Broccolini with Sesame Miso Dressing

broccolini with sesame miso dressing 1

Today’s simple little recipe is one I derived from a common Japanese way of dressing cold greens (notably spinach). The dressing in question is made by toasting sesame seeds then grinding them to a paste along with a little sugar and mirin, sake and soy sauce. The result is called ‘Spinach Gomae’ (if using Spinach) and, while I like the dressing generally, I also find that it can have a bit of a bitter after taste.

I decided to try something that resulted in the same sweet/sesame flavors, but avoided any bitterness and, accordingly settled on Hummus as a milder (if not very Japanese) base for the dressing. I also incorporated a little light miso for depth, and then included a rich Japanese Sesame oil for the proper sesame punch. For today’s dish, I am using Broccolini rather than spinach to make a nice little appetizer salad…

Ingredients

  • 2 cups pre-blanched Broccolini, trimmed of thick stems;
  • 3 Tbsp. Hummus;
  • 1 tsp. Light (white) Miso;
  • 1 tsp. Lemon Juice;
  • 1 Tbsp. Dark Sesame Oil;
  • 1 tsp. Sugar;
  • 1 – 2 Tbsp. Mirin;
  • Sesame Seeds for garnish.

Assembly is super simple … First, blend together all the ingredients except the Broccolini and sesame seeds and mix to a smooth paste. Allow this to sit for at least 20 minutes to allow the flavors to blend.

When you are ready, add the dressing to the Broccolini and mix. The idea here is not to drench, or drown the greens in the dressing, but rather just add enough to coat the pieces with sauce. Arrange the greens attractively on individual serving plates and sprinkle with sesame seeds for garnish. Serve…

That’s it.

Notable Nosh: Alirang’s Tteokbokki

topokki 1

I ate Tteokbokki for the very first time at Alirang (my favorite Korean Restaurant in Ottawa) just a little bit before Christmas. For some reason, I had never heard of these before even though I eat in Korean restaurants fairly often, and have a pretty decent collection of Korean cookbooks at home. Thankfully, Alirang provided a phonetic rendering for the dish right on the menu and it appears, as they have it, to be pronounced ‘Topokki’.

I any event, Tteokbokki consists of a particular type of rice noodle, which can be served in many different ways. In the Chinese character name for the selection given on the menu (in the inset on the above photograph), it is described as ‘Hán shì chǎo niángāo’, which translates as ‘Korean Style spicy stir-fried steamed-rice cake’. The actual noodle, as it turns out, is a thick, very dense, cylindrical rice flour noodle cut, in this case, into 3cm sections.

Now, the dish I was served at Alirang did not just consist of the noodles in sauce, but also contained a little cabbage (not quite apparent in the picture) but also some triangular pieces of something with an almost omelet like texture that I could not identify. I had to ask what they were and discovered that it was slices of fish cake. When I discovered what it was, the taste suddenly made sense and I have to say that I really liked this addition very much.

Now, the noodles were probably the densest, chewiest noodles I have ever had and I can see how they could become addictive, and probably a comfort food for those who grow up with them. I would like to see if I can buy them separately for home use sometime so I can experiment with them a little.

Oh… as for the sauce, this was pretty much nothing more than a slightly diluted Gochujang, or Korean Fermented Chili-Soybean Paste. It was extremely fiery and, I have to admit, nearly did me in. Still, on the whole, I really liked this offering and would like to try some other versions in the future.

Wine: Masi Costasera Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2012

masi costasera amarone della valpolicella classico 2012

Most people have at least heard the name ‘Valpolicella’ in connection with Italian wine before, and this is chiefly because the Valpolicella DOC ranks as only second behind the Chianti DOC in terms of total production for the entire country.  Within the general Valpolicella DOC, however, there are several smaller name-controlled areas, including the prestigious Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG.

