Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Thanks for the Delicious Memories 2009!

It’s hard to believe that another year has come and gone. Time sure does fly when one is having fun and eating a lot of good food, doesn’t it? 2009 saw me checking out a couple of restaurants around the city, revisiting childhood traditions of fruit picking, and making more use of my teeny, tiny closet of a kitchen.

So what will I remember most from 2009? One particular meal stands out, but first the honourable mentions. The year kicked off with a sugary bang when Toronto held it’s first ever Cupcake Camp. Professional and amateur bakers got together, baked a whack load of cupcakes, and raised money for charity at the same time. What was thought to have been a small event turned out to be a huge success, drawing out more than 300 people to the event. Not that’s memorable!

jan25_08 copy

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Shrimp Bisque


Christmas is over and done with, and I hope everyone had a lovely time with your families and lots of good food! I think I'm still suffering from a post-Christmas food coma!

This soup I made as a starter for our Christmas dinner, but it'll make for a delightful starter to your New Year's Dinner menu or for future dinner parties. Don't let the word bisque scare you. It may be French and fancy-sounding, but this soup is incredibly easy to make. Granted, it doesn't have the same, silky-smooth texture of a traditional French bisque (unless you strain the soup again after the second purée), but I quite like the slight chunkiness to the soup—it makes it a little more rustic.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Cookie Round-Up 2009 - Part 3: Spritz Sugar Cookies

Are we all sugared out yet? I'm pretty much at the point myself, but I could not share this recipe for you. The sugar cookie has always been a perennial favourite of mine ever since I could remember. It was one of the first cookies I ever made with my mom, and we made it every Christmas with a variety of adorable cookie cutters.


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas Cookie Round-Up 2009 – Part 2: Raspberry Cream Thumbprints


Is it just me, or does anyone else feel like they’ve been so behind in Christmas preparation this year? I love the Christmas holidays. Every year, I always look forward to November rolling around because they means I can start rolling out my holiday decorations and music without getting too many “You’re crazy” stares from friends and strangers.

I usually go all out when it comes to Christmas cookies, and this year was no exception. I managed to make ten varieties.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Christmas Cookie Round-Up 2009 – Part 1: Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti


I posted this recipe a long time ago in my previous blog that I shared with my brother, but thought that these biscotti were deserving of a repost here on Bon Eats.

I’ve made quite a few biscotti in my days (not at all an influence from all those Italian classes I took in university!) but these have to remain one of my top favourites. The tart-sweetness of the cranberries plays off the buttery crunchiness of the pistachios. And I love the use of olive oil in this recipe—you can subtly pick it up in the cookie.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Steamed Eggplant with Soy-Miso Dressing


The holidays aren’t even halfway through and I’m already feeling bloated from all the food I’ve been consuming. Anyone else feel the same way?

My baking bonanza the last week has meant I’ve had no time for anything else. Hence explains my empty fridge. I did manage to find some eggplants that I almost forgot about, and having hardly any energy left to cook (let alone eat), I made a quick and light dinner for myself the other day.

Steam eggplants. Whip together soy-miso dressing. Eat.

It was fast. It was easy. It was yummy. Makes a fabulous light dinner or an excellent side dish in less than 20 minutes!


Steamed Eggplant with Soy-Miso Dressing
Serves 1 as a light meal, or 2 as a side dish
Adapted from Rachel's Bite

2 medium Japanese eggplants
1 clove garlic, peeled and grated
1 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 small shallot, finely minced
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 tablespoon white miso paste
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds (optional)

Cut off and discard the eggplant stems and cut them in half width-wise, then quarter the halves lengthwise so that each eggplant gives you 8 pieces when cut up.

Place eggplant in a heatproof dish and place dish on a steamer rack in a wok or deep pot. Steam eggplant for 10 to 15 minutes or until soft.

While eggplant is steaming, heat the sesame oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots, ginger and garlic and sauté until fragrant and shallots have softened, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the soy sauce, sugar and miso paste and stir until miso and sugar have dissolved.

Pour dressing over steamed eggplant and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds before serving, if desired.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

STOP, in the Name of #Foodiemeet – Part 2: Escape to Europe

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, there were a lot of amazing bakers at the Foodiemeet Bakeoff this past Sunday at the Samovar Room, both professional and amateur. After settling down in my corner, I took a look around at some of the bakers already there.


I was blown away by Lisa Pereira’s meticulous plating of her Sticky Date Cake and left speechless by Kristin's huge St. Lawrence Market cake. Sarah had a lovely spread of mini tartes aux sucres and shortbread, even showcased her nifty Springerle cookie roller. Catherine brought the beach party to us with her cute cupcakes.


The bar was lined with such delectable treats as Jenny's Almond Tart, Preena's Mango Curry Snow Crescents, and Paul's adorable little Tandoori Shortbread Tartlets with Passionfruit Curd (the fan favourite of the night!). And then there was my tablemate Dave, who brought along some amazing looking Bacon Blondies and was ready to duke it out in Battle Bacon alongside Joel (Maple Almond Shortbread with Pig Candy) and Jen (Kentucky Bourbon Bacon Brownies).

It was certainly a night of innovation and creativity, of exotic flavours and tried-and-true classics. Most importantly, it was all about sugary sweets, having a great time with fellow foodies, and raising money for a great cause. I was certainly nervous and yet honoured at the same time to be standing in a room full of such talented baker, considering my skills are certainly not as evolved and talented as others in the room. But I had a great time catching up with old friends, and finally meeting new Twitter friends face-to-face for the first time.


By the end of the evening, with eight different desserts consumed between myself and my friend Suzie, I was all sugared out. So thank you Foodiemeet, Suresh, Andrea, all the bakers and everyone else involved in the event for such a great time, wonderful memories, and tasty treats. I’ll certainly have my work cut out for me in the gym after the holidays are over!

As promised, the recipe for my European-inspired cupcakes that I brought to Foodiemeet: Chocolate Brandied Chestnut Cupcakes with Chestnut Cream. Feel free to omit the brandied chestnuts in the cupcakes if you don’t have time to make your own or can’t find some in specialty food stores. I merely added them as a textural element. The cupcakes will still be just as delicious without them!


Chocolate Brandied Chestnut Cupcakes with Chestnut Cream
Makes 24 cupcakes

¾ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 ½ cups sugar
3 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
¾ cup good-quality cocoa powder
2 tbsp instant espresso powder
1 ½ cups milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
10 to 12 brandied chestnuts, finely chopped (optional)

For chestnut cream:
1 425-ml can chestnut puree (crème de marron) **
3 to 4 tbsp granulated sugar, or to taste
¾ cup whipping cream
2 tbsp brandy
Splash of vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, salt, cocoa powder and espresso powder. Whisk to combine and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat butter until softened using an electric mixer, about 2 minutes. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating 30 seconds after each addition to combine. Add vanilla extract and beat to combine.

Add about a third of the dry ingredients to the butter/sugar mixture and beat to combine. Add about half of the milk and beat to combine. Continue adding, alternating between dry and wet, and finishing with the dry, beating after each addition until just combined.

Scoop batter into lined cupcake tins, filling them about three-quarters full. Bake for about 25 to 30 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool on rack for 5 minutes before turning the cupcakes out onto the rack. Cool completely before icing.

For chestnut cream:
In a large, beat whipping cream and sugar with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, break apart the chestnut puree and whip it with some brandy using an electric mixer until smooth and easier to handle.

Slowly incorporate whipped cream into the chestnut puree and whip until just combined. Place in fridge for at least 30 minutes to help set before piping onto cupcakes with a large, round tip (or you can alternatively spread it on your cupcakes like I did).

Finish off iced cupcakes with a dusting of cocoa powder and refrigerate until ready to serve. Before serving, allow for cupcakes to come back to room temperature, about 30 minutes.

