Category: salt

Worth Your Salt (Salted Chocolate Toffee Bites)

Confession: this recipe was the result of a happy accident. I was originally making a simple caramel sauce for brunch this weekend when I absentmindedly let the caramel cook on the stove much longer than anticipated. Even though i had shut the burner off, I forgot to take the caramel out of the pot. So, doing as caramel does, it continued to cook, until it reached a much harder stage, and then it cooled.  Lo and behold, when I went to serve the sauce, all I had was a pot with a brick of toffee at the bottom. I was in a panic. This was supposed to be the star of my brunch! “No problem,” said my easygoing guest. “Just dip it in chocolate and we’ll eat it later!”

Making chocolate is quick and simple, if you follow two rules: 1 – use good quality chocolate pastilles. Poor quality (cheap) chocolate will yield poor results. Uneven melting, poor taste, poor texture, etc.
2. Temper. Always, always temper. If your chocolate reaches a temperature above 50 degrees C, it burns, and though you might not see it, you’ll definitely taste it. The texture will change once it hardens, and it will have an unpleasantly bitter, charred taste.

To make these, all you really have to do is make caramel, pour it out onto a tray, let it cool & break it up into chunks. Then, you melt the chocolate, pour it on top, and let it harden. Hit it a few times with a blunt knife and voila! Salty caramel chocolate brittle.

I hear brittle and I usually think “Christmas,” but you don’t really need an occasion to make this.  It keeps for a few weeks in the fridge, so you can put some in a mason jar, wrap a piece of twine around it and you’ve got a pretty last-minute hostess gift. You can also just save it all for yourself – it makes a great snack when you’re torn between salty and sweet – that is, if you have the willpower not to eat it all in one sitting. Seriously. Make this. This stuff is delicious and dangerous and addictive and full of unadulterated happiness.

Salted Chocolate Toffee Bites
an original recipe by allison sklar

what you’ll need

caramel sauce
1 cup packed brown sugar
3 tbsp butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
pinch sea salt

chocolate
1 cup good quality dark or milk chocolate pastilles (I used 70%)
pinch sea salt


In a heavy bottomed saucepan, warm butter over medium heat. Add brown sugar and cream. Stir with a heatproof spatula in figure 8 motion, until sugar is dissolved. Continue cooking, stirring slowly but constantly, until mixture begins to thicken, about 6 minutes. Turn heat to low and continue cooking until mixture reaches 155C, about 10 more minutes. Add salt. Pour onto parchment lined baking sheet. Mixture will spread out and harden as it cools.

Once it is cool, break up the caramel into small chunks, leaving it on the parchment.  

Melt chocolate over a Bain Marie (A Bain Marie is a bowl placed over a pot of boiling water. The steam will heat the bowl and the chocolate will slowly melt. Do not place chocolate directly on the stove, or it will heat too quickly and you’ll have a burnt, uneven result.)

Pour chocolate over caramel chunks. Place in fridge or freezer to cool about 5 minutes. Sprinkle sea salt on top only once chocolate begins to cool. You want the salt to stick to the top, not to melt in.

Once the chocolate has fully hardened, break it into brittle-sized chunks & serve. 




Roasting Season (Roasted Pear, Spiced Pecan & Blue Cheese Salad)

The autumn leaves, vibrant and warm not long ago, seem to be turning dull and brown faster than the temperatures are dropping. There is a place, however, that is brighter than ever at this time of year. Adorned with rich autumnal hues, brimming with the season’s best squash, tubers and root vegetables, you can count on your local farmer’s market stands to bring some vibrancy back into your day. Behind the stands, stacks of mason jars line the walls, adjacent to pies overflowing with seasonal fruits. An intoxicating smell of mulling spice is in the air… Suddenly, when you’re here, the word autumn becomes synonymous with comfort. 

Trading flowy dresses for chunky cable knits, replacing bonfires with fireplaces, comfort is the word of the season – especially when it comes to our meals.
Is it possible for a salad to be a comfort food?
Don’t dismiss the idea just yet. Enter caramelized pears, spiced pecans, and blue cheese. Cheese is always comforting. (Unless you’re vegan. Horrah for Daiya shreds!) 
Toss these three things with a head of lettuce and voila! Autumn gourmet – comfort salad. 
So sit back, pull up your legwarmers, and breathe in that oddly comforting, subtle smell of burning insects of seasons’ past as you turn on your electric heater for the first time. And then, enjoy this salad. Let it warm your body and your soul. 
Or at least just your body. 
Or, eat it cold if you prefer.
You know, you should just eat this no matter what. 
Like now. 
Trust me.
Caramelized Pear, Spiced Pecan and Blue Cheese Salad 
an original recipe by allison sklar 
what you’ll need
1 head boston lettuce, chopped
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
2 medium sized just-ripe pears (fruit should be firm)
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp brown sugar 
Pinch sea salt
1 cup pecan halves
1 egg white
2 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp paprika 
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp powdered ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves (optional)
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp mayo or vegan mayo
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp honey or agave nectar 
how to do it

Roast your pecans
Preheat oven to 300F. Toss pecans with beaten eggwhite in a medium bowl. In seperate bowl, mix all of the spices together. Toss coated pecans with spice mixture. Spread evenly on parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 23 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely. While pecans are roasting, prepare your pears.

Beware: your house is going to smell amazing.

PrePEAR (oh come on, you laughed.)
Slice pears into about 6 sections each. Remove seeds and stem. In a microwave safe bowl (or on the stovetop) melt butter and brown sugar together. Whisk in salt. Toss pears with butter/sugar mixture.
Lay evenly on parchment lined sheet. Once pecans are done, turn oven up to 325F. Roast pears for 15 to 18 minutes, or until they begin to soften and brown.

While pears are roasting, prepare dressing by combining all ingredients and whisking until smooth. Toss finished pears with chopped lettuce and pecans. Top with cheese and drizzle with dressing.

Enjoy!

Warm Up (Mushroom Risotto with Thyme and Cheddar)

It’s that time of year again, Montreal! You know, that season that isn’t quite a season? For those of you who don’t live here, let me fill you in. We’ve had the kind of days that’ve started off in cozy sweaters and boots, and have ended off in shorts and flip flops. We’ve seen the kind of weeks that have offered us weather reminiscent of Melbourne – rain, sun, frost and heat all within 24 hours.

One certainty in all of this is that Autumn has officially arrived! The general drop in temps has offered us a much needed break after our wildly humid summer, so we can put our hair down and lace our boots up. Because, let’s face it – the best part of fall is the fashion… Oh, and of course, the other best part is the comfort food!

So, without further adieu, I present to you the rich, the tasty, the creamy mushroom risotto! Inspired by a deliciously rich dish that I recently ate at a small resto (in the suburbs, who’d have imagined!?) I decided to create my very own version.

It does take some time to make, but don’t let that stop you – it’s totally and completely worth it.
Now go get cooking!


Mushroom Risotto with Thyme and Cheddar

what you’ll need
1 cup white wine
1 cup chopped mushrooms
1 bunch chopped green onions
1 cup arborio rice
2 tbsp oil
3 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
3 cups vegetable stock
2 tbsp chopped marinated garlic
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 cup grated parmiggiano cheese
1 cup water + more as needed

how to do it
Sautee mushrooms and green onions in oil in a medium saucepan. Set aside. Meanwhile, in a large pot, bring rice and 1 cup water to a boil. Reduce heat and stir. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until rice absorbs the liquid. Slowly add in one cup wine. Simmer and stir until absorbed. Add one cup of stock at a time, waiting until absorbed before each addition, and constantly stirring. (Note – If rice is not fully cooked – tender, but not crunchy – after three cups of stock, continue the process with water or wine.) Once rice is tender, stir in mushroom mixture, garlic and thyme. Fold in cheeses. Sprinkle a generous amount of fresh ground black pepper into the mixture. Serve immediately, sprinkled with extra cheese if desired.

Tidbits

Got some stale bread? Don’t toss it, toast it!

Then toast it again. Sprinkle it with some sea salt and spices, and boom – you’ve got yourself some fantastic croutons. I must warn you though – you may just turn into a crouton snob. Boxed croutons just won’t cut it after you’ve had a taste of these babies. And, if you’re anything like me, you’ll want to use them to top just about everything off – you can spruce up a salad, turn your mac and cheese into a crispy delight or sop up some soup on a wintry day.

My favorite way to eat them? Naked. (The croutons that is!) They’ll make crackers look like cardboard – and since they’re such a cinch to make, you’ll want to be cooking up batch after batch.

Did you ever think you’d see the day where you wished for your bread to go stale?

Homestyle Croutons
an original recipe by Allison Sklar

what you’ll need
6 thick slices of bread (pumpernickel pictured)
3 tbsp light olive oil
2 cloves crushed fresh garlic
2 tsp sea salt (more to taste)
Pinch chopped fresh rosemary

how to do it
Chop bread and toss with oil, salt, garlic and rosemary. Place evenly on baking sheet and toast in convection oven for 4 minutes. Remove from oven, toss, and return for 3 more minutes.
Note: Watch the croutons – ensure they don’t burn as many ovens cook at different temperatures, so this is just a loose guideline!