Sunday, May 27, 2012

Stinging Nettles and Closson Chase chard

Stinging nettle has a flavour similar to spinach and cucumber when cooked and is rich in vitamins A, C, iron, potassium, manganese, and calcium.  In its peak season, stinging nettle contains up to 25% protein, dry weight, which is high for a leafy green vegetable.  Downfall, stinging nettle is poisonous until cooked, and can give you a stinging rash with hives that is painful for hours.  BUT, try not to let that scare you off.  It's worth it!  Just put some gloves on, always use tongs, and they loose all sting as soon as they are cooked.  They loose their sting after being frozen, dried, blanched or soaked in water.  
Pizza dough may seem difficult and time consuming, but it's not and it's always worth it in the end.  The more times you practice making dough the better it gets, so don't give up!  Have fun with it.
dough recipe - basic all purpose flour recipe
one cup of all purpose flour
two and 1/4 teaspoons of Fleischmann's pizza yeast
one and a half teaspoons of sugar
three quarters teaspoon of salt
two thirds of a cup of warm water, and three tablespoons of oil and mix until blended (one minute).
Bit by bit, add more flour while punching the dough until the dough becomes only slightly sticky, no more than one cup more.  There's no need to let it rise very long, but it never hurts.  We left it for half an hour, letting it double in size.

Stinging Nettle mixture recipe - adapted from Chad Robertson's book, Tartine Bread
four cups of stinging nettles.  Make sure you handle nettles with tongs
half cup of heavy cream
chili pepper flakes
two ounces of 1/4 inch cubed mozzarella cheese
two ounces of 1/4 inch cubed fontina cheese
salt and pepper
Toss the stinging nettle with cream, being very careful to use tongs.  Trust me, they sting!  Nick got a welt on his arm after a leaf jumped out of the bag.  Roll the dough out to desired thickness (go for very thin, the dough will still rise when cooked).  Distribute cheese over the dough, and mound the nettles on top.  Sprinkle with red pepper flakes.  The mound can look quite large, but the nettles will cook down quite a bit when in the oven (or bbq), so be generous.  Our pizza cooked for fifteen minutes on a pizza stone on the bbq, which reached about 400 degrees.  An oven might get hotter, and cook the nettles quicker.  I pushed the nettles down halfway through cooking time, to make sure they stayed covered in cream and didn't burn.

The second pizza we made we covered the dough with grated cheese, added sliced tomatoes and local grilled asparagus, and voila.  Cooked it on the BBQ in the same way the stinging nettle pizza was cooked.  Side note: the asparagus farm in Prince Edward County is a must visit.  Greenridge Farms on Ridge Road.

Wine time!  We were in Prince Edward County this past weekend for Terroir, a local wine festival in Picton Ontario.  The County is somewhere you should visit this summer.  Wineries are quite a distance from each other, so plan a few days of exploring.  But there are many places that are not to miss.  Closson Chase is one of them.  The tasting room is in a beautiful restored old barn, with a gorgeous garden to sip a glass of wine amongst the vines.

2008 Closson Chase, South Clos Chardonnay VQA Prince Edward County $39.95
We selected this wine for a number of reasons. First off, it was International Chardonnay day on May 24th , so why not keep the Chard ball rocking & rolling for the rest of the week and weekend. Secondly, we are in Prince Edward County, Ontario, home to world-class chardonnay (and only 2.5 hours from Toronto.)
Closson Chase is a great producer that has helped spearhead the birth of the Prince Edward County wine industry along with Norm Hardie wines, a big favourite of ours. 
Since 1999, it has been creating distinctive wines that could rival the world’s finest.  Set in Hillier, Ontario, the estate is over 30 acres of limestone-rich soil with Burgundian-varietals of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir planted.
This Chard is unfiltered, but don’t let that cloudiness turn you away. Filtering wines can sometimes strip them of their original flavours; toasted apples, caramel, almonds, vanilla and butter on the nose. On the palate, it’s medium to full bodied with lots of fruit, minerals, oak, and a la-la-la-long persistent finish. This paired amazingly well with the stinging nettle pizza, complementing the earthy green flavours of the nettle, and the creme and parm base. 

