Archive for Fundamentals

Fettuccine Alfredo As It Was Meant To Be

Some time ago I read how Fettuccine Alfredo was first created, using only butter and cheese.  So you can imagine my delight when one day I saw Italian butter at our favourite cheese shop, Les Amis du Fromage!  Wow, I could hardly wait to get home and make some Alfredo.  Of course, there’s no question but Alfredo demands fresh fettuccine or tagliatelle.  The Italian butter really rocks this dish! We have been able to get our hands on New Zealand grass-fed butter that worked out very well.

Makes 3 – 4 Servings

1 lb. fresh, fettuccine/tagliatelle noodles**3 egg pasta dough
4 oz. Italian butter, unsalted and very soft (if you can’t find it…cultured, unsalted butter also works quite well)
2 – 3 oz. Parmigiano Reggiano, finely grated + extra for serving
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat a large pasta serving bowl in an 180 F oven.

Cook the fettuccine noodles in a large pot of salted boiling water for about two or three minutes, test for doneness after two minutes. At the same time, mix the softened butter in a bowl with the grated cheese until the cheese almost dissolves, forming a smooth cream. Reserve 1 cup of pasta cooking water, then drain the pasta leaving just a small amount of water and toss the noodles with the Alfredo sauce in a heated serving bowl, adding pasta cooking water as necessary to create a creamy sauce; adding more cheese as necessary.  Season with freshly ground black pepper & serve immediately.

A creamy, cheesy dish of goodness enjoyed occasionally @#5.

To see how to make your own pasta, click Food Processor or Stand Mixer Pasta Dough.

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Blueberry Barbecue Sauce

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The blueberries are in season and I plan on making a batch of this barbecue sauce to slather onto pork chops, ribs, burgers, chicken, turkey or even fish! It will keep in the fridge for up to 2 weeks and can be easily frozen.  In fact, I have doubled the recipe just so I could have a stash in the freezer!  Gelderman Farms has delicious, juicy blueberries grown organically. If you would like to get some of their berries, see Some of My Favourite Sources.

Makes Approximately 3 Cups

DSC_7922 nx21 cup blueberries, preferably fresh
1 cup ketchup
¼ cup water
½ medium onion, chopped
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ cup blueberry or cider vinegar (I’ve even used blackberry vinegar)
2 Tbsp. fancy molasses
2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. dried thyme, crumbled
1 tsp. dried marjoram, crumbled
1 Jalapeno pepper, seeded, deveined & finely chopped
Salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Combine all the ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat & simmer for one hour, stirring occasionally. Cool for 15 minutes then puree in the processor or blender until smooth; season to taste with salt & freshly ground black pepper.

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Crunchy Dill Pickles

Dill pickles are one of the things that we like a lot at our house. We have been canning/preserving them every year for it seems like forever…and when you present a jar to friends, are they ever happy! Cold, crisp and crunchy! We now get our organic dill cucumbers, dill weed and garlic from our local farmer’s market, we think the pickles have never been better. We put garlic in all the jars but only put pickling spice in half of them just for a bit of variety.

DSC_3927 nx2Makes Approximately 10 – 12 Quart Jars

10 – 12 lbs. dill cucumbers
2 bunches dill weed
10 – 12 large cloves garlic, peeled
Pickling spice
2 large bags of ice, (approximately 10 lbs.)

Pickling Liquid:

8 cups Heinz pickling vinegar, which is 7% acetic acid by volume, white distilled vinegar is 5%**
24 cups of water
1 ½ cups pickling salt

Special Equipment:

1 dozen quart sized, wide-mouth canning jars
Screw caps & lids if they don’t come with the jars
A canning kettle Wash & dry the canning jars & screw caps.

DSC_3936 nx2 nx2Fill the canning kettle about 2/3rd full with water, cover & bring to a boil. Turn the oven on to 225 F. Place as many jars as you can in the canning kettle at a time; cover & sterilize the jars for 10 minutes. If necessary, repeat with the remaining jars.

Line two rimmed baking sheets with kitchen towels. As the jars are sterilized, place them onto the towel lined baking sheets & keep warm in the oven. Place the screw caps in the boiling water & keep them at a simmer until ready to use.

