Thursday, March 31, 2011

cooking up a storm

i'm a little apprehensive about the saturday market and therefore may be overcompensating by producing ridiculous amounts of food.
i've finished 60 jars of bbq sauce - i still have more to jar but i ran out of jars!!! i also have a giant vat of butter chicken with butternut squash and chickpeas, and a slightly smaller vat of lamb & feta meatballs in a spicy tomato sauce with sundried tomatoes and kalamata olives - not quite sure how i'm going to organize the fridges to fit it all...
ok here's the menu for the weekend - i'll have plenty of the fresh stuff, fishcakes & beans, sausage and cheese curd penne, but there are only a few of each of the other options...let me know if i need to reserve anything -

butter chicken (shani's), butternut squash, chickpeas, cilantro, roasted curried cauliflower, basmati rice (serves 2) $18

lamb & foxhill feta meatballs, spicy tomato sauce, kalamata olives, sun dried tomatoes, lemon basil couscous, zucchini, roasted peppers & onions (serves 2) $18

garlic flatbread with tzatziki/raita (serves 2) $4

cucumber salad with dill, mint, tomatoes & pickled red onions $4

lobster mac & cheese, roasted tomatoes, leek bechamel, foxhill cheese curds, panko crust $20

fishcakes & beans, salt cod, savoury, molasses & maple $12

roast pork dinner, getaway farm heritage breed, creamy mashed potatoes, gravy, honey roasted carrots $12

quiche - lorraine (3 left) or florentine (1 left) $18

chicken, leek, broccoli & bacon pies, puff pastry $5

shani's sausage & foxhill cheese curd baked penne, parmesan marinara, swiss chard, caramelized onions small $7.5 large $15

shepherd's pie, getaway beef, cheddar mash, peas & corn $7.5

spaghetti & meatballs, marinara, foxhill parmesan, basil (serves 2) $10

acadian rappi pie (only 1 left) $12

corned beef & cabbage (only 2 left) $12

soups & stews
$5 each - 500 ml portion

vegan vegetable stew
cream of broccoli & cauliflower
beet, parsnip & pear
carrot, apple, ginger
curried butternut squash (1 left)
turnip veloute
french onion with guinness & cheese
roasted pepper, tomato & sweet potato
baked beans
beef chili
seafood chowder
beef & barley
marinara sauce - for pizza or pasta...

cheddar & green onion biscuits
lemon meringue tartlets
snickers brownies
chocolate, vanilla, red velvet & carrot cupcakes
oatmeal, white chocolate & cranberry cookies
chocolate & coconut macaroons

oh dear, sometimes i don't realize just how much stuff i have until i sit and write it all down... hopefully i'll see you all at the market this weekend to help me downsize this menu!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


it's official - i now have a spot at the market for saturdays!

i'll be located at the base of the stairs down by the fish shop, the giant flower place and selwood green.
i will now be at the market on saturdays and sundays - sorry to all friday market-goers. due to health department regulations, i would change from a market vendor to a food shop if i was at the market more than two days a week and therefore i would encounter an entirely new set of regulations (aka financial investment!). down the road i'd like to be there more, but for now the weekends will have to do. i'm sorry to all friday peeps but hopefully you can make it down over the weekend and maybe we can set up a delivery if that's not a possibility.

this week i'll be doing a greek-inspired lamb meatball dish, with a spicy sundried tomato and olive sauce, grilled zucchini & peppers, and lemony couscous as one fresh option.
the other will be butter chicken from shani's farm (oh yeah the lamb is from shani's too) with chickpeas, butternut squash, roasted cauliflower and basmati rice.
i'm also going to make some flatbread with tzatziki/raita to accompany the mains.

i have tons of frozen entrees and soup plus, of course, loads of baked goodies. i'll post a more in depth menu with prices tomorrow - but i currently have about 60 bottles of bbq sauce to attend to...

saturdays - yay!

Monday, March 28, 2011

that's so corny

for st. patrick's day i decided to make a corned beef and cabbage dinner - aka boiled dinner or jig's dinner. instead of using the nitrate, sodium and preservative laden corned beef found at the grocery store, i decided to corn my own beef brisket (from getaway farm).
corned beef and cabbage is most definitely not everyone's cup of tea - the entire concept is quite foreign to most actually. i, however, really love the stuff. at the whalesbone we did a take on jig's dinner (charlotte, the chef, is a fellow east coaster), the accompaniments were classic but the protein was always fish, and since then i have had it on the brain.
when i was leaving ontario, to return home and start up the little red kitsch'n, the urban element asked me to do a workshop featuring my 'east coast faves' (the urban element  is where i used to teach cooking classes). 

the menu read as follows:

chunky clam chowder with bacon, potatoes & dill
lobster rolls with homemade mayonnaise and butter rolls
salt cod fishcakes with molasses baked beans, fried onions & green tomato chow
beer-battered seafood platter with fries and homemade tartar sauce
donair pizza (classy, i know - but we made the meat mix, dough & sauce ourselves)
acadian rappi pie
corned beef and cabbage
apple, cheddar crumbles with maple whip cream
blueberry grunt with homemade vanilla ice cream

ambitious i know, but we accomplished it all in a 5-hr class and it was super fun!

however, when i was doing the shopping for the class and sourcing ingredients, i found it virtually impossible to find awesome corned beef, the salt cod was also very challenging in ottawa - it's interesting just how regional canadian cuisine is, i guess. it was only months later that i thought to myself 'i could totally make my own, and it would probably be way better.' and that is what i did.

i brined the brisket for 14 days - flipping it regularly, then rinsed the brine, braised it overnight and cooked all of the veggies in the braising liquid. the brine is where it's at. tons of coriander seed, mustard seed, dill seed, black peppercorns, bay leaves, garlic, crushed red pepper flakes, salt and sugar - i also added a bunch of sweet paprika to emulate the funny pink colour in the processed stuff - but that didn't work at all (frown).
ps: i am as amateur as amateur photographers come, but this is my favourite photo yet - hooray!

now, i don't fancy myself a cheeseball and i don't want to sound too 'corny', but as i was making this and tasting the broth for seasoning, all i could think was 'this tastes just like my grandfather used to make when i was a little kid.' the flavours were exactly the same and i was pretty pleased. it's sort of cool that i'm making the same meal, in the same kitchen, just 20 years later.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

my yard

it was really nice out yesterday - it made me a little angry to be inside all day...

here's what my yard looks like and where i plan on growing an epic garden!


more view

a rock

more view - lower garden

across the water

out to sea

green things

lower garden - raised bed

the church

more view

back window

daffodils growing in a construction zone

more daffodils

what keeps me warm

more view

more view

even more view

and the view continues

ok, last one!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

what's for dinner this week?

in lieu of driving myself bonkers, for this friday i'm going to make the dishes that i keep getting requests for. it seems as though the chicken/leek/bacon/broccoli pies were one of the most popular things i've ever made. also the roasted red pepper/tomato/sweet potato soup resulted in a couple of disappointed faces this weekend when i ran out. so i'm going to whip a bunch of 'repeats' fresh for friday - and skip a brand new item, to preserve my sanity (and it probably wouldn't fit in the fridge anyway).

chicken, leek, bacon and broccoli pie - braised chicken with melted leeks, smoked bacon and crisp broccoli, with reduced chicken stock, and a puff pastry lid (fresh for friday)  large $15 small $5

sausage and pepper penne, shani's organic sausages, roasted red peppers, caramelized onions, swiss chard, foxhill cheese curds, parmesan marinara (fresh for friday)  large $15 small $7.50

fishcakes & beans, salt cod, onions, celery, potatoes, savoury, molasses baked beans (the fishcakes will be fresh for friday but the beans are frozen - i made them last week)  $12

quiche lorraine, double smoked bacon, foxhill aged gouda, caramelized onions (fresh for friday) $18

british fish pie, sea bass, arctic char, mussels, haddock - all from the fish shop - creamy mashed potatoes, crunchy veggies (fresh for sunday) large $18 small $9

lobster mac & cheese, leek bechamel, roasted tomatoes, foxhill cheese curds, panko crust $20

shepherd's pie, getaway farm ground beef, peas, corn, cheddar mashed potatoes small $7.50 large $15 (i only have one large left)

corned beef and cabbage (i corned it myself - low salt, no chemicals!), potatoes, carrots, celery root, whole grain mustard, getaway farm beef brisket  $15

rappi pie, shani's farm chicken, sweet williams smoked turkey, caramelized onions, potatoes, salt pork $12 (i only have one left)

