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Most nights, dinner is predetermined – by recipe testing, leftovers from a photo shoot or radio column or some such, or some transformation of ingredients that need using up. Over the past decade or so we haven’t had the opportunity to fall into a sort of mealtime routine – or rut. We don’t really have our usuals. On tired nights, we wind up eating eggs and toast or spaghetti, which is often just the thing. Tonight, after a late night and long day of cousins and playing in the river and birthday cupcakes, the only thing I wanted to make was a call for takeout – but after eating close to my weight in ice cream that wasn’t surviving the hot afternoon in a cooler, I didn’t want to get sucked into multiple dishes. What I did want was tangy-sweet and noodle-y, and so with ground pork in the freezer and a plethora of noodles avalanching from the cupboard, I made a batch of dandanContinue reading

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I love it when a tub of cooked lentils and bowl of leftover rice in my fridge inspires me to leap out of my usual routine. (Wait, do I have a usual routine? Mike likes to say we never get the good stuff twice – as in, I’m always testing and experimenting and cooking things out of season or pre-holiday for magazines that come out two seasons from now. Peaches in January and pomegranates in July.) That said, I do have culinary habits I too easily fall into. I didn’t shake them completely; I love turning cold rice into fried rice (a vehicle for just about every other leftover in your fridge) and so kind of morphed fried rice and mujadara – a Lebanese rice-lentil-onion-cumin dish that isn’t much to look at on the page, but is so much better than the sum of its parts. Typically the onion is caramelized and the the rice and lentils cooked pilaf-style in the pan with lots ofContinue reading

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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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A woman I didn’t know walked up to me at the coffee shop this morning and said, “pork belly!” And I was like, yes! Pork belly! As if it made perfect sense as a sort of salutation/introduction to our imminent conversation. She was British and wanted to know where to get some – it’s not exactly a mainstream cut in these parts, where you’d be hard pressed to find any piece of pig with the skin still attached. For crackling lovers, this is a problem. If you’re a fan of crispy bits and can find yourself a slab of pork belly, knowing how to cook it will make any carnivores in the immediate vicinity very, very happy. (Presuming you plan to share, that is.) It’s a cinch to cook, and a prime example of what happens when you take a good piece of meat and apply heat. So simple. To be honest, this belly never even made it to the table – we just stoodContinue reading

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Here’s a quickie for ya – this was one of those impromptu meals I had no intention of documenting, until it turned out as delicious as it did. It was a means of chipping away at the contents of my freezer in order to transfer everything to the new fridge, and a garlic sausage was the first to make its escape. When Mike and I were younger – newly married and past the novelty of Eggos and Hamburger Helper (the things my mom smartly denied my sisters and I as kids) for dinner, I decided that since he was of Ukranian descent, I should make him big panfuls of kielbasa and cabbage. Though he had grown up on nothing of the sort (think KD and Twinkies – his family didn’t even like peroghies) he loved it (must have been in his blood), but at some point I got distracted and forgot how delicious it was. And then my friend Elizabeth went on a trip toContinue reading

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Yes, gluten-free corn dogs. Because historically the Stampede has been a no-eat zone for my celiac friends, who should be able to enjoy midway food too. My friend Kerry owns Care Bakery, a gluten-free purveyor of baked goods that now supplies restaurants across the city with gluten-free alternatives for their pizzas, burgers, dogs and sandwiches. Her buns are so great (truly), they had to have special pans made that bake their logo right into the bottom of each bun so that customers can double check that a mistake wasn’t made in the kitchen. So we got to talking last week about gluten-free corn dogs, and being the food enthusiast she is, she went home and whipped up a recipe, then ate five for quality control purposes. It’s very similar to most classic formulas; as with most gluten-free doughs, it’s generally best to use a combination of gluten-free flours (ie corn, rice) and some starch in place of the omnipresent wheat flour to make it keepContinue reading

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Bourbon pork tenderloin Collage
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Things are growing around here – no doubt because the regular rain showers interspersed with blasts of sun is taking care of the garden more consistently than I ever have. And having previously lived with a sad and severely balding back lawn, ravaged by kids and peed on by dogs, we’ve managed to bring it (almost) back to life with copious quantities of grass seed and a strategically placed monkey statue, rescued from a friend’s flooded basement and brought home to clean, to keep the birds from eating all of it. (The seed, that is.) Which is all to say it’s worth sitting in the back yard again this year. I was craving something sticky-sweet and grilled, preferably something made of pig, something like ribs, only leaner but no less sticky. Molasses and bourbon did the trick, along with fresh garlic and ginger and grainy mustard and soy sauce for saltiness. Molasses is often overlooked for savoury dishes, but I find myself using it moreContinue reading

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When W was still a baby, just starting to pull himself up to toddle around the coffee table, he skipped directly from fruit and veggie purees to grown-up food, going straight for a platter of ribs at one Sunday barbecue and never going back. I have photos of him sitting out in the grass in his swimmers, happily knawing on a pork rib in the sun, sauced from ear to ear. This is how I feel when I get to eat ribs – carefree and happy, loving the opportunity to eat with my fingers, and usually covered with sauce. W will still choose ribs if he has any say in dinner. It’s on the top of all our lists, but best eaten when it’s warm enough to sit in shorts and flip flops, leaning in over the rib in hand, letting any drips land on the grass, then washing up in the sprinkler afterward. Ribs are the ultimate summer food, best served in the greatContinue reading

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Bangers & mash 1
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We turned on our furnace today. I put on wooly socks, which discouraged me from jamming on my flip-flops. Also? It’s getting dark out already. It’s 6:30. My psyche is all shook up. Onions and garlic are at their best right now. Fat, sticky cloves I’ll miss in the bleak midwinter, when my stash runs out. They make great sweet, vinegary jam you can keep in the door of your fridge to glop on grilled cheese, serve with roast chicken, or dollop alongside bangers and mash. To make bangers & mash, roast fresh sausages in the oven or on the stovetop while you simmer cubed potatoes. Mash them with butter and a splash of milk, and if you really want to be authentic, make some gravy out of the sausage pan drippings (if there are any). Serve sausages atop mashed potatoes, with onion jam.

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