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Foodie and the Everyman

Tortiere Grandmere

Tortiere

I’ve been dreaming about getting my hands on my French Canadian grandmother’s tortiere recipe for years, possibly decades, now that I come to think of it.

But it wasn’t until they moved Mamere from one nursing home to another earlier this year that someone finally found a copy of the original to send out to all of the kids and the kids of their kids.  I’ve been itching to make it ever since, but the idea of a hearty, meaty pie didn’t really jive with our warmer than usual Ontarian fall.

So, now that it’s starting to be cold weather eating season, it seemed more than appropriate to give the old girl a whirl.  What you see above is a rather decimated version of Antoinette’s tortiere; I didn’t have the presence of mind to take a picture for myself until after we’d already dug in.  No matter.  It will wow you all the same.

The original made 4 pies, but I have scaled the recipe down and added bay leaf for a little extra whiff, other than that, it is as she wrote it down, many years ago.  Bon appetit!

Tortiere Grandmere

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To Your Health

100% Whole Wheat

Bread class this week was a trip down a path a little more ascetic than usual, with a pair of 100% whole wheat loaves and a double of compact spelt ones to keep them company.

Even though the 100% whole wheat was quite dense, the addition of vital wheat gluten helped to make it relatively springy, though nowhere near the unnatural bounciness of a loaf of one of those grocery store spotted foil bag wheat breads.

Spelt

The spelt, on the other hand, never really rose up much, but its flavour is peerless.  I’m envisioning using the second flat loaf for a round of hors d’oeuvres crostini, since the first one went to work with the Everyman and a few jars of jam.

One of the things that I’ve been able to do since I started taking bread classes again is to build up quite a reserve of fancy loaves in our freezer.  At this very moment I have 5 or 6 ready to spring into action, and all they need is 10 minutes in a 350* oven to make them taste just like new.  It’s the dirty little secret of the bread baker’s world, but bread tends to be frozen a lot more often than you’d think.

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Little Pockets Of Nom

After

After whipping up all that homemade pumpkin mash for the sweet buns earlier this week, I started looking for ways to use up the litre of excess puree that were a little more out of the ordinary.

Pondering what might be the optimal pumpkin delivery system, I settled on a filling for handmade ravioli that would combine it with creme fraiche, roasted garlic and fresh thyme; all things that I had kicking around in my fridge that also happened to sound vaguely complimentary.  Deciding on a course of action, I prepared the filling and left it to chill in the fridge for a few hours to firm up a bit.

Once I’d whipped the filling into a lather, I dug my hand crank out of a drawer and set to work rolling out gossamer sheets of dough.  Being that I don’t make stuffed pastas too often, my technique is a little less than stellar, yielding ravioli of varying shapes and sizes, but personally I think that makes them look all the more authentically handmade.

Two imperative things to note when making your own ravioli;

1) Resist the urge to over-stuff your ravioli, because it will come back to bite you later

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This Just In: Turkey Day Treats

Salted Caramel Pumpkin Rolls

Our friends to the south will celebrate American Thanksgiving tomorrow, so with that in mind, I’ve whipped up a batch of salted caramel pumpkin pie rolls that would be equally at home on a breakfast plate or a dessert platter.

It all started when I found a small pie pumpkin lurking at the back of my overstuffed fridge on the weekend.  After brainstorming and rejecting my initial thoughts on its usage (pumpkin chocolate chip bars) I settled on the idea to make cinnamon rolls (which the Everyman loves) but tinge them festive and orange with pumpkin and pie spices. After googling for a while, I came across several recipes that had elements of what I was after, but no hard and fast winner.  Instead, I decided to come up with my own.

First, I roasted the pie pumpkin cut-side down until it was collapsed and yielding.  Once it had cooled a little, I ran it through the food processor until it had the consistency of baby food.  I’ve often wondered why homemade pumpkin puree is a light ochre-ish yellow and the stuff you get in a can comes out technicolor orange.  After pondering this for a bit, I’ve arrived at the hypothesis that they grind the whole pumpkin up, rind and all to obtain such a vibrant hue.

Incorporating my puree into a basic sweet dough, I left it to bulk ferment for an hour while I roasted some things in duck fat and salad spun some other things.  Some of the rest of this pumpkin mush will be making an appearance in another dish later this week, too.

When I returned, the dough was rolled out on a floured counter, brushed with copious amounts of butter and sprinkled with a brown sugar-based spice blend.  Rolled into a tube, it was sliced and placed in a silcone pan and left to final proof on top of the oven.

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Bread Porn 2.0

I know.  It’s been a long time.  I shouldn’t have left you without a few eats to tempt you.

So, how’ve you been?

Me?  I’ve been swell, if more than a little tired as of late.

It occurred to me that perhaps it’s about time to share with you what I’ve been up to these past 10 weeks…

As I think I mentioned the last time I stopped by, I’ve been in school.  What I didn’t say was that I’ve been working towards my artisan baker’s certificate!  I’m doing this on top of my boring day job, and after a week or two, I began to wonder how so many people manage to do this without burning out or breaking down.  Needless to say, I was on the cusp of both of those options for a while, but, as the weeks have passed, I’ve slowly but surely been working my way into a routine and now it’s almost getting to feel normal.

Allow me to take you through a retrospective of the delicious things I’ve churned out over the past 10 weeks;

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Back, Back, The Bitch Is Back!

Hope you’re ready, because I know I am…

Until next time…

It’s Not You…

It’s me!

No, seriously though.

I’m sorry it’s been so long between updates, really I am!  Rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated.

Since I signed off in early July, a few small but significant things have happened.

1) I finally started to drive (and before I turned 30, too!)

2) I have gone back to school (albeit part time)

The ability to do one was precipitated by the other of course, but knowing that I would be going back to school in the fall, I wanted to take the time off this summer to enjoy myself a little, before my whole world as I knew it went sideways.

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Gimme My Burrata!

Beets, Burrata, Etc

When the Everyman and I were in Chicago recently, we went to a restaurant called The Publican for dinner that we’d heard amazing things about.

One of the items they had on their menu that I absolutely had to order was a chilled beet and burrata salad, because a girl can never have too much burrata.

Imagine my dismay when the plate set before me was covered with daubs of ricotta cheese instead (and I like ricotta!)

Receiving no explanation as to why there was no burrata, I half-heartedly ate my salad, all the while inwardly sulking over the missing cheese.  Had the place been less packed and frantic, I would have said something about it, but it hardly seemed worth the fuss at the time.

Since then, I’ve been unable to get that combination off my mind.  So, after a trip to Cheese Boutique this week, I decided to recreate it myself.

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Jealousy, Thy Name Is Greek Freak Tomato

Jumpin' Jehosephat!

Our garden this year has been somewhat of a bust.

While the weather has been continuously warm and sunny all summer long, only the hot peppers, beets, chard and sunchokes have deemed it permissible to come on in full force for 2010.

So, I’m sure you can understand how green with (familial) jealousy I was when the Everyman’s sister in law presented us with 3 monstrous specimens from this year’s Greek Freak crop.

If you can’t see it clearly from that photo, that tomato clocks in at 2 pounds, 2 1/8 ounces.  Yowza!  It’s 2 accompanying brothers, while smaller, still helped tip the scale to over 4 pounds total.

Let’s just say with the piddly crop we’ve got on our roof, I was only too grateful to have something this magnificent put into my hand (and sandwich).

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Like A Modern Day Willy Wonka

Dessert

It’s been a while, I know.

Which is why I thought it was high time to pass along some poorly lit food porn photos.

You see, last week I had the opportunity to dine at Alinea in Chicago.

I’m not going to let all the goodies out of the bag yet, but I had to share this photo of one of the (more visible) sweeter courses on our tasting menu.

The reddish disc in the background was called a raspberry transparency, which was a lot like a fancy stained glass fruit roll-up.  The tube in the foreground was filled with hibiscus jam, vanilla creme fraiche and bubblegum flavoured tapioca pearls and to eat it, you grabbed the tube and sucked it back in one big gulp, before it started shooting out the opposite end.

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Curiouser And Curiouser

Multicolour

One of the neat things about being a novice gardener is that I am constantly filled with wonder at the simplest things.

This pea plant us just one such instance.

As you can see, it has 4 separate blooms near the top, but for some odd reason (which you may not be able to clearly discern from the photo) the blooms themselves are several not all the same colour.  One of the blooms is fuchsia pink, while another is a royal purple, and yet a third is a light lilac.

For some reason this intrigues me to no end.  Here, a close up look at the lilac bloom.

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The Orca Bean

Orca

Quite possibly the strangest and most beautiful bean flowers I’ve ever seen.  It’s rare to see true black in nature, but this here is it.

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Mana’ From Rana

Manakeesh

Though I’d heard of the middle eastern spice mix za’atar many times before, it wasn’t until earlier this year that I truly started to see its potential.

Za’atar is a blend of spices generally comprised of sumac, toasted sesame seeds, thyme, cumin and salt, though recipes differ depending on where in the middle east they come from. Back when I was reviewing Good Food For All for Taste T.O. one of the dishes I sampled was a za’atar-spiked chicken burger, which (incidentally was fantastic) left me with a cupful of the blend to continue using afterwards.

But as much as I enjoyed using za’atar in western preparations, it wasn’t until a Lebanese friend educated me about her culture and food that I learned some of the ways that they would use it traditionally.  One afternoon when we ordered food from a Lebanese restaurant, I fell head over heels in love with a flatbread-like object called manakeesh.  Slathered with labneh and sprinkled with za’atar, it was a doughy delight unlike any I’d ever tasted before, sort of like a cross between a pizza and a toasted bagel slathered with cream cheese.  Ever since that moment I have craved these za’atar and labneh manakeesh on nearly a weekly basis, but the restaurant is a fair distance from my house.

But on Meatless Monday this week I decided I wanted to make something to accompany our asparagus, fig and parmagiano salad, and I happened to have a ball of my frozen pizza dough on hand, so I thawed it out and stretched it into a large round.  It didn’t take long to connect the dots and add the strained yogurt that I normally eat for breakfast and a liberal amount of za’atar to the unbaked pie.  A quick rest in the oven was all it took for it to get puffy and golden brown.  It wasn’t a purist’s manakeesh by any stretch of the imagination, but man, it was still freakin’ gold.

I think Rana would be proud.

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