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Archive for October, 2012

Happy Halloween?

Happy Halloween everyone! Hurricane Sandy is sure putting a damper on things in the eastern seaboard, and even though we’re quite far from the ocean, we are getting deluged with rain and high winds. Not pretty at all. I particularly feel bad for the kiddies tonight who will likely have to brave the elements with winter coats over their carefully considered and crafted costumes. But I heard through my FB friends that Halloween has been postponed to Saturday in some US cities! What do you think about that?

Our building had their annual Halloween hall crawl, but I had to change my plans for the phantom of the opera costume for fear of melting my face off with the mask, so I went as Dracula instead. It turned out the Kim and I were one of the few who dressed up, talk about feeling rare, oh well. Free booze and food helped us get over that pretty quickly!

20121031-043258.jpg

20121031-043421.jpgKim was a gypsy whore

I’m sure you’ve heard by now, Sandy wreaked havoc in our neighbourhood and toppled a very large evergreen tree knocking out power including our house (although not every house has a blackout!). I just finished filling the freezer with left overs and sale meats, so this turn of events is not appreciated. I am hoping I won’t have to toss the lot. Fortunately when the tree fell over, it fell into the street and nothing was damaged other than the power lines. I already know of two people who’ve had car damage from fallen limbs (tree, not human).

No, it wasn’t the alien arrow that toppled the tree, it was a giant belch from Sandy.

Since JT has to work on Halloween night (he traded with a guy who has two young children) I decided not to doll the house up; instead I was going to go over to Kim’s (boss, neighbour, friend) with a bottle of vino and we’ll hand out candy together and get silly. But instead I’ll be cleaning out the fridge and freezer. And since I love this time of year so much, I thought I’d run around the hood and takes some pics of some of the decorated homes. Hope you enjoy them.

There goes the neighbourhood

I had no idea we had a graveyard for neighbours

John, you’d better avert your eyes, those are big mother spiders!

My friend’s daughter had a Halloween party last Sunday so I baked up a batch of the monster fingers which I found on Angie’s blog last year. This year I was able to fashion them a bit better and I had the great idea of dipping the cut ends into the jam to make them look even grosser! Thanks Angie, these will never get old on this side of the planet!

Would you like some coffee with your decomposing fingers?

Would you care for a finger cookie?


Word

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Happy Halloween, tomorrow! What will you be for this momentous occasion? JT and I will share a costume, one that he thought up! I need mine for work on Tuesday and he needs it for Wednesday! Good timing! We’re Phantom of the Opera! Well, I hope you all have a great time Trick or Treating tomorrow night!
As you know during our cooking class in Lyon, we made this absolutely delightful Claffoutis with a wonderful Caramel Sauce. Chef Villard was kind enough to provide the recipes for the dishes we made together in his kitchen and we recreated the entire dinner for my friend Barb and her hubby (Profiteroles and Ponytails).

It’s a delicious dessert. I snapped this pic earlier in the day because of the light.

Pear and Milk Chocolate Clafoutis with Caramel Sauce

Makes 6 Claffoutis about 10cm or 4 inches in diametre

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 80 g granulated sugar
  • 40 g all purposes unbleached white flour
  • 100 mL Carnation Evaporated Milk (or cream)
  • 150 mL milk (I used skim)
  • 2 ripe bosc pears
  • 50 g Lindt milk chocolate, chopped
  • 5 g butter
  • 5 g sugar

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 175° C (350° F).
  2. Butter the pans and dust with sugar until sides and bottom are totally coated.
  3. In a bowl, mix the sugar and flour well. Make a well in the centre and slowly pour the cream in and then the milk. Add the lightly beaten whole eggs and yolk and mix delicately until all of the flour and sugar are combined.
  4. Peel and cut up the pears into smallish cubes (1 cm or 0.5 inch), divide evenly in the 6 pans. Add the chocolate so that it is evenly distributed in each pan.
  5. Pour the egg mix into the pans dividing equally among the 6.
  6. Bake for about 30-40 minutes or until firmly set. Cool in pans and remove carefully.
    Set aside.

This is only the photo I took of the Clafoutis, it was pear, chocolate with a glorious caramel sauce. I can hardly wait to make this again!

You can make the traditional caramel sauce, or try this unique microwave version.

Caramel Sauce Ingredients:

  • 200 g sugar
  • 50 g water
  • 150 mL heavy cream (I did not substitute this one as the sauce needs the fat)
  • 15 g unsalted butter
  • pinch of salt

Directions:

  1. Add the sugar and water to a heavy bottomed pan and heat on a low setting until the sugar is dissolved and has cooked to a beautiful golden caramel colour (be careful, I burned my first two attempts!)
  2. DO NOT STIR. Apparently stirring causes the sugar to crystallize and you will not have a smooth sauce.
  3. When you have achieved the desired colour, add the cream carefully and whisk well. Add the butter and a pinch of salt. Allow to cool.

Assembly:

  1. Warm the clafoutis in the oven for about 10 minutes.
  2. On a large rimmed plate, pour the caramel sauce into the centre and spread out evenly.
  3. Drop one clafoutis into the centre of the sauce and serve warm.

And that concludes our dinner party from Lyon. I hope some of these recipes will inspire you to make something similar. Cheers.

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This is the dish that we prepared with Chef Villard in Lyon during our short visit in September. We made the dish again for friends and fellow blogger Barb and Kevin (Profiteroles and Ponytails) I had to make modifications (shown in brackets) as I wasn’t able to source ingredients or these are our personal preferences. And I didn’t get a chance to snap a pic of our finished dish because the light was poor and I didn’t want to be ‘the blogger‘ (I get enough of the rolling eyes from JT). But I know I shall make this again and update this post with the new photo. Thanks for understanding.

Our main course: Monkfish wrapped in bacon with a green olive veal stock sauce, fingerling potatoes sautéed in EVOO and snap peas with arugula (rocket) pesto. It was DELICIOUS!

Halibut wrapped in Proscuitto with Kalamata Olives in a Brown Jus Reduction

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 600 g Monkfish (we used Halibut because that is all my fish monger had the day I needed it. Go figure, they had a run on monkfish!)
  • 6 slices of prosciutto (Chef used smoked bacon, but we prefer the less fatty prosciutto)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 250 mL beef or veal stock (we used beef as I couldn’t get veal stock)
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 60 g Kalamata olives, rough dice (Chef used green olives, but we preferred the flavour of the black Kalamato)
  • 15 g butter (Chef used 60 g which is about 4 tbsp)
  • sea salt
  • white pepper (we omitted the pepper)

Directions:

  1. Have your fish monger filet and skin your fish, wrap with prosciutto and secure with butcher string. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  2. Sweat the shallot in 2 tbsp olive oil, then deglaze with the balsamic vinegar. Add the stock and allow to reduce about one third. Add the butter, and olives and stir well. Set aside.
  3. Pre heat the oven to 175° C or 350°F
  4. Brown the fish in an oven safe pan in olive oil and minced garlic for about 5 minutes (or until the prosciutto is crispy).
  5. Add the warm beef and olive jus to the fish and bake for 5-7 minutes in the pre heated oven.
  6. Serve the fish sliced into about 100-120 g per person with the brown jus and cooked olives with snap peas and arugula pesto and roast potatoes.

Notes:
Chef Villard suggested that if your fish has a thin tail, you should fold it back on itself so that the thickness is even and it cooks at the same rate.

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Good day everyone, I’m still in Lyon (figuratively speaking, of course) and cooking with Chef Villard and his lovely recipes. This is a condiment that he paired with lightly cooked snow peas and a little goats cheese and boy was it good. I particularly loved the colour, unfortunately when you add the goats cheese it lightens up quite a bit, but by then you’re starving for having enjoyed the aromas of the meal all afternoon long!

That sure is green

To be honest, JT wasn’t in love with the pesto which was originally Rocket (arugula), pine nuts and Parmesan cheese so I decided to be inspired by Chef Villard and not follow the recipe 100% (of course you did, says JT). The rocket tends to get a touch bitter when processed, although I do enjoy the peppery taste I wanted to temper the bitterness so I used the same amount of spinach as the rocket. Then I was thinking of the entire meal and wanted to repeat some flavours for consistency, so instead of pine nuts, I used roasted hazelnuts (the pumpkin soup has a drizzle of hazelnut oil to finish it). So in the essence of our meal in Lyon, here is the pesto recipe.

Rocket and Spinach Pesto with Hazelnuts (on Snow Peas with Goats Cheese — not shown)

Serves 6 (I had enough pesto left over for some hors d’œuvres the next day),

Ingredients:

  • 35 g roasted hazelnuts
  • 35 g combined baby rocket (arugula) and baby spinach
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tbsp parmesan cheese
  • 2-4 tbsp EVOO
  • Salt to taste
  • 60 g snow peas
  • 20 g goats cheese

Directions:

  1. In a small food processor add the hazelnuts, rocket, spinach, finely minced garlic and Parmesan cheese and drizzle a small amount of EVOO to get the chopping going adding a little bit to allow the purée to happen with ease (you don’t want this too runny). Taste and salt as desired.
  2. When you have achieved the consistency desired set aside (this is actually quite good if you make it in advance and the flavours have time to really develop).
  3. Cook the snap peas and as soon as they are done, immerse them into ice cold water to stop the cooking quickly. Simmer water on the stove to reheat just prior to serving.
  4. To serve, add a few tablespoons of the pesto to the hot, drained snow peas and crumble the goats cheese into it, stir lightly to distribute evenly.
  5. Enjoy warm.

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As you know during our cooking class in Lyon with Chef Villard, we made a wonderful meal and Chef was kind enough to provide the recipes for the dishes we made together in his kitchen. The next few postings will reflect the dishes that we made as we recreated the meal for our good friends Barb and Kevin (Profiteroles and Ponytails).

Of course, I was not able to obtain some of the ingredients, so I had to improvise, but all in all, it turned out very well and I really enjoyed it (I hope our guests did too!)

The Improvised Menu:

Escargot en chou
• Pumpkin velouté scented with vanilla with EVOO sautéed wild mushrooms and seared scallops with hazelnut oil drizzle •
• Halibut wrapped in Prosciutto with a black olive beef stock sauce, new potatoes sautéed in EVOO and snap peas with arugula (rocket) pesto •
• Pear and milk chocolate clafoutis with home made caramel sauce •

I’m starting off with the pumpkin velouté because I’ve already posted about our starter, so please feel free to click on the link. Of course, hosting a dinner party with a complex menu and taking photos for the blog don’t actually go well together so instead of delaying dinner for our lovely guests, I served this soup again the next night when my nephew Brian was over for a much more casual dinner and was able to easily snap a pic without inconvenience.

Chef and I in the garden

Pumpkin Velouté wth Sautéed Wild Mushrooms, Seared Scallop and hazelnut oil

Chef Villard’s Pumpkin velouté scented with vanilla with EVOO sautéed trumpet mushrooms and seared scallops with hazelnut oil drizzle. OMG, this was amazing!

Now, as usual I have made the recipe a little healthier and did not use the called for cream, but if you wish to make it yourself, please go ahead and indulge. I will also caveat that I made some preparation changes to the way Chef Villard made his soup; I oven roasted the pumpkin because all I was able to get was pie pumpkins and they tend not to be as sweet as the pumpkin that Chef Villard used, so I felt roasting would coax the sugars out of it more than just boiling. As well, our mushrooms were just ordinary wild mushrooms and not the intended trumpet mushrooms which are delicately earthy so I sautéed my wild mushrooms in butter to try to temper the strong earthiness of the wild ones! And last but not least, I roasted an entire head of garlic and added that to the soup because I like roasted garlic better than just cooked garlic. Otherwise, it’s exactly the same 😉

Pumpkin Velouté with Sautéed Wild Mushrooms and Scallops with Hazelnut Oil

Makes 8 servings

Ingredients:

