Thursday, December 31, 2009

Christmas turkey

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It's only six days post-Christmas and you are undoubtedly maxed out on turkey leftovers. You probably have mixed feelings about this gorgeous plate of carved turkey above. That said, my Dad makes a great turkey and this year I took some serious notes that I will now share with you, reluctant and turkey-tired though you may be.

So here we go. For a seven-kilogram bird, allow four days for thawing in the fridge. You can put it in water in the sink to help it along on the last day. When thawed, rinse it, take the neck and giblets out of the cavity and rinse the cavity, too. Pat dry with paper towels. Apply a dry rub of Italian seasoning, thyme and cumin and any other herbs and spices that you like all over the turkey. Also rub it with olive oil and a cube of butter.

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Stuff the cavity with an unpeeled lime, half a lemon, cut up fennel tops, green onions, celery, a two-inch piece of ginger, garlic cloves and a whole onion. (We always do the breaded stuffing separately.)

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Close the cavity somehow — Dad uses wooden skewers and string to do this. Put on the turkey "lifter" string and put it in the pan you will roast it in if you haven't already. Cover the wing and leg tips with bits of foil to prevent them from burning. Oil the giblets and tuck near the sides of the turkey.

Put in the thermometer and cook for 20 minutes at 415, then turn the heat down to 350 for one hour, and then down to 325 for the rest of the cooking time. Baste every half hour or so.

Carve up and dig in. (Tell you what: Just bookmark this page for Easter or whenever you next cook a turkey and then let me know what you think!)

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Pea and chorizo rotini

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Two nights ago when I made rösti again, it really didn't turn out. The outer part was crispy but the inside was uncooked, and after frying it for a long time I finally gave up and I ended up eating chocolate for dinner instead. The next day, to boost my ego, I made this tasty old standby that I haven't yet messed up.

Pea and chorizo rotini

serves two

1 chorizo sausage, casing removed
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 clove minced garlic
1 tsp favourite dried herb
pinch hot pepper flakes
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup pasta water
parmesan cheese (optional)
1.5 cups rotini

Boil salted water for the rotini and cook until al dente.

In a big frying pan, drop in little chunks of the sausage meat and break it up while cooking. When the sausage has almost cooked, add the garlic, hot pepper flakes and herbs and cook a few more minutes. Add in the frozen peas and warm through for a minute while stirring.

Drain the pasta but reserve some of the cooking water. Add the drained rotini to the sauce and mix well. Add the ricotta cheese and half a cup of the reserved pasta water and stir until the ricotta has combined with the water to make a cheesy sauce. Top with grated parmesan and serve.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


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This has been my favourite breakfast of late, a little stack of pancakes with maple syrup, bacon, a glass of OJ and apple slices (not pictured). And you can't beat the recipe for easiness — President's Choice buttermilk pancake mix and water. These little beauties were poured out by S who has perfected the art of the circular pancake. Mine on the other hand look a bit deformed but still taste good!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Rösti and smoked salmon with apple salad

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I loved the hot corner of the Pelican Grill's Battle of the Salmons, so I decided to make my own version using the smoked salmon portion that we bought there.

It was also a great excuse to finally try my hand at rösti. I love to get it at the Richtree restaurant in the Rideau Centre. It's one of those dishes that I love, but because I don't eat it often I sometimes forget that it exists. Shameful, I know.

I put the salmon portion on a plate and served it with an apple/cherry tomato salad, a dollop of plain yogurt mixed with dried shallots and thyme (because I didn't have sour cream and chives), and I made my own rösti.


one sweet potato
one russet potato
one small onion
one apple, cored and halved
shredded cheddar cheese (about a quarter cup)
salt and pepper

Over a cutting board, grate the potatoes using a box grater. Handful by handful, squeeze the excess water out of the grated potatoes over the sink. Place the squeezed potato in a large mixing bowl. Repeat with the rest of the potatoes, the onion and half of the apple (cube the other half for the salad).

Add the grated cheddar cheese to the rest of the ingredients in the mixing bowl, season and mix well with a fork.

In a frying pan on medium heat, add a couple of glugs of olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the rösti mixture to the pan, patting it down to form a dense pancake.

Flip it when the bottom has started to crisp up and turn golden, about seven minutes on my stove.

Slide a spatula underneath the sides to loosen the rösti pancake. Take a large dinner plate and place it upside down on top of the frying pan. Turn both upside down so the rösti slides out onto the plate. Add more oil to the pan and slide the rösti back in to cook the other side.

It's crunchy, cheesy and delicious. Next time I'm going to experiment with some paprika and chopped herbs, and make this as an afternoon snack!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The state of my fridge

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There's a very fun thread going on right now at Ottawa Foodies called "Peek into my fridge."

This morning, I have a happy, full fridge. It's not usually this well-stocked but I just went grocery shopping yesterday. I'll have to do another post end-of-week that will show what it most often looks like: Still full of jars of food, but with nothing useful (you know how it goes ;)

Top shelf:
almond butter, mayo, tahini, near empty miscellaneous jams, ancient ketchup and mustard somewhere in the back, HP Sauce, pesto, parmesan, ricotta, cranberry juice, plain yoghurt, tamarind paste, cheddar, mozzarella, goat's cheese, tomato paste, hummus

Middle shelf:
three candy apples from the Christmas craft sale going on at Landsdowne right now (meant as gifts but I am tempted to dive in to one of them!), Leffe brun beer (on the recommendation of our friend in B.C. who is bummed he can't get any there), smoked salmon portion from Pelican Grill, apple cider, lunch yoggies, leftover smashed pea and chorizo rotini dinner from last night, eggs, white wine and leftover cooking onions.

Bottom drawers:
napa cabbage, Lebanese cucumbers, parsley, potatoes, mushrooms, zucchini, red pepper, celery, hot peppers, limes (for G-and-Ts ;), eggplants

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Raclette at Ella's

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This week my friend Ella invited a bunch of us girls over for raclette. I love eating a nice big meals mid-week with friends. It breaks the endless cycle of work and sleep that can sometimes make you feel like you have no life during the week.

Anyway, this mid-week feast was delicious, a great informal way of showcasing my favourite food .... ta da ta da ta da .... cheese!

In the bottom right corner, you will see square slices of authentic raclette cheese, generously bought by Ella and carefully sliced and trimmed by yours truly. You fry veggies and stuff on the top of the raclette machine, and then put the little cheese squares in special trays at the bottom. Once the cheese has melted, you then drape the oozy goodness all over your veggies.

We fried up mushrooms and orange pepper slices and also thin slices of marinated beef and sausage. We also had a bowl of boiled new potatoes in circulation around the table. At one point I only had one potato on my plate but that didn't stop me from totally blanketing it in a whole square of cheese. So. Ridiculously. Good.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Rainbow trout with rice, red pepper and zucchini

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Last night I cooked the rainbow trout we bought from the Pelican Fishery & Grill. It was very quick and tasty meal. I made plain white rice in the rice cooker. By the way, I think everyone should own one of these — all you have to do is press a button! Then I seasoned the trout fillets and fried them in a saucepan, about four minutes on the skin side and three on the flesh side. I also made a vegetable side with cubed red pepper, cubed zucchini, diced onions and a sprinkling of dried herbs and ground chili pepper, just to give it a little zing.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Treats from the sea at the Pelican Grill

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I was first introduced to the Pelican Grill by my friend Em, who bought sushi-grade fish there for a girls night.Then I sampled some of its wares again at the Ottawa Wine and Food Show. S and I have since checked it out for lunch and cooked fish from its shop, and we have become faithful patrons.

