Wednesday, August 27, 2008


This post is primarily for my kids to look in on whenever they want to make apple crisp. It's one of their favorite desserts and they love the way I make it. To be honest, I don't have a recipe, just a process so I made this one for them and tracked the amounts. Well, kinda!

Peel and core 16 Granny Smith apples. Use Grannys because they stay firm and hold their shape after being baked unlike many other apples.

Slice apples into bite sized wedges into a mixing bowl.

Add 2 cups brown sugar, 1 cup flour, 1 tbsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp nutmeg, 1/2 tsp salt, 2 tsp vanilla extract and the juice of one lemon. Mix thoroughly.

Add one cup of raisins and mix thoroughly.

Transfer apple mixture to a baking dish. I used a 12" x 12" pan.

For the crumble topping, combine 2 cups of quick cooking oats with 1 cup of flour. Mix well. Add 1 tsp cinnamon and a pinch of salt and mix well again. Add 1/2 lb of soft butter and knead into the dry mixture well.

Spread crumble mixture evenly over the apples in the pan and bake @ 350 degrees for about one hour.

Serve with French vanilla ice cream or Creme Anglaise.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Last week I did a wedding tasting for a bride whose wedding I catered a couple of days ago. Here are the plates

This is a salad of tropical fruits which includes banana, mango, papaya and kiwi. A creamy dressing made of coconut milk was served over top with toasted coconut as a garnish. Simple, light and refreshing for a summer wedding with an Island theme.

Steak was on the menu as a man course so we gave them a chili and sea salt rub and basted them with lime juice on the grill.

Salmon baked in phylo pastry is served with black bean and corn salsa and is sauced with citrus beurre blanc.

Seared breast of chicken is served with coconut rundown, a sauce which is made of coconut milk, cream and other ingredients and is reduced to a sweet cream sauce.

And dessert consisted of chocolate torte with mango sorbet.

Friday, August 15, 2008


I have been drinking Pelee Island Gewurztraminer for months now, so I guess I must like it, huh? Well...I do because I find it to be a nice, fruity Gewurztraminer that is sweet enough and has just the right amount of zing on the end to make my mouth go "Wow!"

I like that!!

Pelee is the first Ontario wine I tried when I moved back to Toronto from the Okanagan, so it kind of has a special place in my heart. Isn't that nice? The fact is that I find it to be reasonably priced, highly enjoyable and an excellent wine for daily drinking.

Here I have tried the 2006 Reserve which I find just a little smoother than the regular Gewurztraminer. It is a nice fruity wine (just how I like them) with a hint of lychee and spice (as it should) and was easy to drink. The cost was under $15.00 at the LCBO.

I hope to visit this winery one day; it looks fantastic and I have got to see Pelee Island. Here's a link to Pelee's website:

If you haven't tried Pelee Island, get on it!


Well...I must sure is nice when you find a wine that does it for you. And, for us, this is such a one!! FETZER VINEYARDS Merlot is simply fantastic and I highly recommend it to everyone.

This is a medium bodied wine with rich fruity flavors and a low tannin level. It is very smooth with plum and cherry notes. For me this is the perfect combination for my personal tastes. Actually, I have been drinking a lot of red Zinfandels lately and this Merlot has me thinking I may go off my Zin binge.

This wine is available @ the LCBO for $15.00 and I think it's nice for the price!!

FETZER is a California winery that has a pretty good selection of wines. For me the Merlot is a first, although Lola assures me we had the FETZER Zinfandel which we didn't care for. I can't remember.

Here is a link to FETZER'S web page:

Thursday, August 14, 2008


Do you ever have those nights when you come home after work and before you know it it's 8pm and you still haven't eaten and you don't feel like cooking? We all do. Last night was such an evening for us. Because we wanted to eat somewhere close by, we decided to hit Gaucho's because we know the food is good and that we would be happy afterwards.

I did a write up on Gaucho's a while ago, but I decided to take a few shots of the food we had last night. Here's a link to the write up I did on LIVINGSTON COOKS:

Above is the Picanha. What that is is marinated steak that is grilled. Gaucho's serves Picanha with sausage, rice, beans, fried manioc (flour) and cassava. It's a good portion of food if you're hungry and it costs a paltry $15.00!

Another shot of the same plate. Can you say, "Picanha?"

This is the crisp fried cassava which is served in place of fried potatoes. It is very goooood!

This is the manioc. It is a fried flour which is milled from....manioc! It's buttery and good!

Pepper, onion and tomato relish.

This is the spit roasted chicken served with fries.

Lola's favorite carrot salad made with pineapple and coconut.

These are the fries! Keep your eyes on your fries!!As usual, dinner was good and we were happy as usual. Thanks guys!!


We tried this Merlot last night by Christian Moueix. It is a French Merlot from Bordeaux. My first impression of the wine was that it was so-so. It didn't grab me at first sip, which is how I judge a wine. I don't want to have to think about it because after all it's just wine, right? But after a few sips (and perhaps a bit of time to open up in the glass) it tasted better. After a bite of some great Irish blue cheese, it tasted even better still.

I found this wine to be a little light in body, dry and peppery on the finish. My personal preference is to shy away from peppery wines, so I won't let that taint my perception of the wine. The fruit was more subtle than I like as well, but again, I like a fruitier tasting wine.

I did think that the wine was easy drinking and smooth and that I would like to try it again. I would recommend trying this Merlot.

Toronto life said of this wine: " This is a well-made Bordeaux merlot. A bit reserved but correct plum, cherry, spice and a herbal, tobacco scent. Mid-weight with good acidity and youthful, dry tannin."

