Monday, September 24, 2007

Summer Garden Ratatouille & Polenta


Two nights ago, c-licious and I consulted her very lovely Simply in Season for some dinner inspiration. And we found it: Summer Garden Ratatouille. We took some liberties with the recipe, of course, doubling the fresh herbs. The result was pretty delightful: evidenced by the fact that I'm actually enjoying my leftover lunches this week!

Wine

When Catherine and I set out for groceries, I wasn't feeling all that hungry. Under advice from Kristin, we bought some Prosecco because, according to her, bubbly stimulates the appetite. The three of us made quick work of that bottle. So quick, in fact, I didn't get the chance to photograph it.

We bravely forged ahead by opening a bottle of one Kristin's California acquistitions: a Bogle Petite Sirah. I really loved it. I also loved another Bogle red we drank straight from the bottle on our California roadtrip. Wish I could remember what it was. Anyhow, a winery to remember, I think.

Summer Garden Ratatouille

I don't have the recipe in front of me here, so I'm going on memory alone. But here it is roughly (incuding our modifications).
  • 1.5 medium yellow onions, chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, grated
  • 1.5 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 Japanese eggplants, cut into half moons
We sauteed the first three ingredients together, and later added the eggplants.

Then we added:
  • 4 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 4 teaspoons dried marjoram (we could find fresh)
  • 2 acorn squash, peeled and chopped
  • 3 red and yellow peppers, chopped
  • 8 cups BC hothouse tomatoes, peeled and chopped
(Everybody probably already has a method, but my favourite technique for peeling tomatoes is boil water in a kettle, and submerge the little fruiters in boiling water for one minute.)

All those ingredients required a very large pot. We let it simmer until the water from the tomatoes reduced. Maybe about 20 minutes.

Polenta

We served the ratatouille with polenta, which is so easy to make.
  • 4 cups of veggie stock
  • 1 cup of cornmeal
  • 1 cup parmesan
Bring the stock to a boil and turn down the heat a little. Very gradually add the cornmeal, stirring constantly. Stir continuously for 15 minutes while the cornmeal simmers and thickens. Watch for exploding cornmeal lava.

Remove from the heat and stir in parmesan. Serve immediately because it turns to cement before you can shake a stick.

We were more than pleased with the outcome (see the photo below), and when asked for a quote, Kristin simply said, "A harmonious blend of taste and texture." She's getting good at this quote thing.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Pickles!


I went to the Trout Lake farmers' market with my friend Amanda on Saturday. It's so great at this time of year, and as much as i love the West End, i have to admit that the TL market kicks WE market butt.

I picked up a huge bag o' basil to make pesto (i'll share that in a future post!), beautiful beets and pickling cucumbers, because Amanda promised to share with me how to make pickles.

And i did!

This isn't the kind of recipe you use to keep in your cupboard for all winter. I don't think i'm a careful enough cook to do that (visions of botulism affecting all of my pickling giftees). This is an eat-in-two-weeks-from-the-fridge recipe.

So, here it 'tis:

About a pound or two of pickling cucumbers, quartered lengthwise.
1 c. white vinegar
2 c. water
3 tbsp coarse salt
1/4 c. sugar
bunch fresh dill or some dill seeds
two cloves garlic, smashed

Put everything except the fresh dill (if using seeds, include these) in a pot on the stove. Heat until the sugar dissolves (about to boiling point), then pour over the quartered pickles and fresh dill in a bowl. I used Hawaiian sea salt from my recent visit there, so my pickling juice was pink!


Put a plate on top of the pickles in the juice to push the pickles down into the juice, and chill for at least two hours. Amanda swears you should wait at least 24 hours to eat them, though i cheated. Some smaller pickles are bitter, so waiting 24 hours will get all the bitterness out.

I'd also add a little less salt next time, i think. Otherwise, they're super delicious. And i've almost eaten my body weight in pickles now. Yum!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Mad for Tea Parties!

This last Sunday was a cool, wet day and my friends had the foresight to throw a classic "High Tea" teaparty at their cozy house! Totally worthy of honourable mention on this food blog.

All the guests were invited to bring a "tea food" and a tea they thought would nicely complement their food offering. I experimented with making sour cream-dill scones (you can google the recipe, but it wasn't outstanding--although the party host has informed me that they are excellent toasted!) and brought an earthy Pu-Ehr tea from "Steeps" on Laurel and Broadway. That place amazes me--it's like Disneyland for your nose (minus the politics).

So we started with the savoury dainties of aforementioned scones, crustless cucumber sandwiches and salmon-caper rolls. In addition to my Pu-Ehr tea, we sipped on Earl Grey. We then cleansed our palates with sparkling wine...I'd highly recommend this addition to any tea party. We finished off with sweet yummies...plum squares and selections from the Chinese Bakery. These were accompanied by the teas of Vanilla Rooibos, Tokyo Rose and we finished off with some berry blends. The whole experience was enhanced by lively conversation, a roaring fire, and the men busting out velvet dinner jackets. I look forward to more of these to warm up the upcoming winter months!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Lemon Cream Tart


I've been feeling guilty about some sad, old lemons, which have been sitting on my counter for days. The cream too. It was a least a week overdue, but was stalwartly refusing to go bad. What's a girl to do? Make a lemon cream tart, clearly.

Crust
The crust is pretty straightforward. Dump the first 5 ingredients in a food processor, and then add the yolks when the mixture is a course meal.
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (cut into cubes)
  • 2 large egg yolks
Once you can form a ball with the dough, press it into the bottom of a buttered tart pan. Takes a while to get it all squeezed along the edges. Once you're done, freeze for about 15 minutes.

Finally, pre-bake the crust for 5-10 minutes at 400 and cool completely before adding filling.

