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Verses from my Kitchen: January 2011

January 31, 2011

Chocolate Soufflé

I don't remember the first time it started taking shape. I've been fascinated with food and for as long as I can remember I've always collected them. When my friends would collect sports cards or, dare I say it, coins (well, not my friends but somebody was doing it) I would be trying to get my hands on a new cookbook. Like a vinyl record, I couldn't wait to get it home and enjoy it. But after I get them they tend to sit for long periods of time. 

I still flip through them. I love the sound and feeling of the pages pushing one another over like dominoes. I'll grab a cup of coffee in the morning and look at the pictures for inspiration. Some of the images are straight up food porn, both tempting and mouth-watering. Now I don't usually recite a recipe or copy down main components of it. It's just not my thing. But I will use the recipe as my muse and flip the switch on it. 

I can remember the moment when I first saw this image of a souffle a few years ago and it has stuck with me. It wasn't chocolate but it was lovely enough to cling to one of the banks where my memory washes up to from time to time. It was a raspberry souffle that looked incredibly fluffy and light. To this day when I think of a souffle I think of that beautiful picture. It hooked me in. Big fish style.

The problem that stymied me was trying to make this lovely chocolate creation. I used to look at an image of a souffle and convince myself that it wasn't in my repertoire. It looked too beautiful, too scientific, too French. I thought there was a secret to the madness and I didn't hold the key to unlock it. So I passed on it. Again and again. But one day came when I threw caution to the wind and decided I would attempt to climb that mental mountain. 

I now regret all those years of waiting.

A great soufflé has to be light with a thick, creamy interior. Some chocolate soufflé recipes are made with cocoa alone, but I prefer a good quality dark chocolate incorporated with cocoa when I make mine and the results speak for themselves. The key is using the best quality chocolate you can buy, which goes without saying. The first bite will have you singing. It's really, really good. Almost orgasmic.

The really fascinating thing about making your own soufflé is watching them rise in the oven. It's the show before the main event. It's kind of like sitting by your window as a kid and eagerly awaiting for all your friends to show up. And they always did. 

The key in making the soufflé rise is brushing your butter in strokes upwards on the inside your ramekin or dish. It helps guide the mixture up and out, almost guiding it as it moves. And when it starts to inch up inside the oven you won't be able to contain your happiness. You'll always remember that moment the first time you make it.

If loving souffles wasn't bad enough, I also have this thing for chocolate. I crave it and usually can't get enough of it. It's the sweet and savoury aspect that locks me in. I'm hooked, and I don't see it changing any time soon. From the first bite to the last, this souffle satisfies those needs. It oozes chocolate goodness. It's rich and wonderful. 

The best part of a recipe like this is sharing it with your favourite person in the world. That's an easy one for me. My wife. She's off on a shoot today. She had to drive through a snowstorm to a destination a couple hours away, but I can't wait to have this with her when she gets back. The sweet finish to a great day!

From my kitchen to yours, happy eating!

Chocolate Souffle

The Goods:
  • 3 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 tbsp. cocoa powder
  • 3 tbsp. sugar
  • 3 large egg whites
  • 50 grams dark chocolate (70% cocoa), grated
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • pinch of salt
  1. Brush the softened butter over the sides and bottom of the ramekin. For the sides, apply upward strokes to allow the souffle to rise vertically. Next, mix some of the grated chocolate and sugar and pour into one ramekin, shake it around so all sides are covered and dump into the next ramekin. Once both are coated, refridgerate until ready.
  2. Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites in a bowl until they are foamy. Add 1/3 cup sugar and beat gradually. Continue until the egg whites have medium-soft peaks.
  3. Meanwhile, stir the chopped chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan with simmering water until melted. Remove from the heat. Add the water and cocao powder and  mix until combined and smooth. Fold a bit of the egg mixture into the chocolate mixture. Fold more, 1/4 at a time, until well combined.
  4. Divide the souffle batter among the ramekins and, using a butter knife, level the the top so it's flush with the top of each ramekin. Wipe the edge clean.
  5. Bake the souffles on a baking sheet until they lift up by an 1" or more, but are still moist in the middle, about 12 minutes.
  6. Serves 2.
**This post made Foodbuzz Top 9!

