Sunday, October 30, 2011

Low & Slow Food - Braised Short Ribs

Slow Food is coming back thanks to the Slow Food Movement and the improvement of crock pots and cookware.

I never had short ribs growing up because it wasn't something my mother ever made so it wasn't something I was familiar with. She would make beef stews using stewing beef and that required slow cooking so I was familiar with the slow cooking process but had never made short ribs until now. Short ribs seem to be the trend of high end restaurants as the hot thing to order right now. What braised short ribs is really is just short ribs prepped in a certain way with certain liquids and vegetables and left to simmer for a long time until the meat breaks down and basically will fall off the bone or just fall apart.

It may not be pretty food in the end but it's packed with flavour and vitamin infused vegetable beef broth.

This is how I did it:

5 strips of short ribs cut in chunks between each bone.
1 large onion, diced
1 parsnip, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 stalk of celery, diced
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 handful of fresh parsley, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1 bay leaf
1 or 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 cup of red wine
1 cup of beef stock ( can be in a box)
2 tablespoons of oil
1 tablespoon of flour
1 tablespoon of tomato paste

How you make it:

Pat the beef dry with a paper towel and sear them until browned in a large heavy bottom pot like a cast iron pot with a lid.
Sear the meat in small batches so that they don't steam and get a good sear. Take them out and set aside as you brown them.

After they are all brown toss the onions that have been fine diced into the pot and sweat them out for a minute. Toss in the carrot, parsnip, celery all diced into small pieces into the pot with the onions. Mix well and then add the flour and mix until the flour disappears. Add the chopped garlic cloves and the thyme strips from the stalk.
Add the bay leaf.

Add the tomato paste and stir well.
Add the wine.
Make sure you scrape off the brown bits off the bottom of the pan and mix well into the wine.
Add the beef back into the pot.
Add the beef stock.

Cover and put into a 300F oven and cook for 1-3 hours depending on how thick the meat is and how tender you want it and also how much liquid is left in the pot. If it gets thicker than you like just add some more stock or even just some water and mix well.

The longer you let it cook the more the flavours will develop from the vegetables cooking down and the meat breaking down and absorbing the flavours.

It's not an exact science because it depends on the meat really and how thick it is and how you like the consistency to be.

You can also just dump it all into a crock pot after you sear the beef and just let it go on low for the day while you are out doing errands and come back to a full flavoured bowl of goodness.

Sprinkle the fresh chopped parsley on it at the end of the cooking process so you keep the fresh flavour.

I made it with mashed potatoes to soak up all the gravy goodness. You could make egg noodles, rice or even polenta and it will all soak up the juices and make you feel fully satisfied.

This is a great winter dish and something you can just prep and forget for a while. You can feed a large family or you can freeze it for a quick heat up after work on a cold winter night.

Either way it's going to be tasty and great comfort food.

If you had it at a restaurant I am sure it would cost you between $12-$25 dollars depending on what restaurant you go to. Why not attempt to do it yourself. It just takes a bit of prep work and some time left alone to do it's thing.

You will be very proud to serve this to friends and family because it's not the kind of thing you can get at your local take out restaurant and it will bring you back to the good old days when moms cooked that way for a sunday dinner.

Break out your crock pot and have sunday dinners any day.


Friday, October 21, 2011

Delicious New Show in Toronto

I went to the DELICIOUS FOOD SHOW at the CNE in Toronto today. It's a new Foodie show that had vendors and celebrity chefs and food specialists.

It's called the delicious food show but unfortunately there wasn't a whole lot of fresh food available. It was mostly things like sauces, dips, jams, teas and a lot of packaged goods. Maybe because it'a a new show it still hasn't gotten a lot of new vendors on board yet but I am finding a lot of these food shows are repeating the same vendors at every show. One vendor that I finally got to after seeing at a couple of other foodie events that were too busy to get to was the cupcake food truck. Can't comment on the cupcakes yet but I picked up a chocolate coconut and a red velvet cupcake that I will try when I get hungry later.

The best food I had at the show I paid for. That was the Pulled Pork Parfait at Hank's. That's the kind of thing I like to see at a show, something familiar but with a twist. It was pulled pork in a plastic ice cream parfait cup with mashed potatoes and bbq sauce. It was yummy.

