Tuesday, July 28, 2009

When Life Gives You Cauliflower ...

Well, in this part of the world, you make pakoras.

In Vancouver, we are blessed with not only a large Indian community, we are blessed with Vij. Vikram Vij and his wife Meeru Dhalwala are the owners and creative trust behind Vij's and Rangoli. These two restaurants have elevated the cuisines of India to a much higher level than your average butter chicken.

In food mad Vancouver, it's only natural for many chefs to release their own cookbooks. So it was in 2006 we received Vij's Elegant & Inspired Indian Cuisine. It was from this book I found the best use for our recent bounty of cauliflower.

The recipe is simple, although I never did track down any powdered mango, and my decision to deep fry on a day with a high temperature of 28C was not one of my better ones.  However, in my defense I should say that my wife said she wanted something "bad" for dinner. I think deep fried cauliflower and Czech pilsner counts.

And damn, they were "good"!

Monday, July 27, 2009

New Idea Monday: Seeing Things in a New Way

While not specifically about kitchen design (trust me, I spent an hour trying to find a connection) this video of an art installation in Hamburg, Germany is way too good to pass up.

555 KUBIK_ extended version from urbanscreen on Vimeo.
Thanks to my friend Henry Lo for bringing this to my attention.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Comfort Ticket for Granite

The "anti-stone" lobby has been very active as long as I have been in this business.

Because stone (granite, marble, etc.) is a natural product it is prone to many shortcomings, porosity being the big one, that other man-made materials are not, something the producers of these products are quick to point out.

Thanks to new technology, that glass of red wine on your Giallo Veneziano countertops will no longer be a cause for alarm. Permanent stone sealers are starting to make their presence known in the market place.

Earlier this year I began reading about a "Nano Sealer" from Tekon Industries. The video is pretty impressive, but because I was unable to source the Tekon product locally, I started wondering who else was in the game.

I've recently started using Top Notch Granite & Marble (Coquitlam, BC) as a countertop supplier. I noticed an addition on each of the quotes I received, referring to Granite Shield. A quick Google and I was soon knee-deep in their web-site ... which like the Tekon video is pretty impressive.

Depending if the granite is considered light, medium or dark, each type of stone takes a different application process and then is capped with catalyzing polymers with a permanent carbon crystal sealant which then locks the catalyzing polymer into the stone. The carbon crystal sealant forms a molecular bond with the granite which can not be removed thus creating a lifetime seal plus leaving your granite more vibrant, smoother, shinier and maintenance free.

In addition to being applied to new countertop installations, these new protectants can be applied to existing granite countertops and can go through any existing sealer or pre-sealed granite. A service like this from Top Notch will run you around $10 per square foot and can be completed in only a few hours.

Bottom line, we're talking about lifetime warranties on stone countertops! I will admit right now I have never used this product, so I cannot endorse it. But the thought of being able to use any stone ... yes, even marble ... in the kitchen without fear of staining opens up a whole new palate of possibilities.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Big Blue Comes to Town (Sort Of)

Ever since the Vancouver Whitecaps were awarded an MLS franchise for 2011, I've been wanting to take a trip down the I-5 to Seattle. The Sounders FC , who used to be in the USL1 with the Whitecaps started in the MLS this year. I wanted to see what we were in for.

Premiere League team Chealsea FC was in town last weekend for an exhibition match against the Sounders, and my friend Abra was also having a big party the same weekend at her home on Bainbridge Island. A road trip was definitely in order.

This was my first visit to Qwest field. Normally, when the Sounders play a regular season MLS match, the stadium is set up to hold 20,000 fans. For the match against Chelsea there were more than 65,000 in attendance.

As impressive as the stadium (and the game) was, the food we discovered was equally unimpressive. Okay, the beer selections were fine, but the shopping-mall like mix of pizza, Chinese noodles and garlic fries who's revolting aroma is permanently etched into my mind was saddly lacking.

We went with the pizza because it seemed the item least likely to get screwed up. We were almost right. Kinda like raw dough with pepperoni. A much better idea would be to visit one of the many pubs around the stadium beforehand.

The Final Score
Now, for the REAL food adventures from this weekend, I made a guest appearance over at French Letters. Easily made up for that pizza.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Relaxin' in the Kitchen

I am not a big fan of the "great room" concept of home design. Call me old fashioned, but I really prefer a delineation between my living space and where I cook. However, I am but one voice, and the open concept is just as popular today as it was 10 years ago.

The Modium line from KicheConcept takes the idea of blurring the lines between living space and kitchen to a new level. The very clean lines of the cabinets would look as stunning in the kitchen as it would in a martini lounge. But what makes this line really interesting is the sofa-style cabinets (the dark brown section off the island) that would allow your friends to relax in luxury while dinner was being made.

I'm not sure I like having pillows near the cooktop though.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Veggie Garden

So we decided to put in a new vegetable garden this year. There's a huge plot of land between our carport and the neighbour's big ugly concrete fence, perfect for lettuce, cabbage, Swiss chard, carrots, beets ...
... and cauliflower!

And I'm completely in favour of less lawn to mow.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Hang On Little Tomato

The first tomato of the season from our patio garden. We won't be making any salad or anything with it, but it's a sign of things to come.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Kitchen Tech: Steam Heat

Cooking with steam has come a long way from bamboo steam racks and flying saucer looking thing my mom used to have back in the 70’s. Today, manufacturers like Miele, Sharp and Gagganeau have combined high-tech with steam to add yet another category to your appliance shopping list.

Steam oven proponents claim that steam cooking not only reduces cooking time, but also lowers the fat content of food. Where dry heat cooking tends to rely on added fat to keep meats from drying out, meat needs no supplementary fat with steam cooking, and will definitely not be dry because of the constant injections of steam.

Steam cooking also retains more vitamins and flavour than other cooking methods and so can be considered a healthier way of preparing foods. Speed is also a plus in steam cooking. Consider cooking a whole chicken. In a standard convection oven that chicken would take about 90 minutes to cook. In a steam oven, that same chicken would be on your plate over an hour sooner.

There is a downside to steam ovens. They don’t brown. This can be easily overcome by browning meat before it goes into the steam oven, but of course this doesn’t work too well for baked goods.

The majority of steam ovens I see are of the built-in variety. In many cases they are designed to coordinate (finish and size) with other appliances (microwaves and wall ovens most typically) for an integrated look. The kitchen I'm showing here features a Miele steam oven paired with a standard wall oven.

A new appliance for a traditional cooking technique, the steam oven is worth a look for the serious cook.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Market Day with Matt

My eldest son has graduated, which means I see him even less than I did before. I'm not sad about it ... I understand that it's a part of life and he's starting his own life. But I do miss spending time with him.

So I was pretty happy when he and I made plans to go to the Wednesday Farmer's Market. "Let's go get inspired and cook," he said to me. And so we did.

I really like the Farmer's Market. Local people, local food, and it's a fun place to hang out. It's no Portland Market, but it's the best we've got. The new location for the Wednesday Market (it was a Nat Bailey Stadium until construction for the Olympic Curling Rink pushed it out) is at Thornton Park, across the street from the bus depot and right under the Main Street Skytrain station. Yes, it's a bit of dodgy area, but the skuzzy factor is no big deal during the day.

Fresh at the market this week, strawberries, raspberries, cherries. Inspiration for dessert was simple. Dinner ... well we found a baker that had some fresh pasta, a pork producer for some farmer's sausage, some tomatoes (HUGE!), cheese and a terrific chocolate pecan loaf.

The cherries with the chocolate were a shoe-in for dessert. So the strawberries found their way into a salad, along with the cheese, baby greens, fennel and red onion.

My son took the tomatoes and told me he was going to make a sauce. "Concassé," he said, and in a few minutes he had the tomatoes peeled, shallots and garlic brunoise-d and he began assembling a delicious smelling sauce. 2 parts tomatoes, 1 part chicken stock and 1 part wine. I was so proud!  The pasta was completed with the farmer's sausage, some fresh basil and some parmigiana cheese.

Dessert was simple. The cherries were pitted and put into a pan with some sugar and water. Once soft I pureéd them, strained out the skin and added some ginger liqueur. The sauce was put down on the plate first, a slice of chocolate loaf next, and then topped with some fresh cherries.

Dinner was wonderful. The food was great, I was sharing it with my wife and both my sons, I'd spent some great time with son #1, and son #2 did the dishes.  However shopping local comes with a hefty price-tag. The little pile of groceries we gathered set us back $50. But do yourself a favour and splurge on a market meal with your family. The meal will be worth it, and you'll pass on some worthwhile values. Change comes a generation at a time.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

101 Things to Cook on Your Grill (Not Including Burgers) - Part 2

Smoked Lemons
It started over at Urban Diner, and a brief mention of smoked lemonade. As I was planning on smoking some ribs for Canada Day, some lemons were purchased, and an experiment began.

As you can see, the colour looks really good. That was after 3 hours at 225C using cherry as the smoke wood. The fruit was very loose at this point, so sqeezing them to get the juice was a piece of cake. As a side benefit, some of the lemon juice from the top rack in the smoker dripped onto the ribs on the lower rack producing an unexpected citrus note in the ribs. Something to remember for next time.
The lemonade was a simple 1:1:1 ration for water sugar and the smoked lemon juice, although if I did it again I'd reduce the amount of sugar. The result? Very interesting. My wife didn't like it at all, my son thought enough of it to take it to work with him where he said it received rave reviews.

For me, I'm not sure what I think. I don't hate it. I've had several glasses, some spiked (gin & vodka so far) and some not. I think what I'm trying to deal with is that the smokiness is not at all a flavour I would have associated with lemon juice. It would be like taking a big gulp of milk and having it taste like... oh I don't know ... cheese?

But I'm glad I did it, if for no other reason than to see the look on guests faces when I ask them if they'd like a glass of smoked lemonade.
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