Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Still an animal, but not quite as bovine, porcine, or avian

Come to think of it, isn’t that the flu we’re missing: The Bovine Flu? Wouldn’t that round it out nicely?
Anyways, I had mentioned that we were trying to eat less meat and be healthier, in response to that, a very dear friend of mine gave me a vegan cookbook The Conscious Cook by Tal Ronnen. I’ve already mined the book for tofu/ricotta/artichoke ravioli and am really looking forward to trying something with cashew cream, it has given me many happy ideas.
However this entry is not meatless, nor is it even kosher. It involves the lowly shrimp.
Kyle and I like to call it Shrimp Konkani, but we have no idea if it is in any way authentic to the Konkani culture of western India. It is essentially spicy cardamom shrimp with onions in coconut milk. We served it on jasmine rice with a green papaya salad. The way I learned to make the papaya salad was VERY spicy (I have since seen it otherwise, but to me it will always be a scorching salad) but because the shrimp is so spicy, I have done it here without any peppers. Feel free to add if you are a die hard chile-head.

Green papayas are relatively easy to find in Asian markets, they are white fleshed with white and black seeds. This is in contrast to the traditional sweeter, softer papaya with pink-orange flesh and all black seeds. Those should not be used here. If you can’t find a green papaya, you might be able to substitute a cucumber.

Green Papaya Salad
1/2 a green papaya (seeded, peeled, shredded)
4 cloves of garlic
juice of 3 limes
1 tbsp fish sauce -- can be substituted with soy sauce for vegetarians, but the colour will change.

Shrimp Konkani
750g shrimp (peeled and de-veined)
2 small - medium yellow onions; ground to a paste
2 small - medium yellow onions; sliced thinly
2 tbsp chilli paste (Sambal Olek)
3 Bay Leaves
1 can coconut milk
3 -7 green cardamom pods (depending on how much you like the flavour)
Salt to taste
Oil for frying

This, my friends is a green papaya. I find using a grapefruit spoon to get the seeds out works really well, but a regular spoon or a melon baller will work just as well. Just do it inside of a plastic bag because those little seeds fly everywhere, and if you have a playful animal they will delight in batting them around, and the next thing you know, you'll find one in your bed or shoe.

After peeling and cutting the papaya into chunks, I put it in the food processor with the grating blade, but you can also do it on a regular grater. If you are substituting with cucumber, I think grating with a box grater is best, the food processor might turn it to mush. After that, 4 finely chopped pieces of garlic are added.

The juice of 3 limes. (duh) Obvious picture I know, but they were so green, that I had to include it.

And the fish sauce -- I try not to think about what this stuff actually is. It seems like it should make you sick, but it doesn't and it's invaluable stuff. So you mix everything together and put it in the fridge for about an hour for the flavours to blend and also it's really good when it's nice and cold!!

On to the shreemp. First, as you can see, I started with an onion the size of my head. I split it in half and sliced one half thinly, and the other I put in the food processor and grated it. You can grate it on a regular box grater too, but make sure you have goggles and/or waterproof mascara.

Then I heat some oil in my giant wok and threw the spices in, they should fry for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Until they turn a little brown.

Then the sliced onions. Fry until browned. After that, the grated onions are tossed in along with the chili paste.

Then the coconut milk, at this point, there's a very strong possibility that your 'masala' could be violently orange/salmon colour. This all depends on how much Sambal Olek you use. Simmer for about 10 minutes until thickened.

And then you add the shreemps. I just realized that this is kind of a gross picture.
Anyways, sautee them until just pink. Salt and pepper to taste and...

(and eat)
(with rice)

So that was the first step in my transition towards a less red meat focused blog. To be fair, the shrimp isn’t that healthy with all that coconut milk, but it’s a step in the right direction. Besides, these recipes aren’t really meant to be your regular Tuesday night meals, for us they are our weekend treats.
There’s just one other thing that I’d like to mention here. A few of you may have heard of Doc Hendley, he was featured recently on CNN’s Heroes awards. He was one of the top 10 heroes of the year. Although he didn’t come in as number one, he did get the attention of this person (me). Doc runs an organization called Wine to Water, you can read all about it on their site. He started out as a bartender and today helps to bring clean water to all parts of the world. Recently I wrote to them to see how I could host a Wine to Water event. A very helpful and friendly Emily Whitworth wrote me back with a bunch of great information. So although it is in its embryonic stages, I will be hosting one of these events in the coming months. It is a wine tasting event where all proceeds go to Wine to Water, the best part about it is that even $100 raised buys one Bio Sand Filter that can bring clean water to a Ugandan family. At this point, my search starts with a location to host this event. Until I have that, it is still just an idea. Any suggestions? My house is just too dang small and the cats might get scared, or drunk (dirty bastards).

I’m really excited about the W2W event so if it piques anyone else’s interest or if anyone who has recently put something like this together (ahem… cupcake camp montreal) has any tips or ideas, please contact me, or post here, this is the first time I do anything like this…
Thanks for flying Air CheeseandOlive xoxoxo

Monday, November 30, 2009

Not Porchetta

Hello again! First off, I would like to thank all the people involved in Cupcake Camp Montreal. It was so much fun and it looks like it was really really successful: 700 cupcake nibblers and $8000 raised for Kids Help Phone. For those of you who don’t already know about it, Cupcake Camp Montreal took place on November 22, 2009 at Bitoque in Montreal. Amateurs (me!) and professionals donated cupcakes en masse. To gain entry to the event there was a suggested donation of $10 that got you 3 cupcakes and a coffee. All proceeds went to the Kids Help Phone. Go to their website and their Flickr album to find out more about the winners of the competitions and the judges (The Youppie cupcake was phenomenal!)
It was a fantastic way to spend a Sunday.

This was my cupcake, not too popular I don't think but I tried...

and these are the ones we picked to eat (yum yum yum)

I’ve been wanting to do some sort of ‘mock porchetta’ for a while, however I don’t have a piglet with all of his bones removed (a ‘pig cape’, as I’ve heard it described). But I did have a center rib loin roast. I figured I could make a vague approximation of the porcine treat. When it came to actually assembling it and cooking it, I was woefully short on time so let’s just toss the whole idea of it resembling a porchetta out the window. Basically it was pig, and it was rolled, and that’s where the similarities end. We made the rolled roast with Risotto-style orzo in parmesan broth and caramelized onions, porcini butter sautéed asparagus, and the roasting vegetables.
Recently I was told that my recipes are a little hard to follow since they’re more in story format than in regular recipe format. So I will try to remedy that by listing the ingredients like a real grown-up recipe (Thanks Julie for the constructive suggestions! Always looking to improve. p.s. check out her blog at

1, 2-3 lb Center rib loin roast (Pork)
¼ - ½ cup coarse salt (not fine, the coarser the better, that way it doesn’t dissolve as it draws out the moisture in the meat)

1 bulb fennel (fronds trimmed and base removed 1/3 of bulb is needed for this stage)
1 tbsp capers
¼ cup or 1 small bunch flat leaf parsley
1 anchovy (optional)
1 sprig rosemary (1 tbsp fresh or ½ tbsp dry)
4 cloves of garlic
½ tsp ground sage (or 1 tsp fresh chopped sage)
¼ cup white wine (preferably one with a strong flavour)
1 tsp chopped or grated lemon zest
Salt and pepper (not much salt is needed as the meat will be salted)

Additional Materials:
Aluminum foil
Kitchen twine (natural fibers like cotton) 5 -6 lengths pre-cut, you don’t want to be messing around trying to find scissors with your hands covered in pork.

I also used
2 carrots chopped into chunks
2/3 of the fennel bulb sliced to ¼” thickness
2 shallots, peeled and quartered
A light dusting of onion powder, salt, and pepper
3 tbsp oil (canola or vegetable)

First I placed the meat in a small tightly fitting dish and covered on all sides with the coarse salt. It only needs to be in the refrigerator for a few hours like this. Overnight will yield a really salty meat. After 2-4 hours remove and rinse thoroughly.

Then take a long chef’s knife or boning knife and start cutting into the side of the meat at about 1 – 1 ½” thickness. Don’t cut all the way through. When you reach 1 – 1 ½” from the edge, open the meat up like a book and cut into the thicker flap so that it is also 1 – 1 ½” thick. Basically we are making a jelly roll out of our meat. I think this site might describe it better, if you don’t understand my horrendous description.

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Then, take 1/3 of the fennel bulb, the capers, parsley, sage, rosemary, anchovy and lemon zest and put in a small food processor. Chop or grind until it forms a rough, chunky paste. Then add the white wine and whizz it a little longer. Season if necessary. Make sure you line your working surface with tin foil because it will juice all over the place. And YOU WANT TO SAVE THOSE JUICES! Spread the filling over the inside of the meat and roll up the meat as tight as possible. It will be smaller in width than the original piece of meat. Tie it up tightly with the string and put into roasting pan. The green juices that have spilled into the foil can be poured onto the meat. If you’re using roasting vegetables put them in the pan and dust with salt, pepper, and onion powder then pour some oil (2-3 tbsp canola or veg, not motor oil) over everything.

Place the roasting pan in the oven (450°F) for 20 minutes or until it has browned on top, then turn the heat down to 325°F for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let it rest for at least 20 -25 minutes. Feel free to shorten cooking times if you have a smaller piece of meat or if it looks like it is cooking more quickly. The last thing we want is sawdust pork. That's the #1 reason why people say that they don't like pork. Don't fear the medium rare pork, changes in swine farming in feeding habits and keeping have made sure that not cooking pork to the point of sawdust is perfectly healthy. (That being said, do NOT take the same attitude for pork sausage as the meat comes from all over the animal and can be subject to some contaminants -- cook sausages well)

Our accompaniments included asparagus sautéed in porcini butter (I bought that, but regular butter works too) and Risotto style orzo with caramelized onions.
For that you will need
½ cup orzo
1 ½ cups chicken stock
Water to add
Olive oil
1 chunk of Parmesan rind that has been cut into smaller chunks. Most places who grate their own Parmesan will sell the rind cheaply you can add it to stocks or sauces to add that cheesy flavour.
2 red onions
Put the chicken stock and parmesan chunks into a saucepan and simmer for about 20 minutes to infuse with the cheesy flavour

In separate pan heat olive oil and sautée pasta for about 30 seconds. Add to saucepan and turn up the heat to bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the orzo begins to be a little dry. You can add some water to prevent it from sticking if the pasta is not full cooked. Once most of the liquid is absorbed remove from heat and let it rest for about 5 minutes. The result will be starchy and gloopy. You can remove the parmesan chunks and discard, or you can chop them really small (they will be a lot softer at this point) and return them to the orzo.

Add to that, thinly sliced onions that have been caramelized in a separate skillet. (Cook over medium low heat until the onions are brown and jammy, you can add a little water now and then to recuperate the browned bits in the pan) Sorry about the picture, apparently it’s not very appetizing, but I didn’t have a chance to re-take the picture. Suffer bitches! : )

So then we cut the pork into ½” slices, after the appropriate rest period.
(about 20 -25 minutes, cover with foil if you're afraid of it going cold or drying out)

And the final product :)

I’m trying to do less meat based things, Kyle and I have resolved to thin down a little bit, so you can look forward to a few more healthful selections. But a person’s got to live a little too…
Thanks guys! And tell your friends (whatever that means)

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Ground Cherry Jam and Other Stories

Well this post was supposed to be about my adventures in Jamland (a principality of the Indepentant Republic of Confiture) but I had such an interesting day today that I had include that too. Firstly, I visited the Salon des Vins et Fromages and sampled some GREAT local wines and cheeses. Notably a selection of 4 goat cheeses and 2 goat sausages from La Chevriere de Monnoir. I bought a bottle of wine from Carone Wines, Bin33 it was called.

Unfortunately I lost 11 of my 30 coupon tickets so we left a little early. THEN we headed to the old port for oysters at Mechant Boeuf. It was my first time eating oysters, and frankly I was terrified! Although I didn't like the little sauces they gave me (Red wine vinegar and shallot sauce was fruity and a little cloying. Tarragon and Pernod was okay but nothing stellar) but with a little lemon juice and tabasco, they were decent.
Sure, sure, a little boogery, but not horrific like I have been told. And the flavour was really good, I will definitely re-try. I'm impressed with myself! Perhaps though, 13 oysters was a little much for a maiden voyage.

