Gruyere Stuffed Arancini with Spicy Tomato & Basil

a6“What are the odds of me leaving to go to the city to help our friend move, while you stay here and deal with the tasting room?” I asked Bruno a few days before a busy August weekend. After an unexpected all clear and green light, I quickly made firm plans with Natalie – our good friend in great need of a moving partner for the weekend. Two long days and sore backs later, I popped open a  bottle of our sparkling pinot noir. We toasted work well done on her balcony while watching the Toronto skyline and sunset. 

Magical. 

“Let me take you out for dinner” she said. “Where do you want to go?”. 

I told her to choose a place I hadn’t been before. As you all know, I love food and I love eating. So, needless to say, I was very excited when we walked through the door of Gio Rana’s Really Really Nice Restaurant, known coloclially as: The Nose. Such a marvellous place! Italian all the way. Small plates, perfect for sharing, which I found difficult – much too delicious to share. One of the dishes was arancini. Stuffed, deep fried rice balls, served with an oh so tangy yet sweet tomato sauce. Finger licking good.

In September my parents came over for a three week visit. A few days in Toronto is always a must on their list. “Let’s go somewhere we’ve never been before” they said one evening when discussing what to do for dinner. I instantly knew where to go. Back at The Nose we ordered one of most things on the menu – the arancini being one of them. Watching my parents share these rice balls was a joy. Talk about kids in a candy store. I recently decided to make them myself. I started with the tomato sauce. The key to good tomato sauce is time. Let it simmer and simmer. And simmer. 

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Tomato Sauce:

3 cups plain tomato sauce

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped 

2 tbsp finely chopped basil

1/4 cup maple syrup.

1/2 tbsp red wine vinegar

1/4 cup onions, finely chopped 

2- 3 tbsp sambal oelek

1/4 cup red wine

1/4 cup water

 

Risotto:

1 1/2 cups Arborio rice

3 cups chicken broth

1 tbsp oregano

2 tsp freshly grated ginger

Salt 

Pepper

 

2 whole eggs, lightly beaten

150g Gruyere cheese 

1 cup panko breadcrumbs

Sunflower oil

Add all the ingredients for the tomato sauce in a pot. Bring to a boil, then let simmer on low heat, stirring occasionally. I let the sauce slowly simmer until the Arancinis are fried and ready to be served.

Prepare the rice by adding all the ingredients for the risotto in another pot. Bring to a boil then let simmer over low heat, covered, until al dente, stirring occasionally. Add more chicken broth if needed. It needs to be sticky, not too wet when done in order to roll the balls properly. When cooked, set aside to let cool. 

Cut the cheese into 15 equal size squares. 

Add the beaten eggs to the rice. Mix well. 

Grab a small handful of rice and place it in the palm of your hand. Take a piece of cheese and place in the middle of the rice. Enclose the cheese in the rice, creating a ball. The ball should be 1 1/2″-2″ diameter. Set aside on a plate. Repeat with the rest of the cheese then carefully roll the balls in the breadcrumbs until well covered.

In a large pot, add oil about 2″ deep. Heat until the oil reaches a temperature of 350F. Fry the balls, a few at a time, until golden brown. This will take about 4-5 min. Place on paper towel and sprinkle with sea salt. Serve hot with the tomato sauce. Makes roughly 15 Arancinis. a1a4a3

Crumble – Apple or Blueberry?

c1And just like that it’s fall. The excitement of harvest. A flurry of activity. Long days. Very long days. Our grapes have all been picked, hand sorted, fermented and pressed. It’s a nice feeling. We are now in control, rather than being dependent on Mother Nature. I have to say, she’s been generous most of the summer. A bumper crop is always nice to get. 

Now that the grapes are in, the apples are next. Luscious golden russets. Bin after bin arriving at the winery to be sorted, crushed and pressed into what will be 2015 sparkling cider. They are good apples. Crazy good. Just as we constantly taste the grapes at harvest, we munch on the apples when they come in as well. 

The other night we had friends over for dinner and I wanted to make a crumble – Swedish style. It’s a fairly recurring dessert here. Simple, but delicious. I mostly make this crumble using blueberries but is equally as tasty using apples. One can opt for vanilla ice cream alongside the crumble, but nothing beats a smooth mouthwatering homemade vanilla custard. I always make the custard in advance and serve it slightly chilled with a warm crumble. Heaven.

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Crumble Blueberry or Apple

Crumble:

1/2 cup sugar

1 1/4 cup flour

125g cold butter, cut into 1/2″ pieces

3 cups blueberries

1/4 cup sugar

OR:

5 apples, peeled, cored and sliced in thin wedges

1/4 cup sugar

 

In a food processor, add the sugar, flour and butter. Pulse until the butter are in tiny pieces. This will not create a moist sticky dough. It looks more like a powder.

In a pie dish, add the apple slices (or blueberries). Sprinkle with the sugar.

Pour the flour/sugar/butter on top. Spread out evenly to cover. 

Place in the upper part of the oven for 25-30 minutes or until soft and golden brown. 

Vanilla Custard

2 cups milk

1 cup cream

8 egg yolks

2 tbsp corn starch

3/4 cup sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract

In a large sauce pot, heat up milk and cream over medium heat. Remove from heat when bubbles form along the edges of the pot. 

In a large bowl, add the egg yolks, sugar and corn starch and whisk until light and fluffy. 

Very slowly, while whisking, add the warm milk. It’s important to add the warm milk slowly since you don’t want to shock the yolks. 

Pour the egg/milk mixture back into the sauce pot and slowly heat it up over low heat. Stir constantly with a whisk or flat edged wooden spoon. Take off the heat once the custard thickens and coats the back of a spoon, 10-15 min. Set aside and add the vanilla extract. Mix well.

Use warm, or, sprinkle with a thin layer of sugar if you want to leave it to cool. This will prevent skin forming on the surface.

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Olive Tapenade Twists

t5Love them or hate them. Opinions regarding olives seem to be quite strong. It’s not often I meet someone who is neutral. Olives do have a very distinct smell and flavour and I have to admit I haven’t always been a big fan. I used to belong to the category that managed to find and remove any hint of olive on both pizzas or in salads or whatever other dish being consumed. Left on the plate at the end of the meal was a sad pile of rejects. Not quite sure when my palate changed, but it did at some point. I’m happy about that today. 

For those of you who love the above mentioned salty mediterranean fruits, these twists might be right up your alley. This olive tapenade can be used on its own as well. Just serve it with a pile of your favourite crackers. The twists are a little bit more work, but in return, olive lover’s eyes will twinkle a little bit brighter.

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Tapanade:

1 1/2 cup mixed, pitted olives

1/2 cup fresh basil, roughly chopped

2 tbsp capers

1/2 cup parsley, roughly chopped

1 tbsp lemon juice

zest of 1 lemon

3 garlic cloves

4 green onions, roughly chopped

1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes

In a food processor, add all the ingredients for the tapenade and pulse until preferred consistency. I like some texture but it’s up to you how smooth you want it.

Tapenade Twists:

1 package puff pastry dough, thawed

1 egg

Preheat oven to 425F. Dust your counter with flour, and roll out the puff pastry dough until about 1/8 thick. With a spatula, spread a thin layer of the tapenade on top of the dough, making sure you cover it all the way to the edge. With a pizza cutter or knife, cut strips about 1” wide. Starting from the middle of the strip, twist in opposite directions until fully twisted, and then transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Beat the egg in a glass and lightly brush the twists before putting them in the oven. Bake until golden brown and puffy, about 20-25 minutes. Let cool.

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Dinner with Sarah Britton and Jamie Kennedy

d1Last night we were honoured to host the launch dinner for Sarah Britton’s new cookbook ‘My New Roots’ here at the winery. Holistic nutritionist Sarah Britton launched her My New Roots – blog in 2007 sharing inspiring plant-based recipes and tips for a healthy lifestyle. This cookbook is the result from what has become a hugely successful blog. She invited her long time idol Jamie Kennedy to join in on the festivities. Around 60 people enjoyed a 4-course meal along with our cider, pinot noir and teas from Pluck Teas. Elliot Reynolds from The Hubb Eatery at Angeline’s in Bloomfield was also invited to make a spin on one of Sarah’s recipes and I was thrilled  to be asked to do of one of the courses as well. 

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I strongly recommend you getting a copy of Sarah’s and Jamie’s cookbooks! You can order them here:

My New Roots

JK: The Jamie Kennedy Cookbook

Please enjoy this video and photos by Mark Staunton from a very memorable evening. Congratulations Sarah on your achievement. Thank you Jamie for joining us in our the kitchen, Elliot for your amuse bouche and Jennifer for serving your teas, Higgins Event Rentals for the beautiful plate ware and cutlery and, of course, Natalie Goldenberg-Fife for helping us organize this amazing evening. 

