News and links

And lastly, if you live in the Edmonton area you should check out the local Chowhound board. I took over moderating the Edmonton Restaurant Review of the Month (RROTM) a couple of months ago, and we need more people participating! Here’s some info for you:

The Edmonton Restaurant Review of the Month (RROTM) is an event where chowhounds nominate local restaurantsto review for the month (similar to a book club). The moderator of RROTM will use a randomizer to choose the restaurant for the upcoming month. Chowhounds try to eat there at least once during that month, and post their opinion in a RROTM specific thread. There are two monthly threads for RROTM – the discussion thread to choose the restaurant and the thread for the reviews.

June discussion: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/710328?tag=main_body;topic-710328
June review thread: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/711446
May review thread: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/705743

Gallo pinto and Lizano salsa

Lizano salsa

Lizano salsa

A friend went to Peru and Costa Rica, and asked me what I wanted as a souvenir. I’m sure she was expecting me to ask for a sweater or something like that, but I think I surprised her. Food, I replied. Something unique. Maybe a sample of the tea you’re supposed to take when you’re climbing Machu Picchu?

What she ended up bringing back was some Lizano salsa, (Lizano sauce). The taste of Lizano is a little hard to explain. A sauce made out of vegetables and salt, it tastes a little like a slightly sweet and spiced V8-flavoured sauce, minus the tomatoes.

Stick it on tacos, she said, when I asked what it was normally used it for. That seemed kind of a waste though. and then I found a recipe for a Costa Rican gallo pinto – beans and rice.

Now you can apparently substitute Lizano sauce with Worcestershire sauce, but they just do not taste the same. I tried called a couple of places to see if i could find it here in Edmonton, but with no luck so far. Paraiso Tropical said they have carry the same kind of sauce but from a different brand. The person who answered the phone at El Rancho Latin Market told me they didn’t speak English and hung up on me. Anyone know if I can find this stuff here in town? If the other brand doesn’t taste right I’m going to have to resort to ordering the sauce online.

gallo pinto

gallo pinto

Gallo pinto
Adapted from Serious Eats
Serves 4

Ingredients
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 yellow, white or red onion, diced
1 red pepper, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup cooked rice (you get better results with day old or defrosted frozen rice than freshly cooked rice)
1 cup of canned black beans, with some liquid
5 tablespoons Lizano salsa or Worcestershire sauce
Salt and black pepper to taste
cilantro, roughly chopped

Directions
Pour the oil into a large skillet or wok set on medium heat. Add the onion and cook until the onion starts to turn translucent. Add the red pepper and cook until the red pepper is soft. Add the garlic and cook for about a minute.

Add the can of beans to the pan, but only add a little of the liquid in the can (reserve the rest of the liquid just in case). Add the Lizano or Worcestershire sauce, stir and let everything cook for about 3 minutes. If the pan starts to dry out, add more of the reserved bean liquid. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the rice, and stir until well coated, and cook until the rice is heated through. Top with chopped cilantro, and add additional salt, pepper, or Lizano sauce if necessary.

Update: I found some Lizano, but it was in Vancouver. So I had someone bring me lots of bottles. 🙂

2nd Update: I keep getting internet stores advertising in my comments, so I am closing comments on this post. Google it if you want to order Lizano online.

Salsa fresca with a twist

It was a beautiful day on Saturday; the sun was shining and the weather was crisp but not freezing. I even opened the windows for a short time to let in some fresh air. If I didn’t know better I would swear that it feels like spring weather is coming soon! (Hard to tell with weather here… a few days ago it snowed, and then promptly melted the next day.)

To go along with the nice weather I made some fresh salsa inspired by a recipe that I was told came straight from a cook in Mexico. I have a doubt about the authenticity of that recipe though, as it includes celery and I’ve never seen a salsa recipe that includes celery. The vegetable does give the salsa a nice crunch. The other thing about this recipe that struck me was the large amount of green in it, as opposed to other salsas which are more about the tomato than the other flavours. It gives the salsa a really fresh taste. For my version of this salsa, I ended up adjusting the quantities of some ingredients and adding seasoning.

Salsa fresca with a twist

Salsa fresca with a twist

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Fennel and blood orange salad

I have a confession to make. I am a subscriber of Gwyneth Paltrow’s oddly named GOOP e-newsletter. Now in my defence, it’s not because I love her acting or anything (she’s okay but not my favourite). I actually signed up for the entertainment factor because I’m easily amused by her Martha/Oprah wanna-be efforts.

So here’s another confession – on Saturday I made one of the newsletter’s recipes, based on a Mario Batali dish. And it was really good! This recipe lets me use two ingredients I’ve never cooked or baked with before – blood oranges and fennel.

I picked up a bag of blood oranges during my Costco trip from the previous weekend and immediately started searching my cookbooks and saved recipes for something good to make. A quick trip to the grocery store last night netted me some fresh fennel. This salad is crisp and clean tasting, and is a refreshing change from regular salads. It’s probably not the cheapest salad to make, although I guess you could substitute the blood oranges for regular navel oranges or maybe even mandarin oranges.

Fennel and blood orange salad

Fennel and blood orange salad

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Eggplant curry (baingan bharta)

Eggplant curry (baingan bharta)

Eggplant curry (baingan bharta)

For dinner on Thursday night, and lunch leftovers on Friday, I cooked with eggplant for the very first time. This dish also gave me the opportunity to try out the new non-stick marble coated wok I picked up the last time I was at T&T.

For this dish I chose something relatively simple to make. Simplicity doesn’t necessarily mean simple flavours though; this dish had plenty of layers. I could definitely see myself doubling the recipe next time in order to have additional leftovers. Eaten with half a piece of Olafson’s flaxseed and multigrain breakfast pita (toasted in the already heated broiler), the meal was healthy, full of vegetables, spicy, hearty, satisfying and filling. My best reaction was a statement from one of the other people who ate the dish – “you’re allowed to make this one again.” Continue reading