Wednesday, December 30, 2009

great cookbooks for new year's - recipe: ina garten's orange yogurt

Ok, I haven’t been cooking over the past few weeks. The only good part about not cooking is that our (ridiculously difficult to keep clean) stainless steel gas range looks spotless. It’s a rather busy time of the year for me work-wise, so we’ve been enjoying ready-to-bake meals from the shop all month. However, after New Year’s Eve, things will slow down a little bit so I’ll be able to get busy in the kitchen again. So I thought I’d share with you some of my favourite cookbooks, and the recipes within.

I own so many fantastic cookbooks; below are the four that I’d save first in a fire.

Martha Stewart’s Hors D’oeuvres Handbook,
(Martha Stewart, 1999) – I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, this cookbook, so it’s hands down my numero uno. I love making hors d’oeuvres (my favourite type of party to cater) but I understand that not everyone enjoys making them, as they can be fiddly and time-consuming. That being said, if you’re like me and enjoy this type of thing, buy this book. It’s full of the most beautiful photos, recipes and stunning presentation ideas. I’ve flipped through this book over a hundred times and I never tire of it. Favourite recipe: Ruth Lesserman’s caramel brie with pecans.

Food and Memories of Abruzzo, (Anna Teresa Callen, 1998). David’s cousin Gabriella recommended this book. I love making dishes that David’s mother may have prepared for him when he was young. Favourite recipe: Polenta al Ragu di Maiale.

The Silver Palate Cookbook, (Julee Rosso & Sheila Lukins, 1979). I remember reading this over and over again in high school (my Mom had a copy) along with the original Martha Stewart “Entertaining” Cookbook. I daydreamed about what I’d serve at the cocktail and dinner parties I’d host in my own future apartment! Favourite recipe: chicken marbella – we had this last week on Christmas Eve at my brother’s in-laws (thanks Lynn & Mike!).

The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, (Ina Garten, 1999). I adore this book as well, and if you saw my copy, you’d know just how much as it’s falling apart. I’ve considered buying a new copy but I think that there’s something special about a cookbook that is stained and tattered. It contains great photos, stories, and of course, recipes. Some of my favourite Ina Garten recipes include: crab cakes, pan-fried onion dip, rosemary white bean soup, coconut cupcakes, raspberry corn muffins, and orange yogurt.

Since it’s almost 2010, I figure a healthy, yet delicious recipe would be the most appreciated. Ina Garten’s orange yogurt is to die for – it tastes like you’re eating something that can’t possibly be good for you, and yet it is!

Ina Garten’s Orange Yogurt

note: for best results, strain the yogurt the day before you want to enjoy it


  • one quart plain low fat yogurt
  • one-quarter cup raisins
  • one-quarter cup chopped walnuts
  • one-and-one-half teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • one-quarter cup honey
  • grated zest of one orange
  • one-half cup to one cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • if desired, additional raisins, walnuts, and/or orange zest


  • Line a sieve with cheesecloth or good-quality paper towels and suspend it over a bowl. Pour the yogurt into the sieve and allow it to drain, refrigerated, for three hours or overnight
    (note: overnight is definitely best).
  • Place the thickened yogurt into a medium bowl and add the raisins, walnuts, vanilla, honey and orange zest to taste. Thin with orange juice until it is a desirable consistency
    (note: I prefer less orange juice so that it remains thick).
  • If desired, garnish with additional orange zest, raisins or walnuts.
  • Serve plain or topped with granola.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

some great holiday (cheese) appetizers - recipe: haloumi cheese appetizer

If you’re hosting a holiday party and looking for a delicious appetizer idea, look no further. My latest food obsession and appetizer of choice, is halloumi cheese.

My first taste of halloumi was in Zingerman’s Deli (Ann Arbor, Michigan). It was served on a bed of greens with chicken, olives and tomatoes. If you haven’t heard of Zingermans, my all time favourite food shop/deli/restaurant/bakery/creamery (among other things) try:

Back to business: halloumi is a slightly salty firm cheese from Cyprus. It’s soft, but holds its shape when grilled on the bbq (my method of choice in warmer months) or sautéed in a frying pan (when the bbq is covered in ice & snow, like this past week). You can find this cheese at Zehrs; the President’s Choice brand is called Halloom. It is quite good and reasonably priced. I was delighted to find a delicious version at Melitsa’s, a fabulous Greek deli/café in Belmont Village.


The preparation is simple:

  • Slice the cheese into one-quarter inch thick disks and sauté over medium-high heat in a frying pan for about 1-2 minutes per side.
  • Place each disk/slice of cheese on a piece of baguette or gourmet cracker, and finish with a squeeze of lemon and fresh ground pepper (do not season with salt as it’s already naturally salty).
  • If I have any on hand, I also love to sprinkle chopped rosemary, or mint, or thyme leaves on top.

