good stuff #4: kitchen goodies

a bunch of aqua

kitchen goodies

as you can imagine, my kitchen is my kingdom. i spend a lot of time there, so it needs to be functional.

i’m a bit nutty for kitchen equipment. when i’m in a groove and the absolute perfect tool is at my disposal, there is no better feeling than having a well-made object that’s right for the job. many people who tell me they hate cooking are working with old junk they haven’t replaced in years, or using tools that they think will make life easier, but actually don’t. like a garlic press.

the kitchen also happens to be the hub of the house. everyone winds up there. so warm, comfortable, and good-looking is also a priority. it needs to have beauty and brains.

this week, a peek into my aga-less, but happy kitchen. and a few cool gadgets that have recently crossed my path.

happy sunday and happy week.

xx

  1. this mushroom brush. mushrooms are little sponges and shouldn’t be washed. i love the shape and gentle bristles of this iris hantverk brush for nice clean mushrooms. for when i make things like this. i bought it online from quitokeeto.

  2. tiny bundt pan. the other day i came upon this little 9″ pan from guardini of italy. it’s perfect for making dainty cakes and the non-stick surface worked really well on a sticky cake i baked up. the orange enamel is a total bonus.

  3. this art. this bare wall was asking for something big and dramatic. art in the kitchen, why not? i found this beautiful limited edition block print by bobby rosenstock of just a jar design press at the toronto outdoor art exhibit, framed it up and put it above the stove. (a stove which, as you can see, is clearly not an AGA.)

  4. this scoop. chefs use them for portion control, i use them for sanity control. trying to coax muffin batter from bowl to muffin tin with a spoon is not fun. for cookies, muffin batter, and veggie burgers, these make perfect portions and life a lot easier. the handles are colour-coded so you always grab the right size.

  5. this awesome little knife by k sabatier. i needed a razor-sharp little knife for fiddly jobs, and this one, with its lovely olive-wood handle, is perfect.

  6. this collection of aqua stuff. lately i’m loving anything aqua. it works really well in my light orange kitchen and is reminiscent of a tropical sea.  when a good friend of mine moved to hawaii, she gifted me the le creuset large roaster (yeah, she’s that kind of friend). ikea raskog cart. vase and casserole dish from homesense)

  7. this paint colour, “orangery”, farrow and ball. one day i just decided to paint my kitchen this creamy orange colour, and i never looked back. it’s amazingly versatile and is dreamy in dimmed light in the evening. although i suspect this colour has been archived, as it’s no longer available to view on the website.

  8. this upcycled island. this was an old buffet/hutch combo that my special brit friend keenly spied at our favourite junk shop. i think it’s from the 40’s. we removed the shelves, painted it out in this platinum shade of melamine paint. i found the marble top as a scrap at the stone yard and shamelessly asked for some man-muscle to get it home. all in, it cost under $200, and i have a perfect place to roll pastry, store extra bowls and linens, and shoot my food photos. score. the toleware chandelier was also a score, $40 at a junk store. i put it on a dimmer to make an inviting spot for drinks and snacks in the evenings.

  9. these containers for utensils. old garden urns and ice buckets make interesting and quirky catch-alls for all those cooking tools. one is never enough. luckily they are easily found in thrift shops.

*please note, i do not work for and am not paid by any of the above companies. this is my unbiased sharing of things i like. thanks!

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pretty pizza

pretty pizza

i make pizza about every other week using a techinque i’m happy with, dough that behaves itself and a simple sauce that tastes really good. pizza at my place is good fun, with everyone throwing on what they want. it’s delicious, but it ain’t exactly pretty.

i like the idea of a composed pizza. like a composed salad, you can taste each ingredient on its own. usually each piece winds up having 1 or 1 ingredients on it. the next piece is something completely different.

this antipasto pizza is topped with sundried and fresh tomatoes, red onion, kalamata olives, fresh basil, zucchini sliced on the mandoline, and some marinated mushrooms from a recipe i posted on the blog. cheese goes on the bottom to you can see the patterns and colours of the ingredients.

i didn’t take too much time arranging it all. i’d love to see someone go really nuts with this idea and make the world’s most beautiful pizza. the angelina jolie of pizza. today we’ll go with pretty, and that’ll do just fine.

