Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Japanese Cabbage and Pork Gyoza...

Japanese gyoza and Chinese dumplings (jiaozi) -- what is the difference you ask? There are four noteable distinctions in my books. First, the ingredients-- while they share similar ones, Japanese tend to always use garlic in their filling and more veggies combined with a little meat. Next, the wrapper which also leads to the technique difference. Gyoza skin is softer more pliable, conducive to the technique of steaming first then pan-frying. Whereas Chinese dumplings do the reverse. Typically pan-fried then steamed, it's wrappers are designed thicker to hold up in the pan-frying process. Lastly, the texture. The gyoza wrapper is more pliable and expands during steaming creating more of a puffy pouch to house the filling and since more veggies is used, it's result looser than the dense meat-heavy Chinese jiaozi. The star to gyoza however is potato starch! Dusting gyozas first while it steams to cook, the water evaporates and bottoms start to brown that surely crisps up when the oil hits, creating an irresistible duo crispy and soft skin texture. This method applies to certain types of Chinese dumplings but not universally. No hard fast rules in this world of cross-cultural adapting perhaps, but some observations I've made to this day noshing on and making countless dumplings. One thing undeniable is that both styles are delicious and addictive, as you can't stop at just eating one.. am I right?

Now that we got this out of the way, let's start mixing, wrapping and cooking gyozas :D. So many recipes out there, but this is the one I'm enjoying right now...

Japanese Cabbage and Pork Gyoza
Makes about 48 dumplings

1/4 small white/green cabbage
1/3 medium nappa cabbage
1 tsp. salt
1 cup lean ground pork
2 tsp. chicken seasoning powder
1 Tbsp. sesame oil
1 Tbsp. sake or Chinese cooking wine or dry sherry

1 Tbsp. soy sauce
3 cups green onions, finely chopped (or use 2 cups garlic chives and 1 cup green onion)
2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh ginger (optional)
salt and ground white pepper
1 pkg. round Gyoza skins (Chinese dumpling wrappers ok substitute)
potato starch
cooking oil (I use canola)

Dipping sauce:
2 parts soy sauce to 1 part rice vinegar
a little sesame oil
toasted sesame seeds and chili oil (optional)

Finely chop the two kinds of cabbage. Mix together in a bowl tossed with the salt (this will aid in releasing their excess moisture). Set aside for 15 minutes.

In a separate bowl, combine the pork with chicken seasoning, sesame oil, sake and soy sauce. Mix well, then add green onions and garlic, and mix again.

Squeeze the cabbage to remove excess water. Add to the meat mixture, season with salt and pepper and stir to combine. The filling is ready, use it immediately or refrigerate covered overnight and use the next day.

As I mentioned this is key for great crispy succulent gyozas-- potato starch! Dust each dumpling with a little potato starch. Shake the dumplings to remove excess starch before pan-frying!

Here I heavily dusted a platter to sit the dumplings and to roll in to coat.

Set a small bowl of water for rimming and sealing the filled dumpling wrappers.

Wet the edges of the wrapper with water and place one Tbsp. filling in centre of wrapper. Pleat the wrapper or simply fold over so that two edges meet. Press along seam to seal shut. Repeat with wrappers. Cook immediately. Do not refrigerate prepared dumplings or they will get moist and stick together and to the plate. Click here for my complete step-by-step on how to make and wrap dumplings. 

For more on wrapping, check out my Dumplings 101

Shake the dumplings to remove excess potato starch. Heat up your pan to medium high and swirl 2 Tbsp. oil. When hot arrange them in a circular fashion in the pan with a little give between each so they don't stick too much when they cook and swell.

Made Pork Dried Bakchoy Soup as a yin counter balance to yang gyozas.

Add enough water to come a third of the way up the dumplings, cover and cook over medium heat until the water has evaporated and you can see the bottoms of the dumplings changing colour. #steamsteambaby

Remove the lid and drizzle a little oil over the dumplings. Cook uncovered, until the bottoms are crispy, then turn over carefully with a spatula to brown the other sides. Transfer to a serving platter.

Combine the dipping sauce and serve with the hot gyozas. Add some chilli oil if you wish.

I had some leftover filling and it was perfect tossed in a skillet with leftover steamed rice. I adjusted the taste with a bit of soy sauce and voila... creative leftovers that turned into a small meal.

Leftover gyozas reheated in a pan for a casj lunch the next day served with some tasty leftover cabbage pork fried rice!

