Archive for June 2013

Barbecue Junkies

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Woo hoo, let’s barbecue!

I hope it’s not raining! DSCN0365 nx2We can always rely on our Weber covered kettle barbecue, LOVE IT, LOVE IT.

Things cooked on our trusty Weber are delicious and the timing always reliable. When we purchased our first one, we went out on a limb and barbecued a whole chicken, using the indirect method and a drip pan under the chicken, fabulous! We were so in love with how things turned out; we decided to cook our Thanksgiving turkey on it. What can I say, delicious, juicy, with crispy, brown skin. We did a 14 lb. bird and discovered that it cooked really fast, a maximum of 11 minutes per lb! LOVE IT, LOVE IT!

A few years ago we switched from briquettes to all natural charcoal and were puzzled, OK frustrated, as to why we couldn’t keep the coals hot for cooking foods that required longer periods of time rather than just a quick grilling. It really, really bugged me that we seemed unable to fix the problem. I mean, it’s not like we have not been barbecuing since, like forever. The last straw was a whole chicken. The coals gave it up and the chicken was still uncooked after 1 hour! Not good, not good at all. I had to finish it in the oven. I even phoned the place where we buy the charcoal to see if they might have any ideas.

DSC_1527 nx2One afternoon a Weber chimney appeared on our outdoor table, a gift from our neighbours; fellow Weber junkies. This thing works like a charm. First, you don’t use starter fuel. Just place tightly twisted up newspaper in the bottom, the charcoal on top and light from the bottom. In a very short time, voila, the charcoal is ready to use. We discovered that if we dumped all the charcoal into the barbecue on one side only, the heat was retained. Success!

We even cooked porchetta following Dario Cecchini’s of Macelleria Cecchini method, (lots of salt & pepper, rosemary, his seasoned salt and fennel pollen,) slow cooked pork and beef ribs, pulled pork, corn on the cob, all succulent, beautifully cooked and yummy!

The majority of people like their gas barbecues because they are so convenient and quick. I’m telling you this chimney speeds up the process so much that if I had a gas barbecue; it would be sent to barbecue heaven! We really think the taste of food cooked on our trusty Weber doesn’t compare to a gas barbecue. However we do drool/dream about the Big Green Egg and building a wood burning outdoor oven. Can you just imagine the pizza’s from a wood burning oven?

Tip: The Weber chimney works great for roasting peppers! Just wait until the charcoal is glowing, toss in the peppers and turn until blistered and blackened, remove to a paper bag for 15 – 20 minutes; peel, remove seeds and membrane; easy, easy. Phyllis Signature

Marmalade And The Price of Copper

A “guest” blog from Christopher Brown of “Rise Artisan” Breads.

A cautionary tale on the best tool for the job being the only way to excel.

DSC_2545 nx2 ver 1Although we’re well past marmalade season I continue to plug along making a few batches a week with the supply of Seville oranges I’ve put into cold storage. A couple of weeks ago I happened across a steal of a deal on a pro-quality all copper marmalade kettle. Serious copper pots and pans are always heavy duty -and for jam making – the best (or so they say) are only made with thick copper -no nickel or tin lining.

When I travelled to England a couple of months ago for the Marmalade Awards I was repeatedly encouraged to try copper kettles for my marmalade vs the sturdy stainless pots I’ve been using. I took this under advisement as I have just about every useful kitchen utensil a guy could ever really use and space limitations being what they are I really needed a great excuse to add to this scenario. Enter a trip to HomeSense where to my great surprise they had the above mentioned pro-quality all copper marmalade kettles on clearance! Not just their everyday great value but Clearance! I had to have it as it was about 1/3 the price of one online. It really is a thing of beauty, sitting on my stove gleaming like a copper Ferrari -the size of a bassinette- with its rustic cast iron handles. Just right for one of my regular marmalade batches.

I’m one of those people who need to spend a couple of days admiring my new acquisitions before using them. I handled it and took pictures of it, all the while dreaming of the phenomenal increase in quality that it would surely bring my marmalades.

20130617_144307 nx2Finally it was time and I started the final process of my marmalade making. I measured the sugar vs the volume of cooked peel and poured it into “the prodigy”. My main concern… was all that copper would conduct heat so well that I’d end up with caramel in no time at all or it would boil over before I could react. I turned my burner to high and stood there waiting for the hard boil that is best for making a quality marmalade and I waited….and waited….Finally it got to what I’d call a hard simmer. Far below what was required and there it stayed, the elements on my apartment sized electric stove obviously no match for the mass of the pot (my only rule for a pot or pan by the way is that it fits my sink and this one passed that test). So, with a huge feeling of betrayal, I poured the mixture back into my faithful stainless pots (2 of them) and finished the marmalade the old way.

Sigh, if it ain’t broke……

My next trial will be using a modern pressure cooker to cook the peel in minutes rather than the hour or so it now takes. Stand ready for that report.

**Chris’s award winning marmalade is available at Farmer’s Markets.

Phyllis Signature

It’s Back!

As I look out my window, it’s a challenge to realize that today is the first day of summer! However, I am holding out great hope for the promise of, as the song says, the hazy, lazy, crazy days of summer; pass the Pimm’s #1 Cup please!

