Thursday, January 31, 2008

Lemony Christmas

It was a Greek Christmas for our post-the-holidays party at Raisa's, an idea cannily suggested by Flora and leapt upon by us girls (we who were possibly experiencing turkey fatigue by this point in the holiday season). Raisa's house was still beautifully decorated, of course, and luckily the tree was still up. It was a lovely setting for a little cooking exchange and a little gift exchange! Check out the gingerbread house (made by the husband-and-wife decorating team of Raisa and Craig) in the top left picture.

So why was it a lemony Christmas? We discovered that Greek food calls for plenty of lemons (or perhaps the particular Greek recipes we'd chosen did), and something like 14 lemons were used in the making of dinner! We all tackled different elements of dinner. Meg made pitas from scratch (with recipe aid from her mom and sister) and hummus. Flora grilled the chicken, Raisa made lemon potatoes, Alisha made a Greek salad and pineapple skewers, and Michelle and I made goat-yoghurt tzatziki and roasted veg (including lemons, of course). Here Meg reveals the dough that was destined to become pita, and below, Raisa makes her lemon potatoes, Alisha takes on a pineapple, our tzatziki comes together and Flora starts meal assemblage.



Raisa had this incredibly cool rolling-out sheet, complete with rolling diameters and measurements up the side and conversion charts.



Maybe it was that, or maybe it was the careful stirring (only in one direction, so the strands of gluten didn't break or tangle), but the pitas actually puffed up like they should! Impressive.



The food managed to span both sides of Raisa's counter with lots of Greek goodness. That's roasted garlic hiding in the tinfoil there. Mm.




We retreated to the (astonishing) comfort of Raisa's sectional in order to eat. Here is my plate, bathed in the glow of Raisa's stylish lamp. Wow, I would eat that again.



And of course, post-dinner, gifts were exchanged. Interestingly (and possibly not surprisingly?) several were food-themed. Alisha got a (sexy) apron, I got (shapely) salt & pepper shakers, Michelle got a (retro) kitchen clock (and butter keeper, but not pictured), and Meg got a (travel) kitchen kit (and slow-cooker – musn't forget that, as hopefully it will feature in posts to come!).


And we finished up with pineapple skewers (and a cup of tea or two). What a lovely celebration it was. Thanks everyone! Now who was it that styled Tula's hair like that, I wonder?


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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Sometimes Serendipity Shines!

The evening we made Thai Fish Curry was one of those days.

I was walking home wondering what delicious meal we would concoct this evening. As we were leaving for the bus, I said to Laura "I feel like a curry. Perhaps one with fish." Little did we realize the stars were aligning. Then Laura told me we were meeting Alisha and Meg at the fishmonger's to see if there was anything interesting.

When Meg and Alisha arrived, they produced a recipe book and asked what we thought of...the pages of the recipe book unfold to reveal...

Thai Green Fish Curry!!

Weird! Sweet Serendipity!

Do you ever encounter those meals, where you can pick out every ingredient and you can't imagine it more perfectly? Every component below added to the flavour and was perfect. Don't skimp on any of it.

We used two ingredients none of us had ever used before. Very exciting!
The fishmonger supplied us with ling cod, and the grocer supplied the red rice.

Bon Apetit!




Ingredients

750g ling cod (or any firm white fish), cut into small pieces
1 tbsp peanut oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tbsp fresh lemon grass, finely chopped
1 red Thai chili, seeded and finely chopped
1/4 c Thai green curry paste

1 2/3 c coconut milk (cream is preferable)
1 c vegetable stock
2 green onions, finely chopped
350g green beans, chopped coarsely

1 red pepper, chopped in small pieces
1 tbsp lime rind, finely grated or chopped
2 tbsp fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1/4 c, toasted macadamias, finely chopped - It is best to buy raw macadamias and toast them in the oven until lightly brown - watch them closely as light brown turns to burnt quickly

1 c red rice ( this should serve 4 portions) this is available in most stores and is cooked much like brown rice

Red Rice -
1. Rinse rice and drain
2. Bring to a boil 1 3/4 - 2 c water
3. Add rice to boiling water, cover, return to a boil
4. Reduce heat to low and cook for 45 minutes or until water is absorbed
5. Remove from heat, let stand covered for 10 minutes

