Sunday, September 28, 2008

Rachael Ray

No need to dwell on the obvious outcome of the last poll – WHICH FEMALE CELEBRITY CHEF GETS ON YOUR NERVES? Rachel Ray won by a landslide. I was a bit disappointed to see my favorite lady, Nigella, got a few votes. Shame on the two of you who voted for her. That woman is a saint, and clearly the hottest of the bunch. I'm sorry but if Giada's head was bigger, she wouldn't be able to stand upright.


What's red, white, green and orange?

Tonight's dinner was all about the roasted veggies. Broccoli, fennel and sweet potatoes. New York strip is not a vegetable.



Come September, I start craving cheese, wine, bread and going to bed early. It's not unusual to put out a selection of cheese and snacks, toast some bread and call it a night. Today it was more of an appetizer, but I'm just getting warmed up for when it's dark at 4.30 pm.

This is called Mouton Rouge, and it's an excellent, locally made sheep milk cheese. Like wine, there's a vocabulary to describe the aroma and subtle mix of flavours. Grassy, nutty, earthy... socksy.

Seriously, this has been sitting around ripening for 8 weeks in a damp, dark place. It stinks, it's fuzzy, and most people would only eat it under duress. Which is too bad, because some things that smell bad, taste really good.


Wild & crazy saturday night

Wanna know what we got up to last night?
Fava beans (avec bacon & toasted pine nuts) + pork shoulder (done this way) + apple crisp & ice cream = sustenance for sweatshop factory workers. Olive and I thought it'd be fun to make this pretty mobile, so we got together for dinner and a late night of unexpected hard work. And here are the results (still incomplete)! The sweatshop will re-open at a later date so stay tuned for the finished products.


Thursday, September 25, 2008

Butternut Squash with Pork Tenderloin

It's sweater weather so that must mean it's time for squash. Butternut squash with leeks, goat cheese and hazelnuts. On the side, a nicely pan seared pork tenderloin.


Pizzazzeria Libretto

Note to self: Avoid restaurants that have just been written up. Now / BlogTO / Globe & Mail. Especially when they don't take reservations, and are located on trendy Ossington Ave. It's not easy for a meal to live up to expectations after an hour and a half wait, even if you pass it comfortably drinking at a nearby bar.

Antipasti & Bruschette
While not everyone agreed (extended wait bitterness), I think the food was excellent. Even in the chaos of a full house and a never ending line-up, the food came out at a reasonable pace – and it was good. I hardly remember the appetizers, but looking at the pictures again, I'm going to say the Brushette with spicy sausage, pesto and goat chesse was my favorite. The other two shown are Calmari and Burrata on heirloom tomatoes.

I was excited when everyone selected a different pizza, but I was only able to sample Fusilli's Quattro Stagione. I didn't really feel like sharing either, and only gave up half a slice. Next time when hunger isn't clawing at me, I'd consider sharing a full slice.... but only one!

When the pizzas arrived, the camera was passed around and Prosecco got the best shot. Featured pizza – Sardines (Tomato, Citrus Olives, Herbs, Chili Oil). From the left: Margherita (Tomato, Basil, Ingersoll Fiore Di Latte Mozzarella), Duck Confit (Pesto, Tomato), Quattro Stagione (Tomato, Ingersoll Fiore Di Latte Mozzarella, Cacciatore, Bella Olives, Mushroom & Artichoke) & House-Made Sausage (Caramelized Onion, Mozzarella, Chili Oil).

I had the Duck Confit, which may sound odd on pizza, but if you grew up on Rosa's sexy duck, it's the obvious choice. Meaty, rich and delicious.

Before dinner I always tell myself that I'm not going to have dessert. I'll blame the wine, which was excellent, for convincing me that you can't pass up a Panna Cotta. Luckily, by the time dessert arrived, the spirit of sharing had returned and we all tried a bite of each. My second favorite was the Pistachio Gelato followed by the Cannoli.

For more info, see the full menu.


Sunday, September 21, 2008

Squash + Whiskey Soup

The first whisper of fall and I'm all over root vegetables. This afternoon at a farmer's stand in Caledon, it was a fine-looking organic butternut squash and a round, green variety with the irresistible name Sweet Mama that caught my eye.

A quarter cup of whiskey and a tablespoon or two of maple syrup make this soup sing. A drizzle of crème fraîche is nice too. Next time, when I'm not so hungry, there will be homemade croutons or warm breadsticks on the side.


Friday, September 19, 2008

Timbits are for Squirrels

Working from home offers some unusual benefits over the office environment. Staying in your pajamas is an obvious one, unlimited access to snacks is another. But my favorite is looking out the window. Who knows what might be happening at any given moment? From my desk, I can look to the left and see Queen Street. Someone could walk by naked and I'd think, not him again. If I look to the right, I see the backyard. I don't often look to the right, there's nothing going on in the backyard.

Today, I looked to the right, and this what I saw. A squirrel sitting on the chair, eating a Timbit. Unfortunately, the squirrel was spooked by my pajamas as I approached, and I wasn't able to capture exactly what I saw. A moment earlier it was happily nibbling and twirling the Timbit like a giant nut. I was pretty hungry at the time, and briefly considered an attempt on the Timbit. Reality set in when it jumped to the fence and disappeared in a burst of sugar induced acrobatics.


Thursday, September 18, 2008

Late Night Cupcakes

Chicago is about to host their very first food and wine celebration.   Right in Millennium Park! Amazing food, wine, THE BEAN and the Chicago skyline.  I KNOW!  One of my freelance clients is hosting this large event and I've been working on one of the collateral pieces for this event. It's been late nights, many hours, etc. NOT as many as my client, not by a long shot. So tonight my client comes to our office to pick up the collateral piece and gives me two(!) mini cupcakes from Goddess and Grocer.  Red Velvet and Chocolate.  How nice is that?!

So, which one do I eat first?  Which one?  Who am I kidding?  Mini = not as fattening, right? 


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Pasta Wednesday

What can you say about Wednesday? You've made it to the middle of the work-week, but from the glass is half-empty perspective, you still have half the week left. Let's just say Wednesday sucks.

Comfort food always helps. So this Wednesday called for a warm plate of whole wheat pasta with chicken, bacon, spinach and parmesan. A nice glass of wine almost made it feel like Friday.

I'm still ironing out my pasta technique, and this one wasn't a saucy as I would have liked. I'm giving this a 3.


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Vinaigre de Banyuls

Every salad deserves a great dressing, and that calls for Banyuls. We were introduced to this vinegar one afternoon while catching a break at La Cremerie in Paris. Since then it's been a fixture in our pantry, and a challenge to keep it in stock.

Thankfully, we have our hook-up, Karen, in Paris, and a standing order with anyone visiting France – don't come back without a bottle of Banyuls.

For a long time I thought Banyuls was the brand name, but Google tells me it a type of fortified wine made from Granache noir, Grenache gris and a minor amount of Carignane grape. The vinegar is made by aging the wine in oak casks for five years. Thanks Google.

The bottle pictured was recently delivered by Karen (THANKS!) and has been making some tasty dressings! I believe you can buy it here... or take the difference and pick it up in person.


Presentation Salad

I really tried to make this look more appealing than the last salad. This involved the pyramid approach to food presentation, where I assume: food + height = appealing. Hmmm, not sure.

About this salad. Roasted yellow beets, fennel, chicken, walnuts, mint and shaved parmesan. Lightly dressed with olive oil, lemon and vinegar.

I've decided to start rating each dish. It may look good, but how did it taste? In this case, it was a solid dish and it deserved a 3½.


Monday, September 15, 2008

more, more, more

A new cupcake shop opened in my neighborhood, more cupcakes.  It's a neighbor to two of my favorite spots in the Gold Coast:  Goddess & Grocer and Cru Cafe & Wine Bar.  It just makes the block of Delaware between Rush & State Streets, even better.  I stopped on the way home from work and picked up the beauty above.  It's the more cupcake.  The cupcake is a take on the Hostess cupcake, chocolate cake, with a marshmallow filling and chocolate icing on top. I kindly took a bite out of the cupcake so you could see the marshmallow middle.  I'm so considerate. They have a variety of flavors and offer FLIGHTS of cupcakes! I KNOW!  There's a chocolate flight and a crazy bacon flight. Bacon?  They offer three bacon cupcakes in the flight: Bacon Brown Sugar Maple, Bacon Apple Cinnamon and BLT.  

Sweet Mandy B's is still my favorite cupcake in Chicago, but that more a very close second.


Sunday, September 14, 2008

Messy Mexican Salad

In the wake of Fajita Friday I had some choice leftovers to play with. I opted for a salad to make use of the mixed greens, chicken, black beans, tomatoes, mozzarella and avocado.

I made a quick dressing with olive oil, lime juice and red wine vinegar. Then I tossed everything together – violà, messy Mexican salad. I could have made a layered salad for a more attractive presentation, but without guests to encourage that kind of behavior, messy was perfect.


Saturday, September 13, 2008

Morning Coffee Cup Wisdom

Everyone has that shelf of one-of-a-kind coffee cups that they got somewhere at sometime for some reason. As I reached for a coffee cup this morning on the top shelf of my cupboard, this is what I found.  So, bottom line is, no matter the maple syrup choice, pancakes make people happy! 


Friday, September 12, 2008

Cloud Pancakes

Taking a day off to relax calls for pancakes. Martha's recipe for Cloud Pancakes is a perfect fit, light, fluffy and not too rich. The secret – whipped egg whites and ricotta cheese. 

Of course, once you pour pure maple gold over the whole thing, it's caution to the wind. Me thinks some whipped cream would have been right at home on top of those blueberries. Next time.


Thursday, September 11, 2008

Cookie Friday- mini chocolate peanut butter cup edition

Broccoli will be pleased to know that I got focused tonight and baked up a batch of cookies. I thought I'd experiment with chocolate and peanut butter, two of my favourite flavours. Sprinkled on top- crushed unsalted dry roasted peanuts. Come and get it! And as usual, BYOM(ilk).


It's Fall

You know it's Fall when you start to get a craving for something warm and comforting like a bowl of soup. Makes me feel sad about Summer being over, especially since it barely even arrived. But my colleague, Olive (her Broccoli&Prosecco name), tipped me off to her favourite chicken soup recipe with lemon and dill (and rice and spinach) and it was a savoury consolation for having to now wear sweaters and closed-toe shoes to work.


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Red, White & Green?

I was introduced to Mache in Las Vegas by Broccoli and Fusilli and now I just can't get enough of it.  While Mom and I were at Whole Foods we picked some up and used it as a bed for our caprese salads on Sunday night.  The tomatoes are from the Omaha's Farmer's Market, the basil is from Mom's back deck and the yummy mozzarella was thankfully prepared pre-sliced from Whole Foods.  


Sunday Morning Should be Every Morning

I know all of my Canadian friends are cringing right now at the sight of Log Cabin Maple Syrup. But to this American girl, it's heaven. What a great Sunday morning, Seattle's Best Javanilla coffee made by Mom, blueberry pancakes made by Mom and the Sunday Target ad.  I love Sunday morning during vacations.


Omaha, somewhere in middle America...

I traveled to Omaha, Nebraska (my hometown) this past 4 day weekend to see my Mom.  My Dad was out of town on his annual fishing trip to Oh, Canada. So it was a Girls' Weekend of shopping, eating, drinking, movie watching, Nebraska Cornhuskers & Chicago Bears football and relaxing. One of my favorite things to do when I am home, besides hang out at Mom & Dad's house, is to head to the Old Market. Mom and I ventured down on Saturday morning for the Omaha Farmer's Market, we bought croissants and blue cheese bread from Le Quartier's booth and yummy tomatoes from another. We then went to one of our favorite places for lunch in the Old Market, M's Pub. It was pretty chilly, so no alfresco dining for us. We stayed warm starting with an appetizer of one of "M's Renowned Baked Dishes". There are 3 choices of shrimp scampi, escargot or our choice, mushrooms.  They serve it in a small casserole dish and fill each spot with garlic butter and mushrooms and then melt Havarti cheese on the top of it. We couldn't wait for a picture to be taken of the Baked Dish...we know how delicious it is... 


Friday, September 5, 2008

Flank Steak = ♥

Lately, I'm really loving the flank steak. So much that it might just bounce tenderloin from the top of my list. It's such a nice cut when you cook, and slice it properly.

I didn't have time to marinade this piece according to tradition. This normally involves soaking it for several hours, if not overnight, in a boozy tenderizing cocktail. Instead, I rubbed it lovingly with cumin, pepper flakes, pepper, garlic, olive oil and lemon rind.

After a quick ride in the grill pan, it rested comfortably while I prepped the salad, toasted the walnuts and shaved the pecorino. After plating I added a splash of balsamic to round it out.


Animal Style, Part Deux

We always like to steal great ideas and apply them to beef tenderloin! Browned the fillet quickly and then slathered with mustard (thanks In N Out Burger) and grated horseradish, then roasted in the oven. Monte thought the whole thing was very very interesting.



My gram and I used to make elderberry pie so when I saw them at Herrle's, I had to buy them. It has probably been 20 years since I last ate them and they're delicious! Kind of like a really strong blueberry.


Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Latest poll results

Gin and rum tied for the spirit that most moved you, with 6 votes. But the Holy Spirit was a close second, being just 1 vote shy of making it a three-way! Any Pentecostals out there?