Category: Foodstuffs

Foodstuff: 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 “Foodstuff: Miso”

Foodstuff: Brome Lake Duck Pâté

Brome Lake Duck Pate 1

For several years now, while dining in Ottawa, I have seen ‘Brome Lake Duck’ appearing in various menu selections, as pate, confit, or what have you … I have yet to try any of the offerings and had always vaguely assumed that Brome Lake was a lake somewhere in Ontario and that the ducks were wild ones hunted in the general area. As it turns out, the lake is in Quebec and the name, more properly ‘Canards du Lac Brome’, refers to an outfit that specializes in raising Pekin Duck (which is also known as ‘Peking Duck’, but doesn’t have any particular connection to the dish of the same name). Anyway, I have been seeing jars of the pate you see pictured above in my local store for some months now and I thought it time I gave it a try… Continue reading “Foodstuff: Brome Lake Duck Pâté”

Foodstuff: Kelp Noodles

Kelp Noodles 1

Kelp Noodles are…. Well, ‘noodles’ made out of Kelp. I came across this Sea Tangle™ product in Vancouver this summer and was curious to see what they would be like. My main interest is that they are supposed to be a low carbohydrate replacement for starch based pasta products, containing only 3 grams of carbohydrate in the entire 12 oz package.

The noodles are actually strips of kelp that have been ‘de-colorized’ somehow and then preserved with Sodium Alginate, a salt extracted from another type of seaweed. Water, according to the package, is the only other ingredient… Continue reading “Foodstuff: Kelp Noodles”

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!