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Cherry Jam

CherryJam_First

I read David Lebovitz’s recipe for No-Recipe Cherry Jam and loved it from the start because it was just ratios! Usually I have to take down recipes to suit the volume or quantity of ingredients I have on hand and David’s recipe made it super easy, plus I liked his first direction: “1. Wear something red.”

David suggests to cook the cherries and measure the volume and then add 3/4 of it in sugar (apparently the sugar is required so that it doesn’t spoil, otherwise I would have reduced it).

Delicious goodness of homemade jam.

Delicious goodness of homemade jam.

Cherry Jam

Makes 300 mL jam.

Original recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 350 g fresh Ontario cherries (you can use any old cherries, but I thought I’d give our Province a plug!)
  • 400 mL cherry juice (I had some left over from cherry squares I made a few weeks ago)
  • 375 mL sugar
  • zest and juice of 1 fresh lemon

Directions:

  1. “Put on something red.”*
  2. Pit all of the cherries and chop about 2/3 of the cherries into smaller pieces and the remainder into halves.
  3. Cook the cherries and cherry juice in a non-reactive pot. David suggests a slightly larger pot because the juices bubble up. Put a plate in the freezer (this will help you determine when the jam is done).
  4. Add the lemon juice and zest (I used a peeler to peel large slices of lemon so that I could remove them after). Continue to cook until the cherries are soft (about 20 minutes).
  5. Once cooked, measure the volume you have, including the juice. I netted 500 mL so 3/4 of that is 375 mL sugar. Stir in the sugar and continue to cook on higher heat until the bubbling diminishes and the jam congeals when a drop is put on the super cold plate and returned to the freezer for a moment. Be careful not to overcook the jam it will caramelize the sugar and it will taste terrible! It’s best to test often (David suggests it’s better to test often than to overcook the jam). My volume took 20-25 minutes to the perfect viscosity. Remove from heat.
  6. David suggest to add a bit of kirschwasser, but I was all out so I added a tiny drop of almond extract as he advised. Stir well.
  7. Cool to room temperature and bottle as you would normally. He suggests this jam will keep in the fridge for several months.

*From David Lebovitz

HomeMadePhyllo_First

Growing up, one of our family favourites was Rétes (Hungarian Strudel) and my dear Mom made Hungarian delicacies like Káposztás Rétes (Savoury Cabbage Strudel) and Túrós Rétes (sweet Cottage Cheese Strudel) and even sometimes but not often, Almás Rétes (Apple Strudel). Mom’s favourite was Káposztás Rétes (Cabbage Strudel) and although as kids we couldn’t stand it, I often find myself craving the savoury flavours of this treat.

My dear Mom always told stories as she was cooking or baking, stories about food, of course! The one story that has resonated with me all these years is that Grandma (Nagymama) made her own Rétes dough! The story goes that Nagymama laid a clean, white sheet on the dining room table, dusted it with flour and stretched and stretched and stretched her homemade dough until you could read newsprint through it. I always imagined an enormous dough (like this) on the table! Mom never made strudel dough that I recall, by the time she was a homemaker, ready made, frozen dough was already available and so much easier than making it yourself. I have used ready made Phyllo more times than I can count on all my fingers and toes, but I’d never made it myself. So you can well imagine why homemade phyllo dough is on my bucket list.

Recently, we invited dear friends to the cottage and I thought homemade Baklava would be a lovely dessert over the weekend and a great excuse to make homemade phyllo dough. I chose Baklava because if the Phyllo didn’t work out as well, the syrup would ‘hide’ its flaws, unlike Rétes. The recipe I followed is here (why reinvent the wheel?) but I can tell you right now that using the pasta maker is not nearly as satisfying as rolling by hand. A marble rolling pin (or something really heavy) would be helpful…I had a rolling pin made by one of my dear Mom’s friends many years ago and I paid the price by bruising my palms and fingers!

