I always find it funny when the theme of the 5 Star Makeover is a holiday that I do not celebrate…at least not at the same time. Nor the same way. Of course I am happy to make a special post to my American readers and wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving this coming Thursday November 22nd.
In Canada we celebrate Thanksgiving on the 2nd Monday of October. The holiday is a celebration of the end of the harvest and giving thanks to the past year, just like the US. But since we are a bit more north of the equator our harvest ends sooner…hence the varying dates. On top of that in my province of Quebec it is just not a big holiday. In my family we traditionally close the family cottage for the winter on Canadian Thanksgiving so we have slightly better meal on the BBQ. No turkey, no sweet potatoes and no green beans.
So when the November theme came out, the classic green bean casserole, I was a bit at a loss. I know what is in this dish but I have never eaten it in my life. And my god can it be any more old fashion? Did you know that this dish was first created in 1955 by the Campbell Soup Company? The word retro got stuck in my head as I was trying to come up with a concept for my gourmet rendition. Why not combine it with the next retro popular food fancy dish of the 1950s: the aspic!
Let’s travel back in time as I set on my Thanksgiving table for you a Retro Aspic Green Bean Casserole. The basic ingredients are all here – green beans, mushrooms, cream of mushroom soup, and homemade healthier french fried onions – just under a very unique presentation.
Retro Aspic Green Bean Casserole
Recipe Type: Vegetables & Side Dishes
Author: Evelyne Budkewitsch
Serves: 6-8 small portions
1/4 cup cold water
1/2 Knox gelatin envelope
1/2 can of cream of mushroom soup
1/2 can milk
3/4 pound mushrooms
2 tbsp olive oil
A big handful of green beans
1/2 tomato, chopped small
1 Knox gelatin envelope
1/4 cup cold water
1 3/4 chicken stock
2 tbsp flour
Salt and pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
Bloom the 1/2 envelope of gelatin in 1/4 cup cold water. In the mean time warm the soup and milk in a small pot. Add gelatin to soup mix. Bring to a boil and stir until gelatin is dissolved.
Lightly grease a 6 inch round cake pan with olive oil. Pour soup mix into the pan and refrigerate until set, about 2-3 hours.
Slice mushrooms. Heat olive oil in a pan and brown the mushrooms. Set aside.
In a large pot bring to a boil the green beans in water. Simmer 8-10 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process. Cut green beans down to 2 inches. Mix with tomato.
Bloom the 1 envelope of gelatin in 1/4 cup cold water. In the mean time bring to a boil the chicken stock. Add gelatin to stock and stir until gelatin is dissolved. Let cool.
Slice onion 1/4 in thick. Mix flour, salt and pepper in a bowl. Heat olive oil in a frying pan. Dip the onion rings in the flour and fry them on medium heat until brown, about 10 minutes. Set aside.
Place the green beans on top of the set soup mix. Layer mushrooms on top of green beans. Just cover veggies with cooled stock and refrigerate until set, about 8 hours to overnight.
To unmold, pass a knife around the perimeter of the mold. Fill a pot with hot tap water. Place aspic mold in the hot water for 10seconds.
Place a plate on top of mold and flip in one quick move. Lift mold gently.
This month’s 5 Star Makeover could not be more seasonal: we are cooking or baking with any squash of our choice. My recipe lead me down an unusual path for a squash recipe, it actually took me to South Africa. I bet you would be surprised to learn that pumpkin and other squash are served as a side dish in almost every restaurant. The South Africans love this vegetable and some varieties are indigenous to South Africa.
South Africa is located at the southern tip of Africa. For me it feels like a whole world away, making it that much more intriguing. Although the country has had its fair share of historical turmoil, South Africa is the most stable country on the African continent, making it a great introduction gateway if you plan to explore Africa some day. The urban cities are quite developed and modern. Chances are any trip to Africa will have flights to Johannesburg in your itinerary so why not stop a bit and explore.
