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Thursday, 30 June 2011

Lebanese Stew Series - Fasoulia (Beans)

First Loubieh (green beans) stew was blogged, then Bamieh (okra) and today is Fasoulia (beans) - by far my favourite Lebanese stew.

The picture above shows three key parts of this stew: (a) the stewing beef cooking in their own fat on low heat; (b) the beans boiling away until cooked; and (c) the lovely new arctic mint counters as picture border.

Once the meat and beans are cooked, mix together, add a large can of tomato sauce, salt, pepper and Alleyeh (see Lebanese Stew Series for recipe), cook for 20 minutes and it is ready to eat.

As mentioned in previous entries in the series, Lebanese stews are served with one of two types of rice: plain white long grain rice (not Basmati rice) or white long grain rice with vermicelli. Fasoulia stew is definitely a vermicelli rice stew. A sprinkle of lemon juice goes very nicely with this stew. Try it and enjoy.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Memories of New Orleans

At the end of the French Quarter in New Orleans, right on the river, is the most charming little old cafe, Cafe Du Monde.

They mainly serve coffee and those decadent beignets - hot, fried and covered with sugar. 

Memories of sitting on the river bank, keeping an eye on snakes and enjoying those beignets came rushing back at, out of all places, St. Louis Airport.

There, at a small souvenir stand, was a box of Cafe Du Monde Beignet Mix. How could I resist specially that I have not seen them in Vancouver before.

And this afternoon, it was time to try them. 

The instructions on the box are pretty easy and straight forward, listed in un, deux, trois, quatre steps. The key trick is to have the oil very hot prior to frying. Preparing a dozen of them from un to quatre took only 17 minutes, including sprinkling the icing sugar.

Now anyone can name a better after work, pre dinner snack???

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Working on the Beach

As part of my job today, I "had" to attend a campaign launch at English Bay beach. 

Conveniently, the event was taking place mid-day, so eating along the way was in order.

An Iranian (Mediterranean Grill), Iraqi (Babylon Cafe) and Lebanese (Falafel and Friends) restaurants lined up Denman Street on way to the beach.

Despite bias to Lebanese, I could not trust a place called Falafel and Friends. I knew Babylon Cafe from another location and think they have the best lamb shawarma in the city, so in we went.

By then, the temperature was 25 degrees including the Humidex factor so it was ideal to hang out on the sand and enjoy a humongous platter of shawarma; with pita, humus, potatoes, salad and pickles. Yum!

Did the networking, met the people I needed to meet, checked out the promotional activities and it was time to walk back to the office.

But a sign promoting Dairy Queen's Blizzard of the Month stalked me - Brownie Batter. How can one resist. I think I burnt enough calories walking back to the office and working the rest of the day.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Tasty Logo

A perfect natural rendition of the Ipsos logo, on an... apple. Yes, they are edible. Yes, they are safe. Yes, there are no chemicals involved and Yes, they are delicious.

You know all those useless stuff you collect at conferences? pens, notepads, mints, golf balls? Well Ipsos does something different and gives out apples. They may not last as long as a pen, but definitely more lasting in your taste memory.  And best of all, leftovers from conferences are thoroughly enjoyed as an afternoon snack in the office.

How is this done? Ask Raven Ridge Cidery in the Okanagan. The process was explained to me several times, but my grasp of biology and chemistry is not the strongest. Something to the effect of apples covered with special bags as they grow to remain white. The bags are then removed and the logo stenciled on each apple, and... the sun does the rest.

Now I wonder how Ipsos can replicate the logo on an apple in the original logo's colours?

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Cooking with Jardin Crop on New Counters

Three and a half months since the beginning of the transition of somerville kitchen (see March 15 entry), the new counters are in. Given they are Arctic Mint Corian counters (see small box in top right hand corner), initiating them with mint was in order.

