The Toronto Life Cookbook is out. This time with 60 recipes. Not bad at all.
It’s not quantity we are looking for, however, but quality. Toronto Life will always be accused of being a schmoozey-cruisey slog around the same worn track. Not diverse enough for some, not indie enough for others. Who cares about that, I ask? Can you actually cook from it?
Here’s my top ten that look like things one might actually cook at home. Meaning I will be trying these recipes and hoping to incorporate them into the family life of a woman with picky kids to feed. This is mostly a rather decadent list, but we asked for the best, not the healthiest. It’s almost Thanksgiving, after all.
Top Ten Toronto Life Cookbook Recipes for Real Life
- Raisin Scones: These appeal to the traditionalist in me. They are simple, rich and involve raisins, the proper addition to a scone. (My mom’s Scots-Irish, so there. None of your chocolate chip nonsense.) Okay, I won’t make them on a weekday, because I may not have crème fraiche on hand, but on a weekend I won’t feel as if I’m stuck in the kitchen for hours. Two steps! Mix and bake. Done and done.
- Scalloped Sweet Potatoes: Chicken stock, whipped cream, and Lancashire cheese transform the sweet potato far away from anything you might want to call health food. On the bright side, you can’t fail but make everyone love them, even if they are not typically favourites. Many people reportedly have children who love sweet potatoes. I do not. But this give me hope. And once again, made in two steps!
- Minestrone: In my arrogance, I never read a recipe for minestrone, figuring I know well how to make it alla Milanese from memory. The simplicity of this recipe is enough to make me want to shift gears, and not because it looks unbelievably easy—which it does—but because the limited ingredient list promises not to overcomplicate things. I must admit I’ve never put red wine in my minestrone. And I’m not a fan of basil and oregano in one dish—I find they compete rather than enhance each other—but any home cook worth her salt can surely adjust the herbs as she pleases. But I will try it as it’s written, because here we are trying things, right?
- Farro Salad: I love farro. The most underappreciated grain in North American, in my mind. This ancient grain is easy on the tummy and is light tasting and healthy. Farro is often mistranslated as spelt, but according to the Joy of Cooking it’s an ancient grain called emmer wheat that has fallen of the radar in North American but never stopped being part of a traditional diet in the parts of Italy where it is still regularly consumed. I like it better than a traditional Arborio rice risotto, and Lord knows I love me some risotto Milanese. Now this recipe is not two steps, not by a long shot, and you might end up skipping a step or two to either save time or simplify the flavours. No matter. Make the full-blown version to bring to a dinner party and learn to play with farro for a short version of your own making for weeknights.
- Patty Melt: Home-muddled chili mayo, caramelized onions, and a big juicy burger on rye bread. I don’t know what more I can tell you.
- Cannelloni: A tribute to simplicity. Such restraint and dedication to tradition—this is his nonna’s recipe after all—speaks of deep respect for the the ingredients as well as the palate. This recipe comes from Buca, who are well know for their beautiful fusion of authenticity and innovation. The buffalo milk ricotta is a departure and a opulent one. I’ll feel free to play this out with a local sheep’s milk ricotta that I get at a farmer’s market. Without the fear that Nonna might be turning over in her grave.
- Duck Confit: Yes, this is my idea of a family meal. Okay, you need a couple days prep time, and like the Scalloped Sweet Potatoes above, you can’t eat something this rich on a regular basis, but hey, duck is delicious. And duck cooked slowly in duck fat is heaven. I will make those little monsters learn to love it if it kills me. Easy, decadent Sunday supper. I feel all kinds of Euro-chic just thinking about it.
- Chocolate Souffle: When the French tell us soufflé is as easy as it is elegant, they are not setting us up so they can have a good laugh at our brutish efforts. It really is both. Furthermore, there is just really not enough soufflé in my life, and chocolate seems as good as way to introduce soufflé to children and teens as any. This recipe comes from Didier Leroy, who would never, ever steer us wrong.
- Toffee Bit Cookie: I was quite torn between this and the Chai Spice Donuts, both of which are easy. I love cookies best of all, though, and despite the fact that these need freezing, they are simple to make and use Skor bits. I can’t imagine anything that might make my children love me more.
- Pumpkin Pie: From Mabel’s. I ordered mine today. When I see Lorraine next, I’ll ask her if she actually uses vodka for the pie crusts in her bakery. I know recipes are often adapted not just for individual use but for the feasibility for the ingredient list for a home cook versus a pro. So I will be keen to make this and compare it to the pie I bring home from her bakery every Thanksgiving. (I have enough to make, alright? I can’t do everything.) This version uses both brown sugar and maple syrup, whipping cream and buttermilk. I might have to start making my own. Happy Thanksgiving to you, whichever way you do it!