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Archive for September, 2012

We’re still on vacation, and on our last night in Lyon we tool a wonderful cooking class; our chef-host had a beautiful fig tree in the back yard, and we ate fresh figs right from the tree! Although I prepared this post well before we left, I thought it appropriate to post before I return. I do hope you’re all doing well, know that You know that I miss reading about what you’re cooking and that I’ll be back next week with lots of stories!!

One of our dear friends brought us a package of fresh, beautiful figs as a hostess gift (I love my friends!). Coincidentally I had taken out a portion of goats cheese from the deep freeze, so this salad was literally staring me in the face. A quick weeknight meal. There are no directions or quantities, do what your heart dictates, you can even throw in some crispy prosciutto or don’t make it crispy. It’s simple and wonderful. I sautéed the onions until they were soft and then I poured in about 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar and cooked it down until it was the consistency of syrup. You can use this to dress the salad…it doesn’t need much.

My salad has fresh figs, quartered, toasted sliced almonds, goats cheese, caramelized onion, balsamic dressing, arugula (rocket) and spinach.

It’s kinda like the kitchen sink salad

Fresh Figs, Goats Cheese, Caramelized Onion and Walnuts on Arugula and Spinach

I’m posting this from our little apartment in Paris in the Le Marais … Correction: Montmatre district. Here is a little peak. Cheers!

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European vaycay 2012

Our trip got off to a rocky start; we couldn’t check into Austrian Air the night before so when we arrived at the air port we didn’t have assigned seats. When we checked in they had only two seats left together, by the emergency exit. We asked if they reclined (it’s an eight hour flight) and the first girl didn’t know, so she called a supervisor over and the woman assured us they could. Are you certain? Yes, she said. You know where this is going? Of course, the seats did not recline. But the cabin crew did their best and found a single reclining seat elsewhere on the plane so at least one of us could get some sleep. JT stayed back at the non-reclining seats (gallant!) content to put the arm rest up and spread out over two seats. You know where this is going…arm rest was fixed. Long sleepless flight. Are they allowed to fly planes that old? I’m talking at least 30! Not good at all. No in-seat entertainment, poor audio, no fans above seats, poorly insulated windows. Not a fan. Can you tell?
On a positive note, I used social media Twitter to convey my unhappiness and Air Canada responded immediately (A/C and A/V are partners). Wow that was a powerful tool. I doubt I would have been called back if I sent one of my famous letters! I will also go the traditional route so this doesn’t happen again to some unsuspecting soul. Lesson: don’t lie to your customers!
Vienna was as gorgeous as ever.
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Vienna was a bit chillier than expected, but at least it wasn’t raining.

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Our hotel the Radisson Blu Palais
This time we stayed just inside the inner ring a short 5 minute walk to the Graben at the Radisdon Blu Palais a gorgeous old building.

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The view from our room.

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A walk around the Graben
We were pleasantly surprised that our room was ready when we arrive at 9 am, so we were able to unpack, shower and change and feel human again. We searched around to find a place for lunch and settled at Danieli just off the Graben. It’s an Italian place inside a very old building with brick vaulted ceilings and a beautiful atrium. Food was great as was the service. After lunch fatigue hit us and we crashed for a couple of hours; we’ve been to Vienna several times and we’d already done most of the touristy things.
After a restful nap we headed out again to find a place for dinner. But first we had a cocktail on the lovely rooftop patio at Steffl Skybar.

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We decided on Huth a short walk from our hotel. When we ventured out for dinner around 8ish they didn’t have room, so instead we sat at the bar. Although our host was extremely busy, he spent a lovely amount of time with us chatting and recommending their specialties. Another great meal and experience I would highly recommend.
We picked up our rented a car the next morning and started our 3-hour drive to Budapest on the M-1 highway.

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Stopping once at McDonalds Cafe (sacrilege!) for a coffee which was surprisingly good we made it to my family in just over 3 hours. Garmin’s voice died somewhere along the way so we may have missed a turn or two, but we made it unscathed.
The next few days will be in Budapest. We’ll check in again in Barcelona, when I’m sure we’ll have some stories to tell!

