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  • pixeltheatre 12:01 am on April 14, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: noodles, ramen   

    Daring Cooks 24th Challenge: Edible Container – Savoury 

    Renata of Testado, Provado & Aprovado! was our Daring Cooks’ April 2011 hostess. Renata challenged us to think “outside the plate” and create our own edible containers! Prizes are being awarded to the most creative edible container and filling, so vote on your favorite from April 17th to May 16th at http://thedaringkitchen.com! A big fan of ramen, I decided to try the noodle bowl. Unfortunately, after a couple of tries, I just couldn’t get the bowls off their forms, and they all broke. So, ultimately I ended up with a baked noodle nest as my container. Not as striking as a bowl would have been, but edible nonetheless. Turns out baked ramen noodles actually make a pretty tasty snack. Thanks for the challenge, Renata!


    Servings: 6 baskets


    1 package ramen noodles (120gm) (4¼ oz)
    boiling water (enough to completely cover the noodles)


    1. Place the dry noodles in a baking dish.

    2. Pour boiling water over noodles until completely immersed.

    3. When noodles are soft and start separating (about 5 minutes), drain and rinse with cold water.

    4. Drain again, and set it aside until it starts getting sticky.

    5. Use olive oil to grease the outside of baking cups and arrange them upside down on parchment paper.

    6. Arrange noodles as shown in the photos. The sticky noodles will help the strings stay together making it easier to form the basket. 3 or 4 strings across, 3 or 4 strings down, and some strings around the bowl. Push all the excess strings close to the cup to form a lip. Don’t overlap too many noodles, or they won’t get crispy.

    7. Bake at 230°C (450°F) (gas mark 8) preheated oven for approximately 15 minutes or until golden brown.

    8. Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes before trying to remove the noodle baskets from the cups.

    9. Let cool completely.

    10. Handle with care, the baskets are fragile!

    11. You can make the baskets the day before using, they will keep fresh in an airtight container. On the third day it stars losing its crispiness.

    12. Fill baskets with your favorite salad. If you’re using a dressing, serve it aside or mix it to your veggies just before serving.

    • Audax Artifex 5:36 am on April 14, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Yes Ramen noodles are very tasty, and the filling of prawns is excellent well done on this challenge.

      Cheers from Audax in Sydney Australia.

    • Renata 12:38 am on April 25, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      I like how you made your noodle basket work out, the nest idea was just amazing, and as delicious. Love your choice of filling. Thanks for joining in 🙂

  • pixeltheatre 12:01 am on March 14, 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    Daring Cooks 23rd Challenge: ¡Me Encanta Perú! – Ceviche and Papas Rellenas 

    Kathlyn of Bake Like a Ninja was our Daring Cooks’ March 2011 hostess. Kathlyn challenges us to make two classic Peruvian dishes: Ceviche de Pescado from “Peruvian Cooking – Basic Recipes” by Annik Franco Barreau. And Papas Rellenas adapted from a home recipe by Kathlyn’s Spanish teacher, Mayra. Ceviche, I’d done before, but the Papas Rellenas were a definite first. The recipe was straightforward and delicious. We do our frying outside, and as a tribute to the Andes, the Vancouver weather contributed some snow to make the whole experience even more relevant. Very nice challenge.

    Cheviche de Pescado (Fish Ceviche):

    Serves 6 as a “starter” or lunch portion. Serves 2 as a dinner.


    2 lbs. (about 1 kg) firm white fish (scallops or other seafood may be substituted)*
    2 garlic cloves, mashed
    1 chili pepper, minced (I recommend Aji if you can find it, but Jalapeno or other peppers can sub)
    1 cup (240 ml) freshly squeezed lime juice (between 8-12 limes)
    Fresh juice only, no bottled. Can use lemons in lieu of limes.
    1 tablespoon (15 ml) (4 grams) (1/8 oz) fresh coriander (cilantro), finely chopped
    1 red onion, thinly sliced lengthwise
    Salt and pepper (to taste)

    1 large sweet potato
    1 large ear of corn
    Lettuce leaves


    1. Boil sweet potato and corn (separately) if using for garnish. Allow to cool. (Can be done hours or even a day in advance)
    2. Wash and trim your fish. Slice into pieces between ½ inch (15 mm) cubes to 2 inch (50mm) pieces, depending on taste.**
    3. Place fish in a non-reactive, shallow pan in a thin layer. Season with salt and pepper.
    4. Combine lime juice, chili pepper, coriander and garlic. Pour mixture over fish. Stir lightly to expose all the fish to some of the lime juice mixture.
    5. Put sliced onion on top of fish as it “cooks”
    6. Let fish stand for 10 minutes.*** Lift fish out of the lime juice and plate individual portions ,**** garnishing with lettuce, slices of sweet potato and slices or kernels of corn if using.
    • It is important to use high quality, really fresh fish. You can use previously frozen (I’ve been using it because I am too cheap to buy this much sashimi grade fish), but it’s not as good. The better your fish, the better your ceviche.

    ** The fish is going to “cook” in the lime juice – how thick you make the pieces will determine how much the fish cooks, so keep your own preference in mind when you are cutting the fish up.

