Wednesday, 31 August 2011

김치 볶음밥 (Kimchi Fried Rice)

I did it! 

Six months have passed since I left the fine Republic of Korea, and last night, for the very first time, I made a homemade Korean dish. As I alluded to in an earlier post, it's something I've been intentionally waiting to do, but ever since I discovered bottled kimchi at my local Asian grocer (Tian Phat), I've been dying to try making Korean food at home.

As it happens, the Korean cookbook I bought right before leaving Seoul doesn't have a recipe for one of my favourite dishes: Kimchi fried rice (otherwise known as kimchi bokkeumbap, or even more so as 김치 볶음밥). I suspect, now that I've made it, that the absence of this recipe can be attributed to the fact that it's so easy to make. Alas, the cookbook will have to wait for another night, and another cooking adventure.

So where does any new dish in the kitchen begin, if not from a cookbook or your imagination? On Google, of course, and subsequently, on Blogger. I found a very straightforward recipe on the blog of cookbook author Bee Yinn Low. The pictures and recipe looked and sounded exactly like the kimchi bokkeumbap I used to eat in Seoul, so I figured it was a good recipe to start with, even if it wasn't directly from a Korean website or source. Given that this recipe only serves one, however, and that I'm a fiend for kimchi, garlic, and sesame oil, I did end up adjusting the recipe to feed two, as well as to suit my individual taste buds.

Kimchi Bokkeumbap

Monday, 29 August 2011

Muffin Monday III

Confession: On the topic of raisins, I am fairly uninterested. I don't dislike them, I just don't get excited about them. The idea of a raisin, at least, makes me feel like taking a nap.

The reality is that I do quite like them, I just have this inexplicable, knee-jerk ambivalence whenever they come to mind. But because I have an out-of-control sweet tooth that leaves no stone unturned - thankfully or not? - I always wind up trying them in something anyway, and nine times out of ten, I love them.

When I received this week's assignment for Rum & Raisin Muffins, I went through the usual aforementioned motions and emotions. I shrugged my shoulders and got to baking.

What I was not expecting was to love these muffins. Inside and out. Unconditionally. Wholly. Truly. They are by far my favourites in the three weeks I've been participating in Muffin Monday. I am in mad, muffin love. And once again, these were so simple to make!

Amaretto and Raisin Muffins with Cream Cheese Glaze

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

A Saturday in Photos (on Wednesday)

Last Saturday F. and I had the great pleasure of trying out Chef Martin Ruiz Salvador's 7-course Tasting Menu at the esteemed Fleur De Sel in Lunenburg.

Our 7-courses turned into 10 with all the extras, and along with the wonderful company and atmosphere (the rain, thunder and lightening actually added a nice touch!), it was a satisfying and cozy way to spend a Saturday evening. We stayed (and breakfasted) at the Mariner King Inn again, since we enjoyed it so much during our last visit in May.

Here is our Tasting Menu in photos!

Chanterelle Mushrooms

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Snickers & Peanut Butter Muffins

It's Muffin Monday, friends!

Last week I was among bloggers baking from Canada, the Dominican Republic, India, Japan, Macedonia, and the United States. What a pleasure it was and is to interact with people around the world and across cultures who share similar passions, but who I might not have encountered any other way! Muffin Monday is now in its tenth week, though only the second I've participated in, and I look forward to seeing what Anuradha has in store for us in the coming weeks and months.

After reading some of the other Muffin Monday posts from last week, as well as a few other unrelated posts (I'm looking at you, Nelly, with your healthy Carrot Cake Muffins!), I was really envious of some people's ability to look at a recipe - that is by all accounts calorie-laden and unhealthy - and give it a healthier twist. I seem incapable of this. This week, for example, I wanted nothing more than to slather vanilla or chocolate icing on these, but I refrained in the interest of keeping with the muffin (and not cupcake) theme. In retrospect, I should have just gone for it! I also thought about adding cream cheese to them, to make them even more rich. What's wrong with me? I see an already unhealthy recipe and think of ways to make it worse. In the end, I simply stuck to the recipe, with only one small deviation that I've detailed below.

(But seriously, what do you think about the addition of cream cheese? And in what amount?)

Friday, 19 August 2011

How (Not) to Make Spaghetti Carbonara

It's a good thing I don't have any Italian ancestors, because if I did, they'd be rolling over in their graves at the sight of my homemade pasta! 

