Friday, November 5, 2010

Oktoberfest at the Beau's Brewery

Jelly, S and I went to the Beau's Oktoberfest again this fall to eat and drink wonderful things in a farmer's field. This is an annual event hosted by the Beau's Brewery just outside of Ottawa, Ont. It always brings together several great Ottawa-area restaurants that sell rib-hugging fall foods, the perfect accompaniments to the brewery's fantastic beers.

This year the food was really good. Although I was disappointed that some of last year's dishes weren't making a second appearance (like the Urban Pear's mind-blowing cassoulet — take note for next year guys!), I did make some other great finds like this sandwich shown above.

It's some sort of amazing rueben with house-smoked beef, sauerkraut and two kinds of mustard, one of which was made with Beau’s beer. It was being sold by the Branch restaurant in the nearby town of Kemptville, Ont. This restaurant was also at the Wine and Food Show this year selling something similarly delicious.

Our next stop was to get some freshly shucked oysters by Whalesbone restaurant staff. I can't get enough of these. Somehow they taste even better when eaten in the open air over an impromptu table fashioned from a bale of hay!

Ah, the Whalesbone oyster shucker. One of my favourite people. S and I just discovered that you can buy fresh oysters for a buck each at the Pelican Grill. Now we're in the delicious habit of getting a dozen for a mini-splurge on a Saturday night when we're shopping in the area :)

We also visited the Beau's brewery where the woman above was giving out free samples. Beau's brewed a couple of special beers for the occasion and I really liked one of them, the Happy Pils pilsener.

By the entrance, there was a huge mural clearly inspired by Where's Waldo and that depicted hundreds of Beau's revelers. We looked for our missing friends who couldn't make it with us that day. Peanut Butter was there in spirit!

And so were Squeaky and Calimocho :)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

White bean soup

This white bean soup is easy to make, delicious to eat and very pretty to look at! It's my new favourite thing for lunch on the weekend. White beans are tasting so good right now. They have a mild, earthy flavour that's a great comfort on a cool fall day.

I adapted this recipe from Laura Calder's chickpea soup on her show French Food at Home. She uses presoaked chickpeas, but I've made this with all kinds of canned white beans, including navy, white kidney and cannelini beans. And instead of just thyme sprigs, I've also been adding fresh oregano and sage because we grew these herbs on our balcony this year.

White bean soup
serves two

1 can of white beans: navy, white kidney or cannelini
one onion, diced
bay leaf
a handful of fresh herbs (sage, oregano or thyme)
chicken stock to cover
pinch of cumin
sprinkle of paprika
drizzle of olive oil
salt and pepper

Rinse the beans well in a colander and put them in a small soup pot with the diced onion, bay leaf and fresh herbs. Pour over enough chicken stock to cover the ingredients. Turn up the heat and let simmer for 20 minutes, or until the herbs have turned olive green.

Take the pot off the heat and discard the herbs and bay leaf. Carefully blend the soup with an immersion blender. (I usually do this in the sink in case it splatters.) Add a pinch of cumin to the soup and warm it up on the stovetop again.

Ladle the soup into bowls and season with salt and pepper. Add a sprinkling of paprika on top and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve with baguette.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Beef stew

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Tis the season for comfort food! I've been making a lot of this beef stew lately. It's enriched with red wine and beef broth, and lots of aromatics give it depth of flavour.

My beef stew obsession, although always lurking in the background, was recently reawakened following a trip to Calgary where S's dad made us a to-die-for oxtail stew that just rocked my world. (His guest post on it is coming soon.) When we returned home, I was inspired to make a signature stew of my own. I've tried it a few times now, and I think I've finally found my stewing groove in this recipe that follows.

