Posted in Notable Nosh

Grilled Soy Tempeh

Grilled Tempeh 1

This lunch dish I had at Play, Food & Wine in Ottawa marked another first for me… this time, it was the Indonesian fermented soy bean cake known as Tempeh. I have read about it many times, but this was the first time I had ever seen it in a restaurant, or anywhere else.

The menu described the tempeh as being served with pear kimchi, mushrooms, and almond oil. The mushrooms, which were the ‘oyster’ type, also came with green beans and pea shoots (not mentioned on the menu) and, together, these formed a bed for the tempeh. I am not sure where the almond oil came into the picture as I could neither see nor taste anything along those lines and I suppose it may not have been used on this occasion. The pear kimchi, of which more in a moment, was the little amber pools you see at the edges of the vegetables.

The pieces of tempeh, as you can see, rather have the appearance of granola bars and, indeed, this is very much what the cake was like. It was much softer in texture than granola, but with a similar contrast of consistencies, and the taste was a lot like light toast with hints of nuts. Many people are cautious around anything fermented as such things are often very strongly flavored but this was very mild and inoffensive, and I would say that very few will take a strong dislike to it.

The tempeh was dry to the point that it needed a little something and this was where the pear kimchi came in… I had to enquire as to what exactly it was, and I was told that it was a puree of spiced, fermented pear. It tasted, in my opinion, a bit like miso to which a little garlic and chili had been added. It was excellent and a really well-chosen accompaniment to the tempeh.

My only criticism of my experience with this dish was that it had lingered a little too long between the kitchen and my table and was almost cold. For the tempeh, the beans, and the pea shoots this did not matter too much but it rather spoiled my enjoyment of the mushrooms a little. Still, that was only a minor flaw and I was very pleased to give tempeh a try. I may also try turning my hand to fermenting pears myself …

Posted in Wine

Thirty Bench Riesling 2016

For the past year or so I have been slowly drinking my way through central France, metaphorically speaking, but occasionally I make the odd detour. This present selection is one I sampled at the Brasserie Metropolitain in Ottawa in March of this year.

This Riesling is a VQA (or Vinters Quality Alliance) wine produced by the Andrew Peller Estate on the Niagara Peninsula in Ontario, and more specifically the Beamsville Bench Sub-region of that wine production district. I do not recall the price I paid at the restaurant, but it retails for $22.95 at the LCBO and is listed, on the LCBO website, as having 11.1% Alcohol and a Sugar content of 20 g/L.

The body is fairly light with medium sweetness and a bright acidity that offsets the sugar quite decently. The nose features golden apples, dark honey and straw, and all these qualities are continued on the palate with green apple also coming through with notes of cedar. There is also a floral presence and another additional quality that makes the wine rather unique. Some reviews have noted a ‘petrol’ component in this vintage, which is not uncommon in Rieslings and reflects the presence of a chemical compound known as TDN, or Trimethyl Dihydronaphthalene. I did not get that here, but there was a very faint hint of formalin along with a stronger, and most curious hint of saffron. I very much enjoyed the effect and, overall, this was a very pleasant and interesting sipping wine.

UPDATE: One of my blogging friends Stefan, at Stefan’s Gourmet Blog, who has much more experise in wine than do I has informed me that “This type of Riesling is called Feinherb in Germany. It is all about the interplay between sugar and acidity.”

Posted in General

Goodbye to Nunavut!

Talyoak 2009 - 3

Well, folks… I am interrupting my usual flow of posts for something of a major announcement…

At the moment this post appears, I will be taking off from Iqaluit airport for the very last time. This past June, I closed out my law practice and resigned from the bar, hanging up my barrister’s gown 29 years to the very day after being first admitted.

I have been living up here in the north for just over 19 years and, while it has, on the whole, been a terrific experience, I decided I would not make it a full 30 years in practice but, instead, speed up my plan to retire down south and once again live somewhere with trees. Accordingly, after a brief sojourn in Ottawa for a few days, I will continue on to Halifax Nova Scotia to begin the next phase of my existence.

I am not sure if I will permanently settle in Halifax (although it is a very nice city), but I am going to spend a little while there to reacquaint myself with the place as I look around and decide on whatever comes next. I may look for something more rural, but close to Halifax, or I may even go further afield.

Anyway, I have scheduled enough posts to keep me going until the end of November, and I have enough material to end out the year. However, I have also decided that I am going to re-invent my blogging life as well as my day-to-day one and, sometime in December, I expect I will be making some sort announcement along those lines. Stay tuned …

Posted in Meal Excursion

Lunch at Play, Food & Wine

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Play, Food and Wine is one of my favorite restaurants in Ottawa and many dishes I have enjoyed there have been featured in posts here at one time or another. On my most recent visit, I went with a companion in the early afternoon and we sampled three of the dishes from the lunch menu. One was decent enough, one was outstanding, and the third… very surprisingly for this particular restaurant … was nothing short of awful. For a more particular description of all three, read on… Continue reading “Lunch at Play, Food & Wine”

Posted in Recipes

Pasta Gricia with Truffle

Pasta Gricia with Truffles 1

A few weeks back, I did a post featuring the Italian cured hog jowl meat known as Guanciale and I included a picture of a Spaghetti Carbonara I made using it. There are two fairly famous Italian dishes made using Guanciale (or sometimes Pancetta, or else regular bacon) and these are the aforementioned Pasta Carbonara and Pasta Amatriciana. Both of these are descendants of a simpler dish known as Pasta alla Gricia, which is basically pasta tossed in the pan with cooked Guanciale, generous amounts of pepper, grated cheese and sufficient pasta water to make a rich ‘sauce’.

