Vegetarian Lasagna

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bestvegetarianlasagna3A few nights ago we had some friends over for dinner. One of the guests was a vegetarian and the other ones loves meat.  It was a pretty cold and chilly night, so I thought lasagna would be lovely. To please everyone around the table I decided to split things up. Instead of your traditional meat lasagna, I made this vegetarian version filled with mushrooms, spinach, ginger and nutmeg. For the meat lovers I slow cooked a beautiful prime rib in red wine, beef stock, a couple of chopped onions and carrots along with a few bay leaves. The lasagna itself however, is filling enough and is perfect as a meal on its own.

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Filling:

1 tbsp butter

2 tbsp truffle oil

One medium size fennel

Fresh ginger, about a 2″ piece

4 cloves of garlic

15 sage leaves

200g shiitake mushrooms 

200g crimini mushrooms

4 baby bok choy

350g fresh spinach

1/2 cup vegetable broth

1-2 tsp sambal oelek (hot chili paste)

pinch of tarragon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

Salt & Pepper

Béchamel Sauce:

3 tbsp butter

3 tbsp flour

3 cups milk

White pepper

Salt

3 tomatoes, thinly sliced

1 1/2 cups grated gruyère cheese

Preheat the oven to 400F.

Thinly slice the fennel and finely chop the ginger, garlic, sage leaves and mushrooms. Roughly chop the book choy. In a large cast iron pot, heat up the truffle oil until hot but not burning. Turn the heat down slightly and add the fennel and ginger. Sauté for a couple of minutes before adding the garlic sage and mushrooms. Sauté for another couple of minutes, stirring occasionally. Add bok choy to the pot along with the spinach and the rest of the ingredients. Make sure everything is well combined, and let it simmer until the liquid is almost gone. Turn the heat off and let cool.

Béchamel:

Melt the butter over medium heat in a medium sized sauce pan. When melted, lower the temperature and start adding the flour. Whisk constantly to prevent lumps from forming. Cook the butter/flour for a couple of minutes, whisking non stop. Add the milk, a little bit at a time. Keep stirring! Raise the temperature back to medium. As the sauce thickens add more milk. The sauce is ready when coating the back of a spoon. Season with salt & pepper.

In a large oven proof dish, start putting the lasagna together. Coat the bottom of the dish with the béchamel, cover with sheets of pasta and sprinkle some of the vegetable filling on top. Drizzle béchamel over filling. Repeat layers twice. Place the sliced tomatoes on top of the third vegetable layer before putting down one last layer of pasta. Sprinkle the cheese. Cover with the rest of the béchamel sauce. 

Bake in the middle of the oven for 45-60 min, or until golden brown and pasta is soft.

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Happy Days Are Here Again

b2Image by: Johnny C Y Lam © www.johnnycylam.com

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Image by: Johnny C Y Lam © www.johnnycylam.com

“Happy Days Are Here Again”. The tune penned by Ager and Yellen in 1930 is stuck in my head. Roosevelt and his Democratic party used it shamelessly as a campaign medley for many years, but mostly, it is remembered as a sort of theme song for the repeal of prohibition. The significance isn’t lost on me as I watch the bottles fill one by one with ruby coloured liquid. Pinot noir has not graced our cellar for some time. Not since the unusually warm spring of 2012 which woke our buds early. Too early. That April night, Mother Nature arrived with a decidedly wicked temperance bend and unleashed frost. Only barren vines remained in her wake.

At times I despised her. Hated her with every fibre of my being. I’d want to shake my fists at the sky above me and berate the unfairness and treachery of her actions. You bitch, I’d want to yell with all the strength and fury I could muster. Except, I wouldn’t. I shift uneasily. Generally, I try not to wish anyone harm. Although there have been some notable exceptions, in this case it is not some higher moral stratus in which I try to perch myself. I am not blithely turning my check. An undercurrent of unease washes over me. I smell something. An unmistakable odour. One I remember as a child when I thought a ghoul lived under my bed. Or the smell that could paralyze me while I waited for my school bus. The same bus that safely carried my neighbourhood bully towards me. Later in life, this odour came and went. The smell could linger around an office table as I waited for a job interview or while I stood in line at customs and immigration coming home from abroad. Yes, I recognize that smell. We never forget the smell of fear. I am not the superstitious type. Frankly, not even religious. Still, somehow, in these modern times, I fear her. I fear what she could do to me. What she could do to anyone. So, I do not think ill thoughts of her. No, Mother Nature is far too dangerous.

Today, I hum that tune. We have lots of bottles to fill with pinot noir. Friends have come to help us. Johnny tirelessly drives the corks into the bottle while Kate, his lovely fiancé, masters the bottle filler. With a deft hand she loads up the bottles while we all gossip and laugh. We desperately try to keep up with Kate’s speed and Johnny still finds time to photograph and capture the moment. Jens shoots me a smile. We are lucky to have friends. Lucky to have wine. Mother Nature was not vexed. Yes, happy days are here again.

b5Image by: Johnny C Y Lam © www.johnnycylam.com

b1Image by: Johnny C Y Lam © www.johnnycylam.com

b7Image by: Johnny C Y Lam © www.johnnycylam.com

b8Image by: Johnny C Y Lam © www.johnnycylam.com

 

Sweet Hot Buttered Rum

hr6I’m not a huge fan of winter. I love the snow. Hate the cold. There are many ways to stay warm. I might have tried them all. Sipping on beautifully fragrant tea with a spoonful of local honey while wrapped in a fluffy blanket is a favourite. This drink is another option for one of those cold winter days. It takes a while to make so start it early in the day. The scents from the pot will linger through the house and tease you with what is to come. As the suns last rays disappear over the horizon and darkness sets it’s time. Fill up your favourite mug with this sweet hot buttered rum, grab your book and cocoon yourself in the blanket. It will warm you up for sure!

hr18 cups water

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1/4 cup butter

1 pinch salt

2 cinnamon sticks

10-15 whole cloves

2 cups rum
Whipped Cream
Ground Nutmeg

Put all the ingredients except Rum, whipped cream and nutmeg in a large pot. Stir well. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat. Cover and let simmer on very low heat for 3-4 hours. Top up with more water if need to.

Pour into cups or mugs. Add Rum (about 1/4 cup/serving). Top with whipped cream and a dash of nutmeg.

Leftover base liquid (without the Rum and cream) will keep in the fridge for a few days. Take out and re-heat as needed.

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Crandall House….Closing Day

when we bought itExcitement and a sense of pride goes hand in hand when buying a house. A marvel that this is yours. The beginning of something new. A blank canvas for you to put your stamp on. For most people. In our case, purchasing Crandall House, not so much of the above. Really, you say? Here’s the thing. We never planned on buying a house. We weren’t even looking at properties. Crandall House sits right across the road from our heritage barn that now houses the winery and tasting room here at The Old Third. Originally part of the same property, this dilapidated 19th century remnant of a once proud greek revival home was severed off in the 1960’s. Although occupied, it was in desperate need of TLC. We stressed over who might buy it and worried about the curb appeal of our piece of heaven.

from the eastStarting a vineyard and winery from scratch is plenty of work for two people. How about adding a full fledged renovation of an old farm house? Years of hard work followed. Many were the times when lighting a match or renting a bulldozer came to mind, but persistence succeeded in the end. Today I am very thrilled that we have brought Crandall House back to life. She now sits proud.

Please enjoy this collage of photos from Crandall House – Closing Day. With many more stories and pictures to come.

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Budapest Roll

b7I was quite spoiled growing up. Having a stay at home mom who baked and cooked everything from scratch had its perks. I’m sure I wasn’t always appreciative about it though. I mean, why couldn’t we have tasteless store bought loaves of bread like most of my friends? I do now, however, look back at it all with very fond memories and a lot of gratitude. Breads, cookies, cakes and jams as well as all kinds of food. One of my all time favourites and a real treat was “Budapestrulle”. A melt-in-your-mouth meringue and hazelnut roll with whipped cream and mandarins. Originally created by Swedish pastry chef Ingvar Strid in the 1950’s. It has, surprisingly, no resemblance to Hungary’s capital Budapest. It is quite easy to make although you might need to take a deep breath before rolling it up. I guarantee you will love it. In this recipe I have substituted the hazelnuts with almonds which works just as well.

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6 egg whites

1 1/3 cup sugar

150g ground almonds

1 1/2 tsp vanilla essence

1 1/2 cup whipping cream

2 cans mandarin oranges

Dark chocolate

Preheat oven to 350F.

In a large bowl, whip egg whites until stiff peaks form. Slowly add the sugar while beating the egg whites on low speed. With the use of a spatula, carefully fold in the ground almonds and vanilla with the egg whites. Spread evenly on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake in the middle of the oven for about 20 min, or until set. You can check by poking it with a toothpick. If it comes out dry, it’s ready. Move meringue and parchment paper to a drying rack and let cool completely. While meringue is cooling, drain the mandarin slices. They need to be fairly dry before being put on the cake.

Flip the cake upside down onto a new sheet of parchment paper. Carefully peel off the parchment paper (brush it with warm water if it doesn’t loosen). Spread the whipped cream over the bottom of the cake. Place the mandarin slices evenly on top of the cream.

Now comes the tricky part. The rolling. Don’t panic if it cracks or start to break. Place the long side of the cake in front of you and start rolling it. Don’t press too hard (you’ll end with an empty roll of meringue and a pile of whipped cream and mandarines in front of it if you do.) I find using the parchment paper helps the rolling ones you get started (hold on to the paper rather then the cake). Remember not to press too hard. Once rolled up make sure the edge of the roll is facing down.

Melt the chocolate and drizzle on top. A dusting of icing sugar is pretty as well. Cut diagonally in a zig-zag pattern so that you end up with triangular pieces.

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Orecchiette with Pork and Fresh Vegetables

p4I adore pasta. Perhaps I was Italian in a previous life? Who knows. Something I would bring to a deserted island? Definitely. It’s convenient. Something to fall back on when peeling a pot of potatoes seem like an enormous task. It comes in a large varietal of shapes and forms. I have my favourites of course. Orecchiette is being one of them. Bruno gets his fair share of pasta when I’m cooking although he is not as fond of it as I am. Don’t take me wrong, he likes it. I love it. In this recipe I use ground pork rather than ground beef. The more subtle flavours of the pork allows the other ingredients to pop. A great dish whether it’s snowing or sweltering outside. It  goes amazingly well with our Golden Russet Apple Cider!

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2 stalks celery

3 shallots

3 green onions

2 radishes

1 tbsp butter

1 tbsp olive oil

1000g ground pork

4 tbsp soya sauce

2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

1 1/2 tbsp white wine vinegar

1/2 cup creme fraiche

2 tsp sambal oelek (chili paste)

Ground pepper

500g pasta of your choice

Finely chop the vegetables and put aside.

In a large pot, bring water to a boil for the pasta.

In a frying pan, heat up the butter and olive oil. Fry the ground pork on medium heat until cooked. Add the soya and Worcestershire sauce along with the vinegar. Let simmer until liquid is reduced by half.

In the meantime cook the pasta until Al Dente. Drain.

Add the creme fraiche and sambal oelek along with some ground pepper to the pork and stir well. Toss with pasta, or serve separate. Sprinkle celery, radishes and green onions on top. Serves 4.p1p3p5

Grandmas’ Pickled Cucumber Salad

c1This is a simple and delicious recipe for a pickled cucumber salad. I remember sitting in my Grandmothers’ kitchen as a kid. Green and orange flowery wallpaper covering the walls and a matching round dining table set. Also green. We were about to devour her amazing meatballs, potatoes, creamy gravy and these perfectly matched pickled cucumbers.  On a shelf next to the table was a hand cranked coffee grinder. Simple design, yet its leavers, slots and drawers fascinated me. A perfect distraction and entertainment at the table until food arrived. I wonder what happened to it…

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2/3 cup white vinegar

1/3 cup water

2/3 cup sugar

1/2 cucumber, peeled and very thinly sliced

1/4 cup chopped parsley

2 pinches salt

2 pinches pepper

In a bowl add vinegar, water and sugar. Whisk until sugar is dissolved. Add the cucumber and parsley. Season with salt and pepper.

Stir well, then place in the fridge for 2-3 hours, stirring it once in a while. Serves 4

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Swedish Cheese Tart

ct3ct2Pies and tarts are two things I will never grow tired of. The options for the filling are endless. Sweet or savoury, it doesn’t matter. This Swedish inspired Cheese Tart is more delicate than your regular quiche. There’s no ham, so vegetarians can rejoice and enjoy. A great option for a light week night dinner or to be served at a weekend luncheon. Would you feel the need for meat, prosciutto is a great side. I serve it with a dollop of sour cream, arugula lettuce and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar glaze.

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Crust:

200 g sifted flour

100 g unsalted, cold butter.

1 egg

pinch of salt

2 tbsp ice water

 

Filling:

3 Eggs

300g Shredded Cheese, such as Gruyère or other hard, nutty cheese.

3/4 cup whipping cream

3/4 cup milk

1/2 tsp finely chopped tarragon

Pinch of salt (not too much, the cheese will add saltiness as well)

Pepper

 

Preheat oven to 400F.

Crust:

Add the flour to a food processor. Cut the butter into small pieces and add to the flour along with the egg. Pulse a few times and add one tablespoon of ice water at a time. Keep pulsing until it forms a ball of dough. It shouldn’t take more than 30 to 45 seconds. You may need a third table spoon of ice water.

Remove the dough and flatten the ball somewhat. Dust with flour, and place in the fridge for a minimum of 1 hour to rest. It is important not to over manipulate the dough to ensure flakiness.

Roll the dough and line a pie shell, prick it with a fork then bake blind for 10-12 min.

Filling:

Whisk all the ingredients together in a large bowl. Pour the mixture into the pie shell, and bake in the lower part of the oven for 30-35 min, or until tart is set and has a nice golden colour. Let it cool slightly before serving. Serves 6-8.

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Vichyssoise

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v7It doesn’t look like much at first, this soup. The palest green possible, almost white in colour. Poured into a white bowl you’ll hardly realize it’s there. So why am I making such a fuss over this soup you might wonder. Because it’s worth it. I want you to taste it. The velvety smooth texture and the subtle flavours of leeks, potato, cream and white pepper. You can’t help but think “This one of the best soups I’ve ever had”. It is one of the highlights from the french cuisine. Some people serve it warm, but cooled is the traditional French way. I decorate this simple, sumptuous classic with onion sprouts and a light grating of nutmeg.

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6-8 medium sized potatoes, peeled and quartered.

3 leeks

4 tbsp butter

4 cups chicken broth

2 tsp salt

3 tsp ground white pepper

1.5 cups heavy cream

Ground nutmeg

Green onion sprouts

Boil the diced potatoes in salted water until just tender. Drain and put aside.

Cut off the dark green part of the leeks. You can discard them, or save them if you are planning on making a broth. For this soup, you only need the white and light green parts. Slice the leeks in half, lengthwise. Rinse to remove any dirt. Cut the leeks in 1” pieces. Sauté them lightly in the butter in a sauce pan for a few minutes. Add the chicken broth.

Once the broth comes to a boil, lower the heat, and let it simmer until the leeks are soft, 10-15 minutes. Add the potatoes, salt and the freshly ground white pepper (it might seem like a lot, but it’s important to taste the white pepper). Let simmer for another 5 minutes before transferring the soup into a blender. Blend until smooth. You might need to do it in two parts. Pour the soup through a sieve, pushing it through with a soup spoon. It will give the soup the extra smooth, velvety texture. Taste it and add more salt or pepper if needed. Let it cool and keep it in the fridge. 30 min before serving, move it to the counter to warm up slightly and stir in the cream. Makes 6 appetizer size servings.

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