Author Archives: saltandserenity

Buzzing About Cold Brewed Coffee

liquid velvet
I arrived at the coffee party a little late in life. I didn’t start drinking it until I was in my late 30’s.   Now I start each day with an extra-hot skim milk latte (made in my beloved Nespresso machine, and no, they’re not paying me to say that!) Up until a few weeks ago I would have told you that I really didn’t like iced coffee at all. It always tasted too bitter to me. But then my daughter was visiting for the weekend and made a pitcher of “Cold Brew” coffee. One sip and I was hooked. So smooth, like drinking liquid velvet. No bitterness at all. In fact it tasted slightly sweet, even though I hadn’t added any sugar.

There’s been quite a bit of buzz going on about “Cold Brew” coffee. It’s not the same thing as iced coffee. We’re talking about a whole different kettle of fish here. Iced coffee is prepared by brewing strong coffee, chilling it and then pouring it over ice. Cold brew is prepared by saturating coarsely ground beans with cold water and then letting it sit at room temperature for 12-24 hours. Then it is strained and served over ice.

In the first instance, heat is doing the work of extracting the flavour from the coffee. In the second instance, time is doing all the work. When time replaces heat, the resulting coffee is much lower in acid and has a natural sweetness and smooth finish. Why does this happen?

If you slip on your lab coat for a minute and join me for a science lesson, I’ll explain.  Coffee is comprised of many chemical compounds. One group of these compounds is known as chlorogenic acids, a key contributor to coffee’s characteristic bitter taste. Chlorogenic acids do not dissolve as well in cold water as they do in hot water, which means that cold brew coffee tastes less acidic. There’s a bit more chemistry involved, but that’s the gist of it.

Feel free to add a bit of milk or cream for a luxurious treat. If you like it sweeter, add a bit of simple syrup, as plain sugar will not dissolve very well in a cold liquid. Simple syrup is basically equal parts of water and white sugar, boiled until the sugar dissolves and then chilled. I always have a jar of it in my fridge. It keeps forever, and you just never know when your sister will stop by with all the fixings for fish tacos and your brother-in-law, an amateur mixologist, will want to whip up a batch of margaritas to drink with the tacos.Cold Brew coffee 2There are several pricey contraptions available on the market for making cold brew coffee, but really, all you need is a large pitcher or mason jar, coffee beans and a grinder (or coarsely ground coffee) and a strainer lined with cheesecloth or a coffee filter. ready to brewGrind the beans coarsely. Finely ground beans lead to a cloudy brew. The ground beans should look like this:coarse grindPlace the beans in a large container and cover with cold water. I like a ratio of 1 1/2 cups of ground coffee: 8 cups cold water. I used a fancy glass pitcher because I knew you were watching.adding cold waterStir the grounds, cover the jar with some plastic wrap and leave it on the counter for 12-24 hours. Strain through cheesecloth or a coffee filter and store, covered, in the fridge. It will keep for up to 2 weeks.

Click here to print recipe for Cold Brew Coffee.

Feel free to add milk, cream or even blend it with vanilla ice cream for an amazing coffee milkshake. adding milk 625 sq

Peach Berry Crisp and the difference between sons and daughters

crisp for 1 625 sqWith summer fruit this perfect, it’s best to not mess with it too much. Keep it simple. I love summerThis has been my go-to crisp topping since scrunchies and shoulder pads were all the rage. I love it on apples in the fall, pears and cranberries in the winter and strawberry and rhubarb in the spring. I always have a bag of the topping stashed in the freezer for a quick dessert.  crisp toppingtopping in food processor 1topping in food processor 2To thicken the juices in the crisp I like to use Minit Tapioca. Depending on the sweetness of the fruit I add between 2-4 tablespoons of sugar. adding minit tapiocacovering with toppingI have made this crisp topping so many times I could practically prepare it in my sleep. But still, you need to pay attention. Here is my cautionary tale of what can happen when you go on auto-pilot in the kitchen.

A few years ago I made the crisp with fall apples and served it after dinner. My children dug in immediately. My daughter took one bite and said, “This is disgusting!!” I looked over at my oldest son. He was diligently shoveling in the apple crisp, but not at his usual alarming speed. With his mouth full he said, in a kind voice, “Well mom, it’s ok, but it’s not as good as usual.” I reached for his spoon and took a bite for myself. I almost choked. My daughter was right, it was horrible. I had been rushing around the kitchen that afternoon, trying to do too many things at once and I guess I wasn’t paying attention. I had mistakenly mixed the apples with salt instead of sugar. And therein lies the difference between sons and daughters. You can always count on your daughter to be brutally honest with you, while your son will soften the truth to protect your feelings!waiting for it to coolWarm from the oven or room temperature, this crisp is a wonderful way to pay homage to summer fruit. share with friends

Click here to print recipe for Peach Berry Crisp.

share with friends 3

Summer Farro Risotto with Corn

single bowl with fork and napkin 625 sqThis is pure summer in a bowl. More accurately, it’s a love letter to corn. If all you’re looking for is a little fling with some boiled corn, slathered with butter and a dash of coarse salt, then this is not the dish for you. This is for someone who is in it for the long haul, willing to make a true commitment to corn.three bowlsEssentially this is a corn risotto, made with farro instead of rice. The simmering liquid is a corn puree which adds the sweetest pure corn flavour imaginable. For crunch, corn kernels, red onion and bell peppers are briefly cooked and then added. The ripest local tomatoes are added for a fresh hit of acidity and verdant basil adds a welcome fragrant note. Some grated parmesan adds richness and salt.

