Saturday, May 31, 2008

a secret weapon

Ladies, here's a secret weapon to keep in your back pocket for when you really want your significant other to do something for you.
Men, here's a little recipe to save for those days when your wife is feeling a bit blue.

What is it?
It's a Chocolate Pear Tart.
Now, I am not really a chocolate fan - weird, I know - but this tart is more then just plain old chocolate. It has the texture of a dark chocolate truffle, balanced perfectly with the light sweetness of the pears. It has a bit of a Mayan chocolate feel with the addition of cinnamon for complexity. It's not your ordinary chocolate tart...and I can bet that whoever you make this for will love you forever (and help you clean out the garage!)

Pear and Chocolate Tart
  • 3 x Anjou or Bartlett pears, peeled, halved and cored
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp brandy (optional)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 2 x large egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp fine salt
  • 6 ounces bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
  • 3/4 cup whipping cream
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 x large egg
  1. Bring pears, sugar, water and lemon juice up to a simmer. Cook pear just below a simmer (and place a plate or piece of parchment over surface of liquid to keep pears from floating) until tender, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat. After pears have cooled a bit, remove from liquid, sprinkle with brandy (optional), toss and chill until ready to serve.
  2. To prepare crust, cream butter and sugar together. Stir in egg yolks, adding one at a time. Sift together flour, cocoa and salt and add to butter mixture. Mix until dough just comes together. Shape in to a disc and chill until ready to roll. If preparing ahead of time, pull dough from fridge an hour before rolling.
  3. On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to just over ¼-inch (.5 cm) thick. Line a 9-inch (23 cm) removable-bottom tart shell with dough, trim edges and chill for 20 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C). Dock pastry with a fork and bake for 18-20 minutes. Allow to cool.
  5. Reduce oven temperature to 325 F (160 C). Place chopped chocolate in a large bowl. Heat cream with spices to just below a simmer and pour over chocolate. Let it sit for a minute, then stir slowly. Stir in vanilla.
  6. Whisk egg in a small cup then stir into chocolate. Pour into chocolate shell and bake for 12 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes, then chill for 2 hours before serving.
  7. To garnish with pears, slice, pears thinly and arrange over tart.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

mais, por favor

When people say time flies, they're not kidding.
Can you believe it's already been a year since we booked our incredible trip to Portugal? I guess it still feels like yesterday because we are constantly talking about something or another to do with the trip.
I don't know if we loved it so much because it was our 1st trip to Europe together, or if it was because of all the friendly locals, or maybe it was the terrific coffee…All I know is that there is a special place in my heart for Portugal and its wonderful culture, that I am sure it will bring us back there over and over again. And even though I've always said that there is so much to see in this world that we couldn't possibly go back to the same place twice, I think this is an exception.

One of my favorite parts of the trip was the amazingly fresh seafood. We could go into town in the early afternoon and pick up fish that was literally fished (is that even a word??) that same morning. Simply thrown on the bbq that evening, finished off with a light drizzle of olive oil…it just doesn't get any better than that.

Now if you were to ask Mony what his favorite part was, he would say Monkfish rice. That was a local dish we had one of the nights at a small restaurant by the shore. It was creamy without being heavy, with just the right amount of seafood without it being too fishy. When he mentioned to me that he wanted to recreate this dish at home, I'll be honest, I had my doubts. Not only would my kitchen end up looking like a tornado had hit it, but the final dish would taint my memories of that beautiful dish. Now this is not a jab at Mony's cooking skills, but the truth of the matter is that we just don't have the same local ingredients, nor the freshness available here as they do there. So no matter how well Mony cooked, it still wouldn't be able to compare to the legendary dish.

Okay now listen carefully because you won't hear this very often:

I was wrong.

He recreated this dish as perfectly as the little old grandma in a Portuguese kitchen. It had the right seasoning, the right texture, the right consistency.

He was right, I was wrong.

ARROZ DE TAMBORIL (Monkfish rice)

Serves 4

600g monkfish fillets, skinned
8 raw prawns, unpeeled
4 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 sweet red pepper, finely chopped
2 chorizo sausages, sliced
2 large tomatoes, chopped
1.3 liters hot stock (vegetable or fish)
400g risotto rice
1 tsp Spanish paprika
2 bay leaves
Sea salt and pepper
2 tbsp flat parsley leaves, torn
1 lemon

Cut the fish into healthy, bite-sized pieces.
Heat half the olive oil in a frying pan and cook the fish and prawns on all sides until they change colour. Remove to a plate and season well. Add the remaining oil and cook the onion, garlic, red pepper and chorizo and fry for 10 minutes, stirring well. Add the tomatoes, stock or water and bring to the boil. Add the (unwashed) rice, paprika, bay leaves, salt and pepper, stirring well.
Reduce the heat to very low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes until the rice is almost cooked but still wet and soupy (add more stock if not). Add the monkfish, prawns and parsley and simmer gently for 10 minutes.
Scatter with parsley and serve in warm pasta bowls, with lemon wedges for squeezing.

To read more about our trip, click here, here, and here...oh, and here.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

bring on the sunshine

Okay, so the Habs are now on some Montreal golf course taking advantage of the beautiful weather instead of playing playoff hockey. And my Flames have been perfecting their swing for weeks now. The beautiful thing about being eliminated, though, is the hope that next year will bring more success. Dina and I have much more on our minds than hockey and golf for this quickly approaching summer. The prospect of sitting on a newly constructed deck in our own backyard, sipping wine and dining outdoors is fresh in our minds. Until the deck is ready and the temperature warms up, we decided to bring a little sunshine into our home courtesy of some veal piccata.

I started getting my biceps in shape for the summer by pounding out the veal cutlets until they were 1/4 inch thick while Dina prepared the lemon-wine based sauce.

Veal Piccata

4 veal cutlets, pounded until 1/4 in. thick
2 tbsp flour, for dredging
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp butter
3/4 cup white wine
1/2 cup lemon juice
2 tsp capers
1/4 cup parsley leaves, chopped
Lemon slices and parsley sprigs, for garnish
Salt & pepper to taste

Season the veal with salt and pepper and dredge in flour. Pat off excess flour. In a large frying pan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Saute veal cutlets for 2 minutes per side and remove to plate (do not overcook, as veal will become tough). Add garlic to pan and saute for 1 minute. Add wine, lemon juice, and capers and bring to boil; cook until reduced by half. Return to a simmer and stir in butter and parsley until butter has melted and is incorporated into sauce. Return veal cutlets to pan and coat with sauce. Transfer to serving plate and garnish with lemon slices and parsley sprigs.

The result: tender, juicy veal cutlets, swimming in a savory, lemony sauce with bites of capers throughout. Insanely delicious and better than dining out on a $20+ meal.

This will do just fine until BBQ weather decides to make an appearance.