Though I may be Canadian in the most general of definitions, I, like many other Canadians also identify with the cultural pieces of my heritage. My grandparent’s families made the long journey to this country and settled into Saskatchewan, where they merged their cultures together to form one Canadian identity. Each cultural influence has had an important part in shaping me as I am today, the same way it has such an important part in shaping Canada as it is today. I never think of myself (or Canada) as having one static culture, but more as a fluid culture that has a life of it’s own. Like Canada. I love that we are all so alike in our differences, I find it unifying.
Using food as a medium, I have explored my German background, added to my genetic history by my Grandpa Leaderhouse and reinforced by my Herzog grandparents who entered my life much later on. It was through them that I became exposed to a bit more German cuisine and culture (we’re talking sausage making, sauerkraut, pork hocks, and spaetzle). My paternal Grandmother, Grandma Leaderhouse was of pure Hungarian descent. She retained a wonderful accent throughout her entire life, even though she had been born in Canada and eventually lost the ability to speak Hungarian. She passed her love of bacon to me (Hungarians love their bacon and smoked sausages) and I remember her making poppy seed rolls, but never anything more ‘Hungarian’ than that. It makes me sad, that cultural part of my past remains lost and I would love to learn more about it in the future.
I am, genetically speaking, half ‘French Canadian’ and it’s the part of my cultural heritage that I know the most about. My grandma Lajeunesse’s (nee Ruel) family lived in the Saskatchewan French settlement of Debden, where she met my grandfather. She spoke only French until their children began attending an English school (it is odd that there was only an English school in a French settlement…) and now, at 92 years of age, she speaks a quaint mixture of ‘Frenglish’. By the way, she’s not your average ‘sweet’ granny. She’s 4 feet 9 inches of dynamite and she makes me laugh all the time. Her cooking has probably made the most cultural impact in my life because it was through her (and my mother) that I experienced Tourtiere, farlouche (sugar and raisin pie), Tire sur la neige, baked beans, and maple fudge. There are quite a few of us cousins on the French side of the family and we were all taught the ‘Frenglish’ version of grand–mère, which has been reduced to ma mère. So, even though I know that ma mère means ‘my mother’, I use it to refer to my French grandmother.
This recipe for Maple Fudge has been passed down for generations. It is second in popularity only to ma mère’s homemade doughnuts at family gatherings. Being from Saskatchewan, maple syrup was too dear to be included in a recipe in such vast quantities. Instead, maple flavouring was used. Here is the original recipe as copied from our family cookbook with the maple flavouring. I wanted to return the recipe to it’s true Québecois roots, so my corrections are listed at the end of the recipe. Ma mère is getting up there in age, so she doesn’t make the doughnuts or fudge any longer. It’s time for us grandchildren to carry on the tradition!
NOTE: Here are my alterations to the ingredients… I added the first six ingredients and cooked to the soft ball stage, then I transferred it to a stand mixer bowl and let it cool a bit. I started the mixer slowly at first (this is hot sugar!), then beat it at high speed until it became creamy. Add the nuts and beat them into the fudge then pour out into the prepared pan.
I hated Fish Pie growing up. On the days that I came home from school, tired after an hour long bus ride on bumpy country roads, and smelled a fish pie baking as soon as I walked in the door…my stomach turned. The fish smell was so overpowering and back then, I was a kid who just didn’t like anything to do with fish. I hated ice fishing; standing over an open hole in the middle of a freezing lake with no shelter from the wind and hoping for a bite was entirely pointless to me. I think the only good thing about ice fishing back in those days was that my parents would always stop at the store for snacks, which meant a bag of chips and some licorice. Back in those days, that was a real treat.
I despised the taste (and smell) of ‘fishy fish’ and I would always ask my dad if the fish was going to be ‘fishy’. As if he would know! I eventually learned that it was Jack fish (or Northern Pike) that was the ‘fishy’ tasting fish and White fish was more mild but had tiny, delicate bones. Oh, the bones!! I hated those too.
Now that I’m an adult, I love fish. Go figure. What’s strangest of all, is that I actually crave my mom’s fish pie. I’ve been wanting to make it for a while but put it off because the first ingredient needed for fish pie is canned fish. I’m not talking canned salmon (though you can use it in a pinch) but fresh caught fish, preserved in jars with a bit of vinegar, herbs, and tomato. When I asked my mom for the recipe, she pointed me in the direction of the family cookbook which contained the recipes for both the canned fish and the fish pie. I also discovered that my Grandma was the original author of this recipe (not my mom) and that it was, essentially, a quiche. I love it. I love that my Grandma invented quiche!!
My parents thought I was silly for buying fresh fish (they told me to buy canned salmon), then canning it just to make this recipe but I really wanted to go as close to the original recipe as I could. I bought a wild Steelhead Trout and sliced it up. One large fillet ended up filling 3 500 ml jars.
Hot Water Bath Processing – Place hot jars on the rack of a canner filled with boiling water. Lower the rack and ensure the water is deep enough to cover the jars. Process for 2 hours. NOTE: The recipe says to do this for 5 hours. I think that’s a bit ridiculous, however, I do know that hot water processing is NOT recommended for meat or fish. Just because my Grandma and mom did it (and we didn’t die) doesn’t mean that it is 100% safe. For that, you need a pressure canner.
Pressure Canning – Process at 10 lbs pressure for two hours. I really have no idea HOW, that’s just what the recipe says.
OR yes, you can use fish from a can. I recommend you purchase the best canned salmon as possible.
After enjoying cooking my dish for the first ‘Around the World in Twelve Plates’ installment (Chinese Red Cooked Beef), I felt I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to sign up for the second round of adventure in February. As I waited eagerly for The Food Girl in Town‘s announcement of the next world cuisine, several subliminal suggestions ran through my head…how about Hawaiian, or Sri Lankan? Could the next country be Spain, or how about Iceland? Truly, I had no idea where I would be cooking from next. Then the announcement came and it was a bit of a shocker: Brazil.
I immediately started running through what I know about Brazilian cuisine in my head. It didn’t take long. Calgary has several Brazilian steakhouses and so I am familiar with the rodizio style of dining where you dine on all you can eat churrasco (grilled meat) which is served table-side and sliced directly onto your plate. I’ve been to a couple of these places and I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to pull off a similar meat-fest at home, especially in the dead of winter.
During the 2014 World Cup held in Brazil, I watched countless hours of ‘the beautiful game’ and found myself getting hungry, or more accurately, thirsty for an authentic Brazilian caipirhina, which is a cocktail made with Brazilian rum, cachaça, fresh fruit, and a bit of sugar. It takes a fair amount of muddling, but all that work is certainly worth it. However, this is a food post, not a cocktail post so my limited experience would not do. I had to investigate further. A quick check at my closest Chapters, revealed absolutely NO suitable cookbooks at all. My next stop was the library and I had a bit more luck there, but after searching there were really only 3 books in the whole system, and only one of them was available. I put Brazilian Food (by Thiago Castanho) on hold and waited for it to arrive at my branch for pick up.
Annatto seeds, Korean Dried Salt Shrimp, re-hydrating the shrimp
It was pretty evident that ‘Brazilian Food’ was by no means a beginner’s guide to Brazilian cuisine. It features regional specialties and recipes by local chefs and did not really explain any basics like ‘what the hell are dried salt shrimp’?! It took a fair amount of browsing before I was confident enough that I could make one of the recipes; Vatapá da Maria Helena (Maria Helena’s Creamy Shrimp and Coconut Stew). Maria Helena is a cook at Remanso do Bosque restaurant, but this dish is more of an every day average dish you might find on the streets of several more Northern Brazilian states, and especially in Bahia. This north east Brazilian state has a lengthy coastline and seafood is a main staple in this region. Like many countries, Brazil’s cuisine is not an entity on it’s own, but a mosaic of flavours which reflects the country’s immigrant heritage combined with indigenous tradition. This Creamy Shrimp and Coconut Stew is of African origin, but uses Brazilian ingredients such as dried salt shrimp, colorau (ground annatto), and dendé (red palm oil). It wasn’t an easy task finding these ingredients and I went to several places before I had rounded up every one. With some help from an Asian friend I was able to source the right kind of dried salt shrimp at a Korean store, I found the red palm oil at a health food store, and eventually sourced the annatto at a nearby Mexican supermarket.
Brazilian Food page 44-45 (by Thiago Castanho) serves 4
Arroz Branco – Brazilian Style White Rice (page 94)
The original recipe made enough for ten people so I halved all the ingredients (but strangely, doubled the rice!) for our small family. We enjoyed the flavour of the sauce, though the boys were a bit disappointed because they thought they were getting a curry. I picked this dish for it’s simplicity and colour, and it did not disappoint. The combination of the ground annatto and dendé oil really made this dish unique and beautiful (though I understand now why people buy it pre-ground, it’s worse for staining than turmeric!). The sauce is very subtle and sweet, with a great texture achieved by using the bread as a thickener. I would make this again, and might have to since I have plenty of ingredients left over in my pantry.
I spoke with chef Joao Dachery (from Pampa Brazilian Steakhouse) a few days later and he was impressed with the colour on the stew (of course I showed him a photo!) and gave me some important tips on cooking with dendé oil, mainly that it has a very low smoke point, so it is important to add it at the end for flavour and colour. He also told me I should try to make Moqueca, which is another typical Brazilian fish stew. Now I know what to do with the extra ingredients!
Make sure you check the rest of the amazing fellow bloggers that met the challenge for “Around the World in 12 Plates, Brazil”:
Sugar Love Spices http://www.sugarlovespices.com/quindim-brazilian-dessert/
Summer seems such a long ways away right now. The outside thermometer says -20 C and the snow hasn’t quit falling for days. I’m extremely lucky to work from the comfort of my own home on days like this, because I know that -20 C is on the high end of how cold it really is out there and I’m not and never will be a fan of winter. Oh, I tried to pretend I was for years. I skated on frozen ponds, strapped on cross country skis and forged my own path through the prairie fields out behind our home, I even own a set of downhill skis and boots. Nope. People see Canadians as winter lovers, like everyone is in love with winter…and while I have friends that do ‘the Canadian thing’, I’m much more likely to embrace the concept of Danish ‘hygge’ (pronounced ‘hooga’). Getting cozy under a blanket with my dachshunds, a book, and some tea or local beer is my best weapon against the long, dark, and cold winter months. But hygge can happen during any season, because it’s a state of mind…of being one with the comfort of your surroundings. It’s the feeling that you are really where you need to be at that one moment in time.
It’s quite astonishing that one of the most hygge things I did in 2016, turned out not to occur during winter months but in August of 2016. Our summer was busy, so busy that we really only had one opportunity to drag out the tent trailer for the weekend. Getting everything ready, travelling, and setting up camp is NOT hygge, but the act of camping itself is most definitely hygge to me. When we were invited to take part in ‘Rootstock‘, the lure of camping in a sunny field and experiencing the bounty of our land through the hard work of local farmers, artisans, and producers was too amazing to pass up. There’s nothing more hygge than sitting round a table, discussing the big and small things in life with friends and family.
In Alberta, the discussion of sustainable agriculture and agricultural awareness has become more and more immediate. We must become more aware of how our food is grown and produced, we must support viable local food systems in order to keep agriculture sustainable for generations to come. Food Water Wellness is working with Alberta Rural Development in the creation of an online learning and information sharing portal entitled, We All Grow. We All Grow aims to facilitate dialogue between farmers, provide information to new and experienced farmers, and inspire connections between consumers and farmers.
Rootstock 2016, was a country style celebration of small scale agriculture and artistans which took place at Fallen Timber Meadery in Water Valley, Alberta. There was an open air market, filled with a wide variety of local products and friendly producers who were more than happy to chat about farm life, chocolate making, coffee roasting, or distilling. It was a great way to get to know the people who provided our sustenance for the weekend. During the open air market, we enjoyed delicious appetizers from Bear and the Flower Farm, Redtail Farms, and Hoven Farms; all food was prepared onsite by Dave Cousineau (executive chef of The Bison; Banff), Barb Thomas (Love2Eat) with desserts by Michael Tilley (Rouge). We didn’t go thirsty either, with drinks provided by Fallen Timber Meadery, Eau Claire Distillery, Calgary Heritage Roasting Company, Village Brewery, and Banded Peak Brewing.
Hoven Farms Beef Paté w Sea Buckthorn; Watermelon and Redtail Farms Prosciutto;
Bear and the Flower Pork Hock w Fallen Timber Honey Wine Jelly Crostini
When dinner was announced, we entered a magical tent filled with long communal-style tables and hay bale benches. The tables were covered with white linens set with mis-matched fine china and glass jars to emphasize the ‘country-chic’ style. Large vases of colourful locally grown flowers appeared sporadically on the tables, interspersed with candles. The effect was breathtaking.
Soon, all the work from the kitchen was about to be delivered to our tables, and we were ready to enjoy the fruits of our Alberta farmer’s and producer’s labour. Dinner began with an outstanding salad with fresh greens from Willow Brush Ranch and Country Thyme Farm, cold pressed canola oil from Highwood Crossing, Shirley’s Greenhouse tomatoes, and fresh feta from SweetMeadow Farmstead Cheese.After we had eaten our salads, the mains were brought in on long planks. It was the most impressive food delivery method I’ve seen and it caused quite a stir among the hungry guests. Imagine a six foot by one foot plank filled with Portuguese Grilled Chicken, Braised Pork Shoulder, Spice Rubbed Smoked Sirloin Roast, Braised Beef Short Ribs with sides of local Madras-Spiced Potatoes, Zucchini Gratin, Beets with yoghurt and mint, Beans with Garlic Scapes and Maple Syrup, and Grilled fresh Baby Corn.
Eagle Creek Farms, Country Thyme Farms, Blue Mountain Biodynamic, Kohut Farms
Dessert was brought in on smaller planks, but it was as stunning as the mains. We were blown away by the Strawberry Vanilla Panna Cottas featuring Ryan’s Honey foam, chocolate crumb, rhubarb coulis & lemon balm. Also scattered along the dessert board were locally made chocolates by Anne Selmer (Cochu Chocolatier), some of which featured Eau Claire Distillery spirits, Ryan’s Honey, Fallentimber Mead, Calgary Heritage Roasting Company coffee, or bacon from Bear and the Flower Farm.
With dinner done, we had great cause for dancing! The stars twinkled outside, while inside we were treated to lively melodies and harmonious singing by Folk Road Show, Gabrielle Papillon, and the headlining act, Reuben and the Dark. There really wasn’t a sad soul in the tent, as everyone was fully in tune with whatever direction the night would take us.
Reuben and the Dark
We danced late into the night until we finally grew tired and sent ourselves back up the hill to tent trailer. On the way up, we were distracted by the beauty of the wide open sky above and decided to end our night with some stargazing. Laying there on the ground, we became aware of the connection between ourselves, the land, and the sky while the vibrations of the far away music connected us to the present moment. Our perfect state of hygge seemed to last forever as we lay there, not wanting to leave until the last meteor streaked across the sky and the sun rose above the horizon.
If you are interested in attending Rootstock in Summer 2017, head to the Food Water Wellness website and sign up for updates on when tickets will be available.
A HUGE thank you to Rootstock 2016 Sponsors:
Sometimes, I think in order to be successful, you have to recognize your faults. Once they are clearly identified you can start to formulate a plan for self improvement. You have to dig deep, think hard, and with all sorts of blood, sweat, and tears you CAN come up with the goods to succeed. Are you worried yet? Didn’t you just come here for the wings?Have no fear, this post about Gochujang Wings isn’t going to get too deep or reverential…I just want to let you all know that I have identified a clear FAULT within my blog and that fault is I had no damn recipe for WINGS!! I’m here to improve your day, your weekend, and yes…your superbowl party with these amazing sweet, spicy, and highly addictive Maple Gochujang Wings. They aren’t that difficult to make and they’re much better for you than the frozen pre-made kind. Oh yeah, and they are definitely teenager approved because on the day I was testing this recipe, teenagers magically appeared from their hiding spot in the basement for a full on wing eating frenzy. After the lip smacking, bone sucking, caveman grunting was done…I even got a ‘thank you’!
It’s the end of the month and that means I’m up to my eyeballs in photo editing and post writing. Several blog challenges are due and as usual, I’ve left a couple of them until the last minute. I’ve enjoyed cooking the recipes and photographing the results, but the writing maybe just takes a bit more of an effort. It doesn’t always come naturally so you can always tell when I’m forcing a blog post.
Fortunately I don’t have to force anything with this post about the ‘Around the World in Twelve Plates’ challenge by Gabby of The Food Girl in Town. This blogger is no stranger to blog challenges having cooked every cover recipe from Food and Wine magazine back in 2013. I like blog challenges because they make me feel accountable and because they force me to cook dishes that I wouldn’t otherwise consider. Gabby says she enjoys them because she “learned new cooking skills, acquired some awesome kitchen gadgets, and stocked my spice cupboard like a baller”. Ditto lady…ditto! One look at the recipes available on my blog and you will notice that A) I bake a lot BUT more importantly B) I love to cook dishes from other countries. That’s what makes this sort of a challenge extra fun for me.
So what is the Around the World in Twelve Plates Challenge (ATW12P for short)? Each month we cook a meal or dish from a country of Gabby’s choosing. Since this challenge is designed to stretch our abilities, tummies, and pantry shelves she has taken Italian, French, and Indian off the list of possible cuisines. Well, that still leaves literally a whole world of possibilities and this month our cooking challenge country is CHINA. I’m not talking about Ginger Beef (did you know this dish was invented in Calgary?) or any kind of ‘Americanized’ version of Chinese take out dishes. No more Moo Goo Gai Pan or Almond Gai Ding…only an authentic dish is acceptable for this challenge. Remember, we want to stretch our limits here!
I happen to own a brilliant Chinese cookbook from Kian Lam Kho called Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees. Kian wrote this cookbook specifically for people like me who may not have had a lot of exposure to authentic Chinese cooking. He included a brilliant section on pantry basics and tools, chapters on different techniques, and explains all the regions of Chinese cooking. If you are wanting to learn more about this cuisine (and even if you know quite a bit about Chinese cooking), I highly recommend this cookbook. I don’t own a properly seasoned wok, so I chose the low and slow method of braising for my ATW12P challenge. While the Red Cooking Technique can be applied to almost any protein, I used this slow braise method with stew beef. The combined aromas from the star anise, cinnamon bark, dried orange peel, Sichuan peppercorns, and fennel seeds were driving us crazy all afternoon but the end result was worth it!
The Food Girl in Town: http://thefoodgirlintown.com/2017/01/31/around-the-world-in-12-plates-china/
(from Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees by Kian Lam Kho; page 196)
I heard recently that soup swaps are the new cookie swaps. While I am unsure that soup will EVER replace cookies, swapping soup among friends is a great way to have a handy lunch in the freezer for those days when you are feeling under the weather or just plain lazy. I usually fall into the latter category and I really have to admit to you all that I absolutely hate making lunch. For me, it’s the worst meal of the day because it has to be small, yet satisfying and most of the time when I cook, I like to go big. Since I work from home, it’s easy to look up from my keyboard and notice that it’s 2 pm and I haven’t eaten any lunch, or worse yet…anything at all and suddenly I am starving! Usually I end up making scrambled eggs and toast because it’s easy and filling and I refuse to have canned soup in the pantry. Now that I’ve done my first soup exchange, my freezer is stocked and there are no excuses.
The soup that I made for our Bite Club exchange took very little time to make since I had some leftover Pork Carnitas in the fridge. This is a quick, meaty and warming soup for those very cold days when you wish you were on a sunny beach somewhere. Since I was making it for an exchange, I didn’t add any spice to it but I think you could add some chili flakes or float a cut chili in the soup as it’s cooking. Alternatively, add some hot sauce just before you eat it for that extra kick.
Here are some tips on hosting/participating in a soup swap.
For the soup… (makes 6 litres)
Along with my dish today I’m excited to be sharing delicious 30 minute meal recipes from fellow Canadian blogger friends under the hashtag #CANRecipe. Tried and tasted food straight from our kitchens.
Salmon and Papaya Lettuce Wraps @ Everyday Allergen Free
Easy Coconut Curry @ Maple and Marigold
Big Salad & Avocado Dressing @ Allergy Girl Eats
Lemon Chicken Soup Orzo @ Mommydo
Kid’s Vegetarian Chili @ Off The Porch
With the beginning of a new year, there have been a slew of new challenges proposed by various foodbloggers. A few of them have caught my eye, including one from Dana Sandonato (Killing Thyme) entitled ‘Recipe Nod’. Recipe Nod is a monthly challenge which involves cooking a recipe developed from an another (assigned) blogger and then featuring it on your blog. Quite a few of us from Food Bloggers of Canada have signed up and I’m anxious to see how everyone does with this challenge.
My assigned blogger was Chef Heidi Fink who has been teaching cooking classes in Victoria, BC since 1999. She has worked as Executive Chef at ReBar Modern Food and currently is an instructional assistant in the Professional Cook Program of Camosun College. I don’t know where she finds the time to write a blog, but it’s filled with inspiring recipes for a wide range of cuisines. Almost immediately, I knew which recipe I wanted to recreate in my own kitchen. The bright contrast of green in yellow of her Methi Murgh lured me in for good! I had actually been wanting to cook this dish for quite a while, but had never found a recipe that I was willing to try.
Chef Heidi’s recipe seemed approachable so I set out to find some fresh fenugreek/methi. You can make this dish with dried methi, but I really wanted to try it using fresh for the first time. I was a tad bit worried that it was a bit too early to be looking for this pungent spring leafy vegetable/herb and in the end, I had to make a trip up to the far north east area of Calgary. I began at my favourite Middle Eastern market, Basha International Foods, and came up empty handed. I was a little worried that if they didn’t have it, it would be impossible to find! On a side note here, I was texting my Indian friend Lin all during the ‘Great Methi hunt’ and she was very concerned that I wanted to cook this dish. She never told me why outright (though she did tell me I would need a seat to myself on the bus), but eventually I came to realize what she was getting on about.
Back to the hunt. Dejected, I decided to search one more nearby place for the methi; Superstore. You would think that as a chain, Superstores would all carry similar items, but no. Our Superstores in the South East of the city were all ‘fresh out’ of methi, which I took to mean that none of them ever carry it because of how demographics work in our city. As I walked in to the Sunridge Superstore, I was astonished to find the very first produce display ten feet from the door held a huge, fragrant pile of fresh green methi. The first thing I did was laugh out loud, then I proceeded to bury my nose in the pile and breathe deeply. It’s a wonder I didn’t get kicked out right then! I picked two bunches and went through the ‘express’ line. That’s a story for another day.The recipe is pretty straight forward, though I did have some trouble because I halved the recipe. I don’t have a really good blender so I attempted to make the ginger/garlic paste in my food processor. The amount was too small and it would not blend together, even in the smaller bowl. I gave up and threw everything into a mortar, where I pulverised it with a pestle. It was the same situation with the methi/cilantro mixture. If you don’t have a high end blender or something that will successfully blend a small amount (with little moisture), the old mortar and pestle is the way to go. Plus, it’s more traditional.
Eventually, the ingredients came together quite nicely and the whole house began to fill with the aromas of the dish. Actually, that’s putting it quite mildly…the whole house began to SMELL. I quickly ran around, shutting all the bedroom doors and put away the last of the laundry to keep it fresh. I texted Lin and she just LAUGHED at me while she explained that in India, this is one of many dishes that are cooked with the windows open. Unfortunately, this was not possible here in Canada during the dead of winter, so I think the next time I cook this dish it will be summer. I will cook this dish again, because we all enjoyed it quite a bit, but we do have some boundaries. Eventually, after a couple of days either we got used to the smell, or I ended up drowning it out by making a batch of Seville Orange Marmalade. I’m not sure which one it was but I can’t smell it any more.
A recipe by Chef Heidi Fink based upon a recipe from the cookbook A Taste of India by Madhur Jaffrey.
It’s very difficult for me to follow a recipe exactly how it was written but I really wanted to recreate Chef Heidi’s recipe as closely as possible. The only real change I made was to reduce the peppers to one from the original three. Since my jalapeno had quite a bit of heat, I was very happy with the amount of spice in the final dish after this adjustment.
I’ve missed it…gah! My very special, only comes once a year bloggiversary! Dish ‘n’ the Kitchen turned four on January 14th and I guess I’m totally in character with being four since I got distracted and played around instead of focusing on making a very special cake. I don’t know how many four year olds make special cakes (other then play doh or doo doo cakes) but when you’re a blogger, being four calls for a real hones-to-goodness fancy cake. After all…’a party without a cake is just a meeting’, right?I DO kinda sorta have an actual excuse for the late party, though. Before Christmas I won a Rodelle Instagram challenge and the prizes were pretty sweet indeed. First prize was a signed copy of Tessa Huff’s gorgeous book ‘Layered’ which is smack full of cake porn. I mean, really it’s January right? Who needs cake porn? Well…I sat down one morning and read the book from front to back and I was hooked. I think I gained ten pounds reading it, but I was so impressed, I knew that I had to make one of the cakes in the book ASAP. In addition to Layered, I was also waiting for a baking package from Rodelle and getting a little worried that it hadn’t arrived yet. I sent a message to their PR firm and found out it had been ‘undeliverable’ and got sent back. They Fed Ex’d it to me and I got it two days later, the same day that I had finished reading Layered. I don’t know about you but I believe in coincidences, serendipity, karma, and all those other terms that explain to us that the universe is listening when we speak.The little box of awesome baking supplies contained bottles of: pure organic vanilla extract, whole vanilla beans, and pure organic vanilla paste (YUM) as well as a jar of Rodelle’s amazing Dutch Process Cocoa which I used to be able to by in bulk at Costco. I hate it when you get used to buying something awesome at Costco and they suddenly stop carrying it. If I would have known, I would have bought a couple of cases and stored them!
The cake was pretty easy to bake, though I questioned the method at first. I usually cream butter and sugar together, then alternate adding the dry and wet mixtures. This one had the dry ingredients being added first and the butter incorporated later. Finally, when the wet ingredients are added the batter comes together. I wasn’t crazy about the texture of the cake and I’m not sure if it was the method or a consequence of high altitude baking. What I did REALLY like was the Swiss Meringue Buttercream because it had just the right amount of sweetness. It was fun to make the meringue and has a really nice texture for decorating that becomes more stable after cooling.
(closely based on Coconut Mojito Cake in Tessa Huff’s ‘Layered’ pg. 216)
-makes a 3 layer, 6 inch round cake
Lime Curd (my recipe)
Coconut Vanilla Swiss Buttercream (Tessa Huff)
(makes about 3 1/4 cups; enough for a 3 layer 6 inch round cake)
I couldn’t believe how long it took me to choke down my last salad. As I chewed those greasy greens…my mouth was basically masticating of it’s own volition with the rest of my body slumped in joyless determination; I felt my mind take over, willing me to just…stop. Sitting there munching mechanically on my less-than-stellar lettuce, grape tomato, and cucumber salad combo that I had topped with one of the nastiest bottled salad dressings, I made a promise to myself: no more quickly thrown together, boring, revolting salads!
It’s been a week or two and the pain is still real. I’ve binned that olive oil lime dressing and tried to move on but it’s not that easy. That lettuce is still sitting in the fridge taunting me for a ‘quickie’. Luckily my fridge also contains some brighter, more attractive winter salad ingredients such as pink grapefruit, Belgian endive and always…the unctuous avocado. I know for a fact that this seductive threesome get on really well together and all they would really need is a touch of sweetness and a smidgen of salt to let those flavours really shine. So yeah, I could have totally made this a vegetarian/vegan salad by adding some salty (and visually appealing pistachios) but a girl’s got to have some fun, am I right? Bring on the crispy prosciutto is what I say!
The irony was not lost on me when I realized that it probably took me longer to think about and build this salad today, than it took me to photograph it and eat it. I didn’t mind because eating such a pretty salad, that also tastes wonderful was well worth it. I’m worth it. I am worth more than a ‘quickie’ salad and you are too.
I know what you’re thinking….that you don’t have time to make this salad, but it’s really not that difficult and you don’t even have to make it as pretty as these ‘food blogger quality’ photos above. In fact I served the leftover ‘odds and ends’ to my family later for dinner; all the loose bits of endive, slightly brown avocado and broken grapefruit. As long as I topped it with the crispy prosciutto and that light and easy dressing…no one said ‘boo’ while they were shovelling it down their throats.
*7. Add chunks of pink grapefruit, avocado, and endive to a salad bowl. Make the dressing. Throw in some rosemary and crispy prosciutto. Toss with dressing. Season, as always.