Sunday, December 28, 2008

Crab Cakes

Saturday 27 December
Or goyishe latkes. Barbara had bought Holt a prezzie of a bag of panko, the upscale Japanese bread crumbs, and we have admit they did make for a light and fluffy crumby coating. Served them over a dressed salad of baby spinach (from the Nice People in Findlay Market) and arugula (from the Nice Barbara in the Back Yard) with a little pan sauce, deglazed with wine and lime juice.

Chicken in Champagne Sauce


Friday December 26
We happened to have most of the ingredients, for the family classic.
The half roll of sage sausage from yesterday, a quarter pound of scrappy bacon, carrots from St. Catharines meet neeps from Cincinnati. We lacked a chicken (definitely sine qua NON), but a drive out to the supermarket on Boxing Day clears your head, at least a bit.

The Christmas Ham, and All the Trimmings


Thursday December 25
The glory of Cincinnati is Schad's ham, and it's the perfect thing to serve for Christmas. It's so delicious, it doesn't need a glaze, and it bakes up in just over an hour. This time, we only got a half ham, as last year we couldn't fit a whole one into the oven, and nine pounds of ham is still plenty. As we were keeping it simple, we just had sweet potatoes (nuked in their jackets), and roasted asparagus for vedge. But even if you're not having turkey, dressing is essential - so Holt made his wonderful cornbread as for stuffin' muffins, but this time using a pan of fried-up diced onions and celery, a half roll of crumbled sage sausage, and fresh sage as flavoring, and letting the whole thing bake up in a large pyrex dish, without bothering to re-crumble it. It was moist and flavorful, and can be interpreted as either dressing or cornbread.
Holt made the pumpkin clafouti again for dessert, but the pumpkin he got from a Findlay Market farmer was not as sweet as the one from a St. Catharines' Market farmer. So we dusted it with powdered sugar, and will Canadianize the rest by pouring smuggled Canadian maple syrup over it. Come to think of it, that worked for the sweet potatoes too.

Posole


Wednesday December 24
A New Mexican New Year's tradition, which is bound to be served when Holt and the Parker family get together in wintry weather.
The "Anaheims" (New Mexico Long Greens, to you!) we bought at Kroger's turned out to have quite a bite; Harold, at least, found the posole a touch hot in both senses (¡picante y caliente!). But we drained some yogurt to serve as crema, which cooled it off - again in both senses.

Braised Radicchio and Chicken

Monday December 22
One amazing day last week, the rain fell and the temperature skyrocketed up to sixty degrees. So Barbara took off her coat and spent the day in the garden, raking leaves, pruning roses, and picking the astounding remains of greenstuff: perfectly good fresh arugula, parsley, and nicely-reddened radicchio.
Today we used nature's bounty: we trimmed the lovely radicchio, nicely reddened with the cold; sautéed it with diced pancetta, and braised it with frozen veal stock, while reheating the legs of Thursday's chicken on top. The combination was delicious: bitter but bright radicchio, salty pancetta, and chicken to soak up the unctuous and delicious flavors.

Portobellos Trifolati with Penne

Portobellos Trifolati with Penne
Tuesday December 23
As here, but with penne rather than spiral pasta. The temperature has fallen to 5 degrees (Fahrenheit!), so nobody was going out to pick thyme, and we used the dried stuff; luckily we still had some fresh parsley that we picked two days ago, when it was 55 degrees warmer.

Chanukah Latkes and Lox


Sunday December 21
Claudia Roden's classic recipe: a pound of potatoes, grated, soaked in water, drained, and squeezed dry (we use a potato ricer); one egg; salt and pepper; traditionally fried in oil. Topped with drained yogurt and slices of lox. Next time, we should make a half more, using either two small or one jumbo egg, because we went on to have Graeter's ice cream and egg nog for dessert.

Mussels with Chorizo

Saturday December 20
This was Holt's inspiration for Findlay Market finds: mussels from - how ironic - Prince Edward Island, and Spanish style chorizo. Sautéed the chorizo in the bottom of a big pot, then added half a diced onion, three cloves of garlic, and a splash of white wine once the garlic took a little color. Toss the mussels in, stir in a lot of parsley, and cover. Once the mussels open, eat them.*

*The rule for mussels is: don’t cook them if they don’t close. Don’t eat them if they don’t open.

Asparagus Pasta

Friday December 19
The James Beard recipe, which we've done before. Asparagus, probably from Chile or Peru, was on sale at Kroger's; sometimes we're glad we're not strict locavores.

Roast Chicken and Root Vegetables

Thursday December 18
One of our favorites, roast chicken with a lemon up its butt, and this time with sprigs of thyme under the breast skin - when they were done, you could pull the sticks out and the thyme leaves, and flavors, stayed in place. Roasted alongside were not just cut-up onions and potatoes, but some sliced small golden ball turnips that Barbara rootled up in the garden. They still tasted a little rutabagoid, but on the whole, it was good stuff.

Tilapia and Asparagus with Hollandaise Sauce

Tilapia and Asparagus with Hollandaise Sauce
Wednesday December 17
The very last of the Chinese tilapia from Trader Joe's, dipped into seasoned cornmeal, and fried until golden. Alongside, plain roasted asparagus, but Holt was reveling in being reunited with his gas stove, so he made a lovely lemony Hollandaise to pour over both. Sort of like Bundles of Sole with less fuss.

Lamb Hash

Tuesday December 16
It's a shame that the Black & Decker food processor we bought at Canadian Tire didn't work out - the possible liquid level was laughably low, so we sent it back. But that meant we couldn't make hash with the processor, so we brought the remains of last Wednesday's lamb leg back to process in Cincinnati. So simple: chop onions and fry in oil; process potatoes (Kennebecks, and again, we brought them back with us) and fry in the same pan; throw in some old veal-stock cubes from the freezer, and let it simmer under cover until the potatoes are tender. When all is edible, add processed lamb and chopped fresh thyme and parsley from the garden, and IMMEDIATELY toss about and brown under the broiler until it's as crusty as you like it.
A classic, served with ketchup if you like that sort of thing; which Holt does.

Shrimp and Artichokes

Monday December 15
Today was the Great Drive South to Cincinnati - Eliza crossing the ice, but in the other direction. We got home in reasonable time, and scavenged dinner from what was left in the fridge and freezer - a bag of frozen shrimp, and the remains of a giant jar of Costco artichoke hearts.
Sort of like the traditional chicken and artichokes but now with more shrimp. Just a little onion sautéed, then the artichokes sliced into smaller wedges, a squirt of lemon, then peeled shrimps nettled into the mess till they turn pretty in pink.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Venison Stoo redo (stux redux?)

Sunday 14

The leftover stew from Tuesday, served on top of the last of our PEI potatoes from the Royal Agricultural. And that cleans out the refrigerator for the Great Drive South.

Holiday Drinks Party

Saturday 13 December 2008

At John and Lisa's, the Sainsburys (no relations). Unlike the supermarket, they made all their own food—and what food! While we nattered with lots of interesting people with interesting shoes, we nibbled on:
little cheese quiches and ham quiches
red pepper and white bean spreads to go on all sorts of crackers and baguettes
smoked salmon canapés topped with crème fraiche and capers
bits of smoked trout on curried tartlets
green olive tapenade
divine! fig and black olive tapenade
sushi rolls and multicolored wrap rolls
pickled mushrooms
succulent shrimp with chilli sauce (as they would say)
little puff pastries
cheese and anchovy savouries
and a fabulous spice cake.
Accompanied with (way too much) wine, it was a perfect evening. So thanks, and merry Christmas, Lisa and John!

Maple Glazed Salmon and Zucchini

Friday 12 December
A Canadian recipe for one of our last nights here. Zehrs had a whole nice salmon, which we cut up for steaks and filleted. Two of the bigger fillets got this maple sauce. Since we didn't have a cedar plank or an oven big enough for one, we basted the fish on the flesh side, pan-seared it, flipped it skinside downside, basted it some more till just au point (as we say in Canada). One the side, a lone surviving zucchino and a half, sautéed with a little chopped onion.

Deer Hash

Thursday 11 December
A loose cubed hash: itty-bitty cubes of onion and potato, dusted with thyme and pepper, sweated in oil, then a cup of the venison stock and a shot of Worcestershire. Cooked covered till the potatoes were done. Then added further itty-bitty cubes of venison, and ran it under the broiler for a bit of browning.
Served with both HP sauce and ketchup, so truly Canadian.

Leg of Lamb and Sprouts

Wednesday 10 December
Winter and more roasty things. A simple leg of lamb covered with a mustard coating: 1/2 cup grainy mustard, 2 TBSP Dijon, zest of one lemon, 1/2 lemonsworth of lemon juice, 3 cloves garlic, rosemary, salt. This just gets smeared on the top, none of your fancy-schmancy cutting little slots and inserting slivers, etc. It's the lemon that makes this so good and permeates the meat. Roast at 375 for 1 3/4 hours, till instant read thermometer hits 120º at the core and 135º half way out (the highest). We let this rest, while braising some sprouts, cut side down in butter, then the other 1/2 lemonsworth of lemon juice and a glug of wine, covered and cooked till tender but not too soggy.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Venison Stew

Tuesday 9 December

As Chekov may have said, you can't put a stew to marinate in the refrigerator in Act I without cooking it in Act III. So remember Saturday's venison bits? Today Holt got them out, browned them properly in flour, and set them to simmer in the crockpot for three hours or so, along with some turnips, parsnips, carrots, onions, and of course the red wine marinade with thyme and white pepper they'd been sitting in for three days. Three days marination, 6 hours cooking. Luscious eating on a cold, wet winter day.

Spag Bol

Monday 8 December

All day ragù
for me and you.
The classic Bolognese, milk and all, with the chop meat from the nice fermer at the merket (that's how Rick Mercer says it!). Amazingly even after about 3 hours of subsimmer, the little cubes of carrot were still a tad crunchy, and it wasn't until nearly Hour 5 that they surrendered to force majeure.
On top of big rigatoni (so sue us for improper pasta and redundancy) with lots of cheese. Yum.

Venison II / Potluck

Sunday 7 December 2008

There was an AIA lecture, but Holt didn't feel up to the cruel chairs of the hall, so stayed home and had more of the king's good deer. A number of plums whose days were numbered too (two?) got chopped up, cooked in butter, then brown sugar, a shot of brandy, cinnamon, ginger, cloves ('tis the season) and then a handful of dried cranberries (season, 'tis). This made for nice warm sauce to take the chill off the sliced deer. Plus the half of a fennel that needed to be used up, sliced and braised in the venison. Non c'è male.

Barbara, in the meantime, was having a jolly old reunion with Pam, a grad school friend who gave the lecture. Some nice AIA members had offered their lovely house for a potluck, which was varied and sumptuous. Barbara brought another of Holt's home-baked Christmas focaccie,
which was so appreciated that no one minded her smuggling home some dessert for him.

Venison Shoulder Roast

Saturday 6 December

Or WTF do you do with a huge and sullen hunk of protein that we had bought on spec at Lakeland Meats? This was a case where the intertubes rather fell down on its job of omniscience, since every single recipe offered utterly different timings and methods. Here's what we wound up doing (after a certain trepidation), and it turned out fine.

The essential fact seems to be that a venison shoulder is rather like top round beef: it's never going to the tenderest cut so it can't be done rare, but it can be easily reduced to shoe leather by overcooking. The goal is medium (not even medium rare) at about 135º F inside. And left to rest.
This was a boneless, 5 lb. roast. So we cut off about 2 lbs of the scrappier bits, demembraned them, and set them marinating for a later stew.
The remaining integral 3 lb. roast went into a dutch oven, resting on a bed o' sliced onions, *covered* at 390º (sort of 200º C). Now one recipe said 10 minutes the lb., another 20, another 25. We found it took about 1h 45 m (but keep checking). Cooking it covered provided the moisture it needed to be sort of in umido, and in fact it threw off rather a lot of venison stock, as it were.
As mentioned, it then had to rest a while before we cut into it and found that it was good.
Sliced very thin, it was mighty fine eating, accompanied by a Flat Rock Merlot.

Since we had no idea if we were going to have anything edible at the end of this experiment, Barbara in the meanwhile had made up a possible pasta/side dish emergency backup main course. We had actually gotten some fresh sugar-snap peas from the Farmers' Market - I guess the peas couldn't tell a chilly late fall from a chilly spring. We just cubed up some pancetta, set it to frying, added some cubed red onions to look just like it, and then sautéed the sugar snaps in among them. Those peapods are never as tender as you think they're going to be, so we then added some white wine and broth from the venison and covered them up to steam. If the venison roast hadn't worked out, we would have had the result more or less like this; but as it was, we didn't need to do that. The Italians use them either on pasta or as a side dish as well.

Chicken Soup with tortellini

Friday 5 December

On a cold day, nothing better. The last of the chicken scraps, the stock Barbara had simmered on Tuesday, lots of new onions, a little celery, and the nice dried tortles from Antipastos.

Seppie calabresi

Thursday 4 December

Zehr's had cuttlefish: not squid, but their little cousins (the nice lady filling in at the fish counter had to ask me what they were; she seemed a tad squeamish). We haven't seen fresh squid or cuttlefish for ages. It would be so nice to get them with guts and ink sacks intact. The last time I did have real squid ink, I made the Venetian classic of seppie al nero, and I've only gotten to make squid ink pasta once!

A very nice simple prep, with the cuttles cut up, fried with onion and garlic, and then stewed in a little tomato and wine, with a pinch of cayenne and the absolute last of the indoor basil. We served this with shells (ma certo!) for the seafood lover in you.

And a bottle of champagne to celebrate good news and nice colleagues.

Post-Bond Leftovers

Wednesday 3 December

Off to see the new Bond film (with not enough Gemma Arterton, in Holt's opinion), back for rewarmed leftovers, which is not all that inappropriate. So the sliced roast pork from day before yesterday, decorated with Thanksgiving cranberries, and a last spoonful of tasty squash.

Chicken with Mushrooms and Cream

Tuesday 2 December

After eating the breast of Sunday's roast chicken, we broke the rest down as usual into edible-as-they-are-bits (drumsticks, thighs, a wing and a prayer, some nuggets of meat), and a carcass. Today Barbara took the carcass and made a lovely all-day broth out of it in the slow cooker, then had the brilliant idea of rehotting up the legs, thighs, and wings by dunking them in the soup for bit. They then went into a mess of sliced sautéed mushrooms with a little thyme and a 1/2 cup of cream, just enough to bind it all.

Roast Pork with chioggia beets

Monday 1 December

It's winter, friends, so the oven's on for roasting. (Also, while the stovetop is crazy and inconsistent, the oven is comparatively dependable.) We got a nice piece of pig (loin roast) from Antipastos and tried this recipe.*

The difference is that the mustard cum fennel cum salt is on the inside. Rather than slicing the beautiful loin in half, I just cut a pocket into it on the side and stuffed the marinade in. High roast, then low, then standing made a very moist bit of pork.
Meanwhile we also covered and roasted some chioggia beets, and let them stand long enough for to be handled. Though the pretty target patterns largely disappear when you cook them, a little of the circles comes through.

*We did not make the Cumberland sauce, fine though I'm sure it is.

Roast Chicken with Parsnips

Sunday 30 Nov.

Or Fowl is Fair.
We decided that Sunday was long enough after Thanksgiving (US) to have another bird, so a tasty fat chicken. And since parsnips were the only root vegetable we hadn't had at Tuberfest, we threw those into the schmaltz.
The usual prep: rosemary, thyme, and salt under the skin, lemon up the butt, and the thighs cut and spread for the last 40 minutes. So tasty it was obscene.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Veal Chops with thyme, mashed potatoes refritos

Saturday 29 November

A trip to Antipastos to stock up on meat, and their veal chops are now one of our standards.
Katharine had sent us home from Thanksgiving not just stuffed, but with a Tuberfest care package of mashed potatoes. Holt beat some cream into the mash, then added a little bit more, then that fatal bit more than that. The mix was a bit too soft to be flipped for potato pancakes, even after being patted with bread crumbs. Holt applied Kitchen Rule 3 ("When all else fails, rename it"), declared that that was what he had had in mind all along, and treated the tatties as for frijoles refritos. Flipped 'em over, pushed 'em around a bit, let 'em develop a bit of crispness on the bottom. Not bad at all.
Once that was done, we could deal with the chops. Again, constant vigilance is the price of dealing with the stupidhead electric stove. But truth, justice, and the Canadian way (plus an application of fresh thyme and coarse salt) prevailed with the chops, and they came out very nice indeed.

