Sunday, July 25, 2010

An Inexact Pasta Salad

I've been obsessed with pasta salad lately. In fact, it's the only way I get excited about pasta... otherwise I'd happily go about my business ignoring it.

How much broccoli, you ask? Erm...
There's just something so lovely about the portability of pasta salad! It's go-to picnic food. Making it on Sunday also guarantees that some lunches this week have been taken care of.

Now, when it comes to making pasta salad, I think it's important to be finicky about only one thing: the dressing.

Dressing

½ medium shallot, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2½ tbsp white balsamic vinegar (use white wine or apple cider if you like)
1½ tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp dijon mustard
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper

Blend all dressing ingredients together in a blender or food processor. This will make the dressing slightly creamy.

Salad

Love the corkscrew shape!
Now, I'm not going to lie. For me, pasta salad is an inexact science. It's about palmfuls and leftovers, as you can see from the ingredient list below.

2 cups uncooked pasta (I used a kind of fusilli)
As many veggies as pleases you. I chopped the following into bite sized pieces:
        ½ head broccoli
        a handful of baby carrots
        ¼ each red & yellow pepper
        ½ medium zucchini
        3 artichoke hearts
        handful of kalamata olives
Some protein, chopped (I used two leftover grilled chicken thighs from the ones I cooked for the pizza)
2 tbsp - ¼ cup parmesan cheese (grate it yourself! Makes a world of difference)
½ tsp each dried basil, oregano and thyme
handful parsley, chopped

Cook your pasta until al dente (mine took about 8 minutes). If you like your broccoli blanches, throw it in with the pasta for the last minute or so of cooking time. Drain and throw into a bowl with the other ingredients.

Here's the important thing: add the herbs before you add the dressing. This will distribute everything nicely. Once you've tossed the salad ingredients together, stir in the dressing. Let sit in the fridge to allow flavours to come together.

I say eat it up in 2-3 days. That's tonight's dinner and lunch on Monday and Tuesday sorted!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

BBQ Chicken Pizza

They key here is really in the sauce. Heck, you can throw whatever toppings you want on, but it ain't bbq pizza without the bold spicy sauce.

I`m sorry about the picture. I took it while eating at the same time!
I had chicken thighs, peppers, onion and stuffed olives on hand, so that's what went on our pizza.

Oh, and some potent sheep's milk cheese. Stinking up the fridge. Strong enough to stand up to this bold pizza.

Yar.

Dough

3/4 cup warm water
2 tsp honey
2¼ tsp yeast (1 package)
½ tsp salt
2 cups + ¼ cup flour
cornmeal (I use a small handful to dust my baking sheet)

Stir together water and honey. Sprinkle yeast on top. Set aside until yeast begins to bubble, about 5 minutes.

In mixer, stir together salt and 2 cups flour. Stir in yeast mixture. Let machine run on level 2 until dough has come together and is smooth and elastic. (Alternatively get your elbows prepped for some serious kneading - about 10 minutes worth). Sprinkle work surface with a little flour, and knead the dough a few times just to pull it all together.

Grease a large bowl. Throw the dough in (gently! Gently!), toss around to grease all sides. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit in warm area to rise until double in bulk, about 1 hour.

Sprinkle cornmeal on baking sheet. Roll dough out on sheet until desired size. Cover with plastic wrap and place in fridge for ½ hour.

Meanwhile, get started on the sauce!

Sriracha. If you don't have it in your pantry, you should!
Sauce

½ cup BBQ sauce (I find a milder one works best, but all I had on hand was a dark, bold one, so that's what I used)
1 tbsp sriracha hot sauce
1 tbsp honey

Stir ingredients together in bowl.

Voila. Sauce.

You knew it was going to be that easy, right? Right?

The ½ hour has passed, which means you have dough, sauce and presumably some toppings. So, preheat the oven to 450, pull the crust out of the fridge. Remove plastic wrap (it seems so obvious, really), sauce that bad boy up and top however you wish.

Once the oven is heated, put the pizza in for 18 minutes.

Eighteen. It's the magic number. Don`t forget it. At minute 19 your pizza will burst into flames.

Maybe it won`t, but do you really want to chance it? Really?

You monster. Stick with 18 minutes.

When the 18 minutes is up, pull out the pizza, and let it stand for 5 minutes on its baking sheet. Cut. Serve. Enjoy.

You can thank me later.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Top Ten Etsy Favourites

I love window shopping etsy. I'm constantly adding things to my favourites, but never have the money to go back and buy the stuff. So here's a top ten list of small decor items I'd like for the apartment.

Just let me day dream.

10.
PistachioPress

9.
LightInAWorm'sHole

8.
JDWolfePottery

7.
Topnotchtokens

6.
TurkishBath

5.
SautterPictures

4.
BlueRoomPottery

3.
Naokosstoop

2.
Nestables

1.
JanGonzalez

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Monday Night Vegan Cooking with Kat

Hold on to your hats, boleros and bonnets folks, not only did this week's episode of the Bachelorette promise to be the one where Frank Loses It, but Kat and I are cooked up a storm!

Frank. What a dweeb. He sucked. I hope he and his girl are broken up again.

