Wednesday, March 31, 2010

What's for Dinner? Bed of Beans/Cabbage and Pancetta with a Fried Egg and Corny Cornbread


Bean Mixture = onions, savoy cabbage, asparagus tips, pinto beans, Italian pancetta + a s&p
A fried egg for some added protein and crisp.
A lil' shaved Romano on top for the saltiness.
Andrew's Favourite --> Cornbread on the side, with little pieces of fresh corn for a sweet bite.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

What's for Dessert? Best Apple Tart










This tart was inspired by many different recipes.
What's nice about the dough is that it's a 'press-in' pastry - NO ROLLING!
I'll provide a link (in the link box at the side) for the foundation, then describe how I changed it.

This is the basic recipe:

Ingredients

Tart Shell

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup flour

Cream Filling

  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup sugar

Topping

  • 3 apples, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds or chopped walnuts

Directions

Tart Shell

  1. Heat the oven to 400°F/200°C. Make the crust: cream the butter and sugar. Stir in the vanilla. Finally, mix in the flour to make a smooth dough. Press into the bottom of an 8-inch/20 cm spring-form pan, giving it about a 1-inch/2.5 cm rim. Bake 15 minutes until lightly golden. Remove from the oven.

Cream Filling

  1. Beat all the ingredients for the cream filling together until smooth. Make the topping by tossing the apple slices with the cinnamon, sugar, and nuts. Remove the tart shell from the oven. Spread over the cream mixture.

Topping

  1. Arrange the apple slices on top, then scatter over the nuts. Bake until the apples are tender and golden, about 40 minutes.
I had so many apples on hand - as they are in season right now - that I made an applesauce from scratch with ginger and cinnamon, and stirred it into the cream mixture. I divided the sugar between the sauce and the cream, to keep the right sweetness. This turned out a less heavy centre to the tart, with even more apple flavour!

In the crust, I added some chopped walnuts which were a nice surprise when digging in. *When baking the crust, I let it cook for half the time, then removed it from the oven, poked down all the air bubbles and then lined the inside with p-paper and filled it with soup beans to keep the crust thin, not puffy.

In the picture you'll see the transformation from the raw dough to the final product.
I will most definitely be making this one again!

What's for Dinner? Roast Beef w/ Parsley Compound Butter, Smashed Potatoes, Criminis and Parsnips


I slowly braised the beef in our dutch-oven then made a thin gravy from the juices which I let drown the plate.
I made the compound butter (seen sliced in a round in the picture) by mashing some good quality butter with plenty of fresh Italian parsley, garlic, s&p and a few bouquet garnis spices. Chilled it in the freezer as a small log wrapped in plastic wrap, then sliced thinly to compliment the beef. Nice!
The smashed potatoes we par-boiled, smashed with a mallet then sprinkled with s&p, Parmesan and a drizzle of EVOO. Baked until crispy outsides formed. They were very scrumptious, no doubt because they were 'Ontario Jems".
The parsnips are fail proof!! Because of their high sugar content (highest of the root vegetables - sequentiality highest on the Glycemic Index) they always crisp up perfectly in the oven!
A little spoon of crimini mushrooms/caramelized onions worked nicely with the earthiness of the dish.
Apple tart in following pictures.

Friday, March 19, 2010

What's for Dinner? Antipasto Platter & Classic Pasta Bolognese




Antipasto Platter: Homemade roasted red/green/yellow peppers, My Nono's handmade sausage (pan fried to extract the fat), Roasted plum tomatoes, a Selection of Italian cheeses, homemade potato crisps, rosemary & olive oil crackers, Crispy fried polenta (as seen frying in the picture + recipe to follow).
Pasta & Bolognese: Spaghetti cooked al-dente and the sauce made of a ground turkey and a pure tomato sauce properly seasoned with s&p and spices.
And a salad :)

Crispy Fried Polenta:

1. Prepare one batch of creamy polenta.
2. Pour warm polenta into a glass loaf pan. Smooth the top, cover and refrigerate until set, a few hours or up to overnight.
3. Turn the polenta onto a cutting board. It should be completely molded into the shape of your loaf pan. Cut into ½- inch slices and dunk each square in flour and raw cornmeal.
4. Heat a grill pan with 1 inch of vegetable/grape seed (or another mild) oil until it is quite hot.
5. Place each slice in the oil and let it cook for about 10 minutes or until golden brown. Don't move the polenta around, though, or you'll disturb the browning process. Also, don't overcrowd the pan. Work in batches if necessary.
6. Flip and fry on the other side until done, about another 10 minutes. Serve hot and crispy and top with items from the antipasto platter.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

