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Posts Tagged ‘exotic’

In early August, JT and I had the honour of giving Dave (Fine Dining at Home) a foodie tour of our fair city. You see, Dave is a Captain of a Jet and was flying to the Big Smoke, so obviously, we wanted to take him on a foodie tour. It’s been a tour, a long time in the making, as soon as Dave mentioned that his airline would be flying to Toronto several months ago, I started making a list of things to do…it was long and heavy so the day before Dave’s arrival, JT and I sat down and made a lean list with opportunity to be spontaneous. Dave was a great guest, being very flexible to what we were going to do; it was a super hot and humid day so I also altered the tour to be more air conditioned car oriented than walking, even though we did our share of walking too!

It was a hot, humid day.

We started our day with the St. Lawrence Market, Toronto’s oldest market; it is made up of two stories of food and food related independent stores. While there, we had to have Toronto’s world famous Peameal Bacon on a bun (also known as back bacon or Canadian bacon) at the infamous Carousel Bakery. We loaded up our sandwiches with condiments and sat outside on picnic tables to have our breakfast! It’s a serious sandwich and I could only finish half of it! Then we toured the market, taking in the smells and sounds of Toronto’s culinary marketplace. We ended our tour in Placewares, one of my favourite kitchen stores in the city. From there, we detoured and walked along Front Street to see the new dog fountain (I know it’s not food, but it was along the way). We walked to Brookfield Place where we showed Dave the worlds largest underground pedestrian walking path, called PATH! Path sure comes in handy in the middle of winter when temperatures could be as low as -20° C because of wind chill! It’s basically a system connecting one food court to another under almost every building in downtown Toronto!

The dog fountain, they are all dog statues

Then we headed back to the car and did a little car tour of the city on our way to The Distillery District where we walked around the old distillery grounds and popped into Vom Fas, where I found a rather unique spice called Tasmanian pepper berry, that I had to have! While at The Distillery, we thought we would do a beer tour of Mill Street Brewery but sadly their tours only begin at 4pm and we didn’t want to wait around so I googled another brewery in the city and found that Steamwhistle did tours every 30 minutes. So off we went, unfortunately, the tour was very hot in some places which made it rather uncomfortable and made us sleepy, particularly with the free beer they offered. We decided that we needed lunch and we took Dave to our favourite French bistro, Le Select. By the time we finished lunch, we were all ready for a nap. We dropped Dave off at the hotel and beat the rush hour traffic home.

Dave generously gave me some gifts: Tonka Beans and a delicious bottle of Hungarian Tokay, dessert wine.

What are Tonka Beans? And, why can’t you buy them in the U.S.? They are the black seed of a South American tree that have a similar flavour to vanilla but more complex. Apparently they are poisonous if consumed in large quantities and are illegal in America! In 1995, Health Canada deemed them unacceptable as an additive in food and drugs but they are not illegal here! I guess Canadians are less likely to eat a tree full of them 😉!

A few months back, I had commented on a beautiful Tonka Bean panna cotta dessert that Dave had posted on his blog, hence the thoughtful gift, so I knew I had to make my interpretation. If you follow Dave’s blog, you will know that he makes rather fancy, labour intensive and multi-layered food and this lovely dessert was no exception; I, however, do not have the patience, so I cut it down to something I could do again, without being too labour intensive. Thank you Dave, for your generosity and inspiration. I thought the Tasmanian Pepper Berry that I picked up at Vom Fas would be a lovely accompaniment to the Tonka Bean Panna Cotta. The pepper berries have a distinct peppery flavour with hints of fruit and best of all, it lightly colours what you make a pink colour! I knew the panna cotta would be a winner.

Tonka Beans are mostly aromatic but there is unmistakable vanilla flavour with a subtle flowery, smoky cinnamon. It is rather complex and works well with both sweet and savoury applications. I can certainly see this as a flavouring in butternut squash soup or even a beautiful risotto.

Tonka Bean Panna Cotta on Chocolate Crumble with Almond Tuile

Makes 400 mL of panna cotta (I used 4 x 100 mL forms)

Tonka Bean Panna Cotta Ingredients:

  • 400 mL 1% milk
  • 25 g granulated sugar
  • 1/2 Tonka bean, finely grated
  • 5 Tasmanian pepper berries, chopped roughly
  • 8 g (1 packet) gelatine

Directions:

  1. Reserve about 25 mL milk and add the gelatin powder, stir, set aside.
  2. In a thick-bottom small pan, add the remaining 375 mL milk, sugar, Tonka Bean and Tasmanian pepper berries and heat until lightly boiling, stirring constantly.
  3. Strain through a fine sieve and pour the dairy mix into the gelatin dairy and stir until gelatin has entirely dissolved. Allow to cool to room temperature, then pour into vessels and refrigerate until set (4-6 hours or overnight).

Chocolate Crumble Ingredients:

  • 9 g butter
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 15 g coconut sugar
  • 16 g ground almonds
  • 8 g coconut flour
  • 6 g cocoa powder

Directions:

  1. Melt butter with the salt and pour over the sifted remaining ingredients and mix well. Spread evenly on a Silpat covered baking sheet and bake at 350° F for about 5-8 minutes. Allow to cool, then crumble.

