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ML's pantry

"Welcome to my pantry where every month I'll unearth some rare gem to inspire, enlighten or tantalize the senses. And not everything will be edible, but it will all be full of sabor!"

MARIO'S MEATY FINDS

Oh the joys of sharing – in this case a pantry – with a particularly carnivorous-feeling husband Mario Stojanac. He shares the pantry, and also the writing duties, on his latest ‘feel-good’ find. Here's Mario's missive:

As two people deeply immersed in all things food, I guess it is natural for us to host a fair amount of dinner parties. And for me, nothing quite says ‘Welcome to Chez M + M’ like a well-organized plate of charcuterie – which means that having something decent on hand is pretty close to being a staple. Hence while Mary Luz stocks certain aspects of the pantry, I like to find excuses to dedicate some serious fridge space to my meaty musts.

One of the first things I look for in my items is uniqueness, followed (of course) by taste and versatility. In Toronto we are spoiled for choice when it comes to cured meats – all the more reason to avoid the pre-packaged stuff in your local supermarket. My latest favourite find came about as a result of my looking around for alternatives to the usual Italian and Spanish suspects. And voila…Vive la France! The Delice d’Auvergne dry sausage I found covered all of my prerequisites…unique in that it was new to the country, tasty was a definite ‘check’ and versatile – we’ll get to below.

This rustic air-cured sausage is matured in the dry, fragrant mountain air of the Auvergne at an altitude of 800 metres or so. Created using traditional methods, this beautifully lean pork sausage is subtly flavoured with salt, pepper and nutmeg and has a fantastic ‘meaty’ chew to it – not too dry and not too tough either. It is manufactured by Bordeau Chesnel and is available through one of my favourite deli haunts – Scheffler’s Deli in the St. Lawrence market here in Toronto.

Use this as an alternative to salami rounds on your charcuterie plates or, if you’re feeling  creative, slice a few rounds and oven-dry them for a little while. Once the ‘chips’ have dried, you can crumble these on Caesar salads as an alternative to bacon bits or (my favourite) sprinkle them on top of a hearty lentil soup for a little bit of added smokiness.

ALMOND DELIGHTS IN MACAU

...I love almonds. I love them whole, crushed, ground into a paste, slivered and added to savoury dishes as well as sweets. It’s no surprise then that as I wandered the city streets of Macau, my nose led me to the Choi Heong Yuen Bakery where “Petite Almond Cakes” were being made by the dozens. I remembered seeing tuxedo-clad, dancing girl-adorned billboards about town, all extolling the virtues of these one-bite morsels. And now, there I was, in one of Macau’s oldest bakeries and sweet treat purveyors sampling my taste buds out.

The mini almond cakes (cookies really- pictured above left on this page), were efficiently made by a man wearing all of the necessary protective and sanitary layers of clothing on a 35-plus-degree-Celsius day (the bakery entrance opens up onto the street- so the shop was hot inside and out.) A mix of pulverized almonds, mung bean flour (which gives these treats a melt-in-the-mouth texture), sugar, peanuts and canola oil looks like it will never hold. I wondered- isn’t he going to add some butter or eggs to bind that mixture? Nope-the fine, sand-like concoction gets firmly packed into pretty moulds, the cookies are tapped out onto a bamboo rack and then slowly baked. The result? Tender, flavourful, tea or coffee-perfect pairing cookies that reminded me of a Chinese shortbread. And if you love almonds as much as I do - this is one cookie you’ll definitely want to sample. Quite simply, the perfect offering for when unexpected visitors show up or when you’re too tired or lazy to fuss over a full dessert.

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