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Saturday, October 11, 2008

A Civilized Picnic Lunch

I have been inspired of late. Not sure if it's the fleeting re-appearance of summer or the end of wedding planning season. (The lead up to getting married takes up far too much emotional and intellectual energy even for us non-bridezilla types and perhaps now that I am happily married, my brain has refocused on my primary pre-occupation: food!)

Paris is truly one of my favourite places because of its outdoor market culture. Although, I must confess that I have never met an outdoor market, I didn’t like. Markets in Paris sell everything, books, clothes, flowers and of course, foods. As we explored neighbourhoods and strolled down streets, we stumbled upon many markets in Paris. We weaved through markets, peering in to see what the many vendors had on offer, often picking up an impossibly light baguette, some plums, and nuts. We rounded out our market goodies with a thick slice of buttery pâté, a small wheel of rich and oozy brie, and a small handful of bittersweet chocolate squares. On a lazy afternoon, these are the best lunches – an impromptu gathering of nibbles and bites.

Today, I visited my favourite market of all markets - St. Lawrence Market with the intention of coming home with such a lunch for Ryan and me. I bought a basket full of goodies for our lunch: bresaola (salty, air-cured beef sliced thinner than paper – oh heaven!); reggiano parmesan, mini sesame breadsticks and Callebaut bittersweet chocolate. Instead of buying the delicious pâtés and rillettes they had on offer, I decided to make my own pâté. So much for a low effort lunch... but at least there will be some for freezing. Very few things are as luxurious as a smooth, rich potted pâté. In fact, this type of pate is low on the cooking effort scale. Like love, this pâté is meant to be savoured and shared.

Truffled Chicken Pâté - Terrine De Foies De Volaille

1 lb fresh chicken livers (cleaned)
1 c onion (finely minced)
1 tbsp butter
1/2 oz cognac
2 bay leaves
1 tsp truffle oil
3/4 c butter

1. Roughly chop chicken livers.
2. Melt butter in a small saucepan, add chicken livers, onions, and bay leaves.
3. Cook until chicken livers are slightly pink. Add cognac. Heat until alcohol has evaporated. (This should take a minute or two.) Remove off heat. Cover and cool.
4. When the mixture has slightly cooled, drain the liquid, reserving about 1/2c. (use it to thin out the mixture as you process it, as required.)
5. Process mixture in batches in a food processor. You are looking for a smooth creamy consistency. Set aside to cool completely.
6. If you haven't already, take the butter out of the fridge and allow to come to room temperature.
7. When mixture is fully cooled, and the butter is at room temperature, fully incorporate butter and truffle oil into the pâté mixture with a spatula.
8. Pack into small pots for serving. If not serving right away, melt butter in a saucepan, and pour melted butter (without the milk solids) to preserve the pâté. Or pack into an air-tight container to freeze for another day.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Salsa Redux

We deliberated for months about our honeymoon destination. Did we want to go to Paris, Tuscany, Costa Rica, Japan, or something Caribbean or Mexican? Oh the decisions! Surprisingly, this was the most difficult part of the whole wedding process. Some people fight over seating arrangements, budgets and food. Not us. Our lively debates centered around our honeymoon. "Well, how about Paris?" Then we thought, "Should we go some place new?" And then the bankers in us asked, "what about the Euro exchange rate?" "Well, then how about St. Lucia..." These conversations went on for months. We were paralyzed by our own indecision.

In the end, we chose a gorgeous resort outside of Cancun. A small hotel outside of the city and right on the beach. It would be a great place to unwind after the hectic pace of our wedding preparations and following celebrations. Our resort didn't disappoint - We felt like royalty from the moment we arrived... with no workday worries, we frittered hours away pouring over our novels, sipping margaritas, and stretching out like fat cats on our poolside loungers. We ate like kings noshing on 3 bite fish tacos, indulging on jumbo shrimp cocktails, and throwing back ceviche shooters.

I haven't been blogging much lately or for that long for that matter and so I probably shouldn't be recycling my own recipes, but I absolutely must. Tomatillos are such a farmer's market delight and now they are available in full swing.

We received some this week from our CSA (Community Sponsored Agriculture) and I dug out the recipe I posted last year. I had the beautiful roasted grape tomatoes* that I made earlier this week and thought I might take my advice and try roasted tomatoes. The resulting recipe brightened the salsa considerably so much so that I couldn't really call it a salsa verde any longer... really it has become a salsa with tomatillos.

1/2 pint of tomatillos (about 5 medium sized)
1/2 pint of cherry tomatoes
1/2 pint of cherry tomatoes (roasted)
1 small white onion, cut into chunks
3 cloves of garlic - rough chop
1 jalapeno - seeded, chopped finely
juice from 1 lemon
1 tsp of sugar
1 tsp of salt
1 tbsp of olive oil

Peel the brown papery husks and wash the tomatillos. Chop the tomatillos roughly.

Heat the olive oil and add onions, garlic and tomatillos. Saute until onions are translucent. Add tomatoes (fresh and roasted), sugar, and salt. Once heated through, take off heat and whiz in a food processor. Pulse it so you still have large chunks.

Refrigerate until cold and serve with nachos.

Makes 2 cups

*I love roasted tomatoes and it's one of the easiest things you can do to add intensity in both colour and flavour to your everyday meals. If cherry/grape tomatoes are available, wash them and tumble them into a roast pan. Sprinkle with salt and pop in a low temperature oven (200 degrees) for ninety minutes or longer until they are wrinkled like plump raisins. If you are using larger tomatoes, slice them thickly. Follow the instructions accordingly.

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