Chard risotto with a soupçon of whining.

All the cool kids on the Food Internet are writing about cucumbers and zucchini today, but I’m all out of cucurbits and also incredibly uncool. Today we had chard – it’s been sitting in a vase beside a window for the past two days, getting brighter, bushier, more lovely. The trouble with buying produce at markets along my bus route home is that I have to carry the produce home on the bus where it inevitably wilts. A little bit of care and water upon arriving home does wonders, and in the meantime chard makes a very pretty centrepiece.

We had risotto, because today was unpleasant. The cat woke me up with claws, and I zoned out in the shower and forgot to shave my legs. I broke my favourite gold sandals around lunchtime and had to wander around the office shoeless, consummate professional that I always am, and then I noticed my hair had fallen apart after the fan behind my head flung everything into wild disarray and the concealer I’d dabbed on my monster pimple that morning had worn off and my mascara was running, so I looked just awesome – incredibly stable. You know you look special when everyone who comes to your office opens with “are you okay?”

I had to take the bus home wearing near-non-existent footwear, and quit on my “shoes” at my stop and walked home barefoot along a busy city street and I might have caught foot syphilis. These are first-world problems, but incredibly dramatic when one is focused entirely on herself.

So we ate comfort food, with my beautiful red chard, and Nick bought beer and pretended like I was a rational human being, and now everything is almost better. Thanks, risotto. Wine and cheese have never not helped me yet.

Chard risotto

(Serves four as a side-dish, two as a main course. Is easily multiplied.)

  • 3 to 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. butter, divided
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 lb. chard (about one bunch), stalks and leaves chopped separately
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 3/4 cup dry red wine
  • 1 tsp. white pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tbsp. chopped fresh basil, divided
  • Salt to taste, if needed

Heat stock until boiling, then reduce heat and maintain a gentle simmer.

In a heavy-bottomed pan over medium-high heat, heat oil and melt the first tablespoon of butter. Add onions, garlic, and the chopped chard stalks and cook for two to three minutes, until onions are translucent. Add rice to pan, stirring for about a minute, or until rice grains turn opaque.

Add leaves. It will look like your ratio of rice to greens is off. It will look this way for a long time, but it’ll all work itself out. Pour in wine, and scrape the bottom of the pan to ensure nothing has stuck. Add pepper and nutmeg. Cook until wine has been completely absorbed.

Add one cup of the warm chicken stock, stirring frequently until liquid is mostly absorbed. Repeat with an additional cup of stock, and then repeat again with one to two more cups as needed. Test your rice for tenderness – if it is al denté, great. If it isn’t, just pour in a little bit more stock, as needed, and let it absorb into the rice.

When rice is ready, stir in butter, Parmesan cheese, and one tablespoon of the basil. Adjust your seasonings, to taste. Serve hot, with additional Parmesan cheese and a light sprinkling of chopped fresh basil. The whole process takes about 30 minutes, but believe me, the stirring and the smells are therapeutic. Plus, who opens a bottle of wine to cook with and doesn’t dip in? Try 30 minutes of cooking with the bottle all to yourself, and tell me you don’t feel better about everything, even if you were fine to begin with.

The word of the day is “lazy.”

I had all these big plans this week, but I got lazy. Already. My biggest big plan was to make cabbage rolls because they are so super awesome and they make lunches and leftovers all week long and no one ever went wrong with a big dish of meat. But then, I failed. I didn’t feel like it.

Then I remembered this handy tip I got awhile back from a reader named Jenn, a very funny high-school teacher from Saskatchewan, who suggested lazy cabbage rolls, and also this lazy pierogie thing I’m going to try another lazy time. I liked her idea, but I had all the stuff for non-lazy cabbage rolls, so I adapted. This is what happened. We are going to have leftovers forever.

Oh, one more thing. I used bratwurst here because I always seem to have it in my freezer, and because it’s flavourful and the point here is laziness. If you don’t have bratwurst, or if it isn’t dirt cheap at your local Polish deli, then you can use ground pork, or beef, or whatever you like, but you may want to add additional seasonings.

Lazy cabbage rolls

(Serves six to eight.)

  • 1/4 lb. bacon, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cups diced carrot
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb. bratwurst, casing removed
  • 1 cup long-grain white rice
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. dried marjoram
  • 1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 1/2-2 lbs. green cabbage, cut into thin strips
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella (or other mild cheese)
  • 1 cup bread crumbs

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Butter a 9″x13″ baking dish.

In a large pan over medium-high heat, fry bacon until brown and crisp. Add onions and crumble bratwurst into the pan, stirring until meat has browned. Add garlic, carrots, and rice, and then add stock to deglaze, scraping the bottom of the pan to ensure all those delicious meaty bits make their way into the sauce. Season with pepper and marjoram, then pour in the crushed tomatoes. Remove from heat and stir in parsley. Taste, and salt as desired.

Layer half of the cabbage along the bottom of the pan. Pour half of meat mixture over top, then add another layer of cabbage. Press down lightly to pack. Add the remaining meat mixture, then sprinkle with breadcrumbs and cheese.

Bake covered for 80 minutes, then remove the cover and cook for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, until top is browned and bubbly. I’ll admit, the cooking time is a little longer than I like on a weeknight, so this might be something best served on Sunday night, so you can pack the leftovers for lunches.

Eat while wearing pajama pants. Know that this is going to make your entire office smell like eastern Europe tomorrow. And be okay with that. Believe me, there are worse things you could do.

Mushroom risotto: An easy, inexpensive, and thoroughly impressive gourmet meal.

My parents came over for dinner tonight, and I made these beautiful roasted vegetables, which reminded me about the risotto that we ate the last time I made the roasted veggies, a few days before Christmas. Mark and Jess, Nick’s sister and brother-in-law, were here visiting from Winnipeg, and he’s gluten-free. They brought their adorable little baby with them, and then I felt a bit like an asshole afterward because I had my camera out the whole evening and only took pictures of the food.

The thing I like most about risotto is that it’s upscale comfort food. It seems like a pain to make because you have to monitor it and keep it moving in the pan, but that’s not so bad. Though it might not be the best thing to make at a dinner party, if you’ve just got a few people over and it’s casual no one will mind you running off for a half-hour, and people will always join you in the kitchen if they think you’ve been away too long. Often, they will anticipate your needs and open a bottle of wine, and you’ll get to catch up in the quiet of the kitchen. Risotto is not as antisocial as you might think.

For the following recipe, you can use any kind of mushrooms you like. If wild mushrooms are available in your market, feel free to grab an assortment and play around. If all you’ve got are plain white mushrooms, that’s just fine too, and it will be lovely and you’ll be amazed at what mushrooms can do. I’m always amazed at what mushrooms can do.

Mushroom risotto

(Serves about four as a small main course. This is an easy one to multiply or divide, however.)

  • 3 1/2 cups chicken stock, brought to a boil and kept warm on the stove
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1/2 cup minced onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup raw Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 lb. mushrooms, chopped
  • 1/2 cup crumbled, cooked bacon (optional)
  • 1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans (optional)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

In a heavy-bottomed pan, melt the first two tablespoons of butter. Add onions and garlic, and cook for two to three minutes, until onions are translucent. Add rice to pan, stirring for about a minute, or until rice grains turn opaque.

Pour in wine, and scrape the bottom of the pan to ensure nothing has stuck. Cook until wine has been completely absorbed.

Add one cup of the warm chicken stock, stirring frequently until liquid is mostly absorbed. Repeat with an additional cup of stock.

On your third addition of stock, pour the remaining liquid into the rice and cook, stirring frequently, until liquid is absorbed. When you’ve still got just a bit of liquid in the pan, add your mushrooms. Test your rice for tenderness – if it is al denté, you’re awesome and good work. If it isn’t, it’s probably the rice’s fault, so just pour in a little bit more stock, as needed. Keep in mind that the mushrooms are going to sweat and release their own moisture into the mix.

When rice is ready, stir in bacon or nuts, if using, rosemary, nutmeg, butter, and Parmesan. Adjust your seasonings, to taste.

This dish smells amazing, like autumn or a sunny day in winter, and it tastes woodsy and wholesome, like a blanket you eat. It changed Nick’s whole opinion about risotto, which previously wasn’t very high. And it just feels good to eat. No stress, and if you’ve got people over you haven’t seen in awhile, you can talk with your mouth full, because there isn’t a lot of chewing required.

Berry muffins and your leftover rice.

Muffins!You know when you’ve got leftover rice except that it’s not enough to do anything with and you’d usually throw it out? DON’T! Make muffins. It’s summer, and berries are abundant (well, maybe not yet, but they will be), and maybe you’re like me and you’ve reached the age where fibre is your friend … rice or bulgur in the muffins? An easy way to boost your morning routine. I think you know what I mean.

Last night I made fish and a little stuffed tomato salad that included just a smidge of bulgur. I made more than I needed, because I don’t know how to not make too much when it comes to grains, and I ended up with about 2/3 of a cup of cooked bulgur left over. Which is enough for a single salad, but I also had some yogurt in danger of turning on me in the fridge, a single orange, and a collection of mixed berries that needed to be used lest they turned into freezer rocks held together by gigantic stale-tasting ice hunks. So, you know. Muffins.

Berry Muffins with Rice (or Bulgur)

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tbsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup cooked brown rice (or white rice or bulgur and if you have slightly more than what the recipe calls for, just use it)
  • 2 cups frozen berries (I used 1 cup of blackberries and 1 cup of blueberries with the, like, four single raspberries I had left in the fridge … use whatever berries or chopped up fruit you like. I bet rhubarb would be good)
  • 1 orange, zest and juice
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup yogurt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup melted butter

Preheat your oven to 400°F.

In a large bowl, combine your flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Stir until combined. Add your berries and your rice, and the orange zest and juice. Mix well.

In a measuring cup, melt your butter, then add the yogurt, and if it’s big enough, the milk. In a separate smaller bowl, beat your eggs. Add the both of these to the bowl one after the other, and stir to combine. This is a thick, dense batter, so if you’re hand-mixing this, as I did, be vigorous. You don’t want to find floury bits at the bottom of your bowl.

Grease a muffin pan. Fill the cups with the batter, to the tops.

Muffin batter!

This mixture will make 12 muffins. I hate when the muffins don’t breach the top – when they’re too small they’re like muffin pucks, and you don’t get to enjoy the distinction between muffin top and bottom. Sprinkle with sugar and a pinch of cinnamon, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of one comes out clean.

Baked.Once they’re done, let them sit for five minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack.

Racked.I recommend eating one right away, slathered in melted butter and a drop of honey. Rose, my awesome MSN-buddy at work, brought me a jar of lavender-infused honey awhile back, so I will use that, and every bite will taste like summer. You could also use a touch of marmalade, or another something wonderful. Enjoy!


I am Kung Fu Panda. Never seen it? Well, you should. But in case you haven’t, the main thing is that he’s a legendary dragon ninja stuck in the body of a super awesome roly-poly Jack Black panda bear. And his ninja skills only come out when lured by the promise of food. Got dumplings? I will kick. That. Hill’s. ASS. No dumplings? Screw you, I’m sleeping in.

And so Bike to Work Week comes to an end. That this event coincided with the start of boot camp was unfortunate – I went from sedentary to super-active, biking a total of 150 kilometers (just over 93 miles) and doing no fewer than 400 crunches this week. Know what I learned? Exercise is for chumps. Eating is the best thing ever, followed very closely by sitting. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

My reward? After weeks of waiting for the arrival of the day of my glorious reservation at Les Faux Bourgeois, my deep desire for fattening, fancypants (but inexpensive, because as you know, I am flat broke) French food will finally be sated tonight. For a review that’s not (inevitably) tainted with a string of OMG!s, check out Sherman’s Food Adventures. If you’re content to wait until tomorrow, I’ll tell you all about it in my extra-special way.

At the moment, I’m working up a bit of anxiety over taking pictures of my food – usually I hate doing that, because I like to pretend I’m cool and in restaurants all the servers and the other people know of you is the groomed and polished version of yourself you present for the two hours you’re there, and I like to think that they’ve all given me the once-over “Wow, there’s a snazzy gal,” so I can dine comfortably without the sticky awkwardness that usually follows me around. But I want to tell you everything about the food. So the battle continues: Be cool and enjoy the food? Or dork out and photograph everything and then wax ecstatic on the Internet about duck confit and tarte flambée Alsacienne? Why am I pretending I’ve ever been able to pass for cool? Fine. Expect some blurry photos of French bistro fare tomorrow.

In the meantime, I am compelled to share with you a recipe for porcupine meatballs, because it rained several days this week during my gruelling ride home, and because when meatballs roll into my mind, it’s quite impossible to roll them back out without indulging. So on Wednesday night, damp and shivering, I arrived home to prepare myself a large pot of comfort food with little nutritional value.

Porcupine Meatballs


  • 1 1/2 lbs. lean ground beef
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 1/2 cup uncooked long-grain or basmati rice
  • 1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs
  • 3 cloves finely minced garlic
  • 2 tsp. oil (I used bacon fat. You can too! Or butter? You can do whatever you like.)
  • 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper


  • 3 cups tomato sauce (I used canned crushed tomatoes because I like them best)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat that oven of yours to 350°F.

In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients for your meatballs. Once everything’s in the bowl, mash it all together using your hands. There is no better way to ensure that the mixture is combined thoroughly without overmixing and destroying the texture. If you’re squeamish, you could wear gloves, I guess. HANDS.

Mix the sauce ingredients together in a separate bowl. You don’t have to use your hands for that.

Form the mixture into balls about an inch and a half in diameter. Place the balls in an ungreased casserole dish (preferably one you can cover with a lid). When the bottom of the pan is covered in balls (hee hee), pour about a third of the sauce over top. Keep balling and saucing until the pan is full.

Cover, and bake for 45 minutes. When the buzzer goes, take the lid off and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes.

Hot meat in pot

If I were feeling kindly disposed to my housemate, I might have grated some cheese over top and slid it back into the oven for another few minutes. But my cheese grater is dirty. So I didn’t. Serve on rice.


Anyway, the time has come for me to tame my bangs, put on a dress, and go for French food. It has been too long in the coming!

Vegetabletarian? We serve your kind here.

Wow. Been a real keener with this blog stuff lately. Been cooking a lot too, motivated in large part by this non-pink camera and my desire to learn how to take non-blurry pictures. Also, would be okay with someone coming over to take pictures for me. So I invited Chris Gerber, Nick’s friend with the good camera, over to eat. I like Chris Gerber.

A lot of kids aren’t eating meat these days. Weird, right? Some of them came over for dinner tonight. I’ve found that the challenge with vegetarian cooking is that people don’t really “get” vegetables. They get meat though. Meat is the main course, and that’s that. So vegetables are kind of an afterthought – just dump some hollandaise sauce on them, and they’ll be good to go. Much as I love a good litre of hollandaise, one cannot coat everything they eat in egg yolk butter sauce. Bad idea. Pretty sure that’d kill you.

The challenge tonight was to approach vegetables in a way that allowed vegetables to behave like a main course without everyone feeling like the vegetables were either imitating meat or that the whole dish was suffering for the lack of meat. For someone that keeps a jar of bacon fat in the fridge and dreams of the many uses for schmaltz, this is no small thing. But not impossible. No. Not impossible.

The solution? A little pea and asparagus risotto with bulgur and a rustic onion and fennel tart, adapted (and improved upon) from this month’s issue of Food & Wine magazine. Also, a side salad of tomatoes, cucumbers, avocado, and basil, all drizzled with delicious olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I got the basil from the plant on my balcony. It was real good.

It’s quite late and I don’t actually have a recipe for the risotto … it’s all in my head and I don’t feel like trying to remember it now. I am going to try and remember it later, and tell it to you again – I may have to re-do it and take notes throughout the process so I can report back. If you know risotto, it’s made the usual way, only with vegetable stock and peas and asparagus thrown in. I added the bulgur for nuttiness, and because I have a freaking ton of it, because I was on a total bulgur kick a few months back. So you get the onion-fennel tart thing, and some lovely pictures, a few of which were provided by the talented and artistic Chris Gerber. The crappy blurry ones are from me.

Rustic Onion and Fennel Tart

(Adapted from Food & Wine Magazine)


  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 6 tbsp. unsalted butter, frozen
  • 5 tbsp. ice water


  • 4 tbsp. butter
  • 1 large sweet onion
  • 1 bulb fennel
  • 6 thyme sprigs
  • 2 tbsp. sour cream of crème fraîche
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp. milk

To make the dough, measure the flour and salt into a bowl. Using a cheese grater, grate the frozen butter into the bowl, and toss together lightly. Using a fork or a finger, pour the water gradually into the mix. You want the dough to form a ball, and to be relatively firm. You may not need all of the water. When a dough-ball is formed, wrap it in a sheet of plastic wrap and stick it in the fridge.

