Monthly Archives: August 2010

Cucumber Tuna Salad on Romaine with Roasted Walnuts

Hm, what to do when you’re hungry and your only source of protein is a can of tuna? And you want to eat healthily, simply, but still yummily?

You get chopping. That’s what you do.

For a doze of Omega 3’s, vitamins, and protein, try this salad. Or rather, salad duo, since the tuna salad sits on top of some shredded romaine in a lemon and cracked pepper dressing.

Super easy. Fairly quick. Ultra healthy.

Cucumber Tuna Salad on Romaine with Roasted Walnuts
serves 1

2 cups shredded romaine lettuce
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, plus 2 tsp. for tuna salad
1/4 tsp. freshly cracked pepper, plus a little more for the tuna salad
enough onion salt to taste
1/2 can flaked tuna in water, drained
1/3 c. finely diced English cucumber
1 very small carrot, shredded
2 Tbsp. chopped walnuts

  1. To roast the walnuts, either use the microwave (a couple minutes on high and stir every 30 seconds, until fragrant) or the oven (400 degrees for 5 minutes, stir once, until fragrant). Set aside.
  2. Mix the lemon juice and 1 Tbsp. olive oil and season with cracked pepper and onion salt to taste. Set aside.
  3. Mix tuna with the remaining olive oil, cucumber and season with cracked pepper and onion salt to taste. Set aside.
  4. Place shredded lettuce on a dinner plate and spoon the tuna salad in the middle. Sprinkle the shredded carrots around the tuna salad and drizzle the dressing over the romaine. Finally, sprinkle with roasted walnuts.
  5. Toast to your health!

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Filed under Lunch, Seafood, Vegetables

Cheese Coins (Failed Gougeres)

Let me tell you something.

I like cream puffs. I like making cream puffs. I like serving cream puffs. I like eating cream puffs. I like that the choux pastry is easy to make and is so flexible. I have never had a fallen cream puff. Ever.

Until now.

Well, technically, a gougere is not a cream puff, but rather a savory application of the choux pastry dough. The dough is rich in eggs, which provides the steam so the puffs can, well, puff. Gougeres are a slightly richer dough with grated cheese mixed in.

For some unfathomable reason I seemed to have put too much milk, or moisture in the dough, which caused it to be able to incorporate less egg. Less egg means less structure and rise. Which means a fallen puff.

It is a sad, sad thing.

However, the poor things wrinkled up attractively and had terrific flavour. Both my siblings loved it and had one after another. Which I guess is a good thing. But until I recover from my cream puff failure, I won’t post the recipe for gougeres.

I guess sometimes baking is forgiving.

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Filed under Beautiful Disasters, Snacks

Restaurant Review: La Cabane Grecque

I’m finally back on campus at MacDonald. Mac is one of two McGill campuses, and the one that no one knows about. It’s super small and shares its space with a college preparatory school here in Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue. The town’s name is so long that sometimes I have trouble typing and writing the entire name on forms! I’m very glad to be back and even looking forward to the up coming classes.

So yesterday, as a back-to-school-I-haven’t-seen-you-since-April get-together, a few friends and I went to downtown Montreal to have dinner. La Cabane Grecque is located on Prince Arthur, corner street to La Coloniale, in a very popular location in Montreal.

This time of the year, the streets are closed to autos and restaurants offer outdoor seating with various entertainment on the streets, from music to juggling to skateboarding. The maitre d’s from each restaurant come outside to lure the passerby. It’s quite something.

As for the restaurant, in short, the food was mediocre but the service was great. I had the steak a la Cabane Grecque, which was aged tenderloin strips with steamed veggies, homestyle potato, rice, and chef’s salad. The chef’s salad is actually a garden salad and was heavy on the oil. It was surprisingly filling, both two girls I was with were getting full after the salad. But that might have been because of the bread. They serve very good whole wheat bread with a very creamy butter. I would’ve been happy just with the bread basket.

I asked for the steak to be cooked to medium rare and it turned out to be almost medium well and in some areas, well done. The sides were nothing special. And this bugged me: the food tasted strongly of butter. I love butter, but I went there for Greek food. It didn’t seem authentic. But like I said, the service was excellent. The waitress we had was friendly and helpful and attentive. Our water glasses were refilled continuously and she came to check on us several times. Next time I want Greek food though, I would like to get Greek food.

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Filed under Bakery/Restaurant Reviews, Dinner

Flakey Buttery Croissants

One might say that I’m picky when it comes to croissants. I don’t like the regular super market vegetable shortening-laden pastries that they call croissants. They have no real butter taste and no real flakiness. The perfect croissant for me has a flakey exterior with a hint of crunch and a soft, chewy interior that isn’t too airy. And an overwhelming taste of butter, of course.

Croissants like that are readily available from any of the excellent bakeries in Montreal, and so I’ve never attempted to spend most of the day in the kitchen, laboring over homemade ones. Until now. After reading Shirley O. Corriher’s recipe in her wonderfully useful and scientific book Bakewise I decided, you know, I’ve got so much time on my hands, why not try it?

So I did.

As far as first attempts go, it isn’t bad. Shirley described her croissants and very flakey, and I thought to myself, flakey is good. I mean, flakey is good, and I would never think that a pastry could be too flakey. But that is what they turned out to be. Too flakey. Which in turn gave them too much crunch on the outside. The inside, however, is nice and moist and chewy.

Also, the croissants had oodles of butter and oozed and pooled when they were baking that I was reluctant to peek in the oven. Doing so made me feel too guilty. 😉

So, in the end, I reached these two conclusions about making my own croissants:

  1. VERY time consuming, not that I didn’t know that from the beginning.
  2. VERY guilt-inducing, more so than buying bakery croissants.

I think I will probably stick with bakeries, since they do such a good job and have the time that I don’t. That is not to say that I won’t give it another go if one day I get snowed in and want to add some padding in preparation for hibernation.

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Filed under Breads, Breakfast, Pastries

Tang Yuan 汤圆 (Glutinous Rice Balls)

These are a Chinese dessert typically served during 元宵, or Lantern Festival. It’s a bit like nuo mi ci (糯米糍), or the other glutinous rice balls in that it is also made with glutinous rice flour. It’s actually a lot alike nuo mi ci, just smalled and served in a sugary soup. They even share some of the same fillings, such as red bean, black sesame, peanut, etc.

Making these small glutinous rice balls are easier, in my opinion, since the ingredients are just rice flour, water, and red bean paste. The red bean paste can be store-bought, or homemade. I love homemade red bean paste. It isn’t as sweet and still has some whole beans in it. Most store-bought paste is almost sickeningly sweet and has an off taste and textureless. If you have time, just boil a pot of red beans until tender, add sugar to taste and a tiny amount of oil, and mash together.

Tang Yuan 汤圆 (Glutinous Rice Balls)
makes about 15 3cm balls

250 grams glutinous rice flour (usually half the 500 gram package sold in Asian food stores)
about 3/4 c. hot water, more or less as needed
red bean paste or other filling

  1. Mix the water into the rice flour, a little at a time, until you have a pretty soft dough that holds together.
  2. Knead a few times and let rest for about 15 minutes.
  3. Pinch off small balls a little smaller than 1 inch in diameter.
  4. Flatten in your palm and drop a small dollop of red bean paste into the middle. Pinch the edges closed and roll between your palms until round. Use a little water if the dough is hardening too fast.
  5. Bring a pot of water to boil. Drop the rice balls into the water and boil until they float.
  6. Add a little sugar to the broth, if desired, and serve with a little of the broth.

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Filed under Chinese, Desserts

BBQ…and Eating ALL Day!

Eating all day…that’s what usually happens when my family does barbeque. It’s my dad’s birthday tomorrow so we celebrated today. This is what we did today.

Jalapeno Burgers, with finely minced onions, Worcesterchire sauce, garlic powder, even more finely minced jalapeno peppers, salt, and plenty of freshly ground pepper.

More Jalapenos! Grilled until the skin blackens and blisters. Then the seeds and removed and it’s used to top burgers, or eating out of hand. My mom guzzled water after one bite.

Sweet Chili Grilled Chicken. I made a rub with chili powder, ground cumin, ground pepper, garlic powder, ground Sichuan peppercorns, salt, sugar, a dash of soy sauce, and olive oil. The chicken was allowed to sit overnight.

Chicken. Potato Salad. Garden salad with the sweetest cherry tomatoes.

Way better than any store-bought potato salad. I used chopped pickles and a generous splash of pickle juice along with mayo, chopped onions, mustard, ground pepper, and salt. No eggs so the salad has a better chance sitting outside the cooler.

Grilled peaches with cinnamon. Grilling caramelizes the sugars in the fruit and intensifies the flavour. Plus, like my brother says, “it’s super juicy!”

Here’s my dad’s birthday cake. For more cake details, go to Buttery Bakery!

We also did a number on Italian sausages, steak, hot dogs, and more fruit, but I didn’t record with pictures. I can tell you that they were good though!

Enjoy the rest of your summer!

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Zucchini-Pecan Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting (Magazine Mondays)

I discovered Cream Puffs in Venice a long long time ago and have always loved the blog. Ivonne at Cream puff hosts Magazine Mondays, where she posts recipes from magazines tackled by bloggers. I love the idea.

That being said, tomorrow is my dad’s birthday, so while I was flipping through the August edition of Bon Appetit I came across this recipe. The article said that this cake is inspired by the classic carrot cake, but of course, with a different vegetable. And I thought, if you can have zucchini bread, why not cake?

Then I thought, this would be a great cake to make for dad since I’ve always considered spice cakes to be more “grown-up,” which I guess is true, since most kids I’ve met don’t go “whooooop, spice cake!” So I made it last night and brought it to today’s barbeque with some family friends.

The cake is not big or elaborate. It’s very humble but boasts a myriad of spices as well as toasted pecans. The tiny strips of zucchini are seen, but not tasted. It’s funny, the cake is light in texture but somehow gives off the feel of a lot of weight. Maybe it’s the ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon. It’s an intoxicating combination.

I found that I needed a bit more icing sugar to make the frosting a stiff enough consistency to spread. This is very similar to a carrot cake and will definitely attract carrot cake lovers. Maybe this works for number 10 on my wish list?

I was just saying how kids aren’t wild for spice cakes, curiously though, the few youngsters at the gathering today seemed to like this cake. It’s sturdy enough for them to hold by hand so no fussy fork and plate needed. Spread the frosting thin and this makes a wonderful snack cake.

Zucchini-Pecan Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
makes one 9-in. cake

Cake:
1 ½ c. all purpose flour
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. coarse kosher salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. ground ginger
¼ tsp. nutmeg
¾ c. olive oil, not extra virgin
1 c. brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
8 oz. zucchini, grated
3/4 c. toasted pecans, chopped

Frosting:
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
3 Tbsp. butter, room temperature
¾ c. powdered sugar
½ tsp. vanilla
½ tsp. cinnamon

To make the cake:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease/flour a 9 inch cake pan.
  2. Mix well the oil, eggs, vanilla, and brown sugar in a large bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the spices, flour, baking powder, and salt.
  4. Add the flour mixture to the oil mixture, stir to combine. Blend in the zucchini and pecans, do not over mix. (Note: I didn’t squeeze the moisture out of the zucchini because I figured the cake would benefit from the moisture.)
  5. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 45 minutes. (Mine was done at 30, so check early!)
  6. Cool in pan for 10 minutes before unmolding. Let cool completely before frosting.

To make the frosting:

  1. Cream together the butter and cream cheese.
  2. Sift in the powdered sugar and blend. (I used about 1/2 c. more)
  3. Add the cinnamon and vanilla, mix well.
  4. Spread over the top of the cooled cake.

Er, you might recognize that candle as the same one that perched on top of my brother’s soccer birthday cake. That’s because it is. We forgot to get candles, so candle Eight got reused. But we didn’t end up lighting it anyway because it was so windy today. Hey, my dad can always dream of becoming younger right?

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Filed under Cakes, Desserts, Snacks