Partridgeberry Blintzes in a Blizzard

Corner Brook doesn’t exactly have an abundance of weekend brunch options. Sure, you’re likely to find the odd waffle here, and your choice of bacon-and-egg deals at your drive-thru of choice, but neither option satisfies a Sunday morning urge to banquet.

And sometimes it blizzards. In March. Leaving you with no other choice but to stay in and make these:

Labrador Partridgeberry syrup drizzled over cinnamon-scented ricotta blintzes — tell me, can a weekend morning get any better?

To give the blintzes a more local feel,  I used Pure Labrador’s Lingonberry preserves, known in these parts as Partridgeberry jam. Whatever the name, Partridgeberries are an excellent alternative to using expensive, out-of-season berries, while brightening both palate and plate.

What’s more, these blintzes come in handy when hosting friends and family (you can even get a blintz-assembly-line going, which makes for quite the communal brunch experience). Here’s the recipe:

Cinnamon-Scented Ricotta Blintzes with Partridgeberry Syrup

(Makes about 10 blintzes)

Preheat oven to 200°

Whisk together:

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 t baking powder

Pinch of salt

In a separate bowl whisk:

4 eggs

1/2 cup milk

1 tablespoon sugar

Combine the wet ingredients with the dry, whisking continuously to incorporate. Stir in 1 tablespoon melted butter, and 1 teaspoon vanilla.

Make Crepes: Melt butter in a non-stick skillet until hot and its foam subsides. Spoon two tablespoons of the blintz batter onto the frying pan and swirl to create a thin crepe. When the crepe begins to bubble (after about 1 minute) flip it over and brown the reverse side (for about another minute).

Meanwhile: Combine 3 cups of ricotta with 1/3 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. As the crepes finish in the pan (here is where you can start the assembly line), spoon 1 tablespoon of the ricotta spread onto the middle of the crepe. Fold into a rectangular packet and set on a parchment lined baking sheet. When all the crepes are ready, transfer them to the oven.

Prepare the Syrup: In a saucepan, simmer 1/2 cup of Lingonberry/Patridgeberry preserves with 1/2 cup of pure, maple syrup (don’t use any substitutions here or the syrup will be too sweet) over medium heat until heated through and slightly reduced.

When the syrup is finished and the blintzes are warm, place two blintzes on each plate. Drizzle syrup over the blintzes and dust with confectioner’s sugar, if desired.

Enjoy before someone else tries to steal one off of your plate!

(Recipe generously adapted from Food and Wine)


Nothing Wry about Rye

Somewhere, hidden deep within the keepsakes of my childhood is a small journal that is witness to my first foodie declaration. It reads something like this:

my favorite foods are rye bread and sherbert.

I confess that I still love both (although I am likely to use the more grown-up sherbet or more exotic sorbet and sorbetto).

The problem with my love for rye bread in particular is that I demand, like Goldilocks and her breakfast-of-choice, that it be just right. Too often store-bought varieties taste, well, like store-bought bread. I like rye bread with a rich caraway tang that, served with poached eggs for breakfast, lingers in your memory as the only way to begin the day.

In another life, my rye bread fantasies were easily fulfilled by a quick jaunt to a local bakery for a loaf of fresh caraway-rye.

In Corner Brook, however, I’m left wanting. So, when I came across a recipe for Deli-style rye bread I nearly died and went to bakery heaven. It’s the perfect way to fill your home and your belly with a truly wonder-ful bread.

Although the process takes most of the day (8 hours or so all told), you’re really only in the kitchen for an hour or so, which means you can run errands, work-out, take a walk, or have friends over while the bread does its magic.

