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This is a combo I never would have thought to try. But when you buy a watermelon the size of a small animal, you start seeking out new uses for it – usually this is not a problem, as watermelon is a popular snack around here, and makes for a fine smoothie or all-fruit slurpee (its high water content makes it easy to puree) and I’ve been known to make a batch of watermelon-mint mojitos and watermelon lemonade. It turns out it makes a fascinating addition to hummus – it lightens it, making it taste fresh and almost juicy, rather than heavy and creamy from the olive oil and tahini. Not that there’s anything wrong with traditional hummus, of course – but I found the combination of fresh watermelon and cilantro and spices made it a brighter, summery version of the usual, and easy to plow through with thin tortilla chips on the patio with a pitcher of fruity sangria.

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If you’ve ever been out for dim sum, you’ve likely bitten into some xiao long bao – soup dumplings filled with a nugget of seasoned pork and a burst of warm soup. It’s a staple of Shanghai cuisine and something most people don’t make at home, likely because it’s no easy feat to get soup inside a dumpling. Except that it is – when the stock is chilled and gelled. You add a cube or two of flavourful chicken gel along with your filling, and it reliquefies as the dumplings steam. It’s like molecular gastronomy before that was even a thing. I was lucky enough to visit Richmond, BC last weekend – it’s part of the Metro Vancouver area, up around the airport – for a couple days of eating with some people in the know. I need a little hand-holding when eating my way around a city with over 400 Asian restaurants, with 200 of them contained within a 3 block strip. With theContinue reading

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People often ask me what pizza dough recipe I use. The truth is, most formulas for pizza dough are the same – flour, yeast, water, olive oil and salt. The key ingredient not many recipes call for is time. Yeast doughs are a lot like people – the longer it’s alive before it’s baked, the more character it develops. Which means mixing up a batch of dough on Thursday if Friday is pizza night will make all the difference in the world. Let it hang out in the counter, on the fridge – wherever it won’t get into any trouble. Punch it down when it needs taming. The next day, you’ll see its potential in the stretchy bubbles interspersed throughout the dough. Which I apparently took no photos of, I was so preoccupied with the stretching and the topping. And the chilling of the wine – do you know this trick? Wrap a bottle in wet paper towel and put it into the freezer toContinue reading

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cauliflower fritters 2
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I know, it (kind of) defeats the purpose of eating cauliflower to deep fry it and serve it with lemony mayo. (Then again, if you’re going to eat fried food, you may as well get a cauliflower out of it.) Parka season = beer batter season, right? And when everyone has planted themselves on the couch for a hockey game or movie or rousing game of Munchkin, they inevitably want to eat something. And I like it when that something can fall simultaneously into multiple categories: 1) salty, 2) dippy, and 3) edible with fingers. (And truly, a platter of crudites and dip never gets a welcome response on a snowy Saturday night.) Cauliflower florets have a lovely creamy texture and mellow flavour, but if you’re like me, once you have a bowl of batter and a pot of oil at your disposal, you may go a little nuts, deep-frying anything you can find in your fridge. (I imagine a zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced,Continue reading

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How about a little pastry and cheese on a stick to ring out the year properly? These babies were inspired by a need to use up the puff pastry in my freezer and cheese in my fridge, as well as the myriad of little jars of preserves selected especially for cheese and half eaten over the holidays. Of course the idea of eating the combination off a stick came from Joy, and if I know myself (sometimes I wonder if I really do) I know I won’t be able to shake the thought until I make them come to life, as it were. The great thing about puff pastry (or one of many) is that you can unroll it, or roll it out, and fill it with just about anything – meltable cheese, preserves, leftovers, you name it – and it will puff up and turn flaky and golden as it bakes and look fantastic – and make you look fantastic.

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candied pecans 2
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Someone asked me for this recipe the other day, and so I did as I usually do – Googled it on my own blog, as if I were flipping through a recipe box. And it didn’t pop up. I searched, even in the sad, unmaintained index (sorry about that guys) and couldn’t find it. Could it be that I’ve never shared this recipe? One of our most loved, decades-old, party nibbles ever? That even my 24 year old nephew, who otherwise subsists on Mr Noodles, burgers and Sriracha, has mastered making from scratch? These are, hands-down, the best spiced nuts I know. They’re sweet-tangy-salty-rosemary-y, and perfect for nibbling, for giving, and for chopping to throw over salads. They’re super easy to make, and lovely as a gift. If you’re going to hand over $15 for a bag of pecan halves, this is the very best way to treat them once you get them home.

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(I’ve been a tad obsessed with vintage cookbooks lately – especially those from the fifties and sixties, with their overuse of food colouring and vivid food photos. Although there are no frankfurters or gellies here, don’t you think this photo could be circa 1963?) I was on the road for a chunk of last week, talking on TV about local cheese and the myriad of ways it makes people happy during the holidays. Cheese is generally the focal point when people gather at our house at this time of year – almost always melty, and in enormous quantities. I tend to fall back on the usuals – goat cheese with warmed herby, garlicky olive oil, a skillet fondue, baked brie with maple-pecan praline and the omnipresent homemade Raincoast crisps – but among the recipes we made was a butter chicken tart, smothered in Gouda. That’s right.

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Blooms on apple trees are like ripening avocados – notreadyyetnotreadyyetnotreadyyet – BLOOM! One day they explode from their buds, and then the next day the wind picks up or the rain washes all those little white petals away. All over the deck you just finished staining – with sticky, oily $50-a-pail stuff that says right on the label “do not paint if weather is threatening”. But we did anyway, and then we invited some friends over for Prosecco and bourbon lemonade and summery nibbles on said patio, namely this goat cheese with warm garlicky-pepper-herb olive oil that takes approximately one minute to make. And isn’t it pretty? My friend Gwendolyn makes this with her family every Christmas Eve – to her it tastes like Christmas, but to me it tastes like awesome – and perfect for summer when pots of fresh rosemary and thyme are sitting on my windowsill. I like to put a few sprigs in a little jar with some peppercorns and aContinue reading

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ham-mushroom-tart-1
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My youngest sister is a really fantastic cook. She’s a total cake boss and makes other delicious things, like baked yams with piles of butter and brown sugar, roast hams with wedges of Bosc pear, and this mushroom tart, which made an appearance at the last few family dinners and was so good I would have gladly forsaken the turkey (and the stuffing, and the mashed potatoes) for it. It’s a rich, dense, cheesy-creamy-buttery tart – the sort every 80’s quiche aspires to be. If I called this a ham quiche, it wouldn’t do it justice. It deserves more words. It’s no quiche Lorraine. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

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