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!