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June 2008

23 June 2008

Chocolate Pasta? You've got to be kidding!


I kid you not: chocolate fettuccine. While some might balk at such a combination, I whole-heartedly welcomed the chance to try something so novel.

On a recent trip to Seattle's famed Pike Place Markets I spotted the extraordinary pasta when squeezing my way through the ravenous Saturday crowds. 

The dried chocolate pasta and a whole range of interesting artisan noodles are sold at Papparadelles Pasta stand.

I served the pasta at a dinner party for dessert but it was more like the main course of the meal. I served it with cream which I had whipped until it was frothy and then mixed with a freshly made raspberry sauce. I added a dash of cointreau to the cream for a subtle citrus aroma.

A pasta dish isn't ready until it's been topped with some cheese so I grated on some dark, semi-sweet chocolate.

The verdict: it was a hit. But honestly, it wasn't out-of-this-world mind-blowing. I think it was more a combination of the novelty of chocolate pasta and the heavenly raspberry cream sauce that had everyone so giddy. The pasta itself is not sweet and tastes like unsweetened cocoa.

I personally prefer fresh pasta and think that the end result is always better. One day when I have a pasta machine I'm going to try my hand at freshly made chocolate ravioli with an orange mousse centre.

Until that day comes, I'll keep buying dried chocolate pasta as it's lots of fun.


Continue reading "Chocolate Pasta? You've got to be kidding!" »

18 June 2008

Penance for Profiteroles: Carrot and Kale Soup


After a rather decadent date with chocolate ice-cream filled profiteroles last week, I felt as if I needed to repent with something simple. That something turned out to be a Carrot and Kale Soup.

Kale is one of my favourite vegetables but I don't cook it nearly as often as I should. There's something about its texture which I really love, especially when it's steamed, or as in this case, simmered for several minutes.

I mentioned in my my kale & smoked bacon quiche post, that the texture is somewhere between English spinach and seaweed. However, I'm not sure that's accurate. The leaves are curled and are very much firmer than lettuce, but soften upon wilting. If you can help me with a description of its texture, I'd love to hear it, because right now I'm groping around without success.

When I was in LA doing the raw food thing I tried a pretty hardcore green juice with raw kale in it. I won't be doing that again. While I do love the leafy green, consuming it raw was far too potent and I felt rather 'green' for several hours afterwards! That's not to say you shouldn't try it raw though, perhaps having it for breakfast first thing was the problem. I think I should have first consumed some greasy scrambled eggs and bacon to counteract the purity of all the raw kale nutrients!

In this recipe I used curly leafed baby kale, which when lightly cooked provides more calcium for every 100g serving than milk, yogurt, cooked broccoli or cooked spinach. It also has seven times the amount of vitamin A than cooked broccoli. These are just a few examples of the seemingly endless benefits of kale.

I'm submitting this post to Weekend Herb Blogging being hosted this week by Joanna of the blog Joanna's Food.


Continue reading "Penance for Profiteroles: Carrot and Kale Soup" »

13 June 2008

Profiteroles with Dark Chocolate Orange Ice Cream


I made profiteroles for the first time a few days ago and here they are! The orange chocolate ice cream filling was actually an afterthought when I realised that the crème patisserie (pastry cream) was going to need three hours to chill.

I simply couldn't wait that long and luckily I had the ice cream sitting in my freezer. It was meant to be and it was perfect match. I've been meaning to make mini ice-cream sandwiches for a while using brioche and vanilla ice cream but these profiteroles were an excellent substitute.

The recipe I used for the choux pastry was from epicurious and like the reviews said, it was easy and they turned out perfectly. However, I wasn't so sure at the start if things were going well as the choux looked too runny and I wasn't sure how they were going to puff up, if at all. I used a pastry bag to squeeze out 'tall rounds' and as soon as I squeezed them out they promptly deflated and spread out. Not a good start.

Round two. I grumpily scooped all the miserable little chouxs back into a metal bowl and then put the bowl by the window to cool down. Incidentally, I'm in Vancouver where it's meant to be the start of summer and it's 10 degrees. So I cooled the choux  for about 15 minutes and let it firm up a bit and then spooned it back into the pastry bag and gave it another go.

The 'tall rounds' weren't exactly skyscrapers but they were keeping their tallish roundish shapes so I whisked them into the oven and then magically before my eager eyes, they rose.

Continue reading "Profiteroles with Dark Chocolate Orange Ice Cream" »

10 June 2008

The Mighty Morel


The Morel season is coming to a close in British Columbia and foragers will have to wait another year to harvest the wild mushrooms.

Morel mushrooms vary in size but are recognizable by their sponge-like caps which fit over their stalk like a thimble over a thumb. There are two types of true morels; yellow and black, both of the Morchella genus and not to be confused with the poisonous and almost identical impostor, the ‘Wrinkled-cap’ or ‘half-free morel’.

Morels are some of the most sought after wild mushrooms in the world. Finding them, however, can be unpredictable. Luckily for me, I managed to forage for them at the South China Trading Seas Company at Granville Island.

In the wild, morels can be found in mixed hardwood forests near aspen trees, white cedars or white pines in areas recovering from fires.

Other areas favoured by the morel include old apple, peach or pear orchards and dead or dying elm trees. There are rare occasions when the morel has popped up in unexpected places including old camp fire pits, basements, old bomb craters or unused mining sites.


So what is it about these little mushrooms that sends people so crazy each year?

Morels have a rather earthy and subtle nutty taste. They are best cooked simply and that is exactly what I did.

I sautéed them with some crimini mushrooms in garlic, olive oil, a couple of dollops of butter, some organic beef stock and chives, and then served them with fresh fettucine. The porous caps quickly absorbed the flavours, yet retained their slightly crunchy texture. Delicious.

Some tips on buying morels: they should have firm, spongy caps and be moist but not soggy. Try to use them as soon as possible as the fresher, the better. Unlike some mushrooms, it is ok to wash morels. In fact, it is very important to clean them thoroughly but gently to rid them of grit and naturally forming toxins.

I soaked them in cold water and then gently washed and strained them. Don Dickson, owner of South China Seas Trading Company, recommends par boiling them in lightly salted water for about a minute and then sautéing them. He does this just as an extra precaution to rid them of any nasties.

So I haven't answered my own question. What is it that drives people to spend endless hours traipsing through dense or sometimes burnt out forest just to pick a handful of these little fungi?

Part of the answer might lie in the experience - this is vegetarian hunting at its best. And the fact that morels soak up so much flavour and yet hold their own flavour and structure makes them unique. Worth a walk in the woods, or in my case, a walk down to the Granville Island markets.

Continue reading "The Mighty Morel" »

03 June 2008

Warm Yourself with a Bowl of Butter Chicken


Butter chicken: possibly the most commonly ordered Indian dish in the western world. And with a name like that, I'm not surprised.

There is a common misconception, which I almost bought into until I went to the library to do some reading, that ghee, also known as 'clarified butter', is used widely in cooking throughout India. It is not. 

Clarified butter is known as usli ghee. It is made by gently heating unsalted butter until it liquifies. The whitish bits also known as 'milk solids' are carefully strained with cheesecloth leaving behind the golden liquid which is the usli ghee. This "real ghee", is considered a luxury and is most commonly used in cooking in the Punjab region where dairy products feature more prominently in diet.

Usli ghee is also used as a digestion aid, used to relieve rashes and burns and also as used a moisturizer. 

The second type of ghee, which is more frequently used, can be likened to vegetable shortening. It is usually purchased in bulk and contains various vegetable oils which makes it more economical than usli ghee.

Types of cooking oils vary from region to region with the use of coconut oil in the south, mustard oil in the north east and peanut or sesame oil in the north.

Back to the butter chicken. Since I didn't have any usli ghee handy, I simply used a tablespoon of unsalted butter.

I have to say that it was one delicious meal. So delicious in fact that I considered making it two nights in a row and have been having daydreaming about it ever since. Next week I'm going to try the same recipe with prawns.

Continue reading "Warm Yourself with a Bowl of Butter Chicken" »

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