The Year's Favorites

Schweppe's Bitter Lemon - Sweet fancy moses, I've finally found the soda for me! Not sugary, but fresh and lemony with a slightly quinine taste. Individual cans are sold at Famous Foods on Kingsway, though I've yet to see them available by the case or in bottles.

Pastes in tubes - Tomato, anchovy, wasabi, harissa. Tubes are the way to go.

Porcelain grater - Made for grating ginger, this is also fantastic for garlic. I've never liked using a garlic press and this grater makes short work of a couple of cloves. It's also much easier to clean and can be had for $2 in Chinatown. It made the list of 15 Useful Kitchen Items over at The Kitchn

Non-stick cheese grater - I hate washing those big metal box graters, when the cheese bits and residue stick around the sharp edges. Years ago I found one at HomeSense, with a black non-stick coating, and it takes all of three seconds to clean.

Best new bread bakery - Mediterranean Bakery. Select Safeways carried them for a time and they have a location at Park Royal in West Vancouver, but I trek to Meinhardt's to pick them up. I prefer their Italian loaves over others' because they're consistent and reliably good, as well as being 95% certified organic.

Favorite Breads - Swiss Bakery's Country Rye and Onion Walnut. The latter is fantastic for a roast beef sandwich, or with turkey and cranberry chutney. Mediterranean Bakery's Parmesan Bread toasted with heapings of extra cheese and eaten with tomato soup. Terra Bread's Fig and Anise, my favorite bread to snack on.

Still thinking about... - The warm madelines from DB Bistro. Like eating baked, little, fluffy clouds. The gyu tataki and buttery rich Monkfish liver at Nanchu. The Opera a la Noisette from Ganache, the best treat I had this Halloween.

All I want for Christmas - Was for Congee Noodle House (on Main off Broadway) to reopen. It's been under renovations since early November, and I just can't get my congee fix anywhere else.

In Memoriam - Farewell, Think! cafe (W. 10th at Sasamat). Goodbye, Pho Bich Nga (this legendarily-named Vietnamese restaurant was at Victoria & Kingsway). See ya, Caffe de Medici.


Green Beans & Leeks

One more belated post! Last week I happened to see some great looking off-season green beans at my local market, so I didn't hesitate to make 101 Cookbook's green bean recipe, which I've been dying to try. I decided to toss in some cooked quinoa to the mix, making it an easy lunch to bring to work the next day.

Fish and Chips

Another belated post, among many. I came home one night craving fish and chips, so I picked up a snapper fillet and breaded it with a mix of breadcrumbs, panko, salt, pepper and paprika and baked it along with those easy but excellent frozen fries. I scarfed the meal down with a generous side of garlic and lemon aioli.


Eggs & Kale on Bread

I love eggs on bread. So when work dismissed us early due to the snowstorm today, I raced home to make one of my favorite lunches--eggs and boiled kale on bread. Taken from the always wonderful posts at Orangette, I indulgently made this as a late lunch for myself today. No shortcuts for this one--don't skip out any steps when making this relatively simple meal, because it's oh so worth it. My preferred bread for this is Country Rye. It's toothsome, chewy texture makes it also a great munching bread for dipping in oil and vinegar. In Vancouver, you can pick this up at Swiss Bakery on E. 3rd Ave and Main St.


Wakame Salad

I grew up enjoying the ocean-y taste and slippery yet crunchy texture of seaweed, and a nice little bowl of wakame salad makes a refreshing snack. I adapted this from Mark Bittman's recipe for seaweed salad with cucumber. I took out the minced shallots and cayenne in the original recipe, instead adding a dash of shichimi spice. Toss all the ingredients in a bowl and let marinate overnight. This also makes for a delicious side during the summer.

- 1 oz assorted seaweed
- 2-3 Japanese cucumbers, thinly sliced
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1/2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
- splash of mirin
- splash of sesame oil
- pinch of sea salt
- generous sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds

Proscuitto-wrapped Snapper with Greens

Belated post--I made an impromptu recipe to clean out my fridge. I had a quarter of an onion left in my fridge, which I chopped and sauteed with a clove of garlic. While that was cooking, I used two last pieces of proscuitto to wrap a small fillet of snapper. Sprinkle some pepper and top with the leftover dill in my fridge that would start to wilt soon. I threw this in the pan with some juice from half a lemon and covered it. After the fish was ready, I threw in a bunch of pre-washed baby spinach, pinch of salt, and stirred it with the onions for two minutes. 20 minutes for a meal and a cleaned-out fridge.


Asparagus Egg Redux

I made asparagus and egg again, this time I sped up the process by frying the asparagus in a pan filled with grapeseed oil. Tossed it with breadcrumbs, salt and pepper and transferred them to a plate. Then I cracked an egg into the remains in the pan, cranked up the burner for a few quick minutes and slid the egg on top of my asparagus heap letting the yolk run. Add some more fresh cracked pepper on top. Eat by dipping the toasty asparagus segments into the yolky mixture. Mmmm.


Crispy Kale

One of the easiest and healthiest sides I regularly make is the baked kale from Michael Pollan's salmon recipe on Martha Stewart. Once you've got your oven pre-heated, it takes no more than ten minutes to prepare and cook. I like sprinkling some paprika on the leaves before baking. These turn out so crispy, they taste almost fried, like delicate chips.



I'm craving a quick meal after a long day so I grab a pack of frozen half-shell mussels from the freezer (yes, I keep emergency mussels on hand). White sauce--sautee onions and mushrooms with a little butter, throw in white wine, chicken broth, fresh dill and spinach. Serve with toasted garlic bread.


Holy Guacamole

Everyone has makes their own version of guacamole, with variations on tomatos, cilantro, onions, etc. My version (I like it somewhat chunky) is as follows:

- rough ratio of 3/4 chopped avocado to 1/4 seeded roma tomatos
- finely chopped green onion (adjust to taste)
- equal parts cayenne pepper and cumin (adjust to taste)
- dash of salt and black pepper
- squirt of lemon or lime juice

Mash all together in a bowl with a fork. I prefer green onion because it's milder tasting, and no cilantro either, because I hate cilantro.



Stuff on toast is the best. Fried some sausage, and with the bit of grease left in the pan, I threw in a handful of baby spinach (just the amount I needed to get rid of in my fridge), and a loosely beaten egg with some salt and pepper. Top the mix onto some pieces of toasted garlic-buttered rosemary & garlic bread.


Asparagus & Proscuitto Sandwich

Yum, two of my favorite things, now in a sandwich. I made David Leite's asparagus and proscuitto tea sandwich today, using garlic & herbs cream cheese instead of just plain whipped cream cheese. For the bread, I used two generous slices of Pan e Formaggio's Rosemary and Garlic. The sandwich was good, with a nice crunch from the asparagus. After I finished it, I had the wicked idea of frying the proscuitto-wrapped spears next time, before sandwiching them.


Eggs, again

Hooray for these extra long weekends, because I can't stop. Especially when it comes to making full use of the ingredients I have on hand. Today, I layered asparagus stems along the bottom with proscuitto and parmesan, saving the spears to partially fence the outer rim. More parmesan on top. The possibilities are endless--I'm already looking forward to next weekend, when I can throw in some mushrooms and cream, or salami and basil!


Ramekin Eggs

Hooray for long weekends! Breakfast today consisted of eggs, tomato, spinach and proscuitto baked in ramekins. You can get the recipe here. I also had my usual big cup of coffee (with lots of cream), toast, and a sliced anjou pear.


Soup's up

Mmmm, this is why I love autumn--it's soup season! Last week, I made French onion soup one night, spending over an hour caramelizing two yellow onions in butter. There's not too much more to it other than all natural low-sodium beef stock, a dash of thyme, pepper, and some toasted Gruyere croutons (actually loaf ends). I had it with some extra bread and a basic green salad with balsamic dressing.


Quinoa with Chard and Cranberries

For dinner tonight, I sauteed some chard with a clove of crushed garlic in olive oil. Tossed it into a bowl of fluffy quinoa with a handful of dried cranberries. Salt, pepper, eat.


Eggs on Toast

Lazy rainy day morning breakfast...scrambled eggs on buttered toast. Cup of coffee, bowl of cereal, and my news feeds.


Quick Weeknight Meal

Got home late, so I made a quick dinner with salmon and leftover veggies I found in the fridge. Put them all together in a foil packet and stick in the toaster oven. No brainer.


Rice Cooker Bibimbap

Making bibimbap (a Korean rice dish) in a rice cooker is such a genius idea. I adapted my first attempt using the brilliant suggestion from Teczcape. In my small kitchen, I don't have much room for any more small appliances or a big Korean stone pot, so this is perfect.

I cooked the rice as usual, and when the cooker was done, I threw in a big handful of spinach, cut up kimchi, nori strips, and a sprinkle of furikake. I shut the rice cooker again and pressed the "cook" button once more. After it was "twice done" in a few minutes, I cracked in two quail eggs and let the machine steam it for another minute. The eggs were too cooked for my liking; next time I'll crack the eggs in just prior to mixing it up before serving. Forcing the rice cooker to "re-cook" it several times dries up the rice more, which gives you some crispy edges--similar to the slightly toasted rice you get when bibimbap is cooked in a traditional Korean hot stone pot.


Chili Pasta

Leftover chili con carne from yesterday now becomes spicy pasta for today, when I add some whole wheat spaghetti.



That's it--autumn's already over and winter's here. Frost is appearing on cars everywhere and the only thing I can do is make chili to battle the, uh, chill (sorry). Now before I go on, I must confess I don't really like beans. I only enjoy them as various pastes and curds. So cutting out beans, I sautee garlic, plenty of onions and a generous pinch of red pepper flakes. Throw in some ground beef. Add a half a dozen low-sodium beef stock ice cubes that I keep handy in the freezer, toss in carrots, tomatoes, tomato paste, pepper, smoked paprika and some chipotle powder. Simmer and stir...serve with sour cream and toasted garlic-buttered loaf ends. The perfect food for vegging out in front of the TV, watching Mad Men on a cold rainy day.


Steak Wrap

Cheap steak at the supermarket = steak wrap with avocado and crispy greens.


Turkey Salad Sandwich

October 13th was Thanksgiving in Canada. As usual, my talented sister and I made Thanksgiving dinner, although it always seems more like her making the turkey and meal, and me helping out with the sides and prep.

So I'm polishing off the leftover turkey right now, turning the trimmings into turkey salad, substituting turkey in my usual chicken salad. Celery, mayo, toasted pine nuts, a dash of cumin, salt and pepper are added. Let it sit in the fridge for a few hours (it's even better overnight), and I spread a little bit of dijon mustard onto both sides of some light country rye bread before spooning in the mix and toasting the sandwich. I always make a big bowl because I always end up eating forkfuls of this while making the sandwich.

Our Thanksgiving meal consisted of a 48-hour-brined turkey stuffed with herbs and oranges, celeriac mashed potatoes, gravy, fried fresh sweet corn cakes, turkey stuffing made with mushrooms and Italian sausage, cranberry sauce spiked with citrus zest, sauteed carrots, green salad with pear and pomegranate dressing, and my sister's dessert of fruit segments, cranberry and prosecco jellies.


Improvised "Flammekueche"

I came across this flammekueche recipe and decided to improvise it into more of a mini pizza for an easy meal. Using whole wheat pitas as a base, I spread a layer of sour cream and topped it off with proscuitto, red onions, parsley, salt, pepper and nutmeg.

As a side, I made a roasted fig, proscuitto and walnut salad with balsamic dressing.


Still Life: Late Summer Fruit


Not Food: Processed Meat Recall Edition

Listeria outbreak! How do you know if what you're eating might be processed foodstuffs? Do the words on the packaging even remotely sound like food? Among the many gems on the extensive recall list are:

- Maple Leaf Ezee Sub Dagwood Yeah...not food.

- Foodservice Meat Institution-grade no-frills protein.

- Shopsys Old Vienna All Beef Salami This sounds like the creepy old octagenarian next door who's always staring at you through your window.

- Boston Pizza Slow Cooked Shaved Roast Beef Just pause and say those words slowly in your head. How do any of these words go together?

- Generic Compliments Cooked Ham The ham? It was ok. Give my generic regards to the chef.

- Burns Burns Regular Summer MP 3's I can haz mixtape now now?

