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Archive for the ‘shitake’ Category

spanish-stack2

I know that Stacked Food is oh, so very five seasons ago and since then the uber chefs of the world have moved on and through many other fancies and fads.  We’ve had Fusion illusion, Tasting Menus and Tapa’s everything and now we’re looking at 100 mile menu’s and locavore, seasonal, home style cooking.  All of which I’ve loved and lavished my attentions upon in turn in as much as I love food in it’s myriad of forms.  The simple truth is that I  am honestly as happy eating beans on toast in a greasy spoon as I am sampling the delicacies of the best sushi houses with the manicured and be-sequined.  But there’s something about the stack that I keep coming back to.  I think that at the end of the day, for a generally competent home cook, it’s such a simple technique that usually leaves me looking far more accomplished than I ever could be in front of a table of hungry guests.  I love the way it leaves space on the plate for sides and sauces and I love that it’s obvious that the various layers where thought about and meant to be eaten together, to compliment each other; instead of a random selection of cooked things from what I happened to have in the cupboard at the time.

* note: I served this with Polenta at the base of the stack, cooked with water and a teaspoon of rosemary , finished with some Spanish goat cheese for a bit of cheesy zing.  I’m not giving you the recipe for that as it’s pretty straight forward, non? There was a fresh salad of greens on the side and watercress as a garnish.

**you may be tempted to use a nasty wine in the dish; try not to.  Use what ever you’re drinking at the table, you’ll taste the difference.

spanish-stack1

Spanish Stack with Chorizo

Olive oil (about 2 Tbsp)
100 – 150g Shitake mushrooms, sliced
1 brown onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp tomato paste
100ml dry red wine
½ large (or 1 small) red pepper, thickly sliced
1 Chorizo sausage, thickly sliced
1½ tsp sweet smoked paprika
pinch nutmeg
½tsp dried Rosemary
salt to taste

1 med head broccoli, florets only
1 medium shallot
2 Tbsp black sesame seeds
Olive oil (about 2 Tbsp)
Squeeze of lemon juice (about 2 Tbsp)
salt and pepper to taste

– heat olive oil over a medium heat in a large sauce pan or skillet.

– gently cook the mushrooms with the onion and until soft.  Add the tomato paste and cook for a minute to caramalise.

– deglaze with the wine then add the pepper and chorizo, then the spices and herbs.  Simmer until the peppers are soft, about 10 mins.

– in a food processor, process the broccoli florets with the shallot until finely chopped (or chop by hand)

– heat the oil in a medium saucepan and cook the broccoli/shallot with the sesame seeds for just a few minutes, until tender but still bright green.  Season to taste with the lemon juice and salt and pepper.

-Layer your stack starting with the polenta, topped with the chorizo melange and ending with the broccoli.  The watercress garnish worked very well with all those richer flavours.

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The Summer in Toronto is one of the lustiest, I think, in the world.  Those steamy, heat-hazy, lazy-crazy, long-limbed days that wrap their humid, whispering tendrils around your bare throat and exposed shoulders do something inexplicable to this city and the people in it.  The girls, the boys, the dogs, the ducks: no one escapes the sensuality of it, we are all susceptible to Summer’s hot, sticky embrace.  But before we completely lose our heads to this love affair there is, as in any meaningful, dirty little tryst, the courtship; the tease, the tempt, the flirt and the fluster.  A few gorgeous, sunny days sauntering by our Wintery table at the end of April have us shaking out our hair in false hope of an early Summer, only to be firmly reminded that we are the flirtee, not the flirter, by a cold shoulder for half of May as we look longingly at our Summer wardrobes and the pretty, colourful mannequins in store windows.

And then, slowly, almost painfully, just when you think she’ll never notice you, that she has eyes only for the muscular, deep tan muscles of Texas, she.  Stops.  And turns that beautiful, golden head and looks you straight in the eye.  The Glory that radiates from Summer’s eyes envelopes us all, does it not?  But now that she’s seen you, now that you finally have her attention, how can you, such a humble little creature, keep that gorgeous gaze locked firmly with your own.  How to impress such a fickle lover, you ask?  Why, with a barbecue, of course.  If you cook up the coals just right, who knows, she may just stay for dessert.

