Sunday, September 28, 2008

Mes petits choux

Inspired by the Daring Bakers who churned out dozens and dozens of Pierre Herme's eclairs earlier in the month, and faced with an open spot on my finger foods menu for the house warming I decided it was time to try making pate a choux again. Pate a choux is one of the few pastry doughs I haven't been instantaneously successful at.

My former friend M used to make a fabulous polish dessert named after the mountains of Poland. That dessert, which I haven't though of since I was in high school consists of layers of choux paste spread over a baking sheet and baked until crisp. Since the dough steams during the baking process the layer rises unevenly resulting in the "mountains". The layers are then sandwiched together with a vanilla pudding in the approximation of a pastry cream. So it's like an eclair... only more rustic. However, when I tried it I found the result entirely too eggy and the pudding filling was too sweet - which turned me off the idea entirely. My following attempt at gougeres was equally abysmal and I'd given up on the idea entirely.

Then the Daring Bakers put on their masterful display and I thought "If all of them, all over the world can master this dough, then maybe I should try it again." I'm glad I did. Doing so resulted in the wonderful discovery of a dessert that my friend P actually likes. P is one of those boys who is utterly satisfied with a big plate of protein, and maybe some carbs as a garnish. He dislikes vegetables, and is utterly averse to dessert. To have found one that he actually likes, and will consume, is nothing short of miraculous. It almost makes up for the fact that I had to beat this 10 egg dough by hand. Yes, entirely by hand since I discovered just after combining the flour and hot liquid that my electric beaters had shorted out. I almost cried. Then I sucked it up and decided to forge ahead.

They were delicious and vanished rather quickly. By far, the hit of the evening, which makes them almost worth it.

The recipe for the pate a choux is my reworking (by which I mean I was running between my laptop and the stove and so there was some improvisation) of the Pierre Herme version. Since I added a hit of cinnamon to the pastry I decided to follow that up with a ginger pastry cream because once I start improvising I don't see reason to stop.

For the original Daring Baker's version please see Meeta's Blog, What's for Lunch, Honey?

Cinnamon Ginger Cream Puffs


1 recipe of pate a choux (see below)
1 recipe of ginger pastry cream (see below)
1 recipe of chocolate ganache (see below)

1. Once the choux have cooled, slice them in half.
2. Fill with a teaspoon of cold pastry cream.
3. Freeze until firm.
4. Dip the tops in the ganache, or use a fork and drizzle the ganache over (depending on how heavy a coating of chocolate you're looking for).
5. Chill for another 10 minutes in the freezer.
6. Serve - or leave in the freezer for your guests to sneak out at intervals.

Pate a Choux

1.5 cups of water
1 cup of milk
8 oz of butter, cut into cubes
4 tbsp of sugar
1 tsp of salt
1/2 tsp of cinnamon
2 cups of flour
8 eggs

1. Combine the water, milk, butter, sugar, salt and cinnamon in a large pot. Bring to a boil over medium heat.
2. Once the butter has melted, and the mixture is at a rolling boil, dump in the flour all at once and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon. The mixture will combine and form a ball, peeling itself off the bottom of the pan, but leaving a thin film behind. This is good.
3. If you have electric beaters, break them out. If not, square your shoulders and prepare for a work out.
4. Break an egg, beat it to homogenize and then pour it over the hot choux dough. Beat the dough vigorously with your beaters or spoon. It will go all sick and shiny first, but as it absorbs the egg will return to it's lovely sticky state. Continue until you have used all of the eggs. If you are using a spoon feel free to take breaks in between. Your dough will not suffer too much.
5. It is important that you shape the dough while it is warm. If you are using a piping bag, fit it with your widest tip and fill it with the warm dough. You can pipe these into any shape you'd like. If you are not using a piping bag you can do what I did and try and make quenelles with two spoons, or do what I did later and dollop teaspoons of dough onto a foil lined greased baking sheet.
6. You can freeze these - or bake them immediately. The total baking time is 20 minutes. I bake them for 10 minutes and then propped the oven door open with a wooden spoon handle and baked them for another 10, flipping the trays at the 15 minute mark.
7. Once baked, remove the puffs from the oven and poke a hole in the side of each one. This will release the steam in the puff and they will stay crunchy as they cool.

