• Books

    Sous Chef: 24 Hours on the Line by Michael Gibney

    If you liked Kitchen Confidential, you’ll like this book. This is 24 hours in a Modern American NYC restaurant as told by one of the Sous-Chefs. Since I have family members in the food industry, read other books like this, and watch a lot food professional food shows, none of this stuff came as a surprise.

    For the lay person, this is a revealing look about what really happens behind the scenes of a nice restaurant. It has the highs and the many lows of it. It’s quite well written and it’s a debut work.

    The second person narrative actually worked because you felt immersed in the kitchen with the narrator. His struggles were your struggles.

    It’s a fun little book for those of us interested in food and the industry. I do not want this work, but it’s fascinating. At the core of it is the desire to make good food and do it well day after day.

    Read July 31, 2014.

  • Books,  Food

    Make the Bread, Buy the Butter by Jennifer Reese

    Oh! How I adore a good food book. It’s easier for me to be pleased with cookbooks and food books. They are real comforts for me.

    I started reading this book on my Kindle in 2012. I liked the first couple of chapters so much that I was able to score a cheap copy off Book Outlet. Then I put thoughts about this book aside until this May.

    The author set out to try various recipes and evaluate both their difficulty and economics when making at home compared to buying. With each recipe she provides, she offers a small anecdote. The soft cover I bought has no photos, but this is one of those rare cookbooks that has a nice narrative. I like when recipes are interwoven with stories.

    While I have not made any of the exact recipes in the book, I have done similar ones especially in the baking and jam sections. On the whole, I agree that some things are probably too finicky to do more than once or ever. Reese and I have opposing views about jams and preserves though, but that’s a small complaint.

    It’s a fun cookbook for those who want to figure out what they should try cooking first. Definitely, make some bread.

    Finished May 22, 2012 on Kindle.

  • Books

    Sunday Salon: An interlude

    Sunday Salon

    Hello, everyone!

    It’s my first post in weeks. I’ve had a very busy time lately. I’ve been spending it mostly working, cooking, socializing and doing chores for a house sit. I have not even finished a book in two weeks. I’ve been without a knitting project for even longer.

    I have been reading this weekend and hope to finish tomorrow: Anne Bronte’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. This was my Classics Spin book from September, but I never got around to reading it. I started it weeks ago, but I haven’t been able to pick it up until this weekend. I am enjoying it even for its gritty realism.

    Tomorrow is Remembrance Day in Canada and gratefully, I get tomorrow off from work so I can take time to read. Blogging won’t resume on a regular schedule for a couple of weeks.

    When I can blog again, I hope to write about some of my cooking and baking adventures. I have had many the past couple of weeks. I realized that I am a worse food blogger than I was a few years ago. I just don’t have the energy or time to make food, photograph it and blog about it on a daily basis. I’ve lost count of the recipes I have tried, but there will be at least one cookbook review out of it and a couple of posts on sourdough bread.

    If anyone else is still reading the blog, how is everyone doing?

  • Books,  Fitness,  Food

    Sunday Salon: New Autumn

    Sunday Salon

    Happy Sunday! It’s been a few weeks since my last Salon. Actually, I’ve become quite busy lately. I am too tired and fatigued to read on the weekdays, and I must run errands or have social engagements on the weekends. I have managed to read at least one book per week, but just barely.

    Today, I am reading Marsha Altman’s P&P sequel The Darcys & the Bingleys. I really should be reading my Classics Spin book Anne Bronte’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. I will start that, but I must consider the over two dozen books from the library. I bought a couple of cookbooks and a calligraphy book the other week too. I still have at least 30 books unsorted in the house that I got this summer.

    Books are my addiction!

    In fitness news, I ran a 4KM colour run two weeks ago and no running since. Once again, no time, but it was good. I hope to run more as the weather gets chillier. I am biking about 4 days of the week now. I don’t know if my endurance or legs muscles are better, I am definitely faster and more confident on the road. I’m surprisingly enjoying myself. I even bought some lights for my wheels so I can bike in the dusk.

    In knitting news, there is no knitting news. Sigh.

    Food news, I started my sourdough starter yesterday! I hope to make sourdough in a couple weeks time. Exciting.

    What have you been doing this weekend?