roast pork dinner, getaway farm heritage tamworth/berkshire pork, mashed potatoes, gravy, honey roasted carrots $12

spaghetti and meatballs, getaway beef, marinara, foxhill parmesran, basil $10

soups, stews, chowder, chili
$5 each for a 500 ml container - 2 medium servings or 1 ginormous serving

vegan vegetable stew
creamy broccoli & cauliflower
roasted red pepper, tomato & sweet potato
carrot, apple & ginger
curried butternut squash
smooth turnip veloute
french onion, with guinness and parmesan
beet, parsnip & pear
seafood chowder
beef & barley
chunky beef chili

oh dear i was just rifling through the freezer and i'm getting low on butternut squash, chowder, beet, turnip, chili and baked beans (i just made them!) so if you are dead set on any flavour let me know:
leave a blog comment, message on facebook or twitter - i'm also setting up a business e-mail so i'll put that address up soon...

the cheddar and green onion biscuits have been quite popular so i'll make them for both days this week.
snickers brownies
lemon meringue tarts
oatmeal, white chocolate and cranberry cookies
red velvet cupcakes with raspberry cream cheese frosting
vanilla cupcakes with wild blueberry cream cheese frosting
chocolate, coconut macaroons
candy of some sort - probably sponge toffee
and maybe a surprise or two...

all four of the bbq/marinade/stirfry/dipping sauces will be in effect this week - maple bourbon, sesame ginger, chipotle lime, honey mustard
i'd also like to whip up a batch of tomato sauce for pizza & pasta, but that may not happen until next week... 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

you say filo, i say phyllo

so i have absolutely no idea what the difference in spelling makes - perhaps someone with greek heritage could enlighten me. what i do know is that phyllo bakes up to delectable crunchiness, is a great receptacle for yummy fillings and works equally well in both savoury and sweet applications.
so for the dinner party i did on the 9th, i made up a little amuse bouche of mushroom and goat cheese phyllo triangles. it's always nice to have a little nibbly thing to start off a dinner - at beckta, when i worked garde manger, i had to invent one everyday and sometimes 3 or more for parties, i used to obsess over them and put myself in the weeds creating ridiculous concoctions, and ended up despising them... now they are something to take the pressure off. when you're entertaining, if you have a nice platter of something for people to snack on, you can tide them over and not be as stressed out and rushing to plate the first course.

i unfortunately don't have a picture of them once baked, but instead i'll show the process.

first off you have to make the filling and it is important to let it cool before assembling triangles - otherwise it's much trickier. i chose mushroom and goat cheese (something i've been making for years - my college roomies and i found the recipe online and thought it sooo sophisticated...), you could also do spinach and feta to make it like a spanakopita, or roasted red pepper, sun-dried tomato, olive and caper, or nuts and honey like an individual baklava bite, or vanilla custard and wild blueberries like a strudel (something i plan on whipping up very soon...). really just make what you like and it will be fantabulous.

i've been using cremini mushrooms of late. they're meaty, flavourful and budget friendly. they are baby portobellos - so, no dark gills, and a fancier name. shiitakes, oysters, maitakes, and king eryngiis would also be great but may prove a bit more difficult to find and a bit more difficult to stomach at the cash register...
it's important to not wash mushrooms - they'll absorb the water and that does not make for a good sear. simply brush them clean and saute in a screaming hot pan with an oil and butter combo (oil for its high smoke point and butter for its flavour). also don't salt them until they are finishing cooking - salt draws out the moisture and will result in boiled, rubbery mushrooms as opposed to caramelized, tender mushrooms.
then fire them into the food processor.

this is great - you don't have to stress and waste time cutting everything up all fiddly-like. with the help of a handy-dandy food processor, it will be a beautifully smooth puree of shallots, garlic, herbs and goat's cheese - so refined...
then chill and you're ready to assemble.

phyllo can be a bit of a pain. if it dries out it cracks and crumbles and can be devastating and rage-inducing.

but if you keep it covered with a slightly damp kitchen towel it's fine. once it's dry it will disintegrate in your hands, so it makes a world of difference to take this preemptive measure.   

then you have to stick 3 sheets of phyllo together (i'm sure 2 would work but 3 is what i do). individually they are so fragile that the filling would burst through. use butter as the glue. brush it lightly on with a soft-bristled pastry brush. for this batch i used brown butter - i thought the nuttiness would pair well with the earthy mushrooms - i haven't talked to the recipient yet, but i'll report back with her analysis...
my filling sometimes still bursts through, but makes for a tasty treat for the host/hostess - sort of like the extra, baked on cheese from a grilled cheese sandwich - in my opinion, the best part!

then i cut it into 6 strips. try to make them as even as possible - i am not very good at this, as evidenced by my brownie portioning skills as well...

put a little dollop of your filling at the base of each triangle. don't go overboard - this proportion is even a bit much, but i like a high filling to pastry ratio. any more would be hard to work with and totally explode once in the oven.
then roll it up.

then brush the tops with a little butter, although i think it would also be great with a sprinkling of cheese or turbinado sugar for something sweet (epiphany), and bake at 375 until golden brown and hot in the centre.


some people frown on the use of phyllo, thinking it so 'passee', i say "whatever". it's fun, yummy and makes for convenient consumption, so go for it.

Monday, March 21, 2011

spring may have sprung

what a difference the weather makes! yesterday was my best day at the market yet...hooray and thanks!
people seemed to be in a much better mood and excited to be out of the house, enjoying the sun and exploring the market. so today is the first full day of spring and it certainly feels like it. time to plan the garden...
this year i'm attempting to grow as much of my own produce as possible. in the restaurants i worked for in ottawa, the cooks would always grow a garden to supply the restaurant with as many fresh veggies as possible. i also had an apartment (with a yard of course) garden where i grew 27 varieties of heirloom tomatoes, chillies, bell peppers and herbs to make my bbq sauces and salsas from scratch. i know the growing conditions are quite different in prospect village than in the ottawa valley but i am still going to try my best.
however, i may have bitten off a little more than i can chew...

this is my selection of seeds thus far. i'm also planning on hitting up the seedy saturday heirloom seed sale out in spryfield on april 2nd. i've heard there will be a lady there who is incredibly passionate about potatoes which i know grow well here, and i'd also like some chiogga beets, red carrots and some lettuces...i think my eyes may be bigger than my gardening ability.
i bought the four packets in the bottom row from a nice lady at the market on saturday and i also got these from her - 


my windowsill garden is coming along. herbs are so expensive so i'm going to try and grow them all myself.

so far i have oregano, rosemary and thyme but i need some mint, dill and basil to brighten up my summertime cooking.

this is micro arugula, it grows super fast and adds a sharp, peppery flavour to food and i like it. i'd like to transplant a bunch outside to grow for salads and keep some small indoors for garnish and last minute touches.

i had these little salads for sale yesterday. i bought the vine tomatoes from elmridge - they don't grow them but act as a distributor for the man who does (don't worry they're still local). the cucumber i bought at noggins and the greens are from hutten family farm. they don't sell at the seaport market but still have an awesome table at the historic market. their veggies all looked fantastic and they had a really wide selection - i didn't even know what a couple of the root veggies were! the greens are baby mache, arugula and a microgreen blend (like mesclun). add a red wine vinaigrette and it was a great bright and acidic salad to accompany the richness of the quiche it was served with.
as the summer months approach i'm definitely shifting into lighter fare. in the summer i like to eat a lot of sandwiches (well i like those all of the time actually), bright salads, bbq and lots of simply grilled veggies, fish and chicken. i'm used to farmers walking in the back door and being totally stoked on their veggies of the day so the menu might change a little to showcase the most awesome product. that's how i want to cook this summer - fly by the seat of my pants, walk out the back door and see what i can find. in march this all sounds great but i might need to hire a full time gardener for the summer months...

speaking of lighter fare - this is the vegan vegetable stew i made this week. it is loaded up with tons of veggies: multi-coloured carrots, fingerling potatoes, kale, swiss chard, zucchini, white turnips, parsnips, celery.... the list goes on and on and i think it's the new 'healthiest thing i ever made'. people sometimes freak out thinking vegan = bland. load it up with veggies and fresh herbs and it's rad and healthy.

but i can't forget the bacon either...

this is a slab of double smoked roselane farm bacon and it is good. i used it for my quiche lorraine yesterday along with some foxhill cheese aged gouda and caramelized onions. they sold out - i'll try to make some more for next week, but my prep list is slightly out of control!

