Monday, June 29, 2009

chocolate zucchini cake

Another childhood classic. We weren't big vegetable kids growing up. Quite the opposite of how we eat now, so it was no surprise my mother would do her best to tuck some vegetables into her baking. If there is an easier way to than hiding zucchini in chocolate, somebody let me know. Normally my mom would bake this in a bundt pan, as our family enjoyed the big already-sized servings, and this treat could easily disappear in a few days. Seriously..ask my brother, we would demolish these. After finding my mother's recipe last week, I decided to make it in a 9x13 pan instead. It worked incredibly well and tasted just like I remember; moist and chocolatey all in one. I even topped it with some fresh mint from my know, for that bit of flash!

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Saturday, June 27, 2009

edmonton foodie throw down #2

Last night, local food fans met in Edmonton's River Valley for a night of food and laughs. We gathered at Dawson Park, which if the weather had been a little more cooperative, is a fantastic spot. I mean if all else fails and you have nothing to say, you can always stare out and enjoy the beauty of our city.

Showing up first, meant I had a chance to look around and lay out a few chunks of yeasty goodness. I wanted people to sample some recent regular breads, so I provided both a 100% whole wheat and 100% AP slow rise bread. Nothing like a few days in the fridge to really bring out some flavor. I also baked up a New England cornmeal based bread, Anadama, and my favorite french toast bread as of late, the Greek Artos.

Kevin showed up next with some amazing moose calf. Did you know Kevin is like a jack of all trades? Seriously check out his blog.

Grace was kind enough to bring some great Malaysian chicken curry (why is it so hard to find great examples of this cuisine). I was happy to see the pot filled with plenty of meat, as I went back for seconds.

Before you know it, a flood of a food and voices filled the sitting area. Macarons from Bene and Chris. So tiny, so addictive, so 'body-friendly'!!!!

Two delicious salads (smoked paprika potato, garden greens) from Hanne and Carlo made a comfy home on the table.

Maki, added some delicious black bean crostini's. How delicious were good her car seat ate some!
Brooke showed up with Vietnamese meatballs (and peanut sauce), while her partner in crime, Courtney, brought a childhood favorite, peanut butter marshmallow squares.

Top this all off with gorgeous panna cotta (very not run of the mill!) from Sharon and Mack and all we had to do was fill our tummies, and chat in between gusts of wind.

What a fantastic couple of hours. Even if the weather wasn't playing nice for our 2nd gathering, we had a great time. I for one, am already looking forward to a 3rd culinary adventure. Now, to track down a cat suit (inside joke) and contemplate what breads I should bake up next...

Check out Sharon's post for more thoughts and photo's.

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Friday, June 26, 2009

melton mowbray pork pie

Stopped back in at Old Country Deli and Meats for another round of haggis recently and decided to sample something else again. With the very cholesterol friendly scotch egg last time clogging my heart, I figured it would only be fitting to stay on that healthy kick.

Why not a meat pie! Your everyday choices include such delights as chicken pot pie and scotch meat pie, but what sold me was the meltown mowbray pie. Having no idea what or why this pie is different, I figured was a good enough place to start. And boy was I in for an education.

It seems like a growing number of foods and beverages are becoming certified to a specific region of the world. Two examples of such organizations include the DOC in Italy and the AOC in France. It should be no surprise than that the Melton Mowbray Pork Pie Association has been set up to protect this little treat. Hey, if champagne and buffalo mozzarella can be protected..why not I say!

In accordance with wikipedia, a pork pie consists - of roughly chopped pork and pork jelly sealed in a hot water crust pastry, and are (is) normally eaten cold. What makes a mowbray pork pie different is the use of uncured meats as opposed with the cured pork in your typical pie. So we definitely have the jelly, we have the pork, we have the pastry crust.

It is easy to see why the pork pie was so popular back in the day. Like the scotch egg, the pie would give you quite the caloric boost. Whether you were working the fields or in some industrial revolution pollution machine you were surely in need of such sustenance. Now...maybe not so much. Like 1000 calorie Starbucks beverages, this pie should probably be consumed as a special treat (or shared among 4 or 5 people!). The taste. Well it was chunks of pork, jelly and pastry. I'm not one to turn down pork parts (or jelly), and the pastry was really, I'm just happy to have tried it, even if it wasn't made in the required 1,800 square mile requirement!

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

ciabatta - bread baker's apprentice challenge #7

After some quick, straight rise breads, week seven of the BBAC finds us needing two days to accomplish our finished product - Ciabatta's!

Originating from Liguria, Italy, this tasty treat has always been a homestead favorite. I discovered the name literally translates into "carpet slipper". Something I mentally grasped at little more after the stretch and fold preparation Peter talks about.

Peter is kind enough to offer two basic versions. One started with a poolish and the other a biga. He also makes mention of more creative ciabatta's with mushrooms, caramelized onions, herbs, and cheese. Apparently his students have a tendency to favor the wild mushroom ciabatta.

For the poolish versions, I mixed the starter ingredients together and let them sit for 2 nights in the fridge. After making Peter's pizza recipes for a few years now, I've really come to appreciate the flavor developed by retarding the dough in the fridge. Once ready to rock n' roll, it's time to mix it all up.

Now I've made ciabatta's before (never Peter's) and found this dough quite dry. While the poolish starter is like pancake batter, once you had in the required flour this dough really dries up. I ended up using all the 'extra' water just to get the dough tacky. Huh?!?!

The stretch and fold technique is simple and just requires some relaxation time in between. After a 1 1/2 hour rise, I divided the dough into 3 sections and created a comfy home in the couche.

I preheated my oven to 500, during the last bit of final proofing time and prepared my peel. With a light hand, you are supposed to pull the ciabatta's out to around 9-12 inches. Into the oven they go with some homemade steam.

After 25 minutes the dough should hit 205 degrees, and we are ready to cool.

The poolish version was delicious. I cut a nice sized chunk to go with a salad, warm from the oven, and it complimented perfectly. It also made a great deli style sandwich base for some unexpected lunch guests. Besides the 'wetness' factor, I think the final stretching took away from the potential of big airy pockets. The dough was soft and pillow-like when I picked it up, but degassed pretty bad. Good thing I'm not picky about that, because the flavor profile was right on.

Maybe not something I'm going to add to my regular offerings, but I would like to attempt the biga version before I make a final decision.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

the week that was and is - june 24th, 2009

Local food get together in two days. Bring your bad self down to Dawson Park for the less awkward 2nd meeting and potluck!

  • This guy, neurologist Robert P. Friedland, M.D, is suggesting there may be a way to get BSE from farmed fish. Interesting..but is it stretching...? Omega 3's with a side of Creutzfeldt?
  • Cheetos Lip Balm..just want I've always wanted!
  • The FDA and CDC are investigating E. coli in some Nestle cookie dough it's recall time. The only time I've ever used/eaten premade cookie dough was in University, and the dough did not make it to the oven which makes this "A number of consumers reporting illness reported consuming raw Nestle TOLL HOUSE refrigerated cookie dough." even better!
  • I mentioned MeMe Roth in a previous weekly update, but I love the short points in this article. "She called Santa Claus fat, in a bad way." Bahahaha.
  • "There are more than 54,000 pubs in Britain, but we have whittled them down to the best 200." Holy Moly DuffMan! How is it even possible to whittle that down.
  • A 2 month food trip around the United States = a whole lot of dessert's being consumed. Good thing Jess made a list of her top 5 favorites. "I started on the West Coast and ate my way to the East and back again"
  • Another lovely treat from my friend M recently. Raspberry scones.
To end. I love clicking on random picture links some days, because you never know what to expect. I almost laughed part of my supper out, it caught me so guard!

Keep being AWESOME!

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

hot buns...for more than just hamburgers

I don't pull a lot of hamburger buns out of the oven, but with BBQ season in full swing they seem to be on higher demand. With the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge currently underway, and my ever growing love for Peter Reinhart, I knew it was a simple matter of skipping ahead in the challenge. Near the end of the book, we find 3 variations for basic white bread. With these same recipes, you can make dinner rolls, hamburger buns, or hot dog buns.

We ended up using the buns for kubie burgers, pulled pork, and some basic bunwiches. I used variation 2 of his recipe (milk in stead of water), and they were a lovely treat. With all the whole wheat bread I bake, I sometimes forget what a pillow soft, white bread actually tastes like. Where store bought white has almost no taste IMO, this recipe is quite the opposite.

I'm going to have to try my hand at shaping some hot dog buns now.

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Monday, June 22, 2009

a cheesier casatiello

After breakfast yesterday, I was looking through the fridge and found a few goodies. There was more dried salami, and quite an array of cheeses getting comfy in the tray. With my mind already in bread mode, I decided to conquer the casatiello bread again. This time I increased the cheese from 6 to 7 ounces and the meat from 4 to 6 ounces.

Instead of baking off two sandwich style loafs, I opted to use a spring form pan. The results were wonderful with the cheddar cheese (3 kinds) creating a way different flavor profile than the provolone. Be it the increased quantities or different cheese, I think I prefer this new version. But really, maybe I'm just won over by the smell of a cheesy, meat filled kitchen!

Now I must get back to the ciabatta challenge.

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Sunday, June 21, 2009

kelsey's - edmonton, ab

9995 178 st

I should say Kelsey's really isn't on my radar of places to go. It's your basic, 'safe' restaurant, which is perfect for many occasions but something I try and venture from when looking for a place to dine. So how did I end up here, a stag of all things. After a scavenger hunt at West Edmonton Mall (oh the stories there), the grooms brother had booked us a reservation at Kelsey's just up the street. Why we didn't stay in the mall to eat is beyond me, but up the road we went.

We arrived fairly late, around 8PM, and the restaurant was sparsely populated. They were well prepared for the arrival of 20 or so hungry men and had an area ready to go. We were quickly seated and given menus. Our server inquired whether she could put each opposing person into mini groups of two so the billing would be made easier. I really liked this idea. Sure, you might end up with a 'stranger' (we didn't all know each other) sharing your tab, it would be easy to know who ordered what and where they sat.

Our very organized, friendly, and welcoming server started drink orders after she handed out the menu's. After delivering some liquid courage, she started with food orders and before you knew it, we were having a great time. Sitting with a two good friends, they were kind enough to let me snap a few pictures.

I ordered the Toasted Sesame Salmon Salad. I find ordering seafood in 'your neighborhood grill' style chain is very hit or miss so I prepared myself after ordering. On this occasion it was a miss. The salmon was overcooked with a very blackened underside. Maybe eating after the main food rush added to the problem, because I'm sure a quick cleaning of the grill could have done wonders. Besides the salmon, the salad was really good; a nice choice of veggies and solid dressing (I always order it on the side).

Elliott who really wanted his picture taken while eating, ordered the Cheddar Bacon Sirloin Burger. My favorite part about Elliott is that he is strict meatatarian. The first thing he did after receiving the burger was pull everything off but the cheese and bacon. Off with the tomatoes, lettuce, red onion and mayonnaise. In between mouthfuls of beer and gravy drenched fries, he proudly declared the burger a success.

Kevin opted for the Cajun Chicken Caesar Salad, as he'd previously eaten, and found it average. Having a taste for myself, I thought it really lacked any caesar flavor. This was a caesar you could eat, and if needed, kiss your date at the end of the night.

Overall, the food was nothing to write home about and it confirmed my idea of 'safe' food. Out of our huge group, I think 90% ordered a chicken/beef burger with fries and gravy. Besides our two salads, and I think one sandwich, there was no deviation. I always find this odd. The restaurant was great, and I can't stress how wonderful our server was. She was spot on all night, from the initial sit down to order after order of shots. She even mentioned to the groom at one point, that when people ordered him unappetizing shots (think prairie fires), she would OK it with him first and bring something tastier if he liked. I thought that was very thoughtful. Even as the group got a bit loud, the staff were more than happy to have us and it really showed. I think that kicks any Kelsey's craving I may have for their food, but the great time there will be talked about for years to come.

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Friday, June 19, 2009

the ikea inspired meal

If you have ever been employed at IKEA, or even visited really, then you are probably well aware of the meatballs. The meatball dinner is a long standing IKEA tradition and an everyday special. Who can turn down a plate of meatballs, potatoes, cream and ligonberry sauce plus a soda pop for $6?
With only one location in town, it may not be as easy for some to get their cheap fix. Luckily for you, they offer an ever expanding take-home selection in their Swedish food market. I don't come from a big meatball family, so I was surprised to open the freezer one day and see some IKEA goodies. A bag of meatballs and potato cakes were making themselves quite comfortable next to my ice cubes. And what did I spy beside the fridge, a packet of cream sauce.

Like every other frozen meal, it goes together in no time. The meatballs and potato cakes sit in a 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes, while the gravy/sauce gets mixed on the stove with some water and cream. The cream sauce even includes those little tasty tidbits you scrap from the bottom of your pan.

So how did they taste - no idea. See, even with over 5 years of IKEA experience I've never once had a meatball. Nip, Zero, Zilch. It has become such an ironic (am I using that right or did I just fail like Alanis) topic that I can't turn back. Sorry! They must be addictive, as I've personally witnessed many shoppers come in day after day for this exact meal. Fellow homesteaders declared the meatballs delicious, with my father saying they remind him of a more flavorful breakfast sausage. I did sample the potato cakes and they were decent, although something that could easily be made a home. It is definitely a cheap and easy meal, and if you are a frozen food person, maybe these goodies would give you a nice change of pace.

Part of taking photo's at the homestead is the joy people get at trying to make their plates more exciting. Take for example, the below. I plated the cakes and meatballs before going to get my supper. With the cream sauce on the table, I quickly turned around to..."Hey Chris, look at our presentation, take a picture!"

So it turned into.

Taking food photo's = always good for a laugh

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

challah bread - bread baker's apprentice challenge #6

Another week, another Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge! When I looked up challah bread on wikipedia, I discovered it goes by many names. After making my way through this recipe a number of times this past week, I've decided it should maybe just be called delicious.

Part of what I love about this book (and the BBA Challenge) is the straight forward bread education. While some traditions like eating turkey for Thanksgiving may be ingrained from our youth; what about the breads that accompany so many meals. Sure we all love a baguette, or San Francisco sourdough, but does the average person know much about a breads past? With challah, there is quite a bit to discover. Connected with the Sabbath, Mr. Reinhart starts with some history. Did you know its symbolic of God's goodness and bounty? Or that the typically braided loaf can be rounded to symbolize the world has no beginning or end? There is lots more to learn I promise you, but how about we make some bread!

This is a pretty quick bread recipe. Like the Casatiello, you can probably wrap this up in 5-6 hours. As always, a quick weighing out of the dry and wet ingredients.

After a good knead, and some time to rise, you can start to shape your dough. Here you have many choices. 3 pieces for one big loaf, 2 pieces if you would like to create a couple of round versions or just keep dividing it and make elaborate 6 braid challah's. As well, there is mention of the celebration challah which requires a bit more measuring and dividing out. I was able to tackle this recipe quite a few times, and ended up making 2 large 3 braid's, 1 smaller 3 braid, 1 round version, and 2 sandwich versions..

The dough gets a egg white wash before being topped with poppy or sesame seeds.

A 1/2 sized 3 braid challah.

A full size 3 braid challah.

I decided to toss some raisins in the round challah, and one of the sandwich versions.

It's a nice treat, adding a little more texture. I'm not sure what happened to the first slice or two of the round one, as the raisins didn't seem to mix in this spot.

This is another fantastic recipe, and with the bread being so quick (and delicious), I think I'll be making this one again. I really can't thank Nicole, Pinch My Salt, enough for putting this challenge out. The pictures, support and comments from our challenge group are wonderful.

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