Monday, April 27, 2009

lamb: preserved lemons or lemon preserve

Saturday morning I poured through Bonnie Stern's Friday Night Dinner Book. Every chapter in this cookbook focuses on an entire menu (such as Thanksgiving, Asian Dinner, Graduation Dinner, etc.). Fun for me! However, I decided to live on the edge and combine a few menus for our meal. Wild, I know.

I decided on a leg of lamb for the main course and called a local butcher to have the meat butterflied, trimmed and flattened for the grill. The recipe called for preserved lemons and suggested that I go to a middle eastern grocer to purchase. I headed to Wyndotte St. in Windsor and went into to one of the larger stores. I looked through all the shelves before I found the lemons.

Once I got home, I started to make the Grilled Lamb with Preserved Lemons and Shallots. Sadly, I realized that I had lemon preserve rather than preserved lemons. oy vey! Regardless, I used the jam and the lamb turned out fine (in fact, it had kind of a sweet lemony flavour!). That said, I'm now determined to preserve my own lemons.

Now for the evening's highlights...

Bonnie Stern's Sparkling Pomegranate Sangria
(Recipe stolen and posted below)

Smoked Fish Platter

Smoked fish rocks my world! Growing up, I refused to eat it. I remember going to breakfast club at our shul as a kid and seeing all the men eating bagels, cream cheese with lox and thinking that it was absolutely repulsive that someone would put fish on their bagel. Now I say, bring it on! For our appetizer I pulled together a smoked fish platter with honey-mustard dill sauce and cucumber-coriander yogurt. We purchased our smoked whitefish and kippered salmon from Zingerman's Deli since I haven't been able to find a good supplier for smoked fish in Windsor.

Required: friends who bake

Violet brought over a beautiful apricot daisy dessert. It's German-inspired and not too sweet. If we're lucky, maybe she'll post the recipe in the comments section.

Dinner menu:

Sparling Pomegranate Sangria: (1/4 cup orange liquer, 1/4 cup of granualated sugar, 3 cups of pomegranate juice, 1 orange cut in wedges and sliced, 1/2 cup of pomengranate seeds (optional), a bottle of bubbly, ice cubes --- combine first two ingredients in large pitcher and stir until sugar disolves; mix in everything except the sparkling wine and ice cubes, cover and throw in the fridge, when ready stir in the bubbly, add ice cubes to glasses and pour sangria in...mmm!)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

#81 Oswald's Mile High

Canadians swear by Schwartz's Delicatessen in Montreal but I prefer Zingerman's Deli in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Last night, we spent the evening with Cheri and her English Bulldog named Bailey. The unseasonably warm temperature meant we could enjoy her glorious balcony and share a bottle of bubbly.

Once the champagne was finished, we walked a couple of blocks to Zingerman's Deli. It's like heaven on earth. The establishment carries products from local artisan producers and purveyors from around the globe. There are cheeses, smoked fishes and deli meat galore. In addition, you can taste any of the available olive oils or vinegars. They will open any bottle that's for sale so that you can ensure the taste meets your expectations. Best of all Zingerman's has a bakery. I think my favourite bread is the Jewish rye...malty but not-too-dense.

We ordered take-out. Corned beef sandwiches. Old and new dill pickles. Smoked whitefish spread. Olives. Tarragon Potato Salad. Chickpea and feta salad. Rice pudding. Duck egg flan. All washed down with St. Ambroise Apricot beer (a Quebec beer that we have only found in British Columbia and The Party Shoppe in A2) The meal was kind of insane but so worth my workout this morning!

#81 Oswald's Mile High (Ari's Favorite)Zingerman's corned beef & yellow mustard on double-baked, hand-sliced Jewish rye bread with an old and new pickle.

St. Ambroise Apricot Beer

Zingerman's Delicatessen 422 Detroit St. Ann Arbor, Michigan 48104 Phone 734.663.3354

fajitas with emma & lia

Fajitas? No problem.