At lunch, I ordered a bowl of chowder for us to share. I am so used to small soup portions in restaurants so I passed up the "cup" portion, but lo and behold the waiter brought out a behemoth of a broth. It was delicious. I cast in my spoon and was rewarded by big catches of salmon pieces.

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Next, I ordered the "The Battle of the Smoked Salmons" (above). The menu describes it perfectly: In the hot corner, we've got a salmon served with crispy potato rosti smothered in crème fraîche. In the cold corner, grilled romaine hearts with crispy capers, aioli and parmesan shavings wait to steal the round. I couldn't resist and filled up on the hot salmony goodness first!

S ordered the halibut and chips, a hefty portion for a one-piecer, and very flavourful and good-looking to boot. I love the newspaper touch, so old-school English.

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Our meal of chowder, the salmon battle, fish and chips, soft drink and coffee cost $41.36 plus tip.

Afterward, we picked up some trout and cod to take home. The Pelican Grill has a fishery attached to the restaurant, with lots of delicious catches of the day. Their labels also indicate whether things are Pacific or Atlantic, and whether they're wild. (I've heard in terms of salmon anyways that wild Pacific is the best, which generally means it's not farmed.)

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The decor is very nice. The restaurant is filled with lots of copper tabletops and on the walls there are beautiful, professional photographs of the staff posing with feature sea creatures. There's even one of Ron Eade, the Ottawa Citizen's food blogger, who is obviously a big fan!

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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Fondue dinner chez PB and J

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Peanut Butter and Jelly had us over for a delicious dinner the other night. They made a cheese fondue using one of PB's family heirlooms, an ancient fondue maker from Switzerland (below), bought in the 1970s. Isn't it stylish? Four decades later it still works a treat.

They also served a heavenly salad that looked as good as it tasted (above) and easy-peasy to make. It's a border of mandarin segments around a spring mix salad with irresistible roasted pecans and sugar snap peas, all sprinkled over with pomegranate seeds. PB and J served it in a rectangular plate that accentuated the lovely presentation. We ate it with a sweet vinaigrette and I loved it!

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Saturday, November 28, 2009

Parmesan fish and mashed potatoes

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Health Canada recommends eating fish at least twice a week, so I'm giving it a try. I already happily devour canned herring and sardines, two varieties Health Canada recommends, on a weekly basis. I love them on crackers and toast. Recently I have also added this breaded fish recipe to my weekly roster. It's my favourite way to cook white fish, such as sole, cod or haddock.

Parmesan fish and mashed potatoes
serves 2

For the fish
2 fillets of white fish (sole, cod, haddock, etc.)
1/2 cup flour
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper

Mashed potatoes
russet potatoes
butter (optional)

Prepare the potatoes first. Peel, cut into quarters and place in boiling water. Cook until fork tender. Remove from heat, drain and mash with some butter and/or milk. Place the pot of potatoes in a high-sided baking tray. Add some hot water to the tray (but not the potatoes ;) and put the whole shebang in a slow oven to keep warm until the fish and salad are prepared.

Prepare the fish. Place three large bowls in a row on your counter. Add flour to the first, egg to the second, and breadcrumbs, parsley and Parmesan cheese to the third.

Heat some olive oil in a frying pan.

Dip your fillets of fish in the flour, egg and breadcrumb mixture in that order, then lay them in the frying pan. Fry briefly in a single layer, about four minutes on the first side and two on the second.

Serve the fish with mashed potatoes and a garden salad.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Spanish Tapas in Ottawa

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My favourite Spanish restaurant in Ottawa is 222 Lyon Tapas Bar. I am tapas crazy, and the food here is really good.

It's a cozy hole-in-the-wall sort of place, all painted up in warm yellows, oranges and reds. It's very charming and reminds me of all of the little restaurants I used to frequent in Montreal when I lived there.

The service is very friendly and attentive, too. I have been lucky to always get the blond waitress with the sunny personality.

The last time S and I went, we ordered four tapas dishes. In the photo, clockwise from the top, they are shrimp Mona Lisa (in a brandy cream sauce with mushrooms and peppers), chicken al Ajillo (made with prosciutto, garlic, wine and chilli), artichokes in a vinaigrette and a ratatouille of eggplant and zucchini.

The tapas dishes are pretty big here. They recommended two per person and also give you unlimited bread for scooping up the delicious juices.

My favourite dish was the shrimp, so juicy and tasty. The artichokes were great, too. Artichokes are so intimidating to make at home — how do you get inside that vegetable, anyway? But they taste so good, and the sauce here does not overpower the wonderful natural artichoke flavour.

These four tapases, a small dish of olives, a glass of wine and beer, and a dessert that we shared, all came to $72.75 plus tip.

Does anyone else love this restaurant as much as me? :) Do tell!

222 Lyon Tapas Bar
222 Lyon Street North
Ottawa, Ont.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Ottawa's Wine and Food Show

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I had a fantastic time at the Ottawa Wine and Food Show last weekend with S and friends, and my long-lost brother who I haven't seen since Thanksgiving! Some other highlights included (in the photo, clockwise from the top): a mackerel salad from Le Cordon Bleu, learning what's really in ground beef from local chef Duane Keats, smoked salmon from the Pelican Fishery & Grill, and meeting the leader of the Ottawa's Slow Food chapter, Peggy Hall.

First on the agenda was attending a food demonstration by Duane Keats, chef at Luxe Bistro in Ottawa's Byward Market. He taught everyone in the audience a great cost-saving skill: how to skin and fillet a whole fish. He demonstrated on a giant fresh halibut and an equally gargantuan fresh salmon. At 10 lbs, each normally yields 15 portions at his restaurant.

While his sous-chef showed us how to similarly fillet a big hunk of striploin, Duane told us something disturbing about ground beef, namely that it's made mostly from connective tissue called silver skin that's trimmed from cuts like this. It's tough and you can't chew it, like "beef bubblegum," he said. But if you remove it, your steaks won't curl during cooking.

At the demo, I had the pleasure of sitting beside Peggy Hall, the leader of Slow Food Ottawa, an organization that connects people who love to eat with local producers and their foods. She told me that one of her big challenges this year will be to raise the profile of Ontario wines by encouraging Ottawa-area restaurants to feature them on their wine lists.

My personal wine find of the evening was a delicious 2004 Spanish Rioja called Marqués de Riscal Reserve. We also spent a lot of time at the Argentine wine counter and sampled a few tasty Slovenian wines — Cviček and Refošk. I had no idea that Slovenia had such a big wine industry, but it stands to reason as it shares a border with Italy and also benefits from that Mediterranean climate that's so good for grapes.

And of course, the food was sublime. Em served us some mackerel salad at Le Cordon Bleu's booth — so fresh and tasty. She is Le Cordon Bleu's best employee ever. And we had a rich lobster mac and cheese from Foundation, and a wonderful smoked salmon appetizer with red onions, capers and a special sauce from Pelican Fishery & Grill.

As usual, it was magical and I can't wait until next year!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

All India Sweets & Restaurant

In Vancouver, my friend Gill took me to the All India Sweets & Restaurant, a place where she used to eat with a big group at least once a week way back in 2002, when our mutual friend Kimme Gibbler was also living there. That's over 52 times a year. (Wow!) Afterwards, they would go back to someone's place and watch a couple of people who had eaten too much roll around on the floor in mock pain.

I could see the attraction right away. The place is totally unpretentious, friendly and all about the mountains of Indian desserts and good food for very little money. For $10.95, you can eat unlimited Indian food daily from their vegetarian buffet. Gill gave me the inside scoop: the sag paneer is to die for. I tried it. It is. We both died and went to heaven that lunch hour! And I got to catch up with one of my nearest and dearest friends. Thanks Gill!

(49th & Main)
Vancouver, B.C.

