Tag Archive for garlic

Beef Bulgogi

I had never tried Korean food before I moved to Calgary.

There had been Thai and Vietnamese, Japanese and Chinese, of course. But in all my opportunities to eat Asian food, there had been no kimchee or bulgogi.

Beef Bulgogi II

And then a group of friends formed an ad hoc supper club where we would all go out for dinner on Thursday nights, typically for ethnic foods.

We dined on Indian and pho and then, finally, a Korean place where I had my first taste of beef bulgogi.

I didn’t know what to expect, but was in beef heaven by the time I took that first bite. The marinated short rib meat was almost as soft as butter, flavoured with ginger, garlic, soy and sesame. I wedged it into crisp, cold lettuce leaves and savoured each bite. (Or as much as I could, as it was so fantastic it was hard to remember to eat slowly.)

I went back a couple of months later and there was only one thing on the menu I wanted.

Later, I stumbled on a recipe in my oft-thumbed Everyday Food cookbook (Clarkson Potter, March 2007) for a version of beef bulgogi. Instead of the more traditional Korean short ribs, it called for thinly sliced rib-eye and it required no ingredients more exotic than sesame and chili oils and some staples found in most kitchens: brown sugar, soy, ginger, garlic.

Craving the taste again of that distinct mix of salty soy, garlic and the hint of sweet from the brown sugar, I thought it was worth a try.

The book now cracks open to that page, left slightly spattered by being set too close to the fry pan when cooking — the sign of a successful recipe.

At home, the first time I tried this out, I couldn’t be bothered with the lettuce wraps; it seemed too fussy for eating in front of the TV. So, I just put a couple of scoops of it on cooked rice and ate it with chopsticks. The rice soaked up the extra sauce, making for a very satisfying and flavourful meal. (And the leftovers were a nice lunch at work the next day.)

But I also like the idea of rolling up the beef and onions and peppers in soft butter lettuce, so this time around I did exactly that.

Beef Bulgogi I

The leaves of butter lettuce (or Boston lettuce, as it is also known) are tender and pliable, making them a perfect container for the bulgogi mixture. The thin leaves also don’t interfere with the flavours and softness of the meat.

Either way, it’s a delicious and fast way to taste Korea.

And one I’ll come back to again and again.

Beef Bulgogi III

Beef Bulgogi

This recipe from Everyday Food calls for hot chili sesame oil, which I have never found in my grocery store travels. Instead, I use half sesame oil and half chili oil. In a pinch, you can use all sesame oil and a dash of red pepper flakes.

  • 1½lbs (750g) rib-eye steak, trimmed of excess fat
  • 1/4 cup (50 mL) soy sauce
  • 1½ tsp (7 mL) sesame oil
  • 1½ tsp (7 mL) chili oil
  • 2 tbsp (25 mL) dark brown sugar
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) finely grated, peeled fresh ginger
  • 2 medium red onions, halved and cut lengthwise into 1-inch (2.5-cm) wedges
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeds and ribs removed, sliced into ½-inch (1-cm) strips
  • 4 tsp (20 mL) vegetable oil, divided
  • 1 small head Boston (also known as butter) lettuce

Freeze the beef for 20 minutes; transfer to a clean work surface. Slice diagonally (across the grain) into 1/8-inch (3-mm) thick strips.

In a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, sesame and chili oils, brown sugar, garlic and ginger. Place the onions and peppers in a small bowl; toss with half the soy marinade. Toss the steak in the remaining marinade; let stand for 15 minutes

Heat 2 tsp (10 mL) of the vegetable oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and peppers; cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Wipe the skillet clean with a paper towel.

Heat the remaining 2 tsp (10 mL) vegetable oil over high heat. Cook half the meat, turning often, until browned, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Cook the remaining meat. Return the first batch and any accumulated juices to the pan; add the onion mixture. Cook, tossing, until heated through, about 1 minute.

To serve, roll up the beef mixture in lettuce leaves.

Serves 4.

This first ran in the Calgary Herald. For more recipes and food stories, check out www.CalgaryHerald.com/life.

Basil Vinaigrette

If you’ve been reading this for awhile, you may remember when I mentioned that I once bought a cookbook simply for a salad dressing recipe. Subsequently, I’ve learned to love Rebar’s lime sugar cookies and have tried numerous other recipes in the book. But it’s the basil vinaigrette that keeps me coming back to this book every single time.

