Korean Fist-Rice with Fried Seaweed, Prosciutto and White Truffle Oil

Korean Fist Rice with Fried Seaweed Prosciutto and White Truffle Oil 2

Of all the comfort foods I have grown to love here in Korea, Joomeok Bap, or Fist-Rice has become one of my favourites. This snack is healthy, tasty, easy and satisfying to make. It is perfect to bring on a picnic or as a pick-me-up when outdoors.

Korean Fist Rice with Fried Seaweed Prosciutto and White Truffle Oil

Fist-Rice is traditionally made by hand-mixing various vegetables, as well as ground beef or dried anchovies with rice. The mixture is then tightly packed into individual, fist shaped balls.  The best of the bunch uses crumbled seaweed (kim ga-ru). This is because Korean seaweed is deep-fried, salted and flavoured with sesame seeds, perilla oil and a pinch of sugar. The stuff is salty, greasy and delicious, so it’s easy to devour an entire bag in one go.

Korean Fist Rice with Fried Seaweed Prosciutto and White Truffle Oil 1

The combination of flavours in this dish are so glorious, it brings tears to my eyes. Land and sea take hand and make beautiful fist shaped babies.

Korean Fist Rice with Fried Seaweed Prosciutto and White Truffle Oil 3

Korean Fist-Rice with Fried Seaweed, Prosciutto and White Truffle Oil

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of uncooked sticky or glutinous rice
  • 4 cups water
  • 70 grams (about 1 ½ cups) Korean crumbled seaweed
  • 100 grams thinly sliced prosciutto torn into small pieces
  • White truffle oil

Directions

Rinse rice two or three times and drain. Pour the measured water on the rice in a pot and cover. Bring to a rolling boil on high heat for 10 to 15 minutes.

Lower heat to the minimum temperature and allow the rice to cook for another 30 minutes. Never stir the rice. To check if it has absorbed all the water, simply tip the pot on it’s side. If the rice slides, it needs to continue cooking. If it doesn’t slide, it is ready to be removed from heat.

Allow the rice to cool enough that it doesn’t burn to touch with your hand.

Combine the seaweed and prosciutto with the rice. Grab small handfuls of the mixture and squeeze to form tightly packed spheres.

Drizzle white truffle oil over the fist rice and devour.

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Stuffed Bell Peppers with Saffron Yogurt Sauce

Stuffed Yellow Peppers with Saffron Yogurt Sauce

I remember starting an odd little short story inspired by saffron when I was about twelve. My parents were avid listeners of NPR when I was growing up and I fancied Garrison Keillor’s fabulous stories from A Prairie Home Companion. I’d learned about saffron being The World’s Most Expensive Spice and started imagining tiny garden plots that could yield big money. I’d even considered using my backyard to start my own crop, blissfully unaware that the New England climate might not be suitable for saffron production. The story, if I remember correctly, was about an unassuming saffron farmer trying to survive in a small town riddled with landmines. I didn’t complete the story. The loose ends were too difficult to tie up.

 Roasted yellow peppers

The delicate filaments of the saffron crocus are handpicked and dried individually. To produce a pound, 200,000 stigmas must be picked from flowers that yield up to three threads per season. It costs $70 for an ounce. Precious.

Stuffed Yellow Peppers with Saffron Yogurt Sauce 2 

Saffron has been used in many traditional cuisines, including Spanish, Indian, Mexican and Mediterranean. Rich in flavour and deep yellow in colour, the delicate spice is often used to flavour rice, breads and seafood dishes. Saffron’s metallic flavour and sophistication are surprisingly adaptable and versatile. I was lulled by the bitter field grass scent and rusty aroma. It reminded me that the simplest answer is often the best. A few threads sprinkled on top of yogurt complimented my stuffed peppers perfectly.

Stuffed Yellow Peppers with Saffron Yogurt Sauce bite

Stuffed Bell Peppers with Saffron Yogurt Sauce

Ingredients (makes 2)

  • 2 bell peppers
  • 2 king oyster mushrooms
  • 8 oz of ground beef
  • 3 cups of shredded green cabbage
  • 6 minced cloves of garlic
  • 1 cup of cooked basmati rice
  • ½ tsp rosemary
  • 2 tbsp red wine
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce or tamari
  • ½ tsp salt
  • cooking oil

For the sauce:

  • 1 cup yogurt
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of saffron

Directions

Preheat oven to 175ºC/ 350ºF / Gas mark 4.

