Sunday, August 21, 2011

Food Truck Eats: Part 2

If you're anything like me and have been watching episodes of Eat St. religiously, salivating over each and every delicious creation being produced within the teeny confines of a truck, then you will love Toronto's very own Food Truck Eats just as much as I did! With the food truck trend thriving all over America, and even in some Canadian cities, it was about time that Toronto, a hub for food culture in Canada, jump on board as well. Easier said than done, the biggest issue in getting Toronto's food truck scene up and running is due to licensing problems. All I can say is thank goodness for the passionate foodies we have in Toronto, refusing to take "no" for an answer. Thanks to Suresh Doss of Spotlight Toronto, Toronto's Distillery District has been taken over by a Food Truck rally twice already, with two more rallies to go, to get people supporting what will surely be one hell of a food truck culture right here in our home.
After missing the first Food Truck Eats rally in July, I couldn't wait to get my butt down to the distillery to finally check out what all the buzz was about. As high as my expectations were for the food, I have to admit that I was a little nervous about the lines...ok, maybe more than a little. After seeing pictures on my twitter feed of the swarms and swarms of people that gathered for the first Food Truck Eats, I was put off by the idea of standing in line for lord knows how long, in the sweltering Toronto heat for a small dish that I would no doubt devour in a matter of seconds. It's an understatement to say that I was pleasantly surprised to find that despite how intimidating some of the lines may appear, they do in fact move quickly, allowing me to hit up quite a number of trucks and vendors. Although I got to taste so many delicious food truck eats (with each item $5 and under it's easy to attempt to try them all!), of course I have my favourites. Hands down my all-time favourite food truck eat of the day, that I have not stopped day dreaming about since first tasting it, is the Voltron Fish Taco from La Carnita.
I'm not one for sappy love songs, but that taco deserves a lil Whitney. "And IIIIIII will alwaaaays loooove youuuuuuuu" just kept ringing in my ears with every bite. La Carnita's fresh homemade tortillas (I know, it's won over your heart already) are stuffed with a generous piece of fresh cod, battered in a light and crisp beer batter, and topped with a crunchy slaw and their signature Voltron sauce, handheld perfection. Not just master taco makers, La Carnita also promotes local artists, handing out beautiful La Carnita prints drawn by their featured artist of the day for free. No matter how bad I wanted to try every truck and vendor, I could only fit so many eats in this belly of mine. The dishes that i was able to try were:
Voltron Fish Tacos
Fresh Watermelon Lemonade
Chili Corn Fritters
Wasabi Lobster Wrap
Churros with Dark Chocolate Dipping Sauce
Homemade Grapefruit Ginger Lime Popsicle
Homemade Strawberry Basil Balsamic Popsicle
Peach Pie

Food Truck Eats was a wild success gathering thousands of Toronto's foodies to celebrate tasty cheap eats, and raising over $3000 for Second Harvest, providing over 7000 of Toronto's hungry with a healthy meal. I had such a fun and delicious time at the event, I'm practically counting down the days till Food Truck Eats Part 3, which just so happens to be October 1st, the day after my birthday...hangover food truck eats anyone?

Listening To:
The Weeknd - The Birds (Pt. 1)

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Monday, August 15, 2011

Tomato and Cucumber Quinoa

In my last post I talked about the woes of being in a dinner routine rut and suggested some ways to get yourself the heck out of it. A great way to get out of the dinner routine rut is to pick up an unfamiliar ingredient from the grocery store, as I had done with my Tangy Lemon Halibut, but what do you do if you can't make it to the grocery store? Do not fret my friends, because this actually gives you a wonderful advantage at getting out of that rut! We've all been there, you know, when you come home starving and declare, often with a dramatic groan, "there's nothing to eat!", but really what you mean is "I can't think of anything to eat." It's at that moment that you can either become grumpy, give up and order in, or take the high road and allow your creativity to be ignited!

I needed to serve something alongside my Tangy Lemon Halibut but unfortunately I was faced with a near-empty fridge. Hmmm halibut and pickles? That won't work. Halibut and cheese? Not a chance! Halibut and dip? Ok, time to hit the pantry! I turned to a great pantry standby, the healthy super grain quinoa to beef up the meal. I looked at the few veggies we had on hand, as well as some dried fruits and nuts and began to jot down which flavours go together, always keeping in mind the saying "what grows together goes together". I finally settled on something super simple but still tasty and healthy and worthy of going back for seconds for. My Tomato and Cucumber Quinoa features ingredients that my family and I have grown in our own garden, juicy tomatoes, crisp cucumber, and of course my favourite addition, fresh herbs to brighten up all those summer flavours. Stir in a simple dressing and you've got one yummy side that you've whipped up in no time at all!

Tip: Because this recipe is so simple you can easily switch it up to add whichever veggies and herbs you happen to have on hand. Play around with different flavour combinations and ways of preparing the dish. Why not roast your vegetables before adding them into the quinoa for a more complex flavour? Play!

1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
1 cup water
1/4 tsp salt
1 small tomato, diced (or about 1 cup of halved cherry tomatoes)
1/3 of a cucumber, diced
1 1/2 tbsp fresh cilantro or basil, finely chopped
2 tbsp chives, finely chopped
about 3 tbsp red wine vinegar
about 2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

1. In a small pot stir together the quinoa, water, and salt. Set to high heat and bring to a boil, then cover and simmer at low heat for 10 minutes. Let sit for 5 minutes then fluff with a fork.

2. Transfer quinoa to a bowl and allow to cool to reach room temperature. Stir in the tomato, cucumber, cilantro, and chives. Add the red wine vinegar and olive oil a tablespoon at a time and taste after each addition. Add as much as you feel necessary. Season with salt and pepper and serve. May be refrigerated and served the next day.

Listening To:
Jay-Z and Kanye West - Murder to Excellence

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Monday, August 8, 2011

Tangy Lemon Halibut

Lately, as you may have noticed from my lack of recipe posting, I've fallen into a bit of a dinner routine rut. The dinner routine rut is when you find yourself going through a rotation of the same or very similar meals each week. You rotate between beef, chicken, fish, pork, pasta, repeat, reaching for the same rubs, spices, seasonings, preparing everything in such a familiar way that you could very well make the entire meal with your eyes closed. It's at this point that the total lack of inspiration kicks in and you are officially deep within the dinner routine rut, and once you're in, it's mighty hard to fight your way back out again. Because food plays such a significant role in my life, when I find myself in the dinner routine rut everything else in my life seems to suffer along with it. Thankfully I am now aware of the role that food plays in my life, and in an effort to better my life and personal well being, I can now use food and the motivation that arrises from being inspired and excited about food to direct other aspects of my life in a positive direction.

It's easy to pull yourself out of the dinner routine rut once you know you're in it, all it takes is a step in an unfamiliar direction. Try a preparation you're unfamiliar with. Pull out a spice you've never used before. Close your eyes, open your fridge and touch three things, now turn those three things into a meal. The point is to challenge yourself, even if it's just a little bit. This week, to pull myself out of the dinner routine rut, I went outside of my own familiar repertoire of dinner recipes and picked up halibut steaks (something I have only cooked once before) instead of the salmon that always seems to be in my grocery cart. Sure it's a little step, but it one that completely pulled me out of the rut! I got excited about working with this new ingredient that I had hardly played with before, and in turn, I've been feeling that same excitement in everything that I've cooked with all week long, pushing me to go outside of my boundaries. Instead of looking up a recipe for halibut I followed my instincts, choosing simple, fresh flavours to simply enhance the natural flavours of the fish. A citrus marinade and sauce with just a touch of fresh dill was all the halibut needed to reach spectacular heights. I absolutely loved how the halibut turned down, as did my family! With such a simple preparation and such wonderful flavours, there's no doubt I will be making my Tangy Lemon Halibut again and again...I just hope its recurrence doesn't lead to yet another dinner routine rut!

2 halibut steaks
zest from 1 1/2 lemons
juice from 2 lemons
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp paprika
1 tsp cold butter
salt and pepper, to season
1 tbsp dill, chopped

1. Place the halibut steaks in a shallow dish. Set aside.

2. In a small bowl mix together the zest from 1 lemon, juice from 1 lemon, 1 tsp sugar, 1/4 cup olive oil, paprika, and a bit of salt to season. Pour over the halibut steaks and marinate for 15 minutes to an hour in the fridge.

3. While halibut is marinating, make the sauce. In a small saucepan, mix together the remaining lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar, and a bit of salt. Turn heat to low and cook until mixture starts to bubble around the edges of the pan. Add the butter and stir. Remove from heat and set aside.

4. Barbecue halibut on an oiled grill for about 5 minutes on each side, or until fish flakes easily with a fork. Do not overcook. Serve with pan sauce overtop, season with salt and pepper, and garnish with dill.

Listening To:
Kanye West & Jay-z - No Church in the Wild (feat. Frank Ocean)

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Sunday, August 7, 2011

Mott's Clamato Borracho Caesar

Here it is folks, my Caesar with a kick, the Borracho Caesar. Featuring a hot and flavourful homemade jalapeno infused vodka. I've had so much fun this summer playing around with all sorts of Mott's Clamato Caesars, from the one's inspired by Canada that I learned how to make at the Coast to Coast Caesar Toast, to recreating ones that I've tasted at restaurants and bars around the city. Who knew that Canada's Cocktail could be so versatile?

When creating my own signature caesar, I knew that I wanted to feature a jalapeno infused vodka. After experimenting with making all sorts of different vodka infusions, I was itching to make a spicy one, infused with the hot pepper I find myself cooking with most, jalapeno peppers! Because the Caesar is already a spicy drink, I didn't want my jalapeno infused vodka to be too wildly spicy. I'm all about spice, but what is most important for me is flavour. If something is too spicy, it can overwhelm the other flavours in your drink or dish, and that heat will become the only thing your taste buds will be able to recognize. So instead of making a hit-you-in-the-face spicy jalapeno vodka, I wanted to make one that truly allows the flavour of the jalapeno to shine, while still adding an extra little hit of heat. You may not know that the jalapeno flesh actually holds little to no heat. Where the heat lies is all in the membrane and seeds of the pepper, allowing you to control how much heat you'd like to add to your vodka infusion. I left in a few seeds from each pepper as well as the membrane for a little bit of heat, but if you want to see smoke come out of your ears, go ahead and leave all the seeds in. I decided to roll with the Mexican theme that the Jalapeno peppers had introduced, so I muddled in some fresh cilantro from my garden and topped the drink off with a little bit of chili pepper. To mimic the look of the cilantro, I chose to garnish my Caesar with a leafy celery stick and of course Mott's Clamato Rimmer Salt and a slice of lime. I named my signature caesar the Borracho Caesar because "borracho" means "drunk" in Spanish, fitting with a drink that you're bound to go back for seconds and thirds for and keeping with the Mexican theme. Check out my Borracho Caesar and all of the other fantastic caesar recipes on the Mott's Clamato My Caesar Recipe Finder.

Don't forget to serve your Borracho Caesar with my mouth-watering Baked Jalapeno Poppers!

Listening To:
Mark Ronson - Somebody To Love Me (feat. Boy George)

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