Monday, November 29, 2010

Split Pea Soup with Smoked Sausage and Greens

Confession time: peas are probably my least favourite vegetable. I find them sickeningly sweet and just think they ruin a good dish. My prejudice against peas dates back to childhood and was only reinforced by stories of my dad's pea hatred at a young age. So what am I doing making a split pea soup? I decided to give yellow split peas a try when they kept popping up in Indian recipes. Of course, I had difficulty initially finding yellow split peas, so I bought some green ... just in case ... and then they sat in my pantry for entirely too long. I think I'm okay with peas now ... if they're split peas and paired with a spicy sausage. I didn't quickly find the recommended sausage, so I substituted a lamb merguez and added a little liquid smoke. As an additional warning, this makes a very thick soup and quite a lot of it. I had to thin the soup out a little and I never have to do that.

Split Pea Soup with Smoked Sausage and Green (adapted from

454g dried green split peas (2 1/3 cups)
340g smoked pork linguiça or andouille sausages (I used slightly less and a lamb merguez)
8 cups (or more) low-salt chicken broth
1 tsp liquid smoke (optional)
5 Turkish bay leaves
3 to 4 cups coarsely chopped kale

1. Cook sausage in a frying pan, browning on both sides (6 minutes total). Add water, cover, and let steam cook for an additional 6 minutes or so.
2. Combine split peas, whole cooked sausages, 8 cups broth, liquid smoke, and bay leaves in heavy large pot.
3. Bring to boil over medium-high heat, stirring often.
4. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until peas are tender, stirring occasionally, 30 to 35 minutes.
5. Transfer sausages to cutting board. Cut lengthwise in half, then crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick half-rounds (mine were thin, so I skipped the lengthwise).
6. Puree soup using an immersion blender.
7. Add sausages and greens. Thin with more broth if necessary. Simmer soup until greens soften, 3 to 4 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Couscous with Herbs and Lemon

While reading the reviews for the lamb stew I made, I stumbled upon this couscous recipe. I had only impulsively bought basil (should I be worried that I now impulsively buy fresh herbs instead of things like candy?), so I had to make do without the parsley and mint. The original recipe, however, is included below for my future reference (and your use!).

One year ago: The amazing macaroni and cheese recipe

Couscous with Herbs and Lemon (from

1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided (I used cheap EVOO for the first part and my good olive oil for the second)
1 garlic clove, minced
3/4 cup water
1 1/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 cups couscous
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh basil
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh mint
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, or to taste

1. Cook onion in 1 tablespoon oil in a 2- to 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 3 minutes.
2. Add garlic and cook, stirring, 30 seconds.
3. Add water and broth and bring to a boil.
4. Stir in couscous, then cover and remove from heat. Let couscous stand, covered, 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork and stir in herbs, lemon juice, remaining tablespoon oil, and salt and pepper to taste.

Lamb Stew with Spinach and Garbanzo Beans

Before I left on my trip, I decided that I should try and cook my way through some of the dried goods I have sitting in my pantry. Specifically, I wanted to make sure I used up all of the split peas I have before they're past their prime. As an added side bonus, it's always nice to only need to buy one or two things when you're cooking a recipe.

I adapted this recipe a lot based on reviews and prior experience. I also substituted veal for lamb because Maison du Roti didn't have any lamb stew meat pre-cut (and I'm still feeling exceedingly lazy after my trip), but the Metro always has veal stew meat. A brief summary of the other changes: less meat, fresh garlic in place of powder, all of the spices are my addition, 2 cups of dried chickpeas (I'm not sure what that comes out to after they soaked), more broth and sauce, less spinach (the baby spinach I bought was much lighter). I served it all over couscous (recipe to follow).

One year ago: Cornbread Dressing that I wish I had been given the chance to make again this year instead of being forced to eat Morrison's ...

Lamb Stew with Spinach and Garbanzo Beans (liberally adapted from

570g lamb shoulder or stew meat, cut into 1" pieces (I used 375g veal meat)
salt and pepper
3 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup 1/2" pieces peeled carrots
1 tbsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 can chickpeas, drained (I used 2 cups dried, then pre-soaked them)
1 1/2 cup chicken broth
3/4 cup tomato sauce (I used strained tomatoes)
1 tbsp lemon juice
275g spinach leaves (I used a package of baby spinach that was less than that)
cooked couscous

1. Sprinkle lamb with salt and pepper.
2. Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add lamb and sauté until brown, about 10 minutes. Remove and set aside.
3. Add onion, carrots, garlic, and spices and sauté until beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Return lamb to dish.
4. Add garbanzo beans, broth, tomato sauce, and lemon juice and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover pot and simmer gently until lamb is tender, about 1 hour.
5. Add spinach to stew. Cover and cook until spinach wilts, stirring often, about 8 minutes. Season stew with salt and pepper. Serve over couscous.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Curried Peanut and Tomato Soup

I think I said the other post would be my last post for a week, but somehow I found myself cooking today. There's something incredibly nice about having a day off at home while everyone else is at work. I should be off getting my oil changed, but it's grey outside and my apartment is so cozy ... perfect weather for a warm, spicy soup.