One of the most impressive things of the day was Colin Cowie the Event Planner to the Biggest Celebrities in the World like Oprah Winfrey. He showed photos of some of the events he has done as well as his own home and different ideas. It was so inspiring to see what life lived at it's fullest looks like. Something to aspire to. I would have loved to see how he would have set up this show if he was organizing it.

One of my favourite Food Network Chefs who was in attendance was Lynn Crawford from Pitchin In and Restaurant Makeover and she also has her own restaurant in Toronto called Ruby Watch Co. which I have yet to go visit but it's on my to do list of places to check out. Lynn is one of the funniest chefs around with a huge passion and joie de vivre for food. But she didn't actually cook this time. She got a couple of people from the audience to compete in an Iron Chef type of competition to make the best risotto recipe from Lynn's instructions. I wish I would have gone up there. I make a mean risotto and could have done it without any help.
Lynn had loads of fun roaming around in the audience and taking lots of photos with people. She is a great fun to see.

What else did I do there? Well I sampled a bunch of things and picked up a few things. I won a little cooking package from spinning a wheel at the Liason College booth and donated to charity at the same time.

This is what I picked up:

Cupcakes from Cupcake Diner a food truck that has been floating around town.
My favourite tortilla chips from the Mad Mexican with some Salsa verde.
Teopia Holiday Blend Tea.
Bistro Tea's Lemongrass Tea
and some Macaroon's from Ruelo.

None of it cheap but all good quality stuff that's harder to find.

So was it a successful show? I don't know.. but I did enjoy Colin Cowie and Lynn Crawford so I guess it was worth it just to see them.

The Show continues until Sunday with different celebrity chefs each day.

Check it out if you are in the area. Tickets are $20 at the door.. a bit expensive considering you don't even get a bag or anything when you enter the show but there are some samples.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Delicious Food Show


The Delicious Food Show

I just saw this advertised on TV and thought I would post the iink for all the Toronto Foodies. It is next weekend Oct 20-23 downtown Toronto.

Lots of food network chefs on hand and I am sure lots of great food too.

I am going to try and check it out so hope you do too.

Bringing the South to the North with Grits


It's a rainy, windy, gloomy and cold day today. The perfect day for some comfort food that's warm and satisfying. When you think of comfort food you think of Southern Cooking. I took the comfort of the South and brought to our Northern climate. Since I can't just pop down to get some home cooking in the South I decided to make a batch of Shrimp and Grits.

Here's how I did it.

For the Grits:

1 cup of ground cornmeal (grits or Polenta) Old Mill makes one
2 cups of milk
2 cups of water
pinch of salt and pepper
tablespoon of oil
3-4 teaspoons of butter
3/4 cup of shredded cheddar cheese. more or less to your liking.


Add the milk, water and oil and salt and pepper to a large pot. I used a cast iron casserole pot to do this.
Bring liquids to just about a boil and then slowly whisk in the cup of Ground cornmeal or grits. Immediately turn the heat down to low and keep stirring.

Place a lit on the pot and stir every 5 minutes or so to make sure it doesn't stick to the bottom or get lumpy. It should take about 25 minutes to cook. Cook to a smooth consistency and taste to see if it is creamy and smooth. When it is cooked add the nobs of butter and grated cheddar cheese and serve immediately.

For the Shrimp:

1 pound of shrimp
1 tablespoon of oil
1 tablespoon of butter
1 or 2 cloves of garlic
1/4 tsp of chipotle chili powder
1/4 tsp of chili powder
1/4 tsp of paprika or a pinch of cayenne if you like it hot
1 slice of lemon
handful of parsley

In a cast iron or heavy frying pan fry the fresh shrimps without the shells in garlic, oil and butter and add the spice seasonings. Cook until shrimp has turned opaque and are fully cooked. When cooked garnish with chopped parsley and a squeeze of lemon juice.

To plate add a big spoonful of grits onto the plate and add the shrimp on top.

DEEELISH and gives you that warm and satisfied feeling. Like corny mashed potatoes. It's easier than mashed potatoes because you don't have to peel and cut the potatoes or worry about them going bad. A bag of cornmeal can sit in your pantry for months and can be always on hand for those cold and gloomy days when you don't know what to eat.

If I would have had some collard greens I might have made that to go with the grits and it would have been a complete meal.

Mix it up and make what you like but you can bring the South to wherever you are in the world.

