Thursday, September 4, 2014

Breakfast Sausage Patties

As I mentioned in my Quarter Pound Burger post, I bought a patty press to make breakfast sausage patties. I love breakfast sausage, but, stuffing and linking can be a pain with the smaller casings so I prefer to press them. It also allows me to make english muffin sandwiches out of them, a guilty pleasure.

I use a recipe from Len Poli which is supposed to be a Jimmy Dean sausage clone. Whatever it is supposed to replicate, I love it. I am linking you to his WEBSITE for the recipe as I have not gotten permission to use it here. It's in the Breakfast Sausage section, entitled Jimmy "Deen" commercial sausage clone. I don't use the MSG or the citric acid, just my preference.

I tend to buy ground pork when I see it has a decent fat content, you need fat in sausage in order for it to have a proper texture and mouth feel, if it's too lean it will be dry and crumbly. I used to grind my own pork butts for sausage but it took me forever to bone, cube and grind them when excellent ground pork can be found at my local butcher for around $2 per pound.

Like my burger pressing technique, I use deli film, place a sheet on my digital scale, weigh out a 2.5 ounce meatball, fold the film over the top and press. I freeze the patties in my Dollar Store cylindrical storage containers and use as needed.

I preheat my pan over medium heat and then sear the patties, if you start in a cold pan the patties will dry out before they get a good sear.

Here's a shot of my last attempt alongside some hash browns made from leftover russett potatoes I baked the night before. Ok, I lied, I also use processed cheese in my sausage muffin sandwiches. Sue me.

Quarter Pound Burgers

A couple of years ago I bought a patty press to make breakfast sausage patties (a guilty pleasure of mine is a sausage patty on an english muffin sold at a famous fast food restaurant). I used the press pretty much exclusively for that until recently, when I starting pressing my own quarter pound hamburger patties.

I prefer a simple burger, meat, seasoned as I throw it in a cast iron pan or on the grill, so my burger recipe is simply:

Ground beef

I have a meat grinder and have experimented in the past making my own sirloin patties out of sirloin roasts but they were too lean for my tastes. I have wanted to experiment with adding some brisket/chuck/short rib to the mix but have been too lazy recently and I've been making them from lean ground beef. My supplier of ground beef has just the right amount of fat in it and the price is right, so, I go with it.

I have a gram/ounce digital scale, which takes any guess work out of the assembly. I use deli film, I place a sheet on the scale, weigh out a 4 ounce meatball, fold the film over the meat and then press. 
I can whip off 25 patties in about 20 minutes, I stack them in a cylindrical storage container I got at the Dollar Store which is the perfect size for the patties, freeze them and have them ready for when the burger mood strikes.

I prepare the grill by cranking it as hot as it will go, I then place the patties on the grill, season them, and then sear them until juice appears on the top of the patties. I then flip and wait for the juice to appear on the second side.

I usually add american cheese to my burger patties while they are on the grill (one of two times I prefer to use cheese slices, the other being grilled cheese) to get a good melt.

I prefer to keep the buns simple as well, a soft white roll, untoasted. I will on occasion butter and griddle the middle sides of the bun if I have time. My choice of toppings is usually lettuce, onion, pickle and mayo, that's it.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Estonian Onion Skin Stained Easter Eggs

First off to my few followers, I apologise for my lack of attention and dedication to the blog. Three years ago we welcomed a son to our family so much of my spare time is dedicated to him. That coupled with a refocussing on my diet the past year, I have been eating some fairly tame things that aren't really blog worthy....

I have taken photos of a couple of recent(ish) attempts and I wanted to share them.

As a child, Christmas and Easter were the two biggest celebrations in our family (I think mainly due to my father's Baltic heritage). Every Easter right until dad's passing we made onion skin stained Easter eggs and Pasha (I will talk more about Pasha later on). 

This technique produces an awesome result with minimal effort and just a little foresight.

A couple of months before Easter I start collecting onion skins from cooking onions used around the house (although, I don't think a supermarket would mind if you asked nicely to collect some from them). I try to keep them as whole as possible to make it easier to wrap them around the eggs. I tried with purple skins one year and they made the same finished product as the regular old cooking onions so I use them (plus the skins, if removed carefully, seem to wrap almost perfectly around an egg).


