Thursday, December 17, 2009

Something to make an epiglutton lose enthusiasm: pine mouth

Since yesterday afternoon, I've had a horrid, nasty, bitter taste in my mouth. I've been trying to figure out what caused it, and have gone websurfing.
Other than things that aren't the case (jaundice, diabetes, heavy metal poisoning, tooth decay, pregnancy) I was running up against a number of dead-ends, until I stumbled on one article, which led to another, and another.

There is a problem with some pine nuts that are out there. They cause a documented problem that starts a day or more after consumption: everything tastes bitter. Nasty bitter. Like that nail polish they used to use on kids who bit their nails.

I'm going to talk to the restaurant I had lunch on Tuesday: they may want to stop putting the pignoles on the gnocci. For now, at least.

Some articles referencing the problem:

On Epicurious in May
On Epicurious in September (the problem seems to be becoming more widespread)
Roger Hyam's blog, from last fall

What's causing it? There seem to be several theories, several different places people have bought pine nuts from that have caused the problem. Maybe they're from China. X bought his from Trader Vic's. Y bought hers from Costco. The Z's bought theirs at Sainburys. At this point, I haven't seen a definitive answer, but I am taking some consolation in the news that it will go away and my taste will return to normal.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Blue Haze

I was there, at the St. Lawrence Market, in Scheffler's. Just to buy some cocktail pumpernickel bread. And then I saw it.

Something I've not seen before.

Something that combines some of my favorite flavours.

Blue Haze cheese. It starts life in Quebec, then is brought to Ontario for finishing. Google blue haze cheese. The first three items that come up are about this cheese. This Globe and Mail article has details.

What makes it special?
It's smoked blue cheese.

It combines those wonderful smoky flavours with those wonderful blue cheese flavours.

Doesn't that just make you salivate? Taste it. It will make your toes curl.

Betty & Sandy: yes, you're going to taste it Saturday night.

Monday, December 7, 2009

How can I not love a blog called Porkosity?

Sandy pointed me there today. It's Corey Mintz' food blog. Today he reveals that Black hoof has opened a Café. Oh my.

Read Corey's blog. He's just started it, and also has an article about Sanagan's (butcher in Kensington). Joe Fiorito had an article about it within the last few weeks, too.

From now on, you'll be able to find a link to Porkosity over on the right.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

I've never wanted a basement fridge before

But today I read Michael Ruhlman's blog item on aging eggnog, and how his 2-year-old eggnog tastes. He aged it in a basement fridge, stuck it in the back, and left it there. That would be pretty hard to do if it was in the fridge in my kitchen.

The recipe? He got it from Chowhound. Here it is.

It being the eggnog season, and all that.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Pho who the bell tolls

Oh, it tolls for me, because I ate too much.
Big bowl of Chicken Pho at Hanoi 3 Seasons on Queen East (between Caroline and Larchmount). Fragrant, steamy, with lovely flavours of lime, cilantro, ginger, a touch of coconut? and basil in the broth. And a bird's eye pepper to just add a little edge. I only started going to Hanoi 3 Seasons in the spring. I found out tonight that it's when the weather gets cold that it really fills up, as people come in search of that delightful bowl of steaming broth, rice noodles, and other goodies. Next time I might try the rare beef pho.

Friday, November 27, 2009

I had a dream...

Back in the summer.
That Chef Lynn Crawford and her significant other moved next door, and all the neighbours were terrified to invite her over because they were afraid to serve her inferior food.

Well, it's sort of coming true.

Chef Lynn Crawford has bought out The Citizen with Cheri Stinson, who she has frequently paired with on Restaurant Makeover. The Citizen isn't quite in Leslieville, it's the neighbourhood next door (Call it Riverside, call it Queen/Broadview, call it Lower Riverdale).

Before it was The Citizen, it was the second home of Riverside Cafe, where Signe Langford used to do such wonderful things with mussels in a wee tiny space.

Set to open next year in March, we'll have to see if all the neighbouring restaurants panic like the neighbours did in my dream.

