Monday, November 29, 2010

Molasses Spice Cookies with Orange Sugar

With the holidays approaching, I'm sure all the bakers out there are preparing their lists for holiday baking (some die-hards have probably started baking already).  I'd wager that if you are baking for the holidays, there has got to be some kind of gingerbread/molasses/spice concoction on your list.  It's a holiday classic.  But how about stepping those up a notch...adding even more seasonal holiday flavour!?  These simple molasses spice cookies become extraordinary with the addition of a sparkling, crunchy, orange infused sugar topping.  The orange flavour compliments the spice cookies perfectly, and the glistening sugar topping elevates these cookies to holiday cookie platter star.  I love a good twist on an old classic.

Molasses Spice Cookies with Orange Sugar
Origin: The Kitchn

Notes:  You can use a faithful gingerbread or spice cookie that you love and just try the topping.  It's so easy and it makes them really special.


1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup molasses
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 orange, zested
1/3 cup turbinado sugar

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt and spices, set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add in the egg, mixing just to combine. Stir in the molasses and vanilla extract.

Fold the flour mixture into the butter mixture, until just combined.

Separate the dough into 2 portions (it should be quite sticky) and place each half on a sheet of plastic wrap. Cover with another sheet of plastic wrap and, using a rolling pin, roll out the dough to 1/4 inch thick. Chill until firm, at least 2 hours or overnight.

Meanwhile, stir together orange zest and turbinado sugar.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Remove dough from fridge.  Working in batches, cut out cookies into desired shapes.   I found the dough softened so quickly that I couldn't transfer the cutouts to the baking sheet without smooshing them.  I placed my rolled dough with plastic wrap onto a large cutting board and then cut out my shapes.  I transferred the whole cutting board to the freezer for a couple of minutes to let the shapes firm up again.  When firm, they easily pulled away from the dough scraps to transfer to the baking sheet.  Keep unused dough chilled.

Sprinkle with orange sugar topping.  Bake for 8-10 minutes until cookies are firm around the edges and set in the middle.  Cool on the sheet pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Roasted Beet Pizza

Okay, bear with me here.  These photos aren't great, in fact I'm afraid to show you what the whole pizza looked like.  I had a bugger of a time getting it off the (floured AND cornmealed) counter.  I still haven't bought that pizza peel I've been thinking about.  It would have made things a lot easier and prettier.  Another problem with these photos is that you can't see that those gorgeous, roasted, golden beets are nestled between a layer of salty feta cheese and savoury thinly sliced shallots.  Oh!  And then the whole thing is drizzled with honey.  It's amazing.  I couldn't hold out until the next time I made this recipe to take a better picture.  I had to get the word out there now, just in case there was a chance that even one of you would make this for an upcoming holiday party.

Roasted Beet Pizza
Origin: Cooking Light Magazine

Notes:  I strongly suggest you buy a pizza stone if you bake a lot of pizza or flatbreads at home.  You can even buy premade, uncooked pizza dough, and the pizza stone will take it over the top, giving you a crunchy, chewy, bubbly, charred finished product.  They are great.  I have included some links for pizza dough recipes below.  I experiment with a new one every time I make pizza and I haven't committed to one yet.  The toppings are the star here, so you can't go wrong with the dough.  And as I mentioned, feel free to buy premade but uncooked dough.  I sometimes buy portions of uncooked frozen pizza dough from my local grocery store, it's found in a freezer in the bakery section (with frozen desserts and breads).


1-2 golden beets
uncooked pizza dough, enough for a 10 inch pizza
1  teaspoon olive oil
1/2  cup crumbled feta cheese
1/4  cup thinly sliced shallots
1/4  teaspoon  kosher salt
1  teaspoon  honey

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Prepare beets, leave the root and 1 inch of the stem intact, scrub clean with a brush.  Wrap beets in foil (I drizzle a little olive oil over the beets and season them with salt and pepper before roasting).  Bake for 40-60 minutes or until tender.  Remove from oven and cool.  Trim ends and peel the skin off of the beets, slice thinly.

Increase oven temperature to 500 degrees.  Position an oven rack in the lowest position.  Place a pizza stone on lowest rack and preheat pizza stone for 30 minutes before baking pizza.

Prepare your dough.  Roll, push, pull, toss or prod the dough into a 10-12 inch circle (or square, or rectangle...).  Gently brush oil over pizza dough.  Arrange cheese, beet slices, and shallots evenly over dough, leaving a 1/2 inch border. Slide dough onto preheated pizza stone, using a spatula as a guide, (this is where I ran into trouble.  If you don't have a pizza peel, I would suggest rolling your dough and preparing all of your toppings, and when you are ready to bake, put the bare pizza dough onto the hot pizza stone and then very quickly and carefully put your toppings on).

Bake at 500° for 8 minutes or until crust is golden. Remove from pizza stone. Sprinkle with salt, and drizzle with honey. Cut into wedges.

Pizza Dough Recipe Links

Cooking Light Magazine's Basic Pizza Dough (from this recipe)
Jim Lahey's No Knead Pizza Dough
Smitten Kitchen's Really Simple Pizza Dough
101 Cookbooks' Best Pizza Dough Ever Recipe

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Pear and Cardamom Upside Down Cake

My girlfriends and I made this cake for an Indian themed, ladies only dinner party.  I am a major Indian food fan (and boy, did we feast well on dinner), however I have never been able to get into traditional Indian desserts.  Gulab Jamun anyone??  I just can't.  I do love Chai tea though, and it was on the menu.   I chose this cake as one of our dessert options because I thought the cardamom was reminiscent of those beautiful Indian flavours, it would go nicely with our Chai tea, and the fall pears were booming.  It's not a showstopper of a cake, it's kind of casual in a brown and mushy, snack cake sort of way.  But the flavour and light, fluffy, moist texture, more than compensates for it's lack of visual appeal. 

Pear and Cardamom Upside Down Cake

Notes:  I've made this cake a few times, once without a stand mixer. With a wooden spoon, taking turns around the room, beating with some serious elbow grease, we got the butter nice and fluffy and the cake turned out great.

1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground cardamom (from about 6 to 8 pods) (I used pre-ground cardamom)
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, room temperature, divided
3/4 cup packed golden brown sugar
2 firm-ripe Anjou pears (I used Bartlett)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk, room temperature 

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Generously butter a 9 x 1 1/2 inch round cake pan.

Sift the flour, salt and baking powder together. Stir in the cardamom and set aside.

Melt 1/4 cup butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the brown sugar and stir for 2 to 3 minutes, until the sugar has melted and combined with the butter. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake pan, spreading it to reach the sides.

Peel the pears, cut them in half and remove the core and stem. Cut each half into 1/4 inch thick slices. Arrange the pear slices in a slightly overlapping circle around the cake pan, starting at the outer rim. Finish with several slices in the center. Sprinkle the pears with the lemon juice. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.

Beat the remaining 1/2 cup butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, until soft and fluffy. Add the sugar and beat until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Beat in the vanilla, scraping down the sides of the bowl when needed. Alternately add the flour mixture and the milk, starting and ending with the dry ingredients. Beat after each addition just until combined.

Gently spoon the cake batter on top of the pears, smoothing out to the edge of the pan and making sure the cake batter fills in around the pears.

Bake until the top is a deep golden brown and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Place the cake on a rack to cool for 5 minutes in the pan.

Run a small spatula or knife around the edge of the pan and invert onto a cake plate, leaving the pan on the cake for 10 minutes. Carefully remove the pan. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Endive and Radicchio, Cheese Plate Salad

I love a good cheese plate.  This is a very refined way of eating a cheese plate because you can't gorge yourself on the good stuff.  And by good stuff I mean, divine, delectable, fatty, artery clogging cheese.  This salad is individually plated, giving the eater a controlled portion of decadent cheese.  All the standard cheese plate elements are here, cheese, grapes, nuts and dried fruit, all tied together with an elegant bitter salad.  It's a beautiful salad with great contrasting sweet/bitter flavours, enhanced with a lemony vinaigrette.

Endive and Radicchio, Cheese Plate Salad
Origin:  Adapted from, Anna Olsen, Food Network Canada

Notes:  You can jazz up the look of your plates by peeling away some whole leaves from your radicchio and endive before you chop it.  The leaves can be artfully arranged on a plate or a large platter.  You can use a radicchio leaf as a bowl for the dressed greens and arrange the other elements around it.  Please use whatever cheese you like, it should be a fancy cheese, but an aged cheddar or a brie would be great with this too.


4 dried apricots, finely chopped 
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest 
3 tablespoons lemon juice 
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard 
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 
salt & pepper 
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
1/2 head radicchio, core removed, sliced into 1/2 inch ribbons
1 head Belgian Endive, trim bottom, slice into 1/2 inch pieces
1 stalk celery, sliced thinly on the bias
1/2 Bartlett pear, cored and sliced thinly 12 seedless red grapes, cut in half 
1/2 cup walnut pieces, lightly toasted
6 ounces Oka cheese (or other ripe, washed-rind cheese), cut into individual portions

For the vinaigrette, soak chopped apricots in hot water for 2 minutes to soften, then drain and stir in lemon zest and set aside.  Whisk together the lemon juice and Dijon, then slowly pour in the olive oil, whisking to emulsify.  Season with salt and pepper.  Stir in chopped apricots and chives.

To assemble salad, combine endive, radicchio and celery in a bowl and toss with 1/2 the vinaigrette.

Spoon salad onto each plate and arrange some pear, grapes and walnuts on top. Drizzle these items with a little more vinaigrette.  Arrange cheese slices beside salad and serve.

Serves 4, lightly.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Superior Sandwich: Homemade Nutella

So, those Nutella Scones got me much as I looove Nutella, I have always been concerned by the quantity and choice of oil used in the product.  The label used to list hydrogenated vegetable oil as the second ingredient.  I believe over the last little while they've changed that to palm oil, which I suppose is great progress.  But still, there is more oil than hazelnuts in that little jar.  I couldn't help but think that homemade is always best and I knew I could do better.  Boy, did I, and with hazelnuts proudly featured as the first ingredient.  Nutty, chocolaty, sweet bliss.  I better not make a habit out of this.

Homemade Nutella
Origin: Impeccable Taste by Jaime

Notes:  The only down side to this recipe (besides its habit forming properties) is that hazelnuts cost a fortune, so get ready for sticker shock when you hit the checkout with your bag of nuts.  I was not able to achieve the ultra smooth consistency of the original Nutella, it was a tad grainy but the fresh flavour more than makes up for that.


2 cups hazelnuts
1 1/2 cups icing sugar (powdered sugar)
1/2 cup good quality unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup coconut oil, warmed/melted

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Place hazelnuts on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 7-10 minutes, or until they become fragrant.  Place toasted hazelnuts in a clean tea towel and rub the skins off as much as you can.  (I spent waaaay too long trying to get perfectly naked hazelnuts, they are very stubborn, just try your best and move on.)

Place cooled hazelnuts in the bowl of a food processor.  Process until smooth.  The hazelnuts will go through phases while processing.  They will become chopped, then they will all clump together, keep going...eventually the heat generated from the friction of the processor will loosen the ground nuts.  Keep processing until you achieve a smooth paste.

Add the icing sugar, cocoa powder, salt and vanilla, process until combined.

With the processor on, slowly drizzle the liquid coconut oil through the feed hole.  Process until smooth.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Roasted Spiced Sweet Potatoes and Classic Creamy Coleslaw

Last night we had burgers.  I'm not going to tell you about them though, this is all about the sides. Truth be told, they were store bought veggie burgers and you really don't want to know about them anyway.
I always make these two side dishes together.  They are perfectly good on there own, classic coleslaw and deeply flavourful roasted sweet potato wedges.  But something about the creamy, tangy coleslaw with it's sharp green onions, when mixed with the spicy, sweet potato wedges, is magical.
For me, the coleslaw actually goes on top of my burger with BBQ sauce, it doesn't even hit the plate (until it starts dribbling down my chin).  The amazingly good sweet potato wedges mop up the juices and it's a great dinner.  But the whole point of making burgers on a cold November evening is so that I can make these side dishes and bring the leftovers (burger free) to work for lunch.  I'm telling you, they are a match made in heaven.

Roasted Spiced Sweet Potatoes
Origin: Gourmet Magazine

Notes:  These are my favorite roasted sweet potatoes.  The mixture of spices is perfect, I love the addition of fennel seed.  I always make at least 5 times the amount of spice mixture (as much as I can fit in my spice grinder) and keep it in a small glass container so I can make these on a whim.  Once the spices are ground, this recipe takes about 5 minutes of hands on time.  Double the recipe for leftovers!  And you don't HAVE to make the coleslaw too, they are good enough to hold their own.


1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 lb medium sweet potatoes, washed (skin on), cut lengthwise into 1 inch wedges
3 tablespoons vegetable oil or olive oil

Preheat oven to 425 degrees (increase to 450 at any point if they are not browning enough).

Coarsely grind coriander, fennel, oregano, and red pepper flakes in an electric coffee/spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle. Stir together spices and salt. 

Toss wedges with oil and spices (I add another 1/2 teaspoon of salt to the sweet potatoes at this point) in a large roasting pan and roast in middle of oven for 20 minutes. Turn wedges over with a spatula and roast until tender and golden, 15 to 20 minutes more.

Classic Creamy Coleslaw
Origin: Impeccable Taste, Jaime

Notes:  For ease of preparation,  I often buy 2 bags of coleslaw mix and just add freshly grated carrots and sliced green onions.


6 cups green cabbage, thinly sliced/shredded
1 cup red cabbage, thinly sliced/shredded
1 cup carrot, coarsely grated
1 cup green onions/scallions, thinly sliced

1 cup mayonnaise (I use Hellman's half fat mayo)
1/4 cup cider vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons celery seed
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Combine cabbage, carrot and onion in a large bowl.

In a small bowl whisk together the dressing ingredients.  Taste and adjust to your liking.  Add a little more sugar or more mayo if it's too tangy/vinegary.

Pour the dressing over the prepared vegetables and mix well.  It's best if it can sit for an hour before serving.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Nutella Scones

These are good my friends.  Really good.  Lovely, crumbly scone texture, bites of crunchy hazelnuts with a pure Nutella ribbon running through them - and of course a little on top too.  This recipe came from one of my newest cookbook obsessions, Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented.  This is the second fabulous baking cookbook from authors, Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito who are owners of a famous Brooklyn Bakery called Baked.  They provide a fresh, hip, kinda retro take on baked goods with spectacular results.  This recipe was the first (of many) that called out to me.  Must. Make. Nutella. Scones. Right. Away.  I made 2 batches of these, I baked 4 scones right away to taste, and flash froze the rest of the dough to bake at a later time (see note below).

Nutella Scones
Origin: Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented

On Freezing:  Scones freeze beautifully.  Freeze individual portions of uncooked dough by placing the uncooked scones, in a single layer, spaced apart, on a baking sheet in the freezer for about an hour.  Once frozen they can be packaged together and wrapped well for longer term freezing.  When ready to bake your scones, place frozen scones on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake from frozen, adding a couple of minutes to the original baking time.
On Baking:  The key to producing good scones is to work with cold ingredients and to not handle the dough too much.  Read over the recipe until you are sure of what you are doing and then work through the recipe quickly.  As soon as the dough comes together, stop kneading.
On Ingredients:  Good quality, dark cocoa powder adds huge flavour to your baked goods. Try seeking out a decadent brand such as Valrhona or Callebaut at a specialty food shop.

2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, cold, cut into cubes
1 large egg
1/2 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup hazelnuts, toasted, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup Nutella

Preheat oven to 375 degrees with a rack in the center position.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt together until combined.  Add the pieces of butter and use your fingers or a pastry blender (my preferred method) to work the butter into the flour until you have pea sized pieces of butter and the mixture resembles coarse meal.

In a separate bowl mix together the egg and cream.  Slowly pour these wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until it starts to come together.  Turn dough out onto a clean surface and add the hazelnuts, briefly knead the mixture so that the hazelnuts are mixed throughout and the dough comes together.  Flatten the dough into a rectangle about 6 x 12 inches.  Spread 1/4 cup of Nutella in a "X" pattern across the dough.  Roll the dough up into a cylinder, turn it on it's end and flatten in into a disc about 1 3/4 inches thick.  Do not overwork the dough.

Cut the disc of dough into 6 or 8 wedges (I cut them even smaller for a brunch) and place them on to the prepared baking sheet.  Bake the scones for 18-20 minutes (15-18 minutes if smaller and 20-22 minutes if frozen), rotate the baking sheet halfway through.  The scones are done when a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Do not overbake.

Transfer scones to a wire rack to cool completely.  Place the baking sheet with the parchment on it, underneath the cooling rack for the next step.

Heat remaining Nutella in a small saucepan until pourable.  Use a spoon (or two spoons) to pour/drip the Nutella in a zig zag pattern across the top of the scones.  Alternatively, place the Nutella in a small resealable plastic bag and warm in the microwave for 10-20 seconds (watch it carefully), then snip a small whole in the corner of the bag and squeeze Nutella onto the scones.

These are best eaten the day they are baked, but they will still taste good the next day if they are wrapped up overnight.  See freezing note above to save scones for a later date.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Fennel with Pink Sauce

Now, I know my sauce is bright orange and not really pink...but it's okay.  The fennel is melt in your mouth delicious even though I used only a touch of pink-producing cream in my sauce.  You see, I just can't in good, healthy weeknight dinner, conscience, use that extra 1/4 cup of cream.  It was not missed in the slightest.  The little bit of cream that I did use, works magically with the fennel and tomato.

Fennel with Pink Sauce 
Origin: Impeccable Taste, Jaime  

Notes:  This dish is super easy to make, I'll even suggest you use a good bottled sauce to make your life even easier.  The sauce pictured at left is incredibly fresh and delicious, we buy is at COSTCO.  It is a simple marinara sauce that makes a great base for anything.  All natural, real Italian ingredients, no fillers, it's excellent.  I'll also provide a 5 minute tomato sauce recipe below, if you'd prefer to make your own.

(Try to ignore the golden, crispy, baked polenta fries in these photos.  I'll tell you about those another time.)

a drizzle of olive oil
1 large or 2 small fennel (anise) bulbs
1 - 1 1/2 cups basic tomato sauce (bottled or see below)
1/4 - 1/2 cup heavy cream (table cream 18%) or whipping cream
salt and pepper
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Drizzle a little olive oil in the bottom of a baking dish.

Cut the stalks off of the top of the fennel and trim the bottom so you are dealing with just the bulb.  Cut the bulb in half vertically.  Cut out the core by slicing a little triangle out of the bottom of each half of the fennel bulb.  Cut each half into wedges about an inch thick (the layers of the wedges may fall apart but no biggie).

Lay the fennel in a single layer in your baking dish, season with salt and pepper.  Top with enough tomato sauce to cover the fennel.  Then pour cream over tomato sauce.  1/2 cup of cream would make a true pink sauce but I used only 1/4 cup of cream at most.

Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes to an hour, or until fork tender.  Scatter the fresh basil on top just before serving.

Serves 4 as a side dish.

La Salsa di 5 Minuti
Origin: David Rocco

Notes:  This is a very basic, quick marinara sauce.  It's good as a base for pasta sauces such as Puttanesca.

1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
28oz canned peeled plum tomatoes, pureed (or crush the tomatoes with your hands, use both the juice and crushed tomato)

dried chili peppers, crushed (chili pepper flakes)
5 basil leaves, torn
Salt to season

Heat olive oil in a saucepan and add onion, garlic, and chili peppers. Gently fry ingredients together for a minute or two.

Add tomato puree to saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer on low to medium heat for 5-10 minutes.

Season with salt.  Add basil leaves at the very end.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Homemade Ricotta

Don't judge, but I am on a total high from this weekend.  One that comes from a combination of feeling like a pioneer woman, living off the land, making my own cheese and from knowing the possibilities that lie ahead after trying this new technique and tasting the results.  What an incredible discovery!  I didn't realize how easy this would be, or how delicious the outcome would be.  It took two women I adore, Ina Garten and Gwyneth Paltrow, joining forces to get me to try making my own ricotta cheese.  I love these ladies, Ina because she is an all knowing, friendly, food goddess with a never ending supply of foolproof recipes.  Gwyneth I love because she is a total foodie (have you seen her TV series Spain...On the Road Again with Mario Batali and Mark Bittman? Awesome!), she is a beautiful Mom with an amazing fashion sense, she is married to Chris Martin and their best friends are Jay-Z and Beyonce, she has a booming career with an upcoming appearance on Glee, and I totally love her GOOP lifestyle website - which is where I found this recipe.  And that is what this is really about.  Also included in this post is a simple and delicious way to use your fresh homemade ricotta cheese (also from Ina/GOOP).  Add fresh herbs and flavourings to make a simple but tasty topping for crostini.  You can and should however, use this cheese for any recipe that calls for ricotta from this day forward, forever and ever, Amen.

 colander lined with cheesecloth, sitting in a large bowl

 bringing the milk, cream and salt to a boil

 curdled milk after adding the vinegar

milky mixture draining through cheesecloth

Homemade Ricotta
Origin: Ina Garten via Goop

Notes:  For best results, use the best quality organic milk and cream you can find.


4 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons good white wine vinegar

Set a large sieve/colander over a deep bowl.  Dampen 2 layers of cheesecloth with water and line the sieve/colander with the cheesecloth.

Pour the milk and cream into a large, heavy bottomed pot.  Stir in the salt.  Bring to a full boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally.  Turn off the heat and stir in the vinegar.  Allow the mixture to stand for 1 minute until it curdles.  It will separate into thick parts (the curds) and milky parts (the whey).

Pour the mixture into your prepared cheesecloth and allow it to drain into the bowl at room temperature for about 20 minutes.  Occasionally discard the liquid that collects in the bowl.  The longer you let the mixture drain, the thicker the ricotta will be.  Transfer the ricotta to a bowl, discard the cheesecloth and any remaining whey. Use immediately or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.  The ricotta will keep refrigerated for 4 to 5 days.

Herbed Ricotta Crostini
Origin: Adapted from Ina Garten via Goop


2 cups ricotta cheese
4 scallions/green onions thinly sliced
2 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons good quality extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
1 crusty loaf of bread or baguette (Ciabatta is great)
additional olive oil

In a medium bowl combine, ricotta, scallions, mint, parsley and 2 tablespoons olive oil, season with salt and pepper and mix.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.   Slice your bread into 1/2 inch slices and lay on a baking sheet.  Drizzle the bread slices with a little olive oil.  Bake for about 10 minutes or until just slightly browned and crispy.

Spread toasted bread slices with herbed ricotta mixture and serve.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Quinoa Salad with Pear, Feta and Mint

I've got another great grain salad for you.  Remember how I went on and on about my love for grain salads.  A satisfying mix of hearty grains, wholesome veggies (or fruits in this case) fresh herbs and robust vinaigrettes.  Really, these types of salads are some of the best foods on earth.  And I've got a slew of them to tell you about. This one is spectacularly good.  I served this at a  brunch for 30 people last weekend and it was a total winner (I knew it would be, I eat it all the time and that's why I put it on the menu).  It has tons of flavour, it's great cold or at room temperature, and it's so satisfyingly good for you.  Make this over the weekend and take the leftovers to work on Monday for lunch (if there are any). You will love it.

Quinoa Salad with Pear, Feta and Mint
Origin: Adapted from Foodland Ontario

Notes:  Quinoa, pronounced "keen-wah" is an ancient seed/grain from South America, available in white and red varieties which can be used interchangeably.  It is quickly gaining popularity in North America because it is quick to prepare just like rice, it has a really high protein content and it has a mild nutty flavour that compliments a multitude of ingredients.  It can be served hot or cold and people even bake with it.
I added raw pistachios into this batch because I had a small amount lying around, but the salad does not need them.


1 cup dried quinoa
1 teaspoon salt
4-6 green onions, thinly sliced
3/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled or cubed
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
2 Ontario Bartlett Pears (or any kind of ripe but firm pears)
1/2 cup raw, shelled pistachios (very optional)

1/4 cup olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
1 large clove of garlic, minced
salt and pepper

Rinse quinoa in cold water and drain well.  In a medium saucepan, bring 2 cups of water and 1 teaspoon of salt to a boil. Add quinoa, cover and reduce heat to low.  Cook until water is absorbed and grain is transparent about 15 minutes.  Let stand covered, for 5 minutes then fluff with a fork. Transfer to large bowl or plate and let cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile prepare the dressing.  In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, lemon juice and garlic, season with salt and pepper.

When the quinoa is cool, mix in the green onions, feta and mint and toss with the dressing. To serve, core and chop the pears into chunks and mix into the salad.

Serves 4-6.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Superior Sandwich: Spicy Tuna Salad with Apple and Chicory (and a great side dish)

I love a good sandwich.  One that tastes good enough to make my Hubby forget that I didn't really cook him dinner.  I made this sandwich twice last week...hence the two different photos.  I used different varieties of apples, once I put the chicory on top and once on the bottom (easier to eat)...but as long as all the components are there, you are in for a treat.  This really brings lame ol' tuna to new heights.  The second time I made this (in one week), I upped the ante with a great side dish.  Roasted Cauliflower with Tahini Sauce.  It was the perfect complement.

Spicy Tuna Salad Sandwich with Apple and Chicory
Origin: Impeccable Taste, Jaime

Notes:  Oh!  Did I mention that this is really easy to put together?  Maybe that's why I made it twice during such a busy week.  I like to eat these sandwiches open faced, but feel free to put a lid on it.


Bread, 2 good buns, or a piece of a baguette (I used a 12 grain fennel baguette - amazing!)
1 can chunk light (or white) tuna (packed in water)
1 tablespoon Sriracha sauce
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 green onions, finely sliced (white and most of the green)
1 cup chicory, roughly chopped (or other bitter greens)
2 teaspoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 crispy apple, cored and sliced thinly (I've used Granny Smith and MacIntosh)
2 tablespoons honey mustard (or sweet mustard)
salt and pepper

In a medium bowl, combine tuna, Sriracha, mayonnaise and green onion.  Season with salt and pepper and mix.

In a separate bowl, toss chicory with the cider vinegar and olive oil, season with a little salt and pepper.

When you are ready to assemble your sandwich, slice the apple.  Spread a tablespoon of mustard on your bread, layer with greens, tuna salad and apple (or tuna, apple, greens...whatever).

Makes 2 generous sandwiches.

Roasted Cauliflower with Tahini Sauce
Origin: Adapted from, Saveur Magazine

Notes:  Tahini, is a paste made from ground sesame seeds.  Tahini sauce is made by adding lemon juice, garlic and salt.  When you mix the tahini and lemon juice the mixture will seize up, the warm water indicated in the instructions will loosen the mixture.  This is a very versatile sauce that can always be found on the table at a Middle Eastern feast.  It is also great used as a salad dressing for a cucumber and tomato salad or on chicken or fish.


3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 head cauliflower, cored and cut into florets
salt and pepper
1/4 cup tahini
1 clove garlic, minced
juice of 1/2 lemon

Heat oven to 450 degrees. On a baking sheet, toss cauliflower with the oil and cumin, season with salt and pepper.  Spread cauliflower into a single layer, bake for about 25 minutes stirring once midway through roasting.  Cauliflower should be browned in spots and tender.

In a small bowl, whisk together the tahini, garlic, lemon juice, and 1/4 cup warm water, season with salt.

Serve cauliflower hot or at room temperature with tahini sauce.