September 27, 2009


The September 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Steph of A Whisk and a Spoon. She chose the French treat, Vols-au-Vent based on the Puff Pastry recipe by Michel Richard from the cookbook Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan.

When this month's challenge was revealed I was ecstatic and terrified in equal measure. I have always wanted to try puff pastry but never had the courage. So thanks Steph for pushing me out of my comfort zone - the challenge was awesome, the pastry was out of this world and I had a blissful weekend making it.

The dough was so simple it was laughable - water, flour and salt blitzed in the food processor then rolled out to a rough square with a thicker pad in the centre. The dough was silky and smooth, like playdough, and a joy to work with.

Next came the butter - a full pound - and my first thought was holy butter batman! I had trouble with my photos but despite the blurriness I wanted to include this one to remind me of the shocking amount of butter in this dough.

As you can see, the butter has to be pounded into a rectangle and placed over the dough. I had visions of pieces of butter flying all over the kitchen but it was surprisingly easy and incredibly therapeutic at the same time.

The edges of the dough are then folded over the dough and it is rolled out to a long oblong, folded into an envelope, and then the process is repeated for 6 turns of the dough. Here I had a bit of trouble with butter oozing out but this dough is very forgiving and all I had to do was to refrigerate the dough between each turn.

I really can't get over how simple and pleasurable making puff pastry was. With each turn the dough became smoother and silkier and I fell in love with the whole process. By the final turn the dough was as silky as a baby's bottom and I could barely keep my hands off it.

Once I made the dough my head was filled with so many ideas for using it (chief among which were mille-feuille) but Steph had challenged us to make vols-au-vents so that's what we had for dinner. The filling was a classic chicken pot pie filling - a velouté with chicken and veg - but it was lifted into the category of the sublime by the pastry. It was incredibly buttery and light and almost melted in the mouth.

The rest of the dough is in the freezer but I have a feeling that it won't be lasting very long in there! I have no illusions of being a master pastry chef and I'm sure that my puff pastry would probably fall short in a French cooking school but even so it was so much better than any packaged dough I've ever tasted and I am pretty sure there's no turning back at this point.

You can find the recipe on the Daring Kitchen site where you will also find the incredible creations of my fellow Daring Bakers.

Bon apétit mes amis!

September 18, 2009

presto pasta night #131 roundup

I am absolutely thrilled to be hosting Presto Pasta Night for the first time and it was so much fun to meet so many wonderful fellow food bloggers. As usual, we have a great array of pasta recipes this week so, without further ado, I will leave you to find some inspiration for your weekend menu!

1. First up is Tea and Scones, encouraging us to eat more chicken by making chicken marsala this week. As a bonus, she also made buttermilk baps with fresh oregano and basil to sop up even more of that wonderful sauce.

2. Deborah of What's In My Kitchen made pasta with shrimp in tomato cream sauce. It may have taken her a little longer to make than she had planned but it looks as though it was worth the wait!

3. Little Corner of Mine was inspired to combine two everyday ingredients to create Special Peanut Butter & Ketchup Noodle for her family's Friday noodle night. I'm sure that there were a lot of happy faces around that table when she served up this winning combination.

4. Mrs Ergül is a fellow fan of aglio olio pasta and served it up with a twist this week, adding flank steak, veggies and some heat in this beautiful beef aglio olio pasta dish.

5. Next up is a gorgeous lasagne with pumpkin and cilantro cream from radha of Urban bites: delizie da Hong Kong, chronicling the adventures of an Italian in Hong Kong. This is a perfect dish for those crisp autumn days which are just around the corner.

6. Val of More Than Burnt Toast gives us her orzo pasta salad which looks deliciously cool and refreshing, perfect for hot summer days and makes me nostalgic for the summer that never was (at least this year here in Toronto).

7. There's nothing like eating seasonal and, with her zucchini carbonara, Joanne of Eats Well With Others gives us a novel way to use the zucchini that seem to pop up everywhere this time of year.

8. Using more seasonal vegetables, Mansi of Twist to the Taste made a lovely late-summer pasta salad featuring tomatoes, corn and bell peppers. As she says, this dish is perfect for a picnic.

9. SnoWhite of Finding Joy in My Kitchen made a roasted red pepper and tortellini bake this week. Roasted red peppers always signal the end of summer to me and this is another perfect dish for those cool autumn nights.

10. Kait of Pots and Plots used her favourite gourmet chicken sausage in her penne with roasted garlic and mozzarella sausage. Makes me wish we had a Sam's Club in Toronto so I could try some!
11. Deb in Hawaii from Kahakai Kitchen brings us rigatoni with buffalo meatballs from her "beach kitchen". Deb likes buffalo as it's grass-fed, lean and delicious - a great alternative to beef.

12. Kristine of My Sweet Cheap Life relied on her Sweetie to finish her poppyseed pappardelle with mushroom-sweet pepper ragout while she shared a pint and onion rings with a friend. In the interests of full disclosure, I am that friend and, had I known that she had such a tempting dish on the stove, I would have invited myself over to her place for dinner instead!

13. Amy of Very Culinary shares her creamy fusilli with mushrooms and asiago. It may not have been non-dairy or low cal but sometimes a girl just needs to splurge and what a great way to do it!

