Saturday, March 19, 2011

Mad Scientist Day!

Hello my pretties!

Sometimes you can come up with things in the kitchen that make you laugh with an "M" at your own evil creative genius... MWAHAHAAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHHAAAAAAAA!!!!!!

I'll give my girl Kari credit, she can push the recipe envelope into the realm of insanity better than anyone I know. Example: We were having leftover "Chocolate Goop" (a melty chocolate pudding my mother makes, more on her food awesomeness to come soon!) when she's like, 'hey, let's add a scoop of that Butter Tart Ice Cream! And then chop up some Turtles and sprinkle them on top! Yeah! And then add Sucre à la crème, and whipped cream, and berries! And maybe peanut butter!' Luckily we stopped at the Turtles...

It's pretty easy to let your imagination run wild when you have a basic concept of how some foods go with others. But sometimes we can go too far and throw in that one ingredient that either overpowers the whole dish (e.g. cardamom) or we pair ingredients that, if done wrong, spoils the whole damn thing. A good example is mixing citrus, like lemon, with dairy. Can we say curdle? (it is possible to mix the two correctly, but it takes special attention and care)

But sometimes it can work to mix unlikely ingredients into interesting pieces of culinary fusion. It also helps you clear out the fridge and freezer!

Just recently I found myself unsure of what to make for dinner. So, head to the supermarket, right? Well, the local supermarket was closed, leaving me to have to go to the nearby organic veggie market, which is somewhat more expensive. But, red cabbage was fairly cheap, and their avocados were about the same price as the supermarket, and nice and ripe! So, with unconventional fusional recipes inventing themselves in my mind, I bought the produce and went home to see what I could bash together. What I came up with was something I've named Mad Scientist Stew. It's basically a fusion of flavours from Eastern and Northern Europe, basically a Slav-Scandinavian fusion, with a touch of Mexico (the avocado) and East Asia (ginger). I made it pretty spicy too. The reason I thought this might work is that sour cream is part of European cooking as well as Mexican, and that the buttery texture of avocado would be an interesting counterpoint to the sweet/sour flavouring of the stew.

The amounts I used were determined on the spot, so bear with me.

Mad Scientist Stew


- Olive oil
- 1 1/2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 small head red cabbage, chopped coarsely
- 1 small onion, chopped coarsely
- 1 large carrot, peeled and sliced
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- pinch cayenne pepper
- 1/2 cup liquid from jar of pickled herring
- 1/2 cup pickled herring filets
- 1 cup vegetable cocktail
- 2 pickled hot peppers (banana or jalapeno), roughly chopped
- 1 cup red wine
- 1 can tomato paste
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2-4 tsp caraway seeds
- 1 ripe Haas avocado, roughly diced into chunks
- Sour cream for serving


- Sauté ginger and garlic in olive oil, until garlic begins to turn golden
- Add cabbage, onion, carrot, paprika and cayenne sauté for 2-3 minutes
- Add pickled herring juice, vegetable cocktail, hot peppers and wine, bring to a boil
- Reduce heat to medium, stir in tomato paste and 1 tbsp of caraway seeds
- Season with salt and pepper (salt may not be needed as there is a fair bit of salt in the paste, veggie cocktail and herring)
- Reduce heat to medium-low (3) and simmer for 30-40 minutes
- Once stew has thickened, stir in another 1 tbsp caraway seeds (or more if you're like me and really like the flavour they impart) and avocado chunks
- Serve in bowls, stir in sour cream to taste

I found this was really good with a cold beer, but I bet a nice dry white wine would work well too. Yes, I realize there's red wine in the recipe, but there's also white fish, so I figure white wine.

This next recipe is more 'goat' than 'mad scientist'. I had a few ingredients in the fridge one night that I knew needed to be used up soon or they'd go bad, but I didn't really have a clear recipe in mind. I'd recently made some sort of Thai curry and had a bunch of leftovers as well as lots of veggies. So, feeling bold, I decided to try and a wacky mix of Mediterranean and Thai flavours together. The result was surprisingly good. I'd give it a 3 out of 4.

So, if you want to try a semi-traditional pasta sauce with Thai and Ethiopian elements, here you go!

Fusion Sauce for Pasta


- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 sweet (vidalia) onion, diced
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 4 ripe tomatoes, finely diced (or 1 can tomatoes)
- 1 can tomato paste
- 2 tbsp red Thai curry paste
- 400 g steak cut into strips (or use whatever meat you like, or none)
- 2 tbsp Berbere spice (if you don't know the recipe by now, for shame!)
- 1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
- 1 red pepper and 1 yellow pepper, cut into strips
- 1/4 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and sliced
- 3-4 kaffir lime leaves
- 1/2 can coconut milk (about 1 cup)
- juice of 1/4 lime
- fresh basil leaves (Thai basil or regular basil or both)
- fresh cilantro


- Sauté garlic and onions in olive oil for about 4 minutes, ensuring the garlic doesn't overcook.
- Add tomatoes, beef or chicken (if using) and cook for another 6-7 minutes.
- Add tomato paste, curry paste, Berbere spice and pepper. Stir until pastes are well dissolved into sauce.
- Add peppers and simmer at medium-low for about 10 minutes until peppers are somewhat cooked.
- Add lime leaves, olives, lime juice and coconut milk, turn heat up to medium high until coconut milk reduces (about 10 minutes)
- Pick out lime leaves
- Sauce is ready to serve over cooked pasta (or toss pasta with sauce in pan)
- Garnish with basil and cilantro

I was surprised at the interesting mix of flavours. Definitely not for the faint of palette!

So, there you go! Sometimes it's more fun to say "Frak the rules" and go a little crazy in the kitchen. You never know what the result might be! Just remember this: the Caesar Salad was invented as a "mad scientist" kind of recipe. And who doesn't like Caesar Salad?

Cheers! Enjoy! Feast! Create! Experiment!

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