The culture is astoundingly varied. Did you know the country has 11 official languages? The big cities are getting closer and closer to our Western standards of living but it is a reality that the rural population is still considered of the poorest in Africa. Yet the rural inhabitants are also the people who hold on to tradition the strongest, such as the Zulu culture which is still very much alive; we are mostly familiar with their tribal dance and song.
There are so many wonderful sights to explore: the number one main attraction is the wildlife reserves where you can see elephants and rhinos. There are many unique things to see with strong political influences like the prison that held Nelson Mandela. The one attraction I am most curious about is the Cradle of Mankind, a large collection of caves rich in hominid and advanced ape fossils. And no trip here would be complete without a tour of the wonderful vineyards and tasting the local dishes…which brings us back to the Squash theme of the 5 Star Makeover for October.
I wanted to cook with new squashes I had yet to explore. I could not resists these two beauties: the Turban and Delicata squash. The Turban has a unique shape that has earned it its name. The flesh has notes of hazelnut when ripe. If you pick it to soon it could be bitter. The Turban squash has been used more for decorative purposes in the past but it is now making an appearance in the kitchen. It is great for soups and desserts as the flesh is quite moist.
The Delicata squash has an elongated shape marked by yellow and green stripes. This is a heirloom variety. The flesh is an orange-yellow color. Taste wise it is the sweet potato of the squash world and the flesh is creamy while still holding its shape. This one is great for stuffing, in meat dishes or as a side dish.
Pumpkin Fritters, or Pampoenkoekies, are a traditional South African meal that can be prepared as a savory or sweet dish. Of course you can substitute the pumpkin for another moist flesh squash like the Turban squash. If you want a sweet fritter reduce the salt a bit and add 2 tbsp of sugar, then dust with a cinnamon sugar.
I chose the savory version which pairs beautifully with a spicy mango salsa. And I just so happen to find a South African Mango Salsa recipe. It is kind of unique with some cucumber in there. The recipe asks for a super hot chilli of your choice. I actually changed it with a African Bird pepper powder I have. On the hot scale this pepper kicks ass so better to add a little bit at a time.
The Maple Glazed Delicata Rings have no relation to South Africa but they look cool and are wonderful to snack on in between fritters. It’s like vegetable candy.
Ξ South African Pumpkin Fritters (Pampoenkoekies) Ξ
adapted from Weight Watchers
1/2 cup flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 cups pumpkin or squash
2 large eggs, separated
In a small bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. In a large mixing bowl, combine pumpkin with egg yolks; mix until well-combined. In another small bowl, whip egg whites until soft peaks form. Alternating in batches, add flour mixture and egg whites to pumpkin mixture, stirring after each addition.
Coat a large skillet with oil; heat until oil shimmers. Drop 4 large spoonfuls of batter onto skillet to form four 3-inch fritters; cook until bubbles start to form along sides, about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Flip fritters and cook until lightly browned, about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes more; remove fritters to a serving plate and cover to keep warm. Repeat process two more times to make twelve fritters total. Yields 1 fritter per serving.
1 medium Delicata squash
1tablespoons melted butter
1 tablespoons maple syrup
Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Grease the foil or spray with nonstick cooking spray. Cut the squash in 1/2-inch thick rounds; scoop seeds out of each round. In a bowl, toss the squash with the melted butter and maple syrup. Arrange the squash on the foil-lined pan. Sprinkle lightly with salt. Bake at 400° for 35 to 45 minutes, turning once about halfway through the baking time.
Ξ South African Summer Mango Salsa Ξ
adapted from Ocado
1/2 Red Onion
1/8 tsp African Bird pepper (or 1/2 Hot Chilli)
1/2 good handful Coriander
Dash of sea salt
1 pouring lime Juice
Dice mangoes in 1/2 inch cubes, shop red onion, and dice cucumber. Chop up the hottest chilli you can find or add chilli powder. Chop coriander and add. Pour in lime juice and add salt. Mix well. Leave in fridge for an hour.