Just don’t expect it.

I made these eggplants for a dinner party the first time, baked for about 40 minutes at 350˚F and had a bunch left over when we decided to open up the Weber .  Wrapped in foil, they were just so good and the left overs were somehow even better the next day when I removed the skins, spread the pulp and topping on toast and grilled with some gruyere in the oven for a couple of minutes.

* this recipe makes enough for about 5 or 6 baby eggplants.  Adjust accordingly.

Eggplant with Sundried Tomato and Shitake topping

Baby eggplants, halved
salt

⅓ cup sundried tomatoes in olive oil, drained
½ red onion, roughly chopped
sprig fresh thyme
small sprig rosemary
1 clove garlic
50g (big handful) shitake mushrooms
¼ tsp dried Italian herb mix

salt and pepper to taste
olive oil (about 60ml/¼ cup)

– cut the eggplants in half and salt generously.  Leave for an hour or so at room temperature.  Rinse and pat dry.

– place all ingredients (except eggplant) in a processor and blitz until finely chopped (or chop it all by hand). Season and add enough olive oil to for a thick, chunky paste close to but drier than a pesto.  Allow it to sit for 45 mins to develop.

– place eggplant halve skin side down on enough foil to fully wrap them ein.  Top with tomato mushroom mix and barbeque for about 30 minutes on the rack.

– serve with a generous amount of sunshine and chilled beverages.

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Tomato Medley with Shitake and Marrows

A tomato is a tomato. Or is it? I’ve been doing some reading, which if I remember, I’ll tell you about later, and I’ve learned a thing or two about tomato’s. Turns out that the baskets and baskets of fresh Field Tomatoes we’re seeing in the supermarkets and food markets this time of year are quite probably the most watery, least flavourful tomatoes one can buy. Other than middle of February, shipped from Australia or some such Tomatoes, that is. The reasons have a lot to do with the industrialisation of food growing over the last 50 or so years and the scientific “improvements” catastrophe’d upon this once exotic fruit to insure a crop which grows fast, large and resists things like bugs and weather. Large yields equals large profit for the farmer. I found out the truth of this first hand by buying various tomatoes from various sources and the bulk-available, large, red ones were by far the blandest.

I’ve made a promise to myself to only buy tomatoes from the Organic Farmers Market and make them last as long through the week as they can. And what a difference! Each bite packs a punch of plenitude. Raw, cooked, sliced, diced and just pooped straight in the mouth. Yum. Now I fully understand why Ms R, a friend living in the Cornwall countryside of Ontario, has pledged to eat nothing but her own tomatoes, out of her garden. I remember an email from her last year where she was impatiently looking forward to her lunch, which was going to be her first tomato of the season sliced, with salt and pepper, on fresh bread. And what a lunch it would have been, no doubt, after so many months without a fresh tomato! I remember from many years ago when I lived in Ottawa as a student for a year, she would send through frozen tubs of home made pasta sauces to cook up for dinners. Delicious! Over the Summer, as her garden produced more tomatoes, peppers, marrows than the family could consume, Ms R cooked up large batched of sauces; Ragu, primavera and so on, to be frozen and used through the long Winter months of snow and cold and on until the next seasons produce were plump in the garden again. How I wish I had my own little patch of garden delights to tend!

Three Tomatoes

Tomato Medley with Shitake, Marrow and Polenta

Golden cherry tomatoes, halved, to make up a cup
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp good balsamic vinegar
½ tsp sea salt
good grinding of fresh black pepper
chopped basil, to make about ¼ cup
2 or 3 small yellow tomatoes (I used the low acid Peach Delight), sliced
2 or 3 small red tomatoes, sliced
cubed white cheese, I used a Basque sheeps milk cheese called Etorki, to make about ⅓ cup
1 tsp unsalted butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium brown onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 shallot, thinly sliced
¼ tsp dried thyme
pinch ground sage
10 – 12 shitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
1 marrow or zucchini, cut in half; 1 half grated coarsely, 1 half cut in half lengthwise and sliced
salt and pepper
Parmigiano or parmesan to finish

– preheat the oven to 400˚F

– in a small bowl, combine the extra virgin olive oil, vinegar, salt pepper and 2 Tbsp of the basil, mix well. Add cherry tomatoes and mix.

