Spring Flowers and Bees

Saturday, February 25, 2006

LiveReport - St. Lawrence Market and Rol San Dimsum

I have been very dreamy...

This reading week, I have been nothing but dreamy. Dreamy all day, mostly thinking about food, passsing by each minute reading food blogs, imagining beautiful sceneries in France, wishing I could become a child who is exposed to good foods, and dreaming of beautiful sentences from my newly-found memoir,
A Moveable Feast.

I have not done as much reading
(or studying) as I should have, nonetheless I have no regrets :) I am happy that this week I experienced more exposure to food than any other week. Especially today... My sister and I went to Toronto's Old District (on my insistence, of course) to get some fresh air at St. Lawrence Market. Why Saturday? Because I think it's the most energetic and ravenous day in the market, you'll see farmers bringing their fresh farm products in the Farmer's Market, vendor owners yelling (or, screeching) their Special of the Day, and best of all live music (I mean, GOOD music) on each corner of the market. Isn't it just lovely?

I am going to guide you on a tour around St. Lawrence Market, particularly to the stores that I personally visited. And later on, you'll find my review on a decent dimsum place.

Gallery - St. Lawrence Market

North Market
Saturday Farmer's Market
According to its official website, this tradition of Ontario growers has begun since 1803. Starting sharply at 5 in the morning, having a bunch of farmers with fresh produce brings nothing but excitement! Once I heard from a friend that if you come early enough, you'll see the attraction of throwing and catching the fresh produce and fresh fish around the market. Sounds like fun, eh?
Each time I go to the Farmer's Market, I could not hide my amazement and curiosity of things. This is where I discover a lot of produce that I've never really seen before.

South Market
(click for a list of merchants and detailed map)

Domino's Foods
Are you a scavenger who likes to hunt rare food curios? I think you've come to the right place :) Not only do Domino's carries a wide selection of bulk foods, they also carry a wide variety of different brands of oil, balsamic vinegar, and a heaping condiments from around the world. From Oriental to European, everything seems to make a stop here! I even found Indonesian coffee candies,
Kopiko, and Italian flour. You won't get enough of legumes and spices here. If you're looking for saffron, they offer a gram for only $3.99. Just one warning, don't get lost :p

Unique Fine Foods
My sister was attracted by the appearance of potato latkes, so we went over to this store to purchase one. Still hot and fresh! The taste resembled Indonesian fried corn batter, but I could eventually taste the fried potatoes.

Rube's Rice
I was not yet satisfied with my findings at Domino's and wandered off in this tiny store, which was an extension on the Rube's Rice located more to the centre. To my surprise, I found
Israelli couscous, dark rye flour, and stone-ground cornmeal! These are treasures for me! First of all, I was introduced to the pearl-y Israelli couscous while I was working at Bluffs and have grown to love it. Then, the next two ingredients are essential in baking bread, especially for my next cornbread :)
I was so happy because buying a large scoop for each of the last two ingredients only cost me 74 cents :)

Eve's Temptation
Mr. W gave me a budget of $20 to be spent on dessert and I turned my head to this small vendor with really nice display. I've tried their cheesecakes and they are so delectable, however, the baklava wasn't nearly as good. So, I bought a set of
mini cheesecakes and mousses, a slice of mango cranberry cheesecake, and some Portugese egg tarts (Pasteis de Nata). They all looked promising to me. At least Mr. W loved my choice of mango cheesecake :)

Stonemill Bakehouse
Throughout all of my visits to St. Lawrence Market I have never seen this bakery open! Only today did I see it fully loaded with fresh artisan breads and.. people! Yes, people were crammed in this small lot, buzzing about, selecting the breads they want.
I landed my choice on the
Artisan Whole Grain Walnut Bread and a bag of ten different rolls. I had the walnut bread sliced and ate one of the slices right there (after I have paid, of course). However, I must remind myself that I'm not a big fan of whole-grains. The grains really distract me!

Olympic Food and Cheese
Following Ivonne's Gnocchi a la Bava, I went all the way to St. Lawrence Market so that I can get my hands to the right cheese. I got the
Parmigiano Regiano cheese alright, but I missed a spot! I didn't realize that I had bought the Danish fontina cheese instead of the Italian! Aww, thankfully Ivonne said that it's gonna be fine although the taste won't be as good.

