Thursday, March 23, 2017

What We Dig Checks Out Southern Accent

Tonight I'm off to shoot another episode of What We Dig, but before I get to try another type of cuisine, I wanted to share with you the last episode that I got to co-host, at the new location of Southern Accent

My sister has lived in the Annex area for years, so Southern Accent came to be one of our favourite go-to restaurants in the area. I was always a sucker for their fried calamari, brisket with grits and collards, and, of course, their famous bourbon sours, so it was really fantastic to get to visit their new location on College Street, and try a few dishes that were previously unfamiliar to me. 

I had such an amazing time filming this episode with the lovely Debbie Dear, and was completely blown away by the unbelievable southern hospitality that all of the staff welcomed us with. Big shoutout to Wendy from Southern Accent who went above and beyond to make our experience special. Wendy was a very familiar face from their previous location, and it was so nice to see her taking on that same role of "the host with the most" in their new home.

Have you ever eaten at Southern Accent before? What's your favourite dish? Tell me about it in the comments, or tweet me: @thisgingerrose

Listening To:
Passionfruit - Drake

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Recreating Israeli-Style Falafel & Hummus At Home

If you've ever traveled to Israel, you'll know just how drastically different our falafel and hummus is here in Toronto. It would be an understatement to say that Toronto falafel and hummus are "just not as good," because, my lord, it's like an entirely different animal! I often say that Israel ruined me for falafel and hummus, because now I don't want to eat it anywhere else. We're lucky being in such a multicultural "food" city to have a few good options here and there (hello, Dr. Laffa, Famous Laffa, and Fat Pasha!), but it's not always easy to get to Bathurst and Lawrence for fresh laffa bread and creamy hummus, and as much as I love Fat Pasha, it can be a little hard on the budget at times. 

Two weeks ago, after a week of daydreaming about perfect fresh falafel balls and creamy hummus, I got inspired to finally try my hand at making my own falafel and hummus at home. I did a little bit of research online and found a recipe for falafel that sounded great, as well as a recipe for hummus that appeared to be just as creamy as the dips I devoured all over Israel. Being a last-minute decision to make both dishes, I unfortunately didn't start out with dried chickpeas, and had to settle for canned, and hoped to the Israeli falafel Gods that it would all work out. 

The falafel recipe I found was from an excerpt from Joan Nathan's book The Foods Of Israel Today on Epicurious, and caught my attention thanks to Nathan's description of her favourite falafel in Israel. Though I can't recall the exact name of the place where I had the best falafel that has ever touched my lips, I do remember what made it so special and how it made me feel. Nathan's description of her favourite falafel reminded me of my experience biting into my very first Israeli falafel (which just so happened to be the best of the whole trip!), and made me trust that her recipe would be a winner! The great thing about preparing falafel at home, is that you can prepare almost everything in advance and just quickly fry-to-order and assemble when ready to serve. 
The hummus recipe that I landed on was from Chef Michael Solomonov from the Israeli restaurant Zahav in Philadelphia, featured in the New York Times. With an emphasis in the description and Zahav's reviews on their unbelievably silky and creamy hummus, I was confident that this recipe would be a good starting point. 

Because hummus is incredibly simple to prepare, it's the little details that make all the difference in terms of achieving those dreamy creamy results. One of the biggest tricks to achieving silky smooth hummus is to over-cook your chickpeas and remove all of the skins. Starting with canned chickpeas, they were already quite soft and I was able to skip the step of boiling them until soft to the touch. Unfortunately, I still had a lot of work ahead of me in terms of removing the skins. I knew that I could easily remove most of the skins by rubbing the rinsed chickpeas in a clean towel, but I suppose I wanted to make things difficult on myself, and decided to remove each one individually. This was a mistake.

I put all of my chickpeas in a bowl of water and rubbed them with my fingers, hoping that all of the skins would float to the top. When the surface of my water was covered in chickpea skins, I figured they must all be off. I was sadly mistaken. I proceeded to check every single individual chickpea by pinching it between my pointer-finger and thumb to remove any remaining skin. It was crazy to see how many chickpea skins still remained! It was tedious and boring as hell, but absolutely worth it! I was determined to make that same wildly creamy hummus that I had been dreaming of! 
The second trick to achieving the ultimate creamy hummus is to add ice water when blending. Truthfully, I don't know why. It just works, and I'm not going to question it! It's what Anthony Rose taught us to do at the Metro & Fat Pasha cooking demo that he held at Taste of Toronto this summer, and it is what I will continue to do. 

I have to admit, after removing all of those damn chickpea skins, I announced "I'm over it!" and wanted to just collapse on the couch. Once my falafel mixture and hummus were in the fridge, I was worried that I still had a lot of work ahead of me frying up the falafel balls. I was lazy, and wanted to just relax, but I knew that after all of my hard work, I had to finish the dish. Thank goodness these falafel balls were actually the easiest things I have ever fried in my life! It was so fast, clean, and simple, we were eating our falafel in no time! 

I always want my final dish to taste spectacular, but when it's the first time making it, I expect that there will always be something that wasn't quite right. Though I do want to work on the hummus recipe a little bit (it was great,  but needs a bit of tweaking), the final falafel in pita (with all of the fixings, of course) was out-of-this-world, ridiculously delicious! Oh my God, guys, Chris and I were losing our shit, it was so good! We stuffed our faces, and ended up having two giant falafels each, even though we were so full, because we wanted to taste more. This will likely go down as one of my favourite things I've ever made, and am so incredibly excited to make it again! The next time I make it, I will most definitely be making it for friends and/or family, because it's not only a show-stopper, it's also so convenient to be able to prepare so much so far in advance. 

Remember: You can't always sub dried chickpeas equally for canned. Remember that canned chickpeas are already cooked, meaning that their volume has increased from the cooking process. A general rule-of-thumb is that 1-cup of dried chickpeas should equal roughly 3-cups of cooked chickpeas. Read every recipe carefully to see if they are referring to the volume of cooked or uncooked chickpeas, and if something feels off, trust your gut! 

Check out the recipe for Joan Nathan's favourite falafel, featuring fresh parsley and cilantro here.

Check out Zahar's super-silky hummus recipe from The New York Times here.

Listening To

Monday, February 27, 2017

Jumping On The Buddha Bowl Bandwagon

Go on any health-focused food blog and you will find some version of a brightly coloured Buddha Bowl. Come to think of it, do a quick scroll through your Instagram on any given weekday, and you're bound to find an image of some sort of Buddha Bowl there as well. It's clear to see that everyone is doing the Buddha Bowl, and it was my time to jump on the mindful eating bandwagon!

I'm big on eating leftovers for lunch, but not every dinner leaves me with enough tasty leftovers that I can work into a full lunch, meaning that I often turn to unhealthy quick-fixes that generally leave me feeling guilty, lethargic, and not very satiated. With some time to spare one morning last week, I figured I would take the time to jump into some food prep to get my Buddha Bowl game on for the week! Though my fridge didn't feel stocked, it was easy to come up with enough ingredients to make a delicious and satisfying bowl that I would feel excited to eat a few days in a row. 
I started by cubing up some sweet potato, tossing it in some herbs and spices, and throwing it into the oven for 20-30 minutes to roast. While my sweet potato cubes were tenderizing in the oven, I whipped up a few servings of quinoa with some homemade vegetable stock that I had ready in the freezer, and tossed some canned chickpeas in some spices and heated them up on the stove. By the time I had some sugar snap peas and cilantro chopped, and a tahini dressing whirred in the blender, my sweet potatoes, chickpeas, and quinoa were all ready! It was just that easy and fast. Throw everything in a bowl, drizzle it with dressing, and sprinkle with cashews and you've got yourself healthy and satisfying lunches for days! This dish is so simple and easy, there's no need to include a recipe at all! I just listed the ingredients, and even that is up for you to play around with. Use whatever ingredients you have on hand to make your Buddha Bowl work for you! How do you Buddha Bowl? 

Ingredients:
cooked quinoa 
roasted sweet potato, cubed
spiced, warmed chickpeas
sugar snap peas, sliced on a bias
lightly salted cashews
cilantro, finely chopped

Directions:
  1. Place quinoa in a bowl and top with sweet potato, chickpeas, and sugar snap peas. Drizzle with dressing and sprinkle over cilantro and cashews. Serve. 
Listening To:

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Salted Bourbon Chocolate Chip Cookies

You've heard the saying, perfection doesn't exist. As much as oftentimes we can have our own idea of what a perfect version of any particular thing is, we know that that idea of perfection is likely to be different from the person next to us. We all have a different perception of what perfection is. For example, while I felt that Beyoncé's Lemonade was a perfect album (even though I skip 'Sandcastles' every time it comes on), the Grammy judges felt that Adele's 25 was closer to excellence. I think it's crazy, but hey, we all have our own opinion of what's perfect. This is especially true when it comes to food, and most specifically, the beloved chocolate chip cookie.
Image by Chatelaine
Over the past year I've kept seeing charts breaking down "cookie logic," otherwise known as the "lite" science behind what makes a perfect chocolate chip cookie. From looking at these charts, I discovered that my idea of a perfect chocolate chip cookie is very different from say, Chatelaine Magazine's. In Chatelaine's chart (shown above) they believe that the perfect chocolate chip cookie is represented in the bottom right cookie. While I certainly wouldn't turn down a bite of that cookie, I felt the top left or right cookies were both closer to my idea of perfection. Using the search terms "perfect chocolate chip cookies" on some of my favourite food websites, I found an array of all sorts of different cookies that respected foodies deemed "perfect." It really puts in perspective how delusional the idea of universal perfection truly is.

For myself, my ultimate "perfect" chocolate chip cookie is a thin cookie with both semi-sweet and/or dark chocolate chips and pieces, with slightly crisp edges, a soft interior/centre, and some salt to combat the sweetness. I remember seeing an image of what I would have considered to be "perfect" chocolate chip cookies in an old William's Sonoma Cookies cookbook that I adored. They were those same thin cookies that I just described, and to me they looked like heaven. I never even made them, more swayed by the assortment of other interesting cookies that were unfamiliar to me, and have now misplaced my cookbook, but in my head those thin chocolate chip cookies will always be my idea of a perfect classic.
With the urge to make the perfect batch of chocolate chip cookies on the last day of this past beautiful long weekend, I turned to William's Sonoma once again, searching for their idea of a perfect cookie. Though their perfect cookies looked very different from the ones that I drooled over in my old book, I figured it would be a good start in terms of recipe development. To make the cookies a little bit more of my own and closer to my idea of perfection, I chose to swap some of the semi-sweet chocolate chips in the recipe for shards of chopped 90% Lindt Chocolate, as well as subbing part of the vanilla extract for bourbon, and topped them all off with one of my favourite ingredients, Maldon Salt.

Though I truly thought it would take me a few tries to get to achieve my perfect cookie, I am so happy to say that this recipe is it! I know I'm often prone to hyperbole, but the fates of the world were kind enough to deliver perfection to me. With crisp, slightly caramelized edges, chips of chocolate to bite into, with little bits of dark chocolate throughout, a soft interior that doesn't crumble when you bite in, and, of course, that crunchy, clean-salty taste from the Maldon Salt, these thin wonders are my idea of perfection. What's your idea of a perfect chocolate chip cookie? Try mine and let me know what you think! Tweet me your thoughts: @thisgingerrose.
Note: I like to use a quick-release cookie scoop for dropping my balls of dough onto the prepared baking sheet to keep my hands clean and create uniform cookies. 

Adapted from Williams Sonoma 
Ingredients:
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour 
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
6 Tbsp. white sugar
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract 
1/2 tsp bourbon
1 heaping cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup 90% Lint Chocolate, chopped into small shards
Maldon Salt for garnish

Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line a large baking sheet with a Silpat mat or parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, and kosher salt.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together butter with brown and white sugar on medium-high speed for 2-minutes.
  4. Add egg, vanilla extract, and bourbon and mix at medium-low-speed until well blended. 
  5. At low speed, add the flour in three-additions, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl before each new addition, and mix until just blended. Stir in the chocolate chips and Lindt shards. 
  6. Drop 1-Tbsp-sized pieces of dough onto prepared baking sheet, leaving 2-inches of space between each (see note). Bake for 10-13 minutes, or until golden. Remove from oven, sprinkle each cookie with a pinch of Maldon Salt immediately, and allow to cool slightly while on baking sheet (about 2-3 minutes), and then transfer to a wire rack to cool. Repeat with remaining dough. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

What We Dig - Fat Pasha


Two weeks ago I had the pleasure of joining the What We Dig crew for an afternoon of Israeli and Jewish eats, as we took on Fat Pasha on Dupont. Though I have been to Fat Pasha several times before (and have always loved my experience!), it was so fun to be able to talk about one of my favourite dishes there, their Whole Roasted Cauliflower, and get to try two fantastic dishes that I have never tasted before, all on camera! Truly, I had such a blast and hope to get the opportunity to do more videos like this soon! Check out my episode to learn about three amazing dishes to try at Fat Pasha, and hear me embarrass myself over and over again with bad dad jokes! Enjoy!

Have you ever eaten at Fat Pasha before? What's your favourite dish? Tell me about it in the comments or tweet me: @thisgingerrose.

Listening To: