Archive for the ‘Daring-Cooks’ Category

Edible Containers-Daring Cooks Challenge – Part 1

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

Renata of Testado, Provado & Aprovado! was our Daring Cooks’ April 2011 hostess. Renata challenged us to think “outside the plate” and create our own edible containers! Prizes are being awarded to the most creative edible container and filling, so vote on your favorite from April 17th to May 16th at!

This is part one of this post.  I remembered a really interesting basket made out of orange peels that my friend Dominique in France showed me in one of her cookbooks.  I had never tried it, so I thought this challenge would be a good time to tackle an orange peel basket.

I had a kitchen gadget for garnishing that I thought would be just the implement to make the basket strips.  The process is that you cut off a small piece from the end of the orange for the platform, then you cut a long spiral strip.  I had to make strips because I was not too skilled with the tool, and it slipped off the peel periodically.  So, voila, after a short basketweaving session it worked.  I filled the container with a chick pea and red pepper salad.  So, here it is:

Well then I looked back at the challenge, and the container is supposed to be edible.  Realistically, although you could eat orange peels, a basket this size might be a challenge.  So, my next step was to find the recipe for the salmon tartare cornets in The French Laundry Cookbook that I had always intended to make.  My first batch was a little overdone, so they did not roll.   My error was to cook them too long, so I took the second batch out when they were just congealed but not browned, and they rolled up great.  You bake them again after that.

Part 2 will show the filling in them.  I am thinking sun dried tomato chevre would be good.  Thomas Keller uses salmon tartare, but raw fish never really excites me, in fact it makes me squeamish!!  So, look in a couple days for part 2.

Here is a little peak at the cornets:

Tempura and Buckwheat Noodles-Daring Cooks Challenge

Sunday, February 20th, 2011

The February 2011 Daring Cooks’ challenge was hosted by Lisa of Blueberry Girl. She challenged Daring Cooks to make Hiyashi Soba and Tempura. She has various sources for her challenge including,, and

I am late posting this but trying to do the challenges.  I am not posting recipes for this because I had to turn the recipes into gluten free, and although all were ok, they were not great, so you dont really want to have these recipes unless I try to perfect them.

I used fresh ground buckwheat flour for 75% of the noodle mix.  Next time I would skip the whole grain buckwheat because it looks nasty and does not really add to the taste.  I made lasagna noodles a few days later with just ground hulled buckwheat and I was a lot happier with them.  I used a peanut satay recipe on the noodles, and it was quite good.  Overall, I don’t really love cold noodles.

I absolutely love tempura at our local Wabura restaurant.  I have made it at home several times, but again my conclusion is that this can be made better in a restaurant where they have a good fryer and can serve everyone at once.  Having said that, the restaurant version has wheat in it, so I will continue to make it once in a while for poor Greg.  Instead of wheat flour I substituted a ration of two parts rice flour to 1 part tapioca flour.  The batter came out really good for the first few, crispy and delicious, but then seemed to grow soggy.  Maybe it was that the oil was getting a little water in it, who knows.

This was another good Daring Cooks adventure, but I am going back to Wabura for my next tempura fix, and cold noodles….well, just not my favourite dish. Thanks to Lisa for the clallenge. Blueberry Girl blog

Cassoulet – Daring Cooks Challenge

Monday, January 17th, 2011

Our January 2011 Challenge comes from Jenni of The Gingered Whisk and Lisa from Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. They have challenged the Daring Cooks to learn how to make a confit and use it within the traditional French dish of Cassoulet. They have chosen a traditional recipe from Anthony Bourdain and Michael Ruhlman.

I have had duck confit in France, and it was really tasty. When I made it with the duck available here it was ok, but not as good.  Cassoulet is a signature dish and is on many restaurant menus in the southwest of France, but I never have ordered it because there are so many other dishes to try.

I have made Cassoulet before as well, and it was good but not really memorable.   This time I followed the recipe from Anthony Bourdain that is in the Daring Cooks recipe.  I made confit using chicken rather than duck, and used a combination of olive oil and butter rather than the difficult to find (in this area) duckfat.  For beans I used navy beans.

The chicken confit was cooked in a slow cooker, varying the temp setting between low and high, trying to keep it from boiling.  The aroma of the confit was devine.  For the Cassoulet I used a good pork sausage that had no gluten fillers in it.  The confit was made one day, the beans the next, then the Cassoulet assembled the next, and baked again the following day for a comfort food dinner party.

