Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Stuffed cremini mushrooms

The holidays are a special time of togetherness, celebrations, and of course, happy tummy's. Quick and tasty appetizers are perfect for sharing a drink (or four) around the fire...and if you're as into Christmas as I am, perhaps a giant tree elaborately decorated with red and gold ornaments will also be in this picture. This recipe for stuffed cremini mushrooms, found here, is courtesy of a Williams and Sonoma cookbook circa 2008. These little cups of mouthwatering happiness are seriously addicting...and the fact that they look über fancy is just an added bonus.

What you need:

  • Fresh cremini or white button mushrooms, brushed clean
  • 2 tbsp fresh bread crumbs
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
  • 1 tsp minced fresh sage
  • 1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 3 oz serrano ham or prosciutto, finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp creme fraiche or sour cream
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tbsp dry white wine or vermouth
  • 2 tbsp grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (or more...)

What you do:

1. Preheat an oven to 400°F.  Lightly oil 1 heavy baking dish, or 2 large enough to accommodate the mushrooms snugly in a single layer.
3. Trim off the rough base of each mushroom stem, then remove the stems and chop finely. 
4. In a large bowl, combine the chopped stems, the bread crumbs, parsley, sage, garlic, ham, 3 tablespoons crème fraîche, and the salt and pepper. Mix together thoroughly. The mixture should hold together in clumps. If it seems dry, mix in another 1 to 2 teaspoon of crème fraîche.
5. Put the mushroom caps, stem sides up, in a steamer basket set over simmering water. Cover and steam until tender and glossy, about 3 minutes. Lift out the basket, allowing any moisture to drain, and let cool.
6. Spoon 1 generous teaspoon of the ham mixture onto the stem side of each mushroom cap and smooth it into an even, rounded mound. Place the mushrooms, stuffing side up, in the prepared baking dish.
7. Drizzle the wine around the edges of the dish and sprinkle each cap with about 1/8 teaspoon of the cheese. Bake, uncovered, until golden, about 30 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes, garnish with cheese and serve warm or at room temperature.

Feel free to experiment with the spices, herbs, and just the ingredient quantities in general. I missed out on the sage and possssibly overloaded on the cheese...but as if that's ever a problem.

Anyone else wishing for a White Christmas?

Happy Tuesday!


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Spaghetti alla carbonara

Pasta is my comfort food.  It makes me happy when I'm feeling sad, calm when I'm feeling stressed, and always hits the spot when I'm meandering through the fridge searching for that late night snack. Hot, cold, or 2 days old - the stuff never tastes bad!  One of my all-time favourites since I was little has been 'spaghetti all carbonara'. Eggs and bacon, in pasta. It's like breakfast pasta (if something exists that's more exciting than this, absolutely let me know). I've been trying to find the perfect recipe and I think Nigella Lawson has really brought out a winner.  She manages a perfect balance between English and Italian cuisine - parmesan cheese and pancetta paired with whole eggs and a little bit of cream. You can find the full recipe here, its from her cookbook "Feast". (Which, by the way, is pretty damn amazing if you are struggling with an upcoming dinner event). 

What you need

  • 500 g spaghetti
  • 275 g pancetta
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 60 ml white wine (dry)
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 50 g freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 60 ml double cream (I used half and half)
  • 1 sprinkle of nutmeg
Fresh pancetta, with the rind off.
Dice the pancetta into small cubes.
Using a pan that will fit the pasta later, cook the pancetta on low heat with a bit of minced garlic.
Cook until the pancetta is crispy, not crunchy.
Add the wine, let it bubble away the alcohol for a few minutes, then take the pan off the heat.
Mix eggs, cream, cheese, and pepper in a bowl. don't overbeat the eggs - just lightly stir them.
Cook the pasta al dente. Remove about 1 cup of pasta water. Put the other pan, the one with the pancetta, on the heat and add the drained pasta, tossing well to coat with the syrupy bacon mixture. Add some of the pasta water to lubricate if needed.
Take the pan off the heat (again), and ad the eggs and cheese mixture, tossing everything to mix. Grind over some pepper, grate over some nutmeg, and dig in.
What's your favourite pasta? If you don't have more pasta.