Bucket List

Homemade Phyllo Dough

This recipe makes 25 sheets approx. 25 cm x  41 cm (10″ x 16″)

I allowed the dough to rest overnight.

The recipe instructions indicate to take the dough to #9 on the pasta maker (mine is a KitchenAid Stand Mixer with attachments) but I recommend to take it to #8 and do the rest by hand. I also tried rolling it entirely by hand (see photos below – only took about 12 minutes each) and it wasn’t as difficult as I had anticipated but it did bruise my hands badly). Between each number of stretching the dough by pasta machine, keep rubbing a little flour to both sides of the flattened dough, this is how the correct texture is achieved. Believe me, you will know when you feel it.

I also found that rolling the dough through each pass on the pasta maker a couple of times instead of just once results in a finer dough.

Baklava

Yields:

  • 17 (4-sheet) baklavas
  • 11 (2-sheet) baklavas
  • 4 left over sheets (freeze for later).

Ingredients:

  • 21 sheets of phyllo dough
  • 120 g hazelnuts
  • 200 g almonds
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted

Directions:

  1. Roast both nuts on 163° C (325° F) for 18 minutes or until most of the skins have separated from the hazelnuts (almonds may or may not separate).
  2. Using a clean tea towel, rub the hot nuts until most of the skins come off. Separate skins from nuts.
  3. Chop both hazelnuts and almonds roughly and combine with sugar, cinnamon and cloves. Set aside.

Syrup Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1 cup honey
  • 4 tbsp fresh lemon juice

Directions:

  1. Combine  first three ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes, remove from heat and add lemon juice. Stir well, set aside.

Baklava assembly:

  1. Preheat the oven to 163° C (325° F).
  2. Divide the dough into 40 g dough portions.
  3. Lightly flour a large, clean surface and roll out to approximately 25 cm x 41 cm or 10″ x 16″ sheets. Continue to roll all of the dough like this until you have rolled it all out. Cover with a lightly damp cloth and a jelly roll pan to protect it from drying out.
  4. Take one sheet of phyllo and lay it length-wise in front of you. Brush generously with the melted butter. Sprinkle 3/4 cup of the nut mixture per sheet. Continue for 2-3 sheets.
  5. Taking the long end, begin to roll the phyllo tightly. Brush the finished roll with melted butter.
  6. Cut into 5 cm or 2.5″ lengths (or smaller equal lengths). Place cut side up into a lightly buttered pan, it doesn’t matter if they touch. Continue until all the dough and nut mixture is exhausted.
  7. Bake for approximately 45-50 minutes.
  8. Allow to cool completely and then pour the syrup over The rolls and allow to rest for a few hours.
Phyllo40g

I found that 40 g made the perfect sheet size.

Phyllo_1

A relatively damp and somewhat elastic dough (not nearly as elastic as pizza dough)

Phyllo_2

You can roll to 9 in your pasta maker, but honestly I did not find rolling by hand difficult.

Phyllo_3

OK. By saying “I did not find the rolling difficult”, what I meant was “not difficult as I was rolling” but the next day, my palms were bruised from the shear pressure I had to put onto the rolling pin. You may wish to roll with a marble rolling pin.

Phyllo_4

For some reason, my Nagymama (grandma) always said the dough has to be thin enough to read a newspaper through it, I figured a nut panel would suffice!

Phyllo_5

This is one of the rolls of Baklava.

Phyllo_6

Cut rolls into 16-17 equal lengths and place into a greased pan. It’s OK if they touch because the dough has been greased sufficiently so they won’t stick.

Baklava_Beauty

The finished product, with a little extra honey drizzled on. PS, that silver tray comes from my Dad’s side of the family, it’s probably over 100 years old!

 

Notes:

This is quite a damp dough and it’s a bit sticky but don’t worry, you’ll be stretching and rolling additional flour into it to give it the correct wet/dry ratio.

