Category Archives: carrots

Match Point Carrot Cake for Thanksgiving


Don’t leave this cake unattended at your party because it will disappear in seconds and you won’t even notice that. Yep, that’s how good it is! Rather, keep it in the fridge until last minute to actually hear those OHHH and AHHH from your guests (it will still disappear, but at least you get to collect some kudos). Though the title for this recipe makes it sound as if we were going to re-watch Hitchcock’s ‘Strangers on a Train’, or Allen’s ‘Match Point’, or have some sort of tennis tournament in between, it’s really just to show how we came to the idea of this dessert and how it became such a winning recipe for our Thanksgiving table. With the Riesling wine jelly glaze and decadent salted maple caramel sauce, the take on a traditional Swiss cake has never been tastier.
This year we didn’t have to really cast for a Thanksgiving dessert. The idea landed on our kitchen counter along with the mountain of fresh carrot juice pulp leftovers during our Saturday breakfast. What to do with all this goodness? We didn’t want to send it to the compost and were determined to make some use of the fresh majestically orange fiber. 
Carrot cake came as a natural answer (you can use mince grated carrot in place of the pulp if you want). We recycled carrot juice pulp before just by mixing it with nuts, maple syrup, raisins and spice and pressing the mix into the bundt pan to have a no-bake healthy (gluten, dairy and eggs-free) dessert or snack upon refrigerating it overnight. But this time we wanted something special, after all, it’s Thanksgiving. Classic Swiss carrot cake romantically named Rublitortesounded like something approaching that healthy vegan cake (as much as any traditional dessert can be healthy): almonds, carrots, almost no flour or butter… and it gets better with time, so making it few days before Thanksgiving was a smart idea.

Applying the white wine jelly glaze over instead of the classic apricot jelly was a grown up step up in the finishing touch (microwave jelly in increments for 30 seconds and stir each time until almost pourable consistency). When it came to the traditional lemon-sugar glaze however, I wasn’t satisfied: it tasted too 70ies and lacked ‘personality’ in terms of a great cake’s buttery touch.  We expertly played with cream cheese (first), Mascarpone (second) and whipped cream (third) on a side – they were all good, yet they still didn’t taste like perfect match. And then, BOOM-BAM, the idea of the salty caramel sauce dressing has arrived and made a real hinge point of the recipe. 

I used the fellow-blogger recipe of Ree Drummond, which I made before and loved, except I added some maple syrup to it (feel free to use brown sugar only (1 full cup) as her recipe stipulates) for an extra flavor. And that was where the magic happened: the finger-licking salted caramel sauce has turned the traditional carrot cake into a gourmand-endorsed upscale modern confection we were exactly looking for. 
Our Thanksgiving Monday was workaholic-industrious, having approximately this kind of beat.
The long week-end is always extremely vital for the seasonal backyard works. Seven of us were crazy-busy cleaning-up the garden before frost.  Removing dead leaves, needles and rotten apples; cutting perennials, branches and bushes; mulching; planting spring bulbs and new perennials; transplanting; patching the grass; working out compost, making barn repairs… (I’m already tired just listing this). 
Finally, we also had to fell another tree with almost bare hands and it was tough and dangerous (the tree was close to power lines). Guess what, this morning they gave a killer app on the radio, that cutting or pruning trees that grow close to the voltage lines can be done for free by Hydro Quebec http://www.hydroquebec.com/trees/entretien.html– WHOA! You live, you learn (and you are welcome) – that gives a hope next time we will be less exhausted. Everyone was dog-tired, even the doggie…
Kicking back at Thanksgiving dinner was more than well-deserved. Naturally, the dinner would not be complete without the roast turkey, succulent braised beef with gnocchi and mixed greens salad. But the carrot cake was a show stopper.  

It was euphoria inducing delicious and everyone raved about salted caramel applied to it (match point it was). Later that night we crashed on the sofas determined to re-watch one of the above-mentioned movies, but fell asleep as soon as our heads touched the pillows…

