Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Fall Salad

I know frequently fall arrives and all thoughts turn away from fresh salads and towards pasta and roasts, but it is actually a great time to incorporate some of the last findings from your garden into a nice salad, and it can even be a warm one if you feel the need. I went for lunch at Earl's the other day with a friend, and they had an arugula, beet and pear salad on the menu, and I used that as an inspiration for this salad. For mine though I tried to crank up the iron (last three weeks of pregnancy!) and use up some of my second batch of spinach.

Fall Salad:
A good batch of spinach
Half a ripe pear
A sprinkling of pecans
One large beet, cut into chunks and boiled until soft
Half a steak, pan fried and sliced to top

Dress with a bit of lemon juice and oil, and goat cheese coulis (which I just made by microwaving a bit of goat cheese with a bit of milk so that it could be drizzled like a dressing).

With the beets and steak being served warm, as well as the goat cheese coulis, this made a really satisfying lunch on a chilly day. I will definitely be bringing it back as a lunch choice through the winter.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

"English" Onion Soup

Sometimes I have a good husband. He spends lots of time on the internet and watching TV instead of doing things I want him to like taking out the garbage on garbage day, but then every once in a while when I am super miserable, he does something like make me homemade onion soup with onions from our garden and then I like him again. Although he didn't follow the Jamie Oliver recipe to the letter, it was the base he used, and it turned out very well.

Jamie:"There's something so incredibly humble about onion soup. It's absolutely one of my favourites but unfortunately I only ever get to make it in the restaurant or for myself as the missus thinks she's allergic to onions. (She's not, because I whiz them up into loads of dishes without her knowing!)

"If you have the opportunity, get hold of as many different types of onion for this soup as you can - you need about 1kg in total. Sweat them gently and you'll be amazed at all the flavours going on"

(Serves 8)Ingredients:
A good knob of butter
Olive oil
A good handful of fresh sage leaves, 8 leaves reserved for serving (we used thyme)
6 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed

5 red onions, peeled and sliced
3 large white onions, peeled and sliced
3 banana shallots, peeled and sliced
300g of leeks, trimmed, washed and sliced

Instead of all the above we used close to 1 kg of whatever onions we had (regular and dividers) from the garden.

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 litres of good-quality hot beef, chicken or vegetable stock (we used beef)
8 slices of good-quality stale bread, 2cm thick (as you can see there was no skimping on this)
200g freshly grated cheddar cheese
Worcestershire sauce

1. Put the butter, 2 glugs of olive oil, the sage and garlic into a thick-bottomed, non-stick pan. Stir everything round and add the onions, shallots and leeks. Season with salt and pepper. Place a lid on the pan, leaving it slightly ajar, and cook slowly for 50 minutes, without colouring the vegetables too much. Remove the lid for the last 20 minutes - your onions will become soft and golden. Stir occasionally so that nothing catches on the bottom. Having the patience to cook the onions slowly, slowly, gives you an incredible sweetness and an awesome flavour, so don't be tempted to speed this bit up.

2. When your onions and leeks are lovely and silky, add the stock. Bring to the boil, turn the heat down and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. You can skim any fat off the surface if you like, but I prefer to leave it because it adds good flavour.

3. Preheat the oven or grill to maximum. Toast your bread on both sides. Correct the seasoning of the soup. When it's perfect, ladle it into individual heatproof serving bowls and place them on a baking tray. Tear toasted bread over each bowl to fit it like a lid. Feel free to push and dunk the bread into the soup a bit. Sprinkle with some grated Cheddar and drizzle over a little Worcestershire sauce.

4. Dress your reserved sage leaves with some olive oil and place one on top of each slice of bread. Put the baking tray into the preheated oven or under the grill to melt the cheese until bubbling and golden. Keep an eye on it and make sure it doesn't burn! When the cheese is bubbling, very carefully lift out the tray and carry it to the table. Enjoy.


