Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A taste of good luck

Finding Sam & Sam Clark's Moro East cookbook while perusing a used bookstore on College street, 'She Said Boom', the day after I'd read a blogpost about their London restaurant on the Guardian site seemed like a good stroke of luck. So, I bought the book, a gorgeous, brand new hardcover with one of those fancy British L's denoting a 25 pound price in the dust jacket, and a tiny, neat primly Canadian 22- pencilled in on the first page. I'm not sure I've ever spent any money more wisely in my life. Absolutely everything I have tried from this book has turned out perfectly and delicious, and usually, like the book itself, strikingly beautiful. Be careful with this zucchini and almond dish though, it will steal the show from almost any main with its combination of sweet, blanched almonds and hearty, garlic bite.

Courgettes (zucchini) with almonds

6 to 8 medium zucchinis, sliced into coins
2 cloves garlic, sliced thin
5 tbsp olive oil
1 C, blanched almonds, preferably whole
2 sprigs of mint, chopped

Season the sliced zucchini and sit to drain in a colander for a few minutes, then pat with paper towel. Heat the oil over medium-high in a large pan, add almonds and saute until they turn a peachy pink colour. Remove almonds from the pan and set aside. Saute the zucchini coins for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Next, add the garlic and half of the mint. Continue cooking for 15 minutes, until the zucchini is almost melted into a single mass. Return the almonds and stir through out, reheating for 3 to 5 minutes. Plate, salt and pepper, garnish with the leftover mint and serve with your favourite lamb or beef dishes, or a couscous or pilaf. Or try it with this Moroccan fish tagine, also, from Moro East.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Like Milk (only better)

One of the great things about coffee is how well it goes with cookies. It's so amazing to see how many of coffee's subtle undertones become apparent with a good pairing. Chocolate brings out the nuttiness of a medium-bodied brew that you never thought had so many layers in it. Biscotti is maybe the best cookies for dipping. It's not too sweet, so it won't compete with the rich taste of your coffee, its long and narrow shape is ideal for multiple-dipping, and it can be flavoured using a variety of nuts, dried fruits, and pantry staples like chocolate or toffee. Feel free to substitute almond syrup for vanilla to get a more bitter, grown-up biscotti. And remember, you can enjoy these with your evening liquor of preference as well.

Cherry Almond Biscotti

2 c all purpose flour
3/4c granulated sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
Pinch salt
1 c whole almonds
1/2 c dried cherries (or cranberries)
1 tbsp lemon/orange rind
3 eggs
1/2 c olive oil (use half canola if you'd like)
1/4 c orange juice

Preheat the oven to 325 and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, almonds and cherries in a large bowl and set aside.
In a medium bowl whisk together eggs and oil. Stir in the juice and rind, then mix.

Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour the egg mixture in. Work the liquid into the dry ingredients slowly to form a dough. Knead for a minute or two (grease your hands if they're too sticky).

Divide the dough in half and form two logs no more than an inch in thickness. Brush with a beaten egg and sprinkle with salt and sugar. Bake for 30min or until dough is golden coloured. Don't worry if the logs cracks on top.

Cool for 10-20min. Take a sharp bread knife and cut the logs into 1/2inch slices (if you cut on an angle, you get taller biscotti). Now, bake your biscotti for another 10-15min on each side until golden. Cool before storing. Watch closely during the rebaking, because each oven is a little different.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

WWJD to make nachos?

One of the most enticing things about small town living is the curiosities of local cuisine, which is really just a long-winded way of saying that there's some awesome pub grub in Peterborough. For instance, Macthirsty's pub, easily accessed as its in the same building as our apartment, serves up some truly kick ass nachos. I'm not saying they rival the Tex Mex kings of Toronto--- Sneaky Dee's infamous Kings Crown nachos (I swear to god, we once watched a guy eat one of those behemoths by himself). But Macthirsty's does have a nice twist for everyone's favorite dippable meal replacement. Like a true Irish pub, they make their own in-house sliced spuds and then pile on nacho toppings, making what they call Irish nachos. It's pretty gruesome and (according to our friend, Dave) maybe even worth the ninety minute drive from T.O. The only problem, like everything in this town, they're closed Sunday. Which means I'm stuck making my own nachos before the game starts. Also, these happen to be vegan, not by design but just because ground beef and cheese turn chips into corn paste, instead of keeping that nice crunch.

The Works Nachos

1 bag blue corn nachos
1 mango, peeled and cubed
1 red bell pepper, julienned
1 green bell pepper, julienned
1 avocado, pitted and cubed
1 quart cherry tomatoes
1/2 C kidney beans
1 medium white onion, peeled, halved and sliced
1 bunch, green onions, sliced
2 jalapenos, thinly sliced
1/2 cup sour cream, for dipping

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Spread out your whole bag of chips on a baking sheet. Now add, in order the mango, the bell peppers, the avocado, tomatoes, kidney beans, white onion and green onion and finally jalapenos. (I do it in this order because I like to have certain things on top when I dig in, but you can experiment). Also, add cheese and meat at your own risk. If you do add beef, please, make sure that you cook it well before hand and drain the fat. Serve with beer, a side of sour cream and enjoy the game. (I'll probably watch the Bills lose, but you can take your pick here).

Thursday, November 4, 2010

This Lonely Pear

If a red bowl (half full of soup, but that's a whole other philosophical matter) falls and shatters all over the place but there's no one (other than me of course) there to see/hear it, is it still broken? I sure hope so because otherwise I just spent a long time cleaning up nothing...

Other Pear is in the big city and I'm finding it hard to play the what do you wanna do for dinner game. It's no fun to play it alone because It ends too quickly. So here I am on this windy Thursday night, I just made a half recipe of my pizza dough and set the table for one but to tip my hat to Ev I'm adopting his method: only using what I've got at home.

Home Alone Pizza
(double amounts if feeding more than one)

3/4 cup warm water
1/2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp yeast
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cups Flour

Mix the yeast, water, and honey in a small bowl and let sit until it starts to bubble and froth. Add salt and olive oil and stir to mix. Add flour in thirds mixing with a wooden spoon. When the dough starts to form turn it out on a dry surface and use the rest of the flour (or more if needed) to knead for 5-10 minutes or until you have a smooth elastic ball that does not stick. Place in a greased bowl, turning to coat, cover, and let stand in a warm draft free place until doubled in bulk.

Preheat the oven to 550.

Punch down and roll out onto an oiled baking sheet/pizza stone. Perforate using a fork and brush with olive oil. If you are using pesto like I did, spread the pesto in a thin layer.

