Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The 200th post!!!

It's been almost 2 years since I started writing the Stone Spoon Food Blog. Alot has changed during that time. Much food was eaten. Many things were tried.

Just the other day I read back some posts and realised that this blog is like a journal in food. I read a post and it transports me back to that day or period. It's amazing the power food can have on memory. I'm sure many things would have been lost to time if not for this blog.

I don't know what my intentions are with food. I've been disenchanted with the idea of penetrating the food industry. Restaurants are a messy business and a restaurant owner does everything but the fun stuff (they mostly crunch numbers and figure out how not to get dragged under by astronomical and uncontrollable food and labour costs).

Maybe one day I'll have a little café. Or a sort of one day per month banquet where I can just make the food I want at the intervals I want. Who knows!

One thing I know is that from tracking the traffic on this blog, I have hits from around the world. I think it's great that everyone can see what's going on in my kitchen halfway across the world in a seemingly insignificant corner of nowhere. I hope my blog is useful even though I tend not to write down recipes in the traditional cookbook manner. It derives from the fact that I mostly don't follow recipes anymore. I just take the ingredients and go. Unless I'm making a dough or pastries of some sort. Those buggers are tricky.

Well here's to another 200 posts. Take a drink for me wherever you are. Cheers.

Cast-iron pan tomato, onion marmalade, walnut and blue cheese pizza

There's this Canadian celebrity chef called Bob Blumer. Bob's a bit of an excentric. But in a good way. He makes recipes like "coconut-crusted pork tenderloin lollipops" which are actually balls stuck on the tip of bamboo squewers which are themselves held in place by a watermelon. If you've ever seen his show The Surreal Gourmet you know that it gets ever crazier than that. So when I found a cookbook Bob cowrote called Pizza on the Grill it didn't strike me as odd.

I did a few pizzas on the grill this past summer but right now my grill is stuck behind a mound of snow. So the cast-iron pan was called in.

I started by preparing the ingredients. The most time consuming was the onion marmalade. For this you need to fry a mound of yellow onions in olive oil, butter and salt. You cook covered for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. You then cook another 20 minutes uncovered till the onions are golden and sweet. This is really good stuff. Almost good enough to eat on toast in the morning....almost.

I then made my basic pizza dough (see earlier posts), rolled it out, sprinkled with cornmeal and friend in some oil in the cast-iron pan. I think I was afraid of burning it but I really should have 1) let it cook a bit longer before flipping and 2) used a bit more oil. However, it worked. I cooked one side, placed the onion marmalade, halved cherry tomatoes (which were supposed to be roasted but I really didn't feel like roasting a handful of tomatoes for 2 hours in an oven...not very energy-efficient), and crumbled market bought goat blue cheese on this cooked side.

For the second side of the dough, I popped the whole thing in the oven for 15 minutes or so till the crust was golden, the cheese had melted and the tomatoes had cooked. You then sprinkle on some lightly toasted walnuts or pecans and enjoy. This is a really great combination for a pizza. Like the section in the cookbook it comes from, it's "Marvelous & Meatless".

Thanks Bob...and cowriter Elizabeth Karmel...

Fried Smelts and Buttercup Squash

The Maritimes are a wonderful place for seafood or any kind of fish really. I got a huge bag of smelts (beheaded and gutted) for only 5$. Now that's a bargain. Plus I wanted to see how adventurous I was when it came to whole fish.

First I did the easy part; the side dish. I'd never eaten buttercup squash before (not to be confused with butterNut) but it really has to be one of my favourites. I halved it, scooped out the seeds, smeared it with olive oil, butter, salt and pepper after which I roasted it in a 350 degree oven for a good 45 minutes. My girlfriend said that it's even better than potatoes or sweet potatoes or any other squash we've ever had. I have to say that I agree.

For the smelts, it was pretty simple though really hectic. First I patted the fish dry. Every single one. There were at least 30 of the little buggers. But that wasn't the hardest part. I then had to dip each one in lemon juice, shake in some seasoned panko breadcrumbs (you could also just use flour) and fry. There was alot to fry. And I kept having to add more oil. And there were burnt pieces of breading smouldering in the bottom. And there were alot of fish so after awhile I just grabbed handfuls, plunged them into the lemon juice and dumped them in the breadcrumb bag before frying them. I was getting burnt by popping oil and the whole kitchen was a mess. Plus the fire alarm was about to go off.

The juice, however, was worth the squeeze. Smelts are a nice light white freshwater fish that I find resembles the walleye from back home. Plus they're fun to pick apart since you've got to seperate the fins and the spinal cord from the meat...unless you feel really adventurous and you eat the fins...I did. Just squeeze a little lemon and enjoy. All that fish for only 5$! Someone lost money somewhere along the line.

Coffee Smoothie

Well there really isn't much to explain about this recipe. Any half intelligent person with eyes looking at the above photo and the title of this post would deduce that this is chilled coffee (leftovers from the morning), blended with sugar, cream and ice. It's as simple as that. But quite good and pretty different from it's hot morning counterpart.

PLEASE NOTE - If you give this to children, make sure to send them to the neighbours house after or something.