Last night's Menu:

Appetizers: Stuffed Mushrooms
Sides: Wagamama's Raw Salad, Pasta Salad with artichokes and olives
Main Course: Tempeh Crab Cakes with... erm... some kind of remoulade.
Dessert: Bittersweet Chocolate Orange Sorbet

Here's what the dinner plate looked like:


Wagamama Salad, Pasta Salad, Tempeh Crab Cakes
Now, Kat was worried about the tempeh crab cakes... which is a first for our Monday night cooking. Usually what happens is I get weirded out by the recipe and she's totally calm, cool and collected.


So when she gets nervous, I get extra nervous... 'cause, you know... I'm not even entirely sure I know what what tempeh is. I know there's fermenting. I know it's soy bean based. I know it comes in blocks.


We were both relieved that the cakes were awesome. My husband gave them huge thumbs up. And when the carnivore does that, you know you're in a happy place.

Recipes and links after the jump!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Sunday Night Dinner

Sunday night is definitely a night for beef and potatoes. But, as its summer, the traditional roast beef just won't do.

I'm actually really excited about the two recipes I'm going to link you to today. Whenever I get to purchase new ingredients (Hello tamarind paste! Where have you been all my life?), I admit to being pretty enthused. The meal is heavy on flavours of lemongrass and coriander (or cilantro if you prefer).

I served it with edamame tossed with Kilauea Black Sea Salt and shichimi powder and some tofu kimchi dumplings.

Not too shabby looking, huh?

First up we have the beef recipe: Malaysian Beef Satay. Now, this recipe is really easy to put together, but does require access to some Asian markets (I actually couldn't find the galangal - so ginger it was). The only really annoying part was where it calls for 3 (yeah, that's right, THREE) macadamia nuts. Ridiculous. I had to march myself down to Whole Foods because that's the closest I can buy them unsalted and in bulk.

I've opted not to do the peanut sauce. I was feeling lazy. Having said that, I wish I had made it, because I think the contrast of flavours would have been ace.

 Satays on Potato Salad - note the angelic glow!

This brings to dish number two: Lemongrass & Ginger Potato Salad. Sesame oil, rice vinegar, ginger, lemongrass and jalapeno add some kick and while the cilantro and green onions add bright flavours. I loved that this wasn't a creamy salad. It definitely benefits from sitting for a while to absorb all the flavours. Delicious stuff though.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Cleaning House

How long would it take for your home to be guest ready?

I had this friend in Japan who was so enviably neat it blew my mind. Everything had a place! There was nary a spot of dirt in sight.

Me? I just discovered a colony of dust bunnies living under the computer table. I'm not going to evict them anytime soon.

The way I see it, I could spend a weekend doing a deep clean... or I could spend a frantic hour tidying, vacuuming and scrubbing the bathroom. So that's my answer. One frantic hour.

But, over the next few months, we're having several friends/family members come to stay with us, so a few things have to change. Bookcases, hangers for towels, a new vanity... the list just goes on and on.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Confession

I am completely OCD about arranging things via colours of the rainbow. See?


Note that the shelf ends in the purples/reds and then goes into purple flowers. I'm not entirely happy with this yet, because it's hard to decide on a few of the orders... do I work with the patterning colours? I've got 4 more books to add to the collection (and if anyone knows where I can get War & Peace with the cover done by Coralie Bickford-Smith, I'd be thrilled), so that'll throw everything off too.

Need a closer look?


I stack cups and plates that way too. It's a problem.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Excited!

One of my friends from high school is coming to Toronto with her husband in two weeks. In celebration, I thought I'd post this picture of us wearing giant sombreros and carrying sparklers.


I don't know why we're standing on the table.

So don't even bother asking.

Sight/Sound/Taste

It's insane to me to think this, but I moved to Japan almost six years ago to this week (it was July 24, 2004). About this time each year I start to get nostalgic for my time there: chicken-cheese from Daikichi, the sound of cicadas in the forest, the oppressive humidity of summer, the smell of cypress wood houses baking in the sun. Sometimes I'll get a whiff of something vaguely reminiscent of those three Julys and I'll be instantly transported back.

My Mum and I were talking about Japan when I was in Ottawa last week, and how it was, for me, probably the most defining time in my life to date. I think she's right - Japan was where I learned to be me.

As nerdy as I was in high school, my sense of self took a huge beating in university. Looking back on those years, I can't even begin to describe who I was then. Japan gave me the opportunity to rise and discover who I could be, if I wanted to. I made some mistakes along the way (especially during that first month - oh lord, I cringe to think of it), but I wouldn't change anything about my time there for the world.

In case you're curious: An International Incident

So as I was thinking back on those days, I decided to look up Sakashita on google. And low and behold, what was one of the first pictures to appear?

(photos by Melissa Chasse)

Check out my 25 year old self, with my 25 year old husband. Of course, he wasn't my husband yet. Turns out my friend Melissa's old blog had some appropriate tags! I hope she won't mind my borrowing them.

We're swimming in Kawa Ue, which was so cold, but SO gorgeous! That water was crisp - and so refreshing on those 45ยบ+ days.

