ostroconophobia

For many, the very thought of oysters sends them bolting straight to the opposite direction. I found this somewhat true in Taiwan where oyster pancakes, popcorn oysters, and dilled oyster fritters. Seriously, how can you not like oysters?

This phenomenon only inflated when I came to Vancouver, yes, sushi capital of North America (sorry, Los Angeles), where I learned that two of my best friends mentally vomit when they see, not just oysters, but shellfish in general. And then I came to Waterloo, practically a fish desert.

Fish? What fish?

But then again, you can’t blame the region for being landlocked. And they do preserve fish very well, especially the oily Atlantic fishes such as mackerel, cod, and sardines. These are generally processed by means of smoking, salting, or confiting then canned. All of these concentrate the fish flavour into the intensity of shellfish.

And when the same things are done to oysters, you essentially end up with the bacon of the sea. Except with the ever-welcomed addition of umami, the latest culinary beau.

I cared for you in the wilderness,

in the land of drought.

Hosea 13:5

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The key to mellowing the smoked oysters’ intense brininess (which is mostly concentrated in the oil) into a lovely umami base is by cooking it out. The baking then further transforms the flavour through caramelization and bringing out the sweetness of the cream. What you end up with is something so ridiculously addictive with a je ne sais quoi that nobody will suspect to have come from smoked oysters.

Ingredients for the Oyster Creamed Kale, serves 4-6:

1 tin smoked oysters in oil

3 tbsp butter

small brown onion, finely diced

60 grams AP flour

375 ml light cream (10%~18% MF)

125 ml water

pinch nutmeg

sea salt, to taste

2~3 bunches kale, leaves only, wilted and squeezed dry

To make the oyster bechamel, tip the oil from the oyster tin into a saucepan, reserving the oysters. Add the butter and heat until melted and beginning to sputter. Add the onions and fry without coloring until soft, about 3 to 4 minutes.

Stir in the flour to form a paste, then gradually whisk in the cream a little at a time until smooth and creamy. Whisk in the water, nutmeg, and sea salt to taste. Remove from the heat.

Transfer the bechamel to a blender, add the reserved oysters and puree until completely smooth.

In a large bowl, mix the cooked kale thoroughly with the pureed sauce and spoon into a baking dish.

Bake at 425 degrees F until golden and bubbly.

Enjoy with whatever cool-weather offerings you plan to dish up!

 

Caught

Like everyone, I use filters. Oh how we adore them. We filter our lives through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. It’s fantastic – it’s like Sephora, except not just for the female visage – it’s for everyone’s cyber avatar (which could arguably be a disturbingly independent, distinct identity from its owner).

But filtering is more than selectively publishing life statuses and photographs. Filters obscure, and make mild of perception. They deceive and dismiss the reality, the rawness of things.

Do you agree, that the heart is felt with more reality, above all else?

Do you agree, that the heart is beautiful?

But we filter the living breath out of it.

I’m far from perfect – I’m me, and I know better than anyone that I am despicable – but I try.

I try to be the person I want to become, and stop trying to become the person I want to be, else I’ll always wallow in self-loathing and self-pity because I will always be a step behind.

Let’s be honest. With ourselves and those around us. (This does not equate with being nasty.)

And keep hashtagging edited photographs with #nofilter. You wanted real, didn’t you?

Therefore let us celebrate the feast,

not with old leaven,

nor with leaven of malice and wickedness,

but with the unleavened bread of sincerity

and truth.

1 Corinthians 5:8

Also, raw is beautiful, just look at this beauty of a feast.

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This is honestly the best fish I ever had, and what’s even better is that it’s part of my 7-Ingredient series. I originally wanted to bake it en papillote, but the four-pound beauty has outgrown the paramenters of my parchment paper by an unsalvageable margin.

What I ended up doing was even simpler. Basically, from what you see above, I just covered that whole thing with aluminum foil, pinched down the sides tightly, and put it in the oven at a really low temperature. The result was phenomenal – the flesh was incredibly buttery and tender. And because I love all parts of fish, I ate the skin too, which was also extremely rich and creamy. That’s not all, the few roasted, sweet lemon slices basically worked magic and managed to permeate the entire fish with their vibrant perfume.

Ingredients for the slow-baked trout:

1 fresh trout, 3-4 lbs, cleaned (I had mine freshly caught and I highly recommend that)

4 tbsp coarse sea salt

1 small lemon, thinly sliced

3 tbsp basil pesto

1 medium zucchini, cut into bite-size half-moons

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

few rounds freshly ground black pepper

To make the slow-baked trout, preheat the oven to 300 degrees F, with the rack placed in the center. Cover the bottom of a large roasting pan with aluminum foil. Drizzle it all over with 1 tbsp of the olive oil.

Meanwhile, prepare the fish. Trout have a slimy protective coating that also happens to be the source of its “fishy” taste. To remove this slime, rub the skin of the trout generously with 2 tbsp of the salt – that’s right, massage it with lots of love. Leave it for 2 minutes and rinse off the trout under cold, running water. Pat as dry as possible with paper towel, and repeat the process again with the remaining salt.

Place the cleaned, dry trout into the prepared pan. Smear the pesto onto each of the lemon slices and fit them snugly, overlapping slightly, into the abdominal cavity. Add the zucchini to the pan and season everything with black pepper and a little more salt. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil.

Bake for 20 minutes, turn off the oven, and let it sit in the hot oven for another 45 minutes, up to an hour.

Serve with boiled new potatoes and/or a light green salad.

Enjoy!

 

Frites with Benefits

Life is a tuber

slumbering. In woe

with worms and woodbugs

and warmth        just enough.

Life is a tuber     growing      fat.

Underground     blind   and  quiet

hard.                       Life is a tuber

humdrum,                                ho-hum.

Cut it                                                  open,

add some fire,

forget not to season –

life is  a

tuber.

It’s better to be a tuber which feeds the nations, than to be caviar which we can all do without.

Pride brings a person low,

But the lowly in spirit gain honour.

Proverbs 29: 23

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Ingredients for the goat cheese aioli –  goodbye chipotle aioli, no apologies:

100 g herb goat cheese (or use plain and add 1/2 tsp minced fresh thyme)

2-3 tbsp hot water, as needed

3 tbsp good quality mayonnaise

few grinds freshly cracked black pepper

To make the goat cheese aioli, mash the goat cheese in a small bowl, adding hot water as necessary until creamy – you want it to be a frosting consistency. Stir in the mayonnise and black pepper, refrigerate until needed.

 Ingredients for the crispy sweet potato fries:

2 medium sweet potatoes, scrubbed under running water then wiped dry

2 tbsp corn starch

1 tsp smoked paprika

2 tbsp avocado or grape seed oil

To make the sweet potato fries, cut the sweet potatoes into thin sticks, about 1/3 inch or 1 cm in thickness and put them in a large mixing bowl. You can do this 2 hours in advance and let them dehydrate at room temperature – this will help them crisp up and caramelize better in the oven.

Once you’re ready, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F , with to racks spaced evenly (you really need to wander up the high end with the temperature for it to crisp up). Toss the dry sweet potato sticks with the corn starch and paprika to coat as evenly as possible. Adding corn starch when the sweet potatoes are still dry helps makes the coating very even and perfectly thin. Drizzle the oil over the fries and toss again to coat evenly, be patient and really try to make the oil go the mile.

Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper and take your time to place them (yes, each and every one) onto the baking sheets in a single layer so they don’t touch. Bake in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes, then switch the top batch with the lower batch and continue baking for 5~10 minutes until crispy and well caramelized (the skin should puff up a bit).

Serve immediately with the goat cheese aioli. The longer these fries sit the softer they get, so enjoy them while they’re golden!

Ooooohhh that goat cheese aioli though…!!

because pie is irrational

It’s a thin line, really, between oblivion and being on the fence. Neither allows you to adequately make a decision, and neither engages you enough in the consequences of a potential decision, should you make one.

So here’s a great question: meringue or not meringue?

While traditionally in France the tarte au citron is made with a lightly torched, sublimely delicate and shiny meringue, modern purists are leading a sort of revolution to overthrow the fluff of it all.

I made this tart about a week ago (and it was demolished right about then as well), and to be honest, I had no idea whether or not I wanted to pipe that meringue on. Even after finishing the pie I still had mixed feelings about it – not that its deliciousness was debatable, for it was by a modest margin at the top of my list of lemon-things-consumed – but somewhere in the back of my head was the question: what if I hadn’t put meringue on it?

Today, walking to class, watching the snow melt. Boom. Brain parfumation happened.

Like the snow, the meringue is not there to make everyone fall in love with it (you can tell I’ve had enough with this winter thing). Instead, it’s there to conceal what’s underneath, again, not because it’s anything to hide, but because it will add that much more ooh, aah, and sexiness to the lush underneath. That’s pretty romantic and french, and witty, I think.

Oh, yeah, and how does that have to do with snow? Well, if you haven’t set foot on solid ground that is not compacted snow for 5 months, you’d understand the thrills of finally seeing the black pavement again. Sure, it’s just pavement, but that’s the beauty of snow – not itself, but it makes everything underneath more beautiful when it melts.

He is a voice

shouting in the wilderness,

‘Prepare the way

for the LORD’s coming!

Clear the road for him’

Matthew 3:3

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Ingredients for the lazy pate sablee:

1 1/2 cups AP flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp fine sea salt

1/4 cup icing sugar

1/2 cup cold butter, cubed

75 ml half-and-half or heavy cream

To make the pate sablee, put the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar in the the food processor and pulse until blended. Add the chunks of culd butter, and continue pulsing until the mixture becomes a very pale yellow and looks a bit grainy. While pulsing, stream in the cream until the mixture just begins to clump together.

Cover a flat working surface with a film of plastic wrap, then dump the contents of the food processor onto the surface. Gather and press the mixture into a tight mound and flatten into an inch-thick round. Lift up the corners of the plastic wrap to wrap the dough snugly, then chill in the freezer for 20-30 minutes.

Lightly flour your working surface. Unwrap your chilled dough and roll it out using a rolling pin to about 0.75cm thick, or with large enough area to cover a 9-inch fluted tart pan. Slide the removable bottom of the pan underneath the dough (be gentle as the dough is quite delicate), lift it up, then place it into the tart ring. Press the dough  into the corner of the tart pan, and up the sides. Trim off any extra bits and use them to fill any areas that are not sufficiently covered. Chill in the freezer for another 20-30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and feel free to do any cleanup to save time. Once the dough is finished chilling, dock it all over with a fork and bake, uncovered, for 18-20 minutes, or until pale golden. If the bottom’s puffed up, just pat it down gently with the back of a spoon while it’s still hot. Cool completely and chill until needed.

Ingredients for the lemon cream:

1 cup icing sugar

4 medium or 3 large lemons, zest and juice

4 large free range eggs

1/3 cup heavy cream

2/3 cup unsalted butter, placed in a large mixing bowl (preferably glass)

To make the lemon cream, combine the sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and eggs in a saucepan. Cook on medium, whisking contents constantly, until the mixture begins to thicken. Stream in the cream, still whisking, until the mixture is well-tightened.

Pass the lemon curd through a sieve placed over the butter, and stir until the butter is completely melted and the mixture is smooth. Pour into the baked tart shell and chill in the fridge overnight to set completely.

Ingredients for the french meringue:

2 egg whites

1/2 cup white sugar

To make the french meringue, place the egg whites and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer (you can use your go-to mixing bowl if you have a hand-held) over a pot of barely simmering water. Beat with a whisk by hand until the sugar is fully dissolved, and the contents are quite warm to the touch. Attach the bowl to the stand mixer and whisk on medium-high for 8-10 minutes, or until the meringue is very glossy and quite firm (the tip should stand when you hold up the beater).

Spoon the meringue into a star-tipped piping bag and pipe onto the chilled lemon tart. Torch it to make it pretty, then chill until ready to serve.

Totally redundant, but enjoy!

Why taste her cherry chapstick?

To those of you who are not the 0.0000001% of drop-dead gorgeous women (or men) who override the effects of traffic lights in New York City’s bustling streets, cheers. Cheers because your friends are not jealous of you. Cheers because you have weaknesses that you can boast about. Cheers because even though you don’t stop every car that passes you by, you really only need to stop one person in the midst of their life who knows from first sight how special you are.

Oh, and did I mention you’d also get to eat cheesecake without everyone around you turning heads whispering “I can’t believe she’s eating cheesecake!” No I’m not saying go pig out on cheesecake tomorrow in front of your girl or guy friend. I mean, they’ll still love you for who you are, but mind your health. There’s no point in trying to make yourself feel loved by stuffing yourself.

Have cheesecake if you’re feeling down.

But don’t have too much for that’ll weigh you down.

Plus, you never know – maybe this is actually how somebody sees you, actually, someone does see you like this:

“You are beautiful, my darling,

        beautiful beyond words.

Your eyes are like doves beyond your veil.

Your hair falls in waves, like a flock of goats

        winding down the slopes of Gilead.

Your teeth are as white as sheep,

        recently shorn and freshly washed.

Your smile is flawless,

        each tooth matched to its twin.

Your lips are like scarlet ribbon;

        your mouth is inviting.

Your cheeks are like rosy pomegranates behind your veil.

Your neck is as beautiful as the tower of David…

You are altogether beautiful, my darling,

beautiful in every way.

~Song of Songs 4:1-7

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Ingredients for the nutty crust (this is such an amazing crust, you must try it!)

1 c oats

1/2 c raw pecan halves (walnuts, almonds, cashews or even roasted mixed salted nuts will do)

2 tbsp cornstarch

1/4 c brown sugar

3/4 tsp fine sea salt (use 1/2 tsp if using salted nuts)

a pinch of cinnamon, optional

3 tbsp coconut oil

To make the nutty crust, put the oats, nuts, cornstarch, brown sugar, and salt in a food processor or blender. Whiz together until the mixture resembles graham cracker crumbs. Add the coconut oil and pulse until the mixture begins to moisten and clump up.

Line the bottom of four 4-inch springform pans or one 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper. Press the oat and nut mixture evenly, and firmly into the pan with a measuring cup with a flat bottom or your fingertips. Place in the freezer until firm, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F, with the rack placed in the middle of the oven. Take the crust from the freezer straight into the oven and bake for about 15 minutes or until golden and slightly puffed. Use the back of a spoon to gently press down on the crust then let cool completely before chilling until needed.

Ingredients for the cheesecake batter:

1 kg 2% cottage cheese, strained, at room temperature

250 g full fat cream cheese, cut into cubes, at room temperature

3/4 c sugar

zest and juice of 1 lemon

1/2 tsp vanilla paste (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)

1/2 tsp fine sea salt

3 free range eggs, at room temperature

To make the cheesecake, preheat the oven to 325 degree F, with a rack placed in the center of the oven, and another rack below it. Fill a pan with water and put it on the bottom rack – this will create the bain marie without risking a water-soaked crust.

Put the cottage cheese in the blender and whiz until smooth. Add the cream cheese, a cube at a time until the mixture is thick and creamy without any lumps. Add the sugar, lemon zest and juice, vanilla, and sea salt and continue blending until smooth. On low, pulse in the eggs just until evenly incorporated.

