Category Archives: Desserts

Mood Indigo

blueberriesonvine

The late comedian George Carlin proposed the reason why there was no blue food.  His paranoid assertion: “Someone is keeping it hidden because it probably bestows immortality.”

Carlin discounts blueberries by calling them purple, but I beg to differ.  Blueberry sauce often has a reddish-purple glow, but blueberries themselves run from a powdery blue sheen, to a very deep indigo.

It’s blueberry season where we live, right now, and for many people eating fresh blueberries is like devouring a bowl full of summer.  (Others tend to eat them all year round since they are available from the American South, Chile, Argentina and even Australia.)  But the best ones are, of course, local and seasonal, and ripe and ready to eat from late July to the end of August.

Blueberries have a very special link to those who grew up in Ontario. The blueberry bush is a native North American species and early settlers hereabouts incorporated them into their diets and medicines.  North America accounts for about 90 percent of the world’s crop according to the Ontario Berry Growers Association website.

Ontario grows two major varieties of blueberry, the lowbush which grows wild and the highbush which blueberrieswildhas been cultivated since 1976.  (Surprisingly acid rain has encouraged the growth of lowbush blueberries by reducing the PH level of the soil.) The lowbush blueberries are often called wild blueberries.  They are smaller and most people seem to agree that their flavour is more intense than in the larger cultivated highbush blueberries.  These lowbush blueberries are “as rare as hen’s teeth”, however.  A quick survey of local berry farms and markets revealed that you can buy them frozen in a couple of places (The Mustard Seed Co-op, for instance).  But the only place I found, that promised to have them fresh was Picone’s in Dundas (they should be coming in, in a couple of weeks).  If you know any other places that sell them, I’d love to find out about it.

Here’s a confession:  I never used to like blueberries and would wonder how anyone could eat them fresh, out of their hands.  I enjoyed them sweetened up — in blueberry muffins, or blueberry sauce, or blueberry pancakes and — especially — blueberry pie.  Then, in a burst of “healthy eating” frenzy, I began to sprinkle them on yogurt — which did help to kill the vile flavourlessness of the plain yogurt.  You see, I had been scouring the Internet and became carried away by the notices of how healthy they are — really a sort of superfood.  For instance, blueberries have one of the highest antioxidant capacities among all fruits.  Antioxidants are important because they combat something called free radicals that can damage cellular structures as well as DNA.  This means that they have potential benefits for the nervous system and for brain health.  There is even some evidence that they improve scores on memory tests and slow down cognitive problems frequently associated with aging.  They are full of vitamin C; are low in calories — about 80 per cup — and practically fat free; they are loaded with fibre; and they are an excellent source of manganese which plays an important part in bone development and converting carbohydrates and fats into energy.

Phew!

blueberriesand cornBut really, the intense blue of blueberries and the bright yellow of fresh corn, just seem the proper accompaniment to the heat and haze of August in the Ontario countryside.

Here’s the beginning of a wonderful poem by Robert Frost where he uses blueberries as a starting point to say everything there is to say about the economics of a small farming community.

Blueberries

by Robert Frost

“You ought to have seen what I saw on my way

To the village, through Mortenson’s pasture today:

Blueberries as big as the end of your thumb,

Real sky-blue and heavy, and ready to drum

In the cavernous pail of the first one to come!

And all ripe together, not some of them green

And some of them ripe!  You ought to have seen!” …

The rest of the poem is at

http://www.daypoems.net/poems/2648.html

And here’s an easy recipe for something good to eat on a long weekend breakfast.

Blueberry Almond Coffeecake

from Gourmet magazine, July 2000

Ingredients:blueberriesalmon

2 cups all purpose flour

2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened

1 1/2 cups plus 1 tbsp sugar

2 whole large eggs

1 tsp vanilla or 1/4 tsp almond extract

1/2 cup milk

2 1/2 cups blueberries

1 egg white

1 cup sliced almonds

Method:

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and butter a 2 – 2 1/2 quart ceramic or glass baking dish.

2)  Sift together flour, baking powder and salt.  Beat together butter and 1 1/4 cups sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.  Beat in whole eggs, 1 at a time, then vanilla.  Alternately add flour mixture and milk in batches, beginning and ending with flour and beating on low speed after each addition until incorporated.  Fold in berries.

3)  Spoon batter into baking dish spreading evenly.

4)  Lightly beat egg with a fork and add remaining 3 tbsp sugar and almonds, stirring to coat.

5)  Spoon topping evenly over batter and bake in middle of oven until golden brown and a tester inserted in center comes out clean, 50 minutes to 1 hour.  Cool in pan on a rack for 10 minutes.

