Tarte Tatin Aux Poires

I just couldn’t wait for this year’s fresh British Columbia pears to be in season. While shopping at our local Co-op not too long ago when my nose picked up a light, slightly sweet scent near the produce aisle. I followed the scent until I located the source. A large display of lovely Forelle Pears. Choosing fruit out of season is not always a good choice but my rule of thumb is that I always have to find it by scent. If I can’t smell the fruit by just walking by, I know that it won’t be worth purchasing. I’ve always had a strong sense of smell but I am married to someone who doesn’t and it drives both of us nuts. It makes me crazy because I can’t understand why hubby can’t always smell what I can and him goes nuts because I am always asking him if he can ‘smell that’. Let me assure you, he could smell these pears fairly well.

pears

Since visiting France, making a Tarte Tatin or Tarte aux Poires has been on my ‘to do’ list.  I enjoyed a few really delicious treats along with a café au lait or two.
pastryThe recipe for a tarte tatin begins with making a pastry. I always add the flour and salt to the food processor and cut the cold butter into little squares. Then I process it until the butter/flour resembles coarse sand. With the processor running I add the cold water one tablespoon at a time until the dough comes together.

While the pastry dough rests in the refrigerator I peel, core, and section the Forelle pears. They stay nice and white with the addition of a little lemon juice and some sugar.
forelle pears

One of my favourite parts is making the caramel.caramel

Once the caramel is done, it’s time to get creative with your pear arrangement. Then all you have to do is roll out the pastry and place it on top of the fruit. Be sure to have it nestled among the pears and over the edge of your ovenproof pan. Don’t forget to poke a few holes in the top before you put it in the oven.
pearcover

Bake it until the smell seeps through the house and the pastry is nice and golden. The most difficult part is flipping it all over onto a plate. Remember the sauce is very hot so try to suck it all up with a turkey baster or pipette before you flip it. Place the extra sauce back in the pan and reduce to make a thicker caramel. When it has thickened slightly, pour back over the warm tarte and enjoy!

poiretatin

Tarte Tatin aux Poires (recipe from Saveur)

INGREDIENTS

FOR THE PASTRY:
1 cup flour
1 tsp. salt
6 tbsp. butter, cut into small pieces
2 tbsp. shortening

FOR THE FILLING:
2 lbs. firm pears, peeled, cored, and halved lengthwise; then sliced.
Juice of 1 lemon
1¼ cups sugar
6 tbsp. unsalted butter

INSTRUCTIONS

1. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour and salt, then rub butter and shortening into flour with your fingertips until it resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle 3 tbsp. ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, into flour mixture, and knead until dough just holds together. Wrap dough in plastic and refrigerate.

2. Preheat oven to 425°. To fan pears, place core-side down on a cutting board. Starting from just below the stem, cut each one into 4 lengthwise slices, leaving stem end attached. Place in a bowl, gently toss with lemon juice and ¼ cup of the sugar, and set aside for 20 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, melt butter in a 9″ ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add remaining 1 cup sugar and cook, stirring constantly, until it turns golden brown and caramelized. Remove skillet from heat. Stir to cool, as the sugar will continue to darken even off the heat.

4. Drain pears and place in skillet with caramelized sugar round side down, with stems facing center. Gently fan slices out.

5. Roll out dough on a floured work surface into a 10″ round about 1⁄4″ thick. Place dough on top of pears, covering edge of skillet. Press edges down between pears and inside of skillet and cut four ¼” steam holes in center. Bake for 25 minutes or until pastry is golden brown.

6. Remove skillet from oven and tilt it carefully, using a baster to draw off excess juices. Transfer juices to a small saucepan and reduce over high heat until thick. Place a large, flat serving platter on top of the skillet and invert quickly and carefully. Spoon the reduced caramelized juices over the pears. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Brunch at The Lake House

For the most part Hubby is the weekend breakfast chef in our house. He began his breakfast career by making really flat pancakes but I had faith that eventually he would begin to make pancakes as good as his dad does. Isn’t good pancake making genetic? He still has a bit of difficulty timing everything so it’s ready (and hot) at the same time but if I get to sleep in a bit longer, who am I to complain?

It seemed only fair that he didn’t have to cook his own Father’s Day breakfast so I decided to take him out for brunch. We had previously enjoyed a great brunch buffet at Craft Beer Market on New Year’s Day but I failed to get a reservation there for Father’s Day even though I emailed a couple of days early. I’m not sure why I didn’t phone but at any rate we were left hanging on Sunday morning and I was in a panic!

We live in the very south of Calgary so I thought maybe I would try to get a last minute table at The Lake House in nearby Lake Bonavista community. The restaurant uses the OpenTable reservation system and when I typed in a reservation for four at the ’10:45′ slot, I was pleasantly surprised to see an opening. I was hopeful, but soon realized the actual time was 10:30 and hubby was out walking the dogs. Never one to give up hope, I made sure the kids were ready and hoped that he walked through the door soon. He came home two minutes later and we were out the door in another two….and we made it just in time for our reservation. We were seated at a lovely table overlooking the lake and we were soon able to relax and enjoy the view. We ordered some really great lattés and kid number one ordered a hot chocolate. As we sat and enjoyed our coffees we were treated to an amazing lake view. We watched the falcons hunt over the surface of the glass like surface of the lake and even saw a falcon fly by with a fish in its talons. It was the perfect morning.

We’ve never ordered a ‘starter’ or ‘appetizer’ for breakfast before but we couldn’t resist ordering these Lindt Chocolate and Strawberry Beignets. They were nothing like the beignets in New Orleans but they were delicious in a different way. The prosecco cream was a bit odd for us, it just tasted a bit off so we ignored it and ate the beignets without it.

ImageMost of us wanted to have Eggs Benedict; it’s a favourite in our family. Hubby decided to order the smoked salmon version just to be different from kid number two and I. He loved the flavours but found the dill biscuit couldn’t stand up to the heat and humidity of the eggs and hollandaise. It fell apart and was awkward to eat. I think he would order it again but ask for it to be served on a traditional English muffin.

Image

Kid number two and I really enjoyed the more traditional ‘Lake House Eggs Benedict’.  The eggs were poached perfectly (medium for us) and the hollandaise was the best I’ve had. I couldn’t wait to blog about it so I tweeted that I wouldn’t mind having litres of it to bathe in!

eggsbenny

Kid number one went the non traditional route and had the Bison Brisket and Game Meat Chorizo Hash. It came with an egg on top and more of that amazing hollandaise. The bison was fork tender and the saltiness of the dish was balanced really nicely with the addition of sweet corn. He really surprised me here as I thought he would go for the Wild Boar Mac ‘n’ Cheese.
bisonThe atmosphere, service, and food quality were outstanding at The Lake House. I’m happy to live very nearby so we can visit again. Maybe hubby will get to sleep in on the weekend a little more often now.
The Lake House on Urbanspoon

The Lake House

747 Lake Bonavista Dr SE Calgary AB

(403) 225-3939

Turkey Lettuce Wraps

I planted my garden quite early this year, at least compared to last year’s June 2 date. I don’t have a very large yard so I decided to take part in a community gardening initiative through Mid-Sun Community Gardeners. I have two fairly small plots planted with beans, mixed lettuce, chioggia and golden beets, purple carrots, and parsnips. I didn’t plant the parsnips this year, they are leftovers that wintered in the soil, then started to grow again in the spring. I decided to let them go as an experiment and now they are taller than I am! I bet all the other gardeners think I have a green thumb….

So far we’ve only been able to enjoy the lettuce mix and I use the term ‘enjoy’ loosely. The kids don’t like any lettuce that is spicy or has any flavour so they won’t eat the arugula. Just last weekend we got invited to a friends for a West Coast Salmon cedar plank barbeque and I decided to bring them a large bag of our homegrown lettuce. Our hosts were very happy because they had only grown romaine and wanted a change of flavour. They ended up giving us some romaine in exchange and everyone was happy.

One of the first things I did was make Turkey Lettuce Wraps using the romaine lettuce as the wrap. This meal is quick and easy to make, low in carbs and high in fibre. It’s great for a hot summer evening when you want a fast meal and don’t want to heat up the house. We also had fresh corn on the cob as a side.lettucewraps1

Turkey Lettuce Wraps

1 lb ground turkey thigh (I prefer thigh meat because it has more flavour)

olive oil

2 carrots; peeled and cut into matchsticks

1/2 onion; small diced

1 avocado; diced

1/4 cup oyster sauce

1 tbsp minced garlic

1 tbsp minced ginger

1 tbsp fish sauce

2 tbsp sweet chili sauce

3 finely diced bird’s eye chilies

green onions

salt and pepper

cilantro

Add olive oil to the pan and brown the ground turkey. Add the onion, carrots, bird’s eye chili, garlic, and ginger about halfway through and cook until the meat is cooked through. Add the sauces and season. Spoon into washed and dried lettuce cups and top with avocado, green onions, and cilantro.

 

Pan Seared Halibut on Lentils and Bacon

It’s always a treat when mid March arrives and with it, the West Coast halibut commercial fishing season. Though the season is long (it lasts until mid November) we do miss having this lovely white fleshed fish to poach, pan fry, or steam. I usually stick to ordering it in restaurants but lately I’ve become a bit more confident with my fish cooking skills, enough to buy some halibut fillets and cook them on my own.

This year I’ve eaten halibut maybe once per month because I am keeping a careful eye on ocean fish sustainability. Following  Sea Choice recommendations is not only kind to the critters of the sea but ensures there will be fish to enjoy for generations. Since the sustainability of halibut differs from region to region and as per type of halibut we as consumers need to be mindful of what we eat from the sea. The sustainability of West Coast Canadian halibut does have some concerns, according to Sea Choice, because they have placed it in the yellow or ‘cautionary’ zone. I think it is in everyone’s best interest to become educated on fisheries around Canada and so does Chef Ned Bell. He is currently riding his bicycle across Canada, East to West, to promote the choice of sustainable fish on tables nationwide. If you want to follow his ride you can follow him on twitter or check his schedule out to see what Chefs For Oceans events are happening during his ride.  You can also go to gustotv.com/chefsforoceans for more information, recpes, and tips for making smarter seafood choices.

So you’ve got a nice piece of halibut, now what do you do? One of the best ways to enjoy it is by pan searing it. With any sear, it is important to begin with a super hot (almost smoking) pan. Your butter should be melted before you slide fish in, presentation side first. Once it’s in the pan don’t fuss with it! Just leave it be until it is cooked about 2/3 way through. Remember you want it nice and golden because after all, you do eat with your eyes first! After the presentation side has had a good sear, carefully flip the fish over and continue cooking. Judging the done-ness of a piece of fish is more of an acquired skill than exact timing because it depends on the thickness and size of the fillet.  Unfortunately fish is expensive so you really don’t want to make too many mistakes! I used butter on this halibut and threw in some tarragon leaves as it was searing.

009This halibut is flaky and moist. Just the way it should be.

The kids have been asking for more lentils since the Canadian Lentils Recipe Revelations Challenge so I thought I would appease them with this super easy halibut ‘supporter’. Bacon and lentils are indeed a magical combination.

Lentils and Bacon

6 slices of bacon; diced

1/4 cup small diced celery

1/4 cup small diced onion

1/4 cup small diced carrots

500 g green lentils

2 bay leaves

4 cups chicken stock

salt and pepper

Sauté bacon until crisp then add celery, onions, and carrots. After about 5 minutes or so they will be translucent so it’s time to add the bay leaves and lentils. Cook for a minute or two longer, then add the stock and bring to a boil. Turn down stove to simmer and cook for another 20 to 30 minutes. Season.

 

Grilled Apricot Panna Cotta

I remember in the midst of winter, loudly vowing that if only summer were to make an appearance I would never complain about the heat again. I haven’t complained yet though I came very close recently when a friend and I picked one of the hottest days so far to go hiking in Banff National Park. It wasn’t a grueling hike or anything but it was tiring in the heat. Thank goodness that there was relief at the end of the trail in the form of one gorgeous waterfall. We sat quietly waiting to catch our breath while enjoying the slightly cool breeze coming off the moving water, silently congratulating ourselves on a job well done.

When I got home the house was stifling. Turning on the oven or even boiling something on the stove was out of the question so we had a quick, light meal grilled outside with a fresh home grown garden salad on the side. Luckily I had made these lovely little panna cottas the day before.  For some reason grilling stone fruit just elevates it to a whole new level and luckily it’s very easy to do. Start this dessert early in the morning when it is still cool as you do need to turn on the stove very briefly to make the panna cotta.  Let them set in the fridge for the rest of the day and enjoy after dinner. They are the perfect and not too sweet way to end a hot summer day.

apricots1Slice apricots in half and pit then dip in a bit of oil.
grilledapricotsPlace on a hot grill for 3-4 minutes per side.
grilledapricots1Be sure to make extra to eat for breakfast!

pannacotta2Purée then place in bottom of jar/glass, then add panna cotta mixture on top.

pannacotta4Enjoy!

 Grilled Apricot Panna Cotta (adapted from Tartelette)

Ingredients:

For the apricots:
8 apricots; halved, pitted, and brushed lightly with oil
For the panna cotta:
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon powdered gelatin
2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup honey
1 cup full fat buttermilk

Directions:
Prepare the apricots by grilling them over hot coals until tender (about 3-4 minutes on each side). Let cool and puree until smooth in a food processor. Divide the mixture between 6 jars or glasses.

Prepare the panna cotta:
Place the water in small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over it. Let that sit while you get the cream and honey to a simmer in a large heavy bottomed saucepan placed over medium heat.  When the cream is hot, remove from the heat and whisk in the reserved gelatin until it is completely dissolved. Add the buttermilk and whisk until well blended.
Divide the mixture on top of the apricot puree. Let stand at room temperature for 20 minutes and then refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving to let the cream set properly.

