Lunch at Good Fork (Toronto)

I have blogged about this restaurant before for breakfast or brunch I believe but I had a perfect lunch there the other day with my friend Kevin.

I was hungry but didn’t want a really heavy lunch so I opted for what is on the menu as “Anatolian delight” (I think that was it). The lunch included a bowl of delicious red lentil soup – thick and creamy and tasting of wonderful middle eastern spices. The bowl comes with a small container of olives, a small tomato and cucumber salad and another small bowl of the creamiest crumbled feta I have ever had.  I put some of the cheese into the soup and mixed it in. The meal also comes with a wonderful long flat piece of bread (actually it comes with two of these but it really only needs one). I put some of the feta on small pieces of the bread and it was out of this world.

Good Fork soup

It was such a good lunch and all for $12. I think that is a pretty good deal.

Good Fork restaurant is located on Bloor Street West just  east of Jane Street).  http://goodfork.ca

It’s a definite recommend!

 

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Cooking with friends

Recently I was visiting my friend Victoria in the Peterborough area and we always get into cooking when I go to spend a couple of days there (We also talk about financial ideas, the economy, the psychology of people – great brain work out). Anyway, we decided to do a combo dinner where I would bring the soup and she would make the salad. I made my homemade vegetable soup with beans sprinkled with grated parmesan cheese- recipe below.

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…and Victoria made a wonderful spinach, pear and caramelized walnut salad.  Perfect dinner. The salad was from the cookbook called “The Pollan Family Table” by none other that Tracey Pollan (remember her – married to Michael J. Fox and starred in Family Ties? – click on link above for recipe).

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Vegetable soup recipe:

Talk about hearty! I used the vegetables that were in the fridge and usually I add some pasta to this soup but thought I would add white beans to give it more protein and fibre.

Ingredients

1 tbsp of olive oil

2 sliced medium sized carrots

2 sliced stalks of celery

2 small onions chopped

1 tetra pak of vegetable broth

1 large can of low sodium diced tomatoes

1 can of navy white beans

1.5 tbsp brown sugar

Salt and pepper to taste

1 handful of chopped kale (I buy a fabulous product called “Chopped Greens” which is a bag of frozen chopped and cooked kale.  I add it to everything and it is wonderful! – use as much as you want)

 

Directions

In a saucepan add the olive oil and the diced onions. Stir till translucent. Add the chopped carrots and celery and sauté for about 3 minutes. Then add the diced tomatoes. Stir well and then add the vegetable stock. Add some salt and pepper to taste.

Stir this and let it simmer for about 15 – 20 minutes. Then add the kale (since it is already cooked it doesn’t need as long). Cook for another 15-20 minutes and then add the canned beans. Sprinkle in the brown sugar (takes some of the acidity out of the tomatoes and adds a slightly sweet note to the soup). Let this simmer all together for another 10-15 minutes and you have a wonderful hearty soup.

I served it with some shaved parmesan on top and it was perfectly filling and warming. Just what you need on these cold cold days.

 

Breakfast the next day was one of my favourites.

I have developed a craving for poached eggs. I always loved them but used to make egg whites for breakfast every morning. Now I make a poached egg on a slice of toast with a bit of cheese as my go to brekkie every day.  The whole egg has all kinds of things that are good for you and if cholesterol is not an issue then I say go for it.  Keeps me feeling satiated until lunch. This time we shared an english muffin (whole wheat) and I used some baldersons 4yr old white cheddar cheese with a couple of slices of avocado. YUM!!!

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Lunch with an Old Friend

Every year at Christmas I get together with an old good friend Beth and her family for the day.  I always look forward to it as it is a really nice full day of catching up and discussions on anything and everything.

This year for lunch Beth made a delicious soup. I gather it was supposed to be a squash soup but she added a package of chopped sweet potatoes instead of a second package of squash. I think it made the soup that much better by adding a sweet note to it. It was served with a dollop of yogurt on top with chopped green onions (might have been chives). Really nice and thick.

On the side were these delicious tiny pita pizzas. Beth used the tiny pitas split in half and on each side she put some brie cheese (I think it was brie) and caramelized onions and sun dried tomatoes.  Baked till the cheese melted and the pita got a bit crispy and served them warm.  Perfect light lunch (or appetizer) to go with the soup which was really filling.

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After lunch we went for a long walk along the boardwalk of Lake Ontario and did some more catching up. Beth lives in Asia so I am always curious as to what life is like there.

As always it was a great day!

 

PS – I should also say we had a fabulous dinner of sweet and sour pork over rice – A Lucy Waverman recipe, but my pictures didn’t do it justice. I do suggest you look up the recipe under “Sweet and Sour Pork” by Lucy Waverman in the Globe and Mail newspaper.  Well worth it.