Beef stew
Serves four to six

1.5 kg stewing beef, cut into large cubes
1/2 cup flour for dredging
2 carrots, finely diced
2 carrots, cut into large cubes (~3 cm wide)
2 celery ribs, finely diced
2 small onions, finely diced
2 sweet potatoes, cut into large cubes (~3 cm wide)
4 cloves of garlic, finely diced
4 bay leaves
1 Tbsp herbes de Provence
a pinch of hot pepper flakes
1 cup red wine
2 Tbsp tomato paste
3 cups beef stock
1 parmesan rind
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
chopped parsley for garnish
salt and pepper

Dredge the meat cubes in the flour and dust off. Heat some olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan on medium to high heat. Add the meat cubes and brown on each side, seasoning with salt and pepper and turning the heat down as necessary. You want to caramelize the surface, not cook them through. Take the meat out of the pan and set aside. You will now have a deliciously dirty pan with lots of black bits on the bottom (and black bits = flavour!)

Add more oil to that pan, and toss in the finely diced carrots, onions, celery and garlic. Soften while stirring for about five minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Pour in the red wine and lift those brown bits off the bottom of the pan with a spatula. Add the tomato paste, bay leaves, hot pepper flakes and herbes de Provence.

Return the meat back to the pan and add just enough beef stock to almost cover. Add in the parmesan rind, which will dissolve to impart a salty hit and deepen the flavour. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat to low and simmer for about an hour.

After an hour, add the large cubes of potatoes and carrots and more beef stock or water if necessary. Cover and cook for another half hour to an hour on low heat until tender.

Just before you are about to serve, take out the remains of the parmesan rind and stir in the balsamic vinegar. It lifts off any bits stuck to the bottom of the pan again and brightens the flavour of the stewing juices. Plate the stew into bowls, garnish with chopped parsley and serve with baguette.

Monday, October 11, 2010

À La Maison Campbell in Quebec's Eastern Townships

S and I visited Quebec's Eastern Townships this summer and stayed at À La Maison Campbell, a charming bed-and-breakfast that was highly recommended by two of our friends who love good food.

As you can see from the photos, the breakfasts at Maison Campbell are delicate works of art — ideal subjects for a food blogger's camera — and mouthwateringly delicious.

The B&B is run by Jean and Danielle Goyer, who are both incredibly warm and welcoming. Danielle is an artist and a self-taught cook. She prepares the breakfasts every morning and Jean serves them in their sunny dining room.

I don't know how they serve so many people in style every morning, but I'm glad they do because all four courses are wonderful!

The breakfast starts with a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice that contains a secret ingredient to make it creamy and fizzy. This is followed by a yogurt cup that is always different from day to day — sometimes with meringue, other times with berry crisp — and showered with lots of pretty petals and leaves from the edible flowers in their garden.

Then you are offered croissants with butter and jam, and a final pièce de résistance, le plat principal du jour. While we were here, this varied from a goat cheese omelette (my favourite), crepes or scrambled eggs, eggs florentine or benedict, and French toast with hazelnut chocolate spread and almond paste.

It was a perfect way to start the day. I really recommend this B and B if you are ever in the Eastern Townships because you will be treated so well and never be hungry! Danielle and Jean even offer their guests a complimentary glass of Port each night, and access to their long, rambling garden, which has a little vineyard and lots and lots of reading nooks. We had a wonderful time and hope to return someday soon :)

À La Maison Campbell
68, rue Bellevue
Magog, QC

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Saturday, August 28, 2010

La Tomatina: best food fight ever

I have always regretted missing Woodstock (wasn't even a twinkle in someone's eye then), but I just found out that Spain has something going on every summer that's even better! La Tomatina, a huge squishy red tomato food fight that draws tens of thousands of tourists every last Wednesday in August.

This photo was taken last Wednesday by flickr member flydime (and no, not of me). Check out his La Tomatina set here. I can't imagine how his camera survived to tell the story!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Food blogger party at Marysol's

Colourful little mushroom caps by Rachelle Eats Food.

S and I went to a wonderful potluck last weekend hosted by Marysol of She Eats Bears. I was so excited to meet her and the other Ottawa food bloggers who were coming. Foodie Prints was there, and also Rachelle Eats Food, Whisk: A Food Blog and If Music be the Food of Love, Play On. They are all great people and they all came bearing delicious gifts! As you will see from the photos below, extreme care was taken over artistic presentation as is the way of the food blogger. I also loved the cute labels Marysol used to identify everything. Needless to say, there were many photo shoots before we all sat down to eat. Thanks Marysol for a great party! I had so much fun :)

Delicious dainties by If Music be the Food of Love, Play On. Those are deconstructed caesar bites in the foreground.