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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Ebisu on Robson

I was in Vancouver this week, where there are delicious Japanese restaurants galore! A friend introduced me to a trendy Japanese place on Robson called Ebisu that is now on my "To Visit" list the next time I return to this fair city.

I loved it! Ebisu is among a growing number of restaurants that is infusing a new vibrancy into Japanese food. It's taking traditional dishes and marketing them as tapas plates with a twist. Hapa Izakaya, where S and I ate two years ago, is another good example of this new kind of Japanese restaurant that draws a younger crowd because of its unique interpretations.

Some of the dishes were a fusion of cuisines — we ordered salmon carpaccio (an Italian term for thin shavings of raw meat), which came drizzled in a citrus white-wine mayo. It was a fresh take on the traditional tataki (which longtime readers of beFOODled will know I also adore) that consists of thinly sliced raw or lightly cooked beef in a citrus vinaigrette.

We ordered five dishes — saba (mackerel) flame, saba inferno, salmon carpaccio and the B.C. and mega dynamite rolls — and a pitcher of delicious sangria to wash it all down. Five dishes might not seem like a lot for two people, but we were full!

My favourite was the saba flame. This dish is also a great example of what I mean by how these restaurants are funkifying the traditional. Saba flame is mackerel sashimi but the server lights it on fire with a hand-held blow torch at your table. She did the same thing with the saba inferno, searing the mackerel skin. It gave it a truly mouthwatering, coal-fired flavour.

The food is fresh and has so much flavour. I would recommend Ebisu if you happen to be on Robson Street looking for great Japanese food.

Ebisu on Robson
827 Bute Street
Vancouver, B.C.
604.689.8266 (reservations are recommended)

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Inn in Prince Edward County

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My mom and S and I spent the day in Prince Edward County recently and had lunch at The Inn restaurant. It's located on the shore of the Lake on the Mountain and right beside another beautiful watery vista, the Bay of Quinte some 200 feet below, where you can watch the ferries go back and forth.

The Lake on the Mountain is exactly what it claims to be. It's something of a regional mystery that defies all geologic explanation because it's always full of fresh, clean water, but without an apparent source. The most accepted explanation is that it's a collapsed doline, a closed depression that's a rare feature associated with limestone rock.

The restaurant is an old stone farmhouse and has a small brewery onsite. We ate in the sunroom, a later addition with lots of extra tables. It's a beautiful space with a fireplace and lots of light.

I had a soup of the day with all kinds of rich and delicious things. One of the ingredients was andouille sausage, which I had never heard of before but is so good. I also ordered the charcuterie plate that came with cured meats, pâté, a stack of prettily balanced toasted baguette slices and all the trimmings (cornichons, pickled onions and homemade mustard).

S had the special, which was a Margherita pizza with fresh tomatoes, bocconcini cheese and basil and balsamic vinegar.

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My Mom had the smoked salmon and potato rosti appetizer with chive crème fraiche and capers. Rosti is so tasty!

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All of this plus a few glasses of wine came to $90, including tax and tip.

The restaurant recommends you make reservations. If you ever go, you will know why! It's a delicious experience, the food is beautifully presented and made from locally sourced ingredients, and you are treated very well.

The Inn restaurant
Lake on the Mountain Resort
268 County Road 7
Prince Edward County, ON

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Friday, October 9, 2009

Farewell Gourmet

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Gourmet, the oldest food magazine in the U.S., is ceasing publication after nearly 70 years because of declining ad sales. The November issue will be its last.

I have never been a subscriber, but have bought the occasional issue off the newsstand. I'm a sucker for beautiful production values and in Gourmet there is no shortage of luscious photo essays and beautifully laid-out features.

The publisher Condé Nast said the brand will live on in a TV series and in cookbooks, but to me those are not acceptable substitutes for a glossy magazine. I already have lots of cookbooks and can't tuck a TV series in my purse!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Beau's Oktoberfest

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Beau’s brewery of Lugtread and NightMarzen fame hosted an Oktoberfest celebration near Ottawa this weekend. S and I caught the bus out with Squeaky and Calimocho and we all met up with Peanut Butter and Jelly later. It was a little reunion of our old food club, the Gastronati.