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Auf Wiedersehen Switzerland!

e1My name is Elva. I am Swiss, not Swedish as some mistake me for. An error which does tend to get under my skin. I cannot speak for Nordic technical engineering skills, however, I doubt they’ve reached the height of us Alpine people. Should you need convincing, simply glance in my direction. I insert large corks precisely and with little effort into glass bottles containing effervescent wine. What’s more, I gracefully wind wire hoods to secure the cork tightly and safely. I am few in number, built by hand entirely of stainless steel and brass.

Sadly, my place of birth does not require my skills. Such is often the way of things among my brethren. Will I ever lay eyes on my dear land of edelweiss? I know not. So with a heavy heart, I bid adieu. Auf wiedersehen, I cry!

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Ils ont des pupitres? I stand saluted by proud oak riddling racks. Well, life has a way to surprise even the most jaded among us. Perhaps a deep ocean separates me from the Old World yet I notice my employer has certain appreciation for the way things used to be done. I find that very agreeable. I see it everywhere and not just things to do with sparkling wine. Outside, there is an old lady with a blue rinse who grunts and chokes black smoke when she starts up in the morning. Often, I hear her in the distance swearing, as the French are oft to do, as she drags heavy equipment up and down the vineyard behind her rather broad girth. Though not Swiss, she works hard and well. Her name is Birdie and I admire her.

I have a nice spot in the winery by a stone wall where I quietly do my work. There is even space beside me for a future colleague. My employer agrees with my assessment that a doseuse can dose and top up a bottle much more effectively than by hand. I hear the older models are quite beautiful. I look forward her arrival and shall certainly make her feel welcome here.

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Swedish Pirogies

p1I can honestly say that I have never been on a picnic using a red-white checkered cloth. Yet, for some reason, every time I see the pattern, that’s exactly where my mind goes. Picnics are fun and I admit we don’t go on them as often as we should. Living in Prince Edward County I feel somewhat spoiled. Since the county is surrounded by water, there’s no shortage of beautiful spots to unfold that checkered cloth whether on a crisp spring day or a balmy summer evening.

As much as my mind refers to the word picnic when I see this particular pattern, I also associate these Swedish Pirogies with the same word. They are quite different from the original polish ones. These are much larger in size and baked rather than boiled. They are also made with a yeast dough. The filling can be switched out for something else but ground beef is the traditional (and in my opinion the best) one. Growing up, these patties were often found in the freezer at home. It’s a perfect afternoon snack but also the ideal picnic food. Easy to eat, no mess. No plates or cutlery required. They are as good cold as they are hot.

I think we all should make an effort to go picnic-ing a bit more this season. Make a day of it, or even an afternoon. Let’s enjoy the beautiful world around us. Sitting in your back yard is not the same thing as sitting under a tree by the water. Unless of course you happen to live right by the water with a big tree throwing the perfect amount of filtered shade. Then all you need is the red-white checkered cloth, these pirogies and a glass of The Old Third pinot.

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Dough:

5 tsp dry yeast

1/4 cup water

3/4 cup milk

1/4 cup cream

100g butter

2 tsp salt

3 eggs

3 3/4 cup flour

 

Filling:

1000 g ground beef

1 tbsp butter

1 tbsp olive oil

1 large or 2 medium leeks

3 cloves garlic

1” piece fresh ginger

1 large carrot

1 tbsp oregano

1 tbsp basil

1 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp ground cloves

3 tbsp tomato paste

2 tbsp soya sauce 

1.5 tsp sambal oelek

2.5 tsp salt

Dough:

Activate the dry yeast according to the packaging. In a pot, melt the butter. 

In a blender, medium speed, add yeast, milk, cream, butter, salt and eggs. Sift the flour into a bowl and transfer, a little at a time, into the yeast mixture while on medium-low speed. When a ball is formed, remove from the bowl and kneed on a lightly floured surface until nice and even. Shape into a ball, and place in a clean bowl. Cover with a kitchen towel and leave to rest for about an hour.

Filling:

Finely chop the white and green part of the leek, garlic and ginger. Grate the carrot. In a cast iron pot, on medium heat, fry the ground beef until cooked through in olive oil and butter. Add the vegetables and the rest of the ingredients. Stir and let cook for 10-15 minutes. Set aside and let cool.

Preheat the oven to 450F.

Cut the dough into 20 even pieces and roll each piece out to a circle, roughly 6” diameter. Alternatively, if you have a 6” round cookie cutter, roll out the dough in one piece, 1/8”-1/4” thick, then stamp out the circles. Add ~ 1/4 cup meat filling into the centre of the circle, then fold over in half. With a fork, push down along the curved side to seal. Brush with whisked egg. Bake in the middle of the oven for 15-20 min or until nice and golden. 

Eat hot with a side salad, or cold when out on a picnic or as a quick snack. They freeze well. 

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Long Live Pinot Noir!

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Some 3,500 years ago when Phoenician merchants set sail across the Mediterranean from their island city of Tyre on the eastern coast trading and establishing colonies, they brought with them not only their unique, simple alphabet, first to the ancient Greeks who saw early on its potential and who then later passed it to a receptive Roman audience, but also an unfathomably expensive dye. Tyrian purple. Long before Elizabeth I made it illegal for non-royals to wear or even well before popes began to fancy themselves monarchs, this dye was so far beyond the reach of even the very wealthy that mostly only emperors and kings could wear it. Murex, a spiny predatory sea snail, unfortunately for itself, was the only source of colour fast purple. The colour, gleaned from a defensive mucous gland was so strong, it deepened and improved with age. It could take over 10,000 to turn even just the trim on a robe purple. Cleopatra draped not only herself in it, but her palaces and even the sails of her boats. An unimaginable price no one today could afford.

The exact shade of this colour is not known, but the most prized hue was said to be a brackish purple one that veered towards oxblood, and one, perhaps, much like the dark robe of pinot noir that swirls in my glass. Yes, pinot noir is the king of grapes.

b6Today, we release our 2013 Pinot Noir. I have been waiting a long while to say this. Since the first days of the 2013 harvest when I first started to really get excited about the dark rich colour that was leaching from purple skins. We grape growers don’t get many kicks at the can. Our career is framed by so few vintages so when a summer like 2013 comes along, it is hard to suppress enthusiasm. Now, 18 months later, it is a brooding, noble wine with power and length. A pinot to lay down. I love it.

Long live pinot noir!

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Butternut Squash and Apple Cider Shots

s2You might think this is very much a fall post. That is true. It would be a perfect fall post. Except it’s not. March has finally arrived and spring is just around the corner. The long winter months are over and we can start looking forward to seeing the the earth come to life again. In anticipation of the new season, with all that it will give us, I find celebrating what has kept us alive throughout fall and winter is a nice gesture. In the olden days root cellars were very popular. Before grocery stores became what they are today and before modern refrigeration, this was the way to survive. Everything that needed to stay cool was put down there. Potatoes and carrots, apples and onions, squash and pumpkins were stored along with preserved vegetables and fruits. Perhaps even a few bottles of wine. I really love the traditional Swedish root cellar. They were outside of the house, dug into the ground and covered with dirt so that they resembled a grassy mound with a small door.  I would love to eventually build a one behind the house. I will tell you more about them in another post. So, this will be one of the last ‘winter posts’ for a while. These butternut squash and apple cider shots are a great amuse bouche or hors d’oeuvre for your next dinner party. I am using The Old Third Golden Russet Apple Cider of course.
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1 butternut squash

1 medium onion

1 tbsp butter

1 tbsp olive oil

6-8 fresh thyme sprigs

fresh ginger, one 1″ piece

4 cloves of garlic

3 cups chicken stock

1 1/2 cup dry apple cider

1/4 tsp nutmeg

salt & pepper

1/2 cup cream

1 package sliced bacon

 

Peel the butternut squash and cut into 1″ pieces, discarding the centre core. Peel and roughly chop the onion and ginger. In a frying pan heat up the butter and olive oil. Sauté the onion and ginger 2-3 minutes, then add the squash and garlic as well as the thyme sprigs. Sauté for another couple of minutes. Add the chicken stock, apple cider and nutmeg. Bring to a boil, then simmer until squash is soft, 20-30 minutes. 

Meanwhile, fry the bacon crisp, either in a heavy skillet, or on a baking sheet in a 450F oven. Let the bacon cool then crumble it together into small pieces. Put aside. 

Remove the soup from heat and let cool slightly. Transfer to a blender and puree until smooth. Stir in the cream and season with salt and pepper. Pour into shot glasses just before serving.Decorate with the crumbled bacon. Makes 24-30 shots or 6 appetizer size servings. 

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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