1 dozen eggs
onion skins (enough to completely wrap around the eggs)
paper towels

Here is my technique:

1. One at a time take an egg and wrap it completely in onion skin (I have heard that if you wet the egg first the skin will stick better and give you less hassles in the next step). I leave mine dry and wrap.

2. Wrap a paper towel around the onion skin and egg trying your best to make sure the skin is touching all parts of the egg.

3. Carefully wrap an elastic around the paper towel.

4. Place eggs in a large pot filled with enough cold water to cover the eggs.

5. Bring to a boil and cook for 8 minutes.

6. Once cooked, run the pot under cold water to cool the eggs.

7. Unwrap (if you prefer a shiny egg you can rub them with a little butter or oil).

Around our house, we always have an 'egg war' on Easter Sunday. One person holds an egg  prefectly still with the pointy end facing up, his or her opponent clashes another egg's pointy side against the stationary egg. The one whose egg remains unbroken is the victor! As a second chance, the defeated party can flip their egg over for another round (but the blunt end never really fares well).

We have continued the tradition the last few Easters after dad's passing as a tribute to him and the memories of years gone by. Our son already loves egg war, hopefully he has the same memories of it that I do when he's a grown man.

I took a few pics of step 4 onward, our son was helping during the earlier steps and we had a few casualties resulting in less than a complete dozen eggs. :)

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Frostings By Judy

I'll admit I'm not a huge fan of sweets. I'm more of a salty snacks kind of guy. Saying that, there are a few sweets I really like, a few I've mentioned in previous posts, some remain a mystery to you all..... I can't resist a nice piece of strawberry shortcake or chocolate cake.

For my wedding we had our wedding cake baked by a baker who was new to the industry and it was wonderful. She was reasonable and the cake was delicious. For my 40th birthday Mer wanted to get her to make me a birthday cake, but, her prices had skyrocketed. My cake was going to cost over $200, YIKES! Unfortunately it was made by another baker and it wasn't very good. I like buttercream to be silky smooth and not overly sweet, the one made for us was a sugar bomb!

A couple of years ago I was introduced to Frostings by Judy on an internet forum I frequent. She was just starting her cake business, and, someone who'd had a cake made by her raved about how good it was. When we needed a cake for our son's first birthday we decided to try Judy out. We ordered a cake featuring Grover from Sesame Street who he loved at the time. Judy offered to make a smash cake for him to go along with the cake (he ended up eating the whole thing). Both were made of chocolate cake with chocolate ganache filling and vanilla buttercream crumb coat. The cake was excellent, moist and rich with an excellent chocolatey ganache layer in the middle.

We liked the cake so much we ordered a second birthday cake for our son from Judy as well (the same flavours). This time we asked for her to make a barnyard themed cake as he loves cows, sheep, horses, and pigs these days. It was amazing, we couldn't have been happier with the design and again the flavour of her cake. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend her to anyone needing a cake made.

The first birthday cake was $110 IIRC and the second birthday cake was $130, but was more involved.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Captain George's Fish & Chips - Whitby

Had a craving for fish and chips last week and visited Captain George's Fish & Chips, a place I hadn't visited before. They seem to have locations all over Durham, but, the website only mentions the location I visited which is at 201 Dundas St. in Whitby.

I had a lunch special which included cod and chips, a drink and cole slaw for $9.55.

It was a fair sized portion (I was told the filet was 5 ounces). The batter was nice and crisp without being too heavy. In the thickest part of the filet, the batter was a bit greasy, otherwise it was very nice. I believe the fish was previously frozen as it was a bit mushy, on the whole however, I was very happy with the fish.

The chips were a little thinner than most chip shops, they were from small potatoes and a few got slightly overdone for my tastes. Otherwise it was a solid order.

The slaw was finely shredded and had the tang of an oil and vinegar slaw, yet was mayo based. It seems to be a bit of a hybrid. The tartar sauce was house made and was simply mayo, sweet relish and mustard. Nothing wrong with it (it's basically how I make my own). I use dill relish or finely diced pickle which is more my preference (a bit more tang).

After Krispy's closed down I no longer had a go to fish and chip place as most others I have tried in the area have been middling at best. Captain Georges has a new fan, I will return.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Estonian Barley Sausage

My dad was from Estonia and came to Canada as a young boy. He brought with him traditions from his homeland, many having to do with the Christmas Holidays. One of my favourites is making traditional barley sausages, made with barley, onion, pork, bacon, salt and spices (marjoram, thyme, and sage).

