International cooking for the youthful malcontent.

Editorial

Kinda Blog Famous

Hello, faithful readers. There’s literally too much to write – we’re back from our honeymoon in India and Thailand, we ate a pile of amazing food, discovered new dishes to figure out at home, had incredible experiences and made it back safe and sound. We’re still sifting through it all, figuring out what it all was and meant.

And somewhere in the middle of that, we got word that our wedding was going to be featured on a popular wedding blog. You see, our photographer, Rosetta Li, chose to submit her photos to a number of blogs for potential showcasing (with our permission, of course) including one called Style Me Pretty. Apparently this is a Very Important Wedding Blog (I don’t follow these things) because Anuja immediately went giddy when the email arrived telling us we had been chosen. We were sitting on a king sized bed in Chiang Mai when the blog went live, dripping with sweat from a humid night eating banana roti and wandering the streets on the Best Honeymoon Ever.

This is the blog entry.

As you can imagine, we were pretty happy with how the photos came out. We had a lot of great advice from our planner regarding vendors, and were steered towards Rosetta to handle photography. I was immediately drawn to her work as she had a few sets of highly colourful images in her portfolio – very different from the really trendy, washed-out, faux-vintage pastel look that all the hipster weddings seem to be going for these days. Our wedding was all about colour and gold and shiny things. We needed a photographer who “got” that, and she nailed it 100%. As a designer myself, I was pretty picky about this stuff (I designed all the invitations and stationary stuff myself, besides baking the macarons) and I can say I am completely satisfied with her work on all levels.

Anyway, this post is completely self-serving. I apologize. I’ve been thinking I will include more non-recipe posts in the future. Like, I can talk about this hand-crank pasta machine we just bought, and how awesome it is (but I’ve vowed to keep all my recipes on this site non-Western, so… problem), or how I made a dinner for my friends using only ingredients that are native to the Americas, pre-Columbus. Bison, blueberry, juniper and mushroom stew, with a succotash of corn, butternut squash, kidney beans and smoked chili pepper topped with avocado, roasted zucchini and fried maple cornbread were on the menu. This was for a Dungeons and Dragons night. Don’t ask. I’ve said too much already…

Plus, I’ll have travelogues. Everyone loves hearing people brag about their vacations, don’t they? I’ll restrict mine to mostly food, cuz there was a LOT of that. So much to eat… so much to write…


Worst. Blogger. Ever.

If someone were to wander onto this site a week ago, they’d probably be like, “oh, dead blog”. And they would be mostly right.

Except they’re wrong. As of right now. WRONG. You see, things have been absolutely bonkers at home for the past year. So busy. Almost too busy to cook.  And what could possibly be so important as to avoid updating a simple food blog? Oh, I don’t knowwwww… how about…

GETTING MARRIED?!??!?!?

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Macaron Lab 3

Cookie: Chocolate Hazelnut

Cookie Recipe: Laduree Sucre cookbook recipe for basic macarons

Baking Details: my oven at 300 F for 14-15 minutes, sheets on middle rack

Filling: Chocolate Hazelnut Ganache (1/4 cup 18% cream, 2 oz bittersweet chocolate, and around 2 tbsp of drained hazelnut butter)

Environment: April 22nd, afternoon, dry

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Macaron Lab 2

Cookie: White Chocolate, Cardamom, Kewra Water

Cookie Recipe: Laduree Sucre cookbook recipe for basic macarons

Baking Details: my oven at 300 F for 15-16 minutes

Filling: white chocolate ganache (4 oz white chocolate to 1/4 cup 18% cream) + 1 tsp kewra water, 1/2 tsp cardamom powder

Environment: February 12th, afternoon, dry as dust, 1 C (more…)


Macaron Lab 1

Cookie: Rose Water and White Chocolate

Cookie Recipe: tant au tant mixture, 1+ tsp neon pink colour, added pinch of salt to meringue, otherwise basic recipe

Baking Details: my oven at 360 F (need to test heat with oven thermometer) for 10 minutes

Filling: white chocolate ganache (4 oz white chocolate to 3/8 cup 18% cream) + 1/2 tsp organic rose water, steeped cream with 3 green cardamom pods

Environment: July 10th, 10 pm, very humid, 30 C

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The Macaron Challenge of 2012

Me and my bright ideas.

I’m getting married next year in June, and we’re in the planning phase – booking a venue, arranging vendors and the like. One thing we have to consider are “guest favours”, because it is not, apparently, good enough to offer guests 5 hours of open bar service, entertainment and a great meal – you also have to give them a take-away trinket worth a few percent of the cost of the rest of the evening. Why? I do not know, but you do.

