Happy New Year!

30 12 2009

It’s been a busy holiday season this year, with family visits, shopping, traveling, a minor plumbing disaster and of course, eating well.  As the year draws to a close, it’s time to reflect on the past 365 days and look forward to the year ahead.  I can hardly believe it’s going to be 2010 – it sounds very futuristic!  I wish everyone all the best for 2010 and once the holiday chaos dies down, I will be bringing you many more original recipes, fresh ideas for using seasonal ingredients and reports of great places to eat and drink.

All the Best,

Trish

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Potato Latkes

15 12 2009

Tonight is the 5th night of Hanukkah, the Jewish celebration of lights. Potato latkes are traditionally eaten during the eight days of festivities but you certainly don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy them.  You can sometimes find them on menus at delis but they’re very easy to make at home. The potatoes and onions can be grated by hand or with a food processor. Latkes are best eaten fresh out of the pan – they don’t really re-heat very well.  Serve with sour cream or applesauce.

Potato Latkes

(VEGETARIAN)

Makes about 8 large latkes

  • 3 large russet potatoes, peeled
  • 1 small onion, peeled
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1 egg
  • 3 Tablespoons flour
  • Neutral oil such as safflower, for pan frying latkes
  • Sour cream or apple sauce, to garnish (optional)
  1. Grate potatoes and onion and place in a large bowl.  Season with salt and pepper and let sit for five minutes.  
  2. After five minutes, use your hands to wring any liquid from the shredded potatoes and discard the liquid (you can also do this by pressing the potato mixture in a colander).
  3. Add egg and flour to the potato mixture and use your hands to thoroughly combine the ingredients.
  4. In a large, deep skillet, add oil so that is about 1/4″ to 1/2″ deep in the pan. Heat on high until ready to fry (to about 350 degrees Fahrenheit or until a small piece of potato dropped in sizzles and turns golden).  Be sure to watch the oil carefully!
  5. Use a 1/3 cup measuring cup to scoop out some potato mixture.  Carefully place in the oil and flatten slightly with a spatula. Repeat scooping the mixture but make sure the latkes are not crowded in the pan (you will likely have to do two batches).
  6. Let the latkes cook until browned on the bottom, about 3 minutes.  Carefully turn over with a spatula and cook the other side.  When the pancakes are dark golden and cooked through, remove from the pan and place on a paper-towel lined plate. 
  7. Season with additional salt to taste and serve with sour cream or applesauce, as desired.

Happy Hanukkah and Enjoy!

A Potato Latke topped with sour cream.





Hot Chocolate

11 12 2009

 

Homemade hot chocolate, topped with whipped cream and grated chocolate

 

Even though it’s still officially fall for another ten days, winter has arrived in most parts of Canada.  We finally got our first snowfall and the temperature has plunged. As soon as the weather turns cold, I start to crave hot chocolate.  I’ve tried all of the big coffee chains and a few independent places but nothing quite suits my tastes. I prefer a cocoa that is dark and chocolaty but not too thick. I find most coffee shop hot chocolates tend to be too sweet, too milky or too artificial tasting.  The logical solution to this quandry?  Make my own!

It’s very easy to whip up some homemade hot chocolate and you can adjust it to suit your taste.  If you prefer it thicker, use some cream or evaporated milk.  Prefer it sweet?  Add more sugar.  You can also add flavourings or liqueur to your cocoa to dress it up (see below).

The key to good hot chocolate is to use a good quality cocoa powder.  I use a mix of Valrhona 100% Cacao Gastronomie and plain old Fry’s Premium Cocoa which can be purchased at any grocery store (the Valrhona is a little intense by itself).   Scharffen Bergen, Green & Black’s, Droste and Callebaut are other popular brands.  Top your cocoa off with a marshmallow or dollop or whipped cream or try one of the variations below.  If you’re interested in a bit of history, you can read about France’s King Louis XV’s love of hot chocolate, which he would sometimes prepare for himself: Chocolate at Versailles – Louis XV’s Favourite Drink.

Homemade Hot Chocolate

Makes 2 large mugs of cocoa

  • 5 Tablespoons good quality cocoa powder
  • 5 Tablespoons sugar
  • 3 cups milk – low fat or whole
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • Pinch of salt
  1. In a mug or glass measuring cup, add cocoa powder and sugar.  Pour in ½ cup of the milk and use a fork to whisk the ingredients together until smooth.
  2. In a medium saucepan, heat the remaining 2-1/2 cups of milk on medium-high heat.  Add vanilla and a pinch of salt.  Heat milk until barely simmering – do not bring to a hard boil.
  3. Pour cocoa mixture into the warm milk and whisk to combine.  Heat mixture until hot and serve.  Top with a dollop of whipped cream or marshmallows. Or try one of the variations below:

Variations (for adults only!):

Irish Hot Chocolate –  Add a shot of Bailey’s Irish Cream to each mug of hot chocolate

Mexican Hot Chocolate – Add ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon and 2 Tablespoons Kahlua to the hot chocolate.  Add a dash of cayenne pepper if you really want to spice it up!

Mint Hot Chocolate – Add ½ teaspoon mint extract or 2 Tablespoons of crème de menthe.  Garnish with a candy cane.

Chocolate-Orange – Add a shot of Grand Marnier to each hot chocolate.  Garnish with a candied orange peel.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!





Apple-Caramel Tart

2 12 2009

 

Apple-Caramel Tart makes an impressive dessert for special occasions.

 

It’s already December and fall is drawing to a close.  Christmas is only a few weeks away and people are starting to think about their menus for the holidays.  I usually like to serve a couple of options at Christmas, typically an apple pie and maybe another kind of rustic fruit dessert (although last year I admit to serving lemon and chocolate tarts that I purchased).  There is nothing wrong with a basic apple pie but for a special occasion, why not serve something a bit fancier?  An apple-caramel tart looks impressive and tastes delicious.  There are a number of components to the recipe but none are difficult if you take it step by step.  The end result will wow your guests – you may never go back to making regular apple pie again!

Apple-Caramel Tart

The caramel can be prepared in advance and kept in the fridge.  Re-heat slightly to soften after refrigeration.

Makes one 10″ tart

  • ½ package of frozen puff pastry, thawed

Caramel:

  • ½ cup sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons water
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 Tablespoons whipping cream 

Apple Spice Layer:

  • 5 medium sized apples, such as McIntosh
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1/8 cup flour

Glaze:

  • 2 Tablespoons apricot jam
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Roll puff pastry out to fit a 10″ tart pan. Place pastry in pan and crimp edges. Place the pan in the fridge until ready to use.

To make caramel:

  1. In a large saucepan, combine sugar and water and heat on medium-high, whisking until sugar is dissolved.
  2. Heat mixture until it begins to turn medium brown, about 10 minutes. Swirl pan to stir mixture and watch very carefully as it can burn in seconds.
  3. Once the sugar mixture reaches the desired colour, remove immediately from the heat and add the butter, salt and whipping cream. Whisk together until combined.
  4. Caramel can be made in advance and refrigerated until ready to use. It will get quite thick upon cooling so re-heat it before using.

Preparing the apples:

  1. Peel and core apples with an apple corer. Cut each apple in half lengthwise through the middle. Place the halves on a cutting board with the flat sides facing down. Cut into slices about 1/8″ thick.
  2. In a medium bowl, toss apple slices with cinnamon, sugar and flour until evenly coated with spice mixture. Assemble tart immediately (do not prepare apples in advance or they will turn brown).

To Assemble Tart:

  1. Spread caramel in an even layer on the uncooked puff pastry.
  2. Arrange apple slices in a spiral pattern around the tart, overlapping the slices slightly. Make sure the entire tart is covered with apple slices (see photo).
  3. Bake tart for about 50 minutes or until the pastry is beginning to brown around the edges. Remove tart from oven.
  4. Mix apricot jam with butter and heat in a saucepan or the microwave until melted and bubbling. Using a pastry brush, carefully brush apple slices with apricot mixture and return to the oven for another 7 to 10 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the pastry is browned along the edges.
  5. Slice and serve with lightly sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

This recipe first appeared on Suite 101.com