edible adventures from the centre of the universe

16 July 2009

New Beginnings

Hello, friends!

It's been a while, hasn't it? While I don't know if I'll ever resurrect Wasabi Cowgirl, I'm happy to say that I've decided to re-enter the food-writing community with Peanut Butter and Pickles, a new blog that will consist mostly of restaurant reviews around the Junction, the GTA, and wherever my travels take me. This new site is a collaboration with my funny, gorgeous, and generally amazing boyfriend Rich, and we hope to bring a silly and casual (but still informed) dynamic to the Toronto restaurant-reviewing scene. I hope you'll come visit us at our new digs!


24 June 2008


Hey y'all -- in case you haven't noticed, this blog is on a bit of a hiatus while I deal with some personal stuff. Suffice it to say, I don't have much of an appetite these days and, as such, blogging about food doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Don't worry -- I'll be back eventually. In the meantime, please enjoy some of the kickass blogs in my 'roll to the right.

03 May 2008

Review: B Restaurant

Few things hit the spot better on a dreary, drizzly, mildly-hungover Saturday than a big piping hot serving of fresh, homecooked brunch. Lucky for Dave and I, a couple of our good pals and their adorable toddler Erin came to visit us on this particularly gray weekend with the express purposes of chowing down on some brunch and catching up with eachother. We had heard good things about B Restaurant (2210 Dundas West) in Roncesvalles Village, so we dragged our sleepy butts out into the rain in search of delicious eggs.

B is a cozy little space with an open kitchen and eclectic decor, and appears to do brisk business on Saturday afternoons -- the place was packed! Fortunately, a group was just leaving when we arrived, so we were promptly seated and given some water to sip on while we perused the giant blackboard menus on the walls. B specializes in brunch and lunch, with a wide variety of eggy goodness alongside some amazing-sounding french toast (with berries and brie!), something called the "Hobo Scramble" (may contain hobos), and at least a dozen unique and mouth-watering sandwiches and burgers. Three of us were drawn to the eggs benny with tomato, corn, and jalapeno, while Dave went for the omelet with duck and apple sausage and Erin chose "tupperware Cheerios."

It should be noted that our waitress was amazing -- super friendly and attentive, and quick to bring replacement cutlery when Erin decided that forks belong on the floor. When she brought our food out, we were overwhelmed by the cuteness of the little radish "B" that we found on top of our side salads. Once we got over the thrill of novelty garnishes, we noticed that the rest of our meals looked damn good as well. Those of us with the eggs benny found two perfectly-poached eggs atop homemade biscuit halves with fresh tomato slices and a flavourful corn and jalapeno sautee. The whole mess was covered in a heavenly buttery-tasting hollandaise and sided with crispy and nicely spiced homefries. This was probably one of the most delicious brunch dishes I've ever tasted, and definitely the best eggs benedict I've experienced. Dave was also impressed with his fluffy omelet stuffed with big slices of sausage and juicy chunks of apple. With regard to her Cheerios, Erin said, "Zababababa."

I think B is my new favourite brunch spot, and I can't wait to go back to try some more items from its ridiculously tasty menu. This is homecooked comfort food at its best, and I couldn't have imagined a better hangover cure on this rainy Saturday.

10 soylent hobos out of 10
(why not? -- a bellyfull of rich and delicious hollandaise is making me feel generous)


28 April 2008

Cookbook Challenge #6: Yet Another delicious. Lasagna

Hello! I'm still alive! I know I've been a negligent blogger -- I've been preoccupied with choosing a caterer for the wedding, and this distraction has been compounded by the Tivo that Dave got me for my birthday. The altars of new-school Degrassi and Melrose Place have been attracting my worship more than the computer these days. The good news is that a caterer has been chosen and Melrose is in repeats-of-repeats. As such, I'll be brushing the cobwebs off of this here food blog in short order.

