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Over parmesan or over the dry powdery stuff? Recently, I've found VERY good Canadian cheese of that type, whether parmesan or pecorino romano. Yes, there is actually locally-made dry ewe's milk cheese.
So, not so much a "food" post as a "foodie" post -- for those foodies among you who like kitchen toys, and are cheap (and I guess who also have a Dollarama in their neighbourhood).
Anyway, I picked up this:
I'm not sure if babble has caught up with the whole "displaying images" thing at this point, but if not, go ahead and click on the link. Or, if you don't, I can tell you what it is: a ceramic paring knife.
Ceramic knives are typically made of Zirconia (think, fake diamonds) and they're typically super-sharp, super-hard (think again of fake diamond) and hold their excellent edge up to 10x as long as steel. The downside to them is that you probably can't sharpen them at home (your sharpening stone or knife steel won't actually be harder than the knife) and they can be brittle (so, not good for frozen food, bones, woody stuff like a rutabaga or acorn squash, or prying something) and they're still usually pretty expensive (like, $20-$40 for a small one).
But right now Dollarama has these, in a range of colours, for $3.50.
If you can, grab one for the next time you'd like to slice some zucchini as thin as bristolboard, or want to trim the silverskin from a roast. Or just want to replace that old, dull paring knife you've had since Mulroney was PM.
ed'd to add: seems that as long as I used HTML code instead of BB code, and chose "plain text", the image could be made to display inline!
Thanks for the tip! I hesitated to buy one because of the brittleness, but at that price... Do they stay sharp for a long time? They seem to, according to what you've written. Because alas they are disposable ... it would cost more to sharpen one than to buy a new one. I love doing fine cutting and chopping. Imagine the ginger!
I first remember hearing about ceramic knives years ago on FoodNetwork. One chef, Ming Tsai, sponsored a line of them and was always touting their merits. Alas, the prices back then (and to some degree, today) kept me from checking them out.
A few years ago IKEA had a set of three ceramics -- a paring knife, utility knife and santoku, if I recall correctly -- for something like $25, and I was all excited about getting a set, but they were all sold out with no plans to re-order, so when I saw this one for three-fiddy, I couldn't resist.
I actually picked up one to give to a friend, and two more for Mrs. M. and me to use as steak knives. And then the other day I swung by Sanagans and picked up a cut I'd never bought before, called a paleron -- it's basically two flatiron steaks held together with some tough connective tissue. You can either braise it as-is and let that connective tissue get unctuous and edible, or trim it and have two little pan steaks, so we went with the pan steaks. Trimming was a breeze, and so was eating. :)
You could save the connective tissue in the freezer with the bones for soup. Not that you have to...
My great discovery is how simple it is to make polenta in a crockpot. Just google crockpot or slow cooker and polenta and you'll get lots of hits. I used the coarser cornmeal (not very coarse, just not the "fine") 3 measures of water or other liquid - I used mostly water and some chicken stock - to each measure of cornmeal. You have to stir a bit mostly at the beginning, then leave it, check it from time to time for lumps. Perhaps beginners' luck but I had no lumps and it came out nice and creamy.
Nothing like a nice bowl of gristle soup! :)
Just joking. Of course I saved it. I also just got back from Chinatown/Kensington where I bought another paleron to clean and slice for some Thai Basil Beef. Flatiron steaks are $13.99/lb, but two of them fused together with some gnarly stuff is only $8.99/lb! Go figure.
Here's a pic of it; you can pretty clearly see the silverskin along the right, and that connective tissue down the middle, but you can trim those without needing to be a surgeon, and the rest is very well marbled and very tasty meat.
I don't shop at Sanagan's for all my meat, as they're a bit pricey for that, but all of their stuff is naturally and locally raised, and they feature stuff you just won't find at a Metro or a Loblaws -- heritage breed chickens and pork, and quirky cuts of beef like this, or bavettes, or hanger steaks. And sometimes the quirky stuff is more affordable than the familiar; the other day they had Water Buffalo Veal Ribs for about six bucks a pound. I don't think many of us can lament "Oh, but I'm so bored of Water Buffalo Veal!".
