Winter is back. Might as well celebrate it and take a gastronomical trip to Austria while the snow falls to the ground. Austria, also known as the "Eastern Kingdom", is a European mountainous country known for being located in the Alps. Being completely landlocked, Austria is surrounded by eight other countries including Germany, Italy, and Switzerland. The cultures and cuisines of Austria are inevitably influenced not only by its altitude and climate, but also by its neighbours.
You may be familiar with a few of Austria's beverages such as schnaaps, bocks or coffees, and you may be familiar with some of her savoury dishes such as wiener schnitzel, but Austria is also credited for several famous desserts, too. Flaky apple strudel and Viennese Chocolate Sachertorte (with the scripted 'Sacher' garnish) are probably the most recognized sweets. My personal favourite, the Linzertorte, is the inspiration for the recipe I'm sharing today - Linzer Cookies.
Put away the snow shovel and preheat the oven - it's time to do some baking.
Art, culture, and food are very closely related. Sometimes they are so intertwined we can't know for sure if life is imitating art, or art is imitating life. Having viewed Carl Warner's 'Foodscapes', I feel his works are definite examples that could be categorized as both.
Elgin Harvest wants to know: What's your favourite cooking tool?
In all of our kitchens, we have cupboards, shelves, counters, pantries, and drawers filled with tools and equipment that we feel are essential to successful cooking. Some get used more than others (bread maker, anyone?).
From smokers, pasta rollers, egg slicers, and lean mean grilling machines, to grandma's cast iron pan and a $90 pepper mill, what tool or small appliance is a must-have in your kitchen and why?
Is it practical? Does it have sentimental value? Was it in an incredible bargain?
Anyone who enjoys fine food and drink understands it takes time (and skill!) to develop flavour. The depth, complexity, and value of quality food and drink cannot be created in an instant. It's not found at the drive-thru and you won't find it in anything super-sized. I'm not just talking about aged wine, steak, or cheeses either. Even 'simplistic' food such as a ripe, juicy peach or a four-ingredient loaf of bread requires someone to tend the soil or knead the dough.
The ingredients in a great dish are important to the overall quality of a finished product, but equally important are the preparation methods. Farm fresh eggs will feel like rubber and smell like sulfur if you boil them for twenty minutes- no matter if you just made the most perfect Hollandaise sauce ever. Pie pastry needs to rest before rolling- even if you hand-milled the flour yourself from an heirloom variety of wheat grown using sustainable and organic practices.
Good food takes time!
With this knowledge, it was hard to contain my excitement and curiosity when I decided to attempt the preparation of kimchi, a Korean fermented vegetable sidedish/condiment. Two weeks minimum before it begins to taste "good"? No fancy equipment required? Full of bacteria, flavour and pro-biotics? More fermentation preservation? Sounds delicious to me. I'm sure it will be worth the wait, I told myself.
Now, is it ready yet?
My love has not wavered since I first cast my eyes on you in the thrift store. Tall, dark, and handsome. Mysterious and alluding. You were well built and I couldn't ignore the feelings of need and passion that were evoked when I wrapped my arm around you and held you dear. How could somebody just throw you away?
Now that I have you I can't stop thinking about you. I dream about our future together and all the dinners we will share. Can we make this work? Is it worth the risk? Are things getting too hot? Is there too much pressure? So many questions and uncertainties. But I must confess and I think it's all too fitting that I share my true emotions on Valentine's Day.
Pressure cooker: I think I love you.
There is still plenty of room in my heart for more cookies. Or brownies. Or both. Inspired from Thomas Keller's Bouchon Bakery cookbook (available at Amazon.com) and my new love, Mr. Pinterest, Oreo cookies from a bag will never measure up to my standards after enjoying these treats. Forget the double-stuffed, but keep the glass of cold milk. And when a cookie just won't do, bake them in a brownie for the ultimate sin. Skip the palm oil, bleached flours and artificial flavours and make the whole thing from scratch.
I might be exaggerating. Maybe love is too strong of a word. I'm certainly no less than amazed though. It's still very early in our relationship - you might call it the honeymoon phase - but I'm willing to say this might be the one. I'm learning more about myself as I learn more about you. I get butterflies in my stomach when I'm around you. You bring such intensity to my life and every time we part I think about the next time we can re-meet.
Yes, it's a pressure cooker. And it's awesome. I admit the butterflies in my stomach might be caused more by the fear of an explosion than an emotional attachment, but there is plenty of intensity and I am learning new techniques.
When I think of a pressure cooker, I can't help but remember the gigantic pot with the dancing cap 'chicka-chicka-chicka' simmering away on my mothers stove top. There are no shortage of pressure cooker horror stories either. (Exploding beans, steam burns, and charred remains sticking to the bottom of the pot, just to name a few.) The odds of these incidents happening are rare now-a-days as newer pressure cookers have come along way in the past few decades. Not only do they have multiple fail-safe features, there are also several new cookbooks and updated recipes being published to use with this new generation of cookers. They are quieter, versatile, and very affordable.
No matter what you call today, be it Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras, it's Pancakes for Dinner day at my house. For a little bit of colourful fun and a whole lot more flavour, try these almond pancakes with bananas and pomegranate. You're more than welcome to skip the honeyed yogurt sauce, but I prefer the tanginess over maple syrup in this version of hot cakes.
Almond Pancakes with Bananas & Pomegranates
Makes 16 four-inch pancakes
To make almond or oat flour, grind the whole grains and nuts in a coffee grinder with a little bit of wheat flour in small batches. Just make sure you clean the grinder out before AND after you use it.
1/3 c almond flour
1/3 c oat flour
1 1/3 c pastry flour
2 1/2 T brown sugar
1 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t kosher salt
1 c buttermilk
2 eggs, separated
1 t grated lemon zest or 1 t pure vanilla extract
2 T melted butter for frying
Yogurt Sauce and Garnish
1 c plain yogurt
2 T honey or maple syrup
1 T lemon juice (optional)
Sliced bananas, pomegranate seeds, blueberries or other fresh fruit to top
Since uploading my picture and idea to create rainbow heart sugar cookies decorated with Jell-O icing (used to both colour AND flavour the icing), the picture has been shared across the internet. Reddit, Facebook, Pinterest, and other blogs are using my picture and sharing the idea. I'm happy to share, but please don't edit my picture or remove the website address from the bottom. Also, if you do share the picture, please give Elgin Harvest the credit. Copyright applies to all creative intellectual property whether it has a little c in a circle or not. Just because you found it on the internet doesn't mean you can use it wherever you like. If you are sharing this image on your commercial page, it's best to ask permission first.
If you would like to share this picture on Facebook, here is my post- share away.
If you would like to share this picture on Pinterest, here is my pin- pin away.
There are also share options at the bottom of the page.
That being said, many people have shared the picture but didn't give instructions on how to prepare the icing. Yes, it is basically white icing (powdered sugar and water) mixed with a little bit of jelly crystals. Keep reading for detailed instructions on how to prepare the icing, make a batch of sugar cookies (FROM SCRATCH) and decorate your cookies for Valentine's Day (or any other day).
There were a few gloriously warm days a week or two ago. With this break from the cold and snow, I did what I think many other green-thumbs did -- went out into the backyard to survey the gardens. Lo and behold -- fresh cilantro!
Eating. Drinking. Sharing.