Posts Tagged ‘parmagiano reggiano’

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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Flowers You Can Eat

Dinnah!

The Everyman and I had company over for dinner on the weekend, which necessitated an early morning jaunt to the farmer’s market to procure the appropriate supplies.

Whilst there, I came across some dainty squash blossoms at my regular heirloom tomato stand and though I knew they’d be too “out there” for our guests, I couldn’t resist picking up a clamshell for myself, anyway.

I’ve eaten the blossoms in restaurants before, but never bothered to prepare them at home.  After staring at them in the fridge for a few days, I settled on what I considered would be a complimentary, yet homey stuffing.  A lot of people will tell you that squash blossoms should be stuffed with cheese, or dipped in batter and deep fried, but I say no.  Instead, I modified a stuffing recipe that I often use for peppers, to produce these tiny morsels of delectability.

Blossoms

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Return Of The Ramps (Once Again!)

Close Up Prior To The Oven

Last night the Everyman and I embarked on a new road map to deliciousness.

After pickling ramp stalks on Sunday night, I was left with a gigantic colander full of wild leek leaves, with nary a plan in my head.  Following some careful consideration (for all of about 30 seconds) it occurred to me that a warm spring tart might be in order.  I’d tried to procure a lump of puff pastry whilst at Cheese Boutique, envisioning a wild leek puff pastry adventure, but once they were cleaned and the leaves separated, it seemed to me that I did not have enough to make both.  Difficult decisions had to be made, and the pickled ramps won.  Still left with a rather large bundle of tulip-ish leaves, I started to consider my options.

Tart Filling

A quick taste was all it took to decide that a wilted preparation similar to spinach or kale was all that was required.  The leaves were sautéed in nothing more than butter, coffee olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper.  After allowing them to cool a bit, I popped a few vol au vent shells into the oven to puff.  Next, several small lardons of guanciale were finely diced and set aside.  Then a few small rings of pickled red onion were plucked from their mason jar.  Once the pastry was ready, the tops were popped off, the sautéed greens placed on the bottom, followed by guanciale nuggets, red onion slivers and grated parmagiano.  For a brief moment I considered adding some finely chopped preserved lemon peel, but on second thought decided against it.  Back into the oven they went to crispen the shells and slightly toast the cheese.

The tarts were a hit, with the Everyman especially.  Part of that is probably due to his love of puffed, buttery pastry (a la crescent rolls), but at the end of the meal when he commented that wild leeks were awesome, I knew for sure that I’d won him over.  I may mourn the fact that I did not get a chance to get all the ramps I wanted or deserved, but I will always remember this meal for it’s delicious simplicity.  And that will remind me to stock up doubly so in order to make it again next year.
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The Foodie 13 – Pantry Essentials

Human beings are creatures of habit.

Ever noticed you’ve eaten the same few foods for breakfast or lunch every day for 3 weeks straight, or regularly cooked with the same flavor profiles week in, week out?

If you ask anyone who loves to cook, they’ll probably tell you they have a few favorites or secret weapons in their arsenal used to spice up everyday meals.  In this installment of The Foodie 13, we’ll take a look at the few staple ingredients I always need to keep on hand.

1 – Chili Salt - I first started grinding my own chili salt last fall, after my Chinese 5 Color Pepper plant produced so many little peppers that I didn’t know what to do with them all.  A small bite on the deck early one morning convinced me they were much too piquant to eat on their own, and by that time I’d already canned my pickled jalapenos for the year.  Not wanting to waste any of my harvest bounty, I buried the chilis in a jar full of sea salt.  Once the chilis were completely dehydrated, I dug them out, removed the stems and then pulsed them with salt in the food processor.  A tiny pinch is all you need to make any dish sing; from simply grilled grass-fed burgers, to sticky roasted pork belly, to sumptuous salted caramel, everything it touches tastes that much better.  The bit of kick it brings to the table isn’t half bad either.

2 – Tomato Powder - Several years ago while walking home from work one day, I discovered The Spice Trader, at the time a newly opened flavor emporium.  I wandered in curious and walked out with $250 worth of oils, vinegars and spices – there really are some things I have no restraint over.  While there were many more exotic spices purchased that day that I still love and use all the time, tomato powder is the one I most often come back to.  A pinch of it often turns up to season my grilled grass-fed burgers, and a few dashes works wonders in a marinade or dry rub.  It can be stirred into sauces for a quick and concentrated hit of flavor, or dusted onto bread dough before it goes into the oven.  While the texture and color may remind some of the crusty clumps that can be found at the bottom of a bag of ketchup chips, I can assure you that tomato powder is to it what olive oil is to I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter; a relative only in that they share a similar name (in the second case, that would be fat, in case you’re wondering).

3 – Coffee Olive Oil - Another one of my prized finds from that first outing to The Spice Trader was a rather expensive bottle of coffee olive oil.  It may sound strange, and it’s definitely a little extravagant, but the 500 mL bottle will last you forever (if it’s properly stored) and has a multitude of uses.  Start off slowly by using it instead of regular olive oil in an oil and balsamic bread dipper.  The roasted, nutty undertones are quite unlike anything else; except perhaps coffee (which I don’t drink, so I wouldn’t know).  It tastes divine drizzled on fresh tomatoes off the vine, sprinkled with a pinch of salt and a few basil leaves, and adds that bit of je ne sais quoi to a loaf of focaccia just before it hits the oven.  Used to dress a simple sauteed mushroom sauce for pasta, there’s almost nothing better.  The first time the Everyman tried it he said he didn’t like it all that much, but since then I’ve used it in a variety of foods that he almost always loves (and usually doesn’t even discern that this is what’s in there).

4 – Sherry Vinegar - It’s only recently that I’ve started to enjoy sherry vinegar, but it’s one of those things I can’t believe I missed out on for so long.  I first purchased some at the beginning of the year to make one of the many homemade chorizo recipes I was testing.  The chorizo recipe may not have wowed me (it was the one that turned out watery and unappetizingly grey) but the sherry vinegar came out a winner.  Its flavor marries well in pickling liquids, vinaigrettes, and especially the fresh shredded vegetable salad I make that the Everyman loves so much (beets, carrots and sunchokes or celeriac).  Now that I’ve found it, I can’t live without it, and I’m coming up with more uses for it every day.

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