Down the stairs to the freezer to find out what meat I have to go with mint. Lamb shanks of course. I rubbed the lamb shanks with olive oil, salt, pepper and a mixture of crushed mint and rosemary. Browned in olive oil for five minutes and in a 425 stove they went to roast for 45 minutes.

Now what to serve with those? Back to the jardin to see what is ready to harvest. More mint, parsley, chives, chard and baby beats - all looked beautiful against the new counters.

The chives, chard, parsley, and mint were chopped up and fried in olive oil until wilted. They were sprinkled with fresh jardin lemon grind and cashew nuts (just because they were handy). The taste of cooked mint was a pleasant surprise and added a sweetness to the chard that no other herb would have accomplished. 

Yesterday, talking about childhood memories, I learned about this recipe - just saute baby beats as a whole, with stems and leaves, in butter. It worked well. The beats were not as sweet as I would have liked them, but the stems and leaves cooked very nicely and tasted heavenly.

And all was enjoyed on the picnic table in le jardin on the sixth day of summer.

Thank you Jardin for your bountiful crops.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

The World In Your Kitchen - June

One more recipe from this calendar (see the previous ones in each of JanuaryFebruary and April).

This recipe claims to be Tunisian Tagine, or eggeh - a kind of Tunisian omelet that is very different from the Moroccan Tagine. 

Given ingredients and taste, I am not sure this is really authentic.

It is basically a baked omelet where the base is a mixture of tomatoes, bread crumbs, beans and the (cynically said) very authentic Tunisian monterey jack cheese. Beaten eggs are added on top and then baked.

It tasted nice enough, but is it really Tunisian? My stats show at least three Tunisians visiting the blog regularly. If you are reading this, I'd love to hear your thoughts, or even better, receive a more authentic recipe for this ( The calendar's recipe is below for those inclined to try it.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Alf Jazeera Dressing

Tonight I experimented with Alf Jazeera dressing. For those who understand Arabic, you'd pick up on where this is going. For all others, well find an internet translator.

I started by mixing lots of mayonnaise with some ketchup and pickle juice. I then chopped a couple of pickles into tiny chunks and thrown them in.

Almost there, but not pinkish enough. 

So I added a bit more ketchup, a touch of red chilli sauce, more pickle juice, a drop of hot sauce and a tsp of sugar.

And voila, Alf Jazeera dressing looking identical but tasting better than any store bought bottle.

Enjoyed over jardin lettuce - nice!

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Thai Tonight

For years I have been hearing great reviews of Sawasdee Thai Restaurant. And now that I tried it, I can confirm all I have heard is definitely true.

Operated by owners, Sawasdee offers quality food, great service and relaxing ambiance.

Of course, Phad Thai was ordered - the freshness of the sauce was a striking difference from the ketchup tasting sauces elsewhere.

Cho Muang - dumplings filled with chicken and spices and fried to a great crisp - kicked off the feasting along with a variety of satays served with the most tasting marinated cucumbers.

This was followed by Tofu Tord - deep fried tofu served with a peanut-cilantro house sauce to die for. There were so many of them in the order, which were consumed so rapidly. Alongside was one of the specials which is simply stir fried bean sprouts; simple yet delicious.

The garlic beef was addictive - a must order. Thin sliced beef marinated and pan fried with garlic and lots of black pepper. And of course, an order of chicken curry in red Thai curry sauce served with a truly aromatic jasmine rice.

Sawasdee Thai on UrbanspoonA must try on Main St.

Sawasdee Thai Restaurant
4250 Main Street
Vancouver, BC

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Summer with Halloom Sails and Banana Boats

Yesterday, summer solstice BBQ launched two new somerville kitchen summer treats - Halloom Sails and Banana Boats.

Halloom Sails

Everybody loves Halloom. Halloom is a Lebanese and Cypriot white cheese that BBQs extremely well.

There are three versions of it that we get in Vancouver - a Cypriot one, a Lebanese one and a made-in-Canada Phoenicia brand. The Lebanese ones, particularly those imported from Lebanon, are to use for Halloom Sails.

