edible adventures from the centre of the universe

30 April 2007

Pizza Porn

Before entering the oven:

After the heat:
I'm happy to say that this pizza tasted as good as it looks. Probably even better. A couple of days ago, I was in the mood to try out a new topping combo, so my friend Leah and I whipped up (read: put elbow grease into the labour-intensive process of making) the "Americana" pizza dough from Peter Reinhart's American Pie. If you are at all interested in making amazing pizza at home, invest in this book, a pizza stone, and a pizza peel. You won't regret it.

After the dough had sat for the requisite 24-hours in the fridge, I stretched it into something resembling a circle and layered on fresh pesto, pre-grilled zucchini and asparagus, and goat cheese. After 8 minutes in a 500 degree oven, I was in pizza heaven. Letting the dough rise in the fridge (per Reinhart's instructions) yields a crisp crust with complex flavours -- no floury, gummy, tasteless mouthfuls here. Further, the garlicky fresh flavour of the pesto melded perfectly with the charred, slightly nutty asparagus and zucchini. Not to mention the tangy, melty, goat cheese on top ... I love it when a simple combination of ingredients produces such a stellar meal. I think I have a new favourite pizza!


20 April 2007


If "Countries where people eat curry" were a Family Feud question, I'm guessing the top responses would be ("Survey said!") India, Britain, and maybe Thailand. Not many would guess that curry is one of the most popular dishes in Japan, where most people eat it at least once per week.

Introduced by the Brits in the late 19th century, curry in Japan is typically made with meat, potatoes, carrots, and onions, and served with sticky short-grain rice (the dish is called "curry rice"). It's also thicker, sweeter, and milder than its Indian counterpart. Best of all, it's ridiculously easy to make using prepared Japanese curry "roux," which can be found in any Asian supermarket -- S&B Golden Curry is the most popular brand in North America.

In need of a quick and easy, but also warming and delicious dinner last week, I picked up some "Hot" Golden Curry mix (the "hot" is really not that hot, but you can also get mild or medium), veggies, and fried tofu puffs at my local Asian grocery and got to work. The secret to a great Japanese curry, I find, is lots of onion, slowly cooked until golden, and a couple cloves of garlic. This really deepens the flavour of the sauce. I've also heard that adding a grated apple works well, but I haven't yet tried that tack. This recipe is a great one to experiment with because it's really hard to go wrong -- throw in your favourite ingredients and come up with your own perfect curry rice! Here's mine:

Tofu Curry Rice

2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into bite-sized cubes
1 large yellow cooking onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch slices on the diagonal
2 celery stalks, cut into 1/4 inch slices on the diagonal
2 cups fried tofu puffs
3 squares S&B "Hot" Golden Curry roux
2 and 1/4 cup water

1. Heat olive oil in a deep frying pan or pot. Add onion and salt and saute over medium-low heat until translucent and lightly golden, about 5 minutes. Add potatoes, carrots, and celery, and saute for an additional 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
2. Add water, roux, and tofu to the pan. Bring to a simmer and stir until roux dissolves. Cover and let stew simmer over low heat until potatoes are tender, about 10-15 minutes. Add a little more water if your sauce is too thick. Season with salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.
3. Serve curry next to sticky short-grain rice. Grab a spoon and dig in!

serves 3-4


17 April 2007

Waiting for the Sun

So, it's mid-April and still FREEZING, dreary, and all-around blah in Toronto. Wiarton Willie is a damn liar. I demand sunshine!

Until I can stop wearing my mittens to drive to work, I'm still hooked on hot, winter-y dishes to keep myself unfrozen. Last night, I made a white bean and kale soup that really hit the spot -- kale is one of my favourite greens because it has such an interesting texture, and it tastes great with tomatoes and creamy canellini beans. With a kick of rosemary and red chiles, and feta on top, this soup was the perfect thing to pick me up from yet another wet, cloudy, cold day in Ontario. As an added bonus, Dave, who generally despises beans, had two servings! So you bean-haters out there should give this one a try.

Word on the street (read: Weather Network) is that things are supposed to warm up this weekend. I won't keep my fingers crossed. In the meantime, comfort food is where it's at.

White Bean and Kale Soup

19 oz can canellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups veggie stock
1 bay leaf
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp minced fresh rosemary
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small yellow onion, minced
4 garlic cloves, minced
28 oz can diced tomatoes, with juice
generous pinch red chile flakes
1/4 tsp each dry oregano and basil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 small bunch kale, rinced and sliced
1/4 cup Italian parsley, chopped
lots of fresh black pepper
crumbled feta, for garnish

1. Heat olive oil in a large soup pot. Add the onion, and cook until golden. Add the garlic, red chile, basil, oregano, salt, and rosemary, and cook for another couple minutes (until fragrant). Add the beans, stock, and tomatoes, and simmer over low heat for 20 to 30 minutes.
2. Stir in the kale, vinegar, parsley, and ground pepper to taste. Cook until the kale is wilted, then ladle the soup into bowls and top with feta and some additional fresh parsley. Serve with lots of garlic bread and extra pepper.

serves 3-4


13 April 2007

Recipe for Disaster: Anchovy Steak

Is a giant steak not good enough for you? Why not sweeten the deal with a crapload of anchovies and green olives with pimentos? And serve it with cold, soggy, congealed KFC fries? And maimed tomatoes? Isn't that better?

