Monthly Archives: July 2011

Pickles in Heat

The website has pickle recipes. Beat that cucumbers.

The McClure’s pickles website has recipes for pickle brine.  Beat that cucumbers!

Word of caution: Put a warning Post-It on these  when you plop them in the fridge.  My husband took a big bite before squealing (like a pig) at their spicy nature.

Then Donna our babysitter innocently gave one to my son Felix.    So I pretty much burned the whole household.

OK, this photo gets weirder the more I look at it.

Even at All the Best Fine Foods (have you been there since they re-opened in their reno-ed building?  You’ll be lost in wonder) I was kindly warned twice about them before I took a bite.

But the fact is-they’re delicious!  And honestly, I am pretty flimsy when it comes to spicy food.  Yes, they’re hot but they have so much flavour that you persevere.

(And truthfully–Tad and Felix–bunch of wimps!)

If you do want to temper their bite try them in a sandwich and they’re amazing with melted cheese.  Like my retro chicken salad melt.

Pickles inside and out.

Spicy pickles are also a fine option to sneak into your mild-mannered enemy’s lunch bag.  Except once they’ve had these they’ll probably want to be your friend.  I warned you.

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Tarte Tatin is like a pearl necklace (A Haiku)

You had me at caramelized.

Simple and elegant is what I meant about the pearl necklace in case “cheap and chipped” initially popped to mind.

I made a Tarte Tatin to serve post-BBQ on Saturday night.  It truly is one of my favourite desserts.   The apples were sticky and rich with a touch of burnt caramel bitterness.  And we loaded on big spoonfuls of real whipped cream.

I recommend making way more whipped cream than is sensible so you can eat the leftovers from the same bowl you served it to your guests in.  Meanwhile they look on aghast, wishing you would stop stuffing your face and ask if they want a coffee.

To which I say in my defense,  Isn’t a f’#@!%#  homemade pie enough????

Anyway, eh um….

TARTE TATIN IS LIKE A PEARL NECKLACE

Simple elegance

Induces feeding frenzy

My pearls are trashed

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Toast Post: Tiger Blue

Buttery, fierce Tiger Blue with ginger/apple/pear chutney.

Does it work with Zinfandel?  Depends who you ask.  If you ask the cheese, then yes. If you asked the Zinfandel, well, wine won’t answer you. It talks with its eyes.

I recently had Tiger Blue at a wine tasting and realized I had forgotten how addictive it was.

Tiger blue is a spicy, roar of a cheese and it won’t work for everyone.  It’s also very smooth, rich and creamy and I find that just as the blue-lover in me is begging for mercy I’m hit with buttery richness that soothes my panicking taste buds.

You’ll see that in this case I added a smear of apple/pear/ginger chutney courtesy of Nick at Olympic cheese (have you seen the stores’ makeover?).

And BTW, even if you don’t eat this cheese it just looks unbelievable on a cheese board.  Like a cool piece of marble.  It watches you and thinks, “Hey Matey,  (I know! The pirate voice is so unexpected) why don’t you lurch on over here and slice a sliver off my cool, smooth wedge.   What’s that parrot?  Polly want a neutral cracker to cleanse the palate?

Tiger Blue in 11 words or more:  Producer is Poplar Grove in British Columbia (Naramata Bench, Okanagan Valley).  This cheese will change over the seasons depending on the cow’s milk, it may be more creamy or it may be more crumbly.  Made in the style of Stilton. Comes in a 2Kg wheel.  Pasteurized and a must-try if you like blues.  Get it at Olympic Cheese if you hail from Toronto….

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Thanks for the ribs Pete Watson

Man, my camera was so sticky.

Nothing grilled, nothing gained as they say.  Five years after Pete Watson and his wife Lara gave us a Weber kettle grill for a wedding gift we finally made ribs on it. What idiots we were to deny ourselves the pleasures of grilling ribs on charcoal for sheer procrastination.

But we have gained, oh yes, we have gained.  Sticky fingers, kind of sexy, smoky smelling hair and the most envious aroma of deliciousness coming from any backyard in the neighborhood.   If only I had begun the process in the early afternoon as I declared I would, we could have actually had the ribs for dinner rather than the cold pizza we half-heartedly choked down waiting until the ribs were fall-off-the-bone tender at 11pm.

Here is our talented little grill pre-show.

The kettle potential.

And then I bought myself some apple wood chips and though I could not get a coal chimney (sold out) I got some quick burning coal starter things which were quite effective as long I did not let my thought wander to the substances that made them so quick-burning.

My indirect heat set-up is almost ready.

I have the coals on one side and a drip-pan filled with water on the right.  I put a stainless steel box of soaked applewood chips on the coals just before I added the top grate and the the lid.

Ribs: rubbed, rested and ready.

Two racks of baby back ribs, about 2 lbs each.  I put a dry rub on them and left them for an hour at room temperature.  The rub had sweet paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, dry mustard, celery seed, fresh back pepper and chili powder.  The recipe (BBQ Back ribs with Sweet and Sticky Sauce) came from the Saveur BBQ Issue (I know, what else, right?  I will branch out one day but once again not only were the magazine’s recipes lipsmacking but the stories of BBQ, coleslaw, baked beans, coals, tradition and rivalry were addicitive too!)

And while the ribs cooked between 225 F-250 F over 3 hrs  ( I actually found it hard to keep the heat below 300 F even adjusting the vents as much as I could) I made the sauce.  Honey, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, worcestershire, hot sauce, cloves……MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMessy.

Served with coleslaw and napkins.

And finally at 11pm, with the grill lit from the soft glow coming through the back door of the kitchen, I was able to pull off  shreds of the crispy rib-ends that were slowly caramelizing from their recent basting in sticky sauce.  And I ate them greedily, slightly out of site of my husband before he next opened the door to ask, “are they done yet?”.  And they were good.  Sigh with pleasure good.

Like Angelina Jolie, I am now a Pitt master.

And that’s why I want to thank you Pete Watson.

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Drink free wine at lunch on July 15. I’ll fill your glass to the brim.

Come, take home a raven as a souvenir!

I lied, I’m not actually allowed to pour the wine.  I’m too messy to have contact with liquids that stain.

Luckily, you can’t pour cheese.  Here’s the scoop, come out tomorrow between noon-3pm and try some wines from Ravenswood Winery in California (Sonoma Valley to be precise).  Joel Peterson, Ravenswood’s wine maker will be there and for once you won’t have to talk about the weather as where he lives–it’s nice all the time.  He’ll never say, “whoa, three days of sun, awesome!”  But he will tell you about his Zinfandels and Shiraz and a special blend called ICON.

And you’ll be sober enough to go back to work  (functionally sober I mean) as  Nick from Olympic Cheese and I will fill you up with delicious fromage.  And if you feel sad that you can’t talk about the weather, I’m there for you.  “Humid today, eh?” I promise to say.

DEETS:  July 15, 12-3pm, Victor Restaurant and Lounge, 30 Mercer Street     RSVP marian@eventrix.ca as numbers are limited.

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Fougasse: White Bread Glee

Chewy Good Times

Easy. Impressive.  Can be hooked on the end of your bike handlebars.  These chewy, pretzel-like loaves are my new Gleedom.

I mean, look at them!  (let me show you an overhead.)

They multiply like rabbits, be careful.

The Fougasse first caught my attention in Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table where she explains that this Provencal-style bread should be eaten warm and with simple food,  like some saucisson and a glass of rosé.  Ideal for picnics.  And guess where I took mine?  On le picnic.  Man, sometimes my French instincts overwhelm me.

The recipe I actually used came from the book Dough by Richard Bertinet which has the Fougasse on the front cover. Most importantly in the book Mr. Bertinet said this was easy to make and would impress people.  Well, who am I if not someone who wants to impress with the least effort possible?

Cornmeal dusted dough

You start by making a simple white bread dough (yeast, bread flour, salt, water) and letting it rest for 1 hr until it doubles in size.  My dough took longer, maybe an hour and a half, perhaps the kitchen was a bit cool. Then you gently plop it on the counter-careful not to deflate it–and let it rest another five minutes.

Using your bread scraper you cut the dough in two (and giggle to yourself because it looks like a bum!).

And then into 6 pieces.

Baby Fougasse.

You then take each piece of dough and use the edge of your scraper to make a few diagonal cuts through the dough.  Which you then “fan out” with your fingers.

You Must Be My Lucky Star

You can also keep the dough rectangular and make parallel cuts and pull them apart to make a “ladder” shape.  Fewer holes are better because as the dough bakes any small holes will close up.  Obviously I am far (but pretty close) from being a master at this so I did most of my fougasse with only three cuts.

Ready for heat.

Now take your fougasse and pop them on a baking tray (or a wooden peel if you have one so you can slide it onto your baking stone already pre-heated in the oven 450 F).  I baked mine two at a time on a tray.  You can also press olives, or herbs into your fougasse at this point.

I did use a spray bottle to spritz some moisture into the oven before I shut the door to help get a nice crust on the bread (steam helps crust up the exterior and keep the interior soft).

Tear apart and eat.

Et Voila!  12 minutes later a delicious picnic snack.  Just wrap them in a clean tea towel and go.

(Would also work as tasteful accessories for a meat dress).

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Top Chef Canada: The Final Episode 13

The final three as summed up by Rob and I:

Dale, “I’m crazy high-end cooking–your hot dog will be be plated after being carved into a pig sniffing a truffle”

Connie, “I’m sausages and home-cooking, your hot-dog will be made from a pig I’ve slaughtered, butchered and shoved into the casing myself.

Rob, “I do a bit of everything, I think I’ll make snarky comments about Connie and Dale while I whip up a homemade sausage served with ballpark mustard and yes, you’ll love it.

Its going to be a tough call hot-doggers.  I’m stuck between Connie and Rob.

Quickfire

The chefs are taken  somewhere in the beaches on one of those “bikini-model” days where you want it to look warm and steamy outside but actually there’s a brutal wind and it’s bloody cold.  Connie looks miserable with a red nose and the sniffles.

They each have two hours to prep/cook/plate a BBQ meal for 20 volleyball players using Rickard’s red/white and dark beer and brand new Weber BBQs.

Rob is the only one appearing to have fun as he knocks back a few Rickard’s white and checks out the female volleyball players.

Dale is getting snarky-er, “Clearly the judges love Rob’s comfort food.  So whatever. He could put shit on the grill and they would love it”  This while Rob merrily kisses ass , clinking beer bottles with the judges.

Connie is shocked that Dale has lowered himself to making plain ol’ chicken wings which still turn out kind of “fancy pants.”  She’s working on ribs which usually slow-cook for hours but she’s going for it.

Rob makes a flatiron steak and citrus-spiked corn on the cob.  Dale serves ribs and chicken wings with veggies on the side  and Connie takes the win with white-ale chorizo burgers and dark ale ribs, served with  white-ale coleslaw.

Connie you rock.  And you need some serious soft Kleenex.

Then from out-of-the-blue (or whatever hotel room all the eliminated chefs were locked in) come Todd, Andrea and Dustin.  Since Connie won the Quickfire she gets to choose who will be on her team for the final Elimination.  Not surprisingly she picks Andrea (I would totally have gone for Dustin).  Andrea looks  a little too excited to be back.

In a Connie-esque unstrategic move Connie the assigns Dustin to Dale and Todd to Rob’s team.  They are all way too happy.  But Connie–that’s just the sweet gal she is.

Elimination

Each Chef will be serving a three-course meal of their choice at Peller Estates.  The meal should “showcase who they are as Chefs”.  Finally a challenge everyone is excited about.  Chef David Hawksworth and John Peller (owner of  Estates) join.

Dale is already complaining that three courses is not enough to show of his greatness and plans to serve two dishes for the second course.  You sly dog Dale.

The twist is thrown in by Jason Parsons the Chef at Peller Estates.  He informs the three chefs they will have to serve an amuse as part of their dinner which includes the use of a Cabernet-Franc Ice Wine.

AMUSE

Connie, in a move previously perfected by Todd, pulls out a large Himalayan brick of salt that she’s been hiding under her pillow “just for an occasion like this”.  She uses it to cure albacore crudo and the presentation is impressive.  Dale goes with a “Quebec Brie” (why can’t they ever say the name of the cheese–for God’ s sake!!!!)  paired with some foraged greens and frozen grapes.  But it’s Rob who takes the Amuse round with his goat cheese (from Salt Spring Island), frisee and a Cab France Ice Wine reduction.

1st Course

Connie goes with charcuterie making a smoked pork hock terrine with late-season rhubarb compote (pulling out the seasonal card–Jason Parsons loved it)–which everyone enjoys even though Chef MM thought it was a bit large.

Dale presents a plate of raw fish which was so beautiful I wanted to shellac it and put it on my mantel.  “Others” thought it was too “precious”  (Chef McEwan) and looked at it with disdain.  Everyone else looked pretty damn impressed.

Rob makes everyone say “mmmm” in delicious satisfaction with his foie gras boudin blanc with cauliflower purée and snap peas.

1st course goes to Dale but it’s close.

2nd course

Rob keeps the fatty richness coming with his oxtail and bone marrow which everyone agrees is scrumpalicious but the progression is a bit heavy.  Connie comes out serving lamb two ways–the winning way being the lamb neck croquette which is the most memorable part of the meal.  But here’s where Dale pulls ahead, way ahead…by cheating…no, wait, by “taking a big risk” according to the judges.  I mean, really no one said each course had to have only one dish, right?  (perhaps ask Connie and Rob what they think of that.)

He pulls out black cod with barbecue pork consommé (poured at the table)  and roast lamb with onions done four ways.  Chef MM says the fish dish is the best thing Dale’s done all season and overall no one gives a  crap what the rules were.  They’re eating this up.

Dale kills the second course.  At some point Dale says, “90% of people, 90% of chefs couldn’t replicate my meal.  That’s not arrogant, that’s just reality.”  Then he high-fives himself.

Course 3

Rob makes beignets just to round out the fatty meal.  Despite being downers on how much rich food Rob’s putting out, the judges are all sad little kids when they realize the doughnuts have no fruit filling.

Connie brings out a perfect plate of the cutest desserts ever….chocolate pot de crème with salted peanut brittle (which the judges all agreed could be crèmier), a divine salted-peanut caramel ice cream and a peanut butter- chocolate cupcake. Everyone is dying over the ice cream.

Dale goes so simple it’s actually “complex simplicity” according to consensus. It’s strawberries melted down and re-birthed to create a new, improved strawberry over a lemon custard (with basil custard and rosé sauce). Ok, it sounds kind of awesome.

No one seems to be a clear winner in this category (except Connie’s ice cream perhaps).

Judges Table

Too close to call.  I am still thinking Rob or Connie.  All the chefs are receiving praise such as ” technically skilled” “bold and bright flavours” and “great abs”.

The chefs are called in for the final assessment.

Connie’s food is declared, “robust and honest”

Rob “technically great”

Dale”thinks of the meal as an experience”.

Thea looks at Connie and says, “Connie” loooong pause..”you are NOT Canada’s Top Chef”.

Connie leaves and falls into big hugs in the arms or her mom and husband already waiting in the loser area (back room).

Then, Thea looks between Rob and Dale.  “Dale”  PAAAUUUUSE.  “You are Canada’s Top Chef!”

What! Really.  I actually am kind of happy that Dale (rather than Rob) won.  And when he turned around was surprised by his son, well, not a dry eye in the house!

Well, that’s it.  First season of Top Chef Canada over.  (I’m sure the Food Network’s Top Chef Canada web page will be updated by the Fall for further detail of this last episode.  Man, they work slower than the post office.)  And maybe the Loblaws people can come up with a better angle on their chef-o-mercials than that terrible side shot they cut to all season.  Film school bad.

And please, please, no more of those paper towel ads.  I’ll talk! I’ll say anything you want to hear just to not see that orange juice being knocked over in slow motion ever again.

Blogger out.

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