My Notes:

This can be made a day ahead and kept covered at room temperature.  Reheat, covered in a 350 degree oven.

 

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Heirloom cuisine

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Chef Lukas Kraczla is excited about the opportunities offered by living so close to the farming and wine making country.

“We really have the cream of the crop to choose from here,” he says, “whether its local produce or wine.”

Luckas - Purple HeatherThe young chef grew up in the Niagara region and admits that his heart is still in the wine country.  He fell in love with good quality wine, at first, and then realized how beautifully the wine paired with good quality food.  This led to a career choice at an early age, a few years of apprenticeship under some very accomplished chefs (at the Diamond Estates, now the Mike Weir Estate Winery) and a determination to create a fusion cuisine that combines the best in local produce with a global inspiration.  He has been executive chef at Burlington’s Purple Heather Pub for about a year and a half now.

Kraczla not only cooks, but also grows his own vegetables.  He has a garden (“I wish it were a lot bigger …”) where he experiments with heirloom vegetables and fruits and his menu for our up-coming Go Cooking session on July 21st will reflect this practice of “heirloom heritage”.  He likes to play around with all sorts of shapes and sizes of vegetables and fruit —  one of his favorite vegetables, for example, is a Banana Legs tomato which is bright yellow and about an inch thick with “great flesh.” But he says that he will be selecting the best of each crop for our dinner.

Heirloom vegetables, as you probably know, are from plants that were cultivated at least 25 years ago. (Many of the plants may come from stock or seeds used by farmers from as far back as 100 to 150 years.)  The plants were grown in the early years of agriculture, before industrialization, and the seeds and cultivars have been preserved and maintained over the years.  Heirloom vegetables and fruits are open-pollinated and contain no GMO’s.  They are touted as healthy choices, but the real point of the heirloom plant is the intense flavour.  The belief is that, over the years, plants have increasingly been bred to look good, to have high yields, to have uniform sizes and shapes and to be able to withstand long journeys and storage.  But there has been a loss of flavour (think of those beautiful, but mealy-textured and  tasteless tomatoes we buy — often, sadly, from markets).  Heirloom vegetables and fruits may not look so pretty — they may be misshapen and strangely colored, but they deliver on both taste and nutrition.

If you think that this is all a lot of nonsense, our Go Cooking session will provide a chance to do a taste test.  Chef Lukas will be preparing a Caprese salad with oven-dried, heirloom tomato vinaigrette, a salsa (to go on pork tenderloin) with a gastrique (a traditional French sauce based on vinegar and sugar) which combines heirloom peaches and jalapenos and a dessert with a ground cherry compote.  A ground cherry, by the way, is a most peculiar looking fruit.  It is a marble-sized orangey-yellow colored “cherry” that grows in a protective, papery husk, like a tomatillo.  Aunt Molly‘s is probably the best known variety; some compare the flavour to pineapple, Chef Lukas says only that it is very tart.

kraczlagroundcherry

ground cherries

Burlington’s  Purple Heather Pub, at the corner of Walker’s Line and Dundas Street, bills itself as a food, music and dining establishment.  Yes, you can get all of the usual, well-prepared “pub grub” here, but the menus move the cuisine up a notch to “casual fine dining.”  Go Cooking chose this restaurant to serve as an example of one of the many establishments taking part in “A Taste of Burlington‘s” summer programme this year.

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Go Cooking is partnering with “A Taste of Burlington“, which runs from July 19th to August 2nd. There are 23 restaurants participating and each restaurant will be offering a prix fixe lunch and/or dinner menu.  This is such a fun experience; the restaurants outdo themselves in offering exceptional food and interesting choices.  But if you want to take part be sure to make a reservation.  This dining is good value and the event is wildly popular.  For more information the website is http://tasteofburlington.ca/

And here’s a nice boozy recipe that uses those “oh, so delicious” and “oh, so fleeting”, fresh raspberries that are currently at the market:

Raspberries with Sabayon

from Lucy Waverman’s “Seasonal Canadian Cookbook” kraczlaraspberrysab

Ingredients:

4 cups raspberies (1 L)

1/2 cup granulated sugar (125 mL)

4 egg yolks

1/2 cup dry white wine (125 mL)

2 tbsp orange liqueur (25 mL)

Method:

1)  Place the raspberries in a bowl and sprinkle with 2 tbsp sugar.

2) In a large, heavy pot on low heat, whisk together  the egg yolks and remaining sugar until the mixture doubles in volume and holds its shape.  Whisk in the white wine and liqueur.  Continue to whisk until the mixture is thick and creamy and has almost tripled in volume.

3)  Divide the raspberries among six plates.  Spoon the warm sabayon over.  Serve immediately.

My Notes: 

Sabayon is the French name for the Italian zabaglione a sweet, light, custard-like dessert.  You can use either dry or sweet wine — I prefer to use something not too dry or oaky — maybe an Italian moscato?  You will have to whip for quite a while — try making figure 8’s which add more bubbles more quickly than just a circular motion.  And don’t let the custard get too hot or you will end up with scrambled eggs. 

 

 

The Happening Too – Bridging the Gap

 

A Happening Too - Bridging the Gap(2)

 

 

happ2bacchusphoto

“A Happening ” 2014 photo from Bacchus Sommelier ServicesSometimes a great notion deserves a reprise.  Last year, for instance, Go Cooking and Chef Ken Lefebour of the Dundas catering company Nellie James Gourmet   to Go, teamed up to throw a fabulous party in the       Spectator auditorium.  Called “A Happening”, the event was in support of Hamilton’s Interval House and the Spectator’s Summer Camp Fund.  The festivities included live music, visual artists and performing artists, along with hors d’oeuvres especially created by the Chef and wine chosen by Peter Kline’s Bacchus Sommelier Services.  It turned out to be such a groovy evening that we decided to have another go this year.

The 2015 version has been dubbed “A Happening Too – Bridging the Gap” and will take place on Saturday, June the 6th, from 7 – 10 p.m., once again in the Spectator auditorium.  Chef Ken is designing some toothsome and tasty tid-bits for our guests to devour throughout the evening along with their wine from Bacchus Sommelier Services.  Tickets are $80 per person, 2 for $150 and groups of ten for $730, and will soon be available at The Hamilton Spectator – Customer Service Desk open Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.  or from Nellie James Gourmet Food to Go, 144 King St West, Dundas – 905-627-3252.

This year the entertainment is centred upon “bridging the gap” between generations, so you can expect to enjoy a hearty dose of nostalgia.  Here is a quick peek at just a few of the featured artists:

happ2mimiMimi Shaw, according to CBC news,( http://music.cbc.ca/#!/artists/Mimi-Shaw)”is an “alt-country” artist with a voice that bends the lines of roots, country and Americana …  Deeply influenced by vintage country and roots artists, Mimi’s evocative music hints at past greats like The Carter Sisters, Hank Williams, Hank Snow and Patsy Cline.  Modern influences, the likes of Emmy-Lou Harris, Margo Timmins and Lucinda Williams, can be felt as well.”  Shaw has been  nominated for the 2015 Hamilton Music Awards Best Female Artist of the Year.

Laura Cole (“http://lauracolemusic.com/bio/y) is originally from Ancaster and is also a Hamilton Music happ2lauracAwards nominee.  “Her musical journey has led her from LA, to Toronto and to Nashville, where she began in earnest writing her own songs  — a blend of old jazz and blues with a new age twist.”  Chef Ken characterizes her style as a sort of bluesy, soul music.

Burnin Ethyl (http://www.burninethyl.net/About.html ) is a three person group, a 50’s rock and roll band featuring Trevor Rogers, Craig Koshul and drummer Steve Sinnick. They have been playing since the 1970’s and bring a ’50’s feel to blues, country and rockabilly.

Hut Museum includes Curtis Lefebour, Chef Ken’s brother.  Chef Ken describes it as a band that was popular 25 years ago in Hamilton and they will be playing music that recalls the ’80’s.

happ2dindsacredarborealimage

“Sacred Arboreal Image” Dave Hind

Visual artists will also “doing their thing” on site.  You can expect to find “thing-maker” Dave Hind. (As you may recall he did the poster for last year’s “Happening.”)  Hind works with metal and reclaimed materials — aluminum and reclaimed steel, for instance — making objects that are both functional and formally elegant.  Often the sculptural objects play on the juxtaposition of the natural with the industrial.

happ2citywave

“City Wave” Sanjay B. Patel

Painter Sanjay B. Patel paints abstract artworks in acrylic, creating commissioned works for specific spaces. The artworks are notable for their energetic, gestural brushwork and a palette that is based in nature.

And, as a special treat, there will be a fashion component to the evening.  Blackbird Studios on James St North is an irresistible stop on the Friday night Art Crawl.  The women’s clothing shop bills itself as a Canadian designer label and fashion house “with years of experience catering to the demands of rock stars, roller girls, burlesque artists, fashion misfits and fashionistas.” (https://blackbirdstudios.ca/about-us/)  The specialties of the  designers (Buckshot and Kiki), include vintage reproductions and you can watch for models clothed in ’50’s fashions strolling around during the evening, adding glamour to the “Rock around the Clock” ambiance.

happ2blackbird

So — combine all of this live and lively entertainment with great food and wine and you are looking at an experience that far transcends dinner and a movie.  Hope to see you there.

And here’s a recipe for the dessert at Chef Ken’s sold out, up-coming Go Cooking session:

Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding with Butterscotch Sauce

from Chef Ken Lefebour, Nellie James Gourmet to Go

Bread Pudding Ingredients:happ2chocchips

1/4 cup water

12 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 litre 35% cream

2 cups sugar

vanilla to taste

1 loaf Italian bread cut into 2″ pieces

approximately 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Method:

1)  Whisk eggs for one minute.

2)  Add sugar and whisk until pale, about 3 – 4 minutes.

3) Add cream, water and vanilla and combine.

4)  Place bread in a large pan and pour mixture over bread.

5)  Toss bread in mixture and press.

6)  Let rest for 10 minutes.

7)  Grease a second large pan well.

8)  Remove bread from first pan and evenly distribute bread in second pan.

9)  Pour remaining liquid over the bread and press firmly.

10)  Sprinkle chocolate chips over mixture.

11)  Cover with foil and bake at 325 degrees for approximately 30 – 40 minutes.

12)  Remove foil after 20 minutes.

13)  Serve with butterscotch sauce.

Butterscotch Ingredients:

1/3 lb unsalted butter cut into pieces

1 1/4 cups of sugar

2 cups of 35% cream

1/4 cup water

Method:

1)  Over medium high heat, melt sugar to golden, swirl in pan.

2)  Add butter, cream and water and reduce heat to medium.

3)  Whisk gently to combine, approximately 10 minutes.

4)  Remove from heat, cool and continue to whisk occasionally.

happ2Nelliestore

Moms

Anna Jarvis founder of Mother's Day

Anna Jarvis founder of Mother’s Day

I am confounded by the irony of the fact that Anna Jarvis, the American woman who founded “Mother’s Day,” never married and had no children of her own.  Jarvis is credited with officially founding the holiday in 1908, two years after losing her own mother.  Still grieving, the young woman held a ceremony in West Virginia to honour her mother and was so moved by the effects of her own efforts, that she embarked on a national campaign to have the country honour the contributions made by mothers.  In 1910, West Virginia became the first state to celebrate Mother’s Day and a year later the country’s other states officially set aside the day as well.

Sadly, Jarvis spent the rest of her life trying to undo what she had done.  Angered by the commercialization of Mother’s Day, she filed a lawsuit in 1923 to stop a Mother’s Day festival.  She was later arrested for disturbing the peace when she learned that a war mothers’ convention was selling white carnations — her symbol for mothers — to raise money.  Jarvis died at the age of 84, never having become a mother herself and having spent most of the fortune her own mother left her, to fight a holiday she had created to honour her.

Like Jarvis, I have never been a mother — but I certainly have had a mother and feel eager to celebrate her memory.  As a child, however, I did have a bit of a difficult time figuring out what to do for Mother’s Day.  Many Mother’s Day proposals suggested fixing breakfast for mother and bringing it on a tray to her bedside.  My mother would always prefer to sleep in, rather than to have someone barging into her boudoir and waking her up with food, and she was not at all fond of the idea of myself or (Heaven help us!) my father, messing around in her kitchen.  I was never sure of what to bring her as a gift — we had a big garden and our house was always filled with flowers and so that was not an option.  And jewellery or clothing were beyond my childish means.  It even was difficult to find a card.  My stylish mother had nothing of that “Betty Crocker” appeal of the mothers that appeared on greeting cards — she never wore a housedress, that I can recall, and I’m quite sure that she didn’t own an apron.  Usually, I would end up creating a fancy, homemade card for her and my dad and I would take her out somewhere elegant and charming for lunch.

Mother died at a very young age and I still miss her terribly.  She was the only person who has ever been totally fascinated by the minutiae of my life and even at this ripe age, there still are so many things that I really would like to talk about with her.

The other mother whom I also miss and with whom I shared a somewhat “fraught” relationship was my mother-in-law.  Betty (Bozena) and I viewed each other warily across an enormous divide of history, economics, politics, language and culture.  Unlike my comfortable and humdrum southern Ontario upbringing, my husband’s childhood was filled with danger, instability and sheer terror.  As a young child in Czechoslovakia, his family lived in a country which, after the Second World War, was under a strict communist regime within the Soviet sphere of influence. The family was split apart by politics.  My husband’s father was sent to South America to work, the rest of the family, Betty and the two small children, were kept in Czechoslovakia to prevent him from defecting.

The situation became intolerable and Betty decided to do something about it.  This required hiring guides to take her and my husband (then, five years old) and his slightly older sister, across the border into Austria where they would be able to get a plane to South America and rejoin her husband.  Things went wrong. The guides were shot and Betty and the two small children found themselves in a small Austrian village lost, hungry and thirsty, trying to find their contact person without drawing attention to themselves.

My husband was not a sentimental man, but one of the few times, I ever heard his voice break was when he told me this story:  After wandering around and around for hours, he said, his mother decided to turn herself in because she knew that the children would be taken care of, even if she was arrested and sent back.  But, as they were on their way to the police station, the contact person appeared on the street, recognized her and the children and — well, to make a very long story short — eventually the whole family ended up in Canada.   Betty was one of the strongest and bravest people that I have ever met.  She resisted talking about this period of her life and I regret that I never heard this story from her point of view.

Anyway, here’s to mothers everywhere.  And here’s a treat that you might want to make to honour your own mom this Sunday.

Chef John’s Pavlova with Berries

adapted from a recipe on Allrecipes by Chef John 

Ingredients:motherspavlova

3/4 cup sugar

2 tsp cornstarch

3 egg whites, room temperature

1 tsp vanilla extract

3/4 tsp white vinegar

2 cups heavy cream

3 tbsp confectioners’ sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 pint strawberries, stems removed — or assorted berries

Method:

1)  Preheat oven to 250 degrees F (120 degrees C).

2)  Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper

3)  Whisk sugar and cornstarch in a bowl.  Set aside.

4)  Beat egg whites in a bowl until they are foamy and have a thick ribbony texture, 2 – 3 minutes.

5)  Pour 1/4 of the sugar mixture into the egg whites;  whisk until completely incorporated, about 30 seconds.  Repeat for the rest of the sugar mixture, whisking after each addition, until all of the sugar mixture is incorporated and the egg whites are glossy and thick.

5)  Pour vanilla and vinegar into egg white mixture;  whisk until you can lift your beater or whisk straight up and the egg whites form a sharp peak that hold its shape, 2 – 3 minutes.

6)  Spoon egg white mixture onto prepared baking sheet;  spread out into a 2 inch high by 6 inch wide disc.

7)  Bake in a preheated oven for 1 hour.

8)  Turn off the oven, crack open the oven door and let the Pavlova cool for one hour.

9)  Whip cream, sugar and vanilla extract in a bowl until soft peaks form, 3 – 4 minutes.

10)  Transfer Pavlova to a serving plate.  Top with whipped cream and fresh strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, kiwi, whatever.

My Notes:

A bit of lore:  a Pavlova is a meringue-based dessert named after the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova — actually created in New Zealand when she was on a tour.  It should have a crisp and crunchy outer shell and a marshmallowy, soft interior.

mothershappy

Sharing Niagara Pairings

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Peninsula Ridge Estates Winery

 

Location, location, location — surely one of the best things about living in Hamilton, surrounded by rich, rolling countryside with lots of nearby farms and markets, as well as being just down the road from “the wine country”, a setting which allows us to enjoy local vintages and a wonderful selection of creative chefs and world-class restaurants.

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Chef Matt Hemmingsen, Photo from Niagara Life Magazine

 

This coming Tuesday (April 14), Go Cooking will be taking advantage of these opportunities with  Chef Matt Hemmingsen from The Restaurant at Peninsula Ridge Estates Winery.  Chef Matt returned to The Restaurant last year, after working there about eight years ago.  The Restaurant, he explains, is also known as The Kitchen House, not because it previously was a kitchen, but because it was owned by the Kitchen family. (Hemmingsen admits that he discovered this historical tidbit after he received a somewhat puzzling note from a restaurant patron that began, “I am a Kitchen …”)

The Estates include 42 acres of vinifera grapes and the property makes the most of a rather breathtaking view of the Niagara Escarpment, Lake Ontario and the Toronto skyline. The winery opened in 2000 and bills itself as focusing on making “racy sauvignon blancs, chardonnays (especially unoaked INOX chardonnay) and Bordeaux reds”.

hemmingsenthehouse

The restaurant itself is perched on the brow of the Beamsville Bench with the winery building and carriage house behind it. The main floor dining room seats about 60 – 80 and there is an outdoor patio which spills over with another 40 or 50 happy people all summer long.  It is housed in an old red brick Victorian manor house which was built in 1885 by Grimsby architect Frank Hill.  The house was recently declared as an historic site under the Ontario Heritage Act for its historical and architectural significance and its distinctive design includes an eye-catching turret and cedar shingled roof.  It has been meticulously restored and has become the most recognizable symbol of the winery.

Chef Matt has worked in restaurants in the Niagara region during his 20 year career, getting his Chef’s papers at Niagara College right after leaving high school.  His earliest apprenticeship was at a very well known restaurant in Welland called Rinderlin’s. Rinderlin’s closed a few years ago, but was a landmark location.  The proprietors were German and Swiss-trained and Hemmingsen says that he absorbed their European-based culinary skills.  His goal is to combine these skills with a serious attempt to use local and seasonal foods from the Niagara area on the menu at Peninsula Ridge.

“We make all of our own breads, desserts, ice cream, ” Hemmingsen states with pride, “and we have a very knowledgeable front of house manager who pairs the wines, as well as two winemakers on the property.  The menu changes frequently because it is dependent upon what is currently available.”

Hemmingsen’s menu for our upcoming Go Cooking session is indicative of his innovative and locally-based approach.  The main course will feature pickerel from a small fishery on Lake Erie.  The Chef notes that he is always careful to buy the whole fish and then fillets it himself because he needs to examine the eyes and gills to make sure that it is very fresh. The first course will be gnocchi made rich and tasty with a symphony of flavors that plays upon a counterpoint of sweet potatoes and lemon.  The pancetta is home cured and the ricotta made by the chef.  And I am going to leave you with the recipe for the dessert — a tour de force called “Rosewood Mead and Buttermilk Panna Cotta”.  A word about the Rosewood Mead:  The Chef says that this comes from a winery about a kilometer away from Peninsula Ridge called Rosewood Estates Winery.  Rosewood Estates own an aviary and make a honey wine which is not quite as sweet as an ice wine.

“The bottom layer of the dessert will use the mead set with gelatin.  The middle is a layer of buttermilk custard.  And on top is the honeycomb.  It’s not a real beeswax honeycomb, but is a mixture that resembles a honeycomb when you heat sugar with baking soda.”

Try to restrain yourself until Tuesday night, if you are a Go Cooking guest.  And for the others, here’s the recipe for the dessert.

Rosewood Mead and Buttermilk Panna Cotta

from Chef Matt Hemmingsen, The Restaurant at Peninsula Ridge Estates Winery

Mead Layer

Ingredients:

1/4 cup simple syruphemmingsenrosewoodmead

1 cup mead

1 (.45) gelatin sheet

Method:

1) Place gelatin sheet in medium bowl and pour cold syrup over.  Allow to soften.

2)  Bring mead to a simmer and pour over gelatin. Stir until dissolved.

3)  Divide into 6 X 5 oz ramekins and refrigerate until set.

 

Buttermilk Layer

Ingredients:

1/3 cup buttermilkhemmingsenbuttermilk_panna_cotta-2

2 (.98) sheets gelatin

2 1/2 cups 35% cream

1/2 cup sugar

1 vanilla bean

Method:

1)  Place gelatin in a medium bowl and pour buttermilk over.  Allow to soften.

2)  Bring cream, sugar and vanilla to a simmer and pour over.  Stir until gelatin is fully melted.

3)  Allow to cool to room temperature, then pour into the ramekins and refrigerate until set (approximately 3 hours)

 

Honeycomb

Ingredients:

100 grams caster sugar (icing sugar)hemmingsenhoneycomb1

50 grams water

1 tsp golden syrup

1 tsp baking soda

Method:

1)  Place sugar, water and golden syrup in a sauce pot.  Slowly bring the mixture to 160 degrees F.

2)  Add baking soda, stir in and pour onto parchment paper to cool

3)  Once cool, break into smaller pieces.

Assembly:

1)  Carefully trace a paring knife around the edge of the ramekin, turn upside down with one hand below the ramekin and shake panna cotta out.

2)  Place in centre of the plate.

3)  Garnish with honeycomb, wildflower honey, bee pollen and flower petals.

hemmingsenbees

 

 

Binbrook Extravaganza!

binbrookwandchef

Chef Wade Taylor, Chef John Svab

 

The tiny farming community of Binbrook has seen great changes since amalgamation with Hamilton in 2001.  According to Wade Taylor, owner and executive chef of The Binbrook Grill, the population of the small community has tripled over the last five years.

“Binbrook is still a young and rapidly growing community,” says Taylor, “and we have positioned the Grill so that it is right in the dead centre of the town.  We’re hoping that it will become a neighbourhood hangout as well as a dining destination.”

The Binbrook restaurant was opened in December, 2013, spurred by the success of Taylor’s Argyle Street Grill in Caledonia.  (The Argyle Street Grill has been featured on the Food Network’s “You Gotta’ Eat Here”.)  Taylor says that he had been eyeing the Binbrook location — a former eating place called “The Bin” — for quite a while.

Binbrookrenovation

The renovation

 

“The Bin was old and very run down and it took us four to six weeks to renovate.  I set up the new menu and while it’s not designed as “fine dining”, we are determined to do things right.  For instance, we make bruschetta with roasted tomatoes and good goat cheese.  The food is cooked from scratch and I try to use locally sourced meats, cheese, anything I can find nearby whenever feasible.

Specialties include our prime rib crusted with Dijon and horseradish — which is second to none.  And Lake Erie perch breaded with panko crumbs — when the lake isn’t frozen over.  We have our own smoker and another favorite is applewood smoked ribs.

The menu items are ‘the usual suspects’ but we try to give them an upscale spin.”

Binbrookafter

The Binbrook Grill

 

Taylor has been working in the food industry for most of his career.  Growing up in Niagara-on-the-Lake, he started out working in several of the area hotels, including the well-known Pillar and Post, which gave him an early glimpse into the world of fine dining.

The only deviation in his life plan came after high school when he made a trip out to the west coast.

“I was known as a bit of a tree hugger,” he admits, “and when I got home from out west I found out that my mother had registered me in Forestry at college.  I tried it, only to find out that it was all about cutting trees down, so I dropped out.”

Back on track, he worked his way through all sorts of restaurants including chains such as Casey’s and Milestones Bar and Grill, ending up at Hamilton’s Slainte Irish Pub where he spent four years.  In the meantime he got his chef’s papers and, as an aside, did four years of night school at Mohawk College, taking courses in graphic design and illustration.  (“So I could make good-looking menus, ” he laughs.)  In 2010, he began a consulting business working with small restaurants, helping to create menus.  During this time, he found a restaurant in Caledonia and along with his partner, Kevin Wootton, opened the doors to the Argyle Street Grill in 2010.  The rest is, as they say, history.

At our Go Cooking session on March 3rd, Taylor is going to be demonstrating his creative flair with a menu devoted to simple, homely comfort foods, items such as braised short ribs, a salmon based appetizer and pot de crème for dessert.  Ahh — simple in spirit, perhaps, but listen to how he describes the fare:

“The short ribs were featured on the Food Network show.  They are braised for seven and a half hours (to reflect the Caledonia telephone exchange, 765) and are fall-off-the-bone tender.  They will be served with fingerling potatoes and whatever vegetable is market fresh that day.

For the appetizer, I’ll toss quinoa with mango, tomatoes, cucumber and avocado in a salad with a lemon Chardonnay vinaigrette — we’ll use our own preserved lemons.”

And guests are in for a triple whammy evening, since they will have the benefit of watching not one, but three chefs.  Chef Wade is bringing Chef John Svab from the Binbrook Grill as well as Chef Dave Aul from the Argyle Street restaurant, just to keep things moving.  If you aren’t going to be one of the lucky guests you can always visit one of the restaurants.  Or, here is the dessert recipe for you to try at home.

Butterscotch Pot de Crème

from Chef Wade Taylor, Binbrook Grill and Argyle Street Grill

binbrookbuttersk

Ramekins in water bath

Ingredients

17 egg yolks

2/3 cup white sugar

1 litre of 35 % cream

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup butterscotch chips

1 cup chocolate wafers

Hershey’s Skor bar

binbrookSkor

 

Method:

1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2)  In a large bowl, whisk together egg yolks and sugar until the sugar has dissolved and th mixture is thick and pale yellow.

3)  Combine cream and vanilla, whisk until well blended

4)  Place cream in sauce pan and heat on stove on medium low flame until almost boiling.  Skim off any foam or bubbles.  Pour in butterscotch chips and whisk until melted.

5)  Pour a small amount of hot cream into egg yolk mixtures, whisking as you pour to SLOWLY increase yolk temperature, then add remaining cream.

6)  Divide mixture among 11 oval ramekins or custard cups.  Place ramekins on the oven shelf then pour a water bath around them (large pan filled with 1 or 2 inches of hot water) and bake until set around the edges, but still loose in the centre (about 15 to 20 minutes).  Remove from oven, leave in the water bath until cooled.  Remove cups from water bath and chill.

7)  Melt chocolate wafers in a double boiler and pour a small layer on top of custard.  Crumble 1 tbsp of Skor on top of hot chocolate.  Allow to cool, then wrap and place in fridge.

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Om, nom, nom, nom, nom ….

cookiemonster

I’m not quite sure why the Cookie Monster was always one of my favorite Sesame Street characters but somehow this disheveled image of pure and unbridled greed always made me snicker and giggle a lot.  (I think I saw him as the Gordon Gekko of the down home, family kitchen.)  Anyway, it made me a bit sad when the health conscious thought police “toned him down” in 2006, forcing him to term a cookie “a sometime snack” and making it known that he also liked to eat fruit and eggplant.  Fortunately that bit of political correctness now has faded from memory and we can all go back to avidly enjoying our sugary treats.

Personally, I just love to snack on cookies, which is rather a shame, since making them forms one of my more unpleasant experiences in the kitchen.  Like Cookie Monster, my favorites are chocolate chip, first, and oatmeal, second, although it’s hard to think of a kind that I don’t  love to eat.  I always like to accompany the cookies with a beverage and the type of drink must determine the type of cookie — you know, there are milk cookies and coffee cookies and tea cookies, and so on. (Beer cookies?  I wonder.)  But I usually go to a good bakery to buy the cookies because making them seems to be my own particular culinary nemesis.  I recall one experience, for instance, when the dough all swelled together in the oven into one enormous, depressing, soggy mess, another time when the drop cookies turned into singed, hard little marbles and I don’t even want to think about my discouraging experiences with crumbly, disintegrated shortbread.  So I am thinking — perhaps I should attend our Saturday, February 7th, Go Cooking session — even though it is for seven to twelve year olds?

cookiemichelle

Michelle Rubino

At the Saturday session the youngsters will be making sugar cookies under the tutelage of food crafter Michelle Rubino.  I first met Michelle when she worked as a customer service representative in the Spectator’s Circulation department (she is now working in our Classified area.)  The delicious treats that she generously provided for the staff inspired our Go Cooking co-ordinator, Karen Aquino, to talk her into doing a children’s baking class.  She has had lots of experience baking for her two daughters, baby Scarlett and five year old ‘Becca.  And she tells me that she also did do a stint of working in the bakery at Walmart — which she calls a  “fakery” since all of the baking was frozen and just pulled out of the freezer and put into the oven.

“At the children’s class,” says Michelle, “the kids will learn more than just baking, they will get practice in working together and will learn how to enjoy their time in the kitchen more.”

cookiesvalentine

She chose to make sugar cookies this weekend because she makes a lot of them and they are fairly simple to do.  Children can cut out different shapes and they are easy to decorate — the plain flat cookie providing a sort of blank canvas that can be embellished in a myriad of ways.  (There will probably be lots of heart shapes since the class has a Valentine’s Day theme.)  Michelle’s recipe is one which she found on the Internet and then tweaked so that it has her own individual style.

I don’t have Michelle’s recipe yet, but here is the Cookie Monster’s recipe for sugar cookies.  It appeared in “Big Bird’s Busy Book” in the 1970’s.  If you would like to have Michelle’s recipe, let me know.

Cookie Monster Sugar Cookies

from “Big Bird’s Busy Book”

Ingredients:

3/4 cup unsalted butter, softenedcookieplain

1 cup sugar

2 eggs, slightly beaten

1 tsp vanilla

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking flour

1 tsp salt

Method:

1) Put 3/4 cup of butter (that’s a stick) into a mixing bowl.

2) Measure 1 cup of sugar.  Pour sugar over butter.

3) With fork, squash butter and sugar together until they are blended.

4) Crack shells of two eggs and pour eggs over mixture in bowl.

5 )Measure one tsp of vanilla and pour over mixture.

6) With fork, blend everything together in the bowl.

7) Measure 2 1/2 cups of all purpose flour and pour over mixture in bowl.

8) Measure 1 tsp baking powder and sprinkle over flour.

9) Measure 1 tsp of salt and sprinkle over flour and baking powder.

10) Mix everything together either with the fork or with your hands.

11) Put dough in icebox to chill (at least one hour).

12) There are no instructions for baking from this point, but a quick search through others’ experiences and recommendations say to roll out cookies 1/4 inch thick, sprinkle with sugar and bake at 400 degrees F for about 10 minutes.

cookiemonsterend

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