Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Country Bumpkin Pumpkin

Note to all viewers, if you ever decide to embark on making your own pumpkin puree, be prepared to get really creative and be ready to adapt your palette to pumpkin and only pumpkin. Sophia and I had relatively small pumpkins. I'd say that they were so wee they'd made baby jack-o-lanterns and still we ended up with endless pumpkin puree.. probably about 5 cups worth. Most recipes call for about .5 cup to a cup of pumpkin alone. I thought for sure that with pumpkin bread, pumpkin biscotti and pumpkin scones, I'd be gone with all of my pumpkin puree. I was left with a full heaping cup load extra puree!

It's my last night in Halifax before I head out for the holidays. I decided to bake pumpkin treats for the long trip and to greet the folks back home with. I had my work cut out for me already with these decadent pumpkin scones.

I got this recipe from one of the first food blogs that I ever followed, Baking and Books. http://www.bakingandbooks.com/2009/10/19/pumpkin-scones-with-autumn-spiced-glaze/

Next I swiftly moved on to the biscotti.

I found the recipe from this blogger, who also must have run into excess pumpkin puree, because she had three featured pumpkin recipes on her blog. They included pumpkin whoopie pies and pumpkin oatmeal cookies. http://www.thesweetslife.com/2010/12/pumpkin-biscotti-with-cranberries-and.html I, myself, found the biscotti too sweet. Perhaps it would be better dipped in coffee or hot chocolate.

Since I the previous pumpkin bread was such a huge success at the holiday party I decided to give it another shot with the extra cup of pumpkin puree. This time I even took a picture of it. It looks like banana bread to me.

And that's all the pumpkin, folks! Now I'm kind of at a loss as to what my next cooking adventure should be. I suppose I'll go switch to something savory, maybe try my hand at some new types of breads for the winter season.

Monday, December 13, 2010


I had to break down yesterday and buy eggs and butter in order to make a wonderfully smelling pumpkin bread. It was a huge success at the neighbourly holiday party. It was an easy recipe to follow from the Joy of Cooking and I was able to stick it in the oven, attend the party and run up to take it out of the oven on cue. It didn't burn one bit. Since I was anxious to bring the bread freshly baked right to the party, (which was in the same apartment building, mind you) I forgot to take a picture for the blog. After having had a full turkey dinner, I also forgot all about the bread once I was there. I did shamelessly lick the bowl, spoon and beaters clean of the batter after I stuck it in the oven though. It was finger lickin good!

Tonight I made good work of the leftover potatoes, carrots and onions. I made a Dutch hutspot, a mash of potatoes and carrots seasoned with a dash of curry powder and stock. It turned out to be a perfect hearty meal for a blustery windy day in Halifax like today. Typically it is to be served with bacon bits, some sort of weiner sausage or Dutch meatballs with gravy. I substituted by boiling the carrots with a bit of beef stock. I also kept the skins on the potatoes for extra nutrient. The recipe can be found here from the lovely Kay, the dutch woman of Gouda. http://www.kayotic.nl/blog/hutspot

What can I say? Mash never tends to photograph very well...

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Grammie's Tomato and Rice Soup

Seeing as the holiday break is approaching when I'll be leaving our lovely Quinn Street Attic for a whole month or so, I've refrained from buying any more food so that it may not go to waste while I am gone. It's been a bit of a challenge to come up with sustainent meals with an almost empty fridge and cupboard. Fortunately for me, I rather enjoy a good challenge.

Although far from being gourmet, these meals are low budget, easy to make, and relatively fast, which is why I've decided to share them with the blogging community at large.

Current ingredients left in the kitchen:

a cup of rice
a carrot and 1/2
small white potatoes
a tomato
1/4 left of a jar of pasta sauce
pumpkin puree
all purpose flour
white bread flour
2 eggs
vanilla extract
tahini paste
plus condiments... lots of condiments...
Almost everything from honey dijon mustard and worcestershire sauce to sambal oelek and fish sauce.

Tonight I brought out an old nostalgic recipe that my French Canadian grandmother used to make for me as a child. It's far from being French or Canadian but it's a no nonsense meal that fills your tummy with warmth.

It's Grammie's Tomatoe and Rice Soup!

