Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Quiche with Beets & Chèvre

For a recent pot luck lunch at work, I decided to make mini quiches as they're extremely easy to make and I already had all the ingredients at home. (Except pastry, and to save time I just bought pre-made shells.) I started off making Asparagus & Boursin Quiche, but when I ran out of boursin cheese I was forced to think on my feet. Our beet harvest came up last weekend, so with a fridge full of them it seemed like the easiest thing to use. Luckily, quiches are extremely forgiving and it's easy to simply toss things together.

Beetroot & Chèvre Quiche (makes 8-9 appetizer size):
2-3 medium beets, peeled & chopped
100g goat cheese
splash red wine
1 egg
salt & pepper
fresh sage, chopped

Put the peeled & chopped beets in a saucepan with water and a bit of red wine. Bring to the boil and let simmer around 20 minutes until cooked, then remove and blitz in the food processor. In a bowl, blend together the beet puree, cheese, egg, a splash of red wine, and add the seasonings to taste. Preheat the oven to 375F/190C. Prebake the pastry shells for 10 minutes to crisp them up, then add the filling and bake for another 15-20 minutes until the centres spring back. Before baking, I added garnishes of cooked carrot flowers - cute!


Monday, August 24, 2009

Not Your Grandma's Grilled Cheese

I know, I can hear you all now "Court, why are you so obsessed with pairing brie, mango, onion and peppers?" I don't know, and I know it is a problem, but a delicious problem that I munch up and then it is gone. Does that even make sense?

Anyhow, this sandwich is the latest in a string of variations on these ingredients that have previously shown up as a flatbread and an appetizer in my previous posts. Where will they pop up next? I am pregnant, so "on peanut butter toast" or "as an ice cream topping" are distinct possibilities.


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Bavarian Apple Torte

Oh the baking we are doing! Last weekend my block had a block party, and someone with an apple tree brought apples to share with everyone. I love free produce! Of course, apple pies will be made, but this dessert is another I love to make with apples. It combines the goodness of apple pie with my weakness - cheesecake - and still manages to taste like a light summertime dessert. I am pretty sure this recipe exists with about a million minor variations, but here is the one I got from my mom years ago and have been using ever since.

Bavarian Apple Torte:

1/2 cup margerine or butter
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

8-ounce package of cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

4 cups thinly sliced, peeled, tart apples
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Additional Topping:
1/4 cup sliced almonds

My version is probably a bit heavier on the apple topping, and a bit easier on the cream cheese filling than some. Yes, it does make me feel like I am making a "healthier" dessert despite all the sugar.

Combine the crust ingredients and press into a spring form pan to bake for 5 minutes at 350 F. Cool and then top with the cream cheese filling (combined) and then the apple topping (combined). Finally sprinkle the sliced almonds on the top and bake at 450 F for 10 minutes followed by 400 F for 25-30 minutes.

This dessert needs to sit in the fridge overnight if you want it to serve nicely. If you don't care if it slides around, you can serve it the day you make it. I will admit, I do that sometimes and just serve it in bowls. Not as pretty, but just as tasty.


Monday, August 17, 2009

Berry Picking Brings Pie

Ever since winter, Court has been talking about visiting some U-Picks as neither of us had been before. Because we work on the west end, she chose South Windermere Gardens as our destination. We both expected that picking would take a couple hours, but in under 30 minutes we had an ice cream pail full of strawberries each, and another half hour got us each about 1/2 a pail of saskatoon berries. When I got home that night, I quickly cleaned and froze everything (except a couple days' worth of strawberries) as I had no immediate plans for anything.

This was several weeks ago, and I've been so busy lately I hadn't done anything with my pickings. With a move coming up next month, I figured I should try to consume most of my perishables just to avoid having to pack up frozen goods for transport. My freezer is packed full of fruit and vegetables from this year (and last years!) harvests, so it seemed like a good time to try making a berry pie for the first time.

Saskatoon Rhubarb Pie Filling (1 x 9" pie):
500g saskatoon berries
300g rhubarb, cut in 2cm lengths
1/4 c water
3/4 c sugar
3 tbsp cornflour
2 tbsp lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 425F/210C. Put the fruit and water in a large pot and simmer 10 minutes, then stir in the sugar, cornflour, and lemon juice. Pour the filling into a pastry lined pan, wet the edges with water, and seal the top pastry layer on. Bake 15 minutes at 425F, then reduce the heat to 350C/180C and bake for a further 35 minutes.

