Saturday, December 22, 2007

happy holidays!!!

With the holidays nearly here, we're off for about a week. We wish all of our loyal readers a very happy holiday and look forward to more blogging in 2008. Be sure to post your holiday food stories if you get a chance. We love hearing from you.


Monday, December 17, 2007

snowed in...start cookin'

Picture this...

Monday morning
40 cm's of snow (that's 16 inches for our American friends)
A buried car
An eager husband
Car warming up
Keys suddenly locked in car
Car still running
Car blocking other cars from leaving
Macgyver skills not working
Help called
Tow truck unlocks doors
Tow truck gets stuck in snow
Tow truck blocks way for everyone

This was pretty much our morning. Yes, we were late for work. Yes, we were freaking out.
But the silver lining was that after a crazy day we got to come home to this:

Tyler's ultimate bolognese sauce. Mony made this yesterday when we were snowed in. It was simmered for hours and the end result was much different than the standard meat sauce that he usually makes. It was much more meatier and not very tomatoey. It's hearty and very warming; perfect for those cold, snowy days like today.

Bolognese Sauce
recipe courtesy of Tyler Florence

2 ounces dried porcini mushrooms, wiped of grit
1/4 pound pancetta or slab bacon, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
5 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs rosemary
1 1/2 pound ground pork
1 1/2 pound ground beef
2 cups milk
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
2 cups dry red wine
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound dry tagiatelle pasta
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, for serving
1 handful fresh basil leaves
Fresh ricotta cheese

Reconstitute the mushrooms in boiling water for 20 minutes until tender, drain and coarsely chop.

Puree the mushrooms, pancetta, onion, celery stalks, carrots, garlic, together in a blender.
In a heavy-bottomed pot add olive oil, bay leaves, herbs and cook gently until fragrant, then add vegetable puree and continue to cook for a further 5 to 10 minutes.

Raise the heat a bit and add the ground pork and beef; brown until the meat is no longer pink, breaking up the clumps with a wooden spoon. Add the milk and simmer until the liquid is evaporated, about 10 minutes. Carefully pour in the tomatoes, and wine and season with salt and pepper. Bring the sauce to a boil, then lower the heat and cover. Slowly simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, stirring now and then, until the sauce is very thick. Taste again for salt and pepper.

When you are ready to serve, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until tender yet firm (as they say in Italian "al dente"). Drain the pasta well and toss with the Bolognese sauce.

Serve with a good scoop of fresh ricotta cheese and garnish with some shredded basil, grated Parmigiano and a drizzle of olive oil.

House update:
(last update for a few weeks as everyone will be on holidays)

We're excited. We're really happy. We don't think the day can come soon enough.

Looks like the construction workers are foodies too!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

They're calling for up to 50cm of snow today (that's 20 inches for our friends south of the border). At first, I panicked, thinking about the potential for sitting in traffic for hours on the Monday morning commute to work. Once the snow started falling this morning, though, it dawned on me that a Sunday snow day could mean the ultimate "lounge around in your pj's and do nothing" day. And by 'do nothing', of course I mean cook up a storm. Stay tuned for the details.

Lately, I've had the hankering for a stick-to-your-stomach, feel-good dish. Yesterday, Dina kindly obliged by putting together the ultimate side dish: scalloped potatoes.

All it took was 4 medium-sized potatoes, an onion, 4 cloves of garlic, 1 cup of shredded gouda cheese, 1 cup of grated parmesan cheese, 1/2 cup of heavy cream, and s&p.

I peeled & thinly sliced the (red-skinned) potatoes and onion, minced the garlic, shredded the cheese and it was time to assemble. Dina buttered the bottom of the casserole dish and began layering the potatoes so that each slice overlapped the other halfway, seasoning with salt & pepper all over. The onion slices were tossed among the potatoes, while a generous sprinkling of both cheeses blanketed each layer. We continued until we reached the top of the dish, finishing with some more cheese on top. We then poured the cream (with the minced garlic mixed in) all over the assembled dish.

Covered with aluminum foil we baked it at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes, then removed the foil and increased the temperature to 400 to brown the top for another 10 minutes. The result: a creamy, cheesy and crispy potato-onion combination that is indescribably delicious.

Although I would normally recommend waiting for the dish to cool slightly before digging in, the growling in my tummy wanted nothing to do with my tongue's fear of getting scorched. This isn't a dish that Dina would allow me to have very often, but I think that actually makes helping myself to this soul food even more enjoyable.

Did I mention what a lucky man I am?

Monday, December 10, 2007

mr. horton would be proud

All week I've wanted to make Hanukkah treats but simply did not have the time or energy to do so. I think we've all been in that position at some point in our busy lives. Well, on Sunday morning I found myself awake much earlier than anyone else in our household, cats included. At first I enjoyed the quietness of it all but soon started to get antsy with all the free time. I had already started on the challah that I was bringing to the family Hanukkah gathering and decided that this would be a good time to bake some sufganiyot. Sufganiyot is similar to a jelly donut but with a little more substance.

I used Martha Stewart's recipe. I love Martha and don't care if everyone knows it. I don't, however, like Martha's baking recipes. I don't know if she uses special ingredients or just has that special touch but I find that none of her baked goods come out perfectly. Add this one to the list, as well. Although Mony enjoyed the mini donuts, I found them to be too doughy and not quite fluffy enough. The dough was easy to work with but didn't rise as much as I think it should have. That's probably why I think I had a heavier donut than Martha's version. I used a white wine glass to cut the rounds out of the dough and that made a perfect two-bite snack.

I used a clear squeeze bottle to inject the strawberry jam since I don't own a pasty bag along with the assorted tips. The squeeze bottle worked out okay but please learn from my mistakes and strain the jam before filling so that you don't clog the tip with strawberry bits and have a hard time filling these little donuts.


From Martha Stewart

2 tbsp. active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water, (100°F to 110°F)
1/4 cup plus 1 tsp. sugar, plus more for rolling
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 large eggs
2 tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
2 teaspoons salt
3 cups vegetable oil, plus more for bowl
1 cup seedless raspberry jam

  1. In a small bowl, combine yeast, warm water, and 1 tsp. sugar. Set aside until foamy, about 10 minutes.
  2. Place flour in a large bowl. Make a well in the center; add eggs, yeast mixture, 1/4 cup sugar, butter, nutmeg, and salt. Using a wooden spoon, stir until a sticky dough forms.
  3. On a well-floured work surface, knead until dough is smooth, soft, and bounces back when poked with a finger, about 8 minutes (add more flour if necessary). Place in an oiled bowl; cover with plastic wrap. Set in a warm place to rise until doubled, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
  4. On a lightly floured work surface, roll dough to 1/4-inch thickness. Using a 2-1/2-inch-round cutter or drinking glass, cut 20 rounds. Cover with plastic wrap; let rise 15 minutes.
  5. In medium saucepan over medium heat, heat oil until a deep-frying thermometer registers 370°.
  6. Using a slotted spoon, carefully slip 4 rounds into oil. Fry until golden, about 40 seconds. Turn doughnuts over; fry until golden on other side, another 40 seconds.
  7. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a paper-towel-lined baking sheet. Roll in sugar while warm. Fry all dough, and roll in sugar.
  8. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a #4 tip with jam. Using a wooden skewer or toothpick, make a hole in the side of each doughnut. Fit the pastry tip into a hole, pipe about 2 teaspoons jam into doughnut. Repeat with remaining doughnuts.

Later that day, we went to the construction site and saw this:

Yay! It's finally starting to look like a house...

We were so proud standing in our 'living room' looking out the windowless window...

Can you feel our excitment? Can't wait to go back next weekend and see if they did any more work on our house.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

follow up post: latkes

Many of you have asked for the latke recipe and since I aim to please, I decided to create another post for it.

Brace yourselves, there are only 2 ingredients. Yes, you read that right - 2 ingredients. Well, 3 if you count the oil that you fry them in...but everyone has vegetable oil lying around so that doesn't really count. Well, if you really want to get technical, it's actually 4 ingredients if you want to count the salt...but everyone has salt lying around, right? Seriously, if you don't have salt lying around, you probably should not be reading this blog. Whatever it is, it's a simple, less-than-5-ingredients recipe.

Dina's Potato Latkes
3 large potatoes (yukon gold is preferred)
1 onion
vegetable oil

Wash and peel potatoes (we actually don't peel them, we like the fiber). Using a hand shredder or a food processor with the shredder attachment, shred potatoes and onion. Using a cheese cloth or a thin (clean) kitchen towel squeeze out extra moisture from the potato/onion mixture. Place the dried results in a bowl and add salt to taste.

Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a large non-stick skillet (or a thickly rimmed regular skillet). Once oil is hot, add a large tablespoon of the potato mixture, pressing it down with the back of your spoon to form a patty. Depending on how large your skillet is, you will probably be able to fit 4 latkes at a time. Flip once browned on underside. Do not flip too early as that will not result in a crisp latke. Cook for an additional 5 minutes and transfer to a paper towel lined plate. Repeat until done.


Friday, December 7, 2007

my food history

We've been tagged by dp! What does that mean exactly? Well, it means that someone wants to know how we became interested in food...we never want to disappoint, so here we go:

What were you cooking/baking 10 years ago?
Well, at 19 I was still living at home and dining on my mother's cooking. Although every opportunity I got (while my parents were out) I would experiment in the kitchen with such recipes as lemon bars, homemade donuts and a variety of cookies, with varying degrees of success.

What were you cooking/baking one year ago?
Once Dina and I tied the knot, my cooking & baking skills were kicked up a notch. Being the sous-chef not only helped me hone my skills in the kitchen, but entitled me to the best food I could possibly sample from Dina's ever impressive repertoire.

Five snacks you enjoy (in no particular order):
Ice cream (must have chocolate, chunks of things, and preferably brightly colored packaging), cookies (almost any will do), Kettle Chips, crunchy coated peanuts, cheese.

Five recipes you know by heart:
I can only think of 3!
Tequila Lime Fettucine
Bolognese Sauce

Five culinary luxuries you would indulge in if you were a millionaire:

Only 3 here too!
A massive wine cellar
A walk-in fridge
Cooking lessons at the Cordon Bleu

Five foods you love to cook/bake:

Italian Food/Pasta
Peanut butter cookies
Creme brulee

Five foods you cannot/will not eat:

Organ meat of any kind
Warm, sweet cheese
Blue cheese

Five favorite culinary toys:

Panini press
Salad spinner
Chef's knife

Five dishes on your "last meal" menu:
Chicken tikka
Filet mignon
Shrimp scampi
Leg of lamb

Five happy food memories:
In no particular order:

1. Having sizzling garlic shrimp in Portugal on vacation with Dina, her sister and brother-in-law and the nephews this past summer.

2. Dining at the now closed restaurant Brunoise with Dina on my birthday where I tasted the most delicious dessert of all time: Vanilla panna cotta with passionfruit and basil coulis.

3. Dining at the souks in Marrakech at food stall #1. So much delicious food for so little.

4. Making donuts with my brother at age 10 while my parents were out. I made the dough, deep-fried them (to a dark brown crisp) and spread crunchy peanut butter on top. Tim Horton's, look out.

5. My mom's chicken soup, which she made every time I was under the weather.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

thanks a latke

So, it's the first night of Hanukkah and with absolutely no prompting, hinting or requesting, Dina whipped up a batch of her, now famous, crispy potato latkes. It's amazing how perfectly delicious some shredded potatoes and onions can come together to epitomize this holiday like nothing else can. With the first candle lit, we dined on a pile of latkes and took it easy after a busy day full of running around the city taking care of house stuff.

My love affair with latkes goes way back. My mom and grandma used to make them every Hanukkah, each of them with their own twist on the classic recipe. Now, Dina has taken over and has produced such a worthy contender that it has even become a part of the Christmas morning tradition at her sister's house. It has been requested that we make these once again this year in Toronto on Christmas day, and who are we to say no?

Happy Holidays to everyone out there...I'd like to encourage you all to try something new this holiday season and share your love of food with everyone at the table.

cookie cutter

I received the latest Gourmet magazine last week. The cover had delicious looking cookies that caught Mony's eye. He asked if I could make him some - and since he usually does not make many requests, I decided to bake them for him this past weekend.

The recipe was super easy and not very complicated at all. The magazine suggested placing them in trio's for a larger cookie but I liked the smaller individual cookies better.

Gourmet's recipe filled them with strawberry, raspberry, and apricot preserves. But we used Bon Maman strawberry jam, and dulce de leche spread because that's what we had on hand.

The cookies were soft and yet had a crispy bite. I highly recommend making some as part of your Christmas cookie repertoire this season. I froze half the dough and hope to make these again soon.


Gourmet ~ December 2007

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
About 2 tablespoons seedless raspberry jam
About 2 tablespoons apricot preserves
About 2 tablespoons strawberry preserves

Equipment: a 1/2-inch-thick wooden spoon handle

Make dough:
Whisk together flour and salt. Beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until very pale and fluffy, about 4 minutes, then beat in egg and vanilla. At low speed, mix in flour mixture in 3 batches just until a dough forms. Divide dough in half and form each piece into a 6-inch disk, then chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, until firm, about 1 hour.

Assemble and bake cookies:
Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Roll 3 separate level teaspoons of dough each into a ball, then flatten each ball slightly (to 1 inch wide and less than 1/2 inch thick). Arrange them in a triangle on baking sheet with edges touching in center, then make a deep indentation in center of each round with wooden spoon handle. Make more cookies, arranging them 1 inch apart on baking sheets.

Fill indentations in each cookie with about 1/8th teaspoon jam (each cookie should have 3 different fillings), avoiding any large pieces of fruit.

Bake until cookies are baked through and golden-brown on edges, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool on baking sheets 5 minutes, then transfer to racks to cool completely.

*Note: This recipe makes a huge amount of cookies. I froze half the dough and will make the 2nd batch later on.

Okay, so now a quick house update:

The snow doesn't seem to be holding them back.
Slowly but surely, we're getting there!