  • Books,  Food

    Cooked by Michael Pollan

    I was excited for this book because I was a big fan of Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Pollan and I have a similar view and philosophy regarding food. In this book, he explores the history that humans have with four processes of cooking: roasting meat (fire), boiling/braising (water), baking bread (air), and fermentation (earth).

    I loved this book at its introduction:

  • Books,  Food

    Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson

    Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson

    This is a food memoirs by an Ethiopian born, Swedish adopted and now American chef. I had not heard about Samuelsson before this memoirs. I think I picked this up because it I read some good things about it as a memoirs about food.

    The book discusses not only food, but adoption, culture, soccer/football, and many countries including: Ethiopia, Sweden, Switzerland (it made me miss it!), Austria, New York City, France (I always miss it), time spent on a cruise ship, Ethiopia and more New York. I appreciate any book about travel and observing cultures. The author is a product of that in many ways so it was interesting to see his life over three continents and his journey as a top chef in America.

    I did like the food moments and learning about little things from each food culture such as Swedish rustic cooking. I wanted to know more about Swedish pickling’s 1-2-3 method (Swedish vinegar, sugar, and water). I also liked the metaphor of fine dining as museum curation. Food as art that after consumed, you would see the world differently.

    Like some chefs, Samuelsson fell into it after failing at being a football star and he admits he sometimes feels like a failed football more than anything. I don’t know if Gordon Ramsay has said that, but cooking was also his secondary choice after his failed football career. Ramsay is actually mentioned in this book. I have read a few things about Ramsay. I have watched and liked a lot of his British (not American) shows. I even just bought one of his cookbooks during my Boxing Day cookbook spree. I don’t find a lot of his food accessible (too fine, too limiting for my tastes), but I bought the one which had reviews for being accessible. I think he tries too hard with his persona, but I also think it’s somewhat admirable how driven he is about everything. There are a number of British chefs who have worked and been made by Ramsay. Two of the most prominent are women. In a boy’s club such as the restaurant kitchen, female chefs are rare especially those running one of Ramsay’s three star Michelin kitchens. Therefore, Ramsay is mostly in my good books. On the other hand, a lot of people have mentioned what a jerk he is and I don’t mean on TV, but behind the scenes. The jerk American persona is mostly played on his US shows. He has badmouthed a number of people, including the author of this book apparently. He’s allegedly a serial cheater. I also think he is arrogant sometimes, but so are a lot of TV chefs. Reading about how he screamed at Samuelsson and with a racist remark did give me pause.

    I digressed a bit, but the book does discuss race and ethnicity a number of times. Fine dining is very much a man’s world and sadly, a white man’s world at that. It was intriguing to read in which Samuelsson tried to reach out to the Harlem community, employ women and not tolerate prejudice or abuse from his employees.

    While the topics of the books were interesting and a couple of times, touching and candid, there was something about this book that I didn’t love. It had moments and I even felt sympathy for the author, but I didn’t fall in love with this book. It is not a must read, but a decent one if you like memoirs and biographies that feature food and chefs.

    Read January 28-29th 2013.

  • Books,  Food

    Lime Frozen Yogurt – Canning for a New Generation by Liana Krissoff

    Lime frozen yogurt canning for a new generation

    Cookbook Review: This cookbook was one of three new cookbooks I bought last Boxing Day. I have about eight cookbooks now, seven I got in the past year. Of all these, I’ve used this one the most. The main reason being is that right now, I don’t really cook or bake that much, but in the summer, I did canning, but this book doesn’t just have recipes for canning.

    First off, this book is good value for money. It has 200 recipes and it’s seasonal based. While this doesn’t always apply since I live in Canada and the author lives in California, the layout of the book does apply to most places i.e. berry recipes follow berry recipes.

    Additionally, it’s not all just canning, but it includes various clever ways of using leftover or excess fruit such as in the recipe below. The book is a great resource for any novice or seasoned canner, and most of the recipes are from scratch. There are no packets of pectin around here.

    Some of the canning recipes I liked included: “Strawberry and lemon preserves”, “Blueberry Apple Jam” and “Concord Grape Jelly with Green Apples”. I wasn’t a big fan of her “Do Chau” (pickled carrot and daikon) recipe, but all in all, this book is incredibly useful for the casual and serious canner and cook.

