Food Musings

A Winnipeg blog about the joy of preparing food for loved ones and the shared joy that travel & dining brings to life.

“Everyday in Tuscany”

May19

When I read Frances Mayes first story of Tuscany entitled Under the Tuscan Sun-I had to go.  Not to Tuscany per se but to the city of her weekend rendezvous-Positano.  And Positano was as perfect as she described it.  Shimmering light, fresh ocean breezes and amazing food!  And so it was that the Amalfi coast was the second stop of our Italian adventure this past fall.IMG_2779

Life has mellowed for Frances, she is a Grandma now and she and her husband are well-entrenched in Italian life.  With the exception of one long chapter where she travels the trail of her favourite Renaissance painter (I was bored and I even studied art history) -I loved every other word of the recounting of a  year in Frances’ rich life.

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The descriptions of six hour dinner parties at an outside table set for two dozen are enthralling.  She not only details the courses and menus but also provides the recipes!

In two paragraphs near the end of this book, she describes what I could never put my finger on about the essence of Italy: ” How do Italian friends naturally keep the jouissance they were born with?  I’ve noticed they don’t talk about priorities.  They work but don’t become slaves.  Always they have time to visit.  Early on I learned that in Italian, there is no word for stress; it’s a recent import: lo stress.  Just wasn’t a concept.  Now lo stress exists, but in rural Tuscany work and play are happily still balanced, giving the chance not to just enjoy but to revel in everyday life.  Especially the rituals of the table and the piazza.  …They are doing what they need to do by being.  People who own so much historical time must feel more comfortable inside time. I see: Time can be a river for floating.  Our friends drop in.  They call and propose spontaneous excursions.  They stay out late having dinner on Wednesday nights.  Italians relish the day. Carpe diem, they repeated for centuries that they don’t have to say it anymore.”IMG_2753

Kath’s quote: “And that is … how they are. So terribly physically all over one another. They pour themselves one over the other like so much melted butter over parsnips. They catch each other under the chin, with a tender caress of the hand, and they smile with sunny melting tenderness into each other’s face.” -D.H. Lawrence

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Granola Bar in a Jar

May18

I have a confession to make.  Perhaps some of you are saying-another one?  I love sweet and salty almond granola bars!  I know that they have as many calories and as much fat as a chocolate bar but I rarely indulge in a chocolate bars. 

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Our son and his wife are very savvy about whole food/non additive cooking.  He pointed out that the issue with granola bars is that fat and sugary gunk hold the ingredients into a bar shape.  They pack these little jars up instead for lunch at work (and in his case and/or school).  The night that we had dinner at their home, we each had our own granola bar in a jar to pour over vanilla bean ice cream-oh my.  They keep the following ingredients in their pantry and then each assemble  their own concoction according to personal preference:

Pecans, almonds, cashews, hazelnuts,  walnuts  and/or other  favourite nuts.  Seeds like sunflower, pumpkin, sesame and poppy.  Dried fruit like raisins, cranberries, apricots , banana, mango, apple, etc.   Chocolate chips-milk chocolate chips cost a little more but are highly recommended. Making your own granola ensures that even less white sugar and additives  are consumed.  This process is adapted from Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. :

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix 2 c of oatmeal (not instant) with 1 t of cinnamon and ¼ c unsweetened coconut and spread onto a baking sheet.  Drizzle with  5 T of maple syrup or liquid honey and a little olive oil.  Stir well and then smooth out.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, stirring and smoothing every 5 minutes.

Kath’s quote:  “My own prescription for health is less paperwork and more running barefoot through the grass.”  ~Terri Guillemets

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You say perogy, I say pierogi

May17
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Alycia's Borscht

When a Winnipegger has never been to Alycia’s in the North End-it is a kind of sacrilege.  Pierogies are part of my eastern European heritage, so it is silly that I had never been.  The late John Candy was so fond of Alycia’s cooking that he had her pierogies flown to California for him.

Alycia’s pierogies can be served deep fried, pan-fried or boiled and come traditionally filled with cheese and potato or upon special request with cottage cheese or sauerkraut.  The cottage cheese ones that I ordered were sweetened slightly and since I also had kubassa the combination of sweet and salty was just to my liking.

