Happy New Year!

31 12 2008

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As we approach the end of another year, many people take a moment to reflect on the past 365 days.  2008 was a very difficult year for many people, including some of my friends and family.  As we toast the new year this evening, let’s look to the future with hope and put difficult times behind us.  I wish everyone a safe, healthy and happy 2009.

I’d like to thank everyone for their support and encouragement this past year and look forward to bringing you more great recipes and inspiration in the year ahead!

All the best, 

Trish





New Domain

28 12 2008

Exciting news!  I have registered the domain name www.theseasonalgourmet.ca so I’ll be easier to find.  

You can still reach this site using the original WordPress address (www.theseasonalgourmet.wordpress.com) or use the new domain and you will automatically be directed here.

Ciao!

Trish





Baked French Toast

26 12 2008

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When cooking for a crowd around the holidays, it’s helpful to have a few recipes that can be prepared in advance so you can enjoy the festivities with your guests.  This is the perfect dish for Christmas morning or New Year’s Day but it can be made any time you want something fuss-free and delicious for breakfast.  All the prep work is done the night before so all you have to do is bake it and serve in the morning.

This recipe was developed by me and my sister-in-law Jenn this year so we could minimize kitchen time on Christmas morning.  It works best with bread that is slightly stale.  Use a whole loaf (instead of pre-sliced bread) so you can slice it thickly yourself.

Baked French Toast

Makes about 12 thick slices

  • 1 whole loaf unsliced challah or other white bread
  • 1 can (370 ml / 12 fl. oz.) evaporated milk (equals 1-1/2 cups)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 Tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange zest (finely grated orange peel)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • pinch of salt
  • Butter, to grease baking pan

 

  1. Grease a large baking pan (at least 12″ X 16″).  Slice bread into slices about 1″ thick and lay flat in pan. Make sure all pieces are laying flat and not overlapping or they won’t brown properly.
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine evaporated milk, eggs, maple syrup, vanilla, orange zest, nutmeg and salt.  Whisk until smooth and thoroughly mixed.
  3. Pour mixture evenly over bread slices.  Once it has soaked in a bit, turn slices over so they are completely soaked in egg mixture. 
  4. Cover pan and place in the fridge overnight.
  5. To bake: heat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.  Bake french toast for 20 to 25 minutes or until the bread is browned on top and beginning to puff.
  6. Serve with maple syrup or your favourite topping.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!





Mulled Cranberry Wine (and a Christmas rhyme!)

24 12 2008

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Mulled Cranberry Wine

Makes 4 cups / 1 litre

You’ll need:

  • 750-ml bottle red wine (3 cups)
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 spice packet
  • 1 cup cranberry juice
  • Rind from a small orange or tangerine, cut into strips
  • For garnish: orange or tangerine slices and cinnamon sticks

Can be served warm or chilled, like a spiced sangria.  You can add a splash of club soda if serving as a sangria.

 

‘Tis the night before Christmas at The Seasonal Gourmet

The weather is frightful and the snow’s here to stay

 

What could be better to chase off the cold

Than a cup of mulled wine, with flavours so bold

 

In a large stockpot on medium high

Heat up a bottle of your favourite red wine

 

Pour in the cranberry, only a cup

And heat the whole mixture until it warms up

 

Toss in the spice pack and spoonfuls of sweet

And continue to simmer on medium heat

 

Add in the peel, from an orange rind

Or from a tangerine – whatever you find

 

Garnish your glass with an orange slice

And serve the drinks hot or chilled over ice

 

Have a wonderful Christmas and Happy New Year

And enjoy lots of good food and holiday cheer!

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Bon Appétit and Happy Holidays!

Trish





Welcome to Winter!

22 12 2008

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Today is the first day of winter, which is the shortest day of the year.  There have also been snowstorms across North America this weekend so it really looks like winter in a lot of places.  For seasonal eaters in the north, winter certainly has its challenges but it also has a lot of good points.  Cozy dinners by the fire, hearty and rustic meals, hot chocolate and braises are just a few of the things we can enjoy in the coming months.  So check back often as I explore what we can do with seasonal ingredients this winter.  And before you know it, it will be spring again!

I’d also like to extend seasons greetings to my Jewish friends as you celebrate the first night of Hanukkah.  

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Bon Appétit and Happy Holidays to everyone!

Trish





Smoked Salmon Spread

20 12 2008

 

Smoked Salmon

Things have been pretty quiet this December at The Seasonal Gourmet.  I’ve been busy working on a project and getting ready for Christmas so there hasn’t been a lot of time for recipe development and baking (plus, for dietary reasons I’ve cut back on cookies and sweets this year).  However, it is the season for entertaining family and friends so here’s an easy smoked salmon spread that is delicious on crackers.   You can use reduced fat cream cheese and serve on cucumber rounds to lighten it up a little.

