Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Potluck


Do you have a favourite potluck dish?  At work we have an annual potluck for the holidays.  I know they’re not everybody’s favourite, but I like them, probably because I enjoy cooking.  The only problem is we don’t have access to an oven at work and if possible I like to avoid the cues for the microwave leading up to the party.  That means the options can be pretty limited.  So what can I bring that’s easy to commute with on the train and something a little more exciting then dip? 

Monday, November 29, 2010

Wild Mushroom and Gruyere Tart

Saturday Bri and Beth came for dinner. I had to cater to one vegetarian and a pregnant lady (not me) who has an aversion to tomato sauce.

After some consultation with Jenna (another food lover who was planning her own dinner), I decided on butternut squash soup, a wild mushroom and gruyere tart with herb salad. Oh, and Beth brought over the most delicious shortbread and chocolate chip squares.







Thank you Bon Appetite for the tart recipe!

Butternut squash soup:

Ingredients:

1 Butternut squash
1 Onion, chopped
2 Celery stalks, chopped
1 Tbs of olive oil
1 Tbs of butter
1 Pear, chopped
4 Cups of vegetable stock (or chicken)
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400F.

Cut squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Pierce squash all over and place in dish with about a little water flesh side down and bake for about 40 minutes or until flesh is soft.
Meanwhile, cook onion and celery and nutmeg in olive oil and butter until onion is slightly brown. Add squash and pear to onion mixture and about vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Let simmer until pear in soft. Puree and serve.


The funny thing is I had one more vegetable in the soup but I don’t know what it was! I thought I was buying celery root but as I cut it up I realized the texture was off and once I tasted it I really knew it was something else. I still have no clue.


For the Wild Mushroom and Gruyere Tart:

Ingredients:

Tart

1/2 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
1 large egg yolk
2 Tsp plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 Cup of sour cream
1 1/2 pounds assorted fresh wild mushrooms (such as chanterelle, oyster, or stemmed shiitake), sliced
2 Tsp fresh thyme leaves
1 Tbs butter
1 ½ Cups of green onions, thinly sliced on diagonal
1 Sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 Large egg yolk, beaten to blend with 1 teaspoon water (for glaze)
4 ounces thinly sliced Gruyere cheese

Salad

6 Tbs fresh Italian parsley leaves
1/3 Cup 1/2-inch pieces fresh chives
3 Tbs fresh tarragon leaves
1 Bunch of Arugula
2 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tsp fresh lemon juice

For tart:

Puree ricotta in processor until smooth, about 1 minute. Add 1 yolk and 2 teaspoons oil and blend. Transfer ricotta mixture to bowl; fold in crème fraîche.

Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and sauté 7 minutes. Mix in thyme. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add butter and sauté until mushrooms are tender, about 4 minutes longer. Mix in green onions.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Roll out puff pastry on lightly floured surface to 13x9-inch rectangle. Using sharp knife and starting 1/4 inch in from edge, cut score line around entire perimeter of dough, cutting halfway through. Brush 1/4-inch dough border with glaze. Transfer dough to ungreased heavy baking sheet. Spread ricotta mixture over dough, inside border. Top with half of mushrooms, half of Gruyère, then remaining mushrooms and Gruyère. Bake tart until crust is golden and Gruyère melts, about 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare salad:

Toss herbs with oil and lemon juice in small bowl. Season with salt and pepper.

Cut tart into rectangles. Transfer to plates. Garnish with herb salad.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Crepe Kitchen


Phil and I went here for brunch on Saturday.  Really enjoyed the cozy atmosphere with press back chairs and antique collectibles on the wall.  And of course the smell of crepes really adds to the overall coziness of the place. 



They serve french press coffee and tea in china teapots.  As a tea drinker I really love that.  They have a huge selection of savory and sweet crepes.  I wasn't sure what I was in the mood for so I chose one in between and had "Ed's Choice" with Brie, strawberries and sugar.  Phil had the "Spanish" crepe with Chorizo, peppers, potato and cheese. 

The service was excellent and it was Ed himself who served us.  He noticed Phil and I sharing our two crepes and said to let them know next time so they can split them up for us and serve the savory first followed by the sweet.  What service!

$35 for two crepes, coffee and a tea.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Happy Weekend!


One of my favourite parts of the weekend is having breakfast with Phil. Usually prepared by him, but since he’s been painting the house almost every weekend I’ve taken on the responsibility of keeping him fed.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Sausage, Mushroom and Fennel Tortellini

This was both tasty and warming. I used my Favourite Spicy Italian sausages from Boffo’s and bought fresh pasta from the grocery store. Such a great quick and easy weeknight meal.




Thanks Bon Appetite for the recipe!


Ingredients:

Fresh cheese tortellini
1 fennel bulb, trimmed, halved through core, thinly sliced lengthwise
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 Tbs of olive oil
3 sausages, casing removed and sausage crumbled
1 8-ounce package of Cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 Tbs of fennel seeds, ground/crushed
½ Cup of heavy whipping cream
1 Cup of chicken broth
1 5-ounce package of fresh spinach leaves
½ Cup of finely grated Parmesan cheese (plus more for serving)
Salt and pepper, to taste

Heat olive oil on medium-high in large skillet pan. Add sliced fennel bulb, sausage, mushrooms; sauté until sausage is brown and cooked through and fennel is almost tender, 12-15 minutes. Add garlic and fennel seeds; stir 1 minute. Stir in cream, then 1 cup of broth; boil until liquid is reduced and very slightly thickened, 2 to 2 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the tortellini in a large pot with salted boiling water. Drain tortellini and return to same pot.

Add sausage mixture to tortellini in pot. Toss over medium heat until blended. Add spinach; toss gently until spinach wilts. Stir in ½ cup of cheese; Add more broth by ¼ cup of mixture to moisten is dry. Season with salt and pepper and add more cheese.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

I'm not very good at this


Any experts who are willing to pass on tips on how to use a slow cooker? It’s supposed to be easy, but I can’t seem to figure out how much liquid to add and my dishes are turning out runny.


I made short ribs on Monday night and I added too much beef broth. I ended up having to reduce it on the stove top and I also added some barley to thicken it. Something else I noticed was it was a little fatty. I’m not sure if that’s something you have to be careful of when using a slow cooker or it was from the bacon I added to the dish.

The final product was tasty, but I’ll wait until I get the hang of it to pass along my recipes. I feel like this is something I need to figure out before the baby comes.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Homemade Holiday Scents

 
Potpourri can bother my eyes after awhile and I find the smell can be overpowering, so a natural scent you can make yourself seems perfect. Notes from the Republic has a great recipe.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Stocking Stuffers

If you don't have one of these get one immediately.  Used for grating/zesting Parmesan, lemon, coconut and garlic.  You can get the fancy pants kind at William - Sonoma but Kitchen Stuff plus has one for half the price and just as good.  I often see them at Home Sense as well.

p.s. now you know how much cheese I really put on my pasta. Actually, I don't think I was finished grating yet. 

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Victorian Barbeque Sauce


 Jen was kind enough to share a jar of her homemade BBQ sauce.  This isn't the BBQ sauce you're used to, you serve it like a chutney along the side of meats rather then cook with it.  The flavour is hard to describe.  It almost reminds me of the mince pies my granny used to make.
Here it is: 

(from Bernardin Complete Book of Home Preserving)  - makes about 4 pint jars

8 cups chopped rhubarb
2 1/2 cups lightly packed brown sugar
1 1/2 cups raisins
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup white vinegar
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp salt

Prepare canner, jars and lids.

In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine rhubarb, brown sugar, raisins, onion, vinegar, allspice, cinnamon, ginger and salt.  Bring to boil over high heat, stirring frequently.  Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring frequently, until mixture is thickened to the consistency of a thin commercial barbeque sauce, about 30 minutes.

Ladle hot sauce into hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch head space.  Remove air bubbles and adjust head space, if necessary, by adding more hot sauce.  Wipe rim.  Center lid on jar.  Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to finger-tip tight.

Place jars in canner (or large pot), ensuring they are completely covered with water.  Bring to a boil and process for 15 minutes.  Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool and store.

Jen's notes: 

I doubled this recipe so I had more than 4 pint jars. As you well know, it is a fair amount of work, but the finished product is usually worth it.

Since the rhubarb season is over, you can always buy the frozen rhubarb you find in the grocery store and use it.  I chopped up our rhubarb and put it in the freezer so that I have some over the winter if I need to make more of this stuff.

Thank you Jen! 

Monday, November 15, 2010

Pasta Puttanesca


Literally translates to "whore's spaghetti" in Italian.  Really, check it out.

I didn't know what this dish was called whether it's in English or Italian until I was flipping through my December issue of Fine Cooking and saw a dish I make regularly on weeknights.  I started making this when I was living on my own because I pretty much always had the ingredients on hand and it was quick. 

Ingredients:

2 Tbs of extra virgin olive oil
4 Large cloves of garlic, minced
3 oil-packed anchovy fillets, finely chopped (optional)
1 Tsp of Crushed red pepper flakes
1 jar of homemade or store bought tomato sauce or a can of crushed tomatoes
Spaghetti
1/2 Cup of pitted brine-cured black Kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
2 Tbs of capers, rinsed and drained
1 Tbs of fresh oregano or 1/2 Tbs of dried
Freshly ground pepper

Boil water for pasta.

Heat 1 Tbs of olive oil with garlic in a large sauce pan over medium heat.  Cook, stirring frequently for about 2 minutes and add the anchovy fillets and red pepper flakes.  Cook until garlic is golden.    Stir in tomato sauce.  Increase the heat to medium high, bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer, stir occasionally and cook for about 10 minutes.  Add the olives, capers, and oregano and continue to stir.  Cook for another 2 minutes.  Stir in remaining 1 Tbs of olive oil and serve. 

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Five Months Pregnant

Keri who I don't get to see very often asked me to post a pic of my pregnant belly, so here it is! 

Weekend

This weekend was busy! Friday we took off of work to run an all day hockey camp. Phil was of course in charge of the hockey and I served lunch with help from Meg.  I'm not much of a baker so Meg made the most delicious chocolate chip cookies. Thanks Meg!


I was a little stressed the night before considering I don't have much experience feeding kids (not yet at least).  I decided on turkey, ham and tuna sandwiches.  I found some whole wheat Ciabatta rolls and also bought a lot of white country bread for the more pickier kids.  I love provolone cheese on sandwiches but I was worried about the flavour being too sharp for the kiddies and opted for Havarti and some crunchy Romain lettuce.  For the tuna, I used a little mayo, finely chopped celery and Alfalfa sprouts.  I knew I was pushing it with the tuna and sprouts and I was right, it was only tuna left at the end of the day.

After doing a look around the room I saw some of the kids removing cheese, lettuce and some eating up to three sandwiches just as I made them.  I think I learned that there is no pleasing all kids.  At the end of the day waiting for the parents to pick up the kids I sat with the last two very chatty boys and tried  to get their feedback.  I asked them what some of their favourite foods were and got "Kraft dinner" and "Hamburger Helper".  The next sessions are for three days just before Christmas so I better start brainstorming some new ideas.  This is so new to me!

Panko, Bay and Rosemary Crusted Pork Tenderloin


 I haven't made this dish in awhile.  Actually, I think the last time I made it Phil and I were living in our condo in Toronto.  I used to have a lot more time to cook in those days since it took me five minutes to walk home from work.  We also had the convenience of a grocery story below the building, and if we didn't feel like cooking we had a pub down there too.  I miss that condo, but I also love our little bungalow and the beautiful old trees surrounding.    


Here's a recipe that tastes like it may have taken a long time to prepare, but there really isn't much to it.  That's what I like about pork tenderloin, it's really quick to cook.  As well, you may know, the possibilities of what you can do with pork are endless since it works well with most flavours.  It just all depends on what you're in the mood for.  And if you find you made too much, you can use the leftover pork for sandwiches with a little peach chutney.   Or Jen's famous Victorian BBQ sauce (recipe to follow soon). 


Ingredients:  

Pork tenderloin 
1 Cup of Panko breadcrumbs 
1 Large sprig of fresh rosemary, stem removed and chopped 
5-6 Large Bay Leaves, stems removed and chopped finely 
1 Tbs of Parsley, chopped 
1 Egg
Salt and Pepper 
1 Tbs of butter 
1 Tbs of olive oil   

For the pork tenderloin: 

Preheat oven to 375F.  

Season all sides of the tenderloin with salt and pepper and set aside. Combine breadcrumbs and herbs and place on a plate ready for breading.   Dip the tenderloin in egg, place the tenderloin into the breadcrumb mixture and pat all sides so all of the tenderloin is breaded.  Heat oil and butter in skillet over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking, then brown pork, turning, about 4 minutes. Transfer to an oiled shallow baking pan and roast in the middle of the oven for about 20-25 minutes or until instant-read thermometer reads 155F.  Remove from the oven, transfer to cutting board and tent with foil loosely for ten minutes before carving.