Now, before you say that you don’t like Brussels sprouts, hear me out about these little beauties: they just might change your mind. If you are among the approximately 50% of people who are predisposed to like Brussels sprouts (yup, you read that right), you will definitely be into these tangy little morsels. Honestly, nothing could be simpler, and in a sea of mashed potatoes and turkey, you need a bright bite here and there to punctuate the richness of tradition (and gravy) at your Thanksgiving table. (more…)
Tag: balsamic vinegar
You know the feeling when you’re served something nostalgic or something from your younger years and it gives you a sense of levity, or whimsy, almost as if it’s fun to eat? Or how eating something very ‘grown up’ like caviar on tiny blinis with champagne can make you feel like the ultimate in sophistication? Well, for me, panna cotta feels virtuous. You’d think that something more responsible, like bran, would be a ‘virtuous’ food, but no. For me it’s panna cotta. Perhaps it’s the pure paleness of it, or the delicate texture, the pleasingly (almost) bland almond perfume of it. Whatever it is, I’m pretty sure that panna cotta is what angels eat. And who doesn’t want to feel a bit angelic once in a while?
As I’m sure you’re well aware, food, much like fashion, is cyclical and trends come and go, some lasting longer than others. Lately I feel like the world has gone a bit panna cotta crazy and somehow I’m late to the party. No issue, I’m sure I can make up for lost time. It seems that many blogs and magazines I read are extolling the virtues (see what I did there?) of panna cotta like never before and pairing it with beautiful sauces, marmalades and other sweet or spiced toppings. So what is a girl to do when faced with 2 pounds of deep red strawberries nearly past their prime? Cook them down in a sweet balsamic syrup and pour them over panna cotta. Obviously.
2 envelopes of plain gelatin
3 -¼ C cold milk, divided
¾ C light or ‘half and half’ cream
½ C sugar
1 tsp pure almond extract or vanilla extract
In a medium bowl, add the gelatin powder to ¼ C of cold milk. Stir well and set aside. Pour the remaining 3 cups of milk into a medium saucepan. Add the cream and sugar. Heat over medium heat stirring occasionally until the sugar is fully dissolved and almost boiling. Do not allow the mixture to come to a boil. Once it’s very hot, remove it from the heat and pour it over the milk and gelatin you have already prepared, whisking to combine. Stir in almond/vanilla flavouring. Pour into 4 lightly greased* bowls or ramekins (or 8 smaller ones). Allow to set in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, or overnight. You can make these up to 2 days ahead if you keep them covered and chilled.
* Panna cotta is very pretty when it’s turned out of the dish it is made in and unmolded. If you plan to do this, very lightly grease the cups/ramekins with plain vegetable oil. If you are feeling less fussy, skip this step and just eat the panna cotta from the dish it is made in without inverting and releasing it. In the pictures above, I took the rustic approach without greasing the bowls and frothed the hot mixture up with a whisk so it was bubbly on top and the bubbles remained as the dessert set in the fridge giving them a unique look.
2 lb ripe (or very ripe) strawberries
¼ C sugar
¼ C balsamic vinegar*
Trim and halve the berries. Set aside. In a wide, shallow saucepan, mix the sugar into the vinegar. Add the berry halves and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the berries are very soft, but still holding their shape, about 20 minutes. The will become very juicy and the surrounding syrup will become thickened. Serve warm, room temperature or chilled. Keep in a sealed container for up to 3 days.
*Alternatively, if you are not a fan of balsamic vinegar or do not have any on hand, red wine makes a perfect substitution here.
I’ve done a lot of whining about the weather on here lately. I apologize. If you are a fellow Vancouverite, you will surely empathize: it’s been wet and grey with only occasional sunny or warm days for months. The grey used to really get to me. It would seep in and make my whole outlook damp and drab. Over time, I started to see the upside to our temperate weather: cherry blossoms in March, misty and bracingly cool mornings, greenery all year round, the wonderful wet earth smell of the surrounding rainforests, the exquisite and diminutive beauty of moss. All these lovely elements are now dear to my heart and make me grateful that we do not live in an area that is often ravaged with wildfire, or parched and bleached by the heat of long and merciless summers. However, when it is late June and the days remain cool, breezy and wet, one begins to long for sunshine.
Remember summers when you were a child? Through the spring the days would get long and hot, so much so that afternoons in school felt impossibly long. Finally, not a moment too soon, school would adjourn for the year and you could run full tilt into the summer, cartwheeling and cannon-balling into it, launching your whole sweet, happy child-self into months of sunshine and all the luxuries of summer: Summer camps, going to amusement parks and fairs, full days of swimming from mid morning when the fog burned off until nightfall. It always seemed like it would never, could never, end.
Summer memories, like so many of our memories are tied to people, places, smells and tastes. If you were so lucky, as I was, to have a family that gathered regularly when you were growing up, then you might have your own memory slideshow of summer picnics. Whether they were backyard, campsite, lakeside or city park picnics, they were no doubt special and likely drew the regular crowd and the same old (and old fashioned) foods. Growing up, my mother always made the potato salad for picnics and barbecues. It was a classic. Straightforward, dependable, unchanging, always the same minced dill pickle throughout and the same sunny yolked rounds of hard boiled egg on top. It may have been the only potato salad I had ever had until my sister in law joined our clan and introduced another very classic potato salad, but this time it included sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes! Who ever heard of such a thing? Needless to say, it’s delicious and has now been the go-to family picnic salad for many years.
Now that you’re anticipating a recipe for all my family’s epic potato salad recipes let me tell you why the recipe I will share with you here is not my mothers, nor my sister in law’s: mayonnaise. Mayonnaise is to blame. Now, I don’t dislike this creamy condiment, but there is something about the rich, salty, egginess of mayonnaise that just doesn’t jive with hot weather, outdoor dining. Call me crazy. So with all due respect to the mothers, grandmothers, sisters in law, etc. who have a delicious “family secret” potato salad, I share with you here, a potato salad for a new generation, one that, given time, just might someday illicit the same summer picnic nostalgia that the old fashioned mayo, egg and pickle version does in me.
Balsamic Potato Salad
1 lb baby white potatoes (or 1 lb of large potatoes, cut into large bite-sized chunks)
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 handful each: green onion tops, fresh mint, flat leaf parsley – chopped
1 tsp minced fresh rosemary
1 small clove fresh garlic – minced
salt and fresh pepper to taste
Boil the potatoes in a large pot. While they cook, chop the herbs and garlic.
When the potatoes are very tender (poke them with a knife to check) drain them into a colander and immediately put the pot back on the hot burner. Turn off the stove. Pour the now drained potatoes back into the hot pot. Add the butter, herbs and garlic. Stir and agitate the potatoes, this will rub their skins off partially and allow the butter to soak in. Continue to stir and gently crush the potatoes. Add the balsamic vinegar and stir until it is fully absorbed. Season with salt and pepper to your liking. Serve hot, room temperature or cold.