Friday, September 27, 2013

Weekly Roundup - Taking A Stab At Making The Cut

Chef School: Vegetable Cuts -  This week at chef school was all about focus and precision as we learned the basics of vegetable cuts. Although there was much less to accomplish and present for marks compared to last week and future weeks, this week was just as intense as we pulled our rulers out to practice cutting carrots, onions, celery, parsnips, and leeks into perfect  Julienne, Brunoise, Batonnet, Carré, Slice, and Paysanne cuts. This is definitely one area of cooking that I still need a lot of practice. Despite my final product being deemed "very good" by my teacher, each sample of each cut took me far too long, and had me silently cursing far too much. It seems that the question "what the hell have I gotten myself into?!" will be popping into my head each week as I feel the pressure to produce a result that I am proud to show my teacher in the appropriate amount of time. I'm hoping to find some time this weekend (even though it's my birthday weekend!) to do some cooking so I can continue to practice my vegetable cuts and maybe, just maybe, it will begin to feel more natural.

I Had No Idea! Things I learned in class this week:
  • When julienning an onion, cut towards the root. When slicing an onion, cut parallel to the root.
  • Julienne (Very fine strips)
    • 4cm x 3mm x 3mm
  • Brunoise (Very small dice. Cross cut of julienne)
    • 3mm x 3mm x 3mm 
  • Batonnet (Small sticks)
    • 4cm x 1/2cm x 1/2cm
  • Carré (Dice. Cross cut of batonnet)
    • Small = 1/2cm x 1/2cm x 1/2cm
    • Medium = 1cm x 1cm x 1cm
    • Large = 2cm x 2cm x 2cm
  • Paysanne (peasant style) = Any geometric shape, using the natural shape of the vegetable.

On My Mind:
Took the words out of my mouth: Blurring The Lines of Feminism: A Criticism of the Criticism of "Blurred Lines"

Why I'll never be the girl who wears heels all the time.

Girls Don't Poop.

Can't wait to check out the massive David Bowie is exhibit at the AGO that opened this week! It's on until November 27th. 

Dear Kanye, it's OK to laugh

Barbie's got a new job! Welcome to the RCMP!

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Friday, September 20, 2013

Weekly Roundup - The Cooking Begins At Chef School!

The Hogtown Cure - This week I met up for lunch with my aunt Darlene. One of the best parts about meeting up with my closest aunt, (other than spending time with her of course!) is that we both share a love of good food, which always results in an interesting restaurant choice. At our most recent catchup lunch session, we decided to check out The Hogtown Cure, a deli and café specializing in house-smoked meats and artisanal products such as meats, cheeses, jams, mustards, and more! Having been craving Mexican food for weeks now, I couldn't resist the shops Smoked Pulled Pork Tacos served on Alba Lisa organic corn tortillas with pickled red onion, tomatoes, and jalapeno cream. Although I loved the smokey flavour of the tender pork, I found the tortillas texture a little off-putting, and would have liked more spice in my tacos. Darlene's lunch, on the other hand, was delicious! Darlene's Chorizo Wrap and Seasonal Salad with scrambled free range eggs, house made chorizo sausage, pickled red onion, smoked peppers, three-year old Canadian cheddar and mozzarella was just perfect smokey and spicy awesomeness! Before leaving, I couldn't help but sneak back to the cash to grab one of the shops giant oatmeal raisin cookies as my snack for that evenings class Just as the friendly (and redheaded!) cashier promised, it was fantastic! 
Culinary School: Week 2 - This week was week two of my chef training course at George Brown College, which means that the cooking has finally begun! This week was all about vegetable prep, which allowed us to learn a number of basics such as preparing garlic five different ways, making tomatoes concassé and using them in both bruschetta and mushroom duxelle, making herb butter, a mirepoix, a bouquet garni, and chopping fresh herbs. There was a lot to get done in one 3-hour cooking period (which my teacher had to extend due to our lack of speed), but I have been informed that this is only the beginning, I should prepare for more intensity, difficulty, and multi-tasking...good lord, what have I gotten myself into! Those three hours were terrifying and awesome all at the same time. I couldn't help but freak out over the ticking clock and a number of missteps on my part, but at the same time it felt invigorating knowing what I was accomplishing and learning. I'm quickly realizing that although I have the passion and know the basics in the kitchen, I was certainly not qualified for those test kitchen and recipe development jobs that I was so hoping to get this summer. I have a lot to learn in a short period of time, and although I am shaking in my boots over handling the intensity, I am so excited to come out of this program as a confident certified chef! 

