Cooking Classes


Osso Buco with Risotto Milanese

This meal is a classic. The pairing of the rich tomato based sauce of the veal shank perfectly complements the simplicity of the saffron risotto. It is a meal that both impresses and pleases guests. This is the only time that you will see Risotto Milanese as a side dish.

We enjoyed this with a bottle of NK'MIP Cellars 2009 Merlot, a VQA wine from the Okanagan Valley. It was delicious.

Happy Easter!

Veal Osso Bucco          adapted from The New Basics Cookbook by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins

1 - 2 tbsp. olive oil
2 veal shanks
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 c. diced sweet onions
1 large clove garlic, chopped
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
pinch dried thyme
pinch dried rosemary
1 c. homemade beef broth
1 c. San Marzano canned tomatoes with a little of the puree
1/2 c. dry white wine

Heat olive oil in a cast iron Dutch oven. Season the veal shanks with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and sear on both sides. Remove from pan and set aside.
Saute onions, garlic and herbs until softened. Add wine to deglaze pan scraping up all the tasty bits from the bottom of the pan. Add tomatoes and beef broth. Bring back to a simmer, cover with lid and gently simmer for 1 1/2 - 2 hours. The veal should be 'fall apart' tender.
This can be made the day before or earlier in the day for an easy dinner preparation.

Risotto Milanese

1 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. finely diced shallots
pinch of saffron
approx. 1 c. chicken of pheasant stock
1 c. arborio rice
2 tbsp. grated parmesan cheese

Gently heat olive oil in heavy pan and sweat the shallots. Add rice and stir to coat it completely. Heat stock and add pinch of saffron to hydrate it. Gradually add the stock to the rice. When the stock has been absorbed add more until the rice is cooked. The rice should be cooked but still chewy. Do not overcook. Grate parmesan over and mix. Serve immediately with more parmesan, if desired.


Casual Friday - Grown Up Grilled Cheese

April is National Grilled Cheese Sandwich month is the U.S. These sandwiches were first made in the 1920's and then became popular in the Great Depression of the 30's. Sliced bread and processed cheese were affordable.

The original grilled cheese sandwich was actually an open face sandwich. And I was not aware that it was not until the 1960's that the second piece of bread was added. Now that really makes me feel old.

Taking only a few minutes to make, this is a perfect Casual Friday food. I made mine with Camembert, toasted pinenuts and my homemade fig chutney. I melted herbed compound butter in the pan and carefully placed the sandwich in as the butter began to bubble. Serve with a lightlly dressed green salad.

Share your favourite Adult Grill Cheese Sandwich with us by commenting.


Casual Friday - Cinghiale Ragu

Wild boar has long been favoured in Europe. It is now available at specialty grocers and farmers’ markets across Canada.  Young animals are tender and milder in flavour, therefore, can be cooked in a variety of ways. Animals over 1 year have a gamier flavour and less tender so marinating and moist heat methods such as stewing or braising are recommended.
Boar is low in sodium, a good source of thiamin, niacin, vitamin B6, zinc, selenium, and protein. It is lower in saturated fat than beef.
Wild boar has a darker colour and distinctive flavour and is lean meat that combines the best of beef and pork. It makes wonderful bacon, hams and a whole animal can be pit or spit roasted successfully.
The rule of thumb when cooking with boar is low and slow. This breaks down the connective tissue resulting in fork tender meat. Overcooking will result in dry meat. Roasts can be cooked at 275-300F. The rack, ribs and tenderloin of a young animal can be cooked in the same manner as pork but the other cuts, such as shoulder or neck are best if braised, ground or diced. Do not cook or thaw in a microwave. This will toughen the meat. Thaw slowly in the refrigerator and thaw before marinating.
The robust flavour stands up well to aromatic spices and herbs such as sage, juniper berries, marjoram, cinnamon, cloves, allspice and rosemary. Wild mushrooms, dried fruits like cherries, cranberries and raisins are complimentary.
The long cooking times along with aromatic spices produce wonderful aromas in the kitchen. The anticipation is rewarded. A little goes a long way with these rich flavours and portion sizes need not be as large as with other meats.
Pappardelle is not available in my little city so I have substituted with what I had on hand, linguine. This would also be nice with a penne.