** N.B. Chestnut puree is available at fine food stores.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

STOP, in the Name of #Foodiemeet – Part 1: Escape to Japan

Who would have thought that my insatiable sweet tooth could be sated? That was the case this weekend with the latest installment of the Foodiemeet series, the brainchild of two fabulous local foodies, Suresh and Andrea.

This past Sunday, Toronto foodies came together at the Samovar Room to not only eat a lot of delicious and sugary treats, but also to raise money for The Stop, an organization that “works to increase access to food in a manner that maintains dignity, builds health and community, and challenges inequality.”

Foodies gathering together to share food. All for the sole purpose of supporting food in the community. Love it.

Twitter has introduced to me to so many fabulous local foodies (and global foodies too!), and over the summer, the thought had passed my mind that it would be a great idea of local bakers to get together for some kind of charity event. Which is why I was thrilled when I received an email from Suresh two months ago asking if I would like to participate.


Did I even need to be asked? There was no way I would say no.

And so the planning stages began when the theme was revealed to the bakers: Escape from Toronto. And then I asked myself, “Where would I want to escape to at this very moment.” Two answers came to mind: Europe and Asia, two countries known for their culinary prowess.

Italy and France. Those are the two top countries I would love to visit when I got to Europe one day. And with those two countries in mind, I bounced around some ingredient ideas: chocolate, liqueur, and chestnuts (the perfect season for them!). Put them all together and I was inspired to make Chocolate Brandied Chestnut Cupcakes with Chestnut Cream.

But before I hit Europe, I’m still in my Asia phase, and nothing would thrill me more than to go back to Japan again. My whirlwind tour of Tokyo a few years back left a huge impression on me, and I would love nothing more than to travel to other cities and the countryside to enjoy some fabulous, authentic Japanese food. Hence my ode to my future Japanese trip (if I can ever afford it!): Black Sesame with White Chocolate Wasabi Buttercream.


Some of my friends were a little boggled at the idea of putting white chocolate and wasabi together when I threw the idea at them for feedback. Even I was a little nervous at the idea. Would the combination work well together? Would the wasabi be too overpowering? There was only one way to find out…

I don’t own a spice grinder, but if you do, grind your seeds in that to get a finer texture. I threw my seeds into my food processor and let the machine do its magic for about one minute. The texture won’t be as fine as a spice grinder, but it’ll still work, and will add some texture to your cake. In my initial cake tests with my parents, I baked the cupcakes with three different add-ins: pickled ginger, crystallized ginger, and toasted pine nuts. I quite liked the pickled ginger, but my parents both picked the pine nuts, finding the pickled ginger a little too overpowering. Thus, I originally intended to add pine nuts into my cupcakes, but my forgetfulness to buy pine nuts nixed that idea Saturday night…

The cupcakes still turned out quite nicely sans-pine nuts, so it was on to the frosting. I used a basic white chocolate buttercream recipe and at the end, started adding the wasabi powder a ½ teaspoon at a time. Needless to say, I was getting a little worried when I looked into my little tin of wasabi and realized that I already threw in more than half of it and I still wasn’t getting the desired heat and flavor I was looking for. Put it in the fridge to let it rest. Came back to it, and that’s when the wasabi really kicked in and hit me. “Shit,” I momentarily thought, “Is this too strong now?”

Icing the cupcakes was another feat in itself, as it reminded me how I have zero skills in cake decorating. Also reminded me to seriously look into some cake decorating courses in the new year when I’ll hopefully have money to spend again. But finally, they were frosted and ready to head off to Foodiemeet Bakeoff.

A huge thanks goes out to Catherine for lending me some cupcake boxes, and Joel, who was sweet enough to give me a ride over to Samovar Room and to lend some muscle by carrying my two boxes of cupcakes down to the car. The Room was already buzzing with bakers when we arrived, and I was immediately wowed by some of the creations I saw as they were setting up, but more on that in tomorrow’s post!

I wasn’t sure how my Black Sesame Cupcakes would be received, but as the night wore on, more people were eager to try the exotic combination and I got some great feedback from tasters (thanks!). A few people have been asking me for the recipe, which you can find below and recreate the cupcakes at home.

