For 30 years, The Cookbook Store has been a unique facet in Toronto’s food community, attracting both rare books and world-class authors to the city. Since opening its doors, The Cookbook Store has been host to authors like Gordon Ramsay, Thomas Keller and Ferran Adria. In fact, many cookbook authors don’t take a step without first consulting the store’s irreplaceable manager, Alison Fryer.
But the most important thing that The Cookbook Store has provided is a forum for Toronto’s food lovers to express creative and different ideas. After 30 years, it’s still a great place to listen, discuss and foster a love of food and cooking.
On Saturday, April 6th, The Cookbook Store has invited everyone to have a snack, meet authors, chat and celebrate the store’s 30th anniversary.
By: Kristen Eppich
When it comes to olive oil, it truly is a matter of taste. Much like wine and scotch, the terroir of an olive tree is as much a part of the oil it produces as the grape or barley. Along with its unique flavour, olive oil is considered a very healthy alternative to other oils. High in monounsaturated fats (or the “good fat”), loaded with antioxidants and containing anti-inflammatory agents, it’s one of nature’s gifts for us to consume.
From a cook’s perspective, it’s important to understand the flavour profiles of a product, and the ways it can contribute to the overall success (or failure) of a dish. Here are some factors to consider when making your next olive oil purchase:
The difference in quality
The most common olive oils available to consumers are extra virgin, virgin and olive oil. For an olive oil to be classified as extra virgin, it must be obtained by minimal steps and intervention. Simply, the stages are picking, washing, decanting, centrifugation (or pressing) and filtration. During either the centrifuge (modern) or pressing (traditional) method, the entire fruit, including the stones, is crushed into a paste. The oil is then extracted from the paste. After extraction, olive oils are classified based on percentage oleic acid as well as flavour properties and other characteristics.
At the top, extra virgin olive oil is the highest quality olive oil, with the best flavour profile and no flavour defects. Next is virgin olive oil, which will have a slightly higher percentage of oleic acid and is classified to have good taste, but slightly below that of extra virgin. And finally we have olive oill -- a combination of virgin oils, and refined oils (oils which have been treated to remove flavour defects).
It is important to note that while colour does not influence olive oil quality, many subtle differences in the production process do. Even the type of olive will naturally be distinguishable from other varietals.
Olives that are picked for processing in the early, “greener” stage will often have more ‘grassy’ characteristics, with hints of tomato or artichoke. Olives harvested later in there ripening can tend to be softer, more buttery with floral notes. On top of that, growing conditions (climate, soil type), the method in which it was picked (hand picked vs. machine picked) and storage conditions also impact the flavour.
All these factors result in a broad specturm of characteristics, yet the olive oil flavour profile is mostly classified under the characteristics of fruitiness, bitterness and pungency:
1. Fruitiness - the first characteristic to be detected by both aroma and the initial tasting on the tongue. As you move the olive oil over your tongue, bitterness will be next.
2. Bitterness - some oils are exceptionally bitter – making them exceptionally delicious to some! Although sometimes confused as a flavour defect, but that is not the case when it comes to olive oil (flavour defects include a musty, moldy or flat flavour).
3. Pungency is the final characteristic which you will sense as a peppery sensation in your throat when you swallow.
The ideal olive oil is said to find the perfect harmony of all three of these attributes. However, it ultimately comes down to personal preference.
Choosing your oil
The two most important things to know when choosing an olive oil are what you intend to use if for, as well as your own palate. Some prefer (and some dishes call for) distinctly bitter oils, while others opt for lighter, fruitier ones. Here are some extra tips:
Do a taste test in order to make the right choices and spend your money wisely. Visit a local purveyor of olive oil and taste several. Notice the different characteristics and see what you like. There is no perfect olive oil…it truly is in the eyes (or tongue) of the taster.
You be the judge for an every-day olive oil. There are many good-quality, reasonably priced extra-virgin olive oils available. Extra-virgin olive oil is actually great for frying, but has a smoke point of 410 F. Although lacking the flavour profile, you can use olive oil (refined and virgin blend) if you plan to cook at exceptionally high temperatures.
Treat yourself and purchase some high quality extra-virgin olive oil for special occasions or as an accent drizzle. Remember to purchase in small amounts and store in a cool dark place as they will expire. Finally, consume these oils raw, since they are meant to be enjoyed in their natural state!
Click here for a review on a few mouth-watering olive-inspired dishes from Canoe's Chef de Cuisine, John Horne
There are few things more satisfying than the aroma of a stew bubbling gently in the oven. The most soothing of foods, stews are also one of the easiest to prepare. Plus, they freeze well, reheat beautifully and are even better after a couple of days. Braising and stewing are interchangeable terms; both mean long, slow cooking in liquid, usually in the oven, to ensure even heat. The result is rich, saucy and tender. The quintessential peasant food – the rich got the best cuts and roasted them, the poor ended up with the tough ones – stews are a staple in all cultures. Today, stews are considered comfort food at its finest.
This Beef a la Provençal recipe similar to beef bourguignon, the classic beef stew cooked in red wine. It parts company with tradition when the garnish is whole cooked cloves of garlic and firm green olives instead of onions and mushrooms. Cook it the day before so that you can skim the fat. (The flavours deepen with the extra time as well.)
The best cuts for stewing are the tougher ones, which have more flavour and texture than tender cuts. A long, slow cooking in liquid makes them tender and tasty. More expensive meat does not mean better stews (tender cuts will dry out more easily). The best cuts for stewing are beef chuck, shoulder, shanks, brisket and short ribs; veal shoulder and breast; pork shoulder; lamb shoulder, shank and breast.