Early in the Spring, we did a small tour of Toronto-made macarons, and blogged about it here. I’ve had a growing fascination with the cookies since I first tried them in Paris last summer. Lemon macarons in particular. I love them. Anuja enjoys them enough to suggest we offer them as our “guest favour”. We canvassed our favourite bakeries and got some price estimates and had it in our mind to go ahead with this plan, at a cost of about 4-5 dollars per favour. Total: approx. $1,600. Sheesh. That would provide 2 cookies in plastic packaging, with a tag attached (that we would make ourselves), for about 300-350 people. Pricey, yeah? Yeah.

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A Fresh Start

If you’ve visited in the past, then you know this site has recently undergone a facelift. I chose a new skin for the blog – one that allows me to customize the graphics a lot more than the previous minimal design. I haven’t necessarily settled on any particular design yet, so I expect to be phasing in new images as I get them (I’m not crazy enough to cook food just for photographing – not yet anyway). As I work through some new recipes, I’ll also be revisiting some of the other site content as well.

In other news, my brother’s wife gave birth to twins – two girls – and I got engaged to my fabulous girlfriend – now fiancee – Anuja. It’s been a very busy 7 days. We’ve been eating out a lot as a consequence, so I haven’t been writing any recipes lately, except for bread pudding, but that’s another story altogether.

Anyway, here’s to new beginnings. 🙂


NMM on Facebook

Hey, I just put up a page for the blog on FB. Basically, I spend a lot of time on Facebook, and write there in a more casual format very often. I will, of course, keep this blog active as a recipe index, and information storage – it’s not going anywhere.

 

The direct link is http://www.facebook.com/pages/No-More-Microwaves/142472095805879

Come and see us!


Top 10 Foods of 2010

December is the month where all “year-end” lists for everything in the world come out. Why not for food blogs and food? I appreciate any excuse to talk about and celebrate food. These are my top 10 food experiences of 2010, be they home-cooking, restaurant visits, or recipes from my food-blogging competition. Enough chatter, the list:

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The new kid says hi

Hello there No More Microwavers,

A quick introduction. I am Hilary, friend of Jeff, lover of eating, dissenter of outrageously unnecessary convenience foods, and new contributor to No More Microwaves. How I came to be a contributor of this blog all started one sunny afternoon while I was, perhaps paradoxically, working out at the gym and watching the Food Network. I caught a commercial for a ready-made meal that allows you to steam vegetables in the microwave and then use the leftover steam-juice as a sauce to pour over your veggies. Disgusting. I actually winced outwardly… And then I had an epiphany.

I thought, “Cooking from fresh is so easy, and so much more satisfying. Even if people only know how to cook a little, they accomplish something huge and avoid all this pre-made, make-you-feel-like-a-sack-of-shit overpriced industrial crap”, and immediately this blog name popped into my head. No More Microwaves. Perfect. I could not have said any better myself. I wondered if I could contribute to No More Microwaves; to share my thoughts about cooking, techniques, and pass on a few recipes here and there.

I talked to Jeff about my thoughts, and he graciously offered me a space in this blog to write about cooking and food-related things.

There are a lot of pre-made products in grocery stores these days. Pre-made meals, pre-made dressings, even pre-diced vegetables. Pre-fucking-diced vegetables! The strange thing is that many of these products are so simple, so much cheaper, and provide so much more of a feeling of accomplishment when you do it yourself. It boggles my mind how there is actually a need for these convenience foods that are already so simple anyway. Cooking isn’t hard. You just need to try.

I once read an article by JoAnn Jaffe and Michael Gertler that described cooking as a tactile process – where you need to recognize when something is the right consistency, understand flavours, etc., and so in this sense, knowing how to cook, is a way of knowing yourself.

My cooking style is based in simplicity. No water-baths or liquid nitrogen. Just honest, clean, and simple foods. My intent is to illuminate and celebrate how easy and satisfying cooking can be, and bring a cozy, home-y compliment to the international urban flair of No More Microwaves. Not to mention, join the crusade against microwaves. So, fuck ready-made! Pick up those knives and let’s cook!

Yours in cuisine,

Hilary


What have I done for you lately?

Not a whole lot, eh? Trust me, I’m still here – still paying attention to the site – but I’m stuck in a bit of a rut. You see, originally, this blog was supposed to be my personal online cookbook and, as such, contain only my personal recipes. It’s already moved a bit beyond that, but for the most part these are all recipes I’ve spent several years collecting and refining. However, I am not a chef (therefore my knowledge is relatively limited), so I’ve kind of run out of obvious things to write about.

I’m still cooking… constantly… though. I just haven’t been writing, yet. I’ve made a South Indian-style coconut stew, eggplant mash, Korean-style sesame beef, Thai seafood noodles, fried spicy noodles, curried coconut-butternut squash soup (which later became a weird chicken curry – not sure if I’d do that again), and a hybrid Indian Thanksgiving meal of turkey breast roasted in tandoori paste, spiced mashed potatoes, and cumin carrots that was interesting – tasty but also strange. Strange in that turkey is typically eaten only one way, so the mind remembers it very specifically and to taste it in a completely different context is very unusual. It forced me to taste “turkey” as a flavour – as a single ingredient – rather than “turkey” as the entire concept.

