Sunday, November 16, 2014


(about 2 cups)

Duxelles, an intensely flavored mushroom paste is one of the components of Beef Wellington, however it has many other uses. It can be used to flavor eggs, soups, sauces or gravies. It can fill the cavities of meat, fish or poultry. It can be combined with stuffings or fillings for pastries or pasta, or simply spread onto little toasts.  It freezes really well.

1/2 oz dried porcini
2 lbs white or crimini mushrooms
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
2 tbsp butter
2-3 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
3/4 cup finely chopped shallots
1/2 cup dry port, Madeira or red wine

Using a small coffee grinder or mini food processor, grind the porcini into a fine powder. Empty into a medium sized bowl.

Clean the mushrooms, finely chop them and add them to the porcini. Stir in the salt and pepper. Set aside.

Melt the butter in a non stick skillet or saucepan (with a lid) over medium low heat. Stir in the garlic and saute for 30 seconds or so then stir in the shallots. Cook the mixture until the shallots are translucent and soft.

Add the porcini mushroom mixture to the garlic and shallots, then stir in the port, or whatever you are using. Reduce the heat to low, cover the skillet or saucepan and leave for about 30-40 minutes. The mushrooms will sweat a great deal. About halfway through the cooking time, give everything a good stir.

Remove the lid and increase the heat to medium. Cook the mushrooms, stirring, until most of the liquid has evaporated and the Duxelles are on the dry side. Check and adjust for seasoning, if needed. Remove from heat.

Sunday, November 9, 2014


(about 6-8 servings)

Moussaka is usually considered a Greek dish although there are different versions of it to be found throughout the Mediterranean and Middle East. The seasonings might differ a bit as well as the vegetables used. It might be served hot or cold, with or without the creamy cheese enhanced béchamel.

Whenever I make moussaka, I prefer preparing the meat sauce the day before because it just tastes so much better when the flavors have had the chance to meld.

meat sauce
2 tsp olive oil
1 3/4 - 2 lbs lean ground lamb or beef
1 large onion, chopped
2-3 large cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cardamom
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/8 tsp allspice
1/2 cup dry red wine
15oz can crushed or pureed tomatoes
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Heat the olive oil in a large pot (with lid) over medium high heat. Cook the lamb or beef until it's nicely browned. Reduce the heat to medium low and add the onions and garlic. Continue to cook until the onions have softened.

Stir in the salt, oregano, cinnamon, cardamom, pepper, and allspice. Cook for about 2 minutes while stirring, then pour in the wine and continue to cook another minute or two.

Stir in the tomatoes and add the bay leaves. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot and allow the sauce to gently simmer for about an hour or so.

Check and adjust the seasoning, if needed. Remove from heat, stir in the parsley and allow to cool. Store in the refrigerator overnight or until you are ready to assemble the moussaka.

2 - 3 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic minced
2 large eggplant

Combine the olive oil and garlic in a small container and allow to fuse for at least 30 minutes or longer.

Wash, then slice the eggplant into slices about 1/2 inch thick. Place the slices in a single layer onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or foil. Lightly brush the tops with the garlicky oil. If there's any oil left over, set that aside to grease the baking dish later.

Place the sheet into the middle of the oven and broil the slices until the tops are lightly browned. My oven has a Hi and Lo broiling setting. I used the Hi setting and it took about 12 minutes for the eggplant to be done.

Remove the eggplant from the oven and allow to cool.

4 tbsp butter
1/2 cup flour
2 2/3 cups milk
1/4 tsp salt
3 eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup pecorino romano
2 pinches nutmeg/mace

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Slowly whisk in the flour and cook for about 1-2 minutes. Slowly whisk in the milk until you have a smooth mixture. Stir in the salt and cook, stirring until the sauce thickens; about 5-8 minutes. Remove from heat.

Whisk a small amount of the hot sauce into the eggs, then whisk the egg mixture back into the béchamel. Stir in the cheese, reserving a tablespoon or so to sprinkle over the top of the casserole later. Stir in the nutmeg or mace and set aside.

To assemble

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Grease a 3 qt baking dish with any leftover garlic oil or use extra olive oil. Place a single layer of eggplant over the bottom of the dish and cover that with a layer of meat sauce. Repeat and continue until all of the eggplant and meat sauce has been used up. The baking dish I used measured 8.5" x 11" x 3". I ended up with 3 layers of eggplant and 2 layers of meat sauce.

Spread the béchamel over the top of the layered eggplant and meat sauce layers. Sprinkle the reserved pecorino romano over the top.

Bake for about 1 hour or until the casserole is bubbling hot. Remove from the oven and allow to stand for about 10-15 minutes before cutting into it.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Spiced Apple Cake with Browned Butter Frosting

(8 inch square cake)

A lot of folks here have fruit trees in their backyards. Since September I've had a steady stream of various types of apples in my kitchen. It seems every time I visit my mum, she sends me home with another bag of them. The last batch of apples I got from her were fairly tart and worked really well in this delicious spiced cake.

The amount of frosting I made was just enough for a thin layer over the top of the cake. I thought that was plenty, however you could easily double the recipe if you prefer more.

dry ingredients
1 1/4 cup whole wheat  pastry flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground anise
1/8 tsp allspice
1/8 tsp cloves
1/8 tsp mace or nutmeg
1/8 tsp salt

wet ingredients
2/3 cup sour cream
1/3 cup canola oil
2 tbsp unsulphered molasses
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 small eggs or 1 jumbo egg
1 large tart cooking apple, cut into small dice

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Lightly grease an 8 inch square baking pan. Line the greased pan with parchment. Set aside.

Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, anise, allspice, cloves, mace or nutmeg and salt in a large bowl until everything is well combined.  Set aside.

Whisk together the sour cream, oil, molasses, vanilla and eggs until the mixture is smooth in a second bowl. Stir in the chopped apples.

Pour the wet mixture over the dry ingredients and stir until you have a smooth batter. Spread the batter evenly into the prepared cake pan.

Bake the cake for 35- 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven and allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then carefully remove the cake from the pan and allow to cool further.

3 tbsp butter
about 1 -1 1/3 cups icing sugar
about 2 tsp of  heavy cream

Melt the butter over medium heat and cook until it begins to brown and becomes very fragrant. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Whisk about 2/3 cup icing sugar into the cooled butter. Add the cream, then another 1/3 cup or so of icing sugar. Add more sugar if needed, to create a spreadable but not too stiff frosting. Add more cream if it seems too stiff.

Spread the frosting over the top of the cooled cake.