Okay, it's been a bit of a sparse month for my poor yum yum factor. Between travelling over the holidays and stressing about my last month of no reEATS , I have been neglecting this blog for a while now but this will all be done now that the year is over and I no longer have to commit to never repeating a recipe for dinner is over.
I can relax, kick back and just cook for the fun of it again and , best of all, I can eat whatever I want, whenever I want, how many times I want to!
This week, I made a pozole verde - a mexican pork soupy stew with hominy and lots of good green stuff. It was also my last official post on no reEATS for 2011 so I had to use it over there but I will share a link to it here. I had planned make this before we went away on our Xmas trip and use it as my friday soup the week before we left for Mexico to get the holiday started on a good note but it was just too busy. Making it after we returned home turned out to be an even better idea.
2 cloves garlic
1 tbls mexican oregano
pinch cumin seed
2 lbs pork shoulder butt
1/2 cups pumpkin seeds
28 oz or approx 800g tomatillos, drained
1/2 cup chopped, canned poblano peppers
small sprig cilantro
2 or 3 cloves garlic
1 onion, chopped
freshly ground black pepper
a couple of tbls of vegetable oil
2 or 3 red potatoes, 1/2" dice
36.5 oz or 1 kg can hominy, drained
the pork cooking stock and any additional water or chicken stock to bring it to about 5 cups
thinly sliced radish, deep fried corn tortilla strips, fresh lime wedges, raw red onion sliced really thinly, mexican oregano if you can find it
Put the pork butt, onion, cumin seed, peppercorns and garlic in a heavy pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil then turn down and simmer, half covered, for about three hours or until the pork is falling apart tender.
Remove the pork from the liquid and set aside to cool a bit. You can do this the day before and let the strained stock sit in the fridge overnight so you can get rid of most of the fat (don't get rid of all of it because it's really tasty and this isn't the time to worry about your diet). If you aren't making it the next day, strain it and let it sit and then do your best to remove the thick layer of fat on the top of the stock.
Meanwhile, toast the pumpkin seeds over medium heat in a dry skillet until they swell up and start to pop and then remove and set aside. Drain the tomatillos and the peppers.
When the pumpkin seeds cool down, put them in a blender or food processor and grind to a fine powder. Then add the tomatillos, peppers, salt and pepper, onion, garlic and cilantro and process until completely smooth (you might have to add up to 1/2 cup of the pork stock if it's too thick to process)
Heat a couple of tbls of veg oil in the same heavy pot you cooked the pork in over med high heat and pour in the green pumpkin seed/tomatillo puree and cook it until the colour deepens at a nice simmer, about 15 to 25 minutes. It will thicken and the colour will become darker and richer.
Meanwhile, shred up the pork, discard the fat and set aside. Wash and chop the potatoes without peeling them and set those aside too.
After the green sauce has cooked for about 20 minutes, add the shredded pork,drained hominy and the potatoes. Add enough of the pork broth that it is a nice, soupy consistency but not a thin soup. Use your judgement - it's between a soup and a stew. I added about 5 cups of stock and the constancy was perfect.
Let that continue to simmer for another 20 minutes or more, until the potatoes are cooked. Squeeze in the juice of a lime and serve in shallow bowls.
Serve it with your additions so people can add whatever they want to the top of their pozole. You can also serve it with chopped avocado, shredded cabbage or lettuce but we didn't this time.
I like to bake at christmas time and up until recently it was pretty much the only time I baked all year and unless they are all lying to me, my friends and family seem to really enjoy the treats I make for them. I get special requests for specific things and I always like to throw one or two new things into the mix.
This year I had decided I would do chocolate pecan toffee, chambord dark chocolate truffles, lime melt aways (my mother in law would probably stop talking to me if I didn't make these for her), the cardamom ginger cookies I made for the Great Blogger Cookie Exchange and a delicious Lemon Almond Meringue that I found on Joy the Baker.
There was one small snag this year though. We decided on Wednesday night to book a week in Tulum, Mexico, leaving Saturday, which is fabulous, no? Except that when I woke up Thursday morning, I realized that if I was going to put together baking gift boxes for Little Shack's teachers, I was going to have to make all of those things that day.
In one day.
So, it's Friday and I still haven't made any soup this week so the heat was on to come up with something cobbled together from what I had on hand already. I actually like the challenge and often come up with some of my favourite things that way - well, if you can overlook the odd black bean peach chowder or
an anchovy corn creme brûlée.
I was so excited to sign on to participate in The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap because it meant I could connect with three other bloggers (most likely Canadian as shipping food across borders gets squicky in a post 9-11 world where xmas cookies are now eyed suspiciously ). It also meant that I would receive a dozen cookies from three of my fellow bloggers and that is always a great thing. I love eating other people's baked goods.
My favourite and most requested cookie is a really spicy, crispy ginger snap but I have written about that on my blog and we were instructed to make something that we have never blogged about so that meant I either had to make something completely different or change up my standard ginger snap. I have been pretty obsessed with cardamom for the last few months so I started searching out a yummy sounding cookie with cardamom but all I was seeing were sugar cookies with cardamom added to the dough and that didn't interest me at all. I don't really like overly sweet cookies, if that makes sense. I like super dark chocolate things, I like citrusy things and I like spicy things.
I was so happy to come across this recipe on tastespotting where the beautiful photo caught my eye and took me over to SPCookieQueen's blog. I didn't really change much at all, I just added some candied orange peel and used coarse sanding sugar to roll the cookies because the recipe sounded great as it was. I think she made huge cookies and I made them small like my ginger snaps - I find that when I am eating a really heavily spiced cookie, I only want a small one. Mine aren't as pretty as hers, maybe due to the small size and lack of big cracks in the surface but I think they turned out really great and I hope that Christina from wannafoodie , Katie from Adventures in Actuality and Amanda from The Vanilla Beanery enjoyed them.
