It’s been tough searching for a job and for a while drained me of all creativity and will to cook! Now that I have a job it is time to shake off that feeling and start cooking again! 

Being short on cash these last few months, my diet has consisted almost entirely of vegetables mixed with lots of beans and grains. I have to tell you I’m not complaining! I have left the fancy ingredients of my parents home behind and have set out on a journey of finding the best quality cheap ingredients Chicago has to offer. 

I have been frequenting the ultra cheap, ethnic markets of Devon Ave. On my last trip I was reminded of a wonderful dish my sister, Deena, introduced me to. It is an Iraqi version of a dish that originated in India, called Kichree. It is a traditional Jewish dish, prepared on Thursdays, to rest the stomach for the rich Friday evening meal. Kichree is a dish of many variations. In India, it is spiced with mustard seeds, nuts, vegetables and turmeric. The Iraqi version, uses cumin, garlic, and tomato paste. Any way you make it, it is a simply delicious, satisfying, healthy meal. Here, I decided to stick closely to my sisters rendition. 

Kichree Deena Style:

2 tablespoons neutral oil

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons cumin

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 cup cracked bulgur

1 cup red lentils

4 cups water or stock

3 oz of butter, cut into chunks

Salt and pepper, to taste


1 large onion, sliced thinly and fried

Za’atar spice

Sliced Halloumi cheese

Fry the garlic, on medium heat, in the oil until it begins to color and smells fragrant. Stir in the cumin and tomato paste and cook for a few minutes to deepen flavors. Add the bulgur and lentils, turn the heat to low, and stir until all the grains are coated with the oil and tomato paste mixture, about 1-2 minutes. Add the liquid, turn the heat up to medium-high, bring to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer mixture for 30-45 minutes. Be careful not to let the mixture get dry or burn on the bottom, add water if necessary. Once the lentils and bulgur are cooked through, add the butter and stir to combine. Serve topped with toppings of choice, I usually go for za’atar and fried onions as seen above. 

Enjoy this simple, cheap and satisfying dish! 

So, it has been a bit of a crazy few weeks, new city, new apartment, new friends and pretty much new everything! There are times when you just crave something easy, satisfying, and comforting. Above is one of my favorite snacks.
Take a cracker and top it with the best full fat, creamy, dreamy ricotta you can get your hands on** and top it all off with a rich, sweet, acidic honey. The honey brings out the savory saltiness of the ricotta and the fat from the cheese cuts through the sweetness bringing both together in one awe inspiring bite. Enjoy when you need something to remind you, “It’s all going to be ok!”
**I’m not talking about the ricotta you get in a tub at the grocer, I’m mean the fresh, local, high end stuff from your local cheese shop. 

So, it has been a bit of a crazy few weeks, new city, new apartment, new friends and pretty much new everything! There are times when you just crave something easy, satisfying, and comforting. Above is one of my favorite snacks.

Take a cracker and top it with the best full fat, creamy, dreamy ricotta you can get your hands on** and top it all off with a rich, sweet, acidic honey. The honey brings out the savory saltiness of the ricotta and the fat from the cheese cuts through the sweetness bringing both together in one awe inspiring bite. Enjoy when you need something to remind you, “It’s all going to be ok!”

**I’m not talking about the ricotta you get in a tub at the grocer, I’m mean the fresh, local, high end stuff from your local cheese shop. 

Fennel is one of those vegetables people hate or love. For a long time I despised the anise flavor of fennel, it reminded me of the tongue cringing hard black licorice I was given as a kid. Over the past few years I’ve grown to really appreciate the anise flavor. I now seek out black licorice, fennel , star anise and love it in absinthe. So, I finally decided it was time to cook with these flavors. I went to the store got myself two bulbs of fennel and made a white bean and roasted fennel dip from a favorite website food52. The dip was great but it only used the white bulb of the fennel. As you see above, this left me with the green stalks and nothing to make. Then I thought of a great use for these tidbits, a fennel compote. 

I took the fennel cut it into small pieces and threw it into a heavy bottom pot on a low heat. To this I added lemon zest, red chili flakes, a tablespoon of brown sugar and a touch of water. I simmered this on a low heat adding water to make sure it didn’t burn. After about 30 minutes, the fennel had taken on a golden hue and transformed into a sticky gooey spread. 

Like most people, I love a good grilled cheese and I knew this compote would make a great grilled cheese. Using a good hearty bread, some sharp cheddar and the compote I made just that. It was crispy and salty on the outside, the cheese’s sharpness cut through the sweetness and heat from the compote and the fennel brought intrigue with it’s anise flavor and subtle crunch. This was a grill cheese to remember!

