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Monday, 31 October 2011


There are some things at which the consumer packaged goods industry is infinitely better than a home cook. For instance, I would never try to make my own cola and the potato chips I’ve made just never measure up to those of Mr. Pringle. However, pesto is one of those items where the homemade version is so much better that it may as well be a completely different food.

Where the store bought versions of pesto are dark, oily and taste mostly of garlic and salt, the homemade version is a brilliant green and tastes more light and vegetal. If you can manage to successfully grow basil at home (as I did for the first time this year) then pesto is the perfect way to address the grocery bag full of basil leaves that you’re left with at the end of the season. Freeze it in small batches in air tight containers and it will keep its brilliant colour all winter long.

3 cups fresh basil leaves
⅔ cup grated parmesan
⅓ cup olive oil
⅓ cup toasted pine nuts
½ teaspoon salt
2-3 cloves of garlic diced

Put the pine nuts into a food processor and pulse until they are roughly chopped. Add in the rest of the ingredients except the oil into a food processor and pulse while adding in the oil through the feeder tube until the ingredients are all mixed and the basil is finely chopped but not pureed.

Remove from the food processor and put in ziplock bags or other air tight containers to prevent the basil from oxidizing and turning brown. If you expect it to sit out for a bit before eating, squeeze in a teaspoon or so of lemon juice as the ascorbic acid (aka vitamin C) in it will help to slow the oxidation process. Otherwise, freeze immediately in small quantities (icecube trays are ideal for this) so you can just pop them in to a bowl of pasta or atop some roasting tomatoes.

Oatmeal cookies!

I’ve been struggling for 20 minutes to come up with something clever to say about oatmeal cookies. So far the best line was when I accidentally typed “oatmeat”. I giggled at that one for far too long.  What can I say? These cookies are delicious. Sometimes I add a sprinkling of dried coconut into the mix just for fun.  Eat them while they’re still warm with a glass of milk.

¾ cup unsalted butter, softened
2 tbsp milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
¾ cup brown sugar
¾ cup flour
2 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
2 ½ cups rolled oats
¾  cup chocolate chips
1 35g 70% Cacao Lindt Chocolate Bar, chopped

Preheat oven to 350° F. Cream together the butter, milk, vanilla, egg, and brown sugar in a mixing bowl until smooth. Some cookie recipes insist you combine the dry ingredients in a separate bowl but I see no need to dirty another dish (dishes are my most hated chore). Instead, add the flour, baking powder, salt and oats on top of the butter mixture and stir them around a bit to distribute the baking powder before mixing the whole thing together. Add the chocolate chips and chopped lindt bar. To be honest, I usually eyeball the amount of chocolate chips so feel free to add more or less if you prefer.
Distribute spoonfulls onto a greased cookie sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden. Carefully transfer to a rack to cool.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Seven apple two apple tart

This tart was largely influenced by Fleetwood Mac. After misreading a recipe that called for two apples, we found ourselves with seven peeled, cored, and sliced apples. A five apple surplus. Not wanting to put them to waste, we took our cue from Stevie Nicks, completely disregarded the original recipe, and decided to Go Our Own Way. This delicious seven apple tart was the result.

7 apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced using a mandoline
juice from one lemon
2 + 1 tbsp vanilla syrup (recipe to follow)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
creme fraiche for serving

Preheat oven to 375ºF.
Combine 1/3 cup of creme fraiche with 1 tablespoon of vanilla syrup and set aside. Toss the sliced apples with lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of vanilla syrup and cinnamon. Roll out the thawed puff pastry until it is about the size of a medium sized cookie sheet. Gently transfer the pastry to a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Place in the freezer for a few minutes to chill.
Once chilled, pile apple mixture onto the pastry leaving a 1 1/2" edge. Fold the edges up on all sides. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the pastry is puffed and golden and the apples are tender. Serve with the vanilla creme fraiche.

Vanilla Syrup:

1 vanilla bean
1 cup sugar
2 cups water

Combine sugar and water in a small pot. Slice the vanilla bean lengthwise, scrape out the seeds, and add the seeds and pod to the pot. Simmer on medium heat until the sugar is dissolved, then reduce to low and simmer gently for ten minutes. Strain out the vanilla bean before using.

The syrup is a great way to sweeten cocktails, whipped cream, or creme fraiche. It's also delicious drizzled over fruit or vanilla ice cream.

Artichokes with truffle mayo

Artichokes are an amazing weed (they are the un-bloomed flower of a thistle) embued with the unlikely property of flavour enhancement. In much the same way another type of weed increases the deliciosity of Doritos, many foods, when eaten with or after artichokes, taste more intensely of themselves. For this reason, I believe truffle oil is the ideal pairing because anything that actually makes truffles taste better is pure genius.

4 small artichokes (2 if they are particularly large)
1/3 teaspoon white truffle oil
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/4 cup white vinegar or juice of 2 lemons

Combine truffle oil and mayonnaise and set aside

Fill a large pot with water, leaving enough space at the top for the chokes and bring to a rolling boil and add vinegar or lemon juice

Trim the ends from the stems of the chokes and add them to the pot. Chokes are complete when leaves come away when you lift the chokes by a single leaf. Remove chokes from pot and allow to drain and cool on a plate for 5 minutes

Serve the chokes whole, and eat by tearing off a leaf and dragging the meaty end through your teeth to remove the soft flesh. When all the leaves are gone, you are left with the heart. Cut or scoop out the spiney fluff and eat the whole heart, stem included.

Maple whiskey Brussels sprouts

People generally don't like Brussels sprouts. I'm not sure if it has to do with a dislike for Belgium or if it's just that city that irks people, but for some reason this delicious vegetable is reviled. You may as well tell people you're serving sawdust and gravel. Let it be known that you're cooking them and you're likely to be met with a response like: "Oh ... Brussels sprouts ... you know, I don't think we can come after all ... yeah, we have to clean out the basement." Fortunately for Brussles sprouts, there is no reputation so tarnished that maple syrup, bacon and liberal amounts of whiskey can't cure! Mark my words, if you took George W. Bush, covered him in syrup, bacon and whiskey he would be welcomed into the streets of Portland, Oregon as though he were Mother Theresa ... try it if you don't believe me.

3 cups of Brussels sprouts, washed stalk ends trimmed, and cut in half
1/4 cup chicken stock or water
2 tablespoons of maple syrup
5 strips of bacon cut into little pieces
1/2 cup rye whiskey
salt and white pepper to taste

Fry the bacon in a large pan until crisp (if you start it in a cold pan it will be less inclined to stick). Remove to a plate and drain off all but 1 teaspoon of the fat. Add in sprouts cut side down and cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes until sprouts start to carmelize.

Pour in stock and simmer until stock has cooked off, stirring to scrape up bacon bits from the bottom of the pan.Add in whiskey and syrup and cook until liquid is gone and sprouts are tender when pierced with a knife or fork.

Add in bacon, season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.


My friends and I share a lot of cottage traditions. Plaid shirts, late night dance parties, rousing games of Cranium and a game called Boxhead have all become staples of cottage weekends at Duclos Point, Oliphant, or Christie Lake. One of my favourites is the challah midnight snack. When everyone has worked up a hunger after a late night dance party, that's my cue to produce a warm, freshly baked challah straight from the oven. My friends and I gather around the loaf and descend upon it like locusts, devouring it in minutes, before retiring to the couch to digest while listening to my brother-in-law Scott play guitar or watch SNL's Best of Will Ferrell. Invariably, all that's left the next morning is a smattering of bread crumbs and an empty butter dish. Unless the neighbours stole it the night before, which has actually happened.

This recipe is a hyrbid of a few that I've sampled. I like to use honey but sugar is fine as well, though perhaps use only half a cup or so. I used to make this in my parents bread machine but I've finally developed the forearm strength to make it from scratch.

1/2 cup plus 2/3 cup warm water
2 tbsp yeast
1 tbsp sugar
3/4 cup honey
5 large eggs plus 1 egg yolk
3/4 cup melted unsalted butter or vegetable oil
1 tsp salt
7 cups all-purpose flour
Sprinkling of sesame seeds

Combine 1/2 cup warm water, yeast and sugar in a measuring cup or bowl and stir until the yeast dissolves. Let stand til foamy, about 10 minutes.

In the bowl of a stand-mixer, beat the eggs until blended (use the whisk attachment). Add the butter, salt, and honey and beat until thickened, about 3 minutes. Add the water and yeast mixture and beat until well blended. Exchange the whisk for the dough hook. Gradually add the flour, one up at a time, until the dough begins to form a smooth ball. Continue to beat until the dough becomes elastic, about 5 minutes. If the dough is wet, add a little more flour.

Sprinkle the counter or work surface with flour and turn out the dough. Knead for 2 minutes and form into a smooth ball. Place in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a damp tea towel. Let rise in a warm area until the dough has doubled in volume, about 1 hour. Punch down the dough and then let it recover and rise for another 30 minutes.

Turn out the dough onto the work surface and divide into two equal portions to make two loaves. For a 3-strand braided loaf, divide each portion into three, roll each into a 12-inch rope, and braid them together to form a loaf. I usually braid my challah into a 4-strand loaf, which is a little more complicated. I could type out the directions for this but it's much easier to watch someone do it on Youtube - just Google "4 strand challah". Alternatively, you can form the dough into buns by tying 4-inch lengths into a knots.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Once the dough is shaped, let it rise for another 30 minutes. Mix an egg yolk with a couple teaspoons of water and brush on top. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake on an oiled cookie sheet for 10 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 350°F and bake til the bread is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom, about 20 more minutes. Serve warm with butter.

In the beginning there were onions

Onions are a wonderful thing.  When raw, they're potent enough to peel paint but when you put in the time to caramelize them they're sweet like candy.  We make this flatbread with proscuitto, carmelized onion, pear and goat cheese but you can really use any combo of ingredients that suits you.

You can use any flatbread or pizza dough recipe that you like or purchase a pre-made version.

1 medium sweet onion, sliced
5 slices proscuitto, diced
2 tbsp goat cheese
1 pear, sliced
drizzle of honey or balsamic glaze

Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a large pan at medium-high.  Add onions and cook until they translucent.  Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until carmelized (about 20 minutes) and remove to cool.

Arrange ingredients on top of a baked flatbread dough and bake in a 400°F oven until crust is golden and serve immediately.