Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Tip of the week: toast your pepper



Here's a tip I picked up awhile a ago from Shopping with Chefs.

They recommend that before filling your pepper mill with those peppercorns you just picked up at the store (or spice emporium), you toast them in a skillet on the stove for a few minutes until they are fragrant.

I'm thinking this is beneficial because it releases the oils. I'm not sure, but it smells great.

Give a shot! And, while you're at it, experiment with some of the many different types of peppercorns that are out there.

Best,

kh

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Monday, April 27, 2009

Proud of Sudbury?


That's a bold statement.

But after hearing about this on a recent trip, I was definitely encouraged.

For a place that by all accounts was totally devoid of vegetation in some areas until the late seventies (read "The Greening of a Moonscape" for a history), they now seem to be doing more for sustainable farming than many larger Canadian urban centres.


Way to show 'em how it's done, Sudury!

Best,

kh

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You think the would have photoshopped the super-stack out of that picture.

A word on the latest issue of Food & Drink






























Sangria bites, Manhattan drops, Cosmopolitan meltaways, and White Russian bars (for dessert). 


It wasn't that long ago that I praised Food & Drink, the publication of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, for, among other things, not using their recipes as a means of simply getting people to buy more liquor.

So, what have they gone and done?

In the Spring 2009 issue, they devote an elaborate spread to.... Jello shots!  Gorgeous, gourmet specimens, but Jello shots all the same.

I guess, after years of fabulous free recipes, I'll have to give them a pass this one.

For those of you interested in said Jello shots, I'll include a link once they're posted.

LCBO — You're on notice.

Best,

kh

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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Book club dessert: Maple granita


This recipe is from the summer 2004 issue of Food & Drink.

MAPLE GRANITA

Ingredients

3 1/2 cups spring water (or tap water)
1/2 cup Canadian medium amber maple syrup (used 1/3 cup)
1 tsp finely diced ginger (used more — at least double)
3/4 cup lemon juice (I also added juice of 1 lime and 1 clementine)
2 cups granulated sugar (I used a little less — and substituted demerara sugar)

Garnish (optional): 
Gooseberries or blueberries + 1/4 cup fresh mint

Instructions

Whisk together water, maple syrup, ginger, lemon juice and sugar in large saucepan

Place pan over high heat and bring to boil for 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 5 min.

Remove from heat and pour into large 2-inch deep baking dish. Freeze 4 hrs or overnight.

Scoop into chilled glasses and garnish with berries and fresh mint.

Serve with Amaretti cookies.

Makes me think of all the frozen deserts I'll be making this summer. (Remember, I got an ice cream maker for Christmas.)

Best,

kh

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Book club main dish: Gumbo





Our hosts elected to make the Gumbo. Little did I or they know just what that will entail. Not only does it include a ton of spices (enough to clean out anyone's rack) including one that is apparently impossible to find in this country, it requires a chocolate roux as a base. Unlike the blond roux of past recipes (here and here), a chocolate roux can take upwards of 45 min constantly stirring, not a mere 20—25 min like the recipe states.

CHICKEN AND SMOKED SAUSAGE GUMBO

Ingredients

1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups chopped onions
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped bell peppers
1 pound smoked sausage, such as andouille or kielbasa, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch slices
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne
3 bay leaves
6 cups chicken broth
1 pound boneless chicken meat, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 tsp Rustic rub, recipe follows
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley leaves
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1 tbsp file powder*
Rustic rub:
8 tbsp paprika
3 tbsp cayenne
5 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
6 tbsp garlic powder
3 tbsp onion powder
6 tbsp salt
2 1/2 tbsp dried oregano
2 1/2 tbsp dried thyme
Combine all ingredients and store in an air-tight container.
Instructions

Combine the oil and flour in a large cast iron or enameled cast iron Dutch oven over medium heat. Stirring slowly and constantly for 20 to 25 min, make a dark brown roux, the color of chocolate. Add the onions, celery, and bell peppers and continue to stir for 4 to 5 min, or until wilted. Add the sausage, salt, cayenne, and bay leaves. Continue to stir for 3 to 4 min. Add the chicken broth. Stir until the roux mixture and water are well combined. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour.

Season the chicken with the rub and add to the pot. Simmer for 2 hours. Skim off any fat that rises to the surface. Remove from the heat. Stir in the parsley, green onions, and file powder. Remove the bay leaves and serve in deep bowls.

*Not available in Canada (and apparently there is no substitute).

The dish was fantastic, even in the absence of file powder. Still, I'll be sure not to ask for too many more favors from these people until this has blown over.

Best,

kh

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How can lunch be inspiring?

Left — Lunch; Right — Dinner.

When I first saw this recipe in an issue of Every Food magazine (surprise, surprise), I immediately thought of one of my favorite lunches — smoked salmon and cream cheese on a bagel with red onions (and capers if I'm feeling adventurous).

It's one of the only things that this die-hard brown-bagger orders from the cafeteria, so I knew the flavour combo would carry over well to pasta.

Ingredients

12 oz farfalle (bow-tie pasta)
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 small red onion, quartered and thinly sliced
2 ounces cream cheese, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup fresh dill, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons capers, drained and rinsed
4 oz smoked salmon, cut into bite-size pieces

Instructions

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente, according to package instructions. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta water. Add onion to pot; immediately drain pasta mixture, and return to pot.

Add cream cheese, dill, capers, and salmon to pasta. Toss, adding reserved pasta water a little at a time to create a thin sauce that coats farfalle (you may not need all the water). Season lightly with salt and pepper.














Best,

kh

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Book club menu side dish: Stilton scalloped potatoes


Photo from Food & Drink. 


Here is the recipe for the evening's side dish, taken from the Spring 2009 issue of Food & Drink. It went amazingly well with the gumbo.

STILTON SCALLOPED POTATOES


Ingredients

2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/4 cup flour
3 cups skim milk, warmed
1/2 cup crumbled Stilton cheese
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
3 Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
2 small sweet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
1 small onion, thinly sliced

Instructions

Heat oil over medium-high heat in sauce pan. Add flour and cook, stirring for one min. Whisk in milk slowly and continue whisking gently for about 5 min or until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and add Stilton, mustard, salt and pepper; whisk until smooth. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 375ยบ.

Alternately layer Yukon Gold and sweet potatoes and onion in lightly greased or sprayed 13 x 9-inch (3 L) casserole dish. Pour milk mixture evenly over potatoes.

Bake in oven, uncovered for about 1 hour or until potatoes are golden and brown, and tender when pierced with a knife.

Best,

kh

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Book club appetizer 2: Dukka


When you propose a menu based on an obscure early 20th-century short story/terrible early 21st- century major motion picture, don't be surprised if someone goes totally off the grid, and brings something unrelated.

This offering is from Egypt.

Here's the web definition that I received:

dukka; dukkah [DOO-kah] An Egyptian spice blend comprising toasted nuts and seeds, the combination of which varies depending on the cook. Dukka usually has hazelnuts or chickpeas as a base, along with pepper as well as coriander, cumin and sesame seeds. The ingredients are ground together until the texture is that of a coarse powder. A relative of Zahtar, Dukka is used in Egypt as a table condiment and as a dip for bread. Sprinkle over meats and vegetables or dip a chunk of your favorite bread into some good olive oil, then into the Dukka for an Egyptian inspired treat. Veggies taste great dipped in it, too!

And the recipe:

DUKKA (Denise's recipe) 

Ingredients

2/3 cup blanched almonds
4 tsp sesame seeds
2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp celery salt
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
Pinch of cayenne pepper

Instructions

In a mini-chopper, grinder, or food processor, grind the almonds into small pieces. Add the other ingredients and mix well.

Serve in a small plate along with good quality olive oil and fresh crusty bread.

Notes: Dukka can be kept in a covered container for up to one month in the pantry or three months in the freezer. The version I tried was made with non-blanched, roasted, non-salted almonds. Potluck is about inclusion; all comers are welcomed with open arms.

Best,

kh

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Shrimp Dip

Here is my Gump-esque contribution to the Benjamin Button book club potluck. (This one is a big potluck favourite.)

SHRIMP DIP FOR NACHOS

Ingredients

1 brick cream cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 pound tiny shrimps
1 cup (or 1 standard sized jar) cocktail sauce
2 cups grated mild or medium cheddar cheese
3 green onions, chopped
2 plum tomatoes, diced

Instructions

Mix together cream cheese, sour cream and mayonnaise, and spread mixture over the bottom of a deep plate.

Then layer: shrimps, cocktail sauce, cheese, tomato and green onions.

Serve with round nacho chips.














Notes: As you can probably tell from the photos, I doubled the recipe. Because of the hidden seafood in this recipe, it's best to warn everybody beforehand.

Best,

kh

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Can movies be inspiring?


The kitchn.com proves they can. Even bad ones. For the last few years, around Oscar time, they post recipes inspired by the year's best in film. This year's offering, entire menus centered on each nominated film, is nothing short of brilliant.  (This is the post I wish I could have written.)

I had the occasion  to sample one of the dishes from their The Curious Case of Benjamin Button menu on Sunday, at the dinner meeting of my office's book club. I had suggested we read the short story on which the film is based (by my favourite author) at our Christmas lunch amid much hype about the upcoming movie.

Talk about things you regret doing at the office Christmas party!

The story as spare as it is, is still fascinating, but I thought the movie was terrible — uncomfortably reminiscent of Forrest Gump.

That, however didn't stop me from forging ahead with a Benjamin Button/New Orleans theme for our potluck-style get together.

I will be posting everyone's contribution. (They mostly stuck to the script.)

Best,

kh

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Tip of the week: donuts are easy


It's true. You don't any confidence, skill, more than 4 ingredients, a deep fryer, or even very much oil.

From Real Simple, here's what you do need:

EASY DONUTS

Ingredients

3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 8-count package large refrigerated biscuits (such as Pillsbury Grands)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Instructions

Heat 1/2 cup of the oil in a medium skillet over medium-low heat.

Place the biscuits on a cutting board. Using a 1-inch round cookie cutter or shot glass, cut a hole in the center of each biscuit, reserving the extra dough for "holes."

Test the heat of the oil by dipping the edge of a doughnut in the pan. When the oil is hot enough, the edge will bubble. Place 4 of the doughnuts and holes in the skillet and cook until golden brown, 1 to 1 1/2 min per side. Transfer to a wire rack or paper towel–lined plate to drain. Add the remaining oil to the skillet, reheat, and cook the remaining doughnuts and holes.

In a large bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon. Gently toss the warm doughnuts in the mixture a few at a time. Serve warm or at room temperature.


Notes: My wooden tongs worked famously for turning without mangling.  My grocery store didn't have the Grands Biscuits, so I used their Flaky Rolls (worked great!). If your having these the next day, they're better if you microwave them for about 10 seconds.

Best,

kh

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Thursday, April 9, 2009

Tip of the week: Class up your Sloppy Joes...


Sloppy Joe mix (not sure if "mix" is the right term), on fresh baked ciabatta buns topped with avocado slices — it dosn't get much better than that.

A big thanks to Martha for introducing the avocado into the mix.

Try this, and I think you'll agree: the Sloppy Joe needs the avocado.

Best,

kh

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Sunday, April 5, 2009

Cataloguing inspiration


Nothing is quite so inspiring as the first days of spring. Especially when you live in Canada. (see the Snowmageddon posts.)

I, however am inspired by a lot of different things, and everything I cook is based on inspiration of some form.

By far, my biggest day-to-day influence is magazines.

I've spoken about my love of magazines before. But I haven't confessed that my loves extends as far as cutting them up and cataloguing their contents by recipe type in nine water-resistant volumes on a yearly basis. That might sound a little obsessive and time consuming (it is), but trust me many of these recipes would be lost to me if I didn't do this.












Tools of trade: Scissors or a paper cutter, three-ring binders with spine labels, card stock, a glue stick, sheet covers (to protect the recipes while cooking), patience.  

There are many other things that influence my cooking, but you tell me: What inspires you in the kitchen?

Best,

kh

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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Cooking with Coolio



I can't hold back any longer. I have to post about my new favourite web cooking series — Cooking with Coolio.

Check it out here. (I had to link to the the webisode with the kid in it because it's the only one without extreme profanity. So you've been warned.)

Hey, Coolio, I'm still waiting on that autographed bell pepper...

ETA: Yes, this was meant as an April Fool's joke. (No need to be concerned.)