Category: recipe

Souperbowl

I like football. This is surprising because I generally hate watching sports on teevee. I don’t know if its the tight-ends or the hairless arms, but football is a-okay in my books. Every Sunday, we dress baby Otis in his football onesie and have football family time. My friends love a good ol’ fashioned food competition, so I thought, why not host a soup competition for superbowl. Get it, Soup-erbowl. Turns out I’m not that genius and grantland hosted the king of all head-to-head souperbowl competitions online days after I had sent out my invite.

Superbowl custom dictates chili eating, so I decided to forgo the opportunity for soup supremacy and take myself out of the running by making a venison chili with skillet cornbread. I used up some of my black beans (thus continuing to fulfill my new years resolution) and used some fantastic Deer Valley venison from the Brickworks market. I wanted to be on theme, so I made Brooklyn based Baked’s tomato soup cupcakes with mascarpone icing. The batter was a horrifying shade of orange from two whole cans of tomato soup,  the finished cupcakes were…Mmmm wow…unexpected…moist, spicy, tomatoey – genius!

Our friends are so impressive – almost everyone brought soup, with garnishes! Fancypantses. There was a creamy cold “tailgate” vichyssoise with croutons and a perfectly soft boiled egg from Ferran Adria’s new home-cooking book, a parsnip soup with toasted mustard seeds and parsnip chips, and a 101 cookbooks cheddar broccoli soup with crispy croutons.  We each tried the soups and had a secret ballot drawing at half-time – the winner by a landslide was the “tailgate” vichyssoise, oh and that creepy slackline dancer.

Skillet Cornbread (makes one skillet)

1 cup All-Purpose flour
1 cup old cheddar
1 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
4 tbsp unsalted butter, melted

1) Preheat oven to 400F. Grease seasoned cast-iron with shortening.
2) Combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, cheddar and salt in a bowl.
3)Combine wet ingredients and add to dry ingredients until just combined.
4) Place empty cast-iron pan in heated oven for 5 minutes.
5) Remove and pour batter into pan.
6) Bake for 25 minutes, let stand 15 minutes before serving.

*I like to top cornbread when it comes out of the oven with a maple syrup butter  sometimes. You know, to gild the lily.

a little help from the little guy

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The Pulse of Firenze

These are my pulses, my legumes, my dried old beans, my sad, lonely, lentils. I compulsively buy legumes from bulk stores, put them in pretty jars and rarely use them. I own an entire book on heirloom beans, pages tagged at deliciously pulse-ridden recipes that I have never made.  Having an influx of legumes has caused me to create a singular New Year’s resolution – to cook my way through the stockpile. Big goals, big dreams – that’s me.

I take great satisfaction from using things up that may otherwise go to waste.  At the market, I have grand illusions that I will be able to cook more than I have the time for, and now, with a newborn, this situation is only compounded. So, I cooked up a big pot of soup to use some of the beans and the veggies that were sadly deteriorating in my icebox.

Ribollita is one of my favourite soups; it reminds me of a lunch I enjoyed in Firenze with two of my dear friends. We had just climbed above the city to San Miniato al Monte, heard Gregorian chanting monks and explored the gothic graveyard while a black cat followed us. We descended back down into the Oltrarno, soaked and hungry, we saw Osteria Antica Mescita – a picturesque osteria that happened to have the slow food symbol on its door. Perfecto! I ordered ribollita, my friends ordered zuppa di ceci con farro e porcini– the meal lasted hours, living up to its “slow” distinction – thankfully the deliciousness made up for the service.

Ribollita & Zuppa di ceci con farro e porcini

Ribollita (with very little bread for my Paleo-caveman husband)


Ribollita
Recipe adapted from epicurious and my mind.

