Thursday, December 29, 2011

From Russia with Love...and yumminess

So, we finally made it to 'R' of the alphabet and the last six months of delay are almost entirely my fault. My sincere apologies to my AlphaGourmet mates...seriously, just too much time on the road. Thank goodness I love what I do and all of you are supportive of my endeavours!

Interesting, there are many similarities between Russian fare and Canadian...I suppose we do share a similar geography so it's not entirely unreasonable. So, apps fell to Rob and I and we decided to go with the prototypical Borscht and then some smoked salmon and caviar...except finding caviar in Kingston is apparently easier said than done at Christmas time. Rob tried the "go to" local place called Cooke's but even they were sold out of the good stuff! So, we settled for the "low-end" caviar. It still tasted good, especially with whipped cream cheese and capers.

The Borscht recipe is from I used a homemade vegetable broth and also some sodium reduced beef broth. It seems like many soups have too much salt and even though it's probably the flavour I love most, it can be overwhelming. It was surprisingly easy to make and very much like an average broth based soup that I make whenever I need to clean out the fridge. Beets are a bit of a challenge to grate (wear an apron!) and add excellent flabour.

Italian antipasti platter and more1

It really needs to be seen to be believed...

And the rest of the wonderful antipasti:

Funghi Marinati con Olio e LimoneMushrooms Marinated with Oil and Lemon
1 pound fresh button mushrooms
½ lemon, freshly juiced
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, cut in thick slices
2 tbsp fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper

1. Wash mushrooms quickly as they can get waterlogged otherwise. You also can brush them clean if they are not too sandy.
2. Steam mushrooms in a large double boiler for 3-4 minutes or until tender. Drain on paper towels and pat dry.
3. Meanwhile, combine all ingredients in a small bowl and set aside. Put mushrooms in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Pour liquid over all, cover, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Stir occasionally. About ½ hour before serving, remove from refrigerator, discard garlic, stir again, and transfer mushrooms to a serving dish. Serve at room temperature.

The mushrooms are in the bowl on the right side.

Feta triangles – Triangoli al ripieno di feta

If you want to surprise your guest with something different this is the right appetizer: puff pastry wrappers filled with feta cheese. It’s quick, easy and really tasty.  Be careful you can become addicted to them! This is also a good recipe to make with your kids or for kids.

1 8oz. sheet frozen Puff pastry, thawed

6 oz. Feta cheese
1 large egg
It makes about 9 triangles.

1. On a lightly floured surface roll the puff pastry sheet into a 12-inch square and cut it into 9 squares.
2. Crumble the Feta cheese add the egg and mix until well combined.
3. Put equal amount of the filling (about 1 Tbsp.) onto the center of each square.
4. Fold the dough over to form a triangle. Press the edges of the dough together and then use the tines of a fork to seal the edges.
5. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper and arrange the Feta Triangles.
6. Bake them in a preheated oven for about 15 minutes at 400° or until golden brown.
7. Let them cool on a rack for few a minutes and serve warm.

Celery Boats filled with Gorgonzola Cheese

A classic Italian appetizer more common in the North of our peninsula where Gongonzola cheese is produced.
I’m a Gongonzola cheese lover, but if you’ve never tasted it I suggest you to try it before preparing this recipe. Gorgonzola has a characteristic taste and a distinctive flavour and for some of you it could be too strong. The best way to taste it is to leave it out of the fridge for at least 30 minutes before serving. Don’t substitute Gorgonzola with blue cheese, Rockford or Stilton because they seem similar but they’re not. The cheese used in this recipe is  the sweet variety which is creamy and slightly spicy, not the spicy and hard type which  resembles the above mentioned cheeses.

4 crisp celery stalks

1/2 cup soft Italian Gorgonzola cheese

1 Tbsp. finely chopped walnuts

1.Trim the stalks and cut them into 4-inch pieces.
2. In a bowl combine the gorgonzola cheese with the walnuts. Stir the ingredients together until smooth and well combined.
3. Fill the celery sticks with the cheese mixture and chill before serving.

