Sunday, May 31, 2009

Recipe: Tuna & Avocado Cones

This may be the cutest appetizer I have ever made. Wonton wrappers wrapped around these fantastic little aluminum cones I bought at the Gourmet Warehouse.
Filled with ahi tuna, cilantro-ponzu mayonnaise and then topped with a little scoop of avocado and black sesame seeds. It is the perfect kick off to summer hors d'oeuvres. If you don't have the aluminum cones a mini muffin container will work or even just baking the wonton wrappers flat on a cookie sheet. But of course the adorable and niche factor goes down dramatically. Taste does not.

1 ahi tuna steak (approximately 1/2 a pound or 1/2 cups diced)
1 avocado
1 green onion diced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons ponzu sauce (or soy sauce)
1/8 teaspoon chili oil
1 shallot
3 tablespoons sesame oil DIVIDED
1/2 teaspoon lime rind
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/2 cup light mayonnaise
2 tablespoons black sesame seeds
20 round wonton wrappers

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Reserve 2 tablespoons of the sesame oil in a bowl. Take wonton wrappers and brush each side with a small amount of the sesame oil and wrap around the cone or muffin tin. Bake for approximately 15 minutes rotating midway until a light golden brown.

Remove from oven and let cool.

In a food processor blend together cilantro through mayonnaise using one of the tablespoons of sesame oil.

Dice the tuna into small cubes about 1/4 inch by 1/4 inch. Add to mayonnaise and coat thoroughly.

With a small melon ball scooper take avocado and scoop out small round balls.

To assemble take a cone and fill with avocado mixture and top with a avocado ball. Sprinkle a pinch of the sesame seeds on top.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Poplar Grove Winery

Wine tours in the Okanagan Valley are a must-do for any BC foodie. And now even if you don’t like wine (which I cannot imagine!) you can hit up Poplar Grove for their amazing cheeses. They are the only vineyard in Canada that makes cheese and that is shocking, as what goes better with wine than cheese? Cannot believe there is nobody else that came up with this yet.
All their cheeses are velvety, buttery, gooey, cheesey deliciousness.

I loved the Tiger Blue and Harvest Moon. I love a stinky, smelly-socks, pungent cheese.

HINT: I recommend (and most fans of the fromage will agree) to take the cheese out of the fridge at least 4-6 hours before eating. The french don't even let the cheese see the refrigerator. They think we North Americans are nuts for keeping our cheese cold. They compare it to keeping your food in a morgue, and not letting it live. Cold=death. They let their cheese sit on the counter for a couple of days and you can practically watch it walk away as it starts to take on a life of its own. But it usually doesn’t last more than a few days. Letting your cheese sit at room temperature allows all the amazing flavours to be brought to surface.

Recipe: Asparagus, Potato & Feta Frittata

2 pounds asparagus
2 large baking potatoes, cooked, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch slices
3 shallots
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
2 green onions
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
10 large eggs
1/2 cup cream
1 1/2 cup of crumbled feta
3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leafed parsley leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Servings: 10-12 as a brunch menu

Preheat oven to 350°F. and butter a 13 x 9 x 2-inch glass baking dish.

Bring a medium pot of salted water to boil. Have a bowl of ice and cold water set aside.
Trim asparagus and place in boiling water for 1 minute to blanch. Drain. Immediately transfer asparagus to ice water to stop cooking. Drain asparagus well in colander and pat dry.
In a large skillet cook shallots in butter over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, In a large bowl whisk together eggs, cream, parsley, rosemary, salt, and pepper.
Place potatoes evenly on bottom of baking dish.
Pour custard into baking dish. Place asparagus on top along with feta and green onions. Bake until golden and set, about 35 minutes. Cool frittata on a rack. Frittata may be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered. Bring frittata to room temperature before serving. Cut into 12 squares.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Recipe: Asparagus & Quinoa Salad

1 cup quinoa
1 pound grilled asparagus
3/4 cup feta
1/2 cup toasted sliced almonds
2 lemons cut in halves
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 garlic cloves
1 shallot

Servings: 4

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Snap off asparagus ends where they naturally break. Toss with juice from half a lemon and 1 tablespoon of butter. Season with salt and pepper. Grill on a baking sheet for approximately 12 minutes.
Let cool. Once cooled slice into 2 inch pieces.

Rinse 1 cup of quinoa in cold water. Bring 2 cups of salted water to a boil. Add rinsed quinoa and bring back to a boil. Reduce temperature to medium-low and simmer. Cook for 15-18 minutes or until almost all of the water has evaporated and quinoa is tender. Let rest for 5 minutes, then fluff.

Place garlic, parsley, shallot and juice from 3 lemon halves in a food processor. Add Dijon. Add 1/4 cup of olive oil and 1/4 cup vegetable oil. Puree.

In a large salad bowl add quinoa, asparagus, and feta. Toss with salad dressing. Plate and sprinkle almonds on top.

Food For Thought: Move Over 100 Mile Diet...

There is a new kid in town.

The Vancouver Island Diet!

Their platform is simple: to not only eat food produced on the island (by becoming a locavor), but also "supporting their local farmers, fishers and food producers by providing them with a decent livelihood."

Want to learn more?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Website: Fridgewatcher

My brother is always harassing me for my ultra full fridge and my various condiments. Maybe because when we lived together they took up 75% of the real estate in there.

Thai Green Curry paste? Check
Relish? Check
Dijon mustard? Check
Anchovy paste? Check
Black Bean sauce? Check
Okay. You get the point. I know there are others out there that have fridges full of food (what a bizarre concept!) and now I can play peeping tom on them.

This is food voyeurism at its best. I am always curious to see what others stock up on. My guilty pleasure is spying into peoples' grocery carts to see what they buy.
Unfortunately this is also where I turn into food-snob and get on my culinary high horse. "Oh, my god! They are feeding that to their children!" Meanwhile, earlier that day I had a half pack of Twizzlers, washed it down with a 7-eleven coffee and death syrup (see International Delight creamer). Yes, very gross. I know.

Do you check out grocery carts? Take my useless yet interesting-to-me poll.

Update: Just found this photographer Mark Menjivar who did an exhibit of photographs of peoples fridges titled "You are what you eat".

Below each fridge is a couple of sentences about the fridge owner. The most disturbing is it seems someone has a rattlesnake (or snake nonetheless)in their freezer. Why???

Recipe: Asparagus Soup with Parmesan Wafer

This soup is tasty and low fat. Making a roux (flour, butter and milk) makes the soup smooth and rich without the calories of cream. You can have the parmesan wafer on the side or in the soup.

3 cups (1/2-inch) sliced asparagus (about 1 pound)
1 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
3/4 teaspoon fresh thyme, divided
1 bay leaf
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 cups 1% low-fat milk
Pinch of ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons butter
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1/4 cup of grated parmesan

Combine asparagus, broth, 1/2 teaspoon thyme, bay leaf, and garlic in a large saucepan over medium-high heat; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer 15 minutes. Discard bay leaf. Place asparagus mixture in a blender; process until smooth.

Place 1 teaspoon of butter in a pan. Add flour. Gradually add the milk, stirring with a whisk until blended. Add puréed asparagus and ground nutmeg and stir. Bring to a low boil. Reduce heat; simmer 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, and stir in 1/4 teaspoon thyme, 1 teaspoon butter, salt, and lemon rind. Season with pepper.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Shred 1/4 cup of parmesan on a large grater. Spoon approximately 1 tablespoon into a circle on a baking sheet (you should have 4 circles). Bake for 5 minutes or just until melted. Let cool on a cooling rack. Gently remove with a spatula and serve with soup.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

May 25-29, 2009. Asparagus Week

I am recanting my previous post "Asparagus Festival" and (un)officially declaring May 25-29th Asparagus week.
Asparagus are sooooooo yummy. Endless possibilities. Yes, the stinky after-effects are the one downside but a small price to pay for this amazing vegetable. Good to eat and really good for you (folic acid, potassium, fiber). So I am trying out all things asparagus. I love it roasted. Salads, soups, sandwiches. If you have a favourite way to do them up I would love for you to share. I am going to be concocting an asparagus recipe everyday this week, so get yourself a bunch and eat up while the bounty is a plenty.

Recipe: Asparagus and Smoked Salmon Salad

2 pounds asparagus
2 green onions, thinly sliced, green only or chives
8 slices lox

2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup mayonnaise (light or regular)
1 teaspoon lemon rind
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup feta
1 tablespoon creamcheese (optional)
2 tablespoons cream or milk
1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill
1 teaspoon chopped fresh tarragon (optional)
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pepper to taste

Servings: 4

Boil a large pot of water. Snap off ends of asparagus where they naturally break near the stem. Pour a large bowl of cold water with ice cubes. Submerse asparagus in boiling water for 1 minute. Drain, and remove immediately and place in icewater to stop cooking. 5 minutes later, drain and pat dry.

