Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Udon Noodles with Oyster, King and Shiitake Mushrooms

This recipe originally came from Smitten Kitchen, it called for Shimeji mushrooms (which I don't even know what they are), we substituted fresh oyster and king and shiitake mushrooms. We also used fresh udon mushrooms. This turned out really good, quite tasty, even for me, as I don't really like mushrooms (or have grown to like them since I got married). We also substitute coriander for the original parsley, and lowered the amount of oil (it originally called for 1/2 cup oil, and even with only 1/4 cup, it still seemed a little oily). But still tasty.

Udon Noodles with Oyster, King and Shiitake Mushrooms
200 g fresh udon noodles
1/4 cup olive oil (or other cooking oil)
4 garlic cloves, minced
6 ounces fresh oyster and king and shiitake mushrooms, base discarded, mushrooms separated
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons miso paste
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons finely minced coriander

Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil and cook the noodles according to package instructions. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a skillet over a low heat and add the garlic cloves. Saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Turn up the heat and add the mushrooms and saute until the mushrooms are soft. Lower the heat and add a ladleful of cooking water from the noodles, the soy sauce, and the miso paste. Stir until the miso is dissolved well. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper and leave the sauce to simmer.

Drain the noodles and add them to the sauce. Stir well to coat every noodle and serve with chopped coriander.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Green & Black's Organic Butterscotch Milk Chocolate Mini Eggs

Last Easter, I found the new offering from Green & Black's, their Dark Chocolate Praline Mini Eggs, with Hazelnuts, which I enjoyed. This year, I looked for them again, and, to my surprise, found a new offering beside those, butterscotch mini eggs (or at least new to me, and these and the Dark Praline were in more stores - Shopper's Drug Mart - than last year). This is a long title for this entry, I've even chopped off the bit where it says "with crispy cereal and crunchy toffee pieces". The ingredient listing is certainly long too (but all Organic), Organic Raw Cane Sugar, Organic Whole Milk Powder (22%), Organic Cocoa Mass, Organic Cocoa Butter, Organic Butterscotch (8%) (Organic Raw Cane Sugar, Organic Glucose, Organic Butter, Organic Palm Fat, Organic Molasses, Natural Flavouring), Organic Crisp Cereal (3%) (Organic Rice Flour, Organic Sugar, Organic Oat Flour, Organic Wheat Flour, Organic Barley Flour, Organic Rye Flour, Organic Malt, Salt), Emulsifier: Soya Lecithin and Organic Vanilla Extract. This is a milk chocolate, but high on the scale, at 37% cacao content. This too probably is related to their Butterscotch chocolate bar, thought that does not have the crispy cereal in it, and I have not tried that particular bar.

How do they taste? Not as good as the Dark Praline ones, and certainly the Butterscotch aspect of it is not strong, the crispy cereal is more prevalent than the toffee pieces. I don't think that I liked this enough to pay the over $7 for it again next year.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Korean Red Bean Mochi

We bought these Korean red bean mochi in the bakery located in P.A.T. Oriental Foods located on Dundas in Mississauga, they sell Japanese and Korean fine foods. There were four kinds of mochi, green tea, white sesame, black sesame and red bean powder. Inside the soft rice flour dough is sweet red bean paste. Tasty.

Amedei Chuao

I first read about the Tuscan chocolatier Amedei in Chloe Doutre-Roussel's book The Chocolate Connoisseur. The idea of an Italian chocolatier providing world-class chocolate was almost unthinkable, certainly by several countries with long histories of chocolate-making, until the late eighties, when the brother and sister team of Alessio and Cecelia Tessieri used their passion and enthusiasm for chocolate to begin to create such a chocolate. In 2004, they released one of the jewels in their line, a bar made from beans from the legendary Venezuelan cacao plantation called Chuao, which they had won the exclusive rights to after years of effort. The effort involved going to the plantation, talking to the owners and growers; now even other chocolatiers are doing so with other cacao plantations.

