Saturday, August 29, 2009

Black Garlic: Mission (Almost) Complete!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

So near the beginning of this blog's birth we said we wanted to try black garlic. Thanks to our awesome friend Kasia, we were able to get our hands on some!

We made a black garlic tapenade - completely eyeballed and not measured in this case - with black olives, capers, black garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, and a bit of salt. It was AWESOME spread atop some lightly-toasted french bread.

Black garlic tastes almost balsamic-y - definitely sweeter than regular garlic - and it is, in fact, black. Squishy too - you have to be careful not to squish it whilst peeling the skin off around it.

I still have another bulb of black garlic here... then once I've used that I can truly say our black garlic mission has been completed!

Yours in food,

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Recipe: Mark's healthy Adobo

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Adobo is the quintessential Filipino dish. Though adobo is a Spanish term for seasoning or marinade, the Filipino Adobo is a method of stewing with vinegar indigenous to the Philippine islands that the Spanish encountered during their colonization of the Philippines in the 1500s. They called this method of cooking Adobo. It has few ingredients and is easy to cook if you know how, but ridiculously complicated to understand if you don't appreciate the alchemy that goes into it. Pork or chicken are the common meats used in making Adobo.

I refer to my recipe as healthy not because it is low in sodium, which it's not, but because it is low in saturated fat, and makes for a good satisfying staple. You don't have to ingest all the sodium, making it healthier. I'll get to that later.

It's common for Filipinos to eyeball their cooking, so I won't be giving exacting measurements here.

- 3 or more cloves of garlic
- 3 or more dried bay leaves
- black peppercorns (see photo for a rough quantity)
- soy sauce, vinegar, olive oil, water
- 1 pork loin or 2 chicken breasts

Here we go!

This recipe calls for chicken. Cut the chicken breasts into cubes. I use "Marca Pina" soy sauce and "Datu Puti" white vinegar. This dish tastes best with Filipino ingredients as we know that local recipes evolved with local ingredients in mind, albeit this locale is half-way around the world. Don't sweat it, the soy sauce and vinegar can be bought cheaply from No Frills. If you don't have them, use plain soy sauce and white vinegar. Don't use VH brand... it's a Kraft company and VH stuff sucks. Soy sauces have very different flavour profiles (enough for a separate blog post), so stick with plain or No Name.

In a pot, put just enough olive oil to saute garlic. Throw the garlic in while the oil is cold so that the garlic flavour transfers to the oil. Set the stove to high, and throw the chicken in before the garlic starts to brown.

Lightly sear the chicken till most of the outsides turn white, to lock in the juices. Vegetable oil is commonly used due to its higher smoke point and neutral flavour, but we're trying to be healthy here.

Throw in 2 shots of soy sauce

Throw in 2 shots of vinegar

Throw in 4 shots of water

The actual amounts aren't crucial, depending on how much sauce you want. What is important is the relative ratio of soy sauce, vinegar and water.

Toss in the dried bay leaves and whole black peppercorns. Don't grind the pepper. You want the pepper flavour without the pepper heat.

Now for the tricky part. Assuming your stove was on high this whole time, wait for everything to start boiling then put a lid on the pot. Let it boil for a minute or two then reduce the temperature to medium. I realize that simmering might keep this thing boiling even at a low of 2 or 3, but it's important that you keep it at medium or 5 for the chemical reaction to occur. And don't take the lid off to look at it because this will cause an immediate drop in temperature. Wait 30 minutes.

This is the crap shoot part. You know that it's done when the vinegar smell piping off the edges of the pot loses its acidity and turns into a sweet smelling steam. This miraculously happens instantly. Make sure that you don't boil all of the sauce off after this, though you can keep it on the stove longer if you want a richer tasting sauce. The sauce goes well on white jasmine rice. Most of the sodium is in the sauce, so you can just regulate the amount you use on your rice. But you'll probably want to use a lot.

That's it! Chicken Adobo!!! You are now Filipino :)

Danger! Now for the Adobo I'm not allowed to have:

- First off, use vegetable oil instead of olive oil.

- Use fatty slices of pork (ex. rump), or chicken thighs or drumsticks with the skins.

- After cooking as above, pull the meat out and refry in a separate pan with a little oil till you get brown and crispy outsides, whilst some of that fat is rendering off. Trust me those crispy bits will have concentrated sweetness and tartness that will blow your mind away.

- Toss everything back into the sauce. Yes that's both meat and oil. You'll see a layer of oil separate from the black sauce. Spoon both layers onto hot fresh jasmine white rice... let me repeat, jasmine white rice. Yummy!!! Don't forget to see your doctor about that cholesterol of yours.

2 bright pies: Buko pandan pie, ube macapuno pie

It's as good a weekend as any, just chillin', killing Nazi Zombies in Call of Duty, and having lots of pie. We're sampling two classic Filipino pies:

The bright green pie is "buko pandan." Buko is coconut, and pandan is a long and slender leaf used in Asian cooking. As Canadians have various words to describe snow, Filipinos have many words to describe coconut.

Buko is the general name for coconut, but more specifically it is fresh coconut meat from green coconuts. When you chop the top off this kind of coconut you can slip a straw in and drink a lot of refreshing coconut water. After which, you can crack the coconut open and eat the soft white meat.

Niyog is from more mature coconuts. I'm tempted to say ripened, but they're not fruits so they pretty much just dry up. Niyog is where you get coconut milk from, which is used in many Filipino dishes, as well as Thai curries. This is also the type of coconut that shows up in your local grocery's baking isle. This coconut has but little juice left, and the meat is dryer. It's commonly grated or shredded, and coconut milk is squeezed out of the shredded meat. Note the distinction between coconut juice or water and coconut milk. Watch a video:

Pandan doesn't normally make dishes look neon green. This pie uses pandan extract, as we're too far from the tropics to do fresh pandan justice.

The purple pie is "ube macapuno." Ube is purple yam (pronounced ooo-beh), a staple of many Filipino desserts, from cakes to ice cream. I'm not quite sure how to describe ube's taste, but it's yummy. Macapuno is yet another coconut variant. It's made of young coconut strips cooked in sugar and water, producing a thick syrupy concoction. Real macapuno comes from "mutant coconut" bred by the Philippine Coconut Authority, which yields more of the soft flesh required for macapuno's production.

Both pies were really good but the buko pandan pie would have to be our favourite. They are a little dry and though stored in the fridge are best served at room temperature. I can say that buko pie from Laguna, just south of Manila is the best I've tasted, though living in Toronto, this pie is a good fix. Buko pie, legend has it, was invented by an old American woman in Laguna during the American occupation coz she couldn't find enough apples around. I miss the Laguna pie's soft pliable crust, and big chunks of coconut meat packed in a sweet gooey filling. Yumm!

- Mark

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Taste of the Danforth was as tasty as I remember it!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

It's been a few years since we've gone to Taste of the Danforth. In fact, it was the third "date" Mark and I went on back in 2006 (it was supposed to be the second, as our first one went so well that we scheduled Danforth for our second right away, but then Mark called me even before Danforth to see if I wanted to go to a movie and of course I said yes and the rest was, as they say, history).

My final thought on Taste of the Danforth this year: It was just as delicious as I remember it! Everything was amazing - there really wasn't one bad thing to say about any of the food we ate.

I'll keep it short - who needs words when you have foodtography?! (Don't miss the slideshow with more images.) Here's a quick rundown of what we ate [restaurant names inserted where I wasn't too drunk with joy to remember where we got the items from]:

- Brazilian barbecue steak and onion sandwich [The Red Violin]
- Paella with shrimp, chicken, green beans and mussels [Embrujo Flamenco]
- Lamb rosemary pie [Ouzeri Restaurant]
- Spinach pie
- Baklava
- A traditional Greek custard cream pastry (sort of looked like a Greek version of a canoli)
- A chewy milk chocolate cookie [Cookie Connection]
- Octopus balls [Mariko]
- Mango shake

It's very possible we'll go back tomorrow because we had no room for our favourite dish: ECUADORIAN PULLED PORK WITH A POTATO CAKE!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Toronto Turkish Festival

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

This past Saturday we hit the Toronto Turkish Festival at Yonge-Dundas Square. It was a celebration of Turkish food and culture, but we were really there for dessert. I wanted some Turkish Coffee and Turkish Delight. Stacey was there for Baklava.

We started off with some Manti - Turkish Ravioli. They were small pastries filled with ground beef, doused with garlic yogurt, with a dash of melted butter and paprika. The dumplings were nice one-bite sized morsels. The paprika went really well with the pasta, and the yogurt had a nice creamy tanginess. Stacey and I would have preferred to have the paprika and yogurt ratios flipped. There was way too much yogurt for our systems to handle. It was quite tasty.

Appetizer out of the way, we lined up for some Doner Kebab, doner for short - slices of roast meat in a flatbread wrap with veggies. We had a chicken and a beef doner. My beef doner had onions, lettuce and tomatoes, with garlic yogurt and hot sauce. The doner is similar to the middle eastern shawarma or Greek gyros. The chicken doner was really good, with flavourful crunchy bits of chicken.

Having room to split one more dish, we picked up a Sucuk - sausage. It was also in a wrap with the usual fixin's. What a hot sausage! The sausage skin was crispy from the grill, and the meat inside was soft and spicy. It stained our lips red and left a hot aftertaste, but it was really good.

Alright, time for dessert. Baklava!
We'll let your eyes goad your mouth to water on this one.

Coffee was brought to the Europeans by the Turks in an accident of war in 1683. The term “coffee” was derived from the Turkish word “kahve.” Turkish Coffee is brewed in a small pot with water and sugar to avoid having to stir it when it's served. Neither milk nor cream is added. I really liked Turkish Coffee. It had a mellow mocha like taste, and the small amount of coffee grinds floating about added to its body.

Turkish Delight is a treat made of sugar and cornstarch available with dried fruit or nuts. This was the highlight for me. They’re like uber-deluxe gummies. We bought a box of honey, almond and apricot Turkish Delights and it was dare we say… Delightful!

- Mark

Turkish military band from Tasting Toronto on Vimeo.