I Had No Idea! Things I learned in class this week:
  • Peel your celery before cooking.
  • Inside garlic cloves there is a rubbery sprout  that you should remove before preparing further.
  • Remove many garlic peels at once by cutting a bit off the stem of each clove and place in a steel bowl. Top with another steel bowl and, holding firmly, shake the bowls to allow the cloves to bang around inside the bowls. Ta da! Garlic peels removed!
  • Remove chlorophyl from curly parsley by placing finely chopped parsley in a small piece of cheesecloth. Tie tightly with string, and rinse and squeeze repeatedly under cold water until water runs clear.
On My Mind:
20 simple ways to take great care of yourself.

Interesting read: Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy.

Came across this really awesome pop-up shop in a shipping crate on Dundas West the other day. Check out JM & Sons gorgeous, hand-crafted custom furniture.

Nigella Lawson on the 'male gaze'.

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Listening To:
Arctic Monkeys - Do I Wanna Know

Friday, September 13, 2013

Weekly Roundup: Rainy Days Are Cooking Days

Pork Tonkatsu with Watermelon & Tomato Salad - Friday nights always seem to be a mad rush, trying to get myself out of work at a decent time, looking presentable, with enough outfit changes to last me the weekend, and a 45-minutes commute to my boyfriend Chris' condo. If it's a Friday where Chris and I are having dinner together, it's even more of a rush so that we aren't totally exhausted by the time I get there and resolve to make something incredibly simple and not all that exciting. This week I seemed to be running way past schedule and didn't get to Chris' until much later than anticipated. I spent my 45-min commute with my stomach growling, worrying that because of the late time, we would be in for another simple sausage and bun dinner (which, don't get me wrong is delicious, but by the time September kicks in, I've certainly had my fill of enough sausage and bun dinners).

I arrived at Chris' tired, hungry, and grumpy about the lack of possibilities for dinner. On my commute I had seen a stunning, colourful photo of the most delicious-looking watermelon salad, and was unable to get that sweet and savoury salad out of my mind. I knew that no matter what we had for dinner, I would be disappointed, because all I wanted was that watermelon salad. I guess when you've been dating someone for long enough, you begin to read each others minds a little bit. Chris, who was able to get to St. Lawrence Market before close, had picked up all the ingredients required to make panko-encrusted pork chops (or Pork Tonkatsu) and...wait for it...WATERMELON SALAD! I swear I fell in love with him 10x more when he told me that! With Chris on pork chop duty, and myself on watermelon salad duty we quickly whipped up Bon Appétit's recipe for Pork Tonkatsu and Watermelon and Tomato salad, altering it ever so slightly by adding a bit more lemon juice to the dijon-citrus vinaigrette as well as some salty feta cheese. Our meal was so delicious, with the bright and fresh watermelon salad complimenting the rich pork chops perfectly. I couldn't stop smiling! I will most definitely be making this meal again...and soon!

