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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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