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Archive for September, 2011

I have been blogging since 2007! My first blog was just to document a momentous renovation of our 1928 home, adding about 100 square feet to our kitchen — it actually turned out to be more of a place to vent, we had a very tumultuous relationship with our contractor. And after that blog ended, I realized how much I liked doing it, so I started my kitchen blog — everything to do with our new kitchen and travels and food. It was only recently I realized how much fun it is to have actual readers that comment! I know I have had followers, but they have tended to be ‘voyeurs’ (I still love you!) who just read but not comment; that’s OK too, but WOW, the feedback and accolades are amazing! Even if I’ve had a bad day, feel like crap and hate what I see in the mirror, I know I can check on my blog to see your wonderful comments. THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart. I particularly love it that our small community is really from ALL OVER the world — virtual brothers and sisters.

Well, by the title must have you curious by now. I have been awarded my FIRST award, the Versatile Blogger by Kristy (thank you, thank you, thank you!) at Our Family Food Adventures. Kristy has a marvelous blog about sharing food adventures in and out of the kitchen with her lovely family. She and her hubby Mike (who blogs too) involve their two young kids in every aspect of the cooking experience (much like my wonderful Mom did about a billion years ago!).  Yesterday it was Kristy’s birthday, so please join me in wishing her a very happy birthday. Thank you, Kristy for such a lovely award and recognition! And my very first! Sooooo excited :-)!!!

Now the rules of the award are that I have to list 7 things about myself that you wouldn’t otherwise know and pass the award along to 15 other bloggers.

  1. I am first generation Canadian born of  immigrant Hungarian parents.
  2. I can speak, read and write Hungarian but I am rather rusty with my vocabulary (mainly from not using it often) having said that, I can do it better than French which I took until first year University (French is Canada’s second language – compulsory to take in school from 4 grade to 9th grade)
  3. I was born in Toronto but have lived in Montreal and New York City as a youngster.
  4. My Dad was a puppeteer (Jim Henson offered him a job in New York, which he turned down, opting to stay in Toronto and run his own puppet company) —  when I was  8, I played an angel in a Christmas puppet show – Dad held me up to the height of the puppet stage and I waved my magic wand around.
  5. When I was 12 I emceed a puppet show, there were 5,000 people in the audience. I said “um” too many times.
  6. Everyone thinks I am still in my 30’s! I haven’t been for quite some time now! I can’t figure out if I look young, or just act immature ;-)!
  7. I have a bit of thing for pretty, high heeled shoes and boots; I have over 50 pairs! I’m supposed to purge one pair with every new purchase, but I cannot bring myself to do it. It’s a curse!

So there, you now know these weird little things about me. Now to name 15 bloggers to receive this coveted award – sadly I don’t know 15 bloggers, but I am working on it; predictably, most of the wonderful bloggers I have chosen have received this award before, but I can’t see any reason why they shouldn’t receive it again! Also, this is in no order, just a list. Thank you for all your lovely comments and blog entries. I really do enjoy reading every word of them!

  1. Ann of Cooking Healthy for Me because she really got me started on commenting on people’s blogs—I just never thought to do it. Ann’s wonderful blog is a journey of getting healthy by changing the way she cooks. She’s an inspiration and proof that you don’t have to be on a ‘diet’ to eat properly and that healthy food is tasty and beautiful. For the first little while I thought her blog was called Cooking Healthy Forme!
  2. Greg and Katherine at Rufus’ Food and Spirits Guide Greg and Katherine document their food adventures, their posts always bring a smile on or a little chuckle.
  3. Charles at Five Euro Food I love his blog because of the thriftiness of his recipes. Always good to keep in mind in these tough economic times.
  4. John at from the Bartolini Kitchen his blog is true to the cooking traditions of his family. I love that he is documenting these wonderful recipes!
  5. Lorraine at Not Quite Nigella who has proven without a doubt that one can make a lovely living from blogging. She has such a friendly writing style.
  6. Manu at Manu’s Menu has a wonderful blog and often inspires me to cook something similar.
  7. Sawsan at Chef in Disguise is an accomplished cook — she inspired me to make croissants this weekend (I have already started – I’m taking the long drawn out approach). I’ll blog about the results — IF they turn out!
  8. Jessica at KitchenBelleicious has a beautiful, cleanly designed blog that is easy to read. The recipes are formatted beautifully.
  9. Kelly at Inspired Edibles blog takes a nutritious approach to blogging. I like to keep health in mind even when hosting dinner parties.

Thank you, again, Kristy for this honour — I am truly touched!

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Toronto has a diverse cultural population and we love it. For example, did you know that Toronto has the largest Italian population next to Rome? We have Little Italy, Little India, Greektown, Korea Town, Chinatown, well you get my drift. When you enter these small areas (sometimes only one street, or two or three blocks) you are transformed from being in big city Toronto to being in Italy or even India! We are indeed very fortunate to be able to live safely, peacefully and embrace our diverse cultures. We LOVE this, particularly the FOOD!

Very close to where I work, there are a couple of Vietnamese restaurants; we sometimes go to a place called Asia 21. It’s not pretty, but the food is fresh and good and family run; the only bad side is that they only take cash, and they are not licensed (somehow this type of food does not pair well with wine anyway, but I still love it!) I am addicted to Phô, a clear beef broth with very thinly sliced rare beef, rice noodles and herbs; it’s ‘Happy food’ or Vietnamese comfort food. I totally get it, I can eat this for every meal, every day! Sadly, there is so MUCH salt in the restaurant versions that I swell up like a dirigible on Superbowl Sunday — not a pretty site! We’ve started making our own so we can control the salt. I must say, I like it even better. The temperatures in Toronto couldn’t be less like soup weather…but I have to say, I have missed my Phô! It’s humid and unseasonably warm, NOT complaining! JT made an excellent Phô last night, and I had it for lunch today (did I mention that I can eat this EVERY DAY?). We’ve adapted Canadian Living’s Beef Phô (click for original recipe) A delicately fragrant beef broth, with ginger, cinnamon, cloves, star anise. It’s really a flavour explosion in your mouth. We season it with fresh mint, cilantro and thai basil. I also add hoisin sauce (sweet) and Sriracha Sauce (hot, they call it Asian Catsup). My mouth is watering as I type this on my iPad (sitting at the island in the kitchen while JT cooks up another specialty, Israeli Couscous and Grilled Shrimp). YUM! I am a very fortunate woman.

Phô

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We’ve finally been able to book my best friend from university, Kim and my ‘birthday pedicures’! I say, finally, because our birthdays were in July (she is 11 days older than I — and yes, I take it where I can get it!) and we have both been so busy, we haven’t had a chance to plan something! She and hubby Mike are coming over Saturday morning, we’ll have a coffee first so they can see our new landscaping and then Kim and I will walk up to the village for our pedi’s. The guys will probably walk over to High Park (High Park is about 400 acres and is about a 15 minute walk from our house). It’s a little like Central Park in NYC; it has some wildlife, lots of vegetation and a couple of ponds. It’s a beautiful piece of nature in the middle of the city! About an hour later, we’ll meet for lunch in the village; we haven’t decided whether it’s Italian at Villa or Japanese yet. Villa serves gluten free pizza crusts and breads!

I wanted to make us a little treat to enjoy after lunch but Kim is gluten intolerant so my options are somewhat limited; I follow Elana’s Pantry from Colorado, she has Celiac disease and therefore has dedicated her entire blog to Gluten Free. She has a lot of very tasty and unexpected treats. Like Elana, I refuse to make two dishes when Kim and Mike come over, so whatever we have that is gluten free needs to be tasty enough that we will ALL enjoy it! I came across this recipe quite some time ago and decided immediately that I want to make them: Espresso Fudge Brownies. Elana developed the recipe, and due to my inexperience with Gluten Free ingredients, I shall not alter it one bit. Please click here for the link to her blog.

