Friday, December 10, 2010

Great Find - Amaya's Indian Spicy Ketchup

I never go to the grocery store with a list, I find it too constraining and takes all the fun out of grocery shopping. Have I mentioned that I love grocery shopping? There's something about slowly rolling through the aisles of the store, singing along with easy listening music while perusing the well-stocked shelves. It always gets my creative juices flowing as I create new dishes and interesting menus in my mind.

I usually just glance at the prepared sauces & marinades, much preferring to make these kind of things from scratch - I like to control the salt, sugar and fat that these things are full of. But today something new caught my eye - "Indian Spicy Ketchup" made right here by one of my favourite Indian restaurant groups, Amaya. I couldn't resist and bought a jar ($4.99).

The verdict: It's absolutely FANTASTIC!

This is a MUST try. Not too spicy, it's like an amped-up version of regular ketchup with a hit of Indian spice - ginger, garlic, onion seeds, etc. The minute I tasted it, I could imagine putting it on and in everything. Crispy French Fries, juicy burgers, roasted chicken, oozy grilled cheese sandwiches, etc., would be elevated to absolute culinary nirvana.

So don't walk, run and get yourself a jar of Amaya's "Indian Spicy Ketchup". I guarantee you'll thank me.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

"Pasta alla Puttanesca" - Whore's Pasta

This week, culinary "goddess" Nigella Lawson came to town. Now don't get me wrong, I like Nigella. I think she's quite a good writer and her obvious love of food - not just cooking but actually eating - is inspiring. I think the problem I've had recently is the wholly unoriginal way media chooses to write and talk about her.

I get it, I get it, Nigella is a sensual, buxom, voluptuous, bombshell. Haven't we tread on this ground before? Haven't we discussed her tight sweaters, her ample behind and the "erotic" way she massages a chicken to death? And yes, she has definitely cultivated this image of culinary kitten in a very smart way but c'mon, is it really so noteworthy that she comes to Toronto and makes "Whore's Pasta"? I don't know about you, but I've been making and teaching others to make "Pasta alla Puttanesca" for years. I always explain the meaning of the name and get at least one or two giggles, but unfortunately no one actually swoons.

Here's my recipe for this illicit dish. Enjoy.

¼ c/65 ml Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 Cloves Garlic, minced
½ tsp/2 ml Red Pepper Flakes
4 Anchovy Fillets
1 28oz Can San Marzano Tomatoes
1 tsp/5 ml Sugar
¼ c/65 ml Kalamata Olives, pitted & halved
¼ c/65 ml Green Olives, pitted & halved
1 tbsp/15 ml Capers, drained & rinsed
1 tsp/5 ml Dried Oregano
Salt & Pepper
12 oz/335 g Spaghetti

Parmigiano Reggiano, grated

• In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add in garlic, red pepper flakes and anchovy fillets. Sauté for a minute or two until garlic becomes fragrant and anchovies begin to dissolve.
• Using your hands, crush tomatoes and add to pan with sugar, olives capers and oregano. Simmer gently for 10 to 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
• While sauce simmers, prepare spaghetti according to package directions. Drain.
• Toss pasta with sauce and serve. Garnish with an extra drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkling of Parmigiano Reggiano.

Serves 4-6

Saturday, October 23, 2010

A Taste of Scandinavia

I'm back! I have returned from my once-in-a-lifetime trip to Scandinavia: 14 days spread between Copenhagen, Stockholm and Gothenburg. It was great, exhausting, but great!

Here are some things I learned on this trip:

1. Once you travel in First Class it's VERY hard to go back to Economy. We were lucky enough to get upgraded to First Class on the way to Copenhagen - hello private fully reclining seats, champagne, filet mignon and comfy slippers! But the way back (which is a 2 hours longer flight than going) was back to good old Economy Class - ick.

2. Everyone in Denmark and Sweden speaks English infinitely better than I will ever mangle Danish or Swedish.

3. While Swedish Meatballs are delicious, I do not want them for breakfast, thank you.

4. Train is a much more civilized and relaxing way to travel than plane.

5. I have never seen a country that eats more cake and candy than Sweden. They even have a name for their afternoon cake ritual "Fica", in which I enthusiastically participated.

6. You have never tasted seafood until you've had fresh-out-of-the-ocean Nordic seafood.

Here are some pictures from my trip.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Is September a Crazy Month for Everyone?

I know it's been a few weeks since my last post but it's been a busy month. Doesn't it always seem like September should be the start of the New Year rather than January? Rosh Hashana (Jewish New Year) fell early this year and it's been a marathon of holidays since then. At the same time, everyone is getting out of summer-mode and falling back into the daily grind that is the rest of the year.

For me, cooking classes are getting started again and I've been working hard to create new and exciting classes full of delicious, simple and healthy recipes. I'm really looking forward to starting to teach for the LCBO in November with the class "4 Meals 1 Roast Chicken".

