My basil is growing!

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, as I’m taking a bit of a hiatus this summer. I like to think of it as a new step on my journey to understanding food. That has meant a bit of a step backward, as it were, from cooking to growing, but if that means spending summer days in the sun and a little hard work, I’m all for it. Meanwhile, my basil babies have decided its warm enough to peek out and join the world! ūüôā



Quick Lentil Garlic Sausage Cassoulet

I like to think of this as a cassoulet for cheaters. It takes nearly no time at all compared to the traditional fare that would take probably three days just to get the beans softened, then seeking out handmade sausage and duck confit. This was a fairly simple, cheap rendition – and no, not nearly quite as delicious but if you’re not going to make the real stuff, you might as well enjoy a variation.

1 can lentils
1/2 lb bacon – fried and chopped
1 medium onion, minced
2-3 medium carrots, diced
pinch of cayenne
salt and pepper, to taste
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
2 tsp fresh sage, chopped
1 lb garlic sausage or kielbasa cut on a diagonal (about 1/3″ thick)
2 cups breadcrumbs combined with 2  tbsp melted butter

Preheat oven 350F. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add minced onion, carrots, celery, cayenne, salt and pepper. Stir occasionally until vegetables are soft and lightly coloured, 7-8 minutes. Add garlic, sage and thyme, and stir 1 minute. Transfer to oven-proof pot or casserole dish with lentils and chopped bacon.

Distribute sausage evenly over lentils (or stir in, as you like). Top with breadcrumbs, cover with lid/foil and bake, about 30 minutes. Remove lid and bake another 10 minutes.

Sorry no photos – I made this over the short time I had lost my iPhone ūüė¶ but for pics and the full recipe, see Bon Appetit.

Mushroom Fig Rouladen

I went to every butcher in the neighbourhood looking for a quality piece of rouladen. I was shocked when no one knew what it was, much less what cut of meat it was or how to even go about producing one (a flattened cut of top round, so I now know). Sadly, and ironically, Safeway is the only place that has them but also includes them as part of their regular beef section, so there must be demand for it?

Disappointment aside, they were also on sale so I bought more than I maybe should have and wasn’t really prepared to eat 14 meals of the same pickle, mustard, onion, bacon stuffed dish. So I found something new. I figured, it’s just beef… why not fill it with something else? Ooooh. Smart, I know ūüôā

And so mushroom fig rouladen was born… and still packaged away in my freezer because, let’s face it, after three meals of anything, it’s been done and needs to just hang out for a few months until my tastebuds and my stomach are ready to bear it again.

8 rouladen
2 lbs mushrooms (you can use any but I like shittake because they hold up better and give a sweet, earthy flavour)
1-2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp fresh thyme
1 tbsp fresh sage
salt and pepper
1/2 lb dark figs

Saute mushrooms with butter and garlic until mushrooms are browned. Add thyme, sage, s & p, and figs and mix well. Remove from pan.¬†Add stuffing to rouladen and roll. Fold in the ends at the start of your roll but don’t worry about securing it (often recipes say use toothpicks, etc. but they hold together pretty well). Reheat pan with grapeseed oil to med-high and cook rouladen.

Deglaze pan with 1/4 cup red wine, 2 plus cups of beef/veggie stock (I just use veggie stock for everything – it’s easy and most versatile), 1/4 cup flour (mixed with some stock before adding) and 1 tbsp dijon mustard.

I put it on some pasta noodles with a side of rot kohl and baked squash but if you can find spaetzle, I highly recommend.

Source: I started here but I couldn’t actually say this was the recipe I followed, besides maybe the gravy.


Scallops on Potato, Garlic and Kale Mash

This warm, wintery dish is a beautiful blend of flavours and textures, with the grainy mashed potato (with UBC Farm garlic), the bright, firm kale, and the smooth freshness of local Qualicum Bay scallops. True, I’m still using UBC garlic that I bought back in September (maybe October?). It’s dried to preserve it for months (although they’ll say 4-6 weeks) and I’ll admit, it started to sprout in January but it’s still a million times better than what you’ll find in most grocery stores.

6 leaves fresh kale
3/4 cup chicken or veggie stock

1 1/2 lbs young potatoes
4 cloves garlic
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp warm milk or more stock
salt and pepper

2 tbsp grapeseed oil
20 large Qualicum Bay scallops
1/2 cup dry riesling
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
2 tbsp whole grain Dijon mustard
2 green onions

Trim leaves of kale of tough stems. Cut in half lengthwise and slice widthwise, about 1/4″.Bring 3/4 cup stock to simmer in wide skillet. Add kale and cook until just tender, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Boil potatoes and garlic until cooked. (There’s a whole paragraph on this in my recipe… seriously. If you’ve never made mashed potatoes before, this blog isn’t for you.) Add butter, milk/stock, kale and its cooking liquid, salt and pepper to taste.

Season scallops with salt and pepper. Place oil in large skillet over med-high heat. Sear scallops on each side, until just cooked and browning. Place scallops on a plate.

Deglaze with white wine and simmer to reduce by half. Add cream and reduce until lightly thickened. Add green onions, mustard, salt and pepper. Voila.