Chili powder in mashed potatoes, though – that is just fine for all occasions. Tandoori turkey also makes a great addition to tomato-based tikka masala sauce (which played the part of gravy).

I’m on the hunt for some new ideas – things to work on and play with. One day, I’ll figure out Hainanese Chicken Rice but that will be a day when I really want to deal with a whole chicken. Also, I’ve been wanting to make Phở for 2+ years now and just haven’t bothered on account of the time required to simmer stock (although I did just make Chinese chicken stock from a chicken carcass – which became an excellent chicken and corn soup as well as the base for a noodle bowl – so I’m just complaining for no reason) and because beef bones are not readily available at Sobeys. Weird. Also – I do have a recipe for a basic Malay curry sauce but I’m waiting until I can make the perfect roti prata (to dip in the sauce) before I post it. Man, you have not fully lived until you try a good prata.

Anyway, long story short – give me ideas! Post them here!


Travelogue 4: Marseille

After hearing and reading about the North African market in Marseille (pronounced mar-say), I knew I wanted to go, badly. Marseille has something like 800,000 people living in the city proper, and around 1/4 of them are immigrants from Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria (known as the Maghreb, collectively) and this fact alone would be enough to interest me. In addition to a love of international foods, I also spend a lot of time reading about other cultures, history, and other demographic facts and figures. To skip a long non-food discussion, I was very interested in what this city was like – even moreso after hearing the rumours of its gritty, working-class reputation. What was it really like? How do these cultures manifest themselves in French urban life? What interesting things could I find in their market – things I may have never seen before, since Toronto has significantly less North African influence (if any, at all).

Happily, the rumours of Marseille’s dirty port-city vibe are somewhat misguided. Driving into Marseille, it is certainly evident that it is not Paris but, it is not ugly, either. Perhaps one might consider it ugly when compared to Paris’ seemingly permanent antique beauty, but Paris, to me, also feels like it is a fixed idea – whereas Marseille is a living, breathing city. The highway from Aix-en-Provence took us right onto the edge of the ports, and my first reaction to the scenery and layout was that it felt a lot like Toronto: highway along the water, downtown core arranged along one major north-south-ish street, glass buildings and rows upon rows of modern, but hardly fancy, shops and malls, dotted liberally with ethnic restaurants, trash, and commuters trying to get home (as opposed to tourists). It felt disarmingly familiar, in a very pleasant way. Sure, it’s no Paris, but this is a city I could actually relate to, while the big P is like the girl who thinks she’s too pretty for you, and really, you have nothing in common anyway.

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Travelogue 3: Cinque Terre

We spent the next day and half recovering from our Parisian walk-a-thon by relaxing at the villa in Cairanne. Somewhere between the time we arrived in France, and the day we left for Italy, I also decided to make ratatouille (first time!). I can’t really remember which day it was, but I was inspired to create this simple French dish, because, on the flight from Toronto to Paris, Air France (not a bad airline, apart from luggage problems) gave us the ability to select movies from a long list of available features. We chose Disney’s Ratatouille – in part because I’ve never seen it, and because I felt I needed a crash course on contemporary French culture (and what better source?)

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Travelogue 2: Paris and The Road

Cairanne is about a 7 hour drive from Paris. That’s a long way. In general, I don’t enjoy long car rides – mostly because in Ontario that means seeing a lot of the same scenery for 7 straight hours: farms, highway signage, lonely VIA stations, and truck stops. In France, I was sort of expecting the same, with the slight improvement in that the truck stops et al would be “French” and therefore “new” (to me) at least. Still, 7 hours of anything can be a bit much. My parents were driving us on this excursion, themselves on their way to the northern coast to see war memorials – so make that a 7 hour drive with my parents.

Luckily, I love my parents, and they’re not bad car company. My dad drives fast, and likes to take rest stops frequently to stretch our legs and purchase exotic flavours of Lays potato chips such as Bolognaise and Roast Chicken With Thyme (tastes like Thanksgiving dinner in chip form!). My dad likes chips a lot, you see. I’ve always been keen on Lays’ flavours in other countries ever since I had a flavour in Thailand that haunts me to this day – I couldn’t read the label, but the pictures on it suggested it was some kind of spicy ginger seafood concoction. There were other unidentifiable flavours as well – whatever they were, they were genius. The French lineup also features a flavour named Mustard and Pickles, which I have to guess tastes like spicy dill pickles(?) or something like that. Again, as Anuja detests all things involving vinegar, I would never have been allowed to purchase these if I saw them. Even the smell of the Thanksgiving chips (delicious!) turned her off. You might wonder how I, the intrepid home cook, can deal with someone with such particular taste problems. Sometimes I wonder myself.

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Travelogue 1: Provence

As mentioned on previous posts, we spent August 16th to the 28th abroad, sampling foreign cuisines, cultures and lifestyles in France and Italy. By “we” I mean my immediate family (father, mother, brother, sister) and my siblings’ partners (as well as my lovely ladyfriend, Anuja); in a stroke of pure generosity and possibly insanity, my parents decided to finance flights for all of us, as well as the rental of a relatively large villa in Cairanne, a village in Provence.

In case you’ve never heard of Provence, it’s the south-eastern region of France, on the Mediterranean. We weren’t on the sea, however – Cairanne sits just north of Avignon and is firmly in farm country. Or, rather, wine country, as this part of France, like a few others, is highly dependent on their local wine economy. With a population under 1000, I was amazed at how many varieties of wine were offered under the Cairanne label. Plus, they were all, in their way, fantastic wines. I’m not much of a wine-taster, but I can tell the difference between a rich, complex red and a pitcher of grape juice – these were good wines. I will spare you too much wine chatter, though – suffice to say that if you love wines (as my parents do, as well as my sister, since her favourite wines in the world – the wines of Châteauneuf-du-Pape – were a mere 20 minutes away by car) then this region is where you want to be.

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Le Return

Well, sort of. I’m back in Toronto after a whirlwind tour of several locales in France (and a brief stop in Italy) but unfortunately, I can’t post much since my home cable and internet service has been interrupted due to a service upgrade that happened while we were away (and unable to authorize the upgrade, grr).

So, here I sit, blogging at work (employee of the year!) and unable to collect all the resources I need to write and post properly. I have planned a 4-part food summary of my trip, broken into relevant sections: Provence, Paris, Cinque Terre, and the North African Market in Marseilles. It’s coming.

In the meantime, enjoy this photograph of the villa my family rented in Cairanne, a small village in Provence. I should be back to normal with lots to post shortly.


On Vacation

For the next two weeks, I’ll be vacationing in France. I’ve been somewhat lax in updating the blog in the last few months, but I promise posts about my trip, and much more food in the Fall.

As the food and stories on this blog may suggest, Europe has never been a strong interest for me. I had somewhat resigned myself to never visiting, but my parents are kind and generous enough to sponsor a family trip (my lovely girlfriend included). We are renting a villa in Provence and since we are a food-oriented family (my brother does some occasional catering and maintains his own vegetable garden, and my sister works at a restaurant and once attempted to enroll in culinary classes / has the knives to prove it) occupying a villa (with full kitchen and outdoor charcoal bbq) in a land known for top-quality ingredients… well, we are planning a special kind of food vacation. Expect pictures upon my return, and maybe even some regional French recipes. Don’t count on that, though, unless it becomes some sort of French-Indian fusion.

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In Defense of (My) Food

There’s been much writing lately on the health and pocketbook benefits of home-cooked food. I am not going to attempt to rehash any of their general arguments, but I will begin this post by establishing the idea that avoiding frozen meals, fast-food and ready-made store products is a “good/healthy/economical” thing to do. If you accept this idea, then we can move on.

Numerous commentors over the weekend decried paneer as an extremely fatty and unhealthy food, even while agreeing that it was also very enjoyable. I will not lie to you and tell you that paneer is not fatty – it’s condensed cheese curds, therefore it’s almost pure milk fat and protein – but I do take issue with anyone suggesting that it should be avoided for this fact. As with nearly all foods/things, moderation is key; it would be absurd to recommend eating an entire pound of any kind of cheese, paneer or otherwise, but a moderate portion of paneer is neither terrible nor especially unhealthy.

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Spicespotting: Need Help?

Finding international spices is a bitch. The spice rack your mom gave you for a housewarming gift is probably useless. You might have some chili powder in there, and some turmeric. Maybe a generic English-style curry powder (which is kind of gross). But chances are, when you look at recipes from foreign cuisines, you’re going to be missing some ingredients. Spices, herbs, uncommon vegetables and fruits, unpronounceable products and even some stuff that the internets won’t give you a clear idea about. Trust me – it took me months of grocery searching and googling before I made the connection that “dried fenugreek leaves” is sold in Indian groceries under the name “kasoori methi”. And years into my food experimenting, I’m still finding stores and products I’ve never seen before – new sources for new recipes.

If you’re just starting out though, you may be lost when it comes to identifying and locating curry leaves, or asafoetida, or lemongrass, or black fungus. Or even when you get these things, you may not know wtf to do with them. Maybe I know where to find them in Toronto. Post here and I’ll try to help you out with store locations, addresses, even aisle numbers if possible.