More details at The Toronto Star (I'm not sure how long the link will remain live).

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Tasty snack: grilled cheese sandwich

You don't think I'd make it with Wonderbread and Kraft slices, do you?

I took a couple of diagonal slices of baguette, lightly buttered the outside cuts, and schmeared some Kozlik's horseradish mustard on the inside cuts. The cheese? Some boschetto al tartufo.

The last time I made a grilled cheese sandwich was at my parents' sometime over 30 years ago, and they had a waffle iron/griddle. I had to make do in a cast-iron pan using a sturdy spatula.

It was tasty, if I say so myself.

Roasting a bird with Anchovies on it

I wish I could say that you heard it here first, but I read about it from a link from the J-Walk blog -- it linked to an article on The Atlantic's website, which described putting anchovy strips on top of a turkey or goose (breast side up, please!) so that the bird would not just baste itself while cooking, it would season itself, too.

What a great idea! For Christmas, Mom is planning the standards, which include both a turkey and a ham. I want to try it. I know my parents would go for it. My sister would absolutely hate the idea, so I'm thinking of sneaking a tube of anchovy paste in my luggage. Maybe if I rub the breast with that, it will have the same effect without leaving the telltale markings of the fillets.

I'm also tempted to carry it a step further and take a tube of truffle paste and massage some of that into the bird, too, but Helen reaaally hates the smell of truffles. I'll save the truffles for those of us who like it -- I'll bring some cheese.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Variations on a theme

Apples - cheese - herb - and a splash of something. All together in a tart (mini or otherwise).

Today I ran across a recipe using apple and goat cheese on Seven Spoons -- which leads me to posit that any kind of savory dessert tart can be made from:
1 fruit
1 cheese
1 herb
1 nut
1 liquid to provide added moisture.

I'm thinking of where this could lead me in the future: starting with fruit, I'm imagining wildly different things with cranberries, or tangerines, or even kiwi or star fruit. What would happen with a custard apple? Or a passionfruit? Or if I start with cheeses, I can go wild, strong, mellow, or mild: the range from a hard nutty flavour through a blue cheesiness or over to goat or sheep or go mild with ricotta or buffalo mozarella. Nuts can be strong or pungent or contribute their own special oil. Wow, what a kaleidoscope of flavours to be had!

Let me know if you decide to make a tart, and what combination you choose to use.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Why we can't allow food to be Walmart-ized

Good article at Ethicurean. All about the variety and number of jobs that are created by a small town having its own downtown grocery store.
Of course, much the same logic applies for all businesses in small towns: everyone loses when all goods are imported from elsewhere, and the only jobs are minimum-wage greeters and "sales associates".

Getting the urge

It's that time of year again. Thinking about creamy mushroom soup.

Last night's dinner

Was great fun.
We started with olives and spicy cheddar spread and two varieties of Evelyn's crackers, which I bought at Scheffler's Deli at the St. Lawrence market. There were some olives stuffed with cheese, some kalamatas, and the winner of the night (for the olives) was definitely the ones stuffed with lemon. Really a wonderful flavour, and good firmness.

I had bought a can of lemon-stuffed olives back in late winter at The Olive Pit, and while they were OK (in martinis!) they were a little on the soft side.

The munchies were accompanied by a really nice bottle of Thirty Bench Small Lot 'Rose' VQA vintage 2008, which was lovely and tasted like the last gasp of summer. It's a really small lot wine: the label states that only 326 cases of it were produced.

From there we moved to a salad that Betty made that included mixed greens, dried apricots, blue cheese, and walnuts, all perfectly wilted under a hot vinaigrette. At this point we got into the Chateau Saint-Germain 2007 Bordeaux superieur, which carried us through the main course, too.

