Friday, 31 July 2009

Supremes de Volaille a Brun, or, I Love Butter.

With Julia Child's birthday coming up, and now a movie with Meryl Streep, of all people, playing the grande dame, all my friends have been cooking up delicious dishes from Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
When Helene of La Cuisine de Helene invited me to cook along I immediately zeroed in on this chicken sauteed in butter. Mmmm, butter and chicken and more butter. What could be better than that?
I served my buttery goodness on a bed of whole wheat egg noodles, in a pretense of healthiness, and added in some steamed baby carrots tossed in - you guessed it - more butter. I was on a roll.
For more delicious dishes from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, check out my friend Shari at Whisk: a food blog. She has created a wonderful web companion to the book.

Supremes de Volaille a Brun
Chicken Breasts Sauteed in Butter
Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol 1
Julia Child

4 chicken supremes (boneless, skinless breasts)
1/4 tsp salt
Big pinch of pepper
1 cup flour spread on an 8 inch plate

An 8 to 9-inch skillet
6-8 Tbsp clarified butter*
(plus 1 cup for the sauce)
A hot platter

Just before sauteing, sprinkle the supremes with salt and pepper, roll them in the flour, and shake off excess flour.

Pour clarified butter into skillet to a depth of about 1/16 inch. Set over moderately high heat. When the butter begins to deepen in colour very lightly, put in the supremes. Regulate heat so butter is always hot but does not turn more than a deep yellow. After 3 minutes, turn the supremes and saute on the other side. In two minutes, press tops of supremes with your finger. As soon as they are springy to the touch, they are done. Remove to a hot platter, leaving the butter in the skillet.

Beurre Noisette
Brown Butter Sauce

4 Tbsp clarified butter*
3 Tbsp minced parsley
1 Tbsp lemon juice

Add additional clarified butter to skillet and set over moderately high heat until the butter has turned a very light golden brown (a minute or two). Immediately remove from heat, stir in parsley and lemon juice, and taste for seasoning. Pour over the supremes and serve.

*To clarify butter, cut it into pieces and place it in a saucepan over moderate heat. When the butter has melted, skim off the foam, and strain the clear yellow liquid into a bowl, leaving the milky residue in the bottom of the pan. The residue may be stirred into soups and sauces or served as an enrichment.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Tyler Times Two

A double Tyler post today. Well, it's not like you can ever have too much Tyler is there?
For Tyler Florence Fridays this week I made his Juicy Pork Chops with Black Olive Tapenade. I have been intrigued by his brining techniques that so many of my fellow TFF friends have raved about. It really does make the meat so moist, well worth adding to the regular repertoire.
I went one further and used boneless chops which I stuffed (after the brining) with feta, chopped sundried tomatoes in oil and chives. Totally delicious!
Tyler pairs his chops with roasted veggies, but I had some nice greens and yellow beans in my garden that were ready for eating. I quickly blanched the beans and served them on top of the greens with some tomato wedges (my own tomatoes won't be ready for a few more weeks).
For the salad dressing I made a Caesar-type, in the used blender jar from the tapenade. That way it picked up some of the flavours of the kalamata olives. Yum!

Juicy Pork Chops with Black Olive Tapenade
Tyler's Ultimate, Tyler Florence
Serves 4

Pork Chops
2 quarts of water
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup kosher salt
4 fresh thyme sprigs
4 bone-in pork chops (1 1/2 inches thick)

Black Olive Tapenade
1 cup pitted kalamata olives
2 anchovy fillets
1 garlic clove
pinch of chili flakes
small handful of flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon red or white vinegar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Basil leaves or watercress sprigs, for garnish

For the pork, combine the water, sugar, salt and thyme sprigs in a ziplock bag. Add the pork chops, seal the bag and put it in the fridge for about 30 minutes, while you make the tapenade.

Put the olives, anchovies, garlic, chili flakes, parsley, vinegar and olive oil in a food processor or blender and process to a coarse puree. Taste and add salt and pepper if necessary and set aside.

Preheat your grill to medium-hot. Take a few paper towels and fold them over several times to make a thick square. Blot a small amount of oil on the paper towel, then carefully and quickly wipe the hot grates of the grill plate to make a non-stick surface.

Take the pork out of the brine and pat it dry. Rub the pork all over with the olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook over medium-high heat for 5-7 minutes on each side, until the chops are well-browned and still rosy in the center and register 140 when tested with a meat thermometer. To serve spoon some vegetables onto the plates and put the pork chops on top. Drizzle with the tapenade and garnish with basil or watercress.

For our optional bonus recipe this month, Megan chose Quinoa Pilaf. We served it with some cute little lamb chops that we grilled with rosemary, olive oil, kosher salt and coarse ground black pepper.
This was a very interesting combination of flavours that we quite enjoyed. I didn't have any preserved lemons so used lemon zest, and my lamb wasn't quite ready when the pilaf was, so the quinoa cooked with the additions for a little bit. I think it turned out very tasty and I was happy to have tried such a unique flavour combination.
As you can see I stuffed it into a ramekin and turned it out. I have a thing for stuffing food into ramekins.