What can one say about chocolate that has been rated the best in the world? Chocolate, like wine, is defined by your palate, so I kept that in mind when I first tried Amedei's chocolate. One random Saturday, I was in Kitchener with my friend, and we decided to go to Vincenzo's, a purveyor of fine foods, and there I had the pleasure to discover that Amedei was doing a demonstration there (discover because it really was a small stand in a corner of the store); I talked to one Margot Silver-Dumas for about an hour, and sampled many of their offerings (being simultaneously in heaven with the taste of most of the samples). All I can say is Wow, and Amedei's reputation as one of the finest chocolatiers in the world is well deserved. Though, I didn't get to sample Chuao at that time, but it did convince me to spend the $10 for the 50 g bar.

This bar is at 70% cacao content, and its ingredient listing is short, allowing you to taste the flavour of the cacao bean; cocoa mass, cane sugar, cocoa butter and vanilla.

How does it taste? According to Amedei, it's supposed to taste like plums and red fruits, to me it tasted like molasses at first with it becoming more like raisins later. It smelled wonderful, snapped great, and tasted sublime. Certainly a tiny piece of heaven, and well worth the high price.

Yanjing Beer - New Dark

My brother-in-law brought me back this new beer from Beijing, China, it's a dark beer (most Chinese beers are pale lagers, though there is the odd dark beer - Tsingtao makes one). I wonder if it was created for the last Olympics, held in 2008 in Beijing. Anyway, it was fairly good, though a little sweet.

Dare Mini Whippet Limited Edition

A co-worker of mine has an in on Dare goods, and often brings in new products from them. The Limited Edition part of these chocolate marshmallow cookies is that the coating is 70% cocoa dark chocolate. And, really the only reason I was interested in these, as I find the marshmallow part too sweet. The chocolate does taste fairly good, and is simply made, just chocolate liquor, sugar, soya lecithin and natural flavour. From the outside, it looks like it was a Limited Edition product around Christmas, or at least in Winter.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Colors Organic Red Globe Grapes

While I applaud the Organic part of these, and they do taste sweet and good, despite not being seedless, that they come from South Africa is troubling, to have to come so far to have Organic grapes, when I would think that Ontario could, and probably does, produce them, just not at this time of year. And cheap! For Organic at least. I found this in the local T&T Chinese Supermarket; 400 g packages, 3 for $2.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Win 1 of 5 Exclusive Dinners for Two at a Savour Ontario Restaurant

I came across this contest in the latest Foodland Ontario brochure I picked up at Loblaws (and I'm sure lots of other places have it), which also features recipes using Ontario produce and meat; if you are picked as a winner, you will receive a $200 gift certificate at a participating Savour Ontario restaurant. You can read about the various restaurants at Savour Ontario. To enter the contest, go here. Contest ends June 30, 2009. For legal residents of Ontario, Canada who have reached the age of majority. Good Luck!

Two New Apples

I sometimes lament the lack of variety available in most supermarkets in terms of apples, I don't like most of them, and the one that I do like most, russets, are not really available. I came across these two varieties, which I've never seen before (ok, I admit that I don't keep a lookout really for new apples, for the reasons given above, that 99% of the available varieties are exactly the same). If now only they would come down in price, they are 1.5-2 times the price of the more ubiquitous apples. As I understand the economics of it, these prices are due to the apple being in limited supply and in tight control (ie. if too many apple producers grow these kinds of apples, the price will go down).

The first of the apples is called the Sonya, and, as I discovered via the 'Net, comes from New Zealand and is a cross between a Gala (which I don't mind) and a Red Delicious (which I have never thought tasted "delicious" ever - I disagree with the philosophy of naming something "delicious", I think it presupposes one to thinking that it will taste that way, rather I would like to make the decision after tasting the apple and decide myself to calling it "delicious" - same for naming of restaurants). It is apparently a tall apple (which comes from its parent Red Delicious), as opposed to short and round, and is exceptionally sweet, with a taste that is reminiscent of raw sugar cane (which I would agree with, having tasted raw sugar cane before). I would say that I would like this apple now and again, I would think the sugary taste would start to be cloying if eaten every day, and it certainly would quickly relieve the coins in my wallet too.

