Sunday, February 28, 2010

top chef experiment: take eight (soft scrambled egg with shitake and oyster sauce)

I've been wanting to try this recipe since I saw Anita Lo make it on Top Chef Masters.

Top Chef Masters is, by the way, relatively new to me because I, as a Canadian, am treated to second rate television programming and am forced to wait patiently for my Bravo produced food porn until it is picked up by the Canadian Food Network.

Yes, I realize I could just watch it online. I get some sick pleasure from making myself wait.

So yeah, I watched Anita make this dish - with one hand tied behind her back - and it just seemed so beautiful and simple and elegant. Many of the Masters' dishes have intimidated me but this one just called out to me to try.

...I also tried out Art Smith's fried chicken this week - I'd say it went over pretty well since I had none left to photograph. It even won my dad over!

But back to Anita's egg dish. It was definitely the most simple of all the Top Chef dishes I've attempted thus far and it is definitely one of the tastiest. The slight Asian flavour of the oyster sauce is beautiful in the creamy eggs and the meaty shitakes are a wonderful contrast.
A plating explanation: 
I tried to plate the dish the same way Chef Lo did. The problem? Chefs have these fancy tools that seem to just cleanly pop the tops off the eggs and leave you with a nice clean edge and a lovely little egg bowl for you dish. 

I had only a sharp knife a tiny bit of patience. This is what I ended up with - the ghetto egg cup. 

......damn, maybe I should have just tried to play it off like I was going for a rustic plating?

I heartily suggest everyone give these eggs a try. Delicious and simple.

Soft Scrambled Eggs with Shitake and Oyster Sauce
adapted from recipe by Anita Lo found on

4 eggs (tops removed and bottoms saved if you want to be ghetto-fancy)
1/3 cup heavy cream
*1 tbsp chives chopped
1 tbsp oyster sauce
3 tbsp butter
4 shitake caps very finely diced

*I couldn't find chives so I used the green parts of scallions.

Whisk together eggs, cream, chives, oyster sauce.
Taste and season with s&p.
In saute pan melt 3 tbsp. butter over high heat.
Add shitakes to butter.
Season with s&p.
Remove from heat.
Add eggs to pan with mushrooms.
Over low heat whisk egg mixture slowly to form curds.
Stop when eggs are still soft and creamy.
Garnish with chopped chives.

Monday, February 22, 2010

two days late and one top chef challenge post short

So I was totally determined to have a recipe ready for this month's Chef it Yourself Top Chef challenge (Anamaris chooses random ingredients and you go to town coming up with the best dish you can create.)

I actually did manage to come up with a dish and get it prepared by the deadline - despite my stupid messed up finger, which is making me so f$#@ing clumsy!

I'm actually pretty sure my injured digit is acting independently of the rest of my hand as payback for being dumb enough to stick it in a plugged in appliance meant to pulverize food items.

Anyways, like I said, I finished the dish and then left to walk the puppies, deciding I would photograph and post when I got home.

And then I fell through the ice....into the water.

No fear faithful readers, it wasn't very deep (otherwise I wouldn't have been out there - I do have some common sense. I'm not sure where it's vacationing this week but I do have some.)

I was soaked up to about the butt area and we were luckily close to home so I walked as fast possible with soggy boots and frozen stiff pants back to the house - with SeaBass laughing his own dry butt off behind me. He's such a comfort.

The upshot of the situation is that by the time I got dry and warm and comfortable again it was night.

And this is what it looks like when I try to shoot food at night

It looks poopy and I will not settle for it. I determined to give up the competition deadline and re-shoot the next day.

Which is when Sugar Dog got attacked by another meanie dog at the local dog park leaving her with some serious gashes (this is after the oven cleaning extravaganza.)

This brings me to today. And now I'm ready. Are you?

This month's ingerdients were: ginger, dates and couscous. Totally out of my element but I was pretty happy with what I made. My measurements are pretty loose because I was really still playing with the dish but I'd like to share it anyways.
 Maple Glazed Pork Loin Chops with Date Sauce and Toasted Couscous with Pine Nuts

3 Pork Loin Chops

1/4 cup olive oil
1 clove garlic minced
2 tbsp maple syrup
a couple dashes of hot sauce
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1/4 tsp red wine vinegar
s&p to taste

Mix ingredients together and pour over pork.
Allow to marinate 3 hours to overnight.

Date Sauce 
1 tbsp olive oil

1 onion finely diced
2 cloves garlic finely diced
1 cup chopped pitted dates
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp grated ginger
candied ginger (optional)
1 tsp chipotle pepper
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
1 1/4 cup chicken stock
season with s&p

Saute onion and garlic in olive oil in sauce pot.
Add in dates, balsamic vinegar, ginger, chipotle and paprika.
Stir and allow to saute for a moment.
Add in chicken stock and allow sauce to reduce to desired consistency.
Season with s&p.
Blend sauce to a smooth consistency.

1 cup couscous
1/4 cup pine nuts toasted (or slivered almonds toasted)
1 tsp orange juice
1/4 tsp orange zest
1 tbsp. butter

Prepare couscous as directed.
Saute prepared couscous and toasted pine nuts (or almonds) in pan with butter.
Stir in orange juice and zest.
Season with s&p.

happy 101

Anamaris from Chef It Yourself kindly gifted me with the Happy 101 Award. I continue to be amazed every time a fellow blogger takes the time out to include me.

Thanks Anamaris!

The award is, well, all about taking joy in blogging. Rules are to list 10 things that make you happy and to pass the award along to joyous bloggers that I enjoy reading.

First things first. 10 things that make me happy:

1. SeaBass - the person not the fish. Although I do enjoy the fish. So I guess either one; both are tasty!
2. All my animals - I like them better than most humans and I'm not afraid to admit it.
3. Food - cooking it, eating it, discussing it, shopping for it, researching it, looking at it...I could go on.
4. My family - I am so incredibly blessed by the folks in my immediate and extended family. I know how lucky I am.
5. Pop culture - I'm completely and utterly fascinated by all things pop. Ask anyone who knows me, they'll tell you how much of my brain capacity is taken up by useless pop facts.
6. Spring - I love watching the world re-awake after a winter's hibernation.
7. Music - Old favourites, new discoveries. It's a passion.
8. Sleep - It's my favourite hobby. I'm very good at it.
9. A good book.
10. Quiet. I love peace and quiet. Unnecessary noise hurts me.

And now my happy bloggers:

Elizabeth at Guilty Kitchen
The Chickenless Kitchen

Sunday, February 21, 2010

a case for home cooking

For Valentine's Day SeaBass gave me a Garland gas stove.

Actually it wasn't really for Valentine's Day. SeaBass knew a guy who had this stove to get rid of and it just so happened that it was delivered to me on that most false of holidays.

Today I took the first of what it appears will be many steps to clean my present and make it again the culinary beauty it once was.

I did not know that so much grease could accumulate on one surface.

I felt like I was in a movie with a creature rising from the black ooze in front of me.

Mostly I was frightened. I continue to be frightened. 

You see, this stove comes via a restaurant kitchen. An actual public eatery. Some people paid to eat food that was cooked on this horror show of an appliance.

I don't know what restaurant it was. I don't know who the chef might have been. 

I do know that when you add lemon scented cleaner to the aromas of stale grease you get an overwhelming perfume of lemon fish.

I pray to the Ontario Public Health Units. I pray to Gordon Ramsay in all his Kitchen Nightmare Glory. I pray that whoever is responsible for that mess is no longer serving the public in any food related form.

And I think it might be some time before I feel safe in a restaurant again.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

top chef experiment: take seven (flat iron steak, mascarpone bechamel, tomato sauce and parmesan)

Wow! It took me sooo long to write this post.

(Also, please forgive any typos as I'm typing with an index finger the size of a sausage. As for typos in any other of my posts? Well, I'm just not that into reviewing my's called laziness people.) 