Yummy shrimp and mango spoons. I forget who made them but they were so good!

Coconut curry shrimp inspired by Shari at Whisk.

Shari at Whisk brought this showstopping display of chicken and mango bites skewered in melon halves.

Marysol made this delicious dip and pita inspired by a recipe from Foodie Prints. I loved this one!

A lemon cake by Marysol. I liked the pretty sprinkling of sugar on top.

A dulce de leche cake by Foodie Prints.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Spaghetti and meatballs, Japanese style

Put your hand up if you love meatballs! This is spaghetti and meatballs, Japanese style, a great recipe adapted from one of my favourite cookbooks, Jane Lawson's Yoshoku. I use my usual spaghetti and meatball recipe and add the Japanese ingredients that she recommends: sake, dashi, mirin, soy sauce and panko (crunchy Japanese breadcrumbs). I would recommend chicken instead of pork or beef for the meat in the meatballs; the comparatively mild flavour of chicken is a nice canvas for showing off all of the great Japanese flavours.

Chicken meatballs in a gingery tomato sauce
serves two with leftovers


1 package (~500 g) ground chicken
1 onion, finely diced
1 garlic clove, finely minced
1 egg
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 cup panko breadcrumbs (or whatever kind you have on hand)
salt and pepper
2 Tbsp sake
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1-inch piece of ginger, grated (optional)
A handful of finely chopped fresh parsley (optional)
oil for frying

Tomato sauce

1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely minced
a sprinkling of red pepper flakes
1 tsp dried thyme
1- or 2-inch piece of ginger, grated
1/4 cup mirin (a sweet Japanese cooking wine)
1 14 oz. can of chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato paste
1/4 tsp dashi granules
1 1/2 tsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp sugar
2 green onions, finely sliced for garnish

2 handfuls of Japanese udon or soba noodles, each handful about the diameter of a quarter each, freshly cooked

To make the meatballs, put all of the meatball ingredients in large mixing bowl, and mix together with clean hands to combine. Cover the bowl with saran wrap and put it the bowl in the fridge until ready to cook.

To make the sauce, heat some oil in the bottom of a large, high-sided saucepan. Fry the onion for five minutes until softened and glassy, then add the garlic, red pepper flakes, thyme and ginger, and saute for one minute but do not let the garlic burn.

Add the tomato paste, chopped tomatoes, mirin, dashi, soy sauce and sugar, and half a cup of cold water. Increase the heat and let come to a boil. Simmer for half an hour or until reduced and slightly thickened.

While the sauce is thickening, put on the water for the udon noodles. Form the meatball mixture into small tablespoon-sized meatballs and brown them in batches in a thin layer of hot oil in a frying pan, about five minutes per batch. Turn the meatballs two or three times until they are nicely browned.

Add the meatballs to the simmering sauce and let the two cook together a few minutes while you cook and drain the udon noodles.

Serve the meatballs and sauce on top of the noodles and garnish with finely chopped green onions.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Roasted broccoli and cauliflower two ways

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I have discovered two great ways to eat broccoli and cauliflower: Ina Garten's (Barefoot Contessa) delicious parmesan-roasted broccoli tray bake and a yummy, smoky soup inspired by the same recipe.

The tray bake made a tasty side to the sweet mahogany salmon I cooked the other night. I followed Ina Garten's recipe but with a few variations. I roasted a combination of broccoli and cauliflower florets instead of just broccoli and cooked them at 400 F for 25 minutes instead of 425 F. I also used toasted almonds instead of pine nuts.

To make the soup, I followed the first half of Ina's recipe to roast the vegetables, but then diverged into some happy experimentation :)

Roasted broccoli and cauliflower soup

half a head of cauliflower, cut into large florets
one head of broccoli, cut into large florets
one clove of garlic, cut into slivers
olive oil, generous splash
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
one onion, finely chopped
bay leaf
fresh herb sprigs - I used oregano, thyme and sage
parmesan rind
chicken stock to cover (about 2 1/2 cups)

Place the cauliflower, broccoli and garlic slivers on a baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle over some olive oil and toss to coat. Bake in a 400 F oven for 25 minutes.

Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a large high-sided saucepan. Add the chopped onion and celery and saute until softened. Add the aromatics: a few bay leaves, sprigs of fresh herbs and a parmesan rind, which will enrich the soup with a nice salty, cheesy flavour as it dissolves. Stir to coat the aromatics.

Add the roasted vegetables and garlic to the saucepan. Add enough chicken stock to just cover the vegetables in the saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes. Retrieve the bay leaves, thyme stems and the parmesan rind and discard them. Blend the soup in the saucepan with an immersion blender until it reaches your favourite texture. Season and serve in bowls garnished with a drizzle of olive oil.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Sweet mahogany salmon

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I'm sure that like me, you've probably heard at one time or another that salmon from the Pacific Ocean is the best kind to eat — most Pacific salmon are free and wild-caught, whereas most Atlantic salmon are farmed and subjected to more environmental pressures as a result. Unfortunately, wild Pacific salmon are very hard to find and when you do, they are expensive and only available for a short time.

So buying frozen Pacific salmon is one way to circumvent the expense and restricted seasonality of buying fresh. I found a package of four salmon portions at the grocery store and have tried a couple of different ways of cooking them. This method is by far the best so far. Even though the texture of frozen salmons tends toward the dry side, this marinade keeps them nice and moist.

Sweet mahogany salmon

2 fillets of frozen wild Pacific salmon
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 Tbsp finely grated ginger and its juice
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place the two salmon portions on a baking sheet. In a bowl, combine the soy sauce, ginger, mustard, honey and olive oil, and mix together with a fork or a whisk to emulsify. Brush the marinade over the salmon.

Bake for 15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish. The rule of thumb according to the Canadian government when you are cooking fish in the oven is 10 minutes per inch of thickness, plus another five minutes added to the total cooking time if the fish is wrapped in foil or cooked in a sauce, as this one is.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Balcony picnic

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I am loving this Canadian summer! It has been as a summer should be — long and hot, like when I was a kid. We've enjoyed many picnics at Meech Lake, Mooney's Bay and on the balcony on weekends. This is a photo of one of our recent balcony picnics: extra-spicy Clamato juice, cheeses, bristling sardines, baguette, canned cream of mushroom soup, and cherries and nectarines.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Sweet Hawaiian pineapple

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No tribute to Hawaiian food is complete without mention of its exceptionally juicy pineapples! The Dole plantation is located in Oahu and although we didn't have time to visit, we ate fresh pineapple every day in several sweet incarnations.

I will never forget how good it tasted just fresh and plain after climbing Diamond Head, the crater that overlooks Waikiki and gives spectacular views of the ocean. The flavour was all the more sweet and concentrated after that hot dry hike and a daunting 99-step stone staircase. It was a sunny day and we ate it overlooking a sparkling, emerald-blue ocean.

We also had lovely pineapple creme brulee at the Hula Grill Waikiki (pictured above, bottom left). There were pineapple chunks suspended in the custard, and the whole dessert was served in a bowl carved out of pineapple and decorated with fresh island flowers.

We've only been back a few short weeks, but already I want to return, if for nothing else to eat the delicious seafood again, and savour another sweet burst of fresh pineapple!

Hula Grill Waikiki
Oceanfront at the Outrigger Waikiki, Oahu
2335 Kalakaua Ave., Suite 203
Honolulu, HI

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Thursday, August 5, 2010

Ootoro, the tenderest of sushis

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If you love tender meats like pork belly, foie gras or duck confit, then you will also fall in love with ootoro, the most melting cut of sushi there is. We ate it for the first time in Hawaii at Sansei restaurant.

Ootoro means "extreme toro" according to S's dad who is Japanese, and from what I can tell this name is a reference to its extreme tenderness. The further down the body of a fish you go, the tenderer and more expensive the cut. Ootoro is taken from the underside of the tuna's belly where there is so much marbling of fat that it literally melts in your mouth.

You can see from the picture that ootoro is very pink, much more so than maguro, a more common cut of tuna found on sushi menus everywhere. Again this is related to the fat content. Maguro is much redder because it is from a much leaner body part, the side of the tuna.

At $17 for a two-piece portion, eating ootoro was a costly education ... but it was a delicious one, too, and so worth it if you love sushi!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Miso butterfish at Sansei, a Japanese restaurant in Hawaii

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There is so much local seafood in Hawaii, I really wanted to find a wonderful Japanese restaurant, as no one does fish like they do! After much searching in my guidebook, I found one called Sansei Seafood Restaurant and Sushi Bar, and we enjoyed it so much that we ate there twice in one week. Both times we got a table on the balcony, which overlooked the ocean, and ordered the Matsuhisa-style miso butterfish, a very tender fish marinated and seared in sake and sweet miso. It was my favourite dish at the restaurant and I would love to try to recreate it. It's the signature dish of Nobu Matsuhisa, a celebrity chef who is in business with Robert De Niro, although the chef and owner of Sansei is D.K. Kodama, who owns several restaurants in Hawaii.

We also ordered the Japanese calamari salad (below), a crispy wonton basket filled with fried calamari that is served over a bed of greens from Nalo, a local lettuce and salad-greens farm in Oahu. And we also tried something else, something very special that rivaled the tastiness of the butterfish and as such, deserves its own blog post, coming soon ...

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Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar
Waikiki Beach Marriot Resort and Spa
2552 Kalakaua Avenue
Honolulu, Hawaii

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Friday, July 30, 2010

Baby bananas in Hawaii

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S and I recently returned from a dreamy vacation in Hawaii. We rented an apartment with a kitchenette so we could save money by cooking at home once in a while. We found a grocery store called the Food Pantry and I have to tell you about the bananas I found there. They gave me a bit of a cute attack because they are so stubby and fat compared to the garden variety I'm used to buying in Canada. In Hawaii, these little ones are called apple bananas, elsewhere they are known as bananitos. An adorable name for an adorable fruit, and the perfect amount of banana to top my cereal every morning :)

Food Pantry
2370 Kuhio Avenue
Honolulu, Hawaii (in Waikiki area)

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Friday, July 16, 2010

Manuel Latruwe, a bakery in Calgary

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When we were in Calgary, S, his dad and I bought a delicious baguette for crab melts and also treated ourselves to some mini pastry cakes at a bakery called Manuel Latruwe. I love its French name. S speaks it very well and always sounds like he has a mouthful of ripe plums when he says the Lattruooe part :) It is indeed a very desirable place to visit. Our favourite, pictured above, is called Temptation. I’m not sure what was in it, but it was light and moussey and delicious.

Exotic, a mango-flavoured pastry cake at Manuel Latruwe.

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Manuel Latruwe
1333 - First Street SE
Calgary, Alta.
403. 261.1092

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Monday, July 12, 2010

Orzo with fennel and pancetta

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I was recently introduced to orzo, a wee member of the pasta family. Anything delicious wins me over, but anything delicious and cute has a definite monopoly. This is a nice lunch to take to work :)

Orzo with fennel and pancetta
Serves two

1 cup orzo
¼ cup cubed pancetta or bacon
2 finely minced shallots
½ cup thawed frozen peas
1/2 cup finely chopped fennel bulb
1 cup chicken broth (or a combo of broth and water)
2 Tbsp white wine
favourite fresh herb for garnish, torn
salt and pepper

Cook the orzo according to the directions on the package. Reserve half a cup of pasta water in case you need to add some liquid to the final dish.

Cube the pancetta and fry it with minced shallots in olive oil in a frying pan on medium high heat for five minutes or so. Then add the thawed peas and finely chopped fennel, stirring to coat them in the oil. Add chicken broth or water and then stir occasionally, uncovered, until the liquid had reduced by half. Add the wine to deglaze the bottom bits, and cooked it for a minute. Finally, add the precooked orzo and season with salt and pepper. Garnish with your favourite chopped fresh herb.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

William J. Walter Saucissier in Gatineau

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Squeaky, S and I were so excited when this beautiful sight above greeted us through the door of William J. Walter. If you love sausages as we do, it's like finding a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow!

There were at least 100 different kinds of sausage to choose from. I found the usual favourites like chorizo, Oktoberfest and Italian, but they also had some really creative flavour combinations. We bought duck and herbes de Provence sausages that were perfect in my favourite pasta dish, rotini with sausage and wild mushrooms. We also bought some mango and goat's cheese sausages that I am contemplating serving in a bun with a little homemade mango chutney. There are many more delicious varieties on my list for our next visit: white wine and shallot, broccoli cheddar and cheese and mushroom, yum.

They have a list of all their sausages if you ask for it. And many are allergy friendly, such as gluten-free, lactose-free, without pork or without garlic. This is also where we got that lovely duck rillette from my last post.

William J. Walter Saucissier
129, rue St-Joseph
Gatineau (Hull area), Que.

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Monday, July 5, 2010

Duck rillette with foie gras

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I had the day off today and made a charcuterie lunch for S and myself. We ate a duck rillette with foie gras that we bought on the weekend from a great little sausage shop in Hull-Gatineau.

It was delicious on baguette. It was made by Aux trois p'tits cochons verts, a charcuterie-maker just north of Montreal.

I think I like rillettes better than pâtés. They have a coarser texture and you can see that the meat has been finely shredded as opposed to pureed into a paste. Rillette meats are slow-cooked until tender, shredded with two forks in the manner of pulled pork, and then mixed with warm fats until spreadable. They are meant to be served at room temperature with breads.

Foie gras was added to this one, which made it sinfully rich. To assuage my feelings of guilt about having a full-out fat fest, I also laid out some cherries, cherry tomatoes and hummus on the table. But who's kidding who, the rillette stole the show ;)

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Thursday, July 1, 2010

Yamakake soba

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Yamakake soba literally translates to Japanese-mountain-potato-covered soba. I had this for the first time in Calgary last month with S and his Dad, who says it's a very authentic Japanese dish. He made it for lunch one day and we helped him.

It was quite an experience eating this. Japanese food is so often an adventure in textures. The white sauce you see in the photo is mostly grated nagaimo, also known as Japanese mountain yam, a white root vegetable. It looks like a giant parsnip or daikon, but when you grate it, it gets all gluey and slimy. You eat it raw, seasoned with a little marinade, but that's it. It's an acquired taste and I had a bit of trouble finishing my bowl. There's also a hot version that I will ask S's dad to make me the next time we are in Calgary.

Here's to Japanese food adventures!

Yamakake soba (Japanese-mountain-yam-covered soba)

one whole nagaimo or Japanese mountain yam (about nine inches long)
green onions, finely sliced for garnish
nori, one large sheet finely torn for garnish
dash of soy sauce
dash of ponzu
1 egg yolk
2 portions soba or buckwheat noodle

Wash the nagaimo and peel it with a vegetable peeler until all of the brown spots underneath the skin have completely disappeared.

Grate the nagaimo on your finest grater over a mixing bowl. We used a ginger grater like this one. Be prepared to be hands deep in slime!

To the grated nagaimo, add the egg yolk, soy sauce and ponzu, but not too much. You still want the mixture to stay predominantly white. Garnish with the green onion and nori and serve.

If you decide to try and eat this with chopsticks as I did, be prepared for a long lunch as the noodles keep sliding all over the place. This was a fun lunch :)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Homemade crab melts

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S's dad showed us how to make this beautiful crab melt on baguette.

To prepare the building blocks, we sauteed some spinach, sliced onions and minced garlic in a frying pan on the stovetop, and added a pinch of dried crab stock. We cut the baguette into wide slices and cut the slices in half for open-faced sandwiches. We took the meat from three big frozen crab legs and defrosted it in the microwave. Lastly, we thickly sliced some Swiss cheese.

To build the sandwich, we first added a layer of bruschetta topping (garlic and tomato mixture) from a jar. Then we added a layer of spinach mixture, then the crab meat and lastly the cheese.

We toasted the sandwiches in a 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes, or until the cheese was bubbly and melted. It was so good and I loved the taste of the real crab we used. The crab was from T&T, and we have one of those in Ottawa now too!

Step one: Add bruschetta topping and spinach mixture.

Step two: Add the crab meat.

Step three: Top with a big thick slice of Swiss cheese before popping in the oven.

Friday, June 18, 2010

How to store clams in a clam bath

Hello everyone, I'm sorry that I have not blogged very much of late. S and I have been travelling and I haven't been near a computer that much. I am going to make it up to you with lots of posts :)

We are in Calgary right now and I learned something very interesting today about how to store live clams. S's dad, who is quite an accomplished cook, has taught us a simple way to keep live clams happy and healthy for many days at a time. We will no longer worry about cooking clams the same day we buy them.

You make a salt solution that approximates the salinity of the ocean at 3.2 per cent and keep the clams in it at room temperature. We put five teaspoons (32 g) of salt in 1 litre of water, mixed it up really well and then put that in a big plastic bowl on the kitchen counter. Then we took our clams (just bought that afternoon from T&T), rinsed them in the sink with fresh water, and put them into the salt water. This amount just covered our batch of 45 or so clams.

Then S's dad pulled out a very rusty vegetable peeler and stuck it in with the clams. The clams don't like the iron and open up and squirt out their sand in protest! So stick something rusty in there about three hours before you want to cook your clams so that they expel their sand.

Our clams opened up right away and stuck out their snouts. Then there was a symphony of squirting clams! One got a good trajectory going and squirted the kitchen window and its curtain. We had to cover the bowl with cellophane to keep things under control.

If you intend to keep your clams overnight, just remember to put the rusty implement in a few hours before you eat the clams. You don't want your clams unhappy for longer than they need to be! Love your seafood and it will love you back in the dish that you create with it. Tonight we are making linguine with clams for S's Dad, who loves seafood.

Have a nice dinner tonight everyone :)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Three reasons to love fiddleheads!

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Update: If you make this recipe you should cook fiddleheads for longer than I did, because it seems they can make you sick if they aren't well-cooked. Health Canada recommends that "fresh fiddleheads be cooked in boiling water for 15 minutes or steamed for 10 to 12 minutes until tender. Water used for boiling or steaming should be discarded as it may contain the toxin. Fiddleheads should also be boiled or steamed prior to sautéing, frying or baking."

This spring for the first time in my life, I cooked fiddleheads and I really enjoyed them. First of all, I just love saying their name. Also, I appreciate their taste, which is like a meeting of asparagus and crunchy green bean. And as if that's not enough, apparently they are super nutritious: They have twice as many antioxidants as blueberries and are packed with omega-3 fatty acids, the "good fat" normally found in fish.

I needed to wash them in four changes of water before all of their crusty brown bits came off. (I think it adds to their charm that they are a dirty little vegetable that makes you work hard to eat them.)

I blanched them for about four minutes in boiling water, and then rinsed them in some cold water to stop the cooking process. Then I heated some oil in a frying pan and sauteed some chopped shallot, garlic, an anchovy fillet, a pinch of dried red chili, some diced sun-dried tomatoes, and chopped fresh thyme and parsley. I added the fiddleheads and sauteed them in this mixture for about three minutes.

They were delicious as a vegetable side to my chicken and potato tray-bake. I will definately make them again, despite all of the work.

Fiddleheads, welcome to my world :)

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Uncorked! A bottle of El Burro

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My interest in Spanish reds is still going strong and I have to tell you about my newest friend: El Burro Kickass Garnacha. I admit we were first drawn together because of the donkey on the bottle — who can resist him? — but what's on the inside is also really nice!

I like full-bodied reds and this is a nice example. It's made from a red wine grape known to the Spanish as Garnacha (and Grenache to the French). This grape is the predominant variety in some wonderful wines from Cote-du-Rhône region in Provence, including Châteauneuf-du-Pape, the table wine of the popes in Avignon!

I find El Burro to be very easy to drink. It's not too acidic, nor too tannic. It's very well balanced and nice with dinner, or a snack of cheese and crackers. And last but not least, it's a very nice price at $12.95. Try it and let me know what you think!

El Burro Kickass Garnacha
$12.95 at the LCBO

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