Saturday, May 1, 2010

May Dispatches - Cinco de Mayo dinner & menu

It all started with Cinco de Mayo. Trying to understand the why, how and what it would require to celebrate in style led me to extensive web research on many, many food and cooking sites and blogs. The menu included :tasty, refreshing margaritas, chiles rellenos, pico de gallo, guacamole, chicken tacos(no, not just any simple tacos) , salsa verde. Some of the recipe ingredients, such as poblanos, were a bit difficult to find in Montreal at the beginning of May, but a trip to the Marché Atwater solved everything and all ingredients were found!

The margarita recipe is from the America`s Test Kitchen newsletter "Notes From the Test Kitchen" May 2, 2008.

Refreshing, with a great citrus twist. Allow time for the grated citrus rinds, juices and sugar to macerate for several hours. For a special added touch, don't forget to rim the glasses with lime juice and salt.

4 teaspoons grated lime zest
1/2 cup lime juice from 2 to 3 medium limes
4 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1/2 cup lemon juice from 2 to 3 medium lemons
1/4 cup superfine sugar
Pinch table salt
2 cups crushed ice
1 cup 100 percent agave tequila, preferably reposado
1 cup Triple Sec

Combine lime zest and juice, lemon zest and juice, sugar, and salt in large liquid measuring cup; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until flavors meld, 4 to 24 hours.

Divide 1 cup crushed ice between 4 or 6 margarita or double old-fashioned glasses. Strain juice mixture into 1-quart pitcher or cocktail shaker. Add tequila, Triple Sec, and remaining crushed ice; stir or shake until thoroughly combined and chilled, 20 to 60 seconds. Strain into ice-filled glasses; serve immediately.

Chiles Rellenos

The Chiles Rellenos recipes is more of a casserole type recipe, not the usual deep-fried traditional recipe. Easy to prepare, and hopefully a bit healthier than frying the stuffed chiles the recipe can be found at:

Chipotle-Marinated Chicken Tacos - Serves 3 (6 tacos)

1 Pound Chicken Thighs
1 Cup canola oil
6 corn tortillas (6 inch)

Chipotle Marinade
1 Plum tomato, cut in half lengthwise
1/2 Medium sized yellow onion
2 Cloves garlic
2 Canned chipotle chilies in adobo
1/8 Cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/8 Cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1 Tbsp. honey
1/2 Tbsp. kosher salt

Method: For Marinade
Preheat the oven to 400ºF

Spread the tomatoes, onion and garlic on a medium sized metal baking pan, and roast until browned, about 15 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally. Remove the vegetables from the oven, let cool, and then transfer to the jar of an electric blender. Add the chipotle chilies, orange juice, lime juice, and salt, and puree until smooth. Put the chicken in a large mixing bowl, season with salt and pepper. Pour the marinade over the chicken, toss to coat well, cover and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Method: For Chicken
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Place the chicken into an oven proof baking dish and pour marinade over the top. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30-40 minutes until cooked through. Remove the chicken from the marinade and let cool. Save the remaining cooking liquid. Using a fork, pull the meat from the bone, and shred into one inch long pieces Toss with about ½ cup of remaining cooking liquid.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Tuscany September 2009

Just back from a couple of weeks touring Tuscany. What a wonderful part of the world. Tuscany is one of the most scenic areas of Italy, not to be rivalled by Italy's big cities. We stayed in Greve in the Chianti region, and used this as a homebase for travel to Florence, Siena and San Giminagno. Tuscany is a foodie's dream. Everything tasted wonderful and was greatly enhanced by the Chianti wines of some of the local producers.
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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Eating Local : Easy, efforless in the summer

Eating Local is not hard at this time of year. Just look at all the wonderful produce available.
I have been making a regular habit of buying at a local market, selecting seasonal produce and making a few additions such as mushrooms and colorful pasta. Grill the zucchini and the summer squash: sauté the garlic in a bit of olive oil. Toss all the grilled vegetables, sautéed garlic together. Cook the pasta according to directions, drain, reserving a small amount of the cooking liquid.
Add the pasta to the vegetable mixture in the sauté pan and toss to coat the pasta. Sprinkle with 2 Tbsp of chopped fresh basil, and salt and pepper to taste. Serve with freshly grated parmesan cheese. Summer does not taste better than this!
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Sunday, May 24, 2009

Rhubarb Pecan Muffins - Stalk Talk

The spring started out with cool weather, but has improved over the last few days. I am always amazed at how the leaves on the trees seem to bloom from small buds and take on a beautiful chartreuse color. The chartreuse color seems to last a few days and then by some stroke of magic the leaves change color, taking on the full leaf green hue.

Rhubarb thrives on cool spring weather, and the first stalks have that rosy hue adding great color to crisps , pies and muffins.

A few years ago the CBC ran a contest asking listeners to submit recipes for rhubarb. It seems that everyone who grows rhubarb is overwhelmed at how prolific the plants can be. There seems to be no limitation on the culinary possibilities. The "fruit" can be used in baking rhubarb muffins, pies and even cooking it into rhubard-ade.

This recipe makes a great sweet, tart tasting muffins.

Rhubarb Pecan Muffins

Makes 12 muffins

2 cups unbleached flour

3/4 cup sugar

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

3/4 cup chopped pecans

1 large egg

1/4 cup vegetable oil

2 tsp grated orange peel

3/4 cup orange juice

1 1/4 cups finely chopped fresh rhubarb

Stir the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda together.

In another bowl, mix the egg, oil, orange peel and orange juice . Add this to the flour mixture and stir just until moist. Stir in the chopped pecans and rhubarb. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 25-30 minutes.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Maple Syrup - Springtime Ritual

Warm, sunny days and cool nights have ensured that the maple sap runs. Earlier in April, we attended a traditional meal at a cabane à sucre in the Laurentians , north of Montreal. It's a ritual of spring with family and friends, a chance to catch up after pseudo hibernating for parts of the winter. Having feasted on pea soup, ham and scrambled eggs, I was anticipating the dessert offerings. I passed on the grand-pères, a puffy pancake deep fried in oil and opted for sugar pie. The pie had a very thin layer of filling, leaving me with a hankering for something else maple and sweet. Arriving home I began to sift through my recipe collection and decided to make some Maple Spice Cookies. Maple syrup provides just the right about of sweetness without overpowering the spices used in baking these cookies. The recipe is from Food & Wine, March 1994.

Maple Spice Cookies

2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 sticks( 1 cup) of unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup unsulphured molasses
1 large egg
1/2 cup raisins
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. In a medium bowl sift the flour with the ginger, cinnamon, allspice, baking soda and salt.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter with the brown sugar and the granulated sugar until fluffy. Beat in the maple syrup, molasses and egg. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the dry ingredients. Stir in the raisins and pecans.
Spoon rounded tablespoons of the dough 2-inches apart on a large cookie sheet. Bake for about 12 minutes, until the cookies are set and browned at the edges. Transfer to a rack to cool completely. The cookies can be stored for about a week in an airtight container.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Sucre à la Crème

This simple recipe for Sucre à la Crème is courtesy of a former work colleague. It is very simple and foolproof to make, and will satisfy any sweet tooth. The addition of toasted, chopped nuts either pecans or walnuts elevates this homemade treat to another level.

Sucre à la Crème - Homemade Fudge

2 cups brown sugar, packed
5 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2/3 cup Carnation milk
2 cups icing sugar(powdered sugar)

In a medium saucepan combine the brown sugar, butter and milk.
Bring the mixture to a boil, and boil for 5 minutes stirring constantly.
Remove from heat, and using a hand mixer beat in the 2 cups of icing sugar.
Spread the mixture in a 9 in x 11 in pan. Refrigerate. Cut into small squares.

(Cook's notes: I add 1/2 tsp. of vanilla to the mixture just before adding the icing sugar. If nuts are added, usually 1/2 c., I first like to toast the nuts and then chop prior to adding as the last step.)

Tourtière - A Christmas Tradition

Christmas always invokes cherished memories of family gatherings. Our traditional Christmas Eve celebration always centers around one dish: Tourtière. I have made many meatpies over the years and always use this recipe found in a local newspaper and treasured closely. The perfect accompaniment is the Fruit Chili Sauce from an old issue of Canadian Living magazine. The meat filling is baked in a double crust. I rely on the pie crust recipe printed on the box of Tenderflake lard.


(makes 1 meatpie)

1/2 lb. minced pork
1/2 lb. minced veal
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 onion chopped
1 clove garlic chopped
1/2 cup boiling water
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground savory

Pie crust for a double crust pie.

Using a medium, heavy saucepan, combine the pork, veal, salt, pepper, onion, garlic and boiling water. Cook uncovered over medium heat, stirring at intervals for 30 minutes.

Add cloves and cinnamon and cook for 5 minutes longer.

Cool, refrigerate and discard the fat when hardened.

Line a 9-inch pie plate with bottom crust, fill with the meat filling. Place top crust and seal the edges. Cut several small vents in the top crust. Brush with an egg wash. Bake at 375 degrees F. for 1 hr.

(Cook's notes: I like to cook the meat the day before which allows for the flavours of the spices to blend. It also allows for the fat to solidify. When I fill the prepared bottom pie crust I will add some tiny bits of the fat, just to add to the richness of the dish and keep the meat filling moist. )