Thursday, April 28, 2005

2 cheeses

both from "Qui Lait Cru" , a shop in Marché Jean Talon in Montreal which is a great homage to cheese. it is spotless and well staffed with informed if slighlty haughty staff.

Ricotta salata
Pasturised cow’s milk

A salted pressed ricotta. Greyish white, looks like white halva. Strong but pleasant acidic/vinegar odour. Texture of feta but not as brittle or crumbly, more rubbery. Sticks a little bit to the teeth. Flavour very similar to feta, but not AS intensly salty and goaty. Not as acidic either.
All in all a very nice cheese. Texture is very nice too, not grainy, but breaks apart easily, crumbles in the mouth.
Various recipes suggest using it in salads, grumbles on top of coked veg or on top of pasta... sexy.

Mimolette 18 mois.
Pasturised cow’s milk

Bright orange colour , looks like a slice of ultra ripe melon, nice crumbly crust. Hard cheese. Smells of butter and caramel, mild parmesan odour. Delicious cheese, reminds me of a Sardo, but not at all sharp. Richness fills the mouth. Well balanced, not salty. Caramel flavours come as a dominant aftertaste. a little musty, crust is nice en bouche. Rich but not oily. An aged Edam, I just finished reading how the cheese is turned every day while being aged and how "the surface of the cheese is brushed to remove cheese mites which feast on its surface." Tasty.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

cabbage rolls

Cabbage rolls
Supermarché Bucharest
(Decarie north of chemin C.S.L.)
$C 2.25

These were pretty good. They are of a generous size, and consist of a meat and rice filling wrapped n savoy cabbage leaves. When you buy them you get an extra tub of cabbage (saurkraut) that appears to have been cooked with the rolls. It is studded with black pepper and chunks of bacon, and is, for lack of a better word, greasy, but in a good way.
2 per person with some of the extra cabbage was enough for dinner, with a bit of salad and some whole wheat bread. Felt like some nouveau riche peasant.
While on the topic, I always liked the iranian cabbage rolls, stuffed with some split peas, nuts, raisins, maybe a bit of lamb. Turkish cabbage dolmas must be great as well. God only knows if there is a south indian version.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

rice cooker pilaf

3 rice cooker cups of patna or jasmin rice
2 big blades mace
2 tsp turmeric
5-6 cloves
2-3 slices ginger
2 dried chilies
1 cup raisins
1 1/2 cups roasted pistachios (salted are fine, just taste before salting)
2 Tbsp oil (peanut or ghee)
1 can coconut milk (I used this terrible malay brand that looked like chakhoa but was shite)
1 can water
enough water to fill up to at least the 4 cup line.

mix all together in the rice cooker. and cook. Add more water if needed. let rest at least 30 minutes on warm before serving.

steamed eggplant

The winner from two nights ago. Eggplants have such a meaty texture, I adore them in almost everything. Not crazy about them raw mind you.

Steamed eggplant with hot bean sauce

3 eppglants, roll cut and steamed until soft.
3 Tbsp peanut oil
5 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly sliced
2-3 Tbsp hot soybean with chili
1 Tbsp Chinese rice wine
squirt of ketchup
¼ cup chicken stock or water
sugar to taste

Start steaming the eggplant.
Heat the oil on medium heat, add the garlic. It should bubble moderately. Cook for 2 minutes until fragrant but not browned. Add the hot soybeans with chili, rice wine, ketchup, stock. Cook on med heat for about ten minutes, then taste for sugar and correct if needed. Pour over the egglant, toss and serve. Good to be made a ahead and served room temperature.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

dinner at O Thym

Maisonneuve and Amherst in Montreal.

