Posts tagged sustenance
I’ve been spending a good deal amount of time in Toronto’s Koreatown lately and have gone kind of overboard on bulgogi, kim chi and all sorts of Korean delicacies. I am a well-known eater of spicy foods and makers of Korean cuisine are not shy when it comes to cranking up the capsaicin so it’s right up my alley and down the hatch.
The other day on the way home from the office I got the craving again but wanted to save a little money and cook at home so I stopped by the Korean grocer to pick up some essentials to make the meal below. I warn you now that I have almost no idea how to cook Korean properly and created this extremely simple recipe below based on flavours that I’ve been able to discern when eating in Koreatown. The recipe below is not really a traditional Korean fare but it’s easy to make and damned delicious so try it if you want an excuse to break out your wok.
“Korean style” Stirfry
(addtional photos available on Flickr here)
1/2 a pack of thinly sliced beef (bulgogi) – available at Korean grocer
1 Pack of udon noodles, boiled
1.5 bell peppers sliced thinly (I half each of a green, yellow, and red pepper for colour and flavour)
2 carrots, peeled and julliened
2 sticks of celery, julliened
1 head of broccoli
1/2 a red onion, quartered with layers separated
3-4 baby bok choy, leaves separated from core
8 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup of fresh ginger, minced
Thai sweet chili or Stir Fry sauce (optional)
Kim Chi, to serve
Slice the peppers, toss into a bowl.
Separate the broccoli head into smaller florets and cut the very large ones in half to keep the size more or less uniform.
Add cut onion and bok choy to bowl.
Peel ginger and garlic, mince and make sure you plan out two portions of each because you will be cooking twice with those flavours as a base.
Heat up wok to medium with 1 tbsp of oil, add 1st portion of ginger and garlic, add meat and cook till just brown with a few dashes of fish sauce. Remove meat and set aside.
Replenish oil, add 2nd portion of ginger and garlic, sauté for 2 minutes to release aroma. Add all vegetables and stir constantly.
Flavour vegetables with fish sauce, soy sauce, sriracha, and stir fry sauce to taste.
Reintroduce cooked meat into vegetable mixture, stir and combine.
When everything is not and delicious serve on top of noodles with a side of delicious kim chi.
Suggested drink: Soju.
The Method animated!
This past weekend I caught another Ruby Spirit show, this time at the Toronto Underground Cinema. Since I last saw them at the Great Hall lots has gone on: in particular, I’ve gotten to know their guitarist, Alex Pulec, a lot better since sharing a stage with him at Electric Christmas and it’s also exciting to see that they have begun to play successful gigs in New York garnering even more buzz as they keep plugging away.
The venue was a bit awkward since it was full of theatre seating but it all worked out in the end as myself and other fans got all intimate with the band by cramming into the 10 or so feet of standing room in front of the stage.
What really astonishes me is the work ethic of this band. I got a chance to chat with the Ruby Spirit’s manager, Peter and he told me that the band constantly practices with at least 3 rehearsals a week, along with constant writing. I think that the band have become consumate professionals in their trade and definitely believe that the show must go on. Talking to the band before their set, It was apparent that their lead singer, Paige, was pretty sick that night. As a former touring musician singing in a band I remember getting sick before a show from time to time and could feel the pressure.
There was Paige with a big mug of Tea or juice and a bottle of NyQuil. I held my breath as the band took the stage and didn’t know what I’d hear with their singer under the weather. I gotta tell you, if she was really that sick no one who didn’t notice that very same bottle of Nyquil and mug accompanying her on stage would have known. The Rubies just killed it and Paige sounded great. That’s showmanship. I could not help but be reminded of a story often told by Alice Cooper about a performance he gave where he was swinging his Errol Flynn sword around (as he is known to do) and attempted to stick the sword in the stage, but ended up skewering his leg instead, spurting blood everywhere. Legend has it that he went backstage, was told he needed to stop the show, but instead poured whiskey into the gash and completed the entire concert getting ever more delirious as he lost blood before getting rushed to the hospital immediately after his set (he talks briefly about it in this video) Of course Alice Cooper’s example is more extreme but the spirit is the same and I have a lot of respect for any performer that sucks it up and give the fans what they want.
