Monday, April 26, 2010

April 25th - Zucchini and Blue Cheese Omelet and Pizza

 We are going on holiday so that means a few days before I try to stop buying anymore fresh veg so we go through what we have in the house.  I do not know how we landed with so much Zucchini. D grated way more Zucchini than we needed for last night's Zucchini Puttanesca so we are using it for breakfast in a great omelet.  I had some Fake-on on the side and D finished off his Bacon from the Blue Cheese and Bacon Mussel night last week.

Zucchini and Blue Cheese Omelet

1 c grated Zucchini
1/2 onion sliced
1/4 c chopped chives
1/4 c crumbled Danish Blue Cheese
6 large Eggs, lightly beaten

In a large non-stick skillet, heat some Olive Oil or Butter on high heat.  Add the Onions and Zucchini.  Try to brown the Zucchini.  It will not be a great showing because of all the moisture and the teflon but still give it a go for 2-3 minutes.

Reduce the heat to medium.  Add the chives and stir for 1-2 minutes more.  Set aside on a plate.

Add a pat of Butter or Oil to the pan, add the eggs. Push the eggs around with a non stick spatula so the uncooked egg gets to the pan.  When most of the egg is cooked you could attempt to flip it.  This is a large 2 person omlette that we normally do on weekends so flipping would be more like a slide on plate and flip maneovre.  But we do not mind medium eggs so we do not bother.  When the eggs are mostly cooked.  Add the cheese and the egg along the centre.  Fold over and serve.

Garnish with a small drizzle of good Olive Oil or Truffle Oil.

For dinner, we had frozen pizzas that we dressed our selves.  We were rushing to the airport right after so we did not want something with a big clean up.

The one Cheese pizza we dressed with Marinated Roasted Red Peppers, Articoke Hearts and sliced Onions.

The other Spinach and Cheese pizza I dressed with Onion, and chopped Sun Dried Tomatoes.

We drank a Alamos Catena Malbec 2008 with them.  Brilliant.  Cleaned up and sorted our luggage and arrived at the airport to find our friggin flight delayed 2 hours.  It was already an RED EYE!!! BRUTAL!

PHOTOS PENDING. Man between these and the vacation photos, work and the new TV we bought, I may never see daylight again!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

April 23rd - Celeriac Mash - Wild Rice Pilau and Pan Seared Salmon

D has been on work dinners most of this week so he promised to cook dinner on his own tonight.  He tried to back out but I was so tired that I would have none of it :)  We wandered around Choices Market without the foggiest of notions of what to eat.  He randomly pointed at vegetables asking me if I wanted it.  A tad annoying because I was fairly brain dead by 5pm.  So I asked him what he fancies, to which he replied, with notable unwarranted sarcasm 'I was only asking for input'.  Funny, I thought that was what I just did too.

We saw that Salmon was on sale so we got a large fillet between the two of us. And some Celeriac Root.  I love celeriace root.  It's like a Potato with personality.  Admittedly, it is a bit more work to clean up but it is worth it.  I would suggest that you buy bigger ones because after cutting away all they rooty, dirty bits, you may feel there's not much left because it is not as easy as just peeling.  The end with all the sort of medusa roots are pretty much throw away.  We bought 2 x 1 lb Roots but they are still on the smaller side but they were the biggest they had. 

Pan Seared Salmon

200g per person, Wild Sockeye Salmon Skin On
1 T Butter
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

The Salmon was done last but it is the easiest to describe.  The salmon we bought was Wild Sockeye Salmon fillet with skin on.  Season with some sea salt and pepper.  In a large sautee pan, heat 1 T of butter and 1 T of olive oil on Medium High.  Place the Salmon in skin side down by laying it away from you to avoid splatter.  Have a splatter guard handy.  Let sit without touching for a good 2-3 minutes.  It will be a sticky mess if you touch it too soon.  Peak underneath with a thin spatuala.  I like the skin nice a brown and crispy so I go to 3 minutes at least.

Turn carefully, again, away from you.  Cook on the other side 2 minutes at most.  Serve hot.

Celeriac Mash

2 lbs Celeriac, weight before cleaning
1/4 c chopped Chives
1 c Milk (Cream if you are feeling it)
1 c Water (+/- 1 c)
1-2 T Butter
Season to taste

Peal and trim the Celeriac until you just have the white and it almost looks like a cleaned potato.  You can use a peeler for most of the top half of it.  You will need to cut away alot of the bottom.  Cut into small cubes.

Place the celeriac in a large sauce pan.  Add the Milk.  Add enough water so that the root is just covered.  Bring to a boil.  Boil for 15-20 minutes, just until fork tender.   

Drain off some of the boiling liquid into the measuring cup and set aside.  Add the butter and the Chopped Chives.  Mash with a potato masher.  Season with Salt and White Pepper (optional).  Mash until mostly smooth or to your taste.  Add back some of the cooking liquid it seems too dry. We pretty much used all the liquid because we boiled with the cover ajar.  I think next time I might steam instead to preserve the flavour.   MMMMM LURVE Celeriac. It does not taste like celery.  There are hints of that savoury flavour but it is more like a dash rather than full on veggie punch.

We also made some Wild Rice with a Pilau spice mix D bought on vacation in Zanzibar and a Shallot.

April 24th - Ricotta and Sundried Tomato in Zucchini Puttanesca Sauce

I picked up some fresh Tondi (Round stuffed pasta) at Duso's on Granville Island.  It's more expensive that the Italian shops on Commercial but it is more convenient if I'm not doing a big shop.  We made quasi Puttanesca sauce from some of the leftover veg in the house. Well, I guess, classically speaking since a Puttanesca originated from 'throwing whatever garbage you have together' hence the pejorative name, then this is a Puttanesca.

400 g of Fresh Stuffed Pasta is a generous serving for 2 people. 11-13 minutes.  But test it.  10 is not sufficient because of the overlap points being so thick.

Zucchini Puttanesca Sauce

1 c plain Red sauce or Canned Chopped Tomatoes
1 c grated Zucchini
1 shallot or 1/2 Red Onion
2-3 cloves Garlic, minced
1-2 T brine cured Capers, drained
2-3 oil cured Anchovie filets, chopped
1 c Cherry Tomatoes or 3 Roma Tomatoes, chopped
1/2 T dried Basil
1 t dried Oregano
Olive Oil
Parmesan cheese
Salt and Pepper

In a large sautee pan, heat 1-2 T olive oil on medium.  Sautee the Shallot until soft, 1-2 minutes.  Add the Zucchini and Tomatoes.  Sautee for a few minutes until the veg are softened slightly.

Add the Garlic, Capers, Anchovies and dried herbs.  Stir for a 1 minute and add the canned tomatoes.  If it starts to appear dry.  Add some of the pasta cooking water.

Let simmer for at least 10-15 minutes.

When the pasta is ready.  Spoon the pasta directly into the sauce with a slotted spoon.  Do not try too hard to drain all the water away.

Serve drizzled with some nice Extra Virgin Olive oil and freshly grated Parmesan Cheese.

MMMMM the Anchovies will melt away and add a nice depth of flavour often referred to as umami.  The capers at that bright tartness known of Puttanescas.  We did not have Olives in the house which D blamed on my snacking.  This was yummo none theless.  The Ricotta and Sundried Tomato Tondi from Duso's on the other hand were rather bland and the ricotta had that familiar sort of dried, mystery paste quality to it.  I'll skip it for a Mushroom next time.  I prefer to make my own stuffed Ricotta pastas.  MMMM


Saturday, April 24, 2010

April 22 - Oven Roasted Grape Tomatoes and Chickpeas with Prawn on Polenta

D had a work dinner.  That means I experiment with cravings.  I was pretty tired after work but I could not muster a craving for easy pasta.  Instead I made 1/2 of this Savoury Light Polenta but probably used all the cheese and topped it with a yummy pan roasted veg and prawn sautee.

