Archive for February, 2012

Teri Vlassopoulos is the author of the Danuta Gleed shortlisted short story collection Bats or Swallows
Teri’s notes: Halva is one of those 1-2-3-4 ratio recipes, so you can scale it up or down as you wish. We used a juice glass to measure out the ingredients and ended up with halva that fit in an 8 inch bundt pan. It’s a ridiculously simple recipe – you barely have to do anything and it’s hard to mess up.
1 part olive oil
(You can also use another oil if you don’t have olive on hand. Also, halva has the tendency to be oily, so if you want to use a little less than 1 part, go ahead.)
2 parts coarse semolina
(NOTE: Semolina is a by-product of durum wheat. Use coarse semolina for this recipe, which is distinctly grainy. Fine semolina will be more flour-y and won’t work.)
3 parts sugar
4 parts water
Optional: as many nuts as you want
Step 1. In a medium pot, add the sugar to the water and bring to a boil for about 5-7 minutes until the sugar is dissolved. Skim off any foam that might develop on the surface of the water. Set the water mixture aside.
Step 2. In a large pot, heat the oil and add the semolina. This is the only step that requires a bit of work. Keep stirring it around so that the oil is incorporated by the semolina. The semolina will start getting fragrant and toasty. Do this for a few minutes until it’s golden, and don’t let it burn.
Step 3. Add the water mixture to the pot with the semolina. It will hiss and steam, so don’t be alarmed. Stir it around a bit and then let the pot sit. If you want nuts, throw a bunch in now (and you probably do; almonds and walnuts are especially good.) The mixture will thicken into a porridge-like consistency and you’ll see satisfyingly big, slow, fat bubbles coming up to the surface. It will smell very good.
Step 4. Pour the thickened mixture into a pan or a mold – bundt pans are good for this. When it’s cooled and set, turn onto a plate and sprinkle with lots of cinnamon. Then, slice and serve.

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2 cups all purpose-flour
4 large eggs
1 1/4 cups milk
4 tbs butter for the skillet
maple syrup for serving

Add flour to a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, milk and vanilla. Add to flour and combine well. Let batter stand about 10 minutes to completely moisten the flour.

Place a 10 inch non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Melt a generous pat of butter. Swirl the butter around to coat the inside of the pan, then ladle a thin layer of batter, tipping the pan from side to side to evenly distribute the batter. Return pan to heat.

As the batter begins to pull away from the sides of the pan and the edges begin to set, tilt the pan around so the uncooked batter runs underneath.

If you’re feeling theatrical like Wouters, flip the Pannekoeken with a sleight of wrist. Otherwise, use a spatula. Cook second side for a few moments, then serve.

For Pannekoeken with apples, raisins, brown sugar and cinnamon:

3 apples, cored and peeled
1/2 cup plump raisins
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tbs butter
Cut apples into wedges, then slices. Place a large pan over medium-high heat. Melt butter. Add brown sugar and stir together with a wooden spoon. Add apples and raisins. Sauté, stirring frequently, until apples are fork tender.
Make Pannekoeken as above. Dust with cinnamon and serve with apple mixture and maple syrup.

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4 lbs beef short ribs (we used half boneless, half bone-in)
3-4 tbs canola oil
2 small turnips
1 large parsnip
1/2 medium celeriac (celery root)
3 medium carrots
1 small onion
4 large white mushrooms, quartered
1 cup red wine
1 1/2 cups beef or chicken stock
28 oz can diced tomatoes
kosher salt/fresh ground pepper
Peel and roughly chop turnips, parsnip, celeriac, carrots and onion.
Place a large, preferably cast-iron, skillet over high heat. Add oil and sear short ribs on all sides. Remove meat to a dish and set aside. Add vegetables to same pan and allow to cook and caramelize for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add mushrooms in the final minute. Remove and set aside.
Add red wine to pan to deglaze, using a wooden spoon to dislodge all the flavourful bits. Add stock and continue to deglaze until liquid is hot.
Into a pre-warmed stoneware dish, place vegetables. Arrange meat over top, followed by tomatoes and stock. Season and place in a 325F oven for 3 hours.
When finished, remove short ribs and half-to-two-thirds of the vegetables. Purée remaining vegetables, along with the liquid, to make a thick, savoury, sauce. Season to taste. Serve ribs and vegetables over gnocchi, with a ladle of sauce.

