Monday, September 26, 2011

Honey Cake for Rosh Hashana

Nothing represents Rosh Hashana (New Year) in the Jewish tradition more than honey cake. Each year I follow the tradition by making my mother's honey cake recipe. Each year I tell myself it's a good cake but a little on the dry side. Sorry mom!!

This year I really wanted to find a honey cake that was full of flavour and moist!! I found the perfect balance in Marcy Goldman's Jewish Holiday Baking cookbook.

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup honey
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 large eggs at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup warm coffee or strong tea
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup rye or whiskey
1/2 cup slivered or sliced almonds (optional)

Fits in three loaf pans, two 9-inch square or round cake pans, one 9 or 10 inch tube or bundt cake pan, or one 9 by 13 inch sheet cake. I made mine in a bundt pan and still had enough for a small loaf pan.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Generously grease pan(s) with non-stick cooking spray. For tube or angel food pans, line the bottom with lightly greased parchment paper, cut to fit.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves and allspice. Make a well in the center, and add oil, honey, white sugar, brown sugars, eggs, vanilla, coffee or tea, orange juice and rye or whiskey, if using. (If you measure your oil before the honey, it will be easier to get all of the honey out.)

Using a strong wire whisk or in an electric mixer on slow speed, stir together well to make a thick, well-blended batter, making sure that no ingredients are stuck to the bottom.

Spoon batter into prepared pan(s). Sprinkle top of cake(s) evenly with almonds, if using. Place cake pan(s) on two baking sheets, stacked together (this will ensure the cakes bake properly with the bottom baking faster than the cake interior and top).

Bake until cake tests done, that is, it springs back when you gently touch the cake center. For angel and tube cake pans, this will take 60 to 75 minutes, loaf cakes, about 45 to 55 minutes. For sheet style cakes, baking time is 40 to 45 minutes.

Let cake stand fifteen minutes before removing from pan.

Since I'm responsible for all the desserts this year, I decided to include a show stopping apple cake that's always a hit. You can find the recipe HERE

To all who celebrate, a very sweet Shana Tova (Happy New Year)

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Scallops with Pea Puree, Pancetta and Gremolata

Moment of honesty:  Beyond being an opportunity for socializing, inviting people for dinner is the way I motivate myself to clean the house. 

R likes to say, "I'm busy that day" (regardless of whether he knows the day) to avoid the chores.  But, he always comes around and "makes time in his busy schedule."

I don't mind telling my guests that we cleaned up, to counterbalance the facade we've created of having a meticulous house.  But, there's no way I would actually have people over when my house is a mess.  

Last weekend, we invited some friends for dinner.  The mains were fairly standard (brisket, roasted potatoes, tomato salad), but I decided to go a bit fancy for the appetizer.

I found this recipe on Alosha's Kitchen.  If you haven't visited Melissa's blog, you should -- she has a great variety of dishes that will definitely entice you.  Melissa got this recipe from her friend, Amy. 

Scallops with Pea Puree, Pancetta and Gremolata


1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
2 medium shallots, finely chopped
3 ounces diced pancetta
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 cups frozen early sweet peas, thawed
1 cup chicken broth
12 medium sea scallops, patted dry and seasoned with salt and pepper
1 tablespoon butter


For the gremolata: in a small bowl combine the parsley, lemon zest, and one tablespoon of shallot. Set aside.

In a large saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Sauté the pancetta until crispy and cooked through, 2-3 minutes. Remove from pan, leaving some of the reserved fat in the pan. Set aside.

In the same pan, over medium heat, sauté the garlic and remaining shallots for about 3-4 minutes. Add the peas and broth and season with a little salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and let cook for about 5 minutes.

Transfer the contents to a blender and puree to a smooth consistency (I used an immersion blender). Return the puree to the pan, along with the cooked pancetta, cover and set aside to keep warm.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat butter and the remaining olive oil over medium-high until very hot. Add scallops and cook, flipping once, until golden brown on both sides and almost firm to the touch, about 3 minutes per side.

On serving plates, arrange the scallops on top of the puree and sprinkle with the gremolata.

Note: The dish was flavourful and well-received.  It looks fancy, but is pretty easy to make.  I consider it a success and feel a scallop kick coming on.  

If you're making this for guests, I recommend cooking the pancetta well before guests arrive to avoid having a house full of smoke when guests arrive..  If I were to do it again, I'd probably not add salt to the pea blend since the pancetta is already quite salty.  

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Mariposa Farm

I have a new restaurant to add to my top 5 in the Ottawa vicinity list.  Well, truth be told, I don't have an actual "top 5 list", but if I did, Mariposa Farm would be on it.  So would Les Fougeres. which I raved about here.  

I had been thinking about going to visit, but didn't have any concrete plans.  Then, I saw The Twisted Chef's post  about her visit and decided that I had to go.  I sold the idea to R as a birthday brunch (for him) and made a reservation.  The restaurant opens one a week for brunch on Sundays.

We were among the first to arrive and I was already feeling warm and fuzzy before sitting at our table.  

Rather than a traditional written menu, Mariposa Farm has a visual menu, where you can view the three starters, three mains and three dessert options.  This is awesome, particularly if you're a visual person.   I often have trouble deciding what to order.  But deciding based on the visual menu is probably the fastest decision I've ever made in a restaurant.

The centrepieces of the table, fresh vegetables, were really cute.  I've already stolen the idea.

Quickly after sitting, you get a basket of homemade bread.  So good!

For starters, R ordered a beet salad with a nut encrusted goat cheese:

I ordered the foie gras:

It didn't take long into our meal (and my picture taking) for the owner to ask me about whether these photos would end up on a foodblog.  Busted!  
For the main, I had duck on a bed of spaetzle.  This course was my favourite.  The duck was succulent and perfectly spiced.

R had bison, which he thoroughly enjoyed.

For dessert, R got a peach and apple galette

I got the cheese platter.

Overall, the meal was excellent.  None of the dishes are things that I would usually order in a restaurant.  But, because I could visually see what I was getting myself into, I was eager to try something new.

The service was good.  The owner has a strong, welcoming (slightly quirky) presence in the restaurant.

After eating, we walked around the farm.

I loved visiting the geese.  They look so distinguished and elegant.

Overall an awesome experience.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

#Year of the Pie2 with Tenderflake

An invitation to attend a holiday event and tweet-up at Tenderflake promises to be a treat to the senses as well as a source of inspiration. Since this event was focused on holiday entertaining and The Year of the Pie, I looked forward to making my life easier during the stressful marathon of holiday cooking and baking.

Hotdog Pinwheels, so easy, using Tenderflake puff pastry, mustard, hotdogs and cheese, a simple to prepare appetizer that even the kids will love. You can find the recipe HERE

How about some Turkey and Cranberry hand pies?

Carmelized Onion Tarts - these are my personal favourites; small bites of carmelized onion and goat cheese.

Find the recipe HERE

There's no rule that says you can't have all three together :)

Ever heard of pie fries? Sweet or savoury, both decorative and tasty;

You can find the recipe for savoury HERE and sweet with cinnamon and sugar HERE

The kitchen is set up for a demo by Gillian and Chef John Placka, after which we split up into groups and make our own pie of choice. It's apple season and who doesn't love apple pies or that heavenly smell of apple pies in the oven.

Don't pictures really say a thousand words? Seriously, you don't have to labour and worry about whether or not your pie crust will turn out; fussing over small canopes or making puff pastry from scratch. Tenderflake products are really about making your life easier with a quality product that's recognized anywhere in Canada. The power of branding!!

I loved this event. Check out Tenderflake's website for huge variety of recipes.


Monday, September 19, 2011

Blueberry Oat Loaf

When I have company over for dinner, I usually start my menu planning with an ingredient or recipe that I've been thinking about lately.  In this case, the meal I made for my friend and her mother (who was visiting Ottawa for the week) started with wanted to make something with blueberries.

I love blueberries and when I find food that I crave that is actually healthy, it goes on heavy rotation in the menu repertoire.

In Canada, we're fortunate to grow two different types of blueberries, lowbush (aka wild) blueberries and highbush blueberries.  The majority of our highbush blueberries are grown in British Columbia (BC), by around 700 blueberry growers.  You can read all about BC blueberries and find great blueberry recipes here.

Most wild blueberries, in Canada, are grown in Nova Scotia.  Since they don't tend to be as available in the grocery store, we keep a large bag of frozen wild berries to add to recipe throughout the year and use wild blueberry syrup, a product you'll find all over the place when visiting Nova Scotia.  For more information about and recipes with wild blueberries, visit this link.

According to this link, highbush blueberries begin ripening in June and continue to produce through July for a long harvest season, while lowbush blueberries become ripe in July and are harvested only at that time. The highbush will produce berries in abundance, with plumper and larger fruit than lowbush blueberries. Though smaller and less plentiful, lowbush blueberries have more flavour than the highbush blueberry.  

This blueberry recipe comes from The Kitchn.

Blueberry Oat Quick Bread
Makes 1 loaf, 10-12 slices
1 cup blueberries, washed and dried
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour (I used 3/4 cup whole wheat and 1 cup of all-purpose flour)
1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats (not quick-cooking or steel-cut)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
Pre-heat the oven to 325°. Grease one loaf pan.
Toss the berries with 1/4 cup of flour. This will help keep them from sinking in the batter.
In a large bowl, combine the remaining flour, oats, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a small bowl. In separate bowl, whisk together the sugar, eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla. Add the liquids to the dry ingredients and stir gently until you see no more dry flour. Fold the blueberries into the batter.

Pour the batter into the greased loaf pan and bake for 50 - 60 minutes, rotating the pan partway through. The loaf is done when the top is puffed and dry, and when a toothpick inserted into the 
centre of the cake comes out clean.

Let the loaf cool in the pan for 10 minutes before unmolding. I dusted the top with icing sugar.  Allow it to cool completely before slicing.

Everyone enjoyed the loaf.

Since I knew that I was making this dessert, I wanted to keep the meal laid back and light.  So, I went with a caprese salad and vegetarian quiche.

My friend's dog, Dolly, approves!


Saturday, September 17, 2011

Sydney, Australia: Part 3

Are you getting tired of my trip reports?  I've come this far, with my posts about New Zealand (part 1, part 2, part 3 and part 4), Cairns, Sydney (part 1 and part 2), I can't stop now!

Here's my last post about Sydney:

The next day, we started with a walk through The Rocks Market.  The market has some cute crafts and yummy-looking food, but you have to search for good deals because they don't jump out at you.

After visiting the market, we took a ferry to Manly Beach.  Along with Bondi, Manly is one of the most popular beach areas in Sydney.

We spent most of our time enjoying the nice weather and watching the surfers.  I still can't figure out the rules they follow to determine who gets to take the wave.   These instructions are posted on the beach, but I have no idea what they mean.

Here's some film I took of the surfers.  

Before leaving, I managed to track down some Lamingtons on the main drag between the ferry terminal and the beach.  So good!

The ferry ride home, as the sun was setting, was beautiful.  

That night, we went to the Sydney Symphony.  I took this restricted photo and then subsequently got in trouble for it.  

The next day was our last day in Sydney and we still had several things on our list.  For starters, I really wanted to try DinTaiFung.  Rumour was that they have the best dumplings.

I knew, from what I had read, that there would be a lineup.  So, we took some time while waiting outside of the restaurant to review the menu, prepare our order and take pictures through the window of the factory-like dumpling space.  In fact, the whole place runs like a well-oiled machine.

Not being a dumpling expert, I really appreciate the "guide to enjoy the Xiao Long Bao":

Aren't they cute?!?  I want some more.  These dumplings are like little purses of heaven.  I want them to open a takeout window next to the place I work.  No.  I want them to open up a restaurant a couple of blocks from where I live.  I want to reverse time and ignore the full feeling and order another dozen.  Anyway - you get the idea.

The other dishes were also good, but not nearly as good as the dumplings.

After lunch, we walked to the Sydney Fish Market.   

You know your fish is fresh when you can see all of the boats that bring fresh fish in.  

For our last night, we went to see a Rugby game at the ANZ Stadium.

We watched the South Sydney Rabbitohs, a team co-owned by Russell Crowe, play the Wests Tigers.  

The Tigers didn't score during the first half, which left some Tiger fans pretty outraged.  They managed to gain speed in the second half, but the Rabbitohs held on for the win.  It was fun to watch, although we didn't fully understand the rules.  But, now that the Rugby World Cup is on (in New Zealand), we're going to continue to try to figure out the rules and what the difference is between rugby league and rugby union.

With that, our Sydney trip comes to a close.  Next (and last stop) is Melbourne and the Great Ocean Road.  
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