Oven Roasted Grape Tomatoes and Chickpeas with Prawn

1/2 tin of Chick Peas, drained
1 c Grape Tomatoes, rinsed and dried
1/2 c chopped Chinese Blooming Chives or Onion
8 Shrimp, peeled
3 T Olive Oil
2 T Basil Pesto (bottom of post)

I am using Chinese Blooming Chives.  I need to be particular in mentioning this because they are much more sturdy than regular chives.  They are as stiff as flower stems.  If you are not using them, substitute with regular onions because regular chives will just burn. If you are using the Chinese Chives, cut fine.

Preheat the oven to 400F

In a small, oven proof sautee pan, heat 1 T of the Olive Oil.  Add the Grape Tomatoes and toss for a few minutes.  You may need to add another T of Olive Oil.  Place the pan uncovered in the oven.

After 10 minutes. Add the Chives (or Onions). Do not add the tops/blossom ends yet.  They are more delicate and will burn.  Add the Chick Peas and toss so everything is well coated.  Add more oil if needed.  Place back in the oven for another 15-10 minutes.  Add the Shrimp/Prawn and Chive Blooms in the last 5 minutes. Turn off oven but leave the pan in the oven until your ready.  The Prawn should be just just pink.  Over cooked Prawn are too chewy and can go mealy.  But if they are not pink enough for you toss on the stove top a few more minutes.  That said,.... WEAR OVEN MITTS when you handle the pan now.  It will be searing hot.

The Polenta takes about 20 minutes so I start it when the pan with the roasted veg goes in the oven.

Spoon out the Polenta on a plate or large bowl.  Spread out.  Serve the roasted vegetables and Prawn on the Polenta, top with freshly grated Parmesan and Parsley.

I drank a wonderful Greenstone Heathcote Shiraz...MMMMM

Thursday, April 22, 2010

April 21st - Tortilla de Patatas - Spanish Potato Omlette slightly Canadianised

I remember the first time I heard of the dish before I moved to Spain.  A friend at work was talking about his favourite meal that his mom made, Tortilla. I thought nothing of it until he started to describe it with eggs and potatoes.

It is a Spanish staple and not only for breakfast.  Actually, you would see it more often as an appetiser or Tapa.  It is often the first or only dish a Spanish guy will learn to make on his own. Seriously. Or at least that was the case with all the guys in my Grad school.  :^D  I remember one night my buddies H & DF cooked for a bunch of our friends since they were normally doing most of the cooking.  DH from Canarias, was very very particular on how a proper Tortilla was made:  No pepper, do not brown the onions thinly sliced potatoes cook well on both sides.  My friends would often cheat a bit and nuke the potatoes to par cook them.

I like to avoid nuke-abuse whenever possible. As well, I think you lose alot of flavour by not browning the onions slightly and underbrown the egg.  I have made some minor adaptations but try to over complicate it like D and O think I do with my experimenting.  One thing I have not figure out how to do is to have a nice FIRM Tortilla de Patatas without over cooking egg like the store bought kind that come vacuum packed in all grocery shops in Spain. I'll figure it out eventually.

Canadianised Tortilla de Patatas

2 medium Potatoes, something waxy and not floury
4 large Eggs
1 small White Onion
1 clove Garlic (calm down, I like Garlic)
1 t Paprika for Garnish
1-2 T fresh Parsley
Sea salt to taste

Mise en Place all the ingredients.  Peel, slice and dice the Potato.  You could leave just a slices but I want to be able to toss them in the pan.  Slice the onions in to thing slices.  Mince the Garlic.  Gently beat the eggs. 

You will need a medium sautee pan, sloped sides.  Use non-stick if you are worried.  Have a plate slightly larger than the pan at hand.

Heat a 1/2-1 T Olive Oil in the pan on Medium-High.  Sautee the potatoes for 5-7 minutes until mostly cooked.  Let aside on the plate.

Heat 1/2-1 T Olive Oil in the pan on Medium-Low heat.  Sautee the Onion for 2-3 minutes. If you want to be more authentic, stop when the onions are softened.  I like to see a bit of brown on the edges.  Add the Potatoes back for another 1-2 minutes to blend the flavours.  Add the garlic, toss for a minute.  Spread out the ingredients so they are evenly spread out.  If the bottom of the pan appears dry, add another 1/2 T Olive Oil to the pan.

Pour over the Eggs.  Move them around a bit to help the cooking. Low and slow.  3 minutes or so.  When you can shimmy the Tortilla around the pan; or lift and see the Eggs are just cooked to slightly brown,  loosen with a spatula to ensure it is all free of the pan.  Slide out on to the handy plate.  Do it quick.  It is less likely to break.

The uncooked side is face up on the plate now.  Then hold the plate with one hand underneath like you're a snooty waiter.  Hold the pan upside down in the other.  Cover the Tortilla with the pan.  In one fast motion flip the pan and plate over back into the pan.  Cook 2 - 3 minutes, depending how well you like the middle down.

Slice and serve with a dash of Paprika and Parsley.  We had this with some small Tomatoes with Salt and Pepper and some sauteed Chanterelles you could use Organic Oyster as well if Chanterelles are not on sale or too pungent for you.  MMMMM

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

April 20th - Comfort Crab Stir Fry

There are days like this Tuesday that well, are only undone by a really sweaty workout or comfort food.  Comfort (savory) food for me comes in categories: 1. Mom's food. 2. Food I used to eat day in and day out when I got my first job. 3. Piping hot stews or curry on a cold day.  4.  Childhood junkfood like a corndog or tuna fish sandwich with too much mayo.  5. Something fried.

Well, frankly, I had a crappola day at work.  There are days like today! Grrrr. Well, because of how long it was, I would only get to the gym so late I would not get any of my other household errands done (that includes blogging).  So comfort came in the form of a Big-Ass Stir-Fry with imitation Crab Meat, the type you get in most sushi rolls.  I used to eat it all the time in my early twenties.  It was easy alternative to shrimp or tofu.  I am a Ovo-Lacto-Vegetarian that eats Seafood.  I had to start eating Seafood after I passed out in church :^/ and tested slightly anemic.  However, there were several years after I started eating seafood that I could not eat seafood that I could recognise because I could not handle touching or cleaning it.  I still do not lurve scaling fish but I do it occasionally but now I buy it gutted only.  I mad the mistake last year of buying a whole fresh squid.  The insides just kept coming.  I actually screamed.  Brutal.  I love my fishmonger. They do it all now including chopping my Dungeness.

It helped that D is out to dinner at the Blue Water Cafe for work. I could sink into the couch with my Stirfry over Quinoa with the latest episode of Biggest Loser. He hates that show... he gets into it by the end of the season though.  :^D

Big Ass Comfort Crab Stir Fry

(I tried to julienne everything)
1 medium Zucchini, cut into matchsticks
5 Oyster mushrooms, slices
1/2 white Onion, frenched
10 Blooming Chinese chives, or 2 Scallions
2 cloves Garlic
1 inch fresh Ginger
2 Serrano Chilies
150 g Imitation Crab
2 t Low Sodium Soy Sauce or Thai Fish Sauce

Heat oil in a large Wok.  This will go fast so have the veg lined up.  Each Veg will be tossed with your handy Chinese Spatula for 2-3 minutes. Probably 3 for the Zucchini and 2 for the rest.  This is the order I do it to optimise the browning and reducing the burning of things like the Crab and Garlic.
1. Onions and Fatter ends of the Chives
2. Zucchini
3. Mushrooms
4. Chilies and Ginger
5. Garlic and Chive tops
6. Crab
7. Fish Sauce

Season to taste with the Fish Sauce or Soy.