Recommended resources:
 Consortium for the Protection of Gorgonzola Cheese

Italy Redux mains

From Gordon Ramsay's World Kitchen:

Spinach, ricotta and pine nut ravioli with sage butter

Pasta dough:
Pinch of saffron strands
1 Tbsp boiling water
4 cups Italian "00" flour
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
4 medium eggs, plus 6 egg yolks
2 Tbsp olive oil

2 Tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves peeled and minced
1 lb spinach leaves
1 Tbsp butter
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
Sea salt and black pepper
2/3 c ricotta cheese
2 3/4 oz Parmesan, grated
2/3 c pine nuts, toasted
Squeeze of lemon, to taste
Beaten egg, for brushing

Sage butter:
5 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp heavy cream
6 sage sprigs, leaves shredded

For the pasta, lightly crush the saffron in a bowl, pour the boiling water over it and let infuse until cooled. Spout rest of the ingredients into a food processor, add the saffron water, and whiz until the mix resembles coarse crumbs; add a little more water if needed. Tip into a bowl and press into a ball. Turn onto a lightly floured counter and knead until smooth. The dough should be soft but not sticky; if it feels too wet, knead in a little more flour. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.

To make the filling, heat the olive oil in a large skillet and pan fry the garlic until lightly golden. Add the spinach and cool for 2-3 minutes until the liquid released has been absorbed. Increase the heat slightly and stir in the butter, nutmeg an seasoning. Drained roughly chop the spinach. In a large bowl, beat together with the ricotta, Parmesan and the toasted pine nuts. Stir in the spinach and touch of lemon juice. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary, then cover and chill for at least 30 minutes.

Cut the pasts into 8 pieces, roll into balls, and keep each wrapped until needed. Using a pasta machine, roll each ball into a long sheet about 32" x 5".cover with damp dish towel. Prepare ravioli with filling.

For sage butter, melt butter until it begins to brown. Take off heat and let stand one minute then strain through a strainer into a clean pan. Heat slowly then stir in cream and sage.

Bring large pan of lightly salted water to boil, add ravioli and cook 2-3 mins. Drain well and toss with sage butter. Serve with extra Parmesan.

On page 38-39 of the cookbook, there are some fairly detailed photos of Ramsay making ravioli. Since I am not an expert, I definitely found this helpful! To be clear, while I enjoy Ramsay's cooking I cannot stand his cooking shows where he berates everyone except himself in the kitchen. Isn't good food about good life and enjoyable living?

We also made the marinated mushrooms from the first Italian dinner.

The following recipes are from Alvaro's Mamma Toscana: The authentic Tuscan cookbook by Alvaro Maccioni.

Fagiolini alla Fiorentina (Florentine French Beans)
150g French green beans
1/2 cup olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1 Tbsp tomato purée diluted with a little water

Clean the beans and then soak in cold water for 20 minutes. Drain and cook in boiling, salted water for 10 mins. Drain.
Heat oil in flameproof casserole and brown the onion in it with the fennel seeds. Add the diluted tomato paste and simmer 3-4 mins. Stir in the beans, season to taste. Cover and cook a further 15 mins. We didn't cooked for this extra time since we like the beans crunchy!

The beans are in the middle of the table - sorry, no close up this time!

Cipolla alla Grossetana (Tuscan stuffed onions)
8 onions
1/2 oz dried porcini mushrooms
2 Tbsp butter
4 oz minced veal
4 oz Italian sausage, skinned and chopped
1 egg
Salt, pepper, grated nutmeg

Peel the onions and boil them for approximately 10 mins (I would go for 15-20 mins if I make them again). Drain. Carefully scoop out insides of the onions and chop them finely. Put aside the outer shells, ready for stuffing.
Meanwhile, soften the mushrooms in tepid water forms few minutes. Drain the mushrooms, reserving the liquid and squeeze to remove excess water.
Chop the mushrooms and fry them in butter. Add a Tbsp of water from the mushrooms and after 3 mins stir in the veal and sausage. Sauté until meat is cooked about 10 mins.
Pour the meat and mushrooms into a bowl and mix with the chopped onion flesh, the egg, a pinch of salt and pepper and nutmeg.
Place the onion shells in an oiled, deep casserole. Stuff them with the meat mixture. Pour a ladleful of water and/or mushroom liquid over the onions, cover and cook. Sprinkle now and then with own juices for about 10 mins.