Salad close-up

I first tried the basil dressing when I had a salad at Rebar one afternoon. It was a fantastic meal. (I have this theory about salads, that they are always best when someone else makes them. In this case, it’s not all that surprising when you look at what they include in their giant salads: grated beets, grated carrots, lettuce, tomatoes, sunflower seeds, cheese . . . . The list goes on.) And I’ve barely tried anything else when I’ve gone there again because the salad is so good.

And they don’t blink when I ask for a little extra dressing on the side.

People, this is good stuff.

And no doubt, there is A LOT of basil in here. Once blended with vinegars, dijon and a few other ingredients, then emulsified with olive oil, this comes out very thick, very green and very fantastic.

Basil

As soon as basil starts to show up at the farmer’s market each summer, I buy a couple of huge bunches, make a batch or two of pesto and then this dressing, which I devour on salads all week.

(Um, may I suggest checking your basil before blending?)
Extra passenger

The measurement for basil (1 1/2 ounces) doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s a few cups, so make sure to buy enough. Otherwise, cut the recipe in half if you don’t have enough.

All in the blender

Basil Vinaigrette

Basil Vinaigrette II

Dressing on lettuce

Simple salad with Basil Vinaigrette

Basil Vinaigrette

from the Rebar Modern Food Cookbook

  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 ounces fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cracked pepper
  • 1 cup olive oil

Combine all of the ingredients, except the olive oil, in a food processor (I use a blender and that works just as well, I’ve found.) and blend. Slowly add olive oil in a slow, thin stream until thick and creamy.

Season to taste and serve. Can be refrigerated up to three days.

White Bean Tartlets with Oven Roasted Tomatoes

This post is dedicated to my friend Elsbeth who is going to kick my butt for waiting two weeks to post. I could possibly be the most procrastinating-est blogger ever. It’s a curse.

So, Elsbeth, this one is for you.

Solo Tartlet

I had a little party on Friday two weeks ago to celebrate a blog milestone. The original plan was to have a few friends over for appies and wine to celebrate crossing the 100,000-views mark, but that didn’t work out because I ended up getting to that point faster than originally thought and the timing was off. (No, it was not procrastination related, for once.) Then I thought it would be cute to instead have people over for passing by 123,456 views.

So, that’s what it ended up being.

I sometimes get a bit of party anxiety, though. Will people have fun? Will there be enough food?

And, as usual, my fretting was all for naught. Besides having cheese, crackers, some salami and prosciutto, I also made two appetizers: prawns sauteed with chili, garlic and ginger served in wonton crisp cups and these White Bean Tartlets with Oven Roasted Tomatoes. And thankfully (with the addition of sending one care package home for a friend who couldn’t make it), all of the food was eaten! Frankly, that was the best part. Made me feel like everyone enjoyed the goodies. Plus, you know, less clean up.

(So, I’m making up for the lack of text here with bonus photos. Couldn’t narrow them down….)

Trio of tartlets III

I got the inspiration from one of my 8 million cookbooks, but adjusted the recipe quite a bit and figure that, at that point, it’s safe to call it my own. It was pleasantly garlicky and rich-tasting even though there was almost no fat involved. And, c’mon, they’re just so damn cute.

Thyme

Tomatoes and Thyme

Roasted Tomatoes with Thyme

White Beans pre-puree

Trio of Tartlets

Trio of tartlets II

White Bean Tartlets with Oven Roasted Tomatoes

  • 30 grape tomatoes
  • 30 tart shells or pastry to make 30 tarts
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 4-5 sprigs of thyme
  • 1 teaspoon thyme leaves, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 19 oz (540 mL) can white kidney beans
  • 1/2 cup white wine (can substitute stock or even water)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Bake tart shells as indicated or blind bake homemade pastry until shells are completely cooked.

Preheat oven to 350. Put tomatoes in oven safe dish and toss with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Sprinkle with a pinch or two of salt and add the sprigs of thyme. Roast in the oven for about 30 minutes until their skins have started to split. Set aside.

In a pot over medium heat, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and minced garlic. Once the oil is hot and the garlic has started to soften, add the drained and rinsed beans and continue cooking until warmed through and the beans are starting to fall apart, stirring often. Add wine (or stock or water) and thyme leaves and cook until most of the liquid is gone. Remove from the heat. Dump the beans, garlic and thyme into a food processor and whiz until it forms a nice paste. If it appears to be a bit too dry, add some more wine/stock/water. Spoon into cooked pastry shells and top each one with a roasted tomato. At this point I also spooned any drippings from the roasted tomato pan onto the tartlets.

