On moving apartments and melting cheese.

We have a new apartment. We have the Internet, at last. The landlord has promised that I’ll soon have a new stove. And now that we’ve had our first dinner party in our new apartment, the place feels like home and I can breathe. Nick painted the place before we moved in and it’s very blue, so for the first time ever we’re living together in a place that we can describe the colour of using adjectives that don’t also describe bodily fluids. The cat still blends in with all the furniture, but Nick looks better because the walls match his eyes.

We have more windows and better light, and we’ll have lots of time to enjoy these things as the rent on the place will prohibit us from spending much on anything else. Cat has not settled down since we finished moving in last week because there are so many new rooms and cupboards and hallways to explore, and I hear her little voice from all the corners of the apartment reminding me she’s still here. She checks in once in awhile, but she still has a lot to do. There’s an upstairs to this place, and she has to rub her face on every inch of every step and that takes more energy than a five-pound furball can muster all at once.

My kitchen in this new place is the same size as the old one. The advantage is that here I have a window above the sink, and the drawback is that my fridge is half the size. I am twice the size now, having rounded the corner on my thirty-third week with a belly that’s measuring closer to 35 or 36 weeks, so I have yet to start feeling comfortable in my space. It’s hard to relax when you’ve got a habit of knocking crap off the counters or searing-hot pans off the stove at every turn. All of my shirts have stains on them.

I wanted to have friends over for dinner, because a feast in a new apartment is like a bottle broken on the hull of a boat; it’s how you make things official. The first dinner shared with people in a new apartment (not eaten out of boxes on the floor, but at an actual table) is the thing that makes the place a real home. Ordinarily my effort would reflect the importance of this, but I am irritable and my back hurts and the more things I have to do, the more complaints I am able to muster. Fortunately, we have a raclette.

A raclette is a wonderful thing. It’s like a fondue pot, except instead of dipping things into melted cheese, you pour melted cheese over things. We learned about raclette a few years ago in the home of my friend Chelsea and her then-boyfriend, an accented Swiss-German named Marco who was a Physics professor by day and a drummer in a Celtic punk band by night. Raclette is both the name of the apparatus and the type of cheese, though we used good white cheddar and it was delicious.

Your guests will cook their meat and veggies to taste on top of the raclette grill while melting cheese under its broiler. They will eat their cooked morsels with potatoes and drizzle the melted cheese over top. They will do this more times than they can count, and at the end of the meal they will be very sleepy.

To make a proper raclette meal, you boil more quartered red or white potatoes than you think you’ll need, and slice quite a lot of cheese. I boiled a pound of potatoes per person. There were five of us, so I sliced two pounds of cheese. We had asparagus, mushrooms, zucchini, and grape tomatoes for our veggies, and cubed steak, chopped bacon, shrimp, and rounds of Farmer’s Sausage for our protein. Start with the bacon to lube up the grill a bit before cooking the other things. If you’re a vegetarian, wipe the top down with a bit of olive oil before starting.

Because a meal based on the holy trinity of meat, cheese, and potatoes can be, uh … rich, set the table with little bowls of acidic, pickly things, like olives and beet pickles and peppadews and gherkins and cocktail onions – whatever you have in your pantry will do, but if you have to make a special trip, make use of a store’s olive bar, where you can buy just a few of everything for not very many dollars.

Little ramekins with good salt, freshly ground pepper, and Dijon mustard round the dinner out. The whole thing ends up being an inexpensive, rather European feast, and it is made better with wine or good cold beer. It is a warming treat in the wintertime. You will want to have Beirut playing in the background, and perhaps you and your guests will wear sweaters and it will be snowing.

I have bought raclettes as wedding gifts, and know that you can get a pretty good one for $50, less if there’s a sale. Department stores sell them in their small appliance sections, and better cookware stores sell more expensive versions (up to $250), with heavier-duty grills. We have a fancy one, because my parents bought Nick a raclette for Christmas the year he discovered his obsession with it. Ours serves eight people, but Nick would happily melt cheese every night on his own if cheese in Canada was cheaper and if he didn’t have to clean the raclette every time.

