Ice Wine Martini
Ice Wine Martini
My daughter recently went on a tour of Niagara wineries coming back with an excellent bottle of ice wine. Ice wine is a great accompaniment to any fine meal, as I wrote in a previous post.
The ice wine we used comes from Reif Estate Winery, one of the Niagara regions oldest wineries. Founded in 1977, Reif Estate started making ice wine in 1984. Their award winning ice wine is top notch.
On Reif Estate’s website they have a recipe for an Ice Wine Martini which we tried out.
The Reif recipe calls for frozen grapes, but we went further and soaked some grapes in a bit of ice wine for about an hour, removed them from the wine (reserving the wine) and then froze them.
Grapes Soaking in Ice Wine
After freezing them for an hour we were ready to make the martinis.
Following the recipe we mixed the vodka and ice wine and garnished the glasses with the frozen grapes.
Ice Wine Martini
Surprisingly we both were not too impressed with the martini. The vodka overpowers the ice wine.
The frozen ice wine soaked grapes on the other hand were fantastic.
Ice wine is best savored on its own, without being turned into a cocktail. If you want to add something to it, make those fantastic ice wine soaked frozen grapes as a garnish. Combine them with a top quality ice wine such as Reif Estate Vidal; and you will be in ice wine heaven.
Lavender has been used for thousands of years for its herbal qualities. The name itself comes from the Latin lavare, which means to wash. It has been used since Roman times in their famous baths. It’s scent is calming, some people sleep on pillows filled with lavender to help them fall asleep. It can be used as a tea for calming, and also aid indigestion.
Lavender in a Vintage Bud Vase
Chefs are using lavender in non-traditional ways in cooking. Lavender shortbread cookies are now very popular. You can make your own lavender salt or sugar by adding cleaned and dried food grade lavender flowers to the sugar or salt. The lavender sugar can be used to make shortbreads.
This is the time to visit a lavender farm near you. If you are Niagara-on-the-Lake this weekend you can visit the Lavender Festival. You can grow your own, or buy some dried lavender and make it part of your life. Put a few drops of lavender essential oils in your bath. Or get some lavender soap. You will be so calm and smell so good.
Summer Salads - Farmer’s Market Style
This beautiful salad with pea shoots and edible flowers looks like something from an expensive restaurant. It isn’t, I made it myself. But I used high end products from The Brick Works Farmer’s Market in Toronto; a bag of baby salad greens with flowers, with pea shoots from Kind Organics, and the raw peas were from Sosnicki Organics. I dressed it with a vinaigrette.
This ingredients for these next salads come from a country Farmer’s Market, Reesors Farm Market in Markham near Stoufville.
It contains zucchini, carrots, green peas and red onions, which are easy to find ingredients. To make it look special, I sliced the zucchini and carrots lengthwise using a vegetable peeler. I put some Boursin cheese on top and made a Balsamic Vinaigrette. It makes a beautiful starter or main course.
The other version just omits the carrots. The ingredients can easily be changed to whatever you like.
A humble salad turns special by making it pretty. Whether you use high end unusual ingredients or not, now is the time to make your salads when the produce is at its peak of taste and freshness. Find your inspiration at a local farmer’s market nearest you.
Happy Canada Day
Strawberry Drink, Wild Rice With Blueberries
Happy 147th Birthday Canada!
I’m celebrating this year with Aboriginal inspired food.
June 21 was National Aboriginal Day in Canada and there was a special celebration held at my favorite farmer’s market, The Brick Works Farmer’s Market.
Chef Johl Ringuette of NishDish Marketeria & Catering was there with Native foods he prepared for this event. He explained that Aborigines recognize the healing power of food. Each part of the dish has a healing element to it.
Chef Ringuette was serving elk meat on buns, strawberries mixed with spring water and mint, and wild rice cooked with blueberries and maple syrup. His presentation was so beautiful, I’m sorry I didn’t take any photos.
