Monday, July 27, 2009

Daring Bakerless

OOpps, serious baking problems have left me Daring Bakerless. The cookies I made were really sad. I will try again tonight, wish me luck!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Peach and Blueberry Oat Crisp

Peach &  Blueberry Oatmeal Crisp

So you didn't think that we ate ALL those blueberries did you? Well yes, we did get through 3/4ths of the basket by just grabbing handfuls and popping those juicy blueberries into our mouths... but... I did save some for this succulent peach and blueberry crumble!

The Quebec and Ontario peaches are just starting to arrive in big baskets here so this was a lovely way to show case local ingredients. To go along with this dessert I made something special that I'm sure Ian will love, some Super Lemon Ice Cream. I just pulled it out of the ice cream maker so it didn’t make it into the picture but just imagine us enjoying some sweetly sour ice cream with our local faire!

I'm usually not a big fan of a crumble so I switched it up with a nice oat crisp. This was a magnificent summer dessert, thanks to Aggie's Kitchen for the wonderful BB pick!

Peach &  Blueberry Oatmeal Crisp

Peach and Blueberry Oat Crisp
adapted from Ina Garten

2 lbs firm, ripe peaches (6-8 peaches)
2 tsp grated lemon zest
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp vanilla
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup fresh blueberries (1/2 pint)

adapted from Ungourmet
1 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup butter, softened

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Immerse the peaches in boiling water for 30 seconds to 1 minute, until their skins peel off easily. Place them immediately in cold water. Peel the peaches, slice them into thick wedges, and place them in a large bowl. Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, granulated sugar, and flour. Toss well. Gently mix in the blueberries. Allow the mixture to sit for 5 minutes. Spoon the mixture into ramekins or custard cups. In another bowl combine the oats, flour, and brown sugar. Cut in the butter. Spoon over the fruit. Place the ramekins on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and back for 40 to 45 minutes, until the tops are browned and crisp and the juices are bubbly. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

An Open Letter to Quinn Farms

Quinn Farms BlueBerry picking

Dear Quinn Farms,

I am truly sorry for all the berries I ate off of your bushes today instead of putting them in my basket. I understand that I was only supposed to nibble while I picked but I couldn’t resist, they were so very tasty.

Yes I know, we left with two huge baskets of blueberries and raspberries but you should have weighed me before and after to find out how many really left in my belly.

Quinn Farms BlueBerry picking

Ian and I came across blueberries the size of quarters that burst with sweet ripe juice when you bit into them. Brilliantly bright red raspberries hid beneath thousands of deep green leaves, just waiting to be picked. Every time we found a raspberry you could hear my roommate and I yelling "ohh a piece of candy!"

Quinn Farms BlueBerry picking

Once again Ian was a real trooper considering uncooked berries don’t sit as well in his stomach as they do in mine. I guess I ate his portion eh. It turns out he is a master blueberry picker who devised plans to find only the ripest berries and doesn’t get detoured by eating them.

Quinn Farms BlueBerry picking

Really, you are all so nice so to make it up to you Quinn Farms I will bake my little heart out. I will bake raspberry custard tarts and blueberry pies for Ian; I will make berry sorbet and eat blueberries in milk for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.


P.S. There are probably a ton in my roommate Adam's belly too. Sorry.
Check out his post for another account of Ian, Christie, and Adam's great berry adventure!

Quinn Farms BlueBerry picking

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Degree in Cell and Molecular Gastronomy?

Molecular Gastronomy

Yes, I finally graduated from my BSc in a Specialization of Cell and Molecular BIOLOGY! But these days as I search for jobs and cook I find myself falling further into the culinary aspects of the molecular world as opposed to Genomics. This whole Molecular Gastronomy craze both annoys and intrigues me. I truly believe in a whole and healthy meal; you know those ones that have been prepared the same way for generations. On the other hand I am constantly interested in the 'what, why, and how can I mess with it to make it better' aspect of life.

In comes this month’s Daring Cooks challenge, a recipe from Alinea the leading edge cookbook on molecular gastronomy. Supposedly this is the easiest recipe in the book as it doesn’t call for any ingredients or instruments that would have to be checked out of the lab. The idea was to present five different powders made from simple dehydrated ingredients to accompany a lush burre monte poached Skate wing.

For this challenge I decided to powder Capers, Lemon, Red Onion, Cilantro, and Field Strawberries from last weekend’s Quinn Farms raid. Everything was going well until the last minute of dehydration. You see I was one of the participants that didn’t own a dehydrator and had to “wing it” with the microwave. Each ingredient that I painstakingly attended to tried eagerly to burn in mere seconds after almost 30 minutes on low. Luckily I caught them before they all burnt to a crisp and most were salvaged. Needless to say I spent most of Sunday making and ruining powders.

Despite the small setbacks everything turned out wonderfully. The burre monte poached skate was tender yet juicy and each powder added a burst of flavour to every succulent bite. I really only made the strawberry powder for aesthetic reasons, but in the end it was one of my favourites. The lemon and red onion powders were transformed into an intensely flavourful complement to the Skate that I wasn’t expecting.

After the two days of dehydration and prep that went into this dish I don’t think that I will be making it again anytime soon, but I'm so glad to have tried it. Thanks to Sketchy's Kitchen for picking such a wonderful challenge and you can find the recipe for this and other challenges at The Daring Kitchen.

Daring cooks

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Strawberry Ice Cream/Sherbert and Strawberry Picking

Strawberry Picking

Over the past month my roommate Adam and I have been following La Ferme Quinn's blog eagerly anticipating the upcoming strawberry, raspberry, and blueberry picking season. Well last week they posted some succulent pictures of plump raspberries and strawberries so we set the date.

Strawberry Picking

Saturday July 12 we drove west, just across the Montreal Bridge and onto a beautiful island called Ile Perrot. Quinn Farm is only about 25 minutes by car (including a Tim Horton’s coffee stop) so it was the perfect outing for a Saturday afternoon. Ian was a real trooper and joined in the fun even though he is allergic to strawberries.

Strawberry Picking
(picture of my roomate Adam)

Quinn Farm is such a beautiful and vast place with old rustic farm houses and miles of vegetable and fruit patches. When we arrived we were given two large baskets and put on a waggon that drove past the raspberry, apple, blueberry, pumpkin, Christmas tree, current,and asparagus fields (I think I even saw zucchini blossoms) right up to hundreds of rows of strawberry plants.

But of course, when we started picking the sky turned grey and it started to drizzle. Because Ian couldn't pick the strawberries he stood behind me the whole time with a giant umbrella pointing out where he saw some big juicy berries. He's the best eh!

Strawberry Picking
By the time we were finished with the strawberries it was too wet to slosh our way through the raspberry bushes (what an insane storm!) so next weekend we're heading back over the bridge to fill up on all the other berries. I can't wait!

Strawberry Picking

Lately I have become an Ice Cream queen due to David Lebovitz's "The Perfect Scoop" so the second we arrived back at home I started on the Strawberry Sour Cream Ice Cream. I couldn’t help myself so I doubled the amount of strawberries called for, not the best idea in terms of texture and I ended up with more of a sherbert, but all those field berries made the tastiest strawberry "sherbert" that I have ever had!

I had a hard time picking between the Strawberry frozen yogurt or ice cream and in the end the ice cream won out. But, here is the frozen yogurt recipe, it looks very similar and I will be trying it soon.

Strawberry Picking
(Note from Ian: The large, shirtless man on the right hand side of the photo was a very sweet man. He had actually taken his shirt off because it was raining, and he had brought the tiny girl semi hidden at the center of the photo Strawberry picking, but it started raining and she was cold, so he took his shirt off and drapped it on her. She then ran around the field picking and eating strawberries, it was really cute, she ran by me and had a whole face smeared with strawberries and the biggest smile ever. )

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Pasta with Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Pasta & Sun Dried Tomatoes

Once again I am thoroughly blown away by the savoury recipes that Ina creates. I know I am constantly commenting on the amount of butter and fat that she adds to her recipes, but once I get over the shock and just lower the amount, I am time after time left with a bold melody of flavours that work perfectly against each other.

This recipe was no exception. Like the couscous we gladly ate two full servings, smiling the whole way though (even though Ian hates uncooked tomatoes).

One thing though, was it just me or were the measurements of the ingredients entirely off? I knew to double the amount of pasta but I had to cut down on the tomatoes, oil (no surprise there), basil, cheese, olives, and completely cut out the large chunks of sun dried tomatoes from the salad.

Either way, we were very happy. Thanks Ina and thanks to Cat of Delta Whiskey for choosing this week’s recipe.

Pasta with Sun-Dried Tomatoes
adapted from Ina Garten
this is my version of Ina's dish

1 pound fusilli pasta
1/2 pound ripe tomatoes, medium-diced
1/2 cup good black olives, such as kalamata, pitted and diced
200g fresh boccnchini, torn into pieces
1/2 cup basil leaves, julienned
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan

6 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained
1-1/2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons good olive oil
1 garlic clove, diced
1 teaspoon capers, drained
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water. Drain well and allow to cool till warm. Place the pasta in a bowl and add the dressing with the parmesan. Mix together well. Add the tomatoes, olives, mozzarella, and basil. Toss to mix everything around.
For the dressing, combine the sun-dried tomatoes, vinegar, olive oil, garlic, capers, and pepper in a food processor until almost smooth.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Pad Thai and June’s Book Club Pick -- Hungry Monkey


So here is a little tidbit about me, I have to read for at least half an hour every night or else I can't fall asleep. Some might think that I would go through book after book, but I read at such a slow rate that it's kind of like a cruel joke. Also, after 30 minutes I am out like a light and only a few pages closer to finishing the book. Because of my reading narcolepsy and slow pace I only get through a book or two a month making Noëlle’s Simmer Down Book Club right up my alley. Each month a book related to cuisine is chosen and read by participants all over the globe. At the end of each month several questions about the book are posed by Noëlle.

This month’s steamy read (ha, I’m so funny… or sad) was "Hungry Monkey" by Matthew Amster-Burton. The story is a hilariously cute and comical tale of what my father and I like to call a "Daddy's Little Princess" (can you guess what I am?!?) and her dad on a culinary adventure to feed a toddler "real" food. Amster-Burton and little Iris explore everything from Sushi to Pad Thai... oh, and plain cheese pizza! Yes, in the end we find out that no matter what eccentricities and spices you introduce to a child in their younger years, they will always gravitate back to the repulsive basics.

I thought it would be nice to make a recipe from each book that we read, plus I have been looking for a killer Pad Thai lately and with a couple of tweaks to suit my tastes I think I found it.

Oh, also because I don’t have a child, I decided to comment on my cats eating habits.

(Coco also likes cooking from my A la Di Stasio Cookbook...)

Question 1
Food obviously plays a huge role in the Amster-Burton household. What role does food have in your household? Do you feel that kids need to know "where food comes from" and participate in food preparation, or is it enough just to make sure they're eating reasonably healthy foods?

Well since the only child that I have is my cat I will elaborate on her. My cat is getting fat. She can lie on her back with her legs in the air... buutttt the food that I feed her has gotten rid of her gingivitis (yeah, who knew). It's very expensive food and I would put her on a diet but trust me, a cat without food at 3am is probably just as bad as a screaming child. Once I put her on a diet and now she has anxiety attacks every time her bowl is half empty. I have thought long and hard about her food but seriously, she doesn’t care where it comes from, just as long as it’s there. She does like dolphin safe tuna though.

Question 2
Not every family can spend the time and money the author does to introduce his daughter to so many foods. What can working parents or parents with less means do to bring cooking and diverse foods into their children's lives? Or do you feel this is even important?

Really, I only have a cat, and I would do anything for her. Unfortunately when we change her food it doesn’t go well. That all I have to say on the subject.

Question 3
Both the author and myself had some pre-conceived notions about picky eaters. Did the book change any views you may have had, or (for those of you who are parents) reinforce what you already knew to be true from experience?)

I didn't think that one could accomplish what Matthew Amster-Burton has. I just figured that most tastes had to be acquired and no child would enjoy sushi in their first years of life. I guess I was wrong!

Question 4
The author confesses that he was, in fact, a very picky eater as a child, but turned out to be an avid food-lover. Most of you reading this are probably adventurous eaters; is this something that you came to on your own, or did your parents nudge you in that direction? Do you think being a "food lover" is innate or learned?

I think that being a food lover is learned, all I wanted to eat when I was a child was ketchup sandwiches and luke-warm milk, now look at me! My dad actually steered us away from vegetables because he didn’t like them. We would be alienated at the table if either my brother or I were caught with a piece of broccoli on our plates! Not that this bothered us, no veggies, great!! We did eat a ton of fruit growing up and now I love veggies as much as fresh cherries or any fruit out there.

Question 5
The author describes being forced to try sushi as a kid and almost throwing up, but trying it again in college and loving it. He credits this to the fact that the second time he tried it, he expected to like it. Do you agree? Can you think of a food that you probably liked because you expected to like it, or anything you didn't like in spite of thinking you would?

I remember the same thing happening to me with sushi. Everyone was eating it so I gulped it down the first time and the next day I wanted more. I think it was probably peer pressure! One thing that I didn’t expect to like was mussels. Once when my brother and I were younger we dared each other to eat a mussel at a local buffet. I did it and have loved them ever since, where as he didn’t and got into trouble for wasting food. Ha. Score one for the big sister!

Pad Thai
adapted from Hungry Monkey
this is the way I like it to make it

Pad Thai Sauce

1/4 cup concentrated tamarind paste, without seeds, sold in a plastic container
3/4 cup boiling water
1 tbsp. Sesame seed Oil
1/2 tbsp. peanut oil
2 tbsp. fish sauce
1 1/2 tbsp. rice vinegar
3 tbsp. sugar

Pad Thai
1/2 cup pad thai sauce
1 chicken breast chopped into 1 inch pieces
20 shrimp (optional)
1 cup Firm Tofu, cut into 1 inch squares
10 oz. Rice Noodles
2 eggs
2 tbsp. chopped cilantro
1 tbsp sesame seed oil
2 Handfuls of bean sprouts
1 tbsp green onions
1 lime quartered
4 tbsp. crushed peanuts

Pad Thai Sauce
Pour boiling water over the tamarind in a bowl mixing to get rid of large chunks of paste. Add all other ingredients to tamarind in a bowl and stir until the sugar is dissolved.

Pad Thai

Cook the noodles as directed on box, but make sure to cook till al dente. Heat the oil in a large pan or wok. Toss in chicken and tofu, cook for two minutes. Push everything off to the sides and in the middle crack the two eggs. Scramble the eggs vigorously, then continue sautéing everything until the chicken is cooked. Add the noodles, shrimp (if using) and sauce, sauté until all the liquid is soaked into the noodles. Place on plates and top with chopped green onions, bean sprouts, cilantro, crushed peanuts and a slice of lime.