The Toronto music scene seems to be undergoing a rebirth and we’re starting to do away with all the cookie-cutter screamo bands and getting back to music that pays homage to the old classics while also doing something new and fresh. Band like the Ruby Spirit and Wildlife have the potential to start a whole new movement and you’re fortunate to be around right now when this is all happening. Take a break from the schmooze cruise and get your rock on. Listen to some of The Ruby Spirit’s work right HERE. I recommend “Sound of the Bell” in particular.
Emma Brooks is a sweet gal who loves to cook. Truth to tell, she’s probably a better cook than I because when I asked her to pick a recipe from the Jamie Oliver cookbook she was not afraid to choose the ones I’ve never made before and that meant it was going to be a challenge. When making a recipe not your own for the first time I think it’s inevitable that you will make some silly mistakes that are usually just due to some oversight that comes by way of forgetting to use common sense.
What I mean is that when you follow a recipe from a cookbook you usually expect that the author did all the thinking for you, so if there is anything important that needs to be taken into consideration when making a recipe of his/hers, you would think that the author would have you covered. WRONG! What tends to happen is that the person(s) hoping to replicate the amazing looking dish in the good-enough-to-eat looking picture, will generally follow the recipe to the T like zombies under the control of a level 80 necromancer.
Emma and I are experienced cooks, not experts, but we do know our way around a kitchen. Sadly though we zombied out and though the meal still came out tasting pretty good we forgot to do a few things that would have made our lives a lot easier. For example, greasing the non-non-stick baking pans before filling them and reading the recipes completely before deciding on them and shopping for the ingredients only to discover that the cook time was 1 hour for each dish! Not that it’s a big deal, but we would have sped up the prep work had we known beforehand.
To me, though, all that didn’t matter because I still got to spend time with a good friend, make some beautiful food and then eat it while telling jokes all night! Yep, the Holy Trinity of Happiness applies and that’s the real soul food here. But seriously, Jamie Oliver can get tossed. I’m going back to the Joy of Cooking.
So here’s what we made – more vegetarian stuff! Very yummy and super easy to make, just beware of the cook time.
A small knob of butter
1 1/2lb of potatoes peeled and grated lengthwise (Oliver says to cut them into matchsticks but that is a huge waste of time)
Sea Salt and fresh ground pepper
a few sprigs of fresh Rosemary
6 whole cloves of garlic, peeled – do not chop
In an oven proof non-stick pan (about 8 inches wide) heat a splash of olive oil and add the butter.
Toss in all the ingredients with a pinch of salt and a grind of pepper.
Fry on medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring constantly.
Place pan in the oven for 25 minutes (or until the potatoes are lightly golden on top and on the bottom.
Take pan out of the oven, cover potatoes with a damp piece of wax paper
Wrap your hand in a tea towel (or use a plate) and press on the wax paper to flatten the potatoes.
Remove wax paper and put the rosti back in the oven for 25 more minutes.
Cut into slices and serve.
Red cabbage braised with apple, bacon and balsamic vinegar
1/2 lb of bacon, finely sliced
1 tbsp fennel seeds, bashed (as in a hammer)
1 onion, peeled and sliced
2 apples, peeled and chopped into 1 inch pieces
1 red cabbage, outer leaves and core removed – chopped into irregular chunks
sea salt and fresh ground pepper
3/4 cup of balsamic vinegar
a knob of butter
a handful of fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
Put a bit of oil into a saucepan, get it hot and add the bacon and fennel seeds
Cook until golden and then add the onion, cover with lid and cook for a few more minutes until golden and sticky
Add the apples, the cabbage, salt and pepper and the balsamic vinegar and stir it all together well
Put the lid on and cook on low heat for an hour, checking it and stirring it every so often
Chop the parsley and serve it on top of the salad with the butter.
In a nod to my vegetarian friends I thought I would cobble up something that is not just vegetarian but vegan even! I like food of all kinds, but I respect my friends’ decisions to eat whatever and however they want so I figured I would take a walk in their shoes.
Let me dispell something for you hardcore carnivores: eating your vegetables doesn’t have to taste bad! In fact if you’ve ever been to a good vegetarian restaurant you’ll have noticed that they try really hard to be more creative with their preparations to make whatever dish that comes out of the kitchen as flavourful as possible. So, uh look…there’s no need to make beautiful plates like they do at a restaurant to get tasty food so let’s focus on flavour ok?
I don’t usually cook vegan food but here’s my first real attempt. It was actually surprisingly easy and it turned out so delicious. The best part is that I just pretty much raided my fridge and came up with this super easy ratatouille inspired hors d’oeuvre. You can find all these ingredients as fresh as they come at a good store like Longo’s.
Another thing I noticed is that vegans are as picky as anyone and just because they’ve cut out about half of the food pyramid from their diets doesn’t mean that they eat any and all fruits and veggies. Everyone has preferences and the two veggies that kept getting the black x were zucchini and eggplant! GASP! I love both those veggies but in the interest of making this as accessible as possible I’ve omitted them from the recipe.
Either way this really came out tasting amazing!
A bunch of Yukon Gold potatoes. The smaller the better. Look for the mini ones.
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 red pepper, diced
1/2 a red onion, diced
5-6 stalks of asparagus, woody ends removed.
1 tomato diced
1 large leaf of basil
1 tbsp (or to taste) of dried thyme
1/2 a cup of vegetable stock (you can buy this at any store – Campbell’s makes them. Knorr too)
Fresh cracked pepper
- Just dice everything as shown in the picture. For a tutorial on how to dice and onion, click here. You can apply the same method for dicing an onion to the tomato.
- To dice the carrot: once it’s peeled, cut it in half widthwise in the middle, then cut each half lengthwise into about three sticks. Cut across the sticks for the dice.
- Mince the garlic and throw it in a pot with a little olive oil to sautee.
- add all the vegetables and stir for about 2 minutes.
- add thyme
- slowly stir in the vegetable stock
- Season with the pepper and salt.
- cover and let simmer for 40 mins
- about 20 minutes in, cut up the basil leaf and mix it in. Taste your creation and adjust flavours accordingly with salt and pepper.
- Halve the cooked potatoes and spoon a little of the mixture on top of each half.
- Tell that classy vegetarian lady who called you a disgusting meat-eating T-Rex that you’ve changed and that you would like to group hug with an ancient redwood.
- Hug redwood and girl.
For those of you who’ve been reading this blog from near the beginning, you will most likely have caught my post about the Holy Trinity of Happiness. The Trinity is a philosophical framework that I came up with and adopted years ago and it is pretty much how I get on day by day. The short version is that one only needs 3 things in life to be happy: Love, expression and sustenance.
Cooking, for me, gives me the opportunity to satisfy all three criteria of the Holy Trinity of Happiness at the same time. I get my expression through the art of cooking, I put my heart into my meals and like to cook for others – the love, and of course I get the sustenance because I get to eat the food I make. Cooking at home is one way to synthesize the Trinity and it puts me in a state akin to zen meditation.
So anyway, I got a lot of interest and questions about what I made today both before and after the meal so I figured why not do a food blog once in a while. The good part is that this meal is very easy to make and if you’re a bachelor, like me, you will appreciate learning how to make this meal for when you want to cook dinner for a special lady friend like a real class act. The gentle heat of the main dish will cure what ails you if you’re in the early stages of a cold (which I hear everyone in Toronto is coming down with this week) – at least that is what my superstitious, folk-remedying Italian family believes. It’s also been said that the capsaicin found in chili (an important ingredient in the main dish below) is an effective aphrodisiac. Some even call arrabbiata sauce “Italian Viagra.”
Here is the recipe for the appetizer and main course I made. I left out the ratatouille recipe for now but may do a post on it later.
If you ask what the secret to good Italian cooking is I will tell you that it’s heart and tasting your food as you prepare it. You can really tweak the flavours by taking a small sample from time to time. Also it’s the simple things that really count. You don’t need to be a master chef; just use fresh ingredients and lots of TLC.
- 1/2 ripe cantaloupe – not sure how to tell it’s ripe? Just use your nose. A few days after you take the cantaloupe home from the store you can smell the “butt end” of it (where the vine was detached). When it smells sweet and flowery, it’s melon time.
