Jul 8 2014

Fresh Mint Iced Coffee

Ice-cold coffee that is also mint infused, what’s not to love? Hot days require cold drinks and we all have to get our coffee fix somehow! I have made this recipe quite a few times over the past month and I’m quite certain I will make it many more times before the warm summer afternoons slip into crisp fall days.

The only problem with this iced coffee is that you need to plan ahead. You can’t just wake up and think, I want a mint ice coffee right now, and then make it right away. Like most good things, it takes time. This recipe is best made the night, or even days, before.

Fresh Mint Iced Coffee

cold brew concentrate
1/2 cup freshly ground coffee
2 cups cold water

fresh mint syrup
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 big bunch of fresh mint leaves (around 3/4 cup)
½ tsp vanilla extract

Assembly
coffee ice cubes and or regular ones
2 1/2 tablespoons fresh mint syrup
6-8 ounces coffee concentrate
3 tablespoons milk, cream or sweetened condensed milk
fresh mint leaves for garnish

cold brew concentrate
To make the cold brew coffee concentrate, combine the ground coffee and water in a jar or bowl and stir well. Let it sit at room temperature for at least 8 hours or overnight. At this time, you can also make some coffee ice cubes. Brew a cup or two of coffee and allow it to cool slightly, then pour the mixture into ice cube trays and freeze overnight.

The next morning, use a fine mesh sieve or cheesecloth to strain coffee concentrate, removing all the grinds. I usually just use my French press. Store the cold coffee in a sealed jar in the fridge.

fresh mint syrup
To make the mint simple syrup, add the water, sugar, mint leaves and vanilla to a saucepan and heat over medium heat. Whisk constantly until the sugar dissolves and the mixture comes to a boil. Let it bubble for a minute or so, then reduce the heat and let it cool completely. Once cooled, pour into a jar and stick it in the fridge. This will keep, sealed in the fridge, for a week or so.

Assembly
Add both coffee and regular ice cubes to a glass, pour the mint syrup over top. Then add the coffee concentrate and stir in some cream or milk cream.


Jul 8 2014

Rhubarb Fool with Vanilla Coconut Cream

Once in a while I come across a vegan recipe and think, why not? I don’t typically like avoiding eggs, cream, or cheese; they are just so darn delicious. But, I am a sucker for anything coconut, so when I saw a recipe with coconut cream in place of regular whipped cream I knew I had to try it. The result? Quite good! I can’t say that I would use it in the place of real whipped cream on the regular, but it was a very nice addition to the rhubarb compote. All the flavours in this recipe married well together and I especially liked the addition of cardamom. I would certainly make this recipe again. Also, if you happen to have some left over, it  makes a great addition to Sunday morning waffles.

Rhubarb Fool with Vanilla Coconut Cream

rhubarb compote
1 lb rhubarb, pink and light pink parts chopped
juice of 1 orange
1/4 cup agave honey
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 inch fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated

vanilla coconut cream
2 cans full fat coconut milk, chilled overnight
3 tbsp powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Combine the chopped rhubarb, orange juice, honey, cardamom and ginger in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Bring to a boil. Simmer the mixture until the rhubarb starts breaking down and the consistency is slightly jammy and compote-like, about 15 minutes. Set aside to cool completely.

Make the cream: Remove the top layer of solid cream from the cans of coconut milk, carefully avoiding the water at the bottom of the can (reserve this for smoothies). Place the cream into a small bowl. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla. Mix with a hand mixer on medium-high speed, stopping and scraping down here and there. Mix until a lightly stiff, whipped cream-like consistency is achieved. Wrap and set aside in the fridge until you’re ready to use it.

To serve: Place about half a cup of the cooled rhubarb compote in each serving dish. Top with a dollop of the vanilla coconut cream and a sprinkle of pistachios if you like.


Jun 4 2014

Sourdough Bread

Fermenting food can be a bit intimidating, so I recently attended a fermentation workshop here in Ottawa with Radical Homestead. During the workshop we learned about fermenting all different kinds of food, from kombucha to kim chi, even sourdough bread. At the end of the class I got to take some sourdough starter home so that I could begin my own experiments in the world of fermenting.

In the picture above you’ll see what the starter looks like after it’s been fed, it doubles in size, gets all bubbly, and smells rather sweet. Sourdough starter is kind of like a pet; you have to care for it and fed it in order to keep it alive. Like all pets, it’s worth the work. Sourdough bread has many health benefits, you can read about some of them here.

I totally messed up this recipe the first time I made it and the bread still turned out well. Instead of turning out “light for its size”, the bread turned out very heavy! One small slice was like an entire meal. But boy was it good toasted with butter. It would have been perfect for camping; it lasted on the counter for a week before I put it in the freezer. Mick thought it tasted a lot like a cinnamon raison bagel – heavy and dense with a sweet flavour. I might just add cinnamon and raisons next time.

Beer Sourdough Bread
makes 1 small loaf

6 oz. room temperature beer, I used Guinsess Stout

1/2 cup sourdough starter (well fed)

1 Tbsp sugar

3/4 tsp salt

2 1/2 cup bread flour, I used organic whole wheat

Mix beer and sourdough starter in a large bowl. The beer will foam up. Add sugar, salt and bread flour, and mix to form a soft dough. I found mine was a little dry at this point and so I added a bit more beer, and kneaded lazily for about 3 minutes in the bowl. Transfer to a greased bowl and drape a damp tea towel over top. Place in the warmest part of your house – the laundry room or on top of your fridge are usually good places – let it rise until doubled, about 2 1/2-3 hours depending on the warmth. If your house is cold, turn the oven on to 200 degrees, let it heat up and then turn it off. Then place your dough in the over with the door open slightly to let a little bit of the warm out air, closing it up when you think the air is just right.

After 1st rise, gently knead dough for a couple minutes, and form into a loaf shape of your choosing. Leave to rise, covered again in a damp towel, for 2 – 2 1/2 hours until risen. At this point you can make some cuts in the top of the dough so that when it bakes it will have nice markings on it. Towards the end of the 2nd rise, preheat oven to 450 f. with a covered cast iron pot on the middle rack.

Place the dough in the hot dutch oven and bake for 20 minutes with the lid on. Then remove the lid of cast iron pot and continue baking 10-15 more minutes until crust is a deep golden brown. Loaf should feel light for its size, and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Leave to cool completely before slicing.


May 22 2014

Lemon Velvet Tart

Spring has finally arrived!!! It’s time to frolic in the sunshine, participate in outdoor gatherings, and enjoy bright flavours in our food again. If you are attending a social event and would like to impress the other guests with an eye-catching dessert that also delivers on flavour, I highly recommend trying out this tart recipe. Don’t be fooled by the lengthy instructions and tips/notes list, it really isn’t that difficult to make. You can do this! Maybe just skip the candy part and decorate with some fresh raspberries instead.

Notes/Tips

  1. The lemon curd can be made a day or two in advance, which I 100% recommend.
  2. The sugar spirals are optional in my opinion. They are beautiful but are also a little tricky. I burnt mine. If you do make them, be aware that they probably won’t take the 25-30 minutes to become a caramel color. As soon as you start to see a faint caramel color happening in the pot, and it will probably only happen on one side of the pan, take the pot off the heat and dip in cold water right away. It’s very easy to overcook the sugar – I did :(
  3. Wait for the syrup to cool a little before trying to spiral, I found the prettiest spirals were made when the syrup was a little more stiff.
  4. The sugar spirals don’t keep very well when it’s humid out, they tend to get sticky and lose their crispness.
  5. I bet some fresh raspberries would be just as nice on top.
  6. The original recipe called for a regular pie crust but I find press-in shortbread crusts easier to work with and generally tastier.
  7. Read this entire recipe all the way through once before starting.

Lemon Velvet Tart

Tart Shell

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1/4 cup sugar

2 large egg yolks

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt

Filling

8oz (230 gr) white chocolate, chopped – I used chips

8oz  package cream cheese, softened

1 cup sugar

1 tablespoon lemon zest

1 cup fresh lemon juice

4 eggs yolks, lightly beaten

1/2 cup butter, cubed

Caramelized Sugar Spiralsoptional

2 cups sugar

1/2 cup light corn syrup

8 crushed lemon candies – like suckers

STEP ONE – make the lemon curd

Lemon Curd

1 cup sugar

1 tablespoon lemon zest

1 cup fresh lemon juice

4 eggs yolks, lightly beaten

1/2 cup butter, cubed

Bring sugar, zest, and juice to a boil in a heavy nonaluminum 3 1/2-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat. Remove from heat, and gradually whisk about one-fourth hot juice mixture into egg yolks; add egg yolk mixture to remaining hot juice mixture, whisking constantly until well blended.

Place saucepan over medium heat, and cook, whisking constantly, at least 10 or up to 12 minutes. (Mixture will be kind of thick, like unset pudding)

Add butter, in 6 batches, whisking constantly until butter melts and mixture is well blended after each addition. Remove from heat, and pour mixture through a wire-mesh strainer into a bowl. Place plastic wrap directly on warm curd (to prevent a film from forming); chill 3 hours.

Lime Curd: Substitute lime zest and lime juice for lemon zest and lemon juice. Proceed with recipe as directed.

STEP TWO – make the crust

Press-In Shortbread Tart Shell

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1/4 cup sugar

2 large egg yolks

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt

Stir together butter and sugar in a medium bowl. Stir in yolks. Add flour and salt, and stir until mixture is dry and crumbly. Press dough into bottom and up sides of a 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Freeze until firm, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Bake, rotating halfway through, just until crust turns golden around the edges, 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool in tart pan on a wire rack, 1 hour.

STEP THREE – make the sugar spirals, or skip to step 4

Caramelized Sugar Spirals

2 cups sugar

1/2 cup light corn syrup

8 crushed lemon candies

Stir together sugar, corn syrup, and 1/2 cup water in a 3 1/2-qt. heavy saucepan until blended. Place pan over medium-high heat, and cook, without stirring, until a candy thermometer registers 305° to 315° or until mixture begins to turn a golden caramel color (about 25 to 30 minutes). Remove from heat, and stir just until color is evenly distributed, using a clean wooden spoon. Carefully place bottom of saucepan into cold water to stop the cooking process. Remove from water, and let stand 2 to 3 minutes or until slightly thickened.

Sprinkle crushed lemon candies over a piece of parchment paper. Carefully spoon about 1 Tbsp. hot syrup over candies in a circular motion, creating 3-inch discs. (If syrup gets too thick, place saucepan back over heat for 3 to 4 minutes or until syrup slightly melts. Use a clean spoon to continue making spirals.) Let cool 10 minutes or until completely cool. (Mixture will harden as it cools.)

STEP FOUR – make the filling

Microwave white chocolate in a small microwave-safe bowl at HIGH 1 1/2 minutes or until melted and smooth, stirring at 30-second intervals. Mine didn’t take the whole 1 ½ minutes, but be careful because white chocolate can overcook easily and there is no saving it after that point.

Beat softened cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about a minute. Add melted chocolate, and beat until blended, stopping to scrape down sides. Add Lemon Curd, and beat until blended.

Spoon into prepared crust. Smooth filling with a spatula. Chill 4 hours.

Arrange lemon candies evenly on top of tart. Prop Caramelized Sugar Spirals against lemon candies.


May 9 2014

Pappardelle with Duck Ragu

While there is still a bit of a cold bite left in the air, I want to squeeze in the few remaining wintery dishes that have been racing around my head. Duck ragu has been on my to do list for a very long time, so it was a kind of a relief to cross it off, almost a mini triumph. This is a very delicious recipe, I found it to be rich and have some deep complex flavours, but duck ragu in my mind is a special treat, so this is something I would make very seldom.

Pappardelle with Duck Ragu

4 duck legs and thighs, skin removed
4 tablespoons virgin olive oil
1 medium Spanish onion, chopped into 1/4-inch dice
1 medium carrot, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
1 stalk celery, chopped into 1/4-inch dice
8 ounces red wine ( Chianti preferred)
1 pound canned tomatoes, peeled whole

Fresh pappardelle – enough for 4-6 people

Wash duck legs and remove all fat. Pat dry.

In a thick bottomed casserole or Dutch oven, heat olive oil until smoking. Add duck legs and cook until brown on all sides and remove, about 10 to 12 minutes. Add onion, carrot, garlic and celery and cook until softened, about 7 to 9 minutes. Add wine, tomatoes, chicken stock and dried mushrooms and bring to a boil. Add duck legs and return to boil, lower heat, cover and allow to simmer for 1 hour. Remove duck legs and allow to cool. Pull all meat off the bones and return to pot, without the bones. Simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, or until quite thick. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

In a large pot, bring 6 quarts of water to boil and add 2 tablespoons salt. Boil pappardelle until cooked

Heat 2 cups duck ragu in a 12 to 14 inch saute pan until quite hot. Put hot pappardelle into pan with duck ragu and toss well. Pour into serving bowl and serve immediately. Season with salt and fresh cracked pepper.