Fish Curry
1. Heat oil in pan, cook garlic, lemon grass, chili and paste
2. Stir until the fragrances are released
3. Stir in milk (or cream) and stock, and bring to a boil
4. Add fish, onion and beans, simmer covered until fish is cooked and beans are tender
5. On a bed of red rice, ladle the delicious curry over top
6. Add a smattering of lime rind, coriander, pepper and nuts, on top

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Memorial to Many Filled Jars

This post has been brewing in my head since September – first it was going to be an excited gushing about how much fun canning is, how beautiful the process and the results all tucked away for later days. Then, when I still hadn't posted by November, it was going to be a bittersweet recognition that yes, summer was over, but it was okay because I had evidence that it existed right up there in my cupboard, I could taste it still. Then, a couple of weeks later when I opened the first jar of pickles, it was going to be a confession of mine and Darryl's instant addiction to homemade pickles, our inability to eat anything less than the whole jar at one time. Those pickles were so amazing, I know you can't even imagine how good they tasted.

But now, it's January and my no holds barred philosophy has left me with many empty jars and only a couple still filled with deliciousness. So now this post is a promise to can everything I can get my hands on next fall.

Besides the legendary pickles....


...we canned 50 lbs of whole tomatoes from my Mom's favourite farm in Saanich...
(pushing them into the jars was the funnest part, after which they became kind of alien...)
... unbeatable tomato basil pasta sauce, and...

... zucchini salsa!
The recipe for this salsa comes from my Aunt, and it's amazing. Here it is, so you can make your own and love love love it. If you're not up for canning, or don't have the equipment, you could make a smaller batch and just keep it in the fridge.


Aunt Shelagh's Zucchini Salsa
10 cups grated zucchini (use food processor)
3 cups green onions
3-8 jalepenos (depending on how spicy you like it – 5 or 6 turned out perfect for us this time)
5 tbsp salt

Mix these 4 ingredients together and let stand overnight. In the morning, rinse the mixture very well (to remove salt) and drain. Then add the following:

5-6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp cumin
1 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp corn starch
2 cups white vinegar
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp tumeric
1 28 oz can of diced tomatoes
1 small can of tomato paste

Boil everything in a pot for 30 minutes, stirring often. Fill jars and process 15 minutes in canner.
So, just a couple more points about canning and then this post is really done (and after only 5 months!):
  • A delicious thank you to everyone who gave me canning for Christmas – I've been enjoying pickled beets, roasted red peppers, mango salsa, and kiwi pineapple jam, with orange cranberry marmalade, peach pear raspberry jam and pomegranate jelly still sitting pretty and safe in the cupboard.
  • A few of those mentioned above were given to me by my mom and originated at the Moss Street Market in Victoria, where Jennifer of Forward Thinking Foods sells her creative and absolutely gorgeous preserves, pickles, chutneys and marmalades. Check out her blog for canning inspiration.
  • And, if you want a closer look at the canning adventure we had in September – complete with steam – it's documented in this flicker set: Canning for the very first time.
Until next summer... which actually now isn't that far away, right?

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Friday, January 25, 2008

A Great Technique for Cooking Steak and Delicious Thai Beef Salad

Laura and I are always looking for Meals to Depend On - tasty meals we can make with not too much effort on a weeknight that are healthy and full of flavour. This lovely Thai Beef Salad is definitely one we will be adding to our list.

We have made this salad before but the beef is never quite right, I usually overcook it via a stove-top pan-fry method.

This time, I decided I would try a new technique for cooking the steak (the worst that could happen would be overcooking again). I believe this is the restaurant method for cooking steaks: Pan Broiling. It was brilliant. A flavourful crisp on the outside, a delicious pink on the inside. No more overcooked steak for us.

Try this as home as soon as possible!



This salad is delicious and light. The beef was juicy and savory, the greens and herbs were fresh and flavourful, the dressing deep and spicy. Mmm Mmm Mmm!

Thai Beef Salad Recipe (with Pan Broiled Steak)

Steaks - we bought 3/4 inch thick grilling steaks from the supermarket

1. Preheat broiler and pan for broiling with the rack 4-5 inches from broiler. We used an oven-safe frying pan.

2. Brush with a little olive oil then salt and pepper both sides of the steak.

3. Place steaks in preheated pan and place under broiler. For our 3/4 inch thick steaks, 8-9 minutes were required for medium-rare doneness. Our steak were direct from the fridge but note if using beef at room temperature, it will cook a few minutes faster. While waiting, mix salad and make dressing (as listed below)

4. Turn steaks once just past half way through (~5min in).

5. Take steaks from oven when time is up and rest the meat for 5 minutes

6. Cut juicy thin pink slices to crown the salad.

Salad - mix in a bowl
Greens
2 small red onions, thinly sliced
10 kaffir lime leaves, shredded ( we soaked some dried ones and just used some of the soaking water instead)
3 large mild chilis, shredded with seeds removed
2/3 c cilantro leaves, chopped
2/3 c mint leaves, chopped
2/3 c basil leaves, chopped

Dressing - mix together
1 tsp soy sauce
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp brown or palm sugar

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

My wish came true!