I had big plans to make a pozole this week but life and work got in the way and there was not going to be time to make anything that labour intensive. With pozole put on the back burner, I found that I couldn't stop thinking about the cream of tomato soup with grilled cheese croutons that Dianne made last week for no reEats. Unfortuntately, she wasn't happy with the recipe she used so I knew I would make up my own but I still love the idea of a creamy tomato soup with those grilled cheese croutons. I also wanted to try out my evaporated milk in place of creme again in a soup so I could keep the creamy texture without adding tons of unwanted fat. I have to tell you, I have not been disappointed with the evaporated milk yet and I have tried it in soups and sauces for months now. It lightens the soup up so that I can indulge more freely in the grilled cheese croutons. Dianne is right about those things - they are truly the star of the show! I used a sharp cheddar with flax seed bread because The Kid likes his grilled cheese straight up but I think I am going to try making a grilled cheese with some blue cheese in there for my own soup next time.
Creamy Tomato Fennel Soup
1 onion, finely chopped
1 cup finely chopped fennel
1 to 2 cloves garlic chopped
glug olive oil
2 thin slices of pancetta chopped
1 tsp PC Umami #5
4 cups tomato puree
1 cup chicken stock
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
grilled cheese croutons:
(allow 1/2 sandwich per bowl)
bread of your choice
cheese of your choice
Preheat a frying pan over med heat.
Butter the bread on the outside and flip it so that the buttered side is down. Add your cheese to the unbuttered side of the bottom slice and top with the second slice, buttered side up.
Put the sandwich into the frying pan and cook until dark and toasty on the bottom. Flip it, flatten it with a spatula and continue to cook until the second side is all toasty brown and the cheese is melted.
Let it cool for a minute on a cutting board before you cut it into cubes to make your croutons.
Heat a heavy saucepan over med heat and add a glug of olive oil - about 2-3 tbls I would think. Add the onion and sweat for a couple of minutes before throwing in the pancetta and the fennel and sauté for about 10 minutes until all the veggies are soft and starting to take on a bit of colour. Add the Umami #5 paste and stir that around for another 30 or 40 seconds before you add the tomato and the stock and let that simmer for about 20 minutes. If you want it super smooth you can either take it off the heat and pour it into a blender to puree or use an immersion blender. After it's nice and smooth, stir in 3/4 cup of evaporated milk and taste and adjust your salt. Let it sit with the lid on, off the heat while you make your grilled cheese croutons.
Ladle into a bowl, add lots of freshly ground black pepper and your grilled cheese croutons.
So, Dianne, my beautiful and generous friend and blogging partner in crime at no reEats has an annual gingerbread house decorating party that I have had to miss for the last three years in a row because I am usually off on my christmas trip at that time. I was kind of exited but kind of stressed out by the fact that I was going to be able to attend this year's festivities. You see, as much as I love to drink wine and glue candy to a gingerbread house, I am mildly terrified of the other women who partake in this yearly event. To say that some of them are competitive would be like saying that I like to eat a little bit. The first time I went, I was so naive. I went to the Bulk Barn and just bought a bunch of festive looking candies and figured I would just wing it when I got there., expecting nothing more than good conversation, snacks and wine and a bunch of beaches moms relaxing with a nice little craft. By the time I arrived, the keeners were already there with their tool kits, their sketches, their glue guns and their additions and pieces that they had already made themselves at home. There was a crazy, off kilter Dr Suess house that night and the rest of them looked like maquettes for some millionaire's ski chalet by this hot new Norweigan architect, Sven Svenersson.
My sad little house, covered in dripping icing and mismatched candy looked so sad and juvenile by comparison. * see Halloween's house for reference
Last summer I had the most incredible squash pear soup with blue cheese and I have been craving it ever since. I had a squash to do a soup with this week and I was going back and forth between replicating the pear squash soup or doing something spicy with coconut and curry paste and , in the end, I chose to try out a pear soup. I found lots of great looking soups for inspiration and I finally settled on this soup from The Pastry Affair as my base but I switched out the apples and juice for pear, I added some pancetta and thyme and to cut the sweetness, I added just a bit of curry powder. I find curry has this ability to add a new depth of flavour with actually making the food taste like curry and I find I use a pinch of it here and there all the time. On it's own it's quite sweet but once you add the greek yogurt and the blue cheese, the sweetness sits in the background and lets the stinky socks and the sour tang of the yogurt play down. One of The Neighbour's loved it, one hated, Little Shack hated and I loved it. I knew that blue cheese was an acquired taste but I didn't realize that squash was such a polarizing food item.
This soup doesn't taste like the soup I ate last summer but it is really good and I will certainly make this one again. Well, I will make again next year since TODAY MARKS THE LAST MONTH IN MY NO REEATS CHALLANGE!!!
do I sound exited?
Butternut Squash Pear Soup
adapted from this squash soup on The Pastry Affair
1 2-3 lb butternut squash
3 pears, peeled, cored and quarted
about 30g pancetta
1 cup celery, diced finely
1 onion, diced finely
sprig fresh thyme
1/2 cup pear juice
salt and pepper
4-4 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 tsp mild curry powder
blue cheese, crumbled for serving
preheat oven to 425F
Peel and cube the squash into approx 2" chunks and toss them with some olive oil and salt. Put on a parchment lined baking tray and roast for about 45 minutes
During the last 10 to 15 minutes of roasting, throw the quartered pears on top.
Meanwhile, heat a glug of olive oil in a soup pot and sauté the pancetta til crispy and then remove with a slotted spoon. Add the onion and celery and cook until they are softened. Add the squash and the pears, the chicken broth, thyme and the pear juice and simmer until everything is nice and soft, for another 15 minute. Either remove to puree in a blender or use an immersion blender to make it smooth and creamy right in the soup pot.
To serve, ladle the soup into a bowl, scatter a bit of blue cheese on top and a dollop of greek yogurt
It's weird weather out there and I am not as compelled to make nice, warming soups as you would think I would be seeing that it is the end of November. It might be the end of November but it is also going up to about 15C today which is more about grilling and taking long walks on the boardwalk than it is about hunkering down in the kitchen to make a hearty, long simmering soup.
The perfect compromise is a nice, spicy soup that doesn't take all that long to throw together if you used canned black beans instead of soaking dried. I am also starting to pine for Mexico since we would normally be leaving for our Xmas trip there next week but we went somewhere else last year and we aren't sure where we will end up this year. Shack's crazy work schedule dictates that we make all of our life decisions the night before so we could end up anywhere, at any time over the next month or so but for now, I will satisfy myself with a little taste of the country that I love so much. I have made black bean soup before but I made it with a ham bone and dried beans and although delicious, it was pretty labour intensive and time consuming and I wanted something much quicker so I settled on this recipe from Food Network Canada.
I used Christine Cushings basic quantities of beans and stock and although it was tasty, I think I would double up on the black beans or maybe cut the stock back to 3 cups next time because it was a little thin. Now, if you like your soups thinner then don't change a thing.
Black Bean Soup
adapted from Christine Cushing's Recipe
1 540ml can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 tbls olive oil
2 ounces of bacon
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tbls cumin
1 tbls mexican oregano
chipotle chili in adobo to taste
2 stalks celery, chopped finely
1 red pepper, chopped finely
1 bay leaf
4 cups chicken stock (I would reduce to 3 cups if I make it again)
1 jar of tomato puree (about 1 cup)
salt and pepper
cojita cheese, cilantro, greek yogurt and lime to garnish
heat the oil over medium heat and sauté the onion for a few minutes until soft and just starting to colour. Add the bacon and cook for another 4 or 5 minutes before you add the cumin, celery, red pepper, garlic, chipotle and bay leaf and sauté all of that for another 3 or 4 minutes. Add the chicken stock and the tomato and cook it all until the vegetables are tender, half and hour at least.
Remove half of the soup and puree it. Add it back to the soup in the pot, stir well and serve.
I garnished each bowl with some crumbled cojita cheese, cilantro, greek yogurt and a squeeze of lime juice. If you can't find cojita cheese you can use queso fresco or even mild crumbled feta but I was lucky enough to have a small piece of this yummy Mexican cheese in the fridge.
The Kid was away this week from Monday until Wednesday so that always means a mushroom orgy for the adults. Little Shack certainly has a pretty good palette, he eats a really wide variety of foods and is, in many ways, less picky that his father but the one thing we have not been able to sway him over to are mushrooms. Clearly, there is something seriously wrong with my kid because anyone who will eat fish eyes, chicken bones, bone marrow and raw quail eggs but WON'T eat mushrooms has some issues. I mean, he is a nice kid and all and we will keep him but the mushroom thing is really starting to cramp our style. This is, therefore, the perfect soup for a kid free week and the adults were very, very happy. As always, I try to lighten up the foods that we love and so I subbed in evaporated milk for the cream and I don't think it suffered at all. It's still creamy enough but it's light and mushroomy and you don't feel guilty eating a big bowl of it.
One big bright spot in our mushroomless like with my kid is that he did taste the soup after he got home and declared the flavour to be excellent but the texture of the mushrooms to be unappealing. A quick whiz in my trusty bullet and the soup was consumed so as long as I make things that can be pureed, we can start to add mushrooms back into our diet.
Oh happy day!
Okay people, the holidays are quickly approaching and that means people dropping by with gifts and lovely bottles of wine to share and you need to be prepared. In the olden days, I would make fussy appetizers and hor d'oeuvres that would require hours in the kitchen and would often take me away from my guests. The oohs and ahhs were good for the ego but I realized that just as I was ready to sit down and relax, my friends were getting their coats on to leave. I thought it was more important to wow them than to sit and have a glass of wine with them but with age comes wisdom and with wisdom comes a much more enjoyable, relaxed holiday season.
What I do now is make sure my fridge is stocked with a variety of nice cheeses, a couple of nice charcuterie items like pate, sliced italian salamis etc and spicy, savoury jams.jellies and chutneys. This way, I feel like I can invite friends over last minute without having to worry about what I am going to serve them.
I do like to include things I have made myself so every year I try to make one savoury jam myself, some sweet things like cookies and truffles and a couple of different types of spicy cookie or cracker to serve with the cheese and charcuterie.
I was pretty honoured to be one of six Canadian food bloggers to be featured in the holiday issue of Eat In Eat Out Magazine and we each gave them two recipes for entertaining during the holidays that we felt represented us so I went with one sweet and one savoury. This recipe is being featured this month and in January, they will feature our second recipes (in my case, my cardamom truffles). This nippy little biscuit is very me - buttery and smooth but with a surprising bite to it and a little bit unexpected.
There is a company in Toronto that makes the most delicious shortbreads and I have spent years trying to replicate my favourites. I think I now have a pretty good base recipe that you can change by subbing the cheeses and the spices. I usually do a cheddar/chipotle cookie but since I have this beautiful spanish smoked paprika I am dying to use, this year I changed it up a bit.
You can freeze the logs of uncooked dough for up to a couple of months and you can also keep a log in the fridge for about a week and just slice off as many cookies as you are going to need for the
evening so that you can always have a fresh batch of shortbread for your guests. I don't know about your personal levels of self control but I know that if I bake up 20 of these cookies when I really only need about 10 that I will eat the other ten myself before I finish my morning coffee the next day and I don't need to be doing that. These cookies are nothing butter butter and cheese so don't forget that when you are popping them into your mouth like popcorn.
Spicy Cheddar Shortbreadmakes about 30 cookies
*** CORRECTION: the recipe in the Eat In Eat Out calls for 21 tbls paprika - it's only 2tsp
1/2 cup (1 stick) of unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 tsp salt
15 grinds black pepper
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp cayenne
200 grams finely grated sharp cheddar (I used Alex Farm Reserve Cheddar - 8yr)
1 cup unbleached flour
lightly toasted pecans
1 egg whitewater
coarse salt like kosher for sprinkling on the top (i used fleur de sel but kosher works fine too)
Preheat the oven to 350, put the rack in the top third of the oven and line a cookie sheet with parchment. Remove your cookie log from the fridge and carefully slice into 1/4 to 1/8" slices and arrange on the cookie sheet. Brush the tops with some beaten egg white, sprinkle with a touch of course salt and press a chunk of toasted pecan into the centre of each cookie.
Bake until lightly browned around the edges, about 15 minutes.
Cool on the baking sheets for five minutes before removing them to a wire rack to cool completely. If you store them in a tightly covered container in the fridge and just take them out an hour before serving, they will keep for weeks.