Arrange desired toppings and cheese evenly. I only used pesto, crushed garlic, ricotta, and pecorino. Bake until crisp and golden. Depending on your oven this will take 5-10 minutes, but the only sure way is to watch your pizza closely.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Bourbon for Brunch?

The little town where we live now (because I go to school here) has been feeling, in all honesty, a tad lonely. We don't often think about this because well, we don't have to, but it's not always easy making friends. For the time being, though, we're both trying to be positive and not let the change of scenery and its confines hinder the things we really love and believe in doing. The closest I can come to a conclusion about all of this is that sometimes life rearranges around you in a way that you (even if momentarily) need to make yourself happy while you work your way toward something. This isn't self-deceit, it's honest and hard work and it requires creativity and humility. It's something like the opposite of escape to the sanctuary of the familiar. Food is a big way we keep our mental health; really. Taking time with food makes an unbelievable difference.

Caramel Bourbon Croissant Pudding à la Nigella
  • 3 stale croissants
  • 6-8tbsp sugar (white or brown)
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 125ml light/heavy cream
  • 150ml milk
  • 2 tbsp bourbon
  • 3 eggs, beaten
Preheat the oven to 180°C

Tear the croissants into pieces and put in a small gratin dish (you can save one whole and put it on top of the pieces for aesthetics); a cast iron oval dish would work perfectly but use whatever you've got.

Swirl around the sugar in the water in a saucepan to help dissolve before putting on the stove over medium/ high heat. Caramelize the sugar and water mixture by letting it bubble away, without stirring, until it all turns a deep amber colour (3-5 minutes). Turn to low, pour in the cream and whisk while adding the milk and bourbon. Take off the heat and, still whisking, add the beaten eggs.

Now you've got a bourbon custard, which you will pour over the croissants and leave to steep for 5-10 minutes depending on how stale the croissants are. If you have a whole one on top, poke holes in it and press it to make sure it soaks up enough custard.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the tops are golden brown and the custard has set. Serve with Strong coffee and something light like citrus segments... Life is good.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Fowl cookery

This might be some kind of blasphemy, but I don't really like turkey unless it's been deep fried whole. I have to admit though, at a friend's cabin this past Thanksgiving--- it's mid-October on a Monday in Canada, as opposed to the upcoming last Thursday of November down south---, we tried leftovers from a gobbler that he'd roasted on a charcoal barbecue that was succulent, flavourful, smoky and so tender as to almost not need chewing. It was scrumptious, but the rest of my family is vegetarian and I have no interest in standing over a hibachi for five hours slowly tempering the flames to avoid blackening the bird. So, for those of us with smaller appetites, here's a recipe for roasted fowl (chicken, quail, cornish hen or pheasant will all do just fine.)

Herb encrusted Roast Bird(s) with autumn vegetables
All measurements are for a whole roaster chicken, adjust accordingly. You'll also need twine or skewers.

For the rub

3 sprigs rosemary, stemmed and finely chopped
2 tbsp coriander seeds, cracked (put them under a tea towel and smash them with something blunt)
1 tbsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp paprika
1 tbsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried parsley
1tbsp olive oil

For the veggies

2C pearl onions, peeled and halved
2 bunches baby carrots, cleaned and sliced lengthwise
2C new red potatoes, quartered
1tbsp olive oil

Take your bird out of the fridge and let it sit on a plate to adjust to room temperature. Put a bowl of soapy water in your sink for later. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.

In a roasting pan, coat your vegetables in a tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper generously and toss everything together. Mix all of the herbs and spices for the rub in a bowl and set aside. Pour the olive oil directly onto your bird, or into your palms, and rub thoroughly on the skin and underneath directly onto the flesh of the bird. In the soapy water, wash and dry your hands.

Salt and Pepper the bird. Now rub all of the spice mixture into the bird until it is completely coated above and beneath the skin. Tie the bird's legs tightly together and skewer its wings into the body, or alternatively, twine the whole bird. (I try and avoid doing this because the twine tends to tears the crispy skin after its removed, and make the bird look like it's been cooked in a waffle iron.) Now place your bird into a well of vegetables in the middle of the roasting pan and put it in the oven for 20 to 75 minutes, depending on the size and variety of fowl you've used. Some indicators: it should be golden brown and crunchy on the outside. You can take the bird out after twenty minutes to stir the veggies and check the temperature with a thermometer to gauge your its progress.

Also, here's a link to cooking time chart

Enjoy your fowl and be thankful for all the good eating, it's always a privilege.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Morning Magic

Some mornings you feel like a hot shower and a pot of tea with milk and sugar. Some mornings you want an espresso, a croissant, and a collection of short stories. And some mornings you want to take some time and make breakfast. It's different than wanting to eat breakfast. The pleasure is in the time you take to think about what you want to make, in gathering the ingredients from the fridge and cupboards, and in slowly putting it all together while sipping your coffee and listening to your favorite morning show on the radio. Here's a recipe for such a morning when you feel completely up for the simple yet precise work of making lovely and delicate crèpes and some suggestions for how you might want to dress them . Remember, though, as far as toppings go, the only recipe to follow is your own feelings cravings and moods...

Recipe: Simple Crèpes
2 large eggs
3/4c milk
1/2c water
1c flour
3tbsp melted butter
butter for the pan

Pulse all of the ingredients in a blender until smooth and evenly mixed (about 10sec), and refrigerate for 30min-1h. This gets rid of the bubbles so your lovely crèpes won't tear in the cooking process.

Heat a nonstick pan or crèpe pan on medium heat and coat with butter. Pour a ladle full of the runny batter in the middle and swirl to spread it thinly and evenly. Cook for about 30 seconds and using a spatula or something flat, flip and cook the other side for another 30 seconds.

The first crèpe is never good but it helps you gauge. Judging by the first one you can adjust the heat, the butter in the pan, and the amount of batter per crèpe. Continue cooking your crepes and stack them in a warm but not hot oven until you want to serve them. The batter keeps for 48 hours so you don't have to cook them all at once.

Suggested toppings:

˙Fresh lemon juice and brown sugar
˙Butter cinnamon and maple syrup
˙Nutella and fresh raspberries
˙Ricotta cheese and cherry preserve
˙Procuitto and fresh figs...

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A fresh palate

Needless to say, we moved again. We've been holed up and cut off, without internet or a phone connection, painting and scrubbing yet another kitchen (This one was snot green!). But we've still been eating well. And fortunately we have a reserve of photos and recipes to fall back on until we can start getting our film processed.

This recipe is for a quick salad of raw veggies and tuna with fresh mint. It's very fragrant and goes well with big flavourful meat dishes or as a stand alone. It's also explosive with a crisp Chardonnay. Something about the ripeness of the late summer harvests and juicy tomatoes pops, and it's a delicious way to dress up canned tuna.

Tuna salad with celery, carrot and mint in a lemon vinaigrette

4 romaine hearts, cleaned and torn
2 cans of tuna (pick your favourite, I go for the Italian brands in olive oil)
2 stalks celery, diced
2 large carrots, peeled and grated
2 small pickled red peppers, roughly chopped (spicy ones work well)
1 fully ripe hot house tomato, diced
2 sprigs of mint, chopped

For the vinaigrette

1 lemon, juice of
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp mustard seed
1 tsp cracked black pepper
1/4 tsp dried dill
1 pinch of salt

Prep all your ingredients before hand. Gently stir together celery, carrots, peppers and tuna with a fork. Portion the tuna mixture onto a bed of greens in your serving dish or directly onto plates. Dress salads with diced tomatoes and mint and then drizzle with vinaigrette. Please drink with a crisp Chardonnay.

Monday, August 2, 2010

A rare slice of summer

After a lovely weekend off for a camping get away to one of Ontario's many gorgeous lakeside parks, spent eating the simple stuff: fruit, oatmeal, mac n' cheese from a box and wieners roasted on a stick, I was in the mood for something a little more elegant. An herb-crusted rib eye steak, picked up around the corner at a Kensington market butcher, topped with caramelized shallots and slices of king oyster mushroom fit the bill perfectly. A good bottle of bordeaux, cracked purple n' fingerling potatoes, and a side salad and we were a couple of happy campers sated and ready for sleep in our urban flat.

Grilled herb-crusted rib eye steaks with caramelized shallots and mushrooms; plus, cracked fingerling and purple potatoes

For the steaks

2 rib eyes, at room temperature
2 tbsp coriander seeds
3 tbsp mustard seed
1 tbsp black peppercorn
1 tbsp pink peppercorn
1 dried chili
1 tsp sea salt
4 king oyster mushrooms, sliced vertically
8 shallots, sliced
2 tsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter

For the taters

1C small purple potatoes, whole
1C fingerling potatoes whole
3 tblsp veg oil
2 tbsp, fine salt
1 tsp dried rosemary

Start off by taking your steaks out of the fridge and letting them acclimatize. In a bowl, salt the raw potatoes and let stand. Heat the oil on high in a large pan (that must have secure fitting lid or a plate that you can use to cover it), and add the potatoes, they should sizzle and snap if the heat's right. Turn down to medium-high and stir often for ten to fifteen minutes, covering in between. When the potatoes start to split, press them flat into oil with your spatula to crisp and brown their skin. Turn down to medium heat, sprinkle with rosemary, and let the taters continue to cook as you prepare your steak.

In a small pan, heat olive oil and butter over low until they're mixed. Add your shallots and stir for five minutes, until completely translucent. Now add your mushrooms, stirring occasionally for another fifteen minutes. The key to caramelizing is to keep the heat low and allow the sugars to cook without burning them.

Smash all your whole herbs in a mortar with a pestle, then rub the surface of your meat until its well coated (don't be afraid to use your fingers to get in there). Grill the steaks for a few minutes on either side 'til they're done to your liking (Mina likes them crisped and I like them bloody); you can search for all kinds of charts and tests and what not online, but it's simply a matter of taste. Top your steaks with the caramelized goodness, plate taters on the side and crack black pepper on the top. A dollop of sour cream and chives never hurt anyone either.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Summertime Soba

It's summer and Toronto hasn't been this hot in years. Our new apartment is adorable, but pretty tiny and it's hard to engage in those culinary projects that span several hours and involve prolonged use of heat. So we've been opting for salads and quicker unfussy recipes to cope with the heat wave. This simple Soba dish is so quick to make and absolutely satisfying. If you have time, chill the cooked noodles and eat this dish cold because soba is best served chilled...

Recipe: Mushroom Soba with Sesame Soy Sauce

1 package dry soba noodles
2 C Sliced Cremini mushrooms (you can use whatever other mushroom you like)
1/2 Red Onion (thin sliced)
2 Tbsp Dark Soy Sauce
1 Tbsp Water
1/4 sheet Nori (Cut in tiny strips like confetti)
1/4 tsp Sesame oil
2 Tbsp Cooking Oil
2 Tsp Sesame Seeds
salt & pepper

Bring the cooking oil to medium-high heat in your skillet of choice and fry the onions until they are lightly golden. Add the mushrooms, soy sauce, sesame oil and water to the same skillet and cook together until the mushrooms are soft and have taken some colour. Taste before you add salt and pepper, as soy sauce can be quite salty.

In a separate pot, bring some water to a boil and cook the soba according to the instructions on the package. It should only take a few minutes. When the soba is drained, toss it in a splash of canola oil to stop it from sticking together. If you wish you serve the dish warm, divide the soba between your dishes now. Otherwise, chill the soba for 10-15 minutes.

To Serve, top the noodles with a healthy scoop of the mushroom sauce and garnish with the nori confetti and sesame seeds.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Fungi Pizza

Pizza is a staple food in Toronto. There are pizza joints in this town that have line-ups out the door from before noon til after last call when the pub crawls come spilling out along Bloor and College street. But even though there’s a lot of great places to get a slice around the city, truth be told, the best pizza I’ve ever had has always been at home. This is probably a bit of a deception, my first summer job was tossing dough at a pizza stand at Ontario place, and I spent a summer working at a chain of family run trattorias that a lot of people think is the best spot for a pie in town, so maybe I’ve got a jump on the dish, either way as long as you can get your oven over five-fifty you should be able to make some thin-crusted magic in 7 minutes. The trick is to make a good homemade dough and throw it to the cieling, the rest is all just icing on the cake.

Pizza al la fungi

1 tblsp dry yeast, dissolved until frothy in
1 1/2C of warm water with a tsp squirt of honey
3 1/2 flour
1 tbsp olive oil

1 cup basil, pasted
1 tbsp olive oil
¼ cup pecorino, micrograted
2 tbsp walnuts, ground

1/2C sun dried tomato, thinly sliced
1C oyster or other mushrooms, roughly chopped
2C baby spinach, chopped
1/3C chevre

Preheat oven to 550. Start by making your dough in a large mixing bowl. Blend the ingredients until it forms a ball, then kneed dough on a floured surface for ten minutes or until you work up a sweat. Cover and let rise for an hour. Beat it down, then let it rise again for a half hour or until doubled. Now, with floured hands stretch out the dough by spinning it between your pinched fingers, give it a few good tosses and flips (you can youtube this kind of thing if my description leaves you totally clueless, I apologize). Next, roll it out and put it on a baking sheet lightly dusted with cornmeal. Sporadically poke it’s surface with a fork to avoid getting big unsightly, untasty bulbs in your pie.

In a mortar (or food processor), paste all the ingredients of your pesto. Apply the pesto liberally to your dough (Note: If you don’t have enough oil in your pesto it will make you dough soggy and no good for eatin). Your pie is now ready for toppings. Add everything you’ve got prepped to approximately equal sizes, so that they’ll have similar cooking times. Top with healthy scoops of the goat’s cheese, or grate anything else you’d like.

We devour these things before they even get a chance to cool with our favorite dirty little secret, Saroli Fine Food’s hot peppers in oil, which is pretty much like foodie crack.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Big Trouble in Little Chinatown Apartment.

Yup, we moved again. This is horrible and annoying and terrible and obnoxious and a pain-in-the-ass for a lot of reasons, or so I hear. It’s also my excuse for not posting in the last three weeks (that and we don’t have an internet connection yet…). It’s gotten to the point where we tell each other, “The blog misses you.” In other words, we’ve been reduced to making mock third-person jests from the perspective of our foodblog. So weird. Anyway, we are back living right by Kensington Market, which kicks ass, especially if you like the chow and cheap produce at the Chinatown stores. And it’s world cup time (Yeah, go team Canada… I mean go Iran! No wait, I mean go Toronto City Council for letting us drink beer and vino at 10am on the patio at Amadeu’s Finest Portugeuse) and our new kitchen is closet-sized but has a hot fire gas-range and things are generally just woking out in a good way for us. You can make this recipe at half-time, or while watching footy and drinking a beer.

Extra Time Shrimp Stir-fry

11 prawns or medium shrimp

1 medium onion, diced

2 bell peppers, diced (one green and one red for Iran, or adopted Portugal)

4 cloves garlic, sliced across to a millimeter, or 1/10 an inch

2 tablespoons crushed peppercorns (Sichuan, if you can get’em)

1 teaspoon soy sauce

½ teaspoon sesame oil

½ teaspoon fish sauce

2 tablespoons frying oil

Turn the heat up high and oil your wok. Wait thirty seconds then drop in the onions, they should sizzle and snap. Toss and flip sporadically for 2-3 minutes. Add the diced peppers and continue frying for another minute.

In a bowl stir together sesame oil, soy, fish sauce and crushed peppercorns. Add the prawns and slices of garlic (in the picture you can see one stuck to the bowl in the upper left) and toss for thirty seconds, then add the sauce and fry for another thirty seconds. Serve immediately with steamed rice, or flip into some noodles. This dish will taste totally awesome and flavourful and you will be flat out amazed at how much substance there is in something so simple, especially if you take the time to find some Sichuan peppercorns, which make a huge difference.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Clafoutis de Tomate

Good tomatoes are so exciting. You can put them in the simplest dishes and they will give it a certain quelque chose that's hard to explain. As a server, I'm so confused when I clear plates with untouched tomatoes and I always try not to argue with people who try to ask for their food without tomatoes. It baffles me, really.
There's a fruit market on my way home that had a few baskets of these gorgeous tomatoes a few weeks ago and I grabbed a bunch and tried to bike home extra carefully so as not to crush them in my bag. We all made it home safe, and was it ever worth the adventure. I think we put them on a pizza that night and the next morning I thought I'd make a tomato clafoutis, which I traditionally make with cherry or grape tomatoes but this time I just chopped my vine tomatoes and it worked out beautifully.

Feel free to use different cheeses, depending on your mood or fridge and whatever you do, don't forget to butter the dish before you get started!

Recipe: Tomato Clafoutis

2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 pack cherry tomatoes- or 2 medium tomatoes roughly chopped
4 tbsp snipped fresh thyme or rosemary (dry works fine, too)
3/4 cup coarsely grated sharp cheese or crumbled goat's cheese
4 extra large eggs
1/4 cup (75 ml) all-purpose flour
3 tbsp (45 ml) sour cream or good yogurt
1 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 375 F and grease a shallow ovenproof dish such as an enamel cast iron casserole dish or an enamel pie dish. Place tomatoes in the dish spreading them out. Sprinkle with herbs, a dash of salt and some cracked pepper. Add most of your cheese at this point. If it's grated, sprinkle it all over, and if it's small chunks, place them around the tomatoes. Save about a quarter for on top.

Break the eggs into a bowl and whisk with the flour until smooth. Add the sour cream, then gradually whisk in the milk to achieve a thin, smooth batter. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Pour the batter over the cheese and tomatoes, and sprinkle remaining cheese and an extra grinding of pepper over the top. Bake until it's set, nicely puffed and golden, 30 to 40 minutes. Don't be alarmed if your clafoutis deflates upon cooling, it's supposed to.

Serve with some nice buttered baguette.

Be very careful if you are serving this dish to kids, as cherry tomatoes stay hot inside and can burn their tongues.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Butchering for the barbie

I was sitting around with some friends on a patio after work yesterday and they start chatting about an old coworker of theirs in Ghana who they thought was weird mainly because his favourite animal was a goat, as opposed to say a giraffe or elephant. Now, I'm not sure what this guy liked to do with his goats, but I have to say, just the mention of certain animals brings a Pavlovian dribble of saliva to my tongue. It might be odd that a guy raised as vegetarian for fifteen years would love meat so much, but I figure I'm just making up for lost time. And especially in Toronto where our barbecue season is shorter than the hair on a peach, the time to dust off your grill and get cooking has long passed.
Pork Chops with sauteed mushrooms and ricotta on a bed of greens

4 x 1 1/4" pork chops from your local butcher
2 onions, halved and sliced
3 cups of oyster mushrooms, roughly chopped
2 tbsp sweet balsamic vinegar
1 lemon, quartered
4 tbsp of ricotta cheese
1C baby spinach
1C arugala (rocket)

Salty sweet spice rub

2 tbsp kosher salt
3 tbsp hot paprika or 3 dry chillis
1 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp mustard seed
1/4 coriander
1/4 tsp nutmeg

If you have all the your spices whole, it's best to make the rub by toasting everything (except the sugar) in a dry pan over medium for 45 to 60 seconds. Let it cool down then grind the ingredients together with a mortar and pestle.

Start off by wiping your grill with a rag or paper towel soaked in olive oil and then preheat your BBQ to 450, or leave all burners on medium high for ten minutes if you don't have a thermometer built in. Inside, saute the onions on medium heat for 3 or 4 minutes until they're soft, then add mushrooms and let them cook down for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, season with salt and pepper and turn down to minimum heat.

Rub your chops in the spice mixture and then bring them outside and place on the BBQ with at least an inch of space around all of your pieces of meat on the grill, to allow the hot air to circulate and cook evenly (they'll need to be flipped in four minutes). Close the lid. Inside, add a healthy splash of balsamic vinegar to your mushrooms and onion and stir throughout leaving on low heat to cook off excess moisture. Back outside, flip your meat and close the lid again allowing the chops to cook for another 4 minutes... if you want crosshatched sear marks to impress your guests, give the meat a 90 degree turn 2 minutes into cooking on each side and keep the heat just a touch higher to make up for opening your grill over and over.

Prep the plates with your greens, lay the meat on top, garnish with your balsamic reduction, and then finish with a healthy dollop of ricotta. Serve with a slice of lemon if you prefer. Or better yet, a slice of lemon on a tom collins. Cheers to Spring.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Why not do it upside down?

Tarte Tatin is French for upside down tart and if you've never made one, you've missed out. You're gonna read the recipe and think it's missing a step but it's not. It really is that easy and it looks so damn gorgeous when it's done. It's also an ideal recipe to use up that little ball of left over pastry you have in the freezer because you only need one thin sheet. You can use whatever firm fruit you prefer. We've tried apple and pear and both turned out well. I've also seen quince tarte tatins, which should be delicious, too.

Recipe: Tarte Tatin

3-4 Firm Pears or Apples
Juice of half a lemon
1 tbsp butter
1/3 c Dark Brown Sugar

One thin sheet of pastry dough

Wash, peel, core and quarter Pears. Toss in bowl with lemon juice and set aside. Melt butter in a small cast-iron skillet or baking tin. Stir in brown sugar and remove from heat. Arrange pear quarters in the pan tightly packing them in overlapping concentric circles. You really want to cram them in because they'll cook down a lot. Cook over medium heat 20-25 min. Do not move or stir pears while cooking, but gently press them down with a spatula as they soften. If you don't have a cast iron skillet and are using a cake pan, cook the pears in a preheated 350 oven using the lower oven rack for about the same time.

While the pears are cooking, roll dough on lightly floured surface into a circle matching the size of your skillet or pan. Aim for a thickness of 1/4". Drape dough over pears, tucking in the edges, and bake tart on upper rack of a 400 degree oven until golden brown, 35-40 min.

Remove from oven and invert a plate or baking sheet over the tart. Carefully flip skillet and baking sheet simultaneously. Lift off skillet, loosen any apples that may have stuck, and reunite them with the tart.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Mush ado about nothing.

Apologies for bad puns may be in order sometime, but for whatever reason I can't seem to help myself. Anyways, this is a really simple mushroom salad recipe and being a fun guy, I'm just going to toss it out there for anyone who's interested. I, also, wanted a segue way to talk about Ron Mann and his cultishly nerdy documentary films and his interestingly cultivated obsessions, like marijuana and mushrooms, and to say that if you overlook their titles (which stink: like Grass and Know Your Mushrooms) he is another example of a cool, interesting person doing their thing in Toronto. So check him out if you haven't already because he knows what's up with culture. Did I mention he's hilarious and buddies with Woody Harrelson and Jim Jarmusch?

Sauteed Mushrooms on Baby Spinach & Arugula (Rocket)

Mushrooms (for a big 4 to 6 person salad)
1C King Oyster
1C Shitake
1C Chanterelles
1C Porcini
1C Oyster

1/4 Olive oil
2C Baby Spinach, destemmed
2C Arugala
3tbsp Balsamic vinegar (buy a good one, that's sweet and tart)
Cracked pepper, to garnish

Start by chopping the larger mushrooms down to the size of the smaller ones, you want everything to have roughly the same shape and thickness, so it cooks evenly throughout. Heat your olive oil in a large skillet over a medium-high flame and just before it hits the smoking point toss in all of your mushrooms, flip the pan to coat the shrooms in oil and then season. Saute the mushrooms for 5 to 10 minutes (the word and tehcnique derives from the French, ‘jumped,’ past participle of sauter). This means your fungus should literally be crackling and jumping out of the hot oil in the pan when you dump them in, not soaking up the grease and getting bogged down in luke warm oil. You'll know the mush mixture is done when the moisture has been cooked out and the exteriors brown.

Serve over a bed of baby spinach and arugula and drizzle with a healthy splash of balsamic vinegar. Top with cracked black pepper and chow down. This is a hardy and amazingly tasty and filling salad and works as a vegetarian main if the servings of mushroom are generous enough.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Berry Blues

The blue ones always show up first. I think they're supposed to be ready to pick at the end of April but it's been warmer this year so the fruit shops on my way home have had gorgeous baskets filled with the dreamy blue-black berries for a few weeks now. How can you resist? Blueberries are great. They remind me of Robert Frost poems and make me want to bake. My first blueberry adventure this year was this coffee cake. It came out moist and delicious and looked absolutely beautiful because of all the dark blue magic in it.

You ought to have seen how it looked in the rain,
The fruit mixed with water in layers of leaves,
Like two kinds of jewels, a vision for thieves.
-Robert Frost

Recipe: Blueberry Coffee (or tea) Cake

1 1/2 C All Purpose Flour
2 tsp Baking Powder
3/4C Sugar
1/3 C Canola Oil
1 egg
1/2 C Orange Juice
1 tsp Orange or Lemon Zest
1 tsp Good Vanilla Extract
1 C Blueberries

Optional Streusel Topping

1/2 C Flour
4 tbsp Brown Sugar
4 Tsp Canola Oil or Melted Butter
2 tsp Cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and the baking powder. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg with the sugar and oil until frothy. Add the Orange Juice, zest, and vanilla to the egg mixture and mix. Add the flour in thirds and stir until uniform but don't over-beat. Finally, fold in the blueberries.

For the Streusel topping, simply add all the ingredients and mix them with a fork. Pour half of the batter into a greased shallow cake pan (2 1/2") and top with half of the streusel. Next, pour the rest of the batter in and finish with the rest of the streusel. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.

This is a very moist and fruity cake, so if you plan on keeping it for more than a few days, keep it chilled to avoid moldy berries.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Fishy business

I have an odd sort of relationship with fish, as I was raised by vegetarians who (this is not a joke) refused to let me use their pans when I decided as a teenager that I wanted to start cooking seafood and meats at home. At the time I was working in a bistro (the only one in my Polish neighbourhood) doing kitchen prep., which meant washing dishes, preparing an absolutely revolting amount of squid for calamari (as in gallon buckets of the squirmy little, ink squirting buggers every afternoon after highschool), and last but not least, gutting fish. Lots of them, big ones, small ones, stinky ones, writhing ones, ones that ingested golf balls, and fatlaced pretty in pink salmon bellies were all laid open on my cuttingboard. It was a foul, squeamish experience for an adolescent vegetarian that I will readily admit was eased by a bad habit, smoking. At the time, nobody seemed to make a fuss about cigarettes in restaurants (it was a French place after all), and so preparing fish will forever remind me of having a smoke hanging off my lip and a Frenchmen screaming at me to Hurry up wheat the feckin poisson. For some reason I still can't quite figure out, I have very fond memories of the place and occasionally "sneak" into the gastropub that inhabits my old haunts to stare longingly through the handoff window into the ugly, little ten square foot kitchen of my youth.

You may be interested to know: a tagine is a slow cooked stew of spiced meat or fish cooked over vegetable in an earthenware dish, but the word tagine actually comes from the Arabic ṭājin, which just means frying pan.

Moroccan white fish tagine
(from Moro East)

4 fillets of white fish (monkfish and mackerel both work well)
1/4C Olive oil, 6 tbsp to coat a sauce pan and 2 tbsp to rub on fish fillets
2 onions, sliced whole into thin rings
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
1/2 cup of golden raisins
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp saffron
1 1/2 tsp turmeric
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp orange blossom essence
1 3/4C water
2 large potatoes,peeled and diced to half inch cubes

Preheat oven to 230/425.

Start by frying your onions over medium heat in the olive oil until tender and gold, about 5 to 10 minutes, then add the garlic and raisins and continue to brown for another 3 to 5 min. Now stir in the admixture of dried spices (ginger, saffron, turmeric and cinnamon, as well as a bit of salt and pepper) and fry for thirty seconds or a minute til all is combined in pan. Next, pour in the water and stir thoroughly, while bringing the mixture to a simmer, continue for about 5 min.

Oil, salt and pepper your fillets, in other words, season the fish. If you haven't already, clean and dice your potatoes and salt them well. Now, in a roasting pan stir potatoes into the spiced onion and raisin blend and cover with aluminum foil, then roast in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. Depending on what type and weight of fish you have (check online) the finishing time will vary; either way, the last step is to pull everything from the oven, turn up the foil and lay the fish sections on top of the tangine, recover with the foil, and replace in the oven until your fish is done.

Serve with rice, bread, or any side you prefer as this dish already has a starch and protein, it's rather versatile... enjoy.

Monday, April 12, 2010

In Praise of Pancakes

We pick up our prints at the photo place every week or so, and flip through them excitedly deciding which post we're going to do next and drool over images of food we've eaten the week before. The cycle feeds itself. We cook delicious food, and it often looks great so we photograph it, and another roll of film is developed and... you get the idea. Pancakes have turned up in many of these rolls. They are such perfect canvases for whatever mood you (or your pantry) happen to be in, and I have decided to be completely unapologetic about the fact that there will be multiple posts regarding these little round griddle things. Here's a simple one that goes perfectly with a press full of dark roast and the Sunday paper...

Recipe: Buckwheat Blueberry Pancakes (for two)
1 egg
1 c all-purpose flour, sifted
1/4 c buckwheat flour, sifted
2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/4 c buttermilk (you can make this yourself by adding white vinegar to milk and letting it rest)
2 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c fresh blueberries
butter for griddle/pan

Sift the Flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. In larger bowl, whisk the egg and sugar until frothy, then add buttermilk milk, vanilla, and melted butter and whisk until mixed. Incorporate the dry ingredients with the buttermilk mixture using a fork and do not beat or over mix. Small lumps are fine.

Allow the batter to rest for ten minutes.

Preheat the over to 200°F. Lightly grease a griddle or frying pan with enough butter to coat the surface and bring to medium heat. Dispense the batter using an ice cream scoop or ladle, forming small circles depending on how many pancakes you would like to make. Cook for a few minutes, press in a few blueberries, and when small bubbles appear all over the pancake, flip. If they don't detach from the griddle easily, they're not ready to flip yet. Cook for a minute on the other side, and remove. At this point you can keep the cooked pancakes in the preheated oven until you are ready to serve them.

When the pancakes are done (or if you can multitask, in a separate frying pan) toss a cup of fresh blueberries in a tablespoon of butter on medium heat for a few minutes until berries are hot and sizzling.

Top the pancakes
with the cooked berries and finish with a healthy drizzle of you favorite syrup. Good morning!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Will curry for favour

This recipe for a Chicken and Potato curry has become my absolute hands down favourite meal over the last few months (read: Toronto winter). It's spicy and sweet and aromatic and flavourfully complex in a just so kind of deliciousness that really can't be made any other way than in a wok (You can get a fantastic wok for under ten bucks in a chinatown or thriftshop near you, so there's no excuse). It's basically just a Thai take on any classic one-pot wonder style dish, adding one ingredient at a time until they all combine into some sort of magic, ready for your mouth. Mmm, good eating is promised if you follow through on this one and it also makes the absolute best leftovers ever, for sure, guaranteed (in my opinion) or your money back. This curry is worth a hard sell.

Hot Sour Salty Sweet's Chicken and Potato Curry

1 whole chicken cubed to 1" (2 breasts/2 legs bone-in will due; you could debone, but you lose so much flavour it's really worth it to just pick the bones out as you eat)
6 to 8 potatoes, peeled and cubed to 1"
3 Thai red chiles, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 shallots, diced
2 tbsp frying oil (canola/vegetable/sunflower are all OK)
2 tbsp fish sauce (pasted anchovies, sugar and water if you don't have)
1 can (400ml) coconut milk
1 tsp orange blossom essence (you can substitute rose water)
6 kaffir (lime) leaves (if you absolutely cannot possibly find these anywhere use the zest of a lime)
2 green onions, sliced diagonally for garnish
1 handful of fresh coriander/cilantro, chopped for garnish

It seems like a lot of stuff to go in all at once, but if you cut everything first and have all the knife work done and the ingredients ready to go on your cutting board this recipe is eyes-closed, do-it-drunk-while-chatting easy and a total wOw for anyone who's never tried it. Parboil your potatoes and save 2C of the starchy water. In a mortar and pestle or with the butt of something hard in a sturdy mixing bowl, smash up and mash up the chiles, garlic and shallots. Heat oil in wok to medium-high and the fry up your spice paste for 30 seconds. Add the chicken, season well with salt and pepper and brown (5-10 minutes). Open the can of coconut milk and pour the watery bit in with the potato water leaving the fatter bit til later; next, add the coconut-potato water to the chicken and put in the potatoes as well. Bring to a rolling boil, cover and simmer for a half hour.

Take off your lid, stir everything up and make sure the potatoes and chicken are both cooked through. Now your ready to add the orange blossom water, kaffir leaves, and remaining 'cream' of the coconut milk. Boil for another 5 to 10 until the sauce start to separate a bit, taste for seasoning, toss in the scallion, plate and garnish with cilantro and healthy dose of a cracked black pepper on top. Serve over rice, preferably jasmine, and try not to over eat; this recipe can be dangerous.

Friday, March 19, 2010

A Bodacious Banana Bread

Evan claims I've made Banana Bread 30 times in the last year. I really hope that's not true, but I do admit I love banana bread. Some little part of me gets really happy when I discover a few brown bananas at the bottom of the fruit bowl or sitting on the counter. They may not be bright yellow but they're full of good sugars and at the peak of their nutritional value. I have a few recipes that I've used over the years and each yields a slightly different banana bread but this one is wonderful because it's so healthy. It's great to slice up and take to work, or toast and have with butter in the morning. For added yum, shave some bittersweet chocolate right into the batter and you will end up with a chocolate spotted loaf of banana delight. Oh and that's right, there is no oil in the recipe, but should you prefer a more decadent loaf, replace the applesauce with softened butter.

Recipe: Banana Bread

4 really ripe bananas (the riper the sweeter)
2/3 c brown sugar (use 3/4c if you prefer sweeter)
1/2 c applesauce (here is our recipe)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 1/2 c all purpose flour
1/2 c whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp baking powder
a pinch of salt
2/3 c chopped pecans
(optional: 1/4 c semisweet chocolate shavings)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Mash the bananas
with a fork or a potato masher. Add the eggs, applesauce, vanilla, sugar, and salt. Mix well.In a separate bowl, mix the flours, baking powder and soda. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in thirds, gently working it in with a spatula. Stir until the mixture is uniform and no dry flour is visible but do not over-mix. The batter should be clumpy and fairly thick. Fold in the buts, and set some aside for the top(if you are adding chocolate, this is your cue).

Grease a loaf pan
and pour in your batter. Bake in the preheated oven for 50-60minutes or until a toothpick or paring knife inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. Remove from pan and bake naked in the oven for another 7 minutes to get a golden loaf.

Cool on a rack, slice, and serve.

A Trifle confused

This take on trifle is an absolutely offensive dessert and is a totally confused mish-mash of all of the things in our fridge and cupboard that probably shouldn't be eaten alone [espresso, cake, whisky, overripe bananas, whip cream, solid Oaxacan chocolate, and custard) let alone in conjunction or layered in wine glasses and gobbled down after a meal. Anyway, it was killer and I'm not sure that I've ever consumed so many calories so quickly with out even really having to chew, so much as gulp down the goodness. It was either a trifle, or a tiramisu, either way it was delicious, terrible, downright voluptuousness in a cup.
Banana chocolate espresso tiramisu/trifles
[Note: recipe will make two wine goblets full, but double according to how many you need to serve]

6 lady fingers, sliced lengthwise
1/2C espresso, cooled
2 tbsp, whisky, i.e. a shot
1/2C crushed walnuts
1 ripe banana, cut into medallions
1/4 C whipped cream, to top
1/4C chocolate, shaved for garnish

Custard ingredients:
1C milk
2 egg yolks
3 tbsp caster sugar
a drop of vanilla
1/4 Oaxacan chocolate, ground or finely grated

Start off by getting a double boiler going for the custard. Bring the milk to the boiling point but remove before it simmers. In a seperate mixing bowl, beat the egg yolks, sugar and vanilla until light and aerated. Once the milk has cooled to a touchable heat, whisk it, splash by splash, into the egg and sugar mix. Now add the combined ingredients to the top of your double boiler (which should be hot but NOT boiling), whisk constantly for ten or so minutes until mixture thickens to a dolloping consistency, then whisk in the ground chocolate and remove from heat. Run the custard through a strainer to make sure there are no eggy bits and then cool, covered in the fridge.

In each of your serving dishes layer the sliced ladyfingers to cover the bottom (I actually used a leftover poundcake, but anything that will absorb moisture and is relatively unflavoured will do) then coat evenly with the combined espresso and whisky. Let sit for a few minutes to allow the moisture absorb into the cake. Now you're ready to coat with a thin layer of crushed nuts, which will separate the moist cake from the banana medallions that you spread to make the next layer. Get out your cooled custard and add an inch or so thick coating to each portion, then let sit (and any air bubbles rise) while you whip your cream. Dollop the whip cream on top of the custard, and grate on chocolate to top.

Now devour the whole thing immediately awash in gluttony. Or you can chill them for four to six hours until your ready to serve, these are actually a great dessert to make a head of time because they can wait in the fridge almost all day. Just don't keep them overnight or the whip cream will sink into the custard.


Sunday, March 14, 2010

The taste of our new neighbourhood

We've recently moved to a new neighbourhood in Toronto's west end, home to a huge population of the city's diasporic North African communities. And after dipping into some of the restaurants, and finding the injera, Ethiopian flatbreads, available on all of the local grocer's shevles we decided it was about time that we tried to cook up some of the Ethiopian flavours in our own kitchen. Both of the two recipes that follow are adapted from the vegetarian platters we've tried at the restaurants that line Bloor street in our neighbourhood in conjunction with some recipes found online, and a conversation I shared with the woman who sold us some berbere, a toasted spice mix that you can easily make yourself if it's unavailable, just click the link for a how-to. Also, if you're interested, these recipes are both completely vegan.
Aleecha - Peppery Ethiopian Carrot & Cabbage

1 head of savoy cabbage, diced to one inch squares
3 carrots, chopped to quarter inch coins
1 white onion, chopped
4 potatoes, cut in one inch cubes (optional)
4 cloves garlic, pasted
1 tsp ginger powder
1 tbsp turmeric
1 tbsp black pepper, cracked
1 tsp salt, to taste
3 tbsp light cooking oil, (canola or sunflower)

Heat the oil on a medium high flame in a medium pot with the lid off, adding onions and garlic paste and cook, stirring often, for five minutes or until soft. (Put your exhaust fan on high) Add the ginger, tumeric and pepper and let the flavours cook into the onions and garlic, stirring vigorously for about a minute. The mixture should be very fragrant and might make you sneeze once or twice.

The last step is simple but takes a while: add the cabbage (optional potatoes, we just weren't that hungry, so I left them out and the dish was amazing) and carrots and stir for a few minutes until everything in your pot has blended together, and the vegetables are coated in the flavourful onion mixture. Now reduce the heat to low and affix a tight fitting lid and cook for 35 to 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. You shouldn't have to add any liquids, the natural moisture of the vegetables should make everything cook in its own juices, but be careful not to burn in the first few minutes, when the bottom of your pot is still hot from frying the onions and garlic.

Mesir Wat - Ethiopian lentils reduced in Berbere

2C lentils, canned or rehydrated
2 onions
2 cloves of garlic
2 tbsp of fresh ginger
1 tsp salt
1/4C berbere
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cardamom
3 tbsp light cooking oil
4C of water, or vegetable stock

First off, make a paste out of the onion, ginger and garlic, using either a food processor, mortar and pestle, or if you have the time and energy, a heavy cleaver. Heat oil to medium-high in a good sized sauce pot with the lid set aside for later. Now, fry up the berbere and and turmeric in the oil for about thirty seconds, until the spicy aroma is thoroughly infused in the oil. Next, add the onion paste and cook off the excess moisture, which should take five to ten minutes. You'll know when it's cooked by the sweet smell and the paste turns a golden colour through out.

Now, just add the lentils and stir until completely coated, then add the water. Bring everything to a simmer and let cook on the stove for 30 to 45 minutes. Serve with Aleecha on top of warm Injera (which hopefully will post a recipe for soon), alternatively serve over flatbread and rice if you can't find any Injera.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Episode of the Madeleine

It's true. Memories register with different senses, and taste is a big one. In A La Rechereche Du Temps Perdu, Proust's protagonist, Marcel, eats one of these little cakes and can't help but be transported back to his childhood. He calls it "involuntary memory". I like that. I eat these cakes and am transported too; certainly not to Marcel's Combray, but instead to my Tehran of the 1990's where corner stores sold little cakes and individual bottles of chocolate milk. It amazes me to think that my brain has packed so much in with the simple taste of a sweetly dense sponge cake, but it has, and I can't help indulging in these lovely recreations.

Recipe: Lemon Glazed Madeleines

3 large eggs (room temperature)
2/3 cup sugar
1 tspn vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1 1/4 cup pastry or all purpose flour
1 tspn baking powder
zest of one whole small lemon
9 tablespoons (120g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature, plus additional melted butter for the molds

For Glaze (which is optional, but recommended)
3/4 cup icing sugar
1 tbspn freshly-squeezed lemon juice
2 tbspn water

First brush the insides of the madeleine molds with melted butter, dust with flour, shake excess and put in freezer. Do not take this step lightly, because these little things will stick.

Using an electric mixer or egg beater, whip the eggs, sugar, vanilla and salt for 5 minutes or until thick and frothy. Sift the flour and baking powder in a separate bowl. Sift/sprinkle the flour mixture into the wet ingredients, gently folding them in with a spatula. Add the lemon zest to the cooled butter, then pour the butter into the batter, a little bit at a time, while simultaneously folding to incorporate everything. Fold just until all the butter is incorporated. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour.

To bake, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Scoop a rounded tablespoon of batter into each mold, leaving the batter in a mound (it spreads itself out in the heat). Bake 10-12 minutes or until the cakes are puffy and golden brown. While the cakes are baking, mix the ingredients for the glaze and set aside. After removing from the oven, and as soon as the cakes are cool enough to handle, dip them into the glaze. They should be warm when you do this. Allow excess glaze to drip off and set them on the cooling rack and wait while they cool and the glaze sets.

Serve with coffee, tea, or milk, and see where they take you...

Friday, March 5, 2010

Playing With Fire

Your dictionary will try to convince you that crème brûlée means burnt cream, but oh it's so much more. It's a velvety, smooth, voluptuous bed of custard under an impossibly crisp sugar crust. If that hasn't won you over yet, consider this: you also get to play with a blow torch. Sold. Right? I was never crazy about making these, because of the hot water bath baking and all the fuss with the splitting creme. Then I came across Nigella's method and couldn't resist. No baking, no water bath, just a whisk and a little patience. The night we made this, our vegan friends dropped by unexpectedly and when they saw what was on the table they both sinned. Can you blame them? Here's how to make your own...

Recipe: Crème brûlée

1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1/2 vanilla bean
4 egg yolks
1 generous tablespoon granulated sugar
Approximately 3 tablespoons Demerara sugar

Start by placing 4 shallow individual ramekins in the freezer. Alternatively you can use one larger dish. Chop a vanilla pod in half and scrape the lovely seeds out. Pour the creme into a saucepan with the vanilla seeds and bring to the boiling point, but do not continue to boil.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks and the granulated sugar together. While whisking the egg and sugar, pour the creme into the bowl. Continue whisking to avoid scrambling your eggs. Pour everything back into the saucepan and cook over medium-low heat until the custard thickens (about 10 min). Nigella says "You do want this to be a good, voluptuous crème, so don’t err on the side of runny caution."

When the custard is thick and nice, get your dish(es) out of the deep freeze and pour it in. Leave outside to cool for about 10 minutes and put in the refrigerator till truly chilled. Just before serving, generously sprinkle the tops with demerara sugar and burn using a blowtorch until bubbles form. Cool for a moment and Serve. It's best to make the sugar crust just before serving, If you sprinkle the sugar and don't burn it immediately, the sugar will absorb moisture and you will end up with a shell that is chewy instead of crisp.

Note: You can buy a small kitchen blowtorch at most kitchen stores these days. They're much smaller than the hardware store kind, but just as effective. And please, be careful.