Because of the diverse nature of the many different restaurants and chefs Brian Henry has worked under he is highly proficient at a wide range of cuisines.

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Posts Tagged ‘Halloween candy’

Gastronomically yours,

October 28th, 2016

 With Halloween just a couple of sleeps away, I thought it best to share some ideas on how to carve your pumpkin,

 how to roast the seeds and recipes for cooking with pumpkin.

Happy Halloween!

               Happy Halloween!

You don’t know Jack!

Numerous religious groups have placed great importance on the last days of October and the first days of November. These include but are not limited to the Gaelic Samhain, Christian All Saint’s Day, All Souls Day, All Hallows Eve, Day of the Dead and All Hallows Mass. For the most part it appears that the general consensus was that most people believed that there was a lot more spirit activity at this time of year as relatives and ancestors who had passed away might drop by for a visit. This was also a time for community festivals celebrating the end of summer, the harvest and the coming dark days awaiting the rebirth of spring.

One of the first plants domesticated by humans was the gourd, not so much as a food source but for its carving potential which led to the creation of the first line of primitive kitchen ware. Jack o’ Lanterns in my opinion was the earliest version of a flashlight after the torch. Walking home from any autumn festival in the dark would be a nerve racking experience with all of the blowing leaves and night time sounds of autumn, add in the fear that the undead might show up would only further your worries.

The tradition of carving Jack o’ Lantern’s was brought to Canada by Irish and Scottish settlers. They often transformed gourds, turnips or squash into easy to carry lanterns. These lanterns were decorated with intensely fierce faces to represent the souls forever lost in purgatory. They were carried and displayed about homes to ward off evil spirits and protect people from the undead, which were believed to be at their peak activity in the autumn months.

Pumpkin carving has evolved greatly in recent years and has gone beyond triangle eyes and smiles. Specialty pumpkin carving kits and power tools are used by some to create works of art and some neighborly competition.

This being the last weekend before Halloween you should get out to one of the regions pick your own pumpkin farms and get your pumpkin carved this weekend for Halloween. Choosing a pumpkin is easy to do knowing that the larger the pumpkin, the easier it is to carve. Avoid bruised or moldy pumpkins as they will spoil much faster. Lighter coloured pumpkins tend to be softer and easier to carve.

The way we carve pumpkins has evolved as well as you don’t have to take off the top of your pumpkin, which is the hardest and possibly the most dangerous thing to do as the top of the pumpkin is woody and tough, try using a key hole or drywall saw for this. You may choose to remove the bottom or the back of your Jack o’ lantern as it is easier to cut through and allows easy access for electrical cords to power up colourful tree lights inside your pumpkin and forgo the candle.

Ice cream paddle-style scoops make quick work of cleaning out the seeds and pulp.  They also allow you to scrape down the inside to about an inch thickness with relative ease. Many people use carving templates available on-line which they print off and use as a transfer to outline their images with.

Once you have your pumpkin carved it will quickly want to rot but this easy to avoid or at least prolong the pumpkins life by soaking your cleaned and carved pumpkin for a couple of hours in a bleach water solution of 1 teaspoon bleach to 1 gallon of water. Remove the pumpkin from the water and dry it thoroughly. This will help keep bugs, mold, and animals away from your pumpkin. Then rub a thin even coating of cooking oil or petroleum jelly all over your pumpkin, inside and out with particular attention to all of the cut edges to prevent shriveling.

If you use a candle to power your pumpkin, make sure to place it in a glass or votive holder, and cut a ventilation hole into the pumpkin. Candle powered pumpkins can be used as an aromatic air freshener by sprinkle the inside of the pumpkin with some cinnamon and cloves.

Finally you can extend your jack-o’-lanterns life by storing it in a plastic bag in the refrigerator when not in use. Finally I must add that you do not eat a pumpkin that has been used as a jack-o’-lantern.

Happy Halloween!

TRICK or TREAT!

                    TRICK or TREAT!

 

The pumpkin has become synonymous with Thanksgiving and Halloween. Beyond the pumpkins symbolism most of us know little about this fruit and leaves most of us reaching for this product in its store-bought canned form when it comes to cooking.

Its symbolic presence of the autumn harvest has made this fruit a traditional staple of the North American Thanksgiving and though it has taken some time; like Linus waiting for the great one to arrive, the pumpkin has come of age and has transitioned itself into a staple of our pantries.

Most of us consume pumpkins in sweet dessert like preparations such as pie, cheesecake and muffins. When ripe, the pumpkin can be boiled, steamed, baked, or roasted. Pumpkins are very versatile in their uses for cooking, from the fleshy shell, to the seeds, to even the flowers.

Pumpkins are the largest berry in the world and are related to other fruits like squash and cucumbers. Pumpkins that are still small and green may be prepared in the same way as squash or zucchini, where a more mature pumpkin might be served mashed like potatoes.

Pumpkin seeds, known as pepitas, are the small, flat, green, edible seeds. Most pumpkin seeds are covered by a white husk, although some pumpkin varieties produce seeds without them. Pepitas are a popular snack that can be found hulled in most grocery stores.

When Pumpkin seeds are roasted one can extract thick oil that is somewhat reddish-green in color and is generally diluted with milder flavored oils because of its vigorous full bodied flavor. It is often drizzled over salad greens, pumpkin soup, potato salad, and even on vanilla ice-cream.