The second of the two apples is called Lady Alice, and it has an interesting back-story. Apparently, this apple was found growing in a single tree in an orchard in eastern Washington and was developed and grown, and the rights to it were bought out by Rainier Fruit who now market it. This is a sweet apple with the "taste" of amaretto liquor or almonds (which I can smell and taste too, but not overpowering). I think I prefer the Sonya to this one, but the Lady Alice would be a close second.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Khanom Dtom

This is another one of those Thai desserts that take a lot of effort, but taste really good at the end, well worth the effort. Similar to the Bua Loy dessert we made earlier. Delicious!!

The extra part that I did not include in this recipe, is the creation of the grated fresh coconut, which, though it takes a fair amount of effort, is also worth it to get the fresh coconut meat. We found a relatively easy method for cracking those brown water coconuts you see in the supermarket, the ones that seem to defy the release of its sweet meat inside. You won't need a driller or hammer either for opening the coconut! Kids, get an adult to do this! Essentially, hold the coconut in your off hand, and whack it hard across the middle with the blunt end of a meat cleaver; after two or three times you will hear a crack and a release of air; if the crack is open enough, you can pour the coconut water out into a bowl (you did shake the coconut to see if there was water inside?). Whack it a few more times to open it completely, then you can whack it on the floor to make small pieces. Use a flexible knife (one you use for grapefruit works) to separate the coconut meat from the husk, or carefully pry the meat off with a sharp knife. You can take the brown part that sticks to the white coconut meat off with a peeler (or leave it on, you can eat it, it just makes the coconut meat look not all-white). Then process the meat in a food processor until finely ground (you can add a little of the coconut water back). You should get enough out of one coconut to make this recipe, with extra left over.

Khanom Dtom
150 g glutinous rice flour
3 Tbsp tapioca flour
100 g taro
50 g purple sweet potato
1/2 cup concentrated fresh squeezed pandan juice
1-1/2 Tbsp red sala syrup
2 Tbsp filtered water
Coconut filling:
180 g grated fresh coconut
100 g palm coconut sugar
1 Tbsp brown cane sugar
1-1/2 cups grated fresh coconut
1/4 tsp fine salt

Steam taro and purple sweet potato until cooked. Blend separately cooked taro and cooked sweet potato in food processor. Set aside.

To make pandan juice, cut pandan leaves into small pieces, then process in food processor with 1/2 cup water until leaves are fine, then strain.

Mix water and red syrup together to make red sala water; set aside.

Steam 1-1/2 cups of grated coconut and add 1/4 teaspoon of salt; mix well. Set aside in a large bowl.

Mix glutinous rice flour and tapioca flour; set aside.

Heat non stick pan with low heat. Add grated coconut and both sugars. Cook until sugar melts and coconut and sugar becomes sticky. Set aside until it cools down. Once cool, form small 1/2-inch balls; set aside.

Mix half of cooked taro with 50 grams of flour mixture. Slowly add 1 tablespoon of pandan juice and knead it until smooth; set aside. Mix another half of cooked taro with 50 grams of flour mixture. Slowly add 1 tablespoon of red sala water in to the second portion of the dough and knead it until smooth; set aside. Repeat for the cooked sweet potato with just the pandan juice and flour mixture.

Make 1 inch balls of dough for each of the mixtures. Flatten the ball and put the coconut ball filling in the middle. Wrap them well; smooth to become a ball; set aside.

