cook - recipes

Grilled Chicken Wings & Pork Chops in Buttermilk Sriracha marinade

Buttermilk Sriracha Pork Chops with Apple-Carrot-Beet Slaw

This is a perfect summer marinade for pumping up a bland skinless chicken breasts with a pop of juicy flavour, or saturating chicken wings with a citrus and spicy kick, before you toss them on the grill. But this simple Thai marinade will work equally well with any other cut of white meat, especially pork chops and chicken wings, and can even be used to infuse flavour into a neutral white fish from the freezer aisle of your grocery, like tilapia or basa.

milk Sriracha Grilled Chicken Wings

The recipe takes no time, and is infinitely variable so long as you have the two basic components, dairy and hot sauce. The acidic component of the buttermilk works slowly over time to break down and tenderize the meat, while the sour element of the citrus combines with the umami of the fish sauce and heat of the chili to make the meat pop once it hits the char of a hot grill.

Grilled Drummettes

Almost all of the ingredients in this marinade can be substituted making it easy to put together some variation from any stocked pantry. The buttermilk can be substituted for half yogurt/half water, or milk with a splash of apple cider vinegar, the sriracha can be subbed out for any combination of hot sauce and garlic; it tastes delicious with a few tablespoons of my sichuan chili oil. Thai basil can easily be swapped out for mint, adding extra summer freshness, as Christina Tossi does in her yogurt sriracha marinade. And the limes can be replaced with any citrus fruit. You could even replace the fish sauce with anchovies or shrimp paste, if you were in a pinch, to replace the funky aspect.

Thai Buttermilk and Sriracha Marinade

Buttermilk Sriracha Marinade (for grilling)

Ingredients:

2C/500 ml buttermilk

2 tblsp/30 ml sriracha sauce

2 tblsp/30 ml lime juice

1 tblsp/15 ml fish sauce

1C/250 ml of shredded Thai basil leaves

Zest of 2 whole limes

Instructions:

Add all the wet ingredients to a mixing bowl or large freezer bag and stir. Zest the limes into the mixture. Then add your meat and marinade for a minimum of one hour, or up to 48 hours before you grill.

Grill meat or veggies based on cut and size. You can refer to this amazingly Handy Printable Meat & Veggie Cooking-Grilling Chart if you don’t know your temps and times. I love to serve this grilled meat with a fresh summer slaw of carrots, apples and beets with a bit of cilantro, but any salad with a sweet or creamy element would pair really well.

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Canadian Summer Cocktails with Wiser’s Deluxe Rye

For the first time all year, we are experiencing the delicious sensation of sun and sweat and summer thirst in Southern Ontario. That means it’s time to be a proud Canadian, invite a few friends over and make some truly northern and strong drinks. I picked up a bottle of Wiser’s Deluxe Rye last Friday, lit the grill and blended up a pair of cocktails, one sippable and the other quaffable. Canadian rye whisky is versatile enough to make something that will satisfy just about anybody – appropriately, a very Canadian characteristic.

Old Toronto Chinatown & J.P. Wiser’s Deluxe Canadian rye whisky

Old Toronto Chinatown Cocktail (Rye and Fernet, Old Timber recipe)

This sweet, spicy and bold cocktail is a perfect summer aperitif, before a big red and a steak, dripping off the grill. The first time I tasted an Old Timber was at the Salt House in San Francisco, but the hundred year old Toronto Cocktail and J.P. Wiser’s suggested Canadian Cocktail recipe are similar Northern plays on an Old Fashioned.

Ingredients

  • 1.5 Oz/ 45ml Wiser’s Deluxe Rye
  • 0.5 Oz/ 15ml Fernet Branca
  • 0.5 Oz/ 15ml Grand Marnier

Instructions

Pour Rye, Fernet and Orange liqueur over ice and stir until well chilled. Pour and serve in a coup. Garnish with an orange twist and toasted Szechuan peppers or star anise, for a Spadina Chinatown Toronto-inspired take on a classic Old Fashioned taste.

The Kensington Market Cold Tea in a jar

Kensington Market Cold Tea (Rye & Iced Tea Recipe)

This sessionable (i.e. goes down real quick) take on a Long Island Iced Tea was inspired by the Sunday sessions my friend, Anthony, used to host at his Kensington Market Bar, Cold Tea. Named as a tongue-in-cheek reference to the beer that was served in tea pots after hours in Toronto’s old Chinatown late-night restaurants on Spadina all through the 70s and 80s, the backyard of Cold Tea bar was a meeting point for all things hipster and sunday funday for years. This drink is an ode to the DJs and Chefs that made those sundaze memories amazing.

Ingredients

  • 6 Oz/ 180ml Kensington Market Ice Tea (Note: Sun steep 2 parts peppermint and 4 parts Jasmine Green Tea in 1L of water, then refrigerate)
  • 2 Oz / 45ml Wiser’s Deluxe Rye
  • 1Oz / 25ml Tequila (Use the good stuff, no fake sugar crap)
  • 1Oz / 25ml Cointreau
  • A splash of ginger ale (preferably Canada Dry, cause obviously)
  • Lemon wheels and cilantro, sliced paper thin

Instructions

Add Wiser’s Rye, 100% agave Tequila, and Cointreau to a pint glass, fill with ice, line with citrus wheels and a sprinkle of cilantro. Top with a centimetre of ginger ale, for a little sparkle and effervescence, and give the mix a swirl.

Note: Drink with a straw and feet elevated for best results.

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Illustration Friday – The Big Breakfast

Well, this week’s theme for Illustration Friday is breakfast, which feels like a gift. After all, I specialize in food and travel art, so it’s right up my alley. The image I chose to use is a fun piece together of different elements of a classic big breakfast pieced together over a sort of marble texture that I painted. I had a lot of fun making this piece and was especially happy with how some of the shadows and coffee stains turned out around the espresso. Scroll down for the recipe:

Just for fun, here’s a recipe for perfectly roasted baby potatoes that works every time.

Crackling Baby Breakfast Potatoes

Ingredients

  • 1 lb / 0.5 K baby potatoes
  • 2 tbsp / 30 ml olive oil (note: if you’re a baller, duck fat will also add an amazing flavour profile to these potatoes.)
  • Sea salt

Instructions

Par boil the potatoes whole in salted water for 7 – 10 minutes, until you can get a fork’s tines into but not through the potatoes. Remove from the water and drain in a colander, sprinkling liberally with salt, so that each potato is thoroughly coated in the colander. Leave to sit for 15 to 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 425F / 225C.

The potato skins should turn whitish with the salt coating and all of the moisture should be wicked out of the flesh. Toss the potatoes in olive oil, using a mixing bowl or salad bowl, then lay flat in a cast iron pan or baking sheet. Bake in oven for 20-25 minutes, stirring halfway through to brown both sides.

The skin should be flaking and crunchy by the time they’re done with a golden brown coating.

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2 Secrets to Perfect Fried Calamari (with Lime Chipotle Aioli)

Working in a restaurant is hard. The hours are long and life is short. Most cooks start when they’re young. I was fourteen the first time I stepped into the kitchen of a restaurant, at Bijou in Toronto. The afternoon started with hours of prep work, then a spot sweating on the line at the salad/dessert station and running up and down the stairs every time the chef ran out of an ingredient, and after the dinner service was over, and my feet ached and my pits tank, it was assumed I would go and pitch a few extra hours in the dish pit. The only respite was that back in the day, there was an ashtray in the dish pit, so you could smoke while you worked as long as you were agile enough to balance a cigarette on your lip and keep it dry in the splash and spray of the mess.

Every shift started the same, with gallons of squid in ice cold water. If I tried to wear gloves, or warm my hands, the chef would mercilessly taunt me. I remember the shocking feeling of plunging my hand in and feeling the surge of cold in my veins and the gelatinous, writing mass of the sea creatures’ bodies. First, you slip out their ‘spines’, a clear malleable, plastic-like shard, then you pop out the ink ball, which most restaurants worth their salt reserve for a squid ink pasta or to use darkening and thickening a sauce.

Slippery squid

Once you’ve cleaned the squid, the next step is to cut off and set aside the tentacles.

Tentacle aside: Easily, my favourite part to eat, the texture and multiple crunches gets me every time, and with the multiplicity of surface areas, they’re a better vessel for dip than a ring. Let your sucker friends think you’re taking one for the team, save them till the end and eat all the tentacles yourself.

Then, carefully so your knife doesn’t slip, slide a very sharp blade across the body in one smooth motion until you’re left with slices the size of a thick rubber band. Make sure not to overcook the calamari, or it will feel like you’re chewing rubber bands.

2 Secrets to Perfect Crispy Homemade Calamari:

  1. Marinate the squid slices in buttermilk overnight in the fridge, or for at least 2-3 hours before dredging and cooking. This tenderizes the meat with the subtle lactic acid, adds depth of flavour, and helps the dredge adhere to the slippery surface of the squid.
  2. Don’t skimp on your oil. Peanut, Canola, and Sunflower oil, in that order, have the highest smoke points, and thus get the hottest and cook the fastest (i.e. crunchiest exterior without overcooked meat). And be patient, wait to add the squid until the oil is hot. Use a thermometer to make sure it is above 450F/230C.
Deep fried delicious calamari

Perfect Crunchy Fried Calamari

Ingredients:

  • 8.5 C/ 2 L high-smoke point oil
  • 6 whole squid, cleaned and sliced
  • 2 C/500 ml of Buttermilk, for overnight marinating
  • 1 C/250 ml Flour
  • 1 C/250 ml corn meal
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. Cover a plate or baking sheet in paper towel or newspaper.
  2. Preheat your oil in a deep pot on the stove, or a deep fryer.
  3. Remove squid from the fridge and strain all excess liquid through a colander. Be patient, this may take a few minutes.
  4. Dredge one large handful of squid at a time, tossing to coat in the combined flour and corn meal, then lightly shaking off excess dredge before you drop the squid into the fryer.
  5. Fry squid rings and tentacles for 2-3 minutes in small batches, so the oil keeps its high temperature and the rings don’t congeal and cook into a clump. Clean out any crumbs or burnt bits as you go to prevent the oil from taking on an acrid, carbon taste.
  6. Set aside batch after batch to drain on the paper towel, making sure to season calamari to your liking, before serving.

Lime Chipotle Aioli

Ingredients:

  • .5C/ 125ml of Mayonnaise (make it at home if you’re fancy and have the time)
  • 2 chipotle peppers in a adobo sauce (I prefer the La Costena cans)
  • 2 tbsp/ 30ml lime juice
  • 1 tsp/ 5ml lime zest

Directions: Put everything in a blender and whip it up real good.

Note: This recipe is total crack, and it works just as well for kids drinking soda, for a bunch of sports fans downing cans of pilsner during the game, or for your classy friends relazing on the patio in the summer, downing glasses of Moscato rose.

Also, if you’re using store bought mayonnaise, the lime chipotle aioli has a super long shelf life in the fridge and can be made and kept in big batches to eat with basically everything that can be used as a vessel for dip.

As always, get in touch with me if you have any questions, or want to buy a print.

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Curry Fried Rice with Caramelized Onion, Chicken and Peas and Peppery Turmeric Curry Powder recipe (with vegan or vegetarian options)

Curry powder is one of those indispensable pantry items that everyone has to have on hand, but varies infinitely from household to household and country to country. Similarly, fried rice is made in kitchens around the world, subject to each cook’s quiddities and minor variations of palette, or circumstance.

I will fry absolutely any kind of protein with rice, leftover chicken, beef, ground meat, tofu cubes, paneer, or if I don’t have anything handy and ready to go, I’ll crack an egg and beat it up with a bit of soy, then toss that into the wok.

Peppery Turmeric Curry Powder Recipe

Note: This can be made in vast quantities and is best put together using a mortar and pestle, or a coffee grinder that has been dry wiped with paper towel to remove grinds.

Ingredients

  • 3 parts turmeric
  • 1 part coarse sea salt
  • 1 part whole all spice (very fun substitute: sichuan peppercorn)
  • 1 part cumin seeds
  • 1 part whole coriander seeds
  • 1 part whole chilli peppers (I like dried piquins, or bird’s eye)
  • 1 part dried orange peel (substitute lemon or lime peel)

Instructions

Toast all the whole seeds and chilli peppers in a hot, dry wok or pan until they become very aromatic. Remove from heat when they darken and/or begin to smoke. Grind spices in a mortar or grinder, then stir in the salt and turmeric.

Curry Fried Rice with homemade curry powder

Curry Fried Rice with Caramelized Onion, Chicken and Peas

Ingredients

  • 4 parts, cooked and cooled rice
  • 2 parts, cooked, skinned and chopped chicken meat (substitute tofu or paneer for vegan or vegetarian options)
  • 2 parts peas, frozen or fresh
  • 1 white onion, sliced and caramelized, then chopped again
  • Peppery Turmeric Curry Powder, to taste

Instructions

Note: The key to perfect fried rice is a crackling hot wok or cast iron pan. You can use a non-stick pan, if that’s all you have around, but it will get scorched and the coating will be ruined fairly quickly with high heat cooking.

Begin by heating your cooking surface on high heat, when your rice crackles and jumps up, you’ll know the heat is right. Fry the rice for 2 to 3 minutes, then stir in the chopped up meat, and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. The rice and protein should be browning nicely, but not sticking.

Stir in the chopped up bits of caramelized onion, which should essentially be a sweet brown paste. The onions are the key to this recipe, and will add a depth of flavour and texture that gel everything else together.

Generously sprinkle, or heap (it’s up to your palette to taste and know what you like) the peppery turmeric curry powder, and toss the spice mixture into the rice and protein. Add the peas and cook for 30 to 60 seconds until, they are bright green.

Serve immediately, drizzled with addition soy sauce, if you like salty rice, and/or sichuan chili oil if you like it hot!

Don’t be afraid to reach out, and contact me, if you’ve got questions.

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The 5 Magical Secrets to Perfect Homemade Pan Pizza every single time; plus, a recipe for The Perfect Baking Sheet Pizza Pie.

Note: Scroll straight to the bottom for the full recipe, The Perfect Baking Sheet Pizza Pie.

Friday nights were pizza night in our house when I was growing up. Pizza Night was a family tradition. The week’s menu was always written out in my mother’s longhand and taped on the inside of the kitchen cupboard. I would come home from school and stare longingly at Friday, wondering why it had to be Broccoli Casserole Tuesday, or Spaghetti Arrabiata Thursday. Homemade Nut Burger Monday was excruciating because it meant four more sleeps until Pizza Friday. No amount of ketchup and mustard could replace melted cheese and marinara.

During the years when my parents were both working full-time, we would order from a local chain, Pizza Pizza. There were inevitable fights about what toppings to order. One of my sisters hated mushrooms. “Gross! They smell like Chlorox,” she’d yell.

If you’re like my sisters and I, you might want to go half and half to avoid costly debates over what goes where.

I always wanted to try the pepperoni. My friends at school wouldn’t eat pizza without the shaved coins of sausage. It was my first brush with the fear of missing out. We were a devoutly vegetarian house.

Our oldest sister was always saying pineapple on pizza was for kids. She was a teenager. She wanted her own pie. 

I was the youngest, and after a few years, Pizza Night attendance thinned out. My sisters had boyfriends, parties, suspicious amounts of perfume on their coats and tic-tacs on their breath. Dad went through a phase of working late, every night, including Friday. Only mom and me were left at home for Pizza Night. 

Homemade pizza pie

I always loved to cook, so Pizza Night became an opportunity for us to experiment in the kitchen. We made pita pizzas. Tortilla pizzas. Microwave pizzas. Grilled cheese pizzas. Focaccia pizzas. Thin crust pizzas. Gluten free pizzas. We even tried cauliflower-crust pizzas. But nothing quite matched the delicious, gooey, crunchy stringy-cheesed magic of delivery, until we found a recipe for homemade baking sheet pan pizza. Because I love you, and I know you’ll put it to good use, I’m going to share the 5 magical secrets of our recipe with you, so you can start your own Pizza Night.

Secret #1: Make your dough as soon as you get home from school, so it can rest for a few hours before you dressed it up and cook it. 

Secret #2: Don’t add anything to your tomatoes! No sugar, no herbs, no oil, no garlic, no salt, no nothing. Just simple, canned and pureed plum tomatoes. When you open the can, you will smell Italy at the base of Mount Vesuvio, and you don’t want to mess with that.

Secret #3: Use exactly one ball of mozzarella. No more, no less. Grate it right before you use it, otherwise you’ll snack on the stringy bits and eat a bunch of it before any cheese makes it onto the pizza and melts into gooey goodness.

Secret #4: Shake lots of cornmeal into the bottom of your baking pan before you add the dough. It will give the bottom of your crust that extra crusty crust crunch.

Secret #5: You can peak and stare into the window to your heart’s desire, but don’t open that door of the oven, until you switch your pie from bake to broil at the end. Watch as the cheese bubbles and browns and turns into the perfect homemade pie before your eyes.

The Perfect Baking Sheet Pizza Night Pie

Ingredients

Pizza Dough:

  • 2 cups/500 ml lukewarm water
  • 2 tablespoons/30 ml yeast (2 packets of Fleischmann’s)
  • 4 cups/1 L all-purpose flour (sifted if you’ve got the time)
  • 3 tablespoons/45 ml extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon/5 ml fine sea salt
  1. Dissolve the yeast in water as warm as your hand, but not warmer. You’ll know it’s alive, when it starts bubbling after a few minutes.
  2. On clean flat working surface, make a mountain of flour and salt, then carve out a crater with your hands. 

