Category Archives: Cooking

Creamy Curried Shrimp Salad (aka, Jamie Oliver’s Guilt Trip)

Being a physician tends to put a kibosh on any of my culinary adventures.  When I get home, I’m usually exhausted and want to exert as little energy as possible to put food in my belly. Over the years I have mastered the art of the cereal for dinner, perfected the 10 minute spaghetti and learned to love Lean Cuisine. The beep-beep of the microwave has become a comforting sound after a long day in the OR.

She looks very happy using the microwave. Almost TOO happy...

I do feel a little guilty though. Not to brag, but I am a pretty talented chef. Over the years I have taken a few classes and honed my skills throwing dinner parties for my limited group of friends. Whenever I begin to punch the backlit keys on the microwave, I hear Jamie Oliver in the back of my mind saying, “What are you doing? You have at least 45 minutes and I can put an entire meal together in 30! Why can’t you?!”

"Look at all of this! I made this in my SLEEP! What did you do today?!"

So today, I pulled out Mr. Oliver’s book and flipped through the barely worn pages. It’s a beautiful cookbook. Page after page of fresh, homemade menus and gorgeous photographs that detail the instructions. It’s food porn really. Delicious, intoxicating food porn…

I see you drooling. Don't try to hide it.

As I was flipping through, I kept reminding myself that I was also cooking for a very finicky pregnant woman. The dishes that looked delicious to me, I knew she might turn her nose up at. Since I had craved Indian food all week, I decided on something curried. I used the recipe for curry sauce in the cookbook, but instead of using Patak’s jalfrezi paste, I substituted the weird off brand that the Indian market close to me carries. I say “off-brand,” because the labels on the jar are written in a language I can not understand. The woman that runs the market, however, loves me and she recommended this paste.

"Eat this yellow paste in this jar. I promise it's good for your health!"

The dish is insanely easy to make. You mix the jalfrezi paste with some coconut milk, heat it until it gets thick and then pour it over your shrimp in a bowl. You can either choose to sauté the already cooked shrimp after or, if you’re like me, you can just eat it without sautéing it.

At this time, you should know that I have gone totally off the cookbook. I used Jamie Oliver’s curry sauce recipe to make the shrimp marinade, and then decided to just do my thing for the rest of the meal*.

Alright, back to the food.

After you have coated the shrimp with the curry mixture, add some yogurt to the bowl. I used pre-made raita, to which I added some celery, arugula, and jicama. Toss all of this together and set aside.

Yummy, yum, yum.

Next, I started putting together my side dishes. I wanted to make a bodega style menu, so I used bags of “Magic Masala” potato chips. Since I try to eat healthy, I put together a massive bowl of greens topped with chunks of paneer, canned chickpeas, tomatoes and some jicama. I also chopped up a cucumber and pepper that really needed to be used and mixed them with the left over raita.

The last touch to the meal was the bowl of fruit for dessert. Strawberries, blueberries and blackberries all covered with lemon juice. There was a mango as well, but Ev’s doesn’t like mango at the moment (pregnancy, I assume) so I will just eat it for lunch tomorrow.

Ripe for the eating.

When all the sides were completed (20-30 min), I sliced the hoagie rolls and laid red-tipped leaf lettuce inside each one. Then I filled the rolls with the curried shrimp mixture, topped it with a little curry powder and voilà!

Everyone had a nice helping of salad and we enjoyed the cucumber/pepper/raita mixture with our chips. The fresh fruit was the perfect finishing touch for the meal. I received accolades from my cousin’s boyfriend and he even asked if we could have this again.

Beautiful AND tasty!

Even though the thought of cooking after 10 hours seemed daunting, I’m glad that I sucked it up. It was really nice to have a sit-down dinner with everyone and the food was delicious. This entire meal really made me think about how much I love cooking. As happy as I am in the kitchen, I shouldn’t be content with a microwave meal every night. I am already looking through my other cookbooks, trying to decide meals for the next few weeks. I think I might try the “Spinach & Feta Filo Pie” from Jamie Oliver’s book next!

