Bite: Sorbet

Sorbet can be traced back as far as 3000 B.C.E. Somewhere in Asia, some crazy geniuses were mixing crushed fruit with ice. A bit later in Egypt, pharaohs offered their guests fruit juices mixed with ice to beat the heat. Later still, fine cuisine loving Italians used sorbet as a palate cleanser in between courses. Eventually, it morphed into the gorgeous, healthier-cousin-of-ice-cream it is today. I would like to thank everyone involved. You personally helped get this spoonful of grapefruit sorbet into my mouth.


the hand that feeds.jpg

Sands of flavour

When we admire our food, it admires us right back.

sugar spiral.jpg

These photos make me happy.

mortar and pestle for salt.jpg

Food is, quite simply, mesmerizing.

The Cruel Realities of Kopi Luwak (a.k.a. Poo Coffee) + Adventures in Coffee Reduction

You may have noticed my most recent obsession with Bali and the images I took there. It’s true. The plant life, ocean, natural landscape, food and general gorgeousness of Bali have really helped to inspire me this winter. Though the photos have thus far not included a recipe, they have all been leading up to this post.

 Balinese coffee

I have been pretty fascinated with Kopi Luwak for some years now. Ever since I’d heard it was considered the most expensive beverage on the planet and was basically cleaned up cat poo, there was no turning this experience junkie around. 

 coffee plant

I enjoy thinking about the beginnings of foods. For example, who decided to eat blue cheese for the first time? Why did they think it would be a good idea? Who did all the fieldwork needed to figure out which mushrooms are edible and which would melt their insides? Why was it worth it to them? Who decided that soured milk, or yogurt, was ok to eat? And of course, who decided to pick up the droppings of a civet cat because they thought it would make an extra delicious espresso? I know many food traditions have been discovered out of need, but come on.

 kopi luwak beans

Kopi luwak got its beginnings in just that way. The civet, a cat like creature native to Indonesia, eats the choicest, ripest coffee beans as part of its diet. The beans then ferment in their digestive tract and come out whole because the civets are unable to digest them. Then, some people decided it would be a great idea to collect the wild civet poo, clean and roast the beans and call it a delicacy. A rare and expensive beverage. While in Bali, I made it a priority to seek kopi luwak out. My guide in Ubud brought me to an agro tourism farm called Bali Pulina. I was warmly greeted as soon as I walked onto the property and was given a small tour to show what they grew and produced. The place was beautiful. Several photos from my previous posts were taken there, including flowers, spices and one of the many amazing rice terraces that Ubud is known for.

 Coffee samples

In their little café, I was offered a free tasting of the beverages they produce and a fantastic overlooking view of the rice terrace. I sipped the teas, coffees and cocoas, tasting and enjoying them individually and comparing the results. They were all lovely, but I was far too focused on getting to the shop to buy luwak coffee. I finally got some. I brought it back to Korea and drank the shit out of that shit coffee. It produced a nutty, farmy coffee that was quite pleasant. It was exciting to compare it to the normal coffee I keep around the house and try it with different sugars and milks.

 cocoa beans in BaliBali mystery plantspices in bali

Unfortunately, with the slightest bit of research, I discovered information that made me regret having made my purchase. I found out that farmed civet coffee can never produce the desired results so sought after by coffee connoisseurs. This is because wild civets eat the ripe coffee beans as a part of a balanced diet including all the other things civets eat, while the animals on these plantations (often taken from the wild) are fed a diet made entirely of coffee beans. This is very unhealthy for the civets. And since there is nothing else in their guts, the beans don’t produce the desired flavours they once did. More importantly, farmed civets are often kept in horrendous conditions. They are shy and territorial by nature. Being kept in cramped cages so close to other civets is very stressful and often results in a loss of sanity and decrease in their health. Perhaps it was my enthusiasm for food and wildlife that kept me naïve, but learning this was heart-wrenching and I no longer wish to support the production of this culinary rarity. Though I certainly did savour the small amount I acquired there.

 

I was perhaps a little ambitious with this recipe. I cannot actually say it was a success. In fact, it was mostly a failure. I tried very hard to pair coffee with various flavours with nauseating results. I poured some on quail eggs and potatoes, dipped in some toast and even a tiny bite of pan-fried fish. I tried tasting it with random ingredients around my kitchen. The only success with this experiment, thus far, is in making me feel ill. Clearly, I have my work cut out for me. Luckily, the reduction itself is quite nice (albeit bitter) in small doses. When I’ve worked out what to pair it with, I’ll post something magical. Suggestions are welcome!

spiced coffee and red wine reduction.jpg

Spiced Coffee and Red Wine Reduction

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup strong coffee
  • 1/3 cup red cooking wine
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • a piece of fresh ginger (about the size of a quarter), cleaned and chopped
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 cardamom pods
  • ¼ teaspoon whole lavender flowers
  • ¼ teaspoon chopped dried lemongrass

Directions

While the coffee is still hot, pour it in a cup with the ginger, lavender, lemongrass, cardamom and cinnamon. Let the spices infuse for a 2-3 hours then strain.

Using a non-reactive skillet, pour in the wine, coffee and sugar. Simmer over medium high heat for about 10-15 minutes or until the liquid has reduced by about half. Remove from heat.

Taste your coffee reduction with various things around your kitchen. Have blind taste tests with your friends. Laugh at the faces they make.

 

 

 

Vegetarian Lemon Dill Stuffed Eggplant with Couscous and Portobello Mushrooms + Tiny Kitchen

vegetarian stuffed eggplant bite 3

Cooking with eggplant is like painting on a blank canvas. It is full of possibilities. Bitter and spongy when raw (or undercooked… blech), eggplant (A.K.A aubergine, brinjal, brinjal eggplant, melongene, and guinea squash) melts in your mouth when roasted and takes almost no effort to cook to perfection. It is often used as a meat substitute for vegetarians due to its meaty texture and is known to be a good source of Vitamin K, Thiamin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Potassium and Dietary Fiber.
 

vegetarian stuffed eggplant bite 4

Eggplant has a delectable ability to transform; when cooked well, it softens, yet stays firm and loses much of its bitterness. It is also very diverse. The proof comes from all the traditional dishes from around the world that eggplant has played a key role in: ratatouille from France, baba ghanoush from the Middle East, mousakka from Greece, tagines in Morocco and curries in India. Eggplant is kind of a cuisine slut. It can’t make up its mind where it belongs. This is good for the rest of us.

 vegetarian stuffed eggplant bite 2

Since returning to Korea a month ago, my kitchen has been trying so hard to be functional and efficient. Unfortunately, it has mostly failed rather disappointingly. My small Officetell apartment has little space, lacks adequate shelving and is missing an oven and other helpful cooking instruments. This is very difficult for someone like me. Cooking is more than just survival; it is art, science and passion. It is exploration, trial and error and creative expression. It is need and desire.

 Tiny Korean kitchen

So, when my laundry rack is in the way of my cooking utensils and the (stupid) glass elements are just not hot enough, it’s far too easy to throw up ones hands and go get a kimbop instead.

 cut eggplantvegetarian stuffed eggplant with couscous

(Un?)Luckily for me, I am unerringly determined to get my kitchen up to scratch. I will fill my kitchen with the wonderful equipment I need and magically find space for them. I’ll let you know how that goes.

 vegetarian stuffed eggplant with couscous 2

All that said, I’ve been dreaming about roasting eggplant with butter, salt and cumin in my non-existent oven. Until then, here is a stuffed eggplant recipe I made shortly before leaving for Korea.

Vegetarian stuffed eggplant

Vegetarian Lemon Dill Stuffed Eggplant with Couscous and Portobello Mushrooms

Ingredients

  • 1 large eggplant
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 3 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 1 chopped onion
  • ½ cup chopped Portobello mushroom
  • 3 tbsp chopped kalamata olives
  • 1 15 oz. can of diced tomatoes
  • ½ a lemon (juiced)
  • ½ cup couscous
  • 2 tbsp fresh minced dill
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • freshly grated parmesan cheese

Directions

Preheat oven at 375º F/190ºC/Gas mark 5.

Split eggplant lengthwise and scoop out the flesh. Leave 1/8 inch of flesh on the skin and leave the skin in tact. Set the skins aside. Sprinkle the flesh with oil and salt and bake for 20 minutes.

In a stove top pan, fry the garlic and onions with oil on medium high heat until golden. Add the mushrooms and sauté for 7 minutes. Add eggplant flesh, celery, carrots and olives. Saute for 10 more minutes. Remove from heat.

Separate the diced tomatoes from the juice. Save juice in a bowl.

Place the fried mixture in a bowl. Add tomatoes, dill, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Mix well.

Place uncooked couscous in a small bowl. Pour ¼ cup of boiling water and the juice from the tomatoes onto the couscous. The couscous should puff up and be ready to use within 10 minutes.

Turn oven temperature to 400ºF/200ºC/Gas mark 6.

Divide the couscous evenly between the two eggplant shells. Press lightly on the couscous to form a flat, even bed on the bottoms of each shell.

Scoop the vegetable mixture on top of the couscous and pack it in tight.

Place the eggplants in a casserole pan and cover with foil.

Bake for 45 minutes. Remove foil halfway through baking.

If you desire, grate some Parmesan on top of the eggplant halves 5 minutes before they are ready.

vegetarian stuffed eggplant bite

ps- Happy Birthday, mum! I love you!

Homemade Graham Crackers with White Chocolate Frosting + Finding Balance

homemade graham crackers with white chocolate frosting 2

 

I knew vaguely for some reason that graham crackers were meant to be a “healthy” food. I’m not sure if it’s something I was told from my childhood or a belief held by society or what. This has always confused me because the modern graham cracker of today certainly doesn’t look, feel or taste healthy. They’re loaded with sugar, use uber refined ingredients and are mass produced by the bajillion. Considering that most people eat (or at least associate) them as S’mores, cheesecake crusts and piecrusts, the health label seems like another lie people tell themselves. Another delicious lie.

graham crackers with white chocolate frosting

Well, apparently graham crackers are meant to be healthy. MEANT to. A health nut minister named Sylvester Graham invented graham crackers in 1829. He was an advocate of vegetarianism and believed that an unhealthy diet would lead to uncontrollable, carnal urges and sexual excess. He swore that physical lust was harmful for the body (as any good minister should) and caused consequences as dire as pulmonary consumption, spinal diseases, epilepsy and insanity. So, to Graham a high fiber, vegetarian diet was the key to purity and chastity, while meat and refined foods meant debauchery, destruction and non-stop sex. Hmm… tough choice. 

No. Not really.

 graham cracker bite

Like most North Americans, I have yo-yo’d with my weight and my ideas of (read: dedication to) a healthy lifestyle. From a heavy set youth to starving myself to eating everything in my path to severely restricting my food intake, I’ve gone through the self-hate-through-food thing for a good portion of my life. So many of us have. Eating disorders are a fairly new phenomenon in the history of human kind. Born out of excess (something that didn’t exist for anyone other than royalty until the middle class appeared) we binge, we purge, we starve and we judge our food.

homemade graham crackers with white chocolate frosting 

The puritanical reactions to unhealthy lifestyles aren’t really any healthier. As an ex-raw foodist, I remember convincing myself (many years ago) that certain foods were evil and that my pure insides would surely burn and melt if I consumed a piece of white bread or grain of refined sugar. I didn’t realize until much later that these were thoughts of someone who hates food.

 cinnamon bark for grinding

The whole thing is such an old, tired story full of clichés and I’m sick of it. I LOVE food. I LOVE cooking and I LOVE eating. I took a stand against the horrid cycle and found something that feels balanced and real. Here are my guidelines:

Eat in moderation.
Try anything I want.
Always choose fresh, real ingredients.
Don’t deny myself (denial responds with feelings of rebellion, resentment and guilt)
Exercise regularly.

This has worked for me for several years. I’m in the best shape I’ve been in ages and I feel more balanced and happy with my relationship to food. Hail Mary.

 

These graham crackers were made using a somewhat similar recipe to Minister Graham’s original recipe. But as I’m not one to deny myself of a tasty idea, they also contain chocolate. A bit of balance goes a long way.

Homemade Graham Crackers with White Chocolate Frosting

Ingredients

  • 2 ½  cups graham flour
  • ½ cup all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1/8 cup molasses
  • 1/3 honey
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tbsp water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¾ tsp baking soda
  • 1 ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp anise powder
  • 5 oz of white chocolate (optional)
  • licorice candy powder (optional)

graham cracker ingredients

Directions

Melt butter. Add honey and molasses to the butter and mix.

Add eggs and water to the mixture and mix.

In a different bowl, combine salt, baking soda, flours and spices. Stir.

Gradually mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until well incorporated and smooth.

Wrap in plastic and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

graham cracker dough

Preheat oven at 350ºF/180ºC/Gas mark 4.

Find a clean surface to roll your crackers and spread flour over it to prevent sticking. Make fist sized balls of dough and roll evenly to a 1/8 inch thickness.

graham cracker dough 2

Cut your crackers into small squares or rectangles, about 2×2 inches.

graham crackers 1

Use a fork to mark those satisfying graham cracker dots.

graham crackers 2

Bake for about 12-15 minutes until golden brown.

graham crackers 3

If you wish to add white chocolate, melt some in a double boiler and spread a thin coat on the back of your crackers. Refrigerate to harden.

white chocolate melting in double boiler

If you wish to add licorice powder, sprinkle some to the layer of chocolate before cooled.

Makes 20-24 crackers.

Eat with love.

graham crackers 4

Transformations: Dill Scallion Butter Chicken Sausage with Beet Puree and Artichoke Fennel Salad with Cucumber and Wasabi + Your Appetite

chicken sausage with beet cream and fennel artichoke salad 2

Remember that beet salad I posted a little while ago? The tangy, creamy and colourful one? Well, I made a lot of it and started to get really sick of eating it. I love beets and I love salad and have a high tolerance for both, but there’s only so much I can take of any one thing on repeat. It was imperative to exercise my leftover transforming skills in a big way.  

chicken sausage with beet cream and fennel artichoke salad

A beautiful plate and/or presentation of a dish, including bright colours and pleasant forms, can change your hunger level and alter how attracted you are towards any food or dish presented to you (excepting anything with bananas… they will always be evil).  Dishes that are beautifully arranged actually whet your appetite and make you hungrier.  

 

 

Mmm... appetizing
Mmm… appetizing

Colour plays a crucial role in our attraction to food. Studies have shown that blue is the least appetizing colour to eat. Our foraging ancestors learned to avoid toxic and spoiled foods, which were often blue, purple, grey and black (berries, eggplant, etc, excluded). That behaviour has been imprinted on us. So when food is dyed blue, our appetites turn cold. In fact, dieters are advised to use blue place mats, lights, plates, etc… when eating to aid in appetite suppression.  

 

 

Umm... not so appetizing.
Umm… not so appetizing.

Foods that are red, orange, green and yellow (depending on culture) are apparently the most appetizing and exciting to us. Red is the colour of passion, intimacy and enthusiasm and all that registers when we look at our food. Cool.  

chicken sauasge with beet cream and fennel artichoke salad bite

So, in honor of red, I give you beets. Yes, more of them.  

This dish was actually inspired by food items that had to be used from my kitchen. They were either in great abundance or approaching their expiration dates.   I had made some dill scallion butter in the summer when the garden was overflowing with dill. I made a large batch and since butter freezes well, most of it went into the freezer. It’s very easy to make (put dill, scallions and softened butter into your food processor and blend) and really tasty on everything. I use it on popcorn, toast and sometimes to fry eggs. It works gorgeously when frying up an Applegate Chicken and Apple sausage, too.  

The recipe for the beet salad can be found here. Place a cup of it in a blender (adding a bit more dressing for texture) and blend until smooth.  

 

chicken sausage with beet cream and fennel artichoke salad last biteAnd, of course, we have the artichoke heart fennel salad with cucumber and wasabi. Everything about this dish was heaven to eat. And to look at.

Artichoke Heart Fennel Salad with Cucumber and Wasabi

Ingredients

  • 2 steamed artichoke hearts, remove spiky leaves and quarter (you could heat up frozen or canned artichokes, which is a lot easier, but not nearly as good. Avoid the marinated kind)
  • 1 cup fennel bulb, sliced (about ¼ of a whole bulb)
  • 1 cup small seed cucumber, sliced
  • 1 tsp tamari or soy sauce
  • 1 tsp lime juice
  • ¼ tsp wasabi paste (or powder mixed with water 1:1)

Directions

Mix ingredients.

Plate the salad with a dill scallion butter chicken sausage and beet puree in an artful way that fills you with passion and feelings of intimacy and piques your enthusiasm.

Look at. Admire. Devour.

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.