  • 600 g pumpkin (butternut squash would also work very well in this recipe
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp EVOO
  • 600 mL chicken stock (home made or low sodium if store bought)
  • 1/2 of a vanilla bean pod
  • 150 mL Carnation Light Evaporated Milk (or heavy cream)
  • 1 head of garlic
  • 3 tbsp EVOO
  • 12 Scallops
  • 200 g wild mushrooms (or trumpet mushrooms)
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and smashed flat (not small pieces, you want it whole enough to extract before serving).
  • 1 tbsp hazelnut oil

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 175° C or 350° F
  2. Peel and chop the pumpkin to 2-3 cm (1 inch) cubes, drizzle with olive oil and bake until fork tender.
  3. Peel off all of the skin from the garlic so only the individual cloves have their skin on. Put in a small ramekin and add about 3 tbsp EVOO and sea salt and bake until fork tender.
  4. In a large soup pot, add 2 tbsp EVOO and sweat out the onions until tender. Add the chicken stock and vanilla pod and simmer for about 10 minutes. Remove the vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds and add it back to the pot.
  5. Add the roasted garlic and pumpkin and cook for about 6 minutes. Blend until very smooth with an immersion blender and press through a fine sieve. Set aside.
  6. Melt the butter in a frying pan and add the mushrooms and garlic clove and sautée until the mushrooms are tender. Set aside.
  7. Heat a frying pan up so and add a splash of olive oil. Dry off the scallops and fry each side until golden.
  8. Process the soup one more time with the immersion blender to aerate it.
  9. Plating: using either a large rimmed soup bowl or a small soup cup, add equal portions to the centre of each bowl. Spoon the soup around the mushrooms, garnish with scallop(s) and hazelnut oil.
  10. Enjoy.

Chef’s Notes:

Chef Villard was kind enough to pass along his experience and give us a few restaurant hints, that I would love to share with you:

  • Process creamed soups again just before serving to aerate it, Chef Villard mentioned that this makes the soup extra light.
  • When cooking any type of protein, it’s important to make sure that the thickness is even thoughout otherwise the thin bits will over cook while you finish cooking the thicker bits. So if you have a piece of fish with a thin tail end, fold it back over the next thickest part to even out the entire fishes thickness. Wrapping with prosciutto helps hold it together.

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Whilst in Lyon I also bought some dark mustard seeds (now I know I’m not the only one who buys food as souvenirs). Apparently the darker the seeds the hotter the mustard, I didn’t know this then, but as it turns out, dark is good because I LOVE a hot mustard. Another thing I didn’t know in making mustard is that you can tame the heat by cooking the mustard, the longer you cook it, the less hot it will be. Go figure.

I mixed in my yellow mustard seeds for good measure

I didn’t cook mine at all.

If you’re wondering, I made the label! The jar came from a trip out to Whistler, BC about 20 years ago. We ‘needed‘ Dijon mustard for a dinner in our condo and the one I bought came with this adorable little jar (you knew I was gonna buy that jar whether we needed mustard for our dinner or not!). Anyway, I loved the jar and the little wooden spoon, and it’s perfect for my home made mustard.

I remember seeing a post from my friend Lorraine at Not Quite Nigella and she made home made mustard from scratch. I know my Mom used to make it from time to time, but sadly I never got the recipe and when Lorraine made it a few months ago, I knew I had to give it a try. I won’t be buying grainy mustard again. It’s easy to make and the taste totally rocks. You have to leave it for a couple of days otherwise the seeds are quite bitter, but once it ages, it is lovely.

I made this batch to take to my brother’s cottage for Thanksgiving weekend. I served it with Turkey Sausages with the Fluffy Buttermilk Cakes of Pan breakfast JT and I made.

Grainy French Mustard

Makes about 125 mL or 1/2 cup

Ingredients:

  • 6 tablespoons mustard seeds (I used 1 tbsp yellow mustard seeds and 5 tbsps brown French mustard seeds)
  • 1/2 cup mustard powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 3 teaspoons honey (this simply smooths out the heat, it doesn’t actually make the mustard sweet)
  • 1/3 cup water (use cold water if you like your mustard hot and spicy or use warm or hot water if you like your mustard mild)

Directions:

  1. In your dedicated spice grinder or mortar and pestle, grind about 1/3 of the total seeds. s
  2. In a small bowl, combine the ground and whole seeds, mustard powder and water; stir to combine.
  3. Rest this mixture for 15 minutes, then add salt, white wine vinegar and honey (for a milder mustard, you can gently heat this mixture in a saucepan for a few minutes).
  4. Pour this mixture into a sterilized glass jar (the longer it stands the thicker it gets) and allow to age for at least 12 hours or overnight to settle the flavour (it is very bitter to use immediately, the flavour really smooth out over time).
  5. You need not store mustard in the refrigerator, but I do.

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Lentilles du Puy

Before our recent trip to Europe, I had read many-a-blog about lentilles du Puy so you know what was on the top of my souvenir list. But of course, the Lentilles du Puy. Grown in the du Puy region of France, these lentils are known as the best of all the lentils for a few reasons: they cook quickly, they don’t break down and go mushy and they have a wonderful peppery taste. Many of their benefits can be attributed to the volcanic soil they are grown in. These delicious lentilles du Puy are wonderful in salads as they don’t lose their shape. We’ve just been home 10 days and I’m almost through my 500g box (yes, it was worth the weight) of dried lentils and I’m already panicking to find a source in the city. HELP!

The box could use a redesign, don’t you think?

I got my inspiration from this recipe on Epicurious and tuned it the second time as I forgot to photograph it the first time (and almost forgot to photograph it the second time too!).

This dish was almost a memory by the time I remembered to take the photo; hence the closeup, it was my lunch at work!

Lentilles du Puy

Serves 4,

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup lentilles du Puy picked over and rinsed
  • 3 cups water or chicken stock or wine
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped pancetta
  • handful of sliced white or brown mushrooms
  • 1 garlic clove, halved
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 tbsp EVOO
  • grape tomatoes finely chopped
  • Freshly grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 bunch arugula, coarse stems discarded, washed well and spun dry

Directions:

  1. In a heavy saucepan sauté the pancetta until crispy in 2 tbsp olive oil. Remove but reserve the remaining olive oil.
  2. In the pancetta oil sauté the onions and when translucent, add the lentilles du Puy, garlic, thyme and mushrooms and give it a quick stir. Add the liquid and cook covered for 30 minutes on a low simmer (the original recipe called to strain the liquid off the lentils, but I reduced the liquid so that the lentils absorb it all and you have a beautifully cooked batch).
  3. Add the crisp pancetta, grape tomatoes and garnish with Parmesan cheese. Serve on a bed of Arugula or as is.

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We were at my brother’s family cottage for Canadian Thanksgiving and I usually look after one main meal, but this year we were not able to come up on Saturday for dinner, so I looked after breakfast on Sunday morning. But that’s not all I contribute, my brother’s family does the full-blown turkey dinner, so I like to bring ‘treats’ for the kids (and adults alike). This year’s treats included the Cheez-itz from my friend Ann (who no longer blogs), Hungarian Donkey Ear Cookies and a more recent addition Hungarian Cherry Squares. After having her first bite of the Cherry Squares, my 8-year old niece announced the following “Auntie Éva, from now on, these cherry squares need to be put on ‘the list’ of things you bake for Thanksgiving Weekend.” Now that made everything all worth-while!

I found this recipe on-line back in the city but I had forgotten to bookmark it and I couldn’t find it up north, so I had to improvise the final assembly. Fortunately, I brought the dry ingredients in a container and the wet in another. Experience counts for something and to be honest, these are THE BEST fluffy pancakes I have made in a very long time. And the recipe was plentiful, making 12 generously-sized pancakes. They are a bit more work than the average pancake, but well worth the effort. Hope you try them, this is my new go-to pancake recipe.

They are really fluffy and not stuffy

Super Fluffy Buttermilk Pancakes

Makes 12 pancakes about 13 cm wide and 2cm thick! (5″ wide, 3/4″ thick)

Original recipe can be found here.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 nonstick cooking spray

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl or Tupperware container for travel, mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and salt. Set aside.
  2. On the day you wish to make the cakes of pan: separate egg yolks from egg whites and beat egg whites and cream of tartar on high speed until stiff peaks form but not dry.
  3. Beat the egg yolks until light yellow in colour and thick, add buttermilk, vanilla and melted butter and beat until smooth on a slow speed.
  4. Fold in flour mixture, but don’t over mix as we don’t want the glutens activated.
  5. Add 1/3 of the egg whites to the batter and mix together gently then fold in the remaining egg whites carefully, do not over mix!
  6. Spray your skillet with non-stick spray set to medium temperature (or 350°F).
  7. Drop about 1/3 cup of batter on pan for each pancake and spread out to about 4-5″ and cook until you see a few bubbles on the surface of the batter. Flip your pancakes and cook for about another 1-2 minutes.
  8. Keep warm until you have made all the pancakes and serve warm with butter, maple syrup, fruit and whipped cream!

Pass the cakes of pan, as they are known in our house

It’s always a food frenzy…way too much food

We went for a good long walk after the Buttermilk Pancake Breakfast

Gorgeous fall colours

Thanksgiving Dinner with the family

Now who invited her?

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A few of my lovely readers have commented that they would love to have a tapas dinner party but it seems like a lot of work, so I’ve put together a few words of advice as I have hosted tapas dinner parties for over a year now and have experienced successes and failures. I hope these tricks alleviate the mystery and inspire you to have a tapas dinner party.

  1. Planning is everything. Think of a theme you wish to follow and create a menu around it; break it out into steps for timing and serving (I’ll give an example of this). Decide how many groups of courses you will serve (i.e., 4 courses of sets of 1-2 dishes are 4 x 1 (0r 2)). If this is your first tapas dinner party and you don’t have a stock up of quick hors d’œuvres in the freezer then start the cooking about 1 week in advance and make 1 to 2 things for the freezer. Don’t worry, you will use them up eventually!
  2. Mise en place is key. Chop, cut, slice, grate anything you can do ahead of time, DO IT. Prepare similar items all at once (as in chop ALL the onions you will need and separate it out into each course). Store meats and fishes in the fridge. I always put ingredients that need to be together in one place in the fridge.
  3. It’s on ‘the list’. There are many components to a tapas dinner party, so even the best of us will struggle to remember everything you need to add, pinch, and sauce so MAKE A LIST and REFER to it throughout the evening.
  4. Distribute the labour. I have found including your partner in helping with preparation and serving the courses allows each of you to alternate kitchen duty and spend time with your guests.
  5. Make it Simple. Choose a combination of freshly made courses and previously made and frozen courses.
  6. Keep it small. Remember that you are having a lot of food over a long period of time so portions should be small (for example, 1-2 medium shrimp per person is one course. Do you have frozen soup in the fridge? Serve it in shooters instead of bowls—it’s an instant serving!
  7. Timing is everything. Make sure you serve the courses spread out over time, this dinner party is about conversation and food…all night. Our tapas usually last 3-4 hours with some breathers in between.
  8. Relax. Fortunately Tapas make a very casual dinner party so you needn’t worry when one coarse is 15 minutes later than expected. Keep the wine flowing and the conversation going and you will have a wonderful evening.

To illustrate how easy this type of dinner party is, below I am posting a sample menu. I may use this for a future dinner party.

Our 21012 European Adventure through Tapas (4 x 1):

Course 1: Budapest

  • Áginéni’s Cheese Sticks (I usually have these in the freezer, but if I don’t I just make a fresh batch and freeze the leftovers for another party!)

Course 2: Spain

Course 3: France

  • Escargot en Profiteroles (I always have the cheese puffs, canned escargot, and frozen butter, garlic and parsley balls ready for action)

Course 4: Austria

  • Austrian Sachertorte three ways. Make one beautiful dessert and serve it three different ways in very small portions. (off the top of my head, I’m thinking 1) a traditional slice, 2) roughly cut into a small trifle, 3) and twice baked into a small biscotti and served with a mini cappuccino!)

Think ahead when you’re cooking weekday meals, if you’re making a large batch of chili, put aside a full serving for a future tapas dinner and serve it in mini pitas. If you’ve made soup, set aside enough for shooters and serve in espresso cups. A dip and bread may be considered as a course. A simple course might be Saganaki. I try to alternate previously prepared or easy courses with something a bit more complex. Involving your partner to help with alternate courses also breaks up the time spent in the kitchen…don’t you think your partner might love to light the Saganaki and serve this fiery treat?

Desserts, I find are relatively easy too. If you’ve made brownies, cut the edges and freeze. Then for a small tapas dessert, whip some cream or make a quick custard and assemble a trifle with the left-over edges, serve with a shot for extra effect!

Example for timing the menu above (note: the times are just guidelines)

7:30 guests arrive, start with libations and Aunte Ági’s cheese sticks. Pit the oven on and move into the living room and have lovely conversation. Perhaps put on a fire, and definitely play some music (we like jazz).

7:45: put the scallops into the oven, they will take longer than the bacon wrapped dates. Depending on the size of scallops, turn about 5-7 minutes, now add the bacon wrapped dates. Bake for another 5-7 minutes.

8:10 serve the bacon wrapped scallops and dates. Keep the oven on.

Around 8:30-8:45 your partner should pop into the kitchen to start the chorizo course, meanwhile fill the glasses.

Warm the serving dish and prepare the dish.

9:00 Serve chorizo dish with bread.

9:45 You’ll likely want a bit of a break, but you can ready the escargot for the oven, bake for 10 minutes until butter has melted and the Chou is crispy. Serve hot at 10ish.

The dessert should already be made and plated with some last minute garnished to attend to. Serve with coffee/tea when your guest say they are ready.

Tapas need not be stressful, after all, it’s about getting together with friends in a casual setting. Cheers! I hope to read about your tapas dinner party soon.

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We invited my friend Kim and her hubby for coffee and cake after seeing Cloud Atlas at the TIFF film festival. I was hoping to have a great discussion about the film (and there was a lot to discuss) but unfortunately, they hated the film so instead of prolonging their misery, I served coffee and cake.

I started the recipe and was committed to it when I realized I didn’t have quite enough GF Flour, so I improvised and added the remainder as finely ground corn meal. It added a very nice texture to the cake and no body threw it back at me!

Original recipe can be found here.

A lovely honey and ginger taste, it’s garnished with fresh figs, candied ginger slices, candied walnuts and edible rose petals.

Gluten Free Honey & Ginger Cake

Ingredients:

  • 3 oz liquid honey
  • 6 oz gluten-free flour
  • 2 oz of fine cornmeal (just run regular cornmeal through a coffee grinder to get a fine powder)
  • 1 tsp gluten-free baking powder
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 3 oz of sugar
  • 1/2 tsp orange essence
  • 1/2 tsp lemon essence
  • 4 oz butter
  • 1 egg (the cake was very crumbly, I might add another egg next time)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 oz finely grated fresh ginger

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (170°C).
  2. Sift the flour, baking powder and spices into a large bowl and add the sugar and zest. Rub the butter in (you can do this in a food processor with plastic blades)
  3. Warm the honey slightly, and beat it with the egg. Mix into the flour mixture.
  4. Mix the baking soda with 3 tbsps of water until dissolved, then process it into the flour mixture.
  5. Stir in the finely minced ginger pour into a greased or lined 8″ square pan.
  6. Bake for about 50 minutes (mine was ready in about 40 minutes). Cool it in the pan for about 10 minutes then turn it onto a cooling rack until cold.

A very tasty but crumbly cake

I garnished the cake with additional warmed honey, fresh figs cut into quarters, honey walnuts, slices of candied ginger and edible rose petals.

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