Sunday, October 26, 2008

Thai Cardamom

I have read about Thai cardomom in several books, most notably David Thompson's Thai Food, but other than knowing it tastes very similar to the green cardamom used in Indian cooking, though milder in flavour. Thai cardamom, also called Siam cardamom (Amomum krervanh Pierre), called "Kra-Waan" in Thai, are cream in colour, and the most widespread cardamom species in Thailand. I didn't know where to get these small and almost spherical pods. I would think that one could get them in Specialty Spice stores, there is one in Kensington Market, but I rarely get downtown anymore. So, I turned to my beautiful Bride's relatives in Thailand, and they tracked some down (actually, a lot, we won't have to worry about getting some more for a while, but great). I look forward to using them in such dishes as Kao Mok Gai.

DanActive Blueberry

The idea of getting your probiotics, the good bacteria in your gut, every morning is a good one, and yogurt is a great vector for the bacteria. This one is in drinkable form, and supplies three kinds of good bacteria, L. Bulgaricus, S. Thermophilus and L. Casei. It doesn't taste too bad, though I would prefer it if it was plain (even though I like blueberry).

Cocon Kingo Pudding Durian Flavour

I like durian, of course you know that, and this pudding, with pieces of nata de coco, tastes very much like durian (it has fruit juice in it, whether it is juice from the durian is not clear). My beautiful Bride says that if I like this pudding, that I definitely would like the durian in Thailand. And I do.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Thai Coffee

Thailand is certainly known for their tea, but coffee is also grown in certain provinces. These beans come from Chomporn province, in south Thailand, and I have read about coffee from the southern provinces (which led me to my quest to get some, my sister-in-law located some in Thailand and brought some on her recent trip). Recently, I read about coffee grown as Fair Trade from the northern provinces, available for sale in Canada, I have to track those down (you can read about them here - Doi Chaang Coffee).

You can see how big a bag she bought, it will last me for a while.

But I don't mind really, as I tried making a cup of coffee today, grinding the beans in a coffee grinder to a medium fineness (they were roasted to espresso darkness), and then running hot water through a drip filter. And, the beans make a good cup of coffee, though very mellow. Actually, the last half of the cup tasted the best, there was a good aftertaste that I liked. I believe these are Robusta beans, though I am not really sure (as I am not that much of a coffee aficionado that I can tell the difference between robusta and arabica beans), just what I've read on the 'Net.

Kashi Seven Whole Grains and Almonds Granola Bar

I've reviewed the Cherry Dark Chocolate granola bar from Kashi, which I like, this is one my beautiful Bride likes. The ingredient listing looks very similar in the two bars, and features Kashi's signature 7 whole grains combination (the seven are hard red winter wheat, oats, rye, barley, triticale, long grain brown rice, buckwheat); the difference, is that this one has whole roasted almonds. This bar also tastes pretty good, though I prefer the cherry dark chocolate one. A close second.

Swiss Delice Supreme Surprise Citron & Poivre

The idea of lemon and pepper together is not new to cooking, certainly you can buy lemon-pepper in any supermarket, and the idea of pepper and chocolate together is also not new, chili or cayenne pepper certainly, black pepper not so much, but I have not seen a lemon and pepper chocolate bar before. And, I must say I am pleasantly surprised (as the name of the bar indicates) by how good this tastes. Chocolate Frey AG, with their brand Swiss Delice, has been a chocolatier since 1887, and they claim to be Switzerland's No. 1 chocolate maker. Certainly, the ingredient listing is unusual for a dark chocolate bar, the 55% cacao content (cocoa mass and butter), sugar, lemon powder (awesome, as I don't like peel - ok, it's the sole reason I don't like the orange and chocolate combination bars; I say 'blech'), fructose, citric acid (normally used to make a product tart in flavour), soya lecithin, black pepper and flavours; that would make them an unusual chocolatier, at least.

How does it taste? Smells very good, snaps very well apart, and is smooth to the palate. I especially like the lemony taste, and the spiciness of the pepper; the combo of the two is quite good. It's not too sweet, and not too spicy. My beautiful Bride likes it as well. I would definitely buy this again.

Lindt Lindor Hazelnut

I've eaten these in truffle and egg format, now this is in square format, so it's still good. I had never really read the ingredient listing, I see now, and I guess in the back of my mind I thought it wasn't so good, that it has a lot of not-so-good ingredients; the listing goes sugar, cocoa butter, milk ingredients (it's a milk chocolate coating), coconut oil (actually a good oil, though mostly maligned), cocoa mass, hazelnuts (as very small pieces), palm kernel oil, lactose, palm oil, soya lecithin, barley malt extract and artificial flavour. There is no indication of the cacao content or origin. I like the funky design on each square, looks like a dragon to me, a stylized version of the Lindt Dragon logo.