Roasted Chickpeas with Chard

I can’t say I’ve ever gone out of my way to buy/cook/eat chard. But there was something about Julie’s entry during her year-long, post-a-day, blog-a-thon involving roasted chickpeas and chard that, for some unknown reason, really appealed to me. I filed it away, figuratively, for a future date and carried on with things.

Chard II

So, when a friend at work was extolling the virtues of her chard crop, I was immediately reminded of my plan to try out this dish. And, very fortuitously, she was happy to provide me with a large bunch of chard to use in my attempt.

Bundled Chard

Oh chard! Why have I foresaken thee for so many years? You are quick to prepare and delicious! And I’m pretty sure you’re good for me too!

Chard I

I’m just sad now that the chard season (at least in my friend’s garden) is over for another year. Most of the generous bunch she gave me went into the dish with the roasted chickpeas. But I held back a few stalks that I sauteed quickly with garlic and topped with a fried egg for breakfast one day.

The original recipe just calls for the leaves from what I can tell. But I liked the rainbow stalks so much that I diced them finely and fried them for a few minutes before adding the leaves to the mixture.

I can only hope that next year my friend’s chard crop is even bigger and she is as giving as this time around with it….

This recipe has been adapted ever so slightly from the original, as seen here. Mostly because I didn’t have enough garlic to do it properly and, as mentioned before, because I used up the stalks too.

Chickpeas, garlic, shallots and bay leaves

Chard III

Chopped chard stalks

Roasted chickpeas with garlic and bay leaves

Roasted Chickpeas with Chard

Roasted Chickpeas with Chard

For the chickpeas
1 19 oz.  can chick peas, rinsed and drained
3 cloves garlic, peeled (original calls for entire head; will try this next time)
2 shallots, roughly chopped
2 bay leaves
1/3 cup olive oil

For the chard:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large bunch Swiss chard, center stems removed and chopped finely, and leaves coarsely torn
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 cup vegetable, chicken or beef broth

Preheat oven to 400. In a baking dish, combine chickpeas, garlic, shallots, bay leaves and oil. Roast for about 45 minutes, shaking the pan at least once (twice is probably even better) until everything is golden. Remove from oven and set aside.

In a frying pan on the stove, add olive oil and heat until hot. Saute garlic for about 30 seconds until it is fragrant, add chard stems and saute for a minute or two until tender. Add chard and continue cooking until it has wilted — about five minutes. Pour over stock, cover and cook for another 10 minutes. Remove lid and drain excess liquid. Add chickpea mixture, season with salt and pepper and mix until heated through. Add a little more olive oil if desired.

Pesto

The smell of basil is the smell of summer.

basil

And not just because it is readily available in the months when the sun is out more often than not and the days are long.
It’s also because I will forever associate the smell of basil with my grandfather and summer afternoons in his studio when we would make pesto.

Pesto

He had a greenhouse that somehow managed to produce a never-ending supply of this fragrant herb. (Along with peppers and tomatoes that tasted like tomatoes. I loved eating them when their skins were still warm from being inside the hothouse; their taste was unparalleled.) So pesto was not just a treat that could be made with basil, it was a way of harvesting and putting to use mass quantities of the stuff.

The remaining ingredients, he always had on hand. Heads of papery garlic always sat in a bowl on the work table that separated the kitchen from the rest of the studio. Parsley was harvested from a large pot on the front deck. As a man who wished he was Italian, olive oil and parmesan were always part of the pantry.

He would store the pesto in baby jars in the freezer, sending a few home with me at the end of my visits to the island.

I started making my own pesto a couple of years ago, though in infinitely smaller batches since I have no garden nor greenhouse and must depend on the bags of basil from the farmer’s market. But I, like him, freeze what I don’t think I’ll quickly consume. Then, in the depths of winter, when the sun goes down before I get home from work and the wind can chill me to the bones, I can pull it out. I add it to soups or pasta sauces or cook it with a little cream and pour over pasta with a fresh few grates of Parmesan. In these small ways, I bring back the summer, and the smells and sounds of being with my grandfather.

Olive Oil

Parmesan

Pesto pre-blending

Pesto II

There are a million variations on pesto recipes. This is one I like, which I adapted from two recipes.