Given that I'm focused on chronicling my experimentation in the kitchen these days, I'm not afraid of posting about my failures here - for both your horror and amusement - and not just about my successes.

Thus, I present to you, my Homemade Spaghetti Carbonara. 

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Breakfast of Champions

Other titles I considered:

  • A Sunday in Photos (on Wednesday)
  • Attempting to Photograph Non-Food Objects
  • Wasting the Battery While Trying to Learn More About this Camera I'm Using
  • Making the Locals Uncomfortable with Excessive Photo-Taking

(Whichever you like, really.)

Dudes Food: On the side of the road in Three Fathom Harbour, Nova Scotia, and just minutes down the road from Lawrencetown Beach. A sunny afternoon drive well spent!

Monday, 15 August 2011


That's right: TGI... Monday! Thanks to this ingenious idea by Anuradha from Baker Street, we now have every reason to celebrate the ever-dreaded Monday. A little over two months ago, Anuradha created Muffin Monday: a weekly event where a group of food bloggers are given the same muffin recipe to adapt however they choose. On Monday, the muffins are revealed, eaten, and thus, our first day back at work becomes much easier to swallow... so to speak.

Given that I still feel like a newbie on the food blogging scene, I was really surprised when Anuradha asked me to join in for this week's Muffin Monday event. Some of my blogger friends have been involved in the past, but they are real, established cooks and bakers! Needless to say, I felt very honoured to be involved in this clever and tasty project.

Our muffin mission this week was to bake Doughnut Muffins. It just so happens that these were some of my favourite treats growing up, and I have vivid, wonderful memories of eating my mom's version of this recipe. Despite her penchant for baking, my mom always tried her best to put healthy food on the table when my brother and I were small, so when the smell of these these classic muffins came wafting through the house, it was always the most pleasant of surprises.  Because she and my dad didn't overload us with sugar, we always really appreciated the treats when they came. 

My Muffin Monday line-up.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Summer in a Shot Glass

Two little tricks up our sleeve at last week's Dinner Club were the melon shooters and the coffee granita: we served these in between courses as a sort of palate cleanser. They certainly were tasty interludes and they bought us the time we needed to plate the next course!

The first was adapted from an idea given to me by Chef Renée Lavallée, otherwise known as Halifax's Feisty Chef. I attended two of her cooking classes recently (great fun!), and in the midst of my chilled soup woes, she gave me some much needed advice and a fun idea. Rather than serving it as a soup, however, we wound up making it into this simple shooter.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Chilled Tomato Soup with Goat-Milk Yogurt

The first recipe from Dinner Club I want to share with you is this beautiful, colourful, and savoury chilled soup. I had my doubts about this one, I'll admit, because if I could pick a single vegetable I like the least, it's celery. I was immediately put off of this soup because of its addition, but later coaxed into trying it once I realized it was just the leaves that were needed.

Passing the seeds of 5 pounds of tomoatoes through a sieve was definitely a labour of love, but completely worth it in the end! Because this soup never gets to feel the heat of a pot, the flavours of the herbs were so fragrant and fresh. I would absolutely recommend trying this recipe out before the fall, and if you want to try something that's still savoury but different from the classic gazpacho.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

6 Courses Later

If we have been talking in person, on Twitter, or if you've read my latest blog posts, you know that I've been planning one, very special dinner party menu for over a month now. A month! That's a long time for this perfectionist's brain to stew over one event.

F. and six of his friends have been taking turns hosting Dinner Club for several years, but this past Saturday was the first opportunity everyone had to get together in quite a long time. It also happened to be F.'s turn to host, which meant that my first time attending dinner club and my first time hosting dinner club were one in the same. Moreover, while I've cooked for many a guest in the past, I had never had the space or resources to feed 8 people, especially not with such an extensive menu. Imagine my tiny apartments in both Bonn and Seoul, with a two-burner stove-top being my only kitchen appliance for years. While undoubtedly limiting, it certainly taught me to be creative!

It was an awesome challenge: one that made me feel equal parts nervous and excited.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

A Change in Focus

At least, a slight change in focus. I'm not sure this needs a dedicated blog post, but here it is anyway!

