It’s Autumn.

October 23, 2006

I’ve not updated here in quite a while, but I have been busy in the kitchen.  Autumn’s arrival had me busy at the cottage, harvesting the last of what summer could squeeze out and ultimately turning over the season’s soil in preparation for next year’s prosperity.   At our last weekend at the cottage, Ross and I picked beets, tomatoes, beans, some scraggly looking carrots, onions and some gorgeous sugar pumpkins.

 Using the short crust recipe as I made to prepare my 2-bite butter tart crusts, I filled my cups of pumpkin after roasting the gourds for 45 minutes at about 350f, so they’d be soft.  And then I pureéd them.  Canned pumpkin is easier and just as sufficient.

For the filling, here’s what you’ll need:  

3 large eggs
2 cups pumpkin puree
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

To my dismay, there were no ground cloves in the cupboard.  Just cloves on the stem.  Microplaning your fingertips does not affect this recipe at all.  If anything, it just injects more love into the final result.

Whisk the eggs in a glass bowl.  Stir and combine the other ingredients.  Smell them and resist the urge to eat them raw.  Spoon into tart shells and bake the pie for about 45 to 55 minutes or until the filling is set and the crust has browned.

Top with whipped cream and revel in this dessert’s ease to prepare.

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2-Bite Butter Tarts

August 27, 2006

 spent the weekend playing Martha Stewart and consequently, I am no longer allowing myself to eat anything but celery and carrots for the next two weeks so that my cholesterol level decreases some, and the tightish feeling around where my waistline should be goes away. It was all worth it though. Butter tarts are delicious.

The history of the butter tart is disputed as are the variations on the recipe. Similar to the American Pecan Pie, as well as Quebec’s Tarte au Sucre and the Ecclefechan tart recipe known in Scotland, the butter tart has been claimed as the Canadian Recipe, which dates back to the early 1800s. Purists say no raisins or nuts belong in a true butter tart, but I never follow instructions, so mine contain pecans and bourbon.

Yields 24 little tarts or 12 big ones.

Pate Brisee (short crust pastry)

  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp white sugar
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, chilled and cut into slices or cubes
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water

Begin your pastry by combining the flour, salt and sugar. Then add butter and mix (either with a processor or by hand) until its coarse and crumbly.
Add water slowly and continue to mix until it holds together when pinched. Then wrap it in plastic & refridgerate for at least one hour.

Roll dough out from the centre (I found that by taking small bits and working with them, it was easier than using the whole wad at once) and cut into 10cm circles, using a cookie cutter or a small bowl. Place rounds into a 12-cup muffin tin and chill in the fridge.
Filling

You may prepare this ahead of time, but you will need to reheat it to boiling each time you let it cool. Do not let this boil for longer than 2-3 seconds, or you risk scientific intervention and your filling won’t be runny enough.

4 large eggs
2/3 cup unsalted, soft butter
2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup half & half cream (10% butterfat)
2 tsp bourbon or vanilla extract
1/2 cup raisins or nuts

Whisk eggs in a medium sized saucepan. Add butter, sugar and cream and whisk over low heat, and stir constantly, adding heat in increments.  Slowly bring mixture to a boil and remove from heat. Add bourbon or vanilla, and stir well.  Bring your muffin pan out from the fridge & line each with a few pieces of chopped nuts or raisins.

Then, spoon filling into the cups, garnish with nuts or raisins & bake at 375f for 15-20 minutes, or until pastry has browned nicely. Remove from oven, allow to cool and then serve.


More Summer Eats

August 11, 2006

While the weather seems to have calmed down a bit, it is still very much summertime here  in Southern Ontario, lots of herbs and lovely delicious vegetables bursting away on stalks, ready to be eaten are growing away happily and I’m very happy to be eating them.

I feel slightly guilty for buying my produce from Dominion last night and can only imagine what local food would have made the gazpacho I put together taste like, for the imported and greenhouse grown stuff I combined together was quite flavourful.  And it was easy to make, too!

You’ll need:

  • 1 large cucumber
  • 3 tomatoes
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 a red pepper
  • 1/4 red or white onion 
  • 1 cup parsley
  • 1/2 cup coriander
  • 4-6 fresh basil leaves
  • 2 cups tomato juice

Feel free to add anything else you have on hand that tastes delicious raw.  Celery, avocado, zucchini, even carrots or parsnips in small quantity.  Cut and dice everything up, and throw them into a food processor or blender and pulse until very finely combined.

