From Italy: Shoplifting Nuns + A Classic Two-Ingredient Spring Snack

Team, meet the fava bean.

With their spongy pods and chubby beans, favas don’t come across as particularly posh veggies. But for the past few weeks, as Rome’s grocery stores and markets overflow with the things, folks have been snatching them up like they’re going out of style. Because in a way, they are. 

Upload from May 15, 2012

See, as favas age, their beans grow sturdy and starchy and their waxy shells develop bitter tannins. In this state, shelling, peeling and cooking are near necessities. But crack open a pod that’s been plucked from the vine now, early in the growing season, and you’ll find beans that are tender, sweet and addictively edible, waxy shell and all.

Guys, these things are so tasty they’ll tempt even a nun to steal a pod or two. Unthinkable? I saw it happen yesterday. Hail Mary!

At this time of year, when favas are at their best, folks across the country eat them raw with pecorino cheese. This combination is a classic.

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From what I gather, “pecorino” is a bit like a last name, used to signify that the many variations of pecorinos share common origins as aged, sheep milk cheeses. (The name pecorino derives from pecora, the Italian word for sheep). And while I’m sure there are loads of pecorinos that pair well with favas, here in Italy it seems there are a few favourites. 

In Rome, the logical choice is Pecorino Romano, the super-salty, crumbly variety characteristic of the region. Down south in Sardinia, the richer and more delicate Pecorino Sardo reigns supreme. And in Tuscany, where I ate favas and cheese this weekend (more on that later!), the regional Pecorino Toscano, a slightly softer and less biting variety, is key. 

Upload from May 15, 2012

Look for favas whose pods are firm and short (not those monster half-footers) and, if you have the chance, taste the beans before you buy them to ensure that they haven’t yet gone bitter. Now hurry home, toss your beans into a big bowl, crack into a pod and enjoy the spoils with a slice of salty pecorino (thinner for Romano, thicker for Toscano and Sardo). And that’s it: cheese and beans. An embarrassingly simple kind of happiness. 

The season for sweet favas is almost up, so act quickly and buy plenty. Hear that, nun? Buy.

Happy snacking, friends!

Mac & Cheese, the Roman Way

Guys, I’m drowning in some of the tastiest fruits and veggies I’ve ever met. So naturally, today is all about pasta, butter and cheese (emphasis on the cheese). Let me explain.

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One of the incredible things about Italy (tasty coffee aside) is its regional variation. Though the country is less than half the size of your average Canadian province, in Italy you’re never more than a short train ride away from feeling like you’re in a new country: new landscapes, history, architecture and, of course, food.

(A bit different from my home province of Alberta, where regional variation manifests itself as the presence or absence of mountains and a preference for one of two hockey teams. Said only with fondness.)

While you’ll find pizza, pasta and gelato pretty much anywhere you go, each region – and often even individual cities and towns – has distinct food traditions of its own, shaped by climate, culture and history. Rome, my home base for the summer, is no different. 

Upload from May 07, 2012So, to start things off right, I figured I’d better pay homage to the place and share with you guys something traditionally Roman

While I’ll get more into the nature and history of Roman food once I’m better acquainted with the stuff, suffice it to say for now that super-traditional dishes here are based around fried seasonal veggies, pastas in simple sauces, and meat dishes made from the underused bits of sheep, cows and pigs (think tripe, oxtail and pig-cheeks). As a vegetarian with a fear of boiling oil, things like fiori di zucca (fried, cheese-stuffed zucchini blossoms, oh yum) and coda alla vaccinara (oxtail stew, not so yum) are, alas, out.

And so we arrive at pasta. And though even here Rome remains pretty meat heavy – you’ll find pancetta alongside eggs in carbonara, and guanciale (unsmoked pig-cheek bacon) alongside tomato sauce and pecorino cheese in amatriciana – one option remains! 