We grilled chicken breasts brushed with BBQ sauce.
We sauteed a sweet Vidalia onion and green and orange peppers.
We shredded cheddar cheese. We had salsa and sour cream.

ready to build fajitas

the final product

To keep this healthy, grill chicken breasts, use multigrain high-fiber tortillas, buy low-fat cheddar and low-fat sour cream.

friendly cheese

Salt Spring Island goat cheese is memorable for so many reasons. First of all my sister Sharon introduced me to it. Secondly, we have spent a couple of great summer vacations on the island. Lastly, it's a beautiful, fresh, friendly cheese. I say friendly because I can't imagine anyone who doesn't like it. If you're ever looking for a hostess gift I would suggest picking up a cheese or two from Far Flung foods. They make such a pretty gift. Our favourite is the basil goat cheese but other options include chili, a pretty flower and garlic.

perfect appetizer with Daniel Lenko Unoaked Chardonnay

mom and me on the island
Interested in visiting Salt Spring Island, check out

useless fact, awesome vinegar

Did you know that Canada grow's over 90% of the world's mustard? Craziness! Well, my favourite mustard maker also makes one of my favourite vinegars. Try the meritage blend from Kozliks. It has an interesting blend of acidity and sweetness. You can buy the vinegar and mustards at Remark in Windsor. Let me know which ones you like best.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

birthday party bbq

We attended a 40th birthday party at Smoke N Spice in Windsor, Ontario. Our party of 10, sat on the balcony and enjoyed a special menu designed by Chef Ryan Odette and his wonderful wife Tina.

Appetizers: Beef Brisket, caramelized onion & blue cheese pizza (see below), Grilled vegetable and tomato pizza

Salad: Salad of mixed greens, goat cheese & spiced pecans Entree: Jerked chicken with slaw and grilled sweet potatoes
Alternating desserts: Red velvet torte, Sweet potato cheesecake (see below), Chocolate pecan pie

Even the drinks were fun! Smoke N Spice has an awesome selection of Ontario craft beers. I stuck with Oakville's Cameron’s Cream Ale which I continue to love more and more. It's malty but not overpowering and has a very smooth, tasty finish.

Toward the end of the meal, people got nostalgic and starting drinking Pop Shoppe pop. I don’t know too much about it but apparently there was a Pop Shoppe store in Windsor that was very popular. Smoke N Spice carries the black cherry, root beer, cream soda, and orange flavours. Between the Pop Shoppe and dessert, I’m sure everyone went home with a sugar high! Happy birthday David! And, thanks to Sharon for hosting a great event!

brotherly love

Read what the Sports, Entertainment, and Smack blog had to say about Menu Maniac.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Vito's Pizzeria in Walkerville

Windsor is a difficult city for restaurants. As the job losses mount, the restaurants close. So Vito's Pizzeria is a welcome addition to the dwindling scene. We stumbled upon Vito's during the week and decided to return with friends on Saturday night. Our server recommended that we make reservations for weekend dining. It was a good idea for our party of six. It was so busy that people were sitting on stools around the wood-burning pizza oven.

We began with prosecco cocktails. um...what's a better appetizer than that? I love bubbly wine! Next we moved into the white wine sangria and then a bottle of red. Fun times!

The Sicily's Golden Orbs (rice croquettes) and Nana's Polpette (meatballs) were hearty appetizers. The meatballs consisted of veal, pork, beef and you could actually see chunks of garlic! We also ordered the Brie al Forno which was essentially a sweet baked Brie. This dish was was too small to share for more than two people. I guess I wasn't surprised since it wouldn't typically be my first choice with an Italian meal. Remember, I'm a matchy-matchy menu maniac!

Wherever I go for dinner, I must try the Caesar salad. It's old school but I'm obsessed. The Caesar at Vito's does not disappoint. Their creamy dressing is garlicky and parmesany (is that even a word?) with perfectly toasted homemade croutons.Our main courses included pastas and pizzas galore! My favourite dish is the Prosciutto Funghi pizza. I love that it's topped with an egg. Usually I don't like cooked prosciutto but they have found a way to keep it from being too mushy. Back to the egg...WOW! Earlier this year, there was a recipe for pizza with eggs in Gourmet Magazine. I think I'm going to finally have to try it at home.
The Pasta all Bolegnese is outstanding. The sauce includes veal, pork and beef; just like the meatballs. And, all of the pasta dishes are made with fresh pasta from the kitchen.
The Pasta Carbonera is super creamy. We all agreed that it could have used a bit more salt but would order it again.
The Patate Pizza has potatoes and onions on it. We couldn't really taste the onions and the potatos might be cut too thickly. My recommendation would be for the chef to drizzle some really good quality extra virgin olive oil on it. In fact, I wish that they had olive oil and spiced olive oil on the table for dipping and drizzling.
Overall, it's a fun new restaurant! I know that we'll be back soon. They've been open for about three weeks which tells me that things will only get better.

To see Vito Pizzeria's menu, visit

P.S. I should also mention that the restaurant doesn't have a large freezer on site so the food is brought in fresh daily. Let's hope this practice continues!

Friday, April 17, 2009

first warm day = burgers on the grill

Last night when I hit our little grocery store after work, I remembered all of the ingredients that I had at home that were about to go bad...wild mushrooms, pita, cilantro, thyme, etc.

  • Guacamole and Pita Chips with Chili Powder
  • Burgers topped with smoked provolone, sauteed wild mushrooms and onions with thyme
  • Tossed Salad
To make the guacamole, just mash up two avocados, squeeze half a lime over top, mix in chopped cilantro and kosher salt, and top with chopped plum tomatoes (with the seeds removed) or whatever tomatoes you have on hand. I had grape tomatoes last night. For the pita chips, I brushed them with olive oil and sprinkled with kosher salt and chili powder. Simple but I was able to use up the cilantro and pita chips so they didn't end up in the trash (this is important because Windsor "sanitary engineers" are on strike!).
The sauteed onions and wild mushrooms, were cooked on medium-low in olive oil and sprinkled with kosher salt and fresh thyme.

Yummy burgers!

Enjoy the weekend! I'll be at school for most of it. :(

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

chicken tikka sandwich

Sometimes a dinner that takes 10 minutes to prepare is exactly what you need. By avoiding the take-out joints, you can save a bit of money and keep healthy.
Jamie Oliver's Quick Salmon Tikka with Cucumber Yogurt recipe is so easy that I'm almost embarrassed to admit that I make it -- especially since it involves a jar of curry paste. The recipe includes ingredients that can all be purchased at a grocery store like Zehrs to get President's Choice naan bread and Patak's tandoori mild curry paste.

Usually I stick with salmon but tonight we tried chicken breasts. I suspect that halibut would work well too. In fact, as I write this I think I'm going to try lamb next time...

Ingredients for Chicken Tikka Sandwich

Naan in the oven, just follow the instructions on the package

Enjoy your sandwich with a beer, I chose Dos Equis Lager (it reminds me of Acapulco!)


Monday, April 13, 2009

simple sunday night steak

A few weeks ago, my friend Terry and I were discussing the best method for cooking a rib-eye. Terry recommends brushing the steak with olive oil and massaging with Schwartz's Beef & Steak Spice prior to grilling. Once the steak is off the BBQ, sprinkle with kosher salt or fleur de sel and tent for a few minutes. Simple, right? In Windsor, you can find Schwartz's beef and chicken spices at Far Flung Foods in Market Square or Remark Farms.

Dinner menu:

  • Sarah & Terry's Roasted Cherry Tomato Bruschetta (recipe below)
  • Grilled steak -- we split an organic rib-eye from Fieldgate Organics
  • Sauteed mini-bella mushrooms and caramelized onions
  • Caesar Salad
  • Mill St. Organic Lager to drink
Sarah & Terry's Roasted Tomato Bruschetta
(inspired by and slightly stolen from The River Cafe)
Put a bunch of ripe cherry tomatoes, cut in half, in a small baking dish. Add some minced garlic (1-2 cloves), glug or two of good olive oil, and a tablespoon or two of red wine or sherry vinegar. Toss. Throw into preheated oven 375F for 10 minutes maybe? Until they're starting to wilt and really hot all the way through but you don't want them to completely loose their shape and turn into a sauce.

Olives- pit them and chop them roughly. Kalamata works well.

