Victorian Week Redux

So last year my boyfriend at the time (now my wonderful fiancée) came up with a great idea of doing a week of Victorian Era recipes in honour of Victoria Day. Well I had so much fun doing it last year, I thought, why not do it again this year? So I went on-line and actually found a copy of a menu served at one of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee dinners, on June 21st, 1887.

Now, it’s a pretty big deal to have a Jubilee year as a monarch, especially if that monarch is a woman. As a reigning monarch you are in constant danger from those that wish to over take you or just want to overthrow the throne. As a woman, she gave birth to 9 children, at at time when delivery was dangerous for both mother and child.What can I say, she was quite the woman! So in her honour, a week of recipes and a day off next week! Enjoy!

Diamond Jubilee Dinner

For those of you not up on your French, the menu reads as follows:

Potages (Soups)
À la Tortue (Turtle Soup)
Au Printanière (Spring Vegetable Soup)
À la Crème de Riz (Cream of Rice Soup)

Poissons (Fish)
Whitebait
Les Filets de Soles farcis à l’Ancienne (Filets of Sole, Stuffed and Garnished with a Cream Sauce of Shrimps, Mushrooms and Truffles)
Les Merlans Frits (Fried Whiting)

Entrées (Mains)
Les Petits Vol-au-vents à la Béchamel (Vol-au-Vents with White Sauce)
Les Côtelettes d’Agneau, Pointes d’Asperges (Lamb Chops with Asparagus Tips)
Les Filets de Canetons aux Pois (Duckling with Peas)

Relevés (See note below)
Les Poulets à la Financière (Chicken Garnished with Cocks’ Combs, Cocks’ Kidneys, Dumplings, Sweetbreads, Mushrooms, Olives and Truffles)
Haunch of Venison
Roast Beef

Rôts (Roasts)
Les Cailles Bardèes (Roast Quail)
Les Poulets (Roast Chicken)

Entremêts (Sweets)
Les Haricots verts à la Poulette (Green Beans in Cream Sauce Garnished with Onions and Mushrooms)
Les Escaloppes de Foies-gras aux Truffles (Sliced Foie Gras with Truffles)
Sprütz Gebackenes
La Crème de Riz au Jus aux Cerises (Cream Rice with Cherry Juice)
Les Choux glacés à la Duchesse (Iced Puff Pastries)

Side Table
Cold Beef, Tongue, Cold Fowl (Cold Chicken)

“Relevés” – Apparently, it means to relieve, or to remove, and was used in the following sense (according to Larousse Gastronomique, which is pretty much a food bible, so I believe it).

“Remove: Dish which in French service relieves (in the sense that one sentry relieves another) the soup or the fish. This course precedes those called entrees.”

Maybe because they were English they did it after the entrees? What can I say, when you’re Queen, you can have your meals served any way you want!

I’m Back… and I’ve brought some bread with me!

bread

So folks, first off, mea culpa! It has been way too long since I last posted, but work and life has been hectic. To catch you up on the past few months, we’ve had Chanukah, Tu B’Shevat, Purim and Pesach, all prime food holidays, which I admit, I slacked on. My bad. For those of you who would like, I can pull out some menus and recipes from those days and catch you all up. But onwards and upwards! Since we have just finished Pesach, a holiday of no leavened products, I feel the great desire for some real bread. Not potato starch bread. Not a gluten free concoction (though credit does go out to my gluten-intolerant and Celiac friends, I’ve got your backs too! Check out the posts under the Gluten Free Category). I want real, wheat flour based, bread!

So with that in mind, I dedicate the rest of this week to bread! Our proud quiet companion that supports whatever delicious substance we slap between two pieces of it. Without you bread, we wouldn’t have a sandwich. Thank you.

What happened on the Ninth of Av?

Tisha B'Av 2
I thought it would be interesting to see just what is so “bad” about the 9th of Av, or Tisha B’Av. Well, I found the following historical chronology about the day on Chabad.org. It’s definitely worth a read:

The 9th of Av, Tisha b’Av, commemorates a list of catastrophes so severe it’s clearly a day set aside by G‑d for suffering.

Picture this: The year is 1313 BCE. The Israelites are in the desert, recently having experienced the miraculous Exodus, and are now poised to enter the Promised Land. But first they dispatch a reconnaissance mission to assist in formulating a prudent battle strategy. The spies return on the eighth day of Av and report that the land is unconquerable. That night, the 9th of Av, the people cry. They insist that they’d rather go back to Egypt than be slaughtered by the Canaanites. G‑d is highly displeased by this public demonstration of distrust in His power, and consequently that generation of Israelites never enters the Holy Land. Only their children have that privilege, after wandering in the desert for another 38 years.

