Tag Archives: food

Friday night cocktail: a spritz

Amaro spritz
Technically this post is about an Amaro Spritz from aCoupleofCooks.com but really any combination of sparkling wine, club soda / soda water (but not tonic water) and a bitter can make a spritz. So amaro, Aperol, Campari, Lillet…even St Germain is good.

The ratio mentioned in aCoupleofCooks is this: 3 parts sparkling wine, 2 parts liqueur, 1 part soda water. And that’s good. But if you want it lighter, just increase the amount of soda water. If you want it less bitter, you might even consider a 1:1:1 ratio vs 3:2:1. But try 3:2:1 first. Enjoy!

On restaurants loved and lost: Brothers

Brothers Restaurant Toronto

It’s Valentine’s Day, a good day to write a love letter to one of my favorite restaurants of all time, Brothers.

Brothers is a restaurant that should not have worked. Crowded between the entrance of the Bay Street subway and a downtown mall, there was barely room for anyone. One table in the window, a midsized bar, and a few tables in the back. Amongst all that a kitchen the size of a big closet nestled in a corner. It should not have worked, but in the short time it was around, it worked wonderfully.

You realized it was special when you first walked in, and I walked in often. I worked nearby, and whenever I needed a treat, I would wander over and sit at the bar and have lunch. I went so often that Chris who ran the front of place would warmly greet me after a time. (Later, as the place became extremely popular, Chris would sadly greet me after a time to tell me there was no room. It got so bad — for me, not them —  that I ended up scheduling lunch at 2ish just in the hopes of  getting a spot.)

While the service, atmosphere, and location were all great, what had me come back again and again was the food. The food was superb. I would take the hearty bread they offered and wipe down the plate to get every bit of it. The cooking was precise, simple and stellar. I loved to get something like sausage served with beans or vegetables and accompanied by a well chosen sauce. I’d take my time to slowly eat it, trying to appreciate and understand why it was so good. It was as much a cerebral as it was a sensory experience.

I would ask Chris about their tomato sauce or their green sauce, and he would tell me how they experimented with the amount of dairy or herb or whatever ingredient was in it to make the dish just right. And just right it was.

Most of the time I would get their sausage dish. The meat would change in the sausage, but it was always expertly balanced with seasoning. At first they may have been traditionally shaped, but later they were puck shaped. I loved that, and I loved them.

Sausage was not the only thing they excelled at. Pastas were always handmade, cooked to just the right texture, then served with a sauce better than any pasta sauce I ever had. Carpaccio was thin slices of whatever was appropriate for the season and accompanied with a light, lively dressing. The beef carpaccio was one of my favorite. They once said they could teach anyone to make it, but I doubt that. Fish, salad, dessert: whatever they made, they made well, listed it on their minimal menus, and I was happy and lucky to have it.

Brothers wasn’t around long, and in the time it was around, it lived three lives. The first was before the New York Times wrote about it, the second was after that article, and the third was the pandemic. Before the Times article, it was not too hard to get a seat there. They didn’t even take reservations. After the Times article, it was very hard to get in. There were weeks when I could not get a spot at the bar.  It got so busy they went with a reservation system. It slowed down a bit, but it was always popular.

Until the pandemic occurred. That was their last life. They tried to pivot to take out, and I did a curbside pickup of a wonderful meal from them. In the end they decided they didn’t want to be that kind of place and closed it down.

Lots of places have gone due to the pandemic. Some of them would have gone regardless. Not Brothers. If there was no pandemic, I am sure it would still be running, still sliding plates of that chewy soft bread and warm mixed olives and perfectly cooked food for me and you to delight in. I am going to miss many places because of the pandemic, but I think I will miss Brothers most of all.

(From more on it, see the New York Times article, or this blogTO piece. Images from the blogTO piece.

Check out their old web site. It’s simple but smart, just the way it used to be.

Finally this Google link will show you a wealth of photos for the place.)

 

My cooking projects for the month of February and March (maybe)

scallops in cream sauce

This is the second in a list of (aspirational?) cooking projects/lists. I say aspirational because I only cooked a fraction of what I planned to cook with the last one. Ah well. It’s good to have a goal. It’s fun to share cooking ideas too. Plus I will look back years from now and think either: oh yeah that was delicious, or, what was I thinking? 🙂

Here’s my latest list:

TikTok Cooking: TikTok is influencing a lot of things these days, including cooking. The baked feta dish I had and it was delicious! Here’s one version of it:
baked feta with tomatoes and chickpeas from smitten kitchen. Another thing I saw people do was the tortilla fold. Haven’t done that yet but want to try it. Here’s more on it: The TikTok tortilla trend is a quesadilla with extra fun folded in – The Washington Post

Kimchi: I have a desire for kimchi and I have a big jar in the fridge. Here’s two recipes I want to try using it. Both are simple but both look delicious: Kimchi and Ketchup Fried Rice and Kimchi Roasted Salmon

Meatballs: I’ve been craving meatballs lately. I’ve made two of these: this one Crispy Sheet-Pan Meatballs with Salsa Verde Recipe from Bon AppĂ©tit and this one: A Newsletter #14 from Alison Roman’s newsletter. I haven’t tried this Mojo Meatballs Recipe from Bon AppĂ©tit or this tomato-glazed meatloaves with brown mashed potatoes but I want to. I love Greek flavours, so I may make this too:
Easy Greek Lamb Meatballs Recipe with Dill Dipping Sauce.

