Monthly Archives: May 2012

Into every garden a little chives should fall

I was thinking about our little garden as the weather has hottened and long weekend arrived.  We have a little patch of dirt amongst the flowers where I’d plant some tomatoes and herbs–usually basil and rosemary and then last year I planted some arugula which thrived despite my lack of attention.

This year that patch of dirt has been flattened by a sand box for Felix and I will have to dig out another part of the garden if I want to continue planting.  Which I have been feeling laissez-faire about (lazy, pronounced with a french accent).

Until my friend Lisa snipped some chives for me from her front garden on Thursday.  They’ve been coming up on their own year after year.

Aren’t they beautiful?  But they also smelled fragrant when chopped.  I have already used some in an omelette and with salty butter on baby potatoes.

It reminded me how awesome it is to be able to have something you grew yourself, on hand and ready to customize your own cooking.

I also love dill so now am thinking I will plant dill, the chives and maybe some mint (mojitos 24/7  or…. maybe just 18/7).   Also the tomatoes and arugula.   And some green beans.

(See, once you start you can’t stop)

So even if you have a small patch, or just some pots, plant something.

Even if it’s just for the ability to cut some herbs,  pop them into a glass on the window sill and feel very Martha Stewart.

So Happy Long Weekend.   Don’t forget to have ice cream, my current favourite is the apple ice cream (is it gelato? can’t remember) from Ed’s Real Scoop.

But after a bike ride (or in the middle of?) a fudgesicle and oh….a creamsicle!

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Ticket Giveaway for The Artisan Cheese and Fine Food Fair June 2/3

I’m very excited to be have two passes (courtesy of the The Great Canadian Cheese Festival) to give away for their Artisan Cheese and Fine Food Fair which takes place in Prince Edward County on June 2 and 3.   This is the second annual event and numbers for the Food Fair will be capped each day so these are hot little tamales.

Monforte Dairy’s triple-cream Bliss and hand-churned butter will be available at the event.

If like me, the above cheese board is your perfect meal, you won’t want to miss the Food Fair where you will find over thirty artisanal and farmstead cheese makers from across Canada plus a dairy farm for the kids (I  plan to leave my son in the care of a responsible–but fun-loving–goat), a food court and 80 exhibitors in total showcasing their wares.

These two tickets are worth $80 and with admission you get:

-10 tasting tickets

-a souvenir Festival cooler bag for cheese purchases  (this is much better than a leather purse, trust me)

-free parking at the Crystal Palace where the event is being held

-and you can sit in on the All You Need is Cheese seminars being put on by Dairy Farmer’s of Canada  (and taught by Deborah Levy who is fantastic and very knowledgeable)

Here is a link to FEATURED WINERIES, CRAFT BREWERS and ARTISAN FOODS.

Sandbanks Winery, PEC image from About.Com

And if you’ve never been to Prince Edward County, you really must try to see it.  It is a perfect weekend away.

There is also a COOKS AND CURDS gala on the evening of June 2 which features Canadian chefs cooking with Canadian cheese, paired with local brews and wine.  The first sitting is sold out but the second sitting is still open.

Information about getting tickets to everything (but obviously you’re going to win these) is available on the festival site as is accommodation information.  See you there!

HOW TO WIN:

If you think you’d like to attend simply email me at thespread@globeandmail.com with the subject heading CHEESE FESTIVAL GIVEAWAY and I will do a draw next Tuesday, May 22 and mail you the tickets if you win.

Good luck and please spread the word, forward this, tell your friends to pass on information about this amazing event.   Much appreciated.

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Filed under Cheese/Cheese Related, Toast Posts, Travel and Food, Uncategorized

Kick-Ass Mother’s Day Breakfast in 10 minutes (I timed it)

Simple can be phenomenal.  The thought of  perfect soft-boiled egg ( runny, rich yolk,  sea salt) and generously buttered toast makes my shoulders relax and my mouth water.    Relaxation, pleasure and fun (dipping toast into your yolk is fun after all) can be delivered to mom in 10 minutes.  Best of all, no clanging pots to wake her from her sleep and barely a dish to find “soaking” in the sink when she finally comes downstairs.

But the key word for soft-boiled egg heaven is “perfect”. Not too loose, not too firm.  Let me, soft-boiled egg fanatic, give you the inside scoop.

Take the eggs out of the fridge and let them come to room temperature before cooking them.  This helps prevent cracking (less shock of a cold egg hitting hot water).

I  never remember to take the eggs out of the fridge in advance, so I put them into a bowl of warm water while I bring a small pot of water to a boil.

Using a pin (a safety-pin from your dry cleaning hanger will work just fine) make a small hole in the bottom of the egg to relieve some of the pressure when it goes into the hot water (another trick to prevent cracking).  I admit to skipping this step on regular days but–come on—it’s an occasion.

When your water is boiling add your egg(s) and keep the water at a gentle simmer.  You want some bubbles still breaking the top.

Water should cover the whole egg. Do as I say not as I do.

Now set your time for 5 minutes (6 minutes if you want the yolk slightly firming at the edges) and go to work on getting the toast into the toaster (don’t toast it yet though) and butter at ready.

When the timer goes off, drop the eggs into a bowl of cold water to stop their cooking.  NOW press the toast down.  When done, butter the toast, cut the cap off your egg (be confident with the knife to make the first crack and then gently slide the knife through to the other side, turning the egg upright fast for fear of losing any of the runny yolk.).  Sprinkle  sea salt on the egg and the toast.  Tad-ah!  Done.

Bring directly up to mom with a little spoon and a napkin.

Garnish with good coffee.

And gild the lily with a bar of sea salt chocolate.  (yes, kind of cliché yet kind of genius at the same time).

Bring it all up, allow for a quick kiss and thank you and then leave her the hell alone.

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Bread and Butter Haiku

Chewy baguette with crispy crust.  Monforte butter, hand-churned from creme fraiche (which was made from organic cream from Mapleton’s Organic).

LUNCH.

Calls for a Haiku.

BREAD AND BUTTER

it would not be  bad

to lose skinny human friends

for fat chewy ones

Finish with a pear.

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Musings on Toronto’s Chef legacy


Not to flog a well-ridden horse (ok, I will)  but I’ve been meaning to get back to posting about the Terroir 2012 conference  and while looking through my notes got to thinking about the dialogue surrounding the 50 Best Restaurants List.   There was outrage, insult and a lot of defensiveness felt at Canada’s chefs being excluding from the rankings.

I read a few interesting opinions as to why we are being “overlooked”  and even why we may not yet deserve to be there.  Some writers seemed to feel that cuisine in Toronto (or across Canada) is very good, excellent even, but  plays it too safe– no real risks are being taken.  Or perhaps not enough.  Maybe this is partially due to clientele.  A restaurant has to survive in an incredibly tough business.  A kitchen must cater somewhat to the palates (and wallets) of the customers as much as the chef may be dying to expand his diners’ comfort zone.

On my initial visit to Chantecler in April I asked which dishes were the “hits”.  The answer was “depends who you ask”.  The regular customers had certain faves and the industry people who ate there had others.

All of this was running through my head as I thought back to the Terroir 2012  “Culinary and Drink Trends” session.  The first half seemed to focus more on food trends in general than just drinks, and a fascinating conversation evolved about where cuisine in Toronto was headed.  Grant Van Gameren, executive chef at Enoteca Sociale (formerly of Black Hoof fame) was very outspoken and raised some interesting questions about the legacy of Toronto’s chefs as leaders.

He said that as new interests develop and old trends fade (so long charcuterie) we need more chef-leaders in the city. A lot of  small restaurants are being opened by newer, younger chefs and a lot of the “grandfathers” are doing TV.  Which wasn’t a criticism, just a question about who is out there teaching these new up and comers?  In Van Gameren’s opinion, “we’re in a 5-year block of transition” to what our food scene is going to be.  And which of these younger guys/gals is going to still be around?

He went on to say that the need to break free, expand your creativity in your own kitchen is understandable but are 27 and 28-year-old chefs ready to set the pace for the next generation?  He suggested that many chefs in Toronto need to travel more, stage more around the world.  Get a more international perspective.  Right now no one in Toronto is doing much to stand out.

He even singled himself out saying sometimes that when he is mentoring his crew, he will find himself wondering what more he can learn–so he can better lead those under him.

Van Gameren also acknowledged that in order to sustain a groundbreaking restaurant like Chicago’s Alinea in Toronto you would need investors to take on the risk and also the local support of Toronto’s diners–people need to be willing to shell out cash for more than just comfort food.

