Thursday, September 30, 2010

Zelinda's Stuffed Artichokes

Mom has been extolling the health benefits of the artichoke on the digestive system for as long as I can remember. Over the years I've learned to value her sound advice, which has been handed down from generation to generation.  Once again she was spot on, as confirmed by the information I gleaned while searching for information on the artichoke, which is part of the thistle family and found in Italy as far back as the 9th century. Cynarin, a chemical compound found in the pulp part of the leaves actually helps digestion by  increasing the bile flow (ref.Wikipedia). According to different articles it is also known to lower cholesterol by increasing the HDL/LDL levels. No wonder while visiting Italy everyone insisted on offering Cynar, a bitter aperitif liqueur.  However, I think I'll stick with the taste of a steamed stuffed artichoke for a ' two in one', taste and healthy component. 
These stuffed artichokes  were often found on my parent's table and so when I spotted them at the grocer's I couldn't resist making a few just the way mom still makes them. The recipe for this  filling is more than sufficient for three to four artichokes depending the size of the artichoke and the quantity used to fill each one.

1 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
1 1/2 tablespoon finely chopped celery leaves
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano leaves (2-3 sprigs)
2 garlic cloves finely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tomatoes peeled and chopped
3 eggs slightly beaten
2 tablespoons extra virgin oil

In a mixing bowl combine the 1st five ingredients and season with the salt and pepper. Toss in the tomatoes and mix in the beaten eggs and oil to combine.
1 tomato sliced for topping
mozzarella for topping

Tomato breadcrumb filling

 Once you have rinsed the artichokes, cut off the stem and trim the bottom.
 Remove the outer thorny layers of leaves

 Cut off  an inch off the top of the artichokes

 Place in a bowl of ice water to which has been added juice of 1/2 lemon to avoid discoloration

 Take the artichoke and gently spread the leaves to prepare them for the filling.
 Spoon in the prepared breadcrumb filling between the inner leaves,
with your fingers pat the filling into the artichoke leaves.

Top each artichoke with a slice of tomato and a generous dollop of buffalo mozzarella cheese.

Pour 2cups of water in a saucepan and add the artichokes. Drizzle the tops with some extra virgin oil. Cover and cook on medium heat until the water starts to boil. Turn down the heat and continue to simmer for 35-45 minutes.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Chocoholic's Deep Dark Dream Chiffon Cake

Don't be intimidated by this decadently tall rich chocolate cake because I'm going to share with you what I believe to be a fool proof recipe. Just like the name denotes, this chiffon cake really is  light, fluffy and silky. Finish it off with rich dark chocolate filling and topping, and you are sure to make a chocoholic's dream come true. Once again it's important not to skimp on the ingredients, so make sure to use good quality dark Dutch cocoa and the best dark chocolate. The reward is well worth it, whether it's to impress your guests or for your own delight. 
3/4 dark Dutch cocoa
2/3 cup boiling water
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
5 egg yolks beaten
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

In a bowl add the cocoa and pour in the boiling water. Stir to combine and let cool.
In a large mixing bowl combine the flour, 1 cup sugar, baking powder and salt.
In a separate bowl add the 6 egg whites and cream of tartar. With an electric mixer beat the egg whites until soft peaks form, gradually add the 1/3 cup sugar and beat until firm but not dry.
Make a well in the dry ingredients. Add the oil, egg yolks, vanilla and cooled cocoa. Beat until smooth.
Mix in about a 1/4 of the egg whites to loosen the batter and then fold in the remainder of the egg whites.
Pour into 2-8 inch prepared cake pans and bake at a preheated 350º F oven for 30-35 minutes. The cake is done when a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.

2 cups icing sugar
1/4 cup dark cocoa
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup or more 35% cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
With and electric mixer, blend the sugar, cocoa and butter, add the vanilla and cream. Mix and add more cream to obtain the desired texture. 

Ganache Topping:
1/2 cup 35% cream
3.5 ounces 80% dark Belgium chocolate(cut into small pieces)
2 tablespoons butter
In a double boiler or microwave bring the cream to just below the boiling point. Add the chocolate pieces and butter, and with a wooden spoon stir to blend. Allow to cool, this will thicken the ganache gor the topping.

With a long knife, slice the cakes in the center to  obtain 4 layers in all.  Sprinkle some Kirsch or other favourite liqueur on the first layer of cake and spread a thin layer of the filling. Place raspberry halves on the filling and place a second layer of cake on top. Continue in the same manner until the remaining 2 layer are filled, leaving the top layer to be iced with the ganache topping.


Friday, September 24, 2010

Pecan/ Apple Sticky Buns

 Elton John sings "And you can tell everybody that this is your song
                          It might be quite simple but now that it's done
                          I hope that you don't mind,I hope you don't mind...", (from '"Your Song" written by Bernie Taupin)
These lyrics came to mind as I deliberated whether to once again post more photos of sweet dough buns but this time, pecan buns which I especially made for Christophe.  You see I've been promising to make him a batch for the longest time and kept putting it off.  He is my biggest  fan and even dares to claim that they are better than his mom's. Luckily this hasn't caused a major rift between me and my girlfriend, Nicole. I hope he doesn't mind the addition of apples to the original recipe and to my readers, I hope you don't mind more photos of sweet rolls. 