I am also holding out great hope for the Italian variety of zucchini that we love and the “Sun Gold” cherry tomatoes (some of the best tomatoes ever)._DSC1858 resize desktop

The Farmer’s Markets are gearing up for the onslaught of gorgeous veggies and fruits that we can hardly wait for. For a list of what’s available, go to Summer, What’s In Season and check it out! Just think of those delicious little nugget potatoes, more berries, tomatoes and so on….

Enjoy your summer and enjoy lots of picnics!

Phyllis Signature

Juicy Rubies

It’s June…

We’ve been waiting all year for the appearance of local strawberries! Those gorgeous, ruby-red all the way through, juicy beauties. Nothing like them! We pray for some good sunny weather to make them sweet and succulent.

DSC_2217 nx2Here and now, I am going to admit to being a strawberry snob! We simply do not buy strawberries unless they are local. As far as we are concerned, the others just don’t make the cut!

At the Farmer’s Truck Market on Thursday, one of the vendors had some! Woo hoo! We were having dinner guests from Toronto so I thought we should show them our stuff. Eons ago when I needed a quick but amazingly good dessert, I would clean up some strawberries; put them in a pretty bowl and set out a bowl of sour cream and a bowl of golden sugar. So I did that again, except I changed up the sugar to a light Muscavado (available at Whole Foods). All you do is place a dollop of sour cream on your plate, next comes a spoonful of the Muscavado, spear yourself a strawberry; dip into the sour cream, then into the sugar, (some say waiting a bit until the sugar starts to melt is best) and what can I say…awesome! They loved it. We did too!

Now that the strawberries are here, it’s time for all sorts of things. My Mom loved strawberry shortcake except, she didn’t make biscuits for her version. She made a wonderful sponge cake and so I do too. Slice or quarter the berries; add a bit of sugar; let them stand a bit; whip up some whipping cream, slightly sweeten with sugar and add a touch of vanilla; cut slices of sponge cake; place on plates, add some whipped cream, some of the berries, then more whipped cream. Like I said, we only eat strawberries in June, thank God! Yum, Yum…

Or, what about a strawberry and rhubarb pie or waffles with strawberries? I can hardly wait to get to the market on Saturday morning to score some more!

**If you would like to make the shortcake, please go to Mom’s Sponge Cake.  If you want to make the pie, go to Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie.

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Busy, Busy, Busy

Yup, it’s the time of the year for all sorts of goodies. Yesterday we received a couple of pounds of fresh Porcini mushrooms! Now…the Italians would go nuts for sure! I mean, they are great at foraging and these fungi are a great prize when found.

DSC_2301 nx2 ver 2What this means is that my entire menu planning for the weekend has just gone out the window! Not only do we have the Porcini but fava beans are now available at the Farmer’s Markets. When we saw some last week we said “for sure we are getting some next weekend.”

So on Saturday we will be barbecuing a Florentine steak with grilled or sautéed Porcini.  We will make some of the favas’ into a kind of salad with  Pecorino cheese.

Sunday will be fresh tagliatelle with Porcini.  It has to be fresh pasta because only the best will do for the Porcini!  Think I will make a veggie “salad” with the local fava’s, asparagus and fresh peas we bought at Trout Lake Farmer’s Market,  for a first primo/first course.

And tonight…I am going to try and re-create the pizza I ate in Gubbio, Umbria. It is a “white” pizza, so simply some chunks of lightly sautéed Porcini, slices of cipolline (onions), lightly sauteed pieces of pancetta and mozzarella. I can almost taste it already.

Someone said “living well is the best revenge” and so is eating well. Our bounty is overwhelming and inspiring at the same time!


Phyllis Signature

My Decorating Hints Part 2

Here is the second installation of a list that I hope will help you create the designer finish you may be looking for. They are the basics/tools that we decorators/designers find help us a lot on a project. I hope that you will find them useful.

For a printer friendly version, click here.


Make sure there is space for guest soaps & towels.

A small space allows you to incorporate extravagant finishes because of the small quantities involved.


Use a warm white instead of the “standard” decorator white for all trim it will look a lot less stark.

You can use containers for wastebaskets or tissue holders other than the standard, perhaps an antique or other lovely container.

When considering the choice of flooring, remember you probably do not want a slippery surface.

Tiles for both flooring and backsplashes in neutral tones are a good choice. You can introduce colour with your choice of wall colour and accessories and they’re a lot cheaper to change!

Tilting Mirrors should be considered as people of any height can use them. If there is a lack of storage you might consider a recessed, mirrored cabinet. Robern makes some really nice ones.

A classic style of bathroom is always a good choice.

A good lighting plan is essential in both bathrooms and powder rooms; using, perhaps recessed lighting and wall sconces. One of the things I often notice is the use of “up-lights” (lights that focus upwards), over a bathroom mirror. It really makes it challenging to put on makeup.

Minimize clutter to increase the sense of space.


Keeping the same layout saves money and time when it comes to plumbing and electrical work.

When choosing both a backsplash and flooring, keep in mind that they are the first thing you see when you enter the kitchen, you see it every day, make sure you really LOVE it!

Continuing the same flooring throughout a small or open concept space gives a sense of spaciousness and creates flow.