Ginger Pastry Cream

2 cups of milk
0.5 inch of ginger chopped into shards
6 tbsp of sugar
3 whole eggs beaten
3 tbsp of corn starch

1. Combine the milk and ginger in a microwave safe container. Bring to a boil and let cool, allowing the flavour form the ginger to infuse into the milk. Let cool and once cold remove the ginger. Alternately you can mince the ginger finely and leave it in the milk.
2.In a saucepan, combine the corn starch and sugar. Whisk to homogenize. Pour in the milk and whisk to dissolve.
3. In a separate container, beat the eggs to homogenize.
4. Heat the milk mixture over medium heat, whisking frequently. Once the mixture starts to steam ladle a spoonful into the eggs, pouring it in a thin stream and whisking the eggs constantly in order to temper them. Repeat a couple of times.
5. Pour the eggs into the mixture. From here on it, whisk constantly. It may seem like it will never thicken, but it will go from fluid to thick and spitting quickly. If you stop whisking it will get a little lumpy. You can salvage it by straining it, but it's easier not to have to do so.
6. Once the mixture is thick and glossy chill it down until you are ready to work with it. If you aren't a fan of pudding skin feel free to press a layer of cling film on the surface of the cream.

Chocolate Ganache

150gm of dark chocolate
5 tbsp of milk
1 tbsp of butter

1. Combine the ingredients in a microwave safe container.
2. Nuke for 15 seconds and stir.
3. Repeat until the chocolate melted and smooth.
4. Use immediately or chill and drizzle.

Vegan Spring Rolls

To say I like parties is an understatement. I adore them. I adore planning them, I love throwing them and I cannot think of very many things I'd do instead of attending them. I am also not picky about the type of party - be is a gala, a cocktail style soiree, or a house party. However, this love of throwing parties means I have to have a repertoire or party friendly recipes ready to go for whenever the mood strikes me. A relatively recent addition to this collection are spring rolls.

Growing up as a relatively international child (born in Bahrain to parents of East Indian descent and vacationing regularly in the Philippines makes for a complex palate and a strange variety of foods that evoke childhood) spring rolls or what are known in the Philippines as Lumpia are familiar and comforting food to me. I grew up with Lumpia Prito as my aunt's family is primarily vegetarian. However, as a treat for the kids the lovely women who assembled the lumpia would sometimes fill them with slabs of salty cheddar instead of vegetables. There are few things I loved mroe than as a child that a hot cheese filled lumpia, fried until golden, with crisp layers of pastry enclosing delectable molten cheese.

However - if I am to fit into my current wardrobe cheese lumpia are strictly off limits. Fried lumpia are too. In fact, I'd all but forgotten about them until I went cottaging this summer. There, a newly made friend added her contribution to our food stash - spicy pork filled lumpia. As I spent an afternoon hand rolling the delectable treats with her I wondered why I'd never bothered to make them myself.

I spent some time mulling it over. I've primarily stayed away from them because deep frying is a messy process and my tiny apartment kitchen will not allow for it. Also, deep fried foods are things I generally stay away from. However, I've also learned in the recent past, that the perfect samosas we make at the restaurant are very oven friendly. They emerge golden and crisp - as though they'd been deep fried even when they haven't. I reasoned that if it is possible with samosas - then it must translate to lumpia.

Of course - try to form I didn't bother to test my assumptions prior to the festivities. I simply went ahead and made them. Mercifully I was correct.

These lumpia are vegan - filled with stir fried vegetables (carrots, zucchini, peppers, onions, cabbage) and tofu - instead of being filled with the traditional ground pork or beef. Instead of being friend they are baked for 15 minutes on a foiled lined baking sheet that is sprayed with cooking spray. The tops of the lumpia are also given a quick hit of the spray so that they brown.

For more details and pictoral instructions on the rolling technique see Burnt Lumpia's blog.

Vegan Lumpia


1 package of lumpia skins (approx 50 for cocktail sized lumpia)
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 inch of ginger, minced
1 large white onion, thinly sliced
3 carrots, peeled and julienned
1 large zuchinni, julienned
2 green peppers, julienned
4 baby bok choy, shredded
1/2 large head of napa cabbage, shredded
8oz firm tofu, pressed to drain and marinated over night in soy
cooking spray

1. Pre heat your oven to 450 F. Line 2 baking trays with foil and spray with cooking spray.
2. Heat your wok and spray with cooking spray.
3. Once the wok is hot toss in ginger, garlic and onions. Stir fry quickly until fragrant.
4. Once fragrant add the carrots and zucchini.
5. Cook until the zucchini releases some of it's fluid.
6. Add the peppers, choy and cabbage.
7. Cook until the vegetables are softened and have released their fluid.
8. Drain the vegetables well and save the fluid. You will use it to seal the wrappers.
9. Follow the instructions on Burnt Lumpia's blog to make the lumpia using the cooled vegetables and slices of marinated tofu as filling.
10. Lay the finished lumpia on the baking sheet. Spritz with cooking spray.
11. Bake for 15 minutes or until crispy and golden.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Work, Food, Life

Somedays a girl has to make a difficult decision between her future and her other future. Sunday, September 14th I was faced with that decision. On on hand, the World MBA fair was at the MTCC...and for someone considering an MBA it presents a jam packed afternoon of talking to recruiters, weight the merits of different schools and contemplating a life on another university campus. However, Sunday, September 14th was also the second Evergreen Brickworks Picnic.

The Evergreen Brickworks is one of those projects that you cannot help but love. Their goal is to raise $55 million to transform the Brickworks heritage site into an international showcase for urban sustainability and green design. So far they've raised $40 million - so they're only $15 million short. As someone who works in fund raising I have a deep appreciation of the work they do. So much so that I'm applying to work with them. But that's not what this post is about.

This post is about the 2nd annual Brickworks picnic. Since my student budget doesn't allow for $100 tickets to the event I volunteered 4 hours of my time greeting people and directing them to the bathrooms. In return I got sample incredibly produce and creations from over 30 local producers and top chefs in Toronto.

Ranging from grilled ontario peaches with a spicy lamb stuffing, beautiful kobe burgers and rabbit sausage to maple and ginger frozen yogurt, blueberry sorbet dished up on vine leaves and caramel apples the variety was astounding and everything was beautiful. While the morning was slightly humid the afternoon was hot and summy - perfect for sipping mill street organic beer and sampling lovely goats cheeses. As a bonus, one of the lovely chefs give me a couple of pounds of organic Berkshire pork shoudler that he had grilled for the house warming party I threw with my room mate.

While missing the MBA fair was a bit disheartening I don't regret it in the least. Few things are as lovely as spending a late summer afternoon making new friends, sampling local organic produce and engaging with some of the friendliest chefs in Toronto. I'm looking forward to the picnic next year. Maybe I'll even have a hand in planning it.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Dinner at the Drake

One of my favourite parts of being an intern at the NFP I was hired by this summer were the event related perks. As an intern I occasionally felt like I was schlepping for no good reason and that I could be making much better use of my time. I was terribly frustrated and every so often contemplated throwing in the towel. I didn't though, because whenever it felt like things were getting to be a bit too much we'd have a fabulous event that I'd get to attend gratis.

After the festival was done the staff convened for one final hurrah at the Drake Hotel in Toronto. I don't know why I'd never been to the Drake before. Compared to it's neighbour the Gladstone, the Drake always seemed a bit stuck up, and more importantly, a bit too hipster for me. However, since the Drake had contra left over, that's where we were having dinner. The menu was a lovely standard 3 course with 3 options for each.

