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.