Berry tea mimosas.

40% iced berry tea.
60% dry white Cava.

It’s good to be home 🙂

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Butternut Squash Soup with Star Anise and Ginger Shrimp

The difficult part of this recipe is simply preparation. Shelling the shrimp, chopping and peeling squash. Luckily, I have a houseful of people right now to help me with that (or Mom, who fills in for the work of at least two), so all I had to do this time was put it together 🙂

Toss about 1/2 – 1 lb shrimp with ginger and marinate about 30 min.

1 tbsp fresh grated ginger
2/3 cup shallot, finely diced
1 clove garlic, finely sliced
3 star anise
3 tbsp butter

Saute until softened. Add 2 lb squash, 4 cups chicken/veg stock, 2 cups water. Simmer until tender. Remove star anise. Blend.

Saute shrimp and divide into bowls or toss directly into the pot – they will sink anyway.

Source: Gourmet 2002 via Epicurious.

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Rainbow Jello Squares!

Happy Birthday, to my niece Emma! She is five years old today! Yay 🙂

So my mom and I stayed up late to make rainbow jello squares… Of course, each layer has to set before the subsequent layer is added. Needless to say, we opted for a shallow pan…

Here’s the recipe, modified from the tasteofhome website. They are super fun to eat with a rainbow of shades of jello.

4 packs of flavoured jello [more for taller squares and more layers]
6 envelopes unflavoured gelatin [one per layer, two for milk/whipping cream. Again, more, if more layers.]
1 can sweetened condensed milk [we used 1 1/2 cups whipping cream, which I recommend, as jello is already sweet]
5 x 1 cups boiling water [one each per jello/whipping cream]
1 x 3/4 cup boiling water [for preparing gelatin for cream]
1/4 cup cold water [for cream]

In a small bowl, combine one package jello and one envelope unflavored gelatin. Stir in 1 cup boiling water until dissolved. Pour into a greased 13″ x 9″ pan. Refrigerate until set but not firm, about 20 minutes.

[Cool the pan in the fridge before the first layer to set more quickly. If you prepare all the layers ahead, you can let them cool a bit before layering them too.]

In small bowl, combine the condensed milk [/whipping cream] and 1 cup boiling water. In another bowl, sprinkle two envelopes unflavored gelatin over cold water; let stand for 1 minute. Stir in 3/4 cup boiling water. Add to milk mixture. Spoon 3/4 cup of the creamy gelatin mixture over the first flavored gelatin layer [add more, if needed]. Refrigerate until set but not firm, about 25 minutes.

Repeat from beginning of recipe, alternating flavored gelatin with creamy gelatin layers. Chill each layer until set but not firm before spooning next layer on top. Finish with a flavoured jello layer.

Refrigerate for at least 1 hour after completing last layer before cutting.

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Fresh Spinach Salad

This recipe was probably one of the first things I learned to make. When I was little, helping my mom out with making dinner, I would diligently measure all of the ingredients, put them in the salad dressing maker and shake them all up. It was also when I learned that salad recipes are not usually written with the dressing ingredients separate from the salad ingredients and that pouring six tablespoons of oil directly onto mushrooms was perhaps not the best route to a tasty salad.

This is a hearty salad in summer or winter, while the eggs and bacon are still warm.

Dressing:
1 garlic clove, halved
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp pepper
6 tbsp olive oil

Salad:
2 lbs spinach
3 boiled eggs, chopped, sliced, smashed or grated
lots of crumbled bacon. Fried. Crumbled. Lots.
fresh mushrooms, sliced t-shaped

The garlic is intended for flavour and should be removed before pouring. If you like more garlic, mince it and add it directly to the dressing. The original recipe also calls for 3 chopped green onions and fresh cauliflower, sliced t-shaped, but I like it with just the above.

Source: Best of Bridge, Royal Treats for Entertaining, 1980.

Cornbread

[Guest post by Stephanie Jackson.]

This is my adaptation of a recipe I’ve had sitting around for about 12 years. I found the original somewhere on the internet, and I’m afraid I don’t remember the source. It’s someone’s family recipe, I believe, so I take no credit for coming up with it.

