Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Long Weekend, Long Simmering Lamb Shanks

Print Friendly and PDF The P-Man and I woke up to a Victoria Day Monday, trying very hard to redeem itself. The skies began to clear, and a lunch at the beach seemed like the sensible thing to do. I just had to get a few cooking tasks out of the way.

I purchased a package of New Zealand lamb shanks. I had never cooked lamb shanks before, so it took me awhile to find a recipe I liked. I usually start my online recipe search at www.myrecipes.com They have compiled recipes from a variety of cooking magazines, my favorites being Cooking Light, and Sunset They also provide all the nutritional and caloric information. If I want to figure out how many points a recipe is worth ...It's no problem, and it helps me decide if the recipe is a wise choice for me. I had just cooked up a pot of turkey chili the day before, so I wanted something that didn't rely on tomato as the star ingredient. As I read through the recipes, I encountered a few roadblocks. I have no dutch oven. I had only 3 shanks, not 4...not 6. Finally, I wanted to get the recipe together with the minimum amount of mess, and or chopping. The winner was: Lamb Shanks with Lemon and White Beans. ( Cooking Light ) I had to make a few substitutions: 3 shanks, not 4. 1 small peeled, cubed butternut squash, no carrots. 1 bottle of Becks beer, no white wine. 1 cup low sodium vegetable stock, no chicken stock, and no parsley. I also didn't bother with some of the complicated finishing, ie: separating the fat, reheating, mashing 1/2 the beans etc. After browning the shanks, I removed them to my largest pot. I cooked the rest of the recipe in the frying pan I had browned the meat in, and then transferred everything to the large pot. The liquid mixture didn't quite cover the shanks, so I added the rest of the bottle of beer, and another cup or so of vegetable stock. I fiddled with the temperature until I got a nice slow bubble, and then headed down to the beach. The recipe said to simmer for about 2 and a half hours, but the patio at Slainte was packed, and our food took a bit longer than usual, but was completely worth the wait. The sun started to shine for real, with some heat to it, and when one glass of wine lead to another...and Jack came out to offer us a new cocktail he had been working on ...I would estimate the shanks were cooking for about 3 and a half hours, by the time we picked up some DELICIOUS gelato from Dolce Gelato...and headed up the hill.

The absence of fire trucks was a good sign, and when we opened the apartment door, all I could smell was yummy, meaty goodness. The meat had completely fallen off the bone, so I discarded them, and dumped the mixture into a bowl to cool. I had a quick taste, and it was creamy and super flavourful, with a deep' lamby 'flavour. It didn't seem to need anything in the way of seasoning, so into the fridge it went. Like the chili, it will probably benefit from a nice slow reheat.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

A pot of Chili on a cold day

Print Friendly and PDF Well, I am DEFINITELY NOT here! It is the May long weekend and it is COLD!! When my mother was alive, the May long weekend would mean the P-Man and I getting home from work on Friday, packing up the car, and heading up the Coquihalla Highway to Salmon Arm. We would usually be pulling into town at around 10 at night, and the weekend was usually cold and rainy. We'd hang out with my mom, and do old lady stuff. We would order take out food from the pub down the street, take a drive and walk around the mall, and play a couple of rounds of dice. In the evening we would drive my mom to BINGO...and watch a whole lot of TV.
This weekend I decided to do some cooking, as I have some ground turkey thighs and some lamb shanks in the refrigerator. The P-Man and I are planning to go to a movie matinee of IRON MAN II, so I thought I would use the ground turkey in a chili. A couple hours of simmering and it can cool in the fridge until we get back home. I don't really have a standard chili recipe. To me, chili is one of those dishes, like spaghetti sauce, that changes depending on the ingredients you have on hand. There are definitely ingredients you have to include, but improvisation is to be expected. Here is how it came together today...
Cathy's Long Weekend Turkey Chili
In a large pot, add a couple of tablespoonfuls of canola oil. Add the ground turkey on medium high heat and brown it. Add a tablespoon or so of chili powder and ground cumin, and continue to fry it, until you can smell the spices. Then I add into the pot, all together: an onion, a couple of celery ribs, a red bell pepper, a carrot, a couple of cloves of garlic and a small red hot pepper all chopped as you like. Stir the veggies together with the meat, and then add a bottle of Guinness. Add 1 can of stewed tomatoes, a can of tomato soup, and a half drained can of kidney beans. Stir everything together with another tablespoon of chili powder, and ground cumin. Then simmer covered for 1 1/2 hours and uncovered for a half an hour. Check for salt, and adjust seasonings.
I never eat my chili until the next day...I'll let you know how it turns out, but now I have to get ready for the movie!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Jean George's Market Restaurant

