Browsing: Food Celebrations

City of New Orleans

February11

I’ve got New Orleans stuck in my head.  Likely for a number of reasons: 1)  I just finished reading a book that I loved called “The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Calder” (written by Rebecca Wells of Ya Ya Sisterhood fame) which was partially set in New Orleans 2) we were rooting for The Saints in the Superbowl this past weekend and 3) because just this morning, a reader requested our jambalaya recipe.

My husband and I have always dreamed of seeing three US cities: New York, manhattan2New Orleans and San Francisco.  Only the latter remains on our “to see” list.  We were blessed to travel to New Orleans the winter before Hurricane Katrina and saw the city in all of her beauty.  We only spent 24 hours there but it was jam-packed with eating and merriment. 1stPlaceSanFranciscoCableCarsWe stayed right in the French Quarter at the Hotel St. Marie where we started the evening when our group met up in their cozy lounge.  We soon spilled onto Bourbon Street where we just had to stop for “Huge Ass Beers To Go”.  We had dinner in the outside patio at Tujague’s on Decatur St. – a restaurant established in 1856, where we had a delicious feed of fried catfish.  Next stop was at another restaurant for Jack Daniels and just shucked Oysters.  We continued onto “The House of Blues” for amazing music and ended the evening at Pat O’Brien’s for a cocktail aptly named “The Hurricane”.

The next morning we shopped the Riverwalk Marketplace for Louisiana Hot Sauce and continued to the French Market to watch pralines being made and then to sample Po-Boy and Muffeletta sandwiches.  Just this weekend, we picked up De Luca’s Alba brand’s Muffeletta-Olive Salad Mix to bring back the taste of New Orleans.

We cooked a pre-trip dinner party to get us all in the New Orleans mood.  This was the first time that my husband made his now famous Jambalaya recipe.  It was so popular that a year or so after the trip the group reassembled for a Fat Tuesday party and we served it again.  Now it is a favourite “make ahead” dinner when the guys are heading out to the lake for a cross-country ski weekend.neworleans

The recipe was originally located on a New Orleans website but has been modified to include local kubasa sausage: Doug’s Jambalaya:  Heat a liberal amount of oil in a deep & heavy pan.  Sautee 1 diced onion and 1 minced garlic clove and then add 1 lb. peeled and diced kubasa sausages (or substitute an equal amount of diced ham).  Add 1 small can of tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce to taste, Creole seasoning to taste (can substitute Tabasco to taste).  Add  ½ each, diced green, red and yellow peppers and 10 small banana peppers (with ends cut off).  Let simmer until the onions and peppers soften.  Add 2 cans of diced tomatoes and 1-2 cans of water.  Let it come to a slow boil and then add 2 cans of red beans, 1 can niblets corn and 1 T parsley flakes.  Boil again and adjust seasonings.  When sausages rise to the top, add 15-20 whole, peeled jumbo shrimp (approx. 1 lb.) and simmer for 20-30 minutes more. Serve over rice.  Note: diced chicken breast can substitute for the shrimp or we like it with shrimp, chicken AND ham and kubasa.

Picnics

February10
A Porrtable Cheese Store in Catalafimi, Sicily

A Portable Cheese Store in Catalafimi, Sicily

Is it silly that I am dreaming of picnicking when the view out my window is of 3 feet of snow?  No it is not-it is is one of the coping skills of hardy Winnipeg folks.

On a bench in Prairiano

On a bench in Prairiano

Ilve Choices in Nice (France) Market

Olive Choices in Nice (France) Market

Let me begin at the beginning.  My husband and I met in the hospitality business and so it is no surprize that we’ve been self-professed foodies before the word was invented.  We became a couple when D was home for his summer break between University semesters.  He had an amazing summer placement, working alongside Chef Tony of the St. Charles Golf and Country Club.  He was attending Ryerson for his degree in Tourism and Hospitality and when I went to visit him for the first time, he was living the life of a poor out of town student-“borrowing”  toilet paper from the pub and filling his grocery shelves with yellow generic labelled food.   I on the other hand was already working as Marketing Director for a local restaurant so I had some cash.  But because we have always tried to do more with less, we even spent that money wisely.  So instead of dining out…we picnicked!

