Sunday, December 1, 2013
May I introduce you to my new favourite dip?
Only . . . it's not quite a dip.
It's more like a soft, plump piece of the most flavourful sun-dried tomato you can imagine hanging out next to a golden piece of garlic that spreads like butter when it hits your cracker.
The sun-dried tomato and the garlic have a bit of very good olive oil* to keep them fluid, and that's it.
I like to serve this concoction with a little wooden spoon from Japan that allows it to work in its magical twilight between liquid and solid.
You spoon it onto your cracker or crisp bread, take a bite before the oil dribbles too far down your chin, and head back for more. (But someone else has now got the spoon, so you also get to learn patience. Bonus.)
This sort-of-dip has an unusual technique. First you let the garlic soften and get golden in that good olive oil, then stir in the spices, then a bit of plum and balsamic vinegars. Finally, you stir in some plump rehydrated tomatoes.
All those additions quickly make friends and that humble sun-dried tomato becomes (so I think) the very essence of what a sun-dried tomato should be.
Many, many thanks to my friend Haruko who first introduced me to this recipe. She brought it to book club and I begged for the recipe. At the next meeting, she came with a hand-written purple recipe card.
Haruko calls this Annie's Sun-Dried Tomatoes, because her dear friend Annie gave her the recipe. Turns out, it's originally from Wilderness Cuisine by Carole Latimer. (You better believe I am going to request Wilderness Cuisine at the library right now. There. Done.)
I think this is the kind of recipe that gets around a lot between friends.
* I like like this Sicilian olive oil, which is surprisingly reasonable for its big flavour.
one year ago: cheese ball!
two years ago: spiced ginger mounds
three years ago: walnut slugs and spicy cajun almonds
four years ago: seafood chowder for a cold autumn day
annie's sun-dried tomatoes
slightly adapted from wilderness cuisine by carole latimer
yields about 1 cup
3/4 c. sun-dried tomatoes (dry)
6 tbsp. good olive oil
7 – 10 cloves garlic, peeled
1/4 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. coriander
1/4 tsp. salt
5 whole peppercorns
2 tbsp. ume (Japanese plum) or rice vinegar
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
Cut the garlic into thick strips (in half for a small clove, maybe 4 or 5 for a big clove). Gently heat a pan over low heat. Add the olive oil and garlic and cook for about 15 minutes. Make sure they're not burning: you just want them to slowly get golden.
While the garlic is cooking, bring the sun-dried tomatoes to a boil in a small pot with enough water for them to swim around. Let them boil for a couple minutes to rehydrate. Drain. Put the sundried tomatoes on a cutting board so they can cool down a bit. Once they are cool enough to touch, cut them into long ragged strips.
Measure the spices and add to the garlic once it's golden. Stir and cook five more minutes. Add the vinegars and cook two more minutes. Stir in the cut sun-dried tomatoes. Serve with crackers or crisp bread, or set aside to serve at room temperature. Store in the fridge if leaving out for more than a couple hours. Set out an hour ahead of time to bring to room temperature.
Wednesday, November 13, 2013
|Breakfast in Hiroshima|
I can't think of just the right words to summarize eating in Japan, so let me share a few things I do remember.
I ate a lot more noodles than I expected – and I loved them.
The fish was usually raw – and always perfectly fresh and tender.
The sake was hot or cold – and both were good.
I am yet another foreigner who doesn't like natto (fermented beans) – and I can't even handle looking at that slimy texture.
I learned to drink green tea like water – and I miss it now.
I continued my new love affair with soft tofu – and am now determined to make it at home.
I live in Alberta and I don't want to be unpatriotic, but I ate the best steak of my life at the New Otani Hotel in Tokyo – and can't wait to go back for more.
Let me show you the rest . . .
One morning, these sweet potatoes showed up in the yard at our host family's house in Kasugai. I believe they came from Hamako's brother's garden. I never saw grass in between houses in the city; the land was always used for vegetable gardens and persimmon trees.
Hamako packed these snack bags for us on our last day. We happily munched our way through them on the bullet train.
We had our nicest hotel breakfasts in Hiroshima, looking out at the bus stop and scores of school children rushing to the bus with all their umbrellas up.
After making my way through the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, all I wanted was a cup of hot tea.
I asked at the little shop inside and the server pointed to what looked like a refrigerated case of tea bottles behind me.
I said, "No, I would like hot tea."
She nodded and I gave in. She reached into the case and handed me a bottle that was hot. I still don't know how. I sat at a little table and drank it, looking through the rain at school children visiting the Phoenix tree that survived the atomic bomb.
This was just one small part of lunch at a restaurant on Miyajima.
From my seat, I could see out the windows, to the rainy ocean and rising land beyond.
While my mom finished her shopping on Miyajima, I ducked out of the rain into a little bakery.
Miyajima is famous for these little maple-shaped cookies filled with bean paste. They were only about 90 cents and I ordered two: one for me and one for mom. I sat down to eat mine and they brought me green tea. It was exactly what that rainy afternoon called for.
A market stall just before entering the Nishiki food market in Kyoto. I do believe we ate daikon radish every day in Japan.
Lunch at Arashiyama: a big bowl of udon noodle soup and green tea.
On our last morning in Tokyo, more than a hundred people were lined up for breakfast at the hotel.
We headed outside and found a little Thai restaurant. We sat outside at a rickety table and ate green coconut bread, ricotta pancakes and mango as we watched thousands of people cross the intersection from the subway station on their way to work.
I was reminded once again of a very important Japanese word: oishii. Delicious.
one year ago: potato chip cookies
two years ago: roasted tomato soup and asiago lace
three years ago: butter tarts
Sunday, November 3, 2013
I got back from Japan last Monday.
Images from my trip keep surprising me: when I look a certain way, when I suddenly want a cup of green tea mid-afternoon, when I sit on the bus on the way to work and think how different the bus was in Kyoto.
Here are some of the pictures I love the most. I'll be back later with the food photos.
|Kasugai Train Station|
|Our umbrellas after we were literally rained out of the parade in Kasugai|
|Thirteen-year-old Thomas was a big hit with the Japanese girls|
|Bullet train to Hiroshima|
|After the atomic bomb hit Hiroshima, only the bones of this building remained|
|The floating gate at the shrine on Miyajima Island|
|Contemplating the shrine and thankful the rain stopped for 10 minutes|
|Bamboo grove in Arashiyama|
|Koi in the gardens in Arashiyama|
|Japanese maple leaf in Arashiyama|
|At Kyoto's busiest intersection|
|Why can't Canadian men dress this well?|
|View from the Tokyo Sky Tree|
|Imperial Palace grounds in Tokyo|
|Bride and groom at the New Otani Hotel in Toyko|
|Last morning in Japan: view from Tokyo hotel room|
one year ago: quince jellies
two years ago: applesauce spice cake
three years ago: west african peanut soup via winnipeg
Monday, October 14, 2013
Dear readers, I fly to Japan tomorrow!
I am going for two weeks with my mother, as part of a cultural exchange between my home town of Kelowna and Kasugai in Japan. Even though I have now checked into my flight and my bags are packed, I can still hardly believe it.
I will tell you all about it when I get back. But in the meantime, I wanted to share this heavenly new cake recipe with you. My co-worker Portia shared it with me after everyone at work raved about it.
They were right to rave. It's originally from Jamie Oliver, and it's kind of like a flourless chocolate cake with lots of nuts in it. His original recipe calls for just almonds and walnuts, but I find it difficult not to add hazelnuts to chocolate – it's the German in me – so in they went.
(I do believe you could stick with his original version of 150 g. walnuts and 150 g. almonds and also be quite happy).
You whiz everything together in the food processor and end up with a thick but light batter from all those whipped egg whites.
The batter bakes into a substantial cake that's moist and dense with nuts and rich with chocolate. And, of course, lovely with a dollop of hazelnut-scented whip cream on the side.
I might note that if you don't like pumpkin pie, it also makes a fine Thanksgiving dessert. (Which I tested for you yesterday, just to make sure.)
one year ago: 27 hours in saskatoon and homemade ricotta cheese
two years ago: quince almond cake and roasted beet risotto
three years ago: pear ginger jam
three-nuts chocolate torte
slightly adapted from Jamie Oliver
100 g. peeled almonds
100 g. walnuts
100 g. mostly-peeled hazelnuts*
300 g. dark chocolate (70% cocoa or higher), broken into rough pieces
1 tsp. cocoa powder, heaped + cocoa for dusting the pan
255 g. butter, at room temperature
100 g. fine sugar or caster sugar
6 large egss, separated
pinch of salt
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Choose an 8 or 10-inch cake pan (preferably spring-form) and line the bottom with parchment paper. Then butter the bottom and sides, and dust with cocoa. Set it on a cookie sheet, in case a little bit of butter weeps out while it's baking.
Put the nuts in a food processor and whiz until finely ground. Add the chocolate and cocoa, and whiz another 30 seconds to break the chocolate up. Spoon it out of the food processor and set aside.
Beat the butter and sugar in the food processor until pale and fluffy. Add the egg yolks one at a time, then mix in the chocolate and nut mixture. Set aside in a separate, large bowl.
In another bowl, beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they form stiff peaks. Gently fold the egg whites into the big bowl of chocolate-nut-butter mixture. Pour it all into the prepared pan.
Bake about 40 – 45 minutes for an 8-inch pan, possibly 35 – 40 for a 10-inch pan. You want this cake to be moist, so trust your nose! You should also stick a cake pin tester into the cake for 5 seconds and have it come out clean when it's ready.
Let cool before serving.
hazelnut whip cream
500 ml. whipping cream
3 tbsp. fine or caster sugar
3 tbsp. Frangelico or hazelnut liqueur
Beat the cream with the sugar and liqueur until it's puffy. Serve a big dollop with each slice of cake.
* You might need to roast the hazelnuts to get much of their peels off if you can't buy them peeled.
Thursday, October 3, 2013
I tend to go a bit leek crazy.
Whenever I see them at the farm or the farmers' market, their white curly ends and smooth white-to-green stalks pull me in. I hand over my money and I'm suddenly filling my wrinkled cloth bag with bunches and bunches of leeks.
Their dark green tops peek out the top of the bag and look so cheerful on the way home.
But once in the fridge – once I've cleared a whole shelf in the fridge because, let's face it, leeks are not small vegetables – it's a different story.
Their leaves get a bit wilted and I remember how much work it is to wash all that pesky dirt out of leeks. In short, I feel overwhelmed by a vegetable.
Luckily, I stumbled onto this recipe last summer at just such a time.
It's from Beyond the Plate and it only has four ingredients: leeks, heavy cream, freshly-ground nutmeg and gruyère cheese.
I was a bit dubious, until I read that Danielle's husband learned the recipe in Switzerland. Really, that was enough. If anyone knows how to make gratin, I believe it would be the Swiss.
And they do. And now I do. And so will you, if you make this.
The technique is brilliant: simmer the heavy cream and a bit of the leek cooking water down until it's thick and pre-gratin-y (that is a new word I just made up!). Stir in a good amount of nutmeg, season it with salt and pepper, coat the tender leeks with the sauce and cover it all with a good lid of gruyère cheese.
This bubbles and burbles in the oven and the gruyère blisters into brown caramelized goodness and –
The leek magic is realized and there is suddenly nothing else I would rather eat. I reassure myself that buying bunches and bunches of leeks was actually a very wise decision, and I dig in.
P.S. Thanksgiving is coming, and I do believe this would be a show-stopper side dish on your Thanksgiving table. Just sayin'.
Thanksgiving ideas: turnip puff, tarragon three-bean salad, creamy celeriac soup and rosemary corn butter
one year ago: beet salad with honey-horseradish dressing
two years ago: star anise plum jam
three years ago: finally yummy brussels sprouts
via beyond the plate
about 1 kg. (2 – 2 1/2 lbs) leeks*
1 1/2 c. whipping cream
2 tsp. ground nutmeg or as much freshly-ground nutmeg as you can bear grating
salt and pepper
1 1/5 c. gruyère cheese, grated
First, start by preparing your leeks. Trim the end off each, then cut discs about 3 cm (1 inch) thick. The first couple disks will be white. After that, cut off a layer of green leaf and rinse it for each disc. This will keep the pesky dirt hiding in the leek away from your gratin and help make sure you're using the tender part of the leek.
Put the leeks in a pot with enough water to cover. Stir in a big pinch of coarse sea salt. Bring to a boil, then simmer the leeks uncovered for 5 minutes. Take 1/4 c. of the cooking water out of the pot and set it aside. Drain the leeks and set aside.
Pour the whipping cream and reserved leek water into a wide skillet. Bring to a good simmer over medium heat, stirring often. Over approximately the next 30 minutes, the cream will thicken and get a bit clumpy. When it's sufficiently thickened, the bubbles will have more trouble breaking through and it will look like there's a layer of cream around the circumference. (See photo.)
While you are waiting for the cream to thicken, chop the leeks into quarter-discs.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
One the cream has thickened, add nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the leeks and keep stirring until they're well coated. Turn the heat off and spoon your creamy leek mixture into a casserole dish (preferably a wider dish than the one I used above). Use the back of the spoon to even it out in the dish. Toss on the cheese to cover the creamy leeks. Bake for 20 – 30 minutes, or until the gratin becomes golden brown.
Let it rest on a rack for 10 minutes before serving.
* Leeks come in wildly different sizes. One kilogram could equal anywhere from 2 very large leeks to 7 smaller leeks. Try to weigh them at the store so you know what you're dealing with.