As well, my classes at the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre got off to a really fun start this past Sunday with a soup give-away in the lobby. Dozens of people came by to visit and try my fantastic vegan Butternut Squash soup. I was thrilled that my soup was a big hit with grown-ups and kids alike, since I didn't skimp on the spices. It was a great opportunity to introduce myself to a bunch of people and see some familiar faces. My favourite "familiar face" of the day definitely belonged to my nursery school teacher, Debbie Sherman. I have the fondest memories of her and was thrilled that she remembered me. She was there teaching religious school and it was amazing to see her with a group of young kids - they're really lucky to have her.

My "Fall Harvest" class this Tuesday at the Miles Nadal Jewish Communtiy Centre is full but coming up in November is my "Feeding Your Finicky Eater" class and my "Chanukah Party" class. If anyone is interested in registering for either class, you can give them a call at (416) 924-6211 or check them out online at

Next week I leave on my once-in-a-lifetime trip to Scandinavia. I will be traveling in Denmark and Sweden for two weeks and I am so excited. Well, to be honest, right now I'm mostly anxious but I'm getting excited. I have no idea what to expect. I've heard Copenhagen is one of the great cities of the world and I just keep imagining Sweden to be like a huge IKEA store with LOTS of herring.

So, that's what's been going on with me. Hope you've all had a wonderful September and are getting back into the swing of things. Below is my Butternut Squash soup recipe that was such a hit this past Sunday - Enjoy.

Butternut Squash Soup


2 tbsp Olive Oil
1 Butternut Squash, peeled, seeded & cubed
1 Apple, peeled, cored & cubed
1 Medium Onion, chopped
1 tsp Curry Powder
1 tsp Cumin
2 tbsp Brown Sugar
¼ tsp Cayenne Pepper
¼ tsp Nutmeg
4 c Chicken or Vegetable Broth
¼ c 35% Cream (optional)
Salt & Pepper


• In a soup pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add in squash, apple and onion. Season with a pinch of salt and a little pepper. Cook for 5 to 10 minutes until squash and apple begin to soften and onion becomes translucent.
• Add curry powder, cumin, brown sugar, cayenne pepper and nutmeg to pot and gently toss with squash mixture. Cook for another 2 to 3 minutes to toast spices.
• Add broth to the pot and bring to a gentle boil. Cover pot and let cook for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove pot from heat and let soup cool slightly.
• Using either a canister blender or a stick blender, purée soup until completely smooth. (Soup can be strained through a sieve at this point if you want it to be extra velvety).
• Return soup to pot and reheat on medium. Stir in 35% Cream, if using. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serves 4 - 6

© 2010 Elise Burton
All Rights Reserved

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Forget Buffalo Wings, Try My Applewood Smoked Wings

Everyone loves chicken wings, I love chicken wings, but health food they are not. They are basically a good excuse to eat crispy delicious chicken skin with a little bit of chicken hiding underneath. But, if you like to eat your wings almost anywhere outside of your own home - i.e. sports-bar, pub, fast-food joint, restaurant - you have taken them from "High-Fat Treat" to "Can you just give me my angioplasty with the bill?".

Commercial establishments do three things to chicken wings that the home-cook most likely does not: 1. They deep-fry them in some kind of fat - doesn't really matter what kind because it's probably been re-heated so many times that it is full of free-radicals. 2. After frying them, they probably toss them in a sauce whose two main ingredients are margarine and high-fructose corn syrup. 3. They serve them to you with a side of dip, blue cheese or ranch, that is nothing but mayonnaise.

I say, take back the chicken wing! They are relatively inexpensive to buy and not hard to prepare. Make them as a treat for you, your friends and your family. Here is my recipe for Applewood Smoked Chicken Wings. It's a little time consuming but the result is totally worth it.

Elise's Applewood Smoked Chicken Wings

The spice rub below is pretty basic. Feel free to adapt it to your own tastes but don't leave out the sugar all together - it helps to caramelize and crisp the skin on the wings, and don't make it too spicy or it will mask the smoke flavour.


3 c Applewood Chips (other wood options are Hickory, Oak, Maple or Mesquite)

1/4 c Granulated Sugar
1 tbsp Cumin
1 tbsp Sweet Spanish Smoked Paprika
1 tbsp Garlic Powder
1 tbsp Kosher Salt
1 tsp Black Pepper
1 tsp Cayenne Pepper
2 lbs Chicken Wings, split & wing-tips removed


1. In a small bowl, combine sugar, cumin, smoked paprika, garlic powder, kosher salt, black pepper and cayenne to make wing rub.
2. In a large bowl, place chicken wings. Sprinkle half the rub over wings and toss well to combine. Refrigerate for at least one hour.
3. One hour before you are ready to start barbecuing, place wood chips in a large bowl and cover with water. Set aside and let soak.
4. While wood chips soak, remove wings from refrigerator and sprinkle over remaining spice rub, tossing to coat.
5. Preheat one side of your BBQ to LOW (250 F) and leave the other side OFF.
6. Place a generous handful of soaked wood chips directly on heated side of grill. Place chicken wings, right side up, in neat rows on cold side of grill. Close grill.
7. Every 20 minutes, check on wings and sprinkle wood chips with a little water to promote smoke. Every hour, add another handful of soaked wood chips to grill. Don't let temp. go above 250 degrees F. After approximately 3 hours your wings are done.
8. Transfer wings from grill to platter and serve.

