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
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.

Chicken Tamale Pie

Sunday 28 September

Yet more leftover giant chicken in a kinna retro way.
The recipe, to the extent that there was one, involved sautéing an onion, lots of cumin and coriander, then sort of deglazing with lots of grinded up tomatillos (ah, Ontario tomatillos! Tierra, terroir, your choice), which had been left to drain. Then layering the last of the chicken meat scraps, the last of a block of Colby grated, and a topping of tamale/polenta, depending on your ethnicity (or your ingredients): 1 cup of cornmeal sprinkled into 3 cups of—here's the beauty part—the tomatillo juice plus water to make up the full amount. Once nicely clotted up, added a little butter and smeared it over the top. Baked in the oven at 375º for about 30 minutes covered, and 15 more uncovered at 400º to make a nice crust. Very tasty for a total improv.
Katharine, who rather brilliantly had decided to move in next to a winery, had brought a vino which we hadn't got around to quaffing in the Cabernet Franc-Off. This was Cave Springs 2007 Chardonnay Musqué, as its name implies has a more floral bouquet, and is a thick-skinned little French varietal, which makes it perfect for Canada.

Legolamb* dinner

Saturday September 27

* The elvin hero of Bored of the Rings.

We had our colleagues Katharine and Liz over for "let's escape the Grape & Wine festival crowds" dinner. In fact, like real natives, we only made it down for the parade, and never got to any of the winy events. So we held one of our own: The First Annual Cabernet Franc-Off: Featherstone vs. Vineland. Both were good, but the latter more piquant and complicated. A spot of Indian summer, so a last chance to dine with Al Fresco (pictured above).
So here's the menu.

Starters: Holt's olive oil bread, fresh from the oven, with his roasted red peppers, cornichons, and chunks of local cheese: blue, monk's (Frère Jacques), and a lovely runny camembert type that threatened to take over the house with ripe pungent odour of peasant feet. Lots more of roasted red peppers.

Primo: Freshly-made pesto from our single basil plant. The harvest was plentiful as Father Vasili blessed the village. We tossed the leaves into the blender, ground it up with lots of walnuts, asiago, and romano until it looked right. Then served it at room temp. on pennetti pasta.

Secondo: lamb leg roasted with garlic and rosemary (also from the cute herb pot). We made up a little bowl of red Hawaiian sea salt and rosemary for sprinkling, which was more or less indistinguishable on the candlelit table, but would make a salt for Christmas. Yesterday we made a giant bowl of tabouli with parsley, scallions, cucumber, and the last field tomato on the side.

Dessert: fresh local strawberries with heavy cream. The only thing without garlic. . . we think.

Leftover chicken

Friday September 26
Mixed up a batch of curried mayonnaise: shots of cumin, coriander, cayenne, lots of turmeric, a zotz of lime juice, and a tiny driblet of soy sauce. Perfect for chopped up cold chicken salad (cute lil cubes of cukes, red onions, etc.), but also makes a great dip for crudités (the followers of the prophet, Crud).