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Almond, Apple and Cream Cheese on a Croissant

I am reposting an old post from no reEATS onto this blog because I want to make it again and it deserves to be seen again.

I can't stop thinking about this sandwich that I used to make when I first moved to Toronto at 20 and was just learning about food. For me, this sandwich was the height of fancy pants food snobbery and I always felt very smug and proud when I would make it for someone using an fresh croissant from a french bakery and cream cheese not from the grocery store but from the cheese shop in the market. It made me feel very continental and sophisticated and it was unlike anything I had ever eaten growing up. Of course, by the end of that year, I was actually living in Paris, eating real, mind blowing croissants and endless wheels of brie and other exotic, stinky cheeses and this sandwich faded from memory.

It was exactly as I remembered it. The creaminess of the cheese is balanced perfectly with the tart, crispiness of the green apple and then that crunch of the toasted almonds all wrapped up in a buttery, flaky package.

Honey Lime Chops

We are still on our no carbs (read no wine, no fries, no sandwiches, no pizza or pasta prison diet) thing and I am really getting sick of chicken. On the plus side, Shack seems be back down to his fighting weight and I am finally showing some signs of improvement in and about the muffin top area so we are sticking to our guns - just please, no more chicken. It was clearly time to bust out some pork chops and although I love a good thick cut, bone in chop, these thinner centre cut loin chops are easier to cook and they are very lean. I took pity on The Kid and made him a bit of basmati rice since he actually needs his carbs now that he is 5'9" and still about 120 lbs and I worry that I am starving him as well. Mother's do worry.

This was a tasty marinade and I think the buttermilk helps keep the meat nice and tender - it works for chicken so it must work for pork too, right? I left them overnight in the marinade which is always the best option if you can swing it. I ate mine with the last of the buttermilk crema and some MVP sauce but, then again, I am eating EVERYTHING with buttermilk crema and MVP sauce right now.  Curried roasted cauliflower were a perfect side along with a green salad and some basmati rice for the kid who is not on a stupid no carb diet.

Honey Lime Pork Chops

juice and zest from 1 lime
pinch kosher salt
2 tbls honey lime mustard (or honey dijon would work too or 1 tbls honey and 1 tbls dijon)
2 tbls buttermilk
2 tbls olive oil
1 clove garlic chopped

6 center loin pork chops

mix all of the marinade ingredients and add to a container big enough to hold your pork chops.Mix it all around until your chops are all totally covered in the marinade and put in the fridge for at least two hours or overnight.

Take the pork out of the fridge at least 40 minutes before you are going to cook them to let them come to room temperature.

As far as grilling them, it all depends on the thickness. For thinner chops like these, you want to go hot and fast. Get the grill as hot as you can and grill them for a minute or so with the lid on before you flip them and turn down the heat (or if you are using coal like we do, pile the coals on one side so the other side is going to be a bit cooler for the second side) and cook them, lid on, for another three minutes. Remove the lid, flip them one more time and cook them another 3 or 4 minutes with the lid off, still on the cooler side.

Once they are cooked (they should feel solid but have a bit of spring under your finger when you poke them), remove to a plate and tent with foil and let sit for 5 or 10 minutes to rest before eating.

Curried Cauliflower

This is not rocket science but it is one of our favourite ways to eat cauliflower and I am always surprised when people tell me they have never roasted cauliflower. Even people who think they hate the stuff will eat it if it's roasted. We do it all sorts of ways, with different herbs and spices but my favourite is most simple - olive oil, curry powder and garlic.

I always make a huge batch because I snack on it cold the next day and if you puree it you can add it to some mashed potatoes or turn it into soup or mix some of it with quinoa for a salad.

Roasted Curried Cauliflower

1 head cauliflower
Olive oil
1/2 tbls curry powder
kosher salt
a handful of garlic cloves

Preheat the oven to 400F
Wash your cauliflower and chop it into florets - if you are in a hurry, chop them up small but they cook better if you leave them a bit larger and roast it for a longer period of time.

Put it in a big bowl and drizzle with some olive oil, sprinkle with kosher salt and the curry powder and toss until it seems to be evenly coated. You might have to drizzle a bit more oil on it but not too much - There shouldn't be tons of oil pooling on the bottom of the bowl. Add in the peeled, whole garlic cloves and mix once more.

Here is the secret: if you have a big cast iron skillet, use that. If you don't, use a metal cookie tray but this stuff isn't the same if you try to cook in any sort of pyrex, glass or ceramic. It won't brown up as nicely at all. The other secret is to make sure it's in a single layer - if you pile it up on top of each other, it will sort of steam and only the very bottom pieces will brown up.

Roast it for about 45 min to 1 hour - keep an eye on it and check from time to time after the first 30 minutes to make sure you don't burn it. You can stir it around at the 30 minute mark if you are afraid of burning it. I like to leave it be so the bottom is sure to get nice and brown.

Cocktail On A Stick

This week's Gastropost mission was to explore food on a stick. Everybody loves food on a stick and we have enjoyed some awesome examples of this in the last couple of weeks. They do deep fried breaded things like quail and pork at Gushi at Market 707  in Scadding Court - in fact, the word gushi means skewer in Japanese so if you want to try a bunch of deep fried things on a stick, get over there.
pork on a stick from Gushi

I also had an incredible grilled skewer of niagara peaches with scallops and a honey drizzle at the Supper Market at Niagara on the Lake a couple of weeks ago. What I hadn't had all summer was a cocktail on a stick, one of my favourite things of all.

Last week I made Shack some boozey watermelon lemonade with gin and recall thinking that they would make great booze pops at the time. I was out of lemons but lime goes even better with gin so I switched it up a bit and added some rosemary to the simple syrup - I figured the smell of rosemary and gin would keep the kids away from these babies. How many you get depends on the size of your molds.

Watermelon Rosemary Lime Pops with Gin

1 1/2 cups watermelon juice
1 1/2 tbls *rosemary simple syrup
5 tsp gin
1 tbl lime juice

Puree enough watermelon to get you 1 1/2 cups of juice after you strain it into a measuring cup. Add in the simple syrup and lime juice and taste it. Adjust if needed. If your watermelon is really sweet, you won't need more simple syrup or maybe you want them more tart - then add more lime.

Put 1 tsp of gin in each popsicle mold (I got five popsicles in my PC mold) and then top each one up with the watermelon mixture. Give it a bit of a stir with a skewer or something before putting in the sticks and putting the mold into the freezer and leave overnight (or make them in the morning to enjoy that evening)

*rosemary simple syrup:
Put 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of water into a saucepan. Add a few sprigs of rosemary and heat it over medium heat until the sugar is completely melted and it is almost just starting to bubble. Remove from heat and let it sit until it comes to room temperature ( at least one hour). Remove the rosemary and store in the fridge.

Breakfast Taco Fit For A Prince

Back when I used to work on set doing makeup for tv commercials, I enjoyed a thing called Kraft Service. The Kraft Service people are responsible for feeding us all day and at the time, I didn't always appreciate them as I should have. The one thing I always loved though was our morning breakfast burrito (as long as they were using real eggs and not egg beaters. No offence to the fine people who make egg beaters but they are just not for me). I apologize to every Kraft person I have gave the gears to over the years because now that I no longer have people who make me breakfast and snacks and soup and cheese trays and cut up my fruit and put out trays of M&M's and jube jubes, I realize how wonderful you all were. My ass, on the other hand, never wants to see you again.

Anyway, I had three corn tortillas left over from last night's calamari tacos and couldn't bear to throw them out so I made the Little Prince, which is what we call The Kid when we realize we are catering to his every whim, some nice breakfast tacos. It's no secret that my child is, perhaps, a little bit spoiled in the food department but I also take advantage of the fact that he will eat pretty much whatever I put in front of him so I can make pretty little dishes like this and not have to eat them all myself. This is the only way I manage to NOT weigh 600lbs. That, and the fact that I am no longer fed like a christmas goose by the lovely Kraft people 6 days a week.

Breakfast Tacos
serves one

3 corn tortillas
2 eggs, whisked with a pinch of kosher salt
1 tsp butter
2 tbls finely chopped tomato
juice from half a lime
1 tsp minced shallot
1 tbls chopped cilantro
kosher salt
1/2 half very ripe avocado
drizzle of hot sauce (MVP sauce)
drizzle of buttermilk crema
2 tbls grated old cheddar

Mix the chopped tomato, shallot and cilantro in a small bowl. Squeeze in the lime juice, add a tiny pinch of salt and stir and set aside.

grate the cheddar in another small bowl.

warm the corn tortillas on the dry pan that you are heating up to scramble your eggs and then wrap them in a tea towel until you are ready to go.

Add the butter to your hot pan and pour in the eggs to make some scrambled eggs. When the eggs are cooked, get ready to assemble:

Lay out your three warm tortillas on a plate.
Scoop out a spoonful of avocado and smear it on a tortilla - repeat for the other two.
Divide the eggs into three portions and one to each tortilla
Top that each with 1/3 of the cheese
Drizzle the MVP sauce and the buttermilk crema to taste
Top all three with a few pea shoots.

Calamari Tacos with MVP Sauce

Anyone who likes to eat tacos knows that anything you can think of putting in a taco shell is going to work so don't get bogged down with only using "mexican" taco fillings. You can use any kind of seafood or meat or chicken. If you are some sort of crazy vegetarian, feel free to use some tofu or some sort of chickpea thing - whatever. The Kid's favourite tacos are greek tacos where we use tzatziki and leftover shrimp from  Garides me feta. Asian flavours lend themselves to the flavour of the corn tortilla as well since they also use lots of lime, cilantro, garlic and hot chilis. Oh, and don't get me started on the delights of a breakfast taco full of fluffy scrambled eggs, pico de gallo, a bit of cheese and a dribble of buffalo chipotle sauce.

I always like to say that I would eat dog poop if it came in a fresh corn tortilla and although I don't really advocate eating dog poop, I think you get the idea. I really like all manner of food wrapped up in a little corn tortilla.

I had a taco from La Carnita last spring that had calamari and some sort of crazy yellow sauce that I think might have been pineapple habernero or something and I still daydream about it. My friend got it for me at a food truck event while I lined up at another truck (the line up was almost 2 hours long for La Carnita) so by the time the taco got to me, it was cold and you know what? It didn't matter - it was that tasty. Instead of trying to replicate their hot sauce, I made one using mango and some aji amarillo paste instead and it was really delicious. We have some good friends are Peruvian and they use this hot and tasty yellow pepper in many of their dishes and I have been dying to find ways to use the paste that they gave me so I am especially happy with the end result. I am calling it MVP sauce in honour of Gino, the giver of the paste who is our Most Valuable Peruvian. The buttermilk crema idea came from a fish taco The Kid ate from Hooked at the Leslieville farmers market this morning. The cool, creamy buttermilk is the perfect foil for the spicy hot sauce. Add some fresh, crunchy pea shoots and you have yourself a delicious little taco.

I will admit one thing right now - just between you and me and the dog. I will totally make these again because they were the bomb, but, when I do I will buy good corn tortillas from La Tortillaria instead of making my own because I have a really tiny kitchen and it was just kind of overwhelming to try to make fresh tortillas at the last minute while I am also trying to deep fry squid at the last minute. You might be super comfortable deep frying but I am slowly overcoming an irrational fear of burning down my home and I am a bit of a nervous deep fryer and need to give 100% of my concentration to that vat of boiling oil to ensure that I don't kill everyone I hold dear.

Bottom line is that this is a total winner and both boys said it needs to go into the regular dinner rotation. Hank added smashed up avocado to his and then Shack added some pickled golden beets to his so feel free to mix it up.

Way better than dog poop any day.

Squid Tacos
corn tortillas
deep fried squid
mango aji amarillo sauce or MVP sauce
fresh baby pea shoots (you can sub in anything green and crunchy - shredded cabbage is the norm)
buttermilk crema

on a warm corn tortilla, lay out a few pieces of calimari. Drizzle some MVP sauce and some buttermilk crema over the squid and then plop on a bit of pea sprouts.
Eat it.

Corn tortillas
2 cups masa harina
2 cups warm tap water

mix together the masa  harina and the water and cover and let it sit for about 15 minutes while you prep the other ingredients. When it's time to make your tortillas, check it and if it feels a bit dry, add more water, a tbls at a time until if feels like soft cookie dough.
Preheat a dry cast iron griddle or pan over med high heat.
 Divide it up into about 16 golf ball sized balls and cover. Take one ball at a time and either roll it out really thin or use a tortilla press (wrap the two discs in plastic wrap) to press out each tortilla.
Cook the tortillas for about 30 seconds per side (they should puff up) and wrap them in a clean tea towel until you are done all of them. You can let them sit, wrapped in the warm tea towel for 10 or 15 minutes as well.

*if you don't want to make that many tortillas, just always use equal amounts of warm water and masa since these tortillas don't really hold all that well so only make as many as you are going to eat for dinner.

Calamari/Fried Squid

about 1 lb cleaned squid, cut into rings like for calamari (great photo tutorial on how to clean squid)
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1 tsp cumin
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
enough vegetable oil to reach about 3" deep in your pot of choice

Rinse the squid thoroughly and pat dry. Cut the tentacles in half lengthwise and the tubes into 1/2-inch rings. Set aside.

Place the flour ,cornmeal and cumin into a medium mixing bowl and stir to combine. In small handfuls, dredge the squid in the flour mixture and shake off the excess. Another cool trick I remember seeing on a youtube video was to put the flour and cormeal mixture into a baggie and then throw the squid in there, shake it around and then set a strainer over a bowl and dump the calamari into the strainer. Give the strainer a few shakes and it will dump the excess flour mixture into the bowl and you can just grabe the breaded squid out of the strainer to throw into the hot oil. I haven't tried that method but I keep meaning to.
In batches, gently lower the squid into the hot oil. Cook for 1 minute. The squid will not be really browned, but lightly golden in color. Remove the squid and transfer to a cooling turned upside down set over a newspaper-lined cookie pan or on a plate lined with a couple layers of paper towel. Season with salt and pepper, as desired. Repeat until all of the squid is cooked. Make sure to check the temperature of the oil before each batch to ensure it is 375 degrees F. Serve immediately.

Mango Aji Amarillo sauce or MVP sauce 
adapted from Bobby Flay

1 tbls veg oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 mango, chopped
3 tsp aji amarillo paste
2 tbls honey (or to taste)
1/2 cup white vinegar
salt to taste

heat oil in a small pan over med heat and sauté the onion and garlic until it's soft. Add in the chopped up mango and the pepper paste and cook, stirring often, for about five minutes. Add in the honey and vinegar and cook over low heat for another 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat and pour that  mixture into a blender and puree til smooth. Strain it through a strainer over a bowl and taste. Add salt to taste

Buttermilk Crema

1/4 cup buttermilk
2 tbls greek yogurt
1 tsp lime juice
pinch kosher salt
1 tbls chopped cilantro

mix together the all of the ingredients and taste and adjust seasonings if you wish.

The Supper Market - A Weekly Gem in Niagara on the Lake

I just learned about this Wednesday night Supper Market at the Market at the Village in the last few weeks and thought it sounded like a perfect thing to do on a hot summer night - drive out to Niagara on the Lake, eat some great food and then drive back to Toronto with the top down just as the day starts to cool off while the sun is setting. Today turned out to be that perfect day.

It was actually a totally perfect day because it started with a trip to the AGO to see the Picasso exhibit and if you are from the area and you haven't seen it yet, you should hurry up because it's gone at the end of August!

Jerk Chicken Take 1

So, Shack and I have been living a little too large since spring. He has taken a ton of time off work to hang out with us and so there have been lots of lunches out and late night pizzas,  too many pub nights and lots of afternoon movies with huge buttered popcorns. Now, he has to go back to work and I have to make sure that I can still fit into actual pants by TIFF in September so we have spent the last 10 days going clean - no pasta, no pizza, no rice, no bread, no wings and poutine, no wine or beer. Somehow, we have managed to have lots of fun together and nobody is dying of malnutrition. HE, of course, has already dropped at least 12 lbs and looks much slimmer. I, on the other hand, have not lost one ounce although my mother in law told me that I look MUCH less bloated.
Thanks for that.

Buttermillk Beet Slaw

Shack loves coleslaw and I love to make things that he loves a bit healthier. Over the years, I have settled on this basic buttermilk dressing that is based on one I found in Cook's Illustrated,  but I do play with additions to the cabbage. Sometimes I add sliced fennel and some carrot, sometimes I might throw in some radish and use honey dijon or another flavoured mustard. The bottom line is that buttermilk is much healthier than a heavy mayonnaise based dressing and it's tangy and delicious and I do prefer it. Sometimes we like a vinegar based dressing but those are loaded with sugar so they aren't all that good for you either so I don't really make that at home.

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