Dill/Greek flavours! Speaking of dill and Greek flavours, here’s a ton of recipes to use up that dill: 20 Best Dill Recipes – What to Make With Dill | Kitchn. Still want more dill recipes? Head back to Alison Roman’s newsletter for that.

Moving from dill to greek, here’s a nice looking Lemony Garlic Chicken and Orzo Soup from Half Baked Harvest. And finally, yes, more meatballs:
One Skillet Greek Meatballs and Lemon Butter Orzo. – Half Baked Harvest

Garlic soup: I was wanting to make garlic soup so I did some recipe research on it. I tried one of these, but the result was underwhelming, despite using good ingredients. Not sure why it was a dud. Need to retry. Meanwhile, here’s some recipes:

Soup and salad: here’s some more soups I want to try, and one salad I have tried and enjoyed: Miso Soup from Mark Bittman, and since I have a lot of lentils, Vegan Red Lentil Stew from Budget Bytes. If you want a reliable salad to go with all your pasta dishes, I recommend this: Italian Chopped Salad Recipe from Bon AppĂ©tit

This is a real project: I love Dan Dan noodles. I have a recipe for them that approximates the taste, but is not the same. THIS recipe seems like it would be more like it, but I am not sure I can find all these ingredients: Dan Dan Noodles: Authentic Sichuan Recipe from The Woks of Life


Indian / Asian flavoured dishes:
that’s a poor description for a list of great looking dishes. Give your slow cooker a workout with this: Slow-Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala Recipe from Real Simple or this Slow-Roast Gochujang Chicken Recipe from Bon AppĂ©tit. For something faster, there is Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce from Damn Delicious. And if you want to work your sheet pan, there’s Sheet-Pan Garam Masala Chicken Recipe via Bon AppĂ©tit.

Skewers: I’ve been wanting skewers lately. Really any meat marinated, cut into cubes and combined with fruit or veg will do, as this argues: How to Make Skewers for Pork, Chicken, Steak, and More | Bon AppĂ©tit. That said, here’s a specific recipe I may try: Grilled Sirloin Skewers with Peaches & Peppers Recipe from MyRecipes

Good sides: are good. Salad always works, as does simple rice. For something a bit finer, there is this: Muffin Tin Cheesy Potato Gratins Recipe from BettyCrocker.com

Bistro: I’ve been think a lot about bistro food this winter. Maybe it was after reading how this woman turned a cookbook into a cooking school: The Balthazar Cookbook: My Personal Cooking School. Here’s some nice recipes I found from Chatelaine: Bistro lentils with sausage and French bistro steak & tomatoes.  This  Apple Crunch Tart by David Lebovitz would go well in any bistro. As would this Sole with Lemon-Butter Sauce Recipe from Martha Stewart

Kosari/No recipe meals: I am a fan of recipes that are more like guidelines than strict instructions. If you are a fan of that too, try this: This Koshari Recipe is Easy to Make and Comes Together With Whatever Leftover Grain and Beans You’ve Got from Bon AppĂ©tit. If you prefer a recipe, then this will get you there: Koshari Recipe from Food.com

Tacos! And slow cookers:  I love slow cookers and I love tacos. So I think I will love these two recipes, one for beef, Slow Cooker Barbacoa Beef from Kitchn and one for pork, Crispy Pork Carnitas (Mexican Slow Cooked Pulled Pork) from Cafe Delites

Fancy: I made this for my daughter and it came out well: Pan-Seared Sea Scallops with Cauliflower PurĂ©e and Fried Capers – Recipe from FineCooking. Next time I might add a bit of milk or other dairy to make the sauce creamier, but otherwise excellent. (The top image is it.)

Fun: I used to love an Orange Julius when I was a kid, so I will be trying this: Homemade Pineapple Orange Julius from Budget Bytes. I love a good breakfast sandwich, and although I am lazy in the morning I might give this a go: BA’s Best Breakfast Sandwich Recipe | Bon AppĂ©tit

Finally: a good pantry meal for busy weeknight is this: Cajun Salmon Burgers Budget Bytes. I might try this soon…it’s simple but perfect (and sorta bistro): Cast-Iron Roast Chicken with Crispy Potatoes Recipe | Bon AppĂ©tit. I have made a number of these recipes and they were great. Perfect for winter: 7 Delicious—And Pantry Friendly—Casserole Recipes | Chatelaine. And while I can’t say they make these pork chops in Vietnam, I can say it has flavours you have come to expect from Vietnamese food, and is likely delicious:
Vietnamese Pork Chops Recipe from Alison Roman/Bon Appétit

There was a lot of Alison Roman recipes in this, from the meatballs to the pork chops. But lots more as well, including Chatelaine, which has many great recipes. Let me know if you make any of them!

A good American list of wines that Canadians can use

Most of the time, I find that wine recommendations for Americans are useless for Canadians to adopt, because most of the wines recommended are not available in Canada. This list of wine recommendations is different:  50 Affordable Wines You Can Always Trust | Food & Wine.

A majority of the wines are available, at least in Ontario. And needless to say, the wines are good. If you are looking for some new wine ideas, check the list.