Halve the mushrooms lengthwise and sprinkle oil and salt on them. Bake them in a lightly oiled pan for 30 minutes. Transfer the mushrooms into a blender and blend into a paste.

Cut the tops off the bell peppers and remove the seeds and pith from inside. Wash and sprinkle with oil and salt. Roast for 20 minutes.

Using medium high heat, brown garlic in a fry pan with some oil. Add ground beef and stir until evenly browned. Remove from heat and transfer ingredients into a bowl with the mushroom paste.

Using the same pan, stir-fry the cabbage until translucent. Transfer cabbage into a blender and blend into a paste. Add to the bowl with other ingredients.

Crumble the cooked rice into the bowl with other ingredients. Add soy sauce, salt, rosemary and red wine. Mix well.

Carefully stuff the mixture into peppers and replace the tops. Bake for 30 minutes.

Combine yogurt with salt and saffron.

Drizzle yogurt sauce on the peppers and serve.

Simple Chocolate Mousse with Pink Peppercorn Sea Salt and Cocoa Nibs + Cherry Blossoms in Seoul

chocolate mousse with pink peppercorns and cocoa nibs 

Spring in Seoul has brought along a reemergence of cherry blossoms and (for me) chocolate (not that my relationship with chocolate ever actually went into hibernation… but … whatever).

Here’s what it looks like right now.

 cherry blossoms 1cherry blossoms 2cherry blossoms 3magnolia blossoms

yellow blossomspink cherry blossoms

 

One of my elementary classes recently read a book called “The Story of Chocolate” by Usborne books, which is a fun little thing full of interesting facts. Most of the books I am forced to read with my students cause uncontrollable eye rolling and confusion on my part. They often include bizarre Korean publications of classics like Pinocchio where our protagonist has a nose made from a sausage and is born from a talking log (a few slight liberties where taken from the original). You can imagine my excitement when I began reading The Story of Chocolate with my students and found I was actually interested and (gasp) learning something.

 

Apparently, the first chocolate eaters were monkeys. The clever little guys ate the luscious white pulp from the cocoa pods and spat out the bitter beans found within. Mayan farmers saw the monkeys doing this and copied them. They continued to discard the beans until they discovered the pleasant aroma coming from the beans that were left to roast in the hot sun. They tried the beans and realized they weren’t so bad after all. The beans were ground into a paste and turned into a drink. Cocoa beans became the drug of choice and were soon worth more than gold. It was even used as a currency. The Mayans eventually shared their secret with Aztec traders, who were conquered by some Spanish guy who stole a bunch of beans and brought them back to Europe and so on. We’ll call this the abridged version.

whipped cream peaks 

So anyone who hasn’t been living in cave all their life has tried chocolate at some point and probably loved it. Humans have had a major love affair with chocolate and we will do just about anything to get our grubby little paws on some. Understandably so. It turns out that chocolate is an aphrodisiac and has the ability to make us happy in more ways than one. Heyyy!

 bittersweet chocolate chips

Pink peppercorns (baie rose) pair rather well chocolate and are also an aphrodisiac. Heyyy! Thought to be part of the piper family tree, pink peppercorns aren’t actually related to pepper. In fact, they are the dried berries of the shrub Schinus molle, commonly known as the Peruvian peppertree and have been confused due to their similarities in size, shape and pungent flavour.

 

Where pepper has an intense, sharp and biting taste, pink peppercorn has a softer and more delicate flavour that adds sophistication to any dish. And just look at the stuff. They are elegance incarnate.

chocolate mousse with pink peppercorns and cocoa nibs bite

Simple Chocolate Mousse with Pink Peppercorn Sea Salt and Cocoa Nibs

Ingredients

    • 1 quart of heavy cream
    • 12 oz of bittersweet chocolate
    • 2 tsp of vanilla extract
    • ½ tsp sea salt
    • 1 ½ tbsp of coarsely crushed cocoa nibs
    • 1 tsp of crushed pink peppercorns

Directions

Whip heavy cream until it forms stiff peaks. TIP: Perform stiffness test by dipping whisk into the cream and lifting up. If the peaks keep their form, it’s done.