14. A different twist on creamy pasta from HoneyB of The Life and Loves of Grumpy's Honeybunch: creamy shrimp and bacon linguini. Hard to believe that this luscious dish doesn't contain any cream!

15. Another great baked pasta: Sweet and Savory took her inspiration from a herb and parmesan baked potato and created a "potatoes turned pasta" dish.

16. Little Inbox of Eating Pleasure's contribution to this week's roundup are braised yee-fu noodles. Also known as yee mein, yee-fu are egg noodles that are deep fried and Little Inbox paired them with chicken, prawns and fish balls for a tempting treat.

17. Kristin over at Sogkonnite Living made stained glass pasta from scratch using fresh lime basil, one of her very favourite herbs of all time. I've never heard of lime basil but I am tempted to go out and try some right now.

18. And finally a dish contributed by yours truly: spaghetti with oven-roasted tomatoes and garlic from one of my pasta idols, Biba Caggiano. The roasted tomatoes are so sweet I've been popping them like candy all week.

Thank you Ruth for the opportunity to host this week's Presto Pasta Night and thank you everyone for participating in this week's roundup and for making my first hosting experience so much fun. I hope to see you next week when Sara of I'm a Food Blog will be hosting.

September 16, 2009

indian dosas

This month's Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Debyi from The Healthy Vegan Kitchen. She chose Indian dosas, inspired by a dish at one of my favourite casual places to eat in Toronto, Fresh.

The food at Fresh is largely vegan, although some dairy options are available, and made from scratch with fresh ingredients. More importantly to a non-vegan like me, the food is absolutely delicious. If you find yourself in Toronto you could do much worse than to grab a bite at Fresh.

The dosas were very tasty, filled with a curried chick pea mixture and topped with a coconut curry sauce, both equally delicious over rice. The filling and the sauce were straightforward and relatively easy to make, filling my kitchen with delicious aromas as they simmered on the stove. The dosa pancakes, on the other hand, were not quite as cooperative.

The dosa batter is quite similar to crepe batter and the cooking method is virtually identical but it took me many tries before I got a dosa that was not grossly misshapen and that's the one that made it into the photo. Luckily, it's easy to ignore the messy pancakes when the finished dish is as tasty as this one!

Visit the Daring Kitchen for a peek at the dosas created by the many talented cooks who participated in the challenge where you will also find the recipe for these yummy dosas there as well.

Thanks Debyi for choosing a dish from this fantastic eatery!

P.S. A reminder of Thursday's deadline for submissions to this week's Presto Pasta Night. If you want to join the fun, the guidelines for participating are here.

September 13, 2009

hosting presto pasta nights: spaghetti with oven-roasted tomatoes and garlic

After a long absence from blogging I am thrilled to be back and hosting Presto Pasta Nights this week. PPN is a weekly pasta blogging event created by the delightful Ruth Daniels of Once Upon a Feast.

If this is your first time participating in PPN, the guidelines for submitting a dish couldn't be any simpler:

1. Blog about a pasta dish (it doesn't have to be traditional Italian type pasta, as long as it has some sort of noodle in it) and include a link to Presto Pasta Nights and to this blog.

2. Send me an email (the DOT sweetkitchen AT yahoo DOT ca), copying Ruth (Ruth AT 4EveryKitchen DOT com), with a link to your post by midnight Thursday September 17. If you can, please include a jpeg or other image file of your dish in your email.

3. Check back here on Friday evening for the roundup and some delicious pasta inspiration for the weekend!

My contribution this week is from Biba Caggiano's fantastic cookbook Italy Al Dente, which focuses on pasta, risotto, gnocchi, polenta and soup. Her recipes are always authentic and delicious and, if you're not familiar with Biba, this cookbook is a great place to start.

You may have noticed that the tomatoes are finally here and they're absolutely gorgeous! When my mom brought over a lovely basket of her home-grown tomatoes I jumped at the opportunity to make spaghetti with oven-roasted tomatoes and garlic with her bounty. Everything in the sauce, other than the capers, is from her garden!

You will need several hours to complete this recipe but it is virtually all walk-away time while the tomatoes and garlic are roasting in a low oven. Oh, and you may want to roast a few extra tomatoes while you are at it because I couldn't resist popping them like candy, they were that sweet!

Spaghetti with oven-roasted tomatoes and garlic
FromItaly Al Denteby Biba Caggiano

serves 4 to 6

1.5 kg (approximately 3 pounds) ripe tomatoes, sliced
4 to 5 garlic cloves, peeled
salt to taste
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp capers, rinsed
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
hot red pepper flakes to taste
450 gr (approximately 1 pound) spaghetti

Preheat oven to 250°F. Place sliced tomatoes and garlic cloves on 2 baking sheets lined with lightly oiled parchment paper and sprinkle with salt. Bake until shrivelled and dry, approximately 3 to 3 1/2 hours. Remove from oven and allow to cool then roughly chop.

Heat olive oil in a skillet over low heat and add diced tomatoes and garlic, capers, parsley and hot pepper. Heat through.

Cook pasta according to package directions and toss with sauce.