Thursday, July 1, 2010

Seasoning food

I read a nice article about using salt and pepper properly recently. I know this is one area that I've had trouble with (still do actually) and I know I'm not alone in that respect.

Seasoning is tricky because there's no hard rule you can follow and it can essentially make or break a dish. The simple answering is to taste as you go. It's true that tastes vary significantly, but cook to please yourself :).

I like to think of it as a culinary titration.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

My little hiatus & Yummy Vancouver, a food & drink search engine side project

Hey everyone,

Lack of updates recently, mainly due to me being sick for the past three weeks. I've also been busy with a lot of non-food related stuff.

On a more food related matter, I've been working a little project called Yummy Vancouver. It's a custom google search engine designed to search through local food blogs and websites (like dinehere, tasteof604, etc). With some help and ingenuity, I managed to include all the (mostly relevant) discussion topics from the British Columbia and Western Canada topics of both Chowhound and eGullet.

Yummy Vancouver, a food & drink search engine for Vancouver, BC

There are a lot of great resources on all things food & drink in Metro Vancouver, but you often have to know where to look. I thought that by compiling a database of these resources, the result would be a more focused alternative to simply using google. Anyway, try it out and let me know how it works for you!

If any food/drink blog or website owner wishes to be apart of the database, leave a comment here. Read the "About" section on the Yummy Vancouver website though!


The Average Palate

Friday, May 28, 2010

BC Spot Prawns - a sustainable choice

BC Spot Prawns

Spot prawn (Pandalus platyceros) season started here early in the month so by now, you should be able to get a good deal at any local supermarket. I've found them for around $8 dollars at T&T and other Asian markets. They are also available at the False Creek Fisherman's Wharf, but at a premium. Supposedly you'll get fresher and bigger specimens, but I've never compared.

As food, spot prawns have a prominent sweet note with an interestingly firm texture. When cooking them, I tend to keep it simple. Most of the time, I steam or boil them plain just until the tails turn white. Occasionally, I will cook them with garlic and cooking wine or dip them in a lemon pepper mixture. The key is to not overpower the natural flavours of the shrimp.

My favourite part to eat has always been the "head". Anatomically, that part of the prawn contains the hepatopancreas (digestive gland) which is an organ that contains functions similar to the mammalian liver and pancreas. In lobsters and crabs, the hepatopancreas is commonly known as tomalley, the tasty green gooey paste.

BC Spot Prawns tomalley hepatopancreas anatomy

So, why are they a sustainable choice?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Urban Burger

I had a great burger today at Urban Burger. They happened to have a $5.99 + tax combo, which came with fries, a 16 oz fountain drink, and a basic burger with tomatoes, lettuce and red onion. The place was empty and I hadn't heard about this place before, so I wasn't sure what I was going to get. I did notice that the dining area and kitchen were very clean and organized, which is much appreciated.

Urban Burger
1067 Davie Street
Vancouver, BC V6E 1M5
(604) 568-3133

Their menu is very small to say the least. Customers have the option of the $5.99 combo, a chicken burger or combo and a veggie burger or combo. Add ons (cheddar, mushrooms, bacon, etc) were $1.00 + tax each. Their milkshake seemed reasonably priced.

The burger bun was excellent, lightly toasted on the outside soft on the inside. The patty was on the thinner side of the spectrum, but at $5.99 + tax for a combo, this should be expected. The patty was beautifully browned without being too greasy or dry.

Urban Burger on Davie in Vancouver

I'm not sure what the sauce was (some fancy mayo), but it was tasty. The lettuce, tomatoes and red onions were noticeably fresh. I added bacon which turned out great, not too crispy and not too soft. Best of all, the burger didn't fall apart on me, which seems like a rarity these days.

Urban Burger on Davie in Vancouver

The fries are fresh cut, which definitely came through in the flavour and texture. The downside to this is that some pieces end up being pretty small. My fries were very lightly salted, which I personally don't mind. It's easy enough to add or ask for more salt if you want it.

Urban Burger on Davie in Vancouver

Overall, I found this to be a fantastic deal for the quality of the food. I'm not sure if the burger combo deal is temporary or permanent, but if it's permanent, I'd definitely come here over Vera's.

Urban Burger on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Mussels in Tomato Broth - What's for Dinner?

mussels in tomato basil red wine broth

Prepare a broth with the following items and simmer for 5 minutes.
~1 cup of crushed tomatoes (fresh or canned)
~60 mL to half a cup of red wine, depending on taste
1/2 an onion, diced onion (can substitute with onion powder)
1 clove garlic, minced (can substitute with garlic powder)
1 tablespoon dried basil
Juice from a small lemon wedge
Salt and pepper to taste

Add in ~ 1lb live or frozen mussels and cook until mussels are cooked. If using live mussels, cook until the shells are open and discard any that remain closed. Top with chopped scallions and lemon wedge.

Optional: Brown onions and garlic prior to preparing the broth for extra flavour.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Food Bargain Round Up #3

deals, coupons, freebies, and bargains
Free Wrigley's 5 React Gum, must have facebook.

Free Multi-Grain Cheerios offer. Click the "Facebook Offer" banner on the site.

Free 1lb of wings at Wings on Granville from 9am - 6pm on Sunday May 23rd.
1162 Granville St.
Vancouver, BC

free wings

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Why leftovers and reheated foods taste different or off

While there are tons of foods that can taste good or even better the next day (pizza), many foods suffer from short term storage. Meat is particularly susceptible and can obtain flavours which some characterize as stale, metallic, or cardboard-like. In academic literature and industry, this is called warmed-over flavour (WOF).

A fundamental concept to keep in mind is that food is dynamic in its physical and chemical composition, even after cooking. Over time, the chemical make up of a stored food will be different than when it was first cooked.

In a nutshell, the chemical changes that occur during food storage are responsible for the staleness in leftovers. There is also water loss, but I'll focus on the chemistry side. Food scientists point to lipid oxidation as the main factor for developing WOF. The typical victims of storaged induced oxidation are lipids found in the outer membrane of cells (phospholipids, sphingolipids, glycolipids). Fat tissues are mainly saturated fats, which are not as suspectible to oxidation.

Meats with more unsaturated fat content are more prone to developing WOF.

Fish (most likely) > Poultry > Pork > Beef > Lamb (least likely)

So why is meat more likely to develop off flavours compared to other foods?

Meat contains iron embedded proteins. Iron is released from these proteins (hemoglobin and myoglobin) during cooking. This free iron can then speed up (catalyze) lipid oxidation during storage, hence meat is particularly vulnerable to developing that "off" taste. I have created some diagrams to show how lame I can be and for illustration purposes (I guess).

Iron increases warmed-over flavours in leftovers

So, how do we minimize these warmed-over flavours?