28 June 2006

Prezzies for me!

My parents returned, safe and sound. Surprisingly nothing spectacular happened on the trip back--no bridges washed out, no delayed flights, no missed connections, no snarky (nor snarly) flight attendents nor passengers. They, of course, brought me a few prezzies...

Anyway, I told my mum about my ankle and she and my dad bought me a beautiful hand-carved cane. I tried to take some piccies of details--to the left, a wolf- or fox-like creature and to the right, an elephant (my very favourite creature on this planet--if I could keep some as pets, I would).

India is known for many things and silk is one of them. To the left, a scarf and to the right a new sari for me!

Now, this is a foodblog, so of course there are few things they picked up from the markets: cashewnuts, nutmeg, star anise and mace.


26 June 2006

Some people have too much time on their hands

Which is good because I don't have enough time to be this creative :)

Last week I posted about The Table of Condiments That Periodically Go Bad.

Christina, in a comment, posted about The Periodic Table of Desserts.

Here are a few others that are foodish in nature...for the science geek in all of us.

My apologies in advance for all the retail sites I've linked to...couldn't (quickly) find non-sales sites for some of them.

The Periodic Table of Candy
The Periodic Table of Cheese
The Periodic Table of Chocolate
The Periodic Table of "Expresso"
The Periodic Table of Food
The Periodic Table of Fruits and Nuts
The Periodic Table of Mixology
The Periodic Table of Pumpkins
The Periodic Table of Vegetables


21 June 2006

Creamy vanilla-y goodness

It's no great secret that I absolutely adore panna cotta.

Every spoonful sends me into a rapture.

It's creamy and sweet. In my humble opinion it's sort of like the most decadent combination of ice cream and custard all at once. Which is probably why I love it so.

Whenever I have it in a restaurant, they always gild the lily by drizzling a coulis or some sort of sauce on it. This is fine, but I prefer it unadorned...and unmoulded. I do not apologize for getting out my spoon and tucking in directly into the ramekin, or any other container this luscious pudding is set in.

I've had several types of panna cotta, including cardamom, mocha and various fruit-infused ones, but I think my favourite one is vanilla. Clean and simple, I think it's one of the best ways to highlight this most amazing spice.

Vanilla Panna Cotta
2-1/2 teaspoons of gelatine powder
2 tablespoons cold water
250ml light cream
425ml heavy cream
100g sugar
1 dessertspoon vanilla extract

  • Soften gelatine in water.
  • Simmer the light cream in a small saucepan and then take it off the heat and add the softened gelatine. Stir well.
  • In another pan, pour in the heavy cream and sugar and bring to a boil while stirring constantly. Take off the heat. Pour in the now cooled gelatine mixture and vanilla extract and stir well.
  • Pour into ramekins and chill in the fridge until set
  • If you want to unmould it, let the ramekin sit in warm water for couple of minutes an turn out onto a plate. To gild the lily, serve with a coulis, light chocolate sauce or some toasted almonds.


19 June 2006

If you ever needed proof...

...that the diet industry only succeeds by failure:

Nestle purchases weight loss product maker Jenny Craig for $600 million

This is, apparently, part of Nestle's "continuing commitment to nutrition, health and wellness."

Yes, the company that brought us the Quik (sorry, NesQuik) Bunny (along with all those other helpful boxes, bottles and trays of processed foods and drinks) sees this as the perfect opportunity to combat obesity by selling even more helpful boxes, bottles and trays of processed foods.

I just hope the bunny survives.


16 June 2006

Summer Ice Cream Event: Strawberry Sweetness

From a simple quart of strawberries wonderful things come.

I didn't want to let strawberry season pass me by without taking advantage of those luscious berries. Normally, I'd have them with yoghurt or whipped cream,

Since our dearest
Sam of sweet pleasure: pleasure sucre announced his summer ice cream event, I was hard pressed to find another flavour that best represents summer.

I searched the web for a good recipe...and I thought I found one. I won't link to it because, well...there are problems. I was suprised--the chef associated with it is a known quanitity, with a television series or two, some books and a vocal legion of followers.

I think the recipe writer mis-noted the quanitity of strawberries needed...and I think he or she needed to double-check the amount of sugar needed....and when it was needed.

After mixing everything up, I realized I had too much liquid. The original recipe claimed to make roughly 1.5 litres of ice cream...difficult since the brine came to the 1.8-litre mark on my measuring jug, producing approximatley 2.25-2.5 litre of ice cream--not that I'm complaining. It's very, very good.

I debated what recipe, if any I should post. Should I provide you with the original? Should I provide you with what my next strawberry ice cream experiment should be? Or should I not post any recipe at all?

Well...one can never really have too much ice cream. So what I am doing is giving you what I made up the other night.

I didn't catch the strawberry error until too late, but I was able to fix the sugar before tipping it into the cream. I also used vanilla sugar instead of regular sugar.

Be forewarned, you will need to divide it into at least two batches, unless you have an ice cream maker that can handle at least 2.5 litres at once.

The resulting ice cream is a very pretty dusty rose colour, as opposed to the almost violent pink found in those questionable boxes and tubs in the grocer's freezer section. It is sweet--but not cloying so. I suppose if I were using winter berry imports I'd need the nearly 500g of sugar the original recipe called for, but during strawberry season, I don't think that extra adde sweetness is necessary.

Strawberry Ice Cream
450g fresh, ripe strawberries, washed, hulled and chopped
350g vanilla sugar
500ml half-and-half cream
500ml heavy cream
6 large egg yolks


  • Combine strawberries and about a half-cup of sugar in a blender and blitz until smooth.
  • Combine both creams and the balance of the sugar in a saucepan. Let the contents come to a simmer over medium-low heat while strirring occasionally.
  • In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks until they lighten in colour. Dribble in the hot cream while whisking vigorously--this is to keep the eggs from scrambling in the bowl. Keep adding cream and whisking until about half the cream is in the bowl.
  • Tip the eggy mixture the saucepan with the warm, sweetened cream. Take the pan back to the hob, and over medium flame stir constantly until thick. You know you are done when the mixture coats the back of a spoon.
  • Take the pan off the heat and whisk in the strawberry puree until fully incorporated. Pour into a bowl or 2-litre mixing jug. Let mixture cool to room temperature, then cover with cling film and then refrigerate for at least four hours or until cold.
  • Pour in one litre batches into your ice cream maker and follow manufacturer's instructions, letting it churn for about 25-30 minutes. When done, transfer to a freezer-friendly container and pop it into the freezer for at least three hours prior to serving.



14 June 2006

Minding my Ps and Qs

Who would have thought such lovely strawberries could cause so much consternation?

All I wanted to do is find something special to do with these favoured berries. Not fancy, just something nice. Normally I buy them and I eat them...preferably with vanilla whipped cream...or with yoghurt.

I found the recipe--it was simple enough and let's just say it was from a well-known source. It was in English and it didn't need any equipment I didn't already have. But I was scratching my head.

It called for a quart of strawberries.

Not so many ounces of strawberries. Not so many grams of strawberries.

A quart of strawberries.

As someone who prefers to mind her Ps and Qs with the dear Arthur Guinness, I thought a quart was a liquid measurement.

I asked some of my colleagues--I was told a quart was two pints.

Well, that didn't help.

Eventually I was told to get two small punnets of berries.

*That* I understood.

I found two punnets and weighed them out...450 grams (approximately). Does that sound right? I don't know. I eyeballed the berries. I bought them. They are in my fridge waiting to be used...I wonder if I can stop myself from nibbling on one or two...or three or four...

Maybe I should buy some more...just in case...



11 June 2006

All hail Queen Margherita of Savoy

If you've been reading my editorials on foodieblogs.net (and I know you have--and all of you have signed up (hint hint)) you know that I read Sarah Dunant's The Birth of Venus during my recent week off.

That book was the reason I chose pistachio ice cream as my first scoop of summer as it brought back memories of my Italian vacation from a few years ago.

That book--and those hot Tuscan July memories-- also inspired what is probably my last
Pizza Sunday until the autumn, a pizza Margherita.

I think the whole wheat dough was probably the best dough (whole wheat or white) I've made in a couple of years. It was one of those days where everything aligned--the yeast produced a lovely foamy head, the flour absorbed all the liquid and eggs perfectly, and the dough was so soft and tender--it was a shame to bake it.

On that lovely crust I layered diced tomatoes, mozzerella and torn, fresh basil leaves. A drizzle of olive oil along with sprinklings of black pepper and sea salt finished it off.

So simple and so yummy.



09 June 2006

Feast: Bloggy Lunch

Lately I've been spending a lot of time in Toronto. Sometimes it's for play and sometimes it's not. My trips are usually busy--go here, do this, see that, grab a bite, do that, find this and go home.

In one of my more recent trips to the big smoke I was lucky enough to connect with the most darling Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice. Originally, Tania from The Candied Quince was to join us, but her sister had a little mishap (she is recovering in fine style, as is evident in this post), so she had to send her regrets.