Add a dash of salt and lots of pepper, and then transfer to a glass bowl.  Refridgerate for at least 2 hours.  Then, serve with an Italian soave wine and of course, enjoy! 


Cool Food

July 30, 2006

Contrary to what many believe, it does get quite hot in Toronto during the summer.  Ways to beat the heat are deeply embedded into our genetic makeup, and often they involve cool drinks and a bit of shade in the outdoors.  That’s my favourite way, anyway.  And so with another hot weekend, Ross and I sat outside and read peacefully while taking sips of icy vodka-based drinks of white cranberry and peach juices.

Our snack was light and fresh, cucumbers meant for pickling that we’d picked up at the St. Lawrence Market that morning, sliced thinly and doused generously with white vinegar, lemon juice and coarse black pepper.

We’d learned about this from someone who was quite drunk at a pub on St. Patrick’s day, who was from Greece, and was quite surprised that nobody served anything like this here during the summer months.  Paired with beer, these cukes are definately refreshing and are quite portable for picnics or lunches at work.


An Unlikely Dish: Apple & Pear Risotto

June 25, 2006

Most of my food ideas come within the first 30 minutes after I’m awake on weekends.  I present my ideas and my boyfriend either agrees, or I spend a bit more time convincing him that what I want to make will work.  This entry is a dish where a bit of convincing went a long way.

Neither of us are dessert fans, but a quantity of arborio rice and an idea to use it in an untraditional way had me concocting the following, of which I believe I will use again in the fall with much more fragrant and spicier flavours.

Apple&PearRisotto

  • 1 can bartlett pears in light syrup 
  • 1 granny smith apple with skin on, sliced thinly.   
  • 1/2 cup arborio rice
  • 1 1/4 cups unsweetened apple juice
  • 3-5 cloves
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • nutmeg and cinnamon to taste
  • 1 pat butter

Start by preparing your syrup, which should be done with patience.  Drain most of the ‘juice’ from your can of pears and combine it with apple juice, and mull with cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon over low to medium heat. 

Traditionally, risotto is prepared with wine, so I combined 2 tsp apple cider vinegar with 3/4 cup apple juice to act as an acidic starter to emulate white wine.  I’m sure this can be skipped, but the results tasted delicious either way. 

Melt butter over medium heat in a pot deep enough to handle a good quantity of rice.  A 6 litre vessel will do.  Add arborio and allow it to absorb the fat, and then add apple juice & vinegar mixture.  It should smell quite fragrant, and once the rice has absorbed the liquid, spoon or ladle in small quantities of your syrup and stir.  Allow rice to absorb syrup, and keep repeating until most of your liquid is gone.  This should take you about 25-35 minutes.

Testing the rice is important if you (like me) aren’t sure about the rice’s doneness.  But this is also a good way to determine whether the syrup is too sweet.  Add a touch of the reserved apple cider vinegar to balance out your flavour and then balance it back out with more syrup. 

Once your rice is nearly finished, add apple slices and pears, along with any remaining syrup from the can.  Cook until apples are soft, but not mushy and serve hot.  This can also be covered, refridgerated and then warmed in the microwave later if you wish…

 …I ate mine for breakfast! 


Keep Cool

June 18, 2006

My post-work walks up Spadina have been met with the cries from vendors who for the past 2 weeks have been shouting "Mango!  Mango!  Mango!" at shoppers and I gave in on Friday. 

Mango Salad

At the price of 3 for $2, I'm not sure why I resisted for so long!  I bought the what's known here as the Thai mango, which is a bit firmer and somewhat more sour than the softer and sweeter Indian mango (I bought lots of those too) and combined it with cucumber, sprouts and a dressing with a touch of chili oil, fish sauce, soy sauce and a teaspoon of sugar. 

I also made some chicken & chive potstickers, which were just that combined with a beaten egg in a dumpling wrapper.  Fried lightly in peanut oil, these will definately be made again in the near future if I find myself entertaining.

Chicken & Chive Dumplings

I neglected to post recipes for these dishes on purpose, because they're fairly simple to make and depend mostly on what your taste prefers.  Timing for the potstickers is visual; if you prefer a chewier bite then cook them for less time than you would do so if you wanted to have them to be crispy all over.

The hardest part honestly, is the cleanup. 


Dragonfruit

June 11, 2006

I'm fascinated by Chinatown's bustle and ability to bring those who want something Dominion just can't sell regularly to those of us who are brave enough to explore.  And I'm getting a little bit more brave, week by week.  This is a dragonfruit.  A flower from a cactus also known as pitaya or Thang Loy.  I took a chance with this, since I had no idea what it actually was after passing it for weeks and its price was not really condusive to casual sampling ($4/piece) but I think now that I've tried it, I'd be interested in doing more with it in the near future.

Dragonfruit

Beyond its bold, defensive shell, the dragonfruit is quite soft and delicate inside.  Its flesh is very faintly sweet but its texture is similar to what you'd expect from a fig or a ripe kiwi fruit with lots of tiny seeds that pop when you eat them.  Articles indicate that it is fermented into wine, or made into ice cream, which paired with a very light syrup, I believe could be quite delicious.  If only I had the means to make ice cream!


Cool Salad Rolls

June 6, 2006

A recent obsession with the local Thai joint near my office has had me thinking more and more about the way I can recreate their recipes for a fraction of the cost they charge.  And so, after work last Friday afternoon I ventured up the road to Chinatown.  The shops on Spadina accept cash only, which I suppose is why their prices are so low and I'm certainly not complaining;  The $10 in my pocket bought me enough noodles, rice wrappers and produce to last us a while.

Ross and I made cold salad rolls that night as I was on-call and knew I wouldn't be able to gobble up a hot meal in one shot. We soaked rice wrappers in water, filled them with red pepper, cucumber, tofu, chicken breast, coriander, glass noodles and dipped them in a yummy sauce composed of soy sauce, wine vinegar, some peanut oil we'd infused with Thai chiles, a touch of fish sauce and garlic.   

Salad Roll 

I imagine that I'll be up to a lot more of this sort of thing this summer while the weather's hotter than Jesus' balls.


Beef Short Ribs with Hoisin Sauce

May 28, 2006

Summertime commands meat, and so I have been thinking of it a lot.  Without a barbeque, it's a bit difficult to cook a messy set of ribs to be enjoyed outdoors, so I turned to the technique of braising instead.

I used a Food Network recipe quite loosely to create my ribs, and learned that there's a lot of flexibility in flavour you can take with store-bought sauce.  The hardest thing about this recipe is exercising patience as it takes time.  And it's a bit of a bitch to clean up after, but it's worth it.

You'll need:

  • 3 pounds beef short ribs
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 10 garlic cloves smashed or pressed
  • 1-inch piece ginger, peeled and sliced into 1/4-inch slices
  • 2 bottles ale (I used Big Rock Traditional, brewed in Calgary)
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 small bottle hoisin sauce
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • thyme & rosemary to taste

Prep garlic and ginger, and set aside.   Salt and pepper ribs generously and sear all sides in oil.  Place ribs into a deep stock pot or dutch oven, and add garlic and ginger after they've been sauteed in the same oil you seared your meat in.  Add ale, rice vinegar and herbs to ribs.  Cover and cook over very low heat for 2 1/2 hours.

Combine hoisin sauce with ketchup.  Transfer meat to a roasting pan (I used an aluminum one for ease of cleanup) and cover evenly with sauce.  Bake at 300F for 30-45 minutes and serve.

Short Ribs


A Dainty Dessert

May 28, 2006

Over Easter, I was invited to my brother's for dinner and decided to bring along a little something as thanks for all of he and his girlfriend's hospitality as well as their generousity in the wine department.  I don't follow instructions well though, so baking was out of the question.  

 I made custard tarts, which were quite easy and I reccomend them to anyone who is learning to cook as when you'll eat them, you'll love the reward they give you. 

You'll need:

  • 2 pkgs frozen tart shells
  • 6 large eggs, separated.
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
  • pinch salt
  • 2 cups half and half cream
  • 2 tbsp bourbon
  • 1/2 cup raspberries

Combine the egg yolks, sugar, flour, and salt in a heavy saucepan. Beat until the mixture is pale yellow and place over low heat, slowly stiring in the cream. Cook, stirring constantly, until custard coats a wooden spoon quite thickly.  Don't let it burn.Immediately pour the custard into a chilled mixing bowl; cover and place in the refrigerator until custard is cold, about 2 hours. When the custard is chilled, stir in the bourbon.

Whip egg whites until frothy, but not merangue.  Fold into custard and spoon into tart shells.  Sprinkle raspberries on top and bake shells according to package instructions, and chill again.  Serve and be loved.

custard tart