Along with a warm heart and a generous spirit, for me, cooking is an essential element in turning a house into a home. But the essentials of home cooking are different for everyone. They change as we go through different stages of our lives -- whether we’re single, cooking with a partner or feeding a family. They also shift and adapt according to what is happening in the food world. Back in 1973, when I opened my cooking school, who would have thought that we would one day be eating calamari and sushi at all, let alone preparing it at home? People are traveling around the globe and bringing back taste memories that they want to have again and again. Markets sell the ingredients, and magazines, food shows and cookbooks offer the recipes. Home renovators are designing kitchens with restaurant-quality equipment, and every week a wonderful new gadget appears that makes cooking even easier. So why not cook?
I have witnessed many of these changes from the front lines, and visits to markets and restaurants around the world have influenced the way I cook, too. I have also learned a lot from the renowned teachers and chefs who have come to teach at my school over the years, from my association with the Heart and Stroke Foundation in producing three HeartSmart
™ cookbooks, and from my students and customers, who always keep me on my toes with their questions and comments.
This book is a reflection of the way I am cooking now. It contains new recipes inspired by my recent travels and restaurant experiences, as well as some of my classic standbys and childhood favorites.
Along with the recipes, I have included thoughts about some aspects of food and cooking that are essential to me, such as seasonal foods, healthful cooking and cooking for children (as the mother of “selective” eaters, I have always been intensely interested in this subject, and it explains why I can never have too many chicken or pasta recipes, and why my fridge always contains iceberg lettuce!).
With the availability of so many restaurants, take-out options, catering and prepared foods, home cooking may seem almost unnecessary. Yet these days it is more important than ever. Though I am frequently away, my favorite place to be is home, and I think a lot of people feel the same way. So even frantically busy people are making the time to cook and eat dinners at home with their children and friends.
There are good reasons for this. Few things are more important than what we put in our bodies, and home cooking provides the best opportunity to choose the ingredients that go into our food. And we all want to spend more time with the people we care about. What better way than to linger over a meal with good conversation and good friends?
The essentials of home cooking may be different for everyone, but there is one thing that never changes, and that is using the freshest and best-quality ingredients and preparing them with care.Bonnie SternDOUBLE FUDGE CHOCOLATE CUPCAKES
My husband says these cupcakes make him feel as though he is five years old again. They have an amazing deep chocolate flavor, and they freeze well. For an old-fashioned effect, swirl the icing on top of the cupcakes; for a more modern look, pipe it.
You can bake the batter in two deep 9-inch (23 cm) pans and make an old-fashioned layer cake. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the cake springs back when pressed in the center. We sometimes also make mini cupcakes (you should have about seventy); bake them for 10 to 12 minutes.
1/2 cup (125 mL) cocoa, sifted
2/3 cup (150 mL) chopped unsweetened chocolate (about 4 oz/125 g)
1 cup (250 mL) boiling water
1 cup (250 mL) butter
1 cup (250 mL) granulated sugar
1 cup (250 mL) brown sugar
1 tbsp (15 mL) vanilla
2 1/2 cups (625 mL) all-purpose flour
2 tsp (10 mL) baking powder
1 tsp (5 mL) baking soda
1 cup (250 mL) milkChocolate Icing
3/4 cup (175 mL) butter, cut in small pieces
12 oz (375 g) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1/3 cup (75 mL) cocoa, sifted
1 tbsp (15 mL) vanilla
3 cups (750 mL) icing sugar, sifted
1/2 cup (125 mL) milk, approx.1.
Combine cocoa and unsweetened chocolate in a bowl. Pour boiling water over chocolate and let sit for 2 minutes. Whisk until smooth. Cool.2.
In a large bowl or bowl of electric mixer, cream butter with both sugars until very light. Add eggs one at a time. Beat in vanilla and cooled chocolate mixture.3.
In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder and baking soda. Add flour to butter mixture alternately with milk in three or four additions, beginning and ending with flour.4.
Fill 24 well-buttered or paper-lined muffin cups. (Fill muffin cups three-quarters full; cupcakes will not rise as much as muffins.) Bake in a preheated 350 F (180 C) oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool on a rack before icing.5.
For icing, in a large bowl or food processor, beat butter until light. Beat in cooled melted chocolate, cocoa and vanilla. Beat in icing sugar. Add milk and beat until very cool and creamy. (Add more milk if necessary for a creamy texture.) If mixture is too warm and thin to spread, set over a bowl of ice; it should thicken very quickly as you beat with a wooden spoon.6.
Swirl or pipe icing on top of cupcakes.
Makes 24 cupcakesROASTED PLUM TOMATOES
3 lb (1.5 kg) plum tomatoes (12 to 15)
2 tbsp (25 mL) olive oil
1 tsp (5 mL) salt
1/2 tsp (2 mL) pepper
1 tbsp (15 mL) chopped fresh rosemary, or 1/2 tsp (2 mL) dried
1 tbsp (15 mL) chopped fresh thyme, or 1/2 tsp (2 mL) dried1.
Remove cores from tomatoes. Cut tomatoes in half crosswise and gently squeeze out excess seeds. Place cut side up on a parchment-lined baking sheet (cut a tiny slice off bottoms if necessary so they will sit upright).2.
Drizzle or spray tomatoes with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper, rosemary and thyme. Roast in a preheated 400 F (200 C) oven for 45 to 50 minutes, or until some juices have evaporated and tomatoes are starting to brown on the bottom. Arrange tomatoes attractively on a serving plate.
Serve warm or cold. Makes 24 to 30BIRYANI RICE PILAF
2 cups (500 mL) basmati rice
2 tbsp (25 mL) ghee or vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
2 tbsp (25 mL) curry paste
1/4 cup (50 mL) tomato sauce
2 1/2 cups (625 mL) water
1 tsp (5 mL) salt
1 tsp (5 mL) lemon juice
2 tbsp (25 mL) chopped fresh cilantro1.
Rinse rice well and soak in cold water for 30 minutes. Drain well.2.
Heat ghee in a large saucepan on medium-high heat. Add onion and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, or until tender and slightly browned.3.
Add curry paste and cook for a few minutes. Add rice and cook, stirring, for a few minutes longer. Add tomato sauce and cook, stirring, for another few minutes.4.
Add water and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until rice is tender and water has been absorbed.5.
Add salt and lemon juice. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. Sprinkle with cilantro.
Makes 6 servings
Excerpted from Bonnie Stern's Essentials of Home Cooking by Bonnie Stern. Copyright © 2003 by Bonnie Stern. Excerpted by permission of Random House Canada, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.