Saturday, April 24, 2010


I had a late start to that Saturday - the requisite "sleep-in" with a leisurely coffee and breakfast followed by catching up on some foodie TV. Note: that's not FoodTV, but 'foodie TV'. My viewing of choice is usually a combination of America's Test Kitchen, Nigella and the latest photogenic "It"-chef making his/her rounds. Eventually I scrubbed up and made my way to the grocery store to do my weekend shopping. This weekend, was a special occasion, I would be making my way to the nearest T&T Supermarket! Woo-hoo! T&T, if you're not familiar with this chain, is an Asian supermarket specializing in selling Asian groceries and produce, with a full-service Asian deli, fish market, butcher counter, bakery, etc. In short - my preferred destination on a Saturday afternoon! However, it is also the preferred destination of most people living in the vicinity. Yes, I can go at night on a weekday after work, but I like being able to spend a little time wandering the bustling aisles, picking one particular bottle of soy sauce (out of the dozens of brands offered) and waiting anxiously for my number to be called at the butcher counter.

Tip: If you're even remotely interested in getting a hunk of meat - go straight to the butcher first. Grab your number and THEN peruse the goods to pick out what you like. Better to stake your place in line than wait! Trawl the adjacent aisles during the wait to pick up any other groceries while waiting for "your moment". And it truly is "your moment" - the other shoppers eye you jealously while you walk up and down the case pointing and selecting the choice cuts of meat and receiving the undivided attention of the butcher.'s a great time while it lasts.

Anyway! As I scoured the produce section with my list, some small bundles caught my eye - shimeji mushrooms! These earthy beauties are offered in two colours or types - buna (brown) or bunapi (white). These are also called Beech or Clamshell mushrooms. I promptly picked up a package of each.
(beautiful, aren't they? Almost other-worldly...)

I returned home, itching to open and use my purchases. The meat was put in the fridge, the pantry bottles put away, produce out on the counter baskets, and then - the shimeji...the best for last. I opened up the plastic packaging and a plume of scent hit my olfactory senses. The smell was unlike anything I had ever experienced - it was musky, earthy, and I couldn't wait to put them to use! I was inspired by a recipe on the momofuku-for-2 website - my foodie counterpart had made a dish with butter and miso. What a terrific combination with mushrooms!

Shimeji Mushrooms with Peas

1 head of Shimeji Mushrooms
1 clove of garlic, finely minced
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons miso (lighter the better)
1/4 cup broth or water
1 teaspoon soy sauce
sesame oil
1/2 cup peas
salt & pepper
scallions for garnish (optional)

Gently clean the mushrooms - dust off any dirt and cut off the base root to roughly separate the mushroom stems.

In a small skillet, melt the butter over medium high heat. When the butter starts to bubble, add the garlic, cook until softened. 

Add the mushrooms and saute for 3-5 min until they have softened. Add salt and pepper (pinch or generous grind of each)

Add the miso first and then the water or broth. Gently dissolve or mix the miso into the liquid, careful not to disturb the mushrooms too much. Let the miso broth bubble for a few minutes. 
Add the peas - cook until tender.
Add the soy sauce and stir gently. Dab a few drops of sesame oil and mix.

Remove skillet from heat and plate - top with scallions.

(Suuuurved up with a side of sticky rice! Boo-yeah! And yes, I used more than 1/2 cup of I like peas!!)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Cake and Ice Cream

What a classic combination!
Seriously - everything is better, a la mode! I can just see it rib with a scoop of horseradish/butter frozen souffle...mmmmm... I bet that would taste amazing. Just imagine gently gliding that scoop of condiment over a hot slice of beef, watching the frozen quenelle slowly meeting (or meating, hee hee) it's fate as it sinks into every tender, pink-red pore.

But let's go back to the sweet side of this combination.

I spent a few days in la belle province last fall and partook in a cooking class, en francais! We made a potage, veal steaks with mashed potatoes and a delicious apple cake soaked in syrup. Maple syrup. You all know how I feel about maple, right? Hahaha - this cake didn't disappoint! Small individual ramekins filled with apple-flavoured cake soaked in a deadly maple syrup. Served warm. With a scoop of ice cream. Nothing better on a cold day.

I bring to you, "Renverse de pommes rouges a l'erable" (accent markings missing on a few of the letters, my apologies) from Ateliers et Saveurs. If you're in Vieux Montreal, I highly recommend a visit!

100g salted butter
100g sugar
100g flour
50g almond meal/finely ground almonds
10g baking powder
2 eggs
1 apple, diced in small cubes
2 tablespoons applesauce

250ml (1 cup) water
100g sugar
25ml maple syrup

Preheat your oven to 400F

In a mixer, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add one egg at a time, followed by the applesauce and then the dry ingredients.
Gently fold in the apples.

Divide the batter among ramekins - I use about 8, but they specified 4.
Bake until golden and a tester comes out clean, about 20-25 min.
(the recipe 'says' 8-10 min, but it took A LOT longer, and during the class, I could tell it took much longer than 8-10 minutes)

To prepare the syrup:
In a saucepan - heat the water, syrup, and sugar until the sugar has dissolved and the syrup has reduced a bit (I couldn't tell what the recipe said, I let it boil for a solid 15 min or so).

CAREFULLY ladle syrup over the cakes. If you're having difficulties getting the syrup to 'soak' right away, take a skewer and pierce a few holes to get it started.

Serve warm with a generous scoop of ice cream.
(in this case, a scoop of lemon thyme ice cream)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Goma Ice Cream with Kinako

Quick update:

Not the sexiest photo, I know - but it's got some interesting dimension! Kinako is toasted soy bean flour. I haven't done enough research on whether or not it's the flour that is toasted or the soy bean before grinding. Anyway - it's delicious! Like a mild peanut butter for those not familiar with the taste.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sandwich Saturday

I had a really mellow this weekend. It helped that the weather in this corner of the world was spectacular - a beautiful spring break. The sun was shining, but it was still rather cool and I wore a vest over my sweatshirt while wandering around my neighborhood. One perk that results from the seasonal change is the different types of produce available. Hooray for fruit! I scored some Alphonso mangoes for a pretty decent price - I've been having one every morning for the last week or so and I get quite a few envious looks around the workplace watercooler as I prepare my breakfast. It's such a fantastic way to star the day and they are so easy to eat! I was also tempted to buy a bunch of well-priced asparagus, but...err...wasn't too keen on the after-effects of eating asparagus. I am definitely a part of the population that suffers from that peculiar side effect of eating asparagus. Too bad, because I really like asparagus!

Anyway, getting back to the topic at hand - I was digging around my fridge and trying to find something to eat for a post-gym snack. I had leftover chicken and scallions = chicken salad it is!
Note: I love onions. Seriously - if they didn't cause such stinky breath I would eat onions ALL DAY. I can never leave a grocery store without grabbing a bunch of scallions.

Here is my rough recipe for chicken salad:

Take a medium bowl and mix together = chopped up chicken (breast, leg, whatever), scallions (I put three, for the more moderate - maybe just one, hee hee), 1 rib of celery finely chopped, 1/2 cup mayonnaise, 2 cloves of pressed garlic (passed through a garlic press), salt and pepper to taste. Mix well - add more mayonnaise if you prefer. I would also recommend 1/2 an avocado finely chopped.

I was thinking up of sandwich pairings and like ice cream, the possibilities are endless! It really depends on your taste. For this spring day, I chose sliced apples, avocado, and lettuce. The apples added a beautiful crunch and sweetness to each bite and I would highly recommend it! The next day, I did Laughing Cow cheese, apples, and toasted almond slices on top of baguette.

Oh yeah. A spoon can dream. And make it into reality! Unfortunately, I was too hungry to take snaps of the baguette-wich, so you'll have to make do with the Saturday meal. And yes, my sandwich is held together by generic "whole wheat" bread. Others have vices like Twinkies or french fries - mine? Dirty, generic, not-enriched bread.

It goes without saying that I can't wait for summer - BBQ time!

Friday, April 9, 2010

More Matcha

Round two! *ding, ding*

Time to bring out the matcha again! Actually, to be honest, it was still sitting on my counter after making ice cream. I asked my Toronto cookie pal if he would be nice enough to host a friend (dropped birthday cake) for a couple of nights while she was in town. He graciously obliged and we (dropped cake friend) were busy making cookies to make up for her stay.

I opted with blondies and Matcha shortbread! Oh, I love shortbread. It's a sinful treat that I usually indulge in during the holidays, but sometimes....on a cold, rainy day - there is nothing more satisfying than a crumbly piece of buttery, buttery goodness. Oh....butter. It's also a fantastic cookie to ship as well. Yes, it's kind of gross when you think about it - a standing box of buttery cookies - but think about it, it doesn't go stale, doesn't become chewy - the flavours actually tend to mellow out and it hardens up a bit, which makes it perfect for a long-haul trip! The blondies (or brownies) are also perfect for travelling - keep them tightly wrapped and they'll stay chewy and dense for a while (if they're not eaten first!).

This recipe is another one from an old Martha holiday issue, but interesting enough, I was never interested in trying it. Matcha fear rears its ugly head, I suppose. In the recipe photo, the cookies are artfully cut out using leaf cookie cutters. Unfortunately, the only leaf cookie cutter I have is a maple leaf, and I don't think it would be particularly appropriate for this recipe. I did want to stay with the theme and do a leaf cut-out, so I cut the leaf shapes by hand and scored veins on top. The veins looked a little haphazardly done, but after baking, they actually 'puffed' out quite nicely! I think they look rather artistic, actually!

Oh lord. I just spotted on the recipe that it's from 2001. Wow. Took me nearly 10 years to evolve my taste to work up the gusto to make this recipe, hahaha.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Black and White?

Actually, I like sepia more.

Is this photo in black and white?

It was actually taken in colour! This, my friends - is the glory of goma ice cream, or black sesame ice cream. I had lunch with a friend recently and we shared a serving of goma ice cream with kinako (toasted soy bean flour) sprinkled on top. Amazing. Actually, it was a revelation. Clearly, it affected me because I could not stop thinking about it until I could replicate it at home. The flavour, is a bit more pronounced than the restaurant original, but the colour is no where close. The restaurant ice cream was black. Inky, dark, opaque black. Even with food colouring, I couldn't get close. Well, I suppose if I had emptied the entire container of food colouring, maybe, but that's a little too artificial for me. But I am very happy with the results, even though the colour isn't exactly what I had hoped it would be.

There are a lot of goma recipes out there, but none of them have pictures of the dark ice cream I sampled last week. Oh well - it must be food colouring, then. In contrast to some of the recipes out there, I used a 'black sesame drink' powder as well as ground black sesame. The 'black sesame drink' powder definitely thickened the custard quite a bit and was a good base to work from. Maybe I like my goma ice cream strong, but I added a LOT more ground goma than what is 'recommended'. I put in a good...1/4 to 1/3 cup - but it's really to taste, I suppose.

If you're a fan of black sesame like myself, give this recipe a try!

Goma Ice Cream
(makes a approximately 1L)

2 cups light cream (18%)
1 cup half&half (10%)
4 egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
1 packet black sesame drink powder
1/2 cup black sesame powder (ground black sesame)

Heat up creams and 1/2 cup sugar in a saucepan until thoroughly 'scalded' - or until it reaches about 165-170F on an instant-read thermometer. Basically, heat it until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is RIGHT BEFORE boiling point. Turn off heat.

Take about 1/2 cup of the mixture and dissolve the drink powder. Let stand for about 1 minute before adding this back into the saucepan, whisk the mixture well to incorporate the drink powder mixture.

While the cream is heating up, whisk the egg yolks with the remaining sugar (1/4 cup) until the yolks have thickened and lightened (about 1 minute by hand). Add in about 1/2 cup of the hot cream mixture to temper the eggs. Add in the yolk mixture to the cream.

Heat the cream back up to about 180-185F, also just under boiling. While the cream is heating up, add in the ground sesame powder until the desired flavour has been reached. When the mixture has reached the optimal temperature, strain the custard into a bowl set in an ice bath.
Alternatively, let the mixture cool a bit (about an hour or so) and let chill.

In order for the ice cream to 'form' properly, the mixture MUST BE completely chilled! Either work with the ice bath until it has been chilled, or let it hang out in the fridge overnight. Once it has been chilled, follow the ice cream maker's instructions to prepare.

Kinako topping optional ;P

My Ice Cream Maker Survived a Near Death Experience

I picked up the phone and shakily dialed the number that I have dialed so many times before. It rang a couple of times before a familiar voice greeted me. I asked for J right away.
"Hello, J speaking"
"*laughter* What??"
"*more laughter* How??"
"I was making ice cream, and I put the ice cream maker in another room because it makes such a racket... And I was jamming to some really good music and I like, forgot about it for an HOUR! And now the machine's really hot and it's not turning on, and there's a smell..and....and..."
" do make a LOT of ice cream."
"But I wasn't ready to say good-bye!!"

Long story short - after I hung up, I plugged it in and all was good. Unfortunately, I didn't chill the bowl long enough and will have to wait until tomorrow to test out the goma ice cream. I did managed to churn out one batch before, errr...the incident. All is good! I'm back in business! Thanks to J for coaxing me back for the edge and to the store for offering me a good deal on a replacement. I really was about to jump in my car to pick it up. But I thought I would give it one last shot, and luckily - it worked!

I'm not afraid to admit that I was close to tears.

So many good times, and so much excellent ice cream - I wasn't ready to end the dream. Next time I'll have to set up an egg timer to remind me to check!