Lamb sausage and fennel with stuffin' muffins

Friday 28 November

Really just an excuse for more stuffin' muffins. A mound of braised fennel in the middle of the links, nicely cooked despite the best efforts of the stupidhead stove to 1) go on too high, 2) then turn itself down for no reason.

USA Thanksgiving at Katharine's, featuring Tuberfest!

Thursday 27 November

Despite the fact that it was a normal working day here in Canada, and a teaching day at Brock, Katharine kindly invited us over for a down-home south of the border style Thanksgiving.
Holt made:

Stuffin' muffins. The wonderful cornbread recipe, but with no cheese but lots of onion, celery, and sage (see below) baked in muffin tins. The colossal amount of butter makes them very moist.

Side dressin'. There was a little more cornbread batter than the muffin tins could hold, so we baked it in a pan, crumbled it up, and took it to Katharine's. There we just mixed it with enough chicken stock and a egg to get it wet and popped it in the oven for a bit.

Pumpkin clafouti. On something of a clafouti binge, and this one is a real keeper. We had a tupper of frozen pumpkin flesh (from Canadian Thanksgiving—because of the earlier harvest). We added a shot of brandy and pumpkin pie spices ("cinnamon and ginger, nutmeg and cloves," as the old song goes; except we didn't have any nutmeg, but Katharine provided fresh grated nutmeg on the spot). The recipe is here, but you needn't do all that draining if your pumpkin puree is already rather solid.

We also provided a turnip gratin (warning for next time: a little lighter on the salt) as the first part of what would turn into Tuberfest 2008.

To drink: Flat Rock chardonnays, a quasi vertical tasting of 2004 & 2006. Verdict: 2006 will get you more horizontal.

Katharine made:
Stolichnaya vodka with hand-picked rowan berries

Zakuski of bread, butter, 3 kinds sliced meats, fingerling potatoes (Tuberfest II), coarse salt for dipping, sour cream with maple syrup for ditto

Organic chicken: crisp, brown skin and moisture!

Cranberry sauce: her sister's recipe (thank you, sister!)

And then Tuberfest III and up: mashed potatoes, roasted sweet potatoes, and baked squash.

To drink: Cave spring gamay (Katherine lives just down the street from this winery) and 2006 pinot noir (a touch light).

And as Holt's grandfather used to say after any similarly enormous and delicious meal:
Mighty good eatin', what there was of it.

White Bean Soup Tuscan style


Wednesday 26 November

In the crockpot, one day old.
I'm becoming a convert to the slow cooker. We don’t have one at home, but we're going to get one, as it does a nice job on beans and friends (as the ol' Moosewood cookbook said). The white beans soaked overnight, then went into the slow cooker with a big chopped onion, 4 cloves of garlic, 2 bay leaves, whatever tiny sage leaves had held on this long, a grind of rosemary, and a long afternoon. After about 4 hours, I tossed in little cubes of an old "ham" (i.e. "ham and water product": anything that has to be labeled "product" ain't food) found at the back of the freezer and in its own (slightly spongy) way not bad for flavoring the soup. Barbara scored some more dried sage from this dude she knows. We served it with the toasted Christmas focaccia that Holt had made last Friday. Like a winter night in Florence, if you overlook all those Canadian bungaloes with Christmas lights outside.

Sea Bass (Branzino) Chinese style / Plum clafouti


Tuesday 25 November

Zehr's gets its fish in on Tuesday, so Holt picked up a pair of nice big black sea bass. They came ungutted, so he sharpened his knives (I said sturgeon, not . . .) and recalled Julia's lesson on how to clean a fish ("Slit from head to anus"—possibly the first time that word was used on PBS).
We did them in a simple Chinese style, with a bit of improv to make up for the lack of a steamer - more or less as HERE.

And this is where preparation stopped, because a telecommunications failure (apparently snow makes Canadian phone lines wonky - go figure) left Barbara stranded at school till she got a ride from a kindly TA; while Holt tried to get in touch, went up there, found that she'd gone, and came back just before she actually arrived, starving. So dinner only got started at a fairly ungodly hour.

Anyway, after the joy of reunion and some impromptu appetizers to keep body and soul together, slivers of ginger and red onion (playing the role of scallions) with just a dash of soy and sugar were poured over the pyrex pan of fish, which was then covered with foil and set in a roasting pan with some hot water around it. Baked at 400º for about 25 minutes. Really quite a nice fish dish.

For dessert a plum clafouti, for additional comfort after a trying but ultimately harmless day.

Gnice Gnocchi


Monday 24 November

Barbara was working on a project up at Brock until rather late, so it was good that we were already planning to have gnocchi with pesto. The pesto was our own product, from the plant we bought at St. Catharine's Farmers' Market back in August, whipped up in late September, and froze for a rainy day - which this was.

No more than 10 minutes after she got back, we were chowing down.

Sausages with "Sauercraut"

Sunday 23 November

We bought some sauercraut (sic), which turned out to be rather blah, from the farmers' market. So we dolled it up with sliced colbourne apples (ditto) and red onion sautéed in a little oil and then generously doused in balsamic vinegar. The snausages were the regular mild pork from Antipastos.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Pennette ala Saffi

Saturday 22 November

Oh, you know. This, but with smaller penne.

Chowder with scallops and Christmas Focaccia


Friday 21 November

The arctic char fumet had firmed up into a nice gelatinous stock, so we browned some onions in butter (for a bit of smoky flavour*), added the stock, more of the PEI potatoes* in cubes, more thyme, some chives, then cream. When all was done in went 440 grams* of bay scallops, and some chopped fresh oregano and chives. The PEI potatoes worked very well in this soup, since the starch helped thicken the stock. A very tasty mess of leftovers.

Holt went to Canadian* Tire, initially to get an icy scraper for the upcoming Winter Fun Fest, and went a little wild. Canadian Tire actually does have tires, round back, but what it had up front was a food processor (on sale for $49.99), a set of mixing bowls, jumper cables (apotropaic), and, oh yes, an ice scraper (also on sale).
Holt thought he'd give the food processor a whirl (get it?) and see if the dough blade attachment really worked. The jury's still out, since he made a big mistake with the pizza dough recipe, which is pretty much Carol Field's recipe for focaccia. When the recipe called for 800 ml of flour, he misread as 800 gr.* So the bowl was overfull, the liquid amount only half, so the little blade thingy just span around pointlessly. He had to pour it all out into a big mixing bowl, sling in water till it looked right, and do it all by hand anyways. (Plus clean up the food processor.)
Still the result was nice, and for a extra bonus, he tossed on the last of the red Hawaiian sea salt and rosemary mixture, thus creating the season's first Xmas focaccia.

*Note Canadian content.

Holt's Birthday!

Thursday 20 November

Barbara took Holt out for a slap-up supper with all the fixin's at Strewn Winery.
We had had their "Terroir" Cabernet Franc at Stone Road Grille and Barbara decided to head for more at the source. So after a tasting and the purchase of a case (note - not just a convenient but a sharable birthday present!), we settled down to dinner at their restaurant, La Cachette.

