Do you believe in destiny? Do you ever have a feeling something was meant to be, that there is a reason as to why something is happening in your life? I often do and this is one perfect example. One day I got a message on Facebook by a total stranger, a woman in my city, who insisted on taking me out too lunch so she could pick my brain to give advice on her new food blog journey. I was skeptical but curious so we chatted for a bit. A month later we had a blind foodie date. We had the most awesome 3 hour lunch and I could not help feel I was meant to become friends with this person.
Warning: the faint of heart at the sight of blood…abstain from this post!
Tasty reading ahead, KEEP GOING… →
November 25th is known as Sainte Catherine’s Feast Day within the Catholic Church around the world. Sainte Catherine was martyred in the early 4th century. She is considered by many as the most important of the virgin martyrs. Sainte Catherine regained popularity towards the end of the Middle Ages and she became the model for proper feminine behavior and the patron saint of young unwed women.
In Quebec, November 25th is also become know as taffy day, or Tire Sainte Catherine in French.
Tasty reading ahead, KEEP GOING… →
The food blogging world suffered a big loss this week. It was no celebrity chef, cookbook author or writter, it was someone much more special than that. Lisa Cifelli, co-founder of The Daring Kitchen, passed away suddenly this week. Many food bloggers around the world will be posting a tribute to Lis on November 15th. I send my condelences to all of her family and close friends, particularly to Ivonne, Lis’ partner in crime in the Daring Kitchen adventure.
The Daring Kitchen was my first experience ever with a food group organizing monthly challenges and I particiapted for just over 2 years. It was my first real contact with other people like me, passionate about cooking and tangibly sharing the experience together. I had the pleasure of exchanging on quite a few occasions messages with Lis. During my time with the group I wrote a few articles and hosted 2 challenges. Lis was always there with encouragement and help, a joke, friendly words, a genuine kindness and a passion for this great group. I got to know her for a relatively short amount of time but she left quite a mark on me. I am sure there are hundreds of food bloggers who can retell the exact same story as me. She was a big influence and a mentor. It was a shock to hear of her passing.
Lis happily accepted my request for a guest post in the summer of 2010 when I went away on a holiday. I cannot think of a more fitting tribute than to repost her words and her recipe for Lasagna Rolls. I am glad there is a little piece of her here forever.
Tasty reading ahead, KEEP GOING… →
Last week I attended a media event where a lucky few bloggers and journalist got to sample a few Greek recipes made with Oikos Greek yogurt. The event took place at Martin Juneau’s new restaurant, Pastaga. Martin is one of the hot commodity Montreal chefs and he prepared one of the recipes of the evening, inspired by a culinary trip to Greece with another chef from Vancouver, Anthony Sedlack. Their Greek chef host was none other than Diane Kochilas, one of the world’s foremost authorities on Greek cuisine.
Here is a( bad) cellphone photo of the wonderful dessert created by Diane Kochila. Don’t judge on the picture, it was awesome so it is worth sharing. The topping on the cake was an Orange marmalade with candied Orange peel created by a chef at Pastaga but you can improvise your own topping.
Ξ Greek Yogurt Cheese Cake Ξ
1 3/4 cups crumbled graham crackers, cinnamon cookies or Mastiha-scented cookies or wafers
3 tbsp Greek honey
6 egg whites
1 pound cream cheese
1 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
3 cups Oikos Greek drained yogurt
Topping options: preserved fruit, fruits, sweets, nuts
1. Preheat oven to 190ºC (375ºF).
2. Combine the cookie crumbs and honey in a bowl. Press into the bottom and up the sides of a 22-cm (9-inch) spring form pan. Place in the refrigerator until ready to use.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, whisk together the egg whites, cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, and salt. Add the Oikos yogurt and mix to combine. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until set. The filling will still look soft.
4.Remove from oven and let the cheesecake stand at room temperature for one hour before topping with preserved fruit. Spread one of the Greek spoon sweets on top and chill for a few hours until completely set.
On Friday I had dinner with my mom and told her about the event I attended. So she tells me she could have sworn the Greek yogurt she had at home contained 18gr of protein per serving. I was not convinced at all, how can yogurt have such a high protein content? Well I checked my container at home and indeed this one had 17gr of protein per serving. It turns out Greek yogurt is a great source of protein. Who knew!
Ever since the new year I was on the hunt for an Austrian recipe, a part of my ancestral roots. I had settled on Knödel and when I found out the theme for January’s 5 Star Makeover was meatballs I knew it was more than a coincidence.