In the old days dad and mom would dice the meats by hand and stuff using a manual stuffer my dad made in a tool & die shop when he was a young man. About 5 years ago (a couple of years before his passing) we upgraded to a LEM 5 pound stuffer and that makes short work of even the largest batch of sausage. We also invested in our own meat grinder (but find it easier to have the butcher grind pork shoulder for us). What used to take us most of the day, can now be whipped off in a few hours.

We never really use a recipe for our sausages as we have differing amounts of ingredients every year, we make a test batch before stuffing and decide if it's up to snuff, if it is, we stuff, if it isn't we adjust the seasoning accordingly. You can use this recipe as a start, it'll give you the flavours you're after.

We cook the barley according to the package directions, we add some salt to the barley as it boils as well, we let the barley cool overnight and then add the the ground pork, bacon, onion, salt and spices and then mix well. We cook up a test patty to check seasoning before stuffing.

We start by soaking the casings to rinse the salt and rehydrate them.

We then rinse the casings to wash out any debris and loosen them up.

I lightly oil the stuffing tube and load the casing onto the filled stuffer.

We crank and coil the sausage, this was our first coil of the year so it's a bit ugly.

We portion out individual links.

Boil to cook the meat through and set the casings.


Then package and freeze.

On Christmas Eve we take a pound of thinly sliced bacon, and place half of it on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. We lay three sausage links on top of the bacon and then layer the rest of the pound of bacon slices on top of the sausages. cook at 425°F until the bacon is crispy. Eat with lingonberry jam (usually found at Ikea in their food department).

Friday, December 7, 2012

Domino's Pizza

In terms of food I'm able to grab on the run, I love shawarma, burgers and pizza. I have written extensively about all three in previous posts. If I was only able to eat three things in life I think I'd be fine with these three (sushi and BBQ would have to be thrown into the mix).

Let me preface the rest of this post by saying I don't buy pizza out very often because a) I think mine rocks and b) I can make a kickass pizza for half of what takeout places charge for their pizzas loaded with mystery meats.

In university, long before I cared about food quality (heck, I ate residence food for 2 years) Domino's pizza was on the menu at least once a week. Back then it was the best bang for your buck chain pizza wise. Most chains give you pizzas that once topped, you can still see the bottom crust through the ingredients, read: most chain pizza places rip you off by skimping on toppings, cheese even sauce.... Domino's doesn't, at least in my experience.

Recently Domino's had a promotion giving you 50% off any regularly priced pizzas on their menu, I wholeheartedly took them up on their offer. I ordered an extra large (16") ExtravaganZZa, which comes with pepperoni, ham, Italian sausage, beef, onions, green peppers, black olives and extra cheese ($11.50 after my 50% discount).

My tastebuds traveled back to a place in time where my university buddies and I sat huddled around a small table after a night of one too many pitchers, soaking up the excess fluid with a salty, greasy, cheese and carb bomb. In fewer words, Heaven.

Even though it's a chain, I still love the occasional Domino's pizza, you know, for the memories.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Gourmet Pizza & Kabob House - Shawarma

This little restaurant has been open for a few years in the Four Corners area of Whitby (126 Brock Street South). I usually avoid driving in this part of town because it gets congested with traffic and I can get stuck waiting for a few light changes to get through the intersection (a huge peeve of mine). I usually drive the side streets when getting around downtown. Doing this, I miss the main attractions....

Today I stopped in at Gourmet Pizza & Kabob to try a pizza special of theirs (a large 4 topping pizza for $10). My order was a pizza topped with Halal pepperoni, Halal sausage, Halal bacon and onion. Obviously the place is Halal. I also ordered two garlic dipping sauces.

As I waited for my pizza I couldn't resist the siren's call of a spit of chicken spinning, crisping up and whispering my name. As my pizza was delivered I ordered a shawarma with the works (lettuce, tomato, cucumber, onion, pickles, turnip, garlic and hot sauce). The cost? $4.50.

Trying a slice of the pizza I was underwhelmed. It tasted pretty mass produced. An unremarkable industrial crust with cheap tasting meats. I guess you get what you pay for sometimes.