While the jars are being sterilized, wash the cucumbers then place into a large spotlessly clean, metal tub; add cold water & ice to cover. Let stand for an hour. Don’t skip this step as this is what makes the pickles crisp.

In the meantime, place the vinegar, 24 cups of water and pickling salt in a very large pot, cover & bring to a boil to dissolve the salt. Turn the heat down to simmer, cover until ready to fill the jars. Follow the instructions on the package of your screw caps & lids for how to prepare the lids as different brands have varying methods for doing this.

DSC_4009 nx2After the hour is up chilling the cucumbers, remove the jars from the oven. Remove the cucumbers from the ice water bath a few at a time; with a spider or other large slotted spoon or sieve; place in a colander to drain slightly. Place a clove of garlic & two or three sprigs of dill weed, saving the blossoms for when the jars are filled & ½ tsp. pickling spice, start filling the jars with the cucumbers, blossom end down.

Once all the jars have been filled with cucumbers (make sure you don’t pack above the shoulder of the jars), top each with some of the dill weed blossoms; then fill each jar with the hot pickling liquid, just covering the dills & blossoms, poking down the blossoms into the liquid. Carefully wipe each jar with a clean damp cloth a few times; then place a hot lid on each one followed by a screw cap fingertip tightened. When each jar has been covered with the lids & caps, process in a hot water bath.**

**Heinz Canada recommends their Pickling Vinegar to properly preserve foods by inhibiting the growth of food spoilage bacteria, as it has an acidity level that is recommended for successful, safe, home preservation of foods.  If you are outside of Canada check other vinegars to ensure they are safe for preserving foods.

**To see about preserving/canning using a hot water bath, click here.

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Curry Powder

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This curry powder is a Malaysian style one. The cuisine is a mixture of Indian, Chinese and Malay to name a few. Because of the various ethnic influences, I consider this to be my “house” curry powder when I am cooking Asian. Hope you enjoy the exotic taste as much as we do. It’s pretty darned good in curried butternut squash soup! It’s a great gift for your “cook” friends. You might want to turn your face away from the pan when toasting the cayenne as it might sting your eyes.

Makes Approximately ½ Cupcurry powder 2

3 Tbsp. coriander seeds
1 tsp. white peppercorns
½ tsp. black peppercorns
3 (2”) pieces of cassia bark or 2 sticks of cinnamon
1 ½ tsp. whole cloves
Half a whole nutmeg, broken in pieces
2 Tbsp. fennel seeds
4 tsp. cumin seeds
2 tsp. aniseed
1 tsp. fenugreek seeds
7 tsp. turmeric
2 tsp. cayenne pepper

** ½ tsp. black cardamom seeds (desiccated cardamom)
** 6 whole green cardamom pods

In a small skillet, toast spices separately as follows over medium-low heat, shaking the pan, until slightly darkened & fragrant:

  • Coriander seeds: 5 – 6 minutes
  • White & black peppercorns, cassia bark or cinnamon, cloves & nutmeg: 2 – 3 minutes
  • Fennel seeds, cumin seeds & aniseed: 1 – 2 minutes
  • Fenugreek seeds: 30 seconds
  • Turmeric & cayenne, just until a shade darker: 10 seconds

In a clean coffee grinder, used only for grinding spices, grind toasted spices (except turmeric & cayenne) & black & green cardamom to a fine powder. Strain through a fine sieve into a bowl. Return the coarse bits to the grinder & grind until fine; add to the bowl; mix in the turmeric & cayenne. Let cool completely.

**The cardamom seeds & cardamom pods are not toasted.

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How To Dry Your Own Herbs

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_DSC1415.jpg nx2Herbs you dry yourself are greener and a lot fresher tasting that the bottled ones. Thyme is something I use a lot and even though I have three plants in the garden, I find I need more. I buy a couple of bags of fresh thyme and dry them. I have been doing this for ages since I discovered how much more fragrant and fresh the home dried was. It’s simple to do.; either in the microwave or if you have a really warm, dry place (I use our furnace room) to either hang up bundles of the herbs of spread them out on rimmed baking sheets. Just recently I dried peppers in the furnace room…worked great!

To Dry In The Microwave:

Spread ½ cup fresh herbs in a single layer between paper towels. Microwave on high for 1 minute; if not completely dry; microwave for up to 1 minute longer, checking every 20 seconds, until dried. Let cool. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to 6 months.