Wild Boar Ragu    (adapted from Epicurious)
1 large Spanish onion (chopped)
2 tbsp. olive oil                                                            
2 lbs. boneless wild boar meat (cut for stew)            
1 can chopped tomatoes                                   
3 bay leaves
1 c. red wine                                                            
5 cloves garlic, crushed
3 dried chili peppers (crushed)
1 cinnamon stick
5 whole cloves
3 sundried tomatoes
3 anchovies or 1 tsp. anchovy paste                        
Fresh or dried oregano, basil, and sage
1 tbsp. red wine vinegar                                                
Salt and black pepper to taste
Pasta pappardelle, fettuccine or penne
Grated pecorino, being sheep cheese, compliments game but can substitute Parmesan
In a large cast-iron pot, heat oil and brown meat. Add onions and sauté until translucent. Add canned tomatoes and bay leaves.
Add wine, garlic, dried chili, cinnamon stick, cloves, sun-dried tomatoes, anchovies, basil, sage, red wine vinegar, and salt and black pepper, to taste.
Simmer on low on stovetop, and stir occasionally for at least two hours. The ragù is ready to eat when meat is fall apart tender and most of liquid has been absorbed. Take out cinnamon stick and bay leaves before serving.
Serve over pasta and top with grated cheese.


The Daring Cooks - Making Cheese

I have been making ricotta, mascarpone and yogurt cheese. With this challenge I tried something new - feta.  I found some raw cow's milk at a nearby farm and was all set until, I went looking for rennet. I had no idea it would be so difficult to find it but I went to a local independent nuitrition store and they had just received it in their shipment. The rennet worked well and I did not need to use CaCl.

The bonus in this challenge was the opportunity to meet another local woman who is making cheese. I can hardly wait to try some of hers and I will share mine. Together perhaps we will further explore the world of cheese.

Feta marinated in herbs and olive oil
Sawsan from chef in disguise was our March 2013 Daring Cooks hostess! Sawsan challenges us to make our own homemade cheeses! She gave us a variety of choices to make, all of them easily accomplished and delicious!

Homemade Feta Cheese

Sawsan presented the following information for us

Recipe Source: From the Bartolini kitchens
yield: approx ½ pound (1/4 kg)
8 cups (2 litres) goat’s milk (cow or sheep’s milk may be used) – ultra-pasteurized goat’s milk cannot be used.
1 tablespoon (15 ml) live culture, plain yogurt mixed in 1 tablespoon (15 ml) milk from above
¼ rennet (“junket”) tablet dissolved in 6 tablespoons (90 ml) distilled water at room temp
1/2 teaspoon (2½ ml) (3 gm) salt
To make the brining solution
5½ tablespoons (82.5 ml) (95 gm) (3-1/3 oz) of salt for every 20 fl oz (590 ml) fluid whey
1.Place the milk in a pot with a lid, warm it up to 30°C or 86°F . Remember to stir the milk occasionally to prevent the bottom from burning
2.Take the milk off the heat, add yogurt-milk mixture, stir well, cover with the lid.
3.Allow it to sit for 1 hour at room temperature.
4.Move your pot to an area where it will remain undisturbed.
5.Add dissolved rennet, stir quickly to ensure even distribution of the rennet then cover the pot, and leave overnight.
6.The next morning, check the cheese. It should be set into one large block of curd with a little whey separated on the side
7.Now you have to check for a clean break.
8.To check for a clean break Stick your finger, on an angle, into the curd and slowly bring the finger to the surface to test for a “clean break,” meaning the curd is firmly set from top to bottom. Your finger should come up relatively clean which means that the cheese has set into one block of curd.
A bad break is when your finger comes out covered in a thickened dairy product(kind of like when you stick your finger
into yogurt), that means that your cheese has not set completely, if that happens you need to leave it for 2 hours and check again. If you still get a bad break give it 2 more hours and check again. If you still get a bad break you have to throw it out and start over
9.Now that you have achieved a clean break you have to cut the cheese and this step is done to allow as much whey to separate from the cheese as possible
Using a long knife cut parallel lines through the entire thickness of the curd dividing it into vertical slices
10.Then turn the pot and cut horizontal parallel lines through the entire thickness of the curd
11. Now you need to take your knife at an angle and repeat cutting horizontal and vertical lines to cut the curds that are beneath the surface, stir the curds gently and cut any cubes that are too big
12.Allow the curd cubes to set for 15 minutes stirring it occasionally to allow more whey to come out. You will notice that the curds will shrink slightly in size.
13. Next you need to strain the cheese, to do that line a colander with a cheesecloth or a clean fabric with fine weave.
Gently pour the curds and whey in and allow it to strain. Do not discard the whey.
14. Once most of the whey has been strained collect the 4 corners of your cheesecloth and tie them to form a knot that allows you to suspend the cheesecloth then allow it to strain for 2-4 hours.
If you live in a very warm place you may want to allow it to strain in the fridge.
15.The next day remove the cheese from the cloth, break up the curds add 1/2 teaspoon salt.
16.Line a mould with holes in the bottom with cheese cloth, place the cheese in, fold over the cheesecloth place a heavy weight on top of the mold and leave overnight, again if you live in a really warm place do this in the fridge
17.Make the brine solution by adding 5½ tablespoons (82.5 ml) (95 gm) (3-1/3 oz.) of salt for every 20 fl oz. (590 ml) fluid whey and mix it, dissolving as much of the salt as you can.
As you can see my cheese was still pretty soft after moulding but it firmed up nicely in the brine
18.The next day take the cheese out of the mould and cut into cubes, place in the brine solution and allow to brine in the fridge for 5 days
Store in the refrigerator. Rinse before use to remove excess salt.

Notes about feta cheese

The milk:

you can not use ultra-pasteurized milk, alone, to make feta. Your best choice is raw, unpasteurized milk, sheep would be the tastiest. The second best choice is regular pasteurized cow or goat milk. If the only choice you have is ultra-pasteurized cow’s milk, you must add CaCl2 to mask the effects of the ultra-pasteurization process (¼ tsp of calcium chloride (CaCl2) added to 64 fl oz (8 cups) (2 litres) of milk. Dilute it in 1/4 cup of cool, non-chlorinated water). CaCl2, however will not work with ultra-pasteurized goat’s milk.
To sum it up the milk you can use to make feta cheese is:
Pasteurized goat milk with or without CaCl
Pasteurized cow's milk
Ultra pasteurized cow's milk with CaCl

Storage Instructions and Tips:

Soft labneh will keep for a week in the fridge. Labneh balls can stay up to 6 months if submerged in oil and stored in the fridge.
Ricotta will last up to two weeks in the fridge.
Soft cheese will last 4-6 days in the fridge
Brined feta cheese will last up to 3 months if kept in the fridge submerged in the brine solution


Cooking Class Monday - Working with Gelatin

I don't use gelatin very often. Lately it has only been when I am making marshmallows. So yesterday when I wanted to make a panna cotta, I had problems. I made two different recipes and neither worked. My White Chocolate Panna Cotta was lumpy and did not properly set. 

Then I made a Buttermilk Panna Cotta. After following the recipe to a T, and it was in the refrigerator setting, I knew something was wrong. I could still see the gelatin grains in the mixture and this should not be. So, with nothing to lose, I put the panna cotta into a pot and gently warmed so the gelatin would melt. You cannot do this with buttermilk, however. The buttermilk immediately curdled and it was ruined.

Most recipes do not actually tell you how to properly incorporate the gelatin. You need to know only two basics to achieve a silky smooth gelatin product.

First, the powdered gelatin must be softened in cold liquid. You can use cold water or some of the liquid from the recipe. Be sure not to leave it in a pile in the cold liquid. All the powder must be mixed into the water.

After a couple of minutes the gelatin should be hydrated. Secondly, the granules must be melted by adding a hot liquid. Be sure the liquid, again it should be something from your recipe, is boiling or piping hot. Stir until the grains have melted. Stir with a spoon and if you do not see any specks on it after removing from the liquid, then you know the gelatin has been melted and incorporated properly.

Now it is ready to add the rest of your ingredients. To set the gelatin, depending upon the amount of gelatin used and the other ingredients, it can be left at room temperature. This works well for marshmallows. But for a panna cotta with cream and milk, it should be refrigerated.

Plain gelatin is the structure for this Champagne and Raspberry Congealed Salad. Click for the recipe.

I have only used powdered gelatin and have never worked with gelatin sheets. To find good instructions when using gelatin sheets, just click here on David Lebovitz's blog. He also has several interesting links for more information on using plain gelatin.


Virtual Supper Club - All Things Green

This month the Virtual Supper Club is hosted by Susan of The Spice Garden. In honour of St. Patrick's Day we are selecting dishes with a little green! And, oh! Does this sound like a feast. Enjoy!