On Monday I opened my mailbox to see one of those great slips of paper from the mailman saying that I had a parcel to pick up! I had no idea what it could be. Christmas is over, Darryl and my birthdays are both half a year away, it's the middle of January when nothing very pleasant happens at all... So I kept puzzling, stopped by the post office the next day on my way home, and was handed an amazon.ca box! I thought, did I order something by accident? Go a few clicks too far while browsing? Or did they get an address mixed up and send me someone else's books? But no, it had my name on it. So I ran home in anticipation, set it on the table, grabbed some scissors, and revealed...

...the book I've been dreaming about! And underneath that, the second volume! I was overjoyed, and knew right away that my cookbook benefactor and WeDine's #1 fan (Granny Barb) must be behind this beautiful, tasty surprise. For the past two days I've been falling asleep with the book in my hands, reading it again over breakfast, and slowly composing a grocery list for the French (!) dinner party I'm going to have on Saturday. The first two assignments in my kitchen re-education: Légumes à la Grecque and Coq au Vin. So, that means vegetables cooked in aromatic broth and chicken in red wine with onions, mushrooms, and bacon (in the method of a fricassee, I've already learned) but don't they sound so good in French? Mmmmmmmm. I've already fallen in love with Julia's writing style. She somehow manages to sound completely serious and light-heartedly hilarious at the same time. She totally cracks me up, and I believe her when she tells me that with the right instruction I can master all these seemingly complex techniques, and then every dish I make, whether French or Japanese or Indian, will be so much better. So, here come good things... 1239 soft, creamy, beautifully typeset, lovingly illustrated pages of them.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The restaurant with the best view of Trafalgar Square on the shortest day of the year

On midwinter's day, after an eventful and cultural morning in London, my dad and I met up with my brother Ben at the National Portrait Gallery Restaurant for lunch. The NPG restaurant is a favourite of ours, as it is ultra-convenient (located on the top floor of the NPG, right at Trafalgar Square), has stylish and delicious food, and is blessed with one of the best views in London, as you can see. Also, just off to the right, the Canadian flag flies proudly atop Canada House, the Canadian Embassy, making Ben and I feel right at home.


Ben had just flown in from Montreal, and had manfully made his way to central London from Heathrow that morning. He was determined not to let jetlag stand in the way of good cuisine. I can understand that impulse! We had a lot to catch up on:



We ordered from the a la carte menu, as the prix fixe was entirely Christmas-themed, and we didn't feel like pre-turkey turkey. Ben had a salad with caramelised apple, pear and shropshire blue cheese. Oh, and candied pecans and port syrup. Port syrup! Mm.



Dad and I both had the foie gras parfait on brioche (or rather, beside the brioche, as you see here. It could have used more brioche to the ratio of foie gras, I think). Us both having the same thing was unusual – my dad pursues a policy of determinedly not getting the same thing as us so we can all share and try something different. Clearly the foie gras was too tempting! The 'winter chutney' that accompanied it was also delicious.



My dad then moved on to a venison and chestnut-mushroom pie with potatoes, which was an 'open' pie (you can probably figure out why it was called that). Is that anything like a 'deconstructed' pie? It was fantastic – particularly that quilted pastry.



Ben had the slow-cooked prime beef (clearly slow-cooking is the business, as they say in England). The horseradish mashed potatoes look a little intestinal, no? But the ale and prune gravy was delicious. You can see the prunes in the dish too. The crispy strips on top were honey-roasted parsnips, which I didn't get around to trying, though I quite like parsnips.



And my main was roast guinea fowl, with celeriac gratin (absolutely delicious), braised red cabbage (mm!), caramelised onion (can't go wrong) and sloe gin and redcurrant jus. You can see some redcurrants perched jauntily on top of my dish. They were very tasty. Learn more about redcurrants here, if you wish.



For dessert, Ben had a selection of ice creams and sorbetto with pistachio biscotti. We figured out that one was chocolate and one raspberry, but the third was a mystery. We must train our ice cream palette!



My dad had this caramel tarte tatin with pear william ice cream (pear william is a French liqueur made from Bartlett pears).



And I had this amazing concoction: lavender-skewered fruit, with a chocolate fondue and a little dollop of ice cream (you can just see it at the end). It was a three-ice cream dessert course, between all of us!



After all that, I gratefully sunk into a pot of Earl Grey, whilst the boys had coffee. Three hours of happy eating, drinking and conversing had passed, and what a perfect way to spend three of the precious daylight hours of the shortest day of the year!



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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Niçoise

This lovely ethereal floating butter lettuce was destined for a WeDine Salade Niçoise (always a good option for dinner). Salade Niçoise is my topic, but also my vehicle to talk about another issue in food that I sometimes contemplate: presentation. But more on that later. We made our Niçoise with the aid of a Gordon Ramsay recipe that Michelle had spied on a BBC food site, and it seemed both hearty and light enough for mid-September, so we bought a couple of tuna steaks and set this lettuce to floating in its bag (to clean it. I think).


Here are our tuna steaks in the pan. I must admit, I've always nurtured a dream of buying thick logs of (possibly sushi-grade) tuna, coating them with some sort of peppercorn or poppy-seed mixture, and searing them off so they are beautifully cooked on the outside and essentially raw in the middle (ruby red, as Nigella would put it). Perhaps one day. Anyway, this tuna was delicious, if not quite cook's-dream picture-perfect.



Now what to include in a Niçoise? Are there Niçoise purists? Certainly. The food world is sometimes a scary place. It seems pretty basic to include greens or lettuce of some sort, tuna, boiled eggs, tomatoes, olives and anchovies. Onions, green beans, potatoes, garlic and bell peppers seem optional. We used green beans. Would it be horrible if I told the story about how Ben once made Niçoise without cooking the green beans? Yes? Okay, I shan't. He might be reassured to hear that the French insist that no legumes cuits (cooked veg) should be part of a true Niçoise, and that includes potatoes and beans.



The process of the Niçoise was fairly simple, so we boiled and fried the potatoes (and fried the tomatoes a bit, as per Gordon's instructions. British methods are slightly different than French!), boiled the eggs, steamed the beans, and seared the tuna. Clearly a stove-top meal! The dressing was delicious, a paste made by mashing olives, garlic and anchovies together (in our non-existent mortar) and combining with olive oil, lemon juice and balsamic. Gordon has a very specific method of assembling the salad, but we just bunged it together (classily, of course). But how important is presentation, really?



Well, that was the issue I'm hoping to discuss. To facilitate this, I'm including the photos of the Salade Niçoise recipe from two very different cookbooks. The first recipe is from Donna Hay's Modern Classics (Book One), a contemporary (2002) offering from the Australian chef and cooking mogul. Modern Classics is just that, a re-vision and re-working of classic recipes such as shepherd's pie, lasagna and bouillabaisse. It's a marvellous cookbook, and is certainly visually appealing. How so? Here is Donna's food styling philosophy in her own words (from her website):

"Distracted by the plethora of extras: candles, glasses, flowers, sauce boats, fancy folded napkins that went into photographing a dish, Donna started to pare down the props and let the food be the hero. By the time Donna had become the food editor of marie claire magazine her style was set: fresh, modern food on white plates, with simple backgrounds that has captured the imagination of cooks worldwide and set a new benchmark for modern food styling and publishing."

And here is one product of that philosophy, an image of her Niçoise:



For purposes of comparison, here is the other photo I was talking about, an example of the type of image that Donna is reacting against. It's from my recently-acquired Family Circle Cookbook, circa 1974. Donna and the Family Circle Cookbook actually have a bit more in common than you'd think at first – the FCC states early on that it's not 'just another magazine cookbook' – I think Donna could relate to that. And at the time, the FCC was extremely popular in the 'cooking field,' just like Donna. Here is the photo:



I like how it seems the photographer just stumbled across this salad and glass of wine whilst tripping through a field and picking wildflowers. When I first picked up this cookbook from Value Village (where someone had abandoned it) and found recipes that combined all of the following: mushroom soup, cream cheese and mayonnaise, my only thought was to mock as much as possible. But the sheer earnestness of the FCC mission – to provide overworked women with recipes that were (alternately, not necessarily concurrently) healthy, classic, economical and, here's the kicker, visually appealing – was hard to argue with, and eventually won me over.

Now, I happen to know a lot of people who are adept at interpreting visual images, so I invite lots of discussion and debate. Hint hint. But for the moment, all I can do is offer my own opinions. Certainly some of the food presentation in the FCC looks ridiculous to modern viewers, who by now are used to bright, minimalistic arrangements with (a sometimes ludicrously) shallow depth-of-field. But I also think Donna's philosophy (to 'pare down the props') is not entirely supported in her own cookbooks.

Examining Modern Classics, the 'fancy folded napkins' are still there, they are just a textured (and very photogenic) linen. For some reason a lot of the dishes are presented with bone-handled aged silverware that would probably not be used for eating the food presented. Throughout the book there are perfectly worn cutting boards and carefully angled bowls. As far as I can tell, Donna's purported naturalism is just another set of conventions, as artificial as the photographs of the FCC, despite claims of being stripped down. And as to food being the 'hero,' what's particularly wrong with showing the environment of food as well as the food itself? When you sit down to enjoy a meal, you don't sit down in front of a white backdrop.

Don't get me wrong – I love Modern Classics, and think it's an extremely beautiful and functional book – I just believe that every element of Donna's Salade Niçoise is as carefully arranged and as intentional as the compositions in the FCC's cookbook. Donna is creating an experience around the food too – the hero is supported by beautiful tableware and linens, cutting boards and racks, and on one memorable occasion by a potted plant and gardening tool! Not so far off from wildflowers and a glass of wine. Presentation is important, I think. But we can't pretend that it's all 'fall-as-it-may' and natural. Each element of a cookbook photograph, from lighting to ingredient selection to prop arrangement is contrived.

So I put the question to you. Should food be presented on white plates? Is it even possible to take food out of its context? How important is the experience surrounding food anyway? And on that note, here is our own Salade Niçoise experience. It was delicious. You can see us enjoying it here (with a special guest!).


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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Soup, sweet soup!

I've made this French Onion soup twice in the past month. It is delicious and easy. I made it with my friends Darcie and Colin as a part of a New Year's Eve food-stravaganza. Following this rousing success, I decided to make it again for Laura (in hopes that i could convert the soup-leary).

And I can say, Laura has been converted. She loves this soup!

The sweetness of the onions, creaminess of the cheese and the soft crispy firmness of the toasted crouton - this soup is more than the sum of its parts.


Ingredients
Butter (unsalted)
Olive Oil
5 medium onions
stock (chicken or beef or a vegetarian version of these)
baguette
cheese - gruyere or cheddar

Now for the soup creation:
1.Over medium low heat, melt 2 tbsp of unsalted butter with 2 tbsp of olive oil
2. Add 5 thinly sliced medium onions (half moons are fine) and stir until coated
3. Cook on medium heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, keep an eye on them so they don't burn)
4. Turn down to medium low, continue to cook until the onions are a rich brown approx 40 minutes ( My onions never seem to achieve the mahogany brown but they taste delicious. I think the key is tasting the onions.)
5.Add 3.5 cups of stock (i use chicken stock though the original calls for beef)
6. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20min.
7. Flavour with salt to taste

While the soup is simmering, create your croutons:

1. Slice baguette into 1 inch slices, 2 pieces per bowl of soup.
2. Brush both sides of slice and toast in oven until golden

Assembly:
1. Fill a bowl with soup
2. Place 2 croutons on top
3. Sprinkle cheese on top of crouton and a little in the soup

(Traditionally, the whole assembly is put under the broiler to melt the cheese but I don't think it is necessary. )

Be careful, before you know it the pot of soup for 5 will be gone.
Enjoy.

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Monday, January 14, 2008

Goodbye Mondo Gelato, I don't need you anymore!


My freezer is usually full of chilis, curry paste, and veggie stock, but sadly devoid of ice cream. The non-dairy substitutes out there just aren't that great – not good enough to be a staple in my freezer anyway. I used to occasionally buy the amaretto flavour of Tofulatti, but that was before I tried the soy gelato at Mondo and discovered that non-dairy ice cream can actually be soft, fluffy, creamy, mmmmm. And this weekend I made an even better discovery (with a little help from my grandma and Cusinart): I can make soy icecream like that. At home. Whenever I want it. Can you believe that?

Along with the magic machine (a Cuisinart Pure Indulgence Frozen Yogurt, Ice Cream and Sorbet Maker) Granny Barb gave me a beautiful ice cream cookbook. Over the holidays I tried out the blackberry sorbet recipe. We had it for dessert after the potato leek soup, which was actually kind of perfect because the sorbet was also one of those let natural ingredients work their delicious natural magic things. Made with blackberries mom and Tess picked in the summer, it was intense, rich and fresh tasting at the same time. So, sorbet is easy to make. But soy ice cream I figured I'd have to experiment with a bit.

I'm not usually one to test a recipe before I serve it to others (sorry guys, but that would be boring). But for ice cream, I decided to pretend to be one of those cooks, just this once. I looked up tons of non-dairy ice cream recipes online, to compare methods and ingredients until I made some sense of it. I finally settled on a recipe from a blog devoted completely to vegan ice cream recipes (cool!). I made some adjustments, because I really wanted to try using coconut cream for extra flavour (I used it in place of the soy cream the recipe called for) and I didn't have any gelatin or agar agar on hand (I omitted it an and nothing horrible happened). As the ice cream was churning, I stuck a spoon in and was shocked – it was so good, perfect creamy texture, rich chocolatey flavour. Even better than Mondo, and on my first try! Just imagine what great things are to come...

Blackberry chocolate coconut non-dairy icecream
[adapted from A Vegan Ice Cream Paradise]

1½ cups blackberries (fresh or frozen)
2 cups coconut cream
1 cup almond milk (or soy milk)
¾ cup sugar (raw cane sugar gives the best texture)
¼ cup cocoa powder
½ cup chocolate chips
1 tbsp vanilla

Combine blackberries and 1 cup coconut cream in blender. Puree. Strain this liquid through a fine-mesh strainer to remove the blackberry seeds.

Pour the blackberry-coconut liquid into a sauce pan and add the remaining coconut cream, almond milk, sugar, cocoa powder, and chocolate chips.

Heat, stirring frequently, until the chocolate chips melt. Then bring the mixture to a boil. When the mixture has just started to boil, take off the heat and add the vanilla.

Set the ice cream mixture aside to cool in an ice bath (place 3 cups of ice cubes with water to cover in a bowl, then place the ice cream base in a smaller bowl inside this). Once mixture is cool, refrigerate for 4 hours. Freeze according to your ice cream maker’s instructions.







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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Pretty little sandwiches


The lovely sandwiches shown above were a hit at my mom's New Year's Eve potluck party this year, and I'm sure you can see why. Not only were they cute and colourful, but absolutely scrumptious as well!

Credit must go to my aunt Kati, from Toronto, who makes these sandwiches every March (or is it February . . . ?) when she flies to Edmonton and hosts an annual Oscar party celebration at my parents' house. Well, 'gathering' might be a better word, since attendees usually consist of my mom, my aunt, and one or two of my mom's friends. Either way, Kati had the right idea with these little nibbly morsels. They are simple and fun to make and sure to be a crowd pleaser.


I helped my mom build and/or assemble the sandwiches before her party, and here is a breakdown of what we did:

We used a dark rye and a french baguette, but you can use the type of bread of your choice. The baguette was sliced fairly thickly, and each piece of rye was cut into quarters (for daintiness, of course). Then we layered on the following toppings (in order, from bottom to top of sandwich):

Egg and Caviar on rye
Moderate spreading of butter
Piece of romaine lettuce
2 or 3 slices of hard-boiled egg
Generous mound of caviar (we had two kinds - one was black and one was red - but since I'm not a caviar expert, I'll leave it up to you to choose one that you like)

Smoked Salmon on rye
Thick layer of spreadable goat cheese (or cream cheese, for those who can have it)
Messy pile of smoked salmon or gravlax (it's nicest if you make a really large pile, with a well in the middle)
Mound of capers (placed in the salmon well)

Prawn on rye
Thin spreading of mayonnaise or aioli
2 or 3 cooked prawns with shells removed (larger prawns are better!)
Larger clump of mayonnaise (on top of prawns)
2 very thin slices of lemon
Large sprig of fresh dill

Vegetable on baguette
Thick layer of spreadable goat cheese
2 or 3 thick slices of cucumber (peel removed)
1 thick slice of tomato
2 or 3 thin slices of radish
A few leaves of fresh mint
Salt and pepper

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