Monday, August 26, 2013

Very Full Tart - IHCC Pies & Tarts

This delicious tart, brimming with roasted vegetables bound by a cheesy custard and baked in a crisp crust was for me the "Clean Out The Vegetable Crisper" Tart. Some neglected vegetables took on new life with this dish.
I didn't have the required sweet potato but included mushrooms and a few long forgotten tomatoes, which shouldn't have been in the refrigerator to start with, and used garlic instead of onion. To simplify the vegetable preparation, I just chopped everything up and roasted it together.....with the peppers, eggplant and zucchini, the combination was reminiscent of ratatouille.
My tart was a "lite" version, with only a tablespoon or so of oil used for roasting the vegetables, reduced fat feta, ricotta and milk in the filling and a lower fat Olive Oil Tart Dough from The French Market Cookbook by Clotilde Dusoulier, for the crust.
You would never have suspected it since it was very full-flavoured and satisfying. This recipe, from the book Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi, is definitely one that will be repeated.
This post participates in I Heart Cooking Club's theme this week of 
Pies & Tarts. We are currently cooking with featured chef Yotam Ottolenghi.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Easy 4 Ingredient Soups - IHCC Potluck

My youngest daughter has never shown much interest in cooking so I was quite pleased - but didn't show it of course, lest that dampen her enthusiasm ;-) - when she recently requested some easy soup recipes. Since this is Potluck week at I Heart Cooking Clubs where members can cook with previously featured chefs, we turned to Mark Bittman's weighty tome, How To Cook Everything and chose a few simple recipes that require only 4 ingredients each.

Wonton Soup
First up was Wonton Soup, clear chicken broth flavoured with a little soy sauce. Added to that were cooked wontons (a 300g package of frozen or 20 homemade) and sliced green onions. It had very good flavour with minimal effort.
Potato and Leek Soup
Next was Potato and Leek Soup, a French classic. There was a good balance of potatoes and leeks to liquid that resulted in a delicious soup with great consistency. We added a sprig of fresh thyme (strictly optional) since it's what I always use. As per daughter's preference, the soup was left chunky. This was one of the favourites.
Chicken Noodle Soup
Finally, Chicken Noodle Soup. Cooked egg noodles and cooked, chopped chicken added to chicken stock is this soup at its most basic. Of the suggested add-ins for extra flavour, we opted for a mirepoix of sautéed onion, celery and carrot - I'm counting this as 1 ingredient ;-) - which helped transform the simple soup into a hearty, great tasting meal-in-a-bowl. 

The common ingredient in each of these recipes was chicken stock; one batch of each of the soups above could have been made with a 900ml carton of good quality, preferably low-sodium, chicken broth but we used Mark Bittman's Quickest Chicken Stock, a recipe that called for a chicken and the most basic of ingredients to flavour the broth: onion, carrot, celery, parsley and a bay leaf.
It was cooked for only as long as it took to cook the chicken, about 45 minutes, and yielded 2.7 litres of chicken stock and usable chicken meat, perfect for adding back to a soup. The key to extracting as much flavour as possible from the ingredients during the relatively short cooking time was cutting them into smaller pieces, increasing their surface area.
Quickest Chicken Stock
After refrigerating the strained stock overnight and skimming the fat that solidified on the surface it was ready to use or freeze. With its clear and distinct chicken flavour, it was a great base for the 3 soups we made.

We had fun with Mark Bittman, but check out who's cooking with whom this week at I Heart Cooking Clubs.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Grilled Corn and Edamame Salad

This is a vibrant dish I like to make when local corn is at its peak. Grilling the vegetable enhances its sweetness and adds a slightly smoky element to the salad, and a light lime dressing ensures a flavour as alive as the colour. 
Grilled Corn and Edamame Salad
The salad is delicious served chilled or at room temperature so it's great at a picnic, and it keeps well for a day or two in the refrigerator so it also works well in lunchboxes.


Grilled Corn and Edamame Salad
serves 4 as a side or 2 as a meal

Ingredients:

250g/2 cups fresh corn kernels from approx. 3 ears of corn (or frozen, thawed corn)
180g/1 1/2 cups frozen, shelled edamame, cooked according to package directions, drained and cooled
150g/scant cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 small red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 6mm/1/4" dice 
1 jalapeño pepper, seeds and membranes removed, finely chopped
2 green onions, (green parts only) thinly sliced
juice and grated zest of 1 lime
1 tbsp neutral oil (canola or grape seed)
30g coriander, roughly chopped (approx. 1/4 cup chopped)
salt and pepper to taste

Method:

To grill the corn, preheat a seasoned (non-stick) stove top grill pan over medium-high. Whether using fresh corn removed from the cobs or frozen, thawed kernels, pat them dry with a paper towel to remove excess moisture. Add the corn to the pan and spread it out into an even layer. After about 1 minute, or once the kernels at the bottom start to develop a golden-brown colour, flip the corn over with a spatula and repeat. Over the next few minutes, stir occasionally to redistribute the corn and allow the kernels to brown evenly; this should take about 3-4 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

In a medium sized bowl, combine the cooled corn with the remaining ingredients. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve immediately, or refrigerate in an airtight container until serving time.

