Halloween Squid Ink Pasta with Pumpkin & Cured Epidermis

The makings of a grown up halloween dish: seasonal squash, homemade squid Ink Pasta and “cured epideris”.

Well this year Halloween was not going to get away with just once post apparently. When I was hunting for black food coloring I came close to using squid ink in a sweet out of desperation to get my black color. My pastry chef friend Karyn saved that day … but now I really wanted to use the squid ink to. Fresh made Squid Ink Pasta to the rescue. Throw in some pumpkin for color and atmosphere, and a little bit of suspicious meat: Squid Ink Pasta with Pumpkin and Cured Epidermis.

Happy Halloween buaaahahahaha!

Squid Ink Pasta with Pumpkin and proscuitto

Tasty reading ahead, KEEP GOING… →

Halloween: Poison Toffee Apples and preparing your victims

For a frightful twist with these Poison Toffee Apples just add a few drops of black food coloring to the caramel toffee recipe to create a look of danger and poison!

Time for one of my favorite holidays out of the whole year. Halloween is just around the corner and I just love preparing a batch of goolish goodies. Just so happens the Creative Cooking Crew wanted us to fix up a scary dish for all the kiddies and ghosts. Please, do not be shy, take one of my Poison Toffee Apples. I promise they will bring you no harm!

Poison Toffee Apples

Tasty reading ahead, KEEP GOING… →

A Birthday Feast through Italy appetizers and Avocado Ice Cream

Ah the first big menu planning of the year! It always coincides with my mother’s birthday on April 1st when I have my parents over for dinner. Younger I would choose very long and elaborate recipes that would take an entire day to prepare. Now wiser in years I have learned to plan very sophisticated looking menus consisting of easy but wonderful recipes. If I am well organized I can pop out such a meal in 2 or 3 hours…exhausting ones. The hard part is finding the first inspiration.

In this case it was a bunch of rapini I had bought a few days before. It is not a vegetable I have cooked with very often but after seeing it a blog post ton it I was inspired to try my hand at it again. From there came an Italian theme spread over the whole menu. I like to think of it as  Southern Italian menu filled with cured meats, fish, fresh vegetables, ricotta and nuts. I hope you will enjoy my presentation of the meal….

The evening started of with a cocktail and lovely bites to nibble on while we toasted  to my mom’s birthday: Prosciutto Purses by Giada de Laurentis. A few handfuls of Sesame Roasted Nuts accompanied the purses. I adapted the recipe with walnuts, pistachios and almonds. I did not have the mentioned spices so I used cinnamon, cocoa mole rub, chili pepper flakes and garlic salt.

The Prosciutto Purses are very easy to make. I just used half a cantaloupe and scooped out 9 balls with a spoon. Then I just rolled up the cantaloupe balls with a slice of proscuitto and tied my purse with a sprig of chives. Here is the secret:  blanch the chives briefly until just a bit limp. This way they will not break when you make the knot.

My appetizer consisted of three Zucchini Ricotta Roll-ups per person served on a bed of pureed snow peas. I just cooked the peas till soft in a bit of vegetable stock and added a bit of garlic salt and pepper. I passed this through the blender and got an amazingly colorful shiny dark green puree.

The main course was a simple baked white fish recipe which was accompanied by Polenta with Beans and Rapini, the inspiration dish of the whole menu. A bigger portion could be a vegetarian meal on its own. I went with a soft polenta in which I added cheddar cheese. I loved this dish, the mix of flavors and textures was sublime, from the acidic sweetness of the tomatoes, the earthy mellowing taste of the beans to the perfect bitterness of the rapini.

The meal ended with a wonderful gluten-free Blueberry Almond Cake. This cake is just about all eggs, 6 to be exact. I followed the recipe but added some blueberries: I poured half the cake mix in the pan, sprinkled the berries and then covered then with the other half. I think this made the cake but my cake deflated. A little simple looking but there was no shortcoming in taste.

A very unusual but perfect pairing was a portion of homemade Avocado Ice Cream. I had this ice cream in the freezer for a while and had just enough for 3 small portions. I melted a bit the ice cram down and placed it in 3 canellé mold. The resulting presentation is reminiscent of the classic Tartufo ice cream.

Avocado Ice Cream

Avocado Ice Cream

Ingredients

1 cup heavy cream

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 1/4 cup milk

3 ripe avocados

Directions

Peel and seed the avocados; put flesh into a blender with the milk and purée. Pour all the ingredients an ice cream maker and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Buon appetito!

Foodie Trails with Foodie Friend: Blackberry Ricotta Filling

Funny how a simple comment on a blog can start a long conversation and eventually turn into a fabulous outing.

Towards the end of 2009 a new member joined the dinner group and she quickly took a liking to my blog and left many great comments. We actually started chatting a bit by email and looked forward to meeting in person soon at a dinner event. This day finally arrived during the group’s Christmas dinner. Unfortunately when you host you cannot spend much time with one person. But emails kept flying between us. One series of comments following the Canolli Daring Bakers Challenge got very heated on my blog…with this lady leading the pack!

Controversy over Canolli! Well that started another set of email exchanges between Claudia and myself. The result: we promised to go on the Foodie outing together that would include canolli! of course life got in the way and it took about 6 months, June 5th 2010, to finally spend the day eating! The day was planned by Claudia (who incidentally started her own food blog since then) and I met her at a subway at noon on that Saturday morning.

I stepped into her car and was quickly given…a canolli lol. What better way to start our adventure. We wolfed them down right in the car in no time. She had another gift for me that we will take a look at later in the post. Canolli are from…

Boulangerie Patisserie Lasalle, 2 locations
8591 Maurice Duplessis, RDP
1550, boulevard Daniel-Johnson, Laval

Next stop was a place Claudia had hear of. This lovely lady opened a stored specializing in stuffed dates. we really stayed quite some time and had a great chat with the owner. She uses two different dates: medjool and deglet nour that come from Tunisia or Algeria. A great tip: she quickly dips the dates in a mix of water and Orange blossom water. It adds a hint of a citrus scent and leaves the date glossy. She swears by Tunisian Orange blossom water alone. There are so many date confections: popular ones are cranberry, lemon, ginger, almond past, etc. Some are dipped ion chocolate (73% cacao exclusively).

Although not sold in the store you can make special savory (very salty is best) orders. Dates stuffed with blue cheese or salmon for example are delicious.

The owner also specializes in unique cookies and other pastries. She offered us scones made with soya flour, cranberries and Musk-mallow flowers. Really unique, I love it. This place is definitely worth the foodie detour.

La confiserie Thamar
168 rue Fleury Ouest, coin Esplanade

Now this next stop was a run in and run out. Claudia normally gets bread here on a weekly basis and we just picked up bread. She pre-ordered their amazing Olive bread. Since there was no more left she gave me one of her two loaves. THANK YOU! it was excellent and the bakery was impressive over all. Lovely huge olives all over the inside….so yummy.

La Petite Boulangerie
1412, Rue Fleury Est Montreal

Next on the tour? Lunch!

We went to a little hidden place in the Ile-de-la-Visitaiton park. Somewhere in the park are the ruins of the old mill that has been converted into a General Store museum up stairs and café-restaurant and adjoining terrace on the bottom floor. The terrace is set up along the small rushing river. You really feel like you are in the country almost. We even saw some local habitants: a few herons. Food is average OK but the location makes up for it. Really great choice.

Claudia: smile! you are on camera!

We made sure to keep room for dessert as Claudia had another surprise in store: gelato! I blog enough about ice cream so she new this would be a guaranteed success stop wise. We went to a traditional Italian place which is a restaurant, a gourmet shop and has a gelato counter.

Great gelato bars but not earth shattering unusual flavors. But it was good. Front cup is mine: Gianducia, Cantaloupe and English Custard flavors. The cantaloupe gelato was phenomenal. Gianducia was a new discovery for me. Gianducia is a sweet chocolate containing about 30% hazelnut paste invented in Turin. basically its natural real Nutella before it was commercialized.

Gelateria Roberto’s
2227 Rue Bélanger

Last stop was La Baia de Fromaggi, a last minute decision. It was not suppose to be an Italian outing, just mostly turned out that way. What a shop! Look at all the cheeses hanging from the ceiling!

Turns out the owner served us and took a liking to us (and is a camera exhibitionist lol). Now most of the conversation was in Italian with Claudia and the owner. I caught on a lot but missed a lot too.  It really added also to the experience. The owner is very proud of his store’s quality, its food…and right fully so! Love this pic of him showing cheeses to Claudia!

I did make a few purchases here which I’ll describe just below as they became my light dinner.

La Baia de Formaggi
1715, Jean-Talon St. E

So I bought some of the best proscuito I ever had (the one the owner held in the picture above) called Proscuito Originale de Parma. Then I told Claudia to pick an Italian cheese I never tasted before for me to try. She chose a Torta al Mascarpone. OMG, its a ‘layered cake’ if you will of gorgonzola and mascarpone. Can you even imagine how divine and rich that was! I served up a slice of each on that olive bread we bought earlier for dinner. It was orgasmic!

So what was my 2nd surprise from Claudia? Shells for canolli…12 of them! She said they were for me to fill will my unique touch. Thank you so much again, Claudia; I was just so touched.

So on my way home I got some ricotta and my inspiration of the moment: blackberries.  See my recipe below.

Blackberry Ricotta Filling

for canolli or what ever you fancy
2 cups ricotta cheese
1 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
about 1 cup of blackberries

  1. Put everything in a blender and puree.
  2. Place mixture in a strainer lined with cheesecloth. Fold cheesecloth over the top.
  3. Let drain overnight in the fridge.
  4. Pipe your filling into the cannolli shells with a party bag or a large zip-lock with a corner tip cut off.

You can read her interpretation of our outing too.  Thank you Claudia for a fabulous day and letting me get to know you one on one…my new friend! To our next outing!