Apr 11, 2014

Spring is for Slowcookers

We recently received the Healthy Slow Cooker by Judith Finlayson. I love my slow cooker but often find myself in a rut with it. I make pot roast and beef stew and that's pretty much it.

After perusing the myriad of scrumptious and wholesome offerings, I was blown away by the newness of the recipes. Judith has gone beyond the chili and stewed chicken slow cooker staples and breaks new ground with dishes including Black Sticky Rice Congee with Coconut and Mushroom and Chickpea Stew with Roasted Red Pepper Coulis (both of which I will be making asap).

Because I had just received a farmers market box full to bursting with rainbow chard, I settled on the Leafy Greens Soup below. I can't stop eating it. I do highly recommend using homemade stock or broth to make it extra special. I added a bit of freshly grated Parmesan cheese and enjoyed it with a hunk of homemade white bread and butter. Swoon.

Leafy Greens Soup

This delicious country-style soup is French in origin and based on the classic combination of leeks and potatoes, with the addition of healthful leafy greens. Sorrel, which has an intriguing but bitter taste, adds delightful depth to the flavor (see page 105). Sorrel is available from specialty greengrocers or at farmers’ markets during the summer, but if you’re unsuccessful in locating it, arugula or parsley also work well in this recipe.

    Large (approx. 5 quart) slow cooker

    Food processor or blender

1 tbsp    butter or olive oil    15 mL

1 tbsp    olive oil    15 mL

6    small leeks, white and light green     6
    parts only, cleaned and thinly sliced

4    cloves garlic, minced    4

1 tsp    sea salt    5 mL

1 tsp    dried tarragon    5 mL

12 tsp    cracked black peppercorns    2 mL

6 cups    vegetable or chicken stock     1.5 L

3    medium potatoes, peeled and     3
    cut into 12-inch (1 cm) cubes

4 cups    packed torn Swiss chard leaves (about 1 bunch)     1 L

1 cup    packed torn sorrel, arugula or parsley leaves    250 mL

    Heavy or whipping (35%) cream or
    non-dairy alternative, optional

1.    In a large skillet over medium heat, melt butter and olive oil. Add leeks and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, salt, tarragon and peppercorns and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add stock and bring to a boil.

2.    Transfer to slow cooker stoneware. Stir in potatoes. Cover and cook on Low for 6 to 8 hours or on High for 3 to 4 hours, until potatoes are tender. Add Swiss chard and sorrel, in batches, stirring after each to submerge the leaves in the liquid. Cover and cook on High for 20 minutes, until greens are tender.

3.    Working in batches, purée soup in a food processor or blender. (You can also do this in the stoneware using an immersion blender.) Spoon into individual serving bowls and drizzle with cream, if using.


If you are halving this recipe, be sure to use a small (2 to 312 quart) slow cooker.

Makes 8 servings

Can Be Halved

Courtesy of The Healthy Slow Cooker, Second Edition by Judith Finlayson © 2014 www.robertrose.ca Reprinted with publisher permission.

Apr 8, 2014

Food is a business. If you don’t make money, it’s a hobby.

Reinvention: The Art Of Graceful Adaptation.

Denise had a lovely interview with fellow IACP member, Deborah Schapiro. Click here to check out Deborah's conversations with Dorie Greenspan, Andy Schloss and Aida Mollenkamp.

Denise Vivaldo has been in the business of food for almost thirty years. As a caterer to the stars, a sought-after food stylist, cookbook author, culinary instructor, chef, and entrepreneur, Denise never wanted to be famous but always wanted to work with food. “It’s all hard work. If fame is your motivation, you’ll be disappointed. You have to love the food!”

Denise always wanted to be her own boss. “Some people need security more than I do,” she explains. She credits her success to having the discipline to “throw the deadweight out of the lifeboat, resolve the issue, and move on,” which has allowed her take on challenges that others may find overwhelming.

To succeed in this business for the long term regardless of your job, Denise stresses, “You have to know how to sell and know how to close to keep your business alive.” She also emphasizes the importance of persistence, explaining that calling once doesn’t register interest. “You need to call me a dozen times!” That determination applies equally to Denise herself, who has failed “a million times.”

To keep things on track, she works from a five- and ten-year plan, acknowledging that what she enjoys today may not serve her in five years. She’s learned to embrace opportunity in transition—at one point, selling her catering business to her employees when she wanted to focus on food styling. Now, as the head of the Denise Vivaldo Group, she is delegating some of the business’s daily management in preparation for her next adventure.