For the main, we had a cassoulet. Unlike the last one I made that just about blanded me to death, I put a lot of flavour in this one. I started with a really spicy chorizo sausage from The Sausage King that I browned in the Dutch oven and then put aside, then put into the same pot onions, shallots, garlic, and celery and sautéed until everything was nice and glistening and transparent where appropriate in the duck fat that I had used to cook the sausages. I added a can of organic diced tomatoes, bouquet garni, bay leaves, thyme, and salt, and brought to a boil. Then, the 400g (dry weight) of white northern beans that I soaked overnight. Added about a litre of water (enough to cover the beans) and simmered for two hours.

Next stage, I removed the celery, bouquet garnis, thyme, and bay leaves, and cut the sausages into bite-sized pieces and put them in the bottom of a large enameled casserole, on top of squares of pork skin from the pork belly (cooked for two hours the night before), which lined the bottom of the pot. Added sliced goose breast (from Thanksgiving dinner) and big cubes of pork belly. Put the beans on top, and into the oven for an hour and a half, covered. Then put bread crumbs and melted butter over the top and broiled until toasty brown.

And that was that course.

Dessert consisted of the apple-pecan-blue cheese tart. I made my own pate brisee and used whey butter in it, which I think added good flavour, but I could have completely omitted the salt from the recipe (which I had cut in half because the whey butter was salted). I used a blue Eremite cheese this time, which worked well.  The tart was served with a really lovely 10 year old Port that Sandy and Damir brought: Warre's Otima10, a Port house since 1670. Delicious port!

After dinner, it was time for games: Wii Sport Resort is lots of fun, lots of giggles, and I obviously should never be given control of a small watercraft.

Eat well!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Stage 2 of cassoulet almost done

Beans cooking with spicy chorizo sausage, diced tomatoes, onion, shallot, garlic, celery, bay leaves, bouquet garni, and a couple of sprigs of thyme (and about a tsp of sea salt). Definitely not going to be bland like the last one!
Comes off the stove at 3, and then I'll try to pile it into my ceramic dish (hmm. will it fit?) together with pork belly and goose breasts. On to cook for another two hours at 4 (I don't think we'll need it before 6). Finish with some panko breadcrumbs and melted butter.

Bought some really interesting butter yesterday at the market (funny, I had just read about it on a blog within the last week). Whey butter. Someone said it had more flavour to it.  I'll find out today, both as it tops the cassoulet, and as the butter ingredient in the pate brisée that will surround the apples, thyme, maple syrup, and blue cheese.

Spicy cheddar & beer spread

8 ounces grated old white cheddar
1 tbsp and a bit of Worcestershire sauce
14 shakes of Tabasco sauce
About a teaspoon and a half of paprika
1 ancho chili, ripped to little bits
Put in a food processor, slowly drizzle in about 4 oz of good beer -- more or less, depending on how much moisture is in the cheese.

Blend until smooth, refrigerate. Give it a few hours for the flavors to blend. Remove from fridge about a half-hour before serving.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Prepping for another cassoulet

I have a lovely piece of pork belly in the fridge, rubbed all over with oregano, thyme, rosemary, and garlic. I will cook it tomorrow night in a very slow oven, as Michael Ruhlman did for his BLT from Scratch (200F with a splash of water in foil for 3-4 hours) but I'll only half-cook it, and finish it in the beans.
I will take out of the freezer tonight a lovely goose breast or two, and let it slowly thaw in the fridge.
Tomorrow I will buy some yummy sausages.
I will put beans on to soak tomorrow night.
And it will all come together on Saturday afternoon, together with another apple-blue cheese-pecan tart.
Saturday night will be fun, regardless of the weather.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

I will make that tart again, with adjustments

I made Sooah's Facebook-posted tart (apple-nut-blue cheese) last night for the office Hallowe'en potluck today.

I will make it again in a week.
With a modification.

I used store-bought crust. I'll make a proper pâte brisée next time.

And I won't make the mistake I made this time.

I doubled the crusts, doubled the apples... and woke up this morning with the realization that I hadn't doubled the maple syrup, thyme, nuts, or cheese.

I masked my error by putting some clotted cream on top of the tarts (it was a good fix). The tart was still savory, but not as packed with nutty goodness and blue cheese contrast to Granny Smith apples. I think the amount of thyme was just about right, though, and could have been a bit much had it been doubled. The pecans worked as well as walnuts, to my taste, without the walnut bitterness.

I'll get it right next Saturday night, and serve it with something like a Taylor-Fladgate port for a savory dessert.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Me wants! Wii software

Courtesy of Signe Langford's blog, I investigated the link to Cook or be Cooked.
Oh, I want that.
Maybe I'd learn something; maybe not.
But it must be more fun than fishing is!
It uses both the Wiimote and the nunchuk.
I'm not seeing it available on the online store front yet, but I'll be keeping my eyes open. I'm having friends over for cassoulet and apple/pecan/gorgonzola tart on Nov. 5th, and it would be grand if we could play something like that.



I'm seriously considering this "piece of news" about why people choose to drink white wine with fish (although it is my preference, I could really make an argument for specific reds with black cod, mackerel, fresh sardines, etc.)

One thing that keeps ringing in my mind is all those years of watching the original Iron Chef series, done in Japan.

The chefs would do so many things to fish to guarantee they didn't taste at all "fishy."

Now, we're not talking about old, funky fish that they've cut the heads off and reduced to fillets so people can't tell how long the fish has been in the monger's ice-filled case. We're talking about extremely fresh, top of the line, wallet-breaking fresh fish.

Yet still, they took actions to prevent the fish from tasting "fishy."
When I eat Portuguese sardines roasted on the grill (or raw) I am celebrating the fishiness of what I am eating. Same for a beautiful slice of raw mackerel with ginger for sashimi.

This test was also done with Japanese people, so I admit, I am attributing some of the biases of the Japanese judges and chefs to the rest of the populace. What, exactly, was the criterion of "fishiness" that the testers found so off-putting? Especially since it was scallops they were eating! These aren't even fish: they're bivalves.

It couldn't have been that the scallops tasted like fish at all (as seemed to be the base line on Iron Chef): was it that the red wine made it taste like old, rancid-oil, fish? Or was it something else? Was it all in the minds of the testers, and not their tastebuds?

Need. More. Data.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Thomas Keller's coming to town -

Thomas Keller's coming to town -

Hmm... decisions, decisions. The book sounds interesting to me (even the negative review I read made me want to have it).
To go or not to go?
80 bucks.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Just because of harvest season

One of my photos. Available for sale at FinerWorks

Could a tart be in my future?

Courtesy of Sooah, who posted the link on Facebook, comes Apple Walnut Gorgonzola Rustic Tart
It looks simple enough. A total of 7 ingredients (should one buy tart dough, which I think I will).

The ingredients sound absolutely yummy together, although I am tempted to replace the walnuts with pecans (I confess I find walnuts reaaaally bitter). I love the combination of a blue cheese and nuts and fruit, and am thinking of pairing it up with some port to serve for friends along with cassoulet for dinner in a few weeks.

Maybe I'll try making a mini one. Just to test it out first.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Planning stage: cassoulet

OK, the last one was horrible, terrible, bland, overcooked, and unsalvageable.

I have now invited friends over for cassoulet in early November, and I'm not going to try to be a purist this time, and especially won't follow any British recipes for it (unless Heston Blumenthal has written one -- if so, let me know).

I have an absolutely beautiful piece of pork belly that I bought at the north St. Lawrence Market a couple of months ago and froze. I'm thinking of smoking it myself. Can't decide whether to do it outside on my barbecue or to try one of those fancy-schmantsy smoking bags one can supposedly use in the oven. I think I'll probably go for outdoors. Need a new propane tank. Can use some lovely mesquite chips in the iron smoker box.

Another item to solve is the whole sausage thing. I think that our North American tastes tend toward more spices and flavours, so I may investigate the sausages at the south St. Lawrence Market: I know they offer a number of venison sausages, and one of those might be perfect. I'll talk to the people who work there. I've learned a lot from the Market people over the years -- unlike at the supermarket, they know their product, know the best way to cook or serve it, and care about customer service.

There should also be a poultry ingredient in cassoulet, and I've got that taken care of already: two breasts and other body meat from a goose I roasted for Thanksgiving.

So onward, in the cassoulet adventure: if you have any suggestions or recommendations, please let me know!

Friday, October 16, 2009

That's a lot of soup!

Tuesday evening I took the remaining goose leg and both wings, and used them to make a stock (I reserved the leg meat for the soup). I enriched it with the leftover gravy. Once I had the stock, I added all the vegetables I had roasted with the goose, plus a bunch of carrots that I roasted with a lashing of olive oil and carmelized while I was making the stock. When the veggies were squishable with my tongs, I added a butternut squash that I had cooked on the weekend with the express purpose of adding it to the soup (thanks, Mom, for the recommendation to use the microwave oven).

Cooked until everything was soft, and took my trusty KitchenAide stick blender to it. By that time, it was too late at night to parcel it into individual meals, so it sat in the fridge until tonight. I also needed to buy more containers for freezing, which I purchased and washed on Wednesday.

Tonight I ladled the soup out into the individual serving-sized containers. I have a baker's dozen of soup for lunches and/or dinners. That should, in conjunction with the other frozen meals and soups I have in the freezer, last through until January (I figure I'll eat it once a week).

Monday, October 12, 2009

Roast goose for Thanksgiving

The day has come! Time to do the bird! The first thing I have to do is make the stuffing, because it has to go in the bird when it first goes in the oven (the veggies will come later).

I brought out all the ingredients and took a picture. 2-day old baguette, canned chestnuts, dried cranberries that soaked in Grand Marnier for 2 days, onion, shallots, garlic, fresh thyme and sage, and salt and pepper.

Yes, I almost forgot the celery. I did remember it though, while I was half-way through tearing the bread up into bits. So it got chopped, along with the rest of the ingredients, and then I added a bit of white wine to moisten the stuffing.

Preheated the oven to 400F, put about 2 cups of water in the bottom of the roaster.
Removed extra neck skin and fat from the cavity of the goose, and then stuffed it. (I rendered the skin and fat in a pot on the stove, using the same process I used for duck in the summer.)

Hold the sides of the vent together with the tail by using a skewer. Tie the wings and legs so they'll stay positioned on the back, and won't flop all over.

Salt, pepper, and thyme.

Put the goose into the roaster breast side up. More salt, pepper, and thyme.

After a half-hour, reduce the temperature to 350F. Baste every half-hour. After the bird has been in the oven for an hour, add the vegetables around it. For this one, I used a bulb of anise, a celeriac root, 3 red onions, a head of garlic (top of it cut off), 8 potatoes, 4 small turnips, and 8 leeks. Why so many vegetables? I plan to turn most of them into a puréed soup.

Because the goose was stuffed, it took longer to roast. Here it is after 3 hours plus a half-hour of standing, 9lbs minus about 2-1/2 cups of fat (which I am saving for other uses).

I used the giblets and neck to make a stock to make gravy, and added the stock to the drippings in the pan.  Delicious, if I say so myself!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Planning to roast too many vegetables

I like my food to multitask, or at least, serve multimeals.

Tomorrow, when I roast the goose, I plan to roast far too many potatoes, carrots, onions, turnips, celeriac, garlic and a bulb of anise. Waaaay too many to have with dinner.


I thought that all those veggies, roasted in a pan along with goose, would make for a yummy roast harvest vegetable soup. Add to those leftovers the buttercup squash that I'll be cooking and puréeing today. I should be able to use some gravy in the stock (I've got a carton of organic chicken stock that will probably serve as the base. Some of the stuffing will help to thicken the soup. I can take all of those leftovers and use my handy-dandy immersion stick blender to make a creamed soup to which I will add some diced leftover goose.

Freeze in meal-sized containers, and enjoy some reminders of thanksgiving dinner through the winter.

Shoot. Forgot to buy celery.

Guess I'll be making a trip to Loblaw's today to get a bunch.

I'm going to stuff the goose with a bunch of things, some traditional, and some that aren't so traditional.

I went out with the gang from work on Friday night for a few beers (pinot grigio in my case). Wayne, one of my coworkers, makes a stuffing for turkey that has as some of its ingredients dried cranberries and cashews soaked in Courvoisier for two days. Sounds good to me! Except I decided I'll be using some canned chestnuts instead of cashews, and I didn't want to buy a huge bottle of Courvoisier, so I bought some Grand Marnier instead. Since yesterday, the dried cranberries have been soaking up the liqueur: the smell is wonderful.

Other stuffing ingredients are some 2-day old baguette, fresh thyme and sage, an egg, onion, shallots, pepper & salt. Oh. And the celery I forgot to buy yesterday. Am also contemplating adding some Seville orange slices.

Friday, October 9, 2009

And a goose to go in the roaster

Well, I left things too late, or maybe, not late enough.
There were no fresh geese left at the market today. DeLisio's sold their last one this morning. They're a good store: if they don't have what you're looking for, they'll tell you where you can get it. So he recommended that I check out the St. Lawrence Mkt North tomorrow morning to see if I could get a fresh one.

Last minute panic set it (what if one isn't there, and everyone else is sold out?) so I went to Sobey's and bought a 4 kg young goose. Any stragglers want to join me for goose & squash & broccoli and gawd knows what else on Monday?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

A roaster to call my own!

Didn't have enough time today to hit the Market at lunch: I just had too many meetings.

Went across the street from the office to Dinetz's and bought a nice Paderno roasting pan. Was on sale for $109, so that seemed good.
While looking for a link to a picture right now, I see that Costco's offering it for $99.00.

Oh well, saved me a couple of hours of TTC time, buying it downtown!

Tomorrow: a goose. Hope I can find a fresh, local, organic one.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Can I resist?

Thanksgiving weekend is coming, up here in The Great White North.

For about a year, I've been predicting that, over time, goose is going to replace turkey in a lot of homes for holiday feasts.

Why do I think this?
  • They haven't been overbred to produce birds that can't even stand up at maturity.
  • Return to older, heirloom foods is going to, at some point, focus on older breeds of birds. The turkey was once a vigorous flying bird. Alas, its export to Europe and then return to North America may have given it a bigger whiter breast, but sure didn't improve its flavour.
  • Epicureans are rediscovering animal fats — especially organic, grass fed animal fats (much higher in the Omega 3s that you want).
  • Smaller families means we don't need as much meat as on these monster turkeys. A goose (or for a couple, a duck) will do it.
  • Dark meat. 'nuf said.

So, I hanker for a goose (don't think like that!).

I was late to the market today, and took a quick look around my fave meat vendor's stall, Witteveen's Meats — alas, no goose. I know that there was frozen goose at one or two of the others — I was hoping to buy fresh. I may have to go there at lunch tomorrow to check out the other vendors (DeLisio, Whitehouse, and La Boucherie).

Follow the Ethicurean!

I've been a fan of The Ethicurean for a number of years, now. While some of the information is very American, we have to acknowledge that what happens south of the border affects us here, too, since we don't have eternal growing seasons like they do in California and Florida. So it can be worthwhile catching up on what is happening in terms of the Leafy Greens Marketing Board when it tries to add some "food safety" items to its mandate. It will affect what we see come north in the winter for organic or even non-organic greens.

And hey, that's the website where I learned about the Mangalitsa pig.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Caveat Emptor

While purchasing ingredients for the ill-fated cassoulet, I went in search of a confit of duck legs (yes, I could have confitted them myself, but thought I'd save some time).

Whitehouse Meats at the St. Lawrence Market has some cute little packages (alas, not transparent) of confit of duck. When I asked one of the butchers what the package contains, I was told it held two duck legs. For $12.99, I thought that seemed fair.

As I was preparing to add it to the pot of beans, I discovered that there was only one leg in the vacuum-sealed pouch. Beware of buying food you can't see!

Good-bye Gourmet Magazine

The bean-counters have been in at Condé Nast for the last few months, and people have been tiptoeing around nervously. Even the editor of The New Yorker was spotted eating in the cafeteria — whether that was to be seen or to be seen not expensing expensive epicurean delights is up to him to say.

Alas, they decided that Gourmet Magazine has to go. People have to clean out their desks immediately, and November's issue will be the last (it's probably already been printed, or is at the printers).

Gourmet is gone: the companion website, Epicurious, is slated to remain open, and the magazine Bon Appetît will continue to publish.

RIP: it was good to know you.

The bland leading the blind

I call myself blind because I haven't attempted a cassoulet before.

Do not, I implore you, follow that recipe I linked. The results are so bland I've had difficulties forcing myself to eat it. Actually, I ate it two and a half times, and put the rest in the city compost container.

The recipe on Epicurious seems much better. As does practically any recipe that calls for reasonable amounts of herbs and spices. I should have worried when it only had 4 cloves of garlic, sliced in half, and one bouquet garni for enough cassoulet for 8 people.

Even the recipe on The French Food and Cook seems a bit bland, but at least has bacon and 10 cloves of garlic.

I'm going to have to try again. But right now, I'm just glad I didn't serve it to my friends!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Hunting the cassoulet

So many variations!
It's strange: some recipes are standard. Everyone knows them, knows the ingredients, knows the unchanging way to prepare them.

Do a search on cassoulet recipes, and discover quite the opposite!

It is definitely a Provençal meal over which writers wax poetic.

I decided to test-drive a cassoulet recipe before doing it for company. I settled upon a fairly simple version, cut it in half, and, once it was mostly cooking (still have to add the sausages, which are browning in the oven, and the confit of duck legs in an hour) I started browsing other recipes.

A mistake, perhaps?

Doubts assail me.

Oh no -- I used a bouquet garni and this recipe calls for fresh thyme! And this one over here -- it calls for more than twice as much garlic! Did I use enough salt? Pepper? I looked up the ingredients of Toulouse sausage, and it seems to be pretty standard breakfast sausages, so I used them. Was I wrong? Oh no! This recipe for Toulouse sausage has a lot more herbs! This recipe calls for goose fat, that one, olive oil.

I have duck confit, and it's hunting season, so I really should have used partridge! (I will when I do it for my friends).

So I will cook, and taste, and then consider the variants and which way to take it next time, for my friends, on a blustery fall day.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Chef turned food blogger

Signe Langford was the chef at The Riverside Cafe, where friends and I used to go for martinis and mussels. Many types of martinis on the menu, and many different broths in which mussels were steamed to perfection. Alas, she moved on, and the last I had heard, was thrilling people in Yorkville.

Another change, another career: she's now the food blogger at Moses Znaimer's Zoomer Magazine. Have a read of her blog! She's worth following.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Snails, snails, snails

I have a can of them in my pantry, crying to be used.

I ate some excellent snails at Batifole, a French bistro at Gerrard near deGrassi.
These weren't the standard snails in garlic butter: they were in a creamy sauce that might have had a splash of something added to them.

I also had some yummy snails at Fare Bistro. I've eaten them many times, enjoying each time.

With these delicious tastes in my memory, I went searching for recipes. Alas, most were pretty boring, and pretty much the same thing: snails in garlic butter, served either in the shell or in mushroom caps.

Then I happened on this site.
I'm still going through it, but I thought you might enjoy the recipes.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Tutti Matti

Tutti Matti is a Tuscan restaurant, and the food it serves is excellent.

Sandy, Betty and I ate there last night to celebrate Sandy's birthday, and we had a grand old time!
Accompanied by a Chianti Classico, we started with some fresh bread, served with olive oil and a lovely well-aged basalmic vinegar. The bread was perfectly chewy, with a thin, brittle crust that was a delight to eat.

Over bread and wine we decided on our appetizers:
Prosciutto four ways (with melon, with fig, with peach (and I forget the fourth)
Carpaccio affumaicato: two beautiful displays of carpaccio, one of smoked duck breast, the other, smoked venison
The third had lightly smashed peas on a crostini draped with thin slices of pork (the sign for the restaurant is a wild boar: we had to have some pig!) It was drizzled with a tuna sauce. Tuna sauce! I had never heard of it before, but it was lovely, and I'm going to have to find a recipe for it. It would be excellent drizzled over some white beans, pasta, probably would work with many different things.

I think we were all agreed that the smoked venison carpaccio was one of those things you'll always remember having eaten. We also fell all over the prosciutto-wrapped baked peach. It was sinful. Almost at the foie gras level of sin. It tasted so rich, so flavourful, so balanced -- and the flavour just sort of sneaked up on you half-way through the second chew, and spread. All of them were delicious, and we agreed that we've never found bad food at any of our yummy dinners: we're all willing to try just about anything.

For mains, Betty and I opted for the ravioli stuffed with lobster and ricotta, served in a butter-sage sauce with some amazingly fresh green peas. Sandy had the pappardelle con stracotto. I fell in love with my ravioli. I think there was a little bit of lemon zest in the ravioli which gave it a nice zing to deal with all the richness of the dish. Sandy's pappardelle dish was awesome, rich, flavourful and just the thing for an autumn-feeling evening. Betty regretted having the ravioli and wished she ordered pappardelle as well. The sauce was positively unctuous.

How does one top all those dishes with a dessert? We went for the small cheese plate and the biscotti plate, and an Italian dessert wine that was thick and raisiny and light amber. They completed the meal, and finished it on a high note.

Chef Alida Solomon is to be complimented for her savvy preparations and the freshness of her ingredients.

While talking over dinner, we decided that we'll celebrate Sandy's next birthday in Tuscany. We have a year to plan.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Eating tapas @ Torito on Augusta Ave.

Sandy and I ate there last night. We enjoyed each tapas dish, and returned after the cabaret show for figs with blue cheese and sherry.

Fresh food: lovely marinated food: yummy rich comfort food -- it was all there on the menu. If I tried to pick a dish that still stands out in my mind almost a day later, I'd say it was the rabbit with peach chutney. The rabbit was shredded, and I think it was confit cooked (I noticed later that they also had confit of rabbit leg on the menu). It had a crispy richness and tenderness to it that seems to be the calling card of food that has been slow cooked in fat, and then rapidly seared just before serving to provide some crunch to it.

The peaches that accompanied it were julienned, cooked or at least mascerated in a liquid that did the cooking, and tasted of cinnamon and cloves. It was an excellent complement to the rabbit.

Other items on the menu were like perfect ballroom dance pairs: you know they dance well together, and they never cease to please: one of those is arugula paired with some shavings of a dry, hard cheese. At Torito, the dressing was lovely, light, and included quince. An addition of toasted almonds made it very scrumptious.

Soups? We started with the creamed Jerusalem Artichoke soup, decorated with some chili oil and completely scrumptious fried onions in a pile on top. Sandy's lucky I didn't steal them all... or maybe I'm lucky she didn't!

An excellent meal.

We had the 3 course special (of which there was a donation included to STOP, an organization to help feed people) followed by other dishes (hmm. sardines, salad, and a rich rich ground lamb dish, if I recall correctly). Plus drinks.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Old tyme pork

Modern factory pork. Blah. No flavour, no texture, no real reason to eat it.
Places like The Black Hoof in Toronto get it: pork is all about the texture, the taste, the fat permeating the meat. I shared, with two friends, a stuffed pork snout on my birthday. It was a dish to savour and remember.

Websurfing a few weeks ago, I ran across a description of Wooly pigs, a breed seldom seen on this continent.

Look at this and tell me you don't want some. One day, one day.

Yet another blog? Yup.

I keep doing these specialized blogs, compartmentalizing my life, putting things into neat little parcels.
This one -- epiglutton -- is about being an epicurean -- some might say glutton -- but one only eats that way occasionally. Generally, one aims to eat healthily.

Let us see how far I get with this.