Smoked Salmon Spread

Makes about 1-1/2 cups

  • 4 oz. (113 g) smoked salmon slices (about 5 slices)
  • 1 package (250 g / 8 oz) light cream cheese
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh dill
  • 2 Tablespoons sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Dill sprig, for garnish

 

  1. Make sure cream cheese is at room temperature.  Cut into chunks and place in a food processor.
  2. Add all other ingredients and pulse until mixture is smooth.  Keep refrigerated until ready to use.  Serve with crackers or cucumber rounds.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

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Braised Short Ribs

11 12 2008

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Braising is the perfect cooking method for cold winter days.  It’s a technique that involves searing meat in oil, adding a small amount of liquid and cooking in a covered vessel at a lower temperature for a long period of time.  Tough cuts of meat become tender and juicy and a rich sauce develops.  Although preparing a slow cooked braise requires some planning ahead and prep work, once it’s in the oven you can sit back and relax for a few hours.  This dish is ideal for entertaining because it tastes even better the next day.  Just reheat and serve with your favourite side dishes.

This recipe has been adapted from the short rib recipe at Balthazar restaurant in New York City.  It’s a French brasserie serving up such classics as steak frites and mussels.  The ribs pair well with mashed potatoes and sautéed winter greens such as swiss chard.

The secret to success with this dish is to use the meatiest short ribs you can find.  If you can’t find ones that are large and marbled with fat, increase the number of ribs used and reduce the cooking time slightly.  The recipe makes enough for 4 but it can easily be doubled.  Plus, it’s so delicious, you’ll probably want to have some leftovers to enjoy!

Some great side dishes that pair well with the ribs:

Try to find large meaty short ribs for this dish

Try to find large meaty short ribs for this dish

Braised Short Ribs

Makes 4 servings – can easily be doubled

  • 2-1/2 lbs. (about 1 kg) beef shortribs – about 2 to 3 large meaty ribs
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons neutral oil such as canola or safflower
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 shallots, chopped
  • 3 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 Tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 cup port
  • 2 cups red wine
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 8 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 3 cups beef stock
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.   Cut each long rib in half and season with salt and fresh ground pepper.
  2. In an enameled cast iron pot, heat oil on medium heat.  Add the ribs to the pot and brown on all sides.  Once browned, remove from pot and set aside.
  3. Add carrots, onion, shallot, celery and garlic to the pot and sauté until softened and golden brown, about 7 minutes. Stir often to prevent burning.
  4. Stir tomato paste into vegetable mix.  Add flour and stir to combine.  Cook for another 2 minutes.
  5. Add wine, port and herbs.  Turn heat to medium-high and simmer for about 10 minutes, until mixture begins to reduce.  Stir occasionally to prevent sticking and burning.
  6. Add stock and return ribs to pot.  Cover tightly and put in the oven.  Cook for 3 hours, checking on them each hour to ensure nothing is burning at the bottom of the pot.  The meat should be very tender.
  7. Once the ribs are done, use tongs to remove the ribs from the sauce.  Place meat in a bowl and set aside.  With a mesh strainer or cheesecloth-lined colander, strain sauce into a saucepan, pressing on solids to extract all liquid.  Discard solids.
  8. Bring strained sauce to a boil and reduce for about 10 minutes.  Pour sauce over ribs and serve.
Braised short ribs with mashed potatoes and a rosemary sprig garnish

Braised short ribs with mashed potatoes and a rosemary sprig garnish

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

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Swiss Chard Tart

7 12 2008

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Swiss chard is a hearty, leafy green that grows well in cooler temperatures.  It’s a member of the beet family and the greens taste similar to spinach.  Chard is packed with vitamins and is a great vegetable to use as a side dish for braised meat dishes.  It appears quite frequently on menus in the Provence area of France, where it is known as blette.  I recently prepared a Provençal-inspired menu and developed this tart as the first course.  It could be prepared as small individual servings or as one large tart.   It also makes a great breakfast dish, served with fresh fruit and pastries.

 

 

The Provencal countryside

The Provencal countryside

Swiss chard can be found at most supermarkets at this time of year.  If you can’t find regular chard (with white stems), you can use red swiss chard which has bright red stems and veins (see photo above).   I was only able to find red chard recently and was worried that it would turn the tart pink.  However, if you trim the stems and remove the large ribs, it works out fine.  If you can’t find chard, substitute fresh spinach.

For the best presentation, use a tart pan with a removable bottom (which are also available in smaller sizes for individual servings).  However, if you don’t have a tart pan, use a regular pie plate.

