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October, 2010:

Peppers in the Oven

On the continuum of slow cooking drying and slow-roasting are pretty near the end of the tail.  In arid, sunny regions an oven isn’t even necessary and the sun stands in. But with an oven at hand and the recurring problem of what to do with its residual heat (see my post on making Chardonnay Apple Butter) I used it to roast/dry sweet and hot red peppers.

I went to Highland Farms the week after Labour Day in search of a bushel of tomatoes for tomato sauce.  They were all sold out but had sweet red bell peppers by the bushel–that’s 36.36875L to be absolutely exact.  I bought one of these, took it to the cottage and divided the peppers between six pans that went into the oven after a pizza session.  The fire had died down but there were still hot coals near the back of the oven. (more…)

Tawse Terroir: The Wines

The 2010 Canadian Wine Awards offered many superlative firsts that involved Niagara’s Tawse Winery on the Twenty Mile Bench.  They were the first Ontario winery to be named Canadian winery of the year; they won the most gold medals ever (five) for 2008 Robyn’s Block Chardonnay, 2008 Quarry Road Chardonnay, 2008 Lauritzen Pinot Noir, 2008 Wismer Lakeview Vineyard Riesling, and the 2009 Tawse Riesling; and the Robyn’s Block Chardonnay was named white wine of the year and now the record for highest table wine score (93) at these awards.  Last weekend I joined a group of Toronto wine food bloggers for an extensive tour of the fields and facilities at Tawse guided by winemaker Paul Pender and national sales manager Daniel Lafleur.

Tawse has practiced organic viticulture since Moray Tawse started the business in 2001 and has followed the tenets of biodynamic farming since 2006.  This movement is based on the ideas set out in a series of speeches by Rudolf Steiner in 1924 that, in short, call on farmers to produce as many of their inputs on their own farm as possible; substitute a selection of organic preparations for synthetic fertilisers; and schedule farm activities to coincide with the appropriate phase of the lunar month.  Corby Kummer wrote this outline of biodyamic winemaking for Techology Review. (more…)

Apple Ginger Cookies

I like Thanksgiving and all the traditions that go with it.  The one exception might be that pumpkin pie really isn’t my favourite dessert.  Once a year isn’t really enough frequency to complain about this seriously but it always just seems to be the same.  I challenged tradition this year by making these Apple-Ginger cookies.  (We also had some excellent pumpkin pie that our neighbours brought.)

The base recipe I used is from grouprecipes.com and can be viewed by clicking here.  As my first modification I axed the nuts.  Almost always with cookies (and especially with brownies) I feel that nuts are an unwelcome distraction both from a taste and textural standpoint.  I didn’t have any raisins on hand so they went too but weren’t really missed–might include them next time.

The recipe calls for finely dicing the apples and cooking them for ten minutes.  Grating always seems easier with something like that so that’s the route I took and cooked the apples much longer on very low heat.  This gave me an intensely-flavoured candied apple compote of sorts.  I can see apple sauce or even better apple butter working just as well.

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Decoding Temaki

The rules of sushi etiquette and terminology can be mind-spinning.  Each piece of nigiri is meant, in an Olympian feat of chopstick acrobatics, to be flipped and only the fish component dipped briefly in soy sauce.  Raw before fried and–more confusing still–a lightly flavoured fish goes down the hatch before its deeply-flavoured (usually oilier) cousin.  All this is an obvious introduction for temaki the sushi preparation that throws out all of these rules in favour of a make-your-own experience.

Temaki or “lazy man’s sushi” while frequently appearing in Japanese homes for parties and family meals is only available at two restaurants in Canada and one of those places is Toronto’s own Drake Hotel.  The Drake’s temaki feast ($50, $70 with lobster) is a platter which features the usual players (tuna, salmon, and deep-fried shrimp) but also some more uncommon seafood like (butterjack and arborfish).  Diners are also given a bowl of nicely-seasoned sushi rice, a stack of nori sheets, and three ramekins of house-made sushi sauces to complete their custom hand rolls.  (more…)

Lahey’s Bread

Our wood oven has been operational since the beginning of August and I’ve turned out a ton of pizzas but–with the exception of three pathetic baguettes–no bread.  This had to change.  With the help of Jim Lahey’s My Bread I set out to bake my first true round of wood-fired bread.

My entirely unscientific guess is that the average bread recipe for home bakers calls for about three hours of rising and another hour for a second rise, so that including the mixing and baking the whole operation takes no longer than six hours.  My current bread cookbook champion is Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice (my review) and most of his recipes take this a step further and call for the preparation of a starter, poolish, or soaker the day before you want to bake.  Lahey keeps the amount of yeast low and prepares the dough the day before but also has the dough ferment over night (for 12 to 18 hours) at room temperature. Most remarkably he does away with kneading. (more…)