There is little more enjoyable than sitting around a table full of food with people who are genuinely enjoying themselves, though keep in mind that you should take the meal slowly, and if you are planning some after-dinner diversion to start the meal a bit earlier. If dinner ends at 10:00, the night ends at 10:00. Meat and potatoes and cheese are good inspiration for long naps, but not one of your husband’s nerdy board games even if that was the plan at the start

What about you? It’s been awhile. How are you warming up to fall? Are you embracing the idea of sweaters and meals of cheese, or putting it off as long as you can? How are you doing?

How is it New Year’s Eve again?

It’s December 31 again, and I distinctly remember digging through my photo archives this same time last year to find a photo where we looked cool and I didn’t look fat, and I spent most of the day fretting over what I was going to wear because we were going to a bar with a dress code and it was cold and all my dresses make me look slutty. It was a fretful day, and at the end we did our best to hold on until midnight and left immediately after, rushing the hell out of that downtown club because what each of us really wanted all along was to be comfortable, to be able to talk to each other, and to not have to pay inflated bar prices for cheap rum and watery Coke.

Tonight we’re going to a smaller party, at our friend Paul’s apartment. Paul is getting oysters and carving some of the salmon he caught this year into thin strips of perfect sashimi. Grace will be there, and Laraine – the whole team from our clam-digging expedition this past September. Paul’s girlfriend will be there, and who knows who else. It will be small, relatively quiet, and there will be so much food. And wine, which we’ve already paid for, and which we can drink without first buying over-priced tickets. And I won’t have to wait all night long to hear that one song I like, only to have the fifteen-year-old DJ mash it up lamely with that one song I really don’t like.

I’m glad that we get to celebrate the new year with the people we spent the best parts of the past year with. It will be an appropriate conclusion to 2010, which was notable because largely absent from it was the tumult of previous years, which for the past many have been filled with hasty moves to new apartments, panicking over debt and employment and graduation, and getting engaged and then married and then adjusting to being married so quickly. We hit our stride this year, both finding ourselves in jobs we really like, going on vacation, paying down that always present debt, and settling into an apartment that is mostly pretty awesome. And we got Molly Waffles, who we treat like a child, which we do not feel the least bit weird about.

It’s been a good year, and I have no complaints. And I am looking forward to this evening, and to the food. And to tomorrow, and all the days after it, and all the meals that will go with them. The photos in this post are from a party Grace hosted a few weeks ago, an oyster feast filled with lusty foods and sparkling wines and Rhianna songs; I expect this evening will proceed in much the same way, with sharp implements and soft shellfish and sriracha and dancing in slipper-socks on a makeshift dance floor in the living room and too much wine (and too many incriminating photos).

Happy New Year. I hope that the next 365 days are filled with wonder and opportunity and quiet moments in amidst the madness, and that you get to do something you really love. Writing here is the thing that I really love, and I hope you’ll continue to visit, and to every so often say hello. I wish you all the best in 2011!

Things that are delicious: Pork belly.

Right up until the Olympics, every talking head on television and quote in the paper was saying that Vancouver would be nightmarish during the Olympics, and that residents should expect delays and difficulties getting around, and that they should leave their cars at home. The whole city (me included!) bought the hype, and now it’s quite easy to get around everywhere but downtown, where there isn’t much fun to be had on a Wednesday night anyway. So last night, I dragged poor, sick-day Nick out with some friends to the Westender Korean Café on Denman Street, where there is a place that only sells pork belly, and for which we had coupons that bought us 50% more pork belly.

Do you know what a pork hangover feels like? It’s as glamorous as it sounds.

The Westender Korean Café is a place that only sells pork belly, and they bring it to you with those hot-pot grill things that you use to cook it at your table. They bring you daikon pickles, kimchi, this shredded-lettuce salad thing, rice, and lettuce leaves, and you cook your pork belly and either pile it up with the Korean condiments on your rice, or load it into the lettuce leaves to eat like Korean fajitas.