Happy Thursday!


Monday, October 15, 2012

Universal grill

Interior of universal grill. taken from their website

As a firm advocate of breakfast, nothing excites me more than Sunday brunch with good friends. Yesterday I had the delight of trying a new spot - Universal Grill, at 1071 Shaw Street in Toronto.  Even though it only seats about 35-40, the wait was less than 30 minutes - which is huge for anyone that knows the typical toronto brunch scene.  It's not your 'less than $10 greasy spoon', BUT the food is, well...not greasy, and your tummy leaves (very) happily satisfied. I had the house cured salmon and eggs on toast and it was PERFECT. Sometimes smoked salmon leaves a real fishy taste in your mouth, but these lox were succulently sweet and not overpowering.
Cappuccino to start
Special - Scrambled Eggies: house cured salmon on an omlette, with spuds and toast ($13) (Mine!)
Omelette of the day ($11)
Huevos Rancheros ($12)
Be sure to check out the "Specials" Chalkboard behind the counter, that's where I found my heavenly entree. Or, if you're a huge nerd like me, you can look up the Specials on their website which they update daily (extra points).  Oh, also! Do you like mussels and Tuesdays? Every Tuesday the price you pay for mussels is the same as the time you order (5:00 PM = $5, etc.). 

Soo.. if you're bored of the same old sunday grub and want a new hidden gem to try, head to Universal Grill. If you aren't looking for it, you'll probably miss it.  Right on the corner of Shaw and Dupont, keep your eyes open for the bright blue building (or the awesome patio if it's summer).

Happy Monday!


Saturday, October 13, 2012

Prosciutto wrapped figs with gorgonzola

I have recently become a fig addict. I say recently because for the vast majority of my 24-year existence, I avoided this fruit like the plague. My family loves them, my grandparents grow them, and I have done everything in my power to stay as far away from them as humanly possible. It started in Grade 2 - I tried my first Fig Newton, spit the whole thing out, and vowed to never eat anything fig-related for the rest of my life. It took me up until about 2 weeks ago to fully accept that Fig Newtons (yuck) are very, very, far from what an actual fresh fig tastes like. I was in Italy, and my friends were picking them off the trees in the orchard.  Something inside me said "go on, give it another try!" I did, and it was love at first fig. 

This appetizer is simple, fast, and perfect for a pre-lunch/dinner soirree. Not too filling, and not too messy. The salty prosciutto and gorgonzola pairs perfectly with the sweetness from the fig, and once the whole package is lightly roasted, all the flavours blend together creating a smorgasbord of deliciousness.  I made these badboys as starters for our family Thanksgiving lunch and they were a hit. Although... cheese wrapped in meat? How can you really go wrong here...

What you need
  • 12 fresh figs, trimmed of any hard stem
  • 1/4 pound gorgonzola cheese, cut into 12 pieces
  • 12 slices prosciutto
  • Honey or balsamic vinegar, for drizzling
Score the inside of the fig, creating a little pocket for the cheese.
Stuff a piece of cheese into the slit of each fig, then wrap with a piece of prosciutto.  They look nicer without the toothpick, but if you don't have a long enough piece of meat it's difficult to keep it all wrapped up.
Broil at 450°F for about 4-8 minutes, until the cheese is melted. Do not overcook.
Serve on a platter with a few sprigs of rosemary, and drizzle with either a bit of honey or aged balsamic vinegar.
That's it, that's all! Easy peasy. 

Happy Saturday!


P.S After a long hiatus of school, work, weddings, and some vacation time (!), I am making a conscious effort not to ignore my little blog when life gets hectic. See you soon =)

Thursday, August 2, 2012


Pronounced "bru-shket-ta", this appetizer is a favourite among Italian and North American cuisines alike. Quick to make, and easy to eat, Bruschetta is appropriate for meals in all seasons. Late summer works best, as the tomatoes are ripe and juicy. Plum tomatoes have less seeds and a thicker skin so they're easier to work with. To make the bruschetta a bit fancier, add a slice of buffalo mozzarella before topping the bread crackers with the tomato mixture.

Gather some ripe tomatoes (these are from Nonna's garden)
De-seed the tomatoes
Chop them up into bite-size chunks
Finely chop up fresh parsley and basil
Add to the tomatoes with a few cloves of minced garlic, and finely chopped red onion. Add salt and pepper to taste. Store in the fridge to let all the flavours combine.
Lightly coat the slices of a fresh baguette with extra virgin olive oil. Bake in the oven at 450 for 5-6 minutes, or when bread becomes golden.

Spoon a bit of the mixture on each cracker right before serving. If you prepare this too early, the bread will get soggy.
I'm off to Montreal until Monday! Happy almost long weekend!


Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Grand electric

Grand electric, bustling just as much outside as in
Anyone that has a remote interest in the toronto food scene should have heard some of the buzz surrounding Grand Electric, the small mexican-american joint on Queen West, in the past few months. I ventured there on Friday with a few friends to see what all the hullaballoo was about and all I have to say is, get yo ass there asap!! And get there early. Or late, because there will be a line, and it will be long. We arrived just before 8, and the (lovely) hostess said the next table of four would be available in about an hour and a half. Luckily Parkdale is not lacking in the bar/food department so we headed across the street to The Rhino for a drink and some app's. Although we didn't actually get in until just before 10, I can truly say it was well worth sticking around. Not only is the menu price savvy (taco's for $3.50) and the ambiance totally cool ( rooftop patio, picnic table benches, Jay-Z blasting all night, come on.....), but the food was just incredible. I'm starting to see the appeal of smaller menu's - the food comes fast, and always tastes salivation-worthy. My favourite on this menu would have to be the fish tacos, crisp and grease-free, with the grilled corn (lightly covered in a cheese butter) following in a close second. Also, the drink menu is rather impressive, especially for bourbon lovers (there are bourbon lovers out there right?)
bourbon mint lemonade and the grand electric sour (bourbon sour)
an elaborate bourbon menu
tuna ceviche
beef cheek taco, fish taco
grilled corn
grilled squid
....and another round of fish tacos
happy! (note the cool menu in the background)
If you're looking for some sweet eats on Queen, check out grand electric. The patio shuts down at 10:30, but the inside rocks until late.

Happy Tuesday!


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Veggie puttanesca

While it's basically just a spin off the all-time fave pasta puttanesca, i'm quite a fan of the added veggie/sans capers recipe. Mainly because I can't afford capers right now.

Slice up 1 zucchini 
Set aside in a bowl with washed, dried, and sliced mushrooms

Sauté garlic and chopped white onion in about 2 tbsp oil
Toss the veggies in with the onions and garlic

Stir occasionally
Mix 1 jar of Nonna's tomato sauce (or your favourite tomato sauce) with
half a can of tomato paste
Add to the veggies with 1/2 cup olives
Add crumbled feta to taste
Pair with your favourite pasta and bon appetite
I've been reading a ton of reviews lately about Grand Electric, the Mexican restaurant on Queen West. I'm heading there Friday for a farewell dinner with some friends so hopefully my expectations aren't set too high!
Happy Tuesday!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Eden on the Lakeshore

As you can clearly see, the view from outside Eden Trattoria on the Lakeshore definitely makes the visit worthwhile, especially on a clear night. I'm not one to give "bad" reviews of restaurants, and Eden was by no means bad, but I think it's fair to say I was not overly impressed with the meal. I had no complaints with the calamari and chicken parmigiana - they were great. But even though you can decorate your pizza with a whole whack of different toppings, I didn't really enjoy the final product. I found the crust too thick, and the sauce too wet, so most of the toppings would fall off when you picked up a slice. That being said, I'm a pretty picky pizza-eater as my family creates a masterpiece that could rival any pizzeria in the city.  I think the ambiance is Eden's real selling point - it has a spectacular view and a great patio so I would come back for drinks and appetizers.  I also got a $100 parking ticket (yes, ONE HUNDRED dollars) which may have left a sour taste in my mouth in addition to the meal, so watch for that if you're parking on the Lakeshore.

Freshly Battered Calamari and Shrimp - $13.99
Large personal pizza with extra toppings - $17.50
Only half with hot peppers
Chicken Breast Parmigiana -$15.99
Happy Thursday!

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