Tuesday, 30 June 2009

What's Better than Raspberry Sherbet?

Raspberry sherbet with a Piña Colada core, of course!

In my first attempt at emulating Ina's ice cream bombe, I combined two of my favourite fruity flavours for a delicious, if melty, frozen treat. Both sherbets (different from sorbet by their milky content) are from David Lebovitz's Perfect Scoop.

Raspberry Sherbet
4 cups frozen raspberries
2 cups whole milk
1 cup sugar
1½ tsp. lemon juice
Blend in food processor, strain seeds and process in ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Piña Colada Sherbet
1 ripe pineapple, peeled, and cored (4 cups)
1 cup sugar
1 cup coconut milk
1 tbsp dark rum
1 tsp freshly squeezed lime juice
Cut the pineapple into chunks. Puree in a blender with the sugar, coconut milk, rum and lime juice until smooth. Chill the mixture thoroughly, then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.


Go ahead and sing the song... you know you want to.



The guy is bored at home, answers a personal ad and finds it is from his own "lovely lady". And there is a happy ending! What do you think would happen if you did that? Just sayin'.
Don't play with fire, eat ice cream instead.

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: A Trip to the World Famous St. Lawrence Market in Toronto

This week we had the opportunity to take a day trip to Toronto's St. Lawrence Market. The good people at Foodbuzz agreed that this would be a fun trip to share with my readers and a great opportunity to cook up a feast with all sorts of goodies that I usually can't find in my own small town.
I think many people are in the same position that we are, we love cooking great food but our resources are limited to what the local mega marts have to offer. Unless you live in a booming metropolis or you are lucky enough to have a great market near you, you are stuck with whatever the everyday markets have in stock.
Not today though! We had a great time exploring this wonderful market, and brought home lots of goodies to create a fabulous mixed small plate tasting menu for our friends. What a thrilling experience!

Toronto, Canada's St. Lawrence Market, is located west of Jarvis Street, between King Street East and the Esplanade, is owned by the City of Toronto.
This photo is taken from the south, back, entrance.

History of the St. Lawrence Market
"In 1803, Governor Peter Hunter issued a proclamation, following recommendations made as early as 1796, that all the land north of Front, west of Jarvis, south of King and east of Church street was to be designated officially as the "Market Block."
Since 1901, the South St. Lawrence Market has been known primarily for its fruits, vegetables, meat and cheese. For many years, few people realized that Toronto's original City Hall had been incorporated into today's south market. The history of the South St. Lawrence Market also includes the north "farmer's market" and St. Lawrence Hall as well."

"The Market Gallery opened in 1979 and is an exhibition facility for the City of Toronto, Culture Division. Located inside the South St. Lawrence Market on the south-west corner of Front Street East and Jarvis Street, the Market Gallery is on the second floor in the original council chamber, all that remains from Toronto's City Hall (1845-1899) which once stood on this site."

We couldn't help getting a little artistic with this puddle shot near where we parked.


There is so much variety at the market, over 120 specialty merchants and vendors. Dairy, seafood, baked goods, meats, produce, housewares, wine.. the list is endless. I have to confess, I wanted everything.

Two of our favourite places were Kozlik's Canadian Mustard shop, where you can sample various fresh mustards with little pretzel dippers, (they even had freshly made horseradish for sale!), and the Seafront Fish Market. The seafood is unbelievable there, so fresh and so big! Nothing like our regular grocery stores. As you can see, the staff are very friendly too.

We got there fairly early in the morning, before the crowds and tour buses arrived. We began with a couple of reconnaissance tours around the market before we started shopping. We came prepared with a large cooler in the trunk of the car, complete with ice packs. We wore large canvas shopping bags for our purchases too. We were on a mission!

A whole store devoted to sprouts! Natural fibre clothing. Specialty cheeses and seafood. And in the bottom right hand corner is a display case filled with frozen meats labelled kangaroo tail, emu, elk, wild boar, and all sorts of foods I have never tried. We didn't get any of those on this trip, maybe next time!

There was a fantastic assortment of baked goods, both sweet and savoury, in several locations. We bought three different baguettes for grilling, and several mini treats for dessert.

