This article was written by The Meliorist staff
Food is not only integral to our survival but it is a conduit for conversation, companionship and intimacy. Food is a love language and a cultural staple. It connects us to our ancestors and to our families. It is also an integral part of our history. Many of the dishes we prize and savour today were created in times of hardship. Preserves, pickles, salted meats and alcohol-filled puddings are only a handful of examples…
Sorcha Deheer – Editor in Chief
Preparing food has always been a labour of love for me, and it was never something to be taken for granted. Despite having very limited finances, my mother always managed to cook wonderful and healthful meals. They were hearty, tasty, warming and filled with love. I see food as a gift that should be cherished but also shared. One of my favourite things is cooking for people and I haven’t been able to do that very much during the pandemic. At the very least, I can share one of my favourite recipes with you, the reader. This recipe comes from a 1996 edition of Reader’s Digest entitled “Like Grandma Used To Make: A Treasury of Fondly Remembered Dishes.” I got this book from my great grandmother after she became too old to cook by herself. It is not the most interesting of her cookbooks but it is the one I have used the most. In typical 90s fashion, it tries to make traditional recipes healthier. I generally ignore its suggestions…no one should ever saute onions in water.
Orange Chiffon Cake with Spice and Orange Frosting
I make this cake for almost every party I host or attend. I skip the frosting in favour of a heavy dusting of powdered sugar. This way, guests can eat it with their hands and I don’t have to be seen using the atrocity that is “whipped dessert topping” (aka Cool Whip/Dream Whip/etc.). I included the frosting anyway, in case you want to use it. This recipe uses oranges but you can substitute any citrus fruit. I have made it with lemon and blood orange. It’s not too sweet either, which makes it palatable for those who don’t love sugar. I can’t even eat this cake because of gluten intolerance but it will be the first thing I make as soon as Covid is over.
- 1 cup egg whites (6 or 7 large)
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ cup sugar
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp salt
- ¾ cup orange juice
- ½ cup vegetable oil (I would recommend substituting with canola or sunflower oil)
- 1 tbsp grated orange rind
- 1 tsp vanilla (I recommend investing in quality vanilla if you can)
- ½ cup egg yolks (6 or 7 large)
- ½ tsp cream of tartar
I have tried making this with real whipped cream but it never manages to hold up. I have never made it with whipped dessert either, so I cannot guarantee its success.
- ¾ cup orange juice
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
- ¼ tsp nutmeg
- 1 tsp grated orange rind
- 1 container (8 oz.) whipped dessert topping
In a very clean large bowl, place the egg whites and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 325 F. In a small bowl, stir together the flour, ¾ cup of sugar, the baking powder, and salt. In a cup, combine orange juice, oil, orange rind, and vanilla.
In a very large bowl, with an electric mixer on high, beat egg yolks for 2 to 4 minutes or until thick. Add the oil mixture and beat until combined. Set aside.
Add the cream of tartar to the egg whites. With very clean beaters and the mixer on medium-high speed, beat until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining ¾ cup sugar, 2 tbsp at a time, beating until stiff peaks form.
Use a rubber spatula to gently fold one-third of egg whites into the yolk mixture, then fold in all of the flour mixture and finally the remaining egg whites. Gently spoon evenly into an ungreased 10-inch angel food cake pan. Bake on the lowest oven rack for 50-55 minutes or until the top springs back when lightly touched.
Immediately invert the pan, either on its legs or resting the center tube over a tall-bottle. Cool completely. While it cools, make the frosting. Loosen the sides of the cake from the pan and remove. Frost or dust with powdered sugar.
Frosting: In a small saucepan, whisk together the first 5 ingredients. Whisking constantly, bring to a boil over moderate heat. Cook for two minutes or until the mixture has thickened. Stir in the orange rind. Cover the surface with plastic wrap and chill until completely cooled. Transfer to a large bowl and carefully cold in the whipped dessert topping.
Edward Hsiang – Sciences Editor
Sexy skillet potatoes – original recipe
What you’ll need:
- 4-5 medium potatoes, sliced thinly into discs, soaked in water to remove the starch (yellow/white-skinned potatoes work best, but russets will do in a pinch)
- Around half a stick of butter
- Maple syrup – measure with your heart
- Extra 10 mL butter for the sauce
- 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
- 1 cup milk or ½ cream + ½ cup milk
- Shredded cheese – measure with love, all cheeses are beautiful but something creamy works best here over a generic cheddar, I recommend a mild Havarti
- 0.5-1 teaspoon of nutmeg
- A cast-iron skillet (round, no bevels)
- Parchment Paper (optional)
This is a recipe that’s guaranteed to warm your heart and possibly ingratiate you to your friends and potential partners. It’s fully customizable, so give it a few goes to get it to where you want it to be. To mix things up, layer with yams, kombucha squash or even carrots.
Preheat oven to 375 F
First, heat up your cast iron skillet and melt in a chunk of butter. Start placing your potato discs on the bottom of your pan until you form a single layer. Add more butter in thin slices, distributed around the top of the potato layer, salt and pepper to taste. Repeat until you use up half of your potatoes. Now my super-secret ingredient is to add a generous sploosh of maple syrup. The liquid gold will flow through your potatoes to the bottom of the pan where it’ll crisp up and caramelize beautifully. Now continue to layer the rest of your potatoes with butter, salt and pepper. Feel free to add some herbs and spices as you see fit, we’re aiming for a creamy, sweet, savoury flavour profile. Once all the potatoes are used up, add one small sploosh of syrup then either cover with a lid or with a layer of parchment paper pressed down flat on top of the potatoes and let simmer on medium/low heat for around 20-30 minutes.
Now we will start making a very basic roux. Melt your butter in a separate pan until bubbly, then stir in your flour, forming a smooth paste (it might be a little more runny than pastey but that’s ok). Let that bubble until slightly browned, around 3-5 min. Switch to low heat and slowly incorporate your milk, making sure to use either a rubber spatula to smear your roux into the milk, or use a whisk to fully incorporate the milk into the emulsion. Stir in your cheese and nutmeg until homogenous. You don’t need to wait for the sauce to thicken like you would for pasta. Now remove the lid/parchment paper from your skillet, pour the sauce over your potatoes and let simmer for another 10 minutes covered, with careful control of the temperature not to burn anything. Finally, toss your entire skillet uncovered into the oven to get that crispy bottom. This should thicken the sauce, ensure all your potatoes are cooked, and make your kitchen smell wonderful. Bake for 10-15 minutes, then let cool undisturbed until you can’t stand it anymore and need to dig in.
Liam Devitt – News Editor
Bolognese Sauce, and lots of it
Meat sauce is good. Lots of meat sauce is better. Lots of meat sauce in your freezer, well, that’s living large! What makes my take on Bolognese work is my dedication to browning everything well. I’m sure Edward, being the scientician he is, could tell you all about the Maillard reaction and all that jazz, but simply put—the more you brown food, the better it is. If you’re just learning how to cook and want something that is economical, easy and will make you feel way better at cooking than you actually are, this is the ticket.
Serves however many people live in your home or yourself and your freezer.
What you’ll need:
- Olive oil
- 1 onion (or 3-4 good sized shallots)
- 3-4 good-sized carrots
- 3-4 ribs of celery
- 4 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced (more if ya nasty)
- 1 package of the ground meat of your choice. Anything works, but something with a bit higher fat content like pork, beef or lamb will be better.
- 1 can crushed tomatoes
- 1 can diced tomatoes or 1 can whole tomatoes, with the tomatoes squished up by hand
- 2 tbsp tomato paste or 1 tbsp double-concentrated tomato paste
- 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce or fish sauce (optional, but recommended)
- 1 ½ tsp liquid bouillon of any flavour (i.e. Better than Boullion; optional but recommended)
- Half a bottle of white wine, preferably something inoffensive like a Pinot Grigio. The other half you can do with as you wish, perhaps having it with dinner?
- 1 tbsp Balsamic vinegar
- Whatever herbs you want, whether dried or fresh.
- 2 tsp red pepper flakes
- Pasta, cooked in salted water to al dente, to be ready whenever your sauce is
- Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese, for serving
- Chopped Italian parsley, for serving
- Get out a dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot. Place it on medium heat and throw in a good glug of olive oil. Put in your ground meat once the pot is hot, season well with salt and pepper. Brown the meat until cooked through and browned well.
- While the meat is browning, get out a food processor or a blender. If you don’t have such an appliance, then simply chop up the onion, carrots and celery as fine as you can. Not too pasty, but fine. If you are cool and have a food processor, hack up the onion, carrots and celery into medium-sized chunks that your food processor will be able to manage. Pulse until you have a coarse mixture. We aren’t going for baby food here, yet we still don’t want huge chunks of carrot or onion in the sauce. Use your best judgement.
- Once your meat is well browned, remove it from the pot. If it looks like there’s a lot of fat that has rendered out–like a lot, like a disgusting amount, you can get rid of it if you want. Put in the garlic and red pepper flakes, and stir constantly until you smell the flakes and garlic and the garlic begins to turn a golden colour, about 30 seconds. Make sure the red pepper does not burn.
- Put in your vegetable mixture, making sure to scrape up the brown bits that the ground meat has left behind. Doing this is important because it will make your sauce taste better, and then those bits won’t burn in the future. Let this cook for a while, until most of the liquid has cooked out and the veggies are beginning to brown, stirring occasionally, When the veggies begin to brown, you’ll probably want to keep a bit more of an eye on it, as burning is a bit of a possibility. If you get in the Burn Zone, (nothing has burnt yet, but you think it’s gonna happen!) reduce the heat and splash in a bit of the wine.
- When your veggies look well browned, add the tomato paste. Cook until the paste turns a brick red colour, and the canned tomato taste has cooked out. Add the Worcestershire or fish sauce, if using. I really recommend using it, it adds a savoury richness that you won’t get otherwise. It won’t taste fishy.
- Now, jack up the heat to medium-high and add the rest of your wine, taking care to scrape up any brown bits. Reduce the volume of the sauce to about half, we’re basically trying to cook the alcohol out.
- Now add your tomatoes and your meat back in the pot. Wow! It looks like we’re done! Nope, taste the sauce! It tastes like canned tomatoes, right? Not what we want. This needs to simmer for a while, so bring it up to a boil on high heat, then take it back down to medium-low for a simmer. Dissolve the bouillon in the sauce. Now’s also the time to add your dried herbs, if using.
- Look at the consistency of your sauce. Is it too liquidy? Too thick? Just right? If it’s too thick, add a bit of water and throw the lid on. If it’s too liquidy, let it simmer with the lid off. If it’s just right, throw the lid on. Simmer for as long as it takes to meet these two conditions: 1) The sauce has a deep tomato flavour, and does not taste tinny; 2) it is a desirable consistency. In practice, this is about 45 minutes.
- Once you’ve met those two conditions, you’re almost there. If you’re using fresh herbs, chop them up now and put them in. Taste the sauce again and ask yourself: “does this need vinegar?” The answer is probably yes, so add that vinegar. If not, don’t. It also probably needs salt at this point, so add salt to taste.
- Serve with pasta, parmesan or pecorino, some parsley, and if you like, the other half of that bottle of wine.
Alexis Kelly – Website & Marketing Coordinator
Pan-fried Brussels Sprouts with Garlic Crema
I used to dislike brussels sprouts. My boyfriend loves to cook, and the first time he made these ones for me, I was hooked on them. We made them for my family when we were living with them and they loved them too, so it’s good for the whole family and you get some healthy-not-so-healthy-because-they’re-fried-in-oil veggies!
- Non-stick pan
- ¼ cup of oil to fry
- A bag of brussels sprouts
- ½ cup of mayo
- A splash of milk
- 2 cloves of garlic
- ¼ of a lemon (juiced)
- Salt & Pepper to taste
- Italian Seasoning to taste
- 2 green onions
- Toasted sesame seeds
1. Mis en place: Wash your vegetables. Cut a little off the stem of the brussels sprouts and then cut each of them in half lengthwise (be sure not to cut too much off the stem or they might fall apart). Juice your lemon. Finely chop your green onions.
2. Boil the brussels sprouts: Add some water and salt to a pot and bring to boil. Put all the brussels sprouts in and set a timer for 5-10 minutes (they’re done when you can poke through them semi-easily with a fork).
3. While you wait for the brussels sprouts, make the crema. Put the mayo into a bowl, and mix in your garlic, some lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Once this is mixed, add a little bit of milk to thin it out. Taste and add any more of the crema ingredients until your heart is happy.
4. Once the brussels sprouts are done boiling, strain them and then run some cold water over them to stop the cooking process. After this, dry them thoroughly and put a little salt on them.
5. Add enough oil to cover the bottom of your pan, approximately ¼ cup, and heat on medium-high.
6. Once the oil is hot, add your dried brussels sprouts to the oil face down, laying them away from you to prevent oil splash. Fry for about 3-5 minutes on each side or until they’re golden brown.
7. Serve your brussels sprouts in a bowl or on a plate, spoon some crema over them and then top with your garnishes: sesame seeds and green onions. Enjoy!
Jax Stienstra – Designer
Ultimate Comfort Ramen
Ramen is such a comfort food for me, when I was little I used to eat it out of a plate with different compartments in it. My mom used to add veggies and meat to it, but my recipe was something I saw on the internet and was so skeptical about it. Ramen and cheese…I personally don’t eat this ramen very often because it is salty and not exactly nutritional, but if I am sad this is a good and easy meal.
- Nonstick Pan (I cook my ramen in a pan rather than a pot)
- Sapporo Ichiban Original Flavour Ramen (I only eat Sapporo ramen, texture for me is so important and I haven’t found another instant ramen that has the right texture)
- Cheese (I suggest mozzarella cheese, but cheddar might be good too)
I am like a Grandma in the way I cook, don’t follow a recipe but somehow manage to make it taste the same every time.
1: Boil water – I normally boil my water in the kettle then pour it into the pan because I’m impatient
2: Add ramen – Once the ramen is partially cooked I add half of the flavour package because otherwise, this recipe is extremely salty. I like to partially cook the noodles before so they get some of the flavour embedded in them
3: Drain excess broth – I like my ramen with very little broth but when cooking ramen in a pan there isn’t much extra water. If you like ramen with a lot of broth feel free to skip this step
4: Plate – I like this ramen in a bowl (even without a bunch of broth) once it’s plated add the cheese! I add a few slices of mozzarella and let it sit for a minute then stir so the cheese is distributed evenly. Bone Apple Teeth!