I did manage to complete the Top Chef meal that was so abruptly interrupted by my kitchen appliance related misadventure last night. And I will say it was well worth it.

I'll admit that I didn't include the herb puree pictured here on our actual supper plates just because it's the element of the dish that I was working on when I did the stupidest thing ever and I really couldn't stand eating with it anywhere near does look nice on the plate though!

This is the first dish of Jenn Carroll's that I've cooked during my Top Chef experimentations. There is something about her style that intimidates me - and this dish certainly includes a lot of elements for one plate (at least for a home cook like me.)

I am extremely happy that I decided to tackle this recipe though. 

This was Jenn's version of a deconstructed meatloaf (though it seems more like a deconstructed meat lasagna to me - either way, it's good so I'm not complaining.)

The tomato sauce is the best sauce I've ever made...and so simple, so very, very simple. I was licking that stuff off my plate.

The bechamel was brilliant and a perfect balance to the basic flavours of the tomato. I am always a fan of adding chilis to my Italian cooking, so this bechamel made perfect sense in my mind (and in my mouth.) 

The lasagna tossed in lemon butter lifted all the other flavours and added an element of freshness. 

And of course, a well sauteed steak never goes amiss.

The outcome of this dish is worth the effort for sure.

Another word about the sauce: If you try cooking nothing else from this recipe, make the sauce! I beg you! I love it so much that I plan to make it again on its own as a soup. I might add something akin to the bechamel to make a cream of tomato.

I'm drooling.
Flat Iron Steak, Mascarpone Bechamel, Tomato Sauce and Parmesan
adapted from Jenn Carroll's recipe on

Tomato Sauce
1/2 head garlic finely sliced
2 shallots sliced
1/4 lb butter
1/2 bottle white wine
1 16 oz. can san marzano tomatoes with juicw

Sweat garlic and shallots in a large saucepot until transluscent.
Deglaze the pot with wine and reduce mixture.
Add tomatoes and juice and cook out acidity.
Blend until smooth.
Pass through chinois.
Season with s&p.

1/8 lb butter
1/8 lb flour
1 cup milk
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
*1/2 cup creme fraiche
pinch nutmeg

Combine butter and flour in a pot to make a roux.
Cook out flour.
Slowly add milk whisking constantly.
Simmer until thick.
Whisk in mascarpone and creme fraiche.
Season with nutmeg, s&p and crushed chili flakes to taste.

Herb Puree
1/2 bunch fresh parsley
1/2 bunch fresh basil
1/2 bunch fresh oregano

Blanch herbs in salted water.
Shock in ice bath and drain.
Blend until smooth.
Season with s&p.

*4 sheets of fresh lasagna
1/4 lb butter
juice and zest of 1/2 lemon

Cook pasta.
Melt butter and mix in lemon juice and zest.
Toss cooked pasta in lemon butter.

*The original recipe calls for handmade pasta. I intended to make my own but the mangled hand demanded that I take a store bought shortcut.

8 oz. flatiron beef (2 steak portions)
ground chili flakes or very finely diced hot pepper

Heat pan on stovetop.
Dry steak thoroughly.
Season with S&p.
When pan is well heated add steak.
Sear on all sides and cook to medium rare.

To Plate
Lay tomato sauce on plate.
Steak on top of sauce.
Pool bechamel on either side of steak.
Lay lasagna on top of steak.
Herb puree on lasagna.
Garnish plate with grated parmesan and pecorino.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

injuries and irony

Anyone out there ever consider how ironic the name "hand blender" would be if, say, some careless moron happened to stick there fingers in said appliance while it was still plugged in?


Me neither. Until late last night after spending hours in the emergency room and getting my finger all stitched up. 

That's when the irony of my idiocy hit me.

I should have been posting my latest Top Chef experiment today but unfortunately I since I decided to mangle my left index finger mid-prep last night the post (and the meal) will have to wait 'til tomorrow.

Though I did manage to complete my bechamel before heading to the hospital. I'm nothing if not dedicated!

I'm not sure where my head was at last night. I use that blender all the time and I'm always super diligent about unplugging it before going near the blades. I figure with all the cooking I do though, I'm bound to end up with injuries every now and then. This is actually only the second time I've done major damage to myself - the last time was two years ago when I grabbed a pot out of a 500 degree oven and ended up with 2nd degree burns on my palm.

....please don't tell anyone but in some sick and twisted way I'm actually kind of proud of my battle scars. They make me feel hardcore.

What the hell is wrong with me?

It's probably because my injuries have been relatively minor both times. Two stitches and a ripped up finger nail is relatively minor, right?

So what was I thinking about last night as I sat in emerg waiting for as patiently as possible for the one  doctor on duty to take a look at me?

I need a new hand blender. The mangled finger proved one thing to me; my blender is obviously lacking in power. I mean, come on! I stuck my hand right in there and all I ended up with was two stitches? Weak. Weak is what that is!

Monday, February 15, 2010

7 months (207 days)

Maybe there is something symbolic about passing the six month mark, being a full half a year removed from the most painful moment of my life. 

Maybe I've made some great emotional leaps forward in the past 30 days.

Maybe I'm reaching a new phase of grieving.

But mostly I think it's just residual Cuba afterglow.

Whatever the reason, I feel very much removed from where I was at one month ago even.

I can get through some 24 hour periods without suffering mini-breakdowns. I can more often refer to my mother without immediate tears. I have, if not more, than at least as many good days as bad. 

It's not even that I am so much more emotionally stable or well adjusted than I was one month ago; it's more that I've been able to take a step back and admit that this sucks and I am not okay.

Just admitting that I'm not alright has allowed me the freedom to let some of the pain go and try to put myself back together.

I'm not trying to say that everything is perfect now. On the contrary, there is a lot of work to be done but at least I feel like I'm moving forwards now.

I miss my Mother as much, if not more, than ever. 

But I miss Her with an acceptance of Her new place in my life.

.....anti-anxiety meds help too!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

blargh. i suck.

could someone please explain to me why I became unhappy with my simple little blogger page and decided I needed to create a website? 


I hate myself.....and I hate webpages.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

good things come in threes

Just found out that Sook from My Fabulous Recipes nominated me for a Kreativ Blogger award. 

I'd like to pass on the award to all the blogs I mentioned in my previous "awards season" post.

They all deserve it. Their creativity is the reason I enjoy their blogs!

awards season

Last week I was given two really great awards for my rambling little blog here.

I really appreciate both of these awards because they recognize that I try to put a piece of my honest self out there every time I post something. 

The fact that anyone out there is responding to what I have to say is really amazing to me. It continues to amaze me with every comment I receive or reader who joins the list of "followers".

The first one I received, the Circle of Friends came from Heiko of  Path to Self Sufficiency. This award really celebrates making true friendships through the blogosphere. It's these kinds of connections that keep me blogging....and keep me sane.

Heiko has been a supporter of mine from almost the beginning and I look forward to his every comment. I am honoured to be in his circle of friends! 

So, it's time for me to pass the award on to 5 bloggers in my own circle of friends - the problem with awards like this is that I automatically want to give it back to the person who gave it to me - but I'll be strong and resist creating an inbred cycle of award reciprocation.

The most amazing thing to me about these bloggers is that we all initially connected through a love of food but they've all taken the time to support me through the other things I blog about and for that I consider them good friends and wonderful people.

TastyTrix - Trix is always there for me. I'm not sure I'll ever be able to thank her enough for all the support through my grieving process. Plus, she writes one heck of a food blog!

Chickenless Kitchen - The Chickenless Chick was one of my earliest supporters and I'll never forget her for it. I look forward to her comments and to reading her blog.

All Top Chef - This blog is maintained by more than one author and more than one of them has taken the time to write me and help me through my struggles. I am grateful!

SoCal Sustenance - Laura is a great writer blogging about food  out in sunny California. Our relationship is the thing I love about the blogosphere; we're so far apart geographically but it's no bar to the connection we've created.

Foodie and the Everyman - Porscha is a brilliant food blogger who shares my obsession with charcuterie and also my hometown. I love her perspective, her fearlessness in the kitchen and her info on local foodie treasures.

The second award I received, the Honest Scrap Award, came from Kirsten of Kirsten's Kitchen

I appreciate this award because it recognizes bloggers who write about themselves honestly. I'm not always sure that my honesty is going to be well received, all I know is that I'm not capable of writing any other way. 

For this award I have to list 10 honest things about myself and pass the award on to 5 other bloggers. 

This is pressure. Do you have any idea how long it is going to take me to write this list? I've already been considering it for days. I can babble away with total transparency, but to consciously think about making a list about myself? Torture.

1. I am almost totally oblivious to my external surroundings the majority of the time...too wrapped up in my own head.

2. I was so obsessed with Pearl Jam as a teenager that for years I couldn't listen to them anymore...Now I can again.

3. My brother married the younger sister of two of the coolest brothers from our high school...I feel like a total 16 year old nerd around them.

4. I like the act of cooking much more than I like the eating.

5. I had my first major depression in Grade Five...I remember it clearly.

6. I don't remember a lot of my childhood's all pretty fuzzy.

7. I have total body dysmorphia, always have....spent my whole life thinking I was fat - apparently I was the only one.

8. I have an annoying array of recurring dreams...none of them are conducive to a good night's sleep.

9. I have a hard time letting go of the past...I think it's because I'm always so wrapped up in my mind that I'm never living in the moment - when the moment is gone I struggle to get it back.

10. If I give myself the opportunity I will edit, re-arrange and analyze this list endlessly...I will not give myself the opportunity (I don't let myself edit my blog writing either.)

I will pass on this award to:

Racing Thoughts Unlimited - This is my cousin's blog...apparently filterless honesty is genetic.
One Hungry Chef - It's the honest perspective of a real life chef that I enjoy here.

Salty Seattle - I love the tone of the blog...and the food.

Tasty Trix - Her personality comes through in every post.

Guilty Kitchen - Good writing and good food...what else is there to say?

oven baked ribs

I've only cooked ribs a few times in my life. All these times occurring within the last 6 months or know, since the pork obsession began. Every time I've done them I've stuck with the same method: 

dry rub applied and left to marinate overnight
baked or barbecued
georgia style barbecue sauce cooked up and applied at the end

That's the way I like my ribs, traditional and sloppy, messy. 

Did you know that not everyone likes vinegary, tomato-ey, spicy barbecue sauce though? 

It's a difficult concept for me but I'm nothing if not accommodating to the pickiness (read: obvious lack of refined palate and any real culinary appreciation) of SeaBass and other family members, so I thought I'd try something a bit different this time.

I came up with this marinade for my ribs and I must say, I'm pretty pleased. A nice balance of sweet and spicy, I still manage to get my vinegar content and the addition of lemon really lifts the whole thing and gives it some freshness.

The nice thing about this marinade is it's not overwhelming in it's raw form so you can really get in there and taste it as you're putting together and adjust it to your liking. 

I just kept playing until I was satisfied...the honey was a total afterthought but I think it really helped to create the sugary glaze the ribs ended up with.

So, give the recipe a try....and play with it!

 Oven Baked Ribs
1 rack pork ribs
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup cider vinegar
zest of one lemon 
1 tbsp lemon juice
6 cloves garlic chopped
2 tbsp kosher salt
2 tsp paprika
2 tsp pepper
1 tbsp honey
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg

Mix all ingredients together.
Pour over rack of ribs in a shallow dish.
cover ribs with saran wrap and refrigerate overnight.
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
Cover ribs with foil and bake on middle rack for 3 hours or until meat is tender and bones slide easily away from meat.
Remove foil for the last 1/2 hour of cooking time.
Baste ribs with juices in the dish every 30 minutes while baking.

Note: I actually had just a dash of cloves in my original version of the recipe but I'm totally not a fan of cloves and even the minute amount I had in the marinade bugged the crap out of me so I've omitted it here....if you like cloves though, I'd totally add it back in.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Karma Marketplace Grand Opening

This past Thursday I  attended the grand (re) opening of Karma Marketplace here in Penetang celebrating the stores move to a new downtown location. 

I learned about Karma Marketplace only a few months ago when I began my search for local food and a way to become involved in promoting the area I live in and the incredible number of farmers and food producers that reside here. When I reached out to Simcoe County Farm Fresh for help in my mission they immediately referred me to Karma Marketplace and owner Erin Chappelle.

In the few months that I've known Erin I've seen the energy she brings to her store and to so many community projects that Erin is integrally involved in. She has really inspired me and I am excited about working on projects together in the near future.

In Erin's mind Karma Marketplace is a symbol of the community at large and should serve as a place for the community to support and strengthen itself through buying local and with consumer integrity.

Two years ago Erin Chappelle began Karma Marketplace in a cozy storefront location in down Penetang. Over the past two years, the store, its stock, its customer base and its purpose int he community has grown to such an extent that Erin felt the time was right to make the move to a larger, more accommodating space.

Erin originally envisioned Karma as a showcase for what she calls "Fair Trade Art" made by artisans, and friends, in El Salvador as well as local artists. While there is no legal "Fair Trade" certification for artwork or crafts (as there is for coffee or tea) Erin and her featured artisans cooperate in the spirit of Fair Trade with no middlemen or markups. It seemed a natural extension of her vision for the store to begin stocking Fair Trade coffees and teas as well.

More recently the scope of the store grew again to include  an inventory of local, organic meats, local produce and prepared foods made by local chefs.
As the store's product range expanded the vision for Karma Marketplace grew as well. This included a weekly karma tei kei box filled with available local produce and edible treats for puchase and a dream to see Karma Marketplace as a catalyst for community involvement and local change.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

top chef experiment: take six (braised pork with soy mustard sauce and peanuts)

First off I'd like to state that it's actually not my fault that I keep returning to my beloved pork for these Top Chef recipes. As I comb through this season's recipe files I'm actually amazed that I didn't notice just how often the chefs (not just Kevin) were working with the delicious pig. The recipes involving pork also tend to be the ones that seem most accessible to the home cook.

So there, I'm not being biased....not totally anyways.

For this week's experiment I wanted to take on another of the elimination challenge winners. So Michael Voltaggio's lettuce wrapped, asian influenced braised pork was calling my name. 

I love a good lettuce wrap. And this one was definitely not a disappointment. I loved every bite of it.

Once again I found myself questioning some of the individual components of the dish (specifically the glaze for the pork) but when everything came together it was perfection. 

I should really just suck it up, admit that my palate is inferior and stop questioning the professionals!

Michael's recipe called for smoked slab bacon which, damn small town shopping, I could not find on that particular day, so I used a piece of smoked pork shoulder instead. Yummy!

The crushed peanuts with cayenne and ginger were a delicious topping. I'm not a big fan of ginger but paired with the cayenne it was created a beautiful boost to the roasted peanut flavour.

I ate so many of these wraps! I love a dish you can just put out and allow people to put together as they choose. It's definitely one I will be keeping in my reserves.

Without further ado I give you:

Braised Pork with Soy Mustard Sauce and Peanuts
(adapted from Michael Votaggio's Top Chef recipe on

1 1/2 lb. piece smoked pork shoulder
1/4 cup sesame oil
1 onion sliced
1 carrot diced
2 sticks celery chopped
3/4 gallon water
1/2 quart soy sauce
1/4 cup whole grain mustard
1/8 cup yellow mustard
1/8 cup ginger powder
1/2 cup roasted peanuts crushed
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 head romaine lettuce
1/4 cup honey
1/8 cup cornstarch mixed with 1/2 cup water
1/4 cup Indian style mango chutney

Preheat oven to 275 degrees.
Score the skin of the pork shoulder creating cross cuts along the surface.
Heat sesame oil in large, deep oven safe dish or pot.
Sear the pork skin side down in sesame oil until browned.
Flip pork over and add vegetables to pot.
Add water and 1/2 the amount of powdered ginger.
Cover with foil and place in oven for 2 hours.
While pork is cooking mix soy sauce, mustards, honey, mango chutney, remaining powdered ginger and 1/2 quart water.
Bring to simmer and allow to reduce for 20 minutes.
Add cornstarch and water mixture a little at a time to thicken liquid to a glaze.
When pork has cooked, remove from braising liquid and brush with glaze.
Slice pork into thin pieces.
Mix crushed peanuts with cayenne and ginger powder to taste.
Separate leaves of romaine.

To Eat
Place slices of pork in romaine leaf.
Spoon more glaze over top.
Sprinkle peanuts on top.

I served everything as pictured, with a bowl of the glaze on the side to add as wanted. Casual, delicious dining.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


It's been more than a week now since I returned from Cuba. There have definitely been some emotional ups and downs and a struggle to hold on to the peace I felt in my beachside isolation. 

I've come away with at least one amazing thing though. I am able now to think of Mom without gut wrenching pain and loneliness or seething anger at her loss. This happened first in Cuba. I would remember things or ask Her questions, or share with Her what I was seeing and feeling. And I was doing it without any sense of panic or trauma. I was a little surprised that it continued when I got home - but so far, so good!

I'm still looking into therapy though!

I have definitely been wanting to cook since returning and I've got a few dishes stored up to post about (including a Top Chef recipe to be posted tonight or tomorrow.)

The first time I visited Cuba a few years ago I had the most amazing sandwiches. The filling was nothing special, just ham and a mild swiss like cheese. But the bread, the bread was amazing! Sweet and dense and soft and chewy. I've never had another sandwich like it! 

Later, I learned about the medianoche, that combination of the typical Cuban bread, cheese and ham (often with pickles) yet somehow I never experienced the likes of it again.

This trip was my third to Cuba and again I was disappointed. I think the problem is that resorts in Cuba try very hard to cater to their North American clientele. Thereby draining themselves of anything typically Cuban.

In any case, I returned home from Cuba determined to taste that yumminess one more time. I'm pretty pleased with these results (I've tried more than one recipe for pan Cubano since my first taste of Cuban bread.)

And so, I give you the Medianoche
Pan Cubano
(adapted from

3/4 tsp active dry yeast 
1/3 cup warm water
1/3 cup bread or all-purpose flour

The starter should be made the day before baking the bread.
Dissolve yeast in water.
Allow to form into a thick paste.
Then add the flour.
Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24 hours minimum or several days (starter can also be frozen if it's made ahead of time.)

4 1/2 tsp active dry yeast 
1 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 cups warm water
3 to 4 tbsp lard or solid vegetable shortening, at room temperature
1/2 batch starter (see above recipe)
1 tbsp salt
4 to 5 cups bread or all-purpose flour

Dissolve yeast and sugar in 3tbsp water in large bowl.
Let sit 5-10 mins. until it becomes foamy.
Stir in lard, remaining water and the 1/2 batch of starter.
Mix well by hand. 
Stir in salt and flour one cup at a time.
Dough should become stiff enough to knead.
Turn dough onto floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic adding flour as necessary (5-10 mins).
Dough should not be sticky. 
Transfer dough to oiled bowl.
Cover bowl and let rise in warm spot until doubled (approx. 1 hour)
When dough has doubled punch down and divide into 4 equal pieces.
Roll each piece into foot long tube with rounded ends.
Place on baking sheets 6 inches apart.
Cover with damp dish cloths and let rise again until doubled (approx 1 hour).
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown on top and sounding hollow when tapped.

1 loaf pan Cubano
slices cooked ham
slices roast pork
sliced swiss cheese
* pickles (optional)
mustard/mayo (optional)

* I used bread and butter pickles that I canned in the summer but you could certainly use whatever type of pickle you favour.

Layer pan Cubano with cheese, meats, pickles and mustard/mayo.
Press in panini press or, if you don't have one, lay sandwich in saute pan and cover with heavy object to press the sandwich.
Serve hot.