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Friends, meet cacio e pepe. The name refers to its two key components, sheep’s milk cheese (that’s the cacio) and cracked black pepper (the pepe). I’ve heard the dish called Rome’s version of mac & cheese, and for good reason: it’s super-speedy to throw together, and guys, it’s everywhere.

Upload from May 07, 2012

As with any regional specialty, everyone has their favourite way of making the dish, with ingredients and techniques varying with the cook. In the version below, black pepper is toasted until fragrant, then combined with pasta, butter, starchy pasta water and two types of cheese – pecorino romano (the traditional cacio) and another firm, salty variety – to make for a tangle of noodles coated in a creamy, spicy sauce. 

You need to add the cheese to the pan while the pasta’s still super hot to ensure that the sauce will be creamy rather than gloopy, so have everything ready to go from the start. Use the best ingredients you can find and don’t be tempted to bump up the quantity of pasta, and you’ll be minutes away from Roman happiness. Just make sure you eat some veggies, ok? 

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Cacio e Pepe
Adapted from Bon Appetit
Serves 2

Ingredients
Sea salt
175 grams dried pasta (tagliolini, bucatini, spaghetti or other long, skinny pasta)*
3 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into three equal pieces
1-1.5 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
3/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano cheese**
1/3 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Directions

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling water seasoned with 1 tsp of salt.
About two minutes before the pasta reaches a tasty al dente, drain it, reserving 3/4 of a cup of the pasta water. 
While the pasta’s cooking, melt two of the three pieces of butter in a large skillet set over medium heat.
Once the butter’s melty, add the pepper and toast for a minute or two, swirling occasionally, until the pepper is fragrant.
Add 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta water to the skillet and bring the mixture to a simmer. 

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Reduce heat on the skillet to low, and add in the pasta and remaining piece of butter, tossing it all together to coat.
Dump in the larger quantity of cheese (that’s the Parmigiano or Grana Padano) and toss again until the cheese has melted. If the sauce is looking too thick at this stage — it should be melty and creamy enough to coat the pasta without globbing — add in a bit more of the pasta water.
Remove the skillet from the heat and add in the Pecorino, tossing again to melt the cheese and coat the pasta.
Serve while hot! 

Upload from May 07, 2012*You can also substitute in fresh spaghetti, bucatini or tagliolini, which cook a whole lot faster than their dried counterparts. If you do choose fresh, up the amount of pasta that you use by a handful or two (you want no more than 250 grams in total).
**Either cheese will do just fine, though a bit of reading tells me that the less expensive of the two, Grana Padano, will melt better. I used Parmigiano Reggiano with success though, so go with what suits you best!

Update from Rome, with Nutella

It’s moving day!

After ten days in my temporary lodgings – three different rooms on two different floors of a single B&B (just for kicks, you know) – I’m off to the apartment that I’ll be calling home for the next three months. I have no idea what the place will look like – I’ve seen only a few photos – though the man I’ve been emailing reassures me that yes, strange girl, the kitchen does have a window. Good news. Recipes are on the way! 

Upload from April 30, 2012

In the mean time, I’ve got a few photos from my adventures over the past weekend, some of which – finally – feature some tasty treats. I can take credit only for consuming them, but I assure you – as soon as I figure out how to make nutella-filled pastries, I’ll let you know. Until then: adventures! 

Upload from April 30, 2012

After a week of staying close to home, my traveling companion and I set out on Saturday to navigate (sort of) the twisty streets of Rome’s centre in search of a photography exhibit. Instead we found people, monuments, pigeons! Public parks, outdoor galleries, and inspired artwork, from monumental churches to hand-painted dictator figurines. Traffic and tiny grocery stores stocked with five types of tomatoes. Guys, I don’t even know.

Upload from April 30, 2012

Sunday, we found the exhibit, then headed out of town to explore one of Rome’s oldest roads, the Appian Way, first built back in the 300s BC to bring military supplies into the city. Despite road signs and tourists, we failed to find the road, but did find bunnies and chickens, children and bugs, sheep, dirt paths and an overall lovely day. A nice substitute for a military road, I say! 

