Friday, February 26, 2016

Recipe for Change -30 chefs serve up good things

3 HOURS -30 CHEFS - 1 CAUSE

RECIPE FOR CHANGE for FOOD SHARE

It's a great thing when you get to attend a "PARTY FOR THE FUTURE OF FOOD" and it turns out to be a fantastic event that does a whole lot of good things for our local communities at the same time.

On February 25th, 2016 I attended Recipe for Change at the Temporary St. Lawrence Market Tent downtown for an event that raises funds for the Food Share charity by bringing 30 Chefs, Wineries, Breweries and other vendors together for a great feast of delicious food and drink.
FoodShare supports Food Literacy in schools with programs that include: Student Nutrition, Field to Table Schools, School Grown, Good Food Cafe, and Bulk Fresh Produce for Schools and Community Groups.

149,000 students enjoyed a healthy meal daily through 700 universal Student Nutrition Programs delivered in partnership with school boards and community agencies. I could go on about how many great things they do but I would prefer that you look into this great organization and become involved.  

A lot of local chefs and even some international ones love to support this charity and a few bloggers including myself like to as well.

DaiLo Chef Nick Liu
Pig Mac Bun
This great well run event was curated by a fellow food writer friend Mary Luz Mejia who really knows who the great chefs in Toronto are and brought some of these big hearted chefs and vendors to Recipe for Change.

Here's the other thing.  If you have read my blog you know that I really pay attention to how events flow and are run.  This one was top notch.  Details really made the difference.  The check in desk right at the entrance and a coat check beside it and on the other side you could pick up glasses and cutlery.  Ok check in.. hang coat, get utensils..ready...go..


My fellow food bloggers and I got there as soon as it opened up to us ready to snap away at everything before the crowds arrived.  We had a chance to chat with the chefs and vendors busy getting their food ready. As you can see from this photo we were the first ones there.  What you can also see is how nicely laid out it was with the cocktail tables in a row and on the other side there were a few tables and chairs.  This meant that you could pick up your food and drink and actually place it down on a table and eat it while strolling through.  Nothing worse than trying to juggle food and beverages while being bumped as people try and squeeze by.  The flow was fantastic.  The vendors displays were fantastic.  The food was fresh and hot. Sometimes not the case.  And the biggest difference that I noticed was the fantastic volunteers who literally came by and picked up the disposable plates as soon as you were done eating which left the place clean and comfortable.  I have been at so many events and even volunteer coordinated ones where the volunteers didn't step up to do this and garbages were overflowing making the event a total mess.  Not this one.  Thank you Volunteers I noticed.

The participating vendors included: DaiLo, Collette Grand Bistro, Biff's Bistro, Pork Ninjas BBQ, Cocina Espanola, Carmen, Mata Petisco Bar, Pizzeria Libretto, Hooked Inc., The Good Earth Cooking School & Winery, Lamesa Restaurant, Santo Pecado, Sweet Sammies, Soma chocolatemakers, Succulent Sweets and the Tempered Room.   VQA wine vendors like Southbrook Farms and Crema Coffee Co,  Propellor Coffee and more.

The food was fantastic and I tried really hard to try everything but I just couldn't eat it all.  There were a few things that I would have loved to go back for seconds if I had more room in my belly.


Pictured (l to r) : Joao Medina, Succulent chocolate, Hooked Inc, Beau Brewing Co., Sweet Sammies Choux with ice cream, Carmen tacos, Soma chocolates, Hooked French Kiss Oysters, Southbrook Vineyards Seriously Cool Wines, Santo Pecado Pork Pibil salbutes, Mata Bar Chicken croquettes, Lamesa's Coconut Pork Adobo on a shrimp cracker, Propellor Coffee Cappuccino, The Good Earth Smoked Beef shortrib tostados, Biff's Chermoula braised lamb.

The first thing I tried but have had before was Mata's Chicken croquettes which are mind blowing good.  I also loved Lamesa's Pork on a shrimp cracker and Santo Pecado's Pork Pibils and Hooked extremely fresh tasting oysters a highlight for sure.  I could only get as far as Sweet Sammies choux ice cream and Somas chocolates before I was full but I have to say that I had the best coffee I have had in a very long time with Propellor's Cappuccino.   I can't speak about the beer and wine but I thought it was cool to see Southbrook Vineyards launch of their Seriously Cool new wines that will be available at the LCBO next week.  The label is so pretty that it would make a great hostess gift.
I will leave the beer and wine reviews to my fellow bloggers.  

Oh and the fun thing in the back corner that I also loved was this great backdrop sponsored by Tangerine with some fun props and the other thing probably I am the only one that noticed was that it was lit properly to make everyone look good and the fact that there was a professional photographer there to take out photos instead of people spending 20 minutes trying to take a decent selfie they got a proper photo at the event that they could pick up in a frame on the way out.  I really loved this and the photo turned out fantastic as you can see.

Mary Tang, Vicki Cheung, Natalie Gomes and me.
It was also great to see a familiar face serving up some great food.  Fellow food writer Andrea Toole with her partner owner of Pork Ninja BBQ serving up some straight up BBQ love.


For more info on the event and Food Share please visit www.foodshare.net/recipeforchange
Follow along and see photos from the event using the hashtag #RFC16 
@FoodShareTO 
Tickets for the event were $150 so save your $$ for next years event. Your money will be well spent.

There was also a silent auction to raise funds with some amazing items.  
If you would like to make a donation to keep them going feel free to contact them at 416-363-6441.


Monday, February 8, 2016

Valentine's Day Recipes for your Chocoholic Sweetheart



Now that the Superbowl is over it's time to pay more attention to your Sweatheart.  It is the month of Love and one of the highest months of consumption of chocolate besides Halloween and Mother's Day.  So how about taking chocolate up to the next level and cook with it instead of just buying it and giving it away.  Yes it's more work but it will earn you Big "Brownie" points with your sweetheart.

I was asked by Green & Black's Chocolate to make a meal that was created by a fellow blogger but I decided to whip up my own recipes instead.  This is what I came up with.
I wanted to participate in this because I like that Green & Black's is high quality Fair Trade and Organic and they taste amazing with some great flavours.  I received the Burnt Toffee, Ginger, Maya Gold and the Dark Chocolate to make these recipes.  I made an appetizer, main and dessert.  Although the appetizer is probably more of a dessert but it's Valentine's Day...eat 2 desserts the chocolate is good for you.


Ginger Chocolate Walnut, Ricotta in a Filo Bowl with a Blood Orange Glaze

I  came up with this Filo Ricotta recipe because I thought of what I had on hand and what pairings would go well with Ginger Chocolate.  This is a bit of a re constructed Cannoli with the flavours but not in presentation or form.

Ingredients:

3 squares of Green & Black's Ginger Chocolate
1 small container of Ricotta cheese get the smooth one.
1 pkg of filo pastry
1 tbsp walnuts (optional)
2 blood oranges
1/2 cup melted butter
1 tbsp honey

Directions:

Roll out a defrosted package of filo pastry on a baking sheet and cover with a damp tea towel to keep it from drying out while you prepare the filling.

The filling:  Grate 2 squares or as much as desired into the Ricotta cheese using a microplane grater.  Add the zest of 1 or 2 blood oranges depending on the size of them.  Add a teaspoon of honey and a half a tablespoon of crushed walnuts.  Mix well.

Assemble the filo sheets by brushing one sheet of filo with melted butter and then adding another sheet on top then brush butter on top and fold over.  Cut 2-4 squares depending on how big you want to make them or how many people you want to serve.  I suggest that you add a half a tablespoon in the middle of one of the squares and then wrap it up like a parcel.  I made mine in a ramekin and then took them out and baked them further but they turn out better when cooked on a cookie sheet so you can pull the filo up and twist the top to make a presentation parcel.   Bake in the oven at 375 degrees until it browns on the edges and gets crispy.  Maybe about 10-15 minutes.  keep checking because they can burn easily.