The final baking smelled devine, and the Cassoulet was delicoius.  Everyone had seconds, always a good sign!.  I really liked the fact that on the day of the dinner all I had to do was reheat the Cassoulet and make a salad to go with it. 

Greg and I ate the leftovers the next two days, and they just got better.

In terms of next steps, the confit was interesting, but the Cassoulet would be great without it as well.  I will definitely make this again when I want a conforting meal with friends.

Here is a link to the daring bakers recipes.  Thanks to Jenni and Lisa for getting me to make Cassoulet again with a better method.

Weird Eggsperiments from the Pantry: Daring Cooks Challenge

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

Jenn and Jill have challenged The Daring Cooks to learn to perfect the technique of poaching an egg. They chose Eggs Benedict recipe from Alton Brown, Oeufs en Meurette from Cooking with Wine by Anne Willan, and Homemade Sundried Tomato & Pine Nut Seitan Sausages (poached) courtesy of Trudy of Veggie num num.

A well poached egg is one of the most simply delicious culinary delights that anyone can master.  If you have fresh eggs, it is truly a gourmet treat.  I love poached eggs, but spent years trying to get the perfect poach.  After trying all sorts of gizmos….. silicone cups and those sort of forms, I have concluded that the perfect poached egg is made by the little “truc” of making sure that you simply swirl the boiling water, then turn the heat way down, and give a little swirl until the egg is definitely free from the bottom.  The other secret is quite a bit of vinegar in the water – I use about 2 T to  my little deep Paderno saucepan.  A dash of salt is  also important, and keep the water only just before a boil.  Poached eggs are so versatile.  They are delicious just on toast, but also resting on beds of various things, covered by sauce. One of my favourite combos is poached eggs on a bed of du Puy lentils, weird I know but good protein and low glycemic index (This is important so you can eat more shortbread cookies).

Anyway, to get on with the challenge, I needed to do this fast since my most recent obsession is knitting doll clothes so I wanted to get back to my yarn.  For the first “eggsperiment” I happened to have a jar of Patak’s korma sauce just opened that I had used on a delicious fish dish the night before, and some good Italian canned tomatoes.  So, I made a sauce of tomatoes, a couple spoons of Pataks (to taste – no recipe needed here!), and some of the dark kabouli chick peas I had in the fridge.  So, eggsperiment one was delicious, and a make again for sure, good for fridge leftovers, I bet you can put almost any leftover vegetable in the sauce.  And if you havent tried Pataks sauces, they are an amazing, my theory is that they can get fresher spices than we can.  I make lots of indian food, but Pataks is sometimes the best answer to quick gourmet Indian food (especially in a small central Ontario town where Indian is pretty exotic and restaurantless).

Eggsperiment #2:  “Oeufs a la Châtaigne”

Another pantry wonder.  I had spinach that was past it’s prime.  So I sauteed it for a sumptious bed for the poached egg.  Then, I ruminated over maybe  a cheese sauce, and really wanted to do Oeufs en Meurette, but today I wanted to go shopping so that’s for later.  So  I rooted out a truly gourmet leftover from the depths of my fridge – a “Confit of Chestnuts, Fennel, and Walnuts” from the Joel Robuchon / Patricia Wells  Simply French cookbook.  OK, true confessions, I didn’t make the exact recipe (my larder of veal stock was non existent), but my version was to saute onions, shallots, fennel, deglaze the pan with some sherry, then add the chestnuts and walnuts.  This was baked in the oven until the rest of the meal was done.  It was delicious, even Greg who doesn’t really like fennel had seconds.  After spying this lovely little bowl of chestnutty goodness …(don’t throw up, I am trying to emulate Nigella),  I put some of the leftover confit in the food processor, added a little water and whip cream, and voila, the start of a delicious sauce.  I heated this up, added a little flour to smooth out and thicken, and poured it over the poached egg.  I have not included a picture of the cut centre, because the truth is that by the time I finished all this pantry raiding the yolk was a little stiff, so the picture you will have to imagine is a bite taken out and the yellowy smoothness of the yolk bursting out of its eggy goodness  (ok, I know, enough Nigella, maybe I will try emulating Anthony Bourdain next!)

Stay tuned for my next post, I just got springerele molds!!

Crab Souffle…A Daring Cooks Challenge

Monday, November 15th, 2010

Dave and Linda from Monkeyshines in the Kitchen chose Soufflés as our November 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge! Dave and Linda provided two of their own delicious recipes plus a sinfully decadent chocolate soufflé recipe adapted from Gordon Ramsay’s recipe found at the BBC Good Food website.

I have to compliment Dave and Linda, their explanation and pictures were great, and a nouveau souffle baker would be able to follow their directions easily.

I have made souffles before when I was younger and trying to learn about French cooking.  Souffles were considered very exotic, so of course I wanted to make some.  My early attempts all turned out, and chocolate was the one I remember making. However, since I have mot made many since, I guess that although they are interesting, souffles are not at the top of my extensive food loving list.

For this challenge I wanted to try a seafood souffle, inspired by some of the ones I saw in the Daring Cooks posts.  I decided to look through my several French cookbooks, and guess what, there were very few souffle recipes in them.  Finally I went to my foundational French cookbook, Julia Child’s  Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and of course she has a wonderful section that thoroughly explains souffles and gives a generic recipe and variations. So, I ended up using her recipe but using cornstarch and buckwheat flour to make it gluten free.  For the additions I used 3/4 cup of canned crab (ok ok for purists, it was what I had in the cupboard!) and about 1/4 cup of chopped up marinated artichokes.  I spiced it with a tsp of Dijon mustard, and some fresh grated nutmeg (see, I am not a cooking Cretin, I did use fresh grated nutmeg!).  As you can see from the picture, all the sizes of souffles rose to the occasion, and watching them in the oven was the best part of the cooking entertainment experience. The souffle tasted delicious and had a delicate texture and good flavour (ok I have to admit fresh crab would have been better.)

The other souffle memory I do have is that my mother often made a family favourite dessert called lemon pudding.  Well guess what, turns out it was a souffle and we all loved it.  I think one time my brother wanted a whole batch of lemon souffle for himself on his birthday. If you want a souffle recipe they are on the Daring Cooks website now.

Zucchini Pickles….or what to do with a jumbo zucchini

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

The September 2010 Daring Cooks’ challenge was hosted by John of Eat4Fun. John chose to challenge The Daring Cooks to learn about food preservation, mainly in the form of canning and freezing. He challenged everyone to make a recipe and preserve it. John’s source for food preservation information was from The National Center for Home Food Preservation.

I have done a lot of preserving over the years, so decided to make an interesting recipe that can be kept in the fridge or freezer.  The best thing about these pickles is that they are very crisp.  Despite several tries and different recipes, I have never gotten really crisp pickles that are heat preserved.

I think this recipe would work fine with cucumbers instead of zucchini.

This recipe is adapted from a cookbook that is probably no longer in print, called Quick Pickles, Easy recipes with Big Flavor, by Chris Schlesinger, John Willoughby, and Dan George. The book is all quick pickles, and I have made several variations from the book, so if you can find it it is great.

Curried Zucchini Pickles

This recipe is originally for refrigerator storage, and will keep for about 6 weeks.  However, after making another recipe for freezer ice box pickles, I experimented and discovered that these keep very well frozen, and stay crisp for about a week in the fridge once thawed.  I used a really big (5 lbs) zucchini with a tough skin, and it worked great after scraping out the seeds and pithy stuff from the centre.

Even people who don’t like zucchini like these.



Stage 1, Salting the veggies:

3 pounds zucchini

1 or 2 red peppers, cut into small pieces

3 medium size onions, peeled and sliced into thin rings

¼ cup coarse salt

Adding the grapes:

1 cup red or green grapes, cut in half

(Note, these go in after the brining step, do not add in step one)

The spiced pickling mixture:

2 3/4 cups cider vinegar

1 1/2 cups orange juice

3/4 cup sherry (amontillado)

2 cups sugar

1 T curry powder

½ tsp cayenne or ancho chili powder

1 tsp whole cloves

1 tsp whole allspice berries

Fresh ginger, about 1″, cut into fine strips

3 cloves garlic (optional)

Cut the zucchini into thin 1/8 inch little wedges.  If using a really whopper zucchini, then scrape out the inside seeds and pithy interior.  You can peel the zucchini, but I prefer it left green.

Place all this in a glass bowl, mix in the salt, and let sit for an hour. The salt will extract the juices, and the pile of zucchini will shrink.  This is why the pickles stay crisp.

Rinse the veggies three times to get all the salt out.  Place back in the bowl, and add the grapes.

Make the spice mixture in a saucepan, simmer for a couple minutes,  and pour over the vegetables.  Pack into jars that have been rinsed in boiling water first to sterilize.  For refrigerator  storage I use quarts and for freezing I use half or quarter pints so that I only defrost a small portion since they only stay crisp for a week at most, and are best the first cou0ple days.

These are good to eat  in a couple hours, but best starting the next day.  They must be kept in the fridge or freezer.

Paella Pierogies: Daring Cooks

Sunday, August 15th, 2010

The August 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by LizG of Bits n’ Bites and Anula of Anula’s Kitchen. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make pierogi from scratch and an optional challenge to provide one filling that best represents their locale.

I ended up making a gluten free version, but the dough part was a little tough.  My husband ate is anyway and even said it was good, but I knew it was one of those jaw exercising types of dough!  For the filling I used smoked chicken leftovers, and onion and cabbage with a little sour cream to hold it together.  It was quite good.

It has been really hot, and perogies are a cold weather food in my food framework, so I was having trouble getting enthusiastic.  Finally I got the inspiration to use the leftover paella I had in the fridge, then I got to work.  I have been really fond of paella since we went to Spain, and leftover paella is quite a tasty thing to use, my favourite is scrambled eggs with paella in them – delicious! The pierogi filling I made  was day old paella made from the recent Fine Cooking recipe, more or less; cottage cheese, and finally a mixture of onions and cauliflower chopped fine in the food processor that I sweated until tender.  Well I know this sounds like a dubious combination, but the filling was excellent.  The dough…..well I confess I have made perogies twice before, once with my sister in law’s mother, and once with a ukranian friend.  On those occasions I had expert help, and the dough was tender and wonderful.  My dough, without the expert advice was still tough, even the non gluten free version.

Anyway, as usual with the daring cooks it was an adventure.  I don’t plan to make pierogies for a long time, the bought ones are looking pretty darn good to me now!

Nut Butters – Daring Cooks Challenge

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

The July 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by Margie of More Please and Natashya of Living in the Kitchen with Puppies. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make their own nut butter from scratch, and use the nut butter in a recipe. Their sources include Better with Nut Butter by Cooking Light Magazine, Asian Noodles by Nina Simonds, and Food Network online.  The recipes are here

I have made some nut butters before, but this challenge prompted me to try some additional butters and to use them in recipes.

The recipe for Chicken with Pecan Cream and Mushrooms appealed to me first, so here it is in the above picture.  The pecan butter was easily made in the food processor, and the remaining recipe was easy to do and quick. The resulting taste test proved that this is an easy and tasty meal.  Although this was very good, I might turn up the spicing a little next time as it was a little bland. It is gluten free as long as you serve it on a non gluten starch (I used mashed potatoes, my favourite, after all I am from PEI.)

Newest designer vegetable (I saw this in a cooking magazine headline!) Look at the greens on the plate, they are not green beans, they are garlic scapes from my garden. These are the flowering stalk of hard shell garlic that Greg plants in the fall.  The scapes are usually ready in late June here, and it is important that they are picked when the stalk does a 360 turn and just before the flower bud gets too large.  They are delicious, the flavour is like asparagus with built in garlic.  They freeze well using green bean instructions (ie, parboil, cool in ice water, and bag.)

The next recipe I tried was the Asian Noodle Salad with Cashew Dressing.  This recipe is a definite keeper!  I happened to have some good cashews in the freezer, so I made the cashew version.  This makes a delicious dressing that is good on hot or cold noodles, or as a dipping sauce.  The only change I made to the recipe was to reduce the sugar from three tablespoons and instead used 2 teaspoons.  I do not like really sweet sauces, and anyway with sugar on the healthwise front less is more.  I put them on boiled and cooled whole wheat salba noodles, but this would be a gluten free meal on rice or quinoa instead, I occasionally have to have a wheat fix and let Greg make do with another starch!

For the understudy salad to make the picture appeal to your eyes first (let’s face it, isn’t that what you look at first  on my blog?) I raided the garden for greens (I found arugula, romaine, leaf lettuce, and spinach), even though they are a little bitter given the recent hot weather.  I also added mint leaves and nasturtium garnishes, and they actually added to the taste very well, especially the mint leaves.

Asian Salad with Cashew Nut Butter and Mint Leaves

Thanks you to the Natasha and Margie, this was a really interesting challenge and I am even going to make the rest of the recipes!  Overall, Nut Butter rocks!!

Pâté Anyone? Daring Cooks Challenge

Monday, June 14th, 2010

Our hostesses this month, Evelyne of Cheap Ethnic Eatz, and Valerie of a The Chocolate Bunny, chose delicious pate with freshly baked bread as their June Daring Cook’s challenge! They’ve provided us with 4 different pate recipes to choose from and are allowing us to go wild with our homemade bread choice.

I used to make pâté quite a bit many years ago, but have not made any for quite a while, so I was looking forward to this challenge.  I chose the pork and liver recipe and  actually followed it to the letter (not something I am usually very good at!) I have a real French  pâté baking enameled pan that I almost gave away a couple years ago but then thought better of it.  The thick cast iron really bakes the pate slowly,  and the narrow shape is perfect, so I am glad I relented when I was in one of my get rid of clutter phases. This was the first time I tried a liver and pork combination.  It is absolutely scrumptions.  The spicing seemed a little light when I read the recipe, however due to the slow cooking and letting it mellow in the fridge for a day, the flavours are really subtle and quite delicious.  The other good thing is that there is no wheat in it.  Unfortunately wheat is often present in bought pâté, so this was a bonus as well.  The recipe is here at Daring Bakers

For the bread, due to gluten free needs for my hubbie I developed a recipe that was good as bread, but even better as crackers when they were twice baked like biscotti.  They came out so good that I also developed a wheat based version from another recipe, and frankly I can’t stop eating them. The crispy initial bite is followed by the mellow taste of wheat and a hint of rosemary.   So, both recipes are here for you following this post. This made a lot of pâté, so now I am trying an experiment – how does pâté  freeze?


Savory Gluten Free Parmesan Crisps

I developed this recipe starting with the concept in a recipe in a cookbook called Grazing by Julie Van Rosendaal to go with a Daring Cooks pate challenge.  It is very good as a quick bread right out of the oven, but also wonderful as a cracker or crisp if thinly sliced and baked again to dry. They are sort of like Raincoast Crisps, a popular but very expensive west coast cracker sold in Canada.

Ingredients Method
Dry Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup garfava flour
  • ¼ cup amaranth flour
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • ¼ cup buckwheat flour
  • 1 tap baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp (or more) dried rosemary
  • 1 tsp xanthum gum powder
  • ¼ cup fresh parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder
Combine dry ingredients. The total flour is 1 cup, so you can try other combinations.

Whisk the ingredients to distribute all the stuff.

Wet ingredients:

  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tbl olive oil (I used extra virgin)
  • ¼ cup water
Add wet ingredients and mix a stiff batter.  Put in oiled small loaf pans then wet your gingers and push the sides of the batter down so the center is mounded up like a loaf.
Bake at 350, the time depends on the size of your pan, mine were very small load pans and they took about 15 – 20 minutes.  If making crisps, allow to cool, in fact even put the loaves in the freezer for a little while.  Then slice into 1/8 inch pieces and arrange on ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake at 300 for about 12 minutes, then turn opver and bake again until crisp, about 12 minutes more.  Watch carefully towards the end because they go from crisp to overdone quickly.

Try spicing this with other spices like herbes de province, cumin and coriander, etc.  The cheese can also be left out.

Savory Wheat Crisps

I love a Canadian Cracker called Raincoast Crisps, but they are really expensive and sometimes hard to find here.  Julie Rosandaal, in her cookbook Grazing, has a recipe that is close to the bought versions, and I have made it several times with lots of creative tweaks.  This time I tried to develop a savory rendition of crisps.  They were so good as bread that I ate half a small loaf right out of the oven.  They are equally good dried as crisps.  And another great thing, there is no butter or eggs in this recipe, but because of the buttermilk they are moist and rich as a bread, and crisp as a cracker.



Dry Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup whole wheat flour
  • ½ cup unbleached white flour
  • 2 TBL amaranth flour
  • 2 Tbl buckwheat flour
  • 1 TBL almond meal powder (optional)
  • 2 T ground flax seeds
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 Tbl brown sugar
  • 2 TBL chopped pecans
Mix together and blend thoroughly.

Re flax – grind your own meal in a coffee grinder, it is far better than bought

1 cup buttermilk Add buttermilk and mix quickly.  (Yes, there is no butter or eggs in this recipe!)
Bake at 350 in small loaf pans until the tops are cracked and slightly browned.  Allow to cool.  Eat fresh like this, or cool, even freeze for a little while, then slice very thin.  Bake at 300 on a cookie sheet for 15 minutes, then turn over and bake again for 15 minutes. Watch like a hawk at the end because they overcook easily.
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