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Potato and Cheese, Steamed


Alycia's on Urbanspoon
Since I was raised on my Polish Grandma and then my Mom’s hand pinched pierogies, I am a pierogi snob.  I don’t go for deep frying or stuffing them with Mexican ingredients.  Don’t mess with my carbs!  I do admit that I have tasted perogy lasagne and Boston’s Pizza’s perogy pizza and was duly impressed.  But that was because the essential ingredients of potato, onion, bacon, cheese and sour cream were all included. P5130178_edited

Perogy lasagne recipe:

Ingredients

5 potatoes, peeled and cubed

1/2 c milk

1/2 c butter, melted

1/2 pound bacon, diced

1 onion, chopped

6 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 (16 oz) package lasagna noodles

2 c shredded Cheddar cheese

salt and pepper to taste

1 (8 ounce) container sour cream

3 T chopped fresh green onions

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place the potatoes in a large pot with water to cover over high heat.  Bring to a boil and cook until the potatoes are tender. Remove from heat, drain, then combine with the milk and 6 tablespoons of butter, mash and set aside.  Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. Saute the bacon, onion and garlic in the butter for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the bacon is fully cooked.  Cook the lasagna noodles according to package directions and cool under running water.  Place 1/2 of the mashed potatoes into the bottom of a 9×13 buttered baking dish. Top this with 1/3 of the cheese, followed by a layer of lasagna noodles. Repeat this with the remaining potatoes, another 1/3 of the cheese and a layer of noodles. Then arrange the bacon, onion and garlic over the noodles, then another layer of noodles, and finally top all with the remaining cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees F  for 30 to 45 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Serve with sour cream and chopped green onions.

Kath’s quote: “Throughout history, the Poles have defended Europe. They would fight, and – between battles – they would eat and drink.”-E. de Pomiand
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Pancakes

May14

Because we are “cottage people” and pancakes are what are often cooked up for the masses of people assembled on our deck, pancakes represent weekends and leisure and the good life.  In fact our little cabin is called “Life Is Good!”

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“Banana Pancakes” was the song that was playing when my son stop the car by the lake, got out on one knee and proposed to his girlfriend. Lester Beach 2007 057

Often for very special occasions like Mother’s Day or one of the kid’s birthday’s, my husband will make these famous pancakes (famous in our house that is).  The recipe has a number of stages and takes a bit of prep but they are so worth it!  They also happen to be lot fat (but that’s besides the point).

2 T butter

¼ c sugar

2 t cinnamon

3 medium apples peeled & slices

Batter :

1/3 c flour

½ t baking powder

2 egg yolks

1/3 c milk

4 egg whites

1/3 c sugar

 In two 9 inch pie plates or one 13 x 9 baking dish, melt butter in 400 degree oven, about 2 minutes.  Combine sugar & cinnamon.  Sprinkle evenly over margarine.  Bake for 2 minutes or until melted.  Arrange apple slices in overlapping circles over top.  Bake for 19 minutes.  Meanwhile in bowl, combine flour & baking powder, blending in egg yolks & milk.  In large bowl, beat egg whites until white & frothy.  Gradually beat in sugar until soft peaks form.  Fold into milk mixture.  Spread evenly over apples.  Bake for 15 -20 minutes or until lightly browned.  Loosen edges with knife, invert onto serving plate.  Makes 6 servings.

Our fav pancakes: The Big Apple from the Original Pancake House and  Buttermilk Pancakes at Smitty’s.  Please comment and let me know yours.

 Kath’s quote: “I’ll make you banana pancakes.  Pretend like its the weekend.” -Jack Johnson

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La Beaujena in Person

May13

My husband and I finally got to La Beaujena last month.  We loved the hospitality and the simple, yet cozy decor.  We also enjoyed the leisurely pace of the meal as we ordered seven dishes and a lovely Gewurztraminer.  In the end it was too much food for us and will likely order the five course “surprize” meal next time.

Amuse Bouche:  Black truffle and foie gras on puff pastry pillows with mushroom and bleu cheese pate on walnut ginger crisps. The truffle and foie gras were sautéed lightly in olive oil and served simply, one atop the other. The ginger walnut crisps presented a nice compliment to the bleu cheese in the pate.

Soup Course:  Asparagus Shrimp Soup with baby bella mushrooms. First step was simmering pounds of asparagus and then liquefying with an immersion blender. The mushroom and shrimp gave it texture and rounded out the flavours.

Pasta Course:  Red bean meat balls with a spicy tomato sauce on linguine. Crumbled bacon, mashed red beans and bread crumbs combined to form one of the tastiest little meat balls ever. The sauce contained serrano chilies and tomatoes to form a fiery accompaniment.

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First Meat Course:  Duck leg comfit, roasted turnips, shallots and sour cheery sauce.  Roasting the meat in duck fat for several hours makes it tender and juicy.  The sour cherry sauce beautifully balanced the fat.

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Second Meat Couse:  Braised pork tenderloin with apples, pears and parmesan risotto balls. The rissoto balls turned out to be the star of this dish even though the pork was unusually tender and juicy.

Salad Course:  Orzo salad with cucumber and orange. Cleansed the palate exactly as it was intended to.

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Dessert:  Lemon cream cheesecake tart with raspberry sauce.

Have you been to Winnipeg’s La Beaujena’s yet?
Beaujena's on Urbanspoon
Kath’s quote: “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.”-Virginia Woolf

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