Monday, February 23, 2009

Grits take two: Mushroom ragout

Dropping in on Monday (haven't done that in a while) to remind you that you can make a meaty dinner without using any meat whatsoever. Cook this and you'll see what I mean.

Martha's version, my adaptation:



For the Broiled Polenta:
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for pan and baking sheet
1 recipe Soft Polenta

For the Mushroom Ragout:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large red onion, finely chopped
2 packages white or cremini mushrooms, halved (or quartered, if large)
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon crushed dried rosemary
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled (about 1 cup)


If you don't have prepared polenta or grits on hand, make it. Then brush an 8 1/2-x-4 1/2-in loaf pan (or any pan measuring roughly 8 x 8) lightly with oil. Pour Soft Polenta into pan; smooth top. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until chilled and firm to the touch, about 3 hours and up to 3 days. (Or you can just buy a tube of polenta (pictured left) and cut it into 1/2 inch thick rounds for this recipe.)

Meanwhile, make mushroom ragout: In a large skillet, heat oil over medium. Add onion; cook, stirring often, until soft, about 5 min. Add mushrooms; season generously with salt and pepper. Cover and cook until mushrooms release their juices, about 10 min.

Uncover pan; raise heat to high. Cook, stirring often, until liquid has evaporated and mushrooms are brown, 2 to 3 min. Add rosemary, tomato paste, and 1 1/2 cups water. Simmer until sauce has thickened, 15 to 20 min. Stir in vinegar.

Meanwhile, heat broiler. Invert polenta onto a cutting board: cut into 12 to 14 slices, each 1/2 inch thick. Brush a rimmed baking sheet with oil. Arrange slices (or rounds) in a single layer; brush with oil. Broil 4 inches from heat, without turning, until golden and browning in spots, 10 to 20 min. Divide among plates; top with mushroom ragout, and sprinkle with goat cheese.




Sunday, February 22, 2009

A trully Oscar worthy dessert

This recipe is an unequivocal hit. (Unlike the terrible The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.)

The original recipe, which bears little resemblance version to mine, involves lighting the alcohol in the pan on fire. (I'm too smart to fall for that one!) Here's the recipe:



1/2 cup toasted pecan pieces
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 cup brown sugar
1 cinnamon stick
6 bananas, peeled and sliced on the diagonal
1/4 cup dark rum


Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sugar and cinnamon and cook, whisking occasionally, until smooth, 4 to 5 min.

Gently stir in the bananas. Add the rum, and continue to boil until alcohol has evaporated (about 5 min). Remove the cinnamon stick and stir in the pecans.

Serve the bananas and sauce over vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt.

Enjoy the Oscars! Go Mickey!




Shrimp and grits

I based this recipe on Martha's "Shrimp and Tomatoes over Soft Polenta," but as one astute commenter on her site posted, "this is known as "Shrimp and Grits" down here in the Carolinas."

Even though I'm not from anywhere near the the Carolinas, I do make a distinction between polenta and grits* (polenta – cheese; grits – no cheese) hence my rechristening of this recipe as "Shrimp and Grits."

Today's recipe is also an unintentional nod to this year's best picture nominee The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Or, I am I getting that movie confused with Forest Gump? Hmm...

Here's my version of the recipe:



1 1/2 pounds frozen medium shrimp, thawed, peeled, and deveined (tails removed)
Coarse salt and ground pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
1 can (14 oz) whole cherry tomatoes, in juice
1 recipe Grits†


Season shrimp generously with salt and pepper. In a large skillet over medium-high, heat 1 tablespoon oil. Add shrimp; cook until opaque throughout, turning occasionally, 2 to 3 min. Transfer to a bowl; set aside.

Reduce heat to medium. Add remaining tablespoon oil to pan; cook garlic and red-pepper flakes until fragrant, about 1 min. Add tomatoes and their juice along with 1 cup water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes have broken down and become saucy, about 15 min.

Meanwhile, make grits. Just before serving, stir reserved shrimp into tomatoes. Divide grits into bowls and spoon shrimp and tomatoes over grits.



Coarse salt and ground pepper
3/4 cup yellow cornmeal or grits
3 tablespoons butter


In a large saucepan over high heat, bring 4 cups water with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper to a boil. Very gradually, add cornmeal in a thin stream, whisking constantly until smooth. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer, whisking often, until thickened, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in butter until smooth.

*If you are familar with Denny's grits, know that those are not true grits. (And, they taste like moist sawdust.)
†Double the recipe if you want to use the grits for tomorrow's dinner of Broiled polenta with mushroom ragout.

