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Posts Tagged ‘balsamic’

ScallopKingMushroomHD_FIRST

Spring has finally sprung in Toronto and our weather is finally behaving as it should; the greenery is no longer terrified to show itself and many have already begun their journey into Summer 2015 — the saucer magnolias are spectacular in the hood. The Japanese Cherry blossoms in High Park are still tucked away but a few days of warmth and sunshine should remedy that and they’ll be in full bloom in no time. We had our first drinks on the back patio on Friday and we celebrated with some tasty bites.

Now about these bites, I came upon this discovery quite by accident…I was exploring a recipe for bacon-wrapped mushrooms I saw on Greg’s lovely blog (BTW, exceptional recipe) using King mushrooms and as I was cutting into them, I couldn’t help but think they looked a lot like scallops. So a few days later, I dug out an old favourite recipe I posted in 2008, Grilled Scallop Bruschetta with Avocado Paste — The King mushrooms made a wonderful substitution for the scallops but sadly I didn’t have any of our favourite avocado paste (I freeze it in ice cube trays and then put them into plastic baggies for quick hors d’œuvres). It’s a classy hors d’œuvres for a summer cocktail party that I hope you will give a try. For a vegan version, you can omit the parmesan cheese from the pesto or serve it over the avocado paste as I had intended. The King mushrooms not only look like scallops but cooked well, they even have a lovely scallop-like texture.

ScallopKingMushroomHD copy

King Mushroom “Scallops” on Pesto Crostinis

a Kitcheninspirations Original Recipe

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 2 thick King Mushrooms
  • 2 tbsp of your favourite sugary vinegar, or a sauce with a high percentage of sugar (for caramelization) (I used a Baco Noir & Blueberry Balsamic)
  • 1 tsp canola oil (or oil with a high flash point)
  • 4 thin crostini bread, your choice
  • 1 tbsp pesto (please click here for recipe)
  • sea salt

Directions:

  1. Wipe/wash the king mushrooms and dry off well. Cut into 4 thick slices. Marinate the slices in the vinegar for 5-10 minutes. Reserve marinating vinegar.
  2. Toast the bread on both sides and slather with 1 tsp of the pesto on each. Set aside.
  3. Heat a cast iron frying pan until very hot add the oil and heat up. Drop each slice of mushroom onto the hot pan and lower the temperature to medium. You want to cook the mushroom while developing a beautiful caramelization on each side.
  4. Add one slice of cooked mushroom to each avocado slathered crostini. Add the marinating vinegar to deglaze the pan and thicken by cooking it down (shouldn’t take long). Drizzle the pan juices onto each crostini, sprinkle with a little sea salt. Serve immediately.

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BalsamicPearls_1867

Perfectly formed balsamic spheres

Are you an experimental cook? What I mean by that is, do you instinctively gravitate toward unusual recipes, perhaps ones that push you out of your comfort zone? Using ingredients and techniques that are new to you and perhaps don’t always work out the first, second or even third time you try it? You may have guessed that I am, to a fault. Like a dog with a bone. I won’t stop until I get it right and even then, I may likely never make that recipe ever again! You will wonder why and to that I say, why not? I simple check it off my list and move on. This might be such a recipe.

I cannot recall where or when was the first time I saw Balsamic Pearls or caviar but I do recall being instantly smitten, my only problem was that I was not able to find the jelling ingredient Agar Agar, until recently! And I found it in the most unlikely place, my local health food store! It was an arm and leg to purchase, but fortunately it’s a big enough bag that I can make several batches.

What reminded me of these little gems was one of my shopping trips for Food Styling Assisting at a very fancy (read expensive) organic food store in north Toronto called Harvest Wagon; they temptingly have the most gorgeous display of vinegars and oils directly beside the cash desk…no time to even give it a second thought, unless you look at the prices! I suspect people who shop there really don’t look at the prices anyway! It is there that I spotted the balsamic pearls and it was there and then I decided that I HAD to make them!

My dear friend and Inspiration of All Asian foods, Sissy from With a Glass has used Agar Agar for many desserts she allures us with over the years. It is a seaweed based jelling agent that does not liquify when heated up (unless it’s boiled); unlike gelatine which melts (like in my French Onion Soup Pillows).