We started with a lovely prosecco to toast our sucess - and a sexy little sushi amuse. While the tuna was cut a bit thick for me, the lightly brined ginger (white - not that shocking pink) was very very refreshing and I'm tempted to learn to make it myself. The vegetable rolls were also delicious.

While the beet salad with chevre sounded incredibly tempting - and I love beets - I opted for the charcuterie plate because I prefer salty protein to sugar, and more importantly there were olives involved. Granted when the plate came out the olives were the green variety (not my first choice) but the seasonal fruit were lovely Ontario cherries. Few things can make me happier that beautiful local cherries. The foccacia was lightly toasted and drizzled with a rosemary olive oil. The charcuterie was deliciously salty and went perfectly with the sexy red they were serving (the name of which I forgot to note)

Following the charcuterie were a standard vegetarian pasta option, or a quarter roast chicken with sweet corn and heirloom tomatoes, or beef short ribs au jus with creamy smashed potatoes and lobster mushrooms. My choice was a pretty straight forward one. Mushrooms and beef are two of the things I most adore in the world and the notion of smashed potatoes was just too much to resist. Laced with salted butter and wonderfully creamy they were perfect.

Dessert was a tough choice for me...on offer were both a blissful sounding sticky toffee pudding, which I would have picked without a thought save for the fact that of late I've had a bit too much of the Haagen Dasz stucky toffee pudding ice cream and so decided a break was in order. Thus I selected the chocolate and butter scotch pot de creme because I think pots de creme are darling. What I got, and I'll admit I was dissapointed, was a single chocolate pot de creme with a swirl of creme fraiche. While I love chocolate it seemed that this example had been sitting in the refirdgerator a bit too long and was coated with a thin layer of condensation. Further, and I probably should have said something about this, it was the butterscotch I was really looking forward to because I love the rich caramel notes it brings. Luckily, due to some concern on the part of my dining companions I got to sample the pudding.

There was talk of it being spicy - and not in a lovely ginger, clove, cinnamon kind of way. This was a hot, searing, uncomfortable kind of heat. So I tasted, and tasted and tasted some more. And then I realized - it wasn't the pudding - which was cookbook correct with dates and syrup. Instead it was the accompanying pecans - which they had candied with a little cayenne pepper. While this may make for a wonderfully interesting bar munchie - the cayenne mixed in with the heat of ginger and clove in the pudding was jarringly disconcerting.

Beyond that it was a fabulous meal in a beautiful venue. If you have the chance to dine at the Drake take it without a second thought. The service is lovely and thoughtful, the space is utterly gorgeous and the food is quite good. Maybe those hipsters are on to something.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Japanese Food Culture

My darling friend E raised the idea of a strong difference between North American food culture and that of the Japanese. While I haven't necessarily piad a geat deal of attention to the cultural difference I occasionally run across things that remind me of the fascination the Japanese have with food and how they incorporate it into their lives.

To riff a little on the idea that E postulated - food in Japan is a genre all it's own. There is manga specific to it, there are adorable little decor items, and there are wonderful tools that are adorably rendered such that they don't have to be hidden in drawers when you aren't using them. Thus there is a demand and a resulting market that values food, it's production, the aesthetics and the artistry involved in creating beautiful products.

These lovely cakes
are one such example of the culture that turns classical food motifs into lovely pieces of art for your home - and they are deliciously practical. I wouldn't mind having a set to leave for my guests.

These Fire Flowers can live in your kitchen for up to two years and are a wonderfully aesthetic fire extinguisher for any small pan fires that might occur (thought I hope they don't) in your kitchen. There would also make an interesting gift for freshman moving out and cooking on their own for the first time. I will admit that $39.00 is expensive for a pair when you can pick up appprox 2 dozen roses for the same - but the investment you make with these might just be worth it.

Another super fun gift for for your kids who are moving out, or your kids who have tired of their easy bake oven and playdoh modelling kits, is this fun Norimake Makki Sushi Roll Maker from Bandai. Yes, the same bandia that makes other toys like tamagotchis, as well as the pokemon/digimon paraphenalia. This however is so much more fun and infinetly more useful. Maybe maki roll parties will be for this or a future generation what fondue parties were to my parents? I think it'd be a fabulous, hands on exercise in creativity and you're virtually garanteed perfect rolls.

Other fun Bandai products include the sandwich shapers with which you can shape sandwiches into heats and flowers and pull together complex many layered creations. Personally, if I'm going to be that cutesy I'd go the cookie cutter route myself, but I can see these being useful at tea parties, baby showers and other cutesy events.

So many cute useful little time and shelf space. What would you buy if you could?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The New York Times Cookie

These cookies
have been making the blog rounds for a few weeks now, so I decided they were worth a shot. While they aren't terribly different from my standard recipe for classic chocolate chip cookie, the sugar content is markedly higher. I also decided to make these at 2am the night before leaving for a long weekend at a friend's cottage and so wasn't as patient as I could have been. Regardless, the rather long resting period did not make quite the difference other bloggers reported it did in that the supposedly caramelized/rich toffee notes didn't quite emerge.

Overall, I found the cookies a bit dry upon baking, but they do retain a remarkably shelf stable quality and taste a bit like a particular brand name store bought cookie up to a week after. I don't know that I will ever make them again, but they were fun to make the first time. Plus, I finally broke out my ice cream scoop to shape them and was highly amused at the fact that they retained their scoop shape.

Giant Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from the New York Times recipe, in turn adapted from Jacques Torres

Yield: Approximately 30 1.5" cookies.
Active Prep Time: 30 minutes
Inactive Prep Time: 36 hours ( to chill in the refrigerator)
Total Prep Time: 36.5 hours

7 oz of all purpose flour
7 oz of whole wheat flour
3 oz of corn starch
1.25 teaspoons of baking soda
1.25 teaspoons of baking powder
8 oz of salted butter at room temperature
8 oz of brown sugar
8 oz of granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
1 lb of bittersweet chocolate chips

1. Combine the flours, corn starch, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a bowl or measuring jug and whisk well to combine.

2. In a large bowl, combine the room temperature butter and the two sugars. Using an electric beater cream until fluffy and very pale in color. It should look like this. Once the mixture has reached this ethereal stage beat in the eggs one at a time. Following the eggs beat in the vanilla until completely amalgamated.

3. Switching from your hand held electric beaters to a wooden or metal spoon, gently mix in the flour. Be careful not to begin too vigorously or you will cover both yourself and the counter top in lovely white dust. The finished product should look something like this.

4. Stir in the chocolate chips and cover the dough tightly. Leave to rest in your refrigerator for anywhere from a minimum of 24 hours to a maximum of 72 hours. I suppose if you would like to leave it for longer than that, shape the aged dough into logs, which you can then wrap tightly in plastic wrap and freeze.

5. After your dough has aged, bring it to almost room temperature. You do not want to use it straight out of the fridge as the butter will be far too cold and the dough will be unworkable. Also, pre heat your oven to 350 degrees F.

6. Using an ice cream scoop to portion the slightly warmed dough, mound 6 scoops onto a parchment or tin foil lined baking sheet. Bake the scoops for approximately 15 to 18 minutes, checking every 30 seconds after the 15 minute mark. I found the cookies didn't spread very far and so judged level of doneness primarily by smell.

7. Cool the cookies on their baking trays for at least 5 minutes before moving them to a cooling rack.

8. Consume any which way you'd like ( I'm thinking crumbled into some vanilla fro-yo). These cookies keep well in airtight containers for up to a week.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Pink Drink

This is by far one of my favourite drinks to make at the restaurant for many, many reasons. I enjoy it primarily because we don't make cocktails and so this is the only way I get to engage in the mechanics of mixed drink making. Secondly, it's pink. Shockingly so. While I'm not the kind of girl who is all about the pinkness of things in life, this is just so terribly, ludicrously colored that it makes me laugh. That, and it reminds me of summer because at the peak of summer I often make 20 or so of these a day.

As with the smoothie in the previous post I feel a bit silly giving you instructions as to how this drink is made. You will however need a handful of ingredients that I don't think most of you have stocked in your pantry. These are however relatively simple things to find, especially in your neighbourhood east Indian grocery store. However, should you live in an especially remote area, i am relatively certain you can mail order all of the following products, and should that prove impossible, I would be happy to mail them to you.

1. Rose Syrup. This is the pink, viscous, sweet and wonderfully floral syrup that gives this beverage is charactertistic color, flavour and aroma. While you can waffle about with the other ingredients, without this one, you're making a different drink entirely.

2.Faluda or glass noodles. These are generally available in most asian grocery stores. The only difference in preparation is that instead of cooking these in boiling salted water they are gently simmered in a lightly sweetened syrup and then refrigerated in the syrup to maintain pliability.

3. Basil seeds, or tukmaria. These little black seeds are larger than poppy seeds and sometimes confused for nigella/black onion seed. The beauty of these is that a quick soak in cold water results in a gelatinous bloom forming around the seed. These are stored in their cold soaking liquid and for some reason do not germinate while in this state. You can leave these out but they add a wonderful textural note with the slight slipperiness of the exterior and the crunch of the seed coat.

The Royal Faluda ( a.k.a. The Pink Drink)

5 or 6 ice cubes
1 oz of cooked faluda noodles
1 tsp of tukmaria seeds, soaked
2 oz of rose syrup
8 oz of milk ( I like 2% here)
1 scoop of vanilla ice cream

1. In an 11 oz glass begin by layering the ice, noodles and basil seeds in the bottom.
2. Coat the sides of the glass with 1.5oz of the rose syrup. This is easiest with a squeeze bottle, gently poured against the side of the glass.
3. Pour in the milk and stir until a uniform colour is achieved.
4. Top with the vanilla ice cream and the remaining syrup.
5. Serve with a straw and long handled spoon.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Blissful Breakfast

Days at the restaurant are long and the hours are kind of crazy. We open at 11:30, which means I am out of bed at 10:30 to shower and make it down stairs and into the car. More often than not we make it in just in time to adjust the thermostat, give the tables a quick dust, and to fill the water pitchers before our regulars arrive for lunch. The lunch rush doesn't really die down until 14:00 at which point I'm just a little peckish. With the restaurant nice and quiet it's the perfect time to dig into the stash of frozen fruit and make a round of smoothies that provide the perfect hit of sugar to make it through the last hour of service.

It feels silly to give you a recipe for a smoothie - but I will in any case.

Breakfast Bliss Smoothie (for 4)

1/2 cup of bran flakes (wierd, I know, but you won't notice them)
1 banana, frozen
1/2 cup of diced mango, frozen
1/2 cup of diced apple, frozen
1 cup of diced pineapple, frozen

1. Pour approximately 1 cup of warm water into the bottom of your blender jar and add the bran flakes.
2. Plunk in the rest of the fruit either in the listed order, or whatever order you see fit.
3. Blitz into delicious smoothness.
4. Pour into receptacles and consume.


1. This is also stellar with 2 tbsp of melted nut butter blitzed in.
2. Even better with 1 block of silken tofu - at which point in turns into a very sexy pudding.
3. For an extra hit of vitality add a 1/2" chunk of ginger.
4. Swap up the fruit with whatever you really want - mine is always frozen, but this works great with fresh produce.
5. Mint is also delicious.
6. Don't stop at fruit, cucmbers and celery make fun mystery back note flavours.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Green Pea and Mint Pesto with Pasta

Every spring my parents have a long argument about what to do with our backyard. Since no one is ever really home to tend to it, the grass withers each year and dies away, leaving a progressively balding expanse. My mother argues for replanting the grass and raising the property value. My father argues for growing useful things like fruit and vegetables. This year they came to a relatively happy compromise. Mint. Spearmint specifically.