Be sure to come back tomorrow to check out part two of my Foodiemeet Bakeoff post, where there’ll be more thoughts on event, and my recipe for the Chocolate Brandied Chestnut Cupcakes with Chestnut Cream!


Black Sesame Cupcakes with White Chocolate Wasabi Buttercream
Makes 24 cupcakes

¾ cup unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup black sesame seeds, toasted
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp salt
2 ½ tsp baking powder
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 ¼ cups milk
Additional black sesame seeds, toasted, for decorating

For the White Chocolate Wasabi Buttercream:
9 ounces good-quality white chocolate, finely chopped
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
½ cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
6 ounces unsalted butter, softened
Pinch of salt
1 tbsp wasabi powder, or to taste
A few drops green food colouring (optional)

Preheat oven to 375°F. Line muffins tins with paper cupcake liners and set aside.

In a bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt, and set aside.

Place the toasted sesame seeds in a food processor and pulse until finely ground. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the sesame seeds and mix to combine, about 1 minute. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Add the vanilla and beat until combined.

Add about one-third of the dry ingredients and slowly beat until just combined. Add half milk and beat. Repeat, alternating between the dry and wet ingredients, and finishing with the dry. Beat until just combined.

Fill cupcake tins to three-quarters full and bake for 16 to 18 minutes, or until edges turn golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the centre comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool on racks. Cool completely before frosting.

For the White Chocolate Wasabi Buttercream, melt the white chocolate in a double boiler. Stir until smooth. Set aside and let cool to room temperature.

Sift the confectioners’ sugar into a medium bowl. Stir in the milk and vanilla and beat until sugar has dissolved. Add the butter and salt and beat until smooth. Don’t panic if the mixture looks like it’s curdling and falling apart. Just keep beating on high, and once the white chocolate is added in, it will become smooth.

Stir in the cooled white chocolate and beat on high until buttercream is smooth and well incorporated. If you want a slightly more visible green tint to the buttercream, beat in a few drops of green food colouring. Refrigerate the buttercream until firm enough to frost the cupcakes, about 30 minutes.

Using a large star-tip, fill a piping bag three-quarters full of buttercream and pipe onto cupcakes. Sprinkle cupcakes with some extra black sesame as a finishing touch. Refrigerate the cupcakes until ready to serve.

Before serving, pull cupcakes from the fridge to bring back to room temperature, about 30 minutes.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

This Little Piggy Went to the Market

An old roommate and dear friend of mine from my university days came to visit me this past weekend. It’s been months since I’ve badgered her to come down to Toronto, so I was delighted that she did finally visit despite her busy schedule.


Back when we were roommates, our schedules were very different, she being a science kid and me being an arts kid. And while we lived in the same house, sometimes days would go by and we wouldn’t catch a glimpse of each other. The kitchen was one of the places in our house that brought us together. When we had a little down time in our schedules, we’d cook and eat dinner together. We’d host dinner parties together. She’d come downstairs and chat with me while I baked. Good memories were had in that kitchen of ours. So, in celebration of her visit, I wanted to make a special meal for her.

I decided to make pork tenderloin, since I knew it wouldn’t be a lot of work to make after a day braving the Christmas crowd at the mall. I seasoned it earlier in the day and all I had to do when I got home was pull it out of the fridge for a few minutes, pan-sear, and then finish it off in the oven. Served it with some chestnut wild rice (I sautéed the vegetables earlier in the day and threw them into my rice cooker with the rice, chestnuts, cranberries, stock and apple cider. All I had to do when I came home was press “Start” on my cooker!) and sautéed Swiss chard.

The pork was absolutely delicious—incredibly tender and perfectly cooked to medium. The quick sautéed apples I did was a nice accompaniment to the mild and savoury pork, and I think the dish as a whole came together nicely. This is one meal that’ll definitely impress family and friends without having you slave away all day at it!


Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Sautéed Apples
Serves 2

1 pork tenderloin, about 1 to 1½ lbs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Dried thyme
Fennel seeds
Ground cinnamon

For the apples:
1 large apple, cut into ¼-inch cubes
1 to 2 tbsp white wine
Pinch of ground cinnamon
Salt and pepper, to taste

Rinse the pork tenderloin and pat dry. Remove any excess fat and silver skin. Rub tenderloin with spices, place on a plate, wrap with plastic and refrigerate for three hours. Take out tenderloin 20 minutes before you are ready to put it in the oven.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. In a heavy, ovenproof pan, heat some olive oil over medium-high heat. Place the pork in the pan and brown on all sides, about 3 to 4 minutes per side. Place in the oven and roast for about 20 minutes, or until the thermometer in the centre of the loin reads 155°F.

Remove tenderloin from oven and place on a cutting board. Cover loosely with foil to retain the heat. Let sit for a few minutes before cutting to allow the juices to redistribute in the meat.

Meanwhile, place the hot pan back on the stove over medium heat. Add the apples and heat for about a minute. Add a good splash of wine to deglaze the pan, scrapping up all the delicious brown bits at the bottom of the pan. Allow the apples to cook for a bit to soften, about 8 to 10 minutes. If pan becomes too dry before apples are tender enough, add a bit more white wine.

Slice pork. Arrange on a plate and serve with the sautéed apples, along with a side of rice or roasted potatoes, and vegetables.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Colour Inspirations


It’s December and Christmas is just around the corner! It’s hard to believe, considering I have A) yet to whip out my Christmas music, which is very unlike me since I usually give in by mid-November, B) have yet to put up any Christmas decorations, and C) (and worst of all), I have yet to start my holiday baking. Someone please press the panic button for me.

All that being said, I’ve been trying to be good and eat well from now until Christmas. November has been the month of gluttony for me, between my brother and parents visiting, and the week-long conference, where I just sat and ate and sat and ate some more. And so, after a couple of days of uninspiring lunches as I tried desperately to clear some of the junk that was in my fridge, I made a wonderful salad that’s healthy, delicious, easy to make, and beautiful to look at.

I cooked some whole wheat couscous and tossed it together with some winter fruits that are currently in season (granted, not native to Canada)—persimmons and pomegranates—green onions, mint, parsley, lemon zest, and a lemon-honey-dijon vinaigrette. Serve at room temperature the same day, or better yet, leave it overnight for the couscous to soak up the dressing to give the salad a more intense flavour. Perfect for holiday potlucks, and I promise you, people will be wowed by how gorgeous it looks with all the beautiful colours!


Couscous Salad with Persimmon, Pomegranate and Herbs
Adapted from Kalyn’s Kitchen
Serves 4 as a side or light lunch

½ cup whole wheat (or regular) couscous
2/3 low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock
2 tsp + 2 tbsp olive oil, for dressing
2 small Fuyu persimmons, peeled and diced into ½-inch cubes
½ to ¾ cup pomegranate seeds
2 stalks green onion, finely chopped
1/3 cup fresh mint, finely chopped
1/3 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of ½ lemon
Pinch of ground cumin
Salt and pepper, to taste
½ cup sliced or slivered almonds, toasted

Put chicken stock into a small pan with a tight fitting lid over high heat; add 2 teaspoons olive oil. When stock comes to a boil, remove pan from heat, stir in couscous, cover pan and let sit 5 minutes. Remove lid and fluff couscous with a fork. Set aside to cool.

While couscous cooks and cools, prep the other ingredients. Combine the diced persimmon, pomegranate seeds, sliced green onions, and chopped herbs in a large bowl.

In a separate bowl, whisk together 2 tablespoons olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, and pinch of ground cumin. Pour the dressing over the cooled couscous and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper.

Add couscous to the persimmon-pomegranate mixture in bowl and gently toss to combine. Sprinkle over with toasted almonds and serve at room temperature or cold.

  © Blogger templates 'Neuronic' by 2008

Back to TOP