Wednesday, February 17

Salad dressings

I felt this blog needed a bit of an upgrade with a few new features. I now have a proper About page, as well as a Recipe Index. I invite you to check them out using the links on the sidebar.

When I was indexing all the recipes, I realized how little I post about salad, even though it is my staple lunch item when I'm at work. I find it easy to compose a salad, especially when the dressings are waiting in my little bar fridge at work.

Throw together a few different types of leaves, a sliced apple and carrot, a few pecans, some feta and dried cranberries and you have a healthy and filling lunch. The ingredients vary slightly from day to day with different nuts, hard-boiled eggs, sometimes sliced cucumber, sometimes small broccoli florets. But the basic structure is always the same: leaves, veg, fruit and some kind of protein.

Here are two of my favourite salad dressings. Both last a couple of weeks in my bar fridge and enable me to stay motivated to eat healthy at work.

Maple-Balsamic Dressing

If you use the ratio method for this dressing, you can make as much or as little as you like. I usually make enough to fill two-thirds of a small glass jar. It's easy to shake and store.

- add equal parts balsamic vinegar, maple syrup and olive oil into a tightly-lidded container
- crank in some freshly-ground pepper & sprinkle in a tiny bit of salt
- shake, taste, then modify the taste by adding more vinegar, syrup or oil depending on your personal taste

Low-Fat Creamy Goat Cheese Herb Dressing

This makes a lot of dressing. You may wish to cut the recipe in half if you don't plan to eat salad every day for a week and a half.

- 1/2 - 1 cup of plain yogurt, depending on how flow-y you want the dressing
- 1/2 cup goat cheese
- 1/2 block of soft silken tofu (about 6 oz by weight)
- lemon zest from 1/2 a lemon
- a few glugs of olive oil, for body (I typically use 2 tbsp, but you can use less or more)
- 1/3 cup sundried tomatos, either packed in oil, or if dried, reconstitute in hot water first
- 1/2 cup chopped herbs: parsley, oregano & thyme all work well
- a healthy amount salt & pepper since the tofu is essentially tasteless

Process everything in a food processor. Modify the taste according to your preference. I find the goat cheese fairly acidic, so that's why I like to use the olive oil to contrast this. If you like it even more acidic, feel free to add some lemon juice. This dressing is fairly creamy. If it's too thick for you, you can add more yogurt or even some water to thin it out.

If I'm getting tired of this dressing, I drain the excess liquid by placing it in a coffee filter in a sieve over a bowl. The resulting thick "yogurt cheese" is a perfect spread for bread or crackers.

Sunday, February 7


When I first started eating Indian curries, back when I was a student, I knew there was something special going on. The depths and layers of flavour in one bite were pretty astounding, and very different from the type of food I had been used to. When I tried to replicate these meals at home, the results were nowhere near as complex and delicious as from my favourite restaurants. Even those sub-par greasy Indian joints could make better curries than I could at home.

Then, about two years ago, I came across this post at TheKitchn, and my technique changed. In that article, the authors describe how to build layers of flavour, starting with spices, onions, ginger/garlic, tomatoes, then finally adding meat. It is no coincidence however, that the article was posted in their "Weekend Cooking" series. It takes a long time to cook, but thankfully, much of that time is inactive.

I recently made a version of this curry for our iPad announcement party - yes, we're big geeks! I began cooking at 11am and we ate at 6:30pm. Please don't be discouraged though: active cooking time was less than 1 hour!

As a bonus, I was able to clean the house, do laundry, and prepare everything else for the meal in between attending to the curry. The only cleaning I like to do involves the kitchen, so I need to play a little game with myself for the remainder of the house. This game is akin to a parenting strategy I often hear: "Let me time you to see how fast you can put away your toys!" except for me it's "Can I dust the entire house before I have to stir the onions again?"

Since the curry takes some effort and time, I've increased the recipe to yield a whole pot! This provides our small family of two 5 generous meals. The goal is always to freeze some and eat it later, but we love it so much we just eat it for 5 days in a row!

I also changed the recipe from the original to suit our preferred spices and heat levels. I've tried it with beef, bison, lamb and chicken. All worked well, although the red meats take much longer.

Spicy Northern-Style Indian Curry

active cooking time: less than 1 hour
inactive cooking time: ranging from 2-3 hours for chicken to 6-7 hours for beef
yield: 10 generous portions

Please don't be discouraged by the amount of spices included in the recipe. In fact, if you don't have these, use others. I have experimented with other combinations, and allspice and fennel would are nice here too. Amchur powder is another one I've used sometimes. Again, the time commitment here is largely non-active. Cleaning the house, or reading a book is a good complimentary activity.

Clockwise from top: cinnamon, bay leaves, black pepper, cloves, yellow mustard seed, black mustard seed, cumin, black cardamom, green cardamom, star anise

- canola oil, enough to cover the bottom of the pot, maybe 1/3 cup
- pinch of asafoetida (omit if you can't find it)
- 2 two-inch cinnamon sticks
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tbsp black pepper
- 15 whole cloves
- 1 tsp white mustard seeds
- 1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
- 1 1/2 tsp cumin
- 4 black cardamoms
- 6 green cardamoms
- 1/2 tsp fenugreek (I didn't use it this time)
- 2 star anise

- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 4 large onions, sliced
- salt

- 5 fresh or frozen red chillies (we use about 10-15, but for guests, 5 chillies yield a medium heat level)
- 2-inch piece of ginger (I freeze mine, then it makes it easier to grate)
- 4 garlic cloves (or more if you like)
- 1 large can whole tomatoes
- 1 can tomato paste
- 1 jar tomato puree (if you don't have your own, use another can)- 1 tbsp garam masala, or more

- 5 lbs cubed beef, bison, lamb or chicken, or more, or less

- large handful of coriander and fresh chillies for garnish, if you like


1. Heat the oil in a large pot on medium-high. I use an enamelled cast iron dutch oven. Sprinkle in the asafoetida, let it sizzle for a few seconds, then toss in all the whole spices. Fry the spices in the oil until you hear or see the mustard seeds and cumin start to pop, approximately 2 minutes.

2. At this point, quickly add all the onions, a generous pinch of salt, along with the turmeric. Stir to coat the onions with the oil and spices. Let the onions saute on low heat for 30-45 minutes, scraping the bottom of the pot if some bits get stuck. You can add some water if you notice the onions sticking too much. Return to the pot every 15-20 minutes to stir the onions.

3. Add the chillies, garlic and ginger, along with the tomato products. Cook for another 30-45 minutes, stirring every 15-20 minutes. Taste the curry at this point and add more salt since the tomatoes often need it to enhance their flavour. The curry will be ready when the oil separates from the sauce. You will see it floating on top of the tomatoes and it will look a little darker than the remainder of the sauce.

4. At this point, add in the garam masala and the cubed meat. For chicken, the curry will be ready in 20 minutes. For red meat, it sometimes takes another 2 hours, or even 3 hours, depending on the size of the cubes and quality of the cut. Stir the curry every 20-30 minutes. I usually start cooking the curry around lunchtime, then just let it simmer on low until the meat is done. If it's tender before dinner, I just reheat it when it's time to serve.

5. Serve over basmati rice, garnishing with cilantro and fresh chillies if you like.