Fall!

23 09 2011

Pears are at their peak in early autumn

A lot of people mentally checked out of summer after Labour Day but the real first day of fall is today! Fall happens to be my favourite season so I couldn’t be happier. In many areas, the weather is still very pleasant and the farmers’ markets are still bursting with plenty of late-summer and fall produce. As the weather turns crisp in the weeks ahead, I’m looking forward to enjoying some warm spiced apple cider, putting on some slow-cooked braises, taking walks through the brilliant foliage and getting the fireplace going for the season. To get in the mood, here are a few of my favourite autumn recipes:

Slow Simmered Ragu with Pasta

Sablefish with Caramelized Fennel and Cherry Tomatoes

Stuffed Pork Tenderloin Wrapped with Prosciutto

Stuffed Butternut Squash

Orecchiette with Rapini, Sausage and Crisp Garlic Crumbs

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Maple

La Poire (pear cocktail)

Apple-Caramel Tart

Pumpkin Cream Puffs with Maple-Caramel Sauce

Pumpkin Pie with Maple-Walnut Praline

A fall scene at the market

For more great autumn ideas, check out the Fall Archives!

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Copyright Trish Coleman. Please contact the author to obtain permission for republication.





Farmers’ Market Report – August 25th, 2011

25 08 2011

A roadside farm stand in the Niagara region

As we near the end of August, farmers’ markets in Ontario are stacked high with summer’s bounty. With the exception of a few spring vegetables, pretty much anything that grows here is now available. It’s almost too much to keep up with! Here are a few of the highlights from my recent market visits:

Tomatoes

I’ve been pleased to discover that this has been a pretty good year for tomatoes in Southern Ontario. Thanks to a hot, dry July, this year’s tomatoes have good flavour. Eatocracy recently did a story about the Best Sandwich in the Universe: a tomato sandwich, simply prepared with white sandwich bread, sliced ripe tomatoes and mayo. It only works in the summer, when tomatoes are at their peak. I don’t disagree that a tomato sandwich is a thing of beauty but my personal favourite is a BLT. The crisp bacon and crunchy lettuce elevate the tomatoes to new heights, in my humble opinion. For more great ideas using tomatoes, check out the Tomato Archives.

Corn

August is the peak month for corn in Ontario

Corn has been plentiful this summer but I’ve had a bit of an issue with some of it. I bought some nice looking cobs at the market a couple of weeks ago and used them to make a pasta dish. Unfortunately, the kernels were a little too sweet (if that’s possible!) and tasted more like sugar bombs than corn, which didn’t really enhance the recipe. However, I bought some cobs last weekend that were much better – still sweet but they had a decent ‘corn’ flavour as well. Simply boiled and dressed with butter, salt and pepper, it was a true taste of August. Why not make some Corn Chowder with Bell Peppers or try Corn Scallop, a delicious side dish for grilled meats.

Peaches

Freshly picked Niagara peaches

Peaches are a staple at Ontario markets this time of year. This year I’ve found them to be flavourful but a little on the small side, which one of the growers told me was because of the dry weather in July. Peach Cobbler is a classic and Peach Tiramisu is a unique twist on an Italian standard. If you’d rather something more savoury, Peach Chutney is a great accompaniment to pork or chicken.

Summer Squash

Zucchini and patty pan squash were abundant at the last market I attended. Luckily the zucchini were still young and tender – they can get watery as they grow large. Smaller summer squash tend to be sweeter and work well in pasta dishes such as Summer Squash with Egg Pasta. Zucchini Bread with Cream Cheese Frosting is a great way to finish the meal – it’s moist, flavourful and the cream cheese frosting makes it special.

Potatoes

Ontario baby potatoes

Baby potatoes are one of my favourite things. They can be prepared very simply: give them a quick boil or steam and dress with a little bit of butter, salt and chopped parsley (add a little sour cream if you want to be decadent!). Or you could whip up a batch of Baby Red Potato Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette, a mayo-free, zippy potato salad that’s a nice change from the usual (you can use regular white potatoes in place of red).

