Friday, November 12, 2010

Granita - The Classy Snow Cone

This week, I was inspired by an episode of Diners, Drive-ins & Dives
(I love that show!). One of the diners made traditional shaved ices.

People usually crave snow cones on a hot summer day but I thought 'wouldn't a snow cone be delicious right now?' (on this cold, rainy dark night) and off I went to investigate how I could make them as soon as possible.

A snow cone is usually spherically-formed crushed bits of ice you pour a flavoured syrup over. A shaved ice is shaved from a block with flavour added and absorbed by the ice. A granita is a semi-frozen ice mixture (flavour is mixed in and then frozen).

I've always wanted to make a granita, so carpe diem!

I modified a fresh fruit granita recipe because I only had berry-blend fruit juice to hand. But it was a great success! Laura and I enjoyed this as a sweet fall treat. (Laura comments: The added lemon juice adds just the right amount of tartness.)

What I like the most is that I can make any flavour (juice or fresh fruit) and don't need any special machines. For the next batch I will serve it slushie-style in a glass with some added fruit juice or maybe to my favourite cocktail (a margarita would work perfectly).

Try this out and let us know your favourite flavours!

1 c hot water
1/4 c sugar
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 c fruit juice (if this already has sugar in it, you can lessen the amount of sugar you add)

using fresh fruit
substitute 3 c fresh blended fruit for the juice
increase the amount of sugar to 1/2–3/4 c

  1. Stir first 3 ingredients in small bowl until sugar dissolves. Add sugar syrup to fruit juice and stir.
  2. Pour mixture into nonstick metal baking pan. Using a pan that allows the mixture to be fairly shallow will speed up the freezing process.
  3. Freeze until icy around edges ~20 minutes. Using a fork or spoon, stir icy portions into middle of pan.
  4. Continue to freeze, stirring edges into center every ~20 minutes, total 1 1/2 hours. Using fork, scrape granita into flaky crystals. Cover tightly and freeze. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Though it probably won't last that long.)
  5. Scrape granita into chilled bowls/glasses and serve.

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Friday, October 01, 2010

5 Yummy Things in Seattle

Last weekend Darryl and I enjoyed a quick getaway to Seattle. I was hungry every minute of it (baby's getting bigger and my appetite seemed to jump hugely last week), so we were on a constant search for yummy food. Which isn't really a bad way to spend a weekend, especially when you have no other agenda except to relax and enjoy. Here, five yummy things we enjoyed, in case you find yourself hungry in Seattle.

1. Pasta at Serafina. This restaurant came highly recommended by Mom – her email to me said "Enchanted outdoor patio. Amazing pasta. Great bustling atmosphere, romantic" and she was totally right. It had my favourite kind of restaurant atmosphere – dark, colourful, busy, filled with chatter, music, kitchen noises, people drinking, laughing, enjoying the people they're with. We sat in a circular wooden booth on the bar side of the restaurant, which was both cosy and in the middle of the action, perfect.

And the pasta was amazing. I had agnolotti filled with braised pork shoulder, savoy cabbage, and Parmagiano Reggiano. Delicate handmade little pockets, coated simply in chive butter, mmm. Darryl had a special of tagliatelle (he's a tagliatelle freak and can never turn it down) with local chantrelle mushrooms, leeks, and lardons. So good. Our waitress was the perfect kind of friendly and enthusiastic, getting the bartender to make us yummy and fancy looking virgin cocktails, and insisting that we come back and bring the baby when she arrives. So sweet.

2. California smoothie at Pike Place Market. During one of my "need to eat right this minute" snack attacks while wandering around the market, Darryl suggested a smoothie. I chose the California – strawberries, bananas, and orange juice. As classic as can be, and a combination I'd ordinarily think was a bit boring. But, it tasted like the best thing ever. And, I've been making one of these almost every day since I got home. With the addition of soy milk, and using fresh bananas, I really think this is the perfect smoothie. My smoothie preference in the past has been frozen bananas, frozen mango, berries, and any other fruit I have on hand – the more different ingredients the better. Now, I think I've been mistaken. Simple is the way to go for smoothies. Also, I like the texture that comes from only using one frozen ingredient (strawberries) and the rest fresh. It's smooth and slides right down so deliciously.

3. Pastries at Le Panier. Another one of Mom's recommendations, and another hit. The smell in this place is insane. I don't even know what it is exactly, but it fills your head with deliciousness and makes you want to order one of everything. Which is practically what I did. This was my pre-breakfast on Sunday. I chose a raspberry croissant, and a meringue dipped in dark chocolate, but as I was paying I saw the double-chocolate sable cookies and had to have one of those too. So I walked out with three bags, all for me. Yum.

