Monday, September 15, 2014

Canning Tomatoes with Nonna and Shack's Favourite Rigatoni with Tomato and Sausage

It's tomato time! 

 2011  was the last time we spent the day with Nonna and the gang, washing, blanching, grinding, skinning, boiling and jarring bushels of juicy plum tomatoes. Looking at those pictures, I can't believe how much The Kid and his friend, Patricia have grown and wonder how it is possible that as everyone else gets older, Nonna keeps looking younger all the time!

Guardians of the future

If you have never done this before, you might wonder why anyone would work from the crack of dawn until suppertime just to come away with 20 litre bottles of tomato puree? At $20 a bushel for the tomatoes, approx $1 a jar for jars and lids, surely you can just buy cans of decent San Marzanos for a couple bucks and save your lower back and shoulders?

three teens, three adult women plus Nonna and one strong man to tighten the lids and it still takes over 7 hours to process a dozen bushels
As I have said many times, I didn't grow up with any sort of strong, cultural family traditions. We were kind of Irishish, my mom was very far removed from her French Canadian roots and we lived a pretty white bread, 70's existence. We certainly enjoyed a big turkey dinner at Christmas and Thanksgiving, baked ham at Easter and big, family Sunday dinners until I was a teen but nothing that even comes close to the yearly wine making extravaganza, tomato canning or the making of 4 million tamales that other families joined forces to undertake year after year.

Soon, it will be these kids who will take the reigns and grow up to share this family tradition with their own children.

Because our children are now teenagers, they have taken over the more laborious aspects of tomato preserving as they operate the machine that skins and grinds the tomatoes, bringing up the cases of clean jars from the basement and dragging around the heavy buckets of tomatoes in their various states of being. For them, it's time to laugh and gossip and tease and the time passes unnoticed. They are also starting to take turns stirring the bubbling, red mulch as Nonna walks back and forth, adjusting the flame of the propane burner, tidying this and that, bringing espresso, apple cake and cannelloni, gently barking "Sotto, sotto!" when the person wielding what looks like a giant canoe paddle starts to get lazy. You have to stir in a figure 8 or the tomato in the middle of the huge pot will stick and burn and it's the most stressful part of the entire operation.

By dinner time, shoulders are aching, lower backs are twitching and our dogs are barking, everyone is covered in splatters of pulp and the garage looks like a crime scene but our reward lies inside of those ten cases of jars, sitting upside down under heavy blankets where they will rest for the week until we get the call to come and claim our booty.

After it was all jarred,  was just enough sauce to fill 3/4 of a small jar and Nonna told us to take it home, along with another 750ml jar so that I could make Shack some pasta for supper because he must have really worked up an appetite with all of that strenuous lid tightening. You know, I used ot think that I was Nonna's favourite but there is no longer any doubt that it is Shack, our big, strong, jar putter onner, that has won her heart. 

should I be worried? They look pretty cosy together, don't they?

We will be forever grateful to the Altobello family for sharing their knowledge, traditions and, most importantly,  their wonderful Nonna with us.
Oh, and the tomatoes are pretty good too.

it's hungry work and Nonna makes sure that you never lose steam

Shack's Favourite Tomato Sausage Sauce

if I let him, this is what Shack would eat every night for dinner, 7 nights a week. It's important that the tomatoes are smoothly pureed so if you are using canned San Marzano tomatoes, puree them in the blender or with an immersion blender before adding them to the pot

serves approx 6 main course servings or 8 as a first course or 3 if one of your dinner guests is Shack


1/4 cup olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
3 sweet italian sausages
*1 tsp #5 umami paste (leave out if you can't find it but it really enhances the flavour so look for it)
5 cups tomato puree
2 tsp salt (if tomato puree is unsalted - otherwise start with 1 tsp and then to taste)
1 heaping tsp dried oregano
1 handful roughly chopped, fresh basil

Rigatoni, freshly grated romano cheese


Heat the olive oil in a heavy pot until shimmering and then add in the onion. Saute the onion, stirring from time to time, until softened but not browning at all, about 4 or 5 minutes.

While the onion is cooking, remove the sausage from the casings, discard the casings and set aside.

Add in the garlic, saute for another minute and then add in the sausage. You want to break the sausage up so you can keep smashing it down with a wooden spoon as you brown it or even use a potato masher to break it up as it cooks. When no more pink remains, stir in the umami paste, mix well and then pour in the tomatoes. Bring to a light simmer, add in the salt and the oregano and let it cook for about 45 minutes to an hour. Add the basil right at the end and take the pot off of the heat.

Cook a heavy pasta (we like rigatoni with meat sauce) until al dente, drain it and then return it to the empty pasta pot. Ladle in just enough sauce to coat the pasta as you toss it around in the sauce.

Divide the pasta between bowls, ladle more sauce on top and sprinkle with freshly grated cheese.

*Umami paste is a paste made of concentrated anchovy, porcinis and a bunch of other stuff. Loblaws sell PC #5 umami paste. You can order it online at Amazon, Dean and Deluca. It's called a flavour bomb and can be added to just about anything

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Week in Yum Sept 6-12 My Week in Photos Pizzeria Mare, This End Up, Fika and Free Sushi Classes at WindupBird and More

It was a busy week. I took a lot of pictures.
I love the weekends at McEwan's when everyone is giving away free samples - okay that steak wasn't free

Private party at This End Up on Saturday meant more of my favourite, tasty snacks ALL FOR ME!
My first real cocktail at This End Up since I only ever go there for lunch. The Mutt. Oh, it will happen again.

Mare Pizzeria at 158 Baldwin and opened about a week or so. Shack enjoyed a delicious breakfast slice in Kensington.
Nice big slice for about $3

Fika, in Kensington is the prettiest, most feminine little girl's wet dream of a coffee shop I have ever seen. Oh, the coffee is good too but don't go on the weekend if you are in a hurry.

These Atsuete Shrimp Tacos - one of my two recipes entered in a bit of a recipe challenge using Pulo Cuisine Sauces and Marinades

It must be TIFF if I am eating at the Intercon. Tasty BC Salmon with Lavender Sour Cream and Plums at Azure in the Intercontinental

Friday lunch at the Caledon Family Restaurant, formerly known as FlapJacks. Good, solid diner fare. No complaints here.
satisfying tomato macaroni soup that made me miss my mom - greasy spoon staple

would you look at that thick, toasted bread? Really good BLT while Shack had the old man special - sorry that's a hot hamburger on white bread

Friday was haircut day so we stopped by Mare Pizzeria again after The Crow's Nest for some hipster pizza slices. Just as great as it was when we went on Saturday and Shack has declared "might be the best take out slice in the city"

Coming up:

Free Sushi Making Classes for Kids at The Windup Bird Cafe

In an effort to draw attention to the issues of childhood poverty and food security here in Canada, write-chef and food literacy warrior, Sang Kim, offers two free sushi making classes to children between the ages of 8 and 16. The classes are being held at his restaurant, The Windup Bird Cafe on Saturday Sept 30 and Saturday Oct 4 from 3-5pm and there are only 30 spots available at each so sign your kids up!

Click here to watch his 2013 TEXx talk where he shared his childhood experience of hunger and poverty while growing up in a Toronto housing project.

Read more about Sang Kim and all of the fabulous things that go on over there at the Windup Bird

The Toronto Underground Market call it quits after basically launching the careers of the likes of Rock Lobster, La Carnita, Fidel Gastros and the majority of the rock star food truck chefs, most of whom now operate successful brick and mortar restaurants. Tickets are on sale for this event on Saturday Sept 27 at 99 Sudbury. I think we should all attend, wear black armbands and I would say let's form a drum circle but I can't possibly drum when my both hands are stuffed with tacos and dripping grease and hot sauce.
The whole gang will be there, including:  La CarnitaRock Lobster Food Co,Fidel Gastro'sHotBunzzBabi&Co.Big E's Hawaiian GrindsME.N.U Food TruckStuffed & Co.Tequila Tromba

Have you bought your tickets to the Delicious Food Show yet? Aside from the general admission tickets, which get you into the Oct 17-19th event, you can buy tickets for one of the Exclusive Chef's Series with chefs like the delicious Chuck Hughes, the terrifying but brilliant Mark McEwan and the dashing Food Network star Tyler Florence.