- Mr. Sub Corned Beef 'Cuz when I want corned beef, I think of Mr. Sub.

- Coorsh Smoked Meat Issh schmoked schmeeesh, of coorsh.

- Equality Cooked Ham Gender parity meat means either sex has equal opportunity to contract listeria poisoning.

- Sub Delicious Meat Pita Sandwich Twist Is it a pita? A sandwich? A twist?

- Sub Delicious Belly Buster Club Sub This sounds painful and less-than-yummy.

- Needs Clubhouse Sandwich on Ciabatta I got needs. Ciabatta-related needs.

- Burns Bung Bologna I kid you not.



How can I say no to mussels? A few weeks back, me and my sister got together to make a meal. The mussels weren't as large as the ones I picked up at Granville Island on Canada Day, but they still hit the spot. Sauteed onions, garlic, shallots, mushrooms and leeks with butter and white wine. Sprinkle of dill. My sister made veggie sides with some produce she picked up at a farm market. The real revelation were the English peas she hand-shelled. They were amazing! I've never known what real peas tasted like, having eaten only frozen or canned peas all my life, and they're merely a bland imitator of the real thing.


Hots vs. Nots: Part I

My list of Hots and Nots in the sidebar probably bear some explanation. You probably have your own or think I'm nuts, so feel free to argue your case or share your thoughts in the comments.

1. Butter vs. Margarine - Come on. They're both evil (margarine = hydrogenated vegetable and/or soybean oil = trans fat), so why would you want to skimp on the taste? The only reasonably non-vomitous facsimile that I've found is Earth Balance. Expeller-pressed, non-GMO, 100% vegan--it must be the least evil condiment in existence. They probably even donate a percentage of their profits to help save baby seals from being clubbed to death or something.

2. Kleen Kanteen vs. Nalgene - You know this one already. I'm actually not too concerned with the plastic stuff as long as you're not storing months-old liquid in it to feed your newborn, but that Nalgene crap is ugly and heavy anyways. Aluminum bottles are much lighter, particularly when you're lugging around a litre or two of water. I prefer Kleen Kanteen over those Sigg bottles simply because they don't have that narrow neck which forces you to buy their over-priced cleaning brush just to keep that jug of yours germ-free.

3. Epicurean Cutting Boards vs. Magnetic Knife Racks - Ok, it's not really a good comparison, but Epicurean cutting boards rock my world. Made from sustainable pressed wood, they're light, they're NSF-approved (resists bacteria), won't dull your knives, heat-resistant and dishwasher safe. Magnetic knife racks...ok, I know many of my friends have them and my last place had one too. And it was a pain in the ass. I didn't find it a very secure way to store my knives, the look of a wall full of exposed blades never sat right with me, and it was a little awkward to use, the way I'd have to maneuver the knife off the wall. I prefer storing knives in a drawer--I think it feels more natural bringing the knife out of a sliding drawer already in position to use on the cutting board.

4. Chopsticks vs. Sporks - Another easy one. Having been raised in an Asian family, I firmly believe that chopsticks are the ultimate utensil. Those will real skill can eat nearly any meal without needing any other tool. Sporks are just retarded. They neither spoon nor fork well. Actually, chopsticks probably trump both table knives and forks too.

5. Prep bowls vs. Pinch bowls - I've never found those teeny tiny bowls to be good for anything other than to look cute in a Martha Stewart magazine. Then again, I never cook by measuring out every ingredient beforehand, so whatever. If a spice calls for a "pinch" or "dash", I just "pinch" and "dash" it in when the time comes.

6. Garburators vs. Magnetic Spice Jars - Well, garburators just rock. I miss having one. Magnetic spice jars look nifty, but they're a bit of a pain to use (you need to make sure the lids are really secure, since they're stored vertically). People also tend to stick them near or on their stove tops to save space, and I always think that the heat from your elements will shorten your spices' shelf life.

7. Matcha Tea vs. Mate Tea - Simple: one tastes awesome, the other tastes gross. I like drinking a sweetened, cold matcha with milk drink in the summer, and hot matcha with some red bean sweets in the winter. Mate tea is just nasty.

Stay tuned for Part II!


