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Archive for September, 2015

peach, butter, jam,

My parents emigrated to Canada from Hungary in 1956 during the Hungarian Revolution; the citizens revolted against the Russian takeover. After about 12 days of Revolution, the Russian army mounted and squashed Hungary once and for all. At 20 years old, my Mom left just prior to the Russian’s ending the revolution to escort her sister to Vienna but ended up continuing her journey on to Canada; she celebrated her 21st birthday alone in Halifax. My Dad was relatively active against the Russians and decided to leave to protect himself (my uncle and aunt were expecting their first child so they were not able to leave). My Dad’s family lost everything to the Russians (the Puppet theatre(Báb Szinház) in the Liget, their family home…E V E R Y T H I N G). My Mom’s family had already lost everything to the Germans during the WWII (they had a small store that sold coffee, flour etc.). The Russian hostility toward Hungary surprised the world and both my parents were able to immigrate to Canada as Refugees of War.

My parents did not know one another in Hungary so they made their way to the New World on their own. My Mom (13 years younger than Dad) talked about her journey but Dad sadly did not. I only know that Dad came through Gibraltar and an Ocean Liner. Mom also arrived by boat but I can’t remember how or where from. You know the movies that show people trying to escape oppression, desperately crawling on their bellies across vast lands under the cloak of darkness? That was my Mom’s story. She and her sister came across the farmlands of Hungary, all the way to the Austrian border near Vienna. The Austrians were very sympathetic to the plight of the Hungarians and they helped make their way to a better life.

I’m not sure either of the parents had a “plan” as such but I know my Mom already had some relatives in Canada (an Aunt and her husband, children and their spouses). My Mom’s sister’s husband had already arrived in Toronto and was instrumental in making arrangements for my Aunt to meet him there, sadly Mom was not in that equation due to the economic circumstances of my Aunt and Uncle so she had to find her own way to Toronto. Did you ever read Angela’s Ashes? I remember reading the bit about Angela only having enough money for one egg and it resonated with me…there were many times my dear Mom only had enough money for one egg during the first months in Canada. It’s difficult to understand that this happened only 59 years ago. Mom landed in Halifax and stayed for a few months. All Canadian immigrants were given $5 (around $45 today) upon arrival and were told to have a good life. Mom found a sympathetic Swiss woman who owned a beauty shop and she worked various odd jobs at her shop and rented a room in the woman’s home. Neither of my parents spoke a word of English, so they learned from listening to the radio.

My Dad found his way to Toronto and worked in restaurants to make a living, at first waiting tables and then later as a Maî·tre d’hô·tel (Maître-D) at a very prestigious hotel near the airport. Mom’s sister introduced Mom and Dad  in 1957; they dated on and off and then lived together in 1958 (yes, that was very risqué back then!). My Mom was the hold-out, she didn’t want to marry a ‘pretty boy’ as she called him. It’s true, Dad was quite the looker and the ladies loved him. Dad taught Mom puppetry and they travelled together working on the Chrysler Canada Tour in the late 50’s. He finally wore her down and they married in 1960. They eventually settled in Toronto and began having a family.

I remember my dear Mom making most of our pantry items, just like her mother did and my Dad’s mother. Jam was always a treat and as I mentioned before, Mom’s strawberry jam was one of my favourites. I bought some peaches for a photoshoot and it turned out we didn’t need them so I decided to make peach butter out of it. Mom would bottle several mason jars of jam, but since it’s only JT and I, I only made a small amount. Now that we’ve already gone through the first jar, I wish I had made more.

Jam, peaches, preserves,

A delicious, smooth peach butter or jam made without pectin.

Peach Butter

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 400 mL

Ingredients:

  • 650 g peaches, I had about 6  peaches (measure with peel and stone)
  • 100 mL water
  • 160 g white sugar
  • 30 mL lemon juice

Directions:

  1. Peel peaches and remove stone (see notes for tip on peeling). Cut into eighths and set into a heavy bottom pan. Add water and set over medium heat and cook until peaches are softened.
  2. Add sugar and lemon juice and purée with an immersion blender or run through your food mill.
  3. Return peach purée to pan and cook for 30-40 minutes until thickened, testing often with the freezer method.
  4. Once the butter has thickened, pour into mason jars and follow canning best practice instructions.

Notes:

  • An easy way to peel peaches is to score the skin into quarters, pour boiling hot water over them to cover and allow to sit for a minute. Take a sharp knife and begin by sliding the knife between the skin and flesh and peel away. Repeat for all of the peaches.
  • If you have a food mill, you need not peel the peaches (I have one but felt like peeling them anyway), the mill will capture all of the skin.

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ZucchiniNoodles_First

As usual, I’m a little late on the bandwagon for this post. The humble zucchini noodles have been around the web-o-sphere for some time now with the very fancy (and expensive) spiralizers. I wasn’t ready to commit to such a large piece of equipment for yet again, one task, until I saw Liz’s easy Zucchini Noodles with Parmesan using a hand-held spiralizer. Now that’s something I can definitely get my head around! So I bought a cheap and cheerful version ($3) thinking if I liked it, I would go ahead and splurge for the OXO version ($15) and take the cheap and cheerful version to the cottage!