    Papas Rellenas (de carne):

    Makes 6


    For the dough:
    2¼ lb (1 kg) russet potatoes
    1 large egg

    For the filling:
    2 tablespoon (30 ml) of a light flavored oil
    ½ lb (250 grams) ground (minced) beef
    6 black olives, pitted and chopped (use more if you love olives)
    3 hard boiled large eggs, chopped
    1 small onion, finely diced (about 1 cup (240 ml))
    ½ cup (120 ml) (90 gm) (3 oz) raisins, soaked in 1 cup (240 ml) boiling water for 10 minutes, then minced
    1 finely diced aji pepper (ok to sub jalapeño or other pepper – if you are shy about heat, use less)
    2 cloves garlic, minced or passed through a press (if you love garlic, add more)
    1 teaspoon (5 ml) (4 gm) (1/8 oz) ground cumin (use more if you like cumin)
    ½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) (2 gm) (1/16 oz) sweet paprika
    ¼ c. white wine, water or beef stock for deglazing
    Salt and pepper to taste

    For the final preparation:
    1 large egg, beaten
    1 cup (240 ml) (140 gm) (5 oz) all-purpose flour
    Dash cayenne pepper
    Dash salt
    1 cup dry (240 ml) (110 gm) (4 oz) or fresh (240 ml) (60 gm) (2 oz) bread crumbs (you can use regular, panko, make your own or use store-bought)

    Oil for frying (enough for 2” (50 mm) in a heavy pan like a medium sized dutch oven)


    In order to save time, you can boil the potatoes, and while they are cooling, you can make the filling. While that is cooling, you can make the potato “dough.” In this way, little time is spent waiting for anything to cool.

    For the dough:

    1. Boil the potatoes until they pierce easily with a fork. Remove them from the water and cool.
    2. Once the potatoes have cooled, peel them and mash them with a potato masher or force them through a potato ricer (preferred).
    3. Add egg, salt and pepper and knead “dough” thoroughly to ensure that ingredients are well combined and uniformly distributed.

    While the potatoes cool down before finishing the dough, you can make the filling:

    1. Gently brown onion and garlic in oil (about 5 minutes).
    2. Add the chili pepper and sauté for a couple more minutes.
    3. Add ground beef and brown.
    4. Add raisins, cumin and paprika and cook briefly (a few seconds).
    5. Deglaze the pan with white wine.
    6. Add olives and cook for a few moments longer.
    7. Add hard boiled eggs and fold in off heat.
    8. Allow filling to cool before forming “papas.”

    Forming and frying the papas:

    1. Use three small bowls to prepare the papas. In one, combine flour, cayenne and salt. In the second, a beaten egg with a tiny bit of water. Put bread crumbs in the third
    2. Flour your hands and scoop up 1/6 of the total dough to make a round pancake with your hands. Make a slight indentation in the middle for the filling.
    3. Spoon a generous amount of filling into the center and then roll the potato closed, forming a smooth, potato-shaped casing around the filling. Repeat with all dough (you should have about 6 papas).
    4. Heat 1 ½ – 2 inches (4 – 5 cm) of oil in a pan to about 350 – 375° F (175 – 190°C).
    5. Dip each papa in the three bowls to coat: first roll in flour, then dip in egg, then roll in bread crumbs.
    6. Fry the papas (in batches if necessary) about 2-3 minutes until golden brown. Flip once in the middle of frying to brown both sides.
    7. Drain on paper towel and store in a 200ºF (95ºC) (gas mark ¼) oven if frying in batches.
    8. Serve with salsa criolla (or other sauce of preference) immediately.

    Salsa Criolla:


    2 medium red onions, cut in half and very thinly sliced (as half-circles)
    1/2 chili pepper (your preference)
    1 tablespoon vinegar
    Juice from 1 lime
    Salt and pepper to taste

    1. Soak the onions in cold salt water for about 10 minutes to remove bitterness. Drain.
    2. In a medium bowl, combine the onions with the rest of the ingredients, season with salt and pepper.
    3. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes for the onions to macerate and the flavors to combine
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  • pixeltheatre 12:01 am on January 14, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Cassoulet, duck   

    Daring Cooks 21st Challenge: Cassoulet 

    Our January 2011 Challenge comes from Jenni of The Gingered Whisk and Lisa from Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. They have challenged the Daring Cooks to learn how to make a confit and use it within the traditional French dish of Cassoulet. They have chosen a traditional recipe from Anthony Bourdain and Michael Ruhlman.

    This dish is not for the faint of heart, as the amount of fat is astounding. But it definitely is tasty. I’ve made cassoulet a couple of times before, so was familiar with the multiple steps involved. I was also off this week, so, a good time to spend it cooking. Luckily, cassoulet freezes well, so I’ll have a taste of this hearty stew a few more times this winter.


    Cassoulet by Anthony Bourdain and Michael Ruhlman (as featured on the Travel Channel’s “No Reservations”)
    Serves 4 – 8 (unless you’re Lisa Michele)

    Ingredients for Duck Confit

    4 whole duck legs (leg and thigh), size does not matter
    sea salt, for the overnight (at least 6-8 hours) dry rub (the amount varies depending on the size of your legs, so just know that you need to have enough on hand for a good coating.)
    2 cups/480 ml/450 gm/16 oz duck fat
    a healthy pinch or grind of black pepper
    4 sprigs of fresh thyme
    1 sprig of fresh rosemary
    1 garlic clove

    Day One

    1.Rub the duck legs fairly generously with sea salt, place in the shallow dish, cover with plastic and refrigerate overnight. At all times, keep your work area clean and your ingredients free of contamination – meaning don’t allow any other food, like bread crumbs or scraps, to get into your duck, duck fat or confit, as they will make an otherwise nearly non-perishable preparation suddenly perishable.

