Friday, July 24, 2009

Chiles y flores de calabaza rellenos

Wednesday July 22

Yes, it's the squash blossoms again, this time part of a Mexican fiesta. We got some nice big poblanos and some tomatillos at Findlay market on Saturday. The first got roasted, the second got ground up with some garlic, fresh coriander, lime juice, and red onion to make the piquant pico de gallo on which everything would repose.
We followed our basic relleno procedure but the stuffing was a quarter pound of goat cheese and over a half pound of grated swiss, seasoned with a few ground oil-cured tomatoes and a little epazote we're growing in the garden.
With this, we stuffed four poblanos and ten beautiful squash blossoms.
The batter was made according to Holt's special method, but again, with a difference: we added a little masa harina. And what do you know - it began to puff up as if it had baking soda in it! So we quickly rolled and fried the chiles, plated them in the warmer, and then did the same to the blossoms, until all the golden fried things could be piled on the green salsa.
A fiesta in your mouth!

Asian barbeque pork with not-so-baby bok choy

Tuesday July 21

Just some thin medallions of pork tenderloin, anointed with some of last year's (!) Asian barbecue sauce that was waiting for us in the fridge, pan-fried for a couple of minutes on each side.
We're gradually using up the bok choy from our garden, and these last ones have grown a bit mature. So they can't just be split down the middle and grilled, they have to be chopped into strips and stir-fried. No problem with that, though; it just went into the pan after the pork was done and resting in the warming oven, white strips first, then green, then some of the sauce, then a little water, then steam for a minute.

T-bones and Squash

Monday July 20

Sounds like a really bad police-buddy movie. The steaks were on sale at IGA, we just anointed with Worcestershire and grilled them. Then made an instant yogurt and horseradish sauce. While they rested, we grilled tiny whole assorted squashes, most of which we got at the Farmers' Market, but one - first! - golden pattypan from the garden.

Pasta Fredda

Sunday July 19

We'd gone out with Kathy and Russel to Uncle Yip's for a dim sum feast (very good turnip cakes), so a light dinner was in order. What we had was pasta, in this case rigatoni, boiled and thrown into a bowlful of chopped fresh tomatoes, olives, basil, and goat cheese - much like Da Paolo's specialty "Pasta Fritta."

Squash blossom pizza

Saturday July 18

When the garden gives you squash, make squash blossom everything. This is an adaptation of our previous pizza bianca, but with goat cheese this time, lotsa garlic, and more salt for savor.

Leftover Chicken and Caprese Salad

Friday July 17

Yes, it's what we didn't eat of the chicken - from just yesterday (horrors!). But on a nice summer evening, convenience is important, especially when dining outdoors. We nuked the chicken briefly, and devoted our attention to a lovely caprese salad, made with farmers' market tomatoes, our own basil, and fresh mozzarella. The latter can be really bland, especially in this country, so we pre-marinated it in olive oil and fresh herbs, and topped everything with our new discovery, white balsamic vinegar, which keeps the colors pretty and light.

London Broil with Zucchini

Thursday July 16

We did both of these on the grill; the broil was smeared with Worcestershire and horseradish mustard, the zucchini oiled and dusted with fresh marjoram. But that herb is a bit too strong and medicinal for more than a pinch of fresh, so from now on we'll stick to thyme or oregano.

Chicken Breasts with Fennel and Carrots

Wednesday July 15

Barbara's vision of a homey summer-night meal, but it was Holt who carried it through. He disassembled a whole chicken, sautéed the pieces in oil, then added sliced fennel bulb and carrots, and finally melted in some chicken stock, turned down the heat, and let it simmer for half an hour or so until the vedge was deliciously tender.

Sole Packets with Basil

Tuesday July 14

This was an experimental twist on the various sole-timboccas (and soles with sorrel) we've done before, because our basil plant is producing enormous leaves, and needed to be snipped down. So we defrosted a packet of little sole fillets from Trader Joe's, laid the basil leaves on one side of each, and then folded them in half. We painted them with egg whites (left over from the Hollandaise) and dipped them in panko. The panko, however, were a little too big and crunchy to cover the tender little fish. Maybe regular ‘Merkin bread crumbs would have done better?
Luckily there was some roast asparagus left over from yesterday to go on the side, and Holt made a quick lemony Hollandaise for topping. And what better for Bastille Day than a Dutch treat invented by the French.