Easy Pasta

What to do with that remaining capicollo I had in the fridge...I decided to throw together a pasta for dinner and the leftovers went to today's lunch. A roasted red pepper, portobello mushroom, garlic, onions and cream on linguine. That's it.


If I had a Panini Press

This capicollo and fried eggplant sandwich would've been grilled perfection.

Not Food: Olympics Edition

Nastia Liukin may be the decorated favorite, but she hasn't got a butter statue of her like Shawn Johnson does.

We've all heard about superfreak Michael Phelps' 12,000 calorie per day diet. Pizza, French toast, chocolate-chip pancakes, omelets, oh my! A brave soul tries it out. If Phelps wants to add to his list of endorsements he could also plug McD's cheeseburgers. McD's--it's the Disneyland meal for Olympic winners!


August Fruit

I feel like I've been eating nectarines and blueberries by the ton these past two weeks, and I can't stop. I keep meaning to dress up the nectarines with some yogurt or honey, but they're so fresh and delicious just on their own.

My first visit to Richmond Country Farm Market yielded some great big glorious green figs. By the time I got there, they were mostly picked over and I could see the remaining ones were so ripe they had to be eaten immediately. They were like no other fig I'd ever seen--bright medium green, heavy with flesh, and the size of large eggs. They were so ripe that some were oozing juice. By the time I got them home, one of them had already burst open.

I love figs. I love their honeyed sweetness and their meaty texture. They also look rather gruesome closeup, with their alien red pulp and many tiny seeds. The sign at the market simply said "Local Green Figs", but I believe they may be San Pietro figs, what with their tapered necks and a full cavity of jammy red flesh. The sweetness of these figs were amazingly fragrant and there was almost a floral tone to it. If only I'd gotten to the market early that morning! I would've scooped up a dozen more!


Tale of Two Izakayas

I went to two izakayas in Richmond over the weekend and came away with two very different experiences. First night I paid my first and last visit to Manzo Itamae (located on Capstan way, not to be confused with the Manzo on Alexandra Road), which has taken over the now defunct Dozo restaurant.

We ordered five dishes, starting with the flying fish sashimi. We originally tried to order the bluefin, but were told that they were all out (which was strange since it was on the day's specials and we had arrived early, being the second set of customers in the place). The flying fish was well-presented, but we found a small bone in a piece and a fish scale on another. The sashimi also wasn't very fresh; a distinct "fishy" odor prevented us from even finishing the 7 or 8 pieces that were there. The sashimi was $19.

We also ordered a standard izakaya dish--grilled squid. A sizeable dish, the squid came with some nicely crispy tentacles, and was served plain with a slice of lemon. I also had to try their chopped scallop roll and of everything we had that night, I think this was the best thing that evening.

Next came the grilled ox tongue and a pan-fried udon dish. The ox tongue turned out to be six thinly-cut pieces (which we suspected were cut wrong--against the grain of the meat) which were rubbery. The udon noodles, pan-fried with scallions, mushrooms and beef, were remarkably bland. The beef was dried and overcooked.

For the five dishes, our bill came to $56.


Disappointed with the previous night's meal, we decided to pay a visit to one of our favorite izakayas, Nan Chuu. The last few visits we noticed quite a few changes to their menu and now they have finally come out with newly updated menu. We ordered seven dishes.

First to start was the new Ika Tan Tan, which was an appetizer of raw squid and kelp marinated in a spicy sauce and served with strips of dried nori. Heaven! I worried that the squid would be too rubbery and fishy, but I was happily wrong. The squid was slightly chewy, just enough for a good mouthfeel, and was deliciously buttery. The sauce was spicier than I expected, but the heat was well paired with the taste of the nori.

Next, we had one of the chef's daily sashimi selections - 2 pieces of ebi, 3 of tuna, 3 of the hamachi, and 3 of the tako. The tako was more crunchy and soft than rubbery, the hamachi was generously sized and light-tasting, the tuna was perfectly oh-so-slightly seared and melty, and the ebi was amazingly sweet and succulent. The ebi were also larger than I expected. This dish was $24.

Grilled ox tongue is one of my favorites, and their thick cut chunks of perfectly grilled tongue were up to Nan Chuu's usual standards. The meat was flavorful with a slightly smoky beef taste, and it was served with mustard on the side. We also ordered the Gyu Tataki - thin slices of lightly seared beef served with raw scallions and a light soy-based dipping sauce. It was so thin and tender that it almost melts in your mouth. Another favorite of mine is their wagyu beef robata, which were eight cubes of tender marbled Japanese wagyu beef on two skewers. The meat was juicy and tender and perfectly cooked - slightly bleeding rare in the center.

Agedashi tofu is not usually one of my favorites, but I decided to try their take on it. What I expected was a small dish of 3 or 4 cubes of fried tofu with a light vegetable gravy sauce. What came to our table was a bowl of 6 or 7 large cubes of crispy, fried sweet and silky yellow tofu in their "special mushroom sauce" which consisted of shiitake and enoki mushrooms. Delicious!

For dessert, we ordered 3 kinds of ice cream - green tea, mango, and black sesame. The three small scoops came with a dollop of whipped cream, chocolate shavings and a patter of red bean for the green tea ice cream. The mango was standard, and the real standout was the black sesame ice cream. I could've done without the whipped cream and chocolate shavings, and instead asked for more red bean to pair with the black sesame.

For seven dishes at Nan Chuu, our bill came to $58.


Peanut Sesame Noodles

Another hot weekend, so I searched for some cold noodle recipes. I settled on this fairly straightforward Cold Peanut Sesame Noodles recipe, seeing as I had nearly all the ingredients already in my fridge. I added shredded carrots to add texture. Next time I'll use plain buckwheat soba noodles instead of the green tea soba ones I had on hand, and I'll probably marinate the chicken (as suggested in the comments) before grilling as well. It was very yummy, so I don't think it'll be long before I make this again.


Smoky Mushroom Salad

I didn't know what to call this simple salad -- "smoky" really only refers to the slightly smokey flavor of the dressing. I sliced some brown field mushrooms thinly on a mandoline, tossed it together with shavings of parmesan in a bed of herb boxed greens, favoring red leaf lettuces and radicchio. For the dressing, I mixed together olive oil, red wine vinegar, sesame oil and a small teaspoon of miso paste. It was so good, I made more the next night and brought the rest to work the next day.


Thursday Night Scallops

This was Thursday night's dinner after an exhausting day. I had frozen some fresh scallops about a week ago, so I thawed them in a bowl of warm water while I grabbed some boxed greens and made a quick vinaigrette with olive oil, white wine vinegar, a smidge of dijon mustard, salt and brown sugar. Top off the greens with seared scallops and sprinkled chopped chives and black pepper.


Still Life: Artichoke


Strawberry Salad

I've had a few heavy suppers the last week, so I thought it was time for a light summery salad. I threw together an impromptu mish-mash of sharp, peppery greens (arugula, watercress, baby spinach, chervil) plus toasted walnuts, sliced strawberries, soft goat cheese and a berry vinaigrette.



Success! I braved the Canada Day crowds at Granville Island today and picked up a few pounds of fresh mussels for dinner. I adapted this easy Cioppino recipe, subbing in salmon, prosciutto, and used leftover cabernet. Few meals of mine are wholly without carbs, so I just had to throw in some capellini as well to soak up the thick stew. And buttered bread on the side, too.


What happened?

Ok, what is the deal? I had a whole mussels meal planned for Canada Day dinner and I went all over town (well, to all the big grocery stores anyways) and was thwarted at every turn. I saw plenty in tanks just the day before (and had been planning the meal every since) but what the feck happened today? Did I get there too late? Or is Vancouver just out of mussels? Plenty of clams, lobster and fish, but where are my fresh mussels?!?


June Fruit


Takoyaki Party

What do you get when you put together six people, two takoyaki machines and shochu? A room full of very happily sated friends.

Our takoyaki were made with eggs, baby octopus, cabbage, pickled red ginger, green onion, drizzled with kewpie mayo, ottogi sauce (Japanese pork cutlet sauce), and topped off with a sprinkling of bonito flakes and strips of nori.

Ideally, Osaka-style takoyaki are grilled crisp on the outside, but not overdone, with a slightly mushy center that's supposed to melt in your mouth. Takoyaki can also be consumed dipped in miso soup.


