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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Fall Bounty

Wilf and Cathie start their heirloom tomatoes from seed in February  

We are right in the middle of Farmer’s Market Paradise in Waterloo region, with a plethora of gorgeous fall vegetables perfectly ripe and ready.   This was the week to pick up a bushel of red peppers to roast on the grill, then peel and freeze for use during the winter.

 Even closer to home we are fortunate to have generous neighbours , Wilf and Cathie, with a bountiful vegetable garden adjacent to their house.  When they invited us to come and harvest eggplants, tomatoes and peppers we had visions of thick, smoky ratatouille.  Served with some smoked pork chops, it was the perfect fall dinner. 

Smoked Pork Chops

4 extra-thick bone-in pork chops

For the Brine:
4 cups apple cider
¾ cup Diamond Crystal kosher salt
½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup honey
4 bay leaves
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 small bunch fresh thyme

For the coating:
¼ cup Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons Herbes de Provence

Combine the brine ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the salt and sugar.  Remove from heat and cool. 

Place the pork chops in a re-sealable plastic bag, and pour in the cooled brine.  Refrigerate for 6-8 hours.  Drain the brine, rinse the chops and pat them dry with paper towels.  Brush them liberally with the Dijon mustard, and sprinkle with Herbes de Provence.

Place the chops on a preheated smoker with Pecan wood chips scattered over the coals, set to a temperature of 300°F.  Cook for a total of 1 hour, turning every 15 minutes.

Smoked Ratatouille

2 eggplants, peeled and thickly sliced
2 zucchini, thickly sliced
Plenty of salt
¼ cup olive oil
2 red peppers, roasted, peeled and seeded, then cut into bite sized pieces
8 tomatoes, halved
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Grated Parmesan Cheese
Red pepper flakes, to taste

 Slice the eggplants and zucchinis, sprinkle them generously with salt and set them in a colander to drain for ½ hour.  Meanwhile, prepare the smoker and set it to 300°F. Soak a cup of pecan or other mild wood chips in water.

 Wipe the vegetables dry with paper towels, then brush with olive oil.  Drop the drained wood chips onto the coals and place the zucchini, eggplants and halved tomatoes on the smoker in a single layer.  Cook until browned and tender, about 45 minutes to an hour.  Let cool on a wire rack, then chop into bite sized pieces.

Heat enough olive oil to cover the bottom of a large skillet and add onions.  Saut√© until translucent and add the garlic, stirring until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add the smoked tomatoes, removing the skins if desired.  Add the peppers, zucchini and eggplant, and stir over the heat to warm through.  Garnish with chopped parsley and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes if desired.  

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Heavenly Orange Sauce

Our trip to Paris was a feast for the senses! One of the highlights of the week was participating in a French Market Class at La Cuisine Paris. 
We started out at the March√© Maubert, the oldest street market in Paris.  Our group was to survey the offerings of the day, and give some suggestions to Chef Eric as to what we wanted to prepare for lunch. Talk about overwhelming!! You only have to look at our photos of the wonderful offerings to appreciate how spectacular the food choices were.

We finally agreed on a menu that included duck breast, orange sauce and a host of sumptuous vegetables, cheeses and saucisson, that we would figure out what to do with when we got back to the kitchen of the cooking school. This would probably be a good time to point out that the one small snag during our trip involved Andrea breaking her foot. Being a person of "true grit", this did not slow her down. So with the help of her dauntless and resourceful friends (Bev and Kris, of course!), we carried on with our explorations of Paris, making many delightful discoveries along the way,thanks to our slightly adjusted agenda.

Our final menu included:
Squash soup with fresh herbs
Fennel and orange salad with a citrus vinagrette
Potatoes cooked in duck fat
Roasted Market Vegetables
Magret de Canard with Orange Sauce
Raspberry Financiers

(with cream and butter in just about everything! )

We loved this handy funnel which was equipped with a dispenser that measured out equivalent amounts of soup. It was so neat, that we bought one at E. Dehillerin, the famous Paris cookware store. They sell everything that the professional or home chef could ever want. It is an experience just walking through the store! We were given the most delightful service here that we had during our whole trip.

The recipes that we prepared during our class were very simple, and very flexible, so to speak, so we will try here to share the recipe for the Magret de Canard and the Heavenly Orange Sauce, strictly from memory.

Magret de Canard

3 duck breasts
Ground black pepper 
Fleur de sel
Make deep incisions in the fat layer of the duck, being mindful not to cut into the meat. Tidy up the fat around the sides of the duck, by simply running your thumb along where the flesh meats the fat.  Season with salt and pepper. In a heated skillet, cook with the fat side down for 4-5 minutes, turn and cook the other side, until well coloured and slightly crisp. Remove from skillet and pour off excess fat. Reserve the fat to cook the potatoes in. Let the duck breast rest while preparing the sauce.

Heavenly Orange Sauce
1/4 cup white sugar
juice of 2 oranges
knob of butter
1/2 cups cream
Pinch of salt

Start with a hot skillet and turn down to medium when the sugar mixture starts to bubble. Add sugar to the skillet, along with the orange juice, and cook slowly until the sugar syrup has turned to a golden, amber colour.  Do not stir this mixture, just swirl the pan gently, or the sugar will crystallize. This could take 5-10 minutes. Add the knob of butter, then add cream. At this point, you can stir the mixture gently, and continue to cook slowly until the sauce is reduced. Add a pinch of salt.  It will be like caramel when it is finished.
To serve, drizzle it over the thinly sliced duck breast.

Almond Financier with Raspberries
Financiers are little almond cookies baked in tiny molds that resemble gold bars- hence the name, financier!

150 g butter
100 g icing sugar
50 g flour
120 g ground almonds
3 egg whites
pinch of salt 

Preheat oven to 200°C. In a small pot, heat the butter until it becomes a light gold colour and has a nutty aroma (beurre noisette). Set aside to cool.

In a bowl, mix together the sugar, flour, salt and ground almonds. Stirring constantly with a spatula, add the egg whites, one by one. add the cooled buerre noisette, and whisk until the mixture is smooth and even. Spoon into a pastry bag and let rest for 15 minutes. This mixture can remain in the refrigerator for 5 days, if you do not wish to bake them all at once.

Grease the molds with butter. Pipe the mixture into the molds and bake for 10 minutes (being creative, our group decided to place 1/2 of a raspberry on top of each financier before baking- it was a brilliant idea!) TUrn off the heat and let sit in the oven for 5 minutes before removing. This is a perfect small dessert, or served with tea or coffee as an afternoon refreshment!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Vacation in Paris

We are very busy with our culinary research in Paris, and look forward to reporting back next week.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Grilled Beets and Peaches

Tim uses the Broil King Keg to grill the Lamb Sirloins

We love collaborating on meals with friends! A last minute dinner invitation from Bev and Tim gave us the opportunity to use up the fruits and vegetables that we had purchased at the Uptown Market, which is Thursdays in Waterloo Square! We agreed that Tim and Bev would grill the lamb and make a farro salad, and we would bring a grilled beet dish and grilled peaches for dessert.  I was inspired to raid my freezer, and made a tart/sweet sauce out of the black raspberries that we pick and freeze every year. Here are 2 recipes that came as a result of that lovely Friday night dinner party.

Grilled perfectly, medium-rare, over hardwood charcoal

Bev admires the colours of the vegetables

Truly irresistible!
Grilled Candy Cane Beets with Pickled Red Onions, Feta and Toasted Walnuts

2 lbs candy cane beets
1 tbsp olive oil
½ tsp sea salt
¼ cup walnuts
½ red onion, sliced thinly
1 tbsp cider vinegar
¼ cup feta cheese, crumbled
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 sprigs fresh basil, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat barbecue on HIGH for 5 minutes and reduce heat to MEDIUM-LOW. Since these beets were freshly picked and quite tender, they did not have to be cooked as long as beets that have been in storage for several months. We scrubbed them with a brush, tossed them with olive oil and coarse salt and placed them in a foil packet.
Place the foil packet on the top shelf of the barbecue and close the lid. Cook for 45-50 minutes(if grilling large beets, the cooking time will have to be extended), until tender-firm. Remove from grill and set aside for 15 minutes, still enclosed in the foil packet. This will allow the skin to loosen from the beets and be easier to peel. (We often choose not to peel beets, especially when they are fresh.)
While the beets are on the barbecue, toast the walnuts lightly over medium heat in a heavy skillet, for 5 minutes .  Also, place sliced red onion in a glass bowl, with the cider vinegar, and allow them to pickle for 20 minutes.
To assemble the dish:
Slice beets and arrange them in a bowl. Top with pickled onions, including the cider vinegar, crumbled feta, toasted walnuts and sprinkle with extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper and fresh basil. Can be served hot or cold.

Grilled Peaches with Black Raspberry Sauce

We served these with vanilla ice-cream, and topped them with toasted almonds!

Grilled Peaches
6 fresh freestone peaches
Juice of 2 limes
2 tbsp honey

Immerse peaches in a large bowl of boiling water for 1 minute to loosen skins. Remove from water and peel. Cut in half and remove stones.  In a small glass bowl, whisk together the juice of 2 limes and the honey. Pour over peaches and allow them to marinate for ½ hour.  Meanwhile, preheat barbecue on HIGH for 5 minutes and brush grids generously with vegetable oil. Reduce heat to MEDIUM.  Be sure that the grills have been well cleaned.  
Place peaches on grids and grill for 3 minutes, baste with remaining lime and honey mixture,  turn and grill another 3 minutes.
Remove from heat, let cool slightly and serve on a scoop of vanilla ice cream, topped with 2 tbsp of raspberry sauce and 1 tsp of toasted almond slivers.

Black Raspberry Sauce
2 cups black raspberries
1/3 cup white sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice

Combine berries, sugar and lemon juice in a medium saucepan and simmer over medium heat for 10-15 minutes, stirring constantly. Pour in a strainer and push the fruit through to release as much sauce as possible. Discard the pulp and seeds.