Mint is quite hardy, surviving this July's incredible 192.3 mm of rain as well as the hot, dry days. Further it grows like a weed, spreading quite widely. As it stands it has taken over one side of the yard and is threatening to spread further. While this makes my dad ecstatic, it leaves my mother and I wondering what to do with all of it.

Last night I culled some of our straggling lot and turned it into pesto. It is actually deliciously simple, dairy free and can be quite easily made after a long day of work. As a bonus, the pasta cooks up in about the same amount of time that it takes to make the pesto - so save for the washing up (which is minimal) you can have this on the table in approximately 10 minutes.

Green Pea and Mint Pesto with Pasta Ingredients for the Pesto
1 clove of garlic peeled
1/2 cup of olive oil
1/4 cup of cider/white wine/rice wine vinegar
1 tsp of mustard
1.5 cups (12 oz) of frozen green peas, thawed
5 or 6 tbsp of chopped mint leaves
2 tbsp of peanut butter

Ingredients for the Pasta
3 cups of dry pasta (I used penne)
3 tbsp of salt
6 litres of water

1. Set a large pot on the stove, over high heat. Add the water, salt and the garlic clove from the pesto ingredients and bring to a rolling boil.
2. While the water is heating, pour the olive oil, vinegar, and mustard into the bottom of your blender and blitz to combine.
3. Once the water comes to a boil, remove the garlic clove and add to the blender. Pour the pasta into the water and stir briefly to ensure it does not stick to the bottom.
4. Blitz to mince the garlic and then add the peas and mint. Blitz again to break down the peas until they are creamy. It should look like the image below.
6. Once you've achieved a consistency you like, and once the pasta is al dente and drained, stir the pesto into the hot pasta.
7. Then stir the peanut butter into the pasta, making sure that the peanut butter melts into the pasta.
8. Taste for seasoning and adjust accordingly.
9. Pile onto plates and consume.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Strawberry Fro - Yo

Last summer I spent the better part of a perfect June morning picking organic strawberries at this lovely farm in Milton. If I remember correctly, I picked about 14lbs in approximately 3 hours. There are few things more blissful in life than standing in acres of strawberry plants, the sun bronzing ones shoulders, and inhaling deep breaths of the highly perfumed air.

However, using 14lbs of strawberries is a daunting task. While some became strawberry shortcakes, and others became a beautiful sticky, sweet, darkly delicious strawberry and balsamic jam, most of the berries became freezer fodder.

This year, working the festival meant no time for laundry, much less berry picking and as a result I am working my way through the ones I stock piled last summer. Plus, in an effort to loose the Pride weight I've been staying away from ice cream as much as possible..which is difficult given the humidity. And then it occurred to me...fro yo! We already make a beautifully creamy yogurt in the restaurant...and I had vague recollections of Jamie Oliver doing something like this with very cold heavy cream and frozen berries.

So how do you make the best strawberry frozen yogurt...without an ice cream machine? With a blender...and frozen berries.

Virtually Instant Strawberry Fro Yo

2 cups of frozen strawberries (mine are organic, picked and frozen from a lovely farm in Milton)
1 cup of yogurt (mine is from 2% milk, made in house at the restaurant)
1/2 - 3/4 cups of sugar (depending on the sweetness of the berries)

1. Combine the yogurt and the sugar and stir vigorously to dissolve.
2. Rough chop the berries and toss them into the blender.
3. Pour over the yogurt and blitz until combined. Stir occasionally to ensure an even blend.
4. Once the blend is uniform pour into a freezer safe container and chill for at least an hour - preferably five. Check in occasionally and give it a quick stir to break up the freezing along the sides.
5. Pile into cones, cups, spoons etc and enjoy.

Note: This is also blissful with pineapple, banana, mango and ginger (all of which I froze over the course of the year at various times). The added fibre from the banana and mango make for a creamier, less granita like product.