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!

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