Swiss Chard Tart (Tourte de Blettes)

Makes one 9″ tart

(VEGETARIAN)

  • 1/2 packaged frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • 1 bunch swiss chard or red swiss chard, stems trimmed and thick ribs cut out
  • 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Roll puff pastry out to fit a 9″ tart pan or pie plate.  Place pastry into pan and crimp edges.  Set aside until ready to use.
  3. In a medium skillet, heat butter until melted.  Add shallot and garlic and sauté on medium heat until tender and translucent, approximately 3 minutes.  Add swiss chard.
  4. Sauté swiss chard until leaves are wilted and tender, approximately 7 minutes.  Add nutmeg and season with salt and pepper.  Remove from heat and let chard cool for a few minutes.
  5. In a measuring cup, add eggs and whipping cream and stir with a fork until well combined.
  6. Spread sautéed swiss chard over the bottom of the uncooked pastry crust, making sure it’s evenly distributed.  Pour egg/cream mixture over chard.  Top with grated parmesan.
  7. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes or until the pastry is puffed and browned along the edges and the top of the tart is golden.  Cut into slices and serve.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

 

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Seasonal Eating Through the Winter

2 12 2008

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It’s early December and we’ve already had our first snowfall in Southern Ontario.  The abundant farmer’s markets of last summer seem like a distant memory and spring is a long time away.  So what are those of us in northern climates going to do for the next 6 months if we’re interested in eating a seasonal diet?   Survive on a diet of meat and stored root vegetables?

Not to worry!  There are plenty of options for seasonal eaters in the north that don’t require eating potatoes and turnips at every meal.   Nor do we have to rely solely on imported fruit and vegetables.  It’s possible to strike a balance and eat meals that capture the essence of the season while still eating as local and fresh as we can. Here are some ideas:

Canned and Frozen Products

Previous generations planned for winter well in advance by preserving and freezing fruits and vegetables at their summer peak.  Jars of tomatoes, fruit, pickles and jams were put into cold storage for the winter. In 2008 many people don’t have the time or storage space to undertake such a project but there are a lot of decent options available at grocery stores and markets.  Canned tomatoes are an excellent substitute for fresh in soups, stews and sauces.  I try to find ones that are prepared relatively close by – Ontario Natural Food Co-op, for example, sells certified organic tomatoes grown locally.  I avoid canned peas, green beans and carrots however, as they just don’t have a very appealing taste or texture.  Canned legumes (such as kidney beans, cannelinis and chickpeas) are another good option for quick meals.  White Bean Dip with Fresh Herbs is a great example of a recipe you can make with canned beans.

Canned tomatoes are a decent alternative to fresh for winter sauces

Canned tomatoes are a decent alternative to fresh for winter sauces

 

Likewise, frozen fruit and vegetables provide a way to enjoy the tastes of summer (and unlike canned, frozen baby peas are usually fairly decent).  Frozen blueberries are great for muffins, pancakes or coffee cake while frozen strawberries and raspberries can be turned into a sauce or quick jam in no time.  I also like the ease of frozen spinach when fresh isn’t available.

Greenhouse Produce

Green, red and yellow peppers, herbs  (if you have an indoor herb pot, that’s even better), tomatoes, celery, mushrooms, arugula and salad greens are just some of the things grown in local greenhouses. As a rule I avoid most types of greenhouse tomatoes because they have no real flavour, however, Sunset Campari brand tomatoes are quite good.  Another option is to roast greenhouse plum tomatoes to bring out their flavour  – see Slow Roasted Tomatoes for a great recipe. 

Sunset Campari tomatoes are greenhouse grown but are sweet and juicy

Sunset Campari tomatoes are greenhouse grown but still taste sweet and juicy

 

Making the Best of Long-Storing Fruits and Vegetables

Vegetables such as pumpkin, squash, turnip, carrots, beets, celery root, parsnips, potatoes, apples and onions are typically available during the winter because they can be stored for long periods of time.  So make the best of them!  With a little creativity, there is a lot you can do with these great vegetables. Check out my recipes for an Apple Caramel Tart, Butternut Squash Gratin and Peppery Potato and Leek Soup.  A quick internet search will yield thousands of other suggestions and recipes. I’ll also be posting more ideas in the weeks to come as I experiment with winter produce.

 

Potatoes are a winter staple and extremely versatile

Potatoes are an extremely versatile winter staple

Cooking techniques can also help the home cook get the most out of seasonal products.  Techniques such as braising and slow cooking are great for cold nights and can turn a simple ‘meat and potatoes’ dinner into a rustic masterpiece.  You can check out ‘Williams Sonoma Slow Cooking Essentials’ from My Reading List for some great slow cooking tips and recipes and I’ll be posting some braising recipes in the near future.  Stews and soups such as are also ideal for cold weather cooking and make perfect comfort food for long winter evenings.  See my recipe for Chicken Noodle Soup for a quick and easy example.