The dough only becomes difficult to work with (breaking, cracking) when it dries out; make sure you have a lightly damp tea towel to cover any rolls or sheets. I also used a 10″ x 16″ jelly roll pan to cover it.

In hindsight, I should have used only 2 or 3 (not 4) sheets per roll. Next time I think I’ll sprinkle the nut mixture on each sheet and not just the end — I have adjusted the recipe above.

I was 100% sure I would not be making this recipe again because it’s so inexpensive to buy ready made, but in reviewing the ingredient list I may have to resort to making it myself as there is one or two ingredients that gross me out.

Crispy Sage

CrispySage_First

I hesitate to call this a recipe because it really is just one ingredient and it’s so easy, I almost didn’t put it on the blog. But then I thought it’s a lovely garnish that is quite underrated. And it’s NOT FRIED!

As you are aware, we’re going through the Tosca Reno Eat-Clean Vegetarian Cookbook and I made Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Hazelnuts and Crispy Sage (page 192) and was fully intending on frying the sage leaves (in 1 tbsp olive oil) when it dawned on me that I could nuke them, the way I nuked thinly sliced potatoes to make potato chips. Yes, indeed.

It was a success! They literally melt in your mouth; although they are rather tasty, they do lose a bit of their perfume which is not a bad thing as I sometimes find sage a little overpowering.

The time spent in the microwave will depend on your machine, each one is different. I found 2 minutes with the amount in the photo was just perfect.

Wash sage leaves and dry well. arrange on a folded paper towel so that they do not overlap. Microwave for 1-2 minutes or until crispy. I found that the little ones crisped up a lot faster than the larger, thicker ones but they were all lovely and crispy.

CrispySage

It’s a beautiful garnish and it’s not fried!

AvocadoHollandaise_First

Last week I had the pleasure of meeting Lorraine Elliott of Not Quite Nigella, in Toronto. We’ve been following each other for four years now and when we met in person it was like we’d known one another for ever. I wanted to do something special with her so I contacted an acquaintance who produces several Food Network Canada shows and she made it happen – we spent the morning on the set of Chopped Canada, Season 3. But you’ll just have to wait to hear all about it in the new year (don’t worry, it’ll be here before you know it!).

Eva & Lorraine behind the scenes!

Eva & Lorraine behind the scenes!

Lorraine was in Toronto with the Canadian Tourism Commission and made a special request to come to Toronto to meet me! I was flattered beyond belief. For Lunch, we met up with my dear friend Barb (Profiteroles & Ponytales) and a new friend, Trudy Bloem, a Personal Chef from Ottawa (the DIL of a lovely neighbour) at one of my favourite Italian restaurants, Bar Mercurio. We shared a number of tasty dishes that I’m sure Lorraine will blog about. The CTC sure kept her busy and she saw many of the Food significant parts of TO, but not everything so I’ve invited her back! And one of these days, we’ll travel to Australia to visit her (and Charlie, Maureen & Liz)!

Lorraine wasn’t the first positive experience with an Aussie I’ve ever had, after all there was the “gravy boat incident”.

About 12 or 13 years ago, I was trying to finish off some stray pieces to our wedding China. I checked our local supplier and as I suspected it was unaffordable, so I checked eBay. I’ve purchased many things over the years from eBay and my experiences have always been exceptional. I found the exact gravy boat, you guessed it, in Australia. It was a young couple recently married and for some strange reason were given a gravy boat to a set that they didn’t want, so she was selling it for a very reasonable price on eBay. I contacted her to make sure she would ship it to Canada and she said she would. She was not registered on PayPal so she asked for a money order. No problem, but I needed an address. She gave me an address and off we went to get a money order. We don’t often need money orders so we were inexperienced (this will make sense later in the story). The money order was mailed and we waited. And waited. Weeks went by and the girl didn’t receive it. I called the post office and asked how long a letter from Toronto should take to travel to Australia and they said six to eight weeks. So we waited in the meantime corresponding with said girl almost weekly. At 10 weeks she still hadn’t received the money order but she was tired of the game so she said she would mail the gravy boat to me anyway and hope to receive the money order. I felt bad about it, so we got another money order but when we went to cancel the first one, we discovered that we had included the receipt in the original envelope so we couldn’t cancel it (read inexperienced)! I bit the bullet and got another money order anyway (still marginally cheaper than buying the gravy boat in Toronto). I wanted to make sure I had her correct address so I asked her to confirm. You guessed it, she had given me the wrong address the first time (sweet girl but…) so the new money order was mailed and within a week the gravy boat arrived! Then two days later the girl wrote to say the second money order arrived and that she would destroy the first one if it ever arrived. I’m not kidding you, a day later we received back the first money order (with receipt) marked “unknown address, return to sender”! This drama took over three months! We were able to get a refund with the original money order, I got a deal on the gravy boat and a great story out of it! Do you have any cool stories like this? Share in the comments.

If I were serving this avocado hollandaise at home, I would have definitely used the Australian gravy boat, but I served it at the cottage for a tasty vegetarian breakfast!

Ready4Hike_6259

It’s still quite buggy in Canada’s north so we were well prepared with our bug shirts!

Vegan Avocado ‘Hollandaise’ Sauce

Makes about 3/4 cup of ‘hollandaise’ sauce

Ingredients:

  • 2 small very ripe avocados
  • 1/2-3/4 cup water
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp white vinegar
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Purée everything together until very smooth adding water until desired consistency is achieved, season with salt and pepper.
  2. Serve warm or room temperature.

Notes:

  • This is a much ‘lighter’ feeling sauce than the traditional eggyolk-butter-based version.
  • I didn’t want to add more lemon juice as I feared it might make the sauce bitter so instead I added a teaspoon of white vinegar and a tablespoon of Dijon, it was a flavourful sauce.
  • Add only as much water to the sauce to achieve the consistency that you want. I wanted mine pourable and I almost used the entire 3/4 cup, just a hair less.
AvocadoHollanadaise

I served this on Asparagus and Spinach bennies one weekend.

Screen Shot 2015-08-02 at 1.42.27 PM

This is 1/4 of the total yield of sauce

This is traditional Hollandaise Sauce made with 4 eggs and 1/2 cup of unsalted butter. Although the calories are fewer than the avocado version, take a look at the fat and cholesterol!

KaleWrappedMiniQuiche_First

Happy Holiday! Today is a civic holiday here in Ontario and we’re enjoying it!

graphics-snoopy-743815

In effort of trying to eat healthier, I decided to cook out of the lovely new cookbook by Tosca Reno, The Eat-Clean Diet. Of course, I wouldn’t be doing the blog justice if I just copied the recipes so I’ve changed them up a bit so if you’re looking for the exact recipe, you’ll have to buy the book!

This is a delightful combination of flavours and textures and the kale works beautifully as a wrapper! I’m definitely going to make this one again, although I can’t help but think how tasty bacon would be in it!

KaleWrappedMiniQuiche

The kale within the quiche softens up beautifully but the kale sticking out of the quiche crisps up like kale chips!

Kale-Wrapped Mini Quiches

Makes 6 mini-quiches. Original recipe from Tosca Reno’s The Eat-Clean Diet, Vegetarian Cookbook

Ingredients:

  • 12 large kale leaves, stems and ribs removed.
  • 1 small sweet potato, peeled and cubed
  • 1 cup cauliflower florets
  • 3 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 2 eggs, large
  • 5 egg whites
  • 1 cup 1% milk
  • 2 tbsp Cilantro pesto (see notes)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375° F and roast the sweet potato, cauliflower and shallots for 30 minutes or until cooked through.
  2. Lightly spray a 6 tin large muffin pan with olive oil and line each cavity with 2 kale leaves, having the curly bits stick out a little over the top. Spray very lightly with olive oil.
  3. Into each kale lined cup, divide the roasted sweet potato, shallots and cauliflower evenly.
  4. Meanwhile, combine the eggs, egg whites and milk with the Cilantro Pesto (recipe found on page 52) and whisk well.
  5. Pour the egg mixture into each muffin cup evenly. Bake at 375° for 30 minutes. If the kale begins to darken early, cover with parchment and then foil to protect it.
  6. Allow the quiches to sit for 5 minutes before removing from the muffin cups. I used a silicon muffin pan like this one, which made plating very easy.

Notes:

  • Tosca roasts the kale in a 350° F oven first to soften it. I experimented  without this step and it worked just fine (it was 30° C 86° F With high humidity and I didn’t want the oven on more than I had to).
  • If you don’t like cilantro, use regular pesto but the nutrition will be different.
  • The cilantro pesto contains only two tablespoons of oil and no cheese making this by far, the healthiest pesto on this blog.

KaleWrappedQuiche_Nut

Kale Wrapped Mini Quiches, Serving size is 1 quiche

CilantroPesto_Nut

Cilantro Pesto, Makes 1 cup and this is for 2 tablespoons

 

WheatBerryTabbouleh_First

Isn’t it funny how the universe works? Some things seem like they are way to coincidental and happen for a reason. I’m fatalistic that way. Case in point: recently I assisted (yes, I’m still assisting because I’d rather be working than not, so if I have free time on my calendar, I’ll assist) a lovely stylist for a print shoot at an amazing house up in Caledon Hills. This house is 15,000 square feet (1,400 square metres!), indoor pool, outdoor pool, fitness gym, billiards room and the list goes on. The custom kitchen with a massive stove, a walk-in pantry (with huge side-by-side fridge freezer like this) was just fantastic to work in! A bit grand for lil ol’ me but gorgeous none-the-less. Around 7:30-8 the owner came home and sat in the kitchen to have a bit of dinner from the craft table. We started chatting while I was grilling chicken breasts and it turns out that she is a recipe developer and cookbook author! In fact, she is a fitness guru (and gorgeous and amazingly fit), you may have heard of her…Tosca Reno!!!! How cool is that??? She gave me a copy of her Eat-Clean Diet® recipe book, autographed and all! I gave her my contact info and am hoping to have the honour and privilege of working with her sometime soon. But that’s just half the story.

Fast forward to the following Wednesday and I’m down-town for my weekly meeting (and very generous birthday lunch, thanks KiK gang!) and I’m telling Andrea, one of the partners my amazing story and lo and behold, that very Saturday (the day after I was assisting in Caledon Hills) Andrea bumped into a woman in Caledon carrying boxes and some boxes fell and Andrea went over to help, so who was the woman? Tosca Reno!!! Andrea recognized her immediately because she has followed her on Facebook and just loves her Eat-Clean Diet® program. Coincidence? I think not!

So what does this story have to do with this post? I’m getting to it…As we are in the heat of the summer, enjoying every bit of the 35° C (with 90%+ humidity) we’re trying to eat lighter (plus losing a few pounds wouldn’t hurt either) and in light of my new, delicious Eat-Clean Diet® cookbook, I decided to make a wonderful wheat berry tabbouleh. For me, a tabbouleh is always a combination of my favourite things, so this recipe is quite unique to my tastes, but feel free to amend to your own specific tastes. True tabbouleh aficionados will baulk at my recipe saying it’s not authentic tabbouleh and that’s just fine with me…call it whatever you wish, but I hope you make it and I hope you enjoy it.

Would you like a bowl?

Would you like a bowl?

Wheat Berry Tabbouleh with Shrimp

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup wheat berries, rinsed and sorted through
  • 3 cups low sodium chicken stock, or water
  • 20-30 shrimp (21-30 per pound, 5 per person)
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1/2 cup each fresh or frozen corn and peas
  • 1/2 cup quartered grape tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup finely diced red onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onion
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tbsp roughly chopped mint
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Direction:

  1. Bring wheat berries to a boil and then simmer for about an hour.
  2. Meanwhile,  put the diced red onion into a small bowl of very cold water (this mellows the pungency of the onion).
  3. Cut the avocado into smallish cubes and set into a bowl. Squeeze one lemon and add the finely chopped garlic and olive oil and stir well. Pour over the avocado.
  4. Combine the corn, peas, green onion and tomatoes and set aside.
  5. Grill the shrimp until opaque, set aside.
  6. Once the wheat berries are cooked, add the avocado and corn mixture and stir well. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Gently stir in the shrimp and the finely chopped herbs.
  7. Serve warm or at room temperature.

WheatBerryTab_2

This is truly a delicious and filling meal.

We were lucky enough to have a couple of events for the PanAm games right in our neighbourhood so JT and I took a short walk down to see one of them, The Women’s Road Cycling in High Park. We took Gold and Bronze in this gruelling race (I say gruelling because I was dripping sweat just standing in the heat, I can’t imagine how hot it was for the athletes!).

I made this short film of our experience, it was amazing being there in such a positive crowd!

Arancicu_first

I was testing a rice cooker recently and one of the recipes was Risotto on a specific setting on the machine. To say it was challenging is an understatement but after 6 tests and tweaks we finally came up with a recipe I was rather happy with. And the neighbours were also happy, one can only eat so much risotto! The last test was the best and JT and I had it for supper but it made so much that I had enough left over to make Arancini di Riso, Italian Rice Balls and boy were they delicious!

Everyone has a favourite risotto recipe so I won’t reinvent the wheel, you just need to have some risotto made and cooled (I spread it out onto a parchment lined baking sheet and covered it with plastic wrap in the fridge overnight). The risotto should be able to be formed into a ball, so if your risotto is a little dry, you may want to add a bit of liquid to allow it to stick together in a spherical shape.

Arancini_2999

Baking at 400° F gives you the crispy crust that you expect from deep frying, except you didn’t!

Arancini di Riso (Rice Balls)

My mushroom risotto recipe yielded 8 cups (give or take 2 L) but we ate about 3 cups in for dinner, so I estimate that the remainder 5 cups (1.25 L) made 22-24 balls

Ingredients:

  • 5 cups risotto
  • 1 1/2 cups bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup AP unbleached flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella (or 22-24 1 cm or 1/2 inch cubes)
  • Fresh basil and Parmesan for garnish

Directions:

  1. Spread risotto onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap, refrigerate until entirely cooled (overnight).
  2. Add bread crumbs to a shallow bowl and the flour to another shallow bowl. Lightly beat the eggs with a splash of water and pour into a third shallow bowl.
  3. Make golf-ball sized balls of the cooled risotto and squeeze a good pinch (or one cube) of cheese into the centre — cover the cheese entirely with the risotto otherwise it will leak out. Continue until you have used up all the risotto.
  4. Coat each ball in flour, then roll into the eggs and repeat the flour and egg mixture (this will make the balls as crispy as if they had been deep-fried). After the final roll in the egg wash, roll each ball in the bread crumbs to coat well . Set onto a parchment lined baking sheet and freeze for future use.
  5. To bake from frozen pre-heat the oven to 400° F. Spray Arancini and the baking sheet with olive oil. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden and warmed through; turn often so it bakes evenly.
  6. Serve with a chunky salsa or tomato sauce.

Arancini_3000

The cheese melts on the inside and becomes deliciously gooey!

We had our dear friends Paul and T up from the US this past weekend (hence the tardiness of this post), here are a few pics!

HappyHourLake

We might have had a few of these!


Paddleboating

Paddleboating on a very warm day.


Fishermen

Our lake apparently has good fishing.


TheFirstFigs_1

Figgy finally made us a couple of figs.


TheFirstFigs

Sadly they were not as sweet as I had hoped. I’m sure I just need to fertilize.

 

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