If you’re a cornbread purist, I’ve included instructions for the original version as well, but I like mine better and it’s pretty much guilt-free. A note on the flours: You can use almost any kind of flour. I like the texture that results from half spelt, half rice. Rice flour alone is very crumbly and spelt flour alone is too heavy. The two combined make for a nice balance.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Lightly butter an 8″x8″ pan and set aside.

Mix and sift together:
3/4 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup unbleached spelt flour
1/2 cup whole grain brown rice flour
1/3 cup organic cane sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt

Add:
1 cup unsweetened, unflavoured almond milk (rice milk, soy milk, and plain old cow’s milk work great, too. Just stick to unsweetened and unflavoured.)
1 egg, well beaten
2 Tbsp melted butter (I use unsalted, especially given the salt already in the recipe. Veggie oil can be used in a pinch, but I prefer the taste of butter. If using oil, go for canola – it won’t interfere with the taste.)

Stir to combine. It will be roughly the consistency of cake batter, but grainier. Pour into the pan and bake for 20 minutes. Let cool before slicing. Makes 9-16 servings, depending on the size you want.

Tastes great warm or cold. It also makes an excellent base for stuffing.

For the purists: substitute all-purpose white flour for the spelt and rice flour, cow’s milk for the almond milk, refined white sugar for the cane sugar.
cornbread

Potato salad

There are so many variations on potato salad, it’s difficult to choose just one. This is the perfect accompaniment to lobster and the simplest recipe I’ve found. Plus, it tastes like summer so I stick with it. Just four ingredients:

potatoes (boil and chop when cool)
mayonnaise
boiled eggs (boil and chop when cool)
chives/scallions (chop)
s & p

Mix. Add edible chive flowers for garnish.

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Lobsters!

A true delicacy on the west coast, real Atlantic lobster. There is definitely a certain skill and experience that comes with cracking and eating a whole lobster that doesn’t include getting it sliced directly down the middle (which seems to be the standard in restaurants for the uninitiated). I’m still a bit too squeamish to cook a lobster myself, so it requires the help of either a seasoned cook, like my mom, or a boyfriend, with less sympathetic tendencies.

Tonight, we had some big ones. 2 lbs each, give or take. And de… licious.

To cook them, take a large stock pot, fill it with water and bring it to a rolling boil. Put in the live lobster head first. They will flip around a bit but put the lid on to ensure it comes back up to a boil as quickly as possible. Once back at a rolling boil, remove lid and cook for about 20 minutes.

To eat them, first wear something washable. And no, a bib won’t cover it. Don’t go out to a fancy dinner and order lobster in something dry-clean only. You clearly don’t know what you’re doing. You will be covered by the time you’re done.
Second, you should have a sauce that is not any more complex than butter and lemon, otherwise you won’t appreciate the flavour of the meat. If they serve you a lobster with some kind of fancy sauce, they clearly don’t know what they’re doing.

If at home, you will need lobster forks. We use escargot forks sometimes as well.
When you get your lobster…
1. Remove the front claws. Crack knuckles with nut cracker or special lobster cracker.
2. Remove small claw joint from the pinchers – twist and flex backward until you remove the fin of cartilage.
3. Crack the larger side of the claw on the thickest part. Grasp the nut cracker flat to the claw, not on it’s side. Remove meat.
4. To remove the tail, twist and pull gently against the body.
5. Squeeze tail together first, to crack, then split apart from the underside. If you’re lucky, you’ll remove the fins from the bottom of the tail.
6. Peel away top layer of the tail from the extended pieces on the body-side. This will expose the “poop-shoot”. Remove.
7. Twist off legs gently to remove as much meat from the body as possible. The leg sections are best done by squeezing out between your teeth. As a kid, I used to pick away at them for hours with a fork, but this seems to be a much more expedient and satisfying method.
8. I usually leave behind the tamale (aka green stuff) and other meat in the body for bisque but have at ‘er, if you like. There’s no sophistication in pure carivorism.

When you’re done, keep all the bits and pieces and leftovers to make bisque!

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Blue Cheese Muffins

Courtesy of BC Wine Trails magazine and Burrowing Owl Winery, this recipe is thick enough to really be more of a scone than a muffin. Plus, it really only makes about 6-7 muffins, so you could make smaller biscuit-sized portions, if you baked them on a cookie sheet.

1/4 onion, small diced

Sweat onion in butter and set aside to cool.

1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1/2 tsp salt

Combine and set aside.

In separate bowl, mix:

1 egg
1/4 cup sour cream/plain yogurt
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp olive oil

Add onions to wet ingredients. Combine with dry ingredients, adding 1/2 cup blue cheese (I would definitely add more!), crumbled, at the very end. Do not overmix! Bake at 325F for about 20 minutes (for muffins, less if making smaller biscuits).

Garnish with chive flowers! Amazingly delicious with bison brisket.

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Shellfish bisque.

I’ll admit, this recipe is a bit over-the-top with an ingredient list a mile long and quite labour intensive for the result but it’s delicious. Deal with it.

You can find lobster shells at the Lobster Man on Granville Island for $3/lb but it’s frozen, so you have to ask for it. I usually collect them from an annual feast at the Water St. Cafe – in April/May of each year, they have a special rate on whole lobster with a side of pasta for $22! (And cheap martinis… It’s really too good to be true.)

You can also use prawns or crab shells for this dish – and keep the heads! That icky stuff – green tamale in lobster and what otherwise looks like brown slurry coming out of spot prawns looks gross but has a ton of flavour and gets all mushed into the soup so you won’t notice it.

1/2 lb shells
1 tbsp olive oil
1 shallot, ciseler
1/2 onion, ciseler
1/2 carrot, paysanne
1/2 celery stalk, paysanne
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 parsley sprigs
2 tarragon sprigs, leaves chopped
1 bay leaf
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp brandy
1/4 cup white wine
2 cups fish stock
s & p
1/4 cup cream

If using fresh prawns, remove heads from body and shells from tails, reserve tails in the fridge to add at the last minute.

In stock pot, heat olive oil on medium heat. Add shallots, onions, carrot, celery, garlic, parsley, tarragon, and bay leaves. Sweat over medium heat about 5 minutes. Add shellfish and crush. Cook 5-10 more minutes, or until shells are red, if using fresh. Add tomato paste and cook for a few more minutes. Add brandy. Stand away from stove and carefully ignite.

(NOTE: when doing flambe, ensure you are well away from any source of oil or heat. There is little alcohol in this recipe so the flame won’t be high but even oven hoods hold residual cooking grease and have been known to catch. If in doubt, take your pot outside.)

Allow to cook for a minute or so, then extinguish with white wine and stock. Add pepper and simmer, about 45 minutes. Strain and crush solids to ensure all liquid is removed.

In separate sauce pan, make a roux with 1 1/2 tbsp butter and 2 tbsp flour. Add strained liquid and whisk to ensure roux is smoothly incorporated. Heat and add cream, adjust seasoning.

Add prawn or leftover lobster/crab meat and serve with chives or tarragon.

Source: Chef Eric Arrouze 911cheferic

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Tomato sauce

Start with cheap tomatoes. This is usually at the end of the season but the smaller veggie markets on 4th, Broadway, or at Granville Island, all sell bags of less than perfect produce for about $1. I bought 40 BC hot house tomatoes yesterday for $5.

Yes, you could go easy – dice them up, stew them and voila. I chose the hard way. I’ve done the stewing before and ended up with weird stringy, woody bits. Maybe a food mill would solve this but I don’t have one so I took the more manual route.

Blanch tomatoes for about 60 seconds or until the skin splits (that means plunge them into a large pot of boiling water and, once they’re done, plunge again into very cold water to stop the cooking process). Peel and seed.
I took the extra step of dousing them in olive oil and a bit of salt and roasting them in the oven too.

Let them cool and chop into saucy-sized bits. I added minced garlic, diced onion, Thai basil, and mushrooms. Before adding the tomatoes, be sure to sauté the garlic and onion to a nice buttery translucent, and fry the mushrooms until browned.

Again, I basically made this up so if anyone has a good tomato sauce recipe to share, I would love to have one, tried and true.

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