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Whatever happened to Delia Smith? You know who I’m talking about, the bestselling English cookbook writer and renowned television personality. Before there was Nigella, there was Delia. Perhaps she is still big across the pond, but it’s been awhile since I’ve seen head or tail of her in this neck of the woods. I remember watching her on the Food Network years ago, instructing in her straightforward and somewhat starchy style. Compared to the razzle and dazzle of the new generation of television chefs, she seems like a throwback. There’s no coyness, no simpering, certainly no cursing and throwing pans across the kitchen. With Delia, it’s all about the food

How to Cook Book One was my very first real cookbook. By real I mean the kind of cookbook that teaches technique, that is focused on real food made from fresh ingredients–the opposite of the land of dump-and-pour Rachel Ray style of cooking that I once inhabited. Using her recipes I made some of the best dishes of my life and realized that I wasn’t hopeless in the kitchen. With a truly good recipe, anyone can make something fantastic. The trick is separating the wheat from the chaff. Delia’s cooking is wheat.

When I turn on the Food Network these days I am almost always disappointed. The lineup is full of shows like Top Chef, Chopped, and The F  Word–insipid reality shows where the food is distant to the antics of the participants. Shows like Delia’s actually taught people how to cook, but it seems that people who want to learn how to cook are no longer the network’s primary audience these days, which I think is a shame. Maybe one day we’ll get bored with the reality tv model and it will all come full circle. But in the meantime, I have Delia’s books.

Delia Smith’s Classic Fresh Tomato Sauce

Ingredients:

Serves 2-3 (enough for 12 ounces/350 grams pasta)

2 lbs/8 oz/1.15 kg fresh ripe tomatoes

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped

1 large clove garlic, peeled and crushed

approx. 12 large leaves fresh basil, torn into pieces

Parmigiano Reggiano, to serve

salt and freshly milled black pepper

Directions:

1) To skin the tomatoes pour boiling water over them and leave them in the water for exactly one minute. Drain and gently peel off the skins. Reserve 3 of the tomatoes for later and roughly chop the rest.

2) Heat the oil in a medium saucepan, then add the onions and garlic and cook gently for 5 minutes, until they are a pale gold. Add the chopped tomatoes and about 1/3 of the basil. Season with some salt and pepper.

3) Simmer the tomatoes on very low heat for 1 1/2 hours, or until almost all of the liquid has evaporated and the tomatoes are reduced to a thick, jam-like consistency, while stirring occasionally.

4) Roughly chop the reserved tomatoes and stir them in along with the rest of the basil leaves.

5) When serving the pasta, cook for one minute less than usual. Return it to the saucepan after draining and mix with the sauce, cooking for one minute. Serve with a sprinkling of the parmesan cheese.

The Olympics are in full swing here in Vancouver. Every morning when I go downtown to my place of work, I am amazed at all the people in the streets, at the lines for the various pavilions. It’s an exciting time for the city. You can feel it in the air. But my life is so hectic that I haven’t yet had a chance to partake in the festivities. A part of me doesn’t really care, but another part wonders if I’ll be sorry later. To be perfectly honest, sports don’t interest me all that much and the Olympic Games, whether summer or winter, hardly at all.

If I’m drawn to anything about the Games in Vancouver, it’s the food. There are some pavilions that I definitely want to check out. I want to see what the world is cooking. And I plan on going to the French Quarter on Granville Island very soon.

In the meantime, I’ve made turkey.

Today is one of those days when I actually have a little time to myself and I chose to spend some of it in the kitchen, whipping up some dishes to tide me through the week. A lot of it will go into the freezer, as do a lot of the things I cook. Cooking in batches makes my life a lot easier.

I love having slices of this turkey meatloaf on hand for dinner, or tucking it between a couple of slices of bread for a delicious sandwich at lunch. For all its leanness, it’s surprisingly juicy. Plus it’s so easy to put together.

This recipe is adapted from Chef Michael Smith from the Food Network in Canada. His recipes are accessible and down-to-earth yet full of robust flavors.

Michael Smith’s Turkey Meatloaf

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 onions, peeled and sliced

4 garlic cloves, minced

8 ounces button mushrooms, cleaned and chopped

2 pounds of ground turkey

1/2 cup milk

1 cup breadcrumbs

2 eggs

1 can (156 ml) tomato paste

a few dashes Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon dried thyme or oregano

salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

1) Preheat oven to 350F.

2) Saute oil and onion in a skillet over medium-high heat until they are golden brown. Add the garlic and mushrooms and continue sauteing until the liquid has evaporated and the mushrooms are lightly browned.

3) Mix the turkey, milk, breadcrumbs, egg, tomato paste and Worcestershire sauce, thyme and mushroom mixture in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper

4) Press the mixture into a loaf pan or an 8×8 baking dish. Bake until firm and lightly browned on top. An instant read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meatloaf should read 165 degrees.

photo courtesy of Sherman @shermansfoodadventures.com

The Olympics are here! After years of anticipation and preparation Vancouver is finally playing host to the 2010 Olympic Games. I’d paid little attention to all the hubbub as the day of the opening ceremonies grew closer, but this week I have finally been caught up in the excitement of it all. The part that I’m looking forward to the most? For the world to see what an amazing city Vancouver is, and that British Columbia is one of the most spectacular places on earth.

The night before the opening ceremonies, I was fortunate to attend a media event for food and wine journalists sponsored by Tourism Vancouver Island. The region of Vancouver Island–along with B.C.’s Sunshine Coast–is considered an area of unparalleled natural beauty and is one of the world’s top tourist destinations. Readers of  Conde Nast Traveler Magazine have voted Vancouver Island Best North American Island for eight years consecutively, and it has also been voted Best Island in Continental US/Canada by Travel & Leisure Magazine. The event showcased the fine wines and fresh seafood of the region and featured cooking demonstrations by world renowned chefs, including Bob Blumer from Food Network’s Glutton for Punishment.

photo courtesy of Pacific Kiss

The highlight of the evening was the seafood supplied by Pacific Kiss, purveyors of  sustainable oysters, scallops, clams, and mussels. British Columbia is known as the “oyster capital” of Canada and its cold, nutrient-rich waters are optimal for growing shellfish. Pacific Kiss provides product to local and international markets. From February 12 to 28, local growers are showcasing twelve of B.C.’s best oysters in the Pacific Kiss oyster platter available at select restaurants: Joe Fortes Seafood & Chop House and Monk McQueen’s Fresh Seafood & Oyster Bar in Vancouver, and at Smitty’s Oyster House in Gibsons, on the Sunshine Coast.

courtesy of Pacific Kiss

With a bounty of fresh, natural ingredients at our doorstep, it’s easy to see why Vancouver is oft-voted one of the ten best restaurant cities in the world.

Also on sample was a wide selection of local wines, including those from the family-run Beaufort Vineyard and Estate Winery. Susan and Jeff Vandermolen’s handcrafted wines have won awards internationally.

photo courtesy of Beaufort Wines

They produce small-lot wines on their vineyard in Vancouver Island’s beautiful Comox Valley, and offer a tasting room, a picnic area, and tours of the winery and vineyard–which has an amazing view of its namesake Beaufort Mountains.

courtesy of Beaufort Wines

The Vandermolens are actively involved in special events and fundraisers benefiting the local community. Take a look at their website for more information on these special events and the story of the Beaufort Winery.

For the cooking demonstration portion of the evening, Chef Bob Blumer alongside notable chefs from the region, prepared oysters on the half shell smothered in a light and buttery Hollandaise sauce and geoduck (pronounced gooey duck), a species of a very large saltwater clam native to the Northwest coast of the United States and Canada. The “neck” and siphons of the geoduck can measure up to a meter in length. It is the largest burrowing clam in the world and is considered a delicacy, particularly in Asia, where it commands around $30.00 US a pound, or $65.00 per kilo.

The evening was highly enjoyable and a great success. A reminder what a wonderful place Vancouver is to eat. With such abundant natural resources, a strong tradition of multiculturalism, and a growing passion for local and sustainable food, it’s no wonder it’s one of the best eating towns to ever host the Olympic games.

When it comes to baking my philosophy (for now) is the easier the better. What could be easier than a plate of palmiers, the butterfly shaped French cookies sometimes also known as “elephant ears” or “palm leaves”?  Now, I’m not talking about standing in the kitchen all afternoon buttering and folding laminate pastry dough–I’m not brave enough for that yet. I’m talking about puff pastry bought at the market, sprinkled with sugar and popped into the oven for minutes. The result is a light, buttery cookie with a caramel crunch that is hard to resist. And sure to impress.

Granted, I make sure I get the best puff pastry money can buy, usually the all-butter puff pastry at my local Gourmet Warehouse. This recipe is for a classic palmier–puff pastry layered with sugar–but palmiers can also be made savory, using pesto, thin layers of ham and mustard, or other condiments.

It’s best to allow the pastry to defrost overnight in the refrigerator so the dough is very pliable but still cold when you pop the cookies in the oven. In fact, you should put the dough in the fridge for about fifteen minutes or so after you have sprinkled it with sugar; the combination of the chilled dough and the heat of your oven is what makes the puff pastry rise.

To make palmiers, you will need a sheet of puff pastry and a half cup of sugar. Sprinkle your work surface with a generous dusting of sugar. This will prevent the dough from sticking and will press the sugar into the dough when you roll it out.

With a rolling pin, roll the dough out into a rectangle. Because you will be rolling up the dough, make sure your rectangle is symmetrical; you can use a pastry scraper or another sharp edge to keep the edges even. Sprinkle the dough with the sugar, pressing it gently into the dough. Gently lift the bottom half of the rectangle to the center so that it halfway up the middle. Press down. Fold the other side down to meet the other half and press that down as well. Now fold the two sides together.

Cover the roll with plastic wrap and put in the fridge for fifteen minutes. Cut the roll into 1/2-inch slices. Brush each piece with a pastry brush dipped in water and then press into some sugar. You can put an extra tablespoon or two on your work surface. Place palmiers cut side up on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Be sure to leave a lot of space between each palmier.

Bake the cookies at 400F for about 7-10 minutes, then turn with a spatula and cook for another 7-10 minutes, or until golden. This will give each side that crispy, caramel crunch.

Serve with coffee or alongside a bowl of vanilla ice cream.

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QUOTE

"Noncooks think it's silly to invest two hours' work in two minutes' enjoyment; but if cooking is evanescent, so is the ballet." -Julia Child

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Photos and text copyright 2009 by Darina Kopcok
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