Vegetable Feast

Monday July 13

The pattypan squash plants have taken over the garden, and today we had the first harvest of big yellow blossoms. Holt stuffed them with fresh mozzarella and anchovy, then dipped them in his frothy batter, and fried them in deep-ish oil on both sides.
Our other vegetables were roast asparagus and grilled zucchini; so we had one roasted, one fried, and one grilled thing (more things to clean than our usual one-pan meals).
Dessert, however, was a snap: watermelon balls with fresh blueberries from Saturday's market, and a dose of triple-sec.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Veal Sausages with Bok Choy and Onions

Sunday July 12

The frozen sausages were from Antipastos: they helped to keep the veal fresh as we smuggled our meats across the border. The bok choy was from the garden, and was first washed carefully after picking; then inch-wide slices were taken from the leafy crown; then the crisp white stalks were sliced, and washed again, because protein (i.e. bugs) can hide in there indefinitely.
First the sausages browned in oil, then got pushed to the sides of the pan while sliced onions and the white bok choy stalks fried in the center of the pan. Added some chicken broth, lowered the heat, and steamed everything tender, then added the green parts and stir-fried a bit. A nice variation on the sausage-and-onion-and-something theme.

Veal Chops and Portobellos

Saturday July 11

Lamoreaux Landing 2002 Pinot Noir
The veal coated with thyme, the portobellos with tarragon, and some Sugar Ann snap peas from the garden on the side.
Thistlehair farm blueberries, picked this morning, and a diced ripe peach, with whipped cream.

Barbara's Birthday at the Palace Restaurant

Friday July 10

It must have been a while - since 2006, in fact - since we've been to the Palace Restaurant at the Cincinnatian Hotel, since we can't find it on the blog. But it's a place we like a lot - well-prepared food in a sophisticated atmosphere, with a good jazz trio in the background, and it gives us a chance to dress up a bit.
Our amuse-bouche was a "shooter" of cold melon soup with a droozle of some spicy red pepper oil, absorbed while we waited for our Pinot Noir to be opened (Cloudline, from the Willamette Valley, Oregon, 2006).
Then we progressed to starters: yellowfin tuna two ways (seared and tartare - the seared looked like the little beefsteaks at Cucafera), with little piles of fennel with green herb squirt and piquillo peppers with red pepper squirt, and a teeny hard boiled quail egg; and the other was beef tenderloin tartare like a disc of well-seasoned hash, with a sunny side up quail egg and crispy capers on top, brioche "soldiers" to dip the eggyolk in, and sriracha aioli alongside.
Our first main was crispy-crusted roasted barramundi (just like Australia!) with tasty poached celery, sunchokes, and red pearl onions, on a beautiful marbled puddle of sauce soubise and black truffle vinaigrette; and incidentally, some slivers of truffle on top. And the second was a trio of pork, namely three thick little slices of hazelnut crusted tenderloin, a caul-fat-wrapped package of tender, savory slow roasted shoulder, and a slice of braised applewood smoked pork belly with garbanzo bean purée, frissée, and bacon jus.
Since it was a birthday, we HAD to have dessert. One was a pistachio financier: a toasted slice of cake filled with warm crème brulée, topped with sweet and sour cherries and morello cherry sorbet. And of course, Barbara had to have something lemon, namely a disassembled "meringue parfait" - a thin line of citrus “biscuit” with a line of lemon cream and then thin shards of meringue on top, spotted with dots of lemon curd and a ball of perfect lemon sorbet on the side. And at the end, a nice platter of little sweets: a wodge of candied quince jam, a tiny "oreo," a peanut butter cup truffle, and a couple of delicious chocolates.