Today I woke up and got word from a good friend abroad. She is traveling in Thailand and has found herself in Bangkok. Hearing this I recall that a year ago I too found myself wandering the chaotic streets of Bangkok, enjoying the warm weather, unique smells, and vibrant culture.

Bangkok, for those of you who haven’t been, is an…interesting city. I wouldn’t say it is my favorite in SE Asia (a spot reserved for the gorgeous, cultured Luang Prabang), but it does have a lot to offer, especially for a foodist, like myself. My initial few days I hated the city. It was crowded, smelly, dirty, and people weren’t very nice. The second time I stayed there I discovered that by going off the beaten path, away from tourist sites, and neighbourhoods and venturing more into unknown areas, the city transformed into a much more interesting and enticing place. 

Although my first visit to Bangkok wasn’t amazing it was where I had the first meal of my trip. After getting lost and wandering through some alley’s, a common occurrence for me in Bangkok, my father and I arrived at our destination, Steve Cafe and Cuisine. A nice little spot by the river that served authentic thai cuisine. We started our trip out with some classic thai dishes. We got some vegetables stir fried simply with lots of chili, garlic and fish sauce. Next we got my favorite SE Asian, go to dish, chicken with red chili peppers, holy basil (a basil with more intense spicy notes similar to clove and slight licorice notes), and garlic. Lastly, we got a whole fish fried and covered in a spicy mix of chili peppers, herbs, garlic, fish sauce and lemon grass. As most authentic thai restaurants the food was HOT but still had an impressive balancing of elements. It takes a master of food to take something that incorporates so much heat but allows the other ingredients to shine through, add flavor and levels to the dish.

After our delicious meal we decided to go for a walk and came across something I didn’t think I would ever find in SE Asia, Poutine. A nice reminder of my years in Montreal, I had to take a picture of this anomaly, although I couldn’t bring myself to try it. I decided to stick with the local classics rather than one from the other side of the world.

Until more stories of Bangkok and SE Asia! I hope you enjoy some amazing Thai bites!

Welcome back! I recently got a new computer and after uploading my photos and realizing my computer can work with them without crashing (like my old computer) I decided to get back on the tumblr bus. 

I recently went to Barbados with my family. For those of you who are unaware, my mom was born in Barbados and we continue to have family there, so this is a pretty common trip for us. Barbados is a small island and my favourite thing to do there is relax on the beach and swim. Over my last few trips I have started going to one of the local farmers market, Cheapside Market. It has become somewhat of a tradition now. I wake up at 6 am and by 6:30 I’m on my way with my Uncle to the market. The market is filled with a wide assortment of tropical fruits, vegetables, local delicacies (pones, fish cakes, conkies, and more), as well as local made oils, salves, and remedies for anything. The market is where everyone goes early in the morning to do their weekly shopping and catch up with each other. Where ever I travel I always go to the markets to see the smells, colors and sounds of the place I’m in. I feel it is one of the most honest representations of a city’s movement and people. 

Since I was little there has always been one Bajan food that I have loved. Nothing brings me back to the warm island feel like a cracker with a bit of guava jam and a nice slice of sharp New Zealand cheddar. The sweet, tangy jam cuts through the cheese and creates one of the best flavor pairings of salty and sweet. Guava is the small greenish fruit shown above. Found in the tropics it is tangy, tart, and sweet, tasting similar to a pear and peach mixed. Due to it’s high natural pectin levels (pectin is used to make jams), guava is often made into jams. My Uncle, with all his local Bajan connections, knows a woman who makes her own jams and jellies. She made us a few jars of jams with stickers marked simply with a pen.

The guava jam was the best I have ever had! It had all of the flavours of the guava shining through with much less sweetness then the sugary store brands. The other jar was a pepper jelly. Aside from being absolutely stunning in the jar it was also a great spread. It tasted like a sweet spread that had a slight spicy kick from the suspended pepper pieces throughout the jelly. The hot and sweet combination was excellently balanced in this jar of gooey bliss. Both have made it onto my list of things to bring home from Barbados. Until next time Barbados, I’ll enjoy every bite!

Switching Platforms!

Hey everyone! I have a few updates for all of you. I will be switching from using tumblr as my main outlet to reach you lovely foodies to Wordpress. My new blog is expanding on my current trend of providing recipes and will incorporate all aspects of our food culture. My blog is entitled, “Foodist Culture.”

I will continue to post pictures on tumblr but my blog will be taking be forefront of my effort to reach out to the food world. Thanks for following and I hope you all continue to eat good food and share it with ones you love.

