Archive for the ‘salad’Category

What to bring home from a British grocery store

British groceries Whenever I visit a British grocery store I scour the shelves for the most unusual items. But it’s really the comfort foods that define a cuisine — or at least taste like home. That’s the lesson I learned from a lovely woman in Leeds who had lived and worked in Taiwan for 15 years. When I asked her what I might want to buy in the city’s big Sainsbury grocery store, she immediately rattled off the items that she had most craved during her years abroad.

At the end of every visit home, she would pack herself a big care package for her return trip to Taiwan. Here are the foods she couldn’t do without:

Heinz Tomato Soup. It’s ultimate comfort food.

Heinz Baked Beanz. Brits consider this version superior to the American version.

Heinz Salad Cream. This tangy dressing has a consistency like mayonnaise. Dubbed “pourable sunshine,” it’s as popular on sandwiches or baked potatoes as it is on salads.

Marmite. This yeast extract with a strong, salty flavor is equally loved and hated, even in Great Britain. The dark brown paste is usually spread on toast, with or without a little butter.

Walkers Salt & Vinegar Crisps (potato chips, to Americans). Walkers is the favorite brand in the UK and the salt and vinegar variation has a tangy, salty flavor that is quite addictive.

Cadbury Dairy Milk Whole Nut Bars. Introduced in 1933, this bar pairs Cadbury’s creamy, high milk content chocolate with whole hazelnuts.

And here are a few more items that I like to throw into my grocery cart:

HP Sauce. This secret-recipe brown sauce has been manufactured since 1899 and is a favored accompaniment for beef. The original version is available in many U.S. grocery stores, but it’s worth seeking out some of the other flavor options, including the blend of HP and Guinness.

Branston Rich & Fruity Sauce. This mix of tomatoes, apples, and dates is blended with herbs, spices, sugar, vinegar, and molasses to make a sweet but tangy brown sauce. It’s good on scrambled eggs.

Cadbury Flake. The crumbly bar of thin sheets of milk chocolate is the classic adornment to a scoop of ice cream.

Remembering Italy #2 with pear and prosciutto salad

The Legends from Europe folks passed along a packet of prosciutto di Parma, the most familiar of the Italian raw hams seen in the U.S. and the one most imitated by American and South American producers. To qualify for the PDO label as prosciutto di Parma, the ham must come from pigs fed a special diet and raised in a defined north-central region of Italy. Additionally, the ham must be cured in the countryside near Parma in Emilia-Romagna. Much of the intense flavor comes from applying just enough salt to keep the ham “sweet” and then aging it at least 400 days. (The photo above shows whole hams hanging in a chilled aging room in Italy.)

Parma prosciutto is the most intense of the Italian raw hams and stands up well to other strong flavors. It is often paired with melon and even combined with Gorgonzola cheese on pizzas. But melon is out of season, so I decided to try the prosciutto di Parma with some gorgeous but firm Anjou pears. I peeled the pears, cut them in eighths, wrapped prosciutto around each wedge, and roasted them for four minutes under a broiler.

Once they cooled, I arranged them on some local red-leaf lettuce tossed with a light vinaigrette and sprinkled on some toasted walnuts and a few crumbles of mountain Gorgonzola. The saltiness of the ham was a perfect foil to the Gorgonzola, and the slight crunch of the lettuce highlighted the crisp edges of the warm prosciutto. In fact, lightly roasting the prosciutto retains the flavor of the raw ham but adds a bacon overtone.

It made a great lunch.

06

12 2012

Tomato glut #3: Heirloom tomato and melon salad

Executive chef Jeff Van Geest of Mirodoro (see Tomato glut #2) also gave us a really good idea for a salad that is so simple that we have been making it ever since. He combines several kinds of ripe heirloom tomatoes with chunks of cantaloupe, some house-made ricotta (we buy a good ricotta salata), a few leaves of mint, a few drops of balsamic vinegar, and some extra-virgin olive oil. The combination of the tangy tomato with the cool, sweet melon really pops.

We enjoyed it with Tinhorn Creek’s pinot gris, which has great citrus notes and crisp acidity, thanks to fermentation on the lees in stainless steel. Winemaker Sandra Oldfield stirred the lees twice a week for two months, giving the finished wine just a hint of toast.

17

09 2012

Tomato glut #1: Mission Hill’s cherry tomato salad

It’s that season of mixed emotions as the garden starts shutting down and we’re swamped in a sea of wonderfully ripe produce. No matter how we stagger the plantings and the ripening season of different varietals, we’re faced with a tomato embarrassment of riches at the end of August and early September.

We just returned from one of the great agricultural regions of North America, the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia, where the explosion in grape-growing and fine wineries in recent years has also led to an explosion in great dining options and in boutique agriculture to support the chefs.

Mission Hill Family Estate, the leading winery of the region, showcases the Okanagan cuisine at a stupendous fine-dining restaurant called, simply enough, the Terrace Restaurant. It’s an all-outdoors spot under a classical loggia with sweeping views of the lake and vineyards. Executive chef Matthew Batey oversees the entire dining program at the winery (there are lots of private dinners and catered events), while Chris Stewart oversees the Terrace.

Chris’s answer to a glut of great cherry tomatoes is to make this exquisite salad of peeled cherry tomatoes, paper-thin toasts, prosciutto, Parmagiano Reggiano cheese, and a dribble of aged balsamic vinegar. He peels the tomatoes by cutting an X on the bottom, then extending the cuts to the stem. Using a surgically sharp blade, he then cuts an equator on the tomatoes, dipping them for a few seconds in boiling water before plunging them into an icewater bath. The skins peel up toward the stem in a beautiful way.

Even if we don’t have the time or ingredients for such a fine dish, we find that taking a few minutes to prepare the cherry tomatoes and setting them out for guests next to a plate dusted with sea salt for dipping makes a nice presentation for finger food.

03

09 2012