Friday, June 24, 2011

to market i go

so i'm running out the door to the market - going on a friday is throwing me all out of whack!
i'll do a better job at posting the full menu later on but for now, here's what i just made this week:

chicken parmigiana - shani's chicken, noggins kale. it's baked not breaded & fried and i jammed some green vegetables in there so it's healthier than the norm.

sausage & cheese curd penne - shani's italian sausages, noggins kale, caramelized onions, roasted red peppers, foxhill cheese curds. this batch is a tad spicier than usual, but just a tad, don't be alarmed.

in both of these items i have smalls & larges - only four small parms though so i think they'll go quick...

i also made a new soup concoction. it's pretty much spring in a bowl - asparagus, peas, parmesan, basil, lemon, potato gnocchi. it's super bright & fresh and would go great with some crunchy bread - perhaps what i'll be having for lunch. i also made a bathc of cream of broccoli soup but it needs some more tweaking, i'll have that one tomorrow.

there are also two new sweets. rhubarb cupcakes (i picked the rhubarb last night) - this was the first attempt & they look hilarious, but taste really good. the other new one is a strawberries & cream tartlet - local strawberries & vanilla/orange custard - yummers!

see ya soon.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

last week

i think perhaps last week was my craziest one to date. 
on monday i catered a staff party. i had planned to make it super chilled-out fun party food, but wound up making really fiddly foods that were incredibly time-consuming. on tuesday i did a special dessert order for some deserving nurses at the hospital. then i drove to stewiacke to pick up those now infamous pansies... wednesday was consumed with sugaring those flowers. thursday was cooking day and friday was baking INSANITY. with 150 cupcakes (plus a giant cupcake topper) added to my usual baking it was intense. i now function like a conveyor belt - finish all the batters, fill all the cupcake pans and just feed them through the oven all day. then it was the day of reckoning - saturday... all day at the market, then piping, decorating & assembling the cupcake wedding cake.
unfortunately my powers of photography failed me and this is the best i could come up with...

i also didn't want to seem like a jerkface - you know just milling about taking pictures of my own work... tacky. i just quickly snapped this blurry shot with my phone - it was also on a boat so maybe that had something to do with my epic fail.
aside from the poor photography, i was actually really pleased with how it all turned out. the cupcakes were all baked in shiny silver cups, the lavender-coloured frosting matched the bridesmaids' dresses exactly and the sugared flowers looked really nice - worth the effort. i also hollowed out the centre (i had some help at this point - thanks!) of each cupcake with an apple corer and piped in a dulce de leche centre to keep them super moist. the bride cried, the guests raved & the photographers snapped tons of photos - maybe i can hit them up for a better picture... i guess that all made up for being stuck on a boat, at a wedding where i knew no one, for four hours on saturday night when i had more baking waiting for me at home.
the wedding was on the tall ship silva and the wedding coordinator asked for my business info to potentially do more catering for them... however, i don't really see myself pursuing much more boat catering, i think once was enough :)

Friday, June 17, 2011


just a quick reminder that i won't be at the market on sunday, june 26th. i will however be there on friday the 24th & saturday the 25th that week. i think i'll set up in my usual saturday spot at the base of the stairs by the fish shop for the two days. 
friday is also international day at the market so you can come visit me & pick up lunch at the same time... i think i might need the visitors. fridays aren't that busy, but now that more of the farmers are returning hopefully foot traffic will pick up - fingers crossed. the hours are also 8am-7pm that day so there is plenty of time to make it down after work if you're in the mood... 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

i should do a wedding every week

just kidding!
although it has forced me to be completely on the ball this week. today i slow-smoked 8 racks of ribs, planked 20 portions of salmon, roasted 40 potatoes, made a ginormous veggie medley, prepped biscuit, roll & pie doughs, made a vat of lemon curd & got a jump start on some baking.
i still need to rifle though the freezers but this is what i know i have for the weekend:

slow-smoked spare ribs OR cedar-planked salmon with veggie medley (zucchini, asparagus, peppers, shallots, corn), herb-roasted potatoes & a side of bbq sauce - serves two... still figuring out pricing...

"jambalaya" with getaway farm chorizo, wild caught shrimp from the fish shop & grilled chicken thighs, peppers, tomatoes, lemon, quinoa, paprika - serves 2 - $22

moroccan meatballs, harissa quinoa, olives, lemon, almonds, tomato sauce - serves 2 - $20

lobster mac & cheese $24
chicken, leek, broccoli, bacon pie $15
fishcakes & baked beans $12
lamb shepherd's pie $10
chicken & shiitake gyozas $5

i also packaged some moroccan meatballs & sauce separate from the garnish - $8
i'll have fresh, crunchy, marinated vegetable salad $5

vegan vegetable stew
root vegetable puree
thai chicken & rice
mexican pork posole
curried butternut squash
vegetarian chili
potato, pear, celery, gorgonzola
seafood chowder
baked beans

lots & lots of baked goods...
tomorrow will be cupcake insanity - regular baking plus 150 cupcakes plus a giant cupcake for the topper... oh dear... it will be further insanity on saturday after the market when i have to assemble this beast... better get to sleep...

