I got so inspired by the quality of ingredients I found at three corner grocers in Calgary today that I came home and made a fennel salad with blood oranges, avocado and shrimp; a star anise and shitake mushroom short rib slow cooked stew and – the piece de resistance – a beloved old recipe for Waldorf Astoria Mocha Cake. I think this would be a great make-ahead meal for entertaining.
Read on for the recipes and photos.
Farewell to Winter – Fennel Salad
(Adapted from Bi-Rite Market –Eat Good Food, 2011)
This salad looks like the spring we are all waiting for but features winter’s bright citrus and fennel with a little tropical avocado to give it staying power.
1 large or 2 small fennel bulbs
3 blood oranges (may substitute navel oranges)
1 finely diced shallot
1 teaspoon honey
1 Tablespoon champagne vinegar
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
¼ cup avocado oil
Salt and pepper to taste
2 peeled and sliced avocados
1 lb cooked peeled shrimp (optional)
Remove the outer layer of the fennel bulb and chop off the tops, reserving the fronds. Slice the bulbs as thinly as possible. Use a mandolin if you have one.
Remove the top and bottom of the oranges with a knife and then use a paring knife to slice peel and pith in strips from the sides. Cut the orange into crossways slices.
Put the shallot, honey, vinegar and lemon juice in a bowl and whisk in the avocado oil. Taste the dressing and season it with salt and pepper.
Place the oranges on a platter in a circle.
Toss the dressing with the fennel and then stack it in the midst of the oranges.
Cut the avocadoes and rest them at odd angles on the fennel and then top with shrimp if using.
Sprinkle with a little more salt and pepper and serve.
Star Anise and Shitake Mushroom Short Ribs
This recipe came about because I saw shitake mushrooms at Bridgeland Market and I knew I had short ribs at home needing to get cooked. The fennel in the salad above reminded me of star anise – which inspired this Asian flavoured treatment of Alberta beef for which shitake mushrooms would enhance thoroughly.
1 cup dried shitake mushrooms
1 cup boiling water
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 – 3 lbs beef short ribs – trimmed of at least half of the fat – as possible while still leaving nice cubes to work with
3 sliced lengthwise shallots
1 ½ teaspoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons minced ginger
¼ cup dry sherry
3 cups beef broth
¼ cup hoisin sauce
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
2 whole star anise
1 teaspoon Chinese 5 spice powder
Salt and pepper to taste
Crispy fried onions
Fresh ginger cut in strips
Place the dried mushrooms in a bowl and add the boiling water. Set aside.
Heat a large Dutch oven on medium-high heat and add the olive oil.
Add the short ribs making sure to leave room between them. Cook in two batches if necessary browning on all sides.
Remove the short ribs to a platter and stir in the shallots, garlic and ginger and cook until the shallots are soft and starting to brown.
Pour in the sherry while scraping the brown bits off the bottom of the pan.
Add the beef broth and mushrooms with their liquid (strained) followed by the hoisin, soy, star anise and salt and pepper.
Cover and simmer for about four hours or till the meat is falling off the bones and separates easily with a fork. You can also put the whole mixture in a slow cooker on low for eight hours.
Sprinkle the fried onion, ginger and chiles over each serving.
Waldorf Astoria Mocha Cake
Corner stores make me nostalgic. This cake is a very nostalgic one from the turn of the 20th century aristocratic Astor family’s New York City landmark hotel – The Waldorf Astoria. It’s made with humble mayonnaise as devised with a clever chef wanting to deliver posh goods in wartime America when eggs were hard to find.
For the cake
2 cups all purpose flour
4 Tablespoons cocoa
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup sugar
1 cup strong coffee (cooled)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup mayonnaise
For the Icing
2 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate
4 Tablespoons of butter
3 cups icing sugar
¼ – ½ cup coffee
Preheat the oven to 350F and grease then line three nine-inch diameter cake pans with parchment paper.
Sift the flour, cocoa, salt and baking soda through a sieve and place in the bowl of an electric mixer.
Add the sugar followed by the coffee, vanilla and mayonnaise and beat into a smooth batter.
Pour the batter evenly between the three cake pans and place in the middle rack of the oven for 20 minutes or until a cake tester comes out cleanly from the middle of each cake.
Remove the cakes from the oven and invert them onto racks to cool.
Make the icing while the cakes cool.
Melt the chocolate in the microwave at half power for two minutes, add it and the butter to the bowl of a mixer and beat till smooth.
Add the icing sugar followed by the coffee – just enough to form a spreadable frosting.
Frost the cakes and decorate them as you like. I had cute little kumquats and fancy cherries from the Corner Grocers I visited.