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Ameretti Cookies

AmarettiCookies_1

Ever since we recently had our Jura Espresso Machine serviced, we have been indulging in an espresso after lunch. We stock our coffee maker with decaffeinated espresso coffee beans so we’re not worried about being kept up at night with caffeine. Every time I have an espresso in the afternoon, I always feel like a little something to have with it, a biscotti (like this, this or this) or in most recent times, an amaretti cookie. Having just the right amount of ground almonds on hand, I decided to whip up these traditional but super easy cookies for our afternoon espresso.

Did you know that the first amaretti were made with crushed apricot kernels and almonds? You can read the story here.

They are deliciously almondy.

They are deliciously almondy.

Amaretti Cookies

Original recipe may be found here, I had to modify it because the cookies were flattening too much with the original proportions.

Makes about 44 cookies

Ingredients

  • 410 g ground almonds
  • 410 g granulated sugar
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 tsp almond flavouring
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 44 whole almonds, skin on

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 325° F  (163° C).
  2. In small portions, add the ground almonds, granulated sugar and lemon zest to the small container of your NutriBullet and using your milling blade, grind to a fine consistency. Run through a coarse sieve to avoid the almond bits sticking together.
  3. Beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry, add the almond flavouring and mix well.
  4. Add the sugar and almond mixture to the beaten egg whites and gently combine. It should have the consistency of a thick paste.
  5. Spoon by generous teaspoons onto a parchment-lined baking sheet about 5 cm (2 inches) apart and top each cookie with a whole almond, pressed gently into it. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until golden. Allow to cool slightly on the sheet and gently remove to a wire cooling rack. Store in an air-tight container separating rows with parchment paper. Or freeze.

Lemony Sandwich Cookies

 

LemonyCookies_First

Recently we travelled to Arizona to visit our very dear friends Paul and T at their new home where they plan to spend the winter every year. I always like to arrive with a little thoughtful, but useful gift. Of course, folks our age have everything we could ever want, and if we don’t, we simply go out and get it. So buying a gift for their new home is becoming increasingly more difficult so I usually default to baking. After all, who doesn’t love home baked goods?

Our national grocery chain Loblaws’ private label brand PC (President’s Choice) has many great products in their lineup (you may be familiar with PC Chocolate Chip Cookies — I know that particular product was distributed nationwide in the U.S. Did they capture the market in the UK, Europe and Australia too?) and one particularly wonderful product was a Lemon Sandwich Cookie. Sadly this cookie has not been available for some time now (years, really) and our dear friend Paul LOVES them. Like, he really, really LOVES them. What set this cookie apart was its strong lemony flavour, in both the sugar biscuit and the creamy butter icing, sandwiched in the middle.

My usual MO is to make a couple of baked goods that are favourites below the 49th, but just like my Christmas baking, this list can get out of control over time. Cue JT to roll his eyes.

Now this one came about quite innocently, at least, to me it did (but then again, I can justify virtually anything!). You see, I was at Dollarama, picking up a few little things (never food) and I spotted the Wilton Sandwich Cookie Pan. Oh dear.

  • I did not go over and touch it.
  • I did not stop to look at it.
  • I did not even spend more than a split second thinking about it.
  • I simply passed by it and went on my merry way.

Of course, the memory of this specialty cookie pan tucked itself into a far corner of my brain, only to exert itself in the wee hours of the night as I was desperately trying to sleep. By the morning, I had already decided to go back and purchase one. They were only $3 so I got two and that way I could bake in tandem, my logic is that it uses less electricity if I could have a tray ready to go in the oven when the other comes out. You see? That’s justification! Cue JT to roll his eyes, again. But in all honesty, $3 is really quite reasonable for a quality Wilton product, particularly when it’s on their website for $8.99!
I used the Wilton recipe for the cookie that is on the packaging because I figured it must be tried and true and, for the most part, it worked out well. The only thing I would suggest is to add a bit of lemon zest to the cookie dough and not spray the pan with non-stick spray because the pan is already non-stick and I had no issues with the cookies releasing easily.

 

Lemony Sandwich Cookies

Makes 24 sandwich cookies.

Lemon Sandwich Sugar biscuit ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp natural lemon extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/3 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • a very small bit of yellow gel food colouring (optional)

Lemon Butter Cream Ingredients:

  • 94 g butter, room temperature
  • 360 g icing sugar
  • 2 tsp natural lemon extract
  • 3 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 lemons, freshly grated zest
  • a very small bit of yellow gel food colouring (optional)

Lemon Cookie Batter Directions:

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the oil and egg and beat until combined.
  2. Add the extracts, sugar and salt and beat for 1 minute.
  3. Add the flour a bit at a time, beating well to incorporate.
  4. Add the colouring a bit at a time until the desired colour is achieved.
  5. Create little round balls about 8 grams or 1/2 teaspoon each and put into the centre of each form (no need to spray with non-stick spray), press down evenly (I used a press like this cookie stamp without the silicon bit, make sure you press the bottom into flour first! You could also use an espresso tamper).
  6. Bake for 9 minutes or until no longer soft in the centre but not beginning to brown. Allow cookies to cool in the pan for a few minutes then gently coax out. Cool cookies completely before filling.

Lemon Butter Cream Filling Directions:

  1. Beat the butter until fluffy. Add the icing sugar a little each time, beating well.
  2. About half-way through the sugar, add the flavouring and lemon zest.
  3. Continue to add the sugar and beat until a desired consistency is achieved.
  4. Freeze unused buttercream in an airtight container. To use, defrost in the refrigerator. When ready to use, whip for a few minutes to ensure it is consistent.

Assembly:

  1. Using a Wilton #12 tip, fill a piping bag with the creamy filling and pipe onto one cookie at a time about half-way to the edge. Place a similarly sized cookie on top and gently squeeze. Repeat until you have 24 sandwiched cookies. In the unlikely occurrence that they are not consumed in one sitting, store in an airtight container for a day or two, or freeze for longer periods of storage. Frozen cookies have been known to be consumed quite happily, we’re not picky!!!

Homemade Butter

HomemadeButter_first

My dear Mom encouraged us as children to participate in cooking. Sometimes it was as simple as cleaning green beans or popping sweet peas out of their pods, whatever the task, it always resulted in increasing our comfort level in the kitchen for which, to this day I am truly grateful. One such exercise was to make whipped cream for a dessert topping. I must have been quite young because Mom set-up a workstation on the kitchen table so I could see inside the bowl of our olive green Iona Stand Mixer!

I no longer have the stand for the mixer.

I no longer have the stand for the mixer.

We poured the ice cold cream into an ice cold glass bowl and I started the mixer. I learned that starting the mixer on high only resulted in cream splashing all over my face! The bowl sat on some sort of ball-bearing Lazy Susan which you had to gently hold so the bowl wouldn’t spin out of control (I was in charge of that). As you undoubtedly already know, whipping cream to stiff peaks doesn’t take long, but I didn’t know that back then! Dear Mom was distracted and before I knew it, the cream began separate and turn to butter, the fat congealing and separating from the buttermilk. These types of “mistakes” never resulted in a scolding, they turned into lessons and this one became Butter Making 101! In those days we ate a lot of butter so Mom knew this lesson wouldn’t go to waste! Fortunately, dear Mom always had extra whipping cream in the refrigerator and so I learned to make two things that day: butter and whipping cream.

This is a great exercise for children but be careful because today’s stand mixers can be very dangerous for small hands.

