Kickass Authentic Mapo Tofo

Ever since traveling to China, I’ve been addicted to my husband’s favorite dish. Some restaurants didn’t prepare it the same way I had experienced in China, so I saught out to find how it was made. I’m sure it might now be exactly how it’s done there, but it damn close and delicious!

Ingredients

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  • 1 cup of chicken broth stock
  • Few tablespoons of cornstarch
  • Teaspoon of ground white pepper
  • Red chili pepper flakes
  • Scallions
  • Garlic fresh
  • Firm Tofu
  • Minced pork (about 1/2 a cup)
  • Ginger fresh
  • Red Palm seed oil (optional
  • Red Chilli oil about 3-6 Tablespoons
  • Chinese 5 spice 1/2 Tablespoon
  • Hot peppers, red or green minced up
  • Doubanjiang (豆瓣酱), also known as spicy fermented bean paste and broad bean sauce, is the most important ingredient in this dish. Try to find “Pixian Broad Bean Sauce” at an Asian market. *I went to my Chinese Restaurant and paid for some of their supply. It came in a form of seed like hard pieces/balls. To infuse, I added about a Tablespoon to my Red chili oil.

The art to making a killer Mapo Tofu is all in slicing and dicing and much multi tasking in the kitchen. I first prepare by setting out all my ingredients in groups that go together. In the mean time you can have some white rice/Jasmine/ Basmati to counter balance the spicy of the dish cooking.

  1. Chop off the white ends of the scallions into tiny pieces. Chop up a few cloves of garlic, the hot peppers and ginger into fine pieces. Satay them in a light olive oil until soft and set aside.
  2. Brown/cook the minced pork. Break it up in the pan into fine pieces. Add the white pepper to your pork at this time.
  3. Blot your tofu with a towel to absorb the moisture and water. Cut it into cubes then softly fry for a few minutes to get warm/toasty.
  4. In a small fry pan, have your red chili oil slowly simmer with the spicy bean and five spice.
  5. Add the chicken stock to your tofu. Add the cornstarch to thicken. Add Red palm oil for color.
  6. Add the satayed vegetables, chop up green scallion tops and add them, as well as the pork, and the chili oil that is infused.
  7. Sprinkle on some flakes of red chili and voila!

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Your Mapo Tofu Dish is complete and ready for you to devour. Below is one of my latest batches. I don’t use exact measurements when cooking; I kind of toss in a dash of what I feel needs more or less in regards to the ingredients. You can put your Tofu mix on top of the rice, or on the side. A glass of milk will help with the spicy burn if it’s too much to handle. This is a great food for flu season!

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Montreal French Tasting Les Infideles

Montreal is known for its beautiful cobblestone streets you could get lost on in the Old Port.

Its variety of beautiful French women.

It’s amazing French wine and cheese selections.

And above all it’s amazing French cuisine and restaurant scene.

A great thing about Montreal is that the locals J’adore their wine and you will find a variety of excellent bring your own wine restaurants with no cork fee. You heard me, No Cork Fee! Unlike some cities which will charge you $5-20 bucks wine fee per bottle you bring in.

On the search for a great French tasting bring your own wine restaurant in Montreal these were the the top list.

 

Fine French cuisine meets Quebec products in the heart of the Plateau, the Mecca of bring your own wine restaurants.
There are no menus in this restaurant, only refined propositions varying according to the chef’s inspiration.
Zeste de Folie specializes in fresh ingredients and offers creative fare with many culinary influences.
Bring your bottle of wine to Monsieur B, a French bistro with a warm décor and sophisticated cuisine.
 
Duluth Street is the street of many bring your own wine restaurants if you want to just wing it and explore you options on a more spontaneous trip.
My favorite is Les Infideles, located off of Rachel and St. Hubert. It’s not everyone’s first choice for bring your own wine, but every time I have out of towners visit, mostly from New York City where we appreciate great food and atmosphere both, they go crazy for this place. It is constantly amazing. It books fast especially on the weekends and during holidays and only accommodates under 60 people.
It has a basic setting, yet is always packed.
 
Les Infideles specializes in French cuisine. Chief Louis Legault uses a lot of Québec products, such as deer, duck, veal and seafood and fish, depending on the season. Local cheeses are served with homemade jam and nuts. Their menu also offers gourmet five-course meal specials.
The five course meal is normally around $43 depending on the selections you choose.
You start off with fresh bread and the soup de jour, followed by a delicious appetizer.
I normally choose their scallops with a mango chutney. They scallops are perfectly seared crispy yet moist inside.
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They then bring out a sherbert of the day mixed with rum. While it cools your throat you feel the warmth of the rum, and you anticipate your entree that is about to come.
Some of their entree selections are :
Duck in an orange marmalade
Fresh bison or deer
Jumbo shrimp sauteed in cognac sauce
It is down right delicious. You feel like royalty being served such amazing food while you enjoy your wine or champagne. The best is the service is impeccable. The waiters are nice, not snobby in the least bit and go above and beyond.
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The meals are always cooked to perfection.
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It’s so perfectly prepared you don’t know where to begin, so you take a picture.
The desserts are just as fabulous as the meal. They use local cheeses, prepare homemade chocolate mousse and creme brulee. I’m already craving this restaurant as I write this.
Les Infideles is the perfect place to enjoy a solo lunch while reading a book, a bottle of wine catching up with a friend, a date, or entertaining a larger group.
C’est tres bon!
Bon Appetit!

A crisp yet lush French white blend.

 pyrene

I am a lover of Sauvignon Blanc and enjoy tasting ones that are crisp with lemongrass undertones. I normally steer towards the New Zealand brands, but was recently surprised to find one from France with the perfect balance of tropical flavors and herbs. Pyrene Cuvee, the color is a medium gold, and the body is slightly fuller than the normal white wines I tend to drink. It leaves a slight linger of earthy tones on the palate while balancing well with grapefruit undertones. It is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Colombard, and Gros Manseng.

* The price point is $11.25-13.50

Fall foods for health

 fall foods

It’s fall again. I seriously can’t believe it’s already October and I’m planning for the spring and summer of 2015. The summer just flew by :{ October is one of my favorite months. The trees up north become bright and magical, the sunlight at dusk is gorgeous, and I can comfortably wear my sweaters and shorts, and jeans with t-shirts and rock the boots. The change of the seasons inspires me to embrace the yearly transition incorporating seasonal activities, regimens, and foods into my routine.

Here are some of my top foods for health in the fall.

1) Oysters: I used to be so scared of these slimy little guys, but I have not only gotten over my fear, but have grown to love them! While you can eat them all year long, the best season for oysters is the “ber”, September, October, November, and December. I love Fisher’s Island East Coast Oysters if I am going for a zesty fresh salt water oyster, to be topped with tobasco and horseradish sauce. On the West Coast I crave the Kushi oysters, they are a delight. They practically melt in your mouth, are very meaty, and taste of fresh butter, so you don’t even need extra condiments. Aside from the first benefit of oysters being an aphrodisiac, oysters are loaded with more zinc than any other food found. Their skin is loaded with natural protein, and they have high amounts of iron, calcium, vitamin c, and omega 3.

2) Apples: Apples are a great fruit to work with. They have versatility in the kitchen. I chop them up and use them in salads, top them on appetizers, apple pies, cut them into slices with peanut butter, and smash them into purees. Apples are high in fiber with 4 grams per serving as well as high in antioxidants. The high season for apples is between August and November.

3) Parsnip: It sounds a bit weird maybe even boring, but parsnip is actually a sweet and nutty food. Found October through April parsnip is high in fiber and potassium which is great for athletes and gym buffs. It can be cooked into a soup puree, sliced into pasta like slices and topped with sauce, baked in the oven as a veggie side, or even mashed into a potato like puree.

 pasrnsi

4) Pumpkin: Another season favorite, although it seems to get over played and old quick. Pumpkins are loaded with vitamin b, potassium, 20% of fiber content, and they are delicious! Pumpkin season is October – Feb.

5) Sweet Potatoes: They are high in iron, vitamin a, and act as an anti-inflammatory which will help with sinus problems, joints, and other tension during the cold weather season. They also promote fertility in women. Don’t boil them, it reduces the vitamin content.

6) Pomegranate: Sweet and tangy, pomegranates are high in antioxidants which promote cell renewal. Nice hair and skin. The antioxidant level is higher than red wine. They also have vitamin c and folate. Found August through December. You can eat it raw, mash it up in a smoothie, or top it on a salad.

7) Kiwi: I never thought as kiwi as a fall fruit, but the season is September through March. They have more vitamin c content than oranges, and they are low in fat. The high fiber and potassium is great for eating after a workout, and they also have copper.

8) Dates: September through December is the high season for dates. Sweet and sticky they are also versatile. They are high in potassium and loaded with natural sugars that will give you a boost of natural energy. Regular consumption promotes healthy bacteria in the digestive organs. These are a great treat alone, or you can turn them into a mouth watering appetizer. Slice out the pit, add a slice of aged cheddar, and wrap in a tiny slice of bacon. Cook for 15-20 minutes and voila! You have a bite size appetizer that is great for Sunday football or cocktail parties.

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9) Blueberries: Typically the season runs late June through August, but you can buy them all year round. They are great for boosting the immune system and protecting against colds and the flu. Top them on some Greek yogurt or cereal in the morning. They also reduce stomach aches and diarrhea. :}

10) Cranberries: Eating these on a regular basis will protect against urinary track infections. Laboratory studies have shown that cranberry extracts can prevent breast cancer cells from multiplying. Other studies showed that cranberries helped to inhibit the development of cancerous cells in lab animals. Consuming cranberries on a regular basis can help you to avoid dental problems such as gingivitis, um disease, cavities and plaque build-up.Cranberries are high in antioxidants, which help to flush out your system. This in turn improves your metabolism and digestive system resulting in losing weight quicker.

Classic Civiche

At first the thought of raw fish wasn’t completely compelling. I would eat sushi on occasion but civiche seemed like a whole lot of fish. My friend convinced me to try some at a local soda shop in Costa Rica. She piled it on a saltine cracker and topped it off with some hot sauce. To my surprise it wasn’t bad. That transpired into a civiche obsession. I literally began to crave the refreshing zesty appetizer. The juices marinating the fish actually cooks or curtirs the fish with the lime juice’s acidity. This treat is low in calories and light. It is the perfect dish for a solo lunch at home, appetizer with friends, or part of a seafood trio.

While there are many varieties of civiche which can incorporate shrimp, all types of fish, octopus, and other kinds of seafood, I prefer the classic version with a white fish. It is best to use a firmer fish such as Red Snapper. Other options I use are Makerel, Tilapia, and Mahi Mahi.

Sometimes cutting the fish into cubes can be tricky. I found that using a frozen filet and letting it thaw out about 40% before cutting works very well. I run it under some warm water to reduce a bit of the frost. Then chop it into sections easily on my chopping board. I rinse it off once more after they pieces are cubed and set them aside in a bowl.

Chop and combine: Cilantro, Red bell tomatoes, onions, and if you want you can add very tiny pieces of pepper. Mix these up with the fish and squeeze fresh lime juice on the fish. I normally use 3-5 limes depending on the juice content. Mix all together one last time and set it in the refrigerator to marinate for 45 minutes. Top it on some saltine crackers a dash of salt and finish with some hot sauce.

If you want to exchange the saltines for another base you can use plantain chips, pita chips, or even cucumber slices.

Personal size                                                             Family Size

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Rioja Bordin Reserva 2004

This week I reviewed a red from one of the world’s largest wine producing regions, Spain. There are many notable styles such as earthy and rustic, to soft and sweet. My first pick is a 2004 Reserve from the Rioja region, which is known for its top quality wine productions. Rioja Bordin 2004, has bang for its buck.  With just the first sip I could taste the complexity of the grapes that are aged for 36 months in American white oak barrels. It is a blend of 80% Tempernillo, 16% Grenache, 2% Mazuelo, and 2% Graciano. This medium bodied wine has soft tannis that roll of the palate, with a bite of jammy fruitiness with strawberry and cinnamon notes to give it a little kick. It’s complete with a long finish that makes you want to smack your lips together for another enchanting sip.

* The price point is $18-25

Healthy Lobster Bisque

lobster

Fisher’s Island NY lobsters are undeniably the best.

For a healthier approach to Lobster Bisque check out our recipe:

Lobster Bisque

Two 1- to 1¼-pound lobsters, steamed by your fishmonger
Butter-flavored nonstick cooking spray, such as Pam
2 medium onions, cut into medium dice
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1½ tsp sweet paprika
½ cup sweet white wine, such as Riesling
One 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
1¾ cups low-fat, low-sodium chicken broth
2¼ cups skim milk
1 Tbsp cornstarch
Juice of ½ lemon
Few dashes of Tabasco sauce
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 Tbsp chopped fresh chives

1. Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat.

2. While the Dutch oven is heating, break down the lobsters: Remove the claws and place them in a bowl. Twist the heads off the tails. Add the tails to the bowl, and refrigerate. Pull the outer shell of the head off each body; discard the outer shells. Remove and discard the lung sacs, leaving the tomalley (the soft green paste). Finely chop the bodies with a cleaver.

3. When the Dutch oven is hot, spray it with cooking spray. Add the chopped lobster and cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the moisture has evaporated, about 4 minutes. Add the onions, garlic, and paprika and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions and garlic are fragrant, about 2 minutes. (It is important not to burn the bottom of the pot, so if mixture begins to brown, reduce the heat.)

4. Add the wine and cook until it has reduced by about one-third, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and their juice. Reduce slightly, about 2 minutes. Add the chicken broth and 1¾ cups of the milk; bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook at a steady simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes; the liquid should reduce by about half. Let the stock cool for a few minutes.

5. While the stock is simmering, remove the claw and tail lobster meat from the shells, working on a rimmed baking sheet to reserve any juice. Add the juice to the simmering stock. Roughly chop the lobster meat (there should be about 1¼ cups), and set it aside.

6. Pour half of the slightly cooled stock into a blender. Blend with the shells (yes, the shells!) carefully on the lowest speed until it is as smooth as possible. Strain all of the stock through a fine-mesh strainer into a medium saucepan, pressing on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible (you should have about 3 cups). Return the pureed stock back to the pot with the remaining stock. Put the pan over high heat and bring to a boil.

7. Meanwhile, whisk the remaining ½ cup milk into the cornstarch in a small bowl. Whisk the cornstarch mixture into the boiling stock. Return to a boil, whisking constantly. Cook until the stock thickens, about 1 minute.

8. Stir in the reserved lobster meat, and remove from the heat. (The residual heat from the soup will warm the lobster meat.) Season the bisque with the lemon juice, Tabasco, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the chives, and serve immediately.

Kale Craze

I am no longer a kale virgin! Health never tasted so good. I’m not exactly an organic granola health buff. I believe in everything in moderation, a little cheese, a fresh salad, maybe even a sloppy Joe once in a blue moon. That being said, I am pleased I have gotten over my fear of kale. The sound of it just reminded me of some sort of seaweed. Kale has received much recognition for its health benefits and properties. This super food has 0 fat, that’s right ladies you heard me correctly …zip, zero, nada fat, yet it is high in fiber and low in calories. This fabulous detox food has high amounts of vitamin c, a, and k, as well as calcium and iron. Eating kale on a regular basis lowers cholesterol and acts as an anti inflammatory. I recently was ding alone on a business trip and in between some wine tasting, people watching, and trying out small dishes at Gusto 101 in Toronto. I needed just one more bite before I headed out and was very close to ordering a brick oven pizza, sitting across from the open kitchen was a huge tease. The waitress recommended I try their feature dish the kale salad, a chopped selection of imported kale, apparently it is the best in the city, was topped to my delight with a light house dressing, pine nuts, and fresh parmesan cheese. Not only was it fully satisfying, a couple to the right of me asked to try it also after seeing my salad. I retried making this at home and voila it was almost as good as Gusto 101. Here’s the 101 on making a great kale salad. First wash the kale and chop it into the tiniest of pieces. Marinate it with fresh lemon juice that will change the texture into a softer edible version of kale. Let this sit for at least 10-15 minutes.  I then mixed up some red palm oil with virgin olive oil, lemon juice, and organic honey as a dressing. Top it with salt and pepper, toss in lots of pine nuts, a bit of tomatoes, and fresh parm and you got yourself a delicious treat!