Friday, July 31, 2009

Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus

Looking for a simple and tasty hors d'oeuvre to serve up at your next dinner or cocktail party? These Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus spears are perfect for such an occasion! They are delcious with the fresh and crisp asparagus, delicately wrapped in salty prosciutto, with just a touch of chives to add another layer of flavour. These little babies taste wonderful, look beautiful, and can be prepared in advance, giving you more time with your guests!
Note: I did not provide specific amounts for the ingredients as it varies depending on how many guests you have. Simply use your judgement.

asparagus spears, stalks trimmed
olive oil
thin prosciutto slices
fresh chives, chopped
salt and pepper to season

1. Toss asparagus in olive oil and place on a baking sheet. Roast in a 400º oven for 4 minutes, or until tender but still crisp.

2. Remove from oven and season with salt and pepper. Let asparagus cool slightly. Wrap each spear of asparagus with a thin slice of prosciutto.

3. Place on a serving dish and sprinkle with chives.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Hooray For Garden Fresh Cherry Tomatoes!!

You can't even imagine the extent of nerdy excitement that went through me when I saw that the cherry tomatoes in my backyard had started to ripen!  There is nothing like preparing a salad full of juicy fresh tomatoes bursting with flavour that you just hand picked from your garden! Pair that with some fresh herbs from your very own herb garden and you have got yourself one hell of a dish!  What foods do you grow in your garden?

Santa Ritalicious!

Last Thursday I was lucky enough to be able to attend Santa Ritalicious!  Santa Ritalicious was an event thrown by the iYellow Wine Club, held at the hip Gallery space Thrush Holmes Empire celebrating the relaunch of the Chilean Winery Santa Rita's new 120 label.  And what a celebration it was! The event was buzzing with trendy attendees who mingled amongst each other, grooved to the upbeat music, nibbled on delectable hors d'oeuvres, and, of course, drank lots of fabulous Chilean wine! 

Although I don't know much about wine, I am in the process of learning, and one of the things that I have learned is that I absolutely love Santa Rita's wine! I have enjoyed a lot of their wine at home, so being able to attend their event and try out their new label was particularly special for me.  Santa Rita's new 120 label sure didn't let me down! After trying both their 120 Sauvignon Blanc and 120 Cabernet Sauvignon, my love of their wine is greater than it was before walking into the event! The tasting notes for the wines read as follows:

It has aromas and flavours of citrus fruits such as grapefruit and lemon peel that lend a fresh balance to the tropical fruit character and the typical herbal notes from the 2% of Semillon in the blend.  Vibrant, fresh, deep, and well-rounded on the palate.

Our ruby red 120 Cabernet Sauvignon is dominated by aromas of red and forest fruits, with additional notes of leather, cloves, and vanilla on the palate.  This is a wine that develops on the palate, juicy, with soft, ripe tannins and a very elegant finish.  

Another treat for me was being able to see Santa Rita's winemaker, Andres Ilabaca, who generously gave a speech part way through evening, expressing his gratitude for the event and his passion for his delicious wine.  

The event was a success in bringing together a great group of people with a common love of wine! Excuse me now while I go open up a bottle of Santa Rita Carmenere! 

Photo courtesy of Santa Rita

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Roasted Eggplant and Red Pepper Spread

Every summer one of my best friends and her family hold a great big celebration in their backyard with lots of delicious food, drinks, and, of course, great company! I look forward to their parties every year because, for one, this family sure knows how to party, and secondly, it is always filled with an amazing group of people. My friend and her family have the amazing ability to make everyone feel welcome and at home, and, in turn, it has attracted a large array of spectacular individuals within their circle of friends. This years party was no different. Despite the rain, the party was still a huge success! Everyone was eating, drinking, dancing, and laughing well into the night! In fact, I live one street down from them and could hear the fun of the party from my bedroom window, long after I was party pooped and had retired home.

This year I wanted to contribute to the festivities by bringing a dish that I had prepared. I had seen The Barefoot Contessa's (AKA: my future best friend!) recipe for Roasted Eggplant Spread a while ago and have been dying to make it! I figured this would be the perfect opportunity, as it is a great dish for feeding a large crowd. The dip is so simple to make, yet still extremely flavourful and hearty tasting. It was definitely a hit at the party, and in my house (it was so good, I had to leave a bowl of it at home for my family to nibble on). Because I am so obsessed with fresh herbs, I added a generous amount of fresh oregano to the spread to brighten up the flavours. I also adjusted some of the amounts of the ingredients to make it better suited for entertaining a crowd. Keep your eyes open for more ways of serving this spread because I have quite a few interesting ideas up my sleeve (or apron!) for this one!

5 mini eggplants (or 2 large)
2 red bell peppers, seeded
1 red onion, peeled
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 1/2 tbsp fresh oregano, finely chopped
salt and pepper to season

1. Preheat the oven to 400º F.

2. Cut the eggplant, bell pepper, and onion into 1-inch cubes. Toss them in a roasting dish with the garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper.

3. Spread the vegetables evenly on the roasting dish and roast for 45 minutes, until vegetables are lightly brown and soft. Toss once during cooking.

4. Let vegetables cool slightly and pour them into a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the tomato paste and oregano and pulse to blend. Continue pulsing until it reaches the desired consistency (you may prefer yours more chunky or smooth). Season with salt and pepper. Serve with pieces of fresh pita bread.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Chicken Marsala

Last week I started experimenting with cooking with wine.  First, I made my incredibly flavourful Rustic Mushroom and Cream Cheese Tart using white wine; then I made a Zabaglione with lots of sweet Marsala wine (which you will get to see in the upcoming iYellow Wine Club August Newsletter); and finally, I made a comforting Chicken Marsala.  I loved the sweet yet bold flavour of the Marsala and wanted to try and make a savory dish with it.  I have eaten Veal Marsala many times and absolutely love it! I love any dish with lots of sauce, and a Marsala sauce is really something special! I had never prepared veal before so I decided to take things one step at a time and start with chicken.  Turns out I enjoy Chicken Marsala just as much as veal! The chicken was tender and juicy with each bite filled with lots of sweet Marsala sauce and tasty mushrooms.  I couldn't get enough! For some beginner cooks this may seem complicated, but it is actually very simple.  Just take it one step at a time.  Trust me, when you taste the end result, you will see that it was all worth it!

6 boneless skinless chicken breasts
about 1 cup flour (for coating chicken) plus 2-3 tbsp, reserved
1-2 tbsp dried oregano
2 tsp pepper
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup butter
2 cloves garlic, pureed 
about 2 cups mushrooms, sliced (I used Mini Bella Mushrooms)
3/4 cup Marsala 
2/3 cup chicken or vegetable broth
2 tbsp fresh sage, chopped
olive oil (for frying)
salt and pepper, to season
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

1.  Rinse and paper towel-dry chicken breasts.  Pound each breast flat using the flat side of a mallet.  You may want to fold over a piece of plastic wrap around the breasts to keep your work station clean and safe from cross-contamination.

2.  In a large skillet, heat oil on medium high for frying chicken.

3.  In a shallow dish, mix 1 cup flour, dried oregano, and 1 tsp salt and 2 tsp pepper.  Dip the chicken breasts into the flour mixture to coat.  Transfer chicken to skillet and fry about 3 minutes on each side or until golden brown and cooked through. You will need to do several batches in order to fit all the chicken in the skillet.

4.  When all the chicken is cooked, transfer to serving dish and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm.  

5.  Add butter and garlic to the skillet  and cook until golden brown.  Add the mushrooms and cook until soft and darkened, about 10 minutes.  Stir in reserved 2-3 tbsp flour (add flour amount depending on how much mushrooms were used).  Cook and stir for another 5 minutes, allowing flour to cook and mixture to thicken.

6.  Add the Marsala and stir, scraping the bottom and sides of the pan.  Continue to cook until liquid had reduced and thickened, about 8 minutes.  Add the stock and simmer for 5-7 minutes, allowing the sauce to thicken slightly. 

7.  Remove from heat and add sage.  Season with salt and pepper. Let sit for about 2-3 minutes allowing sauce to thicken up.  Remove foil from chicken and pour sauce over. Squeeze fresh lemon juice over chicken and sauce and serve.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Rustic Mushroom and Cream Cheese Tart

A lot of great things have come out of me creating this blog. For one, I am now experimenting much more with food, and am challenging myself to step outside of my comfort zone. But beyond the actual act of cooking and baking, this blog has has been amazing in terms of connecting with old and new friends, swapping recipes, and inspiring one another to try new and exciting things with food. Recently, one of my friends, Laura Franklin, a very talented photographer, suggested we merge our two passions to collaborate on a day of cooking and photography...which turned into a day of cooking, photography, tanning, and drinking pina coladas!!

For this collaboration, I wanted to create a recipe that would force me to step even further outside of my comfort zone, be visually striking, and be something a number of people could enjoy. One of my favourite indulgences are tarts. Be they sweet or savory, I just can't get enough of them! So I decided to create the ultimate savory tart! I have never been so proud of something I have cooked since making the worlds best onion rings. The tart was bursting with flavour! The mushrooms are creamy with a bit of a bite from the caramelized onions, and were complimented by tart and silky cream cheese. The dish was perfected by buttery and flaky puff pastry, which added a slight sweetness and texture the tart. Just as I said about the onion rings, Whoa Baby! I am soooo making this again!!
Tip: This tart is great for entertaining as it has a beautiful presentation. It can also be cut up into smaller squares to serve as a hors d'oeuvre.

1 sheet puff pastry
3Il mini bella mushrooms, sliced (you may use other types of mushrooms as well)
1 onion, sliced
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp thyme
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
250g cream cheese
1 tbsp melted butter (optional)
1/2 tbsp chopped thyme (optional)
grated parmesan cheese, enough to make a thin layer on top of mushrooms + more parmesan slices for garnish
1-2 tsp chopped parsley
salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat oil in a large skillet or sauce pan over low-medium heat and saute onions with sugar until caramelized, about 20-30 minutes.

2. Add the mushrooms and garlic and saute until mushrooms become darkened and liquid has evaporated, about 15 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high and add wine. Cook for another 5-6 minutes, or until wine has cooked down.

3. Remove from heat and stir in thyme and sour cream. Season with salt and pepper

4. Preheat oven to 400º. Place thawed puff pastry on a lightly oiled baking sheet and stretch or roll slightly to create the desired size of rectangle (use your discretion). Spread a layer cream cheese onto the pastry leaving about a 1 inch border all around the outside. Season with salt and pepper.

5. Spoon mushroom mixture on top of cream cheese in an even layer. Fold in border of pastry pinching lightly down. Sprinkle grated parmesan on top of mushroom mixture. Optional: You may lightly brush border with melted butter and sprinkle with chopped thyme.

6. Bake tart for 30 minutes, or until pastry is nicely browned. Remove from oven, sprinkle with parmesan slices and parsley, cool slightly, and serve.

Photography by Laura Franklin Photography.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Roasted Eggplant & Goat Cheese Salad

Eating healthy from an outside perspective can look like quite the challenge. People often compare eating healthy to eating rabbit food, or eating like a bird. Let me tell you, when I make healthy food, it sure as hell doesn't taste like anything I've ever seen at a pet store! The trick to eating healthy is to heighten the flavour of your food with healthy ingredients such as fresh herbs, vinaigrettes, cheeses and nuts. I know that many people think of cheese and nuts as as a big "no" when it comes to eating healthy, but it's important to think of eating those types of food in moderation and not to deprive yourself of ingredients such as those that can actually benefit your health. There is no doubt that cheese is an excellent source of calcium, and nuts are a great source of protein and are rich in fiber, antioxidants, and polyunsaturated fats (also known as "good fats").

This dish is perfect for someone who is looking to make healthy choices in their diet, but don't want to surrender any flavour in the process. The tender eggplant acts as a sponge, soaking up the sweet and zesty flavours of the dressing, with a creamy dollop of goat cheese to add texture and a great tart flavour. The dish is dressed up with bright and flavourful fresh herbs, and crunchy nutty pine nuts. Mixed greens turn the eggplant into a substantial dish making it the perfect lunch or light dinner.

Roasted Eggplant & Salad
2 mini Italian eggplants
1/4 cup goat cheese
1/2 tbsp thyme, chopped
1/2 tbsp chives, chopped
handful of toasted pine nuts
olive oil
salt and pepper
mixed greens

Maple Balsamic Dressing
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp grainy mustard
pepper to season

1. Cut eggplant into 1/4-1/2 inch thick slices. Lay slices out in one layer on a piece of paper towel and sprinkle both sides of eggplant generously with salt. Let eggplants sit for 20-30 minutes to allow the bitter juices to release. After the juices have released, carefully rinse slices in cold water and towel dry.

2. Lay eggplant slices on a cookie sheet and brush with olive oil. Bake in a 350º oven for 20 minutes or until slices are tender.

3. While eggplant is baking, whisk together all ingredients for the Maple Balsamic dressing and season with pepper. Remove tender eggplant from oven and brush dressing onto the slices.

4. Place a dollop of goat cheese on each eggplant slice and sprinkle with chopped thyme and chives.

5. Toss mixed greens with remaining maple balsamic dressing reserving about 2 tbsp to set aside. Plate mixed greens with eggplant and goat cheese slices on top and drizzle with the 2 tbsp of remaining dressing and sprinkle with toasted pine nuts. Season with salt and pepper.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Oh Pleeeaaase Grilled Cheese!

A few weeks ago The Toronto Star posted a great little write up entitled Say Cheese on places in Toronto that are taking grilled cheese to the next level.  My mouth was watering just reading about all of the unique and delicious sounding creations that cheese shops and restaurants in Toronto were serving up.  After my mum and I spent a lovely day in the Historic Distillery District, we headed over to Church St. to try out one of the sandwiches that was mentioned in the article.  

About Cheese is a little cheese shop located at Church and Wellesley that serves up a large variety of gourmet cheeses, fresh breads, preserves, and crackers.  Walking into the shop, I was immediately filled with inspiration being surrounded by so many different cheeses! One cheese in particular that caught my attention was their Thunder Oak Jalapeno cheese, which is a Gouda, spiced with delicious Jalapeno chili peppers.  I loved it so much, we purchased a piece of that along with the much anticipated grilled cheese.  About Cheese's grilled cheese is filled with a triple-cream Riopelle and a stringy Frere Jacques, as well as paper thin, salty La Quercia  prosciutto  to create the ultimate combination! The sandwich was served on a rosemary and olive oil Ciabatta, adding an additional layer of flavour and a great crunchy texture, and was grilled in a panini press to toast the bread and melt the cheese.  I was in grilled cheese heaven! I didn't know that grilled cheese could be something so spectacular, and this is coming from a real grilled cheese lover!  You have not truly lived until you've tried About Cheese's grilled cheese! Seriously, get your butt over there NOW! 

About Cheese is located at 483 Church St. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Antipasto Platter

The word antipasto when translated into Italian literally means "before food."  It is a platter that usually consists of an assortment of foods such as smoked meats, cheese, fish, and vegetables meant to stimulate the appetite.  I don't know about you, but a table full of such delicacies not only stimulates my appetite, but it is able to act as the star of my whole meal!  During the summer months, I much prefer to eat lighter meals, several times throughout the day.  So a thoughtfully prepared antipasto platter is enough to keep me happy for a while and is satisfying enough to be served as dinner.  And besides, who could resist an array of gourmet cheeses, meats, fruits, and bread?  Not me that's for sure, especially if its paired with a delicious red wine! 