We started with a bison pâté (no liver, we were assured) wrapped in bacon, which went beautifully with toast rounds, dots of a very thick balsamic vinegar, a salad featuring fresh white beans, eentsy cornichons, and fruit chutney. There was also a big bowl of mussels from PEI, the little island that could. We were intrigued (alright, a tad dubious) about the combo of pernod with chili sauce, but it really worked: a fine fiery bite, a hint of sweet fennel, and big salty capers all around the muscly tidbits.
They had a special of duck breast, quite a lot really, with a splendid raisinized sour cherry sauce. Plus a tender bone-nibblable rack of lamb, with a coating of crumbly crumbs, tomatoes, and rosemary.
We often skip dessert, but, of course, you can't on your birthday, and by luck the restaurant had a winter deal of adding a starter and dessert to the main course for $10 more (a quasi prix fixe). The "pear clafouti" was in fact a rather elegant little pear-and-cream-filled tart shell, and the "whiskey tart" was the subtle apotheosis of one of Canada's main contributions to world cuisine (and cookin'): the butter tart. It was warm, tender, and slightly alcoholic. Which so were we - or is it, we so were?

Coq au vin deux or redux

Wednesday 19 November

Disaster averted. I had thought about putting the remains of the tough old bird back into the slow-cooker, but was basically too lazy to haul the damn thing out again. So I added some black olives (to give it the zip it seemed to lack last time), put it in a saucepan with some more red wine, on low on the stupidhead stove, and headed into the subterranean vastness of the Batcave to do some work. Quel almost désastre! After an hour or so, lost in the fun of correcting proofs, I smelled a little burnt smell drifting down the stairs. Sure enough, even the very low setting on the accursed electric stove was too high. The involuntary caramelization wasn't too far along, however, and I managed to pull off the top, unburnt layer. Provided that you thought "barbeque" rather than "ruined," it was fine served over a mess of garlic mashed potatoes. These were the PEI spuds with which we had been plied at the Royal Agricultural. A little bit too watery if boiled, but still pretty nice.

Arctic char and creamed leeks


Tuesday 18 November

A morning of errands took me past the fish counter at Zehrs where there were just-in arctic char, looking very pretty. I chose one with an almost watermelon red streak down its side. I was a trifle disconcerted on unpacking the fish, however, to find it richly coated in slime. It smelled nice and fresh, the eyes were bright, and I recalled that the classic truite au bleu necessitates trout still fresh enough to have a major slime on. A quick consult of the wonders of the Intertubes (Google "arctic char" + slime) revealed that your arctic char makes its own slime and that's not a bad thing. So I filleted the fish, made a quick fumet out of the head and frame, then sautéed the fillets, skin side down first, about 5 minutes on this erratic stove top, then over for no more than 3. Came out perfect, nice crisp skin and tender meat. Over a bed of braised leeks with a little cream.
The char was so nice, however, that next time, I think we'll just roast it whole and not bother with the filleting.

Coq au vin

Monday 17 November

Another day for the slow-cooker—a bit of an experiment. I tossed in the last of the bacon, then onions, then celery into the bottom, and while they don't brown exactly in the low temp. cooker, they did render up a little fat and made a nice base. Then the other half of the band-sawn stewing hen into the pot, with thyme and the remains of a bottle of Bordeaux très inférieur. Left this to stew all day and then tossed in a lb. of quartered white mushrooms. It lacked a little zip, however, and even after six hours or so the tough old bird was still more resilient than was strictly necessary. Not bad, just not great. The fresh free-range chickens at Antipastos have been outstanding, but the stewing hen needs a couple of days of commitment.

Oyster Boy

Sunday 16 November

We took Sunday entirely off and spent the day with some new friends, Peter and Athalie, who took us to and around the Royal Agricultural Show in Toronto. This is essentially a national version of a county fair, but held in the early 20th century exhibition halls in the heart of the city. It had the usual displays of prize cows, horses pigs, sheep, goats, bunnies, the odd llama or two, giant vegetables (including the Guinness book of world records largest rutabaga, which looked like a ventriloquist's dummy, and a 1200 lb. pumpkin), and butter sculptures showing jumping cows and real-sized equestrian saddles.

In the commercial halls were plenty of booths giving out freebies, and we're glad we got the Ontario local foods cloth sack (for which we had to sing the rather forgettable "Good things grow-o-o in Ontario" song) before we got the apples, the toilet paper, and the large bag of Prince Edward Island potatoes apiece.

Of course, unless you're a funnel-cake fan, there's not usually much that's good to eat at an agricultural fair. So we bolstered ourselves beforehand by going out for dim sum. The restaurant, Sun Sun, was outside town in a Chinese cultural center, the sort that has giant painted gates and painted sculpture in the courtyard. It was not as good as the place we used to go in Philadelphia - though I can't remember the name of that place - but it was pretty good. Then we exhausted ourselves at the fair, and at the end we went out for EXTRAORDINARY oysters at a local place called Oyster Boy.

The Cape Bretons were small and sweet, the Malpeques were large and briny, but even better than either were the Colville Bays, which were fat and creamy yet still briny and fresh. You can see these appellations, by the way, on the maps of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island (where the potatoes also came from) here.

Oh, and the French fries were to die for (with tasty mayos on the side).

Saltimbocca and Sprouts

Saturday 15 November

The overabundance of prosciutto lent itself to a very easy solution: saltimbocca. We had frozen four slices of veal scaloppine from Antipastos, and folded around the prosciutto and a few tender sage leaves from the indoor herb garden pot, they made a nice tender dinner. Since the veal had been frozen, it was a bit wetter than the best fresh, so we did the step of flouring them to insure a crispy crust. (Barbara generally distrusts this procedure since it can lead to a raw flour taste, if entrusted to less than expert hands. But Holt's hands are expert, if you get my drift.)

To accompany: some nice spouts from a sprout-tree, that bit of winter greenery, bought at the market this morning. Braised in a little butter, then chicken stock, carefully watched (see below), and finished with a great grating of lemon zest.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Mai Vi Modern Vietnamese Food, St. Catharines

Friday 14 November

After Holt's hard day lecturing about sex, Mike (the chair) and Katharine took us out for Vietnamese food at Mai Vi.
OK mango roll, indifferent fried coconut shrimp (not enough coconut, not enough shrimp, too much fried). A pretty decent seafood curry.

The thing to go for, though, is a very nice crispy duck, shellacked skin redolent of five-spice, served on a bed of vedge. Various sauces on the side (ours was a soy{a} and ginger that was closer to a hoisin). You get half a duck, crackling, no bones. Worth the detour.

Venison sausage plus fennel two ways

Thursday 13 November

Three venison sausages sautéed in a circle around onions and the last half of the fennel bulb. On the side: the last of the can't-be-beet ('n' fennel) salad from last Friday.

Gnocchi alfredo with prosciutto

Wednesday 12 November

Holt had gone to Zehr's to buy pancetta. He asked for prosciutto, watched as the guy sliced the prosciutto, weighed the prosciutto, wrapped the prosciutto, all the while thinking pancettoid thoughts.
We made a thick alfredo with lots of butter, the last of the cream, the last nubbin of asiago, and showered at the last minute with lots of prosciutto, which by sheer good luck we happened to have on hand.
Salty goodness.

Adega

Tuesday 11 November
Remembrance Day
A lovely day in Toronto: A trip to the Royal Ontario Museum to see dinosaurs, diamonds, and Chinese art. Then a nice dinner at a kind and comforting Portuguese restaurant, Adega.
We were a tad pressed for time, but the waitstaff were very accommodating, so we went straight for the main dishes o' fishes. The special was dorado (sea bream): very crispy skin, kept crisp by being served poised on top of clams and a few scallops projecting like zen rocks from the sea of a very rich and tasty broth.
The house specialty is tender octopuses (octopi, octopodes, o heck: a mess o' tentacles), dotted with a sort of Mediterranean confetti of finely diced tomatoes, red onion, parsley, parsley oil, and capers
Then a wonderful Entführung in a gussy theatre with gilded everything. A beautiful and intimate set using turquoise and other Turkish motifs (which had the added effect of moving the action forward and forming a chamber for what is, after all, a chamber opera). A couple of good voices (I'm very fond of Abduction, cuz the bass gets a beefy, very low role), some rather silly dances added so that all the dancers would have something to do, and best of all, an aisle seat with no one and nothing in front of me. I think I'd go to see anything there, if I can just have those seats. Well, may not Avril Lavigne in Concert, but you know what I mean.