He inspired me to try some of the dishes and for Canada Day I made the wild rice with blueberries and maple syrup, pureed some strawberries with water, strained them into a glass. I didn’t have any mint.
I cooked the rice in water, with blueberries and one tablespoon of maple syrup for a hint of sweetness.
The strawberry drink is very refreshing. The wild rice has an earthy flavor and would go well with duck or lamb. You could add walnuts, dried cranberries, and sweeten it up with maple syrup and you would have a truly Canadian healthy rice pudding.
Have a Happy Canada Day and let’s get going and learn more about our Native cuisine.
Pectin Free Strawberry Jam
Pectin Free Jam
With fresh local strawberries available this is the time to preserve the goodness of the strawberries and make jam. Nothing beats the taste of homemade jam. As a self-taught jam maker I have always used a simple recipe using pectin with great success.
Pectin occurs naturally in some plants and causes jelling or thickening when cooked. Strawberries contain some pectin. Commercial pectin is derived from plants, although the liquid pectin does have preservatives added.
Pectin makes your jam thick, and allows you to cook it quicker, but it does need extra sugar added.
I read many debates about whether jams are better with or without pectin and both sides have lots of supporters.
Strawberries Covered With Sugar
When making pectin free jam you cover the strawberries with sugar and let them sit. This process draws out the liquid from the strawberries and helps intensify the flavor.
One of the people strongly in favor of natural jams without pectin is Joanna Sable who wrote an article about making pectin free jam. Joanna is a Cordon Bleu trained chef, her mother owns Toronto’s Sable and Rosenfeld, makers of artisanal condiments decades before it was trendy. Joanna has her own food company The Bumpercrop which makes small batch modern flavored preserves using produce from local farmers. If anybody should know about making great jam, she should.
This year I decided to try making her recipe.
I made a batch of the jam and found the flavor to be amazing. Joanna emphasized that this jam isn’t thick like commercial ones, but is runny.
I’m not sure if I cooked the strawberries long enough, the jam is quite runny. The flavor is unsurpassed, with a fresh sweet strawberry essence.
Strawberry Jam on Vanilla Ice Cream
This versatile jam can be used for other things besides spreading on toast. You can use it on vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt.
I used it to make some thumbprint cookies.
The strawberry jam would also be a great topping on pancakes and I’m sure there is a way to make a martini with it.
The strawberries are wonderful this year, it’s time to get jamming and try some pectin free strawberry jam.
Once considered to be a “health food” commercial granola was found to be high in fat and sugars and not so healthy.
You can easily make your own and control what goes in it. It is fresher and tastes really good.
3 cups old fashioned oatmeal
1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/2 cup slivered almonds
2 tablespoons raw hemp seeds (optional)
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons oil
2 - 3 tablespoons maple syrup
dried cranberries, raisins, dried blueberries, toasted coconut flakes
Mix all the ingredients up to the dried cranberries together in a bowl making sure the oats are coated with the oil and maple syrup.
Spread the mixture on a lined baking pan. Bake at 300 degrees for about 40 minutes until toasted and lightly brown, stirring every 15 minutes. Remove from oven, cool in a bowl and add in the dried ingredients. The dried ingredients let you have a chance to make it your own personalized recipe, you can add in whatever you like.
Store in an airtight container.
Serve with the milk of your choice. Makes a great yogurt topping.
The Lake District, England
Lake Windermere, England
The lake district is an area of England which has the highest mountains, largest lake, and England’s most famous national park. It has long been a popular place to visit.
I was able to catch just a taste of it and I would like to share some of my photographs with you.
Grasmere on the River Rothay
Grasmere is this beautiful little village that would be a tourist destination even without Grasmere’s connection to famed poet, William Wordsworth. Wordsworth lived in Grasmere for a short time and is buried in the cemetery of the medieval church of St. Oswald’s.