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Ratatouille Tarte

As mentioned last week, I took the Ratatouille I made, and used some of it in a tarte. Really, a tarte is pretty much the same as a quiche for all intents and purposes. In this case I threw some goat cheese in with it because who doesn't love goat cheese with roasted veggies? I served it up with a nice little spinach, bacon, pine nut and goat cheese salad for lunch when my mom came over. Isn't this such a girls lunch?

Ratatouille Tarte:

Buy or make a pie crust (I buy, I am crap at pastry)

Add your fillings (ratatouille and goat cheese) so that they cover a good deal of the bottom of the tarte, but don't pile up above the rim of the crust.

Mix up eggs and cream at a ratio of two eggs per quarter cup of cream so that you get a consistency that isn't quite the same as an omelet. Give it a good whip so that it comes out light and fluffy. The amount you need will depend on the size of crust you use - I made two at once (and froze one after baking), and used seven eggs in total.

Bake in a 400 F oven until it is set (about 40 minutes). I cover it in foil for the first half and then uncover it to brown for the second half.

Throwing an extra in the freezer after they are done baking is a great way to have a little snack on hand for when you get surprise lunch guests, and all you need to do when you are ready for it is throw it in the oven covered in foil at 350 until it is reheated.


Friday, September 11, 2009

Ratatouille Nicoise

I swear that Monday morning after the long weekend I woke up and it was dark in the morning. I know it makes no sense that this would suddenly be the case, but it was like fall arrived that very day. This weekend is supposed to be warm enough to make it feel like summer still, but the cool nights will not allow us to be tricked like that. It is fall, winter is on the way, let the mourning begin. On the bright side, I have some fall "crops" that are performing well. As is always the case, all of a sudden I have a zillion zucchini. What to do? Of course I have shredded and frozen many baggies full (pre-measured) so that I can make zucchini bread through the winter, but when I say I have zillions, I mean I have zillions. Last year I spent a couple weeks of the summer in France (along the Basque coast), and while there I picked up a lovely little cookbook that appears to be the equivalent of the Betty Crocker one here. By that I mean it was the one everyone was given back in the 70s when they got married. It has a great recipe for Ratatouille Nicoise that I whipped up, and then used to make a ratatouille and chevre tarte (to be posted next week) based on one I ate there. It wasn't quite like being there, but it was the best I could do without the expensive plane ticket.

Ratatouille Nicoise (translated from French, probably badly):

3 onions
4 eggplants
4 zucchini
500g tomatoes
2 peppers (I used red)
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic
Bouquet garni (parsley, thyme, bay leaf)
salt and pepper

Peel onions and then cut all the veggies into strips. Heat the olive oil in a casserole dish - I can just see all the French ladies using their le cruesets - and then saute the onions for a minute. Add the other veggies, the salt and pepper and the bouquet garni and cover to simmer in the oven for 1 hour and 30 minutes. The recipe doesn't give a temperature, so I went with the ever popular 350 F. Don't forget to take out the bouquet before serving (or at least don't scoop it out into someone's bowl, they will be confused).

Nothing feels more french to me than using a bouquet garni. When I was staying there, the woman who was hosting us seemed to use a bouquet of fresh herbs in every dish she cooked and I swear it made everything seem twice as delicious. If I don't have string with which to tie the herbs up together I often use non flavoured dental floss.


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Easiest Chocolate Mousse - Take 2

It's hot out, I have six and a half weeks left until the baby finish line, and although I am madly craving sweets, I don't want to heat up my house any more or stand for any long periods of time. The other day I had run out of my freezer stash of baking, and I sunk to looking for chocolate chips to eat. Sadly, that wasn't far enough for me to go as I realized I was out of chocolate chips and I then resorted to eating squares of baking chocolate. This is what my life has come to. In honor of that, I am reposting my easy chocolate mousse recipe, which I made in white chocolate version this time (because I had white chocolate baking squares that I hadn't gobbled up in a fit of desperation). Topping it with fruit makes it healthy, I promise. The raspberries are part of the bounty I harvested off the bushes behind my garage all summer long.

If you have been reading us for a long time, you may recognize this as the first post we ever did :-)

Chocolate Mousse:
6 squares of bakers chocolate (any kind you like)
1 ½ cups whipping cream

Combine the chocolate squares with ¼ cup of the whipping cream and microwave for 1 minute on high. Give it a stir and then microwave it for 30 seconds to 1 minute more. If you chop up the chocolate it takes a bit less time. If it is not melted fully after the second minute, just stir it until it has melted. Let the melted chocolate sit for about 20 minutes or until close to room temperature.

Whip the remaining 1 ¼ cup of whipping cream and fold it into the cooled chocolate mixture. If the chocolate mixture is still quite warm, give it some extra time or the whole thing will curdle, and you will be very disappointed after smelling delicious melting chocolate to not get a nice mousse to eat in the end. Refrigerate for two hours.


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Tesoro - very nice patio

Oh summer time! Short, short season of patio eating in Edmonton. Just before all the kiddies were back off to school, I took a lunch hour to get together with one of my teacher buddies to enjoy lunching on a local patio and hearing all about how great it is to have the whole summer off - oh wait, I did not enjoy that second part, it filled me with jealous rage. The lunch part I did enjoy though for real! We went to Tesoro Mangiaria Caffe over in the Oliver Square area. It is tucked away back behind the Hudson's bar location, which makes it a bit tricky to find, but once you get there it is lovely that it is tucked away because if you are sitting out on the patio you aren't facing a huge parking lot.

We easily nabbed a table as Tesoro's was surprisingly not that busy for a lunch hour. I supposed being slightly out of the main downtown core hinders them in this respect. We checked out the daily specials (pasta and pizza) and made some choices. We shared a mortadella e funghi grilled panini (mortadella, smoked gruyere cheese and truffled mushrooms), and the pizza special of the day, which was topped with alfredo sauce, chicken, mushrooms and arugula.

I liked the panini best, it was nice and cheesy and not too heavy, especially since it was served with a basic salad of mixed greens on the side. The pizza I found a bit on the heavy side by the end, despite the nice thin crust, but I think that was mostly due to the alfredo sauce. I should know by now that I am generally not a fan of replacing tomato sauce with alfredo sauce on a pizza, but the combo sounded so good! To finish we shared some gelato, and I would say it was excellent, but really doesn't all gelato taste excellent to two pregnant ladies in the middle of summer?

Overall I would say that Tesoro offers pretty tasty italian food, and I would definitely go back at a later date to try them out in the evening as a wine bar. Their pricing was a bit on the high end for a casual cafe style lunch. Paninis come in at $11.50, pizzas are not bad at $13, but I would skip the lunch pastas with are generally around $15.50, at least during the summer time. Really though I think the big draw is the location (close to downtown but with lots of parking), and the venue, which is nice and offers patio dining.


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Garden Leeks

The leeks are finally ready! I am pretty excited about these, as it was our first attempt at them and we started them indoors from seed. For a while it seemed they wouldn't make it, but it turns out they just take a long, long time to get established. We got lazy though, and didn't mound up enough dirt around them so only the very bottoms are white.

I made these this morning to put in my lunch - and while this looks like dinner it really only took about 10 minutes to make. I am in the process of moving house, so nearly all of my pantry is packed up and the only things left are salt, pepper, and whatever is left in the fridge/freezer. I boiled the leeks for 4 minutes in water with some japanese pickling liquid I happened to have in the fridge. Yes, that sounds strange to me too. Once done, I drained the liquid and in the same pot added some butter and salt & pepper to quickly brown them up. While I was working on the leeks I quickly fried a pork chop. This lunch was based on the fact that I had defrosted meat in the fridge that needed to be cooked, and not much else in the house at all.