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My best friend Kim who works at Christie Digital (the folks who supply all of the projection equipment for TIFF) invited JT and I to a gala screening of Cloud Atlas on Saturday. To say we were excited would have been an understatement. This movie had the ‘A-list’ of all the huge Hollywood stars and we already knew they would be there! We’d be breathing the same air as Tom Hanks, Hugo Weaving, Halle Berry, Jim Sturgess, Hugh Grant, Susan Saradon, Ben Whishaw, Keith David, Jim Broadbest and James Darcy to name a few — can you see why we were so excited?

What made it even nicer was that we had Dress Circle Seats, second row on the balcony directly in the middle! Perfect movie viewing location and we were directly above the cast! How cool is that? Now we don’t go to many movies because we find them lame and predictable and we lucked out because Cloud Atlas was not like that at all. It was a story spanning many lives (played by few people) over many years and how one’s actions in one life may affect another in a future life. The story was tightly knit and in the end it all made total sense. JT and I loved it. Sadly, my friend Kim and her hubby Mike hated it (actually, that would be an understatement, abhorred it would be more like it!).

We were allowed into the theatre in advance of the regular seats. We watched the stars arrive from the third floor of the theatre, away from the unwashed masses! Unfortunately, I forgot my Canon Rebel, so I had to make do with my iPhone 4Gs and JTs iPhone 4 for the photos. They are much better during daylight than night, but at least it’s a memory.

The streets were lined with hundreds of people hoping to get a glimpse of their favourite star!

Susan Sarandon was the first of the Big Guns to arrive.

Ms Sarandon signing autographs

Mr. Hanks Sr. and Mr. Hanks Jr. toward the middle of the photo facing each other.

Hugh Grant emerging from his car

Mr. Grant waiting to walk into the theatre.

The Princess of Whales is a gorgeous old theatre. This is on the ceiling.

The directors of the film Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski and Tom Tykwer. These folks also directed the Matrix Trilogy.

The lovely Susan Sarandon

The dashing Hugh Grant

The gorgeous Halle Berry

The classy Tom Hanks (far right)

Mr. Hanks monkeying around, getting the audience to clap louder!

There you go. Our brush with fame at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival; TIFF will go on for two weeks and air almost 400 movies, all of which have never been seen before. This event brings in about 24 million dollars into the Toronto economy. There is not a hotel room to be had in the downtown area. We get visitors from all over the world. JT and I are very fortunate to have been invited to see this movie with a lot of favourite actors.

Here’s the so-long for a while bit:

JT and I are gearing up for our European vacation in a few days. I will try to comment on your lovely blogs but I am unsure of how active I will be able to be. I may keep a running diary (like I did in Morocco) if we do anything that’s notable (such as a tour of the Cern Laboratories in Geneva, or perhaps coffee with my friend Sissi, or a cooking class in Lyon or even a bite of lunch with my friend Charles!). I know I will come back rejuvenated and ready to get back into it, and I hope that you will not forget me and forgive me for not being as active.

If anyone has any suggestions on where to eat (your favourite place) or must do in the following cities, please don’t hesitate to put in the comments, I appreciate them all!
Vienna 1 partial day
Budapest, we’re seeing family so we won’t have time for anything else.
Barcelona 2 partial and 2 full days
Lyon 2 partial and 2 full days
Paris 2 partial and 3 full days

So long until October!

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You know I’m always trying to jazz up our fish and this was no exception. It was a Tuesday night and I was riding home ‘the better way‘ and trying to figure out what the heck to do with the fish we pulled out of the deep freeze and then it hit me — Grilled Tilapia with Basil Pesto. The pesto would also allow the opportunity to utilize the gorgeous basil growing like weeds on the back deck (I may have planted a few too many plants!).

Tilapia is a firm white fish that is great grilled as long as you don’t over cook it, then it falls apart! I added a bit of hot chili pepper flakes to the top for colour and a bit of punch. It depends if you like heat, like I do. Plus it’s a nice bite with the creamy pesto. I make a classic pesto, but I’m sure you’ve made yours a gazillion times so feel free to improvise, this is, after all for inspiration. Reserve the left over pesto for the dressing for the greens and you’ll notice that I’ve added a little something to make it more like dressing (make sure the spoon you use to spread the pesto on the fish is never put back into the reserved pesto).

This fish is green with pesto, not envy!

Grilled Tilapia with Basil Pesto

Serves 4,

Ingredients:

  • 400 g Tilapia
  • 2-1/2 cups (625 mL) packed fresh, washed basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup (75 mL) toasted pine nuts
  • 1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) EVOO
  • 2 small cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 4 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
  • red chili pepper flakes
  • arugula greens

Directions:

  1. Add basil leaves, Parmesan, pine nuts, salt and garlic to your food processor or immersion blender and blend until you achieve the desired consistency.
  2. Dry the tilapia and spoon 1-2 tbsp of the pesto per side per fish and spread evenly.
  3. Heat your grill to 177°C (350°F), spray with non-stick spray. Lay the thickest parts down first as they will take the longest to cook. Cook until the fish is firm to the touch. Repeat with the thinner bits.
  4. For the dressing, add the white balsamic to the left-over pesto and stir well.
  5. Serve over arugula greens and garnish with the dressing and red pepper flakes
  6. Enjoy!

I’ve also made different types of pesto here and here. My friends who are making pesto:

;

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My friend Sissi from With a Glass posted this recipe late last month and I knew the moment I saw it that I had to make it. Why you ask? Well, two reasons: 1) almonds and 2) super easy. There I said it. I did not slave for hours baking these tasty treats; but if JT asks, then I’ll throw some flour on my face and spray a little ‘sweat’ on for effect and claim it took hours and hours. 😉

Sissi went into great detail on why these wonderful, light little cakes are called Financiers (a financial person). I’ll tell you the Reader’s Digest version, but I would urge you to check out Sissi’s blog for the real deal. Apparently first baked by Nuns of the Visitation of Mary in the middle ages and were not called Financiers and had an oval shape. Sadly they were forgotten until 1890 when a Parisian pastry chef revived the recipe. His pastry shop was located in the financial district in Paris and many of his customers were from that sect, so he named these little pastries Financiers. There you have it. I did not have the lovely gold bar shaped rectangles that Sissi had, but I did have some very nice little square muffin tins. I also doubled the recipe so that I would yield 12, but in reality I should have quadrupled it, since I just baked them last night and by this morning, there were only 6 left and I didn’t even have one. We must have mice in the house ;-)!

Note: My little cakes did not brown as nicely as Sissi’s and that is because I decided to bake them on convection (with a fan); I should have done them traditionally and they would be golden and beautiful. But I’m told they tasted darned good. If you like almonds, this one is for you. For a gluten free version, substitute the regular flour for gluten free flour.

A pillowy texture with great almond flavour

Financiers with Ontario Cherries

Makes 12 5 cm x 5 cm (2″ x 2″) square cakes

Ingredients:

  • 100 g powdered almonds (Sissi suggested that you run your almond flour through a fine sieve and this worked perfectly for me)
  • 140 g sugar
  • 100 g butter
  • 4 egg whites
  • 2 heaping tbsp flour
  • a pinch of salt
  • 12 large cherries, pitted

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C)
  2. Prepare your muffin tins by spraying with non-stick cooking spray.
  3. Prepare the brown butter: heat the butter in a pan on a low heat and observe the milk solids, which will separate at the bottom. When they become light brown (hazelnut colour), put the pan aside (they will continue to brown in the pan).
  4. Combine the egg whites, sugar, almond powder, salt and the flour in a medium sized bowl (I chose a large Pyrex measuring cup so that it’s easy to pour). Gradually whisk in the butter until combined.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared muffin tins (or other small cakes forms) 2/3 full.
  6. Place one pitted cherry in the centre of each cake.
  7. Bake for about 15 – 20 minutes until golden.
  8. Allow to cool thoroughly before taking out of the muffin tin.

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Mango BBQ Sauce

I wanted to come up with an alternative to adding sugar to my BBQ sauce for the pulled pork, after all, we reduced the fat by using the Tenderloin and I thought of Mango. Mango pairs really well with savoury dishes so I cam up with this recipe and tried it out tonight, slow cooking my tenderloin until it literally falls apart.

Tangy and naturally sweet, a perfect accompaniment to any meat, particularly Pork.

Mango BBQ Sauce

Makes about 250 mL

Ingredients:

  • 100 g mango (you could use more, but I didn’t want it too sweet)
  • 50 g chopped onions
  • 120 g tomatoes (I just used vine ripened because our lovely neighbours gave us some)
  • 3 large cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tbsp Éva’s Hot Sauce
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • water

Directions:

  1. Put everything into the container of your immersion blender and blend until smooth, adding water until you reach your desired consistency.
  2. Press through a fine sieve to get rid of the lumps, tomato seeds and such.
  3. You can can cook this down for about 30 minutes or just use it in your recipe as is (I did for my pulled pork as it cooks for several hours on the BBQ and cooks down anyway).

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Cottage Closing 2012

This post was written and photographed entirely on my brand new iPhone 4s. I decided not to wait for the new iPhone 5 because they removed Google Maps from the Apps and the connector changed.

Cottage closing is always a sad time; it means no more cocktails at the lake or dinners by the water but then again it also means that I don’t have to plan, scramble and improvise meals when I’ve forgotten a key ingredient. At least for another year!

Many of you have asked for photos of the cabin and I’ve been reluctant because I’m sure you have grand images in your imaginations of our humble little cabin and I didn’t want to expose the real deal spoil the fantasy. It’s tiny size is what I love about the cabin; a full throttle cleaning takes two of us an hour which is perfect because when I’m at the lake, cleaning is the LAST thing I want to do.

I thought I’d share photos now because next year I’ve roped in Ceement Boy to help me redecorate! We’re ripping out the carpeting replacing it with laminate wood flooring, white washing the walls and updating the kitchen a bit! I’m very excited about it. I’m figuring on 2-4 days with all that brawn to help me. And a 2-4 of beer of course! (for him, not me). I’ll stick to my Martinis!

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It’s all one room, open concept living

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We just got the slider replaced with a half French Door.

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The kitchen is a cheap white kitchen with melamine counters. This will get updated next year.

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The windows will also be replaced next year. The guest room had all our crap in it, so I didn’t take any photos. But it’s there if you’d like to come up one weekend. You bring the booze!

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We had the decking replaced this spring.

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Because it’s the apartment above the boat garage, we are right on top of the water.

Here’s the menu from the weekend and a few pics (with my iPhone 4s!!!!) to bring it back to the purpose of the blog. Enjoy.

Saturday
Dinner: Waldorf Chicken Wraps (we had these in the car whilst driving up)

Sunday
Breakfast: date bran muffins, poached egg and half a grapefruit, coffee
Lunch: adult grilled cheese and a salad of arugula, spinach, avocado, cucumber and mini tomatoes

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The cheese gets all melty and gooey!

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That’s old orange cheddar and Gruyère oozing out. A nice hot salsa would have been great with this sandwich, but someone forgot to bring it up.

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We took a walk along the road to build our appetites for cocktails (do you really need to do that, come on!)

Cocktails: grilled scallops on sesame bread with a smear of avocado paste with Martinis. Sawsan‘s sesame bread recipe click here.

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The scallops were perfectly grilled, and pair beautifully with the avocado paste

Dinner: deconstructed Caesar salad
With financiers for dessert (post coming soon)

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I’m still getting a lot of miles out of Roland’s deconstructed Caesar salad. Wish I hadn’t forgotten the anchovies.

The last sunset for the year. I’m sure the sun will set without us, but it just won’t be the same.

Monday
Breakfast: Cheese Omelet Crêpe with Cantaloup and Date Bran Muffin.

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We had a wonderful paddle-boat ride on the lake before breakfast, coffee in hand.

Lunch: Tuna salad wrap, cantaloup squares and celery sticks to eat in the car on the way back to the city.

We’ll likely go out for dinner as I didn’t take anything out of the freezer. Lunch for tomorrow will be a challenge.

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