Where There is Smoke, There is Meat – Caplansky’s Deli

21 Mar

www.caplanskys.com, Caplansky’s Deli, 356 College St. 416-500-3852 ***

 We ordered the most common combo (smoked meat sandwich, coleslaw, and fries with a pickle on the side), an excellent value for two for only $25 plus tax.  P is very picky with his smoked meat (especially because he is a big fan of Carnegie Deli in NY and Schwartz’s in Montreal), but he gave Caplansky’s a two-thumbs’ up. 

The coleslaw was ok.  It’s better than the usual mayo-drenched or the neon green slaw you usually get at the food court, the fries were a generous helping and done to perfection, and the mustard selection will cater to any need (see picture to right), very friendly staff, quick service and very casual atmosphere. If you like smoked meat, you will enjoy eating here. I recommend trying this place for lunch not dinner.

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Up The Spout

6 Feb

And yes, there is a reason why I haven’t been blogging since November, but I don’t think I will have any trouble convincing you that it’s a very good one. 

I’ve been quite busy eating strange yet amazingly delicious food concoctions.  Last week, it was grilled paninis with apple, Serrano ham and sharp old cheddar.  Then there was the toasted dense pumpernickel with liver pâté with sliced butter pickles and mustard.  And how can I forget the roast chicken with sliced persimmons and a side of watermelon.

Well.  Let me introduce you to the reason that I haven’t blogged since November.  Here he/she is:

I was bursting at the seams (almost literally), wanting to announce it to the world, but I couldn’t until all was well and I was well-passed the first trimester.  My inblogitude was also due to the phenomenal, crippling, chemical hormonal tiredness that comes with the first trimester of pregnancy and has meant that I have had NO time of my own. It seems I’ve been sleeping/wanting to sleep/on the way to sleeping/half-asleep for 15 weeks. 

Now that I’m 4 1/2 months along and beginning to feel human again, I am now able to reveal the ‘secret’ here as well.  It’s been not-so-glamorous, to say the least and with the new food aversions, I am counting down to when this ‘miracle’ appears, bundled in my arms.  P and I couldn’t be happier.  Sometimes I have to stop and wonder How did I get here?  And then I look down at my belly and across to P and know that I must be the luckiest woman on this planet.

So there you have it. I expect to be a fully functioning blogger again very soon, and might even manage to write about something other than strange pregnancy cravings and food aversions.  But I promise you (even to the 3 subscribers who dropped off from my readership), that this will never turn into an emo mom-to-be blog.  Ever.

Food Cravings: ALL fruits and everything fruit related. Sweet and salty combinations (prosciutto and melon or apples with cheese, etc.), fruit and yogurt smoothies, and a good chunk of STEAK. 

Food and Other Aversions: Carrots –cannot stand the site/smell of them cooked or raw, and can smell them from a mile away. Other: I can smell it if your feet stink.  My advice: go and invest on some good leather shoes for better ventilation and while you’re at it, don’t let me catch you with carrots or we’ll have a big problem.

While you might think it strange –even gross…I thought it was one of the finest meals I’ve ever had: Mung Bean soup, watermelon, (hastily unwrapped) liver pate, pickles with (an over toasted) rye bread. 

 

The Daily Catch

6 Feb

You’ve just got to love this place—for the noise, the frenetic open kitchen, the complete absence of pretense, its shockingly shoulder-crowdingly small dining quarters and, above all, the food. Its very casual, somewhat divey approach is all part of its charm –from the weathered tables and chairs, to the single chalkboard menu and the use of paper placemats.    

The Daily Catch is a local staple for more than 30 years, who specializes in calamari dishes, black-squid-ink pastas, and linguine with clam sauce. There’s something about a big skillet of linguine and calamari that would seem less perfect if served on fine white china.

May I recommend the Tinta de Calamari -which is Homemade Black Pasta ($10.50/appetizer, $21/ entree).  It is effing fantastic.  Here are action shots of me impatiently digging into my ink pasta and burning my mouth in the process:

www.dailycatch .com at 323 Hanover St., North End, Boston, MA ****

WINNING PUMPKINS

22 Nov

I normally don’t toot my own horn, but I’m going for it anyway.  I’ve been known to carve a few pumpkins and this year, I went over the top and carved Rob Ford, Toronto’s current mayor.   It won this year’s United Way Pumpkin Carving Contest and my third first-place win since it began 4 years ago.  Meet Mr. Rob F@#d.  It took me 3 hours to carve his fat jowls and double chin.  It was a bit of a struggle to shape the eyebrows and lips without carving right through the pumpkin (which is a common way to carve a Jack o’lantern).  I find that the method of carving just enough to thin-out the “meat” of the pumpkin is not only easier, but safer!  Since I started this method, I haven’t stabbed, sliced or bled all over my pumpkins *fingers crossed.  Though the blood would be a cool effect!