Wrapping dumplings can be a fun family affair-- of course the kids can get in on it too!

My then 7-year old Japanese-Chinese nephew is a wrapping pro!

Gyozas can make for a great appie or side dish at any gathering! Itadakimasu!

Served with Korean Chap Chae, Inari Zushi and Deep-Fried Chicken Karaage

Friday, August 11, 2017

You Thirsty? Take The Ultimate Beverage Tour In York Durham Headwaters...

Here is a copy of my freelance article for Huffington Post on Drinking Your Way Through York Durham Headwaters (Original Post)Home to 60% of the Greenbelt’s protected fertile farmland and many conservation areas, this heart of Ontario’s countryside is a burgeoning scene in multiple award-winning cutting-edge craft beverages made farm-to-bottle. Quench your thirst for adventure, engage in fascinating stories from brewers firsthand and support local producers. A bounty of homegrown treasures awaits you!

A burgeoning beverage scene exists less than an hour outside Toronto, and it's worth discovering. Cutting edge, award-winning craft breweries, cideries, distilleries and wineries abound in the York Durham Headwaters region.

Presented in partnership with Ontario Tourism and York Durham Headwaters, here's a small sampling of some of the area's best spots to quench your thirst for libationary adventure.

Old Flame Brewing Co., 135 Perry St., Port Perry

Old Flame Brewing Co. set up shop in an old Ontario Carriage Works building, transforming the original structure into a beer-lover's paradise. Taste specialty bevvies on tap or take a behind-the-scenes tour to see how craft brew is made.

The Second Wedge Brewing Company, 14 Victoria St., Uxbridge

The Second Wedge Brewing Company is a brewery, tasting room, bottle shop and beer garden dedicated to crafting flavourful ales. This year, you can follow co-founder Joanne Richter on a beer and cheese tour through the region. Named "Boxcars and Beer: The Cheese Train," this experience is 90 minutes of pure bliss -- because nothing is better than beer and cheese. 
Incerpt- Learn more on My Post about my full experience on the cheese train.

All Aboard on Uxbridge's Boxcars and Beers: The Cheese Train

Incerpt-- Enjoying a nice day with my pal Ann with flights, lunch and loads of goodies to take home.

Noteables: the Pear Cider with Lavender and the Normandy Apple Bread
made with apple cider, chopped apples grown on site and cinnamon!

Spirit Tree Estate Cidery, 1137 Boston Mills Rd., Caledon

Located in the picturesque, rolling hills of Caledon, Spirit Tree Estate Cidery is an award-winning cidery and so much more. Its bakery, bistro and farm shop make it a culinary destination to be savoured. It prides itself on its many environmentally friendly practices. And perhaps most uniquely, Spirit Tree's owners practice the centuries-old art of wassailing, a ceremony each winter in which the trees in the apple orchard are sung to in order to ensure a good harvest the following year.

Adamo Estate Winery, 793366 3rd Line EHS, Mono

Adamo Estate Winery is a labour of love for the Adamo family. They took a chance on an unchartered terroir, burying vines in the winter to protect them from the cold, hand-picking the fruit and bottling on site. Indeed remarkable that this young winery is already the recipient of multiple international wine awards. Tour the vineyards, sample at the tasting bar, and pair your visit with a stay at the winery's sister property, Hockley Valley Resort.

Grand Spirits Distillery Inc., 22 Mill St., East Grand Valley

The newly opened Grand Spirits Distillery is the first legal purveyor of gin and whisky in the region. Grand Valley was the last wet town in Ontario during Prohibition, so the entrance of the region's first "resto-distillery" promises to "reignite Grand Valley's prohibition-era infamy," their website notes. Their handcrafted spirits are adapted from old regional recipes and use juniper, white oak and wild hickory to flavour their gin and whisky.

Located in a restored 1892 schoolhouse, the distillery has a Speakeasy-themed restaurant bar and a Victorian-themed tasting room.

Last Straw Distillery, 40 Pippin Rd. - Unit #9, Vaughan

This super-cool distillery is for the gin and whisky lover in all of us. Fulfilling their lifelong dream to open a micro-distillery, husband and wife team Don and Ana DiMonte develop each of their spirits from scratch. Dark Side of the Moonshine is a liquor that's aged for a year in an old Tennessee whisky barrel while Blackstrap Rum is a new take on an old classic. It's made from blackstrap molasses and packed with dark-toffee flavour. While you can find Dark Side of the Moonshine and Blackstrap Rum at the LCBO, you can only buy their vodka, gin and darker blends at their distilling workshop in Vaughan. Visit today to learn first-hand how these spirits are made.