Print Friendly and PDF I am having one of those weeks. I had planned to attend a discussion on the future of the Vancouver Art Gallery, at 7pm at Robson Square. The trouble was...I showed up a day early, in a wind and rain storm, with no umbrella, with the P-Man out of town, and nothing to show for it, but an extremely wet walk from the bus to my place! Last night, completely positive of the date...I tried again. The weather was very pleasant, with a hint of blue sky, and a touch of breeze. I made my way from the Canada Line station at Granville and Georgia to Market Restaurant...for a drink and a snack before my event. I had been to this restaurant a couple of years ago. It had been a farewell dinner for a friend who has run off to Australia to seek her fortune! I remember the dress I wore...my favorite Diane Von Furstenburg, and that the food was excellent. I felt like treating myself after last night's bone chilling, windswept disaster! The lounge is a beautiful space. Gold gilded columns, polished pewter bar stools, and nice comfortable banquettes with fire engine red cowhide pillows. I was seated and decided to have a glass of Italian white wine, and a warm shrimp salad. As I was sipping my wine, the server asked if I would like some bread. I said yes, and the most perfect little crusty roll arrived. It was accompanied by a small plate of the sweetest, creamiest butter I have tasted in a long time. I ate the bun slowly, tearing it into pieces with determination, as it had that wonderful elastic, crusty exterior, with a delicious yeasty centre. In a civilized amount of time, my salad arrived. It looked great! A composed salad, it consisted of 4 large prawns, that had been butterflied, and coated with dressing, placed at the 4 corners of the plate. The salad contained frissee, romaine, oak leaf, and a lettuce that had the most incredible color. It was slightly thicker than a regular lettuce, with a smokey, bittersweet flavour. The color was the deepest, richest burgundy. I asked my server, and she said it was called ' Golo Rossa' (sp?) on top of the greens were the tiniest, whitest enoki mushrooms, some red ripe seeded tomato cut into a fine dice, and sliced ,perfectly ripe avocado. The shrimp were warm, and my first bite endeared me forever to Market. I don't know how, or why...but the dressing reminded me of... PEROGIES!!!! Before you conclude that I must have the palate of a middle Eastern peasant...hear me out. I believe the dressing must have contained some sour cream, or creme fraiche. Perhaps some bacon was used instead of olive oil. I tasted some onion and a delicate cheese. It was balanced with a sharp, tangy, sweet hint of vinegar. All the flavours of 'you-know-what'!

My glass of wine was $11, and the amazing salad was $16. When my server brought my bill, he called me 'MISS'...I should have tipped him 20 bucks!

The restaurant is located in the Shangri la Hotel on Alberni Street in Vancouver. Just Google 'Market Restaurant Vancouver' if you would like to have a look at the menu.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Reading, and Writing, and Eating...

