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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Beef Stew

This beef stew is one of my favorites beef stews out there.  Instead of just stewing beef, Nick often makes it with beef ribs and prime rib chunks that bring so much more flavor and much thicker then other beef stews because of all the bones and fat.  Easy to assemble in the morning, and then just set it and forget it till dinner!  Bake a batch of biscuits (if we're lazy we just use a tube of Pillsbury) to go with the stew for dinner, and you've got a hearty meal.  
Serves: 4-6
approx prep time: 15min
approx cook time: 7 hours

- 3 to 4 large beef ribs, with as much meat on them as possible. (If the ribs you can get are a bit on the lean side, add in about 1/2lbs of stewing beef or a strip steak diced into 1 inch cubes)
- 1 large potato
- 1 medium size sweet potato
- 1 large carrot or 1 handful of baby carrots
- 2 celery stalks
- 1 red, orange or yellow pepper
- 1 handful of fresh green beans or sugar snap peas
- 1 large onion
- 1 beef bullion cube
- 1/2 cup all purpose flour
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp oregano
- 1 tbsp vegetable seasoning
- 1 tbsp seasoned salt
- 1 tbsp Italian seasoning

- Chop potatoes into 1.5" cubes, leaving the skin on the potato, but peeling the sweet potato first. 
- Chop vegetables into 1.5" cubes (leave peas and baby carrots whole).
- Dust all ingredients lightly with flour.
- In a slow cooker, combine all ingredients. I suggest placing the beef ribs in the bottom and stacking/cramming the vegetables on top. When the slow cooker is roughly half filled, add the beef bullion cube, seasoning, and remaining flour.
- Once full, pour in approx. 1/2 to 2/3 of a cup of water.
- Cover and cook on low for 7 hours. Do not remove the lid until the last hour of cooking.
- When cooked, remove beef bones, and stir thoroughly.
- Serve hot and with a side of biscuits (optional). 

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Black Tomato Ottawa

Location: 11 George Street, Ottawa, ON K1N 8W5, (613) 789-8123

I've been traveling to Ottawa for work for over 5 years now, and this is what I've learned:  Don't trust websites that say this is the best "Japanese food" in Ottawa, or best "Lebanese food" in Ottawa, because it's very likely that there's ONLY one sushi restaurant and ONLY one Lebanese restaurant in Ottawa.    It's sort of like telling your only sibling that they are the best sibling you've got.  That sibling just wins by default!!!    Well in all fairness, this isn't entirely true because we did see 2 sushi restaurants in Ottawa.  In any case, while researching what to eat in Ottawa, sometimes I just came to that consensus.

Throughout the years, I've always came back to my favorite haunt in Ottawa.   That would be The Black Tomato in Byward market.  It is housed in a wonderfully old building and has great atmosphere and music.  It's changed throughout the years, this time, I think it expanded into the lot next to them.  However, they always supported local farmers, their dishes were simple but delicious, and other then sometimes being very busy during dinner time, I've always enjoyed having dinner with a friend or companion whether or not it's at a perfect dimly lite table that made everyone look more attractive, on the patio, or at the bar when I was eating alone.  Best of all, the prices were reasonable, Lunch was between $10 and $17 dollars, dinner was anywhere from $12-$25.  The food always came out piping hot and fresh, the salads were crisp.  They cooked food like they cared.  Here's what we ate:

Fresh knotted buns with sesame seeds (complementary) with whipped herbed butter
The butter didn't taste like anything, but the knotted bread was hot and fresh out of the oven, fluffy and chewy. I always look forward to this starter.

Trillium Meadows wild boar and Maison du Gibier bison simmered in Big Dog Porter with roasted potatoes

This was absolutely delicious, while there was more wild boar then bison, this stew was exactly what I needed after a long weekend of very cold days and nights.  The stew was flavorful, the Big Dog porter definitely made the dish thicker and more flavorful, the potatoes were a tad more undercooked that I'm use to, but still delicious.  The slices of toast that came with the stew were amazing, just a little crispy on the outside, moist and fluffy on the inside, it was basically a larger version of the knotted bread starter.  What a steal at $16!  Most restaurants I've been to in Toronto/Montreal/Quebec City charge an "exotic" markup for game meats.  I will definitely get this again.