These are but a few of the many flavourful locations to raise a glass and toast Ontario's York Durham Headwaters region. When touring the area, please drink responsibly. To learn more, follow what's happening in its ever-growing food and drink scene here.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Sweet Almond Dessert Soup...

Out of all the Chinese-style sweet dessert soups, this one is hands-down my fave. A popular traditional dessert house sweet white soup, it literally translates to almond paste to describe its thick pasty texture. Typically served warm, it's made with a combo of Chinese sweet and bitter almonds.  Since these are not easy to find, skinless blanched almonds are a great substitute! Not only is this concentrated soup nutritious, with 1/2 cup of almonds per suggested serving, the dessert is said to do wonders for the skin. Some even eat it as a breakfast. I know I would :).  When I took notice to see my mom make this, I learned the trade secret to the thick texture, and it's surprisingly not cornstarch... but a small handful of raw rice.

Sweet Almond Dessert Soup
Makes 2 servings, 1 cup each (double the recipe to double the pleasure)

1 cup slivered almonds (or use whole blanched almonds), soaked in water for two hours
1 heaping Tbsp. raw Jasmine rice, soaked in water to cover for ½ hour, rinsed and drained
2 Tbsp. equivalent of yellow rock sugar or golden sugar
2 cups water, add 1 Tbsp. at a time to get the consistency you want
2 to 3 drops of almond extract (optional)

Toast almonds in a saucepan on medium heat until slightly fragrant about two minutes- do not let it turn golden. Blend in blender along with water and rice until completely pulverized and smooth. Strain through a strainer into the saucepan and cook over low heat until mixture is thickened, stirring frequently otherwise it will burn on bottom. Add sugar and cook, stirring until dissolved. Add the drops of almond extract. Adjust flavourings to your taste preference. 

NOTE: Make sure almonds and rice are finely ground otherwise, almonds will leave a gritty taste and rice will cook up during heating into unwanted particulates.

The soup thickens as it cooks.

Growing up, my mother prepared small pots of sweetened red bean soup (another very popular Chinese sweet dessert) to eat during the day or after dinner and it has been a favourite in our family to this day. Packed with protein, making it is a cinch to do with just five ingredients.

Simple Chinese Red Bean Soup Dessert

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Food Revolution Toronto August Contest-- Show Off Your Salads!

Resharing from Food Revolution Toronto:

Happy August! This month's #CookwithFoodRevTO challenge is all about SALAD! Each week we'll be showcasing an idea for you to use your produce - this week, how about these twists on Jamie's simple green salad?

This is my kind of salad! Toasting almonds to just short of being burnt gives an interesting slightly bitter dimension to this unique salad dressing. Balanced with the sweetness of honey, sourness of red wine vinegar, piquant Dijon mustard, and salt, this nutty vinaigrette strikes a harmonious chord in fresh green salad mixed with the juiciness of grape tomatoes, licorice crunch of fennel and the creaminess of avocado. The results are gloriously addictive- full of flavour and textures, and easily a star at any gathering! What's yours?

Mixed Green Salad with Fennel and Avocado in a Burnt Almond Vinaigrette

And hey, just by showing us your seasonal fruit, you could win a Jamie Oliver cookbook thanks to HarperCollins Canada!

How To Enter:

Show us your salad! Snap a photo of your seasonal salads and tell us a little bit about what you made and how.

You MUST use the hashtag #CookwithFoodRevTO AND tag us on FB, or at @FoodRevToronto on Twitter or Instagram. That's it! Then you'll be entered to win a cookbook!

Eligibility and Contest Rules:

– Contest begins on August 1st 2017 at 6am EST on and closes August 31st 2017 at 6pm EST.
– Prize consists of one (1) Jamie Oliver cookbook
– Open to readers of the age of majority with a Canadian mailing address.
– No purchase of any product necessary for entry.
– Winner will be chosen randomly (using random.org) from all qualified entries on August 31st 2017 after 6pm EST.
– Winner will be notified via email September 1st 2017 and will have 48 hours to respond to the email.
– Winner will be required to answer a skill testing question.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Beer's History and Toronto's Rorschach Brewery...