We all got a free green alpine hat (made in China and which didn’t fit any of our heads) and immediately bought litre steins for $8 that became our drinking vessels for the day. I really liked the branding for the whole event. Their graphic designer, who also did Beau’s’ little tractor logo, was recruited to hand out armbands at the shuttle bus pickup. It seems every Beau’s employee was given a job to do.

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The food was very gourmet considering that we were in the middle of a farmer’s field eating off of hay bales. Some of Ottawa’s best restaurants that have Beau’s on tap came out to feed the people with lots of hearty stew-type dishes, perfect for the cold, damp weather.

Against a backdrop of happy oompah music, we ate fancy spaetzle poutine (which was so popular it ran out at 11:30 a.m.) and elk goulash from Murray Street, and a free raw oyster on the half shell from the Whalesbone.

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We also had two very nice dishes from the Urban Pear, a potato pancake with sausage slices and apple sauce, and a yummy hot cassoulet with chicken sausage, duck confit, smoked bacon and white beans and cabbage, real stick-to-your-ribs goodness!

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The only dish that really resembled traditional German fare was the Piggy Market’s Beau’s wurst on a bun with homemade condiments — very juicy and tasty. Squeaky took a big bite and I’m told a plume of sausage juice squirted onto my jacket. (I must have been too busy eating my delicious smoked fish chowder from Domus to notice.)

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Unfortunately, all the food ran out at around dinnertime because they had only really planned for about 1,000 and some 5,000 people came. They wisely ordered a large quantity of pizzas to keep people fed until 9 p.m. so that the next three hours weren’t pure alcohol!

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Sushi rolls at Em's

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Last Thursday, Em hosted a girls night and we all helped her make sushi rolls. She bought fresh, sushi-grade fish from Pelican Grill, a fish market with a restaurant attached. She bought a pound and a half of salmon for $20, plus some tuna for $12 and smoked salmon chunks for $6. We mixed and matched the fish with some cooked shrimp cut in half, and cucumber and avocado. We also ate edamame (beautiful, boiled soybeans) and longan fruit, which I had never had before, but have a lychee-like flavour and texture. They are so yummy and juicy, and have a big, shiny, dark-purple pit inside.

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I brought instant miso soup, but forgot to make it in all of the excitement!

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Of course, girls nights are not complete without animal companions. I leave you tonight with a picture of the beautiful Hermes, an adorable Himalayan who had me at meow. Hermes is very old and likes to have his face smushed, but only by girls :) Good thing there were five of us on hand to oblige!

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Pelican Fishery and Grill
1500 Bank Street
Ottawa, ON

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Remembering Pompeii with homemade tomato sauce

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I still had some mason jars left over after making jam with Squeaky, so I decided to try my hand at canning tomato sauce next. I adapted a delicious recipe given to me by Chef Hermann Jenny that uses canned tomatoes instead of fresh.

I used San Marzano tomatoes. You can get these at any Italian grocer (I got mine from La Bottega in Byward Market). They are grown and imported all the way from the fertile plains of Mount Vesuvius near Naples, shown in the map below. Pompeii, that famous ancient Roman city buried when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 A.D., is also nearby. It's just a little southwest of where they still grow the tomatoes in San Marzano sul Sarno.

It's strange to think that the same volcanic ash that makes San Marzano tomatoes so special today was also responsible for burying entire cities over 2,000 years ago. That said, San Marzano tomatoes are not native to the region. Coincidentally, just 22 years after archeologists uncovered the remains of Pompeii in 1748, the Kingdom of Peru gave the first San Marzano seeds to the Kingdom of Naples.

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Tomato sauce

makes about 6 and a half cups

drop of olive oil
1/2 cup diced pancetta or bacon
1 onion
4 cloves garlic
2 crushed dried cayenne peppers (or 1 tsp dried)
1 cup olive oil
5 Tbsp tomato paste
2 800-g cans of San Marzano tomatoes
a 1" by 3"piece of parmesan rind or other hard cheese
small hunk of salt pork rind
1/2 Tbsp herbes de Provence
a couple of beef bouillon cubes
1 Tbsp oregano
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper to taste

Saute the pancetta and the onions in the olive oil for about 10 minutes or until soft. Add the garlic and the dried cayenne pepper and saute another minute. Add the tomato paste and stir to make a paste with the other ingredients.

Then add the canned tomatoes and break them apart a bit with your wooden spoon. Add the rest of the ingredients and cover and cook in the oven for three hours at 125 C/250 F.

Discard the salt pork rind and bay leaves. The parmesan rind should easily break up and dissolve into the sauce.

Follow the canning directions that come with your preserving jars, and top each jar with a layer of hot olive oil, about 1/4 of an inch think to sterilize the top layer of sauce.

Alternatively, you can freeze the sauce if you'll be keeping it for more than a few weeks, but in that case, store it in a Tupperware instead of a glass jar.

This is lovely in pasta or pizza, and to spread on toast!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Tomato harvest roundup

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Ah, my little yellow cherry tomatoes, how much do I love thee? Let me count the ways: in salads, on pizza, with burgers and just plain popped into my mouth fresh off the vine.

Over the past few weeks, S and I have found many different ways to eat the cherry tomatoes off our balcony plant. We cut them in half and tossed them in a salad with arugula and toasted almonds. We put them in baguette sandwiches that we took on a road trip to Montreal, and another time to a picnic by the canal. S put them on his pita pizzas, and I tossed them with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper, as a side salad for my pork-and-beef hamburger patties on pita with raita (plain yogurt with ground cumin and grated cucumbers).

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The best way to eat them, though, is plain off the vine, maybe cut in half, with a little salt and pepper, if you want to maximize their flavour. Sometimes one side of the tomato splits in half and it bursts open a bit. They do that when they are too full of water, but I like to think it's part of their personality that they are literally bursting with sweetness, tempting me to eat them :)

So the tomato experiment was very successful — our one plant produced at least 90 tomatoes in my estimation. I can't wait until next summer, when I can up production with some more plants. Maybe hold some tomato parties ... ah, the possibilities!

What is your favourite way with cherry tomatoes?

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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sho-dan, a Japanese restaurant in Montreal

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Until this year, my Japanese food destinations in Montreal were Sakura and Katsura, adjacent restaurants on rue de la Montagne. Unfortunately, Katsura has since disappeared and Sakura is just not what it used to be.

So after a bit of online research, a lot of positive reviews led S and I to Sho-dan, a Japanese restaurant on Metcalfe. Le Chef, a francophone magazine that covers food news in Quebec, honours restaurants in Quebec every year with an awards show, and Sho-dan won the gold award in 2009 and the silver in 2008 for Best Sushi.

I was excited to go and, as it turns out, I loved the space and the decor, and the service was very good, too, but the food ... well, I'll get to that in a minute.

The restaurant is beautifully decorated. It has nice mood lighting and there are dramatic flower arrangements. It's very modern, and obviously a favourite place of many Montrealers because it was packed.

Sushi is the focus of Sho-dan's menu. There must be at least 70 kinds of sushi, sashimi and rolls to choose from. The selection ranges from the traditional to the cool and creative with names like Mango Tango and Dancing Dragon. The rest of the menu is appetizers, salads, tempura and teriyaki.

We ordered lots of sushi, about seven or eight kinds. I realize that this is supposed to be award-winning sushi, so I'm treading carefully as I write this, but we were disappointed when our big plate arrived. The fish was tasty enough, but the sushis were small and thin, more like slender fingers than pudgy ovals with thick slabs of fish floating on top (like I've had in Ottawa and Calgary). Also, the rice was a bit mushy. I wish we had been able to show you with some photos, but the lighting was so dark that none of them turned out.

Including tax and tip, our meal of three appetizers, seven or eight sushis and a couple of drinks came to about $100.

I'd be willing to go back and give Sho-dan another try, but the truth is I don't recommend it since I know sushi can be much better than this. And I'm still searching for a great Japanese restaurant in Montreal.

Does anyone have any suggestions?

2020 Metcalfe
Montréal, Que.

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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Ottawa Farmers' Market

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Food Network has published another guest blog post of mine. This one's about my latest trip to the Ottawa Farmers' Market, where Robin Turner (above middle) of Riverglen Farm, and Cory (below) of the Elk Ranch, sell their company's locally made foods every Sunday. My post on the market is at this link if you want to check it out. As always, I would love it if you would leave a comment :)

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Tomato farming balcony-style

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I have a hard-working cherry tomato plant on my balcony that is currently sporting no less than 87 tomatoes! Most are still green but a few are ripe and a healthy bright yellow. S and I are going to cook these up tonight in the first of what I hope will be many yellow-tomato meals. We just need lots of sun for the rest to ripen, so here's hoping for some more good weather.

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The other plants that are doing well are my thyme and sage. I planted them in a 12-inch pot with mint and rosemary. The rosemary is growing but it's small and a bit overshadowed by the herbs that are doing well. The mint never really got going. So all in all, four out of five plants are thriving, which is nice.

I had a big lavender plant, which I kept in its peat pot with clay soil. It flowered and was fantastic for a while, but now it's dying. Not sure what to do about that. Maybe I should have potted it in real soil. Has anyone ever successfully kept lavender alive on a south-facing balcony?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Julie & Julia premiere in Ottawa

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Le Cordon Bleu hosted a lovely party for the Ottawa premiere of the Julie & Julia movie last month. The chefs served several delicious little “amuses gueules” at the reception, which thankfully staved off hunger during the movie because it was full of mouthwatering food scenes (or what S calls “hardcore food porn”). We attended the event with a few of our friends and I wrote a post about it for Food Network Canada, which you can read here. I'd love it if you would leave a comment!

Friday, August 14, 2009


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For the first time in our lives, Squeaky and I made jam — raspberry-peach, peach and blueberry — with fruit from the farmers' market.

We followed the directions on the Certo package, and also some wisdom gleaned from the Internet and Squeaky's aunt, a seasoned jammer.

My gosh, even for a detail person like me, jamming is nitpicky and not like the kind of cooking I am used to.

Firstly, you have to sterilize everything but the kitchen sink. I do not own a canner, so we baked our jars in the oven at 225 F for 10 minutes. We boiled the lid rings for 10 minutes, but not the actual lids, no, those you must immerse in just-boiled-but-not-boiling water, otherwise the seal will be damaged.

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Then you have to skim off the sludge and bubbles that rise to the top while boiling the jam. And you have to make sure you don't get any jam on the lip of the lid when putting it into jars.

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We were also a bit grossed out by how much sugar you have to add: cup for cup of fruit, and then some! I had no idea I was eating so much sugar every time I had jam. But if you don't add all that sugar, the jam won't set, they say.

Well, our attention to all these painstaking details was all worth it when we heard the little "pop" that meant a vacuum had pulled the lid down into place. It was music to my ears because it meant, we had gotten it right!

To make the peach jam, we made light Xs in the skin at the bottom and top of the peaches, blanched them for 30 seconds in boiling water and then transferred them right away to a bowl of cold water for a few minutes. Then the skins were easy to peel off (you can skin tomatoes the exact same way).

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S and I are tucking into the raspberry-peach right now (below). I know it looks a bit radioactive, but I kind of like the psychedelic red. No hallucinations so far, just a mighty fine sweet taste.

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