bon appetit.
dinner is served.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

a simple snack

What a simple yummy lunch we had.  
BBQ grilled cheese sandwich, brushed with olive oil, and filled with five year old Black River Cheddar Cheese and sliced avocado.  Served with smoky ketchup.  You must try smoked ketchup.  Add a few drops of liquid smoke (you can buy at any gourmet food shop) into a dish of ketchup from your fridge. Stir and voila!  Gourmet ketchup. 
lunch is served!
bon appetit

Monday, May 21, 2012

radishes, zucchini and weissburgunder

We are headed to a friends BBQ and decided our contribution would be vegetables of a few different sorts...  
Roasted radishes are a nice side dish at a BBQ.  The crisp cleanliness of a roasted radish accompanies any meat or veggie really well.   I took the idea of adding tomatoes and onions from Trish Magwood, but roasted radishes are also great all on their own, if that's more your thing.

Rosted Reds - Trish Magwood
one pint of cherry tomatoes
one red onion cut into eighths
one pound of radishes (two bunches) trimmed leaving 1/2 inch stem
two tablespoons of olive oil
two sprigs of fresh thyme
salt and pepper
preheat the oven to 400 degrees ferinheight.  line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  place all vegetables on the tray, drizzle with live oil and add thyme.  stir gentle to coat all vegetables with oil.  roast for twenty five minutes without stirring.  

We sliced zucchini and let it sweat for twenty minutes on paper towel.  This allows for the zucchini to loose some of it's extra water before grilling.
Drizzle olive oil on the zucchini slices and place them on the grill, five to six minutes a side.  Remove, and let cool to room temperature.  Drizzle with lemon juice, crumble with feta cheese, and ripped up pieces of mint leaves.  
We used Ontario Sheep's milk feta cheese from Ewenity farm.

Simple.  Delish.

The wine we brought was meant to pair with all kinds of BBQ'd goodness.  Spicy hot Italian sausages, Macedonian sausage, curry chicken kabobs, merguez sausage, jerk beef ribs... not to mention lemony zucchini and feta, roasted radishes, grilled asparagus and portobello mushrooms.  What  a feast.

 2011 Kellerie Bozen St. Magdalena Weissburgunder, Sudtirol Alto-Adige $19.95 (Private Agent Stock. Only available by the case in Ontario and at the top wine focused restaurants throughout Ontario).
This wine is from Sudtirol, Alto-Adige in northern Italy. Sudtirol is noted for its distinct German and Austrian influences on the wine industry due to the region's long history under the rule of Austria-Hungary and Holy Roman Empires. Because of its unique history and location within the southern Alps and Dolomites, the Südtirol grows a wide range of grape varieties that are unusually not seen in other parts of Italy. These include Müller-Thurgau, Schiava, Lagrein, and today selection Weissburgunder, known in the rest of the world as Pinot Bianco.  This is a very exciting “discovery” wine region for most wine enthusiasts. I highly recommend exploring the wines if you have a chance.

With all the different flavors of tonight’s dishes and the outdoor patio heat, this aromatic white has all the palate cleansing texture and acidity that we need. The 2011 Weissburgunder is one of the most interesting and food friendly wines I’ve found in a while.  It’s super elegant on the nose with citrus, flowers and fresh stone fruits. It is light bodied but with a full texture and the finest acidity that I have encountered in this grape variety. Very persistent with a finish that just doesn’t quit.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


Let the sun shine in, face it with a grin.  

There's nothing like Rosé with BBQ in the sunshine.  

We debated greatly over whether or not we wanted to share this particular bottle of rosé with the blogosphere in fear that they will one day eventually sell out.  Then we remembered that sharing is caring.  So here it is.  An absolutely amazing bottle of rosé, in LCBO Vintages, for $13.95.

Mas des Bressades is great little estate in the south of France's Costiere de Nimes region. Their wines pop up in vintages occasionally, so get them while they're hot. Always a great value = Best to buy a few.  This pink summer sipper is a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault. The red grapes are direct pressed in the cellar and fermented in stainless steel tanks just like most white wines.  This puppy is made to drink right away; young and fresh. Pale pinky-orange in colour with aromas of cherry, strawberry preserves and melon. Dry, fresh and fruity with a bit of welcomed weight, an awesome texture with a blast of mouth watering acidity. It actually pairs well all by itself... but that can be dangerous.

We grilled Macedonian sausages we bought at the St. Lawrence Market on the weekend from Sausage King by Olliffes.  And then I made a simple panzanella salad to go with.  Can't wait till tomatoes are in the peak of their season.

Simple Roasted Panzanella and Onion Salad

1 Pint of cherry tomatoes
1 small red onion
2 cloves of garlic
a few slices of sourdough bread
2 tablespoons of olive oil
a few spoonfuls of capers

1 lemon
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon of mustard
a dash of balsamic vinegar

heat the oven to 350 degrees. cut the bread into cubes the size of croutons, place on a baking sheet and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil.  Place the baking sheet into the oven and leave the bread there until you have crispy croutons, about 10-15 minutes.  Place the croutons aside.

grab a frying pan and drizzle a bit of olive oil into the pan.  Heat up the pan on medium high and place the diced red onion into the pan.  cook until lightly browned, 5-8 minutes.  add the tomatoes and garlic and capers, and cook until the tomatoes are warm.  if you prefer crispy onions and tomatoes, just cook for a few quick minutes.  remove from the heat and place in a serving bowl.

let sit until room temperature.  add the salad dressing, and after that the croutons and toss just before serving.

dinner is served
bon appetit

Monday, May 14, 2012

Happy Mother's Day, to all the Mom's in the world.

~ All women become like their mother's.  That is their tragedy.  No man becomes like his.  That's his.  Oscar Wilde  ~

It was decided around the dinner table that I am becoming exactly like my mother.  But that is very far from a tragedy.

Nicholas and I put our cooking skills to good use to cook my mom a celebratory dinner.

Dutch oven roasted chicken.  Poulet en cocotte.

Dinner was inspired by ramps.  They are beautiful, in season, and most delicious.  We pan roasted ramps with fresh Ontario asparagus tips, and then roasted a lemon-thyme organic chicken.

I got the yellow pot from my Mom, who was cooking with it before I was born.  I love cooking with this pot.  It reminds me of how well fed I was my whole life.  It also serves to remind me of how loving and generous my family is.
We put the chicken on a bed of 1 chopped onion and two cut carrots, and stuffed the chicken full of two sliced lemons and a handful of thyme.  Naturally, a large pinch of salt and pepper.  
Dutch oven pots are mini ovens in themselves, which could forever change the way you roast a chicken.  It seals the juices in, eliminating the basting process, giving you moist meat throughout.  
We roasted it with the lid on tight, at 350 degrees for one hour and forty five minutes.  Then it must rest.  We let it rest while we ate an appetizer.  With a little glass of bubbly.  

Tiny bubbles.

Fresh Ricotta with Roasted Fruit
We started the afternoon by making fresh goat's cheese ricotta.  It's my new favourite obsession.  You take a litre of goat's milk, and heat it in a stainless steel pan until it's almost boiling, and then remove it from the heat.  Add 3 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice, stir once and let it sit for five minutes.  Then pour it into a bowl that lined with cheese cloth.  Carefully lift the cheese cloth making a pouch, tie it up and hang it over the bowl for one hour.  Voila.  Honestly.  Simple.                                                                                                                   

We spread the fresh cheese on toast, with grapes that had been coated in coconut oil and roasted for 10 minutes minutes in the oven at 350 degrees.   Drizzle with honey and top with thyme.  

I got this appetizer recipe from Sarah Britton.  A Canadian nutritionist-vegetrain-chef, dreaming up  crazy cool ideas at Noma in Copenhagen right now... inspiring people all over the world to be more healthy.  

then we opened the wine...  a beautiful white burgundy.

Maison Roche de Bellene, Rully, Vieilles Vignes 2009 @ $17.95 a bottle = LCBO Vintages. Ohhh Burgundy, the home to the best Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays in the word. 
This little selection is a white Burgundy (100% Chardonnay) made in the fantastic 2009 vintage at Maison Roche de Bellene; This is the home and base camp of legendary winemaker, Nicolas Potel
The small village were the vines are planted is called Rully. The vines are 63 years old ! Yes, These are some OLD VINES, and that is what the "VIEILLES VIGNES" translates into English.  
Older vines have lower yields and they tend to produce riper grapes with much more concentration,  creating wines that are richer and fuller. This is exactly what you get from this over-delivering Chardonnay.  Aromas of apple cinnamon, toast and pear nectar. Bone dry with loads of fruit flavours, toast and acidity that all come together in harmony. Medium-full bodied with a long, stylish finish.  
Of course, pairing well with roasted lemony thyme chicken, and ramps. Delish.

dinner is served
bon appetit