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Stern cooking

Author's new book more personal, with quick, easy recipes

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BONNIE STERN scored a clear hit when she served chef Jacques Pepin caramelized onion and gorgonzola pizza at her Toronto cooking school.

When Pepin, called the "best chef in America" by Julia Child, was later asked to endorse Stern's new cookbook, he happily obliged.

"I've always thought that Bonnie Stern ran one of the best cooking schools anywhere. I taught there for many years and always admired her ever-present professionalism and grace," wrote the chef known for his cookbooks and PBS shows.

"I've eaten great food there, too -- not long ago she served me the best pizza I've ever had in my entire life!"

Of course, Stern has included the pizza (recipe follows) made with puff pastry in Bonnie Stern's Essentials of Home Cooking (Random House).

Unlike her previous books, this one is full of personal glimpses of Stern, about her travels, latest restaurant finds and nuggets from her many years of teaching.

"This attention to getting to know cookbook authors probably has something to do with the impact of TV," she says. "When you are on TV you are really in someone's house and people think you are their friend."

Stern believes that with more emphasis on the importance of food, "people want to know what they are eating."

"They want it be quick and successful and easier," she says. "When they can cook something that tastes delicious and it's easy to do they get a real sense of satisfaction out of it."

As well she says, "people are starting to realize that not all convenience food is all that healthy and it's very, very expensive."

She's also aware of the rising popularity of sandwich bars. "People want casual, inexpensive food," she says. "You can pick it up, use a knife and fork and in some places, choose what ingredients you want."

There are six sandwich-type recipes in the book ranging from grilled chicken sandwiches with charmoula drizzle (charmoula is a Moroccan-flavoured mayonnaise) to sesame tuna sandwiches with Asian coleslaw.

Another trend is all-day breakfasts featuring pancakes and crepes, so she included an essential crepe batter recipe and ideas for fillings.

As for desserts, "If you are going to eat them, eat only the best and share it with lots of people."

That's exactly what she expects others to do, too -- when eating out, she has been known to sample the desserts being eaten by everyone at her table.

Each chapter of the book contains what Stern believes are her essentials for home cooking. There are sections on ingredients, light cooking, cooking for children and kitchen gadgets.

To read more Stern, log on to www.bonniestern.com.

Here, from Stern's latest book (her 11th) Essentials of Home Cooking are three recipes to try at home.

Caramelized onion and Gorgonzola pizza

30 ml (2 tbsp) olive oil
3 onions, chopped
15 ml (1 tbsp) brown sugar
30 ml (2 tbsp) balsamic vinegar
2 ml ( 1/2 tsp) salt
2 ml ( 1/2 tsp) pepper
225 g (8 oz) frozen puffed pastry
115 g (4 oz) Brie, rind removed, diced
115 g (4 oz) milk Gorgonzola or Cambozola, rind removed, diced
30 ml (2 tbsp) chopped fresh tarragon, or 1 ml (1/4 tsp) dried

Heat oil in a large, deep skillet on medium high heat. Add onions and cook for about 10 minutes, or until wilted and starting to brown. Add sugar, vinegar, salt and pepper. Reduce heat and cook gently, uncovered, for 15 to 25 minutes, or until richly caramelized. Cool (you should have about 180 ml (3/4 cup).

Roll pastry into a 25-cm (10-inch) square. Place pastry on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Prick with a fork in about 12 places.

Spread onions over pastry. Dot with cheese. Sprinkle with tarragon. Refrigerate if not baking immediately.

Bake in preheated oven at 400ºF (200ºC) 18 to 20 minutes or until cheese has melted and pastry is crisp. Cool for 5 minutes. Cut into wedges or squares. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Serve pizza in wedges with a salad for a first course or cut into small squares for an appetizer.

Notes: Stern suggests cooking lots of onions and then freezing them in 180 ml ( 3/4 cup) amounts (enough for 1 pizza).

Wine match: Medium Dry Chenin Blanc.

Grilled Chicken Club Sandwiches with Avocado Mayonnaise

4 single, boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 675 g/1 1/2 lbs)
5 ml (1 tsp) salt
2 ml ( 1/2 tsp) pepper
15 ml (1 tbsp) olive oil
1 ripe avocado
125 ml ( 1/2 cup) mayonnaise
60 ml ( 1/4 cup) chopped fresh cilantro
8 thin slices sourdough bread
4 thin slices tomato
4 slices Monterey Jack or smoked mozzarella cheese
4 slices bacon, cooked and cut in half
20 ml (4 tsp) melted butter or olive oil

Place chicken breasts, one at a time, in a heavy plastic bag or between pieces of parchment paper and pound until very thin.

In a small bowl, combine salt, pepper and olive oil. Rub into chicken. Grill on hot barbecue or grill pan for 3 to 4 minutes per side, depending on the thickness, or until cooked.

To make mayonnaise, cut avocado in half and remove pit. Scoop out flesh. Combine avocado and mayonnaise. Mash in a bowl or puree in a food processor. Stir in cilantro.

Spread 4 slices of bread with avocado mayonnaise. Top with chicken, tomato, cheese and bacon. Add top slice of bread and press firmly. Brush outside of sandwich with melted butter.

Just before serving, grill sandwiches for a few minutes on both sides on hot barbecue or grill pan or in a sandwich maker until grill marks are on bread and cheese melts. As sandwiches cook, press firmly with a heavy spatula to compress.

Makes 4 sandwiches.

Wine match: Australian Chardonnay.

Cheddar Thyme Gougere (Savoury Cream Puff)

250 ml (1 cup) water
80 ml (1/3 cup) butter, cut in bits
250 ml (1 cup) all-purpose flour
4 eggs
7 ml (1 tsp) salt
5 ml (1 tsp) pepper
375 ml (1 1/2 cups) grated cheddar or Swiss cheese
15 ml (1 tbsp) chopped fresh thyme, or 2 ml ( 1/2 tsp) dried

Combine water and butter in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in flour all at once. Keep stirring until dough comes away from sides of pan and forms a ball.

Return pan to medium heat and cook gently for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring constantly, until dough dries out a bit and leaves a thin film on bottom of pan. Transfer dough to a large bowl and let cool for 5 minutes.

With a wooden spoon or electric mixer, beat eggs into dough one at a time. Dough will slip and slide but keep mixing and it will come together. Beat in salt, pepper, cheese and thyme.

Drop dough by large spoonfuls on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 220 C (425 /F) oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until puffed and browned. Turn off oven, pierce each puff with tip of a knife and allow to cool in oven for 15 minutes. Serve warm or cold.

Makes about 30 puffs.

Wine match: Alsatian Pinot Gris

Beef short ribs with barbecue sauce

12 3-inch (7.5 cm) chunks short ribs (about 6 lb/3kg total)
2 tbsp (25 ml) paprika
2 tbsp (25 ml) chili powder
2 tbsp (25 ml) brown sugar
1 tbsp (15 ml) ground cumin
1 tbsp (15 ml) dry mustard
2 tsp (10 ml) salt

Barbecue sauce
2 tbsp (25 ml) vegetable oil
3 onions, chopped
8 cloves garlic, chopped
2 cups (500 ml) your favorite barbecue sauce
1 cup (250 ml) beer, red wine or water
1/4 cup (50 ml) soy sauce
1/4 cup (50 ml) brown sugar
1/4 cup (50 ml) Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp (25 ml) balsamic vinegar or red wine vinegar
2 tbsp (25 ml) Dijon mustard
1 tbsp (15 ml) pureed chipotles

Trim as much fat as possible from short ribs. In a small bowl, combine paprika, chili powder, brown sugar, cuin, dry mustard, and salt. Rub into ribs. Marinate for one hour or up to overnight in refrigerator.