Pre-directions for all flavours:

  1. At least 30 minutes (but not overnight) before you wish to start making your pearls, fill a tall, thin glass with vegetable oil and put into the freezer to cool. It’s best to have a tall glass so that when you drop the pearls into it, the pearls have a long way to fall through the super cooled oil before they hit the bottom. This is very important because if the pearls don’t have sufficient time to cool down, they will fall to a puddle at the bottom of the glass. Trust me. You can strain the oil and reuse it, so don’t worry about tossing it.
Slightly larger than caviar, these tiny pearls pack a to of flavour.

Slightly larger than caviar, these tiny Balsamic pearls pack a lot of flavour.

Balsamic Pearls

Makes a generous table spoon or more of tangy balsamic pearls.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp water
  • 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar (not glaze)
  • 1 tsp agar agar
  • 1-2 cups of vegetable oil in a tall glass

Directions for balsamic pearls:

  1. In a small saucepan mix the water with the balsamic vinegar then add the agar agar and place on medium to medium low heat, stirring constantly until it comes to a boil.
  2. Cook this mixture on a very gentle boil for 4 minutes, stirring often.
  3. When the 4 minutes are up, remove the pan from heat and allow the liquid to cool to about  50° C (122° F), but try not to let it fall below 41° C (105°F), if it does, you can reheat, stirring constantly until it melts again.
  4. Remove the chilling oil from the freezer and place in a comfortable working area. Using the culinary syringe, draw up the balsamic liquid (try to get most of it), and drop by single droplets into the chilled oil. They will sit slightly suspended on the surface and then fall gently through the chilled oil to the bottom. If the pearls are cooled enough, they will have set and be beautiful little pearly jewels, if they did not set you will have a puddle at the bottom of the glass; strain the puddle out, put the oil back in the freezer and re-melt the puddle in the saucepan.
  5. When you have used up the liquid, strain the pearls out of the oil into a fine sieve and rinse with cold water. It’s best to store the pearls in the liquid that they were originally made from, so top off the storage jar with balsamic vinegar.

These Wasabi pearls are not as green as I had hoped.

Wasabi Pearls

Makes a generous table spoon or more of wasabi pearls.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tsp agar agar
  • 1 tsp wasabi paste (the powder does not work well in this case)
  • 1-2 cups of vegetable oil in a tall glass

Directions for wasabi pearls:

  1. In a small saucepan mix the water with the agar agar and place on medium to medium low heat, stirring constantly until it comes to a boil.
  2. Add the wasabi paste and mix well (try not to breath too close, it’s a very strong and stinging smell).
  3. Cook this mixture on a very gentle boil for 4 minutes, stirring often.
  4. When the 4 minutes are up, remove the pan from heat and allow the liquid to cool to about  50° C (122° F), but try not to let it fall below 41° C (105°F), if it does, you can reheat, stirring constantly until it melts again.
  5. Remove the chilling oil from the freezer and place in a comfortable working area. Using the culinary syringe, draw up the wasabi liquid (try to get most of it), and drop by single droplets into the chilled oil. They will sit slightly suspended on the surface and then fall gently through the chilled oil to the bottom. If the pearls are cooled enough, they will have set and be beautiful little pearly jewels, if they did not set, you will have a puddle at the bottom of the glass; strain the puddle out, put the oil back in the freezer and re-melt the puddle in the saucepan.
  6. When you have used up the liquid, strain the pearls out of the oil into a fine sieve and rinse with cold water. It’s best to store the pearls in the liquid that they were originally made so mix a scant teaspoon of the wasabi paste with water and store the pearls in it.
A lovely sweet flavoured pearl.

A lovely sweet flavoured pearl.

Pomegranate Pearls

Makes a generous table spoon or more of pomegranate pearls.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup pure pomegranate juice (don’t use syrup here)
  • 1 tsp agar agar
  • 1-2 cups of vegetable oil in a tall glass

Directions for pomegranate pearls:

  1. In a small saucepan mix the pomegranate juice with the agar agar and place on medium to medium low heat, stirring constantly until it comes to a boil.
  2. Cook this mixture on a very gentle boil for 4 minutes, stirring often.
  3. When the 4 minutes are up, remove the pan from heat and allow the liquid to cool to about  50° C (122° F), but try not to let it fall below 41° C (105°F), if it does, you can reheat, stirring constantly until it melts again.
  4. Remove the chilling oil from the freezer and place in a comfortable working area. Using the culinary syringe, draw up the pomegranate liquid (try to get most of it), and drop by single droplets into the chilled oil. They will sit slightly suspended on the surface and then fall gently through the chilled oil to the bottom. If the pearls are cooled enough, they will have set and be beautiful little pearly jewels, if they did not set you will have a puddle at the bottom of the glass; strain the puddle out, put the oil back in the freezer and re-melt the puddle in the saucepan.
  5. When you have used up the liquid, strain the pearls out of the oil into a fine sieve and rinse with cold water. It’s best to store the pearls in the liquid that they were originally made from, so use pomegranate juice.
These are very smoky indeed. I wish I had given them a bit of heat with sriachi

These smoked paprika pearls are very smoky indeed.
I wish I had given them a bit of heat.

Smoked Paprika Pearls

Makes 2 table spoons or more of smoked paprika pearls.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tbsp red pepper paste (I used sweet)
  • 3/4 tsp liquid mesquite smoke
  • 1 tsp agar agar
  • 1-2 cups of vegetable oil in a tall glass

Directions for smoked paprika pearls:

  1. In a small saucepan mix the water with red pepper paste and smoke, then add the agar agar and place on medium to medium low heat, stirring constantly until it comes to a boil.
  2. Cook this mixture on a very gentle boil for 4 minutes, stirring often.
  3. When the 4 minutes are up, remove the pan from heat and allow the liquid to cool to about  50° C (122° F), but try not to let it fall below 41° C (105°F), if it does, you can reheat, stirring constantly until it melts again.
  4. Remove the chilling oil from the freezer and place in a comfortable working area. Using the culinary syringe, draw up the red pepper liquid (try to get most of it), and drop by single droplets into the chilled oil. They will sit slightly suspended on the surface and then fall gently through the chilled oil to the bottom. If the pearls are cooled enough, they will have set and be beautiful little pearly jewels, if they did not set you will have a puddle at the bottom of the glass; strain the puddle out, put the oil back in the freezer and re-melt the puddle in the saucepan.
  5. When you have used up the liquid, strain the pearls out of the oil into a fine sieve and rinse with cold water. It’s best to store the pearls in the liquid that they were originally made from, so mix a small amount of water and smoke (2 tbsp water and splash of liquid smoke).

Tips:

  • I used Mitoku, Kanten Flakes (Agar); the package instructions indicate that 1 tablespoon will set 1 cup of liquid. As fyi, I also tried 2 tsp of Agar Agar into 1/4 cup liquid and found the pearls way too stiff, reducing the Agar Agar to 1 tsp worked out perfectly.
  • The Agar Agar binds with your liquid only when it is added to a boiling liquid and for the pearls to cool sufficiently you must wait until the temperature falls to  50° C (122° F) and then you must act quickly because it starts to set at 41° C (105°F) so there isn’t much time to drop the little droplets (it sets at room temperature, refrigeration is not required). Work in small batches so that your liquid doesn’t set before you have time to use it up to make the pearls.
  • I used a culinary syringe, but an icing bag fitted with a very small end could work too, although I did not try it.
  • Not every liquid can be turned into pearls because there are other things to consider which are far beyond my chemical knowledge so if you are interested in turning something not listed here into pearls, I would do some research.
  • It’s important to follow the directions closely otherwise your experiment will fail, I tested each one to make sure it works. This was my third attempt with Balsamic, second attempt with wasabi and on from there with the other flavours.
  • Don’t drop too large pearls because they won’t have time to set in the oil. My best pearls were about 2 mm (1/8 inch) in diametre, ones that ended up being about 5 mm (1/4 inch) became deformed because they didn’t have time to set as a pearl.
  • My glass was was 12 cm (4.5 inches) high with about 10 cm (4 inches) of oil, so if you have a taller glass with more oil, your pearls can be larger.
Aren't you curious about how I plan to use these little pearls?

Aren’t you curious about how I plan to use these little pearls?

our-growing-edge-badge

My friend and fellow bunny lover Genie from over at Bunny, Eats, Design suggested I post this in Our Growing Edge, a monthly blogging event to encourage us to try new food related things. Kindra from California Cavegirl Kindra is the host for this month’s event. If you have a blog and you are eating or cooking something new this month, click here to join.

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Day one of JD went much better than expected!

As I mentioned I had to be downtown at 8:30am, and I’m fortunate, my entire trip was about 20 minutes; it would have been 30 if I had to walk to the subway, but JT kindly gave me a lift to the subway.
We all had to walk through security much like the air port, except we didn’t have to take off our shoes. Then we were registered, and told to sit in a room. The chairs are all lined up, facing a small TV placed precariously too low for anyone but the front row to see. Oh, will we see movies? Not quite; they ran a lame movie about actors pretending to be sucked into the process and how proud they all are. Bleh!
Now we wait. Just because you are summoned for JD, doesn’t necessarily mean you will serve on a jury. For each trial (there are several courts in this building) they draw names from the people in the room and if your name is drawn (lucky you) you are called into the courtroom. The other time I was here, my name wasn’t drawn. In the court room, the trial lawyers ask each potential juror a pertinent question to determine if they want them on the jury. Correct me if I’m wrong (Kelly), they don’t have a limit on how many they can decline. When JT was here, he was called but was rejected (now that’s a rejection I can handle).

