Category Archives: Spreads and Condiments

Homemade Nutella

Does one need an excuse to make homemade nutella?

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Back to Basics Guacamole

I can’t be the only one around who is loathe to slave over a stove on a hot summery day.  Aside from the heat, our evenings also have to contend with a plethora of activities that are way more attractive than turning on the range.  The hot days of late are the kinds of days where I wish my cat had opposable thumbs so that she could cook for me, so that I could maximize time spent having fun.

It’s in the summer that my Asian body can process foods eaten raw, and so I take full advantage of the ripe produce that come from near and afar.

And here is where I confess that sometimes, once in a while, I am grateful for globalization.  One of the those weak moments come when avocados come in season and I can buy them cheap and just ripe from the store.  I love their colour gradient that goes from bright green near the skin to chick yellow in the centre.  I love that the seed is perfectly round, and will take root if you let it.  (I planted an avocado seed 3 years ago and today it is as tall as me!) I love the spreadable texture, and the indescribable taste.

When you pick avocados, look for one with dark pitted skin.  The colour of the skin is an indicator for ripeness – the greener it is, the newer.  Press down on the avocado with a finger to feel for ripeness too.  If it depresses slightly, you have a perfect avocado.  You don’t want it if it’s too easy to push down (too mushy), and if you want to eat it right away, don’t grab one that’s rock hard!

To have them ripen at home, a mentor from work taught me to leave them out of the fridge with other fruits.  But as soon as they are ripe enough, all you have to do to keep it from becoming too mushy or worse, rot, is just to stick it in the fridge.  I have taken her advice to heart and ended up with perfect avocados all the time.

One of my favourite ways to enjoy avocado is making it into guacamole.  Typically, store bought or restaurant guacamole will contain a lot of garlic and sometimes onion, and other ingredients such as preservatives.  But I find that this interferes with the special taste of the fruit (plus I can’t eat alliums anyway).  To me, simple always triumphs, and this easy, fast, and ultimately delicious guacamole recipe goes back to the basics.

You can use it with chips, in a burrito, or, served on a piece of toast with a slice of tomato and a poached egg.  I am proud to say that this recipe converted someone who hated avocado!

  • 2 ripe avocados, diced into small pieces
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • ¼ to ½ tsp of sea salt
  • Bunch of cilantro, minced

Mix all of the above in a bowl and mash with a fork.  Makes one and a half cup.  Can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days and it will not brown!

p.s. We ate it all so fast we forgot to take photos!

Hummus Without Garlic – Perfect Every Time

The aromatic smell of it roasting in the oven, the sharp and pungent taste of it smeared on a piece of freshly baked bread, the lingering aftertaste on your skin… ah garlic, how I miss thee.

Many people in this world cannot eat garlic.  And it’s not from disliking the taste, or are they vampires.  Allergies to garlic (and the allium family) do exist in varying severity.  On the allium allergy spectrum, I’d say I’m in the middle.  I wouldn’t keel over and die, but the few hours after consuming onion or garlic will be painful while my body tries its best to digest whatever I’ve eaten.

So with this unfortunate business, how am I to enjoy things like pesto and hummus?

Do it without the garlic, of course!  For the past few years, I’ve been whipping up this garlic-free hummus that isn’t lacking in taste or substance.  It’s perfect every time.

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Citrus Cilantro Glaze

Growing up in a Chinese household with a mother who is a kitchen goddess, I ate very well.  Since moving out, I still eat very well but I rarely cook Chinese.  That’s because whenever I tried to learn something my mother could make blindfolded, it turns out the level of effort was astronomically higher than anything I had mastered.  Authentic home-style Chinese food was something that I look forward to enjoying when I go home to visit my parents, not something I could make every day.

At home, a proper meal, which my mother made (and still makes) every day, would include soup, a vegetable dish, a protein dish, and rice.  To round it out she would peel and cut up some fruit for dessert.  She also works full time.  And dinner is usually served at seven sharp.  It’s a miracle I turned out being able to survive on my own.

Despite being a dunce when it comes to Chinese cooking, I did pick up a few tricks from watching my mother and assisting in the kitchen.  And that is, the all purpose “glass glaze”.  According to my mom, anything you cook can be improved by a clear glaze that picks up the flavour of whatever is in the pan so that it looks great and you end up with a sauce that will go well with rice.  It’s ridiculously simple.  Are you ready for it?  Cold water and corn starch.

And then I learned that the “glass glaze” can be customized with other things to make a sauce.  Tonight for supper I made a stir fry with broccoli and pan fried Textured Vegetable Protein, and covered the whole thing with a citrus cilantro glaze.

Shiny!

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Michael Smith’s Dressing for Vietnamese Rice Paper Rolls

Thanks to celebrity chef Michael Smith’s amazingly delicious dressing for a carrot salad that goes into rice paper rolls with shrimp, we’ve been eating Vietnamese rice paper rolls a lot these days. His recipe is simple, and the end result is (did I already mention) delicious – no need for dipping sauce!

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The variations to Vietnamese rice paper rolls are endless – the basic combination is usually some kind of protein (shrimp, chicken, pork, tofu), some kind of veggies (carrots, daikon radish, coriander), and starch (sweet potato, vermicelli), in any ratio you want.  I like Michael Smith’s version because he dresses the carrots (and other veggies of your choice, we added julienned zucchini) in a sauce that elevates the taste profile of the wrap above any I’ve ever tasted before.

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Dill, Maple, Balsamic, oh my!

Dear Ms. Drew,

I was at the farmer’s market the other day, and wished you were there with me!  The greens are in – unfortunately fiddleheads this season weren’t as good as last year’s, but we’ll blame that on the weather.

When I got home, I made this, and I wanted to share it with you because it’s so simple and makes me think of barbecues.  Perhaps it’s because I like to sear my veggies on the pan so that they get a bit browned on one side, or perhaps it’s the maple syrup.  You’ll have to let me know how it goes on your end.

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Celery Butter Spread

Suffer from garlic bread breath no more!

Knowing that I abhor garlic like any garden variety vampire, a friend of mine from university introduced me to celery bread.  It was a southern Ontario specialty, only found in small town mom-and-pop diners.  Celery bread is not bread made of celery, nay, it is much more exciting.  The first time I tried celery bread in a Simcoe roadside diner, it was a thick  slice of white bread (think 2-inches), with its crust removed, pan toasted, soaked in butter and coated with a light dusting of celery seed.  It is like garlic bread, but without the the garl-ick factor.

This spread is super easy to make and goes well on any kind of bread as long as it is toasted.  I like it on a warm French loaf.

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