hawaiian pizza +

Last week, I emailed my good friend FG-S (married to the lovely Decently Domestic), in the hopes of recreating a meal we enjoyed during the Stanley Cup playoffs of 2012. We drank homemade beer, ate delicious pizza, and made fun of Bob Cole.

I wanted the dough recipe. Here is his response, cut-and-paste for your enjoyment:

Well… it’s never a defined thing but…
2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons active yeast
a good blog of honey or a tablespoon of sugar
Slowly add in 1-2 cups of flour and mix thoroughly till consistent.
Add some salt, don’t go crazy but you’ll need some
Even more slowly, add in another 2-3 cups of flour.
If you want to, add in some “Mixins”, as they call they at Marble Slab… Garlic, chopped up sun-dried tomato, oregano, parmesan, whatever you want.
Either kneed by hand or with a mixer for about 10 minutes, the dough shouldn’t be sticky but should have elasticity…play it by ear
Grease up a large bowl with some sort of oil, plop in the dough and cover it all in saran wrap and leave it for about an hour


See why I love him so much?

too big for its britches — pick a bigger bowl than I did

I made the recipe last night. It makes two medium-large pizzas with a fairly thick crust. You could halve the recipe if you only want one pizza, or you want smaller pizza with thinner crust.

I added garlic powder and oregano, and used about 1/4 whole wheat flour.

When I took the saran wrap off after the rise, I needed to add more flour so that it wasn’t too sticky to work with. I tore it into two pieces and smushed it out into pizza shapes. It will rise significantly when you bake it, so you can spread it fairly thin.

I sauced ‘er up, then put on sliced ham, leaves of fresh basil, red onion, and green  pepper. I added a bit of freshly-grated mozzarella for glue, then added pineapple, pancetta, and green olives. Then I mounded half a pound of mozzarella on each pizza (minus the cheese I ate while I waited for the dough to rise) and sprinkled some garlic powder and oregano on top.

Bake for about 20 minutes in a 415 degree oven — check regularly.

Then devour in bed with red wine and disc one of Sex and the City season four (damn, Aidan).

oh mama

sukuma your wiki

Well, I’m still running into a few consistency challenges with these kale burgers but who has time to wait for perfection? Just eat your greens.

Sukuma Wiki Burgers
makes 4 patties

stay together for the kids

I adapted this from a couple different recipes for spinach burgers, adding my own flavours and using sukuma wiki — Kenyan kale, literally meaning “stretch the week” since it is extremely inexpensive and therefore popular with those who need to stretch their grocery budgets. (Lots of people here hate it because they ate it so much as kids, but it’s way more nutritious than the staple “fill kids’ bellies” food in Rwanda: green bananas.)

Kale is a lot coarser than spinach, so I did significant tweaking from the recipes that used spinach… therefore I don’t know if this is backwards compatible with a spinach substitution. If anything, I used more liquid because I think kale’s stiffness requires more sticking power, so if you want to try this with spinach maybe err on the side of less wet ingredients. Also I think maybe the spinach in those recipes was supposed to be cooked, and my kale was raw. So… yeah. Have you decided yet that you don’t trust me, or this recipe, at all? LET’S JUST COOK AND SEE WHAT HAPPENS. With sesame oil and parmesan in a frying pan it is doubtful this will taste bad.

Combine in a bowl:

  • 1 + 1/2 c roughly chopped kale (packed)
  • generous 1/4 c grated parmesan (plus a slice to eat while you cook)
  • 1/4 c chopped coriander
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • 1 tsp garlic powder, or to taste
  • 1/2 tsp ginger powder, or to taste
  • chilli powder to taste
  • ground black pepper to taste

Toss those ingredients to combine well, then add:

  • two eggs
  • 2 tsp tamari
  • 1 tsp sesame oil

Mush it together with your hands! Once everything is goopy and fantastic, slowly add:

  • 1/2 c breadcrumbs (approximately… just add until it seems like its the right consistency to be burger-ified.)

Set the mixture aside. Add to a skillet over medium heat:

  • olive oil or other fat for frying — these suckers soak up oil, so add the amount you’re willing to ingest. The more, the crispier.
  • a few drops of sesame oil

While the oil is heating, make your burgers.