Arrange lox on plate. Place asparagus on top and top with dollops of dressing and green onions.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Sunny Weekend+Friends=Barbeque Time

Sun is shining. Days are longer. Fruits and vegetables are coming into season. Barbeque!!! I spent the weekend up in Naramata with friends doing what I do best. Eating, drinking and cooking. Keep it simple. Well, we had no choice as the cabin we were staying at had a spice drawer that consisted of salt and pepper. But when you have amazing produce all you need is a little citrus, salt and garlic.

Maria manning the grill. She is a master.

The view from our dinner table. Perfect.

The view through my eyes....

Recipe: Roasted Beets, Caramelized Onions & Blue Cheese

I wanted to caramelize some onions for our beet salad but alas no sugar at the cabin. What to do? Improvise. I present to you...Smuckers Apricot Jam.

And ya know what? It worked! We had picked up some deeeelicous Poplar Grove Tiger Blue cheese (just an FYI--I never endorse anything I don't love! And I while I wish I was paid to eat or try food, I am not!) and chowed it down with the Poplar Grove Syrah 2005...mmm....

4 medium beets
2 red onions sliced into 1/4 inch thick rings
2 tablespoons apricot jam or brown sugar
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup blue cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Servings: 4

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Wrap beets (un-peeled) in aluminum foil and bake for approximately 75 minutes or until you can stick a knife through without resistance. Set aside.

Heat butter in a medium size saucepan on medium heat. Add onions. Cook, adding balsamic every 5 minutes to deglaze pan. After about 10 minutes add the jam. Total cooking time should be 20-25 minutes or until softened and thoroughly cooked.

Peel beets and slice them into 1/4 inch rounds. Place on plate and top with onions and 2 tablespoons crumbled blue cheese. Season with salt and pepper.

Recipe: Grilled Prawns with Garlic Lemon Butter

Sometimes simple is best. Roasted garlic, butter and lemon. Easy. The hardest part is getting the prawns off the barbeque just at the right time. You want them cooked but not over-cooked and this can be the difference of 15 seconds. So the minute you don't see any grey left, remove ASAP. They should take approximately 2 minutes.

16-20 large prawns
1/4 cup softened butter
1 lemon juiced
1 head of roasted garlic (1/2 hour in oven at 400 degrees, or until soft)
Rock salt

Mix the butter, lemon juice and garlic in a bowl until you have a soft paste. Rinse prawns, peel and massage butter mixture in so each prawn has generous coating.

Turn on barbeque and bring to 400-450 degrees.

Place on hot barbeque and grill 2 minutes or until they are no longer grey.

Recipe: Grilled Asparagus & Lemon

2 pounds fresh asparagus
1/4 cup softened butter
1 lemon and rind

Servings: 6 as a sidedish

Preheat barbeque to 400 degrees

Mix butter and lemon juice and rind together in a bowl so it forms a paste. Take washed asparagus and massage with your hands the butter mixture onto all the asparagus. Place on grill for approximately 4-5 minutes. You want these al dente.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Recipe: Rhubarb Compote

This is a great way to to liven up yogurt, oatmeal, pancakes, waffles. I haven't had it with icecream but imagine that would be delish too!

4 cups diced rhubarb (around 4 stalks)
Juice from two oranges
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons brown sugar

Yield: Approxiamtely 2 cups

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat bring rhubarb, orange juice, zest and ginger to a slow boil. Turn down heat to simmer and stir every few minutes for approxiamately 15 minutes or until rhubarb is soft and falls apart. Add vanilla and brown sugar. Cook another couple of minutes. Rhubarb will be done when the liquid has evaporated and the rhubarb mixture has thickened.
HINT: When strawberries are in season they are a lovely addition to this as well.

Recipe: Oatmeal with Rhubarb Compote

This takes the boring out of oatmeal. I was inspired my Viva's breakfast cereal to take this to the next level. I like mine with soy milk and crushed, roasted pistachios. You will look forward to breakfast.

1/2 cup of oatmeal
1/2 cup soy or regular milk
1/2 cup of water
1/4 teaspoon cardamon (optional)
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla (optional)
1 tablespoon of brown sugar

1/3 cup rhubarb compote (See recipe for Rhubarb Compote)

Yield: 1 serving

In a small saucepan bring water and milk to a boil, add oatmeal, stirring frequently until done, approximately 5 minutes. Remove from heat, place in bowl. Top with rhubarb compote. Sprinkle crushed pistachios and brown sugar on top.

Recipe: Yogurt with Rhubarb Compote

See recipe for Rhubarb compote.

1 cup of vanilla yogurt
1/4 cup of rhubarb compote
Toasted pecans
1 tablespoon honey

Yield: 1 serving

Take compote and place on top of yogurt in a bowl. Crumble pecans on top, drizzle honey around and add a dash of cinnamon if you like.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Cafe: Viva Bakery

Viva Bakery
1555 Yew Street
Vancouver, BC
tel: 604 738 8482

So, I already went on about their life changing mocha but you have got to try their breakfast cereal. Would make Wilford Brimley proud. You can choose either soy or cow's milk, then your fruit. Blueberries or sour cherries. Stayed with me for the rest of the day, including an Ikea shopping trip (don't hate me) which everyone knows is bloody hard work. I do recommend you spend the time of a lazy weekend day to enjoy this breakfast as it was soooo piping hot I swear it came from the earth's core. Honestly, I think I waited a good 10-15 before having a full spoonful.

The rest of the culinary delights looked like they could make a home in my belly. Paninis stuffed to the brim and gorgeous pastries.

What's not to love??? Well, they didn't have wireless but I will forgive.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Recipe: Eggs Benny on Cornmeal Cakes

English muffins are the traditional way to do the eggs benny but let's get creative here. I hope you like my cornmeal cakes or polenta muffins (you choose which name sounds more appetizing). I know bennys are usually go-out-to-your-favorite-breakfast-joint type food. Not many people want to make them but I think these will get you in the mood to brunch at home .
The hardest part is the poached eggs themselves. But follow my poached egg recipe. If you are too afraid to do them I understand your fear as I also have felt the same "What? I just put the egg in boiling water and it magically forms into a composed egg delight? No way!" It is a little tricky but not that hard. I made these with little polenta muffins and topped them with my "Fauxlandaise". My easy, less fatty hollandaise. And it is a FLAVOUR BURST.

3 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup cornmeal
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup sliced sundried tomatoes
2 tablespoons pesto
1/2 cup goat cheese cut into small 1/4 inch chunks
Pepper to taste

Yield: This recipe is for 4-8 muffins or portions. The polenta yields approx. 12 muffins so it is up to you how many eggs you would like to consume.

Bring the milk to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting, add the salt, and pour the cornmeal into the water in a very slow stream from a measuring cup, all the while whisking in a circular motion to prevent lumps. Cover and cook, stirring the polenta with a wooden spoon about once every 5 minutes and making sure to scrape clean the bottom and corners of the pot, until the polenta has lost its raw cornmeal taste and becomes soft and smooth, about 25 minutes. Stir in the butter, pesto, tomatoes and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and one at a time drop 2 tablespoons of polenta into an oiled 12 serving muffin tin.

Place 3-4 pieces of goat cheese on top and top with 1-2 more tablespoons so goat cheese is just covered. Let sit approx. 20 minutes until polenta has solidified.
Once polenta has formed into the muffin mold place in a 300 degree oven. Just before poaching your eggs remove from oven and flip onto a large baking sheet and the muffins should easily come out.

Top the muffin/cake with a poached egg and a tablespoon of my fauxlandaise (see recipe).
Serve with a rustic baguette and arugula salad or accompaniment of your choice.

Recipe: Fauxlandaise or Light Hollandaise

From what I have observed over many a breakfast out is that people often omit or ask for their hollandaise on the side. While it is essential to an eggs benny it isn't essential to the ol' waistline. That is why I think you will love my version. Much lighter and quite tasty. And so easy.

Juice and zest from one lemon
2 garlic cloves
3/4 cup light mayonnaise
Salt and pepper to taste

In a food processor mince garlic. Add mayonnaise and lemon zest and juice. Season with salt and pepper.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Food for Thought: The "Fling"... Too Much?

The Fling is a skinny, 85-calorie chocolate "finger" with hot pink packaging and tag lines that invite you to "pleasure yourself" with the "naughty, but not that naughty" treat.

Ahem. Pleasure yourself with a chocolate finger? My apologies but I am inclined to an eighth grade ewww.

What's a word more in-your-face than "innuendo"?

The Fling is the first new chocolate bar Mars has introduced in more than 20 years and this ? A half-hearted forced attempt at "Sex in the City" cheekiness? Ugh.

