Vagabond Cookbook

The best you ate on vacation? Make it at home tonight.

Image of shrimp jungle curry cooking

Girl, this curry’s gonna make you sweat (a la la la la long)

Clearly, we’re at the end of days. Maniacs are terrorizing the planet. Disease and destruction abound. The greatest rock stars in history are knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door to sound the seven trumpets (as if Prince couldn’t handle it himself). His Purpleness could do anything. All the media panic over the state of our world misses one big question, though: What’re you gonna eat when the Rapture comes to town? “Whoa! Lighten up, D! No need to go all Jim Bakker on us!” You’re totally right. Still, it’s worth considering how you’ll survive in an emergency. Even in a Mad Max-style post-apocalyptic wasteland, you’re gonna have to make dinner. At least we’ll have forks covered. If you’re like me, you have an old pirate trunk stuffed with storage water and cans of Chunky Chicken à la King. (Or, you’re a normal person who’s never given it a thought.) Either […]

Crêpe with salad

Re: No more pancakes, please!

Hey Dad, We need to talk. We know you’re trying hard these days and we appreciate it — really. We know work’s been rough and your boss is really riding your tail. We know the drain in the basement keeps backing up. We know about the centipedes in the shed out back. We know Uncle Joe’s reptile farm — smart investment though it seemed — isn’t doing so hot. We know mom has been really busy since she started spending so much time with her trainer, Russell. Uncle Joe always was a wild one. So, we don’t want to sound ungrateful — really we don’t. But we can’t eat any more pancakes. Please don’t be offended. We love pancakes once in a while. Now and again, breakfast for dinner really hits the spot. (And your scrambled eggs got a lot better after you read that great blog post you showed […]

fresh tortilla topped with chipotle chicken and avocado

You’d be surprised how easy it is to make fresh tortillas from scratch

Some things just ain’t worth your time. Remakes of horror movies. Hooking up with your ex. Growing your own celery. They seem like fun at first, but each one is a weapons-grade headache in the making. Take my advice: Leave that stuff to the professionals. It’s a pattern throughout everything in life. There are costs and there are rewards. The trick lies in managing that balance — getting the most value for the least effort. Call it “return on investment” if you’re a business jerk, “bang for your buck” if you’re your dad. I prefer the line from my favourite mid-2000s teen sex comedy, The Girl Next Door: “Is the juice worth the squeeze?” Sometimes, it just isn’t. On top of the stuff I already mentioned, there are lots of things I don’t think are worth the hassle. Cleaning bony little fish. Vacuuming. Reading Victorian literature. Voting. A lot of […]

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What’s cooking… without cooking?

Riddle me this! What’s cooking… without cooking? The dream of single mothers everywhere? Probably. But, let’s try a little harder. Need a hint? How ‘bout this li’l ditty? Bright and fresh with ocean brine I go great with crisp white wine Especially on the Latin coast (Mexico, sure, but Peru the most). Tart and tangy, soft and sweet, I am cooked, but without heat. Acid turns me firm and white, Without any fire in sight. What am I? Give up? Clearly you’re not the Riddler-loving, brain-teasing dork I am. That’s OK, though. Ceviche doesn’t discriminate. Ceviche (say it with me now, “suh-VEE-chay”) rules the school of raw-ish fish preparations that now dominate restaurant menus and cooking TV shows (sorry, pesca crudo). At its simplest, it’s just sea critters and lime juice (although tomatoes, cucumbers, and chilies often find their way into the mix). The lime juice denatures the proteins in […]

gulyás with coleslaw

Try the gulyás. Skip the Kool-Aid.

If the Academy Awards prove nothing else, there’s still no accounting for taste. This year, I’m overjoyed (and not just because I won my Oscar pool). Spotlight strikes a win for journalism, classic Hollywood filmmaking, and plucky do-gooders taking a corrupt system to task. It’s the best movie of the year, easy. If only we could say the same about some other Best Picture winners. C’mon, even Paul Haggis thinks Crash sucks. Crash, Forrest Gump, Ordinary People — no one today thinks these were the movies of the year (if they were any damn good at all). Still, the old, white members of the Academy nodded and lacklustre producers waddled off with their shiny, gold, Clue-inspired murder weapons. Maybe these movies suck. Maybe they just ain’t my bag. It’s hard to say when taste comes into play (and my old lit crit profs would argue that to death too). In […]

Sautéed shrimp, broccoli couscous, vadouvan aioli, shaved cauliflower

Vadouvan aioli and why comedian Eddie Griffin is a secret genius

Let me be the first to say it (or at least the first this century). Eddie Griffin is completely right. Say wha’?! Now, maybe Ed wasn’t the funniest comic of his generation. Or the smartest. Or the most original. But, if nothing else, he made one vital point crystal clear to all of us – mayonnaise is a little sick. That’s right, mayonnaise! The creamy condiment of depressing office sandwich platters the world over. From Eurotrash french fries to your favourite burger joint’s “secret” sauce, it’s hard to escape the omnipresence of mayo. Way back in 2002, I probably would’ve agreed with the Undercover Brother. At the time, I was new to the world of emulsified salad dressings. Growing up, I hated mayonnaise. When Ma threw a sandwich my way, I demanded only the finest of spreads – Parkay Margarine. Really, I was one step away from loading up my […]

Kou shui ji, ready to eat

Kou shui ji (or, ‘are you a breast man or a leg man?’)

Call me a creepoid, but Russ Meyer never gets the love he deserves. The King of the Nudies himself. He’s dismissed, jeered, chided as a peddler of mindless smut (as if that’s such a bad thing). Say what you will, but this visionary director of ‘60s B movies made a stack of classics. Vixen! Supervixens. Beyond the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens. You name the flick, he was behind it (at least if it had “vixen” in the title). Not only that, Meyer performed one especially tricky feat. He made chicken seem interesting. Be honest – you know chicken is boring. It’s up there with sitting in traffic and discussing last night’s dreams as a regular ol’ snoozefest. Fry it, grill it, turn it into nuggets – there’s not much you can do to a chicken that hasn’t been done (just ask Subservient Chicken). It’s usually fine, but it’s rarely a […]

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Don’t listen to your family, smoking is great!

Every family’s got one. A jackass uncle. A quippy sister-in-law. A snot-nosed little boy playing with himself at the kid’s table. Every time you’re gathered together for a hearty feast, one of them is going to crack wise about the host’s cooking skills. “When’s dinner ready? WHEN THE SMOKE ALARM GOES OFF! HAR-HAR-HAR!” Hilarity ensues. Hacky jokes aside, there’s a fundamental flaw in that line of thinking. Everyone thinks if you set off the smoke alarm, you’ve done something wrong. I’m here to set you straight: If you’ve set off the smoke alarm while cooking, chances are you’ve done something very, very right. Not always, of course. When thick black clouds billow out of your cake-filled oven, there’s a problem afoot. When the fire department joins your Sunday morning bacon party, it’s time to turn down the heat. But if you’re roasting chicken? Charring poblanos? Stirfrying some pad Thai? Smoke […]

Image of carrot soup

‘I want to make food I’d stab a baby to try’

Thank god that’s over! Maybe it’s just me, but there’s only so much holiday merriment I can handle. By the time week two of egg nog and Burl Ives settles in, I’m ready to break Rudolph’s Bambi legs and get back to my usual routine. For me, that means eating better. We all treat our guts like landfills during Christmas. That’s part of the fun. But, as we kick off this 11-month reprieve from Elf on the Shelf, chances are you’ve set a resolution or two. Why not make eating well one of them? That was my thinking a few years ago, when I started cooking for real. The way I saw it, I had to eat anyway. Shouldn’t I eat something good? I was tired of sitting in the lunchroom at work jabbing my half-frozen Pizza Pops with a fork. I couldn’t take another overpriced, underflavoured salad from the […]

Stock turns into Tuscan white bean soup so easily

Ain’t no stock as dope as me, I’m just so fresh, so clean

Some things are so commonplace, you don’t even notice them anymore. The Amen break in “Straight Outta Compton”. Floating rocks in Dragon Ball Z. Those tiny red spider things on rocks. Douchebags at Gold’s Gym. Jennifer Jason Leigh. They never stand out, but they’re always there, incognito but keeping everything right with the world. Oh no! He’s going Super Saiyan! Food has these stealth ingredients too. You rarely notice it, but all great cooks use a lot of lemon juice. Fish sauce can round out the flavours in almost every dish. And butter? Well, few things aren’t better with butter. (Try to name them. Let me know if you find one.) The most fundamental secret ingredient, though? It’s not butter. It’s not lemon. Hell, it may cost no money at all. It adds mountain ranges of flavour for pebbles’ worth of calories. It’s the main thing that separates a so-so […]