SALTED CARAMEL SAUCE

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It is the attention to detail.  The little extra that pushes something over the top that take it from very good to extraordinary.    And when that extraordinary itself is truly magnificent you have pure gold. During our restaurant years every … Continue reading

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THE TOP BANANA CAKE . . . a delicious doodle to make!

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Cakes lavished with icing appear to be attending a party.    They sashay onto your plate with a come-hither look, and you swoon with delight.  There’s banana muffins. There’s banana loaf.  But the top banana is this old-fashioned banana cake by my favorite cook-book writer, The Barefoot Contessa.

This is a no nonsense, never fail type of cake.  A doodle to whip up even if you don’t have a mixer.  It has a fine, moist crumb flavoured with orange zest and studded with almonds.   And the icing is definitely “the icing on the cake”.   Cream cheese frosting  and banana cake is a marriage made in kitchen heaven.

This is the cake I make when bringing a dessert to a pot-luck supper.  It travels well.  It keeps well.  You can whip it up a day or so before serving.  And it slices beautifully.

THE TOP BANANA CAKE . . . a delicious doodle to make!
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: old fashioned baking
Cuisine: American
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: 8
An easy to make banana cake flavoured orange zest and frosted with cream cheese frosting.
Ingredients
  • 3 very ripe bananas, mashed
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature (or two large eggs and one egg yolk)]
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • Grated zest of one orange
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
  • walnut halves, for decorating
  • CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
  • 6 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 6 tbs (3 oz) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2½ cups sifted confectioners sugar (8 oz)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease. flour and then line with paper a 9 x 2-inchround cake pan.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the bananas, granulated sugar, and brown sugar on low speed until combined.
  3. With the mixer still on low, add the oil, eggs, sour cream, vanilla, and orange zest. Mix until smooth.
  4. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt.
  5. With the mixer on low, add the dry ingredients and mix just until combined.
  6. Stir in the chopped walnuts.
  7. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  8. Cool in the pan for 15 minutes, turn out onto a cooling rack, and cool completely.
  9. Spread the frosting thickly on the top of the cake and decorate with walnut halves.
  10. To make the CREAM CHEESE FROSTING:
  11. Mix the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on low speed until just combined. DON'T WHIP!
  12. Add the sugar and mix until smooth.

 

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Posted in Baking, Breakfast and Brunch, Christmas Food Ideas | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

THE MAGIC OF SUN DRIED TOMATOES . . . preserving the magic of summer all winter long

IMG_3627Through the halcyon days of summer I plundered the garden for the fattest, juiciest,  reddest of red tomatoes.  The days shortened.  Marine fog drifted across the fields poking destructive fingers into the garden.    Time to harvest the tomatoes, ripe or green.    The heady fragrance of tomato leaves surrounded me as I  filled my basket with these last jewels of summer.IMG_3621-001The green tomatoes were tucked single layer in closed cardboard boxes.  As they changed colour out they came to sit in a bright window.  Taking the sun.    I had already frozen tomatoes for soups and stews.  These tomatoes were to be oven roasted and frozen.

IMG_3626I cut the little cores out.   Sliced the tomatoes in half.  Placed them in parchment lined pans ( saves scrubbing pans ).   The tomatoes were sprinkled with a little coarse sea salt and freshly ground black paper.  Then  with a breeze  of olive oil and graced with whole sprigs of fresh thyme.

IMG_3634Roast the tomatoes at 275F for about five hours.  Then increase the oven temperature to 300F for the last hour.  Watch these little darlings.  The smaller tomatoes will brown faster and should be removed.  You don’t want them to become dry and brittle.  Toss the dried thyme.    Store the tomatoes in plastic freezer containers with layers of parchment papers between the slices.  Five pounds of fresh tomatoes will reduce down to about one pound.

IMG_3639It really is like magic!   Oven roasted tomatoes on pizza are  nothing short of divine.     Tossed in pasta dishes they are brilliant shots of colour and flavour.      Roasted tomatoes in the humblest of sandwiches takes the sandwich to delicious heights.  Or try coarsely chopped roasted tomatoes  and goat cheese on a baguette.

Bon Appetit dear friends.

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Posted in Appetizers and Starters, Baking, Breakfast and Brunch, Christmas Food Ideas, pizza, Vegetables | Leave a comment

CRANBERRY, APPLE AND WALNUT CAKE

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This is one of those desserts masquerading as something it is not.   It’s baked in a pie plate.  It looks like a pie.   But it is a delicious,  easy peasy cake.    The inspiration comes from  Ina Garten of Barefoot Contessa fame,  one of my most favorite cook-book authors.

This is the cake to whip up when you just can’t face another pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving.    It’s an absolutely doodle to make.  It simply hums along when you serve it with morning coffee.   It is so rewarding.   Combing tart cranberries and apples with a sweet cake topped with walnuts and cinnamon sugar.    Could you ask for anything more?  Of course.  Top your slice of goodness with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream.

(chef’s note:  If you use frozen cranberries defrost before adding to your cake)

CRANBERRY, APPLE AND WALNUT CAKE
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: cake
Cuisine: dessert
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: 8
A quick and easy to make cold weather cake delicious with morning coffee o rserved as a dessert with ice cream.
Ingredients
  • 12 ounces fresh or frozen (defrosted and drained) cranberries
  • 1 Honey Crisp or Granny Smith apple, peeled and diced
  • ½ cup lightly packed light- brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange zest
  • ¼ cup orange juice
  • 1¼ teaspoons cinnamon - divided
  • 2 extra-large eggs or 2 large eggs and 1 egg yolk at room temperature
  • 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • ¼ pound (4 oz) unsalted butter melted and slightly cooled
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ tsp coarse sea salt
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped roasted walnuts
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Combine in a large bowl the cranberries, apple, brown sugar, orange zest, orange juice and 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon. Give it a good stir and set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment beat the eggs on medium for two minutes.
  4. Add 1 cup of the granulated sugar, the melted butter, vanilla and sour cream and beat on medium until combined.
  5. Add the flour and salt and mix on low speed JUST until combined.
  6. Pour the fruit mixture evenly into a 10-inch glass pie plate. Pour the batter over the fruit covering it completely.
  7. Combine the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar, the chopped roasted walnuts and ¼ teaspoon of cinnamon and sprinkle it over the batter.
  8. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes until a tooth-pick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean and the fruit is bubbling around the edges.
  9. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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Posted in Christmas Food Ideas, Desserts, Desserts and sweets | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

AMARETTI COOKIES . . .

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An Amaretti cookie is a cookie with attitude.    It is an elegant bite of crunchy, chewy wonderfulness,   heady with the perfume of almonds,  perfect with exactly the right amount of sweetness. Amaretti cookies are definitely not your common, home-baked … Continue reading

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ZUCCHINI AND SWISS CHARD GRATIN

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All through the long and glorious summer the garden  rewarded us with fresh, fresh vegetables.  I  walk from the kitchen across the long stretch of grass and into the garden.  It is another world of vegetables going quietly about their … Continue reading

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ZUCCHINI FRITTERS WITH FETA

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I have a magic  zucchini factory in the garden.   One minute beautiful yellow flowers, then POOF elegant slender zucchini. .  They can be served as an hors d’oeuvre or a starter course.  They don’t need a sauce.  Simply sprinkle some … Continue reading

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DECADENT DATE SQUARES … aka MATRIMONIAL SQUARES

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I will never forget the first time I tasted date squares.  I was still in public school.    My best friend’s Mom was an excellent cook and baker.   One day after-school she served us a treat that  had me over the … Continue reading

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CHICKEN LIVER PATE WITH FRESH HERBS

IMG_3331You know when Edith Piaf is singing in your kitchen something wonderful will be cooking on the stove.  But first you must wander  into the garden and snip a basket of fresh herbs … some sage, a little marjoram and a few branches of thyme.  These fragrant herbs are the stars of this chicken liver pate that is dead simple to whip up,  costs next to nothing and is very, very French.

HERBED CHICKEN LIVER PATE is best served a day or two after you’ve made it.  You can also freeze half the recipe, which makes it just about the most perfect “appy” to have on hand.

This recipe has you simmering the chicken liver in melted butter just until it turns pink. Then everything is turned out into a food processor and puréed until silky smooth.  It really is easy as one-two-three.   Serve is with lots of crusty bread or crackers.

CHICKEN LIVER PATE WITH FRESH HERBS
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: Appetiser
Cuisine: French
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: 8-10
A buttery rich, silk smooth chicken liver pate seasoned with fresh garden herbs. It's super easy to make and costs next to nothing.
Ingredients
  • ¾ cup (6 oz) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 tb finely chopped garlic (l large garlic clove)
  • 1 lb chicken livers - trimmed
  • 1 generous tsp minced fresh thyme (or ¼ tsp dried)
  • 1 generous tsp minced fresh marjoram (or ¼ tsp dried)
  • 1 generous tsp minced fresh sage (or ¼ tsp dried)
  • ½ tsp ground allspice
  • ½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg (do not use dried)
  • a couple of pinches of powdered cloves
  • a couple of pinches of cayenne pepper,
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground pepper (or more to taste)
  • 4 tbsp brandy, sherry, port
Instructions
  1. Melt ½ cup (4 oz) butter in a large skillet over moderate heat.-
  2. Add the onion, garlic and ¾ tsp salt stirring until softened - about 5 to 7 minutes.
  3. Add the herbs, pepper, seasonings and livers and cook stirring until livers are cooked outside but still pink when cut open - about 8 minutes. It is important you do not over- cook the livers. I like to see them still pink around the edges. You are basically poaching the chicken livers in butter.
  4. Stir in the brandy, sherry or port and remove from heat.
  5. Puree mixture in food processor until smooth.
  6. Taste the pate for seasonings and add more brandy, salt and or pepper at this time.
  7. Transfer the pate to two 1 cup crocks or 4 small ramekins and smooth tops.
  8. Melt the remaining ¼ cup (2 oz) butter in a very small saucepan over low heat, then remove pan from and heat and let butter stand 3 minutes. If you are using the small ramekins you may need a little more butter.
  9. If using herb garnish put sprig on top of pate.
  10. Skim froth from butter, then spoon enough clarified butter over pate to cover its surface, leaving milky solid in bottom of pan.
  11. Chill pate until butter is firm, about 30 minutes then cover with plastic wrap and chill at least for 2 hours. Pate will keep well in refrigerator for one week. Once butter seal has been broken cover its surface with plastic wrap.
  12. To freeze double wrap with plastic wrap. To use defrost in refrigerator for 4 -5 hours.
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Posted in Appetizers and Starters, Baking, Breads, Chicken, Christmas Food Ideas, Fish and Seafood, Recipes | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

PORK RIBS ASIAN STYLE

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More than forty  years ago ROXY’S BISTRO served French cuisine with a decided Asian flavour.  Today they call it fusion.  We called it “Andy’ style”.   WHERE TO EAT IN CANADA listed ROXY’S BISTRO in the one hundred best restaurant … Continue reading

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