Give thanks for Brussels sprouts

October 9, 2009

brussels sprouts

Raise your hand if you don’t like Brussels sprouts. Okay, now put your hand down so that you don’t reflexively hit me when I tell you that you can like this cruciferous veggie. In fact, you can make it this weekend for Thanksgiving dinner and get rave reviews. I speak the truth.

I know it’s hard to believe me when there are so many nasty Brussels sprout memories competing with my claim. But trust me: the reason you don’t like Brussels sprouts is because you’ve eaten them either 1. overcooked or 2. cooked when they were too old. Honest.

In fact, I didn’t think I liked Brussels sprouts either until I started buying them on the stalk and learned that they don’t need to be boiled to death.

Ready to take the plunge? The first step is to find fresh, young Brussels sprouts. You can hit a farmers’ market or a good grocery store that brings in fresh, local vegetables. While on the stalk, the sprouts should be firm and the outer leaves shouldn’t be yellowed or wilted in any way. The stalk should be pale green and heavy. To use the sprouts, simply cut them off the stalk and peel away any loose outer leaves. Easier than shucking corn!

Maple Mustard Glazed Brussels Sprouts

2 tsp (30 mL) olive or other vegetable oil
1 cup (250 mL) thinly sliced leeks
1 clove garlic, minced
3/4 tsp (4 mL) dried thyme leaves
1/2 tsp (2 mL) each salt and pepper (approx.)
4 cups (1 L) halved small or quartered large Brussels sprouts
3/4 cup (175 mL) water
1 tbsp (15 mL) each maple syrup and whole grain Dijon mustard

Heat the oil in a large, deep skillet set over medium heat. Add the leeks, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes. Increase the temperature to medium-high and add the sprouts.

Stir-fry for 3 minutes. Add the water and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 3 to 4 minutes or until liquid is evaporated and the sprouts are almost fork tender.

Stir in the maple syrup and mustard. Cook, stirring often, for 2 to 3 minutes or until the sprouts are browned and fork tender. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Makes 6 servings.


To a good new year

September 16, 2009

New Year's Honey Cake

September always feels like the real beginning of the year for me. Oliver heads back to school, work gets busier after the lull of the summer and Martin jumps into action at Pangaea with the Toronto International Film Festival. In fact, the kinetic pace that doesn’t really stop until the last New Year’s Eve revelers leave Martin’s restaurant, catch a cab and head home.

That’s why I love the idea of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish celebration of their calendar’s new year. Although I’m not Jewish, I have many very close friends who do practice that faith and who will be observing Rosh Hashanah at the end of the week. So in their honour, I’m featuring a recipe from Marcy Goldman’s wonderful new book A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking. In her header notes, Marcy notes that this cake can be made several days ahead and just gets moister and more delicious as it sits, so why not make it tonight for the weekend?

Marcy Goldman’s Majestic & Moist New Year’s Honey Cake
(excerpted with permission)

3 1⁄2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1⁄2 teaspoon ground cloves
1⁄2 teaspoon ground allspice
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup honey
11⁄2 cups white sugar
1⁄2 cup brown sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup warm coffee or strong tea
1⁄2 cup fresh orange juice
1⁄4 cup rye or whisky (see note below)
1⁄2 cup slivered or sliced almonds (optional)

I like this cake best baked in a 9-inch angel food cake pan, but you can also make it in a 10-inch tube or Bundt cake pan, a 9- by 13-inch sheet pan, or three 8-by 41⁄2-inch loaf pans.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease the pan(s). For tube and angel food pans, line the bottom with lightly greased parchment paper. For gift honey cakes, I use “cake collars” (available from Sweet Celebrations) designed to fit a specific loaf pan. These give the cakes an appealing, professional, look.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. Make a well in the center and add the oil, honey, sugars, eggs, vanilla, coffee, orange juice, and rye or whisky.

Using a strong wire whisk or an electric mixer on slow speed, combine the ingredients well to make a thick batter, making sure that no ingredients are stuck to the bottom of the bowl.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan(s) and sprinkle the top of the
cake(s) evenly with the almonds. Place the cake pan(s) on 2 baking sheets stacked together and bake until the cake springs back when you touch it gently in the center. For angel and tube cake pans, bake for 60 to 70 minutes; loaf cakes, 45 to 55 minutes. For sheet-style cakes, the baking time is 40 to 45 minutes. This is a liquidy batter and, depending on your oven, it may need extra time. Cake should spring back when gently pressed. Let the cake stand for 15 minutes
before removing it from the pan. Then invert it onto a wire rack to cool completely.

NOTE: If you prefer not to use the whisky, replace it with orange juice or coffee.


Cocktail for Canada Day

July 1, 2009

Campari & SodaSince Italian bitters such as Campari and Cynar are bringing Milanese flare to fancy urban lounges and patios this summer, bitters seemed like the perfect place to start when I considered developing a Canada Day Cocktail.

I love the dry, quenching taste of a classic Campari and soda like the one pictured here (Thanks for another great photo, Tracy Cox!) but I wanted to make something even more summery for our country’s birthday. In the end I combined yummy, cold watermelon with campari to create this Campari Canadiana pitcher drink that you can share with friends. Cheers!

Campari Canadiana

1/3 cup (75 mL) campari
1/3 cup (75 mL) sweet vermouth
3 cups (750 mL) watermelon chunks
2 cups (500 mL) crushed ice

Combine all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and puree until slushy and evenly combined. Serve in tall glasses with a straw and a stir stick. Makes 6 servings.

Classic Campari Cocktail

ice
1 oz (30 mL) campari
1 oz (30 mL) sweet vermouth
1 orange wedge
soda

Fill a double old-fashioned glass almost full with ice. Add the campari and vermouth and squeeze the orange wedge over the glass. Top with soda and garnish with the orange wedge.

Do you have a special Canada menu or drink that you serve every year?


Perfect weather for grazing

June 24, 2009

I love the extended daylight we have at this time of year. I feel so much more motivated to get out and do things. Unfortunately, it also seems to lead to less impetus to cook a full meal between the hours of 5 and 7 pm. In fact, it’s this time of year when we seem to nibble and nosh pretty much all evening. A yummy salad around 6:30 pm; some grilled Korean short ribs at 7:30 pm (or when Oliver takes a break from shooting hoops in the drive way with his friends); a bowl of strawberries with ice cream at 9 pm…..it’s an extended meal time pattern that just seems to work at this time of year.

My old friend Julie Van Rosendaal obviously follows a similar pattern. If you read her blog Dinner with Julie, you’ll know that her life is truly hectic.  She has a vibrant media career with crazy hours, a toddler and an abundance of charity commitments that keep her going hither and thither.  Through it all she manages to create, photograph and post some of the yummiest and best recipes in Canada. Besides being part of the new superstar blogger project Good Bite, she’s also just released an updated, newly formated version of one of her books and the timing, for me at least, couldn’t be better. Grazing: A Healthier approach to Snacks and Finger Foods is packed with just the kinds of foods I need for summer. From cheesy black bean dip to hoisin pork lettuce wraps, this collection of snack foods is going to get a lot of use not only next week on Canada Day but all summer long.

I asked Julie what snacks she recommends for this weekend and on Canada Day and she suggestee totally on-trend but still proudly Canadian Dukka Salmon Sticks:

Dukkah Salmon

Dukkah

Dukkah is a fantastic blend of spices and nuts that you could eat out of hand or sprinkle on salads, but its intended serving method is to put it out in a shallow bowl alongside crusty bread and good olive oil; you dip the bread into the oil and then into the dukkah. So since there is dipping action involved, here it is. If there is a snack out there that’s good for your heart, this is it.

3/4 cup hazelnuts or whole almonds
1/2 cup sesame seeds
2 Tbsp. coriander seeds
2 Tbsp. cumin seed
1 Tbsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. flaky sea salt

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Spread the hazelnuts out on a baking sheet and roast for 5-10 minutes, or until golden and fragrant. Transfer them onto a tea towel, fold the towel over and rub them to remove as much of the skins as you can; set aside to cool. (If you’re using almonds, toast them but don’t worry about removing the skins.)

In a dry skillet, toast the sesame seeds over medium heat, shaking the pan often, until golden and fragrant. Transfer to a bowl. Add the coriander and cumin seeds to the pan and toast until they begin to pop; transfer to a food processor with the hazelnuts and pulse until finely ground, then add to the sesame seeds and stir to combine them. Season with salt and pepper and blend well.

Makes about 1 1/4 cups.

Per tablespoon: 55 calories, 5.1 g total fat (0.5 g saturated fat, 3 g monounsaturated fat, 1.2 g polyunsaturated fat), 1.8 g protein, 1.8 g carbohydrate, 0 mg cholesterol, 0.7 g fiber. 76% calories from fat

Honey, Ginger & Sesame Salmon Sticks

To me, these are like candy on a stick; I’d eat the whole lot if no one was around to fight me for them. Salmon is a fatty fish, rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which fight heart disease by lowering triglyceride levels and seem to have a protective effect against some forms of cancer.

1 1/2 lbs. salmon filet
1/2 cup honey or maple syrup
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 Tbsp. lime or lemon juice
1 Tbsp. finely grated ginger
Sesame seeds, toasted, for sprinkling

Cut salmon into big bite sized pieces. Combine the honey, soy sauce and lime juice in a bowl or large zip-lock bag. Add the salmon and stir or shake to coat well. Cover (or seal) and refrigerate for 24 hours, or at least one hour if that’s all you have time for.

When you’re ready to cook them, thread each piece of salmon onto a bamboo skewer that has been soaked in water for at least 10 minutes. Grill over high heat for a couple minutes per side, until just cooked through, or broil for 3-4 minutes. Don’t overcook them or the salmon will dry out.

Place the sesame seeds in a shallow dish and dip one side of each skewer in the seeds to coat, or sprinkle them overtop. Serve immediately.

Makes about 1 1/2 dozen salmon sticks.

