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.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

My New Favourite Use for the Microwave - Shrimp Chips

Every time I go for Thai food at my favourite local place - Xaphire,530 Eglinton Ave. W. - I order the delicious shrimp chips (also known as prawn crackers) served with their amazing peanut sauce.

Shrimp chips are the East Asian answer to potato chips. You can buy them pre-packaged in any Asian grocery store but they don't compare to the restaurant ones that arrive at your table fresh from the fryer and piled high in a big bowl. Sometimes they are a variety of completely unnatural confetti colours and sometimes they are more of a natural parchment-like colour, but they are always the consistency of Styrofoam packing peanuts with the subtle flavour of dried shrimp.

One night last week, I was sitting at home craving shrimp chips but trying to talk myself out of it - while they are light and airy, they are deep-fried and quite greasy. Then I remembered hearing somewhere that you could actually microwave shrimp chips. Between you and me, I hardly ever use my microwave. Aside from defrosting frozen soup or a bagel, my 14 year old machine remains relatively idle, but the idea of homemade shrimp chips without the grease was too tempting to resist.

A trip to my local Asian market, $1.49 and 1 minute in the microwave and VOILA - delicious, crispy, fat-free shrimp chips. I took pictures of the box, the uncooked chips and the final product so anyone who isn't familiar won't feel lost.

All you have to do is lay out some of the chips on a microwave-safe plate - make sure they are in a single layer and not touching each other. Place the plate in the microwave and set it for 1 minute on high. You'll see the chips puff and become opaque. Remove the plate from microwave and let chips sit for a minute or two until they cool and totally crisp up. Serve with peanut sauce or your favourite Asian style dip.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Is "Semi-Homemade" Ever Okay?

Here in Canada, we have not yet been introduced to American Food Network star Sandra Lee. For those of you unfamiliar, Sandra Lee is a cookbook author and television personality best known for her "semi-homemade" concept - 70% pre-packaged or prepared products and 30% fresh. Believe it or not, people just can't get enough of her.

My immediate response is "YUCK!", but I think a more thoughtful one might be useful. The world of food is a constant contradiction. As much as people are talking about fresh, local, seasonal, organic, grass-fed, free-range, ethically-raised and artisanal, they are also looking for quick, easy, convenient, affordable, and accessible. These things don't necessarily have to be in direct opposition to each other, they just often are.

Which leads me to the question I posed in the title of this blog entry, "Is 'Semi-Homemade' ever okay?". My answer is, "It depends".

In my opinion, the way Ms. Lee does it just doesn't produce good, high-quality food, and that is always the goal when I cook or bake. Lasagna should NEVER contain tins of canned condensed tomato soup and a container of cottage cheese. Feel free to check it out if you want to But, I do believe that it is perfectly acceptable to incorporate some of these short-cut items into your repetoire. Here is a short and incomplete list of prepared/packaged/convenience foods that I personally use in my kitchen:

- Tetra-paks of low sodium chicken and beef broth (such a pain to make your own)
- Jarred Spaghetti Sauce (fine when you're in a rush, but read the ingredients)
- Cake Mix (I'm not a baker and I'm sorry, Duncan Hines Confetti Cake is great!)
- Supermarket Prepared Roasted Chicken (spit-roasted, delicious and convenient)
- Pizza Dough (not the one in the tube, the fresh one usually made in-store)
- Pre-cooked packaged bacon (no muss, no fuss, crispy hot bacon in 45 seconds)
- Pre-washed cut salad (I don't buy the bagged stuff. I only like the containers)

The photograph attached is of cinnamon buns I made over the weekend. Everyone who knows me, knows that working with yeast is one of my least favourite things, so these were made with a ball of store-bought pizza dough from Longo's - they were great.

I would love to hear what packaged/prepared/convenience foods you use in your kitchen and why.