From the outside, it doesn’t really look like anything but a dodgy old diner, which is perhaps why I’d never noticed it before Sooin brought us there about six months ago. On the inside, it’s usually packed full of young Asian ESL students from the various English schools in the city. They play nonstop Korean pop music videos – Sooin informed us that there are no fewer than twenty major girl groups in Korea, and as many boy bands, and that pop-culture is a huge deal there. She helped everyone out by pointing out which girl groups were comprised of girls too young for Nick to be ogling, and which boy-band stars we should pay attention to for dance skills and hotness. She says we can go to Korea and get thousand-dollar nose jobs and form our own group. If they’ll throw in free liposuction, I’m in.

When I say that it’s a pork-belly-only kind of place, I really do mean just that. When you sit down, the waitress will pretty much just bring your table a certain amount of food, which is determined by how many people make up your party. Be sure to also ask her for beer or shoju, which is also pretty cheap, and which you simply must have as an accompaniment to a pork binge.

All that food, and it costs practically nothing. Dinner for five, including four pitchers of beer, and more food than we could eat, was $125, including tax and tip. The only problem was that we were in such high spirits after dinner that we thought the fun ought to continue, so we stumbled down Denman past Robson to an izakaya Paul knew would be open, and then there was sake, and Nick held his head in his hands and waxed poetic about bedtime, and then Steve ordered us mackerel sashimi and a big bowl of edamame, and I was all, “We just ate and I’m too full!” “But we didn’t eat JAPANESE,” Sooin replied, and so we ate even more and drank the best cheap sake ever and now this morning I am not sure if I should bother eating or just go back to bed because I am still so full. I am not even sure I want bacon.

I’m sorry. I should never talk like that. Of course I want bacon. But maybe this morning, I’ll wrap it around a vegetable.

Cobbling together a cobbler while baking in the heat.


Nick called a moratorium on the jam-making, much as I was enjoying it – something to do with me being disgusting and messy and now the fruit flies have taken over, and he keeps stepping in sticky stuff, and my cries of “but I’m creative” are officially falling on deaf ears, despite the fact that our fridge was full-to-bursting with my week’s fruit purchases. It’s too hot to be making jam anyway.

And speaking of hot, hot pot. Steve and Sooin invited us over to eat the hot delicious food of Sooin’s magical making, and we were beyond excited. And also very poor, because life is expensive, so I thought that bringing dessert would make up for not bringing wine.

I thought I was inventing this myself, but it turns out I’m not really. Apricot cobbler is not new, nor are brandied apricots. I’d like to think that both of these things together is a grand invention I can take credit for, but that’s probably not the case. Stupid Internet, always getting to everything first.

Brandied Apricot Cobbler with Ginger

  • 6 cups apricots, quartered (or eighthed, depending on the size)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 cup brandy


  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 2 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 4 tbsp. cold butter
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup cold heavy cream

Put your apricots in a pan that’s 8″ x 8″ or so (mine is 8″ x 10″). Mix together the sugar, ginger, nutmeg, lemon juice, salt, and brandy, pour over the apricots, and toss to coat. Cover and let sit, one hour.

Apricots again.Preheat your oven to 425°F.

Mix together your flour, lemon zest, sugar, salt, and baking powder. Squish the cold butter into the mix, squeezing butter and flour between your fingers until the mixture forms crumbs, with some larger hunks of butter. The smallest should be crumb-like, the largest the size of kidney beans. Stir in the vanilla and cream until a soft dough is formed.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, and knead for about 30 seconds, or about 10 times. You want to be sure that everything in the dough is integrated evenly. Roll out, then cover the apricots, tucking the edges in around the fruit. The dough will be no thicker than 1/2 an inch. That is what you want.

All tucked in.Optionally, you can paint the top with butter and sprinkle a little sugar over the thing. I used turbinado sugar for sparkle and crunch.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the top is golden and the fruit is bubbly along the sides.