Basil

Fresh basil is a fragrant summer treat

It has been a good year for basil, at least for farmers (my personal pot of basil didn’t make it through the heat wave). Every time I have purchased some at the market this summer, people on the street and the bus have commented on how incredible it smells – a taxi driver even asked me for a leaf so he could see what it tasted like! Pesto is one of the most common ways to use a lot of basil. Homemade Ricotta Gnocchi with Pesto is impressive and surprisingly simple to make. This month’s Saveur magazine has a full feature on pesto with a number of delicious recipes, from Pesto-Rubbed Chicken with Panzanella to Crispy Calamari with Pesto Mayonnaise. Caprese Salad is another way to use fresh basil – and it’s a great showcase for perfect tomatoes too!!

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

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Copyright Trish Coleman. Please contact the author to obtain permission for republication.





When It’s Too Hot to Cook…

20 07 2011

Temperatures are soaring in central Canada

Much of central/eastern Canada and the United States is currently engulfed in a heat wave that looks as though it’s only going to get worse in the days ahead!  Even those of us fortunate enough to have decent air conditioning don’t really feel like turning on the stove.  Standing over a hot grill outdoors isn’t much more appealing. Here are a few of my favourite ‘no-cook’ ideas for keeping the kitchen cool when the temperature soars:

Seafood Salad with Buttermilk-Avocado Dressing – Pick up some cooked seafood at the fish market and pair it with a cooling avocado-based dressing.

Asian Summer Slaw – Bagged coleslaw makes this delicious Asian-style salad a snap to put together.

Asian Summer Slaw

Crab and Avocado Stuffed Tomatoes – You can make these as hors d’oeuvres or use larger tomatoes for an elegant main dish.

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Goat Cheese and Sherry Vinaigrette – Dress up summer’s best tomatoes with tangy goat cheese and a simple vinaigrette.

Smoked Salmon and Cucumber Salad – Cool crème fraîche and cucumbers are delicious with smoked salmon and fresh dill.

Guacamole with chips – A summer classic. Serve with frosty margaritas!

Guacamole

Caprese Salad – If you have great tomatoes, dinner doesn’t get much simpler than this.

Chopped Antipasto Salad with Italian Vinaigrette – Some Italian favourites – in salad form!

Rotisserie Chicken – Pick up a rotisserie chicken at your favourite deli or supermarket and try these delicious ways to use it.

Duck Confit Salad with Fresh Raspberries – Shredded duck confit and fresh raspberries make an elegant and unusual dinner.

Sandwiches – Use summer’s bounty to make tasty and refreshing sandwiches. Tomato, cucumber, onion and lettuce all pair well with your favourite meats and cheeses.

Peach Tiramisu – An elegant no-bake dessert

Fresh Fruit – One of the best things about summer is that the fruit is so good, it doesn’t require much embellishment. Of course, a little fresh whipped cream on strawberries or peaches never hurt!

Peach Tiramisu

Bon Appétit and Stay Cool!

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Copyright Trish Coleman. Please contact the author to obtain permission for republication.





Farmers’ Market Report – June 5th, 2011

5 06 2011

The first day of the 2011 East Lynn Farmers' Market, Toronto

The farmers’ markets are underway for another year! Last week marked the launch of weekly farmers’ markets in Toronto. While there are a handful of markets that run through the year, the pickings tend to be slim between December and April. Now that there is locally-grown produce available, we can enjoy getting it straight from the farmers for the next five months or so. For a list of Ontario markets, check out Farmers’ Markets Ontario. (If you live elsewhere, a quick google search should point you in the right direction).

There isn’t a whole lot available right now but things should pick up considerably in about a month. Here were some of the highlights of this week’s markets:

Asparagus

Asparagus at its peak

It’s June and that means asparagus is at its peak! It seems to be a very good year for asparagus – the spears have been sweet and flavourful. The tables at the market Saturday morning were piled high with bundles of asparagus of various thickness (I prefer thicker ones but many people enjoy the delicate thin spears). It’s extremely versatile and can be enjoyed for breakfast, lunch or dinner. I whipped up a simple egg white omelet for lunch the other day and threw in some steamed spears (see Asparagus 101 for cooking tips). I added some chopped ham, finely diced onion, chopped chives and a tiny bit of cheddar cheese. Served with a simple green salad, it was the perfect spring lunch. Eggs pair very well with asparagus: try a Crustless Asparagus Quiche. It can be dressed up with a bit of ham, cooked crab or lobster, your favourite herbs, different cheeses (swiss is nice) or diced red peppers.

A simple egg white omelet filled with steamed asparagus, fat-free ham, diced onions, chives and a bit of cheese is easy, nutritious and delicious.

Strawberries

Ontario strawberries are finally in season!

I was excited to finally see strawberries at the market. They are a little bit late this year, likely because of the cool, damp weather we had for most of May. The few I tried were on the tart side but still had more flavour than imported berries. As the weather warms up, hopefully the berries in coming weeks will be a little sweeter. For breakfast, I like to add a few sliced strawberries to my cereal. If you’re feeling a little more decadent in the morning, Lemon-Ricotta Pancakes with Strawberry Sauce are sure to be a hit.

Rhubarb

There was no shortage of rhubarb at the markets this week. It’s a bit of an acquired taste (I know quite a few people who don’t care for it) but properly sweetened, it can be quite refreshing. Vanilla Cheesecake with Rhubarb-Ginger Compote is a great make-ahead dessert for a spring meal. Or start your evening off with a rhubarb-based cocktail such as a Springtime Kir or a Rhubarb Refresher.

Onions and Herbs

There were a few fresh herbs available this week, including mint which pairs beautifully with strawberries in Strawberry Mojitos. I also saw garlic scapes and picked up a few baby onions. Chives are also starting to blossom (in my herb pot – I didn’t see any at the market) and are delicious in stir-fries or coated in a tempura batter and fried: Chive Tempura Blossoms.

Chive blossoms: pretty and edible!

Bon Appétit and Happy Marketing!

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Snow Crab

12 05 2011

Snow crab legs and claw (cooked)

Every now and again something will come to my attention and I’ll become sort of obsessed with it for a while. The current object of my affection is Canadian snow crab. It started with a couple of trips to Montreal I took back in April. The snow crab season had just begun and I enjoyed a starter of cooked, chilled crab at a party I was attending. A couple of weeks later, my husband and I had an excellent meal at Le Filet, a new restaurant from the owners of the much-lauded Le Club Chasse et Pêche. (Lesley Chesterman gave Le Filet a lukewarm review in The Gazette around the same time but the kitchen was on its ‘A’ game the night we were there and our dinner was outstanding). The highlight of our meal was an asparagus and snow crab risotto. When I returned to Toronto, I decided to seek out some of the sweet crustaceans and we’ve enjoyed it a number of times since.

Snow Crab (a.k.a. Queen Crab, Spider Crab, Crabe des Neiges, Crabe Araignée) is harvested off Canada’s east coast from April to November. It is usually found frozen at most fishmongers although last weekend I was fortunate to find cooked, unfrozen claws and legs at The Beach Fish House, a great little seafood shop in my neighbourhood.

To thaw frozen snow crab, you can steam or briefly boil the legs/claws. Extracting the meat takes a bit of time but is well worth the effort. I usually set the crab on a clean folded dishtowel to soak up any liquid. You can use lobster crackers or a sharp knife to crack open the claws. The shells tend to be relatively thin at this time of year so I use seafood scissors (see photo) to cut them open. Most cookware shops sell seafood forks that you can use to extract the meat but I just use the forks from my fondue set – they work perfectly fine.

Tools for extracting crab meat: seafood scissors and fondue forks!

Snow crab is very versatile but I feel that the simplest preparations are usually best – let the sweet crab meat shine! Here are a few simple suggestions for enjoying it:

Garlic Butter

Melt some butter in a small bowl. Finely mince a clove of garlic and stir it in. Add a squeeze of fresh lemon if desired. Dip the crabmeat into the garlic butter and enjoy!

Crabby Spaghetti

In a sauté pan, heat a few tablespoons of butter or olive oil. Add a teaspoon or so of red pepper flakes, two finely minced garlic cloves, a couple of peeled and seeded diced tomatoes and cook for a minute until the garlic is tender and fragrant (you can also add a bit of minced green onion and finely diced red or yellow pepper if desired). Add a cup of crab meat to the pan and stir to combine. Cook spaghetti or other long pasta according to package directions. Add the cooked pasta to the sauce and toss until the pasta is coated. Season with salt and pepper and garnish with fresh chopped chives, if desired.

Spaghetti with Snow Crab, Garlic and Tomato

Crab and Avocado Stuffed Tomatoes

These make a great appetizer for parties. You can skip the avocado to make things easier. Get the recipe here: Crab and Avocado Stuffed Tomatoes.

Crab and Avocado Stuffed Tomatoes

Crab and Avocado Stuffed Tomatoes

Asparagus and Snow Crab Risotto

The perfect spring dish, this was inspired by my dinner at Le Filet in Montreal. Follow the instructions for Basic Risotto but use shellfish stock (see recipe below) instead of meat stock (although chicken stock will work in a pinch). Add about 1-1/2 cups cooked crab meat and 4 oz./113 grams of lightly steamed asparagus, cut into 1-1/2″ pieces. Stir in the asparagus and crab toward the end of cooking. Season with fresh chopped chives and two finely minced fresh basil leaves. Finish with a generous amount of butter and garnish with a crab claw (optional). Note: Italians do not usually serve seafood dishes with cheese but you can add a bit of parmesan if desired.

Snow Crab and Asparagus Risotto, garnished with a crab claw

Shellfish Stock

This makes a great base for all kinds of seafood dishes from risotto to pot pie to chowder. I usually save any shells from shrimp, lobster and crab in a bag in the freezer until I have enough to make a batch of stock. Leftover stock can be frozen.

Makes about 7-1/2 cups of stock

  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups shrimp shells
  • 1 lb. / 500 grams crab and/or lobster shells (cooked and empty)
  • 1 medium onion, quartered
  • 2 medium carrots, roughly chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup brandy (optional)
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 8 cups water
  • Cheesecloth, for straining
  1. In a large stockpot, heat the olive oil on medium-high. Add the shells and sauté until they begin to brown slightly around the edges, stirring frequently (they may stick to the bottom of the pot a bit).
  2. Add the onion, carrot and celery and sauté for another two minutes.
  3. Stir in the tomato paste and add the brandy, if using. Add the thyme.
  4. Pour in the water. Cover and let simmer gently (don’t hard boil) for about 25 minutes.
  5. Line a strainer with multiple layers of cheesecloth and pour the stock through it into a large vessel.  If the stock isn’t completely clear, repeat the straining with more clean cheesecloth.
  6. Stock can be stored in the fridge for a couple of days or frozen.
  7. Note: The stock will seem a bit bland because it doesn’t have any salt in it – season it as you use it so you can control the sodium levels.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

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Copyright Trish Coleman. Please contact the author to obtain permission for republication.





It’s Spring!

