Notable Nosh: Squid Balls

Squid Balls 1

Well, I first have to a bit of an apology for this post, folks … I ordered three of the above pictured ‘balls’ at Hokkaido Sushi in Ottawa a while back and I scarfed down two before remembering to take a photograph. It is also a little difficult to get any sense of the size of these balls (Yes, yes… I get you didn’t know that squid have balls), but I can tell you that each of these little delicacies is about the size of a quail egg…

Anyway, I almost didn’t bother with doing a post, given my photographic lapse, but the fact is, these were really terrific and worth a mention. Each little sphere was coated in a very thin batter (or maybe just dusted with a starch of some sort), but it was the ‘innards’ that really shone.

The ‘filling’ (as it were) was definitely squid… Indeed, the flavor was so much more pronounced even than fresh, deep-fried squid rings. What made the dish (and possibly contributed to the strength of the flavor) was the texture. I don’t know exactly what they did here, but it seemed very much as they processed (‘whipped’ even) squid flesh to a fine paste and then (possibly) added a little cornstarch… The mouth-feel of biting into each ball was springy, and very toothsome indeed. I wish I could explain it better, and, even more, I hope I can figure out how they made this … I will be playing around in my own kitchen and will, of course, report any developments …

Niagara Estate Iniskillin 2014

Niagara Estate Iniskillin 2014

My database of wine tasting notes includes almost no entries with a 1 star rating… that particular score is pretty much reserved for wines that are undrinkable. Two stars, in contrast, means that a wine is capable of being imbibed without too much agony, but which is not generally worth the money. I don’t give that rating very often either, as it happens, but, unfortunately, that is how I felt about today’s selection. Your mileage may vary…

  • Winery: Iniskillin Wines Inc.
  • Price: $16.60 CDN
  • Alcohol: 13.5%
  • Sugar: 3.7 g/L

The color is a medium light ruby and the nose is a muted, but still aromatic, red berry with a little oak and a faint vegetal quality underneath. It is quite light bodied, with moderate to low acidity and little in the way of tannins. The aromatic berries on the nose really don’t come through much in the mouth and there is a forest-floor effect along with a distant hint of dried flowers. The overall effect is a bit flat, except for a tease of spice at the very end, and there is a vague ‘over-cooked’ quality here and there. This would be fine for cooking but I wouldn’t buy it for drinking again.

Braised Lettuce

Braised Lettuce 1

Lettuce, in the west, is pretty much exclusively thought of as a salad vegetable and always eaten cold. In Chinese cookery, however, it most commonly appears cooked and, indeed, has, traditionally at least, never been eaten raw. It is a bit unfortunate, really, that we haven’t cottoned on to the idea of cooking our lettuce once in a while as the process actually brings out flavors that are often missed. Today, I am showing you a simple preparation illustrating a common sort of dish… Continue reading “Braised Lettuce”

Foodstuff: Raspberry BellaVitano® Cheese

Bellavitano Raspberry Cheese

BellaVitano® is a particular type of cheese made by the Sartori family in Wisconsin. The corporate website lists a goodly number of different cheeses, while the BellaVitano type comes in a wide range of flavours beginning with the plain, original BellaVitano® Gold and including such interesting ones as Merlot, Espresso, and Citrus Ginger. My local store current only carried the Raspberry variety and it sounded as though it would so awful I just had to try it and see. Actually, it turned out to be pretty decent…

It turns out that there are no actual raspberries in the cheese itself; Rather, as the label has it, this ‘nutty creamy’ cheese is ‘marinated in hand-crafted raspberry ale. It is quite hard, with a rind, and the color is not completely homogenous, but instead is a buttery yellow, rather like aged Parmesan, with darker and lighter areas here and there.

One report I read, described this as being something of a cross between a cheddar and a parmesan and, while that description certainly didn’t leap to my mind, I wouldn’t say it was far off base either. It wasn’t especially creamy to my mind… buttery perhaps … but it definitely had a nuttiness I liked. As for the raspberry component, there really was nothing about that fruit that made itself apparent (nor any fruit especially), but there was a very real sweetness to the overall flavour that is hard to define except that it was very nice.

I sampled this was a very nice Italian Barolo (because that’s what I happened to have open) and I found it didn’t pair well. The corporate website suggests matching it with Rieslings, Light Italian Reds, or Sherry. I can certainly see the Sherry, and perhaps the light Italian Reds as working well… I am not so sure about the Riesling but I’d give it a shot, I’m sure. Anyway, I doubt I will cook with this particular cheese, but it does make a very nice ‘nibbler’.

Errazuriz Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Errazuriz Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

This Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon is another selection from the wine and beer store recently opened here in Iqaluit (and the very first in the whole territory). The range of wines available isn’t huge but, some of them, as is the case with this one, are pretty decent…

  • Winery: Vina Errazuriz SA
  • Price: $13.55 CDN
  • Alcohol: 13.5%
  • Sugar: 2.4 g/L

This wine is a very dark almost inky ruby in color and has a vibrantly fruity nose with strong raspberry up front, along with a faint hint of vanilla. It is off-dry with mild acidity and smooth tannins that only become pronounced at the end. The fruit is less vibrant in the mouth than on the nose and there is a vegetal quality and some peppery spice. Plum comes through more strongly than the raspberry and there are oaky notes just near the end. The beginning is very nice but it does not round out as well as expected and the finish is a bit short. Of note, though I sampled this a second time the following day with a supper of spicy squid rings. The wine did not overwhelm the squid at all and the squid allowed for a very interesting blackcurrant component to come through that was not apparent before.It isn’t exactly a great wine but still worth buying to have on hand for those who like robust, rather rustic reds.