After giving this some thought over the past few weeks, I've decided to move away from some aspects of food writing, in order to become more focused on others. I'm not sure, for example, that review-style writing is really a good fit for me. There are many talented writers/refined palates in Halifax doing this, and I'm happy to leave them to their work.

What I really want to do is refine my own writing, cooking, and baking skills. From now on, I'll only be writing about my own journey in the kitchen, as well as sharing recipes and stories from those people whose lives, skills, and food impact me.

I had no idea how rewarding this blog would be when I first started it, nor the level and pace of personal growth I'd undergo in the process. I'm so grateful to everyone who stops by and shares their time and thoughts with me. I hope you continue to find something to feast your eyes on here!

Coming very, very soon: the results of Dinner Club!

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Testing, Testing...

This past weekend was a holiday weekend in Nova Scotia (and much of Canada), so we had a whole, extra, glorious Monday off to do with it what we pleased. And what a productive weekend it was chez nous!

Over the course of Saturday, Sunday, and Monday I ended up testing out several dishes in preparation for a dinner party we're hosting this weekend with several of F.'s closest friends. Some were a big hit, others not, so which ones we use on Saturday remains to be seen. The theme of this dinner party is 'breakfast for dinner.' Or... Brinner?

This is a simple, chilled Avocado Soup. I loved it, but F. hated it. I had a feeling he would, just because it has certain ingredients I know he doesn't like. I did however agree with him on something: rather than calling it Avocado Soup, it should be called English Cucumber Soup, due to the overwhelming flavour of cucumber and complete lack of avocado flavour. I do plan on making this again, but will attempt to do its namesake more justice by adding much more avocado and much less cucumber. In any case, it was frothy, refreshing and lovely on a warm day. Find the recipe I used here.

The next chilled soup I tried was this sweet and savoury Peach Soup. The recipe, from Canadian Living, calls it Spiced Peach Soup, due to the inclusion of ingredients such as cardamom and cloves, but I find it a little misleading when the end result is extremely tart and sweet. This will also be tampered with, maybe by adding some heavy cream or more yogurt, to cut down on the sweetness. The original recipe is here

Next up is homemade Mac & Cheese. This was F's brainchild, and a brilliant one it was! We adapted this recipe to include Panko and a different variety of cheeses. I also finally got to put my new Dutch Oven to good use, found on mega sale about a month ago at Canadian Tire. The recipe this pot of delicious was based upon comes from an awesome (and funny) food blog called The Pioneer Woman Cooks!

Then - THEN - there were these little beauties. I got the recipe for Honey Vanilla Madeleines from Jamie Schler of Life's a Feast (not to be confused with the earlier Jamie I posted about, from My Baking Addiction). The gorgeous food Jamie Schler produces in her kitchen and oven can only be rivaled by her beautiful writing and storytelling. I'm completely hooked on her blog! If you haven't visited it yet, you should; it will change your foodie life. Her recipe for (mini) madeleines is here.

Last, but certainly not least, I experimented with Coffee Granita from the lovely Nelly Rodriguez's blog, called Cooking with Books. Sadly I don't have a photo of it, but it was such a fun way to get my morning dose of caffeine. It may or may not have been consumed in bed that morning, along with several of the madeleines. (Is that what heaven is like?) I'll definitely be making the granita again this weekend, so I'll post photos of it then. In the meantime, here is a link (to a link) of her recipe - a guest post on another blog.

Nelly - a fabulously talented CIA grad - is a new friend (albeit only through the internet - how deliciously nerdy!) who has been most generous with her time and advice on all things culinary. She is one of a small handful of food bloggers I've been getting to know a little, along with an old friend I've reconnected with, who are daily inspirations to keep trying and writing about new adventures in the kitchen. Here's looking at you Nelly, Jamie S., Alan, and Alessio. I really appreciate you guys!

As a final side note, I was lurking around Twitter in pajamas on Saturday evening, when F. suggested we pull ourselves together and check out the Summerlicious Menu at Onyx. It was an excellent last minute idea, and nothing perks me up or gets me moving like the promise of good food. It's an incredible deal: $25 for a 3 course meal, plus an extra (optional) $20 for wine pairings. We loved it! It was extremely quiet because half the city of Halifax was in Moncton to see U2, but it was just what a dreary, Saturday night should be.


Did you try any new recipes over the weekend? How did they turn out?