Homemade Ketchup

October 19, 2011 by

First step to making ketchup...

“I would really like to make ketchup with you guys.”

While relaxing at the cottage this summer, that’s what our friend Carina posed to Cari and I.  At that point, we had hoped that the bounty of our garden would at least provide some of the tomatoes that went into the ketchup, but since our garden proved a bit of a bust this year that didn’t happen.  Not to mention the fact that to yield seven pints of ketchup, we had to start with 24 lbs of tomatoes.

24 lbs!  To put it in perspective, that’s about how much an 18-month-old would weigh (yes, we’re parents and have to make those kinds of comparisons).  Thankfully we live in an Italian neighbourhood, and many of the local vegetable markets sell bushels of tomatoes.  We were actually able to get approximately 50 lbs for $18.  Not bad!  We went on to use the leftover tomatoes to make oven-roasted tomatoes, tomato sauce and tomato soup.

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Tomato Soup w/Broiled Cheese

October 11, 2011 by

Tomato Soup w/Broiled Cheese

I think we can all agree that part of what makes French Onion Soup great is the involvement of bread and cheese.  So what if a similar strategy were applied to tomato soup?  In the case of this one, courtesy of Smitten Kitchen, the classic American favourite of grilled cheese and tomato soup is rolled together into one bowl of heaven.  Cari surprised me with a generous sampling of this soup one night and I am already eager to have it again.

We were lucky enough to have leftover fresh tomatoes from our ketchup making experiment, so we were happy to put a lot of them to use here.  Head over to Smitten Kitchen and give it a try!  You won’t regret it.

Pumpkin Spice Syrup

October 7, 2011 by

I recently discovered Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte. I realize I’m a bit late to the game on this one – it’s been around for awhile and gets hyped every year. I never really got it before – it didn’t sound so appealing, really – but about a month ago I decided to give one a try. I was pretty instantly hooked, and proceeded to buy at least one a week. $20 or so into my addiction, I stumbled upon a few recipes for a homemade pumpkin spice latte. Brilliant!

I followed this recipe, and it turned out great! Very simple to make… basically a simple syrup with lots of added spices and a bit of pumpkin thrown in for good measure. You do have to strain it – but that’s a simple step, so don’t let it deter you. And really, you could skip it all together and just end up with extra goopy spice stuff at the bottom of each latte… not such a bad thing. I have an espresso machine (that I hadn’t pulled out in well over a year), but according to the original site you can make it with just strong coffee as well. And I will say that this syrup can make a pumpkin spice latte as good (or better?) than what would cost $5 at a Starbucks. I’d recommend this to anyone who shares my addiction!

As an added bonus – this syrup can be used for other things too. Last night I mixed it 1:1 with some dark rum, filled up the glass with some boiling water, and added some whipped cream on top… Instant awesome hot spiced rum! So perfect for a fall evening.

Cookie of the Year: 1941 – Cajun Macaroons

October 5, 2011 by

Quite awhile ago, I was given The Gourmet Cookie Book. As someone who loves to bake, but isn’t really prone to do anything fancy with cookies – this cook book excited me. It has the best recipe from Gourmet magazine from 1941 through 2009 – a huge variety of cookies ranging more than 50 years. Surely there were some recipes in here that would get me baking more than just chocolate chip.

The cookie book itself is lovely – full of full page photos of beautiful cookies, with a nice description of each cookie and what was happening in the world at the time of it’s publication. It also includes adorable notes helping clarify recipes that may be a bit lost in the translation 50 years later, or that are made easier by modern appliances. Things like “”Soda” is baking soda.” and “Rather than working the almond paste with a wooden spoon, use a food processor.”

After more than a year of this cookbook sitting on my shelf with little more than “Yeah, we really need to make some of those…”, I’ve decided I’m not going to make some of the recipes: I’m going to make ALL of the recipes. I’m not nuts – I’m not going to set a time limit for myself. But I am aiming to get each recipe made at some point – and I’m going to make them all in order.

Much to my surprise – the very first recipe listed was for Cajun Macaroons. It certainly doesn’t *sound* like a cookie from 1941. I first envisioned something… spicy? Perhaps with nuts and/or coconut? No, these little cookies weren’t much more than almond cookies with a lot of egg white.

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Moroccan Spiced Lamb Pastitsio

October 3, 2011 by

Pastitiso

In case you hadn’t noticed, Cari and I have started to get back into the kitchen more and more.  Predictable nap/bed times for Violet have not only given us a lot more uninterrupted free time, we’ve also had a lot more energy for all things food.

That’s not to say our enthusiasm for food ever wavered.  Flipping through the March 2011 issue of Bon Appetit, the baked pasta feature especially caught my eye.  And since the weather has started to cool down and we were having some good friends over for dinner, we decided to take a crack at the Moroccan-Spiced Pastitsio with Lamb and Feta.

So what is pastitsio?  It’s effectively a Greek/Mediterranean version of a meat lasagna, with ground meat, pasta and bechamel sauce.  This particular recipe uses ground lamb, which – as it turns out – is hard to find in Canadian grocery stores.  Thankfully, the butcher at Longo’s was very helpful and provided me with a nice piece of boneless lamb that Cari and I ground with our Kitchen-Aid mixer’s meatgrinder attachment.

The other unusual ingredient is a Moroccan spice blend called ras-el-hanout.  Rather than seek it out, I decided to make it myself after learning that ras-el-hanout is made from a whole bunch of spices already located in our pantry.

Apart from that, the dish was somewhat time consuming but relatively easy to assemble and bake.  And considering the amount of awesome flavours loaded in to the dish, it was a big hit at our dinner and made for some delicious leftovers the next day.

Moroccan Spiced Lamb Pastitsio (courtesy of Bon Appetit)

Makes 10 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/4 cups chopped red onion
  • 2 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
  • 2 tablespoons dried mint
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons ras-el-hanout (see below for recipe)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 3 teaspoons ground cumin, divided
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 cups whole milk, divided
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided
  • 6 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • 6 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 pound penne rigate
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided

Directions:

1. Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic; sauté until onion softens, about 5 minutes.

2. Add lamb; cook until brown, breaking into small pieces, about 8 minutes.

3. Stir in tomatoes with juice, mint, ras-el-hanout, tomato paste, 2 1/2 teaspoons cumin, and cinnamon. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until lamb mixture is thick, stirring often, 15 to 18 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

4. Meanwhile, bring 2 cups milk to simmer in medium saucepan. Remove from heat; cover to keep warm.

5. Melt 6 tablespoons butter in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add flour; whisk until smooth. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook until roux is pale golden, whisking often, 3 to 4 minutes.

6. Gradually add warm milk to roux, whisking until sauce is smooth. Whisk 1 cup milk and 3 egg yolks in medium bowl; whisk into sauce. Whisk in feta and 1/2 teaspoon cumin. Bring sauce to boil, whisking often.

7. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer until slightly thickened, mashing with potato masher to break up cheese, about 5 minutes. Season sauce with salt and pepper.

8. Preheat oven to 400°F. Butter deep 14-cup baking dish. Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain pasta; return to same pot. Mix 2 tablespoons butter into pasta. Add egg whites and 1/4 cup Parmesan; stir to blend.

9. Spread 4 cups pasta in dish. Spread lamb mixture over. Top with remaining pasta. Spoon sauce over; sprinkle with 1/4 cup Parmesan. Place dish on rimmed baking sheet.

10. Bake pastitsio until heated through, about 40 minutes. Let stand 5 to 10 minutes.

Ras-El-Hanout (courtesy of Epicurious commenter AliceAC)

Mix the following (you’ll get much more than you need, so save the rest for later):

  • 2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cardamom powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

Cinnamon Rolls

October 1, 2011 by

Cinnamon Roll

For most of us (myself included), cinnamon rolls were always either something that came out of a tube, or a specialty item that you buy at a bakery. As tasty (and easy) as the the Pillsbury tube-o-cinnamon-rolls are, I’ve been wanting to make cinnamons rolls completely from scratch for quite awhile. The downside is it’s not a quick thing to make – as a yeast dough with several rising steps, it takes several hours, so it’s tough to actually have for breakfast unless you’re a very, very early riser. Read the rest of this entry »

Restaurant Review: Pizza e Pazzi

September 20, 2011 by

Cari and I have lived in the Dufferin & St. Clair area for 4 1/2 years.  In that time, we have seen some significant changes to the neighbourhood, mostly between Oakwood and Christie.  But when it comes to the stretch between Lansdowne and Dufferin, it’s mostly the same Italian dress shops and vacant lots that were around when we moved in in the first place.

Enter Pizza e Pazzi.  Located in the spot that once housed another Italian restaurant, what struck us right away was that Pizza e Pazzi actually had people in it from the start.  Never more than a few tables, sure, but it gave the impression that people were interested in eating there.  My curiosity was piqued.  A little while later, I noticed that Pizza e Pazzi served apertivo from Mondays through Wednesdays, offering those willing to spend $10 on a beverage the chance to sample some of the restaurant’s offerings.

It wasn’t until Pizza e Pazzi was ranked #4 on Now Toronto’s Best Pizzas in Toronto list that I was convinced that this was a place we needed to try.  Not surprisingly, this high praise from Now Toronto (as well as other local publications) led to a significant uptick in business.  And now that we’ve eaten their pizza a few times, we can honestly say it’s one of the best pizzas we’ve had outside of Italy.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise just how authentic this pizza tastes.  Pizza e Pazzi had their pizza oven flown in from Italy, and is one of the few pizza places in Toronto to have received certification from something called the Associazone Verace Pizza Napoletana.

With prices ranging from $9.50 to $24.75 a pizza, this is more of a high-end pizza than the place you’ll want to order from weekly.  Well, you’ll want to order from them weekly – but your wallet may disagree.  Our favourites so far have been the margherita verace, diavola (spicy salami), quattro fromaggi (four cheese) and tartufata (the priciest pizza on the menu, loaded up with mushrooms, truffle oil and aged prosciutto).

As great as it is to have a fantastic pizza place in our neighbourhood, it’s even more exciting to see a place around the corner with lineups out the door on a Saturday night.

New & Improved: Vanilla Peach Custard Pie

September 4, 2011 by

Two years ago around this time, I posted a recipe for Peach Custard Pie. It was quite good. In the time since then I’ve tinkered with this recipe a few times and have improved it enough that I think it’s worth a new post. It’s now a Vanilla Peach Custard Pie, and it’s damn tasty.

First of all – ignore any pie crust recipe you see on this blog (or elsewhere, really), and just make this one. Always. I screwed it up in my most recent attempt and it still turned out awesome. Trust me – just listen to Deb at Smitten Kitchen, make that pie crust, and (perhaps with a little practice), you’ll be hailed as the best pie crust maker ever.

For this recipe you need half of the dough – so either make half, or make two pies!

Now, for the rest of the pie:

Vanilla Peach Custard Pie With Struesel Topping

Crust

  • See above

Filling

  • 4 medium size peaches (or more – extra filling is always good!)
  • 1 cup vanilla yogurt
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 cup vanilla sugar*
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla paste (use extract if you have to -but paste makes it all that much better)

Streusel Topping

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup vanilla sugar*
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon (Recipe says optional, but I disagree. Not optional.)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425°F.

1. Make crust, and line pan.

2. Make Filling:

  • Peel and slice peaches 1/4 inch thick and place in pie shell.
  • Whisk together yogurt, egg yokes, sugar, flour and vanilla until just blended and pour over top of the peaches. Bake for 30 minutes until custard is mostly set.

3. Streusel Topping:.

  • Combine butter, flour, sugar and cinnamon with your fingers until crumbly.
  • Sprinkle evenly over top of pie and bake for an additional 15 minutes until custard is set.

Let pie cool and serve cold or warm. Enjoy!

*Regular sugar works fine too – but if you haven’t already, make some vanilla sugar! Just throw a few vanilla beans into a jar of sugar and let it sit. Soon enough you’ll have fragrant vanilla sugar!

Apple Cinnamon Pancakes

May 23, 2011 by

Apple cinnamon pancakes

We may not have quite as much time for elaborate cooking these days, but we do like to make time for a good weekend breakfast. These definitely hit the spot – quite different from our usual four grain flapjacks, which have become a weekend staple for us lately – nicely sweet and flavourful.

I guess really these are apple pancakes with a sweet cinnamon butter served over the top in place of maple syrup. They look quite like potato latkes when cooking due to the shredded apple, but the consistency is almost more cake-like. A definite treat to start off any weekend right.

The full recipe is here. Be warned that before cooking you let it sit for 30-60 minutes, so make sure you account for that in your timing. I assure you, they are worth the wait!

The 30-Year-Old Chianti

May 16, 2011 by

IMG_2422

On our visit to Fattoria Montagliari in Chianti, Italy, Cari and I were astonished to see wines for sale dating back to the late 1940s. Much beyond, “Hey, that’s pretty cool,” we didn’t think much of it and enjoyed our best lunch of the trip, purchasing a recent vintage to enjoy at home later.

After leaving the vineyard, the thought popped into our minds – “I wonder how much a 1981 chianti would have cost us?”  After all, we had never consumed a wine more than a few years old and it seemed like a good occasion, what with both of us turning 30 in 2011, to pick up a wine as old as us. Read the rest of this entry »