Tuesday, February 21, 2012

This Time Last Year...

We're taking a brief hiatus from cooking this week in our Transatlantic Tastes series, due to visitors to our respective homes. And when we cooked last week, my camera died just as I was about to take a picture of all my ingredients, so I don't have a write up about that recipe just yet...but, I decided to blog about food this week anyways!

I was browsing my Twitter feed on Saturday afternoon, and my pal Sarah tweeted that it had been a year since our Indigo Tweetup at LUMA. What a great experience that was! It was so nice to meet fellow food and book lovers, and to come together to talk with people from our favourite bookstore; we all had so much fun. Not to mention the fact that having a delicious meal prepared by one of Toronto's finest chefs, Jason Bangerter, and meeting three of Canada's most well known celebrity chefs, Chefs Massimo Capra, Jason Parsons and Michael Bonacini, definitely made the experience one of the highlights of my Toronto life! The food at LUMA is absolutely to die for. If you ever have the chance to eat there, you mustChef Bangerter is a culinary genius.

We did have a mini reunion in September just before I left for Newfoundland, which Sarah blogged about, and it was so nice to see the ladies again. I'm hoping to plan a weekend trip to Toronto in the next few months, and one thing that will definitely be on my To Do list for that trip? Another meal with my Indigo Tweets ladies. :)

So instead of writing a whole new entry about our fabulous dining experience this time last year, why don't you read about it right here?

Have a great week!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Toronto, How I Miss Thee

As you probably know by now, (and if you don't, what parts of my blog have you been reading?? Kidding!) I used to live in Toronto, going to school and working in the public relations industry. While I love my home in Newfoundland, now that I'm back in St. John's, I realize that I do miss Toronto an awful lot.

When I first moved to the Big Smoke, I was going to school and living in Etobicoke, so I didn't get a chance to explore downtown Toronto a whole lot. But when I moved downtown after finishing school and lived in an apartment with some friends, that was like a different life altogether.

At the time, I was on the job hunt looking for work, with not much to do and little money to spend. While there were days I stayed home and watched a lot of television, (it was then I discovered and became obsessed with the Food Network -  a healthy obsession, I like to think) all that free time gave me a chance to explore the city and get to know it better. I learned street names and subway stations, districts of the city and where popular attractions were located.

Being away from Toronto has shown me how much I really do miss things like:

I miss living with my roommates in our brick townhouse in the heart of downtown Toronto. My friend Heather and I had gone through our public relations program together and our friend Brittany and later, new roommate Kristel, both strangers in the beginning, became fast friends, and are still friends of mine today. It was really nice, being able to come home at the end of our days, make dinner and talk about what had happened at work, and then watch some tv together, play video games, or just chat. I miss those days, girls. :)

I miss walking to the St. Lawrence Market on Saturday mornings with my buddy Paul and having pasta, buying fresh produce and stocking up on perogies. Being able to buy your produce from somewhere other than the grocery store is something that's rare in St. John's. I know we have a couple of little farmer's markets in the city and surrounding areas, but they're nothing like the St. Lawrence Market.

You must know by now that I love cupcakes. I mean, seriously love. So when in a big city like Toronto, there were bakeries and sweet shops that sure, sold cupcakes. But then there were cupcake shops, dedicated to just cupcakes.

Those were the places I used to visit fairly often...so much so, that the staff at one of them began to remember me. I knew then I had a problem. A cupcake-addiction problem...but it's fine, all things in moderation, right? I miss the cupcake shops I'd visit the most, like Prairie Girl Bakery, or Dlish Cupcakes. Both their cupcakes were so delicious.

I know my Toronto friends might think I'm crazy, but I miss riding the subway. (okay, I certainly don't miss the delays on the TTC, but I do miss riding the train sometimes.) I miss getting on the train and letting it take me to wherever I was going, listening to the stops being announced, seeing the people on the train with me, wondering where they were headed. Every once in a while, I'd run into someone I knew on the train (which was rare, since I didn't know very many people in Toronto) and that would always delight me; that in a city of millions, it's still a small world after all.

I miss the atmosphere of the city; so busy and noisy and full of lights and massive buildings and strings of traffic. Those are things that, no matter how much I love St. John's, it just doesn't have, like Toronto does.

My time in Toronto had a big impact on my life and the person I am today. I was out on my own in a city that, while I had visited numerous times on family vacations, was still strange to me. It was a big change. But it was one I had craved and one that I had needed for a while. And because it had such a positive impact on me, there's not a day that goes by that I don't miss that city and all it offered me.

While I do miss Toronto, and still wish I could be back there sometimes, when your home looks like this, it's hard not to feel happy that you're from such a beautiful place like Newfoundland.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Transatlantic Tastes Week Two - Quick Salmon Tikka with Cucumber Yogurt

This week in our "Transatlantic Tastes" series, we decided to step up our game a bit, while still cooking something that was somewhat basic. We went Indian!

Anyone who has lived in England or is familiar with English food and culture will know that curry has changed the definition of British cuisine. It could be said that the curry has essentially become the national dish in modern day Britain. There are just as many curry shops as there are chip shops in cities and towns all over the nation.

While we didn't make a proper curry this week with rice and all the fixings, we did make a dish that is Indian to its core. I've listed the ingredients below to show you what makes up the recipe, and as you can see, most things you will be able to find in any supermarket. I was a little concerned that I wouldn't find the tandoori paste that Jamie calls for in the recipe, but as luck would have it, good ol' Dominion came through for me! It was even the brand he specified, Patak's!