Homemade Butter

Ingredients:

  • 1 L (8 cups) whipping cream (35% fat)
  • Pinch of salt (optional)
  • Cheese cloth and a fine sieve.

Directions:

  1. Place your stand mixer mixing bowl and whisk into the freezer for 10-15 minutes or until very cold.
  2. When bowl and whisk have chilled through, secure bowl to stand and add the cream. Slowly begin beating cream, adding a pinch of salt if desired.
  3. At about 10 minutes, the cream should begin to thicken and separate from the whey, once you have distinct separation stop beating. Voilà, you have made butter!
  4. Strain through a sieve lined with cheesecloth. Reserve the buttermilk (I’ll use it to feed my sourdough starter), transfer butter to a resealable container and refrigerate. Or separate into smaller portion sizes and freeze. You will also need to squeeze excess buttermilk from the butter.
Butter_2

Deliciously creamy, homemade butter.

Notes:

  • You can make butter from any amount of whipping cream, I just had 1 litre left over from a gig.
  • I used my whisk attachment of my Kitchenaid stand mixer, but I’ve seen people do it in a blender too although I would find it too difficult to clean thoroughly.
  • Flavour butter with fresh herbs to make a compound butter and freeze in small portions to flavour fish, poultry or meats.
  • I chose not to salt my butter but you can add salt as you wish.
  • Butter freezes very well. Portion into 1/4 (125 mL) or 1/2 cup (250 mL) portions.
Portion size is 1 teaspoon.

Portion size is 1 teaspoon.

HungarianGreenBeanStew_first

Green bean stew (Zöldbab Főzelék) is one of those Hungarian dishes that is an aquired taste, it has a bit of a sour flavour and is usually rather heavy on the dill. I never liked it as a kid, but it is a Hungarian staple particularly as spring approaches. Recently, I found myself with a relatively large package of the lovely, extra-thin green beans and I wondered how I could make this roux-based dish a little healthier. I omitted the lard (I know, it’s flavour but we’re also trying to lose a few so we’re being good!) and I remade the roux with puréed lentils! Not so traditional, but it was rather tasty. With JT giving it a solid thumbs up, I’ll definitely be making this dish again!

Healthy Hungarian Green Bean Stew (Egészséges Zöldbab Főzelék)

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 300 g Green Beans, trimmed and cut i bite-size pieces
  • 90 g leeks, roughly chopped
  • 20 g garlic, roughly chopped
  • 30 g red lentils
  • 1 tsp Hungarian Paprika
  • Vegetable Stock
  • 1 tsp EVOO
  • 1/4 cup Greek yogurt
  • 2-3 tbsp fresh dill, finely chopped.

Directions:

  1. Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven, sauté green beans until soft but still has a bit of a crunch adding a tablespoon of the vegetable stock as needed. Set aside.
  2. In the same pan, add leeks, garlic and lentils and sauté adding a bit of vegetable stock until lentils are soft, add the paprika near the end. Purée the lentil sauce until smooth add  vegetable stock until desired consistency is achieved (should be thick like a roux). Add the yogurt and purée again until smooth. Return the beans to the lentil sauce and add the chopped dill (to taste), heat through and serve immediately.

Notes:

  • For an authentic Hungarian Green Bean Stew, please visit my friend Zsuzsa for her recipe.
  • I wanted a fat-free and gluten-free roux and that is why I chose red lentils to thicken the sauce.
  • This is a slightly sour dish from the yogurt, if you don’t like that type of flavour, omit it.
  • I served a baked tilapia on the stew, the tilapia is just seasoned with salt and pepper.
This was the first time I made this stew and JT LOVED it!

This was the first time I made this stew and JT LOVED it!

Based on 2 servings per recipe.

The healthy version based on 2 servings per recipe.


This is the original Hungarian Recipe which uses lard, sour cream and flour.

This is the original Hungarian Recipe which uses lard, sour cream and flour.

Chicken á la King Soup

ChickenALaKingSoupDuring my childhood, we ate mostly Canadian-ized Hungarian food. And by Canadian-ized, I mean that Mom used yogurt instead of tejföl (sour cream), oil instead of lard etc. Every weekend we would have a roast of beef or pork (but mainly beef) and in the summer, Dad would BBQ steak and thick juicy bacon (szalonna). On weekdays Mom had her repertoire of chicken and fish dishes and I do recall the odd (when Dad wasn’t home for dinner) meatloaf, with the obligatory hard-boiled egg inside and various Hungarian stews like Lecsó and tok fózelék (a similar dish to creamed spinach but it’s on the sour side).

Around the timeI turned 14, I became interested in cooking recipes that I chose myself and my dear Mom encouraged me. One of my favourite resources very early on was the Milk Calendar, put out in full colour print for free by the Dairy Farmers of Canada. Every December, I eagerly awaited the Milk Calendar tucked away in the weekend edition of the Toronto Star. One of the first dishes I ever made on my own was Chicken á la King with leftover chicken (back in the day when a roast chicken fed a family of four AND had enough leftovers for another meal!)

I have to admit, I am unsure if the following inspiration came from the Milk Calendar (I’m leaning toward this) or my beloved Five Roses Cookbook (recipe page 233). What I can tell you with most certainty is that as I was making this soup, I instantly recognized the aroma and flavour of our beloved childhood Chicken á la King. The ingredients are quite unexpected and it’s pretty healthy to boot. If you love the flavours of a creamy Chicken á la King, you will LOVE this recipe.

When did you first begin cooking on your own and did you have a favourite recipe book that you used until it fell apart?

ChixALaKingSoup_7961

Chicken á la King Soup

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes  3 or 4 servings 700-800 mL (3 1/2-4 cups),

Ingredients:

  • 180 g red lentils, rinsed and picked through
  • water to cover
  • 2 tsp vegetable oil, divided
  • 1/4 cooking onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 celery stalk, cubed
  • 1 carrot, cubed
  • 2 radishes, cubed
  • 2 tbsp frozen peas (optional garnish)
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 100 g chicken breast, skinless and boneless, cut into smallish strips
  • chicken stock
  • sea salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. In a medium, heavy bottomed pot, add 1 teaspoon vegetable oil and sauté the celery, carrot, and radish until soft. Add the chicken and cook through. Set aside in another bowl.
  2. In the same saucepan, add the remainding 1 teaspoon vegetable oil and sauté the onion until translucent. Add the garlic and stir until fragrant. Add the lentils, stir and cover with water. Cook until lentils are very soft. Remove from heat and blitz with an immersion blender until very smooth, adding chicken stock until desired thickness is achieved (I left mine relative thick so it’s more stew-like). Add the apple cider vinegar and blitz until well blended. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Return the puréed lentils to the heat and slowly reheat, add the cooked vegetables and chicken and stir well. Serve pipping hot.

ChickenalaKingNF

Healthy Chicken á la King Soup

WWPointChixalaKing 

Traditional Chicken á la King

 

TilapiawArugulaPaste

Last week we posted the Arugula Paste (or Arugula Pesto for those of us less traditional) and you might have guessed that I would do something tasty with it. The paste ended up on a tilapia fillet with some sautéed vegetables on a bed of spinach. The dish got rave reviews even if the lighting sucks.