I knew that there was beef, tomatoes, cabbage, carrots and celery but I couldn't remember what spices she might have used or if she made beef stock from bones or not. In the end, it came out tasting enough like my mom's soup that I think I have paid proper tribute to her but just different enough that it's still my own. I also love that, unlike her delicious soup that cooked all day, if you have some leftover roast, this one only took about an hour from start to finish. I will have to ask my sister to show me the recipe one of these days.
Beef and Cabbage Soup
glug olive oil
2 large shallots or 1 small onion, diced
1 cup finely diced carrots
1 cup finely diced celery
1 large clove garlic, chopped
1/2 small to medium head of cabbage, coarsely chopped
6 cups of stock, water or a mix of both (I used chicken because I always use chicken)
796 ml (28 fl oz) can plum tomatoes
2 to 2 1/2 cups of leftover pot roast, chopped and shredded
2/3 cup leftover pot roast gravy (if you don't have any leftover gravy, just add more stock)
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
Heat up a big soup pot over med heat and add a glug of olive oil - not a ton, maybe a couple of tbls. Add the onion and sauté for a few minutes until they start to soften and then add the carrot, celery and garlic. Continue to cook for another 5 to 10 minutes, stirring and keeping an eye on it so nothing burns. Add the cabbage and stir that all around for another minutes before adding the stock. When you add the canned tomatoes, crush the tomatoes with your fingers as you add them - you want some chunks, not pureed tomato. Now add your leftover roast beef and stir in the gravy, add the thyme and bring to a boil and then turn down and let it simmer until the cabbage is soft, about half an hour or so. Because it's soup you can let it cook a bit longer and it won't really hurt it.
So, this week I am going to feature a recipe that The Neighbours made and shared with me. I have been eating it for lunch every day and would have just made it myself if they hadn't already provided me with a big container to keep me happy all week. We are very lucky to have such awesome neighbours who are also such great friends and someone is always knocking on someone's door with a cookie to try or some sauce to give an opinion on.
Sometimes we are tempted to add more things than we need to make a delicious soup and in this case, less is more and I was really glad that there is no cream or anything else heavy to weigh it down. It's a nice, light soup that has just the right amount of red pepper to tomato and that touch of honey cuts the acidity a bit. Perfect.
They read a few recipes and took what they liked from each and came up with this light, savoury soup:
The Neighbour's Roasted Red Pepper Tomato Soup
3 medium onions chopped
3 large cloves of garlic fine chopped
6 x 398ml fire roasted tomatoes
3 x 900ml of no fat reduced salt chicken stock
3 extra large red peppers
2 Tlbs of honey
fresh ground pepper to taste
2 tlbs of butter
1 tlb of olive oil
Roast pepper @ 400 degrees until blistered and black and place in an airtight container until cooled. Then peel and wash away seeds. Chop roughly and set aside.
In large pot melt the butter, add the olive oil and caramelize onions and garlic until they are rich, golden brown. Add the tomatoes to pot with onions and stir before adding the chicken stock and peppers. You can emulsify with an immersion blender or do it in a blender until smooth then pepper to taste.
This made a huge batch and all recipes they looked at stated great for freezing.
I was one of six lucky Canadian food bloggers chosen to be featured in the holiday issue of Eat In Eat Out, Canada's first online magazine for foodies who love to eat - whether you like to cook and eat in or whether you are a restaurant junkie and love to eat out. You might be like me and fall somewhere in between and love to do both equally. We were asked to come up with two simple, original recipes for the holiday season. I always like to make a box of treats to give to friends and I try to have a good variety of sweets in there. This year there will be the same ginger snaps I make every year, meringues, these chocolate truffles and probably some toffee.
I attended a crazy, multi day Hindu wedding this summer and I cannot get the sweets we ate out of my head. I don't know what they all were but they all seemed to taste like cardamom, sugar and pistachios and everything was covered in this delicate silver foil. I LOVE shiny things and couldn't' wait for a chance to use this pretty silver foil, called Vark, on something when I got home. I found the dark in a shop in Indiatown so buying it was the easy part. Applying it was another thing altogether. I knew I didn't want to totally cover every inch of the truffles with the foil but I was kind of hoping for an organic, haphazard look which is fortunate because that is exactly what I ended up. Clearly using this stuff takes years of practice but that is no reason to not use it anyway, right? A truffle is already decadent and festive but the addition of silver to them just takes them over the top and I love them.
Okay, it's now officially fall and my kid wore his parka to school today so it's time to start up my Friday soup extravaganza. Since I already made my soup of the week and I posted it as my dinner on my other blog, no reEATS I am kind of cheating by reposting it but I am not making soup again today since I am busy making cardamom dark chocolate truffles. I don't think anyone would begrudge me that pleasure just so I can squeeze in another soup which would only be a resentful pot of soup anyway. I will repost my soup here to get the ball rolling plus and this will bring me back to this blog in a regular way again. On no reEATS, I have been dedicated to never repeating a dinner recipe for this entire year and I have to be honest, I have been struggling. That task has been so daunting at times that it has been all I can do to make sure that I make something photo worthy twice a week (three times a week every third week) that I have been woefully neglecting The Yum Yum Factor but winter is almost upon on and it is time to cocoon again which means more cooking and baking which means more yoga and walking because I will be cooking and baking. It's a vicious circle.
I give you:
I give you:
Curried Parsnip Soup
makes about 4 cups of soup
small glug of olive oil
1/2 cup diced onion
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 tsp grated ginger
1.5 cups diced parsnips
1/2 cup diced carrot
1/2 cup diced celery
2 tsp mild curry powder
900ml chicken stock
1 small, tart apple, peeled and diced
1 tbls coconut powder
* greek yogurt and cilantro to serve with it you like
Heat the oil in a med sized pot over med heat. Add the onion and sauté for a few minutes before adding the garlic and ginger. Saute for another couple of minutes and then add all of the diced vegetables. Continue to cook that for about five minutes until the veggies soften and might start to take on a bit of colour. Add the curry powder and stir well for a minute until you can really smell it and then pour in the stock. Add the apple and the coconut powder, bring to a light simmer and let it cook until all the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. Don't worry if you let it cook a bit longer because you are going to puree it anyway. When the vegetables are all well cooked, either use an immersion blender or pour into a blender to puree it until it's nice and smooth.
Serve with a dollop of greek yogurt and a bit of chopped cilantro if you like but it's tasty enough on it's own to skip any garnish too
We woke up bright and early, got dressed and got out onto the street by 7:45 am. The one nice thing about waking up that early is that we were greeted with the most beautiful sunrise, reflected in the glass of the new tower, 1WTC, that is being built in the northwest corner of the World Trade Center site. We sat and looked at that for a while but neither of us wanted to miss one minute of precious time on our first full day exploring the city so we left in search of coffee and too see where the Wall Street Occupiers were camped out. As it turns out, they were basically right beside our hotel so we didn't have to look far. At that point there were only enough protesters to fill the small parkette with little spill over and it didn't seem like a big deal at all. They were all just waking up themselves so it looked like a sea of marathoners taking naps, wrapped in their metallic space blankets.
I used to go to New York quite a bit in my younger years but it has been at least 20 years since my last visit and Shack had never been. We have kind of entertained the idea of going from time to time but we always ended up going somewhere else. We almost went last summer on our road trip to Newport but decided on Boston instead and then last Xmas, it was on the short list but New Orleans won out. This seemed like the perfect time to go. The fall weather is remarkable right now- New York can be really stinky and humid and terrible in the summer. The kid is old enough to leave home in the care of The Neighbours so we could actually go on our own which is something we have not done in the 12 1/2 years he has been in our possession and seeing that I barely saw Shack all summer due to his crazy work schedule, we jumped at the chance to get away.
You don't know Shack but if you did you would understand that driving was the only acceptable way to get there. The car to Shack is what the puck is to Wayne Gretzgy and there is no such thing as a drive that is too far, too long or too mundane for this man. We both really love those 8 or 9 hours to sit side by side, top down, hair blowing in the wind like a starlet, talking when we feel like talking, listening to Tina Fey read Bossy Pants when we don't. It was an awesome drive through the hills of Upstate New York and Pennsylvania. My only regret is the fact that I did NOT photograph the gas station ball park franks that came with a big, steaming vat of complimentary meat sauce! We did not partake but we watched in awe as local after local grabbed a dog out of the jar where they were stacked vertically like combs in a barber shop and covered with complimentary meat sauce until you could no longer tell there was a hot dog under there. I wisely stuck to my usual road fare of nacho cheese Doritos and Werthers.
Okay, first for the highs.
Last week I found myself in Chinatown and, as luck would have it, I had locked up my bike right across the street from the Kim Moon Bakery. When I first moved to the city almost 30 years ago, I was introduced to asian food in a huge way. Previously, my only experience with "oriental" food was a plate of chicken balls, fried rice and moo goo guy pan with fortunes cookies for dessert. Pho Hung on Spadina, King Noodle and moon cakes from Kim Moon Bakery will always stand out in my mind as things that were proof that I wasn't in Kansas anymore.
Now, a million years later, I enjoy introducing my kid to all of these foods and places that make Toronto my favourite eating place in the world. Sadly, he didn't fall in love with pho the way I did and he prefers Japanese food to a big bowl of steaming soup with egg noodles and bbq duck, but one love we do share are double yolk red bean moon cakes from Kim Moon.
These things are sweet but not too sweet, the way inferior moon cakes can be. They are smooth and silky and the pastry is not too thick - I can't tell you anything about the yolks because, being a perfect mother, I let my kid eat those now but he assures me that they are delicious. They do make other things but I can't vouch for them because I only go for the moon cakes. I don't even know if they make them year round because moon cakes are traditionally eaten during to celebrate the mid autumn festival in september. Beware, they are very, very rich and probably really, really fattening and full of things that are terrible for you.
After a summer of not having the man of the house IN the house, we have been enjoying his company for the last week and letting him call the shots. Since the weather is still beautiful we have been spending a lot of time in the convertible, driving, which is his favourite pastime. Well, he loves to drive and mostly, he loves to drive to places where we are going to eat. This past weekend we got in the car and headed towards Niagara Falls but once we go to the Falls we decided to keep going to pop over to Buffalo to visit Elmwood Village. I know that Buffalo probably doesn't come to mind when you are thinking of a nice foodie afternoon, but there is one little pocket of the city that has some really great shops and restaurants. Oh, Buffalo also has Wegman's which we all love but because we got lost we never made it this time. Luckily, I have my wegman's frequent shopper card so we can go any time we like.
D'Avolio to get some fancy oils and vinegars. The prices are really great, they have a huge selection of oils, vinegars, exotic salts etc and The Kid loves to go from vat to vat, tasting all of the oils from around the world. Somehow, he manages to do this and NOT have his intestines go into shock but I don't suggest anyone else try this.
We bought a Tuscan herb oil, a really nutty, delicious walnut oil, another bottle of the 18 yr aged balsamic and a bottle of jalepeno white balsamic. I wanted to get some salts but our server was kind of horrible and I could see that Shack was getting ramped up so we left without my salts.
I used the jalepeno balsamic in my Chimichurri Compound Butter and it gave it a really lovely hit of spicy sour goodness.
We also hit up Penzey's for some spices. I love their store and I could spend hours in there, just sniffing and huffing spices like Vietnamese cinnamon and spanish smoked paprika but we were getting hungry so I settled on the smoked paprika, mexican oregano and some mild chill powder and I wish we had a Penzey's in Toronto.
Another must have is the chocolate covered sponge toffee at Watson's for sponge toffee covered in dark chocolate. I have always loved sponge toffee and so does The Kid. It's not the fanciest chocolate shop in the world but this stuff is worth the drive.
Now, this time Shack decided that we would venture off the beaten path for lunch. Some young man who reeked of pot, had a head full of dreads and looked a bit like a bike courier on his way to the Burning Man festival told him we should go to Main St where all the really good restaurants are and gave him some vague directions. We drove and drove and passed nothing but abandoned buildings and burnt out houses and never, ever hit Main St. I would not suggest doing this if you are going to make the drive to Elmwood Village to do some culinary shopping and you should just stick to that nice street and eat at any one of the countless cafes and restaurants. We drove around until it looked like we were downtown - I knew it was downtown because it was basically deserted the way many American cities look during evenings and all weekend. We pulled over and asked a young woman if we were, by any chance, near The Anchor Bar and it seems that not only were we only a couple of blocks away but it was on the elusive Main Street. I was not really in the mood for wings but it IS The Anchor Bar, the home of the Buffalo Wing so it seemed like a good idea at the time.
I don't want to call the anchor bar a definitive low, it was just the low of this particular trip. Now, it wasn't a bad chicken wing, but it certainly wasn't even close to the best chicken wing I have ever had, the blue cheese dip seemed to be very low on the blue cheese and it all left me with a bit of a dodgy tummy. I can name ten places in Toronto, off the top of my head, that make much better wings.
I won't even tell you what Shack ordered because whoever goes to The Anchor Bar and deviates from wings deserves whatever he gets and it's not the fault of the restaurant that they are forced to offer other horrible things that are not wings just to make people happy.
Except for my disappointing lunch, it was a really great day and I do like going to Elmwood in Buffalo to stock up on some of my favourite things just don't start thinking you are just going to leave that street and drive around and find another super fabulous little neighbourhood. Drive straight to Elmwood, stay on Elmwood and then, when you have had your fill, drive straight home.
Vidalia Rosemary Marmalade
adapted from Lucious Caramelized Onion Marmalade
3 slices of bacon
2 tbls olive oil
3 lbs of vidalia onions, peeled and slice thin
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
20 grinds of black pepper
1 bay leaf
the needles from a couple of stalks of rosemary
1 1/2 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup red wine (I used a cab merlot)
1/2 cup rosemary wine syrup (you can just add 1 1/2 cups red wine if you don't have the syrup)
3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
In a large pan or heavy pot over medium heat, cook the bacon until the fat is rendered and the bacon is crispy. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and set aside (or eat it immediately like I did). Add the olive oil, the onions and salt to the pan, mix well and cover.
Let the onions steam until they have given off their water. At that point, remove the lid, add the black pepper, rosemary and the bay leave and start the caramelization process. Don't let them burn while this is happening so that means don't go too far from them. They need to be stirred frequently and babysat until they get all nice and golden and melty. Only then do you add the wine , the sugars and the balsamic vinegar. Now that you have added all of that sugar to the pan, you can't leave it. Keep stirring and babysitting it until it reduces down to a jammy consistency. It's done when you can drag a wooden spoon across the bottom and it leaves a channel that only slowly starts to fill back in. You have to be really patient though because it really takes quite a long time to reduce the jam down but it is really worth it.
I have not had one minute to cook anything for the last couple of weeks between working at the Toronto Film Festival, school starting up and life in general. Today, I was gifted with a glorious day off mid festival and so I after yoga, i set off to the grocery store to gets supplies for dinner and found some lovely, Ontario peaches and knew I had to make a little batch of jam with them.
I had been planning to do a plum jam with cinnamon and crystallized ginger but didn't get around to it so I made some peach jam with the ginger instead. I knew I didn't want to bother with pectin and because it was such a small batch, I wouldn't bother with a water bath either. I would keep a jar and give the other jar to The Neighbours. After searching around, I found this recipe for Peach Vanilla Jam on Seasons and Suppers and decided to use it with a couple of tweaks. This recipe only makes a couple medium sized jars or one larger one but I like the idea of making a jar to eat instead of always making a big production out of it.
I will share my little problem with you here - I used two different candy thermometers yesterday because i was so sure it was ready and it wasn't even at 200F yet. The second thermometer had it reach 220F when the first one was still hovering around 218F and even then, I know it was done way before that. My jam was delicious but way too firm. GET A DECENT DIGITAL READ THERMOMETER IF YOU ARE GOING TO MAKE JAM.
I ordered one online right after I finished this batch.
Peach Vanilla Jam with Crystalized Ginger
adapted from Peach Vanilla Jam
2 lbs of fresh peaches, peeled and chopped (you will get about 2 cups)
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 vanilla bean, scraped
2 tbls finely chopped crystalized ginger
2 tbls lemon juice
1 tsp butter
prep your jars. Since I wasn't processing them, I just threw the two jars i was using into a big pot of boiling water and turned it off and let them sit until I was ready for them.
To get your peaches ready, bring a pot of water to the boil, throw in the peaches and simmer them for a couple of minutes. Remove them with a slotted spoon and throw them in a ice water bath or run them under very cold tap water. This will make it possible to just slip the skins off of them. I don't stress out if the odd bit of skin stays on. Then you chop them up into chunks over the bowl so you don't waste any good juices.
Mix the peaches with the sugars, the lemon juice and the vanilla bean and all the stuff you scraped out of it, the lemon juice, salt and butter and then put that into a heavy pot or an enamelled cast iron pot like a le creuset pot (you just wipe that thing clean after and it conducts the heat so evenly that it makes it perfect for jam making).
clip your candy thermometer to the side of your pot (or use a digital thermometer and keep checking it until it reaches 220F). You know there are a million ways to test your jam but it's so much easier to just keep letting it simmer until it reaches 220F so if you want to make jam, get a good thermometer.
Bring it to a boil over med high heat, stirring pretty constantly and then turn it down to med or med low and let it simmer nicely until it reaches 220F. I have never had it reach this gel point in the amount of time that recipes tells me it will happen because it depends on so many factors like humidity, temperature, where you sit regarding sea level. This recipe said ten minutes but it was longer than that. You can also use the cold plate method if you feel more comfortable with that.
When it's finally at gel point, remove your jars from the pot of hot water and ladle the jam into the hot jars. Wipe the rim with a clean, damp cloth to make sure there is no jam on it and put your lid on. At this point, you will have to store it in the fridge after it cools to room temp. You could also put it into freezer containers and freeze it or you could process it in a water bath if wanted to.
I didn't have enough of any one fruit to do any fruit dedicated dessert so I turned to the kitchen sink of desserts again, the crisp. Since I am still all about Indian food after my Big Fat Hindu Wedding weekend, I knew that whatever I did, I would be adding cardamom to it. I needed something to serve after our dinner of Chorizo Sloppy Joes that wouldn't be terribly heavy or overly sweet.
I can't tell you how much I am loving my Alton Brown crumble topping that I have been keeping in the fridge. Even if you only have a cup of fruit, you can turn it into a yummy crumble on a whim and have yourself a little sweet treat in the middle of the afternoon and nobody will ever even have to know.
Peach, Fig and Raspberry Crisp with Cardamom
2 ripe peaches (i didn't bother to skin them) chopped
6 green figs, chopped
about 1 cup of fresh raspberries
juice from half a lemon
the seeds from about 6 cardamom pods, crushed
about 2 tbls brown sugar
about 1/4 cup of crumble topping goes IN the fruit mixture
about 1.5 cups of crumble topping for the top of the crisp
1 cup flour
2/3 cups sugar
1 cup mixed, chopped nuts ( I did a third each pecans, walnuts and almonds)
1 3/4 cup crushed graham crackers
1/3 cup chopped crystalized ginger
1 stick cold butter, cut into chunks
To make the topping, mix all the dry ingredients together and then work the cold butter in with your hands or a pastry cutter until its all crumbly and pebbly. This will keep in the fridge to use on more crisps, crumbles and something Alton calls a grunt. Whatever.
Preheat the oven to 375F
To assemble the crisp, mix the fruits with the lemon juice, brown sugar and cardamom in a bowl, mix in about 1/4 cup of the crumble topping and then put all of that into baking vessel. It's pretty loosey goosey regarding size of vessel because, frankly, you just need one that fits the volume of fruit you are using and you should follow my recipe loosely. If you want to make one that is a bit smaller, use a bit less fruit and maybe cut down a tad on the sugar and crumble topping that you mix it with the fruit. To make a bit more, you probably don't need to increase anything. It's also nice to make little, individual crisps like I did with my cherries.
Now throw some of the crumble topping over the fruit. Again, I suggested 1 1/2 cups but it's also up to you. Do you like tons of topping? Use more. If you like it really rich, you might even want to cut in a bit more cold butter. You can't screw this thing up.
Bake it for about 35 to 45 minutes until you can see that the juices are bubbling up through the topping around the edges and the topping itself is nicely browned.
Let it sit out at room temp for at least 15 minutes before eating it or you will burn your tongue but it still needs to be warm so that the ice cream you serve with it will get all melty and leave a nice soupy, creamy mess at the very end to slurp up with a spoon.
I can remember helping out our Italian neighbours put up their tomatoes when I was really young in exchange for a couple of jars of sauce. I am pretty sure I didn't do much but I remember wishing my own mangia cake family had these sorts of traditions where all the women would gather together and spend the day working and laughing and doing something together that would benefit everyone at the end of the day.
Now, at least 40 years later, I found myself in a garage with Nona, Signora (the next door neighbour), my friend Lydia and her daughter Patricia (she has been my son's classmate since he was 5). My son helped Lydia's kids wash the neighbour's tomatoes and he helped with some of the heavy lifting but it was clear that this was woman's work and they were sent off to play.
I couldn't wait to dive in and felt kind of guilty that my job started out as the person who scrapes the tomato pulp off of the extraction tube thing on the food mill. That was until I realized that I was actually developing blisters after a couple of hours of scraping non stop. Luckily, I got to switch with Patricia for a while and take over the scooping of the tomatoes from the huge tubs into the bowl of the food mill and squishing it all down with the reamer. Of course, I developed different aliments but they were new and exiting ailments!
The other three had started par boiling and processing their 11 bushels of tomatoes at 5am so by the time I arrived at 10am, they had already started cooking one giant vat of sauce. We didn't finish with the food mill until about 3pm, when we finally did my own three bushels.
I didn't understand much of their banter but I could certainly tell when I was doing something right and when I was doing something wrong. You don't need to speak Italian to know when Nona is not happy with your stirring technique or the way you are manning the scraper. I just kept saying the handful of Italian phrases that I know in my head so I would feel like I was joining in as I scraped, stirred, reamed, hauled, lifted and hosed down tomato juiced vessels. I cannot tell you how enamoured I was of their giant pots, their canoe paddle sized wooden spoon and other over sized pee wee herman like cooking utensils!
|Nona's water pitcher held the exact amount needed to fill a large jar|
At the end of the day we had done 13 bushels of tomatoes and I left with 42 big jars of Nona's famous sauce. The sauce was nice but not as nice as when I was given the ultimate compliment when Nona patted my arm and said "you work hard, you good worker"
|I just know there has to be something that can be done with all of this skin/seed stuff|
|granola with greek yogurt and honey- prison food at it's finest|
In another few weeks, I am going to start work on TIFF - The Toronto Film Festival. Usually, I work pretty much every day doing makeup on actors who are here to promote their films and although it is a ton of fun, it turns my household into a tail spin every year. It's the only time of year that I work every single day for 10 days straight and as much as I try to plan for it, it is always really stressful for all of us. This year, Shack is working on a film and since he has not had a day off in about five weeks, I am going to assume that he will not have any time off during TIFF either.
That leaves the 12 year old on his own for mornings. The Kid is a bit spoiled when it comes to breakfast - it's always some type of egg, pancakes, french toast or porridge. Breakfast = hot, delicious and nourishing around here. Once, when our stove was not working, he had to have toast and yogurt and told his teacher that I had fed him a prison breakfast. I would like to visit this prison that serves it's inmates lovely, homemade whole grain toasted bread, homemade jam and delicious greek yogurt with honey. Maybe he was thinking of a Dutch Jail.
I bought a bag of key limes this week because one of my all time favourite desserts on earth is key lime pie. The problem is that with only two of us around, if I make a key lime pie I will most likely eat most of that pie myself. That's not going to make a better person.
Then I thought I would make a key lime creme brulee but that leaves me in the same predicament with another dessert that doesn't really keep for long and so it must be consumed asap and, let's be honest, I don't need to be eating 4 or 5 servings of either of those desserts.
After searching around I found a recipe for a frozen key lime pie and I realized that I was getting closer to something that I could make and enjoy in small amounts over a longer period of time but who am I kidding. A frozen pie is still a pie and I will eat the whole damned thing.
I keep seeing these recipes for ice cream using whipping cream, condensed milk and whatever add ins you like that doesn't require any sort of special ice cream making equipment. It sounded way too easy but blogger after blogger has been raving about the results. This ice cream from Journey Kitchen, in particular, caught my eye and I have just been kind of waiting for a chance to make it. I thought to myself "Self? why not make key lime ice cream?" Kevin and Amanda has some fabulous ideas about flavouring the basic mixture too that you should check out. I will be kept up nights thinking of all of the delicious flavour combinations that I can churn out with this easy, peasy technique. I saw someone do one using whipped evaporated milk to replace part of the cream but that sort of defeats the purpose. Ice cream isn't supposed to be low fat, it's iced CREAM right?
This way, I can make a nice, big batch and leave it in the freezer and, in theory, I can just have a wee bowl every evening until it's all gone like a civilized adult with a modicum of self control. Well, we will see about that.
Key Lime Ice Cream
2 cups of whipping cream
1 can sweetened condensed milk
50 ml freshly squeezed key lime juice
grated lime zest from about 6 key limes (they are tiny so if you are using regular limes, it's probably closer to 1 or 2 limes but do it to taste anyway)
6 squares of graham cracker, crunched up into chunky goodness (the size of the chunks depends on you)
whip the whipping cream until stiff peaks form.
Meanwhile, mix the lime juice and zest into the condensed milk. Make sure to taste it at that point to see if you want it have more lime flavour. Remember you are going to dilute the flavours when you mix it into the 2 cups of whipped cream so if it's too subtle before you mix it into the cream, it's going to be way too subtle after.
When you are sure you like the balance of limeyness to sweetness, fold in the graham crackers and then fold that entire mixture into the bowl of whipped cream.
Pour this delicious goodness into a freezer container of some sort and freeze if for at least 5 or 6 hrs.
I can't tell you how much we love this ice cream. I took some over to The Neighbour to try out because she she had already told me that she doesn't care for key lime pie OR ice cream all that much. If she was going to love it, I knew we had a winner on our hands. I won't embarrass her by going into great detail about the speed at which she consumed this ice cream, the sounds that emanated from deep within her body or the fact that she licked the bowl because that wouldn't be neighbourly.
Because condensed milk is an important ingredient in key lime pie, it really does taste just like key lime pie. I wasn't sure about the chunks of graham cracker until I tasted it. It's a bowl of tart, creamy, delicious key lime pie if key lime pie wasn't pie but ice cream. Which this is.
|Sarah at the stove, working her voodoo|
Okay, I think I have admitted that I have always had a bit of a hang up about the whole canning/jam making thing. I have harboured an irrational fear of killing my loved ones with my botulism filled jars of sugary confections so, until this past year, I have refused to even try to can. I have made freezer jams but the whole canning process was too terrifying for me to consider.
When I was first getting to know Jen, at Piccante Dolce, she was planning her wedding and was in a jam making frenzy. She made tiny jars of jams to give as her gift to her wedding guests and I was lucky enough to get to try a bunch of the contenders while she experimented. She told me that canning was really easy and once I got the hang of it, I would be jamming like a champ. Because I felt kind of foolish for being so canphobic, I decided to bite the bullet and I researched and read all that I could, settled on a couple of delish sounding recipes, went to Canadian Tire and bought all of my supplies and got to canning. I made a fig/blueberry compote thing with rosemary and some other fancy jam and they turned out fine. Nobody died from eating it (that I know of anyway) and people seemed to enjoy it but I was still unsure of my self taught technique. I have made a few small batches of simple jams but I was still kind of iffy. I am the type of person who needs to watch someone do something and only then will I really feel like I know how to do it.
Imagine how thrilled I was to find out that Sarah Hood was going to give a jam making workshop through The Leslieville Farmer's Market! I signed up immediately, gathered my notebook and my apron and made my way down to Red Rocket Coffee on Queen St East to learn how to make jam without murdering people along the way.
|everyone taking notes|
We made this delicious Plum and Cinnamon Jam (I am going to use some of it to make a plum sauce for dinner tomorrow) and I also bought her book, We Sure Can so that I can get down to work and start making some nice, bacteria free jam this week. If you ever get an opportunity to take such a workshop with Sarah, don't pass it up and you should find this book. It is full of recipes from Sarah and other talented preservers from Canada and beyond.
We are not even going to get into pressure canning though because even if I won't kill my family with botulism, I will surely blow up my kitchen and kill us all that way. For now, I stick with jam.
|great pectin that allows you to use way less sugar|
|220 degrees F and you are golden|
Thank you Sarah, for a wonderful afternoon and for putting my mind at ease and sharing some of your canning wisdom with us today.
Cinnamon Yellow Plum Jam
makes 3 1/2 cups
4 cups halved, stoned yellow plums
3 cups sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 whole cinnamon sticks
Sterilize jars and warm lids.
In a non reactive bowl, combine the plums, sugar and lemon juice and let macerate for at least 2 hrs.
In a wide, deep non reactive pot with a thick bottom, add the plum mixture and the cinnamon sticks and heat over medium heat until the sugar dissolves.
Bring the mixture to a full, rolling boil that can't be stirred down and continue to boil, stirring requently and until it reaches the setting pint ( please get a thermometer so you can know when it gets to 220F because there is no set time frame and how long it takes depends on so many factors) and then turn off the heat.
Remove the cinnamon sticks and skim off any excess foam. Ladle into sterilized jars leaving 1/4" of head space. Seal with warm lids and process for 10 minutes at a rolling boil (15 minutes for pint/500 ml jars)
Remove the canner lid, turn off the heat and allow the jars to sit in the hot water for another 5 minutes before removing them.
Remove them from the canner using the special tool (USING THE TOOL RIGHT SIDE UP THIS TIME) and set them on the counter on top of a folded tea towel. The lids on our jam popped right away to let us know that the seal was good. Let them sit, undisturbed overnight if possible.
Any jars that didn't get a good seal can go straight into the fridge.
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