The First Temple was also destroyed on the 9th of Av (423 BCE). Five centuries later (in 69 CE), as the Romans drew closer to the Second Temple, ready to torch it, the Jews were shocked to realize that their Second Temple was destroyed the same day as the first.

When the Jews rebelled against Roman rule, they believed that their leader,Simon bar Kochba, would fulfill their messianic longings. But their hopes were cruelly dashed in 133 CE as the Jewish rebels were brutally butchered in the final battle at Betar. The date of the massacre? Of course—the 9th of Av!

One year after their conquest of Betar, the Romans plowed over the Temple Mount, our nation’s holiest site.

The Jews were expelled from England in 1290 CE on, you guessed it, Tisha b’Av. In 1492, the Golden Age of Spain came to a close when Queen Isabella and her husband Ferdinand ordered that the Jews be banished from the land. The edict of expulsion was signed on March 31, 1492, and the Jews were given exactly four months to put their affairs in order and leave the country. The Hebrew date on which no Jew was allowed any longer to remain in the land where he had enjoyed welcome and prosperity? Oh, by now you know it—the 9th of Av.

Ready for just one more? World War II and the Holocaust, historians conclude, was actually the long drawn-out conclusion of World War I that began in 1914. And yes, amazingly enough, Germany declared war on Russia, effectively catapulting the First World War into motion, on the 9th of Av, Tisha b’Av.

What do you make of all this? Jews see this as another confirmation of the deeply held conviction that history isn’t haphazard; events – even terrible ones – are part of a Divine plan and have spiritual meaning. The message of time is that everything has a rational purpose, even though we don’t understand it.

What Are the Three Weeks?

Tisha B'Av

So while yes, this is a blog about food, it is also about kosher, and everything that goes along with it. As some of you might know, for the past three weeks, Observant Jews have been commemorating a sad period in Jewish history. Since this Saturday night marks the end of this period, and the holy fast day of Tisha B’Av (9th of the Jewish month of Av), I though it would be appropriate to discuss what the three weeks are, the nine days (a part of the the three weeks) and then tomorrow, discuss Tisha B’Av itself. True, this isn’t my regular witty (okay, snarky) banter that I usually write about, but I thought it was important. I hope you agree. As always, I got almost all of my information from Chabad.org (www.chabad.org)

The Three Weeks in a Nutshell

The Three Weeks is an annual mourning period that falls out in the summer. This is when we mourn the destruction of the Holy Temple and our launch into a still-ongoing exile. The period begins on the 17th of the Hebrew month of Tammuz, a fast day that marks the day when the walls of Jerusalem were breached by the Romans in 69 CE. It reaches its climax and concludes with the fast of the 9th of Av, the date when both Holy Temples were set aflame. This is the saddest day of the Jewish calendar, and it is also the date of other tragedies spanning our nation’s history.

Observances:
There are various mourning-related customs and observances that are followed for the entire three-week period (until midday of the 10th of the Hebrew month of Av, or—if that date falls on Friday—the morning of that day). We do not cut our hair, shave, make parties or weddings. Most people refrain from purchasing new clothes, or listening to music.

On the 17th of  Tammuz we refrain from eating and drinking from dawn to nightfall. The final Nine Days of the Three Weeks are a time of intensified mourning. Starting on the first of Av, we refrain from eating meat or drinking wine, and from wearing freshly laundered clothes.

The 9th of Av is a more stringent fast than the 17th of Tammuz. It begins at sunset of the previous evening, when we gather in the synagogue to read the Book of Lamentations. Besides fasting, we abstain from additional pleasures, such as washing, applying lotions or creams, wearing leather shoes, and marital relations. Until midday, we sit on the floor or on low stools.

There is more to the Three Weeks than fasting and lamentation though. Our sages tell us that those who mourn the destruction of Jerusalem will merit seeing it rebuilt with the coming of Moshiach (the Messiah). May that day come soon, and then all the mournful dates on the calendar will be transformed into days of tremendous joy and happiness.

Sorry… I’m so Canadian!

CCRF

Hey loyal readers, sorry I missed yesterday’s edition of our tour across Canada. I was out with a bit of a bug, and the last thing on my mind was food! As a true Canadian, I must apologize profusely. It’s part of our “constitution”. No, it is not the same constitution that the Americans have with all the “We the people” stuff, but a pretty rad document, made up mainly of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms… you should check it out! To make up for skipping yesterday though, I will be posting two recipes today, yesterdays nod to The Northwest Territories and today’s finale in our newest territory, Nunavut! I hope you enjoy!

