Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Salute Summer with Some Sangria

For the most part, engineering students tend to have a wide reputation as beer drinkers. Serious beer drinkers. So I was a little unsure about serving 'girlie' sangria to a group of Danny's old friends from McGill who came for a BBQ yesterday.
I needn't have worried, as it was a hit and we were scraping the bottom of the punch bowl as we quenched our thirst from the fierce game of croquet that we were playing.
This sangria can compete with the best beer and summer drinks out there and if you are looking for an alternative to the standard red wine sangria, this is the recipe you should try. It's loaded with fruit that has soaked overnight in a white wine and citrus mixture and these potent bits are well worth tipping your glass back.

White Sangria
1 small honey dew melon cut into chunks
1 small pineapple, cut into chunks
4 medium peaches, cut into thin wedges
2 cups additional sliced fruit of your choice (strawberries, star fruit, etc)
1 lemon thinly sliced
1 lime thinly sliced
2 750 ml bottles of dry white wine, chilled
1/2 cup sugar (I like superfine)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

To finish:
1 litre soda water, chilled
1 cup loosely packed small fresh mint leaves
Additional fruit for garnish

In a large bowl combine all fruit and sliced citrus. Add wine, sugar and lime juice. Stir well to dissolve the sugar. Cover and chill overnight.
Just before serving, stir in carbonated water and mint leaves. Serve with additional fresh fruit garnish and ice.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Honorable Mentions: Food that didn't make the cut

I often get asked if the dishes and baking featured on Under the High Chair are really what we eat from day to day, and this surprises me. As if I would have time for extra projects on the side with a toddler running around keeping my life exciting and busy! What you see is what we eat, and I never cook specifically for the blog. Of course there are many, many everyday things that are not featured, such as our simple pasta dishes, the frequent bean-and-tortilla-variations (Danny’s favorite) and quick stir-fries (Noah’s favorite), but this isn't a daily food diary.

And yes, there are the flops, the experiments, the disasters….and occasional fires in my kitchen. (Boy, I’m really ‘fessing up here) I love trying new things and getting out of my cooking comfort zone and things don’t always go as they should. Unless there is a particularly good story behind the failed dish or lesson to be learned, I won’t take the time to blog about it.

But there are some items that fall between the cracks, and I call these the Honorable Mentions. While they are not complete failures, I am not 100% happy with them and hence, they don’t get featured with a recipe on UtHC. They may be recipes that need a little re-working; dishes that are lacking something, or some baking that just isn't good enough.
Here are some of those items. They may not be winners, but they still deserve a honorable mention and their fifteen minutes of fame!

(pictured above: Marble Cake. What used to be one of my favorite cakes when I was growing up, I found dry and barely palatable. Anyone have a great recipe to share?)

Lemon Polenta Cake. Love the combination, but again, it was just too dry.

Brown Sugar Roasted Pineapple with Ginger Whipped Cream
Muh. Not caramelized enough and the pineapple was stringy.

Citrus Cheesecake. Almost perfect, but a little too grainy for my liking.

A fresh fruit display I did for a party. It was tons of fun to do, but still falls in the cracks.

Melon Tray. Fun photo, but there's no recipe for this.

Chocolate Shortbread. Such a simple thing, but I don't think I baked them long enough. They needed to be more sandy.

Over and Out.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Milk Chocolate Pudding with Long Pepper or UtHC doesn't go to New York City

Last weekend was the momentous occasion of Danny’s and my fifth wedding anniversary, but our grand plans of a weekend getaway alone to New York City were squashed like a bug when Noah fell sick, really sick. How ironic that the last 90-something weekends of his life he has been well, but this particular one he had us convinced that there was no way we could leave him, even with the very best of care.

It wasn’t looking good at the beginning of the week as he refused food, yet continued to lose body fluids from both ends (I’ll spare you the details). In hopes of a fast turnaround of his health, I continued on with my preparation: making some meals ahead for him, studying the Manhattan transportation system, and keeping an eye on the NY weather.

Then Thursday morning he woke up with spots all over and we said goodbye to our hopes. While I wanted desperately to wake up in a city that never sleeps, just like the song says, it wasn’t going to be this anniversary. (Oh I'd be waking up, that's for sure, and with a sick baby in the house, 'never sleeps' would take on a whole new meaning.)

Friday evening, after the feverish little darling was in bed, I glanced at the clock and couldn’t help but inform myself that this was about the time we should be getting on our way if we were going to make our bus to New York. A dark cloud settled over my head and I knew I could either ruin what was left of my anniversary by wallowing in self pity, or get cooking and make the most of it.
Trying to swallow my disappointment, I foraged restlessly in the cupboard for some chocolate. I needed the comforting therapy of cooking something and the uplifting familiarity of eating warm pudding straight from the pot.
Fortunately, I did managed to relax in the kitchen a bit and my dark cloud disappeared thanks to these little pots of milk chocolate pudding flavored with the sensual spiciness of long pepper.