Dry Pantry

Pantry staples such as dried lentils, beans, polenta, rice, barley, dried pasta, dried fruit and berries, nuts can be turned into great hearty dishes that are also budget-friendly.  Bucatini All’Amatriciana, homemade Gnocchi (serve with tomato sauce instead of fresh pesto), and White Bean Dip with Fresh Herbs are a few examples of recipes that can be made with pantry items.  Over the winter I’ll be working on some recipes for creamy risottos, polenta and some lentil and bean dishes so stay tuned.

 

An assortment of dried legumes

An assortment of dried legumes

 

Other Fun Options

Fondue or Raclette with local cheeses, homemade pizzas and chili are fun options for winter cooking, especially if you’re feeding a crowd.  You can usually buy pizza dough at pizzerias or bakeries (or make your own, of course) and have everyone top them with their favourite seasonal ingredients such as mushrooms, leeks, rapini, caramelized onions and sausage.  A staple of dinner parties in the 1970s, fondue is making a comeback.  After a day on the slopes or at the rink, gather some friends by the fire and dip bread cubes and blanched vegetables into a mix of your favourite local cheeses.  And don’t forget about chili – a big pot is the perfect meal for après-ski or while watching football.  It can be made in advance and feeds a crowd.  There are also a lot of vegetarian versions so all guests can enjoy the fun.

 

Fondue made with local cheese is a fun option for winter entertaining

Fondue made with local cheese is a fun option for winter entertaining

Relax

Even the most stringent locavores (people who eat only locally grown products) sometimes buy imported items.  However, during the winter I still try to keep my imported purchases seasonally appropriate, opting for vegetables such as swiss chard, beets, leeks, fennel, etc. and saving the asparagus and peaches for summer when I can get them close to home at their very best.

So the best advice is to make the most of the season and enjoy what we do have. Cozy dinners by the fire after a day of skiing, bold red wines, iced wines and ciders, mugs of hot chocolate following an afternoon of skating, hearty soups and stews and roasted vegetables are just a few of the things we can celebrate now. And before you know it, it will be summer again!

 

Waiting for summer...

Waiting for summer...

Happy Winter Eating!

Ciao,

Trish





Peppery Leek and Potato Soup

1 12 2008

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It’s hard to believe it’s already December.  It seems like yesterday that the markets were bursting with an abundance of fresh vegetables.  As fall comes to a close and Christmas draws near, the weather is grey and cool and our fresh vegetable choices are more limited.  Leeks are one of my favourite fall/winter vegetables and a peppery leek and potato soup is the perfect comfort dish for a dreary afternoon. Not only is it delicious, but it’s very easy to prepare AND it’s quite low in fat.   What more could you ask for in a soup?

Potato and leek soup is a pretty standard recipe but what makes my version a little different is the addition of a good amount of freshly ground pepper.  You can adjust it to your own tastes but I think it gives a bit of a kick to a dish that might otherwise be a bit bland.  Use a pepper mill to coarse grind whole peppercorns. If you don’t have a pepper mill, you can crush the peppercorns with a mortar and pestle.

Peppery Leek and Potato Soup

Makes about 7 cups

(VEGETARIAN)

  • 4 leeks
  • 3 russet medium russet potatoes, peeled and cut into a 1″ dice
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 5 cups low-sodium chicken stock OR vegetable stock
  • 3 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper (or to taste)
  • Salt, to taste

Optional Garnish:

  • 3″ piece of leek (cut from the white part)
  • 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
  • Salt, to taste
  • More pepper
  1. Trim roots and green stalks from the leeks.  Slice each leek lengthwise down the middle.  Carefully wash all the layers of the leeks, making sure any sand and grit are removed.  If they are very dirty, soak them briefly in cold water.  Dry well and chop into half-rings.   Remember to reserve a 3″ piece for the garnish.
  2. In a stockpot or enameled cast iron pot, heat butter on medium heat.  Add leeks and sauté until softened and translucent, about 5 minutes.  Watch carefully as they can burn quite easily.  Add 1 teaspoon of the pepper and stir to combine.
  3. Add potato pieces and stir into leeks.  Add chicken stock.  Cover and let simmer for about 25 minutes.
  4. After simmering, check to ensure the potatoes are very tender.  Remove from heat and let the soup cool a bit.  Very carefully puree soup with a hand blender or regular blender until completely smooth.
  5. Return soup to the pot and heat until gently simmering.  Add remaining pepper and stir through.  Season to taste with salt.  Serve with Garnish (see below) and a generous amount of fresh ground pepper.

Garnish:

  1. Cut leek piece into rings.  Heat butter in a small skillet or saucepan.  Add leeks and sauté until crispy, about 7 minutes.  Season with salt and place a spoonful of garnish on each serving.

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Bon Appétit and Enjoy!