Monday, January 21, 2013

[Cauli]flower Power

A co-worker of mine forwarded this recipe from the Eating Bird Food blog this morning, and after a weekend of gluttony and over consumption of rich, greasy and hearty New York cuisine, this light and healthy pseudo pizza seemed to hit the hunger spot. For this recipe made easy, you'll definitely need a food processor (it needs a work out!), and preferably a pizza stone, or clay tile. 

Gluten free and low in calories/carbs, this "pizza crust" is more of a polenta than a sturdy pie base, so be prepared to eat with a knife and fork, or you'll be cursing as you try to handle it's foamy figure...

The "Crust"
Whole small califlower (white parts only)
2 whole garlic cloves
1 cup skim mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 lightly beaten egg 
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt & Pepper to taste

The Goods
1/2 cup crushed tomato sauce (I use sugar free marinara)
8-10 Oyster mushrooms, sliced
3 small roma tomatoes, sliced
5 large fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese
2 slices smoked prosciutto, torn into small strips 

The Prep
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F. Cut or break cauliflower into small-medium size chunks and add to food processor. Pulse on low to break up, and slowly increase speed until cauliflower becomes fine, like grated parmigiana cheese. Heat a large skillet over medium heat, and transfer ground cauliflower to pan. Add oregano & dried basil, and saute on medium until cooked (add 1 tsp water and reduce heat if sticking/browning), about 10 minutes.

To save time (and to avoid my fear of losing a finger to a cheese grater...), I tossed a good 4x1" block of mozzarella into the food processor to grate the cheese, along with a couple nice sized garlic cloves.

Once the cauliflower is cooked, transfer it to a large mixing bowl, and stir in lightly beaten egg, salt, pepper and cheese and mix well to combine. The mixture will be hot (and gooey) so be careful when you transfer to the pizza stone.

Spread the "dough" out on the stone - a good 1/4 to 1/2 inch round should run you about 10-12 inches of pizza - and press out flat. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes & remove from oven.

The next part is easy. In a small frying pan over medium heat, add mushrooms and tomatoes and cook just until they start to wilt. Remove from heat. 

Cover the baked pizza base in tomato sauce, and layer with mushroom/tomato mix, another 1/2 cup of mozzarella, fresh basil, prosciutto and crumbled goat cheese.  Put pizza stone back in oven and broil on low for 4 minutes, until you see the prosciutto start to crisp. Remove from oven, left stand 2 minutes, and cut with large knife.

Here's the warning part: this will not "lift" like regular pizza. You will need to use the knife as a spatula to transfer to a plate. 

Delicious, with leftovers for lunch that can reheat easily without going soggy!

Rock you like a Hurricane [Club]

After only just returning from a fantastic weekend in New York, where we dined on an almost sickening amount of delicious eats with our closest friends, I cannot stop thinking about our dinner at Manhattan's The Hurricane Club

The Polynesian/Tiki Fusion at Park Avenue & 26th had exactly what we needed for a night out; great atmosphere, a live DJ, dark decor, eclectic selections of food you wouldn't think to make, and most importantly, drinks served in watermelons (and other ridiculous vessels). 

As we were 5, and the menu is catered towards a pseudo "family style" type of meal, we took the opportunity to order copious amounts of food in an effort to entice the palate, and make it worth the exuberant price per dish.

In the Beginning...
King Kamehameh Pupu Platter (for 5)
Peking Duck Tea Sandwiches w/ cucumbers, cilantro & spicy hoisin
The Club’s Coconut Shrimp w/ sriracha aioli
Pb & Guava "J" w/ prosciutto & thai basil
Tuna Tartare Cones w/ yellowfin tuna, yuzu & black sesame
Samoan Deviled Eggs w/crispy taro & basil

Vegetable Spring Rolls - boracay style, roasted sesame

This beautifully presented sampler platter of amuse-bouche was a great way to taste new and "abnormal" food pairings. The Pb & Guava J was out of this world. I can't explain, nor replicate the flavors of this croquette like bite of heaven. Don't let the description deter you - I would have consumed 100 given the chance (and my homemade version today was a disgrace, which doesn't alleviate my want for more). The Tuna Tartare Cones were fresh, cold, and packed a sesame punch; a worthy tasting for any sushi nut.  The 

Samoan Deviled Eggs were an odd, but welcome addition to a dinner hour adventure, and added a smooth and creamy contrast to the crunchy and light 
Coconut Shrimp. My feelings on the 
Vegetable Spring Rolls & Peking Duck Tea Sandwiches are...well...empty. A spring roll is a spring roll in my books, no matter how good a chef you are, and my high hopes for the peking duck were quickly shattered after the adorable little sandwiches provided a low impact, and somewhat tasteless outcome upon consumption. 

The Main Event:
Crispy Peking Pig w/ steamed buns, hoisin, cucumber & cilantro
Walnut Tiger Shrimp (a hurricane signature)
Glass Noodle Sirloin Lo Mein w/napa cabbage, bok choy, enoki
Pad Thai Chicken Fried Rice
Steamed Baby Bok Choy

We decided to order 3 mains, and 2 sides from the menu (which we really should have waited to do until we finished the pupu platter...) as our main. The Glass Noodle Sirloin Lo Mein was perfect; clean, tender, light and full of flavour. The Pad Thai Chicken Fried Rice packed a punch, with a hint of fresh chilies and a sweet and sour sauce that was mouth watering. I wasn't overly impressed by the Crispy Peking was crispy, yes, but lacked...something. The steam buns and hoison just seemed too ordinary, and would have been better suited to a dim sum lunch, rather than an Entree. I didn't find much to be special with the signature dish of Walnut Tiger Shrimp, which really just tasted like over battered calamari...and the whereabouts of the walnuts? Your guess is as good as mine...I can't actually comment or complain about the Steamed Baby Bok Choy -it's Bok Choy. The peppery cream sauce  that it was served with was a hit though!

The Watermelon 
The Watermelon vodka, fresh lime, mint, rhubarb in a watermelon

Other notable mentions? The dark as night bathrooms have walls covered in well laid out patterns of lacquered bone and made for a popular photo-shoot destination for its patrons (present company excluded).

The Hurricane Club - 360 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10010

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Bon appetit ma cherie. Je t'aime beaucoup

It's official; it's Valentine's Day!

The annual celebration of love, and the only day of the year that it's acceptable to wear red & pink TOGETHER. I do love this day.

Though many previous celebrations of the big V-day have been less than exciting, what with last year spending it on my couch after a nasty fall down the stairs resulting in my fantastic plans to learn snowboarding with some girlfriends being cancelled and replaced with wallowing in pain [physical] with chocolate and chick flicks, I do still love and look forward to the day of love, romance, heart shaped chocolates and flowers.

A romantic dinner of hearty (pun intended!) lasagne with meat layered between tender noodles, cottage cheese and crushed tomatoes, topped and baked with Parmigiano-Reggiano to accompany a spinach & arugula salad with pancetta crisps will pair nicely with a big ol' bottle of red and a decadent dessert. A must have mix of Nora Jones and John Mayer will provide a romantic atmosphere, perfect for any Valentine's meal, be it alone or with the one you love.

Nothing says love better than the aphrodisiac of chocolate, and luckily, I have a friend who makes the best cookies for a day that needs a sexy and delicious treat. Miss Stephanie Gorchynski is a wonderful creator of baked goods, and from her blog, I have adopted her recipe for chocolate-chili cookies. 

The recipe has been modified a bit to suit my lack of certain ingredients (see the blog link for the original) and the addition of mini cinnamon hearts are perfect finish to the treats that are sure to kick start a fire and melt your cold, cold heart.

Makes 24 cookies
1 cup minus 2tbsp all-purpose whole wheat flour
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup margarine
3/4 tsp chili flakes
4 tsp maple syrup
1 cup dark chocolate chunks

Preheat oven to 350°F. In a mixing bowl or a food processor, add flour, unsweetened cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and brown sugar. Mix well, add butter and chili flakes – and using your fingertips, work the butter into the flour mixture and break it up until the mixture have a sandy texture. Stir in agave with a wooden spoon then form the dough into a ball. Add dark chocolate. Shape into 2 logs, cut each in 12 slices and place 1 inch apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake for 8-10 minutes. If you can, let stand for 2 min before cooling on a rack.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

You Dim Sum, You Lose Some

With the lunar new year upon us this Thursday night, many are headed home to be with family for Chú Xī , the traditional reunion dinner. Who said us westerners couldn't join in on the fun, festivities, and most importantly, the food when the celebrations of Chinese New Year begin?!

I'm a big fan of Asian cuisine and will do all that I can to flip a person into a fellow Asian cuisine enthusiast. Jon is one of my greatest food flipped "students". An avid eater of thai, but far from a fan of traditional Canadian Chinese food, Jon was hesitant to try the Chinese fare of dim sum. It was well received and became a staple in our weekly meals.

Our Thursday dinner will be a lighter version of the full blown Asian spread, consisting mainly of dim sum and sticky rice. To avoid excessive salt & fat, we will steam all dumplings in bamboo steam baskets (a MUST have in the kitchen!). Though they may look healthy and harmless, these little morsels of deliciousness are often very high in sodium and cholestersol. Not a recommended food for those with high blood pressure, heart issues or diabetes.

On our Chú Xī menu:

har gau: shrimp dumpling
siu mai: shrimp & pork shaomai

bau: pork steam buns
seong hoi siu lung bau: Shanghai  soup filled steam buns
lou mai gai: Lotus leaf filled with sticky rice, mixed seafood & mushrooms

jiao zi: vegetable & pork dumplings
All served with Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce, Hoisin Sauce & Low Sodium Soy for dipping.

With all this snow and cold weather, this comforting and warm meal with good friends and family couldn't have come at a better time.

Kung Hei Fat Choy (Congratulations and be prosperous!)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Healthy & Happy Buddha Bowl

My new found obsession in food: The Healthy & Happy Buddha Bowl
Packed full of protein and gives me tons of energy pre & post yoga.

Serves 4-6
2 cups brown rice, cooked as directed
2 medium tomatoes, diced
2 cups spinach or kale, steamed
1 large sweet potato
1/2 cup all natural almonds
1/4 cup unsalted sunflower seeds
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1 ripe avocado, sliced
Optional: 1 cup medium cooked tofu

1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup tamari or low sodium soy sauce or teriyaki sauce

Cook brown rice as directed. Steam spinach and/or kale until tender (usually about 7 minutes). Pierce sweet potato and microwave for 3 minutes on side and 3.5 minutes on the other side. Slice sweet potato into 3/4” slices.

Place 3/4 cup scoop of rice into each bowl. Top each bowl of rice with an even portion of  steamed spinach and/or kale and sliced sweet potato. Optional: add medium cooked tofu

Mix the olive oil & tamari (or soy sauce/teriyaki sauce) in a small bowl. Spoon the mixture over the steamed vegetables and rice.

Next, top with chopped diced tomato, slice avocado, almonds, sunflower seeds and cilantro. Divide topping ingredients evenly amongst the bowls. Serve warm or cold. Enjoy!


When January hits, it not only kicks off a new year, but the beginning of a new food tasting season.

As an avid frequenter of all things food festival, I make sure to visit at least one restaurant during Winterlicious, Summerlicious, The Taste of Burlington & The Taste of Downtown Oakville.

This year, the Winterlicious restaurant chosen was Joe Badali's Ristorante Italiano (156 Front Street West)

Although named a "Ristorante Italiano", I would classify it more of an "Italian Kelsey's" or "Fancy East Side Mario's"

This restaurant was selected based on rave reviews from previous customers (one being of Italian heritage) and for the menu that offered vegetarian options for my dining partner, Sarah, who after many years as a vegetarian is new to the meat eating world but not quite into red meat. I, on the other hand, am a newly found carnivore and the menu had me at "steak".

The menu selections looked promising, and at a welcome $25 per person for dinner, we were quite excited.
What we had:
Robyn (me)Sarah (friend)
Butternut Squash & Pear Soup
EntreeSteak Diovolo Pasta Penne pasta with top sirloin steak slices marinated in a pesto chili rub, tossed with portabello mushrooms and caramelized onions in a port wine and beef jus reduction.Pollo alla ParmigianaLightly breaded boneless chicken breast baked with fresh tomato basil sauce and mozzarella cheese. Served with pasta and garden fresh vegetables.
DessertDouble Chocolate CakeWhite Chocolate Vanilla Cake
Folonari Valpolicella Classico

The meal was also accompanied by mini ciabatta with and olive oil & balsamic.

I can't say much for Sarah as she genuinely seemed to enjoy her meal. I can say that I was less than impressed and truly understood the meaning of a $25 three course dinner.

The soup was less than comforting, with a runny texture and very little flavour.
The entrée of Steak Diovolo Pasta tasted more like penne in a brown gravy hunter sauce with no hint of pesto nor chili. The steak was very tender but there were only about 4 small slices present, a disappointment to say the least.

As for dessert, I'm not entirely convinced that my Double Chocolate Cake was not in fact, a McCain Deep & Delicious with shaved chocolate added to the top. A dry consistency with a pale hue, hardly considered "double chocolate".

The wine was marked up more than one would generally find. Though not a great wine, Folonari Valpolicella Classico was light enough for a Monday and not too overpowering. With a menu price of $20 per 1/2 bottle (375mL), and $8.95 for a 6oz glass, the wine mark up is astonishing as it has an LCBO list price of $7.95 for 375mL.

I may just have to splurge on one of the $45-$55 menus at a better restaurant to remedy this experience.

Care to join?