As with any long term relationship, there is some work involved here, and it will get a little bit messy. No getting around it. Chop, dice, sauté, puree, and stir. It’s worth the effort, I promise. ready to cookStart with some of the freshest corn you can find. Cut it off the cob and sauté with some olive oil and finely diced onion.sauteeing cornAdd vegetable stock to the cooked corn and onion and let it simmer until very soft. Then the whole lot gets blended and strained for a velvety corn puree. adding veg stockstraining corn pureeOnce the farro is simmered in vegetable stock and drained, it’s time to roll. And yes, you will need to dirty two more pans. I warned you, corn love is messy.farratto mise en placeTime to introduce the intense corn puree to the farro. Let it all simmer away until hot and creamy.adding corn puree to farro

oval platter 1

Click here to print recipe for Farro Risotto with Corn.

single bowl

 

 

Raspberry Coconut Cornmeal Shortcake

put on the lid 2It’s tough to improve on a classic strawberry shortcake when done well. Crafted from skilled hands, shortcake biscuits are perfectly light and tender, thanks to buttermilk and baking powder, while rich and flaky at the same time, owing to lots of butter.

But when messing with the classics involves the addition of coconut, I sit up and pay attention. I first heard about coconut shortcake from Chef Vivian Howard, on her PBS series, “A Chef’s Life.” She baked the shortcake in small cast iron pans and flavoured the whipped cream with basil, to pair with strawberries. I tried this variation a few weeks ago, at the height of strawberry season, but they disappeared before I could take a picture. Some of my guests loved the basil, others felt like they were eating pesto flavoured whipped cream.

Since we are thick in the middle of raspberry season, I decided to make them again. The coconut in this shortcake comes from 4 sources! Coconut milk, cream of coconut (the stuff they use in making pina coladas), large flakes of coconut and coconut extract. Coconut haters need not read any further. ready to bakeI decided to bake them in my mini Bundt pans because tiny treats are adorable. pouring batterWe let our guests assemble their own. Just slice the cakes and set out a big bowl of berries and some whipped cream.assembly FOpen faced.open facedOr with a lid.put on the lid 625 sqA dusting of icing sugar is always a good idea.let it snow 1let it snow 2These shortcakes are much denser than the traditional, but I loved that about them. Sturdy and bursting with coconut and cornmeal, they are perfect for soaking up all the berry juices and cream.

Click here to print recipe for Raspberry Coconut Cornbread Shortcake.

 

Green and Yellow Beans with Salami Vinaigrette

beans on oval plattergreen and yellow beansI like to think of green beans as the little black dress (LBD) of the vegetable world. Just as versatile as a LBD, green beans can get get dressed in so many different ways. Accessorized with dill, celery and an apple cider vinaigrette, green beans are casual and ready for a backyard BBQ. Adorn them up with blood oranges, hazelnuts and a sherry vinaigrette, and they are perfect for a formal dinner (pearls optional). Tart them up with spicy chiles, almonds and a soy- honey dressing and they are all set for a hot date.

When the baskets at the market are spilling over with green and yellow beans I get very excited. That satisfying sharp snapping sound they make when you break off the ends tells me that these beans are fresh from the field.

Traditionally in North America, veggies have been portrayed as a minor character on the plate, letting meat take center stage. However, chefs around the world are beginning to inspire us to flip that view around. Let vegetables shine on the plate , but use meat sparingly, to add some acidity, richness and fat. This recipe was created by Chef Josh Keeler from Two Boroughs Larder in Charleston, SC.ready to eat 625 sqAs I perused Chef Josh’s recipe, I did a double take reading the instructions. Put the salami in the blender. Really??? Remember that episode of The Chew when host Carla Hall wonders “Can you blend it?” and then proceeds to puree leftover chicken pot pie? Well, blended salami vinaigrette is way better than that. Surprisingly delicious. It adds richness and an unctuous quality to the beans. Let's get started 2The pureed dressing is a rather vibrant orange colour, thanks to the paprika, but don’t let it scare you. Press on!alarming dressing 2

tossing beansI decided to add a touch more salami , crisping up little cubes to use as a sort of meat crouton.crisping up salamiThe first time I made this we added chick peas to the dish to up the protein content. As my sister Bonnie says, “Chick peas make everything better.” For this photo shoot, I left them out.

Click here to print recipe for Green and Yellow Beans with Salami Vinaigrette.

Have some beans