Monday, March 23, 2009

Spice-Poached Pears

4 cups filtered water
2 cups granulated sugar
1 Seville orange, zest and juice only
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 tsp crushed nutmeg
3-4 small winter pears

With a very sharp vegetable peeler, strip long ribbons of very shallow orange zest.

In a medium-large, deep pot, dissolve sugar in water. Add orange zest and juice, along with peppercorns, cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg. Peel pears, leaving stems in tact, and place in poaching liquid. Bring to a gentle simmer, then reduce heat to low. Continue simmering slowly for 1 hour. Remove from heat and strain liquid back over pears, allowing pears and liquid to cool together, completely. Refrigerate in strained liquid once they've cooled to room temperature.

Serve pears with black pepper (or vanilla) ice cream, or a side of pear sorbet.

Cooks Notes: Seville oranges are sour but very fragrant, and most often used for marmalade. If these can't be found at your favourite produce market, use a naval orange.

Chocolate Fortune Cookies

(makes 50...if they all come through intact!)
4 large egg whites
1 cup light brown sugar
3/4 cup plus 1 tbs flour
3 tbs cocoa
1/4 cup plus 1 tbs butter, melted
3 tbs whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
50 fortunes

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine egg whites and sugar. Beat on medium for 30 seconds. Add flour and cocoa. Beat until combined. Add melted butter, cream and vanilla. Beat until combined, about 30 seconds.

Make a template by cutting a 4-inch circle out of a sour cream (or other plastic) lid. Place template on a Silpat-lined baking sheet. Then, using an offset spatula, spread batter evenly across template, making no more than two at a time if you're working alone. Remove template. Bake at 400F for about 5 minutes.

Working quickly, flip cookies over with offset spatula. Roll cookies into a tube. Insert fortune, then press the back of the tube with your finger to fold. Place each cookie in a muffin cup to hold its shape. Repeat with remaining batter.

The Food Snob’s Bologna Cups

(makes 12)
1 tbs, plus 1 tsp butter
1 medium leek, white and light green parts only, finely sliced
1/4 medium red onion, finely diced
1/4 medium red pepper, finely diced
100g oyster mushrooms, trimmed, sliced
1 cup hash browns, par-cooked
5 large eggs
3 tbs cream
12 slices bologna
kosher salt/fresh ground pepper

In a small pot over low heat, melt 1 tbs butter. Add leeks and stir. Cover and cook until very tender. Cool.

In a medium skillet over medium heat, melt 1 tsp butter. Add onion, pepper and mushrooms. Sauté until softened. Season lightly. Cool.

In a large bowl, whisk together eggs and cream. Fold in leeks and veg mix. Transfer to a large liquid measuring cup for pouring.

Fit bologna slices into a muffin pan. Spoon hash browns into cups then cover with egg mixture. Bake at 350F until egg is cooked, about 18 minutes.


(measurements depend on eater preferences)
1 family-sized bag corn or multigrain nacho chips
2-14 oz cans brown beans in tomato sauce
1-14 oz can kidney beans
1 envelope taco seasoning
1 1/2 cups brown basmati rice, cooked
1 1/2 cups chopped dill pickles
1 1/2 cups sliced black olives
3 cups chopped ripe tomatoes
1/2 head red or green leaf lettuce
1 cup grated old cheddar cheese
sour cream or low-fat Ranch dressing

In a medium pot, combine brown and kidney beans. Stir in taco seasoning and cook over medium-low heat until hot and bubbling.

In the meantime, cook rice, chop veggies and grate cheese. To assemble haystacks, place a handful of nacho chips on a plate. Top with hot beans, rice, cheese, pickles, olives, tomatoes, lettuce and a little more cheese. Dress with salsa and sour cream or Ranch dressing.

Note: Haystacks can easily be porked up with the addition of ground meat in place of some or all of the beans.

Dutch Babies

(serves 4-6)
6 large eggs at room temperature
1 cup milk at room temperature
1 cup all purpose flour, sifted
1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
5 tbs salted butter

Place 3 medium, or up to six individual serving-sized, cast iron or stainless steel skillets, with oven proof handles, in a 450F oven.

In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs with a whisk, or electric beater fitted with the whisk attachment, until fluffy. Add milk, flour, vanilla and cinnamon and continue beating for another five minutes

When ready, divide butter between skillets. Return to oven for a couple of minutes, then remove, swirling butter to coat bottoms and sides. Add batter to skillets and return to oven immediately. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until pancakes are puffy and golden brown.

Serve with favourite pancake toppings.

Apple, Raisin Topping with Pine Nuts
Peel, core and chop 4 medium Golden Delicious apples. Place 3 tbs butter and 3/4 cup brown sugar in a medium pot and cook until bubbly. Add apples, 3/4 cup golden and 3/4 cup Sultana raisins, 1/2 cup pine nuts. When apples are soft, add 2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp nutmeg and 1/4 tsp cloves.

Southwest Chipotle Chicken Wraps

(makes 4 wraps)
4 large cheese-flavoured flour tortillas
2 medium roasted chicken breasts, shredded
1/4 red medium onion, thinly sliced
1/2 medium red pepper, thinly sliced
8 white mushrooms, sliced
2 Roma tomatoes, sliced
4 large leaves butter lettuce
4 oz grated cheddar cheese
1/3 cup light mayonnaise
2 tsp adobo sauce from canned chipotles in adobo sauce

Whisk together mayonnaise and adobo sauce. For a hotter dressing, break up some of the peppers into the mayo.

Divide filling ingredients between the tortillas. Fold opposing ends inwards, then roll up to close wraps. Place wraps, two at a time, onto a preheated panini press and close the lid. Cook until tortilla is toasted and wrap is heated through. Serve immediately.

Meatball Mac & Cheese

1 pound elbow macaroni
3 cups milk
1/4 cup butter
6 tbs all purpose flour
8 oz old cheddar, grated
2 oz mozzarella, grated
about 16 meatballs, cooked
1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp onion flakes
kosher salt/fresh ground pepper

Breadcrumb Topping:
2/3 cup fresh, toasted bread crumbs
1 tbs butter, melted

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add macaroni and cook until pasta is slightly underdone. Drain.

In a medium pot, scald milk. When hot, set another medium pot over medium heat and melt butter. Add flour and whisk, constantly, to form a roux (paste). Gradually add milk, whisking constantly, until mixture thickens and comes to a simmer. Fold in cheddar. Season to taste.

In a large bowl, fold together macaroni and cheese sauce. Transfer to a baking dish and top with meatballs and mozzarella. Toss bread crumbs with butter and add to top of pasta. Bake in a 350F 20 to 25 minutes, until cheese is hot and bubbly.

Austen Day Beef Stew

2 tbs canola oil
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 pounds lean stewing beef, cubed
1 large leek, sliced, white and pale green parts only
2 medium yellow onions, sliced
4 medium red potatoes, large diced
2 large carrots, medium diced
1 medium celeriac, medium diced
5 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1-20 oz can plum tomatoes with liquid
1 cup red wine
1 cup beef stock or water
3-4 springs whole fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
kosher salt/fresh ground pepper

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Dredge beef in flour and sear in skillet (this may need to be done in two batches), turning to brown on all sides. Transfer to the bowl of a large crock pot. Deglaze skillet with red wine and add wine to pot along with leek, onions, potatoes, carrots, celeriac, garlic, tomatoes with liquid, and herbs. Add water. Set pot to cook for eight hours. Discard herbs. Season to taste. Serve with fresh buttermilk scones.

Warm Honeyed Ice Cream

(You'll need a chemical scale for this recipe, accurate to the 10ths of grams)
306 g 6% milk fat yogurt
230 g cream cheese
80 g honey
154 g water
1 vanilla bean, scraped
pinch kosher salt
11.55 g methylcellulose

In a blender, puree together yogurt, cream cheese, honey, vanilla seeds and salt, just until mixture comes together (do not aerate). Meanwhile, bring water to a boil and immediately whisk in methylcellulose. Add to first mixture and puree until just emulsified. Chill.

To make ice cream, bring a pot of water to a boil. Turn off heat. Using an ice cream scoop, scoop up ice cream base, wiping off edges of utensil. Immerse ice cream scoop in hot water. When ice cream sets, gently displace it into the water, allowing to poach for about one minute (depending on size of scoop). Reheat water and repeat with remaining mixture.

Once set, drain ice cream briefly on a paper towel. Allow to cool somewhat before serving (ice cream will soften and "melt" as it cools and tempers).

Where to find it: For methylcellulose and other weird and wonderful culinary chemicals and ideas, visit For an accurate scale, check out the "mini digital scale" at Source Electronics.

Blue Caesar Dressing

2 whole anchovy fillets packed in oil, drained and finely chopped
1 oz sharp Blue Cheese, such as Tiger Blue from Poplar Grove
5 whole cloves garlic, roasted in olive oil until soft
2 tsp garlic infused olive oil (from roasting)
1 tbs whole capers, coarsely chopped
1 tbs Port
1 cup good quality or home-made mayonnaise
2 dashes hot sauce (or to taste)
1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper (or to taste)
kosher or sea salt to taste

In a medium bowl, gently whisk together all ingredients, adjusting seasoning to taste. Serve over Romaine lettuce hearts and sprinkle with extra cracked black pepper and kosher or sea salt.

Where to find it: For Poplar Grove’s Tiger Blue, which is made in the style of a stilton and is also excellent served over a good steak, visit Okanagan Grocery, next to Cod Father’s in Kelowna’s Mission area. Or visit Poplar Grove’s website at For those a little shy about blue, try their Naramata Bench Blue. A milder, creamier offering with only a hint of that characteristic stink.

Thin Crust Pizza Dough

3 1/2 cups all purpose flour, plus more for rolling out dough
2 tsp active dry yeast
2 tsp kosher or sea salt
2 tsp granulated sugar
1 1/3 cups warm water
1 tbs olive oil

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine flour, yeast, salt and sugar. Turn mixer on low and gradually add the water and olive oil until the dough comes together. Continue kneading on low for 8 to 10 minutes, until dough is smooth and elastic.

Transfer dough to a large, oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap or a clean, lint-free, tea towel, and set aside in a warm place to rise until doubled in size, about 2 hours.

To roll out the dough, punch down and divide into four equal balls. Place, one at a time, on a floured work surface and press down with your fingers, stretching it with your hands, until dough has doubled in width. Using a floured rolling pin, roll out until dough is 8 to 10-inches in diameter. Transfer to a hot pizza stone that’s been sprinkled with cornmeal to prevent sticking. Top with your favourite ingredients. Bake at 400F until done. Repeat with remaining balls.

Topping Suggestions

Caesar Pizza (pictured)
Generously brush pizza dough with garlic-infused olive oil. Top with whole roasted garlic cloves, anchovies, capers and provolone cheese.

Pizza Margherita
Brush dough with garlic-infused olive oil. Top with thinly-sliced Roma tomatoes and sliced mozzarella. Bake, then drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and garnish with fresh basil.