– in a foil lined tin, bake the tomato mix for 40 mins, basting with the juice after 20 mins

– in a Saute pan, gently heat the butter and olive oil. Add garlic and onions and saute for 1 min until the garlic becomes fragrant

– add the mushrooms, herbs, salt and pepper and cook over a medium heat for about 5 minutes until the mushrooms are soft. Add marrow or zucchini and bring to a low simmer. Leave to simmer with the lid on while you prepare the polenta.

– make the polenta according to the manufacturer’s instruction. I prefer to make mine with water, not milk, and I add 1 tsp ground mustard while it’s cooking and finish it off with a little dollop of butter and about 2 Tbsp Parmigiano.

– arrange the sliced tomatoes around the plate, top with the sheeps cheese and baked cherry tomatoes; reserving the juice and oil. Sprinkle with fresh chopped basil.

– dish up the polenta, topped with the shitake marrow mix. Drizzle the juice and oil from the tomatoes over the dish and salad. Garnish with fresh basil and Parmigiano.

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Burger with shitake tarragon sauce and roquefort cheese

There’s something decadent about cooking up burgers at home. In North America we feel inundated with the things, from the multitudinous fast food chains everywhere you look to the pub ‘n grubs serving up overcooked hunks of beef-on-a-bun. One of the posher eateries down the street from us notoriously sells a burger for nearly $40, with the chips cheekily brought in from the fry up a few doors down. But I still love a burger on the odd occasion: the sloppy, messy, goo it runs down your chin as you try to fit a bun just-too-big into your mouth, the licking of fingers and slurping of beer to wash it down. It feels like the parents have left the building for a bit, leaving the rules to the five year olds. But then these are grown up burgers, after all, made with the best ingredients we can find. Mr P., the meat expert in the house, always gets fry up task, while I focus on fixing up a sauce and opening the beer.

Tonight we used sun-dried tomato and onion patties from The Healthy Butcher, which serves up organic, grass fed beef, with a shitake and tarragon sauce, Roquefort cheese caramelised shallot and garlic.

Shitake and Tarragon Burger Sauce

1Tsp butter
2Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 clove garlic, minced
½ cup destalked, halved and sliced Shitake mushrooms
2 stems tarragon, leaves removed and finely chopped
2 Tbsp Parsley, finely chopped
pinch sel de mer
pinch freshly crushed black pepper
1 Tbsp Chestnut flour
½ cup milk
1 Tbsp cream cheese (I used Philadelphia)

– heat oil and butter over medium heat

– add garlic and heat gently until aroma’s start to rise

– add mushrooms and tarragon. Cook, stirring, for a minute or so.

– add parsley, salt and pepper. Cool until mushrooms are tender, about 5 minutes

– sprinkle mushrooms with chestnut flour and stir. Cook for another minute

– slowly add the milk, stirring, and bring slowly to boil. Cook, stirring, until mixture thickens.

– just before serving, add cream cheese and stir until combined.

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Thai Summer Salad

We were blessed, this weekend, with extraordinarily good weather on our portage trip. Which meant a clear, deep, warm blue sky bereft of clouds, temperatures perfect for swimming and lounging on rocks like lizards and no need to ever use the gas burners to cook our food on. All meals were prepared over an open wood fire from start to sweet, gooey, smorsey end. Now, usually after 4 or so days in the bush eating what you managed to drag with you leaves one craving some or other comfort food from home, not to mention ones own mattress and a hot soapy bath. On this trip, however, the wonder-woman in charge managed to organise meals of such fabulous diversity and succulence that ne’er a soul hankered after anything for their belly that wasn’t somehow already there. No dehydrated-rehydrated pea passed the lips. No thirst went without quenching by beer or wine or cold, fresh water. And, thanks to our (rather belated) discovery of a little thing called the Thermarest, no ache graced a bone in my back through the nights. All said and done, it was a trip which bordered on the sublime and trembled dangerously near perfection.