Serves 4

Monday, August 23, 2010

Spicy Thai Ground Turkey

So how about a new recipe? I haven't shared one in a while so I wanted to make sure it was a good one. This is a new creation of mine and I think it's pretty darn delicious - if I do say so myself.

I always get asked for recipe ideas for ground meat. People seem to hit a creative dead-end after hamburgers, meatballs and meatloaf. This recipe is a great alternative full of fantastic Thai flavours. I like to use extra-lean ground turkey but ground beef or pork would also be delicious. I make this recipe spicy and sweet, but you can adjust it to your tastes. Serve it with steamed rice or Asian noodles (I like Udon), but my favourite way is as a filling for lettuce wraps.

Also, as some of you may know, I've been working on my food photography and I think I'm actually making some progress. The photo with this recipe is the actual dish I made this evening - no fancy props, natural lighting and NO Photo-Shop.

Hope you give it a try and let me know how it turns out. Your comments are much appreciated.

Spicy Thai Ground Turkey


2 tbsp Low Sodium Soy Sauce
2 tbsp Fish Sauce
1 tbsp Freshly Squeezed Lime Juice
3 tbsp Granulated Sugar
1-2 tsp Chili Garlic Sauce
2 tsp Sesame Oil
2 tbsp Water

1 tbsp Vegetable Oil
1 Thai Red Chili, ribs & seeds removed, julienned
2 Cloves Garlic, minced
1 tsp Fresh Grated Ginger
1 lb Extra-Lean Ground Turkey, Beef or Pork
1 Large Onion, julienned
1-2 Carrots, julienned
1 c Cilantro Leaves


• In a small measuring cup, combine the first 7 ingredients and stir well. Set aside.
• In a large skillet or sauté pan, heat oil over med-hi heat. Add chili, garlic and ginger to pan and cook for approximately 30 seconds. Add in ground meat, breaking it up with a spoon. Stir-fry until it is crumbly, completely cooked through and well browned. Add in carrots and onions, toss to combine.
• Pour sauce into skillet around the outside of the ground meat mixture. Gently stir to combine. As sauce boils and reduces it will glaze the meat mixture. Continue to cook until almost all the liquid has either evaporated or been absorbed and meat is glossy.
• Serve over steamed rice, noodles or large, washed lettuce leaves. Garnish with lots of fresh Cilantro leaves.

Serves 4

© 2010 Elise Burton
All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Sorry Kensington Market - I'm Just Not Cool Enough for You

I met a friend for dinner the other night in Kensington Market....ok, ok, not a friend exactly, I had a date. A very downtown, artsy kinda guy, he suggested we meet on Augusta Ave. No problem, I live in midtown, I drive, Kensington Market it was.

Here's what I learned - I'm just not cool enough for Kensington Market. I don't have any tattoos, only my ears are pierced, I don't go everywhere on a bicycle with a retro-basket on the front, I don't own any second-hand summer dresses from Courage My Love, I'm not very familiar with the city's Indie music scene and I'm not a locavore, vegan or vegetarian.

On a less irreverent note, Kensington Market is just not what it used to be. Firstly, let's be honest, it SMELLS! It doesn't smell like fresh fish or spices or coffee, it smells like GARBAGE. This doesn't make it gritty, authentic or urban, it makes it GROSS. Secondly, why are there so many store-fronts that apparently house nothing? Prime downtown commercial real estate that seem more like long-forgotten storage units or low-rent yard sales where some one's dad is selling there 8-tracks and cassettes. Lastly and most annoyingly, if the area is known for it's fresh produce, specialty butchers, fish mongers and cheese shops, than why are the restaurants so bad? I'm not saying they all are - I haven't been to them all - but way too many, new and old, are mediocre at best. Burger Bar, Torito, Supermarket, Waterfalls Indian Tapas - all feh! I don't care if everything is organic, free-range and natural if it tastes like crap. And why does every restaurant have a vegan noodle bowl on the menu?

So, I'm coming to terms with just not being hip enough for Kensington Market. I'll stick with some of the city's other fantastic neighbourhoods that don't smell like garbage, have vibrant, unique retail establishments and are home to wonderful, creative, fairly-priced restaurants and leave the BOHO mediocrity to the young hipsters of Kensington.