Sunday, November 30, 2008

Guest post by Ella: Italian tomato sauce

This simple and tasty sauce is a staple in Europe. Everyone has their own little spin on it and you’ll see that it’s just so much better than store-bought tomato sauce.

green onions or white onion
two cans of chopped tomatoes
bouillion cubes
olive oil
bay leaf

Cut up one to two small green onions (or one large, sweet white onion) and sauté over medium-high heat in a pot drizzled with one tablespoon of olive oil. Sauté for about 10 minutes until the onions turn clear. To make sure the onions are done — try a little piece, it should be sweet.

Finely mince one to two cloves of garlic (depending on how garlicky you like your sauce). Add to the onions and sauté for about two minutes.

Add two small cans of chopped tomatoes (or one large can). Make sure you buy good-quality tomatoes, such as the San Marzano brand.

Stir and add:

1/2 to one bouillion cube, depending on cube size (beef is best but vegetable or chicken works just as well)
1 bay leaf
pinch of salt
pinch of pepper
1 teaspoon sugar (you may not need as much sugar if your onions and tomatoes are very sweet)
1 tsp dried oregano (you can add more or less)
1 tsp dried basil (you can add more or less)

Turn the heat down to low and simmer with the lid on for about 30 minutes. Stir every few minutes and remove the bay leaf when the sauce is done.

This makes a great and simple sauce for pasta! Serve the sauce with some fresh basil and parmesan cheese.


Vodka sauce:

Add 1/2 cup cream and 1/8 cup vodka (optional) at the end. Simmer for two minutes.

Cream and herb sauce:

Add one teaspoon of herbes de Provence with the basil and oregano. At the end, add chopped basil and 1/2 cup of cream. Simmer for two minutes.

Chorizo, mushroom and red wine sauce:
Halfway through the cooking of the onions, add two finely chopped chorizo sausages and one cup of finely chopped mushrooms. Add in a few drops of hot sauce or chilli peppers and 1/4 cup of dry red wine when adding the other spices.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Gnocchi and tomato sauce

Gnocchi and tomato sauce, originally uploaded by beFOODled.

Please accept my apologies for being a tardy blogger of late. I have still been having foodie adventures, but just haven't had the time to write about them until now.

Without further ado, let me tell you that Ella and I made gnocchi from scratch the other day and had a very fun afternoon. Once again I was squidging about in some nameless dough, elbow deep in flour :)

We made the gnocchi the way Ella used to make it with her grandmother in Switzerland. It made me nostalgic for my Oma in Holland, who was also a very good cook. Oma knew my penchant for gravy and always made a meal with it when I was visiting. Once she even made a gravy for fish. Do any of you have a favourite recipe that reminds you of your grandmother?

We ate the gnocchi with some homemade tomato sauce and it was really good. However, we did have some trouble at the stage where you have to add flour before you roll out the dough. How much is too much? Our dough was still sticky and wet, so I just kept adding flour until I was almost halfway through the bag! This is roughly what we did:

Making gnocchi, originally uploaded by beFOODled.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Chillis for chilli sauce

Chillis for chilli sauce, originally uploaded by beFOODled.

My colleague JC had such a bumper crop of hot chillis this fall that she had to give some away. So me and another colleague took home some jalapenos, long reds and habaneros, a relative of the hottest chilli ever, the Scotch bonnet. We each made a version of Anna Olsen's chilli sauce and had an impromptu chilli tasting at the office. JC used one habarnero and hers was nice and mild. Mine probably averaged about three chillis and was at times a bit too hot for me. I also made the mistake of touching the habaneros while I was cooking and my hand throbbed for about 10 hours.

I roasted my chillis, but I left them in the oven too long. Most of the long red ones were completely charred and I was only able to salvage a few strips of the others. But wow, did my chilli sauce ever sizzle! A little habanero goes a long way. The first thing I taste is the lovely mild celery flavour and then ... POW!

Chilli Sauce

recipe adapted from Anna Olsen's chilli sauce

I made about two-thirds of her recipe and it gave me about a litre of sauce. Instead of using banana peppers, I used two habaneros (my estimate of what I salvaged from the oven), a jalapeno and a long red chilli pepper. I also used cider vinegar instead of white and simmered mine for about an hour. Anna Olsen canned her extra portions, but I froze mine instead.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Ottawa wine and food show

S and I went to the Ottawa Wine and Food Show last week. We tasted the wine of 500-year-old vines and found out which winery made a pact with the devil to keep thieving hands at bay! We also met some local chefs, including The Piggy Market's David Neil pictured below with his girlfriend, a student at Ottawa's Cordon Bleu culinary school. They took part in a 100-mile cook-off hosted by celebrity chef Ken Kostick.

Thirsty for more details? Read the full story in my guest post on Food Network's Food for Thought :)

Saturday, November 15, 2008


S and I ended our trip to France with two days in Paris. It was my first time in this great city and I loved it. I made a point of eating French onion soup every day. We had baguette sandwiches at a café that S remembered from a long time ago before he met moi.

Our first night, we didn't know where to go, and ended up in a horrible creperie that reminded me of Smitty's Pancake House in Kingston! On our second night, we visited La Taverne du Sargent Recruteur, a place that Jackie at Gourmet Safari had recommended. This restaurant made up for the previous night's letdown. I had a duck confit that was so tender, it melted in my mouth. If you ordered crudités or charcuterie as appetizers, they would set down giant wicker baskets at your table, bursting with whole, fresh veggies and all the cold cuts you could imagine still in their original coils.

And so ends our wonderful trip to France. I really hope that you have enjoyed reading about it, and know a bit more about life in Provence and the great people that live there. I have certainly enjoyed reliving it on this blog. If you can go, you will find that it's the trip of a lifetime!

France, je t'aime. À la prochaine!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Three-pepper soup

On our last night in Provence we made a spectacular soup. It looks like a lot of work, but appearances are deceiving. You just make three purees and swirl them together. We personalized them with different designs for the guests at Les Tuillières. The meal that followed was a turkey fricassee with olives, and for dessert, lavender crème brûlée. It was a beautiful finish to a wonderful experience, made even better by the company — Susan and Hermann, the other cooking students and their partners, and also a tableful of Welsh, English and French people. We were the loudest table having the most fun singing all of our national anthems during dinner :)

Three-pepper soup

serves six

Bell peppers — three red, two yellow, 1 green
500 mL vegetable stock
1 Tbsp pine nuts
1 tsp curry powder
125 g natural yogurt
250 mL milk
salt and pepper to taste
2 circles of pineapple, diced finely
pineapple juice
chives, chopped finely

Deseed the peppers and cut into a large dice. Fry the pine nuts over medium heat in a dry frying pan ... only for a few minutes until just browning. Pour onto a cutting board or a room temperature bowl to stop the cooking process.

Divide the stock and curry powder among three separate pots in proportion to the number of peppers. Bring to a boil. Add the diced peppers, each colour to its appropriate pot. Simmer until soft.

Puree each pepper mixture with a stab blender. Add the yogurt and milk to each puree and mix well. Correct the seasoning with salt and pepper and a bit of pineapple juice. Let each soup cool for at least 30 minutes.

Place each soup with care in a bowl in a creative design, making sure the colours don't mix, and garnish with the roasted pine nuts, chives and pineapple pieces.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Creamed mushrooms

On Friday we made another delicious French lunch of creamed mushrooms in the kitchen at Les Tuillières. Hermann says that you can make extra of these mushrooms and freeze them for when unexpected guests drop by. We served them inside puff pastry shells and topped with a little puffed pastry hat, but you could also serve them on toast.