William Wordsworth and Family Graves
Grasmere is home to the well known Sarah Nelson’s Gingerbread Shop which has been baking gingerbread since the mid-1800’s. If only you could smell the gingerbread baking in the shop. Then you would know why this shop has been in business for such a long time.
Sarah Nelson Gingerbread Shop
Old stone houses Bowness-on-Windermere
Bowness is a village that dates back to the fifteenth century. It is attached to Windermere. The old part of the village is very interesting with old houses and a pub called Hole in t’ Wall, where Charles Dickens used to go to.
Hole in t’ Wall Bowness-on-Windermere
If you are in England, try to visit the lake district. Even Charles Dickens did.
With fresh strawberry season in full swing there is no reason not to make this refreshing simple dessert. You don’t even need an ice cream maker.
I used a regular loaf pan as the mold, you can use also use a bowl that you can freeze.
The method for making this recipe is to divide your ingredients into equal thirds. To find out what the measurements should be, you fill your mold to the level you want with water. Pour the water into a measuring cup to see how much you used, and then divide the quantity by three. I didn’t want to fill my loaf pan to the top, I filled it about 3/4 high, and then measured that I used about 3 cups of water.
1 1/4 cup fresh strawberries, chopped and mashed
3 tablespoons sugar
1 cup yogurt
1 cup whipping cream.
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Put your chopped and mashed strawberries in a large bowl. Sprinkle with the sugar, and let sit refrigerated for about an hour, for the sugar to dissolve and the strawberries to macerate. This will help intensify the flavor.
Add the yogurt, cream, lemon juice and stir well to combine. Taste. I found when I used only one cup of strawberries the strawberry flavor wasn’t intense enough so I added about another 1/4 cup. You may want to add more sugar, it depends on how sweet your strawberries are. Freezing dulls flavors so you want the base mixture to have strong flavors.
Line your mold with overlapping plastic wrap. Fill the mold with the strawberry mixture, cover the top of it with plastic wrap and freeze.
I put my mixture in an ice cream maker first, to chill it quickly and whip air into it. I put the mixture from the ice cream machine into the mold, and put it in the freezer to firm up more.
If you don’t have an ice cream maker, make sure the mixture is well mixed, you can beat it up a bit with a wooden spoon or whisk, to add some air into it. Freeze it for about 10 hours. Take it out of the freezer about 15 minutes before serving to let it soften up. If your freezer is very cold, you may have to take it out earlier.
My friends enjoyed this parfait, and I hope that yours will too.
The Oxford Bar
The Oxford Bar, Edinburgh, Scotland
This tiny pub, on a nondescript street in Edinburgh is a major tourist attraction. It is the local pub of writer Ian Rankin, and was made famous in his Rebus series, as the local pub for his character Detective Inspector Rebus.
Fortunately my husband and I were able to go to it.
Upon entering you are greeted by this small bar.
Pick up your drinks, (cider for me, beer for the husband) and you can either hang out at the bar or go up a few steps to the small room at the back.
Favorite table for “Detective Inspector Rebus”
The pub was quiet, when we were there, with only three other people in the room. One soft spoken gentleman with a lovely Irish accent, politely asked us if we were here for Rebus. Yes we were. He showed us Rebus’ favorite table, and pointed out that the photo on the wall of the previous pub owner, was the man who Ian Rankin named his forensic pathologist after.
Our mystery friend told us a bit about his own life, how he came to Edinburgh in the 1960’s and was so taken with the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, that he stayed. We had a lovely chat, in the quiet cozy pub, a refuge from the cold, rainy day.
Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
I could easily see myself spending more time at the “Ox”. These are the special moments of a trip, when you get to connect with local people, even if just for a short time.
Ian Rankin wasn’t there that day, but he recently tweeted about meeting some nice tourists at the Ox. They were very nice to us at The Oxford, they appreciate their tourists.
If you are in Edinburgh, take a break at The Oxford, have a pint, who knows, maybe Ian Rankin will be there.