While in Iceland, I must admit that I didn’t try many traditional Icelandic meals. My Icelandic finds mainly consisted of Icelandic herbal teas, whereas Rob tried the beer-boiled Icelandic hotdog and other traditional fish- and lamb-based dishes. He also discovered chocolate-covered licorice, an Icelandic candy! Licorice is actually a popular flavour for Icelandic candy. Yucko I say!
I have a few food aversions. Celery. Coffee. And yes, licorice.
And what do I buy from Sunny’s on a whim when I return?
A new-to-me herb.
You know what’s coming up…. It tastes like licorice! Like anise! Oh no! But I decided to forge ahead.. otherwise I would have wasted a $1.
I spotted this simple soup with tomato and tarragon in Rebar for my first taste of tarragon. It was a wonderful introduction to the herby epitome of French cuisine. It has a regal taste, in that it is not so harsh as licorice. The light flavour is delicious. It pairs great with tomato in this soup which is zippy from the garlic and chili flakes. I also wanted to add further creaminess and bulk, so I added in white beans prior to pureeing it.
People love CSAs because they are introduced to new veggies and are forced to use them in creative ways. I get the same trippy feeling whenever I go to Sunny’s and scour their bargain section. I have no a clue what I will come home with… and this time, tarragon was a winner.
I’ll take it one word at a time.
Ottolenghi: Yotam Ottolenghi is a British chef that writes The New Vegetarian column in The Guardian. He pushes the concept of traditional cooking, incorporating his Middle Eastern background to today’s best dishes. He has two popular cookbooks: Ottolenghi and Plenty.
Socca: A thick, heavier French chickpea flour crepe. A rustic dish that is supposed to be eaten with your hands.
Pissaladière: A French pizza-like appetizer without tomato sauce or cheese. Instead your dough is typically topped with sautéed onions, garlic, olives and anchovies.
Putting this all together, with Ottolenghi’s twist on the two traditional recipes, we have a light meal with a thick chickpea pancake as the base for lovely caramelized onions and oven-roasted tomatoes. I first spotted this recipe in his cookbook, Plenty, but a slight variation is also posted through The Guardian. In the cookbook, there is more chickpea flour and 2 whipped egg whites are added to the batter. I didn’t feel like fiddling with extra egg whites, so I stuck to the recipe online. David Lebovitz also has a socca recipe and a key point he makes is to rest the batter over 2 hours before you start to bake it. I have added that to the recipe as well.
The result of this is a thick, hearty yet still kind of light, nutty pancake that is smothered with silky caramelized onions with a hint of thyme and topped with oven-roasted cherry tomatoes. I liked how the flavours complemented each other so well. My gripe, though, now that I am making all my weekday meals on the weekend is that the leftovers are subprime. Definitely not bring to work kind of leftovers. I can manage some semblance of the original deliciousness if I pop it back in my oven for a few minutes to perk up. But that only works at home.
As well, I had a bit of difficulties making the pancakes. I usually use a non-stick frypan but this recipe calls for a smaller pancake, made in a smaller frypan. My smallest frypan isn’t nonstick, so my socca stuck a few times. Still tasted great, though. Next time, I may default back to my non-stick frypan even if that means the pancakes/crepes will be bigger.
Before I began to blog, I used to post my food pics with its recipe on Facebook. My friends urged me to go public, to share my joy of food and photography with many more people and I am so glad I made to leap to the blogosphere. I really enjoy being part of the food blogging community, where I have met some really awesome people so far. I hope to continue to be pushed to try new dishes, meet new people, etc, over time.
In honour of the 100th post on the blog, I thought I would bring everyone back to where it all began. The first picture in my “Food Porn” album is the above pic. Over Thanksgiving, I made an incredibly delicious French Barley Salad that I Ashley posted at Eat Me, Delicious, which was adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special (which I already owned!). The food was so delicious it got a spotlight in my Thanksgiving 2008 album and also kickstarted my food photography.
It is through practice and reflection that we improve, and I know my photos have improved over the past couple of years. So when I remade the salad recently, I still took its photo… of the leftovers, though, and sadly my photography skills were not at their peak. Can I blame it on my parents having prettier bowls? Nah…. One step forward and two steps back.. sounds like I am dancing backwards? Well, at least it is a tasty trip backwards.