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January 29, 2011

Roasted Stuffed Peaches with Rum and Crushed Amaretti

Patience is not one of my strong points. It's taken me years to demonstrate even the first signs of restraint. As a kid I never mastered the art of waiting, and I couldn't contain myself until Christmas day to open my presents. I still remember sneaking upstairs when I was 10 and finding a hockey sweater I was dying to get. Christmas day rolled around and my acting chops rivalled David Caruso on CSI. I straight up overacted! I was caught. Lesson not learned.

Today I have a hard time holding on to a recipe I've tweaked, adapted or come up with. It's hard enough scheduling a post to go live in a few days and waiting. So the chances of of me holding out and making this dessert in the summer are all but washed away. I don't have it in me. I'm a mental midget.
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January 26, 2011

Rustic Vegetable Soup

When I was a kid I used to live at the hockey arena. I'm Canadian, it's our birthright. I would wake up at the crack of dawn and slide my skates through my stick, throw it over my shoulder and start walking towards the local outdoor rink. When the rickety caged fence would open up I'd be the first one through it. I would nod at the the gate keeper like I was on my way to to work. Once inside I would skate and play until my toes threatened to fall off.

I used to spend hours upon hours honing my skills and working on my game. Most kids dream of being a firefighter or policeman but in this country everybody dreams of being in the NHL. One day my dream would be crushed but that didn't stop me from spending the better part of my youth on a sheet of ice playing with strangers who quickly became friends.

It didn't matter how cold it was or how harsh the winds were, I would be there. You could set my $2 watch by it. My toque (yes, that's what we call a hat) would cling to my ears as if my bigger brother protecting me from the weather. I didn't care about the wind chill or frost warnings. I didn't care about anything back then. I had an ace in the hole.

A big pot of soup.
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January 23, 2011

Sweetcorn Fritters

Saturday mornings get off to a slow start in this household. Maybe it's the end of the work week and the first opportunity to sleep and recharge the batteries or maybe it's the longing for childhood when sleeping in was a right of passage. Either way, some Saturday mornings end up being Saturday afternoons before the coffee has stopped percolating.

On days like today, my wife and I are looking for something to calm the children. And by children I mean the noises coming from our stomach. They're relentless and they grow louder with each passing minute. We need something easy and fairly quick. The coffee can hold off the troops, but only for so long.
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January 21, 2011

Lemon Parfait with Berry Compote

It's the middle of winter here and the snow is coming in waves. One fall after the other it refuses to pack up and leave. The pillowy white stuff is overshadowed only by the relentless wind that snaps at my skin whenever I step outside. I battle the elements everyday as I try to clear my property, but it seems futile as the snow shifts across the banks and back onto my freshly cleared path. My spirit is temporarily crushed and my bones are cold.

There is one thing that keeps me company as I fight the losing fight. The fresh aroma of baked goods that come from the oven and kitchen and fill the house all the way to the entrance. When I finally step inside and shake the clumps of snow clutching my pants like fists, I'm instantly transported to a more comforting place. I can instantly pick up the notes and flavours that heighten with each passing minute. It's almost as if the first spoonful has touched my tongue and warmed me from the inside out.
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January 19, 2011

Lemon-Blueberry Tartlets

I love the moment I get home from work. The obvious reasons come to mind. I'm off after a long day grinding out a living and my wife greets me and gives me a smile that says everything is good once again. It's a great feeling when you come home to your safety net and the people whom you care for most. I also love heading to my kitchen and planning out a snack, dinner or that night's dessert. It's a great escape after hours spent dealing with work and it's one of the ways I communicate best.

Tonight was one of those nights. I've been battling a stiff neck for days and I wanted a distraction. It's funny how your mind won't stop focusing on something when you want it most. Anyway, I went to the kitchen and took a peak through my cupboards. I just did groceries so I knew I had almost anything I could think of to work with. I keep my pantry stocked and my spices and mason jars full so I'm usually good to go within a few days of a trip to the market.
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January 17, 2011

Lazy Sunday: Baked Dippy Eggs

Yesterday I had a healthy breakfast when I made my Ultimate Granola, so today called for some salty breakfast goodness. I wanted a different take on the classic bacon and eggs so I grabbed all the mouth-watering flavours from my fridge and chopped and layered my way to Baked Eggs. The best lazy Sunday breakfast imaginable.

This is a brilliant option if you have guests dropping by for brunch and want an easy answer to entertaining. This is also the perfect recipe for the weekend morning when everything is moving in slow motion and you want a fuss-free, flavourful breakfast to wake up your senses. This is the best alarm clock I know.
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January 15, 2011

My Ultimate Granola

When I was a kid growing up my idea of breakfast was cinnamon french toast, bacon and eggs and buttery pancakes. Granola? That was just a term I used to hear bandied about when referring to someone from the 60's. I didn't know the first thing about granola, except that I didn't want any part of it. So I stuck to the all-American breakfast and kept my hair short.

I still have this soft spot for the sweet and salty breakfasts I grew up on. We live in a health conscious society today but they say everything is ok in moderation. I hope that means every weekend. If not, I'm in for a wake-up call the next time I see Doc. Anyway, I still love the taste and texture of bacon, my favourite food group. It's hard to knock a good  bad habit.
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January 13, 2011

Whisky Hot Toddy

This is an absolute must during the frigid days that haunt us. It's also a brilliant winter warmer. This simple cocktail has lured many back from the depths of sickness and winter's harshest storms. It's the friendly face you see when you need it most; the one that says everything is going to be ok.

The origins seem to have this drink first being concocted in Scotland, where a sweet drink with whisky was made to fight the common cold. The weather was brutal but with drinks like this it helped. If nothing else, it made things tolerable. It pains me to say this, but thank goodness for the Scots.

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January 11, 2011

My Darling Clementine Curd

Three is the magic number. Three also happens to be the number often associated with good things. In my case, it represents the number in a series on a great seasonal fruit that I have already incorporated into two different recipes. Today marks number three in the series. If you're like me, you have a plethora of clementines at your disposal and you're always looking for a new way to use them! If not, well, I  hope you enjoy it anyway!

I love lemon curd. The taste, texture and aroma. I've made it countless times, using it as a dip and spread but also using it as one ingredient amongst a sea of others in a dessert or pastry. Today I took my classic lemon curd recipe and flipped the switch on it. Clementine Curd, a tasty adaptation of the original recipe!
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January 9, 2011

Clementine Posset with Candied Peels

I love desserts. I know I know, who doesn't, right? It's not just the sweet finish to a great meal that has me loving dessert, it's the chance to indulge in life and spend just a few more precious minutes at the table with the people who really matter. Family.

It wasn't that long ago that I delved into a recipe similar to this when I made a batch of Lemon Posset. That recipe was refreshing and as close to citrus gold as I've come across. I loved everything about it! So with an abundance of clementines on hand I decided to flip this recipe and give you something just a bit out of the ordinary. On a different tip.

There are definitely similarities here. As people say, don't change something that works. I happen to worship at that temple. In this case I decided to bend that rule sligtly. I wanted to kick this up a level by garnishing them with candied clementine peels. Smooth, velvety clementine pudding with a tart finish and sugary clementine peels. Chewy candied texture bits on top of a creamy, smooth base. Yes, please!

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January 7, 2011

Dark Chocolate-Covered Clementines with Chili Salt

This is my idea of the perfect midday snack. It's sweet and savoury, salty and spicy. A fireworks of flavours and pleasure. Juice explodes with every nibble and transforms from everyday fruit segment into a sweet and salty afternoon addiction. This is perfect all by itself. It's also great with your afternoon tea.

I love the combination of orange and chocolate and this is another one of those simple recipes that anybody can make and everybody will enjoy. Three ingredients: Dark chocolate, clementines and salt (or in this case chili salt). One happy ending.
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January 4, 2011

Blackberry & Pear Crumbles

I have a sweet tooth. Or three. I love being home on a cold afternoon and making something hot and sweet to satisfy my cravings for both. The idea that a simple recipe with minimal ingredients could transform into something outrageously tasty, decadent and warm is even more tantalizing. How could I resist? How could you?

This is one of those simple desserts that requires very little effort and absolutely no baking experience. Sound tempting yet? Just wait. The prep work takes about 10 minutes, which is the perfect amount of time for your oven to preheat. After the prep it's a simple trip to the oven and the transformation is nearly complete. Have some patience, it'll be worth it.

In this recipe I prefer sweating the pears with sugar until both bubbly and soft. The resulting taste is only enhanced with the tartness of the blackberries. Once slightly caramelized and soft I spoon the fruit into the base of my cooking pot. The fruit lay beneath a blanket of flour, butter and brown sugar with some tasty, crunchy pistachio nuts mixed in.
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January 2, 2011

Puréed Squash and Pear Soup

I always passed on salad in favour of soup growing up. Always. When there was an option, mine was clear. And when the months on the calendar changed to autumn or winter, my decisions were more steadfast than ever. My parents could order for me with reckless abandon knowing that I'd be happy with any bowl of soup showing up at my table. Wait, not that fast. I had my limitations.

While there were a few soups that I turned my nose up (after all, I had the palette of a sixth-grader) most were perfectly welcome on my table. There was something especially comforting about the aroma and flavours packed in each round serving vessel. Something that always felt like home, no matter where I was.

As time has passed and the months on the calendar have given way to years, my love of soul-warming, mouth-watering soup has only flourished. I love experimenting with flavours and spices and seasonal goodies. It doesn't always turn out the way I want but when it does, I'm rewarded over and over again.

This is a play on one of my favourite cold-weather soups. It's easy to make, ridiculously tasty and it's popular with my family. The pear is tart and refreshing and balances the sweetness of the squash perfectly. There is a deeply satisfying warmth that carries you through the day.

I love roasting the vegetables with a liberal amount of seasoning and butter. Once roasted, the soft, almost mushy vegetables are the perfect shape for a trip through the blender. With a bit of help from the stock, the puree is liquefied and ready for the stockpot. 

Once inside the hot confines of the pot, I allow the heat to delicately reach every ounce of the soup. I can play with the thickness that suits my palate on this day and adjust as necessary. A quick pass through a sieve and I'm ready for the table

I love this soup as is or I'll serve it with a dollop of sour cream and some toasted squash seeds and chives. I also love to escape to a corner of my home with a good book and a moment of solitude and relax and enjoy the moment.

From my kitchen to yours, happy eating!

All set up and ready to go!

Pureed Squash and Pear Soup

The Goods:

  • 1 cup diced butternut squash
  • 1 cup diced Bartlett pear
  • 1 cup chopped white onions
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 celery, chopped
  • 4 tbsp. butter
  • 1 tsp. all-spice
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup sour cream, garnish
  • 3 tbsp. toasted squash seeds, garnish
  • 1 bunch fresh chives, chopped, garnish

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Place the squash, pear, onions, celery and garlic on a baking sheet and season with coarse sea salt and pepper and spread bits of butter throughout. Bake for 30 minutes.
  3. Move to a blender and puree until completely liquid, adding as much of the stock as necessary.
  4. In a stockpot,combine the puree with the rest of the stock and heat. Find the correct thickness and bring to a simmer for 15 minutes. Season to taste.
  5. Pass through a fine sieve and set aside.
  6. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and chopped chives. Place the toasted seeds on top.
It's showtime! 
**This post made Foodbuzz Top 9! 

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