    There are also recipes on how to use your canned goods (for pies, savoury dishes, etc) and other ideas for preservation like the Lime Frozen Yogurt recipe below.

    All in all, I recommend this book for canners and those who just like fruit.

    Canning for a new generation

  • Food

    Garlic Scape Pesto

    Garlic Scapes on Instagram

    Garlic Scapes from my little plot. I only grew garlic this year as an experiment. I planted eight plants, but a squirrel took four of the bulbs and one died probably because of the spearmint (which you can see in the background).

    I picked the scapes a bit late because most people recommend that you harvest them before they loop like I have. Oh well, they still tasted great!

    This recipe is a good template for pesto in general. I used my frozen basil from last year because I didn’t have enough scapes, but it worked out really well. I just heated it lightly in a dry pan to melt some of the ice.

    Garlic Scape Pesto
    Adapted from Serious Eats

    Ingredients

    1/4 cup pine nuts or walnuts
    3/4 cup coarsely chopped garlic scapes*
    Juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    A few generous grinds of black pepper
    1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
    1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
    *Or use half scapes and half herbs such as basil, dill and chervil

    1. In a small, dry pan set over very low heat, lightly toast the pine nuts, stirring or tossing occasionally until just beginning to brown, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool for a few minutes.

    2. Combine the scapes, pine nuts, lemon juice and zest, salt, and pepper in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Pulse about 20 times, until fairly well combined. Pour in the olive oil slowly through the feed tube while the motor is running. When the oil is incorporated, transfer the pesto to a bowl and stir in the grated cheese. If you plan to freeze the pesto, wait to add the cheese until after you’ve defrosted it.

  • Food

    Ricotta Gnocci

    Ricotta Gnocchi

    This was my first time making gnocchi and it was delicious! They don’t look neat and tidy, but man, did they taste good. They were also was very easy. I had only 200g of ricotta so I basically multiplied all the ingredients by 80% and used a small egg yolk instead of a standard large. It was seriously rich, but oh so good. I messed up on the browned butter sauce, but it was still good.

    Just a reminder about food posts. I do not bake or cook as often as I use to, but I still like it a lot. The blog posts are a way for me to evaluate recipes and techniques for future reference.

    Onto the yummy stuff.

    Quick Ricotta gnocchi
    From Delicious Days.

    Ingredients (for 2):

    250 g Ricotta
    1 egg yolk (M-L)
    1/4-1/2 tsp fine sea salt
    30 g Parmigiano (or Pecorino), freshly grated
    50-75 g all-purpose flour, extra for dusting the dough/board
    serve with tomato sauce or any kind of pesto

    Sauce:
    50g of butter
    A few sage leaves (5-6?)

    1. Discard any excess liquid that the Ricotta’s packaging may contain, then add Ricotta cheese, egg yolk, salt and freshly grated Parmigiano into a large bowl. Mix well with a wooden or regular spoon. Now add the flour and stir in briefly, just until combined – the dough will still be quite sticky. (Of course you can add more flour at this point, but keep in mind, that the more flour you use, the denser the gnocchi become in the end. And you want them to be as light & fluffy as possible, with a velvet-like texture.)

    2. Forming these gnocchi is the slightly tricky step, this is the technique that works best for me: Generously flour a board, take a big tablespoon of the dough and scoop it onto the board. It gets dusted with flour (dust your hands generously, too!), before rolling it into a finger-thick roll. Cut it into little pillows (stick the knife’s blade into the flour to prevent it from sticking to the dough). Then place each gnoccho on a floured board or parchment paper lined baking tray. Continue quickly with the next step, otherwise they will get soggy and stick to the paper/board anyway.

    3. Meanwhile bring a large pot of water to a boil, add a generous pinch of salt and reduce heat until the water bubbles lightly. Add the gnocchi and stir once, so they don’t stick to the bottom – then let cook until they start floating on top. Depending on their size this may take 2 to 4 minutes. Take out with a skimmer and serve with a sauce or pesto of your choice.

    Browned sage butter: Wash and pat dry the fresh sage leaves, then stack and cut them into thin chiffonade. Meanwhile melt the butter in a pan over low to medium heat, add the sage chiffonade and sauté until the sage has become crisp and the butter has gained a golden brown hue and nutty flavor (but don’t let it burn!). Spoon over the gnocchi and add some freshly ground black pepper, grated parmesan.

