Thursday, January 29, 2009

Inspiration & beating the winter blahs

Need a little pick-me-up? I do. Winter's getting to me this year...too much snow and grey weather. Too much cold.Check out this site, and sign up for regular emails, if you're craving some design inspiration, or just a visual escape. They have the most amazing house tours, like the one shown above, and tons of design ideas for both small and large spaces. There are also companion sites for cooking, green living, high tech homes and more. Enjoy....

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Year of Living Biblically

Don't worry, that title doesn't refer to what I'm doing! As a lapsed Catholic, who's not really sure where / how organized religion fits in to her life (I'm still working on that....), I'm finding this book really interesting. And funny. It's humourous for sure, but I'm also learning a lot about the Bible. And I'm suprised how interesting it is. Did I mention that?

Anyways, the book caught my eye at Chapters one day, as I stood in line waiting to pay. Someone had apparently changed their mind about purchasing it, and thrown it in one of the sale bins near the check out. I picked it up and randomnly opened it to a page where the author describes trying to adhere to the 'love thy neighbour' commandment, when he doesn't really know his neighbours, or want to, and what little he does know, isn't good (descriptions of foul cooking smells, etc. follow). I started laughing, and kept reading.

It isn't all joking of course, and the author has assembled a team of religious advisors to help him interpret the bible, and its many versions. He's an agnostic who's commited one year of his life to trying to figure it all out, and trying to adhere to the many rules.

It's a good read, and it's making me think.....

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Roasted Fillet of Beef Rolled in Herbs & Porcini, & Wrapped In Prosciutto

This is one of my favourite, never-fail, always a success, 'go-to' company meals. It's a bit time consuming to put together, but it can all be done ahead of time and popped into the oven as company is arriving. Scale it up and feed a crowd impressively! I'm posting the picture from the book because I forgot (the two times I made it in the last month) to take a picture of the finished product....and so it goes.

I first made it years ago, after finding it in the one cookbook Colin owned when we were dating. I think it was also the only book he actually owned, and the only reason he owned it was that he's received a Chapters gift card as an apology from his ISP, for all the service problems he'd had. And that's what I think of everytime I make it! Anyways, it's a Jaime Oliver recipe- Roasted Fillet of Beef Rolled in Herbs & Porcini, & Wrapped In Prosciutto- from The Naked Chef Takes Off. It's delicious. It's fool-proof.

Roasted Fillet of Beef Rolled in Herbs & Porcini, & Wrapped In Prosciutto

As far as roasted meat goes, this is extremely fast and simple, yet decadently rich. One of the tricks, whether you buy it in a deli or a supermarket, is to ask them to slice your prosciutto and lay it side by side on a piece of waxed paper. Serves 4.

12-18 slices prosciutto or Parma ham
3 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 good handful of dried porcini, soaked in around 285ml boiling water
3 good sized pats of butter
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
900g/2lb fillet of beef (preferably from the middle, left whole)
1 good handful of fresh rosemary and thyme, leaves picked and chopped
2 glasses of red wine

Preheat your oven and an appropriately sized roasting pan to 230°C/450°F/gas 8. (If I make it ahead, I skip pre-heating the pan, but make sure to bring the meat and pan to room temperature before roasting).

Make sure there are no gaps in between the laid-out slices of prosciutto. Chop one of the garlic cloves and fry with the soaked porcini in 1 pat of butter for a minute. Then add half of the soaking water (make sure it is grit-free). Simmer slowly and reduce for around 5 minutes before stirring in a squeeze of lemon, the remaining 2 pats of butter and seasoning. Rub your tasty and moist mushrooms over half of the laid-out prosciutto. Season your fillet of beef with salt & pepper, and roll it in the herbs. Place it on the mushroomy end of the prosciutto and slowly roll up the meat. Once the beef is rolled up, pull off the paper and push in the ends of the prosciutto to neaten. Lightly secure with 4 pieces of string (I use Food Loops, which are so handy!).

Place the fillet in the hot roasting tray with a couple of cloves of garlic and cook for 25-30 minutes (rare), 40 minutes (medium), 50 minutes (well-done) or 60 minutes (cremated!). Half-way through, add the wine to the pan. When the meat is done, remove it to a chopping board and leave it to rest for 5 minutes. Pour any juices back into the roasting tray. Simmer the juices on the stovetop, scraping all the goodness from the sides of the pan, and mash up the garlic cloves. Remove from the heat and serve as a light red wine gravy.

Slice the fillet as thick or as thin as you like and serve with some potatoes or some gorgeous greens.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Stuffed Mushrooms with Mushrooms, Lentils and Walnuts

I think I could happily be a vegetarian, if I could always eat like this! I made these as a main for a vegetarian guest at my mom's birthday dinner and it was delicious. Even some of the carnivores at the table tried it and approved....

The recipe came via the FoodWine list, as most of my favourites do. This one originated from a Seattle vegetarian restaurant- Cafe Flora.

Stuffed Mushrooms with Mushrooms, Lentils and Walnuts

The recipe makes about 3 1/2 cups of stuffing, enough to stuff 6 or 7 portobellos. It would also be great as a stuffing for eggplant, zucchini or bell peppers.

1 pound crimini mushrooms
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup French green lentils
1 1/2 cups cold water
1 bay leaf
1 cup broken walnuts - toasted
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano, or 1 teaspoon dried
1 teaspoon pimenton (smoked Spanish paprika)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled

Roast the mushrooms - preheat the oven to oven 350 degrees. Toss the mushrooms with the oil to coat. Put them on a rimmed baking sheet in a single layer and roast for 20 minutes. Set aside.

Cook the lentils - rinse the lentils and put them in a medium saucepan with the water and bay leaf. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat. Simmer, covered, until tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Drain the lentils, remove the bay leaf and set aside.

Process the mushrooms, lentils and walnuts. When the mushrooms are cook enough to handle, put them in a food processor. Pulse 3 or 4 times and scrape down the bowl. Add the toasted walnuts and pulse several more times, until the mushrooms and walnuts are evenly chopped and the texture of cooked ground beef. Put the mushroom-walnut mixture in a medium bowl, mix in the lentils, feta cheese and seasonings. Taste and correct seasoning.

Clean the portobellos, remove the gills and stuff with the above mixture.
Oven should be at 350 degrees. Roast until tender and stuffing is hot, about 20 minutes.

Friday, January 2, 2009

In the bedroom

We spent part of our Christmas holidays sprucing up the house, cleaning up the accumulated stuff in the crawl space and generally trying to finish up jobs started and then abandoned when life got in the way.

One room that's been bugging me for a couple of years, was our bedroom. I've been picking away at it slowly. I finally got my curtains ordered, delivered and installed (an ordeal that I won't bore you with). And, I finally found a duvet cover I liked. Then, in a fiscally responsible move (are you listening Colin??!), I went scrounging through my decorating stash and managed to unearth some long lost art in the crawl space- I knew that hanging on to pieces I loved, even though I didn't have a spot for them and someone was grumbling about space limitations, would be good in the long run!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year & A Cocktail

Happy New Year! Last night was spent with a small group of friends, a pitcher of cocktails and assorted snacks. There was good conversation, a lot of laughs and a couple of dicey shooters, which shall remain unnamed in an effort to keep things PC.

The pitcher of cocktails was this....a mixture which I had scrawled on a napkin from somewhere, which I have no name for. Let's just call it what it is (for me anyways)....a Screaming Hangover. Of course, if one were to consume just one or two, like a normal person, it would probably be okay. Nonetheless, it's very tasty!

1/4 oz vodka
3/4 oz Chambord
1 oz cranberry raspberry juice
3 oz sparkling wine

In a martini shaker, shake vodka, chambord & raspberry juice until frothy. Pour, over ice, in to glass. Top with sparkling wine and garnish with frozen raspberries. Makes 1 drink.

If I make it for a group, I scale up the recipe, mix the first three ingredients in a pitcher and add ice and the sparkling wine just before serving.