    Day Two

    1.Preheat the oven to moderately hot 375ºF/190ºC/gas mark 5.
    2.Render (melt) the duck fat in the saucepan until clear.
    3.After seasoning with the black pepper, place the duck legs in the clean, ovenproof casserole.
    4.Nestle the thyme, rosemary and garlic in with the duck legs, and pour the melted duck fat over the legs to just cover.
    5. Cover the dish with foil and put in the oven. Cook for about an hour, or until the skin at the “ankle” of each leg pulls away from the “knuckle.” The meat should be tender.
    6. Allow to cool and then store as is in the refrigerator, sealed under the fat. When you need the confit, you can either warm the whole dish, in which case removing the legs will be easy, or dig them out of the cold fat and scrape off the excess. I highly recommend the former. A nice touch at this point is to twist out the thighbone from the cold confit. Just place one hand on the drumstick, pinioning the leg to the table, and with the other hand, twist out the thighbone, plucking it from the flesh without mangling the thigh meat. Think of someone you hate when you do it.

    Ingredients for Cassoulet

    5 cups/1200 ml/1100 g/39 oz dried Tarbais beans or white beans such as Great Northern or Cannelini (if you use canned beans be aware that you will need double this amount!)
    2 pounds/900 gm fresh pork belly
    1 onion, cut into 4 pieces
    1 pound/450 gm pork rind
    1 bouquet garni (tie together two sprigs parsley, 2 sprigs thyme and one bay leaf)
    salt and pepper
    1/4 cup/60 ml/55 gm duck fat
    6 pork sausages
    3 onions, thinly sliced
    1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
    4 confit duck legs

    Day One

    1.Place the beans in the large bowl and cover with cold water so that there are at least 2 or 3 inches (50mm or 75mm) of water above the top of the beans. Soak overnight. That was hard, right?  (Beans will double in size upon soaking, so use a big bowl!)

    Day Two

    1. Drain and rinse the beans and place in the large pot.
    2. Add the pork belly, the quartered onion, 1/4 pound/115 gm of the pork rind, and the bouquet garni.
    3. Cover with water, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste and continue to simmer until the beans are tender, about 30 minutes more.
    4. Let cool for 20 minutes, then discard the onion and the bouquet garni.
    5. Remove the pork belly, cut it into 2-inch/5-cm squares, and set aside. (If you plan to wait another day before finishing the dish, wait to cut the pork belly until then.)
    6. Strain the beans and the rind and set aside, reserving the cooking liquid separately.
    7. In the sauté pan, heat all but 1 tablespoon/15 ml/15 gm of the duck fat over medium-high heat until it shimmers and becomes transparent.
    8. Carefully add the sausages and brown on all sides.
    9. Remove sausages and set aside, draining on paper towels.
    10. In the same pan, over medium-high heat, brown the sliced onions, the garlic and the reserved squares of pork rind from the beans (not the unused pork rind; you’ll need that later).
    11. Once browned, remove from the heat and transfer to the blender. Add 1 tablespoon//15 ml/15 gm of the remaining duck fat and purée until smooth. Set aside.
    12. Preheat the oven to moderate 350ºF/180ºC/gas mark 4.
    13.Place the uncooked pork rind in the bottom of a deep ovenproof non-reactive dish. You’re looking to line the inside, almost like a pie crust. Arrange all your ingredients in alternating layers, beginning with a layer of beans, then sausages, then more beans, then pork belly, beans, duck confit and finally more beans, adding a dab of the onion and pork rind purée between each layer.
    14. Add enough of the bean cooking liquid to just cover the beans, reserving 1 cup/240 ml in the refrigerator for later use.
    15. Cook the cassoulet in the oven for 1 hour, then reduce the heat to very slow 250ºF/130ºC/gas mark ½ and cook for another hour.
    16. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Refrigerate overnight.

    Day Three

    1. Preheat the oven to moderate 350ºF/180ºC/gas mark 4 again.
    2. Cook the cassoulet for an hour.
    3. Break the crust on the top with the spoon and add 1/4 cup/60 ml of the reserved cooking liquid. (Don’t get fancy. Just pile, dab, stack and pile. It doesn’t have to be pretty.)
    4. Reduce the heat to very slow 250ºF/130ºC/gas mark ½ and continue cooking another 15 minutes, or until screamingly hot through and through. Then serve.

    • lisamichele 11:24 pm on January 17, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Fantastic job on the cassoulet and confit! I wish I had frozen what I had left, I actually trashed it – no idea what I was thinking!! Thanks so much for taking part in our challenge!

  • pixeltheatre 12:01 am on November 14, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: sushi   

    Daring Cooks 7th Challenge: 寿司 

    Sushi rollThe November 2009 Daring Cooks challenge was brought to you by Audax of Audax Artifex and Rose of The Bite Me Kitchen. They chose sushi as the challenge. This was a nice throwback for me. When I first moved to Vancouver 12 years ago, I fell in love with sushi. Not a difficult thing to do in a city that sells it on practically every corner, including the grocery store (with full sushi stations) and gas stations. In fact, the first course I ever took in Vancouver at the VSB was sushi making. I still remember standing in that high school hall, one early Saturday morning, waiting for Ron Suzuki, our instructor, to show up with all his paraphenelia, for my sushi making class. In that one day class, I learned about the ingredients used, the techniques, the history and where to shop for those ingredients. I bought my bamboo mat and made sushi at home a couple of times. But it had been years since I had done it from scratch. With Fujiya a few blocks away, there was no need, really.

    Still, I welcomed this challenge to try these recipes. It involved four parts:

    Part 1: Making proper sushi rice – you will wash, rinse, drain, soak, cook, dress, and cool short grain rice until each grain is sticky enough to hold toppings or bind ingredients. Then you will use the cooked rice to form three types of sushi:
    Part 2: Dragon sushi roll – an avocado covered inside-out rice roll with a tasty surprise filling (broiled eel and japanese cucumber)
    Part 3: Decorative sushi – a nori-coated rice roll which reveals a decorative pattern when cut (medley of japanese cucumber, carrots, broccoli, radish sprouts and avocado)
    Part 4: Nigiri sushi – hand-shaped rice rolls with toppings (raw and seared tuna and salmon)

    Again, thanks to Fujiya, which not only sells fresh sushi, but is also a fully stocked Japanese grocery store, finding all these ingredients was a snap. The recipe for the rice also proved to be perfect. Mind you, my hands were numbingly cold by the time I finished rinsing the rice, but I’m sure it must have contributed to the success of it. 🙂

    PART 1 : SUSHI RICE (makes about 7 cups of cooked sushi rice)4094807696_2dc6ef0c94_m

    Preparation time: 1¾ hours consisting of :-
    Rinsing and draining rice: 35 minutes
    Soaking rice: 30 minutes (includes 5 minutes making the vinegar dressing)
    Cooking and steaming time: 25 minutes
    Finishing the rice: 15 minutes


    • 2½ cups uncooked short grain rice
    • 2½ cups water
    • For superior results use equal volumes of rice and water

    Optional Ingredients

    • 3 inch (75mm or 15 grams) square dashi konbu (or kombu) (dried kelp seaweed) wipe with a damp cloth to remove white powder & cut a few slits in the sides of the kelp to help release its flavours
    • 2½ teaspoons (12.5 mls) of sake (Japanese rice wine)

    Sushi vinegar dressing

    • 5 Tablespoons (75 mls) rice vinegar
    • 5 Teaspoons (25 mls or 21 grams) sugar
    • 1¼ Teaspoons (6.25 mls or 4.5 grams) salt

    Rinsing and draining the rice

    1. Swirl rice gently in a bowl of water, drain, repeat 3-4 times until water is nearly clear. Don’t crush the rice in your hands or against the side of the bowl since dry rice is very brittle.
    2. Gently place rice into a strainer and drain well for 30 minutes.

    4094043915_13c291c919_mSoaking the rice

    1. Gently place the rice into a heavy medium pot with a tight fitting lid (if you have a loose fitting lid use a piece of aluminium foil to make the seal tight).
    2. Add 2½ cups of water and the dashi konbu.
    3. Set the rice aside to soak for 30 minutes, during this time prepare the sushi rice dressing.

    Preparing the Rice Vinegar Dressing

    1. Combine the rice vinegar, sugar and salt in a small bowl.
    2. Heat on low setting.
    3. Stir until the mixture goes clear and the sugar and salt have dissolved.
    4. Set aside at room temperature until the rice is cooked.

    Cooking the rice

    1. After 30 minutes of soaking add sake (if using) to the rice.
    2. Bring rinsed and soaked rice to the boil.
    3. Reduce heat to the lowest setting and simmer, covered, until all the water is absorbed, 12-15 minutes. Do not remove the lid during this process. Turn off heat.
    4. Let stand with the lid on, 10-15 minutes. Do not peek inside the pot or remove the lid. During this time the rice is steaming which completes the cooking process.

    Finishing the rice

    • Turning out the rice4094045059_8b4aeca39b_m


    1. Moisten lightly a flat thin wooden spatula or spoon and a large shallow flat-bottomed non-metallic (plastic, glass or wood) bowl. Do not use metallic objects since the vinegar will react with it and produce sour and bitter sushi rice.
    2. Remove the dashi konbu (kelp) from the cooked rice.
    3. Use the spatula to loosen gently the rice and invert the rice pot over the bowl, gently causing the cooked rice to fall into the bowl in one central heap. Do this gently so as not to cause the rice grains to become damaged.

    • Dressing the rice with vinegar


    1. Slowly pour the cooled sushi vinegar over the spatula onto the hot rice.
    2. Using the spatula gently spread the rice into a thin, even layer using a 45° cutting action to break up any lumps and to separate the rice. Don’t stir or mash rice.
    3. After the rice is spread out, start turning it over gently, in small portions, using a cutting action, allowing steam to escape, for about a minute.

    • Fanning & Tossing the rice


    1. Continue turning over the rice, but now start fanning (using a piece of stiff cardboard) the rice vigorously as you do so. Don’t flip the rice into the air but continue to gently slice, lift and turn the rice occasionally, for 10 minutes. Cooling the rice using a fan gives good flavour, texture and a high-gloss sheen to the rice. The vinegar dressing will be absorbed by the hot rice. Using a small electric fan on the lowest speed setting is highly recommended.
    2. Stop fanning when there’s no more visible steam, and all the vinegar dressing has been adsorbed and the rice is shiny. Your sushi rice is ready to be used.

    • Keeping the rice moist


    1. Cover with a damp, lint free cloth to prevent the rice from drying out while preparing your sushi meal. Do not store sushi rice in the refrigerator leave on the counter covered at room temperature. Sushi rice is best used when it is at room temperature.

    4094046691_94eddf6dc9_m* Tip: To make sushi rice: for each cup of rice use 1 cup of water, 2 Tbs rice vinegar, 2 tsp sugar, ½ tsp salt and 1 tsp sake. For superior results use equal volumes of rice and water when cooking the sushi rice since the weight of rice can vary. Weight of 2½ cups of uncooked rice is about 525 grams or 18½ ounces.

    Though I was shocked to see the amount of rice it produced, I was equally shocked to see we nearly used all of it for these recipes. Hun and I dined well that evening, the meal finished with November’s Daring Bakers Challenge (come back on November 27th for the reveal). The bonus was that this was the first Daring Cooks Challenge we didn’t have to worry about our dinner getting cold while we took pictures of it. 🙂

    Snaps, courtesy of Hun (while I dealt with sticky, rice-covered fingers, building the various rolls. 🙂 )




    • Lauren 1:00 am on November 14, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      Your sushi looks amazing, I chickened out of using the sushi grade fish, just not my sort of thing!

      I also had problems with taking photos and making the sushi at the same time. Got myself into quite a mess, but it all turned out fine in the end!

    • Audax Artifex 3:23 am on November 14, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      That spiral roll looks like a rare jewell so shiny and gleaming with dewy class. Your sushi rolls are wonderful well done you don’t seem to have lost any for your sushi-making skills. I love how you seared the nigiri topings. Cheers from Audax in Australia.

    • chef_d 9:37 am on November 14, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      Great looking sushi!

    • Jenny 10:55 am on November 14, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      Your sushi looks great! I wish I also had access to a Japanese grocery store with all the “correct” stuff (here in Sweden we just have to wing it sometimes). Congrats on a challenge well done!

    • Lauren 2:11 pm on November 14, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      Stunning sushi Liz! The flavours look delicious =D. Fabulous job on this challenge!

    • Amy I. 2:35 pm on November 14, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      Your sushi looks beautiful! I’m also thrilled to hear that there are great sushi-making resources in Vancouver (although I’m not at ALL surprised), as we’re seriously considering moving there next year. Cheers!

    • Frenchie 6:41 pm on November 14, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      I love the seared tuna nigiri, I wish I had the right fish for this challenge, although I still loved how mine turned out. You did a great job, I think I could learn a thing or two from you. Your pictures are beautiful too.

    • suzon 3:12 pm on November 15, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      Spectacular. Your sushis are.

    • lisamichele 6:19 am on November 16, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      I echo Aud’s comment, that spiral roll does look like a precious jewel with the glistening tobiko. Great writeup, with clear and concise instructions. I just sent everyone to the site for the recipe..lazy and not happy with how my sushi turned out, although it tasted great. Nicely done all around!

    • pixeltheatre 8:09 pm on November 24, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      @all. Thanks for dropping by and commenting! It is appreciated! 🙂 The recipe for the sushi is straight from the instructions put together by the hosts of this challenge: Audax and Rose. They deserve the credit. 🙂

  • pixeltheatre 4:52 pm on August 1, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , cookout, Foodists BBQ Bootcamp, grilling,   

    BBQ nirvana 

    For the past year and a half, since I met my honey, we’ve been getting deeper and deeper into the art and science of grilling. We both had gas grills and used them year-round (this being the west coast), but had little experience with charcoal grilling. We invested a whopping $19.95 last year and bought a small kettle charcoal bbq from Superstore. Reminiscent of sputnik, this little guy helped us experiment throughout the summer and fall and convinced us that grilling with charcoal is the way to go. Along the way we also experimented with smoking, thanks to the “loan” of  a Little Chief Smoker from my hun’s brother (Will, you’re never seeing this smoker again… 😉 ). Salmon, salt, almonds, cheese, pork, turkey, bacon explosion, vegetables, we were game to try it, playing with various wood chips and rubs along the way.

    The winter was a particular trying one this year. Gas grilling is more convenient when it’s cold and rainy, but we were looking forward to going back to charcoal. The size of our sputnick didn’t allow much in terms of direct vs indirect heat — an inverted aluminum pie plate on top of the charcoal was the best we could really do. So, when the weather finally turned, hun splurged on a true Weber charcoal grill. Let the games begin!