    More notes: I put the gnoccho in the freezer after I made them since I didn’t eat them right away. I am aware you can freeze gnoccho quickly after rolling and cutting them out. I also tried to form them on the fork, but that was too time consuming and uglifying. The pillows are fine by me.

  • Food

    Restaurant Review: Noodle Inn

    Duck Noodle Bowl, Noodle Inn, London Dim Sum at Noodle Inn, London

    Noodle Inn
    25 Oxford Street,
    London,
    W1D 2DW
    020 7287 5953
    www.innnoodle.co.uk
    Tube: Tottenham Court Road

    The Cost & Date: Tuesday December 16th 2008 for lunch :: £20.90 for 2.

    Food & Drink: For appetizers, we had steamed pork & chive dumplings (you get four, we had eaten two in the photo). I had a duck la-mian soup (above), and my friend had a pork/chai siu la-mian soup. We also had some tea.

    Setting: Small, relatively clean. Small toilet though.

    Service: Straightforward, not bad.

    Story: Another connection through my flatmate, but this restaurant is fairly well known and popular due to its central location. My flatmate actually met one of the cooks that actually does make its specialty, handmade la-mian. Whenever you pass by the window on Oxford Street, it’s all steamed up due to the hot food and the noodle making. It’s nice, warm, and cozy. A good respite from the insanity of Oxford Street. I liked the noodles. You can tell it is handmade and not from a premade package. It’s not too salty either. The dim sum was not bad at all.

    Overall: I’d definitely come back, but it can be a bit busy on the weekends and later weekdays. It’s not too expensive, but I think it’s more or less a good deal considering London restaurants. Better than some Chinatown establishments.

  • Food

    Magic Hot Fudge Pudding Cake

    Magic Hot Fudge Pudding Cake

    This is a staple for one of my friends. She’s a domestic goddess and excellent at baking. I’ve had this cake before and I did mess up on my own versions only because I realised my dish is too small. This is a cake that requires no solid chocolate which is good if you all you have on hand is cocoa powder and you don’t want to chop up chocolate or can find mass quantities of chocolate chips (why is it that I can only buy it in 100 grams bags here?). I think this is a pretty inventive cake probably from an old vintage cookbook of my friend’s mum. It was a hit at the birthday I baked this for. As usual, I cut out a lot of sugar, and while I usually use brown sugar in my recipes, I followed the recipe and used white for this one.

  • Food

    This Week in Food: 15-21 December 2008

    March 19th, 2012: This entry was an unfinished draft from December 2008. It is mostly complete so I decided to post it anyway just for my own records.

    This week in food: fudge, chicken soup with tofu and mushroom, chicken, fishball and chinese vermicelli soup with mushrooms and celery,

    Monday, December 15th, 2008

    • Breakfast: Cereal with yogurt
    • I made Fudge.
    • Lunch: Leftover rice and lemony chickpea stir fry
    • Snack/Early Dinner: Flatmate made noodles and stir fried beef with beans and zuchini
    • Dinner: Chicken soup with tofu and mushroom: I boiled and simmered two pieces of dark chicken meat in white pepper, salt, and ginger for about 25 minutes, added mushrooms, then green ions, and then silken tofu. I ate it with rice.

    Tuesday, December 16th, 2008

    • Breakfast: Oatmeal with honey, raisins. Baked apple slices in the microwave with brown sugar and butter. Banana.
    • Lunch at Noodle Inn: Roasted Duck Ramee
    • Snack: blueberry cheesecake on Regent Street
    • Dinner: I made dinner by baking chicken (rinsed, dried, rubbed in olive oil, salt & pepper, in oven for 400’F for 30 then an additional 10 min at 350 until thigh temperature at 185) and making cauliflower and bean soup.

    Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

    • Breakfast: Leftovers
    • Lunch: Out
    • Dinner: Cafe Opium in Oxford

    Thursday, December 18th 2008

    • Snack: Cookie and Cafe Latte from Starbucks
    • Dinner: Rice. Hardboiled egg. Golden

    Friday, December 19th 2008

    • Snack:
    • Dinner: Soup with chicken boiled and simmered in ginger, white pepper, and salt, then I added Chinese vermicelli (brean thread), fishballs, mushrooms, celery and green onions