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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

if at first you don't succeed...

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...throw the whole damn mess out and try to forget about it.

You thought I was going to try again eh? fragile little ego can only handle so much failure. I'm really, really, *really* not a baker or patissier or any sort of master of desserts. I've been fooling myself lately into overstepping my it was a little humbling this morning when I tried to pry open my springform pan.

I can't say I was surprised to see a pile of non-descript fruity goo, but I was still annoyed.

So it was time for something completely different. And something guided (no randomly trying to triple a metric recipe and just substituting whatever).

Tonight's dinner was a take on hubs latest health kick. Hubs tends to be a little more analytical about our diet than most men generally seem to be. While other men are picking up buckets of KFC, or downing platters of nachos and wings....hubs is picking up lists of superfoods and reading about the latest food scare (oh, and for the record, I'd rather die young than eat boiled, poached and steamed food for the rest of my life). Don't get me wrong, he still eats his fair share of snacky foods, but he's always interested in stuff that's going to be healthy and tasty.

So his latest pet peeve is sodium. And he definitely has a point. It's not a question of putting down the salt shaker. 90% of the sodium/salt we ingest is added to our food before it even gets to the table. It's almost like nutritional terrorism - hidden in our foods, wreaking havoc on our bodies and we barely even notice its presence.

Just a few ridiculous examples of salt in food that you *think* might possibly be sorta-kinda-healthy....

- Swanson XXL Hungry-Man roasted turkey dinner - 5,410 milligrams (yes, that is twice the daily allowance, all in one meal)
- Lo Mein - 3,460 milligrams
- basically, any sort of appetizer or snack is BRUTAL.

You can read even more about the evils of salt HERE.

So hubs wants to cut all this out. We made low-sodium spaghetti sauce last night (with a can of low-sodium crushed tomatoes and any veggie we could find in the fridge, including radishes and parsnips)....despite the bizarre combination of veggies and herbs, it turned out great! Love spaghetti! :)

Tonight, I took the reins (right after going grocery shopping - woohoo!), and made this fabulous dish from - it's low in sodium, and overall super-duper yummy. There are healthier meals out there (coconut milk is not exactly the best thing in the world for you), but this is so yummy.....and just pretty! It's vegan too. Can't go wrong here.


1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1 3/4 cups water
1 cup jasmine or basmati rice

1 cup (packed) coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1 can unsweetened light coconut milk
4 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
2 large garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
16 ounces extra-firm tofu, drained, patted dry, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (I used medium tofu because we prefer the texture)
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper (or more! add a hot pepper if you like)
1 cup whole small cherry tomatoes
1 T sugar

2 tablespoons chopped peanuts

1. Stir the shredded coconut in a small nonstick skillet over medium heat until light golden, about 5 minutes. Transfer to bowl. (or be lazy like me and just leave in the pan)!
toasted coconut

2. Bring 1 3/4 cups water to boil in heavy medium saucepan. Stir in rice; bring to boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until water is absorbed and rice is tender, about 18 minutes. (I'll be honest here - I just did two scoops of rice in my rice cooker. Stovetop rice is for technophobes!)

3. Meanwhile, puree cilantro, 1/2 cup coconut milk, 1 teaspoon ginger, lime juice, and half of garlic in blender.
put a lime with da coconut

4. Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over high heat. Add tofu; stir-fry until golden, about 6 minutes.
medium firm tofu with hot pepper flakes

5. Add onions, curry, cumin, red pepper, remaining ginger, and remaining garlic. Stir-fry 1 minute.
tofu with curry powder and cumin

6. Stir in tomatoes, sugar and remaining coconut milk. Season with salt and pepper, if desired. Whie this bubbles away, stir the coconut/coriander mixture into the rice, along with the toasted coconut.
coriander, coconut milk, spices and toasted coconut

7. Divide rice among 4 plates. Top with tofu mixture. Sprinkle with peanuts.

dinner time!

Per serving: calories, 433; total fat, 20 g; saturated fat, 5 g; cholesterol, 0

Makes 4 servings.

You know you want to make it. And if you're truly terrified of tofu, you could easily substitute chicken or some other meat. But the tofu is pretty good - even hubs had seconds (this from a man who acted like I was conspiring to kill him when I hid strips of veggie burger in a wrap two years ago).

Thanks for reading...and uh...please feel free to leave a comment. I'm feeling so unloved! ;)

double FARK.

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Cakes didn't set. GAH!

just two quick things....

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1. First, can someone please tell me why in tarnation do we not have 24-hour alarm clocks here in Canada?

You know, the kind of clock where you can CLEARLY see, no matter how much wine you've had, the time that you are setting it to? The kind of clock that does not allow the overindulgent wino nitwit (yes, that would be me) to set the clock to PM instead of AM before blurriedly stumbling off to bed .

People like me NEED a 24-hour alarm clock. There is a huge visual difference between 07h00 and're never going to mess those two up. But that stupid, freaking, infinitesimal DOT marking the difference between me getting to work on time or me racing around like a knob because the first word I've uttered that morning is a nasty four-letter one...and stumbling in late.....this is just unacceptable.

The solution is not less wine. I believe the solution is REVOLUTION. Demand the 24-hour alarm clock.

2. Why do I think I am greater than chemistry? Why do I think that because *I* am making something, that things will disobey basic laws of nature? Tonight, after class, I set to making two identical tropical fruit mousse cakes. I'm not sure why I thought this would be a good idea at 22h30 (note the clever use of the 24-hour clock?) Especially when the instructions say things like "let set 1-2 hours" Bah. Those things don't apply to ME. MY cake will clearly set up more quickly.

Anyway, the upshot of it is that I think I may have ruined about $40 of tropical fruit. Pffft. That said, you should all check out the original recipe on Applemint, because hers is beautiful.

I have a sneaking suspicion I've more in common with Macbeth than I'd care to admit.

Also, I've learned that one of the grossest things you can smell is the scent of hot water on granules of gelatin.

That is all. No real food here. If my cake actually turns out to be edible, I'll let you know tomorrow. I'm not holding up a lot of hope right now, because both of them look like utter crap. Meh. This'll teach me to just go about, converting recipes, tripling them and just making a huge big mess.....

ACK. And it's now 1AM. And I'm going to be ultra-busy tomorrow. This sucks.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

viva italia....yet again...

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I'm not sure while I'm so perpetually drawn to the wonderful cuisine of Italy.....sure, I've been there....but I've been other places too (and to be frank, it's hard to compare what comes out of my kitchen to what you eat in the real italia...holy yumminess).

Anyway, for dinner on Friday, I wanted to have something that would be quick and easy and that would not be asian in origin. My dad was over for dinner, and he's just returned from months in I wanted something that would be very different than the food he'd been eating lately, but that would also be quick and easy for a weeknight.

Have I mentioned before just how much I adore Italian food? There's something about al dente pasta, garlic, fresh herbs and grated's ridiculously easy to make, quick to put together and just so satisfying.

I stole this recipe from the Food Network and made minimal changes. Came together in just under half an hour. The recipe is a Rachael Ray special....for some reason, people seem to despise the woman.....I'm not entirely sure why, but then again, I don't actually get the food network, so I know her only through her recipes....which thus far have all been pretty yummy. :)

Chicken Marvalasala and Pappardelle with Rosemary Gravy

6 nests pappardelle pasta (about 250-300g)(wide ribbons, substitute fettuccine if unavailable)
4 large, boneless skinless chicken breasts
Ground black pepper
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 large cloves garlic, crushed
12 shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
100g enoki mushrooms (or other wild mushrooms)
4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons tomato paste, look for this in a tube (it's easy to store that way - except I can't find this in freaking OTTAWA)
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons minced rosemary leaves, a couple of sprigs
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons capers, drained
1/2 cup Marsala wine
Grated pecorino Romano cheese
A couple handfuls arugula or baby spinach leaves, thinly sliced

1. Put a large pot of water on to boil for the pasta. When it comes up to a boil, salt the water, drop in the pasta, and cook to al dente.

2. While the pasta is boiling, season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat a large nonstick skillet with 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 2 turns of the pan, over medium to medium-high heat. Add the chicken to the pan and brown lightly on both sides; remove to a platter and cover with foil to hold in heat.

3. To the same skillet, add 2 tablespoons more extra-virgin olive oil and 1 clove garlic. Cook garlic a minute or so, then add the mushrooms. Let the mushrooms brown evenly and become tender, 8 to 10 minutes.

Shitake mushroom...

Funky-looking enoki mushrooms!

4. While the mushrooms work, start gravy for pasta. In a deep medium skillet melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add a clove of crushed garlic and cook a couple of minutes then remove. Whisk flour and tomato paste into garlic infused butter. Cook the flour a minute or 2 then whisk in the stock.

5. Add rosemary and Worcestershire sauce. Simmer to thicken, 5 minutes. Season the sauce with salt and pepper, to your taste.

6. To the cooked mushrooms, add capers and Marsala and reduce a minute or so. Add 2 tablespoons butter in small bits to finish sauce and shake the pan to incorporate. Slide the chicken back into sauce and warm.


7. Drain pasta and toss with sauce and a handful of cheese. Serve pasta alongside Chicken Marvalasala. Scatter arugula or spinach across both the chicken and pasta, to garnish.


The pasta recipe was surprisingly yummy good - I would definitely double the sauce and serve with something like a roasted veggie pasta. It's pretty healthy(ish) and has loads of tasty flavour. Yum!

Thanks for reading! Hopefully you will enjoy this more than the bean salad (I still have leftovers off that stuff, but have since discovered that it's best to ration the amount of bean salad I permit myself....)

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

i need beano

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"beans, beans, the musical fruit,
the more you eat, the more you toot!"

I know....I'm so mature. Ask hubs, he'll tell you about my embarassingly low-brow sense of humour. I think my brothers and I probably sang that tune on a weekly basis growing poor parents.

Seriously though, one of the treats we always had growing up was baked beans out of a can, served cold. We LOVED it. (No joke!)

I still like beans....I like them in chili, I like them in curry and I even like them in salad....not so much hubs. He loves chili and curry, but offer him bean salad and he will scream like a girl* and flee to the basement, that safe man-haven of beer and wings.

(*reaction may not be entirely as recounted; may be exagerration for comedic effect). Hubs does HATE bean salad fact, there are not words for how much he despises it.

It's too bad for him that I both love it and decided to make it tonight. We'd been having way too much meat lately, so I thought it was time to imbue a little vegetarian speediness into our lives (you can read that however you want). I went back to my current favourite cookbook, Cooking to Beat the Clock and found a wonderful four-bean salad that was exactly what I was wanting.

This isn't quite the classic three/four-bean salad; it's got a little more sophistication (let's say the good old country favourite has moved to the city and wisened up a bit), and I found I had to add a little more vinegar to the dressing to really make it awesome, but it's deeeeeeeeelish. Normally, I use a 3:1 oil to vinegar ratio for dressing, but because beans are kinda starchy and bland, you can do a 2:1 ratio and it's much peppier. Highly recommend this as a vegetarian main dish you can whip up inside of 30 minutes. YUMMY.

four-bean salad with arugula and red onion
sort of from Cooking to Beat the Clock

12 ounces green beans
baby arugula
1 can kidney beans
1 can black beans
1 can chickpeas
1 small red onion (about 8 oz)
2 cloves garlic
12 basil leaves
3-3.5 T red wine vinegar
1 t honey
1 t dijon mustard
freshly ground pepper
1/3 c olive oil
crumbled/grated cheese (optional)

1. Run the hot-water tap and put a healthy pinch of salt and 2 c hot tap water in a skillet. Cover and put over high heat until the water comes to a boil. Meanwhile, fill the sink with cold water and trim the stem ends from the green beans. When the water boils, add the green beans to the skillet, cover, and cook for 3 minutes (if the beans are skinny) or 5 minutes (if they look more like me hehe). Drain into a colander and rinse with cold water to cool.

grean beans

2. Open all the cans of beans into a colander, rinse and drain briefly.

beans! beans!

3. While the beans drain, cut off a thin slice from the top and bottom of the onion, halve lengthwise, peel each half and cut crosswise into thin half-moon strips. Cut the tomato in half lengthwise, and cut each half into thin wedges. Put the canned beans, onion, tomato and green beans in a large bowl.

bean salad!

4. Peel the garlic and drop down the chute of a running food processor. When it is puréed, stop the motor and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add the basil, vinegar, honey, mustard and salt and pepper to taste. Turn the processor on again and gradually pour in the oil through the chute. [I will confess that my food processor is still dirty from yesterday - I just used my immersion blender and pre-pressed the garlic].

5. Add the dressing to the vegetables and mix well. To serve, place baby arugula leaves on the plate, and top with some salad. If desired, top with a little cheese (I like extra old cheddar, but feta or chèvre would be great).


Yum. Hubs has vacated the premises to meet a buddy at a pub....I don't actually have any beano, so let's hope the stench of whatever pub grub he ends up noshing on overpowers any issues that may be forthcoming....

Thanks for reading! Love the comments!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

moroccan redux, version 1.0

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How often do you eat it? Is it a staple? Is it an anomaly? Do you know what it is?

I can't say I was raised on the stuff, and I also can't really admit to it being a staple (I'm not sure I even have staples....), but it's something that both hubs and I absolutely love.

Funny how my best acquaintance with this north african grain didn't happen anywhere in Africa (never been), rather, in France. And in a university cafeteria, no less. I want to explain a little more about the culture *I* experienced in France before I explain a little more.

I can't pretend to comment about the totality of French culture, but the small microcosm to which I was briefly privy gave me (I think) a decent insight into certain cultural influences. In the 60s (and since) there was a large influx of north African immigrants into France - people from foreign French colonies like Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria flooded the French suburbs. Though the French have staunchly denied these people any sort of real French identity (even second and third-generation immigrants were still generally considered foreigners), there have been some small culinary inroads made into French culture.

Two such inroads are couscous (small pasta grain) and merguez (spicy lamb sausage). These were two items that I seldom see here in Canada but that were all over the place in France. And hence my exposure to them.

When I was trying to figure out tonight's dinner (I generally at least attempt to plan on Sundays), I remembered the merguez I had sitting in my freezer (a random purchase) and the couscous sitting in my cupboard.....and then I found a recipe in my trusty Cooking to Beat the Clock that totally fit the bill.

***Just as a little plug for a fave cooking aid - Cooking to Beat the Clock is about getting meals on the table in less than 15 minutes. Tasty meals....not of the frozen variety. I'm not quite as quick as Sam, but I love this book for inspiration and methodology - a great resource for the rushed and lazy home cook.

So this recipe offers you moroccan inspiration, with a mere temporal price of 15 minutes (give or take). Awesome. I modified the recipe somewhat, but not too much...

Couscous with Merguez Sausage

1 1/4 c instant couscous
1 1/2 pounds merguez sausage (or other spicy sausage - I highly recommend seeking out merguez though!)
1/2 small red onion
1 large tomato
1/2 c roasted red peppers (jarred)
10 black olives (original called for 20 - I don't like olives so I reduced it)
1/3 c packed fresh coriander (original called for mint but I couldn't buy any)
2 t ground cumin
hot sauce

1. Boil about 2 cups of water in your kettle. Measure 1 1/4 couscous into a small saucepan. Once water has boiled, pour 1 1/4 cups of it over the couscous. Stir and cover.

2. Meanwhile, put a large heavy skillet over high heat. Cut the sausage in 1-inch pieces. Add the sausage to the skillet, cover and cook for about 3 minutes. Turn once and cook for four minutes.


3. While the sausage cooks, trim the onion and cut it in quarters. Put it in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Core and quarter the tomato. Quarter the red peppers. Pit the olives.


4. Put the tomato, peppers, olives, and coriander (or mint) in the food processor with the onion and pulse several times until corasely chopped and combined.


5. Put the cooked couscous in a mixing bowl and add the onion/tomato mixture, cumin, salt and hot sauce to taste.


6. Mix and fluff with a large fork. Add the sausage and combine well. Serves 4 - feel free to garnish with a sprig of herb, or an olive or two. :) ENjoy!


Thank you for reading. I know it seems trite to be reading about frivolous food when there is so much violence and nastiness going on....but sometimes I think it's the little things in life that keep us sane, that cover us in the trappings of civilization, and allow us to explore without pain or violence. My heart goes out to all those globally who've been affected by such violence.

Monday, April 16, 2007

old fashioned chocolatey fun

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Normally, when one utters the dread phrase, "the in-laws are coming," the heart will race, the stomach will drop and panic will ensue. Not so much in my case - my in-laws are great. Sure, I have to do a little extra cleaning (and I'm the first to admit, that is most definitely not a bad's not like my house isn't crying out for it)....but overall they are great people. It's easy to see how hubs can be so awesome when you meet his family.

And I"m lucky - I've read the horror stories about in-laws from hell and I count my lucky stars every day....

SO this past weekend was my father-in-law's birthday. *We* were supposed to visit *them* but due to the NHL selling out to the US networks, it turned out that they would be in town for my father-in-law's birthday.

We ended up having a wonderful meal of grilled fillet mignon (provided by my in-laws and grilled to perfection by hubs) and caesar salad. It was only natural that cake would follow. My father-in-law is not one to be demanding or picky about food, and in fact I've seen him eat things I've made that I know he didn't really love (I love herbs and spices and I know it's not his thing). This is the first time he's ever requested anything, and all he wanted for his birthday was a chocolate cake.

Old fashioned cooking is not a strong point of mine. I've made more hockey puck baking (the closest I come to Canada's national sport) than I care to talk about so I was a little intimidated by the request for a good old fashioned chocolate cake. I have never actually purchased cake and pastry flour, nor do I even own a layer cake is scary. There's always that sinking feeling before you take the cake out of the pan.....will it even come out? If it does, will it be in one piece? Or crumbly little bits.

It's very scary.

So I turned to my old friend epicurious. During my search, I found a chocolate cake recipe that had no fewer than 900 reviews. I figured that even with my culinary irreverance, I would probably be safe with a recipe bolstered with that kind of street cred.

This has reaffirmed my love of epicurious. This double-layer chocolate cake is rich, dense, moist and awesome. I didn't make the recommended icing, as I thought ganache would be too much for a cake of this magnitude...I instead made a classic seven-minute frosting that proved to be a fluffy foil to the cake's richness. If you want chocolate layer cake, you should totally make this. It rocks.

Double Chocolate Layer Cake
For cake layers
3 ounces fine-quality semisweet chocolate (I used 76% Poulain)
1 1/2 cups hot brewed coffee
3 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
3 large eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups well-shaken buttermilk
3/4 teaspoon vanilla

Make cake layers:
1. Preheat oven to 300°F. and grease pans. Line bottoms with rounds of parchment paper.


2. Finely chop chocolate and in a bowl combine with hot coffee. Let mixture stand, stirring occasionally, until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.


3. Into a large bowl sift together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. (NOTE: I don't own a sifter. I didn't sift. So sue me.)


4. In another large bowl with an electric mixer beat eggs until thickened slightly and lemon colored (about 3 minutes with a standing mixer or 5 minutes with a hand-held mixer). Slowly add oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and melted chocolate mixture to eggs, beating until combined well. Add sugar mixture and beat on medium speed until just combined well. Divide batter between pans and bake in middle of oven until a tester inserted in center comes out clean, 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes. (NOTE: I had 9" pans, and just held back a bit of the batter. I baked 50 minutes. Definitely check at 50 minutes because overcooked cake sucks.)


5. Cool layers completely in pans on racks.


6. Run a thin knife around edges of pans and invert layers onto racks. Carefully remove parchment paper and cool layers completely. Cake layers may be made 1 day ahead and kept, wrapped well in plastic wrap, at room temperature.

Seven-Minute Frosting
NOTE: I made this recipe exactly and it was *barely* enough for a 9-inch layer cake. In the future, I would 1.5 times this recipe because 'boiled icing' is amazing and everyone loves it. I've seen a billion people pick off/scrap off buttercream, but NO ONE will scrap this stuff off. It is amazing.

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar (I use half brown sugar to give a bit of a caramel flavour)
3 large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1. In large metal bowl, whisk together 1/3 cup water, sugar, egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt.

(and yes, that is me upside down)

2. Set bowl over pan of barely simmering water and mix with handheld electric mixer at low speed. Gradually increase speed to high, beating until mixture holds stiff peaks, about 5 minutes.

(I hate icing and can eat this stuff by the spoonful - my mom made it for every birthday and I just love it. It's like crack).

3. Transfer bowl from pan to folded kitchen towel on counter and continue beating until mixture is cool and billowy, about 2 minutes more. Beat in vanilla. (Frosting can be made 4 hours ahead and chilled, covered.)

Makes about 1 quart.

To ice the cake.....

1. Take one cake layer and place it on your serving plate/platter/stand. To simplify life and make yourself look like a decorating super-star, take strips of wax paper and slip them under the cake (this way, after you've made a big old mess of icing, you just pull them out!).


2. Spread about a cup (or so) of icing on top of this layer. Place the other cake layer on top (NOTE: I had the "flat" sides out because I wanted a flatter cake. Your life will be easier if you put the "flat" sides in toward the centre....the cake won't be as square, but it also won't be as fragile!).

3. With an off-set spatula, coat the cake with a very thin layer of icing (don't worry about the crumbs).


4. Use the rest of the icing to smooth over your crumb coat. I tried to make the icing on the sides smooth-ish, and the icing on the top with a bit of a swirl. Definitely check out these videos on epicurious for some pointers on having a nice-looking cake.


It would have been helpful to have a little more icing!!!!!

5. Decorate as you see fit. Hubs wanted me to try to write something on the cake, so I did.....I'll preface this by saying that I usually am more one who will 'artistically drizzle' rather than try to never ends well. This is one of my better attempts, but still far from perfect....


