Wednesday, March 24, 2010

May All Your Days Be Filled With Pie

There is something about warm mid morning light that affects me like nothing else.  The second I sense it's presence my chin tilts upwards, my eyes start to close and the biggest most satisfied grin you could imagine begins to cross my face.  I can't help but feel a calm come over me in these moments.  I often have to fight the urge to curl up in a puddle of light and stay there until it fades (except for on weekends when I'm allowed to be a slacker).  I find that great food can have the same effect on me.  The moment a dish makes its appearance at the table the anticipation of flavor and texture can have the same effect on me as when the light slowly begins to sweep across my face.  When I take my first bite, it's like the sun hitting me full in the face with it's gentle, warming rays.  Calming, soothing, comforting, pure bliss.
One of the foods that can, without fail, turn any day into a sunny day for me is lemon meringue pie. It's one of my ultimate comfort foods.  My Bubbie (which is what I call my grandmother) is the queen of lemon meringue.  As a kid, she used to make it for my dad. Once my love of her pie, I think, exceeded his, she began making it for me.  Recently, a friend of mine commissioned me to make dessert for her boyfriend's birthday.  Now this, in itself, was an exciting moment.  My first commission!  Completely unprompted and unsolicited. AMAZING!  After some chatting and serious convincing on my behalf, that she had not asked for too much and that I would be thrilled to make something for her, we settled on lemon meringue pie.  That afternoon, at lunch with my mother, I proudly proclaimed that I had been commissioned to make my first pie.  I also may have kinda, sorta made it sound like it was no biggie and I could whip it together in ten minutes.  To which my mom replied: "great! then while you're at it you can make a second one for dinner at Bubbie's on friday."  Whoops... I had instantly doubled my work load.  For those of you who have not delved into the world of scratch pies, FYI, they do not take ten minutes.  I had a busy week ahead and two pies to bake.  One was for pay and the other would be judged by the high priestess of lemon meringue, my Bubbie.  The pressure was on.  Pie day finally arrived.  I had a few tense moments while working on the cooked sugar stabilizer for my meringue and assembling everything while still piping hot, and to my utter relief all went smoothly.  My friends were thrilled and said they loved the pie (thanks again guys!).  Then came my proudest moment.  After very thoughtfully tasting my pie, and questioning the authenticity of my filling, my Bubbie didn't have a single bit of "constructive criticism" for me.  Nothing.  Trust me she tried.  I had passed the test.  SUCCESS!

Here are the photos of my lemon meringue pie doused in some of the most beautiful light I have had the pleasure of playing in recently.  I wish I had some shots of the pie's golden insides to share with you, but I'm pretty sure people frown upon receiving a birthday pie that's missing a slice, and the second pie didn't stand a chance once it hit the table.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Little Treasures

I have to start this blog post off with a BIG thank you to Chef Jason Bangerter, of Auberge du Pommier, for so generously sharing his discovery of finger limes with me.  "Finger limes?" you ask.  Well, so did I.  Let me take you back to mid last week:  I am a recently self-diagnosed Twitter-aholic and in this case my addiction has brought me all things new and exciting.  I noticed a post about said 'finger limes' beside a note about their caviar-like flesh.  Limes that look like caviar!! What??  I was instantly hooked and utterly intrigued.  I had to know more and NEEDED to photograph them.  Turns out these lovelies are from Australia, are teeny tiny (roughly the size of a small thai chili), and have flesh that looks, feels, and pops in your mouth just like pleasantly mellow, lime-y flavored caviar.  After seeing Chef Bangerter's post, I immediately contacted him to find out where I could get my hands on them.  As it turned out, he was pretty sure that he had the only ones in Toronto BUT he offered me a couple from his personal stash.  I was delighted! and spent the rest of the day skipping around in my head, to avoid the inevitable embarrassment of actually skipping around downtown Toronto, of course.  Once in my possession, I put off shooting these little gems for a few days, as I only had a few and was nervous about cutting into them.  When I finally gathered up my courage and picked up my knife it turned out that there was nothing to be afraid of.  All I had to do was slice them in half and give them a gentle squeeze, they willingly spilled their jewel-like secret for me.

