Tuesday, December 31, 2013
As the final hours of 2013 tick down, who isn't writing a post about the food trends coming and going on the cusp of the year's change. I find flatulating about trends and fads as tabloid fodder. Perhaps I am taking a bit of a snobby stance. It just seems that what is 'in' and what is 'out', is more about social belonging than saying anything respectable about food.
As I headed to the kitchen to build my lunch today, it was just a wee bite I had in mind. New Years Eve feasting was on the horizon and I needed to pace myself.
A soft-boiled egg captured my thoughts. I longed for the soft texture and the solid protein. But I could also visualize it on my plate. Bare. So utterly bare as two jaundiced-coloured eyeballs of half eggs would be staring up at me. So I needed to create a canvas for it. A half bagel didn't seem too much. We keep Ottawa Bagelshop's bagels sliced and in the freezer for such occasions. But that would mean carbs and so maybe I could balance that out with some veg. The fridge doors opened and out spilled my choices. Freshly washed romaine lettuce, a week old avocado at the height of ripeness, oven-roasted grape tomatoes, recently thawed homemade basil pesto, a partial red onion, chives, dill, a small piece of Quebec's Le Douanier cheese. I ended up passing on the onion, dill and chives, but everything else was piled on.
As I reached for the salt and pepper grinders, I also grabbed the ristede løg (crisp onions). My tower of flavours and colour was taking on a life of it's own and now I was REALLY looking forward to my 'wee bite'.
That's when I realized that I too have hopes and dreams for food in 2014.
1. Be authentic. Eat the food you love, not what people tell you is hip and happening. If you don't like or get food trucks, it's okay to say so. If you aren't a card carrying member of the pork belly protein club, that's okay too. Your food is still good, even if you aren't foaming it or pho-ing it.
2. Don't waste food. Learn a food's life cycle and how to stretch it. If you have tomatoes sitting on the counter pushing past their prime and no good plans for them, they can be given birth again by roasting them and storing them in the freezer to be used for another day.
3. Share your food experiences. Share them because it was a special moment for you, not because you need to build converts or crave a compliment. Many are genuinely interested in what you are doing in the kitchen when you tell your story, no matter how non-Michelin your creation. Seeing others cook, learning and exploring for learning's sake, inspires the rest of us. Stay humble in your sharing.
4. Enjoy and respect your food ancestry. Some might think pea soup is peasant food but if it was your favourite dish growing up, serve it and serve it often. A dish does not have to have a pedigree to deserve to be on your table or shared with guests.
4. Embrace the littlest food moments. Even if it is JUST a piece of toast, make it with love. Serve it on a special plate. Cut it just so. Eat it at the table, not over the counter or sink. Chew it slowly and enjoy each and every bite.
5. Play with flavours and play with colour. How often do we find that mixing flavours we love individually make an even bigger impact when mixed together. Fuss a little bit with your plating. It doesn't have to be auctionable art, but well presented food does taste better. It will likely make the cooking experience more enjoyable too.
6. Know that food is meant to nourish. Many of us have the luxury to eat for pleasure, but food's primary role is to nourish. As you chase your sinful food passions, balance it out with lots of healthy choices. We aren't being truly good ambassadors for food if we don't speak to both sides.
7. Give what you can of your food wealth. Too many do not have access to healthy food on a regular basis and question where their next meal will come from. Share your riches. Your food knowledge. Your food talents. Your food dollars. We all deserve this basic necessity of life. Your food enthusiasm will be infectious.
8. Live in food communion with others. One of our kindest gifts we can give is to have others to the intimacy of our dining table. Invite others in and regularly. A friendly cup of coffee and a biscuit from the freezer is still a very large gift just because you are there and giving of your time. It isn't the size and the grandness of the banquet but the size of your heart that will determine how good the meal tasted.
Wishing you all the best for the new year. As we continue our food journey into 2014, I will continue to reflect on my hopes and dreams for what's food trending. How about you?