Scheffler's Deli
This is a
haven for cheese, dips, and spreads! They carry a wide variety of dips, such as taramasalata (dip made from cod roe), hot hummus, and artichoke spinach dip. The best part is you get to package your choice in the provided container, isn't it jsut fun?

We left St. Lawrence market with full heart and empty stomach. So we headed to Rol San restaurant in Spadina to grab some dimsum!

When we were little kids, having yum-cha every weekend was almost customary. Every Sunday, our extended family would gather in a place called Garden Palace and eat dimsum al afternoon. Back in the old days, dimsum is normally served in the weekend morning and afternoons only. This place was huge and had a stage on the center, so as a kid I would run around with my cousins and caused some havoc :P

The best thing out of this yum-cha that I remember is the
mango pudding with whipped cream. The texture was just right and the yellow color was gleaming with pleasure. Until now, I have not found anything that could be compared with the mango pudding I had when I was still in elementary school :)

Also, the literal translation of "cha" is tea, so every dimsum place would always serve tea (no matter what) at no extra charge.

As long as I can recall, I have been to Rol San around four times, everytime only for the dimsum :) It all began when Mr. W found this dimsum place two summers ago and described to me dinstinctly how good their steamed shrimp dumpling (ha gao) was.

And, my sister was feeling like some Oriental fare, so she decided to go here. Due to a constrained budget, our lunch including tax and tips may not exceed $20. Therefore, we only ordered four different main dishes and two mango pudding.

Gallery - Dimsum and Dessert

Shu Mai
I always like shu mai :) I like the fact that many of dimsum fares are steamed, a healthier way of cooking. Since it's steamed, it's one of my comfort foods. The shu mai was nicely decorated with cooked flying fish roe.

Cha Siu Pao
From the look of it, it wasn't quite successfully shaped into proper cha siu pao. However, as I expected, the cha siu (BBQ pork) in the centre is better than the one we had at TNT.

Chicken Feet with Chef's Sauce
Always a favorite during yum-cha. Compared to other dimsum places I have been, their chicken feet is one of the best. I like the sauce in particular but I really don't know how to describe it. I guess, you just have to try it first :)

Fried Bean Curd with Black Bean Sauce
I was expecting something different, the fried bean curd skin to be exact. Nonetheless, this one is pretty good and paired nicely with the sauce (that didn't look like black bean but like a sweetened soya sauce instead). They have chewy shrimp centres too. Next time, I have to order the right one.

Mango Pudding
From my recollection, their mango pudding was excellent. However, this time it was not as good. The taste of mango was not as distinct as before and the usually milky sauce (from evaporated milk) was tainted with the taste of coconut milk. I don't think coconut milk would be a proper addition to the sauce as it takes away the freshness of mango.

Other recommended food: Egg tarts (tanta), steamed shrimp dumplings (ha gao), and deep-fried squid tentacles.

This is a great place to be for gathering. If I ever had a chance to gather with fellow food bloggers, I would suggest this place.

Rol San Restaurant
323 Spadina Avenue
Toronto, ON
Phone: (416) 977-1128
TTC: take the streetcar from Spadina Station and make a stop at Nassau St. (after College St.), then walk to the south. The restaurant will be on your left-hand side.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Healthy Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies (?)

I'm not too sure if I am eligible to dub these aromatic and delectable cookies "healthy". It was the ingredients that made me conclude that these cookies carry some nutritious value. Oh well, you be the judge :) Before I begin, I hope you are enjoying the picture I took from Union bus station on my way to Hamilton. Such calming blue sky and majestic building. Love it :)

The making of these cookies began with a craving for the aromatic toasted hazelnuts pieces I ate a week ago when my sister made them for Valentine's Day. The thought of eating those cookies again was so irresistable that I finally resoted to my reserved in-shell hazelnuts on my kitchen countertop. I had bought them for decorations in my kitchen, but they end up cluttering the space. So, why no crack them up and use them for making those Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies again?

As the craving started to settle in, I realized that this was such a brilliant combination!
Dark chocolate and hazelnuts = Nutella !!
You could never go wrong with this! :D

Here comes the recipe, straight from its origin, FoodTV's Sugar. However, I made some adjustments because I ran out of vanilla extract and I used some leftover egg-white. Thus, I replaced the vanilla extract with two tablespoons of Jamaican Rhum and added a splash of milk. Also, I used more coffee powder than I was supposed to. Just because as the coffee powder and rhum intermingled I couldn't resist their wonderful aroma and desired a bolder taste as a result :)

Without further ado...

Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies

  • 3/4 cup whole hazelnuts
  • 3 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/3 cups dark brown sugar, packed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tbsp instant coffee powder
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp fine salt

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Spread hazelnuts on a baking sheet and toast for 12 minutes. Cool, then rub off skins with a tea towel and roughly chop into small pieces.
  3. Melt chocolate in microwave, stirring every 10 seconds and set aside. Cream butter and sugar together until smooth. Beat in eggs. Stir vanilla and instant coffee together and add to butter mixture. Stir in melted chocolate.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt and add to butter mixture to combine. Stir in chopped hazelnuts. Drop by large tablespoonfuls onto a parchment-lined baking tray and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until just lightly crisp around the edges but the cookies should be chewy in the center.
I kind of see these cookies as a more adult version of other ordinary cookies. Just because...
I shaped them into fun bone cookie cutter but they ended up looking like some chewing bones for doggies. However, I can guarantee the taste and don't be shy to go for it !

Delicious with coffee or tea

Artisan Baking - My first artisan bread!

My Acme's Herb Slabs

European breads have long caught my attention. Coming from a Chinese background, none of my family has any fondness in these thick crusted breads. Instead, they prefer a softer rolls and buns, like brioche or the sweet Chinese buns. However, I find European breads beautiful and masterfully crafted. The crunchy crust with soft and smooth centre left a deep impression. That's why I turned to Maggie Glezer's Artisan Baking.

I have bought this book almost two months ago, but have been hesitating on initiating my first artisan bread due to lack of proper equipments and ingredients. Until now...

No, I haven't found the perfect tools nor ingredients. But, I've got fresh rosemary sprigs in my fridge and "Acme's Herb Slabs" is rolling into its creation...

One thing I need to notify you about this particular book of bread is how detailed the instructions are. As if you could never go wrong as long as you do the steps one by one. That made me amazed to see how talented Maggie Glezer really is. She pays attention to every little details and goes over the things where people normally make mistakes. For instance, she would warn you when not to add any more flour. As our novice hands are usually unable to resisit the temptation to add more flour when the dough is too sticky.

Without any more delay, I'd like to share with you the recipe that I made over the weekend. This recipe in total would take almost 23 hours from the very start til the very end. The reason why... you will find out within the recipe. Let the artisan bread baking begin!

Yield: 2 large flatbreads, just over 1 pound each
Time: About 23 hours, with 20 minutes of active work


  • ¼ teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1 cup water, 110° to 115°F
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, preferably organic
  • 1½ cups water, lukewarm
Whisk the yeast into the 110° to 115°F water and let it stand for 5 minutes. Add ¼ cup of the yeasted water to the flour (to measure 1/16 teaspoon yeast), then beat in the lukewarm water. This will be a very gloppy batter. Cover the poolish with plastic wrap and let it ferment overnight for 12 hours, or until its bubbles are popping and the top is just starting to wrinkle and foam.

  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, preferably organic
  • 1 Tablespoon plus ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
  • ¼ teaspoon instant yeast
  • ¾ cup water, lukewarm
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • Fermented poolish
Editor's Note
Artisan Baking gives readers three different methods of working with the dough, by hand, by stand mixer and by food processor. We have included one of these methods: by hand. Getting your hands a little dirty in the process of baking bread always makes the end product taste that much better.

For the dough:
By hand, combine the flour, salt, rosemary and yeast in a large bowl. Add the water and oil to the poolish, stir to loosen it, and pour it all into the flour mixture. Stir the mixture with your hand until it forms a rough dough. Turn it out onto your work surface and knead it briefly, without adding extra flour, until it is well combined. Cover the dough with a bowl and let it rest for 10 minutes to allow the yeast to rehydrate. Knead the dough, without adding extra flour, until it is very smooth, about 10 minutes.

Fermenting and turning the dough:
Place the dough in a container at least 3 times its size and cover it tightly with plastic wrap. Let the dough ferment until light and doubled in bulk, about 6 hours. Turn the dough (punch the dough) 3 times in 20-minute intervals, that is, after 20, 40, and 60 minutes of fermenting, then leave the dough undisturbed for the remaining time.

