19 February, 2010

Tarte au Sucre

"Quebec Sugar Pie" - Recipe #8 of #91
From A Little Canadian Cookbook

I had more problems with this recipe than I've had with any before. That said, this is one of the best desserts I've ever made. It's incredible. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

The reason for the first failure of this dessert was the recipe in the book that I chose "A Little Canadian Cookbook" from my collection. It looked easy enough. But the recipe, followed to a T, produced a soupy, godawful mess of a tart. I cannot recommend this cookbook.

But I was so enamored by what it could be, that I searched the Web and found a couple of recipes would work. I followed one at Recipezaar.com, with some measure of success. The reason it was not entirely successful was because a big dome formed on the side of the second pie attempted, and I'm not sure what I did wrong. I'm almost thinking the pie crust was too thin. It doesn't really need a thick crust, but it probably shouldn't be too thin, either. But it still tasted fantastic, and I just cut the dome out of it when I took photos. Hah! As thin as the crust was, though, it was still a wee bit undercooked on the bottom. Maybe I need a pie lesson; I've never had this much problem with one before, though!

Note: The filling for this "pie" is not nearly as thick as a traditional pie filling. It's very caramel-like and rich and only needs a thin layer of filling. It's more of a tart than a traditional pie.

Pictures of both the successes and the failures are below. Despite the fact that this pie crust was slightly undercooked, and that the crust formed a dome, we still both rated this recipe a 10 out of 10. (I know! Two tens in a row! We're on a roll.) The flavor was out of this world.

  • 1/4 cup maple syrup (I used organic, Grade B maple syrup)
  • 2 TB butter
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup brown sugar (I used dark brown, because that's what I had)
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • pie dough, for an 8-inch pie crust (I usually make my own, but bought Trader Joe's brand this time)

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

In a heavy saucepan, bring the syrup and butter to a boil, whisking constantly. Whisk in the cream and slowly add the sugar and flour, whisking constantly. Keep whisking and bring to a boil. Lower heat slightly so that the mixture does not boil over, but continues to simmer. Stir and cook until mixture thickens substantially, about 10 minutes. (It only took 7 or 8 minutes for me.)

Line an 8-inch pie pan with dough and crimp the edges. Pour the the thickened syrup filling into the pie shell. Bake for 30 minutes or until filling develops a dark brown crust on top. Remove pie and cool to room temperature before slicing. Serve with freshly made whipped cream.

First failure: Crusty on top and soupy inside.

Second issue: Dome forms in dough.

Whisking the syrup filling mixture until thick.

In the crust, and after baking.

Ready to eat with fresh cream.


Chicken Thighs Normandy

"Chicken Thighs Normandy" - Recipe #7 of 91
from Classic Home Cooking
by Mary Berry & Marlena Spieler

This recipe was absolutely fantastic. (And it's from one of my Top Five favorite cookbooks.) It's funny because I'm a sauce girl, and this has a great sauce with it. Instead of mixing the sauce into the recipe (or cooking the meat/veggies in the sauce), it is made afterward, spooned onto the plate, with the dinner served over the top. I thought this would be annoying, seeing as I like sauce and this creates more work for me, as the diner, see?

Oh no.

This recipe did not even need the sauce, which is almost painful for me to say, as the sauce was both good and worked well with the other flavors. But this dish is so amazingly flavorful, it truly did not need it. So, you can it with or without. Your choice. Surprise me.

I threw in asparagus (because I had it on hand, and thought it would work well) which is not in the original recipe. I added it in the last five minutes of baking. Also, I don't really have an honest-to-goodness roasting pan. (I know. Can you believe it?!) So, I cooked it in a deep pan on the stove.

We both gave this a 10 out of 10. It was that good.

  • 3 leeks, trimmed and thinly sliced (I used two leeks, both white and green parts)
  • 4 lean slices Canadian bacon (I used 6)
  • 5 garlic cloves, crushed (I used 8)
  • 1-1/3 cups (350ml) hard cider or white wine (I used white wine)
  • 8 chicken thighs, trimmed and skinned
  • 8 fingerling potatoes (optional - I included them)
  • 1/2 tsp chopped thyme
  • 1/2 cup light sour cream
  • sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper (I used quite a lot of both)
  • 1/2 tsp chicken bouillon, or 1 chicken bouillon cube, crushed (optional - I included it)

Put the leeks, bacon, potatoes, and garlic into a roasting pan. Pour in the cider or wine and place the chicken thighs on top. Season with thyme, salt and pepper, and bouillon.

