Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Sautéed Escargots and Mushrooms in Butter, White Wine and Garlic...

We can all agree the classic combination of butter, white wine and garlic equals ridiculous deliciousness! But mesh two ingredients best served in this intoxication, and you've got eyes-rolled-back-of-head Heaven BOMB for your senses! Mushrooms check, escargots, check check! Tickled-fancy by an instagram post by @passionate.cook with their escargots and mushroom caps, sautéed with a little garlic, fresh herbs and topped over crispy baguette, I held back my drool and bolted out to the store. Not only did I make my own rendition with oyster and shiitake mushrooms, I made up a large batch that doubled up as a sauce over pasta (with diced tomatoes). An appie and a dish to enjoy my meal from beginning to end :D.

Escargots and mixed mushrooms over red pepper sundried tomato ciabatta. 

Sautéed Escargots and Mushrooms in Butter, White Wine and Garlic

2 tsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. butter

2 to 3 garlic cloves, minced
mixed mushrooms (I used oyster and shiitake (cleaned and stripped/sliced))
2 cans escargot, drained, rinsed and well-drained (about 36-40 snails)
1/3 cup white wine

a squeeze of lemon juice
salt and ground black pepper to taste
parsley, chopped
1 baquette, sliced and toasted

For the pasta:
2 ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 pkg. pasta (I used fresh linguine), cooked according to package instructions

Ingredients for the pasta sauce-- just add tomatoes!

Heat olive oil and butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté garlic until fragrant and soft. Add the mushrooms and cook for one minute while sautéing. Add the escargots, and cook for about another minute. Then finish with white wine and let simmer for another minute; splash with a squeeze of lemon juice then season with salt and pepper. Toss in parsley.

The harmonic aroma of garlic and white wine is intoxicating!

Scrumptious bite of soft yielding mushrooms and escargots over crunchy toasted bread.

Now for the pasta: move the escargots over in the skillet, add a little olive oil and sauté the tomatoes for a minute until soft. Mix it with the escargot and mushrooms, toss in more parsley and you've got a sumptuous sauce for pasta.

Looks so French and Italian at the same time... Oooh la la! :D

The dish that started it all with my love for plump canned snails-- Escargots au beurre d'ail, a popular French appetizer of snails in garlic butter baked in a six pocket ceramic dish. Yum!

Friday, July 14, 2017

DIY Hawaiian Poke Bowl...

Poke pronounced "POH-keh" is trend-setting the food scene in Toronto, and for good reason. First it was maki sushi-style burritos and now it's all the same fresh makings in a poke bowl. Healthy, delicious and customizable, this Hawaiian dish is a favourite for native Hawaiians and has been around for centuries.

Poking (haha pun intended) late at night on Yelp for interesting downtown restaurants my eyes immediately transfixed on images of eye-popping vibrant fresh poke bowls, and I couldn't help salivating. The gorgeous cascade of raw salmon and tuna cubes over rice with a heap of sublime avocado beautifully bespeckled by green onions and sesame seeds had my taste buds in yearning. Forget waiting to go downtown, I must have this the next day. Not much different than making DIY sushi rolls (which we have occasionally), I was gung ho to make it happen. The only concern was finding ripe avocados on the spot. And I scored-- for a price at $3.29 each, but what the hey, when inspiration strikes you do whatever it takes :D. While it may look complicated it really is super simple. Pick up fresh ingredients, do a little prep, cook the rice and you're set to have your own fun make-your-own poke bowl.

Reading down the menu of ingredients offered at the place of my inspiration Poke Box, I rendered a list for shopping. 
Here is the assortment of things I used to customize our rice bowls.

sushi rice (see below for preparations)
fresh sushi-grade salmon and tuna, cubed
imitation crab meat sticks, shredded by hand
flying fish eggs (masago)
ripe avocados, cubed
edamame beans (shelled)
green onions, sliced
alfalfa or pea sprouts
Japanese seasoned seaweed salad
spring mix or torn lettuce leaves
fried onions
wasabi peas

sushi ginger
toasted sesame seed

wasabi paste
ponzu citrus sauce

unagi eel sauce (sweet glaze)
soy sauce
Japanese Kewpie mayonnaise
Sriracha hot sauce
furikake (nori rice seasoning)

The most important element in sushi is always the rice-- vinegared rice. You can also cook the rice without the kelp and forgo the vinegar mixture. I like to make mine as authentic as possible for the best taste experience. To prepare:

Vinegared Rice for Sushi
Serves 4 to 6

3 cups short-grain rice
4-inch kombu kelp
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt

Soak the kelp in water for about one hour to make stock for the rice. Wash the rice 30 minutes prior to cooking and drain in a strainer. Meanwhile, put the vinegar, sugar and salt into a small pot and heat slightly until dissolved.

Place the rice and kelp stock into a rice cooker and cook. When cooking is finished, keep the cooker covered and let stand for about ten minutes until the grains are settled.

Transfer the rice into a large shallow bowl (wooden if you have is best), moistened with a little water. Sprinkle the vinegar dressing all over the rice. Using a flat paddle or wooden spoon, toss the rice with horizontal, cutting strokes while cooling rice with a hand-fan. Cover the rice with a clean towel until ready to serve.

* Use only a sideway cutting motion when mixing the vinegar dressing otherwise the rice will become mushy.
* Wooden bowls eliminate excess moisture of cooked rice and keep grains firm.
* Use electric fan to cool rice-- expose rice to breeze while mixing the rice for best results.

You can serve the fish raw on its own or dress it up. For the salmon I simply sprinkled some sea salt and a splash of lemon juice. For the tuna, I marinated it with a mixture of ponzu, soy and sesame oil.

Set everything out on the table and invite your family and guests over to start topping.

Serving the meal with some Korean side dishes of marinated spicy radish strips and dried anchovies.

A little Furikake seasoning goes a long way in flavouring.

My excited son Etienne's poke bowl.

1-2-3, where your bowl goes nobody knows....

Whatever fits your fancy, top to your heart's content!

Indeed a kaleidoscope of colours, flavours and textures!

Love the final touch of kewpie mayonnaise and sriracha.

Wasabi peas for crunch and bite! POW!

Mix it up! A bowl you can eat with chopsticks and a spoon!

Try creating this for your family and friends. It sure makes a great refreshing summer entertaining party theme that is sure to please! Just prep it, set it and let your guests take care of the rest. :D

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Tango with Mango: From Breakfast to Bevvy...

Walk into Asian supermarkets these days and you will likely find boxes of bright yellow ataulfo mangoes on sale. There can be stacks of them piled high for your picking. The cheapest I've seen were 20 in a case for $6.99!! Of course the best is always eating it ripe freshly peeled, but if you are looking to savour the bounty of fruit with other complementary flavours, here are some ideas from breakfast to bevvy that have won my family over.

Have you ever tried mangoes in a sandwich? Yes a sammie. This was an easy peasy idea my sister-in-law from Quebec made for us while visiting when my boys were babies. It is as simple as slicing up mangoes and bell peppers into strips and wrapping them in a pita with grilled chicken breast (here I used shredded leftover rotisserie chicken meat) and a spread of mayonnaise. It was an amazing taste combination!

Jazz it up for a heartier fare with added veggies like lettuce, tomatoes and red onion. This could be a great lunchbox idea for your young campers.

The soft & crunchy textures with creamy & sweet flavours really makes this a colourful & fresh standout summer wrap!

Why not serve breakfast with cut up mangoes on the side instead or on top of the usual fruit companions? 

Mangoes and papaya add a tropical touch to French Toast.

This Caribbean-inspired black bean salad is a vibrant colourful medley of fresh sweet and fruity flavours, with crunchy textures and bite! In here, we've got mangoes, papaya, bell peppers, raisins, almonds, lime juice and jalapeno. So refreshingly good also served along a meal of Slow-Cooked Jamaican Oxtails.

Papaya Mango Black Bean Salad

Homemade mango sorbet! Simply freeze 4 cups of diced mango for several hours. Then along with 3 Tbsp. granulated sugar, whiz in a food processor for five minutes and serve. See more on my post on how to best cut a mango.

Mango Sorbet

Forget going out for those uber Taiwanese fresh mango icy dessert bowls. Make your own with crushed ice, fresh mangoes on top, a dollop of vanilla or mango ice cream and a drizzle of condensed milk... 

Fulfilling my son Etienne's persistent request :D.

Take it a step further and make mango juice shaved ice, and add a beautiful cascade of cooked adzuki red beans for an authentic Asian dessert taste experience.

Shaved Ice with Mangoes and Red Beans

And of course, we can't forget Vietnamese smoothies, or sinh to. The thick creamy shakes-- made from blending peeled fruit, crushed ice and a touch of condensed milk until glossy-- do double duty as drink and dessert. Next time you have a bowl of beef noodle pho, try ending the meal with a fresh mango smoothie. To make your own Vietnamese-style mango smoothie at home, blend 1/3 cup chopped mangoes, 1 tsp. sweetened condensed milk, and 1/2 cup water. Add 1-1/2 cups crushed ice and blend until smooth. Serve with a straw and spoon.

Mango Smoothie Vietnamese-Style

I hope I've inspired you to experiment-eat your way through your box of mangoes. How will you eat it next time?

This month, we've got a Food Revolution #cookwithfoodrevTO contest on how you eat your fruit! Snap a photo and enter for a chance to win a Jamie Oliver cookbook. See here for all the details.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

All Aboard on Uxbridge's Boxcars and Beers: The Cheese Train...

Did you know that barely an hour out of the city, Ontario's countryside is a vibrant hub of rural communities rich in ever-growing hidden culinary and drinking gems? I didn't. Landing a cool writing assignment with HuffPost in partnership with York Durham Headwaters Tourism to give a snapshot of the trendy breweries, distilleries and wineries in the rural north (home to 60% of the Greenbelt’s protected fertile farmland) being published in August, I discovered there's so much there to satisfy our taste of adventure. With the bounty of homegrown treasures close to our front door, you can sip and savour to your heart's content with multiple award-winning cutting-edge craft beverages and beautiful farm-to-table menus, and support our local producers.

One amazing new experience being served up is The Boxcars and Beers – The Cheese Train, a culinary adventure with the York-Durham Heritage Railway and Second Wedge Brewery Co. through the glorious Oak Ridges Moraine; they serve a guided craft beers and local cheeses tasting on a 1.5-hour ride that starts from Stouffville and ends in Uxbridge.  I had the privilege of being invited to the culinary media event that began on the "tasty" train to Uxbridge, a taste & tour with the brew master at Second Wedge, lunch treats with nearby Urban Pantry Restaurant and finished with a hands-on cooking demo with chef and owner of The Passionate Cook's Essentials. It was a unique kind of daytrip adventure for all the senses indeed.

Pairings of local cheeses and Second Wedge Brewery Co. beers awaits!

The York-Durham heritage railway train was built in 1800 and used to deliver alcohol to Toronto's Distillery District. It was shut down and then in 1923 the Canadian National took it over. The last passenger train was in 1962 with the last freight in 1980. The railway operates excursion trains over a 20 km route between the historic towns of Stouffville and Uxbridge. The round trip takes approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes.

The conductor's meet and greet with a historical introduction about the heritage railway.

The local fine cheese plate-- among these a brie, cheddar, and a mild blue.

Organic, unsulphated apricots-- sweet like candy. Notice they are not orange!

Left: Fromager cheese expert Cecilia Smith from The Passionate Cook's Essentials and
 The Second Wedge Brewing Co. co-owner Joanne Richter in background.

Boxcars and Beers guests are presented with a selection of five cheeses paired with five beers from The Second Wedge. A couple of cheese tasting tips that I learned. Serve cheese at room temperature for optimal flavour and texture. Take a bite of the cheese to enjoy it's flavour by itself, then place a piece of cheese on roof of mouth and savour the cheese gradually as you sip your beer.  

Such picturesque natural farmland beauty on a gorgeous sunny day!

Cecilia carefully selected the cheese to match with the characteristics of the various beers offered at Second Wedge. Mild tasting cheese like brie was paired with their blonde ale Elgin Blonde, while a smokey savoury cheese paired well with Day Tripper-- a beer made with toasted malt and piney citrusy hops, and a strong blue cheese enjoyed along their dark porter beer Rain Maker (with caramel chocolatety notes). The local stories and education of how each of the fromage and craft beverages are made were both fascinating and entertaining! What a laid back way to enjoy the scenic train views and learn something new.

Arrival in Uxbridge- the Trail Capital of Canada with over 3000 trails, this destination is a mecca for hikers, adventurists and cyclists- part of the Ontario By Bike network.

Second Wedge Brewing Co. is named after its Uxbridge location on the second of four wedges of the Oak Ridges Moraine. 100% locally owned, Second Wedge is a brewery, tasting room, bottle shop and beer garden dedicated to crafting flavourful ales full of character.

Brew Master Doug Warren walks us through the steps of beer making-- first showing the ingredients used: hops and wheat. I learned that hops role is the seasoning that does two things: create aroma and flavour, and also the bitterness to balance out sweetness.

Grain filter acts like a giant drip coffee machine.

Professional Photographer #whateverittakes

Urban Pantry Chef discussing the delicious treats with farm fresh ingredients ready to be noshed. Bison sliders, red pepper jelly, goat cheese on brioche; pulled pork, smoked apple fennel BBQ sauce, red onion jam on brioche, and vegetarian option: wilted greens with boursin on crostini topped with cranberries and almonds.

Pulled pork and bison sliders.

The gorgeous beer garden to sip, savour and relax in.
A popular rest stop for cyclists, families and dog walkers.

Our last stop was upscale culinary studio and retail store The Passionate Cook's Essentials
The gorgeous shop boasts top-of-the-line kitchenware, artisan cheese, small batch charcuterie and specialty gourmet foods (including those delectable organic dried apricots on the train's cheese platter). 

Charming owner Lisa Hutchinson and Chef Erin Monaghan from their adjoining bistro demonstrated handmade thin crust pizzas using San Marzano tomatoes, beer (from Second Wedge) in their pizza dough with local cheeses, porchetta and fresh basil. They offer a slew of cooking classes and how-to-make pizza is one that always sell out and fast!

The crust was so light, crispy and tasty.... it must have been the beer in it :).

Lisa and her stunning hot-out-of-the-oven pizza!

A parting gift from The Second Wedge... Thank you :D

Looking for something different and a one-of-a-kind experience, hop on and try The Boxcars and Beers: The Cheese Train scheduled three times this summer. Click here for more details. Also visit or for more information.