Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Chocolat... Ah...

I wanted to watch Chocolat again for quite some time and I would always forget or when I remembered I'd be busy. I was not going to watch it today, but there was a recipe that caught my attention a few days ago and I had this urge to try it. I had no idea how it's going to taste and I was intrigued. You see, I got this book a while ago, book about Cooking with Chocolate. Yes, it had a lot of dessert recipes and chocolate drinks, but it also had a section about cooking, just plain cooking... with chocolate. And a recipe for Chocolate Ravioli with Ricotta just called my name. I had to make it!!!

I also had some left over sponge cake and what can you do with it? It's simple. Rum Balls! I love those little desserts, they taste like it's an elaborate cake that took you hours to prepare, but they only take a couple of minutes to mix together.

At that point I knew that it is time to watch that movie again. I ate Rum Balls and I watched the movie and drooled over chocolates (and melted over Johnny Depp). I still was not satisfied. Something was missing. That scene when they have a chocolate dinner was stuck in my mind. The chocolate sauce over meat... Mmm... I've never tried anything like it. But I had a recipe just for that. It was exactly what I needed. Shrimp in Chocolate Sauce.

And then I was in Chocolate Heaven.

Chocolate Ravioli with Ricotta

Shrimp in Chocolate Sauce

Rum Balls

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Back to my roots

I am Russian and I love Russian food. I rarely eat it now, because I always want to try some new recipes, but I still remember the tastes from my childhood. Each time I visit my grandparents, I usually have something Russian, like our famous potato salad (Оливье), or just a plain cabbage slaw with carrots and mayo, or canned salmon with boiled eggs salad. The taste of these salad is so simple compared to what I make sometimes (mayo vs. fancy vinaigrette), but it is so satisfying! And lately I've been craving to make those foods at home..

So finally, yesterday I made something that my mom would make when I was little. Not exactly the same, but it tasted very good and very... Russian.

It was my own invention: Chicken gizzards and hearts a la Stroganoff which I served with a traditional Russian side of buckwheat. And I just made law salted cucumbers (малосольные), they went perfectly with the main course.

Chicken Gizzards and Hearts a la Stroganoff

Freshly-Salted Cucumbers

Friday, July 27, 2007

Azure kitchen...

As I mentioned before, I just finished taking baking classes at George Brown College. My last two classes (Art of Cakes and Cakes: Classical to Modern) were absolutely amazing mainly due to the guidance of a wonderful instructor, Christophe.

He is a Pastry Chef at a restaurant in downtown Toronto - Azure. Last week I had an opportunity to visit a professional kitchen at that restaurant. It was really interesting and exciting.

First I had a late lunch there.

And a dessert... of course!!!

And then the tour started...

This rectangular thing on the right is a... frying pan!

A pot of soup anyone?

Banquet kitchen.

Dessert Station.

Huge oven.


A Chocolate Piece made by my instructor.

Some chocolate decorations.

And Christophe!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Bakery Arts Certificate

I am very proud to say that this past Thursday I had my last baking class at George Brown College and now I can get my Bakery Arts Certificate! It was an interesting, fun, tiring and tasty journey. I found out about this program from Cream Puffs in Venice blog (I actually even took one class with her :) ) and I instantly knew that I had to try out the classes.

I started exactly a year ago. In July 2006 I took my first baking class - Basic Baking. I was a little bit disappointed - not enough explanation about the science behind the ingredients and a lot (A LOT) of shortening, which I do not ever (ever!) use at home. But then I came to understand that I can almost always use butter instead of this shortening at home and they do it to save the cost. I had some absolutely wonderful instructors. Some just showed us how to do the recipe, but some actually talked to us about the ingredients, substitutions, some tricks, etc. It was tiring taking 2 classes a week from 6 to 9 (or sometimes to 10-11 depending on the class) after work, but it was worth it. I learned a lot. I made pies, cookies, muffins, cakes, pastries, breads, Chinese buns. I learned how to temper chocolate, how to make a perfect pie crust, how to make various pastry creams and shape breads.

And last Thursday I had my last class. It was Art of Cakes course and we made the best chocolate cake! It was the perfect ending to my classes.

Apple Pie - first course, first class

Chocolate Decadent Cake - last course, last class

Chocolate Decadent Cake

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Ricotta and dairy products

I was raised on various milk products. Yes, we did not have yogurts, but we had so many different dairy things. Kefir is my favourite, you can find something remotely similar to it in a lot of supermarkets, and although it is called Kefir, it is not the same. Then we had a few more milk drinks which can only be found at Russian supermarkets. And we had Tvorog... Something like it is called here "Cottage Cheese" or "Baker's Cheese". I think that it is most closely resembles Ricotta, but much denser and richer. For me, these dairy products were a big part of everyday meals. We had them for breakfasts, for mid afternoon snacks, for late dinners. They are healthy and they do not contain any added sugar or salt.