Jamie Oliver's website hosts a large number of his recipes, including this week's, which you can find at the link below.

Quick Salmon Tikka with Cucumber Yogurt

naan breads or flatbreads
a fresh red chile
a cucumber
a lemon
natural yogurt
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
fresh cilantro
2 salmon fillets, skin on, scaled, and bones removed
tandoori, or mild curry paste
olive oil

Ingredients at the ready...

Should've used Greek yogurt! Ah well, I know better for next time. :)

The salmon is sizzling away!

The finished product...a little charred, but still good!

Nancy's turned out pretty good as well!

This dish was a little challenging because to be perfectly honest, I'd never cooked salmon before. I'm not a big fish eater, and with my shellfish allergy, I generally stay away from all fishy foods. But, I wanted to give this recipe a try, because it involved two things I don't have very often - fish and Indian cuisine. It's always good to try something new! Jamie also says in the recipe that it's called "Quick Salmon Tikka..." because it should take about 17 minutes to throw together...well, it took us a bit longer than that, probably because we pause to talk so much and don't actually try to rush in our cooking. That's my excuse and I'm stickin' with it.

Like last week, I had to switch out some ingredients for others; I couldn't find a red chile pepper anywhere in St. John's (does anyone know where I can find chillies that look like this? Ignore the green! I want red!) so I had to use a jalapeno instead, as that was all they had at the grocery store. It didn't add the heat I think it was supposed to.

I like to think that my finished product looks exactly like Jamie's, however, I'm sadly mistaken. Jamie's salmon isn't as charred as mine turned out to be, but I expected I wouldn't cook it perfectly, since I'd never cooked salmon before, and didn't really know how. However, when the time came for the taste test, it still tasted pretty good!

You can try this recipe for yourself by picking up a copy of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution cookbook, or checking out his website, JamieOliver.com! Until next time, happy cooking!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Transatlantic Tastes Week One - Cherry Tomato Sauce with Cheat's Fresh Pasta

Welcome to "Transatlantic Tastes with Nancy and Elizabeth"! (We're still working on the name. It might also be called "Bangers and Mash: Transatlantic British Cooking with Elizabeth and Nancy" or "The Transatlantic British Cooking Class". We'll figure it out.)

For our first cooking adventure, Nancy and I decided to stick to a recipe that was fairly basic, since we were just starting out as chefs. We figured we shouldn't get too ahead of ourselves. So when flipping through our Jamie's Food Revolution cookbooks, we thought that a pasta recipe would be a good place to start. The following is so easy, but so delicious, that it's a great recipe for beginner chefs:

Cherry Tomato Sauce with Cheat's Fresh Pasta


1 1/2 pints ripe grape or cherry tomatoes
4 cloves of garlic
a small bunch of fresh basil (While Nancy had fresh basil, I couldn't find any in the grocery stores, so I used Litehouse Freeze-Dried Basil, which worked perfectly!)
1 pound fresh lasagna, defrosted if frozen (we both changed this; she used penne and I used ditalini)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
olive oil
2 pats of butter
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
4 ounces parmesan cheese

To prepare your pasta:
Cut the tomatoes into halves or quarters, depending on size. Peel and slice the garlic. Pick the basil leaves off the stalks and put them to one side. Finely chop the stalks. Cut the lasagna sheets into 3 or 4 long strips and put to one side. Grate the parmesan.

To cook your pasta:
Bring a large pan of salted water to a boil. Put a large frying pan over a medium heat and add a couple of lugs of olive oil and the garlic. Add the butter and let it melt. When the garlic starts to brown, add the tomatoes. Give everything a good stir, then add the basil stalks and half the leaves. Add the vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Drop your fresh pasta strips into the pan of boiling water and cook for 3 minutes. Drain in a colander over a large bowl, reserving some of the cooking water. Add the pasta to the frying pan with a splash of the cooking water and half the parmesan. Give it a good stir. Taste and add a little more salt and pepper if you think it needs it.

To serve your pasta:
Divide the pasta between your plates or bowls, or put the pan in the middle of the table and let everyone help themselves. Sprinkle over the rest of the parmesan and the basil leaves, tearing any larger ones up. This dish is lovely with a simple side salad!

The great thing about learning to cook is that even though you should try to stick to the recipe as much as possible, there is always room for substitutions and switches. I couldn't find fresh basil, so I substituted it for freeze-dried. Nancy used fresh penne instead of fresh lasagna, and I switched out the lasagna for little round pasta tubes called ditalini. To add more protein to the dish, I also cooked up some chicken and added that in, another way our final dishes differed.

Below are some of the photos I took of our cooking adventure:
First step: Make sure all the ingredients are ready to go!

Off to a good start...

Pasta and sauce bubbling away!

Nancy's hard at work on her dish too!

Add a little parmesan cheese to taste...

The (delicious) finished product!

Nancy presents her finished dish, while I display mine and the recipe!

All in all, week one was a success! It really is an easy dish to make, with Jamie laying out the recipe step by step. One recommendation I would have, however, is that with any recipe, you should read the entire thing through once before you begin, just so you have an idea of what to expect, and aren't taken by surprise by anything that's in there.

Don't forget, you can try these recipes too, by picking up Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution cookbook at a bookstore near you! Check back in a few days to see how Week Two of Transatlantic Tastes went!