In preparation for tomorrow's meal, press the reserved grits into a greased 8x8-inch pan, or a standard-sized loaf pan. Cover and refrigerate.

Be sure to drop by tomorrow.




Doritos is (are?) calling...

What?! Doritos® needs my help?

If you're anything like me (and that's a big "if"), you've noticed that Doritos® has been selling "unknown flavoured" Doritos® to promote their new contest wherein you identify their new flavour and create an ad for it.

Shawn couldn't resit bringing home a bag of the anonymous Doritos®, and I couldn't resist trying them.

I was able to pinpoint the flavour right away, and conceptualize a marketing premise fairly quickly, but I've just learned that Doritos® wants a taped ad (by March 18 !) — a much bigger commitment than I was originally willing to invest.

Will I do it??? Check out the potential competition here.




Monday, February 16, 2009

Nacho average dining experience

Atelier's "nachos": From right: Cheesecake topped with sharp cheddar; salsa mousse toped with salsa paper; sour cream ice cream on tortilla crumbs with avocado paste and olive; and powdered jalapeno pepper.

I didn't post last Sunday because I was still recovering from Valentine's Day dinner out at Atelier.

Here is the review that ran in the Ottawa Citizen. I pretty much agree with everything that was written, which is refreshing for a food review, but I would like to add that "fun" does not equal "romantic" or "relaxing."

Ottawa foodies have also been discussing this experience here. And, in case you're wondering, I did eat the yellow snow.

If you don't actually go, I hope you at least read about this restaurant. I was definitely an educational experience for me, and I was so excited that I got to check out the kitchen!

My favourite: the Elivs Truffle. (That's bacon on top!)



Sunday, February 8, 2009

This week at the grocery store...

We welcomed back the coffee log. Conspicuously absent until now, it's a nice warm fire with the delicious smell of coffee and without all the hassle. Talk about sustainability!

House and Home's Mac and cheese


Ingredients (no quantities were given, so I improvised [my quantities in brackets])

Rotini noodles [1 pkg.]
Ricotta [1 tub]
35% cream [smallest carton - 250 mL]
Fresh ground black pepper
Lemon zest [of 1 lemon]
Chopped fresh dill or tarragon


Cook past, return to pot, add the other ingredients and stir. Enjoy!




Magazine (closure) round-up: Goodbye Domino

Domino photo of the Festivus Party buffet.  Menu included: Burgers, cupcakes, Popeye's chicken, Veuve Clicquot and cigarettes (?!). Note: A white plastic Christmas tree isa  prerequisite for throwing this party, and I do own one.  
(Everyone who sees it thinks it's spectacular.)

It's no secret that magazines are folding left and right these days. I also make no secret of my nasty magazine buying habit, which the worsening recession has done little to slow.  So, needless to say, I've had some nasty surprises in the last few months.

First, was the Canadian title Wish, which I frequently purchased. Timing on this one was particularly bad for me because, at the time, I was entered into a contest to win a closet makeover from Wish and Ikea. I'd taken pictures and document in a very clever way (if I do say so myself) why my closets were in desperate need of a makeover. I really thought I had a shot (I have really bad closets).

But, just last week, I got the worst news of all. I found out that, despite my best efforts, my favourite magazine, Domino, could not weather the economic storm.

While Domino was principally a design magazine, it had many features on entertaining and —consequently — food, like the photo above of its quirky and slightly inappropriate Festivus Party (no link to article), and this uniquely British Boxing Day Breakfast.

Oh, Domino, I'll always remember you (for like ever).

I'll be throwing a grilled cheese party in your memory. (All Domino fans welcome to attend. )

In the world of still living magazines. Canadian House and Home, the only magazine I have a subscription to (gifted), has a food article in this month's issue on the "25 things to eat, cook, buy and read in 2009", and I tried one of the featured recipes tonight.

The magazine also boldly declared that "Butter is the new cheese." (Just wanted to pass that along, because I thought you should know.)

Note: Wish's 20-minute supper club still lives on. If you subscribe, every now and then you'll find a recipe that you'll want to try.

Enjoy you week, and support the magazine industry!




ETA: I know, the Domino links are no longer working. That didn't take long..... :-(

Sunday, February 1, 2009

The fine art of pizza

Right to left: Festive; Caesar; Satay; and Sausage.

If you're just learning to cook, I think there's no better place to start than pizza.

The format allows you to experiment with a variety of flavors in a relatively controlled environment (generally, sauce, toppings and cheese confined to the surface area of a crust). Using a premade pizza shell takes dough making/baking out of the equation, leaving you totally free to experiment.

Behold my pizza table with flavors ranging from the tame to the exotic: