Butternut Squash “Ravioli” with browned butter, raisins and pecans

Last week some friends dropped off a couple of home grown butternut squash for us to enjoy. My initial plan was to roast them and use them as a side dish for an upcoming meal however I had been craving raviolis lately. These delicate little puffy pillows filled with goodies. They require a little bit of time but are so worth it. Stuff them with practically anything, depending on what’s available and what the mood calls for. Round or square or triangles – I do love them so!

I am going to let you in on a little secret. I sometimes cheat with my raviolis. Yes you heard me correctly. Making home made pasta dough and making them from scratch is obviously the ideal way. Fresh pasta sheets from the store is also an option although I do find the pasta sheets in general too thick for raviolis. Rolling them out with a rolling pin or a hand crank pasta machine would work. The other option, should you not be in the mood to deal with fresh pasta dough, is to grab a pack of fresh wonton wrap sheets in the produce section of your grocery store. They are already cut into perfect squares, perfect thickness. When boiled, the similarity to pasta is striking. So. This dish is made using these. The recipe can of course be used with your beautiful home made pasta dough as well!

Filling:

1/4 cup each of dark and golden raisins

1/4 cup brandy or cognac

1/4 cup water

1/2 butternut squash

1 tbsp parsley

1 tbsp freshly grated ginger

1/4 cup mascarpone cheese

Salt & pepper

Olive oil

1/2 cup pecans

Olive oil

1 tbsp sugar

Salt & pepper

40 wonton sheets

1 egg, lightly whisked

2-3 tbsp butter

Preheat oven to 350F.

Mix the raisins, brandy and water in a bowl. Set aside

Peel the butternut squash and cut into 1” pieces.

Place on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

Roast in the oven for 30-45 min until soft. Let cool.

In a bowl, toss pecans with a light drizzle of olive oil, sugar, salt and pepper.

Spread out evenly on a separate baking sheet and bake in the oven along with the squash for about 10-15 min. Keep an eye on them to make sure they don’t burn.

In a food processor, puree the butternut squash along with the mascarpone, ginger and parsley until smooth.

Set aside.

Ravioli:

Sprinkle flour onto a flat work surface and place the wonton wrappers evenly.

With a pastry brush, wet each wonton sheet with the whisked egg.

Using a piping bag or two spoons, place a scant tbsp of filling in the centre of 20 of the wonton wrappers.

Take an empty wonton sheet and place on top of a sheet with filling. Egg mixture facing each other. With a cookie cutter, trim the raviolis to make them smaller. With a fork, press along the sides to seal the ravioli and prevent filling to escape.

In a large pot bring water to a boil. Cook the raviolis 2-3 min. Save 1/2 cup of the pasta water.

Assembly:

In a cast iron pan, over medium-high heat, melt the butter and add the raviolis. Saute until lightly browned. Add the raisins, brandy and leftover pasta water.

Crumble the pecans and add.

Season with salt and pepper.

Serve immediately.

Serves 4.

Swedish Parisian Waffle Cookies

Pariservåffla. This ever so well known Swedish cookie, the parisian waffle cookie can be found in bakeries and cafes in most parts of the country. Two thin layers of the most delicate shortbread-like cookie, held together by a beautifully soft butter cream with a hint of vanilla. Expect to break a couple while assembling them and expect crumbs in your lap while eating them. All worth it. Trust me.

When doing a bit of research for this post I was not able to find much about the history of this cookie. Quickly, it became clear that there is no such thing as a parisian waffle cookie to be found anywhere in Paris. Funny. I’m really curious as to where it got its name. It looks and taste as though it would blend in perfectly in a mouth watering window display of a parisian bakery, alas, it is not the case.

As a child we were crazy spoiled by having a freezer full of cookies and breads at home. All were made from scratch by my mom. Once in a while I remember carefully opening the freezer door when I knew she wasn’t around, glancing at the different containers with cookies and quickly snatching one. This one–pariservåffla–was always first pick if it was available. All there was to do was to find a quiet corner away from parents and sisters, and secretly enjoy. I usually didn’t bother waiting for it to thaw as it was quite enjoyable semi frozen as well. The only time I’d get caught would be if I in my euphoric moment of bliss forgot to clean up any trace of crumbs.

Dough

2 cups flour

200g cold butter

3 tbsp cream

2 tbsp water

Butter Cream

200g butter, room temperature

200g icing sugar

2 egg yolks

1/2 tbsp vanilla extract

 

Preheat the oven to 450F.

Cut the cold butter into small dice and add to a food processor along with the flour, cream and water. Pulse until well mixed. Add a tiny bit more liquid if necessary. You want the dough to be crumbly. Transfer to a flat surface. As quickly as possible kneed together into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and put in the fridge for an hour.

In the meantime, in a bowl, whisk together the ingredients for the butter cream until smooth. Set aside.

On a flat surface, lightly dusted with flour, roll out the dough until 1/4” thick using a rolling pin.

Cut out 1 1/2” rounds using a cookie cutter.

On another flat surface sprinkle a thin layer of sugar. Place each round separately on the sugar and roll out to to an oval shape about 1/8” thick. Flip once to get sugar on both sides. For this last part I’m using a cross hatch rolling pin for a slight pattern, but not neccessary.

Transfer to a parchement lined baking sheet and bake in the middle of the oven for 4-5 min or until lightly golden. Watch them carefully since they will burn quite quickly. Transfer the cookies onto a flat surface to dry. They are very fragile so do be gentle.

Once cooled, carefully spread a thin layer of the butter cream on the underside of half of the cookies. Remember they still break easily. Place another cookie on top of the butter cream.

Place in a container and store in the freezer. Let thaw for 15-20 min before serving.

Bacon and Orange Tagliatelle

Lazy days.

Most of the time when I’m in the kitchen, ready to cook a meal, I don’t use recipes. I tend to skim through them, look at the photos and use them more as inspiration than anything else. I like to experiment. Try new things. Explore new flavours and textures. Develop new creations.

Most of the time. Sometimes, however, the inspiration is just not there. I can look around in the pantry, take a peak in the fridge, poke my head in the freezer but the inspiration is gone. Poof.

There are days when you feel like doing as absolutely as little as possible. Lounging on the sofa, listening to some good tunes or reading a good book seem perfectly reasonable. Days when the brain is not really working, when the idea of making something to eat seem too much of a task. These days happen to all of us, and it’s totally alright!

A while back I had one of those days and I went online to randomly pick a dish to make for dinner. A recipe from Epicurious caught my attention: Tagliatelle, one of my favourite pastas, tossed with crisp prosciutto and fresh orange. As I was reading the recipe I started salivating. Orange and prosciutto. What a beautiful combination. The wheels started turning and before the dish was ready to be enjoyed around the table, I had adapted the recipe slightly. Being a bacon fanatic, I felt prosciutto alone wasn’t enough. And ginger, well, I put ginger in almost everything I make. My twist to the recipe is below. You can find the original recipe here.

Jens

450g egg tagliatelle pasta

125g thinly sliced prosciutto, cut in 1/2″ strips

375g bacon

1 onion

1” piece fresh ginger

Zest & juice of 2 oranges

1-2 tbsp sambal oelek

1 cup whipping cream

1/2 cup chicken broth

Salt & pepper

4 green onions

Shaved or grated parmesan cheese

 

Preheat the oven to 500F.

Spread out the bacon on a large baking pan lined with parchment paper. Place in the upper part of the oven for about 10-15 min, until bacon is crisp. Transfer the bacon to paper towel and let dry off and cool. Save the leftover bacon fat.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season with salt; add pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until 1 minute before al dente. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup pasta water.

Meanwhile, finely dice the onion, jalapeño and ginger. Separately, slice green onions. Set aside.

Add the bacon fat to a large heavy cast iron skillet and heat over medium-high heat. Add the onion, jalapeño and ginger to the butter and sauté for 3-4 minutes until onions become translucent. Add the prosciutto and sauté another 3 minutes. Add reserved pasta water, orange juice, half of zest, and cream; bring to a boil.

Roughly chop the bacon. Add it to the sauce along with the pasta. While stirring, let it simmer, until sauce coats pasta and pasta is cooked, about 1-2 minutes.

Season with pepper. I find the bacon and Prosciutto gives the dish enough salt. Stir in green onions. Serve immediately on a bed of arugula and sprinkled parmesan on top.

Gazpacho

This spring, when planting our vegetable garden we might have gone slightly overboard with the amount of tomato plants we put in the ground. Sixty tiny green spindles which were to eventually produce every colour and every shape within the tomato world. Each one carefully placed in a pile of sheep manure, before being soaked in some sparkling clean limestone well water. Seeing them grow in the warm spring sun was a joy.

This summer, I am pretty sure we’ve been consuming more tomato salads then in our entire lives combined. Not once though did we get tired of them. It really is true luxury to be able to go out in your back yard and pick tomatoes, warm from the sun, and pop them in your mouth. I am totally convinced everything tastes better this way. Home grown.

This fall, as the last of the abundance of tomatoes are ripening Bruno has filled our freezers with his delicious marinara tomato sauce. Quickly cooked tomatoes, carefully pureed, deseeded and skinned, along with a few garden grown green onions, hot peppers and basil.

Along with salads and sauces, a third way to fully enjoy fresh tomatoes is through a Gazpacho. This Spanish classic is always a winner. Beautiful to look at, fresh flavours straight from the garden, a nice kick and bright acidity makes it perfect. Really so simple. I usually serve mine slightly chunky – I like the texture but serving it smooth is fairly common as well. I will leave that decision up to you. Some consider it being more of a summer soup but I have to admit I like it equally as much in the fall, even though it’s served cold. There are loads of versions of Gazpacho online. All slightly different. This version is mine. Enjoy! 

Jens

900g ripe tomatoes

1/2 red onion

3 green onions

1 small red bell pepper

1 small green bell pepper

1 jalapeno pepper, 1/2 seeded

1 english cucumber, roughly seeded

1/2 cup plain tomato sauce

2 garlic cloves

2 tbsp fresh oregano leaves

100g stale white bread

1/3 cup olive oil

juice from 1 lime

3-4 olives, pitted

3 tbsp sherry vinegar

1 tsp ground cumin

salt & pepper to taste

fresh basil, thinly sliced (chiffonade) for garnish

Place the bread in a bowl and fill with water. Make sure the bread is fully submerged. Set aside for 15-20 min.

Roughly cut the tomatoes, onions, peppers and cucumber into chunks. Add to a food processor along with the rest of the ingredients. Break the bread up in smaller pieces and add as well.

Process until preferred texture is reached.

Transfer to a bowl and place in the fridge for at least an hour, ideally over night for flavours to develop.

Serve cold in a glass or a bowl. Garnish with a drizzle of olive oil and fresh herbs.

Chocolate Cream And Home Made Meringues

c5On a regular basis when visiting my grandparents as a kid, at the end of the meal a big bowl was placed in the middle of the table. Being shorter then, all I could see above the rim of the bowl was a mound of whipped cream. I would squeal with joy and excitement—I knew exactly what was soon to be scooped out and placed in a bowl in front of me. Grandma’s chocolate cream. It’s the simplest thing. Not more than 5 minutes to throw together, then a few hours rest in the fridge. 

A velvety smooth, almost pudding like, chocolate. Not too sweet. Fluffy whipped cream is a must. The key ingredient to make this dessert complete: meringues. The sweetness and crunchiness brings it to a whole new level. We used to crush the meringues in our hand and carefully, like a calm snowfall, let the bits of meringue coat the chocolate and cream. Nostalgic much? You bet. Yum.

Jensc2

Chocolate Cream

3 tbsp corn starch

4 tbsp cacao

4 tbsp sugar

3 cups whole milk

1 tbsp vanilla essence

In a large sauce pan, mix together all the dry ingredients, then add the milk. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 3 min. Stir constantly.

Add vanilla. Stir and transfer to a bowl or individual dishes. Sprinkle the surface with sugar (to prevent skin forming on the surface). Let the mixture cool slightly then cover in plastic wrap and move to the fridge to let it set for at least 2 hours.

Meringues

Meringues Suisse – is a lovely and professional method of making meringues by beating an egg white mixture in a double boiler. It creates a less brittle meringue, useful when they are small and delicate. It also helps ensure the sugar is properly dissolved, to prevent a crunchy final product. 

 

4 egg whites

250 grams icing sugar (2 cups)

1 teaspoon vanilla

Half fill a medium sized saucepan with water and heat until simmering.

Separate the egg whites and place in a large metal bowl – preferably unlined copper. Rest the bowl over the simmering pan and begin whisking the eggs.

Combine the sugar, one tablespoon at a time, while whisking. Continue beating the eggs at high speed until stiff peaks form and the mixture has a glossy texture. Mix in the vanilla.

Pipe the mixture on parchment paper into your favourite shape. Bake in a very cool oven, less than 100°C, for 2 to 4 hours, depending on the size of meringue.

Serve with whipped cream and meringues. Serves 4c1c4c3

Savoury Buttermilk Waffles with Tomatoes and Burrata

w5Waffles. Whenever I hear that word, I envision thin, crispy waffles, loaded with whipped cream and strawberry jam. Growing up, that is how I ate them. For many, waffles are considered both a dessert a savoury dish and I like them both ways. They make a wonderful breakfast/brunch, whether sweet or savoury. 

When we have overnight visitors, I always try to make meals a bit more special. Something extra,  more than simply throwing a box of cereal or a loaf of bread on the counter and say,  ‘help yourselves.’ w1

Recently, I made these savoury waffles for some friends staying for the weekend. They brought some fresh burrata as a gift and I was thinking of a way to put it to good use. Adding some shredded carrots and chives to the waffle batter made them beautifully moist.

Mowing down on these warm waffles accompanied by fresh lettuce, tomatoes and a creamy burrata cheese I realize this is really is quite nice. I should do this more often—a big proper breakfast. Surrounded by cheers and laughter adds to the moment, but who needs guests for these anyway? So what if it is not a ‘special’ morning? Sometimes it’s important to treat ourselves a little. Think of something delicious to make and make this ordinary, nothing special morning, something to remember.

Jensw4

1 1/2 cups buttermilk

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup sour cream

3 eggs

2 cups flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 1/2 tsp salt

100g browned butter (unsalted)

1/4 cup finely chopped chives

1 cup grated carrots

Preheat the oven to 200F.

In a large bowl, whisk together buttermilk, milk, sour cream and eggs. In a separate bowl sift flour, baking powder and salt. While whisking, slowly add the flour mixture, a little bit at a time, to the batter then whisk until well blended. Again, while whisking, add the browned butter and the chives and carrots. Stir well. 

Bake the waffles according to the instructions on your waffle maker. Transfer waffles to a plate in the oven to keep warm. Serve with a simple tomato salad and shredded burrata cheese, sprinkled with sea salt.w3 w2

Chicken (not in a pot) Pie

c5Well, summer certainly flew by. I had grand plans to stuff this blog with amazing recipes and photos of fresh summer foods made with ingredients grown locally here in the County. Alas, I failed miserably. Today, we finished processing apples for our Golden Russet Cider and I realized autumn is almost over as well. But what a beautiful few months we’ve had.

Many of my friends love autumn weather. Though I do prefer summer heat, something must be said about crisp cooler days, warm sweaters, curling up on the sofa with a soft wooly blanket, hot baths, hot teas and heartier foods. c2

A chicken pot pie is a perfect autumn meal. While dining out, I will almost always order them if I see them on the menu. It can be risky since they can be bland. Of course, I always hope they will be amazing. Sometimes I win. Sometimes I lose.

Recently, I decided to make chicken pot pie at home. You may already know I have a hard time simply following a recipe. I need to make it my own. Tweak things here, change things there. Remove any hint of blandness. This is my chicken (not in a pot) pie. Quite different from what you may be used to. And why not? 

See you again soon.

Jens

c41 package frozen puff pastry – thawed

Poached Chicken:

3 chicken breasts

2 1/2 cups tomato sauce

1 cup water

1 tbsp white wine vinegar

1 1/2 tsp salt

1 tbsp sugar

Filling:

1 cup brussel sprouts, quartered

1 red pepper

3 cloves of garlic

3 stalks celery

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded

1 tsp curry

1/2 cup dry apple cider

3/4 cup heavy cream

3/4  cup tomato sauce

1 tbsp white wine vinegar

2 apples

salt

pepper

2 cups grated gruyere cheese

1 egg, whisked

In a large sauce pan, Poach the chicken breasts in the tomato sauce, water, vinegar, salt and sugar until cooked through, 15-20 min. Transfer breasts to a plate and let cool, then shred them. Set aside the tomato sauce.

Finely dice the red pepper, garlic, celery and jalapeño pepper. 

In a sauce pan, sauté the vegetables along with the curry in butter and olive oil until soft, 6-7 min. Add cider, cream, tomato sauce (from poaching the chicken breasts) and vinegar. Let simmer for 10 min. Remove from heat and let cool. When cool, peel the apples and grate them into the mixture along with the shredded chicken, stir well. Season with salt and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 400F.

In two 9” diameter pie dishes, divide the filling equally. Add the cheese. Cut the pastry dough in two equal pieces and roll out. Place the pieces over each dish, overlapping the edge.  

Brush surface with the egg. Poke the dough with a knife a few times to allow steam to escape. Bake in the middle of the oven for 25-30 min until golden brown and puffy. Serves 6-8. c6c1c3

Cucumber and Avocado Soup

c2The past few weeks have been sweltering hot to say the least. I am not complaining, just stating fact. I adore this time of the year. Summer is relatively short so I have decided that no matter how hot it gets I’m not allowed to whine and complain. I know myself too well, come late fall I will long for the dog days of summer.

Even though I love the summer heat, I’m not a big fan of standing in front of a hot stove in this weather. I try to keep the stove use to a minimum and make everything as cool and fresh as possible. It is easy to skip down to the local farmer’s market to pick up ingredients. Fresh, fresh, fresh. Easy and healthy.

During this heat wave our friend Natalie came to visit for a few days which we parlayed into a weeklong stay. I have to admit she’s quite an inspiration when it comes to eating well and healthy. We shared cooking duties and one day for lunch I made a cucumber and avocado soup. This is one of my favourite summer soups. The fresh taste and smell of cucumber is dreamy and the avocados lend a creamy texture. Blended together it makes a fresh tasting and healthy lunch or appetizer. 

I am pretty sure your guests will hold their bowls up for seconds. In our case we ate it straight from the serving dish until there was nothing left.c5

2 medium onions

1 tbsp butter

2 cloves garlic

pinch of ground nutmeg

3 cups chicken broth

1 cucumber

2 avocados

juice of half a lime

salt and pepper to taste

Roughly chop the onion and garlic. In a large sauce pan, melt the butter over medium-high heat and sauté the onions for 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for another 2. Add the chicken broth and nutmeg and let cook until onions are very soft, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. 

Rinse the cucumber well and cut in half, lengthwise. Cut the cucumber in 1″ pieces and transfer to a food processor. Slice both avocados in half, remove the pit and scoop the flesh into the food processor. Add the juice of the half lime then pulse until finely chopped. 

With the processor on high speed, start adding the onion and chicken broth mixture about one cup at a time. Puree until smooth, check the thickness of the soup, and add more of the liquid if needed. Once soup is nice and smooth, pour into a sieve and press the soup through with the help of a ladle into a bowl. Chill, covered, in the fridge a couple of hours before serving. Garnish with a dollop of creme fraiche, chives and a sprinkle of good salt.c4c1c6

Strawberry Trifle with White Chocolate & Saffron Ganache

s8An afternoon spent by the lake? For me, that is sadly a rare occasion. The hours in the day are simply not enough and my ‘to-do’ list keeps growing longer and longer. It’s easy to bury yourself in work, doing things that seem important but, in the grand scheme of things, it might not make a big difference whether they get done today or another day. s1

Your own self being on the other hand, well, that is important. There’s only one of you. Take care of yourself. Spoil yourself once in a while by giving yourself time – even if it’s not there. Find it, and do something you really want to do. 

Yesterday was one of those days for me. I felt I needed a ‘me’ day. Well, a half ‘me’ day anyway. I got up early, did some painting on the house to make sure I had accomplished something productive, then, after lunch, I exhaled and smiled. It was time to go. s2

On a sunny day, spending it by the water is what I enjoy the most. There is nothing more tranquil and relaxing. Soothing for your soul. I interact with a lot of people every week, so for me this is a great way to zen out. It’s amazing how easy it is to forget about the rest of the world, when all you hear is the waves making their final crescendo against the shore.

I was still able to hunt down some county strawberries, so a fresh strawberry trifle was a marvellous addition to a sun filled afternoon by the water. For this recipe I replaced the vanilla custard, which is usually used, with a white chocolate ganache with saffron. 

Have you ever had strawberries and saffron before? I hadn’t but sure will again!s5

White Cake:

3 egg

1 1/4 cup sugar

1 1/4 cup all purpose flour

3 tsp baking powder

1/2 tbsp vanilla extract

2/3 cup cold milk

Ganache:

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

1 pinch saffron strands

200g white chocolate

2 1/2 cups sliced strawberries

2 cups cream, whipped

Cake:

Preheat oven to 350F.

In a blender, whisk egg and sugar until white and fluffy. Sift flour and baking powder in a separate bowl and add slowly to the egg mixture. Add vanilla and milk and mix on low until just blended.

Pour into a greased springform pan and bake in the middle of the oven for 30 min, or until golden and centre of the cake is set. Leave in pan while cooling. 

Ganache:

While the cake is in the oven, make the ganache. 

In a medium sauce pan, bring cream and saffron to a boil. Remove from heat and add the white chocolate. Stir until melted. Let cool.

Assembly:

In a large glass bowls or 6 individual glasses, repeat layers of cake, ganache, strawberries and cream. Finish off with a layer of whipped cream and a drizzle of ganache. 

Can be made a few hours in advance if kept in the fridge.

*Before assembling, taste the ganache to know the level of saffron. Remember it’s fairly pungent, so add the ganache accordingly.s7s6s3

Quinoa Tabbouleh with Oregano and Strawberries

t3Tabbouleh. Don’t you just love that word? Such a great name for a beautiful, summery and fresh bowl of deliciousness. It’s the type of dish where you feel healthier with each bite. 

This middle eastern classic is originally made with bulgur, however, I have to admit I prefer it made with quinoa, which is also fairly common. I find it is lighter and fluffier. But two each their own. 

The other morning I was enjoying a coffee on the back stairs and was admiring the huge patch of wild oregano growing in the middle of the lawn. Surprised it had survived the lawnmower, I wondered where it came from and how I could use as much of it as possible.

To this end, a simple bbq was planned for lunch. Tabbouleh would be the perfect side dish and I thought, why not throw in some freshly picked oregano? A bowl of recently picked strawberries joined the salad bowl as well. How much summer is that?

t1

1 cup quinoa

2 cups water

1 1/2 cup chopped parsley

4-6 green onions

1/2 cup chopped mint

1/2 cup chopped oregano

2 cups cherry tomatoes

1/2 cucumber

1 garlic clove

zest from 1 lemon

1 tbspwhite wine vinegar

2 tbsp olive oil

3-4 tbsp lemon juice

1 cup lima beans, cooked and cooled

1 cup sliced strawberries

boston lettuce leaves

 

Thoroughly rinse the quinoa under cold water than add to a medium sauce pot along with the water. Bring to a boil, then simmer on low until water is absorbed, about 20 min. 

In the meantime, finely chop the parsley, green onions, mint and oregano. Thinly slice the tomatoes and finely dice the cucumber. 

Press the garlic clove and zest the lemon.

Once the quinoa is cooked, remove from the heat, then gently fluff it with a fork. Let cool for 5 min, then add the mint, garlic, lemon zest and lemon juice. Stir well.

Once cool, add the rest of the ingredients and mix. Cover and let sit in the fridge for an hour before serving

Serve on a boston lettuce leaf.t2t4t5