Tag Archives: easy

Avocado Sandwiches: Possibilities & Permutations

Are you looking for an avocado sandwich recipe? I was not really until I came across a recipe in Australia’s glorious gastro-porn, delicious.

In fact, I have hesitated to post about sandwiches, as they seem, um, well, so easy and straightforward.  So why bother?  Then this month’s Saveur arrived: The Sandwich Issue.  I happened to note that this excellent, wide-ranging, and thorough overview of (mostly American) sandwiches did not have many of the avocado varieties I often eat.

Avocado is one of the best sandwich ingredients I have come to realize over the years.  In fact, I myself have developed a number of avocado sandwiches varieties – more or less variations and permutations of other classics.

For instance, instead of a classic bacon-lettuce-and-tomato, I use prosciutto, a bit of mayonnaise, avocado, and tomato – faster, easier, and less messy than cooking bacon. This is one of my favourite sandwiches.  I serve it on sourdough, wholegrain, or even challah, for real decadence.  In my feeble attempt to mitigate the sandwich’s fat content, I remove the white lardy edges of the prosciutto and offer it to Jinja and George (who, BTW, might continue their April Fools Day food blog, I Can Haz Food Blog, due to interest from readers of IslandEAT).  These two cats sure love their prosciutto!

One sandwich I have developed of late is kind of a French tartine, with slow-roasted garlic spread over Dijon mustard on a multigrain flatbread or crackers, topped with a sliced avocado fanned out in wedges.  Sea salt (fleur de sel works especially well) and scads of freshly cracked black pepper are all you need for a great snack, brunch option, or lunch.  The tangy mustard and and nutty sweetness of the roasted garlic are superb complements for the rich creaminess of the avocado and the crunchy counterpoint of the flatbread – and vegan, vegetarian, and very healthful, too!

For the recipe – and the review…

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Avgolemono Soup: Fast Flavourful Greek Egg-Lemon Soup

Do you need a quick yet unusual soup to help you get through the end of winter? Avgolemeno soup, in my abbreviated version, is bright, creamy, and healthful.  It is thick and rich, yet relatively low-fat and easy to make.  This is one of my favourite soups to make during the winter for its simplicity and ingredients, which I regularly stock.

Avgolemono soup is a traditional Greek soup, which requires eggs and lemons for its consistency and lively taste.  While it is generally chicken-based, recipes sometimes call for vegetarian stock or other meat broths.  NB:  I do not agree with the Wikipedia entry for avgolemono soup “invariably” curdling, when refrigerated and reheated; I have not had this happen to me.

I have fond memories of avgolemeno soup from living in “Chicagoland”.  Greater Chicago had such an influx of immigrants in the 19th and 20th centuries that it would make such claims as more Poles than anywhere in the world except for Warsaw and more Greeks than any place outside Athens.  There were many outstanding Greek restaurants throughout Chicago, as well as diners, coffee shops, and other such American-style restaurants run by people of Greek descent.

As my family ate out many times each week while I was growing up, we often had Greek cuisine in “Greektown” as well as eating in Greek-influenced diners.  Avgolemeno (“egg-lemon”) soup was frequently on the menu in the former and the latter, with the name always in English at the diners. Except during my strictest vegetarian years, I always enjoyed avgolemono soup.

Gratuitous feline and fowl photos

George seems to be pondering when spring will arrive.

Any sprouts coming up yet?

Jinja may be looking around the corner for spring….

While a bald eagle appears to be contemplating spring nest locations.

For the review – and the recipe

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S’mores Bars: The Classic Campfire Treat, Indoors or Out

When was the last time you had s’mores around a raging campfire? Yesterday?  Sometime during your childhood?  Never?

For those of you who did not have a North American childhood, “s’mores” is a contraction of “some more” – it is a challenge to eat just one.  S’mores consist of graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate. There are two ways of making them:

1. Large marshmallows are toasted on a stick or skewer over a campfire and then placed between two graham crackers with a piece of chocolate (the residual heat will melt the chocolate or at least soften it to make the sandwich.

2.  Marshmallows and chocolate are placed in between two graham crackers and wrapped in a piece of aluminum foil (or in a wire basket) which then go close to the fire to heat up the mixture for a melted chocolate-marshmallow result.

