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Saturday, November 1, 2008

Kitchen Gadgets & Sunchokes

I do love my kitchen gadgets. But like most people, I have to admit, over the years I have collected and hoarded those little things, in fact, I have two drawers teeming full. However, in reality, most of these gadgets warmed the bench and never really saw any game time.

Thus, in an effort to really only own the kitchen gadgets I need, I actively exercised restraint whenever I came upon on the Benriner mandolin slicer at my favourite Japanese grocery store, Sanko Trading. It sat on the top shelf of the small single aisle store with a little hand-written sign appealing to my food obsession nature: “Benriner Japanese slicer! Excellent for slicing! Now only $29.99.” Every time I stopped in, I’d stand in front of the Benriner, read the sign and say to myself, “You know, it would be so useful at home. It would really elevate my skills in the kitchen.” I always wanted one, and I imagined its razor sharp blades easily slicing through the hardest vegetables dispensing them into fine, papery slices or perfectly uniform matchsticks or batons. It took about four visits to that grocery store before I accepted my fate and bought the Benriner.

With the Benriner now at home, it needed an appropriate debut. This week at the Market, we picked up a knobbly, knuckly vegetable called a sunchoke (also known as, a Jerusalem artichoke.) In fact, I must confess, I didn’t know what it was initially. My husband pointed to what he thought was ginger, but when I saw it, it didn’t look quite right to me. At first glance, I thought it might be galangal, a pale rhizome bearing an uncanny resemblance to the ginger. But when I picked it up, it had no discernable scent. The woman at the market must have noticed my bewilderment, “It’s a sunchoke,” she advised.

A quick search on the internet revealed that sunchokes are a starchy tuber, similar to a potato in texture, but resembling a ginger. Therefore, sunchoke’s starchy nature was naturally suited for a lovely re-imagining of a classic potato dish, Pommes Anna. And the Benriner did not disappoint. Smooth and sharp, it razed the hard nubby ‘chokes into delicate pedals in a matter of seconds. Within several minutes, the bowl of sunchokes turned into a pile of translucent papery shavings. Not quite ready to put the Benriner away, I also dispensed with a large garlic clove and a stalk of celery in the same efficient manner.

Oh the power of the Benriner! It is the one Ring to rule all kitchen gadgets.

In the spirit of full disclosure, this recipe does border on being fussy. We made this dish on the weekend when our night was all about a big dinner. Stayed tuned, I suspect a gratin dauphinoise (or potato gratin) will make it to the dinner table sometime soon.

Sunchoke (Jerusalem Artichoke) Pommes Anna

1 lb sunchokes – washed, peeled or unpeeled
1 large garlic clove
1 celery rib
3 tbsp butter

Handful of parsley
Salt and pepper
A squeeze of lemon juice to prevent the sunchokes from darkening

1. Very carefully, slice sunchokes on a mandolin (or food processor) into thin translucent slices over a bowl of water and lemon juice to prevent discolouration.
2. Process garlic and celery in the same manner in a separate bowl.
3. Drain the sunchokes and dry well with a towel.
4. Add 2 tbsp of butter to a large skillet.
5. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
6. Heat the skillet until the butter is melted and foamy. Turn heat down to low. Arrange approximately a third of the sunchokes, concentrically. Layer a 1/3 of the celery and garlic, repeat until complete.
7. Place a plate on top of the slices and weigh down with a large can.
8. Turn up heat to medium and cook for ten minutes.
9. Remove plate and can and dot the surface with the remaining tablespoon of butter
10. Place skillet in the oven and bake for another twenty minutes or until crispy and brown.
11. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Disclosure: I have no commercial affiliation to the Benriner; I am just a big fan.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

You Say Sustainable, I Say Delectable!

In an age of instant everything, the idea of being able to access whatever food our heart desires whenever we want, has indeed been a perk of our modern lives, particularly for us who live in colder climes.

Advancements in transportation, bio-science, and agricultural practices have exposed our palates to exotic flavours and delights we could only have dreamed about or read about in books about faraway places. However, the availability of new foods from the four corners of the earth has also come with another dark side. Global demand for certain foods has accelerated the depletion of these natural resources to the brink of extinction.

One case in point is a once-favoured fish, Chilean sea bass. Once featured prominently on the menus of many restaurants in this city, it is near impossible to find it today. In particular, Chilean sea bass has become the poster child for raising the awareness of the overfishing of certain stocks with several prominent Toronto chefs even removing this and other overfished species from their menus.

Chilean sea bass rose to be a favourite fish of mine because it possesses an intense rich buttery flavour. I think black cod, also known as sablefish, is a great substitute, and it’s a fish I can enjoy ethically for now.

Here is the simple way to prepare this wonderful fish. It’s very flavourful and super quick. This fish could be accompanied by a side of brown rice and stir fried vegetables topped with toasted cashews.

The Miso Glaze works well for other fatty fish like salmon.

Black Cod with Miso Glaze

Serves 2

2 fillets of black cod (sablefish)
1 tbsp miso
1 tbsp mirin
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1/2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp butter

sprinkle of black sesame seeds

1. Clean and pat dry the fillet.
2. Pre-heat broiler.
3. Whisk the miso, mirin, rice vinegar, and soy sauce together in a separate bowl until a thick smooth paste forms.
4. Heat a skillet at medium high, add butter until it is hot and sizzles.
5. Place fillet on the skillet, skin side down. Resist the temptation to move or touch the fish. Cook for about 5-10 minutes or until skin crisps up and the bottom of the fish starts to become opaque.
6. When the fish is cooked most of the way through, spoon miso paste over the top of the fillet.
7. Place under broiler until the fish is cooked and the miso glaze is golden. It happens quickly so don’t go answer your phone while your fish is in the broiler.

Weekday Meal Prep:
If you are serving this with rice and vegetables, the first thing is to get the rice cooking as it takes the longest and your vegetables prepped before you start cooking the fish so all the components of dinner are ready at the same time.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

What To Do With…. Romanesco Broccoli

A new feature I am introducing to my blog is “What To Do With…”

I believe people are inclined to try new foods, but they don’t know what to do with it or what it tastes like. Or alternatively, they know one or two recipes for a particular ingredient, but don’t know what else it can be used for. My goal for My Kind of Food is to have a repertoire of great handy ideas and sometimes recipes that will encourage you to try something new or to use an ingredient in a new way.

If there is an ingredient you would like to see for future, drop me a line! Suggestions are welcome.

My favourite part of going to the market is discovering something seasonal and fleeting. Something you can only savour at a special time of the year. Right now, the markets are carrying the Romanesco broccoli. It’s a really unusual looking thing. It looks like something out of a sci-fi movie: lurid lime-green colour, angular shape and a bumpy surface like that of an uninhabited planet. But if you think of it like any old broccoli or cauliflower, you'll find it's really simple to cook and enjoy.

The Romanesco is very similar to the cauliflower in both taste and texture and therefore, any preparation you use for cauliflower would be just as nice for the strange looking vegetable.

Some ideas of what to do with Romanesco:

1. Steamed and served with a béchamel or cheese sauce
2. Roasted with smoked paprika and butter
3. Made into a gratin with gruyere and cream
4. Sautéed with garlic and olive oil
5. Steamed and pureed into a soup
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