I've written about my fave food publication delicious. before, as well as one of my all-time favourite lasagna recipes that came from an issue of this Aussie mag -- it's one of my go-to sources for fresh and inventive recipes. However, the cookbook that I received with my latest subscription has been sitting on my shelf for months. 5 of the best by Valli Little contains recipes from delicious. magazine, sorted by themes of 5 dishes each (such as "5 of the best baked pastas" or "5 of the best savoury tarts") and rounded out with beautiful photography. Since I had such great success with the other delicious. butternut lasagna, the below iteration with rosemary, spinach, and goat cheese seemed like it would be a worthwhile effort. I wasn't wrong -- the tanginess of the chevre complimented the sweet squash and savourly rosemary perfectly. I was also super-impressed with how flavourful this lasagna was with a minimum amount of cheese -- I'm all for guilt-free indulgences, and this dish fits the bill. Give it a try!

Butternut & Goat Cheese Lasagna

1 kg butternut squash, peeled and chopped
4 tbsp olive oil
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, minced (leaves only)
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 leeks, washed and thinly sliced
300g baby spinach leaves
2 garlic cloves, crushed
400ml good quality tomato passata (sieved tomatoes)
fresh lasagna sheets
150g soft goat cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss the butternut with 2 tbsp olive oil, half the rosemary, and salt & pepper. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes, until tender. Transfer to a bowl, mash, and set aside.
2. Heat the remaining oil and butter in a medium pan over low heat. Add the leeks and cook for 5 minutes, until softened. Add the spinach and garlic, and cook for another couple of minutes until the spinach is wilted. Remove from heat and set aside.
3. Grease a 23cm X 15cm dish. Spoon 1/4 cup of the tomato passata into the bottom of the dish, season with salt & pepper, and spread evenly. Place a sheet of lasagna on top of the passata, and spread with the mashed butternut. Add another layer of lasagna, then another 1/4 cup of passata, and then the leek-spinach mixture.Finally, add another layer of lasagna and spread it with the remaining passata.
4. In a small bowl, toss together the goat cheese, parmesan, and remaining rosemary. Sprinkle this mixture over the top of the lasagna. Cover the dish in foil, and bake for 30 minutes. Then, remove the foil and return to the oven for another 15 minutes, until the cheese begins to brown. Let sit 5 minutes before serving.

serves 6

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09 March 2008

Cookbook Challenge #5: Salmony!

Late last year, I was browsing through the BMV on Bloor and happened upon a copy of Salmon by Diane Morgan for a ridiculously low price. Like tuna, salmon is a fish that I hated to eat as a child, but have warmed up to since I started eating fish again post-vegetarianism. However, I still find it fairly intimidating to cook. Since Salmon is filled with mouth-watering photos and fairly simple instructions, it seemed like the perfect tool to help break me of my fear of this delicious fish.

I finally got around to using this cookbook once we returned from our Christmas vacation, and the honey-soy broiled salmon looked like the perfect thing to warm us up on a cold winter night. This recipe was very easy to make, and the only hiccup I encountered was when our super-sensitive smoke alarm wouldn't stop going off during the cooking process. Served on top of a simple sweet potato mash and some wilted spinach, the end result was a piece of perfectly-cooked fish that was both sweet and salty, with a tiny kick of wasabi heat. It was super-tasty, and I can't wait to make another recipe from this book. Salmon, you're not so tough after all.

Honey-Soy Broiled Salmon

2 salmon filets (6oz each)
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1/4 cup mirin
1/2 tsp finely grated fresh ginger


2 tsp wasabi powder
1 tbsp fresh lime juice
2 tbsp soy sauce
1/4 cup honey

1. In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, rice vinegar, mirin, and ginger. Pour over salmon (in a small baking dish or a large zip-top bag), and marinate for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
2. Just before cooking the fish, make the sauce: In a small saucepan, combine the lime juice, wasabi, soy sauce, and honey. Warm over medium heat until the sauce comes to a boil, stirring constantly. Turn the heat to low and simmer sauce until it thickens and becomes syrupey, about 2 minutes. Set aside and keep warm.
3. Arrange an oven rack about 4 inches from the heat source and pre-heat the broiler. Remove the salmon from the marinade, and wipe off extra liquid. Place the salmon on a baking sheet, skin side down if you are using filets with skin, and broil until it begins to colour, about 3 minutes. Turn the salmon and cook for about 3 minutes longer, until almost opaque throughout.
4. If applicable, remove the skin from your salmon and serve immediately. You can serve this with steamed rice, but I put it on top of some sweet potato mash and wilted spinach.

serves 2

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30 January 2008

Review: Westwood Grill

Since we moved to Toronto three years ago, Dave and I have been on the hunt for a reliable local Chinese delivery joint with delicious food -- in the High Park area, this is a rare commodity. Until last week, we had settled for pretty good, but annoyingly bland Chinese take-out from a friendly little place down the street. Then we discovered Westwood Grill (519 Annette St).

The menu at Westwood Grill is large and varied, with enough flavour offerings to curb almost any craving. It also has many more veggie and seafood dishes than your typical Chinese restaurant. Last week, Dave and I decided to order a wide sampling for delivery: veggie fried rice, salt and pepper crispy tofu, broccoli in garlic sauce, General Tao jumbo shrimp, and sesame jumbo shrimp. I was told our food would arrive in 45 minutes, but it was on our doorstep in 30 -- a nice surprise.

The portion sizes at Westwood Grill are very generous, so we found ourselves in front of a mountain of food after we unpacked the delivery bags. Everything smelled amazing, so we dove in immediately. The most basic dish we ordered, the veggie fried rice, impressed with an absence of frozen mixed vegetables -- the savoury rice was mixed with big chunks of fresh veggies and tasty egg. The broccoli in garlic sauce was perfectly cooked, with a bit of bite, and the sauce was deliciously garlicky but not overpowering. The salt and pepper tofu pieces were little bite-sized spicy flavour explosions, and the General Tao shrimp dish included massive prawns in a fantastic spicy, sweet, and savoury sauce -- highly recommended. The only disappointment for me was the sesame shrimp, which came in a creamy sesame-based sauce that I found to be a little dull.

I'm ecstatic that Dave and I have finally found a nearby delivery place that rivals some of the best Chinese take-out I've ever had the opportunity to taste. I can't wait to try more of Westwood Grill's huge menu.

9 pony expresses out of 10


17 January 2008

Tampopo: Meh.

Widely considered to be the best food movie of all time, I finally got around to seeing Tampopo before Christmas. I think my expectations were set too high going in, because I have to admit I was a little disappointed in this cute foodie flick.

The story in this "noodle western" loosely revolves around the proprietress of a ramen shop, Tampopo (Japanese for "Dandelion"), and her quest for the perfect bowl of noodles. I say "loosely" because there are a number of bizarre food-related sketches peppered throughout the movie that regularly interrupt the main story. These include charm school spaghetti-eating lessons, and the funniest/grossest sex-food scene ever put on film.

One of my problems with the movie is that Tampopo is depicted as a helpless half-wit who requires the help and instruction of a group of men to make a decent bowl of ramen. Additionally, all of her recipe improvements are directly stolen from other chefs -- she has no original ideas whatever. As such, Tampopo basically floats through the movie like a puppet and when she finally makes the "perfect" bowl of noodles, it doesn't feel like much of an accomplishment.

While I had issues with Tampopo, I had no problems with another character: the food! The sensuality of eating is a major theme in this film, and the director's love of food is clear. There's no way you can make it through this movie without some of your favourite snacks.

I'm glad I watched Tampopo, but my favourite food movie of all time (Babette's Feast) made it through the battle without a scratch. In fact, there are several I would place above Tampopo in a Top 10 list: Big Night, Eat Drink Man Woman, God of Cookery, and even Ratatouille.

For any animal lovers, beware that there is a live turtle execution in this film.


10 January 2008

Cookbook Challenge #4: Happy New Year!

I hope y'all had as great a holiday season as I did! With almost a month off of work, Dave and I headed south to enjoy the beautiful island of Maui. We had an amazing time, and ate a lot of fantastic meals. I'll be posting about many of them in the near future -- stay tuned!

With the return of the daily grind comes a desire for simple, easy-to-prepare dinners. There's nothing simpler than a slow cooker and, happily, my brother gave me a copy of Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker by Robin Robertson a few years ago that I had yet to use. Since Hoppin' John is supposed to bring luck in the new year, Robertson's slow cooker version seemed appropriate.

