Kappacasein, London

Kappacasein, a food stall in Borough Market, is the first place where I ever heard of and experienced raclette. This is another place that I had on my “must visit again” list and I wandered the market until I found it.

Kappacasein

Kappacasein

Wait, what’s raclette? Well I’m glad you asked. It’s a big ‘ole round of cheese, from parts of Switzerland and France. The cheese is melted and scraped (literally, as racler is French for “to scrape”) onto a variety of food such as potatoes, pickled onions and charcuterie.

Kappacasein counter

Kappacasein counter

Look at all the cheese smeared over the pepper grinders! Kappacasein uses an Ogleshield cheese (which coincidentally comes from the Montgomery farm that I talked about in my Neal’s Dairy Yard post).

raclette sign

raclette sign

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BLT Burger, Las Vegas

Later in the week we made a last minute decision to pick up some lunch at another “fancy” chef-owned burger place, BLT Burger located in the Mirage. This decision wasn’t fueled by a burger craving, but more as a way to erase (or at least make me feel better) about my not-so-hot experience over at the Burger Bar.

The “BLT” in the name stands for “Bistro Laurent Tourondel.” The atmosphere is modern and yet retro at the same time; each table had an old fashioned diner-style, and the servers were dressed in a casual uniform of BLT branded t-shirts with sayings on the back like “Tip waiters not cows.” Instead of hiding the cook-top, they treated the overhead vent as a display piece and have the cook-top surrounded by bar-style seating. (I didn’t take a photo but you can see the decor over here.)

We were seated right away because the restaurant, while busy, was quite large. They play their music very loud (probably to drown out the casino noises!), and our server was cheery and helpful.

BLT Burger placemat

BLT Burger placemat

This time, I was absolutely determined to have meat.

BLT’s burgers are a mix of Black Angus sirloin, short rib, chuck and brisket.They have a number of add-on toppings like portobello mushrooms, fried eggs, and homemade chili, as well as a number of alcoholic and non-alcoholic milkshakes.

I decided on the “Shaft’s Blue,” which was a grilled 7 oz patty served with Shaft’s Blue Vein Cheese, balsamic caramelized onion and mushrooms, with a big pickle on the side. And I ordered it cooked medium – which is something you can’t get at restaurants here.

Sweet potato fries and Shafts Blue burger

Sweet potato fried and Shaft's Blue burger

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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.

Moroccan spiced chickpea soup

Everyone I’ve ever told about this recipe have raved about its taste. It’s hearty, it’s healthy, it’s easy to make, only uses one pot and it tastes damn good. I discovered it one day when watching Good Deal with Dave Lieberman on TV.

“Wow, that looks simple and delicious,” I thought. And so I immediately went looking for the recipe on the US Food Network website. I’ve made it enough times now that I’ve adjusted some ingredients to fit my own personal taste.

Moroccan spiced chickpea soup

Moroccan spiced chickpea soup

Moroccan spiced chickpea soup
Adapted from Good Deal with Dave Lieberman
Makes approximately 4-6 large servings.

Ingredients
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for garnish
1 large onion, roughly diced
6 to 8 cloves of garlic, pressed
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (original recipe asks for just 1 tsp but I like the additional cinnamon taste)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (add more if you want heat)
1 heaping teaspoon sweet paprika
1 can chopped tomatoes (796 mL/28 oz, original recipe used half of this amount though)
2 cans chickpeas (540 mL/19 oz per can), rinsed and drained
1 carton (900 mL) reduced-sodium chicken broth (or vegetable broth… or use your own stock of course)
1 teaspoon sugar
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Pre-washed baby spinach

Directions
Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic, and sauté until the onions begin to turn translucent (lower the heat if browning starts to occur). Add all your spices spices and sauté for a minute. Add the tomatoes, chickpeas, broth and sugar. Add a pinch of salt and approximately 10 grinds of fresh pepper.

Don’t forget to stir as you add each ingredient. The chickpeas should be just covered with liquid; if you don’t have enough liquid add some water.

Bring the soup to a simmer, then lower heat to low and gently simmer for approximately 45 minutes. Basically, you want the chickpeas to soften enough so that there is no bite.

Remove the soup from the heat and use a potato masher to mash up some of the chickpeas (but not all of them) right there in the pot. Spoon out your soup and add plenty of spinach to each bowl, stirring until the heat just starts to wilt the leaves. If you’re serving the entire pot, go ahead and add your spinach to the pot instead of into individual bowls. Add additional salt and pepper if necessary, and serve the soup lightly drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil, if desired.

Kek Seng Kopitiam, Malaysia

Laksa, popiah and ais kacang with durian ice cream oh my! Just a warning, this is going to be a long post. Kek Seng Kopitiam (coffee shop) is an institution in Penang. It’s been around for years and years, and frankly the atmosphere is a little dingy (although all the tables, plates, bowls, etc. were clean). The food is a little more old fashioned too; unlike at someplace like New World, the food is pretty much how it was served 30+ years ago (found something online that says Kek Seng opened in 1906). When we were there it was quite busy but we managed to snag a table.

One thing I miss dearly about Malaysia was the easy access to laksa. And by laksa, I mean Penang assam laksa. I talked about curry mee (curry laksa) a little while ago. That one is a coconut-based curry broth. Penang-style assam laksa is a sour, mackerel-based soup that is flavoured with tamarind, lemongrass, galangal, chilli, ginger flower buds, mint, pineapple and onion. You also usually get a soup spoon filled with a thick, sweet prawn paste called Hae Ko, and the whole thing is served with rice noodles (either thick or vermicelli).

The assam laksa at Kek Seng was one of my favourites that I had throughout the trip. A strong fish broth with all those spices and a slight sourness; my mouth is watering as I type this. This first photo is of the hawker stall; those pink things are the ginger flowers. When I’ve shown that photo to other people, the reaction I’ve gotten has been “you mean they actually use flowers and not ginger root?!”

Penang assam laksa hawker stall

Penang assam laksa hawker stall

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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

Vegetarian chili

I’ve been having cravings for meat. Ground meat. It’s funny, because before this diet I never really cared for ground beef as I generally find it too greasy. But now that I’m supposed to eat less meat and more vegetables or vegetarian alternatives, I’ve suddenly started staring at hamburgers and thinking of meatloaf.

One substitute that has worked well in the past is veggie ground round, a soy-based product that has the look and texture of ground beef. Now, it doesn’t taste like ground beef, so it’s best used in dishes where the meat taste isn’t necessarily the star, such as a baked pasta dish.

Last night I deflowered my virgin Le Creuset and made some tricksy vegetarian chili. This stuff looks, tastes and has the texture of regular chili but lets you avoid the grease and fat of red meat. The recipe is a mishmash of various other chili recipes that I’ve found in books and online.

Vegetarian chili

Vegetarian chili in my new Le Creuset

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