dimanche 23 août 2009

Tapanade and Tarama

A Martini conjures up images of elegance for me. Not that I have ever sipped one while wearing a ball gown and being surrounded by men in tuxes but it does somehow give off that illusion (perhaps from old movies). The closest I ever got was sipping one at the Hemmingway Bar in The Ritz, Paris. That WAS a sublime Martini - very dry, ice cold with a twist of lemon and servied with an exquisite tray of hors d'oeuvres. The 22€ price tag was worth it for the experience, ambiance and the sense of being in Paris at The Ritz.

This is not to take away from the cottage Martini experience. Sitting on the deck overlooking the lake, Martini in hand getting ready for the sunset with some of my favourite people and hors d'oeuvers - cucumber with tapenade and radish with tarama. Decadence!!!!

Our preference is a Martini made with Tanquaray or Bombay Sapphire gin. You can substitute vodka for the gin if that is your preference. We also prefer a twist of lemon peel (extracted with a tomato peeler to remove as little of the white pith as possible) to the olive.

Classic Gin Martini
Serves 1

75 mL (2-1/2 oz) Gin

15 mL (1/4 oz) Dry Vermouth

1 twist of lemon peel or 1 large green olive
6 ice cubes

Chill bottle of gin and martini glasses in the freezer. Pour gin and vermouth over ice in a cocktail shaker and shake until combined and very cold. Pour into martini glasses over lemon peel or olive.

dimanche 9 août 2009

Gazpacho with Grilled Shrimp

This is the perfect time of year to make the Spanish specialty of gazpacho, the refreshing chilled tomato based soup made with raw summer vegetables. There are many variations of gazpacho from smooth to chunky, mild to spicy and using different vegetables. How I would love to have a garden to raid for the tastiest ingredients – tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, peppers, green onions and herbs. Failing that, the next best thing would be to shop at a farmers or local market. Fresh ingredients are key to this soup since it is not cooked.

Gazpacho takes a bit of effort and time to prepare due to chopping the vegetables and the couple of hours to properly chill it. If you plan on making the smooth version, the vegetables are rough chopped then processed in a food processor before adding the tomato juice (or in a blender, adding just enough tomato juice to properly blend the ingredients). For a chunky version, chop all vegetables to approximately the same size dice depending on your preference. Or you can process some of the vegetables and blend them with the chopped ones. I prefer the soup to have the finely chopped texture and a little bit of spice.

Gazpacho with Grilled Shrimp
Serves 4-6

125 mL (½ cup) finely diced red or yellow onion
1 garlic clove, minced
1 green or yellow pepper, finely diced
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and finely diced
2 tomatoes, finely diced
2 spring onions (scallions), finely chopped
5 mL (1 tsp) honey
Juice of ½ lemon
Juice of 1 lime
15 mL (1 Tbsp) fresh basil, chopped
2.5 mL (½ tsp) ground cumin
60 mL (¼ cup) chopped parsley
30 mL (2 Tbsp) olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper and cayenne, to taste
1 L (4 cups) tomato juice

Combine all gazpacho ingredients in a large bowl or glass pitcher and chill well.

16-18 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
Juice of 1 lime
15 mL (1 Tbsp) olive oil
15 mL (1 Tbsp) chopped cilantro
1 clove garlic, minced
½ tsp chile powder

Whisk together limejuice and oil. Mix in cilantro, garlic and chile powder. Thread shrimp on skewers (to facilitate turning during grilling), place on platter; cover with marinade and let sit for at least ½ hour. Grill over medium coals until shrimp are opaque, about one minute per side.

To serve: Ladle gazpacho into individual bowls and top with 3-4 of the grilled shrimp.

mardi 4 août 2009

Cottage Banana Bread

As small kids, my brother and I got to visit a cottage in Pugwash, Nova Scotia for a few weeks in the summer. Our family did not have a cottage but thanks to our Dad, who is very handy at building things and just happened to help his friends, the owners, transform the cottage from a nice little cabin with outhouse, to a more luxurious place with indoor plumbing and a couple more rooms. This was our introduction to the cottage lifestyle, and the place where we learned about fireflies, tides, not stepping on jellyfish, sailing catamarans and salmon casserole made with potato chips instead of pasta.

In high school in Ontario, we learned that the summer tradition is to get out of the city and go to a cottage on a lake. Many families had cottages, small cabins hidden amongst the trees by a lake. In the good old days, mothers would take the kids to the cottage for the entire summer holiday and the fathers would show up on weekends and the couple of weeks for their annual vacation. A cottage is a step above camping as the structure is more permanent but the idea is still to bring in your supplies (food, water, other beverages, bedding and whatever you need to survive a week or month or two). It was still intended to be somewhat of a wilderness sojourn where there were some hardships to endure (outhouses, no running water, no hot water, mosquitoes, to name a few). Cottages were for casual living, a place where you spent every day in bathing suits, shorts, and t-shirts. Towels were thrown over deck railings to dry in preparation for the next swim. A canoe was the means of transportation to visit the neighbours. Meals were cooked on the barbecue and sundowners were served on the deck for the adults while watching the sunset over the lake. Still my family did not have a cottage, but I did have the pleasure of visiting some friends’ cottages.

I spent last week at my friend Anne’s cottage on Pike Lake, near Perth, Ontario. We stocked up on supplies at Foodsmith’sin Perth on our way in. This cottage has running hot and cold water, an indoor toilet, a full kitchen, 3 bedrooms, and now new windows. I enjoyed gourmet cuisine using fresh local ingredients (no grilled hot dogs for us) while enjoying the lovely scenery. Ontario is experiencing the same changeable weather that we are having in Western Europe this summer so I did not get in swimming but I did enjoy the sundowners on the deck served with canapés.

Another tradition of cottage life is baking and Anne made banana bread and fruit muffins for us to enjoy at breakfast.

Here is Anne's Banana Bread recipe:

Canadian Cottage Banana Bread

440 mL (1-3/4 cup) all-purpose flour, sifted
12 mL (2-1/4 tsp) double acting baking powder
2.5 mL (½ tsp) salt
80 mL (1/3 cup) butter
160 mL (2/3 cup) sugar
4 mL (¾ tsp) grated lemon rind
1-2 beaten eggs
250 mL (1 cup) ripe banana pulp
60 mL (¼ cup) sour cream (crème fraiche)
125 mL (½ cup) chopped walnuts or pecans

Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F).

Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Blend butter, sugar and lemon rind until creamy. Add sifted ingredients to creamed batter a third at a time and beat until smooth after each addition. Fold in sour cream and nuts. Place batter in a greased 11 cm x 22 cm (8-1/2” x 4-1/2”) loaf tin. Bake for about 1 hour or until done. Cool before slicing.