Medovik – Honey Cake

There are only a handful of things I know about Russia – those fuzzy hats, Russian dolls, the capital is Moscow, Saint Basil’s Cathedral (I’m not going to lie, I had to Google the name of that colourful masterpiece) and the word “dah”. Suffice it to say, I was shocked when I went to a flea market and randomly stumbled upon something called Medovik in the food court, which is also known as “honey cake”. Sounds good already, right?

In addition to classifying medovik as a delicious Russian dessert, it is also a layered cake. The number of layers differ from recipe to recipe, but I’m going to assume more layers are added to make it appear more grand. It’s not your typical spongy cake, but rather layered with soft, flaky pastry/biscuit-like discs and in between those is a sweet, whipped cream filling. To give it texture, it is coated with roasted and chopped walnuts.

While the lady that made it was actually from Kazakhstan, I would like to think the one I had was pretty authentic given that the two countries are neighbours. She said that it’s a simple cake made with honey, eggs, walnuts, condensed milk, sugar, whipping cream and butter. However, given all the layers I would think she was being modest. There is also another Russian layered cake called smetannik, but it uses sour cream instead of condensed milk (also conveniently known as a sour cream cake). That might be a better option for those who want to reduce the sweetness in their desserts, not that medovic is sickningly sweet in any way! It’s just perfect.

If you have never tried medovik, I highly encourage you to look out for it. Wikipedia claims that the origins of this cake stems from a chef trying to impress an empress, so you know some thought was put into this. Whether it worked or not, I can’t confirm but I was personally seduced by the delicious, creamy layers of this cake. I think I can honestly say it’s one of the best cakes I have ever had. Have you ever tried a slice of medovik?

Não Falo Bem Português (Updates)

Back in February on my blogiversary, I made an announcement that I would stop blogging on a daily basis to focus on my plans to take time away from work to study abroad and travel the world. I had full intention to leave by fall (papers were approved and everything), but a new opportunity came up that I couldn’t refuse. Despite this little setback, I still plan on going but will be delaying my leave until early 2018. I’m disappointed about this, but it will at least give me more time to figure things out. Planning is a looooooooong and tedious process! So, you might be wondering what is the relation between this announcement and the picture of delicious pastries and tarts below?

I am an avid traveller. I have been going stir-crazy and need to get away. The last time I took a trip was in the fall. Suffice it to say, even though my leave will be a littler further away than I had originally planned, I am filling the void by going to Portugal for a few weeks. Flights and accommodation are already booked, but if you have any recommendations on what to see, do or eat (of course), I am more than happy to hear your suggestions!

Another update – it took me a R-E-AL-L-Y long time to go through all 365+ postings but I did it! I re-tagged and re-categorized all of them. You will now notice that I have more menu options on my front page to make it easier to navigate and find things. And if there’s one thing I learned from doing this exercise, it’s that I’m lacking in many areas so I’m going to try and focus more on those. Any constructive feedback on my blog is also appreciated. Happy blogging! 🙂

Mezes, Ketokeftedes and Taramosalatas – Oh My!

I don’t recall if I ever mentioned this before, but I missed out on going to Greece. Not once, but twice because of work. To this day I still wonder what it would have been like to go to there, especially since it was before the whole economical crisis. In addition to missing out on seeing the ancient ruins and swimming around in the beautiful blue waters, I missed out on eating the food!

For now, I have to settle with living vicariously through friends that have travelled there and wandering into seemingly authentic Greek restaurants. And by that, I mean the non-franchised kind. I am fortunate that there seem to be many family-owned Greek restaurants to choose from. It’s also helpful when there are many immigrants from Greece and even our own little Greektown. 🙂

Although souvlaki (cubes of beef, chicken, lamb or pork skewers) is probably one of the most well known Greek dishes out there, there is also spanakopita (spinach pie), baklava and many other tasty dishes too.

One such dish is known as ketokeftedes, which are little fritters made with grated courgettes (aka zucchini) that can come in the form of flat patties or balls. They are lightly fried, so they are soft and mushy rather than crispy. This particular version was mixed with feta cheese and sesame seeds and flavoured with dill and spices. However, I was informed that some recipes use mint. And to complement the flavours of the ketokeftedes was a side of regular tzatziki sauce and some warm honey tzatziki drizzle. I can vouch it’s a yummy combination! The dill gives the ketokeftedes a unique flavour, like an unexpected but happy surprise for your taste buds, and the creamy tzatziki is just refreshing!

Like many other areas in the Mediterranean, the Greek also have mezes, which are platters full of dips, spreads and small, bite-sized pieces of food. What I want to highlight in the meze below is the pink blob on the top. It’s a dip called taramosalata.

Taramosalata is a very smooth mashed potato mix made with red caviar (which gives it that rosey hue), onions and extra virgin olive oil. It goes great as a dip with pita bread and isn’t fishy tasting at all. It’s also something different to try from your typical Greek dips, in case you want to change it up. 🙂

Even though I missed out on several Greece trips, I’m hoping I will be able to finally hop over to Greece by the end of next year. I can only hope when I do, I’ll be bouncing from island to island, chowing down on their delicious food while watching the beautiful blue skies go by and the waves of the Mediterranean sea wash ashore…

The Burrata

When I first heard the word burrata, I thought it was some sort of Latin dance like salsa or meringue. However, unlike these two dances which are also known synonymously as types of food (one is a sauce and the other is a confectionery treat), burrata is just a type of food. At least, to my knowledge. If it’s actually a dance, that’s news to me!

I came across burrata when Gail from snapshotincursive mentioned it in her recipe posting about delicious Burrata Meatballs. If the name isn’t enough, check out her recipe after staring at her beautifully mouthwatering photo below!

burrata

Photo courtesy of snapshotincursive

Being a cheese lover and never actually having the joy of tasting burrata cheese, I was highly motivated to find out more about it and hunt it down. This is what I discovered:

Burrata cheese is a fresh, semi-soft cheese made from cow’s milk, leftover scraps of mozzarella cheese and cream. It’s a fresh curd that is dipped into a hot whey and stretched and kneaded. It’s texture is pliable, but it has some resistance and bounce to it too. So far so good, right?

I was fortunate enough to find burrata at a restaurant that made it fresh, which also meant a minimal 20 minute waiting time (though I’m sure it takes longer than that to make it). It was doused in honey and truffle cream and when it arrived, it looked like a flat, creamy blob that was accompanied with freshly toasted focaccia crostini.

It had an interesting texture to it. When I cut into it, I expected it to just flatten out but it magically retained it’s shape. Needless to say, it was soft yet firm. It tasted similar to mozzarella cheese (obviously), but not as strong and had a creaminess in the middle. The texture somewhat reminded me of Québeçois cheese curds, minus the squeakiness. The added honey sweetened the flavour of the cheese and the truffle cream created an earthy taste to it. It was interesting, to say the least! From what I understand, it’s not common to find burrata at a typical grocery store, so if you’re looking for it you may need to find a cheese specialty store or a restaurant that makes it fresh. Give it a try and let me know what you think. 🙂

 

Le Petit French Bistro

When it comes to French food, I think one of the most classic dishes is escargot (aka snails). I know many people get the heebie jeebies when it comes to things that look squirmy, but escargot is delicious! Often, you will find them in a special dish that is cooked in a simple garlic and butter concoction. However, when I went to a 2017 Winterlicious event, I got a bowl full of them. This particular version was sautéed with portobello mushrooms and cooked in a cognac cream sauce. And to remove the “creepy” factor, I guess it helps when the snails have been deshelled. It also came with some bread to help soak up the delicious sauce.

Escargot

Escargot

Although the classical bowl of “moules et frites” (mussels and fries) was tempting, I ended up having a seafood risotto. It had big and succulent tiger shrimp, bay scallops, mussels, red peppers and spinach and was cooked in a white wine rosé sauce. Although it wasn’t the best risotto I’ve ever had (a fungi risotto is still at the top of my books), the beautiful pieces of seafood made up for it.

Seafood-risotto

Seafood risotto

And of course, save the best for last! Dessert! I had a crème brûlée. It had such a nice and thick burnt sugar top in contrast to the creamy custard underneath. It was a great way to end the meal and you can never go wrong with a crème brûlée!

crème-brûlée

Crème brûlée

Winterlicious is an annual event that occurs in Toronto. It’s fun and it’s a great way to try out new foods and discover new restaurants. Although Winterlicious is over for 2017, there’s another version called Summerlicious. Let’s see where I end up. 🙂

MIDI Bistro Restaurant
168 McCaul St
Toronto, Ontario M5T 1W4
Canada
416-977-2929

 

Calimocho & Bambus – An Unexpected Alcoholic Drink

All roads definitely lead to food. Whether it be at the grocery store, while you’re travelling around the world or even having a conversation with a friend. I remember talking to a colleague and it somehow led to a topic about alcohol. He told me in Croatia, they mix wine and soda pop to create a drink called “bambus” (it’s apparently know as calimocho in other parts of the world as well). The first thing that came to my mind was “disgusting!”, followed by “that just sounds like it would destroy the wine”. He agreed, but you know me, I had to try it for myself.

It’s simple to make. If you decide to use red wine, you would mix it with equal parts coca cola. If you use white wine, you would mix it with ginger ale. I decided to use a savignon blanc wine and mixed it with ginger ale.

My conclusion? It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. The ginger ale made the wine sweeter and it surprisingly mixed pretty well with it. Although I don’t think I intend on mixing soda every time I have wine, I think it’s a good way to “extend” the life of wine and bring some life back into it. It also makes it sweeter and a bit more bubbly. Have you ever tried bambus? What did you think?

 

Churrasco Chicken and Piri Piri

Mmm…grilled meat. With the exception of our vegan and vegetarian friends, who doesn’t enjoy a nicely grilled steak, chicken or sausage? The Spanish/Portuguese have dubbed their version of grilled meat as Churrasco, which are found in churrasqueira restaurants. For their version of the flame grilled chicken, it is marinated in salty seasonings. Recipes differ from place to place and home to home, but many contain herbs, spices, garlic and lemon which gives it some freshness and acidity.

 

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In addition to the savoury and tender meats of churrasco chicken, churrasqueira’s offer Peri Peri sauce to accompany the dish. In fact, mixing the grilled meats with Peri Peri sauce is a bit of a fusion because Peri Peri is actually an African marinade made with the African Bird’s Eye Chili. Although many places tend to offer a range of flavours and spice levels (mild to super-suicide-I’m-on-fire-hot) to go with the meat, it can also pair well with side dishes like rice, fries, etc. It’s a delicious meal and definitely better than eating a cold and boring sandwich. 🙂

A “Neo” Panna Cotta 

Panna cotta is a cool, Italian dessert made with cream, egg whites, gelatin and sugar. It translates as “cooked cream”, which explains why this custard is creamy, smooth and silky. It is traditionally served with fruits, caramel or syrups. I don’t have it often, but I found an interesting version recently at a dessert joint which I am calling the “neo” version of panna cotta.

For those who have had panna cotta before, I’m sure they’re asking how this picture is related. Well, it’s actually at the bottom of this bowl. This fusion version had an interesting mix of durian fruit with panna cotta and was topped with Cheerios, black sesame ice cream and an Oreo cookie. While the creamy durian mixed well with the panna cotta, the black sesame ice cream seemed a bit out of place. It just seemed too “rough” for such a delicate dessert. The Cheerios gave it a nice and crunchy texture, which was needed in an otherwise super soft, mushy dessert. However, the flavour seemed overpower it. Perhaps some chopped nuts instead? And the Oreo cookie? Well, let’s just say that Oreo cookies are versatile and the chocolatey goodness blended in just nicely! Although this isn’t a traditional way of serving panna cotta, I must say it was creative. 🙂

Raclette Cheese

The Niagara Icewine Gala was a wonderful culinary event full of various wines, hor d’oeuvres and finger foods. If there’s one thing that they had a lot of (and I’m by no means complaining), it was cheese!

Although you could find cheese in a bunch of fancy little bits and bites along the way, this particular cheese table had something called raclette cheese.

Raclette cheese originates from Switzerland. It’s a type of cheese that is great for suspending on a raclette grill (like the one shown above), which is essentially a fancy broiler that holds the savoury cheese and gradually melts it along the way. Once it starts melting, the cheese starts to brown and bubble, which is fascinating to watch.  And melted cheese? Yes, please!

After the cheese caramelizes, it can be scraped off (known as “racler”) to put onto bread, crackers, salads…pretty much anything that goes well with cheese. This process creates those long, stringy pieces of cheese that is satisfying to see as you scrape it from the block. Raclette cheese isn’t the only type that can be used on a raclette grill, but from what I can gather, melting any cheese like this paves way for a gooey, softened cheese. Even though I’ve held fondue parties before, apparently there are raclette parties too. It’s a bit shi shi foo foo, but perhaps something I should look into doing one day. 🙂

Ice Cream Sandwiches – Cookies, Wafers or Bread?

It’s probably not appropriate that I write about ice cream sandwiches right now, being stuck in the middle of winter with chilly winds, snow (though it’s now turning into mucky rain) and icy slick roads. However, I’d like to justify it by thinking ice cream sandwiches are a great reminder of our beautiful, warm summers in Canada!

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Simply put, an ice cream sandwich is a dessert or snack commonly made with two cookies or wafers sandwiching ice cream in between. To make it more fancy, some confectionery sugar and dulce de leche (like in the one shown above) can be added or other sweet toppings like chocolate chips, fudge or sprinkles. Interestingly enough, even though we are used to seeing ice cream sandwiches constructed with cookies or wafers, I recently learned that other countries (like the Philippines and Vietnam) use bread as the outer layer of the ice cream sandwich. Even the beloved Jewish chocolate twisted bread, babka, has been seen as a type of this breaded version. Personally, I like the sweetness from the cookie/wafer combo, but when in Rome! It still sounds delicious! Although we are still quite far from the warm days of summer, let the picture of this ice cream sandwich be a reminder that those sunny days are coming!