*I will put the entire recipe and the step-by-step instructions under the “Eats” section of the blog.

Question(s): How often do you prepare an entire meal? What 30 min (preferably vegetarian) meals do you suggest?

I Bought Into It…

Hunger Games mania, that is. I read the trilogy. Bought the “I Shop at the Hob” tote bag and “Team Finnick” t-shirt. I’m so trendy and lame. The excitement that has surrounded this first movie is unbearable. All day at work, my staff was talking about going to see the movie (these are adult, healthcare professionals, mind you). I bought tickets online days ago, just so I knew I would be able to see it Friday night.

Its bad, I know...

Something really amazing did come from all of the movie hype though. The pediatric oncology wing of the hospital where I work, held a Hunger Games Competition and Party. The patients were able to participate in a variety of activities and I had asked if I could make cupcakes. I made 75 mini cupcakes. Some had little chocolate dipped arrows w/ coconut fletching. Others had different symbols pertaining to the Hunger Games.

I did make these the night before....

You can see in the pictures that some of the icing was beginning to melt. When I brought them to the event room at work, they told me they wouldn’t fit in the refrigerator. So I had to leave the majority of my 75 cupcakes sitting out . I wasn’t pleased.

Regardless of the state of the icing, the kids loved them.

The icing is orange cream (homemade, which is probably why it melted) and I piped it over dark chocolate mini cupcakes. The “sprinkles” are actually flavoured sugars that I learned how to make! The red is pomegranate, the orange is orange, and the yellow is just yellow sugar.

The kids seemed to have a blast. The majority of the cupcakes were gone halfway through the program. The ceiling had been decorated with silver parachutes that each held a take home bag of candy. They had signs that said “Mellark Bakery,” “The Hob,” and my favourite saying in the book.

I donated some Hersey’s kisses, that I adorned with the same Hunger Games decorations as the cupcakes. The kids ate those up! They loved the little details, which really made the party fun.

I loved these. Though I hated making them.

We also had water bottles that were wrapped in Hunger Games labels. The kids loved them so much, they said they were going to take them home and reuse them for the movie premiere later on.

Oh so chic.

The party was a big hit and I definitely got my Hunger Games appetite sated. Seeing all of the kids enjoying themselves so much was a really wonderful experience!

I am planning on seeing the movie Friday night. My cousin is going with me since she thought that being pregnant meant she couldn’t stay up until midnight for the premiere. Le sigh… The one time that I want to do something fun and it gets squashed!

Question(s): Did you read the series? Are you going to see the movie? Were you caught up in all the hype?

The Good Pasta

I recently purchased a pasta machine, after the Kitchen Aid attachment destroyed the last batch of pasta I tried to make. This particular machine worked flawlessly (though it was difficult to clean after).

I was super excited to make fresh pasta for dinner. I built up the pasta all day. I kept texting my cousin, telling her how amazing dinner was going to be. She humored me.

Venturing out to the grocery store to find Semolina flour was fairly uneventful, but disaster struck when there was not a bag to be found. I thought about going to Whole Foods, but decided to just make do with the flour the store had. It turned out to work just as well, though I want to try King Arthur “Perfect Pasta” blend next.

After I arrived home, I set to work prepping the work area.

The recipe that I followed for making the pasta dough was:

3/4 lb whole wheat flour
3 large eggs
1 egg yolk
4 Tbsp warm water
1 tsp olive oil

I’m not sure where the recipe actually comes from, as it was the recipe that my mother had written in my recipe book. I don’t remember if it’s the recipe my mother used when making pasta and I know it’s not my babcia’s recipe.

I made a well in the center of the flour and started folding the eggs in one at a time. I made sure the eggs were at room temperature before I added them to the flour and then used a fork to make the base for the pasta. After 5-7 minutes of kneading, I had a wonderful dough ball.

I wrapped the dough in plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator until 30 minutes before I was ready to cook it. Around 35 minutes before dinner was suppose to be ready, I divided the dough into four equal portions. Then, I rolled out each portion until they were small rectangles that would easily pass through the machine. When they were thin enough, I attached the fettuccine cutter and made my first long pasta pieces! I then used the pasta drying rack that came with the machine. The pieces hung to dry until I was ready to put them in the water to boil.