Shaping and proofing the dough:
Cut the dough in half. Round the pieces and let rest for about 20 minutes. Lightly press one piece of the dough into a rectangle. Loosely fold it into thirds like a business letter by folding the bottom short edge up and the top down. Place it seam side down on a couche (see note) and cover it with a flap of the couche. Repeat with the other piece. Let them proof for about 1½ hours.

Cover a peel or rimless baking sheet with a large piece of parchment paper. Remove the dough from the couche and gently press each piece into a 12 x 6 inch rectangle with your hands (the workers in the bakery use a small wooden ruler to get the dimensions just so). Press your fingertips deeply into the dough to stipple it all over. Move the rectangles of dough to the parchment paper and resquare them. Cover them with plastic wrap and let proof until very soft and well expanded, about 2 hours more. The total proof time is about 3½ hours.

The dough after proofing
Expand.. expand... :)

Preheat the oven: About 45 minutes before the bread is fully proofed, arrange a rack on the ovens second-to-top shelf and place a baking stone on it. Clear away all racks above the one being used. Preheat the oven to 450°F.

Poke the dough all over with a toothpick or a skewer, pushing all the way through. If desired, just before baking, fill the oven with steam. Slip the breads, still on the paper, onto the hot stone and bake for 5 minutes. Carefully flip the breads over onto the stone and remove the paper. Continue baking until they are well browned, about 20 minutes more, rotating them after 10 minutes. Let the breads cool on a rack.

Note: Couche, meaning "layer" in French, refers to the heavy-linen cloth used to support breads, such as rolls and baguettes, as they are proofing.


It has been a truly great experience making this particular bread. It was best eaten the same day after baking. However, I noticed something was wrong. There has been something murky about my RobinHood flour, it has this strange smell that I could not describe. It left me wondering, is it because the flour has aged or is it the smell of an unbleached flour. So, two days after baking, I can taste the very smell of flour in my bread. Unlike the first day when the fresh rosemaries permeated all over. Well, it's just my own confusion, and I shall find out more!

This flatbread, when cut will have a shape resembling a biscotti and will pair up nicely with garlic butter. Toasted, and ready to be served next to your pasta dishes ^^


Monday, February 20, 2006

The Ultimate Comfort Food at Korean Town

Getting past through two days of fierce winter days is not easy. The weather has been unbelievably freezing these couple of days. But, that didn't hinder me from going out and absorb some sunshine. Yes, the windchill temperature reached minus 20, but the sun was shining brightly yesterday. So, stepping outside the house was worthwhile.

To sum it up, our trip before finally reaching to the
ultimate comfort food involved the quest for freshly-baked artisan bread, browsing through books at Indigo, sipping hot chocolate at Starbucks, and finally jumping on to the subway to Korean Town.

I have to tell you about the quest for bread first! I browsed through the internet the day before to locate a good artisan bakery. I found one on Kensington Market and realized that there is actually one bakery I have been to twice. It's called My Market Bakery. I'm not sure whether their breads were made in artisan way or merely in a mass-produce way. However, observing from the size of the store, it's almost unlikely that they produced their bread with huge machinery and some additional ingredients (if you know what I mean). This quest is the continuation of my budding love for artisan bread while reading Maggie Glezer's Artisan Baking. I have a herbed flatbread fermenting at home and would like to search for some professional breads as comparison. I landed my choise on a Portugese Corn Bread and a Multi-Grain Sourdough Bread. I'm happy now! ^^

Now, jumping right to the Korean Town restaurant called Ka Chi. Here, Mr. W and I ordered nothing else but Pork Bone Soup. Well, accompanied with a basket of fried dumplings as well. I should say that this is a semi-restaurant-review posting and I definitey recommend anyone to come and visit Ka Chi.

The usual set of compliment appetizers in small plates. This is what I love the most in Korean restaurant. They would serve you with house-made appetizers which mostly consist of pickled vegetables, i.e. Kimchi, pickled radish and carrots, and pickled Korean beansprouts. Other than that, we had some fried small fish (I don't know what they are called, but they resemble anchovies) and a green salad with refreshingly sour dressing. The best thing is, you can ask for more of these appetizers without getting any extra charge, as long as you know your limit.

