Posts Tagged ‘balsamic’

First Meals Of Spring

Figgy Deliciousness

Every year for Mother’s Day, the Everyman and I go to a brunch buffet with all of his extended family at his grandfather’s golf club in the K-W.

And every year, we come home from these smörgåsbords of deliciousness full of so much good food to the point of illness, as does most everyone else in the family.

Of course, this year was no different, and even I gorged myself on buttery soft rare roast beef, oodles of chilled shrimp and mounds of pea and asparagus salad.  Generally, after these events if we end up eating dinner, it’s bound to be something light.

Several hours after the feasting, the only thing I felt up to was the gentle taste of spring.  Luckily for me I’d made a stop at the St. Lawrence Market on Saturday, and picked up 4 pounds of asparagus and a few pints of figs, among other things.  Sautéing a few pounds of stalks in a beurre noisette until they bloomed a vibrant green, they were then tossed with salt, pepper, halved figs, parmagiano shavings and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.  If you wanted to add some more protein to it, you could always wend a few slivers of prosciutto around the spears, but personally, I love it just the way it is.

Vive le printemps!

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Condimentality

Front Row: Grainy Mustard And Red Onion, Back Row: Barbecue Sauce And Lemon Pickle (The Difference Is Indistinguishable)

The culinary hiatus I’ve been on has not only been a boon for clearing my head and reinvigorating my desire to cook, but also a wellspring of inspiration.

In the past, my condiment focus has been primarily on jams or the occasional gherkin pickle, but this last week of photograzing and foodgawking has inspired me to broaden my topping horizons.  Ever since I bought Small Batch Preserving several years ago, I’ve yearned to try some of the more exotic preserves, relishes and sauces hidden within it’s food-stained pages, but I’ve been too busy cooking the things I regularly need to properly experiment with anything new.  Until now…

Our last meal at The Black Hoof encouraged me to give mustard a second chance, and this weekend I finally decided, why not?  Two of my favourite things (which means little considering everything I’ve tried on their menu instantly becomes a favorite) are the mustard seed crusted horse bresaola and the grainy mustard served with lamb headcheese.  After the Everyman and I both raved about the delicacy of that mustard (and accompanying headcheese), it became apparent that I needed to pump out some crunchy piquancy of my own.  A recipe I found on Saveur provided a decent base, but as always, I had to make changes.  The biggest difference was that I did not have the requisite Guinness, so I subbed in another stout (that the Everyman assured me would be similar enough) called Sinha, from Sri Lanka.  Swirling the whole thing together like a strange, lentil-coloured slurry, the concoction still wasn’t so much appealing as it was vaguely intriguing.  I wondered what effect the beer would have on the flavour, having recently fallen in love with a plate of homemade dark chocolate Guinness cupcakes, even though I despise beer.  I still haven’t warmed up to that Guinness cheddar the Everyman’s always raving about, but that’s an entirely different story altogether.  After a few days of soaking on a sunny counter to soften the seeds and meld the flavours, I’ll be able to see what this mustard business is all about.  The first taste is already earmarked for a roasted chunk of pork belly, so I’ll let you know how that goes.

Never content to do things in anything resembling a reasonable quantity, I didn’t stop at one condiment; oh no, not I.  I had to be the maniacal, greedy, overachieving condiment queen who turned out 4 separate items on a Saturday afternoon.  After the mustard was bedded down and tucked in to a bowl sheathed in plastic, I turned my attention to the next item, a basil balsamic barbecue sauce.  The culinary voice prodding me to make this sauce also happened to be that wily piece of pork belly I’d been planning to roast for dinner.  I initially hadn’t realized that the mustard was a multi-day process, and assumed it would be ready for me to use by dinner.  Being that wasn’t the case, I needed a backup plan; which is where this barbecue sauce came in.  After simmering it on the stove for about 20 minutes, a small dip confirmed that I’d never had anything quite like it.  It was tangy and tart, a little astringent, but with a sweet note and a nice, floral basil finish.  I knew then that this would make a killer glaze for the pork during the last half hour of roasting, adhering to it like a deep, burnished lacquer.  Though happy with the end result, I still felt unsatisfied.  There had to be more for me to tinker with than this.

Which is how I ended up pickling red onions slivers, one of the most beautiful vegetables to work with.  The opalescent amethyst rings glittered when the sun hit the canning jar, waiting for their swim in the briny, vinegar bath.  The blue-green-grey of the rosemary fronds provided a lovely sprinkling of vivid contrast.  An error in calculation meant that I had twice as much vinegar as I needed, and no good reason to make more, but the realization did not occur until after I’d already packed and sealed my jar.  In a few days I imagine I’m going to have some mighty strong pickled onions that will most likely require a slight dilution.  What they’ll be destined for, I’m not entirely sure, but they might not be bad with that aforementioned pork belly – after all, those sweet and sour pickled shallots sung with the pork belly I made on Valentine’s Day.

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