Choose the right pot. Too large a pot and the gravy will evaporate too quickly; too small and the meat will cook unevenly. Cubed stewing meat should be arranged in two layers, while one piece of meat should fit snugly inside the pot. A Dutch oven is perfect for braising as it goes from the top of the stove into the oven. If you don't have a Dutch oven, start in a skillet and transfer to an ovenproof casserole for baking.
Pat the meat dry with paper towels so that the cooking oil does not spatter. Trim off most of the fat from the meat and cut the meat into uniform pieces for even cooking. Vegetables should also be cut to uniform size.
Heat a film of vegetable or olive oil on high heat until smoking, salt and pepper the meat and add a few pieces at a time. Don't crowd the pot while browning – the heat will be lowered, causing the meat to release its juices and produce steam, resulting in a greyish, flat stew.
Remove the meat with a slotted spoon and reserve. If all the oil has been soaked up, add more and reheat before continuing to brown.
After the meat is browned, lower the heat to medium and add aromatic vegetables and herbs to the pot to sauté. Add liquid, making sure there is enough to come halfway up the meat. Do not immerse the meat totally in liquid, or the gravy will be thin and tasteless.
Liquid can vary from beef stock to tomato juice to wine. Different liquids give different flavoured gravies. Don't use water – it makes weak gravy.
There are various methods of thickening stews, such as adding flour to the oil after the vegetables are browned and cooked until pale gold. Arrowroot or potato starch can be mixed together with water, then stirred into the stew when it is finished cooking.
Other methods include boiling down the stewing liquid to thicken naturally, which works well if you have a low-sodium or homemade stock to control the salt. And finally by puréeing the original vegetables cooked with the meat, then stirring back into the liquid.
Use gentle heat to cook the meat slowly; 300 F to 325 F is perfect for stews. Turning the heat up will not make the stew cook more quickly, and it will toughen the fibres of the meat. You'll know the meat is cooked when it can be pierced with a fork – usually about 2½ to three hours for beef, 1½ to two hours for lamb and pork.
Vegetables such as potatoes, carrots and whole pearl onions can be added about 45 minutes before the meat is cooked. More tender vegetables such as zucchini, cabbage, mushrooms or peas are added about 15 minutes before the end of cooking time.
How to set a buffet table is a written in stone kind of procedure. Here are a few rules that make it easier for your guests.
The first step is to understand how people walk a table and make sure that what they need is on hand.
Don't jam a table in front of a wall. Have it int he middle of a room to allow guests to walk around it. Better traffic flow.
Plates go at one end of the table where the food line up starts. Forks, knives and napkins go at the other end so that you are not carrying them around as you pick up your food. Food starts with the main dish and accompanying sauce if there is one. It then goes on to salads or side dishes. Your cutlery and bread is on the end as well as butter if you are using it. If there are condiments for certain dishes make sure they are right beside them.
Use serving spoons or tongs that make it easy for people to pick up the food.
Don't put out large platters of hot food unless you have a way to keep it warm. Use smaller platters and refill
Drinks are always in another place so that you have your food and napkin before you pick up your drink. It is all for easier handling.
If you have extra tables set them up throughout the house for people to sit. Even upstairs is fine if you are cramped for space. Buffets are much more fun when you actually have a place to put your plate.
I bought a couple of 6 foot folding tables plus cheap folding chairs at one of the box stores and these are wonderful for cramming in about 10 people a table.
Clear the table before dessert then place desserts and plates on one end and coffee and tea on the other. I prefer white mugs as they are easier to handle than cups and saucers but that is a personal choice. Offer both milk and cream and a nice touch is to have brown coffee sugar and granulated for tea. Place more napkins here because everyone has lost their napkins by now – pretty paper is acceptable.
When I was at the Cordon Bleu they always suggested height on a buffet table for the best presentation. If you want to do that then pick your serving dishes first; place books on the table at various heights and throw over the buffet cloth. Play around with the book heights until you get the look you want making sure that the serving dishes will fit securely on top. It looks spectacular. I think flowers are wasted on a buffet table but if you want them then make them low. I prefer to use votives if I want candles because candlesticks may get knocked over.
With barbecue season on the horizon, here are my top tips to get the best from your grill this summer:
- Season meat with salt and pepper before you grill. It improves the taste. You don't need marinades and rubs when you grill top-quality meat, unless you want to give it an international taste such as Indian or Asian. Lesser quality or tougher meats need something to help break down the fibres and it can be as simple as a salad dressing or an herbal mixture with a base of mustard or a citrus.
- With a gas grill, generally grill with the lid down.
- With larger cuts of meat, turn off the middle or side burner (depending on the type of barbecue you have), and place the meat on the side that has been turned off.
- Chicken needs a medium to medium-low heat to prevent the skin from burning.
- Whenever you use wood, for planked salmon for example, soak it for 30 minutes to prevent the board going up in flames. Soak wooden skewers, too.
- Metal skewers will cook your kebabs or shrimp more quickly as the metal heats up and will also cook from the inside.
- That old faithful beer-can chicken is the best way to do a whole chicken. Otherwise, butterfly the chicken by removing the backbone and lay flat.
- Anything that can fall between the grates should be done in a basket. Fish baskets are generally too small to fit a whole fish, instead, you can oil the fish and place directly on the grill.
- Preheat grill for 10 minutes before cooking. Make sure racks are pristine to prevent food adhering to grill. Oil everything that will be cooked on the racks to stop sticking.
- Use a spray bottle with water to prevent flare-ups.
- Use a spray bottle with oil to oil grill and to spray ingredients before cooking.
- Don't pierce meat with a fork (the juices will run out). Instead, use tongs or a wide spatula.