Friday, April 15, 2011

Tea Infused Salmon with Skordalia

Not my best photo. It was taken late at night without much help
 from lighting and the composition was all wrong too. (I was eager to eat it)

Rick Moonen was my favourite Top Chef Master of all time.  I bought his book, Fish Without a Doubt when I was still in university.  Being a sociology student, I bought the book purely based on its premise: eating sustainable seafood. The book offered caters to everyone from beginner chefs who can't tell one fish to another to advance chefs who want to find new ways to cook fish head.

Fish Without a Doubt: The Cook's Essential CompanionPersonally, I really admire Chef Rick's innovative ways of flavouring food and incorporating very unconventional spices and cooking technical.   For example, he used lapsang souchong tea to marinate and flavour salmon.  Lapsang souchong is a black tea with strong nasty smell that reminds me of tobacco and burnt wood.  This tea is often consumed for medicinal use instead of pleasure. In fact, a whiff of this tea reminded me of acupuncture office in Taiwan.

For one of his recipe, Rick grounds up this tea in a spice grinder and rub it all over the salmon. Then, marinate it for an hour before sautéing it in butter.  The result was a delicious, subtle smoky flavour which bought out the natural sweetness of the fish.  It was phenomenal.  Who would have thought this pungent tea would turn into a magical spice?

Anyway, we don't like butter.  So after the first attempt, I replaced butter with grape seed oil, and it tasted just as good and without the grease and the guilt.  Then, I tried baking it with olive oil instead of sautéing.  It was just as tasty and even lower in calorie, but I lost the delicious crispy skin.

This opened up a new world of cooking for me.  I am now trying various tea : rose, matcha, red tea, and etc.  It's amazing!  I will definitely be posting more of these delicious discovery in the future.

Next post: Skordalia - the way Yaya used to make it.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Holland America

For our honeymoon, Dennis and I choose the Caribbean tour with Holland America's new ship, NieuwAmsterdam.  We didn't do much on our trip: relaxing, sun tanning, and dinning with people at least twice of our age (or thrice).

Wasabi Soy Crusted Beef
Tenderloin from Tamarind
Manhattan, the main dinning hall, serves all three meals.  The food... well... for food that had to be mass produced quickly and within budget it was pretty good.  Objectively, it was rather disappointing for a cruise that boast to have the best foodie experience.  Also, sharing table with other couple sounded good in theory but was super bad idea in reality.

 South East Asian Spice Samplers
 from Tamarind
Lido, the not-24hour buffet, was where Dennis and I ate most of our breakfast and lunch.  Ironically, the buffet offered the variety, portion and ingredient control of all the restaurants.  We were able to tailor our dish to make sure we got enough fibre and vitamin C, while keeping our calories in check.

Lobster Salad at Pinnacle 
Tamarind was their high end dinning (and you have to extra) on the top deck, with view.  They offer a wide range of Westernized Asian cuisine, everything from below average sushi to fancy pad thai, on fancy plates.  I thought the concept of this restaurant was innovative by utilizing the knowledge and skills of their employees on board and the food was delicious.  I would compare it to Red Door.

Pinnacle Grill
Canaeletto is their attempt at offering some Italian options on the cruise.  Don't go there.

Pinnacle Grill is the best restaurant on board.  In fact, it was so good that the restaurant was booked full within 12 hours of boarding.  Therefore, as soon as you board and before you go to your room, head down there and make as many reservation as they are willing to give you.  The food here was aaaaaamazing.   The best steaks I had ever had and was top 10 for our friends from New York.
Then there is the special Le Cirque nights with special menu with wine pairing.  Each dish was delicious and some were mind melting. I couldn't get enough of it, and, as I ate, I lamented that this restaurant was only on a cruise and I could not sample each dish (over and over again).  Then there was the ambience. The restaurant reminded me of a cozy Jewelled box with crystal, velvet, and candle light: very French and very fancy.  The staffs were super nice,  personable, and seemed to be having as much as we were.  A restaurant like this will do very well in Vancouver.

Tamarind Chocolate
Wine: If you are from Canada, their expensive wine list is still a discount.  The wine masters were very knowledgeable.  Befriend with them at the pinnacle bar to find out their secret stash of wine that are not on the wine list.

Wine Tasting was also worth going to.  Even with some wine education, the chocolate wine paring session offered lots of information I didn't know.

Cooking Classes was also interesting, but if you are a Food Networkolic or a seasoned cook, these classes won't offer you anything new.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Maison Côté

For those who frequents the farmer's market, this should be nothing new.  Maison Côté makes (locally) amazing lines of spice and herbs products, especially their flavoured salts.  Their raspberry salt is ranked 54th on Vancouver's 1000 things you must eat before you die list.  I'd probably bump it up a few rank though (It's amazing).

What is the point of buying flavoured salt when I can flavour my food separately? This is true for some of the mixed spice rubs and salt rubs.  I can mix my own and control the salt, but the fruity salts are definitely great addition to any kitchen.   The fruit salts, especially the blueberry salt, adds a bit of acidity and fruitiness to your salad when actual chunks of fruit are not appropriate.  Raspberry salt is amazing in soups, such as the Short Rib Soup or the Mushroom Soup.  I haven't completely figure out how the salt magically turns ordinary broth into five-star broth.  Perhaps it's the acidity that cuts and balances the oil, but I haven't able to replicate the result with lemon juice.  Hibiscus salt has also made its way into our lives.  Hibiscus is a smoky palate cleanser and great addition in just about any heavy flavoured good.  I like to use it in curry, lamb roast, and flat-boy chickens.

Otherwise, these salts are lazy cook's dream come true.  A spoonful of their perfectly portioned rubs would be great addition to your meal.  They even have pairing suggestion right on the label.