Wednesday, April 29, 2009

tis the season... for fiddle heads!

So as I made my way home yesterday I stopped in the market and decided to just look at the veggies on offer... and realized (GASP) that it's FIDDLE HEAD season! I HEART fiddle heads... so I bought a small container of them and started thinking about what I would make... another quick stop to the Fresh Fruit Market, and I added some baby potatoes and an avocado to my bag...

This is the best time of year because the market is getting up and running again and everything looks so appetizing... I hope you enjoy this little recipe I cooked up (ha!). If anything, I hope that it inspires you to check out the local fresh produce and mix up your evening meal...

Warm Potato Salad
2 c. baby potatoes, cut in half (make sure they are the same size - so that they cook evenly)
1 c. asparagus, woody ends removed
1 c. fiddle heads
1 avocado, cut in half, pitted and peeled

Lemon-Dijon Dressing
juice of an entire large lemon
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
freshly ground salt and pepper
2 tsp honey
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
1/8 c. apple cider vinegar

Begin by boiling a large pot of water for the potatoes.

In a glass jar (with a lid) combine all your dressing ingredients together, cover and start shaking that jar! Using a jar makes it super easy to combine all the ingredients - AND also makes it easy to store any leftovers. Taste the dressing and adjust the seasoning according to your taste buds.

Add the potatoes to the rapidly boiling water and cook to your liking - a fork should be able to pierce through easily. Drain.

A couple of minutes before the potatoes are ready, cook the asparagus and fiddle heads in a little boiling water (just covered) for about 2 minutes (they should still be crunchy when you bite into them). Drain and cut the asparagus in bite sized pieces (cut in 3rds).

Also, prepare your avocado - cut it in half and remove the pit. Using a spoon, remove the peel and scoop out (in one piece) the avocado. Slice it length-wise.

The key to this salad is all in the timing - you want to make sure that everything is done @ the same time... so that it really is a warm salad. Drain all the veggies, combine them in a large bowl, add the avocado and then dress it up!

I had this along with a red-snapper in my BBQ sauce (from the pork chops recipe)... really really nice. Ah... the joys of walking through the market.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Daring Bakers Challenge - Cheesecake!

The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.

Well... I joined the Daring Bakers website and challenge. All of my favourites blogs participate and I thought it would be fun... and take me outside of my baking box (aka Lemon Meringue Pie). So this month we were challenged to bake a cheesecake. We had to follow the cheesecake directions but could play around with the flavours and we could decorate it however we liked... my problem is that I haven't taken a picture yet... but my cheesecake sure was taste tested. Seriously delicious.

Margarita Cheesecake

Note: rather than using graham cracker crumbs for my crust, I made a batch of my margarita cookies (see recipe) and crumbled 8 of the cookies (makes 2 cups crumbs).

Margarita crust
2 c. margarita cookie crumbs
1 stick butter, melted
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp lemoncello

3 sticks of cream cheese (24 oz total) @ room temperature
1 c. white sugar
3 large eggs
1 c. heavy cream
1 tbsp lemoncello
1 tbsp lime zest
1 tbsp lime juice

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Begin to boil a large pot of water for the water bath.

Mix together the crust ingredients and press into a 9 inch springform pan. You should have enough to press just into the bottom of the pan - make more if you want a crust along the sides.

Because you're going to be baking this in a water bath, seal the springform pan well with tin foil. You want to use enough so that the water doesn't seep into the pan and make the crust soggy.

Set your crust aside and start preparing your cheesecake batter.

In a large bowl, combine the cream cheese and sugar, and cream until smooth using a hand-held mixer. Add the eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating each before adding the next one. Make sure to scrape down the bowl in between each egg. Add the heavy cream, lemoncello, lime juice and lime zest and blend until smooth and creamy.

Pour the batter on top of the prepared crust and tap the pan on the counter a few times to bring all the air bubbles to the surface. Place the pan in a larger pan (roasting pan) and pour the boiling water into the larger pan until halfway up the side of the cheesecake pan.

Bake your cheesecake for between 45 - 55 minutes (mine took 50 minutes) - until it's almost done. To judge, you want the cake to hold together, but still have lots of jiggle to it in the centre (not completely firm). Close the oven door, turn off the heat, and let the cake rest in the cooling oven for 60 minutes. This lets the cake finish cooking and cool down gently enough so that it won't crack on the top. After one hour, remove the cheesecake from the oven and lift it carefully out of the water bath. Let it finish cooling on the counter, then cover and put in the fridge to chill overnight. Once completely chilled - it's ready to serve.

This is a really lovely treat - and next time I make it I'm going to add some dark chocolate to it too... a layer between the crust and the cheesecake batter... that will punch it up a notch again!


Thursday, April 9, 2009

the 2nd easiest pie...

I know I told you yesterday that the Extra-Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Pie is the easiest pie you will ever make. And it is. But this is probably the 2nd easiest one. This is a pre-baked pie crust kinda pie. So half the work is taken out of it when you are blind baking your pastry.

All you have to do now is make the filling. Super simple.

Pecan Pie
3 large eggs
1/2 c. brown sugar
2/3 c. corn syrup
2 tbsp butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 c. pecans, lightly toasted

Preheat your oven to 325F.

In a medium bowl, beat together the eggs, sugar, syrup, butter and vanilla. Pour the pecans into the batter and stir well with a wooden spoon. Pour the filling into the pie crust.

Bake the pie for 35 minutes. The filling will be a little wobbly but as it cools it'll set. Serve it at room temperature OR serve warm with ice cream ;0)

And in case you didn't already know...I LOVE pecan pie

heavenly slices of pie...

My obsession with pies continues. Last night before going to bed I made enough pastry dough for 5 crusts... put them in the fridge to chill overnight and started thinking about what I was going to make today...

Well the first two pies were the always popular Lemon Meringue. :0)

About a month ago I made an Apple and Date Pie from the Golden Book of Patisserie and it was delicious (I know, I need to add the recipe... I thought I had but see that I didn't)... but I thought, what can I do differently? I ended up with a Pear and Fig pie - complete with pine nuts embedded in the top crust ;0)

Finally I had an extra pie shell to fill... and I found a PECAN PIE recipe! I LOVE pecan pie. I adore pecan pie. So does my father. So as part of my Easter treats I will be bring my dad and stepmother a lemon meringue pie, a pear and fig pie AND a pecan pie. Can I say... who needs chocolate when you can eat pie non-stop over the next 72 hours. I am a happy happy girl! (this is just another reason why Easter is my favourite holiday)

Pie Crust
*use the basic recipe but make sure that you have enough for two crusts. Blind-bake the pie crust. keep the remaining dough. don't roll it out quite yet... now to make the filling...

Pear & Fig Pie
3 x large ripe pears, cored and sliced crosswise
1 c. dried figs, stemmed and diced
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. fresh orange juice (about 3 med. sized oranges)
zest of 1/2 an orange
2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp lemon juice
3/4 c. pine nuts
1 egg, beaten

Combine 1/3 of the pears (1 of the pears), the figs, sugar, orange juice and orange zest in a medium saucepan.

Bring everything to a boil, reduce the heat, cover the pan and simmer for 10 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 400F.

Remove the saucepan from heat and stir in the remaining pears, honey, lemon juice and 1/2 c. of the pine nuts. Combine everything well. Put the filling into the prepared, pre-baked pie crust.

Now, take the remaining pastry dough and roll it out. Sprinkle it with the remaining pine nuts (1/4 c.). Grab the rolling pin and gently roll the nuts into the pastry embedding them deeply.

Roll the top onto your pie - nut side up. Make sure that you pinch the edges well with the bottom crust. With a pastry brush, glaze the top with the beaten egg. Take a fork and poke holes into the top (you want to make sure that the steam can escape while it bakes).

Place the pie in the centre rack of the oven and bake for 20 minutes.

Reduce the heat to 375F. Rotate the pie 180 degrees (bake to front). Place a baking sheet with tinfoil underneath to catch any of the juices. Bake for another 40 minutes (check on the pie @ 35 minutes). Cool for 2 hours on a wire rack.

Sigh. This pie sounds absolutely divine.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

the easiest pie you will EVER find

I'm on another pie kick. This weekend will be Easter weekend - and what screams Easter more than... Lemon Meringue Pie!!! ;0) So I've been baking my favourite pie - but thought I needed to add to my pie repertoire. Hence how I found the easiest thing I have ever made.
Seriously. E-A-S-Y as PIE! HA!!!

This recipe was taken out of The Golden Book of Patisserie - the Chocolate and Hazelnut Tart. I didn't follow their recipe exactly... their crust called for a sweet chocolate tart pastry. I stuck with my regular pie crust - since I had some left over from another pie. Probably another reason I thought this was so easy - half the work was already done in advance.

Whatever crust you use - this recipe is a blind bake crust - so bake your pastry in an oven @ 425F for 10 minutes (lined with wax paper and filled with dried peas). Remove the peas and wax paper and bake for another 5 minutes to finish baking the crust. Once baked, set the crust aside and leave it to cool while you make the filling.

Extra-Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Pie
300 g (a super large bar) of extra-dark chocolate
1 1/4 c. heavy cream (whipping cream)
1/2 c. hazelnuts, roasted and roughly chopped

In a bowl over simmering water, melt the chocolate and cream. Stir well to ensure that you remove all lumps. Stir in the hazelnuts.

Pour the filling into the prepared pie crust. Place in the fridge for at least an hour to set.

That's it! Simple eh? It's like making a chocolate fondue and adding a crust to it. I bet you can't just have one slice ;0)

the sweet smell of chipotle peppers

Ah the food network. I heart the food network. I heart it so much that I actually recreated a bbq pork recipe... and ate pork for the first time in almost 10 years. I got a 9 out of 10 for my efforts ;0)

The recipe is borrowed from Chuck's Day Off - Chuck's BBQ'd ribs... really really tasty. They aren't difficult, just set aside some time - it took me almost 2 hours from start to finish. But the actual work involved was maybe 30 minutes...

I couldn't find fresh racks of baby back pork ribs, so I replaced them with pork chops instead. The slow cooking made the chops really tender. The sauce is super flavourful - grab some bread to soak up the leftovers. I had about 2 cups of extra sauce left over - I'm thinking it'll add a nice punch to some rice and veggies... :0)

Lynne's BBQ'd slow roasted pork chops
3 x stalks of celery, roughly chopped
4 x onions, roughly chopped (cooking onions, so they aren't too large)
5 x carrots, roughly chopped
2 x heads of garlic, top chopped off, skins left on
3 x apples, quartered (leave the skin on and don't worry about the seeds)
2 x pork chops (bone in)
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
Salt and Pepper
flour for dredging the pork chops
bottle of red wine
1/2 c. water (or just enough to cover)
2 tbsp. corn starch

The Sauce
1 c. Worchestershire sauce
1 c. ketchup
1 c. soy sauce
1 c. cider vinegar
1 c. pure maple syrup
1 tin chipotle peppers, don't drain
handful of fresh rosemary, removed from the stems
handful of fresh thyme, removed from the stems

Preheat your oven to 300F. Pull out a saucepan that can also be used in the oven - my large pot's handles were plastic - so i just covered them in tinfoil before putting it in the oven.

Prep before you start cooking - so roughly chop up all your veggies and the apples. Set aside.

Take your pork chops, season with the salt and pepper. Now, coat each side of the chops with flour - have the flour on a large plate to make it easier to dredge them.

With your pot heating over high heat, add the oil. Allow the oil to get really hot. Place the chops into the pot and cook on each side about 3-4 minutes (sear them).

Remove the chops from heat and set-aside. If there is excess oil, discard it, but make sure that all the meaty parts are left in the pot (instant flavour). Add the veggies and apples to the pot. Let them caramelize - about 10 minutes (don't toss them around too much).

While the veggies are caramelizing, dump all the sauce ingredients into a large bowl (including the herbs). Combine well.

Return the chops to the pot, add the sauce to the pot and dump the entire bottle of red wine to the mix. Add some water - you want the chops to just barely be covered. Bring everything to a boil.

Cover the pot with tinfoil and place in the preheated oven. I roasted these for about 75 minutes... next time I'll take them out after 60 minutes... but they were still super tender and not dry.

Remove the chops from the pot. Set aside - keep covered with the tinfoil that you used to cover the pot for roasting.

Strain the solids out of the liquid. Remember - DON'T drain the liquid over your drain... strain over a large bowl.

Return the strained liquid to the large pot and return to heat. You want to bring the sauce up to a boil and then simmer to reduce in half (about 15 minutes). Once it's reduced - take about 1/2 c. and mix that with the corn starch. Mix well. By tempering the corn starch before adding it to the sauce you prevent it from clumping up and ruining the silky smooth consistency you're aiming for.

Add the corn starch mix back to the pot, whisking everything together. Toss the chops back into the sauce - ensuring that they're warm when you serve them.

I really hope that you give this recipe a try - if you like some heat in your cooking and want your home to smell awesome - this is the bbq recipe for you!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

an update on my date ;0)

I promised an update on my grandfather's birthday cake... SUCCESS!
It's a perfect afternoon treat - with a cup of coffee or tea to counterbalance the very sweet frosting on this cake. My grandfather loved it - so did all the other guests. YAY! Now your turn ;0)

Friday, April 3, 2009

my sweetest date...

Next Monday is my grandfather's 86th birthday... and I couldn't let something like that just pass by without baking a cake :0)

I wanted to make something that would remind him of my grandmother... and she made the best square dates (yep - same as date squares, but years ago my father flipped the name and its stuck with the family...) so I attempted to bake the sticky date gateau from my Golden Book of Patisserie... I'm posting the recipe tonight - but only taste testing tomorrow afternoon... so I'll update once the birthday celebration has concluded (fingers crossed)...

Andre's Sticky Date (cake)
2 1/3 c. whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp b. powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 c. pitted and chopped dates
1 c. boiling water
1/2 tsp b. soda
4 tbsp dark semi-sweet chocolate chips
3/4 c. butter, room temperature
1 c. b. sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs
1/3 c. pecans, coarsely chopped

Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter two 9 inch round pans and line with wax paper. Set them aside.

In a bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon, b. powder and salt.

In a smaller bowl, combine the chopped dates, boiling water, chocolate and b. soda together. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream the butter with a hand held mixer. Add the sugar and vanilla and beat everything together until the batter becomes creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until combined after each addition.

Lower the speed on the mixer and add the chopped pecans and then the date mixture. Now add the dry mixture and combine well.

Divide the batter into the two pans and bake for about 30 minutes. The result is two golden cakes. Set the two pans aside and allow to cool for about 10 minutes. Then remove from the pans, peel off the wax paper and allow both cakes to cool completely.

Once cooled - slice each cake in half horizontally. Now you have 4 cake rounds - ready to be layered.

Now for the Buttercream - the original recipe required a Butterscotch liqueur buttercream - but since this had to be a family friendly dessert (including kids) - I decided to use a caramel syrup (used in flavoured coffees) instead. Wherever you see the syrup feel free to replace with a liqueur.

Caramel Buttercream
1/2 c. butter, room temperature
1 1/2 c. icing sugar
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. caramel syrup

With a hand mixer - cream the butter and then add the icing and brown sugar and beat until fluffy. Add the caramel syrup and combine well.

Spread 1/3 of the batter on 3 of the cake rounds - layering each one on top of the other. Finally top with the last cake round. Set aside.

Ok... so you think, that's it right? Well, nope. Another step to go. The Butterscotch Frosting became a Caramel Frosting (again, please replace the flavour as you wish).

Caramel Frosting
1 1/3 c. icing sugar
1/4 c. caramel syrup
2 tbsp boiling water

Beat the icing sugar and syrup together, slowly adding the boiling water and beating until you get the smooth consistency. According to the recipe - you top the cake with the frosting now... I prefer to let it sit in the fridge for about 45 minutes and thicken. Once thicker, spoon the frosting onto the top and sides of the cake.

That's it... stay tuned. I'll let you know how it all turned out...