Pecan Apple Filling
In a mixing bowl mix together 1 cup of warm apple filling (recipe in previous post) to 1cup of brown sugar, 1/2 cup soft butter,and 11/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans(you can also add 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon if desired)

 Stir to Blend the ingredients

Spread a generous amount of butter on the rolled out sweet dough
Spread the pecan apple filling on the dough and roll up as you would a jelly roll and cut into 4" slices. Transfer to two 9x13" prepared pan.Bake in 375º F oven for 30-35 minutes. Makes 12 generous pecan buns.
 Anna's special delivery package for Christophe

Monday, September 20, 2010

Apple Cranberry Rolls


I can't believe I'm actually saying this but I was  looking forward to the cooler  crisp weather with excitement  which in turn meant the start of autumn and apple harvest. As mentioned in an earlier post, (apple flan recipe) apple season has my head brimming with recipe ideas, and I have the intention of  using the fruit  which started it all in paradise, to its full potential.. No wonder poor Adam couldn't resist that first bite and who can resist these "to die for" apple cranberry rolls hot out of the oven?  Three down and happily so many more to go! 

Apple Cranberry Filling:
2 apples peeled and cut into small pieces
juice of a lemon
1/2 teaspoon lemon rind
1/2 cup dried cranberries
3 tablespoons Agave nectar or 1/3cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
dash of salt
1 teaspoon of cornstarch

In a mixing bowl add the lemon juice (about 1/4 cup), lemon rind and toss in the apple pieces. Stir with a wooden spoon to coat the apples with the juice. This will prevent discoloration. Pour in the agave nectar and stir. Add the cranberries.  In a small saucepan add the juice from the fruit mixture and whisk in the teaspoon of cornstarch. Heat and allow to thicken slightly, about a minute. Add the fruit and cook an additional minute or two to thicken. Transfer to a bowl and set aside to allow to cool.


Sweet Dough:
6 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 packages of dry yeast  (4 1/2 teaspoons dry yeast)
2 cup lukewarm water
2 teaspoons sugar
1 cup milk
1/4 cup butter cut into pieces
2 eggs beaten
1/2 cup sugar 
rind of a lemon (about 2 teaspoons)

Begin by proofing the yeast: Pour 1 cup of lukewarm water in a bowl, add 2 teaspoons of sugar and sprinkle the yeast over the water. Let stand in a dry and draft free place for 10 minutes.The yeast should foam and expand. Pour the milk in a saucepan and heat to just below the boiling point. Add the butter, 1/2 cup sugar, and salt to the scalded milk; stir to dissolve. Set aside and allow to cool to a lukewarm temperature.
In a large mixing bowl whisk the eggs with the lemon rind and add the yeast.  Whisk 3 cups of flour into the wet ingredients and continue beating until you have a smooth and thick batter. Continue to stir in enough of the remaining flour to make a soft dough. It should no longer stick to your hands. (You will probably not need the full 6 cups of flour. The remainder can be used to flour your work surface and does eventually get incorporated into the dough.)
Transfer to a floured work surface and knead for 10 minutes. The dough should be smooth and have a satin finish. Transfer the dough to a greased glass or ceramic mixing bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Place in a warm and draft free place for 11/2 to 2 hours, until the dough doubles in size.
Punch down the dough.  Place the risen dough on a floured work surface and roll out into a 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick rectangle and measuring about 12"x20".

 Spread the prepared fruit filling on the dough, and grate butter over the filling or dot with butter pieces

Roll up the dough as you would a jelly roll

Cut into 2" thick slices and place in a 9"x13" prepared cake pan. My dough seemed to explode and I had  to use an extra small loaf pan to accommodate the large slices. Sprinkle turbinado sugar on the rolls if desired.

Allow for the dough to rise a second time by putting it in a warm place for about an hour. The dough will again double in size.

Cut enough thin slices of butter into one-inch squares to dot the top center of each bun. Bake in a pre-heated  375ºF oven for 30-35 minutes. Remove from the oven and brush the tops with butter. If desired glaze with an icing sugar water mixture.

Voila, another apple recipe under my belt and speaking of belt, I hope I will have more willpower than Adam, and be able to limit myself when I dig into one of these apple cranberry rolls with a hot cup of coffee.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Vankleek Hill Festival of Flavours

Vankleek Hill is apparently the Ginger House capital of  Ontario,Canada but before I digress as I'm apt to do, we'll leave that to the home and garden bloggers. However, I couldn't resist some of the eye catching murals on the buildings.  The purpose of our recent visit to this charming small Ontario town, about an hour out of Montreal, was to attend the town's Festival of Flavours this past Sunday.  When I heard that there would be a table stretching the length of  Main street, set up to accommodate the hungry festival goers, I was in to check it out. Well the table was as impressive as it sounded, measuring a whopping 320 feet. Plenty of room for visitors to sit after making their choice from over the 50 booths offering a variety of foods and other assorted wares.

That Famous 320-Foot table:
Some of the Food and Smiling Faces at the Festival


Guess Who Made An Unexpected Appearance?  Boy, He Sure Travels......a lot!
Nope, he's not the real Buddy Holly but he did a pretty good rendition of "Hey,Hey Betty Sue" and he's for hire for party events

 Can't very well have a country festival without a bit of Western, but then again, what do I know I'm just a city slicker. 
Now how could I not resist taking pictures of these buildings. What do you think?
An overview of Main Street and the Vankleek Festival of Flavours.....such a great turnout on a bright sunny Sunday!