Quinoa Pilaf
Tyler Florence, Food Network

2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup quinoa, rinsed well
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon salt and pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon preserved lemon rind, finely diced
1 tomato, finely chopped
1 (15-ounce) can artichoke hearts in water, drained and quartered
1/2 red onion, diced
1/2 cup black olives, pitted
1/4 cup currants
Fresh mint leaves, for garnish

In a small saucepan, combine broth, quinoa, bay leaf, turmeric, salt, pepper and olive oil. Stir in preserved lemon and cover. Simmer until water is absorbed, about 15 to 20 minutes. Turn off heat. Add tomato, artichokes, onion, olives and currants, mix well to combine. Top with mint and serve.

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

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Product Review - Nestea Vitao

Recently I was given the opportunity to review Nestea Vitao Iced Tea. I actually don't drink pop or iced tea but my university-aged daughter does enjoy anything with a tea label on it and I was interested in the marketing behind this relatively new product.
I received the cans of Green, Red and White tea varieties, only slightly dented by the overly enthusiastic FedEx people. Oh well, only one burst on the voyage, little harm done.
The first thing I noticed about the iced tea is that is is marketed as a health product, not a pop (which is what I think of iced teas in general). I can only speak for the Canadian product, it may be different in different parts of the world.

"In Canada, Natural Health Products (NHP), are defined as vitamins and minerals, herbal remedies, homeopathic medicines, traditional medicines such as traditional Chinese medicines, probiotics, and other products like amino acids and essential fatty acids. Since NESTEA Vitao™ is enhanced with vitamins (C, E) and minerals (calcium), it is classified as a Natural Health Product rather than a traditional beverage.
You will find the packaging is quite different than other bottled or canned beverages. Rather than a traditional Nutrition Facts table that appears on traditional food or beverage labels, NHP packages/labels are required to display a recommended use or purpose for the product, the recommended dose, the quantity of active ingredients and a list of all non-medicinal ingredients.
NHP guidelines require us to put dosage recommendations on the label. Guidance regarding the dosage ranges for active ingredients is provided in the NHP monographs and this guidance was used in determining the recommended dose. We recommend that NESTEA Vitao™ be consumed as part of a balanced diet. NESTEA Vitao™ has been formulated for ages 12 and up."

This business of nutraceuticals is a new one and smacks of trickery to me. I had to go online to find out sugar content - something that is very important to our family. They claim to be adding sugar count to packaging starting in 2008, but it was not on the cans I received.

I also find that the iced tea is for sale in the regular pop/sugared drink aisle and not in the pharmacy. Just sayin.

Ok, my marketing opinions aside - how did my daughter and her friends like it? They loved the flavours, found them to be more mild than regular iced tea and liked the fact that they had added nutrients. They preferred the Nestea Vitao to regular Nestea and other Coca Cola products. I asked them if they went to a movie and all drinks were a dollar, what would they buy - they all said the Vitao. When I asked if they thought it was more like a natural fruit juice, non-carbonated pop or health product - they said non-carbonated pop.

I agree. This is a product that is a little more virtuous than regular canned pop and iced tea. It has slightly less sugar and the added benefits of added anti-oxidents, vitamins and minerals. If you were already drinking pop or iced tea, this would be a beneficial drink to check out.
If you are like me and tend to just drink water and regular brewed herbal teas, you are better off to stick with what you are drinking now.

They also have an interesting campaign about doing good and seem to be supporting it well. We can't really complain about that kind of advertising trend, as long as people still investigate and evaluate what they buy.

Red Tea Panna Cotta
This creamy dessert is satisfying without being at all heavy.
(I subbed blueberries for the raspberries, as they are on sale this week!)

1/4 cup berry-flavoured red iced tea (for gelatin mixture)
3 1/2 tsp gelatin powder
3 1/4 cups 18% cream
3/4 cup icing sugar
1/3 cup berry-flavoured red iced tea (for cream mixture)

Marinated Raspberries:
1/4 cup berry-flavoured red iced tea
1/2 pint of fresh raspberries
2 tsp sugar

Place 1/4 cup of red tea in a small bowl, and sprinkle with gelatin powder. Set aside for 5 min.

Heat the cream, icing sugar and remaining red tea in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat until warm. Stir 1/4 cup of warm mixture into the softened gelatin, then add back into the saucepan. Gently warm the mixture for 4 min stirring occasionally.

Lightly oil eight 1/2 cup moulds. Pour mixture into moulds and refrigerate for 6 hours or overnight.

Wash and dry the raspberries and place in a small bowl.

Dissolve the sugar in the tea and add to raspberries.

Top panna cottas with raspberries when ready to serve.

serves 8

We really enjoyed this recipe, supplied by Nestea. The panna cottas were light as clouds. If you didn't have the red tea to use, pure pomegranate or cranberry juice would also be nice.

Still wondering about the sugar content?