I got very lazy and bought a pie crust, which was a mistake. I am not that fond of flaky pastry crusts and much prefer a shortbread pie crust. However, I have yet to find a good recipe for one and am no longer in the UK where they can be found at the supermarket. I've learnt my lesson though - this filling was good but the crust had that not-so-delicious store-bought taste.


Friday, August 14, 2009

Zucchini Salad - From Ground to Plate

There is something so satisfying about this time of year. I can have zero plans for dinner, and then go out and pick my own dinner straight from the garden and be eating 15 minutes later. This zucchini, basil and goat cheese salad is a great example of that!

I find that once zucchini plants start producing, you really go from famine to feast in the course of a few days. All of a sudden, you just can't make enough zucchini bread to keep up! Knowing that I was going to book club after dinner, and would be fed well again there, I wanted to just have a quick dinner that got a few extra greens into my tummy.

Zucchini Salad:
1 medium zucchini
3 basil leaves
Goat cheese - the more the better
1 cherry tomato as a garnish/to add color
oil and vinegar to dress
salt and pepper to taste

All I did was slice the zucchini lengthwise in widths as close to even as I could manage, brush them with oil oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss them on the BBQ for a couple of minutes a side. They cook quickly, and I find that nothing makes food look more appetizing than some pretty grill marks.

Once cooked, arrange on a plate and top with crumbled goat cheese, basil leaves and tomato garnish (I only had one little ripe one), and dress with oil and vinegar. So quick, easy and delicious and a great way to make sure you are using the zucchini that are popping up like crazy!


Thursday, August 13, 2009

Raspberry Peach Crisp

I know, I have been lax in my posting lately. It's been hard to avoid, we have been doing a lot of gardening (picking and preserving), and still trying to enjoy the little bit of summer we have been getting here on and off. To add to that, I'm now in trimester three of the pregnancy and am suddenly really starting to feel gigantic and immobile! Okay, enough with the excuses. In light of the fact that I bought a whole pile of peaches from the farmer's market in a fit of craving, and a few of them were getting dangerously close to the end of their lifespan, I ran out back and picked some raspberries and threw together a lovely raspberry peach crisp last night (no it wasn't my supper.... fine, it totally was my supper! I was dining solo and it fit the bill).

I know Brooke posted a rhubarb ginger crumble not too long ago, but crisps and crumbles really are such a great easy way to enjoy summer fruit in all its glory. I love that it is the type of baking that allows me to proceed the same way I do when I cook (throw things in rather than measuring). I did start with a recipe that I found on Tastespotting (and split in half):

Raspberry Peach Crisp

for the fruit:
6 ripe peaches- not overly ripe -sliced
1 pint raspberries
1 -2 T flour -depending how juicy the peaches are
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 t cinnamon

for the crisp:

3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup white sugar
1 cup flour
1t cinnamon
1 cup oatmeal (not instant - Court: I totally used Quick Oats)

Preheat oven to 350

Toss the fruit in a bowl with the flour and sugar- try not to break up the berries.. Put it in an ovenproof about 9 x 13 baking dish- or individual oven proof bowls

Mix butter, sugars, 1 t cinnamon until well combined. Add the flour and oatmeal. Crisp topping should be fairly dry, but when pinched together it should stick together. Spread topping over the fruit with a light hand- don’t pat down- it should look crumbly.

Bake for about 25-35 minutes until juices are bubbly and topping is crisp. Serve warm with ice cream.

I made mine in a small round baking dish (that I threw in the freezer after making for post baby entertaining), and then had two servings that I made in little single serve dishes to enjoy last night and tonight.

I love pairing peaches and raspberries because the tartness of the raspberries go so well with the sweetness of the peaches in my opinion. Oh yeah, the creaminess of the melty ice cream doesn't hurt either :-)


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Ice Cream 2 Ways

Often when I'm entertaining the last thing I want to worry about is dessert. I kind of turn into a nightmare in the kitchen while I'm finishing off the final touches, so it's nice to have simple stand-bys to fall back on. Usually there is so much food that dessert is almost an afterthought anyway.

