Sunday, January 24, 2010


The Produce Depot on Carling Avenue (near Maitland) is a fabulous place. When you walk in you can just inhale all the fresh fruits and vegetables, waiting limpidly to be picked up by the diverse peoples walking around inside. And by diverse, I mean really diverse - Chinese folk picking over the bok choy with hawk eyes, Indian grannies selecting the finest methi leaves (fenugreek), and Eastern European couples with big-eyed babies picking out green peppers and eggplants. Different languages and accents speckle the air as everybody comes to buy the freshest, cheapest produce this side of Bronson Ave.

I really do think that immigrants are more attracted to this place than to big box stores like Loblaws, which purport to offer everything, but have limp zucchini and tired strawberries. Places like Produce Depot are more like the way one buys fruits and vegetables back home - fresh, fresh, fresh.

How fresh? Well, when I was in India this August, each morning vegetable sellers would bring their carts up and down the street, selling their just-picked wares. My mother in law tells me that many people insist on buying new vegetables each day and refuse to eat anything that has been stored in the fridge for a few days. "They don't like to eat "stale" vegetables," she said.

Oh boy, let's hope they never get a look at the withered specimens in the vegetable bin of my fridge!

Here in the West we have fewer compunctions about this kind of thing. "Convenience", a lack of greengrocers in close proximity to our houses, and our busy, busy schedules mean that most of us buy groceries once a week. And if we manage to use up the lettuce before it rots, we give ourselves a collective pat on the back (at least I do).

Okay, so that's the appeal of Produce Depot. Now what about the pesto I've got up there in the photo? Right, I'm getting to that.

So I was wandering around Produce Depot one day, ogling the wares, and trying to decide if I should buy lychees, rambutans, or longans in addition to the Cape gooseberries, Chilean cherries, and figs that I had in my cart (that's another reason I love this place - exotic fruit!). I passed by the fresh herbs cooler (dill, methi, bean sprouts, enoki mushrooms...and a whole buncha other stuff I couldn't identify) when my eye fell upon the pretty pesto pack you see pictured above. Now, my son loves pesto pasta, so I often buy the bottled kind (being too lazy to make my own). But here was fresh pesto (oh boy, I should have labelled this post "Fresh") and it was "tradizionel"! I had to try it.

A few days later (as my longans slowly went stale in the fridge) I pulled out the pesto and added it to some boiled shell pasta. Some boiled broccoli for colour, some sautéed shrimps for protein, and voila - quasi-tradizionel pesto pasta!

This is a classic recipe I have devised on my own, with no help from anybody (except a nameless website which had a long and complicated recipe that inspired this one, but was actually no good at all).

Like a closer look? go check out Produce Depot and say hi to the chayotes for me.

Happy munching!

Lunch box

Now here's something you don't see every day - a stylish pink lunch box! Building on the pink theme of my previous post (I must be getting excited for Valentine's Day!) I now present "Exhibit B" - a zippered lunch box, adorned with florid pink blossoms, enclosing an assortment of inventive pink food containers. Brilliant!
For my birthday this summer, a friend gave me a gift certificate to Chapters bookstore. Looking to spend it one summer day, I visited the Chapters at Pinecrest (which intersects with Carling Ave!). I planned to buy something for my son (virtuous mother that I am), but instead my eye bespied this cute bag.
This delightful invention goes by the moniker of "Laptop Lunches" (their website can be found here ). The point of the Laptop Lunch is to reduce garbage resulting from packed/bought lunches. Think about it - little plastic baggies, plastic wrap, paper napkins, plastic yoghurt cups, spoons, etc - and that's just from a packed lunch! And then consider the garbage associated with bought fast food lunches: styrofoam containers, glass/plastic bottles, plastic cutlery, paper bags and wrap...the list just goes on and on. And so, in my sporadic attempt to be a responsible consumer, I decided to try this fancy lunch box (okay, I wanted to show off at work too!).
Why "Laptop" lunch? Well, that comes from the nifty zippered case. It's insulated, has a rubber label (in the shape a flower, naturally) and a carrying strap, so it looks like a slim computer carrying case.
Check it out packed with food, in all its glory:

Posted by PicasaA gourmet summer's lunch: vegetable briyani, salad with yellow tomatoes, watermelon cubes, apple compote. Lucky me!

It was pricey - $45 - but I rationalized it by thinking of all the money I'd save by not buying my lunch (I can rationalize buying anything, especially if it's pink!). Plus, by packing lots of fruits and vegetables in, I'd lose weight and become so healthy!

Uh, well, that last bit didn't happen, and I do keep buying lunches often, so the first bit didn't exactly either, but I'm sure I made my lunch a few more times than I would have ordinarily, so I'm sure I've got my money back, at least.

Plus it's so cute!


No, this isn't an entry about Angelina's new movie, which apparently just wrapped up filming in New York. This is about that much more plebeian substance, essential for life, overused in food processing, and elevated to an art by the Victoria Gourmet company of Woburn, Massachusetts. What did Woburn ever contribute to fine dining? Well, this salt apparently!

Sourced from the Murry River, "fed by the Australian Alps,", I must say this is the first pink salt I have ever seen! I love pink in all forms (mainly clothes and cupcakes) but never thought I'd be able to enjoy my predilection for pink via a jar of salt. Wrong!

I came across this pretty morsel at Winner's, a high end discount clothing store that sells gourmet odds and ends as well. "Finishing salt" I mused, when I saw it. I didn't know what that meant, but one can always use salt (the same can't be said for some of my other foodie finds) and it was, after all, pink, so I felt I couldn't go wrong.

Well, I was right!

The stuff can't be used the same as regular salt. No, it really is best sprinkled on foods, for a "subtle, fleeting crunch" as the label boasts. My favourite way to use it is on pan-fried Rainbow trout (from Loblaws on Richmond Rd, which intersects with Carling Ave, so there's the tie in to my blog's theme!). The tender flesh of the trout, the "subtle fleeting crunch" of the salt, offset by some meaty mushrooms in the rice pilaf and a few juicy asparagus, there's a lunch worthy of a queen. Victoria would be proud!

Posted by Picasa