Source: EAT magazine, Jan/Feb 2010



So here is my first attempt at camembert. I think I left it to age a bit long (four weeks, as recommended), but the skin practically melted off its firmer insides and it was so potent with ammonia, I could barely eat it. I did make mac and cheese with it though (using a whole round), which was quite delicious. I have made blue cheese since, and managed to get a smaller curd with better results (less loose and ¬†pocketed) but next time, I’m also going to try just introducing the mould to the formed cheese after salting, and see how it grows.

20130202-101216.jpg 20130202-101229.jpg 20130202-101240.jpg

Sun chokes

So I picked up some sunchokes (or Jerusalem artichokes) from a Squamish farmer at the Farmers Market last Saturday. They are quite delicious – the mild, milky, nutty taste of a regular artichoke, with the texture and consistency of a potato. I simply baked them with a bit of olive oil and salt but using them in future, ¬†I think I’ll puree them, maybe make a nice soup or addition to a seafood chowder. I just found whole frozen pink salmon at Safeway on 2-for-1 (until March 7, I think), so I’ll be making chowder soon…

And while I appreciate that they abound in health benefits, and I do recommend them, they are not to be consumed in mixed company in any large quantity (read, as little as a half cup).

“Sunchokes are very rich in inulin, a carbohydrate linked with good intestinal health due to its prebiotic (bacteria promoting) properties. These health benefits come at a price; the food can have a potent wind-producing effect.¬†Sunchokes also contain vitamin C, phosphorus and potassium and are a very good source of iron.”

No kidding.


Lazy Vanilla Creme Anglais

Similar to my apple croustades, I made these mincemeat pockets with the leftover phyllo. I didn’t bother with the layers of butter and sugar between the sheets of pastry and although I would still recommend doing it, they were tasty nonetheless.

2 cups milk
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped
4 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch mixed with 4 tbsp cold milk
4 tbsp butter
1 tbsp brandy (I would quadruple this ūüôā )

Place milk, vanilla seeds and sugar into saucepan and bring to a gentle boil. Stir in starch mixture and keep stirring until thickened. Stir in butter and brandy.


Orange Sesame Szechuan Stirfry

This is an update from my previous dish. I like to evolve dishes over time so they don’t become stale. Especially when I find new ways to make them even better. I don’t think I ever make one thing the same way twice. Even the family granola recipe that we have made for my entire lifetime was transformed when I bought large flake oats instead of the normal rolled oats. I’m looking forward to using my new ribbon cut coconut next time.

My first thought when I tasted this dish – my dad would hate this. It’s spicy. It has tofu. And it has these weird, slippery asian noodles. But you know, I wouldn’t put it on here if it wasn’t delicious so try it and let me know what you think.

This time, I put together a Szechuan sauce that was a bit piquante but rich with flavour:

1 tbsp sherry vinegar (or 2 tbsp sherry)
1 1/2 tbsp grated ginger
2 garlic cloves
1/2 tsp crushed pepper
1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp brown sugar
2 tbsp sesame oil
juice of 1/2 orange

Combine the above ingredients in a sauce pan and simmer. Separately, combine 1/2 cup broth with 2 tsp cornstarch and add to other ingredients. Cook until thickened. (modified from:

Stirfry: shiitake mushrooms, green onion, bok choy, basil, udon noodles, smoked tofu, and  toasted sesame seeds. Slices of sectioned orange for garnish.


Real tomato sauce

What sorcery is this!? I’m sure trained chefs must know this secret because it makes lame tomato sauce taste like restaurant tomato sauce, and sometimes even better. With a dash of red wine, this would be just plain marvelous. I guess I’ll settle for deep-fried tomato paste.

Yes, you read that correctly. But not in the crispy-battered sense, more in the saturated-in-olive-oil-and-cooked-until-all-sweet-and-rich-and-delicious sense.

1 can of tomato paste
1/2 same amount of olive oil
(or 2:1 put plainly.)
Put in a sauce pan on medium heat and simmer until it caramelizes and begins to brown.

Add it to prepared tomato sauce (or make your own) to make the flavours really deep and delicious, or use it alone. I won’t judge.
Add a few heaping teaspoons of oregano, marjoram, a little salt and pepper, to taste, and a few spoonfuls of this magical paste.

It also makes the sauce cling to the pasta so you get a nice balanced mouthful instead of eating wet, naked pasta and chasing spoonfuls of runny sauce around your plate (although, it helps if you drain your pasta properly and only cook until al dente too).

I have to thank Bon Appetit (Oct 2012) for this one again. The magazine that keeps on giving…


Mushroom Pizza

Fall is mushroom season! Fresh, local chantrelles and lobsters and lion’s mane, oh my! Yes, I found lion’s mane at the Vancouver Christmas Market, of all places!

I found this harvest of plenty at the Granville Island market. Huge bag of slightly less-than-crispy shitakes, portobellos and chantrelles for a buck! Truth, they were a little soggy – definitely the use-in-the-same-day kind of mushrooms but so tasty, nonetheless.

I started with a pesto base and a bit of Dubliner cheddar, a few slivers of red onion and tons of mushrooms. Simple but delicious and effective. Earthy and sweet. Super yummy.

My tip is to use way more mushrooms than you think you need. Second, in preparing portobellos, remove the black gills, otherwise, they’re just mucky and will turn everything black.

20121202-183540.jpg 20121202-183550.jpg