Friday, June 30, 2006

"C" Is For Cookie

....and that's good enough for me.

I was looking through a food blog called Milk And Cookies, and the latest entry is about a test you can take to determine what kind of cookie you are. Since I am a fan of OK, I'm the president of the Cookie Fan Club.... I thought that I would give it a try. Apparently, I am a Chocolate Chip Cookie. See, it says so right there.

You Are a Chocolate Chip Cookie

Traditional and conservative, most people find you comforting.
You're friendly and easy to get to know. This makes you very popular - without even trying!


Thursday, June 29, 2006

You Say "Tomato" - I Say, um, "Tomato"

Sometimes, taking a chance can pay off. I'm not normally a big fan of most kinds of cheese, but I've seen this salad on various food shows, and I thought that it looked pretty tasty. The cheese in question is fresh mozzarella cheese, and while I am definitely someone who enjoys a pizza from time to time, I have a hard time simply munching on pieces of cheese. I don't know why this is, but I've been like this for as long as I can remember.
Anyway, this is a Tomato Mozzarella Salad, and after making it a couple of times, I came to realize that, to my complete surprise, the most important ingredient in this recipe is the kosher salt.

"How", you may well ask, "did you come to this conclusion, O wise one?" Well, I'll tell you. But first, the recipe.

Ian's Tomato Mozza Salad
serves 2

2½ C (1 pint) cherry tomatoes, halved
2 large brown mushrooms, thinly sliced
150g (4 or 5 oz) fresh mozzarella cheese, broken into bits
fresh ground black pepper
pinch of kosher salt
olive oil
fresh basil, chopped
fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

* Mix the tomatoes, mushrooms, cheese together in a bowl.
* Add the pepper, salt and herbs and mix to combine.
* Drizzle some olive oil over the top.

The measurements are only a guideline, as I really wasn't paying attention to exactly how much of everything I was using. I've made this salad a few times over the past week, and the first time I made it, I didn't add any salt. It was tasty, but there was something missing. When I added the kosher salt to this version, the flavour of the tomato really popped, and it made for a much better salad.

I find this odd that plain old salt was the missing ingedient. The salad didn't taste like salt, it just tasted more like tomato. I know, I know, this is common knowledge, but I've never seen it demonstrated quite as emphatically before.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Get stuffed!

This is another recipe coming as a result of my trip to New Orleans last month (read the original post here), specifically from the burger I ate at a place called the RiverShack Tavern in Jefferson Parish. They serve a burger called the Shank You Burger, which is a patty of beef and one of hot sausage. It was a good burger, but I thought to myself at the time, "I can do better than this". So, upon my return to the Big Smoke, I endeavoured to put together an exceptional burger.The first stop on this journey, as with most of my culinary exploits, was the Grocery Palace. My intention was to create a burger with a combination of ground beef and pork, so I picked up a pound of lean ground beef, and because the Palace for some reason didn't have any ground pork available, I got four large honey-garlic sausages and just removed the casings later. In addition to the meat, I thought that it would be worth while to have some good bread for the burgers, so I got a nice baguette. Now, here's the fun part. I've noticed lately on various cooking shows, and in some cookbooks, that stuffed burgers are all the rage, so I bought a chunk of smoked mozzarella cheese for the filling. Mmmmmm....smoked mozzarella cheese....The trick with these is to make two thin patties, place the filling in the centre, then mush the two patties together, making sure that the edges are completely sealed so that none of the ooey-gooey goodness escapes prematurely. Here is the recipe I used.

Booya Burgers
Yield: 6 large burgers (and I do mean large)

500g (1 lb) lean ground beef
4 large honey-garlic sausages, casings removed (about 1 lb)
1/2 C oatmeal
1 large egg
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tbsp honey dijon mustard
1/2 tsp cumin
ground black pepper
1 serrano chilli, finely diced (optional)
100g (4 oz) smoked mozzarella cheese, cut into small chunks
** Approximate amount - use enough cheese for the six burgers

* Place all ingredients except the cheese together in a large bowl. Mix gently with your hands (rubber gloves might be an idea), until all ingredients have been incorporated and the mixture looks fairly uniform.
* Place in an airtight re-sealable plastic bag and refrigerate overnight to let the flavours combine.
* Remove from fridge, and form meat mixture into twelve (12) thin patties.
* Place a small mound of the mozzarella cheese on six of the patties, sprinkle with some ground black pepper, and cover each with the remaining patties, forming six large burgers.
* Work each burger with your hands until all of the edges are sealed, and pat down slightly so that the burgers are not too thick.
* Cook on the barbecue until well done. These are pretty big burgers, so they'll take longer than you'd expect.
* Serve on crusty baguettes, with your choice of toppings (I suggest sliced tomatoes, sliced dill pickes and mushrooms)

Now, I had to decide how to cook these wonders of carniverous engineering. Pan-frying them on the stove seemed like a waste of time with burgers like these, so I decided to break out my camp stove, and cook them in the driveway. I love my camp stove. I haven't had a chance to go camping yet this summer, so it was a good opportunity to pull it out of storage and fire it up one or twice. Besides, the smell of the cooking burgers would drive the neighbours up a wall.After cooking the burgers, I dropped the french bread on the grill for a minute to crisp it up a little. There's nothing like fresh bread to go with barbecued burgers. I then garnished my creations with some sliced tomato, dill pickle and some mustard, and had at them. I can honestly say that I have never had a better burger. There was no way I could eat all four of the burgers I cooked, so I wrapped two of them up and put them in the fridge for the next day's lunch and dinner.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Food Fit For A King

As an epilogue to my two previous posts (read them here and here) about my trip to New Orleans, I thought that I would say a few words about the trip home. Since we were heading back through Tennessee anyway, and since it only added about an hour or so to the trip, we thought that it would be pretty cool to stop at Graceland on our way through.We didn't actually eat in any of the restaurants at Graceland, but while we were there I had the strangest craving for a deep-fried peanut butter and banana sandwich. I made a mental note to attempt it when I got home.
I was quite impressed by Graceland, not so much for the mansion in and of itself, but for the sense of walking in the footsteps of greatness. In fact, I was a little disappointed by the house, because although it's a very nice house, it's not unusually large or particularly tricked-out. This, I came to realize, is not the point. There's no flash photography allowed inside the mansion, so I don't have any pictures of the Jungle Room or the Media Room, but just the implied activities that probably went on there were enough to make me stand in one spot, looking around with a goofy grin on my face. Elvis was a very cool guy, and it's too bad he's not still around.When I got home, my plan was to improvise some sort of deep-frying apparatus using a large pot and various lifting implements, so it was off to Canadian Tire to purchase a wire mesh lifter and possibly some sort of wire basket for inside the pot. Well, the stars must have been in alignment. When I got to the store, there was a clearance sale happening for a large pile of merch whose packaging had been either slightly or very damaged. What did I spy, but a deep-fryer unit with all of its parts in a really beat-up box, marked down from $129.99 to $60 then to $30! Sold. I drove off with my swag, giggling like an imbecile. The next stop was the Grocery Palace, for the requisite ingedients. I thought that Wonder Bread would be a good choice for the PBB sammies, so I picked up a loaf, along with a couple of bananas, and a jar of Kraft Creamy peanut butter. Booya!

Now, I checked out the 'official' version of Elvis' favourite sandwich, and it requires that you pan-fry the sandwich in a large amount of butter. I thought that I would try a slight variation on this theme, by coating the sandwich in batter, then deep-frying it in my new toy. Here's the recipe I used.

