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Kafta Burger Patties

BBQ season is upon us! For what has now become a traditional annual cottage week end, this Canada day week end will be spent eating and bathing at a friend's cottage. Unfortunately, cottage-time often means quick and easy meals, which often equals store-bought hot dogs and burgers, and whatever other fast food you can find.

Since both A and I are trying to watch what we eat, I inspired myself from last year's sweet and sour chicken skewers and amazing pasta salad, and decided to prepare everything ahead. That way, we'll make sure that we eat right and light. As I'm sure a whole bunch of other posts will follow post-cottage, I'll give you a pre-taste of the meals we'll be enjoying at the cottage. Let's start with burgers!

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This burger patty is a traditional Lebanese recipe (a.k.a Kafta) and is absolutely fantastic! These patties cost me around 7$ to make, if not less (for 10 regular size patties).

You'll need:

  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • half an onion, diced
  • half a bunch of parsley, cut up into the tiniest pieces possible
  • 2 stalks green onion, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
The steps are very simple: 
  1. Mix all your ingredients in a bowl, making sure your veggies mesh well with the meat (think of it as kneading the meat)
  2. Once everything is mixed well, form 10 balls, approximately the size of golf balls (maybe slightly bigger)
  3. Take each ball and flatten it on the palm of your hand. Note: If the meat is sticking to your hand, don't hesitate to dab a little bit of cold water into the palm of your hand.

That's it. That's all. If you're not planning on eating them right away, freeze them!

If your boyfriend is anything like mine and likes the raw taste of meat, avoid buying the pre-made-fully-packed-with-fake-food burger patties, and simply add salt and pepper to a pound of lean ground beef and form patties. 

Enjoy BBQ season and stay tuned for our other cottage recipes! 

- CK

Sparkling Summer Salad: Or, How I learned to stop slicing and love the mandolin,

I get a terrible feeling when I come to the end of a recipe I have all the ingredients for (ish) only to read the final instruction: crockpot-ing, immersion blending, dutch oven-ing...or any number of other final touches for which I don't have the right kitchen tool (yet!). So, having recently acquired a very handy mandolin from the previous owners of my new house (when someone leaves something in a cupboard still in the box, that's a housewarming gift right?), I've spent the better part of the afternoon julienning everything slice-able in my fridge (which is more than you'd think! Skinny cheese sticks anyone? Strawberry stick-men? Long long banana slices? No?).

The very tasty outcome of this little experiment is a pretty awesome summer salad: it's crunchy, tart, filling, and refreshing, and above all, easy (especially if you have a mandolin or any other kind of slicing tool).

You're gonna want:
A large bowl
A little bowl
A mandolin (you lucky duck)

In your big bowl toss together:

3 stalks of celery, sliced thick
half a cucumber, julienned
2 large carrots, peeled and julienned
2 granny smith (or other tart) apples, julienned [to do this, cut the apple into 4 sides, then attempt to slice - I kept the peels on)
l large handful of fresh cilantro, roughly chopped

In your small bowl mix:
1/2 cup lemon juice
1-2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp apple cider vinegar (optional)
1 tbsp sugar (also optional - i wanted my dressing a little sweeter than lemony)
large grain salt to taste (I used a citrus chili salt mix and it was perfect)
cracked black pepper to taste

Drizzle the dressing over your salad mix and stir around until well distributed. Cover and keep in the fridge for an hour to let the flavours combine if you have the time, or serve fresh immediately!

WontonMama in the Byward Market

Patio season is upon us! These sunny afternoons, long balmy evenings, and cool night breezes are the perfect excuse for leaving work early or staying up late on the Market's trendy street side hotspots. Though these trendy bistros and pubs have always been popular, affordable food in the market used to be blah at best. Lately though, the state of food in the city's hottest quarter is taking a turn for the delicious: there's no shortage of tasty and original culinary opportunities these days - the new challenge is getting the most bang for your buck.

