Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Something I learned on Pinterest...

Here's something fun: when you chop off the white, root end of your green onions, you can stand them up in a cup of water, and they'll grow more green onions! True story! It doesn't take much time, either. Isn't nature cool?

Monday, 30 January 2012

Appetizer Party

I have mentioned before a few recipes from the book A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg of the blog Orangette. Well, here comes another one! For a Christmas appetizer party this year, I couldn't resist making the miniature "BLT"s shown on the bottom tier above. The description and ingredients list sounded so amazing, and while there was some fiddly assembling required, there was nothing difficult about these. I strongly encourage you to give them a shot the next time you feel like you need an impressive appetizer!

Little Corn Cakes with Bacon, Tomato, and Avocado
For the Roasted Tomatoes:
1/2 lb cherry tomatoes (about 30), halved
2 tsp. olive oil
Preheat oven to 325'F. Put the tomatoes on a rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with oil. Gently toss using your hands, and arrange them cut side up. Bake for 30-35 min, until they shrink slightly and edges are shriveled. Set aside to cool, and refrigerate in an airtight container. (Can be made up to 3 days ahead)
For the Bacon:
10 slices thin-cut bacon
Turn oven temperature to 400'F. Arrange bacon in a single layer on a baking sheet, and bake until the fat begins to render, about 5 min. Rotate the pan, and continue to bake until crisp, 5-6 min. more. Transfer with tongs to a paper-towel lined plate, and cool briefly. Using your fingers, snap each strip of bacon into 5 or 6 small "chips", about 1-11/2 inches long.
For the Corn Cakes:
1 medium ear of corn
1/2 cup fine cornmeal
1/2 cup cake flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 cup whole milk (not low fat or nonfat)
1/4 cup water
1 Tbsp. canola oil, plus more for pan
1 Tbsp. maple syrup
1 1/4 tsp. apple cider vinegar
Put a small, heavy skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium-high heat. While it warms, use a sharp knife to cut the kernels off the ear of corn. When the pan is hot, add the kernels and cook, shaking the pan occasionally until the corn is browned and fragrant - about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat, and scrape the kernels into the bowl of a food processor. Allow to cool.
While the corn cools, prepare the batter. In a medium bowl, combine the cornmeal, cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and whisk to mix well.
In a measuring pitcher, combine the milk, water, oil, and maple syrup - whisking with a fork to blend.
When the corn is cool, process briefly in the food processor until finely chopped. You want some texture. Add the corn to the dry ingredients along with the wet ingredients and the vinegar, and whisk just to combine. The batter will foam a bit and thicken. Rest it for 5 minutes.
Warm a non-stick pan over medium heat. Brush it lightly with oil. Scoop the batter by the teaspoonful into the pan, forming round cakes about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Do not crowd the pan. Cook for about 2 minutes on the first side, then gently flip when golden and continue cooking until the second side is cooked.
Transfer the finished cakes to a platter, brushing the pan lightly with oil between each batch.
To Finish the Cakes:
Top each cake with a smear of mayonnaise. Place a small slice of Avocado on top of the mayo, followed by a 'chip' of bacon, then a roasted tomato half, and finally a thin ribbon of Basil. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and serve immediately. 

On the middle tier of the tray I adapted this Martha Stewart recipe for a Pastry Wreath into individual Cream Puffs. Orange Rum Pastry Cream is the filling, and I topped them with whipped cream and a homemade Orangette (candied orange peel).


Meyer Lemon + Vanilla Bean Marmalade

I FINALLY found a grocery store that sells Meyer Lemons! Meyer Lemons have been some kind of unattainable mysterious citrus in my mind for some time now. I kept seeing all sorts of delicious recipes that use Meyer Lemons - cakes, tarts, jams, muffins, and things filled with curd. All the recipes say you can use regular lemons and just add more sugar, but I wanted to know what all the fuss was about. It seems they are a pretty common thing in the USA, but in Canada they continued to elude me.
Then one day I was walking through a small local farm market and what did I spy out of the corner of my eye? Bags of Meyer Lemons! I literally jumped up and down squealing and clapping my hands. I went right ahead and bought 3 bags. So many recipes to choose from! I did can some lemon curd and make a delicious coffee cake, but my favorite is this marmalade! It's so sunny and pretty, and the sweet/tart quality of the lemons compliments the vanilla bean surprisingly well!

I found the recipe on a blog called Food Gal. I ended up using a LOT more sugar than the recipe called for - I have no idea why but it just wouldn't set. Just a heads up there - don't be afraid to add more sugar if you think you've been waiting too long.

Here you see a picture of my canning set-up. This is the part where I give you advice from experience: just buy the gigantic canning pot with the wire rack insert. It's not worth the worrying, hovering over the stove the whole time just waiting for that Dutch Oven to overflow or the jars to bump together and crack. It worked this time (even though some of the jars were never completely covered in water!) but next time I may not be so lucky...

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Sauces, Part II - Beurre Blanc

This is a Martha Stewart suggestion
for serving Beurre Blanc. I'm still too chicken
to try cooking lobster!
2 1/2 Tbsp white-wine vinegar
2 1/2 Tbsp dry white wine, vermouth, or lemon juice
1 Tbsp minced shallots or green onions
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
2 Tbsp. butter
1 cup unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces and chilled

1) In a medium pot, boil the liquid, shallots, seasonings, and first amount of butter until reduced to a syrupy consistency - we're looking at about 1 1/2 Tbsp left.
2) Remove from heat and immediately beat in 2 pieces of butter. As the butter starts to disappear, add another piece.
3) Then set over very low heat, and continue adding successive pieces once each has almost dissolved. Immediately remove from heat after the last piece has gone, and adjust seasonings as desired.

Serving Suggestions:
This sauce is classically served with white fish, and maybe some potatoes or rice. I've had it on savoury crepes, as well as some pieces of panfried chicken - each were also divine. Make it once with one of these suggestions, and then decide for yourself what else you'd like to put it on!

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Almond + Cherry Petits Fours

Petits Fours are one of those elegant French desserts that look too beautiful to be easy. Fortunately, as I've recently been learning, French food (especially the baking!) is not always complicated. Sometimes there is assembly required, but I enjoy focussing on something detailed that I'm doing with my hands for a change.

At it's basic form, this is a sponge cake layered with jam and topped with icing. Traditionally each square is iced all the way around so it really is an individual cake, but I was in a hurry (and afraid I didn't have enough icing!) so I just drizzled them individually, so some ran rustically down the sides. :)

This recipe is an almond batter (don't freak out, its not hard!) with cherry jam in the middle. For almond paste, you can use marzipan. For the flowers, I went to Michaels - they're not as dainty as the original picture, but to my family they were quite impressive!