Without further delay, here they are in all their glory:

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Stop

A couple weeks ago, I was lucky enough to join The Stop Community Food Centre to photograph one of their Food For Change Dinner Series' where Chef Chris Brown whips up five stunning courses each accompanied by a selected wine.  This is just one of the many fantastic events that The Stop puts on, in order to help support their busy initiative (just to name a few: 'community kitchens and gardens, cooking classes, drop-in meals, peri-natal support, a food bank', and the list goes on).  As rewarding and fun as it is for me to shoot and eat at the same time (honestly, no sarcasm here, I really do love it!) I suspect that most of you would prefer to attend as guests and eat your food while it's still hot.  I highly recommend giving it a try, I can't imagine anyone being disappointed.   While you're at it check out the Stop For Food event taking place right now, from March 1st to 31st.  This event is much like winterlicious but instead of being sponsored by a credit card company, a portion of the funds for every meal sold will go directly to The Stop.  Eating great food while simultaneously helping to raise money for a phenomenal organization, what could be more rewarding?
Okay, now that we've got the serious stuff out of the way, let's talk food.
On the menu we had (the photos below are in order from left to right):
1. Pan-seared paneer (The Stop's in house cheese) over braised cabbage, mustard greens and topped with a bacon vinaigrette.
2. Soup and Sandwich - Toasted brioche with beef cheek pastrami and a rich mushroom broth.  Let me just take a moment to RAVE about this one!  Chris' pastrami was so unbelievably tender and flavorful that it literally melted the second it touched my tongue - might I point out that I ate it two weeks ago and I'm still salivating.
3.  Poached local turnip with sauteed green house mushrooms and carrot balls, topped with honey and black truffles.
4. Woodfire-roasted halibut with scrambled cauliflower and a white wine parsley sauce. 
5. Lemon trio.  All three were delicious, but if I had to pick a favorite it would hands down be the lemon meringue with it's pillow-y, almost marshmallow-y top (I have a weak spot for all things lemon-y and meringue-y).

What a fantastic meal!
I think it might be time for lunch.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Still There?

Hello again... remember me?  I'm your friendly neighborhood blogger who is absolutely delinquent when it actually comes to blogging.  Turns out that maintaining a blog while keeping up with life is quite the challenge.  You read it here first: I pledge to rise to the challenge and not back down... I will catch up on my blogging even if it kills me.  (How's that for a touch of drama in your day?)
Anyway... moving on.  I have been quite the busy bee lately.  I shot some wonderfully tasty food for a fantastic organization,  The Stop Community Food Centre.  I'm just about done organizing the images, so look for those, and more on The Stop this week.  Last week was a great one for baked goods!  I made a variety of items that were, in some cases shockingly successful (I'll fill you in on those as the week goes on).  Now for some easy monday morning reading.  Sit back and enjoy as I walk you through last week's baking class.  On Monday, we learned how to make soft rolls.  The rolls start off with the most pillow-y, delicate dough that almost feels as if it's breathing when you gently kneed it.  Heaven!  I found making the actual dough quite simple, but forming the rolls was a whole other ball game.  Once the dough is mixed, proofed and cut into even pieces, you must, with brute strength and a delicate touch, begin rapidly moving the the dough in a circular motion between the counter top and the palm of your hand.  Once you figure out just the right amount of pressure needed, the balls form quite quickly.  You can feel the instant that they come together, almost magically, under the palm of your hand.  Forming rolls is a tiring exercise but well worth the exertion.  Even the chef was wincing by the end of her batch.  Although, she was double fisting them and gave a performance worthy of the Harlem Globe Trotters...impressive.  My roll making class yielded one loaf of cheesy monkey bread, one small braided cheese loaf and about eighteen small rolls, some knotted and some left round.  My topping of choice - salt and chili flakes.  Yum.