Monthly Archives: December 2009

Experimenting with loukoumades (Definition if you read on)

In the spirit of family and friends, my roommate organized a Christmas Eve dinner for some friends like us who didn’t have any family in Vancouver. The menu was set with Greek salad, a seafood alfredo sauce with spaghetti and loukoumades.

To answer the question that is coming, loukoumades are a traditional Greek dessert that consists of small deep fried dough balls served with honey, cinammon and sugar. They sounded delicious but he’s never actually made them, he’s just watched his mother do it all these years, so I decided to give it a shot and play with dough and boiling oil and make some doughnuts.

Loukoumades

So with that, I took the family recipe and here’s what happened…

  • 2 cups of warm water
  • 1 tablespoon of dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • 4 1/2 cups of flour

*oil for frying

*honey, cinnamon and sugar for serving

Mix the water, yeast, salt and sugar and 2 cups of flour together. Mix until it’s a sloppy consistency. Cover and leave in a warm area to rise (until double in size). Mix in the rest of the flour, and mix well. Cover and leave in warm area until it doubles in size again. In a large saucepan, fill about 3/4 of the pan in oil (canola oil, vegetable oil) and heat until very hot. Wet a spoon and scoop a small amount of the dough, dip GENTLY into the oil. Fry a few balls (5-10) at a time… Fry until the balls swell and become golden. If they fry too quickly, reduce heat.  Scoop them out and place them on a plate with paper to absorb the oil. Heat honey in a small saucepan to make it less sticky. Pour honey and sprinkle cinnamon and sugar over them and serve while hot.

The Results

I had never used yeast before. I knew I needed to dissolve it in warm water, but I’m not sure if it was too warm or not warm enough, because I didn’t quite get the doubling in size effect.  And I didn’t get the sloppy consistency either when I mixed it all together. I contemplated adding more water, but I didn’t want to stray away from the recipe and potentially make matters worse!

Loukoumades

However…I persevered because I had a dessert to prepare and serve (only if it was good). I dealt with one more speed bump which was to figure out the correct temperature of the oil for a golden brown color rather than the color of “burnt”. Once I got the temperature correct, I pulled one out, cut it in half and took a bite. It wasn’t quite as light and fluffy as I had hoped, so I called in my roommate for the official Greek inspection. They weren’t quite like his mother’s but I got the approval that they passed inspection!

So with that, the loukoumades were drizzled with honey, sprinkled with cinnammon and dusted with icing sugar and since every one of the 40 or so were gobbled up…well, enough said, right? Well, the one we left out for Santa was gone the next morning, so I guess he approved too!

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Filed under Christmas, cinammon, doughnuts, Friends, Greek, Honey, Loukoumades, Vancouver, yeast

Eating Mexican in Vancouver at Dona Cata

Maybe it was the lack of sun or the obscene amount of rain or maybe it was the craving for some cilantro, but I had a craving for some Mexican food.

Dona Cata was recommended by a colleague of mine at work who happens to be Mexican. He told me it’s good for Mexican food in Vancouver, but it’s not going to be like you’d find in Mexico. So with that cautious endorsement, I made my way to Dona Cata. I ordered taco al pastor (marinated pork) and taco carnita (pulled pork) and of course some guacamole. As I was waiting, I was given a plate of tortilla chips and to my surprise there was a counter of about 7-8 salsas to choose from. I scooped on some green salsa which had a nice kick to it.

Tacos and guacamole at Dona Cata

When I got home and dug in, my colleague was correct. It was decent, but having tasted taco al pastor in Mexico, it just wasn’t the same. The meat was a little overcooked and dry, which essentially makes or breaks the success of any taco. So needless to say, it was a disappointing, since overcooked meat can be avoided. Visually speaking, it was authentic, the flour tortillas were soft and it was garnished with cilantro and lime. As for the guacamole, that was very good, it was creamy and no doubt homemade!

Tacos at Dona Cata

If you have a craving and can’t quite make it across the border, go check out Dona Cata.

Dona Cata Mexican Restaurant & Taqueria

5076 Victoria Drive
Vancouver BC V5P 3T8

Tuesday to Saturday – 9:00 AM to 2:00 PM & 5:00 PM to 10:00 PM
Sunday – 12:00 PM to 5:00 PM
Monday – Closed

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Filed under Cilantro, Dona Cata, guacamole, Mexican food, Salsa, taco al pastor, taco carnita, Vancouver

Happy Chanukah with a latke!

We had a holiday office potluck the other day and I thought i’d introduce my friends and colleagues to the Jewish holiday of Chanukah and latkes. Now, just a quick tutorial, Chanukah translates into “The Festival of Lights”  and a latke is a potato pancake that is fried in oil.  I’ve watched my parents make them, but hadn’t actually made them myself, so why not give it a try, right?

Latke and applesauce

So as is normally the case, you tend to get better with practice. After letting the grated potatoes drain for a while and then mixing it all together, I still found them pretty wet and not ideal for frying. I decided to make my patties a little smaller and really squeezed the liquid out and then they really started turning out well and the kitchen was soon smelling oh so good of fried goodness! And for the record, they were a big hit at the potluck!

Normally they are accompanied with sour cream or applesauce, so I decided to give the homemade applesauce a try. No real recipe, just threw some stuff together. I left the skin of the apple on, I was going for the rustic style, but next time, I might add some more sugar to get it a little sweeter.

Latke and applesauce

Recipe and Directions

Latkes

  • 6 potatoes
  • 1 small onion, grated
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon
  • 1/4 cup of flour
  • 1 tablespoon of oil
  • 2 teaspoon of baking powder
  • oil for frying (you don’t need a lot of oil, just enough to cover the frying pan, you don’t need to submerge the latke in oil)

Grate potatoes and drain well. Blend in remaining ingredients. Drop from a spoon into hot oil and brown on both sides, turning only once. Makes about 2 dozen. Taken from Second Helpings, Please!

***After speaking with my sister, she suggested actually squeezing the grated potatoes by hand before letting them drain. I did that when I made them again and it was an incredible difference!  They fried up much better without as much liquid!

Homemade Applesauce

  • 6 apples
  • Enough water to cover the bottom of the saucepan
  • Sugar
  • Honey

Bring the water and apples to a boil and turn it down to simmer for 15 minutes, until it becomes fork tender. I then threw it on a sheet pan, sprinkled some more sugar and baked it for another 15 minutes or so. I then took a potoato masher and mixed it all up.

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Filed under applesauce, Chanukah, Festival of Lights, Friends, Latke, potato pancake, potluck

Birthday Sugar Drop Cookies with Lime Zest

It’s always fun to surprise someone, isn’t it? So with that in mind, I set out last night to bake something for a friend at work who was celebrating her birthday. We’re a large group, so I figured rather than cake or cupcakes, why not do a birthday cookie and spread the wealth?  As I started leafing through some cookbooks, I realized my pantry wasn’t quite as “cookie-ready” as I would have liked, so the need to improvise was necessary.

Sugar Cookie with Lime Zest

I had the ingredients for Sugar Drop Cookies from the Joy of Cooking, but no cinnamon which the recipe called for. And at 10pm, I was too lazy to head out to the grocery store, so after a little browsing and brainstorming, I found a lime and zested away!

Sugar Cookies with Lime Zest

I was really happy as to how they turned out and although the cinnamon would have been great, the lime added a nice change. I tried making both, the balls and the flattened cookies and my preference and the general consensus was that the balls were better, as they were a little softer and covered in sugar!

And as for the birthday girl, I made 1 large cookie with a little hole for the candle and here’s hoping her birthday wish comes true! 

Now on to the recipe…

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Sift together:

  • 2.5 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1.5 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon (or in my case since I had no cinnamon, I replaced it with the zest of 1 lime)

Combine:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil

Add the flour mixture and beat well after each addition

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Add the flour mixture all at once and beat well. Shape the dough into 1/2-inch balls.

2 options

  • Dip the balls in granulated sugar OR flatten the balls as thin as you can between very lightly floured hands. To give a corrugated effect, score them in parallel lines with a fork dipped in flour and sprinkle with granulated sugar.

Bake about 10-12 minutes on a lightly greased cookie sheet

Taken from The Joy of Cooking (and modified with my lime zest)

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Filed under Birthday cookie, Friends, Joy of Cooking, Lime Zest, Sugar Cookies

Poutine in Vancouver?

Before I’m shunned by the city of Montreal and the province of Quebec for eating and writing about poutine in Vancouver, I need to premise it by saying nothing beats poutine in Montreal. I had heard people talking of Fritz for a while now, but I had held off going since it seemed like a sacrilegious act. So one night recently, it was about 2am and after an evening of Blackjack with some friends, the decision was unaminous, let’s go for poutine! We obviously were not the only one with the idea as the line-up was out the door and easily 15 people long.

Poutine = Fries, gravy and cheese curds

So with that prelude, Fritz European Fry House does a pretty decent job if you’re looking for the trio of fries, cheese curds and gravy AND you find yourself about 5000 km’s away from the province of Quebec. The fries are fresh, handcut, seasoned and quite good with a nice crunchy exterior.  As for the gravy, it was tasty, but it was a little thicker than what you typically find in Quebec. The cheese itself was  good, but disappointing as it didn’t have the elastic effect you get when the cheese is melted down by the heat of the fries and gravy.

Menu at Fritz

It may not be the birthplace of poutine, but even in Vancouver, you can find yourself  a very good poutine.

718 Davie Street (corner of Granville)
Vancouver, BC
V6Z 1B6
(604) 684-0811

Hours

  • Monday – Closed
  • Tuesday – 11:30am-2:30am
  • Wednesday – 11:30am-2:30am
  • Thursday – 11:30am-3:30am
  • Friday – 11:30am-4:00am
  • Saturday – 12:o0pm-4:00am
  • Sunday – 1:00pm-2:30am

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Filed under cheese curds, Friends, Fries, Fritz, Gravy, Poutine, Vancouver