Jewelry dilemmas

August 31, 2009

jewelryIf you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you’ll know that love has been in the air at our Test Kitchen. Not only did Amy get married on Saturday, but the lovely and capable Sabrina got engaged recently, too.

All this excitement led us to a discussion about our jewelry. While I usually stash my wedding ring in my pocket or next to my computer keyboard while I’m cooking, Sabrina is keeping her gorgeous new Mark Lash ring in a ramekin or on a pastry tip to keep it away from gooey dough.

The folks who inspect commercial and restaurant kitchens for health compliance recommend that no one in the kitchen wear rings, watches, bracelets or even earrings and nose rings that could transfer bacteria to food. For me, taking off my wedding ring when I cook comes not only from my concern about hygiene but also from my desire to keep my ring in good shape and prevent my finger from getting a moisture rash.

Do you take your rings off when you’re cooking? If so, where do you stash them for safekeeping?

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Pie for Amy

August 28, 2009

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Tomorrow is a big day for Amy Snider, my friend, colleague and occasional guest blogger on this board.

I love that she and her fiancé Tim have planned a wedding that reflects who they are and what they like do. The wedding is to be outdoors on Amy’s parent’s sheep farm and instead of formality and dancing, there will be Bermuda shorts, lawn bowling and croquet. On the menu is one of her Dad’s lambs and for dessert they’ll have lots and lots of pies. That’s right, despite intense peer pressure from people like me, they’re foregoing cake to have their favourite dessert instead. I like them all the better for it!

So, in honour of this celebration, I offer you a recipe for one of my favourite pies. I hope you’ll make it tomorrow and toast Amy and Tim’s happiness when you take your first bite:

Silky Lemon Meringue Pie

Crust:
1/2 cup (125 mL) butter
1 pkg (250 g) softened brick-style cream cheese
2 tbsp (30 mL) icing sugar
2 cups (500 mL) all-purpose flour

Filling:
1/2 cup (125 mL) butter
1 cup (250 mL) granulated sugar
3/4 cup (175 mL) lemon juice
pinch salt
6 egg yolks
1 cup (250 mL) sour cream

Meringue:
1/3 cup (75 mL) granulated sugar
4 egg whites
1/4 tsp (1 mL) cream of tartar

Pastry: Preheat the oven to 375ºF (190ºC). Beat the butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add the sugar and mix on low. Add the flour mixture and stir until combined and crumbly. Shape into a ball and knead two or three times or until smooth. Roll thinly and fit 9-inch (23 cm) pie plate. Refrigerate for 15 minutes. Poke all over with a fork. Line with parchment paper and fill with pie weights. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove paper and weights and bake for 10 minutes or until golden.

Filling: Melt the butter in a saucepan set over medium heat. Remove from the stove and whisk the sugar, lemon juice and salt. Whisk in the egg yolks and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until mixture comes to a boil. Reduce the heat and cook, stirring, until thick and mounding on the spoon. Cover and bring to room temperature with waxed paper touching the surface of the filling. Gently stir in sour cream and scrape into prepared pastry.

Meringue: Preheat the oven to 375F (190C0. Place egg whites in a clean, dry bowl and beat until frothy. Add the cream of tartar and continue beating. Add sugar, a spoonful at a time, until eggs are full and glossy. Spoon over top of filling and spread to the edge of the crust. Place in oven. Bake for 5 to 6 minutes or until golden. Makes 8 servings.


Grilled honey-spiced eggplant

August 27, 2009

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When Monica Bhide’s book Modern Spice came out earlier this year bloggers and food editors went ga-ga. Despite how appealing every recipe looked, it was this one for eggplant that I just couldn’t quit thinking about.

So, when I found myself alone in the kitchen with an eggplant, I gave it a try. But, instead of using Bhide’s skillet method, I cooked my eggplant on the grill and glazed it with her pomegranate, honey and ginger sauce as it was becoming soft and pillowy.  The result:  one full lady alone in the kitchen without an eggplant. Seriously. It was my entire meal.

Since it’s eggplant season, tell me about your favourite way to enjoy this wonderful vegetable?