I've never happened to eat any. Those are the poor little unwanted boys of the cows bred to produce water buffalo mozzarella and ricotta, I believe. Those are now produced in Canada: the first site I found is here in QC but I believe there are also producers in Ontario: http://www.bufalamaciocia.ca/fr/accueil/
Probably popular among both Mediterranean and Southeast Asian markets...
The crockpot polenta is once again a success. With tiny nordic shrimp (and sautéed veg, also a bit of crumbled feta). The frozen shrimp are on sale here this week.
Is this the sort of creamy and wet polenta? I've made the Caribbean variant, cou cou, before (basically just corn meal, broth or water, and chopped okra).
I've also purchased those pale yellow "logs" of polenta, but other than slicing and frying, I've never been all that sure what to do with them.
Funny enough, even in Asian groceries I don't tend to see the really tiny shrimp. I'll see cocktail size (51/60) but that's it. Apparently the tiny ones are the best for making potted shrimp.
The tiny ones are too small for stir-frying, so you don't see them in Asian groceries. They'd be great for potted shrimp, I wound up finding them most useful in a shrimp salad. Their other uses are for open-faced Nordic sandwiches on GOOD rye bread (we finally have a boulangerie nearby that makes such breads, as well as the common French varieties) and simply in rice, cooking basmati and stirring the thawed shrimp in at the very last moment, since it doesn't need further cooking. It could go in frozen if the rice is a bit dry.
As for the polenta, it depends on the water to cornmeal ratio. The recipes I've seen (three measures of liquid to one measure of corn) gave me a fairly firm polenta, which is what I wanted for what I was preparing; increasing the liquid ratio to four would give a wetter, creamier polenta. If you find it is getting too firm, you can always add more liquid, but unless your insert is metal, I know you will know not to add cold water or stock, which could crack crockery.
In some regions, such as Piemont near Switzerland and the French Savoie, polenta is sometimes made with milk, even adding cream, butter and cheese. Tasty of course but very rich and doesn't go with everything. Polenta is Mamaglia in Romania, where it is also common.
Like instant rice, instant (precooked) polenta is not very good as a main dish, but the stuff is very useful as a coating for fish and other things. You can buy small packages in any Italian and many Latino groceries. At Latino places, often it comes from Argentina or Uruguay.
I don't really like the pre-cooked polenta logs; I can't think of anything else to do with them but fry them and use them as a base layer in dishes. The advantage is of course that the traditional method of making polenta is time and labour-intensive.
By the way, I actually bought something new; a fellow nearby was selling a The Rock multi-pot, which is something like an electric wok but a deeper bowl shape, good for braising and stewing. (Remember, I no longer own an actual stove). A young man was selling an unwanted Christmas gift from a relative for $20, new in the box. Livia loves the box. So far I've used the thing for rice, pasta and shallow-frying. It has a wide temperature range but I'll have to play with it a bit for the best settings to simmer or braise foods. The ratings on that item, sold (and heavily promoted this past Christmas season) at Canadian Tire, Walmart and other places, are very good, but reviews can be fiddled with by marketers, as we know. It is replacing an ancient electric wok which must be at least 30 years old, the metal lid no longer fits well, and it is hard to clean. Since it still works, I've cleaned it as best I could with vinegar and baking soda and will set it out on the street on a non-garbage-collection day. Lots of students around here; it should disappear quickly. I have to eliminate something any time I bring in a new small appliance...
I have a friend who got a multi-pot this past winter and loves it. I'm not sure what brand hers is.
I'm trying a Thai fish cake recipe this evening - a new one on me, so we'll see how it goes. I'll leave half mildly spiced and the other half more hot to accomodate the differing palates at Chez Bandit.
We broke out the barbecue for burgers last night. We literally had to pull it out of the muddy squelch at the side of the yard, and we had just enough propane to grill the burgers. Must be spring!