After reading each other's blogs for months, and corresponding in email, I knew she was sweet and funny. Meeting her in person, I can faithfully let you know that she is also vivacious and her cheeriness is quite infectious.

We talked and talked, shared theories and bounced ideas off of one another. It was so much fun. I can't speak for her, but for me it was like getting together with a dear old friend I rarely get to see. The only problem was that our visit ended far too soon...goshdarnit.

We lunched at Yorkville's Cafe Nervosa and both partook in absolutely wonderful pastas--she had a spinach and cheese-stuffed ravioli in a wonderful tomato sauce while I had a tasty linguini with seared tuna and sundried tomatoes in a basil pesto. Where are the pictures? I forgot to take them! We got so engrossed in conversation, I forgot to take the camera out of my bag. The only piccie I have is the lovely lemon tart I had for afters (she had an espresso). It was sweet and lemony--perfect for a hot day.

When we parted, she walked me to a chocolatrie the very kind person at The Cookbook Store *strongly suggested* I visit. It's quite embarrasing to admit this, but I had no idea that such a treasure as Simone Marie existed in my favourite Toronto wandering spot.

The staff was so fantastic (and patient)--I could have easily bought everything in their beautiful case--but I'm sure Mr. MasterCard would have had issues with that. I restrained myself and bought just a few treats for myself and others. Oh my...these chocolates were so good...I'm hoping to get there during my next trip...which is tomorrow...


07 June 2006

TSIR #3: Of sweetness and roses

Deciding my first ice cream made with my new ice cream maker was much easier than deciding what my first scoop of summer (or summer-like weather) was.

No, my first batch of ice cream was not going to be French Vanilla, Chocolate, nor my once-signature Irish Cream.

For weeks, I've been thinking of a dessert I saw posted on Cooking Debauchery--Kitarra's
Cardamom Panna Cotta. It was her submission to Tigers & Strawberry's first TSIR event.

What kept my mind working was how she used rosewater in that creamy-sweet dessert. It was only natural for me to take inspiration from from what sounded like a simply divine combination. It's also a combination that qualifies me for Tigers & Strawberries' TSIR: The Perfumed Garden.

The ice cream machine came with several recipes, but I decided to play with
Alton Brown's Vanilla Ice Cream recipe (I'll probably make that one next). Why this one? Because it uses a creme anglaise base--these ice creams always make me happy.

What oozed out of the churning bowl was as divine a treat as I expected.

Simply heaven in a bowl.

The ice cream is very rich and creamy. It is reminiscent of champagne roses in colour, scent and flavour. The cardamom is there, but not overpowering. It also reminds me of trips to Morocco and India.

Quite honestly, I'd classify it as a "special occasion" ice cream. Something celebratory, something summery, even something girlie.

And I think christening my brand new toy is a special occasion.

Rose-Cardamom Ice Cream
500ml heavy cream
500ml milk (two-per cent or full-fat)
8 large egg yolks
250g white sugar
1tsp vanilla extract
0.75tsp rose essence
powdered seeds of two cardamom pods

Putting it together
(for a 1.5L ice cream maker)

  1. Simmer the cream and milk with the cardamom over a medium-low flame--be sure to stir occasionally. Take off the heat.
  2. In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks until they lighten in colour. Gradually add the sugar and whisk to combine.
  3. Temper the cream into the sweetened eggs in small amounts. Do this until approximately one-third to one-half of the cream is incorporated into the eggs. Pour the sweetened eggy-creamy mixture back into the saucepan and return to the hob. Turn the flame to low and stir constantly while the mixture thickens slightly. You know you're done when it coats the back of a spoon.
  4. Strain the mixture and pour into a two-litre jug. Let it come down to room temperature, then add the flavourings before refrigerating for at least four hours.
  5. Pour into your ice cream maker and follow the manufacturer's instructions. Let it churn for about 25 or 30 minutes. When done, transfer the ice cream into a freezer-friendly container and let sit in the freezer for two or three hours before serving.


Related posts:

TSIR #3: The Perfumed Garden Round Up Part One

TSIR #3: The Perfumed Garden Round Up Part Two

Rose essence vs. rose water


05 June 2006

A toy! A brand new toy for me!

After what seems like months of looking for the mythical beast that was my mum's ice cream maker (I found the box: empty, of course), I finally bought my own maker (pictured left)


Now I'm waiting for the bowl to freeze so I can make my first batch of ice cream.

I have to stop myself from checking the freezer every couple of hours to see if it is frozen yet.

I'm so impatient.


03 June 2006

WCB: Happy Anniversary!

Last week Clare of Eatstuff announced Weekend Cat Blogging's first anniversary would take place this week.

Beanie, although shy, wanted to be at the party. Once he knows you...he will amble over, demand a pet and offer to taste test whatever chicken-like food you may have...you know, in case it may not be fit for consumption. If you're truly blessed, he'll sit on you.

The others (Hagia and Zeus) are in Mt. Catmore, hiding from the camera.

Anyway, Clare asked for cat toys. Beanie is a bully and won't let the others have toys (he will take away their toys). Most toys here are paper crumplies (boring, I know). To show he likes something, he lies on it...the above piccie is a shot of him lying on my wallet, and two little stuffed bunnies.

The bottom two pictures are a combination of last week's "Beanie and the Box theme" and CBBP #1. That's the box Elizabeth used to post my goodies. He stared at it for a day or two with a miffed look...we took out the stuffing and after an hour the proverbial lightbulb went on and there he is.

FYI, the box's dimensions are 9"x12"x6".

Thanks, Clare for a wonderful year of cat blogging!


01 June 2006

CBBP #1: An embarassment of riches

Well, my little homage to The Carpenters worked...a little too well...

I really am embarassed about this because I received not one, but TWO absolutely wonderful CBBP packages this week:

After a little mis-step, a box appeared at the post office from Elizabeth of The Rabbit Hole, my secret bloggy (as I call her)--do visit her blog, with your speakers *on.*

As you guys probably know, I've been waiting as patiently as my little impatient body would allow, but Canada Post really wanted to confirm why I rarely use them anymore. I'm sure of it. They returned it because of a postal code error.

Oh well, no bother since Elizabeth resent it and it arrived today. That very well taped box (yes, I need to get my Swiss Army Knife sharpened) was put together for a chocoholic like me.

Elizabeth is a scrap blogger--to be honest, I'm not sure what that means, but from what she put in, and how she chose to present things, I'm very convinced that she's a crafty bunney: a very nice handwritten note was on a series of notes that look as if they've been aged with coffee or chocolate. She also enclosed a beautiful gift card.

My favourite is an absolutely beautiful recipe card for Mud Pie. The picture hides it, but it's on a textured, chocolate-coloured, piece of cardstock; one side is decorated with a card of ice-creamy-like coloured stripes: Greg's Wheat, raspberry sorbet, mango, cocoa, maple walnut, grape, blue bubble gum and pistachio and the other side has a groovy pink and chocolate floral linedrawing print on it; a piece of mango grograine ribbon makes it quite pretty. Quite honestly, I think she designed it and I think she should think about marketing it. Also enclosed were a packet of gluten-free pancake mix (made locally to her), organic sugar, lots and lots and lots of chocolate, and last (but not least) there's a little packet of Zap all-natural anise with green tea breath strips.

I'm just wondering how she managed to get all that chocolate out of the house without her children knowing :)

I think what she gave me was the world's largest chocolate-chip pancake for breakfast this weekend...and since The Fussy Eater's father is in town this weekend-and I probably won't be able to meet up with them--this pancake is all mine!

Thank you so much Elizabeth! It was well worth the wait :)

When dear Sam of sweet pleasure: plaisir sucre found out that Canada Post may have lost my CBBP package, *he* sent me a package so I wouldn't feel left out. I told him not to but, like many people of the males I know, he is both sweet and headstrong.

So...what did my second box-o-goodies bring? Well, first was a very warm note written on a card from the AGO; its cover image is a reproduction of Synders' still life, "Bowl of Fruit on a Red Tablecloth"--the art historian that I am is very appreciative.

In the note he thanked me for the CBBP package I sent him (I was his secret bloggy) and described what he sent me. There were two Dagoba chocolate bars--one was flavoured with chai and the other with lavender; lemon sencha green tea from his favourite tea shop pictured (in my tea ball); a recipe for white chocolate, cardamom and saffron truffles, a package of teeny little turtle magnets (the little green jellybean-like things), and--much to my pleasure--his home-made cardamom marshmallows--made exclusively for me :)

I am looking forward to making the truffles for a couple of reasons: I've never made truffles and I have a package of Kashmiri saffron--truly honied tones--and I think this recipe would be perfect for them. Unfortunately I must wait until the temperatures drop a little...

I have to be honest. I've had his box for a day or so and I had to consciously stop myself from eating the marshmallows before I got the camera out. They are so good. I don't think they'll last until the weekend.

Thank you so much Sam!