See…easy, peasey!

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Homemade Oven Dried Tomatoes

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_DSC1415.jpg nx2

 

If you grow your own tomatoes, or even if you are curious, these are wonderful! This is an especially good thing to do with end of summer tomatoes. We all know how much I adore tomatoes!

Preheat the oven to 200 F.

Cut plum tomatoes in half lengthwise (you choose how many you want to do, perhaps 2 lbs.).   Core & seed tomatoes.  Place on a rack on a baking  sheet & sprinkle lightly with salt. Place in the oven & bake for 7 or 8 hours or until they feel leathery but pliable; let cool. Pack into clean jars or plastic freezer bags & store in the fridge or freezer for up to three months. To rehydrate, place in boiling water for 1 – 2 minutes or cover with hot water & let stand for 20 minutes.

**Dried tomatoes can also be covered with dried herbs such as rosemary, bay leaves, oregano, savory, peppercorns or garlic in any combination & EVOO.  Simply pack the dried tomatoes loosely in sterilized jars with the herbs of choice.  Fill completely with EVOO making sure the tomatoes are completely covered as they could mould if exposed to air.  You can eat them right away but the flavours will develop if allowed to stand for 45 days or so.  Store airtight in a cool place or in the fridge.  You may have to bring the jar to room temperature to use.

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Save Cash, Make The Basics

One of the things I really love to do is test recipes that sound interesting.

The other day I was thinking of making  an arugula salad with mosto cotto (cooked grape must) dressing because I just happen to have some on hand, bought on our last trip to Chianti, that I am sort of hoarding. One of the ingredients called for were Macrona almonds.

Herbs trout lake May 19.jpg resize 2Never having used these before, I made a trip to my local, high-end grocery store, just knowing they would have some. Well…they certainly did! Yikes, I thought, when I turned over the container and saw that 2/3 of a cup of them were going to cost slightly over $10.00! Not that I’m cheap but …I looked at the ingredients and thought, just a second, I have blanched almonds, really good EVOO and sea salt at home and I have the technology to toast some almonds. I’ll be damned if I was going to pay that much for a handful of  almonds!

When I got home I got out the almonds, tossed them with EVOO and sea salt and put them into a preheated 350 F. oven for 12 or 15 minutes stirring often, until lightly golden. My husband has been nibbling on the leftovers from the salad all day! So there you are.  Sometimes you just have to be creative!

Which brings me to how to make the basics yourself for a lot less $$$. Things like tomato sauce for pasta, which is so dead-easy and fast I can’t actually believe people pay as much as they do for a jar of stuff that is not that great, crème fraiche, soups, stocks, bread crumbs, salad dressings, herb salt and spice mixes.   Or how about something as simple as self-raising flour?  If it’s an item you don’t use often then simply combine 3 cups unbleached flour and 1 tablespoon baking powder.  Freshly made spice mixes like garam masala and Chinese 5-spice, add a new level to your cooking.  Sometimes it takes a bit of thinking ahead as in the case of crème fraiche but if you know you will be needing some….

If you grow your own tomatoes, why not have a go at making your own oven dried tomatoes?  Or…how about drying your own herbs?  This can be easily done in the microwave!  Or, if you have a really warm room, like I do, either tie them up in bundles or lay on a paper towel lined rimmed baking sheet & voila in a few days, dried herbs!   Sure a lot fresher tasting than dried herbs sitting in those little bottles in the store for who knows how long.

We are spoiled because we have a large freezer so I do make a lot of things for freezing but it’s not necessary to do things in a big way.  Even making a pot of chicken stock once in a while, stashing it in the fridge freezer for making soups and sauces will make a difference.

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Garam Masala

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I really do like to make my own spice mixes. I find that they are so fresh and the spices really come through. There are many combinations of spices from the different regions of India but I have found this one to my liking. Store any leftovers in an airtight container. Try to use within a month but if stored in a cool, dark place, it will keep a little longer.