On a bench in Nice (France)

On a bench in Nice (France)

D lived in residence next door to the Eaton Centre and at one time Eaton’s was THE place for gourmet food offerings.  We prided ourselves in being very adventurous in those days, even though our selections are now purchased during our monthly shops.  We would buy little tastes of dolmades, cottage pate, spicy olives, pickled herring (now we always choose Elman’s), smoked mussels and oysters, creamy Havarti cheese and crisp red grapes.  Then we would go across the mall to the LCBO and select a Alsatian white wine.  Each bite was savoured and we dreamed that one day we would have a six babies (we settled on 3) and travel (we have) and cook together (we do) and grow old together in rocking chairs on the front porch.  So dreams do come true (except that we’re not quite at the rocking chair part)!

Over the years we have modified the picnics to take the kids when they were little to Assiniboine Park and roll and wrestle on the riverbank and then walk across the bridge to Sargent Sundae.Lester Beach 2007 064 We also love having love happy hour on the beach with cocktails and appetizers.  We also have an end of summer cook which is a much loved tradition.

When we were travelling in Europe this September some of our favourite meals were our picnics.

So even if you can’t spread a blanket on the lawn, shop for a picnic supper.  Take little bites, savour and dream.

That’s my Boy!

February9

My son got home from his honeymoon last night and this morning at about 9:30 -he called me.  Is this guy perfect or what?!  Not only does he love his Mom but he is cooking breakfast for his new bride and I don’t mean peanut butter on a bagel.  He was making her Eggs Benedict and needed my from scratch hollandaise recipe!  Sorry girls, I only have one of him and he’s taken.

hollandaise-sauce-21-977x1024Here’s the recipe I directed him to:

Combine 4 egg yolks, 1/4 t each salt, sugar, Tabasco and dry mustard and 2 T fresh lemon juice in a blender. Heat  1 c of butter until bubbling in the mic, being careful not to brown.  With the blender running, slowly pour the butter into yolk mixture in a thin stream until all is added.

My family is hollandaise crazy!  They became hooked because of a chicken recipe that gets more requests for birthdays and special celebrations, than any other over the years.  Asparagus Wrapped Chicken Breasts:  IMG_8462

Pound 4 whole boneless chicken breasts between wax paper until an even thickness.  Blanche 24 asparagus spears. Combine 1/4 c butter, 1/4 c Dijon mustard mustard, 2 cloves of finely chopped garlic and 1/4 c white wine. Dip chicken breasts in this mixture to coat. Place 3 asparagus spears on each breast and roll securing with a toothpick. Mix 1 1/2 c of bread crumbs, 1 T Parmesan and 2 T finely chopped parsley together and roll breasts in this mixture. Bake 30 minutes at 350on a tinfoil lined baking sheet.   Serves 4 – 6.

ebenedictMy family shares a summer cottage with sister#2 and her family.  It is a special place and a special time when we are all together.  We put a lot (perhaps too much) emphasis on the weekend menus and Eggs Benedict is one of the favourites.

I have not been to Brunch at the Fort Garry Hotel for years but my sources say that it is the best in the city.  If they feature Eggs Benedict-my family would agree.


My First Reader Request!

February8

A reader emailed me to see if I had a good Ginger Snap recipe.  So here is my favourite:  Cream together 3/4 c margarine with 1 c sugar.  Add 1/4 c molasses and one beaten egg and then beat together.  Combine 2 c flour, 1/4 t salt, 2 t baking soda and 1 t each cinnamon, cloves and ginger.  Add to creamed mixture,  Mix well.  Roll into balls, then sugar.  Press with a fork.  Now the flatter you press the more snap the cookie will have, I slightly press because we like our chewy.  Garnish with a piece of candied ginger.  Bake at 375 for 15 minutes (check after 10 minutes because of variable thickness).  1592874621_b594bb30d5

