April 22, 2008

Sauce: Salmon w/ Dried Mint

I eat a lot of rice, because it's cheap and we have an automatic rice cooker (yes, I'm often that lazy).  Recently I bought just a little piece of salmon, because I love it but, as the rice I mentioned above indicates, I try to keep my food budget down most of the time.  To make it last, I made sauces out of it to have over rice.  The first night I minced maybe a quarter of the salmon very fine and used it practically like a spice to flavour tofu and green beans in a stir fry, but tonight I used the greater part so I got to make it a bit more central.  I decided I felt like Italian.

Then I noticed the mint on my shelf.  It's dried, and it's old, so it's not strong at all; in fact I could barely smell it - which was perfect.  It's much more subtle than fresh mint would have been, and a good couple of teaspoons of it, mixed with a pinch of tarragon, was absolutely the key.  The sauce would have been nice without it - tomatoes, zucchini, and a corner of the old Gouda (as good as parmesan) my parents brought me from Nova Scotia - but the mint, in particular the old, dried, weak mint, was exactly the hint to make it a bit interesting to me on a night when I wanted something just slightly more exciting that comfort food.  Very slightly, in fact it's almost just an aftertaste, but it certainly makes up for the fact that that bowl is still mostly machine-cooked white rice.

April 12, 2008

Kasha as a metaphor for something

There is an informal personality test, of sorts, with three questions: Your favourite pet, favourite wild animal, and favourite food.  Asked these questions one day in university I responded to the last quite honestly with kasha (toasted buckwheat groats).  The young woman administering the test expressed a preference for a kind of spicy soup.  If you're familiar with the test in question, you understand why I might regret my answer.

I stand by it, though, because buckwheat is awesome.  I grew up eating it in my mother's kasha varnishkes which I to this day reproduce as best I can; I'm told kasha's an acquired taste, and I guess I acquired it.  Like the movie Torque, no one I've introduced to it has taken to it quite the way I do, but I continue to evangelize.  There's going to be quite a bit of kasha, as well as soba (100% buckwheat soba is amazing, though costly) to be found in my coming posts here.  It's easy to make, filling, flexible, and as a dry good it appeals to my desire not to go grocery shopping too often.  Most of all, though, I just enjoy the distinctive nutty flavour and like garlic I think it goes with just about everything.

There will also be a lot of spicy soups, though; in fact, expect to read about the two in combination once in a while.  Let it not be said that I didn't learn anything in university.

April 5, 2008

Thai Honeydew

This may not be the most dangerous way to start, but we'll get to that.  We'll get to that.

Honeydew melons were on sale at the dep on the corner recently and I was for some reason immediately struck by the possibility of a soup.  I went the Chinese Quarter for everything else and a couple of days later I gave it a shot.

The soup was a pretty standard affair otherwise, coconut milk, green onion, garlic, red peppers, silken tofu; rice stick prepared separately.  The melon, once I'd scooped it out, I added at two different times.  First I chopped the majority of it up into moderately small pieces (say, thumbnail sized) and fried it in sesame oil with the garlic and the white parts of the onion for a little bit before throwing in the red pepper and adding the coconut milk and a couple of cans of water.  I let that cook a bit while I cubed the tofu, which I added with chili paste.  The remainder of the melon, left in the original scooped-out form, I threw in at the last moment with the green parts of the onions.  The rice stick of course I just soaked in hot water to soften it, as I presume the Chinese directions on the package instruct.

In hindsight I would probably use more melon and go a little easier on the coconut milk - the end result was extremely rich and could have been a little sweeter.  The roughly 3-to-1 proportion of chopped vs. scooped melon was about perfect, though.  I might like to try the same idea with seafood instead of tofu sometime, as well.  The main thing I learned from this, however, is that half a melon makes a lousy soup bowl.  Good ideas for dishes sometimes start with terrible ideas for presentation.