Keep it Simple for a 5 min. Meal

Are you tired of eating bad take-out foods all the time? Me too. I stopped cooking a lot over the last few years because my life was so crazy that I didn't have the time to keep up with the grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning up, but lately I have been home and trying to ease back into cooking more regularly.

Cooking a full meal can be time consuming if you add up the time you spend going to the store to get the groceries and loading up the car and unloading the groceries and then you have the prep time of the food, then the cooking of the food and once that's all done you have to wash the dishes and put things away. Are you getting tired just reading this? Yeah I know, that's why I put cooking on the back burner over the past few years.

But I am trying to bring easy cooking back. You don't have to spend loads of time in the kitchen if you cook smart. Lately I have been getting into shopping at Farmer's Markets because there are no check out lines and things are fresh, fresh, fresh.

I went a bit nuts and bought everything that looked good but you have to think about what you will be able to cook before it goes bad. That's something I need to work on. Sometimes I plan to make a whole bunch of things but then I get busy, or tired or not in the mood to eat those things so what I have learned is Simplicity is the answer. KEEP IT SIMPLE and you will be able to cook more.

Look at the picture above... that was a 5 minute meal. Asparagus is the one vegetable that doesn't require a whole lot of prep time. All you have to do is whack off the stems at the end that are tough and give them a quick wash and then you can boil them or grill them or even roast them. It takes less than 5 minutes to do the whole thing if you cook them in a grill pan.

The meat, that was a veal cutlet that I short cutted by only dusting with spice infused flour. I didn't even bother to do a full breading. You can add whatever spices you like, parsley, basil, paprika, garlic etc. The trick to making it all taste like restaurant style is really easy. Just grab a lemon and squeeze it on the whole thing and drizzle some olive oil over it when you plate it. You can also add balsamic vinegar. Those are the tricks of the restaurant trade... Drizzle something over it and it adds flavour and pizazz. EASY Peasy as Jamie Oliver says.

This whole thing took about 5 minutes and because I cooked it in one grill pan there wasn't a huge clean up involved either. You can add an easy tomato, cucumber salad using the same olive oil and lemon or vinegar and you have a complete meal. If you like carbs just add a piece of good toasted bread to it.

So you see it can be done. Get a good grill pan and get cooking.

These are a couple of my essential tools to have in your kitchen to make it easy.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Thanksgiving Dinner for 1

What is Thanksgiving? Is it a Holiday that has turned into a tradition to eat certain foods and celebrate with family while watching football or whatever families do when they get together? What if you don't have family to spend this big Turkey dinner with? What do you do then? Do you do without the great meal and sit at home alone with a tv dinner? Hell NO!.. My mom passed away last April and even though we never had the turkey dinner tradition, my mom was European so she didn't do Thanksgiving Dinners but we would have a chicken and potato dinner or something simple like that and just stay home on the holiday. But now that she is gone and I don't have to spend time with my brother and don't really have any other relatives to spend Thanksgiving with, so I decided to just make a Thanksgiving Dinner for myself. Turkey Dinner for 1. Since I didn't grow up with the tradition of making a turkey it's been a challenge of mine to make a great tasting Turkey. Since it was only going to be for me I decided to just buy a large Turkey Breast on the bone. You still get the flavour of the skin and the bone but you don't end up cooking it a whole day and with left overs for weeks.

I took the turkey breast and put butter mixed with ground sage and bay leaf and stuffed it under the skin to flavour it while cooking. I added a bit of paprika for color and roasted it with a red onion, carrot, and a cut in half head of garlic.

I took the turkey out of the oven and let it rest and when it was cooled down I cut the breast off the bone and cut it in slices. First dinner was a turkey sandwich. I did it backwards because I prepped the turkey first so that I could then make the gravy and make turkey stock from the leftover bones.

I also made cranberry sauce in advance using frozen cranberries but added a little orange zest, orange juice and some brandy and a little bit of ginger for a kick. A lot better than the stuff in the can and really easy to make.

Then I roasted up some sweet potatoes and let them cool and scooped them out into a bowl and put that in the fridge for later.

I made as much as I could in advance, even making a batch of nectarine crisp to use up some nectarines.

I went to the farmers market and picked up some fresh peas and had to shuck some peas today to add a little green to the plate.

I decided to have my turkey dinner for lunch so that I could just go into a turkey coma and watch tv and clean up later instead of leaving everything for dinner and being too tired to clean up the kitchen.