Filling
Whisk the following together in a heavy saucepan:
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 large yolks
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons dry white wine
Cook over medium heat until custard thickens and just begins to bubble, whisking constantly (about 5 minutes). Cool to just warm (15 minutes) and whisk in 3/4 cup of whipping cream.

Cook at 400 for 20 minutes (my edges got a bit brown, so keep an eye on it at this temp). Finally, cool on a rack and chill for 2 hours before serving.

Kristin, who is the only one to have tasted the tart at this point, said "It was an explosion in my mouth and surprise in my pants." I'm not really sure what she means. I don't think she is either, but the joke sure did make her laugh.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Late Summer Berry Picking


Today, Rochelle and I ventured over to Kerrisdale to see if there were any blackberries left along the tracks. Well, there were some, not many but some.

We learned that the blackberry picking is not the for the faint of heart or for the "afraid of thorns." And I learned that picking berries in shorts and a t-shirt is a bad idea. All the same, the scratches and gouges I braved will probably make the berries that much sweeter.

For her part, Rochelle exhibited her typical bravery and determination, picking long after I'd called it quits and sat on the tracks. She did get stuck in the bushes at one point, though. And I'm very proud to say that not only was I there to rescue her, but I had the presence of mind to film my heroism.

video

The berries are in my freezer now, waiting for some culinary inspiration. So far, I haven't decided what I'll do with them: pie, cobbler, muffins, salad? Not sure. Anyone have any suggestions? Yeah, you. My readership of one. What do you think?

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Food Weekend Extravaganza

SAVOURING IT

I want to encourage everyone to eat more meals that take all day to prepare.

To inspire you, I am including some snapshots that show how Claire, Anicka and myself did just that. In honour of Claire's Mom's birthday, we went out to her ranch on the September long weekend, and made food preparation and appreciation our only agenda (other than reading and petting horses).

(And just so you know this picture is supposed to look all blurry and mysterious, but delicious at the same time.)


We started off Friday night by popping a bottle (or two) of sparkling wine. Anicka had brought an assortment of cheeses, cherry preserve and chocolate truffles from Meinhardt's, which set our gourmet, "we're-not-kidding-around-here -about-snacks-or-anything-else" tone.





The next morning we left early to hit the Salt Spring Market to buy many of our ingredients for our meal plans. Wish I could capture here the delicious smells of the fresh basil and date-ginger bread at the various stalls. I also bought earrings, which I did not eat, but we can agree inspired us all.

The unbelievable pizzas we made that night included ingredients from the market and Claire's Mom's garden. Claire made a fabulous homemade crust while I picked tomatoes and basil. Perhaps in a future post I will include the details of our basil-mozza-fresh tomato with fresh-tomato-sauce pizza and our smoked salmon-dill-caper-cream cheese pizza, but maybe the titles say it all.


Sunday morning was an outstanding brunch of fruit-nut french toast, veggie sausage, roasted potatoes, freshly picked blackberries and vanilla yogurt. From there, we launched straight into making the birthday dinner.



While making said dinner, we stopped for gourmet breaks including watermelon-feta salad by Anicka...

...and some fresh chai made by yours truly with spices featured in this photo (please note the very cardamom pods that provide the fragrance and essence of this blog)...



Our delectable dinner menu included yam-leek-aged gouda pirogie with buttered sage, fig-smoked tofu-asian plum salad with honey-whiskey dressing (a new invention inspired by, you guessed it, whiskey) and beet-walnut stilton salad with fresh lavender (good one, Anicka!). We made the pirogie pockets by hand, which was labour-intensive (especially on Claire's part) but well-worth it. It's not like we had anything else to do, although the ranch animals may have felt ignored during this particular "all-hands-on-deck" portion of the preparation. The pictures are great and all, but let's face it, you had to be there. I actually felt high afterwards. Good wine helped.


We (and by "we" I mean Claire) made peach-berry pie with homemade crust entitled "best-ever-crust" but because we were so satisfied (and by "satisfied" I mean "stuffed like pigs") from our dinner, we had pie for breakfast. Yes, pie for breakfast--I know you are jealous now, but you can do it too someday if you are emboldened by this blog. I would like to note that the peach pie included cardamom and vanilla bean, and that Claire relished cracking each and every pod.


We finished off the weekend in a frenzy of plum-picking which we sauced up with lemon rind and other good stuff (Anicka knows). This went on ice-cream, which was our lunch. See, all your dreams CAN come true.



Now get out there and make a weekend of it! And invite me over when it's ready...

Summer Salad

Alright, then. Let's get this thing underway. Tonight, I was craving something fresh and wholesome. A quick flip through my Bon Appetit magazines (thanks again, Anicka) unearthed this delightful salad: baby potatoes, green beans, goat cheese rounds, and many other delicious things.

I'm sure you could throw just about anything in there, but here, for the record, is what went into the one I made tonight:

Goat Cheese Rounds
  • 2 tbsp sesame seeds
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2.5 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
  • ground pepper
  • kosher sald
  • goat cheese rounds
Mix the coating ingredients together in a bowl and then chuck your rounds in there. Pretty simple.

(Cristina taught me to slice goat cheese with dental floss. It's a truly awesome technique. Try it.)

Vinaigrette
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 5 tbsp olive oil
  • kosher salt
Whisk the first four ingredients, then drizzle in the olive oil. Whisking all the while. It should thicken. I think.

Rest of the Salad

The rest is pretty straightforward. I steamed the potatoes for 15 minutes, the beans for 5. The greens are tossed with a bit of dressing, then you pile on the goodies: potatoes, beans, cherry tomatoes, olives, and basil leaves. Pour on a bit more dressing, add the goat cheese rounds, and season with salt and pepper.

Voila! Post numero uno complete.

Friday, September 7, 2007