In search of the most beautiful Caprese Salad

A Caprese Salad is a simple thing: tomato, boccancini, basil, olive oil, and some say balsamic vinegar (some say no).

When it’s fresh, ripe, perfect ingredients, it’s the essence of summer sun and warmth.

 

Probably the best tasting one I’ve had in Toronto lately was at Lil Baci, which uses imported cheese, and it’s very creamy, melt-in-your-mouth, pairs with tomato in an awesome way delicious.

 

Because it has so few ingredients, it’s an amazingly graphic, sometimes architectural, salad. I want to capture it as pure art. I’m not there yet.

 

Here’s a salad that Sandy had when we were in Italy in 2005:

Venice_0063

 Here’s one I photographed a couple of months ago:

Caprese Salad

Here’s my photograph from last week:

Caprese redux

 I’m getting closer, but I’m not there yet. Need more precision in my salad building, either get the whole plate or no background, editing details, clarity, clarity, clarity.

Then I saw a really interesting salad at a restaurant Sandy was eating at in Italy last night.

Hmm. Vertical stack. Hmm. different types of tomatoes.

I think I will continue to work on this.

Rant: that’s NOT cream, Sealtest & Nielson!

Hot weather’s here.

When it’s hot, I love to have a mug of cold vichyssoise and a salad for lunch or dinner.

I scored some lovely fresh garlic scapes at the Leslieville Farmers’ Market on the weekend (my recipe is on Natalie MacLean’s site).

Today I went to Loblaws to get some cream (I use chicken broth to make the soup, and a little cream to finish it off). Alas, that Loblaw’s at Leslie and Lakeshore being what it is, they had absolutely no Organic Meadow cream, only industrial milk company products. The same at Price Chopper, across the street.

Why don’t I like buying cream from Sealtest or Nielsen? Because I don’t like the ingredient list.

Sealtest’s light cream (5% milk fat) contains: milk, cream, modified milk ingredients, maltodextrin, disodium phosphate, sodium citrate, guar gum, carrageenan.

Their half-and-half contains: milk, cream, sodium citrate, sodium phosphate, carrageenan.

Whipping cream? cream, milk, carrageenan, mono and dyglycerides, carboxymethyl cellulose, polysorbate 80.

Lists were similar for Nielson (unfortunately, since they’ve been acquired by Saputo, their website is down, and Saputo doesn’t seem to provide this detail on their site).

When I want to add cream to soup, I want to add cream. I don’t want to be adding cellulose and thickeners, corn sugars and other stuff.  Why are you adding this to your cream?

Just give me the real food. Thank you, Organic Meadow, for having an ingredient list that reads: cream.

 

My eBook has been published

It’s now available on the SmashWords website.

What’s it about? It’s about the plants that George Leslie was growing in his Nurseries here in Leslieville. It’s got all the plants listed that he had in two catalogues — I’ve marvelled at the number of apple varieties (over 100), pears (over 80) and roses (over 120) that he was growing.

We’ve lost so much: I’m hoping that when people read this, they’ll be prompted to help spread around and continue growing some of the rarer varieties of fruit. Did you know that George sold six different types of rhubarb? Wow, imagine that!

Unfortunately, I don’t have a list of the different type of seeds he was selling: if I do manage to find that, I’ll create a new edition of the book.

Here’s the cover I designed for it:

eBook cover

I’ve applied for a membership with CISS so I’ll get an ISBN number, and that will enable me to get the book published… Oh, but it can take over 2 weeks for CISS just to get back to me about being a member so… I’m going to go with the ISBN option on SmashWords instead.

I wasn’t sure how long it would take to publish: SmashWords has a PDF booklet about how to format for them, and I messed up initially (had all the plant lists in tables, which SmashWords can’t interpret). Fixed that, tried to make sure I did everything correctly — but one never knows. Sometimes uploading something for translation is an iterative process: get errors, fix something, upload again, etc., etc.

I didn’t have any errors, so it was pretty painless.

Onward and upward. Now I need to send out press releases.

Cheese and not-cheese

Compare and contrast.

No, I won’t do that, because that’s comparing apples and …hmm. bread? Two vastly different categories, although both are in similar spaces.

Fifth town, if you read back in my blog, is an organic cheese maker based in Prince Edward County. And they’re here, at the Delicious Food Show. I picked up some of their Quark cheese. I had never tasted quark until this summer, when they drizzled some maple syrup over some and offered tastes. Yes, I’ll take that over dessert any day, thanks. It’s delicious.

Fifth Town Cheese

The other was a maker, Daiya, that I had heard about, and I saw their products when the Foodist Mart was briefly open in Leslieville. They create a vegan product that tastes like cheese.

Daiya

They had some slices of pizza out with their mozzarella-like cheese-like product, and I took one and ate it. It did have a cheesy flavour, it melted like mozzarella, and looked like it, too. So for vegans who miss the taste of cheese, there’s a product out for you! They also had some grilled cheese sandwiches with a cheddar-like product, but after wandering all the stalls, I confess, I was sated, and didn’t try it.

Goat butter — yes, in Ontario!

One item I bought in Florence that I’ve wished I could get in Toronto is goat butter — it has more flavour to it than cow butter. It isn’t as strong as the barnyard flavour in a goat cheese, but there’s a hint of that same taste. At the Delicious Food Show, Stirling Creamery was there — and I had the opportunity to sample the goat butter. Delicious!

