Wednesday, December 29, 2010

What's for Dessert? Homemade Ice Cream

 I celebrated my new Christmas present - the White Mountain Ice Cream maker (see picture) - with a batch of creamy, vanilla-bean ice cream. I'm still working out the delicacy in getting the ice to melt slowly enough to chill the canister, but not create a frozen pool so that the texture of the cream inside the canister becomes icy. There is  a balance between using enough rock salt to ice ratio. It was delicious nonetheless, but I'm dead-set on getting the right texture, so this won't be the last time you see this whopper of a machine making it onto the blog!

Christmas-Eve Menu

This is my favourite event of the year! I am given free range to go full-throttle in the kitchen. The dishes are extravagant, and the settings are sumptuous. I'll list the menu then let the pictures do the talking. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all my CwC readers :)


Thursday, December 23, 2010

What's for Snack? Nona's Crispelles

This is my Nona's recipe.... if you can call it that.
Trying to extract measurements was futile, as she only gave me rough ideas on how the texture was supposed to look and feel. 
As an Italian grandmother, her idea of cooking and eating is something passed down through the generations. Her and my Nono (grandfather) grew up in a village located a few hours south of Rome. See this past blog post for  reference --> http://cooking-with-claire.blogspot.com/2010/08/more-photos-from-my-travels.html
After the Germans and Americans swept through Monte Cassino during the peak of WWII, they were forced to survive or clear-out. They did both. The result is a style of eating that is close to the ground (farming, raising animals, butchering, etc) yet influenced a little by their new country. What you have is an elderly couple that grows their own tomatoes in the back-yard of suburbia, yet watches the price is right and eats 'corna-flakees' once in a while.
I think it's splendid.
See pictures of their garden I took in the summer here --> http://cooking-with-claire.blogspot.com/2010/08/my-nonos-garden.html

This dish, called "Crispelle," is a doughy fritter dotted with sultana raisins. The thick batter is allowed to rise about an hour, then is deep fried, puffs in the oil and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar to finish. I think this is a wonderful representation of the mixing of cultures. Though not the healthiest creation, granted, it has a familiarity to it when you smell the scent wafting from the bubbling oil, as you hover over the stove, bobbing the fritters like nona does.

What's for Lunch? Fiery Pasta for a -18 Degree Afternoon

What better way to heat-up in the kitchen then with a bowl of spicy, flavourful, rid-you-of-your-sniffles pasta. I used as much local produce as possible in this one: The tomatoes we canned over the summer, my nono's canned chillies that were grown in his backyard, my nona's sun-dried tomatoes and their garlic from the garden. I boiled the pasta in heavily salted water, meanwhile, pan fried the garlic in some of the oil from each of the canned-goods (the sun-dried tomato oil was particularly nice) then added in the chillies and tomatoes. I threw in some fresh parsley towards the end, then drained the pasta and added it to the pan to slurp up the wonderful juices. I garnished with some dressed arugula, although not in season, a wonderful contrast in bitterness to the spicy-sweet dish.
A 15 minute dish that beats any bowl of canned soup :D

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Checkerboard Icebox Cookies




I made these a few days ago in hospitality class with the help of my teacher. I have always thought that checkerboard cookies were too much effort for the final result (and rather ordinary taste) they provided. That being said, with the time and the resources to attempt them in class, I was surprised and delighted with the final result. Once the bulk of the effort in making the dough was finished, we were cranking out cookies like nobody's business! A few days of mixing, rolling, layering and cutting gave me neat little rectangles that store in the fridge or freezer. To finish, I only required a knife to slice and place cookies on the baking sheet. The beauty of these are (as the name suggests) that you can keep them in your "ice-box" and cut them to bake fresh as you need them. That means fresh baked cookies whenever Christmas company arrives. We think that these are better when they are warm and still have a bit of chew, rather than waiting a few minutes until they cool and dry out.
**Highly recommended

Monday, December 13, 2010

So..Brisket it is!