This year marks many “Firsts” for P and I as a couple.  Our first thanksgiving dinner with his family was great fun and I can’t say enough how gracious and welcoming his family has been to me.  I carved them a pumpkin named One-eyed Wally.  I found a small white pumpkin at the farmer’s market and had to get it!  I love how the natural veins are green which makes for great tooth decay.  It adds a little spookiness to his googly expression.  He stared at us all throughout dinner.

This one here was my winner from 3 years ago for United Way: Peter-Peter Office Supplies-Eater. 

BRAISED OXTAIL

22 Nov

As someone who just wants a plain, unaltered cut of meat to prepare, I grow tired of seeing so much fridge space in “boutique” butcher shops being taken up by kebobs and steaks coated in gloppy marinades. I understand that many folks don’t want to fuss with their own seasoning, but for the rest of us, it usually means fewer options and hopeless predictability.

My go-to butcher, St. Lawrence Market’s Uppercut Meats, was kind enough to give me a (very) generous 4 kilo heap of oxtails last week.  Uppercuts Meats has the best people running the show.  They are reliable, high quality, traditional, no-nonsense butchers.  P.’s been a loyal customer for 7 years now and I’ve recently joined the bandwagon.  They really do make you feel like family there and your specific cut is always accommodated.  Say you need the skin perfectly reserved for that perfect porchetta crackling…or the perfect thickness for a stuffed grilled bourbon veal, they ask you to walk around from the front counter to stand by the massive central butcher block and talk them through it, just to make sure that you have the cut, just the way you like it.  That’s service!  These people are the consummate professionals.  Look for Rita with the pink hat.  She’s awesome and very patient with my “special” cut requests.

Cooking with oxtail is very common within Asian cuisines and with the meat to bone ratio and all the skin, gristle and fat that comes along with ox tail, it is only made edible through incredibly long cooking.  The end result is worth the wait, I promise.  It’s hard to believe that oxtail was considered pauper food when it’s hard to find a kilo for anything under $10!  Oxtail is country fare, and as such, is just one of the many foods that I was brought up on through my mother’s loving hands.

People who say that cooking oxtail is difficult aren’t far off the mark.  Personally, I think that what it comes down to is the fact that you can’t rush cooking especially when it comes to special ingredients.  Period.

UPPERCUT OXTAIL

Ingredients: For 5-6 people

4kg oxtail (approx. 4 tails) *ask the butcher to cut up the joints for you. This is the common cut for oxtail and it’s most likely already cut this way already.

1 ½ cups Cooking Soy Sauce (Light Soy is fine)

½ cup of Malt Syrup

1 large onion

2 Asian Pears or Bartlett Pears

2 Fiji Apples

1 medium-size Daikon (Chinese radish)

2 tablespoons Sesame oil

1 tablespoon fresh ground pepper

4 cups of water

4 medium-size carrots

2 large onions

4 potatoes

 Procedures:

1.) Trim any fat, as desired, from the outside of each joint.  Don’t worry about the tendons, the slow braise will disintegrate these during the cooking process.  Once trimmed, soak in cold water for an hour.  This removes most of the blood from the meat.  As you’ll see, the water will turn very bloody after a while.  Also, the soaking will get rid of the meaty smell.

 2.) After soaking for an hour, drain.  Then bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and add the tail joints, boil for 10 minutes.  Drain for 30 minutes.  This parboiling process also removes the smaller pieces of fat and gristle.

 3.) While the joints are draining, prepare your marinade.  Pour soy sauce, malt syrup, sesame oil and ground pepper into a medium-sized pot.  Use a food blender to pulse the pears to a pulp.  This will take a minute or two on the purée setting.  Add the pulped pears into the pot of soy sauce mix.

 

 

4.) Next, cut and purée the apple, onion and daikon in the same way as the pear.  Do not add this directly to the pot.  You must put it through a fine metal sieve and collect only the liquid.  Add only the liquid from the pulped apple, onion and pear to the soy sauce mix.  Bring to a low simmer until malt syrup is dissolved completely.  Set aside the marinade to cool.

 

 5.) While the marinade is cooling, peel and cut the carrots and potatoes into roughly even pieces.

 

 

 

 

6.) Once marinade has cooled down, add to a large pot (essentially the one you will be cooking the ox tail in) with the joints and leave to marinate for 30 minutes to I hour.  The longer it marinates, the better, of course!  Then add the water, put the lid on and bring to a boil.  Once brought to a boil, bring the temperature down to the lowest simmer possible for one hour (lid on).  Turn every 20 minutes to ensure the marinade takes evenly to the meat.

 7.) Add veggies and stir through.  Continue to braise at very low heat for another hour.

 This marinade also goes well with beef short ribs, cooked the very same way.  It can be refrigerated in a tight-lid container for 2 days.  It’s a good way to cut down on prep time!  Enjoy!

Proof Is In The Pudding

7 Nov

Here is a picture of my sister, Mom and I.  They are my top favourite people to be in the kitchen with and over the years of experimenting/perfecting recipes, oil burns, spills, flat souffles and even a few kitchen fires, I can’t imagine any family weekend, holiday or just an ordinary night of hashing it out in the kitchen with anyone else in the world.  This post is in honour of my beautiful Mom and chef extraordinaire.

I’ve been meaning to post this for a month now, but I’ve been busy with decompressing from a recent 2-week trip, work, joining a co-ed soccer league, having a grand time with P. planning our next few get-a-aways and of course, experimenting in the kitchen.  Of course, always with the intention of blogging more recipes, as requested, but the always-accompanying wine aids in taking too many blurred pictures or forgetting how a camera works altogether.  But I am back!

This post was especially requested by MANY of you who have, 1.) over the years, had the pleasure of tasting Mom�s famous bread pudding and want the recipe, 2.) tasted said bread pudding from one of her daughter’s kitchen and need the recipe; or 3.) stalked Edith at work for the recipe!  For years now, my poor Mother has been inundated with requests for the recipe and I can understand why.  It is the best damn bread pudding you will ever have.  I’ve never been a big fan of bread pudding, but this one finally made me understand what bread pudding should be.  Take note, kids!  The satisfying crunch of the caramelization is key –makes the contrast of the creamy, doughy parts.  It is crisp yet doughy with butterscotch syrup.  It is magical, it is drool-worthy, always a popular desert especially during the holiday season and at last, so very easy to make!

This is the only Bread Pudding recipe you’ll ever need.

Edith’s Caramel Bread Pudding

Main ingredients:

15 pcs. plain croissants (cubed)

1/2 cup raisins

1 litre 2% milk

1/2 litre 35 % cream

6 eggs

1 cup sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

Topping

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup almonds, slivered

Caramel:

1 cup white sugar

1 cup water

PROCEDURES:

Caramel:

1.) Boil sugar and water until golden brown (amber colour).  DO NOT STIR AND DO NOT TOUCH as it will burn your fingers fast  Immediately pour into baking pan and let cool.

Custard:

2.) Boil milk and cream on medium heat (160 F).  Remove from fire once it boils.

3.) Beat eggs with a whisk.  Slowly add sugar while beating until color turns pale yellow.  *Temper this mixture by adding 2 ladles of the hot milk-and-cream mixture slowly while still whisking, to prevent the mixture from curdling.  Pour this tempered mixture back into the remaining milk/cream.

4.) Whisk a little bit, then add croissants and raisins. Let soak briefly and pour this mixture into baking pan with the already cooled caramel. Sprinkle brown sugar and almonds on top.  Cover the baking with foil and bake in a *bain-marie at 350F for 30-45 minutes.  Remember to remove the foil covering on the last 10-13 minutes of baking.  This will allow parts of the top to crisp-up.

Tempering — to gently heat egg yolks before adding to a hot sauce by adding a small bit of the sauce and beating well. This technique prevents curdling.

Bain-marie (water bath) — consists of placing a container (pan, bowl, souffle dish, etc.) of food in a large, shallow pan of warm water, which surrounds the food with gentle heat. The food may be cooked in this manner either in an oven or on top of a range. This technique is designed to cook delicate dishes such as custards, sauces and savoury mousses without breaking or curdling them. It can also be used to keep cooked foods warm.

Hey Mister Tally Man, Tally Me GELATI

4 Oct

I would be lying if I didn’t say that it was a relief to be on the last leg of gelato after 2 weeks.  My extra pudgy muffin top is solid proof!  I’m actually not a big fan of sweets (cheese and wine much better), but I was propelled to do my own share of gelato tasting in my recent trip to its motherland.  What I’ve come away with is that what’s awesomely fabulous to one person might be simply okay to another, and that as long as you are open to trying new and non-mainstream flavours and go straight to Venchi Gelato, there is no way you could possibly go wrong.

I highly recommend trying the Frutti Di Bosco (Yogurt style).  It’s important that you try the yogurt style as the regular gelato type is not the best medium for the berries.  Frutti di bosco (FROO-tee dee BOHS-koh) – These aren’t fruits belonging to some guy named Bosco, this means “fruits of the forest,” generally things like blueberries and blackberries.  My other fave is Cocco –which is Coconut and not chocolate.  Cocco gelato is heaven in a cup.  Or a cone –whichever you prefer.