Tuesday, September 28, 2010

What's for Dinner? Moussaka

It includes many of the seasonal vegetables being harvested, and it is cozy comfort food.
Essentially, you layer slices of cooked potato, zucchini, a scrumptious onion/ground meat/tomatoe sauce seasoned with oregano and allspice and mint and red wine, roasted eggplant and then a bechemel sauce.
This took a little assembly, but the results were well worth it!
This dish is classically made with ground lamb, but I used beef because I was given a wonderful pound of top quality (about 60% lean) ground round from a friend to try. It was purchased as a 'share' of a grass-fed cow, and I was blown-away by the difference in
taste than that of 'standard' ground meat.
* One of those dishes that doesn't look fantastic in the picture, nor are the many layers of the dish evident, but the taste was a 10!
** This is the dish Anna O. recommended I make with the many eggplants we keep getting from out CSA.

Friday, September 24, 2010

What's for Dinner? Perch baked on a bed of Ratatouille and Tender Beets

The ratatouille was made by first browning a few Rosa Bianca eggplants as well as summer squash. I let them sit in some simmering, homemade rustic tomato sauce to soften, then I transfered everything to a casserole dish and lit it cook. Meanwhile, I boiled the beats, then shocked them in cold water, peeled and quartered, then roasted them. In the last 8 minutes, I prepped the perch and let it cook atop the bubbling ratatouille, resting on the vegetables. Everything was seasoned properly, as served with a little thyme infused garlic oil.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

What's for Dinner? 100-Mile Autumn Stew

Everything in this hearty stew was sourced from within 100 miles, except the seasonings.
Because I wouldn't use olive oil I found a wonderful substitute!! Bacon fat! I bought a cheap bag of "bacon-ends" from a Mennonite at the market and crisped them in a pan until the fat was reserved and I had a few lardons for garnish at the end. I sauteed some onions, leeks and carrots (all from the farm), as well as fenugreek seeds, a bit of curry (trust me...), and allspice, then deglazed with the stock I made the other day http://cooking-with-claire.blogspot.com/2010/09/making-beef-stock.html The stock was made from beef soup bones and the flavour of the bone marrow was delightful!
Once the stock began to reduce at a vigorous boil, I added the potatoes and yellow beets to cook. Let that simmer for 30 minutes with no lid (to reduce the stock). During the simmer, in a separate pan, I sauteed the pieces of meat in batches to develop a crispy crust on each. I used a cut-up sirloin from the market. After the 30 minutes was up, I added some diced yellow beans, dinosaur kale and the beef. By this point, the stock has reduced by half and the flavour intensified. I added the correct seasonings.
The stew was a hearty blend of fall vegetables, tender meat and an earthy broth that hinted towards autumn flavours (think allspice, cinnamon and curries).
And all of it was made in the trustee CROCKPOT.

You Voted...

And it seems that the majority of you are looking forward to Chicken Noodle Soup as a cozy dish for a chilly day.
Chili Con Carne, Maple Baked Beans and Boeuf Bourguignon were also in the running, but didn't take the cake!
Look for an authentic chicken noodle soup recipe to come in the following weeks.
And what  perfect timing!! I have the sniffles and a sinus cold, so soup will be just the thing!

What's for Dessert? Autumn-Fruit Crisp

Pretty much just peeled and cut-up every over-ripe fruit in the fridge, coated it with sugar, topped it with clumps of oats, spelt flakes, coconut, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger and butter and baked away!
The best part is the buttery fruit syrup that sits at the bottom of the casserole dish. I spooned in on top of the dessert for your visual enjoyment. Apples, plums, pears, blueberries, figs etc.

Craving Italian Pasta...

Myself, and my brother in particular have been craving authentic Italian pasta like we had in Rome.
I made a long simmered tomatoes sauce from the tomatoes we canned a while ago http://cooking-with-claire.blogspot.com/2010/09/tomato-hell.html and lots of Italian herbs. I kept adjusting the taste all afternoon and added a bit of wine and meat juices for extra flavour. I included some diced Sicilian eggplant because I noticed almost every restaurant did that in pasta-country. I served it with tagliatelle and a nice grating of Parmigiana Reggiano.
A few chili flakes on top to add to the authenticity.

Making Beef Stock

Now many of you make think this is strange, but as a person who loves wholesome food, I'll take home the best ingredients wherever I can find them.
I am babysitting for a lovely family every Thursday and they not only have a plentiful garden on beets, carrots, tomatoes, veggies and herbs, but they have done something I have been looking into for months now - buying a share in a grass-fed cow! They received all parts of this cow purchased from a farm just 15 minutes from the city. How's that for local? Proper cuts of meat are at the ready: roasts, chuck, brisket, you name it!
I took home some soup bones of this cow, along with veggies and made everything into a rich beef stock.
The first picture looks a little disturbing, but that what gets everything to taste good! It's all that bone, fat, connective tissue and bone marrow that adds the flavour! I pretty much threw every over-ripe vegetable and herb into that pot, and boiled it vigorously for a few hours, then simmered it for another 6-7 hours. I'll be using it for something later in the week. Stay tuned!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

What's for Dinner? Fall Coleslaw with Edamame and Roasted Carrots

The coleslaw ingredients can be seen in the picture: Chinese Cabbage, kohlrabi, shredded carrot, soaked onion, good quality mayonnaise, lemon juice, vinegar, sugar, lemon balm, lemon zest, tad of ginger.
The edamame (see picture as well) came on a giant stalk which I pciked the beans from them plunged into boiling water until they opened. They were fresh, meaty, rich and delicious!
...More carrots...

An example of a dinner that didn't photograph beautifully but was absolutely delicious with balanced flavours.

How Cute!

Little snacks for student council.
Believe it or not.... whipped ('pinched' is probably a better word for the biscuits) together in under 40 minutes.
Just a quick, homemade tea biscuit dough and a fresh strawberry cream cheese filling.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Holy Beans!!

My mother had the clever idea to smuggle back a few Italian Romano beans from a market in Genoa, Italy.
We attempted to buy them, but the lady just gave us a handful of her best picks, smiled at us Canadians and sent us on our way. How's that for generosity? She was so delighted that we wanted to plant the beans from her garden, that no Euros were involved.
I planted them a week and a half ago, (and am planning on keeping them inside our sun-room over the winter) and look how they shot-up!!
They're slowing down in growth a bit now, and all of this is sort of an experiment. It is unlikely that we will have a good yield, but I am hoping to receive just a few beans that I can use next year to plant a proper crop. This is really just to keep the bean-life going and prevent rotting.
I'll keep you posted on the bean plant's progress.

Friday CSA Pickup - What a Load!

Quite a harvest this week at the farm! Ty, Andrew and Angie all agreed.
Chinese Cabbage, Zucchini, Dinosaur Kale, Lettuces of all variety, leeks!!, eggplant (Sicilian, globe and Chinese) , onions, radishes, tomatilloes, ground cherries, carrots, edamame, and more. The fridge at our house is just stocked!!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Guess Who I Met?

My mom was MC'ing an "Inspiring Women Conference" and there were a few key-note speakers present. One of which, was enough to convince me to boycott school and join my mom at work.
She interviewed a few lady's that day: Naomi Judd (who appeared on Oprah a few days earlier), Kathy Jones (from "This Hour Has 22 Minutes") and ANNA OLSON!
You can probably tell who, for me, was the big draw!
All three of the interviews, as well as the event itself ran wonderfully!
I can say that Anna was as charming in person as she is on tv. We talked for a bit about Local Cuisine and this time of year being the magical blend of summer and fall flavours, then she told me what I could do with my over-ripe, sicilian eggplants from my CSA. If you're wondering, she said she had too many eggplants as well, and she made a delightful Moussaka.
Her speech was wonderful (see a portion of it in the video, when it will finally co-operate and upload!!), and I even got a photo.
Of course, there was Naomi Judd as well. She was genuine and warm and funny, and though she might not have much to do with my food blog, I posted that picture as well, because she was "Just So Darn Cute" as I heard her say once. On a side note: she is the best person I know at recalling names (even at age 64) after having just met someone.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

What's for Dinner? Stuffed Crepes with Bearnaise Sauce and Zucchini on the Side

This one is for my hospitality teacher at school. Mr. Miller has helped train many chefs, both local, and national. Seeing as I miss so many classes due to my overloaded schedule (student council, 2 jobs, sports, etc...) I have attempted to complete tomorrow's class, as my family's dinner for tonight.

It is the beginning of the year so we are taking things slow, and I heard a rumor that we will be advancing into Duck Confit before the semester is over! Tomorrow we are making perfect crepes, so here is my take on them. A good crepe is light, airy, and evenly browned with a little crispness on the edges. I used my heavy bottomed pan, refrigerated the batter, and greased the pan generously (but not greasily).
The first picture you'll see is me attempting to show you how thin the crepes are. (It was an A+ crepe Mr. Miller!) The crepes had a filling of local onions/spinach/garlic.

The Bearnaise Sauce, again, was my teacher's idea. He brought the class fresh herbs from his garden and generously gave me a huge bunch of tarragon. I was showed how to make 'tarragon vinegar' to use in sauces and dressings instead of adding them separately each time. Though I didn't have time to prep that tonight, I'll make it tomorrow-night to use in the future. A real Bearnaise has tarragon, vinegar, shallots, chervil, egg yolks and butter. Cooking it on a double boiler worked for me because it didn't burn or stick to the bottom of the pot.

Just some roasted zucchini on the side, only because we have SO MUCH of it from our CSA pickup last Friday.

Yum Yum Yum!! We all loved eating this dinner!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

What's for Dinner? Local Take on Stir fry

All the veggies in this dish were from the farm: green bell pepper, boch-choy, carrot, cherry-bomb pepper, green onion, whole onion, parsley, etc.
I steamed some basmati rice (okay, not so local...) and made a quick peanut sauce: ground peanuts, soy sauce, homemade chicken stock+corn starch, star anise, rice vinegar, s&p, water (to thin it out) and some more spices.

Make a bed of rice, top with sauteed veggies, drizzle peanut sauce and peanuts, serve with a few sprigs of arugula. (I also served it with some leftover sliced beef that my mom made a night before).

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Best 5 Minute Meal

With a mountain of homework to plow through, I had just enough time to make this one.
It's dead simple, but fantastic!
Toasted foccacia, a sunny-side-up farm egg, smoked salmon (such a treat!), arugula, fresh parsley, and a drizzle of olive oil.

Friday, September 10, 2010

What's for Dinner? Breaded Sole on a Bed of Arugula, Roasted Cauliflower, More Potatoes, Coloured Carrots and Herb Oil

Just went to the CSA pcikup this afternoon.
The selection was beautiful!! Our second batch of Kohlrabi is in and all I can say is YAY!!!
I made some more fish tonight because we are trying to use everything that has been sitting in the fridge. I ground up some old home-made bread and added paprika, parsley and a just a little sage with salt and pepper for the breadcrumbs.
I roasted the beautiful head of Ontario cauliflower because it brings out such flavour!
More potatoes... man... like third night in a row here! There are just so many this time of year, and they are very cheap at the market. If I had more time on my hands these days, I would be more inventive with them, but I'm back in school/work full time, every day, every week until Christmas Holidays.
I'll save up my talent for then...
For now, we're heading into cold-season, so everything coming out of the kitchen will be quite the opposite.

Everything tonight was served with an herb oil to drizzle which comprised of minced basil, parsley, salt, pepper, EVOO, and a smashed clove of garlic (removed after it infused).

You Voted...

So the "DUTCH OVEN" won this week! Who can fight against that one? It's versatile, it convenient, and it brings a warm anticipation of the winter-stews and braised meats to come.
As we leave summer and head into fall you can be sure that both our fireplace and our dutch oven will be working full force.
I won't be using it any time this week (I think??) because our CSA has been so generous with the last of this year's 2nd batch of fresh greens and vegetables.
It will be featured in a few weeks to come.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

What's for Dinner? Egg/Cheese Quiche with a Phyllo Crust, Zucchini Ribbons, Baby Potatoes

The quiche was made with eggs from the farm, sharp cheddar, ricotta cheese, steamed vegetables, minced herbs, garlic and topped with Roquefort Cheese and bread crumbs. Why do I think of Mrs. Beaver from the sitcom when I make this? It's the same for meat-loaf, or roast beef, or grilled cheese... no matter how gourmet I make each of those items!
The crust on the quiche was layers of Phyllo dough with melted butter brushed between for flakiness.
The zucchini was 'vegetable-peeled' then grilled and seasoned.
More potatoes...

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

What's for Dinner? Local Sirloin of Beef, Crispy Potatoes, Shitaki Cream Sauce and Beans

It's not often that I'll make a large chunk of meat like this. Something just strikes me as quite gluttonous and over-indulgent about it, but I did say 'not often' meaning 'once in a while...'
The sirloin was coated in salt/pepper/fresh sage/EVOO and broiled in the oven on each side until medium-rare with a nice crust.
The potatoes were given to me from a friend at the market on Saturday. He was helping Angie and I out at the stall, and was selling some of his gourmet, home-grown, specialty potatoes, like fingerings. After he explained the hardships of producing a healthy, profitable crop, I have new appreciation for the little guys!
The sauce was made by saute-ing minced onions, shallots and garlic, then deglazing with pan with white wine, beef stock and a bit of water. I let that reduce and threw a bay leaf and some sliced shitaki mushrooms to steam. I removed the mushrooms once they were done and added some whipping cream, salt, pepper, and fresh parsley.
Slice the meat, place beside potatoes, top with mushrooms and the sauce and some lightly steamed market beans!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Tomato Hell!

Every year, mum will buy 4 bushels of tomatoes, then proceed to spend the entire day, steaming, peeling, canning and sealing roma tomatoes.

Like good Italians, we will venture down to the fruit cellar in the basement and use these jars in the dead of winter when there's 6 feet of snow and not a fresh plant in sight.

What Do You Do at 5:30AM on a Saturday Morning?

I like to go to the Kitchener market and help out at Angie's stall, selling all the vegetables that are not used in the CSA. The picture is not from this Saturday, it was from a few weeks before I went on Holiday. Had the picture been from this week, you would have seen three of us huddled under a tent, bracing the ceiling frame to keep the whole operation erect, with wind and rain blowing the burlap around, and baskets and baskets of produce EVERYWHERE!
You see, the market organizers forgot to set up Angie's tent, which isn't a regular occurrence, but makes it quite difficult to pull things together before customers start arriving. Because our tent was bordering the edge of the road, we must arrive last to set up, giving other vendors a chance to set-up further in. Yes, there is in fact an organized chaos to it all, even at 4am in the morning until everyone arrives.
Despite the trouble, we managed to pull it together for the customers.
Just another reason we must remember to thank our farmers. Just working with Angie today, I saw a few of the difficulties she faces to get her organic produce to customers, new and old.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

What's for Dinner? Fresh Pasta Roulade with Squash and Caramelized Onions

This one was a fun one to make, until all disaster broke loose and it was time to cook the beast. I don't know what possessed me to make such an involved dish, I suppose it was the picture in the cookbook that convinced me.
Now, you know, I'm not a big fan of cookbooks, but this butternut squash, spinach and ricotta roulade was just something I hadn't made before, so I had to try it! Sure, I've had all of those ingredients separately, and together as well, but the technique of 'rolling-up' the pasta was something I foreign to me.

First I roasted the butternut squash chunks with EVOO, and coriander seeds, fennel seeds, salt and chili, that had been bashed-up with my pestle and mortar. I let them roast until they were over-done and easy to mash. In a pan, I caramelized onions and garlic (both from the farm, and which I love, because they keep so darn long in the fridge). I added the mashed squash and stirred it all together with some cream to loosen it up.
I made the fresh pasta in the morning, and then rolled it out to the thinnest size which took some effort. I attached all he pieces on a tea towel like a quilt, using my thumb and a bit of water to press the edges together.

Then I scattered over the squash and onions, then some ricotta, then a little bit of rich tomato sauce for colour and I rolled everything as if rolling a jelly-role. (Note: I didn't have any spinach, or chard, or leafy greens, so I used basil leaves). Once it was rolled, I tied the ends with butcher's twine, then proceeded to wrap it in parchment paper and put the long in a pan of simmering water. This is where I was in trouble: the log was too long for the pan, but I shoved it in anyways....

Simmer for 30 minutes, then take out, garnish with Parmigiana Reggiano, more caramelized onions, chilli flakes, a bechemel sauce if you like, and a nice slice of fennel to cut the richness.