Monday, October 13, 2014

12 things you might not know about Nadia G ... And lots of RECIPES!!!

As a food blogger, sometimes you get ... interesting opportunities. Like a chance to chat with Nadia G host of Nadia G's Bitchn' Kitchen and Bite This with Nadia G.

Possibly the quirkiest of the cooks on the network, I was curious what strange turns the conversation might take.

We were supposed to be talking about Halloween cocktails and appetizers she created for a company called Once Upon a Vine. It's a wine company, so the drinks are wine-related. The other recipes are just fun.

But of course, I bounced her off-track a number of times to make the conversation more interesting.

Things you might not know are that:
  • Both of her parents are Italian.
  • She was (and still is. Ha!) an only child.
  • She got her cooking-show start on YouTube in 2007.
  • She prefers white wine to red.
  • She once dressed as a "prom zombie" for Halloween.
  • Her favorite Halloween candy is ... chocolate. Maybe that's too easy. 
  • Her second favorite is what she described as a pressed-powder candy that is sweet and tart.
  • She started a cooking show on Canadian TV in 2010 and started on the Cooking Channel in 2011.
  • She thinks Montreal bagels are the best in the world. They're smaller and fluffier and more delicate than American bagels, she says.
  • For Halloween, her mom once dressed her in a potato sack and cowboy hat, with big red dots on her cheeks - she still doesn't know what that costume was supposed to be.
  • She doesn't bake a lot of yeast breads, but she does bake sweet breads. A recent one was and apple bread with home made caramel.
  • This year for Halloween, she's going to dress as "dead and rotting Martha Stewart."
Yeah, that last one's going to get me some weird search traffic. For sure.

In any case, we talked about her family, and her career and her recipes. And of course I slipped in the fact that I've got a cookbook coming out next month *Pats self on back*

I stopped just short of offering her a cookbook, because that would have been weird. But now that we're besties, maybe she'll buy one.

Speaking of recipes, I've got a whole lot of her recipes, just for you. I haven't tried any of them yet, but they look pretty good. Or creepy. Or good. Whatever.

The food recipes are below, and wine cocktail recipes are available from The Wine Bar. Click on over. Glug, glug.

One wine-cocktail recipe that sounded pretty good to me was something she called The Witch's Brew. It included pear nectar, which is a little unusual, but not terribly hard to find, as well as some white wine and some thyme.

She said that when creating wine cocktails, you need to make sure the drinks are balanced and that the other flavors don't overwhelm the wine. That makes sense.

Her comment about Halloween food, though, really made me love her. She said that some Halloween food tastes as scary as it looks, with way too much food coloring and sugar. She likes food that tastes good, but still looks creepy.

The one that we talked about a bit - it fits her Italian heritage, and it sounded delicious, and it probably looks super-creepy - is her bocconcini eyeballs. It's cheese, olives, and prosciutto. That sounds tasty, right?

Nadia said that she prefers throwing Halloween parties rather than going out to bars where there are "twits in polyester costumes." Then she admitted that there could be some of those polyester-dressed twits at your own party, but at least they're your friends.

As far as her costume this year, it will involve a pastel sweater, too-high mom pants, and lots of blood and gore. That'll be perfectly appropriate when she's serving these:

Bocconcini Eyeballs with Blood Salsa
Recipe courtesy of Nadia G

For the bocconcini eyeballs:
8 large green olives stuffed with pimento
16 Bocconcini cheese balls
8 slices Prosciutto di Parma

For the blood salsa:
1 can whole San Marzano tomatoes
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon aged balsamic vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 red onion, minced
1 handful fresh flat parsley, finely chopped
1 handful fresh basil, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried Greek oregano
1/4 teaspoon hot chili flakes
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
Freshly cracked pepper


Making the eyeballs: slice olives into 1/4-inch discs. Place an olive disc in the center of a bocconcini and trace around it with a sharp paring knife. Carve out a 1/2-inch piece of cheese from the outline and place olive slice in the hole. Wrap a slice of prosciutto around the bocconcini eyeball.

Making the salsa: pour whole can of San Marzano tomatoes into a bowl. Add olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, red onion, parsley, basil, Greek oregano, chili flakes, salt, sugar, and lots of freshly cracked pepper. Mix with hands.

Divide eyeballs into pairs and place on individual plates. Add a couple of tablespoons of salsa to each plate. Serve with crostini.

Note from me: There was no photo for this. I'm tempted to make it JUST for the photo. Or you make it and post it and I'll link to it. Please?

