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One year ago, I spent a sunny afternoon cooking in my friend Susana’s back yard, with her mom and grandma. (OK, mostly they cooked, and I watched. And then ate.) Every year, one day late in the summer, they pick up cases of Taber corn and get together to make large quantities of pastel de choclo – Chilean corn-topped beef pies in the style of shepherd’s pie. They do it out in the backyard when it’s still sunny, giving them space to shuck dozens of cobs and cut off the kernels, which are then mulched in the food processor with sprigs of fresh basil. I don’t know why I never thought to do this – the result is this creamy-sweet pale yellow mixture, brightened with bits of basil, which I was perfectly happy to eat raw by the spoonful. If you haven’t taken a bite of a good cob of corn raw, try it! ‘Tis the season. Pastel de choclo is made with a baseContinue reading

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Cabbage rolls are not trendy, nor instagram-worthy. Some might call them dated, even though their doughy tablemates (peroghies) bask constantly in nostalgic adoration (even by those who did not grow up with Babas making them). I forgot how much I love them until my friend Dorata, who has been doing my hair for something like 20 years, and is one of the best cooks I know, brought me a plate with a few delicate Polish-style cabbage rolls as I sat with my hair under the dryer, and they were some of the best things I ever ate. I’ve never actually made them myself, and so I gave it a go for the radio this morning. I don’t expect to nail anything straight off the bat, especially not having had relatives telling me how and how not to make them. I texted Dorata, read a bit and went from memory, and came up with something that, in my mind, is a pretty delicious cabbage roll –Continue reading

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I partnered with Jarlsberg to bring you this cheesy goodness. I’ve seen mention of patty melts here and there, and each time I see one I wonder why it is not number one on my all-time favourite foods list. A mash-up (truly) of grilled cheese and burger – two of my favourite things, yet mysteriously missing from restaurant menus (at least in my vicinity), and not something I’ve clued in on enough to attempt to make of my own accord. I’ve been meaning to rectify that, and Jarlsberg came along and gave me reason to finally jump in. A patty melt, if you’re unfamiliar, is an American thing – I’m not sure of its origins, but won’t bother Wikipedia-ing it because it doesn’t much matter – all that matters is that onions are caramelized, a burger patty is smash-cooked in your skillet afterward, and it’s all piled between two slices of bread (to make it grillable) with plenty of meltable cheese to glue the wholeContinue reading

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-27 with the windchill in Calgary today, not making it feel at all like spring as we approach daylight savings time and spring break. But! We’re taking comfort in the fact that new microbreweries are popping up all over the place, one just a couple blocks from our house, and that lagers, stouts and ales are perfect for simmering with beef to make the ultimate cold-weather comfort food: beer and ale pie under a puff pastry lid. This is what parka season is all about – warming yourself from the inside out. To make a beef and ale – or Guinness – pie, start by braising the beef with onions, your choice of brew, stock and a pinch or sprig of thyme – I like to add a glug of Worcestershire and a spoonful of tomato paste or puree as well, and a shake of flour to thicken the lot. (A note on browning beef with flour: most recipes call for you to douse theContinue reading

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If I had to choose a favourite place to be, most days I’d pick in the kitchen with people. My own kitchen, when friends are packed into the nook rather than spreading out into the rest of the house – or my parents’ when everyone is over and attempting to tag team on dinner or brunch and collectively get the cousins fed. But I really love being invited into someone else’s kitchen, especially a person or family with a history of dishes outside my usual repertoire (not that I really have a usual), who have been making certain dishes for years to feed their families, who cook for people so often they have drawers full of portable Corningware to fill and send out the door, like Dilshad and Rozina. (I try to adopt a lot of my friends’ moms, aunts and grandmas.) Dilshad and Rozina – the mom and aunt of a friend and also sisters who live together with their husbands, who are brothersContinue reading

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We don’t wait for lunar new year to make dumplings around here – they’re one of W’s favourite foods, and long ago we started filling and pinching them together. It’s not as difficult as it looks, a great way to spend 20 minutes catching up with someone you love, and little fingers are particularly adept at manipulating the soft dough. In the end, it doesn’t matter how you seal them – fold them in half like a peroghy, twist it into a little topknot, pull up the corners and make a tent, add a couple pleats or don’t. As long as they’re sealed, they’ll cook up just fine and taste wonderful. (Kids will come up with tiny packages you’d never have thought of.) There are, of course, millions of ways to fill a dumpling – essentially you start with ground meat (pork is very common, but some are made with beef, chicken, turkey, shrimp or veggies) and season it with soy sauce, finely chopped greenContinue reading

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Meat on a stick. Anything beefy that can be eaten with your fingers and dragged through tangy-spicy peanut sauce I’m on board with. This is what happened recently when I dug through the deep freeze in search of something that could be cooked quickly. Occasionally I have a flash of insight, picking up beef when it’s on sale and quickly hacking it up and freezing it in a bag of marinade while we unload the groceries. A marinade can be anything, really – often I just go to town with an open fridge, pouring in OJ, soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger and garlic, something sweet like honey or brown sugar, something acidic like lime juice or balsamic. Plain yogurt that needs using up makes a good vehicle for flavours and spices, even a lob of curry paste. I try to convince myself it’s a good idea to label before tossing it in the freezer to marinate while in stasis, and the resulting package lies inContinue reading

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Apologies for the plain photo, but this is what real life looks like – W was hungry (OK, we all were), and to be honest I didn’t plan to share this until I got several requests on Instagram. People like sloppy lentils! It was a last minute, just-drove-home-from-Edmonton-and-rummaged-through-the-freezer dinner, with a small handful of red lentils thrown in to boost fibre and other good things. Dry split red lentils cook quickly and mask themselves perfectly, soaking up the sweet-vinegary flavours of sloppy Joe sauce – no one has a clue they’re there. (If you like, you could use canned brown lentils instead – they work just as well.)

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Prime rib seems so 1990s steakhouse, and it’s something I rarely think to make at home, but when we do I never regret it. It can be a bit of a spend – $50 for a chunk of meat seems exorbitant and reserved only for the fanciest of occasions – but when you think about it, it’s less than we’d likely spend ordering pizza or hitting Swiss Chalet on the way home from Christmas shopping. This relatively small two bone prime rib fed all of us plus my parents, with leftovers. And it provided a perfect excuse to make Yorkshire puddings. I know when you invest in a prime rib you don’t want to screw it up, but the good news is, after you practice the blast-it-with-heat-and-then-leave-it-in-the-oven-for-two-hours-no-peeking method, you’ll be confident in your ability to cook a prime rib whether it’s for a special occasion dinner (like, if everyone is kind of meh about turkey) or just a regular Wednesday. You can call your parentsContinue reading

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