Archive for October, 2010

Pad Thai is one of my favourite meals. I used to make it from a Thai cookbook recipe that called for more than half a cup of oil, so I was very happy when the July 2002 issue of Cook’s Illustrated ran this version, which uses less than half of that.

Pad Thai

The secret to this dish is using tamarind paste, which is becoming more widely available. I’ve tried the substitutes and there really is no comparison. I’ve also seen recipes that use ketchup instead of tamarind. Don’t go there. I haven’t been able to find dried shrimp or preserved radish, but the dish is fine without them.  The ingredient list may seem long, but if you get everything ready in advance the actual cooking goes very quickly.

Assemble the ingredients in advance

To avoid additives and preservatives in this dish, use fish sauce without MSG or Sodium Benzoate, such as Thai Kitchen brand. I use Marukan rice vinegar, which has no added preservatives.

The actual cooking takes only 10 minutes


2 tablespoons tamarind paste

¾ cup water (boiling)

3 tablespoons fish sauce

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

¾ teaspoon cayenne pepper

4 tablespoons peanut oil or vegetable oil 8 ounces dried rice stick noodles , about 1/8 inch wide (the width of linguine)

2 large eggs

¼ teaspoon table salt

12 ounces medium shrimp (31/35 count), peeled and deveined, if desired

3 cloves garlic , pressed through garlic press or minced (1 tablespoon)

1 medium shallot , minced (about 3 tablespoons)

2 tablespoons dried shrimp , chopped fine (optional)

2 tablespoons Thai salted preserved radish (optional)

6 tablespoons chopped unsalted roasted peanuts

3 cups bean sprouts (6 ounces)

5 medium scallions , green parts only, sliced thin on sharp bias

¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves (optional)

Lime wedges


Soak tamarind paste in 3/4 cup boiling water for about 10 minutes, then push it through a mesh strainer to remove the seeds and fibers and extract as much pulp as possible. Stir fish sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, cayenne, and 2 tablespoons oil into tamarind liquid and set aside.

Cover rice sticks with hot tap water in large bowl; soak until softened, pliable, and limp but not fully tender, about 20 minutes. Drain noodles and set aside. Beat eggs and 1/8 teaspoon salt in small bowl; set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in 12-inch skillet (preferably nonstick) over high heat until just beginning to smoke, about 2 minutes. Add shrimp and sprinkle with remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt; cook, tossing occasionally, until shrimp are opaque and browned about the edges, about 3 minutes. Transfer shrimp to plate and set aside.

Off heat, add remaining tablespoon oil to skillet and swirl to coat; add garlic and shallot, set skillet over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, until light golden brown, about 1- ½  minutes; add eggs to skillet and stir vigorously with wooden spoon until scrambled and barely moist, about 20 seconds. Add noodles, dried shrimp, and salted radish (if using) to eggs; toss with 2 wooden spoons to combine. Pour fish sauce mixture over noodles, increase heat to high, and cook, tossing constantly, until noodles are evenly coated. Scatter ¼ cup peanuts, bean sprouts, all but 1/4 cup scallions, and cooked shrimp over noodles; continue to cook, tossing constantly, until noodles are tender, about 2-½  minutes (if not yet tender add 2 tablespoons water to skillet and continue to cook until tender).

Transfer noodles to serving platter, sprinkle with remaining scallions, 2 tablespoons peanuts, and cilantro; serve immediately, passing lime wedges separately. Serves 4.

From the July 2002 issue of Cook’s Illustrated

Pad Thai

We love roasted root vegetables and this new find from the October 2010 issue of Everyday Food is especially good because the vegetables are roasted with walnuts and honey.

Cut the vegetables into pieces of equal size

This recipes uses sweet potatoes, carrots and parsnips, but you could add red potatoes, onions, turnip and rutabaga. Just make sure the vegetables are cut into pieces that are all the same size. To ensure the carrots and rutabaga are cooked through at the same time as the other veggies, you can boil them for 5-10 minutes or microwave them on high for 3-5 minutes.

Honey-roasted vegetables


2 medium sweet potatoes, 1 lb total, peeled, halved and cut into ½-inch pieces

4 medium carrots, cut into ½-inch pieces

2 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces

½ cup walnut halves

¼ cup honey

2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

Coarse salt and ground pepper

3-5 sprigs thyme


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a 3-quart baking dish, toss together sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, walnuts, honey and oil; season with salt and pepper. Top with thyme sprigs and roast until vegetables are browned at edges and tender when pierced with a knife, about 1 hour. Serves 4.

From the October 2010 issue of Everyday Food

Everybody loves sweet potato fries, but did you know that sweet potatoes also make delicious chips? This recipe from Ad Hoc at Home can also be made with fingerling potatoes. The trick with this recipe is to make sure the potatoes are thinly sliced. Use a mandoline, v-slicer or the slicing disc of your food processor.

Slice the sweet potatoes as thinly as possible

Fry the potatoes in batches; too many at once will cool the oil and the chips won’t be crisp. Be sure to return the oil to the proper temperature for each batch. Turn the potatoes once while frying; this prevents air pockets from forming and helps ensure crispiness. The recipe below provides directions for stove-top frying; I used a deep fryer, which worked very well.

Sweet potato chips

I’m off on assignment until late November so my posts will not be as frequent. But I’ll be back!


1 lb. sweet potato, peeled or large fingerling potatoes, scrubbed

Peanut or canola oil for deep frying

Kosher salt


Slice potatoes as thinly as possible, but not so thin that the edges become uneven.

Pour three inches of oil into Dutch oven or deep pot and heat over medium-high heat to 325 degrees for sweet potatoes or 350 degrees for fingerlings. Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Set a cooling rack on a baking sheet and line the rack with paper towels. Add about one-quarter of the potatoes to the hot oil and cook, turning once with a wire skimmer, until golden brown, about 2½ minutes. Transfer to the paper towels to drain and immediately season with salt.

From Ad Hoc at Home by Thomas Keller

This is a great new find from the October 2010 issue of Food and Wine. Yellow-fleshed Yukon Gold potatoes are boiled and then roasted with rosemary, olive oil, salt and pepper until they are browned and very crisp outside and fluffy inside. This will become a favourite in our house.

Yukon Gold potatoes are boiled before being roasted

Roasted Rosemary Potatoes


3 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes


Ten 1-inch rosemary sprigs

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Freshly ground black pepper


Preheat the oven to 400°. In a large saucepan, cover the potatoes with cold water. Add a large pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderately high heat until tender, about 12 minutes. Drain.

Return the potatoes to the saucepan and shake over moderately high heat until the potatoes are dry, 10 seconds. Spread the potatoes and rosemary sprigs on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with the olive oil, season with salt and black pepper and toss to coat. Roast for 45 minutes, stirring a few times, until the potatoes are sizzling and starting to brown. Tilt the baking sheet and pour off any excess oil. Roast the potatoes for 15 minutes longer, until browned and crisp. The roasted potatoes can be kept at room temperature for up to 1 hour. Reheat in a 400° oven before serving. Serves four.

From the October 2010 issue of Food and Wine

A pumpkin dessert is a must for Thanksgiving, and this year, for our family feast, I made this Pumpkin Pecan Bundt Cake from the October 2010 issue of Canadian Living. It was a big hit, particularly with my brother Brian.

Pumpkin Pecan Bundt Cake

The recipe suggests making your own pumpkin purée, but I used two cups of canned pumpkin purée and it worked fine. Just be use to get 100-per-cent pure pumpkin, with no spices added. I made the cake the day before and the syrup just before serving. Whipped cream is a perfect accompaniment.

To avoid additives and preservatives in this recipe, be sure to use pure pumpkin and butter that does not contain colour.

Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving! We are grateful to have been able to share the holiday with Eliz, Allan, Diane, Brian, Lois, Anne-Lynn, Andrew, Thompson and Sarah.



¾ cup chopped pecans
1-2/3 cups packed brown sugar
¼ cup softened butter or vegetabIe oil
3 eggs
¾ cup vegetable oil
2 cups roasted pumpkin purée or roasted squash purée, (see Perfect Puree, below)
2-½ cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1-¾ tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground ginger
¾ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp ground allspice


¼ cup butter
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
¼ cup dark rum

Perfect Purée

When choosing a cooking pumpkin, look for sugar pumpkins. These little gourds are firmer and sweeter than those grown for jack-o’-lanterns. The roasting time will vary depending on the size and age of the pumpkin or squash.

Halve and seed pumpkin or squash. Prick skin all over with fork. Roast, cut side down, on rack on foil-lined baking sheet in 350°F (180°C) oven until flesh is browned and tender, 60 to 75 minutes. Let cool. Scoop out flesh and purée in food processor. Refrigerate in airtight container for up to 48 hours or freeze for up to 3 weeks.

2 lb (1 kg) sugar pumpkin yields about 1-¾ cups purée. 2 lb (1 kg) butternut squash yields about 2-½ cups purée.


On baking sheet, toast pecans in 350°F (180°C) oven until fragrant, about 8 minutes; let cool.

In small bowl, stir pecans with 2 tbsp of the brown sugar; sprinkle over greased and flour-dusted 10-inch (3 L) Bundt pan.

In large bowl, beat remaining sugar with butter; beat in eggs, 1 at a time. Beat in oil until fluffy. Beat in pumpkin until smooth.

In separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, ginger, salt, nutmeg and allspice; stir into egg mixture. Scrape into pan; tap pan on counter and smooth top.

Bake in 350°F (180°C) oven until cake tester inserted in centre comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Let cool on rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan; transfer to rack.

Syrup: In small saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Stir in sugar and 3 tbsp (45 mL) water; boil until dissolved and thickened, about 3 minutes. Stir in rum; boil for 1 minute. Brush over cake. Serve with whipped cream. Serves 12.

From the October 2010 issue of Canadian Living

The October issue of Food and Wine features an article on how to eat and drink like a Roman. It includes several recipes that I plan to try, and I started with this braised chicken and roasted peppers. This is a simple dish, but it was stunningly good.

Roman-style braised chicken

I didn’t have fresh tomatoes, so I used about 2 lbs. of canned San Marzano plum tomatoes. I served the chicken with steamed rice to soak up the delicious sauce.  Instead of charring the whole peppers over a gas flame, I cut off the tops and bottoms, and removed the seeds. I then cut down one side of each pepper, flattened them out, and broiled them until the skins turned black. Once the peppers cooled, they were very easy to peel.

Roasted peppers

To avoid additives and preservatives in this recipe, use white wine with a low sulfite count, preferably one with fewer than 10 parts per million.


2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

One 4-pound chicken—cut into 8 pieces, breasts halved

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

1 cup dry white wine

2 1/2 pounds tomatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped

1 red bell pepper

1 green bell pepper.

1 yellow bell pepper

Crusty bread, for serving


Heat a large, enameled cast-iron casserole. Add the olive oil and heat until shimmering. Add half of the chicken pieces to the casserole and season them with salt and black pepper. Cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until they are evenly browned, about 6 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a large platter. Repeat with the remaining chicken pieces.

Add the garlic and crushed red pepper to the casserole and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until the garlic is golden, about 1 minute. Add the wine and boil over high heat until reduced to 1/4 cup, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes along with the chicken and its accumulated juices. Cover the casserole and braise the chicken over low heat, turning once, until the breast pieces are cooked through, about 25 minutes. Transfer the breast pieces to a serving bowl. Continue braising until the leg, thigh and wing pieces are done, about 15 minutes longer. Transfer them to the bowl.

Meanwhile, roast the bell peppers directly over a gas flame, turning often, until they are charred all over. Transfer the peppers to a rimmed baking sheet. When cool enough to handle, peel the peppers and discard the stems, cores and seeds. Cut the peppers into 1-inch strips.

Boil the sauce in the casserole over high heat until reduced by one-third, 10 minutes. Return the chicken to the casserole. Add the roasted peppers and bring to a simmer over moderate heat. Season with salt and black pepper and serve with crusty bread. The braised chicken can be refrigerated for up to 2 days. Reheat gently before serving. Serves 4.

From the October 2010 issue of Food and Wine

We grew lots of kale this year and needed to use it up. I had heard that kale chips were good, so I tried this recipe from the February 2009 issue of Bon Appetit.

Tuscan kale chips

It couldn’t be simpler; just remove the centre rib from the leaves, toss the leaves in olive oil, season with salt and pepper and bake on a cookie sheet.

Kale leaves prior to baking

The chips are very thin and crisp and they taste great. The next time I make them, I will add hot pepper flakes or smoked paprika to boost the flavour even more. These are a great, low-cal snack and would also make an impressive appetizer.


12 large Tuscan kale leaves, rinsed, dried, cut lengthwise in half, center ribs and stems removed

1 tbsp olive oil


Preheat oven to 250°F. Toss kale with oil in large bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Arrange leaves in single layer on 2 large baking sheets. Bake until crisp, about 30 minutes for flat leaves and up to 33 minutes for wrinkled leaves. Transfer leaves to rack to cool. Makes 24 chips.

From the February 2009 issue of Bon Appetit