Additional Notes:

An alternative to grilling the individual kernels is grilling the corn while still on the cob. To do this, remove the husks and corn silk from the cobs. Cook over medium-high heat on an outdoor grill or in a stove top grill pan, turning the cobs occasionally to cook the corn evenly until most kernels are browned and caramelized, 4-5 minutes. Cut the kernels from the cobs once cooled.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Blueberry White Chocolate Clafoutis

Filled with juicy summer berries and nuggets of white chocolate, this is a very non-traditional version of the classic cherry-filled French custard dessert.

The filling is a departure from the traditional recipe in other ways as well: it calls for yogurt instead of milk and contains butter and more flour than usual, giving it more of a cake-like texture.
The batter is made in a food processor and takes just a few minutes to put together but it can be made just as easily with a hand mixer in a bowl. With its relatively short baking time, this is a great dessert to make when you're pressed for time. Delicious served warm or at room temperature.

The recipe for Blueberry White Chocolate Clafoutis is from the book Bonnie Stern's Essentials of Home Cooking, by Bonnie Stern, a much under-used cookbook I've had for years! 

I'm sharing this post with Cook-Your-Books, hosted by Joyce of Kitchen Flavours.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Carrot, Apple and Pecan Muffins - IHCC Nuts & Seeds


I enjoy so many nuts and seeds, it's difficult to pick a favourite so it was only fitting that I chose a recipe that included a variety for this week's I Heart Cooking Club's theme Nuts & Seeds. We're cooking with Yotam Ottolenghi so I made Carrot, Apple and Pecan Muffins from Ottolenghi: The Cookbook.
Moist, dense, and lightly spiced, these flavourful muffins included pecans and coconut in the batter with sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and black sesame seeds in the crunchy crumble topping. They all came together beautifully with the grated carrot and shredded apple to create a delicious breakfast treat.
I followed the recipe for the most part but did use whole wheat pastry flour in place of the plain flour, omitted the raisins and baked them in a standard sized muffin pan so the yield was 24. I'll definitely be making these again.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Avocado and Radish Mini-Tartines


I recently acquired The French Market Cookbook, by Clotilde Dusoulier - actually, I won a copy from the author's blog - and was excited to start cooking from it. A quick look through the book and many flagged recipes later, I decided to try this recipe first since I had everything on hand. It's a simple, no-cook dish based on a traditional French hors d'oeuvres of radishes, salted butter and bread that makes a great appetizer or snack.
The avocado, lightly mashed and seasoned with cumin and lemon juice, replaces the butter on the bread and adds creaminess and delicious flavour. Top it with thinly sliced radishes (I used cucumbers as well) and a final sprinkle of sea salt and you have these delicious little bites.

Like this one, many of the recipes in this vegetarian cookbook look simple and delicious with a focus on seasonal produce...I'm looking forward to trying more.

This post participates in Cook-Your-Books, hosted by Joyce of Kitchen Flavours. Please visit to see what everyone else is cooking this month.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Korean-Style Grilled Short Ribs

I'm not going to pretend that this recipe even approaches authentic Korean cuisine, but it's inspired by it and it's easy and delicious and everyone who tries it, enjoys it!
I've tried several marinade recipes and the one I use is an adaptation of them. It's lower in sugar than most and includes vinegar which adds flavour and acts as a meat tenderizer.



Korean-Style Grilled Short Ribs
serves 6

preparation time: 5 - 15 minutes
marinating time: 12-24 hours
cooking time: 6-8 minutes

Ingredients:

1.8kg beef short ribs, sliced crosswise to 6-8mm thickness, trimmed of fat*
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Marinade:

4 tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce
2 tbsp light brown sugar
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 tbsp mirin
6 cloves garlic, minced

Method:

1. Season the ribs with black pepper. Place them in a resealable heavy-duty plastic bag (a freezer bag works well).

2. Combine the marinade ingredients and pour over the ribs. Seal the bag and massage the ribs with the marinade through the bag turning over several times to ensure that all of the meat is coated. Refrigerate the sealed bag for 12 - 24 hours, turning occasionally.

3. Remove the meat from the refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking to allow it to come to room temperature. Pre-heat the barbecue on medium-high, or the oven on the broil setting. Remove the ribs from the marinade, shaking off the excess and discard the marinade. Grill or broil (top rack of the oven) the ribs 3-4 minutes per side until browned and cooked to medium-rare or desired degree of doneness.

