Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Goat Cheese Pear and Prosciutto Sachets

So I got this idea from my fabulous super organized super mom/wife/teacher friend Ms. E. I had a "bite size" party one evening last March and she brought these bites of DELISH! Pear slices wrapped in goat cheese and walnuts. Normally prosciutto we think "melon" I loved the pear! I had to make it. I'm normally not a prosciutto fan, but I think I ate like 12 of those things that night! That was my dinner that night and breakfast the next day. (She was kind enough to leave them for me :D ) So I just revamped it to make it mini and of course used my fabulous chives to tie them together. 

 F U N D A B B L E R   F A C T 
"In addition to protecting hams from spoilage as they mature, salt contributes to their appearance and texture. High salt concentrations cause the normally tightly bunched protein filaments in the muscle cells to separate into individual filaments, which are too small to scatter light: so the normally opaque muscle tissue becomes translucent. The same unbunching also weakens the muscle fibers, while at the same time dehydration makes the tissue denser and more concentrated: hence the close but tender texture" - Harold McGee "On Food and Cooking the Science and lore of the Kitchen"  

 I N G R E D I E T N S 

Goat cheese - 125 grams
Walnuts - 1 big handful
25 slices of prosciutto
25 chives
25 pear balls (about 3 medium sized RIPE pears peeled)

Takes about 30 min
Serves about 25 sachets

 I N S T R U C T I O N S 

Finely chop your walnuts and mix with your soft goat cheese.

Use a small melon baller (mine had a diameter of 3/4 of an inch) to ball out your RIPE pears (either plan ahead or get 
them already ripe at the store) I add a bit of lemon juice so the pears brown less.

Spread on thin square slice of prosciutto 

Place pear ball on top of thin goat cheese/walnut paste

Gently bring together prosciutto together to form a sachet, tie with chives and serve

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Wine Party - Planning

So I've had on my list of life's "Things to Do", along with a bunch of other random crazy things like: speak 10 languages before I die, have a spectacular party on a boat, own a minivan, learn to flamenco dance have a full sized freezer to store all my seasonal foods…. I told you pretty random!. Anyway, this wine party was one of the things I wanted to do since 5 years ago. I was lucky enough to get introduced to a great sommelier through a friend of ours that made all this happen! 

I have been in the planning mode for a month now, the invites were out, then the post office went on strike so I had to send e-mails anyway. Oh well, at least the invites I had purchased like 3 years ago finally got used.

By party minus 3 weeks I was excited. This is when I was working on the details of decorations and details. I know I work backwards, but I have learned not to fight the urge to take action on anything really. I do it when I'm excited about it, then I'm sure that I will be doing it from the bottom of my heart, and that it will get done! So I start early and go with my excitement. 

My biggest goal for the party was to have everything done by the time everyone got there. So this meant excessive planning and diligence. 

This is what my idea was that I sent to the sommelier. He was great enough to accept my challenge.

Guests (including Sommelier and myself) -  13
Super hard to choose! I can name like 5 people we had to exclude just quick off the top of my head. We had friends bring 2 extra card tables to add to our extended dining table. We literally had to clear out the living room so we could all fit! But it was fun.

Courses to be served - 8 

Concept - We know how to pair wine with good french foods, Italian, Spanish or even BBQ but what about the ethnic foods we end up eating all the rest of the time and we still want our wine!? So each course was to consist of 3 meals from each of the following cultures:

Persian, Mexican, Quebecois, Indian, Chinese.
Add in appetizers, dessert and cheeses (I know cheese is typical, but it's just SOOO good how could I resist?!)

All this equals 8 courses. 

The menu:

1. Amuse-bouche - 
Potato blue cheese potage (FRI)
Prosciutto pear and goat cheese mixed with walnuts tied with chives  (SAT)
Beet Salad w celery and apples (FRI)

2. Iranien -
Kotlet w fried yellow and red mini tomatoes - make (THURS)
Aloo esfenaj- make (THURS)
Gheyme-  make (THURS)
avec du riz basmati au safran (SAT)

3. Chinese- 
Spring roll, générale tao, Sweet and sour chicken  w sticky rice (PURCHASE)

4. Indian - tandoori chicken Frozen bbq day of
Poulet au beurre, small samosa (PURCHASE)

5. Mexican - 
mole (THURS)
corn and beans w quesadilla 
cut tortillas (THURS)
roasted bell pepper soup topped with toasted corn tortillas (FRI)

6. Quebecois - 
poutine- in mini trays (SAT)
paté chinois - in mini foil trays (THURS)
fry mushrooms (FRI)
Cretonnade de canard on baguette (PURCHASE)

7. Cheese -  w baguette (PURCHASE)
cheese 1
cheese 2
cheese 3

8. Dessert - 
Verrine of chocolate mousse with Grand Marnier- (FRI)
Chocolate raspberry truffle (FRI)
Strawberry cardamom upside down cake (FRI)

The Sommelier decided to choose 1 wine per course and discuss the flavours accordingly. YAY! 

By Party  minus 2 weeks I was panicking. So I began mapping out my party on pages based on food categories.

This was great.

By Party minus 1 week, I had to plan my daily goals. The party was Saturday, so I labelled the day I had to have things done by. 

The anxiety grows as does the excitement. My phone call the the poor sommelier, Sébastien,  increased and he was a ROCK. Thank goodness because I become a crazed, ungrounded freak! … in a nice way… ok not in a nice way. It's not that pretty! 

I was also lucky enough to have my father-in-law visiting us from Italy. He was able to play with my daughter while I concentrated on cooking and the preparations. Of course my husband was fantastic, listening to me plan every night, something different and calming me down :) Thanks Mon Amour!

My thank you package to Sébastien

The party was Saturday, it was fantastic. Stay tuned for recipes and details as well as some cool wine information!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Bonbons Saint-Jean

Today was Saint-Jean Baptiste day here in Quebec. It is the national holiday celebrating Quebec as a beautiful nation. We celebrated in the rain, and under the gloomy sky with great friends. Today the goal was to have fun with my little girl while we made chocolates. We still had a couple of accidents, but she helped me with most of it! 

 F U N D A B B L E R   F A C T  

Quebec is a French speaking province in Canada. Most people think Canada is bilingual (including myself before I came here) but NO! HAH! You really just live in French only here in Quebec, which is what makes it so charming. 

 W H A T   W E  D I D 

Make your cake balls (see the Queen's recipe (Bakerella) for best results!)

My problem was that I was making this in a 1 hour limit (we were suppose to be at our friend's house for lunch at 11:30, and it was already 10:30 AAA!!!)
So rushing I put too much frosting in my mix, making it too soft so I franticly looked around and found my Oreo mix.. YAY! Thank you Oreo you saved my day. 

Made our chocolate. I used blue and white, Quebec's colors. 

I used powder for the first time. It was pretty good!

Mixed some crisco so it coats well while the chocolate was warm, mixed it in. 
Coat, decorate, add sprinkles because it is always better with sprinkles! 

Voilà, our little favour for our friends to celebrate with some sweets! :) 
We also made some Fleur de Lis (the symbol on the Quebec Flag).



Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Sahar's Club Sandwich

So I asked my husband what he wants for dinner one night, and he said "a club sandwich". I had NO idea what that is (ok give me a break here, I know I grew up in Arizona, but remember my family is Persian). After reading around, and avoiding multiple phone calls to him at work to figure it out, I just stuffed everything I read into 1 sandwich. He was happy and so was our bellies ;) Hope this helps start out your first day of summer! Yay to learning new things! 

 F U N D A B B L E R  F A C T    

According to Wikipedia, the Club Sandwich originated from NY!

Makes about 3 sandwiches
Takes about 1 hour

 I N G R E D I E N T S 

Avocado - 1 sliced
Onion - 1 medium sliced
Mushrooms - 1 small packet about 10 
Tomato - 1 medium sliced
Salad - a handful per person
Cheese slices
Bacon 8-10 slices, depending on how much you want 
Mayo - however much you want
Sliced Bread - toasted

 I N S T R U C T I O N S 

1. Fry your bacon.

2. Fry your chicken in the bacon grease. (I used rotisserie chicken already cooked).

3. Fry your onions and mushrooms in the same oil (I know not too healthy).

4. Cut your avocados and tomatoes. 

5. Don't forget the cheese!

6. Get your salad ready and Layer...

Layer some more...

7. EAT UP!

Suggested yummy sides: fries and soup/salad 

For a healthier alternative, skip the fries or use sweet potato fries, use whole grain bread, and add in a side of salad with oil and vinegar! You should avoid a good 500 calories just right there ;)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

My Chives are in Bloom!


I love chives, and for me they always completes a food in flavour as well as presentation. Being a bulb it comes back into bloom each spring- obviously. But excitement struck me when I noticed them in bloom! Like it never struck me to think of it with a flower! Needless to say I was quite thrilled to be a witness of its bloom cycle. Hope it intrigues you as much as it did me! 


Chives are high in vitamin C and iron!


Friday, June 10, 2011

Estamboli Polo- Persian Potato Beef tomato Rice

Estamboli Polo is a great all-in-one meal. Usually I have my ground beef already fried and in the freezer as backup to any dish. So for me, this is a quick go-to meal. Traditionally the potatoes don't need pre-frying I just like the look and extra flavor added so I pre-fry my potato cubes. Do as you wish, just be sure to enjoy each step of the way!

Takes about 1 hour and 30 min to prep and cook everything
Serves about 4-6

Estamboli polo comes from the north of Iran.Traditionally you eat it with pickled veggies (torshi) OR yogurt but not both because they say that if you mix vinegar and yogurt, you will get dark blotches on your face!

Ground red meat (I use beef) - about 1 lb 
Potatoes peeled and diced into "jewel sized" cubs (about 2cm cubes) - about 4 fist sized 
Diced tomatoes (do not drain) - 1 can (28oz) 
Basmati rice - 2 cups 
Onions - 2 large 
Garlic - 3 cloves

Teaspoon cinnamon - .5 (or a bit more to taste) 
Turmeric - .5 teaspoon 
Salt and Pepper to taste

Vegetable Oil- about half a cup
Water - about a half a cup

Start by frying your ground red meat. I use beef, but lamb and veal is fine too.

Cut 1 onion into small cubes and add with some oil (about 3 table spoons minimum) into a heated frying pan. Add your meat as well as your spices and start frying. Once your meat has started browning, add in your minced garlic.

Until your meat browns completely you can start your potatoes in another frying pan. Cut your potatoes into small cubes (like 1.5 cm cubes)

 Fry until nice and golden with some oil, salt and pepper. set aside.

Cut up your last onion into small cubes, fry with some more oil until golden brown. set aside.

So by now your meat is nice and brown, and you have your potatoes and your golden onions.
Time for the rice.

Wash your Basmati rice at least 4 times, basically until the water is no longer cloudy. 

After draining your last rinse, add just enough water so that it does not come over your rice. Then add in your large can of diced tomatoes. 

Mix in a pinch more of cinnamon (to taste) and pepper (because pepper looses its flavour through cooking). Add in your onions along with a half a cup of water. Stir gently (as not to break your long grains of beautiful rice).

Turn on the stove and bring your mixture to a boil (with the lid off of your rice). Once your rice starts bubbling a bit, turn it down to a a low/medium (again I turn mine to e/10) now add in your potatoes, and meat, stir gently. Add in a minimum of 2 tablespoons of oil or butter.

Place your lid. and wait. 

It is important that you place the lid onto the rice AFTER the rice has stopped boiling otherwise your rice water will overflow and cause a huge mess on your range and you will not only curse at yourself, but me. So lets avoid the situation.

After about 45 min, you will do that tadig twist test and see if your tadig is ready. You must use a non stick pan to do this. What I do is I lift the pot off the stove holding the lid with a towel. Lift and twist vigorously until you hear the rice sliding. if you hear the hardened rice sliding, then it should be ready… should.. this is a difficult process that you have to just learn to know. 

A second test is the wet finger test (my grandmother's trick). Wet your finger then tap it on the side of the warm pot on the stove. If the moisture sizzles off at the touch, then it's ready! Choose your method.

Tadig is very difficult to make especially with tomato based rices. This is because tomatoes burn very quickly and easily so be sure your range is on a low heat. My burner goes to 10 and I usually set it on 4 after it boils, but with Estamboli polo I put it on 3- just to give you an idea.

If you find the tadig part just too overwhelming, check your rice and once it is cooked, you can take it off the stove and serve.

Tadig! No your rice is not burnt it is an art to create great tadig. Ask any Persian! ;)

Serve with plain yogurt OR pickled vegetables. Your pick!

Traditional Estamboli Polo - not with pre-fried potatoes, so you can see the difference visually below. Still super yummy!