Monday, 31 May 2010

Spice Dreams!

Spice Dreams
flavored ice creams and other frozen treats
Sara Engram and Katie Luber
Hardcover, 112 pages

This little book packs huge flavour. In their wildly popular previous book, The Spice Kitchen, the authors taught us how to bring life and excitement to our meals with the use of spices, both local and exotic. Now they turn their attention to summer's favourite treats.
Sara and Katie are experts in the world of spice, having two spice companies - TSP Spices and Smart Spice. That they would want to show us how to make summer a little spicier seems only natural. All the spices in the cookbook can easily be found in your local markets or, likely, you will have them in your cupboard already. Get ready for some exotic combinations like Chile-Lemongrass Ice Cream, Marjoram-Mint-Coconut Sorbet, Lemon-Allspice Frozen Yogurt, and toppings such as Ancho-Lime Syrup and Cardamom-Coconut Toasted Topping. With Spice Dreams, your summer just got a little more exciting.
Here's what we tried:

The first confection we tried was the Mango Sorbet with Cumin and Cinnamon. I love that combination of spices, so warming and fragrant - it paired so nicely with the sweet, soft mango. This is a delicious summer treat.. that I will be making year round.

An unexpected combo was the Pink Grapefruit-Tarragon Sorbet, which I made in the optional popsicle fashion. Who knew that grapefruit and tarragon were so good together? These are perfectly refreshing on those hot, humid days of summer and were a real hit when I brought them over to the neighbour's.

From the Syrups, Sauces, Toppings, and Other Goodies chapter I made the Clove Candied Pecans. Delicious on their own, they are also lovely on ice cream or used in these.....

Candied Pecan Meringue Shells! With cinnamon, clove, vanilla and the candied pecans - they made a delicious and mysterious edible dish for the...

Vanilla-Cardamom Ice Cream. Seen here perched on its meringue shell, drizzled with Spiced Caramel Sauce, the ice cream is made the traditional custard style and churned in a home ice cream maker. Simple and delicious, it lent itself beautifully to mixing and matching with the goodies in the back of the book. This was the ultimate holiday weekend dessert with huge wow power.

Why not spice up your summer?

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Mellow Bakers May Breads

This month the Mellow Bakers tackled Grissini (Italian breadsticks), Corn Bread, and Miche-Pointe-a-Callière. We are baking our way through Jeffrey Hamelman's epic bread baking book, Bread. For those of you keeping track; this is 7 down, just less than eighty to go..

Grissini are fun to make and shape, traditionally they are done very long but I did mine a bit shorter to fit them across the pan and for easier storage. Mine are flavoured with one bulb of roasted garlic and some Nigella Seeds.
Popular serving suggestions for grissini include wrapping the tops with proscuitto or serving them standing straight up in a glass vessel as a part of a cheese platter. They are best crispy so if yours have lost that crunch - pop them in a hot oven for a couple of minutes. They are also excellent to serve with salad and for those very exciting kitchen table fencing tournaments. Don't even try to tell me you don't do that.

Hamelman's Corn Bread is different than your average cornbread as it is made with a yeasted dough, cornmeal being a smaller player in the production. I made the recipe into 12 rolls which were excellent for sandwiches and would also make great burger buns. Maybe for a Southwest style of burger, with chipotle mayo and smokey bacon, sweet onion, crisp lettuce, beefsteak tomato and.... what was I saying?

You can find my friend Jude's adaptation of the Corn Bread recipe here.

The Miche-Pointe-a-Callière recipe makes a whopping 5 pound loaf, more than even we can eat, so I opted to make a half sized loaf. Is it still a miche if it isn't overwhelmingly large? I choose to think it is. Miche is just such a cool word. Grandmas bake loaves, I created a miche. See? Cooler.
We are having July early here in Canada, I was not used to how active my dough has been. I do tend to give my sourdoughs a small boost with a pinch of yeast for good luck but I might not have even needed it for this one.
Poor Peter (my sourdough starter) had to go back in the fridge as he was starting to ferment just a little too much.
Anyway, the miche cures for 12 hours after baking and then is perfect for sammies - which is about all we want to make in this heat anyway. The sourdough gives it a nice tang and it is excellent toasted.

Next month: the Mellow Bakers take on Beer Bread with Roasted Barley, Vermont Sourdough, and Pizza Dough. Join us!

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Getting my Garlic On - Garlic Mushroom Flans with Caesar Salad topped with Garlic Shrimp

“My final, considered judgment is that the hardy bulb [garlic] blesses and ennobles everything it touches - with the possible exception of ice cream and pie.”
Angelo Pellegrini, 'The Unprejudiced Palate' (1948)
And I am sure that, given enough time, I could figure out how to work garlic into ice cream and pie. And I wouldn't be the first.

If you were to state to me, face to face, that you did not eat garlic - well, I would look at you for a moment, decide that you were really quite mad, and that it was a good thing that you wouldn't be invited for dinner anyway. How can one trust someone, love someone, who doesn't eat garlic? You simply cannot. Perhaps all the garlic haters could have their own island somewhere.. I hear Australia is taken.
I have it on good authority that garlic lovers are more sensual, artistic, and intellectual than their counterparts. Certainly they are less susceptible to late night attack from the underworld.
In honour of the stinking rose, I have made a garlicky dinner which, when eaten on the deck in this beautiful summer weather, also seems to act as a natural bug repellent. See, good all around.
For your garlicky pleasure I have Garlic-Mushroom Flans, delicate and quivering in their deliciousness, Caesar Salad, with extra garlic of course, topped with Garlic Shrimp - because one can never have too much of a good thing.
“Without garlic I simply would not care to live.”
Louis Diat (1885-1958)
"There are many miracles in the world to be celebrated and, for me, garlic is the most deserving."
Felice Leonardo (Leo) Buscaglia (1924-1998)
Garlic-Mushroom Flans
adapted from Quick and Easy Recipes from the New York Times
Mark Bittman

1 tbsp butter
2 tsp minced garlic
1 1/2 cups thinly sliced mushrooms
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
4 large eggs

1. Put the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally and sprinkling with salt and pepper, until the garlic is fragrant and the mushrooms begin to soften, just 5 minutes or so. Stir the mixture into the stock.

2. Beat the eggs lightly and combine with the stock mixture. Put about an inch of water in a baking pan or skillet just large enough to hold four 6-ounce ramekins and turn the heat to high. When the water boils, turn the heat to low, pour the egg mixture into the ramekins, and put the ramekins in the water. Cover tightly with foil and/or a lid.

3. Simmer for 15-20 minute, then check; the moment the custards are set-they should still be quite jiggly-remove them from the water. Serve at room temperature.
"Garlic is the catsup of intellectuals."
“Tomatoes and oregano make it Italian; wine and tarragon make it French. Sour cream makes it Russian; lemon and cinnamon make it Greek. Soy sauce makes it Chinese; garlic makes it good.”
Alice May Brock (of Alice's Restaurant fame)
Caesar Salad
How to Cook Everything
Mark Bittman
Makes 4 servings
Time: 20 minutes

Who doesn't love a good Caesar? This is the king of salads, always a favourite. Topped with garlicky shrimp it makes for an excellent dinner.

1 clove garlic, halved (I added minced garlic to the dressing too)
2 eggs or 1/2 cup pasteurized egg product
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons minced anchovies, or to taste
Dash Worcestershire sauce
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large head romaine lettuce, torn into pieces
Croutons *I used Garlic Shrimp, below
1/2 to 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. Rub the inside of your salad bowl with the garlic clove; discard it.

2. Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Pierce a tiny hole in the broad end of each of the eggs with a pin or a needle and boil them for 60 to 90 seconds; they will just begin to firm up. Crack them into the salad bowl, being sure to scoop out the white that clings to the shell.

3. Beat the eggs with a fork, gradually adding the lemon juice and then the olive oil, beating all the while.

4. Stir in the anchovies and the Worcestershire. Taste and add salt if needed and plenty of pepper. Toss well with the lettuce; top with the croutons (Garlic shrimp) and Parmesan, then toss again at the table. Serve immediately.
"Garlic is as good as ten mothers."
Les Blank
“There are five elements: earth, air, fire, water and garlic.”
Louis Diat
Shrimp with Garlic
How to Cook Everything: Bittman Takes on America's Chefs
Mark Bittman
Makes 4 servings
Time: 10 minutes

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
6 cloves garlic, slivered
1 bay leaf
Pinch to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne or good paprika, or to taste
1 pound large (21/30) shrimp, peeled
Chopped fresh parsley leaves, for garnish
Lemon wedges

1. Put the oil in a medium skillet and turn the heat to medium. A minute later, when the oil is warm, add the garlic, bay leaf, and cayenne and cook until fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes.

2. Raise the heat to high and add the shrimp; cook, stirring occasionally, until cooked through, about 5 minutes. Transfer the entire contents to a shallow bowl, season to taste with salt, and garnish with chopped parsley and lemon wedges. Serve warm or at room temperature.
"Onions are for men; garlic is for heroes."
Garlic Mushroom Flans with Caesar Salad topped with Garlic Shrimp for Souper Sundays and I Heart Cooking Clubs, Garlic Breath.


Friday, 28 May 2010

Braided Peasant Loaf - A Bread with a Twist!

This month for Bread Baking Day we are doing Breads with a Twist! I have made some very tasty Braided Peasant Loaves to share with you, and so many friends have mailed in their twisted creations already! Deadline is June 1st, round-up is June 4th.
Ready to do the twist with me? You have a couple days left!
Here's a little something to get you in the mood.

Photos of you dancing in your kitchen are optional.

Braided Peasant Loaf
Bernard Clayton’s New Complete Book of Breads

3 ½ cups AP flour
1 tsp salt
2 pkgs dry yeast
1 Tbsp sugar
1 ½ cups hot water (120-130F)
2 Tbsp vegetable shortening
1 egg white, beaten, mixed with 1 tsp water

In a mixing or mixer bowl measure 2 cups flour and sprinkle in the salt, dry yeast, and sugar. Pour in the hot water and add the shortening. Beat the mixture with a wooden spoon, or with a mixer flat beater for 2 minutes to make a smooth batter. Measure in additional flour, ½ cup at a time, stirring it into the wet batter. When the dough has formed a mass, work it with the hands, with sprinkles of flour to control the stickiness, until it can be lifted from the bowl and placed on a floured work surface.
If in the mixer, the last portion of flour may have to be worked into the dough by hand because it may be too thick for the flat beater and yet not thick enough for the dough hook.
Knead the dough for 10 minutes, either by hand or with the dough hook (or a combination of both). By hand, use a strong push-turn-fold motion, occasionally lifting up the dough and crashing it down, until the dough is smooth, elastic, and feels alive under your hands.
Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and put aside at room temperature.
Set a timer for 10 minutes. When the bell rings, turn back the plastic wrap and punch down the dough with your fingertips; turn it over. Cover.
Again set the timer for 10 minutes, and proceed as above. Do this 4 more times.
After the last push-down, cover the bowl tightly with the plastic wrap and leave to rise until double in bulk, about 30 minutes.

Punch down the dough and turn onto the floured work surface. Divide the dough in half. With a knife of dough blade cut one half into 3 equal parts, by measurement or weight.
To braid, roll each of the 3 small pieces into a strand about 16” long. Lay them side by side and braid loosely beginning in the middle; turn the dough around and finish the braid. Repeat for the second half.
Place the braided dough on the baking sheet, cover with a piece of foil, plastic wrap, or parchment paper, and allow to double in bulk, about 30 minutes. *I gave mine an extra little twist
Preheat the oven to 400F about 20 minutes before baking.
Brush the braids with the egg white mixture. *I added sesame seeds
Place in the oven to bake until a light golden brown and crisp, about 35-40 minutes. Turn one of the loaves over and tap the bottom with a forefinger. It is done if it sounds hard and hollow and is well browned. If not, return to the oven for 5 to 10 minutes to complete baking.
(if using a convection oven, reduce heat by 50F)
Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes before placing on a baking rack to cool. The braided loaf is more fragile than a solid loaf so it must be handled with care. Lift the loaves off the baking sheet with the help of a spatula.

This bread has been Yeastspotted!

BreadBakingDay #30 - last day of submission June 1st, 2010

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Jamie's America

Jamie's America
Easy Twists on Great American Classics, and More
Jamie Oliver
Hardcover, 360 pages

Have you ever experienced an occasion on which a guest in your city manages to visit and explore all sorts of interesting places that you, who have lived there your whole life, have never even heard of?
In a sort of "how I spent my summer vacation" style, Jamie explores some of the cultures and cuisines of America. This book is definitely geared to an outsider's perspective, Jamie delights in the eclectic mix that is America and shares his experiences with his readers. As I am not American and haven't spent much time there, I enjoyed his unique perspective of the country. Obviously he can't encompass the entire country in one book, so he focused on New York, Louisiana, Arizona, Los Angeles, Georgia and the Wild West.
Along the way he made friends and gathered recipes, many of which he made his own with typical Jamie style, which is to say - delicious!

I love that Mexican-style cuisine is so new and daring for the British. We started with Jamie's take on a Mexican Breakfast (Huevos Rancheros). Who can resist the spicy tomato sauce with eggs poached right in, served up with grated cheese and tortillas? Hubby was the chief taste-tester for this dish as it is a particular favourite of his. (Back from the old days when, he swears, he could go to Mexico for weeks and live like a king for, oh, I don't know, ten cents or something - methinks hubs has rose-coloured glasses when it comes to the past)
This dish was delicious, and such a great treat for our holiday weekend.

Once we got into the sudden heatwave here, I looked for dishes that wouldn't heat up the house. This Zucchini, Mint, & Farro Salad was perfect for the hot weather. I used kamut instead of farro as I couldn't find the latter and I have heard they are quite similar anyway. A meal in itself, this was perfect to eat out on the deck - in the shade of course!

Umm, these Navajo Flatbreads - while looking quite good - did not turn out for me. To tell you the truth they smelled and tasted like play-doh. I think it was the abundance of baking powder which I would think isn't original to the Navajo recipe. Moving on...

This was flipping awesome! Jamie's Fiery Shrimp Cocktail from his Los Angeles section is California/Mexi at its best. I imagine that my version was even hotter than his as he just states two chilies and I used one jalapeno and one habanero. A gloriously flavourful and spicy tomato sauce with shrimp (I grilled mine) and the optional avocado, this was my favourite dish so far.

Another very delicious dish was his Sher Ping Pancakes (pan-cooked filled pancake) from the New York Chapter. Jamie came across these at the Roosevelt Food Court and sweet-talked the lovely lady into sharing the recipe. They are more bread than pancake, with a ginger pork filling, and are completely delicious paired with the sweet chili/soy sauce. They also travel well as lunch fare - and I did manage to part with a few for hubby's lunch.

You know that if there is a condiment in a book I have to try it. Jamie's Chile Vinegar is simplicity in itself but such a great idea to have around for drizzles, marinades and salad dressings. I used one banana pepper and one green habanero and a couple of bay leaves. Spicy indeed! Mine are cut up, to fit in the bottle, smaller peppers can be pricked and left whole. Maybe I'll make a Thai one soon!

This is a fun and interesting book, a look at the country through one man's eyes. Many Americans may find that their perspective is different, but that shouldn't stop them from enjoying Jamie's delight in their country and cuisines. People like me, who don't live in America, will enjoy exploring vicariously with Jamie and cooking up the delicious dishes that he collected like postcards along the way.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Bread Baking Buddies Round-Up! Tunisian Spicy Breads.

Congratulations to our intrepid Bread Baking Buddies! This month's Bread Baking Babes challenge was to make Tunisian Spicy Breads - a fun and interesting shaping of bread with a spicy surprise in the middle. Five brave souls rolled up their asbestos sleeves and got to baking with us this month!
Lets see their creations, shall we? Click on each blog link to visit these spicy breads.

Majology by Gosia

My Munchable Musings by Rachel
And Ipernity by Rita aka Soepkipje
(whose photo I can't seem to get to show up here - go on over to her site to see her great bread!)

Thanks so much for baking with us this month!

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Peppered Lamb Chops with Roasted Red Bell Pepper & Feta Couscous

This week I had an opportunity to try Near East's 100% Natural Couscous Mix with Roasted Garlic & Olive Oil. I tried the couscous with their recipe of the month, Peppered Lamb Chops with Roasted Red Bell Pepper & Feta Couscous. The couscous mixes are a great way to get food on the table quickly after a long day.

The meal was very tasty, I was fortunate to find lamb arm chops on sale this week, and it did come together quite quickly - which is a good thing as we had to watch the LOST season finale! Sigh, I am going to miss those guys.

These mixes are handy to have on hand and I plan on stocking my daughter's cupboard with a few boxes. They are available in the U.S. and Canada and worth keeping an eye out for.
Near East’s line of grain products has a new online community, The site is a great resource for busy at-home chefs who like to cook on weeknights, but don’t have a ton of time. It includes video tutorials, creative meal short-cuts, kitchen tips, weekly trivia, an incredible sweepstakes, and more. After entering Near East’s Around the World in 5 Minutes Sweepstakes and answering our weekly trivia question, visitors can download an exclusive weekly coupon for participating.

Near East Products also include:
Couscous, Rice Pilaf, Whole Grain Blends, Pasta, Kosher Certified Products, Falafel, Taboule, and Gourmet Meal Kits
Peppered Lamb Chops with Roasted Red Bell Pepper & Feta Couscous
From Near East's Chef Peter Bowen


1 ¼ Cups water
2 Teaspoons olive oil
¼ Cup reduced-fat feta cheese, crumbled
1 Near East Roasted Garlic & Olive Oil Couscous (includes Spice Sack)
¼ Cup roasted red peppers, chopped into pea-sized pieces
1 Tablespoon chives, finely chopped

Peppered Lamb Chops:
1 Pound lamb chops, cut about ¾-inch thick, rinsed and patted dry
2 Teaspoons olive oil
Dried oregano, to taste
Sea salt, to taste
1 Tablespoon black peppercorns, coarsely cracked
6 Cloves garlic, unpeeled and rinsed
Lemon wedges, optional

Preparation Instructions

Bring water to a boil; add olive oil, couscous and contents of Spice Sack. Simmer for a few seconds; stir in roasted red peppers, chives and feta. Cover; remove from heat. Let stand 5 minutes. Fluff couscous lightly with fork before serving.

While couscous is standing, brush both sides of lamb chops with 1 teaspoon olive oil; season with oregano and sea salt. Press cracked peppercorns onto chops. Heat remaining teaspoon olive oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Cook lamb chops and garlic cloves about 2 minutes; turn chops and cook 2 to 3 minutes for rare doneness or until cooked to desired doneness. Squeeze garlic cloves onto chops.

Serve chops with lemon wedges and couscous.

Note: The garlic skins help keep the garlic from burning.

Nutritional information per serving
(makes 4 servings):

350 Calories, Fat 14g, Protein 29g, Carbohydrates 27g, Cholesterol 75mg, Sodium 540mg, Fiber 2g


Residents of Ontario, Canada can now use this handy database to find a farmers market close by.
In Toronto, Metro Hall farmers’ market opens on May 27th and Nathan Phillips Square farmers’ market opens on June 2nd.


Hellmann’s is providing $100,000 in Real Food Grants to support initiatives that bring Canadian families and kids together with real food in their community.

A Real Food Grant can be awarded for initiatives as small as organizing a real food lunch to something more elaborate like starting a community based garden or green house.

Applications are available online at and the deadline to apply is June 30, 2010.


Top Chef is coming to Canada! Based on the highly successful US show we are looking for the Canada's next culinary star! Top Chef Canada will select the country's best culinary talent to face-off in a grueling competition that will put their skills and creativity to the test. Ultimately only one chef will claim their rightful place in the spotlight, winning the top prize of $100,000 and the Title of Canada's Top Chef.

If this is you or someone you know please go to and download the application. Deadline for applying is June 14th 2010.