Archive for March, 2006

Back to Archives

Nemo’s Dad

Wednesday, March 29th, 2006

MarlinWe cooked Nemo’s Dad for supper.  (What?!  His name is Marlin!)  Actually, we had intended to make tuna but the fishmonger advised us against buying the stuff she had on display as it was “about to get up and go for a walk”.  Presumably, this meant it was kinda old.  Ergo, we bought two slabs of marlin instead and concocted the orange-ginger sauce to go with.  

Marc was again inspired by the vertical presentations of Made To Order on the Food Network and so he built a platform of white rice for the seared fish.  I made up a sesame vinaigrette for the green beans which I will never be able to replicate, which is probably for the best because it was too salty.   It seems like so long ago that we had this, I can’t even remember what we had to drink with it….  oh, wait- it was wine.

My Attitude, Like Swiss Chard, Is Bitter

Wednesday, March 29th, 2006

kaleSo, this is the recipe that called for Swiss chard but for which we had to use kale because of this whole incident.   Anyway, it really doesn’t make that much of a difference as they were equally satisfactory meals.

We have been, admittedly, quite reticent in our blogging of late.  I blame the typhoid.  And the stress associated with the travel preparations, which have most recently involved a lot of website modifications (then fixes, then additions, then more modifications), thousands and thousands of painful needles in our arms, booking accommodations in our first destination and sorting out exactly what we should be doing to get a visa for China and for Russia.  Ultimately, we have made mountains out of mole hills.  I hope we can both learn to chill the fuck out on this journey.

And this segues nicely into a suggestion to check out the RTW Travel section of our site/blog.  I have had to learn how to use HTML, it’s been that crazy.

Unrelated to food at all, I learned a new word today:  invidious.   It means to provoke envy or ill will.  I shall use it in a sentence:  “It would seem that, to some people, my descriptions of our travel plans is rather invidious.”    Those people are anxiously awaiting the day they will win the lottery.

Gerry 0 – Marc 1

Thursday, March 23rd, 2006

Grill CheeseI’m sure my score is higher than that, but I haven’t been keeping score until now. When we first started dating Janet had a drunken craving for grilled cheese in the wee hours of the morning. I dutifully accompanied her down empty streets to Gerry’s Diner, previously known as Husky House. It’s part 50s diner, part roadside truck stop and part smoking room. Their use of processed cheese slices is step up from Janet’s use of Cheez Whiz, but she would likely disagree.

Perhaps it’s not fair to compare cheese-flavour-oil sandwiches to Grilled Cheese with Smoked Turkey and Avocado. Adding Smoked Turkey and Avocado to a Gerry’s sandwich would surely improve it in powers of 10, so I’ll focus on the other ingredients. Gerry’s from-god-knows-where preservative-laden white bread versus my homemade brown bread: point to me. Dijon versus nothing: point to me. No-name processed cheese slices dyed orange versus Kraft mozzarella: point to me, if only barely.

On the side was a simple arugula salad. We were unfortunately out of pine nuts and I forgot to shave parmesan on top, but it was still tasty. Arugula can hold it’s own and the vinaigrette included champagne vinegar, honey and lemon.

Suck it up Swedes

Tuesday, March 21st, 2006

SpaghettiI now understand the cult of the Italian meatball. Our recipe book stated that each Italian family has its own recipe for meatballs. This one must be one of the best. Perhaps, this is partly due to the fact that meat comprises only half of the meatball; ricotta, pine nuts, onion, parmesan, breadcrumbs, basil, parsley and garlic make up the rest. Wow, nutty cheesy goodness. The 80’s are long past and the best balls are no longer in Sweden, they’re in Italy once again.

Jan also makes an excellent tomato sauce. Some people are shy about using too much tomato paste, but we don’t agree. I like a deep red color. The light tomato sauce on the stuffed mushrooms was appropriate, but when it comes to spaghetti I want more flavour.

Of course, one can tire of a good thing. We’ve made this dish three times and it makes at least three meals, so we’ve eaten this ten or eleven times in the last ten months. That’s a lot of meatballs.

Curse of the Salt

Monday, March 20th, 2006

Stuffed MushroomsWe bought a new box of table salt last week even through there are only 55 days before we leave for Taipei and despite the fact that we already have four other kinds of salt. I didn’t believe I could accurately convert table salt measurements to sea salt measurements when following recipes and sea salt tastes much saltier by volume. Ironically, having the correct type of salt didn’t help in this case. The Stuffed Mushrooms recipe called for ¾ teaspoon of salt in the stuffing, ¾ teaspoon of salt in the sauce, more salt in the breadcrumb topping and salt sprinkled on the mushrooms. The result was still tasty, but clearly salty.

The stuffing wasn’t soft or fluffy. It was like eating a bunless pork-portobello burger. I also put all the breadcrumbs into the pork stuffing, leaving little for the topping.  It was suppose to have a thick layer of breadcrumbs on top. Perhaps that would have made it even more like a burger. The tomato sauce was plain, but visually dressed up the dish. The recipe-suggested buttered macaroni was a simple and effective pairing.

I would call this comfort food; the simple elements created a tasty treat, although the starch content is not high enough to support Wikipedia’s theory:

A substantial majority of comfort foods are composed largely of simple or complex carbohydrate, such as sugar, rice, refined wheat, and so on. It has been postulated that such foods induce an opiate-like effect in the brain, which may account for their soothing nature.

Perhaps I could miniaturize them into clever hors d’oeuvres. A few ingredient substitutions could also make them Asian. How does stuffed shiitakes with sesame-ginger pork, panko crust and miso dressing sound?

North Indian Sword Snapper

Friday, March 10th, 2006

North African FishWe winged this one, starting with a recipe for Grilled Swordfish With North African Spice Rub. The swordfish was replaced with red snapper, the caraway replaced with cumin and the grill replaced with a pan. The vegetable couscous originally accompanied Curry Tuna Cakes.

The result was satisfactory. Much of the rub rubbed off. Most of our fish recipes have been fine, but not great. Fish seems to taste extra fishy since I’ve moved to Alberta. Perhaps that’s because I am used to eating halibut and haddock which seem very difficult to find in Calgary. I hope the flavour is not because the fish sucks.

We go to the butcher every week for great meat. Why not go to the fish market for great fish?

O Siren of Stupid

Thursday, March 9th, 2006

The polenta has foiled me for the last time!  The clouds of stupidity have lifted and I can see the light- or rather, see my mistake.  Previously, I had been bringing the water to a boil and then whisking in the polenta where it would promptly clump together and, for all intents and purposes, be done.  I totally should have added the polenta and water to the pot at the same time and THEN brought everything to a boil, then simmered it for many minutes.    Sometimes, I forget how blonde I can be.

Mushrooms, Swiss Chard and Pancetta on PolentaThus, we have Kale and Mushrooms with Creamy Polenta.  (Click on the link!  Do it! Do it!  Our picture looks just like the real one!)  Marc left me alone to make this;  it was foolish of him to trust me, really. The cloud of stupid had only just lifted, vis à vis the polenta.  And this is why I looked at the recipe, read “kale”, and took Swiss chard out of the fridge.   Inexplicable.   We had both.  I know which one is kale.  I am just challenged.

However, I followed the directions, blissfully ignorant of my mistake, and managed to produce quite a good meal.   Wild mushrooms sautéed with garlic, a little browned pancetta and its associated fats, some blanched Swiss chard;  when mixed with a little thyme and lemon and perched on top of a creamy dollop of parmesan-ed polenta, these ingredients made for a very pleasing meal.   And as I’m eating it, I’m thinking “Hey- this makes a pretty decent vegetarian entrée.”  And lo, the clouds descended once more unto the valley of my mind.

An Asia Preview, I Hope

Thursday, March 9th, 2006

GyozaJan was itching to make these gyoza, which we had originally made for a Christmas party. Technically, the recipe is Steamed Pork and Jicama Dumplings. They are better than most gyoza from Japanese restaurants. The jicama provides a crunch to compliment the soft ground pork.

Wonton wrappers are one of the wonders of the grocery store, along with frozen puff pastery and phyllo. These three items are difficult or impossible to make at home and open up all kinds of possibilities in the kitchen. Without them we couldn’t make Jewish Turkey-Wonton Soup, Mushroom and Goat Cheese Strudel or Moroccan-Style Chicken Phyllo Rolls. We haven’t posted any recipes with puff pastry; that’s an idea for next week.

Choosing this recipe for a weeknight was ambitous, but went surprisingly quick. The first time we made these was a bit of an ordeal. This time we didn’t bother to cut the wontons into circle, which had little impact on the end result and was a huge time saver. It was much easier to gather the edges and form the dumpling. Our teamwork finished off the dish in just over an hour.

Thai Red Curry SoupThe simple Thai Red Curry Soup With Chicken and Vegetables was a nice compliment to the dumplings. Jan was able to whip this up while we were finishing off the dumplings. It also tasted fantastic. The flavour to effort ratio was extremely high. Some of the reviews at Epicurious are accurate and entertaining:

  • “Super-Bomb-Incrediblicious. Easy to make, and easier to eat”
  • “This is very very tasty and pretty much idiot-proof.”

Overall, a tasty meal for a Monday night.

Special Coffee

Wednesday, March 8th, 2006

Big Mountain CoffeeThanks to a birthday gift certificate from Elsbeth, we were able to splurge on some fancy, delicious, organic coffee last week.   It’s even “hand roasted in small batches”! 

One pound of gourmet coffee beans:  $18

Counter-top Espresso Machine:  $50

Fresh Whole Milk:  $3

Fucking up the grinding of the beans on purpose so that you are barred from making cappuccinos and have to let your partner make them every morning:  Priceless.

Judgment and Affection

Wednesday, March 8th, 2006

[Please allow a brief rant…]
I read an article in one of the recent issues of Food & Wine magazine about food blogging. Mostly, the article reflected the ubiquitous astonishment at the exponential growth of the medium and the proliferation of advertising associated with it. (In fact, I read in the NY Times that Wal-Mart, in their efforts to improve their cheap-ass, monopolizing, small-town-hurting, economy-twisting, evil image, has arranged for some positive posting from various money-grubbing, sell-out, scummy bloggers.) Though in terms of food blogs specifically, the article described a few qualities that the author found particularly good and/or amusing.

He then proceeded to list a few of the criteria which, in his opinion, make a good blog, like purpose and theme and good writing. Mentally, of course, I’m checking his criteria against our blog and found I could not answer this question (his prime qualifier of a good blog): “The purpose of this blog is ______”. Hunh. I rolled that around in my head for awhile and eventually decided that I would say “recipe evaluation”. Or maybe “recipe review”, but that sounds too much like restaurant review and how many more of those animals does planet earth really need? As for good writing – well, duh. So, it has been determined—we now qualify as “good” based on one paragraph in one article outlining a stranger’s random criteria.

However, he then went on to describe what makes a really bad blog, otherwise known as “the cheese sandwich blog”. Apparently, this phrase was coined when so many people started food blogs that basically said things like “Today, I ate a cheese sandwich.” No substance, no story, no purpose, just random, JackHandy-esque thoughts. Evidently, writing without any of the above is banal, useless and generally an abuse of the blog phenomenon. And I must say, I disagree. Some of my favourite blogs, both food-related and non-food-related are decidedly theme-less and don’t purport to offer any deep wisdom, final conclusion, analysis or opinion; they’re just the humourous writings of a few people who live normal lives but who are able to capture it in such a way as to be interesting. Therefore, I shall not condemn “the cheese sandwich blog”, nor the cheese sandwich itself, for which I harbour much affection.

Lemon Turkey and CauliflowerNow, we may begin. The subjects of this recipe review are Lemon Garlic Turkey and Parmesan Roasted Cauliflower. Let us start with the turkey, as there was a lesson to be learned there. Lesson #1: when making a special request of a surly super-market butcher, be prepared to wait at least 15 minutes and to receive something unexpected. In our case, we decided to pass over the eight-dollar turkey thigh in favour of a special-request-turkey-breast which, after 15 minutes, resulted in a $27 piece of meat. This was supposed to be our thrifty meal for the week and ended up being, by far, the most expensive. But it’s not like we could’ve handed it back over the counter with a “oh, thanks, but no thanks, that’s too expensive.” We had to take it- he was holding a cleaver. I wanted to ditch it in the cheese aisle.

Lesson #2: Even those that hate cauliflower will consent to eating it once in awhile if it is covered in cheese.

We roasted both the turkey breast and the cauliflower. The former received a generous slathering of garlic-lemon butter and frequent basting while the latter roasted away in the corner of the oven with salt, pepper and olive oil; it got the parmesan treatment post-roast. In the end, roasted turkey is always good, and this one was especially so, due, I believe, to the basting, the garlic and the butter. And the reduced au jus! I quite enjoyed the cf and Marc tolerated it—for my sake, I’m sure. Sam did some of his best begging ever.

Lesson #3: A battle of rock-paper-scissors is necessary to determine who gets to take the roast turkey leftovers to work for lunch.