This recipe is an example of the dangers of watching Top Chef late at night. Earlier in the evening, I had been discussing my obsession with peanut butter with someone, then the episode of Top Chef I was watching had a peanut soup featured in it. I checked my copy of Gourmet Today for a recipe and found one that would've required going to the grocery store or else outrageous adaptations. I turned to instead and found this recipe. The only I was missing was ... peanut butter (peanut butter is clearly too delicious for me to safely keep it on hand). Luckily, I had some peanuts on hand, so I made my own (kind of). I'm sticking with the original recipe below though and just including peanut butter.

In terms of adaptation, I used whole Italian tomatoes because that's what I had and I think the quality is better than most of the cans of diced tomatoes, so I simmered the soup slightly longer. The original calls for mixing the peanut butter with 1 cup of hot water, which I reduced to 1/2 cup, but next time I'd omit it entirely to make the soup a little thicker. I passed on the fresh cilantro entirely. Make sure you use a good quality curry powder as that's the flavour that really shines in this dish. You could easily add some garlic, ginger, and/or lime juice to this to up the flavour (and my homemade peanut butter needed a little brown sugar), but the base of this is solid ... spicy with a hint of peanut butter that's not overpowering.

Oh and according to a reviewer on epicurious, this recipe is "A good way to sneak a little more lycopene into your husband's diet to keep his prostate gland healthy!" I can't say I've ever had that concern while cooking, but maybe you do!

I served this over rice to make it a little more hearty. If you're hoping for a lot of leftovers, double the recipe as this one doesn't make very much.

Curried Peanut and Tomato Soup (adapted from

1 medium onion, chopped (1 cup)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (I used peanut)
2 teaspoons curry powder (preferably Madras masala)
1 (14-oz) can diced tomatoes in juice (I used whole Italian tomatoes)
1 3/4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
rice (optional)

1. Cook onion, salt, and pepper in oil in a 2- to 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 4 to 5 minutes.
2. Add curry powder and cook, stirring frequently, 2 minutes.
3. Add tomatoes (with their juice) and broth and simmer, uncovered, 5 minutes. (I let it simmer a little longer because I was using whole tomatoes.)
4. Stir in peanut butter. Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes.
5. Puree until smooth using an immersion blender.
6. Serve over rice.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Mocha Cupcakes with Kahlua Frosting

As a warning, this recipe will likely be my last post until after I return from American Thanksgiving. With luck, I'll return with some good classic Southern recipes to share. In the meantime, feel free to revisit the Thanksgiving recipe bonanza from last year.

A friend of mine is hosting a board game afternoon today, so of course I wanted to make cupcakes to bring over to her place. After consulting with her preferences (she wanted something with coffee in it), I decided to make a recipe I've been eying since mid-summer when baking was less than a popular activity in my apartment. The original recipe calls for a berry buttercream frosting, but it's definitely not the time of year for berries and I have a bottle of kahlua from making the cappuccino fudge cheesecake. My only complaint with the kahlua frosting is that it didn't setup very nicely (I probably should've chilled it before trying to pipe the cupcakes!), but it's delicious so I'm going to go ahead and share it with you! I also now have 8 egg whites sitting in the freezer, so expect some experimental chocolate peppermint macarons for the holidays.

The only changes I made to the cupcake recipe were to only use dutch-processed cocoa powder (she also uses black cocoa) and to only use espresso powder (she uses espresso and instant coffee).

Mocha Cupcakes (adapted from Desserts for Breakfast) with Kahlua Frosting (from Crazy Monkey House Eats)

Ingredients for Cupcakes
makes ~15-18 regular-sized cupcakes (or 12 with one ramekin for tasting before you go to the party)

1 cup (225g) sugar
1 cup (110g) flour
8 tbsp (48g) Dutch-processed cocoa powder
4 Tbspn espresso powder, divided
1/2 tspn salt
1 tspn baking powder
1 tspn baking soda
1 egg
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup boiling water

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line the cupcake molds with cupcake liners and set aside.
2. In a mixer bowl, combine sugar, flour, Dutch-processed cocoa powder, 2 tbsp espresso powder, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Mix to combine.
3. In a separate bowl, combine the beaten egg, vegetable oil, and milk. Stir to mix.
4. Then, with the mixer on low, pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Mix on low until evenly distributed.
5. Combine the boiling water and 2 tbsp espresso powder.
6. Pour the hot coffee into the cake batter and mix on medium low until smooth, making sure to occasionally scrape the bottom of the bowl.
7. Fill the cupcake liners 2/3 full.
8. Bake for 15-20 minutes. When a toothpick inserted at the center of the cupcake comes out cleanly, the cakes are done. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.

Ingredients for frosting
8 egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
4 tbs kahlua
1 1/2 butter, softened
2 tsp vanilla

1. In a double boiler over boiling water, combine the egg yolks, sugar, and kahlua. Whisk until the mixture becomes thick and has a pale, even color (5-10 minutes). Remove from heat and let cool.
2. In a mixer bowl, combine the butter and vanilla. Mix with the electric mixer until the butter is very fluffy.
3. Slowly incorporate the kahlua mixture into the butter. Mix until well blended. The frosting is now ready to use.

Poutine Calzones

If you did a double-take on the title, then you sadly missed my facebook feed with a sneak peek of this dish. If you think I must be losing it to make a poutine calzone, then you're probably right, but I was pleasantly surprised with how well this recipe turned out.

