Living in a city as nice as Toronto, I am surrounded by many great restaurants. I try to cook at home most of the time, for health and economic reasons, but I am slowly scoping out delicious, cheap places to meet over food prepared by someone else.
Currently, some of my favourite places to eat out, if I must, include:
Folia Grill – excellent home-grown Greek fare with a delicious chicken gyro pita for $4
Sky Blue Sky – a quaint sandwich shop, with all under $5, including the suprisingly filling pulled pork sandwich. Chatting with the owner about the trendy (pulled pork) and less popular (cashew butter and cucumber) sandwiches is equally amusing when selecting your choice
The Fish Store – delicious fish sandwiches prepared from your choice of fresh fish, all under $10, and a delicious homemade lemonade for $3
Manpuku – my long-time favourite for Japanese, but you won’t find any sushi here. Their nikku udon (beef soup with udon noodles) is a great heart-warming dish for under $6
Guu – still Toronto’s newest sweetheart, with a second location expected in the Annexe, this is a popular Japanese izakaya (aka tapa-style bar). Everyone is welcomed as soon as they enter and leave the resto and the dishes have yet to disappoint me. All dishes are under $10, but the sizes are smaller and meant for sharing.
Pomegranate – a newer find that complements my latest love of Middle Eastern food. This is Persian food at its finest, at reasonable prices around $15.
Amaya – A bit of a splurge restaurant (mains under $20), especially since it is Indian, but I am enthralled by their butter chicken. If only I knew how to make it myself!
Canoe – This is arguably Toronto’s best restaurant and it has the price-point such that it is very elitist, and limited to special occasions only. You get what you pay for, and it is lip-smacking delicious. I really appreciate their use of local, unique ingredients, prepared, oftentimes, in a myriad of ways. I know these are dishes I would have a difficult time recreating at home, which is important for my restaurant adventures. While the written menu did not immediately appeal to me, I just had to ask the server to explain what each dish entailed. It is here that I had a surreal mushroom soup that tasted like apple due to the varieties used, and I had squab prepared in 3 different ways: marinated with Newfoundland screech, drenched in a Saskatoon berry sauce and served with a side of dinosaur kale.
Enough gushing over Canoe, because I like to post things I make myself on my food blog. Imagine my surprise when I saw Canadian Living had Canoe’s recipe for wild rice pudding with a rhubarb compote. I could now bring the taste of Canoe into my own kitchen.
It boasted a baked rice pudding with short-grain and wild rice within a orange- and cinnamon-scented creamy base, topped with a sweet-and-tart rhubarb compote.
While I have not had this at the restaurant, I might have to go there to try it out because my kitchen adventures were not as successful as I’d hoped. The rhubarb compote almost seemed to be in excess with the delicious flavours from the pudding. The wild rice added a nice crunch and the orange and cinnamon flavours blended well together, but my pudding was too thick for my liking. I wonder if there was too much evaporation during the baking? I think my substitutions were legit, but you never know. Maybe the recipe was meant to be a teaser, just to bring us back into the restaurant?
I have shied away from Indian cooking in the past due to the spiciness of the dishes, but recently bought 660 Curries so that I could tackle Indian dishes while limiting the chilis, peppers, etc that add the heat. I am on a quest to make butter chicken as good as at Amaya (without resorting to their prepared sauces) but I got side-tracked by one of his “Contemporary Curries”: Saffron Marinated Paneer Cheese with Fresh Basil, Cashews and Pomegranate Seeds.
I have a long list of bookmarked recipes but serendipitously, I had nearly everything ready for this dish when I spotted it at Lisa’s Kitchen. I had paneer that I had picked up from the store but still unsure how to prepare it, half a pomegranate leftover from an eggplant and pomegranate salad (to be shared in short time), a bit of cream leftover from a wild rice pudding (to be shared in due time!), a balcony pot rife with basil and had picked up saffron while travelling in Turkey. I just needed to replenish my green onions, which I typically have in my fridge.
Lisa, as well as its original cookbook 660 Curries (which I picked up based on Lisa’s glowing recommendations) called this dish heavenly and implied it was better than sex! How could I resist? Contemporary curries is where it’s at!
This was a wonderful dish with paneer marinated with silky saffron and chili flakes in a bath of cream (yes, it can be marinated!) to which basil and green onions are added to the sauce. The paneer is broiled and browned so that it is warm and slightly melted but still keeps its shape. It is topped with crushed cashews and fresh, juicy pomegranate seeds which bring the dish to the next level. It is such a merriment of awkward/fusion ingredients that sing beautifully together.
I bought Aleppo chili flakes while in Turkey and think this is one of the best gifts I got as it has allowed me to slowly increase the heat in my kitchen. The chili flakes are not that spicy because the chili seeds have been removed but they impart a lovely warm flavour. They are my go-t0 when a recipe calls for chilies. My version has a bit of spice but still mild. For those that like heat, feel free to use real chilies.
Next time I want to cook with paneer, I may try to make it myself, as there are plenty of other dishes I’d love to try. Here are other enticing recipes with paneer:
Paneer Kofta (Cheese balls) from KO Rasoi and eCurry
Mutter Paneer (Paneer with peas) from What’s For Lunch, Honey?
Palak Paneer (Paneer with spinach) from eCurry
Paneer Butter Masala (Paneer in a creamy sauce) from Fun and Food Blog
Paneer Mushroom Masala (Paneer with mushrooms) from Lisa’s Kitchen
Macaroni and Paneer Cheese from Lisa’s Kitchen
Paneer Bhurji (Scrambled Paneer) from Chef in You
Paneer Cigar Rolls from Chef in You