Apparently, it was the Girl Scouts in the U.S. who can claim bragging rights to these delectable sandwiches.   Tramping and Trailing with the Girl Scouts came out way back in 1927.  The first published recipe made it into this fascinating guide-book (the title alone makes it worth seeking, at used book stores or rummage sales…).

I made s’mores bars for a new year’s bonfire/potluck party.  Originally, I planned to bring the ingredients for s’mores:  However I could not figure out how anyone could make these in a relatively safe manner, in front of raging fire – not your average campfire.  Fortunately, I had come across a simple and quick recipe Cajun Chef Ryan posted right before new year’s.

On our island, recycling is a major past-time, as is composting and “burns”.  The latter only can take place between mid-October and mid-April.  Such fires are ways of getting rid of non-toxic debris, as we have no municipal garbage pick up.

Gratuitous kitty pictures – to keep things in perspective:

Jinja likes to hide at the bottom of a branch-filled giant vase.

From this angle, Jinja looks like a giant cat, emerging from said vase.

For the recipe and the review…

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Triple Mushroom Barley Soup: Hot, Hearty, Healthful Fare

Looking for an easy flavourful yet wholesome soup for the winter doldrums? This triple-mushroom recipe is the perfect antidote to snow, cold, rain, wind, or whatever weather is making you crave a sturdy soup.  Even if you live in more temperate climes, this soup should cure any longing for mushrooms in a full-flavoured yet exceedingly nutritious meal.

I had been looking to use up a gift of a handful of dried porcini from Poland and had some organic cremini on hand, making me think mushroom soup would be in order.  This recipe recently appeared on Smitten Kitchen, from which I adapted it slightly (it originally was in the New York Times).  As Smitten Kitchen was the first food blog I followed, I thought this recipe would be appropriate for my first visit from a food blog-buddy I had never met before  – in person, that is – Jackie of I Am A Feeder.

Jackie’s site never fails to entertain or educate me. I find it very unusual to discover consistently humourous food blogs.  There are those blogs, which have to use “LOL”, “LMAO”, or such to let me know they are supposed to be funny; hers is not one of them.  I first came across Jackie’s site it while waiting for a flight at YVR (the Vancouver airport, where there is free WiFi!) last May, and it made me chuckle out loud (“COL”?), in the U.S.-departures lounge.  Since then, we have been following each other’s sites.  While we missed getting together in the UK during our visit last October, Jackie made it out to our little island in the Pacific.

I went into Vancouver first to meet Jackie, and the two of us visited some Vancouver food and culinary hot-spots and not-so-hot-spots, as Jackie mentioned on her site.  It was fun to get to know each other in town and back on the island, via very different experiences.  I thought it would be good to introduce Jackie to slow-cooker Italian beef sandwiches, a distinctive Chicago specialty, to prepare for her upcoming visit there.  But the mushroom soup seemed to be a good starter for the meal, if not a traditional one.

I had just about everything on hand for the soup.  We popped out to the local market for some more mushrooms and barley, spelt, or faro (“far-what?” was the clerk’s response, when I asked), but fortunately the shop across the road had “pot” barley – I wonder if they stock this variety for its cheeky reference to British Columbia’s major economic driver).

As it is not quite spring in B.C., it is time for a gratuitous floral interlude, amidst all this brown soup:

For the review and recipe…

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Spinach-Celery-Turmeric-Lemon Soup: A Wee Taste of Scotland?

Is it possible to be excited over spinach-celery-turmeric-lemon soup? For me, the answer is a resounding yes.   This soup is a revelation for its simplicity, satisfying texture, and profound flavour.   When combined with store-bought stock and onion, these four ingredients transform into a deep, rich, and ultra-wholesome soup.

To explain my bizarre journey in finding the recipe, we need to return to its origins.  I was excited to have found a copy of Baroness Claire Macdonald’s Seasonal Cooking a small charity shop in Glasgow, Scotland, in October. A renowned author of many cookbooks, Baroness Macdonald is the Scottish Julia Child, if I dare take such a liberty – though, with her title, does she need anything more?  The Baroness is the chef-owner of the Kinloch Lodge on the Isle of Skye – an inn so well-known that even the New York Times wrote about it as one of the top three dining options on Skye.