Lyons Family Farm smoked BBQ chicken served open faced with red onion & Glengary Lankaaster house-smoked gouda

Nick ordered this dish.  This smoked chicken was divine, I had no idea chicken could taste like that, it was lightly smoked and sweeter, even though I think the caramelized red onions and the BBQ sauce did help with the sweetness.  Nick thought the Gouda cheese was too mild for this sandwich, he felt the sandwich overpowered the cheese so he couldn't taste the cheese.  I thought it's a nice pairing as that means the cheese wouldn't over power the wonderful flavors of the chicken and the caramelized onions.  The salad was pretty standard, though I thought they poured too much olive oil on it.  The potatoes were the same slightly underdone that what we are use to (we're not use to crunchy potatoes), but they were still good.

Peanut butter Pie $5

This tasted exactly like peanut butter with whipped cream and cream cheese. It was a nice dessert, but it wasn't as mind blowing as I thought peanut butter pies could be.  Frankly I thought putting whipped peanut butter and melted lindt chocolate on to my french toast (recipe HERE)  but this pie was still tasty and a great end to a really nice lunch.

Overall, I would always come to The Black Tomato again.  They don't have an extensive menu, but what they do have they try to do well.  I definitely will go there again.  :-)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Paillard Café-Boulangerie Quebec City

Located:  1097 Rue St-Jean, Quebec City, QC G1R

Quebec City this weekend was cold.  It was -10 to -12 C, with the wind, it feels like -19 and -20.  It was absolutely freezing.  I was wearing TWO pairs of pants and I was still cold.  It's definitely not a winter vacation spot, I've learned my lesson...which is, ONLY go to Quebec City in the summer.  With that said, we were there anyways, and it was very pretty and european there.  If it wasn't as cold, we'd have a lot more fun wandering through the tiny streets and stores, beautiful old buildings and churches.  I mean, we still had fun this weekend, however, we also had to take measures to not get frostbite.  Vacations are better when you don't have to worry about body parts turning blue and possibly falling off.  :-P

However, on our journey to warm back up from being out and about in the cold, we stumbled upon a french Cafe chain in Quebec called Paillard.  They had the most amazing pasteries, and their gelato and sandwich stations looked really delicious as well.  The place was packed full of french speaking locals, which is the first sign that the place is actually good and not a tourist trap.  The prices were more then reasonable as they were larger, fresher, tastier and cheaper then Premiere Moisson in Central Station Montreal.  I didn't know there was a patisserie that would be able to beat Premiere Moisson but Paillards did.  Too bad it's in Quebec City and a good 3.5 hour train ride away.  

Here is a review of all the wonderful pastries that we were able to fill our bellies with:

Mille-Feuille ($3.75 ea) also known as a Napoleon.
This is the BEST mille-feuille I've ever had.  The vanilla custard cream was light, fresh and the perfect hint of sweetness.  The pastry is so light, airy and flaky it's to die for, and the raspberry jam bottom layer adds the perfect tart contrast to this perfect dessert.  We ate 2 of these in 2 days.

Almond filled flaky pastry ($1.95 ea)
Oh how I wish this were available in Toronto, even though that would mean I would be eating these from breakfast to dinner time and be twice as big.  Paillard definitely has one of the best flaky pastries I've ever had the pleasure to taste.  The ground almond center was perfect, not too sweet, hint of almonds, and just so delicious.  I purchased one for brunch, Nick had a bite, and he had to go buy one for himself, then I went back to purchase another one so I could eat it on the train.  We ate 3 of these in day.

Muffin ($1.95 ea)
This was the very last Blueberry muffin they had, Nick had to point it out as the lady at the counter thought they were all gone.  I can see why they would go so quickly.  It was delicious, filled to the brim with blueberries.  They are definitely not skimping on the ingredients here.  :-)

Cranberry walnut cookies ($1.95 ea)
These were almost like a large shortbread round of cookie stuffed with cranberries and nuts.  It was incredibly buttery, filling, and delicious.  Nick had to buy 3 of these for the train.  They were just as good the next day.  

I could eat at Paillard's all day.  Their breads also looks amazing, they have a Gelato, sandwich and soup station as well.  If we had room in our stomachs after stuffing ourselves full of pastries we would've tried that.  The quality is fresh, mindbogglingly amazingly delicious and place is packed full of locals.  I can't wait to go back to Quebec City in the summer to eat here again.  :-)

Monday, February 21, 2011

Grindhouse Burger Bar Toronto

Location: 365 King Street West Toronto, ON - (416) 977-3010

Gourmet burgers seem to be all the rage these days.  It's the ability to up sell your typical $5 burger with lots of different toppings and charge extra for everything.  Nick loves burgers, well, he makes a mean burger and mini burger.  Most burgers served any where else then "Chez Nick's" tend to disappoint and be lacking.  He recently went to M:brgr, known for their $100 burger, and he said that place was overpriced and disappointing.  About a week after his visit, the Globe and Mail newspaper published this terrible review of M:Brgr which just confirms that we will never go to that place again.

However, this review wasn't about M:Brgr, it's about Grindhouse, located at King and Peter st, it's another of many gourmet burger joint that just popped up in the same area as of late.  My good friend Karen and I had tickets to the opera at the Four Seasons Centre.  We needed a quick meal before the show and thought we would try this place out to eat and Nick came with.  The place was decent, it had a small storefront, but the restaurant was quite deep.  We were seated and the atmosphere was relaxed.  We ordered a selection of burgers....

Nick ordered a Signature Beef Burger ($7) with Double smoked house bacon ($1.75) and cheddar ($1.75).  The total burger was $10.50.  The bun was just a tad too small for the burger, the bacon was flavorless, and the burger patty was too small for his liking.  He would not get this again.

Karen ordered a Wild Boar burger with mixed greens, grilled onions, mushrooms and goat cheese ($12).  She really enjoyed it.  The bun was toasted on all the burgers, which was a nice touch and added a lot more barbecue flavor to the burger.  The wild boar patty was gamey, but flavorful, and definitely the largest patty from the 3 burgers we ordered.  Which is odd, burgers should all be the same size.  If I were to come ere again, I'd definitely order the wild boar burger. 

I ordered the Kangaroo burger for $14.  It was the most expensive burger on the menu, and came with sliced beats, a slice of tomato, lettuce and a fried sunny side up egg.  The meat was well seasoned, and didn't taste that gamey, I thought the wild boar tasted more gamey.  I really enjoyed the creamy texture of the egg yolk with my very lean kangaroo burger cooked to medium.  I can't really say what kangaroo tastes like, it doesn't taste like beef, or bison, or venison, it is mild red meat.  My only complaint is that because the bun was a tad on the small side, everything kept falling out of the burger and it was a huge mess.  I had to finish this burger with a knife and fork.  So considering the entire point of a burger is to eat it with your hands, this is a slight burger fail.  However, it was so tasty I'd get this again.  Or next time I should fry an egg to put on top of our own homemade burgers.

Lastly, since we were all not too hungry, we only ordered these Onion Rings with Seasoned buttermilk batter ($4), it came with their own homemade aoili.  The dipping sauce was tasteless, it was really just liquid fat.  The onion rings were quite good though, very crispy, well seasoned, the portion was small but I would get these again.

All in all, it's not a bad gourmet burger joint.  I do like the particular game meats, the prices were decent, and as long as you don't get their signature beef burger and try the weirder stuff, I think it's worth a look.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Sausage and Leek Cornbread Stuffing

We love this stuffing.  It eats like a meal with so much vegetables and the Italian sausage.  Nick and I were lucky enough to get a few boxes of La Brea Bakery Cornbread stuffing but any corn bread crouton would do.  

Sausage and Leek Cornbread Stuffing
approx prep and frying time: 30min
approx oven cooking time: 45min

3 Tbs. Extra-virgin Olive Oil
1 Medium Yellow Onion, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
2 cups of thinly sliced leeks (white and light green portions)
1 tablespoon of chopped fresh sage
1/2 tsp. of salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1lb of dried cornbread croutons
3 to 4 cups of chicken or turkey stock, warmed
1.5 lbs of mild italian sausage (Casings removed)
1/4 cup of chopped fresh flat-leaf (Italian) parsley 
1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese

1) Preheat an oven to 375 degrees F (190 C)
2) Add the oil, onion, celery, leeks, sage, salt and pepper and saute until soft and translucent for 10 to 12 minutes.
3) Transfer cooked mixture into a very large bowl.
4) In the same pan over medium-high heat, cook the mild italian sausage, breaking the sausage into large chunks, until brown, for about 8 to 10 minutes and transfer into the bowl with the onion vegetable mixture.
5) Add parsley into the bowl.
6) Stir in the stock 1/2 cup at a time, making sure it is completely absorbed into the croutons and does not pool in the bottom of the bowl.  Keep adding stock and mixing until the crouton is moist throughout and not crunchy or mushy.  You may not need all the stock.
7) Transfer the prepared stuffing to a 3 quart baking dish.
8) Cover with aluminum folk and bake for 20 minutes.
9) Remove foil and continue baking for another 20 minutes.
10) Sprinkle cheese on top of the stuffing and bake for another 5 to 10 minutes until the top is golden brown.
11)  Serve immediately.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Double Dipped Strawberries

Happy Valentines day!  Most people associate roses with Valentines day, but I have zero appreciation of flowers.  I do however, have an appreciation for anything chocolate.  So what better day to post this crazy easy but Valentines day worthy recipe then on V-day for all you last minute folks.

You know I love dipping things in chocolate, especially fruit. I have a special collection of Godiva white chocolate mini bars reserved not for eating on it's own, but SOLELY for dipping berries in.  These double dipped strawberries are always elegant, the mixture of dark chocolate and creamy white chocolate brings out the best in a strawberry. 

Use good quality white an dark chocolate for best results.  My favorite is usually Valrhona or at least Lindt Dark chocolate and Godiva white.

Double Dipped Strawberries
approx prep time: 10min
approx chill time: 20min

100g of Lindt Bittersweet Dark Chocolate Bar (approx 8-10 pieces)
2 bars of 43g mini bar of Godiva white chocolate
1 lb of strawberries (washed and dried)

1) Line plates with parchment paper or wax paper
2) Break dark chocolate bar into chunks and crumble into a bowl.  Microwave dark chocolate 30 seconds at a time, stirring after each 30 second interval, until chocolate is just melted and smooth (do not overheat, chocolate can burn).
3) Dip one side of the strawberry into chocolate and place on wax paper.
4) Put in the refrigerator for 20 minutes or until the dark chocolate has hardened.
5) Peel off the dark chocolate dipped strawberries and repeat steps 2-4 to dip the other side of the strawberry with white chocolate, shake off excess chocolate (or don't, if you like more chocolate).  :-)
5) Serve cold, don't let the dipped fruit come to room temperature.
6) Store leftovers (if there are any), in sealed containers in the refrigerator. 

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Fried Chicken, Coleslaw and Parsley Mashed Potatoes

The coleslaw in this recipe was store bought, as it's just too much work to make it only to eat a tiny bit with one meal.  The fried chicken is simple to make and definitely an easy favorite!
Serves: 2
approx prep time: 20min
approx cook time: 30min

INGREDIENTS (Fried Chicken): 
- 2 chicken breasts
- breadcrumbs
- seasoned salt
- Cajun seasoning
- 3/4 cup canola oil

- Butterfly the chicken breasts, so that you have one large piece of chicken, of roughly even thickness.
- Lightly wet chicken with water.
- Place chicken on a large plate.
- Sprinkle chicken with bread crumbs, seasoned salt, and Cajun seasoning, flip over and cover the other side.
- Pour oil into a large pan (Cast Iron is preferable, but stainless works as well, I recommend against using non-stick for this), until the oil is about 1/8th to 1/4 of an inch deep. Bring this up to temperature over medium heat.
- Cook the chicken in the now hot oil, for about 2-3 minutes on one side, flip, sprinkle with some of the leftover breadcrumbs. Cook 2-3 minutes on the other side, flip, and sprinkle with leftover breadcrumbs. Cook 2-3 minutes, and flip one last time.
- Remove chicken from pan and let sit on a paper towel for 30 seconds to one minute before serving.

INGREDIENTS (Parsley Mashed Potatoes): 
- 3 large white potatoes
- 3tbsp butter
- 2tbsp chopped fresh parsley
- 1 clove garlic (finely diced, or pressed)
- 2tbsp shredded Parmesan cheese
- 1 small onion

- Chop potatoes into 1/2-3/4 inch cubes
- Finely dice onion and set aside
- Boil potatoes in water for 25-30 minutes
- After potatoes have cooked for about 15-20 minutes, add diced onion to the water and allow to cook with the potatoes for the remaining 5-10 minutes.
- Drain, and add parsley, butter, garlic and Parmesan cheese and mash until creamy.
- Serve hot, on it's own or topped with a light dusting of cheese.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Chocolate Dipped Potato Chips

Potato Chip, meet Chocolate.  An unlikely and weird pair, but an oddly delightful couple.