21 03 2011

It will still be a while until new produce is available but we can start planning ahead

Welcome to spring!  We finally made it through winter (and it was a pretty tough one for many areas, weather-wise).  As exciting as the start of a new season is, the reality is that where I live we won’t have consistently nice weather and new produce for a while yet. However, we can start to transition into the new season by thinking about what lies ahead.  Here are some of my favourite spring recipes to get you in the mood for what’s to come:

Tempura Chive Blossoms

Pickled Radishes

Rhubarb Refresher (cocktail)

Crustless Asparagus Quiche

Sesame Noodles with Asparagus and Mushrooms

Roasted Asparagus Lasagna

Baby Red Potato Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette

Spaghetti with Creamy Wild Leek Pesto

Strawberries and Cream Cupcakes

Quick Strawberry Jam and Easy Drop Biscuits

Cherry Clafouti with Almonds

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

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My Favourite Winter Comfort Dishes

26 01 2011

Beef Pie with winter vegetables in a rich wine sauce and topped with a cheddar-flecked crust

For anyone living in a northern climate, we’re into the toughest point of winter: the weather is frigid, the days are often gloomy and spring is still far, far away. The warm glow of the holiday season is a month behind us and people are starting to get cranky. However, there is no need to despair! It’s the perfect time to enjoy winter activities such as skiing, skating and sledding as well as indulge in our favourite hearty dishes. Here are a few of my favourite cold weather comfort foods. They’re not exactly diet-friendly but they are delicious and will be sure to warm you up!

Braised Short Ribs – The most popular recipe on The Seasonal Gourmet, these ribs are perfect for cold winter nights. Serve with Horseradish Cream and mashed potatoes.

Meatloaf with Zesty Tomato Glaze – Forget dry, boring cafeteria-style meatloaf: this version is moist and flavourful.  Serve with lightly steamed and buttered green beans and mashed potatoes.

 

Baked Rigatoni with Sausage and Three Cheeses

Baked Rigatoni with Sausage and Three Cheeses – Light?  No. Delicious?  Yes! This easy pasta dish can be assembled in advance and baked just before serving, making it perfect for busy nights.

Beef Pie with Cheddar Crust – A hearty pot pie packed with beef chunks and winter vegetables in a rich red wine sauce. Topped with a cheddar-flecked crust, it’s a great dinner after a busy day of skiing or skating (see photo, above).

Slow Simmered Ragu with Pasta – One of my favourite meals to make on a lazy Sunday.  Once the prep work it done, it just requires low and slow simmering to develop into a rich and flavourful sauce.

Juicy Herb Roasted Chicken – Roast chicken is the ultimate comfort food and this version doesn’t disappoint.  Serve with mashed potatoes, Savoury Mushroom Bread Pudding and a green salad.  Celery Root Slaw also pairs well with the chicken.

Lobster Pot Pie – For a special treat, splurge on a bit of lobster meat to make this decadent pie. Serve with a simple salad.

Steve’s Osso Bucco – This braised veal dish is ideal for snowy winter nights.  Serve with traditional Risotto Milanese.

Sausage and Mushroom Lasagna – Another Seasonal Gourmet favourite, this make-ahead dinner has layers of pasta and rich meat sauce, studded with mushrooms and topped with a hearty bechamel.  Decadent and delicious!

 

Chocolate fondue with fruit and cake

Chocolate Fondue – Melted chocolate, fruit and cake – what’s not to love?  A staple of 70’s parties, fondue is making a comeback in the 21st century.  Light a fire, gather ’round and enjoy!

Pear and Pecan Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce – Pears, nuts and a decadent caramel sauce make this dessert a favourite.

Baked Apples with Apple Brandy Sauce – These baked apples are one of my new ‘go-to’ easy desserts.  It’s simple to put together and the results are surprisingly delicious. Don’t let the apple brandy put you off – if you can’t find it, just use extra cider in the sauce. Serve with vanilla ice cream.

Pumpkin Cream Puffs with Maple-Caramel Sauce – Cream puffs stuffed with a pumpkin pie-inspired cream filling and topped with caramel sauce – what more could you want in a dessert?

Brownie Cheesecake Bites – Fun little desserts combining the best of brownies and cheesecake are just the thing to end a decadent meal.  They’re also portable so you can pack them in lunches or take them on a picnic.

Bon Appétit and Stay Warm!

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