Sunday, January 29, 2012

lemon syllabub


Looks like it sounds:


(Even though it looks quite silly. Actually, someone I know takes great delight in calling it "silly-bub.")

Syllabub, syllabub, syllabub . . . It's one of those words I could say over and over. Good thing I predict 2012 will be the year of the syllabub.

My mom whipped up a syllabub New Year's Eve, and now, I'm afraid, we're hooked. We say it and eat it as often as we can.

Oh, but you'd like to know what syllabub actually is?

Well, my dears, it is cold and creamy and lemony and tastes the way I always thought snow should taste. It is smooth and tart and packs an incredible amount of flavour into a small spoonful of cream.

The recipe itself is like child's play (well, aside from all that alcohol).

All you do is beat an improbable amount of lemon juice, sherry, brandy and vanilla into heavy cream. In just a few minutes, you have soft peaks of creamy lemon heaven. Then you drop a bit of lemon rind and shaved dark chocolate on top if you're in the mood.

The magical thing is that what you have created doesn't taste like sherry and brandy; it tastes like eating pure essence of lemon with a dollop of cream. It is that good.

My mother says she has been making this recipe for years. It has handwritten notes on it that say things like:

"Delicious, but rich!"

"Freezes well!" (My mother freezes everything.)

"People loved it. NY Dinner."

The recipe comes from a big hardcover cookbook I remember seeing since I was a child. It's called Drake's International Recipe Cookbook and has a price of 9.88 penciled in the front cover. Mom says she remembers buying it at a big bookstore in San Francisco in the 1970s. (I would guess she's talking about City Lights, but she can't confirm that.)

The thing I love about this cookbook – beside the syllabub recipe, obviously – is that it's broken into sections of different countries. Syllabub falls in the British and Irish section.

I did a bit more research and – if Wikipedia is to be trusted – syllabub dates back to the Tudor dynasty that ruled England from 1485 to 1603. You know I'm all about the heritage desserts, but I think I've really outdone myself here. Thank you, Mom and Drake's.

May I propose a toast?

To the year of the syllabub!

Last January: rosemary gruyère baked eggs

lemon syllabub
all the way from Drake's International Recipe Cookbook

serves 4 6

grated rind and juice of one lemon
1/2 c. sugar
3 tbsp. sherry
2 tbsp. brandy or cointreau
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
250 ml. (1 c.) heavy or whipping cream

Pour the lemon juice and most of the grated rind into a good-sized bowl. Stir in the sugar, sherry, brandy and vanilla. Pour the cream in and beat until the cream is thick. (It will be thick but not stiff.) Dollop into 4 – 6 wine glasses or parfait glasses. Chill in the fridge for 4 hours.

When serving, sprinkle with a bit more grated lemon rind and shaved dark chocolate. (Drake's also recommends serving with ladyfinger, macaroons or sugar cookies. I don't think they're necessary.)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

tomato sauce with onion and butter

Snow day today!

I live in the warmest part of Canada. In fact, it is so warm that my little house doesn't have insulation. I'm not saying that I would recommend that or that all houses on Vancouver Island were built without insulation or that I wouldn't kill to have some insulation right about now . . . but you get my drift.

My snowdrift, that is!

We don't get snow very often, so when we do, everyone goes a bit wild. The schools and libraries close down, people greet each other with "It's like driving on a skating rink!" instead of "How are you?" Then we all discuss how many snowplows the City of Victoria has. (Current estimates range from zero to one.)

So, this morning, I was looking out on my snowy deck (sleep, little garlic bulbs!), enjoying the white snow light coming through the window and thinking about how cold I was. (Yes, I was already encased in many layers of merino wool, down vest and Scottish wool blanket.)

I decided the only solution was to start something simmering. I found a can of good tomatoes and ventured down the cold stairs looking for an onion. Yes, found a red one. (The original recipe calls for a yellow onion, but I can now confirm that red also works.) Of course, I had butter.

Everything I needed to make Marcella Hazan's classic tomato sauce with onion and butter. (Many thanks to Orangette for first leading me to this recipe a couple of years ago).

I was so delighted when I first tried this sauce because it solved a mystery for me.

Back in university, I had a friend who was Italian. I remember being at Laura's house when her mother served us little plates of pasta with a simple tomato sauce. It was heaven. I asked how she did it and Laura said something about tomatoes and onion and not much else.

Of course, I went home and fried onions and added some diced tomatoes . . . and was disappointed with a choppy, acidic sauce. Maybe, I thought, the problem is that I'm not Italian and this is just not something I'll ever be able to master.

But with this recipe, I uncovered the secret: butter. The sauce needs butter to round it out and make it smooth and rich. And the onion just has a long bath in the sauce, but gets taken out before serving, thus solving the texture issue.

Of course, with so few ingredients, it's essential to use very, very good tomatoes. Sorry, but really: buy the more expensive canned tomatoes once and you'll never go back.

All you do is plop the tomatoes, halved onion and butter in a big, heavy pot. Add a bit of salt if you're in the mood. Bring it to a simmer. Let it simmer for about 45 minutes, making your kitchen smell heavenly and throwing a bit more heat out into your uninsulated house.

When it's ready, it's lovely and velvety and just the thing for a snow day.

One January ago: glorious hummus for bean month
Two Januarys ago: shortbread in january

tomato sauce with onion and butter
from Orangette, who adapted it from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan
serves 2 – 3

28 oz. (794 g.) whole peeled canned plum tomatoes with their juices
5 tbsp. butter
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and cut in half
a bit of salt to taste

Plop the tomatoes and their juices into a pot with a heavy bottom.* Add the butter and onion. Use your spoon to kind of tuck the onion into the tomatoes. Add a bit of salt if your tomatoes aren't already salty enough. Bring to a simmer. Lightly simmer for 45 minutes or until you can see little drops of fat floating on the tomatoes. Stir it a few times while it's simmering. If you feel like, it use your spoon to break up any big tomato pieces against the side of the pot. Take the onion out before serving.

Serve on pasta, with a bit of parmesan, if you like.

*Although Molly appeared to use a frying pan and it looked fine. When I'm simmering something for a while, I like a heavy-bottomed pot. But I leave it up to you to decide what kind of pot you'd like.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

glory bowl

When we moved across the country three years ago this May, we decided to drive.

It took us about eight days to make our way from Ottawa to Victoria, driving all 4,723 kilometres through Canada. (The shortcut across the top of the United States was tempting, but we wanted to see our country.)

In Ontario – land of never ending lakes and trees and more lakes and more trees – we stayed at bed and breakfasts. After we hit the prairies – land of very smooth, straight highways where you could see potential roadkill miles away – we were able to stay with friends every night.

So we had breakfasts and most dinners taken care of. But we were always looking for lunch in the middle of our driving day. Specifically, we were always on the lookout for hippie cafés. You know the ones I mean: cafés that offer dishes with sprouts and chickpeas and homemade soups.

We had varying degrees of luck, until we crossed the British Columbia border. (If you're not familiar with Canada, now is the time for me to tell you that B.C. proudly boasts the highest ratio of hippies to hunters of any province in Canada.)

We drove through the Rocky Mountains and ended up in Golden, just on the B.C. side of the provincial border around noon.

My more skeptical half was somewhat dubious when I pronounced that we were sure to find a hippie café for lunch today. But he gamely drove slowly through the narrow streets of Golden while I sized up the storefronts.

Sure enough, I spotted it in no time: Bacchus Books and Café. A used bookstore with a café on the top! Hello, hippie café!

We went up to the second floor and checked out the café: vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options. Yep, we were definitely back in B.C. I ordered a creamy tomato soup that was so good I had to ask what was in it.

Scott, the gluten-free man, ordered the glory bowl: quinoa with beets, carrots, spinach, almonds and tofu. I gave him a covert look of alarm (didn't want to upset the cook) – um, wouldn't that be too healthy to be good?

No. Unfortunately, as happens from time to time, the husband was right. With a truly addictive dressing, his glory bowl was divine. It was all I could do not to keep sneaking bites when he went to the bathroom.

So we also ended up asking about the glory bowl. The nice woman serving us said it was from a cookbook called "Whitewater Cooks," which they sold in the bookstore downstairs. We promptly went down the stairs and bought the book.

We've never looked back. We make the glory bowl at least once every couple months and always love it. Besides being very, very tasty with this dressing, I can't seem to find any other way to happily eat grated beets and raw spinach.

This is one appropriate meal for January, month of cleanses and resolutions – except that it actually tastes good.

Last January: naomi's granola

glory bowl
serves 6
sesame baked tofu
from Rebar Modern Food

2 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. sesame oil
1/4 tsp. ground pepper
1 block firm tofu (about 300 g.), cubed

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare a baking sheet with Silpat or parchment paper.

Mix soy sauce, sesame oil and pepper in a medium-sized bowl. Toss with tofu. Spread tofu on prepared baking sheet. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes, stirring part-way through.

glory bowl dressing*
slightly adapted from Whitewater Cooks

1/2 c. nutritional yeast flakes
1/3 c. water
1/3 c. tamari or soy sauce
1/3 c. apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp. tahini paste
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 c. canola oil, grapeseed oil or vegetable oil

Mix yeast flakes, water, soy sauce, apple cider vinegar, tahini and garlic together. (I like to use an immersion blender, but you could use a whisk or hand blender.) Add the oil in a slow, steady stream while you're mixing.

*This dressing makes a bit more than you'll need for the glory bowl. Trust me: you want that extra dressing hanging around for other raw vegetables you need to dress up.

the bowl itself
slightly adapted from Whitewater Cooks

2 c. uncooked quinoa*
2 c. beets, grated
2 c. carrots, grated
2 c. spinach leaves
1 1/2 c. roasted almonds, roughly chopped
prepared sesame baked tofu
prepared glory bowl dressing

Pour 3 1/2 cups of water in a medium pot. Add the quinoa and a bit of salt, if you like. Cover and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat to keep it at a simmer and cook covered for 10 – 12 minutes, depending on how done you like your quinoa. Remove from the heat. Let it sit for a few minutes, then fluff with a fork or spoon.

Next, we're assembling the bowl! Spoon quinoa into your bowl. Top with beets, carrots, spinach leaves, almonds and tofu. Pour dressing over.

*The original recipe calls for brown rice. You could also try that, or even barley, kamut or farro.