Modified Lyonnaise Salad

While at Granville Island, I spotted some lovely frisee and decided to make a lighter version of a classic lyonnaise salad. Torn frisee, dried cranberries, sliced roasted almonds and an easy vinaigrette made with olive oil, red wine vinegar, dijon mustard and a bit of anchovy paste.

Those who know me probably think I'm crazy to forgo the bacon and egg, but really this was very refreshing and I didn't miss them at all.


Mini Burgers Pt. II

Ok, I'm obsessed. I made them again last night, this time with more coriander in the lamb patties. I paired the burgers this time with some Irish Porter cheese instead of swiss, but I think I prefer the swiss after all. I also tossed together a light herb salad with baby spinach, baby arugula, rosemary and pea shoots in a basic vinaigrette. I think the spiciness of the pea shoots and rosemary complimented the lamb burgers better. I also think I'm just trying to evoke summertime when right now, the long-range weather forecast for Vancouver says rain and below-average temperatures until at least mid-June. Le sigh.


Mini Burgers

May was a particularly bad month for cooking...too many birthday meals out, too many late nights at work spent scarfing down microwaveables. Ugh.

Last night I had some company over and finally made a meal that wasn't a one-pot dish. Mini lamb burgers with a pear & goat cheese salad, along with shoestring fries and lemon garlic aioli dip.

For the mini burgers, I picked up some of Safeway's artisan dinner rolls and cut out the middle when slicing to remove extraneous bread. Ground lamb spiced with cumin (I love cumin), coriander, turmeric, salt and pepper. I was too cautious with the coriander this time; next time I'll be more generous with the spices. Oh, and breadcrumbs of course. Fried the mini-patties with olive oil, top with tomato, swiss cheese, baby lettuce, mustard. The side salads were boxed greens with buttery Packham pears, Saltspring Island truffled goat cheese, and a basic vinaigrette.

The fries were McCain's frozen "Xtracrispy" shoestring fries. Yes, I know! All my previous attempts at frying/roasting fries from scratch yielded mix results, so I figured this would save me some time and grief that night. Well shiver me timers, these were actually very good and very crispy. It was also the only frozen kind that I could find without any hydrogenated oils.

As for the lemon garlic aioli, it's one of those super easy dips that anyone can make in 5 minutes. Mayo, clove of garlic, chopped fresh parsley and a generous squeeze of lemon juice. I personally never use a garlic press; I have a little ceramic grater that I use for garlic and ginger. This dip is impossible to mess up, and it's so good I always tend to make extra so I can dip veggies and pita chips for snacking.


Mussels Linguine

Mussels linguine with a garlic butter sauce. Bell peppers, onion, cream, basil. I picked up the fresh mussels at T&T's seafood section, which also had some jaw-droppingly large lobsters. The size of cats, I tells ya!

We stuffed ourselves and the mussels didn't last long. Next time I'll try to make some pomme frites to go with them.


Dinner at Nan Chuu

One of the few authentic Japanese restaurants in Richmond (outside of the Steveston area) and one of my favorite izakayas in Greater Vancouver is Nan Chuu. Owned and run by the Gyoza King people, the food is worth the drive and parking headache (it's on the busy restaurant strip on Alexandra Road).

We started off our meal with the seasonal Monkfish liver. It's amazingly sweet, with a slightly lighter texture than pate and was not the slightest bit fishy.

Next, came the seared tuna tataki (the tuna is good in any form here), chicken skewers (standard robata fare) with mayo, and the Gyu Tataki.

The meat was richly marbled and thinly sliced. Incredibly fresh and tender, their beef tataki is the best I've ever had. Similar to eating buffalo, it actually tastes like what beef is supposed to taste like.

We also had the grilled ox tongue and of course, the ebi mayo.

Nan Chuu opened about 2 years ago and they seem to be in the middle of a transition. Many menu items have been taken off, including one of my favorite sashimi appetizer plates. They've expanded into offering oden, which I have not yet had a chance to try. The atmosphere is less boisterous than some of the Robson St. izakayas and it's a generally more low-key, quieter environment with dimly lit wooden booths, a small bar, and handmade clay dishware. They also have a large selection of Japanese beers, sakes and spirits, as well as shochu-based cocktails.