Pour the cheese batter into the chilled baked crust and bake in the top rack for 30-40 minutes if using small springform pans or 60-75 minutes if using a large springform pan. The middle should jiggle a little bit when you remove it from the oven, but don’t worry the residual heat is sufficient to cook it through.

Cool it completely before covering and chilling overnight to set.

When ready to serve, simply run a thin-bladed knife around the side of the pan to release the cake.

I actually like to sprinkle a generous layer of sugar on top then torching it to make it a creme brulee cheesecake, just sayin’.

But honestly, you really can’t do much to top a cheesecake, perhaps some cherry compote, but really, I mean, it’s cheesecake.

Enjoy, but don’t pig out.

(At least don’t blame me if you do, I provided fair warning)

#heaven

If I asked you about your day, I wonder if these words come to mind: tough, bitter, disappointing, grey, crushing and, despite the jeering irony, empty? Do the fleeting shadow of brighter days past haunt your dreams of tomorrow?

What if I told you that there is something lacking in all of us. An imperfection that we strive to smooth in each strenuous day we pass in this life? And unlike what we drunkenly believe, we were created with the purpose of living in perfect glory.

Don’t settle for anything less.

Honey, you deserve better than a blurred glimpse of a tomorrow that will slip from your fingers faster than snow melts on your palm. God has given it, so say thank you, and live!

Here’s your fix of reality, brought to you by Jesus.

I have come

to call not those who think they are righteous,

but those

who know they are sinners

and need to repent.

~Luke 5:32

“There’s no shame in admitting your wrongs.”

Now that’s one thing we got right.

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Ingredients for the 27-h pulled turkey:

125 ml apple cider

225 ml coke (do not use diet, you really want the caramel from the sugar!)

30 ml barbeque sauce

30 ml dark soy sauce or tamari

30 ml balsamic vinegar

2 free range or organic turkey legs or a turkey thigh

To make the pulled turkey, whisk together all ingredients except for the turkey. Place the turkey legs or thigh in a smaller but deep baking dish so it fits snugly (I used a glass loaf pan), and pour over the marinade to cover. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight, preferably for a whole day, or up to 2 days.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F, with the rack placed in the middle of the oven. Remove the plastic wrap from the turkey and cover tightly with foil, crimping the edges to really seal it well. This will keep the meat really tender and moist. Bake for 3 hours, until a fork pierces the center of the meat effortlessly. Remove from the oven and, using two forks, shred the meat (include the skin too, for better texture since turkey is so much leaner than pork). Let cool, cover, and refrigerate for up to 3 days if you plan on making this ahead, but in all honesty, I think that would take an epic amount of self control. Reserve all the juices leftover in the baking dish. As for the sweet potato:

Ingredients for the perfectly creamy baked sweet potato:

4 medium-large orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, scrubbed under running water

To bake the perfect sweet potato, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F, with the rack placed in the middle of the oven. Line a baking sheet with foil and put the sweet potatoes on top. I don’t care what you’ve been reading, I’ve baked well over 300 sweet potatoes in the past couple of years and eaten a good portion of those myself; this is how it’s done, don’t pierce it with a for or do anything strange.

Bake for 1-1 1/3 hours until the sweet potatoes are surrounded by their own oozing caramel and the flesh is painfully tender when you insert the tip of a knife into it. (I say this in all seriousness, you’ll know what I mean once you get there.)

Ingredients for the assembly:

4 freshly baked sweet potatoes (keep them in the oven so they stay hot)

1 can of your favourite baked beans, warmed (you can do this in the microwave)

2 green onions, thinly sliced

When ready to serve, pour all the juices into a saucepan and boil until reduced to a glaze consistency (patience!). Add the shredded turkey into the saucepan, stir to coat and warm thoroughly. Make a deep cut lengthwise on each sweet potato without slicing through. Spoon a decent amount of baked beans into the cavity, then top it over-the-top with the pulled turkey. Garnish with the green onions.

I really don’t think I need to remind you, but I will anyway:

Enjoy!