Saturday, 31 December 2011

My Final Post for the Year and 2012 Food Resolutions

In just a few hours, my blog will receive a new year on the navigation side bar's Blog Archive: 2012. Almost a year ago, I began this blog as "Ukonwabele Ukutya Kwakho" (Let's Eat) in homage to my voyage to South Africa when I first chronicled my foodie experiences in photos. As 2011 nears its end, I have altered the title to emphasize my overall approach when it comes to food. It's not only that I learn about food, but even more so what it represents to individuals (including myself), societies and cultures, as well as how these groups are perceived by outsiders looking in. Now 117 posts into this blog (at the time of me writing this, I still have five to complete), I'm already looking forward to the new food memories and challenges that await me after the clock strikes midnight. In this final post for the year, I offer the final dishes I prepared this New Year's Eve. Before these, I'd like to present my new year resolutions as they (of course) pertain to food.

While I'm sure at least one person's top new year's resolution will involve some form of losing weight or keeping up with exercise, my top food resolutions aim at altering food consumption by responding to two categories of food that have been the most difficult for me to conceptualise on the spot: vegetarian dishes and gluten-free cooking. As I continue, I should qualify all this by noting my overall food resolution as it relates to this blog is to write (on average) at least three times a week. Of these, my hope is to alternate in preparing one vegetarian and one gluten-free dish at least every other week. On a more personal level, and inspired by my Christmas gift from Lauren this year (and influenced by much encouragement by others), a top priority for 2012 will be to portion control my intake of the ingredients I love to use most often, including but not limited to bacon, butter, chocolate and heavy cream.

Adding to my writing regiment, my plan throughout the year will to be work through a book I bought at Denison immediately before the winter break-- Andreas Viestad's Where Flavor Was Born: Recipes and Culinary Travels along the Indian Ocean Spice Route. Merging local recipes packed with flavour and the author's stories and photos of his journeys around the world, Where Flavor Was Born is a prime example of the direction I would like to take with my future endeavours in food anthropology.

For Christmas this year, my family bought me a Cuisinart standing mixer. Not that I need to formalise its use, but an additional layer to my 2012 resolutions will be to maximise the use of all my kitchen tools and gadgets, the standing mixer most definitely included. Alongside this, I earlier this evening got an immersion blender of my own which more easily opens the door to the soup genre.

With all of this said, I now end the year and this final post with the final dishes I prepared for 2011. Of the food presented in the opening photo at the top of this post, I prepped three of them beginning with the Oven Baked Brown Sugar Bacon. As the name implies, lay strips of bacon on a tin foil-lined baking sheet and sprinkle them with light brown sugar. Get these into a preheated 375 °F oven and bake them until the fat has rendered out and the bacon is covered in a sheen of melted brown sugar. This takes about 15-20 minutes, but do keep a close eye on these so they don't burn (which is easier to do then even I expected); I'd also suggest baking these one sheet at a time for even heat distribution. Once cooked, carefully take the tray out of the oven and allow it to cool slightly before removing the bacon off the foil. Transfer these to some crinkled paper towel to finish cooling. As it does so, the sugar will create a nice crunchy layer to compliment the already crispy bacon.

As the bacon is in the oven, wash and trim the ends of 16 stalks of asparagus. In a grill pan, heat a few teaspoons of canola oil and toast about half a teaspoon dried garlic flakes. Put the asparagus in the pan and lightly coat them with the garlic oil, and sprinkle a pinch of salt and a pinch of ground black pepper; proceed with (essentially) frying these on med-lo for about 10 min. After the 10 min, add about 1-2 tbsp water and finish cooking the asparagus by (essentially) steaming them until most of the water has evaporated (about another 10 min). As the asparagus are nearly finished cooking, get a cup of ice ready; once most of the water has evaporated, get the ice onto the asparagus, creating a faux ice bath to stop the asparagus from cooking.

Get the asparagus out of the pan and onto some paper towel to dry off. Once cool to the touch, wrap a pair of asparagus stalks in a slice of smoked salmon to serve. And voilà!-- a take on Giada De Laurentiis's Asparagus and Smoked Salmon Bundles and another dish done.

One of my favourite post-holiday meals makes use of leftover spiral sliced ham and is just as easy to put together as the other dishes (if not even more so). Into a split King's Hawaiian Roll, sandwich a slice of ham and warmed artichoke spinach dip (about 30 seconds or so should do for 2 tbsp). And with this, I say bon appétit and happy new year's eve! For the complete photo album, click here.

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