Zucchini Gratin

We've now been plunged into 'Fall' temperatures and I'm having trouble coping. For the last week we've been blissfully (if it's your thing) melting in 30 degree plus weather. This morning, we all woke up shivering and reaching for sweaters. 13 degrees this morning people. What truly astounds me is that people still have their air conditioners running in this weather!
Either way, now that the heat has passed (temporarily... fingers crossed) I must get into the kitchen and catch up on some cooking. I've been enjoying my lazy cooking schedule. The school year means doing my weeks' cooking on a very tight time line. Either Sunday afternoon or Monday afternoon. That's all I got... that's all folks. The summer though has meant that pretty much if the spirit moved me, I had the ingredients and it wasn't too hot to turn on an oven or stove then I was in business. It will all come to an end in a couple of days.
With that in mind, I've been flying around the kitchen putting together a really simple side dish. D has some Rainbow Trout that he is going to roast (he does a mean roast fish - think roasted with diced tomato, peppers, garlic, pepper sauce, herbs - it's beyond lush) and this simple, tasty side dish is the perfect accompaniment.

It's a nice combination of starch and veg, which I like. No fussing with multiple dishes. It uses stock and some simple spicing but managed to come out quite tasty nonetheless. I used up all my zucchini but didn't have as much as the recipe called for so I substituted in some red peppers.

Really more zucchini would be better. I will post the recipe as I found it but make the peppers an addition to all the zucchini rather than 'in place of'. You could easily do this dish stove top or baked in the oven (as I did this time). It's quite versatile. If you are looking for an easy side dish that stretches well, that you could make ahead or have a nice bit of leftovers from then this is your dish.

Zucchini Gratin (BBC Good Food Mag)
serves 6 - 8

2 tbsp of oil or fat for frying the veg
1 onion, sliced thin
1 1/2 cup Basmati rice, rinsed
7 medium Zucchini, finely sliced
1 red pepper cut into strips
3 1/2 cups hot stock (I used veg stock)
4 heaping tbsp Creme Fraiche (combo of sour cream and cream in equal parts)
salt, pepper sauce (optional) to taste
1 cup (or so) shredded cheese, Emmental or Cheddar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Add the oil or fat to a large, heated pot or dutch oven. Add in the sliced onions and cook at a low heat for about 10 - 15 min. Until soft and sticky.
Add the Zucchini and the pepper and let them cook for about 5 min with the onions. Add in the rinsed Basmati rice and mix it just to make sure that the rice is well coated. Add in the stock and stir. Turn the heat up slightly and cook for about 5 min. Make sure that the mixture stays quite wet, add more stock if necessary.
Add in the salt and spices after checking the taste. Adjust as necessary. Add in the Creme Fraiche and stir.

Transfer the whole mixture to a large baking dish (or just simmer it gently on the stove if you wish). Make sure the mixture is evenly distributed and try to get the veggies closer to the top. Bake for about 15 min. Remove from the oven, sprinkle on the cheese and bake for another 15 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

Vanilla Ice Cream

It's a heat wave here in Toronto. The likes of which hasn't been felt since July! Come on though, it's seriously hot for the end of August. Awesome. I walk outside and it's like being back in Trinidad. You melt. Beautifully and completely. Nothing like it. Admittedly, it feels a bit odd getting ready for school and hearing all this stuff about 'fall' and 'back to school' whilst melting in 33 degrees. It's true though as much as I'd rather be at the beach. In just a few short days it's back to routines, early morning hustle, dance classes and work meetings. I'm trying to push all that out of my mind. Contemplate this for a second, Calgary (where my siblings and their families live) is freezing in near 0 degree temperatures. Forget Fall, they're all ready for Thanksgiving! What a strange country Canada is, eh? ;-)

I can't honestly put cooking off for long but the baking, well... that's something that I can't quite get away with. In addition, I'm still in a bit of a slump after saying goodbye to my cousin/sister (from another mother) on the weekend. Right now my regular chocolate habit just isn't cutting it. I need something more. However, the though of baking in this heat is off putting. The remedy is ice cream. I regularly make chocolate ice cream for Derek (it's his favourite and I must admit it's damn good) but vanilla is something else. Sacred almost. It must have vanilla bean in it as far as I'm concerned. I also splash it up with vanilla extract. When it comes to vanilla I spend money. I get the stuff from Williams Sonoma. It is great, very great, beyond great (well, let's not get ahead of ourselves here). It's well worth the money... end of. Today, I used a general custard recipe and added the vanilla junk after.

The junk that you could throw into this ice cream boggles the mind. Bits of your fave cookie, candy bar, malteezers, fruit mash, chocolate sauce (maybe for on top), caramel... you get the drift. I still like it plain jane. No crap except maybe some dark chocolate sauce... now if only I had a glass of champagne! ;-)

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
makes just under 1 litre of ice cream

1 cup sugar
seeds from 1 vanilla bean
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk
1 tbsp vanilla extract
3 eggs yolks, mixed

In a medium sized pot, mix together the sugar and vanilla seeds. Heat together over medium heat for just a minute or two. Add in the cream, milk and vanilla. Stir well and heat to just under boiling. Remove from the heat for a moment. Take a large spoonful of the custard and add to the yolks. Once the yolks have warmed up a bit from the hot custard, add the yolks all back into the custard. Mix well and heat gently to 170 degrees F if you have a candy thermometer or use the back of the spoon method (You know it's ready when you run your finger through the custard on the back of a spoon and it stays in place with a line in it. No running together)

Sieve the custard into a bowl and cover with some clingfilm (right onto the top of the custard so that it doesn't form a crust). Cool completely for a few hours in the fridge. Churn the cooled custard in an ice cream maker (or by hand I guess) until it's the right consistency. Transfer to a freezer container and freeze the ice cream.
Definitely let this soften for about 7 minutes before scooping and eating.

Back in the saddle

Well, it's back in the saddle - so to speak. It's amazing what 10 days, give or take, will do. It's like you totally forget that you have another life. A mortgage, energy bills, taxes... a job. Everything just is forgotten for a while. You live on another plane. There are only beach excursions, little shopping trips, walks to the sand and picnic, endless time to read and run (if you are me). I felt for a while like the clock stopped. Amazing. And then all that other stuff (called your real life) comes flooding back... work, school, dance classes, piano lessons, day care and all those bills that you forgot about! Sounds depressing but really it isn't. It's just life and there is a simple comfort in that. The routine of it. For me, after having two weeks of meals out or made by my Mother-in-law (God bless her), it means getting back into the kitchen and getting busy.

To be honest, I'm broke. Flat, stupid broke. So, right now it's about how little I can get away with buying for the next week and a half or so. For me that means 'let's hope that I've got something in the freezer' (typically I don't keep that much in there) OR 'we're going vegetarian'. Fortunately, I was wise enough to freeze an organic chicken a while ago and it's frozen self was smiling at me when I opened the freezer door.

My cousin/'sister from another mother' was so kind and generous. I asked her if she might be good enough to bring me a couple of my fave magazines (you all know the ones my peeps - that's right 'Delicious UK' and BBC 'Good Food'. Well, they were all out of those ones at the airport but she brought me 3 others which have been tres cool as well. My being broke right now aside, I seriously have to tell you all that if I lived in the UK I would be seriously broke funding my magazine fetish. There. I said it. Feels good.
This recipe caught my eye 'cause it was on the last page of the Jaime magazine and it looked crazy dope. Here's a pic of it...

So, looked easy and tasty and there it was. I had to make it.

Chicken Tikka Masala (Jaime magazine UK)
serves 4

1 tbsp of mustard seeds
1 tsp cardamom seeds
3 tbsp grated ginger
5 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tbsp of curry leaves (optional)

Once the mustard seeds start to pop (and they will pop - right out of the pot) add:

3 tbsp garam masala
3 tsp cumin
3 tsp coriander
1 tbsp paprika
some chopped chilli's (optional)

Marinade 4 chicken breasts or one chicken in pieces with half of the spice paste. Marinade for at least an hour. Grill the chicken until done.

Fry 1 sliced onion in 1 tbsp of butter. Add to the remaining spice mix. Once they have gently cooked until they are wilted add:

1 small handful of ground cashews or almonds
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 1/2 cups of stock
salt to taste

Simmer to thicken. Add 1 tbsp garam masala and about 1/2 cup of cream. Add in the grilled chicken. Check the taste and adjust as necessary. Serve with Naan or Basmati rice.

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St Michael's Choir School is celebrating it's 75th anniversary year of service to St Michael's Cathedral. Part of the school celebration is a trip to Italy where our boys from Grades 5 - 12 will be performing and celebrating Mass. This blog will be chronicling our adventures. Wanda Thorne is the Vocal Coach at St Michael's Choir School. Gerard Lewis is the Grade 7/8 Homeroom teacher at the Choir School.

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Wanda Thorne
St Michael's Choir School is celebrating it's 75th anniversary year of service to St Michael's Cathedral. Part of the school celebration is a trip to Italy where our boys from Grades 5 - 12 will be performing and celebrating Mass. This blog will be chronicling our adventures. Wanda Thorne is the Vocal Coach at St Michael's Choir School. Gerard Lewis is the Grade 7/8 Homeroom teacher at the Choir School.
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