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Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Travelling East With Crappy Food

Changing planes in Toronto after a 4.5 hour flight, a fancy Fionn MacCool restaurant stared at me right next to my connecting gate. I went in with excited anticipation of delicious Irish stew. What I got was 6 Tbs of factory made steak and mushroom stew, covered with 3 Tbs of dried mashed potatoes. Veggies looked gorgeous but all tasted interchangeably bland.

I get to my room late dreaming of yummy roomservice east coast specialties at the fanciest Halifax hotel.

Atlantic seafood chowder was heavy white cream packed with frozen vegetables that are badly cooked. There were 3 prawns, 3 mussels and one scallop.

The main dish was even worse. The menu stated Atlantic Salmon that is baked, seared, with mango sauce, OR blackened. I asked for it seared but what I got was a seared, blackened, overly peppered AND covered with mango sauce. 

Served with 3 thin carrot slices, 3 asparagus stalks and bland, undercooked rice. 

Leaving Halifax on the last day of fresh lobster season, a lobster roll was in order at an airport restaurant. 

I seriously think my taste buds are gone. It was bland, heavy, and the lobster tasted like pieces of gelatin.

No wonder I cannot stand business travel...

Monday, 30 May 2011

More Jardin Lettuce

Ten days ago I plucked the first season of green butter lettuce (see First Jardin Crop of the Season). Tonight it was the reddish lettuce that is loving the rain we had and growing out of hand.

But a special crop like this needs special dressing, so the same issue of Bon Appetit with yesterday's recipes was sourced for a simple Dijon Vinaigrette.

No, that is not a picture of a piece of modern art, it is the beautiful looking vinaigrette.

Mix the following in a blue bowl:
- 1 Tbs fresh lemon juice
- 1 tsp (German) dijon mustard
- 1 Tbs white wine vinegar
- 1 finely minced garlic clove

Then gradually whisk in 1/4 to 1/3 cup olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper and enjoy.

This can be made 3 days ahead and covered and chilled in the fridge.

Served with frozen left-over vegetarian lasagna (see May 13 entry for recipe).

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Perfecting Roast Beef

Look at this perfect medium-rare roast beef -  from a recipe in Bon Appetit June edition.

It starts with the right piece of meat. The recipe called for a top sirloin or strip loin roast. My butcher recommended the strip loin roast, and gave me the right sized freshly cut piece.

Windsor Quality Meats
4110 Main Street
Vancouver, BC

Then it was easy - season with salt (I used Murrary river sea salt flakes) and pepper. 

Heat 1 Tbs olive oil in a roasting pan, brown roast on each of the four sides (2 minutes per side), then roast in a 425 oven for 40 minutes.


The same issue of Bon Appetit had a Spinach Gunge recipe to use instead of creamed spinach.

A mixture of spinach wilted in butter, then blended (via an immersion blender) with 1.5 cups parmesan cheese, 1/4 cup creme fraiche, salt, pepper and 1 tsp dijon mustard.

Like gunge, it was gooey and runny, but definitely not slimy; worth the try.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

A Cake for All Senses

Special day, special gift...

An Anita cake - a gift that brings all fives senses alive.


Carrying this beautifully wrapped package, holding it delicately, was the launch into the five senses' dessert indulgence. This continued with the unwrapping, carefully maneuvering the plastic wrap not to disturb the beautiful frosting.


Once unwrapped, the smells engulfed you.

If I had the strength of a cat's nose, the fondant extracts would be the first to smell. Beyond that, you don't need a cat's nose to absorb the chocolate and butter aroma wrapping up the full cake.


While your nose is guiding you to the chocolate icing, your eyes fixate on the design on top of the cake.

An old map unwraps to show... hmmm? A road? The closest line to meeting of hearts? A river? Or is it a peninsula? The beauty of sight, to see what one's hearts desire.


It is difficult to describe something that tastes so good. An old-fashioned basic cake - most likely flour, eggs, butter, milk, vanilla, I don't know. But the taste is so special, bringing to mind cakes my mother used to make for us as we grew up.

The chocolate butter icing is thick and light, bitter and sweet, all at the same time. Delicious.


Surprisingly enough, this cake catered to our hearing sense too. The crunching sound of the gold sugar shavings on the icing resembled water trickling down a tiny stream, or is it a light fire in a fireplace?

Friday, 27 May 2011

The "It's Not A Birthday" BBQ

Coal photography courtesy of artist Tomoyo Ihaya

Despite monsoon rains all morning, a hail storm early afternoon, the (not a birthday) BBQ must go on. The Gods obliged and it went on with no drop of rain all evening.

Everything you can think of to go on a grill was on it tonight. There were Japanese rice balls with miso-mirin sauce. There were eggplants, zucchini, red and orange peppers marinated with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Everybody loves Haloum! so a mix of Cypriot and Lebanese Haloum cheese were grilled. 

Fresh BC prawns soaked with lemon-butter and Murrary river sea salt flakes sauce, grilled to perfection.

The compromise for those who like and not like chicken wings were chicken drumsticks marinated with garlic, fresh thyme from le jardin, lemon juice and olive oil for a slow perfect cook.

Jumbo scallops took eternity to cook, but were worth the wait, that is for those guests who loved scallops.

And the almost somerville kitchen summer ritual now - Korean BBQ marinated beef (which were turned around in their marinate every 12 hours the past three days). More on those at Korean BBQ

And one cannot imagine a special birthday party at somerville kitchen without Anita Cake. This was a Marble Lemon Blueberry butter cake with lemon buttercream frosting -  voted by those Anita Cake experts as the best they have tasted to-date.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Sfoof (or Turmeric Anise Squares)

Sfoof are one of the most addictive Lebanese sweets. They are those beautiful yellow square cakes packed with turmeric and anise and sprinkled with pine nuts.

Other than the sugar content, they are low fat, almost cholesterol free, and filling enough that you don't have to eat many (as long as you don't get addicted).

And best of all, they are quick and easy to make. Here is my mom's recipe, and you don't have to be Lebanese to master it.

6 cups flour
1 Tbs anise powder
1 Tbs turmeric
1 Tbs baking powder
1 cup half half olive oil and vegetable oil
3 cups sugar dissolved in 1.5 cup warm water

Mix all ingredients together, the dough consistency should be like that of a cake.

Pour into a baking pan that is greased with vegetable oil and sprinkled with flour.

Sprinkle pine nuts on top and bake in a 375 oven for 40 - 45 minutes.

When cool, cut into squares and indulge.

They keep well for few days in a tight container or tin. My mom also freezes them (which I am experimenting with half this batch). 

Between myself and friends dropping by, the other half disappeared within 48 hours.

Too lazy to try this? Make a barter offer and I will bake some for you -

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

The Perfect Croque Monsieur

One winter night, I was hungry at a hotel in San Francisco. The restaurant's room service came from a French restaurant. Given that Croque Monsieur originated in France, I figured they will serve a really good one. While they tried to make it the elaborate way - coated in Mornay sauce, they (a) coated it with a cheese/egg batter and (b) deep fried it. This is what I had.

Back in Vancouver, I was determined to find me the perfect Croque Monsieur. The first challenge was locating places that have it on their menu. I shortlisted two kitty corner hangouts on Main Street and 21st that offered it.

Shaktea's Croque Monsieur was made with Black Forest ham along with emmental cheese that the French use for this. The sandwich was enhanced with a touch of German mustard and organic Lapsang Souchong dressing. Heavenly!

The competition, on the other hand, offered me a baguette with ham and the shredded pizza cheese (orange and white) you buy pre-packaged in supermarkets. The cheese was barely melted in the grilled sandwich. Thrown on a plate and served as Croque Monsieur!

Should I say more?

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Recycled Pasta

Those of you who read my Recylced Foods know that recycled at somerville kitchen simply means dressed up leftovers. 

A platter of cooked pasta from a previous dinner has been waiting in the fridge for an inspiration. Unfortunately, there is no pasta sauce jar in the pantry and no leftover pasta sauce.

The inspiration came from the vegetables' drawer.

Three quarters of a red pepper, 3 yellow tomatoes, snow peas. Add to that jardin dill and chives, and I have all I need to prepare a nice light pasta meal.

The vegetables were cooked slightly in a bit of butter and sprinkled with parmesan cheese. 

Given the colours, I wanted to trade mark this platter as African Pasta. Nineteen countries in Africa use those three colours in their flags. Those countries represent 73% of all countries using those three colours in their flags.

Okay, enough geography, this is a food blog. African Pasta was enjoyed with garlic bread extravaganza. 

Monday, 23 May 2011

Red Cabbage Festival

I have featured my ancient (well 25+ years is almost ancient) clay pot before (see links at end of post). And I continue to love cooking with it.

This recipe starts with baking red cabbage and apples for 45 minutes, then adding a pork roast to the vegetables and baking that.

The roast, soaking in the vegetables and cooking slowly, turns out moist and delicious. The meat is then served with the cooked red cabbage base.

And as if we did not have enough cabbage on the table, a red cabbage coleslaw was served (based on my special recipe but replacing regular cabbage with red one).

More clay pot related entries...

Sunday Dinner 
somerville kitchen on the Road 
Clay Pot Cooking 

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Chicken Fricassee Craze Volume 1

I first heard of, and tried, Chicken Fricassee on January 13 of this year (see Fancy Midwest Dinner). I have been craving making it since then.

Internet search yielded endless versions with nothing trustworthy. So I posted a call for help on Facebook and ended with two great recipes. I tried the first one tonight.

The recipe seemed to be fun to make. 

You could not go wrong with the sophisticated combination of flavours in which the chicken cooks - fresh marjoram and thyme (from le jardin), nutmeg, an onion with cloves stuck to it, a lemon, all in a red wine based broth.
And the whole process of making the meal was exciting. Add cream and flour to broth, whisk eggs in cream, inject some pureed tomatoes. I had a good time in the kitchen with this.

In St. Louis it was served with spatzle, which I had some dried ones handy. So at somerville kitchen, it was served over spatzle, along with corn and corn bread.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Cookie Factory

Since the launch of the Follow The Blog, Win Cookies contest, somerville kitchen public followers increased by 29%. As a thank you for following, each new follower in the month of May will receive a jar of cookies, no matter where you are.

So today, somerville kitchen turned into a cookie factory and started producing those cookies for the new followers.

New followers since beginning of May that I talked to personally - your cookies are ready.

Any new follower who I don't know, if you are interested in the cookies, please email me to

For all others, you still have ten days to enter the contest. Otherwise, here is the recipe and you can make the cookies yourself.

Cream 1 cup butter with 1 cup sugar and 1 cup brown sugar

Mix in 2 eggs & 1 tsp vanilla

Stir in 1 cup peanut butter, 2 cups flour, 2 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp salt

Roll into small balls, press with a floured fork, and bake in a 350 oven for 8 - 10 minutes.

Delicious, easy, but not for the waist size control types.

Finally, I want to thank Potluck Canuck Blog for continuously linking somerville kitchen to your blog. Amount of traffic to here from your blog is up there with Google and Facebook, so thank you. A jar of cookies is waiting for you.

Friday, 20 May 2011

First Jardin Crop of the Season

Our first sunny warm day of the season and the jardin vegetables just exploded. A dinner from, and in, le jardin was in order.

Dinner started with plucking a few large lettuce leaves.

These were turned into a light jardin lettuce salad, dressed with salt, lemon juice and olive oil.

And just for fun, the most mature radish was picked from jardin - very tiny (see that little red speckle in the middle of the salad bowl?), but incredibly tasty.

A BBQ was lit, a steak thrown on it, and the famous somerville kitchen french fries were prepared (these are getting better and better with the new powerful stove).

Even cats could not resist this great dinner.


Thursday, 19 May 2011

Macaroni and Cheese

Being an emigrant to North America, the concept of packaged macaroni and cheese baffles me. Why buy a box of powder when you can just melt some cheese over the pasta?

I tried a couple of brands before but the dark yellow sauce reminded me of melted plastic. So this time I went with a brand that includes white cheddar,but at 3 times the price of the standard brands.

It looked less melted plastic yellow, the shells were not as substantial as the tube ones  and the taste was okay.

One interesting recipe a friend of mine in Montreal used to make is boil macaroni, add Cheez Whiz and a can of beets, and mix all together. Now that is a beautiful rose coloured plastic dish!

I tried to pass the leftovers to cats, but he looked as baffled as I over this whole concept. 

Well, it was dinner, and a fun thing to blog about.