I toasted the rice with onion and two cloves of garlic in oil on medium heat in the cooking pot. I then added about a cup of water and slowly added some beef broth accordingly, reducing the heat so the soup could simmer. I used bovril, which is a liquid concentration that acts almost like a bouillon cube, that is to be added to boiled water. I accidentally spilled a huge amount everywhere and ended up with a very salty, almost soy sauce like broth. So I reduced the amount of broth from a cup and replaced it with boiling water. I basically used the broth as the seasoning. Unfortunately out of habit, I forgot to omit the table salt. I chopped the tomato and added it with the leftover pasta sauce to the pot. By this point the rice had begun to soften and was starting to absorb the liquid. I added in cayenne for an extra kick, a dash of dried basil, and a bit of generic hot curry powder. I continued to add boiling water to the pot as the rice kept absorbing the liquid.

Overall, a simple sucess!

I had some leftover stale seasoned croutons that I threw in there for texture and flavor. I believe my grandmother used to make hers with instant rice, water, salt and canned tomatoes to make this soup and she would serve it with saltines. Eating mine, however, still conjured up memories of watching Jeopardy or Wheel of Fortune doing a giant jigsaw puzzle, or playing yahtzee in her living room. The only thing that was missing to complete the nostalgic meal was oreos and milk or pecan icecream for dessert.

To be honest, I didn't think my photo of the soup I made would do it justice...
But here's a fancier type of tomato soup that I gave me the thought of making my humble Grammie's kind.

Pomidora Soup with Tortellini

And might I add, had I added sausage or tortellini, it would have made the soup exceptionally heart warming.

The pomidora soup with tortellini recipe is availabe here: http://www.kayotic.nl/blog/royal-pomodori-and-tortellini-soup
from a lovely Dutch woman living in Gouda.

Perhaps Sophia will turn to her in the future for nostalgic recipes...

What on earth will I end up making with the leftover ingredients in my kitchen, you say? And will I ever find a way to use up all that pumpkin puree?? Stay tuned and all shall be revealed.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Posh Squash

I've been wanting to make a butternut squash soup this season thus when I finally spotted a decent squash at the farmer's market, I grabbed it. After the pumpkin soup incident however I was inclined to try something different.

Originally I was going to make a thyme, feta squash bake as Sophia suggested and has made in the past. Absolutely delicious! Here's the recipe that uses pumpkin instead of squash courtesy of Nessie, another fellow blogger of Auckland, New Zealand:

Although I could have used pumpkin seeing as I have so much puree leftover, I still wanted to stay away from making any savory recipe with pumpkin. After roasting my squash I realized I didn't have any white wine (though water could have been substituted) nor enough cream for the recipe. I did have a whole block of feta and some leftover mint. Then I stumbled upon this beautiful recipe that came to my rescue. https://secure.tesco.com/todayattesco/realfood/recipes/archive/mains/recipe_roasted_squash_feta_mint_chilli.shtml

It did just the trick! I love the spice of the chili, mixed with the salty feta and the sweet squash. I added cayenne pepper as well to make it even spicier. An easy and yummy way to make squash a little bit more fancy. I didn't go so far as to serving it in the squash itself because I was the only one who would be seeing it and eating it. But it would make a nice way to entertain guests, I suppose.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Clove Coffee

Katherine's been using the coffee grinder to grind cloves again. Now I'm drinking a lovely mug of side-effects.

Also, I had been planning to make eggnog again this year, but I wanted it too much to risk it curdling. So I just bought some. It's SO much better than the soynog I consoled myself with last year. Back when I instated the law that no real eggnog shall pass our lips unless it is homemade.

What a stupid rule. Cheers!


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Punkin the Pumpkin

Now it's my turn to puree the pumpkin that I picked out for myself at Lunenberg. I found that cooking the pumpkin in the oven for a bit longer than Sophie made it easier to mash afterward. I knifed my pumpkin several times to let out steam and threw it in a baking dish with about an inch of water and let it sit for about 1.5 hours. I then cut out the top and let the insides cool before scooping out the pulp and seeds. The skin was easy to peel off and by cooking the pumpking with the skin on made it so the actual pumpkin flesh was protected from burning. I didn't need to microwave the pumpkin flesh at all afterward since it was relatively soft. I chopped it up into small chunks and processed it in the food processor before mashing it with a fork.

The end result?
Homemade pure pumpkin cookies :) I had a friend growing up that used to make these all the time. They're delicious and go well with a nice mug of egg nog if i do say so myself, topped off with a little bit o' brandy, of course. I found the recipe on this blog: How to Eat A Cupcake. http://www.howtoeatacupcake.net/2007/11/soft-pumpkin-cookies-w-craisins-and.html
I prefer to add chocolate chips to the cookies instead of dried fruit or nuts. Its all up to personal preference.I also substituted allspice with cloves.