 

On restaurants loved and lost: the Boulevard Cafe

On Harbord Street in the 1980s I fell in love with the Boulevard Cafe. My life was just starting, and my girlfriend and I were living just up the street from it, on Brunswick Avenue. We would stroll down and line up with the other people in the area for the wonderful Peruvian style food they had there.

It was the first time I learned to love fish. I come from Nova Scotia, but the fish was prepared terribly when I was growing up. Plus fish was associated with poor people food, unlike all the packaged food I wanted. I hated it.

Or I did until I had the Boulevard’s sea bass. (Sea bass was big in the 80s.) They would gently cook it and serve it with a perfect combo of delicious salad and fragrant rice.  I was instantly transformed into a fish lover after that first meal. Many a fish meal I had after that, and all were great.

And their soups. Their soups were incredible. I once had a garlic soup there that was so good that I still recall it decades later. It was simple, and yet I have often had garlic soup elsewhere and it never compared. They had many great dishes there, but the soup and the fish kept me coming back.

When we first started going, it was popular but not too busy. There was seating on both floors, and half of the upstairs was just a seating area where you could sip your drink and enjoy their  fireplace. I remember one night we were sitting there next to the fire, looking out over Harbord Street as a nice snowfall floated down covering everything. I could have stayed all night.

Later on the word got out and it got busier. The lovely seating area was replaced with more tables. The patio area in the summer was jammed with everyone enjoying the wonderful flavours that came out of the small kitchen in the back.

I was shocked to be riding my bicycle across Harbord Street a few summers ago and seeing it all closed up. It was then I took those photos. It was so good, I thought it would last forever. I stood there for quite awhile and remembered all the wonderful times of my youth sitting outside under the awning and living the good life with great friends and great food. I am lucky to have had such a time.

(In the top photo you can see the chimney where the fireplace was. In the bottom photo you can see the main doors that led to the dining room on the lower floor. The bulletin board would list all the specials. There would be tables put in front of the benches, and you either sat on the benches or chairs opposite. In the evening the lights would come on and it would seem magical.)

P.S. Over at Zomato there is still a copy of the menu and some other photos.

 

Things to look forward to in 2021: growing a small garden


It’s important to have things to look forward to in difficult times. Planting a garden when the weather gets warmer can be one of those things.

If that appeals to you, you want to check this out and perhaps print it out: Everything You Need to Know About Vegetable Gardening in One Graphic. It’s a fine infographic and article outlining what you need to know about growing a plot or patio vegetable garden, including important info like when to plant (some in February!) and when to harvest. (You can see this in the snippet of the infographic is above).

You have to admit it is pleasing to think of going to your patio or plot and pulling up some nice greens to make a fresh salad. To turn that winter dream into a summer reality, check out the article linked to above.

On restaurants loved and lost

The pandemic has been hard on people and hard on businesses. One type of business it has been especially hard on is the restaurant business. So many has closed that it is hard to recall them all. Partially to remedy this, the Times did a piece on them: Remembering the Restaurants America Lost in 2020 – The New York Times

If you read it, you will likely see some you loved. One I always wanted to go to but never got to and now never will was Lucky Strike. Here’s how Julia Moskin recalled it:

Lucky Strike was for us. That’s how it felt in the early 1990s, when I lived in downtown Manhattan and my restaurant priorities were cheap red wine, good lighting and a potent steak au poivre. Lucky Strike was Keith McNally’s first restaurant of his own, and a looser, more fun sibling of the polished, magnetic Odeon in TriBeCa, which he had opened with partners in 1980.

At the time, Lucky Strike’s location was most accurately described not as “in SoHo,” but “near the mouth of the Holland Tunnel,” and its strip of Grand Street was desolate at night. The warmth and noise that it spilled onto the street made it a beacon for locals. We liked that the food was never quite good enough to draw a crowd. We liked that the rough floors and wine tumblers repelled the people who came looking for lychee martinis and tuna tartare. Mr. McNally went on to open bigger, glossier joints that are still with us — like Balthazar, Minetta Tavern and Pastis — and has closed almost as many, but Lucky Strike was the only one that was a neighborhood restaurant, and the only one I’ll mourn.

I was going to NYC a fair bit in the 80s and 90s, and I remember the buzz around Lucky Strike. I thought: that’s my kinda place. That’s the kind of place I want to hit when I get to Manhattan. But while I went to New York a fair bit, the times there were always short, and I never made it.

There are many great restaurants  I have gone to in my lifetime. Some like Lucky Strike were killed off in the pandemic, some closed long before that. Some of them are still on some form of life support, hoping to make it through to the bright side of this dreadful era. I want to write about those places before I forget them, for my own sake if nothing else. Although perhaps you will have the same thoughts reading them that I had when reading about Lucky Strike. If so, that will be good too.

Restaurant reside in the best parts of my better memories. It’s a good time to recall them, write about them here, and group them with the tag #restoslovedandlost

(Images from the New York Times article)

If you are tired of cooking, you need quarantine cooking help


At the beginning of the pandemic there was lots of advice on  cooking and baking being published. Then summer came, and it seemed to have stopped. Restrictions loosened, people went out to restaurants, and in the meantime much of that advice got shelved.

It’s winter now.  In the middle of the second wave with more lockdowns and restrictions, we need that advice again. Bad news: I don’t see as much new material on it. Good news: the old material from before the summer is still good. Case in point, this, from the New York Times: Our Best Recipes and Tips for Coronavirus Quarantine Cooking – The New York Times.

There’s lots and lots of good advice and good recipes there. More than enough to keep you going for the next few months.

My favorite of the lot are the recipes from Melissa Clark. If you don’t know where to start, start there. But really any of the pieces in that long list of recipes and tips are good.

As Jacques Pepin likes to say: happy cooking!

(Photo by Jeff Sheldon on Unsplash)

 

Merry Christmas! Here’s everything you need to know about making a turkey but were afraid to ask (or do)

Merry Christmas! I hope the day is a peaceful and joyous one for you and yours.

As part of the celebration, you may be making a turkey. Good for you. But making a turkey can be daunting and fearful. You need help. You need a guide. Indeed, what you need this excellent guide from epicurious. It will help you get it done like nobody’s business.

All the best to you and yours on this great day. Merry Christmas. And happy New Year to you as well.

My cooking projects for the month of December and January (maybe)

I go through periods of cooking just the basics, followed by furious sessions of mad cooking. I think I am going to be transitioning from the former to the latter over the next while. So I have pulled together these recipes of pretty basic things to try out and perhaps add to my repertoire. You might want to as well.

Sushi-ish: I have a bag of sushi style rice just sitting in my kitchen asking me to make some sushi, so I think I might use these to give it a go: How to Make Sushi (with Pictures), How to Choose Sushi-Grade Seafood, Homemade Sushi: Tips, Tricks, and Toppings! – Peas and Crayons, 30 Good Ideas for Sushi Roll Fillings – Easy Homemade Sushi: and even Make a Sushi Bowl at Home — With Canned Tuna | by Mark Bittman | Heated

Crepes: I love dishes that allow you to experiment, and I love food you can carry. Sushi rolls are one form of that. Crepes are another. I want to try one or both of these. This is classic: Robyn Cooks: Ham, Asparagus, and Swiss Cheese Crepes and this sounds amazing: Shrimp and Sugar Snap Pea Bánh Xèo (Vietnamese Sizzling Rice Crepes) Recipe.

Noodles: two of my favorite noodle dishes are these too. Gonna try at least one in the next while: Dan Dan Noodles Recipe and  Singapore Noodles. Can’t go wrong with a spicy bowl of noodles.

Nashville-Style Chicken: I’ve been wanting to make this for awhile, but I have balking at it. It sounds exciting and dangerous. 🙂 But one of these recipes ought to fit the bill. Some of them are more authentic and some less so: Nashville-Style Hot Chicken Recipe | Bon AppĂ©tit, Nashville Style Hot Fried Chicken – From A Chef’s Kitchen, Nashville-Style Hot Chicken recipe | Epicurious.com, Nashville Hot Chicken, the History Behind the South’s “It” Dish and  What Is Nashville Hot Chicken? | TASTE

Cuban sandwiches: I have long loved classic sandwiches like a Reuben or a Club House. I have recently added Cuban sandwiches to that list. Such a great combination. Here’s three I liked: Cuban Sandwich Recipe | Tasting Table, Cubano: A Traditional Cuban Sandwich Recipe and 
How to Make Real-Deal Cuban Sandwiches | Serious Eats.

Gonna try and see if I can perfect these. Maybe slow roast some pork just for the sheer deliciousness of it.

Quesadillas: they aren’t really a sandwich, any more than a hot dog or a crepe is a sandwich, but again, a good bit of walking around food. Roasted Corn Quesadillas – Step by Step Photos – Budget Bytes is a nice version of one. And this is just a nice piece on how to appreciate them in general: How to Pair Wine With Quesadillas | Food & Wine.

Perfect for when you are kinda too tired to cook.

Breads: of course if you want to make sandwiches, you want bread. You may even want to make your own. I have. In that case, consider: Easy No-Knead Focaccia Recipe, No-Knead Ciabatta, Shockingly Easy No-Knead Focaccia Recipe, and No Knead Focaccia Rolls.

Various cozy dishes for the cold: Now it is winter, I start hankering for dishes like these: The Coziest Vegetable-and-Sausage Soup for Those Chilly May Days – The New York Times (I love this one), Kielbasa, Apple, and Onion Strata with Mornay Sauce Recipe (love stratas too), The 10 Most Popular Soup Recipes of 2020 | Bon AppĂ©tit (we all need good soups), Homemade Potatoes Au Gratin – Budget Bytes (perfect with everything), Kimchi Fried Rice, White Fish & Scallop Chowder Recipe on Food52, Mary Berry’s beef stew recipe, and Goulash recipe. And this is always good: Pasta e Fagioli with Escarole recipe | Epicurious.com.

Pork chops: I think pork chops are underrated. You can do so much with them. For example, here’s just two good examples: Baked Honey Mustard Pork Chops  and  Blackberry Sage Pork Chops. 

I also note that pork is sometimes the loss leader in my meat section. For those weeks, having these recipes on standby makes sense.

Salad: here’s one to go with those chops and pretty much everything else: Italian Chopped Salad Recipe.

Good snacks: You need ’em. Here’s two: Toasted Sambal Cashews Recipe, and Marinated Olives and Feta Recipe 

Pét-Nat: I had a period when I was drinking a lot of this during the pandemic. I still like it, but it can be hit and miss with it. If want to learn more, read this: A Beginner’s Guide to Pét-Nat, A More Affordable Champagne Alternative. 

Two thoughts: one, PĂ©t-Nat is harder to find that the article let’s on. Two, the true and better affordable alternative to champagne is cremant. Get that instead.

Finally: I think I am going to do some BBQing over the winter. I may even do charcoal and do this: How to Build Your Own BBQ Chimney « Food Hacks :: WonderHowTo. 

Then I’ll get some steaks like this and cook them: How to Cook Tomahawk Steak · i am a food blog.

Now will I do all these? Likely no. But it’s good to have goals/aspirations, and fwiw, these are mine.

Friday night cocktails: Armagnac, straight up

Sure, you could put it in a cocktail (e.g. sazarac), but armagnac straight up or over ice is more than fine without anything else. I’ve been a fan for decades, and if you want to know why you should become one too, read this. Then go out and grab a bottle. I’ve had the one pictured and it is really good.

Nine more links to help you with intermittent fasting

In 2019 I posted about five links to help you with intermittent fasting. Well since the pandemic, I’ve heard from a number of people who are interesting in the idea, because let’s face it, not many of us have slimmed down during the Indoor Times. If this is you, take a look:

  1. The science behind intermittent fasting — and how you can make it work for you
  2. How to Manage One’s Moods -The School of Life Articles | Formally The Book of Life
  3. Intermittent Fasting For Beginners: Should You Skip Breakfast? | Nerd Fitness
  4. Read This Before You Try Any of These Intermittent Fasting Diets
  5. Foods to Eat While Intermittent Fasting: The Full Breakdown
  6. The Benefits of Intermittent Fasting – The New York Times
  7. Intermittent Fasting May Aid Weight Loss – The New York Times
  8. How Good a Diet Is Intermittent Fasting? – Scientific American
  9. The science behind intermittent fasting — and how you can make it work for you |

(Photo by Louis Hansel @shotsoflouis on Unsplash)

 

The next time someone complains about the length of a recipe…

Online recipe

Show them this article by 

It’s the perfect comeback for them.  It’s dripping in sarcasm, as it should.

My other response to people who complain about food writers writing about food (duh) is to send them a link to allrecipes.com.

If you just want a recipe for food, go there. Otherwise stop complaining already.

(Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash)

 

Friday night cocktails: the champagne cocktail


The champagne cocktail is a minimal cocktail. It’s perfect if you want a cocktail and aren’t good at making them or you are too beat to make anything involved. Honestly you can make it in a flash. To see what, I mean, here’s a recipe for one: Champagne Cocktail Recipe | Bon AppĂ©tit

If you need convincing on the merits of them,  read this: The Champagne Cocktail Is the Rented Tux of Mixed Drinks | Bon Appétit.

More on them, here.

I mean look at it: it looks delicious. Go make one.

P.S. If you do want a bit more involved cocktail that has sparkling wine as an ingredient, I recommend the French 75.

(Image via liquor.com)

Friday night cocktail: honey plum bourbon sour

From the folks at Food52, here’s a cocktail with a different twist: plum slices! I like it.  Of course you don’t need to make it with that particular bourbon: I am sure it will be delicious with any version you prefer.

Friday night cocktail: the Bamboo (and other sherry based cocktails)

What’s nice about the bamboo and other sherry+vermouth cocktails is that they seem familiar, but different enough to break you out of your rut (assuming you are having a cocktail rut). Plus they are easy to make, and because they are lower ABV, easy to drink. Sound good? You can get a recipe for the bamboo here.

For more recipes, you can go Bon Appétit

Finally some good news for 2020: the McRib is coming back!

Yaaaas. At least in the US, the McRib sandwich from McDonald’s is coming back in December, according to this. I hope and pray it comes to Canada, too. I love that sandwich: saucy, porky, with pickles and raw onions and that bun. Perfection.

Almost a decade ago I came across an intriguing theory as to why McDonald’s sells the McRib only at certain times. I wrote about it, here.

On pantry cooking with Melissa Clark

One of the better things that came out of the pandemic is this series of recipes published in the New York Times and written by Melissa Clark: From the Pantry – The New York Times.

I loved how each recipe is really a cooking lesson more than a step 1-2-3 recipe. By the time you made a dish, you can already imagine making it a dozen different ways with the suggestions she provides. That’s especially good for people who are not comfortable changing recipes around. If you are one of those people, you’ll be much more confident improvising with ingredients after you have made a few of these meals.

I also liked that the recipes really cover a range of meals, from breakfast to dinner, from salad and soup to dessert. Now that there is quite a few recipes listed here, you can pick and choose what suits you.

Finally, I like that the Times didn’t firewall off this content. Anyone can see the recipes: you don’t need a subscription to the Cooking section of the paper/website.

I highly recommend these recipes. Go use some and become a better cook.

(Photo by Nadia Pimenova on Unsplash)

Friday night cocktail: the boulevardier

A wonderful cocktail, here brought to you by smitten kitchen.  All you need are:

2 ounces bourbon or rye whiskey
1 ounce red vermouth
1 ounce Campari Ice

An orange peel is a good touch. Boulevardier: simple, but delicious. 

 

The problem with the Mediterranean diet sadly, is…


It can be expensive for people living in parts of the world to follow it because of the way food is priced, according to this. Key quote:

The results indicate that it’s not enough to follow the Mediterranean diet simply by changing the quantities you’re eating of certain foods. The foods need to be of a high quality, too, and you need to eat a diverse range of them.

Both of those things are harder to do on a budget. Fresh produce and fish are often only available at higher costs and in certain areas (this disparity leads to the food desert phenomenon), which makes them harder for low-income people to access and afford.

Everything is harder when you are poorer, including eating healthy.

(Image Photo by Edgar Castrejon on Unsplash)

How to show you are a fan of a cookbook? Well if you are a fan of “Nothing Fancy”, you do this


You create an entire web site about it! This is a pretty amazing project. The author cooked his way through over 100 recipes, took a picture, and rated them (with emoji no less!)  It took him over a half a year, but I am impressed by it all.

I find if I cook 20 recipes from a cookbook, I am happy with the results. To cook over 100 recipes like this is impressive imho.

To see what I am talking about, checkout “A little fancy”.

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Friday night cocktail: the Gimlet


If you are a martini fan but want to changing up your Friday night cocktail, then consider this Gimlet Cocktail Recipe.

A fine drink while the weather is warm. Also good to battle scurvy. 🙂

To your health!

(Image via liquor.com)

 

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For the BBQ that has everything, a Japanese A5 Wagyu Ribeye Steak

Sure, it costs $150, but look at that marbling. And as this states, it is impossible to overcook, due to that incredible amount of fat.

You may think that is terribly decadent. And it is! If you want to know more, see: Japanese A5 Wagyu Ribeye Steak | Uncrate

On making a mediocre dinner and appreciating mediocrity

I just made a mediocre dinner. You can see it above. It’s not styled in any way. The lighting isn’t great. The ingredients are cheap and basic. The side of mustard looks awful. it’s a pile of food on a plate to feed a hunger.

While it is mediocre, it isn’t bad. The food is fresh. It’s filling. It may not be the most nutritious meal ever but it’s nutritious enough. It killed my hunger and I enjoyed eating it.

While I was making it, and even before, I thought: how should I prepare this so that it will look good enough to share on social media? Should I make a sauce? Chop up some herbs to make it more photogenic? Plate it attractively?

Then I thought: I just want to eat some food that I like that is ok. It’s like a hot dog or a bowl of cereal: it can satisfy a need without being of interest to anyone but the person eating it.

And maybe I need to think more of food that way. I am not a chef or food professional, but the way I share my food photos and think about my meals, you would think I am aspiring to be. I think that aspiration is a problem at times, just as it can be for anyone with aspirations on social media. Maybe it’s time to revisit my relationship with food and my relationship with social media.

Social media can be a force of good. It can let us discover people with talent that we might not otherwise notice. It can help us celebrate the finer things in life. But it can also distort things and get us seeking attention when we don’t really need it. Perhaps a simpler and more basic approach to things outside of social media is better.

Enjoy things for what they are. Understand there is a place and a time for the most basic to the more advanced. Know when it is right to share things and when it is right to just live and be in the moment and then let it go. Those are all imperative sentences that can apply to me. Perhaps they can apply to you as well.

To many people, grey is a dull and boring colour. But for people like me, there is so much to appreciate in the colour grey. Likewise for things mediocre. My meal was mediocre tonight, but it was filling and tasty and nutritious and economical: all things I appreciate. May you appreciate all the grey and mediocre things in your life too.

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Friday night cocktails: Sangria


Ok, you can argue that Sangria is not a cocktail, but I disagree. Also, sangria is great, and it’s especially great in the hot days of summer.

You can buy sangria premade, but if you want to make your own and make it well, then read this: How to Make Sangria – Bon AppĂ©tit 

Even if you already make a pretty good batch, it’s worth reading for tips on how to change it up and possibly even improve your current recipe.

Cheers!

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COVID comes for the French Wine Industry


And the result, if you are a fan of French wines, is tragic: Of Wine, Hand Sanitizer and Heartbreak – The New York Times.

You can read it straight up, but it’s worth pondering what it tells us about our values right now, and what they were before. Times are tough in the pandemic era, for winemakers in particular as well as all of us in general.

(Image thanks to Sven Wilhelm).

Friday Night Cocktails: Spritzes!

Now that we are in the middle of the summer (in the Northern Hemisphere), it’s time to add spritzes to your cocktail repertoire. If you are in need of ideas, I recommend this: Six Delicious Spritzes to Make from Cup of Jo. From the still trendy Aperol Spritz to white wine spritzers, there’s like at least on drink in here you’ll want to make while the nights are hot and the days are even hotter.

Also a good idea if you still want a drink but want to cut down on your alcohol consumption. 

Cheers!

It’s Wednesday. Your brain is tired. Maybe you need to feed it better.

And by feed it I don’t mean drink more coffee. I mean eat foods that have been shown to help our brains work better. The author of this piece ate food considered best for our brains for a week and recorded what happened. Surprise: you don’t turn into a genius. But you will see some benefits. And that’s a good thing.

(Image from healthline.com)

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How to eat healthy on a budget.

An oldy but a goody from Vox: I asked the experts how to eat healthy on a budget. Here’s what they told me. – Vox

It’s common sense, but like much in the pandemic times, I suspect a lot of common sense has fallen by the side. If you want to get back to eating healthier, consider reading that.

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Friday night (non-alcoholic) cocktails, courtesy of Food52


Food52 has a number of great looking non-alcoholic drink options, here: Drinks & Cocktails on Food52 – Shop Spirits, Shrubs, Mixers & Bitters.

This is for a rose, but there is a gin and some sparking beverages. They have some other good products too, if you want to make something with your favorite alcoholic beverage.

Cheers!

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A nice gift idea for the fish food lover in your life …


…could be this: Sustainably Harvested Canned Seafood, by Scout Canning; set of 3, 3 flavors – Lobster, Mussels, Trout on Food52

Pricer than the canned fish you are used to getting in stores, but it could be a wonderful gift for someone.  Great packaging too. Happy to see it is from Canada, too. There is different versions of this too; you could just get the lobster, for example.

Food52 has lots of wonderful products. Even if you don’t care for this one, I recommend checking them out.

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Are meal kits the future of restaurants?

I don’t know, but I do know this is a good piece to read for anyone interested in establishments having some degree of success with them: Meal kits were dying. Covid-19 brought them back to life. | The Counter.

I am not sure what the future of restaurants will be. Or any places that depend on having many people close together for periods of time.  If COVID-19 sticks around for months and years, we are going to be forced to find out. Whatever that future is, it will be substantially different to the time before the arrival of this disease.

On recipes


After the controversy regarding Alison Roman written about here and elsewhere, I started thinking about recipes, where they come from, how I use them, and how I think about them.

A recipe is usually instructions for how to do something. Typically we associated it with food preparation. Recipes list ingredients and steps to prepare the ingredients. They tell you how many people the recipe typically feeds. Sometimes they tell you other things, like nutritional information.

Some recipes are like open source software. You can take a recipe and modify it to make it your own, just like open source software. Other recipes are not open and kept secret, like the formula for certain soft drinks, or the recipe for a certain fried chicken. Some are even patentable (although good luck with that).

Some recipes are associated with regions or cultures. If you think of bouillabaisse,  you think of France. Risotto: Italy. Sushi: Japan. Some recipes and dishes transcend regions and become universal. Dumplings are like that. Noodles too. The same goes for ingredients: you can find basil and oregano in many recipes all over the world, and garlic is about as universal ingredient as any.

Some are associated with certain people, such as Marcella Hazan’s tomato sauce. You can claim making tomato sauce with butter and onion and tomatoes is a recipe of yours, but by now it is associated with Marcella Hazan. Likewise with Martha Stewart’s One-Pot Pasta. It’s not like no one has ever made such a dish before, but now we associate them with one particular person.

Alison Roman is a person who has had success with  recipes that became associated with her, namely her chocolate chunk shortbread cookies (” the cookies”) and her chickpea stew (“the Stew”). The Stew in particular got me thinking about recipes and ingredients and how people go about making recipes. For example, if a recipe is based on another recipe, should the author mention that? It likely depends on the publication and other factors. For example, with someone like Deb Perleman, you get a lot of detail about the recipe before she goes into it. Or with Hugh Acheson where he talks about the origin of his catfish stew recipe before proceeding to list the steps and ingredients.

Some people (like me)  prefer recipes with those details; other people just want the recipe. Anyone creating and publishing recipes needs to decide how much detail to include, depending on their audience. In publications like Bon Appetit, there is often space allocated only for the recipe itself. I don’t know what the text was wrapped around this recipe for a  Zingy Red Sauce when it was published, but I assuming it matched the minimum detail found on the web site. Now is this recipe a derivation of a Romesco Sauce (also in Bon Appetit)? Possibly. Likewise this Seafood Stew for Two Recipe  in Bon Appetit.  This stew shares a lot of ingredients with this classic Cioppino Recipe also in  Bon Appetit, but it is also varied enough to consider it to be it’s own recipe.

I think Roman does variations of recipes not infrequently, which aligns with her belief that she won’t ask you to do any more than you have to, while still making it a good dish. So this recipe for Summer Greens with Mustardy Potatoes and Six-Minute Egg Recipe in Bon Appetit is not unlike a stripped down Nicoise salad, but it is not a Nicoise salad despite some commonality. That I think explains the success of her recipes: she takes ingredients and recipes and strips them down somewhat while still making them look good, taste good, and accessible for home cooks to make.

She has not been called out for making recipes with strong European origins. But where she ran into trouble with The Stew is that she seemed to take some ingredients that resembled a curry and had it identified with her. If The Stew associated with her was the seafood stew above or this Fish Stew with Fennel and Baby Potatoes, then she still would have had a problem for the insulting things she said, but it is less likely she would have been criticized with terms like “Columbus Cuisine” and accused of ripping off other cultures and enriching herself at their expense. I don’t believe she does that, but that has been a lively topic of debate with smarter food writers than me.

I don’t think her approach to writing recipes is wrong. I can’t say that recipes  going viral is bad. What I will say is ultimately  it is better if we read from  a diverse range of food writers who can bring not just interesting recipes to publication, but the interesting stories that go with them. I also think it is good when people from different backgrounds can explore the recipes and ingredients of other cultures and make something new with them while acknowledging what the inspiration is. This is much better than remixing an older recipe without attribution. I’d add that acknowledging the origins of an ingredient can’t hurt either. After awhile some of those ingredients may seem universal. Perhaps kimchi will become as common as dill pickles in North American kitchens, and turmeric becomes as frequently used as cumin.