A Dinner Fit for a Fancy Restaurant

I’m not going to tell you where I had this superb meal….I want you to guess (okay I’ll tell you at the end of the post). The only hint is that I was dining at the home of my wonderful friends (who cook amazingly – that should give you a hint).

We started the meal with an appetizer that my friend (who shall remain nameless till the end) came up with in the car on her way home. She took meatballs that they made the day before with a rich tomato sauce and put one into a large cremini mushroom cap and topped it with some Jarlsberg cheese (and jalepeno peppers on a couple). Baked them and then served one on a small plate of baby arugula.  Amazing appetizer and not hard to make. I will be doing these at my next dinner party I think.

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Next her husband (who shall also remain nameless till the end) prepared pork chops Milanese (egg wash and bread crumbs with parmesan cheese – no flour). He pounded the chops till half the thickness and then seared them and into the oven. The side dish was roasted jerusalem artichokes or sunchokes. Surprisingly you leave the skin on and slice like a potato and wash with a bit of olive oil and a touch of thyme and roast in the oven.

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These had such a delicate flavour. They were delicious.

Along with this we had steamed baby bok choy with a little garlic and olive oil and then broth added to steam them. Yum!

The whole meal put together was once again outstanding. My favourite “restaurant” never ceases to amaze me.

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Did you guess Ted and Judy’s place?  If you did you would be absolutely correct!

Fabulous Tuna Dinner

Well it was dinner with Ted and Judy again last night – my favourite “restaurant” ;-). I can’t get over the cooking that these friends do! So last night we had a starter of mussels which where so good I totally forgot to photograph them as we just dove into the bowls. Trust me they were delicious.

The rest of the meal was no exception. Actually I have to backtrack….I was starving when I got to T&J’s place as I had forgotten to eat lunch. Judy had some smoked salmon which she artfully put on top of a tiny dollop of hungarian cream cheese (made with paprika – yes it was awesome) on a  thin slice of left over roast potato. Topped with a couple of capers it was an appetizer fit for any restaurant.

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Later we had the mussels followed by a tuna dinner that was out of this world! Ted got some sushi grade tuna from a local fish monger and covered it in sesame seeds with a bit of black pepper ground on top.

 

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He seared it for 3 minutes per side in a hot cast iron frying pan. Prior to cooking, Ted made a small dish of sauce to go with the tuna. Mix the ingredients below and add to taste. It really does take on a different taste though once you drizzle it over the cooked tuna.

1 tbsp sesame oil

3-4 tbsp soy sauce

½ – 1 tsp wasabi paste to taste

1 tsp rice wine vinegar

Along with the tuna Judy made her secret mashed potatoes – all I can tell you is there is some butter and her secret weapon is a mix master ;-). They are the smoothest creamiest potatoes ever.

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The salad Judy came up with (so creative) was made with the following ingredients:

Red tipped boston lettuce (beautiful looking)

Cubed field tomatoes (from the farmers market that day)

Cubed bocconcini cheese, 4-5 pieces

1 whole diced/cubed avocado

4-5 sun dried tomatoes chopped with a lime infusion (lime juice squeezed over to moisten)

In a bowl, mix all the ingredients (not the lettuce leaves) and pour the juice of one lime over them and mix/stir. Then put into individual boston lettuce “cups”/leaves

The tuna was timed perfectly for when the salad and potatoes were done. Plated, it looked fit for royalty. What an outstanding meal! I of course got to take home the leftovers. Thanks again to my favourite restaurant!

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Vancouver Island Holiday


I just spent a week out on Vancouver Island with my cousin Rebecca – what a fabulous week! Aside from the most perfect weather, she has just purchased the most perfect house. It’s a heritage home that was “floated” over from Victoria a few years back.

Rebecca is planning on having a B&B at the house and I can’t think of a better place to be. The house has so much character and Vancouver Island is so beautiful. This was a sort of working holiday as I was helping to get things done around the house.  My cousin has some beautiful art that needed hanging so we put up at least a dozen pictures, a beautiful carving of loons and a gorgeous hand made wall hanging.  I also built a headboard from an old door that was left outside (solid oak – they don’t make doors like that anymore).

Now for the food….

Salmon, seafood and more salmon.  It doesn’t get any better than heading down to the fishing boat and buying some salmon for dinner. We had salmon in scrambled eggs for breakfast, in omelettes, seared salmon and BBQ’d salmon. Oysters that were half the size of my palm were $9 for 14!!! And oh so fresh.

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Farm fresh eggs and salmon and grilled potatoes for breakfast

One night we had maple salmon with boiled potatoes and sea asparagus. Some of you may remember I talked about sea asparagus in an older post – I had never heard of them and here they were growing wild at the waters edge right in front of her home!  We picked them and soaked them and I sautéed them with some garlic to put over the salmon.  Yummy meal. We had some fresh tomatoes that a neighbour brought over that day from their garden.  We decided this was a 10 mile meal (as opposed to a 100 mile version)

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Sea asparagus growing wild

 

 

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Soaking in water as they are very salty

 

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Wild Pacific Salmon

 

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Yum!

My cousin Rebecca is a champion pie maker and since blackberries grow wild everywhere around the island where she lives she made a blueberry and blackberry pie that was outstanding.  We had it my last night at a dinner party given by Kim and Tom with Mary Jo and Veer. What a great night – drinking blackberry wine and eating fresh BBQ’d salmon with oysters. What a great week with great people!

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Before going into the oven

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Baked – what an incredible smell!

 

See below for pics of the house and the neat headboard (yes I am proud of it) 😉

Rebecca's house

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“Chicks-in-Charge” Lunch

We had a gathering of our “Chicks-in-Charge” group a bit earlier than usual as one of our long standing members was going away for 8 months and we wanted to have a catch up before she left. (This is our group of about 8-10 women who run their own business) As usual our host Sheryl outdid herself with lunch. She wouldn’t let any of us bring anything other than side items.

Sheryl prepared a lunch fit for a group of special people (which I think everyone in the group is). We had roasted red and yellow pepper shells filled with red quinoa, a lovely salad, roasted potatoes and artichoke hearts (couldn’t stop nibbling at these – oh so good). Dessert was some sweet items one of the “chicks” brought.

It was a perfect lunch on a lovely summer day – who could ask for anything more?

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Dinner at the Neighbours

A couple of weeks ago I was invited to dinner at one of the neighbours whom I had known for years but never really socialized with. Well I was definitely missing out on great people!  Pina and Dan (and another of the neighbours Mireille) put on a great spread of grilled yakitori chicken skewers with steamed vegetables and roasted tri-coloured potatoes.  What a perfect summer meal!!!  We ate outside and enjoyed great company, great food and great wine (Mireille brought a very nice wine that was just perfect with the meal. It was a white with a slight sparkle to it – “Gazela”).

Dan BBQ’d the chicken skewers brilliantly using foil to avoid burning the wooden skewers.  The meal was finished off with delicious cookies homemade by Emily (Pina and Dans daughter).  What a great evening!

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Dinner Club – Korea

The other Saturday it was my turn to host Dinner Club. This is where a group of 8 of us (plus 2 host guests) gather for dinner and it is all about a specific country of choice (the host picks a country). The food is mostly prepared by the host and each guest brings a bottle of something to drink from that area (or surrounding area) and we each give a 2-3 minute presentation on a different topic. These topics range from economics, government, culture, arts and literature, customs etc.  It’s always a fun evening and we all go away learning something about that country.

Last night was my turn to host and I chose Korea as the country for the evening. I must say by the end of the evening I learned a great deal about a country I knew very little about. It was great and kudos to the guests for all their input!

 

Now for the food (which is pretty much what this blog is all about!)

The menu was as follows:

Salad with sesame dressing

Side dishes included – Kimchee (spicy pickled cabbage), edamame, pickled carrots and radish and sesame spinach. (Most of these items I bought – edamame is just steamed and recipe for spinach follows)

Main course – Seared miso salmon on a bed of grilled corn and steamed baby pea sprouts, Korean sizzling beef, jab chae – a sweet potato noodle with spinach and carrots in a soy marinade (a real favourite)

Dessert was fresh fruit – peaches and blueberries, green tea cookies and sesame cookies.

Recipes to follow after the photos.

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Seared Miso Salmon with Corn and pea sprouts (you can use anything as a base veg for this)

 Serves: 4 (I doubled this recipe but had extra left over)

Ingredients:

4 skinless, boneless salmon filets (I didn’t double this portion as I was serving small pieces along with the other food)

1 cup white miso

1/4 cup mirin

1/4 cup sake (I didn’t have this so left it out)

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 tablespoons dark sesame oil plus a few extra drops for sautéing sprouts and corn)

2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil

3 cups corn kernels, fresh or frozen (I grilled the cobs on the BBQ and then sliced the kernels off (yes I am Type A 😉 )

Toasted sesame seeds to sprinkled over before serving (I also crumbled some roasted nori on top)

 

Directions:

Place salmon in a shallow dish and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together miso, mirin, sake, brown sugar, and sesame oil. Reserve 5 tablespoons of the mixture, cover, and refrigerate. Pour remaining mixture over salmon, cover, and let marinate in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours or up to overnight.

In a large nonstick pan, add ½ cup of water and a drop or two of sesame oil. Steam pea sprouts till wilted, about 2 minutes. Take sprouts out and pat dry. Add canola oil and a few drops of sesame oil to the pan. Add corn and pea sprouts and sauté another 4 minutes until flavoured. Toss in scallions and reserved miso sauce. Mix gently to warm through and set aside, keeping warm.