So today I made up a batch of stuffing using some stale baguettes... didn't come out as great as planned so this is a recipe I need to perfect still.

I then cooked the peas and placed some marshmallows on top of the mashed sweet potato and put that and the stuffing in the oven with the tin foil wrapped sliced turkey.

I heated up the gravy and just let everything cook up... and then it was done about 30-40 minutes later. Turkey Dinner for 1 Including:

Fresh Peas
Sweet potato with marshmallows

Turkey with stuffing and cranberry sauce

Nectarine crisp for dessert waiting.

If you want Thanksgiving turkey dinner don't wait around for an invitation to possibly come just make it for yourself and enjoy every bite. Oh I did get an invite but it came at 3pm after I had already eaten my delicious turkey lunch. Being an afterthought or last minute invite isn't as good as deciding that you are number 1 and making it just for you because you can.

It's ok to spend Thanksgiving alone... eat what you want, eat it when you want it and you don't have to spend it with people you don't like.

Enjoy your Solo turkey dinner and just think of the meals you don't have to cook from scratch for a few days afterwards.

Happy Thanksgiving to all the people that don't have friends and family to spend it with.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Thanksgiving weekend at St. Lawrence Market

Thanksgiving is the perfect time to thank local farmers for providing the Fall Harvest for Your Thanksgiving Meals. There is no better day to do that then a sunny summer like saturday afternoon at St. Lawrence Market in Toronto.

I very rarely have time to head down to the Saturday St. Lawrence Farmer's Market but today I had to meet up with a friend for her Birthday and I headed over to the market first to get some great local fresh food. The North Building Farmers Market is akin to going back in time when you knew who grew your food. It's like going back to your roots...or in the farmers case the soil of the land. They say that Organic Food now is what regular food was over 20-30 years ago. All I know is that I never heard anyone talk about organic food when I was a kid. A tomato tasted sweet and juicy when you went to the store to get it in the summer. Fruit didn't come from half way around the world and you knew what the fruits in the store were because most of them came from somewhere familiar. Now you can get foods that won't grow in North America delivered to your grocery store any time of the year. Is that a good thing? Well sometimes I just feel like having some exotic food and maybe that happens in the dead of winter. But are we losing something in the process? Yes we are unfortunately. We are losing our eco system and good and healthy food. Food free of pesticides, hormones and genetically modified concoctions made to sit on the shelf for a while. Organic food is expensive now but i think the only way to make it less expensive is to shop from local farmers if you can and buy Organic when necessary and show the buyers that you prefer these foods. Loblaws has started putting local foods front and centre in their grocery stores now. That doesn't happen by chance, it happens because we choose it.

Because we live in Canada, although you wouldn't know that it gets cold here from the past 6 months of fabulous and hot weather, but we can't always go to the farms and farmers markets because they don't operate year round but St. Lawrence Market does. Try and go to a farmer's market year round if you have one near you. It can be a planned outing and it will also connect you to the regular folks that sell their products at the markets. I hope to be able to frequent the markets more often this winter depending on the weather. If you can try and go as much as you can to markets that try and have the most Organic produce they can stock. It's a win win situation for everyone. It doesn't take massive trucks to drive the produce from different countries and it also saves energy on huge big box stores that need refrigeration and shipping and receiving and stock rooms. I love my big stores but sometimes I just love to have a tomato that tastes like a tomato the way it was intended to taste.

I am excited that they are building a Whole Foods close to where I live because they do try and sell the best foods possible.

My parents never had a lot of money but our fridge was always stocked to the max with fresh fruits and vegetables. Buying cheap crap saves you money in the short term but costs you Big money in health costs in the long run. Don't sacrifice your health for a Big Screen TV. When you get Cancer because you have eaten toxic bad food all your life you won't care how big your tv screen is. Make food a bigger priority and you will reap the rewards later.

Don't get me wrong. I just got a big tv but I have spent my past few weekends shopping at farmer's markets and in the kitchen whipping up food that tastes delicious and is good for all things in a good life.

Shop local and stay healthy.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Tomato Sauce Flexibility

One of my favourite things is Tomato Sauce. It's one of those things that is the simplest thing but for some reason so many people get it wrong. It's the key to a great tasting pizza or a delicious pasta dish.

