Monday, June 29, 2009

Chicken Noodle Soup

It hasn't been a very fun couple of days at the Jenn household. I went for a run on Sunday morning and could feel that something wasn't quite right. My legs were helping me through, but my body wasn't quite in sync. Sure enough, a couple hours later I was under my blanket, feeling.. well, not so well. When I was a kid, I used to describe bad sore throats by picturing little bite-size men playing around my throat with sharp little swords. That image popped back into my head this weekend as I was sipping tea and trying to make the pain go away.

So... today I surrendered to my momentary illness, stayed in bed for most of the day until Oliver and I decided to use this as the perfect opportunity to make chicken noodle soup. It was pouring rain, gray and felt more like December than June anyway so this ended up turning an otherwise gloomy day into a fun-filled culinary adventure. I called this a chicken noodle soup, but I used a lot of the elements of an Italian wedding soup (egg, Parmesan and greens) and ended up with a wonderful medley of flavors. Oliver biked to the nearest butcher and was able to get homemade chicken stock (which we were out of) which made the broth that much more flavorful. All and all, this turned my pain-filled day into a day full of love and comfort food.

Chicken Noodle Soup (serves 4)
2 chicken breasts
2 bay leaves
2 shallots, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, finely diced
1 carrot, finely diced
2 scallions, finely sliced
2 cups of chicken stock
2 handfuls of egg noodles
1 small handful of fresh spinach
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons of freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra for serving
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Extra virgin olive oil

Bring water to a boil in a small saucepan, and add the 2 bay leaves. Add the chicken.

In a separate saucepan on medium low heat, add a good drizzle of olive oil. Add the shallots, garlic and carrots. Cook for 2-3 minutes, or until softened. Add the scallions and chicken stock. Bring the chicken stock to a boil and add the noodles. Cook according to package instructions.

Once the chicken is poached, remove from the water, and shred using a fork (discard the bay leaves). Season with salt and pepper and add to the chicken broth (about 2 minutes before the noodles are cooked). Add the spinach, the beaten egg and stir until the egg is cooked (about 1 minute). Add the Parmesan. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve with crusty bread, a drizzle of olive oil and a little extra Parmesan. Enjoy!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Bakewell Tartelettes

The June Daring Bakers‘ challenge was hosted by Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict and Annemarie of Ambrosia and Nectar. They chose a Traditional (UK) Bakewell Tart… er… pudding that was inspired by a rich baking history dating back to the 1800’s in England.

When I first read about this month's challenge, I didn't really know what to expect. I had never tasted a Bakewell tart, and am not usually a fan of jam-based desserts. However, I was enthusiastic at the prospect of trying something new and got a glass jar of Italian strawberry jam (which turned out to be extraordinary)to get my imagination going. I actually ended up sticking to the recipe pretty closely, and loved using the jam as a base layer.

Growing up eating "galette des rois" every year, I knew that any chance to make a frangipane should be taken. I love the taste of this flavorful ground almond mixture, and it's so easy to make. They were a lovely addition to the strawberry jam. I opted for making small tartelettes, which were fun to fill and watch puff up in the oven. The result were adorable little baked treats, albeit a little sweet for my taste.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Cold Soba Noodle Salad with Red Peppers, Peas and Scallions

A nice cold noodle salad ranks pretty high on my list of perfect summer food. It's an easy salad to put together, and it can be prepared several hours before serving. I've been pretty busy lately with several projects and in those times the go-to meals are always the ones I turn to. This salad is versatile (you could use different peppers, mango, slithers of cucumber or grilled chicken if you don't have red pepper or peas) and you could also serve it warm. I served it with a medium rare sliced steak which made for a really nice meal.

For me, summer is all about traveling and eating great food with great company. With those ideals in mind, I am headed to San Francisco very soon. San Francisco would probably be the one place on the West Coast that I could picture myself living in. Being quite fair skinned and not the best camper when it's really warm, San Francisco was the perfect choice for a birthday celebration trip. I will be making the - in my opinion mandatory - trip to Alice Walters' Chez Panisse and have a list of restaurants, bakeries and taco joints I can't wait to try out. Life is good!

Cold Soba Noodle Salad with Red Peppers, Peas and Scallions

Recipe (serves 4)

2 teaspoons of low sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon of sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon of fish sauce
Buckweat soba noodles for 4
1/2 cup of cooked peas
1 small red pepper, finely diced
2 large scallions, finely minced
1 tablespoon of toasted sesame seeds
Canola oil

In a small bowl, whisk the soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil and fish sauce. Reserve.

Cook the noodles according to package instructions. Drain, and lightly drizzle with some canola oil to prevent the noodles from sticking. Reserve and let cool.

Transfer the cold noodles to your serving bowl. Add the diced red peppers, scallions, peas and sesame seeds. Dress with the soy marinade and stir. Serve cold or at room temperature. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Tuna, Arugula and Apple Sandwiches

Tuna and apple might seem like an odd combination but it works wonderfully in sandwiches. The tuna is creamy, the apples are tangy and sweet and the arugula adds that peppery and lemony taste that makes all the flavors meld beautifully.

As the weather is slowly moving towards summery temperatures, I like to plan out great picnic food. There's just something about packing up delicious goods and enjoying them with friends or family outdoors. These sandwiches work perfectly for those kind of days. I like to make them mini sandwiches - they are less messy and allow you to make different sandwich combos to try. If it's really warm and you can't keep the sandwiches cool, I would suggest skipping the mayo and using a little more mustard instead. Serve it with a fresh salad (I like roasted red and yellow peppers with goat cheese crumbles) and a glass of homemade ice tea and you're set!

Tuna, Arugula and Apple Sandwiches
(makes 4 mini sandwiches)
2 small cans of tuna packed in olive oil
3 tablespoons of mayonnaise
1 tablespoon of grainy mustard
1 handful of arugula
1 granny smith apple, thinly sliced
4 mini ciabatta rolls
Olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Slice the ciabatta rolls lengthwise. Lightly drizzle with olive oil and toast for 3-4 minutes or until the bread is golden brown and crusty. Take off the heat and reserve. In a small bowl whisk the mayonnaise and grainy mustard and reserve.

In a bowl, add the tuna (drained from most of the oil). Using a fork, press down on the tuna to separate the chunks. Fold in 3/4 of the mayonnaise mixture and add a good pinch of salt and pepper. Divide the tuna mixture and add it to each ciabatta half. Layer with a few slices of apple and top with arugula. Spread the mayonnaise on the other side of each piece of ciabatta. Close the sandwiches and enjoy!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Mini Vanilla and Chocolate Chip Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache

Cupcakes are one of those great treats that transcend generational barriers - children love them, adults secretly (or not so secretly) do too and they're becoming more and more popular as a replacement to ornate 3 tiered wedding cakes or as the finger food of choice for baby showers or birthdays. As I've mentioned before, living in New York pushed me over the edge. I was already cupcake-obsessed, but New York opened a new world I never knew existed. I had never tasted so many different types of cupcakes and I loved every minute of it. Montreal is not really a cupcake town which has encouraged me to make more of them at home.

These cupcakes are an easy classic. The batter is slightly different to your regular cupcake batter (there are no yolks, but airy egg whites instead which give the cupcakes a wonderfully moist texture)and they are topped with a 3 minute chocolate ganache. I've also taken a liking to using silicone cupcake wrappers instead of the paper ones. Not only are they more environmentally friendly for all of us cupcake lovers who go through many, many cupcake wrappers in the year, but they are also easy to clean, don't stick and come in plenty of different colors. Another thing: mini cupcakes are the way to go! If you're planning on trying a lot of different cupcakes for the summer, making them smaller might just let you try that many more!

Mini Vanilla and Chocolate Chip Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache

Recipe (for about 60 mini cupcakes), adapted from Martha Stewart

3 1/4 cups + 1 tablespoon of cake flour (not self-rising)
4 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1 tablespoon of pure vanilla extract
1 cup + 2 tablespoons of milk
1/2 cup + 6 tablespoons ( 1 3/4 sticks) of unsalted butter at room temperature
1 3/4 cups of sugar
5 large egg whites at room temperature
2 cups of semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F. In a bowl, whisk together the cake flour, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, mix the vanilla extract and milk.

With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugar in a steady stream and beat until pale and fluffy (about 2 minutes). Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture in 3 batches alternating with 2 additions of the milk mixture. Beat until just combined.

In another bowl, with an electric mixer on medium speed whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks (do not overmix). Fold 1/3 of the egg whites into the butter batter to loosen it. Add the rest of the egg whites in 2 batches, gently folding them in. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Place your cupcakes wrappers in the muffin pan. Fill each cup 3/4 of the way up. Bake for 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cupcake come out just clean (bake 22 minutes for normal-sized cupcakes). Leave to cool on a cooling rack before icing.

Chocolate Ganache
6 ounces of semi sweet chocolate
2/3 cup of heavy cream

Finely chop the chocolate and place it in heat proof bowl. Bring the heavy cream to a boil. As soon as the cream starts to boil, remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate. Whisk until the chocolate mixture is homogeneous. Dip each cupcake into the chocolate mixture. Enjoy!
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