Cooking Classes


Autumn Moon

This was the beautiful moon when I was in Calgary last week.  I had to pull out my tripod and take a picture.  I love the hints of blue with all the browns.

This is not what would be called a "Harvest Moon".  A harvest moon is red.  But this is still in the same season.  I call this my "Hallowe'en Moon".  Don't you find it ghoulish?  I think it is amazing.

This is my entry this week for Seasonal Sunday with The Tablescaper.

And it is also my entry for Fresh Friday with La Bella Vita.


The Silk Road - Spice Heaven

I have made a trip into the big city, Calgary.  I have a ton of things to do.  My haircut, my dentist, my banker, my accountant, my car servicing ...  and  ...  shopping!

I have moved to a small city about 5 hours away and still have not relocated many facets of my life.  But if anyone from Swift Current is reading this, they know how excited we are when we 'get out' and go somewhere to shop.

When I arrived I stopped at Lina's for Italian food specialities.  While there I picked up a copy of City Palate and read it from cover to cover.  The gem I found that was new to me was The Silk Road.  It was exactly what I craved.

This is a spice shop.  A really nice spice shop.  I went in to buy cinnamon!

Okay, to recap my purchases... I bought 3 kinds of cinnamon - Vietnamese Saigon Cassia, Sri Lankan true cinnamon and Indonesian Karintje Cassia, ras el hanout, curry leaves, juniper berries, Morita chipotle chiles, ground Ancho chiles, ground Marash chiles,  Szechuan peppercorns, nigella seeds, and cayenne pepper.

I could have bought a whole bunch more.  Next time!


NOtaBLE in Calgary

My one and only fine dining experience on this trip was at NOtaBLE.  They just opened their doors 6 weeks ago and everything felt like it was a well oiled wheel.

The menu was a little difficult to read - in the style of printing and style of writing.  They had some wonderful entrees like lamb shank and flatiron steak.  They had a burger special and soup specials. 

But I am wondering if the time has come that there is nothing new in nice local food.  Just a question.  Not a definitive statement.  It just seems like what I can find at other great dining rooms in Calgary.  Or does the city just need more of these types of restaurants that are not in the city centre?


Autumn in Calgary

Autumn is one of the nicest times to visit Calgary.  The colours are amazing, even if we don't get the reds in Western Canada.  The river valley is wonderful.  I will let the pictures speak for themselves.

This is my entry for Seasonal Sunday with The Tablescraper.


Parmesan Rosemary and Walnut Shortbread

The garden is all but gone. (sigh)  The frost has come with a vengeance and left little but pansies and strawberry plants alive.  Thank heaven I harvested my herbs.  I only had a few sprigs of rosemary but wanted to make something fresh.  These make a nice cocktail snack. 

I have not been blogging and cooking as much lately (another sigh).  I am so busy with my house renovation.  So I am a tad distracted.  The reno is not very interesting at this point either.  All I am doing right now is writing cheques.

This is also my entry for Fresh Friday with La Bella Vita

Parmesan, Rosemary, and Walnut Shortbread

Epicurious  | October 2004
by Serena Bass

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 ounces freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
1/2 cups walnuts, toasted at 350F for 10 minutes, then chopped
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
pinch cayenne pepper

Using an electric mixer, cream the butter; add the Parmesan, and mix well. Stir in the flour, rosemary, pecans, salt, black pepper, and cayenne. Form the mixture into 1-inch-wide logs, wrap them in plastic, and refrigerate for at least half an hour, or up to 3 days.
When you're ready to bake the shortbread, position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Cut the logs into 1/4-inch-thick slices, place the slices on the baking sheet, and bake for 20 minutes, or until golden at the edges. Remove the shortbread slices and cool them on a wire rack. You can offer these by themselves passed in a basket, or top them with Sun-dried Tomato Pesto.


Tarragon Vinegar and Sage Honey

I know what you all think, "Canada is an iceberg!"  Well, this year I am apt to agree with you.  Just throw in an ark for good measure.  We have had rain every day or night in the past month.  How do you think that goes with harvest?  Yeah.  It doesn't.  The field peas, chick peas and lentils (which are the main crops in this area) are swathed and molding in the field because they can't pick them up and combine them.  Mustard is the only crop still standing and has half a chance.  Not to mention, the millions, yes millions, of acres that were never planted to wheat due to excessive rain in seeding season.  It is a dire situation.  Look for flour and bread prices to rise over the next year.

And now it is cold.  I hear we may have frost soon.  That means everything that is tender, in the garden, will freeze and die.  So I am not taking any chances and I am harvesting my herbs.  I also picked all of my roma tomatoes this afternoon and they will ripen indoors.  I might be making catsup yet this year!  Or, yum, some green tomato relish.  Stay tuned.  They will be turned into something delish.

Thank you, Pam at Sidewalk Shoes.  I have some French tarragon in my garden this year and I don't want to waste even this year's little twigs.  So I am making tarragon vinegar.

With my sage, I am making sage honey.  I hear it is to die for!  I will let you know in a month or so.  Look at how clear that honey is!  It is perfect for infusing flavours.

My flat leaf parsley is chopped and in the freezer.  Ditto chives.  And the chamomile is drying for future tea.

I have already harvested the seeds from my cilantro, coriander!  

This is also my entry for Fresh Friday!


September Daring Cooks Challenge

I have been canning food for a number of years.  Actually, I have been canning and freezing food since I was a teenager or younger.  You see, I grew up on a farm.  That is what we did.

We had a garden and froze all the vegetables.  And we would always buy B.C. fruit by the case and would can peaches, pears, apricots and cherries every year.  Then we would go out and pick saskatoon berries and chokecherries to make more preserves.  If we could get our hands on any, we would also try to make crabapple jelly.  Actually in the really old days, before I got involved, my mother would can vegetables and chicken.  And that was before the days of pressure canners!  Scary, eh?

The September 2010 Daring Cooks’ challenge was hosted by John of Eat4Fun. John chose to challenge The Daring Cooks to learn about food preservation, mainly in the form of canning and freezing. He challenged everyone to make a recipe and preserve it. John’s source for food preservation information was from The National Center for Home Food Preservation.

I want to show you what I have done this season - Spiced Pear Butter and Blackberry Jam.

I posted my recipe for Strawberry Balsamic Black  Pepper Strawberry Preserves awhile back.

And my Concord Grape Jam

With my pressure canner, I have put away duck and chicken stock.

Tomato Salsa!

If you go back a couple of days, I have posted my Mustard Beans.

This is the recipe I am sharing today ... Fire Roasted Tomato Sauce.

Fire Roasted Tomato Sauce

25 lbs of roma tomatoes
3 large or 5 medium onions
1 head of garlic
4 bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons of Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon dried, crushed hot chilis

Build a hot fire on your charcoal grill or use your gas barbecue.  Grill all of the tomatoes until blackened on all sides.  Drop into cold water to chill.  Slip the blackened skins off the tomatoes.  Chop coarsely.

Roast the whole onions on the grill.  When blackened on all sides, remove to cool.  Remove the blackened layers and coarsely chop the onion.  Pulse in a food processor to finely chop the onion.

Grill the head of garlic over the hot coals.  Let cool and squeeze out the roasted garlic.

Add tomatoes, onions, garlic and other seasonings to a large stock pot.  Simmer for 1 - 2 hours or until rich.

Process in a water bath.  Bernardin has great instructions for processing with the water bath method.


Rhubarb Bitters

As you read this, you should know that I started this concoction three months ago - when rhubarb was in season.  I had a lot of fun with this quirky fruit this year.  I had the luxury of a seemingly endless supply.  That gave me the chance to experiment with a few new things without sacrificing my old time favourites.

Rhubarb in Autumn
This is a real stretch for me but my research shows that this is an uber ingredient with the nouveau drink makers.  Use this like you would use any other bitters, such as angostura bitters. 

After steeping, in the refrigerator, for 3 months I strained it and discarded the solids.  I was left with a very aromatic and slightly cloudy concoction.  It smelled deeply of citrus.  I love orange flavours with bourbon and it worked very well in the Manhattan.

Rhubarb bitters 

 peel from 2 oranges cut into thin strips with as little of the white pith as possible
 peel of  1/2 grapefruit cut into thin strips with as little white pith as possible
 1/2 to 1 cup chopped fresh rhubarb
 1 juniper berry, 3 inches tamarind pod with seeds, and 3 coriander seeds (or substitute 4 or 5 cloves for the juniper, tamarind and coriander)
 1 to 1 1/2 cups vodka or Everclear

Mix the ingredients in a large jar and screw on a lid to seal it. Shake it every 3 to 4 days for 12 weeks. Strain out the solids and enjoy!

2 oz high quality bourbon
1/2 oz red vermouth
1/2 tsp rhubarb bitters

Shake with ice and strain into a martini glass.  Garnish with a baby stalk of rhubarb. 

Champagne cocktail
Place a sugar cube in a Champagne flute. Put 1 to 2 teaspoons of bitters (or to taste) over the sugar cube. Fill the glass with Prosecco or other sparkling wine.


Mustard Bean and Baby Potato Salad

It is the season for putting away for the winter.  I bought some lovely fresh yellow beans at the farmer's market.  I love mustard beans, especially in this recipe.

I toss them with steamed baby potatoes for a low-fat and flavour packed potato salad.

Mustard Beans

2 lbs yellow beans, washed, trimmed and cut to 1 1/2" lengths
3 tablespoons of mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon tumeric
3 tablespoons pickling salt
white vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
onions, finely chopped
1 red pepper, finely chopped

Mix the sauce ingredients and place on heat.  Bring to a boil.  Add the beans, onions and red pepper.  Bring back to the boil.

Process in water bath for 20 minutes for 250 ml jars.


Fresh Friday Sunset and Nice Dinner

I have joined with Valli at La Bella Vita for Fresh Friday.  I have always found it a challenge to have set commitments!  A realtor by trade for 30 years means that I lived by the seat of my pants for a very long time.  I can adapt to change in a heartbeat but plan ahead....well, it wasn't required very often in my career!

Duck Breast with Blackberry Sauce

1 duck breast
1/4 cup blackberry preserve
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced

Preheat oven to 425F.

Score the skin of the duck breast at regular intervals in a crisscross pattern, cutting through the skin only and not into the meat.  Season each side of the breast with sea salt and coarsely ground black pepper.

Sear the duck breast, skin side down, in a very hot cast iron pan.  Turn the duck over so the skin is up and place the pan in the oven.  Cook until medium rare, about 10 minutes for medium sized breasts and 12 minutes for large.  When cooked, tent with tin foil and let rest for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, saute the shallots and garlic in duck fat skimmed from the duck breast.  Add chopped rosemary.  Add the blackberry preserves.  .

To serve, slice the duck breast about 1/2 inch thick crosswise on a diagonal and spoon sauce over.

Now I find myself collecting ideas for Fridays.  Last night my good friends Greg and Jerry stayed with me enroute to Calgary.  I served some of my Hutterite duck breast.  It was lovely with a bit of blackberry sauce, truffled potatoes, baby summer squash, a salad of bitter green with roasted beets, goat cheese and a sweet balsamic dressing, and yellow beans.

Then tonight the sunset was beautiful even from my house in town.  I had to get out my tripod.

Fresh local food and fresh air sunset in autumn.


Missing Basil

Basil is almost sold by the leaf here in small town Saskatchewan.  It is probably as expensive as gold.  There is no way I can afford to buy 5 leaves of basil for $2.50.  I am finally really appreciating pesto!  Thank heaven I bought a nice jar in the city.  I had no idea there would be no fresh basil when I bought it.

I am making a list, and checking it twice, what will be in my garden next spring.  Basil, shallots, summer squash to name a few.

I had a wonderful dinner tonight with some boccocini I bought in Regina.  It was surprisingly fresh and wonderful.  Such a treat where cheese is also like gold.  My friends, Greg and Jerry, overnighted with me enroute to Calgary.  As I am growing to enjoy, they bring me care packages.

This trip brought me some wonderful freshly roasted Black Pearl espresso coffee beans, Morden's Russian mint chocolates (they are milk chocolate and filled with milk chocolate delicately flavoured with mint and melt in your mouth) and... ta da... a couple of fresh and tasty garden tomatoes.

I know you can think faster than I can write.  Yes, I had a nice tomato salad with boccocini, basil pesto and balsamic reduction.  Such a treat.


Concord Grape Jam

It is that time of the year again!  I have been doing a lot of canning and will be sharing more recipes.  Today it was Concord Grape Jam.  I could have made beautiful clear jelly but I wanted a change.  This was a little fussy to make.  First, peeling grapes!  I eventually just squeezed and the innards popped out.  It was still a tad tedious though.  

But the results are wonderful.  The jam has somewhat of a floral flavour and aroma that you do not achieve when making the jelly.  I will be looking for some ideas on serving this.  Do you have any? 

Concord Grape Jam

Gourmet Magazine, October 2005
  • 5 lb Concord grapes, stemmed
  • 5 cups sugar
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Sterilize jars:
Wash jars, lids, and screw bands in hot, soapy water, then rinse well. Dry screw bands. Put jars on a rack in canner or deep pot and add enough water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil, covered, then boil for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, leaving jars in water. Heat lids in water to cover by 2 inches in a small saucepan until thermometer registers 180°F (do not let boil). Remove from heat, leaving lids in water. Keep the jars and lids submerged in hot water, covered, until ready to use.
Cook jam:
Chill 2 small plates (for testing jam).
Slip skins from grapes and purée skins with 1 cup sugar in a food processor, then transfer to a 4- to 6-quart wide heavy pot. Stir in lemon juice, peeled grapes, and remaining 4 cups sugar and boil over moderate heat, stirring frequently and skimming foam, until pulp is broken down, about 20 minutes. Force jam through food mill set over a large bowl. Discard remaining solids. Return jam to pot and cook at a slow boil, skimming foam occasionally and stirring frequently as mixture thickens to prevent scorching, 35 minutes, then test for doneness.
To test jam, remove from heat, then drop a teaspoonful on a chilled plate and chill 1 minute. Tilt plate: Jam should remain in a mound and not run. If jam runs, continue cooking at a slow boil, testing every 5 minutes, until done, up to 25 minutes more.
Seal, process, and store jars:
Drain jars upside down on a clean kitchen towel 1 minute, then invert. Ladle jam into jars, leaving 1/4 inch of space at top. Wipe off rims of filled jars with a clean damp kitchen towel, then top with lids and firmly screw on screw bands. Put sealed jars on rack in canner or pot and add enough water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil, covered, then boil 10 minutes. With tongs, transfer jars to a towel-lined surface to cool.
Jars will seal; if you hear a ping, it signals that vacuum formed at the top of cooling preserves has made lid concave. Remember that you may or may not be around to hear that ping (some jars make the sound after you remove them from water, and others in same batch may take a few hours); the important thing is for jars to eventually have concave lids. Preserves will thicken as they cool.
After jars have cooled 12 to 24 hours, press center of each lid to check that it's concave, then remove screw band and try to lift off lid with your fingertips. If you can't, lid has a good seal. Replace screw band. Put any jars that haven't sealed properly in the refrigerator and use them first.