At work this week, we had pizza for one of our seminar series ... feta cheese with olives and tomato. I was contemplating making my own and browsing through cookbooks for inspiration when I stumbled across a calzone recipe. I've never made a calzone, so that seemed like a good idea. While thinking about the calzone though, the thought of a poutine calzone popped into my head. The reason I've never made poutine at home (in addition to living so close to La Banquise and Ma'am Bolduc) is fear of not being able to make good crispy fries. I'd seen a recipe for poutine pizza on foodgawker, but was worried about the fries being too soggy. A poutine calzone seems to solve that because soft fries seem more natural ... almost like a poutine samosa calzone.

I did take an out of character shortcut while making this though ...
 Mostly, I was worried about maintain the authentic flavour of the poutine, so I cheated on the sauce.  I've never made a velouté before.  Next time I think I'll try to actually make it as it sounds relatively simple.  To make it extra delicious, I splurged on good cheese curds from Val-Mont.  If you've never tried these before, I highly recommend them for snacking!
You could take another shortcut and buy frozen french fries, but I opted to oven roast potato wedges (probably making it closer to samosa filling than classic poutine, but that's okay!).  The end result filling still looked great if I do say so myself:
A little folding over and crimping it closed:
Some egg yolk to be sure it browns up and you have a beautiful golden brown calzone:
Measurements below are rough approximations. I only made 1 recipe of pizza dough and ended up with extra filling (which I thought made a fine snack on its own). I'd estimate that each calzone is 2 servings. You should be able to flash freeze the uncooked calzones and bake them up later.

4 baking potatoes
olive oil
salt & pepper
1 package St. Hubert poutine sauce (or 2 cups velouté)
160 - 200g cheese curds
2 recipes of quick and easy pizza dough (or other pizza dough)
1 egg

1. Preheat oven to 400F. Peel potatoes and cut into wedges. Layer potatoes on a baking dish, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and drizzle with olive oil. Bake for 45 minutes, turning every 10 - 15 minutes to ensure even browning. When done, reduce oven heat to 350F.
2. Meanwhile, cook poutine sauce.
3. Divide each dough recipe in 2 (for a total of 4 balls of pizza dough). Roll out dough into a 9 or 10 inch circle.
4. Top lower half of each circle of dough with 1/4 of potatoes, 1/4 of cheese, and 1/4 cup poutine sauce (roughly, reserve extra for later) being sure to leave enough room to close the calzone.
5. Fold dough over the filling and crimp the dough closed.
6. In a small bowl or cup, beat egg with 1 tsp of water. Brush calzones with egg wash.
7. Bake calzones in oven at 350F for 45 minutes or until golden brown.
8. Serve calzone with another 1/4 cup poutine sauce poured over the top.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Fettucine Alfredo (Hazan Recipe)

There's something about the colder weather that makes me crave cheese. It's not that I don't eat plenty of cheese in the summer, but as the weather cools I want cheese on everything. On my walk home this week, I was debating stopping at the store to indulge in a dinner of baguette and cheese, but at some point I decided I'd be somewhat more responsible and cook something using ingredients I had on hand. I've posted a fettucine alfredo before. This recipe is less saucy than the other (although next time I'd probably make it with a little less pasta as the pasta absorbed everything a bit too much for my taste). Surprisingly, I like this without the added garlic and other seasonings (just a hint of nutmeg). Make sure you use a good quality Parmesan. Hazan recommends pairing this sauce with homemade fettucine or tortellini.

One year ago: A less simple pasta ... tortellini with walnut and mascarpone sauce

Fettucine Alfredo (from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking)

1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tbsp butter
500g fettucine or tortellini
2/3 cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese
black pepper
whole nutmeg

1. In a large and deep skillet (suitable for tossing pasta), put in 2/3 cup of heavy cream and butter over medium heat. Cook for less than 1 minute, until cream and butter have thickened. Turn off heat.
2. Cook pasta, draining while it is still very firm and even slightly underdone.
3. Transfer drained pasta to the pan with butter and cream. Turn heat to low and toss pasta thoroughly.
4. Add remaining 1/3 cup cream, 2/3 cup grated Parmesan, a pinch of salt, a few grindings of pepper, and a very tiny grating (less than 1/8 tsp) of nutmeg.
5. Toss again until pasta is well coating. Serve immediately with additional Parmesan on the side.

Pomegranate and Fennel Salsa Quinoa

This recipe originally called for serving the salsa with pork chops, but I'd used my pork on the sweet and sour pork dish, so I decided to pair it with quinoa instead. I had some extra shrimp in the freezer, so I threw that in as well. If you're going vegetarian and trying to make this more of a meal, I think chickpeas would also meld well with this. Apparently I'm not a big fan of fennel and I could've very happily done without it and maybe add some walnuts to the salsa, but I know some people like fennel. This needed a bit more acid but I was low on rice vinegar, so I added a squeeze of lemon juice.