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Ginger Beef:  This is my quick recipe.  There is a longer version that is likely used by restaurants that includes the step of marinating the beef in a number of ingredients including ginger juice. Cut 1 lb of flank steak (or better but more expensive-sirloin steak).  Place 3/4 c cornstarch in a large bowl.  Add 1/2 c water gradually while whisking and then whisk in 2 eggs.  Toss in beef and stir to coat.  Pour 1 inch of oil into wok, heat until boiling hot, but not smoking. Add a quarter of the beef to the oil.  Separate with a fork and cook, stirring frequently, until crispy. Remove, drain on paper towel and set aside. Repeat until all the beef is cooked.  Drain off all oil except for about 1 tablespoons and add 1 large chopped carrot, 3 chopped green onion, 1/4 c minced fresh ginger and 5 cloves of minced garlic.  Stir fry briefly over high heat.   Combine last 3 T soy sauce, 4 T rice vinegar, 1 T sesame oil, 1/2 c sugar and 3 t crushed red pepper flakes (start with 1 and increase to taste)  and add to vegetable mixture.  Bring to a boil and then add beef.  Heat thorough and serve immediately.
ginger2There are many health benefits linked to ginger.  I am not going to endorse anything that I have not personally tried, but I do know that ginger tea is lovely when you have a cold or the flu.  The recipe is simple.   Ginger Tea: grate  2 T  of ginger root into 2 c of boiling water.  Drink straight or add lemon and/or honey.

Food for Thought

February3

Last night my friend (honourary sister) instant messaged me about the book that she was just finishing.  It is called The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister.  I replied with the cliche that great minds think alike as I had already reserved it the library (a) to save paper b) because I’m frugal).  I messaged back with a title for her Hungry Woman in Paris by Josephine Lopez.

One of our fav Paris pics- Sacre Coeur from the Musee D'Orsay

One of our fav Paris pics- Sacre Coeur from the Musee D'Orsay

Then there all the Maeve Binchy tiles:  Quentin’s (about a restaurant), The Scarlett  Feather (about a catering business) and The Night of Rain and Stars (about a restaurant and Inn on a Greek Island).  I have also read the entire Isabel Dalhousie Series by Alexander McCall Smith including Friends Lovers Chocolate .  Isabel’s niece owns a gourmet deli in Edinburgh and Isabel and her partner are always cooking up herb and leek omelets with crisp chardonnays.  So too: The Number One Ladies Detective Agency Series including The Full Cupboard of Life where Precious Ramotswe often starts her day with cup of red bush tea and a  sit on the porch to watch the sunrise and then a walk around her little garden.  Ah-a woman who truly knows what pleasure is.  The series is so food focused that there is now a accompanying cookbook.  “In Mma Ramotswe’s Cookbook: Nourishment for the Traditionally Built you can sample the sumptuous stews for sharing, fabulous fruit cakes for eating under shady trees, with red bush tea of course, and the spices, traditions and culture of Botswana that make every meal together special.”

Everyone thinks that Under the Tuscan Sun is about weekends in Positano and sexy Italian men because of the movie adaption.

Perched in Positano

Me Perched in Positano

When in fact it was an amazing non-fiction depiction of Frances Mayes’ love of celebrating with food.  She even included recipes at the end of many chapters.  Her next  book Bella Tuscany included not only her favourite recipes but the dining excursions that she made around Italy with her new husband.  In her not yet released book Everyday in Tuscany “she’s stirring the reader’s gastric juices with luscious tales from the table or tendering a descriptive nugget that holds fast in the mind’s eye.”

I also love Marlena de Blasi who has worked as a chef and as a food and wine consultant, and also lives in Italy, where she plans and conducts gastronomic tours of its various regions. I’ve read four of her  memoirs—That Summer in Sicily, A Thousand days in Venice, A Thousand Days in Tuscany and The Lady in the Palazzo

And last but not least:  Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert and her just released Committed which is also on my list.

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