Pesto

  • 2 cups packed basil
  • 1/2 cup parsley
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted and cooled
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • pinch or two pepper (I just do a few grinds)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

Place all ingredients except oil in a food processor. Blitz two or three times to get it going, then turn on and let run while drizzling oil in. Stop when all the oil is incorporated but before it gets too thin. I like mine to still have a slightly chunky feel to it.

Fettucine with Roasted Tomato Sauce

The actual title of this blog post would have been far too long:

Fettucine with Roasted Tomato Sauce and Balsamic Reduction, as well as testing out the new KitchenAid pasta attachment.

Roasted tomato sauce on fresh fettucine

It’s a bit of a double barreled post, really. Call it multi-tasking.

Actually, that’s a bit of a lie too. The actual, actual title of this post should have been:

Fettuccine with Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Sauce and Balsamic Reduction, as well as testing out the new KitchenAid pasta attachment.

But I’ve realized I really don’t like eggplant when I cook it and, in the end, did not end up eating any of it. You will notice its absence in the final photos, but had to include a photo of the palm-sized eggplants because they were just so darn cute.

Baby Eggplants

Which pretty much illustrates the fact that I make the worst impulse food buys known to man.

At any rate, a couple of months ago I was approached by a marketing company asking if I’d be interested in reviewing the KitchenAid pasta kit on my blog. As a huge pasta fan, I was definitely intrigued.

I’ve typically shied away from making it homemade, even though the boxed stuff pales in comparison to the tender noodles that come from real pasta.

The real issue here is my inability to knead properly. Unsure if that’s because I’m impatient, don’t have a feel for it, or just generally have no idea what I’m doing. But whether one of these reasons or a combination of all three, it basically adds up to me never quite reaching the smooth, elastic stage needed to make bread or pasta.

Full disclosure: I was sent the KitchenAid pasta kit, as well as the mixer required to run the attachments, by the marketing firm in order to review them. This is my unbiased review of the kit. I am not required to return the items (which, really, makes sense. I mean, what are they going to do with a used mixer, pasta roller and cutter?).

The mixer and kit arrived a few weeks after some back-and-forth emailing and I set aside an afternoon to give it a whirl.

The kit itself includes two boxes of pasta dough mix (just add water), a pasta roller, fettucine cutter, cleaning brush and cooking utensils. The roller and cutter attach to the front of the stand mixer and are powered by the appliance.

Pasta Mixes

Roller and Cutter

Roller and Cutter

Cleaning brush

Making the dough was pretty simple. Add water, mix, produce crumbly dough and mush it together.

As always, I was nervous from the get-go that I had done something wrong. But I divided the dough into about eight pieces and then gave them each a quick knead before powering up the roller attachment and letting the dough slide through.

On its widest setting, the roller can actually be used to knead the dough. I sent one chunk through, then folded it in half and let it run through the rollers again. I did this about five or six times until the dough was shiny and elastic and stretched out into a long rectangle. Then I started on the next chunk of dough.

Pasta first run

Once that was all done. I then put the roller onto a thinner setting and ran them all through again. And then again on a thinner setting. And so on.

When it was thin enough, I exchanged the roller attachment for the fettucine cutter and watched as the flat sheets of pasta were cut into perfect (albeit extremely long) ribbons.

Fresh Fettucine

It was, all in all, astonishingly easy. And a bit hypnotic.

I liked that I could forego all the annoying kneading and with relative ease make a batch of homemade pasta. I liked the chew of the noodles I made and how quickly it cooked.

The next test, of course, will be to make my own actual dough.

While I loved the roller and cutter, I was initially not 100 per cent sure I would have been tempted to buy the entire kit. Most food lovers are already going to have their own slotted spoon and pasta server and probably would enjoy the challenge of making their own dough rather than using a boxed mix, I reasoned.

I would, however, definitely be tempted to buy the roller and cutter separately.

Roller

Fettucine cutter

Then after a bit of research, I found the kit is not a bad deal considering a pasta roller, motorized drive and a fettucine cutter is going to cost roughly the same as the KitchenAid’s kit, which comes with the utensils, dough mix and cleaning brush. If you already have the stand mixer, it’s not a bad way to go.

The pasta kit retails for about $180.

And here’s what I did with the noodles. The recipe is not so much a recipe as much as me just fiddling around, but, since it turned out so well, I’m going to recommend it anyway.

Roasted tomato sauce on fresh fettucine II

Fettucine with Roasted Tomato Sauce

  • 1 pound tomatoes, cut into 1 or 1/2″ chunks
  • 3 cloves garlic, whole, unpeeled
  • olive oil
  • balsamic vinegar
  • salt
  • pepper
  • pasta
  • parmesan
  • balsamic reduction

Set oven to 375. Chop tomatoes into roughly 1/2″ to 1″ pieces (depending on how chunky you want the sauce to be), place in baking dish, scatter in unpeeled garlic cloves, then drizzle with olive oil, balsamic and sprinkle on kosher or sea salt and pepper. Bake for about 30 to 45 minutes until tomatoes are starting to carmelize and break down.

Cook pasta according to directions or, if using fresh, cook in boiling, salted water for just a few minutes until al dente. (Depending on the thickness of noodle, this can take anywhere from about three minutes and up.)

Slip cloves of garlic out of their peels and then mush with fork into tomatoes. Scoop sauce onto cooked pasta, sprinkle with grated parmesan and fresh chopped parsley (if you have any). Drizzle lightly with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic reduction.

Pasta Bolognese

I grew up in a family of six (four kids, two parents). I like to think this is why I’m completely incapable of making meals for just one or two people. It just never really occurs to me to halve a recipe. Or when I’m just creating something, it never looks to me like I’m making too much. Mostly, it’s not a problem. I, unlike most, like leftovers. I like them for breakfast or lunch or dinner. (There is nothing like pasta for breakfast. Mmmmm.) And, since I tend to cook big, I can usually feed myself for all three of those meals based on whatever I made for dinner the night before.

In the last year or so, though, I’ve finally come to appreciate my freezer. Sure, it was always a happy home to ice cream and the odd frozen pizza. Now I tend to freeze some leftovers for those crazy times when work is insane and there is a strange absence of groceries and I’m contemplating a dinner of peanut butter on crackers. And this Bolognese sauce is the perfect thing to have stashed away for dinner emergencies.

Ready to eat

I got it out of Real Simple magazine; the only magazine I’ve subscribed to since Chickadee and Owl when I was a kid.

So, I used to make this with fettuccine and then one time when I went to buy pasta there was no De Cecco fettuccine. But there was fettuccelle. Sure, that’ll do. But it was so much better than that. It’s now my pasta of choice. It’s flat like fettuccine, but better. Thicker, I think. Or something. Sigh. Just better; let’s leave it at that.

Pasta

There is nothing more comforting than a big bowl of hot noodles (al dente, please!) with thick, rich sauce all chock full of tomatoes and beef that’s been simmering for an hour or so. So, I’m happy to make the whole batch of this, freeze half in ziplock bags and then eat the rest for a handful of meals. Then, the next time a craving comes, I still have my freezer stash.

And let me offer this handy ‘recycling’ tip. Don’t throw away the heels of your parmesan wedges. Throw them in as the sauce simmers; they will add a nice richness. (When I’m down to the heel of the cheese, I throw them in a ziplock and into the freezer so they are ready to go when I make the sauce.)

As usual, this is with my adaptations. (These are, for the most part, another carrot — yeah for more vegetables — and no pancetta. I have nothing against pancetta — mmmm bacon-y goodness — but I don’t typically have it on hand and can’t be bothered to go get some for this recipe as I generally have all the other ingredients. Oh, and I add the garlic later than they suggest. There is nothing worse than burnt garlic, so adding it with the celery and carrot seems a bit premature.)

Carrots, onions, celery and garlic

Parmesan heels

mirepoix

Beef, carrots, garlic, onions and celery

A good use for parmesan "heels"

Pasta Bolognese

Pasta Bolognese

  • 1  tablespoon  olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diceed
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2  pounds  lean ground beef
  • 1  cup  dry white wine
  • 1  cup  milk (I use 1 per cent)
  • 1 6-ounce can tomato paste
  • 1 14-ounce (398 mL) can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1/4  teaspoon  red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2 1/2  teaspoons  kosher salt
  • 1/4  teaspoon  black pepper
  • 1/4  teaspoon  ground nutmeg
  • Parmesan heels (if you’ve got them)

In a Dutch oven or large, solid frying pan (I use one with straight sides), heat the oil. Add the onion and saute until they start to go transluscent, about three minutes. Add the celery and carrot and cook for five minutes more until they too start to soften. Add garlic and saute until you can smell it, about a minute. Add beef and cook until browned. Add wine, milk and the rest of the ingredients. (Don’t fret, the milk is going to look like it’s curdling a bit. It’s not.) Add the cheese heels and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve over hot, drained pasta with fresh Parmesan.

Roasted Tomato Soup

Sometimes, my apartment is the place where tomatoes go to die. I buy them, forget about them, and the slowly grow old, wrinkling away in their clamshell package until I’m utterly baffled about what I can do with them.

And then I had a brainwave (triggered in no small part by a recipe I saw over at 101 Cookbooks and then combined with an article from one issue out of my random collection of Cook’s Illustrated): why not roast them and make them into a soup? Then it doesn’t matter if they’re wrinkled. Or if they are wintry supermarket tomatoes that have virtually no flavour. Roasting will take care of both problems, especially the lack of flavour aspect as their summery, tomato flavour will intensify in the oven. Throw a couple of garlic cloves in with the tomatoes while they roast and add a hint of buttery, roasted garlic flavour to the soup.

Roasted Tomato Soup

The first time I made this, there was a tomato emergency. The collection I had was rapidly going south and was going to have to be tossed soon if I didn’t figure out something to do with them. Of course, since I was just playing around in the kitchen, I didn’t bother documenting the process.

The soup was full of flavour and velvety smooth. It was definitely a keeper.

A civilized lunch

The second time I made the soup, it was almost as good, but I’m going to suggest not using as much stock as I did this round. The first soup, which only had about two cups of stock, had a much more intense tomato flavour, which is what made the soup so great. The second one, I used three cups of stock. The tomato flavour was duller and I won’t be doing that again.

Tomatoes

Roasted Tomatoes and Garlic

Diced Onion

Soup in blender from above

In the blender

Soup from the side

Roasted Tomato Soup

  • Six or seven tomatoes, cut in half or quarters depending on their size
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • one onion, diced
  • four cloves garlic, unpeeled
  • 1/4 cup brandy, optional
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1/4 cup cream, milk or half-and-half
  • Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 375. Cut tomatoes in halves or quarters, depending on their size, and lay cut side up in a roasting pan. Throw in unpeeled garlic cloves amongst the tomatoes. Drizzle everything with one tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle with kosher or sea salt and fresh ground pepper. Roast for 30 to 45 minutes until the tomatoes and garlic have started to caramelize.

Heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a saucepan on medium heat, then add the diced onion and saute until transluscent — about four or five minutes. Add brandy, if using, and cook for another minute or two. Add sugar, then stock. Bring to low boil.

Remove paper skins from garlic, then add the tomatoes and garlic into the pot with the stock. Let cook for a few minutes. Pour everything into blender and whiz until velvety smooth. Add cream or milk and whiz for another minute. Taste for seasonings. (Since there is salt on the tomatoes and in the stock, I advise waiting until the end before seasoning because you may not need to add anything.)

Guacamole

When the cravings for Guacamole come, they must be answered.

I love avocados. The pale green flesh, the rich buttery taste, the thwack sound the pit makes when I hit it with my knife. I like it sliced in salads or spread between two pieces of buttered toast with a little salt and pepper. But I really love it in guacamole with a handful of salty chips on the side.

The Ingredients

Sure, it’s high in fat, but I’m slightly mollified by the fact it’s a good fat and there are lots of vitamins and potassium in avocados. I also need that information to justify my decision to eat guacamole for dinner. (It’s flimsy justification, but justification nonetheless.)

The Ingredients

I like to make mine by cubing the avocados while still in their skins and then scooping the chunks out with a spoon before gently stirring with the other ingredients, so the meaty fruit retains some of its bite instead of becoming a paste. (You’ll see below that the instructions are slightly different. Obviously, do as you feel is best.)

Dicing the avocado

Red Onion

Ready to serve

It should come as no surprise that this recipe comes from my mentor, the Barefoot Contessa.

Guacamole

  • Four ripe Haas avocados (I just buy whatever is in the store)
  • 3 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice — one lemon
  • 8 dashes Tabasco sauce
  • 1/2 cup small-diced red onion
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced (I use a rasp — best kitchen gadget ever — so there are no large chunks of garlic)
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 medium tomato, seeded and small-diced

Cut the avocados in half, remove the pits, and scoop the flesh out of their shells into a large bowl. (I use my hands.) Immediately add the lemon juice, Tabasco, onion, garlic, salt and pepper and toss well. Using a sharp knife, slice through the avocados in the bowl until they are finely diced. Add the tomatoes. Mix well and taste for salt and pepper.

Green Beans with Garlic

What is it about other people’s versions of the same recipe that inevitably turn out better than yours? I call it Other People’s Salad Syndrome, or Salad Syndrome, for short. I can put the same baby lettuce, grape tomatoes and grated carrot in a bowl, make a basic vinaigrette and it will be fine. My Mum will make it or a friend will whip one together and it will still taste better than one I’ve made.

When I was back in Vancouver a few weeks ago, my Mum made a dinner that included Green Beans with Garlic. In a nutshell, it’s steamed green beans, doused with olive oil that has had chunks of garlic cooked in it, then sprinkled with salt and pepper. We’ve had this many times over the years, and I’m sure I remember a few versions that had long strips of sweet red pepper for colour and flavour contrast.

Still craving another hit of that garlicky, summery taste, I picked up a huge bag of green beans earlier this week. Then, this morning as I was procrastinating (surely, this is one of the top reasons I bake and cook), I thought it would be the perfect time to cook up some beans.

Green Beans with Garlic

I had double checked the “recipe” with my Mum the night before. (“So, it’s just beans and garlic in oil and salt and pepper, right?” I messaged her in the middle of our online Scrabble game. “Yup.” Alrighty, then.) So, I was good to go.

Oh, except for the fact that for some unknown, unexplained and super annoying reason, the water to my apartment was cut off for several hours today. But, never one to shy away from a challenge, I proceeded anyway. (I can be particularly stubborn and, subsequently, pretty creative.) I had just enough water in my Brita to make three cups of rice (for the other part of my lunch) and to steam the green beans. Thank god I refilled that thing.

Green beans

Owing to my overwhelming supply of shallots, I thought I’d adjust the recipe slightly and slice up one of those and add it at the last minute to the olive oil. I really liked this touch, as the shallot was a sweet addition, and will do it again in the future. But if you don’t have any lying around, I wouldn’t worry about it.

Shallots and garlic

The idea here is to cook the garlic until it’s tender and has lost its bite in favour of a slightly nutty taste sort of akin to roasted garlic. If the oil’s temperature is too high, the garlic could burn and it will taste very acrid. The key is to watch the amount of bubbling after throwing in the garlic. I also occasionally lift the pot off and swirl the oil around to keep the garlic moving. If you’re going to add some shallot, add it towards the end because it will cook more quickly than the thick-cut garlic.

Garlic and olive oil

Shallots and garlic in olive oil

Anyway, I steamed the beans, cooked the garlic in the oil, added the (what I believe to be) inspired choice of a shallot, tossed it all together with some salt and pepper and sat down to enjoy lunch.

And was disappointed.

It’s not that it wasn’t good. Mmmmm garlic. Mmmmmm slightly sweetened shallot. Mmmmm grean beans. And yet, it still wasn’t as tasty as the version I had just two weeks earlier.

I’m blaming it on Salad Syndrome.

But I’m going to keep working on it because this summery, salad-ish recipe is too good to give up on.

For this recipe, I use Maldon flaked salt. I like the slight crunch of the crystals and that it’s not an overpoweringly salty taste.

Lunch is served

Green Beans with Garlic

  • 1 pound green beans
  • 1/2 cup olive oil, extra virgin preferable for it’s more intense flavour
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced thickly
  • 1 or 2 shallots, sliced thickly in rings and then separated
  • salt
  • pepper

Steam the green beans. (I do it on the stove using a steamer, but only because I’m not sure how to do it in the microwave.) When they are still slightly crisp (I think the technical term is “tender crisp”) and bright green, throw them in a bowl of ice cold water to shock them — stop the cooking process and keep them a nice colour. Strain and throw in a bowl. While the beans are steaming, set a small pot with the olive oil onto a burner set to medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until slightly golden. Toss over beans and then add salt and pepper to taste.

P.S. When all the beans are eaten and there is still all that lovely, garlicky oil left over, it’s pretty delicious with chunks of french bread.

P.P.S. Hmmmm. Having just had another round of beans that have been sitting out since I made them (about two hours ago) and are now about room temperature, I’d say they are even better this way. Maybe *that’s* the trick. When my Mum made them, my sister and I kept picking away at them while the rest of dinner cooked, so they probably were more at room temperature by the time we all sat down.