Heat oil in a large Dutch oven or roasting pan on medium-high heat. Brown short ribs well on all sides (this will probably take at least ten minutes). Remove from pan. Discard all but a few tablespoons of fat from pan.

Add onions and garlic to pan. Cook for five mintues, or until translucent and very fragrant. Add barbecue sauce, beer, soy sauce, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, Dijon mustard and chipotles. Bring to a boil.

Place ribs in sauce. Cover top of ribs directly witha piece of parchment paper and then cover pan with lid or foil

Bake ribs in a preheated 350 F (180 C) oven for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, or until very tender. Check every hour to make sure there is enough liquid in pan. If necessary, add water.

Transfer ribs to a serving plate and keep warm. Skim any fat from sauce. Combine sauce with ribs and serve. Makes ten to 12 servings.

Mashed potatoes with bacon and mushrooms

3 lb (1.5 kg) Yukon Gold or baking potatoes (about six large), peeled and cut in chunks
2 slices bacon, diced
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
8 oz (250 g) cremini mushroms, coarsely chopped
1 cup (250 ml) milk or cream
2 tbsp (25 ml) chopped fresh parsley
3 tbsp (45 ml) butter5
2 tsp (10 ml) salt

Cook potatoes in a large pot of boiling salted water. Reduce heat and cook gently for 20 to 25 minutes, or until potatoes are very tender.

In a large skillet cook bacon on medium-high heat fora few minutes, or until crisp. Remove bacon and reserve. Remove all but about 1 tbsp (15 ml) fat from pan.

Add garlic to skillet. Cook, stirring, for a minute until fragrant, but do not brown. Add mushrooms and cook until any liquid in pan has evaporated and mushrooms have browned. Add milk and parsley and cook for a few minutes to heat milk.

Drain potatoes well. Return to pot and mash coarsely. Add butter and salt. Beat in mushroom mixture and reserved bacon. Add more hot milk if potatoes are too thick. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. Makes eight servings.

Lemon meringue pavlova roll

Pavlova
8 egg whites (about 1 cup/250ml)
1 1/2 cups (375 ml) granulated sugar
1 tbsp (15 ml) white vinegar
1 tsp (5 ml) vanilla
2 tbsp (25 ml) cornstarch
1 tbsp (15 ml) icing sugar, sifted

Lemon Curd
1/2 cup (125 ml) lemon juice
1 tbsp (15 ml) grated lemon peel
2/3 cup (150 ml) granulated sugar
4 eggs
1/2 cup (125 ml) whipping cream, optional

Orange Caramel Sauce
1/2 cup (125 ml) granulated sugar
2 tbsp (25 ml) water
2 tbsp (25 ml) lemon juice
1/3 cup (75 ml) orange juice

For pavlova, in a large bowl, beat egg whites until light. Slowly beat in sugar until whites are stiff and shiny. Beat in vinegar and vanilla. Fold in cornstarch.

Spread meringue over a 17 x 11 inch (45 x 29 cm) parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 325 F (160 C) oven for 20 minutes. Cool. Dust top with sifted icing sugar. Run a knife around edge to prevent sticking and then invert onto another piece of parchment.

For lemon curd, in a saucepan, combine lemon juice, peel and sugar. Bring to a boil. Beat eggs in a medium bowl. Whisk in hot lemon juice mixture. Return everything to saucepan and cook on medium heat for three to five minutes, or until thick and bubbling. Strain mixture if you wish, transfer to a clean bowl, and chill. Whip cream until light. When lemon mixture is cold, fold in cream.

In a small sauce pan, combine sugar and water. Cook on medium heat, stirring, just until sugar dissolves. Brush any crystals down sides of pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water. Cook, without stirring, for five to eight minutes, or until mixture turns a caramel colour.

Add lemon juice and orange juice. Bring to a boil and stir until smooth. Spread lemon mixture over meringue. Roll up tightly lenghwise. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Cut roll into serving pieces and place on serving plates with sauce. Makes eight to ten servings.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 15, 2003 $sourceSection$sourcePage

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