Baby Bok Choy and Ground Pork

Monday 10 November

Got several bunches of cu-u-u-te baby bok choy at the market. We did them in a quick braise: ground pork stir-fried with a little garlic and ginger, halved the the bok choy and put them down face first, then a splash (too much really) of soy sauce (soya up here), plus some chicken broth. Covered and cooked till tender, 'bout 10 minutes. Needed to remove the b.b.c. and reduce the sauce a little.

Pasta with salami and zucchini

Sunday 9 November
Penne, salami, and cream.
(Probably the single most often repeated dish of the repertoire. How did we survive before?)

Scallops and Brussels sprouts


Saturday 8 November

A bistro combo but the stupidhead electric stove keeps leading to troubles. So while one burner failed to go on high, leaving some of the scallops undone and having to be shuffled around to find the one hot spot (and so never really seared), the other refused to die and so crisped the braised sprouts.
Not happy, Jan.
The wine was Coyote's Run unoaked Chard. OK, merely.

Meat and Beet

Friday 7 November

Or The Beet Goes On or The Roast Beef of Olde England II.
We turned the cold beets into a fine salad by tossing them with a half a head of shredded fennel, some EVOO, and white balsamic vinegar.

Pow-Wow Restaurant

Thursday 6 November

After a fun talk about orphans in the ancient world by Mark Golden, the Brock Dept. took him out to Pow-Wow Restaurant. Service was, to be frank, excruciatingly slow; the food only so-so.
Starters were all right: some nice little mussels in cream with leeks, and a very pleasant phyllo nest cradling an egg of goat cheese and topped with pickled red onions.
The main courses, however, bordered on the unpleasant. A beef tenderloin, rightly cooked to medium-rare, was topped with a gelatinous brown sauce (supposedly a "cranberry port demiglace") which reminded at least one of us of the gravy that used to come on TV dinner Salisbury steak. A grouper was rendered towel-like and served with an absolutely tasteless red-pepper sauce. Ah well . . .

"Eeny meeny, chili beanie"

Wednesday 5 November
Guy Fawkes Day

We had put up a mess o' pinto beans (which is the only way beans come) to soak some two days previously, so it was time either to cook them or see if we could make beer out of them (you know that's the origin of tofu).
Into the slow cooker went the beans (drained, fresh water) with two cloves chopped garlic, two onions to bask for about three hours. Then sautéed a lb. of the nice grinded up beef, and treated it as for Indian cooking (which is our way now with such sauces): tossed in 4 TBSP of cumin, 4 TBSP of corinder, 4 TBSP of chili powder, and cooked until the spices had made a gravy. Washed it all into the cooker with a little wine and a lot of salt. Then let it cook for about 2 hours more. No tomatoes, you notice. Then the magic ingredient: a shot of red wine vinegar. These were might fine beans, somewhere between refried beans and chili con carne.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Treadwell II

Tuesday 4 November
Erection Day - A favorite holiday in Japan.

The weather was clear and surprisingly warm, so rather than cling in hope to the TV screen (which only gives us news from the Maritimes anyway), we drove out to Port Dalhousie in the twilight, took a short walk ON A VERY LONG pier, and ended up at Treadwell, where we last dined in June. Our sommelier remembered us, too.
We are beginning to recognize Treadwell's little mannerisms, like opening with a demitasse of foamy soup - in this case, carrot ginger. And serving Fred's Breads - ancient grain and baguette - with a local vinegar (in this case blueberry) and cold-pressed Canola oil.*

So on to starters. One was a circle of carpaccio adorned with truffled hardboiled quail eggs and topped with a cylinder of microgreens held together with slices of grana cheese. The other was beet-cured lake trout (no kidding - red and good!) on a (rather uninteresting) bun with crème fraiche, festooned with assorted red and golden beets, hazelnuts, and cheese.
One of our main courses was lamb shank: a forelimb in a tasty sauce, but the meat could have been tenderer and better marinated/seasoned. Still, it was served with lovely heirloom carrots, and a chive mash. The other, partridge three ways, was more successful: a golden breast, succulent confit leg, and deep rich consommé scattered with perfectly roasted parsnips, carrots, tiny turnips, bits of summer squash, and greens, plus a couple of little goat cheese and fresh corn (yes, it's been that warm!) ravioli.

We too were repetitive, in that we went for the Pinot Noir. We tried to get the Megalomaniac Sonofabitch, but they were out. Our attentive sommelier suggested Rose Hall 2006 Pinot Noir from Prince Edward County, and it was good - though we still prefer the Megalomaniac.
Finally, we had the usual spoon jellies, this time apricot. And on the way out, gawked at all the jars of preserved local vegetables that Treadwell uses as both decorations and delicacies. We'll be back to try them again.

*Once known as "rapeseed oil" (from a member of the turnip family, Brassica campestris, and its Latin name rāpum, i, n. akin to Gr. ῥάφη, ῥαφάνη: 'a turnip, rape'. Rape the root, and rape the oil, had something of an image problem. Not to mention being good mostly for lubing up machinery. But it was improved and rebranded in the 1970's as can-o-l-a = "Canadian oil, low acid" by two Canadian scientists, Keith Downey and Baldur Stefansson. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canola for a nice picture of fields near Red Deer Alberta.

Tortels in Cream

3 November
Trying day part II, involving a long drive to an eye-guy. All turned out well, though Barbara says she's never had an ophthalmologist try to climb into the back of her eye before.
So quick comfort food on our safe return. Little meat tortellini (frozen from Antipastos) in a quick cream sauce. Lotsa cream, a little zotz of the leftover herb butter from the day before yesterday (which in our opinion, made the dish), plus more asiago than you could shake a grater at. And another good salad out of the last of the radicchio and lettuce.

The Roast Beast

Sunday 2 November, Commemorazione Defunti
(I can't seem to quit the liturgical calendar .app)

A noble roasted beast, purchased according to Alton Brown's sage mnemonic: top not tip. So about 3 lbs. of protein, coated with grinded up dried thyme, rosemary, salt, black pepper. Into the oven at 450º for 10 minutes, then down to 350º for 2 hours, till the old instant read thermometer hits 120º. Rest for 15 minutes.
Roasted alongside a covered dish of golden beets. Almost passed these up at the market in favour of the usual cute little red ones, but as I was passing as woman said, "I had these last week and they were so good." I bought them and suggested to the guy that since the lady had made a sale for him, he should give her a discount. He accused us of working in collusion. Ah, the classic double-play Golden Beet Sting.
Also roasted some quartered onions and apples in the same pan as the beast. The differemt varieties of apples went into only 15 minutes before serving but some still made apple sauce. Tasty, though, with all the roasty toasty juices mixing together.

Sole with citrus-herb butter

Saturday 1 November - All Saints Day

A simple meal after a trying day (scary things with eyes; but it's all OK now).
So: four nice sole fillets on a baking pan, with one trick adapted from Gordon Ramsay: we not only smeared the pan with EVOO as per usual but salted and seasoned the surface as well. Then under the broiler for about 5 minutes. Topped with an herb butter featuring chives, white pepper, a little oregano, and parsley squished in with some lime juice.
On the side a salad of radicchio di Milano (Barbara now knows and grows these things; praised by Virgil, too). Yes, I know, this late. But the LOL (lil ol' lady) at the farmers market had the very last couple of bunches and some cute, cute, cute oak-leaf lettuces, plus a few cherry tomatoes. Thank you, Indian Summer.
Angel's Gate 2006 Chardonnay: unoaked; good varietal tastes: a little butter, yeast, and pear.

Chicken Pot Pie


Friday 31 October - Hallowe'en

A fine dish of scraps, which is what THE PIE is all about. We had a vat of chicken soup left over from Tuesday, which we strained, freezing the stock for later. Then chopped up a parsnip for extra vedge, cooked till tender in a little water and salt, added the left-over chicken and its vedge and hotted it all up. Bind with cream (I thought it might need a beurre manié, but the parsnips and potatoes sopped up lotsa cream). Poured the lovely sludge into two pyrex soup bowls and topped with a biscuit. Someone out there in webland suggested lemon peel in the topping for chicken pies, so here it is:
1 1/3 cup flour
1 TBSP baking powder
1 tsp sugar & salt
4 TBSP butter
1/2 cup milk
zest of a 1/2 a lemon in the fridge drawer
Usual biscuit procedure: cut the butter in. Stir in the milk. Fold a few times. Pat into a pyrex-soup-bowl-sized circle.
Bake at 450º for 20 minutes.