When you visit the market, you have to have lunch. We went to the Carousel Bakery for some fabulous sammies.
"The Carousel Bakery is known as the home of the award-winning "World Famous Peameal Bacon Sand­wich." The fabulous sandwich has been often imitated but never duplicated by many competitors. Carousel Bakery has been at the same location in the St. Lawrence Market for over 30 years. There are line ups at the counter every weekend as well as weekday lunch hours for this Toronto tradition. Even Celebrity Chefs Emeril Lagasse and Bobby Flay have returned for seconds!"

Picturesque from all angles, the market is huge with many entrances and exits. Merchants sell interesting items outside the market as well. The bottom, right-hand corner shows the mural painted on the North Market wall. On Sundays they host an Antique Market.

As you can tell, we had a great trip and collected lots of goodies to try....

And now.. the meal!
A seven course tasting menu of some of the best that the St. Lawrence Market has to offer, whipped up by yours truly... grilling done by my husband - thanks sweetie!

For the first course, we served grilled baguette slices with taramosalata (Greek style carp caviar spread), triple creme goat brie, Greek olives and cucumber.

Next we had Malpeque oysters, raw, with a touch of Kozlik's horseradish. Shucking them was a learning experience for hubby, but I am happy to report that he was not injured in the process. We all were brave and slurped those babies back - what a flavour sensation! I have never had anything like that before.

For the third course, we had jumbo sea scallops, lightly grilled, on a bed of mango salsa, served in an avocado boat and drizzled with a mango margarita coulis.
The scallops were just sprinkled with a little kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper and olive oil and grilled briefly, both sides, on high heat.
.
Mango Salsa
1 mango, diced
1/2 jalapeno, seeded and chopped fine
1 cup diced English cucumber
1 green onion, sliced thin
1 roasted red pepper, diced
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
Juice of 1/2 lime
Drizzle light olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Toss in a bowl and chill until ready to serve
.
Mango Margarita Coulis
1 large, ripe mango, diced
3 tbsp tequila blanco
Juice of 1/2 lime
Pinch of salt
Puree until very fine in a blender. Put into squeeze bottle and chill until needed.
The fourth course was grilled marinated colossal shrimp, served on a baby caprese salad.
.
Shrimp Marinade
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp hot chili flakes
4 cloves garlic, minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Mix the marinade up in a ziplock bag, marinate shrimp for 1/2 hour only so the acid doesn't start to cook the shrimp.
.
Baby Caprese Salad
1 lb mixed mini tomatoes, halved
1/2 lb bocconcini, halved if large
Large handful of fresh basil leaves, chiffonaded if large
Toss with some lemon dressing just before serving.
.
Lemon Dressing (Reserve some for asparagus)
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper to taste
The fifth course was grilled yellow fin tuna steak, served on a sesame green bean salad.
The tuna was given a black peppercorn, Szechuan peppercorn and sea salt crust and grilled for 2.5 minutes on each side on high heat and then thinly sliced. Some people thought the pepper was overpowering, I liked it though. To each his own.

Sesame Green Bean Salad
3/4 lb. green beans, trimmed and blanched for 2 minutes in boiling salted water and then plunged into ice water to stop the cooking process, then drained
3 tbsp canola oil
1.5 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1/2 tsp each microplaned ginger and garlic
2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds, plus more for garnish
Toss together, season to taste with kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper and keep at room temperature until ready to serve. Garnish with more toasted sesame seeds.
The sixth course was grilled lamb and purple asparagus.
.
Lamb Marinade
1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
2 cloves garlic
1/3 cup olive oil
zest of 1/2 lemon
1 shallot, minced
4 lamb chops
Combine the marinade ingredients in a large ziplock bag, add chops and smush around to make sure they are all coated. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours. Let come to room temperature before grilling and season lamb with salt and pepper.
For dessert we had these beautiful mini cheesecakes and mousses, so decadent and delicious!
We were delighted to share this 7 course tasting menu with good friends, and are happy to report that a good time was had by all. Now, what to do next weekend?