this week was also crazy for cupcakes. i had three flavours with blueberry, raspberry and mint icing. along with massive cookies, lemon tarts, brownies, macaroons.

red velvet was the most popular and was sold out my about 2. i think it will be my signature flavour - especially with raspberry, cream cheese frosting.
this week i also made a great discovery - selwood green has a juicer and they can supply me with beet juice. red velvet normally relies on food colouring but lots of people are allergic, it's fake and organic beet juice does the same thing!

i froze it in ice cube portions and i'm going to just pop a cube into each batch - this is a bit of an experiment but i think/hope it'll work...

weekly menu to come - definitely fish pie for sunday (peter from the fish shop has some sustainable sea bass and arctic char coming in on friday) but i'm still trying to decide what else to make - in addition to another batch of the chicken, leek, broccoli and bacon pie, quiche lorraine, salt cod fish cakes, sausage and pepper baked penne, cream of broccoli soup, roasted red pepper and sweet potato soup, and 3 flavours of bbq sauce...

Thursday, March 17, 2011


i totally forgot that i also have the frozen roast pork dinner with mashed potatoes (they have a hint of parsnip & celery root), gravy, and honey & herb roasted noggins carrots. the pork is a berkshire/tamworth cross from getaway farm and it puts other pork to shame! decisions, decisions...

this week's menu

so i know i'm missing st. patrick's day, but i'm doing an irish inspired menu for tomorrow. i had planned on a fish pie for tomorrow but then i remembered - i have a massive beef brisket corning for homemade corned beef and cabbage. march is definitely flying by and i lost track of the date. i also have a nice slab of roselane farm double smoked bacon that i will be turning into quiche lorraine for sunday.

corned beef & cabbage, getaway farm beef brisket, potatoes, carrots, cabbage, celery root, turnips, mustard & herbs with irish soda bread (serves 2 - fresh for friday)  $15

shepherd's pie, getawway farm beef, homemade bbq sauce, peas, corn and cheddar mash with parsnips and celery root (fresh for friday) small $7.50 large $15

quiche lorraine with roselane farm double smoked bacon, caramelized onions and foxhill cheese (fresh for sunday)  $12

vegetarian quiche with oven roasted tomatoes, spinach and rancher acres goat cheese (fresh for sunday) $12

both flavours of quiche with be accompanied by a light salad of the first of the spring greens with a red wine vinaigrette and the quiche are baked in 9 inch pie plates so it's enough to feed four.

chicken, leek, broccoli, and bacon pies with a puff pastry lid and homemade chicken stock $7.50

fish cakes and beans (i just made a new batch of beans last night) - serves 2  $12

lobster mac & cheese, leek bechamel, roasted tomatoes, foxhill cheese curds  $20

sausage and pepper penne, shani's farm sausages, caramelized onions, roasted red peppers, swiss chard and foxhill cheese curds  $7.50

acadian rappi pie, potatoes, shani's farm chicken, sweet williams smoked turkey, caramelized onions, crisp salt pork  $12

soups, stews, chowder
$5 each

vegan vegetable stew (i think this one will be perfect for 'the ladies that lunch')
beet, parsnip & pear
curried butternut squash
root vegetable puree
potato, leek and bacon (only 1 left)
'french' onion with guinness beer and foxhill cheese
beef & barley (it's more of a stew than a soup this time!)
seafood chowder with mussels, clams, scallops and halibut
chunky beef chili

dark chocolate cupcakes with minty frosting
vanilla cupcakes with raspberry cream cheese frosting
lemon meringue tartlets
chocolate, coconut macaroons
snickers brownies
oatmeal, white chocolate and cranberry GIANT cookies

i may also have the time to rock out a few surprise treats but that all depends on how quickly i work this afternoon...also i'll be supplying wrap so d with some more sweets on saturday as well - perhaps some red velvet cupcakes...

Monday, March 14, 2011

cloudy with a chance of meatballs

yesterday was a great day at the market. 
it was so nice that there were actually people there and the sun was shining - hopefully signs of things to come. so fyi the sunday market hours have changed, they are now 10-5 (i missed the whole 10 part in the last newsletter and showed up at 7, a mere 3 hours before the market opened...oh dear). it will be great for next weekend though and those two extra hours in bed.

today is a little dreary though and i've decided to have a spaghetti & meatball meal for lunch. i've been meaning to blog about this dish for awhile. for valentine's day i wanted to make a romantic meal and was having a hard time deciding what to do. a lot of the things i wanted to do were either too extravagant or would be completely ruined during the reheating process at home. and then this image came to mind:

and i settled on spaghetti and meatballs. it's simple, cute, holds up well, is so satisfying and i like cartoons. i bought all of the beef from getaway farm, 'parmesran' cheese from foxhill (it's called that because parmesan is now being treated like wine with an appelation controllee), and for the binder i made homemade breadcrumbs from some leftover garlic and herb focaccia.

i used my trusty ice cream scooper to portion all of the meatballs. for things like this it's very important to have uniform size to ensure uniform cooking.

there ended up being a 'few' of them and i think they look pretty cool all lined up. when i make meatballs i cook them under the broiler. it's a great way to develop great 'brown' flavour without stressing over them breaking apart in the pan and having grease splatter all over your arm and you can bang out way more in the same amount of time.
also an important tidbit - if you're going to cook them again in the sauce, don't cook them all the way through. let the cooking process finish in the sauce and the flavours will mingle and you don't wind up with tough, dry, overcooked meatballs - because they really are the star of the show!

but you can't forget the pasta either.

i think it looks pretty cool too. that giant colander was a great investment. if you're in the market for some kitchen equipment check out the cash & carry on chebucto road. i love exploring there and they recently cleared out two aisles and filled them with restaurant equipment - massive bowls, colanders, containers... i bought a massive potato masher there this week and it was only $6!
the pasta i use is catelli smart. i have tried and tried to find a nice whole wheat pasta and they are all nice in theory but in practise it's a whole nother story. this one tastes like regular but it has loads of fibre so you don't have to feel so guilty because the carbs aren't entirely empty.

you can tell i'm pretty into food when i think even the canola oil in the squirt bottle looks interesting...

i may have gotten a little carried away with the portion size (which i sometimes do) and this is what the final product looked like, originally i had planned on them being individual portions, what was i thinking?

the red plaid curtain in the background seems quite fitting for this one too... mine just went into the oven for lunch.

continuing on the italian theme, i catered a birthday dinner party on wednesday night and i guess i was in an italian kinda mood as each course had some italian undertones. for a little starter i made some mushroom and goat cheese triangles. the filling is made with shallots, garlic, cremini mushrooms, herbs and goat cheese all pureed in the food processor. then it is chilled and stuffed inside little bundles of filo dough. i guess they went over alright because the birthday girl has ordered 30 of them for pickup on friday! i don't have any photos but i'll document the entire process this week when i make a new batch.
filo can seem a little daunting but it's actually pretty quick, easy and extra tasty crispy. the trick is to touch it with a delicate hand, work quickly and use butter. the same technique can be used to make any sort of appetizer bundle - spanakopita, smoked salmon mousse, sundried tomato, olive and caper... the possibilities are endless and work particularly well with any filling that you might find inside a ravioli.

for the first course, it was seared digby scallops over risotto with butternut squash, zucchini and corn, topped with arugula.

again the portion was probably a bit large but i always worry about people not having enough. also a proper risotto is supposed to spread on the plate, not stand up in a neat little pile, so it looks larger than it was. the key is to start with a nice stock. please, please, please don't use the store bought stuff. it is so full of sodium and things i can't pronounce that it will totally throw off the natural and simple flavours of a risotto. maybe i should start selling containers of frozen stock along with my soups...
risotto also needs to be stirred quite consistently as it cooks - incorporating one ladle of stock at a time. when i used to teach cooking classes i would always tell people that they were burning calories and getting an upper body workout before dinner so it all came out in the wash!

second course was a pan-seared and herb roasted shani's farm chicken breast, over gnocchi alfredo with shiitake and oyster mushrooms, baby spinach and red wine vinegar roasted shallots (a little acidity to cut through the richness). it was also topped with pea tendrils from river view herbs to jam some more green veggies into the meal.

i had made a gnocchi dish like this to accompany some braised beef brisket a few weeks back and the guest of honour really enjoyed it, so i thought i would make some more for her birthday. i also add some blue cheese to the gnocchi - it's based on a classic italian dish called gnocchi con gorgonzola. i never liked blue cheese growing up - in fact my brother and i would be chased around the house by 'blue cheese breath' - but i had this dish at a restaurant in montreal during university and since then i have liked blue cheese. it works really well with the potato gnocchi and meaty mushrooms - i bought some fantabulous blue cheese from sweet williams on saturday (along with a delectable smoked turkey leg) and it is soooo good.

at this point i think most of the guests were full to the brim but still had a lemon & almond tart to work through. i made the italian meringue on site and piped it and blowtorched it in front of some of the guests and i think it went over ok - dinner and a show!

i made it a little different than i do for the market. underneath the lemon curd i baked a thin layer of almond cream and then just a thin layer of lemon curd and served it accompanied by a thick swoosh of raspberry coulis and some fresh berries and mint for colour. since it was thin and light, i think it was the best way to finish a rich meal.

last week was busy, i'm sold out of 3 flavours of soup, 2 types of bbq sauce, shepherd's pie, and baked beans. i had better get to work. oh also, my friend works for the halifax refugee clinic and they are having a bake sale tomorrow at the dal sub and i'll be dropping off dark chocolate cupcakes with raspberry cream cheese frosting (the leftover raspberry coulis from the dinner party has inspired my new favourite concoction) so check it out and get your sugar on for a good cause!

Friday, March 11, 2011


if you're at the market tomorrow (oh actually later today...) and in need of a sweet treat. pop by wrap so d. darren was nice enough to let me fill his display case with my sweets. it's not a full saturday stand but it's certainly rad to get my name out there and exposed to the die-hard saturday crowd.

tomorrow i'll have snickers brownies; oatmeal, white chocolate and cranberry cookies; carrot cupcakes with maple cream cheese frosting; and red velvet cupcakes with raspberry cream cheese frosting.

this is also my motivation to finally make it to the market on saturday. i'm super excited to visit the annapolis seeds booth - heirloom seed purveyors. time to plan the garden. the first spinach of the year showed up at noggins today and spring is in the air!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

i like green things

so after my beef extravaganza of last weekend - this week i'm going green. 

this is the filling for the first instalment in my pie phase. 
it's shani's farm free range chicken mixed with loads of leeks, celery, broccoli and bacon. the gravy is with homemade chicken stock and fresh herbs. i used puff pastry for the lid - but i made lemon, pepper & herb biscuits too if you crave more starch. oh and back to the green - i made a side dish of shallots, peas, mustard greens, lemon and tarragon.
i'm still working out prices and i'd like to combine things to offer a 'full meal deal', but my brain is currently fried so all of the details will be on my brand new blackboard tomorrow.
today i also braised the chicken that's going into the rappi pies for sunday. so quick review, rappi pie = layers of grated potatoes hydrated with chicken stock, chicken meat, caramelized onions and salt pork. it also equals radical and my favourite thing to eat ever. i'll definitely make up personal and family-size options and some roasted noggins beets on the side.

i also catered a birthday party last night - these are the lemon tarts they had for dessert.

i've had a busy week. yesterday, a frozen food delivery, followed by a dinner party for eleven, then five types of sweets for a catered lunch today and prepping the rest of the day to get ready for the market tomorrow, pwef... and i still have time to watch american idol (nerd). just so you know, i'm definitely interested in small caterings, deliveries, etc. right now it's just me but as soon as i can afford to hire someone maybe i can rock out some bigger events too, if there's the demand...
ok back to sweets, tomorrow i will have carrot and red velvet cupcakes - both with cream cheese frosting, 'snickers' brownies (they're extra chocolatey this week, i tweaked the recipe), lemon meringue tarts of course, oatmeal, white chocolate and cranberry cookies, and chocolate coconut macaroons, oh and dark chocolate truffles with cayenne and cinnamon. i'm testing out a blondie recipe too so on sunday i'll have butterscotch blondies as well - as long as they aren't a complete disaster.
i also have tons of frozen soups, chowder and chili, lobster mac & cheese, fishcakes & beans, roast pork dinners, spaghetti & meatballs, sausage & pepper penne, and general tao's chicken. 
ok i think that's it, i think...

Monday, March 7, 2011

flaking out

this week i reorganized and discovered that i have about a bajillion aluminum pie plates. so i've decided that for the next few weeks i'm going to make lots of meals in pie form to use them up before i buy some new packaging.

since i don't do much on mondays, i've had plenty of time to think of new meals, so i'm planning a braised chicken and leek pie for this week with a side of lemony peas, next week fish pie with steamed greens, and then some bubble and squeak with market sausages. i guess the drizzle outside has put me in a british frame of mind. i might throw in a steak and kidney pie, or rabbit pie, or more rappi pie (since there is a certain gentleman who requests them each week) or enchilada lasagna or bacon pie. oh and i almost forgot, i'm corning my own brisket to make corned beef and cabbage for st. patty's season - but that's a whole nother story...

so back to pies - what would a pie be without a great crust? nuthin! i had never made a single pie until i went to cooking school. i was always terrified of pastry and messing it up and overworking the dough and having it fall apart and having it crack... there are lots of things that could go wrong but they don't have to. my current pie dough recipe is pretty fool proof and i'm about to share it (i can't believe i'm about to do this...):

flaky pie dough

3 c flour
1 tsp salt
1 c butter
1 egg
2 tsp acid (vinegar, lemon...)
ice water

first off, always make sure your ingredients are cold when working with pastry. pinch the butter into the flour and salt. make sure to work quickly and don't work the butter too much or else it will melt and make for a tough dough. you could combine everything with a pastry cutter or a food processor - but in my opinion your hands are your best kitchen tools.
then whisk up the wet ingredients (add enough water to make 2/3 c liquid) and dump them over the dry.

you can see the little clumps in the mixture. the clumps are the butter. ok science lesson: butter contains water, when water gets hot it releases steam, when the steam gets trapped inside pastry it creates little air pockets, little pockets within pastry create flakiness. therefore, butter clumps make for great pastry.
it's also at this point i like to switch to a fork - cut down on the mess a little. stir everything together until the wet is absorbed and then turn the whole lot out onto a clean work surface.

i know, i know, it looks a little dry but it's fine, don't be alarmed. then i start to treat the dough like it's puff pastry (i've had some people at market ask me if it is puff). so puff pastry, aka millefeuille, aka super-flaky pastry, is a pain to make but the technique has several applications. it involves rolling and turning the dough to build the layers. my pal charlotte (chefette at the whalesbone in ott) taught me this trick - i think she learned it from how her grandma made biscuits - otherwise i would never have thought to apply puff principles anywhere else.

roll the dough out, and use a bench scraper to fold it in 3's, like a letter, and turn it 45 degrees.

it sounds confusing but with a visual it's pretty easy.

continue to roll and turn and that super dry looking dough will miraculously come together.

then divide it - i quadruple the recipe and each quarter makes about 15 tarts.

and check out the layers - how could it not be flaky with layers like that built right in? it's also fitting that the lemons for the curd are in the background!
wrap it and chill it. i normally freeze it right away. it's probably because i'm used to rushing things in restaurants and also because sometimes i tend to forget things in the fridge...
then roll it out, blind bake it, fill it and done.

this was my little after dinner snack tonight - notice the crumbs... success!
i also use the same technique for biscuits and it seems to work pretty well.

sometimes my biscuits are less than stellar, but these were my best ones yet. i was so stoked!

on saturday i had a great day cooking, somedays everything sucks and somedays the stars align and everything works out perfectly and i can really enjoy cooking. i hope everyone who has tried my food actually likes it too and it's not just me!

here are some other things i like:

this is my massive convection oven and once i get it hooked up i just know i'll be able to produce so much more in way less time. 

these are my knives. not only do i love them, but i love the fact that they are stuck to the wall!

these are some of my cookbooks - please disregard the shopaholics on the top shelf...
and i love the way the light comes into my kitchen - much better than a basement of a restaurant somewhere.

and these are three of my favourite tools. the lime green peeler is an ikea find. super cheap but it has lasted me much longer and works much better than any expensive peeler i've had before. the yellow juicer is a miraculous invention for someone who makes as much lemon curd as i do - so efficient. the ice cream scoop is the best. my kitchen used to be the general store in prospect and i'm not entirely sure but i think this scoop was used back in the day to scoop ice cream cones. now 1 scoop equals a cupcake or a macaroon and 2 scoops equals a GIANT cookie or a fish cake.

ok time to plan for the caterings, deliveries and market days coming up.