Almond Tuile Ingredients:

  • 50 g sugar
  • 25 g sliced almonds

Directions:

  1. Caramelize the sugar, add the almonds and cook a bit more until the almonds are toasted.
  2. Spread thinly onto a Silpat and cool until hardened.
  3. Break into smaller bits and pulse in a food processor until sugar and almonds have broken down (I left a few in slightly larger chunks).
  4. Spread out onto a Silpat sheet and bake again for about 6 minutes in a 350° F oven, remove and cool slightly, cut or score while warm or break into uneven bits after it has hardened.

Assembly:

  1. Sprinkle a bit of the crumble onto each plate.
  2. Place the panna cotta on top of the crumble. Decorate with the tuile.

Notes:

  • This dessert is a celebration of flavours and textures; the chocolate crumble brings intense chocolate flavour and wonderful texture, juxtaposed to the smooth and creamy, exotically flavoured panna cotta. And then there is the tuile, easier to eat than brittle because it won’t break your teeth. Crumble, creamy, crunch. This is definitely a keeper recipe but I’m going to toss the moulds, they were not impressive!
  • Dave’s version had a fruit jelly cube and a chocolate mousse which I’m sure made it out of this world, but I was too lazy to add the two additional layers, even so, it was restaurant worthy!
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As the second course of our 4 course Moroccan meal this past weekend, I present the Trio of Moroccan Salads; these salads came out of our second cooking class at Maison MK. Our Chef, Omar El Ouahssoussi ran a very professional kitchen and both JT and I were equally impressed; colour coded cutting boards, one for meat and one for vegetables!

Chef Omar El Ouahssoussi

The class started out meeting the chef and the guide (not sure why, our chef spoke near perfect English) and we headed out to the souks to buy the food for our class. Our first stop was the vegetable vendor, where we bought onions, carrots, aubergine (egg plant) and courgette (zucchini). Then off to the spice vendor; I thought this was for our entertainment as the kitchen would be well stocked with the required spices, but the chef actually bought spices to give us as a gift! Then we stopped at the meat vendor where we bought our lamb and lastly the fresh herb vendor where we picked up some mint. But I digress, back to the salads.

Our shopping excursion

As our starter we have chosen to prepare the three salads that Chef Omar taught us to make, Aubergine, Courgette and Carrot Salads. We will serve them as close to the way Chef Omar served them to us. While preparing the salads, the one thing Chef Omar mentioned is that in Morocco, it is better to over cook than under cook, so the salads are all cooked vegetables richly flavoured with spices. I imagine this was originally done to rid the food of bacteria and if the food had spoiled a bit, the spices would make them palatable…but not in our case, the salads were unbelievably delicious! Over cooking reminded me of an article Greg sent over about a month or do ago from the New York Times. Click here for an interesting read.

Chef Omar generously gave us printouts of each of the recipes we cooked; sadly the translation is not as good, but I will fill in the gaps with my memory!

Trio of Cooked Moroccan Salads

Aubergine Salad

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium aubergines, chopped evenly into 1 cm or 1/2 inch cubes with the skins on (recipe calls for 1kg, which is too much)
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 3 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • Salt and paper to taste
  • 1/4 cup each finely chopped fresh cilantro and flat leaf parsley.

Directions:

  1. In a large pot cover the chopped aubergine with water, add the lemon juice and stir well (the lemon prevents it from turning brown)
  2. Cook over a medium simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the aubergine is soft.
  3. Drain water well and return to hot pot and cook off as much liquid as possible.
  4. Add garlic, tomato paste and spices and simmer for another 10 minutes, mashing the soft aubergine with a fork. Mix in both oils.
  5. Salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Once cooled to room temperature, add the fresh cilantro and flat leaf parsley and mix in well. Serve cold or at room temperature, shaped into little molds garnished with arugula and spinach.

Courgette salad

Ingredients:

  • 3 smallish courgettes, coarsest grated it cut into small even cubes
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp white vinegar (to help maintain the bright green colour)
  • Salt and paper to taste
  • 1/4 cup each finely chopped fresh cilantro and flat leaf parsley.

Directions:

  1. Melt butter in a medium sized frying pan and stir fry the courgettes until soft.
  2. Add the vinegar, garlic and the spices.
  3. Mix in both oils and season with salt and paper to taste.
  4. Once cooled to room temperature, add the fresh cilantro and flat leaf parsley and mix in well.
  5. Serve cold or at room temperature, shaped into little molds garnished with arugula and spinach.

Carrot salad

Ingredients:

  • 3 large carrots cut into small even cubes
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • Salt and paper to taste
  • 1/4 cup each finely chopped fresh cilantro and flat leaf parsley.

Directions:

  1. In a medium saucepan, cover carrot cubes with water and simmer until they are soft.
  2. Strain water off and return to pan and cook the remaining moisture off.
  3. Add the lemon juice, garlic and the spices and cook for about 5 minutes longer (carrots should be cubes but soft enough to squash – but don’t squash them), remove from heat.
  4. Mix in both oils and season with salt and paper to taste. Once cooled to room temperature, add the fresh cilantro and flat leaf parsley and mix in well.
  5. Serve cold or at room temperature, shaped into little molds garnished with arugula and spinach.

Courgette is top left, carrot is top right and the aubergine is front and centre

And I’ve finally got all the photos up on Shutterfly, so if you’re interested (and I am beyond flattered if you are), you are welcome to view our humble vacation photos in this link.

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