As it seems, the majority of readers are looking forward to a deliciously robust, holiday Brisket. The poll results don't lie. Never mind the caviar, truffles or edible gold, a good chunk'a'meat ought to do it!
We have roughly 18 people in town for Christmas eve dinner. Traditionally, our family always throws a party on Christmas eve, and Christmas day is a more mellow affair. We'll be buying our 10+ pound brisket from Charles' Meats - my favourite abattoir. I'm planning on using one of Lucy Waverman's recipes, titled "The Ultimate Brisket," from her latest cookbook called Friday Night Dinners. About a year ago, I had the chance to meet Lucy, and she told me that her book's style was the comforting, family style dinners with Jewish and Arabic influences. The brisket is coated in a fragrant mixture of fennel and coriander and dried herbs and slowly cooked over a 2-3 day process. It is braised in a rich mixture of tomato, soy sauce and stock. I made it last year for Christmas Eve, and the unique flavour combination has been tugging at me all year, begging to be made and enjoyed all over again. I was secretly hoping it would win this week's poll. And I'm so glad you all agreed with me :)

What's for Dinner? Baked Beans, Green Beans and Roasted Parsnips

Yum Yum! A lovely winter meal for a very cold day!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

A New Tradition in the Works...

So how's about you gather around 3-4 of your best buddies and pick a weekend leading up to Christmas... and just go nuts with baking in the kitchen?

Just today I did this with my godmother Louise and her daughter in-law, Laura. We had a blast!
We made: Mexican Shortbread with Cayenne Pepper and Raw sugar, Sugar Cookies, Martha's Shortbread, Sicilian Fig and Wine Cookies with Clementine Glaze and Orange Almond Bites. We PROUDLY used over 2 pounds of butter. A day well spent in my opinion.




** OH! And I also, FINALLY got a chance to visit McEwan Fine Foods in the Dawn Mills plaza. As we were only visiting Laura right around the corner, why not pick something up for lunch?You might recall that I had the chance to sit beside Mark for a lovely dinner at Nick and Nat's a few months back. I heard so much about the store, as he was so passionate about the finished product. And boy, what a store! The mark of quality was superb! The fish counter alone was enough to make me cry. (Metaphorically, not for real...) Over 70% of the cheeses are made within Ontario or Canada, and words of truth - I tasted the best cheese in the world this afternoon. Literally! This exceptional goat cheese beat out 4,800 other cheeses in the world testing held in France this year.

Sadly, after my recent trip to the DR, and Christmas expenses, I bought only dry-packed, roasted chestnuts to use in Christmas Eve's dinner. Look for them in the upcoming FEAST OF THE YEAR, DEC 24TH!






Saturday, November 27, 2010

What's for Dinner? Stewed Romano Beans with Fall Veg., Beet Slices, Bitter Greens

This was most definitely the last memory of the hot weather, as now the snow is falling outside.
The extra-sweet beets (that we got in bulk-order from the farm) worked really nice to balance out the bitterness of the greens. The beans were purchased for 1.10$/lb at the market. (How's that for economical?!) I soaked them overnight, boiled then simmered them the next day in salted water with a bay leaf and garlic cloves. Once they were tender, I combined them in the pot where I hat eggplant, the LAST peppers and leeks cooking in a chicken stock/tomato concasse. The beets were simply trimmed, boiled, peeled and sliced into disks. I dressed them with a lemon vinaigrette and fleur de sel. This was a delicious meal, and guaranteed it came in at under $10 for everything included. Beans are the future my friends!!!

*I'm having to get a bit more creative in the kitchen now that the cold-weather has set in. I'll try my best to re-invent the ol' potatoes and apples kinda' winter.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

CWC is going to the Dominican Republic

In 3 days I will be departing for Consuelo, near Santa Domingo in the DR.
We will be landing in the glossy resort town of Punta-Cana then driving a few hours into the actual country, where no tourists venture. This is a part of a school mission trip, titled "Dominican Encounter with Faith and Hospitality."
We will be visiting "batays" - poor mill towns, heavily reliant on previous sugar mills for jobs - where present, unemployed life has been described as "stagnant, empty and a new concept for Western eyes."
After months of fundraising, overtime at work and prep-meetings, I am excited to finally get-on with the trip!
Myself and my friend will be taking a camera down south to record our experience as part of a film-festival contest in our school board.
I will try to post some of this video for context, for the food pictures I'll be snapping, of course!
Our host families will primarily be feeding us rice and beans and the occasional tropical fruit or plantain.
I'll try my best to get to a proper market, but it is important that we only drink safe water and eat safe foods. "Safe" referring to such food that have been cooked without contaminated water that could potentially lead to Hepatitis infections.
Beyond obvious risk, I am looking forward to a great trip and a colourful cuisine.
This will be the last blog post for about a week.
Talk soon everyone.
Keep cookin' !!

**Oh, and on a side note... RICE was the poll winner this week. As the main diet-staple in the DR, you can be assured, my host mother will most definitely give it the royal treatment! What a wonderful coincidence.