Unlike usual, Mr. W ordered some fried beef dumplings and eaten with the dipping sauce shown below. They were deep fried into the perfect crips and the sesame-scented dipping sauce accentuated the taste. However, I would ask for something hot as the dipping sauce, like the ABC chili sauce. =p

Main Course
Let me introduce to whoever is not familiar with Korean dishes, Pork Bone Soup (or Gam Ja Tang in Korean, thanks to my sis!) I was hoping that the picture could describe itself to you. But now I'm just not too sure. I'm concerned because you can't smell the picture =p This soup is best eaten warm with long silver spoon and silver chopsticks as the gadgets. Stick to the silver eatingware to keep the originality =)
This mildly spicy soup is loaded with the non-fatty meat of the pork still intact with the bones, potatoes, nappa, bean sprouts and some slices of green onion. Add a squirt of lemon juice and the soup is ready to eat! How can this not be the ultimate comfort food in the chilly winter evening? This soup is very filing, you'll be satisfied by the end of the meal.

I noticed that the soup is not as spicy as it was when I first ate it a couple years back. Perhaps this is a good thing for those who are not so tolerant with heat.
There are many other good food in this restaurant. My other favorite are the Fried pork and Kimchi in special hot sauce (very high in HEAT) and Ka-Chi's special stew (it has sausages and rice and vegetables).

Is there a high price to pay for such good foods? In fact, there is not! The tab won't be shocking since each main dish is priced ranging from Cdn$6 to Cdn$8. The pork bone soup itself only costs Cdn$6! And finally, these prices (yes the prices on the menu) already include TAX! This fact just added to my list of reasons why dining out at Korean restaurant in Korean Town is really... fulfilling and satisfying!

If you still have a room for dessert, just walk one block to the west and you will find Kwada Hodo. The snack to die for here is the Brown Sugar Pancake (Hodo), it is a must try!

Ka Chi Restaurant
612 Bloor St. W

Nearest TTC subway(s): Danforth or Christie

Phone: 416-533-9306

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Belated Valentine's Day

It's only a day late, so I'm hoping people are still in the spirit of Valentine's Day =)

Although myself am not celebrating Valentine's Day, under the influence of Cream Puffs in Venice's Chocolate Month, I am creating this Black Forest Cake special to all of you ^_^ And hope that his rhum-y chocolate cake could entice you to celebrate the day of love for the whole month. Or, even every single day if you like.

Take a slice...

And indulge yourself...

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Courthouse Market Grille

Photo courtesy of Liberty Group

I left my first candlelite dinner with a smile on my face. Mr. W and I had our dinner at the Old District area of Toronto, in one of the buildings attractive with its quaint facade, Courthouse Market Grille. I've longed to dine at this particular restaurant ever since I fell simply for how it looks. I was greeted with what I had expected, upscale and sophisticated dimmed dining room with cozy lights from candles here and there. The choice of music was by far what made everything completed itself.

Needless to say, was a price to pay for this level of accomodation. This dinner was supposed to be my 2nd Winterlicious, apparently the waitress had neglected informing me that before and after Valentine's they only offer the Valentine's prix fix menu and only start Winterlicious on the 15th up to the 18th. As I was urged with curiosity to have a fine dining for the first time, I okay-ed to go on with the Valentine's menu.

From here on, all I am going to talk about is the food as there was nothing worth mentioning about the mediocre service. Before proceeding to read, I must warn you that those who find high-class French and fusion cuisine to be something highly appreciated may find this content offensive.

The prix fix menu offers soup, appetizer, main course, and dessert. Let's disect each course one by one.

My choice was Roasted Cauliflower Puree with toasted pine nuts, cranberry relish and cilantro yogurt. While Mr. W chose Seafood Corn Chowder as I had expected. This was something new, I thought. Having sweet cranberry relish in the savoury roasted cauliflower puree really took this soup to the new level I had never experienced ever before. I was interested in this dish because it mentioned cilantro yogurt, but it didn't make a showcase appearance here. Overall, I would say this is a good exploration from usual cream soup. While Mr. W's chowder was watery and less tasty. I have no say on this one, but Mr. W definitely thought the soup was tasteless.

One of the best dish in tonight's dinner, Black Peppercorn Goat Cheese Souffle with avocado and granny smith salad and citrus and champagne marmalade. I really liked the souflle. Fluffy in texture and daring in taste. The crushed black peppercorns really provided balance to the creamy, tangy goat cheese. I really enjoyed eating the souffle with the avocado, not so much with the slices of granny smith. Instead, I enjoyed the granny smith on its own. I hardly touched the marmalade as I felt no connection with the savoury souffle. Mr. W's choice was the House Cured Atlantic Salmon with roasted beet and fennel salad, sweet corn griddle cake and watercress pesto. I had only gotten the chance to try on the cured salmon and the roasted beet, none of them match with my taste and in the end he could not bear finishing this appetizer. I'd say this dish would be much more suitable for those who are mature and experienced enough with the variety of modern French cuisine. I felt like far from experienced in terms of taste and class of food.

