edible adventures from the centre of the universe

22 March 2007

Itsy-Bitsy, Teeny-Weeny, Yellow Polka-Dot Panini

Hot damn, I love grilled sandwiches! Stringy, gooey cheese and warm, toasty bread -- how can you go wrong? The Italians perfected this treat with the panini, a pressed grilled sandwich usually stuffed with bold, flavourful fillings. Wanting to learn more about this delicious cheese delivery system, I recently picked up Simple Italian Sandwiches by Jennifer Denton, Jason Denton, and Kathryn Kellinger. I'm glad I did -- This cookbook is a lot of fun to read, with a focus on panini, bruschetta, and tramezzini recipes, with a few frittatas and salads thrown in for good measure.

I don't have a panini press, but I have found that my Foreman Grill works just as well. The great thing about paninis is that you don't need to use any oil or butter on the bread -- the heat of the grill toasts it up nicely without any additional fat. So, even though you're gorging on cheese, you can feel pretty good about it.

One recipe from Simple Italian Sandwiches especially appealed to me: an artichoke, fennel, and fontina panini. The tangy marinated artichoke hearts marry beautifully with the subtle anise flavour of the fennel, and the rich fontina cheese mellows everything out. Try this sophisticated grilled-cheese with a balsamic-dressed green salad for a simple, amazing dinner.

Artichoke, Fennel, and Fontina Panini

1 bulb fennel, sliced (tops removed)
3 tbsp olive oil
2 ciabatta rolls
1 cup sliced marinated artichoke hearts
4 ounces Italian Fontina, sliced
salt & pepper

1. Braise the fennel: preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Toss the sliced fennel in a baking dish with the olive oil, and bake for 1 hour, stirring once after 30 minutes. The fennel should be soft and translucent when finished. Cool to room temperature before using.
2. Preheat your panini or Foreman grill. Slice the domed tops off of the ciabata rolls so that the roll is about 1 inch thick. Then, split the rolls horizontally.
3. Spread artichoke hearts over the bottom halves of the ciabatta, and top with 3 tablespoons of the fennel each. Cover the fennel with an even layer of fontina and season with salt and pepper. Place the top halves of the ciabatta rolls over the cheese.
4. Grill the sandwiches for 4 minutes, until the bread is golden brown and the cheese is melted. Let sandwiches sit for one minute before slicing and serving.

serves 2


18 March 2007

They Don't Attract Mosquitos

Doritos are, far and away, my favourite snack food. They're crunchy, packed with salty flavour, and triangular! How can you go wrong?

Frito-Lay tailors its Dorito flavours to its different geographic markets. For example, in Canada, we've been lucky to get quite a few tasty Dorito flavours lately: Guacamole, Dill-icious, Sweet Chili Heat, and Tandoori Sizzler. Because of this geographic variation, I love to track down the local versions whenever I travel. Doritos are my favourite souvenirs!

Recently, Dave was in Baltimore and picked up two new ones for me: Fiery Habanero and Blazin' Buffalo & Ranch. The Fiery Habanero ones were definitely fiery -- I could only eat a few Doritos at a time before putting the bag down to guzzle some water. They tasted pretty much like Spicy Nacho (a flavour available here in Canada), except with the heat boosted several notches. Spicier Spicy Nacho? I don't think I would go out of my way to get these again (they're a little painful to eat), but they were fun to try.

The Blazin' Buffalo & Ranch were more favourful than the Habanero -- they tasted like a cross between Cool Ranch and Spicy Nacho. I liked these ones quite a bit, but I don't think they're my favourite Doritos evar. That crown goes to the classic Nacho Cheese.

16 March 2007

Blogroll Updates!

I've added some new favourites to my blogroll at the right. Check them out!

lex culinara - Edmontonian lawyer by day, foodie by night, Lynette's blog features mouthwatering photography, restaurant reviews, and delicious-sounding recipes.

TasteTO - This new Toronto-centric group blog keeps me up-to-date on the local food scene with lots of well-researched and interesting articles.

The Amateur Gourmet - Adam is a Brooklynite who has been blogging about his food adventures since 2004. His blog is always good for a laugh, and 've learned a lot from it too!

Michael Ruhlman - Acclaimed author and chef, Ruhlman really needs no introduction. His blog, which has a heavy focus on food in the media, always makes me think. Also, Anthony Bourdain guest-blogs here from time-to-time.

Of course, the rest of my blogroll is worth flipping through as well. Some of the best food writing in the world can be found in weblogs.

10 March 2007

Vancouver in my Mouth

More business travel a couple of weeks ago meant more delicious food in another one of my favourite Canadian cities, Vancouver. I had the chance to check out a lot of great spots, summarized thusly:

1. Nat's New York Pizza (1080 Denman Street) - On my first night in Vancouver, I decided to order some pizza to my hotel room. I had heard some good things about Nat's, so I called them up and ordered a "5th Avenue" (spinach, tomato, onion, and feta). A friendly delivery guy showed up about 1/2 hour later, and I dug into my piping hot pie. I hate to say it, but I was disappointed -- while the toppings were very fresh and flavourful, with a simple, slightly sweet tomato sauce, the crust was doughy and flavourless. It desperately needed a pinch of salt, or maybe some fragrant olive oil. This definitely wasn't the worst pizza I'd ever had, but it was far from the best. Meh.

2. Guu Izakaya (838 Thurlow Street) - Izakayas are kind of like Japanese tapas bars, specializing in cooked "small plates" and serving very little, if any, sushi. They're pretty prevalent in Vancouver, but I don't think we have any in TO. I stopped at Guu on Thurlow for lunch on my first day in Van, and found myself in dim, woody, comfortable surroundings. The staff shouted a Japanese greeting at me, and I took a spot at the long bar that nearly spans the entire length of the restaurant, behind which the busy chefs assembled dishes. Fron the short lunch menu, which included mostly bento-style meals, I chose the fried prawns with tartar sauce, which was served with miso and sticky rice. My food came quickly, and was arranged in a cute mini-bento-box. I started with the miso, which I found to be pretty standard, but not too salty. The rice was perfectly sticky, and came with some interesting Japanese pickles on the side -- these looked like slices of tiny cucumbers, and tasted like a combination of pickled ginger and wasabi. Very refreshing. The prawns were battered in a light panko crust, and came with a pink (!) tartar sauce. I'm not sure what caused the colour, but the sauce was creamy, tangy, and delightful. I would love to try Guu for dinner, when the menu becomes more extensive, but my lunch experience was great. Recommended!

3. Rangoli (1488 West 11th Ave) - Rangoli is the sister lunch spot to Vancouver's famous and innovative Indian restaurant Vij's, and this tiny diner is located right next door to its big brother. Seating is limited and I found myself in extremely close proximity to my fellow diners. The lunch menu at rangoli is small, but there's lots of exotic flavours to choose from. I settled on an eggplant, pea, and paneer dish in pomegranate-cinnamon masala after a fellow at the table next to me mentioned that my fist choice, the Tilapia curry, is not as tasty. I also ordered a chai to accompany my meal, which was brought out promptly by the friendly waitress and tasted perfect -- creamy, spicy, warm, and comforting. My meal arrived a short time later, and was accompanied by a chapati and some raita. The eggplant was cooked to perfection -- it was not mushy and had soaked up a huge amount of flavour from the slightly sweet and sour, spicy masala sauce. The paneer tasted very fresh, and the tangy raita added a nice punch to the dish. I happily finished my meal and noticed on my way out the door that Rangoli features a wall of refrigerated cases from which you can purchase pre-made meals from Vij's. If only I didn't have a flight back to Toronto preventing me from stocking up! Rangoli is a great, tasty, inexpensive lunch spot, and I highly recommend it.

4. Go Fish (1504 West 1st Ave) - This is a tiny fish stand down by the water near Granville Island, with no indoor seating. Luckily, I was there on one of Vancouver's few sunny Winter days. Go Fish serves up a variety of homey seafood offerings, such as fish n' chips, fish tacos, and rich chowder. The day I was there, tempura cod tacos were on special, and sounded great -- I decided to give them a try. Each taco contained a piece of extremely fresh tempura battered and deep-fried cod with some sesame-flavoured cabbage slaw, tomatoes, and a spicy red sauce. The fish was cooked perfectly, and its fluffiness was contrasted nicely by the crunch of the tempura and cabbage. The earthy, sesame flavour of the slaw really enhanced the Asian feel of this typically Mexican dish, and the spicy sauce left a pleasant after-burn. I wolfed down both my tacos in no time. Around me, lots of people were digging into fantastic-looking orders of fish n' chips, served in bamboo steamers. I think I may need to make a special trip back to the West coast to give one of the battered salmon portions a try. Go Fish was definitely my favourite Vancouver find. Go now!

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