Tuesday, December 29, 2009

New Year's Food Resolutions, anyone?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Holy crap - Christmas was very good to our kitchen this year! And with this new gear comes thoughts of what we will do in the new year (New Year's food resolutions, if you will). From the lovely people in our lives who support our addiction for kitchen gadgets, we got:
  • an electric "Lazy Susan" warmer which will be AWESOME for parties with our friends to keep food warm. We throw maybe three or so a year but with this puppy I might just be wanting to throw a couple more!

  • a crock pot (the old one I had smelled like an electrical fire waiting to happen - it was my Grandma's). I cannot wait to make a slowcooker recipe my Mom makes with flank steak. Yum!

  • a blender with a spigot - I am in love with the spigot. 2010 will equal smoothie heaven. I can already tell what my favourite thing to make in it will be - I have matcha (green tea) powder and I'll add vanilla soy milk and vanilla frozen yogurt to emulate the Matcha Monsoons at Booster Juice - yum!

  • a pasta machine that I cannot WAIT to get my hands on.
My personal first resolution of the new year is to make my own homemade ravioli. I'll have to check with Mark on his, but I think he'll enjoy helping me eat that ravioli! ;)

Got any food resolutions for 2010? Anything you've been dying to make at home? A place you've been dying to eat out at? A food festival you have to make sure you won't miss this year? Please share yours by commenting!

Yours in food,

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Part I: Antipasti - "The Edible City" Book Review

Saturday, December 19, 2009

I just finished the antipasti part of "The Edible City: Toronto's Food From Farm to Fork" so I thought I'd share some brief first impressions.


The book starts off with Sarah B. Hood's historical food map of Toronto. Don't worry, those of you who failed History in high school - it's not boring - she paints a vivid picture of what has fed Toronto over the years, from what early hunter-gatherers could find in the area to what urban farmers and manufacturers provide nowadays. There's some interesting initiatives I've come across before that she mentions - like Not Far From The Tree, which harvests Toronto's fruit trees (yes, there are actually quite a few fruit trees here - NFFTT's site says they harvested over 3,000 lbs of food in their first full season in 2008 and this year they are way above that at about 8,135 lbs). I had the pleasure of tasting one of their apples actually. Pretty cool stuff.

Next up was Andrew Braithwaite's story which made me smile endlessly. I honestly die a bit inside when people make fun of Toronto in any way, especially the food scene, because I think it deserves the utmost respect - we have some really talented chefs and the multicultural cuisine cannot be beat in my opinion. So to hear Andrew explain how he moved to France and how he, despite how awesome I'm sure France was, perpetually missed the Toronto food scene made me nearly die of joy - I'd say we have arrived as a world player on the food scene.

Jessica Duffin Wolfe writes about why Toronto lacks a street food scene - the main point that resonated with me is it's cold most of the year so street food (well, we've usually still got our street meat!) is not suitable really. Although Mark's tales of street food in the Philippines put Toronto to shame, I'm kind of okay with that. She's pushing for street food vendors more than I would be. I kind of like the landscape being uncluttered by street food carts, in the summer I'll just, say for example, run into La Bamboche and grab some macaroons and eat them outside - same thing really, but with less cluttered streets, so I've made peace with Toronto's lack of a street food scene, though I am dying to go to the Philippines and other countries with good street food scenes (I know, that sounds a bit hypocritical. I am a woman of contradictions).

Steven Biggs talks about the food processing industry in Toronto, which all started with pork processing (hence the city's nickname Hogtown). I learn something new everyday: I had NO idea we are North America's second largest food processing hub (Chicago is #1).

Bronwyn Underhill talks about her grandmother's amazing peach chutney - food for me is also very attached to memories - and when making her own version she contemplates the pros and cons of three different ways she can get her peaches to make the recipe: she can buy from the grocery store or market (where peaches are usually from California or sometimes Niagara) or she can help pick her own with NFFTT. She peppers her adventures in peach-buying with some interesting facts.

My first bite into the book ended with a story by Darren O'Donnell about his ideal conception of the city (which is based off Sesame Street) and how, to get to that ideal, he evolved the concept of dinner parties to be more inclusive. I have to say the style of writing was more suited to one of my old University textbooks, but I get what he's trying to get at and found his concept interesting.


Click here to read our reviews of the next sections (primo, secondo, contorno, and dolce) of the book!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Curry in your Cookies?

Friday, December 4, 2009
So I've never been involved in a cookie exchange before, but right off the top I must say registering for a baking class would be a pretty cool way to get your cookie exchange baking done should you be involved in one during the holidays.

I signed myself up for the $60 "Merry Masala Christmas" class at Nella Cucina and brought Mark along to sample some food and take photos while I participated in the baking.

I can't say I've ever thought about throwing curry powder in my cookie dough, but the result was pretty pleasant!

We were using the Arvinda's range of spice blends mostly to jazz up traditional cookie recipes - everything from gingerbread to sugar cookies. Arvinda's son and daughter actually helped run the class.

Here's what was on the menu that night for us to bake:
  • Crunchy Pistachio Cranberry Chocolate Chai Biscotti
  • Holiday Chai Spice Ladoos
  • Garam Masala Gingerbread Squares
  • Citrus Chai Spice Sugar Cookies
  • Mango Curry Snow Crescents
We also had the pleasure of A) baking with Suresh and Jenny from Spotlight Toronto and B) trying a hot chocolate with garam masala in it, which was quite tasty. The spice really brought another layer of flavour over top of the traditional hot chocolate, and it wasn't at all "too spicy" or in opposition to the original flavour - it was more of a complement to it.

My favourites cookie was DEFINITELY the mango curry snow crescent, but I also really loved a glaze we made with orange juice, orange zest, icing sugar, and garam masala. It was sweet and the citrus-y taste was especially well-suited to be atop the sugar cookies.

We walked away with a few dozen cookies handily boxed up (which could be frozen if desired, you know, for that cookie exchange I was talking about if yours is still a week or two away), a recipe booklet with recipes for the items above and a tin of Arvinda’s Artisinal Spice Garam Masala. I think I'll probably use mine to make that glaze again for some sugar cookies - yum!

Many thanks to Mary Luz Mejia for giving us the heads-up on the event!

Click here for more photos: Indian spiced baking