Restaurants with blackboards always have a certain charm. I love the slight slide towards the informal. The hint that the menu can change at any time, that the chef allows a bit more spontaneity to his food. God knows, he may never change the blackboard, but the illusion is there.
The room is calm, immensely high ceilings, a banquette, muted pale beige and natural wood with a few tasteful pictures. Hard wood floors. The makeover is nice, this place used to be a café that roasted it’s own, used to be a bit grimy, in a charming way.
Upon seating myself, I’m immediately presented with the ‘water menu’. I’m sorry. I just find this a bit farcical. They have turned a bring your own wine restaurant, and decided to make a profit on water. I mean some of these waters are 9$ a bottle. That’s one mean mark up.
The service is good, professional, friendly. I order a 7 up, because I havn’t had one in so long (years), and because the idea of turning down their over priced water and ordering cheap pop gives me a hard on. But hey, props to them if they can find the suckers to pay for the water. I’d be filling up the bottles in the basement.
L shows up, we havn’t seen each other in about a year, and she’s bringing the wine. Later we’ll settle on a really nice 2003 Saumur; she’s brought a selection, so we can choose.
After humming and hawing, (ok L hummed and hawed, I never know what I want. I know what I don’t want and then let the other person order first, which cuts down my choices even more. Then I make a snap decision when they ask me.) we settle on a trio of smoked Quebec seafood for me, and a leek salad for Mlle. For mains we’re going to have the tuna, and for me the confitd ham hock with black berry sauce. But first the apps..
The leeks are nice and crunchy. We are both a little taken back as usually, for leeks in vinaigrette, you cook the shit out of the leeks to make them soft. These leeks are sliced into ½ inch rounds and placed atop a salad. It works well, with a nice vinaigrette and the toothsome leeks.
The trio of smokes seafood consists of: cold smoked scallops, pretty flavourless with a hint of smoke and a texture that is a little more flaccid than delicate, but in no way offensive. Hot smoked salmon, again, a bit less intense than I would have liked and pretty forgettable. Hot smoked mackrel. Now here we have a winner. I don’t know who is crafting this little lovely but they have a winner. The fish is full flavoured, with a creamy layer of fat. Absolute heaven. Probably better than the smoked herring from Normandy, no just different. Must be the mercury that makes it taste so good.
Mains: the tuna is extremely rare, too rare for L, so she sends back. She says the rice is nice, a medly of wild and white. I get to try the tuna at the end and it’s pretty characterless, texture says it may have been frozen and thawed, and the portion is easily over 220 grams. Nice little sauce.
The veg on both plates are really nice. Some golden beets, a little pattypan, green beans and some sautée red cabbage. They are pretty much perfectly cooked, which is rarer than you would think as veg often get the short end of the stick. Kudos to the veg chef.
The confit’s jarret de porc is beautiful as well. Not too much fat, crispy skin. That will be the skin we eat when they succeed in crossing a pig and a chicken and then roast it. The meat is tender and in no way dry or abused. The sauce tastes like a basic demi-glace based sauce, and there are a few what appear to be previously frozen blackberries strategically placed around the plate. Neither of us can finish our protein, but we both finish our veg. More veg please chef!

We haven’t finished our wine but my glass has disappeared. Oh well. I have a crème brulée a l’erable. The texture is beautiful. The top, covered in what was once maple sugar tastes like the outside of a burnt marshmallow. The maple flavour of this maple brulée is strangely absent.
Sumum: L: “ Well, it wasn’t bad, but I don’t think I’ll be rushing back”. I agree.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

leek soubise

I'm sure that this sauce exists somewhere already, nestled in the pages of some french cooking manual. It is quite intense, and as Sean said could be served as a dip, with chips. Actually what he said was 'this is what guacamole should be'.
Anyhow.. I have no pics.. but picture a creamy jade coloured avocado puree and you get the jist.

2 Tbsp butter
2 med sized leeks, split down the middle, washed, chopped into 1cm thick half moons
(if you have a whole lot of green on your leek, get rid of some)
3 cups homo milk

Melt the butter in a pan big enough to accomodate all the leeks. Add the leeks and cook slowly until they have wilted down a bit. About 10-15 minutes. Add the milk and cook, uncovered and on low heat until the milk has pretty much all evaporated. There can be a bit of milk left but not too much.. this should take about 45 minutes.. I was doing other things.
If you boil too vigorously and the milk separated.. guess what.. it doesn't matter. Just keep reducing until almost all the liquid is gone.
Let the leeks cool, then puree in a blender (you could try a hand blender, might be good enough). Add salt to taste and admit to yourself that this is a pretty damn good puree.

I used this as a sauce for some chicken, just let out with a bit of cream. I will make this again and take pictures, as well as try and find other uses. With pork it would be nice as well.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

dim sum, cookies, and dinner

So, as we do every Sunday, we went for dim sum at the Kam Fung. And I hate to say it, but I think that the food at KF is actually getting better. Today was special as we had our biggest table ever, 9 ppl. Me, Sean, Kylie, Dilliana, Nantha, Stephan, and 3 of Stephan's friends. Sorry girls, I'm horrible with names. Eveything was really good. The fried stuffed taro (wu gok) was especially good; crispy, fresh, the mashed taro being light and the filling as savory as always. Also of note was the bbq pork in rice paper (char siu cheong ?). Ususally the have the beef, and the shrimp, and the doughnut stuffed rice paper.. but rarely the bbq pork. The sweetness of the bbq pork goes nicely with the sweet soy sauce.. but let's face it, I've eaten the cheong fan stuffed with little more than a few coriander leaves and have still ooed and awed over it. Something about the texture of freshly cooked rice noodle just does it for me. It's the same with fresh rice noodles in Bun Bo Hue, they are toothsome in a way that nothing else, except I guess fresh pasta, can be. Doughnut stuffed cheong fan is great too because of the textural diffrence between the fried dough stick an the flacid rice sheet.
Apart fron that the sweet tofu (do fu fa) was great as well. Nice and fresh and hot. This remains an all time favourite.
The deep fried squid was good too, a little bit over fried, but I would rather over fried than have soggy batter. This is the fried squid paradox, getting the batter crispy without overcooking the squid.
So all in all a lovely dim sum, with many people and lots of new friends.

Two days ago I made some really nice cookies. I never, ever, make cookies but I get the feeling that I should as these were so good and were so easy. The basis of this recipe comes from the Dolores Casella book 'A World of Baking', p.146. I give you a modified version.
2 1/2 c sifted flour
2 tsp baking soda
3/4 c butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup dried coconut
1 cup chocolate pistoles cut into bits (or chocolate chips)
1 cup roasted almond butter
2 large eggs
1/4 cup hot water
2 pinches salt
option extra ingredient

Cream the butter and add the sugars. Cream together until light and fluffy and add the eggs. Mix well until fluffy again, then add the nut butter and mix well. Mix the flour, soda, salt and coconut together. Add the flour mixture, alternating with the water. Stir in the choicolate at the end.
Shape into table spoon sized balls on a non stick cookie sheet, flatten with a fork and bake for 10 - 12 minutes at 350. Makes about 4-5 dozen cookies.
optional other ingredients would be nuts, extra nut butter, or 3-4 grams of finely ground high grade pot.
These cookies are quite good. I would even say very good for the cookies of someone who is not really a baker and who never makes cookies. But then again what would I know, as I never make cookies.

Dinner tonight was a quick noodle stir fry. I've been wanting to make more recipes from the Fuschia Dunlop book, and was thinking of the Yu Hsing chicken (I don't know why.. probably because it's one of the only recipes I remembered.. and for no apparent reason). SO I bought some chicken breast, and some ginger, and spaghetti (?), and nappa cabbage (?).. and decided to make something entirely diffrent.
2 chicken breasts thinly sliced
1 T chinese rice wine
2 tsp cornstarch
1/2 T honey
1 T soy sauce
1/2 to 3/4 a pkg of spaghetti cooked al dente, rinsed under cold water an drained well.
5-6 leaves nappa cappage. hard part sliced thinly, leaves cut roughly
1 med onion sliced
6 cloves garlic chopped finely
3 coins ginger chopped finely
2 T tian jin preserved veg chopped finely
extra soy, black or balsamic viengar

mix the chook breast with the next 3 ingredients and let sit 30 mins or so. heat some oil and fry 1/3 of the garlic/ginger and all of the tianjin for a few seconds then add the chicken and cook, until it is just cooked.. do not cook for 10 minutes.. cook for more like 2-3 minutes max. remove.
heat pan, add some oil and fry another 3rd of the ginger/garlic and then add the onion and the hard part of the nappa cabbage. stir fry and season with a bit of salt and sugar as it is cooking. Put it with the chicken.
Heat more oil and add the final 3rd of the gg. Add the noodles and toss well. seson with soy. Add back the chook and cabbage. toss with some hot sauce and serve.
If I had a wok I could do this in 4 minutes tops... but domestic woks do not cut it for noodles.
BTW the hot sauce I used above was:
heat 3 T oil, add 1 tsp shrimp paste and fry for 30 secs, add 4 cloves garlic roughly chopped, add some Bengali scotch bonnet sauce, and cook out a bit. Add some honey and a few T ketchup and som water and cook out for 5 minutes until it reaches the desired consistency.

ooooo this tires me out all this writing. An BTW, if you ever womder about the 1/4 cup of water in the cookie recipe, and why so many cookie recipe have these little bits of hot water hanging around, see Matt Thorne's article "The Toll House Cookie" about Ruth Graves Wakefield.. fascinating stuff.

patio dining

summer is finally here and I had my first outdoor meal yeaterday. Eating outside in the Gay Village is so much fun. The food is usually crap, and you get to people watch... we had a great time when this siliconed up, fake baked stripper showed up dressed in pants slit up to the thigh and a silverey sequin bra that barely contained her bust.
We were on the terrace on the corner of Alexandre de Seve and Sainte Catherine, a sprawling block long complex comprising multiple restaurants, a multi level terrace, multiple bars, a hotel and a sauna (of course). All they need is a strip joint. Apparently thses people alsop own the "Drugstore" complex down the street... a smaller scale operation with lots of bars, a great roof top patio and lots of lesbians.
Kylie, a budding virgin when it comes to the Quebec fast food milieu, was coerced into having the Galvaude.. fries+cheese curds+chicken+peas+ gravy.... yummm. I would digress here into the whole subculture of Poutine derived dishes (poutine italienne, smoked meat poutine etc...) The only one worth mentioning is probably the foie gras poutine at the Pied de Cochon, which I have yet to try, but which by the sounds of things is off the scale.
I had the club sandwich.. a gargantuan platter.. but you can't fuck up a club sandwich, and even if you do, enough mayonnaise can hide pretty much anything. Here, they bring the squeeze bottle of mayo to your table.
Sean went for the Rolls Royce burger.. some tarted up thing or other, cheese, bacon.. other stuff.
So we all stuffed ourselves, got a little tipsy on the sangria, caught some of the dissapearing sun.. and anticipated patio action to come.