Situated on the north side of Clarence, across from the ever popular Cornerstone, WontonMama is a relative newcomer to the Market's densest food strip. Though their website doesn't capitalize on it, the small restaurant is warmly decorated and the atmosphere is nothing short of cozy elegance. The staff is attentive and very polite. Briefly put, it's the kind of space you'd feel comfortable lounging in, sipping your white sangria for a few hours, and chatting with your girlfriends. All this is great of course, but is nothing without delicious, well-priced food, and luckily, WontonMama has got that too! A hidden GEM in the sushi department, and a real contender in the world of urban pad thai, this little restaurant punches above its cost-class in a serious and awesome way. At our table of six, not a single girl was disappointed with her meal, or her bill. Wontonmama offers great summer specials that we couldn't resist: 20$ pitchers of sangria (we had the white...very yummy and chock full of mangoes), 12$ for 3 appetizers (we sampled the very shareable edamame, spring rolls, and shrimp dumplings...those last ones were  a little messier to share so just get your own!) and of 15$ for 3 main-meal-quality sushi rolls. I took advantage of this last special to make up my meal, and man, was it good. Wontonmama proves that good, fresh sushi can be savored in a great atmosphere for an extremely reasonable price: my final bill (sangria (we had 2 L in the end), sushi, and 1/5th of the 3 apps (more than enough)) came to 28$.

So, if you like all of the above things as much as I do, get your butt on down to 109 Clarence street, or call (613) 241-0990 to make a reservation. Enjoy!

Restaurant Review: Big Easy's Seafood and Steak House

Last night, two of my close girlfriends and I (let’s call them Nads and Annie) had our monthly girls-night-out. While we usually prefer a low key get together with a nice bottle of wine and take-out Chinese food, we decided to jazz it up a little. With Nads having recently travelled to New Orleans, it was only fitting that we try out Southern delicacies at Big Easy’s Seafood and Steakhouse on Preston, a place none of us had ever tried.

While the façade of the building looks like it’s a very fancy restaurant, the welcoming statue of the dancing jazz man gives you a good idea of the atmosphere that awaits you inside.

We quickly became acquainted with our friendly waiter and the service was impeccable. He accommodated our orders without complaint and welcomed suggestions and comments. He definitely made the place a little more welcoming than originally expected.

Once it was time to order, the girls and I shared what probably was the best crab cake we’ve ever had in our lives ($14). We then picked dishes from their specialties selection, with prices ranging from $21 to $40.

Nads was a little sceptic as it’s usually quite rare to be able to re-create dishes tasted while travelling. Nonetheless, she was very pleased with her Blackened Chicken Breast ($24), accompanied by vegetables and sweet potato purée. While the chicken was slightly overcooked, the spices gave it a very distinct taste, which can only be found in New Orleans.

We had no idea what to expect with Annie’s Shrimp and Crawfish Étouffé ($21). A mix between a stew and a purée, her étouffé was very delicious. So delicious in fact that Nads could not resist having more than one bite!

Finally, my Jambalaya Linguine (using linguine instead of the traditional rice, with shrimp, chicken, smoked sausage and Creole sauce) ($22) was absolutely fantastic. I’m not usually a big fan of spicy food, but it is a staple of the South so I had to yield. Luckily for me, they make their sauces from scratch, so they were able to adjust the spiciness, enough for me to devour my plate!

Note that Nads vouched for the authenticity of all our dishes!

With such a friendly and welcoming atmosphere, the restaurant suits a fun night out with friends. The jazz music playing in the background and the various photographs of New Orleans’ restaurants surely give you a glimpse of the South without having to dish out on the plane ticket. While their prices are not on the cheap side, I would definitely recommend it for those who are looking for a new culinary experience.

I would also highly recommend it for those who’ve had a bad experience with Southern food (as I have in the past). It will definitely change your mind!

Big Easy’s is located at 228 Preston Street, Ottawa. You can make a reservation at 613-565-3279 or online at http://www.bigeasys.ca/.