Measure for Measure

Sunday, April 24, 2016

At the Globe Theatre in London, summer 2004
"Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm'd;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature's changing course, untrimm'd:
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st:
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee."

- "Sonnet 18," William Shakespeare

The Globe Theatre
"And, most dear actors, eat no onions or garlic, for we are to utter sweet breath."
- A Midsummer Night's Dream, William Shakespeare

I wanted to post one of Shakespeare's lovely sonnets in honour of the 400th anniversary of his death. But the quote from A Midsummer Night's Dream is more apt, given that it mentions two of my favourite and most versatile ingredients.

Perhaps then, this recipe, which contains both onions and garlic, should be off limits to actors - but I hope the rest of you aren't scared off. The ragout is so good, I loved it the first time I tried it even though I forgot to add the cheese. The next day I sprinkled my leftovers with Parmigiana-Reggiano before heating and it was even better. In short, all's well that ends well.

Mushroom and White Bean Ragout
Note: you can easily cut the recipe in half if you're cooking for two

1 ounce dried mushrooms (preferably porcini)
2 cups boiling (or very hot) water
2 pounds Portobello mushrooms
1 1/2 cups onion, diced
2 Tbsp olive oil
salt to taste
4 garlic cloves, divided
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp fresh rosemary, minced
2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp flour
1/2 to 3/4 cup red wine (white wine is also good)
15-ounce can white beans
15-ounce can diced tomatoes
additional salt to taste
additional fresh rosemary for garnish (optional)
sprinkling of grated Parmigiana-Reggiano cheese for garnish (optional)

Place the dried mushrooms in a heatproof bowl or measuring cup. Add hot water and let the mushrooms soak for 30 minutes. Place a strainer over a bowl and pour mushrooms into the strainer. Squeeze the mushrooms over the strainer until you've squeezed out all the juices. Quickly rinse mushrooms to remove any residual sand. Chop coarsely and set aside. Measure out 1 1/2 cups of the soaking liquid and set aside.

Wipe the Portobello mushrooms with a damp paper towel and cut into slices of 1/2 inch or so. Set aside.

Peel onions, and cut into dice of 1/2 inch or so. Place a large frying pan or dutch oven over medium stovetop heat. When it's hot, add olive oil, then add diced onions. Season with salt, lower the heat and sauté until translucent, 5 to 8 minutes.

Peel the garlic and slice thinly or mince finely. Divide into two roughly equal piles and set aside.

Once the onions are ready, add half the garlic. Add thyme and rosemary, and sauté for 1 minute.

Add the Portobello mushrooms. Add additional salt to taste, plus the butter. Sauté for 5 minutes.

Add flour and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add the reconstituted mushrooms, along with the wine. Cook until the liquid evaporates and a glaze forms on the mushrooms. Stir occasionally so the mushrooms don't stick and burn.

Open the beans, rinse through a colander, and let drain.

Add the reserved soaking liquid, the beans, tomatoes and the rest of the garlic to the mixture. Bring to a bare simmer and cook for 30 minutes.

Serve over cooked barley, polenta or rice. Garnish with rosemary and/or Parmigiana-Reggiano, if desired.

"There's rosemary, that's for remembrance; pray, love, remember."
- Hamlet, William Shakespeare

Blueberry banana smoothies

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Last time I posted a smoothie recipe, it was when my youngest daughter got braces.

Apparently dental issues are a harbinger of smoothie recipes on this blog, because the same girl had a wisdom tooth out on Friday. Since then I haven't made anything that didn't go through a blender, including this smoothie that's bursting with the taste of blueberries. I made a noticeable dent in the number of blueberries in my freezer, since this was one of the few things she wanted to eat after her surgery.

For the record, the surgery went well, and she's already back at school to write her final three exams. It's hard to know which she thought was the worst thing about the last few days: the removal of the wisdom tooth, the fact that it was bookended by exams, or the two losses by her beloved Blue Jays to the Red Sox. Fortunately, the mouth is healing, the schoolwork is coming along nicely, and the Jays won this afternoon.

Three great reasons to celebrate with another smoothie!

Blueberry banana smoothies

1/2 cup vanilla or plain yogurt
1/2 cup frozen blueberries
3/4 cup milk
1/2 ripe banana, sliced thinly
2 ice cubes

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.
Makes 2 medium-sized smoothies.

Orange marmalade muffins

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Do you ever get a spontaneous baking idea that you have to follow through on?

I was in the grocery store on Friday and I noticed a jar of orange marmalade. Immediately I could taste the muffins I'd make with that marmalade, warm and sunny with streaks of orange baked right into them.

Not even knowing if such a recipe existed, I bought the marmalade and rushed home to look.

Sometimes when I get inspirations like that, I have to create my own recipe. But this time I was in luck, finding the perfect recipe online in a minute. And the muffins don't take much longer than that to bake  - you can whip up the batter in the time it takes to heat the oven. That's what makes them perfect for a weekend breakfast or brunch - loaded with the sweet yet slightly bitter flavour of orange marmalade, they're the perfect way to start the day.

Orange marmalade muffins
(adapted from The Pioneer Woman; makes 12 muffins)

For the muffins:

2 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/4 cup shortening
1 cup orange marmalade
1/2 cup orange juice
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg

For the topping:

1/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp melted butter
pinch salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and place 12 cupcake liners in a muffin tin.

Sift together flour, sugar, and baking powder. Place in a mixing bowl. Use a pastry cutter to mix in shortening until it's in very small chunks.

In a separate bowl, mix marmalade, orange juice and vanilla. Beat in the egg. Pour over dry ingredients, and mix together gently, just until barely combined.

In a small bowl, mix topping ingredients.

Fill each cupcake liner with batter, just short of the top. Sprinkle one rounded teaspoon of topping over each muffin.

Bake for 20 to 22 minutes until done. Remove from pan and cool on wire rack.