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One year ago: No Fuss Coq au Vin 
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SWISS CARROT CAKE RUBLITORTE with SALTED MAPLE CARAMEL SAUCE
Yields: 10 portions
Carrot Cake:
2 cups (275 g) raw carrot pulp, or freshly grated and firmly packed
3 cups (300 g) almond (and/or hazelnut) meal
½ lemon zest
½ cup (60 g) flour (opt for gluten free flour if wish be)
1 heaping tsp dry yeast
1 tsp cinnamon (optional)
1 ½ tsp sea salt
5 eggs, yolks and whites separated
1 ½ cup powdered sugar (187 g)
1 tbsp butter to grease the pan
2 tbsp apricot or Riesling jelly, liquefied for the glaze
1/2 cup slivered almonds for garnish, toasted
Lemon Sugar Icing: (optional)
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 cup icing sugar, sifted
1 tbsp water
Preheat the oven to 425F.
Combine carrots, nuts and zest in a bowl. Add cinnamon, flour, yeast and salt and mix.
Beat egg yolks with sugar until thick. Stir into the carrot mixture. Beat egg whites until the stiff peaks form. Gently fold the whites into carrot mixture. Do not over-mix.
Grease the 9 inch diameter spring form pan and sprinkle with flour. Shake to coat evenly. Pour batter into the pan. Bake for 50 minutes or until the knife tester comes out clean. Let cool.
Remove sides from the pan and place the cake over the wire rack that has been set over wax paper to catch the drips. Spoon the glaze over the top of the cake letting it to drip to the sides. Even out the glaze with spatula. Garnish with toasted almonds.
Refrigerate from overnight for up to 3 days in a tightly covered cake box from overnight to 3-5 days. Serve with salted maple caramel sauce.
Salted Maple Caramel Sauce:
½ cup maple syrup
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup half & half cream
4 tbsp butter
Pinch of salt
1 tbsp vanilla extract
Instructions:
Mix the maple syrup, brown sugar, cream, butter and salt in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook while whisking gently for 5-7 minutes, until it thickens. Add vanilla and cook for another minute to thicken further. Set aside. Use at the room temperature.
Adapted from: Easy Caramel Sauce by Ree Drummond, Food Network, Ranching in the Mist, 2011.

Kimchi DIY: Make Your Gut Happy


My kimchi story started about a year ago with an inspiration from my favorite Korean restaurant in Montreal. The first batch I made at home was successful and now kimchi is all the rage in our house taken with almost anything in copious amounts.  It is so umami-rich in flavor, that I firmly believe it can bring any carnivore one step closer to a vegetarian heaven. Which is why, I am so anxious to share the recipe with you! 

Korean Chili Pepper Drying
Kimchi red chili pepper & storing barrels in Korean village via Wikimedia
Kimchi is a Korean version of sauerkraut: a spicy blend of fermented cabbage, radish, Korean red chili pepper, ginger, garlic, salt and few other things. In Korea, it is traditionally served at every meal, either alone, or with rice or noodles.  A stinky mix of high-fiber, low fat, inexpensive fermented ingredients, kimchi is praised for its unique addictive flavor and its digestive health benefits. It is known to help the body fend off bacterial and viral infections and to have a strengthening effect on the circulation and digestion. The recipe is as old as Korea itself.
The major ingredient, Napa cabbage, is a good source of antioxidants and vitamin C, but when fermented it brings its power to the next level, adding probiotics and even more vitamin C.
There are endless applications of kimchi at the table. Serve it as an appetizer on its own sprinkled with roasted sesame seeds and laced with some aromatic oil, like hazelnut or walnut.
Use it as a side dish with rice, noodles, meat, fish, vegetables, etc. – my recent favorite is to put some on top of the steamy mashed potatoes. Use it as a flavor booster in soups, stews, even dumplings!
Or, use it as a better condiment in salads, sandwiches, tacos, tortillas or, our favorite street grub – HOT DOGS!
I wanted to write this post back in 2013 already, but now I’m glad I didn’t because I recently run into this amazing Kimchi Chronicles documentary made by celebrity chefs Marja and Jean-Gorges Vongerichten and featuring a whole bunch of some inspiring takes on kimchi and other Korean food. Watch Hugh Jackman and his wife Debora Lee Furness devouring hot dogs with kimchi relish in this episode:
 

According to Marja, every Korean house has a different recipe of kimchi, but since kimchi is more of a pickling technique, you can go way beyond just Napa cabbage. I like to add sliced daikon and carrots and sometimes cucumbers. As for the fermenting mix booster, I stay with fish sauce, Asian pear and Korean red chili pepper (you can find it in Asian stores) mix with ginger and garlic.  Please use these images to help you go through the simple steps of kimchi preparation in the recipe below.