Tilapia Crusted with Arugula Paste

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 60 g button mushrooms, cut in half
  • 60 g radishes, cut into triangles
  • 50 g yellow pepper, cut into cubes
  • 50 g red pepper, cut into cubes
  • 70 g eggplant, cut into cubes
  • 70 g onion, chopped
  • 60 g celery, cut into cubes
  • 200 g tilapia fillet
  • 2 cups spinach
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup arugula paste

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350° F (176° C). Place fish in the centre of a heart-shaped sheet of parchment paper. Spread about half of the arugula paste on top and close and fold the parchment en papillote style (please see note below).
  2. In the meantime, add 1 tsp vegetable oil to a sautée pan and sautée all of the vegetables until just crunchy. Toss with the remaining arugula paste.
  3. When fish has reached an internal temperature of 158° F (70° C)
  4. Serve hot on a bed of baby spinach topped with the fish and the sautéed vegetables.

ArugulaPesto_onTilapia_7947

A delicious topping on a firm white fish.

I created this easy to follow video on how to fold en papillote. Please let me know what you think.

Arugula Paste

*First ArugulaPaste

So far, winter hasn’t been horrible (dare I say it out loud?). In the last week, we’ve only had a couple of super cold days (-23° C or -9.4° F) but we’ve only had one snow storm and although it was super wet, it wasn’t that bad (shovelling was awful!). The one thing I will complain about is the lack of sunshine November and December was…gloomy, gloomy, gloomy! Although January’s start has been chilly, it has been sunny! So if I have to give up warmth for sun, so be it.

Have you made a New Year’s Resolution? JT and I decided that we need to get back on track and eat more vegetables and limit eating out (oh dear, we do eat out a lot). So, I have determined that the next month or so I will dedicate the blog to super healthy, clean eating, roughly based on a ketogenic diet. I say roughly because I’m going to allow myself one day per week to ‘cheat’ (TBD)! I will comb through your lovely blog pages and get my inspiration there.

We’ve also decided to eat our main meal at noon instead our norm of 6 or 7 in the evening. We’re hoping that these changes will result in some shedding!

This condiment came about as I stared blankly in the refrigerator…so many vegetables but no inspiration! The bag of baby arugula called out to me…pesto, it whispered. Now I know many of you are pesto traditionalists and only basil, garlic, EVOO, pinenuts and parmesan will do…but what if you wish to limit calories? Yes, there is the argument that you should only use a little, but I wanted to start the week off right so I created this unique paste that resembles pesto (notice I didn’t call it pesto?). I received a solid thumbs up from JT, it has texture, a slight kick and it’s bright and beautiful green. A little sunshine on these gloomy winter days.

ArugualPaste_7953

The raw cauliflower gives makes a good substitute for the nuts, providing the slight crunch needed.

Arugula Paste

Makes a 125 mL (1/2 cup) sauce

A Kitchen Inspirations Original Recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 60 g raw cauliflower (either stems or florets or both)
  • 60 g baby arugula
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 3 tbsp vegetable stock (home made)
  • sea salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Add the raw cauliflower to a small processor bowl, process until it becomes a fine meal.
  2. Add the arugula (may need to be added in smaller portions), garlic, vinegar and stock and process until a desired consistency is achieved (I wanted it relatively fine).
  3. Season with sea salt and process until totally combined.
  4. See serving suggestions in notes.

Notes:

  • Serving suggestions: pasta, sautéed vegetables, zucchini noodles, drizzled on tomatoes, meat or fish.
  • Add a spoonful or two into a simple oil and vinegar salad dressing or greek yogurt for a dip.

ArugulaPasteNFScreen Shot 2016-01-05 at 4.31.47 PM

ChaiTiramisu_First

We had good friends over for dinner recently and I made an Indian extravaganza (all posted recipes but I’ll repeat them below). I wanted something a little different because I’d already made Chai Crème Brûlée and Gulab Jamun. I’ve always wanted to bake Lady Fingers and that’s how I landed on Chai Tiramisu. We feasted on the Indian food and then retired to the living room to enjoy the wood fire and dessert; our guests must have enjoyed the dessert because after they’d decided they had had enough and rested the half-eaten plates on the coffee table, they kept picking them up for ‘just one more bite’, eventually finishing off the entire plate. Now THAT makes me happy.

It’s not overly sweet and the chai comes through from the chai liquor soaked lady fingers. The ricotta and Greek yogurt combo makes it slightly less rich than the mascarpone version which was good considering the heaviness of the meal; I would definitely make it again even with the home-made ladyfingers, but if you’re tight for time, the store bought Italian ladyfingers would certainly do the trick.

Chai Tiramisu and Homemade Ladyfingers

Makes approx 1 loaf pan 23 cm x 13 cm  (9″ x 5″) tiramisu.

ChaiTiramisu_7636

Placing the tiramisu in the freezer for one hour before serving guarantees perfect slices.

Lady Fingers

Makes about 36 small lady fingers

Roughly based my recipe on this recipe, but I reduced volumes and I changed the method for egg whites

Ingredients Ladyfingers:

  • 2 eggs, room temperature, separated
  • 4 tbsp sugar, divided
  • 1/2 tsp bourbon vanilla extract
  • pinch of cream of tartar
  • 42 g cake and pastry flour, sifted

Directions Ladyfingers:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350° F (176° C). Generously butter and flour a lady finger molded tray or a cookie sheet.
  2. Beat egg whites with 2 tbsp sugar and cream of tartar until stiff peaks form, set aside.
  3. Beat egg yolks with remaining 2 tbsp sugar and vanilla extract until pale in colour but not ribbons.
  4. Gently fold in the egg whites being careful not to deflate. Carefully sift the flour into the egg mixture and fold even more carefully so as not to deflate but making sure all the flour is well incorporated.
  5. Using a lady finger molded baking tray, or piping the batter into long fingers
  6. Bake for 12 minutes, allow to cool completely in pan and gently coax out to remove.
LadyfingerPan_7618

Butter generously and then dust with flour. Don’t take the non-stick spray shortcut, it doesn’t work!

Ingredients for Chai liquor (see note):

  • 1/3 cup of milk
  • 2 short cinnamon sticks
  • 2 star anise
  • 3 green cardamom pods
  • 8-10 cloves
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 5 cm fresh vanilla bean
  • 1 black tea bag
  • 1 tsp Pastis (or any anise flavoured liquor such as Ouzo or Anisette)

Directions for Chai liquor:

  1. Add milk and all of the spices except the vanilla bean to a small saucepan and stir well.
  2. Scrape seeds out of the vanilla bean and add both bean and seeds to the saucepan. Heat slowly to infuse the milk with the chai flavours, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Allow to cool, strain through a coarse sieve to allow vanilla seeds to remain in infused milk. Stir in Pastis. Set aside for assembly.

Ingredients for the Ricotta Cream and Chai Sugar:

  • 1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese (See note)
  • 3/4 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 tsp orange zest
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 tbsp icing sugar, divided
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp cloves
  • 1/8 tsp cardamon
  • 1 tsp cocoa
  • 1/4 cup, roughly chopped pistachios, toasted

Directions for the Cream and Chai Sugar:

  1. Combine ricotta, yogurt, orange rind and 2 tbsp icing sugar and whip until fluffy.
  2. Combine 1 tbsp icing sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamon and cocoa and mix well.

Directions for Assembly:

  1. Line a small loaf pan with parchment paper.
  2. Dip each end of the ladyfingers into the chai liquor and line the loaf pan with them. Spread one third of the cream mixture over top, sprinkle with the chai sugar. Repeat 2 more times.
  3. Refrigerate overnight. About 90 minutes before serving, place in the freezer for so it’s easy to slice. Remove after 1 hour and slice into portions. Sprinkle some of the chai sugar on each plate, carefully place each slice in the centre of the plate, allow to sit for 30 minutes so it’s not overly cold. Serve with sprinkled pistachios.