Baked.Serve warm, with ice cream or whipped cream.

Moussaka is not a character from the Lion King.

I returned home from Winnipeg to find a clean kitchen and an empty fridge, and a sky full of dark clouds ominous with the threat of rain. It felt like an appropriate time for some comfort food, for the both of us. After too many days of fast food, we both craved vegetables and a meal prepared at home.

And while I was in Winnipeg, I thought about moussaka, though I am not sure why. I don’t really care for much of what I’ve tasted of Greek food – maybe it’s because almost every restaurant is identical out here, and I don’t really like oregano or whatever is done to the rice or that particular colour blue.

I fantasize about Greece, however, and imagine that the food there is fantastic – not like every Taverna along Broadway or on every corner in every small town in the world. I imagine lemons and fresh herbs and sea salt and perfectly roasted lamb and big, fat, meaty olives. Everything with the sheen of fresh olive oil.

So we invited over Steve and Sooin, and Paul, who gets me in Nick’s will if Nick dies, and served up a hot pan of moussaka. And it was good. Except that it was a tad too salty, so I’ve tweaked this recipe some. It’s much better now.


  • 1 Japanese eggplant
  • 2 medium zucchini So you can see what size vegetables you'll be working with.

Meaty filling:

  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 lb. ground beef or lamb
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 small (5 1/2 oz.) can of tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine or chicken stock

White sauce:

  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 3 tbsp. flour
  • 1 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • zest of 1/2 lemon (or about 1 teaspoon)
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup crumbled feta


  • 1 cup bread crumbs (preferably panko)
  • 1 cup crumbled feta
  • 1 finely minced clove of garlic
  • 2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil

Preheat your oven to 375°F.

Thinly slice your eggplant and zucchini, about 1/4 inch thick. Grease an 9″x13″ pan with olive oil.

In a large skillet, sauté your onions until translucent. Add the ground beef and garlic, and cook until browned. Add your oregano, pepper, thyme, and cinnamon, and tomato paste, and wine or chicken stock, stir until everything’s all mixed together and it smells really good, and then remove from heat.

In a small pot over medium-high heat, melt your butter. Let it get foamy, then add the flour, and stir to blend.


This is what the butter and flour should look like before you add the milk.
This is what the butter and flour should look like before you add the milk.


Whisk in your milk, and reduce heat to medium. Add your pepper and nutmeg, garlic, lemon zest (not too much!), and stir in the feta. Let this simmer until the feta has melted and the sauce has thickened, three to five minutes. Remove from heat.

Line the bottom of your prepared pan with slices of zucchini and eggplant, not too thick, but until you can’t see the bottom.

Pan with first layer.Drizzle the layer with olive oil, and then add half of the meat mixture over the top, spreading to cover. Drizzle this with about 1/3 of the white sauce. Repeat, adding another layer in this order.

Add the final layer of zucchini and eggplant (there will be three layers of vegetables in total). Drizzle your remaining white sauce over the top layer.

In a small bowl, mix up the panko (or regular bread crumbs), parsley, garlic, and feta. Top the moussaka with the crumb topping, and then drizzle with olive oil, and the juice of the lemon.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and you see bubbling along the sides.

Moussaka!Serve with a salad of cucumber and tomato, tossed with parsley and fresh mint, and topped with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and salt and pepper.

Meal!And bask in the joy of vegetables, even if you are wondering where summer went. It’s still raining, so tonight we are going to eat as if we are elsewhere, like India. Or Mexico. Or both?

Sometimes I feel like I am being followed around by my own personal fail whale, and I am not Ahab. Or, “Coconut Layer Cake: A delicious summer treat.”


As a 1930s wife, I am

Very Poor (Failure)

Take the test!

And I am reminded again of my many failings. And though I don’t put too much stock in this one – Nick took the husband version of the test and was also slapped with a big fat FAIL – it does remind me that I do suck at a great many things. This does, and the cake I made for Sooin.