Halloom Sails are Halloom Pita Toasties - simply cut the pita bread into small pockets (1/8 of a loaf) and stuff them with a slice of Halloom cheese. Do not add anything else - no lemon, no oil, no garlic, no other flavour enhancement - trust me on this.

Throw them on a hot grill, 30 seconds or less on each side, and eat them hot. Make sure you make lots because everyone loves Halloom. 

In fact, those who tried it are talking about  launching a Halloom Sails fan club!

Banana Boats

I personally have never heard of Banana Boats until one of my summer solstice BBQ guests brought (made) them for dessert. 

Cut a banana in half, stuff it with pieces of your favourite chocolate bar, throw on it some nuts, brown sugar, even marshmallows and wrap in foil paper. 

One banana per guest, put them right on top of the hot coals when the coals turn white and leave them to simmer and cook.

The female guests around the table seemed to relate well to Banana Boats given that those have been a regular activity for girl guides.

Forty minutes or so later, they were ready. Just open the foil paper and enjoy a sweet, decedent, melting sugar and chocolate over bananas dessert.

Welcoming summer at somerville kitchen was fun. Welcoming any other fun summer BBQ ideas at


Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Happy Birthday Young Man

Thirteen years ago, the world welcomed summer the same time it welcomed a beautiful little boy.

Today, the little boy turns into a young man. His daddy made him a special vanilla cake.

The cake had thirteen candles, thirteen blueberries, thirteen strawberries and thirteen peach slices. I hear it was delicious.

Happy Birthday to a special young man.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Triple Red Dinner

In the mood for something different for dinner. As I opened my pantry, a bunch of red food packages stared at me, thus the triple red dinner theme.

First, a can of crushed tomatoes was used to cover a half chicken along with fresh jardin marjoram. The chicken was thrown into the oven to braise slowly on low heat.
Then a package of equita whole jasmine red rice from Thailand. You can find this at Ten Thousand Villages.

The rice took twice as long to cook as the package instructions indicated and the jasmine aspect was much weaker than typical jasmine rice. But it sure was red and was nicely consumed.

The third red was a bag of Leuchtenberg Apfel Rotkohl (available at European Specialty Importers).

These are already prepared red cabbage sauerkraut with apples. All you have to do is heat them up with a bit of butter and serve.

Put the three reds together and a fancy triple red dinner was served. How fun.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Dinner with a Centaur

Yes, I had a dinner date with a centaur (and yes, they do exist).

And to impress, I found this great cookbook called The Centaur's Kitchen.  

It is the most fun cookbook I have come across in a long time and I highly recommend it to cooks and non-cooks, humans and centaurs. And you can support somerville kitchen by clicking on this amazon link and buying it via my distribution contract with amazon.

The way I see this book is advice on how to cook stuff with recipes thrown in as examples. Here is how I put it to the test.

Roast Chicken (page 107)
According to this book, best to roast a chicken on its side rather than on its back, and turning it around half way through cooking (which I did and I think it worked).

Another hint is to rub the chicken with salt inside and out, put one twig of rosemary or thyme (I have both in le jardin so I put one of each) and a garlic clove inside it.

Author also suggests reducing oven temperature when the butter starts to sizzle and then cook it on low heat, 15 minutes per pound. The author does not include any oven temperatures in the book, so I started it at 350 and dropped it to 325.

Later, one of the most delicious roasted chicken came out of the oven. I rated it as 9.5 out of 10.

Spinach a la Catalane (page 82)

This sounded good and thought it worked well with roasted chicken. This starts with frying pine nuts and raisins in olive oil until, quoting the author, the raisins swell. Then add the spinach until they welt and change colour. Salt and pepper is all the flavour you need. Another 9.5 out of 10. 

I think you'd see more from this book over the next few months. Stay tuned and keep an eye on a centaur roaming your neighbourhood.