The shawarma on the other hand was very nice! It was subtly spiced, the char from the spit roasting of the chicken dominated the flavour. It was moist and plentiful. The garlic sauce was creamy and slightly sweet, I could not pick out the hot sauce very much at all. In a pinch this'll be my go to shawarma place in the Durham region. It's not quite on par with Cyrus, but, it's 15 minutes closer to my house and the price is very respectable.

Alnoor Kebab & Sweets - Beef Kebab

I recently stopped by Alnoor Kebab (44 Harwood Avenue South) in Ajax based on some reviews from a Halal food website. I have driven past many times but never stopped in. Actually, it's in the same plaza as Pita Delites which I reviewed a while back.

Stepping in I kind of wanted to back right out. There were things piled all over the counters where food is prepared, boxes and trays, business cards, newspapers, Terry Fox sign up forms (which was held 2 months ago), cds, greasy print outs of their specials, even the sound system. ..... None of this should be out in the open, keep it in back out of the way.

As I stepped in I was greeted by a man who stepped out from the kitchen area. He seemed very friendly and let me look over the menu until I made up my mind. I chose a beef kebab on naan bread ($5.75). I was informed it would take 10 minutes.

As I waited I looked around wondering what I'd say if I was a food inspector. I actually looked around on the counters to see if I could spy an insect. I couldn't. I might sound harsh (Alnoor has only received passes by Dinesafe in the past two years) it's just clutter should not be stored in the open.

It's a shame, the seating area seemed nice enough although there were more cds and newspapers on the tables.

Once my kebab was prepared I was asked if I would like hot sauce on it, I agreed, I also asked for some yogurt sauce. Surrounding the beef was lettuce and onion.

I ran out and got to tasting, curry, perhaps cumin, cardamom  and ginger seemed to be the dominant flavours. The hot sauce packed some real heat, my mouth tingled for quite a while afterward. Unfortunately the beef itself was dry, so dry it tasted like it was packed with filler. The naan itself seemed fresh and homemade, there were charred bits stuck to it, remnants from the tandoor, a good sign. I was happy with it.

Overall it had a nice flavour, the naan was pretty darned good, the texture of the meat was off putting. Combined with the clutter all over the serving counters, I'm not in any real rush to head back.

Sunrise Caribbean Restaurant - Jerk Chicken

A few weeks back I had a craving for jerk chicken, wait, what is jerk chicken?

Jerk is a Caribbean staple, especially in Jamaica. Most often it's pork or chicken marinated in a flavourful combination of allspice, cinnamon, thyme, pepper, onion, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, brown sugar, an acid (orange juice or vinegar), vegetable oil and scotch bonnet peppers for heat. Traditionally it's cooked over pimento wood on 50 gallon drums which have been cut in half. This is Caribbean street food at it's finest. Most nights you'll find vendors on the street cooking jerk and offering it up to passers by.

I have an awesome recipe I use when I plan ahead, but, the mood struck me and I headed off Sunrise Caribbean Restaurant (4100 Baldwin St. South) in Whitby to get my jerk fix. I opted for a the jerk chicken special which comes with rice & peas, cole slaw and a drink.

It was prepped right away and I took it home.

Upon arrival I was a bit taken aback, it was pretty small for the price. I got rice and  peas barely covered by a thigh, a cup of slaw and a can of Diet Pepsi for just over $8. I know I can make a huge tray of legs for about the same price. I wasn't off to a good start.

Tucking in, I was impressed. The chicken had good flavour and was moist, the rice was well done and their oxtail gavy was perfectly acceptable. The slaw was very soupy and sweet, pretty much cabbage in Miracle Whip.

Flavour wise the lunch was fine, value wise I felt ripped. I have been to a jerk place in Scarborough on a few occasions and had a container twice the size of this with a leg and a thigh, rice and peas with an off-brand diet cola for the same price.

Sorry for the image quality, I'm assuming the styrofoam reflected light back at the lens of my cell phone. I didn't catch it during my quick review of the pic before attacking my Big Mac container of food.......

Monday, October 22, 2012

Nguyen Huong - Banh Mi

I discovered the Banh Mi a few years back, it's simply a Vietnamese sandwich made on a crusty French style baguette. There are many variations, the common theme is they contain a meat (or tofu), cucumber, pickled daikon, carrot and cilantro. The cold cut version usually has pate and mayonaise, others may have a soy sauce on them. The great thing about banh mi (over more traditional sub shops) is that sandwiches range from $2-$3, that's it. I have no idea how these places stay in business.

A banh mi is an awesome sandwich, it's remarkably light and fresh tasting even though the cold cuts, pate and mayo are heavy/fatty. The buns are also light, crispy outside and airy inside. We can thank the French colonization of Vietnam for that.

Not far from my house is Nguyen Huong, I have been going here for a few years. I am a fan of two of their sandwiches, the assorted cold cut (with pate and mayo) and their grilled chicken. You can ask for them to be made 'spicy' but I believe they use Thai chilis and they are very spicy. I think they overwhelm the sandwich so I always ask for 'not spicy'.

The subs aren't loaded with meat (which I assume helps keep costs down) but still have a lot of flavour, both from the meat and the veggies and cilantro.

Below we have a grilled chicken on the left and an assorted cold cut on the right, total cost? Five dollars, a bargain.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Mancini's Cafe and Eatery - Veal on a Bun

A recent opening in Whitby is Mancini's Cafe and Eatery (223 Brock St N). It occupies and old donut shop which has been tastefully redecorated.

Honestly, at first I was a little confused, they advertize sandwiches and paninis but as you walk in it looks a little more like a bakery. The display cases were a little sad, featuring cakes by the slice and some assorted pastries and muffins. The thing is, most looked like they were leftovers from earlier on, none of the display plates were full, some a mishmash of assorted slices.

Confusion aside, their menu placards feature their sandwich offerings, veal, chicken or eggplant on a bun and various panini sandwiches.

Once again, I have no idea how Italian sandwich places get away with charging for extra toppings. Mancini's isn't alone, Mustachio's, Sinatra's, California sandwiches all do it. Here, a slice of provolone sets you back $1, sauteed mushrooms or peppers $0.90, and sauteed onions $0.50. When your sandwich already costs $7.30, I find this a cash grab. A fully dressed sandwich all of a sudden costs $10.60 plus tax. Woah! Burger places take note, you're getting the shaft! You're giving away lettuce, tomato, onion, relish, ketchup, mustard for free??????

Venting aside, I ordered my veal with added onions and sauce, the young woman serving us said we could go light on the sauce or add extra sauce if we wanted. We waited about 5 minutes while the sandwiches were prepared and made the trek home.

The sandwich itself was very large, the bun was crisp outside and soft inside and held up extremely well on the trip home. The veal was sliced extremely thin, and was dwarfed by the breading. This seems to be the standard however, sandwiches from other veal places I've tried have been very similar. I'm assuming this in done in the interest of both tenderness and stretching the product. The breading was salted well but didn't seem to have many other spices in it (probably a seasoned bread crumb mixture). I couldn't pick out much other than the flavour of the bread crumbs.

The sandwich comes with parmesan, I could not taste it. I saw the cook in the back shaking something onto the sandwich, I could not tell if it was from a green can or not.... I'm hazarding a guess it's not freshly grated, a small sprinkle of freshly grated parmesan would be pretty obvious. I grate my own at home, and I can easily pick it out of lasagnas, pizzas, sandwiches and salads I prepare.....

 The sauce was very nice, it was simple yet well balanced, it wasn't overwhelmed by herbs and spices and wasn't acidic like the one I found at Sinatra's. It wasn't overly sweet, it was smooth and velvety, tasting simply of reduced tomato. I really enjoyed it.

I am glad to have a spot like this in the area, I think it's better than it's only real competitor, Sinatras. They are similarly priced, and similar in size. I liked the sauce here much better. It was one of the better veal sandwiches I've had.

Edit December 4th, 2012: I stopped by yesterday for a veal sandwich and I am pleased to say that Mancini's has added hot peppers and sauteed onions to their free toppings list. Also, their display of sweets by the slice (although still slightly spartan) looked well organized and quite appealing. Looks like Mancini's is getting their act together.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Butter Tarts

Ah the butter tart..... Wha? Butter tart? Those to the south of us here in Canada may be a little mystified. Don't fret!

It's not a tart made of butter (although that does sound good). It is a main ingredient, it's sort of like a mini pecan pie, minus the pecans. I use raisins in mine, although there are many variations that include: chocolate chips, walnuts, maple syrup, you name it!

I remember my mom making this recipe as a young boy, I'd watch her roll the dough, press it into muffin tins and then fill. I'd devour as many as I could as soon as they were cool enough to eat. After mom passed there were a few recipes I needed to find. This was one of them. I will give it to you as written, but I have made things a little easier on myself and will add my notes after the recipe.


1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup of raisins
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1 cup corn syrup
2 eggs slightly beaten
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla

  1. Prepare sufficient pastry and roll out on a floured surface. Cut with a floured cookie cutter and line 12 medium sized muffin cups. Do not prick.
  2. In a bowl, pour boiling water over the raisins and let them plump, then drain.
  3. Arrange raisins equally in the tart shells.
  4. Mix together the butter and brown sugar, then add corn syrup, beaten eggs, salt and vanilla. Mix just until blended.
  5. Spoon into unbaked tart shells over the raisins, filling each to about 2/3 full.
  6. Bake on the middle rack of a preheated 375°F oven for 15 to 18 minutes. Do not allow filling to bubble over.


I occasionally use 3 inch pre-made shells and there is too much filling to make 12 tarts. I'd suggest plumping 3/4 to 1 cup of raisins and trying for 24 tarts (if using the store bought tart shells). Try not to let the filling sit for too long once it's prepared, it begins to separate. If it does, whisk it back together. The filling will puff up when they are close to being done, keep an eye on them. Once they cool, the filling will shrink back into the shells.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

DineSafe - Keep Informed

I recently had a blog post up singing the praises of a bakery in the east end of Toronto. For fun I checked their DineSafe history and was shaken. I've eaten from this place many times and it had suffered numerous offences from inadequate pest control, protection of food from adulteration and contamination, selling hazardous foods at internal temperature between 4 °C and 60 °C, and failing to wash their hands before commencing work.....  This was just a few of their citations, and the same ones popped up on three separate inspections!

These are pretty basic food safety issues, the last two are pretty basic even for non chefs, cool your food quickly and refrigerate it if it'll spoil, and wash your damn hands!

I have never been sick eating there, and until I read their history, liked what I'd eaten. I just can't support a place that gets fined continually for the same things. It's a shame, after repeat inspection they'd go from conditional passes (yellow) to a pass (green) so they know what to do, I'm assuming they're too lazy to keep it up.

Keep informed:

In Toronto look at DineSafe before you dine.

In the Durham Region check out DineSafe Durham.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Al Tanoor - Shawarma

New to the scene on the Lawrence strip is Al Tanoor (1993 Lawrence Ave E). I hadn't heard of this place before today and as I was driving by, my shawarma radar went off. It was still early (just before 11am) when I arrived and the store was just being set up. The beef and chicken shawarma were already in full rotation however....

They offer a shawarma special which comes on a house baked sammoun bun, which is sort of a flatter version of a crusty French or Italian roll. The cost? $3. I ordered one of each of the chicken and beef.

 The chicken was well spiced, I seemed to detect cinnamon as the dominant flavour, it could be allspice, needless to say it was delish. It was moist and flavourful with a great char on the outside of the meat. I had it topped with fresh lettuce, tomato, onion, parsley and pickled turnip. Sauces are hummus, garlic, tahini, hot sauce and one other I hadn't seen before, it looked like a runnier version of tartar sauce (I have no clue what it's called). Be warned, the hot sauce is hot, the woman who served me put just a tiny bit on and I could pick it out with little hesitation.

A shot of the chicken, taken in the wild:

The beef had to wait for the ride home. I think the beef may have a touch of curry in it as it seemed to have a greensh yellow tinge to it, again I picked out cinnamon and or allspice as the dominant flavour, but, it had a well balanced flavour overall. Again the beef had a nice char on it and was very moist, it wasn't as 'beefy' as those from shawarma empire but was excellent overall.

The place was very clean and modern looking, and the woman who served me was very pleasant, explaining to me what a sammoun was and that in Iraq, people love them. It's good to have another excellent shawarma joint along the Lawrence strip, I just wish some would move out to Durham to provide some competition out this way.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Santa Maria Tri-Tip

I learned about tri-tip a few years back on a BBQ forum I read. What is a tri tip? It's a cut from the bottom sirloin, triangular in shape and is fairly lean. Overcooking a tri-tip is a sin, as it will dry out and toughen up on you. Ok you say, this is news to me, I have never seen tri-tip anywhere... There's a reason for this, there are only two per animal and they are only about two and a half pounds each. I have heard most of the tri-tip in the USA is destined for California where tri-tip is a specialty.

The problem with tri-tip in the GTA is finding it. Most butchers don't stock it as there is little demand up here, and, that's a shame. It's a lean cut, and, when prepared correctly has a rich, beefy flavour and is melt-in-your-mouth-tender.

How do you cook it? Traditionally it's rubbed liberally with kosher salt, garlic, pepper, and parsley and then grilled directly over red oak logs using a Santa Maria style grill. The secret is to keep it over a low to medium fire so it doesn't scorch before the middle of the roast cooks.

I recently found my local Sobey's stocks some harder to find cuts and the butchers there are really accomodating. A few weeks back I found they had AAA tri-tip on sale for $7 a pound. I ran right over and picked up four roasts. Previously, I had been driving to the west end of Toronto or to downtown butchers to find tri-tip. To find it five minutes from my house was the score of scores.

Here's my preparation:

Santa Maria Rub

1/2 T kosher salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
1/2 tsp parsley flakes
pinch cayenne

This rub should cover one complete roast.

Since I don't have a Santa Maria style grill, I use my gas grill (I know, I know). I set the middle burner for minimum and the outside burners to medium high. My trusty Napoleon heats nicely and burns between 400°F and 600°F with the lid closed using this setup

Put the roast over the low flame and close the lid, rotate the roast 45° after a few minutes to create cross hatch grill marks. After 10 or so minutes flip the roast and repeat the previous steps. You need to make sure you don't overcook your tri-tip. Using an instant read thermometer here is your friend. Pull the roast when it hits 130°F and let it rest for at least 10 minutes loosely tented under foil.

Here's the most important piece of info I can give you. A tri tip has a grain, you see it best when it's raw. When you slice your tri-tip, you want to slice against this grain. You want to see the end view of the muscle fibres once it's sliced. If you slice along the grain, you'll end up chewing on elastic bands of muscle fibre. Tasty, but not what we want. If you look at the top picture below, you'll see the grain runs from lower left to top right. This means that when I sliced it I cut from top left to lower right.

Serve sliced, straight up or as a sandwich on toasted garlic bread with your favourite BBQ sauce.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Cheeseburger Soup

I'll admit it, I am a fan of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. I ate at one of the places Guy Fieri featured on the show (long before the episode aired, which I also reviewed) called Grover's in East Amherst NY. Here's a link to the DDD segment on You Tube.

They are known for their massive burgers and chicken wings. The first few times I went I didn't realize they had another specialty. Cheeseburger Soup. The last time I went I tried it out and thought they had captured the essence of a cheeseburger in a comfort soup form, I really liked it. I needed to try and replicate it at home. I found a recipe on the net and made a few changes to suit my taste:

Cheeseburger Soup

1 pound lean ground beef
16 oz beef stock
2 1/2 cups milk
1 block of Velveeta, cubed
1 large yellow onion, diced
3 tbsp butter
2 chopped tomatoes
2 cups shredded iceberg lettuce
2 tsp seasoned salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 cup flour mixed with 3/4 cup water (for thickener)

In a heavy bottomed pot, melt butter and sweat onion until translucent, remove and reserve. Add ground beef and cook until the water has evaporated and the beef browns and gets a bit crispy. Remove from pan and drain if there is an excess of rendered fat, reserve beef. Don't worry if some beef sticks to the pot, you want this.

Add your beef stock & flour slurry, bring to boil scraping any browned bits off the bottom. Add the milk and Velveeta. Cook until all the cheese is melted, not boiling. Add in reserved onion, hamburger, seasoned salt and pepper.

Cover and cook for about an 1 hour on low heat stirring occasionally. Serve in bowls adding the lettuce and tomatoes on top mixing them in at the last minute.

Homemade Pizza

I have been searching for a worthwhile pizza recipe to use at home for a while. I want a balance of crisp crust with a chewy interior. Most recipes I have tried in the past were either too bready, lacking exterior crispness or turned too crisp and lacked chew. On top of that I was looking for a somewhat yeasty, sweet flavour to the crust without having to let it sit in the fridge for three to five days to develop flavour (who really has that much foresight anyway)?

I wanted to use my bread machine because it's easy to clean and it is on hand most of the time (unlike my KitchenAid mixer which gathers dust until Christmas cookie baking occurs). I stumbled upon a bread machine recipe at All Recipes called Bread Machine Pizza Dough which is really easy to make and work with. I usually have to add a bit of flour to my work surface before I pan it as it comes out on the sticky side. As written it is a wonderful recipe. I usually crank the heat to 550°F and cook the pizza on a 16" perforated aluminum pizza pan for 10-12 minutes.

For a sauce I usually use another found on All Recipes called Exquisite Pizza Sauce. Again, it's super simple and extremely tasty. I make it as written except leave out the anchovy paste as I don't usually have it on hand.

Yesterday I made a couple of pizzas using the crust recipe mentioned above and a neapolitan sauce recipe which I didn't like so I'm not going to bother posting it. I doubled the crust recipe and made a Margherita pizza with fresh mozzarella and basil and a loaded pizza using brick mozzarella, Italian sausage, bacon, pepperoni, red onion and green olives.

The results? Check 'em out:

I found a couple more pics of pizzas I've made using the recipes posted above. The first was made with deli pepperoni, speck, green pepper, onion and olives. The second was topped the same with Piller's pepperoni instead of deli pepperoni.

As a personal aside, my favourite pepperoni is made by Bridgford I buy the pre-sliced packs for my pizzas whenever I can, I buy the sticks for my pepperoni rolls.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Kitchenaid Appliances Are Junk: A Rant

At the beginning of 2007 my father wanted new appliances, the whole shebang, all kitchen appliances and a new front loading washer and dryer. He was at a local home show and saw a set he liked, he went with KitchenAid applances for the Kitchen and Whirlpool Duet for the laundry room. I believe Whirlpool is in charge of the KitchenAid brand. At least, when I ask for service calls on the appliances, I am greeted with "Thank you for calling Whirlpool Canada"....

From the get go our dishwasher (Model #KUDS02FRSS4) malfunctioned, the door would pop open mid-cycle, and after a while, the door wasn't held closed tight enough to start a cycle, we'd get an error indicated by a flashing LED on the door. We had the dishwasher reparied twice and the same thing happened again and again. In the end, this was dad's solution:


Yes, that is a bungee cord and a piece of lumber used to fool the door sensor into thinking it's closed and to physically keep the door closed through a cycle. Ah, the quality workmanship and pride in your products. KitchenAid/Whirlpool this post is to out you! Wait, there's more....

We also bought a microwave/range hood combo to make more space in the kitchen. We selected (Model #YKHMS155LSS-2) as a microwave it works just fine, it heats quickly and efficiently. As a vent hood it suffers, but, this is an issue inherent with this style of product. What angered me about this appliance was the quality of the finishings and trim. Being over the stove, it gathers grease, grease on stainless steel isn't pretty. When the appliance was just out of warranty (one year), I was wiping the vent grille on the front of the microwave and the clips that hold it on simply broke off. I wasn't being rough, I was wiping it and the cheap plastic clips just let go, looking at the remnants of the clips, there was no strength to them. The chipped corners on the grille are from it repeatedly falling off. Dad finally decided to tape it on. When we sold the house I had no choice but to buy a replacement, final cost? $115, yep to replace that crappy plastic grille was almost 1/4 the cost of a whole new unit.

Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket

The fridge (Model #KBFA25ERSS01) Has alwys been noisy, when the fridge first turns on there is a few seconds grumbling from one of the fans before it quiets down. We had a frosting issue in the freezer, which was a combination of user error and design, a popsicle slipped through the basket and was jamming in the runner for the door forcing the door open ever so slightly... One day this past summer it simply stopped cooling. We lost all the food in the freezer and the fridge. After we cleaned it out and reset the thermostats, it seemed to run fine again, but, how can I trust it? What if that had happened if we were away on vacation?


The stove has been fine, as with the Duet washer and dryer. Three out of the six appliances have shown poor workmanship and a lack of reliability, in the case of the dishwasher, it has shown us to be absolute garbage.

Why am I writing this piece? The lack of after warranty care and support we've received from KitchenAid/Whirlpool. I told the last person I spoke to that this shouldn't happen after two repairs and I then asked if I could speak to a manager or someone higher up and was flatly refused. "Everyone will tell you the same thing" I was told. "Our one year warranty is strictly monitored, if it happened to be just out of warranty we might be able to help" was the follow up. I just want to make sure that the few readers I have make an informed decision when choosing their next appliance.