Sunday, March 25, 2012

Stuff, straight up

And now for something a little different, here’s what’s been going on in my neck of the woods...

-On March 29th I’m one of the judges for RAW! The Great Toronto Tartare-Off, at The Fairmont Royal York. The super exciting part? Rush frontman and noted foodie Geddy Lee is also a judge! We’ll be tasting and judging over a dozen different tartars non-cooked up by some of the city’s best toques, among them Didier LeRoy, Lorenzo Loseto, Jason Bangerter and Jamie Kennedy. The event is to support the construction of a school in Guatemala. If you can’t attend, consider making a donation to Grapes for Humanity ( If you can make it, tickets for the Great Toronto Tartare-Off are $125 and can be purchased by calling Annette at 416-445-9920. If you want my tartare recipe (pictured here), just click here.

-I stopped in at The Midfield Wine Bar & Tavern, co-owned by a pal who used to run the late Marquee Video, where I often popped by for my afternoon latte. Happily in my neighbourhood, I now have plans to make The Midfield a regular haunt.

-Walking by 7-Eleven the other day I noticed a billboard advertising 2-for-1 hot dogs with free chili and cheese. I wondered what the asterisk beside the "free chili and cheese" was referring to, and upon closer inspection, at the bottom of the sign it said “with food purchase”. This struck me as hilarious. (Visions of ne'er do well youths pumping liquid cheese down their gullets.)

-Three weeks in and I’m still loving my gig at Chatelaine. Here’s my first blog post for them. Sandwiches for one and all!

-I had a delish sneak preview meal at Bestellen a couple of months ago, and now that I’ve finally eaten at the officially open-for-business restaurant I can officially say this place tastes great. (P.S. Good looks and terrific service too.)

-A couple of friends and I have a long running competition that runs in tandem with Top Chef. We each choose a winner immediately after the contestants have all been introduced (bets are usually laid by the first commercial break.) I may stand corrected but I do believe I’ve picked the winner every time but once. (And so far I’m 1 for 1 on Top Chef Canada.) My pick for season 2? David Chrystian.

-Finally, unrelated to anything, am I the only one who had a major crush on the Galloping Gourmet? They sure don't make cooking shows like they used to.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Homemade Hot Sauce!

Lately, I’ve been obsessing over hot sauce: The hotter the better. (Let’s just say the ghost pepper is my new bff.) And while over the years I’ve made my own cheese, ketchup, dulce de leche, pickles, ice cream and dressings, I’ve never thought to make my own hot sauce. I suppose I felt it was too dangerous and difficult to master – best left to the domain of space age laboratories and food conglomerates.

Well, today I decided, screw that, and found a recipe that looked too good to be true in that it was simple, sourced from one of my favourite NYC restaurants, Blue Ribbon, and best of all I already had all of the ingredients on hand (though I swapped out the suggested habanero chilies with serranos.) Guess what? Amazing! And who knew the secret ingredient to homemade hot sauce was carrot?

A special shout-out to my neighbour Victoria, who made it extra smooth by pouring it into her high performance Vitamix, which is basically the most awesome blender ever. (It even cleans itself.)

Make a batch of this today: You’re going to put this shit on everything. (Sorry, I couldn't resist.)

Homemade Hot Sauce

1 very large carrot, peeled and roughly chopped

1 ½ cups white vinegar

3 serrano chilies, trimmed, seeded and sliced

1 tbsp sea salt

pinch of sugar

Method: To a medium pot add sliced carrot and cover with water. Simmer until tender but not overcooked, about 12-14 minutes. Drain well.

In a small non-reactive pot combine vinegar, chilies, salt and sugar. Bring to a boil then shut off heat and let the mixture cool. Purée in a blender with carrot until silky smooth. Eat straight away, or pour into an airtight, sterile jar or bottle and refrigerate.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Perfect purple cauliflower

Let's do a recipe today! Something familiar with a bit of a twist: Sweet and salty roasted cauliflower.

Oven Roasted Cauliflower
(serves 4)


1 medium head cauliflower, cut into bite-sized florets (Tip: I used a purple cauliflower for kicks. Mulitcoloured heads are now becoming the norm at supermarkets. Fun for the whole family.)

1 Tbsp olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

about 1 tsp za'atar (optional, but it kind of makes it. Available in the spice aisle or at Middle Eastern groceries)

about 1 tsp runny honey

2 Tbsp pinenuts, toasted


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Toss prepped cauliflower in olive oil, season with salt and pepper and za’atar, and lay out evenly on a foil-lined cookie sheet. Roast in preheated oven until slightly browned; about 25 minutes.

When cauliflower is done, drizzle with honey and sprinkle with toasted pinenuts.

What to serve this with? Goes great with a falafel plate, fish or chicken. (Maybe you’ll find a suitable recipe here.)

Hummus is a no-brainer.

Some homemade labna would be good too.

And if it were summer I’d definitely make this. Soon, but not quite yet.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

A brisket for friends

In the middle of my first week of working at Chatelaine I started missing my old colleagues at House & Home. Don't get me wrong; I love my new colleagues -- they're fantastic! But looking around my gorgeously (almost) finished reno and feeling super grateful for all of their suggestions -- the great Cameron MacNeil did the job, but other House & Home angels, especially the wonderful Stacey Smithers, also weighted in with opinions, and I wanted them all to see the place and enjoy the new kitchen in action. So an impromptu Thursday night dinner for six was planned.
But what to serve? I wouldn't be home until 6pm, dinner was called for 7pm, so a work-ahead meal was needed.
The fab Sasha Seymour would be attending, and she insisted on brisket. She styled the shoot for the photos in the House & Home 2012 trends spread for January, pictured here, and she wanted to taste that brisket again. (She was actually super aggressive about it.) I told Sasha that I had no time to go out and buy a brisket, so god love her, she placed an order, picked it up, and dropped it in my oversized mailbox just before I got home Wednesday night.
Then I got marinating and braising, made mashed potatoes, honey roasted carrots, a lemon vinaigrette for the arugula and apple salad I'd throw together the next night, and a salmon spread to nibble on when my stylish guests arrived.
Ding dong! 7pm. I take the brisket from the oven, warm up the potatoes and carrots, cook some peas, toss the salad and away we went, much wine and stories christening my colourful new kitchen and dining room during its first real dinner party.
These friends are keepers.
And so is this brisket recipe.

Amy’s Beef Brisket

(serves 8-10)


1 5lb single brisket

1 cup Coca-Cola (not diet, not Zero, just Classic please)

1 cup apricot jam

1/2 cup tomato sauce (homemade or store bought)

1 packet dry onion soup mix, such as Lipton's

1 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp kosher salt

fresh cracked pepper to taste


1. Mix marinade ingredients together, pour over brisket in a roasting pan, cover with foil and refrigerate overnight. Or, if you don't have that much time to spare, several hours will do in a pinch.

2. When ready to cook, preheat oven to 325 F then cook covered brisket for 3 hours, then uncovered for an additional 1/2 hour. Let cool, then refrigerate (this aids in slicing). Skim any excess fat. When cooled, slice thinly against the grain and add back into pan with sauce.

3. About a half hour before you’re ready to serve, preheat oven to 350 F and reheat brisket for 20-30 minutes, spooning sauce over it a couple of times.