Pumpkin seed oil contains fatty acids which help maintain healthy blood vessels and nerves, and are loaded with essential fatty acids that help to maintain healthy blood vessels, nerves and tissues with its high fiber content helping to aid proper digestion.

Pumpkins are available almost everywhere one would find food for sale right now. It can be fun to go to a pick your own field as well to get your pumpkins. Be sure to save your seeds for this recipe which is a twist on a classic treat of toasted Pumpkin seeds by turning them into a gourmet confection.

 

Pepita Brittle

Ingredients:

One and one half tsp. baking soda

Two Tbsp. butter, melted

One and one half cups sugar

Three quarters cup water

One quarter tsp. fine grained sea salt

Three quarter cups of hulled roasted pumpkin seeds “pepitas”

One quarter tsp. cinnamon

Method:

Stir together baking soda and melted butter; set aside. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper; set aside a second sheet the same size. Butter the parchment on one side.

Combine sugar, water and salt in a medium sized saucepan and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low; wash down any sugar crystals on sides of pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water. Simmer syrup 10 to 12 minutes, until it reaches 240°F. Remove from heat; with a wooden spoon gently stir in the pumpkin seeds.

While stirring, return pan to medium-low heat until the mixture turns a deep amber color and reaches 290°F. Remove from heat; stir in butter-baking soda mixture with wooden spoon.

Pour mixture onto prepared cookie sheet; cover with second parchment sheet. Press the mixture with a rolling pin to 1/4-inch thick. Remove top layer of parchment and allow it to completely cool down. Next crack the brittle and serve the tasty morsels.

Store your pepita brittle between layers of parchment in a sealed container for up to two weeks.

 

 

Gastronomically yours,

November 3rd, 2014

Halloween Leftovers!

 

The scariest harvest of the year happened this past weekend as some 4 million Canadian kids take to the streets and rake in their loot from more than 13 million homes that will participate in shelling out candy. These costume clad kids will return home and almost immediately pour out their pillow cases onto the floor to reveal their share of almost $360 million worth of candy that was purchased across Canada in the month of October.

Halloween11

As parents assist in checking through their kids candy for any detrimental items that may have made it into their stash, the kids in a sugar and caffeine induced state immediately are taking inventory and begin organizing their haul into rows and piles. If watched closely your children will go through an eerie transformation from goblin or ghoul to instant entrepreneur as they quickly will wade into the role of a business person as they will realize that they have a share of precious commodity in a market of excess supply.

To watch children with their faces still smeared with makeup and half disrobed from their costumes enter into the frenzied barter and trading sessions with siblings or other kids from the hood would give any math teacher pause as they explore early lessons in economics.

It will quickly become evident that all candy was not created equally and the first things to get traded off will be the hard to move less-desirable candies which include Candy Corn, Tootsie Rolls, fruits or vegetables and non-edibles like pencils and toothbrushes.

collette

This makes way for the serious trades to happen and is a quick follow based upon industry sales which see M&M’s, Snickers, and Kit Kat taking secondary positions to the highly prized Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup which has an unprecedented high trading value and is often smuggled as dangerous cargo or contraband as our schools have become peanut free zones.

Within a few days all of these child markets and kid-cartels will crash much like our children as their confectionary novelty and sugar buzz wears off. The market induced glut becomes stagnant and for some it can cause boredom, but with a few Halloween tricks up your sleeves you can still have plenty of fun by bringing the kids and the left-over candy into the kitchen to create meals that can be served right into December’s holiday festivities.

The easiest ways to cook with leftover candy is by chopping the candies and adding them into brownie and milkshake recipes. For more of a challenge you may want to try making ice cream and cheesecake recipes. For some real twists on food maybe even try the following recipe whose core ingredients can be purchased locally and as frightful as it may sound the combined flavours will leave you bewitched!

 

Beet Salad with Chocolate Goat Cheese and Black Licorice Vinaigrette

 

Black Licorice Vinaigrette

Ingredients:

2 tbsp. chopped black licorice

¾ cup water

1/4 cider vinegar

2 tbsp. Dijon mustard

1 green onion, minced

¾ cup salad oil

Method:

Combine the licorice and water in a small sauce pan and heat over medium-low heat until the licorice is dissolved. Remove pan from heat and whisk in the cider vinegar, green onion and Dijon mustard. Finally whisk in the oil by slowly pouring it into the licorice mixture. Season vinaigrette with salt and pepper to taste and refrigerate until needed.

 

Snickers Goat Cheese

Ingredients:

2-4 oz. of chopped Snickers bar

4 oz. goat cheese, room temperature

1 chive, finely minced

Red pepper flakes or Cayenne to taste (optional)

Method:

Place all of the ingredients in a glass bowl and microwave it until it becomes soft. Stir the warmed ingredients together and set aside.

 

Roasted Beets

Ingredients:

8 beets, medium sized, cut in half

1 tbsp. cooking oil

Your choice of salad greens

Salt and pepper

Method:

Toss the beets in a bowl with the oil, salt and pepper. Turn the beets out onto a parchment lined baking sheet and bake in a pre-heated oven at 400 °f for about an hour or until fork tender. Remove the beets from the oven and let them rest for 30 minutes. Peel or pull the skins off of the beets. Slice the beets into bite size pieces. Lightly coat the beets with some of the vinaigrette and set them in the refrigerator to marinate for one hour.

To serve assemble the greens onto a plate and top them with the beets. Drizzle the remaining vinaigrette over the salad and top with crumbled goat cheese.

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Chef Brian for Hire
The Spice Co.