Teamwork Breakfast - My favourite homemade meals are the ones that are created as a team. It seems you can always taste the love in a meal all the more when you know that people had to work together to create it. To start our weekend off right, myself, Chris, and his roommate Adam decided to collaborate on a teamwork breakfast, with Adam making his infamous spiced hash browns, Chris making his favourite breakfast items grits and pea meal bacon, and myself on egg duty. Our breakfast was gluttonous and outrageously delicious. It kept us full and satisfied all day long, and was definitely one that will go down in the books as one of our best! 
Homemade Fresh Pasta - There's something about a gloomy and grey rainy day that just screams "cooking day" to me. This past weekend, on the gloomiest of Saturdays, while devouring our massive 'teamwork' breakfast, Chris and I decided that a rainy day was the perfect day to take on a new cooking challenge together. We had been discussing perfecting homemade fresh pasta for weeks now, and with the sun hiding behind the clouds, a very wet balcony, and limited movies at the nearby cheapy Rainbow Cinema, we could think of no better time to take on the challenge. I have made homemade pasta a number of times before, but I was never quite satisfied with the the overall result. Always just a bit off in the texture department, I have always dreamt of creating those perfect, silky, al dente noodles that I have swooned over at my favourite Italian restaurants. Apparently having an Italian cooking partner in the kitchen was all I needed to finally create my dream pasta! After a quick phone call to his pro-pasta-making parents, and a trip to St. Lawrence for the essential tippo "00" flour (a finely sifted flour often used for pasta and pizza dough) we were set to begin our all-day pasta-making adventure! Chris was an absolute natural, taking control of the pasta making, while I took on the challenge of making a near perfect bolognese sauce (which is it bolognese or ragu? Jamie Oliver calls it ragu). The pasta turned out absolutely perfect. The texture was spot on, just like the best critically acclaimed Italian restaurants in the city! I felt so proud of our final results, and couldn't contain my excitement over the thought of future pasta-making days together! 
Homemade Bolognese - To go with our perfect homemade pasta, we needed a rich and flavourful sauce to bath our noodles in. After a bit of bolognese/ragu research, we came up with a recipe that combined Jamie Oliver's recipe for ragu, with Eataly NY's recipe for Butchers Ragu. Our recipe featured lean ground beef, ground veal, and smoked pancetta, as well as Chris' roommates newly-made homemade fresh tomato sauce. After getting all of my ingredients in the pot, it was ready to simmer on the stove for at least an hour and a half to enhance the flavours and reduce. After 45-minutes of simmering on the stove, I began to panic. The sauce wasn't reducing at all and was extremely watery. I feared I had added just a bit too much tomato sauce, which was a bit on the watery side to begin with. I was kicking myself over potentially ruining our pasta night, and knew that I had to do everything I could think of to rescue my sauce. The first step was to transfer the sauce from the large stock pot it was cooking in to a wide and shallow saucepan to allow more surface area of the sauce to cook off. I added the sauce to the new pan a bit at a time, at medium-high heat, allowing it to cook off a bit each time before adding another ladle full. I kept the heat at medium to medium-high to encourage it to reduce as much as possible. I also received a tip to go against every instinct in my body to stir the sauce, and just let it sit. About 45-minutes later my sauce was, if you can believe it, a little too reduced! To loosen it back up a bit, I added a splash of red wine, which also enhanced all those delicious savoury flavours in the sauce. Finally, after 9PM, both our pasta and our sauce were ready for tasting! As I had mentioned, Chris' pasta noodles were perfection, with my bolognese just a touch under perfect. The problem? The smoked pancetta. I absolutely loved the pancetta flavour in the sauce, but we all found that the smoked pancetta was a little too overpowering for our liking. Next time I would do either all regular pancetta, or a combo of half smoked, half regular. I would also add a touch of red pepper flakes to add just a bit of heat to the tongue. I was so proud of my rich and comforting bolognese sauce, I think this just may become one of my signatures that I will be making into old age!

On My Mind:
Check out this article from the Globe & Mail about the growing influence of foodies and the publics interest in food and its culture.

Check out the fourth issue of the new online magazine deliberateLIFE, the lifestyle guide for impactful living.

Nine questions about Syria you were too embarrassed to ask.

This coming Thursday come out to 6 Degrees for an evening of love and support for my old high school friend Robyn. For Robyn, With Love is an event to raise funds and awareness for a beautiful girl fighting a rare and aggressive form of cancer called Angiosarcoma. Please take a moment to read about Robyn and her battle, and give in any way you can! Hope to see you at the event!

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Listening To
Arcade Fire - Reflektor

Monday, September 9, 2013

Kale & Grilled Peach Salad with Goat Cheese & Prosciutto in a Pomegranate Vinaigrette

In typical Ginger Rose fashion, here is another very late recipe posting. I made this salad about a month ago, right as peach season had arrived, after picking up a basket of the most juicy and sweet peaches I could have ever dreamt of from a farmers stand on the way home from a day trip up north. They were the kind of peaches that make you declare that "for the entirety of August, I will eat nothing but Ontario peaches!", a both ludicrous and perfectly understandable statement. So incredibly obsessed with having my all-time favourite fruit in its prime, I found myself adding peaches to just about everything; Peach oatmeal, peach and Nutella paninis, peaches and ice cream, and what may have been my favourite peach usage, my Kale and Grilled Peach Salad with Goat Cheese and Prosciutto in a Pomegranate Vinaigrette, the perfect combination of sweet, savory, creamy, and tangy to make my taste buds go wild. 