Print Friendly and PDF I took a course in Food and Travel Writing a couple of months ago. That course lead me to write this blog. It was an online course. I had never done one before, so every day was an adventure. I graduated from high school in 1981, and went to UBC for 2 years after that. I used to think I would do a degree in English Literature, but impatience got the best of me, and I did not finish. One of the habits that I used to think would last me a lifetime was reading. I was one of those kids who read everything I could get my hands on. When I opened my retail clothing store ( Cavern Clothing ) reading fell by the wayside. There always seemed to be something more important that needed to be done. When I closed my stores a couple of years ago, and started a little catering company, called Cathy's Lovely Lunches...Cookbooks became my book of choice. One of the things that stuck with me from my Food and Travel Writing course, was a comment by the instructor, Don Genova. He said that in order to be a good writer...you have to be a good reader, or read good stuff, or read, PERIOD!! I don't think I ever paid any attention to food writing before. I have started to get into it, and have developed a real respect for the genre. I remember reading an article in Vogue, many years ago, written by MFK Fisher. It was so beautifully descriptive and evocative of the time and place, I have always remembered how it made me feel. I have recently been reading a couple of mysteries that take place in the 1930's in Istanbul. The detective is a man named Yashim. I love how right in the middle of investigating a tricky case, he decides to whip up a meal and have a few people over to eat with him! The description is quite detailed, from the kind of fuel he uses in his stove, to the way the ingredients are chosen at the Bazaar. It is just another way the author describes the kind of person he is.
I did not read this edition of Edible Manhattan until I had been back from New York for a month or so. Reading the articles made me feel like I had missed an important part of the city. The P-Man and I had eaten in restaurants in every part of the city, but had not thought about the food culture in Manhattan. This publication made me want to return and explore the city in a completely different way. Until then, I will keep reading...

Thursday, May 13, 2010

From the Ukraine to Ireland...in about 30 minutes!

Print Friendly and PDF I finished my work at Well Seasoned at around noon today. It was supposed to be approximately 19 degrees and sunny, so I worked fast! I picked up a few groceries on the way home, hauled them up the stairs, changed my shoes, and headed down to the beach. I LOVE this sign. When you serve the best...why be shy about it? It's not like the sign says: "We have the best Hockey team, with the best Goalie in the NHL?" Don't even get me started! My rear end is black and blue from jumping on and off that particular bandwagon!

I managed to elbow myself onto the patio, with a fresh copy of 'Cooking Light', and proceeded to enjoy a both leisurely and excellent lunch! My server looked familiar, even through my new prescription sunglasses. It was the owner, Jack! He let me know the specials, and they were very tempting. Everything from fresh oysters, Saltspring Island mussels in a thai curry broth, roasted red pepper soup, and a fabulous boxty, topped with carmelized onions, mushrooms and brie cheese. As I was reading a' Cooking Light' magazine, and am still attempting to lose 4 lbs I have gained over the last few months...I opted for the boxty and the sea side Caesar salad with grilled prawns. I actually only ordered the salad and a glass of wine...but that description stayed with me...so I asked for another glass of wine and had the boxty for DESSERT! HA! It was lovely. The potato cakes are so fluffy and light, just barely browned. The toppings are artfully chosen to bring out the potato essence, without overpowering the delicate cakes. The mushrooms and onions were wonderfully sweet, and the cheese with a bit of sour cream and green onion, added some zip.

Who needs cake! My stomach is still purring, happily! I am definitely going to have to try the halibut fish and chips next time... You should go to Slainte, before all the patio tables are gone!

Slainte By The Pier
15057 Marine Drive

Somewhere...my Baba is Smiling!!

Print Friendly and PDF I worked a couple of days at Well Seasoned in Langley. What Have I been thinking about, since I confirmed my work days? My plan of action? My schedule for the day? Hell, No! I was thinking about my lunch at Prairie Cottage Perogies! Here it is: A piece of garlic sausage, 3 cabbage rolls filled with rice and beef, 3 perogies filled with potato and cheese, and creamy coleslaw. Now anyone who knows me can attest to my cheerful chattiness. When this plate appeared before me, yesterday at lunch...I don't think I uttered one syllable...unless a happy sigh of contentment, counts!
The place was PACKED...at noon on a Wednesday, and everyone seemed as happy as I was. I spoke briefly with Judy, the owner, and she said that they seem to be busy EVERY DAY. One taste, and you can see why!
Thanks Judy. I find it quite amazing how happy a little plate costing a mere $6.25 can make me.
You really should see for yourself. I think they will serve you, even if your last name is NOT Lobchuck, or Yurkiw, or Novak, or Kalancha!
20771 Langley Bypass

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Lambs' Brains

Print Friendly and PDF The P-Man always picks me up a couple of magazines while he is travelling. Besides the hotel soap and body lotion, the magazines are my favorite gift from his travels! He was recently in the UK, and he brought back a copy of Jamie Oliver's food magazine..."JAMIE". I have been watching Jamie Oliver on TV for a long time. I have a copy of one of his cookbooks, so it's not like I was unfamiliar with his cooking style. I did not like his magazine at all. I thought it was boring. The articles were ordinary. How many more times do you have to read how to dress a green salad, or make pasta from scratch?

The one thing I did salvage from the magazine, was a tear out section that was entitled "Monthly Menu...Recipe ideas from simple sides and snacks to sophisticated salads and suppers." I had a read through, and the one recipe that struck me as the ultimate in ridiculousness was:

LAMBS' BRAINS- serves 2
They're not for everyone, but lambs' brains on toast makes for a delicious supper. Cut 6 brains in half and dust with seasoned flour. Fry 1-2 sliced garlic cloves in a little olive oil till golden. Add brains and cook for 3 mins, or till crisp and golden on outside and cooked inside. Finish with a little butter, chopped parsley and a squeeze of lemon juice. Serve on toast.

There were also recipes for new potatoes with butter and dill, and for a banana split. I do realize that there are probably more people in the world that cannot cook, than can cook...but to put lambs' brains in the same monthly cooking calendar as a banana split, seems completely bizarre! It also made me realize that Jamie Oliver has morphed from a human being with cooking skills into a brand. Celebrity is so strange. He probably doesn't even know that these recipes are being printed in his magazine, under his name.

The next magazine on my' to read' pile is ' Cooking Light'. I have a day off, tomorrow. Perhaps some real inspiration is only a turn of the page away...

Thursday, May 6, 2010

A late lunch at Vol Au Vent

Print Friendly and PDF It was a day like this, today. I did all my chores this morning, and wandered down to Vol au Vent with an armful of magazines to pass onto Nanna, and a fresh one, barely a month old...to savour with my lunch, on the patio. I had a crab cake and a mixed green salad. They were both fresh and delicious, as usual...but I wanted something else. I had passed by the dessert counter on my way in with my cache of magazines, and I noticed the most perfect little tartlettes. They were my favorite, apple, and I know from experience, that they are made without any sugar. I ordered one with some whipped cream on the side, and a coffee. The apples were lightly browned, set on a flaky, buttery puff pastry, with exactly the right amount of cinnamon. It was dry enough I could have picked it up and eaten it without the aid of a knife and fork, but I didn't. The act of cutting it up into perfect little pieces, enabled me to shovel on some whipped cream!
Happy Spring! Vive le Vol au Vent!

Welcome... Aunty Social!!

Print Friendly and PDF I have a friend. A good friend, a dear friend, that I have known since grade 8. We bonded over a hatred of exercise. We were in the same P.E. class, and took turn writing notes to excuse us from taking P.E. by signing each other's mother's name. We were also in the same physics class, and shared a mutual friend...The P-Man.
We are opposites in most every way. She likes the country, I prefer the city. She cares nothing for fashion, I have been known to spend a whole pay cheque on a dress. She listens to Dr John and old bands like Canned Heat, I listen to Aretha Franklin and Justin Timberlake. She likes camping, I like the Four Seasons. The one thing we have in common is food. We have travelled together, and eaten in many restaurants along the way. She won't eat crap, and neither will I. We are also both good cooks. We have cooked and eaten with each other for many years now.
I remember having dinner at a house she was renting, way back in the day. The table was set up in the living room, and consisted of four stacks of books for legs, and a 2 by 4 ft piece of wood, emblazoned with a stylized black and white image of Frank Zappa. We sat on the floor, atop a very gold shag carpet. I also remember the meal consisting of at least 3 courses...and it was damn good. Even though we live in different towns, we still manage to get together for a meal every once in awhile. The last time was a great New Years Eve Feast at Vol au Vent...and I even managed to cook enough food for a proper breakfast the next morning.

I noticed last week that she has become a follower of this blog. I respect her opinion, as I do her cooking.

Welcome, old friend...

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Simple Food

Print Friendly and PDF One of my jobs at Delitalia is to make sandwiches. By far, one of our most popular creations is called a 'Classic Caprese'. It consists of a small baguette, basil pesto, sliced cherry tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, and fresh basil. Simple ingredients. The most exotic is the buffalo Mozzarella. If you have never had it, treat yourself and buy a small ball. It is soft and creamy, and luscious. It bears almost no relation to the Canadian version, that is firmer, and to me, lacks flavour. We lightly grill these on the panini press until the cheese melts, and YUM...heaven on a bun!

I have had 2 months in a row, where I have gained a little over 2 pounds. This does NOT make me happy. I have decided to get out my little Weight Watchers daily tracker, and start writing down what I am eating. I suppose I could get all huffy, and shake my fist at the sky and scream, " WHY ME "... but I am getting better at not deluding myself . When I first went back to weight watchers almost 3 years ago, I couldn't believe how much I weighed! Then when I started losing weight, I couldn't believe that, either. Now I know what works for me...and believe me...I have been slacking. I have been tracking for a week now, and have been a tad hungry, AND crabby! Work has been a bit of a food challenge as well. I am surrounded by fresh baked croissants and foccaccia bread, and hot pasta with sausage, and pizzas and cookies...YIKES! When you have to write down everything you eat...the food choices you make take a bit more thought. I think I did quite well this week. I stopped my nibbling, and my croissant eating. I got to know my little vegetable friends again, and with the exception of last night's Chambar, 3 glasses of wine, and a chocolate dessert...I know that I know how to do this.

I can even have a scaled down Classic Caprese panini when I go back to work on Friday! There is absolutely nothing wrong with simple healthy ingredients, eaten in moderation. I know that too...

Nester's Market...Woodward's Food Floor

Print Friendly and PDF I worked until 4:30 yesterday. I had to meet the P-Man for dinner in Vancouver at 7 pm. I hopped on the 351 bus, hopped off at the River Rock Casino, hopped onto the Canada Line, and rode it all the way down to Waterfront Station! I have been meaning to go into the new Woodward's complex in Gastown to check out the Nester's Market. The interesting thing about this market, is that the owners have been given permission to produce some of the old Woodward's Brand products.

My mom was a BIG Woodward's Food Floor shopper. In fact, when the Sevenoaks Mall opened in Abbotsford, Woodwards was an anchor tenant, and they put in a DRIVE THROUGH where you could pick up your groceries. I always liked grocery shopping, and that drive through just made it better. My mom always had a big car, and in the late 70's, she had a fire engine red, 1976 Cadillac Eldorado convertible. We used to cruise into that drive through, she would pop the trunk that was the size of a small compact car, and the little grocery kid would fill that trunk with all the groceries. That will always be my memory of Woodward's.

So yesterday...I am not sure what I was expecting...but I walked through the whole store, and did not see one Woodward's product from the past...EXCEPT for this little display of peanut butter. They did have some very cool old posters on the wall. Mostly old Woodward's ads from the 1940's and 1950's. When I got to the till to pay for my loaf of bread, I asked the cashier to tell me about the Woodward's brand products. She stared at me like I was a crazy person, and in the end, asked me if I would like her to call a manager! I had a horrible waking dream that I had just turned 90 years old, and was inquiring about an antique washboard...so I gave her the money and left. I wonder if it is true that this place still does $1.49 Day, on Tuesdays? I'm not going to even ask.

Night at Chambar...Dine out Vancouver

Print Friendly and PDF I think this picture is Hilarious!! It's a window display at the Dirty Apron Cooking School on Beatty St. in Vancouver. I saw it on my way up to Chambar restaurant. The P-Man and I were meeting some friends for dinner.

I had never been to Chambar. I had only been to it's sister restaurant, Medina.

We were eating out as part of Vancouver's annual Dine out celebration of local restaurants. It sounded like a great deal. Three courses for $38. We ended up spending a little over $160 after drinks...not including tip. I won't get into what I ate, because it was not that good. It was well presented, in a nice looking space, but I left feeling like I had never eaten. The only way I can describe it is that the food lacked substance. There were a lot of ingredients to each dish, but together, they didn't seem to work. Compared to some of the delicious things I have blogged about, that cost a fraction of the price, and delivered an eleven on a 1 to 10 taste scale, Chambar just didn't do it for me.

Perhaps the cooking school window is right. Save your marriage AND your money by learning to cook!