Recipe of the Month

Jamaican Christmas pudding

Friday, December 1st, 2006

By popular request, we’re printing this fabulous recipe once again.

2 lbs (1kg) raisins
1/2 lb (250g) currants
1lb (500 g) prunes
1/4 (125f) dates
1/4 lb (125g) almonds
1/4 lb mixed peel
Peel of 1 lime, grated
2tsp vanilla
20 oz (500 mL) rum
20 oz. (500 mL) port wine
20 oz (500 mL) sherry
12 eggs
1 lb (500 ) butter
3/4 lb (375g) dark brown sugar
1/2 lb (250g) bread crumbs
1/2 lb (250g) flour
1/4 tsp salt
3 tsps baking powder
1 tsp grated nutmeg
2 tsp cinnamon
pinch of cloves

Stone and stew prunes with sugar, to taste and then chop fine. Stone dates and chop fine. Chop all fruit very fine and place in a large jar (except almonds)

Pour liquor on fruit and steep for up to one month: the longer the better. (If you don’t have much time to marinate the fruit, simmer it in the alcohol mixture for about 30 minutes — do not boil — and leave overnight before using).

Sieve together butter and sugar, baking powder, salt and spices (nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves). Add chopped almonds and set aside.

Cream together butter and sugar, beat in eggs until smooth and creamy. Add the marinated fruits. Gradually sir in the dry mixture and mix well. If it is too stiff or a sharper flavour is desired add more sherry, wine or rum to taste (mixture should fall easily off spoon but not be too runny. Pour batter into a well greased and heavily lined baking tin or pudding basin, cover tightly and steam at least 4 hours. The pudding may also be se covered, in a 200 F (120C) oven and baked for at least 4 hours.

Serve with brandy sauce.

Fom Viola Geen, Toronto with input from Donna Andersen

New Italian cookbook features five key cities

Wednesday, November 1st, 2006

Biba’s Italy
by Biba Caggiano
Artisan, New York
320 pages, $39.95 (Cdn)


(Canscene) — Seasonal gifting will again this year feature many eligible new cookbooks, but Biba’s Italy offers a special magic for italophiles, whether they’re merely aficionados of Italian design, clothing, automobiles and gastronomy or well-travelled in the peninsula.

Biba Caggiano is the chef-owner of Biba Restaurant in Sacramento, California and the author of six previous Italian cookbooks. In her newest volume, subtitled favourite recipes from the splendid cities she focuses on the gastronomy of Venice, Bologna, Milan, Florence and Rome in a beautifully designed book that contains a great deal of food and wine lore to accompany the recipes.

For instance, what is the difference between a ristorante, an osteria and a trattoria? Biba has a section titled Eating in Italy which defines ll different types of eating establishment from the formal ristorante to the paninoteca or sandwich shop
“But what great sandwiches!” writes Biba. “Panini stuffed with ham, seafood, vegetables and cheeses, alone or in combination.”

Biba’s writing reflects the tender loving care with which a vast majority of traditional Italian purveyors regard the food they serve. She warns against frequenting humdrum establishments which advertise a menu turistica. For visitors of modest means, there are plenty of out-of-the-way places where excellent fare is provided.

For each of the five cities, Biba lists local wines of note and also offers the addresses of pastry and gelato shops.

Biba’s cookbook matches her democratic principles with recipes from both large and small establishments, such as the famous Harry’s Bar in Venice where well-in-advance reservations are mandatory to the unassuming Nino in Rome.

Most of the recipes, while demanding due care in the cooking, are made of simple and easy-to-obtain ingredients especially since in Canada many cities are replete with specialty food stores.

To me, a good cookbook is more than a mere listing of recipes with sketchy notes of their origins. Start looking for a recipe in Biba’s Italy and chances are you’ll wind up an hour later having finally settled on one but also having picked up a great amount of absorbing information along the way.

Here’s one of my favourites as presented by Biba.

Calf’s liver with onions Venetian ztyle

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 large, sweet onions, thinly sliced (about 4 cups)
3 tbsp unsalted butter
1 1/2 lbs calf’s liver cut into 1/4 inch wide and 3 to 4 inch strips
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When the oil is nice and hot, add the onions, stirring with a wooden spoon until soft and brown, about 25 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the onions to a bowl, letting the oil and juices fall back into the skillet.

Return the skillet to medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon of the butter. As soon as the butter begins to foam, add the liver without crowding (cook in 2 batches if necessary.)
Cook stirring until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Season with the salt and pepper.

