Thursday, February 25, 2010

Mmm, Latkes with an egg on top

Because we have both been so boringly engaged in our jobs lately (boo) the posts have been meager but luckily our kitchen is still plentiful and the food shall hopefully continue to find its way into other home's kitchens and onto everyone's plates. This recipe is for one of my all time favourite comfort/breakfast foods: latkes. One of the restaurant/bars I worked at was a place called The Free Times Cafe, a venue that's been hosting great jazz and blues and anything rock related for the last thirty years in Toronto, and the owner and proprietor, Judy, hosts a Jewish brunch every weekend with live klezmer music and kick ass all you can eat kosher buffet, where there are always a heaping plate of steaming latkes. I adapted this recipe from what I watched the cooks do at those brunches, which Judy calls The "Bella! Did Ya Eat" Brunch in honour of her late mother. Anyway, chow down on these fried starch fritters with a friend and an egg.

Recipe: Red potato latkes

8 medium red potatoes, grated
1 small onion, minced
2 tbsp flour
1 large egg, beaten
1 tbsp salt
1/2C cooling oil
sour cream, to top

Start by grating your potatoes into a medium sized mixing bowl, then draining off all excess liquid, squeezing down the potato with your hands to press out the last drops of moisture. Next, add the minced onion (if you have a food processor you could turn them to paste and it would work just as well and help bind the ingredients together). Repeat the second step, draining all excess moisture from the ingredients. Now dust the mixture with flour, and stir into coat any remaining dampness on the potatoes and onions.

At this point, you should have a bowl with a dry, slightly sticky ball of potato and onion (add more flour if necessary, but don't over do it or you'll end up eating dough). Blend in the beaten egg and salt until completely melded. Heat the oil to medium-high in a frying pan which should be coated in at least a quarter inch of oil, add more if necessary (and don't worry you'll drain of the excess grease after cooking). Form palm sized latkes in between your two hands again pressing out any excess moisture, then place directly into hot oil and fry on either side for 3 to 4 minutes or until golden brown. Pat dry with paper towel and serve immediately with sour cream and a fried or poached egg on top.

If you managed to keep all the moisture out these should be the crunchiest, tastiest latkes you've ever tried. Also, they are absolutely ridiculous with sour cream and our homemade applesauce if you have the time to try our stovetop applesauce recipe, which can be made well in advance.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Viet junkfood

This recipe is another adapted from one of Duguid and Alford's for a kind of Vietnamese street food handroll that they call, Green-wrapped flavor bundles (in their book Hot Sour Salty Sweet) and which I admit the name of totally made me laugh my head off and think, Wow, they need a better translator. Then we made them and ate them (along with my pride) and all I could think was that they were the most appropriately named little flavor bombs I'd ever had. They're stuffed with intensely flavorful pork, and the crunch of the fresh cabbage wrap blows any and every kind of deep-fried eggroll or springroll wrap I've ever had out of the water (or deep fryer as the case may be), and Toronto has a pretty kick ass Chinatown (actually it has three Chinatowns, but that's besides the point). A caveat, these rolls are addictive and for a week after we made them I'd find myself standing with the fridge door open staring at the tuperware full of pork and trying to resist its pull.

Another side note: we've returned the digital camera we were borrowing from our awesome photographer friend, Jason, and are back to using cheap Kodak ISO 800 film, which we buy at a flee market, as in our first post. You may also notice the drugstore did something funny with our scans, creating unintentional diptychs. Yeah coincidence, we love them anyway.

Recipe: Cabbage wrapped pork handrolls

1 cabbage, deleafed and cut to scoops the size of your palm


1/2 lb ground pork
3 tbsp oil
1/2 C shallots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp tamarind dissolved in 1/4C water (or substitute soy sauce in water)
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp ginger, minced
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp unsalted roasted peanuts, chopped
1 tsp salt, or a healthy pinch

1 stalk lemongrass, trimmed and minced
2 tbsp ginger, finely grated
1 bunch green onions, finely sliced
1/2 bunch cilantro/coriander, finely chopped

For the pork filling, add oil and heat a wok or large pan to med-high. Saute the shallots and garlic just until they start to brown, then add ground pork and continue to stri-fry until all of the meat is browned. Now, add liquids, brown sugar, salt and ginger and simmer until the sauce thickens, which should take 4 to 6 minutes (turn down the heat if it starts to smoke at any point, you don't want to burn the sugars!).

For the rolls, take your palm sized cabbage leaf in your left hand and spoon in an overflowing tablespoon of the pork filling, then sprinkle with lemongrass, fresh grated ginger, green onion slices and cilantro garnish.

Now shovel them down your gullet. Mmm, they're so amazingly good. They are the word ZING in a bite.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Muffin Tops?

We went for a walk in Kensington Market the other day and sat down at one of our favorite cafés. When we were waiting for our Americanos I saw the muffins on display, still sitting in the tins they were baked in, and just couldn't resist getting one. When we were eating it we couldn't help but wonder how do they get them so puffy and big? It seems impossible at home. If you fill the tins right up they don't bake in the center, and if you bake them longer they burn or get dry. So I investigated the issue and found out some interesting facts.

First, most of the muffins you enjoy outside are massive because they are in fact yeasted cakes. Meaning, they have a much more serious leavening agent than the baking powder you normally use in home-baked muffins. Second, as yummy as butter can be, if you want a fluffy muffin, you gotta leave it out. What you want is lots of moisture, and no weight. But the prospect of leaving muffins to rise overnight didn't excite the impulsive baker in me, so I found a way to cheat. The power of baking powder and baking soda, when combined with an active dairy such as yogurt, coupled with the use of fresh fruits or veggies for moisture will do the trick. The resulting recipe is dead easy and pretty quick too. These are carrot muffins, but you could easily substitute shredded zucchini, apple, or fresh blueberries and as long as you keep the measurements the same, yours will be as big as ours!

Recipe: Massive Carrot Muffins

1c all purpose flour
1c whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 eggs
2/3c packed brown sugar
1/3c vegetable oil
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1c yogurt
1/4 tsp fresh grated ginger
a teaspoon of orange zest
1 1/4c shredded carrots
(optional: 1/2 c chopped walnuts)

preheat oven to 350 degrees

In a medium bowl, mix the flours with the baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs with the sugar, vegetable oil, vanilla extract, yogurt, ginger and orange zest. Add the dry ingredients in thirds, mixing until just combined. Finally, fold in the grated carrots (and walnuts).

Grease the muffin tins and scoop the batter in generously, filling them right to the top. Bake in the preheated 350 oven for 30-45 minutes and marvel at how they rise...

Crazy good cran-raisin scones

I don't know what's up with us lately, maybe something about the drop in temperature and it being too cold to walk to the bakery, or maybe because we haven't been around the house lately for dinner because of work, but either way it seems like our oven has been on non-stop, so a string of simple baking and breakfast recipes is going to accrue in the next week or two. This is a recipe for a scone that I like to bake whole and cut into wedges, adapted from a Beard on Bread recipe for "Girdle" scones (Beard's explanation is that it's a bit of Scottish slang and "they are exceptionally easy to make"). Also, this is probably our all time favourite bread book, at least in part because we found a screen printed hardcover edition lying in the trash one day walking home together in the rain and its been good to us ever since, producing some damn fine bread. Plus, it's full of tons of great recipes and invaluable advice. So, here's our recipe for a baked cranberry-raisin scone adapted from James' Beard's stove top version of the same.

Recipe: Cranberry and raisin scone

2C all-purpose flour
1/4 golden raisins
1/4 dried cranberries
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 to 1 1/2C buttermilk, or half and half milk and yogurt

In a mixing bowl, sift all of the dry ingredients (including dried cranberry and raisin) together and stir with a fork. split dry mixture in two, and then working with one half at a time add enough buttermilk to form a soft, ball-forming dough, and using floured hands pat, toss and stretch into a 1/2" thick circle. Repeat with the other half.

Bake the two rounds for 8 to 12 minutes or until golden brown, then cut into quarters and serve warm, or cold. (Note: The scone or dough can be frozen, but once baked it should be eaten the day of.)

Friday, February 5, 2010

Eggs baked in cream of cremini

We pulled this baked egg recipe out of Martha Stewart's Cooking School cook book because it was a technique neither of us had tried before and we're wondering why. And after eating the results we promise you'll be asking yourself the same thing. Also, why aren't there baked eggs on the billion and one brunch places that have sprung up across every gentrified neighbourhood from Toronto to LA? What's with that? We should all be eating them, they're tasty, delicate and creamy without being smothered in hollandaise (Blogger: why do you think 'hollandaise' is a spelling error? It's just a concoction of butter and egg yolk with a little lemon). Martha's method for baked eggs is also really easy to make and doesn't take very long.

Recipe: Eggs baked in a mushroom cream sauce with toast soldiers

4 eggs (one per person)
1 shallot, chopped finely
1C cremini mushrooms, sliced thickly
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2C cream (heavy, table, or half/half)
4 slices of bread, toasted

Preheat oven to 375
. Add a tablespoon of olive oil to a pan and heat over medium-high. Sauté chopped shallot for a couple of minutes until soft, then add mushroom and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. Pour the cream over and stir vigorously until it comes to aboil, then remove from heat immediately! (If the cream is left to boil, it will taste like a burnt latte, e.g. me and my apron after a shift at the cafe = gross).

Use remaining oil to grease four medium (4 to 6" across) ramekins and place them on a baking sheet. Crack an egg into each dish and spoon in a quarter of the mushroom-cream sauce into each. Salt, pepper and bake for 9 to 12 minutes or until the whites are cooked and the yolks are runny.

Toast soldiers are made by toasting sliced bread and then cutting them lengthwise into dipping sticks. Eat the baked eggs while they're still hot, and dip liberally. Depending on if you're a double-dipper or not, you may need more than 4 pieces of toast. Now dip in.