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler. When melted, add salt and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, take 1/3  of the whipped cream and gently fold in the chocolate. Once fully incorporated, add another third and continue to fold. Repeat with the rest of the cream and fold until the mousse is uniform in colour. Then, fold in the cocoa nibs.

Sprinkle pink peppercorn bits on top when serving.

Heyyy!

Magpie!
Magpie!

Flavour Pairing: Cauliflower Cashew Soup with Curry Yogurt Sauce + Leaving the Road Less Travelled

Cauliflower cashew soup with curry yogurt sauce

I always struggle to answer when asked where I’m from. Do I answer the place I was born? The place I’ve been most recently? Where I grew up? The place I’ve spent most of my life? The place my family lives? Where I’m most comfortable? Any of these could be the actual question behind the posed inquiry and my head swims with possible responses. For me, each would get a different reply.

Shiny
Shiny

The past decade or so of my life has been spent in a relatively nomadic state. I’ve lived and worked overseas, studied abroad and traveled like a maniac. The idea of ‘home’ has been stretched and expanded to mean more than I’ve ever thought possible. Home is where the heart is, yes, but home is so much more, too. I felt at home when I finally stepped on Icelandic soil after having dreams about the place for many years. Montreal is the home of my mum’s side of the family, as well as many of my closest friends, and though I only lived there for my university years, it feels like home. I lived in Seoul (and have now just returned) for 3 ½ years, and it too has a place in my heart and feels like home. I can’t tell my life story to every person who asks me where I’m from, so I usually come up with one short answer or another.

 Cauliflower cashew soup with curry yogurt sauce 2

After a few rushed weeks of fevered packing, random fits of tears and goodbye kisses, I left my home by my mother’s side at The Abode of the Message in New Lebanon, New York to return to Korea. The Abode is the place I was born, rebelled against and returned to. It is the place I lost my father and found a new meaning to the importance of family. It is the place I found love, lost it, and found it again. Eight peaceful months were spent cooking, eating, writing, photographing, running, loving, breathing, blissing out on nature, watching out for bears, catching up with old loved ones and meeting new loved ones. 

 Cauliflower cashew soup with curry yogurt sauce mixed 2

As I was staying with my mother for the first time in 10 years, there were a few challenges to overcome. Mainly involving myself not acting like an entitled 12 year old. This is a tough challenge for anyone reorganizing their lives to be closer to their mum. I took it as an opportunity to better my relationship with her. I didn’t always succeed… with the whole not being a grumpy, misunderstood teenager thing, but I tried.

 

When it came down to saying goodbye, even though I’ve done it countless times before (both to The Abode and to my mum), I found I was only able to remember the good things, the best things. Our connection fills me so much that my eyes start to leak. Home.

 

So, let the reign of debauchery and hilarity in Korea begin.

misspelled English sign in KoreaWelcome to SamcheongdongThe new Seoul City Hall building 

By the way, this cauliflower cashew soup with curry yogurt sauce is perfectly balanced and really pretty. Also, preparing a sauce for a soup makes you feel like you’re on top of things and you know what you’re doing.

 

Besides, it’s so easy.

Cauliflower cashew soup with curry yogurt sauce mixed

Cauliflower Cashew Soup with Curry Yogurt Sauce

Ingredients

For the soup:

  • 1 large head of cauliflower (about 7-10 cups chopped roughly)
  • 2 ½ cups cashew pieces
  • 1 cup chopped potato
  • 1 leek, washed and chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 5 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 tbsp fenugreek
  • ¼ tsp clove powder
  • 1 ½ tbsp salt
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • a pinch of paprika
  • cooking oil
  • water

For the sauce:

  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 ½ tsp Indian curry powder
  • ¼ tsp salt

Directions

Add some cooking oil, the onions and garlic to a large pot on medium high heat. Let brown for 4-5 minutes. Stir intermittently.

Add cauliflower, leek and potato. Cook for 10 minutes.

Pour water in until all vegetables are just covered. Do not put in too much or the soup will be watery. Add cashews and spices.

Let the soup boil for 20-25 minutes.

Take the soup off the heat. Using an emersion blender, blend the soup until smooth.

In a separate bowl, mix yogurt, salt and curry powder until well incorporated.

Place a dollop of yogurt on top of the soup when ready to serve.