Christian Moueix 2005 Merlot sells for $15.00 at the LCBO.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


Yeah, I know, barbeque chicken...BIG DEAL! And you're right, it isn't a big deal. In fact, I seldom make barbecue chicken; I prefer other ways to finish chicken off on the grill other than with BBQ sauce. BUT...good barbecue isn't that simple and I've written about that here before on Livingston Cooks. I wanted to go through the process again here with the simplest and most recognizable of grilled foods: BBQ'd Chicken.

As you will remember, I now prefer charcoal to gas. I have a killer gas barbecue that I never use. It has to be re-jetted, but that's beside the point; the food cooked over coals tastes about 100 times better than over a gas flame. And as you may recall, I have a small coal barbecue that I use that cost about 100 times less than the mammoth stainless steel one that sits idle. If I had it to do all over again, I would get a really good coal barbecue, but my plan is to rejet the gas barbecue and use it for spit cooking and roasting larger cuts of meat and continue to use my little one for the smaller ones.

Well...enough blathering about that for now.

When grilling over coals, the first thing you must do is stack the coals in a mound. This helps them to stay all snuggly and warm together until they have officially lit. That is, they need to be piled together to contain heat until they are burning hot enough to cook over. To start the coals, douse with igniting fuel and light. have just lit your hair on fire!

Here the coals have been stacked and ignited. The edges are white and you can see a nice glow in the center of the pile of coals. At this point the heat above the coals is warm enough to warm your hands over, but useless to cook over. If you stuck your finger into the coals, however, your eyes would definitely water! So, uhh...don't be doing that!!

Here you get a closer look at the hot center of the coals. This is where the work is being done in getting the temperature up for cooking. The fire spreads to all of the other coals and when they are white, they are ready to cook over.

The coals are pretty hot at this point and if you were to hold your hand over them for more than 30 seconds, you would have yourself a pretty crispy stump left in its place. These coals are ready to be spread out into a bed for cooking.

The coals are spread out evenly and the grill is placed over them to warm up. Now we're ready to cook the chicken.

Chicken thighs - bone in and skin on - are my choice for the night. I like dark meat and I think the thigh is the juiciest part of the chicken. The important thing to remember when grilling chicken is to COOK IT OVER A LOW HEAT. This is because chicken has to be well done and it is prone to flair ups which will burn the outside to a crisp while leaving the inside raw. I'll get to that in more detail in a moment, but here is a guideline for grilling meats:
  • Steaks and chops - cook over the hottest flame possible. This includes beef, lamb and pork. A hot flame will enable you to serve a rare steak that is sizzling and browned on the exterior.
  • Fish - medium to very high flame. Fish is delicate so it's important to oil it up before it hits the grill, but depending how delicate the fish is, you should try to move it as little as possible.
  • Chicken and fowl - small cuts like thighs, legs and breasts are best cooked over a low flame. Whole birds are cooked over a medium to low flame also. A rotisserie is needed for roasting whole birds unless you roast it on the cold side of a larger barbecue.

I season the chicken with a little olive oil, sea salt, crushed dried chipotle chile and paprika. Now the chicken is ready for the grill!!

PSSSSSS!!! That's the sound a hot grill should make when meat is placed on top of it. A hot grill will not allow meat to stick to it. If there is one thing you ever learn about cooking meat on a grill is should be to get it hot enough prior to putting meat on it.

After the chicken hits the grill, I close the lid as well as the bottom vent. This will cool the fire off so I can cook the chicken without setting it aflame. When I put my chicken on the hot grill, it immediately began to flame up. The fire was too hot. But I wanted to brown the chicken quickly and reduce the heat for a slow cook so I had to put the brakes on the heat. This is easier to do with gas by just turning a knob, but by reducing airflow feeding the coals, you can manipulate the flame as easily.

The other advantage to closing the lid - and really the most import and reason - is to trap in all of the smoke so the smoky flavor is imparted to the meat. That's the real reason why coals are superior to gas. It's the smoke that makes the difference!!!!

As you can see, the smoke is just blasting out of the top vent. This is because the flame is still quite hot.

I close the top vent which also cools the flame further. It also traps in more smoke. Think of this little barbecue as a smoker as well as a grill. I can't stress enough the difference in flavor smoke makes (and perhaps I'm beating it to death) but airflow = smoke control which = flavor.

You can see that the flame is much cooler now as I have opened the top vent and only a small amount of smoke is blowing out of the top. This is a nice slow fire for slow cooking chicken and it provides enough smoke as well.

The chicken is about half done here and you can see it is golden brown. I continue to cook it out until it is about 3/4 done before applying BBQ sauce. Adding BBQ sauce too early will make the sauce burn. This is because BBQ sauce is sugar based and the sugars will caramelize and burn is added too early.

A liberal amount of sauce is added. The lid is closed and the sauce is allowed to "set up" or become sticky. Whay we want to do is dry out the sauce a bit and help it stick to the chicken.

The sauce is becoming sticky and I can now flip it over, brush with sauce and repeat the process.

The chicken is done. The sauce is sticky and sweet.

Lola made a beautiful salad of mixed baby greens tossed lightly with hazelnut oil, toasted hazelnuts, dried cranberries, Irish blue cheese, sea salt and a sprinkle of love. It was a nice light salad and I loved the oil!

She steamed off some corn and made a compound butter with lime juice, lime zest, cilantro, minced garlic and a bit of habanero pepper flakes. The butter was mixed with the other ingredients and allowed to chill before being spread over the hot corn. Very nice indeed!

There you have it, barbecued chicken. A I said before, it is easy...but but there are varying degrees of skill on the barbecue and it takes a little work to master cooking and smoking over an open flame. I am still learning myself and I am totally stoked on grilling, so take heart and get excited!!