Sunday, September 19, 2010

Book Review?

101 Things I Learned (TM) in Culinary School

I found a cute little book, 101 Things I Learned in Culinary School by Louis Eguaras and Matthew Frederick (2010), in the UBC bookstore.  It's not a recipe book nor is it particularly helpful for home cooking. However, it is sort of a foodie trivia book and makes a good coffee table book for your guests to flip through while you plate the dinner.  There are also other "The 101 Things I have Learned" books by the same authors for the non-foodie guests.  It makes great dinner conversation too.

BUT I don't know about you, but my place is way too small for a coffee table.  I personally didn't find the book particularly helpful. The book does have pretty entertaining tidbits though, so I am thinking about doing the super unethical thing of blogging about some of its content.  It would look like this:

This is the image from the page 1 book
There are only two ways to cook
Dry cooking uses direct heat - radiation, convection, or oil. Methods include sauteing, panfrying, deep-frying, grilling broiling, roasting, and baking.  It produces browning or searing of the food's outside surface.

Moist cooking uses water, stock, or other liquid (other than oil) as a medium for transferring heat. Methods include blanching, boiling, simmering, poaching, and steaming. THe food are not browned and tend to be tender when done. For beset heat transfer, the cooking vessel should be large enough for the food to be completely surrounded by the liquid or steam.

Dry and moist methods can be combined. In braising and stewing, a tougher cut of meat is seared with dry heat and then simmered for several hours in liquid to tenderize.  (1)

You see, most people already know how to boil, bake, or panfry food. This first page simply gives the readers the terminology for these activities.  It goes on and on like that.  You learn the French words for different cutting methods, names of pots and pans, etc. I suppose you might learns a few things to impress your foodie dates or girlfriend... for $18 CND.

It isn't exactly plagiarism if I properly cite my source and recommend people who have coffee tables to purchase the book, right? You have a week to yell at me to cease or desist. Otherwise, I am going to blog about this book once a week.

Work Cited
Eguaras, Louis and Matthew Frederick. 101 Things I Learned in Culinary School. New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2010.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Farmer's Market

There is a small farmers market set up downtown on weekends. It is West of Burrard and a block north of David.  It's definitely worth checking out.  It will be there for two more weeks.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Sugar Free Apple Butter Recipe

The September 2010 Daring Cooks’ challenge was hosted by John of Eat4Fun. John chose to challenge The Daring Cooks to learn about food preservation, mainly in the form of canning and freezing. He challenged everyone to make a recipe and preserve it. John’s source for food preservation information was from The National Center for Home Food Preservation.

I am a little late with my canning project for this challenging.  I was super ambitious earlier on and tried to make blueberry jam, which failed, badly.  Then, I tried to do this recipe, but I forgotten the boiling apple on the stove while I played Starcraft II.  I ruined the batch and as well as the pot.  This is my third attempt.  It tasted pretty good considering there are no added sugar.

12 Apples (Peel, cored, and sliced) Gold Delicious, Gala, and Granny Smith all work and you can mix match as well
1 cup Apple Cider (check the ingredient to make sure there are no added sugar)
1 Tablespoon Cinnamon
½ teaspoon Allspice
¼ teaspoon Grounded Gloves

1. Combine apple and cider in a pot. Slowly cook it and stir occasionally to prevent sticking. Cook until soften (falling apart)
2. Use a potato masher and mash the apple.
3. Add the spices.  If you find your apple too sour, you can add a little bit of agave syrup or honey.
4. Slowly cook the mixture until it thickens.  Stir occasionally.

To test for doneness, spoon a small quantity onto a clean plate; when the butter mounds on the plate without liquid separating around the edge of the butter, it is ready for processing. Another way to test for doneness is to remove a spoonful of the cooked butter on a spoon and hold it away from steam for 2 minutes. It is done if the butter remains mounded on the spoon.

Once it is ready, follow the canning instruction here.  My apple butter taste like tart apple pie filling. nom nom.

I got four cans of apple butter. Any takers?

Food Preservation: Part 2

Food Preservation: Part 1
Again, this is just a summery of the full guide here.

Boiling Water Canning: Heat kills germs (and zergs too).  This type of canning is perfect for fruit with natural acidity or added lemon juice.  Canning requires clean, intact, and sensitized mason jars.

Here are the basic steps:
1. Fill a large pot with water and bring to boil. Place a insulator on the bottom, such as a plate. (be creative)
2. Lids are placed in a pan of hot water (to soften the sealing compound).
3. Fill the jars with food prepared for canning, remove bubble, and adjust head space.
4. Seat the lid and screw on the band.  Don't screw it on too tightly.
5. Load the jars into the boiling pot of water without tipping it.  Make sure there is at least an inch of water above the jar.  Cover and boil for for 15 minutes.
6. Remove jars from the pot without tipping it and allow to cool at room temperature undisturbed for 12-24 hours.