TB! I'd wondered where you'd got to, since the upgrade and suchlike.
I've been pondering getting out the grill, and even though it's nicer weather and light out longer, I haven't yet -- I'm mindful that as much as I love backyard cooking/smoking, 2/3 of the way through the season I'm already getting bored and want stew. So tl;dr is "not yet".
Though it should be much milder where you live!
I'm still very much in stew and soup mode. At IGA (Sobeys) they had a three for two special - I bought two packages of "soup vegetables" because they included turnip, parsnip and leeks not often found in such mixes and one "Italian style mixed vegetables" - which of course I'd never seen in Italy but which are common among Italian and Portuguese food wholesalers here, with a mix including cauliflower, broad green beans, carrots and some other things.
Timebandit, I forgot. Yes, I'm very happy so far with my multipot (there is another kind of higher-tech multipot, more akin to an updated pressure cooker); it heats to a very high point, making pretty much real stir-fry possible (I wouldn't leave it at that temp for long) and for making proper refried rice with a bit of a crust. You have to fiddle with it a bit for the low temperatures, but I succeeded in making good basmati rice.
Soup, but thinking of how to make it more interesting without overspicing it (which one gets tired of). I made good strong chicken stock and am actually using (among other things) part of a bag of Compliments (Sobeys) frozen veg "for soup", as it had interesting ingredients such as turnip, parsnip and leek as well as the more usual things. Some mushrooms; debating whether to add quinoa. And of course I have some cooked chicken, but I might keep that apart and add it just for servings as I reheat them. Ideas?
Maybe some celery seed? It's a flavour I like in combination with leek, and a little different than the usual herbs, but still subtle enough not to overpower anything.
Hello, Magoo! I found the upgrade frustrating and sort of un-habituated checking the site for a bit. I see many of the same circular conversations continue their orbit... ;)
I wouldn't have pulled out the grill this early, but the blond guy was bent on it. There was a block of ice underneath, even though 90% of the snow in the yard is gone and we're up to between 8 and 12 degrees above zero during the day. Tulips and daffs and crocus and hyacinths poking up in the flower beds and the snowdrops getting ready to bloom. Finally! (Yes, I know it's actually a bit early, but spring always feels so long in coming!)
Perhaps some garnishes? I'm thinking of something like "soup nuts", or some rustic homemade crackers. Sometimes I'll jazz up chili by mixing up some masa harina, salt and water to make a dough, then squeezing it through my potato ricer into some hot oil -- instant "Frito" noodles for sprinkling.
Or make something like a tadka, but with more appropriate seasonings (e.g. garlic and flat parsely rather than fenugreek seeds and cloves).
Those are all good ideas! I wound up putting in some caraway seed - I buy it whole and give it a bit of a whiz in a coffee mill I dedicate to spices and other non-coffee purposes (both were bought at yard sales). Like celery seed, caraway gives a nice deep flavour. There is a tiny bit of Aleppo pepper (a flavourful, semi-hot pepper) but not too much.
Obviously, this all makes far too much soup for one person.
By the way, I find the circular discussions easier to avoid with the new format.
FWIW, here's a great homemade cracker recipe that can be adapted to include just about anything you like. I like to make it with a half cup or so of finely grated tasty cheese (sharp cheddar, blue, Asiago, etc.)
If you try it, here's a pro-tip: when rolling the dough, paint a little melted butter on top, fold it in half, roll again, butter again, etc. (sort of like making puff pastry). Result: flakier cracker.
That sounds great - Kitchn and Apartment Therapy are very useful sites despite their relentless aspirational yuppyism. I read the small spaces stuff a lot, though people in Tokyo probably think I have a huge flat. (It is perfectly large enough, but as common in Montréal, poorly laid-out with double rooms). I was looking at it today, about soup.