I put this in my Cheaters Handbook category because I think it is a great idea for my frightened future foodies to consider for entertaining.  An antipasto platter is extremely simple to prepare, as you just need to purchase the food and present it nicely!  This allows the host to be relieved of the pressures of cooking for guests, and will have more time to spend with guests, rather than in the kitchen.  Although this seems very basic, you are still able to use your imagination when selecting the various foods that you will serve.  For instance, try to select a type of cheese that you have never tried before, like a Cumin Spiced Gouda, which is presented in the photos above.  You may also like to experiment with different types of platters.  Why not take your platter to another destination?  Give your platter a Japanese theme and present to your guests a selection of Japanese appetizers paired with saki.  

In the antipasto platter above I have presented:
  • Serrano Ham
  • Sliced Cantaloupe
  • Spiced Green and Black Olives
  • Creamy Havarti 
  • Spiced Cumin Gouda
  • Blue Cheese
  • Jarlsberg Reserve
  • Green Grapes
  • Fresh Baguette
  • Gyoza (a random addition, I know, but I love the stuff and really wanted it!)
Tip: When making up your platter, try to look for different colours.  For example, get two different types of bread, one whole grain, one white.  Also, try different coloured grapes.  It will make your platter appear even more appetizing!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Soma Chocolatemaker

Last week my mum and I spent the day exploring the Historic Distillery District in downtown Toronto.  We have been to the distillery many times for events, such as sip & Savour Ontario, but we have never taken the time to really check out all of the beautiful shops, cafes, galleries, and artisan studios.  The two of us had such a great day together, and although our company with one another was lovely, the highlight for the both of us was most certainly Soma Chocolatemaker.  

I had been to Soma Chocolatemaker once before and fell in love! My first Soma Chocolatemaker experience was this past fall on a crisp day.  I needed a little something to warm me up and Soma Chocolatemaker had just the thing for me!  I tried their Mayan Hot Chocolate, one of their many delicious elixirs, and I have never appreciated chocolate so much in my life! I am not exaggerating.  Their Mayan Hot Chocolate had the perfect blend of their high quality chocolate, ginger, Madagascar vanilla, orange peel, chili, and some of their other special Soma spices.  I felt like I just been transported to Juliette Binoche's chocolate shop in the movie Chocolat and was drinking her famous hot chocolate spiced with chili powder.  What a wonder to the senses! 

This time around, my mum and I needed something to cool us down from the July heat.  Earlier in the day, we had spoken to John Drajewicz from Proof Studio Gallery (which you MUST check out on your visit to the Distillery, because their photos are breathtaking and inspirational!) who had told us about the unique flavours of sorbet being made at Soma.  They sounded so interesting, there was no way we could pass those up!  Along with some traditional flavours such as dark chocolate, mango, and raspberry, Soma was also serving up Ontario plum, Ontario blueberry basil, and Ontario strawberry mint sorbet.  I had a cup of the blueberry basil and my mum had a cup of strawberry mint.  We were completely won over by the sorbets explosion of flavour!  The fresh herbs added a whole new dimension to the frozen treat, highlighting the flavour of the fresh Ontario Berries. I would definitely recommend this to any foodie looking to be inspired! I walked out of soma with my head filled with new concepts for recipes all inspired by Soma's delicious sorbet.

We would be crazy to go into Soma and not purchase any chocolate, so we also picked up a little something to treat ourselves to for later.  Soma's Almond Clusters with dark Peruvian chocolate, handmade toffee, and almonds were the perfect way to end our day.  They were perfectly crisp, with a light glaze of dark chcolate, and a sprinkling of crispy toffee.  I'm officially addicted to the light and flavourful treat!

Soma Chocolatemaker is located in the Historic Distillery District at 55 Mill Street.

Tzatziki Sauce

I absolutely love Greek food, so I feel very lucky to live in a city with a fabulous Greek area filled with amazing Greek restaurants! Although I make the trip down to the Danforth a number of times a year, my family has begun replicating our favourite meal on the Danforth in our own home, and I enjoy our home cooked Greek food just as much! We make Saganaki, pork tenderloin, a Greek salad, Greek rice, and Greek potatoes. The only things we don't prepare ourselves is the pita and tzatziki sauce. So this time around I decided to take a leap and make my own! And boy am I glad I did!

I like making my own tzatziki sauce so that I can control how pungent it is. I really like the taste of pungent tzatziki but after eating it, there is noooo way you are going to get me to leave my house, at least not after I have brushed my teeth and tongue about 100 times! This time however, I had no plans to go out so I went all out with my tzatziki. I even went a little against the grain and added in some extra flavour by grating in some onion.
Note: To grate your cucumber and onion, simply use the fine side of a box grater

1 container plain or Greek yogurt
1/4 of a cucumber, peeled, seeded and grated
1 head of garlic
2-3 tbsp fresh dill, chopped
3 tsp onion, grated
1 tbsp olive oil
3 tsp lemon juice
salt to season

1. Pour yogurt into a coffee filter or paper towel sitting in a colander, resting in a bowl. Let sit in fridge for several hours to led the liquid drain out. This step may be skipped if using Greek yogurt.

2. To roast garlic, preheat oven to 400º. Peel off the outer layers of the garlic bulb skin, leaving the skins of the individual garlic cloves intact. Cut off the top of the garlic bulb, about 1/4 - 1/2 inch of the top. This should expose the tops of the cloves inside. Place bulb in a baking pan and brush with olive oil. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes, or until garlic cloves have softened.

3. When garlic is cooked and cooled, remove individual cloves and mix them in a bowl into the strained yogurt. Add the cucumber, dill, onion, olive oil, lemon juice and stir. Taste and season with salt.

4. Serve with Greek style meat and pita bread.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Sweet Sunday Brunch Crepes

One of my all time favourite foods to make is crepes! It is one of the first dishes that I ever tried cooking completely on my own (thanks to inspiration from a grade 6 French cafe project) and I still enjoy making them as much today as I did the very first time I made one in grade 6. Lucky for me, my family loves eating my crepes just as much as I love making them. So I knew that a special Sunday brunch of crepes with a variety of fresh berries and fruit, spreads, and nuts would be the perfect way to put a smile on my family's faces!

This is a basic crepe batter that is guaranteed to never fail! It results in a perfect, non-rubbery texture, and delicious flavour. You may add whatever you like to your crepes, but below is what I chose to put in and on my crepe this time around. Try to offer a variety of fillings and toppings to let your guests create their own.
Note: You may choose to make your crepes whatever thickness you like, but I like to make mine fairly thin.

Crepe Batter
3/4 cup flour
1 cup milk
3 eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar (optional for dessert crepes which I used this time)

Suggested Fillings & Toppings
toasted slivered almonds
toasted shredded coconut
blueberry sauce

1. Whisk or process (using a food processor) all ingredients until blended.

2. Refrigerate for 1 hour or overnight.

3. In a lightly greased crepe pan or frying pan, fry crepes approximately 60 seconds on one side or until edges are brown, and approximately 30 seconds on the other side.

4. Keep cooked crepes in a warm oven or toaster oven while frying other crepes to keep them warm.

5. Fill and top with your choice of fillings and toppings.

Friday, July 10, 2009

A Taste of Chile: Pisco Sour

Me (Danielle Rose) in the Artisan Market in Santiago Chile

About two years ago I had the privilege to go on an experience of a lifetime! My dad does a lot of work in Chile and, through his travels, he has developed a deep love for the South American Country.  His passion for Chile easily awoke a stirring desire to explore the country myself. This led to my dad taking me for a 10 day trip to Chile.  I had the time of my life exploring Santiago, La Serena, Elqui Valley, and Cochiquaz.  It wasn't just the beautiful and unique surroundings of Chile that made me love it, it was being able to befriend so many new and incredible people that I know I will remain in contact with all my life!  

No meal or evening in Chile is complete without the perfect drink to liven up conversation! Although I have a great fondness for Chilean wine, I was most taken by their signature drink Pisco Sour.  Pisco is a type of liquor distilled from Pisco grapes.  Although is it often debated who originated the beverage, Peru or Chile, Pisco Sours can be found everywhere you look in Chile! In fact, the very first thing I did when I arrived in Chile was lounge by the pool with a champagne flute of Pisco Sour and a bowl of trail mix.  Aaaah what a lovely welcome to such a lovely country!
Note: This drink is not for the faint of heart.  This baby is strong!
Note: Bitters are a type of spice. I use one called Merquen that was bought in Chile but Angostura Bitters are more widely available in North America

3 oz fresh lemon juice
6 oz pisco (I use a kind called Alto del Carmen, but you can use any kind you like)
3/4 oz simple syrup
2 ice cubes
1 egg white
1 dash bitters 

1.  Combine lemon juice, pisco, sugar and ice cubes in blender.  Add egg white and combine once again.  

2.  Pour into glasses and top with a light dash of bitters.  

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Cheaters Handbook: Dress to Impress Sponge Cake

The goal of my blog since day one has been to 1) Inspire other young foodies to come out into the open and express their passion and share their food knowledge and 2) To get young people who are intimidated by any sort of cooking and baking over their fears of the kitchen and become just as passionate as I am! 

Although all of of the recipes that I have posted have been very simple to prepare, I am still getting a response from those people who are not quite familiar with their kitchen yet and are scared to take that step and try out my recipes, fearing that they don't have what it takes to make the recipe succeed.  Well my friends, I have taken your thoughts into consideration and I am making it my mission to get you frightened future foodies cooking and baking up a storm! The trick here is to take it one step at a time.  

Starting today, I am introducing a new segment to my blog entitled Cheaters Handbook. Cheaters Handbook will introduce those people that I have just described to dishes that may be considered "cheats" to some, but to my frightened future foodies will be the stepping stones to great cooking.  For example, look at the oldest trick in the book: Buying a prepared pie and simply taking it out of the aluminum pie plate and serving it to your guests as though you made it yourself.  This is not the type of cheat I will be featuring! My cheats are about making that pie your own! Perhaps I would drizzle some caramel sauce over the pie with some toasted nuts. This allows the frightened future foodies to be able to familiarize themselves with the kitchen and kitchen techniques to give them the confidence to take a step further the next time they step into the kitchen.  

Todays Cheaters Handbook dish is Dress to Impress Sponge Cake.  I took bought mini sponge cakes and dressed them up to make them my own!  This is a great dessert to serve to guests as it has a beautiful presentation, is fast and simple to prepare, and is light healthy with its abundance of fresh berries.  

purchased prepared mini sponge cakes
whipped cream
blueberry sauce
toasted pecans

1.  Place each mini sponge cake on separate dishes to serve to guests and toss over an array of berries.  I chose to use strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries, but you can use whichever fruit you like.  

2.  Drizzle over some purchased blueberry sauce.

3.  Add a dollop of whipped cream to the top.

4.  Sprinkle over toasted nuts for flavour and texture.  I used pecans, but virtually any nut will do.  

Challenge: Make your own blueberry sauce or glaze (why not try a glaze flavoured with orange or liqueur).  If you want to take that next step, look up a blueberry sauce or glaze recipe and make your own to drizzle over the cakes. 

Monday, July 6, 2009

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Potato Salad with Fresh Dill

What's a barbeque without the classic potato salad? Last week my Oma (grandmother in German) gave me a bag of fresh dill from her garden and ever since I have been going dill crazy! Dill has the amazing power to freshen up any dish and wake up all your taste buds. The dill in this potato salad uses its magic to turn regularly starchy and heavy potatoes into a fresh and light tasting side dish.
Tip: Dressing the salad while it is still warm lets the flavours seep into the potatoes easier.

1.5 Il. mini red potatoes
2 cloves garlic, finely minced or pureed
2 tbsp olive oil
2-3 tbsp fresh dill, chopped
about 3/4 cup sour cream
1/2 tsp vinegar
freshly ground salt and pepper to taste

1. Place potatoes in water and allow to boil. Once water has boiled, reduce heat to low and cook for about 20-25 minutes, until tender when inserted with a fork. Cut into quarters and let sit for about 5 minutes.

2. When potatoes are no longer hot but are warm in temperature, toss them with garlic, olive oil, dill and vinegar.

3. Add the sour cream in small amounts at a time, making sure not to overdress. Season with salt and pepper and mix to combine. Don't worry about being gentle. The potatoes are meant to break up slightly, it allows the flavour of the dressing to take hold of them. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Prosciutto and Melon

Having some people over for drinks and don't want to slave in the kitchen or break your budget on grocery costs? Don't fret! This fast and simple hors d'oeuvre is exactly what you're looking for! There are only three ingredients, making it wallet friendly; it is so easy to prepare, you'll feel like you're cheating; and it makes for a beautiful presentation with all of its bright colours. Prosciutto and melon is such a delicious flavour combination. Salty prosciutto hugs sweet and juicy cantaloupe slices, and is tied together with a delicate chive. Now all you need is a nice glass of wine and your night is set!

prosciutto slices (thinner works better)
cantaloupe, seeded and sliced
long chives

1. Wrap prosciutto slices around cantaloupe slices. Tie each piece together with a chive.

2. Marvel at how simple it was to create such a fabulous dish!

Friday, July 3, 2009

More Photos From sip & Savour Ontario 2009

Me (Danielle Rose) working with Kevin Brauch and Sandy Kurbis of Forefront Communications

Kevin Brauch

Me (Danielle Rose), I felt really powerful holding that mic let me tell you!

Me (Danielle Rose), keeping hydrated
Me (Danielle Rose) talking to another member of the production team
After hours of walking around on that hard floor in heels, I think it's necessary to document the pretty heels to make the pain all worth it (mine are on the right)

Photography by Ruzan Orkestar.

Baked Sole with Lemon Sauce & Asparagus

I am constantly in search of new and simple dinner ideas, that are not only quick when in a rush, but healthy too.  This baked sole with lemon sauce and asparagus from Williams-Sonoma is a great dinner to whip up any night of the week.  It is light and flavourful, and allows you to still save room for dessert! I paired my sole and asparagus with mini red potatoes boiled and served with butter and fresh dill, and a side salad of mixed greens with sliced pears, asiago cheese and toasted pecans, drizzled with a light balsamic vinaigrette.
Tip: If you are having trouble thickening your lemon sauce, sift and whisk in a little cornstarch.

1 lb. asparagus, medium-size stalks, tough ends removed 
4 large or 8 small sole fillets
1 tbsp unsalted butter
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 cup chicken broth
salt and pepper
1 tbsp fresh dill, chopped

1.  Preheat oven to 400º.  Butter a shallow dish, large enough to fit all asparagus spears in single layer.

2.  Arrange asparagus spears in a sinlge layer in the prepared dish and season with salt.  Season both sides of fish fillets with salt and pepper and place them over asparagus.  

3.  Bake until the fillets are beginning to flake at the tail ends and the asparagus is tender-crisp, about 7 minutes depending on the thickness of the fillets.

4.  While sole is baking, prepare the sauce.  In a saucepan over low heat, melt the butter with the lemon zest.  Whisk in the flour and cook, whisking, until the mixture just begins to color, about 3 minutes.  Do not let mixture burn.  

5.  Add the broth and lemon juice and whisk vigorously to break up any lumps.  Cook the sauce, whisking occasionally for about 3-5 minutes.  Turn up the temperature to medium heat and continue cooking until thick, about another 3-5 minutes (see tip above if your sauce is not thickening). Season with salt and pepper. 

6.  Pour sauce over baked sole and garnish with fresh dill.