Saturday, October 22, 2011

fresh local turkey

mom and little brother ray
Ok so my co-worker Dawn lives in Gananoque, just outside of Kingston, and her husband Joe raises turkeys on their property.  These turkeys are known for being flavourful, lean and just plain good because they are grain fed and not cooped up in a cage.  I just couldn't resist getting one (a 15 lb considered was huge!) - but very unfortunately I didn't let my mom know in time so she had already purchased one at the grocery store and marinated it.  I was forced to butcher the turkey because my freezer is not big enough to store it whole.  I got a good lesson from my mom on how to separate it into parts on Thanksgiving, while my brothers watched and learned as well.  It's kind of like butchering a chicken, but in a much larger and tougher scale.  We ended up freezing it into 6 separate portions- 2 breasts, 2 thighs + wings, and 1 tupperware full of bits of meat that was trimmed away from the back bone - which was made into a tasty noodle dish.  The back bone was used to make a great stock.

fruit bouquet

a fun display of fruit
This isn't difficult but it does require a lot of time and effort!  No wonder it's a business on it's own.  It's best of have a variety of different fruits for lots of colour and texture, as well as large fruits such as pineapple and melons to use cookie cutters to cut out fun shapes appropriate for your occasion.  For a special treat for Steph's shower, we dipped strawberries and apple slices in chocolate.  My father in law was happy to help since there was chocolate involved!  Ryan created a sturdy base by super glueing a styrofoam ball down to a weighted base - we had to ensure it would hold the weight of the fruit, and that as people removed skewers it wouldn't topple over.  

what you need:
  • an assortment of fruits
  • bamboo skewers
  • 1 1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • lemon
what to do:
  1. Prep fruit by cutting into various cubes/shapes/sizes.  For fruits that brown (e.g. apples, pears) - be sure to squeeze fresh lemon juice over them to prevent browning.
  2. In a double boiler, melt chocolate together with butter.  Remove from heat once melted and add pinch of salt.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil - hold strawberry by the tops and dip into chocolate, then place onto sheet.  Once your sheet is full, refrigerate for at least 2 hours to ensure chocolate is set and easy to handle to skewer.  (You can dip other fruits in the chocolate as well - we did some apple slices but it was tricky because the chocolate would sometimes slip off the fleshy parts of the apple).
  3. Create random skewers of fruit and leave at least 2 1/2 inches at bottom of the skewer so that you can stick them into the styrofoam ball.  Continue sticking fruit skewers into the ball - try to stick them into the ball somewhat evenly around so that you don't have one side heavier than the other.
  4. Enjoy!
Bevan dipping strawberries...

Bevan licks the chocolate bowl clean!

a bridal shower

Last weekend I helped cater a bridal shower for Steph, my cousin in law.  It was hosted by my mother in law and before we knew it, the guest list was 40+!  Everyone pitched in to help and it was a great success - there was plenty of food for seconds, a variety of flavours to please all palates, and most importantly, a happy bride that was showered with lots of love and gifts.

Our spread included lots of delicious breads, coffee cake, muffins, and tea biscuits baked by a few different aunts and a bakery in Shawville.  I made a few appetizers and dishes (with lots of help from Sue and Aunt Nancy!) which included bok choy salad, mini omelette tartlets, fruit bouquet, crostini with dips (white bean, hummus, olive tapenade, and creamy caramelized onions), spanikopitas, and panko crusted chicken fingers.
Sue and Nancy making lots of spanikopitas
cooking in my in-laws' newly renovated kitchen
(love this granite island)
the shower

Steph and Abby

bok choy salad

my version
the original - Laureen's
A few weeks ago I had this amazing salad alongside a fish fry!  It is super refreshing, light and very addictive.  I made it for Steph's bridal shower and everyone loved it (even those who had never tried bok choy).  The recipe makes quite a big salad - left overs are good until the next day.  Here's my version of the salad:

what you need:

  • 1 package baby or regular bok choy
  • 1 package bean sprouts
  • 2 green onions
  • 1 handful cilantro
  • 1 package ramen noodles
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 1/2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/8 cup soy sauce
  • black pepper, to taste
what to do:

  1. Cut off bottoms of bok choy and separate each leaf individually.  Wash thoroughly allow to dry (pat with tea towel or leave in sieve for awhile).  Rinse bean sprouts and allow them to dry as well, or spread on tea towel and dry gently).
  2. Stack boy choy leaves, about 5 at a time, chop into thin 1/2" slices width wise, and place into a large salad bowl  Finely chop green onions and add to bowl.  Roughly chop cilantro and add.  Then add the bean sprouts.
  3. Mix the rest of the ingredients (except for the ramen noodles) in a jar or tupperware and shake well, until sugar is dissolved.  This dressing can be kept in the fridge for several days.
  4. Right before serving the salad, toss all vegetables with dressing.  Remove the small flavour package from inside the ramen noodles and crush the dried noodles into little bits.  Top the salad with the noodles for extra crunch and texture.  Enjoy!

Friday, October 7, 2011

butternut squash ravioli

homemade ravioli with brown butter sage
Two days after we ran the medtronic twin cities marathon in Minneapolis, we were back in Thunder Bay and still hungry.  Homemade butternut squash ravioli with brown butter sage was so good that even though it took a lot of labour and time to make them, it was definitely worth the effort!  The salmon (caught in Lake Superior) was baked with lemon juice, dill, salt and pepper - simple and very fresh.

I've seen in other recipes that you need semolina flour to make fresh pasta - but we forgot to get some so we just used all purpose flour.  It tasted really good and worked out fine!

what you need:
*serves 2-3
  • 1 1/4 cup flour (or use half portion semolina flour and half all purpose flour)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 medium sized butternut squash
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • 6 fresh sage leaves
  • 1 head of garlic
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • Parmesan cheese, 1/2 cup freshly grated
  • a little extra flour for work surface
what to do:
  1. Preheat oven to 450 F.  Cut up squash into small 1" cubes, toss lightly with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Spread cubes onto a baking sheet.  Cut a little bit off the top of the garlic bulb and drizzle a little olive oil on top and add a pinch of salt.  Wrap with tin foil and place on the baking sheet.  Bake for about 20-30 minutes, depending on your oven.  Check at half time to make sure they aren't burning and give them a toss for even browning - the squash is ready when it is fork tender and golden brown.  The garlic should easily squish (use oven mitts and gently squeeze to check).  Allow squash and garlic to cool to room temp.
  2. Remove skins from squash and place roasted squash into a bowl to mash.  Add 2 tbsp butter and squeeze the roasted garlic into the mixture - mash well.  Add a small pinch of salt and pepper.  You can also add grated Parmesan cheese (about 1/2 cup) and mix.
  3. On a clean counter top, make a mound with the flour and semolina flour.  Make a hole in the centre and crack one egg into it, mix with a fork until some of the flour incorporates with the egg. 
                                               eggs in the middle
    Add the other egg, and keep mixing until all the flour is incorporated.  Use your hands to knead the dough - if it seems too dry, you can add a little bit of water (1 tbsp at a time).  If it's too sticky/wet, add a little bit of flour.  Divide dough into four small even balls and roll them until 1/4" thick.  Fold in half and then in half again, then this time roll the dough out as thin as possible (this takes muscle!) - or you can use a pasta roller. 
    rolling the dough thin enough to see the black granite
     Try your best to make the sheets about the same size and shape - doesn't have to be perfect!
  4. Place 1 heaping teaspoon of the squash mixture onto the pasta sheet - each sheet should fit about 4 separate teaspoons.  Be sure to space them out to leave space to seal filling well.  Brush a little bit of melted butter around the squash mixture, then lay another sheet of pasta on top and cut into squares with a knife or ravioli square cutter.  You will have to use the back of a fork to press down around the edges of the filling to ensure a tight seal (or else it will fall apart when cooking!).  Any left over pasta can be re-kneaded and rolled to make another sheet.  Work quickly as the dough will dry out.
  5. Bring a pot of water to boil and add a few dashes of salt.  Gently place ravioli into pot and allow to cook, about 2-3 minutes. 
     They won't take too long, once they start
    floating to the top they are ready.
  6. In a small sauce pan on medium, heat up the 1/4 cup butter.  (add a tiny pinch of salt if it is unsalted)  Add the sage leaves, and watch, swirling occasionally - it will start to bubble/foam - and as soon as the butter begins to change colour watch carefully - take it off the heat once it browns.  
  7. Serve ravioli with about 1 tbsp brown butter drizzled on top, and garnish with the cooked sage leaves (they will be crispy, like a chip).  You can garnish with extra Parmesan shavings - enjoy!
little brown dots of goodness from the butter
we actually didn't have Parmesan cheese in our filling so
instead we topped each tsp of squash with a small slice of bocconcini.

my thunder bay experience

I had the pleasure of spending a few days in Thunder Bay with my friend Jillian and her family and friends.  I guess you could call it somewhat of a "Northern Canadian" experience!  One night we had a fish fry with pickerel that they caught the week before from Lake Superior (yum, doesn't get fresher than that!) and some amazing salads (recipe to come!) and appetizers.  It was supposed to be a small gathering - but after a day of running errands we ended up collecting a few more guests and soon it became a fun dinner party with lots of wine and awesome food.  Another night we made Lake Superior salmon (I honestly didn't know salmon was in fresh waters) with homemade butternut squash ravioli.  Nothing beats delicious food, spending time with friends, and meeting great people.

Laureen and Jillian, in their gorgeous kitchen
Andy frying up some yukon gold potatoes, Criff watching
beer battered pickerel
serving up some salad
Fish fry dinner, all plated up!
homemade pie (wild blueberries picked  in Tbay)
gossiping ladies :)
men outside, frying of course