In Canada you do not get remunerated for JD unless it is a trial more than 10 days. Then they pay you a whopping $40 per day! Seriously?

As luck would have it at around 10am some big wig came and further pontificated on the value of our presence and then in a long drawn out speech he released us for the week — just like that! Sweet. sweet words: “your service will not be required today, nor for the remainder of the week.” Is it appropriate to cheer in the courthouse? Now I’m done for three years (yup they changed it!)! Yay.

On my way out, you’ll never guess who I bumped into…non-other than Flat Ruthie…she’ll be accompanying JT and I on a short vaycay to Niagara Falls, Ontario where we’ll see the Band from TV as well as do some eating, drinking and shopping (perhaps even in the US where our dollar is ever so strong these days!).

This is the Panna Cotta that I made for our Vegetarian Valentine Dinner last Saturday. I served it with sliced strawberries and a 100 year old balsamic that I lightly drizzled over the plate. Asmita at the Compulsive Foodie inspired this recipe, but I made it lighter and used non-fat ingredients. It worked out very well. I’ll keep this recipe for the summer months.

Panna Cotta with Strawberries and Balsamic Vinegar

Serves 4 in 3.5oz ramekins

Ingredients:

  • Non-stick cooking spray
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
  • 1 1/4 cup plain fat free Greek Yogurt
  • 1 1/4 cups carnation fat free condensed milk
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 vanilla bean pod
  • pinch of cardamon
  • 1 quart strawberries
  • Drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar

Directions:

  1. Spray ramekins with non-stick spray.
  2. Sprinke the gelatin over 2 tbsp water
  3. Heat the milk with the sugar and vanilla bean until almost boiling. Add the softened gelatin and mix until it has entirely melted.
  4. Remove from heat. Remove the vanilla bean pod and scrap the seeds into the milk mixture and mix well. Add the cardamon.
  5. Stir in the Greek Yogurt until well blended. Pour into the prepared ramekins and allow to cool. Once cooled, place in refrigerator overnight to set.
  6. Run a little hot water on the bottom of each ramekin to loosen. Lightly loosen the edges of the ramekins with a sharp knife and turn onto the middle of a large plate. Drizzle with balsamic and decorate with strawberries. Enjoy.

Panna Cotta - a nice light dessert

That

If you have left over berries, dip them in melted chocolate for a valentine’s day treat.

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Years and years ago I was invited to one of our freelancer’s home for a pot luck dinner. Lisa (our generous hostess) made a Greek Salad that really was bang on for me and then I made it for JT and he loved it and we’ve been making it ever since. It’s really not rocket science, but it is a wonderful combination of colours and tastes and I just had to share it with you because I recently made it for Sunday dinner with Brian! This is simply a mix of proportions to your liking!

Lisa’s Greek Salad

A burst of colour to brighten a dreary winter meal

Ingredients:

  • 10 small yellow tomatoes, washed and sliced in half (I love the cocktail sized campari)
  • 10 small red tomatoes, washed and sliced in half (I love the cocktail sized campari)
  • 10 Kalamata olives, cut into thirds
  • 3 mini English cucumbers cut into a similar size as the tomatoes
  • a good handful of hand broken Brebis sheeps milk feta (less fat than ordinary feta and much creamier)
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 3-4 tbsp EVOO

Directions:

  1. Toss the vegetables together.
  2. Mix the balsamic and the oil and dress the salad just before serving.

Ok, now the moment you’ve all been waiting for, the big draw and the give away winner.

We've tabulated the entries and made lovely entries with everyone's names (those who answered correctly, that is). BTW, this is an authentic Goulash pot (miniature)!

Now we need someone to make the draw…

JT was kind enough to make the draw...

and the winner is….

Oh my gosh...Kristy of Eat, Play, Love - our family food adventures, CONGRATULATIONS!

Congratulations Kristy. Please email me your info and I will send you the cool salts!

Thank you to everyone who participated. My first give away was a very fun event for me and I so appreciate your participation.

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