I usually have vanilla ice milk in my freezer (my favourite is Island Farms), and it's easy to make this a casual treat or a slightly fancier dessert. To class things up a bit, just put a scoop of ice cream in a pretty glass and pour over hot unsweetened espresso. The ice cream sweetens it as it melts, and it's a delicious substitute for after-dinner coffee. For lunch-time treats, serving the ice cream with fresh berries or fruit is always delicious. I've made this look a little cuter by lining a small tupperware container with cling film and using that to form the ice cream into little cakes. I like this best with fresh peaches, but this time I used what I had - ripe mangoes and blackberries.


Friday, August 7, 2009

Harvests, Finally

Last weekend we had an amazing harvest, and I look forward to another this weekend. My mum's Sunday dinner was a traditional roast beef with veg and yorkshire pudding, with the potatoes, peas, broccoli and green onions all coming from the garden. Fresh picked flavour and free - my favourite combo.

The only downside is the constant harvesting. Allotment gardening is great for people like me with only a balcony, but it does mean a lot of extra driving. The peas really need to be picked every few days, so for the past couple of weeks I've been back and forth between St. Albert and home several times a week. It's all worth it though, as I now have a freezer full of goodness to help me through the winter.


Thursday, August 6, 2009

Summer Roast Lamb

Oh summer! So lovely! Hot weather, fresh produce, eating things prepared in the simplest way possible! Well, this week we have had a little dip in the temperature, and while I am disappointed to be robbed of any of our short summer, it did provide a little reprieve in which I could think about cooking and baking again without the consequence of turning my entire home into a giant oven. As I have mentioned in the past, my husband and I bought a lamb last fall, and have been having excellent adventures in learning to cook different cuts of meat. This time around, we wanted to do a bone in leg of lamb roast, and after sourcing a lot of advice on how to do it, we finally made it happen, and the results were sublime!

My first thought was to touch base with a fellow local food blogger that is often cooking up some sort of wild game. I figured Kevin Kossowan might have some experience with a leg of lamb (or anything else) and BBQing (this is when it was still hot out). He did, but only butterflied, and I was not at the point where I wanted to work on my butchering skills, so that was a no go. Many weeks later I succumbed to Googling "How to cook leg of lamb" and found a wonderful thread on Chowhound giving me all the info I needed.

Here is what I did:
1. Sliced little openings throughout the leg of lamb and stuffed the openings with rosemary and garlic.
2. Chopped up some oregano and thyme to rub on the outside of the roast with some coarse salt and pepper.
3. Put the lamb in a roaster at 450 F for 15 minutes.
4. Turn the oven down to 350 F and cook for a further two hours.

Easy peasy. The lamb was delish - excellent texture and nice and moist. When not pregnant I would maybe do it a little more rare, but my husband and I ate a really obscene amount of meat all in one sitting seeing as this roast was so nicely done. If only he would have let me take more time to actually get some decent photos instead of these blurry, poorly lit ones!


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Risotto Already?

I can't quite believe that a few degrees drop in temperature makes me want comfort food, a couch, and a cozy duvet, but all I could think about today was risotto. I'm also trying to clear out my fridge before I am tempted by any more fresh summer produce, as I seem to be stockpiling without any actual eating. The kabocha squash that's been sitting on my counter for a couple of weeks seemed to fit the bill. I really was not in the mood for making any dinner when I got home, but once I got started I remembered that risotto is really no work at all - and after a long day at work it was so relaxing to just stand and stir without having to think about anything.

Squash Risotto (serves 2-3):
500g pureed squash
3 tbsp butter
1 medium onion
fresh thyme
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
100g arborio rice
around 500ml chicken or vegetable stock
salt & pepper
50g chèvre
large handful spinach, chopped
chopped walnuts (optional)

Quarter the squash and roast for 40 minutes in a 350F/180C oven, or wrap in cling film and microwave for around 5 minutes until soft. Scoop out the flesh and puree using an immersion blender, then set aside. In a shallow pan over low heat, melt the butter and cook the onion, garlic, and thyme until softened. Add the rice and cook for a few minutes, then slowly begin adding the stock, stirring constantly for about 20-25 minutes. Add the pureed squash and then salt and pepper to taste. Cook for a further 5-10 minutes, adding more stock if needed. Finally, stir in the chèvre and spinach until the cheese is melted and the spinach softened.