Wineries & Vineyards (Ontario)

Niagara Region Winery

So one of Ontario’s pride and joys is the Niagara Region in the southernmost tip of the province. Not only is it simply beautiful, but it is home to Niagara Falls and unbelievable soil and climate for growing grapes. Because of this, wineries and vineyards are a major attraction, both for tourists and economically for the province. The Ontario growing region lies between the 52° and 41° parallels, placing them in the middle of the northern grape growing belt. This is the same latitude as Bordeaux, France and the Northern wine regions of California! Because of this, we are able to grow a vast number of grapes, producing excellent award winning wines. Today, instead of a recipe featuring wine, I thought I’d give a little Wine 101 – Breaking down some of the types of wine, and how to use them in cooking. I will be also posting this information as a separate page on this blog so that it’s easy to refer back to. Remember, as always; check the label of your bottle before using it to confirm that it is kosher. If you would like to see more alcohols that are kosher, check out our Kosher Alcohol List by clicking here. Enjoy, and drink responsibly!


Wine 101
A basic introduction to wine, plus pairing suggestions to make every dinner special.

The Whites
Chardonnay is a versatile wine grape: its flavour and aromas are easily influenced by where it’s grown and how it’s made. Fruit flavours range from apple and lime in cooler climates to tropical fruits in warmer places. When barrelled in oak, it takes on a richness characterized by honey and butter flavours. When barrelled in stainless steel, it often retains more mineral flavours and comes across as fresher on the palate. Chardonnay excels in Burgundy, France.

Riesling is a crisp, clean wine with green apple, pear and lime flavours. The best offer pleasing mineral qualities as well. With age, Riesling takes on honey flavours and attractive oily aromas. Riesling grows well in Germany, the Alsace region of France, the Finger Lakes region of New York, and parts of Australia and Washington State. Riesling pairs nicely with spicy foods, and poultry.

Pinot Gris is made from grapes that generally produce different styles of wine depending on where the grapes are grown and how they’re handled in the cellar. In the Alsace region of France, and in places like Oregon and New Zealand, Pinot Gris typically makes rich wines marked by a bit of spice. The Italian style (Pinot Grigio) tends to be fresh, crisp and refreshing. This either style of this wine goes well with seafood and pasta dishes, vegetarian food and poultry.

Sauvignon Blanc is a fresh, crisp, aromatic wine with grapefruit and grassy flavours. This wine is the star of the Loire region of France. It also shines in the Bordeaux region, where it is often blended with Semillon. In the New World, New Zealand has emerged as a prime spot for Sauvignon Blanc. Sauvignon Blanc is a food-friendly wine that goes well with many seafood, poultry and vegetable dishes.

The Reds
Merlot is a soft, supple wine with nice fruit flavours of plums and blackberries and occasionally mint, chocolate and eucalyptus flavours and aromas. Typically, it is ready to drink earlier than Cabernet Sauvignon, which sometimes needs a few years for its astringent tannins to mellow. Outside of Europe, New World Merlot shines in places like California, Chile and Washington State.

Cabernet Sauvignon is more assertive than Merlot, with more tannin and greater ageing potential. It can have flavours of blackberries, plums, black currants, and cassis. Aged in oak, Cabernet Sauvignon can take on flavours of vanilla, cedar, chocolate, and coffee. Beyond Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignon does well in Napa, California, where it produces smooth, ripe wines. Washington State, Chile and Australia are also making excellent Cabernet. Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon are very nice with meat dishes like beef and lamb.

Pinot Noir, a notoriously difficult grape to grow, made its mark initially in Burgundy, France. The grape continues to deliver single-varietal wines that are among the best in the world. Pinot Noirs are delicate wines that taste of red fruits like cherries, raspberries and strawberries. With age, flavours and aromas become more complex, developing earthy notes like mushrooms and decaying leaves. Burgundy in particular is noted for developing these earthy flavours. In the New World, tasty Pinot Noir is being made in Oregon, New Zealand, and some of the cooler appellations of California. Pinot Noir is a versatile food wine, great with poultry, salmon, meat and vegetable dishes.

Syrah is at home in the Rhone region of France, where the grape makes spicy, rich, darkly delicious wines that increase in complexity as they age. Syrah also makes delicious wines in Australia, where it is marketed as Shiraz. Australian versions are typically big, bold and spicy with jammy fruit and aromas of leather and black fruit. Syrah also excels in Washington State, where it often displays an attractive acid balance, and in California, where the styles vary significantly. Syrah is a very versatile wine that pairs well with a wide variety of foods. It’s terrific with grilled meats.

Other Reds to Consider
Sangiovese is the wine grape that makes Chianti, a tremendous food wine with flavours and aromas of cherries and rose petals.

Nebbiolo is the grape variety that makes Barolo and Barbaresco, the noble (and pricey) red wines of the Piedmont region of Italy. With age, flavour notes of plums and cherries are enhanced by flavours of smoke, tar and roses.

Malbec is a star in Argentina, where it produces inky wines with an attractive smoke and leather quality. It also stands out in Cahors in southern France.

Tempranillo is a famous grape of Spain, where it is used in wines of the Rioja and Ribera del Duero regions.

Gamay makes the fresh and fruity, raspberry-flavoured wines of the Beaujolais region of Burgundy.

Zinfandel has found its home in California, where it produces big, fruity, often spicy red wines.


Cooking with Wine:

Wine’s complexity of flavours and aromas is one reason it works so well as an ingredient for cooking.

The Flavour Factors

Alcohol
Alcohol itself doesn’t add flavour to dishes so much as it helps release flavour molecules in foods and assists in dissolving fats, allowing ingredients to reveal their own unique flavours in ways that other liquids (like water or broth) or fats (like butter and olive oil) cannot.

When adding wine to a sauce, make sure you allow most of the alcohol to cook off; otherwise, the sauce may have a harsh, slightly boozy taste. How do you know when enough is enough? After adding the wine, cook the sauce uncovered until it reduces by about half. As the alcohol burns away, the flavour of the sauce will concentrate, becoming more delicious.

Tannins
Tannins come from the grape’s skins, stems, and seeds. Thick-skinned grapes, like Cabernet Sauvignon, produce more tannic wines than thinner-skinned varietals like Pinot Noir. And red wines have more tannin than whites. This is because the juice of red grapes spends more time swimming around with their skins than white grapes whose juice is separated from the skins soon after pressing. The juice of white grapes just doesn’t hang out with its skins long enough to pick up tannins.

Tannins affect the texture of a wine. We often experience them in the mouth as a drying sensation, rather than as a specific taste. In a young red wine with lots of tannin, they can come across as astringent and pucker-inducing, but the tannins will mellow with age, and are, in fact, one of the compounds that allows red wines to age gracefully.

How do tannins affect our eating experience? Well, let’s take Cabernet Sauvignon. Beef dishes are a classic pairing partner for Cabernet Sauvignon. In large part, it’s because Cabernet Sauvignon is a highly tannic wine. The tannins in the wine become attracted to the proteins in the meat rather than the proteins in your saliva, which makes the wine seem less astringent, a softer experience in your mouth.

When you make a pan sauce with Cabernet Sauvignon, the tannins become concentrated as the sauce reduces. If the sauce does not also contain enough protein and fat to handle those tannins, the end result could be a sauce that is a bit astringent for your liking. A vegetarian sauce, then, will probably work better with a less tannic red wine, like Pinot Noir, or a white wine.

Acidity
Have you ever paired a tomato sauce with a red wine like Merlot? The acid in the tomatoes can burn right through the wine, making it seem flat. That’s because Merlot, which is typically on the low end in acid, can’t compete with the acid in the tomatoes. Chianti Classico, on the other hand, is a terrific choice for tomato-based pasta dishes: the sangiovese grape (the main grape in Chianti) has enough acid to stand up to the acid in the tomato sauce.

Of course, all wines have acid. So when cooking with wine, use non-reactive pans and skillets (like those made from stainless steel or enamelled cast iron) to avoid discolouration when the acid hits the pan.

Flavours and Aromas
When you’re making a dish that has one or two dominant flavours, it’s worth thinking about wines that share those basic taste characteristics. Pinot Noir, for example, particularly Pinot Noir from Burgundy, is known for having flavours and aromas of mushrooms; it might pair up nicely with a dish that features lots of fresh, sautéed mushrooms. A bright dish with a healthy splash of citrus might respond well to a wine with a nice, bright citrus flavour–like Sauvignon Blanc. A cream sauce with fish will likely match up well with a creamy, buttery Chardonnay.

Preserve Your Cooking Wine
Once you uncork a bottle of wine, and oxygen is introduced into the scene, the wine slowly begins to change. No matter how good or expensive the wine was to begin with, it will eventually turn to vinegar.

Bear that in mind when a recipe calls for wine. It’s easy to reach for that half-full bottle you’ve kept in the cupboard for a month. But before you pour it into the pan, take a moment to determine its condition. Cooking with this wine could make the dish taste sour.

One way to make the wine last a bit longer is to refrigerate it. The cold climate will slow the chemical changes that are conspiring to turn your wine to vinegar. Another method is to transfer the leftover wine into a smaller bottle. This helps because a smaller bottle will have less air in it. You can also buy fancy vacuum contraptions that suck the air out of the bottle. An even easier solution, of course, is to drink the wine before it goes bad!

Oh Canada… A Mari Usque Ad Mare – From Sea to Sea!

Oh Canada

So with last week being both Canada Day (July 1st) and Independence Day (July 4th) for our American Friends… it got me thinking about this great nation that we live in. Canada. Sure, we get teased a lot about being nice and polite. We would respond, but you know, it wouldn’t be nice or polite. But truth be told, Canada really is an amazing country.

I mean to start off, we’re huge. I mean colossal. We’re the world’s second largest country (9,984,670 square kilometres or 3,854,085 square miles), right behind Russia. We’re letting Russia have that one, they seem to want it more. At around 2 million lakes, we have more lakes than the rest of the world’s lakes, combined! Heck, our Great Lakes alone contain about 18% of the world’s fresh lake water.

It can get cold here… I mean really cold, with the lowest temperature on record being -81.4 degrees Fahrenheit or -63 Celsius (this was back in 1947). But that’s okay, when it dips down that low, parts of the Atlantic Ocean sometimes freeze, and we play hockey on it.

Speaking of sports… Hockey, while it may be what we are known for is NOT our official sport. That honour actually goes to Lacrosse. But did you know that Basketball was invented by a Canadian? Dr. James Naismith created the sport when tasked with devising an indoor winter sport at the YMCA training school where he taught in Springfield, Massachusetts. He wanted an activity that stressed skill, not necessarily strength… and the rest is history!

But what about food? I mean, this is a food blog after all, right? Well, Canadians love their food! There are plenty of classics, which unfortunately are not kosher, such as peameal bacon, real poutine and Kraft Dinner (boxed macaroni and cheese). But there are plenty of other regional favourites that the kosher consumer can feast upon. So, for the next 13 entries (10 provinces and 3 territories), I will bring you a local dish that celebrates the land that it comes from and all that is wonderfully Canadian!

Around the World in 80 Days!

Around the World in 80 DaysSo I was trying to think of what this week’s theme should be, when I thought, wouldn’t it be nicer to be somewhere on the other side of the world instead? Around the world… Hey! Around the World in 80 Days! For those of you who aren’t familiar with what I’m referring to, Around the World in 80 Days is a classic adventure novel written by Jules Verne, and published back in 1873. In the story, a gentleman named Phileas Fogg, and his French valet Passepartout attempt to circumnavigate the world in 80 days on a £20,000 wager (roughly £1.6 million today, or just over $2.5 US million) set by Fogg’s friends at his club. It is one of Verne’s most acclaimed works, and has been made into numerous movies.

In their travels Fogg and Passepartout touch down in 7 cities, and begin and end their travels in London, England. I thought, since I can’t join them physically, why not gastronomically? Starting in London, they travel to Suez, Egypt; Calcutta and Bombay, India; Victoria, Hong Kong; Yokohama, Japan; San Francisco and New York, USA and then end again in London.

So each day this week (and a bit into next) I will bring you a dish from those cities that F & P (we’re close, they don’t mind if I call them that) visited in their whirl-wind tour. So pack your bags, and your stomach, as we hit some of the great cities of the late 19th Century. I’m sure F& P (and Jules) won’t mind us tagging along!

Mea Culpa!

Mea CuplaFirst off I want to apologize to my loyal readers for not posting so far this week. I came down with a wicked case of Stomach Flu, and those that have been there can imagine that food was the last thing I wanted to be thinking, or writing, about. But, the worst is pass, and I’m well on the way to recovery. So that’s my first apology. My second is to all the dads out there! I did a whole week tribute to moms for Mother’s Day, and I kinda am lacking for the same homage to dads. So for that, I am sorry, and please don’t think that I think any less of fathers than I do mothers. I’m lucky, I have both and amazing dad and amazing mom, so win-win!

Seeing as there are only two days left for me to post before Father’s Day hits, I thought I’d give you two recipes today and two tomorrow. Today’s will be a side dish and a dessert, both that we made last year for our Father’s Day BBQ. They were a hit! I hope you like them too!

Pass the Pasta!

Pasta SaladSorry for the quick break, between the Holiday, travelling for work, and an attempt at having a personal life, I missed posting last week. I thought I’d try and make up for it with a easy, carefree recipe selection this week. The pasta salad – seems easy, but then what kind of pasta? What flavours are you going for? Dairy or non? So for this week, I thought I’d play up the pasta salad and give you some options, specially now that picnic and BBQ season are in full swing! I hope you enjoy!