Broccoli Rabe with Sausage and Peppers

Broccoli Rabe with Sausage and Peppers 1

A while ago, I saw a picture of a vegetable dish comprised of Broccoli Rabe sauteed with red pepper and garlic that looked interesting and I mentally filed away the idea for latter use. Later, when I was researching Broccoli Rabe for my post of two days ago, I saw a note in the Wikipedia entry for Rapini (by which name the vegetable is also known) which mentioned that it is sometimes sauteed with garlic and chili and then served with sausages in a sandwich. Today’s dish is a vaguely Italian preparation inspired by both of the above…

To make today’s dish, I first baked some sausage (Hot or Sweet Italian ones would be great but I just used some Bratwurst I happened to have on hand), and then I sliced them after letting them cool.  Then I sauteed a little minced onion in my Homemade Garlic Oil and added some blanched Broccoli Rabe. The sausage slices came next and, once heated through, I put in some slices of my own Spicy Pickled Bell Pepper. Finally, I rounded out everything with just little tomato sauce and served it all hot with some grated Parmesan. This was a great lunch…

Foodstuff: Broccoli Rabe

Broccoli Rabe 1

Broccoli Rabe has an appearance somewhat resembling regular broccoli, but it is actually more close related to turnips and, indeed, in norther Italy, it’s name ‘cime de rapa’ means ‘turnip tops’. Outside of North America, it is also known as ‘Rapini’.

Sometime ago, I did a post featuring Broccolini and I described it as being something of a cross between Broccoli and Gai Lan. Broccoli Rabe, however, is, in my opinion, more like a cross between broccoli and kale. In addtion to being much leafier than regular broccoli, it also has a much stronger bitterness than broccoli. I don’t find regular broccoli all that bitter myself but some people do and I rather suspect they won’t be all that partial to this particular green…  Continue reading “Foodstuff: Broccoli Rabe”

E. Guigal Côtes du Rhône Blanc 2007

E. Guigal Côtes du Rhône Blanc 2007

Just after purchasing this, I saw that the price for the 2016 vintage in Quebec was a little over $19, which made the $17 price tag for the 2007 here in Iqaluit a little suspect. My first thought was that 2007 must have been a particularly bad year and it was being sold off cheaply but, happily, I turned out to be wrong…

  • Winery: E. Guigal
  • Price: $16.97 CDN
  • Alcohol: 13%
  • Sugar: 2 g/L

The primary grape in this Cotes du Rhone is Viognier, but it is blended with the Roussanne, Marsanne, Clairette and Bourboulenc varietals. The color is a darkish amber but, it can have a slight greenish cast in certain light. There is rich fall fruit and some wood on the nose with a hint of banana and honey. It is quite full bodied, with a very smooth, very nearly buttery texture, and is off-dry with a pleasing acidity that falls just short of being crisp. Rich honey and slightly tart golden apple dominate, and there are floral and woody notes along with a very pleasing background note of sweet fennel. It is a very well balanced wine and excellent value. I bought six additional bottles after my first but now, sadly, there is no more to be had. Shame …

Experiment: Pork Belly Appetizer

Pork Belly Appetizer 1

Today’s post actually features two permutations of an idea I am working with for a little appetizer dish (although it would also work as a larger plate offering as well). The inspiration for these experiments came from an appetizer called Pork Belly with Kumquat I had in Ottawa some time ago, and which I thought could be improved upon. I begin with chunks of pork belly roasted so as to produce a nice crisp skin (using my Perfect Roast Pork Crackling method) and, instead of using parsnip puree as a base, I have tried two other ways of preparing the vegetable. I also replaced the kumquat with a sauce based on cranberry… Continue reading “Experiment: Pork Belly Appetizer”

Dim Sum: Shrimp Stuffed Eggplant

Shrimp Stuffed Eggplant 1.JPG

At the restaurant in Ottawa where I ate the above dish, it appeared on the dim sum menu as 煎釀茄子 (jiān niàng qiézi). The final two characters mean eggplant while the second character (which contains the wine radical) generally means to ferment or brew, but, in this specific context, it indicates a stuffed vegetable. The character that is a little odd here is the first which means to pan-fry. However, this particular version was, I am fairly sure, actually deep-fried.

The eggplant in question is one of the slender Asian varieties that has been cut into sections on the bias and then slit open to make a pocket for a stuffing of minced shrimp. After frying, the pieces were served in a sweetish, soy based sauce that went really well. The eggplant was nicely tender and I generally enjoyed this but the restaurant was too skimpy with the filling. Eggplant dominated shrimp to an unfortunate degree. When I reproduce this dish (probably using zucchini instead of eggplant), I will be considerably more generous…