edible adventures from the centre of the universe

29 August 2007

Barbeque Linguini

With only a few weeks of Summer left, I've been feeling obligated to fire up the barbeque as often as possible. As such, I was happy to come across the following recipe in my copy of A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen by Jack Bishop. I find this cookbook to be great for simple, yet elegant dishes such as this Linguine with Grilled Fennel and Sun-Dried Tomatoes. A breeze to throw together, this pasta is dressed lightly with the subtly sweet anise flavour of fennel, smoky from the grill, and intensely tomato-ey sun-dried tomatoes. A splash of vinegar and a handful of high-quality cheese bring everything together in perfect harmony. Dave and I gobbled it up with some extra garlicky garlic bread, which definitely helped us better enjoy our last days of Summer.

Linguine with Grilled Fennel and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

1 large fennel bulb, stalks and fronds discarded, cut into 1/2 inch slices through the base
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
salt & pepper
5 sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained and sliced into thin strips
2 tbsp fresh basil leaves, minced
1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar (eyeball it)
1/2 lb linguine
freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano

1. Light your grill, and set to medium-high. Brush fennel with 1 tbsp of the oil, and season with salt and pepper. Place the fennel on the grill, and cook until tender with nice dark char marks, turning once.

2. Briefly cool the fennel, and cut into thin strips. Combine the fennel, tomatoes, basil, vinegar, and 1 tbsp of the oil in a large bowl. Salt and pepper to taste. Cover and set aside for up to one hour.

3. Cook pasta until al dente in well-salted boiling water. Reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking water and drain the pasta. Toss the pasta with the fennel sauce, and moisten with the reserved cooking water as needed. Serve immediately, topped with a generous amount of parmigiano-reggiano.

Serves 2


23 August 2007

The Taste of Tuna-Love is Sweet

Thanks to a link from Elise's delicious-sounding Tarragon Tuna Melt post over at Simply Recipes, I have a bunch of new visitors today. Welcome!

Elise wasn't the only one who had some fun with tuna melts this week. We've been battling some chilly weather here in Toronto, so I was craving tropical flavours -- if I can't have summer outside, at least I can have it on my plate. Because sweet and spicy is pretty much the best combo ever, I decided to pimp my tuna with bold jalapeno and cheery fresh pineapple. To build on the "island" theme, I added some of my favourite curry powder and smoky, rich ancho. Savoury red onion and cilantro rounded everything out, while gooey spicy cheese finished each bite with an extra layer of heat. I took a picture, but it really didn't do these bad boys justice. Give them a try -- like Dave and I, I bet you'll fall for them like a child.


Ring of Fire Tuna Melts

1 can tuna, drained
2 tbsp red onion, finely chopped
1/2 jalapeno, finely chopped
1/4 cup pineapple, diced
2 tbsp cilantro, finely sliced
1 tbsp good quality curry powder
1 tsp ancho powder
2 tbsp light mayonnaise
2 english muffins
4 slices spicy monterey jack cheese

1. Mix tuna, onion, jalapeno, pineapple, cilantro, curry powder, ancho powder, and mayonnaise in a bowl until well combined.
2. Open the english muffins and broil until lightly browned. Remove from broiler, and scoop 1/4 of the tuna mixture onto each muffin half. Finish with a slice of monterey jack.
3. Put the muffins back under the broiler until the cheese melts and starts to brown. Dig in!

Serves 2


21 August 2007

Cowgirl Pasta Salad

On our way back from Tobermory, Dave and I stopped at a corn farm to pick up some sweet cobs, fresh from the field. To use the last of it up, I had some fun inventing this pasta salad that combines a bunch of my favourite Tex-Mex flavours. It's hard to beat plain old roasted corn and asparagus, but the sweet-smoky charm of these veggies really shines when paired with a spicy, tangy guacamole dressing. Thrown together on a whim, I think this summery recipe is going to become part of my regular repertoire. Giddyup!