Thankfully, my father-in-law was forgiving of my poor penmanship, and the best accolade that I could have received was that a man (who shall remain ageless) had a nice hunk of chocolate cake for breakfast the next morning. High praise indeed. :)

Thanks for reading!

bouillabaisse and hallucination

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When I woke up this morning, I was certain that I was seeing things. There was just no way that the fluffy white magic so gently gracing the trees outside my window was there. It just wasn't.

As my eyes grew more accustomed to the dimness, I realized that the "fluffy white magic" wasn't even fluffy. It was wet and windy and hurling itself around my house. How gross.

So I worked from home. I've made the mistake of living on the opposite end of the city from my job and on a day like today, I *knew* that the trip in would be tripled and that my day would be shite. So I cocooned myself in a delusion of warmth and curled up on the couch with my laptop.

In this vein of delusion, hallucination and wishful thinking, I decided to head for a sunfilled, culture-rich coast for my dinner inspiration. Last year, when hubs and I went on our honeymoon, we were fortunate enough to visit Nice for a couple of days - the provençal flavours seduced our tastebuds and it was with that thought in mind that I crafted my bouillabaisse.

This soup is French wine, French cuisine relies on delicate subtleties to overwhelm and surround your tastebuds. For me, there are some days when I want something bold and in your face (like an aggressive curry) and there are other days where the taste of sunshine and freshness are all I need to perpetuate a feeling of sunshine and seduction.

This soup would be a brilliant match with a rosé - personally, I have been loving the East Dell Summer Rosé. I didn't have any, so I opened an Italian Soave, which was bold enough to take on the saffron-laced feast. It is imperative that you accompany your bouillabaisse with the requisite toast and rouille, and that you also be able to imagine yourself overlooking the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean.

This soup comes together quickly and is adapted from Cooking to Beat the Clock, by Sam Gugino

Quick Bouillabaisse (Fish soup with toast and red pepper mayonnaise)

8 T extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion
4-6 cloves garlic
1 large tomato (or one small can of diced tomatoes)
2 bottles of clam juice (sounds gross, but it's good; if you're skeeved, sub two cups of chicken broth)
1 t anise seeds
salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 t saffron threads (VERY important - suck it up and buy 'em for this!)
8 oz fish fillets (I used pollock because it's cheap :) )
4 oz calamari rings
4 oz bay scallops
8 oz shrimp
1 small baguette
1/2 c roasted red peppers
1 egg yolk

NOTE: I used all frozen seafood. And I cooked it from frozen. Took a little longer, but it worked out fine. :) If you want to wow people, you can spring for really high quality seafood, but it's also great with the less expensive frozen stuff.

1. Preheat a broiler and adjust the broiling rack so you can broil. Put 1 T of oil in a large dutch oven. Peel and quarter the onion. Peel the garlic. Put the onion and 3 cloves of garlic in a food processor. Pulse just until chopped. Scrape into the pot, raise the heat to medium and cook for 2 minutes. Meanwhile, core the tomato, and pulse it in the food processor (if using canned, just drain). Open the bottles of clam juice.


2. Add the tomato, clam juice, anise seeds, salt and pepper to taste to the pot. Over the pot, crush 1/4 t of the saffron between your fingers. Stir well, cover, and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, cut each piece of fish in half. Reduce the heat under the pot to medium, add the fish, cover and cook for about 5 minutes. When the soup returns to a boil, add the rest of the seafood (as mentioned, I used the frozen stuff - took a while for it to boil again!).

saffron threads

3. While the seafood cooks, cut the baguette on the diagonal into 1/2 inch slices (you'll want at least 9!). Put all but one of the slices on a baking sheet and toast both sides in the broiler, about 1 minute each side.

les toasts

4. Drop the remaining garlic clove down the chute of a running food processor (I advise at least 2 cloves for yumminess). Stop the motor and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the roasted peppers, egg yolk, reserved bread slice and remaining 1/4 t saffron. Purée, then, with the motor running, gradually add the remaining 7 T olive oil through the chute until it has the consistency of mayonnaise (PERSONALLY: at this point I taste, and added some sea salt and about 1 t of red wine vinegar to add some punch!).

the makings of rouille

5. Divide the soup among 4 bowls. Spread the rouille on the toasted baguette. Serve any remaining rouille on the table. Enjoy!


I can't wait to experience this on a summery patio, but in the meantime, I'll take my provençal delusions over the snowy reality any day. Thanks for reading and as always, I live for comments. :)

Monday, April 09, 2007

more adventures in soupitude

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I now have a new favourite soup. It's no secret that I LOVE homemade blended's a real favourite of mine, actually. Warm soup, cold day (snow on freaking EASTER)....perfect match.

For holiday meals, I normally include some sort of orange vegetable - sweet potatoes, squash or what have you. But I wanted to change it up a little bit for this holiday. You see, my huge pet peeve with a turkey dinner is that it takes all day for the meal to cook and then the hordes inhale the food and it's gone in about 10 minutes. Ten minutes for dinner is a travesty on the best of days, but to have a holiday mealthat I (personally, as a non-religious person) centre around gatherings of people last a mere 10 minutes is just wrong.

I decided to structure the dinner a bit more like a dinner party and less like a hoover-fest (in so doing, hoping to also alleviate some of the overly full feelings that I've come to associate with a turkey kinda worked).

Anyway, this soup was surprisingly incredible. Like really, one of the best soups I've ever made. I could almost go so far as to say it was the highlight of the meal. Of course, I couldn't find calvados or butternut squash, but the alterations I made the initial recipe (from Bon Appetit) were really good. I don't know if I even want to try it the original way because it was just that awesome. I made the soup the night before (including the evaporated milk) and just reheated it in my big crockpot to free up range-top real estate. It took about 3.5 hours on high to get to the right temperature.

If you like soup, this is beyond incredible. SO flavourful and utterly worth having to hack through a giant hard buttercup squash (if hubs hadn't been home, I would have used a reciprocating saw - this is one solid gourd).

Brandy-laced Squash Soup with Cinnamon and Bay Leaves

6 pounds buttercup squash (about 2 very large), halved lengthwise (buttercup squash is dark green, large and pumpkin-shaped)
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter
2 onions, chopped
2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
2 bay leaves, broken in half
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1.2 L chicken stock
1/2 c brandy
1 12-ounce can evaporated milk

1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
dash cumin

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper (or a SILPAT). Scoop out seeds and brush squash flesh with 2 tablespoons oil. Place on prepared baking sheets, cut side down. Roast squash until very tender, about 1 hour.
really, really, really hard buttercup squash

2. Cool 20 minutes. Scoop out 6 cups squash pulp and transfer to large bowl (I ended up with just over six cups and kept it all!)
buttercup squash, vanquished

3. Melt butter with remaining 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add onions, cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, salt, and pepper. Sauté until onions are soft, about 10 minutes. Add brandy and simmer until almost all of liquid evaporates, about 1 minute. Discard cinnamon stick pieces and bay leaves.

4. Add squash to onion mixture, along with chicken broth. Puree soup with an immersion blender (or use a blender or food processor). The initial recipe called for straining, but I didn't do that. Add in the can of evaporated milk. If the soup is too thick, you can add more broth. My soup was quite thick, but I like it that way.
(at this point, I refrigerated my soup and reheated the next day in the crockpot for three and a half hours on high).

5. Mix sour cream, ground cinnamon and dash ofcumin in medium bowl to blend.
Bring soup to simmer. Ladle soup into bowls. Garnish each with dollop of cinnamon cream and serve.

Honestly, I didn't think this soup would be bad, but I had NO idea it would be as awesome as it was. It's seriously really really REALLY good. The buttercup squash is superlative and just has the most amazing flavour. Make this - it would be a great meal along with a salad and baguette. It would also be easy to make vegetarian just by using veg. broth.

Makes 12 servings.


a chocolate dipped century

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So this is my hundredth post. seems it took me two weeks to get my ass in gear to write it. I officially suck. So thanks for sticking with me, and I promise you, this is absolutely worth the wait.

I give you here a chocolate torte with not one, two or even three layers of chocolatude. We have FOUR full layers of chocolate bliss, on top of which are three more layers of evil delicious and sinful chocolate. We're talking a pound and a half of some of the most delicious stuff on the planet. And probably about sixty billion pounds on my butt.

I had a full house for Easter Dinner (actually, the house has in general been quite full lately; I can offer this only as a partial explanation for my absence) and since I'd found myself making alot of the same-old, same-old lately, I wanted something completely off the wall indulgent. Last weekend, I actually had two dinner parties (one big, one small), and while they both went great....they were boring. Nothing new or adventurous or exciting. And I NEED food to be new, adventurous and exciting.

So what better time to experiment than Easter dinner (talk about a same-old, same-old kind of meal.....). Since I'm all about being backwards and doing things my way, I'm going to start with dessert first.

I wanted to make something so lusciously and singularly chocolatey. Something so full of all the good stuff. Something so heart-stoppingly rich that you can only have a tiny little piece.

And I found this something, thanks to my friend epicurious. A triple chocolate mousse torte. And I made it. But as I said, mine actually had seven layers of chocolate.

This recipe is fabulous. It has great presentation (particularly if you fancy yourself more of a patissier than I......mine looks pretty good, but someone with talent could really do a lot with this!). It's a bit time consuming to make (especially as you have to wait for each layer to firm up before adding the next), but it's not terribly difficult and if you're busy doing other things, the time goes by pretty quickly.

Triple Chocolate Mousse Torte
(adapted from

1 1/4 c. chocolate cookie crumbs (I bought Oreo crumbs - you could make your own in the processor)
1/4 c. melted butter

1. Combine crumbs and melted butter.
2. Press into the bottom of an 8 or 9-inch springform pan that has been oiled. Chill while you do the rest of the chocolate stuff.

Oreo crumb crust

Vegetable oil
120 grams bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped (plus extra for drizzling)
120 grams milk chocolate, chopped (plus extra for drizzling)
120 grams good-quality white chocolate (such as Lindt or Baker's), chopped (plus extra for drizzling)
I had 2-100g bars of each kind of chocolate. I bought Lindt because it's easy to find here and it's reliably yummy. I personally don't like Baker's because it tastes like ass (sorry, but if I wouldn't eat it, I don't really want to melt it down into cake!)
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1/4 cup cold water
1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin
5 large egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar (if I made this again, I would omit the sugar)
1 cup half and half

1 3/4 cups chilled whipping cream

1. Place each chocolate in separate medium bowl.

2. Combine 1/4 cup water and gelatin in small bowl. Let stand until gelatin softens, about 10 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, beat yolks and sugar in large bowl until mixture is pale yellow and very thick, about 5 minutes. Bring half and half just to simmer in heavy large saucepan.

4. Gradually whisk hot half and half into beaten egg mixture. Return mixture to same saucepan. Stir over medium heat until custard thickens and leaves path on back of spoon when finger is drawn across, about 3 minutes (do not boil) I think I might have boiled it. Oops!

5. Remove custard from heat. Add softened gelatin; stir until gelatin dissolves. (NOTE: Mine never dissolved totally....or it could have been bits of egg any rate, my custard wasn't totally smooth. Straining seemed to help a lot though!)
chopped chocolate and custard

6. Strain mixture into large glass measuring cup. Immediately pour 1/3 of hot custard over each chocolate. Stir each chocolate with separate spoon until melted and smooth. If mixture cools before chocolate is completely melted, set bowl over saucepan of simmering water and stir just until chocolate melts (NOTE: I found white chocolate melted very easily, but dark and milk needed to be heated over water). Cool chocolate mixtures to room temperature, stirring occasionally.
chocolatey custards

7. Beat whipping cream in large bowl until stiff peaks form. Divide whipped cream equally among bowls of chocolate, using about 1 1/3 cups cream for each. Fold whipped cream into chocolate in each bowl.

8. Pour bittersweet chocolate mixture into bottom of prepared pan. Smooth top with spatula. Freeze until firm, about 15 minutes. Pour milk chocolate mixture over bittersweet chocolate layer. Smooth top with spatula. Freeze until firm, about
15 minutes. Pour white chocolate mixture over milk chocolate mixture. Smooth top with spatula. Freeze until firm, about 15 minutes.
milk chocolate mousse layer

9. Run sharp knife around sides of pan. Remove pan sides. At this point, I melted my reserved chocolate and drizzled it over top. All I did was crumble the chocolate, and microwave it for about 1 minute and stir until melted. Then I spooned it into a small ziploc, snipped the corner and drizzled away. This is optional, but it makes it look fancier and covers up the fact that I can't level a cake to save my life. :)

Here's the dark chocolate layer (I think it actually looks pretty snazzy with just the one layer):
drizzly dark chocolate

And then the milk chocolate layer:
milk chocolate drizzle layer

And just because I could, here is the white chocolate layer:
white chocolate drizzle layer

I kinda made a bit of a mess with the chocolate.

But so worth it. Seven layers of chocolate is no mean feat......but as I said, this is REALLY rich, and were I to make it again, I would omit the extra 1/4 c. of sugar - I think the chocolate is sweet enough on its own. This is the perfect treat for the chocoholic (i.e., ME and my father-in-law). Thanks for reading! I will soon be back with the rest of dinner, including my flaming attempts at turkey roasting.......


Serves 12.

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