Stuffed Carnival Pumpkin

In the morning when I walk outside I feel the crisp cool air awaken me, followed by the smell of the cool damp leaves of fall. I love this time of year. The promise of the coming cold (I’m one of those weird people who likes the cold.), Halloween approaches with all of its festive TV specials and horror movies, and the arrival of my favourite foods. This is the time of year when you still can buy the last of summer’s tomatoes, eggplants and chilis and the markets begin to have luscious squashes, cauliflower, potatoes (both sweet and not), beets, brussel sprouts, carrots, lettuces and more. I would live all year round in the fall, if it were an option.

The stores and markets are stocked full of squashes. The long shelf life of these versatile gourds urged my curiosity to buy one of every variety to embark on a journey to discover the difference in flavour, texture, and use. I chose 7 types of squash in total and have yet to use many.

To start my fall cooking I wanted to do a simple dish that was full of fall flavour but let the pumpkins texture and flavour shine through. The first pumpkin I used is called a “Carnival pumpkin,” a green and yellow speckled variety that has dark green vertical stripes and a thick skin. It’s small cylindrical shape lends it perfectly for stuffing and baking.

I took the squash cut it in half and scooped out the seeds, rubbed it with olive oil, salt, and pepper, poked it through a couple times with a fork and baked it for 15 minutes at 375 degrees.

Meanwhile I made the stuffing using leftover vegetable ends laying around the house. I browned some crumbled tempeh (sausage or ground meat would do nicely) in olive oil, then threw in some leftover squash and celery root cut into small cubes, thinly sliced brussel sprouts and a handful of chopped walnuts. After browning everything until it begins to come together, add a little more olive oil, a dash of cinnamon, ground ginger, turmeric, paprika, coriander, a pinch of cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper.

Once the pumpkin is pre-cooked take the stuffing and pack it into the cavity. Return the stuffed pumpkin to the oven for another 20-30 minutes or until the a knife easily pierces through the pumpkin. Cut into chunks and serve warm. The spices bring back memories of warm mauled wine and go nicely with the soft sweet squash. The flesh is soft and creamy with a flavour reminiscent of sweet potato and butternut squash. The stuffings warmth and flavours are deep from the browning and spices but don’t overpower the squashes delicate flavour. The Carnival squash is a great variety as it’s tender flesh and delicious flavour will lends itself well to many recipes.

Go out and discover your local fall produce. As this time of year can seem short, stock up on all of the squash, sweet potatoes and other treats before the frost comes and enjoy every bite!

When Life Gives You Tomatoes, Make Jam!

My father is quite the gardener. All summer my sisters and I joke about his obsession and pride. At dinner’s we all wait for the ceremonial, “You know this is from the garden!”, laughing and kidding at it’s arrival. My father’s pure enjoyment from gardening, and what he has taught me, are  some of the major reasons I love gardening and eating. It has taught me to respect food, how to care for it and the joys of growing something from a few seeds into a whole meal.

All jokes aside, the garden’s splendour is truly magnificent. Each year we are inundated with varying types of fresh lettuces, peas, beans, squash, basil, eggplants, peppers, zucchini, herbs, lemon grass, onions and even garlic. All of you who garden or farm know that there is nothing compared to fresh picked veggies.

Even at this time of year, in New York, it seems as though my dad’s tomato plants are producing tomatoes without end. We can’t eat the tomatoes as quickly as they ripen but there is an upside. This opens a whole new realm of creativity for my dad to preserve his garden’s gifts for the upcoming year.

This year he has made a delicious batch of tomato jam. He cooks the ingredients down until the tomatoes thicken into a syrupy, molasses consistency. The tomatoes take on all the aspects of the spices and ingredients cooked with them but have their own sweetness shine through. The jam is spicy from the pepper and ginger, warm and deep from the cumin, cinnamon and clove and finishes with the citrus cutting through the thick sweet tomato flavour.

The jam has a really unique flavour that is amazing with grilled cheese or as a dip for roasted sweet potatoes. Even if all you have is canned tomatoes try your hand at this jam and I promise your taste buds will thank you!

My Father’s Tomato Jam

  • 2 lemons, zest and juice
  • 5 1/2 pounds of tomatoes, cored and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 4 teaspoons ground cumin
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
  • 3 small cinnamon sticks
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground clove
  • 8 1/8-inch-thick slices of peeled ginger

Add all the ingredients to a heavy pot and cook on medium hear for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Continue cooking until the tomatoes become dark and syrupy. Remove the ginger and cinnamon. Pack in sterilized glass jars for the upcoming year.