argentina’s charms

I have recently returned from my second trip to Argentina for my current employer..

While the work is generally hard, and I don’t get a lot of time outside of the office, what little time I do have to enjoy Buenos Aires is spent eating.

Here is a perfect summary of that experience, amazing writing, the sort I wish I had time to craft myself: Argentina on Two Steaks a Day.

I disagree with some of the opinions expressed; for instance, dulce de leche is fantastic in alfajore cookies and spread on your Sunday morning biscuits.My experience with mate is that I don’t get jittery like I do on coffee, and I don’t get tachycardia unless I drink 15 or 20 gourd-fuls, but Iwillingly admit it’s full of caffeine. (I suspect I’m sensitive to one of the other thousands of alkaloids in coffee that’s not present in mate. Why the obsession with just the one alkaloid, anyway?)

A worthwhile read, which should make your salivary glands kick into action (except you vegetarians out there. And you should read this anyway, since the Argentine approach to animal rearing is vastly more humane and reasonable than the North American approach.)

bananas are going extinct

I can’t believe I didn’t know this…bananas are going extinct. They have before (Gros Michel is no more), and will again (Cavendish is 100% seedless and hugely susceptible to a specific fungus now hell-bent on world domination).

We may be eating Goldfingers soon instead.

I guess it’s a good thing I love plantains!

thanksgiving 07

So I didn’t get into the studio. A pity. Instead I was helping to tear up the backyard for the new workshop/garage (photos shortly), and cooking Thanksgiving dinner yesterday. Thanks to everyone who came over to help work in the backyard, or to eat food!

That means, instead of making music, I turned this:

Raw turkey 2007

Into this:

Cooked turkey 2007

The full menu was as follows:

  • Roast turkey (hormone and antibiotic free, from Rowe Farm Meats; brined and cooked Alton Brown style)
  • Turkey gravy, made purely from the pan drippings and giblets
  • Sweet corn bread stuffing (Alton Brown style)
  • Halved boiled sweet potatoes (sometimes, simple is best)
  • Whole-berry orange/cranberry sauce (C. brought this – delicious!)
  • Halved, steamed fresh organic Ontario Brussel Sprouts in Mustard Butter (don’t knock ’em if you’ve never had ’em fresh from the farm, steamed properly!)
  • Cherry cream cheese streudel (bought at the St. Lawrence Market)
  • Peach Chiffon Pie (recipe below the fold)
  • Apple Ricotta Coffee Cake (tip: don’t use a food processor, just cut the lard in. And use animal shortening!)
  • Fresh vanilla tea, fresh whipped cream

Continue reading

chicago pizza take 1

After having lived in Chicago for 10½ years, pizza that’s 3″ thick and full of cheese kinda gets into your blood. I’ve been making Chicago-style deep dish pizza for a number of years, mostly because it’s impossible to get outside of the city. (No, Uno’s doesn’t count. Especially not if you ever had the privilege of going to the original Uno’s. Or the original Gino’s East, with that delicious corn bread crust. Or Giordano’s. Or tasted Edwardo’s stuffed spinach pizza. Or Lou Malnati’s – still my favourite place to head when I have a few hours layover @ ORD.)

Speaking of Edwardo’s, this weekend’s experiment was a stuffed spinach and onion pizza, topped with peameal bacon. That’s what you Americans like to call Canadian bacon, though it’s virtual impossible to find real peameal bacon south of the border.

I’ll post the recipe later – I’m still tweaking it, it’s a combination of my friend Fred’s recipe and one I’ve been working on independently – but this week’s experiment included the following ingredient variations:

  • Whole wheat flour (because I’ve run out of all-purpose)
  • 1 lb. fresh spinach, wilted in hot pepper olive oil with fresh garlic, stems left on
  • A large handful of fresh oregano and basil from the backyard garden
  • Pecorino romano instead of parmesan cheese
  • Layering, from bottom to top:
    • whole wheat crust
    • brushed with hot pepper olive oil
    • 80/20 mix of shredded mozzarella / shredded romano
    • homemade pizza sauce, from scratch, including fresh herbs
    • Wilted spinach, prepared as above
    • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped, raw
    • More 80/20 cheese mix
    • 3-5mm slices of peameal bacon, quartered
    • 20/80 mix of shredded mozzarella / shredded romano
    • edge of crust brushed with melted butter, then re-brushed halfway through baking

The result was outstanding:

Partially-eaten Chicago deep dish stuffed spinach and onion pizza.

The photo was taken after the pizza had cooled off a bit, so imagine it just oozing with juices and smelling outrageously delicious.

Fixes for next time: cook the sauce a bit longer, it was too watery; replace some of the average-grade mozzarella with buffalo mozzarella, especially in the top 2 layers; try a 50/50 mix of white/whole wheat flour in the crust, or possibly corn meal for a corn bread crust.


P.S. This is my 500th post!
P.P.S. Yes, that’s my Kohjinsha SH6 on the left there. I’ll post about it next.

butternut leek enchiladas with tomatillo salsa

Ingredients

Enchiladas:

  • 1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut into 2-3cm cubes
  • 2 leeks, sliced on a 45° bias
  • 3 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1 tsp cumin, ground
  • 1 tsp marjoram
  • ½ tsp each white and cayenne pepper
  • Salt, pepper to taste
  • ½ cup olive oil (not extra virgin!)
  • 12 small corn tortillas
  • 2 cups grated cheese (I used an 80/20 mozzarella/pecorino romano blend)

Tomatillo Sauce:

  • 3 cups tomatillos, husks removed
  • 6 fresh Roma tomatoes
  • 3 jalapenos (canned or pickled are fine)
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro
  • 2 green onions
  • Salt to taste

Instructions

Preheat oven to 400°F. Place squash and leeks in a 9×13 Pyrex baking dish. Season with the garlic (pressed in a garlic press) and the other seasonings. Cover Drench in oil, then roast in the oven for 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the sauce: Boil 2 liters of water. Add the tomatillos and roma tomatoes. Continue to boil until tomatillos are soft, and roma tomato skins burst. Drain, then remove tomato skins. Place in a blender along with other sauce ingredients, and blend to desired consistency.

Remove baking dish from oven. Spoon squash-leek mixture into corn tortillas, adding about 1 tablespoon of grated cheese to each. Roll and place join-side down back in the baking dish. You will be able to fit 8 enchiladas in the center, then place the remaining 4 on the edges. Return to 400° oven for 7 minutes. Cover with Cover with ~1 cup of the sauce, then ~1 cup of grated cheese, then return to oven for a final 7 minutes.

butternut leek enchiladas with tomatillo salsa

Serve with quinoa, covered with the remaining sauce. Serves 4-6. Inspired by CSA farmer Sapelo Farms.

umeshu

A couple of weeks ago, I made some plum wine (umeshu) with Joanna and her adorable 19-month old daughter Isabella! It’ll be ready to drink in about a year — so Joanna can have a taste, but I think Isabella will still have to wait a bit longer.

You can see the process here. It’s quite simple. The hardest bit is getting the right kind of fruit. Umeshu is usually made from unripe, green plums. I substituted these delicious Ontario yellow plums, what the Quebecois would probably call “des prunes.”

First, sterilize your container. I used an old cookie jar with a sealable top I got at Value Village for about $1, then ran it through the dishwasher. (Be sure to take the rubber gasket off the lid first.) Layer your plums in the container with sugar. Rock sugar is preferable, but since I couldn’t find any, I used some organic sugar I got at the Bulk Barn.

Once you’ve layered the jar with the plums and sugar, you add the alcohol. Typically this would be shochu, a sort of Japanese whiskey made from rice (Suntory Whisky, anyone?). I substituted some cheap sake I got at the LCBO, and added a little Spiritus (95% alcohol) to get the mix around 70-80 proof (what you want).

Seal tightly and shake. Store in a dark, cool place, but not in the refrigerator. Ready in 1 year.

I sure hope it tastes good…

a week of accomplishments

This week I have:

  • passed my Gearing Up course, certifying me for an M2 motorcycle license (and a substantial insurance discount!)
  • with a substantial dose of doozer’s help, finished constructing the bike shed (photos to follow)
  • completed the remaining fixup required to my 1977 Honda CB750 (photos also to follow)
  • finished off a bunch of interviews
  • got promoted to Officer in Training with my crew in Puzzle Pirates, and received my officer training
  • got out of the house more than last week
  • cooked a lovely meal
  • helped a lovely woman and her 1 year old move into waynemanor
  • spoke with my advisor at OISE/U of T and feel hopeful about advancing into the Ph.D. program there

I feel…..fantastic!

loblaws villere

compare:
with

Loblaws used to own The Real Superstore chain in the states, which had a number of branches, including the (NOLA)-famous Canal Villere chain. There was another name Loblaws used, which had the logo rotated yet another 90 degrees, but I can’t recall it.

Thanks to Slimbolala, I tracked down another memory, this time of the wondrous price check girls in 2×2 1970s-style roller skates. Wonder if the Real Canadian Superstore near Don Mills & Eglington (Toronto, ON, Canada) still has the rollergirls….

Schwegmann’s holding company announced an auction of the long-time eyesore canal villere properties in June 1995. Seems like such a missed opportunity that no one set up a decent grocery store there…in fact, most of the grocery stores down there seemed decimated.