Notes:

  • On using ricotta over mascarpone: I chose ricotta for two reasons, first is calories, this dessert made with ricotta is less than half the calories than using the richer mascarpone and two is budget, for some bizarre reason, mascarpone was $15 for about the same size of a $4 ricotta tub.
  • Feel free to use a chai tea bag to infuse the milk and omit all of the other spices, although I would still add the vanilla bean and seeds and the Anise liquor. Do not squeeze the tea bag otherwise you will have bitter chai liquor.
  • This dessert is best if it sits overnight in the fridge.
  • Although it is tempting to spray the ladyfinger pan with a non-stick spray, it will NOT WORK. Butter it generously and dust with flour. Each pan must be washed and rebuttered.

ChaiTiramisu_7635

The lady fingers soak up the Chai Liquor so they are pillowy soft.

Previous Posts about Indian Food:
Palek Paneer

Also known as Saag Paneer

Also known as Saag Paneer

Carrot Pickle and Mango Chutney

Lightly crunchy and packed full of flavour

Lightly crunchy and packed full of flavour

Sweet and tangy, just like a chutney should be

Sweet and tangy, just like a chutney should be

Best Naan Ever

Chewy and crispy at the same time

Chewy and crispy at the same time

Aloo Papri Chat

A quick shot of the actual serving dish at the dinner party

A quick shot of the actual serving dish at the dinner party

Beef Buhna

Tender beef cubes drenched in a mildly spicy, fragrant, flavourful gravy

Tender beef cubes drenched in a mildly spicy, fragrant, flavourful gravy

Paneer Makhani

A delicious, rich tasting tomato gravy with gently firm paneer

A delicious, rich tasting tomato gravy with gently firm paneer

Baked Onion Bahjis

Don't be fooled by their size, they pack a big punch of flavour

Don’t be fooled by their size, they pack a big punch of flavour

Jamie Olivers Chicken Tikka Masala (by far our favourite Indian Recipe)

ChickenTikkaMasala2_Blog

Chai Crème Brûlée

ChaiCremeBrulee_1925

Lemon Lentil Soup

Lemon Lentil Soup_1337

Tamarind Chutney

Tangy, sour and sweet all at once.

Tangy, sour and sweet all at once.

Enhanced Mulligatawny Soup

Enhanced Mulligatawny Soup

Enhanced Mulligatawny Soup

Gulab Jamun

Gulab Jamun

Gulab Jamun

Matar Paneer

matarpaneer

Christmas_First

Happy Holidays, my dear blog readers. I cannot begin to thank you for all of your lovely comments and your beautiful support throughout this year. In 2016, Kitcheninspirations is in her 8th year and it’s been quite a joyous ride. Originally this little blog was simply a repository of recipes, an on-line cookbook of some of my favourites over the years. But then someone commented and the rest is history. I cherish each and every one of you and hope to meet you in person soon. I hope you had a wonderful holiday with your family and cherished friends and JT and I wish you the very best for 2016.
MerryChristmasHNY

One of the things I’ve noticed as a child of immigrant parents is that my generation doesn’t hold as much to tradition as the previous generation did. Case in point, every Christmas my dear Mom would make Beigli, a traditional Hungarian Christmas treat; she would not make it any other time of the year, even though she loved it. I, on the other hand, will make anything as long as I can find the ingredients. Except Beigli. Beigli is an acquired taste; it’s not horrible or weird, it’s just not something Canadians are used to eating so, I generally only make it if we have other Hungarians around. This past Christmas was the second year we were invited to my cousin Lucy’s place for Angyal so I decided to make her Beigli. Beigli is a yeasted buttery dough rolled with a ground poppy seed mixture or a ground walnut mixture. My Mom put raisins in the poppy seed version but I don’t recall them in the walnut ones. This is only the second or third time I have made these treats, the two other times were well before this blog so it was more than eight years ago. Hungarian pastries are not sickly sweet and have only a little sugar in them, so if you are a sweet tooth, these are not for you. You may also wish to avoid the poppy seed Beigli if your work does any type of drug testing.

Beigli

Makes 1 30 cm (12 inch) each Poppy Seed (Mákos) and Walnut (Diós) Beigli

Original recipe from my dear Mom

Ingredients for the Dough:

  • 133 mL milk, warm
  • 1 tsp granulated sugar
  • 8 g instant yeast
  • 33 g icing sugar
  • 350-400 g AP flour
  • 167 g butter, room temperature
  • 3 eggs, divided
  • 1 egg white
  • pinch of salt

Directions for the Dough:

  1. Mix the warm milk, granulated sugar and yeast in a bowl and set aside.
  2. Using the scraper paddle of your stand mixer, rub the butter into 350 g of flour. Switch to the dough hook.
  3. Add 2 lightly beaten eggs, icing sugar and the salt to the yeast and mix well. Pour into the flour butter bowl and knead for a few minutes until the ingredients are combined and the dough becomes shiny and smooth (you may need to add a bit more flour so it’s not shaggy). Cover with a clean cloth and set aside for 2 hours in a warm, draft free spot.

Ingredients for the Poppy Seed Filling:

  • 200 mL milk
  • 200 g poppy seeds, ground
  • 33 g semolina
  • 133 g icing sugar
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • 67 g raisins

Directions for the Poppy Seed Filling:

  1. Combine the ground poppy seeds, semolina, icing sugar and lemon zest and mix well.
  2. Bring the milk to a boil, remove from heat and stir into the poppy seed mixture. Add the raisins and mix well. Set aside to cool completely (don’t worry, it will thicken as it cools).

Ingredients for the Walnut Filling:

  • 100 g granulated sugar
  • 200 mL water
  • 200 g walnuts
  • 67 g panko
  • 30 mL water
  • 1 lemon, zested

Directions for the Walnut Filling:

  1. In the bowl of your food processor, process the walnuts, breadcrumbs and zest until finely ground. Set aside.
  2. Combine the water and sugar in a heavy bottom pan and bring to a boil without stirring. Continue to boil until it reaches 110 °C (230 °F). Remove from heat and immediately stir into the walnut mixture, adding the water and stir well.

Beigli Assembly and Baking

  1. Divide the dough into two equal portions. Roll each portion into 1/2 cm thick rectangles (about 11 1/4″ x 12″). Spread the entire amount of the filling evenly onto each rectangle, leaving about 1 cm wide border all around.
  2. Roll the dough from the long side and pinch the side to seal. Turn the ends into the roll.
  3. Place on a cookie sheet. Repeat for the other filling, brush both rolls with the remaining beaten egg. Allow to rest for one hour.
  4. Whisk the egg white and brush the rested rolls. Set aside for 30 more minutes. Pre heat the oven to 375° F (190° C).
  5. Once rested, lightly poke the sides of the rolls with a fork to avoid the dough breaking. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden and baked through.
  6. Serve the rolls sliced into 1-1.5 cm slices.
Diosbeigli_7888_

A delicious, not too sweet, Christmas treat.

makosbeigli_7884_

As a kid, I always preferred the walnut beigli, but I think I like the poppy seed better now!

Sourdough Buns

SourdoughBuns_First

Sourdough Buns

Original Recipe from King Arthur Flour, please click here.

This recipe makes 17 buns about 60 g each.

