Saturday, February 19, 2011

A Great Vegetarian Soup for Hangovers!

"Hangovers. Because no good time goes unpunished."-A demotivational poster I have up on my wall at work. I spent most of today in pajamas with bangs wild & askew recovering from a great night with really good friends yesterday. It's just too bad that 3 pitchers of beer, too many to count amaretto & cokes and porn star shots will likely cause an internal revolution, because it is fun to do at the time!

I found the idea for this soup from a cookbook by a fabulous Canadian food personality, Lucy Waverman-the book was a gift from my mother-in-law last Christmas. I love this book because she shows her readers how to use unique items like fiddleheads in awesome ways. I'm hoping to try her recipe for cherry preserves in the future. The recipe I tried was her Spiced Cauliflower Soup with Spinach but her version calls for chicken broth, and I only had vegetable on hand. Also, I didn't season with salt or pepper-it didn't need it according to my tastebuds! The soup comes out a vibrant green color, a smooth, rich texture and full of spicy flavor. Here's my version:

1 head cauliflower, broken up into small florets
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp fennel seeds, ground
1L vegetable broth
1 bunch spinach
1 tbsp lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 450F
2. Toss cauliflower with olive oil, cumin, curry powder, coriander and fennel seeds in a bowl. Pour into shallow roasting pan and roast for 20 minutes, turning once.
3. Bring veggie broth to a boil in a pot and add roasted cauliflower. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
4. Add wilted spinach and simmer for 1 minute max, until spinach is wilted and a dark emerald green colour.
5. Puree soup and return to heat on low simmer. Add lemon juice and season to taste.

Serve with crusty bread. Serves 4.

I calculated the nutritional information on this recipe through an iPhone app that I have. It's only 82 calories as made, and I love that you can make some changes so it's even healthier-by using canola oil instead of olive oil, and water instead of the broth! It's also be very high in iron from the spinach.

My husband took a photo of it when it was finished. Here's what it looked like:

Originally we were going to pair a bottle of rose wine with this, Robert Renzoni's 2008 La Rosa, but I want my friends to try this in a couple of weeks as I believe it cured a hangover in the past, so no go for tonight. Here's the side story for that belief:

Last May my husband and I took a side trip to Temecula, as part of a trip to California for his cousin's wedding. There is a small wine region nearby. The night before our wine tour we went out for sushi and wound up staying there until the wee hours of the morning drinking sake bombs as made by the sushi chefs. And boy did we ever get sake-bombed that night! I woke up the next morning while "praying to the porcelain Gods" and we had to leave the hotel at 10am for an all-day wine tour on the Grapeline. I wasn't sure I'd even make it through the first winery, I felt so sick during the first tasting! But I found a sweet surprise in the 2nd winery we visited, Robert Renzoni. Very plain looking on the exterior, but once we got to the tasting it was apparent that their main focus is on their wines, and they sell a fantastic Marinara Sauce too! The Rose was the highlight of the tasting, as I took one sip and I felt a million times better. In fact, I was easily able to stomach all the wines we tried from that point onwards! I ended up buying 2 bottles and the one pictured was signed by one of the owners, Fred Renzoni. He was so friendly and passionate about what he does. Lucky man.

After eating the soup I now feel so much better, just mostly lazy and tired, he he. If you're still reading, I'll end this entry with a video my husband took of us about to do a sake bomb on his phone. The girl knocking the sake into the beers with the samurai sword is me! If you're still reading this, check it out!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The V Day Menu Pt 2: How it Turned Out

Now that I am finally fully digested, it's time to write. I spent my entire weekend eating & drinking my way through the city and my cookbooks. Although I'm sure my waistline isn't happy with me, my taste buds sure are!

Saturday afternoon my husband and I went down to the "deep south" to Willow Park Wines & Spirits for a Port, Cheese & Chocolate Tasting. Tickets were only $20pp and I was fortunate enough to score 2 of the last 4 available. We got there early, expecting a line up and found no such line, but it was free samples day! After tastes of Chocolate Port, the new Mumm Napa Rose, Ukranian vodka (so smooth!) and even PEI "Straight Shine" (similar to moonshine but not quite-this version is legal to sell), I was almost stumbling into the tasting room when 2pm came! We found a seat at the end of the first row and these are the goodies we found on the table:

I was happy that I didn't eat lunch before this! The first pairing was a White Port with a triple cream Brie & White Chocolate-looked like the kind you melt and cook with. The Blood Orange rind inside the glass of port really brought out the citrus flavor and was nice. Then there was a 10 year Tawny Port paired with a Comte cheese (Matt really enjoyed the cheese) and Sea Salt Caramel w/almond & dark chocolate. At this point I'm thinking that I'm on Cloud 9, almost oblivious from the way all the flavors worked together! 3rd pairing was Warres Warrior Port (ruby) paired with a Blue Stilton in a shell of dark chocolate tart topped with port jelly. This was so amazing, I am now on the blue cheese wagon-I hated it before Saturday! And finally, the last taste pairing: St. Germain Liqueur paired with a Scottish Chevre Cheddar (just like Goat's cheese) and a candied pear with 38% milk chocolate. The St. Germain is an elderflower liqueur and the flowers are found in the Swiss Alps and made in Paris. According to the staff, this stuff is just about to take off with reviews being done in various media. We picked up a bottle and good thing we did: we heard there were only 2 cases left in the store! Other Port tasters left with bottles as well. The flavor is very light, very sweet, and we also got to try it mixed with Champagne. I'll be picking up some bubbly after work and drinking that tomorrow night! Here's a pic of the bottle:

After that we headed to the Keg for a steak dinner, using up gift cards we got from Christmas. We ate so much! I ended up with a "food hangover" and didn't sleep well that night.

And now, Sunday-my attempt at a spicy 3 course meal. I did exactly the menu I blogged about before and started the app, the Buffalo Chicken Bites, at 1:30pm to allow for a 4 hour cooking time on low. The chicken came out slightly overcooked I thought, but the sauce was robust and spicy (I added extra hot sauce to the mix and used beef broth instead of chicken-had to use it up) and Matt ended up dipping his bites into extra sauce!

I started the bread at 5:30pm - a cheddar herb bread. Although I followed the recipe exactly, it didn't rise as much as I thought it might and turned out more like a soft biscotti in size. Taste wise, it was a little dry, but was a great off-set to the heat of the chili.

Which brings us to the pork chili! I ended up making a last minute change: I can't call it Chipotle chili because I didn't use chipotle peppers-used regular hot chilis instead. I followed the recipe exactly as is and it turned out great-very rustic, flavorful and packed a good deal of heat too!

The wine pairing stayed the same as mentioned before, only I couldn't find a 2007 Sumac Ridge Gewurz anywhere-I had to settle for the younger 2009 version. The sweetness of the wine paired well with the heat of the buffalo chicken and the chili, but I thought it went best with the dessert...

Which leads me to my favorite course of the night! I made a spiced chocolate cake which was nice and moist, but the icing on the cake was the best part! I decided to get inventive for the frosting and here's the recipe-I call it "slowburn sauce"

1. Melt 3 squares of unsweetened chocolate in a bain marie (bowl over a pot of boiling/simmering water on the stovetop).

2. Add 2 tbsp of butter or margarine

3. Slowly add 1/3 cup icing sugar, add another tbsp of butter/margarine to bring to a good consistency, adjust to your taste

4. Add a few dashes of hot sauce to taste! I used Marie Sharp's Orange Pulp Habanero Sauce.
Stir it up!

Last but not least, frost & enjoy! Matt and I thought the sauce tastes mild at first, but wait about 10 seconds and a slow burn will rear it's hot head at the back of your throat. Loved it!!! I will definitely make this again.

So all in all our spicy Valentine's Day meal was great-and I had so much fun that I'm going to do another 3 course meal this weekend for Family Day long weekend! I don't know what the main event will be, but the feature food is cauliflower, or chou-fleur in French. And if Matt was smaller, he would be mon petit chou-fleur!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Popping (ok, pitting) Cherries

So the title isn't entirely true, I didn't exactly pit the cherries properly when making tonight's dinner. I was cutting each cherry at the pit on each side and then doing "quality control" on the remaining flesh on the pit when cutting them up for the cherry wine sauce! Hey, you gotta make sure the ingredients still work, right?

I have to admit it, I have a bad habit that I want to quit ASAP. Sometimes I buy produce and forget I have to use it up and it goes bad. I hate that I waste food, but I'm much better at using things up than I used to be. If you have any methods that work, feel free to share them! Anyways, earlier this week I found a bag of unused cherries in the fridge that I knew had a couple of days left on them. So ambitious to use them up I became that I spent one morning at work trying to find recipes that use fresh cherries-don't tell my boss! They're not that easy to find, sadly. The first one I found was a mediocre recipe for cherry muffins. I decided to try the recipe with a few changes: I used 1oz of Disaronno liqueur instead of the almond extract it called for, used whole wheat flour instead of all purpose, and I mashed up the cherries a bit to get some juice in the mix too. Although Matt says he really liked them, I thought it needed a bit more sweetness to it and found I could hardly taste the cherries, even though I left good sized chunks in the mash. Next time I'll add some cherry yogurt to it to add flavor and sweetness, and maybe increase the flour to get it to the right consistency. It's definitely worth making again.

Sometimes when surfing for recipes I find one that I feel so compelled to take on that it's hard to stop me. About $55 is what it cost me this time. I decided to try to make Lamb Chops with Cherry Red Wine Sauce & Mint, a modification from Lamb Chops with Cherry Balsamic Sauce & Mint because I didn't have balsamic vinegar on hand. I served it with broccoli & cheese sauce to put the focus on the lamb, and paired it with a bottle of 2008 Chateau de Courteillac, a red blend from Bordeaux. Bordeaux reds were recommended to be paired with the recipe. I came home this afternoon ready to take on Operation Lamb Chop (as I've cheesily pegged it).

I don't cook a lot of lamb. I don't eat a lot of lamb. I'm not necessarily for the slaughter of baby animals, but I don't mind veal about once per year - usually tasting it off Matt's plate. After spending $21 on 6 lamb chops, however, I wasn't taking this one lightly and I went long and slow with it. My chef in college would have been proud, I made sure I had my mise en place completed before starting the cooking process! Matt came home just as I was about to pan-sear the chops, and we decided to roast them as a reviewer suggested. It was great to have a 2nd set of hands around! When the cooking process was finished, we set the table and plated the food, and here is the end result:
Next was the moment of truth-tasting my effort. Would I like lamb? Did I fudge the recipe? Is Matt going to be mad if I just wasted $21 after spending thousands on a trip to France? I took a bite and thought I reacted well to the harsh, bitter taste of lamb at first. The sauce was phenomenal and paired so well with the lamb! Matt, who has ordered lamb in high-end restaurants before, thought it was flavorful and tender (in his own words). Unfortunately for me, I got to my 2nd chop and my tastebuds rejected the robust, bitter flavor. It was just too much for me I guess. I ended up giving most of my lamb to Matt, who happily gave it a home. I doubt that I will ever eat lamb again, much to Matt's protest (he literally just said it!) but I would make the sauce again, and even play with it over ice cream or for a future cheesecake-using sweet ingredients of course! Here's the link to the recipe:

And that brings us to now. I am finishing the bottle of wine, which turns out to be very easy drinking :) Ultimately, I'm glad I did it. I used up the cherries and I attempted something advanced that I viewed as a challenge, and it turned out pretty good I thought. This was day 1 of a food-filled weekend, tomorrow brings a Port tasting and a 3 course meal at the Keg, and Sunday is the day I spice things up! Here's hoping it turns out in the end!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A Tasty Twist on Bruschetta!

A couple of weeks ago a group of us went to Pulcinella's restaurant in Calgary, which specializes in authentic pizza cooked the traditional wood-fired oven way. I have been there a couple of times this season and have grown very fond of their Bruschetta Misto appetizer, great for sharing or to have all to yourself! 2 slices of the 4 you are served are done the traditional way with tomatoes, olive oil, etc. However, the other 2 slices are different, but so delicious and inventive thanks to the Executive Chef! He tops them with roasted sweet red peppers and dried ricotta instead! I actually crave this now and am trying to hold my drool in while typing in this entry! Here's a photo of the Bruschetta Misto:

If you are ever in Calgary and craving pizza, I highly recommend trying out Pulcinella's in Kensington. Check it out:

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The V-Day Menu!

Once a month I like to delve into my past by cooking my husband a 3 course meal one Sunday per month, just as if I was in the college kitchen. I do this not only because I love to cook & bake, but I also find it helps ease the transition through the Sunday doldrums and into the "case of the Mondays" by having a wine-paired dinner to look forward to at the end of the weekend. The celebration of my 30th birthday continued on January to the 29th, when Matt threw me a party for my western friends & family, and to thank him (and celebrate our love around Valentine's Day...we are cheesy, I know!) I am going to start the 2011 3-course events by adding a little more spice to our lives on Sunday, Feb 13.

The Menu:

Slow Cooked Buffalo Chicken Bites
Chipotle Pork Chili
Herbed Cheddar Bread
Mexican Chocolate Cake

The wine pairing: Sumac Ridge 2007 Gewurtz-a good wine recommendation with the chili that I found recently.

To start accumulating the ingredients for this menu, my DH & I ventured to the local market yesterday. I was tempted to pick up blue cheese to pair with the wings, but decided last minute to try them with some of the feta I already have at home. I went to pick up some Louisiana-style hot sauce and to our surprise, there was a sale on 4 bottles for $10, so we decided to start up a habanero hot sauce collection! We now have 3 different sauces, each one featuring a different coloured pepper.

Stay tuned to see how the menu turns out!