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Cocktail hour

28 May

Hoarding. We know, we know. Too many recipes from Vij. But we’ve broken them into two posts.
We think any of these dishes would make lovely nibbles to go with drinks.

60 grams fresh gingerroot
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
about 4 cups sparkling water, chilled

Finely grate ginger. Either use your hand to squeeze the juice from the ginger, or wring it out in a small piece of muslim. There should be four teaspoons of ginger juice.
Mix the ginger juice, lime, lemon, sugar and salt together.
Stir until sugar dissolves. Pour into four glasses.
Top up with water.

• 5 Cups Whole Mixed Nuts
• ¼ C Vij’s Garam Masala Spices
• 1/2 C Butter
• ½ C Honey
• Salt & Pepper

Heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat and add the garam masala and toast until you can begin to smell the spices.  Add the butter and the honey and cook until the butter and honey are melted and the spices are well infused.
Add the nuts and cook until the nuts are beginning to brown and are well coated in the spice mixture. 
Remove to a silicone lined baking sheet to cool.  Pack into an airtight container once cool and serve as needed.

Pan-fried salmon potato cakes
What you need 
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 egg
1 pound fresh or tinned wild salmon
1/2 pound boiled and mashed russet potato or a little more
1/4 pound boiled and mashed yam
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/3 cup finely chopped onions
1 tablespoon finely chopped jalapeno peppers
1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
11/2 tablespoons garam masala or 1 tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ajwain seeds
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 cup canola oil for pan frying
What you do 
Lightly pound coriander seeds in a mortar or on a plate with a heavy spoon. (You just want to break the seeds in half.) Set aside.
Beat the egg in a small bowl.
If you are using fresh salmon, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Immerse salmon and cook for five minutes. Remove from the heat, drain and allow the salmon to cool. Peel off the skin.
Thoroughly combine all ingredients except the oil in a large mixing bowl.
With your hands, form round cakes about two inches in diameter and one inch thick. Set them on a baking tray.
Heat one tablespoon of the oil in a shallow nonstick frying pan on high heat.
Once the oil is hot, reduce the heat to medium so the cakes don’t stick to the bottom of the pan or burn.
Place two cakes in the pan and cook for two to three minutes. Turn the cakes over and cook for another two to three minutes. The cakes should be brown and crispy on both sides.
Repeat, using one tablespoon of the oil for each two cakes, until all the cakes are cooked.
Serve the cakes as they are done, or keep warm on a plate in the oven.
Chutney makes a nice accompaniment.
Serves 6.

“This was one of our most popular appetizers at Vij’s. Wait until the weekend and open a bottle of Riesling to go with it. The kale smoothens out flavours of the livers and the Indian spices.  Although you can’t taste it, you must add it. One bunch of kale normally has seven to eight stalks. Take about three large stalks and tear off the kale leaves. It doesn’t matter if you’re slightly off. Asafetida and garam masala add a depth of flavour. If you have neither, you can skip the asafetida and use ground cumin in place of the garam masala.”


    1/2     cup canola oil
    1/2     teaspoon asafetida
    1     medium to large red onion, finely chopped
    1     teaspoon garam masala or ground cumin
    1/2     teaspoon ground fenugreek seeds
    1/2     teaspoon ground red cayenne pepper
    1/4     teaspoon turmeric
    1     teaspoon salt
    1     cup pureed tomatoes (two large)
    1     lb chicken livers, washed
    1 1/2 ounces kale leaves, washed and finely chopped
    3     tablespoons dry white wine
    1     box sturdy crackers for serving

Heat oil in a medium pot on high heat for 1 minute. Add asafetida and cook for 10 seconds. Add onions, reduce the heat to medium and saute for 5 to 8 minutes, or until golden brown. Add garam masala, fenugreek, cayenne, turmeric and salt. Stir well and add tomatoes.  Saute for another 8 to 10 minutes, until the oil glistens on top.

Stir in chicken livers and kale leaves, and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring regularly but gently. Once chicken livers harden a bit and stop bleeding during the cooking process, they are cooked. Remove from the stove and cool for 45 minutes.  

In a food processor, combine the chicken liver mixture and the white wine. Puree until smooth. Transfer to a stainless steel or glass bowl, cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.  

Serve with crackers.

May Two-Four

24 May

Oh Canada. How badly you behave on Victoria Day. The frigid overnight camping(!), the four-wheeling, the mud-bogging, the hooligan bon fires — it boggles our wee WASPy sensibilities.

Make no mistake, we love the May Two-Four — and our Canadian ale — but our favourite celebration includes being lakeside in Windermere, B.C. with croquet, cocktails, and courtesy (not in that order).

Although the spring holiday weather is almost always chilly in these parts, the long weekend wouldn’t be complete without this optimistic heritage cocktail.

1 can frozen pink lemonade
1 can-ful of water
1 can-ful of gin
4 ice cubes
1 bottle beer, cold

Place lemonade, water, gin and ice cubes in blender. Blend until ice is crushed. Pour into four medium glasses and top with beer.
The desired go-with for Skip and Go Naked. These babies make perfect broiled toast points.

Recipe: Bonnie Stern
Bonnie says this spread can be used for an appetizer or a filling for cold or grilled sandwiches.
1 lb (500 g) old Cheddar (or a mixture of cheese), grated
4 oz (125 g) cream cheese
1 tbsp (15 mL) grainy mustard or Dijon
1 clove garlic, minced, optional
1 tbsp (15 mL) Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp (5 mL) Tabasco or favourite hot sauce (or to taste)
¾ cup (175mL) favourite beer
pinch smoked paprika

Combine cheese, cream cheese, mustard, garlic, Worcestershire and Tabasco in a food processor until smooth.
Add beer until spread is the consistency you like. Season to taste with salt and pepper only if necessary. Dust with smoked paprika. Makes about 2 cups.

Trading up Trader Vic’s

18 Feb

Colman Andrews writes wonderfully about Trader Vic’sinSaveur Issue #80
Makes us want to don a hibiscus-print dress, stick a gardenia in our hair, pop in South Pacific, and knock back a mai tai or two. Pupus anyone?
“When I think back on my many dinners at what was once, without question, my favorite restaurant, I recall first and maybe most of all the seductive aromas: the faint hint of smoldering wood from the Chinese ovens; the perfume of gardenias garnishing drinks; the sweet fragrance of the hot towels presented after the finger-food appetizers; the meaty scent of the rum-and-sugar-glazed barbecued pork and the roasted Indonesian lamb, with its hint of curry. After the aromas, I remember the music: soft, slightly fuzzy, the sounds of slack-key guitar bands and Martin Denny– esque exotica, issuing from little speakers under palm-leaf ceiling panels above the replica tikis, giant conch shells, or amber glass fishnet floats. Then I remember the almost military orchestration of the service: the hostesses in their tailored hibiscus-print dresses, the captains in their jaunty crested blazers, the three (if not four) levels of waiters and busboys in uniforms of descending grandeur; the practiced presentations at the table of communal servings of stir-fried vegetables or crusty cottage-fried potatoes dished up with unobtrusive flair, and the deft carving of heroic slabs of glistening mahogany-hued meat. “…. My parents started taking me and my sister there for dinner. On my earliest visits, my favorite dish was a combination plate—I don’t remember what it was called—that involved a hamburger patty, a toasted english muffin, a fried banana, and a heap of crisp shoestring potatoes. I subsequently learned to love the Cosmo tidbits—an appetizer assortment that included crab Rangoon (fried crabmeat-filled wontons), sweet barbecued spareribs, slices of lacquered pork loin, and deep-fried shrimp. I also developed an affection for the mahimahi, which was scattered with shards of almond, and, later, macadamia nuts—and certainly for the snowball: a big scoop of coconut ice cream topped with chocolate sauce and coated in shredded coconut.”


TRADER VIC’S LORE found a happy/tacky/tiki place in our imagination, huddled up against the memory of Greg Brady’s disasterous surfing wipeout caused by Bobby’s cursed ancient tiki necklace.
It steered our maiden voyage to Trader Vic’s on the Vegas strip. We slipped inside to enjoy a guilty pleasure and had the place nearly all to ourself. The mai tai was mostly shaved ice, but stiff. The lobster dumplings were sad little dough pockets smeared with something resembling seafood. $23. Thanks for coming out.