And after a long, long weekend of, in one team member’s words, Ghetto Gourmet, what better way to get back on the bright side of health and digestion than a salad made from the sweetest, most succulent of Summer’s wares? After a trip to the farmer’s market on our return, I picked up a selection of crisp, freshly picked goods for a dinner filled with all the flavours of a gorgeous season. Due to the abundance of things like garlic, Shitake mushrooms and Cilantro (coriander leaf) I opted for a somewhat Thai inspired arrangement.

 

summer bounty

Thai Summer Salad with Sweet Corn and Watermelon Beetroot

for the topping
¼ cup pine-nuts, toasted

1Tbsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp canola oil (or other veg oil)
1 onion, thickly sliced
1 Tbsp freshly grated ginger
about 1 cup Shitake mushrooms, sliced

for the saladwatermelon beetroot
small bunch of lettuce, torn
1 big handful fresh basil leaves, torn
1 big bunch Cilantro leaves, torn
a dozen or so golden cherry tomatoes, halved
1 ear of sweet corn, kernels removed
2 new carrots, julienned
2 watermelon beetroot, scrubbed and thinly sliced
⅓ garden cucumber, peeled and julienned
2 spring onions, thickly sliced

for the dressinglettuce
1½ Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp fish sauce
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small chili, finely chopped
juice of 1 lime

– combine all dressing ingredients and leave to infuse.
This dressing is particularly good made a day ahead.

– keep toasted pine-nuts to one side

– in a skillet, heat oils. saute onions until they just start to brown slightly. Add mushrooms and cook on a medium heat until mushrooms are tender. Remove from heat.

– when cool, add pine-nuts and mix. Set aside.

– combine all salad ingredients, top with mushroom pine-nut mix and dress only when ready to serve.

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Fresh Summer Pasta

The first time I went to the Trinity Bellwoods Organic Farmers’ Market, their first time open for the season, there were about 5 scraggly stalls selling bits and bobs of grown greens and a bread maker with flour still under her nails selling a few loaves here and a biscuit there. Probably just enough to satisfy the crowd of about 10 people strolling from one table to another, taking their time squeezing the marrows, sniffing the small, sweet strawberries.

This week there was a buzz in the air as middle aged matrons bustled and elbowed their way to the front of the queue in a craze of fear of missing the best tomatoes to that woman with the straw hat, or not getting to the baker’s table in time to get a hot spelt and hemp loaf. Canadian politesse and reserved respect for other human beings’ right to exist only just managed to thinly veil the boiling of blood and the animalistic focusing of attentions on each one’s spotted prize. Twice I was thwarted of the exact tomato, deep red and orange, I’d had my eye on while seemingly patiently waiting for the farmer to serve me my turn.

But still.

At the breathless end I had a bag full of goodies ready to turn into a feast for two. And what better way to serve up the freshest of Summer produce than simply and unfussily with a bit of pasta. Time consuming stews and soups and long cooking pies and roasts will have their turn in the months to come, but the freshest ingredients, pulled from the garden that very morning, need only the slightest, lightest bit of help and a good wine to go with it.

Fresh Summer Pasta

1 Tbsp veg oil, like Canola
1 white onion, finely chopped
1 shallot, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup Shitake mushrooms, halved (or quartered if very large)
bunch fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped (to make about ¼ cup) – put about 1tbsp aside for final garnish
3 Tbsp fresh Origano, finely chopped

a dozen or so green asparagus, chopped into 2″ lengths
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
60 ml extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
Parmigiano cheese

Penne, enough for 2

– cook the penne until el dente

– while pasta is cooking, heat canola in large sauce pan or frying pan on a meduim heat (not hot). Saute garlic, onions, mushrooms and about half the herbs. Season while cooking as this is when the mushrooms will absorb the flavours of the herbs and salt and pepper best.

– when mushrooms are soft add the asparagus and cook for just a few minutes until asparagus softens slightly and is bright green.

– when pasta is done, rinse under the tap and add to mushroom and asparagus. Add rest of herbs, cherry tomatoes and olive oil. Stir to mix and remove from heat so as not to cook the tomatoes or the oil.

– serve and garnish with Parmigiano, parsley and black pepper

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