Start cutting the onion – thin slices. Do the same thing with the fennel bulb. Thin. Get your butter melting in a pan. Once melted, dump your onions and fennel into the pan, with four of the sprigs of thyme, and sprinkle lightly with salt. Start the pan on high, cooking until softened, eight to ten minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook until onions are golden and caramelized. The recipe says 20 minutes, but it lies. It’ll take half and hour. Once the onion-fennel combo is complete, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the sour cream/crème fraîche, and season with whatever salt and pepper you feel it needs.

Preheat the oven to 375°F, and butter a cookie sheet.

Grab your dough ball out of the fridge. Lightly flour your rolling surface. Make sure it’s clean. Dough doesn’t hide the crusties you let harden on your countertop. Pat the dough ball down, and roll the thing out. Once it’s thin and rolled, fold it back into a ball-like shape, and start again. You want the flour and the butter to be all inter-mingled and stuff so that when you bake it, the pastry gets all flaky and luscious, not hard like shingles. When it’s all rolled out, move it over to your buttered cookie sheet.

Pour your cooled onion-fennel mixture onto your pastry. You want there to be about an inch and a half border around the mixture, because you’ll be folding the edges of the tart in, making it look all rustic and homemade, which is totally in right now. It looks like you tried hard that way, even though this was super easy and monkeys could do it.

Lay the remaining two sprigs of thyme over top your crust, and brush with your egg-milk mixture.

Your pre-baked tart should look like this:

Pre-baked tart.Bake for 40 minutes. I thought I had a really good picture of the tart, but I get really distracted really easily, so I guess I forgot to take it. Your finished tart will look like the thing at the top right of this photo:Tart with other food.The other stuff there is the risotto and the salad, which were also good. At least, I thought they were good. The thing about these food blogs is that it’s kind of my word against anyone else’s. But, to be fair, no one gagged or was all, “Ew, WTF? Why are you feeding me poison?” So, awesome show. Great job. IT ALL TASTED GOOD.

There was also dessert. I made mango upside-down cake, but it got a little botched when I tried to take it out of the pan. Solution? Cover that shit in caramel sauce. Caramel hides flaws. And helps the broken parts of cake get stuck back together.

Cake!Oh! I used my last vanilla bean in the whipped cream. Well, not my last, but the last in that open container. Glad that story line is now all wrapped up.

I’ve included some of Chris Gerber’s actual attractive images below. He didn’t give me all the photos he took, which leads me to believe that the others were way too good to share, so instead he’s taken them home to paint them for me in watercolours, so that I can get all Cook’s Illustrated on this blog.

Chris Gerber interprets salad.
Chris Gerber interprets salad.
Chris Gerber takes sexier pictures of dessert than most people could.
Chris Gerber takes sexier pictures of dessert than most people could.
Chris Gerber photographs yesterday's shrimp recipe. My penmanship is really nice, so I take half-credit fot the artistry of this one.
Chris Gerber photographs yesterday's shrimp recipe. My penmanship is really nice, so I take half-credit fot the artistry of this one.

Conclusion? Vegetables are tasty. People should eat more of them. Unfortunately, they do not possess the sedative-qualities of large hunks of meat, so it’s 1:04 am and I am still wide-awake. Thankfully, there was wine left over. Good night.

Cooking without Borders

Panna cotta in potAs it turns out, I’m quite a terrible photographer. I’m pretty sure with the pink camera, all my pictures would have been number-one Annie Liebowitz-esque, but it’s probably best not to dwell on that for too long. I made a lot to eat last night, and I tried to take pictures that would show how much fun it all was to make and how sumptuous it all was to eat, but everything turned out kind of blurry and sad. Apparently I have the shaky hands. Excellent for whisking, terrible for photo snapping.

Above? That’s a pot of milk and sugar and gelatin and vanilla bean, simmering until the sugar and gelatin was melted. We had panna cotta last night, because strawberries were on special and I had to use two more vanilla beans up before they dry out, standing in their lidless container. I used one, so anticipate one more vanilla bean recipe before too long. I’m starting with dessert this time, because panna cotta is among my favourite things to eat, and because I’m sure once you try it, it’ll be one of your favourite things too.

The recipe is adapted from The Williams-Sonoma Cookbook, an invaluable resource as I’ve come to find.

Panna Cotta

  • Butter (for greasing six ramekins)
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 2 packages, or four teaspoons, unflavoured powdered gelatin
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream (whipping cream)

Lightly grease six ramekins with butter. Set the cups on a small baking sheet.

Pour one third, or 1/2 cup of the milk into a small pot. Sprinkle the gelatin over top, and let sit for about three minutes. This is about where I stopped reading the recipe, and also where I began to do everything wrong … but it didn’t matter, because it turned out well anyway.

The deal is you’re supposed to add the rest of the milk and the sugar and heat it until the sugar and gelatin is dissolved, then take the pot off the stove and stir in the cream and vanilla. I added the cream as well, and the vanilla bean, which I’ve found needs a good whisking to make it less frog’s-eggs-goopy and stuck together. The recipe says that the panna cotta needs at least six hours to set, and that’s if the recipe is followed, so I got a little worried. When everything that needed to dissolve dissolved, I poured the mixture into six ramekins. I filled the baking sheet between the ramekins with ice cubes, and then added about a cup of ice-cold water, to speed up the cooling-down process.

Panna cotta, pre-set, in ramekinsIt worked, and the whole thing set in under four hours. Awesome. If I’d read through the rest of the recipe, which I usually think I’m too cool for, I would have found a very helpful hint about releasing these from their ramekins … apparently if you remove these from the fridge once set, you can place these on a towel warmed with hot water for up to two hours – this should loosen the bottoms and make them easier to get out. I didn’t have any trouble though – I ran a knife around the outsides and tipped them onto a plate. It worked just fine.

I topped these with a warm sauce of strawberries and blood orange juice, whipped cream, and sliced fresh strawberries.

Panna Cotta with StrawberriesThere were other things to eat last night, things like gomae, pork fried rice, firecracker shrimp tossed with avocados and cucumbers, edamame, sushi, and chicken wings marinaded in a delicious Sooin-inspired marinade. I couldn’t find a recipe that pleased me for the shrimp, so I made one up – I wrote it down as it developed.

Firecracker Shrimp with Avocado and Cucumber

  • 1 tbsp. butter, melted
  • 1 tsp. fresh finely minced ginger
  • 3 cloves finely minced garlic
  • 4 tsp. honey
  • 1 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1 lime, zested and juiced (half juice reserved)
  • 1 tsp. sambal oelek or hot sauce
  • 70 to 90 uncooked, peeled, and deveined shrimp
  • 1 avocado
  • 1/2 long English cucumber
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh scallions

Firecracker shrimp marinadeMix butter, ginger, garlic, honey, soy sauce, sesame oil, lime zest and juice of one half of the lime, and sambal oelek (or hot sauce). Add shrimp, and skewer – we ended up needing five skewers for these. If you’re using bamboo skewers, make sure to soak them in water for an hour or so before using.

Shrimp on skewersI threw these on the top rack of the barbecue on a sheet of tin foil and cooked them until they turned pink, turning them once to be sure they were cooked on both sides. It didn’t take long … eight minutes? That sounds about right.

When they come off the barbecue, toss them with the avocado and cucumber, the rest of the lime juice, and the cilantro and scallions.

Firecracker Shrimp with Avocado and CucumberI took some fairly inadequate pictures of the rest of the feast … I’ve included them here with captions!

Asparagus for sushi: On the grill.
Asparagus for sushi: On the grill.
Barbecued chicken for sushi. Weird? Yeah, I know. Nick really likes it.
Barbecued chicken for sushi. Weird? Yeah, I know. Nick really likes it.
Cheelful sushi! Loose and kind of crappy-looking sushi rolls on my favourite platter ever.
Cheelful sushi! Loose and kind of crappy-looking sushi rolls on my favourite platter ever.
Gomae up front, edamame in the back. Which sounds kind of ... awesome, like a terrible sexy euphemism.
Gomae up front, edamame in the back. Which sounds kind of … awesome, like a terrible sexy euphemism.
A blurry photo of some saucy wings.
A blurry photo of some saucy wings.
Pork fried rice, and evidence that it may be time for a new wooden spoon.
Pork fried rice, and evidence that it may be time for a new wooden spoon.
The Help: Nick loves dinner parties. LOVES THEM. See how happy he is?
The Help: Nick loves dinner parties. LOVES THEM. See how happy he is?