Wednesday, September 30, 2009
I am only planning for 4 entrees, as they allow for plenty of left overs and I intend not to have any waste!
Corn and Crab Chowder with Basil
Old-fashioned Rye Bread
Meats and Game
Beef Pot Pie
Pasta, Noodles and Dumplings
Fresh Tomato Coulis with Garlic
Baby Greens with Balsamic Vinaigrette
Yellow Split Pea and Vegetable Curry
with Spiced Rice and Cucumber Raita
Old-fashioned Rye Bread using Rye starter
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
I was super excited to see what it was the science guy would do differently than what I had done with my home made pizza, since pizza dough is pretty much always made up of the same stuff: flour, water, (natural) yeast and salt. Here is where I was introduced to malt syrup. To my delight, my new cook books also use malt syrup in most of their bread recipes (and you can too, just substitute in equal amounts, the sugar or molasses for malt syrup in your bread recipes). I found malt syrup at the Bulk Barn, but it may also be found at health food stores, or perhaps wonderfully amazing stores like Whole Foods.
So malt syrup was the first difference, the second, and probably most significant difference, was the method of preparing the dough. Again, I was happy to discover that my cook books fell in line with the TV show, since the show was about making true Neapolitan pizza, and now I had exact recipes to follow. The procedure for the pizza dough is called the Sponge Method, which in essence is a yeast-starter, or pre-fermenter of yeast. Part of the flour, water, malt syrup and yeast is combined into a smooth, but sticky dough. This is then allowed to ferment for 4 hours at 27 C, or even overnight at a lower temperature. After fermenting, the remainder of the dough is then added, and a second ferment is done for just 30 minutes. At this point the dough is ready to be formed into a pizza shell, then topped and baked right away. No proofing needed!
The third and final difference was the oven used for the pizza. This I can not replicate, as I do not own a stone hearth, but I will pull out my trusty pizza stone. I am wondering if using my barbecue may produce a more authentic flavour? If the rain holds off, I will give it a try.
As I am writing this, my dough is in it's first hour of fermenting. Now I realize all this pre-fermenting sounds like a lot of work, but it some what reminded me of using my crock pot, where I can throw everything in in the morning, and have a nice meal for dinner. I put the ingredients in the bowl, give it a quick stir, and forget about it for 4 hours. I do have this timed perfectly for dinner time, of course - just as with the crock pot. But it would be possible to make the sponge the night before, and then at dinner time, add the remaining dough ingredients, allow it to sit for 3o minutes, then top and pop in the oven. Seriously, how simple is that!?
My toppings are super simple also, as I am making an original Margherita Pizza. All it needs are plum tomatoes, fresh or canned, fresh mozzarella cheese, fresh basil leaves and olive oil. So often it's the simple ingredients without too much fuss that produce the best flavours. And who doesn't love the classic tomato, basil and mozzarella combo!
One last interesting tid bit of information: Authentic Neapolitan pizza, made in Naples, are baked in a stone hearth which is over 1000 F (!) hot, for only 90 seconds! Huh!
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Read all the directions carefully before beginning to cook, since once you start the risotto you may not leave it's side until finished. Serve with either a light and crisp salad or a vegetable like asparagus, and you've got yourself a tasty meal! (Never mind the bargain price!)
Risotto alla Parmigiana
Serves 10 - can easily be halved, but left overs for the next day will not be turned down, I am sure of it!
30 g (2 tbsp) Butter
30 mL (2 tbsp) Vegetable Oil
30 g (about 1/4) Onion, chopped fine
450 g (1 lb) Italian Arborio rice
1.4 L Chicken stock, hot (!) - approximately
30 g (2 tbsp) Butter
90 g (about 1/2 cup) Parmesan cheese, grated
to taste Salt
Heat the butter and the oil in a large, straight-sided saute pan (not a sauce pot). Add the onion and saute on low heat until soft. Do not brown.
Add the rice and saute until well coated with the fat.
Using a ladle, add one ladle of stock to the rice. Stir the rice over medium-low heat until the stock is absorbed and the rice is almost dry.
Add another ladle of stock and repeat procedure. Do not add more than one ladleful of stock at a time.
Stop adding stock when the rice is tender but still firm. It should be very moist and creamy, but not runny. The cooking should take about 30 minutes.
Remove from the heat and stir in the butter and Parmesan cheese. Salt to taste.
Friday, September 25, 2009
Today is one of those days where the fall air is crisp but the summer sun still warm. A new season begins, but the old one is trying to hold on for just a little while longer. A day like today is the perfect day for warm baked sweet potatoes along side a crisp summer lettuce and barbecued pork tenderloin. A fusion of sorts, where two very different worlds walk hand in hand for just a very short time. I love fall cooking, it has amazing rustic elements to it. With it's gentle warmth, seeming almost to wrap flavour around you like a big, cuddly blanket. Cinnamon and apples come to mind, as do turkey and gravy, and today - sweet potato with chipotle pepper sauce. A combination completely new to me, but it just simply works. I decide to put this on my 'when company comes for dinner' list of meals to make, since even though the preparation is quite involved, it can be mostly done early on in the day.
I had the intention of sharing the recipes with you, but I have to admit, this meal has relaxed me in such a way, that all I can think of is a warm cup of raspberry apple tea, perhaps with a little cinnamon, a soft blanket and my hubby by my side. So that's what I am going to do... perhaps I will get around to it tomorrow.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Niagara Cooks by Lynn Ogryzlo
Dough - Simple Contemporary Bread by Richard Bertinet
Knife Skills by Norman Weinstein
I am especially excited about Niagara Cooks, as it is an amazing guide to eating locally in the Niagara Region of Ontario. This is, after all, in the plan!
On the menu for the coming week:
Meats and Game
Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Sweet Potato Puree and Warm Chipotle Salsa
Pizza Margherita with mixed Greens
Potato and Leek Soup with Sorrel
Broccoli, Prosciutto and Sunflower Salad with
Risotto alla Parmigiana
Stir Fried mixed Vegetables over Angel Hair Pasta
100% Whole Wheat Bread
Cinnamon Raisin Bread
Chocolate Pecan Biscotti
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Custom flavour additions are up to you, and the meal they are accompanying. My tried and true favourite is small cubes of old cheddar with dried or fresh onions. The amount is up to you, so play around with it. Other options can be garlic and herbs - oregano works best; Parmesan and Asiago; or even a sweet version - try chocolate chips or cinnamon and brown sugar.
I always use my pizza stone (which I think is a kitchen must have, and only a $10 investment) for that wonderful stone baked aroma. I also love that the stone does not need greasing, not that I mind the grease, but it's one extra step that can be left out and makes for easier clean up. If you do not have a pizza stone (shame on you!), use a baking sheet which has been lightly greased or lined with parchment.
Let the fun begin!
Makes 12 biscuits
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup milk
Preheat oven to 450 F (230 C). Prepare pizza stone or baking sheet.
In a bowl, mix flour, baking powder and salt. Cut in the butter. Add the milk and flavourings and mix only until the dry mixture has been absorbed.
Drop by heaping spoonfuls (12 even portions) onto a pizza stone.
Bake for 12 - 1 5 minutes, until golden brown.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Saturday, September 19, 2009
Friday, September 18, 2009
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
The only difference from my usual menu to the new menu is that I am also incorporating a new skill into each dish, taking us from a child's menu to a bit more sophisticated one. We are also trying out new foods, like scallops and prosciutto (well, new for the kids, I suppose). Here it goes...
Butternut Squash Soup with Caramelized Apples
Chicken baked with Prosciutto and Herbs
Salad of Seared Sea Scallops with Oriental Vinaigrette
Spaghettini with Basic Tomato Sauce
Salad Greens with Oil and Vinegar dressing
Summer Squash, Spinach and Leek Frittata
Fresh tomato wedges
I quite often pick a couple of snacks to bake up, like muffins or cookies. I have some overripe bananas that are crying out for my attention, so I will whip up banana muffins and perhaps Oatmeal Chocolate Chip cookies. That is, if I have time in between all my bread baking! I have to say though, there is just something about sending the kids off to school, brewing some (strong!) coffee, putting on good music, and kneading dough for 15 minutes. Talk about a stress reliever! People who have had kids, including myself, often wonder - what ever did we do before we had kids!? This morning I caught myself thinking - what ever did I do before bread dough?
Monday, September 14, 2009
It's rather interesting how imperfection is not so hard to take when you allow yourself to learn. I have this silly fear of failure sometimes, and I am impatient too - mostly with myself! This so often gets in the way of doing new things that I would love to be able to do. It's no different with food; how many times have I leafed through my cook books, reading recipes and flipping on to the next one - just because I wasn't sure if I could do it! Yet I yearn to make pasta, Chinese food, and the perfect Sunday roast. I have watched someone else make gnocchi a couple of years ago, it looked so simple but I just never attempted it myself. It's funny to think that I am constantly encouraging my kids with these very words, "Never say I can't, always say I'll try". So today that is what I did, I tried! I was prepared for a total flop, perhaps it's my way of avoiding disappointment. But I have to say, I was not! My first gnocchi may not be perfect to the trained eye, but the flavour was bang on and they were hardly gluey in texture. Not to mention the fun I had putting them together, and eating them with my family. Oh what reward when there is not a sound at the table other than utensils brushing across the plate, and my little one humming along as she always does when she is enjoying her meal.
1)Whole wheat dough is stickier than white, and can get very stuck on the baking sheet after baking. Cornmeal is on my to buy list.
2)I didn't take enough time to tuck in the seams after forming. Thus the big crack on the side.
3) The crust was harder than friday's bread as I wanted to see if my way of adding steam to the oven somehow made a difference. It did, the crust was pretty crunchy today.
4) The inside was soft and fluffy, which means I am doing an ok job kneading it. (Hooray!)
5) I did not use a sharp enough knife to score the top and should be more careful to get these little details right.
Learning is fun, isn't it?
Friday, September 11, 2009
Back to cleaning out the fridge; there are plenty of leftovers for dinner but I do need bread as I have run out completely, and pb & j sandwiches don't go over so well on burger buns... I switched my cooking book for baking and flipped to yeast breads, hoping to quickly and simply throw together a loaf of white bread. Turns out there is A LOT more to yeast than I thought! I have in my past worked in a bagel shop where I made, from scratch, about 1000 bagels each and every day. And so as I am reading along, some of the things I was required to do to make these bagels properly, finally make sense to me. Like steaming the bagels in the oven when they first went in. Or fermenting, retarding then proofing the dough... exact temperatures of ingredients and in the air. My head is buzzing with all this information, information I know I will have to come back to many times in the future as I attempt different varieties of bread. Turns out bread making is not only an art, it's a very exact science too. Time was running out, although it was only noon, so I had to move on. One thing I do know is that bread made from scratch can take a long time. I put my book down and got out flour, milk, sugar, eggs, salt, oil and yeast. The bread recipes in my new book call for malt syrup, which I do not have and have yet to find out what it is, so I decide that I have enough understanding of yeast to take a basic bread recipe from my bread machine cookbook and turn that into a beautiful hand made round loaf.
I have to admit there was a bit of guess work involved as I was kneading the bread since I don't yet own a kitchen mixer. In my new book, a soft white bread is put in the mixer on low for 10 minutes. What is low when you are hand kneading? I figured I would just knead for 10 minutes and do a windowpane test - which is a stretching out of the dough to check for a thin, translucent membrane. I never really got that, even after 15 minutes. I am blaming that on my all-purpose flour. Note to self, put bread flour on the shopping list. And malt syrup.
As I am writing, my dough is about ready to be put in the oven. We'll see what happens, I suppose. At the end of the day, I am sure it will look even just a little nicer than what my bread machine puts out. As for steaming the bread, I placed a brownie pan with water in the oven, to hopefully make up my ovens lack of a built in steamer. One can only hope!
Thursday, September 10, 2009
I finish the preface and also chapter one, a short history lesson and heavy reinforcement on the importance of going back to the basics and understanding food. And now I am certain, this is the book for me. Relieved, I turn out the lights and look forward to the next months of absorbing information that takes me beyond cooking for 4. I think to myself, why was I surprised to find that a book named Professional Cooking really is for the professional. Silly me...
How to convert a recipe:
Divide the desired yield by the recipe yield, then multiply each ingredient quantity by the conversion factor:
conversion factor x old quantity = new quantity.
Another little tidbit I discovered is the true meaning of the word Chef. This respected title is reserved only for the chief or head of a kitchen. You don't become a chef by going to a culinary school or by putting together nice menus. Only by preparing food and managing staff and planning production does one earn the title of being a Chef. It's kind of like the difference between an Interior Decorator and Interior Designer. Designers do not like to be called decoraters! It's all about respect.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
My five year old is home from school today, and spending a little time on the computer. Our computer is in the basement, our kitchen upstairs. So when a waft of Mushroom Soup lingers downstairs and she comes running, searching for where this amazing smell is coming from... I know I have found a keeper (recipe that is, the kid goes without saying). She is less impressed when I list the ingredients for the bread. Although she will eat just about anything, olives are not on her list of favourites.
But first things first, a rustic Mushroom Barley Soup with Olive and Rosemary Bread. The thought of watching over soup calms my nerves, and because of this I know this year will be just fine. Spending an hour in the kitchen (or two, or three!) is like therapy to me. And oh what therapy it is, as it fills the house with beautiful aroma, not to mention a happy husband after a long day at work.
Tuscan fresh Olive and Rosemary Bread
A rustic loaf flavoured with fresh rosemary, this good served warm from the oven to accompany hearty winter soups and stews.
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 cup mixed green and black olives
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 extra-large eggs
3 tbsp olive oil
about 3/4 cup milk (not fat-free)
a baking sheet, lightly greased
Makes 1 medium loaf
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Mix the flours with the chopped rosemary, olives, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.
In a separate bowl, lightly beat the eggs with the olive oil and milk, then stir into dry ingredients to make a soft and slightly sticky dough. If there are dry crumbs or the dough feels stiff, work in a little more milk.
Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and shape into a ball about 7 inches across. Set on a baking sheet and score the top with a knife.
Put in the oven immediately and bake for 45 minutes until golden brown and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped underneath with your knuckles. Transfer to a wire rack and leave until cool enough to break into quarters or cut into thick slices. This loaf is best eaten the same day but can be frozen for up to 1 month.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Today is the beginning of a new journey, a very personal and somewhat unique journey... the sprouting of my diy culinary school. I love food, good food - simple but full of colour and flavour. I love the idea of fine cooking, the passion that goes with it, and the endless possibilities to express one self. It has seemed like a far away dream, however, since I have been at home with my kids the past 7 years. Living on one income and feeding small children soft, mild foods, never mind the thought of paying for culinary school or having time for it in the first place! So for the past few years, my family has eaten well plated casseroles, fun finger foods and plenty of pasta. As my girls begin their own lives at school and independently brush their teeth, I suddenly find myself with time on my hands and a need to fill that time. Working an hourly job somehow does not appeal to me, college is still too expensive - and so I began piecing together what now is my next year or two.
A few weeks ago I went to the movies with a good friend to see Julie and Julia. I was on cloud nine for two hours as I watched these two women do amazing things with their lives, and with food. How inspiring! I am sure I am not the only one that walked out of the theater that day with a burning desire to create beautiful food and share it with friends. If Julia can do it, then so can I! My journey is slightly different, as I am not following one particular chef, but instead I have purchased two very large and very heavy cookbooks from Le Cordon Bleu. My goal is to master professional cooking and to understand food, all within my small 12 x 12 kitchen (and small weekly budget!).
My cookbooks have not yet arrived in the mail, but I do have a few recipes from the Culinary Institute of America. A sort of a prelude of things to come this year, I am attempting my first step away from basic family meals with poached sole in a creamy wine sauce with haricots verts.. I do find myself making a few adjustments here and there, as I don't have a stainless steel saucepan, but your average non-stick pan. Today it's all about learning new techniques and perhaps acquiring a few new kitchen supplies along the way.
Writing this blog in a way makes this all official to me. I am hoping to be able to grow a third arm so I can document my progress with my camera. I imagine fine cooking will require the attention of my other two arms!