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A Pair of Perfect Wedding Gifts (May 26, 2006)

"Oh, Darling... the wedding was picture perfect, and the honeymoon a dream. Sigh, here we are back in our own place at last! Surprise, I'm cooking dinner for you tonight, and I promise, it will be super special!"

Well, that's not a dream either... you can fix your true love magnificent meals even if you're rather new to the kitchen. Two delightful new cookbooks make it genuinely easy for you, and you'll be getting great new ideas plus learning good basic techniques at the same time! Hey, wow the in-laws! Stun your friends! Dazzle your spouse! Fix a magnificent dinner tonight! Read on...

For the rest of us, stop counting the weddings to attend and presents to purchase; we've got the perfect gift for every couple, every time. The Newlywed's Cookbook and How to Cook are out just in time for all the upcoming nuptials... or those with almost any anniversary!

In How to Cook, author Leslie Waters guides the reader through all the basic principles and skills of cooking such as boiling, poaching, steaming, sautéing and the like, and also devotes a section on how to stock your kitchen. How to Cook is a perfect "starter" for new culinarians and terrific "basic" for old hands who would like to brush up on techniques or simply hone their skills. Instead of Chinese take-out, imagine your sweetheart announcing "Surprise, honey, we're starting the meal tonight with Marinated Vodka Salmon, and we'll finish with fresh Peach Cobbler! Oh, and I love you too!"

We also love The Newlywed's Cookbook, which is a bride's – or groom's – dream come true. The collective of very experienced cookery writers who authored this book divide it into areas, from Basics to Quick Meals, Classic Dishes, Special Occasions, Family Gatherings and more... Wouldn't you love to offer your sweetheart Mussels with Fennel, Tomatoes, Garlic, and Saffron served with Chile-Spiked Cornbread, and finish dinner with a Bitter Chocolate and Hazelnut Gelato? Of course you would, and it's all here in this book, a collective event from very experienced and talented cookery writers who've been there and done that. And we suspect have pretty great relationships with their partners.

Bon appétit, and keep that honeymoon going!

On today's menu:

Download this article in printable form as an Adobe Acrobat PDF (95 KB)


 

Marinated Vodka Salmon

Ron makes gravad lax fairly often, but it does take about five days to marinate. This simple recipe from How to Cook is ceviche-style: a method in which fish or seafood is "cooked" by the citrus juice in its marinade, and best of all, is ready on the same day. We first tried it in South America, where it's a staple, and find it irrestible, especially in the warmer months. Use the freshest possible fish, and prepare to fall in love all over again!

Serves 5

  • 14 oz. salmon fillet
  • 4 scallions, finely sliced diagonally
  • 1 red chile, seeded and finely chopped
  • 3 Tbsp vodka
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Leaves from a bunch of cilantro
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Black rye bread, to serve

Put the salmon fillet on a board and cut it crosswise into ½-inch slices. Arrange the salmon slices in overlapping layers on a large service plate. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Put the scallions, chile, vodka and lime juice in a small bowl and mix well. Pour the mixture over the salmon and set aside for 30 minutes to let the salmon "cook."

Sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle with the olive oil. Top with the cilantro and serve with black rye bread.

Tony's wine recommendation:
A very dry white wine – Chablis, Muscadet, Ontario Sauvignon Blanc, Brut champagne.


 

Mussels with Fennel, Tomatoes, Garlic and Saffron

Even experienced cooks often shy away from mussels, and they're really missing out. This shellfish is one of the easiest to prepare; you just need a bit of prep and a good pot with colander... "Oh, we got one for a wedding present... I was wondering what it was for!" You'll really dazzle your spouse and the new in-laws with this one! From The Newlywed's Cookbook.

Serves 4

  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • ½ fennel bulb, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 cups canned chopped peeled tomatoes (16 oz.)
  • A pinch of saffron threads
  • 2 lbs fresh mussels
  • Coarse sea salt
  • A handful of fresh, flat-leaf parsley, chopped to serve

Heat the oil in a large sauté pan. Add the onion and fennel and cook until soft, 3 to five minutes. Add the garlic, wine and tomatoes. Boil for 1 minute, then lower the heat, add the saffron and a pinch of salt. Simmer gently for 15 minutes.

Just before serving, clean and debeard the mussels, discarding any that do not close. Raise the heat under the sauce and, when it boils, add the prepared mussels. Cover the pan and cook until the mussels open, 2 to 3 minutes. Discard any that do not open. Sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately.

Tony's wine recommendation:
A dry white wine without oak – unoaked Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Grüner Veltliner, Vinho Verde.


 

Saffron Fish Roast with Orange Roasted Roots

What? You're newlyweds and you're serving this five-star dish tonight? "Why, yes, and I did it myself, thank you... (and won't tell you how easy it really was; I got the recipe from How to Cook!)"

Roasting vegetables is a fantastic way to bring out the natural sweetness and intense flavours, and they make a gorgeous team with the Saffron Fish. Serve in a smart stack and you'll have restaurant reviewers calling...

Serves 4

Saffron Fish Roast

Roasted vegetables make a delicious base for broiled fish in this recipe. You can roast the fish too – just remember it will take a very short time, so cook it just until the flesh becomes opaque (white all the way through).

  • 2 red onions, cut into wedges
  • 2 red bell peppers, halved, seeded and each half cut into 3
  • 1 lb. new potatoes
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 8 oz. baby plum tomatoes
  • 1 lb. thick skinless cod fillet, cut into 4 chunks
  • 1 lb. thick, skinless salmon fillet, cut into 4 slices
  • ½ tsp rock or sea salt
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges, to serve
    Marinade
  • A pinch of saffron threads
  • ¼ cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Put the saffron in a small bowl, add 3 Tbsp boiling water, and set aside to soak.

Put the onions, bell peppers and potatoes into a large roasting pan. Add the olive oil with salt and pepper to taste and mix well. Transfer to the preheated oven and roast for about 45 minutes. until the vegetables are cooked and slightly charred. Add the tomatoes to the pan and roast for a further 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, put the saffron and its soaking water into a large bowl; add the parsley and oil, with black pepper to taste, and mix. Put the fish into a shallow dish and pour the marinade over. Cover and refrigerates until needed.

Preheat the broiler to medium heat. Remove the fish from its marinade and discard the marinade. Put the fish on top of the vegetables in the roasting pan. Sprinkle with the rock or sea salt and cook under the boiler for 10 to 12 minutes, until the fish is just cooked through.

Divide the fish and vegetables between 4 large serving plates and serve with the lemon wedges.

Tony's wine recommendation:
A dry white or light-bodied dry red – Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc; lightly chilled cool-climate Pinot Noir (Burgundy, Ontario), chilled Beaujolais.

A bit more on roasted vegetables...
We always wanted a good vegetable roasting recipe, and found it right here in How to Cook! You get even more flavour plus goodness of the vegetables, and minimum fat. A real winner.

Orange Roasted Roots

Serves 4

  • 1 butternut squash
  • 4 carrots, halved lengthwise
  • 8 shallots
  • 2 sweet potatoes, cut into wedges
  • 1 orange, halved crosswise
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 large sprigs of rosemary
  • 8 garlic cloves
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Cut the butternut squash in half lengthwise and peel, using a small, sharp knife. Scoop out the seeds with a metal spoon and discard. Put the cut halves, flat side down, on a board and cut into chunks about 2 inches.

Put the butternut squash, carrots, shallots and sweet potatoes into a large roasting pan. Squeeze over the juice from the orange and put the squeezed halves into the pan with the vegetables. Drizzle with the olive oil and put the rosemary on top. Add plenty of salt and black pepper, then transfer to the preheat oven and roast for 20 minutes.

Remove from the oven and add the garlic. Shake the pan and move the vegetables around to stop them from sticking. Return them to the oven for a further 20 minutes until tender and slightly caramelized.

Which vegetable are good for roasting?

  • All root vegetables are good roasted: potatoes, carrots, parsnips, beets, sweet potatoes, and turnips.
  • Most of the onion family: including onions (whole, halved or in wedges), shallots and garlic. Roast garlic heads whole or separate into unpeeled cloves. Guests can peel the cloves before they eat them.
  • Starchy vegetables like pumpkin and butternut squash.
  • Squishy ones like bell peppers, zucchini and eggplants.
  • Tomatoes: cut them in half and roast them cut side up.

 

Peach Cobbler

Cobblers are so very, very easy to do, and give as much pleasure as traditional crust pies – or more. Our personal lifetime favourite is a fresh peach cobbler, and this simple recipe will become one of yours.

Our cooks who wrote The Newlywed's Cookbook also suggest adding a basket of blackberries to the peaches, or use a combination of peaches, apricots, and blackberries. Oh yum!

Serves 6

  • 6 peaches, not too ripe
  • 1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 3 Tbsp honey
  • Cream or vanilla ice cream, to serve
    Cobbler Topping
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • ½ cup sour cream or crème fraîche
  • 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp baking soda
  • A pinch of fine sea salt
  • 4 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 2–3 Tbsp sugar for sprinkling
  • A shallow baking dish, 2 quarts

Cut the peaches in half, remove the pits, then cut each half into 3 slices. Put them in the baking dish, sprinkle with the flour and toss well to coat evenly. Add the lemon juice and honey and stir. Set aside.

To make the topping, put the cream and sour cream in a large blow and stir well. Set aside.

Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl and mix well. Add the butter and rub it into the flour with your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Using a fork, stir in the cream mixture until blended – use your hands at the end if necessary; it should be sticky, thick and not willing to blend easily.

Drop spoonfuls of the mixture on top of the peaches, leaving gaps to expose the fruit. Sprinkle sugar liberally on the top of the butter. Bake in a preheated oven at 375°F until golden, 25 to 35 minutes. Serve warm with cream or ice cream.

Tony's wine recommendation:
Ontario Vidal Icewine, Asti Spumante, Sauternes, Samos Muscat.


 

We wish to thank Tom Allen and Sons, Toronto, for providing books, and Ryland Peters and Small, Inc., New York, for permission to publish material and photographs from:

The Newlywed's Cookbook
Text © 2006 Celia Brooks Brown, Maxine Clark, et al.
Design and photographs © 2006 Ryland Peters and Small, Inc.
Photography: Mussels: Martin Brigdale; Peach Cobbler: David Munns.

and

How to Cook by Lesley Water.
Photography by Peter Cassidy
Text © 2001 Lesley Waters
Design and photographs © Ryland Peters and Small, Inc.

 

Happily enjoyed by Helen Hatton and Ron Morris.

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