Bake in a 375 F (190 C) oven for about 25 minutes, until the chicken is tender and cooked through. Remove the chicken-potato-leek mixture from pan and keep warm.

Put the pan on top of the stove and bring the cooking juices to a boil. Boil until the juices are reduced by half. Stir in the sour cream and whisk gently. Pour the sauce onto serving plates, arrange the chicken-potato-leek mixture on top and serve immediately.

In the pan, chicken on top.

After baking the mixture, take it out of the pan to make the sauce.

On the plate with the sauce on the very bottom.


Pizza con le Salsicce

"Pizza with Spicy Sausage" - Recipe #6 of 91
from "Pizza"
by Simon & Schuster

This pizza scored big with my Italian boyfriend. In fact, he was in awe that I even made the pizza sauce on my own. He rated this a 9. I agreed. What would have tipped the scale is if the dough wouldn't have risen as high as it did. (We like thin-crust pies, yo.) I accidentally used the whole packet of yeast, instead of the 3/4 packet it called for. So, that is likely the culprit for the high rise!

I took the recipe from a book that had been translated from the Italian version, so a lot of the recipes seemed traditional.


For the the crust:
  • 3 cups (400g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (200g) water
  • 3/4 packet active dry yeast
  • 3 TB extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • large pinch salt
For the topping:
  • 1/3 lb (150g) spicy Italian sausage meat (bulk), browned and drained
  • 3/4 cup tomato sauce (see ingredients below)
  • 2 red onions (I used 1-1/2 onions), sliced thinly
  • 6 button mushrooms, thinly sliced (optional)
  • 1/2 pound (200g) buffalo mozzarella cheese, diced
  • 2 roma tomatoes, thinly sliced (my addition, not in the original recipe)
For the tomato sauce:
  • 1 can (15 oz.) tomato puree (sauce)
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp marjoram
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • freshly cracked black pepper
  • 2 TB red wine (optional)

Make the dough by combining all dough ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mixing together with a pastry cutter (or with a mixer that has a dough hook) until it's crumbly. Then, form the rest of the dough with your hands, kneading for about 3 minutes. When you have a good elastic dough, leave in bowl, cover with a wet kitchen towel, and let sit for two hours.

Combine all tomato sauce ingredients and set aside.

Roll out the dough on a floured surface and place the dough on a pizza pan or in a large baking sheet. Coat the pizza dough with tomato sauce. Add the toppings as evenly as possible, finishing with the sliced tomatoes (if desired) and cheese on top.

Bake at 400 F (200 C) for 20 minutes.

Unbleached white flour and active dry yeast soaked in water

The dough: Before and After

"Limited Edition" tomatoes? Weird!

Putting the pizza pies together.

The baked pies. (I made two. Another one with ham.)

Penne with Wilted Rocket and Prosciutto

"Penne with Wilted Rocket (Arugula) and Prosciutto" - Recipe #5 of 91
From The Instant Cook
by Donna Hay

I should start with full disclosure. Rick didn't like this recipe at all. Rated it a 2 or 3 (out of 10). I liked it much better and would give it a 7. The main complaint for him was the "sauce" which was nothing more than balsamic vinegar. (I always use a really good-quality balsamico, and recommend that here, since it's the main flavor.) I guess it's basically a warm salad, rather than a traditional pasta dish.

Yes, I know the LAST recipe I made was a pasta dish. Many apologies for the repetition. What can I say; we do love our noodles.

If you're a big pasta fan and love balsamico, I feel the flavors went very well together--the tang of the vinegar, the salt of the prosciutto ham, and the buttery bite of the arugula. Yum! Also, the ingredients list is pretty short, which is always a bonus!


400g (14 oz.) penne noodles
8 slices prosciutto (Italian ham), cut into strips
2 TB olive oil (I used 4 TB)
2 TB balsamic vinegar (use a really good quality one, preferably from Modena, Italy)
100g (3.5 oz.) arugula leaves (rocket)
sea salt
cracked black pepper


Cook the pasta in salt water to al dente. Cook the prosciutto in oil for 2 - 3 minutes. Add arugula leaves and cook until wilted, 2 - 3 minutes. Add pasta to prosciutto-arugula mixture. Add balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Toss and serve with parmesan cheese, if desired.

09 February, 2010

Garbanzo Spinach Pasta

"Garbanzo Spinach Pasta" - Recipe #4 of 91
from The Daily Bean cookbook
by Suzanne Caciola White

We are huge garbanzo fans. (Garbanzo beans are also called "chickpeas" or "ceci beans".) This recipe is ridiculously easy, and unbelievably filling. I got this recipe from my book The Daily Bean, a fantastic cookbook full of recipes involving beans and legumes -- really healthful ingredients. Another healthy ingredient is spinach. You just can't go wrong with beans and spinach. If you wanted a meat option, I know this dish would have been fantastic with small strips of ham in it.

I tripled the amount of garlic in it. What can I say--I'm a vampire repellent. I also didn't have fontina cheese around the house, so I substituted it with a mixture of 1/2 grated fresh parmesan, almost 1/2 grated hard gouda, and one slab of Saint Andre's brie without rind. It provided the right creaminess, and the flavors were similar enough. I'm a big fan of using what you have on hand, even though I'm trying to stick to the recipes as much as possible.

We were worried this would be really bland because the only spice in this is red pepper flakes. But the salt-water pasta, the flavors from the cheese, and the massive garlic really worked well.

We rated this dish a 7 (out of 10).

  • 12 ounces pasta (one standard package) - we used penne
  • 2 bunches of spinach (we used 1, but 2 would be better)
  • olive oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic (I used 9 cloves)
  • 1 can of garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup shredded fontina cheese (we used a mixture of three cheeses which we had on hand)
  • red pepper flakes

In a large pan, heat olive oil in a pan, add garlic and saute for 2-3 minutes. Add spinach and cook until wilted. Add garbanzo beans and red pepper flakes and cook for another minute to heat throughout.

Boil pasta in salted water. When pasta is al dente, drain and add to pan of garbanzo mixture. Stir in cheese over heat until melted and pasta is lightly coated. Sprinkle a bit more red pepper flakes on top and serve.


Lots of garlic and a little bit of Saint Andre cheese!

Before. And After.

In the pan.

In the bowl!

02 February, 2010

Linguistic Evolution

I believe in linguistic Darwinism. The "survival of the fittest" ideology applies profoundly to our modern tongue, at least with English. The colloquialisms, faux spellings, and litany of grammar derailments that become mainstream, through extensive use and social media publication, ensure than language is morphing exactly how people want it to.

And people want to be lazy.

Not all of us, of course. In fact, I am one of those that absolutely revel in correct placement of commas and apostrophes, and who once recommended someone for hire based entirely on their ability to use a semicolon properly. (This is no small feat.) But while I'm a so-called stickler, and have been known to edit my friends and loved ones -- something I have stopped doing, due to unpopular feedback I received -- I actually like seeing new words, new ways to use old ones, and new schools of thought on linguistic evolution. Of course, I have my preferences, and my list of words that I dislike. For example, I really loathe making nouns into verbs. When copyediting for Amazon, I shuddered each time I read "gift" as a verb. To gift someone with a product is just silly. But people use it, and, mark my words, it will be a proper verb in Merriam-Webster in no time.

Likewise, I've seen a few occasions where people have taken a verb and made it into a noun. The most recent occurrence I've noticed is with an advertisement for the "Droid Does". The "Droid Does" is the name of a smartphone from Verizon. Only it's not so smart, as it doesn't know the difference between a noun and a verb.

"Droid does. iPhone doesn't." is a lovely catch phrase by itself. But to call the entire product by what it is and does is either asinine or brilliant, and I honestly can't see the logic in the latter. I do, however, commend them for trying to think outside of standard product-naming conventions. But, unfortunately, it just makes those of us with an ounce of linguistic integrity want to poke ourselves in the eye in order to keep from reading such language violations in the future. (Maybe if we close our eyes, or better yet, poke them out, it will go away.)

I support growth in language. A stagnant language is exactly that. Stagnant. I admit that, in personal missives, I let all kinds of language fly. Not only that, but I (*gasp*) frequently forget to spellcheck. (Mainly because spellchecker has failed me on numerous occasions and I honestly cannot rely on to capture things like misplaced words, or swapping one word for another.) I often type so fast, I type "that's" for "thanks". Embarrassing, especially for an editor, but my friends and colleagues know that, when it really counts, I can be sure to find someone else's typo in the office down the hall.

I also enjoy writing like I talk. And somehow, like other people talk. I like writing in a mild Southern accent that I don't have, but greatly enjoy. I think American colloquialisms are fabulous and rich. My boyfriend once said to his fifth-grade pupils "You can absolutely use the word "ain't," as long as you know the grammatically proper way to say "it isn't" in standard English first."

My sentiments exactly.