Most of the wine from the whole Valpolicella region is typically a blend of the Corvina grape, along with Rondinella and Molinara. Today’s selection, a 2012 vintage from the Masi Costasera winery in Amarone della Valpolicella, is also one of these blends, but it is also augmented by a lesser known varietal known as Oselet. I picked up a bottle of this past October or November and I would have to say that this one of the nicest wines I tasted all year.

Amarones are known to be bold, very alcoholic, full bodied wines. This one is 15% alcohol, and actually quite dry at 11 grams of sugar per liter, while the body is indeed full, with an almost chewy texture. It is moderately acidic, thus offsetting the sweetness somewhat, with tannins that are bold, yet smooth, and last well into the finish.

On the nose, there are fresh dark berries with hints of blackberry jam, cedar, earth and musky notes of forest floor. The palate is every bit as rich and features dark plum, sweet tobacco, chocolate and woody notes with a curious, but very pleasant popcorn quality. At the very end, there are also grass and herb highlights which round out the overall effect very nicely. Generally, this is the sort of rich, robust wine that pairs well with strong, hearty dishes, but I found it to a truly lovely sipping wine all by itself…

Equipment: The Joyce Chen Wok

joyce chen wok 1

For a number of years now, I have had an induction stovetop in my kitchen. It is nice in many respects, but a traditional, round-bottomed wok will just not work properly with it. After way too long with disappointing results I purchased a flat bottomed wok in cast iron… this was a nice piece of cookware, and may have had some practical uses in other ways, but as a wok it was just too damn heavy and didn’t allow for easy heat control. Accordingly, back this past May, I purchased the Joyce Chen 14 inch flat-bottomed wok you see above. Sadly, though I have purchased quite a few Joyce Chen products that were well worth the money, this $50 item that I purchased here at Amazon, was a bit of a disappointment … Continue reading “Equipment: The Joyce Chen Wok”

Smoked Salmon Pasta Salad

smoked salmon pasta salad 1

Usually, when I buy smoked salmon, I end up eating it the traditional English way, which is with lemon juice, capers and onions, and thinly cut slices of buttered brown bread. Smoked salmon also goes well with wasabi and makes a very nice addition to a meal of both sushi and sashimi.

I had almost a half package of frozen smoked salmon leftover from a previous use and I decided to try something new by doing a sort of fusion of the aforementioned flavor combinations. I switched out wasabi in favor of horseradish (this was more a color issue, than one of taste), and I made pasta, instead of bread, or rice, the starch. The result was very easy to make and delicious…

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cooked Fusilli (or Rotini, or the like);
  • 2 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil;
  • ½ tsp. ground Pepper;
  • ½ tsp. Salt (taste before serving and increase if desired);
  • 2 Tbsp. Lemon juice;
  • ¾ tsp. minced Lemon Zest;
  • 1 Tbsp. Mayonnaise;
  • ½ – 1 tsp. prepared Horseradish;
  • 3 Tbsp. coarsely chopped Capers;
  • 2 -3 ounces Smoked Salmon sliced in to thin strips;
  • ¼ cup thawed frozen Peas;
  • 2 – 3 stalks of Scallion (green part only), finely slivered.

When you boil your pasta, you can do like I sometimes do and use garlic salt rather than regular salt as this adds just a little extra something. When the pasta is cooked, you need to rinse it thoroughly with cold water. The only time you should ever rinse pasta is when you are cooling it for a later use, as here.

Blend the cooled pasta with the oil, lemon juice and seasonings, and then fold in the mayonnaise, horseradish, lemon zest and capers. If desired, you can chill what you have for the time being and let the flavors blend a little.

Finally, fold in the smoked salmon, peas, and scallion and serve.

I am sure you can probably find lots of ways to play with this little recipe. I have thought that a chiffonade of Basil might be nice stirred in at the last moment, and you could always add a little heat with, say, slivers of Jalapeno, or the like. Enjoy …

Dim Sum: Ginger Beef Dumplings

PI Ginger Beef Dumpling

I had these particular dumplings at the Palais Imperial in Ottawa a while ago. They weren’t spectacular exactly, but they do get a mention for being a bit unexpected.

The full name from the Chinese characters on the menu (see the inset in the above picture), read Ginger Scallion Beef Dumplings, which amplifies the English name by also specifying the scallion that is included, not as part of the filling, but as a steaming ‘companion’ along with the thick shreds of ginger. What is a bit odd is that the final character in the name is (jiǎo) which typically refers to a dumpling with a flour wrapper. Here, a bean curd skin, also known as ‘tofu skin’ is used to enclose the filling. This product, which is purchased in dried sheets and then reconstituted, is often used to make steamed rolls in dim sum houses, but only occasionally to make dumplings in this shape.

Anyway, the filling here was decent if unremarkable (lightly seasoned and well textured), but the choice of wrapper really made for a different experience. Tofu skins, when steamed, don’t have the same al dente resistance as wheat doughs and it has almost a ‘papery’ mouthfeel when you first bit in to it. That may not sound especially appetizing, but, in fact, it is quite a nice texture and makes a pleasant change in a series of dumpling courses. I enjoyed these…

Product Review: Tube Mustards

Tube Mustards 1

While I was shopping in Ottawa on my last visit, I went to find some of the Tomato Puree that comes in a tube as we cannot get it up here in the frozen North. I found some (a couple of different brands, actually), but I also picked up the tubes of mustard you see pictured above.

I remember having these in the house when I was a kid. Indeed, even one of the brands was familiar, and, though I really didn’t have any pressing mustard ‘needs’, as it were, I decided to grab all the sorts I saw with a view to doing a bit of comparing and contrasting… Continue reading “Product Review: Tube Mustards”

Notable Nosh- Shafali Style Lamb Vindaloo

Shafali Lamb Vindaloo 1

For about three or four successive visits to Ottawa, I had Lamb Vindaloo on my bucket list of dishes to sampled, but, as sometimes happens, the best laid plans get set aside for one reason another and it was only at my last visit just before this past Christmas that I got to indulge. On this occasion I went to Café Shafali because I have eaten there before and enjoyed it, and because it is only about three blocks from the hotel where I always stay when I am in town…

Anyway … When I was a kid, my father told me that a ‘Vindaloo’ was the hottest of the Indian curries. Of course, whether or not that is ever true obviously depends on how much chili heat a given chef adds to a given dish, but it does seem that, in the main, they tend to one of the hotter dishes on the menu in Indian restaurants. At Shafali, they advertise it on their menu like this:

shafali lamb vindaloo 2

The four little flame thingies beside the title specify the heat level and, at Shafali, the Lamb Vindaloo is the only dish to rate four flames. I should perhaps have been put on my guard by the fact that in addition to the graphic warning, they also describe the dish as containing ‘loads of chilies’…In truth, though, I often find that the way a restaurant describes ‘heat’ is often a bit arbitrary and I went ahead and ordered the dish lulled into a false sense of confidence …

Now, Vindaloo fans will know that the dish has Portuguese roots and originally involved meat marinated in garlic and wine. In later Indian, and Anglo-Indian renditions, the wine got replaced with vinegar and chilies got added in ever increasing amounts. At Shafali, they actually go back, historically speaking, and use red wine to marinate their lamb, but they certainly follow more modern traditions with the sheer amount of chili they use.

In general, this was a very nicely prepared dish. The generous chunks of boneless lamb were not cooked so long that they fell apart (often the case in Indian curries), and it was ‘al dente’ for western palates. It didn’t have the sharp tang from vinegar as is usually the case, but It was slightly sweet, and the taste of both ginger and garlic were briefly apparent before the chilies asserted themselves forcefully.

I have to say here, that it is an unfortunate truth that I am not a spring chicken anymore and over the years, I find that really hot dishes are a bit beyond me. I am lucky that I don’t suffer the intestinal distress that some people experience after a spicy meal, but, sadly, a mouthfeel of fire now inhibits, rather than enhances my enjoyment of a meal and I it takes the occasional sharp lesson like the Shafali Vindaloo to remind me I just can’t do this anymore…I am thinking, after this episode, that I should like to try doing a much milder Vindaloo at home sometime soon, and try and strike a more Portuguese weighted balance, with good wine and ‘loads of garlic’, rather than mouth-numbing quantities of chili… a report will follow!

