Great book deals

For the past two days I’ve been at the University of Alberta taking a 3-day course. And this means I’ve had easy access to one of my favourite places in the city, The Book Cellar in HUB Mall. This store is the U of A’s book remainder store and they have a surprisingly large selection of children’s books, non-fiction and fiction. And food-related books.

(Remainders, by the way, are those never-been-read books that publishers have sold to bookstores for dirt cheap because they’re older books and they’re taking up valuable warehouse space. Those “bargain books” with the red and white price tags, sitting in the front section of the Chapters/Coles/Indigo store? All remainders and almost pure profit. You’d be shocked at the profit margin.)

l bought a lot of books. So many that the cashier gave me an extra 25% off my purchase. It’s probably a good thing for my wallet that I don’t go there very often. I hope I didn’t giggle in glee too loudly while I was immersed in the stacks. Some of these were books that I had on my to-buy list already and I saved a nice amount by picking up these copies instead.

So which food books did I get? Everything was in hardcover, prices not including the extra discount:
Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook by Fuchsia Dunlop – $7.99
My Grandmother’s Chinese Kitchen by Eileen Lo – $7.99
The Seventh Daughter by Cecilia Chiang – $7.99
My Life in France by Julia Child – $5.99
Service Included: Four-Star Secrets of an Eavesdropping Waiter by Phoebe Damrosch – $5.99

They also had a Charlie Trotter cookbook that I looked over, but I decided that it was probably something I’d never cook from and that I had already picked up too many books.

Let’s see if I can resist going back there tomorrow during our class break.

Side note: while I was typing this out, Alton Brown made candied ginger, ginger cookies and ginger ale. Mmmm. Too bad it was only on my TV and not in my kitchen.

Oatmeal convert

I didn’t mean to double post today but I’m just so surprised at this revelation that I have to share.

For years and years, I’ve always thought the only good oatmeal was the kind that you ate in cookies or bars. Baked with lots of sugar, yum.

I’ve tried eating oatmeal for years (instant, non-instant, with dried fruit, with maple syrup, with brown sugar, with milk, and so on and so on), and every time I would shove it down reluctantly, repeating the mantra – “it’s good for me” until I was finished with the bowl.

Last month Serious Eats posted an article about Mark Bittman’s savoury oatmeal. It’s something I’ve kept in mind since, but since I really don’t like oatmeal I have been reluctant to try it. Well today, I finally did. Holy cow does it taste good with soy sauce! Why didn’t I think of this years earlier! Why didn’t my Chinese parents force feed me this before?!

You can click on the above link for specific instructions but basically you make your oatmeal like you regularly do, then add some light soy sauce and some green onions/scallions for garnish and a bit of crunch. The dish ends up tasting more like a brown rice jook (a.k.a. congee) than any oatmeal I’ve ever had before. (And by the way, I’m actually using a 5-cereal blend that includes oats, but now I think I’ll  a bag of steel-cut oats to my grocery list.)

Doing a quick Google search reveals that there are many other suggestions to make savoury oatmeal interesting. Adding a cooked egg, with the yolk dripping into your oatmeal, adding ginger and/or garlic to the water during the cooking process, using soup stock to cook the grains, making an oatmeal risotto… there are so many possibilities. I feel like yelling “Eureka!” as new world of breakfast has been opened to me. Excuse me, I think I’m going for a second helping.

Eggplant curry (baingan bharta)

Eggplant curry (baingan bharta)

Eggplant curry (baingan bharta)

For dinner on Thursday night, and lunch leftovers on Friday, I cooked with eggplant for the very first time. This dish also gave me the opportunity to try out the new non-stick marble coated wok I picked up the last time I was at T&T.

For this dish I chose something relatively simple to make. Simplicity doesn’t necessarily mean simple flavours though; this dish had plenty of layers. I could definitely see myself doubling the recipe next time in order to have additional leftovers. Eaten with half a piece of Olafson’s flaxseed and multigrain breakfast pita (toasted in the already heated broiler), the meal was healthy, full of vegetables, spicy, hearty, satisfying and filling. My best reaction was a statement from one of the other people who ate the dish – “you’re allowed to make this one again.” Continue reading

Chinese New Year – part 3

The second recipe that I tried from Fuchsia Dunlop‘s Land of Plenty, was a green bean dish. This doesn’t necessarily have any specific meaning for Chinese New Year, but I thought it would be an interesting one to try. The fresh green beans at the grocery store were unfortunately in horrible shape, and I had been so frustrated by the crowd at T&T on Friday that I didn’t end up buying any vegetables from there, so instead I ended up using some frozen green and yellow bean mix that I had lurking in my freezer.

Haricots verts in ginger sauce

Haricots verts in ginger sauce

The taste was much lighter and cleaner than the lettuce, and I think I preferred this dish over the previous one. I did screw up a couple of times on this simple recipe. Unfortunately my knife skills suck (I probably need to take a cooking class at NAIT), and I did not slice the ginger finely enough. I also really overdid it with the amount of ginger. Whoops. I think if you wanted to, you probably could even reduce the amount of ginger listed in the recipe as the raw ginger taste is pretty strong.

One change I made to the recipe was that I doubled the amount of vinegar so that all the beans were nicely coated and had a bit of tang to them. I would also recommend making the sauce a little earlier and letting the ginger soak in the liquid for a little bit, so I moved the order of the directions. Continue reading

Pea and ginger soup

This is a ridiculously simple recipe. It’s also got a great clear taste with a slight bite of ginger. If I wanted it to be fancy I’d probably strain it before serving, but as it was just for me I ate the bits of peas instead. More fibre is always a good thing for your body. 😉

Pea and ginger soup

Pea and ginger soup

Pea and Ginger Soup

– serves 2 to 3 –
Recipe from Mark Bittman, found at Serious Eats

2 cups frozen peas
2 tablespoons ginger, peeled and chopped
4 cups chicken stock
Salt and pepper

Pour the chicken stock into a large pot along with the peas and ginger. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Cook for 15 minutes.

Blend the soup with an immersion blender, or in batches in a blender. Season with salt and pepper. Serve.