Monday, October 25, 2010

My Premier Life

I am very excited to announce that I am now officially a contributing writer for Premier Life, an online lifestyle magazine bringing you the latest in Music, Fashion, Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Technology....and now Food! Check out my first article A Beginners Guide to a Wine Tasting Experience, where I give some insight on the do's and don'ts of wine tasting.

Listening To:
Leonard Cohen - So Long Marianne

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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Ooey Gooey Cranberry & Coconut Lemon Squares

You know when you have a cold and the only thing in the world you feel like doing is curling up on the couch with a mug of tea, a bowl of chicken soup, a box of kleenex, and a marathon of old movies? You know that horrible sinking feeling when you realize you can't do any of that because you have to work every single day? You know how excited you get when you're managers kindly let you leave work early to go home and rest? You know that fantastic sensation of letting your body crash onto that couch...oh wait...I'm not familiar with that part. Last week, despite the fact that I was sick as a dog and all my body was telling me to do was rest, I decided to take a raincheck on that rest (leaving me still sniffling a week later), and bake (while washing my hands every 2 minutes!).

For Thanksgiving my mom had bought an extra bag of cranberries so that one of us could make a recipe for Cranberry and Coconut Lemon Squares that she found scribbled onto a loose sheet of paper tucked into her favourite cookbook with 4 stars drawn on the top corner. I knew those squares would be the perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea so I thought it would be the perfect thing to make on my "restful" day off. I realized that it probably wasn't the best idea to go off baking when my body was jacked with numerous cold and flu meds when I went to top the crust with the lemon filling. Something had clearly gone wrong. The crust looked like it could use a few more minutes in the oven, the filling was almost overflowing over the baking dish (if those squares had risen even a millimeter, I would have been screwed!), and there looked like there was too many cranberries. I guess those meds messed with my sense of perception because I had baked my squares in a pan way too small than the recipe had called for.

I nervously paced the kitchen as the squares baked, scared that I had wasted all those ingredients for defect squares. Finally the timer rang, I took the squares out, let them cool for a few hours, and then it was the moment of truth. I cut through the cooled dish to make squares and carefully lifted out each square. Eureka! The squares turned out even better than I remember the original squares tasting! The thicker squares with the same cooking time resulted in incredible messy, ooey, and gooey sweet and tangy squares that I couldn't get enough of! This is one mistake Ill be making over and over again in the future!

Note: If you prefer the texture of the original squares, simply bake them in a 9 x 13 dish instead and reduce the baking time of the crust to 20 minutes.

2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup cold butter, cut into chunks

4 eggs
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 cups whole cranberries
1 1/2 cups shredded unsweetened coconut

1. For base, preheat oven to 325º. Grease a 7 x 11 baking dish.

2. Pulse the flour, sugar, salt and butter in a food processor until crumbly in texture.

3. Pat evenly into bottom of greased baking dish. Bake uncovered for 25 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, combine the eggs, sugar, and lemon juice in the food processor until combined. Add the flour and baking powder and blend until just combined.

5. Scatter cranberries evenly over the warm, baked crust, and sprinkle with coconut. Pour the lemon mixture on top.

6. Bake for 55-60 minutes, or until middle is set and edges are golden. Let cool and serve.

Listening To:
Gorillaz - Dirty Harry

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(kicking myself for not going to their concert last Thursday!!)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Creamy Tomato Pasta Primavera

I'm sure it's no surprise to anyone that one of my favourite topics to talk about is food. Anyone who has ever spent more than 10 minutes with me would know this. My interest in discussing all things food related becomes especially apparent when standing around for hours on end doing aaaaabsolutely nothing. So all of my coworkers at the patisserie I was previously working at would be very familiar with these food discussions. One foodie talk in particular stands out in my mind. I asked one of my coworkers Saxon, a trained chef, what some of her go-to dishes were after coming home from a long day at work. She began to enthusiastically describe her Pasta Primavera in a Creamy Cheese Sauce. That was it. I had to make it. There was only one problem, I had been convinced for quite some time that I had been cursed with the inability to make a successful cream sauce. Time and time again I had attempted to make a roux which would hopefully develop into a smooth and thick cream sauce, only to result in utter failure. So Saxon went through her step by step guide on how to make a successful cream sauce.

How to Make a Successful Cream Sauce
1) Use equal parts fat and flour.
2) Do not walk away from cooking roux.
3) Always add either hot cream/milk to hot roux OR cold cream/milk to cold roux.
4) Do not add the cream/milk all at once. Add a little at a time, allowing each bit to thicken before adding more.
5) Give the sauce time to simmer, thicken and develop flavour.

That night I came home super excited to try out Saxon's cream sauce. I have to admit, I was skeptical that it would work considering my past failures, so I decided to make a bit of a rose sauce just in case it didn't work out. I went through her tips step by step, adding in my own little touches along the way and, to my amazement, it worked! My Creamy Tomato Pasta Primavera turned out incredible! I actually had this as my dinner three times that week I loved it so much!

Great big thanks to Saxon for teaching me how to make a successful cream sauce, for keeping me semi-sane at work, and for all the hard work you do! I hope you're finally receiving the credit you deserve.

bow-tie pasta
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp flour
1 cup cream
1/2 cup milk
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp garlic, pureed
1 onion, chopped
broccoli (stem and head), chopped
red pepper, chopped
cherry tomatoes, halved
snow peas, cut into thirds
frozen peas and carrots
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1/4 cup equal parts fresh basil, parsley, rosemary, and chives, chopped finely
parmesan cheese
a pinch red pepper flakes
salt and pepper

1. Heat milk and cream over the stove or in microwave until warm to the touch. Set aside. In a medium pot, heat 1 tbsp olive oil and flour on medium-low heat, stirring the mixture constantly.

2. Once flour and olive oil have come together and turned slightly golden, add the warm milk and cream a little bit at a time, allowing the mixture to thicken slightly before adding more.

3. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

4. In a large pan or pot at medium heat, cook 1 tbsp olive oil with garlic and onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions have softened.

5. Add the vegetables and saute until cooked but still slightly crisp. Add the tomato sauce and fresh herbs, stir and cook another 5-7 min.

6. In a separate pot, cook pasta according to directions on the package.

7. Combine the tomato sauce and vegetable mixture with the cream sauce. Grate over desired amount of parmesan cheese and sprinkle over red pepper flakes.

8. Toss pasta with sauce and vegetables, season with salt and pepper, and serve.

Listening To:
Tokyo Police Club - Bambi

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Saturday, October 2, 2010

Salsa Verde

In my cooking repertoire there are a few ingredients that have a pattern of re-appearing in different dishes over and over again. Hey, Bobby Flay has his habanero peppers, Giada her parmigiano-reggiano, and I have my goat cheese, salsa, and whatever fresh herb I can get my hands on. So when my mom and dad brought back a big paper bag filled with bright green tomatillo tomatoes, still wrapped in their husks, along with a recipe for Salsa Verde, straight from the hands of the farmer himself at the farmer's market...I....nearly....lost it! I had been wanting to make my very own homemade salsa all summer, but I never even thought about kicking things up a notch and making the ever-mysterious-to-me, Salsa Verde.
This recipe is crazy easy and results in big bold flavours and the most stunning bright green colour (that yes, my dad called "scary"). The tomatillos add a touch of tartness to the salsa that makes it unique to other red tomato salsas. What I love about this salsa is that it just screams 'FRESH!' Although I used jarred jalapeno peppers when I made the salsa, its the freshness of farm fresh tomatoes that you taste, along with the bright flavour of fresh cilantro, and the tanginess of freshly squeezed lime juice. Just as I have a habit of putting my bought salsas on everything, I have been putting my homemade Salsa Verde on just about everything as well! Mixed into omelettes, potatoes, any sort of Mexican inspired dish, chicken, fish, and of course on top of a salty and crispy tortilla chip!
Note: For a milder salsa, remove the jalapeno peppers seeds and veins before processing.
Tip: Serve this at your next Mexican inspired gathering! This is a great make-ahead addition to your meal.

Recipe by Chef Jim Hayward
1 lb tomatillos (about 12-15), husks removed, washed, and cut in half
1 small white or yellow onion, roughly chopped
2-3 jalapeno peppers, stems removed (you may subsitute about 1/4 cup pickled jalapenos)
olive oil
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
1/2 - 1 tsp salt
2 cloves garlic
juice from 1/2 of a lime

1. Place tomatillos, onions, and peppers in a baking dish. Lightly drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat.

2. Bake in a 350º oven for 15-20 minutes. The tomatillos should be nice and soft at this point. Set aside to cool.

3. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the tomatillos, onions, jalapenos, garlic, cilantro, lime juice and salt. Process to form a smooth textured puree as necessary for the desired consistency.

4. Transfer to a serving bowl. The salsa can be kept for 1 week in the refrigerator in an airtight container or jar.

Listening To:
Caribou - Odessa