Spooky Snacks and Cocktails

30 10 2008

Halloween can be just as much fun for adults as it is for the little ones.  It falls on a weekend this year, which means it’s a great excuse to get everyone together to celebrate.  Why not whip up some cocktails and hors d’oeuvres to celebrate the season?

Here are some simple ideas that are quick to pull together:

Fill bowls with brown and orange M&Ms or orange and black jellybeans for people to munch on.

Use Halloween themed cookie cutters to cut up slices of bread.  Fill with your favourite cheese, butter the outside and make miniature grilled cheese sandwiches as finger food.

Make mini quesadillas: Cut flour tortillas into 4″ rounds.  Fill with salsa, cheese and any other favourite fillings (such as cooked chicken, diced peppers, onions, crabmeat, etc).  Fold over and brown in a skillet. Serve with sour cream and guacamole.

Tortilla chips and Goulish Guacamole

Creepy Crab and Avocado Stuffed Tomatoes

Haunted Herb and White Bean Dip is excellent with toasted pita breads or carrot and celery sticks

Morbid Mushroom Crostini

And of course, what’s a party without drinks?  Here are a couple of Halloween cocktails to get your party started:

Vampire Slayer

This is similar to a Bloody Caesar or Bloody Mary but of course contains garlic to keep vampires at bay.  To make a Virgin Vampire Slayer, leave out the vodka.  For a Spicy Vampire Slayer, increase the tabasco sauce. Warning: it’s for garlic lovers only!

Makes 1 drink (can easily be doubled)

Rimmer:

  • 1 Tablespoon celery salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Drink:

  • 1-1/2 oz. vodka
  • 1/2 clove garlic, very finely minced
  • 1-1/2 cups clamato OR tomato juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon Worchestershire sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce, or to taste
  • A handful of ice cubes
  • Celery stalk or lemon wedge for garnish
  1. Mix celery salt and garlic powder until combined on a small plate.  Moisten the rim of a highball glass with a lemon wedge or water and dip into celery salt mix until the entire rim is coated.
  2. Place ice, vodka, garlic, juice, tabasco and worchestershire sauce in a cocktail shaker.  Shake well and strain into glass.  Garnish with a celery stalk or lemon wedge.
Vampire Slayer

Vampire Slayer

Witch’s Kiss

Melon liqueur can be found quite easily at most liquor stores.  Midori is a common brand name and McGuinness makes one called ‘Melon’.  It’s bright green and has a refreshing melon flavour.

Makes 1 drink  (can easily be doubled)

  • 2 oz. Melon liqueur
  • 1 oz. vodka
  • 1 oz. fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • A handful of ice cubes
  • Sparkling wine OR club soda
  1. In cocktail shaker, add melon liqueur, vodka, lemon juice and ice cubes.  Shake until well combined.  Strain into a martini glass and top with sparkling wine or club soda.
Witch's Kiss

Witch's Kiss

Bon Appetit and Happy Halloween!

(Pumpkin clip art courtesy of Kaboose Free Clipart)





Kitchen Tip of the Week – Removing Sausage Casing

29 10 2008

Sausages are great to use in recipes.  Of course they’re delicious grilled on their own but they’re also versatile for use in sauces, meatballs, meatloaf, pastas, casseroles and more.  All you have to do is remove the meat from the casing and use it in your favourite recipes.

For some reason, when I used to remove the meat from sausage casings, I would squeeze it out the end, as though it was a tube of toothpaste.  However, this isn’t the easiest way to do it.  The following method is very simple (and probably obvious to most people but it was a revelation to me!):  

How to Remove Sausage Meat from the Casing (Efficiently!)

 

1. Slice the sausage lengthwise down the middle, making sure to pierce the skin but not cutting all the way through the sausage

1. Slice the sausage lengthwise down the middle, making sure to pierce the skin but not cutting all the way through the sausage

 

 

 

2. Peel back the casing as though you are removing the jacket of a small child for them

2. Peel back the casing as though you are removing the jacket of a small child for them

 

Et voila!  Discard the casing and you have sausage meat, ready to use.

For a great recipe using Italian sausage meat, check out my latest entry for Suite 101.com.  It features rapini, which is also known as broccoli raab or rabe:

Orecchiette with Rapini, Sausage and Crisp Garlic Crumbs

 

Orecchiette with Rapini, Sausage and Garlic Crumbs
Orecchiette with Rapini, Sausage and Garlic Crumbs

 

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!





Leek and Ham Tart

26 10 2008

 

Leeks at Jean Talon Market, Montreal

Leeks at Jean Talon Market, Montreal

Leeks are a member of the onion and garlic family and in fact, they resemble giant green onions.  They are milder in flavour than yellow or white onions and when cooked, have a delicate texture and taste.  Leeks were in great abundance at the markets last week so they should be easy to find at farmer’s markets and at the supermarket. 

The edible part of the leek is the white part, with the root and green leaves trimmed off.  Leeks have many layers and need to be cleaned carefully.  To clean them, trim roots and greens and slice the leeks lengthwise down the middle.  Soak in a bowl of cold water to ensure all of the layers are free of sand and grit.  Rinse with cold water, dry and chop as needed. 

This recipe is for a leek tart (or quiche, if you’d prefer) and makes an excellent dish for breakfast or lunch. You could round it out with a light salad and fresh fruit or some croissants and imagine you’re in a cosy French cafe.  

A note about the cream: For the custard to have the proper texture, heavy cream works best.  You can certainly substitute lighter cream, milk or evaporated milk but it will have not have the same consistency. Clearly when it’s made with cream it’s not for everyday but it does make an impressive dish for special occasions!  For vegetarians, leave out the ham.

Leek and Ham Tart

Makes one 9″ tart

(Can be adapted to be VEGETARIAN)

  • 3 medium leeks, white parts only, cleaned and chopped
  • 3 sprigs of fresh thyme leaves, stripped from the branches and chopped OR 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoons butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup heavy (whipping) cream 
  • 3.5 oz (100 g) chopped cooked ham (about 4 slices)
  • 1/2 cup (2.5 oz / 75 g) grated swiss cheese (gruyère or emmenthal) OR white cheddar cheese
  • Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 uncooked pie crust, to fit a 9″ pie or tart pan
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In a skillet, heat butter until melted.  Add chopped leeks and thyme.  Sauté on medium heat until leeks have softened, about 10 minutes (watch carefully because they can burn quite easily).  Place in a bowl and let cool.
  3. Roll out pie crust to fit a 9″ tart pan or pie plate.  Crimp edges so it looks decorative.  Use a fork to prick a few small holes in the bottom of the crust.  Bake crust for 5 minutes.  Remove from oven and set aside.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, combine eggs, cream, cheese, ham and cooled leek mixture.  Stir until thoroughly combined.  Season with fresh ground black pepper.
  5. Pour egg mixture into pie crust.  Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until custard has set in the middle and the top is beginning to brown.  
  6. Let cool for 15 minutes before serving.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

 

Leek and Ham Tart with a green salad

Leek and Ham Tart with a green salad





Beef, Barley and Mushroom Soup

26 10 2008

Now that the weather is getting cool, soups are a great way to keep warm.  Barley is grown all around the world and it’s the fourth largest grain crop after corn, rice and wheat.  It is abundant in North America and a major source of animal feed.  However, the best known use of barley is in beer production.  Barley is readily available at most grocery stores, either in small bags or in bulk and is an economical way to add body to a soup. I prefer pearl barley, which should be clearly labelled on the package. If you can’t locate barley, you can substitute long grain rice.

This recipe can easily be adapted to become vegetarian: use vegetable stock, eliminate the beef, add an extra 1/4 cup of raw barley and some extra mushrooms.

Beef, Barley and Mushroom Soup

Makes approximately 8 cups

(Can be adapted to be VEGETARIAN)

  • 12 to 14 oz. (340 – 397 g) beef, cut into 1/2″ dice
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil OR neutral oil, such as canola or safflower
  • 2 cups thickly sliced white mushrooms
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 6 cups (1.5 L) low-sodium beef stock
  • 1 Tablespoon Worchestershire sauce
  • 3 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3/4 cup pearl barley
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

  1. In a large stockpot or enameled cast iron pot, heat oil on medium high heat.  Add beef cubes and sauté until browned on all sides, about 2 minutes.  Remove beef from pot and set aside.
  2. Add mushrooms, carrot, onion and celery to pot.  Sauté until all vegetables are softened, about 5 to 7 minutes.
  3. Add garlic and thyme.  Cook another 30 seconds and add Worchestershire sauce and tomato paste.  Stir until combined.  Return beef to pot.
  4. Add stock.  Bring to a simmer and add barley.  Cover pot and cook until tender, about 30 minutes.
  5. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

Beef, Barley and Mushroom Soup

Beef, Barley and Mushroom Soup





Montreal, Mon Amour

23 10 2008

Montreal at night, from Mount Royal

Montreal at night, from Mount Royal

The greatest heartbreak of my life was not for a person but a place.  My husband Allan and I were fortunate to live in Montreal from 1990 to ’97.  We fell completely in love with the city and its people, food, and vibrant culture.  However, by the time Allan finished law school and we were struggling to find steady work, it became clear we’d have to leave.  With heavy hearts, we packed our bags and headed down highway 401 to Toronto to start a new life.  However, we still try to get back to visit whenever we can, as was the case this past weekend.

Autumn is a wonderful time in Canada and Montreal is especially beautiful.  The city is compact enough that you can easily explore the downtown core by foot.  With unique shops, great people watching and an abundance of restaurants and bars, putting on your walking shoes and wandering around is a great way to spend the day.

The first place we headed on Friday afternoon was to Boulevard St. Laurent (‘The Main’), a street that divides the city into east and west.  There are countless shops and restaurants along the street but we had one destination in mind: Schwartz’s for smoked meat.  Schwartz’s is a Montreal institution – founded in 1928, they serve fantastic smoked meat sandwiches and other deli staples.  However, almost everyone goes for the smoked meat.  Despite the late-afternoon hour, the small deli was packed with happy diners enjoying their sandwiches.  We each ordered a smoked meat sandwich with medium fat (don’t order lean – you need some fat for flavour!), a plate of fries, a pickle and a couple of black cherry colas.  The sandwiches are piled high with freshly sliced smoked meat and the bread is impeccably fresh.  There are places in other parts of Canada that claim to carry authentic ‘Montreal Smoked Meat’ but none I’ve been to compare to Schwartz’s (and don’t even get me started about Subway’s ‘smoked meat’ subs!).  If you go to Schwartz’s during peak time, prepare to stand in line but if you like smoked meat, I guarantee it will be worth it.

A Montreal smoked meat sandwich

A Montreal smoked meat sandwich

After our feast, we decided it was a good idea to get some exercise so we walked down to Old Montreal.  When we lived there in the 90’s, Old Montreal was more of a tourist destination, full of tacky souvenir shops and mediocre restaurants.  However, in the past decade the area has undergone a bit of a renaissance and there are now funky boutique hotels, wine bars, art galleries and popular restos.    After exploring a few shops, we stopped  for a glass of wine at VersesBar in the Hotel Nelligan, a charming boutique hotel in the heart of the old city.  The bar was also offering cheeses and baguette slices for patrons but we were too full of smoked meat to even consider it!

A street in Old Montreal

A street in Old Montreal

We returned to our hotel, Le Germain, to get ready for dinner.  Le Germain is part of a small group of boutique-style hotels.  Housed in a former office building, the exterior facade is nothing to write home about but the interior is modern and stylish and the rooms are comfortable and spacious.  It’s centrally located on Mansfield Street, just off Sherbrooke Street so it’s an ideal launching point for exploring the city.

A seasonal planter in front of Le Germain

A seasonal planter in front of Le Germain

Our friends Steve and Lindsay invited us to stop by their house for pre-dinner drinks so after a short rest at the hotel, we headed out again.    We were greeted by a platter of Canadian cheeses including La Sauvagine, a soft Quebec cheese that is buttery and rich and Avonlea, a cloth-bound cheddar from PEI.  Accompanied by some wine, olives, Spanish hams and good company, it was the perfect start to the evening.

Despite the temptations, I was careful not to eat too much ham and cheese so I’d be ready for our dinner at Joe Beef.   Located in the Petite Bourgogne (Little Burgundy) neighbourhood, Joe Beef is a casual resto that is intimate and comfortable.  The menu is listed on a large chalkboard and changes regularly, depending on what is seasonal and available.  I started with a locally made burrata, a cheese I’d been wanting to try for some time.  Burrata is a fresh Italian-style mozzarella that is filled with cream.  It’s rich and decadent but highly perishable so it must be consumed within a couple of days.  As a result, it can be very difficult to find.  A handful of places import burrata from Italy (and charge premium prices for it), but luckily some North American cheese makers have started making it as well, notably in Ontario, Quebec and California. My burrata was accompanied by a delicious mix of french green beans, lentils, pickled shallots, cured ham and a light vinaigrette.  Divine! Allan ordered the oysters, a specialty of the restaurant.  They were from Glacier Bay, N.B. and were sweet and briny.

Our mains arrived shortly after.  I got the smoked pork with stewed peppers while Allan went with the duck. The pork was moist, which was a welcome departure from dried out, fat-free pork that is all too common these days.  Allan enjoyed his duck dish and the portion was very generous.  For sides, we sampled their frites with mayonnaise and some mixed vegetables.  The vegetables were a highlight of the meal: buttery white beans with garlic, a bit of tomato and sauteed red swiss chard. We were getting pretty full by this point but after a short pause, we were able to share a bit of dessert.  Pannacotta with stewed figs was delicious and we finished with espressos.  Our server, Vanya, was excellent: knowledgeable, friendly and attentive, she really made our dinner special.  A huge thanks to Steve for his part in making our experience so wonderful.

The next morning, we headed to Jean Talon Market.  We took the métro, getting off at Jean Talon station and walking over to the market area.  Even though it’s late in the season, there were still a lot of produce stalls artfully displaying the best of the season.  Piles of leeks, carrots in a variety of colours, multi-coloured cauliflower, various types of cabbage and fresh-picked apples were just some of what was on offer.  I found the produce very inspirational and came up with a lot of new recipe ideas to try in the near future. There are also some great shops at the market, including butchers carrying Quebec products, an artisinal ice cream maker, a cookbook store, an olive oil shop and a fishmonger.

Our market visit whet our appetites so it was time to find some lunch.  We discovered a little Italian place next door to the market called Vinizza, which bills itself as an enoteca and pizzeria.  It was quite busy so we decided to give it a try. The menu is basic Italian, featuring pizzas cooked in a wood burning oven.  We split an appetizer of rapini with sausage and garlic accompanied by a glass of chianti.  For our mains, Allan chose the handmade tagliatelle with porcini mushrooms while I opted for a pizza.  While none of it was groundbreaking, it was well-executed and a great way to cap off our trip to the market.  We walked off our lunch by strolling down St. Laurent Boulevard, through Little Italy.  We stopped at our friends’ Lloyd and Kim’s apartment along the way for a drink and a fabulous view of Mount Royal and downtown.

Mount Royal, from a rooftop on St. Laurent Boulevard

Mount Royal, from a rooftop on St. Laurent Boulevard

We opted for a late dinner Saturday night because we had tickets to a hockey game. If you’re a Montreal Canadiens fan, there is no better place to watch a game than the Bell Centre.  We had great seats and the game proved to be an exciting one.  The Habs won 4-1 over Phoenix so the crowd left happy.  Many thanks to Dan in NY for arranging the tickets.

Goaltender Carey Price warms up before the game

Habs goaltender Carey Price warms up before the game

By the time the game was finished, we had worked up an appetite again so we headed to dinner.  Montreal has no shortage of late-night dining options that stay lively past midnight.  We chose Holder, a bustling brasserie in Old Montreal that serves French classics.  I started with a simple salad with shaved parmesan, pine nuts and greens while Allan went with the slightly heartier option of foie gras served with gingerbread and cranberry.  Both were delicious.  For my main dish, I had the braised beef cheek in a bourgogne-style sauce and Allan had spaghetti a vongole, a favourite of his.  We finished our last meal in Montreal with a glass of iced cider produced in the nearby Eastern Townships by a company called La Face Cachée de la Pomme (The Hidden Face of the Apple).  It’s produced from the fermented juice of pressed frozen apples, resulting in a sweet, concentrated cider.  It was the perfect ending to an excellent weekend.

Whether we will ever live in Montreal again remains to be seen but at least it’s close enough to Toronto that we can visit often and dream about returning.  Until then,

À bientôt et bon appétit!

