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Posts Tagged ‘truffle’

I have to confess that I have a fascination with mushrooms.  Although cultivated all year long, mushrooms take the seasonal centre stage in the fall.  Trumpet, chantrelles and truffles are familiar seasonal mushrooms but  I had no idea of the variety in colours and shapes of mushroom varieties until I recently visited Amsterdam’s organic market – the Nieuw Markt.


Did you know that oyster mushrooms can be not only grey but pink, blue, yellow?  A revelation!

Have you ever come across a pom pom mushroom?  Their texture is exquisite; white lacy plump bodies just calling out to be touched.  What are those?  Akker mushrooms?  Pied du mouton?


After standing gawking at the stand for several minutes I decided to try to make my first mushroom ragout.  Rather than try to select a delicious combination myself, I took the prearranged selection which offered both familiar and new varieties to me.  I also spied a quick reference card and in my zeal to become a mushroom guru added it to my purchases – Hoe Heet Die Paddenstoel?  Never mind that the whole thing is in Dutch, it has pictures.  Looks like my first challenge will be to translate it rather than recognize the mushrooms at the market or on my plate.

Mushroom ragout is easy to make and loaded with earthy flavour.  Finley dice one onion and a couple cloves of garlic and cook until softened over medium heat.  Add chopped mushrooms and cook until they give off all their liquid.  Deglaze the pan with a 1/2 cup marsala wine and cook until it evaporates.  Add a couple of cups of chicken stock and simmer until the liquid is reduced by 2/3, about 1/2 hr.  Season with S&P, add a third of a cup of cream and stir until heated through.

Delicious as a meatless main with pasta or polenta!  Vegetarians rejoice, it’s mushroom season.  Or serve mushroom ragout along side a perfectly grilled steak….superb!

I’ve made this numerous times now and I really can’t get enough.  Who would have thought fungus would be so delicious?

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It was a bit of luck that brought me to the english bookstore in Amsterdam on Saturday afternoon.  The weather was unsettled so I refused to ride my bike into the city and risk getting soaked while doing our errands therefore I insisted on taking the tram. We had a number of places to go and had plotted out a route that would allow us not to backtrack up and down the tram lines.  It was great in theory, until I realized I forgot the city map. Fortunately our route would take us by a favourite haunt, the ABC Bookstore.


I zipped into the store to pick up another trusty city map for a mere 2 euro and scanned the magazine shelf.  I was on my way to the cash register when I spotted it – Menus for Chez Panisse.   I was drawn to the title and the cover so I picked up the book and began to leaf through.  It was love at first sight.  I tried to put the book down and convince myself I didn’t need it.  In fact, I didn’t need it but I wanted it so I bought it – or rather C bought it for me.

Chez Panisse opened in 1971 by Alice Waters in Berkeley California is legendary.  Alice Waters has changed the face of food through her unique restaurant, advocacy for local products/ producers and her Edible Garden program.   She has surrounded herself with many creative people over the course of the 40 year journey including David Lebowitz, who use to work at the restaurant and recently attended the Chez Panisse 40th Anniversary Party in August 2011.  Today however, I want to share with you the work of an artist, creative contributor and sometimes cook at Chez Panisse, Patricia Curtan.

The book published this year, 2011, is simply a compilation of menus dating from as far back as 1972 through to 2009.  It follows the development of the restaurant, friendships, birthdays, romances and momentous occasions through the recording of the event’s menu.  It is endearing to see the wit and charm in these individually letter pressed menus embellished with the beautifully simple drawings of seasonal fruits, florals and vegetables.   How wonderful to be the recipient of such a menu on your arrival to Chez Panisse and know that the care taken to present the menu on paper will be followed by courses of delicious food prepared with much love and care.

On this Canadian Thanksgiving Day, I am thankful there are people who can slow down and enjoy both art and food.  In this spirit I share my menu – sorry I have no talent for drawing so I refer you to page 82 with its gorgeous variegated leaves in fall colours.

Menu for “C”

Foie Gras on Buttered Toasts with Sauterne Jelly

Pairing: Champagne

Magret du Canard with Truffled Celeriac Puree and Carmelized Savoy Cabbage 

Pairing: Vieux Telegraph Chateauneuf-du-Pape

Pumpkin Pie with freshly whipped cream 

Pairing:  Great conversation with friends

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Amsterdam plays host to a multitude of food events every year but as a non-Dutch speaker, it’s difficult to know what’s happening and when.  We were fortunate to learn while shopping for wine (yet again) of the Italia al Dente food festival and a Foodie Film Festival all in the same weekend!  As you can’t do it all without driving your husband crazy, I opted to for the Italia al Dente festival. The venue was almost visible from our window along the IJ canal so we cycled over Sunday on a fresh Dutch afternoon to enjoy a little bit of Italy.

The event was well set up with over 50 food and wine purveyors, Italian travel companies and specialist booksellers.   The entrance fee was $12.00 euro which was a great deal given we had over 20 or so wine merchants sampling their Italian wines not to mention food samples.   Our first stop was a cured meat distributor called Meat Cuisine where I sought to understand their different types of cured salamis.  

Which was the best, the hottest, the most flavorful?  What was on the outside of the skin?  How long will the salami keep in the refrigerator?  Oh never keep your salami in the refrigerator it becomes “geïrriteerde” I was told.   He struggled to find the English equivalent for the word asking several Dutch customers and they all finally landed on the translation for the word as “angry“.   Keeping your salami in the refrigerator makes it angry!   You are to keep it wrapped in paper at room temperature.  Who knew?  I agreed to come back and pick up a couple of sausage on my way out so I could try their products and we carried on.

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