Wednesday, December 18, 2013
I fell in love with my girlfriend's meatballs three years ago. She said it was an old family recipe and when her mum made her next visit to Ottawa she had me in to learn from the master. Alberta is Italian through and through. Her lively love for life meant that I would get every important detail to make my meatballs just as good as hers. Her Italian accent was intoxicating and I hung on her every word.
I put a post together as a result of that visit but have found that I have been tinkering with that recipe ever since. Alberta said she doesn't measure much, so although these meatballs may be a gentle departure from hers, I feel that essentially the bright bold flavour of the tomato sauce and the tenderness of the ball is very much the same.
I do consistently add milk to my meat mixture to ensure a tender ball. If I have it on hand, I will stuff the meatballs with ricotta. I like using San Marzano tomatoes and think this recipe is worth the splurge.
When I made this particular batch, I picked up my fresh ground veal at Nicastro Fine Foods on Merivale Road here in Ottawa. They say they grind their meat fresh several times each day and that the same meat is never re-ground. The milk-fed veal comes from a farm in Ontario.
I am sure it would be delicious with pasta. We typically serve up three meatballs with sauce. For us, it is a dish on its own.
This recipe freezes well.
ALBERTA'S AWESOME ITALIAN MEATBALLS AND SAUCE
Makes approximately 24 meatballs
2 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoon lard
2 onions, diced
1/2 pound ground veal
1/4 pound ground pork
56 ounces Italian plum tomatoes, whole, (2 cans)
6 whole cloves
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon pepper
1 pound ground veal
1/2 pound ground pork
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup bread crumbs
2 eggs, lightly beaten
zest from one lemon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoon fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, 3" x 3" cube, finely grated
1/3 cup milk, homogenized
3 tablespoons ricotta cheese (optional)
SAUCE: Heat lard and olive oil together over medium heat. Add diced onions and sauté until soft. Add veal and pork. Brown the meat. Add canned tomatoes. Loosely cut the whole tomatoes into pieces. Add whole cloves, salt and pepper. Simmer for 1 1/2 hours
MEATBALLS: Put all the ingredients together and mix thoroughly. Form into 1 1/2" balls. I was able to make 28 balls with this quantity. Drop into the sauce that has been simmering for 1 1/2 hours. Continue to simmer for another hour until the meatballs are cooked through.
Serve a bowl of meatballs and sauce with a few slices of Italian bread that can be used for soaking up the excess sauce!
Thursday, December 12, 2013
With the many snacks set out around the world for Santa each Christmas Eve, it's a wonder he can still fit down the chimney. Although the treats aren't an everyday thing, this gig of running his one night toy courier company from the North Pole still means a year's supply of calories.
I don't know if you give much thought to what cookie you will put out for him in less than two weeks time but I can let you in on a little secret.
Santa's favourite treat on Christmas Eve is definitely the Ginger Crinkle Cookie. In our home we put out plenty for him to snack on and to also share some with the elves.
This year, the Ginger Crinkle Cookies are going to be extra special. I have added a handsome portion of michaelsdolce's candied ginger, which I bought at the recent Locavore Artisan Food Fair. The extra ginger kick will make them particularly peppery. Like Santa, I like my ginger cookie to have a good bite.
|This package contained 55 grams of candied ginger. It measured about 1/2 cup when chopped.|
Here is another little secret you may not know about the jolly old soul. Santa doesn't tend to favour milk with his cookies. He actually prefers 35% heavy cream. Yes, there are people who really do that!
Truth be told, Santa really likes all kinds of cookies and feels quite chuffed that many would go to such lengths to make him something special. Do you have a traditional treat that you will be leaving out for Santa this year?
Ginger Crinkle Cookies
Inspired by a recipe in the Canadian Living Magazine of October 2000
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
5 tsp ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
3/4 cup butter, room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup fancy molasses
1/4 cup cooking molasses
2 tsp vinegar
1/2 cup of chopped candied ginger - michaelsdolce's is preferred!