Cowgirl Pasta Salad
350g chunky pasta (I used "scoobi-doo")
1 cob of corn
1 bunch of asparagus, woody ends removed
1/2 red pepper, diced
2 tbsp fresh chives, minced
2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp ancho chile powder (optional)
diced tomato for garnish
salt & pepper

Guacamole Dressing
1 ripe avocado
1 fresh jalapeno
juice from 1/2 lime
1/3 cup light mayo
1/4 cup light sour cream
1 clove garlic, diced
salt, to taste

1. Boil pasta in salted water until al dente. Rinse under cold water and put into a large mixing bowl with red pepper and chives.
2. Make the dressing by combining all ingredients in a blender and pureeing until smooth. Add salt to taste, and set aside.
2. Toss asparagus with olive oil, ancho powder (if you have it), and salt and pepper. Grill over medium high heat, until brown and roasty. Chop asparagus into 1-inch pieces and add to mixing bowl with pasta.
3. Roast your cob of corn whatever way you prefer (I usually rub it with a little butter, wrap in tinfoil, and roast over medium high heat until the kernels are lightly browned -- about 15 minutes) -- you can roast the corn and the asparagus at the same time. Use a knife to carefully chop the kernels off the cob, and add the roasted corn to the mixing bowl.
4. Add the dressing to the mixing bowl and toss your salad until well-combined. Season to taste. Serve garnished with diced tomato, a slice of lime, and fresh-ground pepper.

Serves 3


16 August 2007

Bork, bork bork!

Happy Friday, y'all!

13 August 2007

A Weekend in Tobermory

Dave and I decided to get away from the city last weekend to check out a new (to us) part of the country. We headed North up the Bruce Peninsula, and landed in Tobermory for two days of wildlife, relaxation, and beautiful sunsets. Here are some capsule reviews on the spots we ate while we were there:

Stone Orchid Eatery & Shoppe
Stone Orchid specializes in Indonesian cuisine, which is difficult (if not impossible) to find in Toronto. As such, we were eager to check this place out. The service was quick and friendly, but also distracted. Dave and I each ordered a small Rice Tafel (pictured above), which included 6 Indonesian dishes served on a large platter: garden salad with coconut dressing, nasi goreng (fried rice), bami goreng (fried noodles), gado gado (veggies in a peanut sauce), satay (chicken for dave, tofu for me), and curry (fish for dave, tempeh for me -- I was happy to find that Stone Orchid is very willing to accomodate vegetarians). Our food came out with a small caddy of unique condiments, which included flaked coconut and roasted peanuts, as well as sweet reduced soy sauce, and a spicysweet peach chutney. Everything tasted amazing, but the standouts were definitely the bami noreng, which was salty and savoury, and the satay, which came in a delicious rich peanut-based sauce. The one low point of the meal for me was the curry, which I found to be bland. We finished with a simple, yet fabulous Indonesian dessert: vanilla ice cream with fruit (mango or berries) and a splash of Cointreau. Dave and I were super happy with our meal at Stone Orchid, and the cherry on top was when I found a 1980 IKEA cookbook in the eclectic "shoppe" attached to the restaurant. Score!

The Fish and Chips Place
Located right on the harbour in Tobermory with almost exclusively outdoor seating, The Fish and Chips Place was continuously packed with Abercrombie & Fitch-sporting out-of-towners while we were there. It's therefore not surprising that the service is extremely rushed, and a little grumpy. Nevertheless, Dave and I happened to indulge in some wonderfully fresh-tasting battered local Whitefish on our visit, which beats any deep-fried fish that I've tried in the city. The chips are perfectly crisp-on-the-outide/fluffy-on-the-inside and, even though they clearly come from a bag in the freezer, taste great doused with the malt vinegar provided on each table. The Fish and Chips Place is definitely not a "pleasant" place to go for dinner, but it does serve up some good, casual comfort food if you can put up with throngs of tourists and their small children.

The Sweet Shop
Located on the harbour, a few doors down from the Fish and Chips Place, the Sweet Shop sells a variety of sweets (natch) and houses a large ice-cream counter. After purchasing some wasabi pea white chocolate to take home with us, Dave and I were craving some ice cream. The portions at The Sweet Shop are huge, so I picked out a kids-sized "Reese's Peanut Butter Cup" scoop. Dave ordered a frozen yogurt with Oreo. My ice cream was amazing: peanut butter ice cream, with chocolate sauce streaks and chunks of peanut butter cups. I savoured every bite. Dave was a little dissapointed to find that the Sweet Shop uses very tangy yogurt for its frogurt, which doesn't combine very well with sweet Oreo bits. Strawberry or another fruit would have probably worked better.

Setting Sail B&B
While we visited Tobermory and the surrounding area, we stayed at Setting Sail B&B with our very gracious and accomodating host Louise and her adorable dog Glory. Each morning, Louise would fill our bellies with fruit and yogurt parfaits, followed by multigrain toast with preserves, perfectly-cooked eggs with fresh herbs, crisp sauteed baby potatoes, and ham or sausage (or soy "meat" for me). We would leave the house stuffed, with loads of energy. In the evening, we would wander down from the B&B to the rock shoreline to enjoy the wildflowers that grow there and watch the breathtaking sunsets (left). Dave and I enjoyed our time at Setting Sail immensely, and I highly recommend it if you need a place to stay on the Peninsula.

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07 August 2007

Afternoon Tea at the White Heather

In Victoria, tea is serious business. Tea rooms can be found on every second street corner, and the most famous (read: biggest tourist trap) of them all -- the Empress -- rakes in $50 a head. Clearly, I had to participate in this Victoria tradition when I visited my pal Leah in Garden City this past weekend.

Not willing to pay Empress prices, Leah and I did some research (teasearch?) before settling on the White Heather Tea Room (1885 Oak Bay Ave). We needed to make reservations to snag a Friday afternoon spot, which we took as a good sign. The unassuming White Heather is located in a mini-mall of sorts, and isn't much to look at when you first enter. It's sparsely decorated, and resembles a quaint retirement home cafeteria more than the opulent British dining room we were expecting.

Our friendly waitress seated us immediately and brought some ice water while we looked at the menu. White Heather offers three afternoon teas: the "Wee Tea," the "Not So Wee Tea," and the "Big Muckle" tea for two. Each has a variety of different goodies, and all are very reasonably priced. Leah and I each selected the Not So Wee tea service, with Mad Hatter tea to drink (the most popular tea on the menu). Our tea was quickly brought out in a big pot for sharing and our food arrived soon after, piled high on a three-tiered tea stand.

White Heather was very accomodating in my request for an all-vegetarian selection, which included egg salad and cucumber cream-cheese tea sandwiches, a cheese scone with veggie filling, a piece of coconut-lemon pound cake, hazlenut shortbread, a mini sundried tomato quiche, a lemon tart, and an apricot-ginger scone. Leah's spread was similar, except with a ham tea sandwich and a cheese scone with chicken salad filling. In general, the food was amazing. The tea sandwiches were a little standard, but this was more than made up for by the mini cheese scone filled with smoky, roasted eggplant, cream cheese, and a tangy artichoke heart. The quiche was two bites of warm, flaky, creamy heaven, and the scone was light, fluffy, and decadent with devon cream, lemon curd, and raspberry preserves. The lemon tart was clearly home-made, with not-too-sweet lemon filling and real whipped cream topping. The huge slice of moist, lemony pound cake and sweet, nutty shortbread were delicious as well. I couldn't even come close to finishing all of my treats, although I certainly tried.

Even more fabulous than the food was the Mad Hatter tea. It's a sweet mix of black tea with bold strawberry and vanilla flavours -- perfection with just a touch of sugar. The tea went great with the food, and it was so good that I bought a bag of it to take back to Toronto with me.

The White Heather Tea Room is a near perfect afternoon tea experience, and a great value at less than $20 per person. If you ever find yourself on the Island and craving tea, give the Empress a pass and head on over to Oak Bay -- your wallet and your tastebuds will thank you.

9 high noon teas out of 10