Tuesday, May 11, 2010

My (almost) last post ever.

I have finally made the very hard decision to shut down this blog. You will notice I said THIS. That is correct ladies and gentlemen, I have finally made the move to my own domain. It is about time, right?

From now on I will post to my new and fabulous website featuring an all new brand at: CommunityFoodist. Please have a look around and leave me some comments to let me know what you think, it is a new way of blogging for me and I hope you like it.

All of my content has been moved to the new site, along with some new ways of telling stories about food adventures in Toronto and beyond. This summer I will be blogging from Israel for a week and a bit and look forward to sharing those stories with you.

The new site is still very much a work in progress, and I hope to add some new features in the coming months.

Thanks for reading and for your continued support.

The CommunityFoodist

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Olives and grapes, who knew they were similar?

To experience these olive oils you can go to a dinner being hosted at Frida Restaurant on April 28th, click here for details.

Grapes make wine, and olives make olive oil. This is fact. Did you know that there is a level of appreciation to be had from olive oils that some of us might be missing out on? I did understand that olive oils had a complexity to them, but until this past week I wasn't subjected to an opportunity to really appreciate the differences. An invitation came from our good friends at Sizzling Communications to attend a Spanish olive oil tasting to be held at Pimenton, and here was my chance.
The lovely space at Pimenton

First, a little bit about Pimenton and chef Lola Csullog-Fernandez. At Pimenton they do prepared foods, pantry items, as well as catering and cooking classes. The food was really fantastic, and a nice treat to eat proper Spanish tapas prepared by a talented Spanish chef who actually has a Masters in Spanish Gastronomy. They do take out only, although there is a tiny barto sit and eat; the store is really cute and has a vibrant feel to it. Well worth a visit when you are in the gastronomic treasure trove that is the Mount Pleasent strip. 

The Menu:
Salachon Iberico Popcorn Croquetas
Spanish Potato & Onion Omelette - Tortilla
Mussels with Celery, Green Apple and Roasted Apple Gasuul Alioli
Pincho of Ensaladilla Rusa
Lamb Meatballs with Membrillo Oro de San Carlos Alioli
Charcuteria - Salichon & Chorizo Iberico Fermin
Deep Fried Pimenton Chickpeas

Olive oils used: Gasull and Oro de San Carlos

The food was fresh, tasty, and the flavours of Spain popped in your mouth. I would gladly have Chef Lola cater a cocktail party without hesitation. Favourites included the Pimenton Chickpeas (OMG good!), Lamb Meatballs, Mussels, and the Salichon.
Lamb Meatballs



Deep Fried Pimenton Chickpeas

The tasting was hosted by Dolores Smith, of Olivar Corporation, and they represent these fine Spanish olive oils here in Canada.  

What we tried:
Full Moon
Oro San Carlos
Rincon de la Subbetica
Dolores with Mary Luz from Sizzling Communications

Olive oil, as with wine, has different growing regions and many factors effect how the final product tastes. Even time of harvest has something to do with the final product, as with our first oil, Full Moon. This oil is literally harvested during the fall full moon and is one of the earliest harvested oils in Spain. The olives used in Full Moon are green fleshed olives and come from a very unique micro-climate in the region of Exremadura. It is pressed from the monovarietal arbequina olive grown in family-owned orchards and is pressed within one hour of picking in order to preserve the ripe flavour of the olive. This delicate oil is best used raw. 

Tasting notes, Full Moon: tomato, nutty, sweet, smooth, delicate, soft. Our friend David Ort noted "it smells like a tomato patch in July."
The sheet used for tasting notes

The second oil we profiled at the tasting was the Oro San Carlos, which is a coupage of arbequina and cornicabra varietals from the same region as the Full Moon. Again, these olives are pressed within 1 hour of the harvest, and they use the most innovative Pieralisi technology in this process. This oil is suited to cooking, and as we discovered in our tasting you can even poach salmon in good olive oil and it will not taste greasy but will be tender and fabulous. Dolores pointed out to us the importance of bottling in olive oil, as the dark glass and other wine bottle like features aids to preserve the delicate nature of the oils. 

Tasting notes, Oro San Carlos: herbal, leafy, hit of pepper on the finish, faint sweetness, delicate.

Overall my favourite that we tasted was the next oil, the Dauro. This oil is tremendously popular in Japan and is often used to mix with wasabi to smooth it out as well as winning many awards and been served at Nobel Prize dinners. Dauro is grown with no pesticides and the producers engage in a high biotechnology Integrated Crop Production Program which demonstrates their dedication to process. As we moved along we got more of the pepper on the back end and the flavours became more pronounced. It demonstrates that olive oil appreciation requires a training of your palette and a serious level of dedication. Here are my final tasting notes.
Green apple was used to cleanse the palette between oils

Tasting notes, Dauro: vague citrus, heavy quick bitter on palette with a heavier pepper note, as well very intense leafy green notes. It is an unfiltered oil so it is quite cloudy.

Tasting notes, Ame: grassy, buttery mouthfeel, intensity of pepper notes grow. This oil is a mix of 4 varietals, not just Spanish.