Ingredients:

  • 400 g Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 46 g milk powder
  • 1  1/2 tsp salt
  • 125 mL water
  • 1 tbsp instant yeast
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 egg
  • 276 g sourdough starter, fed
  • cornmeal (for dusting)

Directions:

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine flour, salt and milk powder and stir well to mix.
  2. In large glass measuring cup, combine water, yeast, sugar, oil and egg with the sourdough starter and mix thoroughly.
  3. Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture and pour the starter mixture into it. Mix with your dough hook attachment until the dough forms a ball and no longer sticks to the sides.
  4. Form into a smooth ball and oil exterior. Allow to rest for 1 hour.
  5. Press down and pinch about 60 g pieces and shape into even buns. Cut a small X on the top. Allow the buns to rest for 30 minutes.
  6. Pre-heat the oven to 375° F (190° C.
  7. Mist buns lightly with water and bake for 15-20 minutes or until internal temperature is 200° F).
  8. Allow to cool slightly. Serve warm.
SourdoughBuns_7643

A slightly eggy sourdough bread that is delicious with butter.

Tiropitakia

Tiropitakia_First

Our tenth progressive dinner was this past Friday and the theme we chose was Greece. We chose Greece for a couple of reasons: we figured we would be knee deep in snow and a tip of the hat to the warm climate and mediterranean cuisine would be just what the doctor ordered and the other reason is that two of our neighbours were just there this summer visiting family!

Fortunately, winter has been somewhat mild this year (shhhhhhh)…not overly cold and although we have had a few flakes, we certainly don’t have the (any) accumulation we have had in the past. Here is a little blast from the past (December 11, 2014) for good measure! Click on the images to see a larger version.

So you can see why the Mediterranean cuisine seemed appropriate. I didn’t want to make something predictable and when I was chatting with the neighbour who went to Greece this summer, she suggested the slightly lesser known phyllo triangle called Tiropitakia which is like Spanakopita but without the vegetables, it’s just cheese! You had me at cheese! I decided to splurge and use butter to coat the phyllo sheets (I usually skip it because of the calories) and it really made the pastry beautifully crispy and flaky. I read quite a few recipes on line, some ven used gruyère and ricotta so I made some changes and used Greek Feta, goats cheese and a little parmesan. The combination made a lovely cheesy filling. I used an actual imported Greek  feta (Alra Feta) which is pretty difficult to come by in Toronto (we have a very strong cheese board in Canada) made with sheep and goats milk, it is far tangier than Canadian feta (and more expensive).

This hors d’œuvres freezes very well but you have to be very careful as the pastry becomes very brittle over time in the freezer. With all the holiday cheer going on in the next few weeks, I’m sure I’ll be popping a few in the oven every weekend for visitors.

Tiropitakia_7695

It’s a deliciously crispy hors d’œuvres. Please help yourself to one (or two).

Tiropitakia

Makes 48 5 cm (2 inch) triangles

Ingredients:

  • 300 g Greek Feta cheese, crumbled
  • 160 g goats cheese, crumbled
  • 25 g Parmesan Cheese, finely grated
  • 2 eggs, beaten lightly
  • 1 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 8 sheets phyllo pastry, cut into 5 cm (2 inch) strips, long side.
  • 150 g unsalted butter, melted

Directions:

  1. In the bowl of a food processor, add the two eggs and pulse to beat slightly. Add all of the cheese and pulse a few times to combine well (do not turn into a paste). Add the parsley, nutmeg and freshly ground pepper and pulse to incorporate. Set aside.
  2. Cut each phyllo sheet into six, 5 cm (2 inch) strips along the long side. Brush generously with the melted butter. Add one tablespoon of the filling to one side of the long strip and begin to fold into a triangle as the diagram below suggests. Continue until you have used up all of the filling. I was able to get 48 triangles.
  3. Bake in a pre-heated 400° F (200° C) oven for 13-15 minutes or until nicely browned. Freeze on a piece of parchment and then gently place into a ziplock bag for future. Reheat frozen triangles at 350° F (176° C) for 10-12 minutes or until warmed through.

Folding Tiropitakia

Tiropitakia_7698

I usually don’t put egg into my spanakopita so these ones puffed up quite a bit more than the spanakopita does.

Notes

  • This recipe can also be made into squares. Use 5 sheets of Phyllo, generously buttered, in a 9″ x 9″ square pan. Add the filling and top with 5 additional, generously buttered sheets. Fold in the edges to make a neat square, add 2 more sheets, generously buttered, cut to the exact size (to make it pretty). Butter. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until nicely browned on top.
  • If you wish to save calories, skip the butter on each strip, just butter the triangle, both sides.
  • Some recipes added dill, but it was not comment.

MagicalCustardCake_FIRST

Yesterday, December 6th was Hungarian Mikulásnap (Santa’s Day). This date was very important in our house because it was the date that Mikulás visited our home to pick up the letters we would write to him…the Christmas wish list! It was always our tradition to put the letters into freshly polished, shiny boots on the windowsill just before we went to bed. In the morning, we would find our boots filled with European chocolates (if we were good) or the dreaded virgács (thin branches that our parents could use to slap our bottoms with, if we were bad). To the best of my memory, we only received the virgács once; that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. I am always nostalgic this time of year, particularly in my neighbourhood of European delis that stock the same delicious chocolates we used to receive as kids.

Although chocolate treats in the form of Santa (or Mikulás) would be a lovely dessert, recently I decided to make an unusual cake that has been making the rounds on the blog-o-sphere for some time. Surprisingly, there is nothing unusual about the ingredients and the recipe is pretty much like a jelly roll or genoise sponge, but what’s really unusual is that the cake separates into a custard portion and a cake portion during baking. I suspect this recipe came about as a mistake someone made a long time ago and it baked into this amazing and delicious surprise (like so many recipes out there). The history really doesn’t matter, it is a delicious cake that is a cross between a custard and a cake and I think you should try it.

Since I’m not much of Pinterest person, I only saw this cake on the blogs I follow and the very first one was Bizzy Lizzy, my Hungarian bogging friend down under and then Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella made a pumpkin version — I knew I had to make this unusual dessert. We loved the Hungarian Custard Squares (Krémes Szelet) so I suspected that this recipe would be a winner too. I used Liz’s recipe but I halved it because there were only four of us for brunch; I topped it with baked pears (I scored the pears at $1.96 for 10 because they were not perfect specimens!) and a drizzle of coconut sugar caramel sauce. The dessert received rave reviews and as a bonus, it stores well in the fridge for a couple of days (unassembled). It’s definitely going into my dessert repertoire…now to figure out a gluten free version!

What Christmas/holiday traditions do you have?

MagicalCustardCake_7587

Soft custard, baked pears, fluffy cake and sweet earthy caramel sauce garnished with a toasted walnut. May I cut you a slice?

Magical Custard Cake with Baked Pears and Coconut Caramel Sauce

Original Recipe from Bizzy Lizzy’s Good Things

Serves 4

Ingredients for the Magical Custard Cake:

  • 60 g unsalted butter
  • 240 mL low fat milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs, room temperature, separated
  • 60 g icing sugar, sifted
  • pinch, cream of tartar
  • 57 g unbleached AP flour, sifted
  • 4 walnut halves for garnish, toasted

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 330° F (165° C).
  2. Prepare a 21 cm x 11 cm(4″ x 8″) loaf pan by lining it with parchment paper.
  3. Melt the butter and cool to room temperature.
  4. Warm the milk combined with vanilla until lukewarm (should not be hot).
  5. Beat the egg whites with a pinch of cream of tartar until stiff but not dry, set aside.
  6. Beat the egg yolks with the icing sugar until light and fluffy (about 5 – 7 minutes). Set the mixer speed to the lowest and slowly drizzle in the melted butter until entirely combined.
  7. Slowly fold in the flour alternating with the warm milk until it is fully combined.
  8. Fold in the beaten egg whites a spoon at a time until fully incorporated but not deflated. This is quite a runny batter, so don’t worry.
  9. Bake for 40 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Allow to cool completely and then refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.

