I knew the moment I opened the package, I was going to like this cookbook. Not because I received it free for review from the publisher. But, because of the beautiful photo on the front… little artisan mulit-grain rolls toped with slice of brie and pear, a touch of water cress and some divinely citrus looking sauce.
Yes, I am one of those who bucks the axiom Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover. I freely judge with no qualms. Design, type, photos, are all quite important to my enjoyment of a cookbook and a blah cover, well it just won’t tempt me.
This cookbook, however, had my name written all over it. And, even if I didn’t fall in love with its front cover, I most certainly appreciate the note on the back:
“All royalties from More from ACE Bakery will be donated to organizations that work with women and children in crisis.”
I’ve never been to the ACE Bakery, nor had I purchased the first cookbook, or frankly, even heard of the Toronto-based cafe. But, after living with the More From… cookbook for the past 6 months, it has certainly crept onto my radar and its older sibling is now on my wish list. Unlike quite a few cookbooks that I pined for, purchased and then placed back on the shelf never to touch again, Linda Haynes’ More from ACE Bakery has caught my attention with a wide variety of recipe for lunchy type dishes as well as its casual instructions, tips and fantastic glossary of baker’s lingo. When I’m looking for inspiration, it’s quite often the book I find myself pulling out.
My first attempt (and therefore adaptation) of a recipe was a simple warm salad of sweet potato and pear (p 109). My version made a few strategic substitutions, like pumpkin in place of sweet potato and the addition of some fresh pomegranite seeds… but otherwise stayed true to the spirit of the dish. The crispness of the pears and the soft savory-sweetness of the pumpkin worked beautifully together.
The next recipe that caught my eye was the Kiwi Lassi. I used hardy kiwis… a grape-sized, smoothed skinned variety… rather than the standard fuzzy fruits, and the smoothie was simply delicious… up until about 30 minutes after blending, when just as the recipe said, the kiwi developed a bitter flavor. Best to drink this one up quickly!
Surprisingly, I have yet to make a bread recipe from the book, but there are several that look very tempting, including Italian-style rosemary breadsticks (Grissini) and muffins called Angel Muffins that look like fluffy clouds full of apricots.
This week, I made a Wild Mushroom and Ricotta Strata (p166) which turned out to be like a cross between stuffing and lasagna. Warm and rich with all the combinations of mushrooms, bread and cheese, this dish is a fantastic accompaniment to roast chicken or turkey. My changes were subtle… I used dried chanterelles instead of fresh due to the season and left out the porcinis, and I used a layer of onion and water cress in place of the leeks which I forgot to add to my shopping list. Plus, for good measure, I sprinkled on a bit of truffle oil.. because truffle oil just makes everything tastier.
Wild Mushroom and Ricotta Strata
Adapted from More from ACE Bakery page 166
1 T butter
1 medium sweet onion, finely chopped
1 T olive oil
1 Portobello mushroom
5-8 crimini mushrooms
5-8 shiitake mushrooms
1/2 oz dried mushrooms (chanterelle or porcini)
1 t minced garlic
1/4 t fresh thyme or 1/2 t dried thyme
1/2 t sea salt or truffled salt
1 cup cream
1 cup stock (chicken or veggie)
1/2 t salt
1/8 t pepper
8 to 10 slices of sandwich bread, sliced diagonally
1 cup cress, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup fresh ricotta
truffle oil (optional)
Soak dried mushrooms in hot water for 20 minutes. Drain (you can keep the liquid as stock) and pat dry. Set aside.
In a heavy bottomed skillet, heat the butter until melted and add the onion. Cook on medium heat until the onion is translucent. Remove from the pan, and set aside.
Using the same skillet, add olive oil and heat on medium-high heat. Before it reaches the smoking point, add the fresh mushrooms, and cook until they begin releasing their liquid. Add the dried (now reconsituted) mushrooms, along with the garlic, thyme and salt.
Truffled salt really brings out the earthiness in the mushrooms… use it if you have some! Saute for another minute and then remove from the pan and set aside.
Whisk together the eggs, cream, stock, pepper and remaining salt.
Line a deep casserole dish with slices of bread, overlapping them slightly. Smash them down slightly, and then cover with some of the onions, and then the cress. Next, add a layer of mushrooms.
Repeat with another layer of bread, onions and mushrooms. Then, dot on the ricotta, evenly distributing the cheesy blobs.
Pour on about 3/4 of the egg/cream/stock mixture, making sure to soak the edges. Top with a final layer of bread, and then carefully soak the final bread topping with the remaining egg mixture.
Cover, and let sit for at least 30 minutes. Or, refrigerate up to overnight before baking.
Preheat oven to 375F, and bake for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the custard has set. Let the strata rest for about 15 minutes, and then sprinkle with a touch of truffled olive oli just before serving.