Return the onions to the pan and stir until liver and onions are combined, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer the contents of the skillet to a warm serving platter.

Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter to the skillet, scraping up the brown bits attached o the bottom of the pan. Add the parsley, stir once or twice and pour the butter sauce over the liver and onions. Serve hot.

Tips: Use only fresh, young calf’s liver of the finest quality with any thin membrane pulled off. Use the sweetest onions: the traditional recipe calls for equal amounts of onions and liver.

Make sure the skillet is large enough to contain onions and liver without crowding.

Serve with grilled, fried or roasted polenta.

Linguini alla mentuccia

Tuesday, August 1st, 2006

(Linguini with mint and sausage)
ALDA.jpgIn 1980, I had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing American actor-singer Robert Alda, noted not only for his roles on Broadway (Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls) and in films (George Geshwin in Rhapsody in Blue) but also star of a long-running Italian musical. Robert was here with his charming, Italian-born wife Flora to promote their anecdotal cookbook, 99 Ways to Cook Pasta, published by Macmillan.

I admired the love he expressed for his two sons, Alan and Antony, both actors and whose names appear frequently in the book. My wife, Anne, and I frequenty enjoy this recipe which can be prepared quickly, with simple ingredients.

3 tbsp sweet butter
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 lb sweet or hot Italian sausage (or mix of half and half)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup fresh mint chopped
1tsp dried oregano
1 lb. linguini
3 tbsp salt
In a medium skillet, melt the butter add the crushed garlic and sauté until golden. Remove the sausage meat from the skins, crumble and place in the skillet; sauté until the meat is browned. Remove the galic, add the wine, mint and oregano and mix well. Cover and let simmer for 6 to 7 minutes. Turn off the flame and let stand
Cook the linghini in 5 to 6 quarts of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain well and place in a large serving bowl.. Add the sauce and toss well. Serves 4 to 6
You may substitute any long, thin pasta — like spaghetti or even angel hair for the linguine if you wish. For the mint, we prefer the stronger flavour of wild broad leaf leaf mint that grows like a weed to the more subtle spearmint variety And if you’re hyper cholesterol-wary, remember that turkey sausage, Italian style is widely available now.
I understand copies of the book may be still be avalable through Amazon or book search engines

Recipe for Tuscan Chestnut and fennel soup

Saturday, July 1st, 2006

(Canscene) — One of La Petraia’s prized possessions is a 15-acre chestnut forest which gives birth to the following Tuscan recipe from Susan McKenna Grant. The recipe calls for either wild chestnuts and fennel or ingredients more easily purchased in our local fruit and vegetable sources


1 onion, minced
a few flakes of hot chili pepper
Olive oil to cover bottom of your sauté pan
1 fennel bulb and some of the stalk and green fronds, chopped
1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
1 lb shelled fresh chestnuts
6 cups of hot chicken or vegetable broth
2 tbsp butter
salt and pepper to taste
Truffle butter or whipped cream to finish
a few small fennel fronds to garnish.

Sautée the onion and chili flakes until they become translucent. Add the fennel, fennel seed and chestnuts. Cook for a few minutes until the fennel starts to wilt and then add hot broth. Simmer for 20 minutes or until the chestnuts and fennel are tender.

Purée the mixture in a food mill, passing it once through the large-holed disc and then through the smaller-holed disc. If you don’t own a food mill, use a blender or a food processor and then pass the mixture through a sieve, pressing on the solids. Add the butter and season with salt and pepper.

Place a few croutons at the bottom of a warm soup plate; add a ladle of the soup and top with a dollop of truffle butter or whipped cream. Garnish with a small fennel frond

Beef with peas — Indian style

Wednesday, March 1st, 2006

This month’s recipe comes from guest contributor, Toronto dietitian Donna Andersen.

3/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 small green pepper, chopped
1 lb. (454 gm) lean ground beef
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp turmeric
1 1/2 tsp coriander (or 1/2 cup fresh, chopped)
crushed hot red peppers, per taste (optional)
2 cups chopped tomatoes (or 1/2 can diced tomatoes ie.14 -19 oz)
2 medium potatoes, diced
1 cup green peas (fresh or frozen)

Saute onions and green peppers in 1 -2 tsp margarine or oil until tender.
Add beef and fry until brown. (Drain any fat if accumulated)
Add salt and spices, hot pepper is optional.

Stir in tomatoes and diced potatoes.
Bring to a boil then lower heat and simmer (covered) for 20 – 30 minutes or until potatoes are tender.
Stir in 1 cup peas and simmer another 10 minutes.
Serves 4.