Ingredients for the baked pears:

  • 10 small pears, peeled, cored and cut into cubes
  • 1 tbsp coconut sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch of salt

Directions for the baked pears:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350° F (171° C).
  2. Toss cubed pears with sugar, cinnamon and salt and pour into a casserole dish. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until soft. Set aside.

Ingredients for Coconut Sugar Caramel Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup Grace coconut sugar (or regular granulated sugar)
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 1/8 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup hot cream
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter

Directions for Coconut Sugar Caramel Sauce:

  1. Heat cream in a microwave proof container until very hot but not boiling, set aside.
  2. Mix sugar, water and lemon juice in a 2 cup pyrex measuring cup.
  3. Microwave for 15-60 seconds (note that in 2016 I doubled the recipe and it took 3 minutes 25 seconds of microwaving to get the amber colour I was looking for), until sugar bubbles up but does NOT BURN, sugar crystals should be completely dissolved and you should begin to see it turn to a light amber colour. Remove and set on a dishcloth for 30 seconds and slowly pour in the hot cream, being careful as this will bubble up.
  4. Stir well and then add the butter  and stir until completely incorporated. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Assembly Directions:

  1. Remove cold ‘cake’ from the fridge and set on a cutting board. Cut into 4 slices and set each slice on the centre of a plate.
  2. Reheat the baked pear cubes until steamy (microwave for a minute or so on high).
  3. Spoon equal amounts of the pears onto each slice, then drizzle with the coconut caramel. Garnish with a toasted walnut half.

FrenchOnionSoup_First

Recently we had some good friends for Brunch and my friend Angela told me how she makes the most delicious vegetable stock from vegetable trimmings. Of course, this isn’t the first time I’d heard of this frugal stock but to be honest, I was skeptical on how good it would be — stock from trimmings? That’s bunny food! I’ve been using roast chicken carcass for soups for a few years now but I’ve never jumped into the compost bin head first to make this vegetable stock before. Angela and her husband were quite convincing on how good this stock is, so I decided to give it a try.

My first attempt was a simple stock using vidalia onion skins, garlic skins, eggplant ends, zucchini ends, celery leaves, cilantro stems and green onion ends. I made sure to wash the skins very well and tossed them into a large stock pot with enough water to cover. I tossed in a tiny bit of salt and boiled, then I reduced to a simmer for about 4 hours. WOW! I can’t tell you how good this was! For a lunch, I simply sautéed more zucchini, eggplant, onions, garlic and celery and ladled the “Compost Stock” over it and drizzled it with parmesan cheese, boy was it GOOD!

When I saw how dark and rich the onion skins made the stock, I thought: why not make a French Onion Soup from it (we’ve made French Onion Soup here and here and here before)? And that is the way this recipe came about. It’s so easy and inexpensive that I urge you to try it. You can make it vegan by omitting the cheese or just use vegan cheese (not sure how good that could be!). And if you’re looking to save a few calories, omit the croutons and the cheese.

JT tried it and could not believe it was made with onion skins and caramelized onions, no stock at all — verdict, he loved it. For this version, we saved around $4 because I usually use an organic beef stock or sometimes I even roast some beef bones which would have saved us $6.00)!

Veg FrenchOnionSoup

Would you like a bowl?

A Vegetarian French Onion Soup

A Kitchen Inspirations Original Recipe.

Makes 1.5 L (6.25 cups) of soup

Ingredients:

  • 3 large organic Vidalia onions, including skins
  • 1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • 4 L (roughly 4 quarts) water
  • 2 tbsp EVOO
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 100 g (3.5 oz) Gruyère cheese, grated (omit if vegan or vegetarian)
  • croutons, enough to fill 2 French Onion Soup bowls

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 250°F (121° F).
  2. Wash outer skin of the onions well. Peel onions, add skins with the bay leaves and salt to a large stock pot with 4L (4 quarts) water in it. Stir and bring to a boil then turn down and simmer for 2-3 hours.
  3. Slice onions very thinly on a mandoline (any larger bits that can’t be sliced, just add to the onion skin stock pot).
  4. Heat olive oil to a large Dutch oven and once hot (but not smoking) add onions; sweat onions until translucent and just beginning to caramelize (about 20 minutes). Add the white balsamic vinegar and stir well. Cover with a piece of parchment (as illustrated below) and bake for 2-3 hours at 250° F (121° C) or until golden and fully caramelized.
  5. When stock is a rich, dark colour strain through a fine sieve to remove skins and bits and finally through a very fine sieve to remove any fine particles (I use a reusable coffee filter). Combine stock with caramelized onions and heat through. Taste for seasonings and add salt and pepper as required.
  6. Plate in French onion soup bowls with croutons and mounds of Gruyère cheese, broil so it’s all melty and bubbly and serve hot!
  7. For a vegetarian or vegan version, omit the cheese or use vegan cheese.
parchment2

Parchment cover for the onions

Screen Shot 2015-11-25 at 1.45.35 PM

Based on 4 servings per batch without the Gruyère and croutons

Based on 4 serving per batch, without the Gruyère and crouton

Based on 4 serving per batch, without the Gruyère and crouton

SushiThai_first

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted a restaurant review. It’s not that we haven’t been going out (not the case at all) but I’ve been relatively uninspired, not by the restaurants or meals, just kind of an overall humdrum feeling. Night falls far too early and the days seem to be full of grey, mostly. On the plus side, it hasn’t snowed…yet. Most of the leaves have plummeted to earth and the birds and squirrels are running around frantically looking for food. The bird feeder needs refilling almost every two days; those little sparrows eat quite a bit! Speaking of eating…

Last spring I purchased a couple of Groupons for Sushi Thai on Bloor, a restaurant in our hood so that my Hungarian relatives could experience Thai food. We’ve been to Sushi Thai several times but I wanted to get as many plates for them as possible to vary their experience, hence the Groupon. What I completely forgot was that you can only use ONE Groupon per table and we weren’t going to sit at separate tables, so I had an extra Groupon left over for a lunch JT and I had recently.

I’m always surprised that this little place isn’t busier, the décor is contemporary Asian with some tasteful Thai embellishments; it has flattering lighting and the service is good with authentic Japanese staff with a reasonable command of English. The Sushi is fresh, delicious and often creatively prepared (piped mayo, toasted sesame or rice puffs etc. and decoratively laid out on a white plate). Both Thai and Japanese foods are also very good. Complimentary tea is not offered.

A delicious bowl of soup and salad.

A delicious bowl of soup and salad.

We both ordered the lunch specials ($11 each) that came with a small bowl of miso soup and a typical Japanese-style salad made with iceberg lettuce, a few shavings of carrot and beet, thinly sliced cucumber and radish and a slice of tomato dressed with a thousand island-style vinaigrette (it has been my experience that almost all the Japanese restaurants in Toronto make a salad like this, some better than others). The miso was warm, with lots of dashi and small cubes of soft tofu garnished with green onion. Some misos can be salty but this one was not. We both commented that it could have been warmer, of course, the day was one of the first of the colder days so we were still stinging!

