Monday, May 26, 2008

Going to church: the Patron Saint strikes again

Zola: Man, Steve Miller was right. Time really does keep slippin', slippin', slippin' into the future. Sorry about the blog lapse, folks. But surely you must know times are tough. Look at me--I'm quoting Steve Miller for Christ's sake. Last weekend, Guy & I just needed to get away and our Patron Saint, Sharon, came through for us again. She and Pat hosted us for a lovely weekend in Bellingham. We went for a walk on the pier, ate great food, drank a lot of wine, and spent a leisurely Sunday afternoon playing bocce ball under the lilac trees and drinking (more) red wine.

The other great thing about going to Sharon & Pat's is that they live in a church, which falls squarely into the freaking awesome category of livin'. I've posted some of our pictures here but you should check out Pat's website to see more.

Sharon and I had talked about having a little Spanish-y, tapas-y meal when we got up there, so before heading North, Guy & I stopped into Big John's PFI (Pacific Foods Importer). I'd read about PFI (check out this article in the Stranger), but had never been able to find it until my friend Lilly brought me there. Lilly's family is Serbian and when her family first moved to Seattle, PFI was the only place they could find feta cheese and other Euro imports. We got some great treats: olives, cheese, and white anchovies. There was some concern that our hosts might not like the anchovies but we decided to give it a shot--we could always take them home if they didn't like them. We needn't have worried. When we arrived, I discovered that Sharon had her own white anchovy plan. If you've never tried them, this is a great way to discover how delicious they are. Here's her white anchovy tapas:

1 slice rustic baguette bread
spread of mayo
slice of avocado
white anchovy fillet
sprinkle of paprika

I really recommend making your own mayo--it's not hard. In fact, I find it oddly satisfying. Julia Child's recipe is a great one (quelle suprise):
2 yolks
1 1 1/2 c. oil (something pretty light in flavor--I find olive oil too rich)
2-3 Tb lemon juice
pinch salt

leave your eggs out so they come to room temperature. Beat them for a couple of minutes until they get a little "thick". Then start adding your oil--just a tiny bit at a time. Once you see your mayo thickening, you can start to add more at one time. Add your lemon juice and salt to taste at the end. And for this tapas dish, I would go so far as to grate some lemon zest into the mayo to give it a nice, bright balance.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Nanaimo Bars

Day 1.
Kendra: Zola, I swear I'm going to get my Nanaimo Bar story for your food blog soon.
Zola: That's cool.

Day 2.
Zola opens a package from Nicole and reads note.
Nicole: Zola, I've really been enjoying Food Chains. A lot. And I read the comment about Nanaimo Bars. Surprised to realize that they probably are Canadian. So I went out to buy you the Birds Custard can with the recipe on it, you know, for the authenticity, but was horrified to discover that they have changed the packaging and now the recipe isn't on there. Which supports my position that change, in all its forms, is bad. So here is my old Birds Custard can, with recipe, plus a new can. I hope that's not too weird.

[aside: NOT weird. freaking awesome.]

Day 3.
Zola: Kendra, my friend from Canada sent the Birds Custard for the Nanaimo Bars so you better write that story or you're going to get scooped.
Kendra: I'll get it to you Friday!

Kendra: My family moved from Nanaimo, Canada to Hawaii when I was three years old and I was lucky to live there all the way through college. There are lots of amazing local dishes in Hawaii that I am very fond of and have great memories of (visits back to Hawaii now revolve around a feeding schedule of all of my favorite foods and restaurants)....but I noticed the Canadian Sugar Pie story that was posted a few months back and it made me think of my favorite Canadian dessert. Named after my birthplace, the Nanaimo Bar can be found in bakeries, in ferry boat cafeterias and kitchens around the west coast of Canada. My mom would make a tray in Hawaii and it was always a pretty unique offering at a local party - very few people had ever heard of Nanaimo, let alone had a chance to enjoy a Nanaimo Bar. The stuff is flat out delicious and I can't be left alone with a plate of them - it isn't a pretty site.

The recipe includes three layers of sweet goodness. Basically, the bottom layers is a graham cracker, butter, cocoa, coconut and nut mixture. Middle layer is powdered sugar, butter and custard and the top is a perfect layer of melted chocolate (and no matter what recipe I have used, I almost always double the top layer. More chocolate always works for me). I have seen variations in the middle layer, where people have worked in peanut butter or mint. Me? I like the classic - the original custard. Honestly, sitting here writing this, I'm wondering how fast and soon Zola will be whipping them up so that I can taste one.