In reflection of where I’ve been culinarily since the beginning of the blog, I added a new category to the blog highlighting my favourite dishes. Enjoy!
This is my submission to Cooking with Whole Foods – Whole Grains, featuring barley, this week’s Weekend Wellness, this week’s BSI featuring green beans, and to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays (which also includes salads).
“Perception is a powerful thing. Your best meal could be an elaborate 16-course affair, or a hot dog shared with someone special on a mountaintop. The best meals are more about the moment than they are about the food.”
- “I Viaggio Di Vetri: A Culinary Journey” by Marc Vetri
I love that quote. While I often eat alone, food is definitely a way to share with others. To share time, to share conversation and food comes second. The love that was put into a meal says a lot to me. I love cooking, but sometimes find it stressful when cooking for others on a timeline. I have to remind myself it is the company that matters most, not necessarily the meal. Even if I get picked on for lousy cooking (Good Friday 2009 will never be forgotten! arg!).
I wanted to highlight this dish as the finale of my spotlight on eating for 1 (even if the photo doesn’t do it nearly the justice it deserves). I cooked it for 4, though, when I had friends over for dinner. Perhaps it was the company that made it special, but this dish was truly phenomenal. Coupled with great friends, games, laughs and good food, you can’t go wrong.
I don’t cook much meat, and was really eager to try mushroom bourguignon when I saw it on Smitten Kitchen. She had high praise for the dish – not as much prep as a typical beef bourguignon but all the flavour courtesy of 2 pounds of portobello mushrooms. No need for a bottle of red wine either. I could serve the rest of the red wine to my guests. This dish did not disappoint in the slightest. It was easy and incredibly delicious and rich. Dare I suggest it will convert mushroom haters? I think so although I have yet to try.
I served it with spaetzle, which is a German egg dumpling. My mom makes the most fabulous spaetzle and I automatically figured she had a family recipe in her armamentarium. Nope, it turns out it is from The Joy of Cooking. It can be a bit challenging to make spaetzle to get the proper shape without the proper tools. There are presses specifically to make spaetzle, which is what I use, but you could also use a colander with large holes. You basically force the dough through the holes to make short strands of dough. You could also cut off small pieces of dough from a cutting board, which I have also done in my pre-spaetzle maker era. The mushroom bourguignon would be delicious with a side of egg noodles, too.
This is my submission to Tobias’ 13th Mediterranean Cooking Event, featuring dishes from France.
Friends like to ask me about my signature dish and I have a tough time answering because I try so many different recipes. A few of the goodies get repeated, but I also feel that variety is the spice of life and it may be months to years before I retry a recipe. But the truth be told, my favourite repeated dishes are salmon teriyaki and my wheat berry salad with almonds and cranberries in a citrus dressing. They are a bit different and are a treat for guests.
However, I can’t just whip the dishes out of thin air as they aren’t made with pantry staples. I need some advance notice to head to the grocery store before I make them.
But what happens if I have unexpected guests? Well, to be honest, they will likely go hungry if they don’t want leftovers. My grandmother, wise in her years, has staples she can whip up in no time. Cream puffs are her emergency dessert and if pressed, she’ll ask her guests to come with the whipping cream for a stellar dessert.
I never knew cream puffs, light and delicious pastry filled with vanilla whipped cream and smothered with chocolate, could be considered easy. So I put my grandmother’s recipe to the test, to figure out how foolproof it was to make cream puffs.
The cream puff pastry (aka pâte à choux – cabbage paste!) is nice because the ingredients are all pantry staples and you can make it without a machine. You need to whip it really hard and fast until it pulls from the side of the pan, but no problemo! Next you drop them onto a cookie sheet and bake until they are browned and hollow in the middle. The moist dough allows steam to puff the pastry. Cut them in half, remove any soft dough (still tastes yummy!) and let cool. The pastry can easily be frozen at this point, and later reheated in a 350F oven for a few minutes prior to filling and dressing.
Next, once your guests arrive with the whipping cream, and the cream puffs are cool, stuff them with the whipped cream and top with chocolate ganache. Serve to astonished guests because it was actually quite simple to make, just many small steps towards a delicious dessert.
Cream puffs are incredibly versatile, using any combination of fillings and toppings. Filled with ice cream, they are known as profiteroles, but one could equally fill with savoury vegetables for an impressive lunch. What a powerhouse!
This is my submission to this month’s Tea Time Treats for French desserts.