Now I've got several cups of ready to use pumpkin puree. Any suggestions are greatly appreciated! I've decided to stick with sweet rather than savory pumpkin recipes after my last episode with the pumpkin soup.

Next up... pumpkin bread! mmm mmm good.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Scooter Pie

So I made my first pumpkin pie. I was quite worried about it for several reasons. The first is that I've not only never made pumpkin pie, I've never seen it made, and I haven't even tasted it in years. The second is that, to be honest, I don't even LIKE pumpkin pie. So no matter what I thought I was in for a disaster.

As I started making it, from the Joy of Cooking recipe, I ran into a new problem. It's a single crust pie, yes? Yes. And in a lot of single crust pies one must bake the crust while empty, yes? Yes. And, in order to keep the empty crust from bubbling and buckling, one must weight it with beans or something, yes? Yes. Fair enough. But then the recipe, by which I was already getting a little put out (I don't have beans), tells me to glaze the crust with egg yoke before putting it in the oven. So wait. First of all, I never glazed with YOKE. That's weird. Also, how are you supposed to weight the crust if it's glazed with ANYTHING? But ask as I might, the recipe never answered. So, armed with common sense, I weighted the pie crust, unglazed, with lentils. This may make for some sort of unpleasant surprise next time I go to cook my lentils for real, but the crust was okay.

I took the crust out after about ten minutes or so, removed the weights, and glazed it with the yoke. It looked weird. And I was completely on my own timewise, the recipe having given conflicting specifications.

So I put the crust back for five minutes or so, just until the "glaze" cooked. It was bright yellow and, since our oven is crap, burnt around the edges. It looked weird.

Only slightly daunted, I continued the pie without further incident, only being unsure as to what texture the pie should be once it was done.

The next weird thing about the pie was that, even though I remember pumpkin pie ranging from a rich brown to bright orange, this was yellow. Not yellow orange. Yellow. Like curry yellow.

I was reluctant to try it, but cooks must be brave. And: IT IS AMAZING. Best pumpkin pie I've ever had.

Only don't microwave it. Just eat it cold. Microwaves are a bad, bad invention unless you make a habit of sacrificing flavour for convenience.

In retrospect I figure the yellow colour was from adding an extra egg, which makes the pie much more custardy. Also, I will give my one and only complaint about the Joy of Cooking, and that is that I think it's been revised a few too many times, especially in the pie section. Too many times it gives conflicting instructions for one thing, and absolutely none for another. I was told many things related to cooking time, such as when to turn the crust, when to remove the weights, when to add the glaze, and yet... no cooking time at all... I had to infer from both "three quarters into the baking time" and "three or four minutes before cooking time ends" that it should be about fifteen minutes.

Maybe that book needs a real editor: not just a recipe tester.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Pumpkin Plumpkin

Well we got a bit ambitious and to be fair, our cameras crapped out on us thus we were left with an imageless blog. My own laptop also crashed and has been replaced by brand spankin new one with an amazing webcam inside! Two months later indeed we decide to dust off the cooking books, and rev up the laptops for a new blogging season! And what not a better time than during the holidays? Today marks the first day that it snowed in Halifax, Nova Scotia. We decided to celebrate and bring in the holiday season with a warm, busy kitchen!

Two weeks ago we made a little trip to Lunenberg, a quaint town of Nova Scotia, home of the Blue Nose ship. On our visit we came across free small pumpkins along the sidewalk, labeled: Free Pumpkins for Pie Making! This friendly gesture inspired us to share our cooking adventures with the rest of you once again.

Here's a shot of Lovely Lunenberg

Sophia began pureeing the pumpkin the other day. It took her all day and it was a fruitful effort that yielded a whole lotta pumpkin. That was from her little pumpkin alone... we still have mine to puree as well! Needless to say, our following entries will undoubtedly be featuring pumpkin as the main ingredient.

This evening Sophia has outdone herself by making a home made pumpkin pie from scratch. The pie was a huge success and in fact, it was so damn delicious that we almost ate it all before getting a photo of it.

My contribution to the pie included making this little alligator from the pie crust scraps.

I plan on putting a spin on the traditional pumpkin recipe by making a Thai coconut soup. My soup didn't turn out as planned as I found out in the middle of making it that I did not have red curry paste... thus I improvised by adding a bit of lime and lemon juice, as suggested by Sophia and a bit of sour cream. I also took a risk and added a few shakes of fish sauce for good measure, based on a couple of other thai recipes that I'd previously looked up. To be quite honest, I downright dislike my soup, no matter how much lime or cayenne or pepper I had, I can't shake the sweet sweet taste of pumpkin in a soup. All in all, I've made the executive decision to avoid using pumpkin in anything remotely savory. Maybe it's an acquired taste. All I know is that as long as I've known pumpkin, he's been with his lovely fragrant wife, Mrs. Pumpkin Spice, all made up with her nutmeg, ginger, a hefty dose of sweet sweet cinnamon, and she likes to change it up with allspice or cloves. Although I hate to back away from culinary adventure, that's the way the pumpkin, for me, is going to stay.

As I watch Anthony Bourdain eat rabbit three way in Prague... I comfort myself with this minty beet carrot salad with tarragon. Who am I kidding though?

The vinegar really does temper the sweet taste of roasted beets and the tarragon balances out the bitterness. It's quite palatable, in fact.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

We're Back!

Now that we're back in Halifax, our poor neglected blog can get a little more regular again, particularly with a new regular contributor! Well... I may be volunteering for her a bit, but let's hope it's regular.

I will miss the camera, the garden, the space, and the random equipment of the old kitchen, but it's good to be here. But I have to to tell you, the thing I really missed this whole summer away was my chef's knife. My Waterloo kitchen hasn't got one, although it has every other kind of knife known to mankind. Unfortunately, it looks like my knife was happy to see me too, and in all the rush of saying hello, it accidentally lodged itself in my finger. The good news is that it's my pinky finger, so in not using it I can practice looking refined when I have a cup of tea.

Oh, and I guess I'll post about the squash I was peeling when it happened. Minor detail.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Chocolate Mint Squares, Anyone?

Lovely quick recipe for a hot summer's day, unless you don't feel like turning on your oven.

Since I don't remember exactly where I got this recipe from, I'll try not to be too specific. The general idea:

For the brownie layer:
Any brownie recipe will do, if baked in an 8-9 inch square baking dish. I recommend Brownies Cockaigne from the Joy of Cooking because they're delicious.

First, line the the greased pan with aluminum foil, with about two inches of overhang. Then add batter, bake, and leave them to cool completely IN THE PAN.

For the mint layer:

This is a simple cake frosting with peppermint extract added. It takes about

2 tbsp butter, softened
1 cup confectioner's sugar
2 (or more) tbsp heavy cream
1/2 tsp peppermint extract

Mix these together with a hand or stand mixer until smooth and spreadable.

Since you've let the brownie layer cool in the pan, you should be able to lift the entire layer out using the tin foil. If it crumbles or sags in the middle, leave it a little bit longer. Putting it in the fridge will help. If it doesn't, your brownies weren't done. Sorry.

Anyhoo, flatten the edges of the foil and spread the icing evenly over the brownie layer. Let the icing layer set in the fridge while you melt:

1 oz unsweetened chocolate
1 tbsp butter

in the microwave, or on the stovetop, however. Once it has melted, pour it over the chilled icing. Rock the brownies back and forth until the chocolate covers as much as possible, then GENTLY fill the rest in with light painting strokes using a small spatula.

Put the whole thing back into the fridge for at least 30 minutes. Then your slab is ready to cut into squares! Hooray!

These freeze well and are useful for potlucks.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

ओह हेल्लो

Ahem. Caroline here. The silent contributor and mysterious Quinn Street Attic resident whose name does not appear on the banner. Not even in small print or in a parentheses or anything!

Anyway, Subway in Ireland has nachos. And there's one attached to the building I live in. Yes. So I haven't been cooking for pretty much the entire summer. Actually, that's mostly because I'm quite far from any decent supermarket and the ones that are easily accessible have a very poor selection of vegetables.

This post isn't completely pointless and does serve a bit of a purpose, however. I'm posting this here to say that because of that fact, I've really been missing cooking. And since I'll be getting back to Canada with a few weeks to play with before school starts, I would gladly accept a challenge from either of you (or any of the readers) that I would document and post here.

My only rule is that it has to include sausages, since seeing Sophia's torte thingy. Mmm sausages. Okay, that's a lie. You can challenge me with with whatever you like and then cook me sausages as a belated birthday present. That sounds fair.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Kiekenpastey: I'm never making this again.

Sitting in Victoria on a sunny day with a reclining ocean-view deck chair is not optimal for relating unpleasant cooking experiences. Okay, only comparatively unpleasant: The stress level of this dish is minimal, but the recipe clearly dates from times when aristocrats hired cooks who, you know, had nothing else to do in a day.

Today, if it's made at all, this pie is made at Easter, presumably because one has more time one one's hands, and many more mouths to feed with a single meal.

For the crust:

3 ¼ cups bread flour (this is a bread crust, not a pastry crust)

1 packet of yeast (The recipe calls for rapid-rise yeast, but more on this later)

2/3 cup lukewarm water

½ tsp sugar

1 egg, lightly beaten

¼ butter, softened (plus extra for greasing)

For the Filling:

800g chicken (the recipe calls for a whole chicken, but being lazy, I just bought chicken breast. Expensive, I know)

1 tbsp lemon juice

¼ cup butter

150g ground veal

pinch of freshly grated nutmeg (I don’t know anybody not Dutch who has a nutmeg grater... or maybe it’s just not something people talk about. I’m sure pre-ground nutmeg would be fine)

300g pork sausage

150g oyster mushrooms, diced

8 canned artichoke bottoms, drained (I’d never bought artichoke bottoms, and now even canned artichoke hearts are difficult to find. You’ll have to try Pete’s in Halifax or Vincenzo’s in Kitchener-Waterloo)

4 tbsp breadcrumbs

5 small eggs (I did not use small eggs)

4 tbsp chopped celery leaves (I used something else I found in the garden. I don’t remember what it was)

2 green onions, finely chopped

milk for glazing

salt and ground black pepper

For the sauce (which I don’t recommend; it just made the pie soggy, but I’ll include it in case you DO make the pie and turns out inexplicably dry):

1 cup whipping cream

1 tbsp corn starch

2 tbsp chives, chopped.

There’s a note under the ingredients that says morels are more authentic than oyster mushrooms, but the most I’ve heard about morels is that they’re only available for a short time during the year, so I doubt many stores would bother with them. I wouldn’t bother either.

First we make the dough! Sift the flour, if you wish, and make a well in the center. Add the yeast and water, and stir gently until incorporated. Leave it to rise for fifteen minutes. The issue I had here was that the only yeast I had was breadmaker yeast. It said it was interchangeable with regular yeast, but wasn’t rapid-rise, I guess. The only issue was that the dough didn’t rise during this stage at all. So... if it doesn’t rise during the fifteen minutes, don’t worry about it. If it does... then good for you, you’re better than I am.

After fifteen minutes, add the egg and butter and knead! I chopped the butter into cubes even though it’s softened, because I couldn’t imagine trying to knead half a stick of butter into wet flour with my hands. Transfer the whole thing to a floured surface and continue to knead until the dough is smooth and elastic. I wish I’d timed how long this took, but we’ll just say it was longer than I thought it would be. But it DOES happen. Form the whole thing into a ball and place it in a clean bowl. Cover it with a dampened dish towel and leave to rise at room temperature for 1 ½ hours.

Here’s another warning for this recipe: it uses a LOT of dishes. This is good practice for the clean-as-you-go style of cooking. If you don’t cook that way, you’ll need to start.

Anyhoodle, it is now time for the hard part. If you use a whole chicken, cut it into eighths. Otherwise, simply divide it into manageable, cookable pieces. Rub them with the lemon juice, salt, and pepper. In a large flame-proof casserole dish (or a dutch oven, like I used), melt the butter over high heat. Add the chicken and cook until browned, about ten minutes. Transfer the chicken to (yet another) plate and take the casserole off the heat.

Mixed the veal with nutmeg and whatever seasonings you want, and form into six little meatballs. return the casserole to the heat* and add the meatballs and sausage. Cook at a high heat, turning frequently, for about ten minutes, until browned. Return the chicken to the casserole. Cover and simmer for 25 minutes.

*let me be the first to point out that one could simply form the meatballs earlier, and do all the cooking at once.

Remove the meat. Here the book says to reduce the cooking liquid until it sizzles. I didn’t know what that meant, really... so I reduced it until... well... until I saw fit. SO helpful, I know. Add the mushrooms and cook for 4-5 minutes. Remove them from the casserole using a slotted spoon. Discard the fat. You’re very welcome, your kitchen now smells delicious!

Cut the chicken meat from the bones, if there are any, and dice neatly. Slice the sausage thickly. Pat the artichoke bottoms dry and stuff with the mushrooms.

Your dough should now appear to be turning into some sort of lagoon resident-type monster under its dish towel.

Preheat the oven to 400˚F. Grease a 10 inch springform pan. I love springform pans. They’re the best. Cut off one third of the dough and knead on a floured surface, if you have any surface left with all those dirty dishes. Form into a ball and return to the bowl. knead the larger piece and form it into a ball as well.

Roll the large dough into about 14 inch round. Gently line the springform pan with the round. Roll the smaller bowl into a 10-inch round and cut out six hearts with, what else, a heart-shaped cookie cutter. Does everybody have these? I went through my mother’s cupboards and found about six different sizes of heart, among other novelty shapes. Sugar cookies this year are going to be FUN.

spread the breadcrumbs over the bottom of the pie crust and evenly distribute the artichoke bottoms on top of the crumb bed. Spoon the cut meat over and around the artichokes.

There are supposed to be more of these, but you get the idea.

With a spoon, or whatever, make five evenly spaced impressions in the top of the mixture. Into each, break an egg!

Sprinkle everything with the spring onions, celery, and seasoning. Pour in the cream.

Cover the pie and press the edges together, cutting off any “surplus.” brush the pie with milk, arrange the heart cut-outs to your liking, and brush with milk again.

Let bake for 1 hour. Halfway through baking, sprinkle the pie with water and cover it lightly with baking parchment.

For the sauce (sigh), heat the cream in a small pan. Mix the cornstarch with 2 tbsp water to a paste in (yet another) small bowl, and stir into the cream. Season to taste and stir in the chives. Pour into a sauce boat.

By now, it's likely late at night. You might want to stick this in the fridge and eat it for breakfast. I recommend reheating it in the oven though, because after a while the cream tends to make the bread crumbs quite soggy. And my last warning: make sure there are others willing to help you eat this; it's hefty.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

What do you MEAN the Store is out of Garlic?!

Grocery shopping is about to get infinitely more frustrating as apparently Loblaws workers are going on strike for "an extended period of time." No matter: they consistently have absolutely nothing I need. They stopped selling canned artichoke hearts for Pete's sake!

Which brings me to today's challenge: Chicken Pie! This is all I'll be doing today, aside from some online window-shopping and that rockabilly dance night for one.

Sounds like the life, huh? Unfortunately, this recipe is VERY involved. It's not my usual chicken-and-mushroom-in-a-cream-sauce pie, this is traditional Kiekenpastey.

Now here's the weird thing about dutch recipes: the description begins by saying that this was "traditionally a sweet pie containing ginger, cinnamon, saffron and plenty of sugar."

Now that's fine. But where, along the way, did chicken find its way in? A clue: "Later, the ingredients included cocks' combs, sweetbreads and chestnuts in an open pastry case."

I can't wrap my head around how THAT must have happened...

Anyhow, the recipe has thankfully been updated to be, well, less gross. The filling consists not only of chicken, but also pork sausage and ground veal. So we've got our barnyard animals covered.

But guess what else! It's also got mushroom-stuffed artichoke bottoms! And homemade bread dough for the crust instead of pastry!

You can see now why I need a whole day to do this. Especially since I couldn't find artichoke bottoms for the life of me.

The picture in the book has cute little heart cutouts in the top. If my version has the same, we'll know I somehow had fun in the process.

Monday, June 21, 2010

A Celebration of All Kinds!

I thought that I'd honor Sophia's birthday with a cake. She may not have been here to share it with the rest of us but I knew she would have liked it a lot. I chose the Little Black Dress Chocolate Cake that she proposed for me to make. I chose to make it on a day on which I could celebrate it with all of my relatives and incidentally the closest holiday turned out to be Father's Day. So Sophia, though you may never get the chance to be a father one day, this cake is for you!

This was attempt number one. I had my 2 year old niece as a helper and by doing so I promptly forgot to add in the whipped eggs to the batter until I had tranferred it to the cake pan. That's just one of the many mishaps in the process of making the first cake. Needless to say it collapsed. The cake itself was dense like a brownie and I opted out a full cup of sugar to give it a bittersweet chocolate flavor.

Day 2
I've been swimming in ganache so I decided to try again on the cake.

The second attempt was done in the proper fashion. I opted out only 1/2 a cup of sugar, when I whipped it in with the butter.

This cake was apparently a bit sweeter than the first but much lighter and fluffier. I'd call this cake a torte myself as it is rich, thick and one piece certainly suffices.

Day 3
Still trying to keep my up above all that ganache.Observe the extra ganache in the bowl.

Solution? Chocolate truffles as suggested by the original recipe. She made the suggestion almost as an afterthought as if making truffles were the most obvious and easiest solution to leftover ganache. I began to research. I found a fairly simplified version for making chocolate truffles here and than I began to get creative. I was inspired by a local chocolatier in Portland, Maine, Sweet Marguerites that have created chocolates with innovative ingredients such as bacon and lambic beer. I began to rummage in the beer fridge and found the perfect ingredient, a beautiful bottle of Unibroue's quelchose. I began to dream about a quelchose ganache dipped in dark chocolate and covered in walnut crumbs.

Then I stumbled upon this site that inspired me to continue to try other cooking with beer. http://www.beercook.com/articles/beerchoc.htm

Alas, for the time being I stuck with making the original truffle recipe that I found. I coated the ganache dipped in dark chocolate with cocoa powder and crushed hazelnuts. Result? Decadent.

Perhaps it all started yesterday when I was dropping off leftover cake at my brother's house where I began flipping through my sister in law's cooking with beer book, but I think this could lead to a whole new territory for me to explore while Sophie dabbles with Dutch traditions.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

A Herring in Thy Gullet

A few things I've learned about Dutch cooking:

1) It's weird.
2) Every meal is supposedly a delicious balance between meat, potatoes, and vegetables. Vegetarian alternatives will be offered where available. I hope you like asparagus soup.
3) The Dutch REALLY like baking. They also stick almonds in wherever they possibly can.
4) A lot of traditional Dutch cooking was kept secret until after the wars due to Calvinist influence. Before the 1950's it was a "secret cuisine" and is only recorded in handwritten notebooks, which are now very valuable.

The weirdest tradition, I have to say, is that of eating matjes... That's a whole herring fresh from the catch. It's raw, but at least it's gutted.

My father demonstrates the proper method of eating matjes. Full points for form, but I'm pretty sure that herring's pickled.

And when I said I would be refusing challenges, I would like to clarify that I still plan to meet my own secret challenge of a pie for every season. This gruesome thing is strawberry rhubarb pie... soup.

A fairly simple recipe, just taken from the Joy of Cooking. If that book tells you anything, it's how to make a good pie. I don't even have any tips, other than when it says to use a rubber spatula, USE a rubber spatula. I almost didn't because it sounded absurd, but it was actually very helpful.

I used a recipe that uses both butter and shortening, which makes the crust both delicious and easy to work with. I believe it was "flaky pastry dough," which is not to be confused with "deluxe flaky pastry dough."

'Tis all! I'm off to enjoy a picnic on the lawn at the Grand River Baroque Festival. Check it out for next year.


Friday, June 18, 2010

The Show Must Go On!

This past week I've had a serious setback as I've been quite ill. I've been put on a strict diet by doctor's orders. I was so distraught that I decided to fulfill my foodie needs by cooking. I wasn't able to enjoy personally in the fruits of my labor but those who did take pleasure in the results were aptly satisfied and full.

I indulged in making an old favorite of mine. Classic Argentine pan relleno or stuffed bread. I love how simple and easy this recipe is. Not only does it require a few inexpensive ingredients that any ol' baker will already have stocked in their kitchen, but it also allows you to get creative with the filling.

This time I chose to use a soft, herb cheese, fleur de verte, with which I created a spread with roasted garlic and olive oil.

I then layered jambon de bayonne on top with Spanish black and green olives with chopped dried chilis.

It was a beautiful combination and would have made a great accompainment to a good red wine.

I also tried my hand at a chickenless curry salad using jasmine rice, sliced apples, celery, red onion, sliced almonds, raisins and red seedless grapes. As you can see, I used almonds as I would not be the one consuming this dish.

I began by sweating some chopped red onions in a pot with some olive oil on medium heat. I then proceeded to add the spices in order for the onions and oil to fully absorb and release flavor to the following ingredients. The spices included, garam masala, anise powder, a bit of clove, turmeric, coriander, cayenne, paprika, and cinnamon. Most often garam masala and coriander are the two that I add the most of, but this time, I went a little heavier on the turmeric as well, which was necessary for this recipe. It was safe to go much lighter on the paprika and cayenne as its not a dish meant to be very spicy. I toasted the two cups of rice in with the spices, onions and oil for a couple of minutes or so. At the same time I added in the chopped celery and raisins. I gradually added water to the pot to allow the rice to continue cooking.

I should have gradually added up to about 4 cups of water. The general rule of thumb for rice is two parts water for one part rice. I feared for when the rice began to stick thus I frantically added more and more water. This resulted in a mushy mass of curry rice ball by the end.

As you add water to rice in any recipe prepared in this way, I suggest to continue to augment your spices accordingly. It's very frequent that flavor is lost and diluted when liquid is added so be cautious of this. One such recipe that comes to mind, is the guiso, something like a basic stew. In Argentina, it's common to do make guiso with a base ingredient such as lentils (guiso de lentejas), pasta such as macaroni or tube pasta(guiso de fideos), or rice (guiso de arroz), and a tomato base liquid. It comes in a carton and is known as puree de tomate. Whatever meat of your liking can be thrown in accordingly too, anything from salchichas (small sausages/hot dogs), chorizo (real Spanish sausage) morcilla (blood sausage) , to carne molida (ground meat) o cortada (cuts of meat). Anyhow... hopefully this somewhat unrelated tangent will lead to another upcoming blog post and complete recipe for some other day.

The dish was served chilled with the sliced apples and red grapes mixed in after the rice was taken off the stove. Although the resulting texture of the rice was unsatisfactory but I trusted in the consumer, that the flavors were spot on.
I also accompanied the summer meal with a ratatouille. This time I added banana peppers which I think will become a permanent part of this recipe for me.

So there! I have been chartering culinary territory in my absence of the blog. And just for the record, I've also made the most delicious lamb burgers with jalapenos, fresh basil and mint as well as blue cheese burgers with a spiced bacon. Yum! Unfortunately I forgot to take pictures. You'll have to trust me on this one. I'm sure they will be made again at some point this summer.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Let's Betray Some Other Love

I love cooking. I think that's obvious. But I also love books. Other food blogs have been a great way for Katherine and I to swap recipes and find variations, and also to feel part of something bigger than our small kitchen (OH the feeling!).

But to be honest, there hasn't been a whole lot of swapping going on. And I was in the library today and came across the cooking section. Is it EVER a section! I was glad to see it left the fitness section in the dust in terms of size. Ha!

So to start out, I got Janny de Moor's big book on Dutch cooking. The Belgian book looked better, with recipes for mussels, waffles, and steak'n chips. But, thanks to my aunt Magda, those are a bit old hat. And anyway, I'm Dutch, not Belgian.

My grandfather was a baker and apparently I inherited both his knack for pastries and the tendency to sulk for an entire day after the custard curdles. Had we started this blog earlier, you would have seen a tremendous sulk in action after an eggnog mishap.

The POINT is, I'm refusing outside challenges for a while in order to explore my own culinary heritage. Do join me :)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

At this point, I know, excuses can't save me from my unforgiveable absence from the blog. Nonetheless I shall plead my case in vain. For starters, working full time and being provided with food on a regular basis really puts a damper on my cooking life.

Have hope yet, dear followers, I have not abandoned the kitchen. While I may no longer be in the Quinn Street kitchen, I'm slowly venturing through culinary exploration in foreign kitchens. Here's just one of the cooking adventures that I've been up to over the course of my journeys. Awhile back I hosted a mini tapas night inspired by some choice leftover ingredients.

I fashioned a salmon dip out of a lovely cedar plank salmon from the night before. I cannot take credit for that beautiful entree but I can take some credit for this dip which was essentially the shredded salmon, cream cheese, dill, milk mixed together and seasoned with salt and pepper. It made for a scrumptious spread on toasted foccacia.

Next course up was a bruschetta recipe that I had had in mind for a while. I wanted to put a new spin on the basic ingredients to bruschetta so I added in some mushrooms and sauteed them with onions in garam masala, cumin, paprika, cayenne, coriander and turmeric.

To bring the bruschetta together, I threw sliced mozzarella onto focaccia, piled on the sauteed mushrooms and tomatoes. After toasting in the oven, I topped it off with some shaved parmesan cheese.

This recipe is definitely going to be filed away to be used again and again. The results came out just how I had wished for, the spices gave the bruschetta a unique spicy flavor that paired superbly with the mushrooms and tomatoes.

The last thing served was a prime rib panini with gouda, roasted red peppers and mushrooms. I shredded the prime rib and topped it off with a little bbq sauce which made it finger lickin good and a bit messy.

The following day I started off with crepes sprinkled with sugar, lemon juice and filled with yogurt and berries. What a sweet start to my day.