Mighty good eating while waiting for the rather thin stream of trick-or-treaters in this neck of the woods to show up. Still, they were all little and costumed and cute, and they enjoyed the chocolate treats that we were giving out. (Even in Canada, people won't trust home-baked stuff, as we found out when we tried to give out Holt's Patented GingerDead Men - a gingerbread body in an iced chalk outline. We had only one taker, and she lived right upstairs, so her parents knew we could be trusted.)

Served the hot pot pies with a good chicken wine: Cave Spring Riesling.
Do you like Riesling?
I don't know. I've never riesled.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Trout Salad with Apples and Walnuts

Thursday 30 October
Like last time but it needed a little more zip of lemon juice and some chives. No cukes, since there weren't any.

Scaloppine* al limone

Wednesday 29 October
The real thing, de emese zach,** as we say in Italian. Dredged in flour (salt and pepper), fried in butter and oil (OK so not so kosher), then deglazed with a touch of wine, a squeeze of lemon, and salty capers. On the side, smashed potatoes with lots of chives.

* One -l-, two -pp-'s. Nothing to do with scallops. And it's feminine, so very tender and feminine. Not only that but scaloppine (spelled however in American) piccata winds up as a entrée in the Department of Redundancy Department's menu, since a piccata ("poked with a pike") is just a smaller, thicker, and slightly scrappier piece of veal (etc.) than the noble scaloppa, scaloppine.

**Don’t talk to me about spelling or transliteration or I'll give you such a zetz!

Soothing Chicken Soup

Tuesday 28 October
Another trip to Antipastos yielded veal scaloppine, and a frozen stewing hen. But the big old bird was first up, since Holt had a touch of a stomach bug and needed the life-giving qualities that only chicken soup affords. The butcher had band-sawed the giganto chicken into quarters, and one half went into the pot to soak and defrost for a couple of hours, while the other went into the freezer to await a rainy day.

Then a low, low simmer for three hours or so, with onions, carrots, celery, celery tops, thyme sprigs, peppercorns, and bay leaves. We both got up from our books periodically and pushed things about for no particular reason. Then about hour four, we pulled the chicken out, pulled the meat off, cubed it up, tossed it all back, and added some potatoes in little dice. Fished out the skin and bones, added more salt. Mighty soooooothing soooooooop.

Pork Chops with Brussels Sprouts

Monday 27 October
Barbara had a late lecture, and then lots of questions at the end, so it turned into a late, LATE lecture. So: cute little Brussels sprouts from the farmers' market, pre-roasted, cut side down in olive oil, at 450º, for about 20 minutes, then given a shot of lemon juice. The thick center-cut pork chops were trickier. Dusted with ground fennel seed and salt, they went into a hot pan to be seared, then into the hot oven. But they went from visibly pink near the bone to a tad overdone almost instantly. We mights shoulda waited for them to rest, but as I said, Barbara had a late, LATE lecture, and we just couldn't.

Steelhead Trout

Sunday 26 October
. . . which turn out to be just rainbow trout that go out to sea. So another new fish, which wasn't.
Still they were gigunda fillets. Did them in a quick sear, then basil, wine, and a healthy squeeze of lemon. Also fried little zukes with a shot of garlic. Too much to finish, so we secreted some (not secreted but secreted) for trout and apple salad later.

Hot sausage and cold slaw

Saturday 25 October
Back together for some hot sausage fun. And wipe that smile off your face . . . and don't fidget while I talk to you . . .
So some rather fierce* sausages from Antipastos tamed with the coolth of the rest of the red cabbage slaw. We tossed the last of the little potatoes into the sausage fat and wine to sop up some of that fiery goodness.

*said in a Christian Siriano voice.

Xochitl / chicken wings

The day sign xochitl, in the Codex Magliabechiano.

Friday 24 October
HOLT had to deliver a paper in Philadelphia about Sappho (lots of bad plays, one good opera). He missed getting to see Brian, but had a great dinner out with the rest of the panel. After a brief Bataan march in search of drinks, we stumbled across Xochitl (pronounce "so-cheet" or so they claim)*, which Holt had read a rave review of in Gourmet. Well deserved too, and that's not just the freshly made classic margaritas talkin'.

We started with the guacamole, made table side in a big ol' mortar and pestle. Apparently they have many variations, but we stuck with the classic there too.
There were fine tostadas piled with a ceviche of shrimp, octopus and spanish mackerel. For the main: very tender duck breast in a mole blanco (almonds).
There was also a really nice Spanish white whose name escapes me now. That is the margaritas.

BARBARA, on the other hand, had to stay at home and sulk. She was rummaged in the freezer for anything that looked dinnerlike, and came up with a small portion of Buffalo chicken wings - luckily, from Antipastos, so they were at least made of chicken. She ate them with a glass of cheap white wine in front of the TV, watching "Style by Jury" or some such cable popcorn.

*xōchitl IPA: /ʃoːtʃitɬ/: Nahuatl 'flower'; also the name of the queen of Tolan, who is accredited with inventing tequila (more or less).

Osso buco II

Thursday 23 October
Told you it was better the next (or the next-next) day.
Served the other two ossos bucos (ossibuchi, what have you) with nice little cakes made of the left-over parsnip mash and the left-over sweet potato mash (from Fanny). Bread 'em and pat 'em and mark them with a B.
Very nice with the Vinho do Poeta.

Penne, zucchini, salami, and cream

Wednesday 22 October
A classic.
We had scored a secret cache of 'Merican cream the last time we crept over the border.

Osso buco


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Antipastos had these lovely osso buco.*
The dish is from Milan but now popular everywhere. We've had them in a lot of restaurants but never done them at home. The one thing that most recipes won't tell you is that osso buco comes with a thick membrane encircling the meat, which looks as if a plastic bag had been fused to the muscle. DO NOT TAKE THIS OFF. It holds the meat on the bone and, after cooking for the requisite bazillion hours, just peels off. If the butcher has taken it off, you have to tie the meat back on with string (hence the instructions in many a book).

The preparation is simple. Here's the basics from Epicurious adapted:

4 pounds (1.8 kg) veal shanks, cut in 1 1/2-inch ( 4 cm) slices
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
2 onions, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1/2 bottle (375 ml) dry white wine
a 14.5-ounce (435 g) can plum tomatoes, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped

Brown the veals on both sides. No need to do veal bondage. No need to remove from pan. Add the vedge and brown that.
Deglaze with the wine. Add the tomatoes. Add the garlic at this point (so it's just a background). And following a good hint: toss in one (and only one) anchovy fillet (which increases the woodsy notes).
Cook stovetop for a minimum of 3 hours, adding more wine/water/etc. if it sticks.
Lots of recipes fart around with veal stock (fine), brown sauce (totally unnecessary), demiglace (a waste), tomato paste (a disaster), or do it in the oven (which is nice if it's a cold day, but watch the liquid levels).

Like any stoo, even better the next day.

You can add the gremolata if you want, but I've never really thought it added much. Instead, we thought it needed a bland thing to make it stand out, so we served an osso buco apiece on a pile of wonderful parsnips mashed in milk.
Dreamy and creamy.
This needs a big, big, wine. We tried the Megalomaniac Bravado. Lovely but not as meaty as the Sonofabitch.

*Usually treated as a single word in Italian: ossobuco and though the plural of osso is ossa, the plural is ossibuchi (and not as you'd expect †ossa buche). Old Latin neuters in -um tend to show up as masculine -o, but have a feminine plur. in -a: uovo, but due uova. For you keeping score at home.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Veal Sausage and Fennel

Monday October 20
Antipastos makes so many kinds of sausages that we throw a half-dozen types into our basket every time we go there, and keep them as the mainstay of our frozen larder. This time we got out veal sausages, and sautéed them in a pan with sliced fennel and white wine. What more do you need?

Peninsula Ridge, Beamsville

Sunday October 19
Barbara's old excavation buddy Nick Cahill came in to give an excellent talk on Sardis for our local AIA Niagara chapter. After his exertions, we thought it would be only fair to take him (and Don and Fee and Ally and Dave and Fred) out to dinner at a local Niagara winery afterwards. We chose Peninsula Ridge, whose restaurant is a lengthy Victorian brick house that looks like something Charles Addams would draw, on a hill overlooking the sunlit vineyards. Both setting and service were picture-perfect.
We started with soups: the special, savory pulled pork and white bean, and a cold gazpacho with shrimp that had a nice roasted flavor but too much tabasco. Mains were crispy sliced muscovy duck breast, and a succulent roast of elk, each piled on a mound of garlic mashed potatoes and served with excellent roast carrots, peppers, and beans. The wine was from the winery, of course: a cabernet sauvignon, and then a little glass of Vidal ice wine in lieu of dessert.
A fine meal, and a memorable evening, so thanks, Nick!

Coq au Vin with Mushrooms

Saturday October 18
While Barbara dressed up in quasi-medieval regalia to march in Brock's fall convocation procession, Holt bought some chicken legs and thighs from the punishingly-expensive-chicken lady at the St. Catharines' farmers' market. We cooked them this way, and they were good - but I think we like Antipastos' chickens better.

Rainbow Trout and Red Cabbage Slaw


Friday October 17
Our local grocery, Zehrs, sometimes has quite decent fresh fish, and this time we plumped for two plump rainbow trout. We stuffed them with fresh herbs from the windowbox, and sautéed them simply in oil and butter. They overlapped the pan and then the plates, so we were only able to eat half of each; Holt would take the remaining cold fillets and toss the pink flakes of fish with apple slices, celery, cucumber, toasted walnuts, lemon juice, and olive oil, for a lovely weekend salad.
On the side, a red cabbage slaw, which we'd prepared on Tuesday, as no meal for the two of us can use up a whole red cabbage.

Veal Chops and Creamy Leeks


Thursday October 16
We've become addicted to Antipastos' veal chops, which we buy on the Rome Principle: if mere beef is so frigging expensive, get veal at not much more money. We fried them up much as we had before, but this time had creamed leeks instead of creamed mushrooms. We'll save the parsnips for another time soon.

Linguine with Quail Sauce

Wednesday October 15
Those adept at mathematics will have noted that we cooked four quail at Thanksgiving, but only served three people. Tonight we deboned the fourth and simmered the meat with canned plum tomatoes, wine, and extra herbs, much as we have before; our model is the woodsy sauce for pappardelle sulla lepre, this time served on linguine.

Kielbasa with Red Cabbage and Apples

Tuesday October 14
One of our favorite fall and winter dishes, as portrayed here.

This time we got home-made double-smoked kielbasa from a guy at the St. Catharines' farmers' market, and used Ambrosia apples from Beamer's farm, ditto. Came out great.

Canadian Thanksgiving



Monday October 13
This is our first Thanksgiving here in Canada, though we frequently used to celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving back in the States, when Holt's parents would come down and visit us for it. If you're ever asked why it's timed so differently from the US version, say "due to the earlier harvest."

We invited Fanny over for the feast, and were debating whether to roast and serve an enormous turkey for only three people when we found a packet of four cute little quail we'd bought from Lakeland Meats. Thus we arrived at our theme: traditional Thanksgiving, but tiny. And thanks to the still-warm weather, we were able to serve the harvest meal out on the patio.

We started with Henry of Pelham's sparkling rosé and snacks of goat-cheese-chive-and-smoked-trout spread on Holt's olive oil bread. Then the main course: Holt had baked three small individual nests of cornbread stuffing spiked with celery, onion, and red bell pepper, and atop each was a quail like a tiny turkey, which had been simmered in red wine according to a recipe we got from A Year in Niagara. Alongside went baby roasted beets, eensy new potatoes, and tiny pearl onions, not to mention a butternut squash casserole that Fanny brought and a regular-size bottle of Featherstone cabernet franc.
And for dessert, there was Fanny's warm apple tart, Holt's miniature fresh pumpkin pies baked in a muffin tin, and a tiny bottle of Vineland Estates Icewine.
We were pleased with how charming and consistent it was, how overstuffed we didn't feel, and how good it all tasted.

Prime Rib and Beet Greens

Sunday 12 October
We've already feasted on some of the cold remains of last Tuesday's giant prime rib, but this time we took the remains of the carcass, as it were, and threw it into a 450º oven to brown its cut-away sides to a nice crust, and rewarm it without making it much less rare. This worked pretty well, and was mighty tasty with a side of fresh farmers' market beet greens, sautéed with slivers of niçoise olive.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Stone Road Grille (REST), Niagara on the Lake

Saturday 11 October
A glorious warm fall day, leading into the Thanksgiving weekend. We drove out to what is known around here as NOTL, and saw "Mrs. Warren's Profession" (a very pleasant production of an Unpleasant Play) and thanks to Chowhound got steered to Stone Road Grille (note the -e: sign you're in a classy jointe!).
In a strip mall, with heavy curtains to shut out the fact that you're in a strip mall. There's no sign except for a leftover of a past restaurant, reading only REST. Excellent service. Brill food. Attention to detail (tap water, but lightly tasting of lemon and cucumber from slices in the pitcher; when Holt commented on the comfy chairs, the waiter recommended an even more padded one). And the guy/girl doing the charcuterie is a genius.

So we started with a superb salad of scallops wrapped in duck bacon on a bed of frisée and purslane. What absolutely made the dish was the delicacy of the handling: just a hint of something currylike in mildly vinegary dressing; the three scallops perfectly seared.
The other starter was smoked salmon in sashimi style: four slivers on a bed of cellophane noodles with wakame (seaweed), a little roll around sushi rice, and a hot tempura version with nori. And all the fixins: wasabi and home pickled ginger.

For mains, duck confit: a leg braised till it was falling apart, a timbale lined with savoy cabbage and stuffed with the rest of the confit, outstanding beets on top, and a rich reduction sauce under.
Plus a rotating series called Mary's Little Lamb. This night it was a lamb sausage bursting with fat on a dollop of sweet red pepper couscous; slices of leg with a hot peppery crust; and a loin wrapped in prosciutto. Also a ricotta and broccoli timbale which Holt found a little grainy, but maybe that was just an overdose of broccoli.

The other revelation of the evening was the Strewn "Terroir" Cabernet Franc. I swear: this is the best lamb wine EVER. I have no idea what made the match, but the lamb brought out all sorts of unexpected intensities of flavor in the wine, and the wine just made the lamb pop!

Squash Stuffed with Bulgur

Friday 10 October
The morning post brought Jane's copy of Family Circle, not our usual reading, but somehow, this breakfast, easier to face than The New York Review of Disasters, Depressing Politics, and Books You Couldn't Pay Me to Read.
By pure coinkidink (and I suspect that's not only the first time that I've typed that word but the first time anyone has)* we had bought an autumnal acorn squash on spec. Here's the recipe as printed.
3 small acorn squash, halved and seeded
3/4 cup bulgur wheat
2 hot Italian sausages, casings removed
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 small sweet red pepper, seeded and diced
2 tablespoons chili sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons maple syrup
Directions
1. Heat oven to 400°F. Place squash halves, cut-side down, on a 15 x 10 x 1-inch baking pan. Add 2 cups water, and transfer to oven. Bake at 400°F for 35 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, put bulgur in a bowl. Pour 3/4 cup boiling water over bulgur; cover with plastic wrap. Let stand 30 minutes.
3. Once bulgur is softened, heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage; cook 2 minutes. Stir in garlic powder and red pepper; cook 3 minutes. Remove from heat.
4. Stir in bulgur, chili sauce and 1/8 teaspoon of the salt. Remove squash from oven; pour off water. Flip over squash; brush with maple syrup. Season with remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt. Spoon filling in squash; return to oven. Bake 10 minutes.
We did it for two, sautéed half an onion plus real garlic and red cherry peppers (which Holt is putting into everything, 'cuz he bought way too many of them and didn't have any pickling jars at the time, and now it's too late), and skipped the chili sauce. Also, we used our usual half cup of bulgar to a cup of boiling water; can't see how equal amounts would get it soft enough to eat.
Verdict: a very tasty variation on a standard, but we think our method of baking the squash cut side UP and filling the hollow with nice things produces tastier squash flesh.

