28 April 2011

Lemon poppy-seed cake

What's a quick and easy Easter dessert? Cake. Lemon cake.

So, lemon poppy-seed cake, adapted from Rose's Heavenly Cakes:
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
¾ cup plus 1 tbsp sour cream
1 ¾tsp vanilla extract
2 ½ cups cake flour
1 ¼ cups superfine sugar
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
5 tsp lemon zest
13 cup poppy seeds
14 tbsp unsalted butter at room temperature
floured baking spray
Pre-heat your oven at 325°F. Meanwhile, prepare your fluted tube pan. Spray the floured baking spray over every surface in the pan. You can't overkill here. Trust me, you don't want to be stingy on this, or you'll destroy the cake, and spend an hour cleaning the pan.

Okay, prep the wet ingredients. Whisk together the eggs and egg yolks until light and fluffy. Mix in ¼ cup of sour cream and vanilla to make a delightful egg emulsion.


Zest the lemon.


Mix the dry ingredients; the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and lemon zest. When well mixed, and the poppy seeds and gently mix.

Flour mix

Add the butter and remaining sour cream, and mix with an electric mixer until well combined and moistened.

Cake batter

Now, slowly add the egg mixture, while mixing. After everything is added, mix for another 30ish seconds. Scrape the batter into the floured pan.

Cake batter

Place gently into the oven, bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. While it's baking, make the syrup.
½ cup plus 1 tbsp sugar
6 tbsp fresh-squeezed, sieved lemon juice
I managed to get all the zest and juice I needed out of 2 lemons. Sieve the juice before measuring.

Lemon juice

Mix the sugar and lemon juice in a microwave-safe measuring cup.

Lemon juice

Microwave, for 30 seconds at a time, followed by mixing the sugar/lemon juice mixture. Stop when you've dissolved the sugar. You're aiming to create a lemon syrup.

Lemon juice

Remove the cake from the oven when a cake tester comes out clean.

Lemon poppyseed cake

Let sit a moment, then stab it with a chopstick over and over. Gently unleash your rage on this cake. Then, brush one third to one half of the cooled lemon syrup over the cake.

Lemon poppyseed cake

Flip the cake pan over onto a serving plate. Brush on the remainder of the lemon syrup.

Lemon poppyseed cake


Lemon poppyseed cake

Don't be surprised when guests go for a third serving. This cake will serve 6ish adults.


26 April 2011

Grilled rabbit with basil oil

In 1994, I was in college, living in the dorm of the Faculté St. Jean at the University of Alberta. It was a fantastic place to live, a converted 150-year old monastery. Two kitchens shared by 100 or so students.

I decided (with a friend of mine) that a fun way to spend Easter would be to have rabbit. Cooking the Easter Bunny, so-to-speak. This has turned into a hilarious tradition. Something the Dude household does almost every year (I confess, in the last 15 years, I've missed one or two). Most years, though, we have Easter bunny for dinner. Like last year, when we served Chocolate Easter bunny.

This year I wanted to serve something that was more true to the ingredient. More fresh. And something that showed off the flavour of the rabbit more than I had in previous years.

I chose a grilled rabbit recipe, adapted from this one:
4 legs of rabbit, top bone of the thigh removed (ask your butcher to do this)
2 tbsp olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 very ripe sweet heirloom tomatoes, sliced into rounds
1 small bunch basil
It's hard enough to find rabbit, much less to find rabbit legs. So, purchase your rabbits.


Remove the rabbit legs. Apply a cleaver to the joint at the division between the spine and the leg. Save the remaining rabbit carcass for other stuff (posts coming soon).

Rabbit legs

Warm the rabbit legs to room temperature, about one hour.

Meanwhile, prep the sauce:
3 large bunches of basil
1 clove of garlic, peeled
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Put the basil leaves into your food processor.

Basil oil

Add the garlic and sea salt. Grind more.