So, you may want to make them slightly ahead of time and let them cool before enjoying.

Saifun Salad

I don’t know why I always forget how great T&T supermarket is.

Yesterday, I went grocery shopping. After 10 days away it was time to restock the fridge with vegetables and fresh herbs. I was really craving fresh herbs now that the temperature is starting to climb. (Mother Nature is, apparently, apologizing for the extra long winter by moving us straight into summer.) Safeway was out of basil, though, so after dropping a friend off at the airport this morning, I decided to quickly stop by T&T in the city’s northeast.

Let’s do a little comparison shopping, shall we?

Two shallots at Safeway: $1.99

Bag of eight shallots at T&T: $1.49

Shallots

Packages of herbs at Safeway: $2.49

Bag of Thai basil about three sizes larger than Safeway’s: $2.64 (by weight)

Fresh herbs

Okay, so I only needed a little bit of basil, but bonus basil means more room for creativity. Now, instead of one or two recipes that call for the stuff, I can make three or four. With three baby cucumbers sitting in my car (from my aforementioned friend who needed to ditch the last of her produce before heading on holidays), grape tomatoes at home and a package of mint also sitting in my fridge, I remembered this great little summer salad recipe that uses Saifun noodles.

Saifun noodles — before the softening

Saifun noodles softening

These noodles — also known as mung bean noodles, bean threads or vermicelli — are the perfect summer food. They don’t need to be boiled, just reconstituted in a little hot water, which is easily done while chopping the rest of the ingredients. The noodles are light and when dressed with lime, rice vinegar, garlic and fresh herbs can be very refreshing. The hits of fresh herbs also make it super tasty.

For the record, Thai basil (also known as holy basil, apparently) does not taste the same as traditional Italian basil, so I wouldn’t suggest using it for your favourite tomato sauce or other Italian dishes. But if it’s a Thai, Vietnamese or southeast Asian recipe that calls for basil, you could definitely use Thai basil if you can find it. A lot of Asian grocers seem to carry it, so keep an eye out.

Thai basil

I originally found this recipe in the Edmonton Journal. My additions and changes are noted in italics. Also note that these noodles suck up the vinaigrette like string sponges, so, when in doubt, don’t skimp. Oh, and I like to use those baby cucumbers that seem to be cropping up everywhere these days; they’re less bitter than the long English cukes. Either way, I’d recommend scraping out the seeds because that ups the soggy factor if you’re not eating it all in one go (or, of course, serving it all in one go).

Saifun Salad ingredients

Saifun Salad dressing and kitchen mess

Saifun Salad before the dressing

Saifun Salad with the dressing

Saifun Salad

  • 8 oz. (250 grams) saifun bean thread noodles
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes (I chop mine in half so they stretch further)
  • 1 small cucumber, diced
  • 2 tbsp. chopped fresh mint leaves
  • 2 or 3 green onions, minced
  • a few cilantro leaves, chopped (cilantro and I are not friends. I do not like it nor understand everyone’s obsession with it. If you like it, by all means add it; I do not.)

Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 3 tbsp. sugar
  • grated zest and juice of one lime
  • 2 tbsp. Thai basil, torn (Of course, if you can only find Italian, that’s fine.)
  • 2 garlic cloves, mashed (I mash them, throw them in the dressing, then fish them out just before eating so as to impart as much garlic flavour but without the burn of eating raw garlic.)
  • 1 tsp. red chile paste
  • 2 tsp. fish sauce
  • 2 tsp. soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup canola oil (I’m sure any vegetable oil will do. But I wouldn’t use olive oil, which I feel would overpower the light flavours of the salad.)
  • 1/2 tsp. sesame oil (I usually don’t add this because I find it overpowering.)

Soak the noodles in a bowl of warm water just until softened, about five minutes, then cook one minute in boiling water. (I simply cover them with boiling water and wait about five or six minutes for them to soften.) Drain and immediately rinse with cold water to stop the cooking. Cover and store in the fridge until ready to make the salad.

Whisk together the dressing ingredients. Taste to check for seasonings.

Place cold noodles in a large salad bowl. Add tomatoes, cucumber, onions and herbs. Top with dressing and toss well, then put the salad in the fridge for about 30 minutes before serving, so the noodles have a chance to soak up the flavours of the dressing.