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“Couldn’t you at least put out a little cheese?”
By my assessment, Betty Jane Hegerat has already baked plum kuken, and a batch of apfeltaschen. The teacups are set out, coffee on the ready, and invited guests beginning to arrive for an afternoon of in-home author readings.
An old-fashioned story salon. Something just a little more intimate and social than the week of library talks and media interviews planned for the rest of my week in Calgary.
Having caught a morning flight, and ignored suggestions that breakfast is, if not the most important, at least a noteworthy, meal, I have to admit that a nibble of dairy protein around noon might help unjangle my nerves.
And, because Betty Jane is like so many other grown up daughters, with daughters of their own, her mother’s voice on the phone still has sway. So, cheese there is.
An author herself, Betty Jane has become one of my favourite writers in the last few months. The characters in her novel, Delivery (Oolichan Books), are likely to be among the people I think are real when I finally become senile.
It’s one of her short stories, though, that has me thinking about the deep emotional attachments people have to food.
“Leftovers,” which is one of the short stories in A Crack in the Wall, unfolds its secrets through some of the 365 frozen meals that a dying woman leaves her husband for after she’s gone.
Meatballs in mushroom sauce comes with a note, a reminder to eat some salad every day. Lasagna to go with the memory of a first anniversary.
Stroganoff evokes being witnesses to a failing marriage, coming unglued in a kitchen. “Crap Casserole” is what their son dubbed the results of his mother’s fridge cleaning expeditions. Chili, the same son’s favourite meal. And peach cobbler, evocative of an intimate moment on the back lawn.
There’s a meal for every day of an entire year. To help her husband say good-bye, or to keep her with him, it’s hard to say.
What’s certain is that the food speaks of a shared life, and connections that have been melded together over pots of pastas and stews.
Back at Betty Jane’s house, readings by three authors are given in turn, from a rocking chair in the middle of the living room. And after a conversation about stories, which feels like friends and family chatting on a Sunday afternoon, we drift deliberately towards the pastries.
The plum kuken is something like the platz I make at home. I could linger over the squares the rest of the day.
But it’s the apfeltaschen that soon has my full attention: Tender pastry pockets, filled with sweetened, grated apples and jam.
Sometime after my fourth (they’re small, don’t judge me), I find myself asking for the recipe.
By the time I get to my hotel that evening, apfeltaschen is in my inbox. And I already know it’s a recipe I’ll always associate with storytime at Betty Jane’s house.
Yield: 36
2 cups  flour
1 tbs sugar
1 cup butter
1 cup  cottage cheese*
1 tsp vanilla
3  apples, peeled and grated
apricot jam

Combine flour and sugar.  With pastry blender, cut in butter.  Add cottage cheese and vanilla.  Mix thoroughly, continuing to use pastry blender. Shape into ball.
On a floured surface, roll out dough about 1/2 inch thick.  Fold in thirds, then shape into a ball again.  Repeat rolling 3 times.  Wrap and chill several hours or overnight. (May also be frozen.)
Divide dough into 3 parts.  Roll out each part into a rectangle 1/8 inch thick.  Cut each rectangle into 12 squares.  Fill centre of each square with 1 heaping tsp of grated apple and 1/2 teaspoon of jam.  Bring corners to middle, pinching points together to seal.  Place on parchment paper-lined baking sheets.
Bake in 400F oven for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.
These can be drizzled with glaze, but are awfully good with a scoop of ice cream or dollop of whipped cream.
*Betty Jane drains the cottage cheese somewhat before incorporating it into the dough.
Mahlzeit! Und Guten Appetit!

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1 loaf chocolate bread (recipe on this site)
2 cups cream
2 cups milk
6 oz chopped dark chocolate
1 whole vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped
8 large egg yolks
3/4 cup granulated sugar
Bring cream and milk to a boil in a medium pot. Turn off heat. Add chocolate, vanilla pod and seeds. Cover and allow the vanilla to infuse for 20 minutes. Discard pod and whisk the mixture until combined.
Meanwhile, slice chocolate bread into 1/4-inch slices. Cut slices into thirds and arrange in a 9×14-inch baking dish.
Whisk together yolks and sugar in a large bowl, then slowly add hot chocolate mixture, whisking constantly to keep eggs from scrambling.
Pour half of the mixture over the bread to soak it thoroughly. Pour the rest over top, cover with plastic wrap and press down gently, and repeatedly over 30 minutes, to encourage the bread to soak up the liquid.
Remove plastic wrap. Place pudding dish in a larger pan, place in a 350F oven, and fill outer pan with hot tap water to reach half way up the pudding dish. Bake until set in centre. Carefully remove dish from outer pan and place on a cooling rack for 15 minutes before serving.

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(makes 2 loaves)
1 1/2 cups milk, warmed
4 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
4 1/2 cups all-purpose or bread flour
1/2 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
16 oz semisweet chocolate, chips or coarsely chopped
In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, sprinkle yeast over milk. Add 1 tbs sugar, then set aside to proof (until bubbles form on the surface).
Meanwhile, melt the butter and 6 oz of the chocolate in a small double boiler, stirring occasionally, until mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and let cool until warm.
Into the yeast/milk mixture, add remaining sugar, eggs, vanilla and salt. Mix in half of the flour and all of the cocoa powder, followed by the melted butter/chocolate mixture. Incorporate the remaining flour and, using the dough hook attachment, knead for 5 minutes.
Cover with a clean, lint-free kitchen towel and let rise for 2 hours, until doubled.
Butter two 9-inch loaf pans.
When the dough is finished rising, scrape out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead a few times, divide in half. Shape halves into two loaves and place in pans. Cover and allow to rise for another 90 minutes to two hours.
Bake in a 350F oven for 35-40 minutes, until loaves sound hollow when tapped. Remove from oven and turn loaves out of pans, onto a cooling rack.
Cook’s notes: The dough for this bread can be made successfully in a larger capacity breadmaker. Add the milk, sugar, salt, eggs, butter/chocolate mixture, and vanilla to the bottom of the pan, followed by flour and cocoa, with the yeast on top. Add chopped chocolate or chips when the add-in alarm sounds. When the dough is ready, divide into two pans and bake in oven according to above instructions.

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1 2/3 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup yellow cornmeal
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tbs granulated sugar
2 eggs, separated, whites beaten to soft peaks
3 cups buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla
3 tbs butter, melted
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda and sugar. In a separate bowl, lightly beat together egg yolks, buttermilk, vanilla and butter. Add wet ingredients to dry and bring together in a few strokes, until just combined. Fold in egg whites.
Heat a griddle over medium heat. When hot, add a bit of butter to the surface and wipe off excess. Ladle batter, about 1/4 cup at a time, onto griddle. Turn when bubbles form in the centre of each pancake.

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