Basil oil

Drizzle in the oil, while blending. I like the basil oil as a thick gamish (close to a pesto). If you prefer it runnier, add more oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Basil oil

Now, back to the rabbit.

Heat up a grill. Hot. Really, really hot. Really hot. Can you make it hotter? No? Now it's nearly hot enough. Make it hotter.


Season your warmed rabbit legs with a coarse salt and pepper. Put those seasoned legs on the hot, hot grill.

Grilling the rabbit legs

Cook five minutes on that side, until good and brown on one side. Flip.

Grilling the rabbit legs

Cook another eight minutes, until done. While finishing the rabbit, slice the tomatoes and put two slices on each plate. Slather on some basil oil and salt.

Rest the rabbit legs a couple minutes, then place on top of the tomatoes. Add a little more basil oil on top and a few basil leaves and serve.

Served, plated bunny leg

You know how you sometimes hear people saying that they want the preparation of a food to be "true to the ingredient"? This is one of those preparations. It's simple, you can taste the uniqueness of the rabbit meat, but it has some tasty additions. Eat this today. It's delicious.

Serve with:

Served with



25 April 2011

Kids' cooking show

Why isn't Food Network like this? Oh. Oh. Oh. Nevermind.

13 April 2011

12 April 2011

Sticky buns

Work has been nutty lately. I've got deadlines that would have made me faint only a couple years ago. I'm making genetic constructs in twelve days that would normally take two months. But I have a lot of help, including an amazing group of technicians that are spending their weekends busting their butts. How do you thank someone for spending their weekend in the lab?

With sticky buns, that's how. These sticky buns had research associates damn near weeping with happiness. Truly, I've never seen people react better to *anything* I've ever cooked. These come from the infamous Flour. You'll love 'em. Make a batch. Now.

It's based off of a brioche dough. The buttery-delicious-cakeish bread. For the dough:
2 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more if needed
2 ¼ cups bread flour
1 ½ packages active dry yeast or 1-ounce (28 grams) fresh cake yeast
13 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
½ cup cold water
5 eggs
1 38 cups softened, unsalted butter
Mix the flours, yeast, sugar, salt and water until wet. Add the eggs while mixing, one at a time.

Beat on low power for three to four minutes, until well-combined. Now add the butter, one small chunk at a time while beating. You want the butter to mix in well, so make sure it's good and soft before you use it.

Continue mixing the dough on low for ten minutes, until the dough is sticky and soft. You want it to pull away from the dough hook when you push your finger into it.

Put the dough into a bowl, and place in the fridge for at least six hours. This is partly to firm up the butter. Partly to get the yeast to ferment in the fridge, adding delicious flavours. Partly to allow the flour to hydrate. All of this is called "proofing". Tasty.

Brioche dough

Meanwhile, make the goo:
1 ½ cup unsalted butter
3 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
23 cup honey
23 cup heavy cream
23 cup water
½ tsp kosher salt

Melt the butter and the brown sugar over medium heat.


Continue stirring until melted and all combined.


Now add the cream, water, honey and salt.


Mix well. Set in the fridge to cool overnight with the proofing dough.

The next day, cut the dough into two halves. Roll out each chunk of dough into two 12" by 16" pieces.

Brioche dough

Prepare the bun filling:
½ cup light brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cup pecan halves, toasted and chopped
Toast the pecans in the oven. 400°F for about 10 minutes, until they start to give off a delicious smell. Let cool and chop them into small chunks. Mix the brown sugar, white sugar, cinnamon and half of the pecans. Sprinkle this mix over the rolled out dough.

Roll up sticky bun

Meanwhile, pour the chilled goo into two 9"x13" baking pans (I use Pyrex). Sprinkle in the remaining pecans, half in each pan.


Roll both of the flattened-out doughs up into tight cylinders. Chop each cylinder into 8 pieces.


Plant 8 buns into each pan, equally spaced out.

Sticky bun

Cover with a cloth towel, and allow to rise in a warm place for two hours, until doubled in volume.