*I was, of course, totally wrong: 13,600 hits and even an entry on Urban Dictionary.

Leftover Prime Rib and Vedge

Thursday 9 October
See below. Still a long way to go on this sullen chunk of protein, despite Holt's valiant efforts with sandwiches at midday.
Nice just on a plate, with Holt's homemade cornichons. No sauce americaine.

Stuffed Mushroom


Wednesday 8 October
While buying the bronto-ribs with Fred and Wilma, we also noticed some big stuffing mushrooms priced to go, and so they went.
Stuffed them with a little ham found in the back of the freezer, some crumbed-up slices of bread (ditto), some asiago (ditto), some onion and red peppers (not ditto), oregano and parsley (ditto not ditto).

Prime Rib and Roasted Vedge

Tuesday 7 October
I don’t know what it was—maybe several meatless days—but Zehr's had a huge prime rib on sale and we couldn’t resist throwing it on the fire immediately.

So the simplest prep for the king of roasts. Oil up his meaty majesty with sea salt and pepper. Put into a 450º oven for 20 minutes. Reduce temp to 350º, strew with fingerling potatoes, chunks of carrot and not nearly enough onions (what was I thinking?) until the instant-read thermometer inserted into center of meat registers 110°, about 1 1/2 hours. Let stand, uncovered (this is important, otherwise you ruin the crust) for an unbearable 30 minutes.
And then it hit us: there are only two of us; there's like 5 lbs of meat there; and it's too late to call up our friends and say, come over quick and help us devour this behemoth.
Mighty tasty, though.

Still, as our friend Helene says, you'll be surprised at how fast a rib roast can get eaten up.

Broccoli and Anchovy Pasta

Monday 6 October
Or another part of the Enchanted Broccoli Forest. Two meals of a single broc, and we didn't even use the treelike stem, which we would have if we were wok-frying a beef and broccoli; but unfortunately Jane has a flat electric cooktop.
So we made this standard dish, which we discover via the blog that we haven't had in a year and half.

Broccoli and Potato Kugel

Sunday 5 October
We bought a Birnam Wood of a broccoli at the Farmers' Market on Saturday. Luckily, Barbara got some good advice on what to do with it from our brother-in-law, Joel, rôtisseur extraordinaire and emerging vegetarian chef. He recommended a classic Americanized Jewish dish: broccoli potato kugel. Some of the recipes (specifically the Passover ones, made with mayonnaise and farfel; some in a crock pot!) are genuinely terrifying, but the basic idea is (with tips to reduce dirty dishes):

Fry up a onion (in oil, you heathen)
Boil a bunch of broccoli florets until just kinda done. Fish out.
Boil up about 3 or so potatoes in the broccoli water.
Drain and smash.
Then add 3 eggs and the onions to the potato mixture. . .
Along with lots of grated cheese (which sort of undoes the whole parve idea: so sue me)
Flavor all with salt, pepper and a good zotz of cayenne (which really seems to make the dish)
Mix in the broccoli.
Put into a buttered casserole.
Top with lots of breadcrumbs (which definitely undoes the whole Passover idea: so sue me again!)
Bake at 350º for 30-40 minutes until brown on top.

Though we weren't really expecting much, this was delicious and an international team of arbiters had to be called into to supervise the equal distribution of the crusty bits.

Dinner with Ally and Dave


Saturday 4 October
Our nice piscivorous friends Ally and Dave came over for dinner bearing a marvelous wine: Flat Rock "The Rusty Shed" 2005 chardonnay.

We started with those Gordon Ramsay zuke rolls, which worked out nicely this time due to a firmer ricotta (which we also let drain for about 5 hours), seasoned with just a shot of basil, lime zest, and a smidge of olive oil. Plus a platter of lovely cheeses, slices of Holt's olive oil bread, and some yellow and red cherry tomatoes from the Amish-looking people at the Farmer's Market.

We roasted and peeled some unbearably cute lil' beets, which leave you looking as if you've just finished a particularly enthusiastic bout of arm wrestling with Raskolnikov, and added a drizzle of oil and two little herbed, crumbed, and baked goat cheese rounds for the yuppie touch.
(no further pictures, because we were having too good a time to document the good time we were having).


Then a vasty bowl of linguine dressed with (Lakeland Meats) smoked trout in a cream sauce. The sauce had just a little scallion sautéed in butter, then lotsa cream, and a shower of pink peppercorns - our lemon vodka is in the fridge in Cincinnati, alas. The green and pink made a pretty picture.

The wines continued with Mike Weir Sauvignon Blanc 2007 (a nice, tart, rather New Zealandy type of sauv. blanc: more grapefruit, little grass or flower) and Chat-en-Oeuf 2007, which we bought entirely for the label and only got the joke when we got it home.*

But the best aspect of the evening, besides Ally and Dave's conversation was a new cake: raspberry cake with marsala. The basic recipe is HERE. It's infinitely adaptable: no marsala in our cupboard here, so I used 1/2 cup of orange juice plus 1/4 brandy. No topping; doesn't need it. The raspberries, despite getting tossed in flour (an old trick) still made a Captain Nemo-like plunge, but that makes no difference. What makes this work is the merde-load of butter. And it keeps forever. Well, it would have, if we hadn't had it for dessert three nights running. Went extremely well with a Vineland Vidal 2006 Icewine (nice apricot notes).

*Chateauneuf, get it?

No Mis-steak

Friday 3 October
After our last disaster of broiling and moiling, we took the safe route of a nice pan-fried steak. High heat to sear, frequent flippage, then a lower heat for just a bit. Instant-read thermometer at 120º, but also sneak and peek near the bone, to make sure. Tossed the last of the roasted red peppers onto some boiled taties to give them a bit of zip.

Scotch Broth

Thursday 2 October
Named, one supposes, less for the proverbial parsimoniousness of the noble Celts than the ubiquity of the sheep amidst the heather.
The details are HERE for a long, slow, simmered soup, where you squeeze out every last drop of flavor.
Had this with the nicest slices of the cold lamb on the side, while the other lamby tidbits went into the soup.

Specific Napper

Wednesday 1 October
A new fish: "Pacific Snapper," which like all these marketing names can be just about anything, but in this case seems to be what is often called rockfish or rockcod (Sebastes spp.), just a nice rather thickish piece of cod that passeth understanding.

We did it very simply in a sauce of the absolute last of the season tomatoes, onions, some oregano, and several handfuls of salt-packed capers from the bucket we got from Antipastos.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Baked Pennetti with Pesto

Tuesday 30 September
Another leftover improv. We had tons of the pesto & pennetti from dinner on Saturday. So we mixed up a cup of ricotta, an egg, a little more of the pesto (we froze the rest for a winter's day), and mixed in the pasta. Holt thought about trying to do it all in the same dish, but since it was Barbara's night to do the dishes, figured dirtying an extra bowl would be OK. Topped it with any leftover grated asiago that hadn't made it into the pesto. Have to admit, this was mighty tasty.

Cold Lamb and Good Wine

Monday 29 September
An after school special. Just set out the leftover lamb, the little roasted peppers, and then added a lot of long-hairy chives to the parsnip mash, dipped them in bread crumbs, and fried them in butter and oil to make cute cakes.
The high point was the accident. Holt grabbed a bottle of wine, more or less blindly, from downstairs. He took a sip and thought, "Sacre merde, that's tasty": so much richer, deeper, more complicated than his usual swill. Turned out he had nabbed a bottle of the Featherstone 2006 Merlot, which we had tasted on our visit to see the sheeps. This is their young vines, first year of production, each vine pruned back to a single cluster, and OH MY, did it make for a splendid concentrated wine, so far above the usual pleasant-enough Merlot. Though we had just knocked back a $30 bottle for the leftovers, it was a kind of vindication: to know that our palates had not been deceived merely by silly ovicaprids, nice people, and a sunny afternoon.