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Thai Chicken Pizza for BBD #21

I have made plenty of pizzas in my life, and average about once every two weeks now. Every one is different, I rarely look at instructions anymore. I love the versatility of pizza dough, how adding herbs, or different flours can change the flavour and texture so dramatically. Once you get into the habit of making your own dough it will seem far quicker and easier than ordering in, not to mention easier on the pocketbook!
For this month's Bread Baking Day - Pizza, I decided to make a Thai Chicken Pizza, and have some fun with the crust. I put in a little brown rice flour and chickpea flour for some interesting crunch. I kept the crust thin and went with a peanutty Thai sauce instead of tomato. This was a delicious pizza to have out on the deck and, as luck would have it, there is enough left over for breakfast.

Two Multi-Grain Thin Round Crusts
1 cup lukewarm water
2 1/4 tsp instant yeast
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup bread flour
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup chickpea flour
1 tsp kosher salt
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp olive oil
Combine all the ingredients in order given in stand mixer with dough hook. Scrape down bowl when necessary. Add more bread flour a little bit at a time if you need to to make the dough clean the sides and bottom to the bowl. Take the dough out and finish kneading on a lightly floured board until soft and no longer sticky. Form into a boule and place in a clean, oiled bowl - turning dough to oil it all over - and let rest until double in size, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Thai Chicken Pizza
Recipe adapted from EatingWell.com
Ingredients
Whole-grain pizza dough (above)
1/3 cup smooth natural peanut butter
3 tablespoons water
2 tbsp reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 tbsp rice vinegar
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 heaping tablespoon chili garlic sauce
1 teaspoon canola oil
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed and diced
1 jarred roasted red bell pepper, diced
1 carrot, thinly julienned
4 scallions, thinly sliced
handful each Thai basil and cilantro, lightly chiffonaded
2/3 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Directions
Place oven rack in the middle rack; preheat to 450°F. Coat a two round pizza sheets with cooking spray.
Roll out or stretch dough on a lightly floured surface into a 2 large circles. Transfer to the baking sheets. Bake until puffed and lightly crisped on the bottom, 8 to 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, whisk peanut butter, water, soy sauce, vinegar, chili garlic sauce, ginger and garlic in a small bowl until well combined.
Heat oil in a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook, stirring, until cooked through, 2 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl. Add bell pepper, scallions, carrot and 2 tablespoons of the peanut sauce to the chicken; toss to combine.
Remove the crust from the oven; spread evenly with the remaining peanut sauce. Sprinkle herbs on top of sauce. Top with the chicken mixture, then sprinkle with cheese. Return the pizza to the oven and bake until the crust is crispy and golden and the cheese is melted, about 10 minutes.
*If your pans don't fit side by side, put the racks on the top third and bottom third slots and rotate frequently.
Deadline: July 1st, 2009

Friday, 26 June 2009

Got Mint?

Got mint?
I do. I planted it when we first moved into the house, before I knew what a bully it was. For a couple of years I tried to pull it out; now I let it grow, don't bother planting anything else near it, and try to remember to use it often in our short summer season. It is rivalling the lemon balm in height now, both of them advancing upon the house. Every once in a while I go out and cut them down to size, trying to pretend that I am the one in charge. Mojito anyone?

These cocktails are cool and sweet and pack a nice punch. Two or three and your troubles will just melt away. Take the afternoon off, the phone off the hook, and share a toast to summer.

Cuban Mojito
Tyler Florence, Real Kitchen

1 lime, cut into wedges
1/2 cup of sugar
Big handful of fresh mint, plus more for garnish
1/2 cup light rum
Soda water
2 pieces fresh sugarcane stalks (optional)

In a martini shaker or wide glass, combine the lime, sugar and mint. Using a muddler or the handle of a wooden spoon, smash and crush everything together to release the oils and juice from the lime rind and mint leaves. When you have some nice juice in there and the sugar begins to dissolve, add the rum and stir it around to combine. Fill 2 glasses with ice, divide the mixture between the glasses, and top off with some soda. Garnish with a couple of mint leaves. For extra pizzazz, stick a piece of sugarcane in the glass to use as a stirrer.

