Category Archives: Challenges

What do I do with this? Garlic Scapes

Garlic Scapes

This is a new monthly challenge that I’m imposing on myself, where I find an ingredient that I have never used before (or even better – have never even HEARD of before) and make something with it.

My first entry is the Garlic Scape. I first heard of this earlier in the year, but had never seen any in the market before. I actually tried to grow my own, but failed miserably.

I finally found some at the market this month.

Garlic scapes, or green garlic, are the stalks of the garlic plant, growing above ground. They’re sort of like scallions, but garlicky tasting and much more dense. To me, they seem like a cross between a garlic and a green bean. Raw, they are pungent and crunchy. When cooked, they are soft and mild.

My first big dish using garlic scapes was a simple pasta tossed with sauteed vegetables, garlic scapes, garlic scape infused yogurt and Parmesan cheese.

Pasta featuring Garlic Scapes

There are many recipes for garlic scape pesto, which I plan to try making soon. Sounds right up my alley!

Now that I’ve tried them, I’m a little embarrassed that I hadn’t heard of them before. Anyone that knows me should be ashamed of me!! This was a great find, and a really fun thing to put in summer dishes. I know they won’t be in season for much longer, so I’ll be buying them every chance I get.

Next year, I plan to try growing garlic again. I’m not too sure what went wrong this time around, but I think it’s because bulbs don’t overwinter very well here when in pots. I might try planting them early March with my daffodils.


Go Team Steph! Daring Pâté and Bread

Trout and Shrimp Pâté round

I have a bit of a history with pâté. Growing up German, I ate loads of Braunschweiger, which may be a liverwurst and not technically “pâté” per se… but kinda is pâté in its spreadable variations. I used to gross out my friends, who were normal and didn’t eat weird things like Braunschweiger.

One time in grade school, in particular, I had spooned some into a little lunch container and packed it with some crackers. Knowing what it was, and that people thought it was gross, I showed my friend Heather. She just smiled and made yummy actions. Confused, I asked her if she ate Braunchweiger… also confused, she told me she had thought it was chocolate ice cream. I totally grossed her out by telling her what it actually was. I never did figure out how she thought I kept the ice cream frozen in my bag.

Braunschweiger is one of the weirdest meat things that I missed when I stopped eating meat.

Raw Trout and Shrimp

Raw Trout and Shrimp

I can’t say I’ve tried to replace Braunschweiger with something veg. I sampled a couple of vegetarian pâtés at the Veggie Food Fair, but I never really felt the need to buy them. Now that I am an occasional meat eater, I haven’t jumped at the chance to have meat pâté again.

Not sure why, but it just hasn’t been on my radar.

Then I got the Daring Cooks‘ challenge for June. Make a pâté –  and like it! I chose to make the trout and shrimp pâté partly because it’s made up of seafood, and partly because the description claimed it was passed down through a variety of nameless people, and possibly their grandmas and their grandma’s neighbours or something. I like recipes that just randomly work their way through people.

Sourdough Ciabatta, with Vinifera

Sourdough Ciabatta, made with Vinifera flour

The second part of this challenge is to make a bread, which is where the “Team Stephfood” silliness comes in. J is the bread maker in the house, and I’m very happy to leave that to him. We opted to complete this challenge together. For his part, he made a ciabatta bread with his sourdough starter and Vinifera flour. Vinifera is neat, because it’s made from the skins of grapes. It imparts a purplish hue (depending on how much you use, and what you mix with it), and adds a tart flavour.

Trout and Shrimp Pâté on Sourdough Ciabatta, with Vinifera

Trout and Shrimp Pâté on Vinifera Sourdough Ciabatta

The bread was amazing, and added some complexity to the pairing. The pâté was very mild, and I thought it needed some extra zazz. The bread definitely helped with that.

I enjoyed this challenge. It wasn’t something I would have looked for on my own, which makes it a good challenge for me. I don’t know for sure that I will make this regularly, but we thought it was tasty and different. It definitely goes well with our ‘spread’ dinners.

Our hostesses this month, Evelyne of Cheap Ethnic Eatz, and Valerie of a The Chocolate Bunny, chose delicious pate with freshly baked bread as their June Daring Cook’s challenge! They’ve provided us with 4 different pate recipes to choose from and are allowing us to go wild with our homemade bread choice.

Adaptation – Seitan Tomato Bredie

Seitan Tomato Bredie

Since I haven’t issued myself a month-long challenge for May, I’m taking on a couple of one-off challenges. This challenge was issued by Nupur, who writes for One Hot Stove. The goal is to find a recipe posted on another blog, and change something major about it and repost, with a link to the original blog post.

This probably isn’t a surprise, but I chose to veggify a meat dish. This dish could also be made gluten-free by using a non-wheat flour to thicken at the end (er, and by not using seitan, which is basically all wheat gluten).

I chose to make a South African Tomao Bredie (stew), which was originally posted by Asha, who writes for Fork Spoon Knife.

The reason I chose this particular recipe is because it is a South African dish that makes use of many spices that I’ve been ignoring lately. This is a very aromatic dish, featuring LOTS of ginger, allspice, cloves, cardamom and peppercorns. YUM! I’ve never tried cooking any South African dishes before, so I thought this would be a great place to start.

Also, the poster wrote about the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency books when describing why SHE chose the recipe… while I haven’t read the books, I really enjoyed the TV series on HBO (Miss 97%!). So… yes, I choose recipes for a combination of reasons, some that make sense and some that do not.

I suppose I need to adapt the inspiration for this dish as well, instead of just stealing the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency reference… If I try really hard, I can just imagine Wikus Van De Merwe eating this (before his run-in with the aliens) in Joburg.

District 9 - Wikus Van De Merwe

Wikus Van De Merwe, from the movie District 9

This was a great dish to have on a cool fall day. Yes, I know it is the middle of May — it FEELS LIKE FALL this week! I’m trying really hard not to be angry at the weather man, filtering some of the anger into cooking. Enjoy!

Tomato Bredie

The original recipe can be found at Fork Spoon Knife.

Marinade Ingredients:

  • 1 inch chunk of ginger, minced
  • 2 tsp all spice powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Stew Ingredients:

  • 1 lb seitan, cut into 1″ cubes (I used this recipe)
  • 1 tsp oil
  • 4-5 whole cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick, or 1/2 tsp ground
  • 4-5 cracked black peppercorns
  • 1 medium onions, diced
  • 1 inch chunk of ginger, minced
  • 2-3 cardamom pods
  • 6 medium tomatoes, diced, divided (4 for the stew, 2 for garnish)
  • 1 jalapeno, diced (although I don’t think the dish needs it… the ginger offers enough heat)
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • salt, pepper as needed
  • 3 medium potatoes, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 medium green pepper, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp flour

Aromatic Rice Ingredients:

  • 2 cardamom pods
  • 1 cinnamon stick, or 1/2 tsp ground
  • 4 cloves
  • 4 cracked peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups basmati rice
  • 3C water


  1. THE NIGHT BEFORE: Coat the seitan pieces evenly with the marinade.Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  2. Heat the oil in a deep sauté pan on med-high heat. Toast the cloves, cinnamon, whole peppercorns in the oil until you can smell the spices.
  3. Add the onions and sauté until browned.
  4. Add the seitan, ginger and cardamom and brown the seitan a little bit. Turn the heat down to medium, cover and let simmer for 5-7 minutes.
  5. Add the tomatoes, jalapeno, stock, salt and pepper and stir well. Simmer for five more minutes, stirring occasionally.
  6. Add the potatoes and simmer until they are cooked through, about 10-15 minutes.
  7. While the stew is simmering, prepare the rice:
    1. In a medium pot, heat up 1 tsp of oil. Add the spices, and cook until you start to smell them.
    2. Add the rice and salt, stir thoroughly, and let it toast a little bit (but be careful not to let it burn!)
    3. Add the water, let it come to a boil and reduce to med-low heat. Cover immediately and cook until the rice absorbs all of the water. Fluff with a fork when done.
  8. About 10 minutes into the simmering, add the green pepper.
  9. When the stew is cooked through, melt the butter in a small pan and add the flour to it. Cook for a minute and then add the roux to the stew to thicken.
  10. Once the potatoes are cooked, heat up a small pan on med-low heat to prepare a roux. Melt the butter, and add the flour, stirring constantly until it forms a thin paste. Cook for about a minute.
  11. Add the roux to the stew to thicken. Make sure it all gets incorporated into the stew, leaving no clumps.
  12. Serve over hot aromatic rice and top with some fresh diced tomato. I also added some chopped green onion and diced avocado… not sure if it’s especially authentic, but it added some nice colour and I wanted to use up an avocado.

