Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Recipe: Calamari

Last Sunday, my husband David and I attended a birthday celebration in honour of my remarkable Uncle (also named David).  His wife, my Aunt Susan, planned the surprise celebration, which was quite honestly the best birthday party we’ve ever been to.  

The event was held at “Pasquale’s Trattoria”, a fantastic Italian restaurant located in dowtown Oakville.  About fifty of Uncle David’s closest friends and relatives came out to celebrate this milestone birthday.  The evening was filled with fun, food, laughter and tender moments, as there were roughly a dozen touching speeches in addition to a hilarious Las Vegas-style singer!  It was such a pleasure to be introduced to and chat with so many of the people in Uncle David’s life that I had heard about over the years, but had never met.

Now – to the food – it was an amazing spread, to say the least!  Brace yourself – it was a lengthy menu… We started with bruschetta as well as fresh bread with olive oil & balsamic vinegar.  Next they brought out platters of antipasto – think cured meats, cheeses, marinated vegetables and olives.  After that?  My fav – bowls stuffed with fried calamari with marinara dipping sauce and steamed mussels.  

Following the seafood (by this point, I was getting worried because I was already full, while my husband was completely in his element, just getting warmed up…) they brought out perfectly cooked penne pasta with a light rose sauce topped with freshly grated parmesan.  Then, we had our choice of entrees:  veal marsala, chicken picatta or roasted salmon.  Finally, we ended the meal with a delicious layered cake.  It was so pretty that there was a crowd of people taking pictures of it, myself included.

The evening was remarkable and will certainly be one that I’ll always remember – and not just because of the food!  Happy Birthday Uncle David.

Simple Fried Squid
recipe adapted from Fine Cooking magazine


§         2½ (two-and-a-half) lbs. squid, cleaned and cut into 1/2-inch-wide rings
§         ½ (one-half) cup all-purpose flour
§         sunflower oil, for deep-frying (you’ll need a few cups)
§         lemon wedges, for garnish and serving
§         salt and freshly ground black pepper

§         Italian marinara sauce for dipping (or use your favourite seafood sauce)

1.      Lightly season the squid rings with salt and coat them in the flour, shaking off any excess.
2.      Heat the oil in a deep-fryer or pan to 350–375°F or until a cube of bread browns in 30 seconds.
3.      Add the squid rings, in batches, and cook until golden brown.
4.      Remove with a slotted spoon, drain well and keep warm while cooking the remaining batches.
5.      Season to taste with salt and pepper.
6.      Serve the squid garnished with the lemon wedges and marinara sauce for dipping.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Recipe: Donut Muffins

David, John and I just got back from a wonderful long-weekend getaway to Geneva-on-the-Lake, Ohio.  We’d visited for the first time last summer and had such a great time that we decided to return for the Victoria Day weekend.

John loved this visit even more than last year, as he was older and accordingly, more interested in all of the fun activities for kids.  Truth be told, David and I were looking forward to the burgers at Eddie’s Grill and the old-fashioned donuts at Madsen’s almost as much as we were looking forward to spending time away from the hustle and bustle of our regular routine, with Johnny all to ourselves.  

Madsen’s Donuts is an institution in Geneva-on-the-Lake.  They’ve been in business since 1938 and still make donuts the old-fashioned way.  This no-frills-yet-charming space has an open kitchen, so you can watch the donuts being made right before your eyes.  

After witnessing the line-ups at Madsen’s (as well as for apple fritters at the recent Mennonite Relief Sale in New Hamburg) I’m positive that there are many other donut-lovers in Waterloo Region as well.  This is a fun recipe because it’s a muffin, but it tastes like an old-fashioned donut (I think the magic is in the nutmeg…).  It’s a tasty way to get your donut fix with a lot less mess and effort!

Donut Muffins - adapted from Fine Cooking magazine - yields 24 medium sized muffins

ingredients for the muffins:
§         ¾ lb. (three-quarters of a pound) unsalted butter, at room temperature
§         1¾ (one-and-three-quarters) cups sugar
§         4 (four) eggs
§         6 (six) cups all-purpose flour
§         1 (one) tablespoon plus 2 (two) teaspoons baking powder
§         ½ (one-half) teaspoon baking soda
§         2 (two) teaspoons salt
§         1 (one) teaspoon ground nutmeg
§         1 2/3 (one-and-two-thirds) cups milk, any kind (skim, 1 % or 2 %)
§         1/4 (one-quarter) cup buttermilk
§         1 (one) teaspoon pure vanilla extract

ingredients for the topping:
§         ¾ (three-quarter) cups butter, melted, use more if required
§         1 (one) cup granulated sugar
§         1 (one) tablespoon ground cinnamon, more if you choose
§         ¼ (one-quarter) teaspoon nutmeg, more if you choose

method for the muffins:
1.       Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2.       In a stand mixer or a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until just mixed in. Scrape down sides of bowl with a spatula.
3.       In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg.  Stir the milk, buttermilk and vanilla together in another separate bowl or dish.
4.       With a wooden spoon, mix a quarter of the dry ingredients into the butter-sugar mixture.  Then mix in a third of the milk mixture.  Continue mixing in the remaining dry and wet ingredients alternately, ending with the dry.
5.       Mix until well combined but do not over mix, as this will result in tough muffins.
6.       Use greased paper liners or grease and flour two standard-size muffin tins.  Scoop enough batter into each tin so that the top of the batter is even with the rim of the cup.
7.       Bake the muffins until firm to the touch, about 27-35 minutes.

method for the topping:
1.       Combine the sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg together in a bowl.
2.       Dunk the top of each muffin into the melted butter (or use a pastry brush) and then dip them into the bowl of cinnamon sugar, to coat the muffin top completely.

Additional Notes:  If you like the taste of powdered donuts, you can also top the muffins with icing sugar, or add finely chopped apple to the batter, for a muffin that tastes more like an apple fritter.

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