This month’s theme for the 5 Star Makeover is quite seasonal: Apples. With such an easily adaptable ingredient to field of options was pretty wide open. But I decided finally to go for a very classical dish, a wonderful French apple pie cooked in a luscious caramel sauce. It is a very sophisticated tasting pie which consists of 3 ingredients in profusion: lots of butter, lots of sugar and lots of apples.
It may not be the absolutely prettiest pie in the world but the taste is really gourmet. The first time I had a Tarte Tatin was at a lovely French restaurant in Montreal called Tonnerre de Brest. This charming true french bistro serves outstanding French classics and the small place is true to a real bistro like you find in France. I believe it was my first visit that I ordered this dessert. I was blown away and conquered for ever. If I see it on a menu I always get it. I added an interesting little twist to my version. I infused my butter with an interesting combination of sage, cloves and vanilla. The notes of this infusion was beautifully subtle and very welcomed.
I love the folkloric tale recounting the origin of this pie. The Tarte Tatin was first created by accident in a French Inn, in the 1880s. The hotel was run by the two Tatin sisters. Supposedly one of the sister was work in the kitchen preparing meals for the customers. She started to make a traditional apple pie but left the apples cooking in butter and sugar for too long. In an attempt to save the pie, she tried to rescue the dish by putting the pastry base on top of the pan of apples and baking it in the whole pan in the oven. She then served the pie by flipping it onto a plate. Another version to the story I heard is that when taking the pie out of the oven the sister would have dropped it on the floor and she tried to save it by slipping it onto a plate and serving it upside down. Either story had the same result: the Tarte Tatin was a success.
Ξ Tarte Tatin with Sage, Vanilla and Clove Infused Butter Ξ
8 to 10 firm apples: a mixture of sweet and acidic varieties. I used Fuji and Gala.
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, slightly soft
4 cloves (1/4 tsp rounded, ground)
8 sage leaves (2/3 tsp dried)
vanilla bean, 2 inch segment
1 cup sugar
8 ounces (half a box) puff pastry
1. In a small sauce pan heat the butter over medium heat. When the butter is frothing and bubbly, turn heat to low, halve a 2 inch segment of vanilla bean and scrape the beans into the butter, then add 4 cloves and 8 sage leaves. Heat for five minutes, stirring occasionally, then off the heat and set aside to steep. Strain the infused butter.
2. While your butter is infusing, peel, core and halve lengthwise the apples.
3. Preheat the oven to 400F. Pour the butter in a cold large skillet. Make sure to cover the bottom and sides of the skillet. Sprinkle the sugar on the top and shake to ensure it is evenly distributed. Arrange the apples standing on their sides, in concentric circles, embedding them in the butter/sugar mix. Pack the apples in as tight as you can.
4. Turn the burner on med-high and cook the apples. It will take 10 to 20 minutes. I like to turn them half way if the piece are still solid. As the apples cook, the sugar will turn to a caramel as well. Keep an eye on the pan, ideally you want a rich deep toffee color.
5. Roll out the puff pastry into a disc 1 inch wider than the rim of the pan. When the apples are ready, drop the disc of pastry onto the apples and let the edges hang over the sides of the pan. Place the pan in a preheated oven and bake for fifteen minutes, or until the pastry is nicely browned.
6. Remove from oven and let it rest for 5 minute. Then place an inverted plate, slightly bigger than the pan, over the top. Hold with one hand firmly the plate and grip the handle with a cloth firmly with the other hand. Quickly flip the skillet over so the plate is underneath. Lower the plate and pan onto a steady surface, pause a moment, and then lift off the pan. Serve warm.
This month’s 5 Star Makeover, hosted by the amazing 5 Star Foodie and Lazaro Cooks is another brilliant group presentation: A tea party. Each member was asked to prepare a nibble such as the ones you would find in a tea service.
