Posts Tagged ‘Cooking’

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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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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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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A Collaborative Effort

Veggie Risotto

Though it didn’t start out that way, this week’s Meatless Monday dinner ended up being an incongruous amalgamation of several ideas and recipes.

Firstly, I wanted something relatively quick that wouldn’t heat up the kitchen too much.  That immediately put my original plan of revisiting last week’s awesome potato salad out of the running because the spuds needed to be oven roasted.

Next, I considered peas because I’d spent all that time shucking 2 quarts of them on Sunday, so I might as well use them before they went bad.

From there my mind wandered to risotto, and initially settled on a light spring pea and parmagiano version.

But before long I started to recall the delightfully nutty braised fennel I’d made courtesy of a Serious Eats recipe (initially sampled for a pared down version of the pizza minus anisette cream, which by the way makes one outstanding pie!).

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The Accidental Salad

Warm Salad

For Meatless Monday this week, the Everyman was out of town on business, but flying home late that night.

I promised him I would set a plate aside for him, so the obvious question became what could I make that would keep relatively well for an indeterminate period of time?

After pondering for a little bit, I recalled 2 things.  One was the warm potato salad that we both loved at last year’s Outstanding In The Field dinner and the other was a potato and bean salad that I tested while reviewing Earth To Table.  I couldn’t remember much about either, except that a) they were warm, b) they both contained potatoes and c) they came with light, yet creamy dressings.

Given that I was in no mood to excavate my way through the stacks of cookbooks in my house to find Earth To Table (you know you have too many books, when…) I decided to improvise.

Both dishes used fingerlings but I didn’t have any, so instead I cubed a few yukon golds and quartered some shallots and tossed them in some coffee olive oil, then roasted in the oven for an hour.  When they were getting close to being done I melted a little high milkfat artisan butter in a pan until it foamed, then quickly sauteed half a pound of chopped asparagus until it turned emerald, then left it to get slightly blistered and browned.  Removing the pan from the heat, I sprinkled close to half a cup of freshly shelled peas in and let the residual heat of the pan turn them bright green, too.  Next I combined all the veggies in a bowl and tossed with a simple white wine dijon vinaigrette made puckery tart by the addition of a splash of barley vinegar.

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This White’s Alright

The White Stuff

Around this time last year I vaguely recall coming across Annemarie Conte’s glowing description of something called white barbecue sauce over on The NY Times Diner’s Journal that apparently “transforms chicken”.

I am nothing if not an equal opportunity barbecue fanatic, so at the time I eagerly filed it away under the yummy recipes bookmark folder I keep, and then proceeded to forget all about it for the next 9 months.

On Thursday morning, I was trying to decide what I wanted the Everyman to make for our weekly dinner ritual (having already mentioned the possibility of chicken when he asked me the day before) and for whatever reason, I woke up thinking about this white barbecue sauce.  I don’t know why; honestly, I hadn’t given the recipe even a passing thought since I read it last year, but all of a sudden, only the promise of white barbecued chicken would do.  I floated the idea by the Everyman and he seemed game, so I went about retrieving the recipe.

Of course, oddly enough when I went back to the bookmark, the see additional recipe section (which contained the actual white barbecue sauce recipe) was inexplicably missing.  The only recipe I had was for the brine the chicken soaks in, while the hyperlinks to the barbecue sauce recipe had completely disappeared.  Immediately, my heart sank.  After nearly half an hour dejectedly sifting through Google, I finally came across a cached version of the recipe, followed by the discovery of several other variations on the theme.  It was then that I learned that white barbecue is a regional style characteristic of Alabama, one that is distinctly different from the ketchup, mustard or vinegar-based barbecue sauces that people are generally more familiar with from regions of their own around the south.  Sensing that there was no one true recipe, I decided to amalgamate several recipes that looked good into one and hope for the best once it was all done.