Upload from April 30, 2012

Now I’m off to roll my suitcases down the cobblestone streets to my new home, before heading off to celebrate Primo Maggio — the first of May — with the rest of the city. From there, it’s all grocery stores and cooking for me so that I can start sharing the food of Rome with you! So stay tuned, friends, and happy first of May to you! 

Food Trucks, the Roman Way

Over a Skype call early this morning, my mother informed that I was not posting enough photos! Despite my protests that I hadn’t had any photogenic food adventures yet – a state driven by a combination of work calls, accidental sleeps, and a cupboard kitchen (that is, a kitchen that exists inside a cupboard) – she wouldn’t hear me out. I had promised photos, and I was not delivering, no ma’am!

Of course, my mom is right – I made an e-commitment that I would share adventures more often than once a week, recipes or not! So here we are: a couple shots of food life in Rome, snapped while wandering on a cloudy day earlier in the week. 

Upload from April 27, 2012

You’ll find these food trucks – an army’s worth of nearly-identical snack shops on wheels – scattered throughout the city, next to its more prominent tourist attractions (of which Rome boasts about a zillion). Day after day, the folks who run the things set up shop inside to swap food – pizza, beer, pringles, fruit – for tourist dollars, before tearing them down and starting over again the next day. 

And while they may not offer up the best fare that Rome has to offer, my guess is that they’re a happy sight to any weary visitor who, after spending hours climbing up and down the stairs of the Colosseum in the Italian sun, just wants a gelato and a bit of shade.

Speaking of which, it’s about time I fulfill my mother’s second request and go eat my first gelato, already! More soon, friends!

FoodHappy goes to Rome!

Greetings from Rome, friends!

Last Friday, I hopped on a plane headed east and, after two near-missed connections and one wholly passable in-flight curry, I touched down in the Eternal City – my home for the next three months.  

Upload from April 26, 2012

Since getting into the city on Saturday afternoon, I’ve spent my time dodging jetlag (read: sleeping from 5PM to 8AM) and getting my bearings. Meals, then, have been makeshift, comprised of baking brought from home, speedy sandwiches, and Italian-style breakfasts (i.e., espresso-based drinks). 

Upload from April 26, 2012

Over the next eight days, cooking will continue to be on the backburner, as the kitchen at the B&B I’m at consists of a hallway cupboard outfitted with a teeny fridge and a couple burners, shared among guests. I will, though, be seeking out tasty treats to share with you guys, even if I haven’t cooked them myself.  

Upload from April 26, 2012

Once I’m out of the B&B and into the apartment that will serve as my home base over the next few months, I’ll be back into the swing of things, sharing recipes inspired by the Italians but whose ingredients you guys at home should have no trouble finding.  I’ll also share food photos and adventures as often as I can, so check back regularly as I’ll likely be posting more than the usual once a week. 

Upload from April 26, 2012

While my weekdays will be spent in Rome – my traveling companion has a snazzy job in the city – weekends will be fair game for bigger adventures. If you have any suggestions of places to go, things to do, or treats to try – both in and outside of Rome – let me know! If I’m able to take you up on your suggestion, you’ll be sure to see the results of our adventures here. 

Sprouts made tasty: Roasted brussel sprout pizza!

Friends, meet my new favourite pizza.

No-knead crust, smeared with roasted garlic and topped with rounds of crunchy brussel sprouts, slivers of red onion, and just a bit of mozzarella. It doesn’t sound like much. But team, I assure you: this pizza is amazing.  

Upload from April 16, 2012

The combination of ingredients came to me by way of my sister and brother-in-law, who themselves were introduced to it by a pair of friends. The story, if I recall it correctly, was that the four of them, after having consumed this pizza, promptly made and devoured note one, but two, more. I think a grocery store trip was required. That, friends, is not the kind of pizza you ignore.

So I made it. And, after pulling my zillionth (third) round out of the oven in a single month, I figured it was about time I passed the pizza along to you. Kind of like a chain mail, only highly edible and not at all annoying. (You should, though, keep the magic alive and share the recipe with a friend, because the results are a tangled mess of caramelized, cheesy glory. Which, you know, is almost better than finding out the meaning of life, but I’m sure that that particular chain email will pop up in your inbox in no time.)  

Upload from April 16, 2012

Now, a word on brussel sprouts. Because while I know we’re all grown-ups here, I know too that the brussel sprouts, in all their squiggly greenness, aren’t always synonymous with super-tasty. Rarely, actually, thanks to the age-old tradition of boiling the poor things until they’re a soft and soggy mess.

But here – where they’re sliced thin and roasted– they sing. A happy song, full of rich earthiness and crunching noises. And when you combine it with the sweet mellowness of roasted garlic and red onion and the smooth strings of melted mozzarella, it’s all balance and texture, and so much more than the sum of its parts. It’s a bit of an experience, really.  

Upload from April 16, 2012

Now, my guess is that you can make this pizza with success using any pizza dough recipe. But I really have to advocate for the no-knead variety I shared last year. It takes time to rise and might seem tricky to work with – the dough is quite wet – but it’s nothing a bit of patience and a good dusting or two of flour can’t handle. For the crackle of a crust that has both bite and chew, that will bubble and rise and add a whole dimension of delicious flavour of its own, it’s so worth the wait. 
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Brussel Sprout Pizza
Recipe via my sister and brother-in-law, via their friends
Makes 1 9-inch pizza

Ingredients
1 ball of pizza dough, large enough for 1 9-inch pizza (I used half of this recipe)
1 head of garlic, roasted*
3 cups of thinly-sliced brussel sprouts (about 1/2 cm thick)
1/4 of a red onion, thinly sliced into rounds
1/2 cup or so of shredded mozzarella cheese
Olive oil
Salt
Pepper

Instructions
1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a Silpat and lightly coat parchment/Silpat in olive oil. Place dough on the oiled pan and shape dough into a rectangle using whatever tool’s best suited for the job (for no-knead dough, fingers work best).

2. Squeeze cloves of roasted garlic onto the pizza. Using the back of a spoon gently spread garlic mush nearly to the edges of the dough (this is essentially your sauce).

Upload from April 16, 20123. Top dough with an even layer of sliced brussel sprouts. Drizzle sprouts with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper, then top evenly with red onions and cheese. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until crust is golden, cheese is bubbly and sprouts and onions are beginning to caramelize. Let cool for a minute or two before cutting into slices and serving.  

Upload from April 16, 2012

*To roast a head of garlic: Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Lop off just enough of the top of the head to expose the tips of each clove and discard the top bit. Place the remaining head into a big piece of tinfoil that you’ve shaped into a bit of a bowl, then pour a generous amount of olive oil overtop of the head, so that the oil runs into the spaces between the exposed cloves. Fold the sides of the tinfoil over the garlic so that the garlic completely enclosed in tinfoil. Place the wrapped garlic, cut side up, in the oven and roast for at least 30 minutes, or up to an hour if you can manage it — the longer you wait, the sweeter and more roasty the garlic will be. 

Ultimate dinner party: Instant noodles, three ways.

Behold, the speediest achievement in FoodHappy history: a three-course meal, made in less than 20 minutes! Not possible, you say? Friends, I assure you that this is for real. I tested it yesterday.

Yessir, while you sat down to Easter dinner, I made a three-course meal composed almost entirely of ramen noodles. 

Upload from April 09, 2012

Ok, fair. So ramen’s not exactly known for being glamorous (sorry, Monsieur Noodle). But guys, I think we’re making a serious mistake in limiting our intake of instant noodles to study breaks and hurried lunches simply because fashion and food guides tell us that refined grains and hydrogenated oils are passé. If cupcakes and donuts can weather the storm, instant noodles will have their day. I mean, look at what you find when you peel away the crinkly neon plastic. 

