Thursday, March 31, 2011

Grapefruit, Lime and Ginger syrup

I've recently booked a trip to Chicago, so I've been searching for insider's tips on where to eat when I'm there. And I only JUST realized that one of my favourite blogs, Lottie + Doof, is based there. And of course, they've got the perfect cheat sheet to Chicago's restaurants, so I'm set.

They've also highlighted the souvenir I'm going to look for while I'm there: Jo Snow syrups—in flavours like Fig Vanilla Pepper, Cardamom Rosewater, Tangerine Lavender Honey—yum!

And, thank you Lottie + Doof, they provided a little try-this-at-home inspiration. Which I did, last night, and will tote this sweet Grapefruit, Lime and Ginger syrup over to the island this weekend to mix with soda water.

I found the finished product a little sweet without a nice sour, so I added the juice of one lime to the end product. I probably could have used a little less water then, but it still tastes yummy and looks pretty syrupy, so I think we're solid.

Grapefruit, Lime, and Ginger Syrup Recipe
(adapted from Lottie + Doof)

1 cup granulated sugar
zest of 1 large grapefruit
zest of 1 lime
juice of 1 lime
3/4 cup water
1-2 teaspoons of grated fresh ginger

In a bowl, rub zests into sugar to release oils. Combine sugar, water and ginger in a small pan and cook over medium heat until sugar dissolves and syrup is simmering. Remove from heat, cover and let sit for 15 minutes. Strain syrup to remove zest and ginger and allow to cool. Squeeze in lime juice. Keep in the refrigerator and use however you like.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Happy Spring with Pea Puree and Shrimp

Saturday was such a gorgeous day (warm and sunny, perfect for the 10k walk around the seawall) that I felt inspired for a Spring-like dish. Yay spring peas! Well, technically, last spring's peas, since these were frozen. But I find the organic frozen peas from Stahlbush Island Farms are sweet and tasty. Very Spring.

I modified this recipe a wee bit - originally called to sprinkle the shrimp with lemon rind, but I chose to put it right in the pea puree. And I dusted them with five spice powder before I stir fried them, since I discovered five-spice powder is incredible on shrimp, and has a slightly sweet taste that pairs well with the peas.

And bonus - the whole thing took about 15 minutes to make, with a good 5 of those minutes rediscovering my food processor and its tricky lid.

Pea Puree with Shrimp Recipe Adapted from Bon Appetit

Pea Puree
2 1/4 cups shelled fresh peas (from about 2 1/4 pounds peas in pods) or frozen peas
2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon (packed) fresh mint leaves
1 tablespoon butter, room temperature
1 garlic clove, minced
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel

1 tablespoon olive oil
16 uncooked large shrimp, peeled, deveined
Fine sea salt
Pinch five-spice powder

Pea Puree
Cook peas in large pot of boiling salted water until very tender, about 4 minutes for fresh and 2 minutes for frozen. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup cooking liquid. Set 2 tablespoons peas aside for garnish. Place remaining peas in processor. Add cheese, mint leaves, butter, and garlic. Puree pea mixture, adding pea cooking liquid by tablespoonfuls if too stiff, to form light and creamy puree. Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Transfer to microwave-safe bowl. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 hour ahead. Cover and let stand at room temperature.

Heat olive oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle shrimp and scallops with salt, five-spice powder and freshly ground black pepper. Cook shrimp until golden brown outside and just opaque in center, about 2 minutes per side.

Microwave pea puree in 15-second intervals until warm. Spoon puree into center of plates. Place 2 shrimp and 2 scallops onto each plate, arranging atop puree. Sprinkle with reserved peas from pea puree, sea salt, and pepper. Drizzle each serving with extra- virgin olive oil and serve.
Serves 4

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Best Brownies Ever

First, a confession: I've only ever used a mix to make brownies. I was (note the use of past tense) under the impression that since they tasted so good, I was wasting my energy tracking down a from-scratch recipe. (And really, I had empirical evidence that it was true: my brownies sold out at my Amnesty International bake sale in grade 11. The homemade? Not so much).

But the cover of March's Bon Appetit screamed Best-Ever Brownies, and I had to admit, they looked pretty damn good. They advocate for using cocoa instead of chocolate in chocolate recipes - that the result is richer and more chocolaty. And even more controversial, they say that Dutch processed should take a pass - it's not nearly chocolaty enough.

I've made these brownies for the past three weekends for dinner parties, and I've now completely abandoned my boxed-brownie past. They're rich, moist and chewy with a good crackle top. You get an extra-rich flavour from browning the butter first.

And as far as prep time goes, it doesn't get any better: about 10 minutes all-in, and just one pot to clean up. (Even the pan is a cinch, since you bake these in a tinfoil-covered pan.) I cut back on the sugar a little, and dropped the walnuts. Because really, brownies shouldn't have walnuts.

My excuse to make them this weekend is that my friend Susan Juby is having a book launch for her first adult book, The Woefield Poultry Collective, next weekend. I've knit her a chicken, and now I've made her some brownies. I think that's a good celebration.

Given that it's a week away, I'm going to be freezing these - but according to one of my favourite bloggers, David Lebovitz, I'm only improving on the recipe. I'm looking forward to providing more empirical evidence.

Cocoa Brownies with Browned Butter Recipe
Adapted from Bon Appetit

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cups sugar

3/4 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder (spooned into cup to measure, then leveled)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 large eggs, chilled

1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon unbleached all purpose flour

Position rack in bottom third of oven; preheat to 325°F. Line 8 x 8 x 2-inch metal baking pan with foil, pressing foil firmly against pan sides and leaving 2-inch overhang. Coat foil with nonstick spray.

Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Continue cooking until butter stops foaming and browned bits form at bottom of pan, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat; immediately add sugar, cocoa, 2 teaspoons water, vanilla, and 1⁄4 teaspoon (generous) salt. Stir to blend. Let cool 5 minutes (mixture will still be hot). Add eggs to hot mixture 1 at a time, beating vigorously to blend after each addition. When mixture looks thick and shiny, add flour and stir until blended. Beat vigorously 60 strokes. Transfer batter to prepared pan.

Bake brownies until toothpick inserted into centre comes out almost clean (with a few moist crumbs attached), about 25 minutes. Cool in pan on rack. Using foil overhang, lift brownies from pan. Cut into 4 strips. Cut each strip crosswise into 4 brownies. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Okay, now this is quiche.

Anicka warned me that La Brasserie had redefined quiche for her. I had my doubts. But no more! This quiche was incredible, I only wish it had been twice the size. So light! So flavourful!-- without being too eggy. It contained honey-glazed parsnips (you heard me), chevre and rapini. I mean really. So this post is just meant for a little inspiration. Yummers.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Veggie Broth

This won't be the sexiest of posts, but I want record the ingredients of the veggie broth I just made because it's so good.

Everything is cut very roughly in big chunks; nothing is peeled.

1 apple
1 yam
1 bunch parsley
1 bunch celery
5-8 sprigs of thyme
1 portobello mushroom
1 bulb fennel + the arms and sprigs
3 cloves of garlic
2 tsp Maldon salt (note: 2 tsp of regular fine salt would be way too much)

I threw all of this in my biggest sauce pot and filled it up with water. Then I boiled softly for about 45 minutes. I was surprised by how much flavour the broth has! It yielded about 6 cups of broth.