Thursday, June 28, 2007

Coffee granita

2 cups lukewarm espresso or strong black coffee
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons coffee flavored liqueur
1 teaspoon orange or lemon zest

Combine all ingredients and stir until sugar melts.

Pour mixture into 9 by 13-inch metal pan and place on level shelf in freezer for half an hour. (Mixture should only come about 1/4-inch up the side of the pan.)

Remove and use a dinner fork to scrape any ice crystals that have formed on the side or bottom of the pan.

Return to freezer and repeat scraping every 20 to 30 minutes for 3 to 4 hours.

Once mixture is thoroughly frozen, fluff with a fork and allow flakes to "dry" in freezer another half hour before serving.

When served, the granita should look like a fluffy pile of dry brown crystals.

Serve in a tall glass with whip cream or after a meal for a refreshing treat.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Get the scoop...Japanese style

As we are trying to beat the heat, lots of us are turning to swimming pools, lots of water and sitting in front of fans, air conditioners or retreating under shady trees (which doesn't work in this heat!)

In Japan you can go for your fatty treat of ice cream - aisu kuri-mu.

An article in the Globe & Mail today states that a single half cup (125ml) of most Haagen-Dazs ice cream flavors delivers more saturated fat than a McDonald's Big Mac. Shocking, non?

As I mentioned in a post in the early days gelato is the way to go.

In Canada you can get organic ice cream and for the vegetarians - soy, rice and hemp varieties.

The one thing we do not seem to have is the flavors like they do in Japan.

(See pics) From this ice cream parlor in Sapporo, flavors sold are - cheese, squid, salt, curry, cherry blossom & sesame. mmmmmmm.....
And on the menu to tickle your taste buds even further there are flavours like sweet potato, beer, sea urchin, aloe, fermented beans and more.

Not sure how brave I would be to try these flavors...

We had the loveliest visitors over for dinner last who arrived from Japan only the night before. They were gracious guests and although we did not speak the same language our translator Kiki and Ayuko were wonderful and somehow we understood each other.

They brought us lovely gifts of traditional Japanese cake and jellies...posts on those to follow.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Great but...fruit not so fress
Sunday brunch is always a favorite and for this weekend's adventure we went to the vegan restaurant Fressen on Queen West.

It was Pride Toronto weekend and the city was alive with various characters coming out to celebrate the week long festival culminating in the notoriously loud, proud and colorful parade. With the window seats at the restaurant we had a prime viewing platform for people heading to the day's festivities.

Our favorite was the tall, goth, long haired, mesh stocking, batman wannabe. His sunglasses were the best part as they covered his entire face with a big plastic bat. Actually his facial expression was better than his sunglasses as it was this mysterious, angry, indignant, look at me - but how dare you look at me, look. Sooo good to people watch!

A few comments about Fressen, the brunch menu is not as extensive as expected it only had waffles and French toast which, in my opinion, were truly brunch-y. Then there were lots of salads and stews which were more lunch-y. I guess if you cannot serve eggs and bacon then the brunch menu immediately is cut down in scope.

We almost all unanimously ordered the French toast which was divine. It was served with a fruit compote, maple syrup and the toast was coated in oats/granola (not exactly sure) which gave it a lovely texture. The one disappointing thing about the dish was that is was served with fruit that was off. It was well presented with garnish of icing sugar and fresh mint but when eating the watermelon and cantaloupe they were not hard and sweet, just soft and lacking in flavour, like they were sitting in the fridge too long/past their freshness date.

When this happens at home you eat it yourself and kick yourself for not peeling it and eating it sooner, you do not serve it to guests or to restaurant patrons, non?

Other than the non-fresh fruit, all else was great, service, staff, drinks and atmosphere.

AK ordered the corn fritters (2nd pic) and Jill ordered th waffles and all were satisfied! Their drink of the day was spectacular and so simple. It was a strawberry lemonade made with fresh strawberries, water, lemon juice, cane sugar, fresh mint and pineapple chunks and juice.

Try making it at home as it is a truly refreshing summery drink!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Summer rooftops
Located on the 18th floor, The Roof Lounge at the Park Hyatt was indeed pleasant.

The pic is a scan of a little coaster which was placed in front of us. I thought that was a clever touch and a good conversation starter with the wait staff.

It may be hard to see as I could not scan it very well but it reads:

'I didn't realize how utterly pleasant it was to be here.' Marlon Brando

You get a lovely tray of dried fruit and nuts when you are seated; the dried apples were so tender and juicy they were gorgeous! We ordered soup & appetizers (asparagus and Parmesan shavings, yoghurt dip and Indian crackers, parma ham and smoked salmon) served with a lovely Cabernet sauvignon wine which was delightful.

The view is great but the walls are a bit high so you need to sit up tall to get a good panorama of the city facing south from Avenue Rd & Bloor St. It's a great way to see the Michael Lee Chin Crystal from another angle and a nice place for a first date or for a romantic surprise. Try something different, go for a drink or two on a hot summer night before or after dinner.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Arancini di Riso - Sicilian rice balls
You can find these arancini di riso at gas station rest stops, train station booths and anywhere you can buy a snack in Sicily. They are delicious, filling and great to eat on the run.

* 1 1/2 cups risotto rice
* 1/2 cup parsley, chopped
* 3 tablespoons butter
* 1/2 cup fresh Parmesan cheese, grated
* 2 eggs
* Salt and pepper to taste
* 1 egg, beaten
* Flour for coating
* Breadcrumbs for coating
* Oil for frying

*you can add green peas or ground beef if you want additional tastes to the balls. I prefer them in their original state.

Boil rice and add to a bowl with cheese, 2 eggs, salt and pepper.
With oiled hands, shape rice into balls the size of small oranges (arancini). Roll aranci into beaten egg, then into beadcrumbs to coat well.

Deep-fry in oil until golden. Drain on paper towels and serve Serves: 4 - 6

To make them with a soft mozzarella core which is delightful to reach follow this tiny trick. With a small piece of mozzarella cheese. Push a hole with your finger into each ball after shaping. Insert the cheese, then close the opening to hide the cheese.


Thursday, June 21, 2007

Where does canned corn come from?
I remember watching an episode of Jamie Oliver's TV show called Jamie's School Dinners where he went to a school and laid out 10-12 basic fruits and vegetables and asked kids from varying ages to identify them.

99% of kids in that group could not identify things such as spring onions, sweet potato, celery, broccoli and other BASIC fruits and vegetables. I remember watching in shock but not surprise as I worked at a school for a few months and some of the lower kids would come to school hungry or with a Coke and a bag of chips for lunch. Some were so hungry they ate the rotten pumpkin after Halloween, sad but true.

The School Dinners show demonstrated that kids in these schools do not recognize these foods in their raw state because they never eat them in that state, their parents never buy them and they are never involved in the cooking process at home if their parents cook. At school and at home kids from these schools ate only processed and pre-packaged foods.

Turkey Twizzlers were made famous on the show as they served them in many UK schools to children as part of the standard lunch program. TTs are a bizarre chicken nugget type food with some ridiculously small % of actual turkey in it and it is shaped as a coil so makes no resemblance to any natural food or turkey for that matter. It is a food listed on the UK school lunch program list - after the show Jamie got them banned from schools -yay! And the Department for Education and Skills created the School Food Trust to provide support and advice to improve the standard of school meals.

During the show Jamie followed some parents to the grocery store and watched them shop and all they put into their baskets were microwave dinners and more turkey twizzlers (they said, 'but our kids like them'). He even went home with a few parents to see what they could 'cook' and since they grew up on frozen foods too they could not actually put a basic soup together or cook some pasta as they had never seen their parents do it. The show pointed out the need for parents to get educated on proper health, nutrition and basic cooking skills.

When I first arrived in England I was impressed by this prominent 'ready meal' aisle at the supermarkets as for £2 you could have a lasagna, turkey dinner, Chinese food, Indian curry etc... When you finally read the label and see what crap was in there you soon re-think your choice. But think about this spend £14-20 a week and have a ready made hot meal each night after just 60seconds in the microwave or spend £20-40 a week and have to come home, peel, prepare and cook? For lazy and ignorant parents guess which option they choose?

That whole show was fantastic and can be a whole blog in itself. The reason for today's post is that some of the neighboring kids at the cottage had a diet which consisted of packaged foods all the time and the snacks they came out with were always chips and some type of sugary juice. Their parents didn't really enforce meal time so some of them also went without dinner on several occasions. The parents also did not spend much time with them and only seemed to be smoking in front of the tele each and every day. The kids were always at our place staring at our healthy dinners and lunches with hungry looks. This angered me and I blame lack of education and laziness on the parents part. In this situation do we feed the neighbors kids each night? There was 4 of them so not an easy task even if we wanted to. We did give them healthy snacks but who does that when we are not there?

Our little ones were always helping with meal preparation, tending the vegetable garden, coming along to do the grocery shopping, choosing which pint of strawberries they wanted and which carrots to put in the cart. This all makes up the educational experience of children which keeps them involved, teaches them good food habits and makes them appreciate food.

PM is peeling fresh corn in the pic and he loved it - we almost had to go back to the store to get another basket full so he could peel more. I guess my rant today is that kids need to eat fresh, whole foods and parents need to stay away from the gimmicks and easy avenues of junk or fast food. Yes kids like Coke and chips and boxed meals but think of how bad it is for them, they only like these things as they are filled with sugars and salts which makes them crave more!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Crystal Beach bakery
Back from the cottage hence no posts lately....this small town bakery was around for probably over 25 years and provided our family with breads and the best doughnuts a kid could ever have as a Sunday morning treat.

It was sad to see it closed but am happy they left the sign up as it is so quaint and retro...

Friday, June 15, 2007

Going to the West Side!

Went to Westside Studio's summer fete last night and the evening was perfect for an outdoor party. They had a lovely surprise for guests. Never mind fancy caterers and posh h'ors derves served by good looking waiters...they had the real summer deal.

They had two vans selling street food -they probably picked them right off of Queen Street. One was an ice cream van run by the coolest ice cream man complete with chef's hat and big moustache. And the second van was dishing out hamburgers, hot dogs and the best hand cut fries you have ever tasted.

This morning, I was excited to download all the candid shots of our evening's treats but when I went to download there was a memory card error and there are no pics to show! So I will try to describe some of what the pics were showcasing. At first there was some fresh cut and greasy french fries, ladled with vinegar and ketchup (we had 3 LARGE servings). They were long and fat and glistening with oil in the moonlight.

Then there were pics of my vanilla caramel twirl soft serve, Erin's chocolate vanilla swirl and Brendan's swirl which he got dipped in chocolate, that dirty dog didn't share that tip with us!

There were other photos of Matt in his tiki hut office, behind the bar with his fez and some with Erin and her nemesis who rode away on her bike - a little tipsy too. Maybe you will see the lovely man who served us ice cream like we were 10 year olds on the street somewhere. Just ask him if he has been to the Westside.

Hopefully someone will send some pics of the real deal and I can post them.

For now I leave you with from one of those vans again - it brings you a little nostalgia and is really fun!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Cuddrireddra of Delia
Sometimes we digress from the task at hand but the cookbook will get some attention this month. This recipe and Sicilian specialty cookie - Cuddrireddra- is probably the main reason for starting to collect Nonna Falzone's recipes.

My grandmother was born and raised in Delia, Sicily and this cookie is only made there. It is like a twisted crown or a carousel and it is magical in taste and history. We always looked forward to eating it and also watching her make it.

Making these cookies would take her the whole afternoon and it involved such skill and fast finger work that it was fun just sitting at the edge of the table and watching. Now my sis and I are going to attempt to make these but I am not sure we have the skill to make them look as perfect as she did.

We were never allowed to help - a trait that Momma Dolce has inherited, as we would not do them properly so due to this none of my aunts or mum can make these cookies. So much for passing the recipe on.... we are definitely stubborn Sicilians! The recipe was in Nonna's head too and she used an odd plastic green cup to measure her ingredients. This cup was probably from one of our toy sets so the exact measurements were never written down.

I have collected the recipe from two aunts, one in Sicily and one in Toronto but I have to say that tasting theirs are amazing but not quite up to par with my grandmothers -I am allowed to play favourites, non?

The ingredients are simple: orange rind, cinnamon, wheat flour, water, eggs, red wine & lard. All deep fried in vegetable oil until they are golden brown.

When visiting family in Delia I visited a young entrepreneur Stefano Strazzieri who has taken this recipe which is so local to the community and has started making it and selling it abroad. Very clever as it is a great specialty and something so authentic to this town that getting it elsewhere is next to impossible. Now you can buy this treat in other parts of Italy and even get it shipped to the UK.

I brought home a tray from my trip and my flat mates did enjoy their Sicilian souvenir.

It is said that the crown like cookie was born as homage to the ch√Ętelaines that lived in the medieval fortresses, which dominated the city of Delia during the war of the Sicilian Vespers.

When we muster up the courage to make these with the guidance of Momma Dolce we will report back....

Monday, June 11, 2007

'Everything that was in the fridge chopped up and cooked together'
This is how, when asked, a handsome gentleman named his recipe.

It really should be called Thai Surprise or JP's Thai Extravaganza but instead this is what came out as it's title - I kinda like it although it would be very long to write on a recipe card for those cute little boxes.

A close competitor to the 'naked chef' in terms of charisma on screen and vigor in the chopping department -the talent and handiwork in the kitchen was equally entertaining. You just have to minus the Brit accent add a kiwi one - change the hair to dark and add more rugged good looks and there you have your Kiwi Jamie O! There was even some singing into a 1970s karaoke microphone which Jamie has never done before...which does give a slight edge.