I think publications can do a better job of not just publishing recipes but educating their readers. Likewise, I think sharing, innovating and educating others on food is a great thing, and I hope recipe writers from all background can borrow and improvise and create new dishes. They won’t be quite as eclectic as these recipes that resulted from a collaboration with IBM’s Watson computer and Bon Appetit, but they will inspire us and help us prepare better meals and make our lives better.

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On David McMillan’s Love Letter to Toronto

David McMillan, who is responsible for some of the great restaurants in Montreal, wrote this love letter to Toronto and it’s restaurants a few years ago. It’s wonderful. Reading it over again, it has a bittersweetness as I read the names of some of the wonderful Toronto food establishments he mentions. I wonder if many of them will still exist after this pandemic. I want to hope that most will and I want to hope that the Toronto food scene will still be great. Just like I want the Montreal food scene to recover and thrive. I will say a prayer that both those things come true.

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On the Silver Palate Cookbook

I started thinking about the Silver Palate cookbook again after reading this piece in Bon Appetit:How the Silver Palate Cookbook Changed Our Cooking

It’s funny to read the staff of Bon Appetit talk about this as their parent’s cookbook. To me the tone is nostalgic. Perhaps they believe it is dated. Like any decades old cookbook, it is dated in a way. There’s lots of things in there that was novel and daring at the time but now are passe, and ingredients which are now commonplace were once hard to find.

But there is much about the book that is still great. The layout and design, for one thing. And some recipes stand the test of time and became classics. It’s so much more than a collection of recipes.

In some ways, publications like Bon Appetit are the same. Many of the things I’ve said about that cookbook will apply to Bon Appetit over time.  And like the Silver Palate cookbook, I believe people will look back on Bon Appetit in this era the way the folks at BA look back at this kitchen classic.

If you haven’t read the Silver Palate cookbook in some time (or ever), you can read (at least some of) it online.

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Friday night cocktails: the Bronx

What is a Bronx cocktail? David Lebovitz explains:

Not as famous as its “other borough” cousin, the Manhattan, the Bronx is a fruitier, lighter alternative to the rough-and-tumbler whiskey-based cocktail. However one sip and you may find yourself visiting the Bronx a little more often!

I’ve had one recently and it’s delicious. Get your ingredient list, here: Bronx Cocktail – David Lebovitz Bronx Cocktail recipe.

 

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On Prune, and restaurants in general

Many many people were blown away by this piece written by Gabrielle Hamilton of Prune fame: My Restaurant Was My Life for 20 Years. Does the World Need It Anymore? in The New York Times. 

She’s a great writer, and a great restaurateur, writing about a time of peril for all restaurants.

During the pandemic I’ve thought about it often, as well as the future of restaurants. I don’t know a fraction about the business Hamilton excels in, other than to recognize that even for someone good at it, it’s a hard business. It was a hard business before when places were jammed with hungry eaters. It may well be impossible now.

My hope is that knowing that  restaurateurs are smart, hard working and passionate people.  They have managed in difficult situations before. They will find a way to make the foods that they love and feed them to us. And we will find a way to get out and support them.

I have had a number of meals at Prune, and they have been some of the finest of times for me. Here’s to it and many more places coming back soon and giving us meals and memories that make life worthwhile.

(Image is a link to the Village Voice.)

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Darebee has great meal plans too (if you feel the need to get off the all you can eat pandemic merry go round)

 

The pandemic working from home has been hard, and for some of us, eating has been a source of joy. However, I am feeling the need to eat better and maybe even shed a few pounds. For help, I am turning to one of my favorite sites for this: Darebee.

I love DareBee.com for it’s fitness routines and the great posters they provide.  They have made getting in some exercise a breeze. But they have other things to help you get fit and live better too. One section of the site is dedicated to Meal Planning. You can find lots of great items there, including ones to help you transition to a vegetarian meal routine

If you feel like eating better, consider checking this out.

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Friday Night Cocktails: the French Manhattan


David Lebowitz has a new book out now called “Drinking French”, and it possible that we need it more than ever. Here’s a recipe from it, a nice spin on the classic Manhattan. Enjoy: French Manhattan recipe

You can buy it everywhere, including here.

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The limits of wine bars in North America cities as compared to Paris and why this is interesting


We have tons of upscale coffee shops, and wine is more popular than ever in North America, so Eater asks what seems to be a simple question: Natural Wine Is Everywhere in America. Where Are the Wine Bars?

I say “seems” because the answer is long and fascinating for a number of reasons: economic, cultural, and gastronomical. It’s a smart piece. I highly recommend it.

Here’s a snippet of what I mean:

It’s sad to see something so ostensibly simple become another exclusive pleasure, so I keep looking for the neighborhood wine bar of my dreams — which is honestly just a cramped room with bottles of interesting, affordable wine on the wall and, like, a cheese plate? Yet this seemingly simple thing is stupidly hard to find. It’d be sort of funny that cosseted American wine bars struggle to attain the loose charm of Paris, given that France is stereotyped as the place that’s snooty, rules-bound, and tradition-obsessed, if the result wasn’t such a bummer. While yes, there are a lot of rules, France also has a more open culture of public life; you don’t need to make plans to go out to drink wine. And though wine signifies many things in French culture, an air of sophistication because you drink it is not one of them. The appeal of enjoying wine in France, at least as the kind of person who’s moved by wine but still needs bolds on the list, is that French wine culture feels so much less precious than in America.