Headspace: gap between the top of the container and the level of the liquid of the food.  It allows the food the expand for freezing and for vacuum seal to form properly for canning.
Raw Pack Canning: Canning raw food such as pickle.  This method allows the food to retain its shape and flavour better. However, it is challenging to ensure no trapped air.
Hot Pack canning: Food are cooked twice to ensure less air inside the jar.

I used two layers of chopsticks as my insulator. 

Cheesecake Etc

Cheesecake Etc is my new favourite place of guilty pleasure.  Screw the overpriced True Confection (with questionable food hygiene).   Cheesecake Etc has very limited cheese cake sections, but their 4-5 choices are all knees bucklingly delicious.  They have no signs outside save the small sandwich board outside the door. They also have very weird hours: something like 7pm to 2am.  The place is lit by candle and has live piano music.  The customers are mostly Asians (what can I say - we love cheesecake nom nom nom) and couples are dates.

This place is definitely worth checking out.

Btw, cash only.

Cheesecake Etc. on Urbanspoon

Taiwan 2010: Part 1

Time to blog about my trip to Taiwan.  This is a very typical breakfast shop and they are about as saturated as Starbucks in Vancouver.  You would see one of these every other block.

Let's look at the picture to the left.  We have a clean, well organized station of a slow cooker, three different hot teas (possibly black, green, and red), cold teas, soy milk (sweeten and unsweeten).  This particular breakfast franchise is also famous for their barley milk which is delicious, healthy, and low in calories.

Green onion egg wrap
In North America, we are used to the big value deal of sausage, bacon, eggs, omelets, pancakes, and steaks.   You won't find these heart attack inducing food in these little breakfast joints in Taiwan.

Sausage and Ham Egg Wrap
Egg wraps are the favoured form of breakfast in Taiwan.  Eggs are broken and cooked on a teppan, a flat iron griddle, similar to how you would cook sunny side up.  The soft doughy flour wrap then are placed on the half cooked eggs allowing the two to stick together.  The egg "sheet" is then flipped over and other ingredients or sauces can be added in at this time, before it is wrapped up and cut into sections.   There are a lot of options for the additional ingredients, such as tuna, pork floss (very popular one), bonito, pickle, corn, tomato, spices, etc.

Now this is how I like my sandwiches - without crust. Btw, breads in Taiwan are a different beast.  They are extra doughy, soft, with a hint of sweetness (and slightly undercooked).  You will not find a loaf of bread in Taiwan with tough chewy crust.  Again, these sandwiches come with very different flavours and ingredients than the ones in North America.  Here we have here breakfast sausage patty, eggs, ham, cucumber, and tomato.  Taiwanese mayo is clarified with a hint of sweetness.  Pork floss is another favoured ingredient for these sandwiches. (Dennis hates them though. Perhaps it's not for the Western palate).

Seghesio Zinfandel 2006 California

Variety: Zinfandel
Producer: Cortina
Specification: Seghesio - Dry Creek Vally
Vintage: 2006
Region: California
Alcohol: 15.2%
Price: $55

Appearance: Clear, medium intensity, ruby, legs
Nose: Clean, medium+ intensity, developing, red fruit, black cherry, red cherry, jam, cedar, pepper, oak, vanilla, coconut
Palate: Dry, medium acidity, medium+ tannin, medium+ alcohol, medium+ body, medium intensity, dried fruit, black cherry, pepper, oak, earth, cedar, good length

It's really a tragedy that people associate zinfandel with the cheap sugary pink Gallo . A true zinfandel, in my opinion, is red wine that is made from grapes of an old zinfandel tree. Old grape tree produces very few fruits thats very intense in flavour; these grapes makes amazingly intense and flavourful wine.  The price of the wine then reflect the tree's relatively low production.  This one is a beautiful Zinfandel classic.  Perfect with steaks btw.

Quality: Very good,ready to drink but can keep

Food Preservation: Part 1

Daring Kitchen's September Challenge has offered a great instruction file on food preservation through canning or freezing. For the entire month, I have been trying to can my own fruit, with some success (and plenty of failure - some Starcraft induced). They offered an amazing and print-friendly guide and recipe here. Below is a summery of what is in the guide.

While canned and preserved food are readily available in markets, there is nothing more satisfying than doing it yourself. It is especially important for those with their own garden, so they can preserve excess fruit or vegetables. Also, it allows you to control the ingredients for those with allergies.

To preserve food is to prevent:
1. The growth bad bacteria or fungus
2. Prevent undesirable enzyme activities
3. Eliminate oxygen and reduce unintentional moisture loss

FAT TOM are key factors in preserving food
Food: Avoid food with low acid, rich in protein (e.g. eggs) because bacterial thrives on these
Acidity: Acidity prevents enzyme activities and bacterial growth.
Temperature: Nothing like a good boil to kill germs. Freezing at -40F or lower can also kill living things alike.
Time: Even if twinky can survive nuclear blast, it will still expire eventually.
Oxygen: Most bacterial needs air (but some do thrive in the absence of oxygen)
Moisture: Bacterial don't thrive without water or in brine (salted) solution

Brief summary of how each food preservation method works.
Preservation MethodAcid Temperature Oxygen Moisture
Freezing   Storing foods at 0F (-17.8C) or lower Airtight packaging  
Boiling Water Canner (high acid foods)/Pressure Canner (low acid ) Some foods can be acidified using vinegar or lemon juice Heats foods to kill bad bugs and neutralize enzymes Jars form a vacuum seal – creates a low oxygen environment
Pickling and Fermentation Food is acidified by using vinegar or natural bacteria creating lactic acid     Brines (salted water) and sugars reduce fresh water
Drying Airtight packaging Removes up to 90% of the moisture
Jam and Jellies Vinegar or Lemon juice, Fruits naturally acidic Cooking, canning or Freezing Canning will create a vacuum seal Sugar reduces water available

Usually, we don't have the industrial strength freezer that is required to prepare sashimi, but most commercial fridge are old enough -17.8C (0F) to keep food preserved for a long time.
1. Rapid freezing creates smaller ice crystals which expands and puncture cell walls.  This can either destroy food or work in your favour by killing germs.
2. Freeze in small portions, in airtight and leak proof container.
3. Freezer burn is drying caused by airs and gaps in the packaging.

Next post I will talk about Boiling Water Canning.

Click here to go to Part 2

Trainer's Tip from Christina

For this weeks trainers tip, I thought I would recommend somewhere to eat! One of my favorite restaurants any day, anytime is Bandidas Taqeria
Located on Commercial Drive near 12th Avenue, this amazing hole in the wall offers up some of the most delicous Mexican food ever!
Although I am not a vegetarian, I have a deep appreciation for vegetarian done right. At Bandidas, they provide delicous, fresh food that is prepared in house inculding handmade corn tortillas that are worth a trip themselves.

The burritos tacos options have fun names such as "Estelle" featuring pineapple and black beans, or "Leona Gayle" with chipotle tofu, pinto beans & cheese.

My personal favorite is the "Ronny Russell" with roasted yams and onions, fresh guacamole, black beans, green salsa, purple cabbage, & pumpkin seeds as two tacos (orders come in 2,3, 4 or 5) as a meal with a crisp salad. This perfectly satisfying dish runs 8$, leaving plenty extra in the wallet for a pint of Sun God wheat ale for 4.5$ which is one of my treats.

The menu contains a wide assortment from enchiladas, "Danis" is stuffed with roasted squash & cheese, to nachos, soups & salads.

As if it was'nt to good to be true already, they serve brunch every day from 10am to 3pm with some standout dishes in a sea of mediocre Vancouver brunch offerings. My weekend delight is "Lesters" benny with roasted yams & onions, spicy salsa & eggs atop cornbread muffin tops. They even offer a vegan option where eggs are replaced by butternutsquash & organic tofu.

All in all, as a trainer, I like to know that when I am eating in a restaurant the food is fresh, hand prepared & offering a balance between taste & nutritional value. Bandidas delivers this & so much more, all at an exceedingly affordable price.

Check out their website & menu at

For more nutritional or Personal Training in Vancouver, please contact Christina Longo at 778 846 4185 or

Friday, September 10, 2010

Jethro's Fine Grub

(I swear I am not playing Starcraft).  Jethro's is my new favourite breakfast joint.  It offers big, delicious, and cheap breakfasts.  For $10, one order of their pancake can feed 3 grown man. The above photo is the Rooster, chocolate pancake with chocolate gravy in the middle. It's heavenly.  However, I can't decide if I like that more than Grandmas Pancakes which tasted like an apple pie - in pancake form.   I say bring 6 people and try both!

My brothers are a fan of their omelets and you have an option to have it come with a side salad instead of fries, sausages, bacons, etc.  They told me the Benedict's are amazing too.  In my opinion, their pancakes are the highlight.

Jethro's Fine Grub on Urbanspoon