board (if going to freeze, on baking tray lined with parchment).
-To fry, pour about 1/2 inch of olive oil into large nonstick saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the meatballs in a single layer and cook in batches. Fry until golden brown. Try not to fiddle with them too much or else they will fall apart.
-Remove and place on a plate lined with paper towels, and eat them with lemon juice, tzatziki or humus.

That's what the recipe says, but alternatively if you don't want to fry them fully, fry them in just a little bit of oil and then put them into the over, OR fry them a little bit and then cover with a tomato sauce or something and let that simmer, which will cook the meat.

See how handy a mixer comes in? It grates too!

καλή όρεξη!!! (Google told me that means enjoy your meal in Greek).


Lastly, once again I have made the apple cake!! I will never tire of such an easy, delicious beautiful recipe. Please make one for yourself.