In a little pot add the juice of the blood oranges and the remaining honey and reduce until it turns into a syrup consistency.  You can add more sugar or honey if you like it sweeter.  This is the glaze.

Take the filo out of the oven and place one on a large plate and drizzle the glaze on the plate in a heart shape or however you want to decorate it.  Leave a bit to drizzle on top of the pastry.  Top with crushed walnuts and add a square of the Ginger Chocolate on top or you can grate it or add shavings to decorate.  That's it and it tastes delicious.

Chicken with a Mole sauce and spicy black beans and rice

This is my version of a Mole.  I am no expert in Mexican food so I looked at a few recipes and did it my own way.  I omitted the tortillas that I saw in different recipes and I couldn't get all of the chili's suggested but this tasted good so it worked for me.

Ingredients:

Mole:
2 Mulato dried chilies
2 Ancho dried chilies
1 Chipotle dried chili
3 tomatillos
1 large onion
3 cloves of garlic
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 tablespoon of raisins
1/2 cup of almonds
1 box of chicken stock
1 tsp of cumin
1/3 of a bar of Maya Gold Green and Black's Chocolate

Directions:

Soak the dried chilies in boiling water for about a 20 minutes or until soft. Cover completely with water and set aside.

Take the outer coating off the tomatillos and the onion and cut in half and place on a baking try and broil in the oven until they char or bbq them if you can.

In a blender add the soaked chillies and the soaking liquid but make sure you have pulled out the stems and leave any seeds that remain at the bottom.  Add the charred onions and tomatillos to the blender and the raisins and almonds and garlic.  Blend until smooth and add chicken stock until you get the consistency of a thick sauce.  Pour into a stock pot and add the cumin and cinnamon and simmer for about 15 minutes and add the chocolate in the last 5 minutes of cooking to melt and blend into the sauce.

I pan fried chicken breast and added the Mole sauce on top but you can certainly pour the mole sauce in the pan with the chicken and cook it with it to permeate the chicken.

I served it with rice and Spicy Black beans.  You might want to make a salsa type of salad if you want something lighter.  I won't bother with the Black bean recipe but just to say that I cooked dried beans in chicken stock and added chilies and other spices.

I garnished with cilantro and cut hearts out of red peppers.   You can get creative here if you like.

 Burnt Toffee Chocolate Mousse 

I am not going to provide the Mousse recipe that I made because I wasn't happy with the consistency.  It was too grainy and not light.  I wanted to make my mom's version but I haven't had it in over 10 years and couldn't remember exactly how she did it.   Let's just say you use eggs, whip cream, chocolate and butter to make it.  I have made a mousse recipe in the past that turned out better than this and I made try and work on this to see if I can get it closer to my mom's version.   I used the Burnt Toffee chocolate which tasted great but I would probably recommend this for the filo pastry recipe more than a mouse because there are the bits of toffee so it isn't as smooth.  I wanted to use the Blood Orange Chocolate but it wasn't available.  I also used some of the Dark chocolate with this which I would recommend and add some brandy to really enhance the flavour.  My mom added Brandy, that's the part I remember.

Some of these are labour intensive and the Mole has a bunch more ingredients for the traditional version but I wanted to give you ideas of creating a Valentine's Day Dinner for someone you Love.  You can make it for yourself if you don't have a sweetheart.  I ate this all by myself and enjoyed it.

Dark chocolate has a lot of health benefits so it's a great thing to cook with and you can experiment.  Chocolate is great in a BBQ rub too and then there is always Hot Chocolate or Smores.

Get in the Kitchen and Get Creative with Chocolate.  Your sweety will LOVE you for it.

Green and Black's was established in 1991 in England and has become a world leader in Organic fair trade chocolate.

for more info:  www.greenandblacks.co.uk  & www.facebook.com/GreenandBlacksCanada


Disclaimer:  Green and Black's chocolate was provided but the recipes and opinions are my own.

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