Monthly Archives: November 2014

No Bake Herbed Nut & Cheese Snowballs Recipe

It is official: the fall themes are over, the wreaths are being changed to Christmas and the Black Friday specials just zoomed themselves in. Christmas prep has just stepped into our house with these cute little coconut herb cheese balls appetizer to greet our friends in a jiffy and finally celebrate the end of the Black Friday expenses. I really needed some purifying after a long day of unnecessary shopping, so combining Boursin cheese 50/50 with minced parsley (great anti-inflammatory and tonic)) and adding some minced garlic sounded like a good idea. If you can’t find Boursin, a mix of cottage and cream cheese (in a traditional Georgian way, with addition of garlic, parsley and walnuts); or any other soft cheese of your choice (goat, sheep, etc.) make great alternatives. Tasty, light and totally unwinding, these little balls are easy, fast and delectable treat for any party (specifically, tapas party, yay!).

This appetizer was inspired by the flurry of birds swooping in unison we’ve spotted today while going shopping.  We were driving by the Richelieu river, doomed to freeze within hours, when suddenly flocks of white birds (I believe they were seagulls, although they looked like white ducks) were appearing ‘en masse’ simultaneously from East and West directions. Naturally, our aerial avian obsession pushed us to find the parking right away.

The birds landed on the rocks in the middle of the river in a peaceful and undetermined magic action and were loudly discussing what to do next. How come they were so late to leave South? Were they disrupted by the I-phones and other human electronics interfering with natural birds’ migration?

Few minutes after the clouds of ducks were arriving in queues peppering the sky over the same spot, all trying to scour some mini spots left in the water to take a break.  The scenery felt like both, a great blessing and a Hitchcock thriller at the same time – certainly powerful… Ready to go into the darkness of the sky an hour later all birds, were chatting loudly about their next survival step… How do they do that? I don’t know, but for sure it’s a very inspiring act of courage…

And here we are sharing more pictures of our great spotting…

Back home we fixed these little cheese balls within 5 minutes (plus 15 minutes in a freezer to cool), and shared the stories of birds and (mostly unnecessary shopping experiences).

All you need is to add a big bunch of minced parsley, a minced clove of garlic (optional), and then roll it in any chopped nuts or seeds of your choice.

Our choice was obviously coconut flakes, although we also tried black and white sesame as well as poppy seeds. All of them tasted heavenly. Definitely, this recipe is a keeper for the holidays…

Specifically wonderful with oatmeal crackers or bagel thins, but you can have them with anything else imaginable.  
Happy Holidays Countdown to You All!
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CHEESE COCONUT HERB BALLS APPETIZER
Ingredients:
1 5 oz package of Boursin cheese (or cream cheese, or cottage cheese mixed with sour cream)
1 bunch of parsley, minced
1 garlic clove, minced (optional)
1 pinch of ground white pepper
1 handful of walnuts, chopped (optional)
pinch of sea or Hymalayan salt
1 cup flaked coconut (or any other crushed nut or seed of your choice), for rolling
Instructions:
Combine the cheese, parsley, garlic, white pepper and walnuts with fork in a bowl. Refrigerate for one+ hour. Roll the cheese mixture into small balls and then roll the balls into the shredded coconut or nuts or seeds of your choice (poppy, sesame, etc.). Serve on the tooth pics with the side of crackers or bagel thins.  