Rate your food threshold

August 26, 2009

foodthreshold

(click chart to enlarge)

If I’ve learned one thing by writing last week’s post about horsemeat, it’s that people draw the line about what is – and isn’t! – permissible for them to eat in different places. Choose any meal you find normal and there will be at least one person who considers it revolting.

This chart (don’t laugh – I’m a writer not a designer!) outlines the various limits I’ve observed people choose when considering menus and questions about appropriate food choices. From Fruitarians who will only eat produce that naturally fell from the vine, to people who will literally eat anything, this chart goes from 1 to 20. What number expresses your upper limit? I’m a 14.


Topline Trend Tuesdays: Grass-finished beef

August 25, 2009

Prime Rib Roast

To say that it’s a bull market for grass fed beef would be true but it would also be a cheap pun so I won’t do it. Oh, wait… too late.

Moving on to the meat of the matter, just what is grass-finished beef? Most beef cattle eat a combo of grass and hay for part of their lives; however, they are generally moved in from pasture to a dry lot to be finished on an all-grain diet that consists mostly of corn. This diet change allows the cattle to gain weight quickly and produces a yellowy-coloured marbled and leaf fat that adds succulence and flavour to the meat – two things most consumers praise in a good steak or rib roast.

Grass-finished cattle aren’t put on a finishing diet. Instead, they stay on pasture until just before they’re slaughtered. The end result is leaner meat with higher Omega 3 content; however, the taste is different, too. While some people call it “beefier,” other people find grass-finished beef tougher and not as juicy as grain-finished meat.

But, even some of these folks are switching to grass finished beef because the farming methods used to raise it pose fewer health and environmental risks; likewise it has appeal because this is the natural diet cattle would eat if they roamed free.

Have you tried grass-finished beef? If so, did you miss the taste that a grain diet lends to the meat? Or, did you prefer its clean, beefy taste?


Pucker up!

August 24, 2009

kissingcooking

Most people don’t realize that cooking is like kissing: doing it a little usually leads to doing it a lot more.

Just the other day I started making a peach and blueberry crisp (yes, another one – quit looking at me like that!) and lo and behold, while it was in the oven I prepped these tomatoes. They went into the oven after the crisp was done so that we could have a yummy, fresh pasta sauce for dinner. After all, if the kitchen is already going to need to be tidied, why not make it worth your while?

Oven Roasted Fresh Pasta Sauce:

  1. Combine some seeded tomatoes and a chiffonade of basil in a bowl. Toss with good quality balsamic vinegar, minced garlic and salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle generously with extra virgin olive oil and spread on a baking sheet.
  2. Roast the tomatoes in a 300°F (150°C) oven for 30 to 40 minutes or until the tomatoes are softened and the pan is getting brown. Deglaze the pan with a few tablespoons of dry sherry and smush up the tomatoes with the edge of a spoon.
  3. Spoon the sauce over hot, lightly oiled pappardelle and garnish with shreds of Parmesan or asiago cheese. Or, do what I did last night and top each bowl with a disc of bocconcini cheese and lots of cracked pepper.

Hot weather comfort food

August 21, 2009

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At long last, the heat and humidity has come to Toronto. We’ve had an amazingly summery week and I’ve loved every single minute of it. Seriously. You don’t hear me complaining about the heat – I even cycled to work and played tennis. I just love it!

The only downside to the hot weather is having to cook in a steamy kitchen. No fun. So, I took my dinner prep outdoors.

Pictured above is a yummy cauliflower curry that we sopped up with grilled naan bread. Once the curry was done I threw in some extra charcoal and grilled a few  lamb chops, too. It was a fantastic dinner if I do say so myself.

How do you beat the heat?  Do you order in, subsist on salads or what?

Curried Cauliflower over Charcoal:

Combine a 28 oz can of diced tomatoes with two tablespoons of mild, medium or hot curry paste and a tablespoon of minced ginger. Add a little extra cumin if you like. Cut up a small head of cauliflower and stir the florets and a handful of golden raisins into the mixture. (If you don’t live with Martin who is allergic to legumes, add some drained, rinsed chickpeas, too). Cook, stirring often, on the hot barbecue until the juices are thickened and the cauliflower is fork tender. Stir in chopped fresh mint or coriander and season, if necessary, with salt and pepper.