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The Week in Yum May 17-23 A Whirlwind Trip To Ottawa To Eat at Navarra And Lots Of Eating In

ahhh, look at that sway backed, knock kneed , young beauty rocking the sweater vest circa 1969.  I can't even with my mom's patriotic red and white ensemble

I think I kind of love Ottawa. My first real trip anywhere was to Ottawa as a five year old so it holds a special place in my heart. The Doctor ordered my mom to rest when her ulcer got really out of control but our Dr knew that this mother of five and wife to a man who demanded a steak on the table within five minutes of walking in the door would never be able to accomplish this. He told her and my dad that she had to hit the bricks and go visit someone so she decided to take me to visit her oldest sister who worked for the government in our nation's capital. If my memories are correct, I think we even flew there but my mom is no longer here to answer my questions and nobody else in my family remembers anything about it. If I didn't have this terrible photo of me in front of the parliament building, I would be able to be convinced that the trip never happened, to be perfectly honest. We stayed with my aunt Rita for a few weeks and she and my mom did nothing but drink coffee and Blue Nun while smoking endless cigarettes, gossiping in french, laughing and catching up while I was left very much to my own devices in her spacious apartment.

Finally, A New Life For Turkey Leftovers-Tamales



Tamales are a weird thing, for me. Over the years, I have eaten tamales that have made my heart sing and I have eaten tamales that have sunk like a lead ball to the bottom of my stomach.They can be dry as dust requiring an ample dousing of salsa to make them go down so I have gotten to the point where I just don't order them anymore because I never know what I am going to get. You know, just like there are real, live Italian grandmothers out there who use ragu and the green container of "parmesan", there are bad Mexican cooks too. I also realize that there are different styles of tamale, according to the region out there. In some areas of mexico, they are giant blobs of masa dough with a tiny dot of filling and even though they might be authentic,  that is not my jam at all. Traversing the  sea of tamales feels like a minefield sometimes people.



Then there is the fact that some tamales are wrapped in banana leaves or plaintain leaves but I like those that are steamed in a corn husk - I just prefer the flavour that the corn husk imparts to the finished tamale. Most south american countries have their own take on this little masa bundle but I am the most familiar with Mexican style tamales so that is what I set out to make.


By now you are probably wondering why I haven't just made my own tamales by this point, since I seem to have pretty definite ideas about what I like but it's just been too overwhelming. I have spent years reading recipes and techniques. Some people will convince me that you have to whip the lard first and then, just when I think that is the only way to go, someone else will swear that you mix the masa harina with the warm stock and let it sit for a while, whip the lard and add it in after. Most the of the video tutorials will show them smearing the dough on the husk and then others roll it into balls and smash them flat with their palms.
AAGGGGHHHH

Life was just easier when I avoided them altogether, to be honest until I saw that there was going to be a tamale making workshop at The Depanneur and it was not too expensive. Hmmm, maybe I should check that out, I thought. When I posted about it on facebook, my blogger buddy, Heather/ The Tasty Gardener, said she was going to sign up too. Finally, Jen from Picannte Dolce, the woman who encouraged me to start blogging in the first place, signed up and we were off. I was going to go and see what Paola, from Santo Pecado Catering, had to share, preparing for the worst but hoping for the best.

She did a few things differently that made the whole process less intimidating to me and, happily, the resulting tamales were light and moist with a nice, thin coating of masa. I am still going to experiement with these things - I really want to try whipping the lard before adding in the masa in my kitchen aid the next time, for instance, but this is a very simple method and the results were really good.

Paola encouraged us to use our imagination and to replace some or all of the lard with things like duck fat, use spices in the masa if we want and to even try a sweet tamale to serve as a dessert. She said that one of her favourite ways to incorporate her Canadian life into her tamales was to make them with the turkey dinner leftovers - turkey fat and stock in the dough and shredded turkey as a filling.
YES!!
I thought of nothing else adter taking the class. I was distracted by my impending batch of turkey tamales that I could barely concentrate on our Easter turkey dinner. As always, I skimmed the fact off of the drippings when it was gravy time but instead of throwing them out,  I saved them. That night, I hauled out both crock pots and made turkey stock over night. After 24 hrs cooling in the fridge, I scraped off the layer of fat that had congealed on the top of the stock and, again, kept it instead of turfing it. I had to supplement the turkey fat with a couple of tablespoons of manteca to bring the final amount up to 1/2 cup but the resulting masa had a very distinctive turkey flavour.

As far as the cheese goes, I was going to use a softer cheese but my panela seemed like it was past it's prime so I used cojita instead but any soft, mexican cheese would be great. You can get queso fresco at any latin american store (in the east end of Toronto you can get it at Meating on Queen so you don't need to make a trip to Kensington market for fresh Mexican cheeses or corn tortillas anymore).

If you don't have a tortilla press, I highly recommend picking one up. It's so easy to make your own tortillas with one, they aren't expensive and I think it's a really handy gadget to have around if you like to cook Mexican food. If you can't get your hands on one, you can always flatten the masa balls using something with a flat bottom, like a pot as long as you remember to flatten it between a couple pieces of parchment or plastic wrap.


Lastly, these things freeze beautifully and you have a few choices in regards to reheating them. The two most popular ways seem to be popping them in the microwave but my favourite was to pop them out of the husk and fry them in a bit of oil in a covered pan, flipping them a few times, for about 8 minutes. They make a great lunch treat to pop into The Kid's hot food bento or if you have access to a microwave at work or at school, you can heat them up in a couple of minutes.



