Friday, March 20, 2015

Taking It Slow

Slow Cooker French Onion Soup

I've always been a fan of french onion soup and its gooey cheese crust and toasts soaked in that rich, savoury broth.  I can't remember my first time tasting it but know that I used plenty of packaged versions whipped into sour cream to make the best chip dip ever.  Maybe I used one of those packages to actually make into soup and enjoyed it, because I do recall trying to make it from scratch with a friend when I was probably about ten years old.  I doubt a recipe was used and the beef stock was some powdered kind that my mother had in a jar.  I remember standing on a chair to have a better vantage point over the top of the soup pot and pouring a lot of that brown stuff in. Although we enjoyed it, it was a super decadent concoction, and we knew it as it was going down.  Neither of us felt very good after, and the next day, my friend gave me a rather candid report of exactly what it did to her guts.  It's taken me about thirty years to try making it again.  I'm happy to report that no gut wrenching pain came out of this one, but only tummy loving pleasure.  What inspired me to make it again was a slow cooker version from Chatelaine magazine.  Being on spring break, it's been all about taking things slow, and getting back into home cooking.  This recipe fit into that perfectly.  And, taking it slow never tasted so good. 

Recipe for Slow Cooker French Onion Soup (Makes 4 servings):

  • 1.75 kg cooking onions, thinly sliced (about 14 cups)
  • 3 tbsp butter, cubed
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 4 1/2 tsp all-purpose flour
  • 3 tbsp vermouth or dry white wine
  • 900 ml beef broth*
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 demi-baguette
  • 1 tbsp butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups grated gruyere or emmental

Place the onions, cubed butter and salt into your slow cooker and season with freshly ground pepper.  Cover and cook on high until onions are soft and dark brown.  This takes about 4 to 5 hours.  Then, stir the flour in until well combined and add the vermouth or wine.  Scrape down the sides and the bottom of the pot.  Add the broth and water, then cover and cook on high for another 1 and 1/2 hours.  

Position an oven rack in the top third of your oven.  Preheat the broiler.  Cut the bread into 8 slices of a 1/2 inch thick.  Butter both sides and place on a baking sheet.  Broil each side for about 1 minute or until golden. 

Place 4 oven safe bowls onto a baking sheet.  Ladle the soup into the bowls and top each with two toasts.  Sprinkle them generously with cheese.  Broil for about 2 to 4 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly.  

*I used bottled organic Better Than Bouillon beef base this time around - none of that powdered brown stuff ;o)

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Holy Macarooni

While thumbing through Ferran Adria's cookbook, The Family Meal, I was rather taken by one recipe in particular.  Among all the dishes laid out in the book, this one I knew I could do.  And though it required baking, a skill I am still developing, I was certain it couldn't be that hard.  The appeal and the confidence came from the fact that this recipe was only three ingredients long.  They say good things come in threes.  

Recipe for Coconut Macaroons (Makes 15):
  • 1 cup unsweetened dried coconut
  • scant 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Mix the coconut and sugar in a big bowl.  Beat the eggs with a whisk and stir the eggs into the coconut mixture.  Mix with your hands until even. Use your hands or a teaspoon to shape the dough into walnut-sized balls.  Bake for 13 minutes or until slightly golden.  

Sunday, February 13, 2011

My Heart's Aflutter for Cocoa Butter

Valentine's Day is on the horizon, and as an ode to this day of romance, I thought I'd share my love for all things chocolate.  On a recent trip to Edible British Columbia on Granville Island, I happened upon a most exquisite box.  Inside were carefully handcrafted Vanilla Salt Caramels created by Vancouver pastry chef and chocolatier, Wendy Boys. I could not resist, and really there was no need to. These chocolates are every bit as tasty as they are gorgeous to look at, and even better shared :o)

May your Valentine's Day be a sweet one!

For more information about Wendy Boys Chocolates, visit:  
To find out more about BC's food scene, and locally crafted products, visit: 

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Presto. Cilantro Pesto

I've always wondered what to do with that extra cilantro sitting in the fridge.  Most often after one use I end up tossing it, which is a terrible feeling for a person who absolutely cannot waste.  This time around I couldn't bear to let another good bunch go bad, so while it was still perky and green I tried to imagine creative ways to put it to use.  This pesto recipe was the inspired dish.  Basil pesto is awesome but because the taste is so familiar, replacing it with cilantro is a completely refreshing familiar taste.  The lime gives it a light tanginess, and the variety of nuts give it great texture. Cilantro also has the benefits of containing antiviral, antibacterial and antioxidant properties (among many others), making it an ideal germ fighter for this winter season.  And because there is no cooking involved, pesto is incredibly quick to make.  Easy, tasty and healthy are all good in my books, and now in my recipe book too :o)
Recipe for Cilantro Pesto 
  • 1 large bunch of fresh cilantro, washed and dried thoroughly (about 3 cups, loosely packed)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3/4 cup mix of *pine nuts, walnuts and almonds (or any one or two of them)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • salt to taste
*I like to use raw nuts but roasted are fine too.

Roughly chop up the cilantro leaves and stems.  Put all the ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Delicious with pasta, in a sandwich, as a dip or served over fish or chicken.  Makes about a cup and a half.  

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Getting Baked

Ghoulish Goodies from the Baker's Market

The Vancouver Baker's Market is now on and I'm so glad I made it there relatively early in the season.  After getting my first taste of its offerings, I'm already planning many trips back.  Situated inside a warehouse in an obscure part of East Vancouver, it takes a bit of effort to locate, but once there you find a welcoming space with clean white walls that make the perfect backdrop to the multitude of colours on display.  The space is not huge but well-stocked with tables practically poking out the door.  There is a good selection of vendors selling a wide variety of goodies, but not so many that it feels overwhelming at all.  The set-up encourages you to stroll slowly by each table, chat with the bakers and of course, sample.  I found it almost impossible not to buy everything I tasted.  Because there is a variety of sweet and savoury treats, it's easy to get something for your meal and dessert.  I ended up buying a multigrain Epi loaf, numerous kinds of cookies, marshmallows, macarons, and macarons filled with marshmallow!  

One of my favourite tables was Joyful Confections, which featured cupcakes and decorated sugar cookies.  They had pretty packaging, and I just loved their Halloween themed cookies.  Along with ghost and skull cookies, they also had creepy headstones, and candy corn designs.  They looked very professional, and their cookies were perfectly sweet.  

My other favourite table belonged to Buttercup Cake Design.  Unfortunately, save but one, all of the goodies from that table were eaten too fast to photograph.  But the Peanut Butter Marshmallow lollipop is not only visually awesome, but tastes amazing, and the Fleur de Sel Butter Caramel Macarons are crumble in your mouth gooey sweetness, with the perfect touch of saltiness.  Serious magic in your mouth.  

The Baker's Market is aptly titled "The Sweetest Event in Vancouver", because that it truly is.  I hope you get there soon to fill your belly with goodness, and to support your local baker.  This season's market goes until December 11th and is every Saturday from 11am to 3pm, with free admission.

Visit the websites below for how to get there and for more info:  

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Something Fishy

Chinese-Style Steamed Fish

I can often be heard heralding the praises of my mother's cooking.  It's hard not to.  I've had the extreme fortune of being fed restaurant-worthy dishes filled with what is known to be the main ingredient of all great food:  love.  My mom is a self-taught cook, her skills being fueled and honed by a keen sense of taste, observation and of course, passion. There are no recipes, only instinct. There have been many occasions when I've said to myself that I must start recording her recipes.  Between ambitious ideas of videotaping her in action (cooking show-style) and creating a cookbook, making it happen just hasn't happened.  But I have come to realize that some kind of recording is happening in the form of osmosis.  For all the years of helping out and being around the incredible aromas of her kitchen, her recipes have become a part of me.

I first came to this realization a number of years back while living in a small town in Quebec. It was a desperate situation - no authentic Asian food!  Instead of settling for sad substitutions, I opted to try making a dish that was simple enough to replicate, but could still conjure up feelings of home:  Chinese-Style Steamed Fish.  With a sense of disbelief, my attempt tasted a lot like mum's.  Now, having recreated a number of my mother's recipes, I can certainly give credit to osmosis, but perhaps I've had the genuine luck of inheriting some of her instinct, too.

My version of my mom's Chinese-Style Steamed Fish:
(For this recipe, you may have to tap into your own instincts, as I eyeball all measurements.  Just like mom!)

You will need:  Halibut (wild-caught Pacific Halibut is the most sustainable choice), oil, ginger, garlic (optional), green onions, cilantro and soy sauce.    

Finely slice the ginger/garlic and put into a small saucepan.  Pour just enough oil to cover, and gently fry over medium-low heat until golden brown.

Put the fish in a ceramic or stainless steel dish and place whole strips of green onion on top. (You can also julienne the green onions and place on top of the fish after it's steamed, and before you pour on the oil.)

Steam the fish until opaque and flaky in the middle. (Use a fork to twist the centre of the fish.  If it separates along the grain, it's done. The general rule is to cook for 10 minutes per inch of fish.)

Pour out all the liquid from the steamed fish. Generously spread fresh cilantro on top. Drizzle the hot ginger/garlic oil over the fish, and then immediately dash on the soy sauce, according to taste.   You should hear it sizzle.

Best eaten with steamed rice, and if possible, with your mom at your side :o)

Monday, September 6, 2010