Gnocchi di Spinaci al Forno (Oven baked Gnocchi)
1 lb, 2 oz spinach
2 1/4 c milk
1 Tbsp butter
7 oz semolina
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 c grated Parmesan

White sauce:
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp flour
2 1/4 milk
Salt and nutmeg
1/2 grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 425 F.
To make gnocchi:
Wash spinach, then cook in the water clinging to the leaves.
Let spinach cool, then squeeze dry in your hands. Finely chop it by hand or in a food processor.
Bring the milk to a boil. Melt butter into it and then rain in the semolina a little t a time, stirring constantly. Cook over a low heat for around 10 mins.
Remove from heat and blend in the spinach, the beaten eggs, the Parmesan and a pinch of salt, stirring vigorously. This step took FOREVER for us, so make sure you completely drain the spinach and boil the milk.... I love gnocchi, but I'm not sure if I'd make this one again...there must be a secret step that we didn't figure out!

To make white sauce:
Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the flour, stirring energetically to a smooth paste. Stir in the milk and continue to cook, stirring all the time, until the sauce has thickened. Season with salt and nutmeg and add the Parmesan.

Shape the gnocchi mixture into small pieces, place them in a buttered ovenproof dish and cover them with the white sauce. Bake for 20-25 mins.

Tonno Ubriaco (Drunken Tuna Fish)
1/2 c olive oil
1 garlic clove
1 onion sliced
1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
4 fresh tuna steaks
1 Tbsp white flour
3/4 c Chianti wine
Salt and pepper

Put the oil in a frying pan and sauté the garlic, onion and parsley for a few minutes.
When the garlic has turned golden, remove it. Arrange the fish steaks in the pan and cook until done, about 1 min on each side. Season with. Salt and pepper and sprinkle the flour into the pan to thicken the cooking juices. After 2-3 minutes, stir in the wine.
Cook for a further 5 mins and then serve.

Italy Redux

For our birthdays in June (Rob's birthday and my birthday fall one day apart), Rob decided that he didn't want to go with the original plan of Russia for 'R', and instead preferred to revisit our Italian repast. It was a fabulous meal and Rob's sister, Megan joined us for the evening, too!

So, the Italian Redux meal had a wonderful cocktail to start - the Negroni. This is a relatively simple 1-1-1 recipe with one part gin, one part vermouth and one part Campari (bitters). Finish with a twist of lemon or orange. And, try not to drink too many or the Chianti won't taste as good at dinner...but I wouldn't know all.

The dessert was Tiramisu...although I never did get the recipe! However, anything that is soaked in any sort of liquer is likely to taste rather good!

Next post will have the Italian appetizers and mains included.

Quebec meal

Like I said before, we "went regional" for Quebec. However, more than one set of unfortunate circumstances occurred that evening so much of what we ate is now beyond our memory. I do remember Welfare Pie for dessert (I'll have to clarify the correct French spelling of said dessert) and smoked salmon for appetizers. Since we have a Quebecois member, Alicia, she did almost all of the cooking/baking/preparations to wow us with her cultural standards...and while we don't have photos from the evening, rest assured, the food was very tasty.

Portugal dessert

Okay - only this I know for sure...the Portugese dessert involved pineapples and rum. I remember it being very yummy...but none of the other relevant details!

If we discover more info, I'll post at a later date.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Portugal mains...

All of the following recipes from from Chefe Silva in Sabores de Portugal (Tastes of Portugal) which was published in 2007 by Texto Editores. There are ten different regions of Portugal represented in the recipe book, but we weren't able to visit them all at once!

Cook, eat, enjoy!

Caldo Verde (kale soup, extremely popular in Portugal)
700g potatoes
60g chorizo or 120g smoked ham
1 litre water
1 onion
2 cloves garlic
olive oil to taste
200g kale (chopped extremely finely)
salt to taste

Peel and chop the potatoes, the garlic and the onion and bring them to the boil in a litre of water with the meat; season with a little salt. Simmer in a pan with the lid on. After cooking, take out the meat and strain through a colander (not sure this step is necessary!). Bring this to a boil again and add the kale; let simmer for about 25 minutes. Check the salt level and add the olive oil. Serve garnished with chorizo or smoked ham, either as an aside [sic] or cut into pieces and added to the soup and slices of bread (recipe follows).

