Tag: Food

Notable Nosh: Uni

Uni - 2017-07 1

Uni is sometimes referred to as the roe of the Sea Urchin but is actually the gonads of the creature and can produce roe or milt (semen). It is a delicacy in Japanese cuisine but it is seasonal, and not always easy to obtain, so one frequently sees it on the menus of Japanese restaurants only to find, on ordering, that it is not currently available. I came across some recently at Wasabi in Ottawa’s Bytown market, where they were available as a sushi selection, or as a sashimi preparation served, as you see above, in little cucumber cups. Each cup held four or five individual gonads and you can see an individual piece in the inset.

The texture of uni is not for everybody. It is very soft, with a silky mouthfeel and is rather like the white of a soft-boiled egg, or, perhaps, a very firm custard. When tasted, without any sort of additions, it is very reminiscent of the tomalley, or liver, of a lobster. Some would say it has a fishy taste, but I rather think of it has having a generic ‘sea flavor’ coupled with a distinct sweetness. Tomalley can also have an underlying faintly musky pungency but, with uni, it is sweet all the way through except at the very end where a similar pungency comes across as an almost bitter aftertaste. It is brief however, and does not really affect the overall pleasure of the taste at all.

In this preparation, the uni was served with a wedge of lemon, a small mound of wasabi (hidden behind the inset in the above picture), and a little dish for soy sauce. I tried soy first and, while it was pleasant, I found that the sweetness of the soy masked the delicate sweetness of the uni, thus robbing it of some of its impact. The lemon was an even worse choice as, not only did the acid mask much of the good flavor, it also made the final bitter quality more pronounced and I am surprised that anybody thought that this would be a good accompaniment. As for the wasabi, however, this worked really well. Despite the sharp, intense power of the root, it didn’t mask any of the sweetness at all and really complimented it nicely. I should like to try the delicacy in a sushi preparation sometime, but the sashimi along with just a little wasabi is terrific.

Lamb with Zucchini and Basil

Lamb with Zucchini and Basil 1.JPG

In the last few months, our local selection of lamb has gone beyond just legs and chops and many different cuts have become available. Today, I bought a large bag of frozen, bone-in pieces that will make me a fair number of meals. For my first use, I decided to prepare some using Basil. This is not as common a pairing as, say, lamb and mint, or lamb and rosemary, but the Basil I had on hand was top quality and I thought it would work nicely here, especially with zucchini as the vegetable quotient… [ Continue reading “Lamb with Zucchini and Basil”

Notable Nosh: Chinese BBQ Pork and Duck

Chinese BBQ

Not long ago, I posted a review of Gain Wah restaurant in Vancouver’s Chinatown. I mentioned therein that, as I was leaving, the very friendly owner who was manning the BBQ station offered some barbecued duck to try. It was absolutely delicious and I told him I would be back. Well… I did just that and ordered the plate you see above which, for the princely sum of just $7.50, gave me a generous helping of both duck and pork along with a little dish of plum sauce on the side. Now, though I have been tempted by Chinese BBQ on various occasions, this happened to be my first real experience (aside from the gratis sampling two days earlier). Now… I have to say that I am a convert. The duck was not quite as good as the first taste, as that had been freshly cooked and still piping hot, but both meats here were exquisitely succulent and flavorful. There was a slight hint of 5 spice powder here and there (which I can take or leave), but, otherwise, this was perfect and the plum sauce really wasn’t needed for either. I have had thin slices of BBQ pork tenderloin in fried rice and noodle dishes once in a while, but that cut is exceedingly dry and nothing like the lovely, slightly fatty portion here. I am going to have to experiment in my own kitchen…

Notable Nosh: Pork Belly with Kumquat

Pork Belly with Kumquat and Parsnip

I had this little appetizer at Play Food Wine during my vacation in Ottawa. I am not posting it because it was an especially wonderful dish, but rather because the basic idea was pretty good and could be improved with a little tweaking. It is not easily apparent from the photograph here, but the pork belly consisted of two thumb-sized pieces that were roasted, then placed on a bed of pureed parsnip and topped with a sauce made with kumquats. There were some snap peas included, which didn’t add a great deal, and the garnish consisted of sprouts of some sort (possibly mustard).

The pork belly was well cooked but otherwise unremarkable. Little seasoning was used during the roasting from all I can gather, and the compliment came from the additional components on the plate. The parsnip bed was nice, with the sweet taste of fresh parsnip coming through cleanly, but I didn’t like the consistency very much. It was a little too much like applesauce and something with a bit more texture would have suited me more. As for the kumquats, I thought the idea pretty decent, but, ultimately, it was too overpowering. The fruit appeared to have been sautéed until partially collapsed into a thickish chutney-like affair, but the overly sweet result, coupled with an orange-pith like citrus bite was a bit much for the pork. I’d try this dish myself but, instead of the kumquat, I think something like cranberry (as one idea) might work a little better. Still, it was a good try…

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…

Salted Radish Banchan

Salted Radish Banchan 1

If you have eaten at a Korean restaurant you will recognize ‘Banchans’ as being the small (usually free) side dishes that accompany the main meal. Cabbage Kimchi is a standard offering but there are many others and I tend to rate a restaurant on the number and variety of selections provided.

Today’s offering is not an actual Korean recipe (to the best of my knowledge) but the combination of Preserved Salted Radish along with Gochujang chilli paste makes it a pretty good fit to the basic theme… Continue reading “Salted Radish Banchan”

Notable Nosh: Buffalo Steak

Buffalo Steak

I probably wouldn’t have done a post featuring this particular meal except for the fact that this is the first time I have ever eaten ‘Buffalo’ and I thought it might be interesting to share the experience.

First, I used quotes around the ‘Buffalo’ because when you encounter it on a menu in North America it almost invariably means the animal more properly called ‘Bison’, which, I gather, is only distantly related to the true Buffalo. Buffalo is eaten in some parts but I have yet to see it on a menu here, or in stores either, for that matter.

The cut I was served here was the rib-eye. I won’t comment on the vegetables except to say that the roasted carrot and green beans were unremarkable and the braised red cabbage not at all well-executed. The steak, however, was very nice. The cut was not perfect, a bit gristly in places but it was cooked to a good medium rare as ordered. I was surprised that it was as juicy as it turned out to be. Being largely grass-fed and relatively lean, I had been expecting something a bit drier, but it turned out to be quite as succulent as many a good beef steak I have had. I have read where others describe the meat as being a bit sweeter than beef but I didn’t really get that at all. It did, however, have a pronounced earthy taste that I really enjoyed. Beyond that though, had this been served to me as beef, I wouldn’t have cocked an eye and would have accepted it as such. In short, I would happily order a Buffalo/Bison steak again and I can pretty confidently state that you could substitute the meat in any recipe calling for beef without changing the result over much.

Lamb with Parsley-Jalapeno Sauce

Lamb with Parsley-Jalapeno Sauce

When I prepared my Parsley-Jalapeno Jelly  a little while ago, I mentioned that I also planned to use it as a cookery ingredient as well as a condiment. This is one of the uses I came up with…

The meat here is stewing lamb and almost all the pieces you see contain bone (vertebra pieces, I would say), and so they can function a bit like riblets. I prepared mine by first baking them until nicely browned and then I cooked them again in a sauté pan with some shreds of onion. I seasoned with a little garlic salt and then, at the end, I stirred in a couple of tablespoons of my jelly along with just a tiny splash of sherry. The result was delicious and I ate it just as you see without any sides at all. It makes a nice Tapas style dish but it could also be the centerpiece for something with veggies and maybe fried potatoes.

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!