Serve hot over your prepared Quinoa or Rice. MMMMMM.  It is not a class dish but it oooooozes COMFORT. Tuesday is nearly over! TGIAW.

April 19th - Cafe Babylon - Stale Turnips

You can smell the Babylon Cafe for four square blocks in the middle of Downtown Vancouver.  You can see the line from a few more than that.  To call it a cafe is a bit of an exaggeration except that I think they sell coffee.  It occupies a space of slightly more than 10 sq ft.  The space that is not occupied by the cooking area and the large counter, is just wide enough for patrons to shimmy along it to select their toppings.

In the UK, these are called Kebab Shops.  They specialise in Falafal Wraps, Chicken and Lamb Gyros/Kebab/Schwarma Wraps. They are insanely popular.  This type of business is so big in Germany, that there is an annual conference of several tens of thousands of shop owners get together.  I do not go that often because I miss the places in Montreal that have the big french fry sized pink-dyed pickled Turnips.  There are few places in Vancouver that have them in the condiment bar.  D said he had a craving for Falafel and talked me into it because the sign outside the Babylon Cafe had the turnips.  In the end, he got a Chicken Kebab and I got a Falafel.  The turnips ended up being stale, shavings rather than fresh fingers.  Blech.  At least they offer 3 plump Falafel balls.  Some of the guys down Granville have small dry balls and Nuba down on Davie only gives 2.

They have a fair selection of toppings and are very efficient in loading and wrapping.  They only do wraps, no plates.  They have to be efficient.  The line snakes down the block every day.  The Falafel itself had good flavour, on the dry side but held together.  The peppers, and vegetables were good but those stale Turnips were just sour note.  They did not even originally put them on. I had to ask.  Wish I had not.  D liked his Chicken.  Moist and good flavour and quite loaded.  I thought most of the meat looked over cooked, particularly the lamb.

Chicken Schwarma
 Falafel Wrap with Stale Turnips
Cost: $ (6-8 bux)
Ambiance: Ambi-what?  It is a closet.
Staff: Curt and all about the throughput. If you have a special ask, make it fast.
Location: smack dab in the middle of downtown shopping district.

Babylon Cafe
Robson Street
(604) 568-6324

Maybe a Two Maple at most. If you want lots of Chicken or Lamb, go fer it but the stale turnips left me ...well, stale. 

Babylon Cafe on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

April 18th - Pizzeria Delfina's Spicy Cauliflower - A San Francisco Trxxx, nah, Classic

D used to live in the Bay Area for 7 years and has been a foodie/chef since he was 5 and used to cook with his grand mere who lived next door.  When he picks his favourite local pizzaria, he means bidness.  Pizzeria Delfina's in San Francisco's Mission District is amazing.  My sister who lives there now raves about it as well.  It runs in the family except, O, my sister, likes food in a way where she loves good food but does not want to be involved in the creation of it.  No offence but girl is in 3 different dance troops and outdoor clubs.  If she is not eating in 15 minutes of walking through her door, she goes into hypoglycemic shock :^P.  D and I, on the otherhand both have a propensity to want to relive our favourites as often as we can and therefore try to learn to do them at home.  This recipe can be found, re-created on many websites.  This is our adapted version with what is in the frigo.

Pizzeria Delfina's Spicy Cauliflower
(Serves 4-6 or me and D, with some snacks for tomorrow.)

The cauliflower will break down as it cooks, so keep it in large segments of about two clusters each. If the cauliflower doesn't fit in the pan without crowding, fry one batch first, drain, then fry the second batch and follow with the parsley, capers and garlic. The dish is often served with a topping of fresh breadcrumbs, sauteed in olive oil.

1 head cauliflower, 1kg, size of a Cabbage Patch Kid doll's head.
EVO aka Extra Virgin Olive Oil with some Vegetable oil if you are not able to control the heat of your stove well.
Salt to taste
1/4 c chopped Parsley, Italian if you have it.
1/4 c Capers, drained and dried
2 large cloves Garlic, thinly sliced
3 Serrano Chilies, chopped (we have used hot red banana type peppers before too)
1 t Red Chili flakes
(the classic uses Picked Calabrese Chilies, drained and sliced)

Cut the cauliflower in large even-size florets,sized of a walnuts by cutting around the core, down around the stem. Dry well with a clean dish towel.  The remaining moister will cause splatter.

Place a metal strainer over a bowl.  In a wide shallow pan with a heavy bottom like a dutch oven or Creuset, pour 1/2 inch oil. Heat the oil on high heat until very hot but not smoking.

Place the Cauliflower in the pan and cook on high heat until it begins to brown, about 1 minute, then reduce to medium/medium-high and continue cooking until it is deeply brown all over, flipping over to fry all sides, 8-10 minutes total. Season well with Coarse Sea Salt. The oil should stay bubbly hot. By the time the Cauliflower is deeply browned, it should be pretty much cooked through.

When the Cauliflower is 1-2 minutes from being done, add the Parsley, Capers and Garlic. Cook until the Garlic has browned, then add the Chile Flakes.

Immediately drain into the strainer. Allow to drain well before seasoning with salt to taste and tossing with the Calabrese Peppers, if using.

Props to:

Pizzeria Delfina

the Mission District
3611 18th St
San Francisco, CA 94110

Pizzeria Delfina on Urbanspoon


Kumquat Mojitos

10 Kumquats
1 T Fine Sugar
1.5 oz White Rum (or Cacacia
10-12 leaves of fresh Mint
Club Soda

The rest of dinner was accompanied by a Callia Alta Shiraz Malbec.  Deep Fruits, nice profile and texture. Better with food than alone.
For breakfast, I had Poached Eggs on Sourdough with some Chinese Chives. MMMMM Nice Medium Poached Eggs are guuuuuud! With a side of Fake-on aka Soy Bacon.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

April 17th - Blue Cheese and Spinach Mussels with Bacon Waaaaay on the side with Sweet Potato Fries and Sourdough Toast

When I first heard of this, I was pretty skeptical.  Blue Cheese and Mussels?!? Weird right?  Well, Blue Cheese is an awesome thing, and should make almost anything awesome right? Well, D would say that of Bacon, which is why the combination of Bacon and Blue Cheese is so common too, mainly on Burgers.  Actually, I thought Moule and Frites (Mussels and Fries, a staple Belgian and French pair), I was very doubtful.  I was in University and had only been eating 'western' food regularly for a few years.  I was backpacking in the France and tried it in a darling little cafe near Mont St Michel. I never looked back. We typically do Yam/ Sweet Potato Fries instead of regular fries at home.  Recipe is below. 

We first saw this recipe on this FoodTV show where a chef, Teddy Folkman won a competition with his Bacon and Blue Cheese Mussels.  This recipe is based on his but adapted because I do not eat Pork. We had to keep the Bacon FAT for D's portion so he would get all of the 'joy' of Bacon even though we did not cook with it.  He started drooling as soon as he bought the slab. 

Blue Cheese and Spinach Mussels

2.5 lbs Mussels
6-7 small Shallots (1 c sliced)
1/4 c Olive oil
3/4-1 c Dry White Wine (Pascal Jolivet Sancerre)
2 Lemons Juiced, 1 zested
3/4 c Danish Blue Cheese, crumbled (~100g), Stilton or Bleu Claire if you like stronger 
2 c washed Baby Spinach (This is more than normal when you use Bacon but is necessary for balance for the non bacon portion. Use 1 c if you are doing a full Bacon version.)
1/2 -1 t Sea Salt
Fresh Black Pepper

Scrub the Mussels clean of any barnacles or beards.  Most mussels are pretty clean now a days.  Toss any that are open. Or if they are open, tap them and if they do not close up, then toss them.  You want to use the mussels same day you buy them.

6 strips Bacon (Streaky American Bacon, no Canadian or Pancetta or other), chopped

In a medium fry pan, fry up the Bacon until quite crispy but not burnt. Set aside.  Do not drain.  Set it waaaaay aside from the folks, like me, who do not want Bacon in their Mussels :^D.

In a large stock pot on medium high heat, add the oil and sautee the Shallots until softened, 1-2 minutes.  If you were not doing the Bacon on the side, you would be sauteeing the Shallots with the Olive Oil and Bacon FAT.

Add the Lemon Juice, Wine and the Mussels and toss by shaking the pot.  About 5 minutes, as most of the Mussels are opened, throw in the Spinach leaves.  Wash thoroughly. I like to buy the pre-washed Baby Spinach leaves but I wash them anyway but they are not as silty as the big bunches and no need for stemming.  Add about half the cheese now as well so it spreads throughout the pot. Add the zest toward the end so it does not cook too long.

Serve in large bowls topped with the rest of the Blue Cheese.  If you are having the Bacon, empty the pan you fried the Bacon into the bowl for the Bacon-eater, fat and all.

Serve with big slice of Sourdough, toasted.

Sweet Potato Fries with Old Bay Seasoning

3-4 medium Sweet Potatoes
2 Egg Whites
1-2 Olive Oil
1 T Old Bay Seasoning
1/2 t Sea Salt

Preheat the oven to 430F

Peel your Sweet Potatoes and slice them into 1cm thick slices.  Cut the slices into 1 cm fingers.  I leave them nice and long but you can cut them in half if you want.

In a big big mixing bowl, whisk the Egg Whites, Oil, Old Bay Seasoning and Salt.  Toss the fries until thoroughly coated.  You can use tongs if you like but I just toss them shimming them around the bowl like you would flip a pancake in a pan.

Line a large sheet pan with parchement paper (not wax paper), spread the fries out to as much of a single later as possible.  Back for 35-40 minutes.  Toss with the tongs a bit at the 20 minute mark.

Serve with Mayo.

We drank the Sancerre Pascal Jolivet we cooked.  Very minerally, Clay and Limestone are very prominent.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

April 16th - Bacalao and Manchego Soufflee - Salt Cod

I fancied using the last bit of Salt Cod or Bacalao we had in the fridge.  I tossed around what I felt like making with it but knew I wanted something of substance as a main, not something like a sautee or stirfry.  I thought I would go for a Spanish inspired soufflee.  I love soufflees and after living in Spain for a couple years, I have a warm fuzzy place in my stomach for Spanish food.

There are some basic ingredients you will often found as foundational to Spanish food as well as those you will not find in it.  Garlic, Onions, Olive Oil, Eggs, Tomatoes, Bacalao, Sweet Paprika are in alot of the classic dishes.  You will not often find spicy Spanish food.  That is often a misconception because of South American and Mexican food.  My friends cannot handle Black Pepper.  You will never see it on the table next to the salt shaker in a restaurant.  You can request it but it would be unusual.  As well, they do not brown their Onions or Garlic when they cook.  That throws me off but I grew used to it.  I remember making Tortilla de Patatas once with some friends and I had gently browned onions and Danny started to pick out the browned ones.  Hilarious.

Anyhoo, of course another gorgeous Spanish treat is Manchego.  I made perfect sense to use it as the cheese in a dish like a soufflee.  I have made a number of souflees over the years from Classic Cheese, playful Caribbean Seafood, Spinach or Broccoli and Feta.  MMMM, so if you have a good and solid base recipe, you can create alot of creative variations.  You do need to be mindful of balancing acidity both from a flavour aspect and stability of egg.  I thought about adding Lemon Juice or Zest but was worried about curdling the milk and deflating the eggs.  I might have used more Paprika.  I used the hot variety and it was not detectable at all.  The mustard was nice.  Barely there but added contour.  MMMMM

Bacalao and Manchego Soufflee

(Serves 2 if this is all you are having. Could serve 4 with a side.)
250-300 g Salt Cod, weighed at the start
(start soaking over night or day before, changing water every few hours, keep in fridge)
1 T Olive Oil
1/4 c Butter (+more for the dish)
4 T (1/4 c) Flour
1 c Milk

1 t dry Mustard
1/2 t Paprika, hot
1/4 t fresh Nutmeg, grated
3 cloves Garlic
1 small Shallot, minced (ping pong ball sized)
5 large Eggs, separated
1 Egg yolk (because I corrupted the white on the 6th egg with a bit of yolk)
50 g Manchego, grated (1 c, fluffy)
25 g Parmesan, grated (1/2c, fluffy)

1/4 c Cream of Tartar (optional)
no Salt
no Pepper

In a large bowl, place the Salt Cod and fill with water.  Change the water as often as you want to remove the salt.  It is best to go over night or a full day.

Melt 1 T of butter.  With a brush, brush the 9" Soufflee dish with the butter.  Stroke the sides in an upward direction.  You could do this with softened butter and some wax paper too.  Place in fridge for 20 minutes.  Repeat the buttering. Leave in fridge until you are at the Egg White stage.

Place the fish in a large sauce pan filled with water or half water half milk.  I do not like to waste the milk :^).  Simmer for 20-25 minutes.  Drain, cool, flake.  Flake to the size you like.  I like it quite large, bite sized pieces but you can make it as fine as you like.  Drain well so you do not introduce extra water to the soufflee batter.  I do this all in between while chopping.  I pick my critical path and go.

Preheat the oven to 395 F or 200 C.

In a large saucepan, medium heat the Olive Oil, use a nice one.  You do not have too but if you do, do not put the heat up too high or you lose the fruity spanishy goodness.  Fry the the Garlic and Shallot for 1 minute.

Add the butter.  When melted, add the flour 1 T at a time, while you whisk.  Keep stirring when all the flour is in for another 1-2 minutes to cook the flour a bit.  Add the milk and whisk.  You want it thicker than a typical bechemel sauce, thicker than cake batter.  Add the Paprika, Nutmeg and Mustard.  I added them before the milk and it was like I tried to gas myself.  Do not do it.  I do it often enough when I fry spices when I do a curry.

Lower the heat to low.  Stir or whisk and add the yolks 1 yolk at a time.  Keep stirring to aoid scrambling the eggs.  Keep stirring for 1-2 minutes and turn the heat off. Stir in the cheese thoroughly. Gently stir in the fish.  I tried not to break the fish flakes but you don't have to if you don't care.  Set aside.

Turn your attention to the Egg Whites. Add the cream of Tartar to the whites and turn the mixer on high.  Beat for 3-5 minutes until stiff peak stage but not dry.  If you tip the head of your mixer back, the white on the beater should stand up.  I like to go 30 s beyond that.

With a large spatula, stir in one large scoop (1c) of the whites without worrying about deflating the whites.  You are lightning up the base.  Add another cup if you need to.

Since my mixer bowl is bigger than my sauce pan, I put the base into the Egg Whites.  I dump the lot into the egg whites.  Fold together.  With your large Spatula, slice down the middle, scoop up the bottom to the side. Turn the bowl a quarter and repeat, round and round.  You want it well combined but don't over do it.  It is okay to see some whites.

Pour into the soufflee dish.  You can white the batter from the sides if you want to encourage climbing more. I did not.  Place it in the oven in the middle.  Bake for 25 minutes.  It will still be a bit creamy in the middle.  You want the top golden but not dark.  I do not like the taste of over browned eggs.  Some recipes have the oven at 375.  I might play with this next time to allow longer cooking for 30-35 minutes.

Serve with large serving spoons with a nice simple green salad. YUMMO!

We started the cooking process with pretty Pares Balta Cava, crisp, tart green apples.

We had dinner with a Quail's Gate Pinot Noir 2006.  I will admit I was pleasantly surprised by this wine.  I had not anticipated how nice it would be.  It was well balanced, nice body.  Could have had a bit more length but it was not the end of the world.

April 16th - Ebisu Sushi - Fairview - Vancouver - Great Set Menu and Mid-Week Discounts

D had a sushi craving and in the neighbourhood, we have dozens of sushi to select from.  The scale is quite different as well.  We have Zagat rated, world recognized Tojo's to your typical carry out sushi bars.  I have a predeliction for Ebisu up the road because if it is between Sunday - Thursday, there is a notable discount .... or at least there used to be.  They recently changed their menu.  
Grand Cosmopolitan
Oh no! I do not do well with gastronomic curve balls.  I have walked out in the past, or rather snuck out.  If I leave, it is not to make a statement but because whatever craving drew me to the restaurant is not going to be sated. That is why I normally read menus on line before booking or going.  Ebisu however, is a middle of the road to nicer sushi restaurant outside the downtown core so I had not anticipated a big change to their menu so I did not check.  Lesson learned: always check the menu online first.

I used to love their big fixed menu for 20$. Admittedly it was alot of food and perhaps why they discontinued it.  The shame is that two items on the fixed, that were also offered on the main menu are not offered anymore at all: Seafood Miso soup and the Sushi Tacos where the taco shell is a deep fried gyoza/mandu wrapper.  The taco was delightful.  And the fixed menu used to include the Sashi Salad and now does not.  It is still on the menu though and it is a great salad. As well, they used to have a signficant discount on the sushi/nigiri from Sun-Thu.  No more.  Instead there is the main menu and 1 discount prix fixe menu.  Makes sense from a complexity perspective but I wish I had known. Their main menu is quite large and hard to navigate. 

D and both took the new Prix Fix and 1 extra roll. The new Prix Fixe is 14$ for any three items on that large side menu with starters through to noodle bowls as well Ice Cream is included.  I went for the nicely diverse yet satisfying mixed approach and D went for a sushi centric tack.

I started with the Tuna Tataki Salad.  I use the word started loosely because it all sort of arrived at once.  It was not ideal for the Tempura temperature if I wanted to eat my salad first but not a big deal.  It was a few nice sized pieces of well seared Tuna on a bed of baby green and sprouts with a Ginger dressing.  The dressing was a not really there.  But underdressed is better than over dress greens so I was okay with that.  I dunked my tuna in the soy I had for the sushi.  It was a good salad but the tuna was clashing with one of the vegetables, either the cherry tomato or cucumber but it was unpleasant.  That could just be me but something about the combination of Tuna and Tomato is quite offensive to me. 

I then had the mixed Tempura: Prawn, Carrot, Acorn Squash, Sweet Potato and Taro.  The temperature was great, piping hot.  The breading was a tad pancake batter-y as it cooled off.  It was a tad oily as well which happens if the oil is not hot enough.  I enjoyed the Squash and Carrot most.  Overall, I liked it.

I then had the Vancouver Roll.  It is like a California Roll Wrapped in Smoked Salmon.  Quite nice. 

D had Tuna and Salmon Nigiri.  Very fresh, nice size pieces.  And then he had a Dynamite roll.  Fairly run of the mill.  Fresh, good sized prawn.  I never order Dynamite or California in a sit down sushi because they are the staple of Vancouver's abundant carry out sushi bars.  But that's me and D liked his Dynamite roll.  That said,  he was still hungry and needed to eat some of my salad and a piece of my Vancouver roll and some of my Tempura... hmmmm :^P

So we ordered one more Maki roll, the Samurai Power Roll.  It was like a California Roll but this time Wrapped in Unagi (BBQ'd Eel) and topped with Black and Red roe, drizzled with a flavoured Mayo.  I liked this roll quite alot because it all seemed to work together texture and flavour wise.  The mayo was a nice touch.  Whereas the Vancouver roll was tasty but not holistically a stunner. 

I ordered the Grand Cosmopolitan martini and D had an Asahi beer.  I like my cocktail and I liked the price even better.  They have a decent cocktail list and wine list.  Do not try their Saki cocktails, some things just should not find themselves together in a glass.  Their Sake's are quite pricey, strangely enough.  I enjoy sake but the typically high price for sake in japanese restaurants in Vancouver does not compel me to order it often.  I'd rather have a nice mellow complex sake at home than an over priced, methylated, sharp one in a restaurant.

Cost: $$
Ambiance: A killer view of downtown and the mountains
Staff: Welcoming, friendly and efficient
Winelist: still not great

Ebisu Sushi Restaurant
601 West Broadway, #12
Vancouver, BC V5Z4C2
(CORRECTION! I had the Robson address before.)

Ebisu (Kamei Royale) on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 15, 2010

April 14th - Asparagus and Crimini Mushroom Barley Risotto

Barley is a great substitute for rice for a Risotto-like dish.  I know it is a contradiction in terms since Risotto actually implies rice.  In this sense, it refers to the cooking method and ingredients. We first saw a recipe in Peter Gordon's Vegetables cookbook with Butternut Squash.  We have made that one a few times.  Every once in a while when the plan is for a Risotto, we replace with Barley.  It takes slightly more liquid but nicely about the same cooking time.  There is no wine necessary for this dish but you could very easily add it.  We do not because the original did not.  The nice nuttiness of the Barley might not need it.  It has a great mouth-feel.  The Barley swells nicely but keeps it form for as far as I have pushed it.  I do tend to push it with the liquid because I like my Risotto slightly on the otherside of Al Dente but not mushy by any stretch.  It goes without saying but I'll say anyhoo, that Barley is a very healthy grain.  It is high in protein as well as aspects similar to Oat that helps with cholesteral which may slightly mitigate all the butter we use :^P.

Asparagus and Crimini Mushroom Barley Risotto

150 g Pearl Barley
1-1.5 l Vegetable or mild Fish stock (it's what we had on hand)
3 T butter
3-4 cloves Garlic
1 Shallot, minced
1 big bunch Asparagus (12-15 spear sized bunch)
12-14 Crimini (Brown) Mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
3 sprigs Fresh Thyme
1 t chopped fresh Oregano
1 t dried Basil
1/4-1/2 c freshly grated Parmesan
Salt and Pepper to taste
Olive Oil

In a large sautee pan (sloped sides), heat 1 T Olive Oil on medium high.  Trim the bottom of the Asparagus or snap near the bottom where they should naturally snap above the woody bits.  Cut in thirds.  Sautee briefly, maybe a minute or 2, until they go a super bright green but are still crisp.  Set aside on a plate.

Add another T or 1/2T Olive oil to the same pan.  Raise the heat slightly.  Sautee the mushrooms.  Spread them out as much as you can.  Do not move them too much.  Let them brown.  If you crowd them or move them too much they'll start to stick or steam.  When nicely browned after 3-4 minutes, set aside with the Asparagus.