A Quick Linguine Alfredo

Thursday July 9

Since we only set out from St. Catharines at 1 PM, got home quite late and hungry. So boiled up a pot of linguine, and made a quick Alfredo by coating a pan with butter, boiling down some cream in it until nice and thick, and melting some grated Romano cheese in it. Seasoned with salt, white pepper, and more grated cheese. Just what the Ph.D. ordered.

Zest, Fonthill

Wednesday July 8

The two foreigners got a chance to take their local hostesses, Jane and Jo-Ann, out for a local meal at a local place they had never been, Zest.

We almost passed it by because the "Zed" blended in with the background of its signboard, so it looked like a place called "est." But we were happy we finally found it.
It's a small place, but the tables are well-placed and comfy, all poised around a big open kitchen, so you can watch the chefs work. And the service is just as we like: friendly, knowledgeable, and attentive without being all over you. They even changed the music on the sound system to accommodate us.

The food is billed as "modern Canadian," mainly sourced locally, though they don't make a cult out of locavoraciousness the way some places do. First they dropped off an amuse-geule, a snackable little smoked-char fishcake, while we pondered over the menu and ordered a Cave Spring Sauvignon Blanc (we drink locally, too).

We just had them put the appetizers in the center, and let everyone graze on crispy fried calamari with sriracha sauce, mussels in a smooth lobster-vanilla tomato sauce with sweet peas and tarragon, a warm salad of roast asparagus and shiitakes with goat cheese, and a big plate of Lameque oysters from New Brunswick - they best place to read about these oysters (indeed, any type of oyster whatever) is here.

Our two mains were fillets of lake perch, sparkling fresh and delicate, perched on a vegetable tower and topped with a fried zucchini blossom; and haddock fried in a coconut flour crust (really - they showed us the flour, it's not grated coconut) with a dark mole-style sauce.
And of course, we had to have dessert. One was a frozen black forest cake with fresh red currants; the other some spoons of house-made strawberry ice cream, which was nice and light.

Verdict: Zest is definitely on our eat-local list.

Barbeque at Jane's

Tuesday July 7

Our friend and neighbor Sonya was taking off for vacation the next day, so our hostess Jane threw her a farewell barbeque - using Sonya's own gas grill. So the main dish was grilled steak, seasoned with Montreal Steak Spice - an excellent dry rub. There wasn't enough room on the grill for much else, so the side dishes - fried peppers and onions, fried zucchini and mushrooms, and a big green salad - were made indoors. We also ate indoors, as there wasn't as much table room outside.
Dessert was tasty strawberry and rhubarb pie, with vanilla frozen yogurt. As Sonya observed, several times: it's not ice cream.

In an Oakville Garden

Monday July 6

Ally and Dave are great cooks and wonderful gardeners, so the ultimate enjoyment is to get to eat their food out in their garden. Their cat Thera supplied the floor show, as she was on her leash among the plants, stalking the occasional bird, squirrel, and even a baby bunny (all of which were smart enough to stay just outside of leash-range).
We started with an amazing variety of olives and a Turkish-style eggplant-walnut dip on wholegrain toasted pitas; various good white wines flowed throughout the evening. Dave grilled some pretty pink trout, and there was a casserole of savory gigantes in a tomato sauce with a touch of honey. And finally, a giant plate of local cheeses, and a delicious fresh fruit cobbler - this rainy spring has been bad for local fruit, but you would never know from this yummer.
To top it all off, they brought out a souvenir of their recent trip to Skye - a bottle of scotch you couldn't equal anywhere else. We sipped (in the case of the driver, one sip was all) with delight, and resolved to visit Skye for a scotch-slosh of our own in the near future.
So thanks, Ally and Dave, for another inspiring evening!

The Keg, St. Catharines

Sunday July 5

A long day's drive up to Canada, and we didn't want to put our hostess out with a hungry late arrival. So we stopped for a relaxing dinner beforehand, at The Keg.