~
Join us for Tyler Florence Fridays!
Choose, cook, share.
Round-up every Friday, check out the
Tyler Florence Fridays site for details.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Gazpacho... because it's hot out.

Summer has finally hit hard here. I swear I was wearing a jacket a week ago, but now we are having extreme heat alerts and being asked to check on our neighbours. So of course this is the day we decided to do some yard work. Well, I weeded a bit and went back in. Hubs installed 9 2x2 patio stones that we had unearthed while building the deck a couple of years ago. By the end of the day I had a little patio section in the lawn for our table and one hot and dehydrated hubby. Gazpacho seemed like the perfect dinner, and Ina's recipe looked like a great jumping off point. I made several changes to the recipe to suit my own taste and cravings, and it came out delicious. Very refreshing indeed. Now, what to do today?

Gazpacho
Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook
Ingredients
1 hothouse cucumber, halved, but not peeled
1 jarred roasted red pepper
The smaller, inside stalks of celery
2 tomatoes
2 shallots
1 jalapeno, seeded
3 garlic cloves, minced
Handful of cilantro - Ina, I know you hate cilantro but I love it.
23 ounces vegetable juice (3 cups)
Splash of white wine vinegar
Juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup good olive oil
1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

Directions
Roughly chop the vegetables. Put each vegetable separately into a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse until it is coarsely chopped. Do not overprocess!
After each vegetable is processed, combine them in a large bowl and add the garlic, tomato juice, vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Mix well and chill before serving. The longer gazpacho sits, the more the flavors develop.


As I have a very large food processor, I was able to do it all in one batch. I put the firmer veggies in first, pulsed a few times, added the tender ones, pulsed again, and then added the liquids and seasonings and pulsed again. It came out beautifully.

More soup for Souper Sunday!

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

A Gift of Nuts

A while back I received an email asking if I would like to try some gourmet farm-fresh pecans. I didn't have to think very long before answering yes, yes, yes!
They arrived about a week ago, and yesterday I looked over at my half pound of pecans and suddenly had a craving for sticky buns. This is unusual for me, I am more likely to crave savoury foods, but once I started thinking about soft doughy goodness, dripping with brown sugar and crowned with glorious pecans I just had to make them.

I found this recipe here, my brown sugar guilt somewhat assuaged by the whole wheat goodness of the bread. They are soft and sinful, with a delightfully crunchy topping. Yum!

We ate some of the pecans on their own, and did notice the freshness of them compared to grocery store fare. I sprinkled some on a garden salad for added nutrition, and plan on tossing the remaining ones into a granola. Quite a bit of mileage for a half pound of nuts.

My gift of nuts came from The Pecan Store, located in Arizona. They even have a Pecan Blog filled with recipes and ideas for using pecans.

When checking out their site, I stole, I mean found, some interesting tidbits about pecans:

Pecan trees are native only to North America.
Pecan trees can live for hundreds of years.
Pecans are cholesterol and sodium free and are a proven source for unsaturated fats that your body needs to stay healthy.

Native Americans used pecan kernels as a seasoning for food.
Pecans can maintain their quality in the freezer for two years - which is good - I keep all my nuts and seeds on the door of my freezer.


And, of course, who can think about pecans without thinking of these guys?



Ok, I know I am just getting nutty now, have yourself a great day!

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Seafood Lasagna Rolls with Creamy Marinara

One thing that I have learned from my two attempts to make mozzarella last week is that I am very good at making ricotta. I will try again, I am sure, but for now I had to find a recipe to use up all this delicious ricotta cheese that I had accidentally made.
I turned to Giada De Laurentiis's Everyday Pasta and found a recipe for shrimp lasagna rolls with creamy marinara sauce and adapted it to use some of the other seafood that I had in the freezer.
For the fresh pasta, I wanted to try making whole wheat noodles so I subbed in half of the flour for whole wheat and added some dried herbs. The meal has a lot of parts but is not difficult, and hubby said it was the best meal he had ever had. High praise indeed!