Per stick: 95 calories, 2.5 g total fat (0.6 g saturated fat, 0.9 g monounsaturated fat, 0.9 g polyunsaturated fat), 9.5 g protein, 9.6 g carbohydrate, 24.6 mg cholesterol, 0 g fiber. 23% calories from fat

Honey-Mustard Salmon Sticks: add 1 Tbsp. grainy Dijon mustard to the marinade mixture instead of the ginger.

Honey, Garlic & Ginger Sesame Chicken Sticks: add 4 crushed cloves of garlic and a pinch of red pepper flakes to the marinade, and use skinless chicken breasts or thighs in place of the salmon. (They’ll take a little longer to cook.)

Dukkah Salmon Sticks: don’t marinate the salmon at all, but cube, brush with a little oil and cook it on skewers as directed. Instead of sesame seeds, dip each piece into a shallow dish of dukkah

Recipe, variations and photo reprinted with permission of the author from Grazing: A Healthier approach to Snacks and Finger Foods (Whitecap 2009).


Easy Easter dessert

April 10, 2009

blackeyedsusancake

Although today is technically a holiday, I wanted to post an Easter dessert idea. For those of you who are hosting a crowd sometime this weekend, you may want to make this bright and cheerful pull apart cupcake dessert that I created for the Homemakers magazine Bakefest booklet last year.

Cupcake pull-apart cakes are trending up with consumers everywhere. In fact Laura Mandracchia, owner of Little Laura Sweets in L.A. notes that in the last 7 weeks 25% of her orders have been for cupcake cakes for kids parties, baby and wedding showers, adult birthdays and as an alternative for groom’s cakes at weddings. Since cupcakes have been deemed the recession resistant treat of choice, expect this trend to continue!

My Black Eyed Susan version is fun and easy to make (you can use a cake mix and coloured bought frosting) and it’s easy to serve as well. In fact, no knives, cake lifters, plates or forks are required. Just present this sweet arrangement on a tray and let everyone grab a cupcake and a napkin!

Feeling a bit more ambitious but not close enough to Laura to have her whip up something gorgeous for your table? Try this Very Hungry Caterpillar pull-apart arrangement of cupcakes. Isn’t it fantastic?

What’s on your Easter Feaster menu this year?


Pie Day Tarte Tatin

February 16, 2009

tartetatinAs much as I love my own family and as glad as I am to have a government holiday today, I still want to change the name of  our  holiday from Family Day to Pie Day. I’ve already voiced my reasons so I won’t bore you by repeating them again; however, I will share with you the pie that I’ll be making for my family today: a warm, wonderful tarte tatin!

This classic French dessert uses puff pastry but my version can be made with short pastry, too.

 

Classic Tarte Tatin

6 peeled, cored, thickly sliced firm apples,

such as Gala, Spy or Spartan

2 tbsp (30 mL) lemon juice

1 tsp (5 mL) cinnamon

1/4 cup (50 mL) butter

1/2 cup (125 mL) granulated sugar

 8 oz (250 g) pkg thawed, frozen puff pastry

rolled to fit over skillet

Preheat oven to 425oF (220oC). Toss apple slices with lemon juice and cinnamon. Melt butter in a 12-inch (30 cm) ovenproof skillet set over medium-high heat. Sprinkle in the sugar and stir to combine. Arrange apples in pan in a circular pattern. Reduce heat to medium and cook, without stirring, for 15 minutes or until a golden caramel has formed in the pan.

Arrange  the pastry over top of fruit so that apples are completely covered. Fold over the edge of the pastry to fit inside the pan snugly. Transfer pie to the preheated oven. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes if using puff pastry or until pastry is golden and crisp. (If using short pastry, reduce baking time by about 5 minutes.) Turn pie out onto a large platter. Spoon any juices remaining in pan over top of pie. Makes 8 servings. 

Tips:

- Serve with whipped cream, vanilla ice cream or thinly sliced pieces of aged cheddar cheese.

- If using frozen apple slices, defrost completely and drain well before adding to pan.

Happy Family Day! See you back here tomorrow.


Valentine’s Day musings

February 13, 2009

valentine

With Valentine’s Day just hours away, there are likely people reading this post who are wondering how to commemorate this marketer-made occasion. While I personally would love to get flowers (although not roses – maybe a tightly bound bouquet like the stunning arrangements at Joel Robouchon – you can see a picture of them in my facebook group photo album) from my honey, there are a lot of people who would rather have chocolates.

In fact, according to a poll conducted by Nestlé (makers of much-loved sweets such as Kit Kat candy bars and Haagen-Dazs ice cream), 59 per cent of Canadians agree that chocolate is the ultimate food indulgence. Their study also showed that while more Canadian women would prefer a gift of chocolate from their partner, men by far prefer a bottle of wine as a romantic token.

Personally, I’d rather not choose. In fact, why not snack on some chocolates and then wet your whistle with a few glasses of vino while you admire your flowers?

What about you? Will you give a Valentine’s gift to anyone? And, almost more importantly, do you expect to receive one?


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