Saturday, January 16, 2010

: deconstructed sushi :

Back in university, I was obsessed with watching Iron Chef - the original Japanese version. I would watch it every weekend without fail, and was always amazed at the quickness, agility and creativity of the chefs after only finding out the secret ingredient mere moments before battle mode.

In a much less intense environment, this semester I'm enrolled in a Chef's Table class where we're separated into groups and receive a 'black box' of ingredients 4 days prior to having to prepare a 3-course meal. Our theme last week was Japanese, so using our list of ingredients, I developed a deconstructed sushi - all of its elements separated out into its simplest forms. Shrimp was one of the proteins on the list, so I decided to saute them in a combination of soy, ginger, and wasabi - all of which you would find on a regular sushi plate. We served it as an appetizer, but I think it would actually make a neat hors d'oeuvre that you could serve at a party. I also originally served the sushi sprinkled with black sesame seeds, but unfortunately didn't have any at home when I recreated it for the blog! I think it adds a little something, so would recommend adding it.

Deconstructed Sushi with Ginger-Wasabi Shrimp


4 cups Japanese short grain rice, cooked
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
*(or 3 tbsp seasoned rice vinegar - I use the Mitsukan brand and just follow the directions on the bottle)

400 g raw shrimp (approx. 24 medium)
2 tbsp Japanese soy sauce
1 tbsp Japanese mirin
1 tbsp fresh ginger root, minced
2 tsp wasabi paste (or less depending on your taste - you can also substitute with 1 tsp wasabi powder, which I prefer)
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp sugar

1 tsp canola oil
12 Nori squares, 2x2-inch pieces
Black sesame seeds (optional)


1. In a small saucepan, heat vinegar, sugar and salt until sugar is dissolved. Sprinkle vinegar mixture over cooked rice when hot and mix through until everything is combined.
2. To prepare shrimp, peel, butterfly and remove vein.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together soy sauce, mirin, ginger, garlic, sugar and wasabi paste until thoroughly combined.
4. Heat 1 tsp oil in a nonstick pan. Add shrimp and cook for 2-3 minutes or until cooked through. Add soy sauce mixture and toss until all shrimps are coated. Set aside.
5. Arrange small mounds of rice on nori squares, and place the shrimp on top of rice. Sprinkle black sesame seeds if you have some on hand. Serve.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

: spiced chick peas :

Ever since I watched the documentary, Food Inc., I've been on a bit of a vegetarian-ish kick. I use that term loosely because I am still - first and foremost - an omnivore at heart; however, I also understand the health benefits of eating less meat. I won't even start on the political aspects of eating meat, but let's just say that everyone should learn a thing or two about where their grocery store meat comes from!

That said, my next couple posts will more or less be devoted to vegetarian cooking, with the exception of a few meat dishes here and there that I've promised some people I would post for, er, some time now... *sheepish smile*

As some of you know, I did a stint at the Sobeys Compliments' test kitchen last summer. Together with my colleagues, we spent our time testing, re-testing, and adapting recipes for their Inspired magazine and blog. One of the recipes was a spiced chick pea dish submitted by cookbook author Bal Arneson in their guest chef feature. After re-creating this dish about 4 times, I think I swore to myself that I would never make it again.

But I did.


And again.

In fact, it's kind of turned into one of my favourite dishes when I'm hankering for a quick Indian fix. Not only is it tasty over rice or with naan bread, but it's healthy, full of good-for-you protein and dietary fibre, and literally takes about 15 minutes to throw together!

So if you're thinking about delving into some ethnic cooking that's both healthy and simple to make, I really recommend trying this out. Check out the Inspired Winter issue for other recipes too!

Spiced Chick Peas (Serves 4)

2 tbsp (30 mL) Compliments Pure Olive Oil
2 small cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup (125 mL) finely chopped onion
1 tbsp (15 mL) each ground coriander and ground cumin
1 tsp (5 mL) ground turmeric
1 can (796 mL) Compliments Diced Tomatoes, lightly drained
1 can (540 mL) Compliments Chick Peas, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup (60 mL) lightly packed fresh cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped

1. Heat oil, garlic and onion in a saucepan over medium heat for 2 to 3 min. Stir in ground coriander, cumin, turmeric and salt to taste; cook until fragrant, about 1 min.
2. Add tomatoes and cook on medium heat, stirring, for 5 min. Add chick peas, turn heat down and simmer, loosely covered, for 10 to 15 min., stirring occasionally. Serve over rice and garnish with fresh cilantro.

Monday, December 21, 2009

: happy holidays :

Happy holidays everyone!! I hope everyone is getting excited for Christmas - I know I am! There's nothing like walking down lighted streets and listening to Christmas music to get me into the holiday spirit.

This year, I decided to try my hand at a beautiful cake for Christmas. When I was young, I used to stare in awe of beautiful cakes in bakeries and cookbooks. In fact, when my parents used to take me to the library, I would head straight to the baking section and borrow books on cake decorating! So, what better Christmas cake than a traditional bûche de noel? Because of my time constraints, what with school exams and all, I decided to take the easy route and buy a ready-made swiss roll. (You can buy them at your local Metro, or Asian grocery stores.) I think it turned out pretty well, don't you? :)

Merry Christmas to all, and may all your bellies be full!!

Bûche de Noel

1 large store-bought chocolate swiss roll
1 small store-bought chocolate swiss roll

Chocolate Ganache:
1/4 cup whipping cream
100g semi-sweet chocolate chips

Candy Mushrooms:
4 vanilla-flavoured tootsie rolls
Cocoa powder, if desired

Shredded coconut
Icing sugar

1. Place the large swiss roll on a platter or serving board. Cut one end of the small swiss roll diagonally, then place the cut side anywhere against the large roll.
2. To make ganache, microwave whipping cream for 15 to 30 sec until cream is hot. Pour over chocolate chips in a bowl. Stir until chocolate is melted. Let the chocolate cool slightly.
3. Spread chocolate all over top and sides of cake. You can be a little bit messy so it looks like tree bark.
4. To make candy mushrooms, microwave tootsie rolls for 5 to 7 seconds, just to make them pliable. Flatten 3 candies into flat discs to resemble mushroom tops. Divide the last candy into 3 pieces and roll into a stem. Using a bit of water as the glue, stick discs on top of stems. You can also dust the tops with a bit of cocoa powder to give them some colour.
5. Pour some shredded coconut around the cake to resemble some snow. Sift a little icing sugar over the cake. Arrange mushrooms around the cake.
6. Slice and enjoy!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

: a fresh approach to fruit :

So. I've sort of been on a blog hiatus for 4 months.

It's not you. It's me.

I've just been so busy... you know... school... work...

I know, I know.

It's no excuse.

But... ladies and gentlemen - I'm back! And with some more healthy (and not so healthy) eating advice ;)

This is a post I've been wanting to write for some time now. Earlier this year, I entered a recipe development competition for Sun Rich Fruits. The challenge was to create something unconventional using their chopped fruit products, in less than 5 steps, with minimal/easy cooking. Seeing as I have an affinity for Asian cuisine, I opted to make an Asian dish. What transpired was a Thai-Style Tropical Shrimp Cocktail!

It was a bit of a last minute entry, but lucky I entered because I won! (My classmate won the other prize as well :)). I had been waiting to post this entry because they were going to post the recipe on their website (and I had wanted to link it), but alas, it still has not made it. But they did send me a stack of postcards/recipe cards they made up for my recipe :) These cards are meant to be distributed at shows and retailers, so it's kind of neat to be "in print"!


Thai-Style Tropical Shrimp Cocktail (serves 6)

18 Medium-sized shrimp, cooked and peeled
1 cup Sun Rich Pineapple Chunks
1 cup Sun Rich Orange Sections
1 cup Sun Rich Grapefruit Sections
1 cup Sun Rich Mango Chunks
2 tbsp. Chopped fresh cilantro

2 tbsp. Lime juice, fresh
1 tsp. Rice vinegar
1/2 tsp. Fish Sauce
1.5 tsp. Brown Sugar
1/8 tsp. Bird's eye chili, finely minced
1/8 tsp. Lime zest, finely minced
Salt to taste

1. Combine dressing ingredients in a bowl.
2. Add fruit and cilantro to the dressing and toss thoroughly to coat.
3. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes for flavours to develop.
4. Prior to service, add shrimp and toss. Serve immediately in individual glasses for cocktail appetizers, or as a side dish.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

: wedding cake making 101 :

When I found out my friend Caity was getting married this summer, I immediately thought that for her wedding present, I would decorate her wedding cake. This was just before I had started my Baking classes, so I figured I would learn a thing or two about cake decorating and fondant.

I was wrong.

I learned nothing about fondant! (Though I did learn how to frost a cake). Now, some of you may recall my previous post about my fondant ducks, but working with fondant for a cake is a whole different story. You need to use a much larger amount, make sure the consistency is correct, and that is rolls properly and is pliable enough to wrap the cake without cracking.

The other challenge was that I was going to make a three-tier cake, and would need to use dowels to hold up the top cake tiers... which I've also never had the experience of doing.

(Is it obvious that I like a challenge?)

Nonetheless, I took this task in stride and even under-went the process of making my own large-batch fondant for this wedding cake. I kept the decoration very simple as it was my first wedding cake (and I didn't want to - horror of horrors - mess it up!). I played around with some ribbons and things, but in the end decided to decorate the cake with edible flowers from Caity's parents' farm.

The result?

I thought it turned out to be a very beautiful, simple and sophisticated wedding cake!! And most importantly, the bride and groom loved it!

Congratulations Caity and Samuel!!!