I'm also enjoying the articles and recipes of Rachel Roddy, in the Guardian (free access, bless them). She is a young Englishwoman who lives in Testaccio, a once very hardscrabble neighbourhood in Rome (the slaughterhouses were there) with her husband of Sicilian origin and their little boy. She writes elegantly simple home-cooking recipes from Rome, Sicily and various parts of the UK, and discusses life there.
Thai fish cakes were not good. Much disappointment. The recipe called for a blender, I improvised, but I think the kicker was the coconut flour - really made the texture odd. Delia Smith bats about 500, IMO.
Looks like even Delia recognized this error, because here's another Thai fish cake recipe from her, sans coconut milk powder.
Could be good with some finely grated fresh coconut, maybe. OK, fine, I just like any excuse to crack open a real coconut.
ed'd to add: if she really does bat .500, then statistically speaking, this one should be a win. :)
I'll take a look. Part of my problem was that she uses a food processor and I don't have one, so used the hand blender for the herbs and such and just diced the fish extra fine. Unfortunately, instead of flecks of green, the whole patty looked like a St Paddy's Day joke. A lot of work for meh at best.
I'm disappointed because when she does have a good recipe, it's really good. Her shepherd's pie is awesome, adding some tomato, cinnamon and extra veg to the meat part and topping the spuds with old cheddar and leeks. It's become a regular in the meal rotation around here. Then you try another and wonder if they tested the recipe before including it.
Yes, I also find Delia very odd that way.
I'm taking another run at pad thai tonight. I've made this recipe lots of times, and for a while it was pretty foolproof, but then suddenly I kept sort of duffing it. Not a hard duff, but not as good as I'd come to expect. It's the same recipe, and I don't really do substitutions for something like this (so, no using Linguini in place of rice stick, or malt vinegar instead of tamarind). No idea what went wrong, but it's time to get back on this horse. It's actually a great recipe, and more authentic than the sweet "ketchup" pad that that a lot of places serve up.
I actually tried the banana flower once. The flower was lovely, and I think it set me back less than a buck, but in truth it was kind of weird and bitter and called for some odd prep. Fun to know where tiny baby bananas come from, though.
I'm just going to cook some thawed cod fillets in the oven. Any easy ideas? They are actually good, Compliments from IGA (Sobeys). https://www.iga.net/en/product/wild-cod-fillets/00000_000000005574250567 (they were on sale for $4.99). I do have a bit of leftover white wine (un fond de bouteille).
White wine, a spot of butter and some tarragon?
Magoo, the pad thai sounds great - I don't like the sweet, ketchup-y ones, either. How did it work out? (also fascinated by the banana flower!)
It's funny how you can get different results from a recipe without tracking quite what you've done differently. Have you ever seen the movie Like Water for Chocolate? The cook's emotions have a direct effect on her food, the taste of it and the resulting emotions/actions of the people who eat it. Loved that idea. Not that I ascribe to it in real life...
I'm just going to cook some thawed cod fillets in the oven. Any easy ideas?
Thai fish cakes!
Or, what TB said. Sometimes some fish and some butter are all you really need.
I've got some salt cod bits in the fridge that I need to send on a flavour mission of some sort. No Frills had bags of them -- about a pound of small pieces -- for five bucks or so, and that's a pretty good deal for salt cod. A few blocks west of here, in what's technically Little Portugal, any store that sells food will sell salt cod, with one store (Nosso Talho) regularly featuring cases of the stuff for several hundred dollars. And evidently some are better than others, going by the prices.
I'll probably either go with Portuguese cod fritters, or else do some googling -- a former co-worker of mine used to bring a Guyanese salt fish dish to every office potluck, and I'd love to give that a whirl.
Magoo, the pad thai sounds great - I don't like the sweet, ketchup-y ones, either. How did it work out?
In a word, well. Just as the recipe says, they were "dry" (which is just to say not wet or gloopy) and tangled. If you ever give it a shot, just make sure you buy the right noodles (rice stick, the flat kind rather than the round vermicelli, and I recommend 3mm or maybe 5mm if you like wider noodles -- I got a bigger pack than I needed for $1.29 yesterday). And then make sure to not oversoak them. As buddy says, you can always add a bit of water to the wok.