We did manage to slip out for a late night meal of tapas on our anniversary, so it wasn't all bad! Kudos to M for babysitting after a long day of work.

Pictured here is long pepper, also known as 'cubeb', from Bali. Available at Olive et Epices at Marche Jean Talon, these exotic spices from the pepper family look like little corn on the cobs and are much sweeter than black pepper. I first had them paired with chocolate in a dark truffle and loved the combination. Definitely adding a freshly ground pinch to the milk chocolate pudding adds a hint of excitement worthy of a wedding anniversary.

Milk Chocolate Pudding with Balinese Long Pepper
(adapted from Gourmet, February 07)

2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 oz fine-quality milk chocolate, chopped
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground long pepper
lightly sweetened whipped cream

Whisk together sugar, cornstarch, cocoa powder, long pepper and a pinch of salt in a 2-quart heavy saucepan, then gradually whisk in milk and cream. Bring to a boil over moderately high heat, whisking constantly, then boil, whisking, 2 minutes.
Remove from heat. Whisk in chocolate and vanilla until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and chill pudding, it's surface covered with wax paper (to prevent skin from forming), until cold, at least 2 hours. Or just enjoy it warm like we did!
Make about enough for four.
Recipe may be made without the long pepper. Enjoy.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Ho Hum for Hummus

Fresh pita with grilled chicken, cucumber and hummus.

The very first time I ever had hummus I was probably crazy about it, but then came the whole hummus-dipped 90’s where EVery SINgle party you went to there was enough hummus around to stucco a ceiling. My sister and I still laugh about a pot luck/wine tasting we did where 8 of the 9 couples brought hummus and pita. Try paring that with wine.

But seriously, don’t people go a little overboard with the whole hummus thing? Is it some kind of unspoken entertaining lore that if you serve a mountain of hummus, you hold the key to a great party? I mean, people really devote themselves to this chick-pea puree: I’ve seen the hummus blog (where people are called hummus brothers), recipes for hummus lasagna, and there’s even a restaurant called the Hummus Place in New York City. Are there that many unemployed pitas out there that we need all this hummus??

It also bugs me that everyone has the BEST hummus recipe and they, only they, hold the key to great hummus. These people think they are saving the world one carrot stick at a time. Of course having tasted store bought hummus, anyone can throw some chickpeas, lemon juice and olive oil in a blender and it’s going to taste a heck of a lot better. One could even add the shrivelled up scrapings from the bottom of the vegetable drawer and it would still probably taste better. Just go nuts with the lemon juice.

But all that said, I found myself with a nice basket of fresh pitas last week and decided to whip up a batch of hummus!( I never said I disliked it, I just don’t consider it a necessary condiment for day to day life.) I like the recipe from the Silver Palate Cookbook, but am puzzled as to why it is listed in the ‘Basics” chapter among such recipes as ‘Chicken Stock’ and ‘Pie Crust’. Since when is hummus is a basic? A staple? Are they teaching hummus making in Home-Ec class now?
I guess that proves my point that people take their hummus a little too seriously.

Toast and grind your own cumin seed for this hummus and I guarantee you will have a dip to rival the other 1.3 million recipes. Who’s to say?

Hummus Bi Tahini

4 cups (about 2 ½ cans) chick-peas, drained
½ cup tahini
1/3 cup warm water
1/3 cup olive oil
Juice of 3 lemons
4 or more garlic cloves, peeled and germ removed
1 ½ teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons ground cumin seed
freshly ground pepper, to taste

Combine chick-peas, tahini, warm water, olive oil, and juice of 1 lemon in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Process until smooth and creamy.

Add garlic, salt, cumin, and pepper to taste, and process to blend. Taste and correct seasoning if necessary. Add more lemon juice to taste. Scrape into storage container and refrigerate until ready to use.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Foodie Facebook: Mati

Name: Mati
Place: Montreal, Quebec
Occupation: Financial Analyst

1) What is your earliest childhood food memory?

I am ambivalent. It is either Dairy Queen in Cyprus or fried calamari, also in Cyprus

2) What did you eat today?

I am ashamed, but I ate a club sandwich.

3) What will your kids never be allowed to eat?

Never ever any kraft dinner in my house!!!!

4) What do you always have on hand in your fridge?

Fruit juice. It enlightens my day at the first sun rays of the morning

5) What is your beverage of choice?

A good espresso with a beautiful milk foam and some sugar into it. It is a morning delight.

6) If you could have dinner with anyone in the history of man, who would it be?

That one is a tough one. I would like to eat with somebody that appreciates eating, lounging through a meal, a good talk, good laughs, food elements that make the meal, the décor, …If it was a one to one, it has to be with the one I love. If I get to be in a group of people, it would the knights in the middle age, Churchill, Baden Powel (he must have some great stories), … It is really difficult to pinpoint one in particular. I guess If I had the possibility, I would aim for an historical trip through ages, tribes/groups/… and cultures. It would be a fantastic opportunity.

7)Ok, it’s your last meal ever, what do you have?

Above it must be a full course multiple dishes meal.
There’s got to be some tartare, even possibly fish tartare, in entrée.
In a second entrée, I would go for a grilled fish with coarse sea salt and dill. The skin must be on it still. White fish would be great.
Des pommes de terre risolés is a must with a juicy, tender and flavourful piece of meat medium rare. Add in some green peas or asparagus and I have reached the 3rd sky.
For cheese part, I would aim for a simple baguette and a creamy cheese, a goat cheese and a reblochon. I would love to see the face of the people accompanying me when I unwrap the Reblochon. By the way, the cheeses should be wrapped ;)
For desert, the only thing that would matter would be a tiramisu. Just a fantastic tiramisu. The best ever done in the entire world. If it has to be shipped overnight from Italy, so be it ;)
As you can see, nothing is really set cause the one thing I should add is that my last meal should involve a great chef that would surprise me all along with great dishes and presentations.

Ed Note: Merci, Mati!! Foodie Facebook is a regular feature on UtHC. Stay tuned, it could be you!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Making Mother's Day Memories

Fun in the orchard treehouse

Today was a gorgeous sunny day and Danny whisked Noah and I out to the beautiful Quebec countryside where we hiked Mount Saint-Gregoire, had a picnic in a blossoming apple orchard, and did a cider tasting at Cidrerie Verger Leo Boutin.

After playing in their tree house and a 'ride' on the tractor for Noah, we left with four bottles of cider including a bottle of Prunelle, an aperitive cider made from plums as well as the usual apples. I am looking forward to incorporating it in a dessert somehow!

After growing up in the Canadian Rockies, I still struggle with the use of the word 'mountain' in Quebec, but we did manage to have a nice view from this...well...we'll call it a lookout.

A big Happy Mother's Day to all the mama's out there!!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

March to a Marché

Fiddleheads, firm and green, are a sure sign of spring.

Montreal's open air markets are bursting with Springs finest produce right now and I suggest you take as stroll and get inspired, or at the very least, buy a bundle of cheery tulips and bring a little spring indoors.

Miranda and I took Noah and Tulip for a walk along the Lachine Canal and got lured in to Marché Atwater to check out the colorful stalls. Such delights! I must soon return to indulge with some cash in my pocket and a method for getting precious produce home other than the bottom of the diaper bag.

Noah and Tulip checking out the lively market
Atwater Market from across the Lachine canal; a great picnic spot.
And more market pleasures...

Friday, May 04, 2007

Put a Pita in your Pocket

Pita bread is something my family has been making for as long as I can remember; in fact, when I prepared my own recipe in cooking school for the class, I couldn't recall where it had originated, I just knew that it was good and they all agreed. These are so fun to make and puff up nicely, leaving a hollow center to fill with grilled chicken, veggies or whatever you desire. They are pretty amazing just warm from the oven with a drizzle of olive oil.

Wimbush Family Pita Bread

1 tablespoon yeast
1 ¼ cup warm water

1 teaspoon salt
3- 3 ½ cups flour

Dissolve yeast in water for about 5 minutes in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add salt and 1 ½ cups flour and with the dough hook, beat to make a batter. Add additional flour until a rough, shaggy mass is formed. Knead 8 minutes until dough is smooth and elastic. Add more flour if it is too sticky.

Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and divide into six pieces for large pitas or ten for smaller. I make all sorts of sizes to suit different snacks and meals. Form dough into balls, then flatten with a rolling pin into ¼ inch thick discs. Try and keep an even thickness as this is what helps them ‘puff’.

Let rest on the floured surface 30-40 minutes until slightly puffed. Preheat oven to 425F.
With a large spatula, flip the rounds of dough upside down on to a b
aking sheet. Bake 10-15 minutes until light golden. Stick around for the first five minutes of baking when the pitas perform their magic and puff up from flat pancakes to proud, four inch high pitas.

These store for up to two days well wrapped or frozen for three weeks.


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