This recipe was easy to throw together, which you would expect from a slow cooker cookbook, and it was divine to come home to a fragrant pot of bubbly beans and tomatoes after a hard day at work. My expectations for this dish were low, because most of the vegetarian slow cooker recipes I've tried have come out bland, bland, bland. Not this one. Diced green chiles give the comforting beans n' rice a heat that warms you from the inside out, and I added some red chile flakes for an extra kick. Even the notorious bean-hater Dave cleaned his plate. What a great (and lucky!) start to the new year.

Slow Cooker Vegetarian Hoppin' John

2 tbsp olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp dried thyme
large pinch red chile flakes
3 cups cooked/canned black-eyed peas
one 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, drained
one 4 oz can diced green chiles, drained
1 cup veggie stock
8 oz vegetarian sausage, crumbled
3 cups cooked brown rice
salt & pepper

1. Heat 1 tbsp of the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, thyme, chile flakes, and a dash of salt & pepper to the pan, and saute until the onion is soft and translucent. Add the garlic, cook for one minute, and remove from heat.
2. Transfer onion mixture to a slow cooker. Add the black-eyed peas, tomatoes, chiles, and stock. Season with salt & pepper, cover, and cook on low for 4-6 hours.
3. About 15 minutes before serving, heat the remaining oil in a pan and brown the veggie sausage. Add the sausage and rice to the slow cooker, stir to combine, and season with salt & pepper to taste. Enjoy!

serves 4


07 December 2007

Mele Kalikimaka!

I'm off to Hawaii and then Alberta for the holidays, so there won't be any new posts here for a few weeks. See y'all when I get back!

04 December 2007

Cookbook Challenge #3: Very Nice!

Soft, fresh bread is probably my biggest food weakness. I love it as part of a sandwich; I love it plain, topped with creamy butter; I just love it. As such, I was psyched when I first came across the original ACE Bakery Cookbook a few years ago -- so many great recipe ideas using yummy, yummy bread! Beacuse of this book, one of my more exciting realizations when I moved to Toronto was that I could finally buy fresh ACE bread from my local grocery. Yay!

Last Christmas, my mom gave me the second ACE cookbook: More from ACE Bakery. This sequel is pretty similar to the original, with lots of mouth-watering photography and amazing-sounding recipes. Even so, I just never got around to using it. Until now.

Flipping through its pages the other day, one photo really jumped out at me: creamy-looking egg-salad piled high on fresh multigrain bread with fresh tomato slices and lettuce, topped with three beautiful asparugus spears. It looked So. Good. I decided to make the "Really, Really Nice Egg Sandwich" myself, and found the most difficult part to be finding plain 2% yogurt at the grocery store (note: this wasn't very hard). I'm happy to say that this sandwich tasted as good as it looked -- the eggs were perfectly creamy and tangy, and paired nicely with the fresh veggies. I used the best-quality unsliced multigrain bread I could find, and its pillowy soft interior went great with the smooth eggs, while its nutty, crisp crust made things interesting. I served these sandwiches with some extra steamed asparagus and a nice, garlicky aioli. It made for an extremely satisfying light meal. Enjoy!

Really, Really Nice Egg Sandwich
3 eggs, hard boiled and peeled
6 asparagus stalks
3 tbsp 2% or 4% yogurt
heaping 1/4 tsp Dijon
generous 1/4 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
heaping 1/4 tsp kosher salt
2tsp fresh chives, minced
2 to 4 leaves boston lettuce
2 thick slices flax or multigrain bread
1 large tomato, sliced
freshly ground black pepper and salt, to taste

1. Steam the asparagus until cooked through, but still crisp. Shock with cold wate, drain, and set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, combine the Dijon, yogurt, chives, lemon juice, and kosher salt. Grate the hard boiled eggs into the yogurt dressing (use the large holes in your grater) and gently toss. Salt and pepper to taste.
3. Place the lettuce on the bread slices and top with tomato slices. Pile on the egg salad and arrange the asparagus on top. Finish with a generous grind of fresh pepper and serve open-faced.

serves 2

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