Friday, 25 June 2010

Simply in Season, 12 Months of Wine Country Cooking

Simply in Season
12 months of wine country cooking
Tony de Luca
Softcover, 224 pages

Tony de Luca is an award-wining chef in Canada's celebrated Niagara wine region. His first book, Recipes from Wine Country was very well received and his newest book, Simply in Season is absolutely stunning. He starts off with a small biography, tracing his influences and experiences as a chef as well as the philosophy of food and cooking that he has developed.
In a region with four distinct seasons, as well as a rich bounty of fresh, local produce, de Luca has had the pride and pleasure of working with the seasons and developing recipes that respect the ingredients and showcase them at their best.
The chapters are arranged by month, focusing on the ingredients that are in their prime at that time. "Mother Nature demands respect, and could there be anything more satisfying than offering that respect?"
I would say that these recipes are not for the very new or beginner cooks, they do require a little skill and finesse, but they are not so fussy that anyone with a reasonable amount of comfort in the kitchen couldn't proudly prepare them for friends and family. 30 minute meals have their place, but it is a pleasure to savour the building of a gourmet meal at home.
That being said, they are not overly complicated and indeed are very inspiring. I bookmarked about half the book before settling on a couple of dishes to prepare.
Some of the bookmarked dishes include:
  • Chicken Liver Pâté with Pickled Eggplant and Roasted Garlic-Onion Jam
  • Sesame and Polenta Crusted Scallops with Chardonnay-Braised Red Cabbage and Ginger Beurre Blanc
  • Vanilla Pots de Crème with Strawberry-Rhubarb Compote
  • Fresh Tuna Salad "Niagar-oise" with Canadian Mustard
  • Halibut Fillets Crusted in Peanuts, Capers, and Sultanas with Warm Spicy Romaine Salad
  • Sparkling Wine and Yellow Tomato Gazpacho with Zucchini Bread
  • and The Perfect Cheese Soufflé
So you can see why I had such a hard time settling on just a couple!

You may find that your favourite bookseller has Simply in Season with this alternative book jacket, rest assured that it is the same beautiful book.

After whipping up some awesome Salmon and Seafood Burgers on Herb Buns (you know I am a sucker for homemade bread!) for my seafood-loving hubby, I made the most wonderful desserts..

Sour Cream Panna Cotta with Blueberry Beignets! I love panna cotta and these ones were light and creamy and silky and tangy with the addition of sour cream and fresh lemon juice. The beignets, a traditional French doughnut made from bread dough, are fried to perfection and studded with sweet bursts of local blueberries. I know you want to make these this summer, so the publishers have given me the recipe to share with you!

Sour Cream Panna Cotta with Blueberry Beignets
The beauty of this dish is its simplicity. Panna cotta literally translates to “cooked cream,” and that’s really all there is to it. I particularly love pairing the panna cotta with the warm blueberry beignets, as the contrast in temperatures and textures is delicious.
Serves 8

Sour Cream Panna Cotta
1 cup (250 mL) sour cream
1 cup (250 mL) 35% cream
1 cup (250 mL) half-and-half cream (10%)
1 cup (250 mL) granulated sugar
½ cup (125 mL) lemon juice
10 sheets gelatin or 2½ Tbsp (37.5 mL) unflavoured powdered gelatin

In a medium saucepan, combine the sour cream, 35% cream, and half-and-half and bring to a simmer. Add the sugar and lemon juice, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Remove the saucepan from the heat.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, soak the gelatin sheets in enough cold water just to cover them, for about 5 minutes or until softened. Remove the gelatin from the bowl, squeezing the sheets to remove the excess water. (If you are using powdered gelatin, sprinkle the gelatin over 3 Tbsp/45 mL cold water in a small bowl and let stand for 5 minutes or until puffy. Set the bowl in a small saucepan of simmering water and stir gently until melted.)

Add the gelatin to the hot cream mixture and stir well. Pour into eight ½-cup (125 mL) espresso cups or ramekins. Refrigerate until set.

Blueberry Beignets
¼ cup (60 mL) granulated sugar, divided
1½ tsp (7.5 mL) active dry yeast
½ cup (125 mL) evaporated milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 Tbsp (30 mL) shortening
½ tsp (2 mL) table salt
3½ cups (875 mL) all-purpose flour
1 cup (250 mL) fresh blueberries
non-stick baking spray
vegetable oil for deep-frying
icing sugar for dusting

In a small bowl, dissolve 2 tsp (10 mL) of the granulated sugar in ¾ cup (185 mL) warm water. Sprinkle in the yeast and let stand for 10 minutes or until the yeast is bubbly.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the remaining sugar, the evaporated milk, egg, shortening, and salt. Add the yeast mixture and beat until smooth. Beat in the flour, ½ cup (125 mL) at a time, until a soft, sticky dough forms. Stir in the blueberries just until combined.

Spray a clean bowl with baking spray and transfer the dough to the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to form a rectangle about 20 × 16 inches (50 × 40 cm) and ¼ inch (6 mm) thick. Using a sharp chef ’s knife, cut the dough into squares about 2½ inches (6 cm).

Heat the oil in a deep pot until a candy thermometer registers 360°f (1 82°c), or use a deep fat fryer and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Fry the beignets, a few at a time to avoid overcrowding, for about 2 minutes, turning frequently, until golden brown. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the beignets to a rack lined with paper towels and set over a baking sheet to cool.

To serve, place each espresso cup of sour-cream panna cotta on its saucer or a dessert plate. Or if you used ramekins, run a thin sharp knife or a small spatula around the edges of the panna cotta to release them. Invert each ramekin onto a dessert plate. Dust the blueberry beignets generously with icing sugar and serve alongside the panna cottas.