Appetizer

Chicken and Pistachio Terrine

Give me a plate of pate or terrine, some good bread and maybe something pickled on the side and I’m a happy girl.

Chicken and Pistachio Terrine II

The same can be said with a plate of cured meats, but I’m not about to make salami at home – not yet anyway.

Terrine, though, is essentially dressed-up meat loaf with a few extra steps (and a fancier name). And that is something I’m more than willing to take on in my kitchen – as dangerous as that might be.

It didn’t dawn on me to try this at home until I stumbled onto five terrine recipes in Donna Hay’s A Cook’s Guide – a book aimed at teaching home cooks some solid basic recipes with variations. When I reviewed the book for my column, I took on a baked risotto recipe, but I kept flipping back to this one for Chicken and Pistachio Terrine.

The combination of sweet and tart cranberries, nutty pistachios and a bit of tarragon mixed in to a chicken and pork terrine was very appealing.

It didn’t disappoint. Which is good. Because this recipe makes a lot of terrine.

As in, I’m pretty sure it could serve more than the recommended 10 to 12, depending on what else was being offered.

But that makes it a great dish for entertaining, especially as we head into the holiday season. (And yes, the green pistachios and red cranberries do make it seem even more festive.)

The fact that it’s incredibly easy to put together, not to mention that you make it the day before serving, also appeals.

It takes little more effort than putting all the ingredients into a bowl, mixing and dividing it between two loaf pans to bake in a water bath. Setting them in the fridge over night, covered with some foil, a piece of cardboard and something heavy produces a nice flat top , which makes them look more refined than rustic.

I ate a few slices on some baguette and ciabatta with some wee gherkin pickles and a couple of pickled cipollini onions.

And I was a very happy girl.

Chicken and Pistachio Terrine I

Chicken and Pistachio Terrine

The only changes to this recipe from Donna Hay are in the instructions. The original calls for a long, thin tin to bake the terrine in, but I’ve adapted it here to make two loaves baked in loaf pans lined with parchment paper for easy removal. It makes a lot of terrine, so if you’re making this for a smaller group, consider halving the recipe.

  • 1 ¾ lb (800g) ground chicken
  • 1 ¾ lb (800g) ground pork
  • 3 slices bacon, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) chopped tarragon leaves
  • 1 ½ cups (375 mL) dried cranberries
  • ½ cup (125 mL) shelled unsalted pistachios
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) sea salt flakes
  • 2 tsp (10 mL) cracked black pepper
  • ½ cup (125 mL) port
  • 3 eggs

Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Place the chicken and pork, bacon, garlic, tarragon, cranberries, pistachios, salt, pepper, port and eggs in a large bowl and mix well to combine.

Lightly grease two loaf pans and line with parchment paper. Divide the mix evenly between the two, pressing the mixture down lightly.

Cover with aluminum foil, place in a deep baking dish and pour in enough hot water to come halfway up the sides of the pan. (I used two baking dishes, putting one loaf pan in each dish.)

Cook for 1 ½ hours or until firm. Remove tins from the hot water.

Cut two pieces of cardboard to fit over the terrine.

Fit over the aluminum foil and weigh down with a heavy object. (Canned vegetables are good here.)

Refrigerate overnight. Remove the terrine from the pan and slice to serve.

Serves 12 to 24. Note: There was some excess fat that resulted from baking the terrines. I gently poured it off before refrigerating them.

This article first appeared in the Calgary Herald. For more recipes and ideas, check out CalgaryHerald.com/Food.

Ricotta

I’ve bought my fair share of ricotta in my time from my local grocery store.

It’s good enough, especially since most of the time I’m simply folding it into lemon ricotta pancakes for Sunday breakfast.

The first time I had really good ricotta was at Corso 32 in Edmonton. House-made from goat milk, it had been slathered thickly onto slabs of toasted bread, then drizzled with oil and sprinkled with crunchy flakes of salt.

It was the perfect start to dinner with a group of friends I don’t get to see often enough.

On my next trip to Edmonton, I had barely walked through the front door of my friend’s house before she announced that our project for that afternoon – in advance of friends coming for dinner – was to make homemade ricotta.

The recipe was laughably easy: heat milk, add lemon juice, watch it curdle and then strain.

And yet it was unexpectedly exciting to watch the curds and whey separate with just a bit of acid thrown into the mix. Even more pleasing to unfold the cheesecloth after the whey had drained away from the curds and see the mound of thick, creamy ricotta.

(Check out the post Katherine did over here, complete with action photos.)

That recipe was good – we ate pretty much all of it that night, on toasted baguette with glasses of wine in hand, some olives and slices of prosciutto – but I’ve since found one that is made even more decadent with the addition of a full cup of whipping cream.

Technically, this may not be considered real ricotta, which in Italian means “twice cooked” and is made from whey – the byproduct of making other cheeses. But, when searching for ricotta recipes, almost all now use this method of adding an acid – lemon juice or vinegar – to heated milk (or a combination of milk and cream) and then straining off the curds.

(There are also a million variations, using more or less milk and cream, using different ratios of acid or using vinegar instead of lemon juice.)

