Sunday, October 31, 2010

Correction Peach Spicecake Recipe.

I apologize for the error in the peach spice cake recipe, where I mentioned the butter and baking powder ingredients twice. The post has been corrected thanks to Ann who brought it to my attention. Measures have been taken to fire my editor. So hard to get  cheap help these days. On second thought I better keep him as he is free labour. Sorry honey but you're still on the job!!!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Curaçao and Nero di Seppia Artisan Pasta with Mushrooms and Blue Cheese Sauce.

 While at the checkout with my eccentric black and blue Artisan pasta, I got more than one odd look because of my purchase. Who in their right mind would buy curaçao coloured pasta with black stripes?  The answer of course is "me"!  Sometimes, even in the kitchen...... "girls just want to have fun" and this butterfly pasta definitely falls under the wacky fun category. The added bonus is that it fits in perfectly with the Halloween theme. After all, we can't subsist just on sweets alone. 
My inspiration for the accompanying sauce came from the pasta itself, which actually contains curaçao liqueur and black ink from cuttlefish, (nero di sepia).  A creamy blue cheese wine sauce and plain button mushrooms came to mind. A truly decadent sauce, perfect with any pasta, and ready in just under fifteen minutes. This recipe is for one very large portion or two small entrees.

4 ounces farfalle pasta (125 grams)
1 shallot finely chopped
2 tablespoons extra virgin oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup finely chopped button mushrooms 
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup 35% cream
1/4 cup Rochfort blue cheese (or Gorgonzola)
salt and pepper
Rochfort or Gorgonzola (crumbled) for garnish

In a large pot of hot salt boiling water cook the pasta according to directions... al dente! Drain before adding to the prepared blue cheese white wine sauce and mushrooms.

Heat the oil and butter in a frying pan and add sauté the shallots for  2-3 minutes. Sprinkle a small amount of salt and pepper ,making sure not to season too much as the cheese will be salty. Add the mushrooms and cook until golden, for about 4 minutes. 

Deglaze the pan with the wine and add the chicken broth.

 Simmer for 2-3 minutes to reduce and  then whisk in the cream.

 I suggest pre-heating the cream before adding to the hot sauce.
 Stir in the blue cheese. 

 Toss the drained pasta into the sauce and plate. 

Crumble extra blue cheese on the pasta for garnish.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Peach Spicecake

There's no denying it, I'm a sucker for cookware, and when a new culinary temptation is placed in front of me I start deliberating that inevitable purchase. To paraphrase James Brown's iconic hit title...Mama's "got a new bag".......Let me introduce you to my latest cake mold purchase and inspiration for this next post ( of course any 10 inch cake or tube pan will do the job!)                          

The recipe I chose to christen my new acquisition is an adaptation of a standard spicecake recipe in which I adjusted the spices to compliment the addition of peach puree to the cake batter. Yup, you read right, peach sauce. I'm fully aware that summer has long past but fortunately my freezer held a small reserve from this season's bounty. I figured, why not try incorporating it in a cake recipe? If it works with other fruits like apples and pineapple, why not peaches? Nothing ventured, nothing gained so I'm glad I took my chances and I'm very pleased with the results. The cake is moist with autumn spices running lightly through it to compliment the delicate sweetness of the Ontario summer peaches. Perfect served with a dusting of confectioners sugar.


2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoons cardamom
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 soft butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
zest of 1 orange
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 egg yolks,
1 cup peach puree (made with cooked  peaches and the aid of a food processor)
3 egg whites
Sift the dry ingredients to combine and set aside. In a medium size bowl beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form but not dry. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl cream the butter and gradually add the sugar. Continue beating until light and fluffy.Beat the egg yolks and add to the butter sugar mixture. Blend in the vanilla, peach puree and orange rind. Add the flour and spice ingredients into the wet ingredients and blend with a wooden spoon. Add a few spoonfuls of the egg whites into the batter to loosen it. Do not overwork the dough. Fold in the remainder of the egg whites and pour into a prepared 10 inch cake pan. Bake at 350º oven for 40 minutes or when  a wooden skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

'To Meat or Not To Meat '...Stuffed Seashell Pasta

To meat or not to meat.... that is the question. Why rack your brain, when you can end up pleasing all the diners at your table with their desired choice by making both versions.  It's really an uncomplicated recipe which can be prepped in advance and simply popped into the oven just before guests arrive. The ricotta filled portions are light and fluffy as are the veal and spinach stuffed seashell pasta. Simply delicious served with a rosé tomato sauce, made by adding some light cream to your basic marinara sauce.

"She sells sea shells by the seashore.
The shells she sells are surely seashells.
So if she sells shells on the seashore..."  a classic tongue twister really refers to Mary Anning  a 19th century British paleontologist and fossil collector who would sell her finds to make a living.

1/2 pound or 36 cooked  sea shell pasta (according to package directions or 10 minutes)
ricotta filling
veal filling
2-3 cups rosé tomato sauce (marinara sauce with 15% cooking cream added)
grated Parmigiana Reggiano

Cheese Filling:
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 egg
2 tablespoons grated Parmigiana Reggiano
In a bowl whisk the egg and add the cheeses. Stir to incorporate the ingredients.

Meat/ Spinach Filling:
1 pound minced veal
2 cups (packed) baby spinach
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 carrot finely chopped
1/2 celery stock finely chopped (about 1/4 cup)
2 tablespoons Italian parsley finely chopped
1/2 small sweet onion finely chopped
1 piece (2 inch length) leek finely chopped
1 garlic clove finely chopped
2 tablespoons grated Parmigiana Reggiano
1/2 cup soft mozzarella
Salt and pepper to taste

Using a food processor finely mince the mozzarella cheese and transfer to a small bowl.

In a food processor mince the spinach or chop by hand and set aside.

Heat the oil  and saute the onions and leeks for two minutes. Add the garlic, carrot, celery and parsley then continue to cook for an additional 2 minutes.
                                                        Add the veal and cook through
Add the chopped spinach to meat and cook for an additional minute 
Stir in the grated cheese.


Line the bottom of a large casserole dish with about a cup of rose tomato sauce. Stir in 2-3 tablespoons of water to thin out the sauce to prevent drying out while the pasta bakes in the oven.

Using a teaspoon fill each pasta shell with the meat mixture and do the same with the ricotta filling. Transfer to the prepared casserole dish as illustrated below

 Pour rose sauce and grated Parmesan cheese over the pasta shells. Cover with aluminum foil and bake in a 350º F oven for 35 minutes.  If desired you may  garnish with chopped spinach by adding it to the unbaked pasta and allowing it to cook simultaneously.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Cherry & Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

"........ Suzanne takes your hand
And she leads you to the river..... 
....And she shows you where to look
Among the garbage and the flowers
There are heroes in the seaweed
There are children in the morning
They are leaning out for love
And they will lean that way forever
While Suzanne holds the mirror
And you want to travel with her
And you want to travel blind
And you know that you can trust her......"  from Leonard Cohen's "Suzanne"

There are no coincidences in life. Sitting at the computer, ready to post another adaptation of my girlfriend's 'galettes au grau'  I was sure it was going to be just a matter of jotting down a few words about the recipe which I had made earlier, and was waiting to post. To my surprise, I started to reminisce about this 'femme extraordinaire' and the years spent with her as a colleague and close friend. Together we shared the ups and downs of life, and the laughter and tears that went with it. Passionate about, life, love and politics, Suzanne was never shy to impart her strong beliefs and advice.You knew embracing her words would lead to personal growth.She was well respected in both her personal and professional life. At home with both the elite of the artistic world and the less fortunate, Suzanne had a way of connecting with people. She truly embodied the expression 'joie de vivre', and her exuberance for life was contagious. I consider myself fortunate to have had this fine lady cross my path and  privileged to have her as a mentor and friend. Suzanne,'mon amie'  you are missed but you continue to be forever present in our hearts, even though you left us several years ago on a sunny October. Thinking of you, and as you would always say, "je t'embrasse."

 These oatmeal chocolate cherry cookies are packed with chocolaty flavour and irresistible ingredients like dried cherries, white chocolate chips, macadamia nuts are butter free, and a are healthier alternative to regular cookies.

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup dark Dutch cocoa powder
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup coarsely chopped macadamia nuts
3/4 cup coarsely chopped dried cherries
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup white chocolate chip cookies
3 cups rolled oats
3/4 cup oil
2 eggs
3/4 cup milk

In a large mixing bowl sift in the flour, baking soda, Dutch cocoa powder. baking powder, sugar,and salt.
Toss in the dried cherries, the macadamia nuts and white chocolate chips.
In a separate bowl beat the eggs. Pour in the oil, milk and beat to combine.

Pour the egg mixture into the dry ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon to blend. Drop by spoonfuls onto a parchment lined cookie tray and pat down gently. Bake at 400º F oven for 12 minutes. Makes 36 large cookies

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Cod and Potato Oreganata

Growing up in an Italian Catholic home, cod and potato oreganata was a popular dish on Friday nights when meat was off limits. Funny but this recipe from my past has also become a favorite standby recipe in my own home, especially as the weather gets cooler.  It is a satisfying dish, which requires only a skillet and a few basic ingredients. It is the perfect solutions for busy working moms, looking for a quick recipe that is full of flavour and easy to make. My potato oreganata recipe has often solved my own last minute supper conundrum when coming home late from work. 
 Steaming the fish and potatoes allows for rapid cooking but do not associate this method with bland 'hospital' food. Using only a small amount of water, with the addition of extra virgin oil, savory breadcrumbs, garlic, chili flakes and oregano ensures that the fish and potatoes infuses the dish with amazingly rich flavours. 
If you're anything like my husband and like a bit of crispness to the potatoes, remove the cover a few minutes before it's finished cooking, allowing  the juices to reduce. In a pinch, frozen fish and store-bought Italian seasoned breadcrumbs work well in this recipe. The addition of onion and corn is my adaptation of mom's original recipe. In the past, I have also added frozen peas and zucchinis to the dish.
In just under 30 minutes, you will have dinner on the table, and you do not have to wait for Friday night to enjoy this dish!

4-5 pieces cod fish fillets
4-6 Yukon gold potatoes thinly sliced ( about 1/4")
1/2 large sweet onion sliced
1/2 cup water
3 tablespoons extra virgin oil
2 cloves garlic
1 1/2 tablespoon oregano
1/4-1/2 tsp chili flakes
1/3 cup seasoned Italian breadcrumbs
salt and pepper

In a large non stick  skillet, pour in 1/2 cup water and 3 tablespoons of extra virgin oil. Place a layer of the Yukon gold potatoes and slices onions  in the skillet. Add 1/2 of the garlic slices on the potato/onion layer.

 Spread the corn around the edges on top of the potatoes

Sprinkle 1/2 of the oregano, and 1/4 teaspoon of chili flakes on the potatoes/corn layer. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle a tablespoon or two of the breadcrumbs on top of the potatoes.

Place the cod pieces in the center of the layered vegetables.

Sprinkle the remainder of the seasoned breadcrumbs on the fish. Add  the garlic slices, sprinkle on the oregano, garlic slices, and remaining chili flakes. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle a generous amount of extra virgin olive oil over the fish.Place a cover on the skillet and cook until done. Cooking time will depend on the thickness of the fish and whether the fish used is fresh or frozen. Approximate cooking time 10-15 minutes. Serves 4

Friday, October 15, 2010


Madeleines or 'petites madeleines', shell shaped sponge like cookies, originate from the Lorraine region of France and where made famous by the early 1900's novelist, Marcel Proust.  In his novel "Temps Perdus"..."in Search Of Time Lost", the simple act of tasting a madeleine cookie unleashes past childhood memories for the narrator, and through a better understanding of  his past, insight into himself...... "The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes" Marcel Proust

1 cup all purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon baking soda (2pinches)
3 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup melted butter
pinch of salt
zest of a lemon

In a mixing bowl beat the eggs, 1/2 cup sugar, and pinch of salt, until light and fluffy. Sift the flour and baking soda and fold into the wet ingredients. Fold in the melted butter and lemon zest.  Spoon into prepared fluted tins, making sure not to over fill. Bake in a preheated 350º F oven for 12-15 minutes or until golden. Makes 24

Monday, October 11, 2010

Canadian Thanksgiving Dinner at Anna's Table

Thanksgiving is the one holiday where I never stray from traditional "tried and true" recipes. The only variation you'll find is in the dessert choices from year to year. Let me share some photos with you.  I would also like to thank my guest who was kind enough to share photo taking duties, and allow me to get the meal to the table.

 Turkey with stuffing and gravy, served with orange cranberry relish, sweet potato carrot casserole, Brussels sprouts, creamy mashed potatoes and cheesy cauliflower au gratin

 Cauliflower au Gratin
 Sweet potato and carrot casserole
 Apple Flan.......Tarte au Pomme
 Best ever Carrot Pineapple Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting.