Friday, 25 January 2013

Polenta with Sauteed Mushroom

Polenta is an ancient traditional Italian peasant dish, made in huge quantities at a wood burning fire place in a blackened suspended cauldron to feed large growing families.
It is a dish where grandmothers stood hovering over this large bubbling pot, while the firewood crackled near their long black skirts, stirring continuously so that the precious grains wouldn't stick to the bottom and burn!
After an hour of arduous stirring with a large wooden paddle, the molten hot polenta would have been additionally seasoned at the end of its cooking time with salty, freshly grated Parmegiano Reggiano, lending a creamy and nutty flavour to the polenta, amalgamating all of the ingredients together into a thick porridge. The fragrance emitting from the kitchen, to the outside of the home would have let the neighbour's know what was being cooked for lunch. 
When the polenta was ready and all of the grains were plump and soft, it would have been scooped out and spread into a Shiva, a 2'x16" long wooden platter with edges, to prevent the porridge from spilling over the sides.
The platter was so long and wide that a multitude of toppings could be spread on top!  My favourite would have been a long slow cooking tomato sauce with chunks of stewing beef, pork ribs, and mushrooms. A generous sprinkling of Parmegiano Reggiano cheese topped the fragrant meat sauce. It was and still is indispensable in an Italian household for adding flavour and intensity. 
Everyone would gather around with their forks and dig into their "spot".
This is how the family would have shared this type of meal many years ago. Leftovers if there were any, would have stayed in the Shiva and anyone walking by could scoop out a portion straight into their mouths!
You knew it was a special occasion because the cooking and fire burning was such an arduous task that this dish was only made perhaps once a month on a Sunday, the day of rest!
These memories are still so vivid to me as if they happened yesterday. As I write I can still see my  grandmother stooped over the blackened pot stirring in circular motions as her skirt flitted back and forth with her movement. The sparks of the fire threateningly close by her worn and well loved apron!

The polenta (corn) grains are now much more refined and easier to cook and technology has enabled us to speed the process making magnificent meals within minutes instead of hours. I can make polenta any night of the week, using a multitude of toppings!
This dish is easy, fast, fragrant and nutritious!
On a cold winters night it is my comfort food.

1 cup medium grind yellow corn meal
750ml chicken or vegetable broth
2 tbsp Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated
1  1/2 cup chopped button mushrooms
2 cup kale, blanched for 5 min.,cooled (or rapini, swiss chard)
2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 red peper, seeded and diced
salt & pepper to taste
Stir the corn meal into the broth while the broth is cold. Place pot on a burner and turn onto high heat. Continue stirring until broth almost comes to a boil.  Meanwhile place another pot slightly bigger than the polenta pot on another burner.  Fill with 1-2" of water, bring water to a boil.

When the polenta starts to thicken place it inside the larger boiling pot of water creating a double boiler. Immediately reduce the heat to a simmer.  Cover the top pot to hold in steam and continue cooking stirring occasionally for 30-40min.   This double boiler method prevents any lumps from occurring.  Add lots of cheese then taste for seasoning. Stir and keep warm until ready to serve. Approximately 10minutes before the polenta is ready begin to make the topping.


Drizzle 2 tbsp oil into a preheated med. skillet and drop in mushrooms and peppers.  Add a pinch of salt and pepper, to taste. This begins to let mushrooms release moisture creating a sauce.  Add garlic, cook for 1 min on med. heat to golden.  Add greens and raise the heat to med. high (#6).  Stir while cooking until some moisture evaporates 5-10min.  Turn off heat when greens are cooked tender and there is some moisture still in the pan to top the polenta.  If it dries out add a small amount of wine, broth or water.

Spoon out a cup of polenta onto a plate and top with sauce.

