Monday, 30 June 2008

Magazine Mondays - Zucchini Tart with Feta and Mint

Today marks my first week of participation with Magazine Mondays. This is a casual event that encourages all of us foodie magazine collectors - you know who you are - to actually cook from those recipes we bookmark and post our results. The event was founded by Cream Puffs in Venice and will have sporadic round-ups. Monday is no time for rigidity.

My name is Natashya and I am a foodie magazine junkie. I currently collect - Food and Wine, Food and Drink, Gourmet, Bon Appetit, Saveur and Martha Stewart Living. What do you read?

This week I made Zucchini Tart with Feta and Mint from LCBO Food and Drink, Summer 2008.

It is a nice side dish, perfect with some grilled sausage and a green salad.

We picked this one to make as it looked fresh and summery and I had all the ingredients already. Unfortunately, I got carried away with cleaning out the bar in the basement (which ends up being a dumping ground for assorted "stuff") and finished making the tart around 11 pm. This is late by even our standards, we usually sup around 8ish or so. But I woke hubby up from his nap and we had a lovely dinner. He is a good man and is happy to be fed, no matter what the time.

I liked the idea of a whole wheat crust and the half white flour let it remain light tasting. With the exception of upping the garlic ratio, I followed the recipe to a "t" and it turned out very nicely.

Tart Dough

1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup cold, unsalted butter, cut into little pieces
1 to 2 tbsp cold water

Combine dry ingredients in mixing bowl. Add butter and combine until it is the size of small peas, using fingers or a pastry blender. Sprinkle in just enough water to bring the pastry together. Gather into a ball, wrap in plastic and put in fridge for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Roll out on lightly floured surface and press lightly into 9 inch tart shell with removable bottom.

Par bake lined with foil and filled with pie weights or dry beans for 20 minutes. Remove foil and weights and prick with a fork several times on the bottom (be careful of your pan) Bake for 5 more minutes.

Zucchini Tart with Feta and Mint

2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 med zucchini, about 10 oz, sliced into 1/8 inch rounds
1 tsp chopped garlic - (I did more- I love garlic)
2 tbsp chopped mint
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup 18% cream
3 oz feta cheese, crumbled
tart shell - par baked

Preheat oven to 350

Melt butter in frying pan over med heat. Add zucchini, and saute 3 minutes or until beginning to soften. Add garlic and stir to combine. Turn heat to med-high and continue to cook for 1 minute or until zucchini is just cooked through and juices have evaporated. Remove pan from heat, stir in mint, season with salt and pepper to taste, and set aside.

Beat egg and yolk with cream until uniform. Season with salt.

Sprinkle feta cheese over prepared tart shell. Pour over half of egg mixture. Add zucchini mixture in a even layer and pour over remaining egg mixture.

Place tart on a baking sheet and bake in the lower third of the oven for 30 - 35 minutes or until set and lightly golden. Let cool for 10 minutes.

Serves 6

Tip from my kitchen - Use the plastic lettuce knife to do any cutting on a nonstick pan. You still have to be gentle but are less likely to scratch your pan.
Check out Cream Puff's Strawberry Gallette on this week's round-up.

My First Meme

EEP! My first tag, meme, whatever. I am not even sure what meme means but I am willing to play along. This must mean that at least one person reads my blog! (I always like to look to the positive)

I have been tagged by Coffeepot from Coffee and Cornbread

-so here are the meme rules.

Tag Rules:
# Link to the person who tagged you.
# Post the rules on the blog.
# Write six random things about yourself.
# Tag six people at the end of your post.
# Let each person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.
# Let the tagger know when your entry is up.

……..and here are 6 random things about myself.

1. I talk to the puppies. About everything. I also talk to the cat, the toads in the garden and many of the plants.

2. I hate to wear socks.

3. On the rare occasions that nobody is coming home for dinner, I make a big batch of popcorn for dinner and eat it in front of the television.

4. Orange is my favourite colour. It’s just so happy.

5. I hate balloons.

6. I still love to watch hubby get dressed in the morning.

I tag -
Chef Ashbabe - Memoirs from my Kitchen
Pei Lin from Mrs Ergül in the Kitchen
Katrina from She Bake!
The Happy Sorceress from Dispensing Happiness
Eatabagel from Real Bagels are Boiled
Michele from A Big Cup of Tea

This tag is in the sense of fun, silliness and camaraderie. If you are too busy or tired to play we will all fully understand. If not, I look forward to hearing from you. Have a fantabulous day!

Sunday, 29 June 2008

The Daring Bakers - Danish Pastry

The Daring Bakers strike again! This time in the form of Danish Pastry. A lovely, layered "laminated" dough filled with our choice of preserves, cheese, fruit, pastry cream or curd.

By this time there are, oh I don't know, thousands of us all over the world baking up a storm. Pushing our own personal comfort and skill level to attempt the set recipe selected for the month. This recipe was selected by KellyPea of Sass and Veracity and Ben of Whats Cooking?, feel free to see how theirs turned out.

I made the Danish pastry at the last minute. I have never made pastry dough - beyond pie and tart dough - and was just a little frightened. While putting it off this last week I did manage to clean out and rearrange the entire basement so at least my procrastination was constructive.
The first day, Friday, I made the dough. It was not as difficult as I thought it would be. I had no trouble with it at all. I had read someone's tip to grate the butter before adding it to the flour and this helped tremendously. I was worried how I was supposed to blend cold butter in with flour, lump free, in 1 minute. I did the folds, turns & chills straight from the recipe. The next day I did the filling. Preserves dotted with cream cheese. I did find it hard to move the pastry after filling and braiding the top. By this time it was quite soft. Next time I might do the final rolling, filling and braiding on top of parchment so that I can easily transport it to my silpat lined baking sheet. I topped the braids with poppy seeds on one side and sliced almonds on the other side. Then I sprinkled raw sugar on them. I love raw sugar, it's the best part of pastry.
How did it turn out? Pretty good. The first one I did to the recipe times and it was a bit too dark on the bottom. The second one I did for 10 minutes at 400 and 10 minutes at 350 and it turned out better. It was denser than I expected but tasty. The next day - today - we ate it cold out of the fridge and it was much tastier this way. I think that I would like to experiment with this type of dough further.
Check out the Daring Bakers Blog Roll to see how the others fared.

Technique: Making and working with yeasted laminated dough

Recipe: “Danish Braid” from Sherry Yard’s The Secrets of Baking
• Danish dough is in the family of butter-laminated or layered doughs with puff pastry being the ultimate. Danish dough is sweet and is yeast-leavened, however, where as puff pastry is not.

• The process of making Danish dough is less complex than that of puff pastry, but equally as important to achieve best results, and a great starting place to begin to learn about laminated doughs in general.

• Danish dough is extremely versatile, and once made can be used for a variety of baked goods. The possibilities are endless.

Some History:

• According to many sources, “Danish” was born when Danish bakers went on strike, and Viennese bakers were brought in to replace them, creating what is referred to as Vienna Bread.

• Conversely, it is also said that Danish bakers went to Vienna to learn the techniques Viennese bakers employed, and Danish dough was created there.

• In the early 1800’s, C.L. Olsen spent time in Germany, believing in the idea of gaining inspiration from bakers of other countries. He brought knowledge back to Denmark to introduce “foreign” breads to his country, also hiring people of other nationalities to bake in his family bakery.


• The method or style of your braid is your choice. You may vary the width of the dough strips, type of edging, or angle of cuts.

• Often, a glaze, nuts, or sugar are used as toppings. You may choose to use any or all of these, or others you may find interesting.

• Use one or more fillings such as fresh berries, pastry cream, preserves or jams, curds – there are lots of possibilities.

• Once you’ve made a Danish Braid, experiment with Danish pastries with the extra dough.

• If there’s a way to try something savory with the extra dough, then why not?Terminology:

• Laminated dough – is layered dough created by sandwiching butter between layers of dough

• Detrempe – ball of dough

• Beurrage – butter block

• Turn – each “fold & roll” of the dough produces a single turn in a 3-step process where the dough is folded exactly like a business letter in 3 columns. Each single turn creates 3 layers with this method.For Your Consideration:

• This recipe calls for a standing mixer with fitted attachments, but it can easily be made without one. Ben says, “Do not fear if you don’t own a standing mixer. I have been making puff pastry by hand for many years and the technique for Danish pastry is very similar and not too difficult.” Look for the alternate directions in the recipe as appropriate.Yard recommends the following:

• Use well-chilled ingredients. This includes flour if your kitchen temperature is above 70 degrees F (~ 21 degrees C).

• It is recommended that long, continuous strokes be used to roll the dough rather than short, jerky strokes to make sure the butter block is evenly distributed.

• The 30-minute rest/cooling period for the dough between turns is crucial to re-chill the butter and allow the gluten in the dough to relax.

• Excess flour accumulated on the surface of the dough after turns should be brushed off as pockets of flour can interfere with the rise.

• When making cuts in the dough for the braid, make sure they are not too long and provide a solid base for the filling.

Makes 2-1/2 pounds dough

Ingredients For the dough (Detrempe)
1 ounce fresh yeast or 1 tablespoon active dry yeast

1/2 cup whole milk

1/3 cup sugar

Zest of 1 orange, finely grated

3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped

2 large eggs, chilled

1/4 cup fresh orange juice

3-1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

For the butter block (Beurrage)

1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter

1/4 cup all-purpose flour


Combine yeast and milk in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed. Slowly add sugar, orange zest, cardamom, vanilla extract, vanilla seeds, eggs, and orange juice. Mix well. Change to the dough hook and add the salt with the flour, 1 cup at a time, increasing speed to medium as the flour is incorporated. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes, or until smooth. You may need to add a little more flour if it is sticky. Transfer dough to a lightly floured baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Without a standing mixer: Combine yeast and milk in a bowl with a hand mixer on low speed or a whisk. Add sugar, orange zest, cardamom, vanilla extract, vanilla seeds, eggs, and orange juice and mix well. Sift flour and salt on your working surface and make a fountain. Make sure that the “walls” of your fountain are thick and even. Pour the liquid in the middle of the fountain. With your fingertips, mix the liquid and the flour starting from the middle of the fountain, slowly working towards the edges. When the ingredients have been incorporated start kneading the dough with the heel of your hands until it becomes smooth and easy to work with, around 5 to 7 minutes. You might need to add more flour if the dough is sticky.


1. Combine butter and flour in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat on medium speed for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle and then beat for 1 minute more, or until smooth and lump free. Set aside at room temperature.

2. After the detrempe has chilled 30 minutes, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough into a rectangle approximately 18 x 13 inches and ¼ inch thick. The dough may be sticky, so keep dusting it lightly with flour. Spread the butter evenly over the center and right thirds of the dough. Fold the left edge of the detrempe to the right, covering half of the butter. Fold the right third of the rectangle over the center third. The first turn has now been completed. Mark the dough by poking it with your finger to keep track of your turns, or use a sticky and keep a tally. Place the dough on a baking sheet, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

3. Place the dough lengthwise on a floured work surface. The open ends should be to your right and left. Roll the dough into another approximately 13 x 18 inch, ¼-inch-thick rectangle. Again, fold the left third of the rectangle over the center third and the right third over the center third. No additional butter will be added as it is already in the dough. The second turn has now been completed. Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes.

4. Roll out, turn, and refrigerate the dough two more times, for a total of four single turns. Make sure you are keeping track of your turns. Refrigerate the dough after the final turn for at least 5 hours or overnight. The Danish dough is now ready to be used. If you will not be using the dough within 24 hours, freeze it. To do this, roll the dough out to about 1 inch in thickness, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and freeze. Defrost the dough slowly in the refrigerator for easiest handling. Danish dough will keep in the freezer for up to 1 month.

Makes enough for two braids


4 Fuji or other apples, peeled, cored, and cut into ¼-inch pieces

1/2 cup sugar

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

Toss all ingredients except butter in a large bowl. Melt the butter in a sauté pan over medium heat until slightly nutty in color, about 6 - 8 minutes. Then add the apple mixture and sauté until apples are softened and caramelized, 10 to 15 minutes. If you’ve chosen Fujis, the apples will be caramelized, but have still retained their shape. Pour the cooked apples onto a baking sheet to cool completely before forming the braid. (If making ahead, cool to room temperature, seal, and refrigerate.) They will cool faster when spread in a thin layer over the surface of the sheet. After they have cooled, the filling can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Left over filling can be used as an ice cream topping, for muffins, cheesecake, or other pastries.


Makes enough for 2 large braids


1 recipe Danish Dough

2 cups apple filling, jam, or preserves

For the egg wash: 1 large egg, plus 1 large egg yolk

1. Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, roll the Danish Dough into a 15 x 20-inch rectangle, ¼ inch thick. If the dough seems elastic and shrinks back when rolled, let it rest for a few minutes, then roll again. Place the dough on the baking sheet.

2. Along one long side of the pastry make parallel, 5-inch-long cuts with a knife or rolling pastry wheel, each about 1 inch apart. Repeat on the opposite side, making sure to line up the cuts with those you’ve already made.

3. Spoon the filling you’ve chosen to fill your braid down the center of the rectangle. Starting with the top and bottom “flaps”, fold the top flap down over the filling to cover. Next, fold the bottom “flap” up to cover filling. This helps keep the braid neat and helps to hold in the filling. Now begin folding the cut side strips of dough over the filling, alternating first left, then right, left, right, until finished. Trim any excess dough and tuck in the ends.
Egg Wash - Whisk together the whole egg and yolk in a bowl and with a pastry brush, lightly coat the braid.


1. Spray cooking oil (Pam…) onto a piece of plastic wrap, and place over the braid. Proof at room temperature or, if possible, in a controlled 90 degree F environment for about 2 hours, or until doubled in volume and light to the touch.

2. Near the end of proofing, preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Position a rack in the center of the oven.

3. Bake for 10 minutes, then rotate the pan so that the side of the braid previously in the back of the oven is now in the front. Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F, and bake about 15-20 minutes more, or until golden brown. Cool and serve the braid either still warm from the oven or at room temperature. The cooled braid can be wrapped airtight and stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, or freeze for 1 month.

Saturday, 28 June 2008

WHB- Farfalle with Smoked Trout and Capers

It's the weekend and that means Weekend Herb Blogging. The weekly event created by Kalyn from Kalyn's Kitchen- devoted to herbally goodness - is being hosted by none other than Kalyn herself. Check out her site for great, fresh recipes that won't expand your waistline.

This week for WHB I have chosen to profile capers. Many people associate capers with seafood as they pair so nicely together, but they are not actually from the sea. Capers are small immature buds from a shrub in the Middle East and the Mediterranean region. The buds are then brined in a vinegar solution or packed in coarse salt. The ones packed in salt need to be rinsed before you use them. If the buds were not picked they would become blossoms and then berries, both are used in cooking in their native regions. The caper buds are most popular in North America. They lend a surprise tart taste to food, not unlike olives, and are an acquired taste that is worth acquiring.

I used them in a summer pasta that is made simply. The fresh ingredients are prepped and placed in a large bowl and hot pasta is tossed in, slightly cooking the rest of the ingredients.

I have used smoked trout but smoked salmon would work just as well. Heat smoked fish has a tougher, darker, flakier look to it than the smooth, red, cold smoked version.

Farfalle with Smoked Trout and Capers

½ lb farfalle pasta (bowties)
¼ cup snow peas
½ cup heat smoked trout, broken up
2 green onions, sliced
1 tomato, diced
½ green pepper, diced
¼ cup parsley leaves
2 tbsp fresh dill or ½ tbsp dry
4 tsp capers

Lemon wedges for serving

Cook pasta in boiling, salted water until al dente.
Toss the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl. Drain pasta but do not rinse.
Toss pasta to combine and drizzle generously with olive oil and season to taste. Serve with lemon wedges.

For those of you who were sympathizing with my inability to find bowtie pasta, hubby came home with a bag this week. I can assume that I have Al Gore to thank.

Friday, 27 June 2008

Mmmm... Sweet, Sweet Canada

Oh, okay eh? What does Canada taste like to me? Awh geez, I dunno. Back bacon and maple syrup I guess, eh?

All right. I do realize that my two responses to "What does Canada taste like to you?" are the most obvious Bob and Doug answers that I could have come up with but hey - there are reasons for the stereotypes. We love maple syrup. IT'S ON OUR FLAG! Well, not the syrup, but the maple. I'm not talking about table syrup, that sugar water/high fructose corn syrup confection that you find at the grocery store and keep buying because it is only $3 and the kids don't know any better. Real, dark, maple syrup that tastes deep and alive like a sweet, sweet Canadian forest.

For my offering for Sweet Canada I give you Mini Maple Cakes, adapted from a maple bundt cake recipe from Martha Stewart. These cakes are the reason why if anyone called my house earlier this week they would have been told that I was busy trying to make a muffin look like the Canadian flag. This is my life.

I baked them in my Nordic Ware autumn leaf pan. Some of you might have noticed that I am a bit of a Nordic Ware fanatic.(just the platinum collection, mind you) I don't actually work for them but if they would like to start sending me product for raving about them I wouldn't say no.....

But I digress.

The Domestic Goddess has posed this Sweet Canada challenge for Sugar High Fridays and all you Canadians or people who wish you were Canadians (I know you're out there), I believe you have one day left. The round up will be posted on Canada day.

Mini Maple Cakes

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup packaged dark-brown sugar
1 large egg
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup, plus more for drizzling
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup yogurt
1/4 cup heavy cream

Directions - as this pan has a small capacity, this recipe filled it twice. It would fill a regular 12 cup muffin tin once.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray muffin tin with pam or something like it, I use President's Choice canola spray. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
Beat butter and sugar with a mixer on medium-high speed until fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add egg, beating well. Beat in 1/4 cup maple syrup and the vanilla. Add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the yogurt, beating until just combined after each addition. Scoop batter into prepared pan 2/3 full.
Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Invert onto rack to cool completely.
Just before serving, beat cream with a mixer or a whisk until soft peaks form. Add 2 tablespoons maple syrup, and beat until soft peaks return. Spoon whipped cream over cake, and drizzle with maple syrup. Serve immediately or rewarm plain cakes slightly in the microwave and add cream and syrup.

Click here for the Sweet Canada round-up and prepare for some Canadian style sweetness.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Barefoot Blogging - Parmesan Chicken

It's Barefoot Blogging Day! Twice a month this new cooking club whips up one of Ina Garten's delicacies and writes about it on their blog. Cooking with Ina, how bad can that be? Ina has five cookbooks and another coming out in the fall and many of her recipes are available at the Food Network website. Her recipes are straight-forward and rarely include hard to find ingredients. If you would like to learn more about cooking with us, feel free to click here.

This week the Barefoot Bloggers have recreated the Parmesan Chicken from page 82 of Barefoot Contessa Family Style. This dish was chosen by Megan of My Baking Adventures and I personally loved it. For the recipe, click here.

This requires the fast cooking chicken to be breaded so it is best to set up your Mise en Place. This is a delicate way of saying - have everything in place before you start cooking - which is always a good idea but most important with fast cooking dishes.
The chicken is pounded to a 1/4 inch thickness which gives it a greater surface area for browning and lets it cook quickly, allowing the centre to remain tender. I find when pounding out chicken the best thing to do is to take your time. Rushing it or pounding too hard will make the chicken tear. Place it between two pieces of waxed paper or plastic wrap and pound methodically - while watching the Food Network, or enjoying a glass of wine. Or, if you are in my kitchen, both.

The chicken breasts that we had picked up were large and meaty and since it was just the two of us for dinner, we halved the recipe and used the 2 large breasts. The recipe calls for the cooked chicken to be topped with a fresh salad of greens tossed in a lemon vinaigrette.

I had fresh baby greens from my garden to top the dish off and it all came together wonderfully. We enjoyed it with a 2006 Pinot Gris from Malivoire - our favourite local, organic winery. We followed it up with a little Prosecco - Ina would approve.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Royal Foodie Joust - July 1st

Ladies and gentlemen, it is time once again for the Royal Foodie Joust. A tongue in cheek competition held by The Left Over Queen where combatants are armed with three not so secret ingredients and a desire to make something delicious. Well heck, who wouldn't want to do that?
The winner of June 1st's Royal Foodie Joust was the SkinnyGourmet and she has picked apricots, ginger and butter to be the featured ingredients in this Joust.

As summer is upon us I have created an ice cream dish, gourmet ice cream being a cosmic wavelength that many of us are tapping into right now - I'm thinking of you, Coffeepot!

We were fortunate enough to capture the waning sunlight and photograph the entry on the deck. It just looks like summer, doesn't it?

My entry - Apricot Ginger Ice Cream served on a Ginger Almond Shortbread Cookie topped with a Poached Apricot.

* the very neato presentation of the ice cream is courtesy of my new toy, the Cuisipro Ice Cream Scoop and Stack that I got for Mother's Day.

Apricot Ginger Ice Cream with Poached Apricot Halves.

2 cups whipping cream
1 ½ cups apricot nectar
1 cup apricot preserves
1 small pinch salt
½ cup brown sugar
1 small knob ginger, grated

4 egg yolks

Combine first six ingredients in medium sauce pan. Place on medium/high heat and bring to the beginning of a boil. Drop heat to medium.
In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Add some of the hot mixture to the egg yolks, a little at a time, whisking constantly. When eggs are tempered, add to the pot and cook, stirring 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Refrigerate overnight and freeze in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Poached Apricot Halves
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
6 small apricots, halved and pits removed
In small pot, bring water and sugar to boil, stirring. When sugar has dissolved, add apricot halves. Cook 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Let cool to room temperature. Remove apricot halves and let drain, slipping skins off. Save syrup in the fridge for making cocktails.

Ginger Almond Shortbread
Adapted from Company’s Coming Most Loved Cookies

1 lb. butter
2 cups packed brown sugar
3 ½ cups all purpose flour
½ cup cornstarch
1 cup coarsely chopped crystallized ginger
1 cup ground or finely chopped almonds
In mixer, cream butter and sugar.
Combine flour and cornstarch. Add to butter mixture a little at a time. If it gets too stiff for the mixer, turn out and incorporate the rest by hand on the counter.
Add ginger and almonds. Mix and divide dough into 4 pieces. Shape each into an 8 inch log. Wrap with wax paper and chill overnight.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Remove logs from paper and slice ¼ inch thick. Place on cookie sheet lined with a Silpat and bake for about 8 minutes or until just golden. Let stand on cookie sheets 5 minutes and transfer to wire racks to cool.
Makes about 100+ cookies.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie - Mixed Berry Cobbler

For this week's Tuesdays with Dorie, Beth of Our Sweet Life has chosen the Mixed Berry Cobbler on pages 416-417 of Baking, from my home to yours. You can visit her site for the recipe and to see how her cobbler turned out.

I know some of my TWD friends did not care for the biscuit crust but I quite enjoyed it. I made the crust exactly to the recipe, I just found that I needed a touch more cream to make it come together. For the mixed berries - I had just purchased three bags of frozen fruit to keep on hand, 1 raspberry, 1 strawberry and 1 mango. Dorie advised against the strawberry as she found them too watery for this cobbler so I mixed some of the mango in with the raspberry for contrast.

This was a nice, simple dessert and my family loved it. We served it with a mixed berry frozen yogurt on the first night and the next day I found hubby eating it straight out of the pie dish - a very good sign.

The only thing that I would change about this recipe is the volume of fruit. I felt that it could handle more - especially as the crust is quite substantial. The recipe originally calls for 5 cups but I would go to at least 6 - provided your dish is deep enough.

All in all this dessert was very successful, a simple go-to confection that I would make regularly. A relief after my peppermint cream puff heartbreak. And for those of you who sympathized with my saga, the fridge is running fine now and is pretending that nothing ever happened.

Please feel free to check out the TWD blogroll in the side column of the TWD website to see how the rest of the gang fared.

Monday, 23 June 2008

Mmmm... Savoury Canada.

A taste of Canada. Seems easy enough, what does Canada taste like to me? Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict has posed this most interesting question....

Hmm, Canada is a mosaic, meaning that we embrace and encourage a multitude of distinct cultural groups. I have a feeling that the answer to this question would have a lot to do with where you happen to be living at the time and who your neighbours are, not to mention what season it is. I don't think that there are any wrong answers to this, it is more a paring down of ideas and presenting one dish to represent Canada.

At first we tried to be a little formal and exotic with our answer. Bison with wild blueberry glaze? Sounds pretty Canadian, but not actually anything that we have ever cooked before, never mind eaten.

It is summer, BBQ season. Canadians love to take advantage of our short warm season and cook outside as much as possible. There are more than a few die-hards who will also BBQ in the snow - but they don't do it every night.

I finally decided to feature a basic Canadian classic - Canadian bacon. Also known as back bacon and peameal bacon. It is a cured pork loin, rolled in cornmeal and cut to desired thickness. I once saw an American cooking show that featured Canadian bacon and they held up some strange meat that no Canadian has ever seen before. It looked like processed baloney.

For my savoury Canadian meal, I give you Grilled Canadian Bacon Sandwiches with local greens, Maple Grilled Onions and Maple Mustard Sauce, a Canadian Potato Salad and Beer, just in time for BBQ season. Totally Canadian, eh?

Grilled Canadian Bacon Sandwiches with Maple Onions and a Maple Mustard Sauce.
Makes 2 large sandwiches, multiplies easily.
4 slices Canadian bacon, cut ½ inch thick, lightly drizzled with canola oil and fresh ground pepper.
2 rolls
Fresh lettuce
*Maple grilled onions
*Maple mustard sauce
Grill the bacon on high just to seal each side of the meat, reduce to low and continue to grill until cooked through. Toast the buns and top with sauce, onions and lettuce.

Maple Mustard Sauce
¼ cup mayonnaise
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp good dark maple syrup
Few grinds fresh black pepper
Combine in small bowl.

Maple Grilled Onions
1 large purple onion
Canola oil for drizzling
Salt and pepper
3 tbsp good dark maple syrup
Slice onion into ½ inch slices. Drizzle with canola oil and salt and pepper. Grill on perforated vegetable grill pan on BBQ until charred and softened. Toss in small bowl with maple syrup. Return to grill pan to heat through again. Serve.

Canadian Potato Salad
1 red pepper, diced
2 green onions, sliced
1 carrot, sliced
¼ cup parsley leaves
2 lbs. potatoes, cut into ¾ inch cubes, steamed and cooled.
Combine in large bowl and toss with dressing.

½ cup canola oil
1 tbsp dry dill weed
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
¼ cup white wine vinegar
½ tsp kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper to taste
1 tbsp honey - local
Combine dressing ingredients, you will likely only need ¾ of the dressing for the salad, save the rest for a future use.

Interesting Facts about some of the ingredients that I have used here today.

Canada is the second largest producer of mustard seed and largest exporter of mustard seed.

Canola oil, which has been lauded for it's health benefits, is a Canadian born crossbreed and represents a major Canadian export bringing in almost 3 billion dollars to the economy.

Yukon Gold potatoes, another Canadian crossbreed, are one of chefs' favourite potatoes to cook with because of their versatility and creamy, gold flesh.
And the beer? Let's just say it's a pretty big part of our national identity. No wonder we're so laid back.
Click here for the Canada Day Savoury round-up! Happy Canada Day!

Saturday, 21 June 2008

Weekend Herb Blogging - Mixed Tomato Couscous Salad

It's the weekend! That means Weekend Herb Blogging and this week I offer you a Mixed Tomato Couscous Salad. This week's WHB is being hosted by Joanna from Joanna's Food.

We went to the farmers market the other day, there was not a whole lot available yet as our (short) growing season is just starting up but we did find some beautiful mixed colour tomatoes from Niagara. The Niagara region enjoys some micro-climate areas and can grow many fruits and vegetables weeks before the rest of the province. My own tomatoes, although kick-started by the heatwave and nightly rain we had last week, probably won't be ready until August.

This salad was inspired by the yellow, orange and red tomatoes that we picked up. It is great for a summer day and the cumin and cilantro give it an earthy, vibrant taste. I would pair it with a nice Riesling and eat it on the deck.

Mixed Tomato Couscous Salad


1 cup couscous
1 cup vegetable broth or water
Pinch of salt
Bring broth or water and salt to boil in small pot with lid. Add couscous. Remove from heat. Stir and cover. Let sit 5 minutes.
Add ¼ cup olive oil to couscous, fluff with fork and let cool.


Cooled couscous
1 tsp kosher salt
¾ tsp ground cumin
2 tbsp tarragon white wine vinegar
5 medium coloured tomatoes, cut into bite-sized wedges
1 cup cilantro leaves
Fresh ground black pepper to taste

In medium bowl, toss everything together until blended. Serve chilled or room temperature.
Many people believe that couscous is a grain but it is actually a pasta. The traditional way of preparing couscous can be labour intensive but quick cooking couscous is easily available in boxes at most grocery stores.
From GourmetSleuth - Cilantro - This member of the carrot family is also referred to as Chinese Parsley and Coriander. It is actually the leaves (and stems) of the Coriander plant. Cilantro has a very pungent odor and is widely used in Mexican, Caribbean and Asian cooking. The Cilantro leaves look a bit like flat Italian parsley and in fact are related.
Click here to read more about cilantro at GourmetSleuth.
Head on over to Joanna's to check out the amazing round-up, 45 entries of herb-based dishes.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Bread Baking Day - Sprouted Wheat Berry Bread

Bread Baking Day #11 - Sprouted Bread.
For this month’s bread baking challenge, we had to make a sprouted bread. This was something that I had not heard of and it immediately struck fear into my heart. I found a recipe for sprouted grain bread in one of my mother’s old recipe books - Breadcraft, published in 1974. (Now out of print but available used in some locations) I can honestly say that I can’t remember her ever making bread but I did manage to inherit 2 great bread books from her - this one and the Tassajara Bread Book, published in 1970. (Updated and available at Amazon) I imagine they were required reading for the hippie set whether they actually baked or not. I went online to find a guide for sprouting grain and found a simple one at Bob’s Red Mill for sprouting wheat berries. Mine were not red, not organic and I used tap water but they turned out great anyway. Between the sprouting wheat berries, sourdough starters, rising breads and fermenting yogurt, my house is looking like a science lab.
The Original Recipe - now out of print
From Breadcraft - by Charles and Violet Shafer.

¾ cup warmed ground sprouted wheat
¼ cup brown sugar
½ tsp salt
1 tbsp melted butter
1 tbsp yeast, dissolved in
¼ cup lukewarm water
1¾ cups unbleached flour

Combine sprouted wheat, sugar, salt and butter. Add dissolved yeast and flour. Knead well. Place in covered bowl and let rise until doubled in bulk. Punch down and shape into round loaf and let rise in a buttered ovenproof casserole. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.

My Version

I used all the wheat berry sprouts. I pulsed them in the food processor and left them a bit chunky for texture.
I added about 1 cup of my home starter. It is a bit of a Frankenstein sourdough starter that gets fed mostly rye flour but also some whole wheat and white flour.
I added some more flour while I was kneading, just enough to get it to knead well.
I did the second rise and baked the bread in a Nordic Ware Sunflower cake pan which I sprayed with canola oil and sprinkled with poppy seeds.
I served the bread on father’s day with a whipped herb butter. My mother ate half the loaf. It was so moist and chewy and sweet, it was one of the best loaves of bread I have made yet. And to think, I was frightened of making sprouted wheat bread!

Thank you Zorra, for helping me challenge myself once again.
Click here for the BreadBakingDay round-up for more awesome breads baked with sprouts.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Party Time - Blog Party #35

Sometimes it is all a girl needs. A reason to get dressed up, put on her make up. Tousle her hair and flirt with the host. Or the hostess's husband, or, you know, whoever.

The heatwave seems to be over for the moment, the pond is finished and hubby is back at work. So.... a celebration? Why not?

The Happy Sorceress from Dispensing Happiness has been so gracious as to host a meet and greet. A giggle and nibble, if you will. She has politely inquired if guests would be so kind as to bring an appetizer, a libation or two. Such graciousness cannot go unheeded, I have stepped up to the occasion and prepared both nibblies and drinks - each infused with the chocolate that our hostess so craves.

Chocolate Chip Cinnamon Rolls

*to make these cinnamon rolls chocolaty, just add 1 cup chocolate chips in with the cinnamon sugar for the filling.

Cinnamon Rolls Adapted From Better Homes and Gardens

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.


4 to 4-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 package active dry yeast
1 cup milk
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup chocolate chips
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 recipe icing sugar


1. In large bowl combine 2 cups flours and yeast. In small pot heat milk, 1/3 cup sugar, 1/3 cup butter and salt until just warm and butter almost melts. Add this to the flour mixture. Combine. Add eggs and mix for 3 minutes with flat paddle.

2. Knead on flat surface until dough is soft and smooth and all flour is combined. Shape into ball and place in greased bowl, covered, until doubled in size- about 1 hour.

3. Punch down dough and divide in half. Let rest 10 minutes. Grease two 9 inch round or square cake pans.

4. Combine the 1/2 cup sugar and cinnamon.

5. Roll dough portions out into rectangles, about 12x8, brush with melted butter, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and chocolate chips. Roll dough up from long side and slice into 9 or 12 rolls.

Cover and let rise until doubled again.

6. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden. Turn rolls out onto rack and use another rack to flip them right side up.
You can make these the day before and cover with greased wax paper and cling film. Burst any air pockets before baking.

Icing Sugar Glaze - combine 1 cup sifted icing sugar, 1/4 tsp vanilla, 1 tbsp cream. Stir, adjust liquid a little at a time until it has a good consistency for drizzling.

Drizzle over cooled cinnamon rolls.

Mocha Iced Capp

1 cup fresh brewed espresso, cooled
4 heaping teaspoons chocolate milk powder
1 ½ cups low fat milk
1 cup ice cubes, plus more for serving

Blend in blender, pour in large glasses over ice.
Garnish with whipped cream and cinnamon.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Peppermint Cream Puff Ring - The Heartbreak

This week our baking group, Tuesdays With Dorie, created the Peppermint Cream Puff Ring on page 290-292 of Dorie Greenspan's great tome - Baking from My Home to Yours. The Peppermint Cream Puff Ring was chosen by Caroline of A Consuming Passion. It is essentially a giant eclair. A pate choux pastry, airy and dry. A hardened chocolate glaze embedded with crunchy almonds and a creamy filling. In this case the filling was whipped cream based, flavoured with mint leaves. And this is where my heartbreak lay.

I got up on Sunday morning, Father's Day, and made the pastry ring. I had my mother coming for an early dinner to celebrate Father's Day, my own father having passed away earlier this year.

The pastry turned out just like the picture and I was feeling pretty good. This was a recipe that was familiar as I had made eclairs before and of course there is nothing easier in the world than making whipped cream. Unless the kitchen is against you. I blame the hot, sticky weather that culminated in an electrical storm, as well as the fact that my fridge decided to take the afternoon off. From my cream that faithfully sat in the fridge the required 4 hours, I got no volume. It stayed liquid in the mixer until it started to separate. Aaak! I spooned a little onto the base for the minty flavour and grabbed the can of whipping cream my husband keeps in the fridge for his fancy coffees and used that to create the volume. I lightly placed the lid on and put it in the fridge until after dinner. Where it melted. IN THE FRIDGE!

I will try to concentrate on the positive - the pastry was good, the chocolate and almond topping was very tasty. My mother and husband were very kind and had two pieces each but my son ate only one. That was not such a good sign. The next day hubby and I finished it off. I discarded the bottom, now soggy, and wrapped the top around some ice cream, profiterole style. All's well that ends well, I suppose.

I refuse to let it get me down though, I look forward to the next recipe - the next adventure.

Click here to check out the TWD blogroll.

Monday, 16 June 2008

Triple Dog Dare - A New Fruit for Natashya

Well, there you have it. Toontz of Okara Mountain has thrown down the gauntlet and triple dog dared all of her food lovin' friends to try a new fruit this month. Try it, buy it, cook it up and write it up. Okay Toontz, you're on - but you didn't say it had to be vegetarian!

On our trip this week to the Asian market we picked up 2 orangey-red persimmons. (at $1.49 each!) Neither hubby nor I had any idea what they tasted like, but this, of course, did not stop me from writing a recipe around them before trying them.

I decided that since we got them from the Asian market (which seemed to also carry Caribbean foods) they must go well with Asian and Caribbean flavours. Sort of a grows together, goes together type of reasoning.

I took them home and made a honey-persimmon glaze for some nice pork ribs that hubby had picked up. At first hubs was wary of giving up his ribs for my "experiment" but he soon came around. (Best not anger the one who feeds you.)

The ribs turned out great, a wonderful mix of sweet and hot. But the persimmon... sort of got lost in the flavourings. I would have lost points on Iron Chef for not showcasing the secret ingredient. Persimmons, I have found, taste like melon and honey while looking a bit like a tomato. They are mild and refreshing and I think that if I bought them again - which I will - I would put them in a salsa - chunky.

Here is my recipe for honey persimmon glazed ribs, very tasty indeed.

Honey Persimmon Glazed Ribs - serves 2 starving people or 4 polite people

2 orange persimmons, peeled
1 whole habanero pepper
1 tsp salt
5 tbsp honey
3 tbsp rice wine vinegar
Blend together until smooth. Can be made ahead.
2 centre cut racks of pork ribs
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line large roasting pan with foil. Salt and pepper ribs all over and lay on foil in roaster. Cover with more foil and bake 1½ hours. Let cool slightly.
Get hunky guy to finish ribs off on the BBQ, slathering with glaze.
Garnish with cilantro leaves. Eat with fingers.

Saturday, 14 June 2008

WHB - Thai Style Rice Pilaf

This week's Weekend Herb Blogging is hosted by Astrid from Paulchen's Food Blog. I have moved away from my own garden herbs for a change this week and have a Thai Style Rice Pilaf to offer.

We have a new Asian market that opened up a couple of towns over so now I have the luxury of cooking with fresh lemongrass and lime leaves rather than dried.

I made this dish in the late evening last night just as a thunderstorm began. We ate it in small bowls under the cover of our deck in full thunder, lightening, rain and wind. These are the kind of moments I live for.

Thai Style Rice Pilaf - serves 4 as a side

3 tbsp vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 stalks lemongrass, trimmed, bruised with the back of a knife and cut into 2” pieces
6 Kaffir lime leaves
1 cup jasmine rice
½ red pepper, diced
3 green onions, sliced
2 Thai bird chillies split lengthwise
1 can coconut milk & enough water to make 2 cups
Juice of 1 lime & 1 lime cut into 8 wedges for serving
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp Thai green curry paste
1 tbsp dried shrimps - optional - they make a nice chewy, salty umami element.
½ cup chopped cilantro

Heat oil, garlic, lemon grass, lime leaves, rice, red peppers, onions, and chilli halves in large pan until sizzling on medium/high.
Stir-fry 2 minutes.
Add coconut milk and water, lime juice, soy sauce, curry paste, shrimp .
Stir and cover, reducing to low simmer and cook for 20 minutes.
Remove cover, take out lemongrass, lime leaves, and chillies.
Fluff with fork and add in cilantro.
Cover and let sit away from heat for 5 minutes. Serve garnished with lime wedges.

Fun facts - lemongrass has a calming effect on humans as well as being a deterrent for mosquitoes.

According to Wikipedia - The Oxford Companion to Food (ISBN 0-19-211579-0) recommends that the name kaffir lime should be avoided in favor of makrud lime because kaffir is an offensive term in some cultures, and also has no clear reason for being attached to this plant. (For this reason, some South Africans refer to the fruit as K-lime.) However, kaffir lime appears to be much more common.

*Hmmm, the things you learn on Wikipedia. If you know why this is so, please let me know as this is it's common name in North America.

Friday, 13 June 2008

Easy Breezy Fruit Smoothies

It is Friday, the end of our week off and our pond is nearly done. We worked a little slowly this week as the heat wave sapped much of our energy. We now have water and a few plants and are off the local quarry outlet for capping stones. After that we are building a little bridge to house the electrical.
We had a bit of a relief in the weather yesterday but it is gearing up to be hot again today. To help keep you cool today, I am offering easy breezy fruit smoothies.

Easy Breezy Fruit Smoothies

2 ripe bananas
8 hulled strawberries - more if tiny
1 cup plain low fat yogurt
2 heaping tbsp wheat germ - it will blend in, I promise.
2 cups ice - divided

Put all ingredients in blender - reserving 1 cup ice. Blend until smooth. Add second cup ice and blend again.
You can sweeten - only if your fruit is not sweet enough on it's own - with a little honey or superfine sugar.

Stay cool, friends.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Barefoot Blogging - Pasta, Pesto and Peas - How Bad Can That Be?

Let me just start by saying I love the Barefoot Contessa. I love the name - I know she inherited it with the store but still, it is fabulous, and if I was known by that title I could die happy.
I love her home, her lifestyle and her openly loving relationship with Jeffrey.
Hubby knows that if we ever win the lottery we are heading to the Hamptons to nestle in with Ina and her friends to discuss herbs, hydrangeas, Paris and cooking.
I have pictures of her on my fridge from when my son and I lined up for hours to meet her last spring at Indigo. (Thanks H, you are my favourite - don't tell your brother and sister)
And I get so happy when anyone compares her to me. It seems the ultimate compliment.
This is the second week of Barefoot Blogging - my first - and we prepared Pasta, Pesto and Peas from page 101 of Barefoot Contessa Parties. For the recipe click here.
I made the recipe pretty much to the letter except that I could not find any bowtie pasta. We seem to be in the middle of a city wide shortage. Perhaps climate change has affected the bowtie crops. It is too bad as bowties are my favourite of the shaped pastas.
Other than that it was simple and quick to make. It really does make a fair amount so if there are only two of you you may want to halve the recipe. I like the way the pesto is diluted with the spinach and lemon juice as I find pesto straight to be rather strong. I liked the crunch of the pigniolis and would also try it with toasted almond slivers in the future. I know that some of my BB friends cut back on the mayo but I went with the full amount and found that it blended in nicely.
All in all it was a pretty good side dish. Nice with a BBQ or picnic. I would make it again.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

GYO - Mixed Greens with Creamy Chive Dressing & Toasts with Whipped Herb Butter

I settled into my tiny house several years ago after a lifetime of renting. One of the first things that I did was plant a tree on the front boulevard to grow with us in our new home. The next spring I planted food. I don't have a lot of room but I put big pots along the fenceline and herbs in the ground. By the end of the summer my kitchen was dotted with overflowing bowls of tomatoes and hot peppers, and herbs were hanging everywhere to dry. When my mother commented when visiting on the bounty that I had created, I announced "I am a witch! I have created food!"
Her balloon bursting response was "Doesn't that make you a farmer?" But I refused to back down. Growing your own food seemed like sheer wizardry to me. There was dirt, then sheep poop, then seeds, water, water and water and then...... food! I wonder if anyone else knows about this?

My sense of wonder has not diminished and my only regret is that I don't have more land to grow food on. I would love to have patches of squash and zucchini, fruit trees and chickens, but in my little tiny suburban house - I do what I can. My deck has salad greens growing in ice cream containers - easy to harvest the baby greens and the bugs can't get at them. I am not a sprayer so anything the bugs might like goes in a pot. Some things, like the sweet peppers got eaten anyway so I only do hot peppers. Nobody is touching those!

My offering for this month's GYO, hosted by Andrea of Andrea's Kitchen is a two-fer. Mixed baby greens with a creamy chive salad dressing served with toasts slathered in a mixed herb whipped butter. Enjoy!

Creamy Chive Salad Dressing

¼ cup chives
2 tbsp basil
2 tbsp parsley
4 tbsp mayo
5 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
½ tsp salt
Fresh ground black pepper
1 clove garlic

Puree together in blender, drizzle over mixed greens and garnish with chive blossoms.

Whipped Herb Butter

½ cup packed mixed tender herbs - such as oregano, parsley, chives, basil, thyme and lemon thyme. Use thyme more sparingly as it is strong.
¼ cup softened butter
¼ cup yogurt cheese - (take plain yogurt and strain with a coffee filter overnight in the fridge until it has the consistency of soft goat cheese.)
1 clove garlic, chopped
Pinch of salt

Mix together in mini food processor. Spread on a nice, toasted multi grain bread and serve with salad.

Click here to see the GYO round-up!