Here are some other great cheese appetizers:

  • Cut a wedge of asiago into large chunks, then blitz in the food processor into smaller chunks/pieces. Add a handful of chopped parsley, some minced garlic and chopped sundried tomatoes in oil. Spread this mixture onto baguette slices and bake in a 350º F oven until cheese is hot and bread is slightly toasted, about 8 minutes.
  • Top a wheel of brie with your favourite chutney, jam or preserves. Bake in 375º F oven (preferably in a brie baker – the latest and greatest gift to give your hostess, or yourself… yes, we sell them at my shop!) until the brie is melted, about 12 minutes (for an approx. 200 gram wheel). Serve the warm brie with fresh bread, crackers and biscuits.
  • Make your own cheese crisps. Simply preheat oven to 400º F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Grate some fresh parmesan and make little “disks” of parmesan cheese about one-and-one-half inches in diameter (leave space between the disks as if you were making cookies). Bake the crisps in the oven for about 12-15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and medium-golden in colour. Cool on a wire rack and serve at room temperature (do not refrigerate, they’ll get soggy).

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

an old-fashioned meal needs a good dessert - recipe: chocolate mousse

Every year around the holidays, my husband’s best friend, Alex, treats his three brothers, his closest friends and their significant others to an over-the-top meal. The dinner always takes place at Barberian’s, a steakhouse that’s an institution in Toronto.

David and I have been together for eight years, but this year was the first time that I was also able to attend, as I didn’t have an event to cater that night.

Where do I start?

Both the night and the meal were memorable. We were greeted by the maître d’ who took us down to the lower level of the restaurant… nope, not a scary basement space, but the private wine cellar!

There are two levels — we were in the upper, more intimate dining space, completely surrounded by floor to ceiling wine racks, overlooking their two-storey high main wine vault… incredible.

To make me even happier — among the fifteen guests were a couple married just two weeks earlier, a two-month old baby to hold, and an expectant mother. We started with cocktails and appetizers — think lobster bisque, Caesar salad and shrimp the size of pancakes (no joke).

The menu was extremely traditional, in a good way – I don’t think it’s changed since it opened in 1959! It even has an “after 10 theatre menu for two” with classics like baked Alaska and crepes Suzette.

On to dinner. Amazing wines were shared, and in addition to the meal that each guest ordered (me: a bacon-wrapped filet mignon, as this 8 oz. steak was their smallest; David: a 16 oz. rib-eye steak), Alex ordered a slew of side dishes for us all to share — three whole lobsters, sautéed mushrooms, the best deep-fried onion rings I’ve ever had (David is still talking about them), pickled vegetables, amazing garlic toast and more.

Believe it or not, we all saved room for dessert. I ordered their famous hot apple beignets (donuts) with vanilla ice cream, David ordered the cheesecake and surprise, surprise, Alex ordered a round of desserts for everyone to share on top of their own (it’s like he knew we all had such a hard time deciding).

Their frozen chocolate éclair, caramel cheesecake and signature house chocolate mousse made the rounds. The chocolate mousse was delicious and was actually served in a little house made of chocolate.

As you can imagine, we all felt like royalty that night. I did my best to eat like a pauper the next day! Thanks to our generous friend, Alex, for an incredible meal and experience.

This week’s recipe is for chocolate mousse — unusual because it is made with olive oil, which makes it even creamier. As you can imagine, it’s rich so you don’t need to serve a lot.

chocolate mousse


  • 200 gram Masters Choice swiss milk chocolate
  • 1/3 cup RALO olive oil or masters choice olive oil
  • 1 envelope unflavoured gelatin
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup whipping (35 per cent) cream
  • fresh mint, for garnish


  • Soften gelatin in water.
  • In a large heatproof bowl over simmering water, melt the chocolate.
  • Slowly stir in the olive oil until smooth. Then add gelatin.
  • Remove from heat. With a mixer at medium speed, beat egg yolks and 1/4 cup sugar until pale yellow and creamy.
  • With mixer at low speed, slowly mix the chocolate-oil mixture into the yolks.
  • Beat egg whites until they form soft peaks.
  • Gradually beat in 1/4 cup of sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form. In a separate bowl, beat whipping cream until stiff peaks form.
  • Gently fold 1/3 egg whites into the chocolate mixture. Add remaining whites until almost combined. Gently fold in whipped cream and combine. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for three hours.
  • When set, scoop out into small bowls and garnish with additional whipped cream and/or a sprig of mint, if desired.

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