There was one definite choice for the entree as we both landed our choice on the Beef Tenderloin with grilled asparagus, truffled buttermilk bread pudding and blue cheese bordelaise. I asked for my steak to be medium well-done. Our entree was artfully presented just like our previous dishes and I began by having a bite on the souffle. My honest opinion, "Not bad but nothing out of the extraordinary." The same went for the asparagus and the tenderloin. To be harsh but honest, the steak had no memorable taste, meaning my impression on it was really unmatched with my high expectation. I felt like I was eating a blatant piece of
meat, nothing juicy, savoury nor even a bit tasty. On top of other thing, blue cheese became my worst nightmare. I don't know if it's just me who really have no taste for high-class food, or it really tasted like a dead stinky red ant. I believe the answer would be the former. I don't have any other way to express my disappointment other than by comparing it to other steaks I've had. In conclusion, Appleby's and Angus House's tenderloin steaks were so much better, enjoyable and memorable for its spices and condiments. Now you can tell that I have no appreciation on a nakedly grilled beef with no seasoning whatsoever.

Here we come to my favourite phase of any dinner, dessert! My choice was definitely Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Mousse with poached mission fid, port compote and filbert wafer. To quote Mr. W, "The most decent part of our dinner..." As a lover of hazelnut, I would undecidedly love this dessert. However, the portion was way too much and left me wanting less of it at the end. How I wish I could have a smaller portion. The name itself was pretty self-explanatory and I believe you can use your imagination to picture the taste of it.

As usual, I would come up with a conclusion by the end of our full course meal which left me with a smile. Smiling as I thought how simplicity and familiarity of taste is always the best (while drooling over Pho Hoa, Pork Bone Soup, and yukimi-nabe). Not that I'm not open to new wave of food trend, but tonight's dinner was priceless for our experience but very pricy for poor tasting food that brought nothing but regret. None of the dishes did a good job on bringing pleasure in each bite, NONE. I wished I hadn't made the decision to stay and eat at somewhere we knew would be good. However, Mr. W had ensured me that it was a worthwhile experience, but I made sure I would never sacrifice that much money only for those physically attractive but tasteless foods.

My defense would be that I'm an admirer of foods that are loaded with spice, herbs, TASTE and seasonings. I can't stand anything tasteles, which is different from something that I'd describe as simple.

Pardon me for this harsh critique. I know I lack of experience in this area, but my gut said that this was not what I deserved from that high price. I there is any way that I can do to appreciate these foods, I would love to try. As you may have noticed, I am not being as excited as I was when I reviewed Boulevard Cafe. I was also upset because I couldn't take good pictures because of the dim lighting. Now I'm feeling bad for writing such a bad review on such a nice place.

Friday, February 10, 2006

The Perfect Marriage ~ Lemon and Cilantro

Due to my procrastinating nature, this posting has been delayed over and over again until I can't help it anymore. Insipired by CreamPuffsInVenice's posting of perfect combination of two ingredients, I'd like to share my view of this perfect blending of two of the kitchen essentials, Lemon and Cilantro. I'm gonna treat them as if they were people's names, hence the use of capitals.

In my slow-cooking adventure last week, I made an Old Fashioned Chili with Kidney Beans and Black Beans. I was so into the process that I neglected other things I was supposed to do (
as usual!). The night before was spent on searching for the best chili recipe. I couldn't find a specific one that I really favour over another. So, I decided to modify the recipe here and there and let myself be insipired by other recipes.

However, none of the recipes recommended the use of
Lemon nor Cilantro. It was all my idea! Wait a sec, aren't you suspicious of where the idea of adding Lemon and Cilantro started? It doesn't matter, I'm going to tell y'all anyway.

The week before last week, I contemplated in making hummus. The Middle-Eastern/Mediterranean chickpea dip which I think is really scrumptious! At the same time, I have loads of dried chickpeas, kidney beans, and black beans. So why don't I start right away?! Well, not literally right away because I have to soak the beans overnight before I can start.

I got the recipe from Periplus Mini Cookbooks series titled Meze. In the introduction, the term
"Meze" was explained. The literal translation from Greek is "tasty morsels" that are designed to whet your appetite before main mail. It's the combination of flavours from Greece, Turkey, and the Middle East that is savoured with good friends, cool drinks and dappled in sunshine.

Again, this recipe only recommended Lemon and not Cilantro. My experience as a kitchen staff back then at my school's restaurant, Bluff's, taught me that Cilantro would be a delightful addition. Besides, I have this undying love for Cilantro.

The most exciting part of food is the preparation stage, before any cooking begins. Cutting up onions, getting the spices ready, and most of all cutting my Lemon in halves and chopping my bunch of Cilantro. The aroma of Lemon and Cilantro immediately flew in the air... They are so perfect for each other and were meant for one another =p

Check the recipe out for yourself. It's the basic recipe, straight from the book.


125 g dried chickpeas
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
a pinch of cayenne
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup olive oil
3 garlic cloves, crushed
salt, for seasoning
bunch of cilantro, chopped

1) Soak the dried chickpea overnight in plenty of water. Drain and transfer to a pot of boiling water. Cook uncovered over medium heat until tender, around 1 hour. Drain.
2) Heat the pot, add olive oil and chopped onion. Sautee for two minutes. Add the cumin, cayenne and chickpeas. Cook until it's aromatic, around 2 minutes.

1 teaspoon of cumin goes in...

3) Place in a food processor or a blender and add the Lemon juice, 1/4 cup olive oil, and the garlic cloves. Process while pouring the rest of the olive oil until the mixture is smooth. Season with salt.
4) This is where I add Cilantro and more Lemon juice. Pulse the mixture three times.
5) Transfer to a ramekin and serve! Can be kept in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Here are my variations of how to enjoy this versatile chickpea-dip...

Hummus Island

Plain Hummus, Hummus with Red Shepard Pepper and Homemade Pita Bread

Now back to the Chili. I enjoyed preparing it as much as I enjoyed waiting for all of the liquid to be reduced. Right you'd expect that I'd provide the recipe for the chili as well. I would LOVE to, but I am so exhausted. And as I mentioned before, this post has been long overdued. So, I'm just gonna post what I have right now and continue with my dazzling experience of a week with Chili later on =)

to be continued.....

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Sno'flakes Fallin' on My Head...

It was snowing again in Toronto after a few days of only bitterness. That is harsh wind and drenching rain. I like snow much better than any of those two. During the snowfall, I could observe the snowflake caught on my gloves and awed at their pretty crystals. Just like the ones on the pictures or Christmas ornament.

Thank you for Chika for her posting about snowy weekend. Since from there I was intrigued to try her yukimi-nabe. Besides, I have a nabe pot that I have never used and my fridge is loaded with the right ingredients. It was surely a comfort food for me as well =)

Nabe Pot On the Burner


Cloud up with freshly grated daikon...


PS: I finished the whole pot all by myself =D

Saturday, February 04, 2006

LiveReport - Winterlicious in Toronto (part 1)

"Ding!" Fresh from the oven! =)

Welcome back to my LiveReport. This post is titled so because I have just arrived from my 2nd Winterlicious adventure and still a bit soaked with rain. But I'm so eager to share with you guys how my dining (well it was only lunch) experience was.

Our (or, should I say "my") choice for this year's Winterlicious is Cafe Boulevard. I know, from the name only, it doesn't really depict anything about the type of cusine they are serving. But during my search for Winterlicious restaurant I happened to browse through their menu offering. And I was surprised that it was a Peruvian Restaurant! At the same time I thought, wow it's great, I never tried Peruvian food ever in my live! Intrigued by uncommon food names, I called them up to book a reservation. (by now you should be able to tell that I'm an adventurous person, with food only!)

Unfortunately, the weather wasn't so agreeable today, Toronto was drenched in flurries then rain. Hwever, the atmosphere of the restaurant really helped overcome the winter blues. At a first glance, the restaurant seemed tiny, then we were escorted to upstairs and were seated on the couch. Yes, it's tiny and cozy! I like it!