Serves 4-6

Molecular Gastronomy: Cosmic Balsamic Vinegar Sheets + The History of Traditional Balsamic Vinegar

You're a star!
You’re a star!

One of my major regrets about visiting Italy is that I didn’t find (or even know to look for) The Real Balsamic Vinegar. In an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations I recently viewed, I learned that the stuff most of us think of as balsamic vinegar is actually NOTHING like the real stuff. Like, at all. Commercial grade balsamic vinegar can be mass produced in only one day and tastes very different from the traditional product. Intrigued, I dug for more information.

balsamic toast balsamic sheet hand

Actually, I felt a little indignant that no one ever told me that even the nicest, fanciest  $20 to $30 bottles of balsamic I’ve become accustomed to using were all just rubbish imitations of a deeply rich product, made solely from grapes and can’t be imagined without actually tasting. Every drop of balsamic vinegar I’ve ever had was just a lie. The imitations often contain wine vinegar, grape juice, preservatives and caramel for colour. No one took care of me enough to inform me of the truth of traditional balsamic vinegar. No one but Bourdain. I feel as if the wool has finally been lifted from my eyes and the truth is glorious.

balsamic sheet star

 Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale, or Traditional Balsamic Vinegar has only been made in Modena and neighboring Reggio Emilia since the 11th century. It is made from mostly Trebbiano grapes, which are harvested, pressed into juice and reduced by cooking on low heat for a few days. Once reduced to 30% of its original volume, the liquid (called must) is then placed in a succession of wood barrels to ferment, mature and age for up to 25 years.

balsamic toast 3

In the barrels, the vinegar slowly evaporates and becomes richer in flavour. None of the liquid can be withdrawn before reaching the minimum age of 12. At that time, part of the product is bottled as a 12-year old traditional vinegar and part is transferred to a smaller barrel to age further. At the end of the aging period (12, 18 or 25 years) a small portion is taken from the smallest barrel and each barrel is topped up with the contents of the next larger, or younger, barrel. Freshly reduced must is added to the largest barrel each year after the topping up process. This process is repeated for many years, meaning that trace amounts of the product could be 100 years old. How maddeningly insane is that? Very.

balsamic toast 2

There are three classifications of balsamic vinegar.

1. Authentic traditional artisan balsamic vinegar, the only kind that may legally be described as Aceto Balsamico Tradizionalein the EU.
2. Commercial grade balsamic vinegars produced on an industrial scale.
3. Condimento grade products, which are often a mix of the two above.

Someday I’ll return to Italy and head over to Modena, shell out $350 (yeah, that’s right) for a 25 year old 100ml bottle of balsamic vinegar and be able to die happy. Until then, I’ll have to live with the substitute.

Molecular gastronomy is the funnest. I enjoy unique experiences around food (thus my willingness to pay stupid amounts of money (when I have it) for something delicious) so flavour, texture and presentation are important to me. Making balsamic vinegar sheets is very easy, fun and would make an excellent addition to your hors d’oeuvres tray.

balsamic sheet 1

The only ingredients you need to make balsamic sheets are balsamic vinegar, powdered agar agar (acts like gelatin) and some water. The results are severely satisfying. It goes well with anything balsamic vinegar usually goes well with: chevre, olives, crackers, herbs, pesto, strawberries, etc. I recommend cutting them into small pieces and placing them on bite sized foods as they don’t tear well when you bite into them. Unfortunately, I don’t have video instructions of balsamic sheets, but similar instructions for rum sheets to give you an idea of how it works.

balsamic sheet 2

Balsamic Vinegar Sheets

Ingredients

  • ½ cup balsamic vinegar
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 tbsp powdered agar agar

Directions

Place all ingredients in a small pot. Stirring constantly, bring to a simmer to activate the agar agar. Simmer for 3 minutes or until agar agar has dissolved.

Remove from heat and pour a few tablespoons onto a plate and spread to a very thin layer by rolling the plate around. Try to spread it evenly. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.

Cut into the shapes of your desire and carefully pull them up from the surface of the plate. Voila! Severe satisfaction at your fingertips.

balsamic star bite

Buy molecular gastronomy products here.

