Friday, May 25, 2007
Every year, foodies from all over Vancouver gather at the most coveted event of the year: EAT Vancouver. This is a food and beverage expo that features 200 exhibitors and celebrity chefs from around the country. For $14 a person (you even get $2 off when you donate a canned good for the soup kitchen) it gets you tons of food samples and goodies to take home.
For events like this, you must choose wisely who to go with. You want to go with someone who shares your enthusiasm for all things edible and willingly wedge in with shovelling old ladies fighting for samples of chili whiskey chocolates. It is a madhouse, where foodies get herded like
cattle from one line to another.
After careful selection, I asked my friend Cara to accompany me. She is cool, funky and a foodie just like me. And most important of all, she is tall and can see over people's heads to see where all the best sample are!!
We milled around for 3 hours, watched Anna Olson make lemon squares and agreed that the best new find is Patisserie Lebeau's frozen waffles. They are delicious and just like how you get them at their bakery on Waffle Sundays.
They say the best part of eating is sharing. I mean, do I really care to taste the difference between chum and spring salmon, or see how good the truffled tapenade is? Yes, But who cares if you cannot compare notes on which salmon you prefer, or how to use the tapenade in a recipe?? There is a special bond between foodies. I find that we are the type of people who have a joie de vivre about us. We like to travel, try new things and can understand perfectly well why one would drive half an hour to buy the perfect baguette to go with the steamed mussels. And get completely excited to pay for the chance to stand in line for hours to receive food samples that you probably would pass by if it is being freely handed out on the street.
Sunday, May 20, 2007
It was my dear friend Emmy's 30th birthday, and since she can afford to buy everything she wants, I decided to make her dinner instead. She is currently on the Abs Diet, and may I say, she looks amazing. God, if only I have half her will power.
Anyways, I needed to make a delicious, portion controlled meal that contains mainly proteins and unprocessed food for her and her boyfriend. After poring over cookbooks for ideas, and scouring the market for ingredients, I decided on: Prawns Puttanesca with Roasted Chickpeas, Asparagus with lemon and garlic and Wholewheat eggless brownies with Vanilla Yoghurt and Fresh Strawberries.
It is probably easier and cheaper to just take Emmy out for dinner, but there is not much that is more special than something homemade with love, I mean, come on, when was the last time you actually used your hands to create something?? And what's with ecards??!!( oh wait....I apologize for those tacky ones I sent during the craze when they were trendy)
Well it turns out that Emmy had some family drama, you know, the kind that accompanies all holidays and special events. And what made ALL my efforts worthwile is when she said....this is DELICIOUS, and it makes up for all the crap that I had to put up with at my birthday!!
I LOVE THAT GIRL!!
And here is how to make the food:
Roasted Chick Peas
Soak 2 cups of dried chick peas in a large bowl with an additional 2 inches of water on top of the peas. Add to it a paste of 2 tbsp flour, 2 tsp baking soda and enough water to make a sticky paste. Soak for 24 hours.
Rinse the chickpeas in running water and throw it into a pot with 1 onion peeled and halved and 4-6 sprigs of fresh thyme. Add enough water to the pot of peas so that it covers everything including the onions.
Boil and simmer the peas for 1.5 hours.
When ready to roast, toss the chickpeas with 3 tbsps of olive oil, 1 tsp of chili pepper flakes and 2 tsps sea salt. Roast in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes.
Fry one chopped onion and garlic in olive oil until translucent. Add 2 tbsps of tomato paste and 1 tsp of chili pepper flakes and fry for one minute before adding 1 pound of tiger prawns. Flip over prawns when one side turns red and add 1/2 cup of white wine. To that add 1 tbsp of capers and 1 cup of pitted black olives. Stir around for a minute and serve.
Thursday, May 17, 2007
The thing about being a teacher is that you always have something to talk about at cocktail parties. It is one of those professions where somebody always has something to say about it. I mean come on, we all had teachers and had either loved or hated at least one of them.
When I first became a teacher, I would entertain people with horror stories of little Jamie who probably has undiagnosed schizophrenia. Back then, parties with friends were more about chilling with a few beers and lamenting about our jobs. How times have changed. Nowadays, people I know are actually having children, and at cocktail parties, I get bombarded with questions like: should I put my kid ( who is 3 months old right now) in public or private school, what do you think of this school etc.. In exchange, I get real estate advice or investment tips while sipping a martini.
Needless to say, it was more fun back in the good old days when we would be embellishing tales in a drunken stupor. And these days, the last thing I want to do at a party is to talk for the 1867th time about work that I have been doing for the past 6 years. So to avoid boredom, I like to chat about food and wine instead. Knowledge about food is not only handy when you are stranded on a deserted island and you need to grill a possum and make it into a tasty treat, it is also particularly useful during the latest social engagement I was at: Speed dating.