Beans:
1 1/4 cups dried canellini or white kidney beans
6 fresh sage leaves
5 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves, fresh
5 garlic cloves, sliced
2 teaspoons sea salt
¼ cup pancetta, cubed

Soup:
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus additional for drizzling
1 large onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, chopped
3 leeks, sliced thin
5 leaves sage, fresh
5 sprigs thyme, fresh
1 bay leaves, fresh
2 large celery stalks, diced
1 medium carrot, chopped
1 large unpeeled Yukon Gold potato, scrubbed, cut into ½-inch cubes
1 small butternut squash, peeled, cut into ½-inch cubes
1 small fennel bulb, trimmed, quartered through core, sliced crosswise
1 small bunch black lacinato kale, cut into ribbons (about 6 cups)
1 small bunch green chard (about 4 large leaves), center stem removed, cut crosswise into ribbons (about 6 cups)
4 cups thinly sliced savoy cabbage
5 large plum tomatoes, chopped
1 2-inch square Parmesan cheese rind
1 ham hock, smoked, whole
Pinch of dried crushed red pepper
10 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
1 lemon, juiced
Parsley, fresh, for garnish
6 1/2-inch-thick slices crusty white bread, torn into croutons

Beans
1)    Combine 8 cups water, beans, sage, thyme, bay, pancetta, and garlic in large saucepan. Bring to boil; reduce heat, cover, simmer until beans are tender, adding more water to keep beans submerged, about 1 ½ hours.
2)   Add 1-teaspoon sea salt; simmer 10 minutes. Uncover and cool beans in liquid.

Soup
1)    Heat 3 tablespoons oil in cast-iron pot over medium heat. Add onion and leek; sprinkle with sea salt. Cook until onion is translucent, stirring often, about 5 minutes.
2)    Add chopped garlic, safe, thyme and bay; stir 2 minutes.
3)    Add celery, carrot, potato, squash, and fennel; cook until vegetables are tender and begin to caramelize in spots, stirring often, 15 to 18 minutes.
4)    Add kale, chard, cabbage, tomatoes, Parmesan rind, whole ham hock. Cover with chicken stock, and add 1 teaspoon sea salt. Bring to boil; reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until vegetables are very tender, about 1 1/2 hours.
5)    Add beans with cooking liquid and crushed red pepper. Add 2 cups broth.
6)    Remove ham hock – let cool and remove meat from bone. Add back into soup.
7)    Season with salt and generous amount of pepper.
8)    Add bread to soup and simmer, stirring often to break up bread into smaller pieces and adding more broth if needed to thin, if desired.
9)    Season with sea salt and pepper, and squeeze juice of lemon into soup.
10)  Divide ribollita among bowls, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and parsley.

And the award goes to…Caramel Bacon Popcorn!


Cerebral dramas with a strong female lead

Controversial political dramas

Visually striking dark British movies

Critically acclaimed cerebral romantic movies

Netflix quite specifically believes I enjoy these genres of movies. Netflix is often wrong, and while I appreciate the effort, Netflix does not realize that often movies are just a vehicle for popcorn consumption.

Popcorn is perhaps the best snack ever. I don’t have a microwave (gasp!) or an air popper (sigh!) so I pop it the old fashioned way, in a pot on the stove.  This method only takes 5 minutes and saves me from the dreaded ‘popcorn lung’.  In my work, I inhale enough flour to contract the fictitious ‘pasta lung’ – one less ‘lung’ to catch the better.  The buttery flavour in microwave popcorn – that’s the culprit  – a chemical diacetyl was used as a flavour enhancer. Luckily, after many lawsuits almost all major brands of microwave popcorn do not contain diacetyl anymore, so we can all breathe a little easier.  In spite of this, I’ll stick to making my own popcorn and knowing all the ingredients, thank-you-very-much.

And popcorn I make – truffle salt popcorn, caramel corn with nuts, olive oil and pepper popcorn and the Pièce de résistance – caramel bacon popcorn. Salty, sweet, gooey and crunchy, delicious.




Caramel Coated Popcorn with Pecans, Almonds and Bacon!
adapted from Wanda’s Pie in the Sky by Wanda Beaver
yield 12-14 cups

10 cups popped organic corn
¾ cup toasted pecans
¾ cup toaster almonds
¾ cup bacon or pancetta, cubed and cooked

1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
½ cup corn syrup
1 cup butter
2 tsp vanilla

kosher salt for sprinkling

1 
      1)  Butter 2 large baking sheets.
2)
  Combine popcorn, bacon and nuts in a large bowl.
3)
  At medium heat, bring sugar, corn syrup and butter to a boil in a large saucepan. Stir
      occasionally for 10-15 minutes until dark golden.
4)
  Add vanilla carefully, it will sputter.
5)
  Spray a spatula with non-stick cooking spray. Remove mixture from heat and pour into
      large bowl over the popcorn. Using the spatula, work quickly to coat the popcorn with the
      molten hot sugar.
6)
  Spread mixture onto baking trays. Sprinkle with kosher salt. The sugar will harden
      quickly. Allow cool and break into pieces.
7)
  Store in sealed container for up to 2 weeks – but it won’t last that long, I promise! 

