Friday, August 27, 2010

Red Prawn And Mango Curry

Every so often -- generally in fall and winter -- I get a mean hankering for a thick, spicy curry. With the cooler weather we've had this week, it definitely feels as though autumn is just around the corner, and my body was craving stick-to-the-ribs comfort food.

A while ago I swapped cookbooks with one of my girlfriends -- I lent her two of my Giadas (Everyday Italian, Giada's Family Dinners) and she lent me one of her Nigellas, Nigella Express, recommending a few of the recipes inside including the Red Prawn and Mango Curry. Taking a look at the ingredients, which included cubed butternut squash and sweet potato, I decided I didn't want quite as much starch -- it is still August, after all -- so I subbed in zucchini, red pepper, and sugar snap peas. And rather than fresh coriander as the garnish, I finished the dish with whole basil leaves snipped from my balcony pots (Why buy herbs when you can use what you already have on hand?).

Monday, August 23, 2010

Wild Rice Salad

I was chatting recently with Alison Fryer, owner of The Cookbook Store in Toronto, about new and hot cookbooks and she mentioned a pair of titles by British chef Yotam Ottolenghi. I confess I hadn't heard of him before, but flipping through the two books (Ottolenghi: The Cookbook, and most recently Plenty) I was intrigued by what I saw -- Mediterranean- and Middle Eastern-influenced dishes with vibrant flavours such as chili, lemon, pomegranate, pistachio. Many of the dishes vegetarian. I wanted to buy both, then and there, but then I thought about my borderline-ridiculous collection of cookbooks at home and decided against it.

Instead, I went online and found two sources of Ottolenghi recipes -- the official site and the Guardian UK which features a weekly column by the man himself entitled The New Vegetarian. Jackpot! I decided I'd try out a few of his recipes first before considering buying one of his books. I started with a bulgur salad called Kisir (bottom photo), a traditional Turkish side dish made with tomato paste, parsley and spices. I'd seen it described in a few places as a spicier version of tabbouleh. This particular recipe called for pomegranates and mint, and though I subbed chopped up raspberries for the not-in-season pomegranate seeds it turned out fabulously. Filling, hearty and full of flavour.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Jams And Jars: Peach Jam

Anyone who knows me knows I have a bit of a jam addiction. At any given time I have five or six varieties in my fridge, and I'd just as soon serve it over ice cream, with cheese and crackers, or whisk it into a sauce or marinade as spread it on toast.

My favourite jam is apricot, not only for its taste but its versatility, and I'd planned to make a big batch of it this year to see me through the fall and winter. Sadly, apricot season passed me by before I had a chance to do much with them -- one galette was all she wrote.

So, we entered peach season, and once I saw the lovely Red Havens on display I knew they'd make a fabulous preserve. One of my foodie friends agreed, so we set aside a Sunday afternoon to whip up a few batches. (When you're going to the trouble of making jam, why not make a whole whack of it, right?)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Plum Cake

When I saw the baskets full of perfectly ripe plums at Brick Works farmers' market this weekend, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with them -- bake them into Dorie Greenspan's Dimply Plum Cake, from her tome Baking: From My Home To Yours.

Let me count the ways in which I love this cake: 1) It's way easy to prepare; 2) It bakes up beautifully, the batter rising up around the plum halves and transforming into a deep golden brown; and 3) It's delicious.

I also saw this recipe not too long ago on the excellent Smitten Kitchen, and took a cue from it in subbing cinnamon for cardamom. It's not that I don't enjoy cardamom -- in the right recipe (savoury or sweet) it can be wonderful. But cinnamon and plums is, quite simply, a divine combination.