Daring Crab Enchilladas

Crab Enchiladas with Ancho Salsa

Time for my third Daring Cooks challenge!!

This month’s challenge was exactly what I had been looking for…. yummy Mexican food! Toronto doesn’t have many great Mexican restaurants, unfortunately. There are a couple… and we had one that I really liked that closed a couple of years ago. Booo!

Our hosts this month, Barbara of Barbara Bakes and Bunnee of Anna+Food have chosen a delicious Stacked Green Chile & Grilled Chicken Enchilada recipe in celebration of Cinco de Mayo! The recipe, featuring a homemade enchilada sauce was found on and written by Robb Walsh.

Poblanos and Tomatillos

Fresh Poblano peppers and Tomatillos

The challenge recipe was for chicken enchiladas, and of course I had to modify the recipe and swap out the chicken. I chose to make crab enchiladas instead, after a dish that I had in California and haven’t had since. These were not going to be “crab” enchiladas, but contain nice chunks of King crab. I bought some crab legs, pulled out the meat for the enchiladas and used the shells to make the broth.

The enchilada sauce was really simple to make, but required some items that I couldn’t find in the grocery store. I ventured out to Kensington Market, where Mexican shops carry almost everything a silly Canadian girl could want… except for the Anaheim chiles. It’s ok – I got Poblanos instead. I think I secretly wanted to have to get Poblanos, after watching a show on Chile Rellenos. (I think that might be my next Mexican challenge! Yumyum!). I also got a hand full of lovely green tomatillos. These are so nice to look at (and photograph), and have a crazy tartness that you can’t get from a red tomato. The peppers and tomatillos were roasted in the oven first, the peppers were skinned and seeded and all of the ingredients were blended together.

Roasted Poblanos and Tomatillos

Oven roasted Poblano peppers and Tomatillos

Realizing how simple this was, I adapted this process to make my ancho salsa. I roasted some red tomatoes and onions, and soaked and de-seeded some dried ancho peppers. I blended it all (pulsing, rather than pureeing… I wanted to keep some of the texture). I added  a touch of ground chipotle pepper at the end, for some smokiness. SOOOO GOOOD!

Another “secret ingredient” was some crumbled queso fresco… it doesn’t melt like other cheeses, so I used a few different cheeses in this dish. Queso fresco is a fresh cheese, like Indian Paneer, so it has a bit of a grit and chew to it that is unlike other kinds of cheeses. I think this cheese is the reason you see feta sprinkled on Mexican dishes sometimes… feta is one of the closest common cheeses, when comparing flavour (saltiness) and melting properties.

This dish did take some time to make, considering the broth, roasting of peppers, assembly and baking. It would be considerably less time if I did some of these things in advance… so really not a bad dish to make when you’re having company over! We thought it looked – and tasted – really impressive.

Hm, I even think I managed to make this one totally Gluten Free! You could also make this vegetarian by substituting the seafood stock for veg, and the crab meat for either some faux meat, or some nice roasted vegetables. Maybe even beans?

Crab Enchiladas - oven

Four crab enchiladas – fresh out of the oven!

Crab, Shrimp & Veg Stock


  • 2 Tbsp oil + butter (I used 1 Tbsp of each, but you can mix it how you like. The butter adds a nice warm flavour)
  • 1 med onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 large clove of garlic, crushed
  • 2-4 loose cups of “frozen veggie bits” (see note below)
  • shells from 1LB of shrimp
  • shells from 1.5lb of king crab legs (or equivalent)
  • 1 large dried bay leaf
  • 1 Tbsp small whole black peppercorns
  • 8-10 cups of water


  • Crab – I’m not sure how you get crab where you live, but I started with frozen pre-steamed crab legs. If you get them fresh, you’ll want to cook them first. If you can’t get whole legs, feel free to use lump crab or canned. If you get the pre-cooked frozen crab, I would advise against steaming the legs whole – just thaw, pull crab meat out, so the only cooking will happen in the oven when assembled in the enchilada. You don’t want overcooked crab.
  • Frozen Veggie bits – If you read my blog regularly, you probably saw a post about this a week or so ago. If not, ‘frozen veggie bits’ is a bag of bits that I cut off of my vegetables when preparing them for dinner and then freeze for use in stocks. These are not rotten vegetable parts, but maybe a little drier bits, or stems, or the bits that you might not want to include in the dish. For me, this includes herb stems, mushroom stems, broccoli stalks, bits of pepper that are close to the membrane or stem, carrot peels, etc. etc.


