Monday, March 28, 2011
Friday, March 25, 2011
When you have nine-to-five schedules, making a tasty, healthy homemade dinner can feel like the worst chore in the world, especially if it's been a rocky day at the office or a busy night looms ahead. The eating out option is fine occasionally, but your waistline and wallet will complain if you do it too often. You want something speedy yet nourishing.
That's when cookbooks like Mark Bittman's Kitchen Express have come to our rescue. After successfully testing a few recipes while we borrowed it from the library, we knew we had to have our own copy...which would up under the Christmas tree. Organized by season (a structure we've ignored), the cover promises that any of the four hundred plus recipes inside take twenty minutes or less to whip up. Of the dishes we have tried, Bittman's Lemony Red Lentil Soup with Cilantro has made the most return appearances on our table.
Cook a chopped onion in olive oil in a saucepan until soft; add one cup of red lentils and four cups chicken broth and bring to a boil; continue simmering until the lentils are soft. Puree a handful of cilantro with a few tablespoons of olive oil and a pinch of salt; set aside. If you like, puree half the lentils until almost smooth; return them to the pan. Add about two tablespoons of lemon juice or more to taste. Stir in the cilantro puree, adjust the seasonings, and serve with crusty bread or a mound of rice in the center.
The beauty of Bittman's book is that because many of the measurements in the recipes are imprecise, there's plenty of leeway to adjust each ingredient to match your taste and encourage experimentation. As far as this recipe goes, our main adjustments are:
- Drop the extra olive oil added with the cilantro
- Add the cilantro at the end of the cooking process and puree it within the soup with a hand blender instead of doing so on its own - JB
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Note that the meal pictured, a footlong sub loaded with lettuce, tomato and cheese, is not accompanied by a recipes on these pages. Perhaps a hearty sub was considered a manlier dish in 1970 than a cold vegetable soup favoured by the likes of Lisa Simpson?
August "Garry" Herrmann. According to Donald Dewey and Nicholas Acocella's book The Ball Clubs:
Even for a business renowned for its outsized personages, the new Cincinnati boss seemed like a character out of Dick Tracy. Called a "walking delicatessen" by some, he seldom ventured anywhere without an ample supply of sausages that he would munch on whenever the opportunity presented itself. One more than one occasion, he bolted from a public function because of some mixup that had left sausages unavailable.
If Herrmann was around today, I imagine his primary sausage supplier would flaunt their association with him, or a reporter would accompany him during one of his emergency runs for meat links.
Gazpacho? A cooling, tasty treat, especially in the summer.
Hash browns, home fries, rosti, whatever you want to call them - unless you burn them or toss the wrong seasoning in, it's hard to screw up a comforting side of fried potatoes. My preference is either thinly shredded and cake-like or lightly pan-fried with herbs.
While the illustrator takes a break, consider these recipes. The one dish I might frown at is the jelly omelet, unless a savoury preserve like red pepper jelly was used.
Two ends of the culinary cost spectrum: the stereotypical businessman's feast/fancy night out meal and a comfort food whose prepacked form offers cheap eats. The professor chooses neither and goes for a smiling fish (which, we can assure, is not tainted with Joker toxin).
One of the rare times I've eaten a steak and lobster combo happened at La Castile in Mississauga. Back in the days when vendors of my former employer could indulge their clients with a holiday treat, one of our printers sprung for a Christmas season meal. With price as no object, I went to town. After a large appetizer of Oysters Rockefeller, the steak and lobster was placed in front of me. My eyes bulged as I determined that excess was the restaurant's forte - the lobster must have been several pounds, and the steak wasn't a puny cut.
Somehow I downed the entire meal, with a suspicion that never again would I wolf down such a hefty crustacean unless a financial windfall came my way. I needed all the energy from the meal to battle a snowstorm that hit during our meal...slowly but safely I drove some co-workers back along Dundas to drop them off downtown.
