Category: Foodstuffs

Foodstuff: 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 “Foodstuff: Dried Abalone”

Foodstuff: Korean Red Pepper Powder

Korean Red Pepper Powder 1

Korean Red Pepper Powder is a very versatile food product but its primary uses are in the making of Kimchi and also in the preparation of the Korean fermented red pepper paste known as Gochujang. Most of the ground chili available to me locally is quite coarse, with the exception of Cayenne Pepper, which is pretty fiery. The typical Korean Red Pepper Powder can be quite mild, is very finely milled, and also has a very pretty bright red color that makes for a very attractive pickle… Continue reading “Foodstuff: Korean Red Pepper Powder”

Foodstuff: Branston Pickle

Branston Pickle 1C

About a year ago, I posted a recipe for Home-made Branston Pickle, which represents my method (quite succesful, I think) of reproducing the commercial variety I have loved ever since my childhood in England. Here in Canada, where one would more likely refer to it as a relish, rather than a pickle, it is not very widely known, nor widely available (indeed, it has been about ten years since I last saw it in stores here in Nunavut, and I purchased the jar you see above from Amazon.) Continue reading “Foodstuff: Branston Pickle”

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’.

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”

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…

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!

 

Foodstuff: Bothwell™ Horseradish Cheddar

Bothwell Horseradish Cheddar 1

I can’t say I have ever thought about pairing horseradish with cheese before so I was curious to see what this product might be like. I have tried quite a few different Bothwell brand cheese products and, so far, they have been pretty good. I have to say, though, that this particular idea didn’t work that well.

The cheese itself is very good. It has a very nice texture that is a bit creamier than many cheddars and the basic cheddar flavor is apparent, albeit quite mild. Unfortunately, the horseradish component, which is plainly identifiable, gives a very harsh, bitter note to the overall taste. I don’t want to discourage others from giving the product a try, but I didn’t care for the effect overmuch.

To properly assess the product, I also tried cooking the cheese. I added small squares to pre-grilled rounds of zucchini and then put these under my broiler until the cheese was melted and a few brown spots were beginning to appear. When the cheese was very hot, there was no horseradish taste that I could discern (and the normal cheddar notes were diminished), then, as it cooled, both the signature cheddar flavours and the harshness reasserted themselves.

In all, this was rather an interesting idea but I can’t say I will bother with this particular product again…

 

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”

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”