He pointed out that a lot of the smaller places opening these days take on the same formula– reclaimed wood, edison bulbs and copper accents–and some chefs do serve  avant-garde cuisine in these cozy rooms–but often the stereo is blasting so loud you can barely hear your server describing, with great care, the dish you’re about to eat.

Which brings me back to the type of restaurants that are featured on the Top 50 list; true “fine-dining” venues with a less laid-back atmosphere.  Places where the chefs are moving cuisine forward, maybe even before the diner is ready to take the leap.  Though hopefully they have enough faith to jump.

Do we have these kind of leaders (and diners)  in Toronto? In Canada?  I guess we’ll have to wait and see what happens next year.  Or in the next five.

For some interesting perspectives on the Top 50 list (and how it’s is judged) you can check out these links:

Lesley Chesterman, The Montreal Gazette

Chris Nuttall-Smith, The Globe and Mail

Adrian Brijbassi, Vacay.ca

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You ain’t seen nothin’ yet Coleslaw

It’s a little bit coleslaw, a little bit art. Maybe it’s for dinner tonight?  This recipe is the Sweet Winter Slaw from the cookbook I am obsessed with, Plenty, by Yotam Ottolenghi.  I made this for the first time in Omaha when visiting family and then again on Saturday to go with the Black Pepper Tofu (from the same book) which is irrationally loveable.  If I figure out where I saved the photos from that preparation I will post them soon too.

But this salad is not only easy (the chopping takes a bit of time but you can do it in advance) but the combo of papaya, mango, mint, cilantro and red cabbage (plus the candied macadamia nuts) is pretty stellar.  Your guest’s taste buds will be at your mercy–you can serve charred, dried out chicken breast right after and people will still walk away thinking you are a genius.

When we made this in Omaha we forgot to get macadamia nuts so we used pecans. The nuts are candied and then roughly chopped before being tossed in with the other ingredients.  You can use peanuts as well.

The smell of cilantro as you chop it will energize your work as you rush towards dinner hour ( especially if you’re like me and are always one side dish behind in prep because you’ve  decided to take extra time arranging the glasses on the dining room table “just so”.)

If you make this in advance, I think you can cut everything a few hours ahead except for the mint and cilantro.  If you add the herbs  an hour before serving (don’t toss yet, just add on top of the salad and put a damp paper towel on top of the ingredients) I think everything will still be fresh and fine.  Realistically, chopping the herbs does not take a lot of time–but you may be space crunched as I am though so anything done if advance helps.

The dressing can be made the day before.  You may want to steal this dressing and us it on other greens or salads.  Its addictive flavour comes from maple syrup, lime juice, lemon grass, sesame oil and chile flakes in it.

Finally just before serving, toss everything together, pour on the dressing and serve.  This will actually still taste pretty good the next day (if you have leftovers) though the herbs and nuts will be a bit moist by that time.  When I made it this weekend I reserved some of the salad without dressing for the next day, figuring I could always toss some more if we ran out.

And here it is going on the plate:

This image is from our Omaha dinner, we served it with this tomato and onion Socca.   In the book there’s  recommendation to serve this with roast chicken.  Perfection I think!

Sweet Winter Slaw  (adapted from Plenty, by Yotam Ottolenghi)

Serves 6

Dressing

6 1/2 tbsp fresh-squeezed lime juice (3-4 limes)

1 lemongrass stalk, chopped into small pieces  (you can substitute with zest of lemon)

3 tbsp maple syrup

2 tbsp toasted sesame oil

1 tsp soy sauce

1/4 tsp chile flakes

4 tbsp light olive oil/sunflower oil

Candied Nuts

1 1/4 cup macadamia nuts

2 tsp butter

2 tbsp sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp chile flakes

Slaw

7 inner leaves of Savoy Cabbage, finely shredded ( I used 1 quarter of a green cabbage, could not get savoy)

1/2 small red cabbage, finely shredded

1 ripe mango, cut into thin strips  (How to peel and slice a mango)

1 papaya, cut into strips

1 fresh red chile, seeded and finely sliced

1/4 cup mint, leaves roughly chopped

1 1/2 cups cilantro, leaves roughly chopped (How to Chop herbs)

Method

For the dressing: Place all the ingredients except the oil into a small saucepan and reduce over high heat for 5-10 minutes until syrupy and thick. Remove from heat and once cooled strain into a bowl and add the oil.  Set aside.

(* ok, I am laughing at how I did not read this instruction and just mixed this all as if making a regular vinaigrette (no heating in pan).  I think it will be better reduced but it still worked great!  So one more time–ALWAYS READ THE RECIPE ALL THE WAY THROUGH)

For the candied nuts:

Place the nuts in a medium pan over medium heat  and roast until lightly browned.  Watch these and shake the pan occasionally so they don’t burn.

Add the butter and when melted add the sugar, salt and chile flakes.  Stir constantly so the sugar doesn’t burn and when caramelized (the sugar will be melted and gooey) remove from the heat and pour onto parchment to cool.  Chop roughly once solid.  Set aside.

Assembly:

Put the cabbage and the rest of the salad ingredients into a bowl (including the nuts).  Add your dressing and toss.  Give it a taste to see if it needs anymore seasoning and serve it up!


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The Works Danforth: Some call it a Burger Fix, I call it a Shake Stop

The Works, 888 Danforth, corner of Danforth and Dewhurst, across from Square Boy

For those of us needed a burger fix in the east end (with table service) by Friday we’ll have somewhere new to go.  The Works, a Canadian chain which originated in Ottawa and has been winning burger titles in its hometown as well as Kingston and London and is expanding to Toronto.  My burger cravings are usually satisfied on one end of the spectrum by Harveys (yep, yumm) or the burger at Allan’s (and of course Burger’s Priest, all hail) but I looked forward to checking out the competition yesterday at their pre-grand opening.

Which is when I got addicted to a mocha-oreo shake.

I ordered the shake first to give me some time to go through the massive list of burger toppings.  Even the shake selection was vast–but pretty awesome.

I have a thing with ice cream–I never crave it, never buy it, but when presented with it, can’t get enough.  So sipping my 2-CUPS of childhood nostalgia and with help from my server (if the service is as friendly and fun all the time, it may be the main reason to go) made a burger decision–decisions actually.

1. Pick a patty–ground beef, chicken breast, ground turkey, veggie burger, Portebello Mushroom Cap or Domestic Elk Meat (add $3.39 for the upgrade).  The meat is  sourced locally, hand-pressed and contains no additives.   (I choose the Elk, tender and moist it was)

2. Pick a bun–White, Whole Wheat, Gluten Free (white bun always seems logical)

3. Choose your topping:  you’ve got 70 options.  Some samples:

Leaside Burger– mushrooms, smokey BBQ, cheddar and dbl smoked bacon

Pony Express (my “next time” choice) cream cheese, horseradish, Franks’s Red Hot Sauce, cheddar cheese and ripe tomato

Royal Runner-tomatoes and crinkle-cut pickles with royal supreme sauce

Stanley Cup Burgerapparently has not been available for the last 45 years…sorry

So, the above is my Grid Burger with chipotle ketchup, Havarti cheese, 4 double smoked bacon slices (they had me at FOUR) and caramelized onion.

Other guests were having the La Ultimate FLAMME-grilled burger (below) with gouda, crispy bacon and fresh Avocado…

And here is the Teriyaki burger with the sweet potato strings…

What’s that you say?  It’s not burger night without a tower of Onion Rings and a zillion sauce options?

Breaded not battered is apparently the secret to their crunchiness.  And though I am not usually an onion ring fan, OK, I admit, they were pretty tasty.

Sauce options that I tried were the Hot as Hell, Dijon-haze, Beechhouse (a creamy veggie dip), Chipotle Mayo, Tzatziki Chill.

The Works franchises work with local charities to raise money and help the less privileged (eating a tower of onion rings means you are privileged) and in honour of their Grand Opening they are serving complimentary food tomorrow THURSDAY, MAY 3, 11am-2pm and 5pm-8pm with a “donate-what-you-want” policy, proceeds going to the Pape Food Bank.

If you head over, make sure you give a salute to Square Boy across the street.  I asked CEO Andy O’Brien if he thought they’d pull business away from this Danforth fave (open since the 60s) but he said they talked to the Square Boy folks and they feel they have different food and a different crowd.

All I can say is I woke up thinking about the damn milkshake—though FYI The Works, you need straws with the little scoop at the end of them.  Just a little customer feedback.

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