Archive for April, 2008
green asparagus, white asparagus, favas, wild leeks, chives, cacio di fossa cheese (Tuscan pecorino which has been aged underground).
Fried artichokes in the Jewish style — a traditional recipe of the Jewish community of Rome. Oil frying the prepared artichokes makes them open up like a chrysanthemum. Here some fresh mint aioli has been drizzled on the sides. Artichokes are a bit time-consuming to prepare, but these artichokes are incredibly tasty, addictive (when you eat the last one you’ll wish you prepped more) and absolutely worth the effort.
Smoked cheese is great. Think grated smoked scamorza tossed with pasta. Smoking ricotta and then adding it to a risotto with fresh herbs is also delicious. I had some French feta on hand and smoked some in a corner of the barbecue. You end up with a creamy, smoky, salty cheese that goes well in a salad. It took about 5 minutes. Just make sure the cheese isn’t directly above the flames! Added to this salad are some toasted fennel seeds and black olives. Romaine lettuce makes an appearance in the background.
Shelled soybeans with rice vinegar, sesame oil, soya sauce in equal parts. Thrown into the mix are toasted almonds and sesame seeds. A salad that is hard to stop eating, but that’s good — it’s super healthy.
Panna Cotta, which in Italian literally means ‘cooked cream’ is a fairly easy dessert to make. The trick is getting the right amount of gelatin or agar to set the liquids. Too little and the form won’t hold, too much and the mouthfeel is too rubbery. Here is a recipe that produced the above panna cotta. Most of the vanilla seeds fall to the bottom, which when inverted makes a beautiful topping.
1/3 cup milk
4 sheets gelatin
2 1/2 cups cream
1/3 cup sugar
1 vanilla pod
Bloom the gelatin in the milk until the gelatin softens. I used sheet gelatin and had to cut it with scissors into small pieces to get it to fit in the small amount of milk. Alternatively, bloom sheet gelatin in water and add the softened sheets (squeeze out the water) to the milk. Or use powdered gelatin, or agar for a vegetarian option. Amounts will vary. Meanwhile heat the cream and sugar on medium heat with a vanilla pod cut open and the seeds scraped into the pot. Put the pod in as well. Bring the contents to a simmer, remove the vanilla pod (dry it and save it to put in your sugar bowl — vanilla sugar is the best), then whisk in the milk and gelatin on low heat. Make sure all the gelatin has dissolved. Pour the contents into small ramekins, cool at room temperature, then place in the refigerator. Leave for a few hours to firm up.
When ready to serve, run a small knife around the outside of the panna cotta and dip the ramekin halfway in a bowl of hot water for a few seconds. Invert the ramekin on a plate and your dessert should come out.
Penny Royal is a member of the mint family, and so the purple flowers result in a honey that has a distinct mint flavour. This aromatic honey goes beautifully with the subtle flavour of the panna cotta, but any good honey will do. If not using honey as a garnish you can bump up the amount of sugar in the panna cotta by a couple of tablespoons.
With Spring imminent, albeit with some minor setbacks (cold rain today), I felt like eating a raw salad with lots of flavour. With mandoline slicer at the ready, some fennel, asparagus, cremini mushrooms and parmigiano-reggiano were thinly shaved. The mushroom slices are fragile and were placed on the plate first. Everything else except the navel orange and parm-reg was lightly tossed with a rice wine vinaigrette and finished with some flat-leaf parsley and sea salt. With a tomato crostino and a glass of white wine it made for a refreshing meal.
The crostino started out as half of a whole wheat bread roll, 3-times as thick. It was brushed with evo oil and grilled on a panini press. Pressing the bread gave it a nice crunch but still with some tenderness inside. The edges were rubbed with a garlic clove. A quick salsa fresca of tomato, parsley, evo oil and sea salt was spooned over top.
I sautéed the chicken leg in some duck fat then finished it on the charcoal grill. That way I could get a nice crispy skin and still impart smokiness from the mesquite chips. The salsa tartufata is under the skin. It’s mostly mushroom and olive oil paste with garlic and some black truffle thrown in.
The pearl onions were blanched quickly, refreshed in cold water and peeled, then slow cooked in a balsamic caramel with bay leaf, black peppercorns and sea salt. If you can get some cipolline onions, they are ideal.
Even though tomato season is quite a few months off here (and I await it eagerly), these orange ‘Mandarin’ tomatoes from an Ontario greenhouse were flavourful, especially with some evo oil, vinegar, sea salt and wild oregano.
This little cake has a very similar texture to a donut, so combined with the coffee sauce it gives an impression of what I might eat for breakfast. The top of the cake was brushed with some melted butter and rolled in cinnamon and sugar. On top are white chocolate shavings and some grated raw pistachio nuts.
Making homemade noodles is worth the effort especially when added to a sauce of thick slices of porcini mushroom, onion, garlic and white wine. Ricotta and some of its whey stirred into the pasta gives the dish the essence of creamy ‘comfort food’. That and lots of grated parmigiano-reggiano. Adjust the consistency of the sauce with some pasta water. It’s got to be smooth and creamy. I blended some fresh tarragon with oil and salt, and strained it through a fine sieve. The flavour of the tarragon oil drizzled on the pasta works nicely with the earthy mushrooms, and brightens everything up.
I grabbed whatever was at hand in the refrigerator. This is a tomato, radicchio, carrot, celery, avocado, fennel, black olive, romaine salad with some basil pesto vinaigrette. Spur of the moment is sometimes the best way to go. Perhaps always.
I just received a new charcoal kettle barbecue as an early birthday present, — the temperature outside was above freezing, I took the opportunity to try it out. Some mesquite wood chips were added to the charcoal briquets. Quinoa works well as a substitute for bulgur in the tabbouleh. The tomatoes were some small hydroponics that actually tasted half-decent for this time of year. Way better than the usual cardboard. The broken vinaigrette is balsamic, olive oil, sea salt and fennel seeds. A simple dish that was healthy and tasty. Just what I wanted for dinner.