Roasted Curry Carrots with Garlic Cilantro Raita + Redwoods of Sonoma

It’s winter and I’m out in the country with little excitement. I was struck with the winter blues about 2 weeks ago, and I haven’t successfully shaken them off yet. The Abode has been extremely quiet and the cocoon of winter makes me feel very internal. Having friends scattered literally all over the world and desiring varying sorts of comfort from each of them, I long for a teleportation device to aid me in quick visits. Anyone have one I could borrow?

 

Roasted carrot campfire
Roasted carrot campfire

 

I’ve been spending my days in alternating periods of busy-ness and sloth, but trying to be as productive as possible. I’ve taken to babying my knees, which have sadly become inflamed (winter!), preventing me from my daily runs. Boooo. I predict knee replacements in the future, hopefully many years from now. Poor little guys.

While visiting my sister in CA, we spent one cold, rainy day in Sonoma County. There, my sister, mum and I went to check out a redwood forest near Guerneville. It was very cold that day, and I was underdressed (having come from the east coast, I was foolishly optimistic about Northern California weather when packing my bag) so we didn’t spend as much time there as we’d have liked. But, we warmed ourselves up afterwards at Korbel vineyard tasting wines and champagnes.

redwood sentialsredwoods and us

 

redwood and meredwood detailCA moss and redwoods

I’ve never really been a fan of baked or roasted carrots. Perhaps I’ve held on to some bad childhood experiences, but until this summer I can’t really say that I’ve ever craved baked carrots.

roasted carrots

The Abode farm yielded an excellent crop this year and there was a tonne of every sort of produce you could desire. Cooks were forced into finding creative ways to use large quantities of produce before the food went off. This is extra challenging due to eaters who are understandably bored of eating the same thing over and over. When faced with a huge sack of beautiful carrots that need to be used right away, roasting seemed like the best way to get people to eat a lot. Luckily, I was right.

roasted carrots 2

The (not-so) secret to carrots is knowing how well they respond to sweet and savory combinations. Carrots are already loaded with natural sugars, and don’t need much more sugar to bring out the flavours. Just a pinch of added sugar will make your curried carrots pop.

Raita is a yogurt sauce originally from India. It is used to cool the palate when eating spicy food. Ingredients for raita can vary from region to region, but often contains cumin, cucumber, mint/cilantro and garlic. Even though the fries aren’t spicy, they pair beautifully with the raita.

roasted carrots 3

Roasted Curry Carrots with Garlic Cilantro Raita

Ingredients

For the carrots

  • A dozen large carrots
  • 1½-2 tbsp Indian curry powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp clove powder
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • ¼ cup cooking oil

For the raita

  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • ¼ cup grated cucumber
  • ¼ cup finely chopped cilantro
  • 2 finely chopped cloves of garlic
  • 1 tsp roasted cumin seeds (roasting instructions below)
  • ½ tsp salt and pepper

Directions

Preheat oven at 400ºF/200ºC/Gas mark 4

Peel carrots if they are especially dirty, otherwise, just wash them well and remove the ugly bits. Cut off both ends. Quarter the carrots lengthwise into strips and then cut the strips into shorter pieces. Don’t worry about making the pieces perfectly uniform, and forget about it if using garden carrots. It’s just not possible.

In a large bowl, mix (with your hands) the carrots with the curry powder, cinnamon, clove powder, salt, sugar and oil. Mix until each carrot is well seasoned and lubricated. Add more oil, if needed.

Lay the carrot pieces on (a) baking sheet(s). Allow plenty of space for each piece. Do not crowd them, otherwise, they won’t cook properly. Place in the oven and cook for 35 to 45 minutes. Check every 10 minutes to stir the carrots.

While the carrots are cooking, roast the cumin seeds. Start by placing a frying pan over high heat to get hot. Once the pan is hot, add seeds and keep them in constant motion for 2 to 3 minutes. When the seeds are brown and you can smell a warm roasted smell, remove them from heat.

Mix the seeds with the rest of the raita ingredients in a bowl. Try to not eat all of the raita before the carrots are ready (it’ll be difficult).

Dip, slather, smother, scoop, drip, drizzle cool raita on hot carrots. Warning: You may want to avoid kissing anyone on days eating the raita. Raw garlic is not romantic.