Tasting notes, Rincon: heavy herbal notes, pepper, intense buttery mouthfeel. This oil has won 65 awards from 2006 to present.

A selection of lovely Spanish wines thanks to Lifford Wine Agency 

You will be able to purchase the Full Moon Spanish olive oil soon at Pantry

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Foodgasm - Savoury Cheesy French Toast and Brisket Sandwich

I need to write this one up quick before my foodgasm wears off - I am literally tingling and full beyond comprehension. I was debating after a long day of working on my new website what to eat, and as usual crowdsourcing on The Twitter rules the day.

"French toast or brisket?" Love my foodie peeps! Bonita and Vicky to the rescue! Savoury French Toast and Brisket Sandwich, dont mind if I do! These ladies are serious, and their opinions should be heeded.

Okay, okay, enough with the story lets get on with the recipe.

Savoury Cheesy French Toast and Brisket Sandwich AKA The Foodgasm
Day old challah (from Harbord bakery, of course) or similar brioche type bread
3 extra large eggs
35% whipping cream
Grana Podano
Smoked salt
Hot paprika
Habanero flakes
Chipoltle tobasco
1 package of @BusterRhinosBBQ's Ontario famous smoked brisket!

  • Combine and stir all ingredients, and use your judgement with the spices and level of heat. I went heavy as I wanted a serious "from hell" kick to allow the smokiness of the brisket to be combatted and complimented. 
  • Soak the bread for 20 minutes
  • While soaking heat the brisket as per the instructions. Darryl's brisket is a boil in bag and takes 8 minutes from frozen.
  • Heat 2 tablespoons of butter in a pan and cook the toast until nicely browned.
  • Assemble and enjoy, but be sure you dont have to go anywhere as you likely will not want to move for a long time after this pure decadence. 
Get the flash player here: http://www.adobe.com/flashplayer

Thursday, March 18, 2010

For the love of deep frying

Recently, on The Twitter there was talk of Polenta Fries, something I have made many times. I was surprised that people actually had not hear about, or tried these delectable treats. It's a great way to use up left over polenta and change it up, especially if you are the only one eating and have a lot leftover. So easy to do and very rewarding from a taste and texture perspective.

I decided to do cubes this time, as they cook faster and more evenly, also I thought it would be more fun. At the last minute, I decided to throw some prosciutto into the hot oil and make chips to serve with the polenta and the Spicy Ketchup I mixed up. VERY tasty, both of these savoury morsels will most definitely be making an appearance at my next cocktail party. 

You could use homemade polenta, but I don't know if it would work as I have yet to make it from scratch. I just buy a log from the the grocery store, as I know the consistency works for this recipe.

Deep Fried Polenta Cubes with Spicy Ketchup
1 log of polenta
1/2 cup of flour
1 tablespoon salt
Oil for frying

I used regular ketchup and spicy chilli sauce 50-50 ratio for dipping.

  • The oil should be heated to between 350 and 375 fahrenheit, and you can test when it is hot enough with an all wooden chopstick, it will bubble when the oil is ready to go. 
  • Slice the polenta 1/2 inch thick and cut into uniform cubes so they all cook at the same rate.
  • Toss the cubes in the flour and salt, you can then shake them out in a wire colander back over your mixing bowl.  
  • Add carefully to the hot oil, I use my slotted spoon and slid them in so there is no splatter.
  • You will need to watch them carefully as they will cook in about 2-3 minutes.
  • When they are all floating they should be ready, but I left them in for an additional minute after that point. 
  • Remove with a slotted spoon and set on paper towel. 
  • Salt immediately. You can also apply parmesan at this stage for additional flavour if you are eating them plain.
  • They will cool relatively quickly and should be served hot.
Thats all folks, easy-peasy!

Sorry about these last two, I forgot to take pictures but did take some on my phone to post on twitter to tease everyone. 

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Food is Love - Dating and Cooking 101

Vanessa Yeung runs Aphrodite Cooks, a cooking school using the space at Nella Cucina on Bathurst north of Bloor.  This past winter, she ran 2 classes geared at singles, to which myself and some friends were invited by our friend Mary Luz Mejia from Sizzling Communications. This was an interesting format to meet other single people who were (hopefully) interested in cooking, meeting new people, and having some fun learning some new recipes.  The first class was for singles in their 30's and 40's, and the second was for 25-35's.

For those who are unaware, Nella Cucina houses a learning kitchen for demos and classes, as well as a retail store with every thing you could possibly want for your home or professional kitchen. It's a dangerous place full of goodies and one could get lost in there for quite a while, but emerge happy with many purchases. I also understand that they do knife sharpening, but have not used their service so I cant vouch for how good they are.

Vanessa, A great hostess and teacher, planned a well thought out menu, and the stage was set for learning and interacting. People are welcomed by the ever hospitable bartender, Wade, and then we are split into three groups. Next, an intro from resident head chef Joanne Lusted and it's off to the races! There are a few people around to help guide and advise, and at every table there seemed to be someone willing to take the lead and help everyone enjoy themselves. 

For me, it was very interesting to attend a cooking class, as the only lessons I had ever had were from the passionate cooks in my family. My friend, and fellow blogger David Ort, similarly had never really taken a cooking class, but we are both very familiar at finding our way in a kitchen. Others like Suresh Doss and Mark and Stacey from Tasting Toronto had been to similar classes in the past, but were also present to add an element of fun to the evening. It truly was a great experience, and I would highly recommend it as a fun and different thing to do on a Friday evening.

Also, at Nella on the second evening was Preena Chauhan of Arvinda's, that specializes in everything Indian in the cullinary realm. From cooking classes to spices, all of her products and recipes come from family recipes and I would think are highly guarded secrets. Preena was there to supervise the making of dessert which was a chai spice cake that was paired with Frozen Vines Pina Colada ice cream. 

The Menu:
Peking Duck Spring Rolls with Asian Plum Sauce
Mini Blue Cheese Bread Puddings
Wild Rice Salad with Almonds, Raisins and Sundried Tomatoes
Roasted Beet Salad with Dill, Walnuts and Goat Cheese
Couscous with Roasted Sweet Potato in a Maple Mustard Glaze
Green Mango Salad
Beef Pot Pie
Moroccan Spiced Grilled Quail with a Pomegranate Balsamic Glaze
Caramelized Pineapple Chai Bundt Cake

Some of the boys boning quails

Mango salad in the works
Discussing the Peking Duck Spring Rolls
Working on the Couscous
Plum Sauce
Yummy Beet Salad!
Preena talking cake, and the Pineapples getting ready for garnish

That is all for now, and if you want to sign up for any of the classes at Nella you cal check here or for Aphrodite Cooks, check the website here.

Peace, Love and Ice Cream

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Lusting for Luscious Lascivious Lemons

You will need:
8 fresh and firm lemons
1 jar of mixed peppercorns
3 large garlic cloves (we grown wonderful garlic in Ontario, please don't use the imported, the flavour is much too weak)
3 bay leaves, crushed
2 teaspoons whole coriander seeds
1 tablespoon whole cloves
9-10 tablespoons salt 
2 cups fresh lemon juice (approximately 12 lemons)

Spice mix - La Baleine sea salt, peppercorns (black, white, pink, green), whole cloves, 
coriander seeds, and bay leaves

Firstly, sterilize 4 jars, and lids. Then, wash your lemons thoroughly, and cut into quarters. Placing the garlic in the bottom of the jar add one lemon and sprinkle some of the spice mixture over top repeat with second lemon and more spice mixture. Pour 1/2 of a cup of lemon juice over the lemons and fill the jar with cold filtered water. Seal the jar tightly, and shake to dissolve the salt and evenly distribute the spices. Check the next day, and if the lemons are floating on top of the water just top off the jar and push them so they are submerged. Give a shake and leave them for 6 weeks before using. Once opened they should last for up to 1 year.
Easy, yes?
- properly sterilize your bottles or your lemons will go bad
- use a mild sea salt, or cut the amount down by 1 tablespoon
- no need to refrigerate, if stored in a cool dark place they should keep up to 1 year

Monday, February 1, 2010

What are you doing to help protect our oceans?

Started by the Vancouver Aquarium, Ocean Wise is a Canadian organization trying to do what they can to save our oceans. They just had their 5th birthday, and celebrated by showing the impact they have had at some local restaurants, by simply assisting them in serving items that were sustainably caught. The program is still very young in Eastern Canada but they have made strides and are increasing their list of participating restaurants.

Ocean Wise aims to "educate and empower consumers about the issues surrounding sustainable seafood". They work with both markets and restaurants to make sure that they have all of the tools possible to assist customers in making sustainable choices, and add demarcation to menus with their logo so smart choices can be made. The majority of the restaurant going public does not know what sustainable choices are, so this program is a starting point to education. The goal is to keep the ocean life healthy and abundant for generations to come. Not a bad idea, I figure.

More and more we have heard in the news the alarming rate at which our oceans are being overfished, and clearly if we do not take drastic action now this will cause irreversible damage to this crucial ecosystem. This will impact the wellbeing of our planet, and it needs to be more of a focus for society to stop this process dead in its tracks. It is not necessary to stop eating fish and seafood all together, but being educated as to the choices we make is very important.

From the Ocean Wise Literature:

What makes a seafood item Ocean Wise?
Ocean Wise choices are species that are:
1. Abundant and resilient to fishing pressure
2. Managed as part of a comprehensive plan based on current research
3. Harvested in ways that limit bycatch of other, possibly endangered species
4. Harvested in ways that limit damage to our ocean habitats

Sounds simple enough, doesnt it? A tip is that if you dont know if something is sustainable, to order a lake or river species as opposed to something from the ocean. It really isn't that simple, but it is a good rule. Also, ask questions about your food. We are becoming to trusting within food culture and we do need to know where our food comes fro, especially seeing as it is what sustains our life.

Some Toronto restaurants involved in the program:
Amuse-Bouche Restaurant
The Harbord Room
The Local Company
Trios Bistro

For more information visit the Ocean Wise Website or contact the local representative, Theodora Geach to become involved in the program.

It is up to all of us to change this path and correct the damage we have done.

Peace, Love, and Ice Cream.