On a recent trip to the Granville Island Public Market in Vancouver, I stumbled across a man selling the most wonderful tomatoes with exotic names such as 'Purple Russian', 'Striped German' and 'Black Pineapple'. Being from Australia, I had never come across such marvels. Of course, I had heard of Fried Green Tomatoes, but other than that, all the tomatoes in my life to this point had been very red. How could I resist?
After a few days, with a kitchen full of ripening tomatoes, it was time to do something with them. That something involved Little Neck Clams and pasta. The result was superb. The firm, tart flesh of the tomatoes added just the right balance to the rich, sweet clam liquor.
If you want to find out more about Heirloom tomatoes, there is a pretty comprehensive explanation on Wikipedia.
Continue reading "What to do with a kitchen full of Heirlooms" »
Shiitake, known as the fragrant mushroom, is no longer an ingredient found in just Asian cuisine. It is being used more and more in Western kitchens around the globe.
The versatile mushroom has been used by the Japanese and Chinese for both culinary and medicinal purposes for over 1000 years. In China, shiitakes or xiānggū were picked wild in the mountains and dried. The Japanese learned how to cultivate the mushrooms by placing them on dead logs.
These days, the rising popularity of the shiitake has meant its increased cultivation in many countries, giving cooks year-round access to its delectable flavour.
When buying fresh shiitakes, ensure that the flesh is firm and dry but not wrinkled. The caps should be fleshy and unblemished, with a distinct yet subtle aroma. Some shiitakes will naturally develop scoring on their caps. Don't be deterred by this as it is a good sign of a maturing mushroom.
When preparing shiitakes, gently remove the stems with a knife and rinse the caps very briefly in water (in and out). Never let the caps become water-logged. Alternatively, you can carefully wipe the mushrooms with a damp cloth. A soggy shiitake is something to be avoided.
While doing 'research' on this popular little fungus, I came across a site belonging to the Lost Creek Shiitake Farm in Oklahoma. Their literature described the shiitake as a social and almost sentient being that "dislikes crabby people and negative, emotional people...they're not fond of cigarette smoke and may balk in their fruiting around smokers." Shiitakes also love a good thunder storm and tend to proliferate in a group setting...of other shiitakes that is.
Shiitakes are my kind of people. So to celebrate the shiitake's sociability and versatility, I made a shiitake, smoked bacon and asparagus pasta. The result was delicious, rich and yet pleasingly subtle.
Continue reading "Shiitakes have feelings too" »