Chakchouka or Peppers with tomatoes and eggs

Apparently, this recipe is from the Greater Maghreb. I assume this is in Northern Africa since that is what the cookbook is; North African Cooking by Tess Mallos. There are photos of tagines and paper in purple and green. Really cool book and pretty good recipes.

This particular recipe couldn't be simpler but I did have to eat it alone since my girlfriend doesn't do bell peppers. But I got up early in the morning, sliced a green and red pepper, friend them in olive oil, added 2 cloves of garlic, 2 large chopped tomatoes, a good tablespoon of Harissa (one of the best sauces ever!), and a bit of chopped fresh parsley. You let this cook till everything's nice and tender - about 15 minutes - after which you crack an egg or two into the mix. Cook the eggs, sprinkle with paprika and eat with a nice hunk of bread.

Light, simple and delicious.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Goat Ribs

I'm being converted to goat meat. Once again it comes from my goat raising friends at "Au fond des bois". These particular delights have a nice lean quality with all the bone munching fun associated with ribs. You really have to dig your teeth in. As a bonus, you've got a nice little chunk of meat which - as the pork I've previously mentioned - is probably the tenderloin of the goat. Anyways I hereby endorse goat meat.

Gordon Ramsay's Lasagne

I've got a love hate relationship with Gordon Ramsay's recipes. Sometimes his food is out of this world and other times it's nothing to write on this blog about. This particular recipe from Kitchen Heaven is definitely in that grey zone.

Let me break it down for you. First, make your own pasta. I'm actually getting good at this so it really wasn't a problem. Here's where the problem was. I rolled the squares out and then had to blanch them before putting them on a baking sheet, covering them with a crème fraiche (sour cream) and egg yolk mixture and then spring sprinkling with parmesan cheese all of which got popped into the oven to broil. Sound complicated? Wait. It gets worse.

While I was blanching and broiling the pasta sheets, I had to fry beef steak chunks in a pan to the desired doneness. I also had to cook shallots and garlic in another pan to which I added cherry tomatoes to make a sort of quick sauce.

Now everything wasn't quite hot at the same time. I had to pull the pasta out so it didn't burn while making sure that the sauce was sufficiently cooked and the beef wasn't too sufficiently cooked. But the lukewarm ingredients wasn't the worse part. This decomposed lasagne had to be assembled.

I had to start with sliced of prosciutto topped with some of the tomato mix, a few pieces of beef, a square of baked lasagne square, and then had to keep going till I was out of ingredients. I then drizzled with olive oil and sat down to eat.

Like I said, nothing was very hot by the time I got to the dinner table. It was good but not great. I mean it was tomatoes with steak on pasta sheets. Nothing really original or with much wow factor. But I did like the texture of the baked pasta sheets. The were a bit crusty and had a good chew to them.

All in all, I think this recipe is a bit too finicky. Love hate sort of thing.

Pork Chops with Bubble and Squeak

There are two items to this recipe which I love. The first is the fact that I found out that pork chops don't have to be thin dry white hunks of meat that I was served as a kid. The second is the fact that I made "bubble and squeak" which bears the coolest name after "bangers and mash" in the culinary world. Those British sure know how to name their food (ooh by the way, I had steak and kidney pie the other day at my local Irish pub...so good!!!).

This recipe comes from Trish Hilferty's wonderful Gastropub Classics. As far as recipes go, this isn't particularly complicated. Like anything, it's mostly in the quality of ingredients. The pork was the first step. I bought local organic pork chops with the rib still attached. (I might be wrong but I think pork chops are actually the pork loin or rib steak of the pork...who knows...I'm no butcher.) These chops were simply prepared with salt and pepper and fried in a pan until cooked. Nothing magical there.

But now for the magical part; the bubble and squeak. First you've got to make mashed potatoes. Boiled potatoes with butter and milk. You then fry an onion with some bacon, add 5 times the amount of cabbage as what there was bacon and cook till the cabbage is tender. Now for the fun part. Add the cabbage, bacon and onion mixture to the mashed potatoes, shape into patties and fry till golden brown.

This meal might seam simplistic but it's really great. Bubble and squeak are definitely on my favourite food list now...both for name and flavour.

Oh and seeing as it's from Gastropub Classics you really do have to have a pint of the best real ale while eating this. Those who don't are just uncool.

Boudin Blanc

Boudin is french for blood sausage. Boudin blanc would therefore mean white blood sausage. However, whilst talking to my friendly market charcutier, he informed me that there is no blood in white blood sausage. The name, he says, comes from the fact that the same casing is used for blood sausage and white blood sausage.

The sausage is actually made of milk and chicken in a sort of sponge form which I found out fries really quickly. For this meal, I cut the boudin blanc into discs, fried them and incorporated them into what is becoming a staple tomato sauce and homemade ravioli dish.

The taste of the whole thing was pretty good especially when accompanied by a bit of Italian Chianti. However, I have to admit that white fat sausages are sort of weird. But I bought them anyways. Cause I'm just that crazy....

P.S. Sorry for the crappy photo quality. Not much sunlight during supper time up here in the northern winter. And the flash just makes food look disgusting.