This is a Real Thing

IMG_7895This past week I was in Vancouver visiting friends and enjoying all the beautiful scenery this gem of a city has to offer.

One sunny afternoon I was on Davie street and noticed a nice looking terrace and thought to myself:  I could go for a sit down and a refreshing beverage.  So I saddle up to a stool at a table overlooking the street and ordered a white wine spritzer.

While waiting for my drink to come I pursued the food menu.  I realized that this is not the  typical place I would normally go for a drink.  Or, really, any other reason, but they had  lovely outdoor seating and I was on holiday so why not go to a sports bar with a vaguely Mexican logo?

Checkmate is what the above food/beverage combo in the picture above is named.  It cost $60 and must be shared between 2 or more people.

I ask the waitress what exactly was in this unique creation, are you ready?: Place on top of a large bloody Caesar (for those non Canadians a bloody caesar is basically a bloody Mary made with Clamato juice), then a roast chicken (which I have to imagine is de-boned), a big hamburger, a slider, onions rings, a cheese dog, chicken wings, pulled pork, mac ‘n cheese, a brownie and a pickle on top (seems to me from the picture there are other things, maybe they improvise sometimes? Looks like a kebab and deep-fried nuggets of some sort.)

If you are in Vancouver and are feeling like a, um, feast this particular item is only available at Scores on Davie.

Don’t forget to ask for 2 straws.

And for you less adventurous souls, they do make a fine white wine spritzer, splurge and get the big one, because as you can see they do big really well ;-)

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Spicy Carrot Salad


I have ever so slightly adapted this recipe from Ottolenghi’s cookbook Jerusalem by adding some goat cheese.

Spicy Carrot Salad

Trim and peel 1 1/2 pounds of carrots, I used two heirloom varieties I found at the market, but this is a great recipe to perk up those mid winter bagged carrots sitting forgotten in your crisper.

Place the carrots (whole) in a sauce pan, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Decrease the heat to a simmer, cover and cook for about 20 minutes.  Testing around the 15 minute mark, a knife should easily pierce the carrots, but you don’t want them to be tender not soft.

Drain the carrots and let cool.

While the carrots are cooking, heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of unflavored oil like sunflower or organic canola in a cast iron frying pan or medium heat.  Add 1 large onion finely chopped and cook for about 10 minutes or until the onions are golden brown.

Once the carrots have cooled cut into 1/4″ slices and place in a large bowl.

Add the cooked onions to the carrots and stir in 1 tablespoon of Pilpelchuma*, 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, 1/2 teaspoon ground caraway, 1 scant teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of sugar, 3 tablespoons cider vinegar and 1 1/2 tablespoon of unflavored oil. Toss well and let sit for at least 30 minutes or longer.(* this is spicy so you can always start by adding less, tasting and then adding more until you reach the right heat for you).IMG_7811Just before you serve stir in a generous 1 1/2 cups of Arugula and 1/2 cup of fresh creamy goat cheese. Toss very gently.IMG_7819Taste and adjust seasoning.  I sprinkled some Maldon salt over this before serving.

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Pilpelchuma: The Condiment You Have Never Heard of and Can’t Live Without

IMG_7779Last week I made a middle eastern mess themed dinner with lots of small dishes.  My friend Ansell was coming over, back when we met he introduced me to the Cafe Mogador  in the East Village (been there since 1983 and still going strong).  They used to have a large silver appetizer platter filled with small bowls of tabbouleh, spiced carrots, hummus, warm pita and many other delicious that they would bring to the table for you to choose from.   It’s been years now since but I always remember thinking how reasonably priced they were, how delicious everything on the tray was and how you could easily make a dinner just from the small plates on this tray.

One of my favorite things on this mezzo tray were the spiced carrots.  We got them every time we went.  So when I was putting together this mezze meal I knew I had to make spiced carrots.

In Ottolenghi‘s instant classic cook book Jerusalem his recipe for spicy carrot salad calls for Pilpelchuma as a key ingredient.   Pilpel… what, you ask?  Pilpelchuma is:

An intense chile-and-garlic paste that is used by Jews from Tripoli as a basic seasoning for many dishes.  

My guests will attest to the fact that it tastes great on basically everything from Olives, to  the small pastries filled with feta, herbs and spinach I made and of course spicy carrots: basically it is kind of like Harissa with a lot of garlic in it.

Here’s the recipe, I promise to post the my version of the spicy carrot salad recipe post-haste!


Place 1 large ancho or pasilla chile in a small bowel, cover with very hot water, and soak for 30 minutes. Drain and seed the chile, roughly chop and reserve.

In a cast iron frying pan add: 4 1/2 tablespoons of cayenne pepper, 3 1/2 tablespoons of sweet paprika, 2 1/2 teaspoons of ground cumin, 1 1/2 teaspoons of ground caraway seeds. Roast over medium-low heat for about 2 minutes, until the spice mixture become fragrant.

In a blender or food processor add: the chopped chile, 20 cloves of garlic, a scant teaspoon of salt. Process adding 1 tablespoon of unflavored oil like sunflower or organic canola.  Once the garlic and chili has formed a rustic paste add the ground spices.  With the blender running adding 4 more tablespoon of oil.  You may need more if using a blender.

Sterilize a jar by pouring boiling hot water into it and letting it sit for 1 minute, place the lid to the jar in the pan with the water as you bring it up to boil.

Spoon the paste into the jar and top it with more oil so the paste doesn’t dry out.

Use it freely and often and make Spicy Carrot Salad.

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Diving for Scallops

Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at 2.47.38 PMThe name of this video sounds so straight forward.  The reality is that this is a very moody, dark look at the risks and effort that go into diving for scallops.  The video focuses on one particular man who makes a living diving off the coast of Maine.

It’s fascinating, to me, to see just what it takes to get scallops to the market and how dangerous, lonely and precarious this life is.

I’ll never think of those 4 scallops sitting on my plate at that fancy restaurant the same.Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at 2.48.44 PMScreen Shot 2015-08-19 at 2.49.10 PMScreen Shot 2015-08-19 at 2.49.06 PMScreen Shot 2015-08-19 at 2.48.33 PM


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Clementine Aperol Spritz Jello “shots”

Being on the Munchies mail list I get videos from them all the time.  To be honest when I saw that this was a video about jello shots I kind of rolled my eyes and didn’t watch it.  Then late one night I was awake, bored and thought: oh just take a look.

I’m glad I did.  These are not your typical jello shoots.  Though that is a bold statement from me as I have to fess up:  I’ve never had a jello shot.  But these aren’t what I imagine a jello shot to be like ;-)  For the most part Gay bars don’t do Jello shots.   As a matter of fact in all my years of going to gay bars I’ve never seen a jello shot for sale.  Nor for what it is worth have I ever gone to a bar of any sort that served them.

So you can understand my curiosity.

I followed this recipe and instead of using Jello I used agar agar.  They turned out great and letting the liquid sit overnight in the Clementine shells is a good idea as it absorbs flavor from the peel.  They aren’t that boozy and mostly taste of Aperol.

I’d suggest buying at least 2 or 3 extra clementines because it takes a while to get the hang of getting to pulp out without ripping the skin or pulling out the naval and making a hole.

I juiced the fruit first because I don’t have one of those hand juicers she uses in the video.

IMG_7770It is for sure more challenging to take the pulp out once the fruit is juiced so I would suggest if you have one, to use a hand juicer.

The agar agar has a slightly different texture than jello, you can see it in the picture it’s not as clear or wobbly as jello would be.  They also melt in your mouth more readily than Jello, but that is a subtle distinction.

I wanted to use agar agar because I had some and had never really used it successfully.

I did find it started to harden quickly, far more quickly than Jello. This wasn’t a problem if anything it made it easier.

My friends at this dinner all loved these, one friend actually said that when he came in and saw the plate of fruit wedges he was really excited to try this new kind of fruit.

I got way more juice than I needed so if you wanted to experiment you could do one batch with Jello one with agar agar.

What I need your help with is another name, because these really transcend Jello shots and aren’t really “shots” anyway. And if you make them with agar agar then not only aren’t  they shots they also aren’t Jello.  You see my conundrum.

I was thinking of calling them: Clementine Aperol Spritz Fruit Wedges?

Suggestions welcomed. Cheers!IMG_7771


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Summer Menus for Celebrations

IMG_7763The last couple of weeks have been very occasion filled.  Of course for each occasion there needs to be an elaborate dinner party!  Or at least so I think.

A few weeks back was my friends Pam’s birthday party.  The concept I came up with was to make a “simple” elegant meal that focused on two things I know she loves: caviar and gravlax/smoked salmon.

More and more I buy will caught salmon and cure it at home instead of buying smoked salmon, which is expensive and isn’t home-made.  Gravlax is easy to make, you just have to start it a few days before you want to eat it.   Though my friend Chris makes a version that only takes a few hours, the fish is thinly sliced before its cured Continue reading

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Sour Cherry Chocolate Crumble

IMG_7756For the last couple of weeks I’ve had this this low-grade summer cold which has made me less energetic than my normal self.  It hasn’t, however, stopped me from making dinner parties.  What I’ve tried to do is make less complicated and time-consuming dishes and give myself a bit of a break.

As most of my regular readers know I bought a flat of sour cherries at the market a few weeks back and so now have a freezer full of ready to use frozen sour cherries.

I love a crumble, they certainly are easy, but I was hankering for something that paired sour cherries and chocolate, had anyone made a sour cherry chocolate crumble and posted it on these here interwebs? No, at least not that I could find.  Everything I found was for some variation of a chocolate cake with sour cherries, think Black Forest Cake or brownies with dried cherries.  Not what I wanted.

It couldn’t be that hard right?  Indeed it was very simple.

Sour Cherry Chocolate Crumble

If you are using frozen cherries, measure out 6 cups and place them in a colander over a large bowl to thaw.  If you’re using fresh cherries no need to do this, just rinse, stem and pit.IMG_7755Preheat the oven to 375 F

In a large bowl add: 1 cup old fashioned rolled oats, 1/2 cup of toasted roughly chopped pecans, 1 cup of all purpose flour, 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon, 6 tablespoons of Brown sugar, 2 Tablespoons of white sugar, 1 cup of dark (or milk) chocolate chips or chunks cut from a large slab of chocolate and a generous 1/4 teaspoon of salt.  

With your hands mix in 12 Tablespoons of unsalted butterIMG_7754 (1)In a large bowl add: 1 cup of sugar and 3 Tablespoons organic cornstarch, tapioca flour or just regular flour wisk together then stir in the cherries. Finally fold in 1-2 Tablespoon of kirsch or brandy (optional).

Place the cherries in a 2-3 quart baking dish and top with crumble.

You will have a nice thick layer of crumble.

Bake for 45-55 minutes.  When ready the top should be brown and the fruit bubbling.

Serve with unsweetened whip cream or vanilla ice cream.IMG_7757


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