Sunday, 31 October 2010

Armchair Novel Review - The Immortals

The Immortals
A Talyor Jackson Novel
J.T. Ellison
Paperback, 400 pages

I wanted to put this review up for Halloween, the novel definitely has some other-worldly undertones and is perfect for the season. A detective novel, one of a series of Taylor Jackson novels and the first I have read, the book starts with a ritualistic slaying and branding of several high school students in Nashville. The lieutenant, Taylor, is a top-notch female detective who has just been re-instated in her position. With her team back together, she must delve into the world of Goths, vampires, witchcraft and mysticism, and solve this case before they lose anymore victims to Samhain, the Blood Harvest.

As I mentioned, I haven't read any of the other Taylor Jackson novels, but I didn't feel like I had missed anything or was at any disadvantage jumping into the fifth book of the series, in fact the references to past cases really made me want to pick up the earlier ones too  - but the book does stand alone as an intriguing mystery and a great novel to curl up on the couch with. With all the lights on of course!

Chocolate Rice Pudding

Cravings. We all get them. Salty, savoury, sweet.. chocolate. I actually don't have a huge appetite for chocolate - although I do start craving those bite-sized chocolate bars that are everywhere this time of year. I can't even buy them to give out, I'd eat them all. This year the neighbourhood kids get all sorts of jelly candies like Fuzzy Peach and Swedish Berries and whatever other ones Maynards has in their huge box - and a bag of Doritos. Well, chips are handy for lunch boxes next week.

So, what to make when Kim challenges us to submit to our chocolate cravings this week? Well, I happened to notice that earlier in the week she made chocolate rice pudding. That I do crave. Rice pudding is the ultimate comfort food - and I wanted some.

You don't really have to measure carefully with rice pudding, you will be adjusting the milk and cooking time anyway - it takes as long as it takes for the rice to plump up well beyond polite risotto texture and deliver its starch to the creaminess of the dish.
I loved the orange liqueur component, in fact I added a splash more - and I topped mine with a chocolate-covered orange peel that my daughter gave me and also some puréed strawberries - yum!

Chocolate Rice Pudding, Recipe courtesy Giada De Laurentiis, 2008
for I Heart Cooking Clubs, Chocolate Cravings

    6 to 8 servings


    * 5 cups whole milk
    * 2/3 cup Arborio rice
    * 3/4 cup sugar
    * 1 1/2 teaspoons orange zest (from 1 medium orange)
    * 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
    * 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
    * 1 1/2 tablespoons orange liqueur
    * 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips


In a heavy, medium saucepan, combine the milk, rice, sugar, and orange zest. Scrape in the seeds from the vanilla bean and add the bean to the saucepan. Bring the milk to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring frequently, until the rice is tender and the mixture thickens, about 35 to 40 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and discard the vanilla bean. Stir the cocoa powder and orange liqueur into the mixture. Add the chocolate chips and stir until melted. Allow the mixture to cool for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Spoon the rice pudding into serving bowls. Cover and refrigerate for 2 1/2 to 3 hours and up to 1 day ahead.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

James Peterson's Meat: A Kitchen Education

A Kitchen Education
James Peterson
Hardcover, 336 pages

I actually find meat to be one of the trickiest things to cook in the kitchen. Cook it wrong and it will punish you by being tough and difficult to chew. Carrots are rarely so punitive, although they have been known to totally give up under pressure and become limp.

James Peterson, winner of 6 James Beard awards and teacher for more than 20 years at The Institute of Culinary Education, is willing to help us out with meat - to teach us how to get the best out of every cut and every cooking style - with his new book Meat: A Kitchen Education.

Now we can know what the pros know, without the costly culinary education, with step-by-step colour photographs and comprehensive instructions. With 175 recipes, you'll find lots of new favourites for Sunday dinner, and the confidence to cook meat to tender perfection.
The Chapters Incude:

1          Introduction
5          Basic Cooking Techniques
25        Improvising International Flavors

31         Chicken and Turkey
69         Fowl, Rabbit and Hare, and Venison
103       Pork
143       Beef
219       Veal
259       Lamb and Goat
293       Sausages
303       Pâtés, Terrines, and Foie Gras
314       Broths and Consommés
We tried out three of his recipes in the Kitchen Puppy test kitchen - Pot Roast with Carrots and Pearl Onions, Chicken Potpies, and Croque-Madames with country ham.
The pot roast came out to glorious tenderness, a man-pleasing dish to be sure. The meat is fall-apart delicious cooked on high, then braised on low, then higher again with a reduced-sauce glaze. Definitely worth it!
The chicken potpies were very different than I am used to - I am in total agreement about dispensing with the bottom crust,  and I loved the fact that the ingredients were just layered into the ramekins, topped and then baked. But I think I still like the thickened version better - I might make a roux with this one next time. Otherwise the flavours were fantastic - love that tarragon!
And the croque-madames were such a treat! I have always wanted to make them. Basically a kicked-up gourmet grilled cheese with ham in a bechamel sauce with a fried egg on top. I used home-baked country bread too, so they were a real weekend treat.
Recipes below

Pot Roast with Carrots and Pearl Onions
From Meat:A Kitchen Eduction by James Peterson

The best cut for a pot roast is a chuck blade roast, sometimes called a flat-iron roast. When you buy the roast, you might as well buy the whole thing (rather than a piece), which weighs about 5 pounds and will serve about six (the meat shrinks considerably as it cooks). Ideally, the meat should be larded to give it extra moistness, though larding is not essential because a blade roast contains plenty of internal fat. The usual braising methods should be used—an initial roasting with aromatic vegetables, followed by long, slow simmering, followed by degreasing of the braising liquid and a final glazing.

Makes 6 main-course servings

1 chuck blade roast, about 5 pounds
1 piece fatback with rind, about 2 pounds, optional
1 bunch parsley, finely chopped, if larding roast
4 cloves garlic, minced and then crushed to a paste, if larding roast
1 large onion, sliced
1 large carrot, peeled and sliced
Bouquet garni
6 cloves garlic, crushed
1 bottle (750 ml) dry white wine
4 cups chicken broth (page 316), reduced to 2 cups
3 slender carrots, peeled and sliced
One 10-ounce package pearl onions, blanched in boiling water for 1 minute, drained, rinsed under cold water, and peeled

Trim away the silver skin and excess fat from the roast. Season all over with salt and pepper and set aside. Cut away the rind from the fatback and reserve the rind. Cut the fatback into sheets about 1/4 inch thick, then cut the sheets lengthwise into strips, or lardons, about 1/4 inch on each side. In a bowl, mix together the lardons, parsley, and minced garlic; cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 3 or 4 hours or preferably overnight.

Place the roast in a shallow bowl and add the sliced onion, sliced large carrot, bouquet garni, crushed garlic, and wine. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 3 or 4 hours or preferably overnight.

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Remove the meat and vegetables from the marinade; reserve the wine and bouquet garni. Using a hinged larding needle, lard the roast with the lardons as shown on page 15.

Select a heavy ovenproof pot just large enough to hold the meat and line the bottom with the fatback rind, skin side up. Place the vegetables from the marinade on top of the rind, and put the roast on top of the vegetables. Place the pot in the oven and roast, uncovered, for about 11/2 hours, or until the meat releases juices that caramelize (but don’t burn) on the bottom of the pot.

Remove the pot from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 275°F. Remove any fat from the pot with a bulb baster or large spoon, and then add the broth and the wine and bouquet garni from the marinade. Bring to a gentle simmer on the stove top. Cover the pot with a sheet of aluminum foil, pressing it down slightly in the middle so that moisture will condense on its underside and drip down onto the exposed parts of the meat, and then with a lid.

Return the pot to the oven and braise the roast for 11/2 hours. Check occasionally to make sure the liquid is not boiling, and if it is, turn down the heat. Turn the roast over gently, so the meat that was above the liquid is now submerged, re-cover the pot with the foil and the lid, and continue to braise for about 1 hour longer, or until the roast is easily penetrated with a knife.

Transfer the roast to a smaller ovenproof pot, moving it gently so it doesn’t fall apart. Strain the braising liquid into a glass pitcher and skim off the fat with a ladle. Or, ideally, refrigerate the braising liquid at this point and then lift off the congealed fat in a single layer. Pour the degreased liquid into a saucepan, bring to a simmer, and simmer, skimming off any fat or froth that rises to the surface, for about 30 minutes, or until reduced by about half. Meanwhile, raise the oven temperature to 450°F.
Pour the reduced liquid over the meat, and add the sliced slender carrots and pearl onions. Slide the pot, uncovered, into the oven and cook the roast, basting it every 10 minutes with the liquid, for about 30 minutes, or until the roast is covered with a shiny glaze and the carrot slices and pearl onions are tender.

Remove the roast from the oven. Using two spoons, serve in warmed soup plates surrounded with the braising liquid and topped with the carrot slices and pearl onions.