The first time I saw chocolate dipped potato chips was in the Narita Airport in Tokyo.  There were 8 chips carefully packaged in a plastic container that separated them and kept them from being crushed, then encased in an elegant black box.  They were also about 1200 Yen (which was about $13-14 Canadian dollars at the time) in which I made me jump and say, "Yowsers!", and then carefully place the box back on the shelf as if it was a glass vase, and backed away slowly.  I thought if I dropped the box I would break them and then I'd have to buy them.

A year later, the idea lingered on, that I could probably make them myself by buying a bag of chips and melting Lindt dark chocolate, and so I did just that.  The result: Crunchy, Salty, Sweet, Chocolaty,'s bite sized happiness right there.  :-D  Anything dipped in chocolate is tasty...I've yet to prove myself wrong.

Chocolate Dipped Potato Chips
approx prep time: 10min
approx chill time: 20min

12-15 whole rippled potato chips (I prefer thick cut potato chips so that they don't break as easily)

1) Line 2 plates with parchment paper or wax paper
2) Break chocolate bar into chunks and crumble into a bowl.  Microwave dark chocolate 30 seconds at a time, stirring after each 30 second interval, until chocolate is just melted and smooth (do not overheat, chocolate can burn).
3) Dip half of one side of a potato chip into chocolate, shake off excess until you can see the ripples through the dipped chocolate, and place on wax paper.
4) Put in the refrigerator for 20 minutes or until the chocolate has hardened.
5) Serve cold, don't let the chocolate dipped chips come to room temperature.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Extra Beefy Pasta Sauce

There's pasta sauce, and there's beefy pasta sauce.  This one is definitely the beefcake of pasta sauces.  It's thick, has the consistency and thickness of chili, and slow cooked to bring together all the flavors.  A welcome hearty meal on a cold winters day.

Serves: 6-8
approx prep time: 15min
approx cook time: 6 hours

- 2 lbs extra lean ground beef
- 1 can crushed tomatoes
- 1 can tomato paste
- 1 large onion
- 2 or 3 stalks of celery
- 1tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 cup water
- 2tbsp dried oregano
- 2tbsp italian seasoning mix
- 2tbsp dried parsley flakes, or 1/4 cup fresh parsley (finely chopped)
- 2 cloves of garlic

- Peel and finely chop garlic
- Dice celery and onion into small to medium size pieces
- In a slow cooker, combine all the ingredients.
- Mix thoroughly.
- Cook on Low for 6 hours or high for 4 hours, stirring once or twice in the last hour of cooking as well as right before serving.
- Server fresh right over your favorite pasta, and top with cheese.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Roast Beef Jambalaya

When Nick makes a large slow cooked roast beef and there's leftovers, we always figuring out what we can do with the mound of leftovers.  There's always roast beef sandwiches with jus dip (which is excellent), and grilled roast beef sandwiches, but that's more like a lunch rather then a dinner.  The solution?  Roast beef jambalaya.  It is hearty and made with leftover roast beef and lots of vegetables, and most notably bacon to give the entire dish a slightly smoky flavor, this is a flavorful rice jam packed with vegetable and beefy goodness.

Serves: 6-8
approx prep time: 20min
approx cook time: 45min

- 1 handful fresh sugar snap peas
- 1 large Red, Yellow or Orange bell pepper
- 1 Zucchini
- 1 medium size white onion
- 2 spring onions
- 1 cup uncooked white rice
- 2 cups leftover roast beef (recipe here), shredded or cut in chunks
- 3 strips of bacon
- 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 bottle of Tomato Sauce or Pasta Sauce
- 1tbsp Vegetable Seasoning
- 1 clove garlic
- 1tbsp olive oil

- Cook the rice according to the directions on it's packaging.
- Dice vegetables (Onion, Peas, Zucchini, pepper) into medium size pieces and set aside.
- Finely chop green onion and very finely chop garlic.
- If you're using a leftover roast beef, chop the meat into small chunks or pull it apart into small pieces.
- Cut bacon into small pieces.
- When the rice is almost ready, heat a large non-stick fry pan over medium heat.
- Add oil, onion, green onion and garlic, cooking for approx. 2-3 minutes, stirring often.
- Add bacon, cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add remaining vegetables and seasoning, cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally
- Add roast beef and cook for another 1-2 minutes, stirring once.
- Add rice, pasta/tomato sauce, Parmesan cheese, and if desired additional seasoning or salt/pepper.
- Mix well, and cook for 2-3 minutes on low.
- Serve hot!