Posted in Recipes

Octopus Pasta Salad

Octopus Pasta Salad 1

Today’s post features one of the sorts of dishes that comes together out of a need to finish of various foodstuffs that might otherwise go to waste. Here, I had some leftover grilled octopus tentacles (which actually would have been eaten one way or the other) along with some tomatoes that were getting very ripe indeed, and some basil leaves left after pruning the plants in my kitchen window.

The basil and tomato suggested a Caprese Salad sort of affair and, while I didn’t quite go that way, the basic idea did inspire the pasta salad I eventually created. To make it, I first boiled, drained, rinsed and cooled some fusilli pasta (rinsing is only employed when using pasta in cold dishes). I then tossed this with just a little olive oil and some dried thyme, savory, and black pepper. Later, just before final assembly of the dish, I tossed the pasta once again with just a tiny amount of mayonnaise to give the whole a creamier consistency, and then stirred in some diced tomato and basil cut chiffonade.

The tentacles of the octopus had already been prepared by blanching and were subsequently grilled on skewers. The majority (already eaten at this point) were threaded whole onto the skewers, while the remainder, used here, were sliced crosswise and grilled with just a little oil and seasoning. Once cooled, the meat, still on the skewers was marinated with a little more oil, some garlic, rosemary and lemon juice. The total margination time was no more than a few hours (basically long enough to make the salad), and, to serve, I just popped a few skewers atop a mound of the salad and, on this occasion, I garnished one of the bowls with some basil flowers.

Anyway, the result was very nice. The salad was simple and tasty and would easily make a great starter dish all by itself. The same was true of the octopus, which was very tender and enhanced by the combination of herbs and lemon juice. The only thing I was less keen on was the pairing of octopus with basil…. That would be something I may rethink in the future…

Posted in Dishes of Note

Seared Scallops at Lapointe

Lapointe's 1

I had this appetizer of grilled scallops at Lapointe Seafood Grill in Ottawa’s Byward Market way back in the summertime. In truth, the dish wasn’t especially memorable and I might well have not featured it in a post except for the fact that it employed a couple of interesting additions that I thought would be worth trying at home and thus deserving of a mention here…

The dish was described on the menu as follows:

Lapointe's 2

Now, first, I have to say that the plating job in this case was really sub-standard, which really detracted from the overall enjoyment. The arugula was largely placed with spinach that was haphazardly strewn on the platter, as were with the scallops and the ragged pieces (not sections) of orange.

The scallops, however, were very nicely grilled, having been seared to a caramelized crispiness on the outside while being tender, and still slightly translucent on the inside. I am not sure what happened to the ‘maple espresso’ dressing promised in the menu description as neither of these flavors were apparent in what I was served. Possibly the kitchen had none on hand due to some disaster or other, and had to improvise. As it happened, the dressing I did receive was tangy and very nice so, while I was a bit disappointed at not getting the interesting sounding dressing that was promised, I still enjoyed this part of the dish.

What I really enjoyed, here, was the pairing of orange, nuts and scallop. I am not a huge fan of pistachios, and would prefer, say, hazelnuts, or the like, but the flavor combination here worked very well. I actually resurrected my notes for this appetizer while looking for ideas to use with some lovely sea scallops I received as a gift. I am not sure exactly how I will go about it as yet, but I do wish to capture something of that very pleasant pairing with at least some of my scallops. I will be sure to share the results of any experiments along those lines, of course …

Posted in Wine

Château Verdignan Haut-Médoc 2005

Château Verdignan Haut-Médoc 2005

Last May, I reviewed a very decent Moulins de Citran Haut-Médoc 2009 and gave a broad overview of the red blends of Bordeaux in general, and the wines of the Haut-Médoc AOC in particular. Today’s selection is another Haut-Médoc and is a good representative of the typical left-bank blend, being made up of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc. It cost me a few cents under $40 at an LCBO outlet in Ottawa and was thus a bit more expensive than my usual upper limit of thirty dollars or so. Because of that, I was a little more critical than I might have been with a cheaper bottle, but I still found it a decent purchase.

The nose features sour plum and faint hint of strawberry along with notes of cedar, sharply herbaceous undergrowth and an underlying musky barnyard funk. It is medium bodied, with tannins that are very dense, gripping, and bordering on astringent. Happily, the harsher effect of the tannins is fairly well balanced and rounded out by the moderate acidity. The palate mirrors the fruit in the nose but with more sour cherry than strawberry and the whole is very aromatic with notes of wood, coal smoke and tobacco. There is also a very faint oily quality with hints of petroleum here and there, which while unusual (for a red Bordeaux, at least), wasn’t unpleasant at all.

Overall, I was left with the impression that this selection probably won’t find much favor with those who shy away from very densely tannic wines, but will be enjoyed by those who do both as a sipping wine in its own right and as an accompaniment to rich, hearty foods. At a lesser price, I would likely give this vintage a very high rating and make a personal note to purchase more bottles for ageing. However, when taking the actual price into consideration against the quality, I will probably spend my wine allowance trying something else.