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Rose Prosecco Sangria

My son's school runs a  summer camp for kids who wouldn't otherwise have the chance to go to camp at all. We both volunteer our time at the camp and I am also on the fundraising committee. This year, it fell upon me to come up with the "signature drink" for our annual fundraising extravaganza which also happens to be tonight. I was going to do a strawberry rhubarb mojito but we realized that this was going to be too much work to make 50 or 60 of them and have them be able to sit out and still be tasty so my thoughts turned to something sangria like. I love the idea of sangria but I also love bubbles so I started looking for a sangria with prosecco and found this great recipe on If You Can Make That You Can Make This .

We were supposed to get together and let the committee taste a couple of different drinks and choose their favourite but we just couldn't get all together in time. At one point the only two of us who could make it considered testing it ourselves but do you really think it's a good idea for two moms to make a pitcher of sangria and drink it all themselves? Call me crazy but I could only see bad things coming from an evening like that so, instead,  I made a batch for my son's birthday dinner and, along with The Neighbours, we tried it out. Everyone gave it a big thumbs up and agreed that it was the perfect choice for a make ahead drink and there was no need to look any further for an alternate cocktail.

I think that once peach season is here, I will make a proper peach simple syrup but this recipe called for the syrup from canned peaches and I can't get them fresh right now anyway. After some frantic but fruitless searching, it would appear that there is no longer such a thing as peaches in heavy syrup anymore. The light syrup isn't as sweet or as flavourful as heavy so instead of just using the light syrup from the can, I pureed the peaches and added that to the syrup, along with some mint and it was really delicious. The amount of peach puree required is going to depend on the kind of rosé you choose  because the first batch I made needed a whole cup of syrup just because the rose was so dry and tart. If you pick a sweeter, fruitier rose, clearly you will use less peach syrup so you should start off using the 1/4 cup and keep tasting. 

Nobody will ever complain that they have to keep taste testing the sangria until it's perfect right?

*If you use the peach puree, your drink isn't going to be as clear as it would with just the syrup but that didn't bother me all that much

 Rosé Prosecco Sangria

1/2 bottle prosecco
1 bottle  rosé
1/4 cup peach puree - syrup from canned peaches mixed with pureed peaches (or more to taste if your  rosé is very dry)
handful of fresh mint
1/2 pint strawberries, sliced
1 green apple, chopped

Drain the syrup from a large can of peaches and puree half of the peaches, keeping the other half of the peaches for another use. Strain the peach puree through a fine sieve into the syrup. Add a handful of fresh, chopped mint and shake it all up and store in the fridge until needed.

Put the berries and the apple in the bottom of a glass pitcher. Pour the rose in and 1/4 cup of the peach (or to taste) syrup with mint and leave in the fridge for about four hours to let the fruit soak up the wine and impart it's flavour. Right before serving, pour 1/2 a bottle of prosecco into the pitcher, stir well and serve.

Prosecco Risotto with Seared Scallops for a 13 Year Old Young Man

The Kid requested risotto for his birthday and he wanted just a plain, straight forward risotto so I chose a risotto Milanese with peas. Instead of white wine, I used prosecco which gives a nice, sharp edge that I really liked. Milanese calls for saffron, the most expensive spice in the world - actually, if you are talking the cost per pound, it's more expensive than gold. Luckily, you only use a pinch so even though it's a splurge, it's not going to break the bank but it will set you back about $10 for a tiny box. Be forewarned that you will most likely have to ask for it because most shops keep it behind the desk so that people won't steal it. Never mind dealing drugs, the real money is in dealing saffron. We had a hard time finding it at regular grocery stores and although we found an actual little bag of it for 99 cents (which means it was probably dandelions dyed red) we kept looking until we found proper saffron at a nice cheese shop for $9 . If someone tries to sell you saffron for a dollar, it is most likely not saffron FYI. 

Gingered Rhubarb Creme Brûlée

The Kid turned 13 this week. Who could have imagined that my sweet baby boy could ever turn into this tall, lanky man child complete with a dirty mustache, hairy legs, sounding like Barry White with a cold but who still likes to curl up on the floor and coo baby talk to the dog.

I have been feeling like this birthday really deserves a real event to mark it. For so many, 13 is a really important birthday for young men. Sweet 16 is a girl thing to me but 13 seems to be the magic number for the boys.  We aren't Jewish, so a bar mitzvah was out of the question although he was campaigning for one. I told him that in other cultures we would have sent him alone out in the wilderness and told him not to come back until he had killed something to mark his entrance into manhood but that is apparently illegal here and would probably get me arrested in Toronto. Canadians are so uptight. Instead, I am making him prosecco risotto, mussels and creme brûlée and we got him a watch.

Split Pea Soup with Ham

This is probably going to be my last big pot of soup until fall comes and it's a really great, simple soup to end the soup season with. Split pea soup is kind of like the Toyota Carolla of soups. Not super exiting, not the sexiest but dependable, well made and always delicious and it gets great mileage in the city.

After I made the ham for Easter , I was left with this big, beautiful  ham bone and nobody in their right mind can throw out a delicious ham bone. Basically, it  was either going to be black bean soup or split pea soup and since I have been all about the indian lentils lately,  split peas won out this time. I spent a few minutes thinking of all the things I could add and do to make it new and exiting but, in the end, I made a straight up, old fashioned split pea soup. The only thing I did that differed from the split soup I would have eaten growing up was to use half green split peas and half yellow and it was perfect. I really like yellow split peas and I will do this from now on

Sometimes you don't need to reinvent the wheel.

PIzzeria Libretto Should Buy Me Some New Pants

Oh Pizza Libretto, how do I love thee? Let me count how many times I have eaten in your hallowed halls in the last month...

Okay, maybe I don't really want to see an actual count seeing that I have just come from enjoying a wonderful lunch at this establishment. We can start with the fact that my pants are presently all too tight and go from there. I have finally wised up and now I don't order myself a pizza every time anymore. I share a pizza with the boys or they each get one and I have a little slice of each and then I indulge in something else. Sometimes it's the spicy meatballs - all velvet textured and covered in a spicy bomba that actually gives the prerequisite kick that allows it to call itself spicy. I hate ordering something that claims to be spicy only to find myself asking for a bowl of chili flakes after the first bite but these little balls of meaty love deliver.

Sometimes it's the arugula salad with pear and walnuts in all of it's refreshing, peppery deliciousness. If I feel like I need a bit more heft, I might go with the porchetta that sits on a nice little toast that is covered in chinotto bbq sauce that I would happily brush my teeth with, more peppery arugula, some little pickled onions and some chili for my always appreciated kick of heat. If I am feeling like I really need to go light, I go for the carpaccio - sliced so thin that the first time I saw it I thought they were beet slices cut on a mandolin - it was dark and it was a couple seats over and I am old and I don't always see all that well. The meat is tender and buttery and melts in your mouth and I really love the pesto like herby oil. Its weird to say that raw beef is the lightest dish to choose but it really is.
The Kid likes the calamari and luckily, he usually shares.
the buttermilk  calamri with romesco sauce

Don't get me started on the pizzas. Oh okay, I will start on the pizzas.
Their crust is so chewy and thin, with little burnt bits here and there and so much flavour. Too many thin crust pizzas are either soggy or almost like matzo crackers or , in the worst case, cardboard but this crust manages to stay real soft with great chew - it helps that they cook it at 800F for only 90 seconds I guess.

They could serve up just the naked crust like a naan and I would eat it dipped in their addictive flavoured chili oil as an app but all of the toppings are so fabulous, why would you do that? You know what? You are right. Forget I ever suggested it.

Between the three of us we have ate our way through the pizza menu. The first time we went , Shack and I split a Margherita D.O.P because, to me anyway, that is the base line. It's like going for dim sum and not starting with har gow and sui mai - if they can't do those two things well, there is no point ordering more treats frankly. Clearly, we were thrilled with our margherita or I wouldn't be writing this little review. 
My next favourite has to the Ontario Proscuitto and Arugula - are you getting the idea that I love arugula? When it comes to the table, piled ten feet high with greens you wonder how you are going to eat this thing and then you fold it in half and start eating or you cut the whole thing in half and THEN fold half of it in half and start eating. The heat from the pizza starts to steam the arugula just enough that it squishes down but not so much that it totally loses it's fresh crunch. PERFECTION I TELL YOU.
My next favourite is the Nudja Sausage with this spicy sausage, garlic, oregano, basil, mozzarella and stracciatella cheese. Again, the advertised spicy sausage IS spicy and everything just works. I have also had the House Made Sausage pizza and although tasty,  I much prefer the Nudja, although nobody seems to really know how to pronounce it and each server has put his or her own spin on the word. I am happy to just point and grunt. 

Shack seems to favour the Cremeni Mushroom pizza and the kid sticks with the Margherita DOP because he doesn't see the need to mess with simple perfection and he does have a point. The only pizza I wouldn't order again was the eggplant pizza. It had no tomato sauce and the eggplant itself was kind of dry so the overall effect was a dry pizza without a ton of zip or flavour.
All of the other pizzas on the list are delicious and I would happily eat any of them.

The wine list is nice and not too expensive and I have enjoyed the different house cocktails I have tried. A really nice touch is the bottomless glass bottle of carbonated water for a few dollars. It's so nice to be able to drink as much as I want without the sting of seeing 3 bottles of Mineral water at $7 bucks a pop and realizing that I could have paid for my entire lunch with the money we spent on fizzy water.

Yes, if you go in the evening between, say, 7 to 9:30, you are going to wait a while for a table. The good news is that Pizza Libretto now takes reservations so if you plan ahead a bit, you can still eat there at a good time on a good night. It's never all that crowded at lunch as long as you don't go right at noon and with the great $15 special for salad, a margherita DOP and a bit of dessert, it's almost a better time to try it out anyway. We have had really great service every time and it got us through a very tough couple of weeks when my father in law was dying and we just didn't have the energy to think about food - it was one of the only places we all felt like eating at during that time as well, which says a lot about the quality of the food, the atmosphere and general comfort level of a place which manages to be hip and trendy and cosy and neighbourhoody all at the same time.

Now, if only the restaurant would also provide me with a few new pairs of pants to tide me over while I attempt to adapt my new, ramped up exercise regime to accommodate all of this pizza.

Pizzeria Libretto 
550 Danforth Rd
Toronto Ont

Pizzeria Libretto on Urbanspoon

Easter Horror Stories OR Pavlova with Pomegranate Marscapone Cream and Pistachio Praline

We always go to my sister's house for Easter and I usually cook a large part of the meal. I am so busy cooking a big turkey dinner with a ham and a million sides, I don't pay much attention to dessert. This year, after a difficult month, we are staying home and having dinner with The Neighbours and she is a bigger control freak than I am. She is letting me make brussels sprouts and dessert so for the first time in a long time, I can really turn my attention to something sweet.

Compost Cookies Revisited

The Compost Cookie (<---click for the recipe)
Okay, I have made a couple of slightly different versions of this cookie and they just keep getting better and better. Today I made them with blue corn tortillas, pretzels and roasted pumpkin seeds for the savoury and equal amounts of skor bits, milk chocolate chips and butterscotch chips for my sweet baking ingredients. I also used plain dark coffee grounds instead of the vanilla flavoured coffee I used for the first couple of batches. Although the vanilla coffee was fantastic in the cookie, using just a good, dark sumatra changed the game for me. You know, I don't like flavoured coffee to drink so I am not sure why I thought I would love it in a cookie but it's probably along the same lines as "only cook with wine you would also want to drink".

While I am being real here, let's also call it like we see it. Sure, this cookie is heaven for all of us who love salty and sweet altogether but you know what this cookie really is? THE ultimate PMS treat. Come on, each bite is full of salt and sugar? Chocolate and tortilla chips? Butterscotch and coffee? It saves you the time and effort to find a bag of salt and vinegar chips crumbs and a mars bar from halloween and then a bit of pretzel dust followed by a handful of stale chocolate chips that you scavenge at the back of your kitchen cupboard at 11pm. It's all there in one cookie. It's all there in every single bite. When I watch men bite into one of these things, he looks surprised and then pleased and he might even chuckle a bit at the cheekiness of it, but, give this cookie to a woman? She takes a bite. She chews for a second and then her eyes get HUGE, they light up and she looks like she is going to cry from pure, unadulterated joy. This cookie would have changed my life if I had found it 20 years ago but it's still not too late.

Pork Carnitas to break a 2 week cooking hiatus

The last couple of weeks have been a very trying time as we suffered a loss of a much loved family member. Not only did I not blog at all, I have only cooked one meal in all that time. We have eaten out or ordered in every night and now it's time for all of us to get back on track and , for me, that includes getting back in the kitchen.

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