Note: Keep the flour and olive out out, in case you need to add more of either to sticky hands or a sticky counter.

  1. Slowly add the yeasty water and olive oil, pushing the edges of the crater into the well until gets stick and forms a dough ball. 
  2. Knead until the dough becomes elastic and gently rises back up when you poke your finger into the ball. 
  3. Now, the most important part: Give yourself a break! Wrap the ball up in plastic wrap. Or, you can oil the outside of the ball and place it in a large mixing bowl, then cover the bowl with a damp tea towel
  4. Go and peak every once in a while until the dough has doubled in size (about an hour or so)

Tomato Sauce:

  • 1 28 oz can San Marzano plum tomatoes.
  1. Puree the tomatoes in a blender, or with a hand blender in the can, or dice them up and send them through a sieve. Just don’t add a thing.

Cheese:

  • 1 ball mozzarella
  1. Grate the cheese, immediately before use, otherwise, it will slowly disappear in roaming hands and inquiring mouths. 

Toppings:

  • The best part about cooking is being creative. The toppings are up to you, and there’s no limit, from oysters to kiwis, blue cheese to antelope, you can eat anything on a pizza.
  1. Cut your toppings before hand into bite-sized pieces, so they cook evenly.

Cooking instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees, or as hot as it will go.
  2. Dust your baking sheet with gritty cornmeal. This will add megatons of crunch.
  3. Oil your dough ball and roll it out on a floured surface, tossing it up in the air as high as you dare. When it is stretched enough, lay it out over the cornmeal coated baking pan and tapdance a fork’s prongs over the surface of the dough until it is perforated. 

Note: Don’t worry, it doesn’t matter if your dough rips. Dough is sticky, so you can just stick it back together.

  1. Put a big splotch of tomato sauce in the middle and draw spirals outward with a big spoon or ladle. It doesn’t matter if it’s even because it will flatten out while cooking.
  2. Now quickly grate and add the cheese before it disappears, then dress your pizza in delicious toppings.
  3. Bake until the edges start to brown (7-9 minutes), without opening oven.
  4. Switch the oven to a high broil. Wait thirty seconds, then carefully move the pizza to the top rack of the oven.
  5. Count to one hundred, keeping watch for smoke.
  6. Remove pizza from the broiler and enjoy The Perfect Baking Sheet Pizza Night Pie.
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Mapo Tofu with Shiitake Mushroom (Vegan)

Mapo Dofu (麻婆豆腐) is one of those classic Sichuan dishes that have been made a million times in a million different Chinese restaurants around the world. Growing up vegetarian in a hippy household full of macrobiotic health food, it was fiery, grease-laden dishes like this tofu that blew my mind and sparked my taste buds. Mapu tofu is an umami-packed powerhouse of chilli and pepper that sucked me into Chinatown diners, and alerted me to the unbelievable depth possible in vegetarian cookery. Years later, it was the memory of those first plates of peppery tofu that forced me to travel around the world in search of that mouth-numbing hit of ma-la spice.

This recipe is a much simpler and faster take on the ragu-style mapo tofu that chef Danny Bowien makes by slow cooking a sichuan chilli pepper sauce using dehydrated shiitake mushrooms, tomato paste and mushroom powder/soup base. It steals the mushroom idea from Mission Chinese Food, but regresses to the much simpler wok style fry-cooking method of a more traditional mapu dofu from Sichuan province.

tofuMapo Tofu with Shiitake Mushroom (Vegan)

Note: Links are to Amazon affiliate, if you can’t find anything in your grocer)

Prep time: 20-30 minutes

Cook time: 10 minutes

Makes enough for 6-8 portions

Ingredients:

  • 1K/2lbs tofu, cubed (I prefer silken, for the texture as it breaks down into the sauce)
  • 125ml/1/2C vegetable oil (grapeseed/corn/canola)
  • 500g/1.2lbs shiitake mushrooms, diced
  • 50g/1.8oz Sichuan peppers, whole (dry toasted in a wok)
  • 50g/1.8oz Sichuan peppers, ground to a fine powder
  • 125ml/1/2C doubanjiang (broad bean chilli paste)
  • 75ml/1/4C tomato paste
  • 750ml/3C mushroom (or other veggie) stock (simmering on a back burner)
  • 30ml/2tbsp mushroom powder/MSG
  • 125ml/1/2C garlic, smashed, diced and pasted
  • 125ml/1/2C ginger, grated
  • 75ml/1/4C Sichuan chilli oil
  • 1 bunch of scallions, finely sliced for garnish
  • 75ml/1/4C corn starch (diluted in equal amount water to form a slurry)

Preparation:

  1. Prepare all ingredients, as above. Open any cans, cut all the vegetables, measure out and have all your spices and stock and corn starch slurry within arms reach. When you’re cooking with a wok, and high heat, everything happens fast. You may also want to make your rice before hand, so it’s ready to serve as soon as your mapo tofu is cooked.
  2. Heat a wok, or large skillet over a high flame. Once your cooking surface is hot, as in singe the hairs on the back of your hand hot, add the oil and swirl it around the cooking surface.
  3. Add shiitake mushroom and cook off the liquid, stirring rapidly until they don’t give off any steam and start to brown. This could take 3-7 minutes, depending on how hot your stove is, whether it’s electric or gas.
  4. Add garlic and ginger, stirring rapidly for 30 seconds to a minute, until the aroma of garlic and ginger sweetens and begins to brown. Working quickly, stir in the tomato paste and ground sichuan pepper powder. Actively stir for 1-2 minutes, until the mixture darkens and resumes a fast boil.
  5. Dump in your mushroom powder/MSG and pour in your already simmering stock, bit by bit, stirring quickly to incorporate into your sauce. Simmer for a minute to get the flavours humming together.
  6. Turn down the heat to low and stir in the corn starch slurry to thicken the sauce into a gravy with a beautiful glossy, sheen.
  7. Now, very gently slide in your cubed tofu and carefully cover in the sauce, trying not to break the cubes, as they will inevitably break down on their own.
  8. Pour out your tofu onto a serving platter, or tray, and sprinkle with whole toasted sichuan peppers, sliced scallions and a swirl of the sichuan chill oil.

Note: Ladle this fireball of delicious tofu onto steaming bowls of rice while it’s piping hot and watch as your vegan friends descend into the ecstasy of an umami bomb that will numb their mouths faster than a visit to a novocaine happy dentist. 

Prints of all the illustrations on this website are available for purchase, please use the Contact page form to contact me directly for pricing, sizing and shipping information.

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Puerto Escondido – Salsa Verde con Piña

girl-in-pool

There are certain meals that slap you out of a waking sleep. I remember the exact moment I first tasted this salsa verde con piña. I was in Sayulita, a sleepy little surf town with an easy break, just close enough to California for ex-pats to drive down and just far enough to keep away the droves of tourists. I had only been drifting around Mexico for a few months, my Spanish was barely passable, and I was living out of a backpack. After hitchhiking to the Pacific coast with a girl from landlocked Guanajuato, we had been lazing on the beach, licking the salt off each other’s napes, and drinking long-necked Pacificos for a week.

canada-van

Sayulita is not the culinary capital of Mexico; it’s not even the culinary capital of Nayarit. We walked up from the beach to the main drag in a haze of heat and humidity, and plunked ourselves down on stools under the surfboard awning at another one of the beach-themed taquerias that you find everywhere from San Diego to Puerto Escondido. We ordered the classic deep fried white fish tacos  served with a ‘crema’ that is usually watered down mayonnaise. Our expectations were low.

blonde-surfer

A day earlier, we had smoked mota and walked through a forest so thick with mangoes that they were plunking into the soil around our bare feet., then lay down on the black sand beach and scooped the dripping flesh from the fruit with our bare hands. The rich, pregnant taste of the mangoes had been ethereal.  So when I reached for an American style squirt bottle of a yellowish salsa verde at a sidewalk taco stand, I was not expecting a life-changing bite. What I got was the sharp burn of serrano chiles, the acidic nip of tomatillos and the incredibly layered caramelized sweetness of charred pineapple. It was then, and remains now, one of the most incredible salsa I have ever tasted.

Enjoy. Provecho!

salsa-verde-con-pina-vert

Salsa Verde con Piña – Green Salsa with Pineapple

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Makes roughly 500ml

Ingredients

  • 6-8 tomatillos, peeled, rinsed and halved
  • 2 serrano chile peppers
  • 2 limes, juice only
  • 1 clove of garlic, preferably a small one
  • 1 fresh pineapple, peeled and sliced into wedges
  • 4 sprigs of cilantro, chopped
  • sea salt

Instructions:

  1. Grill tomatillos, garlic, serrano peppers and 1/2 of the pineapple wedges until charred.
  2. Blend in a food processor, then bring mixture to a boil in a pot. Simmer for ten minutes, season with salt.
  3. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Blend in the remaining pineapple, cilantro and lime juice. Taste and season again, if necessary.
  4. Eat on everything. It is sweet, sour and spicy amazing.

Nota: Dime si la no esta riquisimo.

Prints of all the illustrations on this website are available for purchase, please use the Contact page form to contact me directly for pricing, sizing and shipping information.

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Roasted Squash Soup with Chilli Oil

This simple squash soup recipe is great for anytime in autumn or winter, and can be served chilled in warmer months. My mother, sister and other half have all made various versions of this recipe, which feature a roasted and then pureed squash. The spice combinations are endless, but I prefer to keep the additions to a minimum and let the star of the dish speak for itself. Keeping the recipe simple, and not mucking it up with a bunch of “pumpkin spices”, let’s each of your guests control the flavour with the meal time addition (or not) of a complex, smokey and garlicky chilli oil.

I do, on the other hand, love to mix and match different combinations of squash, pumpkin or any other gourd available to layer different flavours in each spoonful. My only recommendation for technique, if you’re experimenting with different gourds is to make sure you strain or sieve your finished soup because you don’t want to end up with any of the woody or stringy textures that accompany certain types of squash.

squash-soup-white-vert-tight-crop

Roasted Squash Soup with Chilli Oil

Prep time: 50 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes

Makes enough for 8-10 servings, lasts for a week, and will freeze and reheat well

Ingredients:

  • 1 acorn squash
  • 1 butternut squash
  • 45ml/3 tbsp olive oil
  • 500ml/2C chicken stock (substitute vegetable stock if you’re vegan)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 15ml/1 tbsp of freshly grated ginger (half if using ginger powder)
  • Salt
  • Chilli oil (if you don’t want to make chilli oil, buy some for your pantry)

Instructions:

Prep:

  1. Preheat oven to 400F/200C. Line a baking sheet with parchment or aluminum foil.
  2. Half each squash lengthwise, then cut again into quarters. Slice each quarter into four segments, and lay out slices flat on baking sheet.
  3. Drizzle with 15ml/1 tbsp of olive oil and sprinkle to coat with salt.
  4. Roast in oven for 45 minutes.

Note: If you are uneasy about cutting into a squash, or don’t have a truly sharp knife in your kitchen, watch this video on how to cut a squash with a bread knife. If you still can’t figure it out, ask someone for help.

Cook:

  1. Bring stock to a rolling boil in a large pot.
  2. Scoop out the flesh of your squashes, reserving seeds for a snack. Discard the skin, unless you make your own stock. In which case, freeze the skin in your stock bag. If freezer scrap stock is a new concept to you, prepare to have your mind blown.
  3. Add squash, garlic clove, and grated ginger to your stock and stir until the temperature comes back to a boil.
  4. Turn down the stove to a low flame and cover with a lid. Think 20% of your stove’s maximum energy output. Simmer for at least ten minutes, and up to an hour to let the flavours marry.
  5. Remove from heat and blend the soup using an immersion blender, or food processor. If you don’t have one, please buy one. Seriously though, if you’re in a pinch, or cooking in a dormitory or at a friend’s who is incompetent in a kitchen, make sure the squash simmers for an hour, then mush out any chunks with the back of a spoon and strain through a fine sieve. Your soup should still be silky, smooth and delicious.

Note: This is a versatile soup, and the recipe can be played with a lot. If you want a rich, luscious version, use half stock and half cream, then serve with a monte au beurre, which is French for “put lots of butter in at the end”. If you’re a food nerd, read this explanation from Thomas Keller.

Prints of all the illustrations on this website are available for purchase, please use the Contact page form to contact me directly for pricing, sizing and shipping information.

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cook - recipes

Wontons in Sichuan Chili Oil

Wontons are on the menu of almost every Chinese restaurant around the world, from Los Angeles to Paris. They are an incredibly adaptable dish: steamed, boiled, deep fried or floating in soup, they are a bite-sized package of delicious meat. My first introduction to ‘Chinese ravioli’ was in the classic Wonton Soup, a bowl of clear broth filled with a pile of hearty dumplings.

Wontons are popular in the street stalls and restaurants of Southern China, running the gamut from one yuan orders served on styrofoam and noshed on while perched at stools on the sidewalk, to daintily pleated upper crust versions served on silver platters at five star hotels. I have two favourite versions I ate while traveling in China. First,  at the Michelin recognized Mak’s Wonton Noodles in Hong Kong, they serve a perfect, tiny bowl of shrimp and pork broth with thin noodles topped by delicate wontons. Second is the inspiration for this recipe, the Wontons in Sichuan Chili Oil doled out in the markets of Chengdu. They also serve a mouth-watering version of Spicy Won Tons at Tim Ho Wan.

FYI: You need a blender, food processor or bad ass knife skills to make this recipe well.

steamed-wontons

Wontons in Sichuan Chili Oil

Prep time: 1-2 hour

Cook time: 10 minutes

Makes 50 wontons; chili oil to last for 1-2 months

Ingredients:

  • 1 package wonton wrappers.
Note: bend wrappers at the corner in package, like a sheaf of paper, to make sure they are pliable and don’t stick to each other.
Pork filling:
  • 500g/1.1lbs ground pork, roughly 30% fat, well chilled
  • 300ml/1 1/4C pork/chicken stock
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 scallions, finely chopped
  • 30ml/2 tbsp fresh ginger, diced
  • 30ml/2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 30ml/2 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine
  • 30ml/2 tbsp white sugar
  • 15ml/1 tbsp sesame oil
Sichuan Chili oil:
  • 250ml/1C peanut or vegetable oil
  • 20 whole dried chili peppers, hunan, thai or a similar small red chili pepper
  • 45ml/3 tbsp coarse salt
  • 30ml/2 tbsp fresh ginger, diced
  • 30ml/2 tbsp sichuan peppers, crushed or chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, diced
  • 15ml/1 tbsp sesame oil

Instructions:

Prep:

Pork filling:
  1. This recipe is easiest with a food processor, if you have one throw everything in their and pulse until it forms a ball. If not chop everything finely and evenly, then toss together in a mixing bowl using a fork or spatula. If you use your hands, you’ll melt with body heat everything, which you don’t want.

Note: The only way you can mess this up is if you don’t chill the filling before you fold your wontons, which will quickly turn into a sticky, messy disaster.

Sichuan Chili Oil:
  1. Heat a wok or frying pan and add the peanut/vegetable oil. Just before oil reaches smoking point, add garlic and ginger. Fry until golden in colour. Add half of the chilis and fry until they begin to turn a dark, crimson red.
  2. Remove from heat. Add remaining chili peppers and let cool for a few minutes.
  3. Once the mixture is a safe temperature, pour into a blender, add salt and pulse until chunky but uniform.
  4. Stir in sesame oil and put in a sealed container.

Note: This Sichuan chili oil lasts for months because the moisture has been cooked out of the garlic and ginger. It tastes ridiculously delicious on everything, adding a round numbing spice to any dish, and a depth of flavour to even simple soups and sauces.

Wontons:
  1. Before you wrap the wontons (choose a folding style, there’s great Youtube videos), line a baking sheet with parchment or aluminum foil, soak a tea towel in water to cover finished wontons while you’re working, and fill a bowl with cold water to rinse your fingers. You may want an additional tea towel to wipe your hands.
  2. Take your time folding the wontons, if they’re sealed properly the juice will stay locked inside and you’ll get that incredible soup dumpling explosion of juicy flavour when you bite into them.

Note: I fold wontons while I’m watching Netflix, or Mind of a Chef or whatever, so I get a whole folding station setup on my coffee table. Also, the wontons will keep for a week, if frozen on a baking sheet and properly sealed. So you can fold them ahead of time.

Cooking:

  1. Add enough water to cover wontons to a wide pan or pot and bring to a rolling boil. Add a pinch of salt, then place in a layer of wontons. Make sure they do not touch each other.
  2. Cover and cook for 5-7 minutes, until the wrappers are completely translucent.
  3. Serve wontons immediately, while they’re still bursting with juicy filling, drenched in the mala Sichuan chili oil.
  4. Alternatively, you can steam these wontons in a bamboo basket, or deep fry them in crock pot or any deep stock pot.

Note: These wontons are insanely addictive, scalding hot.

Prints of all the illustrations on this website are available for purchase, please use the Contact page form to contact me directly for pricing, sizing and shipping information.

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