Today, I am using the ‘alla Gricia’ style as my base but I am creating a ‘descendant’ version by adding sliced black truffle along with some brocollini for a little color and texture… Continue reading “Pasta Gricia with Truffle”

Posted in Foodstuffs

Guanciale

Guanciale 1

Most people have had, or even cooked, some sort of ‘Carbonara’ style pasts dish at one time or another (Spaghetti alla Carbonara, being especially favored), and generally, this will be made with the unsmoked Italian style bacon known as ‘Pancetta’, or, sometimes even, the regular, everyday smoked bacon commonly served with breakfast. The favoured traditional pork product, however… the ne plus ultra one might say, is Guanciale… which are salted and dry-cured hog jowls, or ‘pig-cheeks’ for the more genteel among you.

The preparation of guanciale is a bit more complex than for the belly pork equivalent represented by Pancetta. The fatty jowls are rubbed with salt, sugar and spices (pepper, thyme and fennel are common), and then hung and air-dried for three weeks or so. In the above picture, you can see a 200 gram piece I bought in Ottawa… You should be able to make out the mixed herb and spice mixture that was used, as well as the string that was looped through one corner in order to hang it.

The beauty of Guanciale, in contrast to the belly, is the dense, white, very creamy fat that lends a lovely sweet unctuousness to pasta carbonara, or, indeed, to any other dishes where it is employed.  As the product is cured, it can also be eaten ‘raw’ as is and, before cooking myself a carbonara with some of my current chunk, I tried doing so… I was a little hesitant as the cut has a very high ratio of fat to meat, but it actually proved to be delectable. I cut it a little thicker than paper-thin and it was delightfully chewy and unctuously tender at the same time, with the sweet, slightly apple-like flavor of a good prosciutto.

Mostly, of course, Guanciale is used as the decadent focus in several different pasta dishes… Continue reading “Guanciale”

Posted in Recipes

Simmered Enoki

Simmered Enoki 1

Today’s recipe was inspired by one I saw in a fairly old Japanese cookery book. It is Enoki Mushrooms (Enokitake in Japanese) which are braised in rice wine and soy, and it generally follows the Japanese recipe except that, instead of Mirin, I uses Chinese Rice Wine, and, rather than cooking oil, I use butter. Butter does occasionally get used in some Japanese preparations, but it is an uncommon ingredient and I have used it here because it lends a nice depth of flavor and richness…

I began with a 100 gram package of Enoki. I cut away the dense, somewhat fibrous common ‘root’ and then separated the individual mushrooms from each other, leaving some of the tiniest still grouped together.

Cooking is easy… Just melt a tablespoon or so of butter in a pan on medium heat, add the mushrooms and stir until coated, then add about three tablespoons of rice wine (or mirin if you prefer), a teaspoon of light soya sauce, then cover the pot and let the mushrooms braise until tender and limp. Finally, before serving, add in a little finely sliced or shredded green onion (green part only).

That’s it….

Posted in In my Kitchen...

Grilled Octopus Skewers

Octopus Skewers A

I did up this little appetizer using a couple of octopus tentacles I had left over from using the rest of the beast in a different recipe. I first thought of doing something sort of Asian with ginger and soy, but I decided, instead, to marinate my sections of tentacle with lemon juice and herbs before gilling them on skewers.

The tentacles had been blanched and frozen before use and so needed no further tenderizing. I cut each into sections and then marinated the pieces in a few tablespoons of olive oil, along with a tablespoon or so of lemon juice, a quarter teaspoon of pureed garlic, and about one eighth of a teaspoon of dried thyme with just a few needles of rosemary crushed into the mix with a pinch of salt. I let this sit for about a half hour so.

Finally, I threaded the pieces on skewers and grilled them over high heat for a couple of minutes on each side, basting with the marinade as I did so. I served them, as you can see, over thinly sliced lemon and the result was very pleasant indeed. I have not used thyme with octopus or squid before and I liked the combination. Next time, I think I may try a more complex Herbes de Provence blend…

Posted in Recipes

Shrimp Bites

Shrimp Bites 1

Recently, our local supermarket has been carrying some very nice cocktail sized shrimp and, since they don’t appear that often, I have bought quite a few packages and have been using them in different ways. I opened one pack to make scrambled eggs with shrimp and, since I didn’t need the whole package, I put together the little fritters you see above. They are somewhere half-way between an Indian Pakora and Japanese Kakiage, and, for this recipe, I kept everything very simple and clean… the only seasoning in the fritters is a dash of salt and the batter is made very light with egg-white rather than whole egg… Continue reading “Shrimp Bites”