The big and lip-smackingly sweet flavour from the fresh peaches, enhanced by a quick pop onto the grill, worked perfectly with the slightly bitter kale. The warmth of the grilled peaches softened the goat cheese even more when all tossed together, adding an incredible creaminess to the dish, and making you forget how healthy this dish really is. To tie in the sweet and tangy flavours found in the peaches and goat cheese I made a pomegranate balsamic vinaigrette made from the most incredible pomegranate balsamic vinegar that I coveted from one of my favourite little shops in St. Lawrence Market. The tart and intense flavours from the Chefjono Pomegranate Balsamic took this dish to a whole other level! If you are unable to get your hands on my new favourite addition to my balsamic vinegar collection, you can simply make a vinaigrette out of olive oil and good quality balsamic vinegar and toss in a splash of pure pomegranate juice to imitate the effect. Finally, the dish is given substance with a bit of prosciutto, which also helps to balance out the sweetness, adding a salty bite to every forkful. I have already made this salad numerous times, trying to take advantage of every last bit of peach season before it sadly comes to an end. Trust me, make this quick and easy salad before it's too late!

Take this pomegranate vinaigrette to another level by getting your hands on Chefjono's Pomegranate Balsamic! I purchased mine at St. Lawrence Market. No need to add any pomegranate juice to your dressing with this punchy vinegar. 

Serves 2
1 large bunch kale, stemmed with ribs removed
2 peaches, pitted
1/4 cup goat cheese
2 slices prosciutto
5 tbsp olive oil, plus more for massaging kale
5 tbsp balsamic vinegar
splash of pomegranate juice
salt & pepper to season

  1. In a small bowl pour in the balsamic vinegar and splash of pomegranate juice. Slowly pour in olive oil in a thin and steady stream while whisking constantly. Season with fresh ground pepper and set aside.
  2. Heat a grill pan to medium-high heat. Lightly coat peach halves or slices with olive oil. When pan is hot, grill peaches, flat side down for about 2-3 minutes, or until grill marks have appeared. Set aside.
  3. Place kale in a medium bowl and lightly drizzle with olive oil and a sprinkle very lightly with salt. Using clean fingertips, roughly massage kale for 2-3 minutes, or until kale becomes tender. 
  4. Begin adding the vinaigrette, a little at a time, while tossing and tasting to ensure you do not overdress. You may not need all of the dressing. 
  5. Plate the dressed kale in salad bowls and crumble over goat cheese. Top with grilled peach halves or slices (one peach per serving) and prosciutto slices (one slice per serving) and serve. 
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Friday, September 6, 2013

Weekly Roundup - When a weekly roundup, turns into a monthly roundup

How does a weekly roundup turn into an almost monthly roundup? Life, that's how! With what seems like the speediest Summer ever winding down, I could think of nothing else but indulging in those special moments that make Summer "Summer". I escaped to two different cottages, caught up with some friends, attended a wedding, enjoyed nature, went to parties, ate great food, came down with the 2013 Summer plague that everyone seemed to have caught at one point or another, the list goes on. All that time being away from my blog forced me to do a little soul searching. 
Despite all the fun (minus the never-ending cold that interrupted all the summer excitement) I found myself incredibly stressed about the Fall and slipping into that "back to reality" self remorse. All my neurosis floated to the surface as I began stressing over the fact that I was about to move into yet another season, stuck in the same soul-sucking job that seemed to be taking over my life, with no foreseeable escape in my near future. I had originally planned on getting out of my serving job at a tired pub for the Fall, hoping for a job or at the very least an internship that would lead me to a career in recipe development, working in a test kitchen environment. I cast my line, but no one had bit. No matter all the time and passion I have put into my blog over the years, on paper, I'm just another blogger looking to take the short cut to success. That's not the person I want to be, or be seen as, I never have and I never will. I realized that I couldn't just wait around for someone to see that I have the dedication and the chops to make it in the industry. If people couldn't see that I have what it takes right now, well then I have no choice but to take matters into my own hands and prove it to them. 
With voices in my head telling me how much money it would cost and how much time it would eat up, I ignored them all and made the spontaneous decision to register for continuing education culinary school at George Brown College. Now, having picked up my uniform (I look like a goof in my chefs hat), my equipment (that cost me a almost $1000), and a big ass textbook on professional cooking for Canadian chefs, I find myself exhilarated and a little bit terrified about what I am about to embark on. I am so incredibly excited to learn and master new skills and techniques in the kitchen, and gain the confidence that I have been lacking, but I am freaking the hell out over being back in school after being out for years now, and the pressure that I have heard so much about that accompanies every kitchen. I really hope that this new experience will open doors for me and allow me to find success in something that I feel so passionate about, as well as inspire me to share new stories and insights on my blog with my readers. Thanks to all my friends and family who have been so incredibly supportive of my decision. As much as I know deep down that this is the right direction for me, that encouragement from all of the people close to me has reinforced that I am truly on the right path. 
Doppio Zero - Nothing like finding a delicious Italian restaurant, walking distance from my house, to satisfy my pizza and pasta cravings that hit me way too often. Recently my mom and I checked out Doppio Zero on Eglinton for a light dinner on their small patio. After my mom had raved about Doppio Zero's homemade Tortelli Di Zucca, ravioli stuffed with pumpkin, parmigiano, and amaretto cookies, finished in a butter and sage sauce, she insisted we had to order it again so I could understand her newfound love for this decadent pasta. Along with our pasta that we had decided to split, we ordered the Carpaccio Di Manzo, thinly sliced raw beef tenderloin, topped with arugula and parmigiano shavings, drizzled with a citrus vinaigrette. My mom was right about the pumpkin, it was so incredibly delicious, with the amaretti cookies adding just a hint of sweetness and a bit of crunch that made this dish really stand out. I also swooned over the carpaccio which was tender, zesty, and tricked me into thinking I was eating healthy when paired with the peppery arugula. I look forward to trying more items on Doppio Zero's extensive menu! I hope to be back soon!