Three D Chocolate Cake Recipe


This one-of-a-kind chocolate cake is great for any or no occasion at all. We whisked this DDD (decadent, delicious, disappearing) cake last week-end as a part of a surprise Happy Birthday salute. Well, it was a DOUBLE surprise, both in taste and the secret major ingredient of it which nobody could guess: the BEETROOT. Really?  Abso-xx-lutely.  Hmmm, how can the chocolate cake be decadent and delicious if its major ingredient is beet? And yet, the sweet-savory taste of beets marries dark chocolate happily making this cake deep and unbelievably moist. I promise, your guests will be asking what is in that cake besides chocolate first thing.
This velvety rich, mildly dense, slightly fudgey and delicate-crumbled cake is both rustic and elegant and guarantees to make the most vivid sweet food memories.  Few decades ago using beets in chocolate cake might have been considered downright shocking, but with today’s baking taking a scientific direction it totally makes sense as a second major ingredient, providing healthy and colorful starch and fiber while still letting the chocolate shine through the cake’s earthiness.
Health and fashion-wise,  this Chocolate, Almond and Beetroot Cake (to be exact with its name) ticks multiple WOW boxes, including: ‘trendy’, ‘no flour’, ‘no butter’, ‘no grain’, ‘gluten-free’,’ paleo’, ‘ kids friendly’, and more.  So, yes, DECADENT, DELICIOUS and fast DISAPPEARING cake. Unfortunately, the latter adjective is not just used in a figurative sense.  According to the news, the most wanted food of Gods is imperiled by droughts and diseases and the future of the proverbial cocoa seed doesn’t seem so bright.  I therefore suggest you schedule your next chocolate baking session while it’s still available and/or affordable…
Not to mention, how nicely it juxtaposes with today’s gloomy and foggy weather…
The recipe didn’t fall on our lap, we’ve made an extensive research trying to find/compile it and balancing the demand (birthday person’s love for chocolate) and the supply (our personal choice to skip the flour and butter from the cake and replace them with leaner and healthier nuts and edible fiber).  We’ve casted avocados, carrots, pumpkin and zucchini as possible combinations with dark chocolate, but to no avail of something extraordinary in our archives. We then reached out for several modern baking guru suggestions (Anna Olson, Nigel Slater, Martha Stewart, Jamie Oliver, David Leibovitz, Aran Goyoaga) and the beets quickly surfaced from their recent books, shows and Internet recipes. The beets in chocolate cakes are mostly appreciated for adding the moistness and caramel flavor touch (while the beets themselves being completely disguised in the cake to absolutely no way you can tell them apart from chocolate). These facts got us hooked. We couldn’t wait to experiment with them and chocolate!
The recipe became a cross of Jamie Oliver’s ‘Chocolate & Beetroot Cake’ recipe with ground almonds (no flour or butter in it, just like we wanted), and beetroot ingredient being baked in advance (like in Anna Olson’s recipe).  Quick note: most of the recipes stipulated that the beet should be baked, so we decided to skip raw beets and use the cooked ones (although may be next time we will dare to use them raw – we just didn’t want to take a chance this time).  As for the icing we’ve selected Martha Stewart’s ganache recipe (thusly, adding some butter and cream to what otherwise was supposed to be just a melted chocolate drizzle). 
This recipe is not complicated:  we found it simple and relatively fast to prepare (guess what, it’s coming from the Jamie’s Garden Project with Kids series, so, clearly, you can engage your kids into play when making it for more fun).
For the chocolate ganache glaze, place the chocolate in a bowl. Heat cream in a small saucepan until simmering, then pour over chocolate. Let stand for 2 minutes. Add butter, Cognac or rum, if using, and mix until smooth. Let stand, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened. Pour glaze over chocolate cake.
As for the swaps I used 50/50 golden and red beets. I assume you can replace them with raw zucchini or pumpkin (excess water squeezed out). Ground almonds can swap with ground hazelnuts, walnuts, pecan or macadamia. The crowning glory of the chocolate ganache coating can swap with just melted chocolate drizzle and/or powder sugar dusting, and/or fresh berries, like raspberries. The chocolate and cocoa are, naturally, irreplaceable for now. So far, and Ummm, for the next XXX years?  
Finally, one last note: according to Jamie Oliver, measuring the ingredients is ‘a key to the success of this cake, so please use the scale to exact the amounts.
Have fun and indulge your senses!
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NO-FLOUR CHOCOLATE ALMOND & BEETROOT CAKE 

For the Cake:

Olive oil to grease the baking pan
Flour (regular or gluten-free if necessary) for dusting the form
10.5 oz (300 g) quality dark (bittersweet)chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
9 oz (250g) baked beet root, peeled and coarsely grated
4 large eggs
5.3 oz (150 g) caster (powder) sugar
1 1/5 cup (120 g) ground almonds
1 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp quality cocoa powder
For the Glaze (Ganache) (optional):
3 oz bittersweet chocolate
½ cup heave cream
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp Cognac or rum (optional)
Berries, for serving
Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 350F.
Lightly grease the bottom and sides of a 20cm cake spring form with olive oil. Cut a circle of parchment paper, size of the bottom of the tin, to line the base. Dust the sides of the tin lightly with flour, then tap the tin to get rid of any excess.
Break 7oz (200g) of the chocolate up into small pieces and add to a heatproof bowl over the barely simmering water to melt.
Place the grated beetroot into a big bowl.
Separate the eggs, placing the whites into a separate large mixing bowl and adding the yolks to the beetroot, then wash your hands.
Stir the sugar, almonds, baking powder, cocoa powder and melted chocolate into the beetroot and mix together well.
Whisk the egg whites until you have stiff peaks.
Use a flexible spatula to fold a quarter of the egg whites into the beetroot mixture to loosen, then, once combined, fold the rest, but try not to over mix.
Add the mixture to the prepared cake tin and spread out evenly using a spatula.
Bake in the hot oven for 50 minutes, or until risen and cooked through. Check with the cocktail stick if it comes out clean the cake is cooked. If slightly sticky it needs to cook for a bit longer.
Allow the cake to cook slightly. Open the spring form and carefully move the cake to a wire rack to cool completely.  Discard the parchment paper.
When ready to serve, melt the remaining chocolate and drizzle over the cake, or glaze it with chocolate ganache (see instructions above).
Serve with fresh berries, yogurt, ice cream or whipped cream if desired.
Adapted from Chocolate & Beetroot Cake by Jamie Oliver, jamieoliver.com 2014

Pipin’ Coconut-n-Root Vegetable Curry Recipe


Baby, it’s cold out there! The Alaskan storm hiccup has just reached Eastern Canada with the brrr temperatures, even the first snow. Under these circumstances I’m sure I’m not the only one to resort to comfort eating. This recipe has been on my bucket list for a while and I wanted to share it eventually for all the right reasons. It’s vegetarian, comparatively light, highly dietetic and comforting, and can be easily complemented with multiple omnivore, vegan or pescatarian choices. I opted for the haddock fish to go with it, but you can choose tofu, chicken or any fondue-sliced meat, all of which can be sautéed in a few minutes with the spices of your choice.

A trip to the local farmers’ market…

A bunch of the root veggies and other bounty brought home…
A quick mental scan of what to do with them on a day like today…
IT’S GOTTA BE CURRY! From my personal experience, nothing can pick you up better than a savory-spicy curry during times of chilling humidity and/or a flu season. Just few spoons of it and you’re back to keep calm and carry on…
The versatility of this dish is incredible. Depending on the curry spices you use, it can take an Asian, Indian or Caribbean direction. I used Jamaican curry spice mix for this post, along with a dash of Scotch Bonnet pepper sauce to give it an obviously Jamaican flair . 
You can also easily incorporate any other fall veggies into it: from pumpkin to squash, broccoli, cauliflower or collard greens. Finally, you can swap canned chick peas with canned lentils, or beans if wish be.
Have any leftovers of this curry from Friday supper? Turn them into a fast and delicious take on a British Kedgeree for your week-end brunch by adding some cooked rice, boiled eggs and chopped greens. If you happen to have some smoked haddock in your fridge, team it up: it will make the dish outstanding (otherwise, canned tuna or salmon would be OK).
We all (me in particular – duh) need some kind of an immune booster at this time of the year. The combination of this curry’s ingredients provides it in abundance: from a support to digestion, to anti-inflammatory help, to giving more energy to the brain, to improving cholesterol ratios, to metabolic push and so on. And the coconut milk in this recipe is not just a healthy alternative to milk. It does magic marrying the spices and ingredients, softening the heat of the curry and adding delicate sweetness along with carrots and sweet potatoes.  
Serve the curry piping hot with or without the meat protein addition, garnished with fresh cilantro or parsley and lime wedges on a side. Enjoy!
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COCONUT & ROOT VEGETABLE CURRY
Yields: 4 portions
Ingredients:
For Curry:
1 big sweet potato, cut in small cubes
1 big potato, cut in small cubes
1 big carrot, cut in small cubes
4 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp crushed chili flakes
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp grated ginger
2 tbsp curry powder
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 can 19 oz chickpeas, drained
1 can 14 oz coconut milk
1 jalapeno pepper seeded and minced (or 1 tbsp Scotch Bonnet pepper sauce)
1 tsp fresh or dried thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
1 small bunch of cilantro for garnish
2-3 scallions for garnish
1-2 limes, cut in wedges
Additions:
4 fillet of white, not oily fish (haddock, cod, tilapia, etc.), sautéed in 1 tsp oil and seasoned
OR
4 chicken breasts escalopes, sautéed in 1 tsp oil and seasoned
Instructions:
Cover the potatoes and carrots with water in a small saucepan. Bring to boil and simmer for 3 minutes.  Drain and set aside.
In the meantime, add three tablespoons of oil to the Dutch oven or a big saucepan and bring to medium high.  Add chili flakes, onion, garlic and ginger and cook for 1 minute. Add the curry powder.  Add the red pepper and mix.
Add potatoes and carrots and mix. Add chickpeas and mix. Add coconut milk and bring to boil. Add jalapeno and thyme. Bring to boil and simmer for about 10 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.