Small tip for cutting the nanaimo bar....i will often score the top before it is completely set because it makes it easier to keep the chocolate from separating from the middle layer when you cut through. My aunt manages to keep the squares and cutting perfect...I mostly just manage to get everything in my mouth.

Zola: Sometimes when you're really depressed, sitting in your cave, the gods look down at you and demand that you eat large amounts of sugar, butter and chocolate. Alright. If I must.

Directions from the Bird's Custard can (which they've foolishly stopped printing so I feel doubly righteous in breaking any possible copyright laws but do feel compelled to tell you that the can informs us that Bird's Custard is a "Delicious British Tradition")
Base: Melt 2 squares Baker's semi-sweet chocolate (each square is one ounce) over a double boiler. Add 1/2 c. softened butter, 2 Tablespoons sugar, 1 tsp. vanilla, and one egg (pre-beat this then add to mix so you don't get any creepy cooked whites). Mix well. Add 2c. graham cracker crumbs, 1 c. angel flake coconut (the sweet stuff), and 1/2c. chopped walnuts. (I use unsalted butter so added a pinch of salt--it lets you control the salt better)
Filling: Combine 2 Tbsp custard powder with 3 Tbsp milk. Add in 1/4c. butter. (The recipe doesn't say this but I'm assuming you're supposed to do all this over a low heat). Stir in 2c. powdered sugar until smooth. Spread over base and chill.
Glaze: Melt 4 squares baker's semi-sweet chocolate with 1 tbsp butter over double boiler (I followed Kendra's advice and just threw the extra 2 squares of chocolate in there). Spread over custard layer and chill.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Legs & Eggs Review


It's been all doom & gloom in the Maddison household. Monday was the day the building repair guys came in and put up a false wall in unit. They've put it up so they can repair the wall of windows that we have looking out over the city. Now the thing about having a tiny apartment with one whole wall of windows, is that you don't normally need a lot of electric lighting, so it doesn't come with things like overhead lighting. The apartment has suddenly become quite a bit smaller and is a whole lot darker. It really has become akin to a cave in here. But more to the point, Monday was also the day we had to put our beloved dog, Deano, down. It's rather grim in the cave without our tiny old general and we don't feel much like cooking. Thankfully, our good friend Ringo came through for us in a pinch, delivering a fine food story, but one that gives us a bit of a reprieve. Check out The Chicken or the Egg for the recipe.

Good food illicits fond memories. Particular dishes can recreate such a vivid and strong assault on the senses that just the mere mention of the recipe can bring a million of these memories flooding back. This is the case with the Maddison Chicken and egg Curry. I have read Guy's description of this recipe and have been regaled with tales of his family's fondness of this delight and this is Guy's relationship with this particular dish. However, I wish to add to the history of stories that accompany this great meal. Stories that follow each and every time this meal is served! I would consider Guy to be one of the very best friends I have ever had, this could provide a novel sized tangent, so I will stop myself now and only say that I am proud to have eaten this meal and will enjoy adding to it's history.

As most late teenage / early twenty something we lived a life of good times and self inflicted poverty. It was a time in Australia where there was high unemployment so as all good artists do, we reaped the benefit of not working and practised our craft (crappy music!). We often did not spend much on food and I recall Guy flying into a rage when upon awakening, he realised that some(expletive deleted) had eaten(expletive deleted) the second last piece of bread!" Guy must have wanted a sandwich! At another house I shared with Guy I awoke after an extremely vivid dream about food, specifically bread and butter. The bread, I had purchased the day before and it was delicious, fresh and home-made. The butter was in the refrigerator. So I thought! There was no butter. I had only dreamt we had butter! At least now I can say to my own son "When I was a lad, we were so poor......." you get the idea! Anyway, to get to the point our palates were not infused with much greatness
at this point in our lives and Guy's chicken and egg curry was somewhat of a highlight. I have not recently had the good fortune to taste Guy's cooking but I am regaled with memories both sweet and sour when I think of it. As I began this piece "Good food illicits fond memories" and so I can only conclude Guy's "Chicken and Egg Curry" is an excellent dish.

Thank you,
Western Australia.