Stirling butters

The list of retailers included Chris the Cheesemonger at the Saint Lawrence Market in Toronto. You can bet (if they’re not already carrying that product) that I’ll be asking them for it!

Sustainable sturgeon caviar — at the Delicious Food Show

Sturgeon caviar is a product we associate with Russia. It’s a shame, but sturgeon has been driven to the brink of extinction there because of fishing practices. Sturgeon farming began in the US in the ’80’s, in California.

Sturgeon’s an incredibly old fish, dating back 200 million years. You can learn more about them on wikipedia.

Now we’ve got a Sturgeon farm based in New Brunswick, on the St. John River. Founded by Cornel Ceapa, who has a PhD in Fisheries Engineering, Acadian Sturgeon sells caviar and smoked sturgeon, and is selling sturgeon eggs and young sturgeon to European concerns to help replenish faltering European stocks.

Acadian Caviar

It takes a long time to get a Sturgeon fishery going, and about 10 years for the fish to reach maturity. Dr. Ceapa is determined that a sustainable, environmentally correct fishery is the direction to be taking before the fish is annihilated, and has been developing the fishery since 2004.  The fish are raised in tanks with water taken from the St. John River. After use and cleaning through multiple filters, the water is returned to the river. It’s important to him that the water be clean both ways! Intake must be clean, or he’s risking his stock. Output must be clean, or he’s risking downstream destruction.

In the mean time, Acadian Sturgeon is selling sustainably harvested sturgeon, about 350 a year. The sale of wild sturgeon will wind down over time, but wild sturgeon will always be the standard against which Acadian measures its product.

Sturgeon caviar

The caviar is delicious: I tried some on a hard-boiled half of a quail egg.

The Garlic Box at The Delicious Food Show

It should come as no surprise that I’m a big fan of garlic! One of the booths at the show was The Garlic Box, which has some glorious cloves of Music garlic at $1.00 each:

Garlic Box #6

 Music garlic doesn’t play an instrument — it’s called that because Music was the last name of the farmer who developed it. It grows very well in Ontario. The garlic used by The Garlic Box is Ontario product.

Now — not all garlic heads look perfect to sell as full heads. What do you do with the rest of them? How about pickles, sauces, and spreads? The Garlic Box has a wide variety. One I couldn’t resist is pickled scapes and cloves.

Garlic cloves & scapes

 I was curious about how they create this combination, since they are harvested at different times. They put the scapes in brine until the cloves are harvested, and then create a layered pickle — scapes on the bottom, cloves on the top.

They have an interesting idea for a Bloody Caesar:

Garlic Box #4

And lots more products.

Garlic Box #3

 Dressings, beans and such.

Garlic Box #2

And dried garlic products, too.

Eating delicious food

I love Italian food, and so I eat it when I can.

This past week, I attended another of Massimo Bruno’s Supper Club dinners: this one was themed “Vacanze Romane.”

It was delicious! One thing that stands out for me is the use of herbs and spices in the various plates. After the focaccia, here were four initial plates (two of cod, one stuffed zucchini, one of porchetta and borlotti beans), followed by veal and broccoli alla pomodoro, and then some amazing choux-pastries, deep fried and stuffed with a creamy ricotta filling (bignes). Each dish was herbed and spiced to bring out the ingredients on the plate, and each dish tasted unique in the service. That’s how you avoid taste fatigue!

All the food is served country style, so if you don’t have enough to eat (hah! like that could ever happen) you’ve only yourself to blame.

Here is one picture. The rest are over on my Flickr site. Click here to see all the food from Thursday.

Baccala Al Sugo

 

Last stop of the day in Prince Edward County: Mushrooms!

In the ongoing downpour, we decided to stop for lunch in Wellington. Alas, I was elected the one to leave the car to find out if the restaurant Sandy and Susan had picked out was open (only fair: Susan was driving and Sandy was in the back seat). No dice. The  restaurant was closed, and wasn’t going to be opening that day. I don’t even remember what it was called, unfortunately, and Google Earth has a really shitty low-resolution map of Wellington and no Street View, so I can’t tell you what it is from walking down the street and stopping just before the traffic light. But it was a place Sandy and Susan were hoping we could get to for lunch, since it was too rainy to eat outdoors at any of the wineries with restaurants.

So we went halfway down the block to the Devonshire Inn for lunch, and had some lovely local fare of salads, pork, and fish. While we were finishing up and talking to the waitress, the topic somehow got onto mushrooms and the local mushroom farm/factory. Heck, what else are you going to do on a rainy Wednesday afternoon? We went off to Highline Mushrooms, just past the corner of Gilead and Conley. Go to their website if you want to learn about the place. I’d love to do a tour some time. What they offered was a price list and a fridge full of mushrooms at really great prices.

Price list:

Mushroom farm in Wellington

“Cafe” are what they call cremini mushrooms at the grocery store. Ports are portabellas. Susan bought a box of mushrooms, but I’m not sure which variety. Here’s how big a box is.

Highline Mushrooms

That’s lots of mushrooms to dry, confit, turn into a spread to go on toast with some paté… oh yes, I could imagine doing things with lots of mushrooms.