1 can of Coke has 39g,
1 can of Reg. Nestea has 33g.
1 can of Nestea Vitao has 24-26g, depending on the flavour. (and has 90 calories)
1 can = 12 oz (341 ml), but watch that you aren't just reading the amounts given for a serving, as 1 serving quite often = 8 oz (250 ml) in nutrient data tables.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Raisin, Rosemary, and Cinnamon Focaccia

This focaccia is one that I have been wanting to make ever since my friend Wendy of Pink Stripes made it back in January. The recipe is from the book The Art & Soul of Baking by Cindy Mushet, a great baking reference book, and has been skillfully adapted by Wendy.
This sweet focaccia was the perfect bread to bake for Bread Baking Day #22 - Sweet Breads hosted by Hefe und mehr.
I made mine slightly healthier by using half whole wheat flour and reducing the amount of turbinado sugar that I added at the end. The raisins offer the bulk of the sweetness of this bread, and the rosemary, far from being the oddball in this flavour combo, adds that lovely je ne sais quoi that keeps you munching. It's perfect with a morning coffee and some fresh fruit.

Raisin, Rosemary, & Cinnamon Focaccia
Adapted from The Art & Soul of Baking by Wendy of Pink Stripes

2 1/4 cups (18 ounces) warm whole milk (110 F to 115 F)
1 teaspoon sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
5 cups (25 ounces) bread flour (I used half whole wheat and half all purpose)
3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) olive oil, plus more for brushing
2 cups (10 ounces) plump, sweet raisins
1/4 cup very finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
2 to 3 tablespoons turbinado sugar (I used about 1 tsp, and added mine after the bread was baked)

In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine warmed milk, sugar, and yeast. Whisk in 1/4 cup of the flour and let sit for 10 minutes or so until yeast is activated and foamy. Whisk in another 2 cups of flour and use paddle attachment and mix on low speed for 4 minutes.
Add raisins, olive oil, rosemary, cinnamon, and salt, switch to dough hook and knead until well blended. Add remaining flour and knead for 2 minutes. Scrape down sides and turn dough over in bowl to make sure everything is well mixed. Knead for another 2 minutes.
Lightly oil a tub or bowl and place dough, lightly coating it in oil, into it. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until it doubles in size.
Prepare a 12″ by 17″ jelly roll pan by lightly brushing it with olive oil. (I used my Silpat) Scrape risen dough onto prepared pan and lightly punch down to release some of the air. Gently begin stretching and pressing dough to fit the length and width of the pan. If at anytime it seems like the dough is resisting, brush it with olive oil and let it rest for 10 minutes.
Brush the dough with olive oil and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until it is almost double in size approximately 45 to 60 minutes. Meanwhile place a baking stone in the oven and preheat it to 375 F.
Remove plastic wrap and dimple dough by gently pressing your finger tips into the dough.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until bread is a deep golden brown and registers 200 F on an instant-read thermometer. Transfer to a cooling rack and immediately brush with olive oil. Sprinkle dough with turbinado sugar. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.
This bread has been Yeastspotted!

Monday, 27 July 2009

Daring Mallows

Oh, hi! You caught me with my mouth full.
I wasn't sure if I was going to make this month's Daring Bakers challenge as we have been cutting back on sugar in our house. However the challenge was for cookies, one of which was Mallows. I decided to make these as I know my son would like them. As luck would have it, he left for part of the summer before I finished making them. I have been eating them ever since. By myself. Good thing they keep well in the fridge!

I made them according to the recipe, adding a little dollop of jam on top of the cookie base and just using marshmallows that I had on hand. I found my little Chocolate Heaven fondue pot to be quite helpful for keeping the chocolate at the right temperature for dipping and that they set up nicely once I put them into the fridge. I only used half the dough and still got more than the recipe states it makes.. thus I am still eating them!

They were fun and tasty, good for children.

The July Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network.
(Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies)
Recipe courtesy Gale Gand, from Food Network website
Prep Time: 10 min
Inactive Prep Time: 5 min
Cook Time: 10 min
Serves: about 2 dozen cookies

• 3 cups (375grams/13.23oz) all purpose flour
• 1/2 cup (112.5grams/3.97oz) white sugar
• 1/2 teaspoon salt• 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
• 3/8 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 12 tablespoons (170grams/ 6 oz) unsalted butter
• 3 eggs, whisked together
• Homemade marshmallows, recipe follows
• Chocolate glaze, recipe follows
1. In a mixer with the paddle attachment, blend the dry ingredients.
2. On low speed, add the butter and mix until sandy.
3. Add the eggs and mix until combine.
4. Form the dough into a disk, wrap with clingfilm or parchment and refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to 3 days.
5. When ready to bake, grease a cookie sheet or line it with parchment paper or a silicon mat.
6. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
7. Roll out the dough to 1/8-inch thickness, on a lightly floured surface. Use a 1 to 1 1/2 inches cookie cutter to cut out small rounds of dough.
8. Transfer to the prepared pan and bake for 10 minutes or until light golden brown. Let cool to room temperature.
9. Pipe a “kiss” of marshmallow onto each cookie. Let set at room temperature for 2 hours.
10. Line a cookie sheet with parchment or silicon mat.
11. One at a time, gently drop the marshmallow-topped cookies into the hot chocolate glaze.
12. Lift out with a fork and let excess chocolate drip back into the bowl.
13. Place on the prepared pan and let set at room temperature until the coating is firm, about 1 to 2 hours.