How do they taste? Well, these particular ones were a little past due on the expiry date, but still good. I like the hazelnut flavour, and the slight crunch the small pieces of hazelnut give. It would be better that it were more hazelnut within, and it were dark rather than milk chocolate.

Pea Shoots for a Crowd

Jeffrey's and Naomi's cookbooks are more than repositories of recipes, they are also travelogues, one can get a feel for the history behind the people who enjoy the food. I've enjoyed those parts of their books just as much as the recipes that I have tried. And, this one has a great name. You can double or triple this recipe, our 'crowd' at Thanksgiving was just two people; if your wok or heavy pan is too small, stir-fry the pea shoots in several batches. The salt is very important to this dish, it brings out the flavour of the pea shoots. Too, we didn't cut our pea shoots, we ate the tough ends (though, now that I reread the recipe, I will do so in the future). Too, I think that the recipe calls for turmeric root; we didn't have any, so we substituted ground turmeric. This tasted great, nonetheless.

Pea Shoots for a Crowd
adapted from a recipe from Mangoes & Curry Leaves by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid
2-3 cups pea shoots loosely packed
2 tsp oil
1 dried red chili, stemmed
1 clove garlic minced
1 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp salt or to taste

Rinse the pea shoots thoroughly in a colander. Hold the greens a bundle at a time on your cutting board and chop them crosswise into 2-inch lengths; discard any coarse stems. Set aside.

Place a large wok over high heat. Add the oil and swirl it around a little. Toss in the dried chiles, garlic, and turmeric. Stir-fry for about 15 seconds, then add the greens; the water drops on them will sizzle nicely as they hit the hot pan. Sprinkle on the salt, then stir-fry, turning and tossing until all the greens have been exposed to the hot surface of the wok.

Stir-fried Ginger with Salmon

This recipe is very similar to the Ginger and Chicken recipe, though it has shiitake mushrooms rather than woodear, and it gets extra flavour from the preserved yellow bean sauce and the Golden Mountain seasoning sauce. The salmon tasted great with the ginger, though you might want to try it with a fish that tastes less "fishy", some sort of whitefish would do well. Still, I liked this dish.

Stir-fried Ginger with Salmon
1 cup of salmon, cut into bite-size chunks
2 cups young ginger, julienned
2 Tbsp shiitake mushrooms, julienned
4 spring onions, chopped into 1" slices
1 tsp sugar
1 Tbsp preserved yellow bean sauce
1 Tbsp garlic, chopped coarsely
1 Tbsp Golden Mountain seasoning sauce
2 Tbsp oil

Place oil in heavy-bottomed pot on medium heat. Place garlic in hot oil and stir-fry until fragrant. Add ginger and shiitake mushroom and continue to stir-fry until fragrant. Add salmon chunks and stir-fry until cooked, about 4-5 minutes. Add yellow bean sauce and Golden Mountain seasoning sauce and spring onion and cook for another minute.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Trapa Supremo Milk Chocolate with Hazelnuts

This milk chocolate bar from the Spanish chocolatier Trapa, from what I've read, uses the same century old recipe that the Trapesian monks created in 1891 in Palencia, Spain. I have also seen the bittersweet chocolate version in the Supremo line, but there are ones with white chocolate, rice crispies and almonds. They also make several other lines of chocolate, with specialty ingredients, some with Swiss chocolate. The ingredients of this bar are definitely milk chocolate, with sugar, cocoa butter, cocoa mass, whole milk powder, hazelnuts (pieces), defatted cocoa powder, soy lecithin, flavours and salt (an unusual ingredient for chocolate bars). There is no indication of the cacao content or origin.

How does it taste? Fairly good, sweet, the bar smells of the hazelnuts as you open the package, and there are lots of hazelnut pieces within. I think I could buy this again.

Fruit King Freezed-dried Bananas

The idea of freeze-dried anything intrigued me as a teenager, going to the Space Center in Houston, there was freeze-dried ice cream for sale, similar to what astronauts had eaten on their missions, but I remember being somewhat disappointed at the flavour and mouth-feel of the ice cream. The appeal of ice cream is in its creaminess, melting on the mouth, which is hard to achieve when freeze-dried, that block of what I remember as being strawberry ice cream just sort of crumbled. I have had other freeze-dried products, more notably, recently, also from Thailand's Sunshine International Co., Ltd's, their Fruit King Freeze-dried Durian; this is another, and I think more superior, of their products. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the durian, though it is a little disconcerting eating dry durian, fruit will always be better in whole natural form.

The dried bananas taste much better, though, very much better than the crispy banana slices I dislike, these were definitely bananas, and, other than being dry, were like eating a banana. Too, they smelled just like a normal banana. The bananas they use they call scent bananas, it is the one we normally find here in North America for sale.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Lindt Pistachio

I can see that the packaging markets the green-ness of the pistachio, though in eating this milk chocolate bar, I was confused to see that neither the filling (it's white, almond filling) nor the pistachios are green (ok, perhaps a little bit, hard to see). The ingredient listing is not as good as some of their products, sugar, cocoa butter, milk ingredients, palm oil, pistachios, cocoa mass, lactose, almonds, soya lecithin, barley malt extract and artificial flavour. There is no indication of the cacao content, though I would suspect it's fairly low.

How did it taste? I must say I was disappointed in this one, I didn't get any of the pistachio flavour, it seemed very sweet, and more milk chocolate than any nut. I liked the whole nut in each section. Too, I think that I like pistachios roasted and salted, rather than sweet, I must admit, though it will not bring me to buy this bar again.

Another Lindt Outlet Store

A friend of mine told me about the Lindt Outlet store in Scarborough, it's located at 2250 Markham Road, which is just south of Finch Ave. on Markham Road. The closer one to me, in Mississauga, you can read about here.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Japanese Green Tea Genmaicha

This is the Genmaicha that I normally drink, while it is good tasting, I find the green tea to be of less than superior quality, too, there are sticks that float to the top which I have to pick out. Still, the combination of green tea and roasted brown rice is very good.

You can find this particular Genmaicha in most Asian Supermarkets.

Hot and Sour Cabbage

I've had and liked Chinese sweet and sour cabbage, this is very similar, but adds spice to the mix. I would think that the Sichuan peppercorns add enough heat, and you can decrease these and the dried peppers if you can't stand the heat, with the dried chili peppers, there was a definite heat to this dish. But good.

Hot and Sour Cabbage
adapted from a recipe from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Susie Ward
1-1/2 lb korean cabbage
10 Sichuan peppercorns
2-5 dried red chili peppers
2 Tbsp light soy sauce
1-1/2 Tbsp white vinegar
1-1/2 Tbsp sugar
1-1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
3 Tbsp oil
1 tsp sesame seed oil

Wash cabbage in cold water and cut leaves into small pieces.

Cut the chilies into small bits (removing the seeds, if you don't want it too hot). Mix the soy sauce, vinegar, sugar and salt together to make a sauce.

Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pan on medium heat, until the oil starts to smoke. Add the peppercorns and chili bits, stir; a few seconds later add the cabbage. Stir for about 1-1/2 minutes until the cabbage begins to go limp.

Pour over the prepared sauce and continue stirring the cabbage until well blended.

Garnish with a little sesame oil just before serving.

Stephan's Bio Bärchen

My aunt recently sent a gift for my baby daughter, too she sent me some gummibears. These are better than the average, er, gummibear, there are more natural ingredients, with concentrated juice and natural flavours of lemon, apple, black currant and raspberry. Quite good tasting.

Latest new Offerings from Lindt

As I put this in my mouth, the dark chocolate melted, and I suddenly got this shot of almost espresso in my mouth. Great. A new offering from Lindt, Lindor Coffee.

Melting this in your mouth, you get the wonderful taste of hazelnut paste, and hidden within are two whole hazelnuts. Quite good. A new offering from Lindt called Nicciolato.

The good smooth dark chocolate of Lindt comes out in this tiny bar, and melts in your mouth great. A great little snack or pick-me-up. A new offering from Lindt, Extra Bitter.

This offering from Lindt had the amazing taste of dark chocolate mousse in solid form as I let it melt in my mouth. I really enjoyed this one. A new offering from Lindt, Fondente 72%.

I still don't quite like this, I've tried it before in egg form. The milk chocolate lindor encases are more solid centre than other Lindors. A new offering from Lindt, Lindor Au Champagne Marc.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Dorgel Bacio Chocolate

The idea of the Bacio chocolate, is one of the combination of hazelnuts, whole ones, and chocolate, I would say that Dorgel's idea, or at least I hope that would be their idea, is to make a gelato that would duplicate the famous chocolate. But this seems to me to be just two of their gelatos, the Hazelnut one and the Chocolate Trifle one, put together in the container just in order to make a new flavour. So, it doesn't quite work for me.

Russet Apples are out!

I was at the Square One Farmer's Market this morning, specifically to find my favourite apple, the Russet, and I was glad to see that they are out this week (and indeed, russets usually come out the first week of October). Hurry or you might miss them!

Reverse Trick-or-Treating

The idea of being socially responsible for the food we eat, to actually think about what we eat, where it comes from, who produces it, how far it travels, what impact there is on the Earth for you to enjoy it, has been growing in force, certainly over the last few years, with the very scary reality of global warming, whether you believe or not in its impact, has been garnering more and more interest in my own life. Near and dear to my heart, chocolate, the dark, bitter, tasty, wonderful sublime treat that I daily enjoy in all forms, which faces extinction on several fronts, including the dying-off of pollinators due to deforestation, chemicals and global warming, the rapid rise in price for oil leading to increased costs of raw ingredients and the final product let alone the carbon produced, and the huge multinational corporations that pay little or nothing to the farmer who grows the cacao, at least gives one pause to ponder whether that treat I just enjoyed will tip the environment over the edge into oblivion. Okay, not anytime soon, I certainly hope, but, in the meantime, while we are all waiting for the end, we can do our little bit for the World, and one of them involves a concept called Fair Trade. Fair Trade is something I have discussed now and again, certainly there are more and more products out there, chocolate-oriented and others, coffee, tea, crafts, that give the farmer a fair price, investing in their lives, thus coming closer to ensuring a product for years to come. Which brings me to what I mean by reverse trick-or-treating. Essentially, a group of Fair Trade organizations have gotten together to allow socially-aware youngsters, as they go about receiving candies on Hallowe'en, to give back to the adults a sample of Fair Trade chocolate, with some literature about such, to educate them on the dangers inherent in the chocolate trade, including potential child-slavery and those environmental impacts. To order your sample of 20 Fair Trade chocolates, go to Global Exchange in Canada, there are also ones for the States, and order yours. Hurry, as quantities are limited; you have till October 15th to order as well. You can also order Fair Trade products there, too.

Guiltless Gourmet Spicy Black Bean Tortilla Chips

The idea of a guilt-free product is tempting, albeit illusory at best; much money has been made on low-fat products that still contains lots of calories, mostly from sugar, and often have white flour and other additives that don't make them good for you. This Organic product from Guiltless Gourmet, succeeds more than those, in that they use fresh ingredients, stone-grind blue corn, use less oil and bake them, and flavour them with less salt and more herbs and black bean powder. Of course, do they taste better than those fat-free ones? I say yes. The spice on the corn tortillas is very flavourful, the tortillas are not at all oily, overall very good. Enjoy them on their own, or with salsa. The only drawback, per se, is the higher cost for these better-for-you snacks.

Pumpkin Fresco Veggie Chips

Certainly, the idea of dried fruit in North America is much more popular than dried vegetables, I've seen some in Bulk Barn, but the vast majority of the dried products are fruit-oriented. It was interesting to see then, this dried vegetable product from Taiwan, indeed there were others, dried green beans, for one, but this 100% natural, no trans fats, no hydrogenated oil and no preservative product from Taiwan, Pumpkin Chips, with glucose, salt and palm oil, looked interesting. And it does taste like pumpkin, an Asian pumpkin certainly. I found this in a Chinese supermarket.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Cherry Chocolate Chunk Hazelnut Toffee Blondies

What a mouthful - for a name; I'll have to think of a better one. But I like the combination of dried cherries, chocolate chunks and toffee, and I have a favourite cookie recipe with such, so, I thought to make a blondie version. Blondies are like the more well-known brownies, save they don't have the cocoa/chocolate that makes them dark; often too they use brown sugar and are brown sugar blondies. I use muscovado sugar, a better version of brown sugar, but I think that you can just use brown sugar, and they will turn out fine. Certainly, these turned out fairly tasty, I must say, quite good, even better after sitting for a while, though I think that I would up the amount of cherries next time, so feel free to play with the amounts. The hazelnuts are optional, of course; I've added them because, well, I like them too.

Cherry Chocolate Chunk Hazelnut Toffee Blondies
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), melted
1 cup light muscovado sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/8 tsp salt
3/4 cup hazelnuts, toasted and ground fine
1 cup dark chocolate, in chunks
1/4 cup dried cherries
1/4 cup toffee bits

Butter a 9"×9" pan; use an 8"x8" pan for a thicker blondie. Mix the melted butter with brown sugar and beat until smooth. Beat in egg and then vanilla. Stir in flour and salt. Mix in hazelnuts, chocolate, dried cherries and toffee bits. Spread batter (it will be thick) over bottom of pan and bake at 180C/350F 20-25 minutes, or until set in the middle. Cool on rack in pan. Cut into squares to serve.