Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year beFOODies! I hope that good food will be a special part of your New Year's celebrations this evening, wherever you are, and that 2008 will be full of scrumptious surprises for you all.
These are photos of Christmas lunch and dinner with my family and some of our friends. I had a great traditional turkey dinner with all the trimmings, and a delicious lunch of tortière and quiche Lorraine from the Bread and Butter bakery. I hope that your holidays have been as nice (and as tasty!) as mine have been.
I'm looking forward to posting many more mouthwatering recipes for your perusal in 2008. Please try them and send me lots of comments :) I'll give you a little preview of what's to come in 2008: sushi rolls, another Mediterranean feast in February and the Gastronati will take on Russian cuisine!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Spicy Portuguese shrimp

Spicy Portuguese shrimp, originally uploaded by beFOODled.

This is Maria's famous Portuguese shrimp that she serves at parties, a very rich and buttery appetizer. Every time I am at her house, I help her make it. She uses a special Portuguese hot pepper sauce, but you could use any hot sauce. Cook the shrimp in two batches, otherwise they will release too much water and dilute the sauce.

Unpeeled shrimp are the best. The shell traps the sauce and you can suck it off, then unpeel the shrimp and eat it. Messy, but so so good. But you can also use peeled shrimp. You can also turn this appetizer into a pasta sauce for linguine by adding white wine and cream.

Maria's Portuguese Shrimp
1/2 C butter
1/4 C olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbsp hot pepper sauce
454 g bag of shrimp, unpeeled
1 tsp paprika
sea salt to taste

Melt the butter and oil in a frying pan. Add the garlic and hot sauce and fry for a minute or two. Add half the shrimp and half of the paprika and salt. Fry, stirring often, until the shrimp are pink, five minutes or so. Set the cooked shrimp aside on a serving plate, but leave the sauce behind in the pan. Add the rest of the shrimp, paprika and salt, and cook the second batch. Add the remaining shrimp and sauce to the serving plate and eat with crusty bread.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Rosemary and brown sugar nuts

I made these nuts for the Gastronati's Secret Santa and also for my generous work colleagues, who always shower everyone with lots of gifts on the day of our Christmas party.

This recipe comes from The Joy of Cooking. My favourite nuts in the mix are the macadamia nuts. They taste really mild and almost creamy (I know that "creamy" is not a common adjective to describe nuts, but somehow it describes macadamias well). They are grown in the tropics, and my parents bought some when we were vacationing in Hawaii when I was 12 years old. I forgot about them until this Christmas!

Rosemary and Brown Sugar Nuts
1 pound unsalted mixed nuts (macadamia, cashews, peanuts, pecans, almonds)
2 Tbsp melted butter
3 Tbsp finely chopped rosemary
2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp corn syrup

Spread the nuts in an even layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Pour over the other ingredients and toss everything together with your bare hands until all the nuts are coated. Bake in a 350 F oven for about 7 minutes. After removing the nuts from the oven, stir occasionally to prevent them from sticking until the coating dries. Let cool before serving or storing in a Tupperware.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Torching a Creme Brulée

Here's PB and J's recipe for the creme brulée that I blogged about previously after the Gastronati's French night. We each torched our own, and here's a video of S doing the honours.

Creme Brulée

Serves six

2 cups heavy cream
4 tablespoons, plus 2/3 cup sugar
4 extra-large or jumbo egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the egg yolks, cream and four tablespoons of sugar. Cook, stirring occasionally, for five to six minutes, or until small bubbles appear around the edges of the pan. Set aside.

In a bowl, beat the egg yolks and vanilla extract until smooth and light. Pour the hot cream mixture into the egg yolk mixture a little at a time, beating continuously until well blended. Divide the mixture between six small ramekins or four medium ramekins.

Arrange the ramekins in a baking pan on the middle shelf of preheated oven. Fill the pan with boiling water to halfway up sides of ramekins. Cover the pan loosely with aluminum foil. Bake until the custard has just set, about 25 minutes. Chill two to three hours or up to three days.

Sprinkle the remaining sugar evenly over the top of the cooled custards. With a creme brulée torch, move the flame continuously over the surface of the ramekins, in a circular motion until sugar melts and becomes golden brown and bubbly. Serve with fresh fruit and crèpe-style French biscuits.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Rabbit Stew

Here is the recipe for PB's savoury rabbit stew, which he brought to the Gastronati's French night. We paired this with a really wonderful French red wine called Chateau de Montmirail Gigondas Cuvée de Beachamp, 2004, from the LCBO's vintages section.

Rabbit Stew

1 (2 ½ lb) rabbit, quartered
3 slices bacon, cut in thirds
1 ½ cups sliced onions
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 Tbsp flour
1 cup beef broth
1/4 cup red wine
1 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp dried parsley
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup cream
salt and pepper

In a large skillet or medium-sized Dutch oven, cook bacon until done. In the bacon drippings, cook the onion and garlic until transparent.
Add the rabbit pieces and saute over medium heat until the meat is golden. Sprinkle on the flour and continue to brown rabbit for another five minutes or so, then add the beef broth, cream, red wine, thyme, parsley and bay leaves.
Cover and simmer over low heat for about an hour, adding more broth if necessary. Salt and pepper to taste (with the bacon drippings, not much salt is needed). Serve with mashed potatoes or buttered egg noodles.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Spicy Lamb Casserole

On Monday, Squeaky came in with a mouthwatering Julia Child boeuf bourguignon that Calimocho had slaved over while we were out making jewelry on the previous Sunday afternoon. It was so wonderful that it set up a craving in me after just one taste. And no wonder when it's made with almost a whole bottle of red wine!

That memorable mouthful stayed with me all afternoon and inspired me to create this equally tastilicious lamb casserole after work. It's a recipe adapted from one of my favourite cookbooks, The Food of Italy.

I also supported local business in buying the lamb, veggies and tomato sauce from my neighbourhood butcher, fresh food market and Italian grocery store, instead of my usual big box StupidStore.

And for the first time I used my new Le Creuset! Doesn't it look great in the picture?

(Go back to Flickr)

Spicy Lamb Casserole

2 Tbsp olive oil
500 grams (1 lb) lamb, cut into cubes about 1.5 inches each
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 C red wine
1/2 tsp dried red chilli flakes
1 Tbsp crushed juniper berries
1 Tbsp tomato paste
2 cups chicken stock (or 1 stock and 1 water)
1 whole rosemary sprig
package of cipollini onions
5 small potatoes, cut into cubes
handful of fresh chopped parsley for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350 F.
Heat the oil in a large pot that can go from stovetop to oven or, if you don't have one, a stock pot (which I did because I didn't realize at first that this had to go in the oven). Salt and pepper
the lamb cubes and brown them in batches over high heat (about level six or seven). Remove the lamb and set aside.
Add more oil in the pan if you need to and fry the onion and garlic. Reduce the heat and cook for about five minutes.
Return the lamb to the pan. Pour in the wine and scrape up all the caramelized bits sticking to the pan. Reduce the liquid by half. Add the chilli and juniper and cook for about 30 seconds.
Add the tomato paste, rosemary and chicken stock/water, or just enough liquid to cover.
Transfer the stew to an ovenproof casserole dish at this point if you started with a stock pot.
Bake covered for 40 minutes. Add the onions and potatoes and cook for another 40 minutes, covered. Stir in the fresh parsley just before serving.

Go back to Flickr

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Creme Brulée

Here's the creme brulée that Peanut Butter and Jelly brought to the Gastronati's French feast. I know it looks scrumptious. As soon as PB and J e-mail me the recipe - hint hint - I'll post it so that you, too, can achieve this epitome of French dessert fabulousness. Note: They did - here's the recipe!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Raspberry Duck

This is the delicious raspberry duck that S brought to the Gastronati's French night. The recipe's adapted from Laura Calder's French Food at Home.

Raspberry Duck
Serves 6 as a side

2 boneless duck breasts with skin
6 Tbsp raspberry vinegar
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 cup red wine
2 Tbsp raspberry jam
1 to 3 Tbsp cold unsalted butter
2 to 3 handfuls of fresh raspberries
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 175 C (350 F).

Score the fat side of the duck breasts with a knife. Season both sides with salt and pepper. Render the fat by placing the breasts fat side down in a frying pan on medium heat. Let cook for about seven minutes, draining the fat three times. Flip the breasts over and brown the other side for about three minutes. You just want to sear the outside and get a nice brown colour, not cook them through at this point.

Transfer the breasts to the oven in a casserole dish and cook for 20 to 30 minutes. (This step may not be necessary all the time, but we had fat duck breasts that were too large to cook all the way through in the frying pan.) After you remove them from the oven, let the meat rest for five to 10 minutes before slicing into medallions.

Make the sauce in the same frying pan used to fry the duck breasts while they are cooking in the oven. Deglaze the pan with the vinegar and scrape up all the drippings. Boil for about a minute to reduce to one tablespoon of sauce. Whisk in the garlic and tomato paste and then the wine. Boil rapidly to reduce the volume by half (about five minutes). Whisk in the jam, and then remove the sauce from the heat and add the butter, a little at a time, to make it glossy. Season with salt and pepper. (You can strain the sauce at this point to make it smooth, but we didn't bother.)

Plate the medallions (about four per person) on a side dish, spoon over the raspberry sauce and top with fresh raspberries.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Mahogany Marinated Salmon

This is my favourite way to do salmon. The recipe's adapted from Dana McCauley's Pantry Raid. Because it's so fast and five ingredients only, I often make it for dinner on weeknights. If you want to make a more complete meal, serve it with a salad, rice or couscous with mushrooms, onions and raisins.

