Thursday, April 29, 2010

Other people's lunches... do you ever wonder?

Sprouts are sprouting everywhere.
My seed situation is almost out of control... I have so much growing and I still have the seeds from Beckta to pick up. And I still need to separate these. My organic soil and compost and manure are right next to the garden, just waiting for me, to have time.

I am having a 'coup de coeur' for the chard, such a beautiful contrast of bright green and lush magenta. I still am looking for garden-swap friends if any of you are interested.

Today, I realized that the lunch that I was preparing would seem like supper for a lot of people. I put a lot of love into our lunches... I often prepare udon or soba noodle salads, yesterday I had a fennel salad, the day before, papaya. It just got me thinking...

What do you have for lunch?

Monday, April 26, 2010

Homemade Gnocchi

I am a gnocchi monster.
It used to be that I ordered gnocchi all I could. I was always so anxious to get my plate and dig in!
But then I got bad gnocchi. A lot of bad gnocchi in different restaurants, in little Italy, in random spots and in more expensive trendy restaurants, simply never got good ones anymore... I think I have had some once this year, it was good but really did not blow my mind. We do not eat out often, but do you know of good gnocchi places?

I made some and finally took a picture.
I think you should just come over to my house and have dinner.

Conversation of the evening:
'any left?'

Fresh Gnocchi

2 lbs potatoes, peeled, cooked (this was about 6 potatoes for me)
1 1/4 - 2 cups flour
1 egg, beaten
Salt and pepper
Semolina (if you are not cooking the gnocchi right away)
Asiago, Parmesan, Manchego...

Cook your potatoes in the oven or boil them until tender. I boiled them then took all the moisture out by heating them gently on the stove. As they are still hot, press them through a sieve (or a potato ricer if you have one) into a bowl. Add the beaten egg, salt and pepper, mix with a wooden spoon, then add flour, 1/2 cup at a time to start, then little by little.

I added one cup then turned over my 'dough' on a work surface. I find that working it with your hands instead of a spoon makes for lighter, fluffier dumplings. Do not overwork! that is when the dough gets sticky. All in all, I think I used just under 1 1/2 cups of flour. You may add some grated cheese, but I like them plain. I add the cheese as I serve them - it also prevents your dough from being sticky as you are rolling it out.

Divide the dough into quarters. Dust your working surface with flour and roll out the dough with the palms of your hands into a long rope about 1-1.5 cm in diameter. Cut to desired size, around 1-1.5 cm intervals. Shape them with a fork or a gnocchi paddle (I need one!!!).

If you are boiling them right away, simply place the dumplings on a sheet of parchment. If you plan on doing these in advance, put them on a parchement lightly dusted with semolina to prevent them from sticking. Tightly wrap and keep in the fridge.

To cook, drop the dumplings in salted boiling water. When they float to the surface, they are done! It should take about 1-2 minutes.

We ate them sauteed in olive oil, garlic and spinach with a homemade tomato and basil sauce. Black olives and Asiago to top it off.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Parnip, Sweet Potato and Beet Chips

I just had to try parsnip, it is one of my favourite vegetables.
I did these the same way as I did the beets alone earlier this week.

What a perfect afternoon snack.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Rustic Honey Date Loaf

Good Morning!
Our delicious breakfast, eating a few slices in the magnificent sun.

Rustic Honey Date Loaf

Preheat oven to 350

Sift together and set aside:
1 3/4 cups flour
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg

in another bowl, mix:
1/4 cup soft butter
1/3 cup brown sugar

Mix in:
1 beaten egg
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1/4 cup honey

Add the flour mixture to the wet mixture.

3/4 cup dates

Turn over the dough on a parchment lined baking sheet, it should be a big mass. Cook for about 45 minutes.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Chocolate Peanut Butter Squares

I have already posted the recipe for these some time ago... but I just had to repost it because they are so sooooo good.
It was Simon's bday and this is all that is left of a very high pyramid of treats.

Please make these, they are so simple. Share them with friends.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Beet Chips!

How to make a burger night a bit more special?
Beet chips.

We also had a very fresh salad.
Red leaf lettuce, cilantro, cucumber, mint (from the garden yeah!!! it's out!!!) mango, lime, rice vinegar, garlic, oil, sambal.

To make the chips, cook the beets until just tender, slice them really thin. Mix with vegetable oil and a bit of sea salt. Cook at 300F for about 30 minutes. Enjoy!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Black Bean Burgers

We eat vegetarian quite often, although when it comes to bbq, I can rarely pass up a juicy beef patty. Last night, I didn't even think twice.

These black bean burgers were just delicious. So much that I put two patties in mine.

My friend Chloe had made some some years ago for Simon's bday and I did what I could remember of her instructions, it probably has nothing to do with her original recipe except for the beans... memory can play many tricks on you - luckily, this tasted good.

Black Bean Burgers
makes 12 small patties

2 cans of black beans, rinsed, drained (one half mashed, set aside)
3 cloves garlic
1/4 cup caramelized onions
1/2 red pepper, finely chopped
1 egg white
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
4 sundried tomatoes
3/4 cup grated manchego
1 bunch cilantro, chopped (with the stems)
1/4 cup cornmeal (breadcrumbs are good also, have some more handy just in case...)
1/2 lime, juiced
1 Tbsp sambal

In a blender or food processor, mix half the beans, half the red pepper, garlic, caramelized onion, spices, sundried tomatoes. Put into a large bowl and mix in the rest of the ingredients.

I recommend baking the patties in the oven first, then putting them on the grill so that they don't fall apart. Adjust the consistency with more or less cornmeal and seasoning with salt and pepper.

Serve with more cilantro, caramelized onion, sour cream, guacamole. I made a yummy smokey tomato jam, it was perfect for it also.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Lemon Scones with Maple Sugar

I have said it before, I am picky when it comes to scones.
Scones should not be square, or triangle, or resemble a cheese puff. They should be high, and flaky, and rich. What I am holding in the picture is the smallest half of the scone...

Restaurants, cafés and bakeries make them into thin triangles to produce more out of a recipe, no waste, more money. I say you make them well, and people will always come back and pay a bit more.

Once you've tasted the real thing, you don't want all the extra sweet stuff that people mix in (chocolate chips is the most that for muffins), they are best enjoyed with a bit of butter and some nice quality jam and fruit.

The trick is to handle everything lightly, a general rule of baking, pie doughs and such. I notice that it makes a lot of people nervous: take your time, make sure your ingredients are the right temperature, and if you have a visual guide, follow it! I handle and fold the dough almost like I would work with puff pastry...

Here is what the dough looks like before being cooked, delicate layers.

I topped them with maple sugar today. We have an ongoing discussion at work about maple sugar losing its taste once it is cooked off... yep, doesn't taste much, I rather sprinkle with turbinado for extra crunch.

2 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 Tbsp sugar (omit if you are doing savoury)

1/3 cup chilled butter, cubed
1/2 cup 35% cream
1/2 cup yoghurt (i use Mediterranée, no diet stuff!!! you can also susbtitute with sour cream)
1 egg
zest of one lemon (or two if you like it very lemony)

Egg wash to brush the tops, or cream, and sugar to sprinkle

Preheat oven to 375.

mix the dry ingredients in a big enough bowl.

mix the other set of ingredients, except butter, with a fork in another bowl.

with your fingers, work the butter into the flour until pea sized. (If you want to be really whacky, you can keep your hands cold in a water bath from time to time - or work with frozen butter, but then you need strong fingers to squish!!)

Incorporate the wet ingredients delicately with a spatula. It does not need to be perfectly incorporated! Turn the bowl over on a work surface. press down the dough, folding in threefolds until flour is fully incorporated. The less you manipulate, the fluffier they will be.

The reason storebough are some 'doughy' is because they are way too manipulated and don't have little butter pockets. As butter cooks, it bubbles and creates air pockets (croissants are the best example!)

I then cut in circles, but do as you wish! brush with egg wash (or cream) and sprinkle with a bit of sugar. Turn down oven to 350 and cook for about 12 minutes until lightly golden.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

BBQ Vermicelli Salad, Mango and Gai Lan

I was so famished when I got home today... I wanted something really quick.
BBQ. Soaking noodles. Quick.

