Back again

It looks like I haven’t been writing! I have, just not here: I’ve been a communications intern this fall at the Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance, so have been working with the team and posting some articles there.

Thought it was about time I posted something here, though.

I’ll be hosting my parents and sister for Christmas, so there’s some serious cooking in my future — and I have to remember to order a turkey from George, owner of Meating on Queen (I love having a neighbourhood butcher!).

I bought a steak from him yesterday for dinner. I cooked it a perfect medium: just the right amount of pink in the middle.

NY Strip Steak, medium

My sister would probably have loved it. Alas, I prefer mine rare. Yep, I overcooked it. Oh well, I’ll get it right the next time, and have to remember how I did this so I can give Helen a steak cooked how she likes it.

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.

 

Sharing the info: getting the colour right

I decided I needed a few more photos on my food portfolio, so took a whole bunch of pictures of food I bought at the St. Lawrence Market. Most of it was pretty straightforward, although it required great care: I was using a mandoline without using the guard. Oh yes, it’s true.

A mandoline is sharp enough that you don’t have to race through things. You can take your time with the slicing. Especially with slicing asparagus. You want to use a leading hand and a trailing hand, and use them the way you would on a sewing maching: no fingers where the needle is, no fingers at the blade. Before, and after. Here’s the resulting pictures of the asparagus:

Flat asparagus salad

Now, that wasn’t what caused me problems. No, I had difficulties with reds and jpegs. Fancy that, eh?

I had two perfectly ripe Roma tomatoes. I sliced one, but it was too thin to be attractive. Changed the settings on the mandoline, and got some beautiful slices, and decided to compose a Caprese salad and photograph it.

As Guy McCrum, instructor of Food and Product photography over at George Brown College put it, the tomatoes looked radioactive. He was being kind.

Something to be aware of is that jpeg doesn’t do all colours equally well. I learned this back in the day when I used to do competitions over at Worth1000, but had forgotten about it. Until I had this perfectly ripe tomato. Yes, it looked even slightly overdone on my calibrated monitor, but when I moved it up to Flickr, it turned into something like this. I tried recreating it today, using the same procedure I used to color correct it initially:

Nuclear caprese

Truly, nuclear. The eye has problems figuring out what is going on because of the colour intensity.

Tried just moderately changing the color correction, but that just moderated the nuclearity a little bit. Still not an acceptable image.

Guy recommended I try adding a layer in Photoshop — convert the image to black and white, then apply that as either an overlay or a soft light to the original image.

What could I lose? I converted it using the B&W conversion, and deliberately made the reds much darker. Tried not to change the other colors: the cheese and snipped basil looked right.

Here’s the result. Slightly tamed, but still the full, amazingly red Roma that it was. Just not… quite so glowy.

Close-up on Caprese Salad

Thermomix: *the* kitchen appliance for a small space?

Something else I saw at the Delicious Food Show today — it’s called the Thermomix by Vorwerk. It’s for sale in Montreal and at the show, and they ship, darling.

Amazing cooking machine

It measures by weight. It can do a lot of the work that a blender or food processor does. It’ll knead your bread dough for you. And it will cook your risotto or (absolutely delicious) carrot soup.

If you’ve got a small kitchen, this could replace a number of appliances. It holds 2.5 litres — Mme. Vineberg was generally working with 2L in it.

Here, have some risotto.

Have some risotto!

As you can see, it’s pretty compact.

Chef Challet and interesting things at the Delicious Food Show

Chef Challet is demonstrating the use and versatility of cocoa butter that has been reduced to a particle size. He recommends using it instead of the standard fats we use to cook foods in the kitchen. It has a high flash point: 200C. What’s different about it?

Mycryo. Amazing.

You don’t put it in the frying pan to melt, come up to temperature, and then add the food to be cooked. You  sprinkle it on the raw food (or coat the food, like you would with bread crumbs) and then put the food directly in the frying pan. It sears, it preserves flavour, it reduces cooking time, and is cholesterol free.

Mushrooms sauteed in Mycryo

Sounds interesting, and these mushrooms tasted very good.

Tasty they are.

Chef Challet is coming to Leslieville in the very near future — the old Leonidas chocolate store (gone, alas) is his new venue. He’ll be selling bread items (pain au chocolat, croissants, bread) and prepared food items (boeuf bourguignon, lobster bisque, for example). He expects to be open in about a month — I’ll hit the store when it’s open and post about it!

Wildly Delicious Fine Foods at the Delicious Food Show

Beautiful wares and some gorgeous looking tins of hot chocolate are among the things that caught my eye at Wildly Delicious Fine Foods‘ booth at the show.

These ceramic dishes caught my eye with their color:

Crockery

And I meant to buy a few of these. I might have to go back to the show — or go to their warehouse sale, which is scheduled for Nov 2-Dec 22nd.

Olive wood items

These boxes of peppermint hot chocolate mix look like great little gifts:

Hot chocolate mix #2

And if your favorite chocolate lover prefers dark chocolate, they’ve got dark hot chocolate, too.

Hot chocolate mix #1

This looks like it could have many uses 🙂

Chocolate paté, anyone?