Posts Tagged ‘shallots’

The Accidental Salad

Warm Salad

For Meatless Monday this week, the Everyman was out of town on business, but flying home late that night.

I promised him I would set a plate aside for him, so the obvious question became what could I make that would keep relatively well for an indeterminate period of time?

After pondering for a little bit, I recalled 2 things.  One was the warm potato salad that we both loved at last year’s Outstanding In The Field dinner and the other was a potato and bean salad that I tested while reviewing Earth To Table.  I couldn’t remember much about either, except that a) they were warm, b) they both contained potatoes and c) they came with light, yet creamy dressings.

Given that I was in no mood to excavate my way through the stacks of cookbooks in my house to find Earth To Table (you know you have too many books, when…) I decided to improvise.

Both dishes used fingerlings but I didn’t have any, so instead I cubed a few yukon golds and quartered some shallots and tossed them in some coffee olive oil, then roasted in the oven for an hour.  When they were getting close to being done I melted a little high milkfat artisan butter in a pan until it foamed, then quickly sauteed half a pound of chopped asparagus until it turned emerald, then left it to get slightly blistered and browned.  Removing the pan from the heat, I sprinkled close to half a cup of freshly shelled peas in and let the residual heat of the pan turn them bright green, too.  Next I combined all the veggies in a bowl and tossed with a simple white wine dijon vinaigrette made puckery tart by the addition of a splash of barley vinegar.

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Turning Over A Greener Leaf

Sweetish Slaw

Here at Foodie And The Everyman, we’re always trying to find new ways to incorporate more healthy and environmentally responsible meals into our life.

Being virtuous ain’t easy though, and after a tough day at the office, mostly I just want to inhale a cupcake or a juicy steak.  Unfortunately, one can’t live on cake or steak alone, so every now and then I need to boost my vegetable intake to compensate for one too many edible indiscretions.

As part of that, I’ve recently adopted the idea of participating in Meatless Mondays at home.

Normally, my concept of meat-free eating is firmly rooted in either a tofu preparation, one of my hand-rolled vegetable pastas or occasionally a hearty soup.  And since the Everyman is allergic to nuts and won’t eat eggs or seafood, I am somewhat limited in the options available to me, so it seemed important to expand the vegetarian repertoire.  That it would be good for our health and also the planet are somewhat of an added bonus.

However, for the inaugural Meatless Monday, I had no tofu in the house, and I’d already packed pasta leftovers for our lunches, which meant that another pasta meal was out of the question.  Thus our first Meatless Monday supper would require a slightly more elegant solution.  After brainstorming for a little bit, I decided to concoct a veggie burger with homemade buns, mashed white beans, flax seed and piri piri sauce for a little bit of kick.  Once mixed together and grilled, the patties proved tender and delicious, if a little sloppy to eat.  Next time I’ll most definitely have to experiment with other ingredients to make the patties firmer.

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Reusability Redux

Lamb Chops With Sauce

A few weeks ago when the Everyman made un-Valentine’s Day dinner for me, the accompanying sauce for the pork chops was so slurpable that I could not bring myself to rinse the leftovers down the drain.  Instead I kept the pear, thyme and shallot infused jus in a small container in the fridge, with no clear idea for what I meant to do with the rest.

Flash forward to nearly 2 weeks later when a dinner of broiled lamb loin chops and cumin glazed carrots was looking rather forlorn on the plate.  Digging the jellified jus out of the fridge, I opted to warm it in a saucepan with a frozen cube of vegetarian stock.  Once it had thinned out a touch, a knob of membrillo jam melted and sweetened it a bit, while a splash of barley malt vinegar brought everything into balance.

Served with the crispy broiled lamb, the resulting sauce was quite nearly the perfect pairing for lamb.  It was so well matched that I think I’d even go to the trouble of making it from the start just for lamb chops next time.  Score 1 for culinary ingenuity!

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The Most Ambitious Project Yet

Garden 2010

After much deliberation (and a healthy dose of procrastination), I’ve finally selected and plotted my intentions for the 2010 garden.

It might seem awfully early to some, but seeds must be ordered, delivered and started before a springtime sowing in late May can be accomplished.

This year will be interesting for a number of reasons.

Primarily because I’m going to be trying to grow a couple crowns of asparagus for the first time, but I’m also attempting rare French strawberries from seed, as well as leeks, garlic and chard.

As you can see from my crude 10,000 foot drawing, there are lots of different veggies being installed, as well as a small bee garden that I hope will attract a healthy amount of polinators to our rooftop sanctuary.  We had a bit of a problem with the lack of bees last year, though I’m not sure if it was due to colony collapse or the overall shitty weather, but it can’t hurt to encourage them with a pretty flower garden.

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Anticipating Harvest

Third Jane Doe

At this time last year, I was up to my eyeballs in lusciously imperfect tomatoes.

But, like almost everyone else this year, my garden’s been slow to blossom.  About 2 or 3 weeks ago I was finally able to start harvesting close to a handful of mixed cherry tomatoes per day.  Even though we’re now a couple of days into September, I still haven’t tasted the first full size fruit yet.

Unknown

As with the red ones above, I’m not sure what varietals these (and the one below) are.  I don’t recall planting any white varieties, but these tomatoes seem awfully pale to me.  Perhaps they might be garden peaches…
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He Gets Too Hungry For Dinner At 8

Gyoza Stuffing

I’ve been feeling a bit under the weather these last few days, and consequently have spent less time messing around in the kitchen than I would have liked this weekend.

Since reading about my first Daring Bakers project on Friday, I’d been pondering the likelihood of accomplishing the task at hand.  From what I understand, the modus operandi is to constantly challenge yourself and work outside your limits.  I joined mostly because I think my baking skills are much poorer than my cooking technique, and I thought this would be a neat way to improve them (and also prove useful for monthly blog fodder).  Their website also hosts a monthly cooking challenge called Daring Cooks, and once I get a few of the baking challenges under my belt, I might just sign up for that one too, just for fun.  I can’t share with you the content of this month’s challenge right now (but please check back on May 27th to read all about it) but I can definitely say that had I not signed up for this, I never would have bothered to attempt the recipe at home.  I spent the better part of my afternoon today preparing it, and ever since, the Everyman has been rather greedily enjoying the spoils.

And since I was unable to gather all of the materials I needed to make my various cured meats this weekend (though an extremely generous offfer of supplies and help did come my way), I needed to find something else to occupy my time.  While Tastespotting from my sickbed yesterday I came across a photo posted by my favorite America’s Test Kitchen guru, Kenji Alt.  It was a beautiful picture of a homemade gyoza, one of my most favorite Asian delicacies.  Better still, it was a pork and ramp dumpling, and I just so happened to have a small container of sauteed ramp leaves left over from my previous tart-making adventure.  The only snag was that the Everyman pretty much wholeheartedly dislikes all Asian cuisine (which is why you never see any reviews of Asian restaurants on here) with the exception of his affinity for sweet and sour chicken balls.  I knew that if I wanted to make gyoza for dinner (and I did), I’d have to tweak the recipe a little bit, to account for his somewhat fussier tastes.

Starting by slicing up the sauteed ramps, I chopped in some leftover sweet and sour shallot confit I found hanging out in the fridge, along with a few of my recently pickled ramp stems (which turned out deliciously, by the way).  I sauteed a bit of ground pork in a pan with a splash of sesame oil, some oyster sauce and a tiny bit of nam pla.  Once cooked through, I stirred in the ramps and shallot confit, and a glug of homemade chicken stock to loosen everything up.  This was reduced down until the whole mixture was smooth and slightly sticky, then allowed to cool.  Once the stuffing could be handled, it got bundled into a plethora of wonton skins (35 in all) and I even got a bit fancy with it and turned them into pope’s caps (which is the English translation of a form of Italian stuffed pasta).

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Anything Goes…

Every day that passes brings the gardening season that much closer (fingers crossed that we’re done with snow).  To while away the time I’ve become hooked on something I read about over at You Grow Girl several months ago… Gardening Mama!  It’s a game from the people who making Cooking Mama, which I also obsessively love, but more than that, it keeps my hands busy while I’m waiting for the universe to hurry up and warm up outside already…

Though I may have let the past few months pass in relative silence on the garden front, you can be assured that I’ve not been dormant.  From taking my seed catalogs with me on Christmas vacation so I could pick out my new projects (yes, I am a garden dork and I was mocked mercilessly about it the entire vacation), to harassing the people at West Coast Seeds when an order didn’t arrive, to finally breaking out the potting soil and mucking about in my basement laundry room, the last 3 months contained their fair share of preparatory activities.

Project Sustainability 2009 is well underway, with approximately 60 seedlings chilling out on the grow tower.  Considering that last year was my first attempt at growing anything more involved than a cactus, I was pretty impressed with the end results.  There were definitely lessons learned, and notes made about plants I wouldn’t bother to grow again (read: corn and those weeds I thought were beans).  But this year, along with bringing back favorites and successes from 2008, I also picked a bunch of new plants to try.  As our diet becomes increasingly varied, the memories of how explosively flavorful my completely organic, fresh picked produce was last year inspired me to try my hand at even more.  I can never replace Bob (our organic delivery guy) or our CSA farmshare from Zephyr Organics, but being able to combine two of my all-consuming passions is just too good to pass up.  Plus, creating your own tiny microcosm means being able to experiment with more unique and just plain bizarre produce that larger growers might not bother with.

So far on the rooftop roster this year we have:

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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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