_DSC1415.jpg nx2Makes Approximately 1/3 Cup

2 tsp. green cardamom pods
Half a cinnamon stick
4 tsp. cumin seeds
4 tsp. coriander seeds
2 tsp. black peppercorns
1 ½ tsp. whole cloves

Lightly crush cardamom pods; reserve seeds & discard pods. Break cinnamon stick into several pieces.
In a small skillet, over medium heat, toast all of the spices, stirring, until slightly darkened and fragrant; 1 to 2 minutes. Let cool. Grind in a spice grinder or a clean coffee grinder used only for that purpose, until fine. Place into an airtight container or as I do, clean spice bottles I have on hand.

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Phyllo Cups

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I find these to be an extremely handy thing to have on hand. They store well in the freezer and can be used for sweet fillings and savoury fillings. Not a bad thing! If you decide to make a bunch and use the whole package of phyllo to make the cups, you will get approximately 75 cups.

DSC_3362 nx2Makes Approximately 40 Cups

1 pkg. phyllo dough (8 sheets for this recipe)
1/3 to ½ cup melted butter

**Special Equipment: mini muffin pans

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Remove the phyllo from the package. Place on a sheet of wax paper & cover with another sheet of wax paper then top with a damp towel. Place 1 sheet of phyllo on a clean work surface & brush with a bit of melted butter (it can be on the sketchy side); top with a 2nd sheet of phyllo & brush with butter. Place a 3rd sheet of phyllo on top & brush with butter; topping with the 4th sheet; brushing very lightly with more butter. Cut the stack lengthwise into 4 strips; then cut each strip into 5 squares, keeping the stacks intact. Carefully fit the squares into the mini muffin pans, pleating a bit to fit. Repeat the process with the remaining 4 sheets of phyllo. Place in the preheated oven & bake for 8 – 10 minutes; checking after 5 minutes to see how they are browning up; don’t want a bunch of burnt phyllo cups!

**If you would like to make some lemon curd, click here for a microwave version that I think is fantastic!

**If you would like to make the Mexican style filling for the phyllo cups, click here.

 

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Zucchini Marmalade

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Makes Approximately Six 8 Ounce Jars

It’s summer and that means zucchini and lots of it! One of the things I love is marmalade and Chris of Rise Artisan** makes terrific marmalade. Years ago I was given this recipe but turned my nose up until I was given a jar…converted…I then ended up making large batches to send to my in-laws in Ontario and also for my parents because they all really liked it. Not your standard marmalade but really tasty & easy to make and it can be done in the microwave! I don’t because I don’t have a big enough container so do it on top of the stove instead!

6 cups grated yellow zucchini, using the largest hole on the grater
6 cups granulated sugar
1 large orange, cut into eighths, seeds removed
1 large lemon, cut into eighths, seeds removed

DSC_3296 nx2Using hot soapy water, wash your jars & sterilize them. Here is the link to Bernardin to see how to do this if you need to see how to do this. Prepare the lids using the instructions on the package.

Place the zucchini & sugar in a four-quart microwave-safe bowl. Chop orange & lemon pieces (including the skin) in the food processor. Mix with zucchini & sugar, cover with plastic wrap & let stand overnight.

Microwave on high (full power) for 15 – 20 minutes or until the mixture comes to a full boil, stirring once or twice.

Continue cooking on medium (half power) or the power level that will keep the mixture at a gentle boil; until the consistency is right for jam. This will take from 30 to 60 minutes. Stir occasionally while marmalade is boiling.

For cooking on top of the stove: Place the mixture in a large pot, bring to the boil, reduce the heat to medium and cook for approximately 30 – 45 minutes until the right consistency. (You can check this by placing a small plate in the fridge before you begin cooking the jam & when you want to check the consistency, remove the plate from the fridge, put a small amount of the marmalade on the plate & it should pretty much stay in a mass when you tilt the plate). If it is not there, just cook a bit longer.

When the marmalade is ready, pour into the hot, sterilized jars to ¼ or ½” from the top & place the lids on, then the screw caps. Place the jars onto the rack of a canning pot, carefully lower into the water. Place the lid on, bring to the boil, reduce the heat to medium & boil for 10 minutes. Remove to a clean towel, cover & let cool overnight. The seals should start popping to indicate they are sealed. Sometimes when you give them a light touch they will pop too! It can take a few hours for them all to seal. If they don’t all seal, simply store those ones in the fridge & use first!

**If you would like to find Rise Artisan, please go to My Source List.

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