One year ago: Swiss chard and sweet potato gratin

Pomegranate and Fennel Salsa Quinoa (adapted from Gourmet Today)

1 large fennel bulb
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 cup pomegranate seeds (from 1 large pomegranate)
2 scallions, finely chopped
1/4 cup chopped cilantro (optional)
1 tsp seasoned rice vinegar (maybe a little more or some lemon juice)
2 tsp mild honey
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup quinoa
cooked shrimp/cooked chickpeas/cooked pork chops

1. In a saucepan, combine 1 cup quinoa with 2 cups water. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes. When done, remove from heat and let sit a few minutes covered.
2. Meanwhile, cut off and discard fennel stalks. Halve fennel bulb lengthwise, core it, and cut into 1/4-inch pieces.
3. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a 12 inch heavy skillet over medium heat. Add fennel and cook, stirring until just tender, 6 - 8 minutes.
4. Transfer fennel to bowl and stir in pomegranate seeds, scallions, cilantro, vinegar, honey, and salt.
5. Mix salsa in with quinoa. Add protein of your choice. Season if needed.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Sweet and Sour Pork

I seem to be having recipe block right now. This is the second week that I've intended to make pork chops with pomegranate and fennel salsa only to get distracted by other ideas. The first time around, it just didn't happen and the pork made its way to the freezer. This time around, I was seized by the idea of cooking some Chinese for dinner and the pork was sacrificed for the greater good (fulfilling a craving). After deciding on my walk home that I simply needed to make Chinese for dinner, I jumped on the first pork recipe I could find in Land of Plenty for which I had all of the ingredients. The sauce on this dish is amazing ... not what you might expect based on American takeout, but delicious. I'm including below the original directions for cooking the meat. I hadn't planned on deep frying the pork, but then the oil was deep enough to somewhat pull it off, but I had the temperature a little high so it had already nicely browned and I didn't want to risk the second deep frying. I'm sure it would be better doing it correctly, but it's up to you! According to the original, this serves 2 as a main dish with one vegetable (don't forget the rice to soak up any extra sauce!).

Sweet and Sour Pork (from Land of Plenty)

340g boneless pork loin
peanut oil for deep-frying
2 eggs (you may use less)
3/8 cup cornstarch
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp rice wine
1/4 tsp salt
3 tbsp white sugar
2 tbsp black Chinese vinegar
1 tsp light soy sauce
3 3/4 tsp cornstarch
3 scallions, green parts only, sliced
3 tbsp peanut oil
2 tsp minced garlic
2 tsp grated ginger
3/4 cup chicken stock
1 tsp sesame oil

1. Trim fat from meat. Cut into slices 1/2 inch thick and cut into 1/2 inch strips. Place in bowl. Add marinade ingredients, mix well, and let sit for 30 minutes.
2. In a small bowl, combine salt, sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, and cornstarch for the sauce.
3. Heat oil for deep-frying to 300F.
4. Beat eggs together. In a bowl, mix the cornstarch with enough beaten egg to make a thick batter. Mix the batter with the pork strips.
5. Drop battered strips into oil, adding individually to prevent sticking and stir to separate. Fry for 3 minutes or until just cooked through. Remove, drain, and repeat until all strips are cooked.
6. Reheat the oil to 375F. Add strips in one or two batches and deep-fry until crisp and golden. Remove and drain.
7. Heat 3 tbsp of oil in a clean wok over medium heat. Add garlic and ginger and stir-fry for 30 seconds or until fragrant.
8. Add the stock, bring the liquid to a boil, and then add combined sauce ingredients from step 2.
9. Stir as liquid thickens, then add scallions and sesame oil. Stir once or twice, pour over the pork and serve.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Mashed Brussels Sprouts

At my dinner party, one guest showed up with brussels sprouts cooked with bacon. At the time, I wasn't quite sure I'd like them. My memories of brussels sprouts seem to involve frozen bags being heated to a stinky mess, but after one bite of this dish, I was convinced that perhaps I'd been too hard on the poor vegetable (or perhaps bacon just makes everything better). The next day, when I saw brussels sprouts on sale at the Val-Mont for $1.50, I couldn't resist (not that I'd even know what a good price is for them!). Originally, I planned to make this recipe as stated, but on a trip to Maison du Roti to pick up bits of bacon (lardons), I found lardons du prosciutto instead ... and really who could pass on prosciutto? I also subbed a shallot I had on hand for onions. The end result is good ... nothing life changing, but a great way to get something green ... which carbs, cheese, and bacony goodness.

Mashed Brussels Sprouts (adapted from Kayotic Kitchen)

2 pounds potatoes
1 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts (my bag was only 1lb)
1 large onion (or shallot)
3 garlic cloves
1/4 tsp curry powder
200g cream cheese
1 cup milk
salt and pepper to taste
150g bacon bits (or prosciutto)

1. Peel, wash and cut the potatoes in 4.
2. Wash the Brussels sprouts. Slice off the stem and remove the outer leaves. Cut the bigger ones in half and leave smaller ones whole.
3. In a large pot, mix the potatoes and sprouts, add 1 garlic clove, salt and enough water to submerge the potatoes and sprouts. Bring to a boil and cook for 20 minutes or until tender.
4. Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, cook the prosciutto/bacon bits. Set aside.
5. Finely chop the onion.
6. If you have plenty of bacon grease, you can skip this. Otherwise, melt the butter in the skillet.
7. Add onion and 2 cloves minced garlic to the skillet. Cook until lightly browned.
8. Add curry powder and cook for an additional 30 seconds.
9. Add milk, cream cheese, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring until cream cheese has melted. Remove from heat.
10. Drain potatoes. Mash them to desired consistency. Stir in milk/cheese mixture. Top with bacon or stir in depending on whether you value presentation or bits of bacon in every bite.