At first I wondered if I was being too sensitive to the redundant links to females, chocolate, and sex. However, I found many articles just as intolerant of the campaign.

The NPR site interviewed Lisa Johnson, the co-author of Don't Think Pink: What Really Makes Women Buy — and How to Increase Your Share of This Crucial Market. "The overall campaign feels weird," Johnson stated. "It feels creepy."

The article goes on to pose this question and now I ask the same "Is this hyper-feminine, hyper-sexualized marketing coming on too strong?"

You say tomato...I say potato....

Puff pastry is the best and easiest base for these two tarts. I thought about going the pizza route but I was being lazy on making the dough so this was ideal. They go well as a main paired with a salad or cut into squares as little appetizers.

Recipe: Roasted Tomato & Goat Cheese Tart

You can do this without roasting the tomatoes but the flavour is taken up at least 75% if you do. Yes, I came up with that number based on a poll done on my tastebuds.
Serve with a side salad as a Sunday lunch or cut into small squares as an appetizer or hors d'oeuvre.

1 sheet puff pastry (this is half of a Tenderflake box)
3 tablespoons pesto
24 roasted tomatoes (see slow roasted tomato recipe)
3/4 cup crumbled goat cheese
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil, 1/4 cup reserved
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Roll out puff pastry into approximately 15 inch by 9 inch rectangle . Spread pesto evenly on top of puff pastry. Place tomatoes on top, side by side. Top with 1/4 cup basil and goat cheese and season with salt and pepper. Bake at a 400 degrees on a baking sheet for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup of basil on top. Cut into squares or slices depending on desired portions.

Recipe: Roasted Potato & Caramelized Onion Tart

Caramelized onions add such a sweet, rich flavour to this tart.

1 sheet puff pastry (this is half of a Tenderflake box)
1 large baking potato, cut into 12 slices
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 pepper
1 large onion sliced into 1/4 inch rings
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon brown sugar
4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup crumbled goat cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Toss potato, thyme, olive oil and salt and pepper in a large bowl. Put on a baking sheet and bake in oven 25-35 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Set aside.

Heat butter in a medium size saucepan on medium heat. Add onions. Add thyme. Cook, adding balsamic every 5 minutes to deglaze pan. Total cooking time should be 20-25 minutes or until softened and thoroughly cooked. Remove from heat and set aside.

Roll out puff pastry to a 15 by 9 inch rectangle, approximately . Spread onions out evenly on base of puff pastry. Arrange potatoes side by side and then top with goat cheese. Bake on a baking sheet at a 400 degrees for 25 minutes. Remove from oven, and drizzle with 1 to 2 tablespoons balsamic reduction* (optional). Cut into squares or slices depending on desired portions.

*Balsamic Reduction: 1 cup balsamic vinegar brought to a boil, then simmered for 30 minutes or until reduced to a 1/4 cup. It will be a syrup/molasses texture.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Santa Barbara Market

Santa Barbara Market
1322 Commercial Drive
Vancouver BC
Tel: 604 253 1941

Love this market. This is where I got my deal on 2 pounds of baby artichokes for $5.99. They also are one of the few places I found that carry escarole salad. Cheap and an amazing selection of produce.

Recipe: Nana's Shortbread

This is my Nana's shortbread recipe from way back. My mom makes them every Christmas but I think they are delicious and should be enjoyed all year round. I cut mine into little star shapes to serve with tea and cookies. People like to consume teeny-tiny miniature anything. Especially cookies and cupcakes, because when it's just a bite the calories don't count, right?
These are so easy--3 ingredients and great on their own, dipped in chocolate, crumbled over icecream....

1 cup of butter (softened)
3/4 cup of brown sugar
2 cups of white flour

In a medium size bowl mix ingredients with hands. Knead well.
Pat out on pastry board or on floured counter.
Roll out with a rolling pin to a 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch thickness. Cut out with your favourite shape. Circle, stars, squares.
Bake at 275 for 25 minutes or until light in colour.
Let cool on rack.
HINT: These last at least 2 weeks in sealed plastic container. They also freeze fantastically.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Food For Thought: Got Mercury?

Everyone agrees that a diet rich in Omega's is important. Everyone agrees that Tuna contains a high concentration of Mercury. However, seemingly no one can unanimously reach a solid decision beyond those points concerning fish.

Depending on which article you read fish is important to consume while pregnant, should be avoiding at all costs while pregnant, and the fish you could eat may have terrible effects on the environment.

And then a new study comes out and muddles the water further.

Just when there seemed no way to scissor kick my way out of it I stumbled upon this gem.

The article states that "when you buy fish, it’s hard to balance concerns about your heart health, mercury levels, and the health of the oceans. There’s no single guide rating fish by all three criteria. There should be." Thank you. Sigh.

That being said it continues to list eleven fish that have rated fairly well on all three accounts using references from the US Environmental Defense Fund's Seafood Selector.

I was skeptical. So I checked around and found little to the contrary.
VOILA! One mystery in life partially solved.

Still have doubts? Google each of them. I dare you. You may lose hours of your life and possibly your patience...repeatedly.

If you are concerned about your Mercury level consumption in particular check out the “Got Mercury” website –,

It has a mercury calculator that assists in making healthier choices by entering the weight, type, and amount of seafood consumed during a week. These calculations are based on EPA and FDA data.

Recipe: Mushroom Risotto with Cambozola

The extra-special touch to this risotto is the grilled portabellos and cambozola cheese. If you cannot find Cambozola, go for a good Gorgonzola. If you don't like blue cheese, I am sure Camembert would be delicious too. The hardest part of risotto is the stirring involved (get ready to have an overdeveloped bicep!) so I recommend grabbing a good friend who can alternate with you or at least keep you company. The best part is the creamy, rich mushroom flavour. And the fact that this is a great recipe for a large group. I just made it for 12 people, and got great feedback.

1/2 cup dried porcini mushrooms (about 1/2 ounce)
1 cup boiling water
8 -10 cups vegetable or chicken broth
2 teaspoons olive oil or butter
1 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
11/2 cups sliced button mushrooms
1 cup sliced portabello mushrooms (around 1 large)
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 pound uncooked Arborio rice (about 2 1/2 cups)
1 cup white wine (Chardonnay)
2/3 cups shredded Parmesan
1/4 cup chopped chives
6 pieces Cambozola cheese cut into 4 inch long pieces (1/2 inch thick)

2 portabello mushroom caps
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Servings: 6 as a main course

Combine porcini mushrooms and boiling water in a bowl. Cover and let stand 15 minutes or until tender. Drain in a colander over a bowl, reserving liquid.

Grill portabello mushrooms: Cut a 1/8 criss-cross pattern into the top of the portabello mushroom caps. Brush each with olive oil and place on grill or bbq. Grill for approximately 5 minutes each side or until mushroom is tender. Set aside, let cool and cut into 6 slices. Just before risotto is done, warm up in a saucepan with a teaspoon of butter.

Combine reserved mushroom liquid and broth in a medium saucepan. Bring remaining broth mixture to a simmer (do not boil). Keep warm over low heat.

Heat oil or butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté 3 minutes. Add garlic, sauté 1 minute. Add button and portabello mushrooms, and sauté 3 minutes or until tender. Stir in porcini mushrooms, thyme, salt, and pepper. Add rice; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.
Add broth mixture, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly until each portion of the mixture is absorbed before adding the next (about every 3-5 minutes). This can take around 1 to 1.5 hours. Stir in wine, and cook for 3 minutes or until the liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring constantly. You will need to taste when the risotto is done. This means it should be tender without any resistance to the bite.
When finished, add Parmesan cheese to risotto and stir until melted. Around 30 seconds to a minute.

Serve risotto in 6 bowls, top with two slices of grilled portabello mushrooms and 1 slice of the Cambozola cheese. Add a 1 teaspoon of chives on top as a garnish. Let sit for 1 minute or until Cambozola has started to melt.
Now you can dig in!

Cerignola Olives

Cerignola olives RULE. Period.
If you haven't experienced these and are an olive-lover (I have given up trying to convert haters) then get some in your mouth ASAP. But watch out for the addiction of a lifetime. If you are not familiar, they are the big green ones

Monday, May 18, 2009

Recipe: Slow Roasted Tomatoes

Roasting tomatoes takes a ho-hum, boring, dull tomato into a major FLAVOUR BURST. 4-6 hours in an oven at 225 degrees. Olive oil, salt & pepper. So easy. So good. These are the tomatoes to win over that tomato-hater. I highly recommend on a pizza or puff pastry.

12 roma tomatoes, cut in half (24 halves)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2-4 tablespoons of olive oil
Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 225 degrees. Toss all ingredients in a bowl. Spread over a large baking sheet.
Bake for 2.5 hours. Flip over tomatoes. Cook for an additional 2 to 3 hours.