Sunday, March 29, 2009

p is for pastelle

And for Mrs. P, who makes these Trinidadian goodies by hand every Christmas. Mrs. P is the mom of one of my oldest girlfriends, and their family holiday festivities are pretty legendary, partly due to an eye-popping, kilowatt-clearing, epic sparkly tree, but also for the insanely good Newfie - West Indian (mom and dad, respectively) spread that us, the lucky Invited, are always thrilled to share in.

There's always the turkey (I believe two sometimes, done on the barbeque) and stuffing, ham with an assortment of honey/spicy mustards, scalloped potatoes, freshly made white bread and the absolute, hands-down best best best bean salad ever, served along with many glasses of Mr. P's ron (rum and coke) and pina coladas. Then there's jerk pork and chicken, sometimes homemade jerk sausage, spicy cucumber salad and little unassuming jars of addictive scotch bonnet sauce that will burn your face off and make you swear like a sailor before you reach for another (tiny) spoonful. And for dessert, a generous slice of my favourite, super moist coffee cake, with its crunchy topping of cinnamon and brown sugar...

But the pastelles are special, a little different and another thing altogether. I guess it's because our family always comes over on Christmas Eve, and the Ps usually serve them on Christmas Day. If we were lucky, we'd get a sneak preview (and luckier still, a taste test) of these elusive steamed treats, with their almost tamale-like setup using cornmeal dough and spicy, highly seasoned meat filling.

We were indeed lucky to score some extra (no such thing, really, but Mrs. P sure is generous to us greedy eaters) pastelles this year, and greedy eaters though we usually are, this time we actually exercised enough willpower to save them, wrapped, frozen and waiting, until such a time as when we could properly (post-holiday, post-resolution, post-winter blahs), and pleasurably, enjoy these special homemade Trinidadian treats.

A day like today, actually.


Our frozen grab bag. Inside is a kind of cornmeal flour dough, flattened and wrapped around spicy, meaty goodness. To shape them, Mrs. P would then wrap the patty-like bundles in plastic wrap before a layer of tin foil (easier to find here than banana or fig leaves).


We were instructed to boil them for about half an hour.


And impatiently, timer done, I unwrapped mine, scalding my fingers a bit, but not enough to slow me down...


No need for sauces or fancy plating, this is perfect just as is.


The dough is tender and yielding, having soaked up some of the spicy beef flavour from the filling...


Mmmm, and just like that, they were gone! Only eight more months 'til we meet again...

Friday, March 27, 2009

comfort food #4

For those early spring nights that still have a bit of a chill, nothing beats a good dinner of soon dubu chigae, Korean soft tofu stew. Armed with a steamy bowl of this kimchi and chili paste-laced goodness, I (almost) wish that warmer weather would stay away just a teeny bit longer...

cold seaweed salad with sesame and chili

We picked up the banchan, little side dishes, at PAT Central supermarket on Bloor West. I love bringing home these handy premade snacks and picking at them straight from the containers. The green seaweed salad is my favourite, as I'm a sucker for (almost) anything tossed with toasted sesame oil and a bit o' chili. A few more that we picked up this time:

mmm peanuts, seasoned with a bit of sugar and itty bitty dried fish

nori salad

Sometimes I like to mix bits of this one (toasty, slightly sweet and pleasingly chewy) in with my rice. It makes my bowl look a bit dirty, but eh, I'm down with the rustic vibe.

The Stew

Of course, my favourite part about eating this (other than the slurp, slurp, slurp-ing) is the moment of the Yolk Poke. I think you're pretty much guaranteed a satisfying meal when it involves the Poke. Oh eggs, how I love you so!


I'm pretty sure we had some steamed rice with this somewhere...I do know that this picture lasted about two seconds before we dug in and destroyed it all....

Thursday, March 26, 2009

happy days #8


Ain't. No. Half. Steppin'...

happy days #7

Or, Wanda's Pie in the Sky and Other Adventures...

D and I like to walk down through Kensington Market and Chinatown at least once a week, mostly for fresh veggies, cheese and the occasional fish or two. This past weekend was especially nice and sunny, perfect for taking the little plastic camera out for a stroll.


First stop, Wanda's Pie in the Sky. Plenty of eager sidewalk coffee drinkers outside, soaking up the first spring sun.


Blueberry, apple and strawberry rhubarb, oh my!


I like that there's a large communal table inside to spread out the weekend comics.


The view from Spadina and St. Andrew.


My favourite lunchtime treat, especially when I get to meet my mom and we head on over to our fave spot for two small "everything, everything" noodles and iced coffees.


I'd need to feel especially brave to pick through these massive buckets of pickled veg. They are so tasty, it's kinda worth it...


Back in the Market, a stand for fresh squeezed/pressed/spun juice.


Good Egg is pretty much my favourite store in the whole wide world. I wish I had an entire glamourous, sunny East Wing (oh East Egg!) in my pretend future house with this shop plunked down right in the middle of it. I could la-dee-da my afternoons away, reading fabulous books about food and travel and gardening, with a happy little soup simmering away in a mini orange Le Creuset pot...


Window display at Good Egg.


Homeward bound.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

fallen angels

One of my all time favourite movies. It makes me want to run away to Hong Kong and chain smoke whilst eating soft-serve ice cream and ramen noodles...

opening scene

Our star-crossed lovers. Oh, the life of an assassin and his partner...


I love that saturated, dream-like we're watching a scene shot in an aquarium.


Hong Kong, spooky and still sometimes silly at night.


And the food, I like how it appears everywhere...



Our adorable misfit, rendered mute from eating a can of expired pineapple.









I couldn't get this scene out of my head the first time I saw it.

Our lady smokes and eats her noodles at the same time, while a gang fight breaks out behind her.





Saturday, March 21, 2009

a touch of...



Pretty Grace, as seen through dreamy rose-coloured glasses.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

comfort food #3

Just call me Garfield. Lasagna, I am your slave.






Thursday, March 5, 2009

in the kitchen: halibut

Sometimes we're so busy at work, I forget just how pretty and of course, tasty, some of our plates are. I recently had the chance to stop and smell the um, beurre blanc, and snap a quickie from the fish station.


Slow roasted halibut, roasted carrots (yellow, white, purple and sweet Nantes), beurre blanc, radish and chervil.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Happy (belated) Year of the Ox

Ok, ok, so I'm a bit (ok, a lot) belated, but here's wishing you gung hei fat choy - a very Happy Chinese New Year to you! With it being the Year of the Ox and all, I was feeling all inspired to celebrate with the obvious little play. So here it is (or was, rather) my happy dinner that helped ring in that happy new year, Chinese-style brasied oxtail.


A little flour dusting, then off to sear until nice and dark golden...


My favourite new pot. Another awesome gift from D.

So in there we've got some stock, dark and light soy, brown sugar, splash of chinese cooking wine, bits of ginger, garlic, green onion, carrot and star anise...and simmer, simmer my little dinner.

Ooh, and by the magic of tv, here's what it looked like about an hour and a half later...

Gooey, sticky, happy.

(I'm still on the brown rice kick; my fragrant-polished-white-jasmine-rice eating mom is kinda mystified about that. Whole grains, schmole grains, the asian kid has gone rogue! But I digress.)

Urm, slurpy fattiness...


It's nice to have an excuse to celebrate the oxtail. And with that new years meal under my belt, it was time to celebrate like it was 4709...