Orzo with Everything

Usually, I would wait to post this recipe because I adapted it significantly from the original based on what I had on hand and I'm confidant that the original (or at least a closer variant on the original is better). But instead of waiting to make it again as it's already quite out of season and I have a feeling I'll forget this recipe if I don't post by the time spring/summer rolls around, I'm posting. I'm also including below some variation suggestions that I think would work well.

To make this a full meal, you might try adding shrimp or chickpeas. The recipe also suggests serving cold, but I'm more of a fan of hot dishes, so if you can't bear to wait for it to cool, go ahead and eat right away, although some commenters did note that the flavours meld better made the day before.

One year ago: Some Carrot Soup I never really appreciated because I came down with the flu the next day or so

Orzo with Everything (from

1 1/2 cups orzo (rice-shaped pasta; about 10 ounces)
1/3 cup (packed) chopped drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes (consider doubling)
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (consider cutting back to 1/4 cup)
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar (use white balsamic if concerned about the orzo being brown)
1/4 cup (packed) chopped Kalamata olives or other brine-cured black olives (consider doubling)
1 cup finely chopped radicchio (consider substituting arugula or red cabbage)
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (consider substituting feta)
2 large garlic cloves, minced

1. Cook orzo in pot of boiling salted water (some people cook in chicken broth for more flavour) until just tender but still firm to bite. Drain well. Transfer to large bowl.
2. Add sun-dried tomatoes, oil, vinegar and olives and toss to blend. Let stand until cool. (Can be prepared 6 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before continuing.)
3. Mix chopped radicchio, pine nuts, chopped basil, Parmesan and garlic into orzo mixture. Season salad to taste with salt and pepper and serve.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Black Bean Pumpkin Soup

Every once in a while leftover ingredients and pantry staples come together to create delicious surprises. I ended up modifying this recipe so much (both intentionally and accidentally) that I'm not sure it can even be said to be adapted at this point. This recipe was built around the leftover pumpkin puree from the weekend's cheesecake. It also ended up using leftover onions, shallots, black beans, and red wine. With red wine, red wine vinegar became a necessary (and amazing) substitute. There was no beef broth to be found, so chicken was substituted instead. I may have been a little short on cumin and I couldn't pass up the prosciutto at the Val-Mont in place of ham. The cooking method also changed slightly for a smoother final texture and more convenience. Finally, I only realized while pondering why my soup looked so different from Smitten Kitchen that I'd forgotten to include the tomatoes (I may have also accidentally used more beans because I used dried beans instead of canned). Even with all of these changes (or maybe in part because?), the end result was better than I could've imagined it would be.

One year ago: Another soup ... also amazing!

Black Bean Pumpkin Soup (inspired by Smitten Kitchen, from Gourmet)

2 cups dried black beans (soaked, cooked, and drained ... or you could use 3 cans)
1 1/4 cups chopped onion (more or less)
1/2 cup minced shallot (more or less)
4 garlic cloves minced
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 tsp epazote (optional, but recommended with dried beans)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup unsalted butter
4 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
1/2 cup red wine
125g prosciutto, chopped
3 to 4 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1. In a 6-quart heavy kettle cook onion, shallot, garlic, cumin, epazote, salt, and pepper in butter over moderate heat, stirring, until onion is softened and beginning to brown.
2. Stir in beans.
3. Stir in broth, pumpkin, and red wine until combined and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, 25 minutes, or until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
4. Blend until smooth with an immersion blender.
5. Just before serving, add prosciutto and vinegar and simmer soup, stirring, until heated through. Season soup with salt and pepper.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Spiced Pearsauce Cake

This is another recipe from the "I need something to take to a work breakfast collection." It's probably my favourite breakfast cake that I've made in a while (although with cream cheese frosting perhaps it's not breakfast appropriate). As soon as I saw it on Smitten Kitchen, I knew I had to make it. Of course, a reasonable person would not be baking another cake after making two cheesecakes (and brisket) the day before. But then again, most reasonable people probably don't purchase nearly 2kg of cream cheese within the span of a week. This recipe was definitely worth baking again ... it's moist, flavourful, and delicious.

In terms of adaptation, I went with a pearsauce version or this cake. Originally, I had planned on buying unsweetened applesauce, but then one of my dinner party guests had to go and make homemade applesauce ... with citrus, spices, and rum! My experience with applesauce is mostly limited to childhood memories of being sick and eating a tiny bit out of a small plastic cup, but this applesauce was different ... and amazing! I couldn't very well go and buy applesauce with such delicious applesauce leftovers sitting in the fridge, but I also didn't want to go through the hassle of trying to adjust the batter to sweetened, spiced applesauce. As option C, I decided to make my own pearsauce. I followed the recipe offered on SK, but simmered it a bit longer uncovered because it seemed a little watery. The directions for making pearsauce are included with the recipe below, but feel free to substitute applesauce. Also, please note that this makes more pearsauce than you need for the cake ... I'm too lazy to try to estimate how to scale down to the right amount!