Now, there should be pictures of it cooking. There should also be pictures of it sauced on the plate. Guess what? There aren’t. Why? Because I forgot. I was so busy baking the bread for bruschetta, making the tomato topping, shelling peas, creaming herb butter and simmering the basil sauce for the pasta, that I forgot.

I will tell you that it was delicious. Everyone thought it was amazing and begged me to make pasta in the future. I think that my next pasta project will be herb-layered pasta sheets for ravioli. And I promise I will take more pictures!

Question(s): Have you tried making your own pasta? Willing to share some recipes?

Persian Nights

Even though I was feeling under-the-weather, thanks to Ewa and the sketchy burritos she brought home, I was invited to attend a small get together at a colleagues home. They were celebrating his wife’s first commissioned painting and invited me over for a night of amazingly delicious Persian food.

Even though I have had Persian food before, I have never actually had any made specifically for me. We have always gone to a restaurant or tried some at a friends party. This was the first time that I had dishes made especially for me! My co-worker’s wife started off with saffron tea (chia/chai) and shirini :

The tea was exceptional. It had a strong flavour with hints of saffron and his wife showed us the “Iranian way” to add sugar to the drink. Instead of placing the sugar cube directly in the tea, you put place the cube between your front teeth and bite down with just enough pressure to hold it. Then you take small sips and let the tea wash over the sugar cube, which then sweetens the tea as you drink it. The sugar she gave us wasn’t ordinary sugar either, she had all kinds of flavoured sugars (which I neglected to take a photo of!). I particularly liked the rosewater sugar, but she also had vanilla, saffron, cardamom, anise and lime. each of the sugars was pressed into a delicate little shape. The rosewater “cubes” looked like roses, the vanilla like little gold domes. The first one to go was the leaf-shaped lime flavored sugar, followed shortly by the vanilla. She gave me some of the cardamom sugar to take home and I look forward to using it in my daily tea.

The cookies that she had set out with the tea were amazing. Shirini (sweets) were surprising. She had made two flavors, coconut and walnut. I tried the walnut first and it was similar to meringue in consistency, but outrageously delicious. It was so light and flavourful and I complimented her on the ability to make something so tasty, but so delicate. The coconut one was just as wonderful and I actually liked it more. I so wanted to take a huge box of them home, but I also don’t want to detox again after overdosing on Persian sweets.

After the tea, she brought out torsu (pickled vegetables) and we sampled those until the main courses arrived. As a vegetarian, I was a little worried that I may have to eat some meat dishes since I didn’t want to offend anyone. When the main courses arrived, the non-vegetarians had joje kabob, ghorme sabzi, hummus, olives, barbari bread, grilled vegetables, zafrani pulao, and  salad-e shirazi.

The food smelled amazing and she had even put some food into to-go containers, so that way we could take it take to families (or in my case, back home for devouring later). As a vegetarian, however, I was presented with my own special dish:

The salad was kefir cheese, hummus, cucumbers, red/green pepper, onion, olives, feta cheese and chopped herbs. I also had some of the shirazi salad and barbari bread. The warm bread was a perfect compliment to the salad and my cousin let me try some of her ghorme sabzi after she had eaten all the lamb. I also had a small dish of rice, sprinkled with saffron and container of hummus topped with olives.

The entire meal was fantastic and I could not thank all of them enough. Everyone who was at the dinner (a bunch of rowdy Persians!) appeared to have a lot of fun and I felt bad that we had to kind of “eat and run” because I was not feeling well. It did piqué my interest in Persian cuisine, so I signed up for a Persian cooking class at the end of the month and a cheese-making class in mi-February (which I may end of missing).

It was a great evening and I can’t wait to have them over to my house for a Polish dinner! I am already planning the menu and getting excited!

Question(s): Have you ever taken a cooking class before? What was the course over? Do you still use the recipes/techniques that you learned?

New Year, New Resolutions

It is finally that time of year. Time to set my goals for 2012 and then try to keep up with them until 2013. I am very excited about my 2012 goals, as the 2011 goals I set for myself were either met or exceeded. I had a lot of fun trying to meet the goals and I felt that I challenged myself continually throughout the year. This year, I have tried to choose a list of goals based on feedback from friends, family and my readers. I have also taken into account the amount of time each goal will take and the effort I will have to expend to complete it.

*drumroll*

My 2012 Goals 

Relationship goals:

Strengthen my personal relationships by spending more time with those I care about. 

This may not seem like that difficult of a goal, but you have to keep in mind that I only have one family member in California, relatively few friends because of the hours I work each week, and a very demanding job. I am hoping that by the end of 2012, I will have solidified my relationship to a certain significant other, made a few close friends, and have a small circle of acquaintances with whom I can have some fun.

Write more letters, thank you notes and emails.

This is one of those goals I always mean to make myself do. Ever since university, I have tried to write more thank you notes and letters, but I always seem to come up short. However, I have written a few emails this year and I plan to keep that up. My goal is to write an email (outside of work) each day. I would like to email my grandmother, mother, father, brothers and friends at least once a week. My family alone will be 6 days!

Take a real vacation with someone.

“Real vacation” does not include: going home to see family for a holiday, traveling for a family emergency, traveling for a work-related reason or medical conference. I will only consider it a vacation if I am traveling solely for relaxing and spending time with my travel companion.

Preferable Destinations: Seychelles,  Dominican Republic, Toronto, Spain, London, Belize

Personal Goals:

– Finish my novel

Just last year I started a novel (no I’m not going to post it on this blog 🙂 ). I wanted to take part in NaNoWriMo, but then I had to travel/get sick/deal with personal issues for most of November and was unable to write at all. I only got around to writing about 10, 000 out of 50,000 words. Will I finish my novel in 2012? Maybe not, but I will try to write for a bit each week.

Learn to sew

I have wanted to learn to sew for some time now. I always see these amazing dresses/skirts and when I ask where they got the dress I get the, “Oh, I made this!,” response. I need to buy a sewing machine and convert the “cats room” into a sewing room. I welcome suggestions on where to buy fabrics in LA/Hermosa, what sewing machine I need to buy and what the best way to learn is (online tutorials, sewing books, classes) .

Read 20 books in 2012

In 2011, I read 30 books. I thought about upping the ante to 40, but then I remembered I want to have a life outside of work. I have decided to keep the goal of reading a set number of books, but I want to read less. I would really like to read the Harry Potter series, but only if I can get them on my Nook.

Make a substantial blog post two (2) times a week or a small post three (3) times a week.

I am looking forward to blogging in the new year! I have some posts I am working on (mostly about my travels), but they are fairly time intensive. I will be posting more often, around 2-3 times a week and I would love suggestions! Anything that you would be interested in me blogging about, I am open to it! 

Goals to Continue

Take more cooking courses (Persian, Latin American, Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Spanish)

I enjoyed this goal immensely. I was able to sign up for a few cooking courses and it was a blast! I would like to cook through a few classic cookbooks for each type of cuisine, while also supplementing my cooking with some outside classes.

Run 50 miles a week following Runners World MPW Target Goals or 2700 miles for the year. Try for 3000 miles if possible!

Even though this goal was difficult to keep up with in 2011 (due to work, travel or illness), I loved the way I felt after completing the required 50 miles a week. This year I am shooting for 3000 miles, but hitting 2700 or 2600 would be acceptable. If I can squeeze a few races or marathons in, I will definitely try!

Complete 1-2 detox plans over the course of 2012

This goal was actually a lot of fun for me. I scheduled both of my detoxes after holidays, in hopes that I could rid my system of the toxins I built up eating all that holiday fare. This year, I plan on trying to get in two (2) detoxes, but one (1) detox over the summer will work!

I am very pleased with my 2012 goals. I have already started a few of my goals and will keep everyone updated as I complete or struggle with each one.

Question(s): Have you decided to set goals for yourself in 2012? If so, what are they? Do you have suggestions to help me complete any of the above goals? Would you like to challenge me to complete another goal (I am up for some challenging!)?