That night, the Everyman soaked a package of meaty chicken legs in Conte’s suggested brine, while I offered to tinker with the sauce.  After a few additions and taste tests, I arrived at a white sauce that was rich, tangy, creamy and fairly spicy that was unlike anything I’d ever tasted before.  At that point I knew we were on to something.  After our meat had marinated a bit, the Everyman threw the brined legs on the barbecue and cooked them until they achieved a nicely crisped and crackled crust.  Pulling the chicken legs off the heat, I immediately dunked them into the white sauce and went in for the taste test.

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The Custom BBQ Rub: Take Two

The Rub

Last year during grilling season we discussed the extent of my stupidity when it comes to writing shit down.

And last year I also failed to experiment with recreating the magical spice blend because I was so distraught over the whole ridiculous matter.

But, this year I decided it was high time to jump back on the horse and try again.  And because occasionally I do learn from my mistakes, I also took the liberty of writing it all down.

It’s not quite the same, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction.  A sniff test next to a sample of the original does come closer than anything else I imagined, though after re-reading some other posts from last year I’m convinced there is no celery seed but ajowan instead, and that the thyme should really be epazote.  I added a few new things to the blend this time too, like the chicory and roasted paprika and I think they may account for the variance.

Foodie’s BBQ Rub (The Second)

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Just Think Of The Glass As Half Full

Veggie Heads

I’m not going to lie.

When I first decided to try this whole eating more vegetarian meals thing, I was more than a little concerned about whether I would actually be able to pull it off.

As a life long meat eater, I’ve had a tendency to look at the vegetarian option as the deprivational meal, rather than something that might be delicious in its own right.  Of course, that kind of thinking is deleterious to the cause and doesn’t do anyone any good because you’re defeated before you even begin.

Nearly 2 months in, I’ve changed my tune substantially.  Rather than trying to come up with meals that I wouldn’t mind eating if I omitted the meat, I’ve instead turned to ones that I already know I’ll enjoy that (hey, wait a sec) also happen to be meat free.  We’ve done creamy polenta, Trinidadian doubles, homemade pastas, veggie burgers, pizzas and more.  And the more I do it, the more Meatless Monday ideas pop into my head.  For instance, risotto is meatless as long as you cook it in a vegetarian broth.  Homemade noodles and cheese laced with sriracha can be, too.  Perogies are generally meat-free.  A grilled veg and cheese panini can do the job as well.  And the list goes on and on.

So, on this Monday, or the next Monday or any Monday really, why don’t you give the meatless lifestyle a try?  You’re not scared, are you?

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And I Killed Some Prawns, Just To Watch Them Die

See The Whites Of Their Eyes

As someone who developed a fairly serious allergy to most varieties of shellfish during the past few years (severe enough that I now carry an epi-pen) I don’t often consume much in the way of shellfish.

But last year, after eating smoked prawns at The Black Hoof, I fell head over heels in love with one of the few crustaceans I’m still capable of eating.  BC spot prawns are generally sold fresh (read: alive) and are only available for a few brief months each year, starting in May and usually stretching through to July or August.  I can’t quite explain it, but there is something so much more creamy, sweet and delicately briny about spot prawns than any other shellfish I’ve ever sampled before.  Being that they also don’t induce anaphylaxis in me doesn’t hurt either.

I’ve tried in vain to find them frozen on several occasions, only to come up empty handed.  A few weeks ago when I searched for them at the St Lawrence Market, 2 out of 3 fishmongers had no idea what I was even asking for and the third outright said they didn’t carry them.  Faced with being at a loss for a second season in a row, I half-heartedly reached out to the obsessives on Chowhound who were surprisingly adept at pinpointing several places in the GTA that could help a sister out (I’ve had mixed success with reaching out for help on Chowhound, so I honestly wasn’t expecting much).  Most of the suggestions were out of the way for this non-driver, in the burbs of Scarborough and such, but one happened to be right downtown.  The T&T Supermarket on Cherry St even had spot prawns advertised in their circular, so I emphatically coerced the Everyman into letting me take my practice drive for the day over to said grocery store.

Once we got there, we found a large tank at the back of the store teeming with the vibrant pink beauties.  The tank was overcrowded though, so the spot prawns didn’t seem as lively as I had expected them to be, though they were certainly still alive.  Asking for 2 pounds, the fishmonger deftly scooped them out of the tank with a net, which set the previously docile prawns to wildly thrashing about.  Once bagged and tagged, I didn’t waste much time before exiting the store and returning home.  Live stuff generally doesn’t stay alive for long when trapped in a small plastic bag.  As a last ditch effort at giving me the finger, the spikiness of the prawns managed to pierce a hole in their bag unbeknownst to me and leak seawater all over the floor mat of my car.  Note to future intrepid purchasers of live prawns – always place them into a cooler or some other hard bottomed storing device when travelling, so as not to suffer the same fate, unless you enjoy washing floor mats for fun.

At home, I had no concept of how to prepare live prawns, and after turning to the internet I was faced with the realization that I had to rip off their heads.  The picture above is what was left of the prawn heads once I accomplished that task; an experience I found more than a little chilling since they were still moving about.

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We Is Like Peas And Carrots

Mine

For Meatless Monday, I thought it would be fun to try meatless pizzas for a dinner that would be vegetarian without feeling spartan or limiting.

When the Everyman and I used to live at our old house, we did pizza nights all the time because we had a grocery store in the bottom of our building with hot and cold running toppings at our fingertips.  We still occasionally make homemade pizza, but prepping dough tends to require advance planning, so it’s generally not as often as either of us would like to.  Yet every time we do, I kick myself for not thinking to do it more often because aside from dough time it’s a quick, easy dinner that’s adaptable to any variety of tastes and styles.

Yesterday I was on the ball (both literally and figuratively) and mixed up a batch of dough before leaving for work, so by the time we got home all that was required was to warm the dough to room temperature, preheat the pizza stones and determine what would make for a tasty veggie combo.  After discussing just that on the drive home, it sounded like a more prudent idea would be to make 2 individual pizzas suited to our unique tastes rather than trying to compromise on 1 larger veggie pizza.  While the Everyman ran out for some last minute extra cheese, I assembled a toppings bar for us to build our ideal pizzas.

My pizza (above) is like me; complex, off-beat and unique.  It begins with a blend of pesto and blue cheese forming a tangy green base, then it’s scattered with asparagus tips, smushed figs and bocconcini.  A shower of mozzarella shreds, cracked pepper and oregano finish it off.  It wasn’t until after the pizza was done that I realized I’d accidentally left off the shiitake mushrooms I re-hydrated.  No matter.  This pizza was a thin crust marvel, and though non-traditional, it struck just the right balance between savoury and sweet for me.

His

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Bastardized Pasta

Cavatelli or Capunti

For a long time now I’ve had a growing fascination with Italian cuisine, namely pasta in particular.

I constantly marvel at the innumerable shapes and sizes of pastas that Italy has created, and the myriad uses they have unique to each one.  For at least 6 months I’ve wanted to take a course that would teach me more about the intricacies of a subject I know precious little about, but as far as I can tell, such a course does not exist.  It’s unsurprising really, as I’ve noticed that Italians generally tend to be quite cagey when it comes to passing on their culinary know how to non-familial brethren.  If you are lucky enough to gain mentorship, I bet you sure as hell had to prove yourself first.  I’ve not yet found a person who thinks I’m worthy of what is to most a cultural birthright and so I continue on, on my own.  Perhaps when I make it to Italy one day I will track down a willing nonna who will share all her secrets with me.  One can always dream!

Barring any sort of official instruction, I’ve been messing around with pasta dough on my own more and more lately.  I’ve been meaning to buy the Encyclopedia Of Pasta ever since it came out, but my local bookseller never has it in stock and it’s definitely the kind of tome I want to page through before I buy it, just so I can make sure it’s really what I’m after.

In the meantime, I’ve been perfecting my stamped and ribbon pastas on and off for the past few months, so last night I thought I’d try something completely different.  Using Ruhlman’s pasta ratio I prepared 4 servings of dough in the morning and left them to rest in the fridge all day.  When I arrived home I started the basics of a red meat sauce on the stove by combining half a jar of my home canned tomato sauce with a lingering hothouse tomato, 4 grated zucchinis and half a pound of ground beef.  While the sauce simmered, I split the dough in half and began rolling out long, snaky tubes.  Snipping them down into 1 inch lengths, I rolled them a bit longer and thinner between my palms, then used a bench scraper to gently drag the dough nubs across the surface of the table until it formed either cavatelli or capunti.  I can’t say with certainty which one I made because so many pastas are so nuanced that they have only the faintest whisper of difference between them.  In this case, I think what I made is capunti, because I’m pretty sure cavatelli is usually made with a ricotta enriched dough.  As you can see from the above photo, some turned out rather well while others are an embarrassment to real pasta.  For a first attempt though I thought they were magical, and once they floated to the top of the briny, boiling water, I tossed them in a meaty tomato sauce and allowed the whole to soak in a little bit.

Like fingerprints, they’re all a little different, but definitely not quite perfect just yet.  The fun part about experimenting with pasta (or anything, really) is that in the end you can just eat your mistakes.

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Do Me A Fava, Will Ya?

The Raw Shit

When I was at the market this past weekend, 2 of the other luxuries of spring that I came across were fresh fava beans and fiddleheads.

To the best of my knowledge I’ve never eaten a fresh fava bean before; I’m actually trying to grow purple favas on the roof, but in the meantime these seemed like an acceptable substitute to test drive.  And we all know how much I love fiddleheads, so of course I had to buy some of those too.  Is there anything that signifies spring more than these dainty and curly ferns?

But soon after I paid for the goods, the question became what to do with such delicate beauties?

The asparagus bounty was easy enough to tackle, and in a move I’m not necessarily proud of (yet wouldn’t do any differently if I had to do it over) the Everyman and I consumed 4 pounds of the stuff in less than 72 hours.  In case you’re wondering, that’s a heck of a lot of asparagus salad.  It was only a pound that went into this dish, courtesy of our most recent Meatless Monday.

Over a gentle simmer I combined milk, veggie stock and water in a pot.  Then I added a cup and a half of polenta and began the furious stir.  As it approached a bubblingly critical mass, I briefly stopped churning and grated a few ounces of mixed cheeses (pecorino pepato, 1608, manchego and mozzarella) into a pile that was then incorporated into the polenta.  Allowing it to cool and firm up slightly, I sautéed a pound of asparagus with some fiddleheads, fava beans and a few sliced mini red peppers for colour.

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First Meals Of Spring

Figgy Deliciousness

Every year for Mother’s Day, the Everyman and I go to a brunch buffet with all of his extended family at his grandfather’s golf club in the K-W.

And every year, we come home from these smörgåsbords of deliciousness full of so much good food to the point of illness, as does most everyone else in the family.

Of course, this year was no different, and even I gorged myself on buttery soft rare roast beef, oodles of chilled shrimp and mounds of pea and asparagus salad.  Generally, after these events if we end up eating dinner, it’s bound to be something light.

Several hours after the feasting, the only thing I felt up to was the gentle taste of spring.  Luckily for me I’d made a stop at the St. Lawrence Market on Saturday, and picked up 4 pounds of asparagus and a few pints of figs, among other things.  Sautéing a few pounds of stalks in a beurre noisette until they bloomed a vibrant green, they were then tossed with salt, pepper, halved figs, parmagiano shavings and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.  If you wanted to add some more protein to it, you could always wend a few slivers of prosciutto around the spears, but personally, I love it just the way it is.

Vive le printemps!

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