There tons of Russian stores around where I live, but sometimes it's just so much easier to go to my regular grocery store and buy ricotta. I love using it for ricotta pancakes: ricotta, flour, sugar, eggs, mix it all together, shape and pan fry, I don't measure them, just put a little bit of everything to get to quite dense consistency. This time, at my favourite cooking discussion board in Russian, I found a recipe for Ricotta Bagels. I happened to have a tub of ricotta at my fridge and I gave them a try. I ended up with six lovely sugary bagels, perfect with a glass of Kefir or a cup of tea.

Ricotta Bagels

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Dinner for One... or If You Are Lazy

I am by myself this weekend. And it means a lot of TV watching (yes, I can indulge in my guilty please and watch "Rich Bride, Poor Bride"), lying on the couch, not wearing any makeup and not doing my hair. But a girl needs to eat! First, I considered to order some take-out, then I thought of going on a popcorn diet, but later I realized that I haven't cooked anything for a while and I had an urge to be in the kitchen. I actually found a few recipes that I really wanted to try. And then it happened!!! My laziness hit me. No, I didn't want to put on makeup, I didn't want to wear jeans, I didn't want to go outside. I was completely, utterly lazy! So I had to do with what I had in the fridge, and it wasn't a lot.

There was no question of what to make first - Bread. Yes, I mentioned it before, I bake bread on the weekends. I really wanted some plain white bread, maybe toast bread, but I was almost out of the white flour, and I had 5 (!) kilos of multigrain flour, so I chose a Mulitgrain Loaf.

Then I found some avocados, which needed to be eaten almost immediately. So I decided to make guacamole (yes, I really like guacamole!). I had tomatoes, bell peppers, mixed greens, and... That's pretty much it. I was thinking of making a plain salad but I had a revelation - Gazpacho! I've never made a Gazpacho soup in my life and I actually tried it only about three times. But I had all the ingredients for it... or so I thought. I started looking through some books and it turned out that I needed cucumbers and tomatoes juice as well. I got a little bit disappointed and then I decided to improvise. And while I was leafing through my cookbooks in search of a recipe I saw something else. Something that caught my eye. Something that I was scared to try at first. Avocado and Grapefruit salad! I still had grapefruits from a week ago (apparently they keep in the fridge very well) and I had avocados (as mentioned earlier), so why not I thought.

And my dinner for one was born

Avocado and Grapefruit Salad

My Gazpacho

Multigrain Harvest Loaf

Strawberry Picking

Last weekend I went strawberriy picking. It was the first time in nine (!) years and I was excited. The weather was perfect, it was about +24C, it was a little bit cloudy and it wasn't humid. Besides just picking strawberries I took some pictures.

And then I was in Strawberry Heaven. Strawberry milkshakes, strawberries for snacking, strawberries and cream...

And the best Strawberry Meringue Pie ever!!!!

Strawberry Meringue Pie

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

When there is no story...

A lot of times I have little stories behind my recipes. What happened, why I made it, how I made it, etc. But there are times when I just make something. There are no words to acompany a recipe, no story to tell. Sometimes it's just food at its glory. Sometimes it doesn't need any words...

So when this happens, I'll just post the recipes at SweetLady Sweets Recipes with no post here. So, please check that blog periodically as well, if you are interested in new things I made.

Baguettes - Épi de Blé

Monday, July 2, 2007

A tasting menu and a little bit of baking...

Last Saturday we found ourselves at a very nice and pretty winery in the Niagara-on-the-Lake region. We tried a few wines and actually liked them. To be honest, I am not a fan of Ontario wines, but these were quite good. And then we decided to visit the restaurant at this winery - Terroir La Cachette. Their menu looked good and their tasting menu sounded intriguing, so we decided to give it a try.

The weather was good, the sun was warm, so we sat outside.

The dinner started with a very nice Baby Spinach Salad w/ Warm Truffled Wild Mushroom Vinaigrette, Sweet Pickled Beets & Pancetta Crisps which was paired with a wonderful Riesling wine.

Next we had a Bacon Wrapped Fowl Terrine w/ Rhubarb & Pink Peppercorn Confiture paired with a lovely red wine, but unfortunately I don't remember which one.

Then there was a Smoked & Glazed Rainbow Trout on Apple & Walnut Slaw w/ Maple Pommery Mustard Vinaigrette paired with another Riesling. I wasn't impressed with this dish at all. I actually didn't even finish the fish.

Next came the main course, which was a Pan Seared Berkshire Pork Tenderloin w/ Savory Juniper Berry and Niagara Cherry Compote & Espresso Jus. This was also paired with another red wine.

For dessert we had a really good Orange Creme Brulee with a nice glass of ice wine.

And Lattes to finish the dinner.


And I didn't bake for some time, so today I made a few things.

Tasty Goat Cheese and Sun-dried Tomato Filo Triangles and Cherry Filo Triangles. These I actually made a couple of weeks ago and froze them, so today I only had bake them and they were ready in no time. Good warm and cold as well.

And I found three bananas in my fridge (leftovers from those Grapefruit-Banana Smoothies I made), so I decided to give Banana Bread a try. Yes, it was my first banana bread. I've never made it before and now that I think of it, I am not sure if I've ever tried it either. It turned out not bad. Not bad at all...

Filo Triangles
Banana Bread