4 cups Gai Lan or other Asian greens
1/2 package vermicelli noodles
Protein (we had pork chops, brushed with maple syrup and garlic chili sauce - go for chicken! tofu!)
3 green onions, chopped on the bias
1 ripe mango, sliced
Thai basil
1 lime
1 lemon
2 cloves garlic, minced
Sesame oil
Vegetable oil

*Soak the vermicelli until soft, mix with some sesame oil and juice of one lime. Toss with the fresh herbs.
*Cook your protein (tofu, chicken, pork, shrimp...), cut into slices and set aside
*Sauté your greens in a mix of vegetable and sesame oil + garlic. Toss with the grated rind of one lemon and juice of one half lemon. Season with salt. Set aside.
*Assemble the salad!!! Gai Lan, noodles, protein, mango, green onions.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Spicy Mustard Chicken Burger

What makes this moment absolutely perfect?

*The fact that it is still sunny out and that I am about to eat.
*The fact that my fingernails are full of dirt.

I have started my seeds. I bought some organic/heirloom ones and some regular ones, I can't wait to see what grows faster/better/tastier... I will also soon be receiving a seed kit from Beckta, that will be exciting even though it seems like I have the same variety or types of veggies (duplicates will be Chantenay carrots, fava, beets, colored swiss chard, radishes)

I have found a trade partner for some sprouts!! Joie! Merci Chloé! Can't wait to get pumpkin!!

Anywhoo... A great mix for chicken burgers:
*marinate your chicken in a mix of maple, grainy mustard and chilies. Save some of the mixture to baste the chicken as it grills.
*serve on a bun with sauteed onions, bacon, hot banana peppers, lettuce (we had roquette), mayo.
*our sides were... green! We had some roasted rapini with smoked sea salt and an arugula salad with lemony goat cheese, a lemon/garlic vinaigrette and some roasted tomatoes.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Friends, Food and Garden

This little flower I found in the back of our yard, hidden amongst the ferns and rosebushes...
I would like tons all over my lawn, instead, I have hundreds of dandelions, they keep me busy for hours.

I spent a long part of the day getting the garden ready.
I have decided to make it larger this year, it will be madness. I remember having trouble keeping up last year, but I like a challenge and I am a silly girl. I will start my sprouts this week - it was the plan today, but rain made me dash for the garage with all my tools and shovel. Anyone else starting veggies? Maybe I could trade some, I tend to be excessive...

Food news of the weekend.

Lovely beets.

Manchego, spicy Hungarian salami, bresaola, absolutely tremendous aged gouda!!!

The Griddler strikes again! Grilled balsamic marinated veggies with roasted kale... my favourites were the fennel and raddichio.

Lemon meringue pie. Minis for us and some guests on Saturday night.

Big cloudy-dreamy one for my mum.

I am surrounded by yellow. The beets. The pie. Dozens of daffodils around the house and these ...

Too tired for recipes, but if you want one, leave a comment, it will be my pleasure to share.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Chipotle Chicken Soup... and muffins to start the day.

It seems like I could be the chicken ambassador these days.

I used the breasts of a whole Saveurs des Monts chicken the other night to prepare skewers. I was then left with big thighs and wings - these were cooked and used in this lovely soup. The bones were cooked off and made a very tasty stock.

This chipotle soup could easily be done veggie - I would add some black beans for protein and substitute the chicken stock with veggie stock.

We had walnut & chocolate banana muffins for breakfast. It was raining so hard when I got up this morning, I needed something warm and comforting to start the day...

The Soup!

2 chicken thighs + 2 wings, shredded
1/2 white onion, fine dice
2 chipotle in adobo, seeds removed, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
4 baby carrots, sliced
1 red pepper, cubed
2 ears of corn, or 1 small can (I tried organic canned corn -let's see if I taste the difference!)
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 1/2 litres chicken stock
1/2 lime, juiced
3 small jalapenos, thinly sliced
3 green onion, sliced on the bias
1 bunch cilantro, chopped

Cook the chicken thigh in the oven, remove the meat, shred with your fingers, set aside.
In a small stock pot, cook the onions until translucent, add the shredded chicken. cook for a few minutes more, add the carrot, garlic and the chipotle. cook for about 5 minutes. add the chicken stock and canned tomatoes. stew together for about 30 minutes on low heat, adjust seasoning with water, more stock, or tomato juice. 10 minutes before serving, add the corn and yellow pepper. just before serving, add the lime juice, cilantro, slices of jalapeno and green onion.

Serve with ripe avocado, shredded cheese or sour cream if desired.

Monday, April 5, 2010

chicken skewers, peanut sauce and cilantro cucumber salad

I get so excited at this time of year. I make the rounds every day - front of the house, flowers beds all around, garden... what is growing? Our lilac bushes are coming along really nicely.

Bbq also makes me really happy. Fresh salads. A bit of sun as we cook.

Tonight, we marinated chicken in lime juice, cumin and sambal. Cooked on the grill as little skewers. We ate them with peanut sauce, if you want a recipe, follow this one and adjust the taste to your liking. It tastes better with real PB (not kraft!), if you don't have hoisin, add a little sweetness with sugar, maple or honey.

The cucumber salad was pretty straightforward and was perfect for the spicy skewers.

1 cucumber, large matchstick
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup thick yoghurt
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 bunch cilantro, leaves
1 lime, juiced
2 tsp honey

Mix right before serving.

No Cooking Required

What a lovely weekend this was.

The only meal I prepared were burritos for a quick lunch on Friday. I can't believe it. I didn't even make breakfast - we had croissants and apple turnovers from a nearby bakery. One very late but joyous meal was a mix of nachos, cheese bites and sausage at l'Autre Oeil.

We were invited to a 60th bday party. I ate a lot of pretzels.

We went to the sugar shack. I dreamt of making a stack of pancakes with bacon and maple syrup - but they served the pancakes at the end only.

We were some very lucky guests on Sunday and tried out Nicole's pizza. She had just bought a pizza stone (watch this cute video on how to use one!) and we sampled 5 different kinds. Nicole also tried this recipe from Orangette: it was quite good, we were all imagining what else we would have served it with... dunked in chocolate, covered in ganache, buried under a cloud of whipped cream (my suggestion of course. tons and tons of whipped cream).

Dear family and friends... thank you.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Les 3 Gourmandes

No, this is not a new restaurant. Simply three girls who love to eat.
I didn't quite know if I should post about this, but it seemed like a sweet revenge. Rachelle did post about coming over for dinner at my house...

Consider this post an ode to food, an ode to great company, an ode to fantastic cooks.

For a few years now, my friend Amy and I eat together regularly. We eat until our tummies explode and are very often victim of food coma. In Rachelle, we found a partner. I like girls who indulge, who don't think about waistline, who let out little sounds of satisfaction as they eat.

Upon arrival, we were all so excited. Bottles of cava, white wine, cheese, figs, bread, where to start? My hands hovered from one thing to the other and I felt so fortunate.

Rachelle went from oven to fridge, mixed, added little things.

Behind every incredible woman is a man... and in this case, the man is an extremely organized and caring husband who wanted this evening to be a success for his wife.

Truffle oil drizzled on our gazpacho, a taste of summer to come. A recipe that I will try out.

Chorizo stuffed mushroom. I think we had about 3 dozen...

Lovingly prepared smelts.


Disappearing in our little otter tummies. (Yes, I do picture myself as an otter when I eat oysters and smelts...)


As if smelts did not make me feel like this meal was prepared just for me, we then had fish tacos. Beautiful halibut from the Whalesbone, mixed with lime juice, just the right amount of spice, tomatoes, lettuce, cilantro, corn salsa...

We even managed to eat a few fork fulls of wild rice. And have a second taco. Why the three of us stay so tiny is a mystery, but I thank the universe.

We ended our frugal evening with a splendid merlot port that Rachelle brought back from the Valley...

...and what I thought was a good phone picture, was not so much. But you saw it before it got cut. We ate cake. Rachelle and Amy had seconds, and leftovers.

Something about sharing a great meal brings tears to my eyes and makes my heart all puffy. Generosity. People who want to please you as much as you want to please them. People that make you smile, and you want to make them smile even more.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Almond and Chocolate Mousse Layer Cake

Let them eat cake she said.
Oh, we will.

Recipe to come. Don't worry.
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