Grits & Eggs - For my boyfriend Chris' birthday this year, I treated him to a lovely intimate dinner at Acadia. Of course I got to enjoy our meal as well, but at the time I didn't really realize just how much I would benefit from that meal. After melting over Acadia's unbelievably delicious Anson Mills Grits and Shrimp with aged cheddar, oyster mushrooms, and ham hock, Chris became a little obsessed with mastering the Southern comfort food. Not long after our meal at Acadia, Chris picked up a bag of grits and has been whipping it up for breakfasts ever since! This past weekend Chris put a smile on my face once again by making his grits for breakfast, along with peameal bacon from the market, and my perfect poached eggs. So incredibly comforting, if you have yet to try this Southern treat, you don't know what you're missing!

Golden Zucchini & Feta Cakes - After dropping nearly a grand on chef school equipment, you can bet your boots I was pretty damn excited to start using all of my shiny new kitchen goodies. Ever since I saw a photo of Chatelaine's Golden Zucchini and Feta Cakes that they had posted on their website, I have been dying to make the crispy and salty little rounds of goodness. This week I finally made it happen and quickly whipped up the very simple appetizer. The cakes turned out delicious! I really loved the addition of the feta and dill, adding a bit of freshness, saltiness, and creaminess to the cakes. Next time I will make a yogurt-based dill sauce to drizzle over these babies to take them to the next level! I'd also like to see how I could make a healthier baked version of this dish.

Veal Chops with Grilled Peach Prosciutto & Brie Salad - With the zucchini cakes not allowing me to use enough of my new kitchen gear, I simply had to prepare an interesting entrée and side for dinner as well that evening. I had never made veal chops before, but with an awesome sale I figured I would give it a try. I quickly found a very simple recipe for a veal chop marinade online, and had my chops soaking in a lemon and rosemary bath in no time. Still obsessing over my grilled peach and prosciutto salad that I had made a few weeks ago, and with peaches still in their prime, I accompanied my veal with the vibrant and summery salad that I have been drooling over since I first made it. This dinner was simple, fast, and oh so delicious and satisfying.

On My Mind:
Ginger Rose is getting a redesign! A great big thanks to the incredibly talented Becca of Freckled Stationary who is working on making Ginger Rose a heck of a lot prettier and more personal. I can't wait to show you what Becca has come up with! Check out Becca's other beautiful work here!

A few weeks ago my boyfriend and I found great success renting a cottage in Haliburton through the vacation rental website Check it out to save money on your next vacation!

While at the cottage, I was able to catch up on some summer reading, indulging in two great books. I read the Oscar Wilde classic The Picture of Dorian Gray and the chuckle-out-loud science fiction novel The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.

Have you been watching the final nail-biting season of Breaking Bad? I can't get enough! I've often wondered, Why is Skyler White So Hated?

More curious woman hate. Rachel Lefevre on the public hate of Anne Hathaway.

Kind of obsessing over my new Club Monaco vest. Love this classy take on menswear for women this Fall.

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Listening To:
Young Empires - Rain Of Gold