In the same pan on medium heat, add 1/2 T olive oil and a smidge of butter.  Add the Shallot Barley and Garlic.  Sautee utnil the Shallot is softened and the Barley is glistening.

Add the stock, as you would a Rice Risotto, one ladle at a time until mostly absorbed.  It will plump up nicely but stay fairly al dente as compared to Rice.  Test the seasoning half way through.  Do not jump the gun on the salt because you may have a saltier stock than others.

Test the Barley when you're 3/4 of the way through the stock, 20-25 minutes. Keep going if you want. A few ladles from the end, add the vegetables back.  When all the stock is absorbed, turn the heat down.  Add 1/4 c of the Parmesan Cheese and stir.  Add the Butter in Pieces over top.  Cover and set aside for 5 - 10 minutes.

Serve with more Parmesan and a pat of butter. MMMMMM we also went further into decadence land and added some Truffle oil to enhance the shrooms.

Drinking a Faiveley Mecurey 2005.  YUMMO!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

April 13th - Shrimp and Tomato Pesto Pappardelle

We both hit the gym tonight after work so we needed to do something that was not too fussy.  When that comes up, D goes for Pasta.We keep a stock of Pesto in the freezer so super easy.  There is nothing wrong with jarred pesto but read the ingredients.  It should read like a cookbook and not a chemistry text.  I look for Olive Oil over Sunflower Oil and Basil in the top two ingredients.
Shrimp and Tomato Pesto Papardelle

16 Shrimp, shelled
10 Cherry Tomatoes, halved
3-4 cloves Garlic
250 g Wholewheat Pappardelle, dry (125 g/person)
3-4 T Basil Pesto
1/4 c freshly grated Parmesan
Chili Flakes (optional)

While the pasta is cooking, in a large sautee pan, heat 1 T of Olive Oil on medium-high heat.  Sautee the Garlic and Tomatoes until the Tomatoes are soft.  Careful not to burn the garlic.  Not yummo.  If you are worried or have a tendency to walk away, put the garlic in the pan after 1 minute of the Tomatoes.   Add the Shrimp.  You do not want to over cook the Shrimp so you may want to start the pasta 5 minutes ahead of the sauce because the shrimp will not take long. 

Add the Pesto to the pan and mix gently.  You want to break down the Tomatoes but you do not want to mash them up.  If the pasta is ready proceed, if not, turn down the heat to low and wait.

When the pasta is cooked, with a pasta fork or tongs, bring the pasta into the pan with the sauce.  Do not shake all the water off.  You may even need to add a few spoons of the pasta water.

Toss gently.

Serve with freshly grated Parmesan.  Add Chili Flakes if you like.

N's Orgasmic Basil Pesto or something like it

6 cups basil leaves
1 cup parmesan or pecorino cheese, grated
1 cup pinenuts
1 cup olive oil (+/- 1/4 cup depending on consistency you like)
8 cloves garlic
Salt and Pepper to taste

Load the food processor with the Basil Leaves, Pine Nuts and Garlic.  Do not get intimidated or put off by that word, Processor.  I have been doing this recipe since University. Originally, my friend N gave me the basic parts of this recipe but I use more Garlic and Cheese and less oil.  I have cut back the Garlic over the years a tad because it was not dinner guest friendly.  For many years I used the tiniest of food processors from Black and Decker.  We all have seen these 'single-person' sized processors where the bowl is about 2 cups and sometimes comes with handblenders.  This is double because I am using a 'real' food processor. I make enormous batches and freeze it and it can last me upto a year.

Blitz the first ingredients with short quick pulses until it is broken down to small pieces.  Open the pour spout and continue to pulse but process slightly longer while streaming in the oil.  You may not need as much oil.  You could use more.  Typically, I would say other recipes use more oil and less nuts.  I love Pinenuts and they are so good for you.  One of my mom's 'old wives' tales is that Pinenuts is good for circulation and mental faculties.

A good portion for 1 person is about 1-2 T of pesto.  Totally your taste.  I go for 2 for sure if not a dash more.  If you freeze, freeze in ice cube trays.  TRUST ME.  Do not freeze in one big container.  Even though there is alot of oil, it will freeze solid and you will not be able to easily portion out.  Once it is frozen, pop out of the trays and put in ziplock bags.  Defrost 2 cubes (typically) per person.  You could microwave for 1 minute but it will also defrost in a bowl during the time it takes to cook the pasta.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

April 12th - Excellent Sushi - Good "Go-To" Sushi for Lunch Downtown

Excellent Sushi is on Granville near Davie so it is a bit of a hike from work.  On nicer days or less busy days, I do not mind the speedwalk to pick it up.  I call ahead to reduce the wait.  It can be very slow.  I have made the mistake of ordering on arrival and waited for a long time.  Bizarre as well, the place will be virtually empty and everyone seems to be waiting. You gotta wonder why they have so many seats when they cannot handle a handful of seated guests and take away.  Perhaps it is all the call in orders.  However, it is cheaper yet without sacrificing the quality like other places like on Dunsmuir, blech.  Plus they give you Miso soup with the Sushi combos.  For 6 bucks, it is the best deal downtown.

That said, it is a total cafeteria style restaurant.  You are not coming for the decor or ambiance.  The staff is friendly and there is a steady stream of regulars.  For a while, the waitress were different everytime I went but recently, it has been the same dude.  I am guessing the owner uses Japanese English Language students like Japadog.  Actually, today, I noticed, that he finally hired some kitchen help too.  There was a new older man on the sushi counter.  I have not tried the other non sushi dishes but I hear the microwave door too frequently back in the kitchen and I hate, hate, hate that noise in a restaurant.  They do their sushi well and I'll stick to that.  Their tempura Yam and Prawn in their rolls is fresh, not nuked so I'm good.  I know you are meant to judge a sushi chef by his Tamago (or Omlette) but in these mainstream places, I think you can best judge by their Yam Roll: Is the Yam cooked through? Is the tempura oily? Has the Yam been soaked through because it has been sitting around?  Is it cold in the middle?  I have seen examples of these in a few of  the places in the downtown area.

I always get the Daily Special to go.  It is a 22 piece Sushi Box that includes 8 pieces of  Tuna roll and then your choice of BC, California or Dynamite and your choice of  Tofu or Yam Roll.  Their California is fairly standard, good, but standard.  Their BC roll is a bit oily but at least it actually has the Salmon Skin and not just chopped salmon.  Their Dynamite is my preference, partly because they do it well and partly because it is a premium roll in most of the places around here. 

One downside is that some of their rolls are very 'ricey'.  Whereas my other 'go-to' place, Bay Sushi Cafe, has so much filling that the rice does not close up,(which is bad form), Excellent can have a tad too much rice.  Sometimes, I peel some of the rice away and leave it because it is too much for lunch.  Today though, it was not too ricey.  It must be the new guy that is the difference here.  I also really like the little bowl of Miso.  I mean it costs nothing for them and it makes a difference to me :)  Just be sure to call your order ahead!

Cost: $
Ambiance: Cafeteria / Dive
Staff: Friendly but slow service
Location: Granville and Davie, downtown

Excellent Sushi
1157 Granville St
Vancouver, BC V6Z
(604) 687-0038

for easy, tasty, affordable sushi


for dining experience, efficiency of kitchen and over use of microwave

Excellent Sushi on Urbanspoon

Monday, April 12, 2010

April 11th - Zucchini and Cauliflower Omlette - Snapper with Swiss Chard and Zebra Quinoa

Sundays are a good day for Omlette. We normally have several bits of vegetables left in the fridge from the week.  Omlettes are great for using these up.  You can use just about any vegetable in your Omlette or Frittatas.  I would not have thought to use Cauliflower but it worked out nicely.  We did have to sautee the veg first to ensure it was softened.

Zucchini and Cauliflower Omlette

1/2 small Zucchini, sliced and quartered
200 g Cauliflower florets, cut small
6 Button Mushrooms, brushed and sliced
1/4 c smoked Salmon, chopped
1/2 c shredded Mozzarella Cheese
1 Green Onion, chopped
4 large Eggs
1 T Butter

Beat the eggs in a bowl with 1t of Salt

Sautee the Zucchini, Cauliflower, Mushrooms and the whites of the Green Onion for a few minutes in the same a med/large pan you are going to make the omlette in.  Season to taste. Set aside on a plate.

Now when we are doing one large omlette for the two of us rather than individual, we do not use the classic french method but its pretty close.  We do not over cook the middle.

Add the Butter to the pan, on medium heat.  Add the eggs and swirl. Since this is large you will need to move the egg with a non stick spatula rather than just shimmying like a smaller won.  Shove it around like you're moving a wavy table cloth around on a table.  Gently getting some of the raw egg under the cooked egg, just until most of the wiggly egg is cooked off.  If you like your egg more done, flip briefly, I mean briefly onto 'top side', 30 s.  But flip back to 'bottom side' before adding the vegetables back. Add the Salmon. Add the cheese and fold over.  Cut in half and serve with the green of the Green Onion as garnish.

I cut up some of the Cherry Tomatoes as a side.

Dill and Chipotle with Swiss Chard and Zebra Quinoa

Sauteed Swiss Chard
10 leaves Swiss Chard, washed, stems trimmed just at bottom
3 cloves garlic
1 shallots
Salt and Pepper

Roughly chop the garlic and slice the shallots.  In a skillet (straight sides), sautee the garlic and shallots on medium heat.  Trim the bottom 1cm of the stem off.  Unlike Kale, the Swiss Chard stems are very edible and cook easily.  Wash the leaves and do not shake off.  Add the Swiss Chard to the Garlic and Shallot and sautee for 10 minutes.  The water from the washing is sufficient to aid cooking.  MMMMMM  If you would prefer, cut in half but it is not a tough green so it is easily managed at the table.

Zebra Quinoa
1/2 c Black Quinoa
1/2 c regular Quinoa
2 c Water or Veggie Stock
1 t Salt

Okay I have to make a change to my standing guidelines for Quinoa and I am not happy.  When I make a single serving of Quinoa, I use 3 to 1, water to Quinoa and usually do this well in advance of eating.  I usually start 30 minutes early because I do not like to rush the grain.  Anyhoo.  When I make the single serving, I use my favourite small non-stick saucepan.  It has a lid with a vapour hole.  I let it simmer away for the 20 minutes or so. Well, when I doubled the recipe, I had to go to a larger saucepan and the Caphalon pot does not have a vapour hole so the water did not cook of as easily so I had to simmer for a while with the lid ajar.  Therefore I would say, if you do not have a vapour hole, I would reduce the water to 1.5 to 2 c.  D had to drain some of the water off because I used 3 c.

Dill and Chipotle Snapper
500-600 g Snapper fillets, cleaned, deboned, skin on (skin not obligatory) (2 portions)
1/2 T Dean and Deluca (or any brand) Chipotle Dry Spice rub
1/2 T Mermaid Lemon and Dill Dry Spice rub (this was a salty rub so we are offsetting with an unsalted one)

Pat the fish dry.  Rub with a bit of olive oil.  Sprinkle the rub and press in. 

In a large Sautee pan (sloped sides), add 1 T olive oil on medium - medium - high heat.  Add the fish skin side down.  Let sit, do not move for 3-4 minutes.  When the skin is cooked or even the first side without skin, it will be easier to move.  You will make a mess if you move it too soon.  Most of the cooking should be done on the first side. Using your thinnest spatula (a wide, thin fish spatula is best), flip and cook on the otherside for another 2 minutes.  Check the middle to make sure it is cooked through.

I really like Snapper.  It is a nice sturdy fish.  When the skin is done well, it crisps up really well.  It is very versatile and can be broiled, butter fried with herbs, baked, stewed, stir fried, fricaseed.... D thinks it is a bit blah.  Maybe I feel differently because my mom frequently bought super fresh whole snapper all the time.  It does really well in Korean fish stews.  It does not dissolve and fall apart.  MMMMM

We had a Basa Rueda Blanco 2007, great Spanish wine for simple seafood dishes like this. Yummo!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

April 10th - Pourhouse Restaruant - Gastown, Vancouver - Nice Mains but skip the Salad

 the Cure
I like going out to dinner with friends who are amused by my online sideline.  We paused after dessert to discuss the dinner so we would have a fair consensus on our opinion of the Pourhouse for my post.  S and G are great dinner friends.  They are from Montreal too but consider Vancouver home.  We are always sharing gastronomic experiences and suggestions with each other and go out to new places about monthly.

We were going to go to Nuba on Hastings for Lebanese food but they were fully booked.  Actually, I had called in and they had said they were accepting walk ins but when S and G showed up early to try to snag a table, they were rather rudely rebuffed by the hostess.  S, otherwise not easily ruffled type of guy, was fairly annoyed.  While we were recovering at home from snowboarding, they continued their stroll in Gastown to find us a place to eat.  He asked if we had heard of anywhere new and I mentioned the PourHouse.

It has been open for a few months.  I first heard of it at the Food show in the fall.  I was attending cocktail seminar with a Ginger based liquor and the presenter was the head bartender from Voya.  He had mentioned that he was opening a new restaurant on his own.  At the time, he had described it as old fashioned comfort food and the pending website looked rather stodgy and un-Me friendly.  I.e. not alot of Seafood or Veggie options.  That has changed quite a bit from what I remember.

It is subtley thematic on early North American pubs or even English gastropub.  The bartenders are in suspenders and cheeky little page boy caps and the font was nearly early American-Western. The decor is low lit with lots of big wood and brass.  I can almost etch my memory of the evening in Sepia tones.  However, I do emphasise the subtlety.  It was not a beat the dead horse theme. The menu was nicely diverse but on point and the servings were generous but not overly so, as they would be in such times.

We started with a few glasses of wine and bubbly.  D had the Basiolo Barbera.  I had the Seeya Later Pinot Noir, which in the end was too big for my Dungeness Crab starter. S and G had Pares Balta Cava. We then ordered a bottle of Wolftrap Syrah Mourvedre Viognier 2008. On the bolder side for Cod but it is hard to satisfy everyone's order. It was a pleasant wine.

G and I shared the Crab Louie which was listed in the 'Relishes' but more commonly as the Salads.  It was described as Dungness Crab with Jumbo Asparagus, Butter Lettuce, Tomatoes and Cucumber with housemade Louie Dressing.  Strange.  No boiled eggs. Crab Louie is a Classic early American salad like the Caesar though probably a tad more old fashioned.  I was hoping for an upscale take on it.  It was exactly as described..... completely.  We were served those ingredients on a plate with what I can estimate to be thousand island dressing on the side.  There was quite a generous amount of fresh Crab, I'll admit.  For 20 bucks, I was hoping for a bit more personality.
Crab Louie Salad
S and D shared the 'Cure'.  It was a selection of cured meats with a bit of Mustard and Onion Relish.  It came with a basket of a variety of strong breads.  I would have to say the star was the bread.  There was a fabulous Rye and Hearty Chili and Cheese bread.  I meant to ask where they source their bread but forgot.  I will have call.  That aside, the 20 bucks for the few bits of sausage was entirely unsatisfying.  Oddly, we were not served butter with the bread or meats.  ???

S and G tend to order very similar mains.  I would have say it has happened at least half the time.  We both ordered the Wild Pacific Ling Cod on du Puys Lentils with Celeriac Puree.  The Ling Cod portion was standard but the Lentils portion was gloriously, and finally decent. I am frequently disappointed by the descrition of a bedding under a fish which turns out to be a schmear or dollop.  The Ling Cod was sitting on a nice portion of the creamy Celeriac puree island in a sea of savoury du Puys Lentils. MMMMM  Side by side, G's cod was over cooked but mine was perfect and the crispy skin was nice.  We both completely finished the lentils and Celeriac.  She set aside her skin.

D ordered the Pork Chop with Dandelion Greens, Baby Corn and Apple Sauce.  D really liked the Pork Chop, though thought the pre-slicing was unnecessary.  He did not much care for the Apple Sauce.  It was quite cooked and I liked it but he prefers the fresh uncooked type with his pork.  Overall, he enjoyed the chop.

S ordered the Carpet Bag steak. AAA Kettleridge Tenderloin with Carrot Puree, Fried Oyster and Sweet Potato. Carpet Bag is an old school way of cooking a steak partially on grill then oven.  S said is a great way too cook a nice thick piece of meat.  S said his steak was perfectly cooked.

We finished the meal by sharing the Warm Chocolate cake with housemade Salted Carmel Ice Cream.  It was Yum.  There was some duelling spoons on this one.  The salted Ice Cream was lovely.

Overall, we agreed that the Starters were disappointing but the mains were very good, with the exception of G's overcooked Ling Cod but since I also had one that was cooked well, we chalked it up to a execution exeption.  They have Jazz on Sundays.  I would come back but skip the starter for my own dessert.  The staff were great.  Friendly, knowledgeable, not at all pushy though we lingered. They genuinely appeared to enjoy working there.  I like that.

Cost: $$$-$$$$ (with wine)
Ambiance: Cozy and vibrant
Location: Safer end of Gastown, well, better lit anyway.
Wine List: Good variety but not alot of selection.

Pourhouse Restaurant
162 Water Street
Vancouver, BC V6B 1B2
(604) 568-7022

Pourhouse on Urbanspoon

Saturday, April 10, 2010

April 9th - Homemade Naan and Butternut Squash and Cauliflower Vindaloo Prawn

Easy Oven Baked Naan Bread 

500-600 g All Purpose Flour
150 ml Plain Yogurt
150 ml Milk
2 t Honey
2 t Yeast
1/2 t Sea Salt
2 T Olive Oil
1 t Baking Powder
1 Egg

Warm the Milk in the microwave for 1 minute or steam it with a Milk steamer.  You want it warm to the touch but not hot.  Pour into your mixing bowl.  Add the Honey and stir.  Sprinkle the Yeast over.  Let stand for 10 minutes or longer until nice and frothy.

Add the Salt, Egg, Oil and Yogurt and turn the mixer on stir for 1-2 minutes.

Add the 1 c of the Flour then the Baking Powder with the mixer on low.  Continue to add the Flour in 1/2 c until completely incorporated.  You may need to add some more flour or use less.  I needed to add extra.  You want it soft and sticky but not unmanageable. The machine to knead it for a good 10 minutes until the dough pulls together cleanly away from the bowl.

Cover and let rise for 1 hr at least.

Preheat the oven to 500F with a rack on the lowest level.  Place a baking sheet upside down on the rack.  Use a regular stainless steel or other heavy baking sheet.  Do not use non-stick.  The Teflon will not do well at such high temperatures.  It is not safe to expose non-stick surfaces to such high temperatures, empty.

Press down. No need the for the violence of punching down. The dough should weigh about 950 g so to divide into 6 balls would be about 150 g.  I weighed them.  Otherwise, each ball is about the size of a baseball.  Knead briefly into a ball.  Cover the others to prevent drying out while you work one.

Stretch out between two hands, slapping back and forth. Pull and slap.  I had to place down on a wooden cutting board and pull, rest and pull in to various shapes but about 10-12 inches long and 5-6 inches wide. Do not worry about uniformity of thickness or shape.

Old the stretched dough in one hand.  Open the oven and pull out the bottom rack.  Slap the dough onto the tray.  Close the oven.  Bake for 5 minutes.  It will puff up.  Using tongs or oven mittens, open oven quickly and flip and back 3-5 minutes more.

It was interesting that since the oven was so hot, there was no sticking to the tray at all. You do not need to lubricate the baking pan or the stretch dough at all.  Obviously, if you have a pizza stone, this would be awesome.  Oddly enough ours is cracked! WTF!!

Take out and brush with butter.  This is optional.  Cover with a towel or tent in foil.  Proceed with the rest of the Naan.

 Underside of the Naan
IT was DELICIOUS!! The egg added a brioche quality to it. The egg is optional but it was nice.  It could have used more salt but since you are likely to be eating it with a curry, it is not necessary.  When we have our BBQ back, we will be trying it on the grill.  It will definitely go much faster.  MMMMMM

Butternut Squash, Cauliflower and Prawn Vindaloo Curry

1.5 lb Butternut Squash (small, kid sized football sized), peeled, seeded and cut in large cubes
1/3 (300g) Cauliflower head cut into florets
1/2 Onion, sliced
4 cloves Garlic
1 inch sliced Ginger (optional, I love Ginger)
3 Serrano Chilies, halved, seeded
1 large tin whole or chopped Tomatoes (not pureed)
1 tin Chick Peas (Garbanzos), drained
10-15 Prawn (uncooked, optional)
3 T Patak's Vindaloo Curry Paste
3 T Butter or Gee (Clarified Butter)

I use a good vegetable peeler to peel Butternut Squash.  D uses a sharp knife.  This is a pretty small squash so there was not too much inside stuff.  It was easy to scoop out what few seeds there were with a spoon and small knife.  Cut into 2 cm cubes.  Wash all the veg in preparation.  I also did the dough for the Naan and let rise while I started the Vindaloo.

In a large Pot or Skillet, heat 1/2-1 T Olive Oil or Vegetable Oil on medium high heat.  Sautee and stir occasionally for 10-12 minutes.  I did this while chopping the rest of the veg.

When the Squash starts to brown after 10 minutes, add the Onion and Cauliflower. Continue to sautee for another 3-5 minutes.  Add the Chilies, Garlic and Ginger.  Sautee for 2 minutes.  You do not want to burn the Garlic.  Add the Butter or Gee.  You would normally fry most of the veg in the Gee but if you are using butter just to enrich the flavour just add it now.

Add the paste and stir through.  Add the Tomatoes and Chick Peas.  Stir.  You may need to add 1/2 c water.  I swished the can of Tomatoes with water and added.  Let it bubble a bit.  Turn down the heat to medium and cover and continue to simmer for 20-25 minutes to allow all the flavours to marry.  This is not a stir fry and some flavours need to develop.  Season to taste.

Add the Prawn in the last 10 minutes.

Serve with Naan.  Yummo!  You can leave the Prawn out if you want it to be vegetarian.  I almost used Swiss Chard but the Caulflower worked out really well.  MMMMMM

We had a very nice La Frenz Muscat called Alexandria 2008 we bought when we were visiting the Okanagan last summer.  Great with spicy vibrant food.