This disagreeable platter was barfed up by the 1972 Family Circle MEAT Cookbook, which also includes sections on "Meal-Time Easy Franks" and "Ever-Popular Ground Beef." Sadly, there are no sections on "Problematic Poultry" or "Disliked Luncheon Meats."

The Family Circle gang calls this a "colorful" meal, but I'm leaning more in the direction of "disturbing" and "stop staring at me, steak." But what the hell, right? At least you can get a good game of tic-tac-toe in before your stomach starts screaming so loudly that you have to take it out back and put it out of its misery.

Anchovy Steak
1 blade-bone chuck beefsteak (2.5 lbs)
instant meat tenderizer
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
vegetable oil
1 can anchovy fillets, drained
sliced pimento-stuffed olives

1. Trim excess fat from steak. Moisten meat and sprinkle with meat tenderizer. Place on rack in a broiler pan.
2. Sprinkle top of steak with 1 tbsp flour, and brush with oil. Broil 3-4 inches from the heat 3-4 minutes for rare, 5-6 minutes for medium. Turn and sprinkle remaining flour over top. Brush with oil.
3. Continue broiling 2-3 minutes for rare, or 3-4 minutes for medium. Remove from broiler and arrange anchovies and olives on top of the steak as pictured. Brush all with oil and broil for an additional 2-3 minutes or until steak is done as you like it. Place on a platter and serve with fries and "tomato roses" (a.k.a. tomatoes cut into 8 wedges to within 1/4 inch of the bottom, with the skin peeled back from the points at the top).

Serves 4, sadly


02 April 2007

Tuna Noodle!

Tolkien once said that "cellar door" is a beautiful phrase. I'm no linguistics expert, but "cellar door" feels drab to me. Like a grey sky. I much prefer the less famous, but more fun phrase "tuna noodle." I mean, say it out loud: Tuna! Noodle! TunaNoodle! TUNANOODLE! Now that has got to be the best phrase in the English language.

Tuna Noodle Casserole has been a fixture on North American dinner tables since the 50's. It's inexpensive, easy to make, and pure comfort food -- no wonder it's a classic. I like mine extra-creamy, and I mix in some corn to provide a touch of sweetness along with a dash of hot sauce to give it some bite. The result is loyal to the classic retro recipe, but with a little something extra: it's the sassy Jessica to old school tuna casserole's plain Elizabeth Wakefield. Give it a try, and you'll find that "tuna noodle" is as fun to eat as it is to say.

Sweet Valley Tuna Noodle Casserole

2 cups dry macaroni
1 can tuna, drained
1 cup celery, diced
1 cup frozen corn
1/3 cup green onion, chopped
1 tablespoon Italian parsley, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 can cream of celery soup
1/2 cup milk
1.5 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup mayo (low fat ok)
a few squirts hot sauce (I like Frank's)
salt & pepper

1. Cook macaroni to al dente in salted water and drain. Combine in a large bowl with tuna, celery, corn, green onion, parsley, and garlic.
2. In a small saucepan, whisk together soup, hot sauce, and milk over medium heat. When it begins to bubble, stir in 1 cup of the cheese and cook until the cheese melts completely. Remove from heat and stir in the mayo. Season with salt & pepper to taste.
3. Combine sauce and macaroni mixture, and pour into a greased casserole dish. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top, and bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 35 minutes. Finish under the broiler to brown the cheese, and serve immediately with fresh ground pepper on top!

Serves 4 generously


01 April 2007

The Best Easter Candies EVER

Every Easter, I track down some Cadbury Mini Eggs because I love their sweet, creamy chocolate centres and their slightly gritty, matte, sugary shells. Mostly, I think it's their funny little egg shapes that make them so much better than plain old Cadbury chololate. My favourite way to eat them is to suck on them so the thin shell dissolves and gives way to melty choco-goodness: I never bite.

This year, Cadbury made these little guys even better, and blew my mind a little, by throwing pop rocks into the mix! As these new "Popping Mini Eggs" dissolve on your tongue, the pop rocks fizz and crackle against the roof of your mouth. They are so. Much. Fun. Sizzly chocolate! You can watch a cute ad for these weirdo egg-bombs here.

I think my new favourite seasonal treat is only available until Easter (next weekend), so track them down, if you can. You won't be disappointed.