Tuesday, April 26

Creamy Leek and Potato Tart

My Week 2 video is done and posted for the Real Women of Philadelphia cooking competition. Remember how I said this should get easier with practice? I think I need more practice!

Poor, beleaguered Jim. He had to edit over 40 minutes of raw footage--boy can I talk about food!--down to just 10. But we're having fun. I'm enjoying brainstorming and creating new recipes and Jim's enjoying his other role as "test stomach".

I must say I'm pleased with my recipe this week. It's a savoury tart that's not too crust-heavy, with a layer of creamy leeks under sliced potato. As I say in my video, it would be great with dinner, lunch or brunch. And I think it'll even make it into my breakfast rotation now!

Creamy Leek and Potato Tart

This versatile tart works well with all sorts of flavours and seasons. Change up the herbs and aromatics you use to suit the main course you're serving. Dill would be great with salmon, tarragon and garlic with chicken, rosemary and orange zest with pork... I could go on and this is making me hungry! You get the idea.
  • 4-5 medium waxy potatoes
  • 3 medium leeks
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • 1/4 cup light cream or half and half
  • 4 oz Philadelphia Cream Cheese, light or regular
  • juice from 1/4 lemon
  • 3 tbsp fresh herbs, such as thyme and parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 lb (1 sheet) puff pastry, thawed in fridge
  • 1 egg beaten with 1 tbls water to make egg wash
  • lemon zest
  • parmesan
Preheat oven to 425°F.

Scrub potatoes. Cover with cold, salted water and bring to a boil. Cook until just tender, 12-15 minutes. Drain and set aside. While potatoes cook, prepare leeks.

Trim root and dark green ends from leeks. Slice in half lengthwise then cut crosswise into 1/4" half moons. Rinse well in a large bowl of water to remove grit. Drain.

Heat a large pan over medium heat . Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and sliced leeks. Cook, stirring frequently, until soft, 5-7 minutes. Stir in cream, Philadelphia Cream Cheese, lemon juice, half the herbs, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir until smooth. Remove from heat and set aside.

On a lightly floured surface, roll puff pastry into 10"x15" rectangle. Transfer to parchment paper for easier maneuvering. Cut 1/2" strip off each side of pastry. Brush edges of rectangle with egg wash. Place pastry strips, cut sides facing out, onto edges to form a border. Cut off overhanging corners. Transfer to a baking sheet.

Spread the cream cheese mixture evenly over the pastry, staying inside the borders. Slice the potatoes into thin rounds and lay over top of the filling in slightly overlapping rows. Brush potatoes with olive oil and sprinkle with remaining herbs plus a pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Brush the top of the pastry border with egg wash.

Bake until pastry border is puffed and brown. Lift the tart and peek underneath. The bottom of the crust should be golden. Grate lemon zest and parmesan cheese over top and sprinkle with more fresh herbs if desired. Let rest for 5 minutes before slicing.

Serve alongside roasted salmon fillet and a simple salad of baby greens in a bright, lemony dressing. Or use as a base for poached eggs napped with hollandaise with steamed asparagus on the side.

Make Ahead

Up to two days ahead:
 Boil the potatoes but don't slice until ready to assemble; make the cream cheese leek mixture. Cover separately and refrigerate. Soften cream cheese mixture at room temperature before spreading.

Up to one day ahead: Prepare the puff pastry crust and refrigerate, covered with plastic wrap.

Up to four hours before baking: Assemble tart and refrigerate, loosely covered, until ready to bake. Assembled tart can go straight from fridge to oven.

Tuesday, April 19

Lights, Camera, Action!

Over the years, I've had many guests tell me I should teach cooking classes. Hmmm. I love to cook and bake, and I love to talk food and recipes, but how would I do at passing that on to others? Well now we have a chance to find out!

I've entered the Real Women of Philadelphia cooking competition. Every week, for eight weeks, I'll be submitting one or more videos of me demonstrating an original recipe -- featuring Philadelphia Cream Cheese, of course. At the end of the competition there will be four winners selected to share in hosting a website and contributing to a cookbook. Plus each one wins a cool $20,000. It's not too late for you to enter too!

My first entry is in. The category was Appetizers and I came up with a Curried Cauliflower and Philly Dip made by mixing roasted cauliflower into a cream cheese based dip, topping it off with mango chutney and cashews. The combination of flavours and textures works beautifully together and is anything but boring.

Shooting the video was a lot harder than I expected. I didn't realize talking to a camera would feel so different than talking to a person! Poor Jim, my camera man and video editor extraordinaire. He had (and has) his work cut out for him. But with seven more weeks to go, I'm confident the process will get easier and that I'll get better at sharing my love of cooking with you and the rest of the world.

I hope you enjoy my video. Constructive feedback is very welcome!

Curried Cauliflower and Philly Dip

This is a warm, savoury appetizer. Chunks of cauliflower add texture to the creamy dip and the topping of mango chutney and cashews provide interesting contrast. Serve this flavourful dip with wedges of naan or other flatbread, crackers or crudités for dipping.

3 tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. curry powder
2 cups cauliflower florets (from 1/2 a head)*
8 ounces Philadelphia Cream Cheese (250 gram brick)
1/4 cup Miracle Whip or mayo
2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
3 tbsp. mango chutney
1/3 cup coarsely chopped cashews

Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, stir together olive oil, garlic, curry powder, a pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Add cauliflower and toss to coat. Spread on baking sheet in a single layer and roast, flipping once halfway through, until fork tender and edges are brown, 20-25 minutes. Let cool before mixing into dip.

