Sunday, June 29, 2008

Winter Bulbs, Spring Onions

Fig 1. Onions planted by my grandfather last autumn. 5 months later. presto.

The marvel of spring never ceases to amaze me, even more so this year considering the brutal winter we had here in Montreal. Yet despite the severity of this year’s wintry ordeal, the spring onions and garlic emerged all the same; in fact, the large amount of snow might have helped the spring bloom as the blanket of snow protects the ground from the harsh frost and ice.

While onions are not packed with nutrients, they do contain some potassium and the green tops are a good source of vitamin C. Onions have also been found to be good for your heart due to the compound adenosine, which reduces the risks of clot formation and may also help promote sleep.

Locally grown Quebec spring onions, garlic, garlic ramps and green onions are now available at most farmers’ markets—as well as some of the bigger chains, look in the Quebec grown sections.
When they’re at they’re freshest I like them simply raw in salads or as an accompaniment to grilled meat.

Grilled Lamb with Spring Onions, Vine Cherry Tomatoes and Cilantro.
Serves 4

-4 pieces of Lamb—I like to use the leg of lamb cut in 1” slices by the butcher.
-4 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
-3/4 cup of chopped spring onions or green onions
-10 to 12 cherry tomatoes cut in quarters
-1/2 cup of cilantro
-Salt and pepper

Season lamb with salt, pepper and olive oil and rub it into the meat at least 1 hour before cooking and bring the lamb to room temperature. While your grill is preheating, prepare the onions, tomatoes and cilantro. Lower the heat on the grill to medium and place the lamb on the hot grill—do not move or press down on the meat—let the grill do its work. I like my lamb medium-rare which means six minutes per side.
When lamb is done to your likeness, remove from heat and let it rest with a piece of aluminium foil over it. While your meat is resting, heat a pan with the extra-virgin olive oil over medium-high heat, add the onions, tomatoes, and cilantro. Don’t let it stew, cook it hot and fast while stirring all the while so it doesn’t stick—about 3 minutes.
Plate the lamb and spoon the onion, tomato, cilantro mixture over top. Sprinkle with salt, freshly ground pepper and drizzle with olive oil.

Note: You can pretty much use any meat you want including fish; and if for some reason you don’t like cilantro, you can substitute fresh Italian parsley.

Some historical notes of interest about onions:
-Ancient Egyptian tombs are adorned with pictures of onions believing that the circular layers within the onions represented life.
-Roman gladiators would rub onions all over their bodies believing it would make them stronger.
-Christopher Columbus brought onions with him to Haiti in 1492. Although some say that Chris introduced the onion to North America, they were growing wild throughout the Continent and were enjoyed by the Natives in a variety of ways.
-In the middle ages doctors believed onions helped with erections. Medieval viagra--eat up boys.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Sacred "Sangwiches"

For Italians, there are two panini that are coveted above all others. Indeed, possessing one of these majestic “sangwiches” in high school would create quite a predicament: being forced to share, being bribed, or somebody making you an offer you couldn’t refuse were just some of the tight spots the hungry students would find themselves in. One of these is the breaded veal cutlet panini and the other is the meatball panini.
I began to think about this when someone told me that the meatball recipe below made too many meatballs, (as if there were such a thing as too many meatballs) I reminded this poor, deluded fellow that he could freeze them, but here’s another option just in case your freezer is full.

Fig 1. Like we used to say at school, "that's nu bell panino"

One round Italian “pagniotta” bread
20 slices of provolone cheese
10 to 11 meatballs (depends on the size of the bread) with some of the tomato sauce (see recipe below)
1 cup of pickled vegetables (such as Valli or Aurora)
10 large basil leaves
4 tablespoons of mayonnaise
1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar


Cut the bread in half separating the top and bottom. Scoop out some of the soft part of the bread from both pieces being careful not to get too close to the crust. (Use the bread for bread crumbs, or make a nice panzanella salad). Leave a 2 cm rim of bread around both bottom and top parts of the bread. Layer the sliced provolone on the bottom part of the bread. Add as many meatballs as you can fit and drizzle with some of the tomato sauce-not too much or the bread can get soggy. Add the pickled vegetables and the fresh basil over top. In a bowl whisk the mayonnaise and red wine vinegar until combined and spread over the top part of the bread. Wrap the whole thing tightly with plastic wrap and place it in the fridge for a few hours (or even overnight) with a weight on top-this step helps keep the meatballs in place when it comes time to cutting the sandwich, there’s nothing more annoying than loose balls. (I use a same-size pan topped with two cans of tomatoes. Be careful not to make it too heavy or the bread can begin to break.) Eat cold or if you prefer it warm, put in a preheated 300 degree oven for 20 to 30 minutes.
Note: You can change anything in this sandwich except the meatballs. I also make it with spicy marinated eggplants and roasted peppers. Use your imagination.