Serves 3-4 people side dish or 2 as a main

Enjoy with love

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Puff Pastry Danish Ring
Puff Pastry Danish Ring
Who wants a piece of this?
What a Tasty Delight!
Wouldn't this be great with a Cuppa Joe in this cold weather ?
Well this dessert came about because I borrowed a book from the library which had many delicious looking doughs from a Jewish Bakery.
I have seen many recipes for makingpuff pastry from scratch and quite frankly was not interested in trying to replicate them. Simply because I didn't believe it was that easy and was sure it was quite time consuming.
Why bother when I could buy it right?
This recipe was huge so even though it was some what time consuming gave me 3 large portions of dough so I could freeze it!
Each portion was literally double what I buy in the store.  WIN WIN
So, the first portion I did not freeze but made fruit filled pockets and they were a hit, but like many doughs I can taste an after taste.
The 2nd dough I defrosted the night before in my fridge and no after taste! Success! However I still think it is time consuming so I suggest you try this recipe with bought puff pastry and you can still have the same elegant dessert with less fuss. If you still want to try the dough I will send the recipe to you!
But here is the filling! Easy Peasy
1 pkg. puff pastry, defrosted in fridge
1/4 cup softened butter or margarine
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp instant coffee granules
1 cup mixed dried fruit (raisins, currents, apricots,  cranberries, blueberries, dried cherries or candied citrus peel)
2 tbsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp each all spice, ginger, nutmeg
1 cup toasted chopped nuts (almond, walnut, hazelnuts, pistachio)
milk or egg wash for brushing
sugar: coarse or fine

 Place lightly floured dough between 2 sheets of wax paper approx. 18" long. Roll out dough using a wooden rolling pin to approx. 12" x 16" rectangle. Why wood? a heavy marble rolling pin will squish the dough too much and you will not get a nice "puff".
As you roll, frequently peel the wax paper and flip the whole pkg and peel the bottom sheet as well.  Why? This will prevent the dough sticking to the paper and it will continue to stretch it to desired size.
When dough has been rolled to desired length, peel off both sheets flipping one after another and remove the top wax sheet. Why? When rolling the dough to shape into a log it will roll without sticking.
With a spatula spread the shortening evenly onto the dough within 2" on all sides.  Sprinkle on sugars, coffee, spices, then dried fruit ending with the nuts. 
Experiment, use whatever you have in the pantry. Fresh fruit would be great too.  Just don't over do it or the filling will ooze out.
Starting with the wide end towards you, using the wax paper to roll. Lift and tightly roll the pastry away from you. Take the time to tighten the roll using the wax paper. Don't get it stuck in the roll!
Continue rolling and tightening with the wax paper so the warmth of your hands doesn't heat the dough. Roll and pinch the edges. Using the wax paper, roll the dough into a cylinder and twist the edges and at this point it can be frozen ahead of time or...
refrigerate for 1 hr and up to 2 days. 
Remove from wax paper and place on an ungreased baking sheet, seam side down.
Shape into a circle pinching edges together tightly. This will not be perfect.
Cut 2" slashes into the dough leaving 1" from centre . Do not go through the the other side. See picture. Gently slide the edges out slightly so you create a spiral.
Brush the top of the dough with milk or some egg wash and sprinkle with sugar.
Bake in a preheated 350F until golden for approx. 40min.
Enjoy with love.

Bacon & Cheese Pie

Bacon & Cheese Pie

Who says Real Men Don't eat Quiche!
This was a quick dish full of protein and I was able to hide the veggies inside a moist and filling ricotta and turkey bacon pie.
This dish would be great for a lazy Sunday brunch and can be eaten hot or room temperature. 
Add a salad and you have a complete meal!

1 pie crust or puff pastry rolled out and shaped into a pie plate
2 tbsp EVOO
5 slices bacon, chopped (I used Turkey bacon to cut calories)
2 cups Cookin Greens (Athletes Mix)
3 cloves garlic, peeled chopped
1 tsp red pepper flakes
4 extra large eggs
1 300g tub ricotta cheese
1 tsp each salt & pepper
2 tbsp parmesan cheese
Topping: 2 tbsp seasoned bread crumbs + 1 tbsp parmesan, mixed together and set aside.

In a large skillet heat oil on med. high heat.  Add garlic and pepper flakes, cook until golden in colour.

Add the bacon and cook until browned but not crisp.  Add the greens, salt & pepper and stir, cooking for 5 minutes. Remove from burner and allow to cool to room temperature, while preparing other filling ingredients.

In a med. size bowl using a fork, blend eggs, ricotta and parmesan.  Scrape this mixture into the pan with the greens and stir to mix together thoroughly. Taste for seasoning.

Pour this mixture into the prepared pie shell and sprinkle the topping over the filling evenly. 

*At this point the pie can be frozen without cooking or filling can be make a day ahead and stored in refrigerator before pouring into unbaked pie shell*

Bake in a preheated 350F for 35-45 min until crust is golden and centre does not jiggle.

Allow to rest 5-10min before cutting into wedges.

Serves 6-8 people.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Carrot Cake with Nutella Icing

Cinnamon Coffee Hazelnut Streusel

Sometimes you want dessert but you don't have the time or desire to make it from scratch.  Boxed cake mixes are fool proof and you can adapt them to your needs.  This Streusel Carrot cake is one of those exceptions. I have made it in two variations from the same mix.  You choose!
Mini sizes are great for parties and they are comforting and look like restaurant presentations.  This Retro Espresso cup was my late mother in laws cups that are oven proof!
1 box spice cake (Duncan Hines)
1 large carrot grated
3 extra large eggs
1/2 lemon zested & juiced
1/3 cup of water
250 container of sour cream
1/3 cup flour
3 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp each cinnamon & coffee granules
1/4 cup chopped hazelnuts
 In a small bowl mix ingredients all together, set aside.
Nutella Frosting:
1 jar nutella
1 brick of cream cheese
Blend ingredients together and set aside. Extra sugar can be added, if not sweet enough for your tastes.
Place carrot in a large mixer bowl. Cut pkg of cake mix and pour over carrots.  Turn machine on and blend together.  Add eggs, sour cream, water, lemon juice & zest.  Blend together, if the mixture is too thick add a small amount of water.  Mixer should be thick.  Scrape the bowl making sure to incorporate all of the dry ingredients.
Pour into a greased and floured 9"x13"x 3" rectangle baking pan.  Sprinkle on streusel topping, (you can pour mixture 1/2 way up any small individual cups) evenly to cover top.
Bake at 350F for 40-45 min or until toothpick piercing the cake comes out clean. 
Frost if desired or dollop of frosting over streusel or frozen yogourt and drizzled with caramel!
Enjoy with love!

Pesto Spaghetti Squash

Pesto Spaghetti Squash w Toasted Asparagus
1 whole spaghetti squash, cut lengthwise
1 bunch of washed asparagus, ends snapped off
1/2 cup EVOO
1 garlic clove, minced
3-4 tbsp chopped basil
2 tbsp chopped parsley
1/2 lemon zested, & juiced
salt & pepper to taste
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup toasted almonds
Microwave Method:
Place squash cut side down on a microwaveable dish add some water (1/3 cup) to the plate.
Microwave on high for approx. 10 min checking every 5 min until it is done.  (When you can pierce flesh easily with a fork/knife).
Oven Method:
Place on baking sheet in a  375F oven for 30min until flesh can be pierced easily with a fork/knife.
Cut asparagus into 2"-3" pieces and place in a skillet with some water to steam for 2-3 min. Drain and set aside. It should be crispy to bite.
Meanwhile mix all remaining ingredients together and allow to marinate. This can be stored for up to a week in the refrigerator. The olive oil will become solid and you can either use it solid or bring to room temperature.
Using a fork shred the squash to remove the fine strands and place in a bowl large enough to hold and mix the squash.  Add most of the dressing and all of the Parmesan cheese. Toss to coat add extra salt & pepper.  Place decoratively on a platter, mounding in the centre.
Dress the asparagus with the remaining asparagus and taste for seasonings. Place around the squash as in the picture. 
Sprinkle toasted almonds over all of the vegetables.
Enjoy with love!