Basic Marinara Sauce

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 small onions, finely chopped
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 tsp kosher salt, plus more to taste
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper, plus more to taste
2 (28oz) cans crushed tomatoes
2 dried bay leaves

In a large pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and garlic and saute until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the celery, carrots, and 1/2 tsp each of salt and pepper. Saute until all the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and bay leaves, and simmer uncovered over low heat until the sauce thickens, about 1 hour. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Season the sauce with more salt and pepper to taste. (The sauce can be made one day ahead. Cool, then cover and refrigerate. Rewarm over medium heat before using.)


Herbed Fresh Pasta

1.5 cups whole wheat flour
1.5 cups all purpose flour
4 large eggs
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried basil

Place flour in the bowl of a large food processor. In a small bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Add the salt, herbs and olive oil to the eggs and stir to combine. Add the egg mixture to the food processor with the flour and pulse to combine the ingredients, scraping down the sides once or twice. Continue, with the machine running, until the liquid is evenly distributed, about 1 minute. The dough should stick together if pinched between your fingers. Some of the dough will be clumping together, but it will not form a ball.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Gather the dough into a ball and knead gently until the dough is smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes before rolling.


Seafood Lasagna Rolls with Creamy Marinara

1 pound lasagna
3 tbsp olive oil
1 heaping cup each shrimp, calamari, and scallops (approximately)
6 garlic cloves, chopped
2 (15oz) containers whole-milk ricotta cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
3 cups marinara sauce (store-bought or homemade)
1 1/2 cups grated mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 350F.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and partially cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, drain.

(I like to spread mine out on an oiled baking sheet, drizzle with a little more olive oil and cover with a moist tea towel while the noodles are waiting for the next step - it keeps the cooked noodles from sticking to each other.)

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Season the seafood with salt and pepper. Add the shrimp and the garlic to the pan and saute until the seafood is cooked, about 4 minutes, stirring often. Remove from the heat and let cool. Coarsely chop the cooled seafood and place in a large bowl with 2 cups of the ricotta cheese, the Parmesan cheese, eggs, basil, parsley, 3/4 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, and the nutmeg. Stir to combine.

In another bowl, combine the marinara sauce with the remaining 1 cup of ricotta cheese and stir to combine.

To make the lasagna, cover the bottom of a 9x13x2 inch baking dish with 1 cup of the marinara mixture. Lay four noodles down on a dry work surface. Spread about 1/4 cup of the seafood mixture evenly over each noodle. Roll up and place seam side down in the baking dish. Repeat twice more to make 12 lasagna rolls. Drizzle the rolls with the remaining marinara sauce and top with grated mozzarella. Bake until the lasagna rolls are heated through and the cheese is beginning to brown, about 25 minutes. (I broiled a little at the end.)

All of today's recipes are adapted from Giada De Laurentiis, Everyday Pasta.

Friday, 19 June 2009

Back Soon

Due to a family emergency, I will be away for a few days.
Take care,
Natashya

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Indian Dinner, Bittman Style

The Gift of a Recipe
I love it when I find a recipe in my inbox that has been chosen for me. Careful consideration given to my likes and cooking style and general personality. One such recipe appeared last week from my bread baking guru and fellow Babe, Tanna of My Kitchen in Half Cups.
This Curried Cauliflower Flatbread recipe comes from The New York Times and lends itself well to variation. I used a slightly smaller pan, 8 inches, to get a thicker result. My cast iron pan is well seasoned enough to be non-stick and gave a wonderfully crunchy crust to the fritter-like flatbread that I had created.
I baked the bread a couple of hours before dinner, and it heated up again nicely when it was time to eat.
Wanting to keep with the theme set out by the bread, I made Mark Bittman's Tandoori Chicken. (Tandoori in that it is the style of the BBQ marinade and sauce, we aren't going for authenticity here, I don't own a tandoor.... yet...)
A wonderful combo indeed, lovely on the deck with some seasoned rice and cucumber raita. Enjoy!

Curried Cauliflower Flatbread
Mark Bittman, New York Times

1 medium cauliflower (1 1/2 pounds), trimmed and finely chopped
(I added a half an onion, finely chopped, to the cauliflower)
4 tablespoons peanut oil, or grapeseed, corn or olive oil
Salt and ground black pepper
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups light coconut milk
1 tablespoon curry powder, or more to taste.

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Put cauliflower (and onion) in a roasting pan, drizzle with a tablespoon of oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss. Spread into a single layer and roast until tender and nicely browned, tossing with a spatula halfway through, for a total of 15 to 20 minutes.

2. While cauliflower roasts, put flour into a bowl. Add one teaspoon of salt and coconut milk, whisking to eliminate lumps. Batter should be about the consistency of pancake batter. Set aside.

3. When cauliflower is finished roasting, sprinkle it with curry powder and toss; fold cauliflower into batter.

4. Pour remaining oil into a 10-inch nonstick ovenproof skillet and put in oven. Wait a couple of minutes for oil to get hot, then carefully remove pan, pour in batter, spread it into an even layer and return skillet to oven. Bake for about an hour, or until flatbread is well browned, firm and crisp around edges. (It will release easily from pan when it is done.) Let it rest for a couple of minutes before turning it out and cutting it into wedges.
Yield: 4 to 8 appetizer servings.

Tandoori-Style Chicken
Mark Bittman, The Best Recipes in the World
.
1 chicken, 3 to 4 pounds, cut into serving pieces, of 2 1/2 to 3 pounds chicken parts, trimmed of excess fat
.
Marinade
1 cup plain yogurt
1 tbsp garam masala or curry powder
1 tbsp paprika
1 tsp peeled and minced fresh ginger
1 tsp fresh garlic
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne, or to taste
Salt to taste
.
1. Combine all the marinade ingredients in a large bowl or roasting pan (I use a freezer bag) and marinate the chicken in this mixture in the refrigerator for at least a couple of hours or as long as overnight.
.
2. When you're ready to cook, start your grill. The heat should be only moderate. Grill the chicken, turning as it browns, until done, 20-30 minutes. Serve hot.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Cook the Books Book Club - The Little White Horse

This month's Cook the Books Book Club selection was The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge. It is a delightful fantasy, a book both for children and adults much like the Narnia series and, my personal favourite, Alice in Wonderland.

I had never heard of it before it's Cook the Books announcement, but it was written over fifty years ago and has had a resurgence in popularity since J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, declared it a childhood favourite and inspiration.

"The beautiful valley of Moonacre is shadowed by the memory of the Moon Princess and the mysterious little white horse. When Maria Merryweather comes there on a visit she finds herself involved with an ancient feud. She is determined to restore peace and happiness to the whole of Moonacre Valley. And Maria usually gets her own way."

I chose to make a dish based on one of the characters, Loveday Minette, who, apart from having a fabulous name, had a passion for the colour pink - especially for pink geraniums.

'There's something about pink that makes even a cave look homelike,' said Loveday, 'I love pink'.


Loveday Minette's Lovely Pink Yogurt
a frozen treat adapted from David Lebovitz - The Perfect Scoop

1 pound (450g) fresh strawberries, rinsed and hulled
2/3 cup (130g) sugar
3 tbsp strawberry liqueur
1 heaping cup Balkan style plain yogurt

Slice the strawberries into small pieces. Toss in a bowl with the sugar and liqueur, stirring until the sugar begins to dissolve. Cover and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour, stirring every so often.
Puree the strawberries and their liquid with the yogurt in a food processor until smooth. If you wish, press the mixture through a mesh strainer to remove any seeds.
Refrigerate for 1 hour, then freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.

I served this with a strawberry coulis, this is an easy sauce - no measuring required. Toss a handful of hulled strawberries, a dollop of berry preserves and a glug of strawberry liqueur into a small food processor. Blend and sweeten to taste with superfine sugar. Blend again and strain the seeds out. Voila, infinitely easy and adaptable. The preserves give it body, something I learned from The Barefoot Contessa.

To include pink geraniums in my pink post, I wandered around my neighbourhood with my little point and shoot camera looking for a home with healthy looking pink geraniums with friendly looking home-owners. I found such a home about a block away, the home owner so thrilled that I wanted to take pictures of her geraniums that she invited me into the backyard to photograph her peonies.
In regards to the odd things that my neighbours catch me doing, this one is fairly light.
New participants are always welcome in Cook the Books. We read one book every two months and then create a dish inspired by the book. Sound like fun? Click here for details.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Bread Baking Babes - Asparagus Bread

It's the most wonderful day...
This month the Bread Baking Babes have been playing with seasonal produce with their loaves, Lien of Notitie van Lien (Lien's Notes) has introduced us to the joy of asparagus bread. Two nifty little loaves bursting with greens, nuts and cheese, sounds wonderful doesn't it?
This recipe comes together fairly easily, the incorporation of the additions can be a little tricky; some of us just kneaded them in using a little more flour to help us along, and some flattened the dough and added them cinnamon/raisin bread style, rolling them up in the dough and forming a loaf.
Which ever technique you try, this is a rustic, healthy and delicious bread that I found to be most tasty sliced thick and lightly toasted with a perfectly poached egg.

You can bake with us and become our Bread Baking Buddy. Bake the asparagus bread, post about it and mail Lien the details (notitievanlien(at)gmail(dot)com). Deadline is June 26th. Lien will have a round-up around the 28th.

Asparagus Bread
(with Parmesan Cheese and Walnuts)
2 small loaves

This bread goes very well with a cold meat and salad buffet (says the book).
125 g green asparagus (if you can't find them, use p.e. spring onions, ramps, ...)
25-30 g rocket (arugula)
50 g walnuts
50 g freshly grated Parmesan cheese
450 g strong bread flour (you can also use half whole wheat and half white or white whole wheat if you can get that)
12 g fresh yeast or 1 1/4 tsp dry instant yeast
250-270 g water
25 g olive oil
10 g (sea) salt

Boil 3/4 liter of water with a pinch of (sea) salt. Clean the asparagus, set two of them aside, cut the rest into 4 pieces. Boil these pieces for 2 minutes in the water, scoop them out (so you can use the water for the rocket as well) and rinse under cold water (to stop them cooking). If you use p.e. spring onion, I personally would grill them or just sautée them in a little oil until they start to brown lightly, but other ideas on this are very welcome too!

Put the rocket in the boiling water for a few seconds (until wilted), drain and rinse under cold water and drain again. Press the water out of the rocket, chop it coarsely and cut the asparagus into 1/4 inch (± 1 cm) long pieces, set aside.

Crush the walnuts coarsely and grate the Parmesan.

Measure the flour and yeast in a large bowl, mix in most of the water and knead for a few minutes (on low speed), add the olive oil and knead for 10-12 minutes. Add the salt and knead on medium speed for 5 minutes until very elastic.

Let the dough rest for 10 minutes. Work the asparagus pieces, rocket, walnuts and Parmesan in with care so that they're evenly distributed.

Place the dough in a greased container, cover and let rise for about 2 hrs.

Divide the dough into 2 equal parts. Make round balls, cover with a tea towel and let rest for 10 minutes.

Flatten the balls and fold into taut breads with slightly tapering ends. Lay one asparagus in lengthwise in the middle of the bread and press in slightly. Sprinkle with wheat flour and cover to rise for 70 minutes or until doubled. Before baking you can sprinkle a little grated cheese on the bread if you like (optional).

Preheat the oven (preferably with stone) to 250ºC.

Place the loaves directly on the stone. Spray with water (or pour some hot water in a metal container on the bottom of the oven that you preheated to create steam) Lower the temperature after 5 minutes to 200ºC. Open the door after another 10 minutes to let some air in. Repeat twice during baking.

Bake for 40-45 minutes and cool on a wire rack.

This bread has been YeastSpotted!



The Bread Baking Babes

click on each to see thier Asparagus Bread results

Bake My Day - Karen
Canela and Comino - Gretchen
Cookie Baker Lynn - Lynn
Grain Doe - Gorel
I Like To Cook - Sara
Living in the Kitchen with Puppies - Natashya
Living on bread and water - Monique
Lucullian Delights - Ilva
My Kitchen In Half Cups - Tanna
Notitie Van Lien - Lien HOST BABE FOR JUNE
The Sour Dough - Breadchick Mary
Thyme For Cooking - Katie