Sandi -Whistestop Café Cooking Lemony Snap Peas 
Jerry - Jerrys Thoughts, Musings and Rants  Salmon with Cucumber Salad and Dill Sauce
Val- More Than Burnt Toast     Creamy Feta Spinach Dip  
Susan Linquist –The Spice Garden    New Hampshire Maple Mustard Salad Dressing
Roz - La Bella Vita    Pesto Caesar Salad

This Iberian dish is similar to shrimp scampi. Good bread to soak up the rich sauce is a must.

I made this dish with both my giant shrimp and then again with smaller prawns more like a large shrimp. I like the flavour of the smaller prawns better. It was more assertive. This would be great as part of a tapas meal or shared as an appetizer. Using the giant prawns it is definitely a main course.

Shrimp in Green Sauce

    3 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    6 garlic cloves, peeled
    1 cup coarsely chopped green onions
    1 cup coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
    2 1/4 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
    1/3 cup dry white wine
    6 ounces sourdough or French bread, torn into 6 (1-ounce) pieces

    Preheat oven to 500°.
    Place olive oil and garlic in a food processor; process until garlic is finely chopped, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Add green onions and parsley in food processor; pulse until minced. Spoon garlic mixture into a large bowl. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, black pepper, red pepper, and shrimp to garlic mixture, and toss well to coat.
    Spoon the shrimp mixture into a shallow roasting pan, and add the wine. Bake at 500° for 7 minutes or until the shrimp are done, stirring once. Serve with bread.

Smaller prawns were used in this dish.


Cooking Class Monday - Breadsticks

If you have never worked with yeast, then breadsticks are an easy way to get your feet wet. I use this recipe for breadsticks, also. They work best if teased out rather than being rolled. If the dough does not want to pull, then let it rest for 5 minutes and try again.

I use spray oil on my counter top when working with breadsticks. Then I roll them in coarse salt, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, onion salt and garlic powder in any combination you like.

If you bake these at 350F you will achieve a crispy breadstick. If you bake them at 400F they will brown more quickly so the cooking time is shorter. The inside will become soft as they cool. Bake at 350F for about 15 minutes, then rotate in the oven and bake for 10 more minutes. At 400F, you will bake for a total of 15 minutes and rotating half way through the baking time.
Yeast basics
 *  yeast is a living plant with certain requirements. It thrives at 90F, requires moisture and food. The food is sugar in some form.
*  Regular yeast must be hydrated before adding to the dough. Instant yeast can be added to the dry ingredients.
* Proofing (or proving as it is called in England) is the time required for the yeast to grow and reproduce. Usually there are two proofing periods. This is because the air bubbles in the dough will become too large if they are not knocked down. Large air bubbles risk the bread falling as it bakes.

* required to work the gluten in the flour so it is strong and will hold the air bubbles.
* helps to disperse the ingredients throughout the dough
* helps to warm the dough to the proper temperature so the yeast will grow

Herbed Flatbread                   adapted from Martha Stewart Living

1 cup warm water (about 110F)
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
3 cups all purpose flour, plus more for rolling
3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
coarse salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 large egg whisked with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
sea salt, for sprinkling
1/4 cup fresh rosemary or thyme

Place the water in a medium sized bowl or your stand mixer bowl and sprinkle the yeast.  Let stand until the yeast is foamy, about 5 minutes.  Stir in olive oil, salt and the sugar.  Add flour and stir until a dough forms. Or if using your stand mixer, using mixer attachment on speed level 1 mix until all flour is incorporated.

Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth, about 2 minutes.  Or if using your stand mixer, change to dough hook and knead for about 2 minutes. Use as much flour as necessary so it is not a sticky dough.  Place in a lightly oiled bowl and roll the dough around in the bowl so that it is also lightly oiled on the surface.  Cover with saran wrap.  Let stand in a warm place until it doubles in volume, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350F.  Divide dough into 16 equal portions and cover with plastic wrap.  Roll out each piece to approximately 4"x10" on a lightly floured surface.  Transfer to parchment lined baking sheet.  Brush with the egg mixture and sprinkle with sea salt and herbs.

Bake, rotating sheet halfway through baking, until crisp and golden, 18-22 minutes.  Let cool on the baking sheet then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.