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Confession: I do not own a fondue pot. And yet there are few things better than a bunch of friends sharing a pot of gooey cheese. When people ask about my favourite food, my answer – not that I could possibly choose one thing – it would depend on the day and my mood/location/appetite and the occasion and season – is inevitably something that contains some form of melted cheese. (Most of the time.) It’s the sort of thing that elicits the most enthusiastic response when presented to a room full of people. And what’s easier to serve with beer and wine? It’s so universally loved, our annual Christmas party has a cheese theme – in no small part because I love having miscellaneous ends to nibble and turn into baked dips and mac and cheese all winter long. It’s a dream, of course, when someone requests that I take some Quebec cheeses for a spin, and ships me a box. We celebrated its arrivalContinue reading

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Last week at this time we were collectively stress eating – and cooking – me doing my best to distract myself in the kitchen, simultaneously trying to come up with something munchy-snacky-comforting we could eat on the couch in front of the TV, when this passed through my Instagram field of vision. A pile of nacho-style fried wontons topped with salty-sweet bulgogi beef, kimchi and cheese sauce. Brilliance? I think so. First of all: the crispy wontons, which are simply wonton wrappers, halved and fried in a shallow skiff of oil in a small skillet (you don’t need much – and they cook up in less than a minute) which transforms them into a delicious cross between cracker and chip. I am so keeping this technique in my back pocket for those nights when we need some salt and crunch with structural integrity – they would do well with a hefty, cheesy baked artichoke dip. Mental note.

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Somehow, it got to be November. For the past 14 years, I’ve spent this first week out in Jasper at Christmas in November, and I have to admit I’m going through some severe withdrawal. I made a list of things that have been hanging over my head for far too long to take care of with this time that would otherwise be spend driving/dancing/eating/spa-ing – organize the basement! organize the office! get teeth cleaned! sort out the garage while it’s still nice out! – but while I am making some progress, it wasn’t doing much to fill the hole left by the usual ten days of festivities. And so when I was asked if I might go pick up some things at Willow Park Village and make some party food out of it, I said hell yeah, immediately invited some friends over and went shopping. Willow Park Village is a bit of a haul south for me, but I spent a lot of time thereContinue reading

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Spring has been crazy early this year, and now so is asparagus – by like a month. They started picking mid-April at Edgar Farms by Innisfail, and the norm is around the middle of May. It’s a short window – they typically pick (by hand, from their own homemade motorized picking carts) from mid-May until the end of June, so at this time of year I eat as much asparagus as I can handle. Our sunny days and cool nights make for particularly sweet asparagus with purply tips – I know I’ve said it before, but just a reminder: thinner isn’t necessarily better. Thick stalks are every bit as sweet – you just don’t want the bendy and woody ones. And YES – they are fab on a pizza. You don’t even have to bother shaving them into thin ribbons, although that does look pretty. Toss them on whole!

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Food on a stick, right? Feels like summer. The thing I love most about satay is that it makes me feel on the ball – it provides an excuse to buy meat in a bigger (read: cheaper) package, then divvy it up, slicing half to freeze in a quick marinade that will protect it from freezer burn. It goes ahead and marinates in the freezer until you’re ready for it, and thaws quickly on account of already being in pieces. And then cooks in just a few minutes, too. Also? You can dip them in peanut sauce. I would happily dip a pencil in peanut sauce. I’m usually a thigh girl; skinless, boneless chicken breasts don’t do much for me, but they do work well here if you’re a fan. Chicken thighs have more flavour, but are trickier to work with – cut them into chunks or strips and thread them on any which way. There’s no need to keep them neat, and in factContinue reading

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I am a fan of the onion ring. Done well, they’re glorious things, crisp and golden, with a sweet onion that hopefully doesn’t slither out when you bite into it. I rarely order them, unless I know they’re going to be good – it’s a high fat investment for something sub-par. And I rarely make them at home, but once in awhile I do – when there are people around to share, and I have a few nice, sweet onions that I don’t want to smother in the bottom of a soup or stew. They’re simple to make, and you only need about an inch of oil in the bottom of a small pot – there’s no need to heat vats of oil or invest in a deep fryer. They’re cheap – and look what you get. Just-fried and paper towelled, showered with salt and brought straight to the table – with a quickly stirred together aioli of lemon juice, mayo and mustard – willContinue reading

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Veggies love heat – especially the intense heat of the grill, cast iron skillet or oven (or yes, deep fryer) that’s hot enough to caramelize their sugars (vs the heat of a pot of water, which historically has boiled poor Brussels sprouts to the point of being grey and spreadable). Quickly, crisply-fried Brussels sprouts are taking over restaurant menus, and I love them all. Roasting is easier to do at home, of course, although if you don’t mind i getting a bit splattery, you can do it in a shallow pan of oil. And so after W was invited to a friend’s house for dinner and we made an impromptu escape to Anju on Friday for gochujang wings, Korean fried chicken and Brussels sprouts in lemongrass and fish sauce that are so good, I rummaged around the fridge and came up with enough B. sprouts to give it a go at home.

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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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For the record, I’m not a football fan. I am, however, a fan of the gooey-cheesy-crunchy-dippy food that seems to accompany it, particularly during the playoffs. I couldn’t help but get all caught up in it. I read somewhere that we’ll collectively eat around 1.3 billion chicken wings today, and it occurred to me that a potato skin would make the perfect vehicle for buttery-peppery Buffalo chicken topped with melty cheese. So I combined the two. Potato skins are easy to make – start with smallish russets; their sturdy skins make the best vehicles for any number of fillings. (Traditionally they’d be topped with bacon, green onion and cheese, and you could go that route too.) Bake them as you normally would – baking them makes for a crisper skin than the microwave – then scoop out the flesh and load them up with leftover roasted chicken tossed in equal parts melted butter and Frank’s Red Hot sauce – the secret formula for most BuffaloContinue reading

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