In the bowl of a food processor, blend Cream Cheese and Miracle Whip. Add roasted cauliflower and pulse just to combine. Add parsley and pulse again. Taste and add more salt, pepper or curry powder if you like.

Spread the dip in a heat-proof serving dish. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve (can be made a day in advance). Spoon mango chutney over the dip and top with cashews. Heat in a microwave for a few minutes or in a hot oven for 15-20 minutes until hot.
Serve with breads or vegetables for dipping. Enjoy!

* If you've never tried roasting cauliflower, you are missing the best of what this vegetable has to offer! The recipe calls for half a head of cauliflower but go ahead and roast the whole thing (with or without the curry powder). You'll find yourself nibbling away at the extra florets and wondering why you didn't try this sooner.

Monday, April 11

Spring Events in Muskoka and Almaguin

Here's a list of what's happening in Muskoka and the Almaguin Highlands this spring. Got a local event to share? Let me know and I'll add it to the list.

Adventures in Urban Food Growth
Author, gardener and activist Lorraine Johnson will be speaking about her unconventional outlook on the world of gardening. She is involved with numerous community groups such as the Toronto Community Garden Network and has published over ten books. Lorraine will be at the Algonquin Theatre on Thursday, April 21st beginning at 7:30pm. Tickets are $15 per person. Visit the Algonquin Theatre for details.
April 21, 7:30 pm

Easter Long Weekend

Fern Glen Inn
The first long weekend of the spring! Treat yourself to a little getaway to Fern Glen Inn to renew, recharge and rejuvenate yourself. (p.s. There will be chocolate!). Book online or send us an email to reserve your weekend getaway.
April 22 - 24

Muskoka Home & Cottage Show
The Muskoka Home & Cottage Show offers consumers a wide selection of home building and renovation products and services. Even if you don't have a home or cottage in Muskoka, you'll get some great decorating ideas to bring a little bit of "up north" home with you. At the Bracebridge Memorial Arena. Admission is free with donation to the Food Bank of Muskoka (cash or non-perishable food item).
April 29, 2pm - 8pm
April 30, 9am - 5pm
May 1, 10am - 4pm

Margaret Trudeau
The Ontario Association of Medical Radiation Technologists, at their annual general conference, presents a public lecture and book signing featuring celebrated Canadian and mental heath advocate, Margaret Trudeau. For details and to reserve a seat for $30.00, visit the OAMRT.
April 30, 2:50 - 4:30 pm

Victoria Day Long Weekend
Fern Glen Inn
Better known as the May two-four, it's the unofficial launch of the outdoor season, a weekend to get out of the city and into the woods. Spend the weekend at Fern Glen Inn and we can help you with plans to go canoeing, horseback riding, hiking, or just chilling out in the fresh air. Book online or send us an email to reserve your weekend getaway.
May 20 - 23

Muskoka Heritage Place
Museum, pioneer village, and portage flyer train open for the season. For more information please visit Muskoka Heritage Place.
May 21, 10am - 4pm

Spin the Lakes Cycle Tour
Attention Cyclists! Bring your bicycle for a beautiful spin around the lakes of Muskoka. Choose from 50 km, 110 km, and 170 km routes. Visit Muskoka Cycling Club - Spin the Lakes for details.
May 29

Reel Paddling Film Festival
Algonquin Outfitters presents a night of “reel” excitement showcasing the best paddling films of the year. The festival has been created to inspire more people to embrace the paddling lifestyle and appreciate the heritage of the places we paddle. Tickets are $15.00. Visit the Algonquin Theatre for details or to purchase online.
June 1, 7pm

Huntsville Model Railway Exposition
Discover the history and artistry of working railroads in miniature, including scenery, structures and realistic operation. Vintage pieces, top-notch collections, demonstrations, workshops and working toy train layouts in 20,000 sq ft at the Summit Centre. Admission is $6.00. For more information visit the Huntsville Train Society.
June 18, 10am - 5pm
June 19, 10am - 4pm

Muskoka Triathlon
The Muskoka Triathalon and Duathalon returns to Huntsville with the sprint triathlon on Saturday beginning at 4pm, and the long course triathlon and duathlon on Sunday beginning at 8am. For details and registration visit Trisport Canada.
June 25 & 26

Grady's Paddle for SickKids
Burk's Falls to Magnetawan
Paddle 32km down the Magnetawan River in the 2nd annual fundraising event to raise money for SickKids Hospital. Collect pledges for your chance to win some fabulous prizes, including a new kayak and other great experiences and gear. Finish with a barbeque and entertainment. Visit Grady's Gift for details and to download registration forms and pledge sheets.
Register by June 25
Paddle on July 9

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Looking Ahead...
The Huntsville Festival of the Arts kicks off the summer with a great lineup of performers throughout July, including Hawksley Workman, Serena Ryder, Steven Page, George Canyon, the Crash Test Dummies and more.

The Algonquin Theatre is a 400-seat venue, making for a wonderfully intimate concert experience. Many of these shows sell out well in advance, so take a look and book your tickets now.

Visit the Huntsville Festival of the Arts July Events for details.