I was watching on the web cam, kind of like watching the food network, but fuzzier and the sound breaks in and out - so had to guess what was happening when the screen went into pixellated blocks and squint a little at times. A new way of watching live cooking.

Thx J for letting me into your kitchen!

Ingredients and recipe:

Fry onions and garlic in oil and quickly brown the the beef.
Add vegetables and cook them until they are tender
Add fish sauce and curry paste.
Add coconut milk and let simmer for 15-20 minutes.
Garnish with fresh coriander and serve with rice.

Friday, June 08, 2007

When in Rome...
'Hmmmm, I like my cow's fallopian tubes well done - keep up the basting, won't you...'

'Myah, I am putting a bit of cow's fallopian tube in my mouth. I clarified that's what it was with lots of gesturing and aghast faces - I had only been learning Japanese for 2 days at this point so that was about as much as I could handle...

It tasted of the sauce it was marinaded in, so personally I don't really see the point...

It was actually f
ine and if I hadn't been told what it was, I might have thought it was a tiny bit of meat with lots of skin attached - yum!!'

Quotes above from my friend Nat who is traveling around the world for a year and has been having some interesting gastronomic experiences. Currently she is in Japan learning the language and hanging with the locals.

We miss you Nat but are happy you are having fun - and are eating and photographing for the blog. x x

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Salad days

This pic is taken from a city garden. It is a little garden on the side of the fashion-pharmacist's house and it has enough lettuce to feed a small army.

After a day in the sun we had a salad with roasted eggplant/aubergine, steamed cauliflower, tomatoes and olives. The fresh garden salad and all of its toppings tasted delicious!

Home gardens are definitely the way to go...I was very surprised at how large the lettuce was already and how many of them there were.

The garden already had loads of bulb and spring onions and the tomatoes were just starting to creep up their poles...will have to go back for fresh tomato salad soon.

Am going to try and make coffee ice cream and will report back :)

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Love old stoves
This one was in perfect condition and shone. The retro design dials and knobs from the stove are now all the rage in modern furniture, clocks and more. I like this better than modern appliances that are all electronic and with the bland red LED lights.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

FC bathing suit weather
Bathing suit weather is fast approaching am trying to get back into shape after a month of inactivity. Am trying to eat healthy and take vitamins to get back to normal after a busy and stressful month.

On my first weekend off I get a b-day gift of free tix to the Toronto FC game - thx George & Hellen!

Picture it -30+degrees the sun is shining down, smog is high, humidity is higher. We are roasting in the sun, sweating and sticking to the seats but admiring all the lovely men and the amazing atmosphere and spirit of the fans, it was great!

After about 40 min of sweaty viewing we ducked inside to get some water and food. As per the sporting venue stereotype the menu is totally not suited to anyone who is trying to be health conscious or to vegetarians.

What the new 'beemo' BMO field does have is great toilet facilities as there seems to be enough to go around without long queues of women wasting the whole break/intermission (what do you call it at a football/soccer match?) trying to make a nature call and to check their makeup. In our case to splash water on our red arms and legs!

Anyhoo back to the menu, as you will see from the pic lots of burgers, dogs, popcorn, nachos, pretzels, popcorn etc..but nothing remotely healthy. I asked if they had veggie pizza and the guy said that the 'supreme' is the veggie one. When it arrives it is laden with pepperoni and some green pepper (guess he didn't know what veggie was?!) Pizza Pizza must give these people a briefing.

But we ate our pizza we saw someone with fresh boiled corn on the cob, he told us that there was a stall only a few metres away! Next time I guess.

Get to a game it is great fun! Toronto FC won 2-1. I would love to see the Beckham game if anyone wants to get me a b-day gift still...ol' Becky in action with the LA Galaxy would be nice!

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Dos Amigos
If you use Bathurst St as a main road to get downtown you probably pass this place and never really notice it. It is across from the Bathurst & Dupont TTC yard.

Meeting up with old CF'ers we went to Dos Amigos as per the recommendation of our social convener Ashlynn. She comes almost once a week with her hubby so it must be good. And it was.

Fresh, authentic Mexican cuisine served by lovely Mexican ladies and great Spanish music playing on the patio where we sipped our pineapple and lime margaritas.

The pic above was taken in Mexico as once again the camera was at home...(hw) I had the enchilada which is corn tortillas stuffed with chicken, covered in a tomato sauce with cheese and sour cream. The rice it was served with was delicious and there was a little side salad.

The restaurant is owned by two friends (dos amigos) and their site says, 'approx 70% of Torontonians have been to Mexico,' and they say they want to bring a little piece of authentic Mexico home to these people. I think they do a good job at it. The patio is sure to be a hit from now on with the temperatures rising! Minus our tipping mishap it was a great night catching up with old friends.