Saturday, January 24, 2009

Toasted walnut and cassis cookies with some good news

Let's have the good news first. Very happy to announce that my entry Lingue di suocera with star anise for Meeta's Monthly Mingle -World of Spiced Cookies has been chosen the winner of this round.
Anita of Dessert First was kind enough to reward the winner (moi) with a copy of her first book, Field Guide to Cookies: How to identify and bake virtually every cookie imaginable. To purchase Anita's book please click here.
Thank you Anita and Meeta. And to celebrate I baked these wonderful toasted walnut and cassis cookies (only appropriate for the occasion).



2 sticks unsalted butter
1/2 cup light brown sugar
pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1 cup walnuts, toasted, finely chopped
3/4 cup blackcurrant jam
2 tsp cassis
powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 350F.
In a bowl mix butter, sugar, salt and vanilla with a fork. Stir in flour and walnuts. Form tablespoons of dough into balls. Put them on a baking tray 2 inches appart. Flatten them to 1/3 inch thick rounds. Bake about 20 minutes or until golden. Cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar.
Perfect with a glass of milk. Enjoy!


Sunday, January 18, 2009

Baked Pepper Squash with brown sugar and cinnamon


As a child I loved winter. Winter was everything to me. Never complained about the cold, about the snow. We used to play all day long, vehemently denying that it was so cold and we got so wet that we could not feel our hands anymore. The only thing that could get me into the house on a perfect snow day was a good dose of classic cartoons. That and some warming food or drink to keep the energy going. I chose to embrace winter with everything it had to offer. Endless days of ice-skating, making snowmen, steaming mugs of hot chocolate, this is what I remember. Time went by very slowly (in a good way) and I was convinced that everyone had it as good as me. I would have also bet my bottom dollar that all my friends from back than would be my friends forever. And nothing would ever change.
Than one day I found myself at the shoe store looking for boots that don't have slippery soles. That's when I realized things have changed. Even though my daily cartoon dosage was not limited to two anymore, I could stay up as long as I wanted and yes, I could finally have chocolate for breakfast, I felt like I lost something forever.
Nowadays I'm trying hard to look at the world with a child's eyes, even when it's -20 outside, and it's slippery, windy, slushy and miserable.That's where the food comes in. Memories of hot mint tea, warm baked potatoes, steaming bowls of hot soup, aromatic baked squash, they all help when you're trying hard for a different perspective on things.

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Saturday morning I decided to finally check out the Wychwood Barns farmers market. Not knowing much about it, I was almost too late, getting there right before they closed. This wonderful new project on the Toronto foodie and cultural scene is so much more than a farmers market. The space used to be an old streetcar repair barn. Now it's home to artist's studios, a farmers market, a greenhouse and 12 not-for-profit environmental and cultural organizations.
The Green Barn is operated by The Stop Community Food Center. The Green Barn will operate a sheltered garden, and outdoor bake oven and a compost demonstration site. It's a great place that strives to increase access to healthy, culturally appropriate food while building community and challenging inequality. To find out more, donate or to volunteer please click here.
On Saturdays this farmers market is the place to go if you're looking for delicious, seasonal local food and produce. You can buy everything from organic squash, cabbage, carrots, apples, sauerkraut, honey, the freshest, most delicious smoked white fish from the Georgian Bay to ready made goods, like empanadas, fresh artisanal bread, hot chocolate and more.To find out more about Wychwood Barns click here.
I bought some squash, honey and smoked fish and hurried home because this was going to be a perfect winter's day.

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Baked Pepper Squash with brown sugar and cinnamon


1 pepper squash
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350F. Cut squash in two and clean out both cavities. Melt butter. Add sugar and cinnamon to melted butter. Mix well. Cut each squash half in two. Brush with half of the melted butter mixture. Bake covered with foil for 30 minutes. Take off foil and bake uncovered for 25 to 30 more minutes, basting with remaining melted butter.


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Black Forest Trifle (easy version)

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It's January. The days are short and extremely cold at the moment. But that didn't stop my dear friends to come over to wish me Happy Birthday (from the other side of town, mind you). So what does a girl like me do in such instances? Prepare a delicious dinner with all the trimmings, of course. Or that's what I should have done, anyway. But it didn't happen. I wanted to make fondue (or a twist on the traditional one) with brie cheese and wild mushrooms. Sounds simple enough, right? Well, apparently not for yours truly. I managed to completely mess up a perfectly simple fondue recipe. It turned out thick and lumpy as hell. But my ever so gracious friends (because that's the kind of people they are) said it was delicious. It was not.
Oh, well at least we had dessert. Black Forest Trifle, namely.
I kept it simple and used store bought Belgian chocolate cake and custard. Those of you who cringe at the thought of store bought custard click here for a good home-made custard recipe.
I used cherries for decoration and only for decoration as they were tasteless. That will teach me never to disobey the cardinal rule of great cooking: always use seasonal ingredients!



Makes 4 to 6 servings, depending on the size of the glasses you use

1 chocolate cake loaf (about 500g)
2 1/2 cups vanilla custard
1 800 ml jar pitted sour cherries in light syrup, drained, 1/2 cup juice reserved
2 tbsp cornstarch
1/4 cup kirsch
1 cup heavy cream
chocolate shards and cocoa powder for decoration

Mix 2 tbsp sour cherry juice with the cornstarch. Add to rest of the sour cherry juice and bring to a boil in a medium sized sauce pan. Stir until thickened. Take mixture off the heat then add the cherries and kirsch. Set aside.
Cut chocolate cake into 1/2 inch thick slices. Whip heavy cream to soft peaks (you can add powdered sugar to taste, if desired).
Prepare 6 small water glasses. Start layering with cake slices, then sour cherry mixture, then custard. Repeat layering once more. Finally, top it off with whipped cream. Garnish with chocolate shavings and sifted cocoa.

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Sunday, January 4, 2009

Lingue di suocera (Mother-in-law's tongues) with star anise

Weird name. Great cookie.That simple.
Some say cookie season is over. Well, not for me. I like to have my cookie jar full at all times, thank you very much. For me an espresso is not worth the trouble, if there's nothing "on the side".
So here's my contribution to Monthly mingle- World of Spice Cookies, hosted by Meeta of What's for lunch, Honey?

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250g plain flour
100g caster sugar
100g butter
2 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt
1 tbsp cold water
1/2 cup citrus marmalade
1 star anise

Mix flour, sugar, salt in a food processor. Add butter and blend well until mixture resembles bread crumbs. Add egg yolks, vanilla and pulse to combine. Add water to allow dough to come together. (Add more water if necessary). Wrap in a plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.
Preheat oven to 375F.
Using a mortar and pestle, crush star anise. Sift using a fine mesh sieve and stir into citrus marmalade.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to 5 mm thick. Cut out rounds, using an 8cm diameter cutter. Spoon 1/2 tsp marmalade into the center of each round, spreading it out slightly. Bring together two ends and pinch to join.
Place cookies on a lined cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes, or until golden. Cool. Dust with icing sugar.

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Recipe based on Mary Taylor Simeti's recipe in Bitter Almonds.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!

Happy 2009! I wish you all a happy, healthy and peaceful New Year.
I can't believe another year has gone by. We finished the year on a sweet (literally) note and what better way to start the new year, than something fried, sweet, spicy and delicious? I found this recipe for Cinnamon-Sugar Pillows on the Williams-Sonoma website.
I thought it would make a great New Year's day breakfast, so I prepared everything last night. We had them this morning with a steaming mug of latte. Find the recipe here.

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