Easy Cheesy

Corso 32 has distinguished itself as one of E-town’s best restos with amazing dishes, including housemade ricotta. So how hard is DIY cheese? Not very, especially when it comes to whipping up ricotta. Chatelaine magazine features a quick recipe this month and it’s definitely worth a try. Gwendolyn and I made a batch when she was in town this weekend. All you need is a 2 litre carton of homo milk, cream, kosher salt, lemon and cheese cloth. I’m never buying store bought ricotta again.

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Latin American Street Food? Yes, Please!

Transcend Coffee is by far one of the best java spots in Edmonton. But now, it’s just not their coffee that shines. They’ve recently introduced a Latin American street food menu. Random but delicious. I tried an arepa con chi charron ($7.50) today at their Garneau location. It’s essentially a pulled pork sandwich topped with cilantro, grated hard cheese and green salsa. The portions are small but heavenly. Worth every penny.

Hot Toddy Heaven

Gotta love hot boozy drinks at Christmas. One of my favs is a hot toddy. The latest copy of Bon Appetit magazine has recipe for a divine honey-bourbon toddy. However, to make it, you first need to prepare apple bourbon. Sounds like a lot of work for just a drink but it’s definitely worth the effort. It’s also really good on its own over ice. 

A bottle would also make a perfect hostess gift. I got my glass bottles at IKEA. The labels are from Martha Stewarts’ line at Michaels.

Fuji Apple Bourbon: Combine a 750-ml bottle of bourbon (I used Jack Daniel’s), four cored, sliced Fuji apples, and four cinnamon sticks in a pitcher. Cover; chill for three days. Strain and sip or use in recipe below.

Honey-Bourbon Toddy: Stir two Tbsp. honey and one cup hot water in a two cup measuring cup until honey dissolves. Add 6 Tbsp. apple bourbon. Divide between two mugs or glasses. Twist a strip of lemon peel over each drink, then add to mug or glass.  Stir each with a cinnamon stick and serve. Makes two.

It’s About Time

Folks in the Laurier Heights/Parkview/Valleyview neighbourhoods are about to welcome a much-needed java hangout. Wild Earth Cafe is set to open a location in a small Laurier Heights shopping centre west of the 142 St. traffic circle on Nov. 14. We heart their food and coffee. Welcome to the ‘hood!

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Bite-Size Review: Prairie Bistro

I’m a sucker for a restaurant that serves fresh, local ingredients. These days, a restaurant gets even more points if they are also kid-friendly. Prairie Bistro at The Enjoy Centre gets high marks on both of those fronts. My moms’ group recently ate there and we all loved our dishes. From the salad of the day, a roasted red beet, goat cheese and candied pecan little number, to a pulled pork sandwich, the food was tasty, plentiful and memorable. The bright and roomy dining room is also a star. It will be a perfect place to visit when you need a pick-me-up during Alberta’s long winter.

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Fourth of July Bash

Break out the fat pants, EGS cooked up American cuisine for its summer meeting. Think comfort food. Lots and lots of good old-fashioned, rich, heart-stopping comfort food. We should have had a cardiologist on stand-by.

Katherine and Tim hosted the meeting at their house on July 2, so of course we also celebrated America’s Big Day: the Fourth of July. For our token American, Kate, we broke out the red, white and blue. We also invited a special guest, Brendan’s sister, Carmen. With another judge in the mix, the pressure was definitely on. 

Katherine began the appetizer round with her ode to Mickey Ds, a Bic Mac slider. She served it with a buttermilk onion ring. Tim paired the dish with another American classic, Coca-Cola.

Sabrina went next with her gourmet take on the Philly Cheesesteak.  She served beef carpaccio on mini-sour dough rolls with cheese espuma, chives and smoked sea salt. They were so pretty and yummy. Aaron whipped up a Bud Light Lime slushie to go with the appetizer.

Brendan rounded out the first round with another “heart healthy” option: deep-fried, bacon wrapped mac and cheese. They were little pieces of heaven fried in peanut oil. Kate made a pitcher of spiked Kool-Aid to go with it.

After the votes were tallied, Katherine’s fast-food classic clinched the appetizer round.

The next round almost killed us. Take Katherine’s main course — fried chicken and waffles. She used Thomas Keller’s fried chicken recipe. The acclaimed American chef serves a version of fried chicken and waffles at one of his many high-end restaurants. Tim offered two drink selections, either Pabst Blue Ribbon beer or Jack Daniel’s iced tea.

Sabrina also picked a southern American classic for her main – a Carolina pulled pork sandwich with homemade smoky BBQ sauce. She served it with a baked mac and cheese loaded with bacon, panko crumbs, thyme and parsley. Aaron paired the dish with refreshing strawberry basil lemonade.

The round ended with Brendan’s dish: a steak sandwich served with a roasted red pepper and gorgonzola spread on a homemade ciabbata bun. The sandwich was topped with caramelized onions and arugula. On the side were homemade potato chips (I could have eaten an entire bag!). Brendan made the chips by thinly slicing Yukon potatoes and then frying them  in peanut oil. Kate helped Brendan out by making the buns and sandwich spread. She also went above and beyond the call of duty in the drink department by make beer hats for the boys and decorated plastic wine glasses for the girls.

In the end, it was a neck-and-neck race between Sabrina and Brendan. B’s steak sandwich eventually won out. Thanks to Kate for bringing decorations and dessert — a patriotic JELL-O poke cake.

THE SCOREBOARD

Brendan: 6
Katherine: 5
Sabrina: 6

Brendan’s Big Win

We met at Brendan and Kate’s for the beginning of the 2011 EGS season on April 23. The appetizer was a tricky proposition — it could only contain five ingredients.

Brendan pulled out the win by using these five ingredients:

1) Tuna
2) Soy sauce
3) Wasabi
4) Ginger
5) Mayo

Using those ingredients, he made simple but elegant tuna skewers served with ginger and a wasabi dip. He marinated the tuna in soy sauce before lightly cooking it in oil (cooking oils and salt and pepper didn’t count as ingredients). 

Kate paired his dish with a ginger saketini. Sooooooooo tasty.

Sabrina came in second with her tuna appetizer. She used:

1) Tuna
2) White onions
3) Ponzu sauce
4) Green onion
5) White truffle oil

She made tuna tataki served on white onions, ponzu sauce and infused with white truffle oil. Green onions served as a garnish. The dish was both tasty and beautiful.

Aaron paired the tuna tataki with Sapporo beer.

Kat finished out the appetizer round by using:

1) Flour
2) Eggs
3) Butter
4) Boursin cheese
5) Cream

All simple ingredients but together it became spaetzle, a delicious German dumpling dish. I bought a spaetzle maker at Call the Kettle Black in Edmonton.

Tim paired my dish with a buttery white wine.

For the main course round, Brendan also came up with the win. We were tasked with making a veal dish and B. treated us to veal scaloppini and a warm potato salad.

His veal was coated in bread crumbs and herbs and then cooked in butter. It was topped with charred radicchio, arugula and other greens, along with thinly sliced cheese.

Kate paired his dish with a white wine.

Kat came in second with a slightly different spin on veal saltimbocca. Instead of just using prosciutto, she also slipped in a piece of buffalo mozzarella during the frying process. Heavenly. She served it with an arugula and white onion salad dressed in a lemon vinaigrette. Tim paired the dish with a light Greek beer. While saltimbocca is an Italian dish, he wanted to try something different. It was a good gamble.

Sabrina finished out the meal with her take on veal saltimbocca. She served it with poutine topped with a veal reduction sauce and garlic chili broccolini. Aaron paired the dish with a crisp French white wine.

Thanks to Kate & Brendan for hosting.
The next meeting is scheduled for July 2 at Kat and Tim’s house. The theme: “American cuisine.”

Bring on the Fourth of July party!

THE SCOREBOARD

Brendan: 5
Katherine: 4
Sabrina: 6