Kraft Dinner was often the lunch waiting for me when I came home from morning Kindergarten. Sometimes sliced hot dogs were added. Ketchup was never part of the equation. As time rolled on, I discovered that Kraft was my least favourite brand of mac n' cheese due to its inability to stay creamy for very long. Catelli, one-shot brands with cartoon characters or cavemen...any other brand that had a stronger, cheesier, saltier taste and the ability to stay creamy was tops in my books. Then came President's Choice Deluxe White Cheddar Macaroni and Cheese and, except for the occasional box of Spirals, Kraft was permanently left in the dust. By university, it was an occasional treat - never did succumb to the KD diet that the two guys in the above video enjoy.
These days, it's handy to keep at least one box around the house for emergency situations or for comfort food while sick (when it acts like chicken soup).
To be continued... - JB
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Found on King-Vaughan Road a week ago, these signs would have been leftover from the Vaughan federal by-election back in November. Given the reaction of the opposition parties to today's federal budget, this supporter of the current Minister of State for Seniors may as well leave them up. Though not officially declared, it's all-but-certain now that Canada is heading into a full federal election campaign by the end of this week.
Picture taken March 14, 2011 - JB
Monday, March 14, 2011
No illustrations to accompany today's first batch of recipes.
Though stroganoff has many elements I like in a dish (saucy beef, mushrooms, a bed of egg noodles), it's never been a dish that's tempted me to order it in a restaurant or make it on my own. Possible reasons:
1) One of my favourite dishes as a kind was Mom's sauerbraten (aka "steak and noodles"), which is a distant cousin. Main differences: instead of mushrooms and sour cream, brown sugar and worcestershire sauce were key ingredients.
2) Any Noodle Roni/Lipton Noodles & Sauce sidedish marketed as stroganoff tended to be crappy (Romanoff noodles on the other hand...).
3) Seeing students down mass quantities of stroganoff at Creelman Hall during my university daze.
Blue cheese dressing? Back in the early 1980s, Malibu's Le Grand Cochon restaurant served up a tasty, extra-creamy version...and plenty of it!
Sample some chocolate cake prepared by the chefs of Crowded House.
Nine out of ten doctors agree: digestion of fried chicken will be aided if the whole bird is surrounded by a ring of cherry tomatoes or red jujubes as it is being carved (the tenth suffered an acid reflux just by thinking about the potentially clogged arteries resulting from this dish).
The non-illustrated chili sounds like a classic rendition of the comfort dish. This recipe isn't far removed from what Mom used to serve my family in the winter, accompanied by mounds of hot buttered toast. Forty years on, you might add some cilantro or spice it up with a dash of chipotle powder, ground ancho or other dried chilies. If you want to eliminate meat altogether, we've had great luck with a hearty sweet potato and black bean chili from Eating Well magazine.
All of these dishes sound tempting: date bars are another dessert Mom makes that warm my tummy, eggs benny are a brunch staple, and it's rare that I will turn my nose at a fish dish. Betty is on to something.
If you like eggs Benedict, feast your eyes on the version served up at Reservoir in Montreal, which is sided with the thickest, meatiest hunk of bacon I have ever been served.
To be continued...
Wednesday, March 09, 2011
One of the highlights of going to the Elora Festival's book sale every spring is surfing through the tables of formerly-loved (or never-used-despite-all-good-intentions) cookbooks. For as little as a quarter, dedicated browsers will find flip past every Better Homes & Gardens cooking guide ever published to find recipe books ranging from local women's institutes to collections of Len Deighton's swingin' Sixties cookstrips.
It was at one Elora sale that I discovered Betty Crocker's vision of the diet a North American male should enjoy, complete with the cutesy illustration style beloved of book designers and board game makers circa 1970.
It's interesting to contrast the cartoony style used by artist Murray Tinkelman in this book and the work he has done for clients like the New York Times.
We'll keep the table of contents under wraps, so that every dish comes as a surprise (this series needs an element of suspense to keep readers coming back for more...). If you're ready, let's dive into the secrets of male eating known only to Ms. Crocker.
The recipes start with a scene inspired by the recent mission to the moon:
In space, no one can hear you eat pie.
In space, no one, other than mission control, can hear you complain when you discover that the chef back in Houston decided to pay you back for playfully tossing them into the low-gravity simulated and made you blueberry pie—deep dish style and apple cobbler. When you return to Earth, you'll fix his wagon but good...if the hallucinations of rainbows trailing shooting stars ever wear off.
To be continued...