Sticky bun

Bake for 30-45 minutes at 350°F, until golden-brown and delicious-looking.

Sticky bun

Let cool a few minutes. Scoop out the buns, flip over and serve with a bit of goop drizzled over top.

Sticky bun

The reactions to this sticky buns were positively ecstatic. Sweet, delicious and high-calorie happiness. Fabulous.


07 April 2011

Weeknight lamb kebabs

So it turns out that if you walk into your local butcher, and ask for 2 lbs of boneless leg of lamb, they say, "Sorry, the smallest cut of leg of lamb that we sell is half a leg. That's 4 lb." So after making lamb steaks, we still had some lamb left over. So we have some lamb to eat. On a weeknight.

What's a quick way to prepare some lamb? How about this for 5 minutes of Tuesday morning prep cooking?
1 lb boneless leg of lamb
½ cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup water
2 tbsp chopped rosemary
2 tbsp chopped thyme
1 tbsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp cayenne
olive oil

Trim the lamb of extraneous fat and gristle. Chop the lamb into nice bite-size chunks.

Combine the lemon juice, sugar, water, rosemary and thyme (conveniently removed from the garden moments before), red pepper flakes and cayenne in a ziploc bag. Toss in the lamb chunks. Marinate in the fridge, and go to work.

When you get home, fire up the grill. Soak some wood skewers in water while the grill heats up. Meanwhile, make a salad. Steam some rice. Whatever.

Shortly before the grill is ready, skewer the lamb, leaving space between each chunk.

Marinated lamb

Don't do that wacky thing from the 1980s, where people skewered chunks of bell peppers in between chunks of meat. That's retarded. (Confession, I used to do this. Alot.) The bell pepper/onion/mushroom/whatever will cook faster than the meat. Only skewer similar stuff on a skewer together so it will all cook at the same speed.

Lamb kebabs

Brush the skewered lamb with olive oil. Cook over crazy high heat. Turn every couple of minutes.

Lamb kebabs

Lamb is best when cooked medium-rare, so don't over-cook it. Just a couple minutes per side. This is a fast, weeknight dinner.

Lamb kebabs

Remove from the heat. And serve immediately (such small chunks don't need to rest).

Lamb kebabs

You'll know it was properly cooked if it's still pink inside.

Serve with a lovely Mafalda (from Fratelli Perata if you can).

Mafalda - Served with lamb kebabs

How's that for a weeknight dinner. Not. Bad. At all.


05 April 2011

Lamb steak


Boneless leg o' lamb

Fresh, delicious, lamb. For the longest time, I thought I didn't like lamb. When it is improperly seasoned, too old, or overcooked, lamb is truly hideous. It's pretty hard to ruin beef. Beef can be bland or dry, but it really can't taste hideous.

Here's a quick, weekend lamb dish that requires very little preparation, but is quite tasty. I modify it from Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way.
2 lbs butterflied leg of lamb
coarse salt and fresh ground pepper
½ cup dijon mustard
½ cup packed fresh oregano leaves, finely chopped
1 tbsp chopped lemon confit
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Cut the butterflied lamb into 1" thick chunks that make sense as serving sizes. Peel off extra fat and gristle. Cover with a sheet of plastic wrap, and beat those chunks of lamb senseless with a meat tenderizer. It's quite therapeutic to watch the muscle spread and thin out as you whack it. Keep whacking until it's around ½" thick.


Chop the oregano.


Love the smell of that fresh oregano.

Chop the lemon confit.

Lemon confit

Liberally season the lamb with salt and pepper. Slather both sides with mustard. Dust on the oregano and confit.

Lamb steak

Meanwhile, get your grill screaming hot. Really, really hot. As hot as you possibly can.

Place a cast-iron pan over your screaming hot coals for a few minutes. Add the oil to the pan, and sear the lamb three-ish minutes.

Lamb steak

Flip and sear the other side three minutes.

Lamb steak

Remove from heat, and allow five minutes to rest. Serve.

Lamb steak