An Anti-Climactic 200th Blog Post

Argh! I am so angry at myself!
I used some of the most photogenic ingredients for tonight's dinner (wild mushrooms, oxtail, chicken consommé, gorgeous vegetables...) and I left my camera at work in my bag.
I bought all these special ingredients for this special anniversary meal, spent 4 hours braising everything, plating, garnishing, and for the first time since I started this almost a year ago, was unable to take a picture.
That's a lie actually. I took one, small, crummy snapshot with my webcam, in a desperate attempt to capture the moment. But it does, in no way serve the dish justice.
I would rather leave you with the beautiful image - of a glorious, steaming stew, strewn with melt-in-your mouth, shredded pieces of oxtail and steamy root-veg, chunks of roasted acorn squash - all in your mind.
I'll attach the crappy picture as proof that I made it.
Only now did I realize that you could potential think I was lying.

All will be better again soon my friends!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

What's for Dinner? Creamy Mushroom and Sausage Stroganoff atop Egg Noodles

  • 1 package of egg noodles
  • About 3 cups of sliced crimini mushrooms
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1 tbs minced garlic
  • olive oil
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 4 quality sausages (best unflavoured)
  • 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup broth of any meat
  • 1/2 cup tomato puree
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup of chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • salt and black pepper to taste

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Iron Chef: The Aftermath

Here is a group shot, compliments of SNAP magazine KW that was taken the night of the event. You can pick up a copy this month or read the website --> http://www.snapkw.com/index.php?option=com_sngevents&id[]=213074

Monday, November 1, 2010

You Voted...

I really thought that carrots had a chance at winning this week! But of course, POTATOES were the grand winner. You voted them as your favourite fall ingredient. It looks like I'll be featuring them in a soon-to-come blog post.
It's too bad I don't have my mandoline yet.
(I asked for one for Christmas, along with new baking sheets and a proper ice-cream maker --> This is the one I'm looking at http://www.amazon.com/White-Mountain-F64306-X-6-Quart-Hand-Crank/dp/B00002N62G/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=home-garden&qid=1287971860&sr=8-1 )
If I had a mandoline, I'd make rosti-potatoes. We've been getting lots of practice in Hospitality class at school, and if I only had a few russets and few tablespoons of duck-fat... I'd be all set!
If you have any recommendations on this weeks poll winner, let me know :)
I'm thinking something with fingerlings, but that's conditional on whether I find them at the market.
Remember to vote for this weeks poll!!

Friday, October 29, 2010

A Little Upgrading

You might have noticed that I added a few features to the blog.

1. The slideshow in the top right corner of the page will feature a collection of all my previous dishes ever made! (Not all of which I'm proud of) I think it adds a nice bit of history to patrons and newcomers alike!

2. The 'food-word-index' is what I'm most excited about. I spent a few hours on the weekend 'labeling' all my previous posts with things like "eggs" "beets" "soup" "dessert" "berries" "chicken" etc... to help you find an idea for dinner... really whatever you want! The point is that the site is now better organized and there is a search index. You can find this feature on the bottom right of the side-bar, under "blogs I follow." As a person who likes organization (hope mom isn't reading this, for she will disagree profusely) it's about time the blog got a good scrubby-dub clean.

Enjoy the new features :) Remember to vote in this week's poll - "What's your favourite fall ingredient?"

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

What's for Dinner? Pumpkin Roasted Chicken atop Root Vegetables and Squash, Broccoli

(Not literally roasted IN THE PUMPKIN, but with the flavours... you know...)

* Minus the chicken (from the market) everything was from our last CSA of the season. Thanks to everyone who worked on the farm this year! We will miss all of the delicious produce that you harvested over so many months. You were all outstanding. I cannot wait until next year.

Sorry for the lack of descriptions/recipes to accompany the pictures.
I've been crazy-busy with school and I figured just pictures is better than nothing at all.
Proper blog-posts to come on the weekend.
Happy Friday everyone!

Monday, October 25, 2010

What's for Dinner? Savory Tart of Autumn Vegetables

I thought I'd do something a bit different for this post. You have read the past 150 or so blog posts, so why not watch one for a change? Enjoy!

video

Saturday, October 23, 2010

What's for Dessert? Quince and Apple Sauce



Local quince fruit and apples made into a creamy, strained, silky sauce.