Note: I took a poll with the family and everyone agreed that we would like our apricots on top. To do this you would need to set your panna cotta mixture first, then add the fruit.apricotbite

In My Kitchen July 2014

So far July has been quite an eventful month in our house. We started out the month with a lost dog. With the kids home from school and friends stopping by to ‘hang out’ (we don’t play anymore because we are teenagers!) our back gate got left open and our very curious Louis went for a tour of the neighbourhood that ended at Animal Services. Since it was closing time there were no photos posted online on their website and the office was closed the next day, because it was Canada Day. After an exhaustive search and twitter/facebook campaign we had some hunches that he was safely at Animal Services and went to check anyway (despite the closure) because we needed to know for sure that he was safe. He was and we were able to have a decent time at our friend’s Canada Day barbeque while he served his time. I made these fun Red Velvet Canada Day Ice Cream Sandwiches to bring along to the party. mapleleaf

The next day we picked up a very tired and hoarse Louis from Animal Services. He was very happy to be free though I’m not sure if he served enough time to learn his lesson. Sorry for the bad photo but this was him in the back seat on his way home!louis
I’ve been watching far too many Fifa World Cup matches and not spending enough time in the kitchen. I heard about Brazil’s national drink The Caipirinha via twitter and thought it would be a good idea to make myself one, you know, for research purposes! The Caipirinha is a very rustic daiquiri made with ice, brown sugar, a lime, and cachaça.   Cachaça is a rum made from the fermented juice of sugar cane (instead of molasses). If you take care to do the drink properly it can be very delicious, though it is more of a sipping drink because it is quite strong. To make one, cut up a lime into 8 smaller pieces and place in your cocktail shaker. Add 3 tbsp of brown sugar and muddle it until you think you’ve been muddling for a ridiculously long amount of time. Say about 15 minutes. You will have lots of mangled lime bits and some really nice syrup. Next, add a couple of shots of cachaça and a whole lotta ice and shake to mix it all up. Strain into a glass. You won’t appear to have a lot of drink in your glass. This is normal. I retrieved all the ice I used from the shaker and put it in my glass and then picked out all of the lime bits. Then I strained the rest into my glass again. Add more ice and sip slowly as you yell at the Fifa referees. Make sure your husband doesn’t come home to find you passed out on the sofa. Try to explain how to say Caipirinha (Kai-Pee-Reen-Ya) and Cachaça (Ka-Shah-Suh).caiparinhaNow sitting on my counter waiting patiently is this ‘Poutine Kit’. How ridiculous. What it really is, is a cheese curd kit and additional pouch of gravy mix. I was a bit disappointed to see that it was regular gravy mix and not the customary ‘St.Hubert’ sauce mix. Ask any poutine aficionado and they will tell you that you do not put gravy on poutine, only sauce. I don’t have the time or fridge space to make the curds before we leave on holiday so it will have to be a project for a later date. Of course I will still need to make the fries the old school way as they weren’t included in the package.poutineAnd a final thought for those hot July days…in the Northern Hemisphere anyway…

Cannoli Ice Cream!!!icecream2A huge thanks to Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial for hosting this fun monthly peek into kitchens around the world. If you would like to join or just drool over her amazing bread and chocolate posts head on over to Fig Jam and Lime Cordial.

 

 

Bucatini alla Vodka

I went for a drive in the country today. I started on the highway and got up to a great cruising speed with some good driving tunes to egg me on. I drove eastward, in the direction of home (as I call the place of my birth and childhood) but knowing that I couldn’t go all the way there I settled for some rain soaked gravel roads. They were just gravelly enough to be fun and rutted enough to jostle my body to wake me up. Then I went home for breakfast and back to real life. I’m a prairie girl at heart and the prairie roads will always bring me home.

For some, any pasta is a comforting ‘home’ like dish. I know that when I ask my kids what they want for dinner 9/10 times they will request pasta. I used to buy some really great Vodka pasta sauce but then I decided that it really wasn’t that difficult to make.  The whole family was really happy with my little experiment and I think I lucked out in finding such a great recipe on the first go. I’m not a big fan of Rachel Ray and the title of this recipe is ridiculous but it is delicious and that is what counts in the end.vodka sauce

Vodka Sauce (adapted from Rachel Ray)

Ingredients

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp butter

1/2 onion, finely diced

2 cloves garlice, finely minced

1 cup vodka

1 cup chicken stock

32 oz. crushed tomatoes (I had some passata and a smaller can of crushed tomatoes and it was fine)

salt and pepper

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup fresh basil leaves; shredded or torn

pasta

Method

Start by sautéing your onion until it’s translucent, then add the garlic and sauté for another minute. Add the vodka and allow it to reduce by half. Add the chicken stock and tomatoes (and/or passata) and bring to a simmer. Season. While the sauce is simmering cook your pasta according to directions. I used Bucatini which is a long pasta like spaghetti but with a hole running through the center.

Add the cream to the sauce and bring up to temperature. Drain your pasta and toss it in the sauce, along with the torn fresh basil leaves. Enjoy!vodkapastaBy the way, if you’re single and you make this for a special someone and it works out, do let me know. Rachel Ray might just be on to something!

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