pretty pizza

pretty pizza

make it pretty and compose your ingredients, or just throw them on there.

the starter for the dough needs to be made the night before, but if you want to be eating pizza in the evening, start in the morning and you’ll be fine.

olive oil
salt and pepper
1/4 tsp. dried basil
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
easy and flavourful pizza sauce (recipe follows)
rustic pizza dough (recipe follows)
toppings of your choice

easy and flavourful pizza sauce

1 can plum tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1/4 tsp. dried basil
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper

preheat oven to 400F. dump tomatoes into a 9″ glass baking dish and squish them with your hands. stir in the garlic and the basil. roast in the oven for 1 hour, or until tomato juice is reduced and thickened. place in food processor, and process until smooth. drizzle in olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. makes 1 pint.

rustic pizza dough

makes enough for 4 12-inch pizzas. can be frozen after portioning. i’ve scaled it in grams for accuracy.

make the poolish (starter): in the bowl of a stand mixer, stir together 300g flour, 400mls of warm water, and 3g of instant yeast (about a teaspoon). Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon. cover bowl with plastic or a towel and allow to ferment overnight, or 8 hours, minimum.

for the dough: to the bowl, add 1 kg of flour, 23g of salt, and 20g yeast. pour in 600mls warm water. place in mixer with the dough hook attachment, and stir on medium-low speed until dough is smooth and elastic, about 7 minutes. remove bowl from mixer and cover with a clean towel. proof in the bowl for 1 hour.

turn onto floured board and divide into 4 equal pieces, shaping into round balls. each piece will be roughly 530g. allow the dough to rest 10 minutes. (if freezing, wrap each piece well in plastic wrap, then pop into a freezer bag)

tear off a piece of parchment to cover a 12-inch round pizza pan with an overhang. press the dough to cover the pan. brush with olive oil and sprinkle the edge with salt, pepper, the dried basil and the dried oregano. spread with about 1/4 cup of the sauce (or more, if you like lots of sauce). add your toppings of choice. trim the parchment close to the pan.

preheat your oven as hot as it will go. mine goes to 550f, but many only go up to 500f. this is fine. place pizza on the lowest rack.

bake for 10 minutes. rotate pan and move from low rack to the higher one. Reduce heat to 400F and bake another 5-10 minutes or until bottom of crust is browed and feels firm.

rest pizza for 5 minutes, then slice.

chef’s note: i’ve had success cooking these on the bbq. heat grill as hot as it will go. divide the dough into eighths, and roll out. brush rounds with oil and season as above. place un-topped on grill and cook for 3-4 minutes. flip over, add sauce and toppings, and grill another 3-4 minutes, closing lid to melt the cheese.

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absolutely essential kitchen trends

happy thursday lovelies…

this blog is a bit of new enterprise for me, and it’s still somewhat under construction. because what the world needs now is another long-form lifestyle blog, i’ve been cooking like a madwoman, photographing, and amassing posts.  but i couldn’t resist firing off a quick one today,  because it’s trends time folks. i’ve been absorbing what’s happening in the world and what the kids are into these days.

i dig my place and enjoy reading and getting inspiration from design blogs, like this one, which touched on the top kitchen trends for 2015.  bring on those industrial elements, layered lighting, and bold colour!

so in the spirit of a good ol’ top 10 list, i thought i’d helpfully provide:

kitchen trends for 2015 you absolutely must embrace

cracking the stove. it’s that big-ish square thing in the corner that radiates some kind of heat from electricity or gas. you can use the top or throw something inside. it turns raw food into meals, and it’s pretty awesome.

cutting food with knives. knives are for turning food into ingredients. they should be sharp, so cooking is actually enjoyable and you’re not hacking away and cursing how much you hate cooking while trying to cut carrots with the equivalent of a blunt stick. using a dull knife is more dangerous than using a sharp one. you have to press harder and risk it slipping from the food and onto your hand. and the cut you receive will be much worse that the clean nick you would get from a sharp knife. fearing a sharp knife because it might cut you and making do with crappy dull blades is a lot like not changing a light bulb because you might accidentally put your finger in the socket, so you live in the dark and trip over things. see what i did there? fear not the light bulb, or the knife. and for heaven’s sake, get a steel and use it every time.

recipes. look at your background. have you learned to read? put windshield washer fluid in your car? passed your driving test? assembled an ikea billy bookshelf?  congratulations.  you have the skills to prepare a recipe. there are recipes everywhere. if you’re not careful you’ll trip over them. they are in magazines about cooking, and magazines not about cooking. they are on the web and in newspapers and on those little tear-off sheets at the store. also this

planning a meal. kitchens are made for this type of activity. see stove, knives, and recipe, above. if you can figure out that you need shoes to go with an outfit, or keep track of the web of lies on house of cards, you can read a recipe, buy what you need, and make it. if you don’t know a cooking term or need help with a technique, this, and this.

cooking stuff. seems obvious, right? you’d be amazed how many kitchens exist to show off their reclaimed parisian bistro marble countertops and copper exhaust hoods. if they had eyes, those fancy all-clad pots and le creuset dutch ovens would be sadly staring up at you and weeping “use me!” while the hidden recycling drawer lined with organically grown bamboo overflows with two-weeks’ worth of plastic bento boxes. people who cook for a living would die…no…give up their favourite child… for your sub-zero fridge and your aga. hell, have you read my reasons for writing this blog? if you have the means to trick out your kitchen, for god’s sake don’t insult everyone who slaves in kitchens making minimum wage by not using your fancy stuff.

using your fridge, and all its compartments. its the taller thing, bigger than the stove. open it. what do you see? if it’s 1 or 2 six-packs and a bottle of ketchup from y2k, read on. this state-of-the-art device is made for storing your ingredients. the vegetable drawers keep your veggies fresh, your cheese drawer keeps your cheeses at the right humidity. that really, really cold bit is the freezer, and you can use it to freeze pizza dough or edamame or anything else that will make cooking easier and more efficient. if you find you’re throwing away what you buy, buy less, or better yet, use your fridge and a few tips to store your food properly.

cooking together. when you have a party, people congregate in the kitchen. why? it’s where we all have something in common: food, and drink. so when you’re not having a party, put down that game of candy crush and hand your child a knife. (that’s right, the sharp one), and get cooking together. if you’ve already discounted any of the previous hot kitchen trends, at least do this one. by the way, your spouse/life partner/current squeeze wants to be with you, and so do your kids. the kitchen is an awesome place to connect and bond, and feed each other yummy things. and talk about what to make next. you’ll be giving and learning life lessons, promoting togetherness, and leaning some new skills together to boot. nice huh?

maintaining your equipment. baking cookies are great, but not on a old rusty baking sheet. you may have a spatula somewhere with a loose screw, and what about those horrible dull knives? buying a few good pieces, and keeping them in good shape is hot hot hot! some of the best maintenance is using your equipment. like a car that sits in your driveway, that food processor is begging you to turn it on and work out the kinks. besides, you can use it to make this

eating together. the kitchen is a good a place as any. it’s closest to the food. many kitchen have tables, chairs, plates, and cutlery.  sitting down and savouring a meal means you’re freed forever from holding your cup-o-noodles in one hand while the other swipes a trackpad to take the latest buzzfeed quiz.  you can bring the food from the stove, walk it over, and share it with other humans in your tribe. you may have even cooked it together. talk about what you like, what you don’t, your day, whatever. and despite what Slate says, i prefer what Joel Salatin says. imagine my best virginian accent: “the meal is not dead!”

displaying your pretty stuff. i should have said at the get-go, “in no particular order”, but let’s not discount the power of the visual. when your kitchen is pretty, you’ll use it more. you may also eat more, but let’s not go there (for more on that, read this). also, your pantry. why on earth would you venture anywhere near a dark, dreary closet with quarter-ounces of dry pasta wrapped in elastic bands? clear jars let you see what you have, and inspire you to use them. if nothing else, it makes you look like you actually cook stuff, and that’s a start. i’ll even throw in some free printable jar labels so you never again need to wonder if your going to kill your sister because you used whole wheat instead of the gluten-free chickpea flour.

enjoy this lovely spring day, and for god’s sake make something.

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