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Posts Tagged ‘Italian’

It’s been brutally hot in Toronto. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining, because -20° C with windchill will be here soon enough, so I look for cooling and comforting dishes to help manage the heat. We’ve been entertaining a lot but only outside. Most of our friends are uncomfortable about being indoors at the moment (as am I) and then you layer having to wear masks on top of the anxiety of being indoors and it’s no longer fun. But outside is much easier to transition to (from Zoom) so, we’ve been entertaining outside a lot. At the time of writing this post (July 21) Toronto was only in stage 2 of opening and looking at the poor example some of our cousins in the south have set, our government is being extremely conservative in getting back to “normal”. So we are entertaining a lot, outside. (Repetition was intentional 🤪)

This delicious gelato recipe was created for dessert for dear friends, served in homemade waffle cones, which didn’t turn out as successfully as I had hoped so they are not being blogged about! I had asked JT what flavour of gelato he wanted and he immediately said Pistachio, oh good, not too difficult, right? I decided on David Lebovitz’s recipe with a few minor alterations. The result was exceptional. I was not able to find his preferred pistachio paste in the timeframe I needed it so I improvised and made my own. I had not made a gelato using cornstarch as a thickener before but I must say, it did work out very well. I added the skim milk powder to make it even creamier and it did not disappoint. Skim milk powder absorbs excess water and gives the gelato a creamier flavour.

Fortunately, my pistachios were a lovely green so I didn’t need to add any food colouring. It’s all-natural!

Super creamy and full of pistachio flavour.

Pistachio Gelato

Makes about 750 mL gelato

For the original recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 250 mL 2% milk
  • 250 mL 35% cream
  • 65 g sugar
  • 16 g cornstarch
  • 10 g skim milk powder
  • ~200 g pistachio butter (see Notes)
  • a few drops of orange extract

Directions:

  1. Begin by mixing the milk and cream together. Reserve 65 mL of the milk mixture and make a slurry with the cornstarch, mixing until the starch is dissolved and the mixture is smooth.
  2. Combine remainder of the milk in a medium-sized saucepan with the sugar and the milk powder and heat slowly until it almost comes to a boil making sure the sugar and milk powder have completely dissolved.
  3. Stir in the cornstarch slurry and continue to cook on medium-low heat for 3 minutes, stirring continuously until thickened.
  4. Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the cream to a bowl to chill overnight in the refrigerator.
  5. The day you wish to make the gelato, beat in the pistachio butter and a few drops of the orange extract.
  6. Freeze the gelato according to directions on your ice cream maker.

Notes:

  1. David Lebovitz suggests using Bronte Crema di Pistacchio which is made in Sicily. I was not able to source it so I made my own pistachio butter with 200 g of shelled pistachios with small amounts of water, a small dash of lemon juice and a pinch of salt, puréed until smooth using my Magic Bullet. You will need to scrape down the sides many times through the process.
  2. Next time I make this recipe, I will lightly toast the pistachios.

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We rented a different house this year in Arizona and the kitchen was much better equipped so I had a lot more fun with it. Needless to say, we entertained a lot; three sets of friends came down from Toronto and of course, our two sets of friends in Encantarra were repeated guests. I’m guessing I was the first one to give the kitchen a good workout, even the BBQ had not been used in the two years the house had been rented!

I made this cake the first week we were in Arizona. I found the recipe in a very outdated Phoenix magazine. The recipe was created by a 14-year-old boy. I loved the use of olive oil in it, plus I just adore orange cake. I modified the recipe a bit so that it better reminded me of a cake my dear Mom used to make.

Orange Olive Oil Cake

This recipe originated in the Phoenix magazine, May 2015 but I couldn’t find it online. I’ve converted it to metric and made some alterations.

Makes one 23 cm cake

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 155 g sugar, divided
  • 80 mL EVOO
  • 5 mL vanilla
  • Zest of 2 oranges
  • Juice of 2 oranges, divided
  • 150 g all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 50 mL Grand Marnier
  • Icing sugar for dusting

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F
  2. Spray a 23 cm pan with non-stick spray
  3. Combine the eggs and 135 g sugar and beat until light, fluffy and smooth.
  4. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil and vanilla.
  5. Add all of the zest and 45 mL of the freshly squeezed orange juice and beat until well combined.
  6. In a separate bowl combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and mix well.
  7. Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture and beat only until combined.
  8. Pour into the prepared 23 cm pan and bake for 25-30 minutes or until toothpick tests clean. Allow to cool.
  9. Meanwhile, combine the remaining juice and sugar and bring to a boil until the sugar has melted into the juice. Cool and add the Grand Marnier.
  10. Turn out the cooled cake onto a decorative plate and slowly spoon the orange juice mixture onto the cake allowing it to be absorbed.
  11. Decorate with icing sugar.

This is a highly flavoured and scented cake that is kept moist by a delicious orangy syrup.

Would you care for a slice?

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Our dear friends gave me a beautiful cookbook from their last cruise, it is a celebration of courses through the journies of their fleet: Culinary Courses Journeys. Although most of the recipes are quite fancy, the book is amazing inspiration and a week doesn’t go by that I don’t check it for reference!

It was such an occasion that I was leafing through the book that I found a gorgeous representation of a Minestrone Soup and I knew I had to make it for dinner. And then I realized that I did not have a Minestrone on the blog. Gads!

