Monday, 20 June 2011

One Week to Go, Many Photos of Food

Well, it is official: in less than a week's time, I'll be on a plane heading to the much beloved country of France. While this is certainly great news in my book, I continue to find myself behind in the blog posts, and the photos I have been taking as of late continue to remind me of this. Before I get to last week's cooking adventure, I do want to make sure I link you all to an album from a string of food stops two weeks ago, which included an Asian fusion restaurant (Little Tree Sushi Bar) and a chillaxed post-dinner dining experience (Vinotecca), both in Royal Oak, MI, as well as a budget-friendly sushi locale (Sagano Japanese Bistro in Flint, MI). For photos of these meals, and of one from a dinner during my PST Leader Orientation in Vermont, click here. This now aside, continue reading for durum wheat pasta and summer squash salad with pan-fried Italian-marinated chicken, red grape granita, and my third attempt at leche flan.

For the salad, I actually began by marinating my chicken tenderloin (about 1.5 lbs) in Italian dressing, as the longer you have to marinate, the better the flavour. As that was in the fridge, it was time to get a pot of seasoned (read: salted) water boiling to cook the pasta. As you can see in the photo above, I went with rotelle (also known as wagon wheel pasta). Once the pasta is to your liking, make sure to drain well and leave aside to cool.

Next, blanch the zucchini and yellow squash: cube the vegetables to bite-size pieces, cook until just barely fork tender, and then transfer them out and into a container of cold water to stop the cooking process.

After at least half an hour of marinating (again, the more time you have the better), cube up the chicken and pan fry. There's no need for oil or additional seasoning; let the Italian dressing do the work. (Of course, you could cube up the chicken and then marinade so that you don't have to worry about doing this just before cooking.) After the chicken has cooked through and the dressing has more or less completely evaporated, add this to the cooled pasta and veg. Again, if you have the time, you can also let the chicken cool completely before mixing and serve everything cold.

Top the salad with some fresh roma tomatoes and drizzle everything with a fresh bit of Italian dressing. Bright and summery, this salad is full of contrast--both in colour and texture--and fairly simple to put together in about an hour's time.

For dessert to continue the summer theme, I would suggest trying out red grape granita, the "technique" of which is even simpler than the salad. Take note you will need some time to put this together as it does have to spend time in the freezer. Simply juice a pound of grapes and make sure to strain the remaining pulp, as most juicers tend to leave behind quite a bit of liquid. Freeze the juice and use a fork to scrape the (then) frozen juice to the consistency of shaved ice. If you've got the time, get this back in the freezer and scrape the scraped juice a second time for a lighter consistency. Go ahead and try out different flavours and combinations.

As the final part of my summer meal, I tried my hand at flan once again. The above photo is the result of my third attempt, as the second attempt ended up leaking from the springform pans I put the custard in. For this much more successful version, I separated the custard batter into two loaf pans and baked both in a water bath. Using the Ateco stainless steel round I bought last month, I cut out some flan and practiced my plating skills. Ah, and the other difference between my flan batters was the addition of half a lemon's zest to the batter to steep for about five minutes before straining everything out and then adding vanilla extract to the strained batter to finish it off. Finally, topping off this flan with fresh raspberries that had some time with a slight squeeze of lemon and sugar added colour and textural contrasts to this otherwise smooth dish. For additional photos from this cooking day, click here.

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