Always eager to add to her list of accomplishments, Denise is exploring a new genre, creating a script for a TV sitcom. In addition, she has a new book deal (her ninth) and continues to consult, teach, and style for her expanding client list. After thirty years of loving the food, Denise continues to stay relevant by never staying still.

So what have I learned? Regardless of where you are in your career—the naïve beginning, on the optimistic ascension, or at the hard-earned place at the top—your willingness to say yes, be in business, and fail a million times will provide you with a career that’s a simmer, not a burn.

Feb 28, 2014

Irish Boyfriends & Absinthe.

Jon Edwards Photography

I love St. Patrick's Day for several reasons. 

My first husband was a dentist, my second is a lawyer. My lover in between was Irish.

He was the best and the worst of boyfriends. Fun, wild, and chock full of  troublesome charm. My sisters named him "O' Danny, O' Boy!" When my mother met him, she said very clearly, "He's so cute, but certainly not marriage material." My mother always had a point. She was right of course, and no one knew better than me that he was in for a speedy sprint kind of life, rather than the long race.   

For two or three St. Patrick's Days , I pretended to be Irish. It was a stretch. I was dull compared to a room full of Leprechauns, and no one was fooled by my green hat.  The Irish really know how to have fun.  I filled in the gaps of my heritage by learning about Absinthe and I discovered that I like kissing green fairies.  

In case you are looking for something special this St. Patrick's, here are some things to know about Absinthe. Please rehearse your own limerick.

The name Absinthe comes from the botanical name Artemesia absinthium, which is commonly known as wormwood. Wormwood was first used for medicinal purposes in ancient Greece, but the alcoholic drink was not created until 1792. A French doctor living in Switzerland distilled the wormwood plant in alcohol and added anise, lemon balm, and hyssop. The doctor is only one of many folks credited with the birth of Absinthe, including the Henriod sisters. The actual inventor or inventors remains a mystery. I would like to think it was the sisters, cooking up this powerful elixir to serve their community.
The traditional way to drink Absinthe is to pour one ounce in a glass and place a sugar cube on a fancy, slotted spoon that rests on top of the glass. Drip between three and four ounces of very cold water over the sugar cube so it dissolves into the Absinthe below. Your drink will turn opalescent and the aromas from the herbs should bloom.    

I like brown sugar cubes. I don't know why.

Feb 7, 2014

Petit Fours

Petit Fours
Makes 24

Frozen pound cake is easier to cut, easier to assemble, and easier to coat than room temperature pound cake.

1 (16 ounce) package frozen butter pound cake
1 (16 ounce) package frozen chocolate pound cake
2/3 cup seedless raspberry jam
1 1/3 cups dark chocolate chips
1 1/3 cups white chocolate chips
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream

1.     Place two wire racks over two baking sheets and set aside.
2.     Using a serrated knife, trim the crust from the top of pound cakes to make a flat surface. Turn cakes over and slice off bottom, sides and ends.
3.     Slice each pound cake into 6 equal slices about 1 1/2 inches thick. Cut each slice in half to make 12 squares. Trim off any uneven sides.
4.     Slice each cake in half, spread thinly with jam, and put back together. Place chocolate pound cake pieces on one baking sheet and butter pound cake pieces on the other prepared baking sheet. Set aside.
5.     Place chocolate chips in a medium bowl. Place white chocolate chips in another medium bowl.
6.     Place cream in a medium saucepan over medium heat. As soon as it reaches a boil, pour half over chocolate chips and half over white chocolate chips. Let stand 3 minutes. Stir until mixtures are smooth.
7.     Spoon chocolate mixture onto the center of chocolate cake pieces, allowing excess to flow down sides to coat completely. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.
8.     Spoon white chocolate mixture onto the center of butter pound cake pieces, allowing excess to flow down sides to coat completely. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.
9.     Spoon a second coat of chocolate over cake pieces and refrigerate for 15 minutes more.
10.  To decorate, drizzle tops of petit fours with contrasting chocolate mixture.
11.  Store in an airtight container for up to 2 days. 

Feb 5, 2014

Pink Champagne with Cointreau-Infused Raspberries

Pink Champagne with Cointreau-Infused Raspberries
Makes 4-5 servings

This pink drink is perfect for Valentine’s Day or for any lazy weekend brunch.

1/2 cup fresh raspberries
1/3 cup Cointreau
1 (750 ml) bottle rose Champagne, chilled

1.     Place raspberries and Cointreau in a small bowl and set aside for 30-45 minutes.
2.     To serve, spoon raspberries into glasses.
3.     Pour remaining Cointreau through a fine mesh strainer into glasses. Fill glasses with Champagne and serve immediately.