You know I will be right there on Friday afternoon to see Mario Batali on the Celebrity Stage hoping to see if he will let me try on one of his orange crocs and sign my pasta pot. A girl can dream.
It's basically three days of non stop food porn with endless vendors offering tastes of their wares, demonstrations and, if you are over 19, lots of adult libations to enjoy.
Check here for the various ticket prices and options

Oh yeah, I am teaching a class at the Musgrave Loblaws this Thursday at 1pm! It's going to be Thai Turkey Skewers and my Cauliflower Fried Rice. To book, click here
Make sure you choose the desired date from the pull down menu 1pm-2pm class from the pull down menu

Pin of the week: Starting to get the Italy itch

Instagram of the week: I am obsessed with these placemats from Bradshaws in Stratford


Post by Patois.

Tweet of the week:

Friday, September 12, 2014

Adventures in Filipino Cooking with Pulo Atsuete Shrimp Tacos and Kare Kare Bola Bola

Oddly enough, Filipino food is quite new to me. Just when I thought I was pretty familiar with every sort of Asian or Southeast Asian food that's out there, I got my first real taste of Filipino food this year and I am on a mission ever since. Because it's a mix of Malaysian, Chinese, Spanish and Indian you would think that I would have come to this party a lot sooner, but better late than never, right? Crispy Pata now runs neck and neck with Chinese roast pork when I need my fix of crispy pork skin and I could take a bath in a big bowl of Arroz Caldo if I could find one big enough.

Because of my new found love of Filipino food, I jumped at the chance to snag a box of sauces and marinades from Pulo , hoping that I could come up with some fresh recipes built around them.

I know, I know, you think that I don't generally use bottled sauces and marinades but that is not true. If the product is not full of preservatives and other things that make my dark little heart sad, I am a fan but I don't often write about them. I am a condiment addict and barely have room in my fridge for food because it is full to the brim with all manner of sauces, hot sauces, mustards, fishy asian things and pastes. These things can be a great introduction to the flavours of unfamiliar cuisines and make life a lot easier when you are running around like a chicken with your head cut off but you still want to make something tasty for dinner.

Pulo sauces and marinades contain no artificial flavours, colours or preservatives and are made in small batches right here in Canada. It's like having a Filipino grandma to make them for me because, clearly, I do not have one of those. All of the marinades work great on their own as a straight ahead marinade but my job is to take it a step farther than that.

After tasting all of the marinades, there was something very familiar about this Lemongrass Atsuete and upon further investigation, I discovered that Atsuete is Annatto which is Achiote! Achiote is a very popular ingredient in Yucatecan cooking, the basis of my cochinita pibil and something that I am very familiar with. Now I had a place to start. I love the fact that most cuisines have overlapping herbs and ingredients and it makes fusing them together more fun. It's like the seven degrees of Kevin Bacon with food, which really is the seven degrees of Kevin Bacon since I have groomed him a couple of times in the past. 

Kevin Bacon. Bacon. Atsuete. Achiote. TACOS!

I groomed him here for TIFF years ago

Tacos made total sense. This mild marinade has a  citrusy, peppery thing going on and the familiar twang of lemongrass just peeks out from underneath. The sweetness of the pineapple goes beautifully with it and the whole thing comes together with the addition of a smooth but spicy avocado cream - cool and hot all at the same time. My main objective was to use these sauces in ways that would be familiar to everyone and to merge them into dishes that most people already eat. These shrimp tacos are the first of two recipes that I loved the best after trying out a number of different things. The second recipe is for Kare Kare Bola Bola which sounds like it could also be a fun dance move instead of a delicious spin on a classic, peanut based stew swimming with delicious little pork meatballs. 

First up, the tacos:

Atsuete Shrimp Tacos

calamansi is a cross between a lemon, a lime and a pineapple and the cans of juice can be found at most asian grocery stores. If you can't find it, use lime juice mixed with 1 tbls of sugar

340 g shrimp, thawed if frozen, cleaned and peeled
about 1/2 cup Cebu Island Lemongrass Atsuete Marinade

1 cup shredded red cabbage
1 cup shredded green cabbage
1 scallion, sliced
1/4 cup calamansi juice drink
2 tbls vinegar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp sesame oil

avocado cream
1 large avocado
/14 cup diced pineapple
1/2 to 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
1 clove garlic, grated
3 tbls calamansi juice drink
small bunch cilantro

To assemble:
corn or flour tortillas, scallions, chopped dry roasted peanuts, bamboo skewers, 1/2 cup extra pineapple chunks

Make your slaw first by throwing the cabbages, and the scallion in a medium sized bowl. Whisk together the calamansi, vinegar, salt, soy sauce and sesame oil in a small bowl, pour over the cabbage, stir well and set aside.

peel and clean your shrimp and put into a bowl with the Lemongrass Atsuete Marinade, stir well and set aside.

To make the avocado cream, put all of the ingredients into the small mini food processor or blender. Pulse and until its smooth and creamy, scrape into a small bowl and set aside.

By this time, your shrimp have been marinating for about 1/2 an hour and that is long enough. Thread the skewers with alternating shrimps and chunks of pineapple - about 4 or 5 shrimps and one or two chunks of pineapple per skewer is good.

Right before you start to cook your shrimp, heat a big frying pan over med heat and start to warm up your tortillas in the hot pan, letting them sit for about 30 seconds per side. Put a clean tea towel down and as each tortilla is heated up, wrap it in the tea towel until they you have a stack of tortillas wrapped up. This will keep them soft.

Heat a grill pan over med high heat (you can also grill them on the bbq or broil them), spray it with cooking oil and cook the skewers for a few minutes. How long they take depends on the size of the shrimp but they are very easy to overcook so keep an eye. When you can see the bottom of the shrimp has turned pinky white and opaque, carefully flip them and cook them another minute or two more, until they are just white and opaque everywhere and then remove them to a platter.

To assemble the tacos, lay down a tortilla, smear some avocado cream down the centre, lay a skewer worth of shrimp and pineapple on top, scatter a handful of slaw and then top with some sliced scallion and chopped peanuts.

The second recipe is:

Kare Kare Bola Bola

My inspiration for this stew like dish was Swedish Meatballs. I imagined sitting at the Ikea in Manila, enjoying a bowl of the thick, peanuty Kare Kare sauce served with plump little meatballs over a bed of rice while agonizing over the choice between the Ivar or the Kallax shelves.

Kare Kare is a popular stew characterized by a creamy peanut sauce that is thickened with toasted, ground rice. It might be made with oxtail, or pork hocks or stewing beef and it is must have whenever there is a celebration of any kind. A traditional Kare Kare is served with a little mound of bagoong, a pungent, fermented fried shrimp paste, on the side but I think a better way to incorporate that flavour into the dish, for those of us who are not used to it, is to put it in the meatballs. That way, you still get a hint of it but it is more subtle and more of a background supporter than right up front as a stand alone condiment.

In the Philippines, they love meatballs, calling them bola bola, mostly served in as sweet and sour bola bola, in spaghetti or meatball based soups. My bola bola are more highly seasoned than a traditional version and because of that, they also stand alone so would be great on their own as an appetizer or in a wrap.

This Kare Kare sauce is not only delicious and vegan (all the sauces are vegan) , but it's the only gluten free product in the Pulo line. Legend has it that this popular sauce was the result of the British sepoy's attempt at replicating an Indian curry and although I would say they failed at making a curry, they certainly scored at coming up with a delicious, new dish. It's really nutty, kind of like a Thai peanut sauce but there is a really nice vinegar tang to it that balances out the richness of the peanut. I really love it.

The boys INHALED this one and I am already thinking about other ways to incorporate this peanut sauce into other dishes.

Kare Kare Bola-Bola

makes approx 27 golf ball sized meatballs and serves 4 to 6 over rice

1 lb ground pork
1 scallion
2 cloves garlic
1 1/2 tsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp kosher salt
*1 tbls Bagoong
2 tbls Pulo Mango Marinade
1/2 to 1 tsp hot chili flakes, sriracha or hot chili paste or to taste
1/4 cup panko

put the scallion and the garlic in the bowl of a mini chop if you have one and pulse until minced or hand mince as finely as possible.
Throw all of the meatball ingredients into a bowl and mix well with your hand. Fry a tiny pinch of the mixture to taste and adjust seasonings if needed.
Put the bowl of meat into the fridge for at least 30 minutes to firm up.

from the upper left: eggplant, dry roasted peanuts, bola bola before going in the sauce, chinese long beans

For the stew
2-3 tbls veg oil
a handful chinese long beans or green beans
1 small eggplant, chopped into 1" chunks
1 clove garlic, sliced
1 jar Kare Kare sauce

garnish: sliced scallion, finely chopped dry roasted peanuts, steamed rice

Roll the meatballs into little 1 1/2" inch golf balls, heat up a braising pan or a sauce pan with a tbls or so of vegetable oil. Cook the meatballs, in batches, rolling around until they are well browned and remove to a paper towel lined plate.

Give the pan a wipe with a paper towel and add another tbls of oil. Add the garlic to the pan and after about 30 seconds, throw in the eggplant and stir around, cooking until it starts to take on a bit of colour. Now, return the meatballs to the pan, add the green beans, cover with a jar of Kare Kare sauce, lower to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes.

Spoon over steamed rice and sprinkle some scallion and dry roasted peanuts over the top.

*bagoon is a Filipino fermented shrimp paste that can be found at most asian grocery stores or online. If you can't find it, sub in a couple of tsp of fish sauce. Sometimes it is called sauteed shrimp paste

Monday, September 8, 2014

Cauliflower Tabbouleh

I made some Cauliflower Fried "Rice" this week and I had a heaping cup of ground up cauliflower left that I didn't want to throw out so I made tabbouleh with it.  Classic tabbouleh is mostly a parsley salad with a tiny bit of bulgur wheat, tomato and cucumber but it's mainly a parsley salad. North Americans can't seem to wrap their heads around the idea of treating parsley as the star ingredient so you are more likely to find it served more as a tomato, cucumber, bulgur salad with just some flecks of parsley in it. For this reason, I don't feel bad about the fact that I really muck about with mine, adding radish, pickled turnip, pomegranate molasses and cilantro. This is the way I like it so, really, it's tabboulehish salad and the fact that I took away the bulgar and replaced it with ground up, raw cauliflower is really just the nail in the coffin at this point, as far as authenticity goes. All that matters is that it's nutritious, delicious, herbaceous, bright and fresh and it also happens to be gluten free. 

It's also great in a wrap with some falafel or leftover souvlaki, a smear of hummus, maybe a drizzle of tahini or tatziki.

Cauliflower Tabbouleh

1 big bunch of parsley, finely choppped 

1 small handful cilantro, finely chopped (about 1/3 cup) 

about 2 tbls finely chopped mint      

1/3 of an english cucumber, finely chopped 

1 large plum tomato, seeded and finely chopped

1 large radish, finely chopped

1/4 cup finely chopped pickled turnip (found at any middle eastern store)                    

1 scallion sliced thinly 

1 carrot grated or shredded    

1 cup finely shredded or ground cauliflower

juice of 1 lemon

3 tbls extra virgin olive oil

1 tbls pomegranate molasses

salt to taste

Put all of the salad ingredients in a large bowl. Mix the dressing in a small bowl and pour over the salad. Mix well, taste, adjust salt. You can serve at room temperature or cold from the fridge.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Week In Yum Aug 30-Sept 5 Back at The Wren and Patois, Bud's Coffee Bar and Spoon and Fork

A fine rendition of our favourite cocktail, The Pimm's Cup @Patois

Okay, okay, I guess my two week break from eating out has come to an end. Either that or my jeans have shrunk. Anyway, here is the week that was:

On Saturday we had to drop off our cosplaying nerd off at the Convention Centre for FanExpo so that he could commune with his tribe and that left us downtown with nothing to do. Nothing to do except drive to Bathurst and Dundas and loiter around the front door of Patois until Chef Craig spied us and ushered us in ten minutes before the official opening hour of 11am.


This was our first brunch at Patois even though they have been serving it for weeks and we were very excited. Shack had spied the Loco Moco on Instagram and already knew that was what he was having on the drive over. The Hawaiian breakfast dish consists of rice, a hamburger patty and brown gravy. Reinterpreted at Patois, their Loco Moco includes the addition of spam, fried plantain and an addictive shallot gravy. I was a bit worried about this choice because he is not normally all that crazy about rice, although he does like rice as a vehicle for some sort of gravy or sauce and this plate was swimming with it, as you can see down there. You break the egg with your fork and let that creamy yolk run down onto the rice, mix in with the shallot gravy.... you get a piece of burger and a bit of spam on your fork, run it around in the eggy sauce.... heaven.

Because I have no self control when there is fried chicken on the menu, I ordered the Hong Kong Waffles with Fried Chicken. For $13.50, I was actually surprised that it came with two huge chunks of crispy on the outside, moist on the inside fried chicken. I could only eat one piece of meat and took the other home for The Kid to eat after Geek Fest and I would have happily shared it as part of a plate sharing brunch. Blond butter syrup, which is clearly some sort of tasty sweetened condensed milk concoction is way better than it has a right to be and, again, it's all in the forking. A little chunk of eggy waffle, a hunk of crispy skinned chicken, a soupcon of peppery watercress and a tiny dribble of sweet sauce and you can start the day with a song in your heart.

By the time we were leaving at about 12:15, the place was starting to get busy but the two people who were sharing bartending and serving duties seemed up to the task. Both were friendly, helpful, the food came in good time and everyone sitting around us appeared to be making the same noises we were making, everyone was pushing dishes around the table so friends could share and appeared to be very happy to be eating here. That's all you can ask for, right?

The Wren

Believe or not, we haven't been to The Wren in ages and we were starving. Our original dinner plans feel through so we made an impromptu, mad dash to The Wren and called some friends and asked them to come meet us there. I almost always have a negroni if I am going to have a boozey drink but, for some reason, I ordered a beer off of the chalkboard list. Kensington Watermelon Wheat spoke to me and although I don't drink a ton of beer, I liked it. A faint hint of watermelon and a nice, slightly bitter after taste worked for me although, as beer seems to do to me, it fills me up and I couldn't finish my meal. I don't know how you people do it with your beer drinking and food eating all at the same time.

Shack had the special, the Burger of 1000 Islands. A nice, juicy beef patty piled high with spicy 1000 islands slaw, sweet pickled red onion, cheddar and dill pickles, it was really quite spicy, as advertised and was deemed delicious. It certainly disappeared quickly enough. 

I had the Smoked Chuck Flats with Roasted Corn Salad (no pics because it wasn't pretty and the light was getting low). The beef, which has been smoked and then grilled and topped with an avocado crema, was delicious. The meat was falling apart tender and I ate every, single morsel but the corn salad wasn't tasty enough for me to put any effort into. Contrary to popular belief, I don't love everything I have ever eaten at The Wren and although I really liked the beef, I wouldn't order this again, although if a tablemate ordered it, I would happily accept a couple bites of meat!

Hank, a creature of habit, had the fried chicken sandwich for probably the fifth straight time in a row, which is clearly a testament to the yumminess of that particular sandwich. Crispy, southern fried chicken with a bacon aioli- HELLO- some pesto, lettuce and tomato and, as always, a giant pile of great fries.

As we were settling up the bill, this lovely lady down there came up to the table and I thought she was going to lodge a formal complaint because I am so loud and obnoxious that I made it impossible for her to enjoy her chimichanga in peace. Imagine my shock and awe when, instead, she said "Are you the Yum Yum Factor?"

Holy crap, a fan! A real, live fan who isn't related to me or paid by me! She said she is a avid reader of the blog, so, I assume that she is reading this right now and I want to tell her that she made my day and Shack has been making fun of me ever since. I will apologize right now if your name is not Wanda because we all heard Wanda but Shack heard something like Jennifer. Shack is also almost deaf and it's a loud place so I am going with Wanda.

I don't think I have ever encountered anyone this happy to meet me unless I owe them money

I did quite a bit of cooking this week, starting with this cauliflower fried "rice" . I keep reading all of these claims that pulsed, raw cauliflower can be use to replace all sorts of grains in all sorts of dishes and after a year of seeing them also stand in for chicken wings, pizza crust and mashed potatoes, I was too curious to let it go. The chance to eat a giant bowl of fried rice, guilt free, was far too appealing so I whipped some up for lunch and gave it to The Kid, who said he would not have noticed the absence of rice if I hadn't told him. I don't know that I would go quite that far, but it is delicious and it is carb free so it is my new favourite thing. Stay tuned for another recipe for Cauliflower Tabbouleh, using the raw, pulsed veg in place of bulgar wheat with great results.

Bud's Coffee Bar

 I am part of a facebook group called Community Cash Mob, where inhabitants of The Beach (or Beaches or Beach Village, depending on your age and how long you have lived here) gang up on local businesses in an effort to give support so we can have nice things. Leslieville is like our evil, prettier step sister who gets all the new, designer shoes and we get the hand me down Birkenstocks due to our ridiculous rents and crazy bylaws that strangle new businesses who attempt to do anything interesting here.

All that said, we do have some fine spots here to dine and buy food and I am happy to report that our newest coffee spot is lovely! Owned by a Leslieville couple, oddly enough, this shop brings a little touch of hip to the beach, selling tasty baked goods from Desome and Beatrice for now, with plans to expand the selection in the future. As of today, there are only a few barstools in the window and no bathroom but I am told that seating is coming although I am not sure the status of the other facilities for those who care about such things. All the coffee used comes from Sam James Coffee Bar in the cities west end and you can also buy a bag of his Cut Coffee to take home, but stay and try a cortado.

Since I was already at Bud's , I ventured a few doors down to Moo Milk Bar for a red velvet cookie

I also spent the week, hard at work, developing a second recipe for Mushrooms Canada and this one involved deep frying and you all know how I feel about deep frying. Why won't T-Fal send me an ActiFry so that I can deep fry without all of this scary, bubbling, potential burning down the house oil??

 Friday came and it was finally 40000C outside so Shack and I put the top down on the car and went for a rip out to Etobicoke because we are insane. When you are flying down the highway, the wind blowing in your hair, it's beautiful but once you have to slow down or stop? Third ring of hell.
Nothing left to do but pop into Spoon and Fork to see what's what.

Spoon and Fork 

 Okay, I will tell you right now, the food gets pretty high marks for what it is. We have always frequented all you can eat asian/sushi restaurants because we have a kid who can eat his weight in sushi and it has been an economical way to let him stuff his skinny face and we have found places that do a great job. We used to love TenIchi at Sheppard and McCowan but it's a hike and it's always so packed we have to wait forever so we don't go as often as we used to. We tried to go to Spoon and Fork last winter and were greeted with an hour wait so we left but for a Friday lunch, we were only one of about ten tables that we could see.
So, the food gets a solid A but the service gets a sad little C. Our server tried to take back the menu for the all you can eat lunch at least five times and it got to the point where the people at the table next to us started laughing everytime she came to take it. THERE WERE TEN TABLES EATING ITS NOT LIKE THEY REALLY NEEDED THAT MENU TO GIVE TO SOMEONE ELSE

We wanted to peruse it and I take notes and its just a well worn, double sided paper menu. It got old fast.

Wasabi was requested three times and finally arrived when there were only two pieces of white dragon roll left at the end of the meal, pop took three requests as well and when he asked for a second pop, she made a very large deal out of the fact that it would not be free! Don't even get me started about the response to our request for a dinner menu to look at so we could read what was in all of the specialty rolls without having to keep asking what was in each one, one at a time, which is what ended up happening anyway because she didn't want to give us a menu.

The good news is that all of the sushi was fresh and tasty, the Bangkok pad thai was so much tastier than I was expecting that we ordered a second portion as our dessert and the green curry, although alarmingly green, was delicious. I love the smaller portions so that you can taste more things and, really, the only thing that we ordered that I didn't love was the basil beef, which had that thick, gelatinous sauce that is the result of too much cornstarch.

The decor is clean, modern and very airy so it won't scare your grandma, it's clean and the food is very tasty and fresh. The dinner all you can taste will set you back almost $30 bucks but at $16.99, it's not the cheapest lunch in town but you really do get a wide variety of dishes to choose from and there are days when I want some sushi AND some green curry and I don't want to have to choose.

Spoon & Fork on Urbanspoon

end the week with a cheap and cheerful Target purchase to brighten up my kitchen

Food & Drink is out at the LCBO which is always an exciting day in the Yum household and it's free, which makes it even more exciting.

The Dirty Bird BBQ  is happening this Sunday  at 1:30pm and I am not entirely sure what it's all about because I am too old but it sounds fun. There is music, DJs, free BBQ until it runs out and it's some San Francisco thing and it's $25. If I was 25 years younger, I would be there with bells on.

Awestruck is happening today, Saturday Sept 6 at 5pm in Celebration Square in Missassauga

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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

I'll Take the Cauliflower Fried Rice, Hold the Rice

Did I miss the memo that cauliflower is the new black or something?

I saw this cauliflower fried rice on The Kitchn the other day and was very intrigued by the idea of being able to eat big bowls of fried rice without actually worrying about the whole eating a big bowl of fried rice part. I already use cauliflower to make "wings"   which was part of a food blogging trend this past year and  although I haven't tried the cauliflower pizza crust, that was happening all over the damned internet as well so I guess I was somewhat aware that cauliflower was a bit of a thing. Curious, I started to google around and found a zillion recipes for dishes using this pulsed cauliflower as a stand in for a myriad of grains like rice and bulgur, for potatoes and I am pretty sure that you can use it to fuel your car, to power your laptop and as a coffee substitute in a pinch. I think I just saw a dog wearing a cauliflower rain coat just today at the park.

Thank god we love cauliflower.

Fast forward to today and I had a hankering for a big old bowl of fried rice and I also had a cauliflower in my fridge. If that is not a sign from the food gods ordering me into the kitchen, I don't know what is. I usually use leftover ham but there was a big chunk of peameal bacon in there. You don't have to hit me over the head with a brick to get me to make it. When you make it, you can leave out what you don't like, add in something else,  like zucchini or onions, throw in a handful of leftover, diced chicken or shrimp. This is a loose master recipe, measurements aren't not exact and the veggies can change to suit your taste.

This is a very simple fried rice, exactly like I  have made a thousand times. I took the Kitchn's advice and covered the pan and let it steam for almost 10 minutes, which is something I wouldn't bother doing if I were using leftover rice. As I was cooking it, The Kid was in the other room on his computer, conquering feudal Japan or something and he started making excited noises, anticipating something yummy to eat.

I plopped a bowl down in front of him and walked away. He started eating and humming and making mmmmm sounds. I asked if it was okay. He said, through a mouthful of food,  and I quote "OMG THIS IS DELICIOUS!"

I asked if it seemed like I had done anything different and he said no so I told him that there wasn't any rice in the bowl because I had used ground up cauliflower instead.

He just kept inhaling it and said, again, through a mouthful of food "OMG THIS IS DELICIOUS" as he continued to eat.

I rest my case.

Cauliflower Fried "Rice"

adapted from The Kitchn

if you are feeling a bit cautious about whether this is going to fly, try replacing half the rice with cauliflower to start and work your way to all cauliflower. Even at half and half, you will still be cutting the carbs, upping the veggie content and ensuring that you can eat twice as much!

5 cups of finely shredded, raw, cauliflower (from 1 small head)
2 eggs, beaten lightly
1/2 cup finely chopped ham or peameal bacon
 2 or 3 button mushrooms, sliced
1 large clove garlic, chopped
about 1" slice of ginger, grated
1 carrot shredded, grated or finely diced
1/2 cup finely diced orange and/or yellow pepper (or red or green too)
1/2 cup frozen baby peas
about 2 tbls vegetable oil
about 2 tsp sesame oil
3 or 4 tbls soy sauce
1 scallion, finely sliced
optional: handful of chopped cilantro, chili oil or hot sauce of your choice, sesame seeds

pulse your cauliflower until it looks like this
*When you make a dish like this, it goes very quickly so it's even more important to make sure that you have all of your ingredients prepped and lined up in little bowls before you start cooking it.

Discarding the core and outer leaves, chop the cauliflower into florets and then put them in the food processor. I had to do this in two batches as my food processor is small. Pulse until it resemble coarse meal or "rice" and remove to a bowl and set aside.

Heat a saute pan over med high heat and add about a tbls of vegetable oil and 1 tsp sesame oil. Throw in the egg and scramble it until it's just done, remove and set aside.

Add another tbls of veg oil and 1 tsp of sesame oil and cook mushrooms and peameal for a couple of minutes, until they start to colour a bit. Push that aside and add in the garlic and ginger and stir it around in the middle of the pan for about 30 seconds, until really fragrant. Add in the carrot, peppers and peas and stir fry one more minute before adding in the cauliflower. Stir to mix it really well, turn the heat down to med low, cover the pan and cook for about 8 to 10 minutes or until the cauliflower is done. Add the egg back in along with cilantro, if you are using it, and pour in 3 tbls of soy sauce. Now, mix really well and taste. If you want more soy sauce, you can add another tbls. This is also when you can stir in some chili oil or a bit of hot sauce if you like.
Put the rice into a bowls or a platter or big shallow bowl to serve, sprinkle the top with the scallions and sesame seeds if you are using.


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