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

Monday, May 3, 2010

Spanish paella

I was inspired to make this dish after watching an episode of Giada at Home where she made Spanish rice for her husband. It reminded me of one winter when I invited some girlfriends over for a Mediterranean feast because we were all missing the sun, and I made them a variation of this dish.


pinch of saffron
2 chorizo sausage links
1 white onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 hot red chili pepper (optional, finely minced)
1 bottle clam juice (~240 ml)
1/2 cup white wine
1 1/2 cup water
1 green onion, chopped, white and green parts kept separate
one whole red pepper, diced
1 bay leaf
2 cups basmati rice
1/4 cup peas, thawed
1 cup of shrimp

Put the white wine in a glass or measuring cup, add the saffron to it and set aside. In a few minutes the wine will turn pink and fragrant.

Heat some olive oil in a large, high-sided frying pan. Remove the sausage meat from the casings and add to the pan, breaking up the meat into little pieces with a spatula. Cook for a few minutes until browned.

Remove the sausage from the pan and set aside. Drain all but one teaspoon of sausage fat from the pan and heat it up again with a touch of olive oil. Rinse two cups of basmati rice in a mixing bowl and drain off the water (I rinse until the water runs clear, about four times). Set the rice aside.

Add the diced white onion and the bay leaf to the frying pan, cooking a few minutes. Then add the garlic (and the chili pepper if using), and cook for a minute. Add the diced red pepper, the green onion (white part only) and the cooked sausage meat. Stir to combine and cook a couple of minutes until the red pepper is softening.

Add the rice to the hot pan and mix well for a minute to coat the grains with oil. Season with salt and pepper. Add the clam juice and wine and water and bring to a simmer. Turn down the heat, put the lid on the frying pan and cook covered for 30 minutes. Add the peas, the shrimp and the green parts of the green onion. Replace the lid and cook another five minutes or until the shrimp has just cooked.

Discard the bay leaf and serve.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

California wine show

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That's me at the recent California wine show with California winemaker Camille Seghesio. Her family's business, Seghesio Family Vineyards, was one of some 100 California wineries at the event. I went with my partner S and we really enjoyed both the wines and the way the event was set up. You paid only once ($60.00 per person) and once in, you could sample as much wine as you wanted from the 350 on offer.

There was also free food! Cheese and cracker bars were set up in the aisles. It was fun to get some wine and then find a blue, cheddar or brie cheese to complement it. There was also a booth where the hotel chefs was serving roast beef buns and horseradish for hungry wine lovers craving something more substantial.

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The wines were really fantastic. I tried some nice samples at Toasted Head. I like their Chardonnay that you can get at the LCBO, discovered thanks to my friend Maria who keeps serving it at her parties! There were also some great wines at Rodney and Strong and the people at the booth were very happy to talk to us. Our friend Calimocho went to the wine show too, and introduced us to this delicious threesome below at Beringer. From left to right the wine became more expensive and more delicious!

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