Boil water in a big pot. Once water is boiling put the finished balls into the pot. Wait until each ball floats, remove from water with a strainer and put them in the steamed coconut. Cover each ball with coconut. Remove to a plate.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Vote Tasty - Free Kashi Granola Bars

Here's your chance to try the Kashi granola bars that I've written about, go to Kashi's website and enter your shipping information to receive a coupon for a box of one of the four flavours, the newest, Trail Mix; Seven Whole Grains & Almonds; Peanut Peanut Butter; and my favourite Cherry Dark Chocolate. The idea behind this Contest, is that nutritious or health food is bound to taste like cardboard, like the box it came in, and that once you taste these granola bars, you will find that they don't. And so, you can Vote whether the bars were tasty (and thus Kashi's Laurie Timm doesn't have to eat the cardboard box), that the bars were not tasty (and he does have to eat the box), and, my favourite selection and what is leading right now, that the bars are tasty and you want him to eat the cardboard box anyways. Contest open till May 13, 2009, so there's still some time.

Perugina Baci

You know I like almost anything with hazelnuts, so the traditional little Italian kisses called Baci would be right up my alley. Given too, the romance behind the sweet, two lovers creating a confection worthy of their love, their love secret at one time, and each wrapper contains within a love note. Each of the confections is filled with whipped chocolate filling with finely chopped hazelnuts, topped with a whole hazelnut, then enrobed in dark chocolate (which I believe just fills the requirements of being able to be called dark). The ingredient listing is sugar, hazelnuts, unsweetened chocolate, cocoa butter, milk ingredients, soya lecithin and artificial flavour.

Well, I find them a little too sweet for my tastes. Lots of hazelnut flavour, I'm sure others have and will enjoy these Italian kisses.

Grand Maple Pineapple Cake

In these kinds of cakes, it is the fruit paste or jam that is key to its flavour, and in the case of this cake, the pineapple paste is just not that good tasting, with just a little pineapple flavour. But then, what should I expect for a little more than a dollar?

Thursday, April 09, 2009

The Lindt Gold Bunny

Lindt is running a contest for Easter, though I came to it late. There is still time to enter, go to Lindt Gold Bunny, answer the various clues and receive an entry to the contest. Invite your friends to do so as well, and you get more contest entries. There are also codewords you can get from various store events (which are still ongoing), which garner more contest entries. The Grand Prize is $10,000. Canadian citizens only. The contest ends April 12th, so hop to it.

Restaurant Review - Roti Boys Restaurant

Today I had occasion to visit the second best Roti shop in the immediate area around where I work, this despite the first best having gone by the wayside in the name of progress. That restaurant which I name first best would be Tony's Roti, run by, oddly enough, a fellow from Guyana name Tony. He made the best roti in his little hole-in-the-wall-sometimes-standing-room-only restaurant in the mall at the northeast corner of Victoria Park and Consumers Road, even if I preferred the curries on rice - Oh, the Curry Chicken!; Oh, the Curry Goat! - I don't mean to wax philosophical, but man, he made a mean roti (and, if he ever reads this, or if anyone knows where he is, I want to ask - where are you?! Do you have another restaurant?! At least tell us your secret recipe!). Tony was from Guyana, as I've said, so perhaps it is Guyanese curry that I like.

So saying, Roti Boys serves up a very similar menu to Tony's, you can have rotis with chicken or goat, and beef and shrimp, and over rice; they even serve curry duck, something Tony never did. For the vegetarian, you can have their Potato/Channa (chickpea) or Pumpkin or Spinach Bhaji (cooked spinach with spices). There's jerk chicken and jerk pork, and several stews, including oxtail. They're located on Sheppard Ave., a little east of Victoria Park and west of Pharmacy, in a little strip mall on the south side of Sheppard. They're reasonably priced (though Tony's seemed to be more generous with his portions) and the dishes are tasty and flavourful, though the curry chicken over rice I had today was a little too salty for my tastes. Still, even second best is pretty good.

Frey Extra Fine Dark Chocolate

This is one big bar! Chocolate Frey has been a chocolatier for a long while, since 1887, in Switzerland, and is one of the major brands there, but only recently we have been allowed access to its products in North America. I don't know yet whether this is a good thing, though they do produce a wide range of chocolate products (over 1200), including bars, marshmallow, candies and pralines, along with holiday-themed. Too, they apparently control the whole production process, from the purchase of cacao beans (though it would be good if they went a little further, closer to the start of the process like a few good chocolatiers are doing these days) to the finished product. I haven't found their offerings in a reliable source (store). The ingredient listing of this bar would indicate that it just meets the dark chocolate designation, sugar is the first ingredient, followed by chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, soy lecithin and artificial flavour. There is no indication of the cacao content.

How does it taste? Certainly, it snaps well, though it looks like it is "old", in that some of the cocoa butter has risen to the surface. It smells okay, like chocolate, but not great. It's very hard to bite into, perhaps because it is so thick, far thicker than a normal 100 g bar (3x as big). It tastes a tiny bit chalky, and leaves a pleasant aftertaste, at least. Not bad. Certainly there is a lot of this chocolate, though I don't know whether I would consider it an eating bar, just a good and fairly cheap chocolate bar.

Khanom Tan - Toddy Palm Cake

We ate some of these desserts the other week, they're kind of like sponge cake, a little sweet and different tasting than regular sugar. Quite good. Toddy Palm, if you don't know what it is, and I didn't until reading a little bit about it on the 'Net, are palm trees that grow in various hot countries (India, Thailand, Cambodia, Sri Lanka); from them a sugary sap, called toddy, can be extracted from the flower clusters (individual trees can be 100 feet high, so it requires a lot of dexterity to climb all the way to the top to do so) which when fermented is called arrack or palm wine, or concentrated to a crude sugar called jaggery (which I've seen in Indian stores). The fruit from toddy palms can also be eaten and are rich in vitamins A and C, and can be eaten as young fruits, which are soft and juicy and somewhat like lychees but milder and with no pit, or old fruits, which are harder and less juicy. It is this toddy palm pulp that these cakes are made of, along with rice flour, yeast, palm sugar, coconut cream and coconut milk. Finally, palm oil, which I've seen as an ingredient in many products, is derived from a different plant, the Oil Palm (aptly named).

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Wawel Gorzka Czekolada

This bar from the Polish chocolatier Wawel SA has 70% cacao content, and has a fairly good ingredient listing (from what I could make out from the Polish - the packaging is unfortunately all in Polish). From what I could make out from the story on the back, this bar is made in the old style, from 1910.

How does it taste? Despite that I can't make out exactly what's in this bar, it does taste fairly good, a cheap chocolate bar.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Bibingka Royal Sweet Rice Cake

I found this Filipino dessert, made by FV Foods (they're local to Toronto and Mississauga with several stores), in a Chinese supermarket. It's a rice cake with sugar, egg, butter and coconut milk. Pretty good.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Coke vs. Pepsi

I don't want this to get into a debate between the two colas, really I don't like either of anymore, not for a long while, this is about a phenomenon I encountered in the 80's, during my University days. I even wrote both companies about what I had found out, and only one wrote back and thanked me for my interest in their company.

What I found out, and this was through an informal study, and granted that it was less than 10 people, was that, for those who displayed a preference (and I think the cola wars have long since subsided, certainly it's not as evident as it was in the 80's), if they drank Coke, they also drank 7-Up; conversely, if they drank Pepsi, they drank Sprite. Yet, Coke owns the Sprite brand and Pepsi owns the 7-Up brand. So, you might have to go to two different vending machines or stores in order to get both. The idea that I had, was for both companies to maximize their profit, assuming my small pool was a reflection of the greater populace (and I grant that this pool was in a relatively small University city in Canada), was for them to trade brand names (Sprite for 7-Up in a straight deal). I think mostly they laughed at the notion, but I still wonder about whether this was a local phenomenon or what.

For the record, I preferred Pepsi and Sprite.