Since I've read the menu days ahead, I knew what I wanted and went for it. I took a bunch of pictures for each dish, from the appetizer straight up to the dessert. If you don't mind, I'd like to share them one by one. Take is a tour to increase your culinary knowledge =)

To begin my late lunch, I ordered Choros al Limon (Steamed Mussels in Spicy Lemon and Dill Sauce), so did Mr. W. Then my sister ordered Soup of the Day, which was Pureed Sweet Potato. I wasn't that impressed by the appetizers because it doesn't really tell much about what to come (i.e. the main dish). It was generally good, the lemon sauce was spicy from blackpepper and I can barely taste the dill (which I guess was a good thing because I don't like the smell of dill). As they mentioned in their website, the main color in the appetizers is yellow. And the soup was obviously yellowish orange.

Main Course
I knew right from the start that I wanted to have fish. After the waitress informed us that the Pescado del Dia (Catch of the Day) was tilapia, my heart gave a happy leap. The rest of us ordered Lomo Saltado, which was
strips of flank steak sautéed with onions, tomatoes, aji, peppers and wine served with yukon gold fries and vegetables.

I was amazed! The fish marinated with wine and spices then grilled then topped with tangy mango salsa brought back a lot of memories. This dish tasted almost like traditional Indonesian fried fish, Pesmol. It also reminds of Thai food with sweet and sour mango topping. Hmm, interesting! On the side there were a sidedish of fried potatoes, grilled tomatoes, and salad. I quite like the salad, especially the dressing, which I can't really describe except that it's mayonnaise-like with more kick. I was contented with my choice althought the piece of tilapia was quite small. I liked the mango salsa a lot, with chopped peppers and cilantro, it was pleasant.

I also sampled the other dish, Lomo Saltado, served with rice. The strips of steak was pretty juicy but not well-marinated. The sauce was alright, but (again) I can't tell what it was. I guess it was partly the juice from the steak as it was sauteed. One comment from Mr. W to keep: "The rice reminds of the coconut milk rice back home (a.k.a nasi uduk)." Woa, it appears that Peruvian cuisine has a lot of similarity with Indonesian and Thai cookings. Interesting...

Here comes my most favorite part! The menu in the Winterlicious site said that it's going to be a daily selection from the chef, I like suprises (but not any other kind of surprises)! The choice were, Leche Casada (Creme Caramel) and Key Lime Pie. I choice fell on Key Lime Pie and I got Mr. W trying the Creme Caramel. The presenation was lovely, so was every bite of my Key Lime Pie ^_^ I've never had key lime pie before in my life and I feel like describing it to myself. So, it was crust-based with custard-like filling and a dollop of whipped cream on the side. Simple as that, but so YuMMy!

As usual, I sampled the other dessert. I thought it was just usual creme caramel pudding, but this one's different. It was not too sweet and I can really taste the burnt sugar (a.k.a caramel). I was also accompanied by hot milk tea (sugarless, as it goes better with sweet desserts). All in all, it was good and I'm happy with my choice =)

By the end of our lunch, I've come to realize a few things.
First of all, I gave myself a conclusion that cumin was used a lot in Peruvian cooking because it was in the air from Appetizers to Main Course. By all means, correct me if I'm wrong.

I also flipped through their usual menu and found an interesting yet unfamiliar sauce name, "aji mirasol" (pronounced a-hi mirasol) . Then I got out of my comfort zone and asked the waitress if she could describe that particular sauce. She said it's a sauce made from a kind of pepper. Then I researched on Google and found a short explanation here. Too bad, I can't describe in detail how they differ from other kind of chilies although the aji itself existed in Lomo Saltado. Sorry guys! Any help would be welcomed though =)

I was curious with the bread, why aren't they serving us bread like any other restaurant would? (i.e. Mr. Greek and Old Spaghetti Factory) So I asked if I could have some, and I got charged for it -.-" I wasn't very informed, wasn't I? I just assumed that it was complimentary. I didn't even know it was a cornbread, it was just its rustic look that appealed to me. The crust was think and crispy (real exercise for your jaws) and the centre was kinda dense and a bit creamy. Hm.. sounds nice, doesn't it?

Finally, I'm no restaurant expert AT ALL! I rarely eat out and when I eat out like this, I couldn't explain why on my bill I was charged for gratuities while our party was less than 6? Is it the same as "tips"? I didn't dare ask because then I would look and feel bad. Well, I sound really unknowledgable right now! But hey, I learned a lot of new language and culinary knowledge today!

I hope you all enjoyed the pictures, I was trying my best to take as much as possible. Have a pleasant stay!