A bit of foolery for April.

TOD march room

Last Wednesday saw us all dressed up for the first of this year’s Taste Of Diversity dinners …

TOD march menu trialThe evening was sold out … as these dinners tend to be … and was enjoyable all around.  What could have been a stressful evening became fun with the combined efforts of our stalwart staff (Patty, Shirley and Todd) and some valiant volunteers (many thanks to Regan, Christine, Julie and Cecilia).  Oh, and I was there too …TOD march susan trialThat is what remained of a whole hip of beef from the local food heroes at Thatcher Farms ( http://www.thatcher-farms.com ) … just enough for a couple of sandwiches for staff…

TOD march appto be chased down with a healthy veggie shot!  Of course, some people like to go right to the source …TOD march toddThanks to everyone who came out and remember, there are still two more such extravaganzas this year.  Except next time … Let’s go Dutch!

Of course, I wouldn’t be allowed to escape this post without a recipe … so let’s try a very seasonal one.  Rhubarb and asparagus are the first two fresh items we get each spring – and asparagus doesn’t make a very good cake.  Once you try this cake, though, I think you will find it deserves its name …

Fabulous Rhubarb Cake

 Cream well (until light in colour and texture)  …

1/2 cup butter or margarine

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup white sugar

Add while still beating slowly …

1 egg

1 cup applesauce

1 T vanilla extract

zest of one orange

Mix together well …

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. soda

2 cups flour (I use half whole wheat and half all-purpose)

1 t ground ginger

1/2 t ground nutmeg

Add and toss well to coat …

1 1/2 cups raw Rhubarb cut fine

Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just mixed through and no bits of flour are showing.  This can be baked in a 9×13 inch cake pan for about 30 minutes at 350 F (or until done).  We like this one in a bundt pan though and that takes a little longer to bake – maybe 50 minutes.  Remember that the cooking times are approximate – they depend on a lot of factors.  The best way to know if it is done is to gently touch the centre of the cake.  It should be as firm as the outside of the cake.  For those without Teflon fingers … insert a toothpick into the centre and make sure it comes out clean – with no wet batter sticking to it.

This is a very moist cake, so a strip of parchment paper in the bottom of the cake pan or a handful of crumb topping in the bottom of the bundt pan can save you the grief of the cake sticking and tearing.  It really doesn’t need icing – an orange glaze might be nice but I find what this cake needs most is a great deal of self-restraint!

Until next time, take care of yourself, each other and the crocuses!  ❤

Sneaking Through Fe-beware-y…

‘Tis an awkward time of year, February.  We’re still in the depths of winter but the excitement of new snow has worn thin.  We overhear farmers planning the new crops which puts us in mind of spring … close enough to tantalize but still so far away. We remember what it is like to go for an invigorating walk without bundling up for 10 minutes first.  Beware the February blues!  Take extra good care of yourself and treat yourself often.

marbella-close

I present to you one of our special recipes – one we bring out when we want to impress someone, when the skies have been grey for too long or when we just feel like a reward.  This was adapted from The Silver Palate cookbook – an essential, elegant and beautifully laid-out book that I highly recommend.  We have made some substitutions … local apple cider for wine, a little less garlic and sugar, apricots for excitement or even some of my Mom’s dried calendula petals for an extra special touch.  The original recipe calls for bone-in chicken pieces but we usually use slices of breast only … the sauce is complex (and slightly sticky) so it is just easier not to have to deal with bones as well.  The combination of ingredients looks outré but (trust me) when they are baked together, they work beautifully!

CHICKEN MARBELLA

For 10 servings, use…

2.5 lb chicken breast – cut into 2 oz strips

Marinate for 2 – 6 hours in …

1 T chopped garlic

3 T dried oregano

1 t each of salt, black pepper

1/3 c red wine vinegar

1/3 c olive oil

1/2 c each of prunes and apricots – sliced coarsely

1/2 c green olive, sliced

1/3 c pickled capers with some brine

6 bay leaves

1/4 c brown sugar

1 c apple cider

½ c chopped Italian parsley

Pull the chicken pieces from the marinade and arrange on parchment paper. Pour the marinade into a small pot. 

Bake chicken at 350° F until done (about 20 minutes, turning each piece over at least once so it browns evenly). As you turn the chicken, pour off any juices into the marinade pot.  When the chicken is almost done, bring marinade to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes, skimming off and discarding any foam that rises.  Arrange the pieces in a serving tray and pour the hot marinade over them.  You can discard the bay leaves if you like but some people say it is good luck to be served one … as long as you don’t try and eat it!

This is also very nice served cold in the summer. Follow the above procedure and allow to cool overnight in the refrigerator.  Allow to come to room temperature before serving.

marbella-far

This year, we are proud to announce that our annual fundraising dinners are expanding their focus from “Taste of Italy” to “The Taste of Diversity” – featuring the following themes …

March 29 – “What Would a Jesuit Eat?”  – a smorgasbord of our local Jesuit community’s favourites, including a carving station with Chef Susan to cater to your Roast Beef whims.

June 13 – “Let’s Go Dutch” – an exploration of the cuisine of the Netherlands, intrepidly guided by Theresa Wright and Miriam Koopman.

November 15 – “A Return to Italy” – revisiting and reaffirming our connection to this vital nationality with the help of Christine Clementi, Maria Gazzola and others!

Mass will be at 5pm and dinner at 6pm.  $60 each dinner or $150 for all three. Space is limited and, if other years are any indication, the dinners sell out fast!  For tickets, contact 519-821-1250 x 221.  We’d love to see you here!

In the meantime, take care of yourselves.  Live in the moment but anticipate spring!  ❤

 

 

 

“More Soup For You!”

menu board chicken 4

It has been a hectic summer at Loyola House with retreat after retreat full … of familiar faces and friendly new faces. The farm has been showering us with delicious, nutritious and fascinating produce despite the wretched distribution of precipitation.  Our new team is settling in like they’ve been here forever.  We now are preparing to say goodbye briefly to Autumn G. who is going on maternity leave.  It’s a bittersweet occasion … we will miss her madly but are madly excited about meeting her new daughter Hannah – when she arrives!  We also look forward to working with Shirley who will be with us as Autumn adjusts to new motherhood.

Last month I promised a departing retreatant that I would post a recipe … apologies that it has taken so long!

GINGERED CARROT SOUP

Sauté until soft but not coloured….

¼ c coconut oil

2 lb carrots, peeled (or just scrubbed!) and sliced thinly

3 T grated fresh ginger

2 c diced onion

1 c sliced celery

1 T garlic

Add …

4c veg stock or water or apple cider

Cook until carrots are very soft.

Puree to desired texture … silky smooth or chunky – both have their own charm.

Season with…

salt, pepper, lemon juice. .. and maybe just a dash of hot sauce to wake up your taste buds!

Serve garnished with crème fraiche (or sour cream or yoghurt) and chopped cilantro (if desired).

We love soup.  We love to make it, we love to eat it.  We don’t always love taking pictures of it; it is often so monochromatic … so here is a memory of early summer Salade Nicoise.

nicoise 6

I am told that the Taste of Italy dinner on September 28 is sold out already!  We are looking forward hosting you all again.  If you missed out on a chance at tickets, be consoled with the knowledge that we will be doing another series of dinners next year … The Taste of Diversity!  They are such a good time and for such a good cause.

Until next time, take care of yourselves … so you can take care of others.  ❤

 

 

The Flowering of May

april TOI

The first Taste of Italy fundraising dinner has been successfully served … to a sold-out crowd as usual. This time we were celebrating the cuisine of Naples and surrounding area.  Many, many thanks to Christine Clementi for all her help, ideas and calm cheerfulness!  More thanks are due for her splendid cooking … people are still talking about her Pasta Puttanesca and a luscious Eggplant Parmesan (I think she may be after my job).  My apologies to those who were not able to attend – there are still tickets available for the June 15 and September 28 dinners, although possibly not for long!

The appetizer platter was photographed by Emily – one of our new kitchen staff treasures, who is revealing diverse unexpected and welcome talents. It featured Christine’s seasoned, roasted peppers; a tedious, sticky thing to prepare but well worth it …especially when someone else is doing it!  In homage to the abundant seafood of the area, I made a calamari salad with arugula, artichoke hearts and white beans.  Mushrooms a la Greque saluted both the amazing lemons of the area and the subtle Greek influence on culture and cuisine.  Finally olives – no platter would be complete without olives and plenty of them!

For dessert, we did a variety of  fruit and a brace of cakes; a Lemon Polenta cake and a Torta Caprese.  These were chosen to compliment each other in taste and texture.  The lemon cake was very lemony and had the pleasant grittiness of cornmeal in contrast to the decadent richness of the torte.  It is a surprisingly fun cake to make and I highly recommend it!

Torta Caprese

Preheat oven to 350 Degrees Farenheit (sorry, Dad).  Grease a 10 inch spring form pan.  Line the base with a circle of parchment paper for added insurance against sticking!

Melt and allow to cool to almost room temperature …

200 g butter

In a food processor, grind …

250 g of almonds – I made sure not to grind them too fine to add interest to the texture

then …

200 g of good dark semi-sweet baking chocolate – again, don’t grind it too fine or too long lest it start to melt!

Separate 4 large eggs.  Beat the yolks until thick and quite pale with …

1 1/4 c sugar

3 T good vanilla extract

Fold together the yolk mix, butter, chocolate and almonds.

Clean the mixing bowl very well before tackling the egg whites!  Rinse with very hot water to remove all vestiges of fat and then cool. Whip egg whites until they form soft peaks, then fold them into the rest of the batter.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until just barely done – about 45 minutes.  Run a thin-bladed knife around the inside of the pan to loosen the edges of the cake, then let it rest in the pan for half an hour before removing to a serving plate.   This keeps well if wrapped tightly and HIDDEN VERY WELL!

I added a square of unsweetened chocolate to each recipe to give a slightly bitter edge. After such a rich meal, the last thing one would need is a too-sweet dessert and  I am still convinced that bitter will be the next new flavour fad.  You read it here first … thanks for reading and take care of yourself so you can take care of others!

pear plate

 

 

 

‘Tis becoming the season …

.xmas cheese tray

Last night marked the first of a number of Christmas festivities at Loyola House.  The Catholic Teacher’s Association celebrated their annual “Merry Advent Mass”.  As much as the usual peace and silence of this place is a blessing and a balm to the soul … it is occasionally nice to have a house full of laughter and hugs!

We hope to duplicate the experience on Sunday (Dec. 6 from 2 pm – 5 pm) with the Jesuit Community of Guelph’s annual Open House.  It would be nice to see you all here!

xmas cookies

In choosing a recipe for this post, I was looking for something a little fancier – suitable for a party.  This is a recipe I developed in honour of a friend of mine …

 Morel’s Elk Loaf

Sauté briefly, then cook low and slow until translucent …

3 c finely diced onion

2 c finely diced celery

2 T minced garlic

1 T rubbed thyme

2 T coconut oil

 

Cool, then add …

5 lb ground elk

8 eggs

3 c steel cut rolled oats

¼ c chiffonade of fresh basil

¼ c chopped parsley

2 T minced fresh rosemary

2 c crumbled sheep’s feta

1 c diced gran padano parmesan

2 t each of pepper, salt, chipotle sauce

2 T each of Bragg’s, maple syrup

¼ c lemon juice

Mix well with hands, shape into loaves and bake to 170° F.

Let rest 10 minutes before slicing.  I glazed it with Rootham’s Fire-roasted Catsup.

If you can’t get ground elk, this would work well with ground beef as well … local and humanely raised – of course!

Enjoy the season … remember to take care of yourself … and each other.  ❤

Nooo …. not November already!!

beets

Where did this year go … and do I say that every year?

This year we have had a stroke of luck with the recent balmy weather.  It has certainly widened the possibilities when it comes to the available produce from our organic farm.  Normally we would be down to root crops – carrots, beets, potatoes and the eternal Black Spanish Radish.  Not that I would complain, mind you, given the tremendous quality and variety of each of those items.  Above, you can behold the symphony of colours on the beet salad we made last week!

With this latest warm spell though, the farm has been offering some amazing produce … tiny perfect baby kale and tat soi, plump Napa cabbages, brilliant parsley, broccoli and the astonishingly fractal Romanesco (or broccoflower to the uninitiated).

broccoflower3

It’s been nice to stretch out the “green” season this year.  Nice, that is, for the cooks – the farmers may have other opinions! I fear it won’t last though … so let’s turn our attention to an excellent fall/winter dessert…

Sweet Potato Pie

Roast whole sweet potatoes in the oven, turning once or twice until just soft – usually an hour to an hour and a half, depending on their size.  Let cool, then peel and measure.

Puree until smooth …

2 c roasted sweet potato (you could also use pumpkin or squash … but sweet potatoes are SO GOOD!)

1 c apple cider

1/2 c brown sugar

1 T lemon juice

1/2 t each of ground cinnamon, ginger and coriander, sea salt

1/4 t each of ground nutmeg and cloves

(I like to push this mixture through a wire strainer, just to make sure it is absolutely silky.  A soup ladle makes a good “pusher.)

Beat well and strain …

3 large eggs

Add the eggs to the sweet potato mix and stir until completely incorporated.

Bake in a fluted pie shell (yes … we buy ours), no top is needed.  This will usually take about 50 minutes on the bottom shelf… the pastry should be fully cooked, and the centre of the pie filling should be just barely solid, not shiny and beginning to puff up a bit.  Serve hot or cold … with or without decadent whipped cream.

Sometimes we bake this filling in a glass pie plate without a crust so our gluten-free friends (as well as our dairy-free friends) can enjoy it.  I think it’s just as nice that way.

Brace yourselves … winter is (probably) coming…

Take care of each other!  ❤

 

Our favourite time of the year …

 

 

 

chives 2Late last week came the time that Loyola House cooks have been dreaming wistfully about all winter … the first produce from our organic farm is here!  The asparagus started slow but this warm, wet weather will accelerate it into full swing this week.  Now is the time to take a couple of hours and fill the freezer – after a few good gorges, of course!  There really isn’t anything like an organic vegetable that’s only a couple of hours out of the ground.

At the same time, our kitchen herb garden is springing to life.  The clever chive border that we put in as protection from insects is a handspan high and showing signs of graduating from border to hedge-hood this year.  The perennials are starting to leaf out … and the mint … of course the mint is back.  Now is the time to explain to the mint (with trowel in hand) that it can’t have the entire garden this year either!

One of the recipes we like to dust off for the warm weather features both asparagus and fresh herbs and that is the Loyola House interpretation of the classic French dish “Salade Nicoise”.   This is a main-course salad that features (among many other things) green beans but this time of year we slyly substitute asparagus and it is all the better for it.  Traditionally, this is a “composed” salad – carefully and artistically arranged patterns of separate ingredients complementing each other in shape and colour. This doesn’t work so well on a buffet line for 40 people who only have an hour for lunch!  Invariably someone will steal all the hardboiled eggs and after the first couple of people serve themselves, any artistic arrangement is only a fond memory. So we toss all ingredients together and stand back …

 

Nicoise Salad

Whisk together …

2 T grainy Dijon mustard

1 t chopped garlic

1/4 c lemon juice

1/4 c white wine vinegar

Whisk in very slowly …

1/4 c extra virgin olive oil

Stir in

2 T olive brine

1 t black pepper

up to 1/4 c chopped fresh herbs as your garden (or farmer’s market) provides. I am particularly fond of chives (cut on the diagonal of course!) and basil (purple if you can get it – both for its beauty and the intriguingly spicy flavour).  Other good candidates are parsley, chervil, thyme (if you have the patience for stripping all those tiny leaves you will be well rewarded with taste and health benefits), tarragon and dill.  Our kitchen herb garden has a well established lovage patch … TOO well established, maybe.  While lovage gives an earthy celery flavour with a useful touch of bitterness (my new favourite flavour), only the very young leaves should be used … and those sparingly!

It is useful to make this dressing the day before serving so that the flavours can mingle and get ready to party on your tongue!  It will keep very well in the fridge – although the lemon juice may leach the colour from the herbs.  Of course, the olive oil will solidify in the cold – this is how you know you have a good olive oil – so bring it to room temperature and shake well before using.

for the salad, toss gently with 1 c of the above dressing …

2 c boiled potato – you can use left-over ones or boil minis in their jackets, then quarter and toss with a little of the dressing (you did make it ahead of time, didn’t you?) and leave to cool in the fridge overnight.

1 c calamata olives (pitted is nice if you have the time)

2 c asparagus – cut in bite-sized pieces, lightly steamed and cooled immediately in cold water, then drained well

1 c tomato – a beefsteak-style cut in chunks or use Elmira’s Own grape tomatoes – a very tasty local product

2 cans light tuna – well-drained

Serve on a bed of greens (if desired) and garnish with hardboiled eggs in quarters.

nicoise2

Enjoy – on the patio, if possible – and join me in waiting, semi-patiently, for the next installment of nature’s bounty.  And take good care of each other!