Spiced Pearsauce Cake (adapted from Smitten Kitchen, from Gourmet)

For pearsauce
1 3/4 pounds pears
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 1/4 cups water
For cake
2 cups (250 grams) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (218 grams) packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups (365 grams) unsweetened pearsauce (recipe included)
1/2 cup (50 grams) walnuts, toasted, cooled, and chopped
For frosting
5 ounces (142 grams) cream cheese, softened
3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces or 42 grams) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup (4 ounces or 120 grams) confectioners sugar
1/2 (1 teaspoon) teaspoon cinnamon

1. Peel, halve, core and de-stem pears. Chop them in half again if they are particularly large.
2. Place pears in a medium saucepan with balsamic and water. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer; cook with the lid on for 30 minutes, or until the pears are very tender.
3. Puree with immersion blender. Simmer for another 10 or 15 minutes uncovered if the sauce seems watery.
4. Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Butter an 8- or 9-inch square cake pan. (Now's a good time to toast those walnuts for 10 minutes in the oven.)
5. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices.
6. Beat butter, brown sugar, and vanilla with an electric mixer at high speed until pale and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.
7. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in pearsauce.
8. At low speed, mix in flour mixture until just combined, then stir in walnuts.
9. Spread batter evenly in pan and bake until golden-brown and a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, about 35 to 40 minutes.
10. Make frosting: Beat cream cheese, butter, and vanilla with an electric mixer at high speed until fluffy.
11. Sift confectioners sugar and cinnamon over cream cheese mixture, then beat at medium speed until incorporated.
12. Spread frosting over top of cooled cake.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Brisket (sort-of)

There are three things I miss about Texas: Tex-Mex, steak, and barbecue. Barbecue in ZTexas is serious business and there are few things better than driving out to Salt Lick on a weekend afternoon, waiting an hour to be seated at community picnic tables, and ordering from a seemingly horribly limited menu with a choice of sausage, pork ribs, or brisket served with potato salad, cole slaw, baked beans, and white bread that normally you couldn't get me to touch, but is perfect for soaking up barbecue sauce. Having spent entirely too long on the phone with my dad before being reminded that grilling is not the same thing as barbecuing, I should point out now that this isn't true brisket. There's no pit, there's no smoke, it's a sad imitation, but it's as close as I'm going to get right now. The dry rub and mop were roughly inspired by a cookbook I picked up last time I was in Houston called Texas Home Cooking. I say roughly, because I ended up going out on Friday night instead of going home at a reasonable hour and buying black pepper (it figures the moment I decide to make the switch over to fresh ground peppercorns and get rid of the bulk black pepper that was old and not so great is the moment I run out of pepper). I also managed to forget while cutting and rubbing the meat at 11:30pm that I had planned ahead and bought extra paprika just for this recipe, so my rub ended up being pepper-free and paprika-light! The method I followed was one described on Smitten Kitchen. I also took the suggestion of adding liquid smoke to my mop. It's not the same, but there is something wonderful about that smell. I cheated and used bottled barbecue sauce because for some reason, you can buy Stubb's sauce up here. I couldn't pass up a little taste of Austin in favour of an untested sauce recipe. I think I'll be trying a recipe from Texas Home Cooking soon though on some ribs. If there's success, I'll report back!

Plan on starting this recipe the night before you're serving it as the meat did seem to taste better after resting for the day. This can be made in the oven (see the SK link) if you don't have a huge slow-cooker. I couldn't fit all of the meat in mine, so I ended up with a tiny hunk being stored in my fridge for a rainy day (I also ended up having to cut the meat smaller than I wanted to in some cases to make as much as possible fit which did seem to make it tougher).

If you're in Montreal, good luck finding raw brisket. Le Biftheque in Ville St-Laurent does carry it!

Brisket (sort-of ... see above for the source mashup)

4 - 5 kg of brisket
barbecue sauce for serving
Dry Rub
3/4 cup paprika (I had to use less)
1/4 cup ground black pepper (I had to omit)
1/4 cup chili powder, preferably homemade (I did a quick and dirty rough approximation and used 2 tbsp ancho chili powder, 1 tbsp cumin, 1 tbsp Mexican oregano)
1/4 cup salt
1/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp garlic powder
2 tbsp onion powder
1 tbsp ground cayenne
Mop (you may end up roughly doubling this so keep extra on hand!)
1 bottle of beer
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp dry rub (I used the leftover from rubbing the meat)
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp liquid smoke

1. In a medium bowl, mix together dry rub ingredients.
2. Rub meat with the dry rub. Ideally, you would do this the morning before you're serving and let it set for the day in the fridge, but if not, no worries!
3. Place meat in a slow cooker.
4. In a medium bowl, combine all of the mop ingredients except the beer (I used the bowl with the leftover dry rub so I have no idea how much dry rub I used).
5. Pour mop and beer over meat. Don't worry that it doesn't cover the meat. As the fat melts, you will have plenty of liquid.
6. Cook in the slow cooker on low heat for 10 hours (ideal for overnight!).
7. Cool the meat slightly. With a spoon, scrape off the large knobs of fat from the brisket. Transfer to an oven-safe dish (or keep it in the slow cooker if you're lucky like me and it has a removable oven-safe dish). Allow the meat to rest for at least an hour, ideally most of the day.
8. One hour before you're ready to serve, preheat the oven to 300F. Skim the fat off the top. Remove the meat, thinly slice it and return it to the fat-skimmed liquid.
9. At this point, I became concerned that there wasn't enough liquid left to keep the meat from drying out when I reheated, so I poured in another beer, some vinegar, worcestershire, liquid smoke, a little ancho chile powder, mexican oregano, and black pepper (I bought pepper the day it was cooking!). Heat in oven, covered, for at least 30 minutes or until bubbling and warmed through.
10. Remove the meat from the mop and serve with barbecue sauce.