Sushi

Just the perfect amount for lunch.

I ordered the Sushi plate which came with 11 pieces of tasty sushi. There were 3 salmon rolls, 3 tuna rolls, and 5 pieces of Nigiri: Tuna, Hamachi, Salmon, Shrimp and Surimi. I could do without the Surimi but it seems to be prevalent on the more budget conscious restaurants. The fish was fresh with a lovely soft texture and the wasabi was pungent!

A decent lunch portion.

A decent lunch portion.

JT ordered the Chicken Teriyaki which came with a good amount of thigh meat in a light teriyaki sauce and a reasonably large mound of rice and a few broccoli florets, all garnished with some white sesame seeds. The chicken was tender and all of the fat had been properly trimmed off (you’d be surprised at how much fat and grissel JT leaves in some places). All in all we both really enjoyed our choice. We did not have dessert.

Overall rating of Sushi and Thai (in my opinion): Decor 3.5/5, service 3.5/5, food 4/5, Value 4/5, Noise: 5/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet).

Disclaimer: We purchased our meals for full price and my opinions just that, my opinions.

Sushi Thai on Bloor

2279 Bloor St W
Toronto, ON
M6S 1P1

Tel: 647-347-6826

Monday to Thursday 11:30 am-10:00 pm

 

CreamedLentilSoup_First
Lunch in my new freelance reality is often something simple like cauliflower florets with a homemade bean dip but these last few weeks have made me crave soup like nothing else. Often I have something frozen that I can thaw on the range or in the microwave at a moment’s notice but because I had a head cold, I totally exhausted my stash. No canned soups here, homemade is way too easy!

We always have a pantry-full of dried beans and pulses, but as usual, I forgot to soak my beans so I used the next best thing and what I’d consider “instant” — the old standby, red lentil (they are Australian! Who knew?) The red lentil cooks up quickly and has a mild earthy flavour that takes to being flavoured with other vegetables and spices. I also noticed that I was very short in other ingredients so this soup was dictated by what was on hand, a few button mushrooms, onions, garlic and about 1 celery rib. JT loved it, as did I so I was very glad I had the forethought of jotting down the ingredients as I made up a batch. I netted about 600 mL which makes for a hearty meal for two but can be served as smaller portions for four as a starter. Definitely going to bookmark this one for the future, it’s a keeper!

Creamed Lentil Soup with Warm Goats Cheese & Mushroom Relish

A Kitchen Inspirations Original Recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dried red lentils
  • 1 celery rib, chopped
  • 1/2 sweet onion, chopped
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp EVOO
  • 4 cups water or vegetable stock

Directions:

  1. Heat the EVOO in a small Dutch oven, add the celery, onion and garlic, sauté until soft and onions are transluscent.
  2. Add the lentils and sauté for a moment, add the water and stir well.
  3. Cook the lentils over medium heat until soft. Transfer to a glass bowl and purée until smooth and creamy with an immersion blender. Set aside while making the warm relish.
  4. Garnish with crumbled herbed goats cheese and warm csramelized mushrooms.

Ingredients for the Warm Relish:

  • Handful of button mushrooms, cubed very small
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 1 small clove garlic
  • 2 tbsp herbed goats cheese

Directions for the Warm Relish:

  1. Melt the butter in a small cast iron frying pan, add the mushrooms and sauté until caramelized. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant. Garnish soup as indicated above.
A comforting, smooth, filling soup with some great flavours.

A comforting, creamy, filling soup with some great flavours.

Notes:

  • The herbed goats cheese was something I had on hand from another dish, it is simply softened goats cheese, finely chopped parsley, thyme and sun dried tomatoes, sea salt combined.
  • Feel free to substitute plain goats cheese, crème fraîche, sour cream or Greek yogurt.
  • I usually press a soup like this through a fine sieve but did not feel it necessary this time, it was super creamy and smooth.
  • I would have loved to garnish with some finely chopped fresh herbs but sadly my herb garden was put to rest a few weeks ago.

Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 3.51.27 PM

Based on 4 servings, without mushroom & goats cheese relish.

Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 3.52.48 PM

Based on 4 servings, without mushroom & goats cheese relish.

Sourdough_First

I was over the top when Celia from Fig Jam and Lime Cordial offered to send me a piece of Priscilla her sourdough starter. I was worried too…what if Canada Customs opens the small envelope to discover some weird flaky powder? Would I be arrested? Would it be confiscated? Yes, I was wringing my hands with worry for the entire 12 days poor old Bob travelled to us. 12 days for almost 16,000 kilometres! That’s amazing, isn’t it? It often takes Canada Post 12 days to get mail to me from downtown Toronto, a mere 9 km away! But that’s a whole other rant. 😉

This is Bob's chariot, carrying him 16,000 km.

This is Bob’s chariot, carrying him 16,000 km.

Yes, we named him Bob because we thought it was funny, Bob the starter! Good old Bob came back to life quite nicely and quickly, just as the lovely Celia’s instructions said he would. I chose a King Arthur Sourdough Bread Recipe because I was unable to find 00 bread flour so I needed an All Purpose Flour Recipe. Bob made a very nice first loaf and the remainder of Bob was dried and put into an airtight jar for safekeeping. I’m hoping Bob will provide many loaves for us in the future.

ItsAlive

Meet Bob, he’s ALIVE!

Now I have to come clean, I wasn’t feeling the greatest when I made this recipe, in fact it was my first time out of bed over the last two days (weekend days, no less; nothing serious, just a silly head cold, but they always get me in my sinuses and therefore affects my train of thought). For some reason, I completely skipped over the instant yeast, didn’t even see it! Can you believe it? I usually forget the salt!!!! Don’t you just hate it when that happens? I wondered if something was amiss when the bread didn’t rise as much as I thought it should…but I persevered and son of Bob went into the oven in a dutch oven (hedging my bets) and baked as per directions. Not bad for the mistake and first try. Thank you Celia, I am so grateful you sent me the son of Priscilla!

SonofBobBread

Bob the starter makes a nice, chewy, slightly tangy bread. Bob’s definitely a keeper, thank you Celia

King Arthur Sourdough Bread with a special starter from Australia

Makes 1 very large boulle

Ingredients:

  • 227 g “fed” sourdough starter
  • 340 g cups lukewarm water
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast (don’t forget this step, nudge nudge, wink wink)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 602 g Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

Directions:

  1. Combine all of the ingredients (including the instant yeast) and knead until you get a relatively smooth but loose dough.
  2. Place in a lightly greased bowl and allow to rise several hours (or until double in size). I did a few risings for obvious reasons! Shape the dough into a smooth boule.
  3. Slightly warm a cast iron dutch oven (make sure the handle can take the heat) and dust with fine cornmeal. Allow the boule to rise in the dutch oven for one hour.
  4. Pre heat the oven to 425° F (218° C). Bake the boule with the lid on for approximately 30-35 minutes, remove the top and bake a further 5-8 minutes or until the boule is golden in colour (internal temperature should be about 190° F (88° C).

Notes:

  • Sourdough bread dough is much looser than normal bread dough so expect a shaggy result after the first kneading.
  • We don’t eat that much bread (to keep the tonnage in check) so I didn’t think I would use Bob quickly, therefore I decided to dry Bob out in the oven with only the light on. He will wait for us whenever we need him in an air-tight container in a dark spot in my pantry.
  • I’ve read recipes on-line where they add butter to the dough but most implied it’s not for amateurs so I will try it next time (hopefully I don’t forget the yeast next time!).
  • Sadly, Bob came to an unfortunate end this morning when someone turned on the oven while Bob was drying out in it. RIP Bob.

Coconut Pumpkin Soup

CoconutPumpkinSoup_first

Sorry guys, I’m a day late with this post…it’s been a little busy!

It’s definitely fall up here in the big smoke; the weather went from 25°-30° C (77°-86° F) to 5°-10° C (41°-50° F). That’s chilly. Mind you, it would help if I started wearing socks in my shoes, I just can’t bear that claustrophobic feeling my tootsies get all confined in socks/shoes/boots. How about you, do you dread confining your dogs in socks and shoes?

This soup came about because I bought a couple of smallish pie pumpkins for social media; I actually carved a client’s logo into one of the pumpkins! It turned out really well and I had an entire pie pumpkin left over. Then I got two more social media clients (bittersweet, story to come) who sells Caribbean food and sauces so I was dying to try their organic coconut milk! I checked my dear friend Lorraine’s blog for an easy pumpkin roasting technique and a delicious starter was born for thanksgiving dinner. This soup would be lovely with butternut squash if pumpkins aren’t in season. I suggest smallish portions (125 mL or 1/2 c) because it’s quite rich.

Coconut Pumpkin Soup

Makes about 875 mL (3.5 cups) depending on how thick you wish to have it.

Ingredients:

  • 1 small pumpkin, oven roasted
  • 1/2 onion, oven roasted
  • 2 cloves garlic, oven roasted
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 3/4 c coconut milk
  • 1/2 banana
  • 1/2 tsp curry powder
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • Pinch of nutmeg

Directions:

  1. Pre heat oven to 350° F (177° C). Prepare pumpkin as Lorraine does in this post. Lightly coat onions and garlic with the coconut oil. Roast until soft.
  2. When Pumpkin is cooked through, onions and garlic are soft, add pumpkin flesh, onions and garlic to a blender contain with the vegetable stock, coconut milk, banana, curry powder, ginger and a pinch of nutmeg. Pulse blender until completely smooth. Set aside.
  3. Minutes prior to serving, re heat soup and pulse in blender once more to ‘lighten’. Serve immediately.
CoconutPumpkinSoup_7011

The banana adds a very subtle flavour, try not to overdo it as it will overpower the soup.

Notes:

  • Sadly cottage season is over and we’ve closed it down.
  • The banana is an interesting undertone, omit if you don’t care for bananas.
  • To have a lighter soup, don’t use full fat coconut milk or reduce the amount and replace the difference with skim milk.
  • A seared scallop would be a wonderful garnish in this decadent soup.

garbonzo flour twigs,

Happy Thanksgiving to all my Canadian readers!

I am my Mother’s daughter; case in point, Mom was famous for bringing unusual food items into our home. Often we would stand around whatever ‘it’ was wondering what on earth we were expected to do with ‘it’, definitely not eat it! But yes, we were obliged to try it and sometimes it worked out very well (kiwi in the early 70’s (see notes) for example became a fast favourite and sometimes it did not. Lychee fruit for example, or what we sarcastically named “Eyeball Fruit” did not have a happy ending. Mom was pretty sure you could eat this raw, right out of the peel but we made her try it first anyway. She didn’t die immediately and wasn’t offended by it but my brother and I (under 10) were skeptical and hesitant to try it. We did eventually try it but it wasn’t a favourite — although we had some good giggles with the name, Eyeball Fruit.

JT and I were out grocery shopping and I came across Chickpea Flour Twigs and true to form, I grabbed a pack and tossed it into the cart. By now (almost 30 years) JT has learned not to question, just accept it — more often than not, it will become something tasty for him, anyway. Upon my return to the house I did a little investigating and discovered that this unusual treat is a snack food; to be honest, I wouldn’t know how to eat it…it’s so tiny and crumbly (if any of my readers know how to eat this, please let me know in the comments). But it reminded me of an elusive Greek dough called kataifi (shredded Phyllo dough which I haven’t been able to find) so I thought breading shrimp with it would work out well. Also I got a new social media client and they dropped off a bunch of their product so I decided to use coconut flour in the breading instead of all purpose flour. It worked out very well. It turns out that the Chickpea Flour Twigs are deep fried so they are quite rich and rolling the shrimp in them made a nice crunchy textured batter with a mild chickpea flavour.

Shrimp Bundled in Chickpea Flour Twigs

A Kitchen Inspirations Original Recipe.

Makes 8 shrimp bundles

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 1 egg whisked with a splash of water
  • about 1/2 cup of chickpea flour twigs
  • 8 shrimp, tails off, cleaned
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Pre heat an oven to 375°F and line a baking pan with a silicon mat.
  2. To three separate bowls, add the coconut flour, the egg whisked with water and the chickpea flour twigs.
  3. Lightly dredge the shrimp in the coconut flour and then soak in the egg wash, back to the coconut flour an again in the egg wash. Now roll lightly in the chickpea twigs. Lay onto the silicon mat. Repeat until the shrimp are all bundled nicely in the chickpea twigs.
  4. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the twigs are even more golden and the shrimp is cooked through.
  5. Serve with a tamarind dipping sauce (I combined store bought tamarind sauce with rice vinegar, green onions and chopped cilantro).
A tasty treat for cocktails.

A tasty treat for cocktails. Who drank my cocktail?

 

Notes

  • I usually repeat the flour dredging and the egg wash because it makes a nice crispy batter, particularly when baking in the oven instead of frying.
  • Toronto in the 70’s (I can only attest to this point forward) was fairly mungie-cake; exotic meant spaghetti and meatballs for most. Chinese takeout was pretty much the only asian food out there, fortunately, we have evolved and we can source any ethnic food on any day of the week and it’s likely to be quite authentic.
  • To be entirely honest, I don’t think I’ll make these again, the nutritional content of the chickpea twigs is not in my healthy realm but it was a fun treat.

Plum Butter

PlumButter_First

Small Italian plums would have been perfect for those delicious Plum Dumplings my cousin and I made in June, sadly they were not around then. When I spied them at my green grocer a week or so ago, I knew I couldn’t resist so I picked up a small container knowing full well they would be converted to something delicious. While Plum Dumplings are a great childhood memory, they are not the type of thing we eat on a regular basis so I decided on Plum Butter, another thick jam made without the use of pectin. Making jam or Lekvár is so easy, I’m astonished that I hadn’t done it more often in the past; perhaps it was the fear of making more than we could consume! Well, fear not my dear readers because this recipe makes a few small jars so we’ll be in great shape over the cold winter months.

plum butter, plum jam, szilvas lelvár

We enjoyed the delicious plum butter on homemade bread!

Plum Butter

Makes 370 mL thick jam

Ingredients:

  • 630 g plums (a small container)
  • 255 g sugar
  • 60 mL water
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Cut plums in half and remove stone. Put plums into a heavy bottom pan and add water and sugar. Set over medium heat and cook until softened.
  2. Add cinnamon and cook for 30-40 minutes until thickened, testing often with the freezer method.
  3. Once the butter has thickened, pour into sterilized mason jars and follow canning best practice instructions.

Notes:

  • I left the peel in for texture, you may run the mixture through a fine sieve if you prefer no peel.
  • The plums cook down to a very creamy texture so there is no need to purée or press through a food mill, unless you wish to.
plum jam, plum butter, szilvás lekvár

It’s far too chilly to enjoy the plum butter outside now!

Peach Butter

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.

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).

Paella Bake

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.

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!

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

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