Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Lentils and Pancetta

I came across this recipe on David Rocco’s show Dolce Vita on Food Network, and adapted it to suit my tastes. It originally had hot peppers, but having none on hand, and having some roasted red peppers I had recently bought that were sitting in my larder, I decided to change the recipe. As well, the original recipe calls for prosciutto, which I also did not have, so I substituted pancetta. It turned out quite well, salty and sweet, but not overly of either. By all means, if you like it hot, and I do most of the time, feel free to add some heat.

Lentils and Pancetta
Adapted from a recipe by David Rocco
9 oz pancetta, cubed (250g)
2 x white cooking onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Sprig of rosemary
1 medium bell pepper, yellow or orange
1/2 roasted red pepper
2 x 19 oz canned lentils, drained and rinsed
Pinch of salt

Sauté pancetta for a moment or two in the olive oil in a frying pan on medium heat, until they are browned on one side, then add the peppers and onions and continue cooking until the onions are browned and the bell pepper is softened.

Add lentils to pan. Cook for a few minutes so that the lentils absorb flavours of the other ingredients. Add a pinch of salt.

Remove rosemary sprig and plate. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Polka Dot Dessert

This is another recipe that I found in my mother’s recipe box. I’m sure I had it as a child, though I don’t really care for whipped cream, as a child nor even now, not on top of desserts like pies, nor incorporated within desserts. This recipe sounds good, though.

Polka Dot Dessert
12 oz. chocolate
1-1/2 cups fine Graham Cracker crumbs
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup melted butter
1 pint whipping cream
1 cup miniature marshmallows
2 tsp grated orange rind

Melt chocolate in a bowl over hot water. Cool.

Mix graham cracker crumbs, brown sugar and butter in a 1 quart bowl. Press half of the crumb mixture onto bottom of an 8-inch square pan.

Beat whipping cream until stiff. Reserve one half for topping. To remaining half, fold in cooled melted chocolate until well mixed. Fold in marshmallows. Spread on to crumbs. Lightly press remaining crumbs on top. Spread reserved whipped cream on top and sprinkle with grated orange rind.

Chill 2 hours, or until firm.

Serves 9.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Ratatouille Salad

I came across this recipe in this recipe box that my mother kept. In there are various interesting recipes, this is the first of them. I like ratatouille, you can make use of many of the different vegetables that come out during the summer. I’ve had it made with cauliflower, covered in melted cheese, with carrots too. Very versatile recipe, you could make it with anything you have on hand, though the classic recipe involves these basic ingredients.

Ratatouille Salad
1 small eggplant
1 Tbsp + 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup + 1 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 zucchini, chopped
1 cup green pepper, chopped
2 16-oz cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup water
3 Tbsp tomato paste
3 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp basil, dried
1/8 tsp thyme, dried

Slice eggplant and place in colander. Sprinkle with 1 Tbsp salt; let stand 30 minutes. Rinse under cold water and pat dry. Dice eggplant. Heat 3 Tbsp oil in large skillet; sauté onion 2 minutes. Add eggplant, zucchini and green pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, 8-10 minutes, until vegetables are tender. Remove to bowl, set aside to cool. Stir in chickpeas.

Combine 1/2 tsp salt, 2 Tbsp oil, water, tomato paste, lemon juice, vinegar, garlic, basil and thyme to make a dressing. Pour this dressing over vegetables; mix gently.

Serve warm or chilled.


The strawberries are just beginning to appear in Farmer’s Markets and supermarkets, they’re quite sweet. This drink is great for weekend parties, cooling and refreshing. Use whatever fruit you have on hand, preferably freshly picked from local sources.

500 g fruit (whatever is in season - strawberries, peaches, oranges, pineapple, etc.)
100-150 g sugar (to taste, also depending on sweetness of fruit)
2 bottles white wine (your favourite)
1-2 bottles carbonated/seltzer/mineral water

Cut up the fruit, removing pits or stems, anything that you don't want to eat; cut into large pieces. Place the fruit in a large container and sprinkle with sugar. Then add enough white wine to cover all the fruit. Let the fruit and sugar soak in the wine for 1-2 hours cold in the fridge or on ice. After this time, add the remaining white wine and the sparkling water; stir to mix. Serve cold in glasses.

The Day-Lilies are early this year

Probably because it’s been warmer than usual here in Ontario, like it has been most everywhere. They are beautiful, though.

A sad end to this story

This Swiss-made chocolate bar, dark chocolate filled with hazelnuts, which is unusual, in that most hazelnut-chocolate bars have milk chocolate, cost about $1.75. Though, I didn’t get to taste it, as, upon opening it, I noticed this wriggling larva.

Couple this with the news this week, that Cadbury, the UK maker of many fine chocolate products, including Creme Eggs, which come out at Easter, have been hiding the fact that they found Salmonella in one of their plants, five months ago, and that they are of the opinion, that a little bit of salmonella is acceptable in this type of product. Right.

A sad end to what could have been a good tale.

Purple and Yellow Lilies

I had found this purple lily last year, all alone at the side of the road. This year, further along, a whole stand of purple lilies grew among the mucky swamp water that I had to gingerly walk through to get this picture. The yellow lilies were easier to get to, though I did have to jump across a narrow stretch of water, not knowing whether the ground on the other side was stable enough to hold my weight. A little bit of mud on my shoes, a small price to pay for these pictures.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Lindt Ecuador Chocolate Bar

I bought this chocolate bar the other week in a specialty food store, it was around $3. There were several of these, featuring cocoa from different parts of the world, my friend decided to try the one from Madagascar. Each has a different cocoa content, this one has 75%; the one from Madagascar was 65%; one from Cuba is at 55% cocoa. In Ecuador, the Arriba variety of cocoa bean grows in the tropical coastal areas of the Ecuadorian lowlands. It's labelled Intense, and in trying it, it gave a very good dark chocolate flavour, quite tasty. Check them out.

A little bit of luck

Sometimes, a little bit of luck helps.

While out for a bike ride the other weekend, I startled this deer off in the bushes. It disappeared before I could snap a picture of it. But, on the other side of the road, I noticed these beauties coming into flower. These are Small Yellow Lady-Slippers, an orchid that grows in North America. These are the first time that I have seen them. It seems this year is a first for a lot of new flowers for me.

Just lucky, I guess.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Mu Shu Pork Rou

My brother-in-law is talented; one of these talents is cooking. We all went to this Chinese Specialty store in Toronto the other year, and we were intrigued by all the many different Asian ingredients available for sale. I selected a few, my brother and his wife bought some too, my sister and her husband selected a bunch more. Several of the ingredients combined together to make this interesting and delicious dish, Mu Shu Pork Rou. It's odd eating flowers as one of the main ingredients of a meal, but the lily flowers are quite tasty. My attempt didn't turn out quite as good as my brother-in-law's, but quite tasty.

Mu Shu Pork Rou
approx. 2 cups Mu shu (dried flowers, variously translated as lily or alfalfa flowers)
approx. 1/2 cup Mu er (Chinese black mushrooms or wood ear fungus or black fungus)
200 g Pork fillet
1 tsp Starch (enough to coat the meat)
Salt to taste
Dash of cooking alcohol
Dash of soya sauce
1 tsp sugar
Sliced ginger (2" piece)
4-6 eggs (salt to taste)
Oil for frying

Soak the mu shu and mu er in water several hours before cooking. They may be soaked overnight. After they are soft, cut off any hard stems from the mu shu. Take off the little pieces of wood from the mu er. Set aside.

Cut the fillet into slices. Lightly coat the meat with starch. Add salt to taste to the pork. Add the alcohol, soya sauce, sugar, and ginger.

Beat the eggs. Add salt to taste.

Heat oil in a wok. Scramble the eggs. Set aside.

Heat some more oil in the wok. Fry the meat, stirring occasionally, until well done.

Add the eggs, mu shu, and mu er to the meat in the wok. Cook until warmed through.

Tim Horton's Chocolate White Coconut Donut

For some reason, they don't make this donut anymore, or at least not very often. I once spent a couple of hours going from store to store when I had a craving to have one of these. No luck. Later, I talked to this fellow who owns one of the franchises, and he explained that it's likely that I couldn't find them, because, at least in the case of his store, he was tired of making them and throwing them out at the end of the day. The odd time I was in a Tim Horton's after that, they didn't have any. Until today. My Dad suggested going to Tim Horton's, to have lunch there. We normally make a dinner every Sunday, but, for today, we went out. We wouldn't have to clean up afterwards, he said. I agreed, not holding any hope in getting one of those donuts I had not tasted for about a year and a half. I don't spend a lot of time in donut stores, just occasionally I get a craving for a donut, and usually one of these Chocolate White Coconuts. It's basically a chocolate cake donut with an icing sugar coconut coating. I think the combination is excellent. Makes me want to create some sort of cake like it. I looked over the selection of available donuts as I waited for my father to make his order. And there, on the bottom row, in the back, stood four Chocolate White Coconuts. Chocolate Whites for short. Well, I quickly ordered two of them, before someone came in and stole them away from in the last seconds. Really, it's been that long. And how where they? Awesome! So, I still have that idea for a cake in the back of my mind, chocolate cake in a ring, covered with white icing and coconut. Should be good.