The soup is packed with fresh vegetables in a light tomato and basil scented broth. The protein is navy bean to keep it healthy. You could add a parmesan rind or two to the broth while cooking.

The tuile melts into the soup for a beautiful flavour and textural addition.

Rustic Vegetable Minestrone

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 1.5 L (6.25 cups) soup.

Please click here to print this recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp EVOO
  • 125 g (~1 cup) sweet onion, diced
  • 10 g (2 – 3 cloves) garlic, finely minced
  • 150 g (~1 cup) zucchini, diced
  • 115 g (~1 cup) celery, diced
  • 120 g (~1 cup) red pepper, diced
  • 75 g (~1 cup) king mushrooms, diced
  • 140 mL (4 oz) puréed tomatoes, juice or sauce
  • 15 mL (1 tbsp) tomato paste
  • 350 mL (1 2/3 cups) chicken stock
  • 2 stems of basil
  • 4 stems of lemon thyme
  • 100 g (1/2 cup) dried beans
  • 35 g (~1 cup) baby spinach
  • 5-8 fresh basil leaves, roughly torn

Directions:

  1. Cook the dried beans according to directions.
  2. Heat Olive Oil in a large pot and sauté onions until translucent, you may need to add a little stock or water. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant.
  3. Add all of the vegetables and cook for about 10-15 minutes.
  4. Combine the puréed tomatoes, tomato paste, and chicken stock. Pour over the vegetables and add the basil and thyme stems and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove stems.
  5. Add the cooked beans and baby spinach, stir and heat through.
  6. Serve garnished with a Parmesan tuile (recipe below) and roughly torn basil leaves.

Basil Cheese Tuile

Makes 1 tuile

Ingredients:

  • 7 g (1/4 oz) hard fatty cheese (like Parmesan or Cheddar), finely grated
  • 1 large basil leaf, chiffonade
  • pinch of granulated garlic

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven on high broil.
  2. Mix cheese, basil and granulated garlic well.
  3. On a parchment lined baking sheet, shape the tuile as desired (I made a tear drop).
  4. Broil until evenly browned (mine took about 4 minutes but it depends on how thick you make your tuile); to prevent burning, you may need to cover part of it with bits of parchment as it bakes.

Notes:

  • I like a little crunch left in my vegetables, so I generally under cook rather than over cook.
  • If you make this in advance, keep the beans separately so they don’t turn to mush.
  • I used Ivanhoe Horseradish Cheddar because I thought it would be a nice zing to the soup.
  • Make as many tuile as you need, just multiply the ingredients by the servings required.

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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.

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Arancicu_first

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

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

Arancini_2999

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

Arancini di Riso (Rice Balls)

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

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

Arancini_3000

The cheese melts on the inside and becomes deliciously gooey!

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

HappyHourLake

We might have had a few of these!


Paddleboating

Paddleboating on a very warm day.


Fishermen

Our lake apparently has good fishing.


TheFirstFigs_1

Figgy finally made us a couple of figs.


TheFirstFigs

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

 

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This winter we had a lot of snow. And by a lot, I’m talking over a metre (yard) high piled up on our front yard. It’s been really crazy. I’ve talked about our wonderful neighbours before and I just have to say something again. It snowed about 10cm (4 inches) overnight and by the time we had gotten up the next morning, our wonderful neighbour John had shoveled our sidewalk, all 59 feet of it and even some of our other neighbour’s sidewalk too! Isn’t that nice? As a thank you I made a batch of biscotti, a little different than this version I made last year to give them after all, I wouldn’t want to discourage such neighborly behavior!

Almond, Cranberry and Orange Biscotti

Makes about 4 dozen little cookies

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups unbleached AP Flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 3/4 cup toasted almonds
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 2 tbsp orange zest
  • 1 lightly beaten egg white
  • Plus a small amount of dark chocolate, melted with a little butter (just enough to drizzle).

    Directions:

    1. Preheat the oven to 350°F or 180°C.
    2. Toast the whole almonds on a baking sheet for 10-12 minutes. Cool completely.
    3. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, orange zest and nuts in a medium-sized bowl.
    4. In another bowl, whisk the eggs together with the sugar, melted butter, vanilla extract and almond extract ; stir the wet ingredients into the flour/nut mixture and combine until a sticky dough forms.
    5. Transfer to a floured surface and form the dough into two narrow logs about 30 cm or 12 inches long.
    6. Place the logs onto an ungreased baking sheet and brush with the beaten egg whites.
    7. Bake for about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for about 6 minutes and then slice into 1 cm or 0.5 inch thick diagonal slices. Return slices to the cookie sheet and bake again for about 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool.

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    Happy New Year! Are you doing anything special? JT and I usually go out to our favourite French restaurant but this year we’re having good friends come over — we’ll be snacking tapas-style all evening. I’m really looking forward to our intimate New Year this year.

    Although I didn’t make this soup for New Years Eve, I did make it several weeks ago when I needed to use up some kale and wanted a hearty and satisfying lunch. I adore soup, in fact I often say that I love it so much, Soup could be my middle name. JT is not as fond of soup as I am but he still eats without griping too much. My dear friend Kelly (Inspired Edibles) made a gorgeous and colourful version here and although I am posting it a few weeks after her recipe went live, I actually made it last month. The  Original recipe is from Gourmet, 2003, and contained chestnuts but I wanted to keep my version is little lighter in calories so I omitted the chestnuts, but I would encourage you to add them, they would definitely take this warming soup to the next level.

    KaleNavyBeanSoup_1315

    The kale retains its texture and the beans are creamy in contrast

    Kale and Navy Bean Soup

    Serves 4

    Ingredients:

    • 1/2 pound dried white beans such as cannellini, Great Northern, or navy (about 1 1/4 cups), picked over and rinsed
    • 1/4 pound thinly sliced pancetta, chopped
    • 1 large onion, chopped
    • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
    • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    • 3 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth (28 fluid ounces)
    • 2 cups water
    • 1 piece Parmigiano-Reggiano rind (roughly 3 by 2 by 1/2 inch)
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
    • 1/2 pound cavolo nero or regular green kale, stems and centre ribs discarded and leaves cut into bite-sized pieces
    • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
    • Optional Garnish: Parmigiano-Reggiano shavings

    Directions:

    1. Soak beans overnight by covering them in about two inches of water. Or you can cook the beans relatively quickly in a pressure cooker or make this soup in a slow cooker. Drain well.
    2. Sauté onion and garlic in a pinch of oil large heavy pot over moderate heat. Add the kale and sauté for 5 additional minutes. Add the beans, broth, water, cheese rind, salt and pepper and simmer uncovered, until beans are tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour (or in a slow cooker on high for 4 hours). Discard or eat the cheese rind.
    KaleNavyBeanSoup_1314

    A deliciously warming soup

    Tip:

    I usually keep all my parmesan rinds in a zip lock bag in the freezer and use them in various stews and soups because they add so much flavour. I always eat them and never discard them as the instructions indicate, they are really very tasty and I know my friend Sissi (With a Glass) would adore the texture.

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    Hello everyone! I am so sorry I was not able to post last week but I was booked the entire week for food styling assisting! I can’t believe it has taken off so well; of course, I take nothing for granted and keep pounding the pavement for my next job. Many of you have been interested in what this new position for me entails, well let me tell you. I met with the food stylist on Monday morning and we went over the recipes and shopping list. Of course, being the type of person I am, I had asked him to send me the list the week before because I wanted to prepare myself and practice if need be. Well, there was a need, BIG TIME! Of all the things to be prepping that week was CANDY! Now I’ve had some experience with candy making, but few and far between. I know some of the basic rules but I haven’t made a lot of candy. But the prepping wasn’t all of it, there was shopping to be done.

    I had touched on shopping in a previous post so I’ll keep it brief this time; it’s gruelling. It’s about buying the most beautiful fruit/vegetable when it isn’t even in season! Next time you’re at the market, take a look at off season fruits/vegetables, the pickings are slim and what’s there isn’t even pretty. So it’s dragging your butt all over the city to buy the perfect beet is exhausting. But I do love grocery stores, so it’s not as bad as it sounds.

    The shoot last week was on location, which for this particular situation meant it was at a home. Sounds like fun? Think again. The downtown home is chosen for the shot, and nothing else, particularly not the kitchen. Small, unknown (appliances); it’s a challenge. And then there was the parking issue — there was NO parking, hence the $30 ticket kindly left on my windshield by some thoughtful parking police person (thank you by the way)! But it went well and we’ll all see the results next year.

    I also wanted to thank you for your kind wishes and your encouragement, it’s not easy starting out something new, but to do it at my age is even scarier; your encouragement and kind words have been paramount in my confidence and I can’t thank you enough. I would also like to thank you for not ostracizing me for failing to comment recently, I’ve been swamped and I’m just trying to get my balance back. I’m reading your blogs, I just haven’t been able to comment on my phone (usually reading in the middle of the night!), so I thank you.

    Now back to the usual programming…

    We were finally able to get into Gusto, a very popular restaurant on Portland in Toronto, but just. We decided that waiting in line for dinner was not our bag so we thought lunch might be more forgiving. We scored the last table on a recent visit with my niece (a newly graduated lawyer) and her botanist beau! You may recall that I got a bit ahead of myself and made their famous Kale Salad site unseen or palate tested! It turned out that I had it pretty close but their version was a tad sweeter — I have modified my recipe.

    The restaurant itself is a very cool, contemporary warehouse design. Lots of super hard surfaces makes it very noisy and I suspect I wouldn’t like it as well at night because it was reasonably noisy at brunch when there isn’t as much boozing. Our server was friendly and attentive without being over bearing and was knowledgeable about the food. The courses were brought out with reasonable timing which made it an event instead of a rushed meal that some places offer. There was absolutely no attempt to rush us from our table and the place was packed.

    I was happy to sees that the salad was served in a similar Christmas tree shape that I served our's in as so many of you commented. :-)

    I was happy to see that the salad was served in a similar Christmas tree shape that I served our’s in as so many of you commented. 🙂

    I thought I had taken photos of the other dishes we all ordered, but sadly they are no where to be found so I shall review only the Kale Salad which we ordered for the table and the Popilo which was my lunch dish.

    The Kavolo Nero ($13.95)  was macerated with lemon juice and honey decorated with toasted pine nuts (the short Italian kind), Pecorino cheese and currents. Since I’ve tasted the real thing I have increased the honey a touch in my recipe and have switched up the currents for either dried cranberries or dried sour cherries. Parmesan can also be substituted for the Pecornino.

    GustoPolipo_1175

    Tender Grilled Octapus

    The Polipo ($14.50) was a char-grilled octopus with an olive tapinade and a celery root cream with baby zucchini, chorizo all harmonized with a delightful sherry smoked paprika vinaigrette. It was wonderful and my mouth is still watering as I type this review. It was a decent portion as were all the other dishes at our table.

    Overall rating of Gusto 101 (in my opinion): Decor 3.5/5, service 4/5, food 4/5, Value 4/5, Noise: 1.75/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet).

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

    Gusto 101

    101 Portland Street, Toronto
    eat@gusto101.com
    General inquiries: 416-504-9669

    Mon: 11:30 am – 10:00 pm
    Tue: 11:30 am – 11:00 pm
    Wed: 11:30 am – 11:00 pm
    Thu: 11:30 am – 1:00 am
    Fri: 11:30 am – 1:00 am
    Sat: 11:00 am – 1:00 am
    Sun: 11:00 am – 10:00 pm

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    As we are approaching the end of autumn and the beginning of a long cold winter, I am once again excited about… Halloween! Last year I started telling you about some spooky stories all true, and now I’m going to continue this tradition. Buckle your seat belts ladies and gents.
    JT and I bought our first house north and east of Toronto in a small bedroom community called Stouffville. It was an old farming community from the 1800’s that the city planners linked to Toronto via the GO Train (Government of Ontario Train). The small city was limited only by the fact that it wasn’t on either main water or sewage; our little city’s water was from an arteasesn well. Being limited by the water made Stouffville even more desirable because it constrained mass building which was happening in droves in similar bedroom communities (we used to call it ‘the sea of houses’ because they went on and on). Our subdivision was the last of its kind until Stouffville joined up to city water and sewage in the mid-2000’s, which made it the fastest growing community north of Toronto. But we were gone long before that.
    Although the house was brand new, it always gave me the willies! I only ever spent one night by myself in that house, I would go spend the night with my Mom or in laws when JT travelled. There were creepy noises, creeks and cracks. But the weirdest thing that happened even made skeptic JT agree that the house was strange.
    One evening after dinner I was baking in our little kitchen, JT was watching television in the adjacent family room. I was turned away from the doorway and as I turned to put something in the sink out of the corner of my eye, I saw someone poke their head into the kitchen, they were wearing red. I just figured it was JT seeing if there were any samples to be had. But then a few moments later JT actually came into the kitchen and asked me what I wanted. I said I was just about to ask him the same thing. He said he thought I just poked my head into the family room, he thought I was wearing red too! Except neither of us had red on. Super freaked out, we checked all the doors and windows and they were locked tight. Then we checked all the rooms and closets. We found nothing.
    Even though I wasn’t baking biscotti that night, I think JT and our mystery guest would have enjoyed a few tasters from this recipe.

    ChocAlmondBiscotti_0978

    There is something so civilized about eating a little biscotti with an afternoon espresso, don’t you think?

     

    Chocolate Almond Biscotti

    Makes 2 logs, about 48 biscotti

    Original recipe from Food Network

    I was drawn to this recipe because it doesn’t have melted butter in it. Not having butter actually makes this cookie very hard and I would recommend not biting down on it unless you have dipped it into something warm.

    Ingredients:

    • 2 c flour
    • 1 c sugar
    • 1/3 c cocoa powder
    • 1 tbsp espresso powder
    • 1 tsp baking soda
    • 1/4 tsp salt
    • 2 eggs
    • 2 egg whites
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • 2/3 c whole almonds, toasted skin on
    • 1/3 c chocolate chips
    • 1 egg white for brushing

    Directions:

    1. Combine flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt in a stand mixer with paddle attachment.
    2. Mix together eggs, egg whites and vanilla extract.
    3. Gradually add egg mixture to flour mixture blending on low speed.
    4. Toss almonds with chocolate chips and fold into the flour mixture until combined.
    5. On a well floured surface roll dough into 2 logs, 2 inches in diameter. They will expand quite a bit.
    6. Place on a greased pan and brush with beaten egg white.
    7. Bake at 350 degrees until light golden brown, about 30-35 minutes.
    8. Allow logs to cool 15 minutes then cut into slices on the bias. Place slices on a greased sheet pan and bake in a 350 degree oven until toasted, about 15-20 minutes. Cool. Store in an airtight container.
    ChocAlmondBiscotti_0976

    Delicate flavours of the almond are accentuated by the rich, creamy chocolate. Isn’t that crema gorgeous?

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    We always really luck out with our neighbours. Our first house was in a new, bedroom community north of Toronto and JT and I bought the smallest house snuggled in between two of the larger models in the subdivision. The neighbours to the west of us built our shared fence and didn’t even ask us for a penny for it; we built our fence to the east of us with the neighbour over a weekend culminating with a great big shared BBQ. When we moved back to the city, our northern neighbours held a BBQ for us and invited the entire street so that we could meet everyone; it was wonderful. We shared a driveway with these people and more often than not, when I couldn’t find JT (who should have been doing chores), he was sitting on the neighbour’s back porch having a beer with the neighbour.
    When both our careers moved to the west side of Toronto, we made our third move; there were no parties or BBQs this time around, but there was always Biscotti! Our lovely neighbours on our north side made us delicious biscotti every Christmas. When I started living in our new reality, coffee breaks from the gruelling job search became imperative and I couldn’t help but crave ‘a little something’ with my java and that’s when I remembered our sweet neighbour’s almond biscotti. I’d never made biscotti before so it not only satisfied a craving but it also became a blog post! What more can I ask for?

    Original recipe from Eyetalian Magazine.

    Almond Biscotti (Biscotti Albani)

    Makes about 2 dozen

    Ingredients:

    • 2 c unbleached All Purpose Flour
    • 2 tsp baking powder
    • pinch of salt
    • 3/4  c  almonds
    • 2 eggs
    • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
    • 1/3 but melted butter
    • 2 tsp vanilla extract
    • 1 tsp almond extract
    • 1 1/2 tsp lemon zest
    • 1 lightly beaten egg white

    Directions:

    1. Preheat the oven to 350°F or 180°C.
    2. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, lemon zest and nuts in a medium-sized bowl.
    3. In another bowl, whisk the eggs together with the sugar, melted butter, vanilla extract and almond extract ; stir the wet ingredients into the flour/nut mixture and combine until a sticky dough forms.
    4. Transfer to a floured surface and form the dough into two logs about 30 cm or 12 inches long (as the dough bakes, it will increase in size, so unlike what I did, I would make the logs much thinner next time).
    5. Place the logs onto an ungreased baking sheet and brush with the beaten egg whites.
    6. Bake for about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for about 6 minutes and then slice into 1 cm or 0.5 inch thick diagonal slices. Return slices to the cookie sheet and bake again for about 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool.
    7. Serve with a beautiful espresso.
    Biscotti_IMG_0950

    We’ve had a hankering for biscotti these coolish days

    Biscotti_IMG_0948

    A perfect snack when dipped into the aromatic, creamy espresso

    Biscotti_IMG_0947

    Oh go ahead and take one please, I insist!

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    We’ve been craving delicious thin crust wood oven pizza since our return from DC. I don’t eat pizza often so when I do, I really want it to be AWESOME! Terroni is a small, family owned Italian Trattoria ‘chain’ with three restaurants in Toronto and one in LA. Their claim to fame is their overbearing motto that allows for no substitutions, so if you want anchovies with that and it’s not on the menu, they’ll refuse to serve it to you. Period. Now you have to admire the guts to do that. Not withstanding, they are enormously successful; one of their places(Queen Street West) in Toronto won’t even take reservations, so if you want to dine there, go stand in line at 5pm and you’ll get a table at 6!

    Terroni Grilled Calamari_0211

    Perfectly grilled and tastefully seasoned

    The location JT and I recently dined at is central, right down town in old Toronto’s Courthouse, a beautifully renovated old brick building. The washrooms are in the basement located in the old holding cells. I would have taken a photo but it was disgustingly filthy (yes, I mentioned it to them, apparently a number of women had just stormed through).

    We arrived a few minutes late due to traffic and we had to wait a minute or two for our table; we were seated in an outdoor space converted to an interior covered courtyard. I’m glad we were seated in this smaller room (~50 people) because it was noisy enough, the main areas it would have been brutal. They don’t rush you per-say, but it’s not a lingering meal (just as well, as I found it to noisy to talk).

    We decided to share a pizza but have our own appetizers; I had the Grilled Calamari and JT had the Salad Nizzarda. The Calamari alla Griglia ($15.95) was a generous serving of grilled calamari, mixed greens, fresh tomatoes with a very nice balsamic dressing — the tomatoes had a lovely tomato flavour. By contrast, the Nizzarda ($12.50) which is like a salad Niçoisse, was a scant serving of Italian tuna, on a bed of arugula, potatoes, eggs, red onion, tomatoes, olives with pits, green beans and anchovies (JT gave me his anchovies, I hope we weren’t caught!).

    Terroni Puzza Pizza_0215

    The lighting was very dark by the time we ordered the pizza, so I photographed the leftovers at home the next day. Boy was it tasty!

    We shared the Puzza Pizza ($17.95) which was a white pizza with mozzarella, italian mascarpone, gorgonzola, mushrooms, Italian ham, not inexpensive by any stretch of the imagination but it was well worth it. The creamy white base, slightly salty Italian ham with the tangy gorgonzola was a perfect combination. Even the next day it was outstanding. The pizza measured about 11-12″ in diametre.

    Overall rating of Terroni, Adelaide (in my opinion): Decor 4/5, service 2.5/5, food 4/5, Value 3.5/5, Noise: 2/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet).

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

    Terroni Adelaide

    57 Adelaide St E

    416 203 3093

    Mon–Wed 09:00–22:00

    Thu–Sat 09:00–23:00

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    The summer has been literally slipping through our fingers, it’s been going so quickly. And we’re busy (I guess that doesn’t help) so it’s difficult to coordinate a Saturday with friends, unless you book months in advance (we already have plans for October 27th, believe it or not!). So when I tried to get a date with our friends David and Mi Mi, we were only able to come up with a Thursday last week or a date in October other than the 27th! And we didn’t want to wait until October to see them, so we nabbed the date and penned it in. David and Mi Mi work downtown and take the Go Train to the city every day, so we wanted to pick a place that wasn’t too far from the train station so we weren’t wasting time travelling to the station and have more quality time at dinner!

    We selected Obikà Mozzarella Bar in Brookfield Place (used to be known as BCE Place, why do they keep changing the names of these buildings?). I have seen this place every time we eat at Marché (another great place to visit if you are in Toronto) and I knew I wanted to try it, particularly with my new found love affair with Burrata Cheese. Obikà flies their fresh mozzarella in TWICE a week from Italy. I kid you not. Their fresh Mozzarella balls are priced at $11 for take away, which isn’t bad considering we usually pay $9 for ordinary stuff at the supermarket! You can read about their fresh Mozzarella here, just click “Read more about our Mozzarella here”.

    The restaurant is basically in the main floor atrium of an office building. It’s a lovely space with super high ceilings and the majority of the seating is in the atrium; bottom line is that’s it’s a mall and people walk by all the time. It didn’t give me the warm and cozy feeling. But once we got into the wine, and chatting, we soon became unaware that we were basically sitting in the middle of a mall.

    We arrived a little late as I had to get ready — you know me, ladies, I can’t go downtown without the usual accoutrements (mini, heals, bling etc). We arrived by Subway at around 6:30 and David and Mi Mi had already ordered a couple of lovely sampler platters: A Tasting Plate of Three Bufala Mozzarella di Campagna ($34.00) Affumicata a smoked Bufala Mozzarella di Campagna, Classica a regular Bufala Mozzarella di Campagna and Stracciatella di Burrata which is the inside of a Burrata (this is the soft creamy part). I really didn’t care for the way they served the Stracciatella di Burrata in a bowl. My favourite, by far was the smoked Mozzarella, it was so tasty (I’m going to make my own smoked version this weekend!). They also ordered a Selezione di Salumi which was a lovely meat platter ($12.00), showcasing a Prosciutto Crudo di Parma DCP, Prosciutto Cotto and Mortadella. Now I know that Mortadella is the pride of Bologna, but honestly, it’s Boloney! OK, I take that back, I don’t want to offend my Italian friends, suffice it to say, I was not impressed. We ordered the Veneto La Serenissima Pinot Grigio ($35) because we all craved a light summery wine (it was incredibly hot and humid out). For our mains, each couple shared a pizza and believe it or not, we let our hubby’s choose. Mine, made a bee-line for the Cheese Pizza called Formaggio Morbidi ($17) (soft cheese pizza), decorated with Mozzarella di Bufala Campagna DCP, Gorgonzola, Staccchino and Ricotta garnished with fresh basil and EVOO. The crust was super thin and beautifully baked, crispy and soft and chewy all at once. We had asked them not to add the Gorgonzola until the very end after it has come out of the oven as our preference is not to have it render. It could have used a few more little bits (we LOVE our Gorgonzola!). David and Mi Mi ordered Prosciutto ($16) which was Prosciutto Crudo di Parma DCP, Mozzarella di Bufala Campagna DCP, Organic Tomato filets and Arugula. I think they enjoyed it. (I apologize for any spelling errors, the menu on line is extremely difficult to read).

    Overall rating of Obikà Mozzarella Bar (in my opinion): Decor 2/5 (this failed incredibly because we were sitting in a mall), service 4/5, food 4/5, Value 2.5/5 (it’s not inexpensive, but the quality is very good), Noise: 2/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet). Reservations are definitely recommended.

    This blog has a good photo of the first platter: http://cookbookstoreblog.blogspot.ca/2011/08/obika-mozzarella-bar-toronto.html

    This search turned up a good photo of the second plate: http://obika.tumblr.com/post/2431126408/selezione-di-salumi-prosciutto-crudo-di-parma

    This search has some good pictures of the restaurant: http://www.pic2fly.com/Obika+Restaurant+Toronto.html

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

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    Our final evening in NYC we booked The Jazz Standard at Battery Park City, it’s been an old favourite of ours for the last few years. We saw Fred Hersch and Rene Marie. Ordinarily we like to see lively shows, with or without vocals, but unfortunately on this night the songs were melancholy and not to our taste. The vocalist Rene Marie sang beautifully, but the songs were just too sad. And to add to it, the club had the A/C turned on at such a frigid temperaturs so I was F R E E Z I N G. We talked to three different people about it without success. We almost left.
    We ordered some Crispy Chili Crusted Calamari with Charred Red Pepper Mayo ($12.95) because I don’t like to drink on an empty stomach and they had no healthy snacks. Sadly, they were rubbery and over cooked; the charred red pepper mayo made them palatable (sorry Katherine, Rufus’ Food and Spirits Guide). The connected restaurant Blue Smoke is supposed to have delicious BBQ, but we’ve never tried it.
    Our dinner reservations were at 9:30; normally I’m not a huge fan of eating this late but what the heck, we’re on VAYCAY!
    We chose Morandi, a very popular Italian trattoria to have our final dinner in this amazing city and it’s packed! On their website they say that there is a celebrity guest every night. They actually checked our reservation…at 9:30! We are seated at a great table by the patio. It’s not quite warm enough to sit outside (although there are people sitting out there). The place has a warm homey décor; good lighting and just lively enough that I could talk at a normal level.

    We didn’t notice any celebrities

    We ordered three appi’s because neither of us were starving. We shared the Polipetti e sedano which was grilled octopus with celery & black olives ($16); it was tender, perfectly done and delicious (JTs first octopus).

    JTs first octapus. Delicate, perfectly done and a nice combo with the celery

    This is the bread

    And then JT ordered the Calamari alla griglia which was grilled squid with peppers, capers & olives ($14) it was a healthy portion, nicely done and quite tasty. Not overly seasoned, very tasty indeed.

    Just take the damn picture so I can eat.

    I ordered the Burrata e pachini which was burrata cheese with roasted cherry tomatoes “on the vine” ($17). Now before this year, I had not heard of burrata cheese, but then I saw it on Barbara Bamber Just a Smidgin site and was intrigued. When I saw it on this menu I had to try it.
    Reader alert, OMG!!! This is really, undoubtedly even better than bufalo Mozzarella! Yes, I said it: E V E N ; ; B E T T E R. There, I said it. Perfectly creamy and delicately flavoured. I’d go back to NYC just to have THIS again. I’m hooked (I’m singing Jason Mraz’s I’m yours in my head, and by ‘yours’ I mean burrata’s).

    I had the Burrata Cheese Dish. If you think Bufalo Mozarrella is TDF, you MUST have THIS.


    Overall rating of Morandi (in my opinion): Decor 4/5, service 4:5, food 4/5, Value 4/5, Noise: 3/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet). We paid for our meal in full.

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    Last Friday, as a treat to achieving my weight loss goal (10lbs) we tried a ‘new’ restaurant Bar Centrale in the city recommended by our neighbour Tom — it’s part of the Terroni Restaurant Group (Tom is the one who gave us his father’s wonderful olive oil from Greece). Tom is an architect and his company designs all of the Terroni Restaurants (I believe they have one in LA, California too).

    Bar Centrale (pronounced Chent-rah-lay) is in what we would call mid-town, sitting on Young Street. Mid-town is an affluent area with modest homes starting around the million dollars to the absolutely ridiculous. Fortunately (or perhaps by design) Bar Centrale has a green P parking lot within a minute walk to its doors, otherwise it would have been a nightmare to find parking.

    We had reservations for 8 and arrived about 10 minutes early and the restaurant was absolutely packed but they had our table ready. It’s a large place and occupies 3 stories in an older renovated building. It’s got a Lower East Side industrial décor with exposed piping in the ceilings. Their walls are decorated with their signature pantry staples, some house made and some imported from Italy. Terroni has always been true to their roots from a food perspective, so much so that they will actually refuse to allow you to order something as an extra if they don’t feel it’s authentic to that dish (my friend Kim’s ex-husband loves anchovies and always likes them on his pizza, any pizza, but when he tried to order anchovies on the side at Terroni on Queen West, they told him he couldn’t have them because it’s not authentic to the particular pizza he ordered!).

    Our table is an adorable little table for two directly beside a window on a side street, it’s open and a wonderful breeze floats in (we had an amazing 24°C day). The table is small enough that we can hear each other over the noise of the restaurant. And it’s noisy or shall I say, lively! There are still a lot of families dining, but the kids are held at the tables and not running around the place like wild animals. We are greeted by our waitress within a reasonable amount of time and we order our cocktails; I had a Campari Spritz which is 1.5oz Campari, 1.5oz Prosecco & splash of soda and JT had an Il Sorpasso which is 1.5oz Aperal, 1oz Bourbon, fresh Lemon juice, Honey & Sprakling Lemonade. My cocktail is quite bitter on first taste, but then mellows and I find it tasty but not sweet which makes it easy to sip and not guzzel! JT’s cocktail has a bit too much sweetness for my taste. We order out appetizers but wait to order our mains. I had the grilled calamari which was presented typically and rustically with a mix of greens; perfectly cooked, the calamari was tender and dressed just right, it had an absolutely perfect char which really brought out the smoky flavour. I will go back specifically for this course! JT had a chick pea cake with mixed greens. We had high hopes for the chick pea cake but sadly it was bland and really needed some kind of sauce or aioli.

    For our main course we shared the cheese and cured meat platter which was just the right amount of food. The platter itself was a lovely slab of wood sliced from the trunk of an olive(?) tree; Tom mentioned that they were custom made. They served an aged Parmesan and a softer mild cheese that I wasn’t familiar with but was very tasty. The platter also came with a small ramekin of honey which was incredibly tasty when drizzled on the cheese. The cured meats were prosciutto and salami. There was bread and focaccia which I declined.
    The dinner was a nice pace, about an hour and a half.

    Overall rating of Bar Centrale (in my opinion): Decor 4/5, service 4/5, food 4/5, Value 4/5, Noise: 2/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet).

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    Although it has been unseasonably warm this past week in the big smoke, it’s been crazy rainy and windy. It’s a perfect time to stay in and make some healthy comforting food that is great for lunch the next day. I posted this recipe in 2009 because it is an incredibly tasty and easy dish for a week night, but I find myself craving to repost as I really hated the old photo! This is still JTs signature dish so I won’t alter his recipe other than how it has morphed over the years, and it has morphed a touch over the years. But I will say, please make this, it is really, really, really good!

    And don’t forget to enter the giveaway! I’m really excited about the give away and what creative things you will make with it and blog about. I did forget to detail the time the draw closes: 12pm Eastern Standard Time, that will give me some time to get the correct entries together and have JT do the draw! As well, the Just a Pinch salts were purchased entirely by ME! It is not linked to any other promo! Time is a tickin’ people, better enter soon!

    And did I mention that a couple of the answers are found in more than one post? Oops! Good luck!

    A hearty but healthy dinner on a cold winters night

    JTs Chicken Cacciatore

    Adapted from Fannie Farmer, December 1984 (originally published in 1896!).
    Serves 4 (2 dinners and 2 lunches in our case)

    Ingredients:

    • 400g chicken breasts, skinless, boneless
    • 2 tbsp olive oil
    • 28g dried mushrooms rehydrated in about 1 cup warm water, set liquid aside (make sure you strain through coffee filter to ensure no sand gets into it)
    • 1 large onion, chopped
    • 1/2 cup dry white wine (or low sodium chicken stock)
    • 1 clove garlic, minced
    • 1/2 red pepper, sliced (we used green this time because that is what we had)
    • 1 tbsp tomato paste (put remaining tomato paste into an extra ice cube tray and freeze, remove from tray into a resealable container and voila, tomato paste as required!)
    • 2 cups canned Roma tomatoes, peeled and chopped
    • 1/2 tsp allspice
    • 1 bay leaves
    • 1/2 tsp thyme
    • Chili peppers to taste
    • Salt to taste
    • Grated Parmesan, if you wish

    Directions:

    1. Preheat oven to 350°F (or you could just cook the entire dish stove top with the lid on)
    2. Heat the oil in a large dutch oven and cook the chicken until lightly browned on all sides.
    3. Add the onion and sauté a minute or two and then add the wine and allow to boil up.
    4. Lower the temperature and add the garlic, tomato paste, tomatoes, pepper and the mushrooms.
    5. Add the seasonings, bay leaves and the mushroom liquid.
    6. Cover and bake in the hot oven for about 1 hour, or until chicken is cooked through. If you like a dryer cacciatore, leave the cover off so that some of the liquid evaporates; I prefer mine a bit wet so that it makes a tasty ‘dressing’ for the greens.
    7. Remove bay leaves, taste and season if required.
    8. Serve on a bed of mixed baby spinach and baby arugula leaves. You can also serve with grated Parmesan and a dollop of yogurt or sour cream, but we’re reducing our intake this week, so we omitted it.

    Tips: You can also add black olives (chop in half) and crumble some sheeps milk feta on top instead of the Parmesan for a slightly Greek version of the dish.

    I had to update this post with a photo I recently took with my iPhone at work. I just loved how rich the sauce looks and how luminous this photos is.

    Our studio has amazing light. And yes, that surely is cayenne pepper on the chicken.

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    A quick note that you may have noticed that I am now following you; I have been following you for quite some time, but had not figured out how to do it in WordPress! Well, I’ve finally figured it out and it’s done!

    We weren’t going to go out for dinner last night but at the last minute decided to try out Bannock, the new Oliver and Bonacini restaurant at the corner of Queen and Bay Streets downtown. We made reservations on Open Table and got our preferred time. We took the subway to be on the safe side. The restaurant is decidedly contemporary, but the walls are lined with rough cut lumber darkly stained — the National Post called it “woodsy faux voyageur”, I didn’t mind it. It is has several lighting styles throughout. It’s not a huge place, maybe seating a hundred people. The cuisine is said to be Canadian Comfort Food and we are excited about the menu which boasts things such as the Prairie Grain Salad, Shaved Button Mushroom Salad, Mac and Cheese (with a granola topping) and Biff’s fried bologna and eggs! Decisions, decisions!

    We arrived a little late but were seated within a couple of minutes. I mentioned lighting styles above and for the most part they are warm, contemporary soft subtle lights which will do a lovely job on various skin shades and textures; we were seated at the “wall of light” that had a 1000 watt LED cool bulb every 2 feet shining down right onto the unsuspecting patrons — yes, you know what I mean, just slightly better than fluorescent bulbs! Our waitress came over and asked if we needed a few minutes (we just got there) and if we wanted water; she sent over the water guy. I had to shield my eyes from the light to read the menu (did I bring my sun glasses?) We did not see our waitress for 10 minutes, no, I lied, she came by several times, looked directly at me and walked on by. We wanted to change our table but by the time she would have come over, the tables had been filled, the place was really busy. We got up and left. We’ll get back there again one day, likely for lunch when I have my sunglasses!

    We ended up at Mercatto on Bay Street. We were immediately drawn to the beautiful modern but comfortable Italian décor with lovely crystal chandeliers (dimmed to the perfect level). There are several black-boards throughout with menu items, nice sayings and such. It’s very friendly and fortunately for us, not busy at all. Our waitress was chatty and available. We shared the Crostini which was generously spread with ricotta and topped with prosciutto, arugula and grana padano. It was fantastic, the ricotta might have been a bit thick, but I wasn’t about to complain. We agreed we would both order it again. I had the Polipo which was grilled octopus with spicy ‘nduga sausage (they weren’t kidding about the spicy), fingerlings and swiss chard; another total winner. The sausage did overwhelm the delicate octopus, but again, I loved it. JT had the Chitarra “carbonara” with guianciale (unsmoked Italian bacon), brussels spouts and pecorino — very delicious. I really loved this place and would go back in a second. They have a great pizza oven too!

    Overall rating Mercatto (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). The restaurant was pretty quiet, I would imagine it gets pretty loud at night if it’s busy. Our waitress mentioned that they were full booked for New Years Eve.

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

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