If Water is Mother Nature's fuel, then Beer must be Mother Nature's Rocket fuel!

"When men learned how to cultivate, cook and consume grains, we went from cave-dwelling savages to upright citizens."-- National Geographic's film EAT: The Story of Food.

"Who'd knew that when you put together grain, water and a bit of yeast, you can create this fermented alcoholic beverage that is absolutely delicious?"-- Chef Eric Greenspan

30,000 years ago we discovered how to cultivate, cook and consume grains. But what came first- Bread or Beer? According to the doc film- Eat: The Story of Food, bread has artifacts that date back to 30,000 years but none show when beer was actually born. We do know that the earliest recipe for beer came from Mesopotamia, and that in Ancient Egypt, pyramid labourers were paid in beer. Since beer is high in calories, it was an excellent energy drink to keep workers going. The Egyptians were one of the earliest civilizations to brew beer and the large breweries produced as many as 30,000 barrels a year.

Once the ancient food systems switched to agriculture, grains like barley, millet, corn and wheat were made into beer. Additionally, beer was seen as the drink of the common man because it could be made anywhere – it became a moveable feast if you will. Europe was the epicentre of great beer-making but in the US beer varieties were very limited. Further, after the prohibition in the 1920s, it became very hard to find good beer. The trend became to please more people akin to what was happening in the food packaging market. Thus, the flavours were bland and developed to meet the tastes of the masses. They appealed to the lowest common denominator. Put another way, the beer lacked quality. By the 1990s in the US, many microbreweries were springing up in basements and back rooms. More recently, especially over the last 30 years, the renaissance of craft beer has exploded in North America and has even transformed our Ontario beverage landscape. For example, there are now over three hundred breweries all over this great province. The diversity of craft beers, that we now enjoy, is unprecedented in history and ranges from humble to bedazzling. So much so, that the number has now increased by over 100 new breweries in comparison to last year. This explosion in growth is researched and well documented in The Ontario Craft Beer Guide. by Leblanc & St. John who came out with their second edition of the book a few months ago.

Launched just shy of the 2017 publication of The Ontario Craft Beer Guide, we will be sure to find our very own Toronto's Rorschach Brewing Co. in the third edition. Rorschach’s story began in 2006 when three soon-to-become chemical engineers, Matthew Reiner, Chris Ristevski and Mohan Pandit met each other in the halls of the Wallburg building at the University of Toronto. With a joint passion for beer-making, they set up shop in Matthew’s basement studying the magic of fermentation. Extensive travels to research beer-making coupled with countless beer tastings in the years to come and crossing paths with Ben Ragan - a seasoned wine and beer maker - Rorschach Brewing Company was born. Pronounced "ror-shack", the name comes from a psychological test that dates back to the mid-1800s where ambiguous symmetrical inkblots were used to examine a person’s personality and emotions. The foundation of the test shows that each individual can appreciate the ambiguity and complexity of an experience according to their own ‘perceptual set’. 

"Beer, just like food, is a personal experience; no two people’s tastes are exactly the same. Our goal is to facilitate and enhance that experience, and ultimately help to elevate the beer experience."-- Rorschach

Much of the space is decorated with salvaged wood and material.

My family was invited to the brewery by co-owner Mohan Pandit's uncle Nick. Nick and I met at a grocery store a few years back (he was also my guest blogger with his delicious Apple Chickpea Salad recipe). He had just conducted a health & safety orientation with the brewery's staff and wanted me to come check out the goods and enjoy a behind-the-scenes tour with the kids. But first a Sunday romp across the street at the Ashbridges Farmers' Market. It had such a warm, friendly neighbourhood vibe for families, friends and just hanging out.

Fresh, delicious harvest and homemade goods and foods!

The building is the amalgamation of three distinct structures, beginning with the front of the building which is the
original brick home built in 1917. An extension was built onto the rear of property and used for boat building from 1932
until the mid 1950s. The warehouse that was built in 1970 was adjoined with the existing two buildings in 2008.

Photo Credit: Rorschach Brewery Co.
From left to right: Co-Owners Mohan, Matthew and Chris and Manager Ben 

4oz. tasters were the way to go with so many to choose from on tap. The full sensory notes described for each one made it that much harder to select a few. We went for a range of light and dark beer.

Enjoying the experience on the patio with the crew.

My twins enjoying some handcrafted sodas in silver birch beer and old tyme orange!

My favourite of the lot was the "counterconditioning" blueberry IPA brewed with oats and hopped with mosaic, citra and ekunot hops, fresh blueberry puree, notes of blueberry, red fruit, citrus and pine, hints of vanilla and stone fruit.... smooth, light-bodied, flavourful to the nose and tongue, and refreshingly enjoyable to the finish!

Love the gorgeous spacious rooftop patio and family-friendly atmosphere!

What's beer without some munchies... A nice selection of tapas-sharing plates, we noshed on nachos with pico de gallo and guac, fried calamari (nice touch with the fried pickled hot pepper rings), fries, battered-fried eggplant spears (Omgosh so deelish), and jerk-rubbed chicken wings!

We had a nice surprise meeting with the previous owners of the location, and proprietors of Le Papillon on the Park, Paul and Danielle Bigue, who stopped in for some food and drinks.

My French-speaking husband having a nice French conversation :D. 

The tour begins....  Here the refrigerated kegs of beer are hooked up with tubes that snake up to the rooftop patio's bar to serve beer from their taps.

And it all starts with the grains... 
The stuff of our foods that is the most basic, and everything is celebrated from that simplicity! 
Bread, pizza, pasta, beer...

Nolan was our awesome, very knowledgeable and friendly behind-the-scenes tour guide....

Photo Credits: Nick Pandit

Giant hectolitre tanks fill the back space connected to the casual restaurant in front.

The beer-making process is very technical and labourous that takes days from brewing to bottling. Chefs of beer see grains as the canvas, and then paint with herbs, hops and other ingredients to add flavour and build character.

The mega-bottling machine.

They are looking forward to growing their own herbs, vegetables and flowers on their rooftop garden for the brewery. A huge plus is they have a large free parking lot right beside their building! 
Check them out this summer: https://www.rorschachbrewing.com/

"As a small brewery and tasting room, we intend to experiment with different brewing styles, unique ingredients and innovative techniques, but we will always have a heavy focus on the specific styles of beer that we enjoy to brew and drink. We strive to craft beers that are both full of flavour and make us want to have another." -- Rorschach Brewery Co.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Sautéed Escargots and Mushrooms in Butter, White Wine and Garlic...

We can all agree the classic combination of butter, white wine and garlic equals ridiculous deliciousness! But mesh two ingredients best served in this intoxication, and you've got eyes-rolled-back-of-head Heaven BOMB for your senses! Mushrooms check, escargots, check check! Tickled-fancy by an instagram post by @passionate.cook with their escargots and mushroom caps, sautéed with a little garlic, fresh herbs and topped over crispy baguette, I held back my drool and bolted out to the store. Not only did I make my own rendition with oyster and shiitake mushrooms, I made up a large batch that doubled up as a sauce over pasta (with diced tomatoes). An appie and a dish to enjoy my meal from beginning to end :D.

Escargots and mixed mushrooms over red pepper sundried tomato ciabatta. 

Sautéed Escargots and Mushrooms in Butter, White Wine and Garlic

2 tsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. butter

2 to 3 garlic cloves, minced
mixed mushrooms (I used oyster and shiitake (cleaned and stripped/sliced))
2 cans escargot, drained, rinsed and well-drained (about 36-40 snails)
1/3 cup white wine

a squeeze of lemon juice
salt and ground black pepper to taste
parsley, chopped
1 baquette, sliced and toasted

For the pasta:
2 ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 pkg. pasta (I used fresh linguine), cooked according to package instructions

Ingredients for the pasta sauce-- just add tomatoes!

Heat olive oil and butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté garlic until fragrant and soft. Add the mushrooms and cook for one minute while sautéing. Add the escargots, and cook for about another minute. Then finish with white wine and let simmer for another minute; splash with a squeeze of lemon juice then season with salt and pepper. Toss in parsley.

The harmonic aroma of garlic and white wine is intoxicating!

Scrumptious bite of soft yielding mushrooms and escargots over crunchy toasted bread.

Now for the pasta: move the escargots over in the skillet, add a little olive oil and sauté the tomatoes for a minute until soft. Mix it with the escargot and mushrooms, toss in more parsley and you've got a sumptuous sauce for pasta.

Looks so French and Italian at the same time... Oooh la la! :D

The dish that started it all with my love for plump canned snails-- Escargots au beurre d'ail, a popular French appetizer of snails in garlic butter baked in a six pocket ceramic dish. Yum!