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Posts Tagged ‘shallots’

I was fortunate enough to be introduced to a recipe developer by a colleague from my previous position and as it turned out they needed a Recipe Tester right away! How serendipitous is that? And cool. The experience is amazing! I know I’ve talked about what it is to be a recipe tester briefly so here is a more detailed synopsis. And no, I won’t be posting any of those recipes here.

You read the recipe thoroughly with a highlighter in hand and highlight any discrepancies or things you need clarified. You ask the Recipe Developer questions re your highlights. The recipe is hashed out. Now switch to a different coloured pen. Start your stop watch, you need to time how long it takes you to prep (mise en place) and cook the ingredients. Follow the recipe to a “T” making notes along the way, there is no “a little this and a little that” when you’re testing! Once you have finished cooking the recipe, stop the stop watch and make a note of the time it took. Baking time is noted separately than the prep and cooking time; there is always a bake time on the recipe but you need to confirm that it’s accurate, one of the recipes I recently tested had to have its bake time doubled!

When the recipe has finished cooking or baking, you review it for appearance, texture and taste (yes, you have to taste the recipe!). Sometimes you are required to take a volume measurement of a product after its cooked for reference. Usually there is more than one recipe tester and the results are accumulated and assessed by the recipe developer. The finished recipes are usually for your consumption but sometimes they are just not your taste so your neighbours get lucky! My recent testing was baking sweets and I divided the bounty up between two friends who were very happy to receive the food!

Just before Christmas my Recipe Developer asked me to participate in a client tasting; I had to shop for the product, prep about 1/2 day on a few recipes and then finish cooking the recipes on the day of the tasting. We had 10 recipes in total. We cooked each recipe to its full volume and then spooned out small portions for tasting, I kept the tasting portions warm while the previous portion was discussed and evaluated. Each recipe was discussed for about 10-20 minutes and the discussion resulted in approved recipes with minor changes or complete revisions. The full portions are prepared to show the size the recipe yields for a family dinner. It’s actually quite an interesting process. Photos of the tested recipes are only used as reference. When the recipes are finally approved, the client will hire a photographer, a prop stylist, a food stylist and hopefully a food stylist assistant ;-)! The food stylist will prepare the final approved recipe and make it pretty for the photo.

I suspect that when you develop a recipe for your blog you work in much the same way that a recipe tester would work. It really needs to be buttoned down otherwise there may be disappointment if someone tries to make the recipe and it doesn’t work out. I really appreciate the detailed photos some bloggers do to show each and every step but I decided at the beginning of my blog that my photos would be only of the final product.

When I started blogging I came to realize how undisciplined I have been cooking, a little of this, a little of that; blogging makes you button down really well, measure, measure, measure and write it down — it has been a great starting point for my recipe testing. I am going to be doing more recipe testing in the new year!

But now, back to what we really eat! I’ve been making a lot of soups lately and this soup came together beautifully; the nutty roasted garlic and the earthy and sweet mushrooms were a great combination. I don’t think I would change a thing but I won’t mind if you do!

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The cognac butter really made the soup

Roasted Garlic Mushroom Soup with Cognac

Ingredients:

Makes 4 servings, about 250 mL each

  • 35 g or 1 1/2 cups of dried mushrooms (I used Chinese Mushrooms with the crackle-like tops and Chinese Black Fungus)
  • 2 cups water
  • About 1/4 cup of puréed roasted garlic (1 head)
  • 3-4 tbsp EVOO
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 85 g or 1/2 cup finely chopped shallots
  • 200 g (2 cups) Fresh Cremini and Shitaki Mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 fresh thyme branches
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tsp cognac
  • 2-4 fresh finely sliced Cremini and Shitaki mushrooms for garnish.

Directions:

  1. Rehydrate the dried mushrooms in 2 cups of boiling water (about 2-4 hours). Drain through a fine sieve and reserve the drained liquid. Chop mushrooms finely.
  2. Roast 1 head of garlic in a small ramekin with about 4 tbsp EVOO and sea salt, about 45 minutes at 350°F. Cool and remove the softened cloves and the olive oil and set aside.
  3. Sauté the shallots in the butter until soft. Add the all of fresh mushrooms and rehydrated mushrooms to the shallots and cook until soft.
  4. Add the reserved rehydrating liquid and 2 additional cups of water. Add the thyme and lemon zest and bring to a boil.
  5. Using your immersion blender, blend until very smooth, add the roasted garlic cloves and roasting EVOO. You may wish to press it through a fine sieve so that it is silky smooth. Set aside until you are ready to serve.
  6. When ready to serve, reheat the velvety smooth soup.
  7. Melt 1 tbsp butter in a frying pan, add the remaining sliced Cremini and Shitaki and sauté until soft. Remove from heat and add the 2 tsp cognac and stir well.
  8. Serve the hot soup in a warmed rimmed soup bowl, garnished with the softened mushrooms and drizzled with the cognac butter.
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There is no cream in this lovely soup

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I would have never thought that eating vegetarian would leave me so satisfied. And I don’t have the afternoon snackie feeling either. I’ve done well, down 3lbs this week…but I’ve also been working out like a fiend. 16km each day on my bike on Tuesday and Wednesday, and working out cardio and weights everyday this week (don’t worry, I mix up the muscle groups that I work on!). But I am tired…not quite 25 anymore (who am I kidding, I’m not even 35 anymore!!!).

The foods we have prepared are tasty but I must admit it is a bit of a challenge when you have to find recipes each day to cook (kinda like learning to cook again!). I came up with the Quinoa Mushroom Risotto because I was in the mood for a risotto and I didn’t want the carbs that rice has (and I’m still not eating meat during the week). I also came up with a great idea on how to achieve the creaminess that Arborio rice brings to the table, without adding cream or butter!

Pull up a chair and enjoy.

Gluten Free and Vegetarian Quinoa Mushroom Risotto

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup red and white Quinoa uncooked
  • 545 g variety of mushrooms
  • 3 small shallots, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp roasted garlic purée (see note below)
  • 3 tbsp navy bean paste (see note below)
  • 100 mL water
  • 1/4 tsp thyme
  • 1 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
  • Parmesan cheese

Directions:

  1. In a cast iron pan, toast the quinoa until they begin to pop, remove immediately. Cook as per directions on package.
  2. In cast iron dutch oven, give a good squirt of cooking spray and heat. Add the Shallots and cook gently, adding a bit of water if the oil dries up. Add the mushrooms and cook until soft.
  3. Mix the roasted garlic purée with the navy bean paste, adding enough water to make a thick sauce (like a roux). Pour it into the mushroom mixture and stir well.
  4. Add the cooked Quinoi, thyme and soy sauce to the mushrooms and stir until everything is coated with the garlic bean purée.
  5. Serve with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Quinoa is a super food, but you still shouldn't wear a cape if you eat it.

Notes:

Roasted garlic purée

Take a head of garlic and roast with olive oil and sea salt in the oven until soft (I usually do it in a ramekin, not foil). Pop the cloves out into an immersion blender jar and purée until smooth. Add vegetable stock or water to make the consistency you need. I usually roast a bunch and freeze in special ice cub trays — pop out into a zip lock bag and return to freezer (don’t do it in your regular ice cub tray, otherwise your gin and tonic will taste garlic-y!)

Navy bean purée

Cook dried navy beans until soft. Purée with an immersion blender until you have a very smooth paste adding only as much water as the blender needs to continue the purée. Store in a glass container in the fridge and use as needed. I have used this paste as a roux for many things.

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As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, my brother and his family came for brunch this past weekend and I wanted a slightly healthier salad to go with a slightly less healthy savoury bread pudding (you can see a similar recipe at Bits and Breadcrumbs, but my version had ham and cheddar cheese, you get where I’m going with this?). This spinach salad comes from an old recipe book that I bought for my MIL about 15 years ago. She had talked about Oprah and her chef and that they were coming out with a cookbook, In the Kitchen with Rosie; she loved Oprah, so I made a mental note and put it on her Christmas list. Well, I should have known because she went out and got it for herself, so then I was stuck with the book.

There are some darn good ‘low fat’ recipes in this little book and some great tricks as well. But the one recipe that keeps making an appearance in my kitchen is the warm orange dressing on a spinach salad (this one is for you, Lisa). Now you can add what-ever you wish to create your very own spinach salad, but this is what our’s had on Sunday: baby spinach, hard-boiled egg whites, grape tomatoes (I like the colour), a little crispy fried pancetta (I know, not healthy but there was not very much of it), thinly sliced mushrooms, orange sections and toasted pine nuts. When you toss this lovely salad with the warm dressing a symphony of flavours start playing in your mouth. So delicious.

A slightly healthier alternative to Spinach Salad

Warm Orange Dressing

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 1 Navel orange
  • 1⁄3 c Shallot, minced finely
  • 2 Cl Garlic, peeled and minced finely
  • 5 T White Balsamic vinegar
  • 2 t Sherry vinegar
  • 1/24 cup of orange juice with pulp
Directions:
  1. Peel the orange and remove the white pith, and separate the segments (do this over a bowl in order to reserve the juice). Squeeze the residual juice from the membranes into the bowl and reserve; add the additional OJ to this mix.
  2. In a small saucepan, add the shallots, garlic, vinegars, and reserved orange juice, and bring to a boil over low heat.
  3. Just before you wish to serve, combine all the salad ingredients, add the warm dressing and toss to coat.

I know it's just salad, but doesn't it look yummy?

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My friend Angela is having a Titanic Anniversary Party (April 14 is the 100 year Anniversary of its sinking) and she is going all out. We will all come in period clothing (hopefully I will have photos!) and I will provide some of my heirloom silverware and serving dishes and some crystal (I inherited many lovely things of that time period from my MIL, fortunately for me, my SIL is not much into cooking or entertaining!). It sounds like it’s going to be a real blast.
I wanted in on the fun, so I asked Angela if I could help out and she kindly offered an hors d’œuvres and a dessert, both of which sound really fun to make. Of course, I needed to practice and test our the recipe so I will blog about my contribution to this momentous affair!

Canapés à l’Amiral are little toasts covered in a “shrimp butter” with a butter sautéed shrimp on top (oops, I forgot the roe as finishing, I shan’t do that for your evening, Angela!). The “shrimp butter” was delicious, and JT bought a beautiful whole wheat baguette with sesame seeds from Cobs near our home – the seeds just added the right amount of texture to the toasts! And the sweet shrimp on top was a wonderful bite with the creamy “shrimp butter”. The roe would have been a nice little burst of texture and saltiness…darn, I wish I had remembered because I do have some in the fridge!

Please help yourself to an hors d'œuvres.

Canapés à l’Amiral

Makes 20 canapés

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 thin baguette
  • 1 tsp lime juice
  • 10 small shrimp, halved lengthwise and sautéed in butter
  • Fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tbsp flying fish roe

Ingredients Shrimp Butter:

  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 8 oz shrimp in shells
  • 1/4 cup brand
  • 4 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 2 tbsp butter, softened
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1″ vanilla bean pod, cut lengthwise (dash of vanilla)

That martini is MINE! Hands off.

Directions Shrimp Butter:

  1. In a skillet, heat oil over medium heat; add shallots and garlic; cook stirring often for about 5 minutes or until softened.
  2. Increase heat to high and add shrimp in shells and sauté, stirring 3 to 4 minutes or until shells are opaque.
  3. Transfer this mixture to a food processor. Return pan to stove and pour in the brandy, add the vanilla bean pod; cook stirring for about 30 seconds or until brandy is reduced to a glaze. Remove the vanilla bean pod and scrape into shrimp mixture in the processor.
  4. Process the shrimp mixture until finely chopped. (YES, the shells are still in there! It’s about the flavour). Add the softened cream cheese, butter, tomato paste, salt and pepper and process until smooth. Press through a fine sieve and set aside.
  5. Slice baguette into 20 thin slices (about 6mm or 1/4″) and toast under broiler for about 1 minute per side or until lightly golden. Set aside.
  6. Melt butter in previously used skillet and cook shrimp halves until opaque. Drizzle lime juice over shrimp halves and reserve.
  7. Place shrimp butter in a piping bag (or just slather on like I did) and pipe onto toasts equally. Top each one with a cooked shrimp half, a parsley leaf (or cut parsley, like I did) and top each canapé with an equal amount of fish roe (which I forgot to do).

Are you doing anything special for April 14th?

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We were down in wine country region in South Western Ontario on the weekend, and I couldn’t resist picking up some fresh corn on the cob. This is really a treat for me as it’s been about four years since I’ve incorporated more-or-less a low-ish carb diet; I’ve limited vegetables that are carbs (such as corn, peas, carrots). I’m not perfect, and I do eat carbs, but when I do, I really want them to be worth it.

Inspired by Tastefood, with her grilled flank steak and Chimichurri sauce that she blogged about on Sunday (another rendition of this popular sauce) I decided to make Chimichurri again. Originally I made the Chimichurri Sauce in early September in 2008 and posted it (it’s funny how I’m making it again, right about the same time!). What goes better with corn on the cob than a good old fashioned steak – we got tenderloin (not quite budgetary, but sure is tasty). And the Chimichuri was great on the steak and a great substitute for butter on the corn.

In searching around the net, I discovered that not all Chimichurri‘s are created equal. Some folks are quite adamant that there is no oil in it (too fancy), they also say that shallots are too fancy! And I’ve found that instead of lemon juice, people feel quite strongly about using red wine vinegar, and there always seems to be oregano added. I’ve always felt a recipe is a guideline, that one is expected to modify to one’s own taste. I ended up switching out the lemon juice for the red wine vinegar…but I used shallots, regular onions would have been too harsh! I also used a freshly picked Jalapeño from my garden instead of the pepper flakes. The parsley and garlic was also harvested from our garden. Very tasty, indeed.

I’ll leave the grilling instruction to my new friend Ann (cookinghealthyforme, she’s lost oodles of weight by simply modifying the way she cooks!) Ann is the true southern grilling expert! Check out her blog, she’s got great photos!

Grilled Ontario Corn, Beef Tenderloin with Chimichurri Sauce

Chimichurri Sauce (adapted from Epicurious.com)


Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tbsp fresh lemon juice (I used red wine vinegar)
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallots (about 2 medium)
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon dried hot red-pepper flakes (or 1/2 small Jalapeño Pepper)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions:

  1. Add all the ingredients into a small food processor bowl and process until the desired consistency is achieved. Allow the flavours to blend in the refrigerator for about 1 hour (allowing it to set in the fridge for a while also mellows the shallots). Drizzle on corn on the cob, steak, pork or whatever you choose. It’s a fresh, green sauce that goes great with everything!

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A lovely, flavourful breakfast at the cottage are these individual ramekins of spinach and feta fritatta. One egg, 1 tbsp of feta, 1 small finely chopped shallot, 1 tsp finely sliced chives, pinch of basil or oregano and 1/4 cup chopped spinach per person – a little brunch!

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Pre-heat oven or BBQ to 350F.
Prepare one ramekin per person by spraying with non-stick spray.
In a small skillet and a quick spray of non-stick spray cook the shallots until translucent, add spinach and wilt.
Remove from heat.
Beat eggs well, adding all remaining ingredients, mix well.
Divide mixture between the number of ramekins you’ve prepared.
Bake for 12-15 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean.
Serve with a salad of watermelon sprinkled with lime juice and a chiffonade of mint.

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