As for the fermentation stage, I personally prefer well-fermented kimchi (after a least few weeks in a fridge, I find it tastes best within three-four weeks). FYI, one study about fermentation has shown that people who ate fermented kimchi for one month lost more weight and demonstrated improvements in total cholesterol and blood pressure, compared to those who ate fresh kimchi.
That’s it for now and Gun Bai to all, which means Cheers in Korean!
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One Year Ago: Veal Shoulder Blade Roast with Porcini;
                         Veal Canapes Appetizer;
                         Cuban Ropa Vieja Pulled Veal or Beef

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KIMCHI RECIPE
Kimchi ingredients:
2 medium head Napa (Chinese cabbage), chopped in chunks
2 carrots, thinly sliced
1 medium daikon, thinly sliced
1 English cucumber, chopped (optional)
2 tbsp. toasted sesame seeds
180 g coarse salt
Water for soaking
Kimchi sauce:
6 tbsp. fish sauce
4 tbsp. Korean red pepper powder
1 small onion
4 cloves of garlic
1 oriental pear, chopped
½ apple chopped
1 tbsp. coarse salt
1 tsp. sugar (optional)
2 (2 cm) slices of ginger
2 tbsp. sesame oil
4 spring onions, chopped
3 wide mouth glass jars (1.7 liters+)
Instructions:
Chop the Napa cabbage into chunks; slice the daikon, carrots and cucumbers. Soak them covered with water with about 180 g of salt added to it for 5-6 hours or overnight.
Make Kimchi sauce: blend the ingredients; add spring onions to the paste mixture upon blending. Keep it in the fridge until ready to use.
Drain the cabbage mix and rinse with cold running water to remove excess salt, transfer to a tray and mix by hand with the Kimchi sauce until all covered in sauce.
Pack the glass jars with the mix up to ¾ of each jar pressing well. Add any liquid that accumulated during the mixing process – it will help the brine to develop faster. Close tightly with the lid and let stand at room temperature for 12-24 hours to marinate. 
Transfer to the fridge for a storage. The flavors will continue to develop.  You can start eating kimchi within 2-3 days, but it is best when fermented for at least few weeks. Store kimchi jars in the refrigerator for up to 3 months. Use clean utensils to take out a little each time.

Miracle Food: Sautéed Leeks & Carrots

If you like leeks and carrots like I do, you will be amazed how delicious, yet simple this gluten free vegetarian dish/side course is. 

It has been a keeper for me ever since I discovered the recipe in Mireille Guiliano’s book ‘’French Women Don’t Get Fat’’ (in which the queen of Veuve Clicquot shares her tips how to eat, enjoy food and stay slim French way). She calls leek a ‘’miracle food’’ for low calories, tons of fiber, vitamins and, most importantly, the ability to detoxify and remove excess water from the body (mild diuretic). This particular dish is excellent in combination with many other vegetarian dishes, as well as pastas, rice and, especially fish dishes. Great when hot or cold, travels well, can be prepared well in advance and stored in a fridge for a few days.  
I personally love to sprinkle it with some roasted almonds or shaved sharp cheese and pair this dish with grilled sardines or potato-crusted salmon. If you have any leftovers, you can turn them into a savory frittata, risotto, or even soup (with your choice of veggies added). Or just follow Mrs. Guiliano’s tip and have them on the toasted crusty bread drizzled with some good olive oil and topped with Swiss or Cheddar (warm up until the cheese is melted). There is another leek dish Mireille Guiliano is famous for: the ‘’drinking leek broth’’ for a healthy week-end fasting and weight control. Great to expel uric acid and cholesterol, however, totally distasteful compared to this one.



Try to make it for a change and it will hook you fast (unless you are the leeks hater). Now that farmer’s markets and groceries are abundant in both, fresh leeks and carrots, it’s time to enjoy what we call eat seasonal, eat local and give yourself some boost of energy.

The recipe takes just few ingredients (carrots, leeks, shallots, olive oil and butter) and about 15 minutes of your time. I added a bit of lemon juice and a pinch of dry oregano for an extra layer of taste, otherwise the recipe has been unaltered.

SAUTEED LEEKS & CARROTS
Yields: 4 servings.
Ingredients:
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
6 oz carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
1/3 cup of water
10 oz leeks, white parts only, thinly sliced
2 tbsp shallots, minced
1 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed (optional)
1 pinch of dry oregano (optional)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Instructions:
Warm 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet. Add carrots, and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add 1/3 cup of water, lemon juice and herbs (if using), season with salt and pepper, and stir in the leeks and shallots. Cover and cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender. Add the butter, and cook for a minute or two more.

Adapted from: ‘’French Women Don’t Get Fat: The Secret of Eating for Pleasure’’ by Mireille Guiliano, Vintage, October 2007

The Muffuletta: Best Travel Sandwich Idea

The Italian week begins today in our city and I’m sure hundreds of ‘sexy backs’ will be lining up soon for that ”screw-the-diet-it’s-once-a-year-only” sfogliatelle testing, La Traviata and Fellini’s film festival. Which gives me an idea that it’s time to reveal my favorite Italian-American travel companion originating from New Orleans – the Muffuletta sandwich and its star ingredient: the olive salad. The ingenious mix arguably created by Salvatore Lupo, the Sicilian deli store keeper, a century ago: crushed olives, minced garlic, chopped giardiniera (a mixture of pickled vegetables), celery, carrots, parsley, capers and spices soaked in the olive oil is exactly what makes this anti-Zen sandwich so irresistible. The classic Muffuletta is made with seeded Italian bread split and layered with this salad, spicy Capicola ham, Genoa salami, Mortadella and layers of thinly sliced Provolone, Mozzarella or Swiss cheeses. This time I made it with baguette, but a softer & spongier bread variety, such as, focaccia (feel free to use gluten-free focaccia) would be a much better choice. Unless you can find or bake a true Sicilian sesame bread as the staple recipe requires.

Maria Lupo Tusa, daughter of the Central Grocery’s founder, tells her story of the sandwich in her 1980 cookbook, ”Marie’s Melting Pot”: ”One of the most interesting aspects of my father’s grocery is his unique creation, the muffuletta sandwich. The muffuletta was created in the early 1900’s when the Farmers’ Market was in the same area as the grocery. Most of the farmers who sold their produce there were Sicilian. Every day they used to come of my father’s grocery for lunch. They would order some salami, some ham, a piece of cheese, a little olive salad, and either long braided Italian bread or round muffuletta bread. In typical Sicilian fashion they ate everything separately. The farmers used to sit on crates or barrels and try to eat while precariously balancing their small trays covered with food on their knees. My father suggested that it would be easier for the farmers if he cut the bread and put everything on it like a sandwich; even if it was not typical Sicilian fashion. He experimented and found that the thicker, braided Italian bread was too hard to bite but the softer round muffuletta was ideal for his sandwich. In very little time, the farmers came to merely ask for a “muffuletta” for their lunch.”
Salvatore Lupo in Central Grocery (top), Muffuletta sandwich now & New Orleans of That Time via Wikimedia Commons
The Muffuletta sandwich has been our travel hubby for a few years now and I can hardly think of any better fit for a road or a long-haul flight. I guess whatever was the lowdownthat pushed the airlines to stop serving meals on domestic flights, it was for good since it made the hungry travelers experiment with the road snacks and seek for some good food alternatives that can actually enhance the positive side of the travel. Now, why Muffuletta sandwich? Why not Cuban or Reuben or Philly? Three reasons: a) because of that garlic-spiked olive salad layer and all kind of savoury Italian deli cold cuts and cheese in it; b) because it travels well (without mayo or mustard in it) – the bread’s taste actually gets better when soaked with the olive spread; c) because it is huge, so it’s great for sharing.
Here is a scientific explanation why: the research shows that our taste buds become almost insensitive during the flight. At 35,000 feet altitude a good portion of our taste buds switch off and most of the neutral food start tasting the same. However, since our tongue has between 2000 and 8000 of these buds, we can still recognize the five taste elements, including: salty, sour, bitter, sweet and umami. And although our perceptions become little different, the tiny tongue receptors will be able to catch the Muffuletta’s goodness. Not to mention the smell: just bring it on a plane, unwrap it and you will see how many pairs of eyes will ignite around you once the coach class fills up with the bouquet of an Italian market. And how timely it will feel when surviving a storm, or a delayed flight, or an exhausting road trip! For a split second, you might actually agree that it might be the best sandwich in America…
If possible, make the olive salad few days in advance to let the flavours marry in the fridge. Chop fresh celery, carrots and olives coarsely. Mix them with drained and coarsely chopped marinated (giardiniera) ingredients. Add garlic and olive oil and mix well. Pack into a clean (preferably sterilized) jar and let the salad sit in the fridge until you are ready to make a sandwich. My tip: add a spoon of the fish sauce or minced anchovies to have that BRINY state jumpstart in your olive salad (you will taste the difference). Tip No. 2: if using baguette or other crusted bread, cut out a slight niche for a salad as seen in the image. Spread some olive oil on both halves of the bread, then layer one half with the olive salad, the cold cuts and the cheese. Here is a good 1-minute video instruction from chef Paul in New Orleans. 
The sandwich gets better the longer it sits, so wrap it in a wax or butcher paper that will keep moisture inside and allow the olive salad to marinate the bread in the sandwich for at least few hours in the fridge.
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THE MUFFULETTA OLIVE SALAD
Ingredients:
2 cups pimento stuffed green olives, well drained and crushed
1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives, well drained and crushed
1 cup jar pickled cauliflower/or mix w/banana peppers, drained and coarsely chopped
1 cup jar pickled pepperoncini, drained and left whole
1/2 cup cocktail onions, drained and coarsely chopped
1/3 cup jar pickled capers, drained
1 cup finely chopped carrots
1 cup finely chopped celery
1/2 head fresh garlic peeled and minced
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fish sauce or 2 minced anchovies (optional)
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Instructions:
Combine all ingredients in a large and mix well. Place in a large jar and store tightly covered in refrigerator. Allow to marinate for at least 24 hours before using.
Tip: apart from Muffuletta sandwich, I successfully use this olive salad as antipasti or side dish by adding some freshly chopped carrots, celery and a splash of olive oil.
THE MUFFULETTA SANDWICH
Ingredients:
1 round loaf Italian bread or Focaccia
1/4 pound Mortadella, thinly sliced
1/4 pound spicy Capicollo, thinly sliced
1/4 pound hard Genoa salami, thinly sliced
1/4 pound Mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
1/4 pound Provolone cheese, thinly sliced
1 cup olive salad with oil
Instructions:
Split a loaf of Italian bread horizontally. Spread each half with equal parts of olive salad and oil. Place cold cuts and cheeses evenly on bottom half and cover with top half of bread. Cut in quarters. Enjoy!
Adapted from the combination of my old notes on authentic Muffuletta from New Orleans and Saveur.com

Gingery Shiitake Chicken Noodle Soup

The Gingery Shiitake Chicken Noodle Soup is surprisingly delicious and refreshing for a healing food to combat common cold or flu. It is much lighter than a classic chicken noodle (both, in taste and calories), yet is even stronger nutritionally than a traditional take. Each ingredient in this soup is carrying some anti-cold property: homemade chicken broth is a famous immunity booster; garlic, onion, ginger and thyme induce sinus-clearing and anti-infection action; while carrots, edamame, parsley, cilantro and lime have vitamins A, C, E, K, B6, Omega 3 & 6 fatty acids and phytochemicals that combat infection and strengthen the immunity, and on and on with a good stuff…

This post may sound a bit academic, because, in fact, I am writing it in preparation of my Nutrition for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention course assignment called “Healing Foods, A Multicultural Potluck”. In this assignment, I am supposed to create a dish that represents the ability to prevent disease or promote health in my food culture, do an independent nutrient analysis, provide visual documentation of the final product, and share the health-related significance that this cultural dish has. I won’t bother you with all the steps of the assignment, but will just say that I initially selected homemade chicken noodle (as it is considered to be one of the best remedies for cold and flu in North America). However, I also wanted to try something new, so I selected a recipe that is based on homemade chicken broth, but has a Japanese twist on the ingredients in a tribute to a fusion cuisine, which is getting so popular these days. Based on low-calories Japanese food staple, soba noodles, edamame beans, shiitake and ginger might not be classic Canadian ingredients, but they do bring traditional chicken noodle soup to a whole new level nutritionally.

For the recipe and nutritional analysis I did an adaptation of “Gingery Chicken Noodle Soup” from Mayo Clinic.I added 1/2 oz (14 g) of sliced dried shiitake mushrooms in my version of the recipe for an extra layer of taste and to supplement the dish with some extra fiber and minerals. I also added a pinch of chilli pepper to the soup and some lime wedges to squeeze into the final product. The result is – simply amazing! A steaming bowl of heavenly light soup with a strong healing power.

GINGERY SHIITAKE CHICKEN NOODLE SOUP
Serves 8
Ingredients:
1/2 oz (14 g) dried Shiitake mushrooms
3 ounces dried Soba noodles
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 tablespoon peeled and minced fresh ginger
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts, chopped
1 cup shelled edamame
1 cup plain soy milk (soya milk)
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro (fresh coriander)
pinch of chilli pepper flakes
1 lime cut into 8 wedges to garnish
Instructions:
Reconstitute shiitake mushrooms by soaking them in hot water for 15 minutes.
Bring a saucepan 3/4 full of water to a boil, add the noodles and cook until just tender, about 5 minutes. Drain and set aside until needed.
In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until soft and translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the ginger and carrot and saute for 1 minute. Add the garlic and saute for 30 seconds; don’t let the garlic brown. Add the homemade chicken stock (see below recipe) and soy sauce and bring to a boil. Add the chicken, shiitake mushrooms, edamame and chilli flakes and return to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the chicken is cooked and the edamame are tender, about 4 minutes. Add the soba noodles and soy milk and cook until heated through; don’t let boil.
Remove pan from the heat and stir in the cilantro. Ladle soup into warmed individual bowls and serve immediately with a lime wedge on a side.
Adapted from Gingery Chicken Noodle Soup recipe at www.mayoclinic.com