This is the new singles phenonmenon besides internet dating (I will talk about that later- another time, another place). My friend, Emmy, asked me to go with her since we can get a $10 discount if we go together. What the heck, I would try almost anything once.
So we arrived late, as usual, and by this time people were already seated at little tables marked with numbers. Emmy and I got basic instructions on Speed Dating etiquette and sheets of notepaper to record our impressions of the contestants.
First things first, we headed to the bar to arm ourselves with drinks before we delved into an hour and a half of handshakes, chitchats and more martinis. You get four minutes with each "date" and since I can pretty much talk to anything other than a brick wall, I found something interesting about of each contestant.
All in all, it was a fun night and you get to meet a lot of people who would not normally tread into your social circle. But too bad, there were no foodies to compare notes on perfecting the creme brulee crust.
Sunday, May 13, 2007
A couple weeks ago, my school held a Spring Fair where they had "New To You" sales where rich people get rid of things that even their maids don't want. But sometimes, you find incredible deals that you thank your lucky stars for. Every year, I make the beeline for the books. I LOVE LOVE LOVE the book sale. I have gotten awesome bestsellers and cookbooks for something like a loonie or twoonie each. Since I am leaving for Hong Kong, I needed to totally restrain myself and took $10 to the sale and hoped for the best. Just to give you another insight into what kind of a person I am, this is what I did: piled all the books I wanted to buy, and lugged it to the checkout counter and decide there what is a keeper and what is not if the total exceeds the money I brought.
I think I had 8 books with me, and I told the sweet parent volunteer there about my $10 strategy. She counted up the books, and decided the total was $10, smiled and said, "its okay, you are a teacher, you deserve a discount."
One of my favourite purchase is "Nigella Bites". I love that frivolous way she throws sauces together and dips her fingers into bowls of trifle. One recipe in particular caught my eye:
Rainy day food: Spaghetti and meatballs "the Nigella Way" where everything bubbles away in one pot.
So here is my version of what to do:
While you cook enough spaghetti for 4-6 people, put all this in a bowl and mix them:
-500 g ground meat (I used turkey but mixtures of ground pork sausage with beef is good too)
-1 tbsp of chopped parsley
-1 chopped clove of garlic
-3 tbsp of bread crumb with 2 tbsp of parmesan cheese
( I used crushed gorgonzola biscuits from my last trip to Target)
- salt and pepper
Roll these into little teaspoon sized portions and put in fridge while:
On the stove, fry:
-one chopped onion and 2 cloves chopped garlic in 1 tbsp butter in a pot.
-Add 1 bottle (700 ml) of strained tomatoes into a pot. Fill 1/2 the bottle with water, close lid and shake around to get all the sauce that's is sticking to the bottle. Add to the pot. Cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes.
-Add 1/4 C whole milk
Stir in 1/4 whole milk and add meatballs in one by one. Make sure they have enough room so they don't stick together.
Simmer everything for 20 minutes with lid partly on or put a splatter guard on.
Test to make sure the meatball is done and adjust seasoning of the sauce as needed.
Pour half the sauce into a bowl and throw in the spaghetti into the pot with the remaining sauce and meatballs. Serve the dish with the extra sauce, parmesan cheese and chili flakes for whoever wants it.
Tuesday, May 8, 2007
One of my favourite things to do on a weekend is to have a lazy brunch. Sure, there are many favourites in the city, but people appreciate nothing more than waking up to a delicious breakfast.
One of the most impressive things I like to make is Eggs Benedict. But that Hollandaise sauce is really a pain to whip up. So I make a Lazy Benedict:
-8 slices of English muffin/crumpet/bread ( whatever you feel like)
-1 cup yoghurt or sour cream
-1 can of salmon
-1 tablespoon each of chopped parsley and green onion
-salt and pepper
Toast bread or muffin while you:
Fill a large deep sauce pan with water and bring to boil. Then turn the heat down to a bare simmer. Add 1/4 C of white vinegar. Crack an egg into a cup and carefully slide it into the water. Repeat with remaining eggs. Cook for 3-5 minutes until the yolks are to the desired doneness.
Drain eggs on paper towel.
Mix salmon, sour cream, parsley, salt and pepper in a bowl.
Assemble the toast by putting an egg and salmon mixture on top. Sprinkle with extra parsley to decorate your masterpiece.
Thursday, May 3, 2007
I have totally fallen off the bandwagon. Although I am still eating very healthily ( in my standards), I have eaten whole wheat bread, cheese and such. I was listening this morning to CBC, as I do every morning on my long commute to work, and they were talking about people with gambling problems. I am one of those people who would smirk and go "what the hell is the problem with these people. Your wife has left you, your house is being repossessed, just STOP going to the damn casino." It really is a no brainer.
Then I think about how hard it is for me to stop eating bread, and I am not even all that fond of bread. And how hard it is to resist the temptation to drive to a bakery and buy something totally yummy like a piece of cheesecake, or a delicious croissant. Everyone has their challenge in life.