OK, first things first. Meet Iona, she is my Mom’s mixer. My Mom’s mixer is likely older than I, and older than most of you, respected readers! I remember making all sorts of things with this mixer; the motor whining as it was stressed with the dough of cookies, breads or cakes! I’m actually quite surprised she still works — but they did make things to last, in those days! I am glad, though — she brings back a lot of great memories. Shout out to our neighbour Iona, I bet you never thought a mixer was named after you! 😉

This is my Mother's mixer, likely older than I (and out of respect, I won't say!)

The recipe was very easy to follow, and I had all the ingredients on hand (mind you, I did not need to be vegan, so I used standard non-vegan ingredients). Basically it was one bowl and a few utensils. I prepared the tin as suggested, easily poured the batter into the pan and put it in the oven for the 25-30 minutes. At 5 minutes I tested the centre with a cake tester and it came out clean. Done. Great. I let it sit for one hour before I tried to turn it out. See I FOLLOWED THE DIRECTIONS. I turned it out and , WHAM, the inner circle did not release and remained firmly positioned in the centre of the pan. UGH. I tried putting it back together but it looked like a dogs breakfast. What to do, what to do?

Below is the pan of brownies before the inner circle betrayed me. This is when I decided that Trifle was the only respectable thing to do! The deep rich chocolatey brownies, a hint of espresso, some strawberry preserves, a little freshly whipped cream. Yes, I think this could work.

Brownies in the pan (before they collapsed!)

This is the Trifle I threw together as a bit of a tester. We had tasters last night and they were deemed very yummy. Yes, even I tried some. Tomorrow I’ll have to run twice as long on the tread mill! Damn you, damn brownies!

English Trifle

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We live in a small area into Toronto called Bloor West Village. It is still considered part of the city, but it’s not down town! We are about a 10 minute drive to downtown, or 20 minute subway ride, or 30 minute bike ride…you get where I’m going with this — we are very much in the city of Toronto. But, for some reason, this little part of the city has remained a ‘little village’…it doesn’t feel like we’re in a major, international city.

We have a 1928 craftsman style brick home. It’s not large by North American standards, but it suites us perfectly. We absolutely LOVE this house. We don’t have a large lot, but it’s enough to have some nice landscaping, a back patio lounge and a wonderful little dining area. It’s a pie shaped lot, 59 feet (18 metres) across the front and 17 feet (5 metres) across the back. One would think a pie shaped lot would be difficult to landscape, but it does offer very interesting design opportunities. The 18 metre front sounded like a good idea at the time, but in hindsight, not so much! In Toronto, the side walk is our responsibility and shoveling it in the winter is NO FUN!

The landscaping project started in my head about 10 years ago (when we bought the house). We had dreamed of a large natural stone hedge holding back the earth on the north side where we’ve enlarged the driveway (cars in the 1920’s were not as wide as they are now!); we dreamed that the grass was all gone (grass does not grow on shady lots!) and that large natural stone would accent the front like you see in so many magazines. English ivy (yes, I do love my English ivy) would fill the land where grass once was, and a gorgeous hedge of pink hydrangeas would cascade over a stone wall on the south side. And, that there would be a new path and steps built from the front porch to the sidewalk (since everyone cuts across the lawn anyway).

10 years ago it was a dream, but today, reality! We came up with the plan and the guys at SMS landscaping did a great job, bringing our vision to reality; they even made a few suggestions that we loved! And I wasn’t expecting to get lighting into the budget! Woohoo!

We bought a beautiful Japanese Cherry tree for the front (see little tree on the left side) but we’ve decided to wait until the spring to ‘fill in’ the remainder. For the back, we wanted some beautiful moss to fill the space between the new stone path to the shed, but holy cow, it’s darn expensive. So, this weekend at the cottage, we collected some lovely moss, and transplanted it in the backyard ourselves! Hard work, but I bet it saved us over $400! A small pot was $20 at the garden store. Crazy! I’m hoping the crazy raccoons didn’t uproot it all last night!
Here are some photos. I am so happy with the overall look!

The new path to the sidewalk

The back shed and the new path (with cottage moss) The dining area was there already

The cocktail Lounge Area (JT and I designed and built this two years ago). JT built the sectional (I made the cushions)

The back yard from the cocktail lounge area

The hors d’oeuvres I am featuring is Escargot en Choux – one of our HD’s we had at the cottage this past weekend. It is a rendition of escargot en brioche (escargot, garlic butter, parsley in a very tasty little brioche). I make the cheese choux pastries that I freeze and have available for appetizers as needed. The rest is so easy: about 1 tsp of unsalted butter, garlic, parsley, grated cheese (like Parmesan or Gruyere), salt and of course, 1 escargot per choux. Rince the escargot, set aside to dry. Mash the butter with all of the ingredients, but the escargot, and divide evenly to the choux. Stuff one escargot and some butter mash into each choux, bake for 10 minutes around 325°F and enjoy!

It’s hard to believe they are disgusting little garden snails. But damn tasty!

Escargot en Choux


Our view this morning; some leaves have already begun changing colour!

The view this morning

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Please excuse the roughness of this post, I’m typing it in on my lowly little iPhone 3Gs, sitting on the deck, at the cottage! Gotta LOVE technology!
It’s cottage closing weekend. This time of year is always so sad, marking the end of yet another summer. This year was not a good year for cottaging for me; counting this weekend, it’s only my second time up! I never like to be one of ‘those’ people who turn down city invitations because, ‘sorry, we’re going to the cottage!’ On the other hand, it was a very sociable summer!
I left work early so we could have cocktails at the cottage, HAH! The drive up was a joke! The ridiculous drive that usually takes three and a quarter hours took FIVE! FIVE EFFIN HOURS! Can you feel my frustration???? It was pouring rain the entire way up, which made it even worse. Did you ever notice that people are TOTAL IDIOTS on the road? Breathe, breathe, breathe! That martini sure tasted good!
The cottage is on a smallish spring-fed lake called Limerick Lake (spring-fed=bone chilling cold!). JTs grandfather bought the land in the early 1900’s; it took them 24 hours to come up: 1)Two trains, 2)Stage coach 3)row boat. The grandfather had a log cabin built on it. Back in those days Canadian Indians canoed across the lake. How cool is that? The grandfather then sold the cottage and the land in the early 1920’s and bought it back in the late 1940’s! JTs Dad and Dad’s sister shared it until the late 1960’s at which point, JTs Dad built his own Panabode cottage (http://www.panabodeloghomes.com) about a kilometer away as two families in an old log cabin was getting too cozy (the family owns about a hundred acres!). We had electricity put in about 20 years ago, prior to that we used a gas generator, a propane fridge and stove. It was pretty rustic. In the late-1960’s JTs dad built a boathouse with three slips and a two bedroom cabin above it that they used to use in the winter (no running water, chemical toilet, basic and ugly). 20 years ago, JTs dad had a road put in; before that we would keep a boat at the marina and boat in the 20 minute ride! It does sound romantic, but shlepping groceries and necessities from the car to the boat, then from the boat to the cottage was no fun!
About 15 years ago JT and I took over the boathouse; we put in a composting toilet, a small shower and a decent kitchen (it’s not legal to have septic over water). We call the boathouse The Upper Deck – I have some pics at this link if you’re interested. We tried renting it to friends a few years ago, and discovered we’re not renting types. We like our stuff just so. http://evaandjohntaylor.shutterfly.com/2383. Please don’t think it’s fancy, far from it! But I know for sure that we are fortunate to have access to it. JT and I own land across the bay from the family ‘compound’ and had thought about some day building our dream cottage on it, but the five and a half hour drive (and so many others like it) convinced us otherwise! Anyone interested in 33 gorgeous Canadian acres, 1300 feet of shoreline? No road access, yet!
Our lake is still remote; the closest store is about a 20 minute drive on a dirt road and it doesn’t really have things that I would want anyway (mostly canned goods!). You really have to plan your weekend, food, libations, etc. Once, I forgot cream cheese for our bagel and lox breakfast and the only thing we could get was sour cream and onion chip dip! It was ghastly!
JTs sister used to use the log cabin, but now that their 87 year old Dad no longer comes up, she’s taken over his cottage too. Her two adult kids use both the log cabin and the Panabode.
There are so many things that I like about our cozy little cabin, it’s hard to list them all; but my most favorite thing has to be that we are right on the water! And that it’s small enough to clean it from top to bottom in less than an hour.
Back to the matter at hand, Huevos rancheros: a recipe I developed after a similarly called dish at our local restaurant, Dr. Generosity (stupid name but good food).

heuvos rancheros

A delicious combination of flavours

Huevos Rancheros (updated September 2014)

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup cooked navy beans (I like navy beans because they are so creamy)
  • 1/2 cup ground meat (we used turkey because it’s lowest in fat)
  • 1/4 cup chopped sweet onion (we like Vidalia)
  • 1/4 cup sweet corn
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • Pinch of cayenne
  • 2 soft poached eggs
  • Sour cream (we used fat free yogurt)
  • Hot sauce
  • 2 small ancient grain fajita shells warmed
  • Chopped cilantro and green onions for garnish.
  • 1 avocado, sliced

Directions:

  1. In a splash of olive oil, fry the onions and garlic until translucent, add the ground meat and cook thoroughly.
  2. Add the spices and garlic and mix until evenly distributed.
  3. Add the beans and corn and mix well, heat the beans through.
  4. Serve 1/2 the bean meat mix on one warmed fajita shell, with a poach egg on top. Garnish with chopped cilantro, sliced avocado and green onions.
  5. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and hot sauce.

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I was fortunate enough to be invited to an event Thursday night put on by Edward Pond http://www.edwardpond.com/, called Creative Chef, Tussle at the Temple http://www.creativechef.ca/ (Ed is a photographer we’ve worked with from time to time). It was held at Temple Kitchen in Liberty Village http://www.templekitchen.com/ (about a five minute walk from where I work!)
Ed put together a fund raising event for a local gallery; 12 ad exec’s cooking up a storm to be judged by real chefs, while we watched and cheered them on! The judges were celebs in their own right:
Anne Yarymowich, executive chef of FRANK, Art Gallery of Ontario, Zane Caplansky, executive chef and owner of Caplansky’s Delicatessen and Jason Bangerter, executive chef at Luma, Bell TIFF Lightbox.

The wine was flowing and tasty morsels were being passed around by helpful staff! It was a blast!
I got there a bit early, they had reconfigured the restaurant for the show-down!



Each contestant had to set their own table, on a meaningful way that represents their cuisine!

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The three desserts were a hit!

From left to right: Coconut Lemon Cake, Fig Tart and Sellou

The fig tart and the orange cardamom cream was the perfect combo of spicy and sweet. The pastry was flaky and rich. The coconut lemon cake, was moist, a little crunchy, and very lemony. The icing was glaze-like, just thick enough to hold the toasted coconut.
The Sellou were shaped in small muffin cups, Resembled marzipan with a little crunch and unexpected perfume of lemon zest and cardamom. I had wanted a little pyramid, but I didn’t have time to get to the market to my favourite kitchen shop to treat myself to a new tool. I dusted the tops eith icing sugar like freshly fallen snow. We served the trio with espresso. JT wants me to make all three again. That makes me very happy!

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Moroccan Preserved Lemons

I’ve been thinking about preserved lemons; it seems every second Moroccan recipe I pick up calls for preserved lemons. I love the tang of a freshly squeezed lemon; I love the colour of lemons, the wake-up call a squeeze of lemon gives to almost anything…so why not preserved lemons? I was a bit concerned about the salt, but most of the recipes call to rinse the salt off, and I even found one called to blanch the preserved lemon in boiling water for 30-60 seconds to remove some of the bitterness the pith and the skin may cause. Well, that’s practically insurance that I will love it. I decided to make only two, to give it a try.

I researched several recipes and they were pretty much all the same: steralize jar, cut lemons, salt, press firmly into jar to extract as much lemon juice as possible, if not enough juice came out, fill with more lemon juice, leave for a few days at room temperature, pressing down every day, then refrigerate. The recipe I loosely followed was a David Lebovitz recipe (he is an American chef living in Paris). I added the suggested cinnamon to mine and WOW! Salt and cinnamon really have an affinity. Next time, I will add a cinnamon stick so it doesn’t mess up the lemon juice as much!

I can hardly wait to try this in a month!

Preserved Lemon with Cinnamon

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I am so excited to introduce my best friend and husband as guest blogger today, please meet JT! I have asked JT to blog about the Moroccan Braised Beef because I had also asked him to prepare it. When I read the recipe on Epicurious, it dawned on me that it was indeed very similar to Julia Child’s Boeuff Bourguignon, and since JT is the master of THAT meal, it really was a no brainer (plus it got me out of the kitchen a bit sooner 😉 ). And I hand it over to you, JT…

I don’t pretend to have the same knowledge nor quite the same passion for cooking as does my wife Eva, but I do have some specialty items I do enjoy creating ……glass of wine in hand. As Eva eluded to above, one of my favourites meals to make (and eat) is bœuff bourguignon (bb), however during the summer months it is just too hot to prepare and too heavy to eat. So, when Eva asked if I could make the Moroccan braised beef (mbb) I was happy to oblige (considering the temperature had gone from 28° C last week to lows around 5° C this past weekend). In reviewing the mbb recipe I saw two steps that I found interesting compared to the bb. First, in the bb recipe, the beef is seared in a hot pan then coated with flour and baked at a high temperature for a few minutes. This gives a really nice thick sauce after bb has fully cooked. While the mbb beef is seared, it does not add any flour or thickeners, but it does have a lot of liquid. Eva suggested to use the bb method of baking the flour onto the meat, but I resisted and made it according to the recipe. Since the mbb is simmered on the stove top uncovered instead of in the oven as with the bb, much of the liquid is evaporated off (also giving the house a really great aroma). The final product had a beautiful thick sauce similar to my usual bb. The second step in the mbb that I was curious about was the creation of a glaze. Again following the recipe to a T, the ingredients did boil down to a very shiny, flavourful, glaze. I mixed the beef into the glaze first for a couple of minutes prior to adding the rest of the liquids to incorporate even more flavour into the meat. Here are a couple of tips to hopefully improve the appearance, flavour and texture. 1) Cut the beef into about 1″ (25 cm) to 2″ (50 cm)…..any larger than 2″ is just too large in my opinion. 2) Simmer at a very low heat setting and increase cooking time to longer than 1 1/4 hours. I cooked ours for 2+ hours and the meat just fell apart. 3) Add some of your raisins about half way through the simmering process as the long cooking time tends to almost dissolve them into the sauce and it is nice to see some of them in the final product 4) Never add a wine or sherry you wouldn’t drink.

You may now wonder which I like better bb or mbb? I am leaning toward the mbb, but that may be just because it is a new taste to me……I’ll have a better idea after dinner tonight as we having leftover mbb…..yum!!!

Thanks JT for a great synopsis of the recipe and the tips. I sure would make eat it again, and again!

Moroccan Braised Beef

Moroccan Braised Beef

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 1/2 pounds boneless chuck roast, cut into 2-4-inch cubes
  • 2 cups chopped onions
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala* (Krishna Jamal’s HeartSmart™ Flavours of India, Publisher: Douglas & McIntyre, 1998)
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 1/2 cup dry Sherry
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1 14 1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins

Directions:

  1. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in large pot over medium-high heat. Sprinkle meat with salt and pepper. Add meat to pot; sauté until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Transfer meat to bowl.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in same pot. Add onions; sauté until brown, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and next 5 ingredients; stir 1 minute. Add wine and Sherry; boil until reduced to glaze, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes.
  3. Add broth, tomatoes with juice, and 1/4 cup raisins (reserve about 1/4 cup of the raisins to add later as suggested in tip 3 above); stir to blend. Add beef and accumulated juices; bring to simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer uncovered until sauce is thick and beef is tender, stirring occasionally, about 2 hours 15 minutes.
  4. Season stew with salt and pepper. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Cool slightly, chill until cold, then cover and keep chilled. Rewarm before serving.)

You will notice that the Epicurious link to spiced almonds and couscous also included raisins, but since the beef had raisins, we omitted them, the almonds added an excellent of flavour AND texture.

Spiced Couscous with Almonds

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups hot water
  • 3/4 cup raisins
  • 4 tablespoons ( 1/2 stick) butter, divided
  • 3 tablespoons dry white wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 1 cup couscous
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 3/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Add 2 tablespoons melted butter, wine, and saffron to a measuring cup and let sit for about 20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons butter in medium skillet over medium-low heat. Add onion; cover and cook until translucent and tender, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Reserve.
  3. Bring the saffron water to a boil, add couscous and remove from heat. Allow to sit covered for about 15 minutes or until couscous has absorbed all of the water. Fluff with a fork.
  4. Mix onions, almonds and cinnamon into couscous. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.

All in all, an exceptional Moroccan dinner we are both eager to try in Morocco. PS, our guests also seemed to really enjoy it. Thank you Gordon and Angela for allowing us to use you as test victims…again!

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Harira

This is a traditional Moroccan soup, with many variations. I really liked the ingredients from Epicurious, with some minor alterations based on the reviews (love the reviews). I made this a day in advance so the flavours could really meld. Click on the heading to link to the original recipe. This soup reminded me very much of Mulligatawny, and was equally as flavourful. I am looking forward to ordering this soup in Morocco to see whether my version was authentic.

Harira a traditional Morocca Soup

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
  • 4 cups water, I held off, adding after for desired consistency
  • a 28-to 32-ounce can whole tomatoes, drained and puréed coarsely
  • 1/4 teaspoon crumbled saffron threads
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 stalks of celery, diced
  • 2 cups canned chick-peas, rinsed, hulls removed
  • 1/4 cup raw long-grain rice (I used brown rice)
  • 1/2 cup dried lentils
  • salt to taste
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley leaves

Directions:

  1. Soak the saffron threads in the chicken stock for about 20 minutes (you get more flavour out of them).
  2. In a heavy kettle (at least 5 quarts) sauté onions, carrots and celery until tender and dust with cumin and coriander and sauté only until you smell the spice.
  3. Add the chicken stock, tomatoes, saffron, chick-peas, rice and lentils and simmer covered for 30 minutes, or until lentils and rice are tender.
  4. I took half the soup and puréed it to a smooth and velvety finish and then poured it back into the chunky soup. It made for a really delicious thick vegetable soup, add water to achieve the desired consistency.
  5. Soup may be prepared 4 days ahead (cool uncovered before chilling covered).
  6. Garnish with chopped cilantro and parsley, drizzle with EVOO

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I’ve been cruising the net trying to find the right combo of courses for our Moroccan themed dinner party on Saturday; it’s not as easy as it sounds, there are so many interesting recipes and flavours, it’s difficult to choose. We found the main course and side first, then the desserts. Then I thought OMG, we need a soup! And the temperatures in Toronto have plummeted to a chilly 7°C overnight – great soup weather! And, last but not least i went scouring the net for hors d’œuvres.
This post is all about the hors d’œuvres. I was enamored by this recipe because it sounded like hummus, and I adore hummus. The flat bread reminded me of something my Mom used to make with ‘leftover’ bread dough, Langos (pronounced langosh, it’s a traditional Hungarian pan-fried flat bread). Plus, it has so many names…I knew it was the one for us! I have linked the original recipes in their titles. It is rather odd to make this flat bread using a food processor, but it does seem to work, and the dough is not too heavy to bog down the processor’s motor. It’s a chewy, tasty bread, something like Naan. Of course, my alteration is the substitution of two to one all-purpose flour to whole wheat flour. (it had to be done).

Batbout or Matlouh or Mkhamer or Toghrift or Matlou with Bessara
aka Moroccan Flat Bread with Fava Bean Dip

Batbout or Matlouh or Mkhamer or Toghrift or Matlou (Moroccan Flat Bread)

Batbout and Bassara

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup warm (not hot) water
  • 1 tablespoon herb (I did not add this)

Directions:

  1. Combine all the dry ingredients in the food processor by giving them a whirl of the blades.
  2. Stop the machine and add the water all at once. Close the machine and mix until the dough forms a ball of slighly sticky dough. Add more water by the tablespoon if you find your ball of dough is a bit tough. You want a very supple, soft dough.
  3. Divide the dough in 4 balls. Oil them well with good quality, peppery olive oil and let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.
  4. There are a complex number of rolling steps which my source describes wonderfully with photos. Here is my simplified version:
  5. Flatten each ball to a rectangle about 1/2cm thick, fold in the long sides (like a business letter, she describes!) Flatten a bit more with your fingers and then roll it up like a small, tight jelly roll. Punch down the top and allow to rise another 30 minutes. I covered with EVOO and plastic wrap and put them in the fridge overnight (a trick to slow down the yeast so I can make the bread when I have more time tomorrow).
  6. Pre heat your cast iron pan to very hot for about 15 minutes. We have natural gas, so it didn’t take as long.
  7. Bring the rolled up dough balls to room temperature. Once at room temperature flatten to a large circle about a 1/2cm thick – this bread will thicken slightly in the pan. Oil generously (I would switch to an oil with a higher flash point, like peanut or grape seed). Fry both sides until cooked through and golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature.

http://moroccanfood.about.com/od/saladsandsidedishes/r/Bessara_Recipe.htm

Bessara

This is a slightly soupier dip than hummus. You can even thin it down and serve it as a soup!

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups canned fava beans (also known as Broad Beans)
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1/3 cup olive oil (I used chipotle oil oil for a bit of a kick!)
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable stock, as required
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin, lightly roasted
  • 1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot paprika or cayenne pepper (I omitted since I used the chipotle olive oil).
  • For garnish, mix a small amount of roasted cumin, paprika, chopped cilantro. Drizzle with EVOO.

Directions:

  1. Put beans into a food processor, add garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of vegetable stock and spices.
  2. Process on high speed until smooth, adding additional liquid if necessary to thin the Bessara. It should be thin enough to pour or spread out on a plate. Taste the Bessara and adjust the seasoning if desired.
  3. To serve, heat until warm and serve with the flat bread above. Garnish the Bessera with any of the following: ground cumin, paprika, hot paprika, EVOO, or chopped parsley.

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We are continually researching Morocco for our upcoming trip and I am so excited about the latest our latest discovery: a cooking class in Marrakech at Maison MK! We chose this course because they take you to market to buy your ingredients! How cool is that? In Mellah market we will learn about all the local products, & ingredients. The covered market sells fruit & vegetables, meat, fish, poultry, spices, etc. We will buy all the ingredients to make the tagine in the maison mk kitchen. (Apparantly this is the market they took Jamie Oliver to for his programme on Marrakech!) This trip keeps getting better and better!

This is the third recipe for my Moroccan themed dinner party dessert trio. I found this recipe on About.com, and validated it with bloggers and other sites — I like the way the citrus ties it into the two other desserts. The tasters I made were a huge success (last night with JT and this morning with my friend, Kim). I cut the recipe into a quarter of the original, although I list it as it’s full volume, from this link. It’s very quick once you have all your ingredients ready mise en place, as they say. I have shown my revisions in blue.

Moroccan Coconut Lemon Cake

Ingredients:

— For the Cake—

  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 1/3 cups grated unsweetened coconut
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • zest from one or two lemons
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

— For the Icing and Garnish —

  • 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted (I used less)
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons cream or milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • I also added about 2 tbsp of coconut powder, because I felt the powdered sugar was too sweet.
  • I also added about 2 tbsp lemon juice to help cut the sweetness of the powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup toasted, sweetened coconut* I used more because I wanted the whole cake covered.

Preparation:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F (180° C). Grease and flour your cake pan(s).
  2. Zest and juice the lemon.
  3. With an electric mixer or by hand, beat together the eggs and sugar until pale and thick. Gradually beat in the oil. Beat in the vanilla, lemon juice and zest.
  4. Stir in the flour, coconut, baking powder and salt, and then the milk. Beat until smooth.
  5. Pour the batter into your prepared pan(s). Bake until the cake tests done: 25 to 30 minutes for layers; 35 to 40 minutes for oblong; about 40 minutes for a tube or bundt pan. Even the little ramekins I used took about 30 minutes for the cake tester to come out clean.
  6. Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 7 to 10 minutes. Loosen the cake from the sides of the pan with a spatula, and turn out the cake onto a rack to finish cooling.
  7. To decorate the cooled cake, mix everything BUT the toasted coconut to spreadable consistency. Spread the icing in a thin layer over the enitre cake, and dust with the toasted coconut so that it covers all sides and the top. Allow the icing to set before serving.

*Note:To make toasted coconut, spread grated unsweetened coconut in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 350° F (180° C) for 5 to 8 minutes, or until light golden. Remove from the oven and leave to cool. Cover and store until needed.

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I’ve been reading up on Moroccan blogs; one such blog mentioned that a Moroccan host can take up to a week to prepare a meal for her honoured guests! I started Monday… does that count?

Onto dessert #2 for my little trio for Saturday night’s Moroccan themed dinner party. I found this one on Epicurious, and just liked the way it sounded but I did verify that this dessert does exist in Moroccan cuisine. I cut this recipe in half but list the full ingredients below, and it made five mini tarts, perfect! (ok, three are for the dinner party – I don’t eat dessert- and one was the taster for JT to make sure it was yummy and it sure was!!! the larger round one is for my friend (and boss) because she gives me a ride home most evenings (believe it or not, we live across the street from each other…we are indeed good friends!)

Moroccan Fig & Sesame Tart with Orange Cardamom Cream

Fig and Sesame Tart

Ingredients for pastry:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon sesame seeds, toasted

For filling:

  • 9 ounces dried Turkish figs, stemmed and finely chopped (1 1/2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 4 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted
  • 1 tablespoon orange-flower water (preferably Mymouné) I googled orange water substitutions and found that you can use an orange liqueur like Triple Sec.

For cardamom orange cream:

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons mild honey
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated fresh orange zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • Accompaniment: fresh orange sections

Directions, pastry dough:

  1. Pulse together flour, confectioners sugar, and salt in a food processor until combined.
  2. Add butter and process until mixture resembles fine meal.
  3. Add 3 yolks (reserving the fourth for egg wash) and process until it forms a smooth dough, 2 to 3 minutes. (Don’t worry about overworking dough.)
  4. Transfer dough to a work surface and gather into a ball, then divide into 3 equal pieces. Form one third of dough into a small disk, then form remaining dough into a larger disk. Chill disks, each wrapped in plastic wrap, until firm, at least 1 hour.

Make filling while dough chills:

  1. Simmer figs, water, sugar, and cinnamon in a 1- to 2-quart heavy saucepan, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until mixture is thickened, 2 to 3 minutes.
  2. Stir in sesame seeds (3 tablespoons) and cook, stirring, 1 minute.
  3. Remove from heat and stir in orange-flower water, then transfer filling to a bowl.
  4.  Cool filling to room temperature, about 30 minutes.

Assemble and bake tart:

  1. Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place flan ring in center.
  2. Roll out larger disk of dough into an 11-inch round on a lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin. (If dough is too firm to roll out, let stand at room temperature 5 minutes.)
  3. Fit dough into flan ring, pressing dough up side of ring (dough is very tender and tears easily; patch as needed; they will blend in during baking), then trim dough flush with top of ring. Spoon filling into crust and spread evenly.
  4. Roll out remaining disk of dough into a 9-inch round on lightly floured surface with floured rolling pin. Gently lay round over filling, then roll rolling pin over top to trim. Patch if necessary.
  5. Beat together remaining yolk and cream (1 tablespoon) in a cup with a fork and brush some of egg wash over top crust, then chill until egg wash appears darker and is slightly tacky, about 3 minutes. Brush with second coat of egg wash and chill again. Lightly score top with back of a small knife to make a decorative pattern and sprinkle with sesame seeds (1 teaspoon).
  6. Bake tart until top is golden, 30 to 35 minutes (I found 40-45 minutes did the trick).
  7. Transfer tart on baking sheet to a rack and cool 10 minutes, then slide tart off parchment onto rack to cool. Gently remove ring.

Make cream and serve tart:

  1. While tart bakes, stir together cream, honey, zest, and cardamom in a medium bowl and chill, covered. Just before serving, beat cream mixture with an electric mixer until it holds soft peaks.
  2. Serve tart, warm or at room temperature, with cream and oranges.

My tarts were very small, about 10 cm x 4cm and the round one was about 8cm. I plan on serving the three desserts on a long rectangular plate. My ‘Platogram” is below. I usually do this for more complex dinners so I don’t mess it up after a couple of glasses of wine!

Plating the Dessert

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It’s a very happening week in Toronto because we have the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) — the world’s largest film festival (according to Wiki, obviously a Torontonian wrote it!). We have been graced with some of the biggest stars, George Clooney (be still my heart), the BrAngelina’s, Madonna, Robert DeNiro to name a few. JT and I have been fortunate enough to score tickets from friends in the past, but unfortunately, not this year :-(, so to feel part of the action, we decided to get all dolled up [you know, just in case we bump into someone ;-)] and head downtown to the Ritz (we [I] heard Mr. Clooney was staying there). The Ritz is a brand new hotel in Toronto, opened in April, I think. We’ve been fortunate enough to have stayed in several Ritz Hotels in US and Canada and the one thing that is consistent is the quality of service — always exceptional. We had a glass of wine at TOCA and then we ventured to the back patio DEQ (say Deck) for another glass and some dinner.

At TOCA we were served a little plate of deep fried capers (not to my taste, capers were crunchy but the brininess was lost), crispy maple bacon (very weird taste, also not my cup-a-tea) and some roasted salted corn (very tasty). A pleasant surprise was that a very tasty Pinot was only $10 a glass. Last year we went down to the Four Seasons Hotel (another TIFF hangout, we actually saw Henry Winkler with his family) and the wine was $15 a glass, we had two each and paid about $80 with taxes — NO FOOD!! Dare I say, the Ritz is way classier!

Snacks at TOCA at the Ritz Carlton Toronto

TOCA Overall rating (in my opinion): Decor 4/5, service 4.5/5, food na/5, Value 4/5, Noise: 4/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet).

After our glass of wine, we asked the manager to direct us to the other bar with the ‘great patio’ — he actually escorted us there. That’s service! I’m used to “see that sign at the far right, head that way and make a left, you can’t miss it!” type of service! He sat us at the patio bar as more than half the restaurant was closed for a private TIFF party. Later, we found out Mr. Clooney spent Friday and Saturday night at this bar [OMG, I may have been sitting on the exact same bar stool that HE sat on — damn, I was wearing white pants, not so easy to avoid washing ;-)]

We enjoyed DEQ’s specialty flat bread, which is kind of like a pizza, it had Chorizo and artichokes, quick roasted tomato goat cheese – it was delicious! JT was still hungry so we ordered Bruschetta, 6 pieces, also a signature dish (you order the amount you want, 1 each of three flavours or two each); the flavours were tomato-basil, Ingersoll burrata-pesto and speck asparagus with a poached quail egg. I was not that hungry but managed to scarf down the speck asparagus with the quail egg and the tomato-basil – both were delicious. The bartender was very nice, chatted us up for some of the time. We stayed until a little after 11 work beckoned; sadly the TIFF party that reserved the other half of the patio did not start before we left. Oh well, perhaps I’ll bump into Mr. Clooney some other time (in my dreams, perhaps)!