Turkey Tamales


makes approx 20 tamales

Ingredients:for filling:
2 dried ancho chilis
1/2 cup turkey stock
1/2 cup soaking liquid
1 tbls cumin
1 tbls chili powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp honey
1 big handful of cilantro, chopped
about 800g shredded leftover turkey
for the masa:
2 cups of masa harina
2 cups warm turkey stock
1/2 cup turkey fat from leftover turkey (sub lard or veg oil if you must)
1/2 tsp baking powder
about 1 tsp salt
a few grinds black pepper
dried corn husks
hot water
about 1/2 cup crumbled cojita cheese (you can use any mexican cheese you like or none)



Directions:You will need to pre soak the corn husks for at least 2 hours and even overnight (or all day) if you can. Put them in a deep bowl, cover with very hot water and then put something in there to weigh them down and ensure they will all remain submerged. I used an upturned shallow bowl but a pot lid will work too.
For the filling, you want to heat a dry, heavy skillet over med heat (I use cast iron) and then fry the dried chilis for a minute per side until fragrant and you see a bit of blistering occurring. I just flip them every 30 seconds, pressing them down with a spatula, for a couple of minutes.
Remove the chilis, split them open and discard the seeds and stem. Now put them in a pot with about a cup of water, bring to a boil and then remove from heat and let sit for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, shred your turkey (this makes enough filling to make about three batches so either make them all at once, or, like me, freeze the rest of your filling in two bags so you can make more later) and put in a big bowl.
When the chilis have soaked for 20 minutes, remove them from the water, chop roughly and put them in a blender or food processor. Add the turkey stock, soaking liquid, cumin, chili powder, salt and honey and whiz until it's smooth and totally pureed. Pour this over the turkey, add in a big handful of cilantro and mix well. Set aside.
Now, to make the masa, mix the turkey fat and the masa harina in a big bowl until its mixed in and crumbly - think cutting lard into pastry dough but just use your hands. Now start pouring the warm stock in and continue to mix until its all incorporated. If it seems like it's still to runny, add a bit more masa harina and if it's too dry, add a bit more liquid. You want to end up with a soft dough that is about the consistency of cookie dough. You are now going to roll it into little balls and they shouldn't stick to your hands- if they do, the dough is too damp so work in a tiny bit more masa. Cover the bowl of masa balls (like a golf ball) with a damp tea towel while you get your work area together.
Now, take your husks out of the water, dry them off with a tea towel.
Have your filling, your cheese , your husks and your masa balls all layed out in front of you. This is the part where you might want to enlist a tamale buddy to help (I did them alone which is why I only made one batch lol)

I used a tortilla press lined with parchment to press my little balls out into circles about 1/4 thick because that is how I was taught and I do like the tamales with a thinner layer of masa. If you don't have one, you can totally just flatten the ball out on your hand , put some filling down the middle and close the dough around filling in a torpedo shape. You can also lay the ball onto the husk and flatten it down right on the husk, fill it and use the sides to fold the dough over the filling.
So, now that you know that there are options about how to deal with the masa balls, proceed.
Take a husk, smoother side up, and put the masa on the husk in the manner you have chosen. Put a line of filling down the middle, put a bit of cheese on there if you are using cheese,  close the side over, wrap up and fold over the bottom part, like so:

Watch Heather show you how it's done
Continue doing this until you have used up all of your masa.
You are going to put them in your stainless steel steamer, standing up with the open end facing up. Put a couple of pennies in the bottom of the pot so that you can monitor the simmering water by sound.
Wrap the top with a clean, cotton cloth, cover the steamer with it's lid, bring the water to a boil, then turn it down to medium so it can simmer lightly, steaming the tamales for about an hour. They are ready when the

Serve them with any salsa you like and maybe a bit of crema or sour cream.

The Week In Yum May 10-16 Mothers Day at Pukka, School and North of Mexico


somewhere along the line my little, baby boy has turned into a tall, lanky man

We started Mother's Day off with a bang this year. The kid helped The Neighbour and I garden all day after a trip to the garden centre to buy bags and bags of dirt and mulch - so exciting. After my afternoon playing in the dirt, the boys then whisked me away to a land far, far away. We went to Bathurst and St Clair to Pukka, my new all time favourite restaurant in the city that I reviewed just recently here on The Yum Yum Factor. Shack can be a bit picky...IMAGINE THAT.... about Indian food but, generally, once he is eating it, he is happy. It's just getting him to choose to eat it in the first place that gets tricky for me but I have a feeling that now that he has eaten at Pukka, this might prove to be an easier task.


Pukka was just as good as the first time 
Even the Indian indifferent Shack could not stop raving about everything he ate. I knew he would love their butter chicken, which he did, but it was the tandoori chicken tikka that he couldn't stop raving about. There wasn't even a morsel of food or a wipe of sauce left on anyone's plate by the end of the meal, which The Kid topped off with the dessert trio up there although next time I think he would be happy with nothing but a giant bowl of that chai caramel corn. From beginning to end, the meal was a great success and ensured that I will feel suitably appreciated for the rest of the year.

On Sunday, Shack and I put the lid down on the car and went out for an aimless drive, not wanting the beautiful day to end. We found ourselves in the west end and so we called up our friends, Ivy and Craig, to see if we could coax them into giving us a little sneak peak of their new restaurant, Patois, which is currently under construction on Dundas just west of Bathurst. Even though they had just returned home from a long day of working, they came back and showed us around. We are soooo excited for Craig and wish he would hurry up already so that we can spend our summer eating his special take on the foods of his Jamaican Chinese heritage.

We were going to just walk to Baldwin to eat when we realized that we could all hop in the hot rod and go wherever we wanted, despite the fact that Craig is a giant and the car is not terribly giant friendly. Since both boys are very big but both girls are very not, we hunkered down in the back seat with hour knees up around our ears and set off for Ford Nation. Shack decided to drive them out to Etobicoke for pizza at Dino's, his favourite, new pizza place that we found out there in March and I raved about here.

Okay, here is the really weird thing that happened. As we were driving out there, hair blowing in the wind like starlets, Ivy was texting with a good friend who told here they were just finishing up dinner but didn't say where they were. We pull up to the restaurant (remember, we are downtown folk out in Etobicoke, of all places) and sitting right there, on the patio of Dino's, was that very friend.
doo doo doo doo
doo doo doo doo

we turned two large pizzas into four and each was a delicious as the other
It's not like we all jumped out of the car to eat at one of their mutually , much frequented downtown restaurants in chinatown or something. We were in Etobicoke, a place where Ivy and Craig don't often visit to dine, at a place they had never been to before. Their friends had just finished eating so they pulled up some chairs and sat with us while we enjoyed our pizzas and had a nice chat. I still think they are witches and that their secret plans are to put Shack and I in a pizza pie but if the pizza pie tastes anything like those pizzas up there, I guess I can live with that. There are worse ways to go.

You would think that after our Sunday outing that Ivy had seen enough of me but she sent me a panic text on Tuesday morning asking if I could race over to Liberty village to assist her. She had to get the entire Tafflemusic ensemble camera ready in 45 minutes and one of her makeup artists backed out last minute. Now, since I live in the Beach and the Gardiner/Lakeshore sitch is a disaster, there is no such thing as racing over to the west end at any time of the day, never mind first thing in the morning. It took me a solid hour to crawl over there and I have to say, Google maps need to fire their damned GPS lady because not only is she blissfully unaware of the Gardiner/Lakeshore debacle, she also seems unaware that YOU CANNOT EVEN MAKE A LEFT ONTO KING FROM BAY LIKE SHE CONFIDENTLY ADVISED ME TO DO.

me and the lovely Ivy Lam, makeup artiste
My reward for dragging my sorry, old ass all the way out there was a lovely lunch with Ivy at School in Liberty Village. I used to know Brad Moore, the executive chef, in my previous life and am ashamed to say that I have never been to this restaurant despite the fact that it opened in 2009. His former college St restaurant, Xacutti, was one of our very favourites but by the time he opened School, we had a ten year old and were firmly ensconced in the east end of the city. Xacutti was one of the first places to do modern Indian (hello, my obsession with Pukka makes so much sense now) and although well thought of, School was like the polar opposite of Xacutti and there were too many great places to have brunchy food between here and there for me to travel all the way to King and Dufferin.

pulled pork and salsa verde with a poached egg and an ahi tuna sandwich to share
Since we are kindred spirits who are mistrustful of people who won't share their food, we mutually chose the ahi tuna sandwich and a skillet of pulled pork topped with a tangy salsa verde and a perfectly poached egg. My only beef with the sandwich is that I don't believe anyone could actually consume that thing as a sandwich. I had to take it all apart and we ate the components with a knife and fork. Maybe we just have incredibly tiny mouths but I am really not a fan of these mile high sandwiches and I rarely order them but the elements were all tasty, the generous portion of tuna was well cooked. I just can't imagine being able to squash the whole thing down flat enough to facilitate sandwiching.

I prefered the pulled pork with salsa verde and poached egg but I am a sucker for all three of those things on their own anyway. The hash brown potatoes were kind of salty but I like salty so it was A Okay to me. It's a nice, bright space with good service and tasty food that is on the expensive side for a quick lunch, so keep that in mind.

School Restaurant on Urbanspoon

One of my MVPs took me grocery shopping mid week and after hitting all of the usual east end grocery shopping spots like Costco and Al Premium,  we decided to pop into the newly opened Adonis supermarket at Warden and Eglinton. This is a Quebec chain that boasts a Greek sounding name, the olympic flame as it's logo and even Greek looking font but sells Lebanese goods. Even though I was expecting a Greek grocer, I was not unhappy to find a squeaky clean middle eastern emporium, complete with a glassed in pita factory in the centre ,spitting out warm, pillow soft pita bread. $1.66 got me four good sized falafels, it was 79 cents for a small bag of warm pita and another $3 for a container of freshly made tabule and I had lunch wraps for The Kid for the following two days. This place is a welcome addition to Scarborough and I can't wait to go back and try more stuff.
A wall of tempting Lebanese dishes at the food counter of Adonis


Thursday found us back at The Wren but this time we dragged The Neighbours along with us for their maiden visit. We are always talking about The Wren but when we go out with them, it's always to My Place for wings in the Beach so they were looking forward to seeing what all the fuss is about. He got the burger after finding out that the guy at the next table took the last cubano (the special of the day) and she got the buttermilk fried chicken sandwich and this is how new Wren fans are born. I had the chicken sandwich as well and after taking a couple of small bites, I broke it down, scraped all of the great condiments off and ate it like that. As I just said, I am not a fan of these giant sandwiches but I am a fan of fried chicken and this was as lovely a piece of crispy fried chicken as you are going to find anywhere. The rhubarb tart dessert special was really nice - much better than the last desserts we had there.
speaking of mile high sammys, I had to take this chicken sandwich apart to eat it
We ended the week at North of Mexico, in Scarborough, to celebrate our friend's birthday. They have been there before and were excited to go back and to introduce us to this place. It's not as great as some of my favourite Mexican places downtown but it's the best thing to happen to Scarborough in a long time. After ordering a really big Mojito that wasn't really a true mojito but it was tasty enough, we split some guacamole, lobster quesadillas and carnitas. The $6 taco was actually big enough to split into a couple of tacos if you get some warm corn tortillas on the side so it eases the initial sting of $6 for one taco and it was nicely done. Again, the guacamole was good but I don't expect to pay $10 for an order unless I am somewhere a bit more high end. We needed two orders for the five of us so we are talking almost $50 just for guacamole and one taco each.

a bit of seafood and a whole lot of veggie filler

The real star of the show was a seafood platter that the chef offered to put together for us. Like idiots, nobody even asked about price and I have to tell you, after realizing that four tacos and two orders of guac was setting us back $50, I was afraid to look at the bill. I am happy to report that they charged us $128 for it and although I still don't think it was that great of a price for what amounted to 1 1/2 lobsters, a bit of fish and a handful of shrimps, it was way less that I was fearing and everything was perfectly cooked. The food was on par with the quality of food at, say, Mexican Salsas in Kensington but at much higher prices. On the other hand, it is the best Mexican food you are going to get out there so if I lived that far east, I would go there regularly anyway.

North of Mexico on Urbanspoon

Pin board of the week: i love the stuff pinned to this board

Facebook share of the week: could The Kid be any creepier?????

Instagrammer of the week: Beautiful photos of Oaxaca

Tweet of the week: 

Corn Risotto to Soothe My Springless Soul


Sometimes things can just be simple, you know? It isn't all Risotto al Nero di Seppia around here, although it is often all risotto.



I saw a video of Merill from Food52 whipping up a corn risotto and despite the fact that we won't see local corn until the end of the summer that will seemingly never occur, I can think of little else. I just made a plain risotto the way I always do but took her technique of adding the raw kernels to the finished rice and covering the pot for five minutes to just cook the corn. I had never thought of doing that before and the result in just tender corn and, therefore, a beautiful, crisp texture in that sea of creamy rice. I think the only real change I made was to add fresh thyme to the stock because, to me, corn and butter must also have some thyme in there. I also topped it with some sherried mushrooms because mushrooms are always a good idea but it was delicious all on it's own.

I am counting the days until August when I can make this risotto using fresh, sweet Ontario corn but until then, I will have to be happy with my imported corn, a sweater and a windbreaker and broken dreams of a nonexistent spring.

Corn Risotto

serves 4 as a main dish, 4-6 as a side

Ingredients

3 cobs of fresh corn
6 cups of mild chicken stock or mix of stock and water
small bunch of fresh thyme
1 small glug of olive oil
1 tbls of butter
1 small onion, finley diced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
3/4 cup white wine (I used a pinot grigio)
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan
2 tbls cold butter, cut into chunks


Directions

Cut the kernels off of the corn and put the cobs in a pot with the stock and a few sprigs of thyme. Bring to a boil and then turn it down so it's just barely simmering and let the corn cobs steep while you get everything else ready (at least half an hour). When it's time to cook the risotto you can remove the corn cobs if you like but I just leave them in because they continue to steep as you cook the risotto. Turn the heat to low so that the stock stays hot but isn't boiling at all.

Melt a small glug of olive oil (approx a couple of tbls if you must be so precise) and the butter in a deep pan or pot (as always, my 5qt Le Creuset dutch oven works perfectly) over medium heat. You want a pot or pan that has a lid for this one.

Saute the onion until it softens for a few minutes, add the garlic and saute for another minute before you throw in the rice. Stir the rice around in the pan for a few minutes until it starts to look opaque. Now we are ready to start adding liquid.

Pour in the wine and start to stir. You will stir constantly for the next 18-20 minutes so get comfy. The liquid should be simmering in the rice- if you keep the heat too low it will not get as tender and creamy. Stir the rice until the liquid is almost completely absorbed before you add the next addition of liquid. The easiest way to do this is to keep a ladle in your pot of very hot, not simmering, stock on the back burner.

After the wine absorbs you start adding the hot stock, one ladle at a time, stirring constantly until the liquid is almost completely absorbed and then add another ladle. You are going to do this for anywhere between about 18 and 20 odd minutes. At the 15 minute mark, I start to try the rice and I spoon out a tiny bit every minute from there on in to make sure I don't overcook it. When it's done it will have a bit of bite to it but be soft and clearly cooked - al dente just like you want in a pasta.

When it's finished, remove the pan from the heat and with a wooden spoon, beat in the parmesan and cold butter until it's completely incorporated. Now, fold in the raw corn kernels, mixing them in thoroughly, cover the pan and let sit for five minutes while you get the serving bowls together etc. This five minute steam will just cook the corn so that it will still maintain a tiny bit of crispness and texture.

I served with mushrooms but it would be great alone.

The Week In Yum May 3 -May 9 The Beech Tree, Matcha, Lentil Hunting with Michael Smith and Delecq

Charcuterie, cheese and smoked mackerel pate at Delecq, a brand spanking new wine bar in The Beach


I have been doing the week in yum for almost a year now - okay, I started doing it in July but it's almost a year so shut it. Anyway, over the year it has become more and more popular and I find that I spend as much time eating out, attending food type media events etc more and more. It almost feels like I spend as much time eating out and sharing that stuff as I do cooking and sharing recipes. It is time to freshen up what was originally just a little blather about what I ate that week to make it more useful for those of you who are reading. I am going to streamline my mini reviews, add in a little section where I alert you to any fun food events coming up and I am now going to share a new Instagram user and Pin Board of the week since I now follow so many people that it is becoming impossible to just choose one actual pin or photo.

Okay, that said, let's see how my week shaped up:

The Beech Tree
Finally, a full dinner at The Beech Tree on Kingston Road,  heart of my heart new restaurant just a stone's throw from my front door that is going to make life in the Beach worth living. Saturday was the Avalon Montessori (our magical unicorn school) annual fundraising party at The Balmy Beach Club so it made perfect sense to meet up with friends at The Beech Tree for a pre party dinner. I made reservations for 6:30pm and was worried that we would toddle in for the senior's blue plate special but it was already half full so we were not the only people who wanted to dine early on a Saturday night.

Shack and I were thrilled to see that the pimped out pim's cups that the bartender made us on our first visit are now on the menu so it was a round for the table. Our dinner guests are from Tennessee and this was their first experience with a pims cup and they were suitably impressed with this cocktail that came overflowing with fruit, fresh mint and even a sprig of rosemary that she crammed in there. I am not sure that it tastes like a true pims cup but it is delicious and I will happily consume these all summer.




We ordered the brie mouse, cauliflower and stilton on bread and a larger app of lamb sausage with fennel, red peppers and chickpeas to share and the green salad. The mouse was as light and airy as the last time we had it and I am still kind of in awe over this brain bender of a dish. My momentary disappointment in finding out that the rabbit arancini was off the menu was waylaid by the arrival of the cauliflower and stilton on toast. This chef has a way with cheese, I must say. He manages to make two potentially heavy cheeses and turn them into something light and subtle - even picky Shack ate some of it and he professes to hate blue cheese. 

Lamb sausage was great and the perfect size for sharing with each of us getting a chunk of sausage and a big scoop of the vegetables. Rounding out the apps was a really nice green salad that was sitting on top of some sort of buttermilk cream that you sort of scraped up with every forkful. YUM

We girls both ordered the pork tenderloin and cheek of whey fed pork and the guys had steaks and let me tell you, every little piggy in the world should be fed whey. Sunchokes don't always do it for me because they are kind of starchy and can be dull and heavy but the ones that came with my pork were almost caramelized, tender and full of flavour. I only managed one little bite of the steak due to the selfish hoovering of said steak by Shack but it was a delicious little bite. Judging by the sparkling, clean plates at the end of the meal, I think we can assume that the steak was very, very good. 

Both couples finished the meal by sharing a piece of flourless chocolate cake with maldon salt and creme fraiche. I think we will be taking many an after dinner walk to The Beech Tree just for dessert if they keep this cake on the menu. Rich, creamy, not dense the way flourless chocolate cake can be, with wonderful bursts of crunchy salt.

After dinner Shack won this foodie basket for me at the fundraiser thankfully since we were out of coffee
`

Sunday we ended up a the Pickering Flea Market for some reason so, when in Rome...poutine, cabbage rolls, pierogi, a patty and British Crisps for breakfast? Why not?

Kiss Me Organic Matcha

Kiss Me Organics sent me a bag of their organic culinary grade matcha powder recently and so far, I love it. At $30 for a 113g bag, the price is certainly right - don't confuse this with the super expensive tea grades that you will find out there. For the same amount of top end matcha, you are looking at much higher prices. The ceremonial grade matcha at Teavana, for example, is $35 for only 80g and that is the low end of ceremonial grade and I have seen it go as high as $50 for a tiny 30g tin.

Matcha comes in grades all the way from Ceremonial, which is the highest grade meant for tea drinking as koicha, or thick tea style all the way down to culinary grade which is meant for use in baking, ice cream making, smoothies etc. The culinary grade isn't in any way "bad" tea, it's the same tea leaves but they use the more mature leaves and the stems aren't fully removed. Unless you are a green tea expert and/or plan to do the whole matcha thing with the whisk, the bamboo bowl, the perfect temperature water etc there is no need to buy the higher grade matcha to make a green tea latte at home.

I haven't baked with it yet but we have been putting a tsp in our morning smoothie and I have made a green tea latte or two. I love Starbucks green tea lattes and thought I was being a good girl by getting it made with 2% milk and only 1/2 pump of sweetener until I started poking around and found out that there is more crap in it that I didn't know about. The "matcha" powder they use has ground green tea, sugar, flavourings and finally some actual matcha. What the hell are "flavourings"?

Now I understand how a grande green tea latte with fat free milk can still be so high in calories - they all come from hidden sugar and there is no need for any "flavourings" at all so now I just dissolve this matcha powder in a bit of hot water, steam some 2% milk and froth it with my immersion blender, add a bit of honey, mix it all together and I am good to go. 

The only draw back is that this Green Tea is only available from Amazon but since I am a Prime member, I get free shipping and it arrived in two days. I am writing this at 9am on Monday and the site says that if I buy it within the next six hours, it will arrive by Tuesday so it really doesn't get quicker than that. I also know that not everyone lives in downtown Toronto with easy access to a ton of Japanese grocery stores and speciality tea stores so the online option is certainly handy.

Bottom line is that I was given the first bag for free so I could try it, review it and all that stuff but when this one runs out, I will be buying myself the next bag. 

My favourite smoothie combo, so far has been:

3/4 cup vanilla soy milk
1/4 cup non fat greek yogurt
1/2 frozen banana, cut in a couple chunks
1/4 cup frozen strawberries
1/4 cup baby spinach
1 tsp Kiss Me Organic Matcha

throw everything in the blender and whiz until pureed





Tabule
I am not going to go on and on about Tabule in Leslieville because it's the third or fourth time I have eaten lunch there so, clearly, I love it. It's already been in The Week In Yum twice as you can see by reading it about it here. This week, I met up with my blogging babes, Robyn from Planet Byn and Libby Roach so that Robyn could finally taste the wonder that is the Tabule falafel. To be honest, everything at Tabule is delicious it's just the falafel is so often made badly that when you eat a perfect specimen, it's always a big deal. I have still not been to the Yonge St restaurant because it is not convenient for me so I can only vouch for the Queen St E outpost and this I can do whole heartedly. We shared those, a plate of hummas, tabule and labni, the spicy shrimp and some ma'anek which are just little spicy Lebanese beef sausages which I don't find particularly spicy but they are tasty nonetheless. 

Another fine lunch at Tabule with my girls

nothing is more obnoxious than a table full of us, photographing all of our food at the same time


Tuesday brought a lovely corn risotto so I could pretend it's warm and sunny out there
May is Love Your Lentils Month
On Wednesday, Canadian Lentils was hosting a kick off to their Lentil Hunter series with Chef Michael Smith. There is a great contest that coincides with the whole shebang at Love Your Lentils and all you have to do is watch all of the videos in the series, spot the little mini chef in each video and correctly answer the questions for all five videos. Chef Smith travelled to Morocco, India, Italy, France and Dubai to learn more about how lentils, deeply imbedded in each culture, are treated. I was shocked to learn that Canada actually produces the majority of the world's lentils with India coming in at a distant second. This was a fact that absolutely floored me because I just assumed that because India's cuisine almost hinges on the lentil that they would be the top producer.
Classic Umbrian lentils with spicy sausage were a fave
At Cirillo's Cooking Academy we were treated to a little culinary tour of lentil dishes and got to sample something from each country, ranging from a typical Indian dal to a crispy fritter Smith had in Dubai that contained nothing more than red lentils and spices but was one of my favourite lentil treats of the evening.
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It was a fun evening listening to Chef Smith share his travel stories and his passion for this Canadian agricultural powerhouse. It would seem that I have horseshoes up my bum right now because not only did I grab the grand prize in the Recipe Revelations Challenge but I won a great carry on suitcase from Projekt in a random draw that night (perfect for my upcoming trip to Portugal!) . I entered the Love Your Lentils contest this morning after watching all five videos so I am hoping for a 3X win! I would be a human Lentil Triple Crown winner, change my name to Triple L (lucky lentil lover) and take to wearing a bridle in the kitchen.
the man is seriously the friendly giant

Delecq
Last but not least, I took Shack down to Queen St to check out our new, neighbourhood wine bar, Delecq. Hopes were high because if this place is good, it means we will finally have a spot that we can walk to where we can grab a glass of wine and some nibbles without the $20 cab trip home from Leslieville. I chatted with one of the owners and he is full of enthusiasm with hopes to bring in more tasty, seasonal treats to add to the menu. At this point, they are a cafe by day,  offering breakfast sandwiches and pastry and then charcuterie and cheese plates, some smoked fishy treats, a couple of salads and some sandwiches in the evening. Of course, they have a small but lovely wine list seeing that they are a wine bar.
 We both had a glass of red wine - I went with the Chilean Porta Cabernet Sauvignon reserve for a reasonable $8/glass and Shack tried the Italian pinot at $9. Since we were very peckish we ordered the mixed charcuterie/cheese plate that came with some branston pickle, arugula and these gorgeous little red pickled peppers from France. It was just the right amount for the two of us to share. We added  a caesar salad, the daily selection of olives and smoked mackerel pate to turn it into dinner. If The Kid would have been with us, he would have grabbed a fork and ate the smoked mackerel straight out of the ramekin like it was a bowl of pudding but since only I was eating it (Shack is not about the smoked fish) it was the only thing that was left unfinished.

The cheese was delicious but neither of us can figure out why it was served all crumbled up into little pellets. Perhaps the next time I will request that they just serve each cheese in a one little chunk  but the actual cheeses themselves were great.

Sure, there are a couple little bumps to be smoothed out here and there but with only one week under their belt, just opening May 1, it is a much needed addition to The Beach and once they get their sea legs, they should enjoy a very busy summer.

Fun things coming up this week:

This Monday, May 12m The Ontario Wine Society is hosting a little wine pop up at The Vintage Conservatory at 100 Lombard from 6-8pm for $20. This one will feature wines from Tawse and Sprucewood Shores. 

Crave TO is coming up so you might want to get tickets now. The fun outdoor event is being held on May 30 at Wychwood Barns and tickets are a very reasonable $20. Lots of great street food, craft beer and a trio of DJs make the event a must visit.





Facebook share of the Week: seems like a no brainer but it's not

Tweet of the week: 

Pork Tacos with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce and Scallion Radish Pickle



Oh Cinco de Mayo, how I love you because you are another excuse to throw a pork roast in the oven and make some tacos. Okay, I don't really need an excuse to do that but sometimes it's nice to be put yourself on the spot when you realize it's been ages since you have roasted up a big, old chunk of pig to wrap in stack of corn tortillas. Sometimes we all need a push.

I like to use this David Chang recipe for pork sometimes because the meat comes out delicious, with crispy, crunchy bits but the flavour is neutral and I can use it for a ton of different things afterwards. A bit of ginger scallion sauce with some gochujang something or other and it's kind of Korean or add some smoky BBQ sauce and I have a pulled pork sandwich. Since this was a big 10 lb picnic pork roast, I wanted lots of leftover meat that could be repurposed. I am not even going to link to any one of the 100000 versions of this recipe that are out there because everyone makes it, everyone tweaks it and all you need to do is google "momofuku pork roast" and you will see for yourself. This is the version that I have finally settled on that works for me.

I had great success with my roasted red pepper sauce that accompanied my squid ink arancini so I made another roasted pepper sauce for a nice change of pace from tomato and a radish scallion pickle in place of my usual pickled red onion.


Here is the roast directly after it's 6 hour slow roast and right before it goes into the 500F oven for it's final sugar rub caramelization and how it looks after when you are ready to pull it apart.

One word of warning:
When you get to the end of the caramelization stage of the final sugar rub, don't decide that now is a good time to chat with The Neighbour on the porch for a minute or two.
luckily it was pretty much just fat coated with sugar that burnt and the meat was delicious under it's protective carbon coating



Momofuku Pork 
1 10 lb picnic roast, shoulder or pork butt
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup coarse salt ( I use kosher)

2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 cup brown sugar


Put your pork in a bowl.
Mix the sugar and salt together and then rub it all over your pork. Cover and put it in the fridge for at least 6 hrs or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 300F
Remove your pork from the bowl, discarding all juices, and put it in a roasting pan (I use a big cast iron skillet). Make sure you get rid of all the liquid in the bowl but you don't need to rinse off any salt/sugar that is still clinging to the pork.
Roast in the oven for 6 hrs, basting it in it's own fat every hour.
Remove from the oven
Crank the oven up to 500F

Mix the 2 tsp of kosher salt together with the 1/4 cup brown sugar and rub that all over your pork. Return to the oven and cook for about another 7 to 10 minutes or until the fat starts to bubble and the sugar melts and turns dark, forming a nice, caramelized crust. (Careful not to let it totally burn in the bottom of the pan)
Remove from the oven and let sit about 15 minutes and then start pulling the meat off with two forks so you get nice, shredded pork. Discard all of the big chunks of fat and any bone.




Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

1 lb roasted, seeded, sweet red and yellow peppers
1 roasted, seeded jalapeno pepper
1 small handful of cilantro
2 cloves garlic
1 shallot, chopped
3 tbls toasted pumpkin seeds
1 tbls sherry vinegar
1/2 tsp chipotle powder
pinch kosher salt (to taste)

*to roast the peppers you can grill them, broil them or cook them over the flame of your burner if you have a gas stove. Just cook them until they are blistered and have black spots on them. Put them in a bowl and cover with a tight fitting lid or plastic wrap and let them steam for at least 10 minutes. Rub the skin off ( I kind of like leaving the odd black bit on so I don't do this with surgical skill), half them, discard the seeds. Please be careful with the jalapeno because the seeds are hot. If you are sensitive, wear plastic gloves when handling them but otherwise, just be very careful, wash your hands a couple of times with soap afterward and avoid touching your eyes or any other body cavities - NO PICKING YOUR NOSE)

Put the peppers, the jalapeno pepper, cilantro, garlic, shallot, pumpkin seeds and sherry vinegar in a blender and puree. Taste, add a pinch of kosher salt, pulse a couple times, taste again. If you want more salt, add it a wee bit at a time until you are happy.

Set aside.

Scallion Radish Pickle

Juice from 1 big lime (about 2 tbls)
juice from a mandarin orange (about 1 tbls)
1 tbls olive oil
about 4 good sized radishes
3 or 4 green onions, thinly sliced or finely julienned
couple tbls finely chopped cilantro
1/2 to 1 whole roasted jalapeno, minced
pinch salt, grind of pepper

Mix everything together, squeeze the juice from the lime and the orange over the top and toss. Set aside (if your limes are small and not too juice, use more - you want about 2 tbls of juice).

You can eat it right away and it will be crisp and fresh but I also like it after it has sat for a longer time and everything gets all pink just like when you pickle red onions. It's up to you but it's great both ways.

For Tacos:
shredded pork
roasted pepper sauce
scallion radish pickle
corn or flour tortillas

If you are using corn tortillas, heat them in a dry pan over med to med high heat. Heat them about 1 minute per side and then remove to a clean tea towel where you will keep them wrapped so they can steam a bit and soften. Take out the tortillas as you eat them so the remainder stay soft and warm, wrapped in the tea towel.
If you are using flour tortillas you don't need to heat them.

Put a line of shredded pork down the middle and spoon some pepper sauce and radish scallion pickle over the top, roll it up and eat.


The Week in Yum - Ascari, Pukka

beautiful welcome cocktail of prosecco with pomegranate at Pukka


Ascari Enoteca
The Kid had a sleepover on Saturday night so Shack and I were lucky and loose, once again. Originally intending to go out clubbing ALL NIGHT, we ended up taking cab to Leslieville with the intention of popping into Goods and Provisions at long last. We walked in the door and turned right around and walked back out. Honestly, how the hell can people hear themselves think when it's that loud? Never mind hold an actual conversation with another human being. Maybe I am just getting old and cranky but I just can't do it. I am sure the food is wonderful and the libations delightful but if I wanted to blow my brains out with super loud music, at least I will pick my own playlist. 

We passed Glas wine bar and stopped to read the menu but Shack poo pooed that too and I feared that our night was going downhill fast when I spied Ascari Enoteca across the street. We first dined at Ascari when it was a brand new restaurant back in 2012 (you can read my review here ) and since the only real way to Shack's heart is through a great bowl of pasta, I knew this was the way to go. Because it was crowded (It was now almost 9pm on Saturday, after all) we sat at the bar, which is our preference anyway. 

I started off with a glass of prosecco and Shack got a glass of some sort of Italian red. I am ashamed to admit that I forgot to write it down because it was very good and I would like to have it again. Because I also knew that he had been craving carbonara for a couple of weeks, we ordered that immediately, as well as rabbit arancini, the salumi plate and some hen of the woods mushrooms in a light broth with a poached egg on top. This is the second time in a couple of weeks that I have seen rabbit arancini on a menu so it must be a thing and that is something that I am not going to argue about. It was a great little crispy ball of bunny and the salumi plate was the perfect size with a nice little trio of meats to amuse and delight but those mushrooms were my favourite thing of all. If you would have given me that plopped on a little bit of pasta I could have skipped the rest and called it a night but Shack needed his carbonara. 


Because we told our lovely bartender that we would be sharing it, he had the kitchen split the order into two little bowls, each with it's own raw yolk perched on top, waiting to be stirred into the hot pasta. I was actually pretty full from our apps so I ate half of my portion and slid the rest over to Shack. This is love, people.

With the intention of catching the streetcar up to the subway so we could have a nightcap at The Wren, we ended up at the corner of Broadview and Queen just in time to experience a little gaggle of drunk girls fighting. As charming as they were, the fact that my handy TTC app told me that the King car was still about 7 or 8 minutes away but the car back to The Beach was coming up in about 1 minute, we hopped on the Queen car and made our way back home instead. 

Clubbing all night, indeed.

so rare that I can get great pictures at one of these events

Pukka
Filed under starting my week off with a bang: Fellow blogger, momwhoruns, invited me to a media event a new restaurant that has been getting a lot of good buzz in the west end called Pukka, a hot, new restaurant serving fresh, modern Indian food with a kick ass little wine list full of unexpected treasures. I know, I know, you think that if you are eating Indian it's either beer or maybe a safe, riesling but you are dead wrong. Co owner, Derek Valleau is a sommelier in his own right and he has collaborated with his long time friend, wine man about town, Scaramouche sommelier Peter Boyd.



Boyd comes in one day a month to head up a wine event for a very reasonable $50 a person and I love that they warn you, right up front, that it's going to get boozy so don't drive. 

You can find a full review here but let me tell you, this place is great and if you live in the west end, this place (on St Clair W of Bathurst) should go into your regular rotation. If I didn't have to take a bus, two subway trains and a streetcar to get there, I would be going back by the end of the weekend.

indian that is beautifully plates, delicious and really great, unexpected wines to go with

Props to Vicky at momwhoruns for organizing one of the best media events I have attended in a long while. Not only were both owners and the resident wine guru in attendance and eager to answer all of our questions, she had them plate up each dish specifically for photographing. The beautiful plates were lined up right beside the window and we all descended on them like a pack of starving piranhas


From the welcome glass of prosecco with pomegranate to a little trio of desserts and a cup of fragrant chai tea, it was a lovely evening and a meal that I would have happily paid for.


At that little media dinner I had the good fortune to meet Adam Waxman who is the publisher of a brand new magazine called Dine Travels. It's a new offshoot of the popular Dine Magazine , published my his mother Sara, and he invited me to the launch party that very week. My invite included a +1 so, of course, I dragged along the lovely Robyn, of Planet Byn to the rooftop bar at The Thompson Hotel. Bowls of crab legs, oysters and huge shrimps on one side of the bar and long platters of giant hunks of beautiful cheese and charcuterie on the other provided me with my bloggers dinner of bites and cocktails. We met some great new people who I think will provide me with some fun new experiences to write about in the coming days and we had a great time. The magazine will come out yearly and it's a really beautiful, big, glossy thing full of interesting articles and nice photography.

As far as the rooftop bar at The Thompson Hotel, I will most certainly be dragging Shack back there for a cocktail as soon as the weather warms up. It is beautiful with stunning views of the city and even though I am not quite fabulous enough for such a place, I am hoping Shack's coolness will make up for it.



So, I am hoping to start teaching cooking classes at the Loblaws Cooking School and since my very first "What's For Dinner" demo is coming up, I decided to go catch a class and see what it's all about. When I got there I was thrilled to bump into my friend, Andrew, who is also going to teach a What's For Dinner class this month!  It's a good thing I went as well because, as it turns out, Loblaws and I had the dates messed up and so I decided to stick with the date that they had me booked for. This means that I am no longer doing the June 5 class. I am now going to conduct the May 29 class, same bat time, same bat cave. If you want to come and heckle me, here is the info on booking a spot.

Andrew and I sampling the competition's fare
Some fun things coming up for Toronto area peeps:

26 Niagara Region Wineries participate in this event that will take place every weekend in May, Friday to Sunday. You get to winery hop and taste grilled foods paired with tasty wines for the cost of a $43 dollar pass that is good for every weekend


Chocolate Dinner
A dinner for chocoholics everywhere is happening on Thursday May 9 at Boccone, 1378 Yonge st. For $130 (25% of proceeds go to Second Harvest) Patissier Eyal Liebman will thrill you with 6 courses of his culinary creations while his sommelier wife, Rebecca Mer pairs each course with wines from Henry of Pelham lisfor.ca




Facebook share of the week: I truly will die of kitchen envy one day


Tweet of the week: 

Modern Indian and Crazy Good Wine at Pukka



Sometimes I feel like bag of hammers but other times, I am the luckiest girl around. I get invited to my share of food events and menu tastings but occasionally I get to attend one that feels more like a great dinner out with fantastic wine at a place that I would happily return to every week if it were just a bit closer to me. Fellow blogger, momwhoruns, invited me to a media event to introduce items from the spring menu for a new restaurant that has been getting a lot of good buzz in the west end called Pukka. I won't call it an Indian restaurant because owners Harsh Chawala and Derek Valleau would prefer that it be known as a great restaurant that happens to serve Indian food. I understand the difference. It's not the we don't have other high end Indian restaurants, like Amaya's Indian Room which is also a favourite, but this place feels just a bit younger. I could totally see myself coming here with a big group and making lots of noise celebrating something at the massive front table. 

prosecco with pomegranate 

Derek, a sommelier himself, said that he was inspired by a visit to Vij's in Vancouver and wanted a place where you could pair great wines with the flavours of India in a warm, inviting environment. He has enlisted the talents of longtime friend, Peter Boyd (sommelier at Scaramouche since forever as well as working with most of the top level chefs in the city at some point) to create a small but diverse wine list with some really surprising choices. The guy is absolutely without pretension and doesn't make you feel like a half wit, which I am, when he is explaining the unique challenges of pairing wine to the flavours of Indian cuisine. 

pakoras

It's easy enough to just throw a riesling at a curry but a Côtes du Rône? Get out of town.
He poured us a Domaine Des Lauribert  Côtes du Rône along with our main dishes and it made the food sing. Sing, I tell you!

south indian vegetable curry - look at those colours
tawa monkfish

tandoori chicken tikka with an unexpected green, herbal hue for a change of pace
The white we had with the salad and appetizers was something I have never even heard of but it's grassy smell gave way to a nice, dry, fruity taste (he later told me that it was the peach flavours that make it work exceptionally well)  that even went nicely with my salad - I don't often like to drink wine with really acid foods like salad, but this glass of '12 Gruner Vetliner, Rabl (what the hell is that? which one is the actual grape??) from Austria was perfect. As for the salad, it was one of my favourite things on the menu - bitter greens and paneer with spiced pumpkin seeds and a chili orange vinaigrette. Do you know how tasty a salad has to be to have me say that about a place serving Indian? That I loved the salad?

bitter greens and paneer

Boyd comes in one day a month and they do a wine event for a very reasonable $50 a person and I love that they warn you, right up front, that it's going to get boozy so don't drive. 

come on, fiddle heads and paneer for the love of pete

okra fries that fooled me into eating half this container

Anyway, the food, served family style to facilitate sharing,  was fabulous. I was truly overjoyed when I saw that the chefs had incorporated fiddleheads into a dish because although I am pretty sure that fiddleheads might be found in parts of Northern India but it's not something we often see on Indian menus here in Toronto. I even ate and thoroughly enjoyed their okra fries and okra is the only vegetable on earth that I generally despise. I inhaled half the order before I realized that THESE were the okra fries - crispy, not oily or slimy. I have spent my entire adult life listening to people try to convince me that they can make okra that I am going to love it and it never happens. Well, it just happened. If this place was in the east end, I would drop in at least once a week for okra fries and a glass of wine at the bar. Damn you west end. Damn you to hell.

butter chicken
The universal favourite, butter chicken, was rich and creamy with a hint of sour - it was milder than I like but it was buttery and delicious and came in a lovely little vessel. I also really enjoyed the Tawa Monkfish with it's tangy, fresh mango, tomato and red pepper sambal. It's something I could see myself eating all summer. 

To be honest, the only dish that didn't work for me was the Seared Spiced Duck Breast. Perhaps it was a hair undercooked but it was a kind of hard to cut and my table neighbour and I found it chewy and a bit too much work to eat. Out of the 8 or 9 dishes I sampled, the duck is the only thing I wouldn't order again so I think that is pretty impressive.

All in all, my only complaint would be that I would like a bit more heat in some of the dishes but I did notice that other tablemates were reaching for nan and water so they might actually be catering to the majority of people who will find it about as spicy as they can handle comfortably. The servers appeared to be attentive and knowledgeable - it was nice that the restaurant was open and functioning so that I could observe how the other diners were being treated. Often at these organized events you don't really get a feeling for the vibe of the place during a regular dinner service because they are only dealing with the invited group of people who are going to tell people about their experience so we aren't always getting the same treatment as your average customer. I also got there way too early so I got to wander around and take pictures and nose about. Everyone dining there appeared to be quite content and left with happy faces and unbuckled belts.

seared spiced duck breast wasn't my favourite but the presentation was beautiful

Desserts were better than I expected with a chocolate mousse cake packing a bit of a heat punch leading the pack. I was looking forward to the Eton Mess but I only found one tiny piece of meringue in my serving. I think that was more about the fact that they gave us a small sample of each dessert and I assume that if you order the full sized dessert, this wouldn't be a problem. The flavours were nice and fresh but keep in mind, if you don't like the flavour of oranges, you want to skip it. It's a very orangey eton mess. Carrot cake was my least favourite of the three, which is strange because I generally love carrot cake. When I eat here again, I will skip dessert and just eat more food but if are a dessert person you will find something to your liking. 

I did not manage to get any photos of dessert because by that time it was dark, I had enjoyed a few glasses of delicious wine and my camera seemed to be very far way, on the floor, in my bag. It's the sign of a good night out when I can't manage to capture any of the desserts so you can consider the lack of photos a good omen.


oh yes, I will be back


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