Archive for December, 2009

Verrines At Last

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

White Bean and Spinach Verrines

One of the most fun and interesting pursuits when I have been in France is to look for cookbooks and cooking magazines.  The presentation and visual appeal of French cookbooks and cooking magazines is wonderful, they seem to have a real sense of artistry in how food is presented.

Among the cookbook finds on my last two trips were the lovely petite glasses with layered food in them, called “verrines“.  I brought back a cookbook and some magazines with these little lovlies , but had never actually made them.  While beautiful, they require that you have several ingredients ready to layer, as well as tiny glasses, so I just never got around to actually making them.  The glasses became a reality on my San Francisco trip to Sur La Table.  Sitting right on a shelf were great glasses that were even tempered, so you could use them with hot stuff too.  Then in Muskoka at Rich Hill Candles I also found very straight clear glasses that would also fill the bill.

So, I have finally made some verrines over the holidays.  What I discovered is that they are not as easy as they look, getting those layers to show and look pristine in their colourful strata is no small feat.

My inspiration came when I found a Martha Stewart recipe in her December issue for a white bean and spinach dip.  It was supposed to be a warm dip, but I thought the mixture would be fine cold as well.  So what I did was use the concept of a white bean hummus concoction, and add some other colourful things.  I happened to have some quail eggs in the fridge (I know you are groaning, doesn’t everyone have quail eggs in the fridge!) and had already been quizzed by my husband on what exactly I had bought those for when things were tumbling out of a very full holiday fridge….

Layering....So far so good....

What I learned is that these are very fiddly, especially keeping the sides of the glass clean so they really look artistic with a coordinated colour palette.  I tired piping the bean mixture in first, that worked.  Then I patted in the spinach, which worked but was getting harder to keep the layers even.  After some debate with my children who are here for the holidays, and who are adults now with all sorts of opinions on how I should do things, I added stuff until I thought the verrines looked like little painted perfections.   The other challenge, with flu cautions in the back of my mind, was not to lick my fingers as the gunk got all over them (I resisted, don’t worry!) The verrines were devoured for an aperitif with a very fragrant Gewurztraminer from Alsace, one of my favourite French wines.    Will I make them again….I think so, they look lovely and tast good, maybe for a party of not more than 8 people, unless I have access retaurant sous chefs.  I do however have newfound respect for these little lovlies, they are quite a challenge but appeal to one’s inner artist.

White Bean Spinach Verrines

Just waiting for the toppings to finish the painting....

White Bean Layer:

  • 1 cups cooked white kidney beans (I used dry beans and cooked, but canned will do)
  • 1 cups low fat ricotta cheese
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 T lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt (or more depending on taste, I used a little more but salt is very individual)

Process all this in a food processor as you would hummus. Adjust seasonings as necessary, especially salt.  This makes more than you need, so just save the leftovers and mix with leftover spinach for some pate.

Spinach layer:

  • 1  box (10 oz) frozen chopped spinach (you will have leftovers to add to the leftover pate)

defrost frozen chopped spinach, then cook until tender with just a little water.  Squeeze it dry, and add salt if you want.

Tomato Layer:

  • 16 oz. bottle of homemade or bottled bruchetta, ground up in a food processor.  I used bottled basil bruchetta, but drained it in a colander first


  • 4 quail eggs (1/2 of a quail egg for each verrine) (okokhahaha, whatever you have on hand, maybe chopped regular eggs)
  • capers, red pepper sticks
  • a little balsamic vinegar to taste

Assemble the verrine, then let set in the fridge for a few hours to set.

Use the leftover tomato mixture as a layer in the bean pate you have left.  I made double the bean mix and had 2, 8 oz bowls of pate as well.  The pate is very good just with spinach mixed in and served with crackers of veggies.

Gingerbread Challenge

Sunday, December 27th, 2009

December Daring Bakers Challenge:

The December 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to you by Anna of Very Small Anna and Y of Lemonpi. They chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ everywhere to bake and assemble a gingerbread house from scratch. They chose recipes from Good Housekeeping and from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book as the challenge recipes.


Shelley's Gingerbread Lighthouse

“Run, run as fast as you can, you can’t catch me I’m the gingerbread man!” is an earworm from childhood that still remains.  So with the daring bakers challenge of making a gingerbread house this month I had to think of what his house might look like.

I made the dough ahead of time and let it mature a couple days in the fridge.  This paid off, because it was easy to roll and pliable when the construction time came.

I enlisted the help of my daughter who is a graphic designer, so she was ready for the building and decorating. I learner a new trick from a recent cookie decorating book . The trick is to roll the dough on parchment paper, cut your shapes, then take away the remaining dough rather than trying to move what you want to be the cookie.  This works perfectly, no more distortion any more for my cookies.

I looked through some pictures for inspiration, and ended up thinking I would make a light house modeled after the one my aunt and uncle live in on PEI.  My final house didn’t look much like the inspiration photo, but I like it anyway.

Inspiration House:

The inspiration lighthouse, now a cottage home.

For the icing we used fresh eggwhites because I had given the meringue powder to my daughter, so it was in Toronto, oh well. The icing worked beautifully, and trick is not to beat it too much.

Here is the house made mostly by my daughter, with some final embellishments by yours truly.

The little Gingerbread House by T.

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