No bunnies were harmed in the making of this recipe… but lambs were.

This is my favorite dish so far --- and this is my demonstration on how best to devour this scrumptious dish.
This is my favorite dish so far — and this is my demonstration on how best to devour this scrumptious dish.

Of all the meals I have made thus far for the blog, this is by far my favorite. This is a rich, flavorful dish that is a simultaneously a spicy party in your mouth and a warming comfort food. It’s the only recipe I’ve repeated already (because, ya know, I could be making a dish from another country), and it’s going to be one of my staples for entertaining from now on.

Spicy!
Spicy!

This epic dish is called Bunny Chow, and according to Honest Cooking, it’s street food from South Africa, typically wrapped in a newspaper and enjoyed while sitting on a curb.

Mise en place
Mise en place

I thought finding lamb would be a bit difficult in Northern Nevada, but I was surprised to find a large boneless lamb roast for just about $6/pound. After I laid out all my ingredients on my island, I realized I had way too much food for little old me, and called my friends Laxmi and Rukesh for taste testing!

One of my lovely taste testers.
One of my lovely taste testers.

Even with the three of us, I still had three days’ worth of leftovers. As written, I estimate the recipe actually feeds about six.

Everything simmering and getting happy.
Everything simmering and getting happy.

What makes this recipe great? The mixture of spices, tender lamb meat, starchy potatoes, all piled into a warm slice of bread. The Raley’s near me makes an awesome roasted garlic French bread, which I used as the vessel to hold the meaty goodness.

Yum
Yum

I’m sure this isn’t the only time South Africa will make an appearance on this blog. I’ve had a Cape Malay curry in my sights for a while. But for now, you can bet this recipe will be in regular rotation in my repertoire.

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For those of you following along, you may have noticed I didn’t update last week. I was away at an intense trial advocacy conference last week (fancy term for mock trial), and just wasn’t able to get a blog post written in time. I’ll try to not let it happen again!

This week’s dish is one of my favorites when I go to Mexican food restaurants: camarones a la diabla. I’ve had some really awesome versions, and I’ve had some that for some reason taste vaguely of ketchup. One of my favorite variations was at a long-defunct Spanish tapas restaurant in Las Vegas. I used to order it and ask for some extra bread to sop up the sauce.

One of the fewest ingredient lists of the dishes I've made so far.
One of the fewest ingredient lists of the dishes I’ve made so far. Although I did forget the tomatoes in this shot. Oops.

This was an amazingly easy dish to make, and it is perfect for a quick weeknight meal. Feel like going to Mexico? Pop these little sea bugs into a skillet, and you’re done!

Peppers moistening up.
Peppers moistening up.

I can definitely handle my spice, and this dish did not disappoint. I was only making this for myself, and I might have had a bit of a hard time making it less spicy. My advice? Just take out some of the peppers. But then it won’t be *quite* as fun.

Serve up with some bread and white rice.
Serve up with some bread and white rice.

Eating this reminded me of the weekend cruise to Ensenada I went on last Christmas with my boyfriend’s family: delicious seafood mixed with spice. Plus, it was light, and it didn’t weigh heavy in my stomach. Perfect, because I was gearing up to put on my bikini one last time the week I made this.

It was a real treat to be able to travel to Mexico in just 20 minutes.

Try out the recipe from La Cocina de Leslie.

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My step-dad is from New Orleans, and I knew when I started this blog that some of the dishes from the Big Easy had to be represented. I have a number of recipes, but jambalaya is one of the dishes I wanted to tackle. When I looked at the recipe, I realized if I didn’t have some help, I was going to be eating leftover jambalaya for weeks. I invited a few friends over, and suddenly, I was having a Cajun-style dinner party.

Chopping up the ingredients.
Chopping up the ingredients.

As with a lot of the recipes I’m already slightly familiar with, I had to do a little bit of research and comparing to pick the recipe that looked like it would best represent the dish I am trying to make. I ended up settling on Emeril Lagasse’s recipe. Emeril was one of the first celebrity chefs who really got me into cooking. I loved to watch him on the Food Network, waiting to yell “bam!” at appropriate moments. I may or may not have emulated him when I was first learning to cook.

A bunch of protein marinating in Cajun spice.
A bunch of protein marinating in Cajun spice.

This recipe calls for Emeril’s Cajun spice and also includes a recipe for making your own. I happen to have some awesome Cajun spice (Todd’s Bayou Dirt) that I use at least once daily, so I used that.

Tasting for the perfect blend of spices.
Tasting for the perfect blend of spices.

I did find that the recipe took a little longer to cook than estimated. I had to boil down the rice a little bit longer to make sure it was no longer soupy. However, the result was awesome.

Jamdalaya!
Jambalaya!

There’s nothing quite like a good meat and rice dish in my book. The blend of spices tickled my tastebuds, and I knew that this is going to become one of my go-to recipes for entertaining. The idea is to throw whatever protein is in your fridge into a giant pot. One dish clean-up; what’s not to like? Plus, with a good bottle of Louisiana hot sauce on the table, you can satisfy both the hot heads (like me) and those who like their food a little milder with a couple (or more) shakes onto the dish.

Everyone gets ready to eat.
Everyone gets ready to eat.

The jambalaya was a big hit. The flavors made me want to hop into a second line as soon as possible. New Orleans is definitely on my list for a return visit, but this dish will just have to do for now. Try it. You will not be disappointed.

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A couple weeks ago, I spent four awesome days in Montreal for my birthday. It was my first time visiting the Quebec city, and I enjoyed every minute of it. Unlike Toronto, which seemed to me like any big city in the U.S. (albeit cleaner and friendlier by far), Montreal felt like a different country. The history of the city was apparent as we walked down the streets, admiring the old buildings and listening to the sounds of Quebecois French in our ears.

Rajan opening his umbrella and stepping into the Montreal rain.
Rajan opening his umbrella and stepping into the Montreal rain.

The food was magnificent. We did not have one bad meal. Montreal is definitely worth the trip for any foodie.

William J. Walter

Apple sausage with all the fixin's
Apple sausage with all the fixin’s

We started off our trip after the train ride from Toronto to Montreal at William J. Walter, a sausage shop recommended by our local hosts. The sausage itself was good, but I should have opted for some sort of sauce on mine. (They offered me mayonnaise. I know that’s a Canadian thing, but that was still a little weird). The sausage was a sweet-yet-savory apple, with pickles, peppers, and sauerkraut. It was a perfect treat after the train ride. Plus, we got a nice tour of the neighborhood.

L’Espace Public

Those of you who know me know I’m a bit of a beer snob (OK, “a bit” is an understatement). Montreal did not disappoint with its wonderful beer selection. Also on recommendation from our awesome hosts, we stopped to sample some beers at L’Espace Public, a small brewery right near the sausage shop.

Back of the bar and the beer list at L'Espace Public.
Back of the bar and the beer list at L’Espace Public.

We sampled five different kinds of beer: a rye, American brown, English bitter, kolsch-style, and a sour. All of them were exemplary. The extremely friendly bartender even took us downstairs for a tour of the fermenting room. It was small, but mighty.

Dieu du Ciel!

After a little bit more sightseeing, my boyfriend, Rajan, and I headed out to Dieu du Ciel!, one of the Montreal meccas for beer geeks. The place was absolutely packed, and we had to hover for a table (yep, even though it was Monday), but as soon as I started sampling beers, I knew it was worth it.

The place was packed, but good.
The place was packed, but good.

We were only mildly hungry after our mid-afternoon sausages and opted to split a charcuterie board filled with Montreal cheeses and a Margarita pizza. Both were delicious, but I was particularly fond of the bleu cheese.

Bleu cheese is yummy.
Bleu cheese is yummy.

We sampled ten different beers at Dieu du Ciel: an American IPA, Witbier, American Imperial Stout, Belgian Dubbel, Berliner weisse, Belgian IPA, saison, American pale ale, porter, and Belgian blonde. They were all super tasty, my favorites being the Solistice d’Ete (berliner weisse with cherries) and the Peche Mortel (a deliciously rich American Imperial porter). Dieu de Ciel (and the other Montreal beers we sampled) did leave me with the impression that the Quebecois just can’t do an IPA like we can.

Beers at Dieu du Ciel!
Beers at Dieu du Ciel!

Dieu du Ciel is a must-visit for any beer geek in Montreal, and the food is good also. You might have to wait a bit, but it’s worth it.

Les Affames Cafe

Our second day in Montreal was my birthday, and it was a grey, wet morning. I had the grand idea to eat poutine for breakfast, but our hosts talked us out of it, and instead recommended we brunch at Les Affames Cafe, a restaurant that is off the beaten path and probably doesn’t get a lot of tourists. I was extremely happy with my meal, and would steer anyone visiting Montreal to catch a bus to Les Affames.

Birthday brunch: blood sausage with a virgin orange blended drink
Birthday brunch: blood sausage with a virgin orange blended drink

I wanted to try something a little different and chose the blood sausage with pouched eggs and an orange blended drink that reminded me of an Orange Julius. The blood sausage came out square-shaped, crisped up on the outside, but warm and sausage-textured on the inside. Yes, blood sausage does have blood in it. No, it did not taste like when you cut your finger and you stick it in your mouth to stop the bleeding. The taste is very rich. The pouched eggs were perfect, with the yolk bursting out into the salad. It was an awesome first birthday meal.

Rajan went with our waiter’s suggestion and ordered the MonteCristo, a hammy delight. For dessert, the restaurant brought out a complimentary mango tart that was one of the best desserts I have ever tasted.

Mango tart for my birthday
Mango tart for my birthday

It was creamy with balanced flavors of sweet and tart. In short, it was heavenly.

La Banquise

 We couldn’t possibly stop in Montreal without trying the dish that was perfected there: poutine. After a day of sightseeing, our stomachs were rumbling for something substantial.

In my research for the perfect poutine, over and over again, La Banquise kept popping up. The small restaurant, which is open 24 hours and apparently has the most traffic overnight, when drunken revelers are looking for something to soak up the alcohol. A sign at the door warns patrons to pay before eating when visiting after midnight to keep table availability flowing. We, however, visited late afternoon and found a table with no issue.

Poutine and beer
Poutine and beer

La Banquise has more than 30 types of poutine. Of course, we had to go for the original: fries, gravy, and cheese curds. We also ordered La Miam, poutine with ground beef, merguez, onions, tomato, and Swiss cheese. Rajan was not as set as I was on making sure that we had poutine before we left Montreal, but as soon as he put a bite of potato-cheesy-gravy goodness in his mouth, he proclaimed, “Damn, that’s good.”

I really enjoyed the original, and although La Miam was also good, I would have been OK with just splitting a large original (yes, those are smalls in the photo). It just didn’t have the punch that the original had.

Make no mistake: poutine is not to be missed.

Jardin Nelson

 The next day, we explored Old Montreal and once again asked our hosts for suggestions. They directed us to Jardin Nelson. The rain was pouring down even harder than the day before, but we walked from the train station to the restaurant, and seated ourselves outside after the rain died down.

Rajan is very happy about his cheese crepe.
Rajan is very happy about his cheese crepe.

The restaurant had light jazz music playing, and English was spoken all around us. It was certainly a place for tourists, but the food was still tasty.

We each ordered a different crepe. I got the Florentine, a ham and brie concoction, and he ordered a chicken and broccoli crepe. I noticed a number of flyers advertising live jazz at night; I would have liked to have seen that.

My florentine crepe
My florentine crepe

Jean Talon Market

The biggest market of its kind, Jean-Talon Market, is in Montreal, and, boy, was it a sight to see. If I lived near that place, you can bet I would happily hop into my car or on the subway to pick up fresh produce, cheese, meats, and anything else my little culinary heart desired. It was very large and had so much to offer, even on a weekday.

Customers shop for culinary delights at Jean-Talon Market
Customers shop for culinary delights at Jean-Talon Market

We were still pretty full of cheese and carbs, but we browsed around the market, taking in everything there was. Anything and more you would want from the average grocery store was on sale at the market, to a much more colorful effect. We ended up eating an empanada, egg roll, and a chocolate and cheese cake.

Fenetre sur Kaboul

While walking to La Banquise the day before, Rajan spotted a Afghan restaurant and immediately googled it, intrigued by the menu. The restaurant was Fenetre sur Kaboul, and it’s where we ate our final dinner in Montreal.

Having never experienced Afghan food before, we left it up to the waiter to pick what he thought we would like the best. We were not disappointed.

Organic bread with sauce
Organic bread with sauce

First was an organic bread with sauce. The waiter warned us when he put it down that it was “quite spicy,” but Rajan and I immediately dug in. One thing that we both took away from the trip is that we were sorely lacking in spice. We immediately when straight for the hot stuff.

Ashak (Afghan ravioli)
Ashak (Afghan ravioli)

Next was ashak, what the waiter described as “Afghan ravioli.” It was a mixture of meat and spices, both stuffed inside and on top of a noodle pocket. It was delicious.

Qubuli palow seasoned lamb
Qubuli palow seasoned lamb

For the entrees, the waiter brought out Qubuli Palow seasoned lamb, a rice and lamb dish, and the Kaboul kebob, a mixture of three different meats (lamb, beef, and chicken) all seasoned differently.

Kaboul Kabob
Kaboul Kabob

Rajan told the waiter about my blog and hinted at wanting the recipe for the kabobs. He responded, “I live with my sister, who is the chef, and she won’t even give ME the recipe. Maybe she will give it to you.” Oh, well! I’ll just have to rely on a dear reader or the Internet!

Le Saint-Bock

Backlit bar at Le Saint-Bock
Backlit bar at Le Saint-Bock

We ended our final night in Montreal with a beer tasting at Le Saint-Bock. Yet another brewery in Montreal with beers you can’t buy anywhere else, we sampled an array of brews, including a red ale, cream ale, brett porter, an imperial stout, a regular porter, a gose, a gose with tequila, and the best milk stout I have tasted in my entire life, the Double Malediction. Not a bad way to end a night!

Montreal was a truly wonderful city to visit. Don’t discredit it as a strange place to go, and definitely spend more than a couple days enjoying the city. We could have easily filled an entire week with things to do (and eat!).

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