While we ate at another one of the three New York Times’ suggestions during our day-long visit to Skye, I later recalled Baroness Macdonald’s name.  Thus, I was able to spot her book on the shelves of a shop benefiting one of the UK’s health charities.  This particular shop was on the main drag of  Sauciehall Street in beautiful downtown Glasgow (like “beautiful downtown Burbank,” for those of you who remember the classic 1960s/1970s comedy show, Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In).  To borrow the catch-phrase from Laugh-In, Sock-It-To-ME!  It was such a deal for just one quid (slang for one pound sterling, or about $1.50 US) for a classic, which promised 12 months of Scottish cuisine at its finest.

For the soup review, ingredients, and the recipe…

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My Grandmother’s Yorkshire Pudding: What Would Jessie Dish? Week 17

When is a pudding a pancake and a pancake a pudding?  Let’s just put on our thinking caps to find out.

Among my grandmother Jessie’s lost recipes file, there was a recipe for Yorkshire pudding.  This is one of the few recipes of Jessie’s, which I distinctly remember.  My grandmother typically served this with prime rib or another beefy roast, in the classic English tradition, accompanied by overcooked mushy peas.  I recall slightly sweet and buttery brown-sugar-glazed carrots on the side, too.

The reverse of the recipe card is quite funny.  Jessie was on the board, I believe, of the Chicago affiliate of the National Council of Jewish Women, an organization which obviously encouraged its members to put on their thinking caps and hats, as the rather oblique invitation from the 1960s seemed to indicate: ”think” is repeatedly superimposed over a variety of stylized – and stylish – hats.

Jessie probably is thinking happily, content in the sun on holiday, in the 1950s.

While I was unable to locate any photos of Jessie on her travel in England, I did find her with a variety of hats and caps, always thinking.

Perhaps Jessie was thinking how elegantly dressed she and Louie are here.

We do not have to guess what Jessie is thinking here in Florida in the late 1940s....

...this is what she wrote on the back of the photo above!

This recipe was timely, as we are in the midst of planning an upcoming trip to England and Scotland, which includes Yorkshire, so I have been putting on my thinking cap about this holiday.  What is also amusing is that a “pudding”, in England, of course, is a generic term for something sweet, as in a dessert.

For the result and the Yorkshire pudding recipe….

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My Grandmother’s “Pan Cakes” Failure & Success: Neither Pancakes nor “Pan Cakes” – What Would Jessie Dish? Week 15

What are “pan cakes” exactly?  My late Grandmother Jessie’s recipe – from her files I discovered this spring – was truly perplexing.  This dish is one I certainly cannot recall ever having eaten.

Like some of my grandmother’s other recipes, this one is not much more than a list of ingredients.  Most confounding for me was the lack of pan size, which might have revealed a bit more, e.g., round versus square or rectangular.  The notes also have provisions for double the recipe.

However, what I found amusing was on reverse of the paper.  It is a recipe from a downtown Los Angeles address.  From a bit of Google-research, I could not find out what was at this address – a newspaper?  Magazine?  Television station?  Initially, I figured it might have been the Los Angeles Times, as my late uncle (Jessie’s son) and my aunt were close friends with the publisher and his wife, which leads me to think that Jessie would have been reading it on a trip to California, perhaps in the 1970s from the typeface used.  The recipe is a confusing one (read the “preparation” section) for some sort of seabass-asparagus terrine.  I think I shall skip trying this recipe, however….

Given the citrus in this recipe, I thought of Jessie and her time spent in Florida, which was far more than her trips to California.  My late grandfather was a sports writer and public relations specialist for sporting events, as I had described in an earlier post, and he covered the dog-racing season in Miami.

In this photo in Florida in the late 1940s, I suspect my grandfather might have taken the shot of my grandmother, mother, uncle, and my aunt (who had gotten a terrible sunburn and all was covered up here with a jacket and cap, on this visit which was right around the time they had gotten married).