Serve immediately.

* Short ribs are a fatty cut of meat; ideally you want them to be marbled, with the fat evenly distributed but sometimes there are areas of fat in the meaty section that can be easily trimmed off.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Grilled Asparagus, Zucchini and Halloumi - IHCC Gorgeously Green

Gorgeously Green, this week's I Heart Cooking Clubs theme, describes this dish of lightly grilled asparagus and zucchini flavoured with basil and served on a bed of peppery arugula perfectly.
I altered the recipe slightly, omitting the oil listed in the recipe and used the garlicky basil oil dressing instead: a light drizzle on the tomatoes before roasting and a barely-there coating on the asparagus and zucchini before grilling. 
Dotted with sweet, roasted cherry tomatoes that were like bites of tomato candy, and topped with salty, grilled halloumi, this was an exceptionally delicious dish. The suggestion that it serves 4-6 is ridiculous....it barely fed 2 it was that good!
The recipe for Chargrilled Asparagus, Courgettes and Manouri is from the book Ottolenghi: The Cookbook, by featured chef Yotam Ottolenghi.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Braided Passion Fruit and Chocolate-Almond Breads - Avid Baker's Challenge

It's only been in the last few years that I've started to bake yeast breads. I'm at the point where I'm comfortable with most aspects but the final shaping of the dough is still a challenge for me, and braiding, a veritable nightmare. So it was with some trepidation that I approached the recipe chosen for the August Avid Baker's Challenge, Braided Lemon Bread.
Braided Passion Fruit Bread with Vanilla Bean Glaze
The egg and butter rich dough came together easily in the stand mixer and though I used the full amount of flour plus an additional 30g, it was still very soft but happily, quite manageable.
I did stray from the recipe in regards to the filling. I had some passion fruit curd remaining from a previous baking project so used that instead of lemon curd, and replaced the cream cheese and sour cream with the same weights of mascarpone cheese and crème fraîche respectively, again just using ingredients I already had on hand.
Braided Chocolate-Almond Bread
For the chocoholics in the family, one of whom doesn't like cheese, I filled one braid with chocolate and almond creams.

I was thrilled to discover the excellent instructions for shaping the dough on the KAF blog post for this recipe; the mock braiding technique turned out to be very easy and something I will definitely use again. I baked the breads at 350F for 20 minutes. 
We loved them! The bread was tender and had a slight tangy flavour from the yogurt. The chocolate-almond braid was very good, but frankly, the chocoholics didn’t know what they were missing in the passion fruit-cheese braid which was fantastic.

The ABC bakers are currently baking from the King Arthur Flour website. The recipe for Braided Lemon Bread can be found here

The recipes for Passion Fruit Curd, Almond Remonce Filling, and Chocolate Butter Filling are from The Pie and Pastry Bible, by Rose Levy Beranbaum.

Cookies 'n' Cream Birthday Cake

Inspired by the Hershey's Cookies 'n' Creme candy bar, and made recently for my vegetarian daughter's birthday, this white vanilla cake with Oreo buttercream filling and vanilla buttercream frosting is a family favourite.
Cookies 'n' Cream Cake
For special occasion cakes, I often turn to the recipes of Rose Levy Beranbaum since they're so reliable. This one starts with a basic vanilla butter cake that's made with egg whites only. The resulting cake has a very fine, tender crumb with great vanilla flavour. In keeping with the cookies 'n' cream theme, I add a few chopped Oreo cookies to the batter.
The cake is filled and frosted with Rose's Mousseline Buttercream, an Italian Meringue Buttercream that uses a little less sugar than most recipes, flavoured with good vanilla extract. Though deceptively light and airy, it is very rich so a little goes a long way. I add crushed Oreo cookies to a portion of it for the filling.
I like to bake but I'm no cake decorator so I keep it simple.

The recipes for White Velvet Butter Cake and Mousseline Buttercream are from The Cake Bible. The cake recipe can be found here, and though it's not exactly the same, a recipe and tutorial for Italian meringue buttercream can be found here.

Additional notes:
For the cake: 
- I scale the recipe up by 33% and bake the batter in 23cm/9" x 5cm/2" pans.
- I add 6 chopped Oreo cookies (~72g/scant 180ml/3/4 cup chopped) to the cake batter

For the buttercream:
- I flavour it with 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
- the filling is made with 240ml/1 cup buttercream and 6 crushed Oreo cookies (~72g)
- I use the remainder of the buttercream for frosting and decorating the cake (1 recipe makes enough to fill and frost a 23cm/9" cake with a moderate amount of piping)