Now that we're back in Vancouver I'll have to make do with the croissants at Chopain the new-ish little French bakery on Davie street which has become one of my favourite neighbourhood spots. Their chocolate almond croissants are crazy good. If they could just get the room to smell like Le Panier...

4. New kitchen treats at Sur la Table. This store across the street from Pike Place Market is a bit of a legend. Friends and family members had raved about it but I'd never made it inside before. It is great. I often don't let myself go into kitchen stores as there's nothing I really need. But I felt I could enter with restraint this time, as Tessa (best sister ever!) had just cleaned and reorganized my cupboards and I knew exactly what I had and had a mind to not keeping extra stuff around I wouldn't use. I walked out with a few new dishcloths (needed), a cute cutting board for fruit that's bright green and apple-shaped (possibly questionable, but I do never seem to have enough cutting boards, and I've been eating lots of fruit as snacks), and something I've been wanting for ages but keep forgetting to look for – a large plastic rolling mat for pastry, non-slip and non-stick, with circles printed on it as a guide to rolling out different sizes of pies, pizzas, or tortillas. I've used one of these at Raisa's before and loved it. And my counter will love it too as I'll no longer be making huge floury messes on it.

5. Pork buns on the dock at sunset. Another snack attack led to a paper bag filled with two pork buns, which we carried down to the waterfront. The sun was getting close to setting and finding no benches we sat down on the wooden deck and watched it. The pork buns were yummy, it was the perfect fall day, and we had just enough time to digest our snack before heading out for dinner. On holiday and totally happy. That's our view at the top of the post. Definitely one of those where you are and who you're with adds so much to what you're eating moments. Love it.

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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Sexy Beans on Toast

This past week I attended a cooking class with my work colleagues at Cookshop Cookschool and we learned how to make this dish amongst others. It's officially called Cannellini al Forno but it's a sexy version of beans on toast.

1 can of cannellini or white kidney beans (14oz)
1 cup of cream (whipping or half/half)
Cheese (your choice)
1 clove of garlic
Italian bread
Olive oil

  1. Rinse your canned beans well and add them with the cream on med-high heat.
  2. Simmer the mixture until the cream has been mostly absorbed by the bean,approximately 25-30 minutes.
  3. Season with salt & pepper to taste.
  4. If you want a richer flavour add some cheese at this point.(In the class we added Gorgonzola to the mixture and topped it with Pecorino, but I also made it on the weekend with Cheddar and topped with Brie.)
  5. Toast bread and rub with garlic clove to flavour.
  6. Add mixture to toast and top with the same or another cheese of your choice.
  7. Drizzle with olive oil.
This made 3 rather heaping servings on the wide italian bread.
It is delicious. I haven't tried making it sans cream but please let us know what alternative and options you try.

Enjoy! (Sorry for the lack of photos.)

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Sunday, June 13, 2010

Two soups that must not go unmentioned

Winter's over – this weekend it is finally finally warm and sunny, we planted the last of our seeds in the garden yesterday, my first farmers market visit of the season is behind me, and the tasty fresh meals of the best season are beginning. But, before I put winter totally behind me, I have to give credit to these two soups that helped pull me through it. You never know, there might be a day or two of soup-worthy weather in these happy months to come.

That beautiful bowl of yellow above is Julia Child's Saffron-flavored Garlic Soup with Potatoes. I certainly haven't mastered many of Julia's recipes yet, but her soups have been easy winners for me so far (it was one of her soups that turned me into an instant fan before I even owned the books). This garlic soup is kind of amazing. You don't use any stock – the broth is created just by simmering garlic, herbs and olive oil. And it tastes incredible.

The second soup is Green Soup with Ginger, from another source that I trust absolutely when it comes to soups, Heidi Swanson. My most-loved soup is one of hers from the book Super Natural Cooking, Baby Lima Soup with Chipotle Broth. Both of these soups are made wonderful by the fact that they taste like so much more than the combination of their few simple ingredients. As with Julia's garlic soup, the results amaze me.

It's no surprise that I love the Green Soup with Ginger – I can never get enough ginger, or lemon. Or greens for that matter. Darryl always looks at me and says, "You want to add all that chard?" Or spinach, or kale, or... I love them all, and the more the better. This soup tastes healthy and nourishing, with a freshness and lightness that is rare in winter.

Below is Julia's recipe, and the Green Soup with Ginger can be found on Heidi's site, 101 Cookbooks. I substituted yukon gold potato for sweet potato, and shallots for the onion.

Saffron-flavored Garlic Soup with Potatoes
from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child

Drop 16 cloves whole unpeeled garlic in boiling water and boil 30 seconds. Drain, run cold water over them, and peel.

Place the garlic and the following in a 3-quart saucepan and boil slowly for 30 minutes:
2 quarts water
2 tsp salt

pinch of pepper

2 cloves

1/4 tsp sage

1/4 tsp thyme

1/2 bay leaf

4 parsley sprigs

3 tbsp olive oil

Strain the soup and return it to the saucepan. Simmer 3 cups diced potatoes in the soup with a pinch of saffron for about 20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Correct seasoning. Serve with French bread and grated swiss or parmesan cheese.

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Messing – just a little – with an old favourite

I don't often mess with the classics – those recipe copied onto cards from my Mom's books in the days when I felt only the very faint beginnings of an interest in cooking. I pull these out when I need a quick and always delicious basic and want nothing more. But, on Friday I wanted biscuits. I wanted them to be quick, like Mom's classic Baking Powder Biscuits, but with a different flavour somehow. More flavour. So I dared to mess with the recipe. And the results were so yummy, I felt the revision was worth sharing. It's a minor enough departure from the original that I think it may replace it for me. They're not all that different, but better.

I replaced half of the white flour with a combination of whole wheat flour and cornmeal, and added sesame seeds to the top. But, I'm sure you could try other flours here too, or different toppings. As with the originals, these are heavenly when just baked, warm, flakey, buttery. Eat them all on the first day, or possibly the second – they won't be good much longer than that. I had these with baby lima bean and chipotle soup and radish salad for Friday's lunch, and then with plum jam for breakfast on Saturday. They were perfect in both cases.

Quick Multi-Flour Biscuits
1 1/2 cups white flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup cornmeal
1 tbsp baking powder
6 tbsp cold butter
3/4 cup buttermilk, yogurt, or sour milk (3/4 cup milk with 1 1/2 tsp white vinegar added)
sesame seeds for topping

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Mix dry ingredients in a bowl. Cut in butter until butter pieces are evenly integrated and the mixture has the texture of coarse meal.

Add the milk and mix until the dough holds together.

Turn out dough onto counter and knead briefly. Roll out to 1/2" thick. Cut with a glass or cookie cutter. Arrange fairly close together on a lightly greased baking sheet. Top with sesame seeds.

Bake for 10-15 minutes, until lightly browned.

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Fish tacos, or a Very Stiven Wednesday

I had to dig deep into the archives to discover the last time that Meg's sister, Tessa, helped us out at a WeDine session, and it turns out it was April of 2008. (See here, for our delicious vegetarian pizza).

Wow! First of all, it's great to even have an archive of our good times cooking, interesting culinary creations and tasty recipes. Secondly, it's lovely to host recurring guests to share the fun with! Our second special guest was Meg's dad, Jim, who was very excited to be one of the rare guy visitors to WeDine.

Oh, and he brought the beer! He'll certainly be invited back!

The fish tacos were concocted from a number of recipes found in Martha's Cooking School: Lessons and Recipes for the Home Cook, a great cookbook that was a present from my brother Ben last Chanukkah. That cookbook has brought us some great finds, including an awesome wiener schnitzel and this great duck with orange gastrique sauce.

This time, we deep-fried some fish (cod, but you could use any firm white fish) in a beer batter (Martha instructed us to use Negra Modelo for the batter, the dark beer featured above) and combined it with a delicious lemon-olive relish and thinly sliced radishes in a tortilla for an amazing fish taco. Martha's recipe (and Michelle and Alisha's skilled handling of the frying of the fish) made for a crispy, well-battered fish. It was just as good as any fish-and-chip take-away I've had!

Batter recipe

2 large eggs
1 cup Mexican dark lager, such as Negra Modelo
1 & 1/2 cups cake flour
1 tbsp coarse salt

For the fish:

vegetable oil, for frying
2 pounds skinless firm white fish, such as cod, haddock, fluke, orange roughy or scrod, cut into 3" by 3/4" pieces

Martha notes that this is a good batter for smaller pieces of fish and chicken, shrimp and ... onion rings! Mmm, that sounds good. Also, the beer batter makes for a lighter, crisper texture than a batter made with buttermilk (and is better for those with dairy issues, too), and the flavour of the beer comes through.


Whisk the eggs and beer together, and the flour and salt together, and then whisk the wet ingredients into the dry. Batter should be fairly thick and creamy. Cover and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes (up to 2 hours).

Pour 3 inches of oil into a large pot, at least 6 quarts (and preferably cast iron, but alas, in our case, not to be) and heat to 375 degrees F (on a deep-fry or candy thermometre) over medium heat. Allow it to heat up slowly.

Coat fish in batter (tongs come in handy here) and lower into oil. Fry until crust is golden brown, about 5 to 7 minutes. Turn once or twice to ensure even cooking, and remove to a lined baking sheet to drain. A slotted spoon or spider is useful here to remove fish and skim excess bits of batter from the oil.

Repeat until all fish is cooked!

Our next component was the lemon-olive relish. Ingredients included:

8 lemons
extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium red onion, diced
1/4 cup + 2 tbsps sugar
4 ounces nicoise olives, pitted and chopped


Dice one of the lemons into 1/2 inch pieces, leaving the skin on.
Supreme the other eight lemons, removing the skin and pith and segmenting them.
Heat the olive oil in a pan over medium heat, cook the onion and diced lemon about 4 minutes.

Stir in the sugar and cook until it melts, approximately 30 seconds. Cool five minutes, then scrape into a medium bowl and add the lemon segments and olive pieces. Season with salt and pepper, and and stir gently to combine. Let cool 30 minutes before serving. Makes 2 cups.

The lemon-olive relish turned out particularly well, it was a great combination of flavours, salty, sweet and sour.

Here is the final dish: we dressed the tacos with the relish and finely-sliced radishes, and together with the crispy texture of the battered fish pieces, it was a great taco.

Next to it you see our slaw. It was meant to be a green papaya slaw, but there was nary a papaya to be found in the supermarket, whereas mangoes always seem to be plentiful. So we made the slaw with:

2 tbsps fish sauce
1 1/2 tbsps peanut oil
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 tbsp + 1 tsp palm sugar (or brown sugar)
2 tbsp tiny dried shrimp (we had none)

which we combined in a large bowl. Then we added:

1 peeled and very finely sliced shallot
1 fresh Thai chile, thinly sliced crosswise
1/2 green papaya (we used not-too-ripe mango), julienned
1 peeled and julienned carrot

We let this stand for fifteen minutes and garnished with:

2 tbsp fresh mint leaves, torn
1/4 cup cilantro leaves
1/4 cup peanuts, crushed

Martha instructs to "taste and adjust seasoning with additional fish sauce, lime juice, sugar and chile, so there is a proper balance of hot, sour, salty and sweet."

It turned out really well, and worked well with the tacos (which I think needed a pretty bold side-dish to stand up to them). All in all, a great fusion of many flavours.

Then we made Tessa and Jim watch America's Next Top Model.

Poor Stivens. What did they do to deserve that?

At least they had memories of a tasty WeDine to sustain them!

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Monday, March 08, 2010

Tonight's dinner: roast kale and sunchokes with tahini sauce

Now that it's Monday, I'm back on my post-Olympic detox. I've been serious about eating whole foods, keeping things simple, and now throwing in some super-foods whenever I can (after an interesting nutrition consultation with Adam Hart last week that yielded both good reminders and new ideas). Not much luck in extending this to the weekends yet, but I'm okay with that. For weeknights I'm working on remembering that I can keep things super simple: choose fresh ingredients that my body will like and that I love to eat, and prepare them simply, without too many additions.

That's certainly what I did tonight. During our usual cookie stop at Sprouts over lunch, I scoped what fresh stuff they had from the UBC Farm, and chose a handful of sunchokes and two bunches of kale. Score for not having to interrupt my bike ride home to stop at the grocery store! I figured those two things could become dinner, paired with some brown rice (fits the good for me + I love it criteria) and some kind of sauce.

I had bought a jar of tahini after learning how good sesame seeds are for me – helping me load up on iron and calcium, two things I often miss out on. So tahini dressing came to mind. There's a recipe for it in the cookbook of family faves Mom made me, many years ago now, which most often becomes the best part of homemade falafel, and occasionally a more general salad dressing.

I wondered if my usual tahini-lemon-garlic-cayenne combination was as far as it went, so did a bit of googling which brought up this Chocolate and Zucchini post for Simple Tahini Sauce I remember reading a while ago. Her recipe isn't much different from Mom's, but reminded me to add parsley, and to incorporate the water slowly for the best creamy texture, yum. I still snuck in some cayenne though. Delicious – the perfect combination of rich and earthy.

The sunchokes and the kale I roasted. The former with lemon wedges (based on this recipe for Roasted Sunchokes with Lemon but sliced 1/4" thick and roasted for about 10 minutes on each side) and the later with nothing but a generous drizzle of olive oil as in this Roasted Kale recipe. I'd heard about roasting kale before (my sister raved about it I'm pretty sure), turning it into snackable "chips" and totally wanted to try this. I love kale, but don't find it as effortless to cook tastily as the tenderer chard which I choose more often. Roasting was easy, and the results were both unusual and yummy. This will become my thing to do with kale I think. I could top so many things with these – crispy-tender dark green and oh-so-good-for-you.

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Monday, March 01, 2010

Slow roasting for flavour: pulled pork sandwich

When I am trying out a new recipe, I like to understand how the recipe works – which ingredients are important, which aren't, how various cooks personalize their dishes – so I usually consult several recipes and read up on how different techniques work. In the end, I cobble together a few recipes and start a new food experiment. That is exactly what I did with this dish.

If you like a delicious, savoury, meaty sandwich, make this one. It takes a little lead time but boy is it worth it. Pulled pork has become one of my favourites: slow roasted pork shoulder mixed with homemade BBQ sauce, MmmmmMmmmm. There is great depth of flavour in this sandwich – sweet, savoury, tangy – I can see why people spend their lives perfecting BBQ.

I've been fairly consistent to my original cobble with only one or two small variations; this is my third or fourth time making it. I hope you will try it for yourself – if you have any suggestions or questions, get in touch.

You could use a bottled sauce to cut down the prep time, but this recipe is sooo tasty, sourced from a combo of Joy of Cooking, Memphis Blues, and several online recipes. There were many additional ingredients that could be added, like hickory smoke, molasses, and ketchup along with various ground spices. Some secret recipes have hundreds of ingredients, but I kept it fairly simple.

This recipe is really three smaller recipes joined together: one for BBQ Sauce, one for a Dry Rub, and one for Slow Roasted Pork. It makes 4–6 generous sandwiches, and is great for parties.

I make the BBQ sauce, marinate the roast the night before I want to serve it and put the slow cooker on in the morning to let it cook while I'm away at work.

Pulled Pork Roast

• 2 cups BBQ Sauce (prepare before hand, as it needs to simmer for 1 hour – recipe below)
Dry Rub (best to marinate the roast ahead of time – recipe below)
• 1 onion, chopped
• 1/2 cup water or apple cider
• 1 pork roast (2–5lb, pork shoulder aka picnic, these cost around $5)

1. If not already marinated, apply dry rub to roast.
2. Place the onion in the bottom of the slow cooker, turn cooker on low setting.
3. Brown roast in a hot pan with a little oil (2 minutes each side).
4. Place roast into slow cooker on top of onion.
5. Deglaze pan with water or apple cider, add this liquid to the slow cooker.
6. Add BBQ sauce to slow cooker.
7. Put lid on and cook on low for 8-10 hours (this has the better results than a higher setting for shorter time).
8. When cooking has finished, remove the roast to a bowl for shredding, take 2 forks and use them to pull apart the roast into small strands.
9. Add any liquid/mixture from the slow cooker to the bowl and mix well.
10. Serve on kaiser buns (I like their lightness or choose your own but remember the pork is the star of this meal), with your favourite side (mine is coleslaw) and beverage (cider).

BBQ Sauce
Makes two cups (always easier to make a big batch and save it)

• 1 small onion, chopped
• 2 cloves garlic, chopped
• 1 tablespoon butter
• 1 tablespoon olive/vegetable oil
• salt & pepper to taste
• 8 tablespoons crushed tomatoes (about half a 16oz can)
• 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
• 2 tablespoons maple syrup
• 2 tablespoon white vinegar
• 2 tablespoon soy sauce
• 2 tablespoon honey
• 2 teaspoons yellow mustard
• 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
• 3-4 dash of Louisiana-style hot sauce
• 1 teaspoon paprika
• 1/4 cup water or Jack Daniel's

1. Combine oil and butter in a pan over medium heat.
2. Add onions with a little salt & pepper.
3. When onions are softened, add garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes.
4. Add all remaining ingredients and stir together.
5. Simmer mixture over low heat for 1 hour, stir regularly. Adjust the flavour to your taste.
6. If saving for later, allow to cool for 1 hour before refrigerating (may be kept for up to 1 month in an air tight container, if you can hold out that long).

This would actually be great for burgers and chicken wings.

Dry Rub
This quantity was enough for 2 roasts – stored in the fridge in an air tight container.

1 tbsp brown sugar (dark)
3 tbsp black pepper
3 tbsp garlic powder
3 tbsp onion powder
3 tbsp dried oregano
3 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp celery salt
pinch cayenne

1. Mix all ingredients.
2. Apply to meat – this is best applied and left to marinate in the fridge overnight.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Bread update: one year in and on a roll, no stopping now

I shouldn't have waited so long between bread updates, 'cause now I have way too much to say. At the end of my last bread update, I talked about moving on to a new food resolution for 2010. Well, that didn't happen. I can't abandon my bread mission. I get so excited about trying new flavours and techniques, it seems like I'll never get bored and never really be done. The challenge of bread making – infinite and so enjoyable. Here are the highlights of the past two months.

Granny Barb continued her role as my kitchen angel and gave me two books for Christmas that have become indispensable – Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day and Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day, the series by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois that I mentioned in my last post about bread. At that point I had just started experimenting with their technique (moisture-heavy no-knead dough stored in the fridge for 1–2 weeks and shaped and baked as needed) via a recipe on their website. Now, I'm trying a new recipe every week and am thrilled with all of them. The technique is simple and not time consuming at all – very easy to fit into my normal routines. And these two books are full of variations, ranging from classic French and German breads to more experimental breads using vegetables and alternative grains. I tried to go through and mark all of the recipes I was most eager to make but found myself with an unnavigable forest of sticky notes. Hence my inability to stop putting all my kitchen excitement toward making bread.

Here, a few of my early favourites:

Spinach Feta Bread – a braided loaf I made for a potluck at Flora's. It was perfect for sharing, ripping off chewy chunks, and so tasty with tapenade. One of the things I love about Hertzberg and Francois' method of bread making is that keeping four loaves worth of dough in the fridge and baking them throughout the week allows me to experiment with different shapes with the dough being a constant. I tried a couple of boules with this spinach and feta dough, and then decided to see what it was like braided. I followed the instructions for braiding from another recipe in the book (start at the middle and braid one end, then the other) and it was easy and suited this dough well. Beautiful, right? Look at that crispy golden crust...

Epi – Another shape that was new to me, and thrilling to be able to produce.

I made this one with the whole wheat master recipe. It was flavourful, with a nice crust, and went perfectly with smoked salmon and goat cheese spread (I subbed goat cheese for cream cheese in that recipe, and added capers, and it was delicious) for a wine and snacks night at Claire's. The funnest part was using scissors to make the wheat stalk shape.

If you want to get in on the fun, there's a good step-by-step for how to form epi on the Artisan Bread in Five website. Hmm, now that I look at their beautiful loaves, mine don't look quite so perfect. But, that was before I got a baking stone....

Now I'm making beautiful crusty loaves that rise nicely in the oven and never burn on the bottom. Thank you $6.99 marble tile from Home Depot! I remembered reading Julia Child's account of her search for inexpensive tiles at the average American Hardware store that could function perfectly well as baking stones in My Life in France (loved that book by the way) and Michelle and I set out on a biking adventure one January Saturday and came home with a tile in each pannier. Then, Darryl surprised me with a pizza peel as an early Valentine's present, so now I also have the means to get the bread from counter to hot stone and am totally set up.

The loaf above is Roasted Garlic Bread, with flaxseeds and spelt flour. So good. This one was really moist, rich with garlic, and perfectly textured with a nice hole structure. Toasted, with soft goat cheese spread on, this gave me a week of bread-filled happiness.

Today my happy bread moments have come from the Ten-Grain Bread pictured below and at the top of this post. Made with a mixture of whole wheat flour, white flour, and Bob's Red Mill ten-grain hot cereal, this is the perfect multi-grain loaf. Deep deep flavour, crunchy crust coated in fennel, caraway, and poppy seeds, and a chewy, moist crumb – yum. This reminds me of the multi-grain loaves I grew up on from the Italian Bakery in Victoria, which formed my standard for crave-worthy bread.

And finally, this last one is jumping back to the pre-stone days, but I wanted to share these pretty pizza pics. One of the first recipes I tried from Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day was 100% Whole Wheat Olive Oil Pizza Dough, which the authors said made a great pizza. They were right. I wasn't totally crazy about this dough for basic loaves – I didn't enjoy the richness of the olive oil as much with the whole wheat as I do with white flour (this is essentially a whole wheat version of Martha's olive oil bread I love so much – recipe here) – but for pizza it was perfect. I can't wait to make this again with the stone, for a crispier, airier crust. I'd repeat these toppings again too: pesto, ribbons of zucchini, halved cherry tomatoes, and dollops of soft goat cheese. So colourful and fresh.

So, not that I won't also try to bring new concentration to other things that come out of my kitchen, like the pasta and sauces I was considering as themes for this year's cooking resolution, but I've happily given myself permission to keep eagerly learning about bread.

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Monday, February 08, 2010

Fantastic Fennel Flavour!

(Using dark wildflower honey, left-brittle not yet changed colour, right-fully changed)

I had a craving for fennel brittle late last night and wanted to share it with you. I love combination of the fennel flavour and the sweet clear sugar.

You can add any seeds or nuts you would like - the first time I made this I added hazelnuts (2/3 c chopped) but I didn't enjoy the texture so I leave them out.This is great for a snack or a party, it's quick (~15min +cooling time) and delicious. Let us know if you have any favourite flavours. Enjoy!

1 c granulated sugar
1/4c water
2 tbsp honey
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp fennel seeds

Key Items: tray lined with parchment paper, candy thermometer
Warning: don't walk away from the pan, it can burn easily.

  1. In a heavy-bottom pan, stir sugar, water, honey & salt over low heat until dissolved
  2. When dissolved, increase heat to medium
  3. Let it boil and bubble until it changes colour to a light amber* (4-5min) - this is removing the excess water. Do not stir. Occaisionally (& carefully) swirl pan to prevent dark spots**
  4. Pour on to parchment, tilt sheet to spread out more thinly
  5. Sprinkle with fennel seeds (Nuts, seeds or other flavour can be added too)
  6. Let cool completely (you can speed this up by placing the tray in the freezer)
  7. When cooled, break into small pieces.

*Light amber if using a yellow honey. It's harder to detect the change when using the darker colours of honey, so watch carefully. You can also use the cold water test.

**In order to get the hard crack in the brittle, you must reach 300F - check this with your candy thermometer. If you find after cooling the brittle is bendy, you didn't reach 300F when you boiled it. The good news is that you can remelt and reboil it.

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Sunday, January 17, 2010

Everything I Love in a Bowl, or Tortilla Soup

I assured you in my long-overdue return to posting back in November that we have still been cooking on Wednesdays, despite the fact that we haven't been posting about them (in fact – ack – I just discovered we haven't posted about a Wednesday dinner since April!). Now here's the first bit of proof that our collective mid-week experiments are still alive.

We started this blog (just over three years ago) to keep track of the great things we were creating together, mostly improvised from whatever drew our eyes in the grocery store. We thought it was important to document the great eating that is easily within reach on a weeknight with little forethought and lots of faith in experimentation. This is why I think we need to still be posting about these Wednesdays amongst all the other food adventures – so many great things come out of them that I'd like to be able to return to when I'm stuck for ideas in the middle of the week.

Last Wednesday we created a meal in this original spirit, I think. Over email during the day Alisha, Michelle, and I made plans – we nailed down the location (my place, as I had the giant Christmas crossword we needed to finish, and Michelle's pretty umbrella I needed to return to her) and tossed around ideas for the menu. Michelle suggested tortilla soup and that was the end of the discussion for me. I've always wanted to try making it, as it seems like a chance to unite a bunch of my favourite things in a somewhat unusual form.

Michelle brought a couple of recipes that we smashed together and added and subtracted from as we wished. The recipe below is what we ended up with. It was delicious. Rich and filling, with so many different textures and tastes all at once. A thick and smoky roasted tomato broth, fresh creamy avocados, meaty shredded chicken, three kinds of chilis, loads of cilantro, melty cheese, crunchy tortillas... So this is our version (on the first attempt at least) of that which there seem to be a million versions of. Not definitive necessarily, but delicious and a very satisfying, easy weeknight dinner.

Another one to try sometime is this
Vegetarian Tortilla Soup from 101 Cookbooks. Looks great – cherry tomatoes, shoestring tortilla strips, soft goat cheese, yum.

Wedine's Tortilla Soup
[serves 4]

6 roma tomatoes
5 chicken thighs (boneless and skinless)
1/2 onion, diced
1 tbsp olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 poblano chile, diced
1 dried
guajillo chile, soaked in boiling water until soft, then diced
1 L chicken stock

2 avocados, diced
grated cheese (whatever melty kind of cheese you like best – we used Kashkaval, a Bulgarian sheep cheese that melts really well)
a large handful of chopped cilantro
1 serrano chile, diced
fresh corn tortillas, cut into strips and baked or pan fried until lightly browned and crispy

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place the whole tomatoes in a baking dish and roast until the skins split and they begin to blacken (about 30 minutes).

2. Boil a pot of water to poach the chicken. Add whole chicken thighs and poach until cooked through. Shred the meat and set aside.

3. In a large pot, saute the onion in olive oil for a few minutes until translucent. Add garlic, poblano and gaujillo chilis and saute for a few more minutes. Then add chicken stock and bring to a simmer. When tomatoes have finished roasting, peel and add to the soup pot. Break up the tomatoes with a spoon and stir to combine. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup. Continue to simmer for a while, or serve right away if you're hungry (as we were!)

4. Pour soup into bowls. Top with shredded chicken, avocado, cheese, cilantro, minced serrano chili, and tortilla strips.

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Spicy Pea Poached Eggs or Spicy Pea Soup, You Choose!

I'm on my own this week, so I'm cooking for one and wanting cheap and cheerful meals.

Last night was French Onion Soup, tonight I've gone experimental(in-a-what's-in-the-fridge way). Building on Meg's post here is a quick, delicious sauce for poached eggs.

Ingredients: Eggs, Peas, Bread, Garlic, Lemon & Zest, Spices, Salt, Pepper, Oil

  • Toast some bread (leftover French bread from yesterday).
  • Poach some eggs.
  • For the Spicy Pea sauce:
    Sauté a diced clove of garlic with the lemon zest, add 1-2 cups peas (I used frozen peas, reheated with hot water before adding to the pan).
  • Put mixture in blender with a little water,juice of half a lemon, salt & pepper to taste and some spices (I used a mixture of paprika, cayenne, oregano, cumin, tumeric - maybe 2 tsp total), blend smooth.
  • Assemble your plate.

This was delicious, just enough spice to give a great flavour without too much heat. The blended peas were wonderfully creamy. My eggs were somewhere between runny and hard which worked well, covered in this sauce. Total cooking time was 15 minutes.

Come to think of it this sauce would actually make a great soup. You choose, enjoy!

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Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Poached Egg, Lardons, Salad

This past weekend was a strange middle ground between indulging in holidays and returning to routine with new resolve. So the brunch I ordered on Sunday had to straddle that same divide of course.

And the place Shula suggested for our post holiday catch-up – La Brasserie – had the perfect thing. A salad of fluffy, sharp tasting frisee, studded with decadent lardons and brioche croutons and topped with my favourite, a poached egg. Decorated with swirls of mustard vinaigrette. Yum. I love nothing more than egg yolk spilling over other tasty things, and this salad seemed like a slightly healthier way to enjoy it than my usual benny.

I wasn't exactly sure what Lardons were before this, but they sounded meaty and fatty and delicious, and they were. And the brioche croutons, after initially surprising me by being much softer than I'd expect a crouton to be, were perfect for soaking up egg yolk and provided a tiny bit of sweetness that was welcome.

Beside the fact that it was the perfect combination of decadent and healthy for January third, I was drawn to this salad for another reason too. I had developed a curiosity for brunch salads with poached eggs while whiling away time searching for holiday recipes. I had found this Eggs Benedict Salad at Epicurious which I suggested to Mom for our Christmas day breakfast. She politely let me know that she found the idea of salad for breakfast kind of unappetizing. I started to think she might be right when I thought a bit harder about eating radishes and edamame early in the morning. But I'm not sure. Since the Brasserie salad was so delicious, maybe I'm ready to step into more extreme salad-as-breakfast territory?

What do you think – are rich morning salads inspired or weird? Have any favourite breakfast salad recipes I should try?

And in case you were worried, our salad-free Christmas breakfast was perfect. Fresh homemade blueberry muffins (thanks Mom for indulging my every request!), local pepper bacon, and poached eggs, washed down with both soy lattes and mimosas as is our tradition. The bacon – which we cut into thick slices ourselves – was to die for. Made by Galloping Goose Sausage Company it was definitely the best bacon I've ever had. Laura and Michelle – I was wishing I could send you guys a slice or two. Maybe it'll be worth a trip to Victoria...

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