For the cake failure then triumph and the recipe… Continue reading

Apricot Mould – A Light Summer Retro Jell-o Dessert: What Would Jessie Dish? Week 13

When was the last time you gave any thought to apricot Jell-o?  Prior to finding a recipe for “apricot mold” among my late grandmother Jessie’s recently discovered recipes, I associated apricot Jell-o with a dorm-mate from the University of Chicago.

In my orientation week as a first-year student in the College there, a very bright young woman seemed to tell everyone in our “house” immediately that she liked to “take baths in apricot Jell-o!”  Her name will not appear here, as she is now a lawyer and one can only surmise what could happen…. She either had just turned or was about to turn 16 years old – very bright and precocious.  The apricot Jell-o reference was one many of us remembered.  Another friend from our dorm actually wrote into the UChicago alumni magazine with this anecdote recently.

The University of Chicago figured prominently in Jessie’s life, as she lived in Hyde Park, where it is located, for many decades.  Both her children went to the College, as did three of her grandchildren.  As for apricots, Jessie relished apricots in desserts, e.g., her apricot strudel or the “mystery” dough, which I filled with apricot butter in tribute to her.

On Jessie's lap, I pose with my parents, brother, and grandfather in 1968 in Jessie and Louie's Hyde Park apartment.

As for Jell-o, the link is a bit more tenuous.   (Note my usage of the trademarked name with its hyphenated spelling; I really do not use other brands, so I will recognize this classic American dessert by its trademark.)  I remember that Jessie often had boxes of Jell-o in her kitchen cabinets, where I was searching for packaged cookies she always had on hand.  Jessie also had boxes of a whipped topping called “Dromedary,” which made me think of camels (of course!).  But who wants to think of camels in conjunction with dessert?!? I do remember the occasional Jell-o mould at family dinners, though I do not seem to recall apricot.

Apricot Jell-o was not one of the oldest flavours for this dessert, I discovered in my research.  I looked into whether it was still available, after not being able to scrounge up a box on a trip to Sidney, BC on big Vancouver Island yesterday –  it really is an extremely big land mass.  Two supermarkets there stocked many flavours except for this apricot.   Had it been all used up in baths, by young lawyers-to-be, I wondered.  So I decided to substitute its closest fruit substitute, peach, which actually debuted in 1907 – just a few years after Jessie’s birth – making it one of the oldest flavours.

For the dessert itself and the detailed recipe…

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Oaty-Almondy Crisps: A Fast, Crunchy, Dairy-free, Flourless Cookie

How do you feel about baking or cooking for people with food sensitivities, allergies, and such?  I think it is a fun challenge to make something out of the ordinary, when standard basic  ingredients are out of the question, for health reasons.

Of course, eschewing ingredients – or categories, such as meat for vegetarians – may be a matter of personal taste or choice, which I always try to accommodate, too.  I particularly like to find ways to bake and cook good things for those cannot tolerate wheat (celiacs, for instance) or dairy.  Wheat and dairy, of course, are mainstays of baking, so the challenge can be a bit daunting in dessert preparation.

On two separate occasions recently, I needed to bake, first, for a friend who currently cannot tolerate butter or nuts and then for one who never can eat diary or wheat.  The day I needed to bake them for our first friend, I found a recipe in The Cookie Book, by Catherine Atkinson, Joanna Farrow, and Valerie Barrett, for “Malted Oaty Crisps.”  Malt is an ingredient I really enjoy using, especially in conjunction with chocolate (Whoppers and Maltesers and other chocolate-malted milk balls are great confections, way up there in my book of candy favourites), so I keep malt powder in my pantry – and sometimes, the chocolate-malty candies, which do not last long enough to be a staple.

Nevertheless, this one recipe called for two tablespoons of malt extract.  Malt extract??? I beg your pahdon, guv’nor?!?  I had never come across this before.  I did not bother to seek the ingredient online, as I wanted to bake it that day – and it goes without saying that a very obscure item such as malt extract will not be lurking in one of our island’s three small food shops. The cookbook (or should I write, “cookery book”?) author was from the UK, so I imagine it is a more typical British ingredient . (I will turn to Jackie of I am A Feeder, as my go-to authority for all food-matters-in-Jolly-Old-There-Will-Always-Be-An-England.  Jackie, what do you say about this malt extract matter???)

For the cookie description – and the recipe…

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