Sunday, October 28, 2007

Birthday Party Spread

Here's Squeaky tucking into the spread that we put out for my birthday party. S and I bought lots of bread and crackers, cheeses and pâtés, and cold cuts and olives. We made insalata caprese and prosciutto-wrapped melon balls. In terms of dips, we offered hummus and baba ganoush, and Squeaky and Calimocho also made their new signature dish, a hot chorizo sausage and cheese dip, which is so amazing that it once revived Squeaky out of sickness.

History Bites: The Purple Carrot

You all might be wondering what's up with the purple carrot illustration under the beFOODled banner. It's not merely a manifestation of the imagination of S, who is the talent behind beFOODled's illustrations.

Purple carrots were the norm when the vegetable was just starting out about 5,000 years ago in Afghanistan, its country of origin. At that time, carrots were not only purple, but also tough and thin, and would not have been appetizing according to our modern palettes!

In Ancient Rome, carrots could be white or purple, too, according to the World Carrot Museum. This website also says that Egyptian temple drawings from 2,000 B.C. depict a purple plant that could have been a carrot according to some Egyptologists.

Carrots didn't become orange until Dutch patriots domesticated them to pay homage to the colours of the royal House of Orange.

No matter their colour, carrots are very nutritious. The purple pigments are called anthocyanins and these are antioxidants that protect the body against cancer and heart disease. And the orange pigment, beta carotene, is a great source of vitamin A.

So if you are lucky to see a purple carrot, you should feel special that you have laid eyes on an ancient vegetable going back to its roots!

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Gastronati Do Japan!

Our latest meal was a Japanese extravaganza! As you can see from the montage, there was no shortage of sushi or other delectable delights. Peanut Butter and Jelly made the sushi - they even made my personal favourites - unagi (BBQ eel) and saba (mackerel). Squeaky and Calimocho brought the pickled carrots, and spicy eggplant and ginger-beef dishes. I made the yakitori skewers that I've blogged about before. This time I used enoki and shiitake mushrooms, leeks, green onion pieces and bacon. And S made gyoza from scratch! Gyoza is ground pork, hakusai (Japanese cabbage), ginger and onion in a light rice wrapper and pan-fried. It's really time-consuming, but for a special occasion it's worth it!

Prep time: 30 to 40 minutes
Cooking time: about 25 minutes per panful

Serves six to eight people as a side or three to four as a main.

For filling:
350 g ground pork
1 onion, medium-sized and diced
a hunk of ginger, minced
8 large leaves of hakusai, thinly sliced
6 mushrooms, minced, preferably shiitake
1 egg
1 Tbsp sugar
a couple of pinches of salt

For wrappers:
gyoza wrappers
bowl of water and
1 human finger!

For dipping sauce:
1 part soy sauce
1 part rice vineagar
a few drops of La-Yu oil (a kind of hot sesame oil with chilis)

Mix all ingredients for the filling together in a big bowl.

You need gyoza wrappers from a Japanese or Korean market. Double Happiness is one of many brands you might find. Gyoza wrappers are small and round, they're about the width of your palm. Lay out 12 wrappers on a cutting board. Scoop a tablespoon or so of the mixture in the centre of each wrapper. The exact amount you find easy to work with may take a bit of trial and error.

This next part takes practice! This is the difficult part. Dip your one human finger in the water and wet a ring around the edge of the wrapper. Timing is important. Do about six wrappers at once. Now dry your finger. Next, fold each wrapper in half, pressing the wet edges together. Lay the closed gyozas aside on a plate with the seams facing up. Finish making your gyoza until you have enough to fill the frying pan you will be using, as shown in this Wikipedia photo.

The hard part is getting the right amount of water on the wrapper. You want the wetness to be just right when you fold it together. If it's too wet, it'll stick to your fingers and fall apart. If it's too dry, it won't stick to anything at all.

Put some vegetable oil in your frying pan and turn up the heat to medium. When the pan is hot, start putting in the gyozas by hand. Drag each gyoza in the oil to coat both sides as you place them. This will keep them from sticking together. Continue until you fill the pan. Then pour about one centimetre of water into the bottom of the pan. Put the lid on and let them cook 15 to 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, take off the lid but keep the heat on. Now you want them to dry out and brown on the bottom, about 5 minutes or until they turn golden brown.

As the first panful is cooking, make the dipping sauce and prep the second batch of gyozas. You can refrigerate the filling for one day and make the rest tomorrow, but don't freeze it.

When the gyozas have browned nicely, let them cool a bit, slide them all out onto a big serving plate, and serve with the dipping sauce.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Le Ragoût de Veau Avec les Oignons de Cipollini

Ma chose préférée de ce ragoût est que c’est un repas d’un seul pot – c’est facile quand c’est le temps pour faire la vaisselle. La deuxième raison que j’aime cette recette est les oignons de cipollini. C’est difficile de manger des choses aussi mignon qu’oignons de cipollini!

Le Ragoût de Veau Avec les Oignons de Cipollini
6 portions

· un sac d’oignons de cipollini (environ 30 - 40)
· huile d’olive, a gout
· viande de veau (vous pouvez substituer le boeuf, l’agneau ou le poulet) 2.5 lbs
· le sel et le poivre
· farine (1/3 tasse)
· gousses d’ail, 3, hachées
· feuilles de thym fraîches (n’importe quelle quantite)
· vin blanc sèche (1 1/4 tasse)
· bouillon de poulet (1 ½ tasses)
· tomates hachées dans leur jus, une boîte d’environ 8 oz
· 14 petites pommes de terre rouges (ou 4 grande couper dans huit pieces)
· 1 grosse carotte, pelée et coupée en tranches épaisses
· persil frais pour la garniture (facultatif)

Dans un pot du bouillon, porter l’eau a ébullition. Cuisiner les oignons cipollinis non-pelees pour 2 minutes. Filtrer et a laisser se refraichir. Les peler et couper les fins (ceci prendra à peu près 5 minutes).

Chauffer l’huile dans le meme pot sur le chaleur moyen-haut. Saupoudrer le veau avec le sel et le poivre, et finalement les donner un manteau de la farine. Ajouter le veau au pot et frire jusqu’ à ce qu’ils soient colorés (à peu près 8 minutes). Réserver.

Ajouter l’ail et le thym au même pot et même sauté pour d’une minute. Ajouter le vin et deglaze, grattant en haut tous les morceaux croustillants. Mijoter par-dessus la chaleur moyen-haut jusqu’ à réduit par la moitié (à peu près 3 minutes). Retourner le veau au pot.

Ajouter le bouillon et les tomates avec le jus. Partiellement couvrir et mijoter sur la chaleur bas-moyen pour 15 minutes. Ajouter les pommes de terre et les carottes et mijote découvert pour à peu près 20 minutes, et remuer de temps en temps. Ajouter les oignons et mijoter découvert pour encore 25 minutes, et remuer encore de temps en temps. Saison le ragoût avec le sel et le poivre et server dans les bols avec les pièces du pain crousillant.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Italian Night With the Gastronati

Now I'm sure you have all been waiting on the edge of your seats for the details of Italian night with the Gastronati. It was delicioso! But first let me update you on the Gastronati itself.

Some of you may have noticed that our food club's name has gone through many incarnations. As our group of budding food aficionados' search for a collective identity, there have been growing pains: The Saturday Night BeFOODies was a bit too beFOODled-centric, the beFOODies a touch too casual, the Royal Society of the Gastronomy was too academic, and the Church of Gastrology much too evocative of the mad Scientologists (that was the point, but if people had taken this reference seriously we would have been mortified). But at long last we have word-smithed our final title - the Gastronati, S's idea! S is also doing up a logo for this very Illuminati-inspired identity - stay tuned for the unveiling in a future post.

Clockwise from top left, we've got the veal stew with cipollini onions that S and I brought; a delicious and elaborate pork braciole from Italian Cooking and Living, which is pork tenderloin rolled around caramelized onions and other goodies, made by Peanut Butter and Jelly; and Italian sausage and mushroom risotto from Simply Recipes, and an insalata Caprese soused with a little splash of balsamic vinegar reduction made by Squeaky and Calimocho, who hosted the evening at their amazing apartment.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Insalata Caprese

Here's a simple, refreshing little appetizer that we made when AP, his mom from Cuba and EB came over for dinner a couple of weeks ago. I was first introduced to this little salad in the summer of 2005 when MV brought it for lunch at work one day. It's really easy to make and I think I will make it again for my birthday party this Friday.

Insalata Caprese

2 tomatoes, sliced
mozzarella or bocconchini cheese ball, sliced
basil leaves
salt to season
your best extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)

Create little stacks of tomato, cheese and basil leaves on a nice cutting board. Drizzle with EVOO and sprinkle with salt.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

It's Apple Season!

It's apple-picking time! I am currently the proud owner of half a bushel of ida reds. They're in a giant plastic bag on my floor. I need to find some apple recipes pronto so I can use them up. We picked way too many for the two of us (they were hard to resist), so I've been handing them out at work and at French class, sharing the decadent bounty wherever I can.

We picked them on Sunday with my mom, at the Spring Meadows orchard in between Kingston and the ferry to Prince Edward County. It was 23 degrees, but felt like 30. Can you believe it? We're in early October! One of the farmers who worked there told us that the russets, northern spy, red delicious and ida reds are all in season right now. We chose to pick ida reds because they keep for a long time compared to the other varieties. And while some apples are better for eating than baking and vice versa, ida reds are a happy medium for both. Their taste is also the perfect compromise of sweetness and tartness. And they are smallish, so the perfect size for tucking into a pocket for a portable snack.

My mom told us something very poetic as we were driving out of the orchard: That the blooms of an apple tree are such a tender froth, and when set against the gnarled trunks they remind her of an old lady dressed up in wedding finery. My mom always has such a way with words!

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