Happy New Year!

Sticky Situation

As you might have read, one of the gift ideas for this year was “Apple Cider Caramel.” I planned on wrapping them in adorable little gift boxes and labeling them using the Goddess Martha Stewart’s printable labels.

After dragging myself out of bed this morning, I reluctantly took a shower and began my day.  I made myself tartines for breakfast, ran a few miles, did a little yoga, prepared lunch and then went grocery shopping. I spent a while roaming Von’s aisles, then headed to Williams-Sonoma where I spent way too much time and money. When I got back my temporary roommate (my cousin), appeared excited to see how the caramel was going to turn out.

I got down to business setting out the ingredients in pre-measured ramekins and began by boiling the apple cider. Let me tell you something about reducing 2 cups of apple cider to 1/3 cup of apple cider, it takes forever. I was constantly checking the cider using a measuring cup and I realized I needed to buy a reduction pan.

I'm not sure why I took the photo this way...

The cider took almost 45 minutes to reduce all the way and part of the way through I transferred it from the copper lined saucepan to a glass one.

The other concoction you see in that photograph is the cinnamon, butter, heavy cream mixture. I had boiled it before I fired the cider so that way it could set. The entire house smelled amazing while I was cooking. The cinnamon + apple cider smell permeated every room and even when I went upstairs I could smell it. I made a note to myself that if I ever sell this house, I need to make this same caramel when potential buyers arrive.

Now, at this point in the post I should tell you that I mixed the reduced apple cider and the cream mixture, whisked well and started the sugar mixture. However, this is also the turning point for the entire process. Right as I began stirring the sugar, I was called into the hospital and I had to hand the reins over to my cousin. The conversation went something like:

Me: Hey, I need you to watch this sugar. Just pay attention to the thermometer and when it reads 315-320, you need to pour this pan into the sugar mixture. For no reason should you mix those two until the thermometer says “Hard Crack, 315-320.”

Cousin: Ok…

Me: But you will need to make sure that you stand away from it a little, because it might splatter. Then you will stir it and watch the thermometer again until it says 260.

Cousin: Ok…

Me: Can you watch this for me?  Is this ok?

Cousin: Yea, sure. Hard crack. Aren’t you making caramel..?

Me: Hard crack, 315-320. Then, 260 when they are mixed. Got it?

Cousin: Yup.

At this point I headed into work and was gone for about 30-35 min. When I returned I found the caramel poured into the parchment lined 8×8 pan. I was momentarily relieved, until I looked at it….

Ugghhhh

Firstly, the parchment paper had not been properly laid in the pan, even though I measured them. Secondly, it was way too light. The caramel had an apple cider reduction in it and the sugar was boiled to hard crack.

So I asked my cousin at what temperature she took the pan off the stove:

Me: Ummm….did the thermometer say ‘Hard Crack’ when you poured in the cream?

Cousin: Uhhh, no. It said soft ball and I knew that caramel is soft. I figured you just told me wrong.

I was, to say the very least, devastated. The preparation for this caramel had been so time intensive and now it was ruined. I was furious with my cousin, so I poured myself a glass of wine and I did the only thing I could do.

I started all over.

I melted the butter into the cream and cinnamon mixture, again. I reduced the cider, again. I then waited another 45 minutes for the cider to reduce enough to add the cream.

Yummy

When the cider reduced again, I started the process of boiling the sugar to a hard crack stage. This requires a lot of time and patience, so I read some of my book (love my Nook, by the way) and listened to Stimming.

The entire time I kept thinking, "This would suck if I dropped this or spilled this on myself..."

After the sugar reached 320, I poured the cider cream into the molten sugar. This produced Molten Cider and it smelled amazing. I do recommend that you do this at arm’s length, however, as it does splatter a bit. Make sure that you add a little at a time, as I don’t know what the outcome would have been if I would have dumped the entire pan in (not a good one, I will tell you that).

The reaction the sugar had when I poured in the cider cream was both awesome and terrifying!

After mixing the cider cream into the sugar, you will need to get the temperature back up to 260 degrees F. When you add the cream, your sugar temperature will drop pretty quickly. It did take longer than I assumed it would for the mixture to reach the 260 mark.

As soon as it reached 260, I turned the heat off and poured the molten mix into a properly parchmented 8×8 pan. I let both of the caramels sit for a while (hours) and went to wrap presents. When I returned, I laughed out loud at the incredible difference between the Failamel and the Caramel.

Can YOU tell which one is the wrong one?

The dark pan on the left is the correctly prepared candy. The light pan on the right is the monstrosity that results when you fail to take into account that your cousin can not cook to save her life. As you can see, I tasted the….whatever it is, in the bottom left corner. The mixture was gooey and slightly oily. I can’t, for the life of me, figure out what it resembles. I did scoop it out of the dish and save it though. I’m debating on using it to make some sort of apple pie filling or drizzling it over cookies/blondies.

I am refrigerating the proper caramel overnight. Tomorrow, after work maybe, I will slice them and wrap them individually. I plan on making another batch for my colleagues when it is closer to the holidays.

Lesson learned from this kitchen adventure: Never EVER let someone else take the reins of my recipes.

The recipe I used is from Make It Naked:

Apple Cider Caramels (recipe adapted from David Lebovitz and here)

Ingredients:

2 cups apple cider (I used spiced cider)
2/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 lb salted butter (1 stick)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1½ cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions:

  1. Line an 8×8 baking dish with parchment paper.
  2. Boil the apple cider in a saucepan until it reduces to about 1/3 cup. This took about 30 minutes for me. Set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, add the cream, butter and cinnamon to a saucepan and heat on medium until butter is melted. Stir. Add the reduced cider to the cream mixture.
  4. In a saucepan (I used the one that the cider was in after wiping it out), combine the sugar, honey, water and salt. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Once dissolved, stir as little as possible. Cook until a candy thermometer reads 310-320 degrees. Tilt the pan to get an accurate reading.
  5. Slowly stir the cider mixture into the sugar mixture. Be careful and watch for splattering. Cook until the combined mixture reaches 260 degrees.
  6. Pour the caramel into the prepared dish. Let cool completely. And I mean completely.
  7. Lift the candy out of the pan using the parchment paper. Cut into squares. Serve at room temperature.

Mmm, Mmm, Good!

A few days ago, I was in the middle of a not so great week. I was moping around and in a generally bad mood. It was really a culmination of things that had gotten me to that point, but I was being a brat to everyone anyway.

Then I decided to go out and get some dinner with a friend who was in town. It was an extremely short dinner (since I had to get back to work), but I was able to do a quick catch up over sushi. Halfway through the first roll I stopped and snapped a picture


I actually made my friend stop eating so I could take a photograph of our food. It was this action that made me realize I had a slight obsession.

Slight is an understatement, however, as I went through the pictures saved on my phone and found over 50 pictures of food.


I apologized to my friend and felt a little embarrassed. She was completely cool about it and said that she use to do the same thing. She showed me an album on her phone titled “My Secret Shame” which was filled with photos of food.

After my apology I asked her if she shared the pictures with anyone and she told me that she use to post them on Facebook and then realized it probably made her seem strange to potential guys so she stopped.

Should I stop? It doesn’t really do any harm, it’s just a little strange that I can’t sit through a decent meal without thinking, “I need to get a picture of this!” Maybe it’s because the food always looks so pretty and then is devoured so quickly. I’m not sure why I do it, but I have my own “My Secret Shame” folder on my phone now.

Questions: Do you take pictures of your food? What do you do with the pictures?

Recipes I Can Cook in My Sleep

Today my, “only living with me for a week” cousin, informed me over my lunch break that we would be having guests for dinner. She hadn’t asked if it would be alright, so I was a little peeved with her. Thankfully it was only three of her coworkers and they were laid back. I decided to make a vegetable soup recipe that I love and the dinner went swimmingly. I felt pretty good about throwing a delicious dinner together on such short notice and it was all because I have stashed away four, “go to” recipes which I thought I would share. These recipes are easy, quick and don’t need ridiculous ingredients.

