10 January 2011


Whatever you do, don't click this link.

And if you DO click that link, definitely don't buy the book. I'm warning you.

If you DO buy the book, don't check your mailbox eagerly every day waiting for it to arrive.

When it does arrive, please don't skip straight to page 93. I mean it this time.

By now I'm sure it's obvious: Don't even look at the recipe for Sweet & Salty Brownies, because that sort of behaviour can only lead to more dangerous activities. Next thing you know, you'll have a pot of bubbling caramel on the stove and a bowl of melted butter and chocolate and we probably shouldn't even talk about the fleur de sel that will be involved. That would be scandalous.

For reals, don't even consider bringing those brownies over to your bestie's house for Sunday Supper. Really now, you don't want that kind of reputation.

If you don't do any of those things, you definitely won't get an email the next day (before 10:30 a.m., no less) from your bestie's husband, with the subject, "It is good."
I'm eating a brownie. It is good. That is all.

Nor will you get a follow up email, moments later, with the subject, "Time to put up..."

Enough with the wishy-washy. Let's call it what it is: this is the best brownie I've ever had.

January 10, 2011. Mark the date.

Don't say I didn't warn you.

Easy Like Sunday Morning

Christmas 2010 was probably my best on record. We celebrated in Waterloo! We celebrated in Brooklyn! And many delightful gifts were exchanged. Santa was particularly supportive of my culinary endeavours this year, leaving under the tree a Le Crueset tagine, copies of Mastering the Art of French Cooking and Baked Explorations, and assorted kitchen gadgetry, including an enormous crock pot. Perhaps the most special of these gifts, delivered not by Santa but directly from Ken's mom, whose mad knitting skillz are to be reckoned with: a biscuit warmer.

Pretty, isn't it? And so, despite a certain Pet of the Week's best efforts to wake us up in the single digits on Sunday morning, we lingered in bed until after 10, at which point we managed to relocate our pajama'd selves onto the couch with coffee and warm biscuits - slathered in butter, and, of course, the infamous crab apple jelly.

My wish for you this New Year is that you wake up at a very reasonable hour some Sunday morning (or, even better, afternoon) and are inspired to make biscuits. I like this recipe because it's quick and oh-so-simple. If you don't have buttermilk on hand, fear not: Just mix almost-a-cup of milk with a tablespoon or so of white vinegar.

And even though you might not have such a lovely biscuit warmer, I'd bet fresh biscuits like these won't last long enough to get cold, anyway.

07 September 2010

Fruit of the Day: Crab Apples

If you've been following the saga at Ultra Fine Flair, you knew this was coming.

A crab apple, not to be confused with a non-crab apple apple, can't make up its mind. Most days, it's a useless fruit that falls into someone's lawn in Southwestern Ontario or the Northeastern United States, and, much to the chagrin of Bills-loving homeowners, rots. Occasionally (and unfortunately, much more rarely), it's a fruit that smells mouth-wateringly sweet, tastes mouth-puckeringly tart, and produces an abundance of juice that can be coaxed, through various stages involving de-stemming, boiling, sugaring, and filtering through cheesecloth, into an electric red and very tasty jelly.

Despite their proliferation in backyards this time of year, crab apples are apparently hard to come by. We visited farms, farm stands, and farmers' markets. I think that was our biggest mistake, actually, because nobody grows these trees on purpose. We'd have been better off visiting area yard sales and surreptitiously gathering the fallen fruit (possibly while simultaneously haggling over the price of a toaster). We finally found some, and negotiated a price of $25/bushel.

Note: A bushel is more than you'll ever need. Even my Special Ladies could only use half. It broke my heart a little to see the rest of that fruit rotting, but we do have enough crab apple jelly for the duration.

In the interest of research, I grabbed a few to photograph and taste. We even took some to the beach!

We both sampled a crab apple. This particular variety smells sweet and tastes tart, although not inedibly so. They're not the most efficient snack, though, unless you have a very small mouth.

Ken opted to eat a plum instead. It was very pretty inside.

A local seagull, however, was not so discriminating. After I chucked an excess crab apple onto the sand beside me, he nabbed it and ran off. À chacun son goût.

UFF Fruit Rating:

11 June 2010

Saucy Pizza

Sounds a little bit naughty, doesn't it?

I like my pizza with a thin, crispy crust. Fresh mozzarella, if it's available, is delish. Big basil leaves, yes please, and pass the oregano and red pepper flakes. And, for as long as I can remember, I've ordered pizza with extra sauce. I love me some good saucy pizza. Unfortunately, my passion for plentiful stewed tomatoes isn't shared by my Argentine counterparts, who seem to prefer pizza that's bready and cheesy, but not so much saucy. There is sauce, to be sure, but during the pizza-making process it gets all mixed in with the cheese, and in the process, kind of lost.

All of this isn't to say that I'll turn down any pizza. From the place next to where I worked in California with the deep-fried crusts (yes, that is as good as it sounds), to a giant $2 NYC slice, to an Argentina-style pie, offer me pizza, and I'm in. But I also like a project, and it's been forever since I've made pizza at home, so that's just what I did.

Full disclosure: I cheated a bit. The crust is from scratch, and couldn't be easier. The sauce, however, was from a can. It was a little too sweet, and next time I'm totally going all the way and making my own. But importantly, there was loads of it, probably enough for two pizzas, but all piled onto a single pie. Yum.

Pizza Crust: Really Simple Pizza Dough from Smitten Kitchen (I used half whole-wheat flour)

We topped half with bondiola, and the other half with eggplant, red peppers and artichoke hearts, because while Ken loves him some pork, I'm still trying to keep a couple of functional arteries.

03 June 2010

Make This Salad

Salad schmalad, right?

Well, yes, but I'm living in the land of huge, artery-clogging steaks and doughy, cheesy pizzas and empanadas. And down here it's almost winter, which means we're swimming in root vegetables, and oh dear lord help me if I read one more Northern-Hemisphere blog about strawberries.

You'll freeze some for me, won't you?

Let's be clear: When you order salad at a parrilla (Argentine grill), the default is ensalada mixta, which involves a few sad-looking torn-up bits of lettuce, hunks of mealy tomatoes, and heaps of raw white onions. But you order it anyway, because it makes you feel just a little less guilty about the unnecessarily large yet oh-so-delicious slab of meat you're about to consume.

Anyway, in my remaining two months in Argentina, I'm trying to not eat meat at every meal, and also to not contract scurvy. Here in Buenos Aires we prove daily that necessity is the mother of invention. My British friend Sarah discovered the SAP (Second Audio Program) button on her TV when she was trying to figure out how to watch "The Simpsons" in English. And I "created" this salad when I couldn't find many of the ingredients in the original recipe. This version is delicious, and the cabbage will help keep up the ol' vitamin C levels.

Farro, Cabbage, and Roasted Beet Salad
adapted from Epicurious.com

3 large beets, tops trimmed to 1"
1 c semi-pearled farro or wheat berries (note: in Spanish, this is called trigo candeal pelado - at least that's what I used and it's very tasty)
2 T extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for roasting the beets
2 T red wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 large head of red cabbage, stemmed and chopped
1/2 c finely chopped onion
1/3 c chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 c crumbled blue cheese (about 4 oz/100 g)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Arrange beets in single layer in 8 x 8 x 2-inch baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil. Roast until beets are tender, about an hour. Cool. Trim beets; peel.

Cook farro in large saucepan of boiling salted water until tender, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Note: Your grain's cooking time may vary. Mine took longer, over half an hour. Drain. Transfer to large bowl. Stir 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon vinegar, and garlic into hot farro. Cool to room temperature.

Cut each beet into bite-sized cubes. Add beets, cabbage, onion, and parsley to farro; toss to incorporate evenly. Add blue cheese. Season to taste. Note: The farro (or whatever it was I used) seemed to absorb a lot of salt from the cooking water, so I only added a few twists of freshly-ground pepper at the end, and it was perfect.

I suspect this salad is infinitely malleable. I already want to add a can of chickpeas (rinsed), and some toasted chopped walnuts. The beets could easily be swapped for diced tomatoes, in which case I might also use basil instead of parsley. Yum.

30 May 2010

Yoav's Breakfast Chili

This is Yoav and Denise.

This picture was taken on Christmas, 2008, because even though I just visited them in Toronto I didn't take one picture of them together. Shame on me. I did, however, have a great time hanging out in their backyard, eating pizza and enjoying the many, many hours of daylight that Ontario has to offer this time of year. And I found out that in October they're going to be parents to one of the luckiest babies ever. I can't wait to meet him/her (updated! hooray!).

I also got to try their new breakfast creation, which involved Yoav's homemade chili served up with eggs and avocado. It was delicious, and I was inspired to recreate it when I got back to Buenos Aires last week.

It is so tasty. Please do try this at home.

I used the Beef and Dark Beer Chili recipe from Epicurious.com, which I chose because I like cooking with beer. The flavour wasn't quite intense enough, but I think that's probably because Argentines are not generally counted among those who like it hot, and it's hard to find a good strong chili powder here. But still. Eggs & chili. Did I mention that's going to be one lucky kid?

19 April 2010

Brown Butter

Did you know about brown butter? Did you know that if you just take a knob of butter and cook it in a small saucepan over medium heat, it will sizzle and then bubble and froth and then settle down and start to smell nutty and delicious? Did you know that if you then pour that brown butter into a bowl and let it cool for a while, it tastes like a deep, spicy caramel, and can be mixed with a bit of powdered sugar and milk to make the most delicious frosting?

And if you knew, why didn't you tell me?

Part of my Friday afternoon surfing for food porn involved browsing Martha Stewart's cupcakes. After I wiped the drool off my keyboard, made a small batch of Mrs. Kostrya's Spice Cupcakes to take to a dinner party. Then on Saturday I baked a whole batch of Strawberry Cupcakes for a baby shower.

The spice cupcakes were tasty and gingerbready, and I will make them again, maybe with even more spices. Chopped up candied ginger would also be a delicious addition. The strawberry cupcakes weren't quite as strawberryish as I'd like, and I'll wait to make them again until strawberries are in season and are bursting with strawberry flavour, and even then I'll probably add half a cup or so of strawberry purée to the batter. But I won't change a thing about either frosting, both of which were made with varying quantities of brown butter, confectioners' sugar, and milk, more or less following this recipe, just adding more confectioners' sugar and less milk to make a fluffier frosting (vs. a glaze).

Brown butter. Who knew?