Unidentified flying fruit

When you’re trying to be good and eat all your fruits and vegetables, you can get bored with eating the same things over and over. Recently, I’ve been trying new fruit.

My absolute favourite new fruit is the donut peach. Also called a saucer peach (as in flying saucers), they look like peaches that have been smushed. Inside, the flesh is white with a tinge of pink. The taste is sweeter and more delicate than a regular peach, and I’m finding that I like them so much better than regular peaches. The flesh is also really delicate, so you have to be careful when handling them or picking them out in the grocery store. They’re more expensive than regular peaches as well, so make sure you budget for them!

donut peach

donut peach

Another fruit that I’ve tried recently is the red pear. The bright skin caught my eye in the grocery store, and I couldn’t resist picking up a couple. The taste was… well it was like a pear, except that the texture was slightly less gritty. Given that these were more expensive than other pears, I probably wouldn’t pick them up again. They sure are bright and pretty though.

red pear

red pear

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

Creating your own salad dressing

Last night, I decided to make my own salad dressing for the first time, instead of using one out of a bottle. I’ve seen salad dressings being made on cooking shows all the time, and I knew it wasn’t hard to do.

Before I started I did a quick Google search for recipes, but nothing really caught my fancy. I had quite a few of the ingredients that the various recipes said I would need for a salad dressing, and a number of vinegars to choose from. Should I use balsamic? Red wine vinegar? Mustard? Do I want something creamy or a light vinagarette?

The salad leaves I would be using had a bit of flavour on their own, so I decided that I needed something with a strong taste of it’s own. Except for Caesar salads, I generally don’t use cream dressings anymore.

The Brûlée Blog’s Honey Mustard Vinagrette

2 teaspoons whole grain dijon mustard
2 teaspoons liquid honey
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
one part apple cider vinegar
one part extra virgin olive oil

Mix throughly, adding the oil gradually as the last step. This makes a strong mustard tasting vinagarette, so you may want to adjust the amount of mustard depending on your personal tastes. I added the amount of vinegar and oil until the dressing became the consistency that I wanted. I ended up with enough dressing for 3-4 large servings of salad.

I’ve seen similar recipes with pressed garlic and/or sugar added to the dressing, but I didn’t think it needed either of those at all.

Cooking milestones

I made this recipe again over the long weekend, and that’s when I suddenly realized that when I originally made the pasta dish I had also made my first roux. I had also cooked with wine and clam juice for the first time.

I never really thought about or cared about roux before, but after reading The Making of a Chef I’ve started obessing over some of the things that Ruhlman talked about, like roux. His section on the bread baking class enchanted me and I can’t stop thinking about no-knead bread recipes and bread makers. I really do not need another appliance in my kitchen right now.

Who knew this “learning to cook” thing would give me so many new things to obsess about.

Testing recipes

I recently signed up to be a tester for the Friends of Cook’s Illustrated, and last night tried making my first recipe, Steak Tacos. I didn’t have time to stop for photos unfortunately, but a couple of the items from there were spectacular, namely the marinade (which is also used as a sauce) and a side recipe for sweet and spicy pickled onions. I’m dying to share these, but I can’t (copyright, etc.). The message said the recipes may appear in the magazine in about 6 months, so keep your fingers crossed.

I ended up using leftover pieces of steak, marinade and some of the sweet and spicy pickled onions as toppings and dressing for my lunch-time salad today. Mmmmmm….

I still have some of the pickled onions left. I need to think up some ideas to use up the rest. Maybe as a hot dog condiment? 🙂