Tag: Appetizer

Pesto Bites

Pesto Bites 1

When I first conceived of this idea, it struck me that what I had in my mind was very similar to the Provencal specialty known as Pissaladière, except that the traditional topping of caramelized onion is replaced with Pesto (in this case my own homemade Pesto Piccante)

Initially, I thought of doing a single, large, rectangular ‘bread’, but then I decided to make individual, round ‘bites’ as you see pictured above … [ Continue reading “Pesto Bites”

Notable Nosh: Pakora Shrimp

Pakora Shrimp

I had this interesting little appetizer at an Indian restaurant in Ottawa not long ago. Normally, when I order a Pakora, I expect a small fritter type affair where the main ingredient is chopped into small pieces along with other things (onion, etc.), and then mixed into batter before being deep-fried by the spoon full to make small ‘bites’.

Here however, the shrimp was cooked whole with a batter coating and this might have been boring except that the batter (made with ‘Besan’, or chick pea flour), was nicely spiced. I am not sure of the blend, but I believe I could detect paprika, some chili, and possibly a bit of ground coriander seed).

The shrimp were served with a Tamarind based sweet sauce (very nice) and a mint chutney (which might have been nice but was a bit stale) and overall, I thought the preparation was very good except for the fact that the batter ‘shell’ tended to slip away from the meat as one bit into it. If I try this at home (and I will), I think I will butterfly the shrimp, make the batter thinner, and likely try some other dipping sauces than the ones given here ….

Ratatouille Bruschetta

Ratatouille Bruschetta

Today, I am illustrating a use for home-made Ratatouille that is a something of an Italian-Provencal fusion. Quite simply, it is little more than the delicious Provencal relish piled atop Italian Bruschetta.

Usually, Bruschetta is drizzled with olive oil (and it can be delicious with nothing more than this other than ‘scrubbing’ the grilled bread with a piece of raw garlic). Here, though, after grilling my slices of Baguette style bread in a ridged grill pan, I spread them with butter and it allowed it to melt before adding the Ratatouille. This made for a lovely snack and would also be a terrific Antipasto as part of a larger meal…

Dim Sum- Mushroom Dumpling (素粉果)

Mushroom Dumpling 1

These little dumpling preparations are ‘Fun Gor’ (or  fěnguǒ  in Mandarin) as is indicated by the last two characters in the Chinese name. This type of dumpling is characterized by the semi-translucent wrapper that is made using a combination of starches like cornstarch, or tapioca starch, and non-glutinous Wheat flour. The English name on the menu just calls them ‘mushroom dumplings’, but the first character does not translate as ‘mushroom’ but rather, in this context, as ‘vegetarian’.

One of the classic Fun Gor is the Teochew Fun Gor, which contains ground pork and peanuts. These, however, appear to have been called ‘vegetarian’ as the filling rather mimics the Teochow variety by replacing the ground pork with mushrooms, chopped to leave a texture like ground meat, plus water chestnut in place of peanuts. There was also some celery in the mix along with, I am fairly sure, just a little bit of cilantro.

The size of the dumplings could have been a little smaller as these were a little unwieldy with chopsticks, but the taste and texture were excellent. I am still not very proficient at making the dough for this type of dumpling (as opposed to the basic wheat flour type), but I should very much like to give these a try at home…

Dim Sum: 台灣泡菜

Taiwan Pickle 1

I had this pickled Cucumber in Ottawa recently. I have had Chinese pickled cucumber many times before, but generally Sichuan style versions which generally use chili, or chili oil. I recognized the last two characters in the Chinese same as meaning ‘pickled, or steeped, vegetable’ but the first two characters had me stymied for a bit … it was only once I realized that the first character was a phonetic that I guessed that the combination is rendered as ‘Taiwan’ (which proved to be right)… so, it seems that this little dish is a Taiwanese pickle.

Anyway, the cucumber were nicely macerated (using a little salt, I imagine). The result is not salty, though, but a good bit of sugar was added quite obviously, as the pickle is really quite sweet. The red strips are red bell pepper but there was a slight spicy heat coming through so I think just a touch of ground chili must have been included as well. The other addition was ginger cut into very large, thin slivers. This added a lovely flavor and another layer of sweetness. I really enjoyed these and I will make them myself this coming week … I am thinking that just a drop or two of rice wine might go nicely in it too…

Notable Nosh: Calamari Manko

Calamari Manko

On the last evening of a recent trip to Ottawa, I went on an ‘appetizer tour’ and stopped for drinks and one or two appetizers at a series of restaurants. One such stop was at the ‘Curry Kebab House’ which sits in the space in Byward Market once occupied by another Indian restaurant called ‘Haveli’. I will have to go back there sometime and do a proper review of the place after sampling a few more of their dishes, but the one I tried there on this occasion was terrific …

The dish was called Calamari ‘Manko’ …. I have no idea of the origin of the name ‘Manko’ and a search only yielded the fact that it is a very rude Japanese slang term (I’ll let you Google it yourselves). The menu described the dish as being squid ‘tossed with curry leaves and toasted coconut [and] served with a tomato chutney’. In fact, the ingredients were actually served ‘in’, rather than ‘with’ the chutney, which, in addition to the tomato, included mustard seed and coriander leaf. Toasted dried chilies were almost added to the mix, lending an almost ‘Sichuanesque’ effect to the overall taste, which was unusual, but really nicely done. The squid was cooked just perfectly, being tender, but still a bit chewy, and there was a sweetness that came in part from the toasted coconut, but, probably, also from the addition of a bit of sugar.

The curry leaves really made a difference here. I have cooked with these at home, but this was the first time I have had them served to me in a restaurant dish. The woody, slightly herby taste, really added a nice note. I want to try making this at home, sometime… Unfortunately, curry leaves are very hard to come by for me, but I think that a peppery Thai-Basil might make a very decent substitute…

Madrasi Grilled Beef

Madrasi Grilled Beef 01

A while ago, I posted a recipe for my homemade Madras Curry Paste and I wanted to try using it in something other than a ‘curry’ style dish. I came up with the idea of doing something along the lines of a Satay, but with the flavors of India and made the dish you see pictured abve. I made it is an appetizer but you could make larger (and more) skewers and serve them over rice for a more substantial course. Here, I served mine on a bed of finely shredded cabbage and Jalapeno peppers that were macerated in a little garlic salt before being tossed with some oil and lemon juice… Continue reading “Madrasi Grilled Beef”

Bagoong Ribs

Bagoong Ribs 1

Some time ago, I did a post featuring a particular brand of  Filipino Bagoong (a fermented shrimp based paste). I still have quite a bit of it left (it keeps almost indefinitely), and I decided to use some in a little appetizer dish using pork ribs. Now, for some, the idea of pairing a very strong ferment shrimp paste with pork might sound a little odd, but the combination is not uncommon in China and south-east Asia, and actually works very nicely. If the product I used is not available to you, almost any sort of shrimp paste will work just as well… Continue reading “Bagoong Ribs”