Garnish with cilantro and minced scallions. Serve hot in bowls with lime wedges on a side, topped with fish or chicken additions.

For Kedgeree:
Ingredients:
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
2 cups coconut and vegetable curry leftovers
1/3 cup of water
1 tbsp fish sauce
2 cups cooked rice of your choice, cold
1 cup smoked haddock (or canned tuna, or salmon), minced
2 boiled eggs, chopped
1 tsp cumin, ground
1 tsp coriander, ground
Salt and pepper to taste
1 lime, zested and juiced
2 tsp fresh cilantro or parsley, minced
Instructions:
Heat the big skillet or wok to medium-high and add olive oil and butter. Add coconut vegetable curry and mix. Add water and fish sauce. Bring the heat to high, add rice and keep mixing vigorously for 1 minute. Add fish, eggs, cilantro and spices. Keep mixing for one minute. Add lime zest, drizzle with lime juice and mix. Remove for the heat and serve hot garnished with cilantro or parsley. Serve hot.

My Take on Pissaladière for Sweet November

This is my recent take on the great French classic, Pissaladière.Piss – what?’ Correction: ‘pissala’ (deriving from either Ligurian piscialandreaor Occitan pissaladiera) was a paste made of the salted baby anchovies used in the recipe at the time of its inception when a big part of Southern France was in Italian possession. This explains why it is pizza rather than bread. Despite the fact that you will have a fisherman breath while eating it, pissaladière is an incredibly tasty and addictive meal or snack. Originating from the Nice (yep, from no less than The Côte d’Azur) and relatively unknown few decades ago, pissaladière is slowly but steadily becoming more and more popular all over the world as a unique and comforting kind of pizza, which by its savory characteristics can only come close to the classic French onion soup (although the anchovies and black olives addition in this pizza make a strong salty-savoury punch to otherwise gently sweet caramelized onion in this dish).

Pissaladière is an easy crowd pleaser (specifically for those who like caramelized onions, cheese and olives). Not to mention it’s a very low budget fare, so if your fridge is empty, or you feel destitute for this or that reason, this easy to pull off pizza can comfort you within less than 30 minutes. It is also a great idea for a vegetarian cocktail or potluck party.

I used the fresh goat feta cheese we procured at La Chevriere de Monnoir goat farm because it was so good (gently sweet and moderately salty), it really had to be showcased. I also made two kinds of this pizza: one with anchovies on a side (making it a pure caramelized onion and goat cheese tart) and the one with anchovies in (making it a true pissaladière style). 

It’s November already, the gloomiest month of the year, with its heavy leaden sky, moonless nights, violent gusts of wind and down-pouring torrents of cold rain – all pushing the cheerful October leaves into desolation and death, leaving the trees and hedges sad and homeless.  However, it’s exactly the November sky that makes this month so present, with its infinite vastness and its temper. It becomes a giant canvas that imprints the weather’s mood swings striking the eyes so vividly:

From dull and gray…

To layer cake like colors, changing its ‘high austerity to delight’…

Back to heavy leaden and bright with occasional windows of the light, spanning their beams across the naked fields as if trying to vacuum the last drop of life from the nature…

To peaceful and pastoral again, like in this image taken at the goat farm…

November sky has always been an inspiration to many of great artists depicting it in their masterpieces (although a friend of mine has a theory it was simply because there were no more bugs and mosquitoes to disturb them from their work). Well, I incline to believe it’s inspirational…

Flock of Sheep at Pasture by Aelbert Cuyp, 1655
November in general is inspirational in many ways, including to our appetite, which grows almost proportional to the dropping temperatures, leaving us craving for this or that comfort food. Pissaladière(or French pizza if you want) is one of those fall comfort foods for me.  I always make it in November and it makes my November sweet and cozy. Not surprisingly, after I bought all types of cheese at La Chevriere de Monnoir, I decided to apply one of them to the featured twist. What a wonderful marriage of tastes you have in the result! Salty-sour- tangy-aromatic-crunchy and soooo gently savory sweeet: a real dance the taste buds weary of pumpkin and squash.
Tips for the first time onion caramelizing:  
Slice the onions as thin as possible (sharpening the knife is always a good idea).
Use the scratch-less, non-stick skillet, OR be ready to use much more oil to prevent burning the onions.
Begin with medium-high heat and the minimum amount of oil, lowering the heat progressively as the onions begin to brown.
Do not leave the onions unattended for longer than 2-3 minutes, or they will burn.
Don’t forget to include garlic and thyme (fresh or dried) in the process – these two ingredients are crucial for the final taste result.
A splash of dry wine, brandy or apple cider vinegar in the final minutes would add an extra layer of taste and a nice touch of sourness to the onions.
The layer of onions spread on the pizza should be half as thick as the crust.

As for the pizza dough, which I’ve tried many, and can tell you that this recipe is really foolproof and the best one for me. As long as you have a working yeast, it always, always works, so please take a 
note of it.

Well, thank you all for reading this post. I hope you will have fun making your own pissaladière and my recipe will be of help. For now I’m just going to eat another piece. Oooops, it’s gone in less than a minute. Well tried and tested and highly recommended for your own sweet November. The Enya’s gem song might as well put you in the mood.
Sweet November Everyone!

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PISSALADIERE: CARAMELIZED ONION PIZZA WITH GOAT CHEESE, BLACK OLIVES AND ANCHOVIES
Yields 6 portions
Ingredients:
1 pizza dough (see this recipe for the foolproof homemade pizza dough, OR use store-bought) 
1 tbsp cornmeal for dusting
4 tbsp olive oil, plus more for drizzle
2 lbs onions, peeled and thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp thyme, fresh or dried
1 big splash of wine, brandy or apple cider vinegar (optional)
Sea salt and pepper to taste
1 handful of pitted black olives, halved
3 oz (2/3 cup) goat cheese feta, crumbled
8 salted anchovies fillets (rinsed and patted dry if baked in) (optional)
Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 450F. Place the pizza stone in the middle of the oven (if using). Roll the dough out on a floured surface into a flat round or rectangular shape. Transfer the dough to baking sheet dusted with cornmeal. Cover the dough with plastic or a damp cloth and let it rest for 30 minutes.
In the meantime, heat the 3 tablespoons of oil in a large non-stick skillet to medium-high. Add onions, mix vigorously and lower the heat to medium-low. Sprinkle with thyme. Keep mixing every other minute. Add garlic and mix. Continue cooking for another 20 minutes, stirring every 5-7 minutes until the moisture has evaporated and the onions caramelized to almost a marmalade consistency. Add a splash of wine, brandy or apple cider vinegar. Stir and evaporate for the next 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and set aside.
Remove plastic or cloth from dough, brush with 1 tablespoon of oil and spread the onion mixture, leaving ¾ inch border all around. Arrange cheese, olives and anchovy fillets (if using) over the onions, then slide onto the hot pizza stone (if using) or onto the middle rack of the oven. Bake pizza for 18-20 minutes, or until the crust has browned. Remove from the oven, cut into wedges and serve warm or at the room temperature.