Beef Stew With Leeks and Mushrooms
Beef Stew With Mushrooms
I was talking to a friend about beef stew and we both confessed that we are very tired of our standard old recipe, which is the typical English style beef stew with beef, carrots, celery and potatoes.
This variation of the stew allows you to change up the flavor by adding in lots of mushrooms near the end of the cooking time, and doesn’t contain celery or potatoes.
If you really love mushrooms you can put the three cups in, if not you can use less. You can use button, or cremini, or a mixture of your favorite mushrooms.
Makes 8 servings
Mushroom Beef Stew
2 teaspoons oil
2 lb. (1k) stewing beef
1 leek, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup red or white wine
1 tablespoon flour
350 ml. water
1 bay leaf
3 carrots cut into chunks
2 - 3 cups mushrooms, chopped into large pieces
Heat the oil in a pot over high heat, and start adding the beef, reducing the heat to medium, searing the outside of the beef pieces until the outside is browned. Remove from heat and put into a bowl. Continue this process until all the beef is done. Don’t fill the pan when searing because If the pan is too overcrowded the beef will steam and not sear.
After the beef is done add the leeks, and onion and stir for about two minutes. Add the garlic, and salt, pepper, and continue for about three more minutes, stirring occasionally so that the onion mixture does not stick to the bottom of the pot. If it becomes dry you can add a tablespoon of water to the pot.
Add the wine (traditionally red wine is used with beef stew but if you only have white on hand it works fine) and cook it until the wine reduces in half. Add the flour and stir it continuously for about one minute. (If you want it gluten free then just omit the flour.) Then add the water and bring to a boil, add the beef back into the pot, reduce to a simmer, put the carrots on top and add the bay leaf. Cook for about one and a half hours over a low simmer, or until the beef just becomes tender. Add the mushrooms and cook for 1/2 an hour. Remove the bay leaf and adjust the seasonings. If it gets too dry you can add a bit more water to the stew.
The stew may need a bit more or a bit less cooking, depending on how tender the beef is.
Serve with mashed potatoes and braised red cabbage (recipe to follow).
Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar
Corn And Potato Pancake With Tomato Relish, based on a Jamie Kennedy Recipe
I am happy to report that my favorite restaurant in Toronto, Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar is reopening tonight.
Jamie Kennedy has long been a Toronto “celebrity chef” even before the start of the Food Network.
In 2003 he opened the Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar, a wine bar that featured local wine, beautifully prepared top quality local food, served on small plates. The seasonal menu changed daily, with his popular French fries always available. Long before the poutine craze exploded Jamie Kennedy was topping his fries with interesting stews, meats, and good cheeses. He was a real trendsetter.
The restaurant received great reviews and was very busy.
Jamie Kennedy expanded his food business with other restaurants, bought a farm, hoping to set up a restaurant in it. Then the economy crashed, taking his restaurants down with it.
No more Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar.
He still kept his catering business going in a warehouse on Gilead Place, a little lane, in the oldest part of Toronto.
At Gilead Place he has the Gilead Cafe which is open seven days a week for breakfast, brunch and lunch. It will be run as the Wine Bar for dinner.
I recently had a leisurely lunch at the Cafe and can say that his food is as excellent as ever, and he sells some ready made items. My husband had a goat cheese tartlette, the pastry was perfectly flaky, and I had a chowder made from lake pickerel, which was so smooth, and delicious.
Jamie Kennedy is more than just a chef. He has been actively involved in supporting local farmers and wineries, and participates in many charities. He has played an important role in making it commercially viable for farmers to bring back heritage breeds. His famous wall of jars of pickled vegetables have helped make pickling cool again.
Canadian wine doesn’t necessarily have the highest profile in the world, or even any profile in most places. I first learned about good local wines such as Malivoire Wines from tasting it at his Wine Bar, and then started driving out to Malivoire near Niagara to buy some.
At the Wine Bar I also learned about buying meat from butchers that specialize in local farm raised animals. And I also learned how to source excellent vegetables from the Evergreen Brick Works Farmers Market.
Kennedy’s challenge now with the Wine Bar is how to compete with all the busy activity in the Toronto restaurant scene. There are many restaurants now that follow the local food, small plate format.
But none of them cook like him, and with his new sommeliere, Emily Pierce Bibona, recommending a perfect wine to match each dish, we can look forward to dining at the Wine Bar.
Long after the original Wine Bar closed, I missed it. For special occasions it was still the restaurant I always wanted to go to.
Now that its back, I’m not going to wait for a special occasion and will be trying it out soon.
If you are in Toronto, I suggest you do the same.
Potato Pancakes (Latkes)
With Hanukkah in full swing I thought that I would share with you how I make my Potato Pancakes (Latkes). I used the recipe from my mother’s copy of Lillian Kaplun’s For the Love of Cooking, published in 1968, as my starting point.
3 large Russet (baking) or Yukon Gold potatoes
2 extra large eggs
1 onion, grated
2 tablespoons flour
1 heaping teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
Peel the potatoes, cut them up into quarters, and soak them in a large bowl of ice water for an hour to prevent them from turning brown.
Grate the potatoes either by hand with a box grater, or a food processor. Put the grated potatoes into a clean tea towel and squeeze the water out of them, until they are quite dry.
Put the two eggs into a large bowl and beat them well until they are well combined and light. Add the potatoes, grated onion, flour, salt, and baking powder. Gently mix the ingredients together well until they are all combined.
In a large heavy frying pan or skillet heat up to a 1/2 inch of the oil over moderate heat. Put heaping tablespoons full of the batter in the pan. You want to make about 4 or 5 pancakes at a time. Cook each side for about 5 minutes until nice and crisp.
Remove, and put on a paper towel to drain some of the oil off. Eat right away or keep in a low temperature oven until ready to serve.
Serve with either apple sauce or sour cream, or both.
Tips: Don’t skip draining the water from the potatoes. It helps them fry better.
If it is your first time making the pancakes, just fry one pancake first to try it out, before loading the pan up. (If you burn it you only lose one). You don’t want to cook the pancakes at too low a temperature, because they will absorb too much oil and be greasy.
Cook it too hot and the outside will burn. Just practice, you’ll get the hang of it.
If you need to add more oil at some point, the temperature will drop until the new oil heats up.
I use grape-seed oil, my grandmother used corn oil. If you have any other ideas of good oil to use, let me know.
Making latkes does not come under the fast food category. Allow yourself time to make them, you can only cook a few at a time.
Serving ideas: make them bite sized, top with some sour cream, then smoked salmon, and you have an elegant starter or cocktail food.
For a fancy brunch recipe: make a large potato pancake and poach an egg, put it on top and garnish with chopped green onions, or dill. If you like it spicy, top it with some pickled jalapeno peppers, and/or salsa.
Chocolate Peanut Butter
It is very easy to make your own Chocolate Peanut Butter. Just toast up some peanuts, load them into the food processor with oil, sugar, cocoa powder, a pinch of salt; and blast them away until a smooth paste is made.
You are the boss - you can control how much sugar and oil goes in, and you can control the quality of your ingredients. You can use the finest organic ingredients - or just make it with whatever you have on hand.
This is how I made mine.
Chocolate Peanut Butter
2 cups shelled, peeled, unroasted peanuts
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)
1/3 cup icing sugar
3 tablespoons neutral vegetable oil (add more if needed)
Put the peanuts on a baking sheet and roast at 350F for about 10 minutes until lightly golden, stir at least once so they won’t burn.
Put the peanuts in the food processor and blend for several minutes until they become smooth. Add the other ingredients and blend more until you have the desired consistency, either smooth or a bit chunky.
This is one recipe you really can make your own by making any flavor adjustments you want, whether to make it sweeter, or add more cocoa powder or even smoother with more oil.
Make it a little bit in advance, either a few hours or one day ahead, to let the flavors blend together.
Use the same method to make plain peanut butter, just omit the cocoa powder.
Keeps refrigerated for about one week.
Chicken Corn Soup
This is an easy soup to put together, and you should have most of the ingredients at home.
Instead of using a ready made stock I used fresh chicken legs. Add water, seasoning and vegetables and you get a fresh soup with good quality chicken in it. You can put the chicken pieces into the soup, or you can use it for another recipe.
Since good fresh corn is not available this time of year, I used frozen.
Removing the skin from the chicken legs reduces the amount of fat in the soup.
I used gluten free brown rice spaghetti broken into small pieces. You can use whatever noodles you like, just use small ones.
Chicken Corn Soup
Makes 6-8 servings.
6 cups water
2 chicken legs, skin removed - 1 1/2 lbs.
1 onion, cut in half
2 carrots, cut into pieces
1 teaspoon salt
3 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 cups frozen corn
1 tablespoon soy sauce
black pepper to taste
1/4 cup very small noodles
Put the chicken legs in a pot and add the water. Bring to boil, reduce the heat to low and skim the scum from the water.
Add the onion, carrots and salt. Keeping the soup at a low simmer, cook for about 35 minutes until the chicken is cooked through.
Add the celery, corn, soy sauce, pepper, noodles and cook for fifteen more minutes. Adjust for seasoning. You can remove the cooked onion if you don’t like it.
Garnish with whatever you like, I used baby salad greens from Cookstown Greens.
The holidays are coming and it is time to do some baking.
This pear pie is a great alternative to pumpkin or apple pie. The streusel topping is easy to make and you just sprinkle it on top of the pie instead of having to fuss with a perfect pastry top layer.
The recipe comes from My Recipes. It calls for store bought pastry but if you are in the mood you can make your own with this straightforward recipe from Martha Stewart, or one from Williams Sonoma. Fresh pie dough tastes better than store bought.
The pear pie recipe also includes a caramel sauce recipe to add to the pie, but the pear pie is rich and tasty enough without the sauce.
Let’s bring back the art of pie baking for the holidays.
Last night my daughter and I attended a program called Beyond Bubbie, An Evening Dedicated to Food, Family, and the Stories That Link Them.
Beyond Bubbie is a program run by Reboot, an organization dedicated to making Jewish identity meaningful.