Mahogany Marinated Salmon

2-4 servings of fresh or thawed raw salmon (either fillets or steaks)
1/2 cup of your favourite BBQ sauce
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp finely grated ginger or ginger puree
1 Tbsp honey

Combine the BBQ sauce, soy sauce, ginger and honey in a bowl with a whisk or a fork. Marinate the salmon in this mixture for at least 20 minutes or up to four hours.

Preheat the oven to 230°C (450°F). Place the fish portions on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish. The rule of thumb according to the Canadian government when you are cooking fish in the oven is 10 minutes per inch of thickness, plus another five minutes added to the total cooking time if the fish is wrapped in foil or cooked in a sauce, as this one is.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Ode to Ratatouille

Ratatouille, humble heap of vegetables doused in olive oil that you are, you are fantabulous! For starters, I can eat you hot or cold. It's also nice to have a big bowl of you in my fridge for those weeknights when I'm too lazy to cook, or mornings when I need to conjure a lunch quickly before I miss my bus. You are the go-to recipe for veggies a bit past their prime (sadly a frequent sight in my fridge). You are colourful and bright. And finally, when I eat you I feel HEALTHY.

Ratatouille was one of my contributions to the recent Gastronati French night. All you need to make a complete meal of this nice French dish is some crusty bread or couscous and a tall glass of milk. My recipe is a hybrid of methods from three sources: Nigella Lawson's How to Eat, Laura Calder's French Food at Home and the website Provence Beyond.

Prep time: about two hours, including cooking time.
FASTER VERSION: (See below, it's about one hour)

6 to 8 Tbsp olive oil
1 large sweet onion, like Vidalia or Spanish, sliced into half-moons
1 to 3 garlic cloves, however many you wish, minced
4 or 5 tomatoes, skinned and seeded and torn
2 Tbsp tomato paste (optional)
1 red pepper, sliced
3 small zucchinis, sliced into rounds
1 small eggplant, sliced into half-moons
salt and pepper to taste
1 bay leaf
1 tsp each of thyme and parsley

The first thing to do is skin and seed the tomatoes: Score the top and bottom of each tomato with a knife (I make an X). Drop into boiling water for 30 seconds. Remove them with tongs and drop them into a bowl of cold, preferably icy, water. Leave for about 5 to 10 minutes in the fridge, changing the water if it gets too warm. You should now be able to peel the skins off easily with your fingers. Quarter the skinned tomatoes and push out the seeds with your fingers. It's messy, but you want get rid of the water in the tomatoes. Discard the skins, seeds and watery bits and keep the torn tomatoes in a bowl until needed.

Put the oil in a high-sided pan like a stock pot, and heat over medium-high heat (about level 4 or 5 on my electric stove). Add the sliced onions and cook on low-medium heat for 5 to 10 minutes or until translucent.

In those 10 minutes that the onions are cooking, prepare the eggplant. It contains a lot of water that again needs to be drawn out, but you need to give it some time. Slice the eggplant into 1/4- to 1/2-inch-thick rounds. Arrange a single layer of rounds on a big plate lined with a sheet of paper towel. Salt the rounds. Cover with another paper towel. Put down some more eggplant and salt the next round of rounds. Keep doing this until every layer of eggplant slices is salted and stacked between paper towels. Wait 10 to 30 minutes. The paper towels will become waterlogged. Take them off and discard them, but rinse the eggplant rounds and pat dry with a kitchen towel.

Add the garlic to the onion mixture and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the red pepper strips and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the tomatoes. Add the herbs, a pinch of salt and pepper, and the tomato paste if you are using tomatoes that are out of season (not as flavourful). Cook for another 10 to 20 minutes. Take off the heat before you add the zucchini.

During the time the tomato mixture is cooking, get started on the zucchini and eggplant. Fry the zucchini rounds in a frying pan on medium heat (level 6 or 7) until browned on both sides, about two minutes per side. Fry the eggplant on both sides the same way. Add both to the main pot as each batch browns. I usually have two frying pans going for the zuchinni and eggplant rounds, and I do the zucchini first.

Fold all the ingredients carefully into the ratatouille in the stock pot, trying not to puncture the zucchini and eggplant rounds. Take out the bay leaf. Serve hot or cold with crusty bread or couscous.

FASTER VERSION: This version is not as traditional, and the rolled-up tomato skins can irritate, but it's still tasty: Cook everything in one pot and don't take the pot off the heat until you've added all the ingredients, and the last has had time to cook down. Don't skin or seed the tomatoes, just slice into rounds, cut in half and add to the pot. Don't salt and layer the eggplant on a plate to draw the water out. Don't cook the eggplant or zucchini separately, just slice them and toss them in the main pot after the tomatoes have had some time to cook down. This method will shave about an hour off the total time to make this dish.

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