Perhaps Trader Vic’s is better reimagined. We are perfectly capable of riffing off the fabled Cosmo tidbits — an appetizer assortment that included crab Rangoon, sweet barbecued spareribs, slices of lacquered pork loin, and deep- fried shrimp.

And we’re going to serve them all, including rumaki, on this platter.

Of all these Polynesian delights, we are most enchanted by crab Rangoon — a treat we did not grow up with. The beauty of the faux-Burmese triangle shaped deep fried dumplings is in the dipping sauce. Less is more for the dumpling filling.

And yet, variations abound.

Ming Tsai tarts his Rangoon up by adding a cup of cranberry chutney to a 1 lb of crabmeat, 1/4 lb cream cheese, chopped chives and salt and pepper.
A baked version of the typically deep fried snack persuades us to preheat our oven to 350, spray muffin cups with cooking spray, press wontons so edges extend above the cup, and fill with a mixture of crab and neufchatel, and bake up to 20 minutes.
This gal makes her mother’s crab cheese wontons with 8 oz of cream cheese, three sticks of imitation crab meat (finely diced) two chopped green onion, 1/2 cup frozen peas, 1 tsp Knorr chicken bouillon, and lots of ground black pepper. She wraps them like tortelli and freezes them.

We also recall a crazy crockpot rangoon dip that melded crab, condensed shrimp bisque, worchester, lemon, soy sauce and scallion, and added cream cheese at the last minute. Served with vegetable sticks and fried wonton chips, it was a calorie bomb to be sure. But the hot dish is a nostalgic twist of 1950s clam and oyster dips.

More twists: smoked salmon cream cheese, or crab Rangoon-stuffed chicken breasts.

We are secretly planning to suss out chive or herb and garlic cream cheese. But we are going to err on the lighter side and keep the ratio heavy on the crab, so it’s not as bland and gloopy. And let’s not lie to ourselves — we want to make these using lobster.

(A newer version calls for 6 oz crab, 2 tbsp cream cheese, two scallions (green part only), 1 chopped garlic clove, 1 tsp worchestershire, 1 tsp soy, 1 tsp toasted sesame oil, kosher salt and black pepper. Fry in peanut oil. Makes a dozen.)

We also think that chilling or freezing these before hand is a good idea.

36 pieces
1/2 cup fresh cooked crabmeat, drained and chopped
½ pound cream cheese, room temperature
½ teaspoon A-1 Steak Sauce
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
3 dozen wonton wrappers
1 egg yolk, well beaten
Vegetable oil, for deep frying
Chinese mustard
Chinese red sauce
Combine crabmeat with cream cheese, steak sauce and garlic powder in a medium bowl and blend to a paste. Refrigerate if not using right away. Set out 6 wonton wrappers at a time and place a heaping teaspoon of filling on each. Moisten edges of wrapper with egg yolk and gather corners at the top. Pinch edges together gently to seal.
Heat oven to 200 degrees. Line a baking sheet with paper towels. Heat oil in wok, deep fryer or electric skillet to 375 degrees. Add wontons in batches and fry until golden brown, turning often, about 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to prepared baking sheet and place in warm oven while frying the remaining wontons. Serve hot with Chinese mustard and/or red sauce for dipping.

original version invented by Victor Bergeron, aka “Trader Vic”, in 1944.
2 ounces Jamaican rum (such as Appleton Rum Estate VX)
1/2 ounce orgeat syrup
1/2 ounce orange curacao
1/4 ounce simple syrup
Juice from one fresh lime
Sprig of mint (for garnish)
Pour rum, orgeat, orange curacao, simple syrup, and lime juice into a cocktail shaker with crushed ice. Shake well. Strain into an old-fashioned glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with a slice of lime and a sprig of fresh mint on the edge of the glass.


From “Trader Vic’s Tiki Party” by Steve Siegelman

2 ounces silver rum
1 ounce brandy
2 ounces orange juice
1 ½ ounces lemon juice
½ ounce orgeat syrup
1 cup crushed ice, plus additional ice cubes
1 gardenia, for garnish
Combine rum, brandy, orange juice, lemon juice, orgeat syrup and crushed ice in an electric blender and pulse for a few seconds, just until uniformly combined. Pour into a double old-fashioned glass and add ice cubes to fill. Garnish with the gardenia.