The cake was delicious: coconut, sweet, and frosted with goat cheese icing. But it was fugly as all get-out, and by now, I’ve run through all the different ways in which it was not my fault (I lost my round cake pans, my apartment was too hot and the icing didn’t set, there was not enough time, there’s never enough time). Tasty though it was, if we’re judging on appearance, I get another big fat FAIL. I wish I made cakes that look like this:

SuperStock_1555R-191028But I make cakes that look like this:

Cake (not pretty).My cake has personality. And character. That other cake is probably made with Splenda and ground-up babies. And it will probably give you cancer. It’s too pretty – you can’t trust it.

Make my cake. Use your round cake pans, cut each layer in half and stack them together, and ice the thing when the weather is cooler. As I mentioned, I made a frosting with goat cheese, and it was lovely – just make cream cheese icing, but instead of cream cheese, use goat cheese. It’s tart and wonderful and will make a rich, delicious frosting that you’ll want to eat with your fingers. But I was thinking about it today, and I think it would have been even better as a layer cake frosted and filled with whipped cream. It would have been effortless, and beautiful if sprinkled with a smattering of toasted coconut.

Coconut Layer Cake

(Two 8-inch round cake pans. Or one 9×13 slab.)

  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat your oven to 350°F.

In a large bowl, cream together your butter and sugar until the mixture is lighter in colour and fluffy. Drop in your yolks (reserve your whites in a separate bowl), and continue to beat.

Mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt. While still beating the butter/sugar/egg mixture, add the flour in by the cup. After the first cup of flour, add in about half of the coconut milk. And then add another cup of the flour, and then the other half of the coconut milk. Add in the vanilla, and then the final cup of flour. Beat it.

In that other bowl, whip your egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Once these are all ready to go, fold these into the batter.

Egg whites being folded into batter.What’s folding? It’s easier than maybe it sounds. You’ll literally be folding the batter over the egg whites, combining the two substances gently until one is integrated into the other.

Pour into your cake pans, which you will, of course, have lined along the bottom with perfectly fitted parchment paper. Bake for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out of the centre clean. Let rest in pans for five minutes, then turn onto racks to cool. I really think you should frost this with too much whipped cream.

Serve. Enjoy. Personality goes a long way.

Blurry photo of cake.

Old-Fashioned White Bread from Sponge and Homemade Butter.

What were YOU doing at 1:00 this morning?

I was in my bathrobe, sitting on the kitchen floor and having big ideas. I couldn’t sleep. It was Sooin’s bachelorette party last night, and as I’ve been a tad under the weather and it was a forty-five-minute drive away, I decided to only go the dinner part, and to not drink. I drank about fifteen Diet Cokes, and then got home and tried to go to sleep. No luck – I was abuzz. Then I decided that I would make a bread sponge in anticipation of a luscious loaf of sourdough in the morning. But it doesn’t work that way. A sourdough starter takes three days, and if I was thinking clearly, I would have realized that sooner. So I made a regular bread sponge, because I made butter and don’t care to wait three days to eat it, and resolved to start a sponge for sourdough at 1:00 some other morning.


SDC10245It’s a good idea to save a knob of your last batch of dough to add to your bread sponge. I keep a little ball of it wrapped in plastic in my freezer, so that it can be pulled out and dropped into a frothy batch of sponge and allowed to ferment and grow yeasty, yielding a richer, crustier, OMG-so-much-better loaf of bread. You don’t need much – a bit of dough about the size of a golf ball is plenty.

What is a bread sponge, you ask? Well. It’s very simple. It’s a portion of the ingredients you’re going to use to make your bread, just thrown into a bowl a few hours or a day or two in advance. Science happens in the bowl, and you end up with a loaf that’s soft and chewy on the inside, with a crusty exterior that just begs to be torn into with teeth. Also, because the yeast gets its little selves in there a bit earlier, the mix ferments a bit and develops a much better flavour. You can really just whisk everything together in a bowl and then go to bed. Eight to twelve hours later, you just put the rest of your ingredients together and proceed as usual.


