I’ve always had a strange tendency to think in visual images. Winter, for instance, begins with the Christmas/New Year festivities, a dazzling, multi-colored arabesque, sparkling up the dark December; it is followed by the pale and bleak, graphic effects of January and February. For that reason, I’m very happy that our new Go Cooking lineup has all sorts of colorful activities planned to carry us through to spring.
I’m excited, for instance, to see that our “Sips, Tips and Tidbits” evenings are back. These are, ostensibly, wine tastings, starring Peter Kline, our sommelier from Bacchus Sommelier Services. Peter will be accompanied by Chef Carl Dahl (Julia’s Ristorante and Ritorno) on January 28th, with an evening devoted to Spanish wine and by Chef Ken LeFebour (Nellie James Gourmet Food to Go) with wine from the Niagara Peninsula, on February 18th. There’s no “meat and potatoes” type meal planned for these evenings, but the chefs go all out to create wonderful little treats to keep the audience from wandering home in wine-soaked confusion. And with these two chefs we know that the tidbits are going to be very, very special. The “wine” evenings are always a lot of fun and although there’s no formal “dinner”, believe me, no one goes home feeling hungry.
I’m also pleased to see that we have three evenings with Chef Nick Scime (The 5 C’s in Cooking Catering Company). Chef Nick is an experienced educator and these sessions are designed for the serious cook. They are hands-on learning experiences which will teach you all sorts of chefs’ tricks — skills and techniques that will make for a happier time in your kitchen. The three Wednesdays in January will be devoted to budget friendly, available, local food and guests should be prepared to roll up their sleeves and wash their hands (aprons will be provided). Chef Nick’s sessions are for adults, but we will also be having a special event for children on February 7th. This is a Saturday before Valentine’s Day and food crafter Michelle Rubino will instruct children, 7 – 12 years old in the art of making and decorating sugar cookies.
But, of course, I’m also poring over the ads trying to figure out which chef’s table evening(s) I’d really like to attend. (In addition to hosting some of the dinners, I do like to go to a few just to sit and watch and eat.) It’s already too late for Cayuga’s The Twisted Lemon with Chef Dan Megna (sold out the first morning) but if I put my mind to it and get going, I should be able to choose wisely. Of course I’d love to go to all of them, but that, as they say, might be too much of a good thing …
So, to choose. Sorry to admit to such childishness, but my first instinct is to head for the desserts and as I’m writing this, I realize why. When planning my own simple dinner parties, I always start with a do-able entrée and, once that’s figured out, my natural laziness kicks in. It’s easy to add a simple appetizer (cream cheese and smoked salmon on thin rye bread?) and I tend to end up rushing to the store to buy some sort of delicious pre-packaged dessert. So when I have a chef-made meal, for “pudding”, I want something the chef has labored over and put some thought into.
Pondering the riches: Would it be chocolate beet cake with goat cheese icing (Chef Ryan Liberty, Liberté, Tapas and Potation)? Or, chocolate mousse with candied chili pecans (Chef Ken LeFebour, Nellie James Gourmet Food to Go)? Or, maybe, phyllo wrapped brie with a chili chocolate ganache and blood orange marmalade (Chef Mitch Lamb, Stone House Restaurant)? (Do you see a pattern here?) Or, another chocolatey delight: chocolate mousse served with a speculoos cookie, orange ice cream with orange syrup (Chef Fraser Macfarlane, Brux House)? A speculoos cookie, by the way, is a type of spiced, short crust biscuit baked for consumption on or just before St. Nicholas Day. It’s a flat molded cookie with a design pressed into the face. And yes, I had to look that up.
Of course, on the other hand, I could quell my choco-phile cravings and try something different: perhaps key lime strudel with raspberry purée (Chef Carl Dahl, Julia’s and Ritorno); fried buttermilk apple pie with brulée chai marshmallows and toasted oats (Chef Will Edsell, Queens Head Pub); no-bake cheesecake parfait with berries (Chef Shirley Johnson, Garden Cafe, RBG); Or even two kinds of carrot cake: would I prefer the carrot cake with cardomom icing and green tea Anglais (Chef Steve Rydtschenko, Test Kitchen); or how about a lavender-infused carrot cake with cream cheese icing topped with caramel (Chef Lukas Kraczla, The Purple Onion)?
Anyway, don’t stress yourself out trying to choose. Our Go Cooking sessions are such good value, that you could treat yourself to two or three to ward off the dregs of the winter doldrums.
And since holiday parties are imminent, I’ll leave you with a recipe fit for all other chocolate lovers out there. I make these every year and they’re so good that I’m wondering if I want to share my recipe. But, hey, anything for my readers —
Chocolate Raspberry Truffles
Elaine’s recipe, many years old
1/2 cup heavy cream
12 oz semi-sweet chocolate, chopped fine
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, cut into bits and softened
1/2 cup seedless red raspberry jam
2 tbsp. Chambord Royale (LCBO 111443)
1/2 cup sifted, unsweetened cocoa powder for coating the truffles
1) In a saucepan, bring the cream just to a boil over moderate heat and remove the pan from the heat.
2) Add the chocolate, stirring, and stir the mixture until the chocolate is melted completely and the mixture is smooth.
3) Let the mixture cool slightly, add the butter, bit by bit, stirring and stir until smooth.
4) Stir in the jam and a pinch of salt, transfer to a bowl and chill, covered, for 4 hours, or until it is firm.
5) Form the mixture, by heaping teaspoonfuls, into balls and roll the balls in the cocoa powder.
6) Chill the truffles for 1 hour or until firm.
7) The truffles will keep in an airtight container, chilled for two weeks. Makes about 40 truffles.
The Chambord is very expensive and there are a few other raspberry liqueurs out there that don’t cost as much. Still, it can also be used on ice cream or, of course, as an after dinner drink and I’m sticking to the fancy one.