RECIPE: One-pot pasta

photo 1 (1)

Adapted from this recipe.


  • 2 cups uncooked fusilli (for 2-3 people)
  • 1.5 cups cherry tomatoes, halved 
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced 
  • 4 -5 cloves minced garlic 
  • 4-5 dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
  • 1 small bunch basil, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • coarse salt, pepper
  • 2.5 cups water*
  • 1 cup crushed tomatoes
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese


1. Soak the dried shiitake mushrooms in hot water until they’re soft – about 20 minutes – and then slice them. (You can omit these, or use fresh mushrooms, but the meaty texture of the reconstituted mushrooms is pretty great in this dish.) Don’t discard the water.

2. Put the first nine things into pot: fusilli, tomatoes, onion, garlic, chopped/reconstituted mushrooms, red pepper flakes, basil, couple swirls of olive oil, salt, pepper. (The original recipe calls for linguine, but I think fusilli works better as it holds more of the sauce and flavours. Easier to eat with the other ingredients, too.)

3. Add about three or 3.5 cups of liquid for 2 cups fusilli. The original recipe calls for water, but I used about 2 cups of the mushroom broth left over from soaking the dried shiitakes, a cup of crushed tomatoes and about half a cup more plain water. I think the crushed tomatoes give it a better texture.

4. Bring to a boil over high heat and carefully stir everything without breaking the tomatoes or pasta. When it’s at a rolling boil, turn it down just a little bit and keep watching and stirring. The thing to note here is that the pasta will be done in 10-12 minutes, and you’re trying to time it so that most of the water is gone by the time the pasta’s done. If 8-9 mins has passed and it looks like you’ve still got a ton of liquid in there, pour a little out. This would also be the time to cook anything else (such as meatballs) you want to add to the final dish.

…and that’s it. I lined a bowl with spinach and served the pasta over it. (Wilted spinach = secret vegetables.) Top with parmesan and more fresh basil. (I added crumbled bacon and meatballs.)

photo 2


RECIPE: Seafood chowder

seafood chowder

So I think I spent like $60 and four hours trying to replicate a magical seafood chowder I had for $6 at Bar Crudo in San Francisco. (Short tangent: I don’t even like chowder, or creamy soups in general, but good lawd. This soup was amazing. In my fruitless attempt to Google the recipe, I came across a number of posts from other people raving about it too. If you are ever in the area, you must try it. Doesn’t hurt that it’s part of Bar Crudo’s happy hour menu, which also includes $1 oysters and mussels.) I didn’t quite land it, but was still pretty happy with it. Shoot for the moon, right?

The recipe is below, but I should note that with all of these experimental dishes, I eyeball and most things and adjust to taste, which is really part of the joy of cooking.


- seafood of your choice. (I used lobster, mussels, smoked and fresh cod, shrimp)
– applewood smoked bacon (This is clutch! Maybe the most pronounced flavour in Bar Crudo’s.)
– 1 medium yellow onion
– 2 tbs flour
- 2 cups fish stock
- potatoes, cubed (Eyeball it!)
– 1 tsp cayenne pepper
– 1 tsp nutmeg
– between 1 and 1.5 cups milk (depending on how much seafood you add)
– 1/2 cup cream
– salt and pepper
– juice from 1 lime
– chopped fresh parsley
– bread (to serve it with)


1. Prepare whatever seafood you’re using. (i.e. scrub, de-beard and steam the mussels, remove from shell; de-shell and de-vein shrimp, cut fish into bite-sized pieces.) Set aside.

2. In a large pot, saute chopped up bacon until it looks about half done. Add chopped up onion and saute until bacon is done and onions soft.

3. Sift in flour, stir, then add the fish broth. (If you can’t find fish broth, use a mixture of vegetable broth and whatever liquids you have leftover from, say, steaming the mussels.) Be sure to scrape up any fond — that’s the brown bits of goodness stuck on the bottom of the pan — you may have from cooking the bacon.

4. When that’s boiling, add the potatoes and cover until they’re almost done.

5. Add cayenne, nutmeg, milk and cream. Simmer until this is hot and bubbling.

6. Add all seafood except for fish and cook for a few minutes. Add fish just before everything is done.

7. Season with salt, pepper and lime juice to taste. (I like to add a little lime juice to each bowl after serving.)

8. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley and serve with bread.

RECIPE: Roasted duck

Roasted duck with green beens and scalloped potatoes

Like the last recipe, roasted duck is another very easy dish to make that looks like you slaved for hours over it. I made one for Thanksgiving and it was by far the easiest dish of them all — easier than the vegetables. Because duck is so fatty, and nearly all dark meat — which is infinitely tastier than white meat — you really don’t have to do anything to make it taste good. This recipe, for a basic roasted duck, may possibly be the easiest fancypants dinner recipe ever. It will also leave you with duck fat — liquid happiness — for future dishes.


- salt
– pepper
– paprika
– a duck (a 5-6 pound duck feeds about four people, with no leftovers)


* If you bought your duck frozen, let it thaw in the fridge overnight (and possibly in the sink for a couple hours the day of, just to make sure it’s fully thawed).

1.) Preheat your oven to 375 degrees, with your oven rack in the middle

2.) Remove the giblets from inside the duck. Sometimes these will come in a neat little plastic package, sometimes they’ll be loose. Some people save these for soups and pates; I throw them away because they terrify me. Rinse the duck and pat dry with paper towels.

3.) Sprinkle salt, pepper and paprika evenly all over the entire duck

4.) Either score it (lightly cutting the skin in a diamond pattern) or poke it all over with a fork, but don’t go all the way through. You just need to pierce through the skin so the (sweeeeet, sweet) fat can escape.

5.) Put it into a roasting pan with a rack, so your duck’s not sitting directly in the pan. (If this happens, it will basically boil in its own fat. Might sound kind of tasty, but the bottom will be a soggy mess. If you don’t have a rack, you can place the duck on a bunch of carrots and nugget potatoes.)

6.) Roast it for about two hours, turning it and basting it with its own fat twice. (I did this once at the 45-minute mark and again at around 1:30.)

7.) Take the duck out and tent with foil for 10 minutes or so.

* SAVE THE FAT! This stuff is heavenly. Just strain it — a cheesecloth works well if you have one; a normal strainer if you don’t — and store it in a jar. It saves in the fridge for months. You can use it for mashed potatoes, roasted potatoes, searing meats. It’s also not as bad for you as you might think, ranking somewhere between butter and olive oil.

RECIPE: Rack of lamb

Rack of lamb, served with bacon mashed potatoes and salad with lemon and avocado

Rack of lamb is one of those dishes that sound fancy and expensive, but is actually pretty affordable and easy to make. At the store today, there were a number of frozen ones, each seven-rib package ranging from $7 to about $18. The package I picked was $13. Not quite sure of the difference.

I used this recipe, but with a few small changes.


- 1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs (or normal bread crumbs)
– 2 tbsp. minced garlic
– 2 tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary
– zest of half a lemon
– 2 tsp. salt
– 1/4 tsp. black pepper
– 4 tbsp. olive oil (I used 2 tbsp. olive oil and 2 tbsp. duck fat, simply because I had it and it’s delicious)
– 1 (7-bone) rack of lamb
– 2 tbsp. dijon mustard


* If you bought the rack frozen, let it thaw in the fridge overnight or at room temperature for several hours

1. Preheat oven to 425 F, with the oven rack in the centre position

2. On a big plate (preferably something like this, with a lot of surface space but a bit of edge) combine bread crumbs, garlic, rosemary, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and lemon zest. Toss in 2 tablespoons olive oil to moisten mixture. Set aside.

3. Season rack with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil (this is where I used duck fat instead) in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sear rack of lamb for 1 to 2 minutes on all sides. Set aside for a few minutes. Brush rack of lamb with mustard. Roll in the bread crumb mixture until evenly coated. Cover the ends of the bones with foil to prevent charring.

4. Arrange the rack bone side down on a baking sheet lined with foil and roast for 18-20 minutes. Take it out of the oven and tent it with foil for about five minutes to let all the juices absorb back in. Carve.

* For the mashed potatoes, I used two medium potatoes, a couple tablespoons of butter, salt, pepper, dried rosemary and chives, a pinch of nutmeg and 3-4 strips of bacon, cooked and crumbled.

Recipe: Baked mac ‘n’ cheese in ham cups

Pictured here with baby back ribs and garlic sauteed spinach.


- 1.5 cups elbow macaroni (uncooked)
– 2 tablespoons butter
– 2 tablespoons flour
– 1 and 1/4 cup milk
– 2.5 cups cheddar cheese, grated (You can throw some gruyere in there if you’re feeling fancy)
– 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
– 1 swirl (maybe a little less than a tablespoon) dijon mustard
– 1 teaspoon paprika
– 3/4 cup Panko bread crumbs
– 200g ham, sliced thin


1. Preheat oven to 350 C
2. Prepare macaroni according to box directions, drain and set aside
3. Melt butter over low heat, stir in flour.
4. Add milk, stirring often until thick.
5. Stir in most of the cheese — maybe just under 2 cups — leaving behind just enough to cover the tops later.
6. Stir in paprika and dijon mustard — the secrets to excellent mac ‘n’ cheese, IMO.
7. Add macaroni to the cheese sauce.
8. Lightly grease a muffin tin (or ramekins) with cooking spray and line with two slices of ham, being careful not to tear them:

Just making four here. Recipe should yield six.