Bread- paint it lightly with olive oil and a little salt. Grill it. When it comes off grill rub it lightly with a raw clove of garlic.

Throw tomatoes, olives, and some fresh baby arugula on the bread, EAT.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

birthday dinner, sushi style

Jay's birthday festivities continued with a Saturday night sushi party. Ted from Tiki Sushi designed a wildly interesting menu with everything from spring rolls to sushi pizza to devil rolls! In addition, he was able to easily accomodate my mother-in-law's shellfish allergy. Drinks ranged from Veuve Cliquot to Sake and Sapporo. What a great evening! See menu below.

Salmon nigiri...simple and traditional

Tuna fish tacos in corn tortillas..fresh and healthy Sushi pizza prep: rice patties in Tiki Sushi's portable deep-fryer
Sushi pizza topped with tuna...uber-deliciousness!



  • sour apple cream w/ smoked salmon
  • spring roll w/ salsa verde plum sauce
  • tempura mushroom roll w/ truffle soy


  • albacore tuna tacos
  • nigiri of salmon, tuna, eel
  • mini sushi pizza (yellowfin tuna)
  • tempura tuna rolls w/ chili mayo
  • jordana handrolls(tempura shrimp, cuc, avocado, chili, letuuce)
  • phoenix rolls(crabstick, salmon, shrimp, fried onion, japanese mayo, chili)
  • tiki sunrise(tempura shrimp, smoked salmon, toasted coconut, pineapple mango mayo)
  • devil rolls (tempura shrimp, cucumber, avocado, albacore tuna, f.f.roe, togarashi, chili mayo)

I'll keep Ted's Tiki Sushi in mind for future events. I'm thinking a medium-sized dinner or large cocktail party. Ted has a sushi cart so it would be cool to have him at a wedding or event rolling fresh sushi for guests. Think about it. Where else could you get awesome sushi for an event in Windsor? Contact Ted at

P.S. Thanks to H & C for hosting the evening! It was lovely!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

birthday dinner, healthy style

For Jay's birthday, I couldn't make anything but a healthy meal. We had just spent the past two days eating and eating and eating and eating. To make up for the fact that we weren't going to have his requested meal of garlic bread with cheese and chicken wings, I tried to make dinner really tasty and with love.
To make the hummus, just pulse the following in a food processor: 14 oz can of chickpeas, chopped clove of garlic, couple glugs of olive oil, spoonful of tahini, juice from half a lemon, pinch of Spanish smoked paprika, pinch of cumin, salt & pepper. To smooth it out, sometimes I had a splash of water. I put it in a bowl and drizzled with my best olive oil.

To make the pita chips: split a pocket-pita so that you have two thin pieces, cut into triangles, brush with olive oil, sprinkle with kosher salt and chopped fresh rosemary. Broil for 4 minutes at 400 degrees.

The chicken skewers were adapted from a recipe for Swordfish Soulvaki in Bonnie Stern's Friday Night Dinners book.

Basically, I marinated chunks of chicken for a few minutes in olive oil, lemon zest, chopped garlic, oregano and salt & pepper. Then I put them on metal skewers and BBQ'd carefully on low. I also made a "dressing" for the chicken that I poured on after the skewers were cooked. The dressing was 1/3 lemon juice, 2/3 olive oil, fresh thyme, salt & pepper. Very simple but extremely flavourful.

Greek salad is a staple in our home. Last night I made Aunt Shelley's version but with a twist. Combine chopped Romaine lettuce, green onion, Persian cucumbers and tomatoes. Top with fresh chopped thyme and parsley. Sprinkle with feta, garlic powder, kosher salt and ground pepper. Toss with olive oil and white vinegar.

Tonight it's a sushi party with Ted from Tiki Sushi. Check back tomorrow for photos. Check out Tiki Sushi by clicking here.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Seder #2

The second night of Passover was spent at Sharon and David's. Sharon isn't afraid to try new recipes and often surprises us with interesting twists on traditional fare. For the second year in a row, she replaced the Gefilte fish course with fishcakes. This makes me very happy!
Post-meal the family enjoyed a Grateful Dead dance party which included a head-banging 4 year old and a private hustle lesson from Bubby.

(Recipe was published in the Saturday, April 4, 2009 National Post -- Sharon said that she followed it without substitutions or changes)

My friend and colleague Mitchell Davis likes to carve the brisket after two hours of cooking. Then he reassembles the slices in the pan and continues cooking until tender -- usually about two hours longer.

There are three reasons his technique works: It's easier to carve when undercooked, it cooks faster in thinner pieces, and more surface area is exposed to the flavourful juices. Whatever method you use, it's important to cook the brisket until it is fork tender, no matter how long it takes! Brisket is a great make-ahead dish: Reheat, covered tightly, at 350F (180C), about 40 to 45 minutes. It's also tender and delicious done in a slow cooker. - 7 lb (3.5kg) brisket (approximate weight) - 1 tbsp (15mL) paprika - 1 tbsp (15mL) kosher salt - ½ tsp (2mL) fresh ground black pepper - 3 large onions, sliced - 6 cloves garlic, sliced - 1½ cups (375mL) ketchup, barbecue sauce or tomato puree - 3 tbsp (45mL) brown sugar or honey - 3 tbsp (45mL) vinegar or lemon juice - 1½ cups (375mL) water

1. Rub top side of brisket (fatty side) with paprika, salt and pepper.
2. Place onions and garlic in the bottom of a roasting pan large enough to hold the brisket in a single layer.
3. Combine ketchup, brown sugar, vinegar and water. Pour over brisket. Cover tightly with lid or with aluminum foil.
4. Place in a preheated 350F (180C) oven for 2 hours. Remove from oven. Remove meat to a carving board and slice across the grain, into ½" (1cm) thick slices. Discard fat from surface of the juices. Return meat to pan, spooning juices over top. Cover tightly and cook 1½ to 2 hours longer or until meat is very tender. Makes 10 to 12 servings

Seder #1

Passover Seder #1 begins with our annual pilgrimage to Thornhill. It's an evening filled with tradition. This year was no different.

  • Dill pickles - new & old
  • Celery, hard-boiled eggs, moror, harosetz
  • Gefilte Fish
  • Chicken soup with matzoh balls
  • Brisket
  • Chicken with mushrooms
  • Kugal
  • Ratatouille
  • Roasted Potatoes
  • Green Salad
  • Desserts - Chocolate covered matzoh, flourless chocolate cake, lemon mousse

Thank you to the Berlin family for a great evening!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

didn't make it but i loved it

Drove to Toronto last night to meet Jay. We had a decadent meal at One and I think we did a fine job with our food choices.

  • Strawberry Champagne Cocktail (peppery and yummy!)
  • Oysters
  • Crab Cakes
  • Lobster Mac & Cheese

The mac & cheese was perfect. Truly perfect. The sauce had a silky consistency. I was expecting a thick, creamy, too cheesy dish but my expectations were blown away. We enjoyed the meal with an interesting bottle of Sequillo White. Would recommend this wine for summer to be enjoyed with or without food.

Worth the drive. For sure.

Monday, April 6, 2009

monday post-gym meal

  • Baked whole-wheat pita triangles brushed with olive oil, smoked paprika and garlic & hummus
  • Store-bought spinach and ricotta stuff chicken breasts
  • Zucchini sauteed with garlic

Sunday, April 5, 2009

dinner for 8 in less than an hour

On Thursday, I was in the mood to cook. Without taking into account my Saturday plans, I invited 3 couples over for dinner. Saturday arrived and I had two appointments and wasn't able to start prepping until 5 p.m. Cocktails were at 6:30 p.m.

Bruschettas x 2 -- one with roasted cherry tomatoes, the other with wilted fennel, black olives & sardines (served with prosecco!)
Silly Simple Salad with mixed greens, watercress, arugula, ferny bits of fennel and a lemony dressing
Roasted Salmon with Tarragon, Mustard and Chive Sauce (served with Niagara white and red)
Roasted Fingerling Potatoes
Grilled Asparagus

easy peasy.

P.S. I must mention that my friend Suzanne was responsible for dessert. I don't bake. But she does. Suzanne made the MOST outstanding pecan cinnamon buns!