Variations: You can vary this recipe by using additional or different aromatic vegetables, such
as onions or turnips; using cider, beer, or broth in place of the wine for the braising liquid; trading
out the thyme for marjoram in the bouquet garni; or garnishing with mushrooms, haricots verts,
leeks, or other vegetables in place of the carrot slices and pearl onions.

Reprinted with permission from Meat: A Kitchen Education by James Peterson, copyright © 2010. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.

Chicken Potpies
From Meat:A Kitchen Eduction by James Peterson

Most potpies suffer from a soggy bottom crust. To avoid this, I make them in large
ramekins and put the pastry only on the top. I have used puff pastry here, but regular pie pastry will
also work. Tarragon is delicious with chicken, but feel free to substitute other herbs, such as marjoram, chives, parsley, or oregano. If you don’t have shiitake mushrooms, use white or cremini mushrooms. For a splurge, add as many sliced black truffles as you can afford to each ramekin. The pastry traps the aroma of the truffle, which is released at the moment the diner cuts into the pie.

Makes 6 main-course servings

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and caps thinly sliced
3 thin carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
Leaves from 1 bunch tarragon
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream
Two 1-pound packages all-butter puff pastry, thawed overnight in the refrigerator if frozen
1 egg, beaten with 1 teaspoon salt

Divide the chicken evenly among six 1-cup ramekins. Sprinkle the mushrooms evenly over the chicken, dividing them evenly. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the carrots over the top and finally the tarragon. Press down on the filling in each ramekin so none of the ingredients rise above the rim. (If the ingredients touch the pastry, the pastry will tear.) Pour 1/3 cup of the broth and 21/2 tablespoons of the cream evenly over each filled ramekin. Season again with salt and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the pastry about 1/8 inch thick. Cut out 6 rounds about 2 inches larger in diameter than the rim of the ramekins. Using a sharp paring knife, and working from the center to the edge, make a series of arcs, like spokes, on the surface of each round, being careful not to cut through the dough. Flip each round, brush with the beaten egg, then invert a round over each ramekin (the scored side will be facing up). Press the dough firmly against the sides with your palms until it adheres securely. Brush the pastry with the beaten egg. Place the pies on a sheet pan.

Slide the pan into the oven and bake the pies for about 35 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and has puffed. Serve at once.

Reprinted with permission from Meat: A Kitchen Education by James Peterson, copyright © 2010. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc

Croque-Monsieur with Country Ham
From Meat:A Kitchen Eduction by James Peterson

A croque-monsieur is a griddled ham and cheese sandwich that has been dipped in béchamel sauce and cooked in butter. A croque-madame is a croque-monsieur with a fried egg on top.

Makes 4 sandwiches

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups whole milk
Pinch of ground nutmeg
8 slices firm-crust, dense-crumb white bread
1/2 pound American country ham, very thinly sliced if raw, thinly sliced if cooked
1/2 pound Gruyère cheese, thinly sliced into strips

In a small saucepan, melt 4 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook, whisking constantly, for about 3 minutes, or until the mixture is smooth. Whisk in the milk and then bring to a simmer, whisking constantly. Whisk for about 5 minutes, or until smooth and thickened. Season with the nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Pour into a square baking dish large enough to hold the sandwiches in a single layer.

Lay 4 bread slices on a work surface. Top with the ham and then the cheese, dividing them evenly. Put the remaining bread slices on top. Place the sandwiches in the béchamel, turning to coat both sides.

In a sauté pan large enough to hold the sandwiches in a single layer, melt the remaining 4 tablespoons butter over medium heat. When the butter froths, add the coated sandwiches and cook, turning once, for about 5 minutes per side, or until golden brown.

Cut each sandwich in half and serve hot.

Reprinted with permission from Meat: A Kitchen Education by James Peterson, copyright © 2010. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.

Friday, 29 October 2010

A Mystic-al Pizza for Food'n'Flix

Alas, I could not find the movie of the month for Food'n'Flix in my little town. I have seen it.. twenty-some-odd years ago, but most of it escapes my memory. Mystic Pizza is a coming of age chick-flick about love and life and does-he-love-me? do-I-love-him? what-should-I-do-with-my-life? and all those questions that come at that leaving home stage of life. I'm more at the please-don't-die-before-I-do stage, but I do remember enjoying the movie. Pretty much everyone has become a star from it, and I am especially fond of Vincent D'Onofrio.

Lacking the movie, I figured making a pizza was a pretty safe bet for a cook-along. But it had to be a super-fantastic-blow-girlichef-away type of pizza. And she has high standards.

So here you go, a fan-freaking-tastic pizza on a crispy caraway rye thin crust with a cream cheese sauce, topped with prosciutto, grilled pineapple, baby spinach, black pepper and cilantro. Bon appetit!

For the dough:

1 cup rye flour
1-1.5 cups bread flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
1 pkg (2¼ tsp) dry instant yeast
1.5 tsp kosher salt
1 Tbsp olive oil
good pinch of caraway seeds, or to taste

Mix all the ingredients together in your stand mixer with the dough hook until you have a nice, smooth dough. Adjust hydration or flour. Make into a smooth ball on the counter, cover and let rise one hour.

Preheat oven to 450°F 20 minutes before baking. Arrange racks on top third and bottom third of the oven.
Prepare two pizza pans, sprinkle with coarse semolina or cornmeal. 
Divide dough into two. 
Form each into a ball and roll out on a floured surface until the size of the pans. Dock the dough. (Make holes with a dough docker or a fork to keep it flat)
Bake for 15 minutes - rotating pans half way through - until crispy.
Let cool.

To make pizza:
you will need time for the cream cheese to soften

Cream cheese sauce:
1 brick (8oz) real cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup good mayonnaise
Blend until creamy in a small food processor

½ fresh pineapple, cut into spears and then grilled, then cut into pieces
baby spinach
cilantro leaves
prosciutto, torn into bite-sized pieces
fresh ground black pepper

Spread sauce over just cooled crusts and top with delicious toppings, baby spinach on the bottom, then pineapple and prosciutto, then cilantro, then grind fresh black pepper over it all. Eat. 


Further Adventures in Cheese - Greek Island Mizithra

This month at Forging Fromage we made Greek Island Mizithra. A soft, fresh cheese that seems to have many variations. The one we made is very milky in flavour and lightly salted. It reminds me of a cross between ricotta/fresh mozzarella/paneer. It would be excellent cubed and tossed in a salad with a strong dressing as it is a great carrier of flavour. Or even served sliced with fresh fruit and honey. Yum!

Greek Island Mizithra
adapted from 200 Easy Homemade Cheese Recipes

3 quarts whole milk
1 tbsp pickling (canning) or kosher salt
½ tsp liquid rennet
(whenever I am using pasteurized milk - which is always as raw milk is illegal in Ontario, I also add a ¼ tsp calcium chloride diluted in ¼ cup cold water when I add the rennet)

Sterilize all equipment.
In a large stainless steel pot, heat milk gently to 90°F, stirring gently to prevent scorching.
Remove from heat and stir in salt

Dilute rennet in ¼ cup cool water. Add to milk and, using an up-and-down motion, draw rennet down into milk until well blended. Cover and set aside at room temperature for 30 minutes to an hour, or until a firm curd has formed.

Using a whisk, gently break up curd, stirring until curd pieces are approximately ½ inch in size. Let stand for 2-3 minutes. Using skimmer, stir gently for 5 minutes.

Gently pour curd into a cloth-lined colander and let drain for 1 hour. Scrape cheese into center of cloth. Gather the four corners of the cloth together and tie to create a bag. Hang the bag and let drain over a bowl or the sink for another 5 hours at room temperature. Place a colander in a bowl; place bag in the colander and let drain in the refirgerator for another 12 hours. Twist the cloth tighter from time to time to aid draining.

Remove cheese from cloth and place in a bowl. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.


Thursday, 28 October 2010

Me and Harold McGee

A Guide to Making the Best of Foods and Recipes
Harold McGee
Hardcover, 576 pages

Actually Harold McGee doesn't know who I am, really, but I know who he is! And although we have never been busted flat in Baton Rouge together, we are quite a team in the kitchen. My kitchen that is. You see Harold McGee is a renowned food scientist and best selling author, as well as being the Curious Cook, a fascinating food science columnist, online and in The New York Times.
McGee has devoted his life to understanding the reasons why foods behave a certain way. The science behind cooking, baking, and even fresh foods. He presents the information in a very easily usable and understandable manner - with quick cross-links and access to further information.

Keys to Good Cooking is not a cookbook, but rather an indispensable resource to understanding the scientific properties and processes of food and cooking, and how to use this information to prepare foods safely and to the best of their potential. 

With all the cookbooks out there and on your shelves, you know who you are!, many with contradictory methods for the same dish - you will be able to discern what will work and how to make the best of each dish.

The chapters in Keys to Good Cooking include:

1. Getting to Know Foods
2. Basic Kitchen Resources: Water, the Pantry, and the Refrigerator
3. Kitchen Tools
4. Heat and Heating Appliances
5. Cooking Methods
6. Cooking Safely
7. Fruits
8. Vegetables and Fresh Herbs
9. Milk and Dairy Products
10. Eggs
11. Meats
12. Fish and Shellfish
13. Sauces, Stocks, and Soups
14. Dry Grains, Pastas, Noodles, and Puddings
15. Seed Legumes: Beans, Peas, Lentils, and Soy Products
16. Nuts and Oil Seeds
17. Breads
18. Pastries and Pies
19. Cakes, Muffins, and Cookies
20. Griddle Cakes, Crepes, Popovers, and Frying Batters
21. Ice Creams, Ices, Mousses, and Jellies
22. Chocolate and Cocoa
23. Sugars, Syrups, and Candies
24. Coffee and Tea

Check out Harold in action, playing with moist veggies. 

I like a man who plays with his food!

Keys to Good Cooking is an invaluable resource for all cooks, beginners to professionals, and deserves to get good and worn and food-splattered in your kitchen. 

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Symon's Braised Shortribs with Orange and Olive Salad, Garlic Mashies, and Pickled Green Tomatoes

As we get into the cooler months, quick turns on the grill turn to long, slow cooking techniques. The kitchen is the hub of the house, warm with oven heat and steaming dishes, and people naturally congregate there perched on kitchen bar stools or leaning against the counter. 
Slow braised and fresh baked goods are like a warm hug when you come in from the storm and this meal is bound to melt the heart of even the frostiest sort. 

Michael Symon uses big, meaty shortribs but I was only able to find smaller braising ribs - no matter, I just cut the recipe and time down and was able to serve them same day. I did increase the ratio of seasonings though, in my dish I was heavy handed with the garlic, chilies, and anchovies. I served the shortribs with garlic mashies - easy enough to toss in some peeled garlic cloves in the last 10 minutes of boiling the spuds and mashing them right in with the butter. If you plan ahead, you could even roast the garlic first. Mmmm, roasted garlic...

Symon pairs his rich shortribs with a flavourful salad and pickled tomatoes - they complement the flavours wonderfully. You could choose one, I decided to go with both as I had pickled some of my neighbour's green tomatoes earlier this season. They'd also be awesome on a burger. Technically burgers are year-round fare - that's why they invented indoor grills!

Braised Shortribs with Orange and Olive Salad
Michael Symon,
For Michael Symon Sundays
    8 to 10 servings


    * 4 tablespoons olive oil
    * 6 pounds meaty beef short ribs on the bone
    * Salt and freshly ground black pepper
    * 2 celery ribs, coarsely chopped
    * 1 carrot, coarsely chopped
    * 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
    * 1/2 cup tomato paste
    * 5 fresh thyme sprigs
    * 3 anchovy fillets, chopped
    * 1 bay leaf
    * 1 head garlic, cloves separated
    * 1 quart chicken stock
    * 2 cups dry red wine
    * 1/3 cup red wine vinegar


    * 2 oranges, cut in segments
    * 1 shallot, thinly sliced
    * 1 cup pitted kalamata olives
    * 2 tablespoons capers
    * 1 cup packed parsley leaves
    * 4 ounces olive oil
    * 1 lemon, juiced


For the short ribs, preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large enameled cast iron casserole. Season the ribs with salt and pepper. Add half of the short ribs to the casserole and cook over moderately high heat until browned, about 6 minutes. Transfer the ribs to a plate. Repeat with the remaining oil and ribs.

Add the celery, carrot and onion to the casserole and cook over moderate heat until softened, about 7 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, until glossy, about 2 minutes. Add the thyme sprigs, anchovies, bay leaf and garlic and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the stock, wine and vinegar and bring to a boil. Return the short ribs to the casserole, then cover and braise at 325 degrees F for 1 hour. Drop heat to 225 degrees F and cook for 4 more hours or until meat is tender. Remove ribs and strain liquid. Pour liquid back over ribs and let cool overnight in the refrigerator.

For the salad, place all ingredients in nonreactive mixing bowl and toss together.

To serve, skim fat off liquid and reheat ribs in their juice. Remove from pan and reduce liquid by half. Top ribs with liquid and orange salad.

Pickled Green Tomatoes
Michael Symon,
for Michael Symon Sundays
    4 quarts


    * 6 Fresno chile peppers, halved lengthwise
    * 4 bay leaves
    * 1/4 cup coriander seeds
    * 1/4 cup cumin seeds
    * 2 cinnamon sticks
    * 2 teaspoons whole cloves
    * 2 teaspoons ground mace
    * 4 tablespoons black peppercorns
    * 10 cloves garlic
    * 8 cups cider vinegar
    * 1/2 cup honey
    * 4 tablespoons kosher salt
    * 4 pounds green tomatoes
What you'll need:

    * 4 quart-size canning jars with lids
    * Large deep pot with lid
    * Round wire rack that fits inside the pot or clean empty tuna cans (to keep the jars from direct heat)
    * Jar lifter or tongs
    * Rubber spatula
    * Clean dish towels


Sterilize the jars. Wash the jars and lids in hot soapy water; rinse well. Place a wire rack or empty tuna cans in the pot to keep the jars from touching the bottom. Fill the pot halfway with water and bring to a simmer (do not boil). Submerge the jars in the water and let simmer until you're ready to fill. Sterilize the lids in a separate small pot of simmering water.

Make the brine. Combine the chiles, bay leaves, coriander and cumin seeds, cinnamon sticks, cloves, mace, peppercorns, garlic, vinegar, honey, salt and 1 cup water in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil; cook for 3 minutes. Cool slightly. Remove the chiles and bay leaves with a slotted spoon

Pack the tomatoes. Slice the tomatoes into wedges using a sterilized knife and cutting board. Remove the jars and lids from the simmering water with a jar lifter or tongs; fill with the tomatoes and some chiles and bay leaves

Fill and close. Pour the warm pickling liquid over the tomatoes in each jar, stopping 1/2 inch from the top. Slide a clean rubber spatula around the inside of each jar to remove air bubbles. Wipe the rims with a clean towel, then position the sterilized lids on top. Screw the lids shut, being careful not to overtighten.

Boil the jars. Return the pot of water to a simmer; add the jars, making sure water covers them by a few inches. Cover and boil for 15 to 20 minutes. Turn off the heat, uncover and leave them in the water for 10 minutes

Remove and let cool. Transfer the jars to a kitchen towel. Let sit, undisturbed, for at least 12 hours. A vacuum seal will form as the jars cool

Label your pickles. Write the date on each jar and store for up to 1 year at room temperature; refrigerate after opening. The tomatoes will be at their prime about 3 months after canning.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Barefoot Contessa - How Easy is That?

Barefoot Contessa 
How Easy Is That? 
Fabulous Recipes & Easy Tips
Ina Garten
Hardcover, 256 pages

How much do I love this woman? Enough to leave my comfy little nest in the wee hours of the morning, attended by my eldest son, to journey into the city and stand in line for 5+ hours to have my book signed. We were about 8th in line. It was three years ago and I am still on a high from seeing her in person. It was a bit like camp, waiting with all these people, and I was lucky to have a nice gal beside me to chat with. My son held our coats and took snapshots of us with Ina. Good boy, him. I think I'll keep him.

Okay, not the best pic of me - but the poor boy was also juggling coats and the crowds. Ina looks great though - as usual!
Now Ina has a new book out, How Easy Is That?, which gives us the same quality of well crafted, written and tested recipes that we have come to love and expect from her - but geared especially to our busier-than-ever lifestyles. Simple and elegant, these are meals that you can confidently serve your friends and family without having to spend the whole day in the kitchen.

We had Thanksgiving here in Canada earlier this month and because my kids are all grown and working - we had to divide it over two weekends to make sure they all got fed here. This meant two mini Thanksgiving dinners, and we did Ina's recipes for the second one. Her Herb-Roasted Turkey Breast was so tender and delicious - it will forever be part of my autumn dinner parties. What a joy to be able to serve turkey in less than 2 hours! What I like about her recipes is that the timing is always perfect. She tests and retests and has other people test them.. They always end up just right.
For dessert we had the Easy Cranberry & Apple Cake. So blissfully easy and totally delicious. Our neighbour came for dinner and brought some good quality vanilla ice cream to go with it and it complemented the tartness of the berries perfectly.

All the recipes utilize easy-to-find ingredients and simple steps. How Easy is That? ☺

Herb-Roasted Turkey Breast
From Barefoot Contessa How Easy Is That? By Ina Garten

Serves 6 to 8

Why do we only serve turkey on Thanksgiving? A whole turkey breast roasted with fresh rosemary, sage, and thyme is a great weeknight dinner and the leftovers make delicious sandwiches the next day. Roasting the turkey at 325 degrees and allowing it to rest for fifteen minutes ensures that it will be very moist.

1 whole bone-in turkey breast (6½  to 7 pounds)
2 tablespoons good olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons dry mustard
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage leaves
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
½  teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¾ cup dry white wine

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Place the turkey breast on a rack in a roasting pan, skin side up.

In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, mustard, rosemary, sage, thyme, salt, and pepper. Rub the mixture evenly all over the skin of the turkey breast. (You can also loosen the skin and smear half of the paste underneath, directly on the meat.) Pour the wine into the bottom of the roasting pan.

Roast the turkey for 1½  to 1 ¾ hours, until the skin is golden brown and an instant-read meat thermometer registers 165 degrees when inserted into the thickest and meatiest area of the breast. Check the breast after an hour or so; if the skin is overbrowning, cover it loosely with aluminum foil.

When the turkey is done, remove from the oven, cover the pan with aluminum foil, and allow the turkey to rest at room temperature for 15 minutes. Slice and serve warm with the pan juices.

Excerpted from Barefoot Contessa How Easy is That? by Ina Garten Copyright © 2010 by Ina Garten. Photographs Copyright © 2010 by Quentin Bacon. Excerpted by permission of Clarkson Potter, a division of Random House of Canada Limited. All rights reserved.

Easy Cranberry & Apple Cake
From Barefoot Contessa How Easy Is That? By Ina Garten

Serves 6 to 8

This recipe is inspired by a cranberry pie from Sarah Chase’s book Cold Weather Cooking. My friend Barbara Liberman calls it “easy cake”—I call it delicious.
It’s even better served warm with vanilla ice cream.

12 ounces fresh cranberries, rinsed and picked over for stems
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and diced
½ cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 tablespoon grated orange zest (2 oranges)
¼ freshly squeezed orange juice
11⁄8 teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
¼ pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¼ cup sour cream
1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Combine the cranberries, apple, brown sugar, orange zest, orange juice, and 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon in a medium bowl. Set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs on medium-high speed for 2 minutes. With the mixer on medium, add 1 cup of the granulated sugar, the butter, vanilla, and sour cream and beat just until combined. On low speed, slowly add the flour and salt.

Pour the fruit mixture evenly into a 10-inch glass pie plate. Pour the batter over the fruit, covering it completely. Combine the remaining 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar and 1⁄8 teaspoon of cinnamon and sprinkle it over the batter. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean and the fruit is bubbling around the edges. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Excerpted from Barefoot Contessa How Easy is That? by Ina Garten Copyright © 2010 by Ina Garten. Photographs Copyright © 2010 by Quentin Bacon. Excerpted by permission of Clarkson Potter, a division of Random House of Canada Limited. All rights reserved.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Crab Tater Tots

I do like Tater Tots.
-Clint Eastwood in "A Perfect World"

Turns out I do like them too. Or I like them. I do. Especially if crab meat is involved. These are actually my first tots, I was deprived as a child I suppose, they have just never come up in my life before.
They come together fairly easily and are absolutely delicious for a pub-style dinner - served over baby spinach with some capers, lemon wedges, and tartar sauce on the side. And a beer of course.

Crab Tater Tots
Michael Symon, for Michael Symon Sundays
online recipe sourced from Kim of Stirring the Pot
Makes up to 35 tots (or 16 patties)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup a/p flour
1 large egg
1 cup mashed potatoes
canola oil, for deep-frying
1/2 pound lump crab meat
Panko bread crumbs, for breading
kosher salt

In a small saucepan, combine the butter with 1/4 cup water over high heat. When the water comes to a simmer and the butter is melted, add the flour. Reduce the heat to medium and stir until the resulting paste pulls away from the sides of the pan, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat. Allow to cool for 5 minutes. Add the egg to the pan and stir vigorously until the egg is incorporated into the flour mixture. Stir in the mashed potatoes and let cool.

Pour enough oil into a medium pot so that the oil comes 3 inches up the sides. Heat the oil to 350F.

While the oil heats, gently fold the crab into the potato mixture; the lumpier the batter the better. Using two soup spoons, shape the mixture into quenelles, or 2-inch footballs. (I made disks). Roll in the panko. Deep-fry, working in batches and turning once, until crisp, brown, and heated through, 2 to 3 minutes. Drain on paper towels and season with salt.

Tartar Sauce
adapted from Ina Garten,


    * 1/2 cup good mayonnaise
    * 2 tablespoons small-diced pickles or cornichons
    * 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice or to taste
    * 1 tablespoon capers
    * Pinch kosher salt
    * Pinch freshly ground black pepper


Place all the ingredients in a food processor or mini chopper fitted with a steel blade and pulse several times until the pickles are finely chopped and all the ingredients are well mixed but not pureed.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Every Kind of Muffin You Can Imagine

Imagine having, at your fingertips, a selection of recipes for every kind of muffin you can think of.
All the classics; the favourite coffeehouse flavours, savoury muffins and sweet. Superfood muffins, gluten-free and even vegan muffins. Muffins that your grandma used to make and muffins with flavours from all over the world.

Camilla V. Saulsbury, author of 11 cookbooks and winner of many American cook-off competitions including the National Chicken Cook-Off, Build a Better Burger Contest, and the Food Network's Ultimate Recipe Showdown- Cookies episode, has come out with the ultimate compendium of delicious muffin recipes.
Not only will you find unique recipes like Italian Fig Muffins, Golden Apricot Quinoa Muffins, Tarragon, Tomato and Bacon Muffins, and Five-Spice Asian Pear Muffins, you will also find a guide to ingredients and equipment and a quick lesson in Muffin Mastery.

In our Kitchen Puppy test kitchen we made two batches of delicious muffins and were thrilled not only by their taste but also by how light and moist they turned out. (I am guilty of occasional heavy and dense muffins)

Muffins are the ultimate portable food. I love them for lunch box treats and breakfast on the go. They are perfect for my commuters and now they will have no end of delicious variations to choose from.

750 Best Muffin Recipes
Everything from breakfast classics to gluten-free, vegan and coffeehouse favorites
Camilla V. Saulsbury
Softcover, 512 pages

Yogurt Muffins with Almond Cardamom Streusel
 makes 12 muffins

Topped with a toasty almond streusel and subtly spiced with cardamom and cinnamon, these amazing muffins are a stellar way to begin the day.
  • Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C)
  • 12-cup muffin pan, lined with paper liners
2/3 cup (150 mL) sliced almonds, finely chopped
1/3 cup (75 mL)  packed light brown sugar
2 Tbsp (30 mL) unsalted butter, melted
¾ tsp (3 mL) ground cardamom

2 cups (500 mL) all-purpose flour
1 tsp (5 mL) baking powder
½ tsp (2 mL) baking soda
½ tsp (2 mL) salt
½ tsp (2 mL) ground cinnamon
¼ tsp (1 mL) ground cardamom
2/3 cup (150 mL) granulated sugar
2 eggs
1/3 cup (75 mL) vegetable oil
½ tsp (2 mL) almond extract
1 cup (250 mL) plain whole-milk yogurt

  1. Streusel: In a small bowl, combine almonds, brown sugar, butter and cardamom until blended. Refrigerate until ready to use. 
  2. Muffins: In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and cardamom. 
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together sugar, eggs, oil and almond extract until blended. Whisk in yogurt until blended. 
  4. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir until just blended. 
  5. Divide batter equally among prepared muffin cups. Sprinkle with streusel. 
  6. Bake in a preheated oven for 17 to 21 minutes or until tops are golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in pan on a wire rack for 3 minutes, then transfer to the rack to cool. 
Decadent Carrot Cake Muffins
makes 18 muffins

I regularly make these for coffee hour after church and always have people beg for the recipe. They aren't too sweet and have a moist, dense texture from the carrots, coconut and apple. When I make them to eat at home, I tend to play with what I throw into the batter - for example, and handful of pumpkin seeds or toasted walnuts in place of the pecans, or dried blueberries, cherries or cranberries in place of the raisins. The beauty of this recipe is that you can increase the spices or omit the nuts and it will still taste great. 
  • Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C)
  • Two 12-cup muffin pans, 18 cups, greased
2 cups (500 mL) all-purpose flour
2 tsp (10 mL) baking soda
2 tsp (10mL) ground cinnamon
¼ tsp (1 mL) salt
1¼ cups (300 mL) granulated sugar
3 eggs
1 cup (250 mL) vegetable oil
2 tsp (10 mL) vanilla extract
1 tart apple, such as Granny Smith, peeled and coarsely shredded
2 cups (500 mL) coarsely shredded carrots
½ cup (125 mL) raisins
1/3 cup (75 mL) sweetened flaked or shredded coconut
1 cup (250 mL) chopped pecans (I used hazelnuts)

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. 
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together sugar, eggs, oil and vanilla until well blended. Mix in apple
  3. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir until just blended. Gently fold in carrots, raisins and coconut. 
  4. Divide batter equally among prepared muffin cups. Sprinkle with pecans. 
  5. Bake in preheated oven for 18-22 minutes or until tops are golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in pans on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then transfer to the rack to cool.