Heat some canola oil in the same pan. Remove salmon from marinade and shake off any excess. Place filets in a single layer in pan and sear until centre is no longer raw. Divide corn and sprout mixture among four plates and top each with a piece of salmon. Garnish with sliced scallions and sesame seeds.

 

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Sesame Spinach

Ingredients:

1 lb. spinach, stemmed and washed (16 cups)

2 Tbs. Asian sesame oil

1 Tbs. soy sauce

Toasted white sesame seeds for garnish

1 tsp. plain rice vinegar

1 tsp. granulated sugar

1/2 tsp. minced garlic

1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

 

Directions:

Mix (whisk) all ingredients (except spinach) in a medium bowl.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Cook the spinach in the boiling water, stirring, just until bright green and wilted (this doesn’t take long). Transfer the spinach to a colander. Drain well and squeeze or press out excess water. Using your fingers, loosen the spinach slightly as you transfer it to a medium bowl.

Mix the spinach with the ingredients in the bowl. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour to let the flavors meld. Return to cool room temperature before serving. (The spinach is best served on the day it’s made). Photo is a bit blurry – my apologies but had to shoot fast as people were going to dig in!

 

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Korean sizzling beef

Servings: 8

Ingredients:

1/4  cup soy sauce

2   tablespoons sugar

2   tablespoons dry white wine

2   large garlic cloves, very finely chopped

1   tablespoon toasted sesame oil

2   teaspoons crushed red pepper

1 -2 1/2 pound beef flank steak, cut across the grain into narrow 1/4-inch-thick slices

2 scallions thinly sliced on an angle

Steamed rice, for serving

 

Directions:

Using a Ziplock bag, add all ingredients without the beef. Mix ingredients in the bag then add the thin slices of beef. Seal bag and marinate overnight turning the bag on occasion to ensure the mixture saturates the beef.

Set the BBQ to med high heat (about 300 F) and grill the beef slices (this sounds tedious but they only take about a minute per side).

Serve beef with some rice on a plate and scatter scallions over top.

Last image is the Jab Chae which I purchased as I really wasn’t sure I could make it.

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Sparrow Restaurant (Bloor Street West Toronto)

A couple of nights ago we took our friend Kim for dinner for her belated birthday. Jane and Kim were coming back to my place for a glass of wine and some nibbles after we all finished a panel at our part time gig as sensory panelists for a major grocery chain. We thought we would  just converge at my place before going out and then just walk up to Bloor Street for dinner.

We decided on a new restaurant on Bloor called Sparrow.  I had heard good reviews and none of us had been there before. I am always excited to try a new place in the “hood” as for the longest time we didn’t have any good restaurants – now we have several to choose from.

The inside renovations look great – it used to be a family style restaurant (Dr. Generosity’s) for years and before that it was the Rebel Chop House and before that, some of you may remember it as Mad Apples. They have done a complete overhaul and I thought it looked really nice.

Many of the staff are from the previous generation of restaurant and know the biz well and were fabulous.  The service was excellent as were the suggestions. The room however was quite dim and the menu had teenie tiny type all in caps so very hard to read without glasses.  Once we figured out what we were having, we ordered our meals along with a nice white Bertiolo Italian Pinot Grigio wine (we were all having a seafood dish). The wine was delicious!

Here is what we ordered:

Atlantic Salmon Riletters (Cucumber/Dill/Preserved Lemon/Red Onion/Chives/Crostini) – This was really tasty. We shared this as a starter along with warm marinated olives that were just wonderful!

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I ordered the PEI Mussels and both Kim and Jane ordered the Lobster Salad.

The mussels were listed as being prepared in a Junction Beer Broth with Bacon Butter, Garlic/Summer Herbs and served with Grilled Bread. While I really liked the broth I have to say I found the mussels just okay (a few of the shells were empty) and more than half of them were gritty. I don’t think I would order them again.

mussels

The Lobster Salad was made up of the following: Poached East Coast Lobster with Quinoa, Radish, Snap Peas, Horseradish and Mint. Sounds great and it tasted great, it was just the plating that had us mystified. See the picture below and you may be able to tell why….When the plate arrive all three of us wondered where the missing food was as the salad was served along one side of a large dish (I am sure working with the unique design of the plate) with a huge bare section. While the plate had a lovely design to it – it looked empty! A small green salad would have just made the plate but alas it was bare. We all thought it could have used the greenery on the plate to fill it out. Unfortunately the emptiness of the plate overshadowed the artistic arrangement of the food.

lobster salad

All in all, the wine list was great, the service wonderful, the appetizers yummy but perhaps we really didn’t order well.  A plate of lamb chops went by that looks delicious for $18. Perhaps we should have stuck to meat dishes as opposed to the seafood…..

PS – I am apologizing for the quality of the images as the lighting was quite dim and even with a flash the images were rather dark.