  • 2 cups warmed milk
  • 1 teaspoon yeast
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 little dough ball

Whisk together the milk, yeast, and flour in a large bowl. If you have a ball of dough, defrost it quickly and drop it in as well. Cover with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel, and let sit at room temperature for 8 to 12 hours.


When I woke up this morning it was sunny for the first time in a week, so I was super-impatient, so the sponge only got about eight hours to get good, but it still smelled yeasty and sour, like the perfect start to a homemade loaf. I started in immediately, because I wanted to go out to play.

Here’s the bread recipe. For the butter, go here. Follow her steps exactly. These two in combination will give you an earth-shattering foodgasm, and you’ll be all, “Thanks, Emily. I’ve always liked you.” No really. Make the butter. It won’t save you any money, but the taste (and gloating about how you made your own butter) will be totally worth it. I’ve got big plans to use it on a barbecued ear of corn tonight. BIG PLANS.

Another recipe for white bread, but this one’s different, okay?

  • bread sponge (see above)
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 3 tsp. yeast
  • 2 tbsp. sugar
  • 2 tbsp. melted butter (plus extra for greasing your bowl and your loaf pans)
  • 1 tbsp. salt
  • 4 cups flour, plus extra for kneading

Combine the yeast and the water. When yeast gets foamy, add it to your sponge. Add the sugar, butter, and salt as well, and stir to combine. Add your flour and stir until mixed, and then dump the lot onto a floured surface to begin kneading. As always, please knead for eight to ten minutes. If you have athletic, powerful arms, it may take less time – you want the dough to become elastic – but I have flabby “looks good in sweaters” arms, so I knead for the full amount of time. Muscles are for chumps, right?

Transfer your dough to a large bowl that has been buttered lightly on all sides. Do round things have sides? I guess if you don’t know, they might as well. Cover with plastic and a kitchen towel, and allow to rise in a warm room until doubled in bulk. About an hour, hour-and-a-half. You know the drill.

dough in bowl, risingOnce your dough is big and smells good, dump it out onto that floured surface again (add new flour), and cut it in half. Form the dough into two loaf-pan-sized rectangles. Place your dough into your pre-buttered loaf pans, cover again with plastic and a kitchen towel, and allow to rise again, about an hour/hour-and-a-half, until the dough has risen an inch or so above the tops of the pans.

dough in pans

Preheat the oven to 375°F. I brushed the tops of my loaves with some melted butter and sprinkled them both with Kosher salt, but this is optional. Put your loaves into your oven once it’s raring to go, and bake the loaves for 35 to 40 minutes.

Cool these on wire racks. I find that bread tastes better once it’s cooled and then reheated (toasted), because there’s a complexity of flavour that develops once the bread does it’s sciencey thing on the racks.

BREAD!I sure hope you made the butter.

Butter, homemadeButter your homemade bread with the homemade butter. Revel.

Homemade bread with homemade butter.I realize now that I promised Heather the key to easy spaghetti carbonara, and am now about a week late in following through. I don’t have any bacon at the moment, and I just made butter, so the next pasta I make will probably involve this butter and the beautiful leaves of sage that are flourishing on my deck, but that’s not to say it isn’t coming. Give me a week. Then I’ll tell you everything. I promise.

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?

Last night …

Steve and Sooin are two awesome kids who come over sometimes to play boardgames and eat food and drink too much wine. Last night, we went to Nick’s sister’s house for the same sort of thing, except that Sooin cooked, and it was AWESOME. Perhaps if I had known Sooin before Nick, I would have married her. And I would weigh 800 pounds and eat Korean BBQ EVERY DAY. Come to think of it, I sort of think Nick came between us. Steve too. Why is “Unbreak my Heart” suddenly playing in the background of my thoughts?

The meat was the reason I will never be a vegetarian, and itself was a perfect synthesis of flavour. The gomae was revelatory. And I have spent today marinating chicken wings with a concoction I hope comes close to what Sooin used to marinade yesterday’s beef short ribs. Updates to come.