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Breakfast Sandwich

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I don’t let a weekend go by without doing something special for breakfast on at least one of the two days. However, from time to time, mustering up the energy, even on the weekends, is difficult. This is my go-to breakfast for when I’m feeling a little tired from my week, but still want something weekend worthy because it’s quick and delicious. It’s the perfect example of how you don’t have to slave over the stove for hours to enjoy something delicious.

We treat ourselves to our favourite breakfast place, Stone Face Dolly’s, once a month. It is the only place I will order a breakfast sandwich, the vegetarian bobby mac. They seem to get it right, simple but full of flavour.

This breakfast sandwich is my attempt to recreate the bobby mac at home. They serve theirs on a homemade slice of molasses toast. It’s good, but I think it is better on the Art-is-In buttermilk multiseed bread. It’s buttery and sweet and a perfect complement to the sandwich contents.

If you haven’t as yet experienced Art-is-In bread, you absolutely must. It’s the best bread in the city. These people take their bread seriously, so much so that you can taste their love of everything bread in every bite. They offer a wide variety; you’ll delight in trying them all. Be warned. Once you’ve tried it, there’s no turning back.

The only other change I make is the substitution of the mushroom patty with caramelized oyster mushrooms. If I started making mushroom patties, it would definitely not be a quick breakfast. Besides, I actually think the sandwich tastes better with the oyster mushrooms. Grilled oyster mushrooms also work beautifully though the combination is less sweet and slightly smokey. Try it both ways for a slight variation.

The sandwich is bite after bite of deliciousness!! Buttery, sweet bread, caramelized sweet oyster mushrooms, sweet ripe tomatoes, and somewhere in there is nestled a fried egg, only slightly runny adding creaminess and substance. I have said this before, I normally don’t enjoy eggs for breakfast, but this is the exception. I serve it with a big side of whatever fruit is in season.

We spent the weekend in a quaint cottage on Big Rideau Lake. We were looking for some much needed rest and relaxation. Made this sandwich for breakfast on Sunday. It took little effort, allowed us to ease into our morning, take in the view, and delight in deliciousness. Definitely food that travels well.

Serves 1

Ingredients:

Bread, slices, buttermilk multiseed, toasted 2
Mayonnaise 2-3 tsp
Cheddar, slice 1
Oyster mushrooms 3 oz
Egg, fried 1
Olive oil
Salt
black pepper
Tomato, sliced, small 1

1. In a small pan, heat 2-3 tbsp of olive oil. Add oyster mushrooms and cook until caramelized. Remove from pan.

2. Toast bread slices.

3. In the same pan you cooked the mushrooms, add egg. Season with salt and black pepper. Cook as you like it, runny or hard.

4. To assemble, spread mayonnaise on one piece of toast. Add cheddar slice. Follow with caramelized oyster mushrooms. Top with fried egg. Add tomato slices – season tomato slices with salt and black pepper. Top with remaining toast slice.

5. Cut in half. Serve with side fruit.

Fresh Tofu in a Sichuan Broth

Muslim Chinese Soup

There was something especially different about the hussle and bustle of the Muslim Quarter in Xi’an, China. I can’t put my finger on it except to say that its particular pulse kept drawing me in. The colours, the aromas, the movement and its people, of course, were very intriguing.

We went to Xi’an to see the Terracotta Warriors, but the Muslim Quarter is without a doubt one of the highlights of our trip. There are approximately 200,000 Muslims in China and though the fusion of cultures has produced unique culinary delights, the Chinese Muslims definitely have a strong identity and presence. There is no shortage of good food in China; some of its best is found in the Muslim Quarter.

We ate at a popular local restaurant, which featured many dishes, but my favourite was de fu yuan. It was in the company of a famous lamb dish, a naan-type bread made to be cut into pieces into a local soup, and breaded, flash-fried mushrooms. The de fu yuan is pictured below. You can’t see it, but underneath all that freshly made tofu (you have not tasted tofu until you have tried freshly made tofu) is a generous bed of glass noodles and bean sprouts.

With my first bite, I became extremely excited. It was like nothing I had previously tasted. The broth was one of the brightest and deepest yellows I had ever seen. At its foundation were pickled vegetables, green sichuan pepper, chili peppers, and cumin. I had never before tasted a more intricate and tantalizing broth: a harmonic combination of sour, salty, spicy, spicy floral, and sweet. I quickly wrote down the ingredients I was able to detect and asked a few questions fully intending to recreate it at home.

This is my rendition. It is, by far, one of the most beautiful broths I have ever made. John enjoyed it so much that he went back for seconds and the only thing in his plate the second time around was the sunshiny broth. Before digging in, be sure to use your spoon to cut up the tofu into bite-size pieces.

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As for the Terracotta Warriors, they were pretty amazing too! We have now seen two of the four of the world’s ancient cities and hope to see the rest in good time. There are centuries of archeological work left to do in Xi’an; only a small portion of the 8,000 Terracotta Warriors have been uncovered. I can only imagine what it will all look like when it is fully revealed! It’s an incredible story of how the vanity of one Emperor over a timespan of 37 years and with the help of 750,000 slaves provided the world today with an exact replica of ancient times. Like in most Chinese fashion, the museums, open for viewing, have literally been built on top of and around the excavation sites allowing visitors to watch as the archeologists conduct their work. On the day we visited, there were only 50,000 other visitors (mostly Chinese tourists).

The bike ride along the ancient city wall was a little bumpy to say the least, but invigorating as we watched the sun go down. This fortress wall is one of the best preserved in the world.

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Jodi and Sandra, let me know how I did in recreating the flavours of the Muslim Quarter. The preparation of this dish brought me back to our Xi’an adventure. Thank you for the memories.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

 Broth:
 Olive oil  3 tbsp
 Onion, medium, sliced  1/2
 Wild garlic, cut in half separating the   bulbs from the greens  9
 Chili, red, finely chopped  1
 Chili, green, finely chopped  1
 Ginger, sliced into medallions  1.5 inches
 Green sichuan pepper  1 tsp
 Cumin, ground  3/4 tsp
 Turmeric  1/2 tsp
 Water  9 cups
 Salt  1.5 tsp +
 Salted bamboo shoots & mustard greens in chili oil  3/4 cup
 Soup:
 Olive oil  1 tbsp
 Red chili, seeds removed, finely chopped  2
 Green chili, seeds removed, finely chopped  2
 Green sichuan pepper, roughly ground using a mortar and pestle  1/4 tsp
 Cumin, seeds  1/8 tsp
 Honey  1.5 tsp
 Lemon juice  1.5 tbsp
 Tofu, soft, cut into 4 large cubes  500 grams or 18 oz
 Noodles, rice, cut in half  50 grams
 Bean sprouts  3 cups
 Coriander, fresh, roughly chopped  lots

Directions:

  1. In a medium pot, over medium heat, heat oil.
  2. Saute onion and white part of wild garlic for 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add 1 green and 1 red chilli and ginger. Saute for 2 more minutes.
  4. Add Sichuan pepper, ground cumin, and turmeric and saute for 1 minute.
  5. Add water, salt, and salted bamboo shoots and mustard greens in chili oil.
  6. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes. Strain reserving broth. Discard contents.
  7. Return broth to pot and stove and bring to a slow simmer.
  8. Add 1 tbsp of olive oil, 2 red chilies, 2 green chilies, the green sichuan pepper, cumin seeds, honey, and lemon juice. Allow to simmer for a couple of minutes and taste broth for salt. Adjust seasoning to own taste.
  9. Add noodles and tofu and simmer gently until noodles are cooked.
  10. Remove from heat and add bean sprouts, fresh coriander, and leaves of wild garlic.

Chinese Greens with Red Dates & Lotus Seeds

Chinese Greens

We are back from planet China! Everything, and I mean everything, in China is big: the world’s most populous country, the largest square (Tianenman), the biggest national museum (in size), and largest Buddha (in Leshan), of course!

