Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Caviar: My Personal Opinion

Its a Racket. It tastes like cold fish juice. For centuries the wealthiest minority has been spending thousands of dollars on... fish eggs.

Today I had the opportunity to sit down for an hour at work and learn about caviar. We tasted 5 different types and learned a bit about its history and lure.

First of all, its only considered "caviar" if it is from a sturgeon. Everything else is just "roe."
The only ingredients are the actual eggs and salt. The eggs are filled with fish oil.
The well known Beluga caviar has been illegal in the US since 2005. And it takes the Sturgeon which produces Beluga caviar 20years to produce this much desired product.
The Caspian Sea has for centuries been the ideal source to procure caviar. But in 2008 US placed an embargo on Iranian imports. Russia still exports some caviar from the Caspian Sea, but due to pollution and serious overfishing the products are rare and extremely expensive.

Which to me, IS CRAZY.

So, this lady who represents the US's most prestigious distributor of caviar, Petrossian, visited Central Market today. Apparently Central Mkt is the only place in Austin that stocks these products.
Her company now sources roe and caviar from farmed fish, which is more sustainable, and has lowered prices. Demand for caviar, as you would imagine, has dropped in the past few years due to the economic downturn. So, it is important that my co-workers and I know how to sell this stuff to the wealthy people shopping in our store this holiday season.

I really truly don't understand. Out of the 5 that I tasted, I must say the $200 caviar tasted much better that the $30 roe. The price is only that high because for centuries rich people have held this product in high regard. Still, it is what it is. Which is, oily, salty fish eggs. Chicken eggs taste much better and are far more versatile.

However, it pairs very nicely with champagne. And metallic spoons offend its flavor. So, it must be eaten off of a pearl or golden spoon. Can't say thats true for chicken eggs.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Black Bean Sweet Potato Puree

This Soup is sooo gooood. The flavor is very smooth, with layers of bell pepper, onion, bean, sweet potato & spices, I couldn't have been happier with the final product.

I decided to start uploading photos of some of the products I am excited about in my pantry. Here, you can see the Stonehouse #7 Cashews and Cream sauce, an Indian cooking sauce. Wow. I had my eye on this $8.99 jar for months now and finally made it mine. I've enjoyed it over steamed & sauteed veggies, rice and (fake) chickn'. It is especially good smeared onto Tandoori Naan. Naan is an Indian Flatbread, and Tandoori is the style/oven the bread is cooked in.
Today it complimented my soup. Tomorrow it will be all gone.. and I'll be moving onto another exciting sauce.

My Soup:

2T oil
1/2 med onion diced
1 carrot shredded
2 "cloves" shallot diced
1 small-med sweet potato peeled & shredded
1/2 red bell pepper diced
3small cloves garlic
1/4t chili
1/2t cumin
1/2t coriander
2c vegetable broth
2T tomato paste
3/4c frozen sweet corn
1c soaked/cooked black beans

cook all ingredients together, up to the vegetable broth. Once tender, add the broth and tomato paste. Bring to a low boil, then puree in the food processor with black beans. Once you remove all large chunks, add the corn. voila. This would also be nice garnished with sour cream, guacamole, salsa, scallions... I am so going to make this again.

One Soup A Week

I am trying something new. Its getting colder (well not really in Texas,) I am trying to save money, and eat less calories. Sooo, I am making one soup per week. Why not? Heck, this is a great idea any time of year.

So here is my
Shiitake Noodle Soup

2T sesame oil
1/2 bunch scallions diced
2 cloves garlic
1/4lb shiitakes
1/2T minced fresh ginger
2 1/2c vegetable stock
1/2c water
2med bunches bok choy chopped
lo mein noodles
2 T soy sauce
1T ume plum vinegar
sesame seeds garnish

Finished Products

And for dessert! These. Were. So. Good. The Chef/teacher was unhappy with the way they turned out. Apparently if we'd had time to freeze them overnight, they would had held up better in the boiling water. Some of the filling leaked out. I don't think anyone else noticed. If you ever have a chance to eat fresh chocolate ravioli, TAKE IT.
The seafood ravioli with vodka sauce. This is the first vodka sauce I've ever liked. Making it from scratch makes a huge difference. The ones from the jar usually taste too much like.. vodka.
2T olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2c onion minced
1/2t red pepper flakes
3T tomato paste
1/2c vodka
1/2c tomato sauce
1 15oz can tomatoes
1/2c heavy cream
1/4c basil chopped
salt pepper sugar to taste

The pumpkin ravioli was very sweet. No wonder.. it had Amaretti cookies in it (my mom's
Pumpkin Filling:
1 can packed pumpkin (not pie filling)
2T maple syrup
1/4c crushed amaretti cookies
1/2t nutmeg
1/2c Gruyere
1/4c cream cheese
1 egg
salt & pepper
1c butter (ohmygod)
3T fresh sage chopped
2T dry white wine
salt & pepper
toasted pine nuts to garnish
Now here is the one I made. As you can see, the raviolis take up most of the plate, they were very large, and RICH, meant for an appetizer. The sauce was so easy and so good. There was only 3 ingredients! Butter, Cream, and Gorgonzola!!! ahhh!!!!!!
The Hazelnut Filling:
2c Hazelnuts, roasted and peeled
4oz gorgonzola
3lg cloves garlic minced
8oz mascarpone or cream cheese
1/4c parmesan
2T Romano
3T heavy cream
salt & pepper

**All of these Ravioli Filling & Sauce Recipes are by Sahar Arafat-Ray**
whom instructed my class Oct 23, 2010

Making Ravioli

My new job as Foodie/Demo Cook at Austin's Central Market requires that I take several cooking courses a year. Lucky me. I really can take as many as I want, through Central Market's Cooking School, (in the grocery store) but am required to take 7/year. Tomorrow I am enrolled in the Caviar tasting class!

So, this past weekend I took my first class, a Ravioli Workshop. I had made raviolis before, at Broadway Brewery (Columbia, MO.) but this class was a refresher, and really boosted my pasta-making confidence!

Assembling ravioli is quite easy, once you understand the instructions. I really don't think anyone could figure it out by reading a book (or a blog for that matter).. maybe by watching a video, but really it is best to see how its done first hand.

Making the fresh pasta dough doesn't take much at all. All that goes into 1lb of dough is:
2 1/4 c flour
1 t salt
3 eggs
2T olive oil
water, if needed.
Of course if you wanted to give it color or an added ingredient for flavor, this is the time to add it.
Basically, you build a mound with your dry ingredients, then make a hole in the top, or a "well." (picture a volcano) You place the unbeaten eggs and oil into the well, and gently start incorporating, little by little.

Once your dough is set (must be refrigerated 1 hour) you are ready to "roll it out." Which requires a pasta roller. Pasta Rollers generally have 7-9 settings to flatten the dough. You must start at the thickest one, and move down, notch by notch until your dough is flat, even, and thin.

In the class we broke up into groups and made 4 types of raviolis. Everyone used "ravioli molds" except for my group. We hand-cut them. Using a ravioli mold means you finish 12 raviolis at once and they all look the same, cute, little and nearly perfect.

My group layed a large flat piece of dough down, dropped the filling onto the dough, in Tablespoon size, about 3in apart, layed another piece of dough on top.. and used water as "glue" to hold it all together. Then cut out the raviolis. I loved every second of it.

**All of these Ravioli Filling & Sauce Recipes are by Sahar Arafat-Ray**
whom instructed my class Oct 23, 2010

Ravioli Class

Seafood Ravioli Filling:
1T butter
1 T olive oil
2cloves garlic minced
1 shallot minced
1/2 lb shrimp minced
1/2 lb scallops minced
1/2 lb firm-fleshed white fish (halibut, bass) chopped
3T flour
2T dry vermouth or white wine
juice 1/2 lemon
salt & pepper to taste

Chocolate Ravioli Filling:
1 10oz package frozen raspberries
1/4c sugar
1T liqueur, Frambois or Grande Marnier
1/2t lemon juice
1 1/2c heavy cream
8 oz white chocolate chopped

**All of these Ravioli Filling & Sauce Recipes are by Sahar Arafat-Ray**
whom instructed my class Oct 23, 2010