Now this is a chain restaurant, but they try to use local sources, and their St. Catharines branch is in a historic industrial building, some kind of Mill, with the logo written on the smokestack. It's also very comfy and dark inside, which is good when you've been driving for eight hours.
We just had mains: top sirloin with three mushroom topping in balsamic cream sauce; and a New York striploin with added blue cheese and roasted garlic crust, which was a nice touch.
Baked potatoes came on the side, one with three-cheese topping and the other with sour cream and bacon bits; the potatoes themselves were rather dry and overdone, so the sour cream was needed.
A bottle of Kendall-Jackson cab sav was also much needed; luckily our destination was only five minutes away.

Independence Day

Saturday July 4

We know a barbeque is traditional for the Fourth of July, but the weather was unpropitious: hot, humid, and eventually it just gave up and rained. So we "grilled" indoors, in a frypan. The first traditional treat was the season's first local corn, golden-kerneled, just with butter and salt. Then, hot dogs - or rather, bratwurst from Trader Joe's, mit sauerkraut (echt Deutsch, really). And traditional American Potato Salad: yukon gold potatoes, chopped celery, scallion, and red bell pepper, moistened with mayonnaise and a little grain mustard (French!).

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Tuna Steaks with salsa

Friday July 3

Pan fried tuna steaks until opaque on each side but still lovely and rare in the middle. Then a cool fresh salsa with tiny cubes of Amish tomato, red pepper, scallion, cilantro, and just a little half of the home-pickled jalapeños.

Ants Climbing the Lion's Head

Thursday July 2

Sort of a combo of two classic Chinese dishes: Lion's Head and Ants Climbing Trees.
Marinate 1 pound ground pork in a tablespoon soy and a tablespoon yu xiang wine. Chop up 1 tbsp ginger and 2 cloves garlic. Wash and halve two baby bok choys. Have chicken broth, sesame oil and oyster sauce standing by.
Heat vegetable oil in wok to high, stir fry garlic and ginger, then pork until no longer pink. Melt a quarter cup of chicken broth over it, then nestle bok choy into mess, cut sides down, drizzle with a little sesame oil, turn down heat, and cover to simmer. Keep cooking and shifting until bok choy is limp and tender. Stir in 1 tbsp or more oyster sauce. Serve by draping bok choy on platter, heaping pork over it.

Salmon and Asparagus in Cream over Penne

Wednesday July 1

Or things to do with asparagus, cream and pasta that aren't a Saffi, though done very much in that manner. This was the last day of our poached fresh salmon, and it broke down very nicely to thicken the sauce. A whisper of lemon juice to brighten it.

Cherry Soup and Salmon Cakes

Tuesday June 30

A hot day calls for cold soup. So we boiled up a couple of pounds of cherries in a rather overly-sweet Riesling with just a touch of cinnamon and cloves. They're so much easier to pit that way. Grinded it all up and served it with a lattice of cream.
Then left-over salmon for salmon cakes dipped in panko, which really does make for a crunchier crust.

Cold salmon with quick sorrel-cream sauce from the Herbfarm cookbook; boiled garden green peas.

Sunday June 28

Chop up a shallot or scallion and briefly sauté in 1 Tbsp butter until wilted (if scallion, white parts first). Destem and rough-chop a loose salad-spinnerful of sorrel leaves. Throw half in on top of the scallion and stir until wilted, 1 min; throw in rest and stir until wilted, 1 min; add enough cream to make a nice sauce, and heat through until bubbly. Pour over cold fish.

German Potato Salad with Kielbasa

Monday June 29

Okay, no cracks about invading Poland. This time we made New Joy's German potato salad, we substituted a nice stick of smoked homemade Kielbasa from Findlay Market for the bacon; and added the chopped dill pickles that New Joy suggests. Our opinion: keep leaving out the dill pickles.

Steak & garlic mashed Potatoes with fried onions

Saturday June 27

I think no more need be said.

Whole Poached Salmon with vegetables in cream

Friday June 26

The Julia Child special, but now we have plenty of tarragon.

Napa Sausages with Bok Choy from the garden

Thursday June 25

Pretty much the way we did it last time. And what could be more American than bok choy?: