The Friday Five – October 29th, 2010

29 10 2010

A weekly round up food and drink-related news stories:

1. Are you worried about vampires this weekend?  Have no fear!  With a reasonably stocked pantry, you’ll have everything you need to ward them off. (Bay Area Bites)

2. Although I do have some design talents, I am terrible at carving pumpkins (mine usually have the standard triangular eyes and nose, a grin with two pointed teeth and angry eyebrows).  However, some people are really amazing at it and turn basic pumpkins into works of art. (Graveyard Secrets)

3. We’re all familiar with the basic tastes: sweet, sour, bitter and salty.  Then along came umami and now scientists are saying that there is actually a sixth taste known as kokumi. Who knew the tongue was so versatile? (Wikipedia, Toronto Star)

4. With Halloween fast approaching, no doubt many adults will be sneaking some of the treats as well (like my favourite – miniature chocolate bars!). Is candy evil – or just misunderstood? (New York Times)

5. Why not make your own creepy Meat Head for Halloween?  It also makes a great conversation piece at dinners with the in-laws. (Eatocracy)

Have a great weekend and a Happy Halloween!

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Orecchiette with Rapini, Sausage and Crispy Garlic Crumbs

29 10 2010

Bunches of rapini (a.k.a. broccoli rabe)

A couple of years ago I discovered rapini for the first time.  Of course it’s not a new vegetable, but I had never tried it.  Rapini (a.k.a. broccoli rabe, raab, broccoletti di rape or Italian broccoli) is a green vegetable that’s at its peak in the autumn and winter. It has a bitter flavour and is often found in Italian and Asian dishes.

The bitterness in rapini can vary from one bunch to the next (I once bought some in the winter that was inedibly bitter) but for the most part the bitter flavour is mild. You can mellow any bitterness by blanching it: Bring a pot of water to a boil, cook the rapini for four minutes, drain and plunge into a bowl of ice water to halt the cooking.  Dry the stalks and use as desired.

Orecchiette with Rapini, Sausage and Crisp Garlic Crumbs

Makes about 6 servings

Note: Orecchiette are small ear-shaped pasta.  However, they can sometimes be difficult to find so you can easily substitute penne.

For garlic crumbs:

  • 2 cups fresh (not dry) breadcrumbs (made from approximately 5 slices of bread)
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil

For meat sauce:

  • 4 sweet or mild Italian sausages, casings removed (see ‘Removing Sausage Casing‘ for tips)
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • ½ to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, to taste
  • 1 bunch (about 1 lb. / 450 grams) blanched rapini (see above for instructions), chopped into 2″ pieces
  • Salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
  • ½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 (500 g) package orecchiette or penne

To make garlic crumbs:

  1. Heat olive oil in a skillet. Add garlic and sauté on medium heat for about 20 seconds. Add breadcrumbs and stir until all crumbs are coated with oil.
  2. Sauté crumbs on medium heat, watching carefully, until they turn brown and crisp. Remove from pan and set aside. Crumbs can be made in advance and kept in a dry, covered container.

To make meat sauce:

  1. In a deep skillet, heat olive oil. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté on medium heat for about 25 seconds. Add sausage meat and break meat up with a spatula or spoon.
  2. Cook sausage meat until browned and cooked through. Add blanched rapini to the pan and sauté for about 2 minutes.
  3. While meat is browning, cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain, reserving 2 Tablespoons of the cooking water.
  4. Add drained pasta to the meat and rapini mixture and reserved pasta water. Stir together until all ingredients are evenly combined. Add garlic crumbs to pasta and toss to coat. Add a drizzle of olive oil if the pasta seems dry.
  5. Season with salt and pepper and serve with grated parmesan cheese.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

This article first appeared on Suite

Orecchiette with Rapini, Sausage and Crispy Garlic Crumbs

The Friday Five – October 22nd, 2010

22 10 2010

A weekly round up food and drink-related news stories:

1. Have you ever wondered what a McDonald’s Happy Meal would look like if you let it sit at room temperature for six months? Wonder no more… (Eatocracy)

2. Perhaps we’ll all be able to stay as well-preserved as a Happy Meal: rumours of an anti-aging ice cream circulated this week but it’s bound to be too good to be true… (Huffington Post)

3. Apparently some schools are hoping that red celery will get kids interested in trying fresh vegetables. (Yahoo)

4. One of the stranger things I’ve seen this week is an ad for a British organic dairy, featuring rapping farmers.  It looks like something from an SNL Digital Short. (New York Times, Wikipedia)

5. The much discussed Double Down from KFC has finally arrived in Canada.  Get it while you can because it may not be around for long. (Globe and Mail, National Post)

Have a great weekend!

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Farmers’ Market Report – October 21st, 2010

22 10 2010

Cortland apples and bosc pears from the farmer's market

As we near the end of October, many of the farmers’ markets in Ontario are beginning to wrap up for the year (there are a few that operate year round but the variety of local produce drops off considerably by November). I visited a small one this week and was pleasantly surprised to find there was still a lot available.  These were some of the highlights:


I was a bit taken aback to still see local corn at the market.  The husks looked sad and tired but the farmer ensured me that the corn was in fact sweet and tasty.  I was skeptical but at $4 for 7 cobs, I figured it was worth giving them a try.  I husked the corn and cut the kernels off the cob, sautéed them in butter and dressed them simply with some salt and pepper. Much to my surprise, it was delicious!  I expected it to be dry and tasteless but it was sweet and juicy (although the cobs were quite small).  It was almost certainly the last of the year and a sweet reminder of how much I will miss local corn over the next nine months or so.  However, canned and frozen corn are usually decent enough to tide me over.  Check out the Corn Archives for some tasty corn recipes.

Apples and Pears


A bosc pear

Apples and pears were abundant at this week’s market.  There were many different varieties available and the farmers were offering samples so it was a great way to make comparisons.  My favourite apples to eat out of hand are Cortlands – they are the perfect balance of sweet and tart. However, sometimes they can be a bit mealy and I prefer ones that are perfectly crisp and juicy. This week’s specimens were pretty good; I will eat a few and use the rest to bake with.  Perhaps a classic Apple Pie will be on the menu.  I also picked up some bosc pears after sampling various types including the always popular Bartletts.  Pears are delicious with nuts and my recipe for Pear and Pecan Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce is sure to be a hit at your next dinner party. An unusual pear cocktail is another fun way to incorporate pears into your menu.

Root Vegetables

Not surprisingly, there were a lot of root vegetables such as carrots, beets and potatoes available.  Because they can be harvested late in the season and store well, they are staples throughout the winter.  Why not make an interesting salad out of roasted beets or some carrot cupcakes with cream cheese frosting?

Pumpkins and Squash


Pumpkins are at their peak in October

October is peak pumpkin season and the sunny, dry weather this year has produced some nice specimens.  Large jack-o-lantern pumpkins aren’t very good for eating but they’re fun to carve and you can roast and eat the seeds.  Sugar (or pie) pumpkins can be turned into a delicious pumpkin treats such as pie, pumpkin french toast or pumpkin spice muffins.  My favourite winter squash are butternut squash – they can be used to make a variety of dishes such as soup, salads or gratins.

There are a few more weeks left for local produce so I’m looking forward to testing some new ideas I have using the best of the season.  Enjoy!

A black squirrel enjoys a snack in the park near my house

Butternut Squash Soup with Sage Brown Butter

21 10 2010

A butternut squash on the vine

Soups are one of my favourite things to make once the weather turns cool.  They are comforting and warming but best of all, easy to make (and most recipes are very forgiving).  They can also be made in advance which makes soups the perfect dish to serve as a starter at a dinner party or for a casual lunch.

Butternut squash is widely available at this time of year and it pairs beautifully with fresh sage.  A diced apple adds a touch of sweetness and brown butter is the perfect addition to drizzle over the finished soup.  Even though this soup seems hearty, it’s actually quite low in fat and can be easily adapted for vegetarians, making it a great choice for entertaining.

To learn more about making flavourful, lower-fat soups, check out this article I wrote for Suite How to Make Flavourful Low Fat Soups.

Butternut Squash Soup with Sage Brown Butter

(Can be adapted to be VEGETARIAN)

Tip: Use a very sharp knife to peel and cut up the squash – they can be quite hard.

Makes 7 to 8 cups of soup

  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh sage
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 apple, peeled, cored and cut into cubes
  • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled and seeds removed and cut into 1″ cubes (about 3 cups of squash)
  • 6 cups low-sodium, fat-free chicken stock or vegetable stock (use vegetable stock if serving vegetarians)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Sage Brown Butter Garnish (see below)
  1. In a large pot, heat oil and add onion and garlic. Sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add herbs and cook for another 30 seconds.
  2. Add apple, butternut squash and stock. Cover and simmer on medium for 30 minutes.
  3. Let mixture cool and puree until smooth in a blender or with an immersion blender. Return to heat and simmer uncovered for another 15 minutes.
  4. Season soup with salt and pepper to taste and garnish each serving with sage butter.

Sage Brown Butter Garnish

  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 8 medium sized fresh sage leaves

In a small saucepan on medium heat, melt butter and add sage leaves. Cook until leaves are crisp and butter is beginning to brown. Garnish each serving of soup with a crispy sage leaf and a few drops of brown butter.


Butternut Squash Soup with Sage Brown Butter

This article first appeared on Suite

The Friday Five – October 15th, 2010

15 10 2010

A weekly round up food and drink-related news stories:

1. Do you sear your meat to ‘seal in the juices’?  Afraid to salt beans while they’re cooking because they’ll be tough? Serious Eats debunks six of the most common food myths. (Serious Eats)

2. Can’t decide on a Halloween costume?  Chow has a few ideas for dressing as your favourite food celebrity. (

3. If you rely on on-line, user-generated review sites to get the inside scoop on the restaurant scene, you may want to take their advice with a grain of salt. (Globe and Mail)

4. The elusive McRib is coming back to some McDonald’s locations.  It has a cult-like following (there was even a Simpson’s episode about it) but is the appeal its taste or is it marketing genius? (National Post, wikipedia)

5. Despite being a healthier alternative, I’ve never been a big fan of whole-wheat pasta (I sometimes think it would be tastier to eat the box it came in).  However, some pasta makers are hoping to change that. (New York Times)

Have a great weekend!

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Celery Root Slaw

15 10 2010


Celery root (celeriac) is not the most attractive vegetable but it's delicious and versatile


Celery root (a.k.a. celeriac) is a root vegetable with a mild celery-like taste.  It is delicious both raw and cooked and it can be a nice alternative to potatoes in a puree or soup.  However, I particularly like celery root shredded and mixed with a lemony dressing, making a refreshing cold-weather slaw that is perfect with roast meats.

Celery root tends to be quite hard so peeling one requires a sharp knife.  To easily peel off the ugly outer skin, slice a sliver off the bottom so the root will stand upright on a cutting board.  Using a large, very sharp knife, carefully slice the skin off in a downward motion, working your way around the root (much like peeling a pineapple). Discard the skin. The root can be hand shredded on a box grater, however, I find it’s much easier to do so with a food processor grater attachment if you have one.

This salad makes a great side dish to roast chicken, braised short ribs or roast beef. Prepare the salad a few hours in advance so the flavours have time to come together and the celery root softens a little.

Celery Root Slaw

Makes about 4-1/2 cups of slaw

  • ½ large celery root or one small celery root, peeled (see note above for peeling guidelines) – will equal about 4-1/2 cups once shredded
  • ¾ cup Hellman’s or Best Foods style mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon celery salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1 Tablespoon flat leaf (Italian) parsley, finely chopped
  • Frisee or salad greens for serving (optional)
  1. Cut peeled celery root into 3” chunks. Using a food processor with a grater attachment or a box grater, grate celery root. Place in a large bowl and set aside.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine mayonnaise, vinegar, celery salt, sugar, Dijon and garlic. Stir until thoroughly combined.
  3. Add mayonnaise mixture to grated celery root. Add chopped parsley and mix until completely mixed and celery root shreds are evenly coated.
  4. Serve on a bed of frisee or mixed greens, if desired.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

This article first appeared on Suite


Celery root slaw makes a refreshing cold-weather salad


The Friday Five – October 8th, 2010

8 10 2010

A weekly round up food and drink-related news stories:

1. I once saw a $50 watermelon (yes, really) at an upscale grocer in Toronto.  It was square.  It was the most expensive piece of produce I’ve ever seen.  Slate goes shopping at Whole Foods (a.k.a. ‘Whole Paycheck’) to shop for the most expensive dinner they can. (Toronto Star,

2. Some very bold criminals stole an entire year’s worth of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from a grower in France.  The grapes were worth about $20,000 USD. (

3. Artist Mike Lahue has made a bust of actor Kevin Bacon out of bacon.  Now I’d like to see what he can do for Jon Hamm… (Gizmodo)

4. For those celebrating Thanksgiving this weekend, the National Post provides some tips for carving the turkey.  It could help you avoid a situation like this: When Father Carves the Duck. (National Post, courtingdisaster)

5. Apparently Spaghetti Tacos have become popular with kids after a character on the popular children’s show iCarly made them. Could this be the new direction of fusion food? (New York Times)

Have a great weekend (and Happy Thanksgiving to my fellow Canadians!)

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Thanksgiving Desserts

7 10 2010


Maple-Caramel Custards are a delicious alternative to pumpkin pie at the Thanksgiving table


Canadian Thanksgiving is this weekend so it’s time to start thinking about the dinner menu.  Turkey will be on most tables and I’ve given a number of suggestions for excellent side dishes (Thanksgiving Side Dishes).  However, for many people, the highlight of the holiday meal is dessert.

Pumpkin and apple pies are popular choices, however, I sometimes enjoy serving desserts that are a bit different yet still seasonally appropriate.  Pears, apples, pumpkin, nuts and cranberries are abundant at markets right now so it’s the perfect time to incorporate them into your menu.

Here are a few suggestions for a delicious finish to the Thanksgiving feast:

Pumpkin Pie with Maple-Walnut Praline – This impressive looking dessert is easy to make.  If you don’t feel like fussing with the praline, the filling makes a delicious basic pumpkin pie.

Apple Pie – A classic.  Be sure to serve it warm, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Apple-Caramel Tart – An elegant alternative to apple pie.  It’s made with frozen puff pastry, making the preparation quick and easy.

Harvest Strudel – Pears, apples, cranberries, nuts and warming spices make this dessert a nice change from basic pie.

Pear and Pecan Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce – A rich caramel sauce poured over a decadent pear and nut-studded pudding takes this comfort food dish to new levels.

Raspberry and Dark Chocolate Tartlets – Raspberry season is over in most areas, however, this recipe works just as well with frozen berries.

Maple-Caramel Custards with Sea Salt – This rich custard showcases the flavour of maple beautifully.  If you can find some colourful maple leaves that have fallen, they make a fun presentation.

Bon Appétit and Happy Thanksgiving!

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Autumn Cocktail: La Poire

2 10 2010

La Poire: A pear based cocktail with subtle notes of rosemary and pepper.

I love to incorporate seasonal fruit into cocktails. It’s a fun and easy way to enjoy the flavours of the season (check out the Drink Archives for other ideas including Peach Sangria and Strawberry Mojitos).  With a little creativity, autumn drinks can involve more than just apple cider (although I do love a good cider as well!). For those who don’t speak much French, ‘la poire’ means ‘pear’.

This recipe calls for pear-flavoured vodka.  Both Grey Goose and Absolut make pear vodkas, however, if you’d rather make your own version, you can try this recipe from How to Make Pear Infused Vodka.  The rosemary-black pepper syrup sounds a bit odd but it’s subtle and adds an interesting note to the drink.

La Poire

Makes 2 drinks

  • 4 oz. pear flavoured vodka
  • 2 oz. Rosemary-Black Pepper Simple Syrup (see below)
  • 4 oz. pear juice (Ceres brand pear juice is readily available at many supermarkets)
  • 1 oz. fresh lemon juice
  • 2 pear slices, for garnish (optional)
  • 2 sprigs rosemary, for garnish (optional)
  • Black pepper, for garnish (optional)
  • Ice cubes

Rosemary-Black Pepper Simple Syrup

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • A sprig of fresh rosemary, about 4″ long
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

To make the syrup:

  1. In a small saucepan, combine sugar, water, rosemary and black pepper.  Heat the mixture on medium-high and stir to dissolve the sugar.  Let simmer for 5 minutes.
  2. Remove from the heat and let cool completely.  Remove the rosemary sprig once cool and use the syrup as desired.  Extra syrup will keep in the fridge for a few days.

To make the cocktail:

  1. In a martini shaker, add a few ice cubes, vodka, simple syrup, pear juice and lemon juice.  Shake well and strain the drinks into martini or low-ball glasses.
  2. Garnish drinks with a pear slice, a rosemary sprig and a light sprinkling of fresh pepper if desired.


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