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Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Italian Australian Style

Craving Italian, hungry for variety and new eating experience, I pulled up Italian Cookbook No. 2.

I should have known better than have faith in a cookbook with such a generic name, no author and published by The Australian Women's Weekly Home Library - nothing could be further apart than those two countries.

And to intensify the weirdness, a dish that I have never seen or heard of before - Fettuccine with Italian Sausages and Olives - was attempted.

Here's how the adventure went.

You couldn't dream of better ingredients for dinner - pasta with hot Italian sausages, lots of mushrooms, fresh Asiago cheese, garlic.

I started following the recipe by cooking the sausages.

More promising flavours poured in.

Parsley, orange zest, olives - this is bound to be good...until it was time to add 300 ml cream and cook until it was reduced to a third.

More like reduced to no sauce and no flavour.

At this point, I gave up on the Australians' approach to cooking Italian, pulled out a can of Italian tomato paste, prepared a thick sauce and added it to the pot.

And hope there was as I got more excited about my meal. I chopped off some jardin lettuce and made a mock caesar salad (no eggs - just lots of lemon, oil and garlic).

Time for the litmus taste - tasting my production.

No matter how much asiago cheese I added, the dish was simply tasteless.

But I am glad of my delicious jardin lettuce salad - kept the hunger away and the dinner healthier.

Anyone wants this cookbook?


Monday, 30 July 2012

Amira Helweh

On a flying carpet from the far far east lands a beautiful princess bearing gifts and beauty to somerville kitchen.

Jardin made space for the flying carpet to drop its goodies.

What are those you ask? 

Dried orange blossom petals that can be dehydrated and soaked to yield one of the most potent orange blossom water in the developed world. 

If you cannot read the Persian on the package, see the English translation above.

Worth their weight in gold, and probably cost more than gold these days - authentic saffron from its original land.

The jardin had its share of goodies from abroad (or are those for the cats?).

Beautiful metal crafted love birds looking for their special jardin corner to build a home and spread love and peace in the world.

The food started pouring off the flying carpet with this most uniquely flavoured crackling egg yolk cookie.

It is flavoured with saffron and cardamom and sprinkled with sugar and almond, an oriental treat at its best.

There were savoury treats too - addictive zaatar bread sticks.

But nothing beats oriental sweets, specially a large box of Persian naughat that is waiting for a special occasion to be invaded.

And the special treat is an out-of-this-world hand-crafted and painted plate - you look into it and get transported to the streets of Iran bustling with talented artists delicately creating such beauty.

Thank you ya Amira Helweh.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

And More Chinese Food

Hungry wakes with pancake and bacon cravings was interrupted with a brief email saying "Mom says Nong at Granville & 41st has good dim sum".

I trust mom. Pancake and bacon cravings turned to pork buns cravings.

Not a large dim sum menu, but helpful women dressed elegantly in black explained some dishes and helped us choose.

Their presentation of sauces was elegant, a good sign.

The spicy wonton was not as crazy hot as how I have had it at other places.

Tiny freshly made wontons soaked in a thick hot sauce that ended up as dipping sauce for other items on the table.

The request for Gai lan with no garlic was not questioned. 

They were fresh as well (which seems to be the trend for all that came to the table - freshness).

The sesame pork cakes were a dim sum novelty for me.

Freshly backed pockets that you stuff with a simple ground pork mixture and enjoy. 

Those were my favourites. But the place failed on the Shanghai Dumplings.

Described as dumplings with soup in them, which I had fond memories of from San Francisco dim sum adventure.

However, the soup seemed to have been soaked by the filling or the dough and they were dry and tasteless.
But with good service, reasonable price and food that was fresh, they were forgiven.

I will probably go back to Nong again - at least it opens early and there are no line ups.

Nong Chinese Restaurant
5701 Granville Street (Basement)
Vancouver, BC
Nong Chinese Restaurant on Urbanspoon 

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Fraser Street Chinese Food - Restaurant 2

While yesterday's Fraser Street Chinese Food Restaurant came to somerville kitchen, tonight somerville kitchen was invited by one amazing 90 year old to her favourite Chinese restaurant.

A beautiful spread was ordered by our most gracious hostess, with many of her favourite dishes.

As I understand it, the Cashew Nut Chicken (in middle of picture) is the real favourite.