Knödel are large round potato or bread dumplings, typical of Austrian, German, Hungarian and Czech cuisine. Usually they are served as a side dish for meat, goulash or in soups. But they can also be served as a dessert, such as filled with plums. I have had this dish exactly only twice in my life. My dad is Austrian and does not cook so I never ate many Austrian dishes. My first time was at my cousin’s place (my dad’s nephew) for dinner and once was in a brauhaus in Austria.
So this could fall into the meatball category I chose a very typical Austrian knödel from the state of Tyrol where smoked bacon (Speck) or sausage are added to the dumpling dough. These are called Tirolerknödel, or Tyrolean Dumplings. A now gourmet dish found in Austrian menus, Tirolerknödel was actually food for the poor prior to the ski industry and some say the recipe is about 3000 years old.
Knödelfest in St Johann, Tyrol - photo Martin Lugger
I decided to use small Fois Gras Sausage I discovered recently. They are make with pork, duck and foie gras. My meat ingredient definitely brought on the gourmet touch. My knödels were surprisingly flavorful and delicate, a real treat. They are so easy to make you should definitely try them out on your family for dinner, or even better after a day of skying.
Ξ Tirolerknödel with Foie Gras Sausages Ξ
8 oz stale bread or rolls, torn apart or cubed
3/4 cup milk, warmed
5 oz Foie Gras Sausage (or any sausage)
1 tbsp butter
1/2 large yellow onion, chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped (I used coriander)
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground pepper
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/4 cup flour, give or take
Place the bread in a bowl and pour the milk evenly over it. Stir and set aside.
Place the Foie Gras Sausages in a skillet and fry until browned. Remove from skillet and cut into small pieces.
Add the butter and onions to skillet and fry until translucent and amber colored. Stir in the parsley and set aside to cool.
Add the salt, pepper, nutmeg and eggs to the bread mixture. Add the cooled onions and sausages.
Combine well with your hands. Add 1 tablespoon of flour at a time until the mixture hold a bit better, it should feel like a very sticky dough. Allow to rest for 30 minutes.
Bring a pot of lightly salted water to boil. Form 10 small dumplings with wet hands and drop into the boiling water. Reduce the heat so the water simmers gently and cook for about 15 minutes. Dumplings are done when they float. Serve with a hot broth and garnish with parsley.
The knödels are very delicate when you take them out of the boiling water but will hold better after they cool down a bit. The inside is very moist, a bit like a savory bread pudding. If you have leftovers slice them up and frying them in a skillet for breakfast.
A note on the foie gras sausage: Wish I took a pic of the package but it is long gone in the trash. But I bought them at my local’s farmer’s market this summer and kept them frozen. This is not a common product at all. Only hint I found online is this french website advertising the sausages. They are cocktail sized, white and the first ingredients should read pock, duck and foie gras.
OK class, today we will have a lesson in religion. January 6th is known as Epiphany, a Christian feast day that celebrates the revelation of Jesus of Nazareth as the living Son of God on earth. Over the centuries the specific events which testify to this revelation have varied a lot but for today’s Western Christians, the feast primarily commemorates the coming of the Magi, with only a minor reference to the baptism of Jesus and the miracle at the Wedding at Cana.
And of course, in some parts of the world, a dessert had to be created to celebrate this revelation. In parts of France people have traditionally prepared a Galettes des Rois, a cake consisting of puff pastry with almond cream (frangipane) to their celebrations. It is reminiscent of the King Cake found in the American Southern States that celebrate Mardi Gras. Hidden inside the cake you will find a trinket (usually a porcelain figurine) or a dry bean. The person who gets the piece of cake with the trinket becomes the king/queen for the day and will have to offer the next cake. The analogy of the king refers to the three kings drawn to visit Jesus after his birth, bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Often a paper crown accompanies the cake which is placed on the chosen king/queen.
I am not a religious person but by pure coincidence I happened to host a dinner at my place with a few friends on the evening of January 6th so of course I had to make a Galettes des Rois for the fun of it. Without a small porcelain figurine or dry bean in sight I opted for a small button. The crown took the form of a tiara with pink marabou which I happened to have lying around (don’t ask). And since I had a hankering for pistachios this was my nut of choice for the frangipane. Hey traditions only survive with the addition of modern twists!
For my filling I adapted a recipe found on Pham Fatale. Since we were only 4 at the dinner table I made the galettes small enough to ensure there would be no leftovers should the trinket not be found on the first round. If you buy a package of frozen puff pastry this recipe will make 2 galettes of 5 to 6 servings each. You could just make 1 bigger galette, in that case roll you disks out to 12 inches.
Ξ Pistachio Galettes des RoisΞ
5 ounces roasted, unsalted pistachio nuts, shelled
2 eggs, at room temperature
10 tablespoons sugar
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon milk
4 x 9 inch disks of puff pastry (1 package of frozen puff pastry 397 gr/14 oz)
Place the pistachios in a blender, a food processor or spice grinder and process them until you have a coarse crumbs. Make sure you stop before it turns into nut butter.
Using a handheld mixer, whisk the eggs and 5 tablespoons of sugar for about about 5-6 minutes, until the eggs are a pale yellow and very airy.
Cream the butter with 5 tablespoons of sugar, the salt and vanilla extract. Pour in the egg mixture and the ground pistachios. Gently mix until the batter is smooth.
Using a fork, beat the egg yolk with a tablespoon of milk. Use as your egg wash as described below. Place 2 disks on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Lay half the pistachio frangipane on each puff pastry disk, leaving a 1 inch ring of pastry. Brush the ring with the egg wash and place the remaining disks on top. Press the perimeter very tightly together. Using a knife, make decorative cuts on the top disks and brush with egg wash.
Refrigerate the galettes for an one hour. If you skip this step your filling may end up leaking out of the disks while baking (which happened to me). Preheat the oven to 400F, bake 10 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 350F and bake 20 to 30 minutes or until the top is golden.
And in case you are wondering who was the lucky trinket finder this year. It was me! Yep I have the button in my mouth.
Lately, reading my favorite food blogs has been a guaranteed catalyst to get into the holiday mood. Blogs of Thanksgiving feasts are the kick in the rump I need right now since Montreal is not showing any signs yet of a white Christmas – or what ever holiday you celebrate. But I know one morning soon I will open the curtains of my bedroom window and feel the sudden urge to hang my mistletoe.
Thankfully the holiday cheer is quite present in the kitchen. The wonderful people at Faye Clack invited me to participate in a fun contest hosted by California Walnuts. The theme: coming up with a completely original recipe that screams holiday gatherings and winter entertaining.
I humbly present you my entry post for the California Walnuts Holiday Blogger Challenge: my Matcha Fudge Fruit Cake.
Coming up with an original recipe with walnuts is not exactly a small feat! We are talking about a very popular nut here that graces most holiday recipes. This was a perplexing challenge, until I opened my kitchen cupboard and a bag of matcha powder fell out, bringing on inspiration.
Visions of sugar plums and fairies…oh wait that is the Nutcracker. Visions of a sliced fruitcake with gorgeous chunks of red cherries and chocolate coated walnuts dances in my head…all of it wrapped up in a melt in your mouth matcha fudge. I wanted to reinvent the fruit cake. To achieve my pale green fudge color I chose a basic white fudge recipe where I added a touch of matcha powder.
Ξ Matcha Fudge Fruit Cake Ξ
250 gr dark chocolate
1 cup California Walnuts
3/4 cup maraschino cherries
500g white chocolate, chopped
1-300ml can of condensed milk
30gr of butter
2 teaspoons matcha powder
- Melt dark chocolate in a bowl. Dip the walnuts in the melted chocolate one by one plan place on a wrack to let excess chocolate drip off. Place the chocolate covered walnuts in the fridge to harden
- Drain and dry cherries on a couple of layers of paper towels.
- Line with cheesecloth a 25cm x 10cm (10” x 4”) loaf pan. Make sure the cheesecloth hangs over the edged of the pan.
- Place all the white chocolate, condensed milk and butter in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave on high for 30 seconds. Remove and stir well. Microwave for 30 another seconds.
- Remove, add the matcha powder and stir well. Microwave for 30 seconds. Remove and stir completely.
- Add cherries, chocolate covered walnuts and stir once very fast (stir too much and the dark chocolate will melt).
- Quickly poor mixture into the loaf pan, fold the cheesecloth over the top and press down to level the top.
- Set fudge in the fridge for 8 hours. Remove from pan and slice.
I was absolutely thrilled the results. The matcha flavor was subtle, the cherries were a juicy surprise and the chocolate covered walnuts gave the perfect amount of crunch. This makes a big log of fudge so you can slice it up, take what you need to a few parties and then just freeze the rest. Happy Holidays!