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon and cloves.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter with the sugar. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Continue beating until the batter is light and fluffy.
Beat in the two molasses and the vinegar. Stir the flour mixture into the butter mixture in 3 additions. As the 3rd addition is almost incorporated, add the candied ginger.
Form into 1 1/4-inch (3 cm) balls; place, 2 inches (5 cm) apart, on parchment paper-lined baking sheets.
Bake in 325ºF oven for 12 to 15 minutes. If they bake too long they will not get the chewy centre that contrasts with the crispy crinkle outside. Try a pan at a time to determine the best baking time based on your oven.
Let the cookies cool on pan for 2 minutes to let them set before transferring them onto a rack to completely cool.
This recipe makes 55 to 60 cookies. They freeze very well.
Sunday, December 1, 2013
Although I was totally off the hook for the first 5 courses at our dinner party last night, the dessert course was my playground. I decided to make the traditional Danish celebration cake, lagkage or lagekage (translates as layer cake).
The cake is a bit spongy and is filled with a silky pastry cream and a dribbles of raspberry jam in each layer. Then a fluffy blanket of Chantilly cream adorns the outside.
There were leftovers! So for breakfast, the mister and I each enjoyed a piece along with our morning coffee. It was just as good the morning after.
DANISH LAYER CAKE (Lagkage)
4 layers of cake (make the following cake recipe twice)
1/2 to 3/4 litre of whipping cream, whipped and sweetened to taste
Coulis or pastry cream
(Adapted from one posted by Karen Hansen on Food.com.)
This cake recipe bakes two layers of the cake. You need to make the recipe twice to have the four layers you need.
2 egg yolks from extra large eggs
1 1/2 tablespoon cold water
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup flour
1 3/4 teaspoons cornstarch
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 egg whites from extra large eggs
Preheat oven to 435ºF.
Measure out the flour, cornstarch, baking powder and salt. Mix well.
Separate the eggs. Whip the egg whites until stiff.
In a separate bowl beat the egg yolks until lemon yellow. Add the water and sugar and beat for 2 minutes on high. Beat in the vanilla extract.
Add the flour mixture gradually and beat well.
Fold in the egg whites.
Bake in two ungreased 8-inch cake pans (I used my springform pans) for 8 to 9 minutes.
Yields 2 1/2 cups
2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract *
Combine milk and 1/4 cup sugar in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. Heat milk to near boil.
Meanwhile whisk yolks, egg, 2 tablespoons sugar and the cornstarch together. Temper the eggs with the scalded milk by pouring the milk slowly into the egg mixture stirring constantly. After 3/4 to 1 cup of the hot milk has been mixed in, the remaining milk can be added and whisked together.
Pour the egg and milk mixture back into the pot and bring to a near boil. Stir constantly. Watch the temperature of the custard closely when it reaches 140ºF. When the first bubble forms, remove from the heat immediately. Quickly run the custard through a sieve. Add the butter and the vanilla and stir until the butter has melted and is fully incorporated.
Cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface of the custard. Place in the fridge to cool down completely. At least 3 hours. Overnight is better.
* If you use a vanilla bean instead of extract, scrape the seeds out of a 1/2 bean and add to the milk as it is heating. You can also put the bean pod in the warming milk to further infuse the vanilla flavour. Remove the pod as you begin to temper the egg yolk mixture.
Place one cake upside down on a cake plate. Cover with at least 1/2 cup of the cooled pastry cream. Drop small spoonfuls of jam all over the pastry, using about a tablespoon of jam.
Repeat with the next two layers. Top with the 4th cake, baked side up. Chill the cake for half an hour.
Whip the cream in a chilled bowl with chilled beaters. Sweeten to taste with extra fine granulated sugar. Maybe one to two tablespoons.
Skim coat the cake with the whipped cream. Then add a layer of cream to cover it completely without any cake showing through. Using a piping bag, decorate your cake with your own design flair!
Consider serving it with a raspberry coulis and berries. This morning I served it up with leftover pastry cream and raspberries.