****feel free to leave out the bacon – keep the recipe the same or add 3/4 cup of something else,  toasted coconut, dried cranberries – go wild! 

Preserving Tradition: Homemade Eggnog

Guar gum, carrageenan, and natural flavour? Is this what you want in your holiday eggnog? Drinking my first eggnog of the holiday season, I wondered – what is eggnog and how can I make it at home without strange additives and preservatives?
On all matters culinary, the wise cook consults Larousse Gastronomique, a culinary encyclopedia bar none. Eggnog is described in Larousse as a ‘nourishing drink served either hot or cold’. Larousse is not very helpful this time. The drink, in its non-carton state, is simple enough to make: egg yolks beaten with sugar are incorporated into hot milk. As a seasonal nog drinker, I am concerned with its delicious properties, not so much its nourishing qualities. The debate about uncooked egg yolks leads me to believe that many people don’t consider fresh eggnog nourishing, and instead see it as a ticking time bomb of unpasteurized bacteria. Fear of uncooked yolks will not deny me the supreme pleasure of making my first homemade eggnog.
Eggnog lore suggests well-heeled Brits were the first to drink eggnog with brandy or sherry during the holiday season to toast good health. Its name literally, is egg in a small cup (or nog). North Americans adopted eggnog easily, and having more access to land, cattle, and thus, milk and eggs – were larger consumers of the drink than its originators. Variations include the New Orleans syllabub, eggnog of milk, sugar and wine and the Puerto Rican coquito with coconut and condensed milk, spices and rum.   Larousse shockingly alerts me to the possible addition of beer, a German soup-like eggnog specialty called Biersuppe. 
I want a choir of angels to sing when I taste my first fresh eggnog; Larousse’s recipe is far too simple to summon angels. A more contemporary source might do the trick, an arbiter of style – the New York Times food and drink section, is the source for me.  Eggnog’s creamy base begs for the addition of holiday flavours – cinnamon and nutmeg – or a tipple of spiced rum, but what about scotch?  A clever New York Times columnist, Melissa Clark, raved about the Butterscotch Scotch Eggnog with smoky scotch and brown sugar. This may be the eggnog for me.
Whipping the eggs, adding the brown sugar, salt, and homemade vanilla, I knew deliciousness beyond any carton was about to occur. Hark! Rich, creamy, smoky and sweet, the angels and my palate were singing and I knew this was a holiday tradition in the making – preservative free. 

Butterscotch Scotch Eggnog


Eggnog with Beer (Biersuppe)
from Larousse Gastronomique

9 cups pale ale
2 ¼ cups sugar
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp lemon zest, grated
¼ tsp cinnamon, ground
8 egg yolks
1 tbsp milk, cold
2/3 cup raisins & currants, soaked in warm water
1 cup whole wheat croutons

1.  Boil pale ale with sugar, salt, lemon zest and cinnamon.
2.  Add egg yolks with cold milk to ale mixture.
3.  Strain eggnog and let cool.
4.  Add currants and raisins to eggnog.
5.  Add croutons and serve.

Yield: 6 servings.

Butterscotch Scotch Eggnog
from the New York Times, December 3, 2010

12 large eggs, separated
1 cup dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus pinch
2 cups whole milk
1 cup smoky Scotch whisky
1/2 cup brandy
2 cups heavy cream
4 tablespoons granulated sugar
Grated nutmeg
1. In a large bowl, combine the yolks, brown sugar, vanilla and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Using an electric mixer beat on medium-high speed until thick and dark golden, about 3 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and slowly drizzle in the milk, Scotch and brandy. Transfer to the freezer to chill while preparing the rest of the eggnog. (Or refrigerate for at least 2 hours before completing.)
2. In a medium bowl, whip the cream on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. Set aside. In another medium bowl, using clean beaters, whip the egg whites and pinch of salt on medium-high speed, adding the sugar by tablespoons until soft peaks form.
3. When ready to serve, pour the yolk mixture into a large punchbowl. Fold in a small amount of whipped cream to lighten it, then fold in the remaining cream. Fold in the egg whites. Generously dust the top with nutmeg; serve immediately.
Yield: 12 servings.

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Christmas is almost here! In my house, baking starts today. Sugar, flour, eggs, ginger, sprinkles and vanilla are about to explode all over my kitchen. Vanilla is the cornerstone of any great baked good, a hint of flavour or a booster for other flavours. In June, inspired by Jacqui, co-founder of the Cross Country Baking Club, I started my own batch of vanilla extract. It is extraordinarily simple to make your own vanilla extract and a great gift for the bakers in your life.
June 2010 – Vodka & Vanilla Beans

December 2010 – Vanilla Extract! 

Vanilla Extract

5 vanilla beans
1 cup vodka, brandy, rum

1. Cut vanilla beans lengthwise to reveal seeds. Cut into 1.5 inch pieces. 
2. Place vanilla beans in sterilized jar. 
3. Top with alcohol of your choice. 
4. Tighten lid and wait 6-8 weeks, until alcohol has changed colour and vanilla has steeped.

Yield: One cup vanilla extract.

The jerk store called…

My husband is a caveman. Or is currently eating like one. It drives me crazy. It is an ongoing battle in our household with the battle-lines drawn over the consumption of pasta, beans and grains. In university, I was a tad bit obsessed with the Neolithic revolution, the time in history when we began to domesticate crops and finally settle in one place, when we were no longer nomadic hunters and gatherers. My husband, although not a nomad, would like to see us all return to our Paleolithic roots, some 2000 years before the Neolithic. Although he hasn’t made me give up my knives for knapped stone tools, I am half expecting this will occur sometime soon.  The irony of ironies is that I have just been hired at a high-end Italian restaurant to be one of the pasta makers. My husband gets to live with an Italian trained cook and does not want to eat pasta. The Paleo diet is driving me crazy.


Suffice to say, there has been a lot of happy, grass-fed meat consumption in our household. I seem to find empty beef jerky packages at every turn. This is not happy meat. This is salty, processed meat.  In an attempt to make happy, healthier jerky, my husband and I bought a locally raised tri-tip piece of angus beef from a nice butcher shop, Medium Rare. Using a recipe for Mexican Lime Jerky from Food and Wine magazine, we marinated the thinly sliced beef in lime juice, steam-whistle beer, and jalapenos overnight. In the morning, while we were at the market, the beef was cooked low and slow until we came home and it was chewy and beefy and all the things happy jerky should be. Personally, I do not like beef jerky, but my resident caveman gave it a wholehearted thumbs-up. 



a little pick me up…

Espresso, mascarpone, chocolate. How can you go wrong with this combination? The name tiramisu comes from the phrase tirami su, which means pull me up, or pick me up. Or fatten me up?


I made a tiramisu for a family BBQ yesterday with a recipe we used at school this semester. It turned out pretty good, my only complaint were the lady fingers (savoiardi), I bought them instead of making them and they were a bit stale and tasteless. Oh well, can’t be Martha all the time. Alas.

Tiramisu

500 g mascarpone cheese (room temperature)
6 eggs, separated
120 g sugar (about 1 1/4 cups)
cocoa powder for dusting
shaved chocolate garnish
1/2 cup espresso coffee
50 ml grand marnier
50 ml coffee liquor (I didn’t use and it turns out fine without it)

1) Mix egg yolks with half the sugar, whisk over double boiler to the ribbon stage.
2) Add mascarpone cheese to the yolk mixture.
3) Whisk egg whites to soft peaks, add sugar gradually.
4) Fold whites into yolks and cheese mixture.

Assembly:

1) Line a 7″ ring with ladyfinger cookies standing around the edges – trim cookies where necessary for even sides. (I used a spring form pan to make a very large cake – it worked fine)
2)Soak cookies in espresso coffee with liquor and place in bottom of pan to form a bottom. Add a layer of the cheese mixture and chocolate shavings. Make another layer of cookies. Add chocolate and cheese mixture. Continue to layer, ensuring the top layer is the cheese mixture.
3) Place in freezer or fridge to set.
4) Once set, bring to room temperature and sprinkle with cocoa powder and chocolate shavings. Take ring off of the cake (carefully!) and serve.