Note: if you don’t want to make your own marshmallows, you can cut a large marshmallow in half and place on the cookie base. Heat in a preheated 350-degree oven to slump the marshmallow slightly, it will expand and brown a little. Let cool, then proceed with the chocolate dipping.
Homemade Marshmallows:
• 1/4 cup water
• 1/4 cup light corn syrup
• 3/4 cup (168.76 grams/5.95oz) sugar
• 1 tablespoon powdered gelatin
• 2 tablespoons cold water
• 2 egg whites , room temperature
• 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. In a saucepan, combine the water, corn syrup, and sugar, bring to a boil until “soft-ball” stage, or 235 degrees on a candy thermometer.
2. Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water and let dissolve.
3. Remove the syrup from the heat, add the gelatin, and mix.
4. Whip the whites until soft peaks form and pour the syrup into the whites.
5. Add the vanilla and continue whipping until stiff.
6. Transfer to a pastry bag.

Chocolate glaze:
• 12 ounces semisweet chocolate
• 2 ounces cocoa butter or vegetable oil
1. Melt the 2 ingredients together in the top of a double boiler or a bowl set over barely simmering water.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Book Review: Au Revoir To All That

Au Revoir To All That
Food, Wine, and the End of France
Michael Steinberger

Michael Steinberger is a long time magazine columnist. He writes about wine for Slate magazine, as well as writing about culture, politics, economy and sports for a slew of other top rated magazines.
In this book he turns his attention to the country that has historically been seen as the leading lady of classic cuisine. One cannot think of France without the romantic thoughts of perfectly crafted cheeses, breads, wines, and rich yet delicate foods.
Steinberger shows the decline of the French ideal; in the restaurants, vineyards, and farms. A mix of politics, globalization, stagnation, and inability to adapt are all key factors in the point that he is trying to make: as difficult as it was to have a bad meal in France in the past, it is now equally difficult to find a good one.
Steinberger is not shaming France, he truly loves the country and wanted to know it better, wanted to understand what factors have led to this beautiful country's slump in the culinary world stage.
I found the information that he presented very interesting, I enjoyed especially learning about the relationship between France and McDonald's, and the politics that govern the cheese and wine industries.
Steinberger does write like a magazine columnist though. I found the chapters to somewhat stand alone, some more interesting than others. In fact, some of his attacks on specific chefs seemed downright personal to me.
I did finish the book feeling that his investigation was a personal one, and that there was much more to learn, but I was also grateful to have learned what I had from the book and eager to read more about custom, culture and cuisine in France.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Tyler's Thai Coconut Chicken Soup with Sesame Breadsticks

Yesterday it poured all day. Personally I like the rain, especially in the milder months. It makes me feel nicely cocooned in my little kitchen, a world in itself. For my commuters, however, the rain can be a chilling inconvenience and there is nothing nicer to come home to than a spicy bowl of nourishing soup. Plus breadsticks of course, soup is nothing if not a vehicle for bread, as far as we are concerned.
For the breadsticks, just use about a half a loaf's worth of your favourite bread dough and slice into strips, rolling and twisting in sesame seeds. (I seasoned mine with a little 5 spice powder, I don't mind mixing and matching my Asian flavours) Set your breadsticks on a baking pan and bake at 450 for 8-10 minutes or until baked to your liking. You can either refrigerate the rest of your dough or make a couple of buns out of it for lunches. I used whole wheat dough. Pizza dough would also work fine.
The soup I made according to the recipe, except that I minced the ginger and Thai chilies right into the soup and I subbed bamboo shoots for the straw mushrooms. Ooh, and doubled the garlic of course! It was so fragrant and soothing, a perfect soup for Deb's Souper Sunday party.

Thai Coconut Chicken Soup
Tyler Florence, Eat This Book

1 quart chicken stock, homemade or store-bought
1 stalk lemon grass, white part only, cracked open with the flat side of a knife
3 kaffir lime leaves, fresh or dried, hand torn
1 (3-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
2 small Thai chilies, halved lengthwise
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 (13-ounce) can unsweetened coconut milk
2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce (nam pla)
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 (8-ounce) can straw mushrooms, rinsed
4 limes, juiced (My limes were big and I didn't need all 4, go by taste)
1 1/2 cups shredded cooked chicken
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves

Bring the stock to the boil over medium heat in a soup pot. Add the lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves, ginger, chilies, and garlic. Lower the heat to medium-low, cover, and gently simmer for 10 minutes to let the spices infuse the broth.
Uncover and stir in the coconut milk, fish sauce, sugar, mushrooms, lime juice, and chicken. Simmer for 5 minutes to heat the chicken through; season with salt and pepper. Ladle the soup into a soup tureen or individual serving bowls. Garnish with cilantro. Be careful to remove the lemongrass and lime leaves.
Yield: 4 servings

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

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Ina's Wheatberry Salad

I came across this recipe while I was looking for interesting lunch box fare for my daughter. I love cooked wheatberries, they add such a nutty chewiness to a dish.
My wheatberries took more water and more time than the recipe stated, so just keep an eye on them. I added zucchini to the sauteed onion, cut down on the scallions, and used two jarred roasted red peppers in place of the half a fresh one.
The results were really tasty and perfect for Mel to take downtown. A grown-up lunch for a grown-up job.