DEQ Overall rating (in my opinion): Decor 4.5/5, service 4.5/5, food 4/5, Value 4/5, Noise: 4/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet).

Back to cooking! We are having good friends over for dinner on Saturday, and to help jump start our Moroccan adventure, we decided to have the theme as Moroccan food. I tested this recipe and it turned out pretty good. I am planning to have three little dessert samplers for Saturday night, Sellou is one of them.

“Sellou (or sfouf) is a unique unbaked Moroccan sweet made from toasted unhulled sesame seeds, fried almonds and flour that has been browned in the oven. Packed with calories and nutrients, it’s traditionally served during Ramadan and after childbirth, when there’s greater need to restore energy and maintain good health. It’s also served at Eid, weddings and other special occasions.” from About.com

Since I am not familiar with Moroccan cooking, I decided to not venture too far from to the recipe, which I picked up from Cooking with Alia. I did add a little lemon rind, you know how much I love almonds and lemon together. It is not as sweet as it sounds, and it’s got some very complex flavours going on. Although I restrained the amount of Cardamon I added, it was still very perfumey but it mellowed out on day two – I suspect by the weekend it will have rounded out beautifully. I also cut the recipe into 1/3, because I am serving three desserts I didn’t want too much of it. I suspect it will be very rich with all the nuts after a meat laden meal. The baked flour is a very strange thing indeed, and although it is rather stinky while baking, it really added some earthiness to the flavour. Not sure if I would add it again, trying to refrain from carbs, but it was interesting. The recipe below is pretty much verbatim from Alia, with the exception of the parts I’ve altered in brackets.

Sellou a traditional Moroccan Dessert

Ingredients:

  • 200 grams of flour
  • 125 grams of roasted almonds – you can also buy raw blanched almonds and roast them or fry them yourself
  • 100 grams of sesame seeds (I used both black and white for interest)
  • 125 grams of honey
  • 75 grams of powdered sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoon of anise powder
  • 2 teaspoon of cinnamon powder
  • a pinch of salt
  • ¼ teaspoon of ground mastic gum (I did not have this, so I omitted it)
  • 113 grams of butter (1 stick)
  • 1-2 tsp grated lemon rind (this was not part of the recipe)
  • Secret Ingredient 1: 125 grams of roasted peanuts (I only had natural crunchy peanut butter, so that is what I added instead)
  • Secret Ingredient 2: ½ teaspoon of cardamom powder (pinch or less)

Directions:

  1. Browning the flour:
    1- preheat your oven to 350° F
    2- place the flour in a baking pan and spread it evenly
    3- cook the flour in the oven for about 30 minutes
    4- To avoid smoke in your house, and for the flour to cook evenly and not burn, you need to stir it every 5 minutes until it is done
    5- You will notice that the color of the flour will start changing and the flour is done when it has a deep golden brown color
    6- Sift the flour – use a spoon to break the flour lumps
    7- Let the flour cool down before using it.
  2. Preparing the other ingredients:
  3. 1- while the flour is cooking, you can actually start roasting the sesame seeds in a skillet on medium-low heat. Stir frequently so they do not burn.
    2- This will take about 20-30 minutes. remove the seeds from the heat when they darken and become fragrant – you can taste them, they should have a nutty flavor.
    3- Using a food processor, mix the roasted peanuts and the roasted almonds together.
    If you prefer sellou to have a fine texture, then mix the nuts until you get a powder.
    I personally prefer my sellou to be crunchy, so I only half mix the nuts to keep solid parts.
  4. Mixing the dry ingredients:
    Now that we are ready, we are going to mix all the dry ingredients together (flour, sugar, spices, sesame seeds, almonds, and peanuts).
  5. the last step then is to add the melted butter and honey. And at the very end, mix in the lemon rind.
    Mix well using a spatula until all the butter and honey are incorporated into the mixture.
    Now, if you want to preserve the moist sellou, just put it in an airtight container and place in the fridge for up to 1 month. Just make sure to bring it to room temperature before serving.
  6. Serve the Sellou in little cups, or shape a dome out of it, cover it with powdered sugar and decorate roasted almonds.

Read Full Post »

It’s a very happening week in Toronto because we have the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) — the world’s largest film festival (according to Wiki, obviously a Torontonian wrote it!). We have been graced with some of the biggest stars, George Clooney (be still my heart), the BrAngelina’s, Madonna, Robert DeNiro to name a few. JT and I have been fortunate enough to score tickets from friends in the past, but unfortunately, not this year :-(, so to feel part of the action, we decided to get all dolled up [you know, just in case we bump into someone ;-)] and head downtown to the Ritz (we [I] heard Mr. Clooney was staying there). The Ritz is a brand new hotel in Toronto, opened in April, I think. We’ve been fortunate enough to have stayed in several Ritz Hotels in US and Canada and the one thing that is consistent is the quality of service — always exceptional. We had a glass of wine at TOCA and then we ventured to the back patio DEQ (say Deck) for another glass and some dinner.

At TOCA we were served a little plate of deep fried capers (not to my taste, capers were crunchy but the brininess was lost), crispy maple bacon (very weird taste, also not my cup-a-tea) and some roasted salted corn (very tasty). A pleasant surprise was that a very tasty Pinot was only $10 a glass. Last year we went down to the Four Seasons Hotel (another TIFF hangout, we actually saw Henry Winkler with his family) and the wine was $15 a glass, we had two each and paid about $80 with taxes — NO FOOD!! Dare I say, the Ritz is way classier!

Snacks at TOCA at the Ritz Carlton Toronto

TOCA Overall rating (in my opinion): Decor 4/5, service 4.5/5, food na/5, Value 4/5, Noise: 4/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet).

After our glass of wine, we asked the manager to direct us to the other bar with the ‘great patio’ — he actually escorted us there. That’s service! I’m used to “see that sign at the far right, head that way and make a left, you can’t miss it!” type of service! He sat us at the patio bar as more than half the restaurant was closed for a private TIFF party. Later, we found out Mr. Clooney spent Friday and Saturday night at this bar [OMG, I may have been sitting on the exact same bar stool that HE sat on — damn, I was wearing white pants, not so easy to avoid washing ;-)]

We enjoyed DEQ’s specialty flat bread, which is kind of like a pizza, it had Chorizo and artichokes, quick roasted tomato goat cheese – it was delicious! JT was still hungry so we ordered Bruschetta, 6 pieces, also a signature dish (you order the amount you want, 1 each of three flavours or two each); the flavours were tomato-basil, Ingersoll burrata-pesto and speck asparagus with a poached quail egg. I was not that hungry but managed to scarf down the speck asparagus with the quail egg and the tomato-basil – both were delicious. The bartender was very nice, chatted us up for some of the time. We stayed until a little after 11 work beckoned; sadly the TIFF party that reserved the other half of the patio did not start before we left. Oh well, perhaps I’ll bump into Mr. Clooney some other time (in my dreams, perhaps)!

DEQ Overall rating (in my opinion): Decor 4.5/5, service 4.5/5, food 4/5, Value 4/5, Noise: 4/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet).

Back to cooking! We are having good friends over for dinner on Saturday, and to help jump start our Moroccan adventure, we decided to have the theme as Moroccan food. I tested this recipe and it turned out pretty good. I am planning to have three little dessert samplers for Saturday night, Sellou is one of them.

“Sellou (or sfouf) is a unique unbaked Moroccan sweet made from toasted unhulled sesame seeds, fried almonds and flour that has been browned in the oven. Packed with calories and nutrients, it’s traditionally served during Ramadan and after childbirth, when there’s greater need to restore energy and maintain good health. It’s also served at Eid, weddings and other special occasions.” from About.com

Since I am not familiar with Moroccan cooking, I decided to not venture too far from to the recipe, which I picked up from Cooking with Alia. I did add a little lemon rind, you know how much I love almonds and lemon together. It is not as sweet as it sounds, and it’s got some very complex flavours going on. Although I restrained the amount of Cardamon I added, it was still very perfumey but it mellowed out on day two – I suspect by the weekend it will have rounded out beautifully. I also cut the recipe into 1/3, because I am serving three desserts I didn’t want too much of it. I suspect it will be very rich with all the nuts after a meat laden meal. The baked flour is a very strange thing indeed, and although it is rather stinky while baking, it really added some earthiness to the flavour. Not sure if I would add it again, trying to refrain from carbs, but it was interesting. The recipe below is pretty much verbatim from Alia, with the exception of the parts I’ve altered in brackets.

Sellou a traditional Moroccan Dessert

Ingredients:

  • 200 grams of flour
  • 125 grams of roasted almonds – you can also buy raw blanched almonds and roast them or fry them yourself
  • 100 grams of sesame seeds (I used both black and white for interest)
  • 125 grams of honey
  • 75 grams of powdered sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoon of anise powder
  • 2 teaspoon of cinnamon powder
  • a pinch of salt
  • ¼ teaspoon of ground mastic gum (I did not have this, so I omitted it)
  • 113 grams of butter (1 stick)
  • 1-2 tsp grated lemon rind (this was not part of the recipe)
  • Secret Ingredient 1: 125 grams of roasted peanuts (I only had natural crunchy peanut butter, so that is what I added instead)
  • Secret Ingredient 2: ½ teaspoon of cardamom powder (pinch or less)

Directions:

  1. Browning the flour:
    1- preheat your oven to 350° F
    2- place the flour in a baking pan and spread it evenly
    3- cook the flour in the oven for about 30 minutes
    4- To avoid smoke in your house, and for the flour to cook evenly and not burn, you need to stir it every 5 minutes until it is done
    5- You will notice that the color of the flour will start changing and the flour is done when it has a deep golden brown color
    6- Sift the flour – use a spoon to break the flour lumps
    7- Let the flour cool down before using it.
  2. Preparing the other ingredients:
  3. 1- while the flour is cooking, you can actually start roasting the sesame seeds in a skillet on medium-low heat. Stir frequently so they do not burn.
    2- This will take about 20-30 minutes. remove the seeds from the heat when they darken and become fragrant – you can taste them, they should have a nutty flavor.
    3- Using a food processor, mix the roasted peanuts and the roasted almonds together.
    If you prefer sellou to have a fine texture, then mix the nuts until you get a powder.
    I personally prefer my sellou to be crunchy, so I only half mix the nuts to keep solid parts.
  4. Mixing the dry ingredients:
    Now that we are ready, we are going to mix all the dry ingredients together (flour, sugar, spices, sesame seeds, almonds, and peanuts).
  5. the last step then is to add the melted butter and honey. And at the very end, mix in the lemon rind.
    Mix well using a spatula until all the butter and honey are incorporated into the mixture.
    Now, if you want to preserve the moist sellou, just put it in an airtight container and place in the fridge for up to 1 month. Just make sure to bring it to room temperature before serving.
  6. Serve the Sellou in little cups, or shape a dome out of it, cover it with powdered sugar and decorate roasted almonds.

Read Full Post »

Remembering 9-11

I knew it was the anniversary of 9-11 all week, but somehow today I put it out of my mind. I do that when I don’t want to do something or remember something…kind of a defense mechanism.
The radio just broadcast a beautiful remembrance and there it was…a flash back like no other. I was working at the time and I heard someone say that two planes just crashed into the World Trade Centers. What? Extreme disbelief. We were able to get onto a news station on-line before the world bogged down the net. My company put the news on in the boardroom on the mammoth TV; I went in and found I just could stay. It really happened. It really did happen. For the next week I was glued to the radio news, weeping uncontrollably; I couldn’t bear to watch actual footage. The radio just brought it all back, and even though ten years have passed, the tears flowed like it was happening today.
To our brothers and sisters south of the 49th, know that I’m thinking of you today. I will remember the horrible acts humans impose on each other – not just 9-11 and hope that in some way, we will all learn something from it.

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Re the tomato post yesterday, I also got a very ripe avocado yesterday from our very generous client (we split the good stuff three ways!) so it got me thinking… what to make? Guacamole, but of course! It’s Friday and we always have a cocktail or two on Fridays, and I never serve booze without some food. Cocktails are usually at 5:30-6 on a Friday, 4-5 on a Saturday!

Easy Guacamole

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 very ripe avocado
  • 2-4 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 tbsp finely grated garlic
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 finely chopped jalopeño pepper reserve about a 1/2 tsp for garnish)
  • Salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Put everything into the jar of an immersion blender and blend until smooth. Garnish with reserved jalopeño.
  2. Serve with crackers.
  3. Eat. (borrowed this complete direction from Greg)

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Isn’t the best thing in the world a fresh, ripe, just picked tomato? OK, I just happened to be given a large quantity (large for me!) of incredible Ontario tomatoes so I’m all about the tomato for this blog! They even smell like tomatoes. The little ones just pop in your mouth and the sweet juices ooze out. I’m salivating just writing this post. You can’t imagine how good these are.
20110908-055519.jpg

We’re having some landscaping done on both front and back yards of our home. The guys are working so hard, so I suggested to JT to buy them lunch today. We were going to get pizza, but one of our customers at work was kind enough to give me some of their product: ribs! I said, cook up the ribs and serve them with the tomato salad! But these guys don’t eat salad, he said. We’ll see!
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I sliced the tomatoes into bite-sized pieces, added some fresh basil from the garden (both purple and mini basil), grated some fresh garlic (also from my garden), EVOO (from our neighbours Tom and Iona – it’s from his Dad’s olive grove in Greece!) and some wonderful balsamic. Wow! Incredible salad – and it’s own story to tell. I’m hoping I’m wrong and the guys really don’t eat salad so I can have it for dinner tonight (I might add some goats milk Feta!)
For dinner last night, we grilled up a loin of pork and sliced them on top of our fresh tomato salad (you didn’t think I was going to give the salad all away, did you? I’m really not THAT generous!)

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I blogged about this a couple of years ago for a Super bowl Party, but inadvertantly forgot to post the recipe, so here it is. Better late than never. The herbes en provence gave the wings a delicious flavour which paired very well with the blue cheese dip I previously made.

Herbes en Provence Chicken Wings

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup Herbs en Province
  • 3 tablespoons granulated garlic (this is so the mix remains a dry rub)
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 cup Panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 12 chicken wings

Directions:

  1. Pre heat oven to 375°F
  2. Prepare a large cookie sheet by lining with parchment paper (fold down the raw ends so they don’t burn).
  3. Clean up chicken wings, removing the wing tip (discard), cutting the wing into two pieces.
  4. Rub olive oil all over each wing piece.
  5. Mix the Herbs en Province, granulated garlic, sea salt and Panko in a clean zip lock bag.
  6. Placing 4-6 wings into the baggy and shake until each wing is well coated.
  7. Continue until all the wings are coated. Lay each wing individually on the prepared cookie sheet so they don’t touch.
  8. Bake in a hot oven for 60 minutes or until wings are 165° F Internal temperature. Turn each wing so each side is crispy!

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It’s our last day in Montreal; our flight is with Porter at 2:30 so we have most of the morning to enjoy this gorgeous city.
We ordered breakfast in our room, some hot coffee, flaky croissants, some salami and three types of cheese…my ultimate breakfast.
Here are a couple of pictures of our room at the Nelligan ,JT took with his iPhone4!

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The bathroom had a separate glass shower, and a gigantic jacuzzi tub! Very extravagant.
We did a little shopping in the morning, but left enough time for a decent lunch in the old part (priorities!)
We ate at La Jardin Nelson, again. Normally I like to experience new places, but the inner courtyard was so wonderful and the live jazz was stupendous, we had to do it. I had the Caprese again, so good, and JT had a Pork loin salad with watermelon, feta and grapes – very tasty.
This is the live jazz band:

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These are the beautiful flowers draping the walls:

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We arrived at Pierre Trudeau airport, now I’m just sitting around blogging! Love free WiFi!

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Today is Labour Day in North America. Traditionally it is the last day of summer vacation for the kids; the day before the first day of school. Since we are no longer kids, nor in school, nor have any kids, this is just an ordinary long weekend. Except that we are in Montreal! And it’s a national holiday and everything is closed 😦 We did find a single shoe store open on St. Catharines (the main shopping street down town) but nothing to shout home about. And it’s raining. Pouring at times; and the temperature has plummeted, it’s down right chilly out there!
We started our day in a cute little breakfasty place just around the corner from our hotel; cold café au lait and soggy croissants! Oh well, we won’t go there again! We then took the Metro to Crescent Street and St. Catharines to window shop and hopefully find a great place for lunch. We walked around to find W&G, an eclectic Italian restaurant/bar. I had a delicious grilled octopus Polpo alla griglia: Octopus, red wine vinaigrette, roasted red peppers pickled onions and JT had a pizza special, with a fish soup starter. The fish soup had a great bouillabaisse taste, with chunks of fish. The pizza had sundried tomato pesto, chicken, basil, gouda and mozzarella cheese. It was delicious! A good find on Crescent Street! http://www.wiensteinandgavinos.com

My octopus:

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JTs pizza:

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Overall rating (in my opinion): Decor 2.5/5, service 3/5, food 4/5, Value 4/5, Noise: 3/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet).

We have one of the best restaurants in Montreal booked for this evening: Barroco http://www.barroco.ca/, we tried getting in last night but failed to make reservations for six. This place gets amazing reviews on trip advisor!
Unfortunately, I didn’t luv it. Perhaps what I ordered didn’t hit me, or the music (it’s a century building with three foot walls and exposed brick, playing Michael Jackson, Aerosmith and The Rolling Stones). It would have suited the place better to play Nora Jones or Michael Buble! Oh well.
I had the organic salmon carpaccio, which ended up rather tasteless; and the Mediterranean Branzini – I thought it was too mushy, but I’ve never had Branzini before, so the texture was new to me. JT had the sangria marinated watermelon with Serrano Ham, too watery and the braised short rib with a gnocchi side-the gnocchi was very tasty. He said the short rib was fine!
Overall rating (in my opinion): Decor 4.5/5, service 3.5/5, food 2.5/5, Value 1/5, Noise: 2/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet).
We walked back to our hotel, the rain had subsided and had our complimentary glass of wine at the bar.

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We made a great breakfast of fried eggs, breakfast sausage, hash-browns and muffins – all made outside on the griddle! We ate plein air at the picnic table. It was a little muggy, but at least it wasn’t raining…yet. Within minutes of cleaning up, the skies opened up and the rain came down like there was no tomorrow! It lasted about an hour, so we waited it out!
We hopped in the car and ventured to down town Montreal, a 30 minute drive. This was Paul and Ts, first time and Bill and Jan’s second time (they were here about 40 or so years ago). As a child, I lived in Montreal in 1967 for a few months when my Dad worked in Expo 67! JT and I have been here many, many times while dating and as a married couple! It’s our little taste of Europe. In Québec, French is their primary language; people do speak English, but everything is French first!
We suggested the gang take a hop on hop off bus tour, which they did; it’s a great way to get an overview of the city. These tours are pretty pricey (~$48 pp) so JT and I opted out. First stop was lunch: http://www.jardinnelson.com/ we stumbled upon a fantastic inner courtyard at Jardin Nelson with a three piece jazz band! What a find. I had a real taste for a crèpe with béchamel sauce! We shared an order of Caprese salad (in season mini tomatoes and fresh bufalo Mozarrela) with a little pesto and balsamic, yum, yum, yum! And a wonderful spinach and ham crèpe. I find crépes are expensive in Canada, and this one was no different, around $16.
Overall rating (in my opinion): Decor 4/5, service 4/5, food 4/5, Value 3.5/5, Noise: 3/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet).
We reunited with the gang for cocktails at our hotel. The Nelligan (highly recommended) has an incredible roof top patio. I had a delicious vodka martini, straight up, very dry, no olives. I prefer mine stirred and not shaken ;-).
Dinner was our plan from the previous evening: Holder http://www.restaurantholder.com/
I had another caprese salad-I couldn’t help myself, and a very traditionally seasoned steak tartar. Very tasty indeed!
Overall rating (in my opinion): Decor 4/5, service 4/5, food 4/5, Value 4/5, Noise: 2/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet).
(I’m posting from my iPhone and the ap doesn’t allow me to re-order my photos, they post where they post!)
I added a few pics of the inside of the rock star bus.

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We left our campground in east Toronto around 9:30 am, a bit later than expected. Sleeping on the pull-out inflatable is really like camping… Ouch! Although the bus is decked out with the most incredible amenities, there is no where to put anything! Stepping over this and that to squeeze into… But I digress…

We stopped in Kingston for a bite and parked our trucks where we could. The Rock Star bus is towing the SUV, so driving any which way but forward is impossible. We pulled into a lot and the inevitable happened, we couldn’t get out without backing up! So we had to unhitch the truck and back up the bus, and rehitch the truck! Oh well, the one hour lunch turned into two!

Back on the road, we see the end is near… But … Wait for it… The bridge to the campground is out! You can’t get there from here! We had to detour back on the highway, go several Kilometres past the campground and come back on ourselves! We finally pull in, set up, and sit back and enjoy our first martini! Mmmmm! We had reservations in old Montreal which we’ve changed three times; I suggested that we scrounge the cupboards and make dinner on site instead of driving the thirty minutes to Montreal. Everyone jumped on it. We had sausages on the grill and beans (no vegetables!) and wine! We sat out at our camp fire and enjoyed the setting and our friends.

It really was an adventure, and I’m firmly decided that this type if camping (or any type, for that matter) is NOT for me! I am really going to enjoy the four star hotel with the king sized bed tonight in old Montreal!

Our friends are driving us into Montreal and they’ll do a bus tour while JT and I will explore on foot ourselves – maybe a little shopping too! And I need to eat a salad (salsa does not make up a food group!). We’ll meet up for dinner tonight.

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The second photo shows the boys ‘pulling’ the truck to line it up with the bus to re-hitch!

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We met up with our friends Paul and T, brother Bill and Jan from Illinois on Friday. This is the first leg of their 21 day journey to New Brunswick and the Easter seaboard. We’re tagging along with them to Montreal in their 35 foot motor home (the rock star bus). Bill and Jan have a 38 foot fifth wheel!
We had dinner down town at the Bier Markt a very nice gastro-pub down on Toronto’s Esplanade. I had a very nice, but pricey roasted beet salad, made of both golden and red beets, with a mixture of goats cheese and blue cheese fritter balls. Paul ordered a home made sausage appetizer sampler that looked amazing. T had asparagus and scallops.

Overall rating (in my opinion): Decor 4/5, service 3.5/5, food 4/5, Value 2.5/5, Noise: 3/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet).

Last minute, we got a wonderful invite to Rae and Mon’s for a drink on our way to the trailer park! We loved the idea and stopped by!

We stayed overnight in a campground just east of the city, hoping it will give us a head start to our trip to Montreal. It kinda / sorta did. There are always issues, and hiccups, this morning (day) was no different.

What normally is a five hour trip, will likely be nine. We have reservations in the old town this evening for dinner.

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