The variant name of Napoléon appears to come from “napolitain”, the French adjective for the Italian city of Naples, but altered by association with the name of Emperor Napoleon I of France. However there is no evidence to connect the pastry to the emperor himself. The classic french Napoléon, or Mille Feuille, is a pastry consisting of with almond flavored paste.
But in Italy, where the city of Naples is, it is called mille foglie and there are several savory versions of it. I will be exploring a savory version for you today with the us use of salmon, a favorite filling used to make finger sandwiches during tea service. Another classic component of tea service is Crême Fraiche, a thick cream with a tangy sour taste which results from light fermentation. It can be used on both sweets (like scones) or savory (sandwiches) treats.
Did you know that high tea was actually for the poor and common folk? They were served at high tables without chairs, with dishes such as meat, cheese, pickles bread. What the socialites and aristocrats enjoyed was actually referred to as low tea, or afternoon tea, because the rich had the luxury of ‘waisting’ time sitting leisurely for a snack.
Crême Fraiche: 1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 tsp dried dill
1 tbsp fresh chives, chopped
1/4 tsp pepper
1 pinch salt
1 sprig thyme (or 1/4 tsp dried)
1 bay leaf
4 oz salmon
3 oz smoked salmon (I used a dry Maple version)
Crème Fraîche: place the sour cream and whipping cream in a jar with an airtight lid. Cover securely and shake 15 seconds. Place on the counter (yes the counter) for 24 hours or until thickened. Stir once or twice during that time. Mix in the dill, chives, pepper and salt. Leftovers can be refrigerated for up to two weeks.
On lightly floured surface, roll puff pastry to a rectangle 10 by 12 inches and about 1/8-inch thick. Cut into 20 pieces, 2 by 3 inches . Place on parchment paper lined baking sheets; prick pastry all over with fork. Bake in 425°F (220°C) oven for about 12 minutes or until golden, rotating pans once. Let cool completely.
Filling: Meanwhile, in shallow saucepan, bring 4 cups (1 L) water, peppercorns, thyme and bay leaf to boil. Reduce heat to medium. Add salmon; cover and simmer for about 8 minutes or until salmon flakes easily when tested with fork. Transfer to plate; let cool completely. Break into chunks.
Lay 1 of the pastry squares on work surface; dollop with Crème Fraîche. Top with some of the poached salmon and a slice of smoked salmon. Top with another square of pastry; repeat layers. Sprinkle with chives. Serves 10.
Oh so looking forward to what everyone will make for this 5 Star Makeover. Our theme this month is Greek Meze, or appetizers. We all checked in to make sure no recipe will be made twice so watch out for the round up for amazing Greek fare inspiration. I chose a wonderful meze which can easily be transformed into a main meal as well. My meze is called Garides Saganaki, or Shrimp Saganaki.
This theme came up at a most appropriate time in an odd way for me. One of the things I do at my 9 to 5 job is write an online travel guide. I just happen to finish the country Greece, having written quite a bit about Greek food. Greek food brings back childhood memories of dinners parties at my dad’s old partner’s house. He and his wife where first generation Greek and they had a daughter my age. I remember being terribly impressed at the site of so many flavorful dishes when they invited us over for dinner. OK I rambling but basically I want to say how much I enjoy really good Greek food.
I am also a fan of anything seafood so I jumped at the chance to prepare this dish. I also go gaga for feta! This is a really simple and quick dish to prepare but it is so packed with flavor. I am always amazed at the simplicity of certain recipes which make my taste buds go crazy. I got a similar delightful surprise with the Boureki I made recently, a dish for the Greek Islands. There are two tips I can give you to prepare a successful simple Greek dish: the freshness of your ingredients and enjoy the smells as you cook. The smells are uplifting.
The word Saganaki refers to a cooking term in Greek cuisine where the food is cooked in a single-serving pan. The pan is also called Saganaki. The most popular dish is the Cheese Saganaki where a hard cheese is pan seared. If you want to get really fancy why not flambe it at the end with a shot of Ouzo! There are a couple of versions where shrimp and mussels are used. As you may have guessed it by now Garides is the phonetically written word for shrimp in Greek, γαρίδα.
We have 3 guest start ingredients in this recipe. The first is a hot pepper I picked up in Toronto last week in a Latin market. The Cascabel chili would be classified as medium heat. It is know for sounding like a maracas when dried as the seeds get loose in the bell shaped pepper. Next up is Mastic which I ground and added to some white wine. I did not have Ouzo so I improvised! Mastic is the resin of the Mastic tree on the island of Chios. It has a distinctive flavor close to pine or cedar. Finally to add a subtle touch of sunshine I used the O blood orange olive oil which I found on the Foodspring Marketplace. This is a cool website which was set up by a non-profit organization, the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade. You can find many natural, organic and exotic ingredients listed here but they do not sell them, instead they link you to where you can by the products.
Ξ Garides Saganaki Ξ
2 tablespoon blood orange olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 1/2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 teaspoon Cascabel pepper flakes (or any hot pepper)
1 1/2 cup tomatoes, chopped
1 tbsp fresh oregano, chopped
Salt and pepper
1/3 cup ouzo (or mastic liqueur or white wine)
1/2 pound medium shrimp
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
chopped oregano for serving
Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until softened and translucent. Add the hot pepper flakes and garlic, saute for 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes, oregano, salt, pepper and ouzo and simmer until the sauce thickens for 5 minutes. Add the shrimp and simmer until just cooked, turning the shrimp once halfway. Transfer half the mixture to a souffle dish and top with half the feta cheese, repeat. Bake in a preheated oven at 425 F until the sauce is bubbly for approx 10 minutes. Sprinkle with fresh oregano. Makes 4 appetizer servings or 2 main meals.
Traditionally this meze is served with crusty bread. If you want to make it a meal than prepare pasta, or couscous and serve the shrimp over it.
The 5 Star Makeover group is back this month with a very season appropriate type of dish: chilled soups. Who would want to eat a hot soup during a heat wave? Not me. And I was pretty sure neither would my guests I received this past Saturday night, at the end of a heat wave.
Funny enough the menu consisted of what were suppose to eat 3 months ago when we all rented a cottage together for a weekend. A couscous (coming soon) and a squash soup never saw day from lack of time. I took the ingredients home to freeze until we could all meet again. Our warm squash soup of the winter seemed inappropriate so I found a cold soup that fit the main ingredient. I forgot to take a picture of the soup with the fried cubes of pancetta I added…totally not a Thai thing but it worked perfectly.
1 stalk lemongrass (2 tbsp)
6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1-inch piece ginger, roughly chopped
3 cups butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed
2 tsp red curry paste
1 tsp palm sugar
2 kaffir lime leaves
2 tsp fish sauce
1 (14.5-ounce) can coconut milk, light or regular
1 lime, juiced
Salt, to taste
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
1. Slice and mince the lemongrass stalk.
2. In a large pot add the lemongrass, stock and ginger. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer for 20 minutes. Strain the lemongrass and ginger out and return to the pot.
3. Add the butternut squash, red curry paste, sugar, kaffir leaves and fish sauce to the stock, and simmer until the squash is cooked for about 1 hour.
4. Remove from heat and blend the soup until smooth in a food processor or an immersion blender. Return to heat and add the coconut milk, lime juice and salt. Chill soup completely. Garnish the soup with cilantro and if you like some cubed pancetta.
Well, I guess it had to happen sooner or later. Ladies and Germs: 5 Star Makeovers is at WAR this month. Yes you read me right. We have created our very own friendly competition based on Restaurant Wars, like the popular part of the Top Chef show. Members of this fabulous gourmet group were divided into teams of 3. We had to come up with a restaurant or menu based on an ingredient or concept.
Does life imitate art or art imitate life? Who knows but unfortunately we did loose some teams along the way following incidents. Mine survived without any battle. I am so happy to have worked with my 2 particular team members Faith and Shannon. We all got along fabulously, came to decisions rather fast and we were very encouraging of one another.
My team chose radishes and we announced our menu about a month ago here: Raphanus! Celebrating the Radish. Not one of us were particular fans of this vegetable but we all appreciated the challenge of turning this foe into a shinning star for our dishes. And since that was not tough enough we added another aspect: there must be a citrus vanilla component to our dish. All 3 of us were ready to confront our radish dish with our chef’s sleeves rolled up. Who won? In the end the radish won us all over.
Fish tortilla with a citrus & vanilla gastrique radish salsa, battered radish leaves.
Say that 3 times fast lol. It’s a mouth full…but a so delicious one. OK so my vanilla component is a vanilla gastrique. I never made one before so this was new. A gastrique is a reduction of a sweet and sour element, usually sugar and vinegar. I added a vanilla bean to mine. This stuff is freaking addictive it’s ridiculous. I used it as part of my Radish salsa vinaigrette.
I more then covered the citrus factor. In total I used satsuma mandarin juice, Yuzu lemon juice, dried orange peel and lime juice. I also wanted to add a little heat to my dish since it has a Tex Mex flair. I chose a Serrano pepper and some habanero infused salt, just a touch.
My radish salsa plays the crowning jewel atop of a fantastic fish tortilla dish. Although I enjoy it I don’t prepare a whole lot of Tex Mex, it’s not part of my culture. And I had never had a fish in a tortilla before, something I had been curious about after seeing such a dish featured on a few blogs. Well it was just fantastic and the sweet tanginess of the radish salsa gave it a perfect flavor kick.
And there is a side dish surprise recipe all the way at the bottom of this post!
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup Zinfandel vinegar (you can use any vinegar)
1/2 vanilla bean, split length wise
Add all ingredients to a pan and place on medium heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 8-10 minutes or until the mixture has reduced by 1/3 and is syrupy. Allow to cool and discard bean.
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
Juice from 1 satsuma mandarin (or orange)
1 1/2 tbsp Yuzu lemon juice (or lime)
1 tbsp vanilla gastrique
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Pinch habanero infused salt (or plain salt)
Pepper to taste
Washed, trim and dice finely the radishes. Put all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and chill for at least an hour before serving.
Ξ Fish tortilla with a citrus & vanilla gastrique radish salsa Ξ
For the fish
1 1/2 lbs firm white fish (I used Tilapia)
1 teaspoon lime juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon fenugreek
1/2 teaspoon dried orange peel
Dash of salt and pepper
Heat grill or oven to 400F. Place fish in an aluminum pan, coat with olive oil, lime juice and spices. Cook about 10 minutes (more or less) until fish comes apart with a fork.
red bean paste
red onions, thinly sliced
sour cream with a touch of lime juice and diced Serrano pepper.
Line plate with tortillas. Spoon a layer of red bean paste. Place fish on top of red beans.
Top fish with red onions, cilantro, sour cream and radish salsa. Makes 4 individual servings or 1 big plate to divide.
WAIT, one more recipe, a SIDE DISH adapted from Kitchen Gossip. Why throw away those lovely radish greens? These fritters are like a cross between hush puppies and an Indian Bahji – unique to say the least.
Ξ Battered radish leaves Ξ
2 cups radish leaves, chopped
3 heaping tbsp cornmeal
2 tbsp rice flour
1 Serrano chili, finely chopped
1 tsp Cumin Powder
1 tsp Turmeric
1 tsp Paprika
Salt to taste
Oil to Deep Fry
Mix leaves, flours and spices in a bowl. Add a little bit of water at a time and mix until batter is sticky
Shape into small balls and deep fry in oil at 375F until golden brown.
Drain on paper towels before serving. Enjoy hot or cold.