This is where I ran into technical difficulties. It can be hard to make your little burgs stay in one piece. I roughly formed each burger as a ball in the palm of my hand, and then placed it on a chopping board and really pressed down to make it all flatten out and stick together — then transferred it to the frying pan with the spatula. Once it hits the heat of the pan, everything on the outer surface binds together, so it holds together pretty well… the hard part is just handling the raw burger.

Fry 3-4 minutes each side in a covered pan. Watch carefully — mine burned. (Both times I made them. Ok now you definitely don’t trust me.)

Enjoy with your leftover Spiced Lentil Rice from last night, and a side of smugness. You are eating kale burgers, you are so healthy. (Just exercise selective memory when it comes to how many “one more small one” slices of parmesan you ate while you were waiting for the burgers to cook. Ahem.)

kale patties + spiced lentil rice with yogurt and curry powder on top + the tail end of a lonely cucumber = dinner

feed me something

My food strategy is simple: eat real. I don’t go for a lot of packaged or processed foods. No shame, friends. It’s just that I like to cook. I think it’s fun. I think things taste better from scratch. And I think it’s a good way to challenge myself. However, “real” foods are not always low-calorie. Such as… butter… cream… maple syrup… cheese… almost-mooing ribeye. Just a few of my favourite things.

Cooking (ok, fine, eating) gives me a sense of stability, so I tend to do it more when I travel. I also find myself wanting to sample all the new snacks I come across, much of which are far from diet food. Examples in Kenya: bhajias (battered, fried potatoes w/ cilantro and tumeric), battered and fried sausages, fried samosas, fried tilapia (head still on!), fried chicken (head removed – thankfully), mandazi (fried dough… theme?). Also the local pizza chain makes a killer Hawaiian.

glorious mandazi, made with rice flour. just right.

Gaining a few extra pounds is no big deal, it’s what’s on the inside that counts, right? Normally, yes. However. I’m going home to Canada for Christmas, and it is entirely possible that none of my jeans will fit. Somehow I don’t think my forgiving Kenya wardrobe — skirts, dresses, wraps — will be so useful in a Canadian winter.

Therefore I am making a few last-ditch tweaks: less wine/fat/carbs, more water/vegetables/lean vegetarian protein. Strangely, what’s keeping me going with the health-craze is perusing recipes for disgustingly rich holiday treats… the kind that only North Americans can dream up. (Such as my personal favourite LeBreton Flats, made entirely out of Breton crackers, melted chocolate, butter and brown sugar. I also came across a recipe today that involved baking mini chocolate bars into globs of cookie batter and then covering them with frosting. YES.)

So, in the meantime…

Spiced Lentil Rice

This makes enough for a decently-sized dinner for two, if you add some other dish (stir-fry, curry, big salad?). Or just scale it up. In my sad little case, it made dinner for one + leftovers. Awwwwwwwwwwwwwsadface.

Add to a medium saucepan, over medium heat:

  • a splash of olive oil
  • 1/2 c lentils (I used green)

Saute the lentils for a minute or two, then add:

  • 1 + 1/2 c water

hello my pretties

Simmer for 10-15 minutes, until lentils are beginning to soften. While the lentils simmer, dice:

  • one medium red onion
  • 3-4 green onions
  • half a head of garlic

Heat in a skillet over medium heat:

  • a blurb of olive oil (so precise)

Then add your onions and garlic. Saute until soft, then add:

  • 1-2 tbsp garam masala (or a cumin-ish curry-like spice mix sort of thingy… yeah)
  • chilli powder, salt, and pepper to taste

Once the spices seem to be getting a little toasty (you may need to add more oil to prevent sticking/burning), add:

  • 1/2 c raw brown rice

Toast the rice for a minute or two, then add the whole mixture to the lentils. Be sure to scrape in all the good stuff that stuck to the pan. Add water to cover. (A little too much is better than not enough, you can always boil it off.) Then add:

  • 1 medium tomato, chopped

Simmer for about 30-45 minutes, or until the rice is cooked. When you think it’s close to being done, add:

  • a whole ton of fresh cilantro, chopped… or less, if you’re not obsessed with it like I am. (It’s 12 cents per bunch here! I can’t stop! Someone get me help.)
  • optional: more spices/seasonings, to taste
  • optional: I made mine too spicy so I added 1 tsp raw cane sugar to counteract the mouthfire. Tomato paste would also do the trick.

If everything’s cooked and soft but it seems a little soupy, either boil off the excess water or just remove from heat and let it stand for 10 minutes. I had it with kale burgers (recipe tomorrow maybe, still tweaking) and salad… but I’ve also eaten it on its own, with just tamari (and an episode of The Wire).

all of my photos came out blurry. whatever this isn't Pioneer Woman, deal with it.

ginger steak salad, emphasis on the steak

Friends, I am gorging on salad. Partly because my gym membership ran out and did bad things to my waist, but also because I’m moving to Kenya, a land where eating a salad is kind of like playing Russian roulette with your intestines. I’m not a fan of cholera, and safe salads are usually expensive or hard to come by. (That said, the peel-able produce — mango, banana, papaya — is magnificent.)

sans boeuf: waiting for its prince to come.

Hence, I am sharing with you here my favourite dinner salad, inspired by Pioneer Woman. In terms of mass it’s mostly steak, so it’s really only a salad in the sense that the basis of the dish is a load of lettuce. BUT you can say you’re having salad for dinner and feel virtuous as you tear into a pound of rib-eye. Sorry to those of you who don’t eat meat, you’ll have to sit this one out… or I bet it would be good with tofu. NOT.

First, marinate your steaks, at least 45-90 min before you want to eat. I do one whole steak per salad, but that’s because I am a greedy, greedy carnivore. You could definitely get away with half a steak per person. For one rib-eye (or something fancier if you’re not a recovering grad student), combine in a Ziploc bag:

  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp sherry or white wine
  • 2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Now toss your steak in there. If you’re using more than one steak, just use common sense to scale this up — you probably don’t need to double it for each steak, they just need to be surrounded by marinade goodness. Turn the bag over periodically to ensure an even application of flavah.

Make your salad dressing ahead. This is enough to dress two large salads. The longer it sits and the flavours bleed together, the better. Combine:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp white sugar
  • 1 tbsp lime juice*
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 tsp jalapeno, seeded and diced (or more if you can HANDLE IT)

For the salad, combine in individual bowls:

  • lettuce (romaine, mixed greens, whatever)
  • cherry tomatoes
  • green onions
  • soft goat cheese (that stuff that comes in a tube with herbs or black pepper all over it)

Once you have your salad assembled and your steaks have been marinating for long enough, you’re ready to cook. First, toast some sesame seeds. You can leave this part out with no grave consequences, but I think it’s worth it for the minimal effort. Toss your sesame seeds into a dry frying pan (about 1 tbsp per salad), put it on medium heat and toss them around periodically, until they go golden-y. Do not walk away. They will be fine, fine, fine and then all of a sudden BURNED. Remove from heat and set aside.

Now cook your steak. Put a frying pan on medium-high, spray it with a bit of non-stick. Put your steak(s) in there with some of the marinade juice, and cook to taste. Personally I like my steak still totally raw and bleeding and mooing in the middle, which is only about a minute (or less) of searing on each side. But we’re not all fans of raw flesh, so you do what you gotta do. This salad really does sing if you use tender, less-cooked meat though, if you think you can possibly handle it.

oh me oh my.

When the meat is done: remove from frying pan and slice into thin strips. Dress your salad(s). Slide the meat on top, and top with some of the marinade reduction (from the frying pan, NOT the Ziploc), and then sprinkle your toasted sesame seeds on top.

The first time I had this salad I actually felt the need to bring it up as a topic of conversation in the days that followed, it’s that good. I hope you feel the same way. Mail me one in Nairobi, won’t you?

P.S. Lime-related rant:

* you can substitute lemon juice for lime, but please don’t. I am huge, huge fan of lime juice. I think it’s one of those ingredients that adds a certain je ne sais quoi to a dish — it’s the same category of ingredients as cilantro or butter. You can substitute but it’s never the same.

gotta get down on Friday

front seat, definitely

Instead of taking Rebecca Black’s advice and partyin’ partyin’ yeah fun fun fun fun, I decided to undo all my good work at hot yoga by creating a giant pasta dish on Friday night. I had a huge hunk of goats’ milk feta that needed to be eaten and some shrimp looking for a new home. A star was born.

It’s a chunky sauce, not a smooth one… you could substitute Italian sausage for shrimp, and/or also toss in some pitted kalamata olives if you want to go more Mediterranean-y (I do not think I will ever learn how to spell that word without a dictionary, by the way). The basic onion-garlic-tomato-seasoning-white wine foundation of this sauce is my go-to for pasta. So quick, so easy, so flexible.

Gettin’ down with Feta and Shrimp

In a large sauté pan, heat on medium-high:

  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil (add more as needed)
  • 1 tbsp butter

Let your oils get all hot and bothered, then add:

  • one head garlic, diced (or just a few cloves if you’re planning on putting the moves on someone later)
  • one medium red onion, diced

Once the garlic and onion have softened and maybe even browned a tad, add:

  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 c white wine
  • 2 tbsp italian seasonings
  • salt and pepper to your little heart’s content

Ok, so things are getting really sexy in there by now. (I almost just ate that mixture on its own and called it a night.) Once they’ve all paired off and exchanged numbers, add in:

  • 3 roma tomatoes, diced
  • 2 tsp sugar

Reduce the heat to medium-low so it’s just simmering, covered. You can leave it at this stage for a while if you’re not in a rush to eat… it can only do good things for the marriage of flavours. (But if you’re starving like I was, plow ahead.) When you’re ready to chow down, boil a big pot of water, throw in craploads of salt and then add:

  • pasta for two. I like short-cut extruded or shapes for a chunky sauce like this, so: penne, fusilli, rotini, etc.

When the pasta is close to being done, add to your sauce:

  • as much spinach as you can hold in two hands, with the tough stems removed (I’m so precise. Basically it’s about half of one of those cello packs. You can’t really add too much or too little, unless you have no common sense.)

Once the spinach wilts, add:

  • 10-14 cooked, peeled, deveined shrimp (if you’re using uncooked shrimp you’ll need to add them a bit sooner so they cook through, maybe with the spinach).
  • about 1 cup goats’ milk feta, diced (or less, but I go big)

If you want firm chunks of feta, stir it up and serve immediately on top of your pasta. If you want gooey saucy melty feta heaven, then remove from heat and let sit, covered, for a few minutes. I did this by accident… but what a happy accident it was. Highly recommended.

Pour yourself a glass of that wine and enjoy… maybe with your gay best friend? Girl, do you?

Disappointing Gay Best Friend from mikalabierma on Vimeo.

crimpin’ on Oscar night

I’m not going to give you any of my boring Oscars commentary, because frankly who cares? Except I will say that Frathaway didn’t bother me since I just gazed lustfully at James the whole time (when he wasn’t backstage hitting the bong). Could be worse ways to spend a Sunday night. Anyone else think James Franco and Joseph Gordon-Levitt could play brothers?

Yes? No?

Anyway, here is what I did think was truly smashing about the evening: dinner. We whipped up this little gem because it could go in the oven and therefore we wouldn’t spend the red carpet slaving over the stove.

Crimpin’ Mac-n-Cheese

The crab and shrimp in this recipe adds a certain je ne sais quoi. The flavouring isn’t strong enough to be overpowering but it lightens up the dish — it’s a little more delicate and a little less BAM-THIS-IS-JUST-CHEESE-AND-CARBS. (Although there is a time and place for everything.)

Preheat your oven to 375 and grease a casserole dish (13 x 9 pan works fine, or anything that holds about 2.5 L). Get your sea-meaties ready for easy addition at the end. Prepare and set aside:

  • one 4 or 6 oz can of salad crab meat (or more expensive crab if you swing that way), drained
  • about 14 medium-sized raw shrimpies (you can use previously frozen, no one’s judging), tails removed, deveined if necessary, and chopped up

Now grate your cheese, so you have something to snack on while you prep the rest. Grate (no pre-grated please, that’s just lazy and not-very-good-tasting) and set aside:

  • 2 c cheddar
  • 1 c mild emmenthal
  • plus however much extra you plan on eating over the next 10 minutes while you chop and stir

Ok, let’s make your topping. I am going to put this topping for every pasta casserole I ever make for the rest of my god-given days. Combine and set aside:

  • about 1 c panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 tbsp butter, melted
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tbsp minced parsley (dry or fresh, whatever you’ve got)
  • 1 tbsp grated parmesan (that powdery stuff works)
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt, more if you like this saltaaaay (I put almost a whole tsp)

Boil, until cooked on the outside but undercooked in the middle:

  • about 1/2 to 3/4 pound pasta (rotini, macaroni, conchiglie, rigatoni… whatever kicks your tires)

Drain your pasta and set it aside too. Now, in a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt:

  • 3 tbsp butter

Whisk in, until smooth:

  • 1/4 c flour

Then, whisk in:

  • 1 and 3/4 c milk
  • 1 c light cream

Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring, until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. What up, bechamel sauce! Way to go, you fancy cook. Now remove it from the heat and stir in:

  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • 1/2 tsp ground mustard
  • 1/2 tsp Old Bay, if you have it. I didn’t so I just added pinches of all-spice, ginger, paprika, celery seed, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Now plop in your cheese and stir until melted. Oh goodness. Combine your pasta, sauce and sea meat in a big bowl and stir it all up, then taste it for saltiness — add more if necessary, undersalted mac-and-cheese is never pretty. Now, this is the important part: try not to sit down on the floor and eat the entire bowl with your hands. Instead, pour it all into your pan and then sprinkle your topping mixture evenly over the surface. Bake 20-30 min until golden on top, then let rest 5 min before serving. Let the angels sing.

I don’t have a picture because we ate it embarrassingly quickly.

For dessert we had crème brûlée. And then heart attacks.

new beginnings, with a side of soup

So obviously I haven’t been here — I’ve been hunched over my laptop hammering out what became a 105-page tome about media development in Sierra Leone. I know my blog entries made it seem like I wasn’t doing much work in Africa, but two-hour “semi-structured interviews conducted with media stakeholders” are not exactly the things that dreams are made of, when it comes to scintillating reading material. My thesis went to the printers (and examiners) last week, and to say I’m at loose ends is like saying Charlie Sheen has done some partying. The pace of life is slowing, my gears are grinding, and I’m generally bewildered. I’m feeling guilty about not having anything to feel guilty about. I’m at school until May but my coursework is done, so my days consist of sleeping in, browsing job boards, eating, cooking, eating more, snacking, yoga, and watching Justin Bieber videos. Clearly I need a more constructive outlet for my energies.

So let’s start small. I made this soup. It is glorious.

My Go-To Lentil Soup

My favourite part of this recipe: you don’t need pre-made stock. Ideal for vegetarians (not me) or lazy people (me). I’ll tell you what the recipe calls for, but in general it’s a pretty flexible soup. I adjust amounts depending on how my fridge/pantry (frantry? I like it) is looking. Of course, when the soup turns out really really well that means I never know how to reproduce it. This recipe makes a lot — you’re definitely looking at a few meals for two, but you’ll be glad.

Heat in a large soup pot over med-high heat:
– 3 tbsp olive oil

Add and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are tender but not browned, 5 to 10 minutes:
– 3 medium carrots, peeled and diced
– 3 medium celery ribs, diced
– 1 large onion, diced
– 3 garlic cloves, minced… I always put more, garlic can do no wrong
– optional: 4 slices of bacon or 2 ounces of pancetta, diced… I usually leave this out, since I add chorizo at the end. But you could also leave it out and stay totally veg, if you swing that way.

Stir in:
– 2 cups dried lentils, rinsed and picked over… I used red lentils, you can use green or brown, whatever.
– 14.5 oz canned diced tomatoes… I always end up putting more, almost double since that’s how big the cans are.
– 1 tsp dried thyme
– 8 cups water

Bring to a boil, reduce heat, simmer until the lentils are tender (30 to 45 minutes). Then stir in:
– 1.5 tsp balsamic vinegar… or just eyeball it/to taste
– 2 tsp salt (1 tsp if using bacon)… ditto
– 1 tsp black pepper... ditto ditto

Serve it up and chow down if you want to go basic, or you can add all kinds of beautiful things towards the end of cooking and let it all simmer a little longer to let the flavours really get down and dirty. Additions: potato/sweet potato cubes, kale, spinach, and/or smoked chorizo sausage are my faves. If you’re doing potato/sweet potato, put it in maybe 10-15 minutes before you want to eat. The sausage or kale/spinach can be put in right before the end, just enough time to heat up — but it still keeps well after the first serving. I find this soup is almost always better the next day. I tend to scale up this recipe (obviously it’s really forgiving in terms of measurements) and freeze some in old yogurt containers. It’s very chunky and filling so it’s even good for dinner… get yourself a baguette or Mtl style bagel, smear with butter and rejoice.