Check out this little area of the river called Dragon Falls:

(Melissa Chasse)

(Melissa Chasse)

And then I'll think to myself: I freaking lived there! That was 10 minutes from my house!

Dude.

In honour of Japan, I'm just going to throw out one of my favourite Japanese recipes after the jump: kinpira gobo

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Summer party things I love

I keep dreaming of hosting a dinner party up at my cottage. The thing is, my cottage isn't classy enough for that. So, I just day dream about a cottage on a lake... with willow trees... and tables with mismatched chairs.

10. Lemonade Jars - don't you love the gradation in the strawberry lemonade picture?

(from Sur La Table)

9. Burlap table runners - the perfect rustic fabric

(Style Me Pretty)

8. Natural, organic feeling flowers - as though there's a field nearby with them in it. (My cottage has a swamp... doesn't quite count, does it?)

(Style Me Pretty)

7. Low, huge paper lanterns - I'm madly in love with lanterns... and have been for years!

(unknown)


6. Fava Bean, Mint, and Pecorino Romano Bruschetta - mmm. Bruschetta.

(Martha Stewart)

5. Food on Sticks - That's probably my time in Japan speaking. Nothing says summer like food on sticks!

(Galaxyguides.com)

4. Dinner on the Dock - ah, I love this - especially with the palm branches and tiki torches! (If only we were directly on the river!)

 (sanctuare.com)

3. Bonfires - who doesn't love a big bonfire? There's something totally young at heart about them!

(darrellinjapan.wordpress.com)

2. Grilled Corn on the Cob - I love this stuff! The sugars in the corn get all caramelized and totally delicious.

 (slashfood.com)

1. A Relaxed Picnic Vibe - maybe it's the red, maybe it's the hamper. I love picnic food though. The sandwich is my all time favourite eat. You cannot beat a good sandwich.

(http://www.pigglywigglync.com)

Now, this is what my cottage actually looks like:


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Mmm. Beer.

Have I mentioned the Beerbistro? If I haven't told you about it in person, let me explain to you why I love this place.

Brace yourselves.

Everything is made with beer. No. Seriously. I mean everything.

Pizza? Stout Crust
Sour cream? Has Gueze in it .
Ice Cream? They call it Beer Scream.
Bacon? Cured with beer.
Salad dressing? White beer & truffle oil.

They have a cellar with 200+ bottles of beer... some of which cost hundreds of dollars. It's beertastic!

Last night, Phil and I got together with another one of my friends from high school and her husband. They live (relatively) near by (and by that I mean an hour+ by car or train), and it's always good to see them. I've known my friend since grade 9! Back then, she wanted to be a doctor. And guess what? Unlike just about every other teenager who wants to be a doctor, she actually is one! You have no idea how proud I am of her for sticking to it.

I'm digressing. Later this week, I'll be whipping up a batch of beer scream (or strawberry beer sorbet), but for now you'll have to settle for a lunchtime recipe that doesn't involve beer at all.

What? I needed to detox. All those beer samplers add up, you know?

Don't be turned off by the word detox. The salad is really good!


C'mon. You know you want some. Look at those gorgeous olive oil dressed beans. Parsley! Lemon Rind! Capers! Sea salt!

It's a total winner.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Other Ways of Staving Off Boredom

Because Mondays come only once a week (and the Bachelorette is ending soon), I thought I'd share a few other highlights of the past month!


Dinner at a Japanese Izakaya (Koyoi) with friends. Oh, izakayas, how I've missed you! Check it out:

My husband with a huge bottle of beer! 


Me with Shochu! 



Cashisu Orenji! Okonomiyaki (below)! Yaki nasu!


I got to shout sumimansen too! Ah, how I've missed you Japan!

While the G20 nonesense (I'm looking at both of you protesters and police. There was a whole lot of bad behaviour on both sides), we looked after our friends' cat, Sherlock. You can tell how much he loved us by this picture:

Is that the red light from the laser pointer I see in the distance? Must DESTROY!

We also hit up the cottage for some old fashion R&R. And by that I mean the traditional Eat/Sleep/Read/Swim (and kayak). I stuck around in O-Town for a while, got together with some friends for dinnger (where I promptly left my sunglasses behind), and then took the train back to Toronto. When I got back (Phil came back alone first), we hit up a TFC football game in the blistering heat.






I brought a Very Large Hat with me and sat in the shade cast by my own head. I think that's pretty awesome.


Okay. So. Yeah. I did look like a dork.

But I didn't get burned! And the guy who didn't bring a hat (*cough**cough*Phil*cough*) totally did. So there.

Other highlights included: finding an air conditioner! Installing the air conditioner! Swearing at the air conditioner! Apologizing to it because the apartment is gloriously cool now!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Getting into the Summer Vibe with Mondays

As a student, the beginning of summer always depressed me. I never quite knew what to do with myself. As a teacher... well... I find myself in the same place. And then I feel badly because my non-teacher friends would kill for this much time off.

But that doesn't stop me from being a little bored. Shh. Don't tell anyone. I miss my students.

To keep myself from weeping softly into my elbow, we've been busy doing a few things. I only have one regular date though, and that's my Monday Night Cooking Date with Kat.


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