30 September 2009

Calphalon Cooking Class -- Day 1.

Last night, I finished my four week fundamentals of cooking course at Calphalon. It was an absolutely amazing experience, and I highly recommend it if you live near a culinary centre (which are apparently only exist in Toronto and Chicago). It was an early birthday present, and worth every penny!!!

The class went through a series of cooking techniques, letting us cook several things in each class, trying out new methods (and new Calphalon cookware!). The ingredients were tops, the instructor Ian was fantastic, and the class participants were really ridiculously nice people.

Here's the instructors...Ian and Donna...

(This was at the end of a very hot and sweaty class! Tired, I am sure, but look how happy they were!!! Ian really had a great way of explaining things, and Donna was super great walking around and showing us how to do things correctly!)

When you show up for class, you are given a little "chef's creation" plate of food, and you sit at a work station and zen out. Here's my work station...

The first picture shows the set-up when we arrived. There's an apron, blue towel for clean-ups, and a tea towel to put on our apron strap to use for hot things, etc. The plate of food is that week's creation, which was a marinated eggplant and little salad. I forgot to take a picture, I was so nervous about the class!!! The second picture is the top of my binder and the burner. We had a series of bowls to use for mixing, trash bowls, etc. We each had two burners of our own, and our own pots, pans, and plates.

The way the class was set up really worked! Ian would talk about the thing we were about to prepare, and then we would bring a cafeteria tray up to the front of the room where our ingredients would be given to us to take back to our work stations. At that time, we'd drop off any used cutlery, knives, bowls, etc.

Our first task was fruit salad. We were learning knife skills.

There's our "fixings". Pineapple, melon, papaya, orange, kiwi, apple, honey, mint, and coconut. We started chopping and stuck it all in a bowl. We then served up as much as we wanted, stored the rest, and had our snack while the stir-fry was being set-up.

And there she is. Fruit salad. Ooh. Ahhh. In reality, it was a fun exercise. We had to section clementines!!! ACK!

From there we moved on to our shrimp and chicken stir-fry. It may sound crazy to you, but I have never made shrimp before!!! I was so nervous that I was going to ruin it! Here's our tray for that...

That's allota stuff! There was bok choy, chicken, shrimp, ginger, chili, soy sauce, chicken broth, veggies... and it was back to a chopping exercise. We used the wok, which was good, the Calphalon woks are really nice (but really expensive!). We marinated meat...

And then we chopped veg for what felt like hours...

And voila! Dinner!!!


And here's just a fun shot of Ian in action...

There are an army of pots and pans at the front of the room!

So this was the first class. We get little places at the front of the room where we can bring our dinner and eat while Ian and Donna straighten up the room. There's wine, beer and soft drinks available to order for a small fee (especially considering the very generous pours!), and everyone sat around and ate the fruits of our labours. I even ate some of the shrimp!!!

I was really excited about the next class... more to come...

27 September 2009

Mexican Fajitas...

There is nothing better than Mexican food. I mean, there are things just as good, Indian, Greek, Italian, hamburgers... but nothing, and I mean, absolutely nothing better than Mexican food.

And so, from time to time, we make Mexican food trying to live up to the ideal we have read in places such as Rick Bayless's stuff. So yeah. Fajitas. Not so much authentic, but oh so delicious.

We made a ton of veggies to have with it...

And we ate it all up and laughed with the joy of it all. Really really good.

You may notice that on that taco, here is a little bit of beautiful green tomatillo salsa that Gail made, as well as some of the queso fresco. We bought a big block of the queso fresco at the Mexican foods store in Kensington Market, along with the cheapest but most delicious corn tortillas. They are so lovely and delicious. Yeah for the fajitas.

G is up here at the top of this post with her nicely made fajita... Good times.

25 September 2009

New Shwarma Place...

The other night, G was craving shwarma and we couldn't decide where to go. Off we went to this newer place in our neighborhood, Wrap and Roll or something along those lines. Anyway, it's on Yonge Street just south of Maitland on the east side. YUM YUM YUM. This is a moment where I would say nom nom, if I were someone who didn't absolutely hate it when people say nom nom. But yeah...

See for yourself ...

Okay, so you may be asking yourself, what is all that?! It's salads galore, including lettuce, tabbouleh, pickled turnips, hummus, garlic sauce, meat shwarma and amazing amazing hot sauce! The hot sauce was so amazingly fantastic. It was hot, but not crazy hot, really tangy, with a tomato-y kick that wasn't at all ketchup-y. Potatoes...amazing amazing potatoes. Fantastic rice...

Truly a phenomenal shwarma experience.

Why are you waiting, you Torontonians? Get up and go keep these folks in business!!! (Two shwarma dinners with two soft drinks... less than $20. Yeah, so go on, get there, keep them in business...)

24 September 2009

Rick Bayless Meet Mesa Grill.

The other day after rummaging through the freezer, we realized that we had some frozen short ribs that needed to be eaten. G loves Rick Bayless and has a favorite beef short rib recipe of his that she has made in the pressure cooker before. (G loves the pressure cooker!)

And we decided to take our first stab at recreating the Mesa Grill corn loveliness that so many of you have been writing to me about! I am glad to know that we were not alone in our deep love of this beautiful corn dish...

But here it is...

The meat was fast cooked but tasted slow cooked due to being made in the pressure cooker. It had a lot of flavour and am amazingly rich sauce.

The corn... it was a good effort... baked in the oven (next time we'll use a grill pan), with a lovely squeeze of lemon, and crumbled queso fresco cheese. Not quite Bobby Flay, but really a good effort.

G also made an amazing guac to have with it...

And some delicious roasted tomatillo salsa with tomatillo salsa from our CSA box...

Gail has so graciously offered the recipe:

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa
Adapted from 15 recipes found on the internet but inspired by Rick Bayless

5-6 fresh tomatillos
1 jalepeno (or a similar amount of the fresh chile of you choice)
1 yellow onion
3 cloves of garlic - unpeeled
handful of cilantro

Turn oven on to high broil and put rack so vegetables will be about 4 inches away

Clean the husks of the tomatillos and wash them. Peel onion and cut into four relatively thick slices

Place garlic, jalepeno, tomatillos (whole), and slices of onion on a baking sheet covered in foil.
Put under the broiler. Cook until tomatillos start turning olive green and get the black, charred spots (about 5-7 min).
Flip everything over and broil for another 5-10 minutes until tomatillos are charred and cooked (the skins will burst). Onions are good with a little bit of char as well.

Take everything out. Peel the garlic and remove the top and seeds from the jalepeno.

Put it all in a blender and waz it up. Eat and be merry.

This was so amazing. We ate tons if it!!!

We're going to keep trying the corn. We'll get there, don't you worry yourself. It will happen. IT WILL HAPPEN. BOBBY FLAY, YOUR ROASTED CORN RECIPE WILL BE MINE....

23 September 2009

Shepherd's Pie -- A Delight.

BBC Good Food rules. It's home ec-y sometimes, but it also brings us some amazingly delicious ideas, such as the easy-peasy above pictured shepherd's pie. I absolutely loved it. This isn't an exciting post, but it was an incredibly fast dinner, with cut up carrots, peas, meaty sauce and meat with wonderful potatoes on top. I left out the parsnips. Blech.


It's really unfortunate that I have failed to post about Utopia before now. It's likely because I haven't eaten there in ages. Their food is good, but it's so unbelievably filling and it tends to be of a particular heaviness that G doesn't love. But me...

I love it!!!

I came home from work just craving a Utopia chicken pesto wrap and fries. So I begged a bit, and G relented. Off to Utopia!!!

Ahhhh.... chicken pesto wrap, fries, cole slaw. The chicken wrap/burrito is totally out of control. It's absolutely crammed full of chicken, cheese, pesto, salsa, delicious amazing goodness. Then it's all wrapped up and grilled until it's absolutely amazingly deliciously lovely and wonderful.

See for yourself...

Oh yeah, and mushrooms and loveliness and just-eat-it-all-now-because-it's-so-damn-good good. And the fries.

Let me tell you about the french fries. In my new diet state (and this sandwich was eaten ages and ages ago -- I am way behind in posting) I have realized that I will only eat stuff that's not the best for me if it's the best of the genre. So, these fries are way up there on the best of the best lists. Really really really really good. Solid on the outside, fluffy on the inside, deliciously seasoned, not breaded, really solid.

The coleslaw. No. It was a sesame coleslaw, and I didn't really care for it. Not so great. But the rest way more than made up for it.

So yeah, Utopia is the way to go if you are looking for not super expensive, but really delicious food, run don't walk to Utopia. (College Street in downtown Toronto.)

Utopia on Urbanspoon

The CNE.

G and I went to the CNE to see Bill Clinton speak. Which was excellent. Loads of fun. Dream come true. Etc. Etc. All good.

So with the Bill Clinton ticket came the opportunity to attend the Canadian National Exhibition. We had such a great time! G. had lots of fun playing a few midway games, looking at the rides, eating the food... and for her, no trip to the CNE is complete without a ....

CANDY APPLE! She bought it from a nice guy by the bridge to Ontario Place. G was quite excited and really enjoyed about half of it. The other half came home for a bit.

Before the candy apple, we had a big dinner... it was one of those blow-out fried food dinners that you know is about to go bad because you've just met with your cardiologist and you are starting on a diet the following Monday... but it was an amazing dinner! Absolutely amazing...

SCHNITZEL! Okay, I don't know why there are so many exclamation points, just deal with it.

The schnitzel had lots of cabbage on it, fried onions and peppers, and these absolutely amazing potato wedges. I enjoyed every single bite of it and although I felt ready to bust when I had finished, I was glad to have had the chance to eaten in the famous "Food Building".

04 September 2009

Strawberry Ice Cream

When faced with a glut of strawberries, and a much desired but seldom used ice cream maker, what's one to do but make strawberry ice cream?!

Here it is, churning away. This was an easy recipe... mix cream, milk and mixed strawberries with a little vanilla and some sugar, pour in ice cream maker, and stand back and watch the magic happen. It just so happens that the magic happens very very quickly when using frozen fresh strawbs, so it was instant gratification!

For the life of me I cannot remember where I read the recipe. Maybe in the cuisinart ice cream maker booklet? Loser memory, that's me.


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