Trish





Kitchen Tip of the Week – Common Ingredient Substitutions

20 10 2008

Even cooks with well stocked pantries occasionally find themselves missing a key ingredient.  This usually occurs when you’re in the middle of making dinner, with guests on the way and no time to run to the store to get what you need!  This week I’m making a list of common substitutions that you can use if you ever find yourself in such a situation.

Of course, using a substitute isn’t going to yield exactly the same results as using the original ingredients. Use common sense (and your eyes and tastebuds!) – you may have to adjust moisture content or seasonings so everything will work together properly.  

Common Ingredient Substitutions

  • For 1 cup Buttermilk SUBSTITUTE: 1 Tablespoon lemon juice OR white vinegar + milk to make 1 cup.  Let sit 5 to 10 minutes before using.

 

  • For 1 teaspoon Baking Powder SUBSTITUTE: 1/4 teaspoon baking soda + 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar + 1/4 teaspoon cornstarch

 

  • For 1 oz. Unsweetened Chocolate SUBSTITUTE: 3 Tablespoons cocoa powder (not Dutch processed) + 1 Tablespoon shortening OR unsalted butter OR vegetable oil

 

  • For 1 Tablespoon Cornstarch, for thickening sauces SUBSTITUTE: 2 Tablespoons all purpose flour

 

  • For 1/2 teaspoon Cream of Tartar SUBSTITUTE: 1/2 teaspoon white vinegar OR lemon juice

 

  • For 1 cup Half-and-Half SUBSTITUTE: 1/2 partially skimmed milk (1% or 2%) + 1/2 cup whipping cream (35%)

 

  • For 1 cup Sour Cream SUBSTITUTE: 1 cup plain yogurt OR 1 Tablespoon lemon juice + whole milk to fill 1 cup.  Let stand 10 minutes before using.

 

  • For 1 cup Mascarpone Cheese SUBSTITUTE: 3/4 cup cream cheese + 1/4 cup whipping cream beaten together.

 

  • For 1 teaspoon Allspice SUBSTITUTE: 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon + 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

 

  • For 1 Tablespoon chopped Fresh Herbs SUBSTITUTE: 1 teaspoon dried herbs OR 1/2 teaspoon ground herbs.

 

  • For 1/2 cup Maple Sugar SUBSTITUTE: 1 cup maple syrup

 

  • For 1 cup Brown Sugar SUBSTITUTE: 1 cup granulated sugar + 1/4 cup molasses

 

  • For 2 cups Fresh Chopped Tomatoes SUBSTITUTE: One 16 oz. can tomatoes

 

Ciao!

Trish





Corn Scallop

15 10 2008

Corn scallop is classic comfort food.  I recently made it for Thanksgiving dinner and it was a hit.  It’s quick and easy to prepare and can be assembled in advance and baked when guests arrive, allowing you to focus on other last-minute tasks.  I was fortunate enough to find some local corn (likely the very last of the season) but you can easily use canned or frozen corn if it’s no longer available fresh in your area.  It’s an appropriate dish for both summer and early fall.

This makes quite a bit of casserole, about enough for 10 as a side dish, assuming there will be other vegetables and side dishes as well.

Corn Scallop

Makes about 10 servings as a side dish

(VEGETARIAN)

  • 14 fl. oz. (398 ml) can creamed corn
  • 2 cups corn (about 3 cobs of roasted, grilled or boiled corn)
  • 1/2 cup diced red pepper 
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup evaporated milk (NOT sweetened condensed milk)
  • 2 Tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/2 medium onion, finely diced
  • 2 cups crushed unsalted soda crackers (1 sleeve of crackers)
  • 1 cup grated swiss cheese (Emmental, gruyere, etc)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Butter a casserole dish and set aside.  In a large mixing bowl, add all ingredients and stir until well combined.
  3. Pour mixture into casserole dish and bake for 45 minutes to 50 minutes or until cheese is bubbling and it’s starting to brown.  
Variations:
  • You could add some chopped jalapenos or other hot peppers to spice it up a little.  
  • If you’re serving non-vegetarians, it can be adapted into a heartier main course by adding some chopped ham or bacon.

Bon Appetit and Enjoy!

Corn Scallop.  Not the most elegant looking dish but tasty nonetheless!

Corn Scallop. Not the most elegant looking dish but tasty nonetheless!