Okay on with the Jams and Jellies! I saw Aimée Bourque of Under the High Chair's Jam Swap and decided I wanted to participate, but I'm not a sweets person so I needed practice. I don't think this post really qualifies for the Jam swap, since it is a bit wobbly, but it was a great inspiration. I started with sparkling wine jelly, but not only did it not set well but I think I added too much sugar. I decided to add more pectin to help with the gelling, but I used the crystals and... well you can see what happened to it. Idiot that I am, I saw it in the fridge and thought the crystals were bubbles. I was all impressed that the sparkling wine kept the bubbles. Yeah, no....

Okay! Try #2 I will use fruit, and I will use liquid pectin (I'll save the Jam sans added-pectin for a more experienced effort. I.e. some other time). A few weeks ago it was ground cherry mania here in Quebec. I bought 3 containers and set about hulling them. Here below are ground cherries.

And these are the hulled specimens, 17 hours later. Okay not 17 but it took about 1/2 an hour to hull the little buggers.
I ended up with about 3 cups.

And 1/2 cup of sugar
(2 x 1/4 cup. I know, I know, the picture is of a 1/4 cup... geez!).
It really was enough, I can't imagine throwing 2 cups of sugar in there. We're making JAM here people, not candy!

The ground cherries went into the pot with 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water, plus 2 tbsp lime juice.

And then it goes KERRAAZY with the boiling! Once they get soft and start swelling and/or bursting, go at them with a potato masher. I then added a pouch of liquid pectin and boiled for about 5 minutes.

Here is the final product. It is still a little loose, but FAR more successful than the wine jelly. Without adding anything really there's almost a creamy vanilla flavour to it.

I think Kyle seems to think that it is too precious to slap on some bread and munch on, but I have pursuaded him...

Cheers my dears! Please comment, and bring your friends :)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Welcome to the gun show (she says, flexing) or are you CHICKEN?

Get it? Chicken?
Get it?
Enh? Enh?... I’m not funny

So um, yeah.
A little while ago, I met Caty (Not in person, on the twitterwebs). She is the master of Snack a very entertaining and informative blog that you should definitely check out. About 2 weeks ago, she challenged me to a blog showdown, a chicken showdown. I must say, I’m not feeling very competitive about this whole showdown, because a) I’m not sure how it will be judged and because b) I like Caty and I want us both to win, but I am very excited about the collaboration.
The recipe choosing process was a difficult one, I didn’t want it to be too elaborate to look like I was trying to show off and possibly set myself up for a horrific failure. I also didn’t want to go too simple and not really flex my guns. (hee hee) Tamales were a very close second choice, but never having made a tamale, the uncertainty got the better of me and I went with a braised lentil cassoulet thingie.

Ok so if I need to boost the competitive energy here, I’ll start off by saying ‘oh yeah New York, oh yeah?! Let’s go, you wanna go? Let’s go! I’ll wipe the floor with your chicken recipe! Montreal RUUUULES!!!’
Ok no, sorry, just kidding. I’m sorry, I’m sorry. We are both equally good. Please don’t be mad at me! (By the way, this is also how I discipline my cats.)

Speaking of cats, poor Olive thought that now that she's all famous, that there would be more fans knocking at her door

She's been looking everywhere! So I decided to throw a few pictures up on our blog of the littlest contributor.

Ok, the food. Right! Here's an unappetizing picture of 4 chicken legs marinating in buttermilk. And might I add that buttermilk stinks. Yum Yum. I marinated overnight.

There was a round of pancetta that I diced finely, I really don't need a reason to post a picture of pancetta, it's just a beautiful thing.

One diced yellow onion and a few (3-4) minced garlic cloves. There was also 2 carrots and 2 celery stalks that were diced, but not photographed.

I then browned the chicken legs in a hot, high-sided skillet, 2 at a time, and transferred them to a roasting pan and sprinkled with salt. I think next time, I'll remove the skins, they got a little too brown. At this point it's a good idea to preheat the oven to 400 - 375°F

Gratuitous shot of pancetta frying.

I then added the vegetables (onions & garlic first, then carrots and celery about 1-2 minutes later) After frying for about 5 minutes total, the vegetables start creating enough steam amongst themselves to start lifting the brown bits from the pan. At this point I added about 1/4 cup of white wine to help it along. Check out the gross stovetop. I really made a mess that night!

Once that was done and the pan was relatively clean under the veg, I mixed with 2 cups of green lentils (rinsed) and added to the roasting pan. Chicken on top, with many stalks of thyme. Then I added another 1/4 cup of wine and about a cup of chicken stock, enough so that the lentils are covered in liquid.

After about 45 minutes in the oven, it should look like this. Cook it until your lentils are tender.

And then I took it into a subterranean cavern to add creme fraiche... ok no, it's just a bad picture. We're still in the kitchen. The only thing left is to pick out the thyme branches.

And serve! It is is sublimely tasty and fortifying. I hope you can get that from the photo.

Well, that's my effort for chicken challllannngge. Hope you like! xoxox
Cast your votes... or something. (Nothing pointy though)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

I Have a Disease So I Made Ricotta Gnocchi

Hey everyone, back again. So it turns out that I have a disorder, an illness in fact. It’s called Fancyizingosis. Monday night Kyle was at school and I thought ‘I guess I’ll have some KD for dinner’ (For any Americans reading this entry, KD is Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, I’m not sure that it is dubbed ‘Kraft Dinner’ south of the border). Immediately following this decision, I set about planning how to fancy-ize it. Should I make the sauce using crème fraiche, an anchovy and a little cayenne, then cover in aged Gruyère and broil it? Or hydrate the orange powder with white wine, plain yogourt, and pink peppercorns then toss in some baby zucchini, lightly fried in butter and garlic? Or in honour of his 250th birthday, simmer the noodles in a Guinness and then cover it in a blanket of Guinness Cheddar and stud the whole mess with tiny heirloom white currant tomatoes? Then I thought ‘Get over yourself! Can’t you just make a box of KD without messing with it somehow? Are you TOO GOOD for an honest Kraft Macaroni and Cheese?’ Well apparently I am, and not too proud of it either. It’s THE DISEASE! I tried to keep it simple, but the final KD ended up having the aged Gruyère in it and some sharp 3 year old Cheddar too. All of this to say that I took it as a sign that it was time to cook/blog on the C&O again. 7 out of 10 doctors agree that it is the recommended treatment for Fancyizingosis.

SOOOOOOOOO the next night I decided I needed to try to make gnocchi, but I read somewhere on the interwebs that ricotta gnocchi was light and pillowy as opposed to the traditional potato version which can be quite heavy. I don’t know if I agree with this assessment, but they were good. It also gave me the opportunity to use more squash soup, which miraculously refuses to spoil (YAY!). We still have an entire container left and the idea of tossing it down the drain does not appeal to me. If you do not have cauldron of soup left over from a family gathering or something similar, you could use a pre-packaged soup or puree, or blend up a bottle of roasted red peppers and simmer with wine and a little oregano. Or even your favourite tomato sauce.
One last thing to note before we get to the pictures, next week I will be participating in a blog showdown with Caty Marzi of Snack We are focusing on Chicken. However, she’s all about honest, non-pretentious food, so I may be at a disadvantage with my recent bout of Fancyizingosis. Can’t wait though, I’m really excited!

It starts with 2 cups of ricotta cheese (I used low fat, apparently that’s a taboo, but it turned out just fine)

I’m not entirely sure how much parmesan I was supposed to put in, but I didn’t have much left so I threw in the whole thing. It was about 1/3 cup.

Add 2 lightly beaten eggs

And 1 ¼ cups of regular flour, then some salt and pepper (I used white pepper to keep it clean looking)

The final dough will be VERY sticky. And although I don’t recommend it because of the raw eggs, I took a cue from the cats as to how to get any sticky dough off my hands… ANYWAYS, make sure that you flour your work surface and your hands, or the dough itself so that you can actually work with it.

Working in batches, roll it into logs about ¾ inch in diameter and then cut it into ½ inch slices.

You can pat it into little lozenge shapes and then put a fork imprint on it, but at that point my Fancyizingosis had abated and I gave up on the fork imprint fairly quickly.

Boil for 3-4 minutes and drain.

I simmered the squash soup with about 1 cup of red wine until it was dark and reduced to ‘sauce’ consistency. Look how satiny and savoury that looks! Or maybe it’s just me because I know how it tasted…

Then guess what you do with it?

Well that’s it for this time folks, don’t forget the chicken showdown next week. And I will try to include Mlle Olive herself in the next post, you know, since the blog is partially named after her. She’s not a very good writer though. xoxoxo