Sunday, October 3, 2010

Ciao Tuscany, Ni Hao China!!

Well it's finally here.  We are bidding a fond farewell to Tuscany for now and eagerly anticipating our arrival in China.
It has been a busy week all around not to mention preparing for our trip.

One of the final chores in Tuscany was picking the last of the tomatoes and harvesting as much of the herb garden as I could.  So what to do with all of this?  Well really it was a no brainer, gorgeous tomatoes and fragrant basil became this tasty Marinara Sauce.


Here's the Recipe:

Marinara Sauce
A whole bunch of tomatoes off the vine (20 or so), quartered
1 TBSP olive oil
5-6 Cloves chopped garlic
Hot Chili flakes (to taste)
A big handful of Basil leaves
1 small tin of Tomato Paste (156 ml)
Salt and Pepper

Heat the oil in a sauce pan, toss in the tomatoes and garlic, leave on med-high heat until the tomatoes begin to break down, approx 10 minutes. Add the tomato paste, chili flakes and season with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to low and let this simmer for at least 30 minutes.  I like to treat this like most Italian Mamas.....just leave it to simmer all day.
If tomato skins annoy you, drag out the immersion blender and zuzz it up.  Just before serving, snip up the basil and add to the sauce.  We like this over pasta drizzled with a tiny bit of fragrant olive oil.

I've got this ready for the freezer.  I have a feeling that BR will be very happy to have this waiting for him after three weeks of Asian food.

That's all for today, hopefully next time you check in we will be posting from China.
Zaijian for now!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Communal Birthday Celebration

It has become a tradition for 3 dear friends to celebrate their birthday together.  We were all born the same year, all attended the same secondary school (a long time ago!) and all continue to stay in touch...........that has to be good reason for a celebration!
So Happy Birthday Dee and M....here's to many more.

Since our birthdays fall in different months, we averaged the days of the year and came up with "our" birthday as sometime in late August.  Life is busy, but we finally got together and marked this auspicious occasion.

This year's theme happened to coincide with the happenings in the back garden.  So it's no surprise that our lovely wine paired meal was Tuscan inspired. Tradition has been that we celebrate in a grand fashion with a lovely tasting menu paired with yummy wines.  Some of the meals have lasted hours.  This one was no different.  In fact we had so much fun, it turned into a slumber party.  Who said old farts can't party?

We each prepared a course or two each and selected lovely wine pairings to compliment each.
My course was very interactive;  interactive, not out of design, but necessity!!

Have you ever experienced things suddenly breaking down in your home?  Well that happened around here.....and as with most things around here......it happened in a big way.  Over the course of 2 days we lost the dishwasher, microwave and yes, the very well loved and often used pasta roller attachment for the KitchenAid.  With the menu planned and no time to shop, I resorted to hand rolling the pasta for this dinner. Well actually, I coerced my two birthday buddies into hand rolling the pasta for dinner.

In the true Tuscan tradition,
Hand-Rolled Pici with a Hearty Ragu (click on Pici to view the recipe)




With antipasti to nibble on and luscious wines to sip we rolled up our sleeves and got to work. I think we have stumbled upon a new tradition.  The Pici was fabulous and the process was rather amusing.


Check out the video to see the Pici makers in action.   You also get a glimpse of Garden Guru working away in Tuscany.

video



So that's how 3 friends and a few of their guests enjoyed their birthday this year.  Fun times, good food, yummy wine........great friends!
Life doesn't get much better than this.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Cin Cin, Garden Guru

It was one busy weekend around here.
Garden Guru worked non-stop to get Tuscany tucked away into a perfect slumber.
Among many other jobs, the Harvest Table has been constructed.  It sits crowning the back deck,  patiently waiting to age over the winter.  Funny how I love the look and feel of old genuine things.  I think BR just breathed a huge sigh of relief!

The garden makeover started in early Spring with a worker bee weekend and sort of ended with the same.  Friends were back and forth this weekend, offering their expertise and hard labor.
I think I got off with the easy bit.  As always, I played the supporting role of chief cook and bottle washer.

I think Garden guru had mixed feelings at the end of the weekend.  It certainly has been a labor of love........a whole lotta love......but I think Garden Guru is a bit sad to say goodbye for now.

So through all of this I got to know Garden Guru just a little bit more.  One of the things that stands out  is his newly found love of Kalbi Beef (Korean Shortribs).  Who wouda thunk it?

When given a choice, this was the most requested item of the summer.  BR wondered why these had never graced our dining table before. Turns out these are a favorite of BR's too!

I have to credit this bit of deliciousness to my cousin/son.
He was here visiting in May and introduced this to us.  People who know me well, know that I am not a huge fan of the sticky sweet/sour/savory thing.  These shortribs have converted me.  I too, have enjoyed a few of these yummy ribs this summer.  So thank you T, for the inspiration.  Hope you are planning a visit again soon.  I so enjoy our lazy afternoons of cooking and feasting.  Oh yea....the wine is pretty good too!

It was only fitting that Garden Guru and BR get to enjoy these for lunch on their last weekend of the great garden makeover..........after all, I do want them to come back and finish the job!

The important thing about this recipe is the ratio of soy sauce/sugar and sesame oil.  It is best 2:1
2 Soy sauce to 1 Sugar and 1 Sesame Oil.
To this add a couple of stems of green onion and a clove or two of garlic (sorry T, you know me and garlic...T doesn't add garlic, but I do!!)


Throw everything together in the blender or food processor. Blend until smooth.  Pour the mixture over your beef shortribs, mix in a couple of tablespoons of sesame seeds if you like and leave them to marinade for at least two hours.  The longer the better.
I use 1/2 cup soy sauce for approx 3lbs of shortribs. (thin cut)




When you are ready to grill, preheat so that the grill is nice and hot.  You want to slightly char these ribs and caramelize the sugar in the marinade..........that's what makes them taste so good. 
Grill lines=flavor!
3 or 4 minutes on each side should do it.




So I think the Kalbi Beef was a hit, don't you?

















Thank you Garden Guru for an amazing summer......what a transformation!
I will eventually post some before and after shots.........but for now, help me honor Garden Guru........raise that glass you are enjoying.

Cin Cin Garden Guru............you are fabulous!  Salut!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Corn was in the freezer with my Blackberry

The title of this post will only make sense to you if you have read Still Alice.  One of my favorite lines went something like the title of this post.

So has this ever happened to you?
You fuss about to make a meal, make sure everything is just so.....then the next morning you realize you left a vegetable in the microwave or something else in the oven.

Well, that happens around here.  This time it was the beautiful corn that was lovingly planted and tended to by M and R.  So what to do? You can't just waste this goodness.  How does Corn and Potato Chowder sound?

Those of you that know me well will know that cooking around here is always done sans recipe. You see, to me it's sort of like following rules.  Sometimes I have trouble with this.

Sometimes rules are meant to be guidelines.  To me, cooking is definitely one of those things.
This blog writing is going to be a bit challenging as I attempt to write things down into a form that resembles a recipe.  Let me know if you try them.....




I like to think I'm sort of a Jamie Oliver type.....you know, he is always saying things like, "a bit of this and a nob of that......mix it all up and try not to get too serious."  That's just the way I like it.

So here is the "recipe" for Corn and Potato Chowder

2 cups of Fresh Corn, cut off the cob
1-2 Potatoes, Diced
2-3 Diced Carrots
2-3 Stalks Celery, Diced
1 Onion, diced
2 rashers of Bacon, diced
4 cups Chicken Stock
1 Cup Cream or half and half
2 Tbsp Flour
Salt and Pepper to taste

Throw the diced up Bacon in a soup pot on medium-high heat.  Cook until slightly crisp.
Add the onion, celery and carrots.  Cook this for a few minutes until they soften.
Toss in the flour.  Stir to incorporate.  Add Chicken stock, mix well.  Let it come to a soft boil, reduce the heat to very low.
Add the corn and potatoes.  Simmer on low for 30 minutes.
Stir in the cream.  Heat through. Season with salt and pepper.

Mine looked like this.  Hope yours does too!

Garden guru and BR have been working hard in the garden.  I'm sure this will hit the spot.                    

They probably didn't even miss the corn from last night's dinner.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Beast and Yorkies

Yup.....you got it.  Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding.  This is my all time ultimate comfort meal.  Yes, I know, I know......it's kind of an old persons type meal to make.  Guess that means I am on the cusp of being old.....among other things.

In actuality, I think what it comes down to, is my strong emotional attachment to this meal.
You see, growing up in an Asian household, all of our meals were.....you guessed it....Asian!


Roast Beef dinner was something that mom and dad would treat us to every so often.  In many ways, it was a lesson on being Canadian.  The finery......well the knives and forks along with the plates from Woodward's $1.49 Day would come out.  Nary a rice bowl or chopsticks were present at this meal.  We were learning to eat Canadian.  The roast was always the best cut of Prime Rib and potatoes would take the place of rice.  Definitely not a bad lesson to learn.


Funny how these simple memories seem to be the ones that stick out the most.  Hmmmm, I might be getting old.

The addition of yorkies was my doing.  When I began making this meal in my own home, in my early 20's  I included these.  Over the years the recipe has been perfected and has been shared with many.  I know it has travelled the world too.  Our dear Spanish friend, H has made this part of her family tradition now.

Interestingly enough, now when BR and I have mom and dad for roast beef dinner, they eagerly await the yorkies to accompany their beast..........
Isn't it grand that flour, eggs and milk can invoke  such wonderful thoughts!

So here they are as promised.

Here is the recipe:

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 cup pan drippings from roast prime rib of beef

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
Sift together the flour and salt in a bowl. In another bowl, beat together the eggs and milk until light and foamy. Stir in the dry ingredients just until incorporated. Pour the drippings into a 9-inch pie pan, cast iron skillet, or square baking dish. ( I use these great Yorkie Pans, but you can also use muffins pans) Put the pan in oven and get the drippings smoking hot. Carefully take the pan out of the oven and pour in the batter. Put the pan back in oven and cook until puffed and dry, 15 to 20 minutes.


To accompany this pan of yumminess, we also enjoyed this lovely roast of beast.




I'm so glad that Garden Guru finally got to sample the yorkies.

Dee and Max were here too.  BR is once again so glad to have company for dinner!



So yes my fiends, another Friday night after a very busy week.  Good friends, Good wine, Good Food, Good Times.  Life doesn't get any better than this.  Try this for yourself and see what happens!

Friday, September 24, 2010

We LOVE Friday!

Yay, it's the weekend.
Garden guru is making this one his last hurrah for this year.  He plans on getting some finishing touches on the Tuscan garden makeover and then putting it all to bed until next Spring.

I must say it has been lovely having garden guru spend weekends with us this summer.  BR seems to like it too.  Apparently, the meals are a bit more interesting when there are others around.

The weather has certainly turned to fall.
The fire is blazing and something yummy is in the oven.
It's hard to believe that after all these years garden guru has never sampled these.  I have been crowned the "queen" of these many times through the years and yet not once was garden guru around to get a taste.
So here are the ingredients.........can you guess what we are having?


Enjoy the weekend everyone.
Look for the full meal deal with recipes in the next post.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Tuesday Pizza

BR is a very lucky boy.
Recently I have been committed to better eating habits (translation = less) and so BR has not had much to choose from.  I relented tonight and decided it would be a good night for pizza.

Our favorite is Pizza Margherita.  In fact, such a favorite, it was gone before I could take a photo of it.

It was pretty easy to put together.
No Knead Dough in the fridge (I'll post this recipe later, promise)
Tomatoes ripening on the vine
Basil hanging on for dear life in the herb garden

OK, we didn't really scarf down an entire pizza in 3 minutes by ourselves.
We had help from M and R.
Since we were entertaining "guests" I also came up with a couple of other combinations.

"Hot and Spicy" .....Spicy Calabrese Salami and Mushrooms

Pepperoni, Mushrooms, Onions and Green Pepper

So would you agree with me?  BR is a lucky boy isn't he?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Summer brought Tuscany......Fall brings the Return from Golden Mountain

This Summer has been particularly fabulous in our parts.  Our back garden has been transformed through a labour of love by our dear garden guru into a delightful Tuscan escape.  Kudos to our dear friend, many friends in fact, have had a hand in this great garden makeover.  For certain we are blessed and especially so by garden guru's generosity, creativeness, great talent and most of all, his friendship.

The garden produced a bounty of delights. We feasted, wined, dined and enjoyed the company of good friends and family all summer long.
I hope to post photos and recipes as this blog develops, but for now enjoy a piece of our personal Tuscany.
video











This is the beginning of our great harvest table. Coming soon to a Tuscan Backyard near you!


BR and I  agreed today that summer is officially over.  He is digging out his big boy pants and I am contemplating the change over of carefree flip flops to proper footwear that will transport me firmly into Fall. So with that, the memories of our Tuscan summer get nestled away and we prepare for Fall.

Well officially, we have celebrated Fall's arrival already with a grand banquet a few days ago, marking the Mid-Autumn festival.  BR and I, along with family and many of our friends feasted on tasty delights.  You see, mid-Autumn festival is all about family and friends. So, if you are inclined on September the 22nd spend some time with loved ones and enjoy the magic of the harvest moon! Mid-Autumn Festival

This celebration was a preparatory one of sorts. As you read in the title, the second part of this post is The Return from Golden Mountain.  We are traveling back to China in a few short weeks.  Our journey will take us back to the villages of my parents.  We are eagerly awaiting the stories that mom and dad will share as we stroll back through their past with them. 
Stay tuned for updates on our travel adventures and culinary delights.