Food Musings

A Winnipeg blog about the joy of preparing food for loved ones and the shared joy that travel & dining brings to life.

My First Reader Request!

February8

A reader emailed me to see if I had a good Ginger Snap recipe.  So here is my favourite:  Cream together 3/4 c margarine with 1 c sugar.  Add 1/4 c molasses and one beaten egg and then beat together.  Combine 2 c flour, 1/4 t salt, 2 t baking soda and 1 t each cinnamon, cloves and ginger.  Add to creamed mixture,  Mix well.  Roll into balls, then sugar.  Press with a fork.  Now the flatter you press the more snap the cookie will have, I slightly press because we like our chewy.  Garnish with a piece of candied ginger.  Bake at 375 for 15 minutes (check after 10 minutes because of variable thickness).  1592874621_b594bb30d5

3240
Ginger Beef:  This is my quick recipe.  There is a longer version that is likely used by restaurants that includes the step of marinating the beef in a number of ingredients including ginger juice. Cut 1 lb of flank steak (or better but more expensive-sirloin steak).  Place 3/4 c cornstarch in a large bowl.  Add 1/2 c water gradually while whisking and then whisk in 2 eggs.  Toss in beef and stir to coat.  Pour 1 inch of oil into wok, heat until boiling hot, but not smoking. Add a quarter of the beef to the oil.  Separate with a fork and cook, stirring frequently, until crispy. Remove, drain on paper towel and set aside. Repeat until all the beef is cooked.  Drain off all oil except for about 1 tablespoons and add 1 large chopped carrot, 3 chopped green onion, 1/4 c minced fresh ginger and 5 cloves of minced garlic.  Stir fry briefly over high heat.   Combine last 3 T soy sauce, 4 T rice vinegar, 1 T sesame oil, 1/2 c sugar and 3 t crushed red pepper flakes (start with 1 and increase to taste)  and add to vegetable mixture.  Bring to a boil and then add beef.  Heat thorough and serve immediately.
ginger2There are many health benefits linked to ginger.  I am not going to endorse anything that I have not personally tried, but I do know that ginger tea is lovely when you have a cold or the flu.  The recipe is simple.   Ginger Tea: grate  2 T  of ginger root into 2 c of boiling water.  Drink straight or add lemon and/or honey.

A Week in the Life of a Foodie

February6

IMG_0351

I knew that some cash was going to be spent on dining out this week, so I started the weekend off on a frugal note.  I made what we call Refrigerator Soup.  My husband keeps turkey broth in the freezer, so I threw in some chicken for protein and whatever veggies and herbs were in the fridge/freezer.  In addition, I cleaned out my bread box and made croutons which is one of my fav snacks (when you are craving salty).  If you’ve never done this, here’s my recipe:  melt  1/4 c of butter with a 1/4 c of olive oil and mix in 1 T of dried chicken soup stock (or garlic salt but not both).  Toss with cubed bread and spread onto a single layer of an edged baking sheet.  Bake at 375 for 15 minutes and check.  Depending upon the quantity, if not quite browned, stir and bake another 5 minutes or so.

IMG_0353 That night was Cafe Dario for dinner.  Instead of giving my nephew a cash wedding gift, we treated them to a night out with us.  We had a lovely visit and no one had to cook.  I had been to the Cafe for business lunches many times but never for dinner.  The Cafe features a five course dinner for $35.

We started with escargot “El Diablo” simmered with mushrooms, and tomato and covered with melted provolone.  IMG_0358We also tried the mussels and clams cooked with bacon, beer and Serrano chilies and the chipotle BBQ basted elk ribs.  The soup course was a delicious French onion and the salad had a fresh mint sesame vinaigrette dressing (I could have eaten a bowl of it with a spoon).  For entrees we tried the beef tenderloin with chimichurri, the porcini crusted rack of lamb with chocolate mushroom sauce, the bacon wrapped venison loin with brandy blackberry coli and the bacon wrapped chicken breast stuffed with jalapenos and cheddar and served with a cilantro crema.  The dessert was a little piece of tiramisu.  We chose an Argentinian Malbec to accompany the meats.  A delicious and wonderful evening.
Cafe Dario on Urbanspoon

IMG_0364For lunch during the week, I met a friend of mine on the second floor of Deluca’s. I had a lovely visit with a stranger that I shared a table with as I waited for her to arrive.  I chose the pizza covered with olives, roasted red pepper and artichokes and a tossed salad with extra red onions. My friend had the homemade soup and salad.  We were both stuffed for $15.  I also had the opportunity to go out for a last minute Dim Sum date at the Dim Sum Garden.  In my opinion this is the best in Winnipeg and I have been to their location on Rupert Ave. a hundred times.  IMG_0370I especially love their sticky rice and  shrimp dumplings.

I ended the week on a frugal note again and found some frozen hamburger patties in the freezer.  I wanted to go easy on the carbs and get my veggies in,  so we had a huge mushroom cap topper instead of the top half of the bun.IMG_0386

The Pleasure is all Mine

February4

I chatted about my post yesterday with a friend who directed me to one of her favourite food books that was neglected from my list.  This clever book is written by Suzanne Pirret and is a  a combination of recipes and a narrative about being single and wondering why eating alone has gotten such a bad rap.

I quote:  “This is a book about cooking for yourself decadently.  There are serious cookbooks written by serious chefs and light and breezy cookbooks written by wholesome cooks.  This is both.  It’s naughty and doesn’t take itself too seriously.

Each chapter begins with a short story based on my experiences living in New York, Los Angeles, Paris and London followed by my repertoire of recipes that have been inspired by modern classics, some great chefs, my travels and, I might add, a far amount of successful experimentation.  They’re all for one serving and written in a fairly simple style….Think solitude at its most celebratory. ”

My friend tells me that these recipes are so delicious she still cooks from this book now that she’s is an old married lady (celebrating her first anniversary this weekend).

This is her favourite:

Not Suzanne's Version

Not Suzanne's Version

“Best Mac “N” Cheese

Nothing fancy or weird.  This is the real deal.

Cook a c of elbow macaroni in boiling salted water with a little oil added.  Meanwhile , in another saucepan, make a bechamel:  melt a T of butter, whisk in a T of flour and cook until bubbly.  Add a c of cold milk and continue whisking until thickened,  Season with salt, white pepper, a nice pinch of hot chili powder and some chopped fresh thyme of flat-leafed parsley (or just a simple grating of nutmeg).  Stir in a cup of grated cheese, such as a combo of white and yellow cheddar, or some parmigiana and/or Emmental-whatever you favourites might be.  You have a lot oif choices.

Drain the pasta and toss into your bechamel.  Spoon into a small casserole dish, sprinkle with toasted fresh or panko breadcrumbs, place on a baking sheet and stick in a 400 degree F oven until golden and bubbly, about 15 minutes or so.

Drink whatever you want.”

I would respectfully challenge my friend to a mac and cheese cook off.  My family loves my version adapted from The Best of Bridge.  You decide.

Gourmet Mac and Cheese

A delicious Mac and Cheese from The Lobby on York

A delicious Mac and Cheese from The Lobby on York

Cook and drain 2 1/2 c macaroni and set aside. Melt 1/4 c butter over medium heat; stir in 1/4 c flour; mix well. Add 2 c milk and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until sauce thickens. Add 1 t salt, 1 t sugar (sounds strange but just do it!) and 8 oz. grated cheddar cheese. Mix well. Mix 2/3 c fat free sour cream and 1 1/3 c cottage cheese into sauce. Mix with macaroni. Sprinkle another 2 c grated cheddar cheese and 1 1/2 c bread crumbs over top. Dot with 2 T butter and sprinkle with paprika. Bake at 350F for 45-50 minutes. Serves 6.

Food for Thought

February3

Last night my friend (honourary sister) instant messaged me about the book that she was just finishing.  It is called The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister.  I replied with the cliche that great minds think alike as I had already reserved it the library (a) to save paper b) because I’m frugal).  I messaged back with a title for her Hungry Woman in Paris by Josephine Lopez.

One of our fav Paris pics- Sacre Coeur from the Musee D'Orsay

One of our fav Paris pics- Sacre Coeur from the Musee D'Orsay

Then there all the Maeve Binchy tiles:  Quentin’s (about a restaurant), The Scarlett  Feather (about a catering business) and The Night of Rain and Stars (about a restaurant and Inn on a Greek Island).  I have also read the entire Isabel Dalhousie Series by Alexander McCall Smith including Friends Lovers Chocolate .  Isabel’s niece owns a gourmet deli in Edinburgh and Isabel and her partner are always cooking up herb and leek omelets with crisp chardonnays.  So too: The Number One Ladies Detective Agency Series including The Full Cupboard of Life where Precious Ramotswe often starts her day with cup of red bush tea and a  sit on the porch to watch the sunrise and then a walk around her little garden.  Ah-a woman who truly knows what pleasure is.  The series is so food focused that there is now a accompanying cookbook.  “In Mma Ramotswe’s Cookbook: Nourishment for the Traditionally Built you can sample the sumptuous stews for sharing, fabulous fruit cakes for eating under shady trees, with red bush tea of course, and the spices, traditions and culture of Botswana that make every meal together special.”

Everyone thinks that Under the Tuscan Sun is about weekends in Positano and sexy Italian men because of the movie adaption.

Perched in Positano

Me Perched in Positano

When in fact it was an amazing non-fiction depiction of Frances Mayes’ love of celebrating with food.  She even included recipes at the end of many chapters.  Her next  book Bella Tuscany included not only her favourite recipes but the dining excursions that she made around Italy with her new husband.  In her not yet released book Everyday in Tuscany “she’s stirring the reader’s gastric juices with luscious tales from the table or tendering a descriptive nugget that holds fast in the mind’s eye.”

I also love Marlena de Blasi who has worked as a chef and as a food and wine consultant, and also lives in Italy, where she plans and conducts gastronomic tours of its various regions. I’ve read four of her  memoirs—That Summer in Sicily, A Thousand days in Venice, A Thousand Days in Tuscany and The Lady in the Palazzo

And last but not least:  Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert and her just released Committed which is also on my list.

The District-by my first Guest Blogger: Denise

February2
A foodie with a conscience…not as great as it sounds
Here are some things to know about my foodie background. I come from a rather large french family who plans meals weeks in advance. I’ve been groomed to savour food, finish your plate and enjoy the amazing culinary experiences brought before you by aunts/moms/grandmas. Much like Kath’s family, we show our love through sharing great food!
During the week I’m fairly laid back in the kitchen; nothing to complicated unless both Doug (editor note: her Doug is Doug #2 as my Doug is Doug #1) and I are home. But usually once a month we book a “grown up” date with our favourite foodie couple to try out a new restaurant. This month we decided on “The District” in Winnipeg’s exchange district.exchange-district-winnipeg-lg One of Doug’s good friends is a manager there, and after he was done work he sat down to dinner with us to show us some of the highlights of this great restaurant.
Having opened just over a year ago, The District is a unique downtown dining experience.3842514277_f3e987739f Dinner is served in an open, airy room that feels elegant but still comfortable. We started with a lovely red wine (which of course I will never remember the name of, but apparently we really liked it judging by the number of bottles we drank).
For appetizers we tried an amazing Berkshire Pork. I love the way their menu is laid out, and basically tells you all of the elements of the dish you’re about to try.
Ex: Berkshire Pork
Confit belly lemongrass ginger poached granny smith apple
brioche french toast smoked walnut maple puree!
That’s right, Pork and French Toast…a match made in heaven.
We also went for the appetizer special of the evening which was a simple but delicious bison ravioli. To die for. Something to note is that pretty much everything in this place is made in house, and usually fresh that day.
I was torn between the halibut, but ultimately went with something that I would never usually consider in a restaurant: rabbit. Here is what the menu described.
Rabbit
black olive roma tomato braised leg
smoked loin pearl barley risotto cumin roasted carrot (substitute for asparagus because cooked carrot is about the ONLY thing I can’t stand).
I was staring at my menu thinking “how often am I going to have the chance to eat a well prepared piece of rabbit. If I’m going to form an opinion about this type of meat, I might as well try it in an upscale restaurant paired with my favourite side dish (i LOVE risotto).
So, I ignored the slight nagging voice in my head (and the voices at the table teasing me for my ethical dilemma) and went for it. The meal came, and despite my friend sitting across the table wiggling her nose in bunny fashion at me, the meal was amazing. The risotto was creamy and done perfectly with big chunks of chorizo in it, and sauce that came with the rabbit was beautifully done and featured a lot of Mediterranean flavours.
3842514291_861a71c875We finished the meal with a yummy desert and then headed to the lounge side of the building for a night cap and some pool. The lounge is across the hall, and what a beautiful room it is! Deep red walls, paintings of jazz musicians and big comfy leather chairs invites you in to the warm atmosphere (we lost track of time which resulted in a very tired me for work the next morning).backroom
I’m still feeling pangs of guilt for eating a rabbit, but it was something that i had to at least try. Being a city girl I’m slightly removed when it comes to my dining choices, but I think this meal made me take steps in a positive direction to understand and be thankful for where my food is coming from.
So there you have it…meaning found behind a meal and a fabulous downtown restaurant that I would highly recommend to Winnipeggers looking for something different!

The District on Urbanspoon

« Older EntriesNewer Entries »