- 3-4 slices of Prosciutto – I like to use San Daniele because they put a piece of paper between each slice so they don’t fall apart from sticking together when you use them.
This is stupid easy and damned delicious.
Just cut the melon in half, divide it into wedges, remove the seeds, and slice off the skin.
Then slowly slice each slice of prosciutto in half lengthwise and lay a slice on each wedge of melon. You have to cut the prosciutto slices slowly and carefully as they are thin and delicate – if you just race your knife across them it will tear up the meat and make it look like a s**t sandwich.
Arrange the wedges artfully on a platter as shown in the picture at the top of this post or just put two on each small side plate (I did both presentations for variety). Chill in the fridge until your guest(s) arrive. Eat the leftover prosciutto and melon slices. Smile.
Nus’ Fireballs (serves 2-3)
- 1 lb lean ground beef, pork, bison or veal (I used beef today)
- 1 small onion, finely diced (see tutorial to the right on the proper and easy way to dice an onion)
- 1 whole egg
- 1 handful of fresh cilantro, finely chopped (if you don’t have cilantro you can substitute Italian parsley)
- 1/2 a jalopeno, seeded
- 2-3 tbsp Bread crumbs
- Dried thyme leaves
- 2 tsp Chili or cayenne powder or to taste – don’t overdo it or the end result will be spicier than any of you mangia cakes can handle =) Use your best judgement.
- Garlic powder – DO NOT use garlic salt as it will make this dish overly salty and ruin your night.
- Salt and pepper to taste.
- 700 ml of Arrabbiata sauce (see recipe below or in a bachelor’s pinch, use 1 jar of Classico or La Mollisana Arrabbiata)
Before you start WASH YOUR HANDS with soap! I keep a towel on my shoulder because I know that I end up washing my hands quite a few times during this process. Nothing ruins a dinner date like food poisoning, so wash up for crying out loud!
- In a bowl, use your clean hands to combine the meat, and all the above ingredients. The egg and breadcrumbs help to bind the meat together so they don’t fall apart when cooking. Start with two tablespoons of breadcrumbs and add a little more if the egg and meat mixture is still too wet after kneading it all together for a minute or two.
- Form small meatballs, about 2/3 the size of a golf ball, and lay as many as you can on a flat surface (i.e. big cutting board)
- Wash your hands again
- In a large saucepan (pot), heat up the sauce to medium heat, stirring frequently
- drop meatballs into the sauce, reduce heat to low-medium and cover. Stir occasionally.
- simmer for 30-minutes until meatballs are cooked through.
- Have a shower
- Have a shave
- Have a wank
- Wash your hands a third time
- Comb your hair
- Brush your teeth
- Put on a clean shirt and underwear
- Call your mom once in a while, for Heaven’s sake.
- Steal your roommate’s wine because you realized you forgot to buy a bottle and your date is at the door
- Put on some good music – swear to God, if you think Sade is the way to go, then cancel dinner and go back to step 9.
- Serve meatballs over linguine or spaghetti with fresh crusty bread on the side. (Parmesan cheese optional)
Tip: stir the meatballs occasionally by placing the mixing spoon against the wall of the pot and and and gently scooping up the meatballs from underneath to stir them. Be careful not to break the meatballs or you will have stroganoff. Try to cover as many with sauce as you can but don’t sweat it if you can cover every last one. The covering of the pot will take care of the cooking and bubbling sauce will cover all the meatballs anyway.
Basic Arrabbiata Sauce (serves 2-3)
- San Marazano tomatoes, the 13oz can (blended)
- 1 small can of tomato paste
- 4 cloves of garlic sliced thin
- one small chopped onion
- Crushed red pepper flakes. Start with 1 teaspoon.
- 3 leaves of basil sliced thinly
- olive oil.
Once you coat the pan with Olive Oil and heat add the garlic and onion and saute until tender. Mix in the tomato paste and simmer for 2 mins.
Now add the blended san marazano tomatoes and the red pepper and simmer for 20-30 minutes. After first 10 minutes throw in all the basil. I like to leave a bay leaf in the sauce and remove it before serving, but if you don’t have a bayleaf, don’t sweat it.
The red pepper heat expands as you simmer but you can always add more anytime during the simmering process or when you serve it over pasta.