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

flower & sugar

i just finished sugaring all of these pansies. needless to say, it took awhile.
on saturday i'm creating a cupcake wedding cake. each cupcake will be adorned with one sugared pansy. i was pretty stressed about the whole undertaking but once i had the flowers* it turned out to be easier than expected - relaxing even. normally i'm on my feet all day, but instead i just sat down, listened to some tunes, hand painted each petal of each flower and sprinkled them with sugar.

*i need to give a major shout-out to cathy (aka my saviour) from the market. she won't be back until christmas - at which time i will lavish her with brownies & cupcakes. she GAVE me all the flowers, all i had to do was drive to stewiacke to pick them up...

ok, back to the wedding, the colour scheme is shades of lavender & purple. during our initial consultation, i showed the bride this picture:

she immediately loved it & i immediately knew i had a project on my hands. it may be painstaking, but it can be done in advance. the sugaring acts as a preservation method for the delicate flowers. once done they can be kept in airtight containers for up to three months. i am a little worried though because of all this rain & humidity, so i cranked the heat and lit a fire in the wood stove to thoroughly dry them out - fingers crossed. humidity is the nemesis of sugar, it makes it melt & go all sticky (also the reason you won't see sponge toffee or homemade skor bars on my table again until the fall).

to make the flowers you need a soft-bristled paintbrush (michael's), superfine sugar (bulk barn), 1 egg white & 1 tsp water - oh and some edible flowers i guess that would help (pansies, violets, nasturtiums...). whisk up the egg white & water, brush over the entire surface of each flower & then sprinkle it with the sugar. 

these were the first two - not so great...

but after a bit of practice, i got the hang of it...

these were the last ones and i quite like them.
i also found that some of the larger flowers didn't want to hold their shape too well.

by moulding them in egg cartons, they had a bit more character.
one of the main things i was worried about, was having the bristles of the paintbrush tear each delicate petal. lately i've been avoiding michael's, but sucked it up on this occasion. i think the saleslady thought i was crazy, but i felt the bristles of each brush in the paintbrush aisle and finally settled on this one:

it was super soft and the shape of the bristles provided great surface area so it didn't take a million years to paint each petal (back & front mind you).

i often watch daina paint at the market on sundays and she holds her paintbrush at the very end away from the bristles. i always thought it was funny and seemed like it would make it so much harder. she explained that by holding it at the end, you paint with your arm instead of just your hand and it provides much better control. by the end of this project i was holding my paintbrush at the very end & feeling like quite the artiste!

pictures of the finished product to come...

Friday, June 10, 2011

i don't sleep.

hiya, so i may be moderately crazzzzzyyyyyyyy.
lots & lots of delectable nnnnnibbbbbbbbbblies ce weekend. soups, stews, chowders. 
it's 2:47 on saturday morning & i'm up...

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

bits & bites

one of the main reasons i wanted to start my own business, was to cook what i want, when i want. i love thai, indian, chinese, japanese, french, italian, southern, spanish, mexican, of course canadian... & even british food lately. instead of being constrained to a certain type of food by the focus of a restaurant, i like to mix it up - more along the lines of a catering operation. 
last friday, i catered a lunch meeting. it was a spread of nibblies for people to munch & the menu was random @ best.

mini-crab cakes with spicy mayo (thai-inspired)
chicken & shiitake gyozas (japanese)
bite-sized pulled pork sandwiches with crunchy slaw (southern)
tiny yorkshire puddings with roast beef & roasted garlic cream (british)
miniature vegetarian quiche (french)
cedar-planked salmon with garlic quark on mini lemon-poppyseed biscuits (canadian)

and of course some sweets too - mini cupcakes, brownie bites & ridiculously small lemon tarts.
can you tell i get a kick out of cutesy, miniaturized versions of the classics?

i really like to be able to switch from folding gyozas

to rolling out mini biscuits

to grilling the freshest spring asparagus

and all sorts of other fun stuff.
it's nice to be able to 'globetrot' in the kitchen, explore new flavours, techniques and it's certainly a lot cheaper than a plane ticket.
i find people can get so tired of their usual kitchen repetoire & that's where i come in. i'm trying to position my little business as the go-to source for something a little different than what you would choose to make yourself.
today i'll be making another batch of the moroccan meatballs with harissa quinoa (they sold like hotcakes & lots of people reported back that they may be the new fav), more thai crab cakes & a big batch of vegan stew. this week i've also dreamed up a new concoction... it'll be a 'mashup' of southern jambalaya with spanish paella featuring getaway farm chorizo sausage & wild caught shrimp from the fish shop...
needless to say, i'm stoked.

Friday, June 3, 2011


oh geez, note to self: don't accept a lunchtime catering gig on a friday.
it's been a long one but here goes with the weekend menu.

grilled shani's farm chicken breast with noggins asparagus & foxhill cheesy potatoes - lots of garlic & lemon in this one, serves 2 $20 (this is how i like to eat at this time of year...)

braised chicken, leek, bacon & broccoli pies with shani's farm chicken & puff pastry lids, serves 2 $15 (they're fresh but i had to freeze them due to lack of fridge space... still delice though)

lobster mac & cheese $24
fishcakes & baked beans $12
curried chicken & chickpeas $16
bacon, asparagus & parm quiche $14
moroccan meatballs with harissa quinoa $20
lamb shepherd's pie $10

seafood chowder
thai chicken & rice soup
baked beans
potato, pear, celery & gorgonzola
roasted red pepper, tomato & sweet potato
curried butternut squash
carrot, apple, ginger
red lentil dahl
vegetarian chili
root vegetable puree

cupcakes, cookies, tarts, brownies, macaroons & rolls

also, all four flavours of bbq sauce are back
sesame ginger
maple bourbon
honey mustard
chipotle lime

i have a sneaking suspicion i forgot something... just come visit me, i'm sure i will me more lucid in the morning.
oh yeah, if you come on sunday i will have chicken & shiitake gyozas & mini thai-inspired crab cakes, but not until sunday, too sleepy right now.
ok, think that's it.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

the saga of an epic steak

steak & sweatpant sunday has become a tradition around here. after a busy weekend at the market, complete with early morning meringue making & late night last minute baking, i'm generally pretty tired. nothing recharges me like an epic steak from getaway farm. i now have a standing order for their most gigantic top sirloin each week - i think they get a kick out of how much i can eat too!
this is what they set aside for me this week.

i know i technically shouldn't be eating this much meat in one serving, but i only eat meat once a week so i figure it all comes out in the wash.
now i've said this before, but top sirloins are great. my culinary background is in fine dining so all i'm used to dealing with are tenderloins, striploins & ribeyes. in my opinion, tenderloin doesn't have much flavour, striploins are great but pricey & ribeyes are rad but the fat to meat ratio is a little high for me these days. when the lads suggested i try this cut, i was pleasantly surprised with the combo of flavour, tenderness and price - it's a keeper.
i like my steaks grilled - the charred exterior, the smokey flavour, the absence of a smoke-filled kitchen or a pan to wash up... 
this is where i do my grilling:

it made the trip home with me from ottawa. i can't find the top rack and one of the doors is broken, but it still works great and i love it. that's the thing with bbq's, you have to get to know your grill - find its hot spots, learn how it holds the heat, figure out how to connect the side burner (still working on that one...). this one also has cast iron grills. if you are in the market for a grill this summer, invest in cast iron. just like the best way to cook a steak indoors is in a well seasoned cast iron pan, the best way to cook one outside is on a well seasoned cast iron grill. 
ok back to steak, i don't do anything too fancy. with a nice cut of meat you don't need a marinade or fancy dry rub - sometimes i make homemade montreal steak spice, but most of the time i can't be bothered when i'm just cooking for myself. the tried & true combo of salt & pepper works just fine. 
preheat the grill to max & give it time to heat up. make sure to work on clean grills - any icky remnants increase the likelihood of 'stickage' and i often squirt veg oil on a kitchen rag and give the grills a quick wipe down - don't go squirting the oil right on the grill unless, of course, you don't enjoy having eyebrows.
then slap that baby on the grill - if you don't hear a nice sizzle you didn't preheat long enough.

to get nice, cross-hatched, char marks place it on the grill like this. wait a minute & then rotate it a quarter turn. like this:

don't fiddle with it. i find that people always stress & freak out when bbq'ing. just chill out. your meat will essentially tell you when it is ready to be flipped. once you have developed a nice caramelized crust to the meat, it will naturally release from the grills and be super easy to flip. if your steak is stuck, give it another minute & try again.
another question people always ask is: 'lid up or down?" i pretty much always go lid down. i also live in perhaps the windiest place on earth, so having the lid open for any length of time just wicks away all of the heat. if you're grilling shrimp or scallops on a hot, sunny day with no wind, go ahead, leave the lid up, but otherwise i'd keep it down.
ok, so once a couple more minutes have elapsed, it's time to flip that steak over.

yahooo!!! that looks pretty darn good, if i do say so myself.
repeat the same technique on the other side and then take it off the grill. let it rest for a few minutes so the juices redistribute instead of spilling all over your plate. people are often confused about resting meat. just think of it this way - if you were placed on a screaming hot grill, you'd probably freak out & contract and try to shrink away from the heat as much as possible. a steak does the same thing; all of the juices rush to the centre of the meat. by letting it chill out for a few minutes after it's off the heat, the juices will go back to their original position and create a much more even distribution of flavour and tenderness in the finished product. if you're worried about losing all of the heat, just tent is with a little foil, you'd be surprised how much heat it retains.
today i will be attempting planked salmon & smoked pork shoulder in the wind and rain... this should be interesting... i'll try to document it, but also don't fancy a water-logged iphone...