9. Carefully spoon the mac ‘n’ cheese into the cups:

10. Top with cheese, Panko breadcrumbs and paprika:

11. Bake for about 20 minutes, checking frequently for darkened edges around the 15-20 minute mark.

12. When they’re ready, let them cool for five or 10 minutes. Garnish with fresh chopped chives if you want ‘em looking pretty.

I made these and served them with baby back ribs and garlic sauteed spinach.

Recipe: Jerk chicken with mango salsa

[Recipe adapted from Cuisine Tonight print magazine]

This recipe makes about two servings. (Original recipe said it yielded four servings, but who’s full after two drumsticks? Come on, now. I’d also rather eat more chicken than add a side of rice or whatever.) I like making a lot of extra sauce (at least double this recipe) to keep in the freezer for later use. Takes the same amount of time; why not?

1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup cider vinegar (or regular if that’s what you have)
3 tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce
2 tbsp. Pickapeppa sauce*
1 tbsp. Jamaican jerk seasoning (There are usually a few to pick from in the “ethnic” aisle of any grocery store. I went with Grace brand [hot] jerk seasoning.)
1 tsp. sea or kosher salt… or normal salt. Whatever
8 chicken drumsticks
salt and pepper
a few shots of tequila

1 mango, peeled and diced
3/4 cup diced red bell pepper
1 serrano chile, seeded and minced
2  tbsp. minced red onion
2 tbsp. lime juice
2 tsp. brown sugar
1 tsp minced ginger

1. Have a shot of tequila. Wee!

2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with tin foil and spray with nonstick spray.

3. In a medium saucepan over low heat, combine ketchup, 1/4 cup brown sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, Pickapeppa sauce, jerk seasoning and salt. Heat up for about 10 minutes, stirring often to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom of the saucepan.

* Pickapeppa sauce, sometimes called “Jamaican ketchup,” is dee-lish. Mild, sweet, yummy. If you don’t have any, can’t find any, or don’t want to buy any, throw in a couple tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce instead — or any other kind of salsa-y goodness. Recipes are merely guidelines, anyway.

After it’s started boiling (10-15 minutes), take it off the heat and add 2 ounces of tequila. Not only does this make the sauce 2 ounces more awesome, but it keeps the sauce from freezing if you throw it in the freezer — making it a very good little concoction to keep in the freezer on standby, ready to use whenever.

4. Arrange drumsticks on the baking sheet and season with salt and pepper.

5. Pour some (about two cups) of the sauce into a bowl, so you don’t contaminate the rest of it. Using sauce from the bowl, brush sauce all over the tops of the drumsticks and pop into the oven for about 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, take them out, flip ‘em, and brush the other sides with sauce. Lower the temp to 375 degrees and return to oven. Brush with sauce again 20 minutes later, for a total roasting time of 1 hour.

6. While that’s baking, make the salsa. Combine the mango, bell pepper, serrano, onion, lime juice, 2 tsp of brown sugar and ginger and mix well. If I recall correctly, the seeds are what make the serrano hot, so be sure you scrape all that out lest your brain try to bleed out through your eye sockets. Chill until ready to serve.

And that’s it. When the chicken’s done — you might want to cut into one of the uglier pieces to make sure nothing’s pink — stack a couple on a plate and serve with the salsa. Brush the finished chicken pieces with some sauce (using a clean brush). Optional: Throw some chopped cilantro in that salsa. Cilantro makes everything better.

You can also serve this with some herbed rice with mint if you’re trying to be fancy, or if you don’t think four drumsticks and salsa is enough to fill you up. But as is, this is a pretty damn healthy, low-carb dish — which is a lovely surprise, for how good it is.

Recipe: Vij’s Family’s Chicken Curry

I’ve somehow never been to Vij’s, the uber-popular Vancouver restaurant on West 11th Avenue that some swear has the best Indian cuisine in North America. I’ve tried, but there have been long line-ups every time, and I’m not the most patient person when I’m hungry. I get hungry-angry. Hangry.

A while back I came across a recipe for Vij’s Family Chicken Curry, from Vickram Vij and his wife Meeru Dhalwala’s cookbook, Vij’s: Elegant and Inspired Indian Cuisine. I made it over the weekend and it is my new favourite recipe in recent memory. Dee-lish. Not having been to the restaurant, I don’t know how this fares in comparison, but until I do go, I’m pretty damn happy with this.

Below is their recipe, with my photos and notes.

Minutes to Prepare: 15
Minutes to Cook: 60
Number of Servings: 6


1/2 cup canola oil (I used coconut oil)
2 cups finely chopped onions
3-inch stick of cinnamon
3 tbsp finely chopped garlic
2 tbsp chopped ginger
2 cups chopped tomatoes (2 large, or one 28-ounce can, drained)
1 tbsp salt

1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp turmeric
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tbsp garam masala
1/2 tsp ground cayenne pepper (Very mild. I upped it to about 1.5 tsp)
1.4 kilos chicken thighs, bone in (I used 8 thighs)
1 cup sour cream, stirred

2 cups water
1/2 cup chopped cilantro (including stems)
Rice (if you’re serving it with rice) 

Some people are turned off to recipes that require a million dashes of something because they feel it’s not worth it to have to buy all these individuals herbs and spices. Thing is, once you have them, you’ll be a lot more inclined to try future recipes that require them as well. Trussst me. If you’re still reluctant, you can buy small quantities from the bulk sections of grocery stores.

One more thing: I used coconut oil instead of canola oil because of my colleague’s neat losing-fat-by-eating-fat diet, which she wrote about here. She gave me a container of coconut oil to try, and I figured this would be the perfect dish to use it in, since coconut tastes excellent in curries.

On to the recipe: Get all your stuff chopped, measured and ready first:

Cinnamon, onion

Ginger, garlic

Salt, pepper, turmeric, cumin, coriander, garam masala, cayenne pepper

In a large pan, heat oil on medium heat for one minute. Add onions and cinnamon and sauté for five to eight minutes, until onions are golden. Add garlic and sauté for four more minutes.

Add ginger, tomatoes, salt, pepper, turmeric, cumin, coriander, garam masala and cayenne. (Sifting spices/powders into a recipe, like so, will prevent clumps.) Cook the masala for five minutes, until the oil separates. While that magic is happening, remove the skin from the chicken thighs. (Removing something as delicious as chicken skin hurts my heart, but it’s just not usable in this recipe.)

Add chicken thighs and cook for 10 minutes, until the chicken looks cooked on the outside. Add sour cream and water and stir well. Increase the heat to medium-high. When curry starts to boil, reduce the heat to medium, cover and cook for 15 minutes, stirring two or three times, until chicken is completely cooked. (Mine was closer to 20 minutes.) While you’re waiting, this is a good time to make your rice (if you’re serving it with rice) and chop up the cilantro.

Check to see that the chicken’s cooked through, either with a thermometer (165 F is the magic temp for chicken), or by cutting into one and making sure there’s no pink. Remove and discard the cinnamon stick. Cool curry for at least half an hour.

Vij’s recipe now calls for you to transfer the chicken to a mixing bowl and, wearing latex gloves, peel the chicken meat off the bones. I don’t have a bunch of latex gloves at home, and I’d be suspicious of anyone who does. I just washed my hands, picked up the chicken, picked off the meat, returned it to the pan and discarded the bones. I guess the key things here are to make sure your curry’s no longer hot, and wash your hands thoroughly afterwards, lest you rub curry into your eye.

Just before serving, heat curry on medium heat until it starts to boil lightly. Stir in cilantro and serve with rice. Garnish with a cinnamon stick or two if you’re feeling fancy.

2011 Photo Throwdown: Day 339

Ginger beef stir fry (iPhone - Dec. 5, 2011)

Used this recipe, but doubled the ginger and garlic, made more sauce and threw in a few other leftover veggies.

(Side note: The end of the Throwdown nears! Told Erin I’m never taking another photo again.)

Friend and colleague Erin Loxam and I have pledged to take and upload one photo every day for all of 2011. See how she’s doing here.

2011 Photo Throwdown: Day 327

Chicken and waffles at Hidden Vancouver (iPhone - Nov. 23, 2011)

My first time finding and eating chicken and waffles in Vancouver. I expected it to be messier, as it usually is, but they were done all fancy-like — I guess not a huge surprise considering the restaurant is located in the Westin hotel, and referred to as a “tasting bar and social lounge.”

Very tasty. And I didn’t feel like dying immediately after, as I normally do with fried chicken.

Friend and colleague Erin Loxam and I have pledged to take and upload one photo every day for all of 2011. See how she’s doing here.