Simple science, but it’s kind of like food magic.

The taste is also like food magic: rich and creamy, smooth and luxurious – a recipe that’s end belies how little effort went in.

Serve this on slices of toasted bread drizzled with honey or some extra virgin olive oil. Grind on cracked pepper or stir in herbs.

Use in recipes that call for ricotta. Or simply eat it plain.
Ricotta draining

Ricotta and baguette

Ricotta

This comes from Smitten Kitchen, which suggest a ½ cup of whipping cream if a full cup is too much, just be sure to make up the difference with whole milk.

  • 3 cups ( 750 mL) whole milk (3.25 per cent)
  • 1 cup (250 mL) whipping cream
  • ½ tsp (2 mL) coarse sea salt
  • 3 tbsp (50 mL) freshly squeezed lemon juice

In a large pot, mix together milk, cream and salt. Heat until the mixture reaches 190 F, stirring every so often to keep it from burning. Remove from the heat and add the lemon juice. Stir, gently, once or twice and then let sit for 5 minutes to let the curds and whey separate.

Line a large sieve or colander with two or three layers of cheesecloth and place over a bowl. Pour the mixture into the sieve and let it strain for at least an hour or more, depending on how firm you like it. (I stopped draining mine around 1 hour and 15 minutes.) It will also firm up more once refrigerated.

Eat immediately or put in an airtight container and refrigerate. Makes little more than one cup (250 mL).

Roasted Tomato Tart

(I am so proud of this post because it marks my first food article in the Herald’s revamped Sunday edition. My photo of my little roasted tomato tart was on the cover of the ‘mix’ section. For those that haven’t seen the new Sunday edition, that means the photo was the entire front of the ‘mix’ section. Yay! And a warning, this post is photo heavy! What can I say? I had a hard time paring it down.)

And now, back to the article.

I have an unabashed love of tomatoes. Meaty slices of them wedged between two pieces of buttered toast with a sprinkle of salt and pepper is my idea of comfort food. Roma tomatoes drizzled with a little balsamic vinegar and good olive oil make a simple side dish. And I love that burst of seeds and flavour that comes when biting into a plain cherry tomato.

Tomatoes II

I once bought a perfume called Tomato because it smelled like the aroma given off after brushing up against the green stalks of a tomato plant — that verdant scent of heat and summer. A few spritzes on my wrist could transport me back to being a kid and visiting my grandparents on one of the Gulf Islands where I sometimes helped in the garden.

Enclosed in chicken wire to protect it from ravenous deer, the garden produced sweet tiny carrots I ate straight from the ground after a quick rinse from the hose, grape vines that tangled their way along trellises, and rows of tomato plants.

I would use a plastic watering can to fill the coffee tins with water, from which my grandfather had removed the bottoms, nestled into the earth next to the plants — a trick that allowed the water to get right at the plant’s roots. And I would brush up against the stalks, filling the air with that distinct smell.

If any were ripe, I’d pull them sun-warmed from the dark green plants and eat them unadorned.

There is no taste like a vine-ripened tomato.

Tomatoes

But sometimes I like to roast them to intensify their essence and bring out more of their natural sweetness.

Baking halved Roma tomatoes in the oven with a few unpeeled garlic cloves is an excellent base for a good tomato soup.

Cherry tomatoes, when roasted, shrink and wrinkle to softish pouches of concentrated tomato flavour. I’ve made simple pasta sauces like this, topped only with shaved Parmesan and a sprinkle of basil or parsley if I have them lying around.

Roasted Tomato Tart-round

I thought recently — after seeing a clamshell package of multicoloured cherry tomatoes at the farmers market — that they would make a good savoury tart, particularly if paired with a hearty crust.

When I began imagining a roasted cherry tomato tart, I thought there was potential in adding a few handfuls of Parmesan cheese to the dough to bring out a nice nutty, rich taste when baked.

A little research led me to realize I wasn’t the first person to think of this, but I didn’t love any of the recipes I came across. I am by no means a pastry expert, but was willing to give myself a chance to experiment.

Using ideas from several different recipes, I decided to create a hybrid pastry that used cream instead of water and a cup of Parmesan cheese, finely grated and blitzed with the other ingredients in the food processor.

The dough was easy to work with and resulted in a golden crust that played nicely against the sweet, soft tomatoes.

(This would likely work just as well, though, with a regular pastry.)

Because cherry tomatoes are so juicy, there was a lot of liquid bubbling away as the tart was baking. (Truth be told, I was a bit nervous about just how much I could see as I peered through the oven door.) Some of it did cook off in the process, but there was definitely a thin layer of tomato liquor when I pulled the tart out. Some may call it soggy; I prefer to think of it as tomato-infused pastry. Either way, the base of the tart pastry was crisp and I liked the taste of it.

A sprinkle of basil gave it a nice fresh taste when added as the tart cooled slightly. (And yes, you’ll want to let it sit for a few minutes because cutting into the tomatoes will likely cause some to burst. Ouch.)

Chilled parmesan pastry

Pastry in tart dish

Tomatoes III

Tart pre-oven

Roasted Tomato Tart II

Tomato Tart and slice

Sliced Tomato Tart

Roasted Tomato Tart Sliced

Roasted Tomato Tart

  • 1½ cups (375 mL) flour
  • 7 tbsp (115 mL) butter, cold and cut into small cubes
  • ½ cup (125 mL) cream
  • 1 cup (250 mL) finely grated Parmesan
  • pinch salt
  • 1-1¼ lb. (500 to 625 grams) cherry or grape-sized tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) olive oil
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) salt
  • ½ tsp (2 mL) fresh ground pepper
  • 2 tbsp (25 mL) fresh basil, chiffonade (rolled like a cigar and cut into strips)

Add the flour and pinch of salt to the bowl of a food processor, then sprinkle the butter cubes on top. Pulse two or three times until the butter starts to break down, then add the Parmesan. Pulse until the mixture is crumbly and the butter is in pieces no larger than a pea.

Add the cream slowly while pulsing until the dough starts to come together. (It will bunch up and the food processor noise will change.)

Empty the contents onto a lightly floured surface and knead it a few times to pull the dough together.

Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or as long as overnight.

Preheat oven to 325 F (160 C).

Toss the tomatoes in a bowl with the olive oil, 1 tsp salt and pepper. Set aside.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough until it is about 1/3 inch to 1/4 inch (8 millimetres to 6 mm) thick. Press into tart tin (9 inch/23 cm round tin or a 14-inch/35 cm rectangular tin), stretching it as little as possible, and cut off excess. Arrange tomatoes in the tart tin.

Bake for an hour until tomatoes are soft and pastry is golden brown. Remove and let cool on a rack for 10 minutes. Roll basil leaves like a cigar and then slice them to make herb strips. Sprinkle over tart.

Serve while still warm.

Cook’s note: The amount of tomatoes will vary depending on how tall or fat they are and how well they fit together in the tart tin.

This story first appeared in the Real Life section in the Calgary Herald. For more delicious recipes, visit CalgaryHerald.com/life.

Goat Cheese with Herbed Olive Oil

We have few Christmas traditions in my family. With all us kids grown up and no new generation to take our place, there are only a few activities we cling to during the holiday season. Gone are the days when we wrote letters to Santa and put out a plate of cookies. And we were never the type that gathered around the fire to listen to a parent read The Night Before Christmas.

But over the years we have created a few rituals that we still hold dear when the season finally arrives. The first is listening to Amahl and the Night Visitors – an opera about a poor widow and her lame son who are visited by the Three Kings en route to Bethlehem – while doing some Christmas baking.

A second, more recent, is watching the YouTube video of a house whose Christmas lights are coordinated to the operatically rock-and-roll Trans Siberian Orchestra’s Wizards in Winter – a song my mum and I both acquired permanently last year. This video, with its perfectly timed display of lighted Christmas trees and wreaths, never fails to bring on the giggles.

And third, and perhaps most important, we sit down on Christmas Eve and eat goat cheese doused in herb-and-garlic infused olive oil. With a lot of bread. And a glass or two of wine.

Goat Cheese in Herbed Olive Oil

This custom is so tied to our Christmas, in fact, that when I made it once for friends at some point outside of the holiday season, my little sister got mad at me. The word ‘sacrilegious’ may have even been used.

Like all good traditions, it is unclear when exactly it started or why.

What I do know is that the only reason we even discovered the recipe in the You Asked For It section of Gourmet Magazine was because we wanted the cookie recipe on the same page. At some point later, my mum thought to try out the goat cheese one as well.

It is almost too much to call it a recipe since the most taxing part appears to be gathering the spices and slicing the bread that goes with it. Heating olive oil with some rosemary, garlic and a few other goodies for five minutes is hardly cooking. And yet the combination of slightly grassy oil, softened garlic and the sharp heat of peppercorns mixed with rich goat cheese is so perfect. Add a slice of chewy baguette – making sure to scoop up a bit of each component – and it’s almost heaven.

Garlic, herbs and spices

Having read the recipe over before writing this, I see that it says to slice the goat cheese into eight rounds and then pour the herbed oil over top. I have no idea why we have never done this, but decided to stick to tradition – as we have so few – and leave the cheese in log form.

After all, what are the holidays without some traditions?

Flavouring the oil

Goat Cheese in Herbed Olive Oil II

Goat Cheese with Herbed Olive Oil
Adapted from Gourmet Magazine, January 1994

1 small bay leaf
4 garlic cloves, cut into thin slivers
1 tbsp. (15 mL) fresh rosemary leaves
¼ tsp. (1 mL) coriander seeds, crushed lightly
¼ tsp. (1 mL) fennel seeds, crushed lightly
10 whole black peppercorns
¼ cup (50 mL) extra-virgin olive oil
½ pound (250g) log of soft mild goat cheese
Sliced bread as an accompaniment

In a small saucepan simmer bay leaf, garlic, rosemary, coriander seeds, fennel seeds and peppercorns in oil for 5 minutes. Arrange goat cheese on a platter and spoon oil mixture over. Serve goat cheese with bread.

This story first appeared in the Real Life section in the Calgary Herald. For more delicious recipes, visit CalgaryHerald.com/life.