But due to a communication breakdown that we were waiting for another guest (and despite the order put in), the restaurant staff was peeling garlic for an hour as we were (or thought we were) waiting for our food.

The Pork Lettuce Wraps, first to arrive, redeemed the hunger wait time issue very quickly.

The lettuce fresh, the noodles crispy, the meat tasty - those were really good lettuce wraps.

And I am so glad they were good because some of us were so hungry that they were willing to devour the beautiful piece of art drawn in oyster sauce using chop sticks.

But now the platters were flowing.

The Spicy Green Beans were not extremely spicy, but tasty enough. 

But I do remain perplexed (and I should have asked our hostess) whether there was meat in this dish or not.

But wait, the feasting is not over. More platters kept on showing up.

Another hostess' favourite are the Crispy Rice with Assortment of Sea Food. She asked for them to come separate, which is highly recommended.

The crunchy rice (more like what is stuck to the bottom of a pan) had a nice texture.

It sizzled as one poured the sauce on top of it. The combination was tasty and the platter disappeared very quickly.

And no Chinese feasting is complete without Chow Mein with Beef and Red Bean Sauce.

Noodles crunchy, and unlike yesterday's restaurant experience, you could taste the red bean sauce.

Sunlock Garden Restaurant
4298 Fraser Street
Vancouver, BC

 Sunlock Garden Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Thank you Mary of the Prairies - We look forward to your next visit.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Fraser Street Chinese Food - Restaurant 1

Two Fraser Street Chinese restaurants were discovered this weekend.

The first one came to somerville kitchen for a jardin picnic and it is called Grand View Szechuan.

I heard raving reviews about this restaurant from a neighbour. They deliver for free and it was that kind of night.

Well, the food did not violate any of my principles for good Chinese food.

The Vegetarian Mu Shu was excellent.

Vegetables were varied and don't expect me to tell you what they were. But they were nicely cooked and nicely thickened that you'd think there is meat in them.

The restaurant has a large selection of vegetarian dishes. 

The Pan Fried Assorted Vegetables with Black Bean Sauce felt like they were missing the black bean sauce.

On the other hand, the Fried Tofu & Eggplant in Hot Garlic Sauce was delicious.

I am not sure what is the base of the sauce. It is red, spicy, and the fried tofu, despite soaked in sauce, kept a nice texture.

Maybe I should have stuck to vegetarian. The Mongolian Beef was mediocre.

But the menu is large and many other meat dishes have potential for the next order, which I am definite will happen.

Grand View Szechuan Restaurant
4181 Fraser Street
Vancouver, BC

Grand View Szechuan on Urbanspoon  

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Heat Wave Resistance Cooking

Our temperatures may not qualify as heat waves for most of the world. 

But at somerville kitchen, sunny days with over 20 degrees make the cat hide in the shade.

When the sun is shining, the house temperature hits 4.463 degrees above outside temperature. Turning the stove on takes it up another 1.325 degrees with every half an hour of cooking. Baking generates an incremental 2.012 degrees (figures are based on a two-year temperature tracking study; data available upon request).

To tackle this, somerville kitchen moves to the jardin on those hot days. A small stove top gets set up. If baking is required, the toaster oven will join it. With running water everywhere, now I have a full functioning kitchen all outdoors.

You may be asking why should i worry about washing vegetables outside - would running water heat up the house if done inside?

No, it is more a matter of a wacky cooking experience - all outdoors.

So vegetables get washed with the watering hose (and it gets used to fill up the pot to boil water in).

The picnic table turns into a counter top. Chop chop hear the neighbours and I am all set to start making my pasta dinner with vegetable sauce 100% outdoors.

And there you have it - when the heat hits, run for the closest jardin. Eat like a king (or queen) and keep the house, on average, 6.492 degrees lower than by cooking indoors.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012


A month ago, and on a Wednesday, I had a very varied and fun eating on the job day (Read Eating on the Job). Today it was another one of those Wednesdays.

8:30 am Meeting - Full Breakfast

10:30 am Meeting - Delicious blueberry square scones

Noon Meeting - A choice of 8 sandwiches (mine was albacore tuna)

2:00 pm Meeting - Virgin Margaritas for the Designated Driver

8:00 pm Meeting with my Business Consultant and with my Administrative Assistant

8:30 pm Home made blueberry milkshake with my Graphic Designer