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Introducing Miso

Miso 1.jpg

Many westerners have, at the very least, encountered miso, in the ubiquitous Miso Soup offered in almost every Japanese Restaurant. It doesn’t however, appear all that frequently in the cupboards or fridges of many western homes, and this is a pity, as the umami rich product is extremely versatile, being useful for flavoring soups, stews, and sauces, and also as a marinating ingredient and a pickling agent, to boot. Being rich in flavorful glutamates, it is, one might say, a ‘natural’ MSG … [ Continue reading “Introducing Miso”

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Dried Abalone

Dried Abalone 1

Dried Abalone is one of those special ingredients, such as Shark fin, to use another example, that are highly prized, especially   in Chinese cuisine. These sorts of delicacies typically just served for special occasions, not only because of the sheer expense, but also, because of the time-consuming preparation required.

For those unfamiliar, the Abalone is an open-shelled marine snail that is cultivated and harvested in many places around the world. The fresh meat is considered a delicacy in many cuisines, and one can also buy it canned, but the dried variety is most particularly associated with Chinese cookery. I have yet to try the fresh article myself, and so cannot compare it to the dried , but my experience is that dried abalone, while very tasty (and with a pleasant texture), owes much of its cachet, like, say, rare wines, or long-aged single malt scotches, to the expense rather than any special quality. That being said, though, it is definitely worth trying at least once… Continue reading “Dried Abalone”

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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 “Broccoli Rabe”

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Foodstuff: The Splash Pluot

The Splash Pluot 1

When I came acre these little fruit recently, I took them to be some sort of dwarf peach, especially as they also have a ‘velvety’ skin to match the general appearance. The store, however, labeled them as ‘Pluot’, which, I have to confess meant nothing to me. I did a little research, though, and it appears that a Pluot is just one of several hybrid crossings of the plum and the apricot, others being apriums, apriplums, or plumcots. As it happens, there are even several different varieties of pluots themselves and it appears to be that the type I purchased is the ‘Splash Pluot’.

As you can see, the resemblance, once cut, is still very peach-like, but one difference I noted is that the stone is a bit easier to ‘pop’ out. The aroma was vaguely plum-like, and not very intense, and the flavour was, I would say, somewhat a cross between a plum and a mandarin orange, with the ‘orange’ component being quite faint. It does taste nice but the consistency was not especially appealing to me. First, I dislike the velvety skin both on peaches and here but the flesh in this fruit is not especially succulent. The texture is a bit ‘mushy’ to my mind and, while I could overlook that if the flavour was more exciting, the overall effect here was a bit underwhelming.

It strikes me that, if halved and stoned, the fruit could be glazed in a sweetish sauce and would them make a very attractive edible garnish if arrayed around say, a baked ham or roast of pork. I don’t think I would bother with them as a hand-fruit in future though…

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Foodstuff: Passion Fruit

Passion Fruit 1

Ages ago, I published a post featuring a little South American fruit known as the Granadilla and I mentioned, not only that it is sometimes called the Passion Fruit, there is also a smaller, purple fruit (also from South America, that goes by the same name. I came across these just recently and I was curious to see how they compared…

The purple Passion Fruit is a bit smaller than the Granadilla and a little less elongated. Inside, it has the same cluster of small black seeds (which are edible), but the rest of the pulp is different. In my post on the granadilla, I mention that the soft material had a custard-like texture but a rather off-putting, gelatinous appearance. Here, in the passion fruit, this soft equivalent  has an opaque yellow appearance and this gives it an even more custard like quality.

As with the Granadilla, the taste is both tangy and sweet but the Passion Fruit has a slight bitterness in the background. I described the Granadilla as being somewhat like Kiwi Fruit but the best way I can describe the taste of this fruit is as a cross between strawberry and grapefruit. I far prefer this to the Granadilla but I also will not be buying them often. Each cost about four dollars which means the experienced worked out to about two dollars per tablespoon. It’s good… just not that good!

 

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Foodstuff: Enokitake

Enoki Mushrooms 1

Enokitake, or Enoki Mushrooms, are commonly used in Japanese cookery, as much (and indeed probably more) for their pretty appearance as for flavour. In the wild, they are most commonly found growing on the stumps of various trees and, in that case, are often a fairly dark brown in color. In consequence, are known in Mandarin as jīnzhēngū 金針菇 (or “gold needle mushroom”). When cultivated, however, they exhibit the stark, ivory white you see pictured above… [READ MORE] Continue reading “Foodstuff: Enokitake”

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Foodstuff: Alligator Meat

Alligator Meat 1

I have eaten Alligator meat many times. The first time was at a roadside stand just outside ‘Gator World’ (I think it was called) in Florida about twenty years ago and, since then, all my other experiences have been in restaurants, most of which, as best as I recall, were of the ‘Cajun variety. Alligator meat has yet to appear in local stores but I was recently in Rankin Inlet over on the eastern shores of Hudson’s Bay and I came across a half-dozen packages in the freezer section of a nearby supermarket. Luckily, my hotel room had a fridge with a freezer and I was able to grab a couple to bring home with me… Continue reading “Foodstuff: Alligator Meat”

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Foodstuff: Horseradish Root

Horseradish Root 1

This rather gnarly looking object is not a withered old tree branch, but rather is the root vegetable that is the source of that sharp, pungent white condiment usually only encountered in jars purchased at the supermarket. Most people are well familiar with the commercial product as an especially good accompaniment to roast beef, but it does have other uses as well. It is sometimes used in ‘Bloody Mary’ concoctions, it works well as a sandwich spread for all sorts of creations (and not just those using cold beef), and it is very commonly used to provide the sharp bite of the standard seafood cocktail sauce. Quite a few Cole-slaw sauces also use it too. The purchased varieties are fine to use, as long as you don’t let them age too long, but there are some benefits to using the fresh article that are also worth investigating… Continue reading “Foodstuff: Horseradish Root”