What's for Dinner? Rack of Lamb with Parsley Crust, Perfect Mashed Potatoes, Oily Sauteed Rapini, Glazed Carrot Coins

Ala Cuisine! My experience with IRON CHEF Waterloo



Jonathan Gushue, Executive Chef at Langdon Hall, recently nabbed a spot (#77) on the prestigious S. Pellegrino 100 Worlds Best Restaurant list. He put his kitchen skills to the test in an Iron Chef Competition that happened on October 20th, 9:30pm at Nick and Nat's Uptown 21.
He and challenger Nick (owner of the local restaurant) were presented with a mystery box (actually, a turkey roaster) with a secret ingredient. With only a few minutes to plan a menu with their respective assistants, the teams duked it out, preparing a 3-course meal in just an hour.
The teams were: Nick & Claire Matlock vs. Andrew Coppolino & Jonathan Gushue.
Andrew - the face of "Waterloo Region Eats,"& radio-show host
Claire (myself) - 16 year old aspiring "foodie" with an uncharacteristically teenage love for sustainable agriculture, organic food and cooking.
In the past, these Iron Chef battles have been a huge draw, producing great hilarity, entertainment, and very impressive creations, which are judged by a panel of celebrity guests. For foodies, it was a rare opportunity to peer into the kitchen and watch the experts at work. And for the winner, of course the reward was bragging rights!
So how did Iron Chef Waterloo play out this week? Well, battle-Emu (that's right!) sparked some creative dishes like emu-tartar over a creamy salad of its own soft-boiled eggs, emu loin with veggie sides and a white wine foam and possible most creative, an ice cream from scratch whipped together in the limited time allowance.
Judges would taste and critic every nibble and bite. Extra food was passed out to the crowd of spectators. Bribes from the chefs were not uncommon. Nick and I passed out a heaping bowl of the ice cream to the audience and Gushu and Andrew fed the crowd some pomme puree, which hinted delightfully to the amount of butter it contained.
After a one-hour battle of stressful, yet nevertheless fun and exciting cooking, plating and garnishing, the verdict was in. .....Drumroll..... the winners? Nick and Claire!!! By a mere two points, and most likely a cause of our supper creamy dessert. Our prize? (Besides the bragging rights,) we were awarded authentic Mennonite farming hats from the same area that supplied the secret ingredient.
Minus the prizes and cameras and music, if this was just a taste of what takes place in a professional kitchen every meal service.... I think I liked it a little too much.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

What's for Dinner? Root Veg/Squash with a Maple/Balsamic Vinaigrette, Lightly Fried Cod

Pumpkin, Acorn Squash, Parsnips, Rutabega, Mystery Squash all roasted and tossed with a vinaigrette made of shallots, Evoo, balsamic vinegar, pure maple syrup, brown sugar and 2 tsp of bacon fat. I returned the vegetables to the oven for about 10 minutes after I had tossed them. This allowed them to caramelize even more.
The cod was done as simply as can be: salt, pepper and cooked in a little oil and butter till done, and NOT overcooked.
Served over some thinly sliced, purple cabbage and dotted with parsley oil.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

What's for Dessert? The Most Local Apple Tart You Ever Did See!

I found an apple tree near the Grand River today.
Long story short, I used a stick to prod 35 apples off the bugger and now I'm eating a deelish Apple/Pastry Cream French Tart with pulverized pralines. That tree didn't know what hit him!


*A note about the apples: I put them in that container because it was the only one I could find in the trunk of the car at the time. I swear I actually took the stick to the tree! **The sweetest apples had already fallen though...

Saturday, October 16, 2010

What's for Dinner? Bavarian Rouladen

Yum Yum!
Round steak sliced thin and pounded out, stuffed, rolled then braised all afternoon.
Recipe was from the newest cookbook added to the shelf: Falling off the Bone http://www.jeanandersoncooks.com/jean-anderson-books/falling-off-the-bone-by-jean-anderson.htm
Served with its savory pureed gravy.

*Charles Quality Meats from St. Agatha
http://www.localharvest.ca/farm/charles-quality-meats

Friday, October 15, 2010

What's for Dinner? Thanksgiving Soup??

Turkey Stock made from the leftover bird's carcass.
Cubed Rutabaga.
Carrots, peas and corn.
Wilted Chinese Broccoli (only because it was picked the same day...)
Lardons to Garnish.
Toast on the side with all the flavourings of a really good 'stuffing'.
Quite unusual, but still delicious!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

What's for Dinner? Cauliflower au Gratin, Grainy Mustard White-Fish & Melt-in-Your-Mouth Glazed Turnips

Just another quick meal to use up the farm produce from our CSA.
I just ordered some carrots/beets/potatoes/squash in bulk from the farm (less than $1/pound!!! How's that for organic?) and will hopefully do some preserving of the beets, and storing of the rest. Stay tuned for some featured dishes.