Bourbon Pumpkin Cheesecake

After I got back from San Francisco, I asked the friend who watch my cat what she'd like me to bake for her. I expected a request for brownies or grapefruit yogurt cake, but instead, she wanted pumpkin pie. I was stumped, having never made pumpkin pie and not even remembering if I liked pumpkin pie. I checked Smitten Kitchen and sure enough found pumpkin brownies and ... bourbon pumpkin cheesecake. Of course, these ideas distracted me. I pushed aside the idea of bourbon pumpkin cheesecake, not wanting to buy a bottle of bourbon just to make a dessert (there were also the naysayers who didn't seem to sure it would even taste okay). Then I was offered the remnants of a bottle of Jack Daniels ... that works and there go my excuses. The end result was delicious ... lighter than your typical cheesecake.

The original recipe includes a graham cracker and pecan crust that looks amazing. I skipped on it because it seemed like just a little too much for everything I was cooking that day and I only have one springform pan and it was spoken for. With the pre-made crust, this came together remarkably easily. Because I was using a pre-made crust though, the filling didn't all fit, so I put the excess in two smaller ramekins ... one for me the next day and one for the cat-care giver who prompted this recipe! I'm glad I did because only a small sliver of pie was left over!

Bourbon Pumpkin Cheesecake (from Smitten Kitchen, adapted from Gourmet)

1 9" graham cracker pie crust (or make your own using the link above)
For filling (see notes above about filling amount)
1 1/2 cups canned solid-pack pumpkin
3 large eggs
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons bourbon liqueur or bourbon (doubled from the original, the flavour was still subtle)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature (roughly 3 250g packages less 1/4 cup)
For topping
2 cups sour cream
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon bourbon liqueur or bourbon
Garnish: pecan halves

1. Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Whisk together pumpkin, eggs, brown sugar, cream, vanilla, and liqueur in a bowl until combined.
3. Stir together granulated sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and salt in large bowl.
4. Add cream cheese and beat with an electric mixer at high speed until creamy and smooth, about 3 minutes.
5. Reduce speed to medium, then add pumpkin mixture and beat until smooth.
6. Pour filling into crust, smoothing top. Bake until center is just set, 50 to 60 minutes. Transfer to rack and cool 5 minutes (leave oven on).
7. Whisk together sour cream, sugar, and liqueur in a bowl, then spread on top of cheesecake and bake 5 additional minutes.
8. Cool cheesecake completely in pan on rack, about 3 hours.
9. Chill, covered, until cold, at least 4 hours.

Cappucinno Fudge Cheesecake

This recipe has been on my mind for nearly a year. The problem was, it's a ridiculously complex dessert ... and quite the investment in cream cheese, chocolate, and other ingredients. I also wanted to save it for an occasion when I would have plenty of as Smitten Kitchen warns that it's decadent and serves more like 30. Apparently she's never met my friend's because my group of 22 only left one small piece after finishing off a bourbon pumpkin cheesecake, some mint brownies, making a dent in homemade applesauce, and eating a fair amount of other food. All of this food was for a 3-part celebration (or excuse to eat): my belated two year anniversary of being in Canada, the belated one year anniversary of this little food blog, and an early American Thanksgiving as I'll be with family for Thanksgiving this year. A good food blogger would've gotten pictures of the food and on that point, I failed miserably ... except for a before and after of this cheesecake. Here you see my less than stellar icing skills:
 And in this after shot, you can see the layers of the cake.  The bottom is a cookie crust, followed by a kahlua-spiked chocolate ganache, then espresso flavoured cheesecake, then a vanilla flavoured sweetened sour cream layer, and finally the beautiful icing!

Be warned, this recipe is a lot of work and time intensive (a lot of cooling, although I think I should've served it slightly cooler as the ganache layer was slightly hard). To prevent being pressed for time, I did the cookie and ganache layers the night before (hooray for cooking at midnight!). My only complaint with this recipe is that the crust came out a little hard. I have three theories for what went wrong. (1) I think I may have slightly burnt the cookies before turning them into crumbs. I pulled the chocolate crumb dough out of the freezer as leftovers from a previous recipe and overcompensated for the frozen dough by upping the cooking time too much. (2) The cheesecake portion of the dish did not want to set, so I kept cooking it (slightly burning the top, which I cut off after it puffed too much and served as a lovely breakfast on the day of cooking) and likely burned the cookie crust more. (3) My springform pan let the kahlua and possibly butter leak out, removing much needed moisture. I need to work on forming a better seal with it. Luckily, the crust certainly did not sink the dish!

Two other comments: SK says for a 9" inch pan instead of 10" to use 3/4 of the cheesecake layer. I put the full amount in and it fit, so go ahead and make the full amount. Leftovers can always be placed in other dishes or trimmed! I weighted the cream cheese using my scale. Eyeballing it though, 3 8-ounce packages of cream cheese appeared to work out to roughly 3 250g packages minus about 1/4 cup or so of the last package.

One year ago: Tomato Sausage Risotto (If you haven't tried this recipe yet, make it this week!)

Cappuccino Fudge Cheesecake (from Smitten Kitchen, adapted from Bon Appetit)

1 9-ounce box chocolate wafer cookies or 9 ounces of homemade chocolate wafers
6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
7 tablespoons hot melted unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups heavy or whipping cream
20 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup Kahlúa or other coffee-flavored liqueur
3 8-ounce packages cream cheese (for metric, see note above), room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons dark rum
1 1/2 tablespoons instant espresso powder or coffee crystals
1 1/2 tablespoons ground whole espresso coffee beans (medium-coarse grind ... I used the ground espresso I have on hand for my morning drink which is a finer grind)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons mild-flavored (light) molasses (I think I used dark)
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups sour cream
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Make crust:
1. Finely grind cookies, chopped chocolate, brown sugar, and nutmeg in processor. 2. Add butter and process until crumbs begin to stick together, scraping down bowl occasionally, about 1 minute (my processor wasn't big enough, so I stirred together by hand).
3. Transfer crumbs to 9-inch-diameter springform pan with 3-inch-high sides.
4. Wrap plastic wrap around fingers and press crumb mixture firmly up sides to within 1/2 inch of top edge, then over bottom of pan.
Make ganache:
5. Bring cream to simmer in large saucepan (I heated in the microwave with the chocolate to save time).
6. Remove from heat; add chocolate and Kahlúa.
7. Whisk until chocolate is melted and ganache is smooth.
8. Pour 2 cups ganache over bottom of crust.
9. Freeze until ganache layer is firm, about 30 minutes.
10. Reserve remaining ganache; cover and let stand at room temperature to use later for decorating.
Make filling:
11. Position rack in middle of oven and preheat to 350°F.
12. Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese and sugar in large bowl until blended.
13. Beat in flour. Stir rum, espresso powder, ground coffee, vanilla, and molasses in small bowl until instant coffee dissolves; beat into cream cheese mixture.
14. Beat in eggs one at a time, scraping down sides of bowl between each addition.
15. Pour filling over cold ganache in crust — it will go nearly all of the way to the top, don’t panic.
16. Place cheesecake on rimmed baking sheet. Bake until top is brown, puffed and cracked at edges, and the center two inches moves only slightly when pan is gently shaken, about one hour.
17. Transfer cheesecake to rack. Cool 15 minutes while preparing topping (top of cheesecake will fall slightly, making room for topping). Maintain oven temperature.
Make topping:
18. Whisk sour cream, sugar, and vanilla in medium bowl to blend.
19. Pour topping over hot cheesecake, spreading to cover filling completely.
20. Bake until topping is set, about 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer cheesecake to rack.
21. Refrigerate hot cheesecake on rack until cool, about three hours.
22. Run small sharp knife between crust and pan sides to loosen cake; release pan sides. Transfer cheesecake to platter.
23. Spoon reserved ganache into pastry bag fitted with small star tip and decorate as desired.
24. Chill until lattice is firm, at least 6 hours.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Blue Cheese and Red Potato Tart

I woke up entirely too early this morning to the smell of brisket cooking away in the slow cooker. I gave up on sleep when my stomach wouldn't stop rumbling and I decided I should at least try the meat. Brisket in the morning? Yum! Being the responsible person that I am, I decided (perhaps against my lazier instincts) that I should go ahead and make the cheesecake layer of a cappuccino fudge cheesecake so that it has plenty of time to cool. Now that the cheesecake is safely in the oven, I believe it's time to finally update this blog. I've been somewhat behind this week thanks to a migraine wiping out two of my evenings (and sadly for both of us, I think one of the meals I made this week isn't good enough to post even if it was better reheated than the day of!).

When this recipe was first posted in June, I fell in love with the idea of it, but it was June which posed two large problems. 1. I was trying to savour all of the fresh summer fruits and vegetables, so cooking with ingredients that are easily found in winter just seemed like a waste. 2. There was no way I was turning on the oven for an hour. Luckily, the recipe kept and was worth the wait. I cheated and bought a pre-made tart shell, but the original has a recipe that you're welcome to try. For the rest, I followed the recipe faithfully, using a mandoline so that the potatoes were nicely sliced in 1/4" thick slices, a nice bleu chevre cheese, and fresh thyme that was sitting in the fridge.

Be warned, the smell from this lovely tart is almost better than the taste and the aroma has been known to carry up stairs, so be prepared to share or eat quickly.

One year ago: Chocolate Layer Cake (in preparation for a friend's baby shower!)

Blue Cheese and Red Potato Tart (from Smitten Kitchen, adapted from Gourmet)

1 Savory Tart Shell in a 9-inch tart pan and ready to fill
450g small red potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 cup heavy cream
1 large egg yolk
115g blue cheese, crumbled (about 3/4 cup)
1 tablespoons finely chopped thyme
Fine sea salt for sprinkling

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. In a medium saucepan, cover potato slices with water by two inches. Simmer, uncovered, until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain. If the potatoes don’t seem very dry, pat them dry with towels.
3. Arrange potato slices, overlapping slightly, in concentric circles around the tart pan.
4. Sprinkle blue cheese over potatoes.
5. Whisk cream and egg yolk together and pour into tart shell, then sprinkle tart with herbs of your choice and salt (I may have added some cracked black pepper here as well).
6. Bake tart on a baking sheet until bubbling and golden brown, about 45 to 50 minutes.
7. Cool in pan on rack and serve warm or cold.