Coffin-shaped Grilled Cheese Sandwiches 
with Melted Taleggio Cheese, Caramelized Onions and Apples
Recipe courtesy of Nadia G

For the caramelized onions:

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
3 red onions, sliced in 1/2 inch slices
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

For the sandwiches:
1 large loaf sourdough bread
1 McIntosh apple, sliced thinly
4 wedges Taleggio cheese
Sufficient quantity butter

Making caramelized onions: Heat a non-stick pan on medium. Add olive oil, onions, separate them, and salt. Sauté for 10 minutes, then turn down heat to medium-low and cook for another 35-40 minutes, until onions are deep amber in color.

Making the sandwich: Cut sourdough into 1/2 inch slices, then into coffin shapes. Heat a pan on medium low and melt enough butter to coat the pan. Lay down a slice of bread, a cheese wedge, caramelized onions, 3 apple slices, and top with another slice of bread. Press down and cook for 3 minutes, until golden brown. Flip and cook for another 2 minutes, until cheese is melted.

Remove grilled cheese from pan, and serve.

Milk Chocolate Chip and Maple Syrup Glazed Bacon
Witch Finger Cookies

Recipe courtesy of Nadia G

12 bacon slices, minced
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 cup unsalted butter, large dice
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup raw sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
Maldon salt, to taste
1 1/2 cup quality milk chocolate, in chip sized chunks
Raw skinless almonds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Note from me: You'll need witch-finger molds for these, but at this time of year, you can no doubt find them at the grocery store. Off-season, you can probably find them online.

Making the bacon: In a medium frying pan, sauté the bacon until fat has rendered and bacon is crisp. Drain the fat from the pan, and add the maple syrup. Stir to blend, and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes until maple syrup becomes thick. Transfer immediately to a small bowl, and let cool.

Making the batter: With a standing or handheld mixer, blend the butter and sugars for 3 to 5 minutes until light and fluffy. Add the egg, and beat for 1 minute or until well blended. Add the vanilla, and beat for 30 seconds more. Stir in the flour with a wooden spoon. Add the maple syrup glazed bacon, and chocolate. Stir to combine.

Place almonds into the fingernail part of witch finger molds. Scoop dough into the molds, filling them 3/4 of the way, and bake in the center of oven until golden around the edges (about 9-10 minutes). Remove from oven. Pull the cookies out while still warm and with a paring knife cut off the excess cookies around the finger to shape it. Handle carefully so cookie doesn't break.

Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

Spicy Onion Rings
Recipe courtesy of Nadia G

Canola or peanut oil
1 tablespoon ground cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup corn meal
3 large yellow onions, peeled, thinly sliced in rounds

In a high-sided saucepan heat the oil on medium until it reaches a temperature of 350F.

Making the batter: Combine the cayenne, paprika, garlic powder, dried oregano, dried basil, pepper, and sea salt in a small bowl. Stir to blend.  Set aside.

Making the onion rings: Add the flour and corn meal to a medium bowl. Whisk to combine. Toss the onion rings in the flour mixture to coat.  Deep fry the onion rings in two batches until crispy, and lightly golden (3-5 minutes).  Drain on a paper towel for 1 minute, and then add the onion rings to a large bowl. Add a large pinch of the spice mixture, and toss the onion rings to evenly distribute the seasoning.

Season with salt if desired, and serve immediately.

Crispy Fried Rigatoni “Chips” stuffed Mascarpone 
with Bloody Spicy Raspberry Coulis
Recipe courtesy of Nadia G

For the rigatoni chips:
1/2 lb. rigatoni
Sufficient quantity canola oil
Sea salt

For the filling:
3/4 cup Ricotta cheese
1/4 cup Mascarpone cheese
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon mint, chopped

For the bloody raspberry coulis: 
1 cup frozen raspberries, thawed
1 red chili pepper, halved, seeds and pith removed
2 tablespoons brown sugar

Making the rigatoni chips: Cook the pasta in salted boiling water until partially cooked (about half the cooking time recommended). Drain. Deep-fry the rigatoni in several batches in 350˚ F canola oil until crisp and golden.  Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a wire rack. Sprinkle with sea salt.

Making the herbed filling: To a bowl, add the ricotta and the mascarpone and, using a rubber spatula, blend until smooth. Transfer filling to a piping bag with a small straight tip. Fill each “chip” with the filling.

Making the raspberry coulis: Puree raspberries and their juices, chili pepper and 2 tbsp brown sugar in a food processor.

Dip the rigatoni chips into the “bloody’ coulis and serve.

Thanks to Nadia G for taking the time to chat with me. I feel like we're BFFs now, so feel free to call any time, Nadia! You've got my number!

For some music for your Halloween party, Nadia recommended Once Upon a Vine's Halloween party station on Pandora.

All photos courtesy of Once Upon a Vine. Recipes courtesy of Nadia G. Used with permission. All rights reserved.