Wheatberry Salad
Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa Family Style

1 cup hard winter wheatberries
Kosher salt
1 cup finely diced red onion (1 onion)
6 tablespoons good olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 scallions, minced, white and green parts
1/2 red bell pepper, small diced
1 carrot, small diced
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Place the wheatberries and 3 cups of boiling salted water in a saucepan and cook, uncovered, over low heat for approximately 45 minutes, or until they are soft. Drain.
Saute the red onion in 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-low heat until translucent, approximately 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the remaining 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) of olive oil and the balsamic vinegar.
In a large bowl, combine the warm wheatberries, sauteed onions, scallions, red bell pepper, carrot, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and the pepper. Allow the salad to sit for at least 30 minutes for the wheatberries to absorb the sauce. Season, to taste, and serve at room temperature.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

BBA Cinnamon Raisin Bread

This week in the Bread Baker's Apprentice bread baking challenge I made Cinnamon Raisin Walnut Bread.
A cup of walnuts is expensive.. I cheaped out. It was very good sans walnuts, especially toasted. I used half whole wheat flour and half all purpose. The blend made for a nice, light loaf with the added nutrition of whole wheat flour. It's all about balance, baby!
The recipe made two loaves.
Click here for the recipe on Google Books.

This bread has been Yeastspotted!

Monday, 20 July 2009

Mussels with Coconut Curry Sauce

Mussels are another inexpensive, fast cooking dish that give lots of wow for your buck. They are quite possibly the easiest thing to make and just require a wonderful broth for steaming in. They cook fast though, have everything ready before you begin (mise en place).
This particular broth was so intriguing that I just had to try it. It combines classic French flavours with curry and coconut milk. In the end we had a delicious and fascinating broth to sop up with our baguette. The recipe got mixed reviews on epicurious, but we loved it. Every element would have to be there for it to work, the balance was perfect.
I used a little more butter and shallots in mine, otherwise I followed the recipe to a "T".
Don't forget some great bread to go with it, and a bottle of bubbly!

Mussels with Coconut Curry Sauce
Bon Appetit, September 2000
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
1/4 cup chopped shallots
2 tablespoons Madras curry powder
1 14-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 small bay leaves
2 pounds black mussels, scrubbed, debearded
Chopped fresh parsley

Melt butter in heavy large pot over medium heat.
Add shallots and curry powder; stir until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Add coconut milk, wine, lemon juice and bay leaves; simmer 10 minutes.
Add mussels.
Increase heat, cover and boil until mussels open, about 6 minutes.
Using tongs, place mussels in 4 bowls (discard any mussels that do not open).
Boil sauce until slightly thickened, stirring occasionally, about 2 minutes.
Season with salt and pepper; discard bay leaves.
Spoon sauce over mussels.
Sprinkle with parsley.

And, if you are like me and getting just a little bit old, you might think of these guys and find yourself singing along as you cook.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Melanzane Baby Pizzas on a Whole Wheat Crust

Pizza as health food? Sure, why not. With a whole wheat crust and vegetarian toppings, this one comes fairly close to being virtuous. And the cheese? Well, that's dairy right? It has some redeeming values.
I promise you, if you get into the habit of making your own pizzas it will soon seem so easy you hardly have to think about it. You mix up your dough and all of a sudden you have all this time to do other things while it takes care of itself. Yeast is very helpful that way.
Homemade pizzas are also a great way to clean out the fridge. Leftover ham, chicken, stir fry.. most things can be turned into pizza toppings with a little imagination. My almost empty fridge had an eggplant just waiting patiently to star in a dish. This was it's night to shine!

This can be done in advance
Slice one eggplant into 1cm rounds
Slice one sweet onion and one green pepper
Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper
Grill or roast until nicely cooked through and starting to caramelize around the edges

Whole wheat pizza dough is great with some extra seasoning to avoid any bitterness from the flour.
2.5 cups whole wheat flour
2 tsp instant yeast
1 cup tepid water
2 tbsp olive oil
1.5 tsp garlic salt
1 tbsp honey
2 tsp Italian seasoning
All purpose flour for finishing
Cornmeal for dusting

Combine all the ingredients, except for the all purpose flour and cornmeal, in stand mixer with dough hook. Let mix for about 5 minutes, adding a little all purpose flour if dough is too wet. The dough should clean the sides of the bowl.
Preheat oven to 450f.
Fit two baking sheets with parchment paper and dust with cornmeal.
Take the finished dough out, form into a ball on lightly floured board and let rest in an oiled bowl, rolling to coat, for 45 minutes to an hour - until dough has doubled in bulk.
Punch down and, on a lightly floured board, divide dough into 4 pieces and roll each out into a round, flat crust. Mine are about 6x8 inches, oblong so as to fit two on a pan.
Place the crusts on the prepared baking sheets, sauce liberally with marinara sauce, sprinkle with grated mozzarella cheese, divide vegetables to top all the pizzas and finish with finely grated Parmesan cheese.
I made mine thin, flat crusts with toppings all the way to the edges.
Bake for 10 minutes and check on the pizzas, if the bottom needs more crisping move the trays to a lower rack. Bake for 5 minutes more or until done to taste. Wait a couple of minutes for the cheese to set before slicing.

Wondering what those orange rounds are? My homemade marinara has carrots in it.

I have taken an informal poll, and my compatriots agree that a pizza is definitely a form of open faced sandwich! So this sammie is for Souper Sundays.

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Grilled Shrimp and Chorizo on Skewers

When it comes to a quick dinner, a bag of frozen shrimp can be your best friend. I make sure to always have at least two different sizes in the freezer, medium and jumbo. If possible, buy the easy-peel variety that has been deveined but still has the shell on. That way you can easily peel them if you wish, but the flavour has been protected by the shells. Don't throw out the shells when you peel them, they make for an excellent seafood stock. Keep them in a bag in the freezer until you have enough to make a stock.

This recipe from Martha Stewart pairs the shrimp with one of my other quick cooking favourites, Spanish chorizo.
Instead of serving the skewers with avocado wedges, I cubed two avocados and a mango, and tossed them with sliced green onion, thinly sliced seeded jalapeno, lime juice, olive oil and salt and pepper. I served the salsa over a bed of greens from my garden and topped with the skewers for a nice presentation. The rice is basmati, made in my rice cooker with vegetable stock, a splash of olive oil, salt, pepper and some frozen baby lima beans for added nutrition. I just oil a ramekin and pack it with rice and flip it out onto the plate. Seen here it is garnished with some Thai basil from my garden. Tasty and pretty.
This was a healthy and delicious meal, put together in under an hour. (A real hour, not like the tv chef ones that assume that you have everything prepped already!)

Grilled Shrimp and Chorizo on Skewers
Martha Stewart Living, July 2009

Serves 4
24 jumbo shrimp (about 2 pounds), peeled and deveined, tails intact
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, plus 1 lime, cut into wedges
8 ounces dried chorizo, cut on the bias into sixteen 1-inch pieces
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
2 firm, ripe Hass avocados, halved, pitted, peeled, and cut into wedges

Toss shrimp, garlic, oil, and lime juice in a large baking dish. Cover, and refrigerate, turning occasionally, for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, soak 8 wooden skewers in water.
Preheat grill to medium-high. Thread 3 shrimp and 2 slices chorizo onto each skewer, alternating pieces. Season with salt. Grill until shrimp are opaque and chorizo is slightly softened, about 3 minutes per side.
Arrange avocados on a platter. Squeeze lime wedges over avocados, and season with salt and pepper. Serve with shrimp-and-chorizo skewers.
*I scaled the shrimp and chorizo down for dinner for two, and used smaller skewers with one of each on them.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Tyler's Whole Wheat (not really a) Pullman Loaf

Ok, I know you are staring at that loaf of bread and saying to yourself, "that is not a Pullman loaf!". Yes, you would be correct. A traditional Pullman loaf refers to the shape of the loaf and it's resemblance to a Pullman railcar. This bread is baked in a loaf pan, as per Tyler's directions and what I had on hand. I don't yet own a Pullman pan, but it is on the list. (The list is very long, as you might imagine.)
To ooh and aah over a traditional shaping of the Pullman loaf, check out my friend and fellow Bread Baking Babe, Tanna of My Kitchen in Half Cups, who has made this particular recipe her own and crafted a beautifully shaped loaf. Check out that pan too, I want one. Did I say that already?
Anyway, what I have here is a loaf of whole wheat bread. A transitional loaf, as Peter Reinhart would call it, as it has both whole wheat and white flour in it. Either way, it is delicious sandwich bread and pretty darned healthy. Now, if only those little flaxseeds would stay on when I sliced it. Sigh, I might have to start putting them right into the dough... toasted first of course.

Whole Wheat Pullman Loaf
Tyler Florence, Stirring the Pot

2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1 cup water, warmed (110 to 115F)
1 cup whole milk
3 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tbsp kosher salt
1/2 stick butter, room temperature
1/4 cup honey
2 tbsp flaxseeds

In a large bowl, combine yeast and warm water.
Set aside for 5 minutes to dissolve and activate.
Stir milk into yeast mixture.
Combine both flours and salt in a kitchen stand mixer bowl.
Add butter and, using your fingers, rub it into the flour mixture until the butter is fully incorporated.
Make a well in the middle of the flour and add the honey and the milk mixture.
Using the dough hook attachment on the mixer, knead the dough about 5 minutes on low speed, until smooth and elastic.
Form the dough into a ball and place in a greased bowl.
Cover with a kitchen towel and set in a warm place for approximately 1 hour until the dough has doubled in volume.
Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface.
Fold dough over onto itself a couple of times to form a cylinder shape, tucking the ends under so you have a smooth surface on top and the seam underneath the loaf.
Place dough in an 8.5 x 4.5 inch loaf tin, seam-side down.
Cover once more and let rest for 40 to 50 minutes, until it doubles in volume again.
Preheat oven to 400F.
Sprinkle loaf with flaxseeds.
Bake loaf about 1 hour (I needed less time, about 45 minutes), until bread forms a crust and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan.
Cool on a wire rack.

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

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Baked Pasta with Roasted Vegetables

Have you ever based a dish on one ingredient that you have on hand and then realize half way through making it that you don't have that one ingredient? When we made the switch to whole grain pastas, I bought every shape and size. Seriously, there is a lot of pasta in my pantry.
So when my friend Joanne invited everyone to a pasta party, I immediately thumbed through my copy of Giada De Laurentiis's Everyday Pasta. I found Baked Penne with Roasted Vegetables. Perfect. We had penne and lots of summer veggies, plus the all-important cheese.
I opened up a bottle of wine, for the chef, I was making Italian food after all, and got to work. When I went to get the pasta... no penne! How on earth do I have every shape of pasta known to man but no penne? No problem, I am very agreeable and adaptable (when I drink wine), so I used bowties.

I have taken my friend Deb's advice to heart - never over-cook whole grain pasta. Even slightly undercooked is good, especially if you are going to bake it after.

How did it turn out? Wonderfully. This pasta was so tasty, and makes lots of good leftovers for lunches. And the bowties? Even better than penne would have been, I think.

Baked Penne Bowties with Roasted Vegetables
Giada De Laurentiis, Everyday Pasta

2 red peppers, cored and cut into 1-inch wide strips
2 zucchini, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 summer squash, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1-inch cubes
4 cremini mushrooms, halved
1 yellow onion, peeled and sliced into 1-inch strips
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 tablespoon dried Italian herb mix or herbs de Provence
1 pound penne pasta
3 cups marinara sauce (store bought or homemade)
1 cup grated fontina cheese
1/2 cup grated smoked mozzarella
1 1/2 cups frozen peas, thawed
1/4 cup grated Parmesan, plus 1/3 cup for topping
2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
On a baking sheet, toss the peppers, zucchini, squash, mushrooms, and onions with olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and dried herbs. Roast until tender, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook for about 6 minutes. Since you will be cooking the pasta a second time in the oven, you want to make sure the inside is still hard. Drain in a colander.
In a large bowl, toss the drained pasta with the roasted vegetables, marinara sauce, cheeses, peas, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Using a wooden spoon, gently mix, until all the pasta is coated with the sauce and the ingredients are combined.
Pour the pasta into a greased 9 by 13-inch pan. Top with the remaining 1/3 cup Parmesan and butter pieces. Bake until top is golden and cheese melts, about 25 minutes.

Baked Pasta with Roasted Vegetables for Presto Pasta Nights with Joanne of Eats Well with Others.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Bread Baking Babes - Sukkar bi Tahin

I am very happy and proud to announce that my kitchen is host kitchen for the Bread Baking Babes this month!

For July's Bread Baking Babes challenge, I kept a few things in mind; I was inspired by Breadchick Mary's world travel through food in the injera challenge, and wanted to make something that would be new for most people.
I also kept in mind that people are starting to go on vacation and their kitchens can be pretty hot at this time of year.
And third, I wanted a Canadian element... without resorting to bannock!

World travellers and authors Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid have several very inspiring cookbooks of recipes learned on their journeys. Naomi is Canadian born, and they keep a house here in Toronto.
The recipe I chose is for Beirut Tahini Swirls, Sukkar bi Tahin. It is a cross between a flatbread and a yeasted pastry, only mildly sweet. It is street food in Beirut, and very addictive!

"Beirut has a lot of good food at every level, from fancy restaurants to local eateries, from home cooking to quality market shopping. And for a curbside snacker like me, it's paradise. There are sesame-covered flatbreads, grilled meats, and sweet and not so sweet cookies; there's always something nearby to eat." "These tahini swirls, called sukkar bi tahin in Arabic, are flattened flaky rounds flavored with tahini and sugar, not too sweet, not too strong tasting. Serve them warm or at room temperature-they’re just right either way."
Alford and Duguid, Home Baking

Sukkar bi Tahin - Beirut Tahini Swirls
Home Baking, The Artful Mix of Flour and Tradition Around the World
Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid

Makes 6 golden brown, flaky textured coiled rounds, about 6 inches wide, filled with sesame paste and sugar.


