Monday, 30 November 2009

What I Made with my Mascarpone Cheese

When one makes homemade mascarpone, the second step is to decide what to actually do with that bounty. Upon careful consideration of our cravings and what we actually had at home, I found a brilliant and simple recipe from Bon Appetit magazine which I adapted to what I had at home. BA's Strawberry, Mascarpone, and Marsala Budini became Cherries and Blueberries, Mascarpone, and Ice Wine/Brandy Budini. If I may say so, I think my version is even better.

The fruit is marinated in boozy goodness, in my case a Kittling Ridge Ice Wine and Brandy blend, a Canadian award winner and very tasty!
I used cherries and blueberries that I had in the freezer and marinated them at room temperature so that they would continue to thaw.
The pudding is adult and smooth and totally delicious without being overly sweet. This would be excellent for guests and lend itself well to many variations.
Strawberry, Mascarpone, and Marsala Budini
Bon App├ętit March 2003

These parfaits (or budini — Italian for "puddings") of ultra-creamy mascarpone layered with Marsala-soaked strawberries perfectly illustrate the way of dessert in Italy: utterly simple, not too sweet, and delicious.
Yield: Makes 6 servings

1 8-ounce container mascarpone cheese (I used homemade)
6 tablespoons sweet Marsala (preferably imported) (I used an ice wine/brandy blend)
3 tablespoons whipping cream
3 tablespoons sugar
3 cups sliced hulled strawberries (about 15 ounces) (I used cherries and blueberries)

2 1/4 cups coarsely crumbled amaretti cookies (Italian macaroons; about 4 1/2 ounces)*

Combine mascarpone, 3 tablespoons Marsala, cream, and 2 tablespoons sugar in medium bowl. Stir gently until well blended. Combine strawberries, remaining 3 tablespoons Marsala, and 1 tablespoon sugar in another medium bowl; toss to blend. Cover mascarpone and berry mixtures; refrigerate 30 minutes.

Place 2 tablespoons crumbled cookies in each of 6 goblets. Divide strawberry mixture with juices among goblets. Top berries with mascarpone mixture, then remaining cookies. Cover and chill at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours.

*Mascarpone (Italian cream cheese) and amaretti cookies are available at Italian markets and many supermarkets.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Delicious California Club Sammies on Pain a l'Ancienne

This week I baked up Peter Reinhart's Pain a l'Ancienne for the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge. It is a very unique recipe in that the flour, salt and yeast are mixed with freezing cold water and left to ferment, cold, in the fridge for 24 hours. The next day the cold wet dough is left on the counter for a couple of hours and very carefully divided into six baguette shaped slabs and baked at a high heat. See a copy of the recipe here.

I have skipped over the multigrain for the moment, still avoiding small seeds!

This bread was definitely rustic looking, bubbly and misshapen, but had such an amazingly complex flavour. The crust is by far the cracklingliest (what? It's a word..) and crunchiest that I have ever produced, and hubby has declared "You can make this anytime". Which means please make it again soon, and often.

They won't win any beauty contests, the slabs of wet dough are just thrown onto the parchment and stretched into a baguette-like shape. They are a little like ciabatta, but even tastier.

What they do make, the ones that survive the many taste testings, two got eaten as-is..
is wonderful sammies! I wanted to make a truly decadent and delicious sammie with my Pain a l'Ancienne and decided on....

California Club Sandwiches!
Lightly toast the two sides of the baguette.
Spread each side with good quality mayo.
Add a layer of crisp bacon.
And then a layer of roast (or rotisserie) chicken.
Followed by a few thin slices of red onion.
And thinly sliced (but not too thin!) avocado.
Top with alfalfa sprouts (mine are home-grown).
And pop the lid on!

Mmm, that is a little bit of heaven, right there!

Go on, take a big bite!

California Club Sammies for Souper Sundays (Soup, Salad or Sammies)


Saturday, 28 November 2009

Side Dish Superstars!

Side Dish Superstars, the supporting cast on the plate that manage to outshine the main. Once again I turned to more Middle Eastern flavours for their bold spices and pleasing textures. The bulgar wheat salad is unlike the regular lemony one I am used to, and has a smoky finish with the addition of cinnamon and allspice. It is balanced nicely with the salty and spicy aubergine rolls. And the main? Oh, that's just a pork chop in the back. The real stars are the sides!

I livened up the plate with a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds and chopped cilantro, two ingredients I used in my sides. Sort of looks like Christmas!

These rolls would also be great on a meze platter.

Herbed and Bulgur Wheat and Nut Salad
Nigella Lawson

150gr bulgar wheat
25gr dried barberries (I omitted these)
750ml boiling water
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
juice of 1/2 lemon
3 tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp Maldon salt or 1/4 tsp table salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
50gr shelled pistachios
50gr natural (unblanched) almonds
2 tbsp chopped parsley (I used cilantro)

Put the bulgar wheat and barberries into a bowl and pout over the boiling water. Cover with clingfilm and leave for 20 minutes, then drain in a sieve and squeeze out any excess water. Put the pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, olive oil, allspice, cumin seeds, salt and cinnamon in to a bowl and whisk together to make a dressing. Roughly chop the pistachios and almonds and add them to the drained bulgar wheat with the dressing and chopped parsley. Fork everything through to mix well and turn into a bowl, sprinkling with a little more chopped parsley if you'd like.
*I tossed in a big handful of pomegranate seeds and used more for garnish
Griddled Aubergines with Feta, Mint Cilantro and Chilli
Forever Summer, and Nigella's website
Nigella Lawson

2 large aubergines, each cut thinly, lengthwise, into about 10 slices
4 tablespoons olive oil
250g feta cheese
1 large red chilli, finely chopped, deseeded or not, depending on how much heat you want
large bunch fresh mint (I used cilantro), finely chopped, with some saved for sprinkling over at the end
juice of 1 lemon
black pepper
Serving Size : Makes 20 rolls.

1. Preheat the barbecue or griddle to a high heat.
2. Brush both sides of the aubergine slices with the oil, and cook them for about 2 minutes each side until golden and tender.
3. Crumble the feta into a bowl and stir in the chilli, mint and lemon juice and grind in some black pepper. You don’t need salt, as the feta is salty enough. Pile the end third of each warm aubergine slice with a heaped teaspoon of the feta mixture and roll each slice up as you go to form a soft, stuffed bundle.
4. Place join side down on a plate, and sprinkle with a little more mint.


Friday, 27 November 2009

Further Adventures in Cheese - Mascarpone

This month my fellow cheese making pal Heather (Girlichef) and I tackled mascarpone. An Italian cream cheese, it is light and pillowy, creamy and delicious. It is also easy to make at home. Who knew?
I don't know about your neighbourhood, but here mascarpone is about $11 for a small container.. if you can find it. Knowing I can make it at home for a fraction of the price is comforting to say the least. This cheese has been the most satisfying to me so far. It turned out very well and the cost savings are significant. All you need is time.

This is the recipe that I started with from The Home Creamery by Kathy Farrell-Kingsley but I had had experience playing around with leftover high fat milk, trying to make simple cheese out of it, and knew that it wasn't so simple as the recipe states. My changes are below.

4 cups (2 pints) heavy cream
1 Tbs. white wine vinegar

1. Pour the cream into the top of a large double boiler and slowly heat to 190 degrees F, stirring occasionally. Check the temperature with a thermometer.

2. Stir in the vinegar, and continue to stir until the cream begins to curdle. Remove the pan from the water, cover and let stand about 15 minutes or until the curds begin to firm.

3. Pour or ladle the curds into a butter muslin-lined strainer set over a large bowl. Let the curds cool completely, then cover and refrigerate for 24 hours to continue draining and to firm.

4. Discard the liquid and transfer the mascarpone to an airtight container. Refrigerate for up to 3 days. Stir well before using.

New, adapted version:
I knew by reading the above recipe that I would need something extra. I didn't want to risk the cheese not turning out, cream is rather expensive here too. At $7 a litre, I didn't want to have to try it twice.
My friend Deeba has been making her own simple cheeses out of necessity and ingenuity, in India, for some time now. She has a wonderful post on home cheese making here.
Her method made sense to me. Leave it overnight to thicken before straining.

Here is what I did:
I put the litre of 35% cream in the small slow cooker on high, covered, with a probe thermometer set to alarm at 180F. Then I added 2 tbsp lemon juice, stirred, turned off the heat and let it sit, covered. After a little while, about 20 minutes or so, I transferred the cream to a plastic container and refrigerated it overnight.
The next day I set a strainer over an 8 cup glass measuring cup and lined it with a clean cloth. I scooped in all of my cream that had thickened beautifully overnight. I folded the cloth over, covered the whole thing in cling film and put it back in the fridge to drain. I checked it in the morning, it was coming along nicely but needed more time as it was still quite soft. I place a couple of small plates over the cloth covered cheese as a weight to help it drain. After a further 24 hours I had perfect mascarpone cheese.
Yes it takes time, but it is unattended. You can use that time to practice romantic Italian phrases, pirouetting, or yogic flying. The choice is yours. I just prefer to nap.
There was very little waste with this method, I got about 3 cups of cheese.
Want to make cheese with us? We are happy to have friends to play with!


Calling all Canadian bakers!
The Pillsbury Canadian Baking Challenge is in the voting stage. Head on over to vote for any entry that interests you the most, or get some great baking ideas.
And, as a fun prize for giving a shout-out, Pillsbury would like to send one of my lucky Canadian reader a Doughboy dolly and tote! See the picture on the sidebar.
Just leave me a comment about what province you live in, what you would make with the mascarpone cheese and, for a second entry, what is the Doughboy's name??
(as in the baking challenge itself, the contest is open to all of Canada excl. Quebec)
Winner will be announced Sunday, please make sure I have some way of contacting you.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Lamb Kefta on Greek-Style Pasta

This is a Mediterranean/Middle Eastern spin on spaghetti and meatballs. Pasta is so versatile and really quite willing and able to play along with whatever theme you can dream up. I have made fresh pasta here, dried is perfectly fine but it is a treat to have the fresh once in a while.

Giada's recipe is my go-to pasta recipe. It comes together quickly in the food processor and never needs adjusting with flour or water. I make it with one third whole wheat flour, I do find a certain amount of unbleached white flour gives pasta strength and elasticity, but feel free to play around a bit. Any seasonings can be added - lemon zest, herbs, spices.. even food colourings if you are in that sort of mood.

Fresh Pasta, Giada De Laurentiis

3 cups all purpose flour (I used one cup whole wheat flour)
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
(I added one tbsp dried dill)

Place the flour in the bowl of a food processor, in a small bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Add the salt and olive oil to the eggs and stir to combine. Add the egg mixture to the food processor with the flour and pulse to combine the ingredients, scraping down the sides once or twice. Continue, with the machine running, until the liquid is evenly distributed, about 1 minute. The dough should stick together if pinched between your fingers and be cornmeal yellow in colour. Some of the dough will be clumping together, but it will not form a ball.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Gather the dough into a ball and knead gently until the dough is smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes before rolling and shaping as desired.
It is good to have your mise-en-place (meez) ready before you begin. Have all your ingredients prepped and measured out. That way you can keep up with the busy pace of cooking, and if you forget an ingredient... it will be sitting out on the counter to remind you!

My Greek-Style Pasta with Kefta
In a large stainless steel bowl, add juice of one lemon, a good generous glug of olive oil, 3 cloves minced garlic and salt and pepper to taste.
Boil pasta in generously salted water, reserving water.
Toss with seasonings, add ladle of pasta water. Toss again. Adjust seasoning to taste.
Using tongs, serve in pasta bowls with toppings and kefta. Drizzle with a good extra-virgin olive oil.

Thinly sliced red onion
Baby tomatoes, halved
Fresh cilantro (or parsley)
Feta, crumbled
Kalamata olives
Kefta (see recipe below)
Kefta (or kofta, kefte, etc.) can be formed round like meatballs, flat like patties or long like sausage, often moulded onto skewers.

Lamb Kefta
1 lb ground lamb
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 tbsp chili, chopped
1/2 tbsp ground turmeric
1 tbsp sweet smoked paprika
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tbsp ground cumin
1/2 tbsp ground coriander
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Handful fresh parsley
1 tsp salt
fresh black pepper

Put everything except the ground lamb in the food processor and pulse until combined, a nice slurry. In a large bowl, mix seasoning slurry with ground lamb with your hands. Add a little bread crumbs if it seems too wet. Refrigerate for a couple of hours.
Form balls or patties or whatever shape you like. Grill, fry or bake.
Mine were baked on a rack at 425F. How long they take depends on how big you shape them. Just open one up to check that it is cooked through. They can be made ahead of time.

Greek-Style Pasta with Kefta for Presto Pasta Nights this week hosted my pal Deb of Kahakai Kitchen.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Canadian Cookbook Review - All The Best by Jane Rodmell

In celebration of 25 years of delicious gourmet foods, Jane Rodmell of All the Best Fine Foods has come out with a tidy and thorough collection of time-tested and favourite recipes for the home cook.
I was excited to try out the recipes in this book, All the Best has a great reputation in Toronto's beautiful Rosedale neighbourhood as being number one in fresh and delicious food, both catered and retail, and over the last quarter century has developed a loyal following.

The cookbook is very well organized; with tips, further information and variations for every recipe. There are only a handful of photographs, in two central clusters, but the upside of that is that there is more room for information and the purchase price is lower than full glossy cookbooks. While I do like glossy photos, I also like saving money!

The book covers all types of cuisine, but never ventures into the too precious. This is a solid cookbook for feeding family and friends. The recipes are spelled out simply and none of them come across as too intimidating to try.

My expectations were exceeded, with all the information, techniques and explanations, as well as the vast and varied recipes, I would consider All the Best to be a Joy of Cooking of this era.

The Cheddar'n'Chive scones were of a much wetter batter than I am used to and they worked out beautifully. Light as clouds, they were excellent for dipping as well as for mini sammies. These were a favourite with hubby.

My daughter was home from university to stock up on good vegetarian food from mommy, so I used this opportunity to create lots of exciting dishes for her.
Above is the Broccoli Primavera, a glorious mix of quickly blanched veggies, tossed in All the Best's signature Mustard Vinaigrette. All the flavours of your favourite primavera in a salad form.

The salad went very nicely with the Wild Rice and Cranberry Pilaf, a mix of mushroom, onion, white and wild rice, punctuated by dried cranberries and pepitas. This would make a lovely holiday dish and is packed with nutrition.

For hubby I made the Beef and Beer Pie. A steamy bowl of warmth and comfort under a delicious puff pastry lid. The hearts are my addition. If you are going to make someone you love a beef and beer pie.. you might as well decorate it while you are at it!

Mmm, can't you just smell how good that is!?!
This is a make-your-man-fall-in-love-with-you-all-over-again stew.

And I couldn't pass up the opportunity to make this Torta Rustica. Such an impressive vegetable pie! It is made in the 6 inch springform pan and layered with vegetable goodness.

Spinach, onions, roasted red peppers, potato, provolone.. all in a delicious flaky pastry shell. Even though my layers aren't perfectly even, I am still proud of this pie! It was much easier than I thought it would be.

And for dessert... Carrot Cake! I had a craving. This is the classic carrot cake, carrot, shredded coconut, pineapple, nuts and delicious cream cheese frosting. We sliced this baby open late last night and had it with tea as my daughter and hubby worked on her school project. It is earthy, spicy and satisfying. A real carrot cake.

We had great fun with these recipes and there are lots more that I am looking forward to trying. The book is bursting with great recipes that you can easily recreate at home and would be proud to serve to company or family.

Sunday, 22 November 2009


Since I have learned from my squash loving friend Joanne that the best thing to pair with squash is.. well, more squash.. I have made a Roasted Apple and Acorn Squash Soup to go with Zoe Francois's Pumpkin Pie Brioche for Souper Sunday.
This made for a warm and comforting autumn meal, nourishing and gentle. Don't worry, only hubby's bowl was garnished with the toasted squash seeds, I am still avoiding hard edges.

Using this recipe, I used about 60% of the dough in my Sunflower pan to make a cheery loaf for the weekend. I omitted the sugar on top so that I might pair the bread with savoury as well as sweet.
At first I thought the dough was rather dry.. then I realized I forgot to add the pumpkin puree! Good thing I lay out all of my ingredients before baking, I soon saw the can while I was cleaning up and was able to add it in with the help of my food processor.

Adding the puree later left interesting pumpkin streaks throughout the bread.
I egg-washed the smooth side, baked it for 35 minutes in the pan, flipped it out onto a pizza pan, egg-washed the detailed side and baked detail-side up for another 10 minutes.
The softness of the loaf with the pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger (you know I used extra spices!) was just delightful - we really enjoyed this bread.

This Pumpkin Pie Brioche has been Yeastspotted!
This was a delicious autumn soup, I love the sweetness that the roasted apples give to the squash, and how smooth they are when blended. I added a splash of brandy too, just for fun!

Roasted Apple and Acorn Squash Soup
Warm up with this deliciously simple soup on a cold day.
recipe and info from BC
Serves 6.

2 apples, unpeeled, cored, cut in half
1 medium acorn squash, cut in half
2 tbsp (30 ml) olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic
4 cups (1 L) chicken broth (I used a bit less, and added brandy)
Salt and pepper to taste
Parsley, optional (I didn't have any)

Preheat oven to 400° F (200° C). Place apples and squash upside down in a shallow pan with 1/4 inch of water. Bake for 35 minutes. Remove apples and set aside. Flip squash over. Drizzle with 1 tbsp olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. Broil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

In saucepan, heat remaining olive oil. Add onions and sautee for 5 minutes. Add garlic and sautee for 1 minute. Add chicken stock, apple and peeled squash. Bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Puree in blender to desired consistency. (I just use my immersion blender) Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve topped with freshly chopped parsley.

Per serving: 132 Calories , Carbohydrate 17 g (47%), Protein 4.3 g (13%), Fat 5.8 g (40%). Suitable for diabetic diets.
# Servings of Fruits & Vegetables per 1 serving of recipe = 1.5

I generally toast up the seeds of any squash I use. Just at 400f with olive oil, salt and whatever seasoning I feel like. They don't take long. I do them in the toaster oven and stir once in a while until toasty. They are good for garnish or snacking.