Bolos Podres (bread)
1 kg wheat flour
10 eggs
250g sugar
75g lard
75g butter
1Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp cinnamon
250 ml olive oil
50g baker's yeast
salt to taste

Break the eggs in into an overproof bowl and add the sugar, baker's yeast and salt and crumble everything by hand. Heat the mixture for a short while. At the same time, boil the olive oil, lard, butter and honey. Place the flour and cinnamon with a trough in the middl
e. Empty the hot eggs into the space and mix by hand. Then gradually add the hot fat (keeping a little for rolling out) and kneed as if making bread. When the misture has the consistency of bread dough, it is ready. Let it rise, covered with a towel and a blanket for five or six hours (check the dough so it doesn't overflow the container). After letting it rise, take small pieces of the dough and either braid together (as we did) or shape into rolls. Let stand and then bake in a moderately heated oven (300 Fahrenheit) for about 30-40 minutes.

Bacalhau a Lagareiro
4 "good sized" pieces of soaked salt cod
1.5 kg new potatoes
2 cloves garlic
150 ml of olive oil
1 onion
salt to taste

Wash the potatoes, put them on a tray with a lot of rock salt, bake them at 350 Fahrenheit for about 40 mins. Take them out, shake off the salt and press them lightly. Meanwhile, charcoal grill the salted cod and place it on a serving dish with the potatoes. Cut the garlic into rings and fry them lightly in the olive oil and put them over the fish and potatoes. Garnish with raw onion rings and black olives. The note at the bottom of the page also reads: Bacalhau is salted cod and is considered one of the most characteristic foods in Portugese cuisine. It is said there are 365 different ways of cooking it.

Coelho no Molho
1 rabbit (approx 2 kg)
1 Tbsp lard
40g butter
100ml olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1 large onion
1 Tbsp dry red pepper poste or chili paste
1 turnip
2 carrots
1 large potato
100g salted fattty bacon
150g peas
salt to taste

Cut the rabbit into pieces and season with salt; fry it in hot lard and then drain it. In the fat which has remained, add the olive oil and the butter, the garlic and the chopped onions and stir until they start to brown; add the cleaned and chopped vegetable, the chili paste and the rabbit; add water to cover all the ingredients and season with a little salt; bring to a boil and cook. Remove the pieces of rabbit and puree the rest in a blender; season to taste. Cut the bacon into small pieces and fry it in lard. Serve the rabbit with the sauce poured over it and the slices of bacon (and bread if you so choose). Make a fried rice, according to your taste, to serve the dish.

Polvo com Vinho de Cheiro
1.5 kg octopus (we used squid)
100 ml olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1 bay leaf
1 chopped onion
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1/2 tsp ground clove
red wine to taste
salt and hot sauce to taste

Clean and wash the octopus (or squid) carefully and cut it into pieces; add the olive oil to a pan and add the crushed garlic, onion and bay leaf; fry until slightly brown. Add the octopus (or squid), the tomato, the clove and glass of wine. Do not add salt. Cover and let it cook over a moderate heat; keep on adding a small quantities of wine as required, but in such a way that the final sauce is suffienciently well-flavoured. Then season with salt and hot sauce, to taste, and serve, along with boiled potatoes or white rice.

Portugal - oh, about a year later...oops.

So, here is the endeavour to update the AlphaG website. We have now visited Portugal, Quebec, Italy (Redux) and, most recently, Russia. Over the next few days, I'll try to get up all the recipes and photos. We are spotty on photos for Quebec but definitely have photos from the others. And man, they were all awfully tasty!

Here are the links for the Portugal appetizers...we made several things and were on the fullish side before starting the main course. Likely, we could have gone for only two apps but curiosity with food got the best of us :).

Black Olive Pate(Portuguese)

The above recipe is from and is quite tasty. It is VERY garlicky as it calls for a whole head of garlic. Best to go with Canadian garlic rather than the imported from China kind...the Canadian garlic has a softer flavour which is less bitter due to less time in a shipping container.

We liked this recipe so much that we've made it a few times - it takes only about 5 minutes to make if you have one of the little mini blenders that attach to a submersible hand blender. Sorry, no photos as we ate it too fast!

Garlic Pate (Pasta De Alho)

Yes, I read this and thought "not an appetizer," too. I was wrong. It is also from and has very little preparation time. It instantly rewards when spread on fresh baguette. Thank you, Pan Chancho! If you aren't lucky enough to live in Kingston for easy access to Pan Chancho it's too bad for you! However, just look for the freshest and most wonderful baguette you can find...then you'll be close.

Finally, the piece de resistance for the appetizers was the mussels.

Mussels with Piri Piri Sauce

This recipe is courtesy of Emeril Lagasse and The Food Network. I can't say I'm usually a huge fan of Emeril, however, this recipe was a hit! A few photos follow: