Monthly Archives: January 2010

Irashaii at Hapa Izakaya!

With February and the Olympics approaching ever so quickly and the likelihood of eating out at a restaurant pretty much disappearing until April, the time is now to check out some new places. With that in mind, I heard about Hapa Izakaya’s newest restaurant in Yaletown, so I made my way over there for their opening night.

Tuna Carpaccio

So if you’re looking for a quiet evening, you’ve come to the wrong place! As you enter the restaurant, you’re greeted to a great looking place and the chefs yelling out a loud and friendly “Irashaii!”. Well, to be honest, I had no idea what was being yelled, all I knew was that they were yelling something. After asking our server what was going on, she explained that “Irashaii” is a greeting in Japanese.

Ebi Mayo

Now that we were greeted and seated, it was time to order and Hapa did not disappoint! And since my Japanese vocabulary is growing, I also learned that the word “izakaya” means “i” (to sit) and “sakaya” (sake shop). In other words, that Hapa Izakaya is essentially a Japanese-tappas type of restaurant, so we proceeded to try a bunch of things!

The tuna carpaccio was exactly as it should be…melt in your mouth, enough said!

The tempura prawns were sweet and spicy with a great light crunch and were served with a very nice spicy mayo.

Crispy Oyster with Hapa's Brown Rice Sauce

The crispy oysters were probably my least favorite dish of the evening. They were good, but my expectations may have been too high after the first two plates. It was served on a brown rice sauce which I I found a little bland and didn’t pair well with the oysters. By the way, check out the great control of the chopsticks, it really adds to the picture doesn’t it?

Ishi-Yaki

The last dish of the evening was the ishi-yaki, which came tableside with a raw egg sitting on the rice. It all happened so quickly, otherwise I would have taken a picture of the “before”. Not only was it an amazing presentation, the server quickly mixed the egg, rice, pork, chives, tomato, lettuce and spicy miso in a hot stone bowl that had been baking in the oven all evening! Although the ebi mayo was great, the ishi-yaki was my favorite dish of the evening, as the flavors worked perfectly together and it had a nice comfort food feel to it.

Needless to say, Hapa Izakaya’s opening night was a huge success. I had a great time and the company certainly added to it! When you go, be prepared to be treated to a delicious meal and a warm and friendly irashaii!

1193 Hamilton Street in Yaletown

http://www.hapaizakaya.com/

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Filed under Ebi Mayo, Hapa Izakaya, Irashaii, Ishi-Yaki, tuna carpaccio, Vancouver, Yaletown

Me, my nacho platter and I

What makes you smile and feel good when you’re in the kitchen? For me, it’s when I use my “nacho platter”. It was in my parent’s kitchen for as long as I can remember. My dad and I used to prepare our Sunday afternoon nachos on it while watching our Detroit Lions lose, but somehow the loss didn’t seem as bad on a full stomach. 

Sunday afternoon nachos

I’ve now “borrowed” it for the last 9 years. It’s now been with me in Montreal, across Canada and happily serving my nachos in Vancouver and we won’t ever part. I wouldn’t say it’s the same type of relationship as Adam Sandler and his Red Hooded Sweatshirt, but it’s close.

There are no recipes, it’s simply a matter of what i’m in the mood for or what’s lying around in the fridge. The nachos this weekend consisted of leftover tomato sauce, feta cheese, mozzeralla cheese, sour cream and some football. It was by no means gourmet, but when it’s prepared with a smile and fond memories, it always tastes better.

Me and my platter!

My first parental warning on the blog – be prepared for Adam Sandler using a couple of profanities, but worth the watch…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qi_m_-5M2tw

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Filed under Adam Sandler, Dad, Montreal, Nachos, Red Hooded Sweatshirt, Vancouver

Embrace the Unknown

When I began this blog, my vision was that every entry would be food related, but it’s my blog so I have final say on content, right? So with that said…

It’s funny how we tend to be more reflective on certain days? December 31, vacations, weddings, funerals and birthdays seem to be days that lend themselves to self-evaluation and taking stock of our lives. The reasoning for my deep thinking was that it was my birthday yesterday. Last year, I woke up on my birthday in Montreal knowing i’d be in Vancouver in exactly 365 days. Yesterday morning, I woke up in Vancouver, but on January 16, 2011, I have no idea where i’ll be waking up.

At first, it was a slightly disturbing thought, but then it sort of settled and I realized the allure of the unknown should be embraced. I could be anywhere next year, on a beach, on a surfboard, in a hammock or eating the most incredible pizza known to humanity. My birthday gift to myself is to “let life happen, it may be fun and delicious!” I encourage you to try it too!

Embracing life with a margherita pizza in Naples

For those that have the chance and make it to Naples, Pizzeria da Michele is a must. It is commonly referred to as the birthplace of pizza. This picture was taken from my trip to Italy a couple of years ago and my pilgrimmage to Pizzeria da Michele for a friend of mine who lent me Eat, Pray, Love for my travels.

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Filed under Friends, Montreal, Pizza Margherita, Pizzeria da Michele, Vancouver

Mom’s Cabbage Soup – Worthy of being awoken from a nap

When I was back home in Ontario over the holidays, my mom wanted to warm us all up since it was freezing outside, so she whipped up a massive pot of her cabbage soup (or Borscht for those of you with an Eastern European background). It was the perfect starter before dinner and as long as you have some Tupperware containers to store it (because there’s a lot of it!), you won’t be disappointed. My only disappointment with the soup was that I was awoken from a nap to be shown how to make it, but it was well worth it.

Mom's Cabbage Soup - ready to go!

Cabbage is certainly not a sexy vegetable, but let it stew for a few hours with some other good stuff and it becomes a filling, delicious, inexpensive soup that keeps going and going and going! Eating it with the family warmed the soul, the stomach and proved it also tastes better with family!

Mom’s Cabbage Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 green cabbage – chopped
  • 1 x 796 ml can of stewed tomatoes
  • 1 x 796 ml can of crushed tomoatoes
  • 1 litre can of tomato juice
  • 4 cups of water
  • 2 onions – chopped (optional)
  • raisins (as many as you want, watch them plump up and add an incredible sweetness to the soup)
  • salt
  • pepper
  • chili flakes

Directions

1 – Grab a big pot and line the bottom with the stewed tomatoes, turning the stove onto medium high.

2 – Add the cabbage (don’t worry if it starts to pile too high, it will cook down)

3 – Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato juice, water, onions, raisins, salt, pepper and chili flakes

4 – Cover the pot and leave on medium high for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

5 – Turn heat down to simmer and leave be for 2-3 hours until the cabbage is soft.

6 – Enjoy!

Oh and it’s not only just a good soup for when it’s cold out, it’s good for all occasions. The pictures are from my kitchen in Vancouver and it’s certainly not snowing here!

Mom's Cabbage Soup - before the goodness begins

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Filed under Borscht, Mom's Cabbage Soup, Raisins, tomato, Vancouver

Thank you Joy The Baker and Delicious Birthday Vegan Cake

Before I begin today, I’d like to acknowledge a wonderful gesture by Joy The Baker, who is conveniently found at  joythebaker.com. She mentioned myself and another dozen or so new food bloggers on her site today and i’m still at a loss for words with the results. I want to thank Joy and her readers for taking the time to click on my site and I hope you may find a couple of minutes in your day for me now after reading Joy’s blog of course:) Now, from one gift to another…

It’s the little things that you take for granted, so when I moved to Vancouver, all of a sudden new questions arose like where to get groceries, where to get good sushi, where is the closest and most inexpensive dry cleaner and most importantly, who is going to cut my hair? Luckily, my roommate referred me to someone and she’s super talented and a great person and after seeing her every 4-6 weeks since May i’m now happy to call her my friend!

Now, how does this have to do with food or eating? Well, last week, she told me it was her birthday and the salon manager forgot she was vegan, so the birthday pie he brought in was enjoyed by everyone but her! Well, I’m not much of a baker and even less of a vegan baker, but my goal was to surprise her with something she could eat. So after doing some research, I ended up finding a recipe on allrecipes.com for vegan cupcakes. Great plan, right? Well, it was great until I realized my muffin tins had been lent out but not returned yet, so plan B was a 8″ square cake.

Orange Zested Vanilla Vegan Cake

Well, i’m happy to report the following…

  • a) I had enough batter for 2 cakes since they weren’t going to be cupcakes, so I made a test cake for myself and gave it the thumbs up before making the 2nd cake for her
  • b) I surprised her
  • c) I read her the ingredients and she confirmed it was vegan and she could actually eat it
  • d) The leftovers were eaten up by her and her friends
  • e) Vegan doesn’t mean bland, this was tasty, moist and worthy of being made again!

Orange Zested Vanilla Vegan Cake (My name for it)

  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar (I used regular vinegar)
  • 1 1/2 cups almond milk (First time I ever had almond milk, pretty good stuff!)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, warmed until liquid (I used vegetable oil)
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • My own little twist – Zest of 1 Orange (I added that in and it toally added to the batter)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease two 12 cup muffin tins or line with 18 paper baking cups (or cake pan if you have no idea where your muffin tins are)

Measure the vinegar into a measuring cup. Fill with almond milk to make 1 1/2 cups. Let stand until curdled, about 5 minutes. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the almond mixture, oil and vanilla. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir just until blended. Spoon the batter into the prepared cups, dividing evenly.

Bake in the preheated oven until the tops spring back when lightly pressed, 15 to 20 minutes (For the cake, it was closer to 22 minutes or so). Cool in the pan set over a wire rack. When cool, arrange the cupcakes on a serving platter. Frost with desired frosting.

So for the frosting, I mixed and whisked until smooth 1/3 cup of sifted powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons of sifted cocoa powder, 2 tablespoons of orange juice and a little more zest of the orange.

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Filed under Friends, Joy The Baker, Orange Zest, Orange Zested Vanilla Vegan Cake, Vancouver, Vegan

5 Minute Chocolate Cake…Yes, you read correctly!

So during a recent gathering the Baker’s Dozen (our little office bake club), we were introduced to the 5 Minute Chocolate Mug Cake (2 minutes of prep and 3 minutes in the microwave). I was somewhat skeptical about what could be accomplished in 5 minutes, but I was surprised. Since it would have taken 65 minutes (13 of us X 5 minutes), they were made ahead of time, but we were were given a pretty impressive demonstration of one in front of the microwave. It came out looking good and for a 5 minute production, it tasted pretty good and was a fun recipe. However, it wasn’t quite as light and fluffy as I had hoped, but how much can you expect in 5 minutes, right? Well, I was about find out!

Better than ever 5 Minute Cake - Ready to serve

Well, with that in mind, I set out to see how I could improve it and how else would I go about it other than making 6 cakes?! I had my very own test kitchen and I felt like my own Food Network Test Kitchen. So I began with the original recipe and started tweaking and it evenutally came out great!

Revised and Better than Ever 5 Minute Chocolate Cake

  • 4 tablespoons of flour
  • 4 tablespoons of sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of cocoa
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons of milk
  • 3 tablespoons of oil
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • A handful of chocolate chips

1 – Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl.

2 – Add the egg and mix well.

3 – Pour in the milk, oil & vanilla and mix well.

4 – Place the mixture in a tall glass or mug and into the microwave and cook for 3 minutes at “high”.

The cake may rise over the top, but it will settle, don’t be alarmed! Let it cool and eat out of the mug or tip it out onto a plate.

5 Minute Cake - Take 1

The first attempt was good, but I kept playing around with it. I began by adding chocolate chips to making it more moist, which it did. The next attempt was adding more vanilla, so I put in a full teaspoon and again it made it lighter.

Then I realized that even though the novelty of this cake is the fact that it’s mixed and cooked in the mug, I wanted to combine the ingredients in a bowl and really try to beat it well. Let’s face it, how well can you really mix anything in a coffee mug, other than coffee? So if you really want to do the mixing in a mug or simply don’t have a bowl (or don’t want to get a bowl dirty), well, mix away in a mug.

So with my whisk, I gave it a good beating and than transferred it into a glass which would give it some additional height (as i’m already thinking of presentation) Sure enough, it came out much lighter, fluffier and pretty delicious for a microwaved cake! All that was missing was a little Kahlua and ice cream and it was ready to go!

The best thing about this recipe is that it’s everything you’d normally have in your kitchen, so it’s simple and dangerous since it can be made at anytime! Oh and in case you were curious, I didn’t eat the 6 I made, I simply sampled them!

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Filed under 5 Minute Chocolate Cake, Baker's Dozen, Chocolate Cake, Kahlua

Lunch Tastes Better With Friends

Further confirming that it does indeed “Tastes better with friends”, I was invited for lunch by a friend from work along with a few others. We were told to bring nothing as there would be plenty to eat, so instead I made my way over with some flowers. She was right, there was plenty of food and it was all good!

For Starters (Served with Cava)

Smoked Trout Pate (Lucy Waverman, published in  A Year in Lucy’s Kitchen)

Smoked Trout Pate

  • 8 oz smoked trout, skinned and boned
  • ¼ cup red onions, chopped
  • 1 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp horseradish
  • 3 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 2 tbsp whipping cream (or less)
  • 1 tbsp pickled ginger
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tbsp chopped chives (or green onions)

1)      Place top 7  ingredients in a food processor and puree until smooth.

2)      Season with salt and pepper.  Garnish with chives.

Serve with endive spears, dried apple slices or crackers with minimal flavour

1st Course (Served with Pinot Gris)

Baked Potato Soup (My favorite of the entire lunch – A fully loaded baked potato in soup form!)

Fully Loaded Baked Potato Soup

  • ½ cup (125 mL) chopped double smoked bacon
  • 1 cup (250 mL) chopped leeks (white and light green part only)
  • 3 cups (750 mL) peeled, diced potatoes
  • ½ tsp (2 mL) each salt and white pepper
  • 1 cup (250 mL) dry white wine
  • 3 cups (750 mL) chicken broth
  • ½ cup (125 mL) 10% sour cream
  • ¼ cup (50 mL) finely chopped chives
1. In a large heavy saucepan, cook bacon over medium-high heat, stirring often, until crispy, about 6 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove bacon and reserve for garnish. Drain all but 1 tbsp (15 mL) of the fat from the pan. Add leeks and cook until softened, add potatoes, salt and pepper, scraping any bits from the bottom of the pan. Pour in wine and cook until reduced by half; pour in chicken broth and reduce heat to maintain a simmer until potatoes are very tender, about 15 minutes. Let cool slightly.

2. Using a blender, purée soup in batches until creamy and smooth. Stir in sour cream. Serve in warmed soup bowls topped with bacon and chives.  Serves 6

(‘Food and Drink’ is the magazine published by the Liquor Control board of Ontario (LCBO).  Great articles and recipes that they pair with their wines.

2nd Course (Served with Pinot Blanc)

Roasted Golden Beet Salad with Goat Cheese (Lucy Waverman, published in ‘Food and Drink’ Autumn 2009)

Roasted Beet Salad and Casserole

  • 2 lbs (1 kg) beets, preferably golden or mixed colour (4 large or 8 small)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp water

Dressing

  • 2 tbsp sherry vinegar (Loganberry vinegar was used instead)
  • 1 tbsp walnut oil
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and freshly ground pepper

Garnishes

  • 1/3 cup chopped shallots
  • 3 tbsp chopped mint
  • 1/2 cup walnut pieces (Pecan pieces were used instead)
  • 4 oz goat cheese
  • 2 cups baby arugula

1)  Preheat oven to 400 F (200 C).

2) Place beets in a baking dish with olive oil and water.  Cover tightly and bake until crip-tender (40-60  minutes).  Slip skins off and coarsly grate.

3)  Combine dressing ingredients and then combine with beets.  Stir shallots, mint and nuts, and sprinkle with goat  cheese.

4)  Divide arugula between 4 salad plates and top each with a pile of beet salad.

Pasta Casserole with sausage and mustard/braising greens, ricotta cheese and a seasoned bread crumb topping (Made from scratch with no actual recipe and it was delicious)

3rd Course (Served with coffee and tea)

Pumpkin Swirl Brownies (Anna Olson, published in ‘Food and Drink’ Autumn 2009)

Room for dessert?

Pumpkin Swirl

  • 1 oz cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tbsp sifted flour
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

Brownie

  • 6 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • ½ cup pastry flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt

1)       Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C) and grease an 8-inch square baking pan.

2)      Pumpkin Swirl:  Stir cream cheese and sugar.  Add pumpkin and beat well. Blend in egg, flour, vanilla and cinnamon.  Set aside

3)      Brownie:  For best results, prepare by hand.  Melt together chocolate and butter.  Remove from heat and stir in sugar.  Stir in vanilla then eggs1 at a time, blending well after each addition.  Sift in flour, baking powder and salt; stir in gently.

4)      Scrape half of brownie batter into prepared pan and spread evenly.  Dollop pumpkin filling onto brownie and dollop remaining brownie batter around pumpkin.  Swirl filling with tip of a knife and bake for about 30 minutes, until a tester inserted into the centre of the brownie comes out clean.  Cool at room temperature before slicing.

Ginger cookies (Made from memory, since she’s made them so often, but they were good, so i’m hoping to get the recipe!)

If you made it to the bottom of this entry, you’re in store for a great meal, bon appetit!

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Filed under Anna Olson, Baked Potato Soup, Beets, Friends, LCBO, Lucy Waverman, Pate, Pumpkin