(also fascinated by the banana flower!)
Well, it WAS kind of fascinating. It kind of looked like a big, bulbous endive, but in shades of purple and blue and orange. I had originally assumed I'd just slice it up or some similar, but in fact you need to soak it and peel it back and remove all the tiny flowerlets and clean each one (they're the part you eat, and that would become a banana if permitted to) and as fun as all that was, the flowerlets were strangely bitter and certainly didn't taste at all of banana. But hey, 78 cents to say I did it.
The cook's emotions have a direct effect on her food, the taste of it and the resulting emotions/actions of the people who eat it. Loved that idea. Not that I ascribe to it in real life...
Boy howdy. That's some un-needed pressure.
Like it's not enough that I have to vigorously whisk while adding the oil as a slow drizzle, but now if I'm in a bad mood my emulsion will break? Sure, I like to cook with love, but if I'm all out then it's like any other recipe -- I'll substitute worry or angst, or just double the amount of sugar. :)
Pretty much! But cook with passion and Ooh la la!
Today's adventure: Bean-based soup with whatever the hell is lying about in it.
So I've tossed in some black-eyed peas, lima beans, pinto beans, brown beans, navy beans, mung beans, red split lentils and yellow split peas into some chicken stock in the slow cooker, added a couple of onions, celery, carrots, green and red bell pepper. The blond guy has a habit of tossing not quite fresh but not quite off tomatoes into a container in the freezer, so i added a bunch of those, too. I had some fernleaf dill from last weekend in a cup of water by the sink (stays fresher if you treat it like a bouquet and looks/smells nice), so I chopped some of that and threw it in. I might add some mac apple toward the end, too.
Wish I had a couple of parsnips, too.
Assuming that stock was unsalted, I don't see how it could fail. That's a hearty tribute to beans and legumes.
Makes me think a little about "soup mix" beans -- basically, just a mix of all sorts of beans and lentils, intended for soup -- and how hearty and virtuous it always looks. My only concern was always whether they'd cook at the same rate, or whether the lentils would be mooshy before the kidney beans were even edible. But for a long time I had some in a glass jar on my countertop because they just look so awesome.
I'm firing up the grill, for the first time in 2017, and making this, an old favourite of ours.
Oh that looks good! I have Thai-ish marinade for ribs that I use for chicken instead that is not too far off.
The soup turned out nicely! The one thing I'd do differently is add the Lima beans halfway through. I expected the lentils and split peas to disintegrate and just add some body to it. Family wants me to replicate it at some point, but I didn't keep much track of quantity!
I wound up making "fish and rice" with the thawed frozen cod. It was very good; there was a lot of greenery and the spicing just right. This time I have some cheap frozen hake, a member of the cod family but a bit softer flesh, so I'll make fishcakes - with no coconut powder. Some panko I've had for a while is definitely going into the mix.
I wound up making "fish and rice"
In a symbolic way, you ate with literally millions of people!
To put it mildly. Most of Asia, much of Africa and Latin America as well. No shortage of variations on that in other places.
Fishcakes might not be quite as ubiquitous, but they are very common as well.
Tonight I'm making pesto pizza. But I'm following my cheapo instincts -- validated by a lot of internet recipes -- and making the pesto with sunflower seeds in place of the ($$$) pine nuts.
ed'd to add:
Whenever I make homemade pizza I always make up a full "batch" of dough, based on my go-to recipe, and it's always about 20-25% too much. I like math, and I'm sure I could just adjust the recipe accordingly, but I kind of like having a blob of pizza dough to play around with -- sometimes I'll make calzone with cheddar cheese, or a wee freeform pizza with unconventional toppings, or whatever. But tonight I'm going to try making a "breakfast" pizza -- some gouda cheese, some fried-up country ham, some sauteed onions, and on top, a beaten egg. If it works, it works, and if it fails, it fails with a capital "F".
Pizza is one of the few things I don't like to make at home. It doesn't turn out quite the way I'd like, and it feels more like an indulgence when it's ordered in. Fortunately, we're only a few blocks from a few good pizzerias!
I'm off the hook tonight, the blond guy is making a squash, bean and poblano stew. :)
I'm relatively happy with my pizza, though a hotter oven would improve it. I'll squat my downstairs neighbour's oven if he is away on a trip and I'm taking care of his cat - obviously, asking him first. I've never heard of using sunflower seeds - I'd been substituting walnuts for pignoli, but sunflower seeds are even cheaper, and definitely can be local.
I have an EXCELLENT, destination pizzeria a block away (hey, I live in la Piccola Italia, eh?) but it is pricy.
Ideas for the fishcakes? I have panko, and also have some instant polenta (precooked). Not the best thing for actual polenta, but good for breading fish and other things. I also have some leftover real polenta, and of course could also incorporate a potato, or a taro. They will probably have what Haitians and French Antillians call "colombo": a kind of curry-type spice mixture, but not nearly as fiery as the Sri Lankan Colombo - when they want serious heat it comes from tiny fresh peppers similar to Scotch Bonnets or Habañeros.
How Yotam Ottolenghi uses polenta in a fishcake recipe: http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/polenta-crusted-fish-cakes-spicy-toma... At least it isn't ridiculously overcomplicated like many of his recipes, though I don't really need a tomato sauce recipe. I don't have a food processor, so would just mix the ingredients with a spoon or my fingers.
I usually keep fish cakes simple: the fish, some potato, some breadcrumbs, an egg for a binder, salt and pepper, and maybe a fresh herb like parsley if I have it, or maybe some Old Bay.
Then I focus my attention on the sauce. Maybe I'm a traditionalist, or maybe I'm just cliché, but I tend toward a riff on tartar sauce. Some mayo, an equal part sour cream, salt and pepper, some chopped capers + juice, and maybe a finely diced dill pickle.
For many years, crab cakes solved our problem of not knowing what we wanted for dinner. We'd draw a blank, then one of us would say "OK, crabby cakes it is, then!", and suddenly we'd be full of good ideas. Not that we don't love crab cakes or anything, but somehow it always worked out that way.
I had them with a spicy tomato sauce (which I had frozen). I didn't have most of the components to tartar sauce, and didn't feel like making mayonnaise. I suppose I could use a thick goat milk yoghurt rather than sour cream - goat sour cream does exist, but it is ridiculously expensive, and the soya stuff is tasteless.
I did buy one of those little ceramic knives, and of course cut myself (a very small cut on my thumb). The tiny cut bled like hell, because the knife is so very sharp, but it is fun to use to do very fine cutting and chopping.
Don't feel bad; I cut myself at least once too.
I find the knife is good for a lot of things, like deboning chicken, anything to do with meat, chiffonade-ing some basil and so on. But I'll switch back to another knife if there's lots of chopping, or tougher vegetables like a carrot or beet.
The two big downsides, IMHO, are that it's a paring knife, not large enough to use with proper chopping motion, and the blade is thick, with a pronounced bevel (unlike, say, my chef's knife which has a flat blade that's all bevel -- I think that works better for very fine slicing.
But the upsides are that it's damn sharp and it was $3.50. In a fancy kitchenwares store that wouldn't even get you a swizzle stick.
Oh, I sort of expected that I'd cut myself. All my knives need sharpening right now - the knife sharpening guy (aiguiseur) comes round less often in the winter. His father actually did it on a bicycle that eventually got a motor, but he has a little truck. It is a tiny, superficial cut and already pretty much healed. But did it spurt blood!
I was boning (braised) duck necks, to retrieve the bones for the soup pot. There is quite a lot of meat on duck necks and they'll be good in the wok with mushrooms, carrots and gai choy. http://www.thekitchn.com/a-visual-guide-to-10-varieties-of-asian-greens-...
I hope this is the correct thread for this article.
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