    We hosted my mother and hun’s family for a bbq, cedar planked some halibut cheeks (our discovery of the year, recommended by our fishmonger at Granville Island. Cheaper than the steak, with wonderful moist texture), had fun with huge beef ribs, and the usual chicken and pork loins. Always on the lookout for good recipes and tips, I had RRS’d foodists.ca‘s blog a while back. Three weeks ago the following post fell into my inbox:

    Foodists brings you Barbecue Bootcamp

    Rockin’ Ronnie Shewchuck is running a special version of his acclaimed BBQ Workshop for Foodists. Whether you are already well seasoned on the grill or afraid of fire, this is an amazing opportunity and great value. We are rather excited to be sharing this with you. Here are all the details:

    Barbecue Bootcamp

    Join international barbecue champion Rockin’ Ronnie Shewchuk for this outdoor cooking extravaganza featuring the essentials of grilling and southern-style barbecue. The three-hour cooking and eating demonstration will include an overview of tools and equipment, rubs, sauces and marinades, techniques for quick and easy grilling and slow-smoking, plus tall tales and legends from the world of competitive barbecue. You’ll learn from and enjoy cooking demonstrations and samplings of great dishes from Ronnie’s bestselling new book, Barbecue Secrets DELUXE!, including:

    • Grilled Asparagus with Chipotle and Roasted Garlic Aioli
    • Grilled Quesadillas
    • Seared Calamari with Tomato Basil Salsa
    • Rack of Lamb with Balsamic Reduction
    • Classic North Carolina Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Tidewater Coleslaw and Baked Beans
    • Grilled Beef Tenderloin Steak with Gorgonzola Butter
    • Real Barbecued Pork Ribs
    • Cedar-planked Salmon with Whiskey-maple Glaze
    • Planked Grapefruit with Grand Marnier and Honey

    Not only is this incredible value on its own, we will be including wine tastings, pairing each of the dishes with wines courtesy of Ravenswood California Zinfandel.

    Barbeque Bootcamp promises to be a celebration of gourmet backyard cooking. If you want to seriously upgrade your grilling and barbecue skills, don’t miss this.

    My jaw dropped as I started salivating, reading the menu. In two clicks I had forwarded the email/post to hun with a simple note of: “!?”. To my joy he responded with: “!! Eating demonstrations!! I’m in! I’ll order tickets if you wanna go.” Ah, yeah!… Thanks hun!! 🙂

    And so there we were, on a hot Saturday morning in Burnaby, in a gorgeous private garden (thanks again to the hosts of this bbq demo), with 36 other bbq fans for a 4-1/2 hours tour of bbq tips, dishes, and stories on the competition circuit. It was a perfect day. Ronnie was a great guide. If you have a chance to see him in action, don’t hesitate to go. He’s well worth the price of admission. We left that afternoon with full stomachs, an autographed copy of Ronnie’s latest book and a smile on our face. Thank you to foodists.ca, Johnstone Barbecues & Parts and Ravenswood for sponsoring this event. Pictures available on this slideshow.

    • lisamichele 6:33 pm on August 13, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      I love your BBQ menu, especially the halibut cheeks. I did some uhhh, BBQ myself, but the ‘shortcut’ way..lol Definitely NOT authentic, albeit tasty! That said, I saw your photos of this month’s DC challange at the DK Kitchen, and can I saw, wow? Looking forward to your whole post!

  • pixeltheatre 12:01 am on July 14, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , molecular cuisine, skate   

    Daring Cooks – 3rd challenge: Skate, traditional flavors powdered 

    This month’s Daring Cooks challenge involved an unusual fish called skate. I had tasted skate before at cooking school and loved it. Not a big fan of cooked fish (but I’ll eat sashimi and smoked salmon, go figure), I was pleasantly surprised by its freshness and its texture. Our hostess, Sketchy, from Sketchy’s Kitchen is a big fan of molecular cuisine, so this challenge also provided a good introduction to this side of cooking I had yet to explore. This is a dish from Grant Achatz, found in the Alinea cookbook.

    The list of accompanying ingredients was simple, yet took me a good afternoon to prep, most of it involving my micro-wave to dehydrate the various herbs. Not the best way to do this, to be sure, but I did not have a dehydrator. Everything was pretty straightforward. The results were quite rich, the method involving cooking the beans and poaching the fish in beurre monté. The fish was leaned on a bed of sliced bananas and green beans. I quite enjoyed the combination of fish and banana. Who knew?… All in all an interesting foray into the world of molecular cuisine.

    Skate, Traditional Flavors Powdered
    – with changes

    • 4 skate wings
    • * Beurre monte
    • * 300g fresh green beans
    • sea salt/kosher salt
    • 1 banana
    • 454g butter – 4 sticks
    • 300g lemons
    • 5g citric acid/vitamin c tablet
    • 150g cilantro
    • 150g parsley
    • 100g dried banana chips
    • 300g spray dried cream powder (or powdered milk)
    • 100g cup minced red onion
    • 200g capers (brined, not oil)

    * For green beans, slice each beans into very thin rounds (2 mm)

    • Beurre Monte – 454g butter (4 sticks, 1 pound) cubed and cold, 60g water. In a small saucepan, bring the water to a boil, remove from heat and whisk in the butter 1 cube at a time. This should from an emulsion. Keep this heated, but under 195 degrees. The emulsion will not break – this is your poaching liquid.

    Powders – prepare ahead of time
    caper / onion
    lemon powder
    cilantro/parsley powder
    ‘brown butter’ powder

    once dried, all powders should be pulsed in a coffee grinder/spice mill/morter and pestle then passed through a chinois or fine mesh strainer.

    citrus powder
    300g lemons
    1000g simple syrup
    5g citric acid/vitamin c tablet

    zest 300g of lemons (10.6 oz), remove the pith from the zest and poach in the simple syrup three times. dry with paper towels and move to a dehydrating tray. 130 for 12 hours. pulse the zest in a coffee grinder, pass through chinois, and mix with citric acid/vitamin C powder.

    If you do not have a dehydrator, place in microwave for 8 to 10 minutes at medium powder. Once dried, follow the other instructions.

    cilantro/parsley powder
    150g cilantro
    150g parsley

    blanch the parsley in boiling saltwater for 1 second, submerge the leaves in ice water for 3 minutes. Dry on paper towels and place on dehydrator tray. 130 for 12 hours. grind and pass through chinois.

    If you do not have a dehydrator, place in microwave for 30 seconds, turn over leaves and microwave for another thirty seconds. They should be dry by now, pulse in coffee grinder, pass through chinois and reserve.

    onion powder
    100g cup minced red onions

    dehydrator – 130 for 12 hours
    microwave at medium power for 20 minutes.

    pulse in grinder, pass through chinois

    Caper powder
    200g capers (get the ones packed in brine/vinegar)

    run the capers under cold water for two minutes to remove some of the brine.
    dry on paper towels and dehydrate for 12 hours at 130 degrees.
    microwave instructions are unclear. Dry them as much a possible with paper towels, the microwave on medium for 1 minute. Check the moisture content and stir them. repeat for 30 second intervals until they are dry. If you use this method, pleas post the time needed to dry the capers.

    Once dry, pulse and sift the powder. Mix it with the onion powder.

    Brown Butter powder

    100g Dried banana chips (unsweetened if possible – many are coated in honey – the freeze dried ones would be brilliant)
    300g spray dried cream powder

    If you cannot find the cream powder, you can substitute Bob’s red mill non fat dry milk powder, or even carnation instant milk powder. The substitutions will alter the flavor a little, but you will still get the general idea.

    preheat the oven to 350 degrees, sift the cream powder into a fine layer on a silpat or on parchment. bake for 4 minutes, then remove for heat. If it bakes for too long, it will burn. Be very cautious with all powders in the oven. They all go from browned to burnt in a few seconds.

    grind the banana chips in a coffee grinder and mix with the toasted cream powder. Pass this through a chinois and reserve.

    * For green beans, slice each beans into very thin rounds (2 mm)
    * Beurre Monte – 454g butter (4 sticks, 1 pound) cubed and cold, 60g water. In a small saucepan, bring the water to a boil, remove from heat and whisk in the butter 1 cube at a time. This should from an emulsion. Keep this heated, but under 195 degrees. The emulsion will not break – this is your poaching liquid.

    Prepare the skate – 50G v shaped cuts are recommended
    Bring 100g water, 100g beurre monte, and green bean rounds to a boil over high heat. Cook until the water has evaporated (about 3 minutes), when the pan is almost dry, remove it from heat and season with 3g salt

    bring 300g water and 300g beurre monte to simmer over medium heat, add skate wings and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove the pan from heat and flip the wing over and let rest in pan for two more minutes. Transfer to warming tray lined with parchment and season with 5 grams of fine sea salt.

    • lisamichele 3:23 am on July 14, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      Your dish came out beautiful, and I love the way you plated your powders! Very, very nicely done!

    • Audax Artifex 4:34 am on July 14, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      What a wonderful result you got. And just love those powders on that geometric plate design. Good to hear that you enjoyed it so much. A very interesting challenge. Great work cheers from Audax in Australia

    • lisamichele 8:10 am on July 14, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      Gorgeous job on this challenge! Your presentation is beautiful, and it looks delicious..perfectly executed! 🙂

    • Singing Horse 12:33 pm on July 14, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      Your powders look very beautiful and the swirls are pretty. Great job!

    • climbhighak 1:01 pm on July 14, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      For some time I thought I would be the only one actually using skate. Nice to see someone else in the world was able to find it.

      Great work.

    • Lauren 6:51 am on July 21, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      Yum! Your skate looks wonderful =D. Beautiful job!!

  • pixeltheatre 12:02 am on December 1, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: crème fraîche, , squash, vanilla   

    Recipes to Rival – 2nd Challenge: Squash Soup with Vanilla Crème Fraîche 

    This month’s challenge was perfectly timed for a cold and rainy November in the Pacific Northwest: soup. Our hostess was Meghan of Joy Through Cooking. Meghan chose a recipe from last season’s Top Chef show, Squash Soup with Vanilla Crème Fraîche. Top Chef is not a show I follow normally, but I had actually seen this episode, so it was neat to have a reference for it. This recipe was created by Andrew D’Ambrosi and Spike Mendelsohn, in response to a challenge where teams had to create a recipe using terms shouted out at an improv show: Yellow, Vanilla, Love. This recipe was the result.

    Following the recommendations from members on the forum, I roasted the squash the night before. The interesting twist to this recipe, for me, was the use of miso paste with the mirepoix. What a great flavour it added to the soup! The other nice touch was the vanilla crème fraîche. All in all, a recipe well worth trying. Great challenge, great results.

    Bring on December!!

  • pixeltheatre 12:02 am on November 1, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Beef rendang, coconut milk, Malaysia,   

    Recipes to Rival – 1st Challenge: Beef Rendang 

    I’ve been looking for a savory version of the monthly Daring Bakers’ challenges for a while. Finally found it on, surprise, one of the DB’s forum threads. Founded by Temperance of High on the Hog and Lori of Lipsmacking Goodness, two DB members, Recipes to Rival launched in June 2008. The format is similar to DB challenges, with different hosts each month. October belonged to birthday girl, Rayrena, from Happy Cows. The inspiration came from a podcast she heard a couple of years ago on The Splendid Table that featured James Oseland, who is now the Editor in Chief of Saveur magazine.

    The recipe was straight forward and mostly involved a slow reduction of beef cubes in coconut milk infused with various traditional Malaysian ingredients: lemongrass, lime leaves, cloves, ginger, galangal, peppers. This gave me a good excuse to visit my favorite spice and exotic food store on Granville Island, South China Seas Trading Co.

    My dinner guest and I were very happy with the results. It was spicy yet creamy. I served it with some Thai sticky rice and pickled carrots and cucumbers. The recipe is available here.

    Looking forward to the November challenge!

  • pixeltheatre 9:49 pm on June 26, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , cretons, french canadian, meat pie, , tourtiere   

    Invitation: Mmm…Canada – The Savory Edition 

    In early June I was invited by Jasmine (Confessions of a Cardamon Addict) to blog about “which savory dishes or drinks tastes like Canada to you?” This invitation was in anticipation of July 1st, Canada’s official birthday. It certainly was an interesting question, one I had often thought about, but usually in the context of: Does Canada really have a distinctive culture? Food is definitely part of a culture, I think. But as difficult it is to answer the culture question, the food angle is no easier.

    I was born and raised in Québec, predominantly in the french-canadian culture. I now live on the West Coast of Canada, in Vancouver, a city with distinct Asian and East-Asian culinary influences.  Though I absolutely love that cuisine, and consider it part of my heritage now, I have to admit the first thought and taste that came to me when I received the invitation was my mom’s meat pie (tourtière). I also “smelled” maple sap reducing in a cabane à sucre (sugar shack), and felt the soft, sweet texture of maple taffee on my tongue. All, really, childhood memories.

    Christmas time is a big cooking and baking period pretty much around the world. It’s no exception in Québec. Though my mom now lives in Toronto, I was really happy last Christmas to finally help her prepare a traditional dish, usually served in the winter: Ragoût de pâte de cochon (Pigs feet stew). I blogged about this here. Another traditional fare at that time of year is a type of quick paté called cretons.  It’s a nice little appetizer. Here’s the recipe:

    Cretons à l’ancienne

    Source : Jehane Benoît

    1 lb minced pork, lean
    1 cup milk
    1 cup bread crumbs (or dried bread, finely chopped)
    1 onion, finely chopped
    to taste, Salt
    to taste, Pepper
    to taste, cloves, grounded
    to taste, cinnamon, grounded

    Instructions :Mix all ingredients in a saucepan. Cover and cook for 1 hour on low heat. Stir once or twice during cooking time. Store in containers. Can be frozen.

    Thanks again, Jasmine, for this thought-provoking subject. Now, I wonder, to which cuisine will I turn to celebrate this July 1st?…

    • jasmine 4:24 pm on June 27, 2008 Permalink | Reply

      Good post. I really enjoy reading about the treats that come from the Québecois kitchen.

      Thanks for participating!


    • Joanne at Frutto della Passione 2:15 am on July 1, 2008 Permalink | Reply

      It is amazing how many of us have talked about childhood memories in our posts for this event. I have never had your dish, but it looks and sounds very tempting! Thanks for sharing.

    • Liliana 10:03 am on July 1, 2008 Permalink | Reply

      Mmm…I love cretons although I have never made it. Thanks for sharing this recipe!

      Happy Canada Day!

    • Christine 11:07 am on July 1, 2008 Permalink | Reply

      Aaahhh the “sugar shack” smell. I can smell it now. We took our daughter for the first time this year, and hope to do it every year for a long time. I can smell it now. Happy Canada Day!

    • Hélène 6:43 pm on July 3, 2008 Permalink | Reply

      Moi aussi je suis née au Québec et j’aime bien les cretons. Que c’est bon.

  • pixeltheatre 2:06 pm on February 26, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Barilla, Chris Daughtry, , David Tutera, Debra Messing, , Mario Batali, Marisa Tomei, Natalie Portman, Stanley Tucci   

    Free cookbook from Barilla US: Celebrity Italian Table Cookbook 

    BarillaBarilla does it again, this time in support of Second Harvest in the US. The free downloadable pdf includes recipes from Mario Batali, David Tutera, Debra Messing, Stanley Tucci, Natalie Portman, Chris Daughtry and Marisa Tomei.

    So, if Penne in a Spicy Sauce with Capers and Olives, Autumn Vegetables with Goat Cheese and Pumpkinseed Oil and Saffron Panna Cotta sound like your type of Italian delectables, head over to this site to download the book. If you’re from the USA, you can actually specify which Second Harvest you wish Barilla to send its contribution.

    Offer ends February 29th has been extended to March 31st!

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

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