Flavour Pairing: Tangy Dill Walnut Beet Salad + Colourful Things in California

beet salad bite

In the past month, in the midst of my job search, I went on a few mini trips for the purpose of pleasure and to visit friends and family (previously mentioned here). It had been many years since I’d seen my sister and even longer since I’d been on the State side of the Pacific, what with the whole living in Asia thing. In fact, the last time I’d been to the west coast was for my sissy’s wedding to her fabulous wife 5 years ago. It was a lovely trip full of fish tacos, kitties and pretty nature.

The Ladies of Hanukah: Bee, sissy, mum and me. Thanks to Erika for the photo!

While wandering, I took a few (hundred) photos of those pretty natural things. Here are some of my favorites:

Green and yellow treesCA treeCA tree detailCA thornsCA mossNorthern CA landscape

4 trees in profile

ColourfulCA moss 2.

Beets are also colourful. And flavourful.

beet salad 

This recipe has converted a few beet haters I know. Beets pair astonishingly well with dill, which has been a traditional gastronomic practice in many European cuisines in various forms. Borscht in Eastern Europe and salads in Italy. With the aid of lemon and Dijon, this salad is an exemplary archetype of freshness. The walnuts add texture and creaminess. Do make. Do eat. Do enjoy.

beet salad 2

Tangy Dill Walnut Beet Salad

Ingredients

  • 3 large beets, peeled and cut into bite sized cubes
  • 3 stalks of celery, diced
  • 1 cup ( ½ a bunch) of chopped fresh dill
  • 2 tbsp of diced red onion
  • 2 tbsp of dijon mustard
  • 1 ½ -2 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • 2 tbsp tamari
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp walnuts, crushed (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Place the peeled cubes of beets in a large pot of water and bring to a boil. Continue boiling for 25-30 minutes. To check if they’re fully cooked, poke a large piece with a fork. Like a potato, it should be soft when done. Do not overcook, or you’ll have beet mash.

Drain and rinse the beets in a colander and place in a large bowl when fully drained.

Add all other ingredients and mix well.

Variation

Replace mayonnaise with goat’s cheese for a saltier, less emulsified creaminess.

Cumin Rosemary and Garlic Sweet Potato Fries + Mohican Ruins?

sweet potato fries

Mum and I went for a walk in the woods last week in the fresh snow. A friend had cleared a new path this past summer that borders the unfriendly edges of our property and we wanted to explore the old ruins found there. When I say unfriendly, I’m alluding to the gun toting, 4 wheeling neighbors who once threatened my mum when she approached their home to get directions. How charming.

 mohican ruins 1mohican ruins 2mohican ruins 4

I can see that my New Year’s resolution of being less sarcastic will be a challenge. (Happy 2013, by the way!)

mohican ruins 5

mohican ruins 6mohican ruins 7
 

Some expert of some relevant subject came to see these ruins and speculated that they might have been built and used by the Mohicans as a trading post long ago. The ruins consisted of a large stone marker and 3-walled structure of some sort, where people would meet and/or leave goods for each other. It’s pretty cool to find this sort of thing in ones own (extended) backyard. It can be easy to forget the possibilities of the past in just about any place (except for maybe Surtsey Island), and especially in an area as quiet (quiet for me, anyway) as the Berkshires. It is unknown whether or not these are actually Mohican ruins, but it is nice to think of that possibility. I like feeling the rich history of a place, whether it’s geological or human. Time has spread its wings over everything.

mohican ruins 3

 

One of the most satisfying winter comfort foods are sweet potatoes. Warm, earthy, orange and versatile. They add flavour and heart to any meal.

 roasted sweet potato bite

Though many cooks like to take the natural sweetness found in sweet potatoes to an even sweeter level (sweet potato pie, candied yams, sweet potato pancakes, etc) I prefer to balance the sweetness by adding salty and savory ingredients. A quick look at my brand new Flavor Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg lists a few great ideas, like: garlic, duck, dill, cilantro, cumin, prosciutto, sage, Dijon, chives and more. Mmm.

 roasted sweet potato bite 2

If you’re not that comfortable working and experimenting with new sweet potato recipes, try these fries as a way to practice. You are guaranteed delicious results.

Cumin Rosemary and Garlic Sweet Potato Fries

Ingredients

  • 3 medium-large sweet potatoes
  • 3 crushed and minced cloves of garlic
  • 1 ½-2 tbsp of cumin powder
  • 2 tsp of fresh or dried rosemary leaves
  • 1 tsp salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp sesame oil (optional)
  • Cooking oil

Directions

Preheat oven to 400ºF/200ºC/Gas mark 6.

Peel your sweet potatoes (or leave the skin on and just cut off the ugly bits like I do- when they are roasted the skin becomes soft and yummy. It is matter of taste. Just make sure you wash them well). Using a large knife, cut the sweet spuds into ½ inch slices. Then cut them into long fries.

Place them into a large bowl with all the other ingredients and mix until the oil and spices are evenly coating the fries.

Place the fries onto (a) baking sheet(s). Be sure to give them plenty of space. If they are too crowded, they won’t roast as well and will take much longer. Also, be sure to add any oil and spices at the bottom of the mixing bowl for extra flavour.

Place in oven and roast for about 45 minutes. Check them every 10-15 minutes to stir and turn them. This will prevent burning on one side and ensure even cooking.

Remove from heat when nicely browned and your kitchen is filled a warm, hearty smell.

Eat when hot.

Serves 4-6

Molecular Gastronomy: Layered Grapefruit Screwdriver Cocktails and Gainful Employment

 

 

Nice stems
Nice stems

I know its been a while. It has been a non-stop hair pulling fest around here. For the past month I’ve been in a whirlwind of resumes, preparations for interviews, interviews, random panic attacks brought on by said interviews and finally: Employment. Got me a job. What what! Of course, while all of this was going on, I went on a few previously scheduled trips, not knowing just how busy and insane I’d be feeling. A week in the California to visit my awesome sister, her awesome wife and their awesome cats, Christmas in D.C. to visit my awesome brother, his awesome wife and their awesome baby and New Years in the Eastern Townships of Quebec to visit a group of about 30 of the awesomest friends possible. Tequila, maple syrup and merguez sausages (not combined…although that really wouldn’t be so bad). What a party.

So, I’ll be back in Seoul by the end of February of 2013 to teach English to little kindergarteners. From my interview with the director and my contact with a Canadian girl who is currently working there, my new place of employment seems like a relaxed and supportive environment. Teachers seem to feel respected, happy and appreciative of the management. AND they get paid on time. Though I’ve never experienced it personally, it is not so uncommon to hear of  hagwon (private academies) paying their teachers late (or not at all), holding passports and/or diplomas hostage, finding absurd reasons to fire someone in the 11th month of their year long contract so they could avoid severance payment and a return flight and other such practices of a horrible work environment. Luckily for teachers looking for work in Korea, there is the Hagwon Blacklist. There, unhappy teachers can post their woes and warn others about their shitty school. Before accepting the job at EPA, I checked the Blacklist and found nothing. To my delight, a google search uncovered POSITIVE feedback about the school.

molecular gastronomy screwdriver 3

Wanting to celebrate all of this positivity, I made some gelatin grapefruit screwdrivers with a touch of molecular gastronomy. They turned out to be like large, fancy Jello cocktails. They were visually stunning and quite tasty.

Also, they were very bizarre. Gelatin always is. If I were to make gelatin screwdrivers again, I would make each individual drink a bit smaller and therefore less intimidating. While I went for a second glass, some of my friends (A.K.A. guinea pigs) could only manage a few bites.

molecular gastronomy screwdriver 2

I added some licorice powder to some of the top layers, which, as you can see, caused the gelatin to bleed into other layers and set in less appealing forms. Still, they tasted great, were fun to make and successfully got the drinker closer to being drunk.

Grapefruit Jello Screwdrivers

Ingredients

  • 8 ½ oz (250 ml) of vodka
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1 ¼ cup grapefruit juice
  • 2 tbsp cold water soluble gelatin

Directions

Mix 1 tbsp of sugar with 1 tbsp of gelatin and the vodka. Blend until dissolved. Divide evenly into as many cups as you like. This could be up to 20, depending on what size you plan on making your Jello cocktail. Refrigerate for 10 minutes.

Next, mix 1 tbsp of gelatin with 1 tbsp of sugar and the grapefruit juice. Blend until dissolved. Pour a juice layer on top of the vodka layer. Refrigerate for 10 minutes.

Repeat until you have 6 alternating layers of vodka and juice.

Scoop into mouth.

Here are video instructions.

Molecular Gastronomy: Bacon Wrapped Acorn Squash with Balsamic Caviar and Maple Sphere

Bacon wrapped acorn squash with balsamic caviar and maple sphere

I’m slightly concerned about my post titles being a bit too long. I can admit that they’re all a mouth full… and somehow, they manage to keep growing. To me, this isn’t exactly a problem as I think naming a dish according to the ingredients it contains gives my readers a clear idea of what the post (and recipe) is about.  I like to list the ingredients I feel are important to each dish, but since my recipe interests include things like flavour pairing and molecular gastronomy, I tend to think ALL of the ingredients are important. Woops. Predicament.

It’s also due to my own personal inability (or laziness) to come up with a catchy title. It’s clearly too challenging for me to plan a dish, make it, photograph it, write about it AND create a catchy title. That’s just taking it too far. Anyway, I personally like to see literal titles. Let the food speak for itself. Most people can look at the ingredients (if they’re relatively familiar with them) in a recipe and get a sense of whether or not they’ll like it. Right? The names and imagined flavours swirl around in your mind, forcing the idea of the dish into your mouth. I appreciate the honesty of a literal title… but again, there’s the whole length issue. What do you think? Let me know what sort of title catches your eye.

Bacon wrapped acorn squash with balsamic caviar and maple sphere

OK, so it turns out that this recipe is ridiculous. Utterly ridiculous in the best way. Nathan and Alex came to visit me some time ago. Just as passionate lovers never leave the bedroom, my foodie friends and I never left the kitchen over the three days they were around. Fevered moments of flavour creativity (some might say delirium) and collaboration were plentiful and virtuous food was abundant.  The guys brought with them a gorgeous array of fresh farmer’s market produce. Most important of this haul was bacon. Locally butchered, farm fresh strips of fatty delight. It created a revolution in my home and became part of almost every meal.

Bacon wrapped acorn squash with balsamic caviar and maple sphere

While we played around with my molecular gastronomy kits, futzing with spheres and such, Nathan remembered once again that we had bacon. How he could’ve forgotten, I’m not sure. I certainly hadn’t stopped thinking about it. Luckily, he took that thought one step further and remembered the acorn squash he’d brought. It came to everyone’s attention that wrapping bacon around grilled acorn squash would be painfully good. I’m still in pain now. Oy vay.

First, we blanched our cut slices of squash in boiling water for 3 minutes (only 4 at a time so the water doesn’t cool).

blanched acorn squash

Next, we grilled those beauties on a stove-top grill (pan frying is totally acceptable). Luckily, there was some bacon fat left on the grill which added extra flavour to the squash.

Grilled acorn squash

Now that our squash had those beautiful grill marks, we wrapped them (so hard) in bacon and baked them. Sadly, I must note that we had run out of bacon by that point, so not every piece of squash was wrapped.

I showed the boys how to make molecular balsamic caviar, which happily features in this dish.

Balsamic caviar

Maple spheres are also featured. And just look at that little guy! Beautiful, isn’t it?

maple sphere

Of all the maple spheres we made (about 8) this one was the only sphere presentable enough for a photo. When making spheres, it is important that your ingredients have a certain level of calcium in them for the thin film to form properly. Apparently, maple syrup is lacking in the calcium department and the film did not form well. They kept sticking and breaking when I tried to move them. In the hopes of getting one or two out of it, I left some in the sodium alginate bath for a long time (about 15 minutes), which paid off. If I were to try making them again, I’d add some yogurt to the mixture to avoid the same problem.

Bacon wrapped acorn squash with balsamic caviar and maple sphere

 

Bacon Wrapped Acorn Squash with Balsamic Caviar and Maple Sphere

Ingredients

1 acorn squash- cleaned of seeds (with or without peel) and divided into 8-10 pieces

Strip bacon- lots

Balsamic caviar (video instructions below)

Maple sphere (video instructions below)

Water

 

Directions

Preheat your oven to 350 °F/ 180 °C/ Gas mark 4.

Boil a large pot of water. Place 3-4 pieces of squash in the water. Blanch them for 3 minutes then remove them from heat. Repeat until all pieces are blanched.

Grill or pan fry the squash on high heat until the surfaces are beautifully brown.

Place bacon wrapped squash in a casserole pan and bake for 25-30 minutes.

Garnish with balsamic caviar and maple sphere.

Eat and be amazed.

Thanks guys! It was fun!