Upload from April 09, 2012

Texture. Colour. Flavour. Potential. Right? 

Right. So let’s get to it: a three-course meal built wholly around instant noodles, guaranteed to impress in-laws, bosses and love interests alike. We start, naturally, with the appetizer. 

Upload from April 09, 2012

If you grew up in North America in the 80s and 90s, chances are that, like me, you ate this almost every day without fail for a few years of your life. Crunchy and salty, and therefore delicious, this nostalgic snack will take any discerning diner by surprise. 

Here’s how it’s done: Grab a bag of ramen – don’t open it! – and use your hands to carefully break up the noodles into bite-sized pieces (hand-model credit goes to my sister). Next up, open the bag. Find the seasoning packet and pour its contents over the dry noodles. Hold the bag tightly closed and give it a good shake to distribute the seasoning over the crunchy noodle bites. Serve! This definitely counts as cooking.  

Tip: Grab a few different flavours so that you can serve your guests a bunch of varieties!  

Upload from April 09, 2012

Following the standard method for preparing instant noodles, the result is a classic. 

Here’s what you do: Bring 2¼ cups of water to boil in a medium pot. Add the noodles and contents of the stock packet (and dehydrated veggies, if they’re included!). Cook, stirring regularly, until noodles are tender and the veggies are soft, 4-5 minutes.

Tip: Pick up noodles that include a packet of dehydrated veggies and you won’t have to bother preparing fresh ones!

Upload from April 09, 2012

Finally, the main course: Like whimsical pasta, only so much faster, instant noodles are cooked until al-dente, coated with a bit of melt-friendly margarine, and sprinkled with the flavourings of the seasoning packet. The noodles of my childhood, these  provide a comforting end to an adventurous meal.                                                                                   

Here’s how it’s done: Bring 2¼ cups of water to boil in a medium pot. Add the noodles (but not the seasoning!) and cook until tender, 4-5 minutes. Drain noodles and return them to the pot. Add 1 tsp margarine to the pot and stir to coat noodles evenly. Place noodles on a plate, sprinkle with a bit of seasoning, and serve with a few sliced green onions for fanciness.
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Happy belated April Fools’ Day, friends!

If you decide you have to try this, be warned: you’re taking a risk, serving up something so tasty and terrible. I know – I made it myself. All of it: MSG and everything. At someone else’s suggestion…April Fools’ Day, indeed!

Kale Chips, Revamped!

These days, my Saturdays always play out the same way: After waking up, too late for the batch of pancakes and farmers’ market excursion that I’ll invariably promise myself the night before, I transfer my wardrobe to the trunk of my car and head south.

Not to some exotic locale to indulge in a few days of adventure, but to my sister and brother-in-law’s place, where I’ll catch up on a week’s worth of laundry and conversation, and exchange whatever domestic appliance I’d borrowed the week before for something new. Sometimes, I’ll even stop for groceries during peak hours. Kids: welcome to life at 24.

Upload from April 02, 2012As a thanks to my hosts for supporting me and my appliance needs as I reconcile my own competing views of what’s age-appropriate — one side taking no issue with spending a Saturday ferrying an iron across town, the other refusing to admit that it might be time to invest in one of my own — I use the time between loads to cook. Old favourites, like no-knead breads and pizzas, warm nicoise salads, nostalgia-rich coffee cakes. Kale chips.

Upload from April 02, 2012

A few weeks ago, precisely a year after the three of us devoured our first of many batches of these addictive green chips, a recipe arrived in my inbox: kale chips, flavoured with a delicious coating made from tahini, soy sauce, green onions, garlic and more. So this past Saturday, an hour late and with vacuum and laundry basket in tow, I set off to make my sister and brother-in-law one of their old favourites, with new style.  

Upload from April 02, 2012The results: a super-savoury and substantial chip that, like the original, boasts an addictive, salty crunch that will linger on your mind and in your teeth long after the last chip disappears. The recipe makes loads — six trays for me — so you’ll have plenty of opportunity to experiment with the level of coating: massage just a little bit into each bite of kale and the kale-y flavour will shine through; add more, and the sauce will take centre stage. Either way, the results are delicious. 

We served ours with a smattering of green onions — a bit of freshness to balance out the richness of the chips — but agreed that they would go equally as well with a chilly beer or atop a steaming bowl of jasmine rice. I suppose I’ll have to make another batch to find out!
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Kale Chips
Shared with me by David, who got the recipe from his mom, who sourced it from her friend Cath!
Makes loads — at least six baking sheets of chips. If you’re after fewer chips, simply cut the recipe in half (note than half of 1/4 cup is 2 tbsp)

Ingredients
2 bunches of kale, washed, ribs removed and leaves torn into even, chip-sized pieces (about 16-20 loosely-packed cups of leaves)
3/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup soy sauce or tamari
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup nutritional yeast (optional)*
2 green onions, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, minced
Sea salt

Directions
1. 
Position two oven racks in the middle-most positions in the oven and preheat oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. 
2. In a large bowl, combine tahini, soy sauce, vinegar, water, nutritional yeast (if using) onions and garlic, and whisk until smooth.
3. Add kale pieces to bowl — either one at a time or in larger batches, depending on what you find easier — and massage an even amount of sauce into each piece of kale, making sure to spread sauce into the curly edges of the kale. 

Upload from April 02, 20124. Transfer kale pieces to baking sheet, doing your best to spread out each piece of kale to its maximum size to allow it to crisp evenly and leaving a bit of space between each kale piece. Sprinkle kale with a light but even dusting of sea salt. 
5. Transfer trays to the oven and bake chips for 35-50 minutes, or until crisp. The baking time will depend on how saucey you’ve made your chips, with saucier chips taking more time to cook.** 
6. Repeat steps 3-5 until all chips are cooked. Eat as soon as chips are cool to the touch. Store leftovers in an airtight container and re-crisp in a 250 degree oven for a few minutes before serving.   

Upload from April 02, 2012*Nutritional yeast is a bright yellow, powdery form of yeast that’s rich in B-vitamins and amino acids. Depending on who you talk to, nutritional yeast tastes nutty, creamy and even cheesy — it’s often used to flavour vegan substitutes for cheese! While it’s not necessary to the success of this recipe, it does add a savoury complexity to the final result, and any leftovers can be used to top of mashed potatoes, popcorn, or to flavour scrambled tofu. You can find nutritional yeast at most health food stores (I buy mine here). 
**According to my sources, you can also crisp these guys by giving them four-or-so hours in a dehydrator.  

Speedy Chana Masala

 Our foray into pseudo-convenience food continues, with today’s focus centred on speed, tastiness and, importantly, volume. 

Because, if you’re anything like me, if ready-made meals aren’t on hand when time gets scarce, you’ll resort to calling popcorn with a side of grapefruit dinner. At 11 PM. Not awesome. As for lunch? A refrigerator-foraged container of raw cabbage, radishes and black olives doesn’t quite cut it. (I have, though, helpfully discovered that purple cabbage will tint your lips a work-inappropriate shade calling to mind the effect of too much wine.)  

Upload from March 26, 2012So today, I’m sharing something that actually counts not just as food, but a real meal. Chana masala: a traditional South Asian curry made from chickpeas (that’s the chana bit), and aromatic things like onions, garlic, ginger, and loads of spices. 

(The term masala, for the curious, means “mixture”, and can refer to both dry spice mixtures like garam masala “warm mixture” — and also to the wet mixtures of onions, garlic and other aromatics that often make for the saucy base of South Asian curries.) 

Upload from March 26, 2012

In this version, chickpeas – little nutritional superheroes – take a quick spin in a tomato-based gravy flavoured with both wet and dry masalas. Topped off with good dose of bright lemon juice to balance the richness of the sauce, the results are hearty, complex and abundant – perfect for dishing up to guests as part of a curry extravaganza (it’s been done many a-time!) or for providing you with a few days-worth of popcorn-and-grapefruit-free meals. Perfect. 

Upload from March 26, 2012

A regular in my repertoire, I’ve found that it goes over best when you double the spices (I’ve written the recipe to include the doubled proportions of everything but paprika and cayenne), but if you’re spice-shy, scale the doubled spices back by 50%. I’ve also found that, in order to ensure that the army of onions brown properly, thus imparting their caramelized sweetness upon the dish, you’re best to use the widest-bottomed pot that you’ve got. The more opportunity the onions have to come into direct contact with the pan, rather than their oniony neighbours, the easier they’ll turn toasty, and the faster the dish will come together.

While the spice list is long, its contents are common to South Asian curries and so should be pretty easy to find. Given that dry spices are typically best if used within six months of opening, try to buy in small quantities or, better yet, start a spice-sharing system with a few friends. If each person passes on a bit of this-or-that whenever they end up with more of a spice than they could possibly need, everyone involved is able to expand their spice collection without having to invest in those big bags that would otherwise likely go to waste, while the chance of you discovering some cool new spice — like dried mango powder — increases dramatically. Give it a try!

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Speedy Chana Masala
Adapted from smittenkitchen
Makes loads, lots, tons! (At least four servings, with rice)

Ingredients
1 tbsp vegetable or olive oil
2 medium onions, minced
1 clove of garlic, minced
2 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 hot green chile, membranes discarded (don’t use your fingers) and green bits minced
2 tbsp ground coriander
2 tbsp ground cumin
2 tsp paprika (I like hot smoked paprika, but regular paprika will do just fine)
2 tsp ground turmeric
2 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (again, less if you’re spice-averse)
1 15-ounce can of whole tomatoes with juices, chopped into bite-sized bits*
2/3 cup water
2 15-ounce cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed** 
1/2 tsp salt
Juice of 1 lemon***
Fresh cilantro, washed and roughly chopped (optional)

Directions
1. Heat oil over medium heat in a large, heavy-bottomed pot.
2. Add onions, garlic, ginger and chile and cook, stirring frequently, until browned, about 5 minutes.
3. Add spices to the pot and stir until onions are evenly coated and spices are fragrant, a minute or two.
4. Stir in tomatoes, scraping the bottom of the pot to loosen any spicy goodness.
5. Stir in water and chickpeas and simmer, uncovered, over medium heat until sauce has reduced a bit, about 10 minutes.
6. Stir in salt and lemon juice and let sit for at least a few minutes before serving (it’ll be most flavourful if you give it a full day to rest in the fridge, but it’ll still be super-tasty day-of). Top off with a good handful of fresh cilantro, if you so please!

Upload from March 26, 2012*You can also use 2 cups of chopped, fresh tomatoes when they’re in season and super-juicy. Alternatively, for super-speediness, you can use pre-diced canned tomatoes — they’re not quite as tasty as whole tomatoes, but they’ll do the trick!
**You can also use chickpeas that you’ve rehydrated and cooked. You’ll need 4 cooked cups.
***If you have dried amchoor powder — a sour spice made from unripe mangers — add a tablespoon of the stuff at the same time you add the rest of the spices, and reduce the lemon juice to half a lemon. 

Fast Food, FoodHappy Style!

Team, I’ve reached a new low.

Remember how I told you that things would a bit busy for the next little while? Well, last week I found myself a mere mouse-click away from sending out a Doodle poll to schedule a time for a phone call. With my boyfriend. For real.

Fortunately, some higher part of my brain decided that the few milliseconds it would have taken me to hit the send button were better spent obtaining a bit of perspective, which then advised me to delete and get a grip. 

Upload from March 19, 2012

While I look for a slot in my schedule to do the latter, I will in the mean time share with you another tasty, time-friendly recipe that I rely on whenever I’m in survival mode, which is to say when I find myself too busy to make a proper meal.

The recipe – or rather, unexpectedly addictive combination of kitchen basics – comes to me by way of my sister, whose schedule makes my own look like a day at the beach. The master of quick-and-delicious, my sister shared this with me one day when I was over to do the usual catch-up-while-catching-up-on-laundry, and I’ve made it many times since. 

Upload from March 19, 2012

In its classic form, the dish is composed of a fried egg served over jasmine rice and topped with soy sauce and sriracha, an easy-to-find Thai red chili sauce. The combination, simple and strange as it sounds, makes for a dish rich in textures and flavours; the starchy, sweet rice and crisp-and-creamy egg serve as vehicles for the heat and sweet acidity of the sriracha and the salty, umami-ness of the soy sauce. Each bite feels like an indulgence – not at all what you’d expect from eggs on rice. 

When I’m after a meal, rather than simply a mouthful of starch and protein, I fast-fry the rice with the quick-cooking veggies that I always have on hand: a half-cup of frozen peas, a quick grating of frozen ginger, a small handful of chopped cilantro and a super-finely grated carrot. Add a bit of avocado before topping it off with the egg and sauces, and life’s good. Really, though, you can use whatever veggies you have around – as long as you’ve got the rice, egg, soy and sriracha, tastiness is all but guaranteed. 

Upload from March 19, 2012

If you can, pick up eggs laid by hens raised under happy conditions (this chart will give you some sense of what practices are unfortunately largely lacking in standard egg production, and will show you how to identify eggs produced by farmers adhereing to better practices). Though eggs from happy chickens will be a bit more expensive, they may be better for you and won’t, as a meat-eating friend of mine observed, have the same fishy taste you find with some run-of-the-mill eggs. Unfortunately Canada is still getting it together when it comes to standardizing terms like “free-range” and “free-run”, so for the time being it may be best to stick with eggs specifically labelled as “certified organic”, as the producers of these eggs are, unlike others, upheld to high standards that are verified by inspection. Easier still, simply print of this handy wallet-sized pocket guide and pull it out when you’re shopping — if you can locate one of the labels, you’ll know exactly what you’re getting. 

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Eggs & Rice: The Classic

Serves 1

Ingredients
1 cup hot, cooked rice
1 egg, preferably certified organic
Soy sauce
Sriracha
Olive oil for cooking 

Directions
1. Heat a scant tablespoon of olive oil in a pan over medium heat.
2. When oil is hot, crack an egg into the pan and cook until the white is opaque.
3. Flip the egg and cook for a minute or two more, until the yolk is to your liking.
4. Serve egg over hot rice, topped with a good drizzle of both soy sauce and sriracha.

Upload from March 19, 2012_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Eggs & Rice: Veggie Variation
Serves 1

Ingredients
1 cup cooked rice
1 carrot, peeled and finely grated
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/2 tsp freshly grated ginger
2 tsp fresh, chopped cilantro
1 egg, preferably certified organic
Soy sauce
Sriracha
A few slices of fresh avocado
Olive oil for cooking 

Directions
1. Heat a scant tablespoon of olive oil in a pan over medium heat.
2. When oil is hot, add rice, grated carrot, peas and ginger to the pan and mix with a wooden spoon to evenly distribute ingredients amongst one another. Cook for a couple minutes to start heating everything through.
3. Push rice mixture to one side of the pan and add a bit of olive oil to the exposed half of the pan. Crack the egg onto this side of the pan and cook until the egg white is opaque.
4. Flip the egg and cook for a minute or two more, until the yolk is to your liking. While the egg cooks, stir the rice, taking care to keep it on its side of the pan. 
5. Just before the egg is ready to go, stir cilantro into rice mixture. 
6. Transfer hot rice mixture into a bowl and top with a few slices of avocado, the cooked egg, and a good drizzle of both soy sauce and sriracha.  

Upload from March 19, 2012