And it really is a magical process. You see, these simple ingredients:

somehow lead to this:

And here’s how (recipe loosely adapted from the Smitten Kitchen):

1. Make a sponge:

Combine:

1 plus 1/8 teaspoon traditional yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons (0.6 ounces, 18.7 grams) sugar
1 1/2 cups (12.5 ounces, 354 grams) water, at room temperature

Let this foam for 5-10 minutes until it looks something like this:

Then combine:

3/4 cup (4 ounces, 117 grams) bread flour (I use whole-wheat)
3/4 cup (3.3 ounces, 95 grams) rye flour (you can find rye flour in Corner Brook at More for Less or Coleman’s)
1/2 tablespoon (10.5grams) barley malt syrup (which you can also find at More for Less, you can also substitute honey)

Add the foaming yeast, and whisk this mixture until smooth. You want to whisk it well to incorporate air and yield a thick batter. Set the mixture aside.

2. Add Some Alchemy: In a separate large bowl, whisk together

2 1/4 cups (12.5 ounces, 351 grams) bread flour
2 tablespoons (0.5 ounces, 14 grams) caraway seeds (if you have a spice mill, you can also grind these to avoid the long seeds. I myself prefer their crunch)
1/2 tablespoon (0.3 ounces, 10.5 grams) coarse salt

Scoop tablespoons of this mixture over the sponge to cover it completely.

Alchemy: Two Bubbling Sponges

This is where the magic happens:  Cover the sponge with plastic wrap and a tea-towel for 1-4 hours so that the sponge can bubble up through the flour mixture.

3. Mix the dough – Getting Down and Dirty

Add 1/2 Tablespoon of olive oil to the new mixture, and, using your hands, stir until the flour is moistened, scraping up the bits on the sides of the bowl as you go. Your fingers  may be covered in the dough’s sticky-sponge-goo at this point, but just work the dough in the bowl until it comes together, and most of the goo will magically come off. If you prefer to keep your hands clean, use a wooden spoon to bring the mixture together.

Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured counter and knead it for about 5 minutes. (My Grandmother’s Hint: if you lose track of the time, just knead it for 5 extra minutes. You can never over-knead dough by hand).

If the dough is still sticky at this point, cover it with an inverted bowl and wait for 20 minutes.Knead the dough for another 5 to 10 minutes or until it is as smooth as a baby’s bottom – or, at least elastic and no longer sticky.

4. Rise and Shine: Using the same bowl, scrape out any remaining bits, and lightly grease the bottom of the bowl with olive oil. Then oil the top of the dough, and cover with plastic wrap and a tea-towel.

Let the dough rise until doubled, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Gently turn the dough onto a floured surface, and shape it into a square-ish ball, something like this:

and allow it to rise a second time (again, covered with plastic wrap and a tea-towel) for about 45 minutes.

Turn the dough onto your floured counter again. Gently round it into a ball and set it on a cornmeal sprinkled baking sheet. Let it rise one last time until the dough is doubled in size again, about 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes. Gently press a finger into the dough, if the dough slowly rises back up it’s ready.

5. Preheat for Delicious Eats: Preheat the oven to 450°F as early as possible. The oven needs to very hot so that you can best mimic a baker’s oven. I usually heat the oven after the final rise, so that it heats up for about an hour. Place a baking sheet on the middle rack to heat up as well. (Some suggest placing a cast-iron skillet on the bottom of the oven as the oven pre-heats, and then baking your bread directly on the skillet –moving the skillet to the middle oven rack for baking. I have yet to try it.)

6. The Final Touches: Slash the top of the dough with a really sharp knife or razor blade. Mist the dough with water and gently set the baking sheet on the hot baking sheet in the oven. To get a crispy, deli-like crust, I also place a second pan on the lowest oven rack, and throw in a few ice cubes at this point. The steam creates the perfect crust, just remember to close the oven door quickly after you add the ice cubes.

Bake for 15 minutes at 450°F, then lower the temperature to 400°F for 30 to 40 minutes. The bread is perfect when the crust is golden brown, and when a  thermometer inserted into the center reads 190°F.

Cool the bread on a wire rack. Add poached eggs, marmalade, or some Montreal smoked meat and enjoy!


Stormy Weather Spice Rack – Part Two

It’s a shame that fast food in Corner Brook typically means a stop at McDonald’s or KFC. Thanks to globalization, you’ll likely find these joints in India, but you’ll also find Dhaba’s — roadside stands that sell economical (and equally tasty) curry dishes.

It’s also a shame that Corner Brook has no Indian restaurants — especially on cold, wintery days when you long to be lured out of the grey, mucky streets, and into a saffron-and-cinnamon colored dining room, and tuck into a comforting curry or  succulent Shahi Paneer.

Indian Spices at Chez Moi

One can, however, create Indian colors and cuisine in the comfort of one’s own home. And, (almost) as fast as you can say Colonel-Sanders’, you can have a lovely Dhaba chicken curry — one of many types of curries you’ll find in India’s Punjabi region.

 

What’s more, this recipe uses many of the spices as the Stormy Weather Chai, which can make India seem like it’s just down the way, and that your kitchen is the new Taj Mahal.

The palette of spices in this recipe will cheer you instantly.

Begin with:

1 tablespoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

A Pinch of ground cloves

Pinch of ground cardamom

2 teaspoons turmeric (add more if you like an intense curry flavor, add only 1/4 teaspoon if you’re feeling cautious)

Heat a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil in a dutch oven or deep skillet. Add the spices and cook until they fill your kitchen with a lovely fragrance (about 1 minute or so).

Next, add two large or three medium, diced onions, 2 cloves of garlic (also diced), and some chopped, fresh ginger (select a root that is about 1/2 an inch to 1 inch long).

Use two large onions, or three medium-sized onions

Add Diced Onions, Garlic, and Ginger -- Simmer for 5 Minutes

Cook the onion/spice mixture for about 6 minutes over medium heat. You want the onions to be brown, but not caramelized at this point. Add about one cup of tomato sauce and stir to incorporate. Once the tomato sauce is heated through, taste and correct the seasoning to your liking.

Stir in four boneless, skinless, chopped chicken breasts until they’re nicely coated, then add a cup of water, cover and bring to a boil. Return the mix to a simmer and let it stew for 10 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.

Dhaba curry, served over Basmati rice

Top the curry with a dash of Garam Masala, and serve over Basmati rice  or serve with naan or pita. (You can find both Garam Masala and Basmati rice –not to mention all the other spices in this recipe — at More for Less in Corner Brook.)

And, just like that, you’ve created your own affordable, aromatic, Indian fast food.


It’s Not Delivery

Like most people, your Queen of Wish-and-Whim has lofty wishes. This week, for example, she dreamed of a perfect pizza, one that would knock her socks off and send her to paradise. She imagined, a dead-easy dial-up pie; a melt-in-your mouth bed of Italian-bread-like dough; a leaning tower of Italian sausage, feta, spinach, lots of veggies (and none of that tooth-decay “red” sauce a la 1960). So, wasting no time, your humble narrator dialed her local popular pizza joint, Sorrento’s, hoping for a pizza delivery experience like this:

paradise pizza express

Pizza in paradise

Perhaps made here:

Into the Fire

Al Forno

Alas, she waited for an hour for the wrong pizza to show up.

Bothered and bewildered and still remarkably unsatisfied (should she have followed the advice of the people?), she set to work the very next day to make her own perfect pizza.

She selected her toppings (no limits, no extra charges):

Leeks, Red Pepper, Red Onion, Garlic, Feta, and Parmesan

She sautéed them in olive oil (no additives, no extra salt):

Until Soft and Glistening

Then, she rolled out her own pre-made pizza dough, sprinkled some Parmesan and garlic on top; She added some spicy Italian sausage, and topped it off with her glistening veggies, a handful of feta and (of course) a handful of baby spinach.

She baked this behemoth in a (sadly, regular kitchen oven) for 15 minutes, until she got:

The Perfect Pizza

It’s not delivery, people. And it’s not complicated. AND, most importantly, it’s delicious, and everything a picky dreamer could hope for. In short, the perfect pie.

Moral? Don’t order in. Your own imagination and a little effort taste better than what’s handed to you in a cardboard box. Unless you’re in Italy.