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Archive for November, 2015

FrenchOnionSoup_First

Recently we had some good friends for Brunch and my friend Angela told me how she makes the most delicious vegetable stock from vegetable trimmings. Of course, this isn’t the first time I’d heard of this frugal stock but to be honest, I was skeptical on how good it would be — stock from trimmings? That’s bunny food! I’ve been using roast chicken carcass for soups for a few years now but I’ve never jumped into the compost bin head first to make this vegetable stock before. Angela and her husband were quite convincing on how good this stock is, so I decided to give it a try.

My first attempt was a simple stock using vidalia onion skins, garlic skins, eggplant ends, zucchini ends, celery leaves, cilantro stems and green onion ends. I made sure to wash the skins very well and tossed them into a large stock pot with enough water to cover. I tossed in a tiny bit of salt and boiled, then I reduced to a simmer for about 4 hours. WOW! I can’t tell you how good this was! For a lunch, I simply sautéed more zucchini, eggplant, onions, garlic and celery and ladled the “Compost Stock” over it and drizzled it with parmesan cheese, boy was it GOOD!

When I saw how dark and rich the onion skins made the stock, I thought: why not make a French Onion Soup from it (we’ve made French Onion Soup here and here and here before)? And that is the way this recipe came about. It’s so easy and inexpensive that I urge you to try it. You can make it vegan by omitting the cheese or just use vegan cheese (not sure how good that could be!). And if you’re looking to save a few calories, omit the croutons and the cheese.

JT tried it and could not believe it was made with onion skins and caramelized onions, no stock at all — verdict, he loved it. For this version, we saved around $4 because I usually use an organic beef stock or sometimes I even roast some beef bones which would have saved us $6.00)!

Veg FrenchOnionSoup

Would you like a bowl?

A Vegetarian French Onion Soup

A Kitchen Inspirations Original Recipe.

Makes 1.5 L (6.25 cups) of soup

Ingredients:

  • 3 large organic Vidalia onions, including skins
  • 1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • 4 L (roughly 4 quarts) water
  • 2 tbsp EVOO
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 100 g (3.5 oz) Gruyère cheese, grated (omit if vegan or vegetarian)
  • croutons, enough to fill 2 French Onion Soup bowls

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 250°F (121° F).
  2. Wash outer skin of the onions well. Peel onions, add skins with the bay leaves and salt to a large stock pot with 4L (4 quarts) water in it. Stir and bring to a boil then turn down and simmer for 2-3 hours.
  3. Slice onions very thinly on a mandoline (any larger bits that can’t be sliced, just add to the onion skin stock pot).
  4. Heat olive oil to a large Dutch oven and once hot (but not smoking) add onions; sweat onions until translucent and just beginning to caramelize (about 20 minutes). Add the white balsamic vinegar and stir well. Cover with a piece of parchment (as illustrated below) and bake for 2-3 hours at 250° F (121° C) or until golden and fully caramelized.
  5. When stock is a rich, dark colour strain through a fine sieve to remove skins and bits and finally through a very fine sieve to remove any fine particles (I use a reusable coffee filter). Combine stock with caramelized onions and heat through. Taste for seasonings and add salt and pepper as required.
  6. Plate in French onion soup bowls with croutons and mounds of Gruyère cheese, broil so it’s all melty and bubbly and serve hot!
  7. For a vegetarian or vegan version, omit the cheese or use vegan cheese.
parchment2

Parchment cover for the onions

Screen Shot 2015-11-25 at 1.45.35 PM

Based on 4 servings per batch without the Gruyère and croutons

Based on 4 serving per batch, without the Gruyère and crouton

Based on 4 serving per batch, without the Gruyère and crouton

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SushiThai_first

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted a restaurant review. It’s not that we haven’t been going out (not the case at all) but I’ve been relatively uninspired, not by the restaurants or meals, just kind of an overall humdrum feeling. Night falls far too early and the days seem to be full of grey, mostly. On the plus side, it hasn’t snowed…yet. Most of the leaves have plummeted to earth and the birds and squirrels are running around frantically looking for food. The bird feeder needs refilling almost every two days; those little sparrows eat quite a bit! Speaking of eating…

Last spring I purchased a couple of Groupons for Sushi Thai on Bloor, a restaurant in our hood so that my Hungarian relatives could experience Thai food. We’ve been to Sushi Thai several times but I wanted to get as many plates for them as possible to vary their experience, hence the Groupon. What I completely forgot was that you can only use ONE Groupon per table and we weren’t going to sit at separate tables, so I had an extra Groupon left over for a lunch JT and I had recently.

I’m always surprised that this little place isn’t busier, the décor is contemporary Asian with some tasteful Thai embellishments; it has flattering lighting and the service is good with authentic Japanese staff with a reasonable command of English. The Sushi is fresh, delicious and often creatively prepared (piped mayo, toasted sesame or rice puffs etc. and decoratively laid out on a white plate). Both Thai and Japanese foods are also very good. Complimentary tea is not offered.

A delicious bowl of soup and salad.

A delicious bowl of soup and salad.

We both ordered the lunch specials ($11 each) that came with a small bowl of miso soup and a typical Japanese-style salad made with iceberg lettuce, a few shavings of carrot and beet, thinly sliced cucumber and radish and a slice of tomato dressed with a thousand island-style vinaigrette (it has been my experience that almost all the Japanese restaurants in Toronto make a salad like this, some better than others). The miso was warm, with lots of dashi and small cubes of soft tofu garnished with green onion. Some misos can be salty but this one was not. We both commented that it could have been warmer, of course, the day was one of the first of the colder days so we were still stinging!

Sushi

Just the perfect amount for lunch.

I ordered the Sushi plate which came with 11 pieces of tasty sushi. There were 3 salmon rolls, 3 tuna rolls, and 5 pieces of Nigiri: Tuna, Hamachi, Salmon, Shrimp and Surimi. I could do without the Surimi but it seems to be prevalent on the more budget conscious restaurants. The fish was fresh with a lovely soft texture and the wasabi was pungent!

A decent lunch portion.

A decent lunch portion.

JT ordered the Chicken Teriyaki which came with a good amount of thigh meat in a light teriyaki sauce and a reasonably large mound of rice and a few broccoli florets, all garnished with some white sesame seeds. The chicken was tender and all of the fat had been properly trimmed off (you’d be surprised at how much fat and grissel JT leaves in some places). All in all we both really enjoyed our choice. We did not have dessert.

Overall rating of Sushi and Thai (in my opinion): Decor 3.5/5, service 3.5/5, food 4/5, Value 4/5, Noise: 5/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet).

Disclaimer: We purchased our meals for full price and my opinions just that, my opinions.

Sushi Thai on Bloor

2279 Bloor St W
Toronto, ON
M6S 1P1

Tel: 647-347-6826

Monday to Thursday 11:30 am-10:00 pm

 

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CreamedLentilSoup_First
Lunch in my new freelance reality is often something simple like cauliflower florets with a homemade bean dip but these last few weeks have made me crave soup like nothing else. Often I have something frozen that I can thaw on the range or in the microwave at a moment’s notice but because I had a head cold, I totally exhausted my stash. No canned soups here, homemade is way too easy!

We always have a pantry-full of dried beans and pulses, but as usual, I forgot to soak my beans so I used the next best thing and what I’d consider “instant” — the old standby, red lentil (they are Australian! Who knew?) The red lentil cooks up quickly and has a mild earthy flavour that takes to being flavoured with other vegetables and spices. I also noticed that I was very short in other ingredients so this soup was dictated by what was on hand, a few button mushrooms, onions, garlic and about 1 celery rib. JT loved it, as did I so I was very glad I had the forethought of jotting down the ingredients as I made up a batch. I netted about 600 mL which makes for a hearty meal for two but can be served as smaller portions for four as a starter. Definitely going to bookmark this one for the future, it’s a keeper!

Creamed Lentil Soup with Warm Goats Cheese & Mushroom Relish

A Kitchen Inspirations Original Recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dried red lentils
  • 1 celery rib, chopped
  • 1/2 sweet onion, chopped
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp EVOO
  • 4 cups water or vegetable stock

Directions:

  1. Heat the EVOO in a small Dutch oven, add the celery, onion and garlic, sauté until soft and onions are transluscent.
  2. Add the lentils and sauté for a moment, add the water and stir well.
  3. Cook the lentils over medium heat until soft. Transfer to a glass bowl and purée until smooth and creamy with an immersion blender. Set aside while making the warm relish.
  4. Garnish with crumbled herbed goats cheese and warm csramelized mushrooms.

Ingredients for the Warm Relish:

  • Handful of button mushrooms, cubed very small
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 1 small clove garlic
  • 2 tbsp herbed goats cheese

Directions for the Warm Relish:

  1. Melt the butter in a small cast iron frying pan, add the mushrooms and sauté until caramelized. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant. Garnish soup as indicated above.
A comforting, smooth, filling soup with some great flavours.

A comforting, creamy, filling soup with some great flavours.

Notes:

  • The herbed goats cheese was something I had on hand from another dish, it is simply softened goats cheese, finely chopped parsley, thyme and sun dried tomatoes, sea salt combined.
  • Feel free to substitute plain goats cheese, crème fraîche, sour cream or Greek yogurt.
  • I usually press a soup like this through a fine sieve but did not feel it necessary this time, it was super creamy and smooth.
  • I would have loved to garnish with some finely chopped fresh herbs but sadly my herb garden was put to rest a few weeks ago.

Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 3.51.27 PM

Based on 4 servings, without mushroom & goats cheese relish.

Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 3.52.48 PM

Based on 4 servings, without mushroom & goats cheese relish.

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