1. Fish Tacos
– This recipe is fairly easy and the fact that it is highly customizable means you can make a variety of guests happy. I really like fish tacos because they are light, quick and it is often something people haven’t tried. I enjoy introducing people to new foods and this recipe is easy enough that I have used it on plenty of occasions.

Fish Taco leftovers make a great meal the next day!

2. Spinach Pesto

– One of the easiest recipes I have ever made. Its simplicity is what makes it so delicious. This particular pesto is low in calories and can be made in a matter of minutes. It is great when you need to fix lunch quickly or when you would rather showcase a side dish at dinner.

3. Vegetable Soup
– Do you have vegetables that you purchased at the Farmer’s Market that need to be used? Do you have a large stockpot? Then you have the main ingredients for this easy recipe. I often empty the contents of my crisper drawer for this recipe and it has never let me down.

Vegetable soup for the surprise guests.

4. Pierogi
– Not only can I make this recipe in my sleep, I think I learned how to make pierogi before I could even talk. The secret to a good pierogi is the dough/filling ratio. Make sure your pierogi aren’t too thick, but also that they don’t bust when you cook them.

Morel mushrooms make the best pierogi filling, but they are difficult to find and expensive.

Each of these recipes have saved me many times. I recently purchased four bins and filled each with the non-perishable ingredients used to make the above recipes. I figure that, if I ever find myself in a bind, I can grab one of those bins and quickly prepare a meal without having to look up a recipe! Since I used the vegetable soup recipe today, I will have to refill the bin for future use.

Question(s): Do you have go-to recipes that you know by heart? Willing to share?

The Pie is a Lie

The “Cake vs Piedebate has been going on for some time. I have never taken a side because I tend to fall into the “whatever is being served at
the time is my favourite dessert” category. While driving my aunt to the airport, she told me to stop by a particular bakery on the way back and get cannolis for everyone. When I arrived at the bakery, they had a yummy selection of goodies and I bought an eclectic mix of things to take to my remaining family.

Upon my arrival home I was greeted by eager young cousins who saw that I was carrying a cake. Before I could even make it into the door, my youngest cousin looked up at me with the biggest puppy dog eyes I have ever seen and said, “No pie?” I hadn’t gotten any pie because I had decided on cake/cannoli/biscotti/cookies.

My lack of pie was apparently more than my cousin could handle and he stomped off in a huff. I laid out an array of baked goods on the counter and then told my cousin we could go pick out a pie. I drove back to the bakery and he picked out a “Torta di Tagliatelle.”

It made me wonder: What dessert is better? Is there a clear winner in the “Cake vs Pie” debate?

The researcher in me wanted to know, so I sent out an “official” text to everyone on my contact list. I learned two things from this:

  1. Don’t send out a “Group MMS” on the iPhone because it confuses people and they blame me.
  2. There really isn’t a clear winner in this conflict!

The results came back:

Cake: 65
Pie: 64

Even though cake was the winner by a single vote, I can’t decide if that is a large enough margin to consider cake the winner. I have to take a lot of variables into consideration (mainly the fact that many of my friends don’t take anything seriously) and even I can’t really decide which side I’m on!

Trying to decide between the two desserts is difficult, because they are really quite different. I think I will always be one of those people who is just happy to have a piece of whatever amazing confection is in front of me. As far as my friends, it would be a lot of fun to have a “Team Cake vs Team Pie” challenge and see which group can valiantly defend their choice in a “Winner Bake All” fight to the finish.

Question: Which side are YOU on? Why? Share a recipe?

Indian food, how does it work?

I recently purchased At Home With Madhur Jaffrey and have been trying to work my way through the recipes. Jaffrey’s book is a collection of recipes from “India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka,” all of which are easy to recreate. I thought I would share some of my favourite recipes from the book, in hopes that more people will try their hand at preparing Indian cuisine.

Bhuni Bhindi (my favourite recipe so far)

12 oz fresh okra
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
3/4 cup (2 oz) shallots or onions that have been peeled, cut in half lengthwise, and cut into fine rings
1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp crushed red chilies
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp lemon juice

-Cut off the top stem ends and the very tips of the okra pods. Cut each pod diagonally into 3-4 slices, depending upon size.
-Pour the oil into a medium frying pan and set over medium-high heat. When hot, put in the cumin seeds and then (a few seconds later) add all the sliced okra. Fry for 5 minutes, stir frequently.
-When the okra begins to brown, add the shallots and continue frying for another 3-4 minutes.
-When the shallots start to brown, reduce the heat to low and add the coriander, red chilies, and salt. Continue cooking for another 7-9 minutes.
-After the okra begins to crisp, add the lemon juice and mix together well.
-Serve with chapatis and raita.

Simple and delicious! Indian food isn’t as hard as everyone seems to think it is. I use to shy away from preparing Indian dishes because I thought it would be difficult, but if you learn a few basic recipes you will be able to apply the same techniques to more complex dishes!

Another recipe I really enjoyed (because I’m a bad Jew) was “Mussels in a Creamy Coconut Sauce.” The recipe is a little more time intensive, but definitely worth it.

Mussels in a Creamy Coconut Sauce

2 lbs medium-sized mussels
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp whole, brown mustard seeds
1 onion (about 6 oz), finely chopped
1 tsp fresh, peeled and finely grated ginger
1 tsp crush garlic
1 3/4 cups coconut milk (make sure to shake well)
2 tsp ground cumin seeds
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
3/4 tsp salt
15 fresh curry leaves or 10 fresh basil leaves, crushed in the palm of your hand
4 Tbsp finely chopped cilantro
2 fresh green chilies, partially slit
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 cup water

-Start by scrubbing the mussels well with a brush, discarding those that remain open even after they are tapped. Remove any stringy beards.
-Put the oil in a large pot and set over medium-high heat. When hot, put in the mustard seeds. As soon as the mustard seeds start to pop (this only takes a few seconds) add the onions and reduce the heat to medium. Cook, stirring constantly for 4-5 minutes.
-When the onions begin to soften, add the ginger and garlic. Stir for another minute and then pour in the coconut milk + 1 cup water.
-Stir the ingredients together and then add the cumin, cayenne, salt, curry/basil leaves, cilantro, green chilies and lemon juice. Let the mixture come to a simmer.
-As the dish begins to simmer, leave uncovered and stir frequently for 5 minutes.
-After 5 minutes, add all the mussels, bring to medium-high heat and cover. Let the mussels boil in the broth for 5 minutes and check to see that they have all opened.
-Discard any mussels that have not opened after boiling.
-You can eat this by itself, serve with rice or serve with a salad.

The last recipe that I will share with you is Jaffrey’s “Karhai Broccoli.” I made this for my cousin and she asked me for the recipe. It was delicious and went really well with the fish I served.

Karhai Broccoli

3 Tbsp olive oil
1/8 tsp ground asafetida*
1/4 tsp whole cumin seeds
1/4 tsp whole mustard seeds
6 cups trimmed and cut broccoli (cut broccoli no loner than 1 1/2 inches)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 cup water

-Pour the oil into a wok and set over medium-high heat. When the oil has heated, put in the asafetida, cumin and mustard seeds. As soon as the mustard seeds begin to pop add the broccoli florets.
-Stir the broccoli for 1-2 minutes, adding the salt and cayenne as you stir.
-Pour in 1/4 cup water and bring to a simmer. When the water begins to simmer, cover and turn the heat to low. Cook the broccoli for 7-8 minutes or under it is just beginning to get tender. Make sure to stir the dish regularly.
-Serve with main dish (meat or tofu) and rice

*When I saw that the recipe called for asafetida, I thought “Where in the world am I going to find that?” Turns out that most Indian stores have this on hand, but that you can also substitute equal parts garlic and onion powder if you can not find asafetida.

Try your hand at preparing Indian food. I promise you that it is not as challenging as it seems! You can also buy Madhur Jaffrey’s great book and learn more delicious recipes. Good luck.