What's for Dinner? Thin Crust Pizza from Scratch, Baked Chicken and Vegetables



As soon as I arrived home, I started on the dough (a simple pizza dough that rises just once then for 15 min a second time). I topped it with caramelized onions, mozzarella, Parmesan, spinach and chives. Baked till crisp and sliced in thin pieces.
Rutabaga and Butternut mash with a lil' pure maple syrup.
Zucchini again (not in season, but too cute to pass up at the grocery store!)
Chicken simply breaded in an egg wash and crumbs/cornmeal - baked in the oven. Served with Rose Murray's (cook book author) salsa preserve.

The first picture is of the raw pizza - prior to baking, then after featured on the plate.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

What's for Dinner? Basa, Ratatouille, Potato Layer Cake, Zucchini. Dessert: Peachy Crisp




Lightly baked, salty Basa fish.
'Mock'-Ratatouille made with slow cooked tomatoes, garlic, eggl=plant and red peppers.
The zucchini served on the side.
A potato layer cake (my subtle tribute to St. Patty's day) made with lightly boiled potato slices, layered in a spring form pan with a bechemel sauce and baked to perfection. Mmmm!
These are white peaches with a simple granola crisp baked in the oven and served with a lil' cream and honey from the Mennonites at the market.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

What's For Dinner? A Winter Soup & Summer Salad




A split green pea and potato soup.
Salad made of braised green cabbage, beets, chic peas, feta, Asian pear and cucumbers with a light vinaigrette.

Monday, March 15, 2010

What's for Dinner? A Sushi Fest!



At our house, we do this about once a month. It's absolutely delicious, yet I seem to use up about every dish and cooking vessel in the house so I won't do it often.
Sashimi = very thinly sliced raw fish
Sushi = rice with raw fish wrapped in seaweed
I make a bunch of different dishes and then we set everything out on the table to pick and choose:
- Basic Sushi using raw tuna --> you can see here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dPMaid87Es0
- California Rolls
- Spicy fish rolls with carrot
- Cool short grain rice made with avocado --> similar to this one which I heard about after http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/claire-robinson/green-goddess-rice-recipe/index.html
- Sauteed tuna
- Steamed Broccoli
- Rice noodles with peanut sauce
- And Crispy Chicken (my compromise for Andrew's request for fried chicken).

Everyone receives their own little dish of soy sauce and par of chopsticks.
I love experimenting with this style of cooking. It allows me to use ingredients that would otherwise be buried away, like nori, rice noodles, and expensive cut of tuna/salmon and our best soy sauce.
I have much to learn when it comes to making authentic sushi, but I have fun regardless using my bamboo mat and seaweed and 'kikoshami' rice to make something that resembles the picture above. (You'll know which one)

Friday, March 12, 2010

What's for Dinner? Stuffed/Wrapped Turkey Scaloppini, Sweet Rutabaga, Sweet Potato Crisps and Asparagus





This was a fun one to make!
I pounded out the turkey breasts and stuffed them with leeks and onions and Canadian cheddar (all strong flavours) then rolled them up and wrapped them in prosciutto. Then one of my favourite methods - a quick pan fry in some bacon fat, butter or oil, then into the oven to finish off.
The rutabaga was boiled, mashed with butter and a lil' honey and maple syrup and then served alongside the main event.
Simple sweet potato crisps that were sliced thin, oil, s&p and baked at 425degrees.
Broiled asparagus.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

What's for Dinner? Cauliflower Soup, Fritata & Braised Zucchini



This was served on quite the chilly day.
A basic cream of cauliflower soup made with my beloved, leftover 35% cream!
A whole fritata (an italian crust-less keish - if you will) was started on the stove top and finished in the oven with a few colourful tomato slices on top. I also incorporated some homemade biscuit mix into the eggs so that it would puff up in the oven and produce a more solid product.
I braised some zucchini on the side. LONNNG AND SLLLOOOWWW! With butter of course! And a little EVOO for good measure.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

What's for Dinner? Boeuf Bourguignon and a Potato and Celeriac Mash



I copied out the recipe for the main part of this meal because I would love for you to try this yourself! I don't usually use recipes, but this one includes many key tips that will tweak the dish to perfection. If you've made this before, or something similar, you know that there's almost nothing better than slowly braising beef in wine and stock. This method has become a regular occurrence for our Sunday dinners now.
I took a before and after picture of the 'raw' then 'cooked' stew and the wonderful marrow bone which I took upon myself to boil down for stock to add the actual marrow to the wine sauce. The beginning of the stew is a bit of a pain - blanching the bacon in one pot, then browning it in another, and browning the beef in three batches and then browning the carrots and onions. And all SEPARATELY!
I served the Boeuf Bourguignon alongside a a potato/celeriac mash. I proudly bought my celeriac at the market for $3. What a deal for about 2 pounds of this crankly old, rustic-looking root vegetable! I just love all the twists and bumps as seen in the picture. I reminds me of something that would procure from the ground, deep in a forest and half covered by soil. Just wonderful! And even better when mixed with potatoes, butter, cream, s&p and nutmeg. I used an electric food mill to puree the mixture out, and added just a little more than usual cream to make the mash a little more creamy than stiff. Yummy!
And broccoli - you know it!

Friday, March 5, 2010

What's for Dinner? It's Friday Night and There's Nothing in the Fridge!



Depending on your grocery day, the night before (in our case - Friday) proves to be a bit of a challenge when it comes to producing a meal at dinner time.

This time, I took all the scrap greens from our fridge and made a lovely soup from them: collard green stems, 1/2 broccoli and spinach. I also included 1 sweet potato and 1/2 a cauliflower head for a smoother, less 'gritty' texture. Once they simmered in chicken stock and water with a floral bay leaf, I blended the lot with the hand blender. A bit of cream and milk, some butter, seasoning and viola!

For a side dish, I made a bit of a junkie version of a 'fettuccine Alfredo'. Now, this was neither made with fettuccine, or a proper Alfredo sauce, but this is the closest thing I can relate it to.
I cooked a large shell pasta until just short of al-dente. (They finish cooking in the oven).
I made a cheese sauce starting with a roux (butter and flour cooked together and lightly browned) then added some heated milk, s&p and a bit of Chicago seasoning. Once off heat, I stirred in some grated Romano and Parmesan cheese because I didn't have the classic cheddar or Gouda. With a bit of sour cream, a tbs of cream cheese and minced garlic, I folded in the drained pasta and returned everything to the cheese sauce pan and into the oven for a final browning for 30 minutes. Halfway through I added some buttered bread crumbs, as I often do with gratinated pasta casseroles. It makes me feel like a bit of a 'Leave it to Beaver' type of housewife. There's something wonderful about participating in one of those traditions that have been practiced by my Grandma and long before - for good reason.

Not bad for having 'nothing to work with.'

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

What's for Dinner? Grilled Salmon, Garlic Aioli, Buttercup Squash, Asparagus


Simple pan grilled salmon, cooked just right in a light crust of fresh bread crumbs.

On top I put a dollop of garlic aioli which is similar to mayonnaise or a a tartar sauce. It is made by soaking bread, squeezing out the liquid and pounding the remaining pulp with garlic and capers and salt. You use a pestle and mortar to pound in one egg yolk to make a paste. To this sticky paste you add oil. Factually, 1 egg yolk can hold up 2 cups of oil!! But there is a very particular method you must follow to ensure that it doesn't curdle. You must add the oil teaspoon by drop to the paste and pound it in thoroughly. Once you've added one cup of oil by the drop method, you can add the rest of the oil in by bigger glugs and begin whisking. Doing this ensures that the egg yolk will hold the oil in 'a thick and creamy suspension' as is written.

I baked some buttercup squash on the side and mashed it up with some maple syrup, honey and smoke hickory (quite a unique flavour). This squash took a full 15 minutes to hack into with our biggest kitchen knife. Now I don't know if this was just an angry squash, or if my knife skills were lacking that particular day.

I served everything with some broiled asparagus to satisfy my need for a green :)