Creamed mushrooms

1 kg (2 lb) sliced button mushrooms
1 onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp flour
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup cream
1/3 C white wine
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 Tbsp herbes de Provence
one chicken bouillon cube, crushed
nutmeg to taste
salt and pepper
fresh parsley to garnish

Fry the onions and garlic in butter and oil until softened. Add the white wine and stir. Add the mushrooms and herbes de Provence and mix together. Fry the mushrooms until they start to release water. Cover and continue to cook for three minutes, stirring occasionally.

Uncover, add flour and stir. Cook for a few minutes.

Add cream, salt, pepper and nutmeg, or reduce the salt and add a bouillon cube. Stir in the lemon juice. Adjust the consistency by adding milk.

Serve on toast or puff pastry shells made in the oven. Decorate with fresh parsley.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

La Bouquinerie - saladerie et salon du thé en Provence

After our visit to the Nyons market, Susan treated all of the cooking students to lunch at La Bouquinerie, a wonderful second-hand bookstore and tea room that elevates the humble salad to a work of art :)

There are hot and cold salads inspired by various locales: the Provençale, the Asian with spring rolls, the cold Italian, the hot Italian that S and I ordered pictured above, and several other varieties. There's also a small dessert menu of interesting tarts, tortes and cakes baked in-house.

La Bouquinerie is in Le Poët-Laval, a very old and beautiful walled medieval village built during the 12th century. The tea room is actually located in a very steep, unevenly cobbled lane in the old castle in the centre of the village. Back in the day, the castle was also a refuge for crusaders on their way to the Holy Land. The monks offered shelter to the tired and treated the sick pilgrims passing through.

We ate inside, surrounded by old books on bookshelves built into the castle walls. However there's also a very romantic patio where you can sit and eat under a ceiling of grapes! It was raining when we were there, but I still got this wonderful shot of that patio and the view beyond it.

Friday, November 7, 2008

The open market in Nyons

On Thursday morning we got up early again. The power was back on after an amazing lightning storm that knocked out the neighbourhood's transformer the night before. We drove with Susan and the other cooking students to go to the market in Nyons. It was again pouring buckets, but one third of the vendors were there.

Nyons is a town in the southern part of the Drôme that hosts the largest open market of the region. On Thursdays, vendors take over the whole town square and trickle down the alleyways, laying out a feast for the senses. The usual food stalls of bread, meat, cheese, and fruit and veg are just the beginning. Even on a rainy Thursday there was a great variety of other things for sale, too: scarves, soaps, essential oils, plants, fabrics and lavender sachets. I took this photo at the stall belonging to Susan's favourite spice lady.

Since it's surrounded by silvery olive groves, Nyons is also famous for its locally made olive oils and wines. Susan took S and I and the other cooking students to the olive oil co-operative, where there were wines to be tasted free of charge, confits and tapenades lining the walls and olive products galore. I even found some olive oil bubble bath to take home :)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Goat Cheese and Herb Dip

On Wednesday we assembled once more at 4 p.m. in the kitchen at Les Tuillières to make a four-course meal for the guests. In France, entrée means first course instead of main, and tonight it was a lovely eggplant gratin. Our plat principale was a lamb and artichoke stew and for dessert, we made a chocolate almond cake.

Our appetizer was a goat cheese and herb dip. It's delicious and fresh-tasting. I've since brought this little bit of Provence to a few parties where it has passed many a taste test.

Goat Cheese and Herb Dip

4 oz soft fresh goat cheese (pure white and not encrusted with anything)
1 1/2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp plain thin yogurt
1 Tbsp each of finely chopped fresh herbs, whatever you have on hand: chives, parsley, rosemary, thyme, mint or coriander
salt and pepper to taste

(optional) 1 Tbsp fresh edible flowers, hand torn: violets, primroses, sage blossoms, nasturtiums, pot marigolds, young rose petals, fragrant geraniums or poppies with the black part of the petals removed.

Blend the goat cheese, olive oil and yogurt. Add the fresh herbs and flowers, if using. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until dip is cold and the flavours have had a chance to meld, about two hours.

Once the dip I made turned out too hard. If that happens, mix in a tablespoon of warm water or add more yogurt.

Related Posts with Thumbnails