Beyond Bubbie is a website where photos, stories, and recipes of Bubbies (grandmothers) are collected and shared. An American organization, Beyond Bubbie has held several live events and made its Canadian debut in Toronto.
Recipes from and photos of grandmothers cooking were asked to be sent in. I submitted the above copy of a photo of my great-great grandmother, great grandmother, grandmother and two uncles. The baby is my grandmother. It was taken in 1906, two years before my great-grandparents moved from Lithuania to Toronto.
The evening included speakers, music and of course food. It was hosted by author David Sax who wrote Save the Deli, and now can have a second career as a show host.
There were two non Jewish speakers, one was playwright Sean Dixon, who told bittersweet stories of growing up in rural Quebec with a large family, a grandmother who didn’t like him, and a mother who cooked bland food. He told us his story to help us appreciate our own Bubbies.
Denise Booth, is an Anishnawbe (Ojibway) woman who grew up in Toronto. Forced to be adopted due to government Indian policy at the time, raised by an Anglo Canadian family, she now is the Cultural Coordinator at the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto. She told a touching story about how a group of female elders taught her how to make the traditional native fry bread, or bannock, helping her connect to her roots.
The Jewish speakers mostly came from Ashkenazi (East European) backgrounds and reminisced about gefilte fish, mandlebread, knishes, and the copious amounts food served by the Bubbies. They spoke with a great sense of humor, often needed for dealing with the recurring theme of the somewhat critical and opinionated Bubbies.
Food writer Sarah Elton spoke of how her Bubbie lived in London, England, during World War II. Her experiences with food shortages led her Bubbie to want to know where food comes from. Sarah has written extensively about local food.
The ever busy author and television personality Rose Reisman dedicates her life to educating people about healthy living. She explained how her grandparents and father died in their fifties due to complications from diabetes and she became interested in not letting that happen to her or others. She spoke with great love about her mother.
Some of the speakers own their own restaurants:
Anthony Rose - Rose and Sons upscale classic (comfort) food with Jewish heart
Judy Perly - Free Times Cafe, Sunday Jewish Brunch with live Klezmer band
Alida Solomon - Tutti Matti, Italian Tuscan food, handmade pasta
Dino Venasio - Ben and Izzy’s (kosher Deli with all the meats prepared in house)
Beyond Bubbie would be a great project for any culture or religion to adopt, helping them preserve their heritage.
I’ve got lots of recipes from my mother and grandmother that need recording, and some of them are on scraps of paper with the writing fading away. This event makes me realize that these recipes are so easily lost, it is time to get working on them.
So talk to your mothers and grandmothers, collect their recipes, have a good laugh, have a good cry, and keep your traditions alive.
Chestnuts are a seasonal food harvested in the fall. Most chestnuts in Ontario come from Asia, and Europe. During a recent trip to a farmer’s market I saw that Forbes Wild Food was selling wild Ontario chestnuts and scooped up a handful.
Nutritionist Leslie Beck recommends them as a lower fat alternative to other nuts.
You can buy chestnuts fresh, vacuum packed, pureed or ground up into flour. In Europe the pureed chestnuts are made into a dessert called Mont Blanc.
It is best to let the experts pick them if you want to roast them yourselves. The edible ones are from the sweet chestnut tree, while the similar looking horse chestnuts are mildly toxic. The sweet chestnuts have pointed ends, whereas the horse chestnuts do not.
I simply roasted mine in a roasting pan, following these instructions.
Add some variety in your diet with roasted sweet chestnuts.
Cottage Cheese Onion Bread
Nothing beats the smell of fresh bread baking in the oven. Or the taste of fresh bread, without preservatives or chemicals.
With cold weather outside it is time to heat up the oven and get baking. This is a good starter recipe for bread, the onion and cottage cheese add such moistness and flavor to the bread that even if it doesn’t come out perfectly the first time you still will be happy.
This recipe comes from Smitten Kitchen, one of the most popular internet cooking blogs. The directions are very clear with lots of photographs to illustrate the steps. I baked this bread to go with vegetable soup, it would go good with any soup or salad.
I followed the recipe pretty closely, but used dried dill weed instead of dill seed and instead of putting an egg wash on top of the bread, I just brushed a bit of milk on top.
So get baking!
Clear Out the Refrigerator Vegetable Soup
The idea for this vegetable soup came about when I decided at the last minute to make a soup, and just had to use whatever materials I had on hand.
The recipe came from Martha Stewart, Everyday Vegetable Soup.
I did not use any frozen vegetables as her recipe calls for because I had enough fresh ones to use up. But frozen vegetables would work just fine. Just use whatever you have as the recipe calls for.
I sauteed two carrots with the onions and celery. I also did not use any stock, just three cups of water. To make sure there was enough flavor without using stock I loaded up the soup with lots of vegetables. If it gets too thick, you can always add a bit more water.
To add extra flavor you could put in some fresh lemon juice, or soy sauce, or hot sauce. Garnish with chives, or thinly sliced green onions.
This is a great low fat, vegan soup that has the bonus of letting you finish up all those bit and pieces of vegetables you have in your refrigerator.