Even the food is big! China is blessed with regions that experience eternal spring and some also sub-tropical weather, providing the Chinese people, foodies by the way, the largest, freshest assortment of fruits and veggies. I have never tasted a sweeter pineapple, nor have I seen cherries or chestnuts quite so big!

The world of China is a haven for vegetarians/vegans and John and I had quite the adventure eating our way through China. The crappy Chinese food served in many of North America’s Chinese restaurants is nothing compared to the culinary delights we savoured in China. The street food in China is better than most of the take-out food available in North America. The streets of Beijing are abundantly stocked with a healthy, but enticing array of food choices to satisfy the locals, who seem to be constantly munching away. I was in heaven!!

China and in particular walking the Great Wall has always been a dream. We drove two and a half hours outside of Beijing to hike an 8 km stretch of unrestored Wall in Gubeiko. Getting up to the Wall was a challenge in and of itself, but once having arrived, oh what a view. The panorama stretched for miles providing a stark contrast to the heavily polluted, bustling, and overcrowded Beijing. I stretched my hands out, took a deep breath, and took a quick twirl before starting my dance along the Great Wall. I have climbed higher obstacles, but have never felt more on top of the world. One of the most magical experiences of my life! It would have been nearly perfect had I not turned around to check on John (who is afraid of heights) to discover he had turned a particular shade of green I had never seen before! The Wall was completely open, extremely narrow in parts, even crumbling – so very romantic. To make things worse, it was the windiest day for us in China, which only enhanced the thrill, at least for me. My husband had to make a few stops along the way, being so tall he was worried he might be swept away. Needless to say, he was cursing the torrents of wind. I love him dearly for enduring this for me.

Great wall     Gubeiko

This dish was inspired by two dishes we ate at two different vegetarian restaurants in Beijing. More about the vegetarian/vegan restaurants of China later. At Baihe Vegetarian Restaurant, we had a lovely dish comprised of: red dates, lotus seeds, dragon fruit, and cherry tomatoes (pictured below). It is at this restaurant and with this dish that I fell in love with Chinese red dates. At Pure Lotus, we had a spinach dish served in a white yam broth topped with goji berries.

Baihe

This dish is an artful combination of greens, often harbouring a tinge of bitterness, that is beautifully offset by the sweetness of the red dates, reminiscent of crab apples, plus the crunch from the lotus seeds, which provide both substance and texture to the dish. It’s a quick side dish that complements steamed buns to make a complete meal.

Serves 4 (as a side)

Ingredients:

Olive oil 5 tbsp
Goji berries  20
Chinese red dates (Jujubes)  10
Lotus seeds, dried, pre-soaked in water overnight  1/2 cup
Wild garlic cloves, cut in half separating the bulbs from the leaves  12
Yu-Choy, cut in half separating the leaves from the stems  2 lb
Salt
Red date liquid reserve 6 tbsp
Sesame oil 1/2 tsp
Olive oil 1 tbsp

Directions:

  1. Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Add red dates and remove from heat. Soak for approximately 30 minutes. Drain reserving the liquid. You’ll need 6 tbsp of this liquid for cooking the greens.
  2. Cut dates in half and remove pit. Set aside.
  3. In a wok or pan, over medium heat, heat  olive oil.
  4. Add goji berries, lotus seeds and dates and sauté for 30 – 45 seconds or so.
    Remove the goji berries, lotus seeds and dates from pan and set aside.
  5. Add white part of wild garlic. Sauté for 2 minutes.
  6. Then add greens of garlic and cook for 1 minute.
  7. Add Chinese greens, salt, and 6 tbsp of red date broth reserve.
  8. Cook for 5-7 minutes, until stems are cooked.
  9. Add back goji berries, lotus seeds and dates and stir.
  10. Remove from heat and stir in 1 tbsp of olive oil and sesame oil.
  11. Serve with steamed buns of your choice to make a complete meal.