Friday, August 29, 2008

Mystery Ham

See, this is the reason why I blog. I made this ham sometime in May. It was excellent. But now I've forgotten what I used because I made it up as I went along. I remember pineapple juice, star anise, nutmeg, brown sugar, and mustard. Was that all? I don't know. Note to not trust your memory. Write it down!

Halibut and Pancetta in Lemon-Caper Sauce

I rarely follow a recipe to the letter but this was one that sounded so good that I felt that I could use it as is. Tyler Florence is one of my favorite Food Network hosts. His food is simple, flavorful and unapologetically straight-forward. I've tried many of his recipes and they've always come out well. The halibut I bought for dinner tonight was NOT cheap ($22.99/lb!) so I definitely did not want to mess it up. Tyler's recipes (naks, first name basis) are always easy to follow and extremely doable so I was optimistic things would go well.

4 halibut fillets (about 200-250g each) -- I actually used 5 since there were 5 of us
1 cup flour
4 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. butter
1 cup white wine
juice from one lemon
4 tbsp. chopped parsley
4 tsp. drained capers
8 slices pancetta, cut into strips

1. Preheat oven to 375.
2. Mix salt, pepper and flour in a shallow bowl.
3. Dredge halibut fillets in seasoned flour.
4. In an oven-proof skillet (I used enameled cast iron), heat 2 tbsp of olive oil and brown the fish skin side up for 2-3 minutes.
5. Flip fish over and add pancetta pieces.
6. Place skillet in oven and cook for 10 minutes.
7. Remove fish and pancetta from pan, add butter and deglaze pan with white wine.
8. Add lemon juice, capers and parsley. Adjust seasoning.
9. Reduce sauce to about half.
10. To serve, place pancetta pieces on top of fish and pour a few tablespoons of sauce on top. Garnish with fresh parsley.

I served the fish on top of some cauliflower puree. On the side we had haricots verts in brown butter and rosemary-garlic potatoes. I thought the dinner was a success. Everyone at the table seemed to really like to food! Thanks Tyler!

St. Lawrence Market haul

One of my favorite things about Toronto is this market. I can spend hours and hours just browsing through the many stalls. I have a few favorites that I just have to visit each time I go. There's this guy who makes all his own jams. One day he made me try his durian jam and it was excellent! There's a wonderful kitchenware store overflowing with with all sorts of paraphernalia. I also love the mustard stall with their more than 30 flavors of mustard. My favorite is the balsamic, figs and date mustard. So good!! By the way, did you know that Canada is the largest producer of mustard in the entire world? See, there's more to this country than snow :-)

Today, I decided to take the kids and my mother-in-law, who's visiting from the Philippines, to the market for lunch and to shop for dinner tonight. I've been craving some excellent fish and so it was off to the market to buy my ingredients.

I bought some halibut fillets, fresh figs, goat cheese, triple cream brie, manchego cheese, parsley, lemons, new potatoes, haricots verts, and pancetta. Oh, and I also bought a citrus reamer and some mineral oil to treat my new kitchen bling...a John Boos cutting board. It heavy and huge but I love it!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Farmer's Market

It was so much fun to look at the varied produce at my local farmer's market. There's nothing more inspiring than seeing fruits and vegetable being sold by the very same people who tilled the soil, sowed the seeds, and tended the plants until they were just ripe for the picking. It's amazing how each seasons brings forth its unique gifts from Mother Earth.

Top row (L-R): so many mushrooms, squash blossoms, lovely bouquets
Middle row: tree-ripened peaches (some of which made it into my pie), onions, carrots
Bottom row: beets and radishes, heirloom tomatoes, pattypan squash

Peach-Blueberry Pie

My trip to the farmer's market this morning inspired me to make this pie. Actually, a trip to The Pie Plate in Niagara-on-the-Lake, where I had the most excellent version of this pie, inspired me to go to the farmer's market. The fresh Niagara peaches at the farmer's market inspired me to try my hand at baking this pie. And baking this pie has inspired me to try baking other fruit pies! :-)

Admittedly, baking a pie is not a quick proposition. You have make the crust, chill it, roll it out, make the filling, assemble the pie and bake it for over an hour. Not something to do on a busy weekday night. But on a weekend, when the mood strikes to make something heart-warming and soul-fulfilling, a fresh fruit pie definitely fits the bill.


2 1/2 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. sugar
1 cup cold butter, cut into 1 inch cubes
1/4 c. ice cold water

1. In a food processor, pulse flour, sugar and salt.
2. Add half the butter and pulse for 6-8 seconds.
3. Add rest of butter and pulse another 5-6 seconds. The textire at this point should resemble very coarse corn meal with larger peas sized lumps of butter and flour.
4. Add water a tablepoon at a time, pulsing for a few seconds in between. The final texture of the crust should be sticky enought to hold when pressed with you fingers. The crust should not resemble a dough.
5. Empty the food processor bowl onto a work surface and divide the dough into two balls.
6. Flatten each ball into a disk and wrap with plastic wrap. Keep in fridge for at least an hour.


5 cups sliced fresh peaches
1 cup fresh blueberries
1/2 cup water
pinch of salt
4 tsp. cornstarch
Few dollops of butter

1. Mix sliced peaches and blueberries with salt and sugar.
2. Let sit for about an hour.
3. After an hour, drain the juice from the fruit mixture into a saucepan.
4. Simmer "syrup" until reduced to about 1/3 cup.
5. Return drained fruit mixture into bowl and add cornstarch.
6. Mix until cornstarch is uniformly dispered.
7. Add back cooled syrup.

To assemble

1. Tip: Work quickly. You want your crust to stay as cold as possible.
2. Roll out bottom crust into a 9-inch pie pan. Roll out top crust into a 10- to 11-inch circle.
3. Pour fruit mixture into bottom crust. Top with a few dollops of butter
4. Put top crust to over fruit mixture.
5. Crimp sides.
6. Put slits on top crust to let steam escape.
7. Wrap aluminum foil around sides of pan to protect the crust edges from browning too quickly.
8. Place pie on a baking dish.
9. Bake in a 425 oven for 30 minutes then decrease temp to 350.
10. Bake 30-40 minutes more until top crust is done.
11. Cool for a few hours.
12. Resist the temptation to cut into the pie. This is probably the hardest step in the entire process!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Apricot-Glazed Chicken with Prunes

I'm a huge Food Network Fan. It's my default channel when I can't find anything else to watch in the 24,578 other cable channels we have. Watching it gets my culinary creative juices flowing. Besides, some of the hosts are not bad looking. Hehe!

I found this Dave Lieberman recipe and I decided to give it a try. I was pleasantly surprised at how good it was! Next time though, I'm going to tweak it a little bit more. I think a tablespoon of whole grain mustard should give it a nice kick of acidity to act as a counterpoint for the sweetness of the apricot glaze. Plus I'm going to add more garlic. Lots more. Like 2 whole heads more. Seriously. :-)

Apricot-Glazed Chicken with Prunes

6 chicken thighs and 6 drumsticks
1 cup apricot jam/preserves
15 whole prunes
1 head garlic, peeled, cloves kept whole
1 tbsp. salt
1 tbsp. pepper
1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
30 sage leaves

1. Mix everything in large bowl.
2. Arrange chicken pieces in a single layer in a large baking dish.
3. Tuck the prunes, sage and garlic cloves in between chicken pieces.
4. Pour the marinade on top of the chicken.
5. Bake at 400 for an hour or so until brown.
6. Transfer chicken, prunes, sage and garlic pieces onto a serving platter.
7. Pour liquid in the baking dish into a bowl.
8. Skim off the fat (there will be LOTS).
9. If the sauce is too watery, you can reduce it a bit to thicken it.
10. Pour sauce on top of everything.

We had this for dinner with some garlic mashed potatoes. Yum!

Frozen Brazo

This has been my most recent obsession. Ever since Tita N brought one to the "welcome back" potluck, this dessert has not ceased to torment me. I lamented the fact that this marvelous creation could not be had in Toronto! I just HAD to make it. I had no choice.

This was my first attempt...

I brought to Tita M and Tito O's home when we had lunch there, and my oh my, was it good! BUT...not as good as I'd like. The crust was bit too crunchy rendering the dessert almost impossible to slice gracefully. Plus, the meringue layer was too small for the rest of the "cake."

Second attempt...

Sorry for the pic. I couldn't wait to dig in.

I made a thicker custard layer for this version, which I really liked. The crust though was still not what I wanted. But the meringue layer was perfect for the size of the rest of the brazo, so at least aesthetically, it looked better than the first one.

I haven't had a chance to make a third one. I'm afraid I might go into a diabetic coma if I have Frozen Brazo more than once a month.

So next time we have guests, I will try another version. Maybe the third time will be a charm.