HandHeldSpiralizer

Cheap and Cheerful version

We’ve actually been making zucchini noodles using a simple mandoline and the taste was fine but they really didn’t resemble noodles too well. So when I started seeing the curlier noodles made with this incredibly simple hand held version, I was smitten.

Did I love it? HELL YES! I’ve already made zucchini noodles a many, many times since purchasing the spiralizer and have been LOVING it. I loved it so much, I went out and purchased a good quality version as a hostess gift. I’m sure it’s much better quality and will likely last longer.

ZucchiniNoodles

It really is one of the most delicious vegetable dishes EVER! AND low calorie (if you don’t use pesto)

Zucchini Noodles with Walnut Pesto

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 2 small straight zucchinis
  • 2 tbsp walnut pesto (recipe below), or pesto of choice
  • 10 walnut halves
  • freshly grated Parmesan Cheese

Directions:

  1. Wash and dry the zucchinis. Microwave whole vegetable on high for 40 seconds each; microwaving warms the zucchini and softens it a bit so the noodles cut smoother.
  2. Spiralize both zucchinis using the small blade, cutting the very long lengths into spaghetti lengths. Microwave the zucchini noodles on high for about one minute to heat.
  3. Toss gently with the pesto and garnish with parmesan cheese and walnut halves.
ZucchiniNoodles2

Wrapping the “noodles” on your fork is just as easy as regular pasta

Walnut Pesto

A Kitchen Inspirations Original Recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 100 g walnut pieces
  • 1 large bunch of fresh basil, washed and stems removed
  • 1/4 cup EVOO, or more if desired
  • 100 g freshly grated Parmesan Cheese

Directions:

  1. Lightly toast the walnut pieces and allow to cool.
  2. In the bowl of a large food processor, add the basil, olive oil and cheese.
  3. Pulse until a desired consistency is achieved.
  4. Freeze pesto in about 1 tbsp ice cube containers and once frozen, remove and put into a zip lock baggy and return to the freezer. Use as required.

Notes:

  • I used to use the larger blade but honestly, the smaller blade results in linguine noodles.
  • You can peel the zucchini but I like the contrast in texture and colour of the dark green peel. I did not test peeled zucchini in the initial microwave so you’ll have to tread lightly — you want to soften the zucchini and not turn it to mush.
  • Use a combination of zucchini and summer squash (yellow zucchini) for more interest.
  • Microwave the “noodles” to heat, you really don’t want to cook them through. It’s noodle texture you want with a slight crunch (al dente)!
  • Pine nuts have been ridiculously expensive over the few years. The $15 bag I used to buy at Costco is now close to $30 at Costco. It comes from China. I have since refused to buy the Chinese product for a variety of reasons (this is the main one) so I am constantly on the lookout for good pesto nut/seed substitutions.
  • If you prefer a more runny pesto, add more olive oil.
  • ALWAYS clearly label nut products in the freezer so you don’t poison someone (unless you want to).

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PaellaBake_First

Cottage season is almost over and we’re heading right into the holidays: Canadian Thanksgiving, Halloween, American Thanksgiving and then Christmas! My how time flies. This “recipe” has become a “go to” recipe for brunches and lunches at the cottage where refrigerator space is at a premium and standard grocery items are difficult to find (to say the least). It’s the perfect recipe to reinvent ‘leftovers.” For the last couple of years, whenever I make a one pot rice dish like Paella, Jumbalaya, Risotto or even a pasta dish like JT’s Mediterranean Pasta, I ALWAYs make 2 extra servings. The trick is to set aside the two extra servings so that you’re not even tempted to finish off every last bite and lick the plate clean ;-p! The two extra servings combined with eggs and a little flavouring bake up into the most delicious dish, you will be tempted to make the recipe just to rebake it for brunch the following day! And the best part is that it freezes very well, so even if there is only two dining on leftovers, freeze the rest cut into single portions in a ziplock bag, ready for a quick lunch or a fancy brunch.

LimerickLake

On some mornings the lake is so very still.

PaellaBake

Bits of the seafood, chicken and chorizo dot the delicious egg bake.

Paella Bake

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Serves 8

Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F (177° C). Prepare a square baking pan with perpendicular sides (some square cake pans have angled sides). Line with parchment so that it extends up two of the sides. Spray lightly with nonstick spray.
  2. Combine eggs and La Bomba and whisk well. Fold gently into the leftover paella being careful not to squish the rice into a mushy mess.
  3. Pour into the prepared pan and jiggle around making sure that the proteins are distributed evenly. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean.
  4. Cool slightly and cut into 8 portions with a very sharp knife. Serve with lemon slices and a light salad.
PaellaBake2

Would you care for a slice?

PaellaBake3

Our Paellas are always full of flavour.

LimerickLake_Sunset

Red sky at night, sailors’ delight!

LimerickLake_cocktails

Cocktails inside the screen-in porch, so peaceful.

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Limoncello

Limoncello First

A couple of years after JT and I tied the knot we went to Europe together, it was a combination business and pleasure trip. As the business part of our trip, we went to Modena, Italy to see a piece of equipment that JT’s soap-making family business purchased. As you may or may not know, Italy is well known for its soap making equipment. And a little known fact 😉 Modena is the epicentre of balsamic vinegar.

The Italians take their balsamics very seriously, think of the French and champagne. The special thing about the thick, rich vinegar is that it’s aged for several years in a variety of barrels; it is this very aging process that gives this unique condiment its sweet and piquant flavour, rich and luxurious colour and thick, viscous texture.

We drove up from Florence where we were staying a few days during the middle of our trip; it’s a scenic 2 hour drive through the lush Italian countryside. The Italians had been making soap equipment for hundreds of years and at that time, they were some of the best. JTs family already had several Italian pieces in their factory and although they had purchased some pieces from Italy before, this particular machine was a first-time purchase from this vendor, so a visit from ‘the customer’ was a big deal. We met with Mr. Borghi the English speaking Italian representative of the equipment maker. The machine itself was over six figures so you can imagine our surprise when we were taken to a humble rural garage where a few men were busy hand crafting the machine! A very tall, broad, heavily bearded gentleman approached us with visible excitement. He was wearing mechanics coveralls and his hands were covered in machine grease, he didn’t speak a word of English so Mr. Borghi had to translate for us. We had a short tour of the garage (really just one large room) and then we were invited to lunch.

We ate an enormous meal at a humble, family run local restaurant; each dish was prepared with love and respect to its origins. I don’t recall much of the meal (it was 27 years ago!) except that it was lively with conversation and it was my very first introduction to balsamic vinegar. When our host discovered that I had never had balsamic before, he insisted I order a steak that was garnished with 100 year old balsamic table side (and no, they did not leave the bottle), the waiter ceremoniously poured a few drops of the liquid gold onto my perfectly cooked steak. Everyone (yes, everyone in the packed little restaurant) stopped and watched as I carefully cut into the juicy steak and took my first bite. At the time I thought it was odd, after all it’s only vinegar with a dark, thick, chocolate syrup-like colour. But as soon as it hit my tongue I understood how truly special that moment was. The earthy, salty flavour of the rare cook steak against the thick, sweet, pungent and complexly flavoured vinegar was something I had never experienced before, I was in heaven! As my ‘audience’ waited with baited breath, I knew my face revealed the reaction they were hoping for: pure, unadulterated bliss – words were not needed. Then the restaurant resumed the animated conversation and clatter of cutlery against the plates. As an after lunch digestive, our gracious hosts poured some delicious, luciously thick and ice cold limoncello. What a treat that was.

After lunch our lovely translator, Mr. Borghi insisted that he buy me a bottle of balsamic to remember the experience, so in the parking lot after a long and deliciously filling meal, a plan was hatched. We would follow Mr. Borghi a short distance to a reputable shop where he would pop in, buy the vinegar, say our farewells and we would continue our drive to Florence. The “short drive” turned into 45 minutes and was in the complete opposite direction to Florence which meant our two hour trip was now three and a half. Poor JT.  But I had a prized possession: my very first four leaf balsamic vinegar!

I suspect that Italians feel the same way about Limincello and that the process to make it is as revered as the final product itself. Limincello was, of course, invented in Sorrento, Italy some 600 km south of Modena. And although this recipe claims to be originally Italian, this particular version is not. However, I was truly intrigued by the process and it had to be made. Sadly I was not able to source Meyer Lemons (see notes) as the recipe suggests but I did go the extra mile to purchase organic lemons for the main reason suggested in the article: the alcohol evaporates in the enclosed glass, macerating the lemon skin and then falling back to the bottom of the jar as flavoured liquid so you don’t want pesticides contaminating your Limoncello.

LimoncelloMaking_1

Suspended Organic Lemons ready to do their job.

LimoncelloMaking_2

I wondered what the macerated lemons would look and taste like: they were quite pale and had a very strong vodka lemon flavour that was surprisingly unpleasant. I chucked them.

LimoncelloMaking_3

After 4 weeks, the vodka took on a slightly yellowish colour. The gorgeous bottle is from our lovely neighbours.

Limoncello Recipe

Please click here for the “best limoncello recipe you’ve ever tasted”

I followed the recipe with the exception of the organic Meyer lemons, I used ordinary organic lemons.

I also made a simple syrup using the same weight of raw sugar as water and dissolved it by simply stirring for a few minutes and not boiling. Next time I’ll use ordinary sugar but I’ll do the same process, I wasn’t pleased with the amber colour of the simple syrup and its negative effect on the colour of the limoncello, although when poured into a small glass, it was pretty yellow.

I must admit I was pretty pleased with the outcome. Except for the cost. In Ontario, a 750 mL of Skyy vodka is $38.75, the organic lemons were $3.00 and the raw sugar was $4.00. A bottle of commercial limoncello is $18.35.

limoncello

I served the ice cold limoncello in antique glasses on my dear Mom’s needlepoint tray that she made in school.

limoncello2

Notes:

  • I did buy as lovely Meyer Lemon tree that presently has about 15 little lemons growing on it!

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