Domaines Rouvinez Fendant Côteaux de Sierre 2017

Domaines Rouvinez Fendant Côteaux de Sierre 2017

Today’s selection is the second of two Swiss wines I sampled over the past Christmas vacation. The first was the Pinot Noir blend called Cave St-Pierre Dôle du Valais 2016, that I have already told you about, and which, like today’s wine, is produced in Switzerland’s Valais AOC. I didn’t rate this white quite as highly as the Pinot Noir blend, but it is still worth a mention as it employs a grape, most commonly known as Chassalas, that is not widely known in North America (as yet, at least), and which I had never had before. In Switzerland, Chasselas is known as Fendant, it is, apparently, the most planted variety in that country. It is raised as a table grape in some places, and is used to make wine in France, Germany, Portugal, Hungary, Romania, New Zealand and Chile. In France, it is best known for being blended with Sauvignon Blanc to produce the Loire wine, ‘Pouilly-sur-Loire’.

This wine cost me $21.00 at Quebec prices, and contains 12.5% alcohol and has less than 1.2 g/L of residual sugar. It is a pale yellow and my bottle had just a touch of effervescence, although this was likely not intentional.

The nose is quite muted comprising golden apple, peach and lychee, along with some honey, half-dried grass, and just a touch of fennel. It is light-bodied, very dry, and quite crisply, even sharply, acidic. On the palate, there is both gold and green apple, a little tropical fruit in the background, the same touch of honey as on the nose, as well as an additional, and very pleasant note of hazelnut.

For my own personal taste, I would preferred just a little more residual sweetness to round out the acidity but, that being said, this is a very pleasant sipping wine that should appeal to a broad range of white wine fans.

Notable Nosh: ‘Mandoo’ (Korean Dumplings)

Mandoo

I eat at Korean restaurants about once or maybe twice a year. I have rarely had dumplings during a Korean meal and, quite honestly, don’t particularly associate dumplings with Koran cuisine at all; Mostly, I think, because they most often appear on the menu under the name ‘pot-stickers’ or the Japanese name ‘Gyoza’. A lot of Korean restaurants will include Chinese, Japanese, or Thai items on the menu, and the dumplings I have seen in these places are generally the fried ‘Guo Tie’ or ‘Wor Tip’ variety that are commonly called pot-stickers, and it is never suggested that they are a Korean ‘thing’ at all…

At Alirang, a tiny, but excellent Korean restaurant in downtown Ottawa, they had dumplings described on the menu as ‘Mandoo’  (Korean Dumplings) … I have seen the name Mandoo in cookery books before, or in its more common variant ‘Mandu’, and the Wikipedia entry for the term suggests that the word refers to a wide variety of native Korean dumplings. In truth, I don’t think this is the case as the word clearly descends from the same root as ‘Manti’ (central Asian dumplings) and ‘Mantou’ (Chinese steamed buns) … In the inset in the above picture, I have shown the menu entry, which includes Chinese characters for the name. These solve the issue a little as they translate as ‘Korean style fried dumplings’ and suggest more a Korean twist on a standard Chinese classic rather than a purely Korean delicacy.

Anyway, whatever the origin, these were pretty decent , except that the wrapper dough was a bit thick for this type of dumpling and would be more appropriate for boiled or even steamed. The Chinese characters specify ‘jiānjiǎo’ which actually means ‘pan-fried’, but these ones were clearly deep-fried and quite oily, although I don’t mean this as a criticism as these were, as I say, pretty darned decent. The filling was ground pork and cabbage that didn’t seem to be seasoned with anything except a little salt, but the simplicity of this worked very well and the overall effect was very flavorful. They may not be truly a traditional Korean delicacy … but who cares 😊