  1. Heat the oil/butter in a stock pot over medium heat , until it has coated the bottom.
  2. Sauté the onion and garlic for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft and golden. You’ll be able to smell when it is ready.
  3. Add the veg bits, shrimp and crab shells, and sauté for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add the bay leaf, peppercorns and water. Bring to a boil.
  5. Turn the heat down to low and simmer for about 1 hour.

Daring Crab Enchiladas

(with Steph’s substitutions)


  • 1½ pounds Poblano chiles (about 6 medium) – roast, peel, remove seeds, chop coarsely.
  • 7-8 ounces Tomatillos (about 4-5 medium) – peel, remove stems
  • 4 cups broth (see above for the recipe I used)
  • 1 clove Garlic, minced
  • ½ tsp Kosher salt (add more to taste)
  • ¼ tsp Black Pepper (add more to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons Cornstarch (dissolve in 2 tablespoons water, for thickening)
  • Hot sauce, your favorite, optional
  • Crab meat, from 1.5 lb of crab legs (shells removed, presumably these are pre-cooked and frozen crab legs)
  • 3 tablespoons Olive oil or other neutral vegetable oil (use more as needed)
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • 12 Small Corn tortillas (5-6 inch/13-15 cm). (you can also use wheat tortillas or other wraps)
  • 6 ounces grated cheese, I used a combination of jalapeno havarti, sharp cheddar and queso fresco
  • Cilantro for garnish, chopped and sprinkled optional


Roasting Fresh Chiles and Tomatillos

  1. Coat each chile and tomatillo with a little vegetable oil. Lay them on the grill or baking sheet (line pan with foil for simpler clean-up). Place the grill or broil close to the element, turning the chiles so they char evenly. They should be black and blistered.
  2. As they are completely charred (they will probably not all be done at once), remove the chilis to one bowl and the tomatillos to a second bowl and cover with plastic. Let them rest until they are cool. Put the tomatillos aside for now.
  3. To de-seed the chiles, pull on the stem and the seed core MAY pop out (it rarely does for me). Open the chile and remove the seeds.
  4. Turn the chile skin side up and with a paring knife, scrape away the skin. Sometimes it just pulls right off, sometimes you really have to scrape it.

Green Chile Sauce

  1. Take the roasted tomatillos and puree in a blender or food processor.
  2. Put the puréed tomatillos in a saucepan along with the broth, chopped and roasted green chiles, minced onion, oregano, garlic, salt and pepper.
  3. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
  4. Add the cornstarch/water mixture and stir well. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thickened and reduced to 4-5 cups, another 10-15 minutes.
  5. Adjust seasonings and add hot sauce if you want a little more heat.

Stacked Green Chile and Grilled Crab Enchiladas

  1. In a small skillet, heat 3 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat until very hot. Dip the edge of a tortilla into the oil to check – it should sizzle immediately.
  2. Using tongs, put a tortilla into the pan and cook until soft and lightly brown on each side, about 15-20 seconds per side (at the most).
  3. Drain on paper towels.
  4. Add oil as needed and continue until all 12 tortillas are done.
  5. In a baking dish large enough to hold four separate stacks of tortillas, ladle a thin layer of sauce.
  6. Lay four tortillas in the dish and ladle another ½ cup (4 ounces/112 grams) of sauce over the tortillas.
  7. Divide half the crab meat among the first layer of tortillas, top with another ½ cup of sauce and 1/3 of the grated cheese.
  8. Stack another four tortillas, top with the rest of the crab meat, more sauce and another third of the cheese.
  9. Finish with the third tortilla, topped with the remaining sauce and cheese.
  10. Bake until the sauce has thickened and the cheese melted, about 20 minutes. Let rest for 5-10 minutes.
  11. To serve, transfer each stack to a plate. Spoon any leftover sauce over the stacks and sprinkle with cilantro, if you wish. The stacks may also be cooked in individual gratin dishes.