I made a huge pot of tomato sauce recently using some heirloom tomatoes and some additional canned crush tomatoes. The reason for using both is to get a great depth of flavour and adding freshness to the taste of the sauce. I like to add garlic, diced sweet onions and fresh basil if I have some. Salt and pepper to taste of course. Then everything else you add is bonus seasonings. I like to add fresh parsley and if you like it spicy you can add some chili flakes. Some people like their tomato sauce sweet and a good way to make it sweeter is to add a whole carrot to the pot when cooking and then fish it out when it's done.

But what's really great about Tomato Sauce is all the things you can do with it.

So far with this batch of tomato sauce I have made Eggplant parmesan using up some left over fried eggplant.

Then I cooked a batch of meatballs in the tomato sauce and last night I decided to use up some frozen spinach that I have had in the freezer for a while and a box of cannelloni noodles that I had on hand and cheeses that I had in the fridge.. Simplicity at it's best. Just takes a little prep time and about a half an hour or so in the oven and you have CANNELLONI. it's a lot easier than it sounds and looks and tastes great.

I could use the rest of the sauce for pizza, lasagna, spaghetti or even to add to chilli. It's a great staple food and really easy to whip up the greatest tasting meals if you just get that tomato sauce right.

Skip the jars of pre made sauce and make up a batch of fresh tomato sauce. You will be saying yumm with every bite you eat and will wonder why you bought that ready made stuff.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Food Truck Eats #3 -Grilled Cheese line

Last night part 3 of Food Truck Eats happened at the Distillery. So I decided to start my Nuit Blanche night out there with some food first, check out a couple of installations and meet up with friends and then head to the downtown core. It took a little longer than planned. The last time I went to food truck eats I wanted to try the grilled cheese truck but the line up was so long that I had to skip it. So we decided to wait in line this time. It took over an hour of waiting to finally get some grilled cheese for $6. I got the Lumberjack which was bacon, apple, cheddar cheese and I think something else but can't remember. It was good but was it worth standing in line for an hour? Not too sure. My friend kept ranting that it was "Grilled Cheese" and we were waiting in line. My thought was that this is obviously an in demand thing and these food trucks should be able to park around town just like the crappy street meat carts. Street meat carts are always the same thing. Very boring and very limited and not so healthy either. You would think that our mayor Ford would be happy to have more food around given his love of food but I am guessing he isn't what you would call a Foodie. Personally I think it would be a great idea to have Food Trucks parked around big empty parking lots late at night for people coming out of the bars. Think it would be good for the economy and might be a better thing to let these kids loose and have some greasy food to soak up their alcohol fuelled nights. Just my thought. I doubt our Mayor would agree with me but I think it would be great for the City of Toronto and Tourism. Tourists and shift workers could go out and grab a bit anytime they are hungry without having to be limited to the 24hr donut shops. Don't you think that would be a better idea?

This is the Grilled Cheese Truck without the line up after they sold out and the 1 hour wait Lumberjack Grilled Cheese.

I started out my night at the Distillery and left my car there so I had to return to pick up my car at the end of my night and we stopped back over at the Food Truck area at about 2:30am only to find that most of the trucks and tables had already sold out or were packing up. The Food truck Eats was supposed to run from 8pm to 5am. In my opinion it should have started from 5pm and just ended at 2pm. I am sure some of the vendors were happy to sell out early and pack up. I am also sure that it was an exhausting night for them as most of them had long line ups. To me that just demonstrates how popular these food trucks have become.

Now on the other hand some of the food like Grilled Cheese can be made simply at home... as an example I decided to make some grilled cheese this morning. My Eh! I can do it quicker Grilled Cheese!. It took me all of about 5 or so minutes. I used some caramelized onion compote smeared on the inside of the bread and a few slices of gala apples and some Tallegio cheese and slathered some butter on the outer sides of the french bread I already had at home. Slap it in a medium pan and cook for a couple of min. on both sides and Voila! Grilled lineup..

how does my version look?

So what's my point? Well.. it's nice to have options. You can do some of these things yourself with a little bit of effort and you should also be able to get out and about with your friends and have some quick cheap food other than hot dogs as you are out and about at events around town on the weekends.

Food should be accessible no matter where or what you have. Bring on the Food Trucks and when you are home break out the frying pans and get inspired from those same food trucks.

Whatever you do enjoy whatever food you do eat wherever you eat it.