The Gallumphing Gourmand's Deep-Fried PBB Sammies
Yield: 8 little Nuggets of Joy

Sandwich Makin's
4 slices White Wonder bread
1 ripe banana, mashed
Kraft smooth peanut butter

Batter courtesy of CDKitchen (find it here)
½ C corn starch
½ C flour
1½ tsp baking powder
¾ tsp salt
1 dash sugar
½ C milk
1/3 C water

* Fill the deep fryer with oil and preheat.
* Spread some peanut butter on each piece of bread, covering right to the edges.
* Spoon a thick layer of banana on to two of the pieces, and place the other pieces of bread on top, making two sandwiches.
* Cut each Sandwich into quarters.
* Combine together the dry batter ingredients, then add the liquid and mix well.
* Dip each piece of sandwich into the batter and coat well, letting the excess drip off before placing in fry basket. Deep fry two at a time for about 2-3 minutes.
* Remove from deep-fryer to absorbent paper towels, and blot to remove any extra oil.
* Cut each piece in half diagonally, and dust with powdered suger. Devour immediately.
For a 'what-the-hell' kind of recipe, these turned out really well. I was initially concerned that the batter was going to be too heavy, but it was just right, giving the sandwiches a bit of crunch, with the gooey PB and banana centre melting in the mouth. Also, I wasn't sure whether or not they would stay together in the hot oil, but they did, and came out golden brown and very very evil. This is not a sandwich to be eaten every day, but it's definitely worth a try at least once. You'll thank me.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Gallumphing Through The Big Easy - Part II: Laissez Le Bon Temps Rouler!

Let The Good Times Roll!While the remaining four days of our excursion to New Orleans were action-packed, we still managed not to rush around too much. It was simply too hot for that. After the first few days, we got ourselves into a good routine; stay out really late bar-hopping and catching some really excellent jazz and blues at numerous little clubs, then heading for home and sleeping late (the phrase for the week was, "It's 3pm, time for breakfast!"). Then we would take our time getting up in the morning, go to some neat little cafe or restaurant for breakfast, then spend the day touring around the city in the car, either getting a good look at the damage done by Hurricane Katrina in the Lower Ninth Ward and the surrounding areas or simply exploring, and checking out various places of interest.

One of these places was Jean Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop on Bourbon Street.Of course, it's now a bar. According to the plaque inside the place, this is the oldest bar in the United States, dating back to 1772. It looks it. There's not much in the way of electricity in the place, as the back room where we sat was completely in darkness until we lit some candles.
One of my favourite places we went to was a tiny little bar called The Spotted Cat on Frenchmen St. in the Marigny district, which is right beside the French Quarter. This place has a bar, a few chairs and a small stage. But the music that came out of that place was unbe-frickin-lievable. We caught a band called the Washboard Chaz Blues Trio (on Thursday? Friday? I can't remember), which was a harmonica player, a slide guitar player, and Chaz himself playing, you guessed it, a washboard. It was the nicest couple of hours I spent in a bar in recent memory.
Of course, we also sampled the local cuisine in our ramblings, and one of the places we went to was Mona's Middle Eastern Cuisine, also on Frenchmen St. In addition to the traditional Middle Eastern dishes, Mona's also serves local favourites, like po' boy sandwiches and such. I'm a little embarassed, because for the life of me, I can't remember what I had to eat there. I know we started off with hummus and tabouli and pitas as appetizers, but after that all I remember is that I didn't have the catfish, because I'd had it the night before and was looking for something different. Oh well, it must have been good, or I would have definitely remembered what it was. Y'know, they say the memory is the first to go. I think. Anyway, did I mention that beer is available 24 hours a day, from every store? There's got to be a connection there somewhere......
OK, one other place we visited, on the insistence of Paul's friend George, was the RiverShack restaurant in neighbouring Jefferson Parish, which apparently is the "Home of the Tacky Ashtray". We all had what was listed on the menu as a "Shank You Burger", consisting of a patty of beef, and one of hot sausage. Quite tasty. In addition to the burgers, we had Gator Bites (alligator sausage), and Fried Pickles.
After almost a week packed full of shenanigans, we had seen and done a lot, but not nearly as much as we had wanted to. As Paul put it, "That's OK, it just means you'll have to come back." Yes, it does.

I'll leave you all with a picture of the sun setting over Lake Pontchartrain.Ahhhh.