1/2 tsp. active dry yeast
1 cup lukewarm water
About 2-1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp sugar
1 tbsp olive oil

3/4 cup tahini
3/4 cup sugar
In a medium bowl, dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm water.
Stir in one cup of the flour, then add the sugar and oil and stir in.
Incorporate a second cup of flour, then turn the dough out onto a well floured surface and knead for 5 minutes, or until smooth.
Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let rise for 2 to 3 hours, until doubled in volume.
Meanwhile, place a baking stone or unglazed quarry tiles, if you have them, (or a baking sheet) on the middle oven rack and preheat the oven to 375 F.
Mix together the tahini and sugar and stir until smooth. Set aside.
Cut the dough into 6 equal pieces.
Work with 3 at a time, keeping the others covered.
Flatten each out on a lightly floured surface, then roll each out to a rectangle about 5 inches by 10 inches.
Spread the top surface with 2 1/2 tablespoons of the filling mixture, spreading it almost to the edges.
Roll up the rectangle from a long side into a cylinder, which will stretch as you roll to about 20 inches long.
Anchor one end and coil the bread around itself, then tuck the end in.
Flatten with the palm of your hand, then set aside, covered, while you fill and shape the other 2 rectangles.
Return to the first coil and roll out gently with a rolling pin.
Roll the other 2 out a little and then return to the first one and roll it out a little more thinly, and so on, until you have rolled each to a round about 6 to 7 inches in diameter.
A little filling may leak out—don’t worry, just leave it.
Place the breads on the hot baking stone or tiles (or baking sheet) and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown and flaky.
Transfer to a rack to cool.
Shape and bake the remaining 3 pieces of dough.
Serve warm or at room temperature.

*Tahini is a paste of ground sesame seeds. It can be found in health food stores, Middle Eastern markets and some grocery stores. It is a common ingredient in hummus, and is gaining in popularity in most parts of the world. It must be refrigerated after opening.

*I baked mine on parchment on the stone. Three fit on a large piece of parchment.

I have made these three times now. Once with all white flour, once with all whole wheat and once with a mix of both. I have to admit, I liked the white and the mix of both the best.

The swirls should end up like puffy pita. If they are very thin they will be crispy, if they are not rolled enough, they will puff up like cinnamon rolls. We are striving for a flatbread pastry that puffs a little. Try them a couple of times, experiment. They are fun to bake.

My lovely friend and fellow Babe Lien offered up the European edition's metric measurements.

1/2 tsp dry yeast (instant)
240 ml/g hand warm water
± 400 g white flour (for the dutch it says "Patentbloem")
2 tsp sugar
1 Tbsp olive oil
100 g tahini
100 g sugar

*you may need to make more tahini/sugar if you run out before your rolls are done.

If you would like to bake along with the Bread Baking Babes, and make the Sukkar bi Tahin at home, you could earn yourself a groovy Bread Baking Buddies badge for July.

Just create the bread, take a picture, resize it to a medium size, and email me at livinginthekitchenwithpuppies AT hotmail DOT com. Please send me your name, country, link to your blog, and permalink to your Sukkar bi Tahin post by July 31st.

Happy summer and happy baking!
Check out the Bread Baking Babes, and their take on this month's bread, by clicking on each link below.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Cookbook Review - Julia's Kitchen Wisdom

Long before there was a food network, there was Julia Child. A dynamic force of a woman, Julia Child trained at the Cordon Bleu in Paris and co-wrote Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volumes 1 and 2. In the 60's Julia's television cooking show, The French Chef, made her a celebrity. This year a movie is coming out called Julie and Julia, about Julia Child and a food blogger, Julie, who devotes a year of her life to cooking Julia's recipes and writing about the experience. A new generation of home cooks is set to learn about Julia Child.

I have to admit, I have never read Mastering the Art of French Cooking, either volume. And, while I may not be young, I wasn't cooking in the 60's either. I was happy to review this book to learn more about her classic techniques. Julia's Kitchen Wisdom is a thin volume, subtitled Essential Techniques and Recipes from a Lifetime of Cooking.

This is no regular cookbook. It is a compilation of cooking notes on the techniques that Julia Child found to be the most important and effective in the kitchen. The recipes are not spelled out, a certain amount of kitchen savvy is required. But if you are like me, comfortable in the kitchen but looking to fill in the gaps of your culinary knowledge, this is a wonderful text.

There are no big, glossy pictures of finished dishes, it is more like a lovingly handed down notebook from a grandmother, mother, auntie or treasured neighbour. I have had many conversations with friends who lament that they were not taught cooking at home, or feel that their self-taught home cooking education is incomplete. Julia's Kitchen Wisdom is a comforting and familial book that serves to coach or remind you; how best to poach a fish, blanch vegetables, bake, broil, braise or steam, and many more methods both basic and gourmet.

When I began testing the recipes, I started with Julia's Salade Nicoise, simply because I have always wanted to make one. The flavours were out of this world. We ate the salad for dinner and it was easily the best main course salad we have ever had. I will definitely make it again and again.
Julia offers advice on each element of the dish, referring to where boiling and peeling eggs are in another chapter, blanching green beans, and the importance of the freshness of anchovies.

We had her Baked Eggs Aux Fines Herbes next, delightfully creamy and buttery and so savoury with the tarragon, chervil, chives and thyme.

Tonight we enjoyed Julia's Fish Fillets Poached in White Wine. The pan sauce made from the boiled down poaching liquids, lemon, parsley and butter was out of this world. There may or may not have been plate licking involved. I'll never tell.

And, of course, I had to try my hand at Julia Child's famous French Bread. Now, I have heard it through the grapevine that her original instructions for this bread were over 12 pages long. That's the beauty of Julia's Kitchen Wisdom, the information is distilled to the essentials. Everything that I tried from the book was a success. It is softcover and inexpensive. I put it on the must-buy list.