Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Panzanella

It's summer time!!!! Woo too!!! Can you tell this is my favourite time of year? Hence my lack of postings. Sorry. I'm out and about. Lots to see! Lots to do! And lots to eat! Everything just tastes so much better, don't you think? I'm still cooking and baking but I just haven't had a chance to sit down and write. I'm still trying to balance this all out. I'm trying not to be so hard on myself for not keeping up with things. I guess I have to cut myself some slack. But I had to share this great summertime salad!


If things do get a little hectic and you want to throw something together quickly, I urge you to make this! Panzanella! Because you let the tomatoes sit in the vinaigrette for a few minutes, the ingredients just come together to make a flavourful tasting salad. You basically throw in your tomatoes, cucumbers and a simple vinaigrette of red wine vinegar and olive oil. Add some day old, crusty bread that you have hanging around and serve. The lack of dairy makes it a great dish to bring to a picnic.


Panzanella

2 pounds of tomatoes, cut into wedges
1 English cucumbers, cut up
1 cup of artichokes (in water or oil), halved or quartered
1 red onion, sliced
1/2 cup kalamata olives
1 cup basil leaves
Bread, baguette or ciabatta

For vinaigrette:
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon dried oregano

Preheat to 400F. Place bread on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Cool, tear into pieces if bread is in bigger pieces and set aside.
In a large bowl, combine tomatoes, cucumbers, artichokes, red onions, kalamata olives and torn up basil.
To make the vinaigrette, in a mason jar, combine olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper and dried oregano. Shake and pour over salad. Let mixture sit for at least 10 minutes. The longer it sits, the juicier the tomatoes will be. Add the bread and serve.


m xo


Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Happy Birthday to Me…Cardamom Carrot Cake!

This year I decided to make my own birthday cake. Strange, you say? Maybe. But think about it. You decide what kind of cake you want, you know all the ingredients that are going into it and then you get to share it with the people you love!

Let me tell you how this came about. My sister Antonella offered to make me my birthday cake and I decided I wanted a cheesecake this year. Which is unusual but I really had a craving for it. She was going to use local raspberries as the topping. Yummy! In the meantime I took a quiz on Facebook, posted by food52, asking "what cake are you?" and I got "Carrot Cake with Cardamom". I do enjoy a nice carrot cake but what I REALLY love most about carrot cake is the cream cheese frosting!!! Sooo good. I bought all the ingredients to make this cake and figured, hey, you can never have too much cake. I would be enjoying the cheesecake and the carrot cake for the next few days. Definitely no complaints here. But then Antonelle got sick so I NEEDED to make my own cake. Hahaha!

The carrot cake is the recipe from food52. I liked it because it has cardamom in it, which I love. I made some adjustments though. The original calls for both white and brown sugar, I only used brown sugar and I  cut it down by half a cup. I also replaced I cup of the flour with spelt flour. I didn't use the cream cheese frosting that the recipe called for. It was too much for what I needed so I found one on line from Good Housekeeping. It's the perfect amount and not too sweet. I like my cream cheese frosting on the tangy side.

So for your next birthday, I encourage you to make your own cake and most important, share it with the people you love!!



 Carrot Cake with Cardamom 

Cake

1 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs
4 cups grated carrots
2 cups flour
1 cup spelt flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
Zest of an orange
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup yogurt

Preheat oven to 325F. Grease and flour two 9" cake pans.
In a bowl, beat the sugar and the eggs until light yellow. Add vanilla. In a large bowl, combine the grated carrots, flours, baking powder, cardamom, cinnamon, salt and orange zest. Toss to coat. Add the oil and yogurt and stir until combined. Pour batter evenly in the pans. Bake until golden, about 50 minutes. Cool completely. Frost with Cream Cheese Frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

1/4 cup butter, softened
400g. cream cheese, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar

In a large bowl, with a mixer or by hand, beat butter, cream cheese, and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add the confectioner's sugar until blended and light and fluffy.

m xo


Saturday, 5 July 2014

You say cold soup, I say gazpacho...Pineapple Cucumber Gazpacho

I didn't know if I should call this a cold soup or a gazpacho. Either way, I think it alienates a lot of people as soon as you say it's a cold soup or gazpacho. You either love it or hate it. I personally love it. It's very refreshing and it has a nice kick from the jalapeno.

I've had this recipe on hand a few years and I recently came upon it again when I cleaned out a closet that I've been meaning to get to for a while. I used to make it all the time in the summer. Put everything in a blender and Bob's your uncle. Easy. Peasy.


Pineapple Cucumber Soup

3 cups fresh pineapple
3 cups cucumber, peeled
1/2-1 jalapeño, depending on the heat you want
2 green onions, white part only
handful of cilantro
1 cup coconut water
juice of a lime
1 teaspoon salt

Place all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and mix until pureed. Chill  and serve.


Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Minestrone Soup with Fregola

Schools out and I had my niece Ella over and she wanted to help out in the kitchen so I thought, why not make a soup? It involves a lot of chopping and slicing and a little sous chef is always welcome! I just used what I happened to have in my refrigerator which included some corn on the cob that I steamed in foil packets over the weekend. I took the kernels off the cobs and added it to the soup 10 minutes into the cooking, seeing as they were already cooked. But you can use fresh corn off the cob or frozen corn that is thawed, just add it along with the other vegetables.


Because I had the kids for lunch I added fregola (a small, Sardinian semolina pasta) to the minestrone. You can use orzo or any small pasta. Or you can make it totally pasta free, which I usually do but I have to say I totally LOVED it with the pastina! Reminds me of my childhood because my mother always added tubettini (small tubes) in the minestrone.

I also added a piece of parmesan rind to soup as it was cooking because it adds a lot of flavour and I always have some on hand in the refrigerator  I never throw them away! They are great to throw in soups. If you don't have any on hand, you can top the soup with grated parmesan when serving.


Minestrone Soup with Fregola

2 tablespoons of olive oil
1/4 cup sliced pancetta or bacon
1 leek, white and light green part only, chopped
1 red onion, chopped
5-6 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 small zucchini, chopped
1 bunch of asparagus, chopped
3 corn on the cobs, kernels removed or 2 cups frozen corn, thawed
4 cups chicken broth + 2 cups if adding pasta
1 cup of fregola, orzo or any small pasta
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 piece of parmesan rind (optional)
Grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, torn

In a Dutch oven, over medium/high heat, cook the pancetta or bacon in the olive oil until crispy. Add the leek and red onion and sauté until soft. Add the carrots, celery, zucchini, asparagus, corn and 4 cups of chicken broth if not adding pasta or 6 cups if adding pasta. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Bring up to a boil, add the fregola and the parmesan rind if using. Keep an eye on it, stirring frequently to make sure the fregola doesn't stick to the bottom of the pot. It should take about 20 minutes for the pasta to cook. If not adding the pasta, bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Take off the heat and stir in the torn basil leaves. Serve hot with grated parmesan cheese.


m xo


Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Roasted Tomato Soup

The thing is, we didn't grow up with tomato soup. We made soups with tomatoes, but not just tomato soup. It just looked and tasted like passata or tomato sauce to me. I used to think, how weird! Why not just add some orzo or tubetti pasta in there and complete the dish. It just didn't look like a meal.

And then as I got older and started trying roasted tomato soups, it tasted great and made sense to me, especially when served with grilled cheese sandwiches.Yum! Who doesn't like grilled cheese dipped in tomato soup! 

But I have to say, unless the tomatoes are roasted, the soup can still taste like tomato sauce to me, and that's why I always roast my tomatoes... Oooooh, I just thought of something as I'm typing away. Next time, I'm going to try grilling my tomatoes. What do think? Doesn't that sound good?

I used hot house tomatoes that I had sitting on my kitchen counter that I had to use. Tomatoes should never be stored in the refrigerator. It makes them mealy. I cut them in half and placed them cut side down on paper towels just to absorb some of the water that comes out, so when roasting them, they will have a more concentrated flavour. Place them on a baking tray, brush with a little olive oil, thyme, salt and pepper and put them in the oven. You can even do this ahead of time because once that is done, it only takes 20-30 minutes to make the soup.

I didn't serve my soup with grilled cheese but I did make little croutons with some leftover bread that I had. They added a little "something, something" to the soup.



Roasted Tomato Soup

3 pounds tomatoes, cored and cut in half
olive oil
thyme 
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 red onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
3 cups chicken stock
salt and pepper
1/3 cup basil leaves
3 tablespoons cream, optional

Preheat oven to 400F.
Spread the tomato halves on a baking tray. Brush with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and place a couple of sprigs of thyme on each tomato half. Roast for 1 hour, until the tomatoes are caramelized.
In the meantime, in a pot over medium heat, sauté the onion and garlic in olive oil until the onions are soft. Add the chicken stock and the roasted tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Tear the basil leaves and add to the soup. Take off the heat and puree the soup with an immersion blender. Stir in the cream if you are using. Serve with croutons or even better…a grilled cheese sandwich.



m xo








Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Asparagus Frittata

Farmer's markets are just starting to open and sell their fresh produce in my area and I am all over them. I love going to see what they have and then coming home and plan our meals around the wonderful produce that I've bought.

This week I bought a few bunches of asparagus and fresh farm eggs and one of the things I made was this frittata. Growing up, we would have frittata at least once a week because it was a quick meal to make after work and delicious. Of course it always depended on what was in season or what what was in the refrigerator. One of  my favourite frittatas is potato, which I have to say, I make all year round. But I remember my mom making frittata to put in my fathers lunch to change it up from the usual cold cuts. Frittata is such a versatile dish because you can make it for breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner.  And to this day, when I bring it for lunch, I can never wait for lunch time because I can't wait to have it. Isn't that funny?

I used 8 eggs and made a substantial frittata because not only did we have it for dinner, but John brought it for lunch the next day and I had it for breakfast. (see, I couldn't even wait for lunch) lol.

I used Comte cheese because it was what I happen to have in my refrigerator but you can use parmesan  cheese if you prefer.

I flip my frittata on an inverted plate and slide it back in the skillet and finish cooking but if you don't feel comfortable doing that, just make sure you use an oven proof skillet and finish under the broiler in the oven.


Asparagus Frittata

1 bunch of asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 red onion, chopped
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
1/2 teaspoon pepper
8 large eggs
1 tablespoon chopped tarragon
2 tablespoons chopped chives
1/2 cup Comte, freshly grated

In a 10 inch skillet, cook the red onion and the asparagus in the olive oil over medium heat until softened. Season with salt and pepper.
In the meantime, whisk together the eggs, tarragon, chives and cheese in a bowl.
Lower the heat to a medium-low and pour the egg mixture into the pan. Cook and slowly drag the edges to the middle of the pan until the egg mixture is set. It should be lightly brown on the bottom. Place an inverted plate over it and with oven mitts on, quickly flip the frittata on the plate and slide it back in the pan. Cook until the bottom is lightly brown.
Slide onto a plate and cut into wedges to serve.



m xo



Monday, 16 June 2014

Roasted Basil Scented Strawberry Rhubarb Compote

Romeo and Juliet. Peanut butter and jelly. Fred and Ginger. Cheese and crackers. Bert and Ernie. Penny and Leonard. Bacon and eggs…Well, you get the picture. These are a few things that go together, hand and hand. It's hard not to think of one without the other.

And in the spring, strawberries and rhubarb. It's the perfect combination of tart and sweet.



I made a compote and added some basil leaves because everywhere I look these days, there are recipes that combine strawberries and basil. It adds a really nice, subtle flavour.  This compote is a perfect topping for ice cream, yogurt, toast or cake. I think it would be great with grilled pork lion too.  It's been hard not to just eat it straight. I forgot how much I love it!! I put together parfaits with yogurt and a little granola and had it for breakfast. Wouldn't these be great for a brunch? You could definitely put these together ahead of time.



I chose to roast the compote in the oven because I didn't want to stand over the the stove and risk getting distracted and burning it. It would totally be something I would do. So instead I dumped everything in a pan and stuck it in the oven. So easy. The only thing I would recommend is not putting it in a too shallow pan because it creates a lot of juices and could over flow and make a big mess in your oven and then you would have to clean it up and that would TOTALLY piss you off (because it would piss me off!).


Roasted Basil Scented Strawberry Rhubarb Compote

4 cups strawberries, halved + 1/2 cup reserved strawberries, chopped
2 cups rhubarb, cut into 1 inch pieces
4 basil leaves
1/3 cup honey
2 tablespoons water

Preheat oven to 375F.
Combine the strawberries, rhubarb, basil leaves, honey and water in an oven proof pan. Bake for 25 minutes until bubbly and syrupy or until rhubarb is tender, stirring occasionally. Remove from the oven and stir in reserved strawberries. Cool completely.




m xo